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Welcome World!  I’m BlakeRivers.  Go ahead and check out the Categories section on the right to browse posts by content type, or go to the “All Posts” tab above to see a complete list of all posts.  Click the “About Blake’s Blog” tab for an introduction.

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Compelling Questions 5

***Everything is in our minds. Everything within our experience is processed by the brain and then selectively uploaded to the conscious entity, such that perceptions and experiences bubble up to our awareness. How is this possible? What allows such interaction between operator and machinery?

***How can we interact with our brains if we are merely a conscious observer? How do we control thoughts? What is being observed? What is the scope and limitations of our observation? What mechanism allows us to be aware of our thoughts? Where is the conscious entity? How is it localized? How ^can^ it be localized if it is able to be aware of our thoughts which span across the cerebral cortex? Does our consciousness have dimensions? 4X3X5 inches? How ridiculous is this to even imagine?

***What does it mean for something to be physical? What defines physical?

***If time were cyclical, what would that mean for our 4-dimensional conscious experience and world line? If time ran backward and forward (oscillating reversals) what would that mean for us and our experience?

***If causality can work forward and backward through time, what does this suggest about causality? Is causality a human-constructed illusion? Is it closer to the truth to say that events are interconnected and inter-influenced?

***How could physical determinism determine our non-physical experience? Prototransmutation would have to be true, for one.

>>Other compelling questions: tag cq

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Compelling Questions 4

***Can consciousness be quantified? Do humans have “more” consciousness than other animals?

***Can consciousness be qualified? Do humans have a more intense feeling of consciousness than other animals? Is our experience sharper, deeper, brighter, better, or more meaningful?

***Can any comparisons of consciousness be made?

***Does intelligence affect our consciousness? Or rather, does an increase in intelligence correspond to some sort of an increase in consciousness?

***What defines intelligence? What are the “prerequisites” for intelligence?

***What, if any, commonalities and subsequent properties mark intelligence and intelligent behavior? For example, is it the case that intelligence gives rise to a drive for progression, exploration, and expansion in thought, technologies, understanding, etc.? Some people believe that there could be a species on this Earth equal or greater in intelligence than humans. In order to find such a species and/or ascertain its intelligence level, one might logically attempt to search for markers of its existence by using markers of human existence as a rubric. For instance, humans have significantly altered their habitats by building structures that make life “easier” by accomplishing goals more efficiently. In other words, in order to feed people the production of food was made more efficient by farms and farm tools. Transportation was made faster by roads and vehicles. Living was made more comfortable by shelters and furniture. The resources needed to sustain and improve society demanded that larger structures be built and more land be partitioned for differing purposes. This has all changed over the past many thousands of years, but even before civilization homo-sapiens made simple but lasting changes to their environment such as burial grounds, cave paintings, [Stone Henge], and carvings in rock. Many such changes were intended to last well beyond the time of the originators and to be used or appreciated by posterity.

Yet we see hardly even a trace of any of these things from other species on Earth. There are environmental changes that came about as the byproduct of life (such as coral, crude oil, or tunnel-ways) but none of these were the result of refinement and improvement by conscious effort. Even among species that seem to exhibit behaviors that are recognizable to us as “intelligent,” (such as using simple tools, language, ability to learn from trial and error) these things have not been noticed to significantly change over time. Theoretically dolphins and apes live and behave the exact same as they did 50,000 years ago, but humans do not. We have made progress; we have permanently altered our living situation through conscious effort. We can also be fairly certain that if you taught cavemen how to sterilize water by boiling it or how to plant seeds and harvest, this life-altering information would be valued, used, and passed on to successive generations. I have great doubts that an ape will pass on anything progressive that it learns to its progeny, or even that it itself can realize the implications and potential applications of what it has learned. So we return to the original question: is progress (in a way that we can understand it) or the desire for progress a necessary consequence of intelligence? Yet again, this forces us to backtrack and first answer the following question:

***What is intelligence?

>>Other compelling questions: tag CQ

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Selfless Conundrum: Nonsensical Altruism

As we all know, quite a bit of emphasis is placed on the difference between the values of “selflessness” and “selfishness.” One almost gets the impression that everybody blindly accepts as supreme truth that some actions are “selfish” while others are “selfless.” Yet, we must question what these polarities really mean. Relatively speaking, these two opposing concepts have a useful meaning and it is certainly possible to make qualitative judgments as to what is more “selfish” or “selfless.” However, speaking in absolute terms this dichotomy is in fact a monopoly; all of our intentions and conscious decisions must inescapably be “selfish.” Finally, from a more spiritual vantage point, one can see that, in truth, there can be no absolute difference between “selfish” and “selfless;” there is ultimately no distinction between “selfishness” and “selflessness” because they are fallacious mental constructions. Only in the relativity of human experience can these opposing qualities find meaning and interpretational value, for (as the shared word root suggests) it is in the enhancement or relinquishment of the self that the human condition lies.

