21 June 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The journey or the destination

4 items, plus essay

Dear friends,

For those who follow the fortunes of football clubs in Madrid you would
know all about journeys and destinations. This is the theme of our topic
for this Sunday's meeting. I hope you will find the time to come to the
meeting at six pm.


Asuncion has asked me to share some of her work on journeys including
her thesis. Specifically:

Part of my research involves "journey narratives". I have a couple of
articles that might be of interest to start up the discussion or for
your introduction. Please, find them attached. One of them is the last
draft for EOLSS (UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems; sorry,
corrections are still there!!). The other was a chapter of my 2002
dissertation and needs to be updated.

My whole dissertation, in Spanish, is at

Asunción López-Varela Azcárate
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

The EOLSS article is at: http://www.eolss.net/
But this is not a free-access encyclopedia (it is but only for third
world countries).

Asuncion has sent me Word files for the last two documents for our
private use. So if you want a copy please let me know and I forward you
these documents. However, for those who only access the internet at the
office and want to read the documents before this evening (I'm out most
of Friday) or at an internet cafe I have posted these documents on blog
I started for this purpose. Read the next item on how to access these


For those who are familiar with IT terminology what I have done is
called a work-around. Basically, I have used the features on the blog
which are available to me to achieve similar results with ideal features
which are not available. Basically, I only want people on the mailing
list to access these documents; for those who are interested on how I
did this please write to me. In the meantime, if you want to have a look
at these documents this is what you have to do. Theoretically it work
and it has worked on my PC; please report any bug.

What to do:
Go to this blog: Phulomadridshare: http://philomadridshare.blogspot.com/
You should get the instructions page.
For the VIRTUAL TRIPS document either enter >VIRTUAL TRIPS< or
>asuvirtual01< in the search this blog box. Without arrow heads.
For the TRAVELLING THROUGH NARRATIVE TIME do the above or use this
search word > asutravel02<.

It is easier that what it seems.

If you want to share similar documents with the group in this manner
please send them over.

Incidentally, I started a philomadrid blog at

http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/ but do not have time to prettify it. At
the moment there are most of the emails I send out in very raw form and
format. If you want to add comments to any posts please let me know and
I'll include them.


Blanca has asked me to remind you about her tango exhibition:

Hi! Law,

I'm giving you the details of the tango exhibitions for the two couples
of dancers, in case somebody wants to attend:
Centro Gallego
C/ Carretas, 14 3ª
Metro Sol

The exhibition begins at 20.00, but is advisable to be there at 19.30 h

Apart from that, our teacher asked us to dance "milonga with traspie",
which is very very difficult and we have a quick lesson before, but we
will do our best.

Happy evening,


The photos which Olga sent me from Segovia are now on the album. Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
Please send me your photos if you want to add any of yours. Thanks

See you Sunday and take care


**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);


Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
-Group photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147


What's better, the process or the result?
The journey or the destination

[note: The question what the subject that was voted during the meeting.
However, we agreed to adopt the standard expression for this theme. In
my essay I write about journeys and destinations, but this does not
materially change my ideas on the subject.]

It depends. There is a tendency to suppose that in some cases the
journey is more important than the destination. Why we choose to give
the journey such a high priority might imply some sort of psychological
dysfunction and best dealt with by psychology. Unless, that is, there is
something more fundamental going on.

I mean, why bother to fix a date to the cinema, when the bus ride is
more exciting? However, if you were to suggest to someone to take a bus
ride to the bus station, they'll think you're off your rocker. This
paradox is similar to the paradox, that if we talk to god, we are
praying, but if god talks to us we are crazy. Apart from misplaced
logic, what is going on here?

Of course, in real life there are many journeys that are a hindrance,
inconvenient or disturbing. For example, if one is meeting one's
partner, surely what matters is to be with one's partner /divorce courts
and empty dog houses excepted/. Or maybe being ill; surely, feeling
better is more important than convalescing in bed.

But this idea that destination comes first is not totally new. Most
religions, who profess to an afterlife, prioritize the destination over
the journey. Take for example the quotation which I found at random on a
Buddhist website: "Those who cannot find their own way may find it
easier to follow the path of others, but the final destination is the
same for all: the ultimate truth. When Lord Krishna, Jesus or Muhammad
says, "Follow me," they are asking us to follow the path that leads to
the ultimate reality. They are trying to lead those who are lost out of
the darkness. They do not want chaos to prevail in the world."*

Of course, the reasons why being healthy or meeting our partner are more
desirable than getting there are different from being in heaven or
experiencing the ultimate truth. Unfortunately, not having been to
heaven, I do not feel I am qualified enough to write about heaven. But I
have been sick and I do enjoy being with my partner.

