It has become fashionable to say that people have no free will. Many scientists cannot imagine how the idea of free will could be reconciled with the laws of physics and chemistry. Brain researchers say that the brain is just a bunch of nerve cells that fire as a direct…
A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.
‘You know the left think that I am conservative,’ Hannah Arendt once said, ‘and the conservatives think I am left or I am a maverick or God knows what. And I must say that I couldn’t care less. I don’t think the real questions of this century get any kind of illumination by this . . .
Bernard Williams had a very large mind. To read these three posthumously published collections of essays (there will be a fourth, on opera) is an overwhelming reminder of his incandescent and all-consuming intelligence. He brought philosophical reflection to an opulent array of subjects, . . .
Simon Critchley is the Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. He wrote The Hamlet Doctrine: Knowing Too Much, Doing Nothing with his wife, Jamieson Webster. They see Hamlet as a play about nothing. We think they may have something there.
(An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals, 1751)
The foundation of Diogenes’s conduct was an endeavour to render himself an independent being as much as possible, and to confine all his wants and desires and pleasures within himself and his own mind: The aim of Pascal was to keep a perpetual sense of his dependence before his eyes, and never to forget his numberless wants and infirmities. The ancient supported himself by magnanimity, ostentation, pride, and the idea of his own superiority above his fellow-creatures. The modern made constant profession of humility and abasement, of the contempt and hatred of himself; and endeavoured to attain these supposed virtues, as far as they are attainable. The austerities of the Greek were in order to inure himself to hardships, and prevent his ever suffering: Those of the Frenchman were embraced merely for their own sake, and in order to suffer as much as possible. The philosopher indulged himself in the most beastly pleasures, even in public: The saint refused himself the most innocent, even in private. The former thought it his duty to love his friends, and to rail at them, and reprove them, and scold them: The latter endeavoured to be absolutely indifferent towards his nearest relations, and to love and speak well of his enemies. The great object of Diogenes’s wit was every kind of superstition, that is every kind of religion known in his time. The mortality of the soul was his standard principle; and even his sentiments of a divine providence seem to have been licentious. The most ridiculous superstitions directed Pascal’s faith and practice; and an extreme contempt of this life, in comparison of the future, was the chief foundation of his conduct.
In such a remarkable contrast do these two men stand: Yet both of them have met with general admiration in their different ages, and have been proposed as models of imitation. Where then is the universal standard of morals, which you talk of? And what rule shall we establish for the many different, nay contrary sentiments of mankind?
An experiment, said I, which succeeds in the air, will not always succeed in a vacuum. When men depart from the maxims of common reason, and affect these artificial lives, as you call them, no one can answer for what will please or displease them. They are in a different element from the rest of mankind; and the natural principles of their mind play not with the same regularity, as if left to themselves, free from the illusions of religious superstition or philosophical enthusiasm.
This Alice Oswald poem is one of my increasingly favorite sonnets. In the three-minute video, Sir Andrew Motion touchingly interprets it as: “rush and change of the poem is its own point. It makes us think, first and foremost, about transformations, about the changes that love creates, and the changes that art creates, as it takes hold of familiar experience, illuminates it and passes it back to…
sarangi turned nine: Aftab's Late Winter Collection
Sparrow – Rajasthan, 19th Century
sarangi.info‘s ninth birthday was on 28 January 2014. It has been observed that when parents are busy with their work or the kids are in the middle of their exams, birthdays are often postponed to a more convenient day, like a weekend or two later. Nothing of that sort was the case here since Aftab had uploaded all this music in October 2012 and has been…
Here’s a draft of a paper to be presented at a conference at UNC in May. Â As always, comments, criticisms, questions, etc. are most welcome. 1 Introduction Gone are the heady days when Berna…
'According to Leiter, Nietzsche believes in a “Doctrine of Types,” according to which “Each person has a fixed psycho-physical constitution, which defines him as a particular type of person” (2002, p. 8). These type-facts are meant to be “physiological facts about the person, or facts about the person’s unconscious drives or affects” (Knobe & Leiter 2007), and they largely determine both what a person can do and what a person should do from the point of view of his own well-being.’ To support this interpretation, Knobe and Leiter cite Nietzsche’s claim that a
well-turned out human being […] must perform certain actions and shrinks instinctively from other actions; he carries the order, which he represents physiologically, into his relations with other human beings and things. (TI “Errors” 2)
[Then come passages that conversely support the social construction of character.]
"If someone obstinately and for a long time wants to appear something it is in the end hard for him to be anything else." (HH 51)
"The reputation, name, and appearance […] of a thing […] nearly always becomes its essence and effectively acts as its essence." (GS 58)
'It may be hard to square the passages that support the doctrine of types with those that support the social construction of character, but here’s a try: Nietzsche thinks that many people have the precise character traits they do because they have been labeled with those traits. The idea is that type-facts limit the palette or menu of traits that someone could end up with, but do not uniquely determine how his character will develop. From that menu, social pressures select and shape the character that results.'