First of all, I want to make it clear that the common terms “selfish” and “selfless” do have a practical meaning in day-to-day life. Some human behaviors seem motivated by desires that we consider to be lower or darker, and we generally classify some such behaviors as “selfish.” Other human behaviors seem motivated by desires that we consider to be higher or purer, and we often classify some of these behaviors as “selfless.” Everyone understands the colloquial application of these two terms, so there is no need to expand on it. Suffice to say, as long as we are not speaking literally, these terms are viable; in other words, it is in their connotation rather than their denotation that their usefulness lies, since society already has a well-formed functional meaning assigned to these words.

Now, by conventional definition, to perform a “selfless” action is to do something for the sake of others rather than for the sake of oneself—there are many expressions for it: to put others before oneself, to love others more than oneself, to sacrifice one’s own interest for the greater good. All these describe Altruism,* which is (by popular standard) generally synonymous with “selflessness;” I, however, consider true selflessness to be different from altruism, as I will explain later.** At first it might seem like common sense that altruistic behavior is not only ideal but also occurs on a frequent basis. People seem to take for granted that altruism is real and true. But what is really going on when someone makes a decision? What are the actual forces that influence the choices people make? The hard fact is that people do what they do because those choices made them feel good at the moment the choice was formed.

When a person is in the process of making a decision, their brain attempts to create an option that will maximize its immediate utility, meaning that the person feels inclined to do whatever they perceive will give them the most satisfaction at that precise moment. Someone can say, “I’m gonna do such and such just for the hell of it!” or “I’m gonna choose the opposite of what I would ordinarily choose just to throw you off,” but the fact remains that the reason that they do these things is because those were the options that were most appealing to them at the time. Make a careful note that this is not to say that a person does what is ultimately best for them. To the contrary, people obviously make decisions that actually hurt them, both in the long run and the short run, all of the time. This is because a person always does what they feel most desirous of doing (whether it is desire to indulge in hedonism, or desire for self-denial and asceticism), and it is wisdom that determines whether that desire is in line with their ultimate wellbeing. Regardless of whether a decision is harmful to oneself or to others, the decision is made because, and only because, it gives the most appeal of satisfaction at the deciding instant. Perhaps later on (a few seconds, days, or years afterward) one may come to believe a different decision may have been better, but that is irrelevant.

Many objections are raised when altruism is questioned, so let us examine some of them. All along, you must ask yourself, “what have I ever done that I did not do for myself?”

When explaining their reasons for a supposed “selfless” act, people often say things like: “I could never forgive myself if…” and “I couldn’t call myself an honest person anymore if…” and “I would never again be able to look my son in the eye if…” and “it makes me happy just to know that…” and so forth. This really shows patently that during the decision-making process it is people’s own feelings that they are truly concerned about.

One hears all sorts of expressions for people who do “selfless” things, such as giving with no expectation of getting anything in return. But the same could be said of bullies. A bully freely gives a knuckle-sandwich with no expectation of receiving anything except the satisfaction of having asserted her dominance (e.g., Helga Pataki). Similarly, a true philanthropist freely gives an anonymous donation with no expectation of reward except the satisfaction of having done a charitable act—the “selfish” motivation is the same. Rest assured, if no personal satisfaction came from acts of charity, no one would ever commit them. It is solely for the pursuit of personal satisfaction that anyone performs “altruistic” acts. In other words, it is only in self-service that service is done for others.

One example of long-term altruism is the suffering and toil that one person willingly endures so that another may be spared such hardship—trading a lifetime of servitude for a loved one’s freedom, for instance. At any point they could renounce the contract and free themselves, but every day they choose to place the happiness of the loved one above their own. There are at minimum two reasons why they do this. First, it makes them more satisfied to know that someone they love is happy. Second, they probably would feel great shame and self-loathing if they let the other person suffer while enjoying their own freedom instead. Both of these reasons elucidate the fact that their decision maximizes their own satisfaction, even if it increases their suffering. Obviously satisfaction and suffering are not mutually exclusive; someone training to win gold in a triathlon increases their suffering in order to increase both their sense of short-term satisfaction (a productive workout session) and their long-term satisfaction (a successful athletic career and another gold metal in the trophy room). The maximizing of immediate satisfaction does not equal the minimizing of suffering, nor does it equal the maximizing of holistic utility.

Another example of popularized “selflessness” is in A Tale of Two Cities when Sydney Carton gives his life so that the life and livelihood of others may be preserved. Making “the ultimate sacrifice” is usually seen as the pinnacle of altruism. But there is no price a person is unwilling to pay to seek personal satisfaction. The following is a direct quote from sparknotes.com:

“[...]Carton dies with the knowledge that he has finally imbued his life with meaning.” [And later] “Carton becomes a Christ-like figure, a selfless martyr whose death enables the happiness of his beloved and ensures his own immortality.”

