26 October 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Why is it important to have difficulties?

Dear Friends,

This week we are discussing the topic: Why is it important to have

Carlos has kindly sent us some ideas about the topic which you will find
below. I have also included a short essay.

I do think that difficulties are very necessary in our daily lives. I do
mean to have them. Also for societies, companies, etc. Just think what
it would be like if there were no difficulties. Boring and with no
challenges there would be no reasons to improve, and, many times, to live.
We set goals that need to be achieved, and always want to be successful
in achieving them. But I do think the real problem starts here.
How important is it to achieve them? In what time frame? What reasons do
we have? Well, maybe if we take ourselves very seriously and not as
philosophers, clowns or comedians life could be very troublesome for us.
Without difficulties creativity, innovation and power are difficult to
be obtained, and people and societies degrade. Is the process of
creation and destruction, so needed by nature to make us strong?
Illusions, milestones and goals are the cement that form our paranoia.


From Lawrence Why is it important to have difficulties?

Difficulties are part of nature and not just the sole burden of human
beings. The question is, however, how do we move from something that is
a natural fact, or better a natural phenomenon, to something that is

The accepted idea is that evolution progresses on the principle of
"survival of the fittest". And even in our language survival implies
strife and difficulties. We also have the myth that suffering makes us
stronger; again a concept, suffering, fully impregnated with the idea of

Even if we use the term "natural selection" we inherently understand
that this is not an easy matter. At the very lease natural selection
implies that we are candidates that can survive. But whether we use
-natural selection- or -survival of the fittest- we are talking about
biological principles. And this is where we need to be clear between our
language of values and our understanding of nature. Nature has no
values, it is rational minds that can describe the world in terms of
values; at least beyond such questions as "does it want to eat me?",
"can I eat it?" and "can I mate with it?"

Our ability to go beyond these three questions is what makes us
different from the rest of biology. But our ability to reason beyond
basic biology does not imply that biology follows our understanding of
biology. Biology has no say in whether there are difficulties or not:
there just are difficulties because that's the way the universe works.

But if difficulties are supposed to have a scope in our life, I would
argue that there is an even more powerful phenomenon that determines our
future: random events. And of course by random I mean unforeseen or
unexpected events. In essence, events beyond our control.

Difficulties are a human concept; it's how we interpret events and
experiences, but what matters is how we cope and manage difficulties.
This is the only input we have for survival, but of course, how we deal
with difficulties is an important key to our survival because even we
have the means to interact with the environment. And one of those means
is to understand that sometimes we might have to stand our ground and
fight, and sometimes we need to run away from a dangerous situation: the
fight or flight principle is a defence against difficulties.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Café Madrid
Calle del Meson de Panos in Opera

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Why is it important
to have difficulties?

20 October 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What we want and what we can get

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: What we want and what we can get.

Don't forget we now meet at Café Madrid at 6:30pm.

What we want and what we can get

It is very unlikely that if we didn't have needs, wants, desires,
wishes, dreams, yearnings, or whims we would never do anything or get
anything done. These emotions, mental states and impulses motivate us
into action.

These mental states are also subjective mental states, by which I mean
what we want is something we want for us. Sure we want peace on Earth or
for my family to be happy, but it is the self that wants these things
for ourselves. I cannot want something for others without first wanting
it myself.

This is not a tautology but rather a motivator for action. If my friend
wants to stop for a beer, the mental state of my friend is not a
motivator for me to act. However, my friend can try to create a mental
state in me so that my acts and his or her act will coincide with the
same desire as mine: stop for a drink.

Language is the normal way to communicate with others so that they
change their mind set to meet what we want them to do. Language is like
a jump start cable for cars; the battery from one car passes electricity
to the other car to give some life to the battery of that car. Officers
use language to give orders, teachers use language to instruct their
students, and my friend uses language to make me stop with them for a drink.

Indeed the list I gave in the first paragraph are language concepts to
define in very minute detail our mind set for a motive to act. Wants and
needs both direct our mind set to activate our motor skills to interact
with the world to bring about what we want or need. And although in
everyday use we might not distinguish a clear difference between these
two mind sets, at a deeper level the subtle and not so subtle
differences regulate, or have the potential to regulate, the nature or
intensity of our actions.

