Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Just thinking out loud about teleology

Maybe it's a simple progression of drive to survive, associating this with self-animation, projection of this "animation" on everything that moves, belief that everything that moves has a purpose such as an interest in staying alive...? 
The flip side would be the all too culturally conditioned notion that subjectivity means self-interest and self-interest means bias and bias leads to falsehood or at least misleading claims. So to ensure truth (or at least public legitimacy) there would be a concerted effort to remove any vestige of agency from nature, in spite of the palpable and clear drive to survive of all self-moving entities (or even any for whom homeostasis is required for survival), to render nature all about random spandrels (chaotic nature) plus (rational) laws of nature... 
Or perhaps the official removal of agency from nature began with the realization of the power of reasoning in cultures over 2K years ago around what is known as the "axial age" and hylomorphist ontology came along with it?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Numinous experience and instinct - the meaning of the meaning of life

Shinto sacralizes places where people have a sense of the awe of nature. Various pieces of music, e.g., Agnus Dei from Faure's Requiem or Vaughan Williams' Theme from Thomas Tallis, are evocative of an unearthly majesty. Abraham Maslow spoke of peak experiences - experiences that are not the result of biological need fulfillment (which include safety and belonging in his account) such as aesthetic experiences or spiritual experiences. Biological drivers he called extrinsic motivation, motivation by a lack or need. The kind that give rise to numinous experience such as scientific curiosity/discovery for its own sake rather than the prestige or big pharma payout, the joy of creating or experiencing music or art or writing that is not politically motivated but just beautiful, this is intrinsic motivation. The joy of understanding, learning or appreciating something new for no other reason. Apes experience this at waterfalls (Goodall).
Is it conceivable to explain these numinous experiences 
  • in naturalistic terms
  • while conserving the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation ?
If not, is all naturalism essentially reductionist by design?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The world needs a new story

The world needs a new story to make sense of itself. It will include the fact of evolution, the immensity of time that preceded us; the fact that we live on a planet in an incomprehensibly vast universe; the urgent need for us to be environmentally responsible and a stress on the dire consequences of wasteful consumerism and an economic model built on it; a sense of the importance of acceptance of differences among people and peoples; the social, environmental, political and emotional benefits of gender equality; the need to keep network power nodes in check; and all of this needs to impart a sense of coziness. It sounds odd to say "coziness" but that's the nub of it. We all know or sense, more or less, the other stuff. In the past, it has been established power (accompanied with a supposed divine sanction such as the mandate of heaven or the divine right of kings!) that bounded the universe in tidy ways for us, but that no longer exists or at least, where it does, it exists in a decadent form from which little good could emerge (and vehemently defended by people in thrall to a reaction formation). So there's the challenge. To find a story so we feel at home 'on a planet', as opposed to 'in a world'.