It is fairly clear from the book that Carton chooses to die so that he can actually feel good about himself. One could offer the counterargument that, in his nihilism, he did not really care if he died one way or the other, but nevertheless if it did not make him feel personal satisfaction then he would not have chosen martyrdom. It can only be fact that the option which gave him the greatest prospect of immediate personal utility, and which he consequently most desired, was self-sacrifice. He did it for himself and only for himself. From this particular case one can generalize to all possible instances of altruism.

You may come to admit that the majority of our decisions are self-based, but still hold that we have our occasional “selfless” moments. And still, I would dissent, maintaining that there is no mechanism enabling us to serve anyone other than ourselves; it simply is not possible. You might get saucy and object, raising the case of heroic actions that took place in the spur of the moment. You could call a specific event into question, such as when you were walking down the street, looked up, saw a child about to run into the street to fetch a ball while a car was zooming in your direction, and without a moment’s pause jumped in front of the car and pushed back the child to save her from a catastrophic collision with the oblivious driver, suffering the injury in her stead. You would say, “I threw myself before an automobile just to save a child, and I did so without any deliberation at all. Surely this is an exemplary case of ‘selflessness’.”

Well, if I sneak up behind you and suddenly roar like a lion, you may flinch and cover the back of your head with your hands. You would have done this without thinking about it, simply because it was instinctual. Also for example, let’s imagine you were at a fast-food restaurant and you asked for a water cup (which is free) along with your food. You walk up to the soda dispenser and decide that if you sneak lemonade into your cup no one will really notice anyway, and besides, it’s not like you didn’t order anything at all. If, right as you were furtively pouring lemonade into your water cup, I turned on the sound of a police siren, you would likely experience a small jolt of fear and stop what you were doing at once and switch to water instead without even thinking about it. Your reaction would not make much logical sense, since a police car would not have just driven right into the restaurant at that precise moment and somehow spotted your clandestine activity of all things, but our instantaneous reactions do not have to be based in higher reasoning. Both of these examples demonstrate that it is not in any way valid to conclude that an action was “selfless” merely because it occurred intuitively, instinctually, or without much prior conscious thought.

You might concede this point, but further argue that surely there are some actions that are beyond the label of “selfish” in that they are too automatic and/or thoughtless to be meaningfully categorized so: going to the bathroom, blinking one’s eyes, scribbling randomly, or even sleep-waling for instance. And I would partially agree; perhaps some actions cannot meaningfully be called “selfish” or “selfless” in any relative sense at all. Yet the conclusion still stands—any conscious decision that we make is, and can only be, made out of personal desire in an effort to achieve some sort of immediate satisfaction or positive feeling. How could it possibly be otherwise?

So I submit the question again: what have you ever done that you did not do for yourself?

Now that I (may or may not) have destroyed your faith in humanity and your self-worth, let me at least try to build them back up again before the end of this post. You see, if you look at the bigger picture, you realize that conventional “selfishness” and “selflessness” are rather simple-minded concepts to begin with. Or rather, the popular interpretation of them is misguided, as it is inexorably based in dualism. But if we adopt a non-dualist philosophy, then self and other lose distinction and are ultimately recognized as one.

Life is full of actions and happenings that are all interconnected such that every one event is related intimately to every other, making a web of fate (one could call it) that is the dance of form. This playing-out of form subsumes all of space-time and experiential reality. It is futile to attempt to localize causes and effects and distinguish what is beneficial or detrimental for who, for separation is ultimately an illusion. Some things superficially appear to help people while other things superficially appear to harm people, but the qualification is subjective and incomplete since all actions can be said to help and hurt all involved. In reality there is no final way of distinguishing what is actually good or bad for others as opposed to ourselves because the divine interplay of life and interwoven destiny transcends that. However, there is indeed a type of selflessness that can change the world for the better if we work toward it.

As we have seen, all actions are motivated by and for oneself, so the question is not who the object is but what is the quality of one’s actions. It is the ego that is responsible for the evils that permeate life and the vile aspect of selfishness that we are familiar with in popular terminology. A more enlightened interpretation is that selfishness is the will of the ego while selflessness is the will of the soul (or simply our self without self); selfish action is directed by the ego, selfless action is directed by the soul. Thus, the literal meaning of selfless (“without the self”) is not exactly altruism but is precisely the state of being free of the ego. Of course, when the ego is neutralized, an altruistic nature becomes the natural consequence; i.e., altruism is not a synonym of selflessness, it is a byproduct. To let go of the self is to remove the blockade of egoism and allow unconditional love to flow through you. When we free ourselves from identification with the ego, we renounce all of the negative tendencies and behaviors that cause strife in the world: jealously, greed, lustfulness, rancor, aggression, defensiveness, neediness, and fear, to name a few. In this newfound freedom, the happiness of others will be our happiness and it will be in our best interest and our desire to exude love and good will. This is our inherent nature, though such fraternity is too often stifled by the work of the ego.

