Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Socialism as a Biological Imperative.
February 14, 2009

There’s going to be a leap of logic in this post, comment here if you find it.

Let’s firstly define evolution. Evolution is a genetic change that would benefit the species as a whole. This occurs at least partly through natural selection. Natural selection, or at least my applicable comprehension of it, is the funny euphemism, ‘Survival of the Night,’ or that when the unchanged genetic members of the species fail and the changed genetic members succeed, the changed will eventually wholly replace the unchanged. This advancement of a species prevents extinction and asserts supremacy over other members of competing species.

For example, when crop-threatening insects are sprayed with pesticides, they are overwhelmingly killed. Some lucky few had an inherent resistance to the pesticide, and therefore survived. The next generation of insect has the gene since there were no non-resistant insects to breed with. The further generations will have this gene as well until a new pesticide is developed by our water-destroying corporate dictators with a mind for profit and nothing else, despite it’s violent destruction of our environment. Phew!

Comprende? This is child’s play compared to what Pegleghippie comes up with on a regular basis.

Now Pegleghippie will tell me that socialism isn’t the right term here. I use socialism because it came up a lot in the recent election and the people will understand it by the false moniker, ‘spreading the wealth around.’ (This is the only way John McCain has ever helped me; by providing me an example with which to explain socialism. Irony.) However, true socialism repudiates the very idea of property, that nobody should own anything, and thus property cannot be traded. This means that under socialism, the wealth can’t be spread around because personal wealth doesn’t exist. Instead we’ll use the term, welfare capitalism.

Welfare capitalism would be the same economic system we have now, but would include government work programs, progressive tax rates, and basically it’ll equalize the major gap between the upper class and the lower class. It is, as Pegleghippie describes, “a direct investment in the people’s well-being.” The education and health care systems are priority, so that all people have an equal chance to be productive members of society.

In our present society we have an underdeveloped and under educated lower class. Our disproportionately distributed wealth contributes to a poverty level that is simply unacceptable in today’s western world. We’ve all seen the shocking statistics about what small percentage owns such a huge amount of the wealth. That translates directly into lower graduation rates in a huge cross section of the american demographic. From the under-funded mega-urban areas of Washington D.C. and various metroplexes across the nation to under-funded rural towns, the quality of education is severely lacking for the wealthiest nation in the world. If we implemented welfare capitalism and brought our education and health care levels up to even par for the course, more of our lower class brains would have the opportunity to grow.

And when more brains grow, statistically, the more opportunities exist for ground breaking innovation. It’s just numbers. The more time you roll the dices, the more times you’ll score a Yahtzee! So under our current system, where such a small swath of the people are actually reaching their potential, we have less chances for bettering human kind with progress.

Let’s tie that into our biological imperative. Our world is shrinking, our population is growing, our natural resources are limited. We’ve shown no ability to conserve such things as water or natural gas. Mathematically, our chances for sustaining this rate of growth on this planet are slim to none. Nivair Gabriel over at io9 knows that we currently are incapable of interstellar travel. So, we need serious scientific advances in either conservation and creation of new sources of food and energy, or we need to colonize space.

Do you think that’s possible if we’re only using even (a gracious) 10% of our world’s minds? I don’t have faith in them. I want all of our minds to good use, and that’s why I believe that Welfare Capitalism, or what it’s opponents call socialism, is a biological imperative for human kind.

Music, a more efficient language.
February 14, 2009

Pegleghippie came to visit me for a few days after Christmas, and at lunch one day at a Sbarro’s turned mall pizza place, we began discussing the functionality of our degrees. What is the end goal of his philosophy, of his political science? What contribution do you make to society, short of ground-breaking new philosophical ideas? And as for myself, really, what does a classical musician do to change the world for the better? It’s a continuation of a dead art; musicians are taught, they play, and then they teach. It’s a self-continuing cycle. But what does it really bring to the table as far as the advancement of the human species goes?

So he posed me the interesting question I’m going to extrapolate here. What good is indoor plumbing without music? What’s the point of continuing the species if we don’t have art and music? In the very superficial sense of the question, music and art is the most enjoyable aspect of humanity, of creativity, of the theoretical soul. Some say that love is the greatest human ideal. Shakespeare asserts that music and love and sex are so intertwined… “If music be the food of love, play on” from Twelfth Night. (My girlfriend has this quote tattooed on her wrist, really quite pretty.)

