1 Sep 2013

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First thing 20 min workout at 5:51 AM: 150 warmup supine moves then 200 lowrise steps. Enhanced the step workout with one hand weight on the side doing the step but could not always do this on the left side (the side with the cancer): missed about 35 weight lifts.

Pain on opening my eyes, had one painkillah prior to the workout. Now getting occasional stabs.

Guy opposite me is terminal but usually cheerful. Yesterday evening he was getting frisky with his wife and she was slapping his hand away. But now he seems upset talking on the phone.

Guy diagonally to me, the Bird Lung Man, whose lungs are so far gone that his cough sounded like the weird laughing of a bird, has been carted away, presumably to the knacker’s yard. Gives me the willies when I think about it, but this place is a good place for reconciling myself with the sooner or later inevitable fact of my mortality, which last year came to loom up in my path. Like the wanderer’s Wall, in the very old Anglo-Saxon poem, “covered with serpent shapes”.

The Bird Lung Man’s Wife seems to have reconciled with him and was crying as he was taken away and she following.

Fifty years ago, Dr King gave this speech. Never fails to move me. Roy Wilkins to Dr King’s left seems to be in tears at the end; even the white deputy guarding Dr King seems to be moved (it’s hard to tell).

Study

Finishing reading (Johansen 1998) about the pre-Socratics and their charming metaphysics, back when science was poetry in the morning of the world.

Anaxagoras’ ontology: concurs with my “object-oriented ontology” including its flaws. If I create a “world game” and in that game there is Descartes pondering the “piece of wax” in his second meditation, one way to code the game would be to instance a person object with Descartes and a thing object with “piece of wax”.

But the problem raised by Hamlet in the Gravedigger scene is that a Person like Alexander, or Descartes, can change into a Thing like a wad of hair and wax used to stop a draft or seal a cask of Malmsey wine.

Which means that all we know is that every thing is just a Thing and its Type would have to be just another property of the Thing. We wouldn’t have to commit to the “logical atomism” a precursor of which was Democritus. The Thinghood of a Thing (its Thinginess) would be a matter of convenience and reflect how the people (that are Things, for “remember man, thou art dust”) think as things (couldn’t resist the alliteration) of things.

But a snag for me, should I use an ordinary OO language like C Sharp, F Sharp or (preferably) Java (under xCode) for empirical investigation of the theories here, Types in these languages aren’t properties of objects to my knowledge. However, it is unlikely that I will get around to much programming at this time, programming at the quality level I insist upon is a complete time sink and now my time may be limited by Hamlet’s “fell sergeant”.

Instead I propose what appear to be natural things one can do with sufficiently powerful OO frameworks and leave it to more technical readers to object.

Our ontology, like certain of the pre-Socratics, like that of Buddhism (with caveats below) and like Russell’s Logical Atomism, has a minimal set of preconditions or commitments. All we really know is that Monism is false. Ergo (or “argal” as Shakespeare’s First Gravedigger says) there are many things that should be described using Einstein’s words: each “logical atom” is “as simple as possible but no simpler”. And, we’ve added to pre-Socratic and Russellian logical atomism the extra ontological commitment that Things can change into other types of Things: that they are malleable to the point of nonsense and the surreal:

He thought he saw an elephant
That practiced on a Fife:
He looked again and saw it was
A Letter, from his wife:
“At length I realise,” he said,
“The bitterness of Life!”

– Lewis Carroll, “The Mad Gardener’s Song”

“If cinnabar were now red, now black, now light, now heavy, if a human being were now placed into this animal shape, now that one, if on the longest day the land were covered now with fruits, now with ice and snow, then my empirical imagination would never even get the opportunity to think of heavy cinnabar on the occasion of the representation of the color red, or if one and the same thing were were sometimes called this, sometimes that…”

Kant 1998

But this, to conclude, is all we know: Monism is false (make this an axiom if you are unconvinced of its truth, saying not “Monism is false” but instead “if Monism is false”): therefore there are many Things and any Thing can change at any time to another subtype of Thing.

If you can simply think in the conditional, you’re doing “quantum metaphilosophy” without excess commitments. Congratulations. This appears more in contemporary than in traditional philosophy, notably in Rawls and Peter Singer in my experience. Indeed, misreadings of Singer’s metaphilosophical books by buffoons have caused demonstrations at his talks and the misrepresentation of Singer as a monstrum horrendum.

