Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Central Message of the Darwinians

Le Danse C'est Morte
Nietzsche's Response - Evolution should NOT be confused with "Progress"...
Formerly, one sought the feeling of the grandeur of man by pointing to his divine origin: this has now become a forbidden way, for at its portal stands the ape, together with other gruesome beasts, grinning knowingly as if to say: no further in this direction! One therefore now tries the opposite direction: the way mankind is going shall serve as proof of his grandeur and kinship with God. Alas this, too, is in vain! [ . . . ] However high mankind may have evolved—and perhaps at the end it will stand even lower than at the beginning!—it cannot pass over into a higher order, as little as the ant and the earwig can at the end of its "earthly course" rise up to kinship with God and eternal life. (D 49)

We have become more modest in every way. We no longer derive man from "the spirit" or "the deity"; we have placed him back among the animals. We consider him the strongest animal because he is the most cunning: his intellectuality [Geistigkeit ] is a consequence of this. On the other hand, we oppose the vanity that would raise its head again here too—as if man had been the great hidden purpose of the evolution of the animals. Man is by no means the crown of creation: every living being stands beside him on the same level of perfection . . . And even this is saying too much: relatively speaking, man is the most bungled of all the animals, the sickliest, the one who has strayed the most dangerously from its instincts. (A 14)

[T]he cause of the origin of a thing and its eventual utility, its actual employment and place in a system of purposes, lie worlds apart; whatever exists, having somehow come into being, is again and again reinterpreted to new ends, taken over, transformed, and redirected by some power superior to it; all events in the organic world are a subduing, becoming master, and all subduing and becoming master involves a fresh interpretation, an adjustment through which any previous "meaning" and "purpose" are necessarily obscured or even obliterated. However well one has understood the utility of a physiological organ [ . . . ], this means nothing regarding its origin: however uncomfortable and disagreeable this may sound to older ears—for one had always believed that to understand the demonstrable purpose, the utility of a thing, a form, or an institution, was also to understand the reason why it originated—the eye being made for seeing, the hand made for grasping. [ . . . P]urposes and utilities are only signs that a will to power has become master of something less powerful and imposed upon it the character of a function; and the entire history of a "thing," an organ, a custom can in this way be a continuous sign-chain of ever new interpretations and adaptations whose causes do not even have to be related to one another but, on the contrary, in some cases succeed and alternate with one another in purely chance fashion. The "evolution" of a thing, a custom, an organ is thus by no means its progressus toward a goal, even less a logical progressus by the shortest route and with the smallest expenditure of force—but the succession of more or less profound, more or less mutually independent processes of subduing, plus the resistances they encounter, the attempts at transformation for the purpose of defense and reaction, and the results of successful counteractions.

[M]an as a species does not represent any progress compared to any other animal. The whole animal and vegetable kingdom does not evolve from the lower to the higher—but all at the same time, in utter disorder, over and against one another. The richest and most complex forms—for the expression "higher type" means no more than this—perish more easily: only the lowest preserve an apparent indestructibility. The former are achieved fairly rarely and maintain their superiority with difficulty. (WP 684)

"I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Living the Black Swan Life

The term black swan was a Latin expression — its oldest reference is in the poet Juvenal expression that "a good person is as rare as a black swan" ("rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno", 6.165). It was a common expression in 16th century London as a statement that describes impossibility, deriving from the old world presumption that 'all swans must be white', because all historical records of swans reported that they had white feathers. Thus, the black swan is an oft cited reference in philosophical discussions of the improbable. Aristotle's Prior Analytics most likely is the original reference that makes use of example syllogisms involving the predicates "white", "black", and "swan." More specifically Aristotle uses the white swan as an example of necessary relations and the black swan as improbable. This example may be used to demonstrate either deductive or inductive reasoning, however, neither form of reasoning is infallible since in inductive reasoning premises of an argument may support a conclusion, but does not ensure it and similarly, in deductive reasoning, an argument is dependent on the truth of its premises. That is, a false premise may lead to a false result and inconclusive premises also will yield an inconclusive conclusion. The limits of the argument behind "all swans are white" is exposed - it merely is based on the limits of experience (e.g. that every swan one has seen, heard, or read about is white). Hume's attack against induction and causation is based primarily on the limits of everyday experience and so too, the limitations of scientific knowledge.
- Wikipedia, "The Black Swan (Taleb book)"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

String Theory

ATHENIAN: Let us look at the matter thus: May we not conceive each of us living beings to be a puppet of the Gods, either their plaything only, or created with a purpose—which of the two we cannot certainly know? But we do know, that these affections in us are like cords and strings, which pull us different and opposite ways, and to opposite actions; and herein lies the difference between virtue and vice. According to the argument there is one among these cords which every man ought to grasp and never let go, but to pull with it against all the rest; and this is the sacred and golden cord of reason, called by us the common law of the State; there are others which are hard and of iron, but this one is soft because golden; and there are several other kinds. Now we ought always to cooperate with the lead of the best, which is law. For inasmuch as reason is beautiful and gentle, and not violent, her rule must needs have ministers in order to help the golden principle in vanquishing the other principles. And thus the moral of the tale about our being puppets will not have been lost, and the meaning of the expression 'superior or inferior to a man's self' will become clearer; and the individual, attaining to right reason in this matter of pulling the strings of the puppet, should live according to its rule; while the city, receiving the same from some god or from one who has knowledge of these things, should embody it in a law, to be her guide in her dealings with herself and with other states. In this way virtue and vice will be more clearly distinguished by us. And when they have become clearer, education and other institutions will in like manner become clearer; and in particular that question of convivial entertainment, which may seem, perhaps, to have been a very trifling matter, and to have taken a great many more words than were necessary.
-Plato, "Laws" Religion - Origin: 1150–1200; Middle English religioun (< Old French religion ) < Latin religiōn- (stem of religiō ) conscientiousness, piety, equivalent to relig ( āre ) to tie, fasten ( re- re- + ligāre to bind, tie; compare ligament) + -iōn- -ion; compare rely

Monday, August 15, 2011

What we Don't Talk About....

'Tis not for mortals to fight Immortals, nor yet to give them judgment; this is not right for any man.
- Theognis of Megara (687-688)

Thursday, August 11, 2011


My lad, so long as thy cheek be smooth I will never cease to pay my court, no, not if I have to die.
- Theognis of Megara (1327-1328)

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Dionysian Revelry

No mortal man so soon as he is covered with the earth and goeth down to the house of Persephone in Erebus is rejoiced any more with the sound either of lyre or piper or with receiving the gifts of Dionysus. Beholding this, I will make my heart merry while yet my limbs be light and I carry an unshaking head.
- Theognis of Megara (973-978)
SOCRATES: And now, as Pindar says, 'read my meaning:'—colour is an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense.

SOCRATES: Well, I will try and explain to you what figure is. What do you say to this answer?—Figure is the only thing which always follows colour.

SOCRATES: To what then do we give the name of figure? Try and answer. Suppose that when a person asked you this question either about figure or colour, you were to reply, Man, I do not understand what you want, or know what you are saying; he would look rather astonished and say: Do you not understand that I am looking for the 'simile in multis'? And then he might put the question in another form: Meno, he might say, what is that 'simile in multis' which you call figure, and which includes not only round and straight figures, but all?
- Plato, "Meno" (selected excerpts)