I asked my good friend and violinist Matt if he wanted to play the Handel-Halvorssen Passacaglia for Violin and Cello, a really beautiful piece. In response, he asked if I was really ready to be that intimate with him. Taken aback, I thought I had encountered some homosexual tendencies in my friend, but we went on to have a conversation about the intimacy of sharing music like that… the smaller the chamber ensemble, the more intimate it becomes. Music and art are the truest forms of expression, unhindered by language and representing ideas and concepts and dreams and emotions more perfectly than words can describe.

Who hasn’t been brought to tears by Schindler’s list, or put in a dream-like reverie of childhood days by Monet’s Water-Lily Pond? I don’t speak German or French, yet I can very clearly understand the artist in both situations.

Not to say that language is a hindrance all the time… I mean that the many different languages cast upon us by the builders of Babel have hindered our ability to express ourselves across cultures. There is an art to language, and one might say that music and art are just alternative languages with which to express ourselves.

What is language, really? Symbols, sounds that are processed and recalled. Poetry and Literature are no lesser art forms than the reader.

Literature is very associative; words are associated with pictures. We learned languages by association. We were shown a horse, and told that this was a horse. Instantly our mind is associating horses with that very first picture of a horse we saw. Over time, our mind associates more pictures and experiences of horses into this word. I’m reminded of a bit of software called Photosynth by Microsoft Live Labs when I think of this. A good lecture on Photosynth can be seen here.

Music is less associative; notes can go anywhere, mean anything. Any association with music can be taken in a different direction.

To share expression like that, to be part of such a direct conversation, would indeed be a very intimate experience. Matt maintains that such a duet would have very sexual overtones.

To the point though, Music is (my) greatest expression, and the product of my life and my life’s work. But what good is indoor plumbing if not for music? What good is any profession if there were not such expression as music to enjoy and to create? Is Music then, the goal of human existence? Is it our imperative to express ourselves? If so, then music and art be the meaning of life.

There are those that will contend with me after reading this that music and art are simply enjoyments and that we pursue our careers, and that it would simply be less meaningful without music, not totally deprived of meaning. I challenge that reader to live a month without listening to or thinking about or dreaming about or passing by music or art… it’d be impossible.

Haven’t been writing, haven’t been passing.
December 7, 2008

I need your help, world. I need your advice. I won’t excuse my failures this semester with poor class choice, but let me outline my class schedule for you.

Music History – Early Music to 1750. (Hardest undergraduate music class offered at the school, whopping 22% pass rate.)
World Literature – Ancient Literature to Renaissance (Blended class, half online, which you think would be a boon for me but more often than not I just forget to check for my online assignments.)
Piano – (I suck at Piano.)
Cello Lessons – (Grade for this class is based on ‘jury’ performance, or a performing final, and I did miserably in front of the most intimidating music faculty I’ve ever encountered.)
Chamber Music – (I got an A! Bahaha.)
Orchestra – (I think I’ll have an A… if I turn in those concert reports.)

I failed Music History, World Literature, and Piano, got a C in cello lessons because of that god-awful jury.

Where do I go from here? I need to speak to my counselor (I guess that means I should figure out who my counselor is) to find out if I can even stay in the school!

But I need your help. I don’t know how to develop a work ethic.  I don’t know how to get off the computer, get off my girlfriend, and do my work,  to study and pass these tests, and most importantly to GO TO CLASS!

What can I do, really? I’ve never had a work ethic. But this next semester, on top of getting a job, I have to increase my practice time from the maybe 10 hours a week I had last semester to 30 hours a week. And on top of that get my work done and pass all my classes. God, wouldn’t it be fantastic if I got straight A’s?

So what are your techniques for focus, for getting thing done?

Waking Life
November 14, 2008

by Pegleghippie

I have a new favorite movie.  It’s called Waking Life, a 2001 film by Richard Linklater, and I’m a little jealous that it exists, because that means that I don’t get to be the creator of such an awesome piece of art.  

