George Berkeley (1685-1753) was the Anglican Dean of Derry (1724), bishop of Cloyne (1734) and an important philosopher belonging to the school of idealism. Born in Ireland, Berkeley moved to Oxford in 1752 and became one of the so-called British empiricists.
Berkeley believed that the material world exists as an idea created in our minds, ultimately by God. In his New theory of Vision (1709), he argued that our sense of distance isn’t directly perceived but inferred from the repeated association of visual and tactile cues. All of existence, itself, is a group of interacting minds, connecting with archetypes, which themselves derive from God.
He uttered the famous line, perhaps adapted from Shakespeare,
To be is to be perceived or a perceiver.
This means that existence is either a mind or stimuli in a mind.
One way that Berkeley tried to support his view was to note that the idea of heat – what the philosopher John Locke called a “secondary quality” – is somewhat relative. If one of our hands is cold and the other hot, and we place them into warm water, the one hand feels hot and the other cold. Anyone can do this little experiment and see that it’s true. However, Berkeley added that Locke’s so-called “primary qualities” (e.g. shape, quantity) were also dependent on a perceiving mind. Berkeley, in fact, challenged the entire distinction between primary and secondary qualities, as elaborated upon at Wikipedia:
Berkeley maintains that the ideas created by sensations are all that people can know for sure. As a result, what is perceived as real consists only of ideas in the mind. The crux of his argument is that once an object is stripped of all its secondary qualities, it becomes very problematic to assign any acceptable meaning to the idea that there is some object. Not that we can’t picture to ourselves (in our minds) that some object exists apart from any perceiver—we clearly think we can do this—but rather, can we give any content to this idea in any particular case?¹
A slightly different take on the belief that the material world doesn’t exist independent of the mind has been popularized in many books reporting recent discoveries in sub-atomic physics, such as Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Fritzoff Capra’s The Turning Point.
- Influential Figures in My Life: Locke, Berkeley and Hume (jonathanhockey.wordpress.com)
- A View From Here (o50328b.wordpress.com)
- Behaviorism (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- The Mess of Me at the Moment (brittavalentin.wordpress.com)
- Part 9: Beyond Atheism – A History of Western Philosophy (coppellpianoshop.wordpress.com)
- Matter and Mind (middlepane.com)
- Rewrite Your Life (barbarasreality.wordpress.com)
Bad Faith (French, mauvaise foi) is a social-psychological and philosophical idea conceived by Jean-Paul Sarte where one apparently ignores the possibility of actively choosing one’s commitments. Instead, one becomes a passive pawn for external forces, or merely avoids making a decision about what to commit to.
An example could, perhaps, be the Nazi guard who arbitrarily executes ordinary people for Adolf Hitler despite inner moral attitudes decrying this behavior.
The idea of bad faith is predicated on the assumption of a “gap of nothingness.”
The “gap of nothingness” concept suggests that human beings are not mere stimulus-response machines (à la behaviorism) but possess the psychological freedom needed to make responsible decisions in response to incoming stimuli. The illustration often given in undergraduate humanities courses, rightly or wrongly, is that animals will eat whenever hungry, whereas human beings usually delay eating until a personally or socially appropriate time.
I think Sartre has a very complex connotation to the term [bad faith]. Sometimes wide, sometimes narrow. Very closely related to the concept of authenticity, he has used the term to show the shackles that man chooses despite the knowledge of freedom, at least deep within. » See in context
More examples of bad faith can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_faith_%28existentialism%29
- Tangent: Bad Faith, part 1 (lancek4.wordpress.com)
- Tangent: Bad Faith, part 2 (lancek4.wordpress.com)
- Shareholder accuses Wausau Paper CEO of ‘bad faith,’ nominates slate to board (jsonline.com)
- Sartre on Bad Faith (psychologytoday.com)
- Paul Krugman: Broccoli and Bad Faith (economistsview.typepad.com)
- The Disease (epages.wordpress.com)
- BLOG: Chinese authorities plan to take action on bad faith utility model and design patent applications (iam-magazine.com)
- Bad Faith Insurance Companies (questadj.wordpress.com)
- ECommerce company Eyemagine found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking (tldmagazine.com)
Cosmology is a term used by anthropologists, philosophers, scholars of religion and theologians to denote an individual or group understanding of the world, the universe and beyond. This “map” may or may not include an account of creation.
