Recently a thread was started in a forum I regularly participate in regarding books and the value of reading. Much to my horrified amazement, the suggestion was made that reading might be “over-rated” with the assumption, it seemed, that what was read would be blindly “absorbed like a sponge,” which, of course, would fundamentally negate the point of it.
Here are a few tips:
Don’t just read occult books, read history, philosophy, biography, science as well as literature and sci-fi – read everything you can get your hands on. Read books on topics you’re interested in, but read outside your favourite genre for a more well-rounded perspective. This broadens your contextual reference points to those outside your personal experience and typical media intake. You’ll notice allusions pop up that previously slid by and you really will have a greater understanding of the world in which you live. Continue reading
There are those – Richard Dawkins among them – who consider certain aspects of human behaviour to be contrary to nature, “unnatural.” Quite frankly, I don’t understand what this means. How could such a thing even be possible? What is there that is beyond nature?
With all this talk of what is “natural” and “unnatural” in recent posts we might do well to look at how these words are defined. The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary lists sixteen distinct definitions of the word “natural” with various sub-definitions employed as well. Foremost amongst these oft conflicting definitions, and most relevant to our topic, “natural” is defined as “existing in or caused by nature; not artificial”. Whereas “unnatural”, which lists only four definitions, is first defined as “contrary to nature or the usual course of nature”.
If humans are to exist at all they must do so “in nature” for we encounter them regularly in the here and now (let’s leave the “mystical planes” out for now). The “artificial” bit might give pause as humans have a penchant for creating machines, which on the surface may seem “unnatural”, but by the same logic we ought to consider the spider’s web an “unnatural” creation along with the beaver’s dam. It’s not terribly meaningful to call these things unnatural, but if you’d like to make a case for it I’d love to hear it. Continue reading
Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, first published in 1986, was written to counter arguments made in favour of creationism by the eighteenth century theology William Paley’s Natural Theology, published in 1902.
Paley is perhaps best remembered today for his watchmaker analogy, intended as an argument in favour of the existence of an intelligent designer, or god. This was first seriously challenged by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection (the consequence of, or process by which “favourable” traits become prevalent and “unfavourable” traits become rarer), made well known in his The Origin Of Species first published in 1859. Dawkins further decimates Paley’s theory, arguing instead for a “blind” watchmaker, as highly complex systems can be produced by a series of small, cumulative – yet naturally selected – steps, rather than relying on a supernatural designer.
If you walk up and down a pebbly beach, you will notice that the pebbles are not arranged at random. The smaller pebbles typically tend to be found in segregated zones running along the length of the beach, the larger ones in different zones or stripes. The pebbles have been sorted, arranged, selected. A tribe living near the shore might wonder at this evidence of sorting or arrangement in the world, and might develop a myth to account for it, perhaps attributing it to a Great Spirit in the sky with a tidy mind and a sense of order. We might give a superior smile at such a superstitious notion, and explain that the arranging was really done by the blind forces of physics, in this case the action of the waves. The waves have no purposes and no intentions, no tidy mind, no mind at all. They just energetically throw pebbles around, and big pebbles and small pebbles respond differently to this treatment so they end up at different levels of the beach. A small amount of order has come out of disorder, and no mind planned it.
Dawkins explains that, of course Continue reading
The Origins of Society
“…the lower classes of the people… [are] by far the most numerous in all countries and in all ages…”
– James Steuart, 1767
Every society is founded on a common principle. A group of people is more capable of producing more together than each person would be individually. Industrialized production and specialized labour are some examples of how the group size contributes to a larger per-person output of the social product. In this organization, the worker’s ability to labour is bound to the other workers. Since their machinery requires many hands to function, they require each other to produce as much as they require their tools. How well each labourer is able to perform their task, then, is necessarily tied to how well all workers as a whole are labouring. Where Capitalism reigns, there are even greater dependencies; not only is the labourer bound to themselves as a class, but they are bound to the class of proprietors. The worker rely on the owners of the bakeries and the mills for their sustenance; and they must rely on an employer as a labourer.
The Capitalist class has its own Continue reading
The following is a piece on ethics and morality. Many of my works tend to be in the area of Applied Ethics, such as on matters of Vegetarianism, Peace, Sexuality, and Abortion. However, these are issues in the realm of Applied Ethics. That is to say, they are the application of an ethical base — how an idea of “right” and “wrong” applies to the real world and the issues that confront us. For example, one ethic might be “Any action that causes suffering is immoral,” and the Applied Ethics of this would be that to oppose Euthanasia is immoral, that the abortion of an unconscious fetus is not immoral, that to eat meat and promote agribusiness’s murder of animals is immoral, among other things. This essay differs from my other essays in this one aspect: I am not dealing with Ethics as it is applied to our real world, but rather with Ethics as it exists in its “primal form.” However, like my other essays, I can only hope that it is informative and not a drag to read.
Desire and Action
It is not an uncommon incident to hear a person attempt to justify their actions with, “But I was drunk,” and it is not rare to hear someone similarly attempt to justify their actions with, “But I was under the influence of drugs.” In both situations (of which they are not very much intrinsically different), a person is trying to explain why they did something, whether it was something that embarrasses them or is immoral. Whether it justifies an action will vary on who you ask. I am not trying to question whether it is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” for such occurrences to take place. But the reason why a person will make such statements about their inebriated state is because it’s an explanation as to why they did what they did, and in a very sincere way, a sort of way of saying that no punishment should be given — or at least, if a punishment is given, that it is given with extreme lightness. Continue reading