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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Call for Input

I need your help:
  1. If you made a presentation this past Friday, could you send me a brief synopsis. Some made a presentation on
    • My reading habits, and how it affects my philosophy, and/or
    • A single book of great affect and why.  (my entry was All the Kings Men and why I consider it to be the great American novel)
  2. We will be needing a new topic for Friday. March 3, 2017.  Please send suggestions.
Last week I sent out a suggestion for a discussion of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, but we will need some groundlaying for that.  We will lay the ground next Friday if we have time.

For example, here is a suggestion for March 3 -- What about the 

Seven new planets offer a universe of possibilities

You may note your recommendations for topics, or your write-ups for the past two meetings as comments on the thread following.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Upcoming Meeting

OK!  Here you go -- your weekly reminder.

We will convene Friday, February 24, 2017 from 9:45am until 11:45am.  Our meeting place is the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library, on the second floor.

Our topic will be a continuation of last week's discussion of your reading life and what impact it has on your philosophy.  There are several relevant items on our group web page, 

We might each contribute 5-10 minutes presenting our reading lives and how they dovetail with our philosophical lives.

If we go long, it will not be a negative.  We can continue the following week.  Reading, to me, is a labor of love.

Please note, we are meeting WEEKLY, although the catalog showed, in error, Bi-weekly.

I look forward to seeing each of you!

Best philosophical regards 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Meeting Notes

Some notes from 2/17 Meeting, Topic:  Reading

Currently reading:
* Indicates book being re-read as a benchmark for changes in thinking or new discoveries,
** indicates books on tape read over and over for pure delight

To examine the nature of humankind, the good the bad and the complex.
  • Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital, by David Oshinsky, Doubleday, 2016. " ...a chronicle of Bellevue's rise from a wretched almshouse infirmary ... to a revered public hospital and trauma center for visiting world leaders. ...interweaves the evolution of American medicine ... with New York's growth as the nation's preeminent city. ... In the dramatic story of Bellevue, David Oshinsky finds all the social calamity, human suffering, and scientific ingenuity that have fueled American medicine for three hundred years."
  • Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure, by Langdon Gilkey, Harper & Row, 1966. Written from the author's journal which he kept during his internment, this book describes life in an civilian internment camp in North China during the war against Japan. " ... One of those rare glimpses of the nature of men and of their communal life..."
  • The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality, by Hervey Cleckley, M.D. Third Edition (1955), Echo Point Books and Media, LLC. "... many psychopathic personalities go undiagnosed because they maintain a social mask that conceals their disorder and enables them to blend in with society. Furthermore, many of these affected individuals appear to function normally in accordance with standard psychiatric criteria."
  • *People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, by M. Scott Peck, M.D. (Touchstone, 1983)
  • Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, Crossroad Publishing Company, 2016 (original copyright in the German, 1989.) Examination of " ... an ancient personality-type system" takes the reader through " ... the process of identifying and analyzing each of the Enneagram types and traits."
  • *The Essential Enneagram (Daniels and Price); The Complete Enneagram (Beatrice Chestnut, PhD)

To examine the dialogue between modern scientific theories and theology from the starting point of scientific method, and the intersection of physics with metaphysics.

  • Theology and Science (a quarterly journal) from the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) Graduate Theological Union, Berkley published by Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, UK.
  • The Physics of Christianity, by Frank Tipler (Doubleday 2007)
  • *Belief in God in an Age of Science, by John Polkinghorne (Yale University Press, 1998)
  • Introduction to Metaphysics, by Martin Heidegger trans. Gregory Fried & Richard Polt (Yale University Press, 2000)

To examine current events from the perspectives of theology and philosophy:

  • Theological Studies (a quarterly journal) a Jesuit publication, Sage Publishing Co., UK
  • Commonweal: A Review of Religion, Politics and Culture (bi-monthly magazine) includes editorials, letters, articles, book reviews, art reviews, poetry, etc.

**Books on tape - mystery/human interest genre feel good about humankind

Alexander McCall Smith (retired professor of medical law and bioethics, Edinburgh) citizen of UK, born in Rhodesia. Series: No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency; 44 Scotland Street; Isabel Dalhousie series and more. Explores the problems, joys and moral questions in everyday life.

Along the same lines, M.C. Beaton (UK) series: Hamish McBeth (highland policeman); Agatha Raisen (idiosyncratic lady detective). Lillian Jackson Braun (US) "The Cat Who ..." series takes place in quaint area "400 miles north of everywhere."

Books on Tape Crime stories: by various authors including John Sanford, Jo Nesbø and many others,to amuse myself when I clean the house.

Magazines for tea drinking: HGTV Magazine, Southern Living, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Eating Well, Consumer Reports .... For fun color, food, etc.