Honestly, I was beaten at philosophy tonight.  I didn’t know it was a competition until this film came along and totally kicked my ass.  Now I know a little more about the stakes involved.

Waking Life follows a guy as he has various philosophical discussions with/dreams about writers, philosophers, psychopaths, crackpots, filmmakers, imaginative figments, and one very pissed off libertarian.  Many of these are real people really being interviewed about their area of expertise (oddly, many are faculty from the University of Texas at Austin), but the interviews flow seamlessly between real and imagined.

And imagination is really very important here.  The protagonist spends a long segment of the film not knowing if he is awake or dreaming, and the settings only subtly clue you in.  Eventually he becomes aware that he is in a lucid dream, which turns into a bizarre series of dreams-within-dreams, and the discussions turn increasingly towards what a dream-like reality entails.  Things end with the suggestion that all these dreams are the last firing of consciousness before the protagonist dies, but the narrative is unclear about whether this actually happens.

I can’t accurately summarize everything I loved about this movie.  Top of the list is the conversations, which are consistently mind-blowingly well thought out.  Here’s one example of an earlier one:

Insane, right?  and there are dozens of these, on a wide variety of topics, in the movie.  You could teach a course on this movie alone, going topic by topic, exploring each one for all that it’s worth.

Next thing I loved was the animation.  I’m sure you noticed from the first clip, this movie looks strange.  The style changes at least every scene, and often in the middle of a scene.  The strangeness of dreams is very well captured here.

I’ll admit, if you don’t like philosophy you will not like this movie.  Fortunately for me, I love philosophy, and this movie challenges me in ways I had not even considered.  I need to get a copy of it and watch it until I’m comfortable with the discussions.  Only then will I feel qualified to really engage with all these topics, and to conceptualize exactly what it is that Linklater did here.  

If you do like philosophy, even a little bit, see this movie.  I doubt you will regret it, and it may even change your life.

Registering for classes
November 10, 2008

by Pegleghippie

 Well that was a rush. Hitting the “refresh” button until the class input screen let me in at 7:59, then furiously putting in course numbers as fast as I can.  I spelled one course wrong and was kept out of another for some arbitrary evil reason, but thankfully I had a backup.  

It’s just a process that makes me feel dirty for some reason.  I don’t know, maybe it’s because I feel I’m only marginally closing in on meeting graduation requirements, maybe its the feeling of beating out others for a class, but whatever it is, I need to sleep at least an extra hour to get over it.

By the way, it’s:

European Politics (Gov 395, minor)

Leadership through the Ages (LDRSP 320, minor)

Sacred Violence (CLST 301, “Area of Inquiry”)

The Search for Beauty (Phil 306, major)

The self in Asian Philosophy (Phil 340, major)

This may be all over the place…
November 6, 2008

by pegleghippie

So recent events (the election last night, playing guitar hero tonight) have crossed with my philosophy classes in my mind to form some ideas that I want to sort out.  I will do my best to connect the ideas in some way, but no promises.  I’m telling myself I’m writing this for an audience because I think they’ll find it interesting, but there’s just as much of a chance that I’m writing this to talk to myself, in a way (sorry, I’ve been reading about deconstruction, and ever since I’ve had the nasty habit of deconstructing whatever I’m writing as I’m writing it.  I’ll do my best to refrain from here on out.)

Anyway, first a take on my favorite obscure philosopher, Bataille.  Specifically his view of consciousness.  Normally I don’t like the consciousness debate, but his views lead to some fun philosophy.  Bataille was a fan of the “pre-reflective consciousness,” also known as “lack of self-awareness,” or as he termed it, “theopathy.”  What he was talking about is traditionally understood as the idea of a mystical experience, like zen, or transcendence, or buddhist enlightenment.  

I don’t mean to sound like i’m spreading woo. All through history people have found themselves feeling connected to things greater than themselves, to the point where they stop self-analyzing and just interact with the experience.  Similarly, people have spent lifetimes trying to get back to that experience, and often tied the experience into the supernatural.  Supernatural causes weren’t really what Bataille was into, instead he found these moments in deviant sexuality, like BDSM, but also in simple things, like smoking a cigarette, or taking a coffee break.  