In contemporary science the term cosmology denotes the creation, structure and evolution of the universe, as with the Big Bang theory.
For all their social legitimacy and status, from a spiritual standpoint modern scientific cosmologies can fall short by ignoring the possibilities of hellish, purgatorial, astral and heavenly realms that could permeate and interact with life on Earth and, indeed, life throughout the universe (assuming life exists beyond our planet).
Perhaps most scientific cosmologists in the 21st century are so focused on their way of seeing the world that there’s little or no room in their hearts, minds and souls to experience numinosity. If they did, they’d probably revise their theories to make them more comprehensive.
Cosmology arguably bears a direct relation to ethics. But these two spheres of inquiry are usually kept apart by philosophers, scholars and theologians. This arbitrary separation of cosmology and ethics has its pitfalls. For instance, a dominant cosmology that excludes the importance of numinosity is probably not going to seriously consider persons claiming to experience numinosity. As a result, persons of numinosity might be marginalized and discriminated against.
While many may naively suppose that science pins down truth, a look at the range of current scientific cosmologies (note: plural) will hopefully dispel that belief.
Instead of truth, what we arguably find is a group of stories, not entirely unlike the ancient myths that preceded them. True, these more recent stories are based on scientific (i.e. measurable and replicable) observation.¹ But their fragmentary nature highlights the fact that human beings cannot really grasp the whole. Not that there’s any harm in trying. But when researchers lose their sense of humility and start overreaching the limits of their observations, all sorts of problems can arise.
For an excellent list of the latest scientific imaginings, see Historical Cosmologies (the latter entries in the chart). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmology. And for a brief timeline see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_cosmology.
¹ At least, this is what we’re told. In reality fraud and deceit can creep into the halls of science, just any other human endeavor. See Broad and Wade, Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science.
- The Vertical Cosmological Argument and the Fallacy of Composition (humblesmith.wordpress.com)
- Modern Cosmology: Interactive Computer Simulations … (physicsforme.wordpress.com)
- Einstein’s “biggest blunder” beats dark energy in explaining expansion of the Universe (gizmag.com)
- “A” is for axion (Alphabet of Cosmology) (catch26.wordpress.com)
- Astronomers have found the largest structure in the universe (theverge.com)
- Stellar performances finally gain the limelight (newscientist.com)
- The Kalam Argument – Reddening the faces of atheists everywhere (ferlans.wordpress.com)
- Dynamic, dark energy in an accelerating universe (spacedaily.com)
- Astronomers discover the universe’s largest known structure (slashgear.com)
- What is the purpose of the Universe? Here is one possible answer. (io9.com)
Confucianism is a Chinese teaching of morality, right action and right education, based on the ethical teachings of Confucius. Up until 1382, statues of Confucius were common in public places. Every city had a shrine dedicated to Confucius and at least two state festivals were held in his honor during mid-spring and mid-autumn. The roots of Confucianism can be found in the ancient Chinese scholar class, the Ju. They were experts on rituals, sacrifices and the connection between heaven and earth.¹
Following Confucius’ death in 479 BCE, various schools of Confucianism arose. These Confucian schools are often contrasted with the more mystical aspects of Taoism. Confucianism is usually associated with precise rules of behavior and the State education that persisted in China early into this century. Taoism, on the other hand, is usually associated with the free-floating, unregulated ideas of Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu, as popularized by Alan Watts and others.
But such a contrast is arguably overemphasized due to Western misunderstanding.
