Things Change

7 and a half weeks until graduation. Damn, time goes by fast.

While my future provides me with an exciting possibility on one front, the winds of change demand that I return what I have treasured so much before I grasp my future. I am excited by the prospects offered to me in South Korea, including the possibility to work in an industry that is badly in need of some good public relations work. I am also excited by the chance to get out of the country, spread my wings, explore a new culture and travel a part of the world that I have wanted to see for quite a while now.

And after four long years of studying (and only four!), I will also finally have my bachelor’s degree. I remember one point in high school where I thought this was never going to happen. It’s amazing to think how far I’ve come since then.

But at the same time, I will be giving up some of the things I love. I have already completed my last assignment ever for the International Student Association as the director of International Week and Night, and only now am I beginning to realize how much ISA has shaped the way I approached college, friendships and the world around me.

Right now, I have three of the best friends a person could ever ask for; in a few short weeks, we will all be going our separate ways. I dreamed that I was about to go visit one of them for the first time in a year, and woke up realizing how good things are now, and also how much my state of contentness will be shaken up by our departures from each other.

I have been able to see my parents at least once every couple of months, but soon I may be wondering if I am able to see them once a year! I live in a world where everyone speaks my language and I take that for granted; soon, I will be communicating with everyone using limited English and however much Korean I can learn.

I stood outside today in the 80 degree weather, thinking about how content I was in my little paradise. The trees were coming back to life and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. But today had been prepared by countless days of rain, cold weather and unpleasantness, all of which today couldn’t have existed without. And days like today will give way to days that are less pleasant, because such slices of heaven cannot last forever.

These changes are cyclical, and these moments of pure content come and go. This holds true for the weather, as it does our lives. While our lives are linear, we go through cyclical progressions even as we advance in years. We treasure our moments of perfection and understand that these times are a result of times of hardship, and that without any hardship or discomfort, our states of content cannot exist.

And ths has caused me to understand that I cannot always stare ahead to the future. Right now, I need to live in the now, not worrying about the past or the future, because that’s the only way I can make the last days of my college career significant.

Thanks for the memories, everyone, and let’s make the next seven weeks kick ass!

Why Philosophy is Important

I studied philosophy informally for the better part of a year. And even though at the time I was infatuated by philosophy, I could never find any pragmatic application for it.

But I feel that dabbling in the writings of Nietzsche, Marx and Mill (along with Locke, Descartes and Humme) forced me to critically analyze my political, personal, and religious beliefs. Most of my beliefs at those times were products of what my family and friends believed. And while environment plays an important factor in shaping beliefs, I don’t think that people’s beliefs should be a product of their environment alone. I think they need to critically analyze what their environment presents them with. Otherwise, I don’t think their beliefs can be their own.

What I enjoyed about philosophy was that it exposed me to parpdoxes and conflicts in life. And while plenty of perspectives were offered on how to ‘solve’ these problems, I somehow doubt that finding the solution was the underlying intention of any philosopher. Even when Descartes used his faith in God to come to terms with his understanding of objective reality, I think he was calling his readers to further analyze and critique his findings.

If I had never studied philosophy, I would still have my mother’s morals, my father’s God and my roommate’s politics. My understanding of the world would be through other people’s perspective and not my own. And while I’ve decided to not devote any significant amount of time to philosophy anymore, I’m glad I spent time studying it.

Do you REALLY believe that?

Something I’ve noticed: in 95% of the arguments I’ve witnessed or partaken in, any of the two positions the debaters take is logically defensible. Excluding the irrational arguments I’ve witnessed, arguments generally center around a small group of positive statements with the disagreements being concerned with normative statements.In high school forensics, we always, always played devils advocate as an exercise in argumentative discourse. The point was not so much as to understand the other side’s view as much as it was to see how easy it was to construct a defensible position on almost any public policy question.

