Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Who is a Philosopher?: Doing Philosophy is taking Action

Philosophy that inspired the Greeks was intensely concerned with questions about the good life.

Such a conception of philosophy does seem strange or even quaint in the contemporary world, where philosophy has become a kind of specialized, technical profession, one which does not clearly tend to make its practitioners practically wiser or better people.

However, a challenge to this contemporary conception of philosophy seems well within the domain of the philosophical tradition. I conclude that edifying concerns, both ethical and religious, do not preclude entering into a serious philosophical conversation, including a conversation about the relation between philosophical reflection and edification. (Adapted from Stephen Evans,  Kierkegaard: An Introduction.)

Buddha teaches Right thinking and Right actions. "All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him."

Doing Philosophy is taking Action, an incarnation of thinking. Like a twist to Descartes's Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I Live (Je pense donc je vivant).

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Being Different: Benefits of Asperger's Syndrome

The Benefits of Asperger's Syndrome

 "Our society celebrates the individual who does what he thinks is right and goes his own way."

Aspies often have advanced vocabularies, recognize patterns others do not, and pursue ideas despite evidence to the contrary because they are not easily swayed by others' opinions. Their ability to focus on details and their inability to see the big picture means they can often come up with solutions to problems others overlook. Aspies are often willing to spend long hours in laboratories and in front of computer screens because they do not mind being alone. All this enables them to make tremendous contributions at work and school.   Because of their unusual reactions to stimuli such as light and sound, Aspies see the world differently than most people. They are able to comprehend multiple levels of meanings of words and can be fabulous punsters. When told they had to "eat and run," one Aspie said, "Oh, that's makes us carnivorous panty hose."

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Don't be tools and fools of the elites

Don't be tools and fools of the elites | Bangkok Post: opinion

We humans have a self-serving need to believe we are the good guys, or are on the side of what we believe is righteous. But the problem is that we tend to see the world through our own bias and prejudice.

Conflicts are not motivated by moral goodness or democracy. Those values are created by men and therefore they can and will be manipulated by men in order to achieve power. 

Conflicts are but power struggles where the winner gets to write history and call himself morally good and democratically legitimate.  At the end of the day, it is the elites, the rich and powerful, who will always win. This is because victory requires money and power.

Does "Democracy" really exist?

An agnostic's view of the democracy cult.
Democracy is the greatest trick the elites ever played on the masses.

For instance, the president of the United States must, of course, listen to the people. But you can also rest assured that he answers to Wall Street bankers, oil merchants, the military industrial complex, powerful  lobbyists and others who are, basically, elites.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Russell on Christian Other Worldliness

Mangrove Centre's photo.
Mangrove Centre's photo."Christianity offers reasons for not fearing death or the universe, and in so doing it fails to teach adequately the virtue of courage. The craving for religious faith being largely an outcome of fear, the advocates of faith tend to think that certain kinds of fear are not to be deprecated. In this, to my mind, they are gravely mistaken. To allow oneself to entertain pleasant beliefs as a means of avoiding fear is not to live in the best way.

In so far as religion makes its appeal to fear, it is lowering to human dignity."

-Bertrand Russell "Education and the Social Order" (1932) p. 107

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

What Makes Us Human? Doing Pointless Things for Fun

What Makes Us Human? Doing Pointless Things for Fun

Playfulness is what makes us human. 
Doing pointless, purposeless things, just for fun. Doing things for the sheer devilment of it. Being silly for the sake of being silly. Larking around. Taking pleasure in activities that do not advantage us and have nothing to do with our survival. These are the highest signs of intelligence.

The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said this: “one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” It is the chaos in ourselves that is divine. We can be trained to do almost anything, harnessed to almost any purpose. But there remains a wayward spark whose unpredictability lies in the fact that it is pointless. That is humanity.

In playfulness lies the highest expression of the human spirit.

Time for us to uphold the virtue of idleness, to play down the demands for productivity.

Albert Camus November 7, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of Camus's birth.

Mangrove Centre's photo.“To lose one's life is no great matter; when the time comes I'll have the courage to lose mine. But what's intolerable is to see one's life being drained of meaning, to be told there's no reason for existing. A man can't live without some reason for living.”
― Albert Camus, Caligula

November 7, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of Camus's birth.

“The most loathsome materialism is not the kind people usually think of, but the sort that attempts to let dead ideas pass for living realities, diverting into sterile myths the stubborn and lucid attention we give to what we have within us that must forever die.”
― Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays

“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”
― Albert Camus, The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt

“To create today is to create dangerously. Any publication is an act, and that act exposes one to the passions of an age that forgives nothing.”
― Albert Camus, Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays

Monday, 25 November 2013

Philosophers' Madness: Thin line separates Genius and Insane

Her battle to survive schizophrenia: The top student who landed in a mental hospital  
a former Raffles Girls' Secondary School (RGS) student with a master's degree in philosophy from the London School of Economics. At the time of her arrest, she was a philosophy research scholar at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The day after her arrest, she was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- See more at:

"In philosophy, philosophical problems are often taken to their logical extremes. In madness, real-life issues are taken to their logical consequences and acted upon. So is madness simply an extension of philosophical reasoning? And if so, could it be that philosophy and madness are somehow inextricably linked?" 

