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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Practical Implications of Oneness

I've been realizing something in the last few months regarding my continual efforts to improve my self discipline. The concept of Oneness, I think, has helped.

It used to be that I considered each of the things I should be doing (exercising, eating right, getting my work done, etc) as separate things. I would try to build each habit, one at a time and it was like juggling.

I thought that if I tried to tackle them all at once it would be overwhelming. But I've realized that when I think of all these seemingly unconnected things as one interconnected lifestyle, and I try to do everything right at once, each reinforces the other in some way. It actually becomes easier when I think of all these behaviors as interconnected.

There was another instance of Oneness-thinking that helped me this morning in a somewhat different way. Sometimes, I think depending on what portion of the sleep cycle I'm in when it's time to wake up, I find it very easy to wake up, and other times it is very difficult. This morning was difficult. But, given my new interconnected view, I knew that what I did or didn't do this morning would affect the way I approached my whole day.

Normally when I'm trying to wake up, I'm thinking to myself, "ok, move your legs, you have to get up. Here we go... about to move now..." In other words, I'm thinking of myself as my mind and my body is this thing I'm controlling like a vehicle that won't start. My mind is fully awake and it's trying to get this lumbering body to do something. I'm thinking in terms of separate entities.

But then I started to think of my mind and my body as being one integrated whole. Instead of the whole thought process of convincing myself to move going on in just my mind, I started to imagine that this process should take place simultaneously throughout my body. What I found was that by conceiving of my mind and body as one integrated entity - by thinking of my fingers and arms and legs as "me" too, I was able to have greater control.

This process is somewhat hard to explain but hopefully some will catch my drift. Of course, this worked for me but different methods may or may not work for others.

Monday, July 25, 2005


A good fellow named Jim directed me to this page, which discusses Xenopsychology. Here the author speculates on the nature of alien intelligence. Especially interesting is his discussion of "Sentience Quotient" or SQ, which is a rating for sentience. Aparently humans are around a +13, while the maximum possible in our universe (given the nature of atoms and particles and such) would be about +50. An Apple II computer is about +5.

I'm most interested to take a closer look at this, and think about how it might be applied to answering the question of "how sentient is the universe on the whole?"


Friday, July 22, 2005

Too Many Either/Or's

I know that these sentiments are repeated in many places, but I recently thought of this...

Whenever faced with an either/or situation, or one where you feel cornered by two unattractive alternatives, consider the following:

1) Question the definitions being used. It could be that the two alternatives aren't really opposed or limiting if each uses a different sense of the same words.

2) Consider how the either/or's might co-exist or both be true.

3) Could the two alternatives be rooted in a shared principle or motive?

4) Think of how the either/or may be the same thing in some sense.

5) Consider whether there really are just two options - try to think of 'third options'.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Toward a Humanist Vocabulary of Reverence

Many thanks to Jan E. Garrett for bringing this to my attention. This man, Reverend David Bumbaugh, speaks the truth...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

My Internal Economy... Disturbed.

My wife and I are sitting in the office and our cat Tigger comes in. When he wants attention he pushes his nose into our legs and sometimes nips. We're trying to talk so we push him away, then he employs his usual tactic. He finds a paper, plastic bag, or other noise-making object and paws it to annoy us.

So, I throw him out because he's being bad today, and close the door, returning to my desk. Now it is hot, because the air conditioner blows cool air from the adjoining room into the office. I have forgotten the Oneness of all things - I tried to punish Tigger and have punished myself as well.

I have not achieved perfect Tao :(

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Chuang-Tzu, or Why the Force of Nature Matters

So, I've posted many times now about the "Force of Nature" and how complex systems theory, the Taoist "Li" and the Stoic "Logos" are touching on many of the same concepts. But why and how should any of that affect our behavior or lives?

I just finished reading the Taoist Chuang-Tzu, which explains how the nature of the Tao should guide our lives, and it contained a lot of good points. Actually, that's an understatment, as I found it intensely thoughtful and moving.

I made notes on it, which are about 9 pages (from a document that was over 50 pages) so if you'd like to see what the big deal is, my notes give a glimpse - minus much of the beautiful wording and subtle detail...

Click here to read my notes on the Chuang-Tzu

Thanks :)

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Natural-Objective Ethics Debate

There is a debate going on between myself and "Ven Discresion" over at the Internet Infidels Discussion Forum about my article on Natural-Objective Ethics on my philosophy site for those interested.

Natural-Objective Ethics

The page of the debate (starts at the top of the page)

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

God and Stoicism

This was a letter I posted recently on the International Stoics Forum...

