Table some issues

Now that I’m done with undergrad, I’ve decided to throw out there some of the things I’ve attempted to have answered, but people always seemed to beat around the bush. Maybe my readers (which I’ve calculated to be somewhere between three and five readers) can help.

1. Setting: Sophomore year: Eastern religions. My prof is amazing and a devout Buddhist. He claims that the religion is one of the few perfectly internally consistent religions. So I ask, how can it be consistent that the principle teaching is that the world is an illusion, and another primary teaching is that you shouldn’t harm another living being? If you truly believe the world is an illusion, then harming someone is an illusion, thus cannot be bad. I was given some mumbo-jumbo about karma, but I replied that this assumes you are putting negativity out while you harm this living thing. This went on, but I’m convinced that it is possible to harm something without feeling hatred etc, he claims that this is still against the teachings. Is this a contradiction? (I think yes).

2. Setting: Recurrent throughout all four years. Would independent art still be considered good if a large mainstream audience started taking interest? So I should elaborate, I guess. Often times it seems like small independent artists that create extremely challenging art are considered “true artists” while mainstream people are considered “pop artists” or “money makers.” It seems to me that even if the art doesn’t change, a sudden burst into fame can cause the art-lovers to despise this artist. As if it is the struggling artist that is the cause of good art and not the art itself that is under consideration. I guess a good comparison would be the filmmakers David Lynch vs Spielberg (although Lynch has had some commercial success).

3. Setting: Senior year: 20th Century philosophy. Is empathy or language epistemically primary? (I won’t even go there). Okay. Yes I will. Suppose we find a “savage” that has been in the woods on their own since birth (i.e. they have no language and have never encountered another human being). I claim that if they saw someone crying, they would remember when they cried and understand what that meant (i.e. the empathy transcends language and is thus epistemically primary). My prof claims that without language the “savage” wouldn’t have memories, or at least wouldn’t be able to access memories of when they cried (i.e. language is epistemically primary). This seems to be a question more directed at cognitive scientists than philosophers though, since it seems as if this could be empirically tested quite easily.

4. Setting: Probably junior year conversation with brother. Why is science fiction as a genre not considered serious as an artistic genre when there are so many examples that show that it is? E.g. Dhalgren, Slaughter-House Five, The Fountain, The Ender Quartet, etc.

5. Setting: Trying to get into grad school (also came up in an ethics class discussion). Is there any fair way to measure ability other than a standardized test? The GRE is a horrid measure of ability, but I just can’t think of any other way to do it that would be more fair (does the concept of “more fair” exist?).

I actually had more when I decided to write this (and some of these weren’t on my list), but once I got through the first one, I couldn’t remember any of the ones that I originally thought of. Maybe I’ll add more later.


6 thoughts on “Table some issues

  1. Ah, I thought of another.

    6. Why is the term Christian used in the context that it is? Literally, Christian means “one who follows and practices the teachings of Christ.” The term has come to mean something closer to “one who believes the Bible is the word of God and thus follows and practices its writings.”

    If you were to extract the teachings of Christ from the rest of the Bible and have two separate books, they would be almost polar opposite religions. In fact, people that follow only the teachings of Christ would probably almost be considered Taoists.

    I really think this terminology should be remedied.

