Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Art Schmart!

March 27, 2010 2 comments

My last post prompted a view I had on art. What makes it good or bad? The variations for each type of art are endless. There’s the art of cooking, the art of dancing, the art of painting, the art of bullshitting etc. Almost anything can be described as an art. In this sense it just means the quality is dependent on the mastery of the activity. But we have to draw the line somewhere, or at least draw some specifications. Which brings the question: what is art? (The creative design kind) Anyone who claims to have a monopoly definition of what art is ultimately asks for a thorough philosophical drubbing. I think the meaning of the word “art” is a subjective evaluation, which is an opinion subject to those who care to think about it. Hell, it could be used as an arbitrary word filled with meaning that suits an individual’s fancy.

For me that doesn’t suffice. My simplest deduction is that it’s an objectified expression of a subjective proposition. It has to be objectified because whatever notion of art that exists privately in the mind wouldn’t count. An idea that is not communicated or materialized is not an artwork. Without the material, the work is, quite literally, nothing. If there’s no audience to call something an artwork, then you don’t have an artwork. If you have nothing to call an artwork, then you have no one to call an artist. Dead-end. The expression would reflect the human psyche through the generation of abstract concepts, meanings, and feelings that includes anything awe-inspiring, moving, memorable etc. The work doesn’t have to tell the viewers the message directly either. It could elicit a reaction that tells us something about ourselves. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but I think the majority reaction they get from the audience is lazy prejudice.

I used to think art was the product of the humanistic organizations of thought and behavior embodying abstract concepts. One cannot correlate meaning with anything objective without the neural processes, which humans have, that give rise to the feeling of meaning. It’s because of this cognitive ability that we can appreciate and create art but primitive animals can’t.

But I was wrong. There is an exception. I came across this fascinating article on the Piraha, a tribe of Amazon natives along the Maici River. Check out the article if you don’t have the attention span of a gold-fish.

“The Pirahã,” Everett wrote, “have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for “all,” “each,” “every,” “most,” or “few”—terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition… Committed to an existence in which only observable experience is real, the Pirahã do not think, or speak, in abstractions. Everett pointed to the word xibipío as a clue to how the Pirahã perceive reality solely according to what exists within the boundaries of their direct experience.”

I know what you’re thinking, but mass retardation isn’t the case. Who would’ve thought that culture is the only thing hindering the Piraha’s ability to define art? It’s not that they don’t have the cognitive ability, they most certainly do! It’s just absent from their syntax due to cultural constraints. I’ll have to revise my previous thought on art. Oh no, not more thinking! While art is still a product of human cognition, it doesn’t necessitate the production of art.

Categories: Philosophy Tags: ,

An alternative blueprint for holy conviction

March 24, 2010 14 comments

Steps to creating your own God:

1. You need a book. The almighty creator of the Universe always has “a book”. This should contain the ideology of your religion. Also, make sure you get it right the first time, you’re really not supposed to amend it later.

Mass Media and Popular Culture (2nd Edition)

2. You need a good name for your god. Monotheism is in right now, so the singular is more convincing. People immediately know who you are when you mention Allah, Yaweh, Odin, Thor etc. You need something that is equally distinguishable.


3. Make sure your religion contains a list of DOs and DON’Ts. People like to be told what to do. A list of 10 is pretty smart, but that’s already been taken, so you might want to try a different number. Make sure you also give your people a lot of morally ambiguous, metaphorical tales to follow. This way they can be applied to virtually any situation, giving them the appearance of timelessness.

Follow these rules and you shall be forever accepted in the human world for all eternity.. as long as you live. As people, we are to assimilate into a world where only beauty awaits. And no, beauty is neither within the eye of the beholder nor beer holder. It’s within the eyes of Media. It’s everywhere and all-knowing. You are to be in the right physical and/or mental shape. Otherwise, you suffer a psychological hell on earth.

4. And, most importantly, you need some miracles or fulfilled prophesies to give your religion some validity. How you accomplish this is up to you. This will probably be the hardest part, because if you don’t record them on digital media, people will probably want proof. And if you do, skeptics will probably cry “Photoshop”! —>

This would be known as the project of the devil to some, but the product of artwork to others. To be accepted is to be “beautiful” is to be the best of what you are is to be the contrary of conformity is to be “ugly” is to be you and proud of it. To be faithful in what this “religion” has to offer is to pass this contradictory test. Be your own star.

(I found this document I wrote when I was 15/16. It’s so old, can’t believe I still have it.)

Categories: Philosophy, Religion

Brain in a what?

February 14, 2010 2 comments

Brain in a vat.
I was on the skytrain when I overheard a couple students talking about philosophy. They were right behind me. Student 1 was learning in class about the possibility that we could be living in a Matrix-like world and that this is all a dream. Student 1 was really intrigued about that theory, saying we could never know if that was the case. Student 2 was totally into the idea, saying it’s like when we have lucid dreams.

It reminded me of the “brain in a vat” thought experiment.

It basically claims that there is a brain with wires hooked up that is connected to a machine to stimulate a virtual reality. All thoughts, sensations are merely the product of a machine feeding in signals to the brain.

The problem I see with that idea is its solipsistic nature. If there was a “real me” (the dreamer) outside of this dream world, then you and everything else within that dream would just be an illusion. All that would really exist is the real me. But considering there are so many of us, there can’t be only one “real” me. If that’s the case then our minds must be all connected somehow in one large network, much like in The Matrix.

The thing about all this is that there is no proof. You can’t reject or confirm what you can never experience. Even if indeed the idea of a brain in vat or Matrix is true then everything you believe would only be what the machine persuades you to believe. You are not coming to some realization that there is a “more real” world out there. You are only being fed electronic impulses, telling you what to believe. There is no original thought whatsoever. You wouldn’t be able to go beyond the nerve stimuli you receive, which cancels out the whole idea to begin with.

In response to Student 2’s comparison to lucid dreams: It is possible to realize we’re dreaming because we have reality to refer to. In our everyday experiences, we know what reality permits and what it doesn’t permit. If in the dream you have superpowers, then this could be indicative that this is not a reality, thus trigger the awareness that you are in fact dreaming.
However, when it comes to this world, since we have no way of experiencing the “world beyond this world,” we can’t make the connections that would verily affirm that we’re in a dream world.

I was tempted to join the conversation, heh.