The rites of Confucianism (li) are meant to guide our natural and inherently good human potential (jen), they are not meant to oppress or stultify. Rules ideally are like stakes guiding a growing plant. Oppression arises when li are distorted or corrupted because a ruler is out of sync with the cosmic harmony (Tao). Notably, Confucius was not a snob. He believed that all people could attain ethical correctness and thus become noble (chun tzu).
These fundamental ideas belong to both Confucianism and Taoism. Differences were arguably not categorical but more about emphasis. The Neo-Confucian Mencius favored following personal intuition instead of adhering to external rules. But he certainly knew that one must calibrate one’s actions to one’s social circle, which, sociologists will tell us, always implies a kind of structure and rule. Mo Tzu highlighted the importance of universal love. Meanwhile, Mencius stressed the importance of love within one’s immediate circle, which, again, to be effective must take in to account socio-cultural rules and expectations.
Earlier Chinese religion practiced divination through oracle bones and the belief in a great cosmic being. But Confucianism generally tried to steer thinking away from the transcendent toward the humanistic. This trend is found in the main Confucian texts of the Analects, The Book of Rites, The Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean.
¹ S. G. F. Brandon ed., Dictionary of Comparative Religion (1970: 203-205).
- CFP From AAR Confucian Traditions Group (warpweftandway.com)
- You: Debate flourished during ‘Hundred Schools of Thought’ age (english.people.com.cn)
- Confucianism is not a Religion (uselesstree.typepad.com)
- New Issue of Comparative Philosophy (warpweftandway.com)
- Understanding the Chinese mind (rightways.wordpress.com)
- New Books on the Revival of Confucianism (warpweftandway.wordpress.com)
- Let Britain look to Confucius (nextleftturnblog.wordpress.com)
- Confucianism is not an obstacle to democracy (uselesstree.typepad.com)
- When Confucius criticizes Zhu Xi and more stories… (warpweftandway.com)
- Nishan Confucian Studies Summer Institute (warpweftandway.wordpress.com)
The idea of chance has several meanings. For this entry I’ll be focusing on the belief that things just happen with no rhyme or reason—that is, that some events are impossible to predict and also have no overriding cause or meaning. While this definition combines several hair-splitting philosophical views,¹ it does seem to capture the general mood of what we mean by the idea of chance.
While some seem to see the idea of chance as the logical answer in view of certain observations, it’s not. It is nothing more than a human concept. And to attribute something to chance implies a basic assumption that can’t be proved—namely, that some events randomly occur with no overriding plan, purpose or meaning. This belief can arise when people are faced with large amounts of data too vast to discern an overriding plan and purpose (as with the various data encountered in daily life).
Some statisticians, of course, would reply that the belief in an overriding purpose cannot be proved either.
My point is that the one commonality among the belief in chance and the belief in a divine or cosmic plan is belief itself.
Many religious persons freely admit that they believe. They may claim that their beliefs are supported (but not proved by) experience combined with reason. But rarely will a sincerely religious person claim to know, and if they do, upon further questioning they’d probably admit that their supposed “knowledge” is really belief, or reason to believe.²
On the other hand, some superficial and, perhaps, a few duplicitous scientists claim that their hypotheses – proposed explanations tied into a particular approach – are “proved” by observation and reason. This isn’t really true science but many scientists and lay persons fall into this kind of believing without admitting it, or even knowing that they’re just fooling themselves (and usually others).³
Again, the bottom line in this discussion of chance is that both religious and scientific viewpoints appear to be premised on belief.
² Granted, there are always fanatics who claim to “know” and cannot (or don’t want to) momentarily step aside from their beliefs.
³ This being one definition of scientism.