Miss Chan Lishan,  a former Raffles Girls' Secondary School (RGS) student with a master's degree in philosophy from the London School of Economics, was a philosophy research scholar at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Read more at her blog:

Many famous and brilliant thinkers have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or a form of mental illness. Here's a list:

Vincent van Gogh = Artist
John Nash = Mathematician
Eduard Einstein = Son of Albert Einstein
Friedrich Nietzsche = Philosopher
Soren Kierkegaard = Philosopher
Michel Foucault = Philosopher
Ludwig van Beethoven = Composer and Musician
Leo Tolstoy = Novelist
Winston Churchill = Prime Minister of England during WW2

Eugene O'Neill = Nobel Prize-winning playwright
Ernest Hemingway =  Novelist winner of Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize
Judy Collins = Singer and songwriter
Dorothy Hamill = 1976 Olympic figure skating champion

Those who ask the difficult questions, like “Why are we here?”, “From where do we derive morals?” and “What does it all really mean, when you get right down to it?” have given humanity amazing philosophical insights and ethical guidance. Unfortunately, thinking too much about these issues can sometimes also lead to the brains of those philosophizing rejecting the difficulty — feeling the pressure just a little too much! Then again, maybe it’s a wee bit of madness that leads great philosophers to try to seek out the answers in the first place.

Some people who are diagnosed with mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, often have delusional thoughts or start to think too much about the meaning of life and why they personally are here on earth. It appears that people with diagnosed mental disorders often delve into the field of philosophy, which pulls together the fields of mental health and philosophy even more. (


"In philosophy, philosophical problems are often taken to their logical extremes. In madness, real-life issues are taken to their logical consequences and acted upon. So is madness simply an extension of philosophical reasoning? And if so, could it be that philosophy and madness are somehow inextricably linked?" - See more at:

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Civil Disobedience: People power cuts both ways

People power cuts both ways
Thais Protest

"Despite being a democratic means of expression, street gatherings can also be used to achieve undemocratic goals, scholars have warned as Thailand sees a surge in political protests."

Riot Police Ready to Act

Gandhi Non-Violent March
"Non-violent disobedience such as peaceful strikes, or wearing signs or symbols to protest for a long time have also brought about the same or more powerful impacts than street gatherings."

But. For how long before more aggressive actions are needed?   
Even no-violence protests harm the country's economics. Inevitable casualties and lives will suffer as a result. All forms of action have consequences. 
We need to pay a price for change.

Father of Non-Violence Protest
"Protest organisers (should) consider different approaches such as making events more like festivals or carnivals instead of inciting anger or hatred against others."

Too idealistic and romantic. Carnivals are more suited for celebrations, not protests.  

When people have been treated unjustly, they are angry.  Angry enough to take to the streets. 

It's belittling to ask them to have fun. 

When demands for change meet resistance,
friction sparks explode. 

Only a strong fire can melt injustice's iron chains.

"Civil disobedience works if they involve and engage with grassroots or community people for some time."

Agree.  Mobilise the people!

Let a thousand, no, a million flowers bloom.  Then her landscape will change.
-- A response to Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, a political science lecturer at Thammasat University during a seminar at Chulalongkorn University.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Must We Mean What We Say?: On Stanley Cavell

Must We Mean What We Say?: On Stanley Cavell
Stanley Cavell, born in 1926 and now 86 years old, is one of the greatest American philosophers of the past half-century. He was also something of a musical prodigy and like many prodigies his accomplishments struck him as a matter of fraud.

Cavell’s response to all of logical positivism: to demand that we only speak about what is absolutely true and false, that about that which we cannot speak with certainty, we must be silent, is to demand that we not speak at all—or else that we lie to ourselves about the ambiguity inherent in even the most carefully defined language.

Cavell’s larger argument is this: If we must bring the world with us to understand a definition, then we cannot define away the ambiguity in words, for the world we bring with us is already hopelessly ambiguous. 

A philosopher who limits the meaning of her words to carefully set out definitions, attempting to root out all ambiguity, in effect says, “I say, and you should hear, only what I mean.”

Cavell insists that language cannot be limited in this way. Language, to Cavell, is ambiguous not because it is imperfect, awaiting precise definition, but because we do not all see in the same way; it is a reflection of our basic predicament as distinct human beings. Thus, we must dare to mean what we say, take responsibility for all the meanings our words might be taken to have—even if those meanings go beyond what we understand as our intentions—because in our unintentional (though perhaps meaningful) slips, and the misapprehensions, mistakes, and insights of those with whom we speak, we bring together not just words but worldviews. 