The amazing possibility (and reality, in my opinion) is that human beings can have an interconnected selfhood such that what is best for one is best for all (see [One Actor, Many Roles]). To hurt others is to hurt ourselves, and to hurt ourselves is to hurt others. Reflexively, to help others is to help ourselves and vice versa. Of course, mathematicians, economists, and psychologists will generally refute this notion and claim that the opposite is closer to the truth—that humans are innately destined to vie over resources because of the evolutionary hard-wiring in the brain caused by survival of the fittest, etc., etc. But the possibility remains that this conflict can be mitigated over time through relinquishment of individual and collective egoism, perhaps to the point that we can create utopia and together evolve to a higher state of being.

If we hope to improve life upon this Earth and lift the human condition from the darkness that we have known so long to a better, more beautiful state of being, then we must learn to dissolve the primitive ego and all the madness it causes in its blind and animalistic drive for self-preservation. The egoic, tribalistic, and carnal parts of the mind are all vestigial structures from the rough journey through the more primitive stages of our evolution. Only one with little imagination could think that such levels of self-centeredness are still (and will always be) necessary for human life.

So the real question to be left with is: will you free yourself of the self, or will you mire yourself in the self?

*Note that “altruism” as used here must not be confused with “ethical altruism,” which is a doctrine of ethics describing moral imperatives. This article is not concerned with discussions of morality, but only with the reality of human selfish intention.

**In this article “Selfishness” with quotes refers to the conventional definition. Selfishness without quotes refers to my definition: service of the ego.

>>Altruism

>>Rational Egoism and Ayn Rand

>>Utilitarianism

>>Reality: Definitions in Short

>>Videos: The Ego; Awakening from the Egoic Mind; Not Reacting to Content; and an artsy but ingenious video called Do You Know Your Ego?

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Compelling Questions 3

***Is prototransmutation really possible or not?  If it is, what does this mean?  If not, what does that mean?

***According to (my non-professional understanding of) theoretical physics, time is basically just an additional dimension—the fourth dimension—with some subtle alterations in its mathematical expression.  As such, humans and all physical things have 4-dimensional world lines that are quite real and quite physical.  Because of this, it should be possible for changes to be made to this world line in the same way that we can shape putty in our hands.  What would the effect of such changes be upon us, the conscious observers?

***As described above, if the totality of our life and ourself is a 4-dimensional world line, why are we only conscious for a single, continuous instant? Why are we not conscious in our past and our future “simultaneously?”  That is, what reason is there that our human consciousness should always be stuck in the present instant?  Why can we not live in the past?  Why do we have to experience time as flowing?

***What does it mean to die, assuming that our lives are 4-dimensional world lines?  In theory, our existence is still very much real, both before birth and after death.  Our life is there, carved out through space-time, and it does not just disappear—not in the way that time seems to slip by and disappear to our perception.  Then is our consciousness still there too?  Where are we?  Where is our consciousness?  If it is in the body, then why does it seem to end?  Why is it bound to time?  Our body spans through time, occupying 4-d space in both the past and the future.  Does our consciousness do the same?  This is summarized by the next question:

***What is the relationship between consciousness and time? Why is it that our perception seems to be directly related to the evolution of time? Why does time correlate to experience? What is time, really?

***Why does it seem impossible to transcend the physicality of our existence?  Why, through willpower alone, can pain not be prevented from penetrating into our consciousness?  Is it possible for us to step back internally and distance our consciousness from our body and brain?  Pain has a direct impact on the brain, and because of this certain reactions may be involuntary and inevitable: such as gasping for air, clenching your teeth, stiffening, whimpering.  But pain also causes our conscious experience to be extremely negative.  The question is, can we separate our experience from our body’s reaction?  Can we, the observer, be at ease while the brain is freaking out?

***Neural processes help facilitate emotions, perceptions, and experiences.  Our body could be thought of as the instrument with which our soul interacts with the humanworld—physical reality.  How much autonomy do we have while immersed in the physical world?  All of our physical processes (including brain function) can be externally altered.  What do we have that is separate from our body?  How can we find something that is “ours alone,” that cannot be affected by the physical world?

***What is consciousness outside of qualia?  If we had a period of no perception and no experience, what would consciousness be then?  Does consciousness exist in between the moments of sensation and experience?  Or is consciousness simply the experience itself?

>>Other Compelling Questions

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Punishment & Consequence

Justice

In my opinion, punishment is one of the most misguided and depraved of human notions. The iniquity comes not as much from the act of punishment itself as from the entire principle behind it: the intention to proliferate suffering as just restitution for trespasses. This is a corrupt form of justice. Evil in exchange for evil can never be justified. To cause suffering with the intention of causing suffering is unconditionally wrong. This is exactly what the action of punishment is; therefore, punishment is necessarily sinful.