- Christian physicist Ian Hutchinson criticizes scientism (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Scientism Investigation continued…4 (ubcgcu.org)
- Jerry Fodor’s Idiosyncratic Understanding of ‘Scientism’ (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- Alternative to Scientism…Point 2 (ubcgcu.org)
- What is Scientism? (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- What is Left for Philosophy to Do? (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- help, i sound like my mother!…the power of our subconscious beliefs (rhubarbandstars.com)
- Scientism Investigation continued…3 (ubcgcu.org)
- A Difference In Beliefs. (euphoricobsession.wordpress.com)
Causality is the belief that a second event is the consequence of a first event. This is usually described as a relationship between a cause (first event) and an effect (second event).¹ Not everyone sees causality as a belief. But from a mature philosophical perspective, that’s exactly what it is.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle saw causality in terms of four interrelated causes or explanatory factors:
- The material cause: The raw material used to make an object (e.g. wood)
- The formal cause: What the object will be (e.g. a chair)
- The efficient cause: How the object is created (builder)
- The final cause: The object’s function or purpose (it is used for sitting)
This teleological perspective is based on Aristotle’s belief that a valid distinction can be made between a thing’s essence and its observable form.²
Perhaps in keeping with Aristotle’s idea of a “formal cause,” Michelangelo said that, when sculpting, he simply removed the stone that hid the figure already existing within.
The idea of one event causing another event has been critically examined. The philosopher David Hume suggested that the idea of causality is nothing more than an expectation based on past experience and human limitations.
Hume’s critique of the belief in cause and effect challenges our conventional way of seeing. All we can be sure of, says Hume, is that certain events occur one after another in a given region and for a certain duration.
In billiards, for instance, the white ball appears to cause the motion of other balls when impacting them on the gaming table. But here’s the radical part. Hume says that all we can truly know is that, in the past, the first ball impacted and the other balls moved. We cannot prove that the first ball’s impact will always be followed by movement of the other balls. And for Hume, there is no rational way to demonstrate a causal connection:
Reason can never shew us the connexion of one object with another, tho’ aided by experience, and the observation of their constant conjunction in all past instances. When the mind, therefore, passes from the idea or impression of one object to the idea or belief of another, it is not determin’d by reason, but by certain principles, which associate together the ideas of these objects, and unite them in the imagination.³
Put differently, from prior experience we build up a series of expectations and habitual ways of interpreting observations. Hume calls these “ideas.” But ideas they simply are. Although we expect the billiard balls to move, we have no way of proving or knowing that they always will.
At first, this may seem absurd. But Hume’s critique of causality had a profound effect on one of the most important thinkers in the history of Western philosophy, Immanuel Kant. Mortimer Adler says “…Kant tells us that David Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers.”4
In addition, developments in subatomic physics, especially concerning particle reaction chambers, have challenged many longstanding assumptions about causality. On a quantum level of reality, contemporary physicists claim that observations of subatomic particles support the ideas of probability and simultaneity instead of linear causality.5
¹ Wikipedia gives a standard definition that most would accept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causality
³ David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1896 ed.), SECTION VI.: Of the inference from the impression to the idea, paragraph 278.
4 Adler, Mortimer J. (1996). Ten Philosophical Mistakes. Simon & Schuster. p. 94, cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Pure_Reason#cite_note-2
5 Some argue, however, that it’s invalid to compare quantum and macroscopic levels of reality because subatomic particles exist in an entirely different arena, and behave in different ways than the larger aggregate objects which they make up.
On the Web:
- The Problem of Induction (plato.stanford.edu)
- David Hume and the Theatre of the Mind (exploringphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- Quantum causal relations: A causes B causes A (eurekalert.org)
- Causation Warps Our Perception of Time (psychologicalscience.org)
- David Hume’s final moments (person) (everything2.com)
Carvaka is a branch of ancient Indian philosophy marked by extreme materialism, making it a curious alternative to Indian philosophy’s mostly transcendental bias.
In direct opposition to the claims of so many Indian gurus and holy persons, Carvaka does not believe in any form of transcendental reality, be it a soul or God. According to Carvaka, life is finite and its proper aim is the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In short, nothing exists that cannot be perceived beyond the senses, so the worldly life is where it’s at.