 More striking, Cavell finds in classic Hollywood comedies like The Awful Truth, The Philadelphia Story and Adam’s Rib (discussed in Pursuits of Happiness [1981]) perhaps the best available examples of how to actually deal with skepticism.

Given the rise of writers like Slavoj Zizek such claims about the importance of film to philosophy may seem unoriginal. But Cavell was among the first philosophers to take film seriously (his half-crazed 1971 book The World Viewed partly founded the philosophy of film), and he has set an example that others might more profitably follow.

Cavell found in Emerson and Thoreau the idea not of the “best self,” which we always look up at from below, but of what he calls, somewhat jocularly, the “next self”—the self we cannot help but see from wherever we happen to be standing. Whether more ordinary or extraordinary than ourselves at present, this self draws us on, makes us skeptical of our current selves, ashamed of them, as if we were nothing but frauds.

“The worst thing we could do is rely on ourselves as we stand,” Cavell writes, channeling Emerson.

“We must become averse to this conformity, which means convert from it,. . . .as if we are to be born (again).” And the self we are born into is, obviously, not in any sense our “best self”; it is by no means final; it is only our “next self.”

As Emerson himself puts it: “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.”

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Christian Apologetics of Stuart Hackett

Stuart Hackett's The Resurrection of Theism: Prolegomena to Christian Apology

A Tribute to Stuart C. Hackett (1925-2012)
by Paul Copan
Last week, Stuart Cornelius Hackett (b. 1925)—a beloved philosophy professor, friend, and brother in Christ—departed this life to go where all true believers long to be. His mental brilliance, affected in his later years by Alzheimer’s, has been restored, and he is a now a clearer thinker than anytime during earthly days.

When I began to study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985, my very first class during my first quarter—we didn’t have “semesters” then—was Hackett’s “Religious Epistemology” class. This remarkable course introduced me to rationalism, empiricism, testing truth claims, Kant and the synthetic a priori. My eyes were being opened to the larger world of philosophy, and just a few weeks into the semester I was more than sufficiently inspired to pursue an M.A. degree in philosophy of religion—in addition to my M.Div. degree. I would write my master’s thesis on “The Impossibility of an Infinite Temporal Regress of Events”—an argument Hackett resurrected from medieval Jewish and Muslim philosophy and utilized in his Resurrection of Theism. (Of course, William Craig, also a former student of Hackett’s, has been most closely identified with this theistic proof—now referred to as the kalam cosmological argument.)  Hackett’s early influence on my study of philosophy led me to dedicate my 2007 book Loving Wisdom to him.        

As for the personal side of Dr. Hackett, he was quite colorful, both in personality and in his dress. He would wear brightly- and outrageously-colored, mismatched polyesters to class. One day he told us, “My wife wanted me to be sure to tell you that she does not approve of what I’m wearing today.”  In addition to sporting thick black-framed glasses, he would keep his hair quite short and his beard barely longer—perhaps ten days’ growth of stubble.  Once, when Hackett was wearing his well-worn dark overcoat in the middle of winter, someone at Trinity commented that it looked like someone had dragged him onto the seminary property off the streets of Chicago! One day in class, Stu Hackett told us, “I am often described as a weird person...I don't know that I'm weird in an absolute sense—I mean I'm not a werewolf or a vampire or anything like that. I'm just highly individualistic.”

He was an enthusiastic teacher who would often greet us in Latin, Pax vobis cum—and then finish the reply himself—et te cum spiritu. He would cite Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven, telling us that we needed to move ahead with “unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy.”  He was ever full of good humor—to the point that some students complained that they weren’t getting their money’s worth in class: “I'm gonna' lay this stuff on you like one great big metaphysical egg!” Confessing that “I don’t have a Reformed bone in my body,” he summarized his credo: "I'm a whiskey Calvinist—of the five points, I can only swallow one fifth.” (His wife Joan once told me that for an entire afternoon, the Calvinist theologian Roger Nicole doggedly tried to persuade Hackett to become a Calvinist. But it was not predestined to be.)

To add to the atmosphere, Hackett would specialize in extraordinarily long, Germanic-style sentences, which called for focused vigilance so as not to lose the thread of what he was saying. To give you an idea, here is a sample sentence—yes, one sentence—taken from his book The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim:
If the very possibility of a contingent cosmos or world order is fully conceivable only through its dependence on a transcendent realm of essence and directive selection; and if the very notion of an actually infinite series of past temporal states of the temporal universe involves a self-contradiction, whether that universe is construed in mentalistic or materialistic terms; and if the pervasion of the universe by significant order or purposive adaptation is itself best explained through an operation of transcendent self-directive mind through its own operative causality—and these are the very claims that our previous arguments have defended as plausible—then the supposition that selfhood (self-awareness, conceptualization, and self-direction) could not be explained in terms of material constituents, which themselves require explanation on transcendent and essentially immaterial or spiritual grounds, seems questionable indeed (p. 110).
Dr. Hackett was a friend to so many, and we loved him, eccentricities and all. He was a dedicated follower of Christ, who would read through his Greek New Testament each year. When he retired, he began to brush up on his Hebrew so that he could resume reading the Old Testament in that language. He prayed before every class, and he would often offer words of spiritual encouragement to his students. Before he came to school each day, he prayed that if he said anything false, this teaching would simply fall to the ground and be forgotten. But if he taught what was true, he prayed that it would be forever emblazoned upon his students’ minds. (Of one of his theological opponents, Hackett said, “If that person had prayed that prayer, he would have died in utter obscurity!”)

