Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Self-Referential Analysis

A self-referentially inconsistent statement undercuts itself. It denies or cannot explain something that's required for that statement itself to make sense and be true.

Also, a self-referentially inconsistent statement itself in its own subject matter. Hence, it refers to itself. But a self-referentially inconsistent statement can't explain or justify itself, just as universal skepticism puts itself into the same doubt in which it puts other kinds of knowledge.

In a similar way, anyone who says that something can both be and not be thereby shows the impossibility of their own view.

They cannot say anything, because on their own view words can have no significance.

Moroever, assuming that the same thing can both be and not be, the contradictory of that assumption can be used with equal propriety.

Thus, whatever might be designated as A can be designated as non-A.

“Whatever might be designated as A can be designated as non-A” implies that words have no definite meanings, or even the minimum condition for definite meaning.

In asserting that ‘whatever might be designated as A can be designated as non-A’, one must say something with a meaning that is not completely indeterminate.

In asserting that ‘whatever might be designated as A can be designated as non-A’, one makes use of what one explicitly denies.

To assert that ‘whatever might be designated as A can be designated as non-A’, is to listen to reason while one disowns it.

Through Difficulties To Honor

One of the greatest truths is that life is difficult.

But to know that life is difficult is to thereby transcend its difficulty.

Once we accept the fact that life is difficult, its difficulty doesn't matter any more.

There's no reason to believe that life should be easy.

Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them?

Summary of M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Two Of Us

"I would also like to thank many of my teachers and collegues. Principal among them is my wife, Lily.

She has been so giving that it is hardly possible to distinguish her wisdom as a spouse, parent, psychotherapist, and person from my own."

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Sig's Illusion

"I do not believe there are any single easy answers. I believe that brief forms of psychotherapy may be helpful and are not to be decried, but the help they provide is inevitably superficial."

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled


"I make no distinction between the mind and the spirit, and therefore no distinction between the process of achieving spiritual growth and achieving mental growth. They are one and the same."

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Specifics 3.18

Reflecting is trying to understand an object within the system that causes that object. It's being aware of something you must have to be able to fit reasons into systems and carry them around in your mind. But that object itself is something different from systems and minds.

Grasping a connection between this super-rational object and those systems and minds is a process.

First get clear on the problem.

Undefined mental bridges connect to islands lost in the fog.

Reflecting is trying to solve a problem. It's trying to get a line from the coast to something helpless at sea through a shifting and uncertain light.

Self-Repairing Metasystems 3.21.1

Reflection is always trying to solve a problem. To solve the problem, you have to know what the problem really is. But to know what the problem is, you have to know what questioning is. A question is a system of ideas that is trying to fix a problem in its own structure.

Questioning clarifies the problem to figure out how to solve it. Once the system of ideas is as complete as we can make it, we can construct theories. The more complete the system, the more the solution is better, easier, and faster. Wording the question well is part of the process of answering it. Very few can or do truly think. Many minds wander from the subject in hopeless reverie or they just get bored. They can't think about ideas. They may be tired or distracted or just not interested. Or they may be over-emotional. They might be insane, or just plain wierd. These things we pass by. They distort and disrupt by breaking in from the outside.

They have an importance, and some thinking is at the mercy of those factors. But thinking can can never surrender itself completely to the control of the subject-matter and it can be objectively logical, even though it can be influenced by instincts, desires, and feelings. If that were not the case, one could not know that fact, much less state it.

If all thinking is governed by non-logical factors, then that statement itself is also governed by those non-logical factors, and that statement has no more claim on our acceptance than any other non-logical factor. If we can't solve a problem, it's because of a lack of knowledge and-or creativity or the will to inquire.

3.21.18 ~ Solution Formulas

Can any rules teach the formula for recognizing which quality of an object is the most connected to it? The only prior advice that can be given to someone embarking onlife with a certain purpose is: Among the circumstances you encounter, pick out the *right* circumstances for your purpose. Millions stare at something before a brighter mind thinks of the concept. Genius sees the right things when opening one's eyes to the world. Fools have the same purposes as geniuses, but get their attention tangled up in the superfluous.

3.22.1 ~ The Reflective Process

Relection is an imperfect system of ideas developing toward self-completion. A challenge to the system by something demanding inclusion starts the process. This challenge added to theoretical, practical, and other needs causes the system to begin incorporating the foreign object within itself. First, it makes the issue to be settled as definite as the case admits, and makes explicit the resources already assumed which imply things about the problem. Second, if those resources are not sufficient, one broadens the base from which implication might emerge, by reading, consulting, and observing. Third, one theorizes.

