Category: philosophy

Well if such a sequence is rare, then heads is due

by Andrea Elizabeth

From the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

gambler’s fallacy, also called Monte Carlo fallacy, the fallacy of supposing, of a sequence of independent events, that the probabilities of later outcomes must increase or decrease to “compensate” for earlier outcomes. For example, since (by Bernoulli’s theorem) in a long run of tosses of a fair coin it is very probable that the coin will come up heads roughly half the time, one might think that a coin that has not come up heads recently must be “due” to come up heads – must have a probability greater than one-half of doing so. But this is a misunderstanding of the law of large numbers, which requires no such compensating tendencies of the coin. The probability of heads remains one-half for each toss despite the preponderance, so far; of tails. In the sufficiently long run what “compensates” for the presence of improbably long subsequences in which, say, tails strongly predominate, is simply that such subsequences occur rarely and therefore have only a slight effect on the statistical character of the whole. See Bernoulli’s theorem

Bernoulli’s theorem is too complicated. The entry before that on St. Bernard of Clairvaux is more interesting:

(1090 – 1153), French Cistercian monk, mystic, and religious leader. He is most noted for his doctrine of Christian humility and his depiction of the mytical experience, which exerted considerable influence on later Christian mystics. Educated in France, he entered the monastery at Citeaux in 1112, and three years later founded a daughter monastery at Clairvaux.

According to Bernard, honest self-knowledge should reveal the extnt to which we fail to be what we should be in the eyes of God. That self-knowledge should lead us to curb our pride and so become more humble. Humility is necessary for contemplation of God, the highest form of which is union with God. Consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, Bernard maintains that mystical union does not entail identity. One does not become God; rather, one’s will and God’s will come into complete conformity. See mysticism.

Not sure it’s Orthodox according to St. Athanasius.

Why women don’t like Kierkegaard

by Andrea Elizabeth

Inspired by yesterday’s article, this morning I again, after a long hiatus, picked up Either/Or Part II. Part I was from the point of view of the aesthete, and Part II is from the point of view of the ethicist. Aesthetics by nature are more interesting than ethics. Do is more interesting than don’t. Do opens the realms of possibilities, don’t closes the door. This is probably why Part I is a lot thicker than Part II. I think I must have quit reading after this: “but there is one thing for which I thank God with my whole soul, and that is that she is the only I have ever loved, the first, and there is one thing for which I pray to God with my whole heart, that he will give me the strength never to want o love any other.” (page 9)

To all who find themselves in this ideal arrangement, good for you. Preach on against those of us who did not. Club us over the head for our instability, recklessness, waywardness, dangerousness, immorality, and deservedness of being shunned. There, that was a self-indulgent pity party.

The third reason I’ve put this book at arms’ length is that Kierkegaard was never married. He courted Regina for four years, finally proposed, then dropped her immediately after she accepted. How can he preach about marriage?

But, he is a complicated fellow and deserves more query. Maybe he’s chastising himself as the aesthete? Maybe Part I is his loving himself and Part II is his hating himself? If that’s so, I can be more sympathetic. But this goal, “But now to the subject. There are two things that I must regard as my particular task: to show the esthetic meaning of marriage and to show how the esthetic in it may be retained despite life’s numerous hindrances.” (page 8) Have your cake and eat it too? Sounds like a women’s magazine cover article on keeping your marriage sparkly. So did he break off his own engagement because he didn’t think the aesthetic immediacy of attraction could really be retained? Was this next part himself?:

“You, however, actually live by plundering; unnoticed, you creep up on people, steal from them their happy moment, their most beautiful moment, stick this shadow picture in your pocket as the tall man did in Schlemiel and take it out whenever you wish. You no doubt say that those involved lose nothing by this, that often they themselves perhaps do not know which is their most beautiful moment. You believe that they should rather be indebted to you , because with your study of lighting, which magic formulas, you permitted them to stand forth transfigured in the supernatural amplitude of the rare moments…. If one dared to hope that the energy that kindles you in such moments could take shape in you, distribute itself coherently over your life, well, then something great would certainly come of you , for you yourself are transfigured in such moments.” (page 10-11)