Object-oriented programming (actually doing it as it is taught at introductions for majors or non-majors at Stanford) is a “metaphysics lab”. There is a “metaphysics lab” at Stanford at which adepts may do OO as a way of learning metaphysics; I am not familiar enough with this Lab to say; they do publish an excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which should always be used in place of wikipedia.

But what we find is unprecedented in the history of philosophy and religion and as such may not be acceptable. Theories of reincarnation of sentient beings are familiar enough from Buddhism: but as far as I know, Buddhists do not think that inanimate “things” are sentient (Keown 2013), not even complex cybernetic entities such as “a Boeing 747” which has telos (“stay aloft for as long as possible: don’t permit the pilot, in normal operation, to engage in monkey business such as barrel rolls, etc.”: cf. Langieweisch 2010 for more on this).

Buddhists in general reserve the ability to change type to sentient beings considered either biological or of nature (a Frog or a Mountain) but they might perhaps be convinced to include (in the spirit of Heidegger’s tool integrated with the “life-world” through attentive-to-being use and care) some inanimate objects.

“Reincarnation” as commonly understood is change in type (from human to animal and vice-versa) but within biology whereas perhaps irresponsibly we’re generalising the implicit type changes of reincarnation.

Catholicism

Praying the Rosary calms me down. I disregard its association, in Europe only, with some of the worst anti-Semitic and right-wing manifestations of Catholicism in Spain, France and Eastern Europe.

It’s amusing that Westerners get all enchanted with Tibetan Buddhism. This form of Buddhism, quite unlike original manifestations in India and China, emphasizes prayer in addition to meditation and contains many aids, figurative and mechanical, to prayer. The same Westerners might in some cases turn up a nose or two at simple Catholics fingering their beads, ironically.

I simply haven’t learned enough about Buddhism to practice it, and I need a spiritual praxis. I know Catholicism, and am heretic enough to equate all religions. Christ said “go and teach all nations”. I don’t know where he said “be Catholic or be damned”. That was the apostolic authors of the Epistles and Acts, I think. But I am quite content, until noticed by Church authorities, to combine Enlightenment (which I consider an important revelation) and the Church despite accusations of “Modernism” and (eek) “Americanism”, Pope Leo XIII’s terms for reading the Bible critically using modern science and the US Catholic belief that they could co-exist with Protestants and Jews.

When I stopped drinking I realised that by becoming what Mom called, in her New York accent, a “freethinkah”, I’d gone off the rails for the absence of a Higher Power drove me to insanity. I realised that I needed to combine Enlightenment and religion, or die. So I did, practising until recently a nameless spirituality and, recently, returning to the Church.

The parish priest hears my confession, reassures me (as did priests during my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) Catholicism of 1962) that a mortal sin is rare (and confined, if you ask me, to CEO suites and the Oval Office) and most important, gives me the Blessed Sacrament.

This practice gives me a lot of balance and peace. But that’s the American individualist reason we find in “Eat, Pray, Love”, that recent memoir about that beastly woman who laid waste to half Yourup by eating, praying, and loving up a storm in its capitals. Perhaps instead I’m just, as in Kant, “supposed” to do it. Perhaps the Ancestors command. I do know that Yuppie type thinking is as dead as the 1980s. The Earth cannot afford it.

I mean: two dear friends have just exhausted themselves cleaning up my crap because even in China I insisted on buying things to heal my soul. I am not even saying that buying something cannot heal the soul, as in the case of books, including the very books I comment on here (Johansen’s History of Ancient Philosophy and the Cambridge Companion to the Critique of Pure Reason.) But I once too often pressed the lever.

Nothing beats (or at least until Kindle, nothing beat) the Hotel Mensch’s small shelf of carefully selected books, his main library being in storage back in the Reich. That is what I had when I arrived in Hong Kong many years ago (2005) and that is what I have today.

References

Johansen 1998: Karsten Friis Johansen, “A History of Ancient Philosophy: from the Beginnings to Augustine”

Kant 1998: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, edition 1 p 100, Tr. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge University Press 1998

Keown 2013: Damien Keown, “Buddhism: a Very Short Introduction”, Oxford University Press 2013.

Langewiesche 2010: William Langewiesche, “Fly by Wire”, Picador 2010.

Change Record

2 Sep 2013: Error, changed “combined to Oval Office, etc.” to “CONFINED to …”

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