31 January 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The value of Lies + News

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing the Value of Lies.

This must be a topic we all have an opinion on; whether good, bad or
even indifferent. I guess the core issue here is whether something being
good is justification enough to do it? And even more basic is the
question whether it is possible that we never lie? Is it practical to
always tell the truth?

In the meantime Ruel has sent us a link to his essay:

Hello Lawrence,
Here´s the link to what I wrote for Sunday´s topic:

See you on Sunday.

Finally, on the 2nd February there is the Dia de la Mujer Segoviana at
the Centro Segoviano and on the 1st February there is the Campeonato de
Mus. Details from Encarna at the Centro or the PhilMadrid Blog here:


take care and see you Sunday


tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.__com.es/
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
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The value of Lies + News

Events at the Centro Segoviano 1-2 February

Events at the Centro Segoviano 1-2 February

23 January 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The importance of Childhood + News

Essays +news

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing a topic we've all be there: The importance
of childhood. Maybe the most important issue from a philosophical
perspective is how we come out of childhood given the perils we find on
the way.

In the meantime, Ruel has prepared an essay for us, I managed to write a
few ideas which can read below and Miguel has posted information on his
site on the next Maths tertulia.

Hello Lawrence.
I wrote an article for Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic and here´s the link:

Thanks and see you on Sunday.


Estimado tertuliano,

Te invitamos a asistir a la próxima tertulia: Formas por doquier

Saludos cordiales,

Tertulia de Matemáticas

Formas por doquier - Un mundo escultural
Martes 28 de Enero de 2014 a las 19h
Centro Segoviano
c/ Alburquerque nº 14, 28010 Madrid

The importance of Childhood

We seem to be biologically disposed to think and classify information
about ourselves and our environment in terms of blocks or chunks of
information. We chop and cut information into bite size packages and
give them a label for easy retrieval. Basically, we just cannot cope
with or find it very hard to cope with a continuous stream of
information over a long stretch of spacio-temporal dimension.

Think how difficult calculus is and think how we solved the technology
of movie making by dividing visual and audio information over space and
time into 35mm blocks on film. In evolutionary terms this might make
sense since the information we need in the race to survive is of a short
duration and quite basic but precise information: run, run faster and,
after a few seconds, we are either dead or the coast is clear(stop running).

Calling young and newly born humans as children has its value and
conveniences, however, it also has its drawbacks in today's world. One
of those drawbacks is that not only do we classify these humans
differently from us adults but more importantly we might fall in to the
language trap, and hence social trap, of assuming that young humans are
some kind of a different creature from adult humans.

As a consequence, some treat children as chattels, as objects to be
possessed like one posses a cow or a 4x4 off road car. Some treat
children as some sort of mission statement for their empty adult life;
others just see children as blobs of biological matter and not human
beings with dignity and respect they deserve. And the worst form of
adult abuse of young human beings is to use them as political or
religious pawns in the struggle for power. In other words, childhood if
full of nasty traps for young people, and reaching an age when one can
defend one's self can easily be a matter of chance as a matter of the
right upbringing.

We create draconian laws giving social workers and those in authority
over guardians of children the absolute power to destroy families and
yet we don't create any safeguards for the stability and prosperity for
parents to bring up their children in a stable and healthy environment.
We trust our children to educators but never question their manipulative
and, in many cases, physical and psychological assault on these young
people just because they have the machine of the state to protect these
adults; or the psychological power religions have over people. The real
damage that social engineering in education can cause to young humans is
never investigated or those responsible held into account. Nor the
indoctrination of these people by the dogma of religions or cult

The importance of childhood is that what we experience when we are young
we take with us and determines our fate for the rest of our life. The
problem is that because we are prone to think of children as some sort
of different creatures from us adults, we tend to protect our children
based on criteria we as adults imagine children need protecting from.
Sure we try to protect children from child abuse, whether domestic
violence or sexual abuse, but these at best can be half hearted efforts,
ineffectual or selective. In other words, we protect children from the
obvious, but not always from the necessary.

Children and childhood are important because they are no less human
beings in the process of development than the adults in the process of
self fulfilment. And what is important at childhood for children to
develop from fledgling biological creatures into self supporting adults
in society? But given the statistics of child labour, children living
under the poverty line and the indoctrination by marketers and purveyors
of dogma, we can only conclude that protecting children from the ills of
society is at best selective.

Today we know that for children to develop into respected adults they
need: access to objective knowledge and opportunities to satisfy their
natural curiosity; protection from predatory adults, whether these are
marketing departments, religious cults, political games or biologically
unbalanced sexual predators; or simply protection from natural or happen
stance events.