I break from Bataille in a few ways.  First, why is this state is so important? I’ve had plenty of “transcendent” moments in life, some purposeful and as Sometimes accidental.  Sometimes its meaningful, sometimes it is just fun. At the same time there are plenty of moments where I really enjoy being self-aware.  Consciousness, much of the time, is pretty sweet!

Second, I think that maybe this is a matter of degree.  You’re aware of yourself, but you don’t have to think about your heart, or you liver.  Unless something goes wrong, in which case your awareness has expanded. I guess that isn’t so sweet.  But this illustrates where I’m going with the degree thing.  

Stick with me here.  Imagine the pre-reflective state of mind, going along its own business, fitting into the pattern of some larger whole.  Suddenly, something appears to the consciousness that doesn’t fit the pattern.  Like getting heart burn, suddenly the consciousness has to account for something that is just weird, something that takes an analysis to deal with.  If the pre-reflective consciousness is to successfully account for the discrepancy, it will have to define itself in relation to the discrepancy.

Ok, now imagine yourself, everything you are aware of, and everything around you that you are not aware of.  You’re self aware, but you aren’t aware of your intestines, because your intestines fit a larger pattern.  When something starts to hurt, you analyze things so you can experience a more comfortable level of awareness.

I’m going to leave the different levels behind now.  This is where things get strange, but at the same time I don’t think I’m writing anything you don’t know here.  The intestine pain isn’t really without a pattern.  It’s not random, it has a cause, say evil bacteria, and fits into a larger pattern of Earth’s biology that is just too complex for the human mind to fully recognize.  A self-aware consciousness is just a consciousness capable of admitting that the pattern we think we are a part of is just a simplification of larger, more complex patterns.  

I thought of this playing guitar hero (I know, I know, I should be studying).  Think of a beat in a song.  now imagine a guitar playing along with the beat.  Suddenly, the guitar plays something quick, something that doesn’t seem to fit the beat, just for a moment.  Of course, if it’s a well written song, it does fit into the overall math of the music.  But it gets our attention because we’re experiencing the beat, and we don’t imagine that the songwriter planned anything more complex than that.  

Now to the next level: to go with the following example, Say maybe we pick up an instrument, or learn some musical theory, and then the change in the song doesn’t surprise us anymore.  This would mean that the pattern we’re experiencing is more complex than before, we’ve expanded our pre-reflective consciousness.

So the reflective consciousness allows us to expand the range of our pre-reflective consciousness.  It’s a cyclical relationship, both feeding the other, and oftentimes both go on simultaneously.  Should we see one as the goal?  I don’t think so.  Maybe it’s important to know the difference between analyzing something and experiencing something, but I don’t think we should be so dualistic about the two concepts.  

I may have had a transition to this next part when I started this, but I’m not seeing it now.  Oh well, you get two posts in one!  Don’t worry, this part is shorter.

Now, a word on Democracy.  I’ve long wondered why we don’t qualify democracy as simply a political committal of the ad populum fallacy.  Ad populum, for the record, is the fallacy of arguing that a position is correct because lots of people hold that position.  The problem is, of course, that all those people can be wrong.  Importantly, even everyone ever could be wrong about a position.  So we appeal to a different set of standards.  

Democracy, at its most basic, involves asking everyone what side of a position they think is right, and then taking action based on which side has the most people behind it.  It’s like the perfect illustration of the ad populum fallacy.  As long as we’re talking about right and wrong, I don’t see any way around it, really.  Democracy is inherently illogical.

At the same time, democratic governments are more peaceful, richer, and advance faster than any other form of government humanity has tried.  Philosophically, only an idealistic anarchy seems more equatorial, more focused on humanism, in short, more legitimate than the democratic attempt to make political decisions that benefit a polity.  Additionally, people like democracy.  If a group comes to a democratic decision, the minority may grumble, but they usually go along with the decision.  

So how to explain this divide?  We have logic so we can make smart decisions, yet our best political tool for making decisions is illogical.  

We do what good philosophers always do.  We challenge the assumptions.  A couple paragraphs back, I just described the democratic process as  “asking everyone what side of a position they think is right, and then taking action based on which side has the most people behind it.”  Why the assumption that Democracy is settling a question of right and wrong?  Can we still have democracy if we ignore questions of truth at the ballot box?