The only surviving written accounts concerning Carvaka come to us second-hand through 8thC Buddhist and Jain commentaries. All the original texts have disappeared in the sands of time or, perhaps, never really existed.
Along these lines, some scholars suggest the school may have never existed, except as a mock philosophy created by rival, transcendentally-based thinkers so as to demonstrate their apparent superiority. That being said, the general consensus is that Carvaka’s roots stem back to the 6th century BCE.¹
¹ S. G. F. Brandon, ed., Dictionary of Comparative Religion (1970: 175).
- The Atheism and Materialism of Cārvāka (Lokāyata) philosophy (dakshinapatha.wordpress.com)
- Sifting Modern India Present Through Its Deepest Past – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- panchbhuta (schoolsofthoughtofindia.wordpress.com)
- Time 4, Cyclic-Explained with Slow Motion,Ultra Motion. (ramanan50.wordpress.com)
- An introduction to Indian Logic Tarka (schoolsofthoughtofindia.wordpress.com)
- Who Let the Dogs Out? Peter Sklivas & the Bastardization of Yoga. ~ Vikram Zutshi. (elephantjournal.com)
The Cretan Liar Paradox is a philosophical problem that takes more than one form. One form can be summed up as follows:
A certain Cretan once claimed that “all Cretans are liars.” Therefore this Cretan’s claim is itself a lie. If a lie, then it cannot be true. And if not true, then a Cretan might at least sometimes tell the truth. But if a Cretan sometimes tells the truth, then it cannot be true that “all Cretans are liars.”
One way out of this apparent paradox might be to realize that calling a group of people “liars” does not necessarily mean they always lie.
However, another form of the Cretan Liar Paradox cannot be so easily resolved. It was articulated by the Cretan, Epimenides, who said, “Cretans, always liars” (i.e. Cretans always lie).
If anything, the liar paradox – and all the fuss made over it – shows just how vulnerable human reason is. We think we’re being logical but then someone else comes along and applies their brand of “logic” to a problem and arrives at a very different solution. This should be humbling for those crude thinkers who suppose, on the basis of their individual reasoning, that they know it all.
To illustrate this point, see the following links:
- Paradoxes (bloggingisaresponsibility.wordpress.com)
- An Impossible Assignment! (poormakingmanyrich.com)
- Titus 1: Strong Leaders with a Strong Aversion (kingdomnewtestament.wordpress.com)
- Liar’s Paradox – What Do You Believe When Even Newt Admits That Republicans Lie? (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)
Dreamtime refers to the Australian aboriginal belief that all animal and human life exists in a complex set of interrelations, ultimately connecting to primal ancestors existing in the Dreamtime, a place beyond or behind the apparent distinctions made in our daily lives.
Generally the idea of dreamtime forwards a threefold map of the
- Human World
- Physical World
- Sacred World
These three realms are said to be closely interconnected, with innumerable divisions and sub-divisions.
The idea of Dreamtime loosely corresponds to the notion of the Q-Continuum as found in the science fiction TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. And some try to explain various types of mental illness through an inadequate biological filtering and coordinating of these three realms in everyday life.¹
¹ See for instance, The Metaphysical Origin of Attention Deficit Disorder by David Almeida. I should note that I haven’t posted this article at Earthpages.org because it seems a little too influenced by the author’s personal beliefs. Still, taken with that caveat, it does offer a perspective seldom found in contemporary psychiatry. Along these lines, the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung once noted that the brain is like a radio receiver—i.e. limiting some ‘frequencies’ of reality while receiving others.
On the World Wide Web:
- Dreamtime is Over, So Why Are You Hitting the Snooze Button? (lamoniquehamilton.com)
- Qantas no dreamtime legend (ft.com)
- Baby Boomers Bamboozled: Social Security Fades Into a Dreamtime Haze (thedailybell.com)