There is a difference between my friend telling me that he or she needed
a beer now, from just wanting a beer. There is an urgency about needing
a beer now which is not present in just wanting a beer. Why is this

If what we want (plus the other mind sets) is a motivational impulse, an
impulse to act in a certain way, are all these different mind sets the
same at the very mental level? As I have just said from the language
perspective each different word is supposed to elicit a certain set of
ideas in us. eg want from need. Is it possible, however, that we just
over time or use forget the subtle differences between these mind sets?
Can we reach a point where wishes, needs wants etc just mean the same
and have the same effect on us?

One aspect of language is indeed to help us gauge the chances of
something happening or the time frame it can happen. A need is more
urgent than what we want, but what about a wish or desire? What are the
chances of my wish for world peace happening? We all wish for world
peace, but would a mind set of needing world peace make sense? Basically
world peace is just not going to happen!

I would argue that some people in life become disappointed because they
haven't got a realistic sense of distinguishing needs, wants and wishes.
Thus wanting to be a successful athlete means that one must have a good
physical constitution but if one does not have the physical make up for
an athlete nothing is going to happen.

It is therefore quite clear that not only do we need to linguistically
classify our mental states correctly but then we need to have a fair
idea of what is involved to bring about that which we want.

We generally do get our language and our information right concerning
matters of wants, wishes desires etc. But many times this fails and we
end up bitterly disappointed. An alternative strategy would be to focus
on what we can get. Not many people are Olympic gold material but many
people have a satisfying life enjoying sport activities.

Some might argue that focusing on what we can get would, at the very
least, hamper our ambitions or even stultify our ambitions. A more
serious charge would be that this mentality of going after what we can
get will turn us into opportunists; living the equivalent of rational
nomads, or worse we become the sharks of the rational world.

Well focusing on what we can get might not turn us into sharks of the
rational world, but if the pre history narrative is to be believed, our
first ancestors were indeed hunter-gathers in other words going after
what they could get. Hence, at which point did we turn from
hunter-gathers, happy with what we can get, to economic creatures
focused on what we want?

Indeed hunting and gathering is the main strategy of the animal kingdom.
But we made the jump to wanting things, things that do not necessarily
grow on trees nor graze on the parries. Does this mean that one strategy
is better than the other? Or could it be that the strategy might not be
as important as identifying correctly what our mind set is and then
correctly ascertain what we need to know to turn that mind set into a

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Café Madrid
Calle del Meson de Panos in Opera

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What we want and
what we can get

13 October 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is beauty an advantage?

Is beauty an advantage?

Beauty is an old subject in philosophy and aesthetics. It is also an old
subject in art, culture and our lives.

The arguments about beauty have in one way or another centred on whether
beauty is subjective or objective and indeed: what is beauty? We
therefore cannot escape these issues whether we like it or not.

And although beauty can be present in a myriad of things, we can agree
to split the topic in two parts: beauty of things and beauty of human
beings. I will slant my ideas on beauty of human beings.

I do subscribe to the notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
but the eye of the beholder can never see (metaphorically and physically
speaking) anything without sense perception. So what matters is not so
much what we see but rather what we perceive: I will therefore contend
that even visually impaired people can experience beauty.

But seeing is not enough. We can only make sense of what we see if we
can put what we see into a context. The context gives us the scope of
what we perceive or see: context also gives us the ability to describe
what we see in language form. Seeing an Amanita muscaria mushroom (Fly
agaric) in a forest fills me with a sense of natural beauty with its
orange and red colours. But seeing the ugly blackish trombetta dei morti
(Italian) or horn of plenty (common English) means that I am in for a
culinary delight in the evening since these mushrooms have a very
enchanting and agreeable taste when prepared fresh in food.

This brings me to the first issue of our debate: beauty is advantageous
for whom? The holder of beauty or the beholder of beauty? If mushrooms
are anything to go by, beauty seems to benefit the holder of beauty and
not necessarily the beholder.

To suggest that beauty is an advantage suggests that a choice is
involved: a choice between what is perceived as desirable and the not so
much desirable. And choices are usually made in the context of our
beliefs and desires; but when we make a choice we are also explicitly
asking ourselves what is this thing of beauty for? What's in it for me?