My current theory is that Kierkegaard did try to sustain the transfigured energy – but he chose to do it through philosophical writing, not marriage. I don’t think he liked the physical as much as the intellectual, thus his decision not to marry her, but to devote himself to his work. But he did have an emotional bond to her, which he found that he could sustain without marriage. He believed in constant transfiguration, and for a while had the patience for it. But eventually he fulfilled this prophecy, “you who once wrote to me that patience to bear life’s burdens must indeed be an extraordinary virtue, that you did not even have the patience to want to live. Your life disintegrates into nothing but interesting details like these.” And this is why he died so young after getting more and more negative. Why do the brightest lights die so young? I do like Kierkegaard.


after reading the entry on dialectical arguments

by Andrea Elizabeth

Good dialectical arguments result in both parties discounting each other’s premise and ending up with nothing.

I don’t agree.

You have to have a counter.

They may end up agreeing to disagree.

Then they both walk away with nothing.

They can keep their original premises.

But if they were intellectually honest, and equally good at debate, then they would both have to back down from their premises.

Unless one or both thought that absence of further argument doesn’t mean there isn’t a better answer. They could agree to wait for a better answer.

But some people are ready to test the argument and act on the conclusion if they believe in the process. Used to be, people believed answers were more available and if it couldn’t be seen, it didn’t exist. Nowadays people are ready to resign without a conclusion.

So I’ll agree with the moderns and you can agree with the traditionalists. That’s not nothing, is it?

It depends on the goal. If you believe in human rationality, then both should be able to agree. Disagreement can result in one person thinking the other person is less than human. If you like and respect the other person, you don’t want to think of them that way. If you can’t agree, you may end up disbelieving in rationality. Then it seems degenerative chaos is the only answer.

Some people don’t mind chaos. They like random variety.

That gives me a sick feeling.

So feelings triumph over rationality?

Maybe so.


by Andrea Elizabeth

Reading dictionaries may be fun after all. From the first page of the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy that my family got me for my birthday a few years ago:

Abduction: canons of reasoning for the discovery, as opposed to the justification, of scientific hypotheses or theories.

Reichenbach distinguished the context of justification and the context of discovery, arguing that philosophy legitimately is concerned only with the former, which concerns verification and confirmation, whereas the latter is a matter for psychology….

I like discovery and psychology better than justification.

Today few regard the search for rigorous formal logics of discovery as promising.

Keeping things informal is fine with me.

Why I don’t like philosophy

by Andrea Elizabeth

It’s too powerful. It can uproot tradition. It’s too easy to follow the logic and relate, and then before you know it you’re assassinating a king or czar or your brothers and sisters or even God. It can easily confuse people.

But the Church Fathers and Sts. John and Paul used philosophy. It’s also part of psychology – the study of the soul. And if our minds aren’t meant to understand complex things, aren’t they being wasted? And aren’t the Father’s pronouncements ultimately comforting? Yes, except the anathemas. Some Priests don’t read them because today’s society is so confused and we don’t want to condemn all the unorthodox. When the Church was more united, things were more black and white.

I’ve been reading a little of Nietsche and liking some of his writing, then today’s Random Psalm is 14:

14 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.

Is there no good in Nietzsche? But how does he have songs?

Also, in the above, God does want us to understand.

But Nietzsche does have some points about antisemitism, nationalism, and Master/Slave Morality. But could his uberman have fed Nazism?

I only trust the ultimate pronouncements of the Orthodox Church, but the other truth claims are an interesting and enlightening conversation. They point to parts of reality that you may not have yet thought of. However, f you are not grounded in the Church, you can be convinced these claims are mature gospel truth instead of tiny elements in a bigger picture. Like Uberman. He could be compared to a deified man. But he calls upon God and does not deny him.

Master/Slave Morality is more difficult. From Wikipedia:

In Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche’s genealogical account of the development of modern moral systems occupies central place. For Nietzsche, a fundamental shift took place during human history from thinking in terms of “good” and “bad” toward “good” and “evil”.