'In a seminal study, Miller, Brickman, & Bolen (1975) compared the effects of labeling with those of moral exhortation on the behavior of fifth graders. Participants in the exhortation group were asked repeatedly by the principal, the teachers, and the janitor to keep their classroom tidy. The labeling group, by contrast, heard congratulatory (false) announcements of their above-average tidiness over the course of eight days. On Day 1, the teacher praised them for being ‘ecology minded’ and mentioned that the janitor had commented that theirs was one of the cleanest classrooms in the school. On Day 2, the teacher noticed some litter on the floor but explained, “our class is clean and would not do that.” On Day 4, the principal visited the class and commended their orderliness; after he left, the students actually complained that the teacher’s desk was not as neat as theirs. On Day 8, the janitors washed the room and left a note thanking the students for making their job so easy. After a brief improvement in their behavior, the exhortation group settled back into its old routine, but the labeling group exhibited higher levels of tidiness over an extended period.
'Other experiments have corroborated the tidiness study with other trait attributions. Jensen & Moore (1977), for instance, found that children labeled as charitable donated more than those who were subjected to moral suasion. Grusec, Kuczynski, Rushton, & Simutis (1978) announced to experimental participants that a questionairre they had completed indicated either that they were competitive or that they were cooperative, inducing congruent behavior in a subsequent game. Grusec & Redler (1980) found that ten-year-olds who helped once and were then labeled (“You know, you certainly are a nice person. I bet you’re someone who is helpful whenever possible.”) contributed 350% more in a subsequent trial than students whose actions were praised after helping (“You know, that was certainly a nice thing to do. It was good that you helped me with my work here today.”) These are just a few examples, but the point should be clear: praise and exhortation are worse ways to elicit trait-congruent behavior than attribution. People become what they are by becoming what they are called.
'Thus, while I agree with Knobe and Leiter both that Nietzsche believes in the doctrine of types and that there is strong empirical support for the doctrine of types, I think that they overlook Nietzsche’s insight into the social construction of character and the empirical support for the social construction of character. These two positions may seem to be in tension, but ultimately I think that both can be accommodated. Types are diverse. What counts as aggressiveness, neuroticism, extraversion, and so on differs from case to case and person to person. Character traits develop through the interaction of types and social influence, and even they exhibit a great deal of diversity. In a recent book, Adams (2009, p. 182) argues that courage should be divided up into “modules” that include physical courage, social courage, financial courage, and vicarious courage (the courage not to be overprotective or paternalistic). This echoes Nietzsche’s own distinctions between different types of courage.'
“The proper study of mankind is man, but when one regards the elephant, one wonders.” —attributed to Alexander Pope
“To the ancients, soul was anima, that which animates, the living-, moving-, breathing-ness of a biological being. In this sense, not only animals but plants have souls (of different capacities appropriate to what they are). For many religions, by contrast, the soul is specifically incorporeal, perhaps immortal, and believed to be unique to human beings, who are responsible (to a point) for its condition. To modern science it is, if anything, the hard problem of consciousness, also commonly thought to be the province of just one species.”
“From some combination of existential loneliness and intrepid curiosity, we also have for decades now been calling out for someone past the borders of our known experience. Meanwhile, although we’ve been working on it for millennia, the real depths of terrestrial intelligence are almost as unplumbed. Whether there are millions or just one, what does it mean that there is such a thing as Elephant?
“The scientific enterprise, that special activity of human beings, brings us proof of their abilities and tools to unriddle them, but scientific language simply breaks down in describing who they are — as it does with beauty or with love — leaving us at the edge of a vast field of signals out of ordinary range. Listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart, your mind, your soul for the message from these kin as improbable as life itself, different and yet the same. We are not alone.”