All of us philosophy students would gather together at the Hackett home for our regular end-of-the-quarter bash—complete with Sarah Lee sweets accompanied by guitar music by our beloved professor, who would sing self-composed songs such as “Plato, dear Plato, how I love you!” Just before I graduated, someone took a picture of a group of us at his home. When I visited the Hacketts years later in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, I saw this photo underneath the glass top of his desk. His wife Joan told me that it was a reminder for him pray for us, which he did every day.
Hackett—or “Big Stu” as he enjoyed being called—taught and inspired not only me, but other philosophers and apologists, including William Lane Craig, Stephen Evans, Jay Wood, Mark McLeod-Harrison, Chad Meister, Mark Linville, Mark Mittelberg, Nicholas Merriwether, and many more. Others influenced by Hackett include the pastor and author John Piper as well as own pastor Dennis Reiter, with whom I worked in Storrs, Connecticut; they, along with many others, benefited from his philosophical teaching while at Wheaton College, where he taught alongside Arthur Holmes before he was at Trinity.
Preferring to call himself a “student of philosophy” rather than a “philosopher,” Dr. Hackett wrote several articles for professional journals such as the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. He also authored four books: Oriental Philosophy, The Resurrection of Theism, The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim, and The Rediscovery of the Highest Good. Hackett’s Oriental Philosophy (University of Wisconsin Press) is a superb introduction to the topic (Hackett had even gone to India to learn Sanskrit as part of this writing endeavor). The latter three books are rigorous, lucid texts covering epistemology, apologetics, philosophy of religion, and ethics. They are currently available through Wipf and Stock, and I would encourage you to explore these writings of a noteworthy philosopher from a previous generation. In addition, I should mention a Festschrift in Hackett’s honor was published in 1990, The Logic of Rational Theism (Edwin Mellen Press), coedited by William Lane Craig and Mark McLeod. Hackett offered a response to these essays, which can be found at The Interactive Hackett—a website that Tim Cole, a former classmate and Hackett student, has maintained and updated over the years.

Though Hackett kept a low profile and did not receive the attention he rightly deserved, his legacy lives on through many of the students he faithfully served and taught over the years—not to mention others who have benefited from his writings. His quiet, faithful ministry reminds me of the heroine in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Dorothea:“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Give thanks with me for Stuart Hackett’s legacy. We have been enriched, made wiser, and better equipped to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ through this faithful servant. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…for their deeds follow them.”

Perception and Interpretation: Photography is ambiguous

Beyond the saffron scandals  

We believe Monks live a life of simplicity, without desires for worldly pleasures, detached from the issues of this life. Is our belief just an expression of unrealistic expectations?  Or is it our unsuspecting naivety?

Documenting the lives of four Thai monks in New York, this exhibition by the 28-year-old National Geographic Thailand photographer is likely to be more provocative than aesthetically soothing.

"The concept is to take photos of these monks' ways of life there," Ekkarat explains. "They sort of tease Thai people's myths and mindset of what ideal monks should be like. Their lives are quite different..."

Ekkarat Punyatara's photo exhibition "It's Personal" plays with viewers' perceptions and prejudices.

At the far end of the gallery stands a centerpiece photo of two monks hanging out at the beach.  One is crouching with a camera in hand, apparently trying to get to the best shot of his friend. 

There are plenty more shots of monks in rather unsettling acts, from taking a sightseeing-like trip on the subway to queuing up in the supermarket or sunbathing in a garden. One shows a monk sipping a Frappuccino from Starbucks.

This Photo exhibition of a sensitive subject raises many questions. Here are my questions.

  1. What's the reality of Monks Lives--Is the essence of monk-hood subjectively determined or essentially objective? 
  2. How does cultural bias distort our interpretations of a photograph?
  3. Are the ideals of an existential mode of Other-Worldly Being self-contradictory?
  4. Does human existence entails inescapable Being-in-the World?
  5. What are the essential structures of embodied human life?
  6. Can photography depict reality or is it inevitably illusory?
  7. What is the role of the photographer in his photography? How he frames the viewer's understanding?