3.22.27 ~ The Problem of Invention

The problem of invention is how a partially realized goal gets what it needs to extend itself or complete itself in some sense. How does a goal conquer the waves of irrelevant impluse and association and reclaim a further domain of the sea? Invention is purpose assuming authority over ideas. Implications from it are no accident. There is thought in the goal itself. The purpose takes what it needs from what is given, and discards the rest. And it doesn't just select from passively received matter. The purpose makes the matter an object of thought. The spirit of logic makes distinctions in the unformed matter, and the spirit of beauty supplies the goals and the means of reaching them. The tendency toward a completed unity is the source of all thought. But what are the devices the fragments already in the mind use to extend and complete themselves?

3.23.1 ~ A New Thought

Reflection begins with a collision between a system or order already in the mind, and some fragment that ought to be included in this system, but remains outside it. A detective begins to reflect on someone's death because there is a conflict between the fact of the person's death and something already in the mind. The detective orders their experience on the principle that events have causes. This event challenges inclusion in that order. The detective makes it fit by first learning the details of the problem by reflecting and observing. Observation is guided by what experience has taught about which details are relevant.Consequently, the detective pays more attention to bruises apparently made by some blunt instrument.The details are not obtained by focusing on a single point. The basis of a new thought must be broad. If the question was merely who might have used the blunt instrument, their would be an indefinitely large number of answers. The question is who must have done this in view of unemptied pockets, signs of a struggle, the butler's loyalty, and perhaps a hundred other things---all relevant details. A successful conclusion from a single factor alone would be an accident. The conclusion come from all of them taken together.The problem is to fit a detached fact into the entire surrounding system.


Two minds think about the same problem with the same data. One catches the essential key to solution and the other does not. Why? Because one is more intelligent than the other? Some perverse cleverness or fertility that goes off in dazzling disregard of fact? No. Thought controlled by the necessities of the case. Random and heterogeneous analogies cause thought to drift through various associations. The less random and heterogenous they are, the more necessary they become.The universal connection discovered should be the right one. Newton, in contemplating planets and apples, must light on the concept of falling as leading to the force he seeks. Darwin must select from people and racehorses the feature that is essential to improvement of the type. The suggestion of an undiscovered star must come to Leverrier. Shakespeare must be carried, with or without analogies, to the last speech of Othello. All of these things are explainable in only one way. The ideal order which their thinking tries to realize has produced something new in them.The issue begins to form in their minds, parts or aspects are connected, hidden affinities come to light, not because they wanted it, but because they went beyond more people in recognizing a necessity that is within us and also beyond us.The ability to use analogies to pass quickly from one topic to another is an expression of logic itself. The eye that can trace the lines of necessity and single out the relevant from the more common irrelevant associations is guided by the invisible purpose of ideal rationality. The influence of ideal rationality is felt stronger in some minds rather than others. Ideal rationality organizes the chaos of experience into fixed categories. In inquiring minds these categories form themselves more readily and in closer alignment, as logic gains control and prepares to create a new synthesis.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

If You Can't Beat'em, Undermine'm

Not everyone in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had the capacity to defeat the church in war or even in politics. An increasinly important alternative strategy now emerged---attacking the ideas on which the church was based.

For an increasingly numerous and articulate group within Western culture, the best way to reduce the excessive influence of the church was to undermine the credibility of its teachings. While some saw the attraction of atheism as lying in what it proposed, most saw its appeal in its ability to weaken, perhaps even destroy, the institution of the church.

Paradoxically, the historical origins of modern atheism lie primarily in an extended criticism of the power and status of the church, rather than any asserted attractions of a godless world.

Adapted from Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism, p. 11.

Classical Greek Atheism

"Yet atheism failed to have the impact on the late classical world that some feared and others secretly longed for. Roman writers such as Lucretius (c. 94-c. 50 B.C.) argued that religion merely evoked terror---as, for example, in the case of Agamemnon, whose fear of the goddess Artemis led him needlessly to sacrifice his only daughter. Atheism, Lucretius declared, eliminates such terror and allows us to focus on the natural forces and processes at work around us.

These ideas had relatively little impact on their own era. They would, however, find a new and highly receptive audience centuries later. Perhaps the world was not yet ready for the announcement of the death of the gods.

That day would come---with a vengeance."

Alister McGrath
The Twilight of Atheism

Prior Mind Structures

Probing the underlying structures of our own reasoning, assumptions, values, and beliefs is no different from anything else we can think about.