I think we can.  Instead of looking for a right, I propose that the democratic process is asking everyone what experiences, given society’s limited resources, should society pursue for its members, and in what manner, and then taking action based on which path the most people prefer.  Logic only enters into the equation for the “choosing the manner” part of things.

 Because of limited resources and limited time, we can’t afford to make universal proclamations about right and wrong. We can only compare our plans, argue and compromise about them, and, once it’s time to make a decision, use democratic machinery to pick a path.  An advantage of democracy is that since people are involved in the decision making process, previous decisions that led to unwelcome experiences serve as a feedback loop, and the next vote goes differently than the previous one.

So to sum up, the line between simple awareness and self-awareness is fuzzy at best, and Democracy isn’t logical, but we should stick with it anyway, cause it’s not about logical decisions.  Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Attn: Lovers.
November 2, 2008

For those of you that a) are madly in love and want to be married or b) enjoy looking at great designer wedding cakes and fruit carvings….!!!

My friend and roommate, Chef Mark Flores, has just started his own business blog at http://www.culinarycompositions.com. Go check this out, he’s a very talented guy. He has a photo gallery of some of his previous works and yes, he is for hire! He’s located in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex but works in a great variety of areas so if you’re interested, drop him an email! (You can also hire me for a wedding string quartet =D)

Once again, http://www.culinarycompositions.com.

The Importance of a lack of Difference
October 21, 2008

by pegleghippie

As you may know/may have expected, I’ve been watching the presidential campaigns closely. I’ve come to the conclusion that, given where America is today (way the fuck to the right), I can only find tiny differences between what I think should be done and what Obama has said he will do.

Don’t worry; I’m still a member of the Left, officially even (I’m still a member of the Green party and all).  But when I look at what I know of the country, it seems really, really far away from where I want it to be.  I’ll go so far as to say that America is dangerously right and dangerously authoritarian.

 From what I understand, part of the financial meltdown came from rich people coming up against a wall of not being able to earn more money; they maxed the system out.  These sub-prime loans and deregulation were a way to allow the rich to draw even more wealth out of the poor.  But because the distribution of wealth was about as upwardly polarized as possible, the system has begun to topple over from becoming too top heavy.

As to the Authoritarianism, people are afraid to speak out, to protest, to dissent.  “Free speech zones” are defended by the legal system, and the rights of some are consistently held up over the rights of all.

The danger of all this is that it isn’t sustainable.  Going this far out of the center is starting to cause real problems, and may be the beginning of the end for America.

If I were to be put in charge of this system, I couldn’t just twist a few nobs and deliver America into a Green-style government.  It would be too much too fast, and, at least at first, it would be a quicker dissemination of the country than what the right is doing now.  Even Kucinich, as a lefty democrat, would be too much change too quick.  I would take a few things that would stabilize the system, such as reforming health care, moderate tax increases to stop the upward flow, and re-integration of more-or-less “equality under the law.”  After that, I’d work for reforms to make things better without shaking things up dangerously.  It would be a big shift leftward for this country, but none of it would actually be a tactic of the left.

Enter Obama: a pragmatist, a little conservative, but pretty much espousing all the ideas that I just mentioned. Especially compared to Mccain’s asinine recent rhetoric, Obama’s rhetoric is very encouraging.  He comes across like he cares about the country, knows how to address it’s problems, and is going to have an eye out for the little guy while he’s at it.  Especially since he’s largely dropped the “reach across the aisle” stuff and has gone full on economic populist (This is pretty much because of the housing crisis, but hey look! a silver lining!).  

Things like improving education and helping people go to and pay for college will begin to pull America out of its dark age.  Universal healthcare, even if watered down, will lead to a healthier, wealthier citizenry.  Investing in environmental initiatives and our national infrastructure will make our industrial activities sustainable while creating jobs and setting us up to get about our business without worries.  None of those things involve giving the market free reign over our lives, but all of it seems necessary.  

Meanwhile, John Mccain has remained an old coot.  “He’s a socialist!” “He’s a terrorist!” “He’s a young whippersnapper!”  “Bush’s policies are too awesome, just let me behind the wheel this time!”  It’s getting silly, and a little desperate.  