We also know that children need a stable environment, but not only for
the children themselves but also for their guardians since adults
charged with looking after children cannot perform their duty towards
their children if they themselves face: economic instability,
conflicting relationships, dangerous environments, unfit nutrition,
ineffective health care, and so on. What affects adults affects the
children in their care.

The importance of childhood is not for children to grow to be good
people, but maybe to give them the opportunity to become reasonable and
rational beings.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
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: The importance of Childhood +

17 January 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Symbolic recording of meaning

Dear friends,

Symbols are a very powerful means to convey information about our ideas
and intentions. And meaning is the price we pay so that we can convey
our ideas to others. And although we need symbols of one shape or other
to convey our ideas they are not necessarily our best of friends. For
example: What would happen if we lost the intended meaning that the
symbols contain?

This Sunday's topic, Symbolic recording of meaning, could be a
provocative topic in philosophy.

In the meantime Ceit, Ruel and I have written essays for this Sunday's

Hi Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote for Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic:

See you on Sunday,

--- essay from Ceit---
Hi Lawrence, I'm going to try to lay out some (very) basic ideas for the
The reasons we have written systems of communication seem obvious: one,
to transmit information across time and space when the human voice can't
make that journey; two, to accurately preserve the message. The first
reason is fairly simple, but the second poses some questions.
How can writing really transmit an entire human message? Many
complaints about modern communications technology are based on this
problem. In face-to-face communication, we hear words, we hear
intonation, and we see body language and the environmental context of
the message. Writing preserves the words alone. Even tactics such as
different fonts or graphic symbols to signal emphasis or change of tone
are not terribly useful. Writing and deciphering them is often clumsy
and more confusing than illuminating. Writing alone loses some of the
"humanity" of the message.
There is also the question of which form of writing is the most
accurate. Pictographic or ideographic systems have the advantage of
showing the concept that they are trying to communicate, at least in
theory, and when the concept is concrete. They also have shown a
certain universality, e.g. Chinese characters being used and only
slightly adapted to other Asian languages, preserving meaning in a
written code recognizable to people who would not be able to communicate
in speech. Leonard Shlain argues in his book The Alphabet Versus the
Goddess that writing with images encourages the whole brain to interpret
the message and, therefore, a more holistic view of the world, while
alphabetic writing limits us to simple, linear thinking.

Alphabets, on the other hand, are supposed to represent the sounds of
the language, recording the way we hear speech. Although the idea
sounds easy enough, the problems in execution are many. Languages have
their own set of phonemes, which are not necessarily shared by other
languages, even related ones. Languages sharing alphabets do not always
put the same sound values on the characters. The natural evolution in
language makes a representation of its sounds limited in time, difficult
and finally incomprehensible to future readers. Even within a single
language at a particular time, differing accents and dialects create a
disconnect between the sounds of speech and their standard written
representations. The advantages of alphabetic writing lie mostly in the
ease of learning only a few dozen characters compared with the thousands
necessary to be literate in, for example, Chinese, as well as the
comparative simplicity of writing letters.
So does writing a message really preserve it? Can thoughts and ideas be
presented precisely enough through symbols that we should accept them
with no doubts at all? When can we start wondering if our written code
is losing touch with our human language?

Symbolic recording of meaning

There is a very good chance that when we think of language we think of a
process that involves one person (for the sake of argument) expressing
their idea and us (for the sake of argument) receiving this expression.
Of course, the expression can be either written or spoken.

To give you an analogy of what I am thinking, I would suggest for
example a bottle of water, being poured into a glass. The person doing
the expressing is active whilst we are passive receiving this
expression. The fact that in polite and civilised society we do pay
attention to those speaking to us does not help in establishing this
feeling of active/passive exchange.

But of course, being passive is the last thing a language exchange is
all about. Just because we process language in our brain and, in normal
cases, subconsciously it does not mean that this is a passive activity.

To begin with the purpose of language, as a tool, it to exchange
information and that information can be about many things such as our
ideas, our experience, our knowledge, beliefs and so on. And whether
intended or as a consequence, information changes us by increasing our
sum total of knowledge. In many cases we go on to perform some act: buy
a product, make plans to travel, make friends, change our beliefs etc.

But the meaning aspect of language must out of necessity be a meaning of
someone's ideas and intentions: meaningful sentences are not conceived
and born on trees. Secondly, any symbols we use, whether it's the
alphabet, graphics, hand gestures, numerals or whatever, must themselves
be familiar to those who are meant to understand the ideas we are trying
to convey through these symbols.

Forget telepathy; as far as we are concerned information has to take a
physical form in order to transfer it from one brain to another. This,
of course, does not exclude the possibility of employing some form of
physical means to transfer information between us that does not involve
light or sound waves. But that is not telepathy.