This is not just standard procedure in many other areas of thought. It is considered matter-of-factly necessary in relation to any area in which truth-claims must be adjudicated because of the implications of the possibility of error.

Design and verification issues always come up when something goes wrong.

The design and structure of the World Trade Center towers have been the subject of extremely focused, detailed, and complex analysis since 9-11, including retracing the reasoning for various design and construction decisions in that project.

So why then is straightforward analysis claimed to be unable to arrive at a reliably true position concerning God or even operational values common to believers and atheists?

More importantly, why is the unknowability claim considered true?

And the issue of God is by no means the only area that can be questioned in this way, as we shall see.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Finding Water

Religion uses a divining rod.

Philosophy uses a pick and shovel.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Law Spheres

Every part and aspect of nature can be isolated as a subsystem
governed by laws which are describable as functions of time.

Joseph Weizenbaum
Computer Power and Human Reason

Appearance & Reality

Ideas which at first seem obvious and simple are sometimes buoys marking out stormy channels in deep intellectual seas.



Intense vitality, joy in living, vigor of creative writing bring to bear on their owners immense happiness and acute suffering. The reaching upward and outward of the mind is at the same time the keenest joy and the fiercest pain.

Maisle Ward (1889-1975)
Quoted in The Instructed Heart, by Fulton J. Sheen

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Blind Alley

For these people of today I do not want to be light, or to be called light. These I want to blind. Lightning of my wisdom! Put out their eyes! They arouse mistrust against great things, these subtle counterfeiters and actors---until finally they are false before themselves, squinters, worm-eaten decay, cloaked with strong words, with display-virtues.

The Portable Nietzsche, p. 401

Ivory Ignorance

Even first-rate philosophers are often surprisingly ignorant of the relevant philosophical literature.

William Wainwright
Philosophy of Religion

Destiny's Darling

One meets one's destiny often in the road one takes to avoid it.

Less Is More

Very few of us can own things without being corrupted by them, gaining thereby a false sense of security. Very few of us can resist being distracted by things. We need to choose the simple and lasting instead of the new and individual. . . . This means reducing instead of adding, the reversal of our habitual thinking.

Anni Albers


Death is nature's way of saying "Howdy!".


"Cult" just means not enough people to make a minority.

Robert Altman
The Observer, 1981

I Have The Touch

In prosperity, human life is only a sketch. And when misfortune comes, the wet sponge blots out the drawing with a touch.



Everywhere I have sought rest and did not find it except by sitting alone in a nook with a little book.

Thomas a Kempis

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Foundations of Modern Atheism

Belief in God was so embedded in Western European culture that it was itself unaffected by the demands for systemic change brought about by the Protestant Reformation.

Protestantism developed the foundation for the emergence of atheism several centuries later.

Yet the seeds of a renewed interest in atheism had already been sown.

The power of the corrupt, oppressive, and backward church had legitimized the older order which could not cope with the challenges of a new age.

So how could the church now liberate from a bondage that it had perpetuated and legitimized?

-rewrite of Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Modern Atheism, Chapter 1, page 10.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spare Us The Monuments

"If I have done any noble action, that is a sufficient memorial. If I have done nothing noble, all the statues in the world will not preserve my memory."

King of Sparta

What God Cannot Do

"This only is denied to God: the power to undo the past."


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hating Proof on Principle

"I'm amused to see you so vigorously defending your own style of nonsense against somebody else's style. All these emperors without clothes, you all have your turfs to defend. This boy comes in and offers to prove God's existence and you . . . obviously wish him dead, gone, out of the church. To you he's a heretic."

John Updike
Roger's Version

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Coroner of the Death of Belief in God

"The primary emphasis of Nietzsche's mature writings is that 'Belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable'---a statement that represents a cultural observation rather than a philosophical argument. 'What is now decisive against Christianity is our taste, no longer our reasons.' "

Western culture has not ceased to believe in God on account of unassailable philosophical reasons, but because of its shifted mood."

-Alister McGrath
The Twilight of Atheism

The Coroner of the Death of God

Nietzsche did not form a project to kill God. He found him dead in the soul of his contemporaries.

-Albert Camus

Spring Cleaning

She: Do you believe in god?

He: Yes.

She: Why?

He: Well i just think there has to be a god.

She: Why?

He: Well i just don't think it could all just have happened.

She: But my question is why you think those things. I get the point that you believe them. My question is why, not whether.

Chain Drive

Justaposing views and their respective cases is an engine of clarity.