Some writings, musings and intellectual calculus
Multidimensional view of Socrates and history as a whole through the prism of philosophy Kierkegard regards as an invisible architectural structure or pattern that places what we have left recorded from history in appropriate places. He is making a parallel between phenomenology and comprehension of history not through Descartian method of reductionism and scientific inquiry which seemed to be the currency of the intellectual elite of the times but rather through reflecting the logical structures of what he sees as eternal which allows him further distance and thus greater clarity of the matter at hand. The dominion of time is particularly interesting to me when observing Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of irony, history and religion are brought into focus, because with the above method the philosophical inquiry is not only observing the factual structures but also the changes that time brings. Such are the societal transformations that have been ruling and still are ruling the world we live in, and Kierkegaard has in my opinion not only brought forward the shifts that the historical figure such as Socrates has introduced but also tendencies that society have created and demolished in and around that time. The pattern however still valid today, could be observed with the same or at least similar methodology Kierkegaard was implementing. This pattern the nature of time could be depicted visually in terms of a “wave” going in one direction and then subtracting back and then again ad infinitum, and that is where the greatest fascination with this philosopher is although it may not be apparent. Nietzsche regarded Socrates as the greatest monster that could happen to the civilization, and this is directed in somewhat different notions and Nietszche’s view of society is comprised of singular progress forward, he fails to see fluctuations that are necessary for the civilization to breath, but it is evident that both philosophers identified negativity of Socrates in relation to the society, his disciples and generations that lived in the constructed thoughts-cage afterwards. Obviously while the method itself questions everything and ultimately by implication negates all, it may have been necessary at that point in history, for society dependent on collective consciousness/decisions/systems was starting to exhaust itself with its own methods and the dominion of individuality in a sense that could be compared to what we today know as Existentialism was required to progress the society forward. It is clear that time-wave pattern is visible in this instance, I will define this particular wave as “a decreasing trend” (with no derogatory notions in the term) while the time wave pattern that culminated before Socrates obviously dominated with the society’s tendency of uniting the collective I would define as “an increasing trend”. This represents a crucial concept for drawing parallels with the modern age we live in. The span of negation Socrates has created in his society at the time of his teaching is enormous and it ranges from philosophy through practical application in political and social life, the implementation of imaginative constructs such as Daimon, Aphorea,....etc all the way through to the substance he himself is which could be only defined as nothingness and all. As a matter of curiosity it is possible to draw analogy with Buddhism but only some aspects of it, in Socrates case used practically and therefore not conducive to life. The Daimon of Socrates as quoted by Kierkegard “this word denotes something abstract, something divine, something that precisely in its abstraction is above definition, is unutterable and indescribable, since it allows no vocalization.” Socrates’ Daimon described by Kierkegard represents the internalization of the Human order and what Oracle of the Ancient society was stating as a Universal order, was suddenly in the hands of the individual with the concept of Daimon. According to Plato’s interpretation it is able to warn and conduit towards righteous or universal thoughts. It is a tool that Socrates uses in order to articulate his impact on the individuals, Athenians who ultimately condemned him to death because of his interference with the belief system at the time. Hegel’s view of Daimon is particularly colored in positive tone “In the 'divine sign' of Socrates we see the will which formerly had simply transferred itself beyond itself now beginning to apply itself to itself and so to recognize its own inward nature. This is the beginning of a self-knowing and so of genuine freedom”. It may be safe to create analogy between Daimon and instinctive sense. Voltaire argues that there is no free will but chain of actions and reactions that determine and condition the responses. Daimon is in a way the instinctive machine that is comprised of so to speak large calculus which at the time of decision on some subconscious level knows the right way but the outcome depends on the other factors. Socrates is trying to listen to the voice of this machine on the level where the right way is identified and before it processes the thoughts of social conditioning, adaptation, belief system,.etc. In other words objective altitudes through enclosing himself within himself. This new system based on “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” ― Socrates created fertile ground for numerous philosophical schools that emerged afterwards, as society was ripe for a change and while Socrates self destructed himself through his actions of perfecting “know yourself” with negative methods and created a lasting impact, the “freedom of thoughts and teachings” that emerged after him was eclectic. It is important to note that the core of Socratic philosophical point is nothingness, the awareness of ignorance, and the world