And of course, any symbol that is intended to convey an idea, and thus
meaningful meaning, must convey it in a certain way that the information
affects us. A coded message without having access to the key is useless.
Having said that, additional information does attach itself in an
underhand way to everything even though it was never intended by the
author. For example, if I receive a letter in a language I don't know
from someone I am not familiar with, I would be curious about it even
though I have no access to the contents of the letter.

It seems evident that for ideas to have meaning they must be accessible,
although they don't have to be broadcasted. It is also necessary that
if we want to exchange our ideas with others we have to make sure that
our audience are "qualified" to receive our ideas. There is no point
trying to explain the intricacies of quantum mechanics to a class of
eight year olds even though they might think it is a fab thing to do; or

But the symbols are just the physical tools that are required, out of
necessity, to convey the physical state of the information. The symbols
themselves do not mean anything other than the information we attach to
them; and of course any information that gets attached to them
indirectly. Thus symbols are the equivalent of the bottle of water in
the example I gave above.

The pity would be, of course, when the bottle takes the central role
away from the water it once contained.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
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: Symbolic recording of meaning

13 January 2014

suggested reading for: The Symbolic recording of meaning. (Language that isn't spoken)

Hello Lawrence,
Here´s the link to Otto Neurath´s e-book, International Picture Language:

And another link to an essay on Neurath´s ISOTYPE Project:

I hope these will help in next Sunday´s topic discussion.

09 January 2014

essay from Miguel - from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Spirituality + News

Hi Law,

I missed your message by a few minutes. Here is my essay:

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Spirituality + News

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a good holiday weekend last Sunday; we had an excellent
meeting on Saturday. This weekend we are back on SUNDAY (12 January).

As I try to argue in my short essay, Spirituality is a sort of extension
to hope; they are certainly relatives if not siblings. I also argue that
the from our perspective the issue is not whether it functions but
rather the consequences because Spirituality tends to function.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us a link to his essay:

Hi Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote for the PhiloMadrid topic on Sunday:

Thank you very much.
See you on Sunday.

Finally, Helena is looking for a bedsit or shared accommodation
with others in a safe area of Madrid hopefully not expensive. If you can
send me an email I'll pass it on to her.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
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)


Spirituality has come a long way from meaning a sacred state of being
with god to being in an inner state of tranquillity and harmony. And
although today the concept of spirituality has a weak link with
religion, it still has a strong presence among religious observers. By
weak link I mean not everyone associates spirituality with religion.

However, what has survived in the meaning of spirituality from the old
meaning is the association of the concept with morality and ethics.
Being spiritual means, first and foremost, to be a morally upright
person who abides by some ethical code that seeks to do good and not
harm; at least not do harm as much as is humanly possible.

Another aspect of spirituality is that it seems to be a step upwards
from having "hope" about some adverse situation in our life. But "hope"
is usually reserved for single situations or things in our life. My hope
to get a decent job stops when I get a decent job. Spirituality, takes
this idea further where we try to live a tranquil and morally correct
life. It's a state of being and, of course, a determined behaviour, to
deal with the downs of life in a more objective and correct way. For
example with spirituality we look for a decent job and not for a job
where I can satisfy my greed; with hope we try to get something more
satisfactory although not necessarily to satisfy our greed!

Indeed, from time to time, we come across scientific studies
demonstrating the benefits of such activities as spirituality, prayer,
religious belief and helping others. And although these studies do not
prove the existence of a god in any way, some people do actually benefit
if they really believe in spirituality and prayer. But the benefits of
spirituality, and in a way prayer, are not a philosophical issue, not in
my opinion a scientific issue. In philosophy we are firstly interested
in the meaning of spirituality followed by the implications of such
behaviour and in science it is just a matter of demonstrating the
falsity or truth of any claims put forward for spirituality.

What is sure is that whether it's spirituality or prayer, the human body
and the human brain are equipped with some sophisticated tools to deal
with adversity and harmful situations. These survival mechanisms even go
to show how complex human beings are compared to other biological
systems. In a way, the dangers faced by other biological systems are
more determined and fixed, at least throughout evolution it has been so,
until that is we/human beings took control of the Planet.

A bison on the prairies had so many predators to deal with, so many
infections to deal with, so many biological needs, so many geographical
obstacles to deal with. On the other hand we, modern human beings, have
to deal with all the biological needs and hazards plus the vagaries and
dictates of society. Within a few months we have to deal with an
economic cycle from being prosperous to an depression leaving us without
an income. Within a few weeks we might have to deal with a government
that promotes social care to a government whose policies are based on
oppression and aggression, thus over night changing our behaviour from
cooperation to survival competition. A bison on the prairies never had
to deal with a fascist government, a destructive communist regime, or
punishing tax rates In their existence, bisons only had to deal with one
random event in their existence and that is when they had to face
European settlers head on which they lost in a matter of years.