Feeling better means that one is not in pain or discomfort,
inconvenienced or simply unable to do the things we want to do. I do not
think that it is reasonable to suppose that being sick is better than
being healthy. And what is the point of having a partner, if not to be
with them.

Hence, one factor that determines whether the destination is much better
is when the destination is a pleasurable or desirable activity or state
of affairs. Once we can establish whether a destination is desirable
then we can ask ourselves whether the journey is equally desirable. In
this case, some journeys might be desirable, others might not and some
might be indifferent. A car journey through marvellous landscape on the
way to an idyllic spot on the mountains might very well be desirable. I
doubt, however, whether pregnancy would be desirable /unless it is your
partner who is pregnant/ and I'm sure a bus journey to your local cinema
is indifferent /unless the cinema is on an idyllic spot in the mountains
and you are not pregnant/.

However, we cannot just dismiss the sentiment, if not the feeling, that
there are cases where the journey does seem more important than the
destination. I suspect that we do this from a sense of denial more than
good judgement. Moreover, we usually apply these feelings to
metaphysical challenges rather than a geographical destination or an

Sometimes we opt for the journey to protect ourselves from
disappointment; we don't raise our hopes or expectations too high. And
being true blue utilitarians we try and get satisfaction from our minor
accomplishments than wait for the big one at the end, which might not
materialise anyway. Of course, nothing gives us more pleasure than
accomplishing something. The bigger or more challenging the
accomplishment the more satisfaction we derive.

And in a society which on the one hand benefits from cooperation and on
the other applies rigorous competition as a means of survival, the idea
of success can be employed with impressive efficacy.

Of course, accomplishing an objective or a desire is a very natural and
human thing to do. Physically, we have to interact with our environment
in a space-time continuum. Furthermore, being a finite living system we
can only cope with a finite number of interactions one at a time: going
to the cinema, meeting our partner and so on. These interactions within
our environment also help us survive in this environment.

Success and accomplishment also bring with them a feeling of pleasure
and feeling good about ourselves. This is nature's way, as we know, of
telling us that what we've done is desirable and we should repeat it, if
and when the opportunity arises. Of course, sometimes, the system goes
haywire, and instead of doing good to our selves we do more harm. Eating
chocolate might be good, but eating ten bars of chocolate a day is a
sign of a system gone haywire.

Thus when society rewards success and accomplishment it is tapping into
a natural resource which we are all prepared to get involved with. Of
course, there need not be any malice in all this, nor a conscious and
intentional strategy. We just do this. However, success and
accomplishment can and are sometimes used to take advantage over others.
There are no limits to who tries to use these strategies to their
advantages; be it individuals, groups, governments and society in general.

And this is the paradox of competition. It has been shown many times
that competition is one of the most effective and efficient strategies
for advancement and progress. Yet competition can also be one of the
most exploitative and demeaning strategies that can be used against
others. How is this done?

If something is made difficult to achieve, then by implication, those
that do achieve such difficult objectives would have subscribed to the
cause, so to speak. Those who subscribe to the cause are also ostensibly
loyal to the cause. Thus, if we accept, for example, that having a
structured career trajectory as a sign of success then surely, we will
also feel loyal bound to such systems that do offer structured career
trajectories. If we buy into the programme, then we have accepted,
implicitly or explicitly, the way the programme works.

This is where the journey might become more important than the
destination. In pursuing our ambitions to succeed/ which is a very
natural thing to do/ we also subscribe to the fact that we might not
succeed. Thus, the journey becomes relevant when there is an element of
possible failure involved. The utilitarian principle applies, enjoy the
minor pleasures, because the destination is far from certain. My bus
journey to meet my partner is irrelevant in my life, but someone's bus
journey to meet their partner in a war torn and terrorist infested city,
would be an achievement of a lifetime.

There is another interpretation we can give to our subject matter.
Earlier I suggested that this theme of journey or destination might be
best dealt with by psychology. My next interpretation of the issue will,
however, certainly put our discussion on a philosophical footing.

When we divide an activity into a component concept of journey and
another into a concept of destination, we are mentally extrapolating two
meanings or understandings from a single causal event. If I'm at home
and I want to meet my partner who is going to be outside the cinema
doors in forty five minutes, I have no choice but to go to bus stop /or
metro station or the car or taxi rank/ and wait for the bus. The bus,
will of course, have to do what buses have to do before I am taken
outside the cinema doors. The choices are very limited to go from home
to the cinema; and there are no worm holes, Scotties, nor flying carpets
to help out. In other words, the journey is causally linked to the front
end of a destination.