However, there are further elements to the nature and function of punishment that are not sinful, but actually essential and desirable in current human society. Punishment serves three main functions. The first function is to cause suffering for the sole sake of sewing pain as part of an insane eye-for-an-eye sense of justice. An example would be chopping off a woman’s hand, the hand that she used to press a steam iron against a child’s face, because “she deserved it” for the misdeed she committed. This is evil, unnecessary, and entirely without benefit. The second function is to discourage unwanted behavior through the use of negative incentives (disincentives). A good example is imposing a $50 fine for littering. This is useful. The third function, which is related to the second function, is to perform the actions necessary to preserve justice and promote happiness and progress. This will require a more lengthy explanation, but a fitting example would be a gangster who, for the crime of killing a man in a shootout, is sentenced to 20 years hard labor in a penitentiary for the treble purpose of protecting society from his dangerous behaviors, forcing him to pay back his debt to society through labor, and giving him a compelling reason to change his ways (through 20 years of disincentives).

You must realize that nowhere in the sentencing of the gangster given in the above example was there the intent to cause him pain simply because he had caused others pain. There was no “he deserved to suffer for the suffering that he caused.” This will be a very difficult concept for most people to grasp because we are all raised with the (somewhat religious) conception that the very foundation of “justice” is one of bartering pain for pain, suffering for suffering. Society really inculcates the ideal that people deserve wrongdoing for their wrongdoings; in fact, we are taught that morality is like a balance where two wrongs do in fact even out and make things right. U.S. citizens pride the heartland for its “Texas Justice” and celebrate the cobra-sting of “bad guys” getting what’s coming to them.

But it is not correct for humans to say who is “good” and who is “bad” or who deserves pain and who deserves pleasure. We are all mutually praiseworthy and reprehensible, two qualities that are naively human to begin with. After all, if you allow me to speak for a moment about a very general notion of God or The Cosmos or a Higher Power or whatever, it is not for us humans to punish others for anything. That is trying to play God. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Who are we to say who deserves to suffer? Our collective goal in life should be to end human suffering, not to dish it out evenly. No person nor any collective human entity (such as a nation or a tribunal) has the authority to decide who deserves to suffer, or why, or how much—not for any reason, no matter the crime. It is NEVER right to desire or endeavor to create pain (not in others, and not even in yourself, in my personal opinion). Only God, if you believe in such a nebulous thing, can say who should suffer and why—if there even is any reason. It’s not for this article to debate the nature of morality or divinity; it is only to make clear that it is not human privilege to apportion punishment, and any attempt to do so is presumptuously inappropriate.

As an alternative, I propose that we think about administering justice as a system of consequences by retaining the best functions of punishment (the second and third functions listed) and letting go of the wanton first function. In the world we live in, every action has a consequence; it is simply a natural law of our universe, neither good nor bad. When you play with fire and get burned, there is no judicial arbiter in the sky who punishes you because you “deserved it;” it’s just cause and effect. When a reckless speed racer hits a hidden patch of gravel on a mountain pass and slips off the road, plummeting to his death, it is merely the outcome of the risk he took. This impartial balance of action and consequence is how we should model our justice system. Of course, life is not intrinsically fair (because “fairness” is a human standard that doesn’t apply to the universe) so this is why judicature is needed.

The task of the judicial system is do what is best for society; this why laws exist; this is the purpose of enforcing those laws. In an effort to maintain justice and serve humanity, consequences must be laid out for legal infractions. The following, while not meant to be comprehensive, is a listing of some of the primary requirements that those consequences must meet:

  1. An entity which poses a significant threat to society must be removed from society and isolated until deemed to be fit for reintegration. There may be varying levels of isolation, and similar offenders might be grouped together, depending on the circumstances and considerations of safety and justice. There is no reason that a serious offender should not still be able to live a meaningful and fulfilling, albeit confined, life. A convict can still contribute to society in many ways, including labor, creative output, programs to discourage youth from pursuing crime, and other constructive endeavors.
  2. An entity that commits a crime against society must temporarily forfeit some of the benefits and privileges of being a member of that society corresponding to the nature of the crime. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is because the laws exist to establish justice and equality, so to violate those laws is to create an unfair situation that is detrimental to society. To rectify this imbalance, it is only proper that certain liberties be taken away from the perpetrator that correlate to the freedoms that were deprived from society as a result of the crimes committed. In other words, to bite the hand that feeds you means you will no longer get fed. For example, if you break the traffic laws then your license shall be revoked—because by breaking those laws, you denied other drivers on the road the right to safety. The second reason is that relinquishing benefits of living in society will provide a strong deterrent against breaking the law.
  3. An entity that causes harm to society must atone for their misdeed by making reparations for damages inflicted. This remuneration may come in any number of forms.
  4. When a law is broken, the offending entity must make suitable recompense for usurping the social order.
  5. All entities should be equal in the eyes of the law. Consequences should be fair and humanistic, and should be appropriate for discouraging lawlessness, taking into account the risk of danger to society inherent in the crime. Thus, a person could be allowed to incur a great many parking violations (because they are not particularly dangerous to anyone) but the violation of Driving while Under the Influence (of alcohol or other narcotic (DUI)) would be tolerated only a small number of times (because it is extremely dangerous to everyone).