Back to our mushrooms in the forest there are a number of factors that
would make one mushroom beautiful for one purpose but not another.
Knowledge and useful information about what is beautiful (or ugly) can
help us decide whether something beautiful has an advantage for us or
the mushroom. The problem is that whilst mushrooms are either colourful,
and thus beautiful, or dull and ugly, being beautiful does not
necessarily mean good.

But I promised to focus on human beauty. We have been told that the Mona
Lisa is supposed to be the paradigm of female beauty and enigma, and the
statue of David the paradigm of male beauty. Or at the very least of
physical beauty. The question, however, is whether these are examples of
beauty. I would argue that the Mona Lisa and the Statue of David are
examples of beautiful (people): but not necessarily paradigm examples of
beauty. Indeed can there be a paradigm of beauty despite the fact that
we can distinguish between someone who is beautiful and someone who
isn't. Is there a Platonic form of beauty: probably not!

Of course, an alternative to the subjective argument of beauty is that,
beauty is objective and that some examples of human beauty can be
described as paradigm examples of beauty. But this argument goes beyond
the claim that some features in people make them beautiful. Those who
employ the objective argument of beauty go much further by suggesting
that these paradigm examples are to be emulated, copied, desired and in
many cases discriminate against those who do not fit the paradigm in
favour of those who do. Maybe the failure of this argument is the reason
why the Aryan race doctrine failed.

But if the Mona Lisa is to be a paradigm of beauty I can easily put
forward two (out of many) other paintings that certainly have the status
of a beauty paradigm: Doña Isabel de Porcel by Goya and the young woman
in the Umbrellas painting by Renoir. In modern times the fashion model
Twiggy represented a new paradigm shift in female beauty.

But even paradigms and paradigm shifts cannot escape the clutches of
context: the beauty of Twiggy is the beauty of the woman next door like
most women on Earth who became a paradigm shift of beauty. Renoir
preceded this idea with the Umbrellas painting. The Mona Lisa and Doña
Isabel de Porcel are examples of wealth and privilege a theme that still
persists today. A side note, Leonardo da Vinci and Goya were more like
photojournalists of today, depicting the facts, whereas Renoir was the
first "street photographer" depicting life in the streets of a city.

What is important for us is that while beauty and beautiful things have
not changed, beauty itself is not a pre ordained privilege. So if beauty
is not a privilege but a fact of reproductive nature and evolution, what
kind of advantage is (human) beauty?

By definition, an advantage is something that is desirable but only a
few people posses. In a way beauty is an advantage because it is scarce,
and this is basic economic theory. Scarce resources attract a better
premium price than mundane things. The negative side of beauty is that
it takes up a lot of energy trying to maximise the "benefit" of this
scarce resource.

Thus although beauty might very well be an advantage it is not an
advantage without costs. But if beauty is a scarce resource, how can
there be a paradigm of what is human? Secondly, if there is an arms race
to be the most beautiful this suggests that beauty is no longer an
advantage but a norm.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Café Madrid
Calle del Meson de Panos in Opera

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is beauty an advantage?

06 October 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Hope and Action

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Hope and Action.

Don't forget that we now meet at the Café Madrid in Opera at 6:30pm.

Our topic for this week can be described, at best, as a comparison of
opposites. The essence of –hope- is that we cannot do much to bring
about a desired result. Either results of events that might be natural
or what other people will do in the future. Indeed, we are more likely
to be affected in our day-to-day lives by what other people decide to do
than any natural phenomenon. Thus the key feature of hope is an
inability to act or influence outcomes.

If we decide to act we do so because we believe we can act and believe
we have a good chance to bring about the desired outcome. Sure a prudent
person won't assume that things will turn out how they wish, but the
clever person might have a reasonable idea of what the outcome will be.
Action is based on confidence or a belief that we have some chance to
change or will events in our favour.

Sometimes we succeed in our actions and sometimes people do act in our
favour; but not always.

There are a number of issues we can discuss: can we bridge the gap
between hope and action? Indeed does hope lead to inaction? We are so
busy believing that there is nothing we can do that we actually do nothing.

And even more interesting, do our options to act increase with more
knowledge and information we have about a situation?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Café Madrid
Calle del Meson de Panos in Opera

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Hope and Action