Grapes of Wrath -- by Steinbeck; Science Fiction - Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick; Reading on Birds

Harlem Globetrotters, Bill Walton/John Wooden, Frank Luntz

NPR, WWW, Teilhard deChardin, Richard RohrLies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong is a 1995 book by James W. Loewen, Laos to ...,

The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life

by ,
Thomas Merton, Parker Palmer, Rolf Dobelli

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bloom's Taxonomy

Knowledge Web

Founded by James Burke, the author, host and narrator of the acclaimed television series Connections, the Institute exists to encourage innovative uses of educational technology.
The Knowledge Web today is an activity rather than a web site—an expedition in time, space, and technology to map the interior landscape of human thought and experience. Thanks to the work of a team of dedicated volunteers, it will soon be an interactive space on the web where students, teachers, and other knowledge seekers can explore information in a highly interconnected, holistic way that allows for an almost infinite number of paths of exploration among people, places, things, and events.
We invite you to share the excitement of both the Institute and the Knowledge Web by browsing this site, and we encourage you to participate in the adventure of mapping the landscape of historical and scientific knowledge and to become a user of the Knowledge Web when it is complete. You can use a beta version which has most of the basic functionality of the overall planned system. Soon we will have a mobile app as well.

Literacy at Civilopedia

The development of Writing made available a critical new tool for the advance of knowledge, but, like all tools, it was only useful if employed. The greater the percentage of the population that was Literate, the greater the advantage that could be taken from Writing. Where only priests and scribes were Literate, all others had to share knowledge slowly, by face-to-face contact. When a high percentage of the population was Literate, as in classical Greece, the economy benefited and the advance of knowledge accelerated.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Non-Fiction -- The Control of Nature

In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning.

The Control of Nature (1989)

John McPhee

Poetry -- For Whom the Bell Tolls

Novel -- All the King's Men

He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide. It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things. Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God's eye, and the fangs dripping.

Philosophical View of Literature

Episode 63: Existentialist Heroes in Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men”

Friday, February 10, 2017

Potential Topic for a Future Meeting

What is your favorite resource for philosophy (some examples -- Brain Pickings [Web], WIRED [Web, hard copy], AEON [Web], Lexington Public Library, ...)

Lifelong Philosophy Meeting #4 -- Proposed Topic

The group decided to make "Reading" the topic for next week.  A prompt might be "What kind of reading do you prefer and how does it affect your philosophy?"

Subject: Re: Lifelong Philosophy Meeting #4, Spring 2017 -- OLLI SIG meeting place is the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library, on the second floor.

Our topic will be a discussion of your reading life and what impact it has on your philosophy.  There are several relevant items on our group web page,

Last week, we talked about time.  There is a common thread at OLLI that time in reading is time well-spent.

We might each contribute 5-10 minutes presenting our reading lives and how they dovetail with our philosophical lives.

If we go long, it will not be a negative.  We can continue the following week.  Reading, to me, is a labor of love.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Lifelong Philosophy Meeting #3, Spring 2017 -- OLLI SIG

We will convene tomorrow, February 10, 2017 from 9:45am until 11:45am.  Our meeting place is the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library, on the second floor.

Our topic will be a discussion of the nature of time.  There are several relevant items on our group web page here, 
I hope to seque into this topic by re-referencing the book, The Control of Nature, by John McPhee -- particularly the first section, Atchafalaya.

Please note, we are meeting WEEKLY, although the catalog showed, in error, Bi-weekly.

I look forward to seeing each of you!

Best philosophical regards ...

More -- on TIME

Monday, February 6, 2017

Old Ideas

Recently I encountered a compendium of smart (mostly) commentary entitled "This Idea Must Die: Theories That Are Blocking Progress, " from  The book itself is a collection of answers from luminaries in many fields regarding the 2014 Edge Question, to wit,

Science advances by discovering new things and developing new ideas. Few truly new ideas are developed without abandoning old ones first. As theoretical physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) noted, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." In other words, science advances by a series of funerals. Why wait that long?
Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?

There are 175 essays in this compilation.  Some answers come from personal favorites such as Matt Ridley and Daniel Dennett, others from bête noirs such as Steven Pinker and Sam Harris.  But they are all incentive to thought.

The book actually addresses areas of science, but is to be appreciated for a rather broad view of science (I admit I have a limited appetite for quantum physics, but a howling hunger for philosophy and economics).

One of the paths that I am wandering now, from this inspiration, is to consider disposable ideas from the view of a voluntaryist.  There follow some ideas for which I would suggest early retirement.

Ideas are immortal -- although there are many ideas that have lived throughout Western Civilization, and which give no indication of disappearing anytime soon, we need to apply and re-apply a reasonable test for currency on all ideas.  Is the idea of prohibition worthwhile?  Do two and two make four?  How about alchemy and phlogiston?

Settled science -- the settling of things is not what science does.  Science asks ever new questions, and then explores feasibility.

The survival of the fittest -- Too many action-oriented people see this as kill or be killed.  In probability, we as individuals are not equipped to even guess what the definition of fit is, much less the meaning of survival.  In an older sense, often blamed on Charles Darwin, we see male animals contesting for the right to dominate both females and males in his following.  From this angle, a kind of Noah's Ark angle, the world would be a vast place with only various animations of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.  But alas, the genetic algorithm is complex to a degree that forbids prediction.  Tardigrades are far more likely to produce the future of intelligence than is homo sapiens.

Random means what you think it means -- In statistics random means of or characterizing a process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal probability of being chosen.  Many folks use the word today to mean an unexpected intrusion into one's space.