There are many possible systems of dealing with crime and imposing consequences, but in the current state of society our ability to administer justice is limited; technology, politics, geography, economics—all present challenges. Since the most ideal justice solutions may not yet be possible, we must make due with what is currently feasible. Just as a final example, I’d like to suggest a possible method of criminal institutionalization that could be viable in the future. Imagine that there are minimally policed labor camps on Mars (or some other moon or planet or space outpost) that a convict can be sent to; the condition of the camp can even vary with the severity of the sentencing, similar to minimum versus maximum security prisons that we are already familiar with. In a Mars labor camp, there are no fences and hardly any guards (depending on the camp, perhaps). Labor is not compulsory, and convicts are not forcefully confined to any quarters or areas. The system will work as thus: in exchange for labor, each convict will receive rations of food, water, and all other necessary utilities to maintain decently comfortable living conditions. But if you don’t work, you don’t receive any rations. Since the camp is on Mars, it is not possible to survive without rations, and there is no possibility of escape because the only transportation and communication is managed governmentally. A convict is free go where he or she wishes, but there simply is nowhere to go. Convicts are free to do what they do choose, but without doing ample work they will not have sufficient provisions for survival. Medical facilities may be available on a need basis. Perhaps medicine will by amply provided; or perhaps a consequence of imprisonment is risk of illness without aid. Fights and other disturbances can be dealt with by a small number of guards or even droids. Again, some camps can be safer than others if need be so that small-time criminals are not forced to survive in proximity to hardcore convicts. Of course, there will be other correctional facilities for people who have special needs or circumstances.

The notion of extraterrestrial labor camps is useful in many ways. They would effectively separate criminals from society. They would allow criminals to work, thereby retaining their ability to contribute to society. They might be very cheap to build and maintain, since maintenance could largely be done by convicts themselves; however, they would only be economically practical far into the future. They would provide apt disincentive for crime, since life in such a camp might be difficult, dingy, and dangerous. And they might allow convicts to have a greater chance to live a meaningful and productive life. Remember, though many will object, I propose that there is no need to inflict suffering on convicts and intentionally “punish” them. Convicts simply need to be disconnected from society and the benefits that society offers.

Consequence instead of Punishment. Honestly, it will probably be more of a change of thinking than it will be a change of actual policy, though there will be some policy changes (however small) especially in some countries more than others (I’m thinking of places where public stoning and humiliation, especially of women, is lawful). The United Nations has a Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is a good step in the right direction. The lesson to come away with from this article is that the injurious nature of punishment and the vindictive attitude behind it are both unnecessary and immoral. Instead, the malevolent aspect of justice can be excised and the system of just consequences can be promoted.

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Feminism & Masculism

Auspicious Coexistence

Good versus Evil. Haha, no. I facetiously portray feminism as good and masculism as bad (or even the reverse, in some opinions) in order to bring to light right from the get-go both the accepted popular attitudes toward each and the complete misapprehension in these attitudes. As I understand them, feminism and masculism are quite equal and opposite, each being concerned with their respective gender but applying equally to the whole of society. Considering the fluid nature of gender and the transcendent aspect of the human experience, masculinity and femininity are truthfully rather artificial, which is why the borders of feminism and masculism are so questionable. Just to expel any idiocy from the beginning, neither feminism nor masculism are good or bad, nor do they oppose each other in any way. What is good for one is good for the other.

There is one difference, however, that makes them unequal in current times. There is undoubtedly greater need for feminism right now in the world than there is for masculism: even so far as by a ratio of 10 to 1 (to choose an arbitrary number) which is to say that both always have a need, but the needs of feminism are far more dire. This explains the disparity in popularity, but I think that to understand one it helps to understand both. In this post I will focus on feminism, but keep in mind that everything I say about feminism is to be accordingly applied to masculism, as they are like symmetrical mirror images—different, yet balanced. Again, the only real difference is the sexist state of society.

Feminism can be compared to medicine. After all, just as medicine endeavors to heal the ailments of the medically ill, so too do feminism and masculism seek by their very purpose to cure the ills of the genders. Medicine is a very broad field; it is concerned with understanding every aspect of the human body and its functioning; it is concerned with pathogens and negative influences on the body and mind; it is concerned with healthy living, diet, fulfillment and satisfaction; it is concerned with the individual organ as well as the whole person, and the individual person as well as the whole population. It has many facets. Similarly, feminism is wide and far reaching, and has many uses and functions that occur on an individual level as well as a societal level. I am not going to attempt to give any presentation or account of the vast components of feminism, at least not in this post. But I do want to settle the issue of the place of males in feminism. While feminism concerns only women, it is still very much relevant to men too—in the same way that ophthalmology concerns only the eye, but because it concerns such an integral anatomical structure, it is very relevant to the whole human being.