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Part One: Animal Rights By Tom Regan

Read Tom Regan's elaborate defence in The Case for Animal Rights

Regan argues that: 

 The Basic Moral Mistake To View Animals as Resources 

The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us — to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport or money. Once we accept this view of animals — as our resources — the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable. Why worry about their loneliness, their pain, their death? Since animals exist for us, to benefit us in one way or another, what harms them really doesn't matter — or matters only if it starts to bother us, makes us feel a trifle uneasy when we eat our veal escallop, for example.

Animals, like Children and Retarded Persons, Are Intrinsically Valuable 

And yet it seems reasonably certain that, were we to torture a young child or a retarded elder, we would be doing something that wronged him or her,not something that would be wrong if (and only if) other humans with a sense of justice were upset. And since this is true in the case of these humans we cannot rationally deny the same in the case of animals.

Animals Are Subjects of A Life: Their Intrinsic Value Comes From Conscious Life Equal to Human 

We want and prefer things, believe and feel things, recall and expect things. And all these dimensions of our life, including our pleasure and pain, our enjoyment and suffering, our satisfaction and frustration, our continued existence or our untimely death — all make a difference to the quality of our life as lived, as experienced, by us as individuals. As the same is true of those animals that concern us (the ones who are eaten and trapped, for example), they too must be viewed as the experiencing subjects of a life, with inherent value of their own.

Shall we say that only humans have the requisite intelligence, or autonomy, or reason? But there are many, many humans who fail to meet these standards and yet are reasonably viewed as having value above and beyond their usefulness to others. Shall we claim that only humans belong to the right species,the species Homo sapiens? But this is blatant speciesism.

What could be the basis of our having more inherent value than animals? Their lack of reason, or autonomy, or intellect? Only if we are willing to make the same judgement in the case of humans who are similarly deficient. But it is not true that such humans — the retarded child,for example, or the mentally deranged — have less inherent value than you or I.Neither, then, can we rationally sustain the view that animals like them in being the experiencing subjects of a life have less inherent value. All who have inherent value have it equally, whether they be human animals or not.

 Animals have equal right to be treated with respect

We must recognize our equal inherent value as individuals, reason — not sentiment, not emotion — reason  compels us to recognize the equal inherent value of these animals and, with this, their equal right to be treated with respect.

Rights Movement Requires Political Activism to Abolish Cruelty To Animals

Giving farm animals more space, more natural environments, more companions does not right the fundamental wrong in their case. Nothing less than the total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture will do this...

All great movements, it is written, go through three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption. It is the realization of this third stage, adoption, that requires both our passion and our discipline, our hearts and our heads. The fate of animals is in our hands. God grant we are equal to the task.

In forthcoming Part Two: Mistaken Beliefs of Animal Rights Advocates, I will discuss the inadequacies of animal rights arguments.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Teach kids to love their neighbours: Yes...but it all depends. Must we always love others?

 Teach Kids to love their Neighbors

  Lee Yoke Har  writes:

        Growing up as a kid in Malaysia, you don't learn about racism until an adult decides to poison your innocence and point you to the superiority of your own race.

        Much like the diverse eco-system, humanity is bound in a weird way by likeness and unlikeness. If we tear away the veil of religion and race, we are after all a humanity of nearly seven billion people. Somehow, we have got to learn to show compassion and love for one another.There is so much that is magnificent about its diversity. When I look at the intricate mudras (hand signals) of the bharatanatyam dancers, I often think of beauty, precision and perfection. When the muezzin makes his prayer calls at dawn or dusk, one gets infused with a sense of wonder, of being at home, feeling the vibration of the most sacred. This sense can only come from being raised in an all-embracing multiracial society.

        Teach your kids to love their neighbors, for there is no other way.

On the surface, the general thrust of her essay is reasonable. No one, in his right mind, would encourage hurtful racism or social prejudice. I agree with her on many points. However, some of her conclusions seem to me less obvious.

First, a kid may learn about racism from another kid, perhaps a kid from his neighborhood. Adults are not always to be blamed. Nor are we to assume that children are naive and pure innocence.

Secondly, the eco-system doesn't protect natural differences for the sake of variety. Nature has a prejudice for the survival of the fittest in the Darwinian sense. The species that have the strongest will-to-live and the most cunning ability to adapt to a hostile environment survive and flourish. The weak ones get flushed out of existence. Thus it seems better to teach our kids tough-mindedness and the ability to adapt to a constantly evolving world. It is not enough just to accept differences, we must rise above the mediocrity and become superior. Quality and not quantity of differences.

My third point is this. It is human to be prejudicial in the sense that our thoughts are bound by our presuppositions. When we think we inevitably make some assumptions. No matter how hard we try, we are limited by our mind's horizon.

Let's take the statement: "We are all human beings, therefore we should respect each person."  Behind this statement is the assumption that if a being has humanness, he ought to be respected.