  2. I don’t even know where to begin…

    I think we can loosely connect 2 and 4. People, especially literary students and professors, tend to not see science fiction as an art form because you can do anything. The story can be completely about space aliens and how does that connect to the human experience? (This is them speaking. I certainly could write many pages on how this is an even better way to relate the experience.) I really think this is the problem with abstract art currently. There is a pretty big divide between people who like classical stuff because it makes sense and they can relate to it and modern abstract art. Heck, I could go out and slop paint on a canvas and call it art. It’s easy. Science fiction is seen the same way by many people. People just can’t relate to settings that are not on Earth and in a time period that actually happened (or is happening). This is one aspect, and quite a prejudiced one. The other big aspect is that science fiction was bad. And many people (i.e. professors of literature) were around to see the times when it was bad. These bad stories were published by amateurs in magazines called pulp magazines (i.e. “Pulp Fiction”) named because of the low grade of paper (this was cheap stuff back in the day). The market just started off and publishers couldn’t be choosy. They had to take what was sent to them. Fortunately this is not the case anymore. If I had to guess, more budding science fiction writers are rejected every year than writers in any other genre. A high standard has been set by some of the titles mentioned above as well as many, many more. Plain and simple science fiction fans won’t accept bad material anymore and publishers lose out. The older generation is very slow to accept this fact and perhaps the new and upcoming one will realize how important the field is as an artistic medium.

    Oh yes, I was going to relate it back to 2. Well, science fiction is becoming main stream. You sell it as a popular money maker. There is a big fan base and people want plot and story. The general public isn’t looking for deep meaning or literary devices. Thus, all popular science fiction (generalized by many as all science fiction) is instantly considered bad art. Certainly we can see some great writers fall prey to just giving the audience what it wants once they’ve done some amazing things. Arthur C. Clarke is one that comes to mind. Some of his final books like the extension of the Rama series or The Light of Other Days (compare to the first Rama and all of the 2001 series) were clearly tailored to sell and be popular rather than be amazing art.

  3. I’m no expert on Buddhism, but i’ve found some agreement with the LifeOS model that might relate. First is that consciousness is a fundamental attribute of matter and not the exclusive talent of human beings. Secondly, that consciousness is dependent on on a system of perception that builds us a facsimile of reality.

    The illusion is not a fantasy based on nothing, rather a distorted view of something very real. The illusion is that our actions appear to accomplish something within our own human frame of reference, like getting a trophy for catching the biggest fish, while our effect on “reality” goes unnoticed.

    When the consciousness of another entity is disturbed by death, holographic interference patterns reverberate through the system, signifying the sacrifice of a living being. LifeOS does not take the untimely interruption of one of its processes lightly.

    Violent emotions add to the amplitude of the disturbing patterns, but it is death that triggers them in the first place. Karma is just the system remembering the incident and who was responsible. Karma isn’t about pay back, just keeping track of individual behavior, and making appropriate adjustments.

    Our western science has begun to grasp the illusion part, but is still locked into a counterproductive mind set regarding consciousness.


  4. Ah. I like that. That makes a lot of sense.

    It still leaves open the idea of non-disturbed, non-untimely killing as in someone who is ready to die and is helped by a physician. That physician is murdering someone. The Buddhists (according to my prof) would still say that this is unacceptable. I say that (and I believe that according to LifeOS this is true) there would be no holographic interference patterns. What do you think.

  5. A conversation would be a great way to measure ability. It is subjective, but you want that for your graduate program. A number can’t tell you what the applicant is strong in or weak in; it tells how they did overall. I can tell from a five minute conversation with someone what their abilities are. It isn’t hard. Are they speaking about the subject competently, using the proper words? Do they have a good understanding of what they are saying? These things can’t be hidden behind a multiple choice test when you are asking direct questions and listening to their response. Have them write something out. Were they able to write it? Do they use standard notation? If so, then they’ve been reading and keeping up with current work. The process is slightly more time consuming, but way more accurate. I don’t think there is a way to measure ability without putting some time into it. The GRE is meant to save time not meant to measure ability.

  6. I dunno… i can see the main information channels and basically how they work, but i don’t have a clue on the details. Beside, this is into that grey area of morality. I know for a fact that plants can send a dying gasp to their owner hundreds of miles away. I know that the message comes as a deep sense of dread, but with few details. I know from the experiments of Cleve Backster and others that the phenom is real. Just how the System deals with the information is anybody’s guess. Karma is one description.

    Then there is all the killing done by predators, large and small. They indeed cause reverberations, but their function seems to be fully sanctioned by the System. Predators love their prey, does that make a difference. Beats me.


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