We, on the other hand, have to deal with sudden and contradictory
changes in our society. When we face an adverse event from nature we
either survive or perish. In a society we do not necessarily die from
the adverse events but rather get caught up in a chaotic random vortex
such as wars and revolutions at the one extreme and economic instability
at the other extreme.

Spirituality, like, hope, gives us that mental break to be able to deal
with these adverse events, whether they are social or natural. The
question we have to ask ourselves is given that we, today, as
individuals, are completely and utterly dependent on others even to
breathe, can we seriously speak of natural and social adverse events as
being two different types of events. Are there any differences between a
tsunami and a train crash?

Let's take for example, a tsunami, one of the most horrific natural
adverse events we can experience, but can we really speak of this as a
natural event? Especially when we have the technology to alert
populations in coastal areas with a high degree of confidence? I propose
that when we can do something about a natural adverse event, or even
when we can mitigate against the effects of such events, this event
would cease to be a natural event and becomes a social responsibility.
In other words, if we have the means and the technology to deal with
natural adverse events it becomes our duty to protect ourselves from
such a possible event.

Why is all this important for our topic of spirituality? The answer is
quite straight forward: spirituality, like hope, should not become a
substitute to deal with adverse events that are clearly the duty of
society to deal with and protect us from such events or at the very
least mitigate the effects of such events. I grant you that there is
very little we can do if tomorrow a star in our line of sight exploded
into a supernova and we'd be fried within a matter of hours with its
radiation burst; or at the very least our iPhone or Android phones are
fried. But there is no excuse for boom-bust economic cycles or for a
large percentage of society not having access to health care.

Spirituality, and hope, are well and good when we are dealing with
situations beyond our conceptual control, like exploding supernovae, but
they should never be allowed to be a safety net when the adverse events
can be dealt with by society. Thus, those commentators who, for example
adulate the virtues of hope and spirituality in those people who
survived life threatening adverse events such as being incarcerated in
concentration camp, miss the whole point. The point being not that
spirituality and hope work well in life threatening adverse events, but
rather that there should never be concentration camps with people in
them in the first place.

Best Lawrence

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Spirituality + News

02 January 2014

from Lawrence, SATURDAY this WEEK PhiloMadrid meeting: Hope

This week's meeting is on SATURDAY 4th JANUARY 6:30pm

Dear Friends

Happy New Year everyone!!

The last time we discussed Hope was in September 2009. And like today I
did not write an essay for the meeting. Fortunately, today Ruel has sent
us a link to his essay.

So to think that we discussed Hope four and a bit years ago and we are
still meeting suggests that there is still hope for us.

But hope is a very peculiar emotion since it seems to bridge our pull to
obtain what we need and desire over our near certain knowledge that
these will never be obtained. A kind of epistemological leap to
neutralise the state of contradiction that we find ourselves in by
wanting things we know we cannot have.

This feat no doubt demonstrates the physical overbearing power of
emotions over rational thinking; even if that thinking is inductive or
intuitive thinking. But does this make hope an irrational activity? Does
this mean that when push comes to shove, the emotions rule our lives

Moreover, would we be better off to assess our possible outcomes by
applying more rational means to assess our realistic situation:
probability, induction, evidence? And maybe then desire things that can
actually be acquired? Indeed is hope for things we can actually get
qualify as hoping?

On the other hand what is it we are hoping for? Is it something to make
us feel good or better or it is something to relieve us from
desperation? We generally accept hope to be a good thing, something to
keep us going, which is all well and good when what we want is just the
latest gadget on the market. But what if what we hope for is something
we need to survive?

The issue about hoping for something related to survival in a rational
world is that this might be because the cooperative framework of our
society is becoming unravelled. Should we depend on hope when we need
help or should we expect help when we need it?

In the meantime this is Ruel's link:
Happy New Year, Lawrence!
Below is the link to what I wrote for the PhiloMadrid topic we have on

See you on Saturday.


Finally, after being asked many times to prepare a list of the topics
that were suggested in the past, I finally got down and took some images
of the topic lists in my notes. I picked these up randomly and are from
various dates and years. Hope you can read my handwriting!!!

Don't forget it is SATURDAY this weekend.

all the best


tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
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, SATURDAY this WEEK PhiloMadrid meeting: Hope

Suggested Past Topics

Some topics from previous meetings that were suggested in the past, but never got voted for. I just picked a few from my pile of notes so they are from different years. Hope you can read my handwriting!!!!