Category: philosophy

Freedom Is Just Another Word…

Janis Joplin

I got song-bombed! This is the month of Janis Joplin’s birthdate and I got suckered into listening to her sing “Me And Bobby McGee”. Wow. What song and what a singer. Her performance is close to being immortal if you can imagine such a thing. At least her fame continues even if her life doesn’t.

Now, all I can hear in my mind is Bobby McGee’s words, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, and I am going crazy. I am going so crazy I started to research what freedom really means. Oh, my soul, did I get into it!

When I think of freedom it is not in the context of having nothing to lose. People may feel that way after a big loss as in losing a loved one, or a job, or having a love affair gone bad. Something has to be taken away from you or something lost for this freedom to exist.  Maybe I can agree that there is a certain feeling of “I don’t owe anybody”, or “what do I have to lose” being called freedom, but I don’t see those situations necessarily as being free. 

In the grand scheme of things are we free to exercise free will? Is free will thwarted by law or custom when we wish to do certain things? Do we really have the freedom to exercise free will? As so poetically written in the song Bobby McGee, nothing is free.

It may be better to get down to appreciating the music and forget about the words and philosophical meaning of songs written by brilliant Rhodes Scholars like Kris Kristofferson. Sometimes being song-bombed is easy compared to questioning everything.

What do you think?

 

Plato’s Cave

Before I use intellectual shock and awe on people, let me say that I learned of this story through listening to an Audible book, “The Joy of Ancient History” by a whole bunch of historian type scholars. I would like to think that I am a good listener.

picture of Greek theater mask from wikipedia
Wikipedia Greek Theater Mask
Tragedy or Comedy?

The Cave Allegory is all about the difference between seeing the world in a cave, shackled so that you can only see shadows on the wall, versus being brought to the surface to discover a different world in bright sunlight.

My father’s allegory was pretty similar. It involved a country boy on his first trip out of the backwoods, trying to buy a cup of coffee and a piece of pie at the Greyhound bus station lunch-counter. When asked what kind of pie he wanted, the country boy replied, ” I didn’t know there was anything other than sweet potato pie.”

In both cases people found themselves in a different world than the one in which they were trained. Suddenly, what they had learned was no longer relevant, and they were assaulted with new truths.

The Plato thing is supposed to be a commentary on education, and how we let our educations dominate our view of the world whether or not these views are valid. Indeed, how do we know that our new sunshine experience is not more of the figurative shadows on the wall?

The world is what it is. The world exists in all its physical glory whether or not our philosophy agrees. The aspirations of people are the same all over the world. The basics of economics are not overthrown by religion, politics, or schoolboy ideas.

From what cave did Barack Obama appear? What did he have as his shadows on the wall in his education and raising? His mother’s generation were hippies. His fathers’ families were Muslim, socialist, and tribal.

Obama’s college education was cave-like at Ivy League schools. What? Ivy League being compared to a cave?  Yup! As long as liberal, Ivy League professors keep running off the tracks in their archaic, nineteenth century political philosophies, they are in their own figurative caves. Impressionable kids like Barack Obama learn bad history, bad economics, and bad social theory. We are way past the time of Marx and his crowd.

Sometimes we just want to tell Obama to go back to his little cave and leave thinking people alone. I don’t think he ever came out of his cave into the intellectual sunshine, and there is no chance he ever will.

Absence Of Evidence Is Not Evidence Of Absence?

Evidence Of Absence?
Evidence Of Absence?

Several famous people have used this phrase in lots of situations. Recently, Neil deGrasse Tyson used it in the following way : “One of our mantras in science is that the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.”  This outburst was in defense of a failure of his memory in quoting George W Bush. Tyson got it wrong and after some embarrassing back and forth, finally admitted his error.

In thinking about the meaning of the phrase I realized that the phrase can be nuanced to death. You could spin the phrase to mean pretty much anything.

So, how do you take the meaning?

  • Evidence is evidence, and if there is no evidence to support a theory, there is no evidence. You cannot say that the absence of evidence proves the theory is false. You can only speak of things in the language of uncertainty, i.e., the theory is likely false if there is no empirical evidence to the contrary.
  • If there is no elephant in the room, and if you don’t see any evidence there is an elephant in the room, this lack of evidence means there is no elephant in the room. So, a lack of evidence can be used as evidence of absence.
  • That there is no physical evidence of mental telepathy means that mental telepathy does not exist.
  • There is no evidence mental telepathy does not exist, therefore it exists. This is called an Argument from Ignorance.

Tyson said that the phrase was a scientific mantra. Why would he say that? Maybe his mantra is really, “Everything I say is correct and shame on you for questioning my veracity.”

Everything depends on evidence. In science evidence must be data indicating actual physical parameters. Evidence is measured, counted, photographed, etc.

Of course, there are the ever popular examples as follow:

  1. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, did it make a sound?
  2. If your wife talks to you during a football game, does this mean you are hard of hearing just because you didn’t hear her?

I am guilty of getting into some deep, unfamiliar waters here. This stuff probably comes under the heading of philosophy. I skillfully endeavored to not take philosophy in college. I was more interested in electrons and women, not necessarily in that order.

It is time to stop this article. I have a headache.

Yogi Berra Was A Philosophical Genius

picture of yogi bera
Yogi Berra

Am I the only one who does not laugh at the witty and wise sayings of Yogi Berra? He is accused of being the master of malapropism, but I say  that he was a genius. Not only was he good at baseball, but unlike other baseball players, he was an intelligent person.

Some of his more famous sayings convey more meaning in one fractured sentence than Presidents of the United States can do in four years. Of course, Presidents don’t play in the world series, and Yogi was in several.

First, I want to start with one of my favorites, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Laugh if you will, but there is wisdom and good advice in that little sentence.

When I first became a salesman, I was taught that if you find yourself in a loosing situation, don’t give up. Even after the order has been let to the competition, there is always a chance you can rescue the business. By observing this wisdom and not giving up,  I got business I otherwise would not have had because I knew, that, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over“. Just like the Delta’s  in Animal House, it ain’t over until I say it’s over.

My other favorite is, ” When you come to a fork in the road, take it “.

Only a real simpleton would look at that phrase and say, “How can you take a fork in the road without choosing left or right? What a dimmwit.”  If that’s the way you think, you haven’t been drinking the right adult beverages.

When Yogi made that statement, he knew that smart people would know that the fork in the road represented much more than just a simple choice. He wanted people to think. He wanted you to consider the REAL MEANING of forked roads.

When you approach a fork in a road, and do not know to what destination either of the choices will take you, smart becomes important. Consider the alternatives of which there are four in the physical world. We will leave alternate universes out of this discussion.

1, You can stay where you are.
2. You can go to the right.
3. You can go to the left.
4. You can turn around.

Yogi’s advice depends on the situation that you will not, or cannot, stay where you are, or turn around. You are faced with a decision on which road to take. This choice is not unlike decisions we make everyday, and here’s where we can learn from Yogi.

No matter which fork you take, your life will never be the same. A fork in the road can be viewed as a singularity, a point in time where everything changes. You cannot see beyond this point, and you have no knowledge of what to expect. You have to take one direction or another. Period.

It may not even matter which fork you take.  No matter what you do, your life will change, if even minutely.

You see, Yogi knew all this and that you had to go forward, no matter what direction you took. When you got to the fork in the road, you had to take it. Life is all about forking decisions.

So, whenever those ignorant souls laugh at Yogi’s sayings, you can smile, knowing that forking is much more involved.