Wednesday, November 26, 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Relationships between generations

Dear friends,

Our topic for this Sunday is: Relationships between generations

As I point out in my short essay, this topic seems to belong to
sociology and anthropology; and indeed it does belong there. But as I
try to argue in my essay this subject is also a super minefield for
philosophy. However, it is still gratifying to know that underneath
these modern disciples of sociology, anthropology, economics and
politics there is the spectre of philosophy ready to question dogma,
like a shark in the depths of an ocean ready to pounce on its careless
In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:
Hello Lawrence,
The link to the essay I wrote on the topic for Sunday's PhiloMadrid is:
Thank you.
See you on Sunday.
All the best,

Relationships between generations

You might be forgiven for thinking that this Sunday's topic belongs to
sociology or anthropology; it does. But it also belongs to philosophy,
at least in applied philosophy. However, we must also be clear that this
topic is much wider than the traditional "generation gap" problem.

Children will always have a different outlook at life from their
parents. In many respects the generation gap is an issue based on the
newly acquired intellectual capacities of young people to understand the
world around them. For example, is less than half a dozen years between
a young person asking their parents to buy them something fancy like a
smart phone and having their own money to buy the latest gadget. On the
other hand, parents know very well that life is more than just a simple
transaction with a credit card. This might go a long way why parents
tend to see things different from their children.

A less often mentioned generation problem is the relationship between
the elderly in a society and younger generations. Such issues include,
how much should we acquiesce to the opinions of the elderly? More
recently society is having to face the following questions: how much
should we subsidise or support the elderly? Issues of age discrimination
at work? How well developed is the health care system to deal with
health problems of the elderly? And how safe are pensions today and
those of future retirees? The fact that many recent government policies
throughout Europe and the western world require the elderly to have the
constitution and nous of a 25 year old suggests that there is something
amiss with the exercise of power. And any issues related to the exercise
of power are, first and foremost, a philosophical issue because it
involves ethics and morality.

With only a minor step away from the generation gap, we discover that
there is, indeed, a philosophical relevance in our topic. So let's up
the ante in our debate. By taking half a step backwards from the
generation gap we have to discuss the relationship of the adult
generation and the most vulnerable generation, those people within the
age range between 5 and 16 years. This is not to say that babies are not
vulnerable, and maybe for the same reasons as other young people, but
for my purposes the 5-16 year group will help us focus our mind on the
problems. There are four major issues that interest us about this age
group: nourishment and well being, education, health care and
psychological tranquillity, and se.xual development.

Today we know enough to know what a young person requires for a normal
well balanced life. Although we are not sure whether a five year old
needs a smart phone, we know for sure that young people need nourishing
food, a stable family life, an objective education and a functioning
health care system. But we either brush under the carpet or morph into
the Inquisition when it come exposing young people to religion and
se.xual development.

Upon what right should adults subject young people to a particular set
of beliefs or religion? I agree with you that children shouldn't even be
subjected and influenced as to which football team to support or
philosophical school to identify with. In my mind adults have no right
to influence people like this; but I recognise that we might be asking a
lot when we believe that children shouldn't be indoctrinated with
religion, football loyalty and philosophical thinking. Indeed, a good
well balanced objective education should compensate for social and
family bigotry and indoctrination. Needless to say, these are relevant
issues for philosophy without having to rely of field investigation.

At face value we might see no connection between se.x and religion, or
what passes as religion, but there are enough social and religious
synaptic connections between adults and young people to create valid
concern for philosophy.

We have read enough cases about female discrimination or the marrying
off of young girls or physical mutilation not mention the taboo subject
of child abuse and domestic violence against young people. Misogyny is
rife in almost all religions and the relation between women and the
hierarchy of these religions is today beyond being absurd and illogical.
Given that today everyone over the age of six knows how human beings are
made it seems obvious that there won't be any religion if there were no
mothers giving birth to male babies!

Thus by discriminating against 50% of the human population at young age
not only are we skewing the human race. However, there is no way of
knowing what the opportunity costs are for favouring males as exclusive,
or quasi exclusive, access to institutions of power and authority.
Would, for example, women generals conduct wars differently? We know
that women political leaders so far are not different from male leaders,
but the jury is still out on this one! It's not clear whether past
female political leaders were acting as free agents, they would say they
were, or whether they were the product of the same mould as male
political leaders but with minor differences.

