Thursday, May 31, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The opium of the people today + Saturday Film

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The opium of the people today.

But first we are going to the movies this Saturday 2nd June to see the
Terry Gilliam film "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" which as you know
Matilda plays a key role in this adventure-comedy film!

I propose the 5:20pm showing at the Cine Ideal so we have enough time to
go for a drink after. Please get your own tickets; I'll try to be at the
cinema by 5:00pm.
"The Man Who Killed Don Quixote"
Original version with Spanish subtitles
Show Time: 5:20pm
Cine Ideal, Calle del Dr Cortezo, 6, 28012 Madrid

In the meantime for Sunday:

The opium of the people today

At the time Karl Marx wrote "Religion is the opium of the people", in
1843, which is not the actual sentence Marx wrote, China and Britain
were involved in the Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856–1860). You will
remember that Britain sold opium from India to Chinese addicts and with
the proceeds they bought luxuries from China to ship to Britain.

It is also unsurprising that when the Chinese government objected to the
British activities their (British) response was to lay siege* of Canton
(now Guangzhou) and Nanjing. Gunboat diplomacy is a very common way to
solve issues between powerful countries and smaller countries who object
to being exploited.

So while this idea of "…opium of the people" is not necessarily an
original invention of Marx it is an excellent description of the state
of affairs of people at the time. Religion, however, is probably cheaper
and maybe just as effective to exploit people.

The idea of the saying is both to highlight the scope of alienation from
one's fate in life and to create a sense of compliance that can be
exploited by others. The addiction to opium is not just the biological
effects of the chemicals in opium on the brain, but also the
understanding of the person (the addict) that there is a causal
connection between the plant and the hallucinating effects caused by the
opium. Of course, when I say understanding I don't mean rational
understanding but causal process understanding. The sale of the opium is
the exploitative part.

So what we are looking for is today's equivalent of those things that
create a feel good effect in our brain which we understand to be the
causal connection between what we do and what we feel. The exploitation
is to supply whatever it is that bridges the gap. Some commentators
compare Marx's religion to modern sports, fashion, celebrity,
entertainment and so on. Personally I think this is a wrong
interpretation of religion in modern times.

Religion is not about any deity or code of ethics, but about our sense
of feeling good from doing 'good' or being good. Friendship, love,
charity, cause campaigning, and volunteering are all means of causing in
us this idea of self worth which leads us to feel good about ourselves.
Feeling good is a good motivator for human beings.

Another desirable effect about religion is that it keeps society in some
order. But like gunboat diplomacy religion does not always work. If the
objective of opium, religion or whatever it is that creates awareness in
us of feeling good about us, how are we expected to apply limits to this
commodity? Thus, exploiting the "feel good" feeling in us can go awry
and we end up with extremist zealots, dangerous behaviour, unhealthy
narcissism and so on.

Today, we have more opportunities to feel good about us through social
media which is no less metaphysical about the real world as religion is
about the life of deities. Social media and accessing social media is
also very cheap. Our ability to contact long lost friends makes us feel
virtuous about ourselves, keeping in touch with family thousands of
miles away makes us feel good, ranting on about some politician makes us
feel even better and seeing ourselves in selfies and photos can do
wonders to our ego. A note of caution here, this has nothing to do with
narcissism. What we are referring to are justifiable feelings to have
and justifiable activities to pursue. There is nothing inherently wrong
with keeping in touch with friends.

But where is the exploitation and what is the product we are paying for?
The exploitation is us exposing ourselves more efficiently to
advertisers, social engineers and political scientists, plus the gadgets
we buy to connect onto the social media. When we connect to social media
we are also providing information about our behaviour and beliefs that
can be used to monitor us, social dynamics, and surely an opportunity
change social dynamics by those in power.

On the internet, and social media in particular, we are the product:
information about us is valuable data for modelling human behaviour,
invent new device and formulate policies to keep us alienated from the
reality of the world, plus as I said we can be identified individually
by those in power. And this alienation from reality may or may not be
the product of some 'evil deceiver'! As observers of social media keep
telling us; if it's free on the internet, you are the product.

Best Lawrence
* see for example Gunboat diplomacy by 'Dean Swift' the pen name of the

tel: 606081813
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The opium of the
people today + Saturday Film

Friday, May 25, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is happiness the most important goal?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Is happiness the most important goal?

We have discussed happiness many times each time with a different
question to contemplate. What's different with this question is the
suggestion that happiness might not be the Alpha and Omega of our
existence. And if it is not what else could it be?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813

Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is happiness the
most important goal?

