Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chinese Discussion

It was mentioned that we should do a discussion of China for the next BQ. I contacted my Chinesefriend but he actually will be in China on our date, and is not available this time. I suggest that we keep this idea on file, and have it as soon as the parts can be assembled for a good meeting. It won't be long.

Monday, March 28, 2011

April 15 - Who Are You?

The meeting date in April is the 15th. This is earlier in the month than normal, but things are going on that need to be accommodated. Pot-luck dinner at 6:30. Discussion at 8:00. No other activities on this night, only philosophy, and dialectic philosophy at that.

At the recent Men's Retreat the men were asked, "Who are you?". The simple question, who are you, was for me an old friend with whom I have made peace long ago. Not so for all, however, and it shows again that the simple questions are often the most powerful.

Who Are You?

If you want to look up some ideas ahead of the meeting look into the philosophical areas of Exestentialism, being/becoming, and meditation. This dovetails nicely with the discussions we have been having about living an excellent life, and possibly about the meaning of life, among others. The way you answer this question can be introspective, intentional, idealistic, and/or accusational. Or all of these at once.

Foreword Thinking Thought:
In a meeting to come, I want to revisit the idea of Utopian Communities. If you have a moment to spare, look into the Oneida Community in New York state in the late 1800's. They were a bunch of starry-eyed idealists who committed everything to their utopian vision of community and future society. If your answer to the Who are you? question has an element of idealism in it, would you be willing to commit yourself to that idealism to the extent of joining a community of like-minded folk and creating a new community?

Mind/Body Problem - a New Twist

One of my correspondents has pointed out that I have missed a key point in my earlier discussion concerning the Physicalist/Dualist interpretation of the mind/body problem. As you recall, I tried to summarize the two camps as being either Physicalist, wherein consciousness is explained by only involking the electrical and chemical physical activities of the brain and associated neurological components, and the Dualist camp wherein these same proceses occur, but a new Mind substance also exist=s that is not physical. The Dualists have two things going on: "brain things" as pointed out by King Julian in the movie Madagascar, and an additional consciousness thing that is what we call the Mind, in common sense terms.

My correspondent pointed out that I had missed the fact that physical things were actually energy things, not inanimate physical matter only. e=mC2, and all that. Mass and energy are equivalent, so that a physicalist is actually one who may be saying that consciousness arises not from "simple" chemistry and electrical impulses, but by the transfer of energy only. If we look at this at the level of the neuron and synapse, instead of talking about Ca pumps and membrane permeabilities we should really be talking about energy transfers. Mind is energy. Matter is energy. All there is is energy.

There is apparently a school of thought around this idea, which I have not yet discovered or studied. As with many things that are initially counter-intuitive, there is also a grain of truth here, and teasing it out may take some time. I may need to read something about this in order to acquire the ternimology to talk about it with some sense. My university education is 30 years old at this point and is aging. However, this seems less like a problem in education and more a problem with interpretation. How do we interpret the world around us? Yes, atoms make up the world of the physical, and yes, atoms are made up of smaller particles/waves that have dual physical and energy characteristics. Yet, at the HWI (human/world interface) where I live physical objects are real, and non-physical things are different than that. Invoking an energy explanation of Mind seems like a back-door approach, trying to get around the physicalist/dualist dichotomy using trickery rather than argument.

Help me out. Is there an argument here that I haven't seen yet? Help me get the idea of "matter as energy" as an explanation of the existence of Mind in the front door of this discussion, and justify having us pull up a chair at the table for it.

Arete' - An Excellent Discussion

A small group stayed around after the Canvassing activities were done, and discussed the idea that we all need to live our lives in a spirit of Excellence. I noted that Homer has Hector talking about being remembered not so much for being brave, or being a good man, but for having lived a life of excellence, what in Greek is called Arete'. We kicked around the various ways this might be interpreted in today's society, and in our individual lives. People liked the topic and i have been lobbied to continue the discussion when everyone can attend and participate. Perhaps I will.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 18 - What topic shall we choose?

The date is set. Last month's topic was Popular Choice, and it seemed to work well. This month we are hosting the annual Canvass Dinner, which will include a short presentation concerning the financial needs of the Fellowship and our individual roles in satisfying that need. I suppose we might pick the tipic: What is Duty? Socrates was fond of this topic, and I am too.

In ZAMM there is a section near the end where Pursig talks about Excellence in Being, as the Greek source of Quality that Phaedrus was seeking. He quotes Homer when a father is talking to the mother of his son, saying his most fervent hope is that he can live his life with honor and excellence, and it can be said of him that he comported himself with dignity. Phedrus interprets this as a statement of personal Quality, and understands the context to be one of Quality applied to daily and lifelong living. I read into this the idea of the Renaissance Man where each of us has the opportunity to become a complete, rounded individual whose knoweldge and interests span the decades and disciplines, and whose lives are lived as a model for our contemporaries.

Certainly a part of this is the idea of Duty; to ourselves, to our families, to our communities, and to our countries. To be a complete man is to be present and contributing to each of these spheres of life, and not just contributing, but to be a leader and an example for others to emulate. Can we do this? How do we do this? What is the best path to tread to live your life in a way to become an example to others, and an example to yourself? This is a Big Question in itself.

I'd love to hear back from readers about how they feel about the idea of using the concept of personal excellence as a basis exemplarily living. Is this a topic that ever crosses your mind? It yes, how do you respond? If not, does it make sense to think of a life lived in a sort of "high quality" way? Please respond with a comment.