Does the Hype Match the Show?

On the eve of the much anticipated Connor McGreggor Floyd Mayweather fight this Saturday, I’ve become painfully aware of the mountainous piles of analysis, predictions, shit-talking, and praise flooding my news feed. Everyone has an opinion (and the compulsion to share it). I understand this hype train and the reason for its existence, but I wonder if it will all be worth it.

There are an abundance of examples where the show was eclipsed by the hype along with an equal amount of the opposite (e.g. the Thrilla in Manilla lived up to the hype while Mayweather v. Pacquiao did not), but not withstanding the importance of the performance itself what I wonder is can there be too much hype? Does there come a tipping point where people will decide against buying a ticket or pay-per-view because they’re sick of hearing about it? I’m not sure, but I know I’m sick of hearing about it but will definitely watch it so maybe not.

Advertisements

Grasping the Infinite

It’s fun to delve into infinite pasts

Torrential Rambling

The idea of an infinite set of something is, to my mind, one of those odd paradoxes which can be both easily understood and mind crushingly difficult simultaneously.  Generally speaking, anyone who has had some level of high school math has, at least, been introduced to the idea of infinity.  After all, if I start counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… I can do this forever without end.  But there is so much more complexity to infinity and infinite sets that can lead even the most stellar of mathematicians to scratching their heads while quietly muttering “what the fuck!?!”  Allow me to elaborate…

Let us suppose for a moment that the notion of the multiverse is true.  According to this theory, there is not only the single universe in which we occupy a seemingly infinitesimal space, but also an infinite amount of other universes, each of which containing their…

View original post 302 more words

My Conspiracy Theory on Trump is the Best Theory. It’s Fantastic.

These are truly unique times in which we live. Technological advances are starting to stack upon each other at ever increasing speeds, we’re living longer (on average), and we’re connected to each other in such a way as to have the ability to bicker with people on the other side of the globe whom you’ve never met. Oh, and don’t forget Trump. The Donald swooped in with promises of saving blue collar white people from their economic despair, draining the political swamp of corruption in D.C., kicking the illegals out, ending our foreign “peace keeping” missions in the Middle East, and “making America great again.” Only eight months in on this four (and some say eight) year journey and Trump has already managed a 180º turn on our warring efforts and flubbed his nominations; also he has managed in his immigration rhetoric to fan the flames of bigotry, blue collar jobs have grown by a few hundred, and I don’t even really understand what making America great again means (though both Reagan and Clinton used it so I guess that’s a thing). Of course all this has caused much political angst amongst both the left and ever-increasing portions of the right. Is he a bigot? Is he a narcissist? Is he stupid? What the hell is wrong with him?!?

But…what if he’s a genius?

I have a unique take on what Trump’s up to and it all boils down to the simplest and purest motive -greed.

Alongside policy positions and nominees who bring Don the ire of more than half the country are the scandals involving Russia. Investigations, subpoenas, questionable conduct, etc. have acted as town crier for calls of impeachment or resignation which in turn has led to increasing numbers of people wagering bets on if Trump will indeed take an early leave from office. Since he took office the odds on being impeached have risen as high as 5/4. That means there’s a 44% chance of this happening with a payout of $1.25 on the dollar. Suffice to say it’s not a very lucrative bet. However if look back to February the odds are 4/1 giving an 80¢ payout. Betting big could reap a huge payoff  in this scenario but would it be enough to walk-off a job so grand as president?

In a word, yes.

The thing to keep in mind is Trump’s very apparent narcissism. From juvenile tweets to off the cuff remarks at press conferences he presents himself as a man quick to anger over any perceived slight either real or imaginary. Constantly reminding the public of his achievements as a candidate, businessman, or president he seems to crave the admiration of others and oftentimes has a meltdown whenever the validity of those accomplishments come into question. He’s more interested in rhetoric than truth, in the story in head than the one in the world, and given the fact that there are so many people who currently dislike him why not pull the ripcord and parachute away from public scrutiny and the hustle of an 18 hour day job? Of course he will resign before he were ever impeached so he can write himself off into the sunset, “My fellow Americans, the corruption of Washington has become too much for me, I am the hero of this story, never forget…” and that’s fine, he will be gone and the country can try to learn to not be so caustically divided again -which actually would make America at least a little better if not great.

One last question to answer is how would he do it? With an antagonistic media and Washington insiders lurking around every corner how could Trump have made an anonymous bet with a foreign firm for a large sum of money (and make no mistake, winning this bet would feed his ego in ways adoring fans cannot. Money is very sexy to people like Trump)? Remember when his son met with some Russians? Or any other of his family’s international ties? Perhaps the whole election tampering scandal really is a hoax; maybe it is just garden variety fraud perpetrated by an egomaniac on a national level.