It seems we have a lot of fragmented pieces of conclusions and positions floating about in several different threads right now, so hopefully my response here will help in consolidating some of them, and serve as a response to both the "Science, God, and Religion" and "Seneca" threads...


We seem to have several different conceptions of God bouncing around here right now, and as Nigel rightly reminds us of, we need to be clear with our terms to avoid unnecessary confusion. It is my understanding that God, Logos, Nature, and Reason are different names for the same exact thing. One doesn't create, inhabit, or control the other. There is simply one system of Nature/Reason/Logos and this is called God.

Whether or not that God has a consciousness which has beliefs and makes plans for our lives in the sense that traditional gods have, or whether that God is a more impersonal "force" has been a point of debate here, as has the importance of that issue to the coherence of Stoic ethics.

Lastly to this topic, I've seen it mentioned several times the likes of, "if they don't want to acknowledge [the Divine Fire, Logos, or God] then they are divorcing Stoicism from its roots." But no one here as far as I know has denied any of these things. I believe in the Divine Fire, in the Logos, and I understand that this is what is meant by the name God. And I believe this concept forms an essential root of Stoic ethics. I believe what Heraclitus wrote about the Divine Fire, and what Zeno established about Stoic ethics. It is merely the nature of that God that is being debated, and whether or not Epictetus and Seneca's rather Christian-like interpretation of Nature/God is the *only* feasible one. As for what I can determine, Epictetus and Seneca are not the only Stoics to ever exist and I don't believe they held the copyright to Stoic thought.


Many here have commented on how ethics would be meaningless without a deity. But it should be noted that there are many people all over the world who live out their whole lives very ethically and happily without such a belief (correctly or incorrectly). To them, the principles of ethics seem well grounded and consistent without that hypothesis. Those who disagree with these folks, and feel the need or presence of a personal deity in their lives should be respected, but to say that such a system is not feasible merely because one cannot comprehend how its structured or on what basis it operates is short-sighted. And, to dismiss such folks as disingenuous or as fools is closed minded and disrespectful.

It has been said that ethics based on self interest is insufficient or somehow lacking in virtue. But ethics that is based on the will or designs of a conscious personal deity does not escape the basis of self-interest in the least. One can ask, "why should I do x" and the answer might be "because God wills it" and the response, "why should I do what God wills" will inevitably lead back to self interest. There is an argument to be made that the self interest involved in the realization that ethical conduct makes for a happier and healthier life, is superior in many ways to the self interest involved in being ethical to obtain the reward of a good relationship with another being. And there is certainly an argument to be made for this over the self interest of avoiding punishments from another being.


It may well be the case that Stoic ethics is founded specifically on God being a conscious person-like being with opinions, plans, and so on. It may well be that Stoic ethics cannot possibly make sense without that very narrow interpretation of the Logos.

However, I've seen no such interpretation of this nature in some Stoic writers. Furthermore, it seems to me that the logic of the Stoic ethical system is based largely on recognizing what is and what is not within our control, and confronting that. Furthermore, the wonder and awe I experience at the universe and its complex and marvelous workings does not require such a being, even if one does happen to exist. Lastly, as a nontheist, the Stoic ethical system still makes complete and coherent sense to me. If it is true that it cannot stand without a personal deity, then why is this so?

I see nothing wrong with those who feel that Stoic ethics and physics is compatible with their more common idea of a deity, and I respect their beliefs. But I have not yet been convinced that Stoic ethics would lose all meaning and basis with an impersonal Complexity-based interpretation of the Force of Nature/Logos. However, I remain open to hearing further argument.


We also face the issue of how we as Stoics are to proceed as a community. I am a rather new member of this community, at least consciously so. But if I'm not mistaken there are others like me who remain agnostic on the improvable and yet find truth in Stoicism and great inspiration and utility in its philosophy, both physical and ethical.

At the same time, there are many who see validation for their spiritual beliefs in the Stoic model. I cannot disprove these beliefs, nor would I try to. I think what is needed is the same thing that is needed within the world at large. And that is to take on the "ethic of diversity" as a central tenant of our current-day ideals. To be capable of expressing diverse views while being willing to hear those of others. To do this without being pigeonholed and without being disrespectful or disrespected, threatening or threatened.

Stoicism will evolve as it has and as it will, according to general consensus and the Natural flow of events. Let us explore it and as "lovers of wisdom" and not attempt to pre-suppose boundaries on any one conception of it. I would hope that we can adopt the position of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights by acknowledging that "a person's religion is what he or she says it is".