In some ways, feminism is a space just for women: a needed world all of their own for laughs, tears, and sharing of the female experience. It can even be just as strong on an individual level; feminism is love and celebration of what is feminine in a human. It is acceptance, acknowledgement, and support of being a woman. But, as I said, feminism is expansive, and so in some ways feminism is also coeducational, requiring the involvement of men just as much as women, and in no less or greater of a role either; practical feminism is not a place to be condescending toward men, though it is a place where men had best be very humble and unassuming.

Continuing with the medical analogy, medicine applies equally to both the sick and the well. First of all, if wellness is desired, then it is the responsibility of the sick to seek medical treatment, and it is the responsibility of society to provide medical treatment. It is not acceptable or feasible that only the sick should be concerned with administering and receiving medical treatment; that’s obvious nonsense. Secondly, anyone can become sick at any time, so the method of treatment that worked for a former patient can be reapplied to a new patient. Human beings are all basically the same, so what is good for some people is likely to be good for others as well. For this self-serving reason alone, everyone should take an interest in supporting the field of medicine—it can only benefit society, the parts and the whole. Thirdly, people who are perfectly physically healthy can still suffer reduced quality of life because of the emotional, economic, and pragmatic hardship of dealing with a loved one (or any human relation) that is sick. Many would say that the people who suffer most due to cancer are the family members rather than the patients themselves. For all of these reasons, medicine is inarguably a pan-human concern.

I argue that the same is true of feminism and masculism; both are equally important and equally applicable to all people. Feminism is not a joint human effort in kind of the same way that medicine is; feminism is a joint human effort in EXACTLY the same way that medicine is. All three reasons that I listed for medicine hold soundly true for feminism as well.

Firstly, women are responsible for improving their lot, but men too are responsible for helping them. What could women do without the help of men? What could laborers do without the help of farmers? No one could do what they do or be where they are without the help of others; it’s the human condition. Realistically, in order for oppression to cease, both on the macroscopic (society) and microscopic (family) scales, the oppressed need to step up and the oppressors need to step down; and the oppressed need to help the oppressors step down, and the oppressors need to help the oppressed step up. Everyone needs to do their part and help others do their part as well. Obviously, not that this is even remotely possible, but if women were to “overthrow” the patriarchy with violent force and subjugate men militarily to establish sort of a fascist matriarchy, then society would be no closer to equality and ultimately women would be no better off for it. You cannot force peace; you cannot muscle harmony. Only through unanimous cooperation can utopian ideals be achieved.

Secondly, women are humans (last time I checked) so any issues or problems that they have are entirely libel to apply to men as well. Maybe not so much at this present moment for a particular concern, but at another moment in time that concern might become very applicable to some men—who knows what changes the great unfolding drama of life can bring? And let’s not forget about transgendered people, nor anyone who doesn’t fit the artificial cookie-cutter mold we make for sex and gender; outliers on the bell curve may be infrequent but are no less important. I have heard concerns and grievances from unexpected places: for example, one person was upset because a certain feminist blogger stated that menstruation only concerns women, when in fact many transmen (female to male transgendered individuals) also menstruate. Yes, that’s a “man” who undergoes the processes of a “woman’s” body; I use quotes because it makes you reconsider just what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.”

Again, you really should believe me when I tell you that feminine concerns should not be thought of as exclusively female, but rather human concerns that can involve in some way men too. It could do you a service to let go of your mother’s discretion or your father’s pride (or vice versa) and put your issues onto the table for men and women alike to consider and discuss. Do not perpetuate the “us versus them” mentality.

Thirdly, you may find this incredible, but men also suffer as a result of women’s plight. Good men, bad men, whatever foolish categorization you may want to give them, all types of men suffer. The loving but old-fashioned (AKA, sexist) husband does not derive pleasure of out his wife’s pain, even if in his ignorance he aggravates it. The puritan type father (the oppressive “daddy’s-little-girl” type) is saddened by his daughter’s dispiritedness or frustrations, even though he unwittingly contributed to it. Even in the case of bitter, psychotic misogynists, their actions and attitudes come from a place of pain—pain that was caused by troubles they had with women and that is agitated by a perversion of their sense of injustices; it’s all related to out-of-balance gender relations. I might be a little too optimistic for some, but I believe that even the most spiteful and psychopathic people fundamentally want the happiness of everyone and are hurting inside because of the suffering they cause but don’t know how to stop causing—the insane relationship people have with pain is worth several posts all on its own, but that’s too far off tangent. Suffice to say, woman-loving and woman-hating men all would be happier if women were happier.