The initial form of morality was set by a warrior aristocracy and other ruling castes of ancient civilizations. Aristocratic values of “good” and “bad” coincided with and reflected their relationship to lower castes such as slaves. Nietzsche presents this “master morality” as the original system of morality—perhaps best associated with Homeric Greece. To be “good” was to be happy and to have the things related to happiness: wealth, strength, health, power, etc. To be “bad” was to be like the slaves over which the aristocracy ruled, poor, weak, sick, pathetic—an object of pity or disgust rather than hatred.

“Slave morality” comes about as a reaction to master-morality. Here, value emerges from the contrast between good and evil: good being associated with other-worldliness, charity, piety, restraint, meekness, and submission; and evil seen as worldly, cruel, selfish, wealthy, and aggressive. Nietzsche sees slave morality as pessimistic and fearful, values for them serving only to ease the existence for those who suffer from the very same thing. He associates slave-morality with the Jewish and Christian traditions, in a way that slave-morality is born out of the ressentiment of slaves. Nietzsche argued that the idea of equality allowed slaves to overcome their own condition without hating themselves. And by denying the inherent inequality of people (such as success, strength, beauty or intelligence), slaves acquired a method of escape, namely by generating new values on the basis of rejecting something that was seen as a perceived source of frustration. It was used to overcome the slave’s own sense of inferiority before the (better-off) masters. It does so by making out slave weakness to be a matter of choice, by, e.g., relabeling it as “meekness.” The “good man” of master morality is precisely the “evil man” of slave morality, while the “bad man” is recast as the “good man.”

Nietzsche sees the slave-morality as a source of the nihilism that has overtaken Europe. Modern Europe and Christianity exist in a hypocritical state due to a tension between master and slave morality, both values contradictorily determining, to varying degrees, the values of most Europeans (who are motley). Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to no longer be ashamed of their uniqueness in the face of a supposed morality-for-all, which he deems to be harmful to the flourishing of exceptional people. He cautions, however, that morality, per se, is not bad; it is good for the masses, and should be left to them. Exceptional people, on the other hand, should follow their own “inner law.” A favorite motto of Nietzsche, taken from Pindar, reads: “Become what you are.”

A long standing assumption about Nietzsche is that he preferred master over slave morality. However, the Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann rejected this interpretation, writing that Nietzsche’s analyses of these two types of morality were only used in a descriptive and historic sense, they were not meant for any kind of acceptance or glorifications.[101]

There’s a lot to think about here. Did Christian slaveowners keep the slaves down by this teaching of good Christian meekness? Feminists also criticize doormat wives. Rightly? But with such talk you agitate and incense people to violent revolution. Gandhi advocated passive resistance a la Rosa Parks. That’s better, but in a documentary about the Civil Rights movement I heard that that only got them so far, then they had to get more militant. There is no one answer. I’ve heard that Jewish people are ashamed they took such a meek approach to their captivity and wish they’d been stronger. They couldn’t believe things would go that far, and that God would allow it. It’s probably why there are so many are atheists now.

I suppose the healthy thing is for the strong to help the weak and not lord it over them. But even Nietzsche believes in ressentiment among lesser ways of being:

“Aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy, especially his ideas of the self and his relation to society, also run through much of late-twentieth and early twenty-first century thought.[250][251] His deepening of the romantic-heroic tradition of the nineteenth century, for example, as expressed in the ideal of the “grand striver” appears in the work of thinkers from Cornelius Castoriadis to Roberto Mangabeira Unger.[252] For Nietzsche this grand striver overcomes obstacles, engages in epic struggles, pursues new goals, embraces recurrent novelty, and transcends existing structures and contexts.”

He denies transcendence to the eternal or otherworldly, but where else can you go beyond “existing structures and contexts”?

And then there’s absurdism

by Andrea Elizabeth

Philosophical absurdism.

My conclusion in the post on absurdist literature was Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. Camus is interesting. He made me think of the stoning of Stephen. Kierkegaard would like that he saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, who deadened the pain? Camus would say that was escapism. I suppose he would prefer, go ahead, make my day. Perhaps he is a masochist.

I’ve wondered at the martyrs who endure horrible torture, are healed, then endure it again. What’s the point of that? Are they protected from the pain? And to say, thy will be done, could possibly not be escapism but absorption in the other. Your God will be my God, your people my people. Kenosis is escaping self absorption for a broader, truer point of view. Is reality a caterpillar or a butterfly? See Corpse Bride for that.