To change subjects slightly (I’ll bring them back around in the end… I promise), my own personal beliefs have been constructed via the following process: investigate the positives, reconcile my normatives with the positives, and form my own beliefs around them. But after starting college, I noticed an interesting trend; friends started adopting other friend’s normatives, then seeking out positives to support them. While I feel my normatives are based on a philosophical structure (in which I hope none of my opinions cause me to ‘backtrack’), I felt because my friends normative values were unstructured because they weren’t a result of their own investigations. In listening to their opinions on various public policy, I’ve found them to have stances on an issue that cause them to contradict a stand on another. I’m by no means saying I’m not guilty of the exact same thing; in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I have one or two beliefs that may contradict each other (but when they come to light, I’ll do my best to reconcile them). My concern is that I feel people are taking positions on policy because their friends are taking them. Just because a person can defend a piece of public policy doesn’t mean they’ve thought out how that piece of policy reflects their own personal philosophy. In other words, I really feel that people advocate positions without contemplating how those policies, or what those policies imply on their moral/ethic/philisophical structure (the dashes are ‘or’s because some people have no ‘moral’ structure for philosophic reasons).

In one sense, I really don’t believe it matters, based on my own personal philosophy, but on another level, I think it’s sad for the person because having been easily swayed one way, it’s simple for a person who is adapt at arguing to sway the other person, and that person’s position based on their own highest values is never realized.

Removing the Crutch

I discovered this while studying Japanese, but I think it applies to all learning. The experts that troll this blog can comment and say otherwise if I’m wrong (I’m looking at you, Adelle).

After 1 term of studying Japanese, we had learned both Japanese phonetic alphabets. Each of us had the ability to pronounce any of the characters, but it took us a considerable amount of time. At the end of the first term, and for the rest of our time spent studying Japanese, our instructors posted all lessons in the Japanese phonetic alphabet.

The first time we had to read entire scripts in Japanese was humorous to say the least! Everyone read extremely slow. What’s more, we hated reading using Japanese characters. It was such a struggle because it felt like such a topical regression. In English, native speakers have become so accustomed to recognizing words that we don’t bother looking at spelling for pronunciation as much as we look at word recognition. In Japanese, we experience somewhat of the same phenomenon. Instead of being able to recognize entire words, we were forced to examine and consider every pronunciation. Word distinction at that stage was nigh impossible given that there are no word break markers in pure hiragana/katakana (phonetic reading) Japanese.

But as time went on, and as we learned additional Chinese symbols (they go a long way in helping with word recognition and word breaks), we all became much more proficient in reading comprehension and pronunciation. I can read a Japanese text MUCH quicker than I was able beforehand.

I’m grateful my instructors removed the roman letters crutch. I know for a fact that had I been studying by myself, I would have been much more reluctant to use only Japanese characters… or maybe I would have never done it. But by removing that crutch, we were forced to adapt, and that’s something I think we as a species are amazing at doing. The problem, of course, is us not wanting to step outside our comfort zone. But the more we do, the more we learn and grow, and the more that a particular subject/area we’re working with becomes a comfort zone.

Being quick to abandon what’s comfortable, always looking toward the unseen path… that’s a personality trait I hope to develop.

Importance of truth and a Postulate

The “truth” of something does not need verification to be a reality, but it does need verification if it needs to have any value attributed to it.

That comes from someone much smarter than me.

After doing some reading last year, I decided to abandon many of my normative values in an attempt to re-evaluate everything. However, I realized that instead of just a re-evaluation, I should re-apply my normative values in order to better analyze them. After all, the age of a normative value sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) correlates with an inherent truth or wisdom in adopting  that value.

If that didn’t make sense to anyone, please complain about it.

Psuedo Philosophical… and a double post

I didn’t feel the following had anything to do with my last post, hence the double post.

I remember when I was first starting to read Nietzsche my friends and I would always make fun of a famous quote by him. It was something along the lines of “if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Now, I haven’t been fortunate enough to read the quote in its full context yet, but I think maybe I’ve uncovered part of its mystery, and I hope that I am not perceived as being pretentious for doing so.

