Monday, April 16, 2007

Humans resent the inevitable

~From Childhood's Endby Arthur C. Clarke, page 200:

"... Besides, no one of intelligence resents the inevitable."

That proposition, Jan reflected wryly, had never been fully accepted by mankind.

We resent the inevitable all the time, don't we? We loathe it. At least I do. It's sort of inevitable that we'll loathe it.

Of course, it's not so easy to know eactly what is and isn't inevitable, so it's only natural to resent something that may seem inevitable... it's like challenging it to not be inevitable, which is how you'll discover whether or not it truly is inevitable.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Quivering chicken

~From I Am a Strange Loopby Douglas Hofstadter, pages 18-19:

Would you feel any less troubled by swatting a fly preening on a wall than by beheading a chicken quivering on a block?

I like how he uses the words preening and quivering to describe the animals! Don't behead the quivering chicken! It's quivering, for goodness sake!

And to answer the question: No, I would feel more troubled because beheading the chicken would just be more of a mess.


Degrees of souledness

~From I Am a Strange Loopby Douglas Hofstadter, page 17:

Some of us (again, I count myself in this group) believe that neither a just-fertilized egg nor a five-month old fetus possesses a full human soul, and that, in some sense, a potential mother's life counts more than the life of that small creature, alive though it indisputably is.

~From I Am a Strange Loopby Douglas Hofstadter, page 22-23:

Even though I sincerely believe there is much more of a soul in the twenty-year-old than in the two-year-old (a view that will no doubt dismay many readers), I nonetheless have enormous respect for the potential of the two-year-old to develop a much larger soul over the course of a dozen or so years.

The word "soul" here is not being used in the religious sense of the word, in which there are no levels. Here Hofstadter is using it as more of a level-of-consciousness thing, which is, as far as I know, somewhat similar to the way Ayn Rand used it. (Being an atheist, she did not believe a religious soul exists.)

I can thus certainly agree that a fetus and a two-year-old have less soul than, say, me, thus I am not a dismayed reader in that sense. However, Hofstadter says he has enormous respect for the potential for large soul, but also states that a potential mother's life counts more. It's hard to tell how enormous his respect for a fetus really is.

I like what he also points out:

~From I Am a Strange Loopby Douglas Hofstadter, page 23:

In addition, I have been built, by the mechanisms of billions of years of evolution, to perceive in the two-year-old what, for lack of a better word, I will call "cuteness", and the perceived presence of that quality grants the two-year-old an amazingly strong shell of protectedness against attacks not just by me, but by humans of all ages, sexes, and persuasions.

Hmmmm... ain't it the truth. However, this can sometimes have a negative impact. For example, a child could be ugly. Will that change how much he is loved? Hopefully not by his parents, but perhaps. And what about the activists who donate more money to help the poor little puppy dogs and stray kittens than to another country to help feed a family? Surely proximity also has something to do with it, but a puppy's cuteness is a great survival tool. How nice of evolution to evolve us to perceive furry little animals as being cute too...


Philosophy can't prove anything...

~From I Am a Strange Loopby Douglas Hofstadter, page xvii:

It seems to me that many philosophers believe that, like mathematicians, they can actually prove the points they believe in, and to that end, they often try to use highly rigorous and technical language, and sometimes they attempt to anticipate and to counter all possible counter-arguments. I admire such self-confidence, but I am a bit less optimistic and a bit more fatalistic. I don't think one can truly prove anything in philosophy; I think one can merely try to convince, and probably one will wind up convincing only those people who started out fairly close to the position one is advocating.

I agree with the latter part... that one will only wind up convincing only those who started out close to the position one is advocating. However, isn't whether or not something can be proven dependent on whether or not it's convincing? Philosophy suffers from having to use imprecise words all the time, while in math a number is understood to be the same by all mathematicians. I disagree with Hofstadter; ideas in philosophy can certainly be proven, perhaps just not as easily and precisely.

But what is "proof"? Can it be relative? Can something be proof for you, but not for me?


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Yet Another Blog

Here's yet another blog! This blog is entirely dedicated to quotes I come across in books. I post the quote then I little blather about why it stood out to me. This will probably be more helpful for me than anyone else, but, who knows, it might be interesting for someone who has time to waste...