Let them go

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just remembered what I was looking up that lead me to learn about the King of Germany being the Holy Roman Emperor till 1806 and then about Austria. It was Lutheranism. I don’t remember why I was looking that up. But the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article has this statement,

“The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics was made clear and open with the 1521 Edict of Worms:[2] the edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially outlawed citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas, subjecting advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all property, specifying half of any seized property forfeit to the Imperial government and the remaining half forfeit to the party who brought the accusation.”

It was the seizure of property that caught my attention. How did the state have the right to do that unless there was no division between Church and state, which of course there wasn’t so much in those days. But all this leads me to the notion of coercion. Whatever the political or financial motivations, if you believe someone is defying God or the truth, what should you do? Force them through these other means to stop? The problem to me is the indirectness of it.

Property rights should involve trade rules, not religious rules. If someone is convicted of murder, should their property be seized? They may have to make certain restitution to the family, but that should be about damages, not removal of property. It’s the indirectness that is also involved in bribery, which is what the Empire was doing to the people who brought accusations of someone being Lutheran by giving them half the spoils.

So to say I’ll be nice to you and give you favors if you worship as I do, and I’ll be mean and take something of yours unrelated if you don’t is wrong. Do I feel this way because I’m a post-enlightenment American? I just found this on the Wikipedia article on the Separation of Church and State,

“The concept of separating church and state is often credited to the writings of English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704).[8] According to his principle of the social contract, Locke argued that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he argued must therefore remain protected from any government authority. These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with his social contract, became particularly influential in the American colonies and the drafting of the United States Constitution.”

We are used to being able to think, and mostly to say what we think without state consequence. It seems an act of desperation to try to force someone to think and say differently. The Church has the authority to declare what is proper to think and say, with certain ramifications, mostly closed communion for those who declare with the agreement of their conscience the truth about Christ and the Church. She lets those who don’t go. So is it bribery or coercion to send gift-bearing missionaries? I think we have to be careful and examine our conscience. Am I feeding this poor person because I want to add numbers to my Church? We may not be able to help that that may be part of it, and if it is, if we also believe it is wrong to not feed a hungry person, then we should go ahead and pray to be cleansed of our wrong motivations. It’s the difference between schmoozing and ministering.

Speaker for the Dead

by Andrea Elizabeth

is the sequel to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Actually, I think it was explained to me that Ender’s Game is the prequel to Speaker for the Dead even though it was written first.

I’m a little fuzzy on the details because it is not the sort of book I normally read. I gravitate towards psychological/relational type books written by the greats of the 19th Century. This one has enough of that to keep me engaged, but it’s also pretty sciency and politically as well as religiously philosophical.

The main character is agnostic, but likes to surprise religious people by his goodness. This sort of reminds me of a recent Walking Dead episode where the gay girl is “surprisingly” self-sacrificial. It’s as if the religious right has tarred and feathered these alternative, shall we say, life-styled people in a way that has totally vilified them. If one weren’t Calvinist, one could say they have been categorized as sub-human. One statement in Speaker for the Dead is that it takes Calvinists a long time to get over that flawed viewpoint.


Theological pros and cons to the quantum theory of multi universes

by Andrea Elizabeth

1, Con. If all possibilities are actualized, whose spouse will you be in heaven? Even if people will be like the angels and not married, wont they have memories of their past life? Too many memories?

2, Pro. It could explain how people can possibly know everything and be everywhere in heaven, provided the alternate selves will be integrated.

3, Pro. It could explain how someone is guilty of murder or adultery for just thinking it.

4, Con. It dilutes the importance of this set of actualities, such as the Fall, the Incarnation, and every day decision-making.

5, Pro. It supports being credited for your intentions.

6. Pro. It is a way to see fiction as the gateway to knowing what some of the other worlds are like, thus making fiction real or true, and those who get caught up in it not crazy or delusional.

7. Con. It is an excuse for these people to think they are not crazy or delusional.

8. Con. It makes truth too relativistic, unless certain foundational truths about human, divine, and created natures remain constant.