within each individual which is to doubt everything in systemic methods of philosophical inquiries. It is no wonder that such notion has been met with criticism because intrinsically there is no direction to building anything from that point of ultimate negations. Another important figure that played with similar tools is Faust, who found desperation at the end of the road full of thirst for knowledge, brilliance and high intelligence. Kierkegaard states in his Concept of Irony “after these ideas have acquired their actuality and personality its absolute pleroma [fullness], when subjectivity again isolates itself, when the infinite negativity again opens its chasm in order to swallow this actuality of the spirit, irony manifests itself in a more alarming form” which to me greatly resembles Kuhn’s view of progression of science, namely science goes through periods of normal science, crisis, and scientific revolutions. According to Thomas Kuhn introduced in 1962 During periods of Normal science, a scientific community works on a well-defined textbook, solving problems, puzzles and proving or disproving hypothesis without trying to refute the method. The second state Crises arrives only when a sufficient number of anomalies in the testing occurs. During periods of crisis, a new paradigm occurs and the scientific community abandons the old and shifts to the new paradigm. This is what Kuhn called the paradigm shift. Kuhn, however, stressed how the paradigm shift, or the process of theory choice is not dictated by the superiority of the new paradigm over the old one. On the contrary, Kuhn claimed that the new paradigm should only be able to have a higher puzzle-solving power than the previous one. So, the new paradigm should be able to solve the anomalies, solve the puzzle that the previous paradigm wasn't able to solve Kuhn was absolutely clear that we can compare paradigms. But it was also clear that we don't have a common measure for judging, assessing or evaluating whether one paradigm is better or superior than the other one. Different scientific paradigms use very different theories, very different concepts, but also different experimental, technological resources and system of values. So that, whenever we have a paradigm shift, we experience something similar to what psychologists call Gestalt switches. At the time of Socrates condemnation Greek society was in the state of disintegration, corruption and finite subjectivity and it is no surprise that Socrates created one of the greatest intellectual drama in the history with his condemnation, apology which lead to his death. While his thought lead him to doubt everything to the point where he was not even sure if death is good or evil and created indifference in his apology, there is one thing he was greatly opposing and that is Sophists. Kierkegaard notion on Sophistry is as follows “This is indeed the troll that wreaks havoc in the domain of thought” They mostly spread knowledge and tutoring in exchange for money, and the worst condemnation is in their appropriating the truth in accordance to the images they wanted to create as a mask of truth and promote usefulness and applicable nature of their teaching, with subjects ranging from business, argumentation, poetry,...etc. It might appear analogous to what we know today as “self help” movement with plethora of books and coaches that are teaching applicable lifestyle, business success, happiness,...etc counseling without a real system of knowledge behind it but with striving for prosperity as exchange for such knowledge. On the other hand we have a world saturated with scientific, technical, historical information which is equally susceptible to the emptiness that accumulation of information brings, and there is a need that is greater than ever in strengthening human and moral values with the same pace as all the other variables that are building this civilization. Ultimately, Kierkegard’s inquiry leads us to the most important set Homo Sapiens constructed since the beginning of time, and that is called Human values, which reflect moral structures and create righteousness through sharp criticism of destructive elements that shape society. Kierkegard’s irony serves as a machine of eliminating the weeds so to speak in order to bring fresh air and escalates the observer to the apex of clear thoughts allowing constructive criticism. It is important to observe that misdirected Human values devoid of moral structures ultimately lead to disasters such as: in physical sense playing with nuclear weapons; in belief systems - playing with absolutisms, in economical systems - damages of the short terms benefits,...etc have all contributed the creation of dark side the knowledge and science can produce and which is even more terrifying create a cloud of fear that looms in the subconsciousness of the media addicted population with the content that the absolute annihilation is possible provided this world power or another produces such threat. This notion in itself contains the construct of the greatest power in existence and that is a fear that feeds on facts and actions of wrongdoings from the past, which has the power to paralyze the population or at least the segments of populations exposed to it. The most vivid example of mass manipulation with the model of fear was in recent history employed by Hitler with disastrous effect. This is the example that portrays the lack of moral sense but scientific brilliance, in a full sense of Faustian thirst for knowledge. Let’s not forget that scientists in Germany produced large number of innovations at the time, but at the same time at least some of them (who were aware of the horrors) didn’t have objections harming another human being, or living being for that matter. Today’s society is facing great challenges including Global warming, environmental disasters, some examples of extremisms and conflict between ancient concept the war between “us and them”, unbalanced economical system that increases the gap between the poor and the rich, and many other questions that have to be addressed. It is clear that we are now entering the age of “increasing time wave” where collective consciousness, decisions, and movements are taking place, allowed through the conduit of internet in the form of currently popular concepts such as social networks, free access to information, crowdfunding, economy of sharing,....etc the question remains while the accumulation of knowledge is under exponential growth, are the moral, and human values following this growth? Let’s hope that the future will crystallize the human values for the overall benefits to be the rulers of all other constructs that drive the machine called Homo Sapiens.Read More