The concept that we as humans have attempted to confine to the idea of “truth” (I know, saying “truth” would have been so much easier, but truth doesn’t necessarily encompass “fact”, “what is”, and a host of other concepts) is perhaps the very abyss Nietzsche was talking about. Humans can look into the abyss, but often times it is a frightful thing to look into . Perhaps this is because of an inability to cope, perhaps this is because of the revelation that a glimpse of truth is able to inspire, or perhaps this is because of another reason, but it seems that the true, unreported number one fear of humans is in fact not public speaking but a true firm understanding of “what is” (perhaps we can call it truth, but we can only do that by realizing that the standard conception of “truth” is not in fact “truth”). Perhaps we as humans, as a race and as a vast set of individuals, are so fearful of falling into a Nihilistic spiral that we have to come up with meanings and purposes, have to construct lies and deceit, have to deceive ourselves so that perhaps we cannot fully understand ourselves and the mistakes we make. Perhaps we are incapable of understanding ourselves because “truth” is that abyss that we are so fearful of looking into. (Borrowing from concepts learned in economics) Perhaps the opportunity cost of comprehending “truth” are far inferior to the benefit of discovering it. Is it worth the possibility of falling into a nihilistic depression to understand “truth”?

That, I think, no one can answer.

What is going on

The lack of updates is due to a poor internet connection. I just recently figured it out, therefore the posts should now be more frequent.

I kind of put my project on hold to pursue a rather lengthy writing response in my true field of passion… ethics. I recently read an essay on the “Moral Imperative” which, needless to say, I found ridiculous. I’d say why, but then there would be no reason to complete my write up.

The write up itself is taking a while because I am having problems finding an adequate source of inspiration. Sometimes I admire people who have nearly unlimited access to what I feel inspires the most, but I also realize I have to make best with what I’m given. Also, I’m sure after I write the introduction, the rest will flow easy.

A critique of Science: Weber

The enlightenment brought us advances in fields such as science, philosophy and art, leading us to characterize the event as the beginning of the age of reason. The advances in the field of science and art are of the most recognizable and celebrated as they have led to a series of advances and premises that to this day have not been widely obsoleted (or at least, not to the extent of philosophical ideas becoming obsolete), but rather, advanced upon. Yes, the same can be said about philosophy, but so much has been changed as the age of modernity has dawned upon us that, while advances in philosophy can be seen as progressing upon enlightenment philosophy, the field has largely discredited many of the former assertions.

These changes in philosophical reasoning, in the age of modernity, have played an important role in the analysis of the “age of reason” entertaining some interesting critiques, especially in the realm of science (in this context, science covers msot other fields of academics). Max Weber, an influential sociologist, contributed to this critique of the vocation of science in his lecture The Vocation of Science. He analyzes the presuppositions implied by science, specifically that of the knowledge that science gathers is worth knowing, and attacks it as existing without a logical substantial base. He uses the example of medicine keeping a dying patient alive despite a person’s will to cease to exist to explain the presupposition that the knowledge that science gives is useful and universally worth implementing (that, and the old legal ramifications doctors would be faced with by failing to do everything within their means to keep the patient alive). According to Weber,

“Who… still believes today that a knowledge of astronomy or biology or physics or chemistry could teach us anything at all about the meaning of the world? …If anything, the natural sciences tend to make the belief that there is something like a ‘meaning’ of the world die out at its very roots.”

Science, he goes on to say, gives us a methodology for implementing a series of values that we may or may not hold. If, for example, it is the goal of humanity to gather massive amounts of wealth, the science of liberal economics can provide a model that will assist with the accumulation of wealth. What economics cannot answer is whether or not we should accumulate wealth. The same goes for every science.

Update

I was sitting under a tree today contemplating the nature of biology and it as being the source of power relations when I realized I had left out a critical component in the relationship between biology and power. What value does humanity place on biology that allows biology to be the catalyst that power structures use to get to us? I know the wording is a little confusing and I haven’t come up with a better way to phrase it, so I’ll try giving examples:

1. Do humans place an investment on their existence?
2. Do we place an investment in our families continued health? Existence?
3. Is it something else?
4. Is it a combination of those things?

And of course, the question (that I will engage MUCH thoroughly later) most important is: What does our state of existence look like with a society indifferent to these catalysts of power?