And I can go on. Fourthly, the biggest culprit by far of gender inequity is not misogyny—it is ignorance. If more men (and more people in general) become involved in feminism, that ignorance will dispel like clouds after a storm. Most men simply have no idea how serious women’s issues are or that they themselves are part of the problem. (Go read up on 12th century hygiene versus modern hygiene and you’ll see just how much of a difference a little bit of education can make.) Moreover, women could use the support. Getting an outside perspective on the problem can be helpful, if one has humility, and there are some things women just may not realize, about themselves or their relationships, than men could help illuminate. Of course, both genders will have to be sensitive and make sure that oppression is not allowed creep into feminism—this is largely why so many women have been hesitant to let men into feminist discussion, and it’s a legitimate concern.

There are so many reasons why feminism should be shared by women and men, and I can only give a few. Let it be understood that feminism is simultaneously a ladies-only venue and an all-inclusive struggle, depending on what the situation calls for. Feminism is like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; it is precisely what women need it to be and what is best for women.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with some visual representations of feminism and masculism.

Below is a chart of the inherent value of feminism versus the inherent value of masculism:

Here is a scale of the relevancy/importance of feminism versus masculism in our modern times (no pacman references intended):

Lastly, here is a graph of gender as pertaining to the human condition:

Not so cut-and-dried, is it?

Posted in Gender, People | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Potentiality

When speaking of possible versus impossible, one needs to remember that “possible” and “impossible” are semantic constructions; they are contrived human thought forms that do not have any basis or even any meaning outside of human meaning. That is not to say that such concepts are not useful or accurate: to the contrary, statements of possibility and practicality are important to our ever-evolving understanding of and interaction with the world. However, impossible and possible are forms, and as such they may not apply to other realities, and they certainly can not apply to God or absolute reality.

To say that something is impossible is to say that said thing does not fit within the logical confines relegated to the concept called “possible,” but does fit within the defined parameters of the concept called “impossible.” Anything that cannot fit neatly within the conceptual boundaries demarcating “possibility” must necessarily transcend any notion of possible or impossible. Such things do exist. We shall call candidates for possibility “objects” and we shall say that the object is “potential” if it occupies the realm of possibility and “non-potential” if it is not contained within the set of objects defined by possibility.

Often times there are objects that simply do not adhere to the semantic “dress code” of possibility, and therefore make it a moot point to argue for or against that object’s possibility. To illustrate one case of this, I will introduce an example object as follows: “is it possible to sing with all the voices of the mountains?”* It is not clear which realms of meaning we should use to interpret this object; it is an expression of thought that is irrelevant to possibility (by which I mean all notions of possible vs. impossible). Consequently, this object is non-potential. Here is another object that is non-potential: “is it possible to paint with all the colors of the wind?”* (Remember that, though these phrases are non-potential, they may nevertheless hold a great amount of meaning and utility.)

Incidentally, many such non-potential arguments are commonly made against the existence of God. For example, one asks, “can God devise a math problem so hard that even He cannot solve it?” Well, if we were talking about a man (Joseph), then this object would surely be potential; yes, Joseph can write out a semi-random string of numbers, variables, and operators into an equation that can be solved, but not by poor and uneducated Joseph. However, we’re talking about God…which makes things tricky because God does not adhere to the normal properties and limits appropriated to sentient beings. As He is defined, God has certain attributes which are fuzzy on the edges—the boundary of omniscience is not well-defined—and, since human understanding is limited, has a nature which a priori cannot be completely delineated by humans. Therefore, many statements or [questions about God] make good examples of non-potential objects: they cannot be contained within the semantic perimeter of possibility, so they are non-potential. The above question about God’s math problem is one such non-potential object.

Aside from semantics, there is another aspect to potentiality, and that is actuality. For an object to be potential, it must actualize. Potentiality and actuality are both forms and do not apply to God or absolute reality because neither have form, but in our experiential reality a potential object must have actuality. In other words, for something to be possible it must have an actualization, and impossibility is the lack of actualization. Non-potential objects do not require actuality; in fact, actuality becomes completely impertinent—any notion of happening or not happening is irrelevant. For example, evil is non-potential because the occurrence or non-occurrence of evil is nonsensical: the concept of evil (or goodness, love, calculus, light, etc.) is independent of its actualization.

Basically, potentiality is another way of looking at possibility. It is to say that, if something does not happen, then it is impossible for that thing to have happened. Potentiality is necessarily relative to a given context or situation. Take the example of Joseph winning the lottery. If we somehow know that Joe is not going to win the lottery, we could posit that it is impossible for Joe to win the lottery. That does not account for all Joe’s in all universes and all levels of reality; it is merely to say that if a particular context-specific object does not actualize, then that object (Joe winning the lotto) is impossible.

However, one can (quite rightly) argue that everything exists, whether in a superposition of all states or the summation of all realities, and that all potential objects have an actualization. Because of this, literally everything is possible.

*>>Pocahontas

>>Some assorted questions about God.

>>I’ll refer to this in another post more specific to God, but if you’d like read more about disproving God using dubious semantic arguments, check out Abrahamic God Does Not Exist.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment