PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, November 29, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The impediment of the past

(I hope I won't have any issues sending out the emails today; apologies
for the E&O of the past!!)

Dear Friends,

The topic for this Sunday is: The impediment of the past.

The idea here is whether past beliefs or social models affect our
progress today. In other words does the past hold back progress?
Anything that we take for granted might impede progress, not only our
grandparents, our religion and our governments. In my short essay I also
identify some philosophy as a cause that might impede progress.

In the meantime Ruel has also prepared an essay for us, but who
unfortunately won't be able to join us on Sunday as he explains:

Hi Lawrence,
I won´t be able to attend Sunday´s meeting as I am involved on the same
day in a fund-raising event for the hurricane victims in the
Philippines. However, I wrote an essay for Sunday´s topic and here´s the
Thank you very much.
Best, Ruel

Finally, there is a meeting later today, Friday 29th, at 7.30pm at the
Centro Segoviano by Professor Guillermo F Fanjul on "Don Juan, Otra
vez....." All are welcome.

See you Sunday,

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at O'Donnell's
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

The impediment of the past

Those who invested in the status quo of the past have nothing to gain
from progress. And even more so if their model is successful or has a
modicum of success. This is one of the most relevant observations in the
book by Thomas Khun, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Indeed I would go further and suggest that progress is only attractive
to those who have not invested in the past, or to those with enough
resources to change the rules of any future game. Google's Android
smartphone operating system is a case in point. Before this move Google
played no part in the mobile phone industry at all, hence they could
enter the market and change it. What's more important is that Google
could afford to take the risk. And despite the success of the iPhone and
Steve Job's wonderful and epic presentation, in retrospect this phone
did not, at the time, break any major grounds. Don't forget, the iPhone
brought a collection of applications in the same box that were already
successful (iPod, internet email, web browsing etc.). But the most
serious drawback of all at the time was that the iPhone was useless for
basic needs of business people. Of course, Apple did change the music
industry with their iPod!

Thus the duality of sticking with what already works for us and moving
on to the latest model is just as powerful and significant as past
dualities in philosophy. Progress, in other words, is no more, than a
new strategy to survive by those who would fail in the old model; or new
on the scene.

However, there is also one feature of progress that would make it
rational and reasonable to support and adopt and this is the fact that
our knowledge increases by progression. We are not born with all the
possible knowledge already booted in our system. Moreover, we also have
to do our own learning despite the valiant attempts of some philosophers
in the past to attribute some a priori knowledge to human beings. Thus
given the way we learn it is inevitable that today we have more access
to actionable knowledge than what we had yesterday. Thus, when a company
breaks the mould in an industry it does so because it has access to
knowledge that helps it invent the killer app for the period; the iPod
is an example in point.

But there is something else to knowledge that is directly relevant to
our debate. Knowledge acquisition is a matter of choice in human beings,
but of course, mistakes are determined. And it is this feature that
directly affects the march of progress in our society. It is one thing
to have a model now that works for us and another to refuse to learn and
apply new knowledge that has the promise of maybe improving our lives.
The irony is however, that those who impede our progress are the same
people who are as keen to adopt new technologies as the rest of us; of
course you will always come across some weirdos.

An important issue is, however, the meaning of progress. In other words:
what is the past impeding us from doing what? Oppressive governments are
as much likely to claim that traditions and customs of the past impede
their idea of progress as much as the average person on the average
omnibus. The Bolsheviks were no more progressive than the Tsar; National
Socialism was even worse, much worse, than the policies of the Kaiser.

One of the meanings of progress, according to, is "Steady improvement, as of
a society or civilization" interwoven with ideas of "development" and
"advancement." So how do we measure progress, or ought to measure
progress? The approach to this question has always been to adopt some
sort of utilitarian principle of sharing or giving access to as many
people as possible of the rewards of progress.

But there is a serious flaw in utilitarianism. This doctrine starts with
0/zero beneficiaries and then just adds up additional beneficiaries.
Thus, if tomorrow some investigator was to find a cure to some
aggressive form of cancer and cured one person that, by the utilitarian
definition, would be progress. Mainly because today no one has been
cured with the new drug but tomorrow there will be one person who will
be cured; a 100% improvement rate!! But there is something morally
objectionable to this thinking.

I would argue that it would make more ethical sense to argue that
progress is when 100% of the population benefits from the rewards of
progress and anyone left out would be an identifiable rate of diminished
progress. When a new drug is discovered we would be in a state of 100%
progress (or development) but anyone who needs that drug and has no
access to it would reduce the claim to progress in society. In other
words, instead of adding beneficiaries we subtract the level of progress
with the number of people excluded from the progress.

This would also negate such fallacy arguments, well, in the past no one
had access to any medicine so the fact that the majority have access is
progress. This is an unacceptable form of argument on two counts. The
first is that what happened in the past is not necessarily a valid
yardstick to measure what happens now, and secondly if none, or very few
people, had access to medicine (to give an example) in the past, that's
because there was no medicine available that was useful.

Of course, some would argue that it is impossible for everyone on this
planet to have an iPhone. But this not an objection since an iPhone is
neither progress nor a component of civilization. However, it would be
a failure of progress to deprive people of efficient means of
communications or worse to deprive them of some means of communication
with other human beings especially when these are available. But it is
this very situation that we find today in parts of the world as a result
of oppressive religions or dictatorships masquerading as religious dogma
or equality. The iPhone is a new efficient means to an end and not a
pretty gadget to have, although it might very well be pretty.

It seems that it is not only oppressive religions, dictatorships, and
models that have worked for us in the past, that impede our progress but
also flawed philosophical doctrines. The question we have to answer is
whether there will ever be any progress at all given that we are so
deeply indoctrinated in the flaws of utilitarianism?

Best Lawrence

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The impediment of the past

Friday, November 22, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Pleasure

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Pleasure.

Due to a busy schedule this week I was unable to even think about the
topic – no pleasure there I can assure you! However, it did occur to me
to ask this question: must we suffer first before experiencing any pleasure?

In the meantime Ruel has posted an essay for us:

Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to my essay on Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic.
Thank you. See you on Sunday.

All the best and see you Sunday,


tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at O'Donnell's
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Pleasure

Thursday, November 14, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Social Networking + News for today Friday

Essay + news for today Friday

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Social Networking.

For many, this term might sound like something very modern and very much
related to the internet. Unfortunately, this is not the case and what we
have today is just a jazzed up version of what has always existed in
human networking.

In the past this was also called Old boy's network or club and very
recently we found Old Girl's network. And for more exclusive networking
one joined the gentlemen's clubs, in Pall Mall, or the exclusive Golf
Club in other countries. Other networks would include religious orders,
and maybe even religions themselves, Freemasonry, business and
professional associations to mention some of the opportunities.

So what we call social networks today are just an adaptation of past
opportunities to the internet age.

Of course, today social networks give us access to people with similar
interest or people of interest to us from the rest of the world. The
number of a network can sometimes be quite huge. Access to our network
is much easier either to join to keep in touch.

In the past, networks were more private and exclusive. And more
important of all, information about the activities and the membership
was more secure and not easily available to non members.

But what the networks what is of philosophical interest are the
epistemological aspects of information sharing amongst human beings.
Secondly the role played by the information we access in our life.
Thirdly, networks are an important factor for our survival and well
being. Indeed the most basic networks and certainly the most influential
social networks in our lives are the family and society itself.

In the meantime, Ruel has prepared an essay on the topic for us:

Hello Lawrence,

Below is the link to the essay re the PhiloMadrid topic on Sunday.
Thank you very much.

Finally details of a cultural event at the Centro Segoviano:
Antonio Machado Vuelve a Segovia
Centro Segoviano
15 November at 7:30pm

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at O'Donnell's
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Social Networking + News for
today Friday
Antonio Machado Vuelve a Segovia
Centro Segoviano
15 November at 7:30pm

Thursday, November 07, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Is solitude necessary for human beings?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Is solitude necessary for human beings?