Darwinism -- first, there is no belief system properly described as Darwinism.  Darwin's theories are not part of a belief system.  One can either demonstrate proper examples of Darwin's theory or one cannot.  Believing anything about them is fanciful. 

Anarchism -- there is also no belief system properly described as anarchism.  Anarchy is a noun that means, etymologically, "no leader,"  in effect no consensus boss.  Anarchy has rules, laws, structure, and hierarchy, among other things.

Ideas need institutions -- Over 50 years ago they had an idea that expressway traffic between Louisville and Southern Indiana could be a dream.  It has been a jungle of orange barrels every single day since.

Know means Know -- Socrates reportedly said that he was the wisest man in Athens because he knew nothing.  Plato followed that with the Allegory of the Cave, in which our opportunity to know anything was severely limited by constraints on human perceptivity.  Nowadays, however, everybody is the World's Foremost Authority.  The thing that Socrates recognized is that what we think we know is very different than what we actually know.  I know that I overslept this morning.  I can only guess where the ripples from that fact will flow.  We ought to discount the use, whenever we encounter it, of the phrase "I know," because in each case case north of 99% of all cases there is no "know," there is only hearsay, assumption, and indoctrination.

Time is a thing -- Time is a relative quality.  Events are things.  Being "on time" means only that you have previously agreed with one or more people to attend an event.  It is a measurement of voluntary self-control in a sea of timelessness.

Good, bad, ugly, beautiful. good, evil -- The idea that everything is binary, true or false, is itself a false binary idea.  One of the great advancements of society was democracy as founded by Pericles of Athens.  This converted previous multifarious indecision into binary decision making based on a measurement of a defined crowd, taken from its individuals.  It has been abused in every way imaginable on every day since.

Rights Be -- The idea of human rights originates in class warfare.  Some have said that might makes right when might only makes might.  In the old days, rights were used to figure out who lived on the "right" (as in correct) side of the tracks.  Many people today still insist on their rights.  They will imprison themselves in a fenced-off category, then declare that they have some "rights" thereby.  As an example, a person may claim to have a right to healthcare, when they may mean 1) that a well-intentioned society will bring the threatened violence of the state to bear on anyone who denies such healthcare (without actually defining healthcare -- who, what, when, where, why, how much, how many, how soon, how done), or 2) illness should never happen (without defining illness).  Nobody has a right to the suspension of natural occurrences, nor do they have a right to compel anyone to tend to them.

Call the police -- No problems get solved by calling the police.

Call the feds -- No problems get solved by calling the feds.

The policeman is your friend -- Get down on the ground!  At least three things are happening here.  The police forces themselves are more and more incompetent on average, which is to say that the police forces themselves are spread too thin, for far too many laws.  The local police, who used to be your friend, dependent on your goodwill, are now co-opted and dependent on the federal government.  Incompetency, excessive legislation, and co-optation by the Feds.

The government is here to ensure my druthers -- The state is not a Make-a-Wish organization.  People will actually say to me that the government's function is to protect them.  From what?  Unfortunately, too many think that means the right to live with only the people of whom they approve.  They want to call down the government's violence to make them happy.  I have never had a day in my life that the state, in one guise or another, did not steal more from me than any other combination of criminals.

Assertion is evidence -- No it's not.  Assertion is a speculation.  Evidence is evidence.

Anybody I disagree with is a snowflake -- Many snowflakes last longer than people who defy the laws of nature.  And certainly no ideology is any more snowflakey than any other.  Wanting to have your derrière kissed, enforced by the state, is socialism (snowflakery).

Reality shows are about reality -- Grow up.  Neither is professional wrestling faked.

The government's pomp and circumstance is free -- Like all of the inaugurations?  Who pays then?

You can give the government the power to do good without also giving it the power to do bad - in fact, to do anything it wants -- Give me an example.  (Hat tip to Harry Browne, who said you can't).

We are a beehive/anthill species -- This is an insult to bees and ants everywhere.  Goals, purpose, rationality, and individual distinction -- not necessarily goodness -- are the hallmarks of humans.

There is someone among us who can tell what a good collective goal would be -- Who?

Mark Twain was just a humorist -- Humor does not preclude profundity.  It's OK to believe that Mark Twain was just a joker, but that in no way detracts from his universal perspective.

Kurt Vonnegut was just a sci-fi writer -- A fictional setting does not cloak truth.  Science fiction is not a curtain over the cloak.  Aficionados of Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and Neil Stephenson know whereof I speak.

These are enough to think about today, but just remember, we will never run out of scared and lazy folks who believe they can have someone else to do their thinking for them.  And we will never run out of egotists who cannot resist telling others what to do.

I'll join you again with these and other ideas like them.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lifelong Philosophy Meeting #2, Spring 2017 -- OLLI SIG

We will convene tomorrow, February 3, 2017 from 9:45am until 11:45am.  Our meeting place is the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library, on the second floor.

Our topic will be a discussion of the book, The Control of Nature, by John McPhee -- particularly the first section, Atchafalaya.

Please note, we are meeting WEEKLY, although the catalog showed, in error, Bi-weekly.

I look forward to seeing each of you!