The specific issue about the five year old group of young people is
precisely whether having children is a personal matter or one that
requires the considerations of society as well? Should society and I
include religions and football teams here, pressurise adults to have
children? And the biggest question here is of course, when does a
biological mass becomes a human being and ultimately a person? We not
only have to decide what is a person, but who can decide what is a
person? We have already discussed this topic of personhood and for me
the answer is quite simple: anyone who was born from a human mother.

But issues of adults controlling or deciding the intellectual fate of
young people is at the very limits of empirical philosophy. By moving
into the realm of unborn human beings and foetal development, we are
transcending into the realm of biology, and hence into amoral territory.
And amoral territory implies metaphysical territory us. For example, "is
a foetus a person?" is for philosophy a metaphysical question and for
biology a non relevant question. So the relationship between the those
human beings who are yet to be given birth and adult generation is one
fraught with morality, ethics and beliefs. But for the philosopher the
real issue is to disentangle biology from metaphysics and humanity.

Finally, the real philosophical import of our topic is the relationship
between living generations and future generations. And the immediate
question we have to ask is whether living generations have a duty of
care to future generations? Given that each individual in any given
generation is a product of events coming together at the same time in
the same place should such future probable events be granted the status
of factual events? For example, should my probability of winning the
lottery be granted the same status as actually winning the lottery? I
grant you that persons and lotteries are not the same, but the
underlying natural rules are the same.

Given all the choices and issues related to the topic, the main question
is maybe whether all generations should really consider themselves as a
single collective of persons alive or should we continue to categorise
persons into sub groups based on age, sex, colour, height, location,
beliefs, etc? Indeed, should we limit the use of –generation- to such
language games and utterances as: do living generations have a duty of
care to future generations?

Indeed are future generations made up of real people, metaphysical
people, or are they simply linguistic empty concepts? But be careful
here, what we decide what the answer is to this question will decide
what we do today? If we answer that future generations are made up of
real people, then we clearly have a duty of care. Maybe we should do
something about global warming, pension schemes and keeping our football
team solvent. If we decide future generations are as real as a
metaphysical dance then maybe we are nothing more than just an amoral
biological blob!

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
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Relationships
between generations

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

PhiloMadrid meeting 30th November: relationships between generations

PhiloMadrid meeting 30th November: relationships between generations

Please note that I will be sending the email tomorrow Wednesday 26th and not Thursday as usual. 

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Thursday, November 20, 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The way to happiness + News

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are visiting a topic we had the opportunity to discuss
before: The way to happiness.

This title immediately conjures up images of roads and journeys and most
important of all destination. In my few paragraphs on the topic I try to
take a different approach from the standard one of –what can I do to be
happy?- to: what can prevent me from being happy and what do I need to
have to overcome any obstacles?

In the meantime Ruel has sent us details of his essay and Miguel has
sent us news of his maths tertulia:

Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to the essay I wrote on the topic for Sunday's PhiloMadrid:
See you on Sunday,
All the best,

Estimado tertuliano,
Te invitamos a asistir a la próxima Tertulia de Matemáticas el próximo
Martes 25 de Noviembre a las 19:00h en El Centro Segoviano de Madrid:
Didoku (

Saludos cordiales,
Tertulia de Matemáticas

The way to happiness

Happiness is big business! The tourism industry strives in giving us a
happy time when we spend our money visiting or engaging in travel
activities. Retailers promise to give us a good experience when we spend
our money with them. And then there are the self help books on how to be
happy, the guru we consult to show us the way to be happy, the fashion
and beauty rituals we follow hoping that we feel good and thenceforth,
happy. Happiness is also important, and a happy person is as good as
being a wealthy person.

Religions, and for that matter their modern day substitutes, political
parties, promise us that we can achieve happiness by simply following
their teaching and the reward of happiness is guaranteed even though
happiness is experienced in another world, wherever that maybe. At least
religions have a cheaper model than political parties, they only want
our spiritual allegiance, and the occasional "membership fees." Whereas
political parties want our vote, and then they want us to pay for their
dilettante experiments in social engineering through taxes.

Philosophy and science are not immune from this business. Many grants
have been given to investigate the status of happiness in human beings.
And philosophers have also been writing about the subject since the
ancient Greeks, if not before. Even in our group we have discussed the
topic of happiness many times before. Indeed the business of happiness
is so important that today we have such tools as the Gross National
Happiness Indicator that is supposed to measure the state of happiness
in a country.