The pros and cons are equal, therefore I have determined that multi universes both exist and do not exist.  (see related posts on Schrodinger’s cat in the February archives of Sine Nomine, starting with “Quantum Cats”.)


by Andrea Elizabeth

Are there just 2 choices, one right and one wrong? You or me, left or right? This may be the perception. It is more difficult to consider multiple valid options, such as up, down, front and back, with right and left, so maybe that’s why we don’t. Does that mean Hegel was lazy? Or narcissistic?

Is reality one, as Hegel suggests – a single synthesis of me and the other,

or is it one in that it is the relationship between me and the other,

or just me,

or just the other,

or is it dual as the other and how it changed me,

or multiple as all the independent others, including me,

or all the instances of relationships between each of the others, also allowing for independence and exclusiveness,

or all the relationships being mutually dependent,

or all independent beings, with their relationships being another entity, and is the nature of the independent being changed by the relationship(s)?

The above imply that reality is equal to one’s consciousness of it. Reality can also be viewed as an ontologically unchangeable thing regardless of one’s consciousness of it. But one has to leave oneself behind, as Carly learns in “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”, to perceive this ontology that exists whether I realize it or not. 

Or is there room to believe that one’s consciousness of things also changes reality such that reality includes the dynamic of enlightenment. Enlightenment and ignorance change things. This is a common theme in literature. Pride and Prejudice is all about how ignorance leads to a set of actions that make a certain reality, and enlightenment leads to another set for a different reality. Both experienced and actualized. Ignorance and misunderstanding lead to the distance between good people with the union of not so good people, and enlightenment leads to the union of the good people. This leads to the belief  that good as a reality, is obtained through the quest for truth, which seems to be who has good character and who has bad so that I know who to unite myself to. Therefore the goal of the knowledge of reality is relationship. This is not exactly dualistic, but interpretation through a sliding scale of the worst, worse, bad, good, better and best. Dualism can still be noted in that there are still two ingredients, the good, which is to be united to, and the bad, which is to be avoided as much as possible.

Does the amount of enlightenment and the nature of the relationship change the nature of the individual? My understanding of human nature through what I’ve studied in Orthodox teaching, is that it is one and unchangeable. But a person’s participation with true humanity is on a sliding scale. It is negatively affected by sin and unconsciousness. Is a person less human who is of bad character and unconscious of goodness? I don’t think they are less in that they become something else, but I think they are smaller, as when Lewis’ Tragedian in The Great Divorce gets bigger and the man gets smaller the more he listens to him and accepts him. The man doesn’t become the Tragedian, he just disappears.

So if one person disappears, how are others affected? Is it an independent occurrence, or do the ones he is related to suffer as well? Or is it just the relationship as a separate entity that suffers? And are our multiple relationships with things compartmentalized within ourselves? I lean towards domino effects, so that one’s relationship with a small person affects one’s other relationships, but do they affect you as a person other than your perceptions and therefore future decisions? They probably do contribute to one’s personal size, or attainment of humanity. One has to decide to get caught up in the other’s dysfunction, or reject it, and how it is allowed to affect one’s view of others. This implies one needs to be more conscious of reality. One needs to be enlightened to become more human.

So is the enlightened person only concerned with the other, regardless of consciousness of relationship or of how the relationship affects him personally? The enlighten person should read his, or his actions’, affect on the other person. That is, the other person’s relationship with him. Perhaps how one is affected by another person or their actions is dependent on how big or small they are. Impassibility entails being unaffected. Loving indiscriminately. But there is the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. There are those he considered his friends. Maybe this was his human nature. But Enoch walked with God and was no more. And Moses and David were more intimate with Him. Their relationships were results of their character, their bigness.

How conscious of ones self should one be? Carly, in “You’re So Vain”, chides you for thinking the song is about you, but isn’t it also about her? Is it ok to have it be about yourself (Narcissism), but not think that others’ songs are about you? In a certain introduction to the Psalms, in these songs, it is ok to think they are about you, sins (not other people as enemies), and Christ (who I’ll add, includes the least of the brethren). Multiple.


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