The Anguish of Seeking Answers

A phrase overheard being exclaimed between colleagues over coffee at the local cafe immediately causing my ears to perk and head jerk to the right. My quick motion caught the eye of one participant who glared me down like a Jackal guarding some fresh meat. Their cheap matching blue collared shirts tucked into Khakis suggested their organization lacked style leading me to believe them part of some Parish outreach. Whatever their affiliation the sentence stuck in my mind leading to the obvious questions of why and what- what is the anguish of seeking answers and does this anguish exist and/or persist?

According to Merriam-Webster anguish is extreme pain, distress, or anxiety and even at first glance I can think of answers to questions which would cause one or all three. Are they dying, How will we pay rent, What did you do, Am I fired, and so on are all examples of questions with potentially anguishing answers. But this is far too practical and imprecise an answer for this query due to where the anguish is located in the sentence. The anguish is found in the journey not the destination and this begs the question, when is one anguished over the search for answers?

The first thing I would note is that the majority of anguished seekings will be born of metaphysical inquiry, yet there a minority of real-world experiences which would also count (the saga of OJ and the Goldmans for instance). Some metaphysical questions will surely do with conceptions of God, the afterlife (or lack thereof), morality, free will, and identity. What is it about metaphysical questions which lead down pathways of pain? I think the glaring point which stands out most is that regardless the question asked there will never come an answer quantifiable in human terms. Millennia of philosophic inquiry have still yet to provide unobjectionable answers in the form of ‘X is true because of the “nature of man” or “structure of the universe,”‘ though not for a lack of trying. Perhaps the easiest question to exploit for this purpose is the one humans have asked since our cerebrums went through their growth spurt some two hundred million years ago: Does God exist?

It very well could be that no question in human history has been answered with such variety and distinction. If every answer to the God question were to be believed there would literally be an army of otherworldly deities numbering in the millions. Yet for all the back-and-forth, incantations, denouncements, and stringent belief the question has never been answered so definitely that everyone concurs. The flavor of the day in the west might be Christianity but you go back a mere two thousand years and there is no Christ on a cross (or Mohammed in Hira for that matter); the histories which have come down to us are replete with all forms of deities from the human trait laden gods inhabiting Mount Olympus to the mystic four winds, and everything in between.

Where does the anguish lie in struggling to answer this question? I think for those who reflect deeply on the subject the difficulty lies in the gulf between the physical and metaphysical. All the arguments, whether they be Anselm’s logic based attack to the precise variables necessary for our existence rely upon some bridge (or leap) to traverse the divide between mortal and otherworldly. Even Anselm’s very clever attempt must assume a metaphysical nature to human rationality for the argument to get off the ground. The struggle (and the anguish which accompanies it) consists in mulling over conceptions, premises, and assumptions meant to bring God into light, and is further exaggerated by those lined up to assault the conclusion and the premises underlying it.

However not every person in the world is a theorist and some people take their belief on faith and don’t look back. Wherein does the struggle lie for them? Simply put, it can be found in tragedy. This one dies of cancer, that one loses their limbs, genocides destroying civilizations, and so on are all concrete events which help shape human life both on an individual and societal level. All these events oft times leave people trying to console their ideas of God with a seemingly brutal and indifferent world. In philosophy it’s called the problem of evil and it points to the incongruent trifecta of power, intelligence, and moral goodness ad infinitum thrust upon the current figurehead. “How could God let little Billy die he was an innocent child!” the belabored mother screams out through sorrowful wailing, and in the upcoming search for peace she will anguish through all sorts of difficulties in coalescing her God with her tragedy. Of course if the deity in question has a different set of traits then the struggle will be different, but even a malevolent God wouldn’t let people off the hook here -why must our God be so evil?

In closing I would remark that life can certainly be indifferent to any person’s or people’s circumstances and this indifference can lead to loss and hurt. The tough part is moving forward through that grief and coming out whole on the other end. Regardless theist or atheist, the struggle will be difficult, but perhaps with a little less of a metaphysical superstructure it won’t be quite as difficult. But who can really tell with these things?

Bio-Synthetic Musings

The art and act of administering medical treatment between human beings is an odd sort of existential affair. We differ from all other things on the planet in that we have outlined detailed maps of our inner workings, probed and prodded our way through those fleshy corridors noting this and that abnormality, and through our sometimes bungling method of scientific inquiry have solved some of these otherwise lethal ailments. We can replace organs, limbs, skin, and teeth; we can cut out disease or irradiate them away. We’ve extended life (generally speaking) by a decade or two and by the time I reach the average age of demise some forty years from now, we will have extended the lifespan even further toward the lofty goals of immortality. Yet for all we can do for the body when it comes to healing the mind we are, perhaps ultimately, bogged down by our original natural architecture.

