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Posts Tagged ‘reason’

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2012 at 05:24

Reason, Observation and Experience – the Holy Trinity of Science – have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so.

Robert Green Ingersoll,  1876

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2012 at 13:53

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion.

Thomas Jefferson
3rd president of US (1743 – 1826)

In Uncategorized on September 2, 2012 at 20:24

I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.

Thomas Jefferson

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2012 at 13:29

On the front: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos) in English, Spanish and Russian languages. Originally a title of an etching made by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Etched between 1797–1799. On the back: “Dare to use your own intelligence! This is the battle-cry of the Enlightenment…” by Immanuel Kant – in English and Russian. For free-thinking people who share the views of Christopher Hitchens that we need a New Enlightement.

A t-shirt for The New Enlightenment

In black and white, freedom, philosophy, t-shirt on June 22, 2012 at 13:05
For The New Enlightenment! Shirts
On the front: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos) in English, Spanish and Russian languages. Originally a title of an etching made by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Etched between 1797–1799. On the back: “Dare to use your own intelligence! This is the battle-cry of the Enlightenment…” by Immanuel Kant – in English and Russian. For free-thinking people who share the views of Christopher Hitchens that we need a New Enlightement.

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 09:48

Dare to use your own intelligence! This is the battle-cry of the Enlightenment… Dare to be free and respect the freedom and autonomy of others… .

Kant

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2012 at 19:53

The sleep of reason brings forth monsters … El sueño de la razon produce monstruos

Francisco Goya

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2012 at 11:13

Sacrifices were not an aberrant or cruel activity – they were a sophisticated way of dealing with the necessity of killing animals in order to eat. In fact the rituals surrounding sacrifice suggest that the Greeks felt some unease about killing animals they had reared themselves. So the illusion was created that an animal went to its death willingly and before the killing all present threw a handful of barley at it, as if the community as a whole was accepting responsibility for the death. At the moment of the slaughter women would utter impassioned cries, again a recognition of the seriousness of what was being done in taking life”.

Charles Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind (probably the same true about other ancient cultures too – A.C.)

Steven Pinker: ‘Artists used to gush about the beauty of war. The First World War put an end to that’

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2011 at 08:01

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the psychology department at Harvard University. This newspaper said of his work that “words can hardly do justice to the superlative range and liveliness of Pinker’s investigations”. His latest book The Better Angels of Our Nature argues that humans have never been less violent than we are now. Clint Witchalls asked him to explain:

Clint Witchalls: You say that, over the centuries, violence has been declining, yet most people would view the last century, with its pogroms, death camps and nuclear bombs, as the most violent century. Why was it not?

Steven Pinker: You can’t say that a particular century was the most violent one in history unless you compare it with other centuries.

The supposedly peaceful 19th century had one of the most destructive conflicts in European history (the Napoleonic Wars, with 4 million deaths), the most destructive civil war in history (the Taiping Rebellion in China, with 20 million), the most destructive war in American history (the Civil War, with 650,000), the conquests of Shaka Zulu in southern Africa (1-2 million), the most proportionally destructive interstate war in history (the war of the Triple Alliance in Paraguay, which killed perhaps 60 per cent of the population), slave-raiding wars in Africa (part of a slave trade that killed 37 million people), and imperial and colonial wars in Africa, Asia and the Americas whose death tolls are impossible to estimate. Also, while the Second World War was the most destructive event in human history if you count the absolute number of deaths, if instead you count the proportion of the world’s population that was killed, it only comes in at ninth place among history’s worst atrocities.

I think few people would disagree that the medieval times were tortuous and bloody, yet most imagine primitive tribes living in Edenic bliss. But you claim that these tribes are far from the noble savages portrayed by Rousseau. How homicidal were they?

Steven Pinker: Tribal groups show a lot of variation, but on average around 15 per cent of people in nonstate societies die from violence. This is the average I got from signs of violent trauma in skeletons from 21 prehistoric archaeological sites, and from eight vital statistics from eight hunter-gatherer tribes.

Hunter-horticulturalists and other tribal people have even higher rates of violent death – around 24.5 per cent. By comparison, the rate of deaths from all wars, genocides, and man-made famines in the world as a whole in the 20th century was just 3 per cent. Even the famously peaceful tribes, such as the !Kung and Semai, have homicide rates that rival those from the most violent American cities in their most violent periods.

Why is violence declining? What are the main civilising influences?

Steven Pinker: I identify four major forces: (1) The Leviathan – a government and justice system that deters people from exploiting their neighbours and frees them from cycles of vendetta; (2) Gentle commerce – an infrastructure of trade that makes it cheaper to buy things than to plunder them, and makes other people more valuable alive than dead; (3) Technologies of cosmopolitanism, such as reading, travel and cities, which encourage people to see the world through the eyes of others, and makes it harder to demonise them; (4) Technologies of reason, like literacy, science, history, and education, which make it harder for people to privilege their own tribe’s interests over others’, and reframe violence as a problem to be solved rather than a contest to be won.

Humans are very good at ignoring the big problems: climate change, overpopulation, dwindling resources. Won’t it be a matter of decades before the next global conflagration hits us?

Steven Pinker: Maybe, but maybe not. For one thing, it’s not a certainty that human will and ingenuity will fail to rise to the challenge. For another, the connection between war and resource shortages is tenuous. Most wars are not fought over shortages of resources such as food and water, but rather over conquest, revenge, and ideology. Nor do most shortages of resources lead to war.

For example, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s didn’t lead to an American civil war (we did have a Civil War, but it was about something completely different); nor did the tsunamis of 2003 and 2011 lead to war in Indonesia or Japan. And several studies of recent armed conflicts have failed to find a correlation between drought or other forms of environmental degradation and war.

Climate change could produce a lot of misery and waste without necessarily leading to large-scale armed conflict, which depends more on ideology and bad governance than on resource scarcity.

In Better Angels, you describe Pepys witnessing a man being hung, drawn and quartered. Afterwards, clearly unperturbed, Samuel Pepys goes to the pub with his friends. Fast forward a few centuries and people are being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing the 9/11 attacks on TV. Do you think a long peace might be detrimental to the robustness of humankind and hence might be our undoing?

Steven Pinker: That’s the least of our worries. A century ago artists, critics and intellectuals gushed about the beauty and nobility of war, with its fostering of manliness, solidarity, courage, hardiness, and self-sacrifice. The First World War put an end to that. Better a little PTSD, I say, than the kind of indifference to the lives of men that resulted in the Battle of the Somme.

Nor has the Long Peace turned us into a civilisation of selfish wimps. However traumatic 9/11 may have been to some small number of people, it didn’t stand in the way of heroic rescues, the rapid clearing of Ground Zero, and (for better or worse) a quick and successful invasion of Afghanistan.

‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes’ by Steven Pinker is published by Allen Lane (£30).

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2011 at 10:33

(Ephesians 4:17-18) Christian believers must not walk, must not behave or live, in a way which imitates the behavior of those who are unredeemed; specifically, Paul forbids the Christian from imitating the unbeliever’s vanity of mind. Christians must refuse to think or reason according to a worldly mind-set or outlook. The culpable agnosticism of the world’s intellectuals must not be reproduced in Christians as alleged neutrality; this outlook, this approach to truth, this intellectual method evidences a darkened understanding and hardened heart. It refused to bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of life…

from Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen (via mereglimpses)

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