However, what we know for sure is that happiness is an emotion and that
we are all subject to experience this emotion by virtue of being human
beings. Not forgetting, in the meantime, that as philosophers we are not
concerned with people who, unfortunately, suffer from some form of
medical disease, but our concern is with the normal rational human
beings and how they feels. In other words, we are concerned with people
we come cross in our lives. This is important because emotions are
clearly a physical manifestation in us and what matters is the cause of
this emotion. If a disease is causing us to feel bad and unhappy then
that is clearly a matter for medicine and medical care to solve. Hence,
the best advice before setting off on the way to happiness, like the
pilgrimage to Santiago, is to make sure that one is healthy, within
reasonable measures. This does not mean that sick people cannot be
happy, but being sick is not the right way to be happy.

What does not belong in the domain of medicine then it would be a
legitimate concern for philosophers to examine and investigate. The
traditional way philosophers have investigated happiness was to examine
meaning and how we can achieve happiness. Indeed, the happiness business
focuses on how we can achieve happiness. But I argue that this approach
is the equivalent of finding the silver bullet pill in medicine that
will cure all diseases and ailments.

The idea of a silver bullet solution in philosophy, and medicine for
that matter, is flawed for the simple reason that we are all individuals
with different physical and psychological needs. Sure we can generalise
and solve some issues, but the further we remove ourselves from
molecules and cells the more we are unique individuals; and it's bad
enough at the molecular and cell level. Thus trying to give instruction
on how to arrive to happiness is like saying: since all roads lead to
Rome, then all roads to Rome are the same. In the Newtonian universe,
the one we inhabit, journeys are not the same because we are all

I would argue that the road or the way to happiness depends on two
approaches: of course, the first approach depends on what we can do, for
example, how lazy are we from visiting the doctor when things are not
functioning properly with our bodies.

This is not a call to become hypochondriacs, but a call to take
responsibility for our health. Being healthy will service us well in our
quest foe happiness, although it is neither a necessary nor sufficient
condition but will certainly be useful. But trying to be healthy when we
can do something about it is also a duty towards society; not only to
meet our commitments to society but more importantly prevention or
solving issues early will be less of a burden on the health system and
the attention of carers. The resources we use needlessly might be well
used on less fortunate people than us.

The second approach to the way to happiness is an analysis of what
prevents us from being happy, and in particular: who is preventing us
from being happy and why? A key issue here is whether some people are
making an effort to stop us from being happy or is our unhappiness a
consequence of the unreasonable acts of others?

People can become unhappy because of their economic and social
circumstances. And without delving into the meaning of happiness there
is a difference between being happy with one's lot and being in a
situation that causes one stress and disharmony.

Of course, others can influence our state of happiness through their
actions and our relationships with them. In a way, social norms and
accepted behaviour function as a way to maintain good relationships with
each other. The value of norms is not so much for what they might
represent, but for their predictive power. When people are courteous to
us, we know more or less in advance how they are going to behave with us
in the future. Having said that, many fraudsters use this strategy of
seeming very nice to exploit law abiding people.

The other pitfall on the way to happiness is that we focus solely on
achieving happiness but we forget about the consequences, especially
unintended consequence, our project might entail. I don't only mean what
will happen to us if our project fails, but rather what will it take to
achieve and sustain our project.

What we don't know about how to achieve happiness could very well be
because we are careless or lazy to obtain the right information or maybe
because we are not equipped with the epistemological mindset to know.
For example, if one does not read the technical reviews about new mobile
phones we might be persuaded to buy a model that is not suitable for us.
But what if the government fails to publish a damning report about a
product that is having harmful effects on people: is this a case of not
having the epistemological means to pursue our life of happiness
intelligently? Is this an intentional act by people to prevent us from
achieving our goals? We mustn't confuse being blissfully ignorant (of
the facts) from being in a state of happiness.

Indeed, one of the most serious challenges we face in achieving
happiness is our state of knowledge. There is no doubt that knowledge
plays an import, if not key, role in our quest for happiness. Knowing
that we have won the lottery big time will certainly bring a smile to
our faces despite the tax bill that follows after.