Friday, May 18, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Do we make our destiny?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Do we make our destiny?

Strictly speaking if our future is destined to be than it doesn't matter
what we do what happens is our destiny. Furthermore, whatever we do, it
does contribute to our destiny.

So what we really must distinguish is what is going to happen to us and
what do we wish for or want from our life? What we want and what our
life will be like in the future are two different things.

Thus what we want, which is more conceptually manageable rather than the
raffle of the future, seems to have two conditions. The first is that:
the more what we want requires more time to achieve the more likely we
stand to fail. And if we fail it's because there are too many factors
independent of us to mitigate our failure. Sometimes failure is no
reflection on us.

The second condition is that we might not know what really needs to be
done to achieve what we want. Life is difficult enough when things are
clear, but what about things we are not too familiar with?

Maybe we use words like destiny when we really don't understand what is
going and intellectually we give up trying to understand.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813

Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Do we make our destiny?

Friday, May 11, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Bye, Bye Love letters

Dear Friends,

Just when we thought we exhausted the topic of love, Matilda opened a
new rich seam on the subject for debate. This Sunday we will be
discussing: Bye, Bye Love letters.

What makes love letters special? And more seriously has the digital age
destroyed love?

It cannot be the thoughts and ideas in love letters, as such, that makes
love letters special. An email can easily capture the feelings and
sentiments in prose of a lover as much as a hand written letter. I do
not think that the emotions and sentiments are lost or will be lost in
love emails, but I do agree that love letters do have a value which
emails do not have.

The unique quality of a love letter is that it is written in the hand
writing of the lover. The unique hand writing of the lover is
transmitted on to a piece of tangible paper and is a physical token once
touch by the lover. A text set in Ariel 12pt on a screen will never
transmit this physical proximity. Love emails are like fish in an
aquarium: pretty but they cannot be touched.

For extra effect a love letter can even be scented with a special
perfume which only the lovers can enjoy with a profound meaning. And
which part of the monitor or mobile phone does one kiss to send a tender
kiss to one's lover?

But does an email kill romance? I do not think that the digital age will
kill romance but it will certainly kill the love letter for the simple
reason that the love letter has today been replaced by the love chat
(including email). This is not only romantic but also intimate and more
importantly it is immediate. But there is an added advantage of the love
chat and that is it can be repeated at any time of the day or night.
This is a huge contrast to waiting for the postman in the morning; yes
at the time they were men!

Unfortunately, Newton's third law, for every action, there is an equal
and opposite reaction (Wikipedia), also applies to love emails or love
chats. A digital romance gone wrong can have serious implications. The
problem is not so much that these romantic digital exchanges can be
discovered, but once discovered they are potentially open for the rest
of the world to see.

Moreover, it's very easy to misdirect a love email to the wrong person
especially if you already have a partner and you misdirect your love
email to your partner. It's very unlikely that we address a love letter
meant for our lover to our partner.

An intimate photo taken under a spell of romance can easily ruin or
damage the reputation of a victim; it might even be a crime to publish
such photos. But then again photos today are part of the love email or
love chat which might not have been easy in the past.

The letters might have gone, but the world of love and romance is still
here; if, that is, we can get away from social media and the internet to
convert the digital world into a physical world.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Bye, Bye Love letters

Friday, May 04, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Revenge

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Revenge

We have all been there, when someone makes us angry and we want some
payback. This might be a big thing, betrayal by one's partner to a
simple act of being overcharged for a drink.

A sense of revenge has two component necessary conditions: a sense of
wrong doing and a strong feeling of anger. Sometimes the matter is
trivial but in many other times revenge can lead to very serious
consequences. The bombing of London during the Battle of Britain,
whether by accident or by choice, made it acceptable for the British air
force to bomb civilian targets, for example the bombing of civilian
districts in Hamburg and towards the end of the war to fire bomb Dresden.

Wars are the ultimate examples of revenge gone out of control and beyond
the boundaries of morality. But in everyday life revenge comes in
various shapes and forms. For example, leaving a bad review of a
restaurant on a social media site because the waiter was rude to you.

We, therefore, have a number of issues here. Is it always unethical to
seek revenge? Is the sense of revenge more primordial than the ethical
boundaries we impose on ourselves?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813

Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

Our new meeting place is now the Gran Clavel. We meet downstairs but
PLEASE get your drink before you come down to the library. The waiters
will direct you if you cannot find us.

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Revenge

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