But why? How is it possible to logically leap from being a human to being respected. Having a human body with its emotions does not tell me how it should be treated. Respect is not logical deduction from humanness. There must be other unspoken, hidden reasons. Perhaps religious ones, since science cannot possibly be a source. Then atheists will not hold the deduction valid.

Furthermore. racial prejudice is a perceptual matter. Our perceptions are limited by our finite experiences. If 'science' has only seen white swans, we conclude all swans are white. This is both natural and scientific.

For example. If we encounter a tribal society that we perceive to be backward in some way, we most likely will think our own society as superior.   We cannot pretend that the inferior society is somehow equal to ours. We may help them to improve their life. Our humanitarian actions are applauded, but in fact we do not respect their natural state as being good. It may not be as blatantly cruel as school kids taunts, nonetheless they are similar.

Of course, a racially prejudiced person makes a logical error of assuming he/she has met all instances of  an 'inferior' race. But we can't blame him if he has met a majority that exhibit some backwardness. Every time when he meets a person of the other race, he reflects on his own better society/culture. He may see as an exception to his 'prejudice' when he does meet an 'inferior' who is his equal.

Perhaps, the more important thing to learn from prejudice is to determine the causes of prejudice. Why does a person think his culture is superior to the others?  If he has no valid reasons, then we are entitled to treat him as misguided. If he has good reasons, we must accept his judgment as fair and reasonable. And seek to improve ourselves. So what are the good reasons? How does one judge a society/culture? I'll suggest a few criteria of a superior culture (listed not in order of importance).

a) high regard for personal freedom and privacy (matured citizens)
b) high standard of health and homes
c) true knowledge is prized (quality education for all who are willing to learn)
d) life, assets and wealth protection
e) balanced life and work
f)  culturally stimulating (leisure and creative arts are freely available)
g) technologically advanced
h) freedom to choose one's religious beliefs/ non-belief
i)  'sexuality' equality (non-repressive in Freudian terms)
j)  peaceful (non-violent)
k) high achievement oriented (citizens strive to become better than before)

These criteria form different dimensions of a superior society. Most cultures today fall somewhere along the scales of these criteria. We do not have any perfect superior society yet.

Teach your kids to build such a culture, there is no other way!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Children Learn When Adults Imitate Them

Children Learn When Adults Imitate Them - World of Psychology

The findings, which are published in Social Development, are presented as further evidence that imitation is a type of social influence and preschoolers, like adults, prefer and trust individuals who mirror their behaviors and preferences.

Children did think that the adult mimicking them was more knowledgeable than the others.

Philosophy — What's the Use?

Philosophy — What's the Use?

In addition to defending our basic beliefs against objections, we frequently need to clarify what our basic beliefs mean or logically entail.

So, if I say I would never kill an innocent person, does that mean that I wouldn’t order the bombing of an enemy position if it might kill some civilians? Does a commitment to democratic elections require one to accept a fair election that puts an anti-democratic party into power?  Answering such questions requires careful conceptual distinctions, for example, between direct and indirect results of actions, or between a morality of intrinsically wrong actions and a morality of consequences. Such distinctions are major philosophical topics, of course, and most non-philosophers won’t be in a position to enter into high-level philosophical discussions.

                                         By GARY GUTTING

Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?: Responsible for unintended results?

Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?

In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent, just as in consenting to any activity, one does not consent to yield to all the accidental outcomes that might flow from that activity.

Policies that punish men for accidental pregnancies also punish those children who must manage a lifelong relationship with an absent but legal father. 

These “fathers” are not “dead-beat dads” failing to live up to responsibilities they once took on — they are men who never voluntarily took on the responsibilities of fatherhood with respect to a particular child.

Written by: Laurie Shrage is a professor of philosophy and women’s and gender studies at Florida International University.(New York Times June 12, 2013)

The Myth of 'Just Do It'

The Myth of 'Just Do It'
Improving, especially after you have acquired a high level of skill, typically requires an enormous amount of effort. ...— yet it also involves concentration, thought, deliberation and will power.

The philosophers and psychologists who advocate a just-do-it mentality all admit that during those rare occasions when something goes wrong, performers or athletes need to direct their attention to their actions.

In its “just-do-it” advertising campaign, Nike presumably used the phrase to mean something like, “stop procrastinating, get off your posterior and get the job done.” Interpreted as such, I’m in favor of “just-do-it.”

However, when interpreted as “experts perform best when not thinking about what they are doing,” the idea of just-do-it is a myth.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Avoiding Emotional Exhaustion: Filling Our Emotional Tank

Avoiding Emotional Exhaustion: Filling Our Emotional Tank - World of Psychology

Signs of emotional exhaustion include, but are not limited to:
  • low tolerance to stress or stressful situations;
  • inattentiveness;
  • lack of motivation; and
  • physical fatigue.
Let’s face it, when we’re emotionally drained we have little tolerance for anything. So what can be done about it?