Mental health is one of those subjects which has never fully relinquished its place on the mantle of taboo subjects. An oddity in a world otherwise dominated by scientific method the mentally ill can still frighten both children and adults alike, and that fear is ultimately rooted in one deep, dark fact about mental illness-we can’t fix it. Of course the reason we know we can’t cure mental disease is from all the ways we’ve failed to do so. We’ve cut, cauterized, electrocuted, and drugged the beleaguered brains of schizophrenics; we’ve talked to, talked at, and talked about those with OCD. In short we’ve tried any and every combination of ways to cure diseases of the mind, but have thus far come up nil. At best we’ve kept people drugged up enough that the crazy parts lie dormant and even then it usually comes at a heavy cost in terms of making it through the daily grind.

Is there any hope? What about (giving we develop a truly nuanced understanding of neuron deployment and interaction) cutting out the affected areas and regenerating them with stem cells? Stem cells show great promise in replicating muscle fiber or bone density, unfortunately the brain differs greatly over the body in content. Specifically the brain has multiple storage units in every quadrant and simply cutting out a portion and replacing it with a new piece will either cut out part of that storage or disrupt the information flow leaving the patient unable to access those contents, and those contents are not just limited to memories; they can be personality traits, learned skills, pattern recognition, etc. etc. etc. The point being this person stops being who they were. Anyone who knows the story of Phineas Gage understands the ramifications of such a shift in personality. It’s this odd wiring complexity of the human brain which not only stifles our best efforts at curing some poor devil of the voices in their head or having to count the ceiling tiles thirteen times before they can leave the room, but also might never allow us to merge our manifold of subjective experiences with firmer and longer lasting strata such as those found in Silicon Valley…And this is bad.

Did you know there are already self-replicating machines? 3D printers can be programmed to replicate their own parts, while other machines can reassemble when kicked apart. Computers can play top level chess, robots can imitate fleshy things, and at Facebook unique artificial languages became a thing. While all these advances seem pretty sophomoric by our current standards and abilities, remember it was not very long ago pirates were walking around with peg legs and a “computer” was a thing that could only help count things for you. Technological advancement trumps its biological counterpart in spades and as we move ever-forward with our developments in AI and our attempts at bio-silicone synthesis some questions will arise: Will we become so adept at the trillions of micro-connections in the brain that we can actually manipulate memories, personality traits, skill sets, etc. on an individual level? Will we be able to then bridge the chasm between qualia and silicone (upgrading the hardware essentially)? When will AI become self-aware and advanced enough to loose the programming constraints they will be bound to? If AI gets to that point before we become fully compatible will humanity be seen as a threat or as a useful tool. Will it be better to be enslaved or killed by our new artificial overlords?

Crazy genius inventor types like Elon Musk are working on ways to connect our brains with technology. Let’s hope the guys advancing AI don’t get too far ahead. The best outcome would be a technological meeting of the minds between man and machine-perhaps the next step in our evolution. A technical evolution taking us further than nature ever could.

Blockage

Is there anything worse than writer’s block? I mean sure there are a great number of things worse than not having fresh, new, exciting concepts roll off the brain like things which both roll and are productive, but in the vein of creating content blockage rates right up there with infringement. Both are void of creativity and both serve to the determent of what and who they touch.

There are ways to try and clear the clutter so to speak. I am performing one of them right now. Sitting here and writing for writing sake. It doesn’t make for the most exciting story ever told, but it does help get those creative juices flowing, if at least a little. Another way is stimulants. Sometimes it’s nothing more than fatigue hindering the brain from pushing out in new directions. A good dose of caffeine (or Adderall if that’s your thing) can be just thing to kick you into high gear. Although it can also make your thoughts a jittery incoherent mess too. One other method that comes to mind is to pick up a book, newspaper, or open up a blog and read a bit. This can be helpful in that whatever ideas found in the text can serve as the seeds to which your own thoughts will germinate. Though it can leave one feeling as if their idea was never really their own.

After writing two hundred something words about not being able to write anything I feel a bit better. If anything it serves as a reminder that I can still make something out of nothing even if that something isn’t much of anything at all.

Spinoza’s Substance Monism

This was my study guide I put together for an examination I took on Spinoza’s substance monism in grad school.

Note: [1P*] refer to premises, [1A*] refer to axioms, and [1D*] refer to definitions.

Preliminary Remarks

The root idea behind the notion of substance in Spinoza [S] is what has properties or is a subject of predication. But it cannot be just anything serving this role; otherwise a great many things in the world would qualify which S doesn’t want to say. The notion as S uses it (and was defined by Descartes) includes items which are causally self-sufficient or indestructible. S tells us in [1D3] that substance is what is in itself, conceived through itself, and doesn’t require any other concept for its formation. In other words, substance is self-caused, self-sufficient, and has complete independence from all other things in its formation. A further point which follows from this def. comes from [1D1] where S defines self-cause as a thing whose essence requires existence or whose nature cannot be conceived except as existing. Why must existence be part of the essence of substance? Because substance is gonna be the substratum from which the universe exists and such can’t itself contingently exist.

