Thursday, 26 February 2009

What is the Purpose of Life? Andrew Cohen

The title of this youtube video can sound slightly cliched, but as long as you listen to it as what is the purpose of Life as opposed to the purpose of A life or My life, then it does better.

In fact the conversation here is not so much what is the purpose of life, but more along the lines of a previous conversation on this blog... why is there anything rather than nothing...

Andrew Cohen does a pretty good job of shedding light on this, from a theological perspective, ie using theological language.

Below is another half hour more of it... 8-)

You can find a lot more it on You-tube... 8-)

Let me know if you find any particularly good ones! (Thank you.)

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Land for the "Relaxation Centre"

This is the land where we're planning to build the "Relaxation Centre".

For some reason this video keeps stalling when I play it in Google Chrome, but it works fine in Internet Explorer... so if you have problems playing it, try browsing to this page in a different browser.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Knowledge is created in communication, Simon Schaffer

"The last 20 years of my life has been about exploring the consequences that knowledge is made by communication, rather than made prior to communication and then communicated... The arrow points from the TV program to the laboratory, and from the lecture series to the theory, NOT the other way around." (I am précis-ing Scaffer's exact words, but this is the gist of it.)

Simon Schaffer, Professor of history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University. (He taught me when I was an undergraduate, but that's another story!) He is an extraordinary intellect. On this page you can down load a 4 hour interview with him - comes in 3 mp4 files. I found it only ran on Adobe QuickTime - not Windows Media player.

The last part (Schaffer3.mp4) is probably the most generally interesting. The first 2 parts are more about his life, than his work, the last part more about his work than his life.

Simon Schaffer interview - watch Part 3

Kevin Kelly, Ken Wilber, Spiritual Machines

Part 1A

Part 1B

Part 2

Part 3a

Part 3b

Part 3c

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The heart of being

There is an unfathomable mystery at the heart of being - why is there anything rather than nothing?

There is an unfathomable mystery buried deep down inside each one us. Who am I? How come me? How come here? How come now? Not "who am I?" in the sense of what is my identity, age, height, weight, resume, bank balance, personality, close personal relationships, job, etc. Rather "who am I?" in the sense of "who AM I?"


(A) Why don't we all get together to talk about the mystery?

(1) Some of us are not interested in the mystery.
We have our attention on other things... sex, money, careers, DIY, whatever - you name it.
My thought about this is that its fair enough.
If you're not interested you're not interested.
It doesn't look to me like the mystery cares whether any of us in particular
are interested in it or not.

(2) Some of us don't acknowledge that there is a mystery.
Well I suppose possibly there isn't.
If you're determined to uphold this, then it makes complete sense that you wouldn't want to talk about something that you consider isn't.

(3) Some of us are fixated on a particular view of the mystery or belief about the mystery
to such an extent that we aren't willing to talk about it to anyone
who isn't similarly fixated.
Possibly even the idea that our belief about the mystery is a belief about a mystery
as opposed to "the truth",
is already alien, uncomfortable, heretical, and so forth.

(4) Adults don't like to tell children that there is something they don't know.
Adults don't like to talk to children about things they don't know about.

(5) Some of us can't see the point or think there is no point.
Some of us think there is nothing to say about the mystery.
Its a mystery... what is there to say about that?
Good question! What is there to say about the mystery? (See section B. below.)

In summary we may say that the standard responses to the question/mystery are either to assert that it has been answered sufficiently (ie. that there is NO mystery really) OR to assert that it is unanswerable, and hence not worth bothering with considering.

Either of these two approaches has the tendency to turn our backs on the mystery... to turn away from the mystery, to direct our attention away from it and on to other things. Possibly, we might even say they involve a "denial" that there is a mystery.

What would our lives be like if we were to turn towards the mystery? What would our lives be like if we were to direct them to point in at the mystery? Not to close down the experience of the mystery with shallow answers, but to engage in the mystery and have an ever more full experience of the mystery as we point ourselves in the direction of it.

(B) What IS there to say about the mystery?

Here are a couple of things that occur to me first off.
I may add more to this list if I think of more.

(1) None of us knows. Really none of us. Not a single person.
Not ever.
Not even that person who you think might know, or might have known.

(2) We could if we wanted to point our lives in the direction of the mystery.
We can be fairly certain that the mystery isn't ever going to go away.
But that doesn't mean we can't pay attention to it.
Pointing our lives in the direction of the mystery probably starts with having conversations with other people about the mystery and the nature of the mystery.
Not from the point of view of knowing what we are talking about.
But rather from the point of view of acknowledging that we don't know what are talking about.

And it is this exact matter (the matter whereof we don't know what we are talking about) that we are talking about.

Anyone want to talk to me about that?

(3) Q: Why is there anything rather than nothing? ... A: Why should there not be?

(4) Since the nature of regular explanation is always to explain one thing/concept in the universe by reference to other things/concepts, by the very nature of explanation there cannot be an explanation for the universe itself. This is because in order to be able to explain why the universe exists, regular explanation would have to make reference to something outside of everything in order to have terms of reference to make the explanation. Since obviously there is nothing outside of everything, regular types of explanation are inevitably not going to work as a means of explaining why the universe exists.

This line of reasoning is related to Godel's incompleteness theorems (see Godel's incompleteness theorems and the theory of the absolute infinite contrasting to the regular orders of infinity as understood by the theory of infinite sets. (see Infinity on wikipedia... or for the layman mathematician like me, there is a very good book by Rudolf Rucker that makes this easy to understand: (see Infinity and the Mind: The Science and Philosophy of the Infinite (Princeton Science Library)) That is a link to where you can browse and buy the book on Amazon. There are a load of reviews of book there, including mine. My review of the book on Amazon is here: review of Infinity and The Mind by Rudy Rucker