It’s often hard to be attentive because we are too tired to care. We lack motivation because we are too tired to do anything. Last, but not least we become physically tired because we have worn ourselves out mentally.
It is important to notice these signs of emotional exhaustion to avoid further interpersonal, work, school, or other problems. It is also important to notice these signs to prevent more physical or emotional dangers.

Sculpture of ancient Rome: The shock of the old

Sculpture of ancient Rome: The shock of the old

The Romans loved art full of violence and sex. But where modern viewers see smut and gore, ancient eyes may have seen something different, writes Alastair Sooke.

Ancient Rome was a curious mixture of civilization and barbarism.

Understanding the past is an elusive, ever-changing quest.

Why must French pupils master philosophy?

Why must French pupils master philosophy?

The purpose of teaching philosophy was - and remains, in theory - to complete the education of young men and women and permit them to think. 

To see the universal arguments about the individual and society, God and reason, good and bad and so on, and thus escape from the binding imperatives of the now - by which I mean the dictatorship of whatever ideas are most pressingly forced on us in the day-to-day by government, media, fashion, political correctness and so on.

Chinese Philosophy and Education

Chinese Philosophy and Education

 Philosophy and education are two deeply ingrained facets of Chinese life.
In many ways, education preceded philosophy, for without education there would be no philosophy. But, philosophy had become such an important part of Chinese people’s lives that they formed a symbiotic relationship. One could not exist without the other.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Civil Disobedience and The Rule of Law: Should a Loyal Citizen Oppose His Country's Laws?

New Malaysian home minister tells unhappy Malaysians to emigrate. Malaysia's newly-appointed Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has reportedly said that Malaysians who are unhappy with the country's political system should leave the country, stressing that loyal citizens should respect the rule of law.

Civil Disobedience and The Rule of Law: Should a Loyal Citizen Oppose His Country's Laws?

Let's consider these claims: 1) Unhappy citizens are not loyal; 2) loyal citizens should not oppose the laws of a country; 3) to oppose a country's laws is the same as to disrespect the rule of law

We can compare two different responses.

First, Socrates, as a loyal citizen and respecter of law, accepted his death punishment when he was found guilty of both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety ("not believing in the gods of the state"), and subsequently sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock. Having knowingly agreed to live under the city's laws, he implicitly subjected himself to the possibility of being accused of crimes by its citizens and judged guilty by its jury. To do otherwise would have caused him to break his "social contract" with the state, and so harm the state, an unprincipled act.

Secondly, Gandhi was a loyal citizen, a trained lawyer of Britain and an Indian when he opposed India's colonial master's unjust treatment of Indians. If he had left India, he would have betrayed his country and oath to uphold justice. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.

He led nationwide campaigns for reducing poverty, women equality, religious and ethnic harmony, abolition of caste, economic independence, and above all the struggle for independence of India from English colonialism.

Gandhi led Indians in protesting the national salt tax with the 400 km Salt March in 1930, and later in demanding the British to immediately quit India in 1942, during World War II. He was imprisoned for that and for numerous other political offenses over the years.

Gandhi practiced Non-Violence and Truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. Martin Luther King Jr followed Gandhi's example in America's civil rights movement, which paved the way for the possibility of a black president today.

In these two exemplary lives, we can see that being unhappy is not being disloyal to one's country. In fact, a loyal citizen should be passionately upset with any injustice and impropriety in his home country.
Being privately upset is insufficient when there is a possibility of injury to life and property and when there's concern for one's society. Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, all of them did not just talk about justice and Truth, they lived out justice and Truth in public spaces., gathering large social momentum for change upsetting the entrenched status-quo. If there's no lively opposition to challenge the current situation, how can change be initiated when the populace is lethargic?

The most disturbing of the above claims is "to oppose a country's laws is the same as to disrespect the rule of law". We may begin by defining "respect" and "the rule of law". In this context, respect can mean to obey. Do we obey our conscience or a country's laws, if they are in conflict? If our conscience reflects a moral belief, then morality precedes the laws because it has
a higher calling. In short, we should do what we believe is the right thing to do and not just do as we are told. Think of the dilemma faced by German citizens when Hitler's secret police demanded to know if they were hiding a Jew in their house. The houseowner is morally "right" (reasonable) to tell Hitler's police a lie. We may call this "Civil Disobedience".

Ronald Dworkin, Prof. of Law at New York University, held that there are three types of civil disobedience:

"Integrity-based" civil disobedience occurs when a citizen disobeys a law she or he feels is immoral, as in the case of northerners disobeying the fugitive slave laws by refusing to turn over escaped slaves to
"Justice-based" civil disobedience occurs when a citizen disobeys laws in order to lay claim to some right denied to her or him, as when blacks illegally protested during the Civil Rights Movement.
"Policy-based" civil disobedience occurs when a person breaks the law in order to change a policy (s)he believes is dangerously wrong.