Given the importance of the need for solitude in our lives there is
always the danger of misplacing the philosophical issues by issues of
lifestyle, and thence forth the world of charlatans and mind bending
mongers. But the hard part for us is maybe to actually find the
philosophy in all this. In the meantime Ruel has prepared an essay for
us and I have written a few paragraphs as well.

Hello Lawrence,
Here´s the link to the essay I wrote for the PhiloMadrid topic on Sunday.
See you on Sunday.

Is solitude necessary for human beings?

We have all needed or wanted some quiet moments alone away from the
hustle and bustle of life. Some of us seek these moments more often than
others, while others seem to live in a quasi universe of solitude. Long
moments of solitude are also an established way of life for the
religious and gurus of all cultures.

Furthermore, the social, anthropological, medical and personal benefits
are not in doubt. And although scientists have proposed many reasons and
articulated many benefits of solitude to the point that one might be
confused about what the truth is, what is clear is that yes, we do need
moments of solitudes.

At face value, solitude seem to be very much like sleeping, we need to
sleep regularly, we need to rest and recover our mental and physical
strengths; and when we sleep we are completely shut away from the rest
of humanity and the environment. Of course the basic difference is that
we do and need to do it when we are conscious, whilst the benefits of
sleep have to be done when we are not conscious to the environment
around us; although senses perceptions e.g. hearing are still alert to
our surroundings when asleep.

This would be a very good reason to suggest that solitude has nothing to
do with being lonely or escaping from the reality of life. Indeed, we do
speak of escaping for a quiet moment, but of course this is metaphorical
escape i.e. being away from others or maybe to have a rest. Loneliness
and shutting ourselves from the rest of the world do not seem to be
caused by the same process of solitude.

In my estimation, the key factor about solitude is intention. And
although sleep seems to be more of a biological process rather than an
intentional one, most of us have quite a lot of control when we go to
sleep and, in many cases, how long for; the rat race notwithstanding, of

There is nothing intentional about loneliness and maybe isolation from
one's group due to some medical condition, such as depression. Solitude
is not only a deliberate act to be away from others but more importantly
we in constant conscious control of our solitude. Thus, the suggestion
that solitude can turn, say, into loneliness is a misunderstanding of
the meaning of solitude. Indeed one can be lonely and still would
appreciate moments of solitude.

I would, therefore, put the opposite state of solitude as stress (or
extreme pressure from one's current life) and not loneliness. Both are
an emotional state and certainly physiological reaction to one's
environment especially one related to other human beings, although not
exclusively. And although the need for a few quiet moments and the need
to relieve stress can be quite pressing we can still be in control of
our lives that we can deal with these needs without having to change our
personality. To escape loneliness one has to change one's personality
let alone one's life style.

So the question for us is what causes the need for solitude? The fact
that we need to take time out from other people around us suggests that
this could very well be a biological instinct and not only an intention
of a conscious mind. In the raw state of biological life, other human
beings are competitors in the survival game even though without the
cooperation of other human beings we would stand a chance of surviving
for long.

The "other" fact is that we tend to seek solitude for reflection,
thinking, peace of mind, and charging the batteries which suggests that
solitude is an exercise to restore our mental faculties. However, these
functions are usually associated with meaningful and deep occasions.
Maybe even activities that at the end of the processes we are more
enriched in character and personality. This is, of course, not the
personality change I referred to regarding loneliness. Nor are they
activities we perform for normal every day issues: time to think about
what to prepare for lunch tomorrow, time to reflect on an email we
received, thinking what to wear in the morning and so on.

To recap, the philosophical issues regarding solitude and us are: a
wilful intention to seek solitude, conscious control and management of
our life when we are in a period of solitude, is the traditional
comparative context of solitude justifiable?, solitude more suitable for
mental restitution rather physical recovery, and, finally, we seem to
need solitude for more enriching purposes of who we are. Solitude, it
seems, is more suitable for survival strategies based on mind games
rather than muscle projection.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at O'Donnell's
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Is solitude necessary for
human beings?


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