The goal of a human kind in achieving higher understanding and awareness of the functioning of the world around is one of the most important and fundamental questions which have been going through various systems of imagined realities throughout centuries. Today, due to the fact we all live in a visual oriented society, there is a huge written record which we are privileged to shad some light on. The result of such a query has in my mind brought together two systems set apart more than 2000 years but of a very compatible or even complementary features. I believe that the modern science even though far from a purely Cartesian thought in a historical sense, comprises largely of a scientific method built on Cartesian foundations. On the other hand Buddhist approach towards the human mind, due to being created in a different era is thus framed upon more holistic methods, and propagates experiential road to what we might call higher awareness. I think it is appropriate to transpose, "intellectualizing road" with scientific method that psychology uses, and in particular evolutionary psychology in the context of deciphering some aspects of human mind. The Buddhist teaching is closely focused on "anatman" which means not self, and there are two screens with which the self is easily negated: 1. impermanence and 2. without control, when looking at the five aggregates, form (body), feeling, perception, mental formation, consciousness. There is a very vivid example of modern science relating to the Buddhist interpretation above. A take from a modern biology perspective, Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman puts it, "the brain looks like an ecosystem, a fantastically complex associative network of firings, patterns, reactions, and sensations all communicating with and responding to different parts of the brain and all competing for a piece of control over the organism". I believe that modern psychology shares the same view through theory of mind modules and intertemporal utility function.
I think that at this point in time, the emphasize is given on researches and theories based on the conscious, evolutionary conditioned ideas, and natural selection however I think very important researching in psychology and possibly even further touching on Buddhistic notion of truth is within the subconscious processes. While not much is know about this area of a brain the theory of essentialism by Paul Bloom is I believe largely constructed and supported by psychology researches of subconscious processes. Here is an interesting quotation about the question of preferences: "We do not get to choose what we like. Preferences are formed below the level of awareness" as stated in the book The Social Animal by David Brook While theory of mind modules certainly compartmentalize some aspects of evolution based impulses the scientific method of modern psychology in my opinion somewhat leaves the reader or consumer of the "intellectualized road" wondering about some other aspects of truth as seen through the Buddhist eyes and as stated as "rebellion against natural selection". To that end I would like to conclude this essay with the second question: Does modern science lend support to the logic behind Buddhist meditation practice? The first obvious psychology research that came to my mind in relation of meditation practice is the Default Mode Network. The research has been done, through scanning various brains during the meditation processes and the findings showed that the part of the brain in charge for planning processes called Default Mode Network were much quieter. Another even more vivid description in support was in the experience expressed by the Buddhist Monks who explained that through mindfulness meditation, if we imagined that our mind is a pool of muddied water, if we practice the meditation we are going through the process of calming down the particles of mud and in effect are getting the crystallized view towards the world around and within. The above descriptions I would venture classifying as in a more holistic Buddhist tradition, at the same time I would also like to draw a line between what F. Scott Fitzgerald poetically expressed as intelligence "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." and the more intellectualized form of integrating Buddhist doctrine and modern psychology. The construct of emptiness and the sense of emotional and otherwise detachment from the flux of modern living, makes us see through the real nature of the emptiness. Coincidentally quant mechanics classifies the atomic world as the organization of the empty space. There is a wonderful symmetry in such a notion that all these disciplines are acting as an interplay which is sufficiently compatible with Buddhist thought in order to be viewed through the lenses of each other. I also think that macro observational point of view as a civilization conditioned through essentialist structures allows the organization of patterns to complement each other.Read More