Under these circumstances, a citizen shows respect for a higher Law-the Law that is above man-made laws. A Higher Law should judge Man-laws that are arbitrary,therefore, situational and changeable, subjected to interpretations and political interests.

In conclusion, with due respect, the above Minister's claims are not obviously true or clear-cut. The conclusions do not follow necessarily.

For more information, refer to these links:

Martin Luther King Jr Letter from jail defending non-violent demonstrations

Thoreau essay, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, has influenced Gandhi and Luther King Jr

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Café Philosophique: Exchange Thoughtful Ideas and Change the Way We Live

Café Philosophique - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Café philosophique ("cafe-philo") is a grassroots forum for philosophical discussion, founded by philosopher Marc Sautet (1947–1998) in Paris, France, on December 13, 1992.

There were about 100 "cafés-philos" operating throughout France and some 150 cafés-philos internationally at the time of Sautet's death in 1998.

The concept was to bring people together in a public friendly forum where they could discuss ideas. A cafe tended to have this type of atmosphere where people were relaxed drinking coffee and carrying on conversations. Ideas are thrown out with concern for accuracy and philosophical rigor. The concepts discussed were in the spirit of tolerance and openness.

A similar American movement.
Socrates Café are gatherings around the world where people from different backgrounds get together and exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences while embracing the Socratic Method. The idea behind the Socrates Café is that we learn more when we question and question with others. It all started a decade ago when Christopher Phillips, then a freelance writer, asked himself what he could do that would in some modest way further the deeds of those noble souls who had come before him and, as William James put it, “suffered and laid down their lives” to better the lot of humankind?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Boring sermons blamed for dip in Philippine Church's popularity

Boring sermons blamed for dip in Philippine Church's popularity

Churches are fast becoming obsolete-religious ghettos. Sermons and pastors do not impact on real issues.

Also read my research project, "Failures of Christendom" below.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

My Readings Jan -Feb 2013

Books that I'm reading for a research project on "Failures of Christendom viewed through the Lens of Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean Critiques"

Soren Kierkegaard is a devout man who lived in Denmark from 1813-1855.

His Attack upon “Christendom was a call to the Danish church to restore itself to New Testament Christianity. It also contained astute psychological insights about faith.

  • The Failures
“No, official Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Anybody can see
that merely by casting a fleeting but impartial glance at the Gospels, and then looking at
what we call ‘Christianity’” (Attack, 41).

  • Church's Delusion
“When Christianity came into the world the task was simply to proclaim Christianity. . . .
“In ‘Christendom’ the situation is a different one. What we have before us is not
Christianity but a prodigious illusion, and the people are not pagans but live in the blissful conceit
that they are Christians. So if in this situation Christianity is to be introduced,
first of all the illusion must be disposed of” (Attack, 97).

  • Treating God as a Fool
You will soon realize that this whole official Christianity business is a morass of falsehood and illusion.
It is something so unregenerate that the only thing that can truly be said about it is that
by refusing to take part in the public worship of God as it now is, you have one sin the less,
and that a great one: you do not take part in treating God as a fool.

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900, a German most unlike Kierkegaard, also condemned Christianity's pale and domesticated tolerance and its weak will.  He observed:

"Today we see nothing that wants to expand, we suspect that things will just continue to decline, getting thinner, better-natured, cleverer, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent, ...more Christian."

In his book, The AntiChrist, 1895., he criticized the rise of sanctified self-deception, which turned weakness into virtues "'and impotence which doesn't retaliate is being turned into "goodness"; timid baseness is being turned into "humility"; submission to people one hates is being turned into "obedience" (actually towards someone who, they say, orders this submission - they call him God)."

  •  Christianity's Impotency
This is the sort of modernity that made us ill,— we sickened on lazy peace, cowardly compromise, the whole virtuous dirtiness of the modern Yea and Nay.

  • Lost Contact with Reality
Under Christianity neither morality nor religion has any point of contact with actuality. It offers purely imaginary causes (“God” “soul,” “ego,” “spirit,” “free will”— or even “unfree”), and purely imaginary effects (“sin” “salvation” “grace,” “punishment,” “forgiveness of sins”).

  •  Rejecting Life and Body
...The priestly class.... Men of this sort have a vital interest in making mankind sick, and in confusing
the values of “good” and “bad,” “true” and “false” in a manner that is not only dangerous to life,
but also slanders it.

Morality is no longer a reflection of the conditions which make for the sound life and development of the people;
it is no longer the primary life-instinct; instead it has become abstract and in opposition to life....

The priest, a parasitical variety of man who can exist only at the cost of every sound view of life, takes the name of God in vain: he calls that state of human society in which he himself determines the value of all things “the kingdom of God”; he calls the means whereby that state of affairs is attained “the will of God”;
with cold-blooded cynicism he estimates all peoples, all ages and all individuals by the extent of their subservience or opposition to the power of the priestly order.