The effect of not being happy is that we might be easier pray for
manipulation and exploitation; just look at the thousands of people who
were promised by human traffickers a better life in Europe only to be
forced into prostitution or work in sweatshops. Thus withholding
information or disseminating false information by people in position of
authority can have a direct effect on how we feel, and more importantly
what we can achieve. Being exploited and cheated is not a happy moment,
as many of will know from experience after a dodgy menu-del-dia.

My basic argument is that knowledge is both a necessary and sufficient
condition for us to achieve happiness. But this requires that, first and
foremost, we know how to distinguish facts from fiction and secondly,
how to deal with the eternal paradox of knowledge: the more we know, the
more we seem to know very little.

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
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The way to
happiness + News

Friday, November 14, 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The skeleton within us

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing "The skeleton within us".

No doubt a rather unusual topic even for PhiloMadrid, but the topic is
more than just skull and bones. An obvious interpretation is a
metaphorical point of view meaning the person within us. Or to put in a
philosophical perspective: can we really know ourselves?

The problem is that the skeleton is not just a fancy word for the topic.
The skeleton is the framework of the human body and the human body is
nothing but a biological system in space-time. So the next question we
would like an answer to is whether we can have privileged knowledge
about ourselves that cannot be known by others?

However, if there is some privileged knowledge about us that in
principle, at least, and it cannot be know by others this would mean
that we are more than just a physical blob? So far knowledge is handed
to us in a physical format (words, sounds, images) which means that it
must have a physical form; hence the only way we can have any privileged
knowledge is for that knowledge not to take a physical form. I don't
think that's the case!

In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:
Hello Lawrence,
I wrote a very short essay on the topic for Sunday's PhiloMadrid. Here
is the link:
See you on Sunday.
All the best,

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
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The skeleton within us

Friday, November 07, 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Line Between Genius and Insanity

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The Line between Genius and Insanity.

Although it is not quite clear what the philosophical import this
question is, philosophy can certainly help us to sort out the language
mess of this words we usually use in our day to day conversion. I tried
very hard to see the philosophy from the fog in my few paragraphs and
Ruel seem to have had the same issues:

Hello Lawrence,
The voted topic for Sunday's PhiloMadrid discussion in quite
philosophically unhandy and I had some difficulty writing a quality
essay. Nevertheless, I came up with one and here is the link:
See you on Sunday,

The Line Between Genius and Insanity

There is no reason to assume that there is a sequential process between
genius and insanity. One does not border the other and it is certainly
not necessary nor sufficient that insanity may be associated with
genius. Both terms are at best colloquial concepts of every-day language.

Insanity in medicine (medical insanity) and jurisprudence (legal
insanity) are so specific that there is practically no relationship
between the technical meanings of the word and the everyday use of the
word. Indeed, we are more likely to use words like crazy, idiotic,
lunatic, half backed, loony etc etc. We might use insane in polite
society if required. Of course, in the context of the question, we might
associate genius with eccentric, strange, unsocial, or absent minded but
none of these terms imply some mental disease. And mental disease does
not in and of itself preclude someone from displaying exceptional
intelligence and inventiveness.

People we call genius tend to be people we were taught at school to be
genius or maybe by our peers. But once again not only is this term
colloquial but also subjective; someone who does not agree that Kant
might still give him the respect Kant deserves but wouldn't revere him
as a genius philosopher. A modern readymade genius would probably be
Einstein. But it wasn't until 1919 that the marvels of Einstein's
discoveries and the Man himself became world famous when Sir Arthur
Eddington, against all racial prejudice Einstein suffered for being
German at the time, decided to test Einstein's theory of gravity. And as
they say the rest is history.

However, whist the discoveries of geniuses may or may not have eternal
validity, and notwithstanding that genius has more to do with social
snobbery rather than universal standing, one thing is clear about these
exceptional people: they all resisted the suffocating effect of the
conventional and the status quo. They all did their thing despite the
disapproval of the established conservative society. Einstein's genius
is probably his ability to survive the lunacy and distractive programme
of the education system at the time he was growing up in Germany and

Maybe, metaphorically speaking, those who manage to survive the
destructive harshness of the status quo and then go on to flourish might
be classified as genius. But those who allow themselves to be
manipulated and infected by the destructive powers of the status quo
might be classified as insane. But I don't see any dividing line here,
but a separation and divide one expects to find between free people and

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
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Line Between
Genius and Insanity

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