It makes no sense, therefore, to speak of journey or destination. It's
either both or nothing. We cannot escape the causal link between our
desire to achieve something and the causal journey that will take us
there over a space-time continuum. The question is whether the journey
and the destination are also causally determined.

Determinism is a big subject including the two opposing arguments of
determined causality and randomness. Earlier I suggested that a system
might be manipulated to achieve a high degree of loyalty by making an
objective in that system difficult to achieve. In fact, this difficulty
might even be part of the system itself without the element of

What this also means and is relevant for us is that a destination might
itself determine the journey we embark on. If I want to qualify as a
lawyer, no amount of specialisation in random walk theory would help me
qualify. Thus, the destination to practice law means that I have to
study law and most probably, until I qualify, have to follow the journey
that others have seen fit I should follow before qualifying.

In reality, maybe, there is no distinction between what we call a
journey and the destination; it's a package deal and we take it or leave
it. On the other hand, we still have to explain why we think we can
choose or want a particular destination? Why do we make this distinction
between journey and destination at all? One way of addressing these
doubts is to refer to what Dawkins pointed out: in the middle world we
live in this is what the world looks like. For a neutrino the world
looks very different. Thus for us, the world looks like there are
journeys and destinations.

However, what we might forget is that although the world around us is
causally determined at our level of existence, we are as much agents of
determined causes as objects of causal determinism. We change the
environment and our environment changes us. Plus of course, the fact
that our future is unknowable.

By definition (metaphor apart) a journey is always towards the future.
Our destination is, so to speak, in the future. If my partner is going
to be outside the cinema doors in forty five minutes time, then that's
an event in the future for our common sense way of thinking.

But there are other types of futures that might be more relevant for us.
The first one is the information domain future. We do not know anything
about the future because we do not have information about it; what
astronomers call the light cone of information. If an event takes place
now, and I do not know anything about it then for me that event is in
the future. And it will stay there until information about the event
reaches me. However, the future is more or less already determined when
it reaches me. It is called a light cone because it was assumed that
information cannot travel faster than the speed of light; today some
people are beginning to doubt that information cannot travel faster than
the speed of light.

How does this apply to us? Take the following example. A company puts an
advert looking for a qualified person in widgets. For someone who is
qualified in widgets this might be a good opportunity. Unfortunately,
the person in charge of employing people in the widgets department has
no intention of employing anyone other than candidates who qualified
from the same institution as they did. Our job seeker did not qualify
from this institution.

In effect, what we might conclude to be as "not knowing" what the future
is like, might be something that has already been determined. Except
that we do not know about it; the light cone has not reached us yet. And
instead of questioning the process of finding a job, we assume that life
is unpredictable or difficult, which it is anyway. We then put a brave
face on the situation, and assume that the journey is more important
than the destination.

There is another type of future that might affect our journey. Earlier I
suggested that getting from a desire to the destination there is a
causal chain of events. A causal chain has to follow a sequence of
events before it reaches the end of the chain. In effect the next
sequence in the chain would be the future. In the process of becoming a
lawyer, the learning process would have to follow a sequence of stages
with each stage leading to the next one. Thus, if one of these links
fails to materialise the chances are that the whole project will
collapse. Most probably the more complex a causal chain is the more
fragile its integrity becomes. Hence, not only are the journey and
destination linked together, but the success of the journey very much
determines the destination.

Which leaves us with a final question; do all journeys have a
destination? We do of course speak of life's journey. Which is usually
linked to such questions as, what is the meaning of life? And why are we
on this Earth? Of course, we now know the answer to these question;
genetic reproduction. These questions are much different from: does our
life have a meaning? Or, how did life start on this Earth?

How did life start is a question many scientists are working on already.
And does our life have a meaning depends very much on what we're doing
with our life. But I agree with you that "what is the meaning of life?"
rolls off the tongue much better than, "does our life have a meaning?"
Which lends credence to Wittgenstein's idea that philosophical problems
are a matter of language. We might not want to go so far, but we also
get Wittgenstein's point.

Maybe all journeys have a destination and by implication the priority is
on the destination. The question then becomes whether a particular
destination is desirable or not or whether a destination is indeed a
real destination and not a puff of smoke. The alternative to a journey
without a destination would just be a nomadic existence. Could it be
that our instinct to prioritize the journey is something left over in us
from when we were actually nomads?

Take care


* http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=70,3517,0,0,1,0
Is Religion a Barrier to Truth?
by Smita Poudel (smita), Ohmynews, Dec 11, 2006

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The journey or the

No comments: