Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Tsukuru Tazaki, Stoic

“In this dream, though, he burned with desire for a woman. It wasn’t clear who she was. She was just there. And she had a special ability to separate her body and her heart. I will give you one of them, she told Tsukuru. My body or my heart. But you can’t have both. You need to choose one or the other, right now. I’ll give the other part to someone else, she said. But Tsukuru wanted all of her. He wasn’t about to hand over one half to another man. He couldn’t stand that. If that’s how it is, he wanted to tell her, I don’t need either one. But he couldn’t say it. He was stymied, unable to go forward, unable to go back.

He woke up, his body quaking. It took a while before he understood that it had been a dream. He tore off his sweat-soaked pajamas and dried himself with a towel, but no matter how hard he wiped the sweat away, he couldn’t rid himself of that slimy feeling. And he came to a realization. Or maybe felt it intuitively. So this was jealousy. The body or the heart of the woman he loved, or maybe even both, were being wrested from him by someone else.

Jealousy– at least as far as he understood it from his dream– was the most hopeless prsion in the world. Jealousy was not a place he was forced into by someone else, but a jail in which the inmate entered voluntarily, locked the door, and threw away the key. And no another soul in the world knew he was locked inside. Of course if he wanted to escape, he could do so. The prison was, after all, his own heart. But he couldn’t make that decision. His heart was as hard as a stone wall. This was the very essence of jealousy.” – Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

I just started reading the new Murakami. It’s good so far. It’s every bit as psychological as his other books but, so far, lighter on the surrealism. I’m always impressed with the detail with which Murakami fleshes out the interior world of his characters. Only a few chapters in, and I’m starting to build an intuitive, almost empathetic understanding of the main character. This, despite the Tsukuru’s own pointed reluctance to try to understand himself or the interior world of those around him.

My one (minor) quibble is that Murakami still refuses to use 5 words where 25 will serve just as well. Sometimes his florid prose is in good service to theme or character, but just as often it seems to just pad out an otherwise compact, well-plotted scene.

I was struck, when reading the above scene, to the following:

“What, then, is the punishment of those who do not accept [their circumstances]? To be just as they are. Is one peevish because he is alone? Let him be in solitude! Is he peevish with his parents? Let him be an evil son and grieve! Is he peevish with his children? Let him be a bad father! ‘Throw him into prison.’ What sort of prison? Where he now is. For he is there against his will and where a man is against his will, that for him is a prison. Just as Socrates was not in prison, for he was there willingly.” – Epictetus, I.12.22ff.

Now it would be entirely unfair to compare Murakami to Master Epictetus, but it’s interesting to see the same Stoic idea echoed by so different an author, in such similar terms, but inflated five-fold in the interests of couching it as a character’s own profundity.

“The world has infinite ways to wrong us.”

“Why does it seem that my fears are forever ill-directed, that what pessimism lies in my nature leads to no true prophecy? How is it that I am always prepared for the very misfortunes I am spared? Know that the reaching tendrils of the analytical mind, even as they wrap themselves round a million problematical abstractions, leave a universe of calamity untouched. The world has infinite ways to wrong us. … Do not ask me, then, what catastrophe will reduce this sorry Earth to dust. I will be the one staring at the skies speaking of asteroidal collision as below my feet the world splits open to swallow us whole.” – Kerry Howley, Thrown

Your Brain is Lying to You, Part 6: Pareidolia Edition

Minerva Blesses the Gadflies

Whatever your politics, that is some top notch artistic affliction.

Your Brain is Lying to You, Part 4

Your Brain is Lying to You

In Memoriam, William F. Ryan, S. J.

I attended a memorial service today for perhaps the most important teacher I’ve ever had. Fr. Ryan was not only phenomenal scholar and instructor, but one of the kindest, funniest men I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.

He taught me many important lessons, but one that has stuck with me most keenly has been his warning against the existential vacuum of purposeless life. Man must have meaning in life. We must, each of us, have something towards which we orient ourselves, and for which we strive. I know that for Fr. Ryan, the education, development, and flourishing of his students was one such goal. And for that, I am immensely grateful, and deeply humbled. His dedication to education (along with his charm, wit, and incisive intellect) were incredible to behold.

I say with absolute certainty that the world will never see his kind again, and that we are all poorer for his passing.

But we’re all richer for his having been on Earth.

FrRyan

The Sliding Scale of Strategy vs. Tactics

“Napoleon made the point when discussing the outcome of actions between his own cavalry and the Mameluke horsemen of Asia Minor. These horsemen were so good that two of them would defeat three of his cavalrymen in a minor skirmish. But in a major battle, 1,000 of his cavalry would defeat 1,500 Mamelukes. On the small scale, horsemanship was the predominant factor, but on the large scale victory would be won by the controlled and disciplined application of force. Wellington made much the same point regarding actions between his cavalry and their French opponents.

On both scales of operation skilled horsemanship and cooperative action were ingredient factors, but the balance of importance between them changed with scale. Similarly, in intelligence personal skill may be the paramount factor on the small scale, but the ability to coordinate the skills of many individuals may be predominant in large-scale operations.” – RV Jones

As quoted by the mighty Grugq.

Thought Experiment for Open Immigration Opponents

Bryan Caplan posits an interesting thought experiment for immigration opponents. Like any good thought experiment, I think this one is effective because it’s a clear, succinct analogy and any honest disagreement is likely to come from arguing that the analogy itself is flawed.

This is ideal because the flaws one identifies in the analogy are likely to be the critical features that one considers important in the immigration debate, and so can be revealing about what, exactly, one’s motivations are. This is why thought experiments are particularly useful in ethics. Ethical inquiry has never really been about involuntary organ donation or pushing fat guys in front of trains, but rather about figuring out what the necessary elements are for an act to be ethically permissible.

So I encourage you to read Caplan’s argument and, as he says, “show your work”. In what specific ways are wage-based eugenics different from restricting immigration of the impoverished and/or unskilled?

“Things are not what they seem”

“And also,” the driver said, facing the mirror, “please remember: things are not what they seem.”

Things are not what they seem, Aomame repeated mentally. “What do you mean by that?” she asked with knitted brows.

The driver chose his words carefully: “It’s just that you’re about to do something out of the ordinary. Am I right? People do not ordinarily climb down the emergency stairs of the Metropolitan Expressway in the middle of the day –especially women.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Right. And after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before. I’ve had that experience myself. But don’t let appearances fool you. There’s always only one reality.”

Aomame thought about what he was saying, and in the course of her thinking, the Janáček ended and the audience broke into immediate applause. This was obviously a live recording. The applause was long and enthusiastic. There were even occasional calls of “Bravo!” She imagine the smiling conductor bowing repeatedly to the standing audience. He would then raise his head, raise his arms, shake hands with the concertmaster, turn away from the audience, raise his arms again in praise of the orchestra, face front, and take another deep bow. As she listened to the long recorded applause, it sounded less like applause and more like an endless Martian sandstorm.

“There is always, as I said, only one reality,” the driver repeated slowly, as if underlining an important passage in a book.

“Of course,” Aomame said. He was right. A physical object could only be in one place at one time. Einstein proved that. Reality was utterly coolheaded and utterly lonely.

Aomame pointed toward the car stereo. “Great sound.”

The driver nodded. “What was the name of that composer again?”

“Janáček.”

“Janáček,” the driver repeated, as if committing an important password to memory. Then he pulled the lever that opened the passenger door. “Be careful,” he said. “I hope you get to your appointment on time.”

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
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6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
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