So lets say that Obama gets elected and accomplishes those three domestic goals of education reform, healthcare reform, and an environmental reboot for our nation.  If he does it before his term is up, I’ll be right there calling for more action to empower the little guy and reign in corporate greed.  If he sits on his laurels, or if he finds other ways to take democrats right-ward, I may announce Obama is a sellout and there’s no hope for the Democrats in this country.  

But we aren’t there yet.  Right now, what Obama proposes and what I would do are too close for me to complain, and what Mccain proposes is a recipe for disaster.  The difference between me and Mccain is enormous, The difference between Obama and myself, right now, is miniscule.  If Cynthia Mckinney were to magically find herself as president on November 5th, I don’t see any responsible way that she could act differently than what Obama has said he would do.  Whether you’re a Green, a Democrat, a socialist, or even an anarchist, we are at a point now where all of our interests require the same leftward pull; and this election, Obama is the man to do the pulling.

I had to share this with you.
September 28, 2008

 

Great laughs.

Geez do we still exist?
September 18, 2008

by pegleghippie

Sorry for not writing anything in forever. I get ideas and concepts and then i get tired and fall asleep. Don’t ask me what Mekhami’s excuse is for not posting.

But not tonight! Ok just a quickie, but i’m going to do a few different posts on post-modernism, and why you shouldn’t hate it (i’m looking at you Bing). So here’s my first thought:

The postmodern critique has largely been accepted and integrated by different fields. By postmodern critique i mean the old idea that we can’t ever really be sure of anything, and that input from our senses is no guarantee of truth. Pomo goes one step farther by positing that it’s unlikely that our senses work the same was as anyone else’s senses, so what seems absolutely right and true to one just doesn’t add up to another.

Scientists has accepted this by saying that empirical observation never proves anything, and that questions of any notion of ‘truth’ cannot be resolved by the scientific method. Rather, science categorizes and analyzes observation, nominally to make use of those observations.

Mathematicians have accepted the same critique by viewing math as a system, rather than as a picture of reality, the way Pythagorus did when he claimed that everything was numbers.

Engineers have accepted it by, well

It’s similar for artists:

So what’s the resistance? If everyone is pretty much ok with nothing being for sure, then why is there a problem with postmodernism? I have an answer.

Pomo goes a bit beyond just demanding that everyone admit they aren’t sure about reality. Pomo asks that we act based on values that deal with that uncertainty. In other words, because we don’t know if we are right or not (nor, in the case of pomo, do we really care), we have to be humble and accepting when we encounter views different from our own. It isn’t really fair to call someone an idiot anymore, since there’s no definite standard to judge idiocy by.

So take science. Science is often associated with enlightenment values (humanism, individualism, secularism, and of course, respect for the scientific method as a means of making decisions) and someone with a scientific view of the world is likely to hold these values. So when a scientist meets, say, a fundamentalist christian (who at best only partly holds a few of these values), the scientist is going to see the christian failing at living up to all these values (particularly the last one about the scientific method) and is going to dismiss the fundie as a moron.

So it only makes sense that when a postmodernist comes along and says to the scientist, “be hospitable! Try to see where the fundie is coming from, and look for common ground so that you can be useful to each other!” the scientist is going to get a little pissed. After all, it takes a lot of work by a lot of committed people to build the scientific body of knowledge, this fundie doesn’t recognize any of it, and on top of that this philosopher is telling him/her they have to give a rats ass about this person?  “I’m right and I’m the only one who has any proof!” he/she might say.  

I’m sorry, but technically, you don’t have proof.  You can’t.  What you can do is try to navigate the absurd, ambiguous web of human relationships in a non-inflammatory way, by recognizing your own limits.  Now is that so objectionable?

Of course, if the fundie doesn’t reciprocate with similar open-mindedness, that’s a whole different issue.   Maybe i’ll do conflict in another post, but what it boils down to is, “winning the conflict doesn’t make you any more right than anything else. Please try not to kill anybody, but do what you think you gotta do anyway.”

So that’s it for tonight: POMO in terms of action-values.  I’ve been cooking something up regarding democracy, should be exciting.