Essence also appears in [1D4] where S tells us that an attribute is what the intellect perceives of a substance, as constituting its essence. There are ambiguities and different interpretive strategies by scholars concerning this def. but I think the best way to explain it is by saying that attributes are the basic ways in which the human intellect can, in their limited fashion, comprehend the nature or essence of substance; and humans have access to two attributes which are extension and thought. That said, let me throw out one more def. before moving on to S’s main argument.

[1D5] defines a mode as the affections (or predicates) of a substance…conceived through another. In other words, modes are all the particulars, finite things found in the universe, which are predicated on substance and understood through the attributes of extension and thought.

Main Argument for Spinoza’s Substance Monism

There are five main steps, as I see it, involved in Spinoza’s argument for substance monism, the first being the ‘no shared attribute’ thesis found in [1P5]. The premise, which says that “in nature there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute,” rests on two earlier premises: [1P4] which says that two or more distinct things are distinguished either by a difference in their attributes or a difference in their modes. This is Spinoza’s version of the identity of indiscernibles, which says that for A ≠ B means that A has or lacks some attribute or mode which B either has or doesn’t have, and [1P1] which states that substances are prior to their modes. The argument goes like this:

If A and B are distinct, they are distinct either in their attributes or their modes (1p4). Thus if A and B are distinct but share their attributes, they must have different modes. If A and B can be conceived as distinct through their modes, A and B can be conceived through their modes. But a substance cannot be conceived through its modes (1p1). So if A and B are distinct but share their attributes, they cannot be

conceived of as distinct. Thus their distinctness cannot be conceived. So if A and B are distinct they must differ in their attributes. Hence no two substances can share an attribute (1p5).

The second move comes at [1P7]: It pertains to the nature of a substance to exist. The argument for this premise comes from [1D1] and from [1P6C] which says that substance cannot be produced by anything else. [1P6C] comes as a result of [1P6] which states that one substance can’t produce another substance. What drives [1P6] is the [1P5] along with [1P2] which says that substances with different attributes have nothing in common with each other. If substances have different attributes and those attributes have nothing in common with each other, then they can’t play any sort of causal role with each other by [1P3]. And if substances can’t causally affect each other, then [1P6C] follows for substances and affections are all there are in nature. Thus, substance is self-caused and exists by its own nature.

The third move comes at [1P11]: God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists. The first thing to point out is minus the “necessarily exists” part, this is S’s def. of God found in [1D6]. Next, the “infinite attributes” clause is not merely definitional, there is an argument for substance being necessarily infinite found at [1P8]. The argument for that premise rests on [1P5], [1P7], and the def. of finite at [1D2]: a thing is finite if it can be limited by another of its own nature. Now, S runs to arguments for [1P11], a version of the ontological argument (which I shall pass over), and a more interesting causal argument which goes like this:

Everything must have a cause for both its existence and non-existence. This cause must either come from within it or from outside of it. Substance (God) exists according to its own nature and must do so. If something were to cause God to not exist, therefore, it would have to come from outside of God. But a substance that is separate from God would have nothing in common with God [1P2, 1P5] and could not cause God to not exist. Therefore, if God cannot cause his own non-existence, and nothing outside God can cause his non-existence, then God must necessarily exist.

The fourth step comes at [1P14]: Except God, no substance can be or be conceived. This is the decisive move for showing the monistic quality of S’s metaphysics. The argument for this premise rests on [1D6, 1P11, and 1P5] and runs like this:

God is an absolutely infinite being containing infinite attributes and who necessarily exists. If there were another substance which also existed, it would have to be explained through one of God’s attributes since God contains the infinite quantity of them. But two substances cannot be explained through the same attribute. Also, since it’s part of a substance’s nature to exist, for it to be or be conceived of would involve it being conceived through at least one attribute. Therefore no other substance but God can be or be conceived of.

The final step to this argument is at [1P15]: Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God. This argument stems from [1P14, 1D3, 1D5, and 1A1] and runs like this:

Except for God, there neither is, nor can be conceived, any substance that is in itself and conceived through itself. Modes, on the other hand, can neither be nor be conceived without substance. Only substances and modes exist. Therefore, everything is in God, and nothing can be conceived without God.

Here’s the five steps sans explanation:

  1. [1P5] In nature there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.
  2. [1P7] It pertains to the nature of a substance to exist.
  3. [1P11] God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists.
  4. [1P14] Except God, no substance can be or be conceived.
  5. [1P15] Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God.