جہاں زاد، کیسے ہزاروں برس بعد اِک شہرِ مدفون کی ہر گلی میں مرے جام و مینا و گُلداں کے ریزے ملے ہیں کہ جیسے وہ اِس شہرِ برباد کا حافظہ ہوں! (حَسَن نام کا اِک جواں کوزہ گر ۔۔۔ اِک نئے شہر میں ۔۔۔ ۔ اپنے کوزے بناتا ہوا، عشق کرتا ہوا اپنے ماضی کے تاروں میں ہم سے پرویا گیا ہے ہمیں میں (کہ جیسے ہمیں ہوں) سمویا گیا ہے کہ ہم تم وہ بارش کے قطرے تھے جو رات بھر سے، (ہزاروں برس رینگتی رات بھر) اِک دریچے کے شیشوں پہ گرتے ہوئے سانپ لہریں بناتے رہے ہیں، اور اب اس جگہ وقت کی صبح ہونے سے پہلے یہ ہم اور یہ نوجواں کوزہ گر ایک رویا میں پھر سے پروئے گئے ہیں! )
جہاں زاد ۔۔۔ ۔۔۔ یہ کیسا کہنہ پرستوں کا انبوہ کوزوں کی لاشوں میں اُترا ہے دیکھو! یہ وہ لوگ ہیں جن کی آنکھیں کبھی جام و مینا کی لِم تک نہ پہنچیں یہی آج اس رنگ و روغن کی مخلوقِ بے جاں کو پھر سے اُلٹنے پلٹنے لگے ہیں یہ اِن کے تلے غم کی چنگاریاں پا سکیں گے جو تاریخ کو کھا گئی تھیں؟ وہ طوفان، وہ آندھیاں پا سکیں گے جو ہر چیخ کو کھا گئی تھیں؟ انہیں کیا خبر کِس دھنک سے مرے رنگ آئے ۔۔۔ ۔۔۔ ۔۔۔ (مرے اور اِس نوجواں کُوزہ گر کے؟) انہیں کیا خبر کون سی تتلیوں کے پروں سے؟ انہیں کیا خبر کون سے حُسن سے؟ کون سی ذات سے، کس خد و خال سے میں نے کُوزوں کے چہرے اُتارے؟ یہ سب لوگ اپنے اسیروں میں ہیں زمانہ، جہاں زاد، افسوں زدہ برج ہے اور یہ لوگ اُس کے اسیروں میں ہیں ۔۔۔ ۔۔۔ ۔ جواں کوزہ گر ہنس رہا ہے! یہ معصوم وحشی کہ اپنے ہی قامت سے ژولیدہ دامن ہیں جویا کسی عظمتِ نارسا کے ۔۔۔ ۔۔۔ ۔ انہیں کیا خبر کیسا آسیبِ مبرم مرے غار سینے پہ تھا جس نے مجھ سے (اور اِس کوزہ گر سے) کہا: "اے حَسَن کوزہ گر، جاگ دردِ رسالت کا روزِ بشارت ترے جام و مینا کی تشنہ لبی تک پہنچنے لگا ہے!” یہی وہ ندا، جس کے پیچھے حَسَن نام کا یہ جواں کوزہ گر بھی پیا پے رواں ہے زماں سے زماں تک، خزاں سے خزاں تک!
جہاں زاد میں نے ۔۔۔ ۔۔ حَسَن کوزہ گر نے ۔۔۔ ۔۔۔ ۔۔ بیاباں بیاباں یہ دردِ رسالت سہا ہے ہزاروں برس بعد یہ لوگ ریزوں کو چُنتے ہوئے جان سکتے ہیں کیسے کہ میرے گِل و خاک کے رنگ و روغن ترے نازک اعضا کے رنگوں سے مل کر ابد کی صدا بن گئے تھے؟ میں اپنے مساموں سے، ہر پور سے، تیری بانہوں کی پنائیاں جذب کرتا رہا تھا کہ ہر آنے والے کی آنکھوں کے معبد پہ جا کر چڑھاؤں ۔۔۔ ۔۔ یہ ریزوں کی تہذیب پا لیں تو پا لیں حَسَن کوزہ گر کو کہاں لا سکیں گے؟ یہ اُس کے پسینے کے قطرے کہاں گن سکیں گے؟ یہ فن کی تجلی کا سایہ کہاں پا سکیں گے؟ جو بڑھتا گیا ہے زماں سے زماں تک خزاں سے خزاں تک جو ہر نوجواں کُوزہ گر کی نئی ذات میں اور بڑھتا چلا جا رہا ہے! وہ فن کی تجلی کا سایہ کہ جس کی بدولت ہمہ عشق ہیں ہم ہمہ کوُزہ گر ہم ہمہ تن خبر ہم خُدا کی طرح اپنے فن کے خُدا سر بسر ہم! (آرزوئیں کبھی پایاب تو سَریاب کبھی، تیرنے لگتے ہیں بے ہوشی کی آنکھوں میں کئی چہرے جو دیکھے بھی نہ ہوں کبھی دیکھے ہوں کسی نے تو سراغ اُن کا کہاں سے پائے؟ کِس سے ایفا ہوئے اندوہ کے آداب کبھی آرزوئیں کبھی پایاب تو سَریاب کبھی!)
یہ کوزوں کے لاشے، جو اِن کے لئے ہیں کسی داستانِ فنا کے وغیرہ وغیرہ ہماری اذاں ہیں، ہماری طلب کا نشاں ہیں یہ اپنے سکوتِ اجل میں بھی یہ کہہ رہے ہیں: "وہ آنکھیں ہمیں ہیں جو اندر کھُلی ہیں تمہیں دیکھتی ہیں، ہر ایک درد کو بھانپتی ہیں ہر اِک حُسن کے راز کو جانتی ہیں کہ ہم ایک سنسان حجرے کی اُس رات کی آرزو ہیں جہاں ایک چہرہ، درختوں کی شاخوں کے مانند اِک اور چہرے پہ جھُک کر، ہر انسان کے سینے میں اِک برگِ گُل رکھ گیا تھا اُسی شب کا دزدیدہ بوسہ ہمیں ہیں!