Thursday, November 29, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Friendship through Social Media.... essay by Mariona

Dear friends,

The essay promised by Mariona:

One of human being's main features is their sociability. As Aristotle said,
we are social beings by nature. We need others to survive; for instance, we
would have never been able to learn our language without having someone to
teach it to us. However, as technology evolves, the further away we move
from each other. From the previous statement we can ask ourselves: is
social media putting an end to our innate sociability?

Interactions between people vary depending on how personal they are, the
reason(s) why they exist, the time they last… While with some people we are
acquaintances, with others we develop a more personal and close
relationship, resulting in friendships. Technological advances have allowed
us to connect to people in many different ways, as a result, they have a
clear impact on how we make and maintain our friends. Nowadays you can get
to know people without the need of seeing them physically, and you can
maintain long-distance friendships you had developed in the past.
Therefore, can it be said that social media has a positive impact on our
friendships? Do they strengthen them?
As I see it, each one of us has two personas: a real-life and an online
one. The real-life one is composed by how we actually are: the way we
behave, talk, dress... The online persona is artificial, we create it. We
reflect through social media the best part of our selves, but it is not
exactly a real image of our true self. So, how can friendships be authentic
through social media?

On one hand, social media might not be 'killing' our friendships, but
adding a new category. Aristotle highlighted three different types of
friendships: (1) for utility (both parties benefit from the relationship);
(2) accidental (based on same interests); (3) the true friendships (last
all our lives; based on a similar appreciation of virtue and life). Social
media might be a fourth type of friendship, for instance. Or we could even
classify our 'online friendships' into one of the categories Aristotle
pointed out.

On the other hand, if I am not myself in my social media profiles, my
friendships will turn out to be fake. To get to know well a person, you
need to see him/her in real-life, as it is then when we perceive their
true-self, and an authentic connection can be resulted from this offline

So, in order to discuss this topic, we should consider different subtopics:
do we need to show our true selves in order to gain true friendships? Can
online friends be categorized as another kind of friendship? Is social
media positive or negative towards how we interact with each other?


Best Lawrence

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Friendship through Social Media + Note

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Friendship through Social Media

Unfortunately, I won't be able to send the email this Thursday as usual,
hence the email today. In the meantime Mariona will try to write an
essay for us that I will post on Thursday or Friday on the blog and MeetUp.

So please check these links for the essay later in the week:

See you on Sunday and all the best


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

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Friendship through
Social Media + Note

Friday, November 23, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Being evil and mental disorder

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Being evil and mental disorder.

The fact that we are talking about "evil" and the "mental" takes us back
to the issue of duality or the mind body problem. Or rather the mind
side of the equation. Although evil is an emotional word, it is supposed
to belong to the rational phase of human beings.

Evil also pertains to morality and ethics which basically concerns us
with our relationship with other fellow human beings. Morality, we are
told, should go beyond behaviour and into the realm of free will and

But this is where language lets us down. Mental disorders, can only be
brain disorders, this is now a settled issue. So how can we be held to
account for our brain disorders?  In reality we do not have a problem
with this. Simply because we do have some tools and enough knowledge to
distinguish actions caused by a normally functioning human being and
actions caused by a brain "disease". Our problem is more identifying the
border line cases. And of course, the perennial problem of do we know
enough to make value judgements.

So for us, an important question is to distinguish evil actions caused
by a mentally sound person and actions caused by a person with mental
disorders. On the traditional view, we need to establish this
information to either punish or lock up the person. On the other hand,
how ethical would it be to try and identify people in advance who may or
may not be evil? Our objective is to prevent evil and not just fix the
damage of evil. And do we have a duty to try and pre-empt the actions of
another person on the belief that they might cause evil?

Best Lawrence

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

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Being evil and
mental disorder

Friday, November 16, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Are we Westerners losing our culture?

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Are we Westerners losing our culture?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to write an essay today on this
specific topic, but way back in 2007 we discussed Mixing Cultures; and
culture appears a number of times in many other topics. Have a look at
the blog for an idea what we've discussed so far:

Best Lawrence

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

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Are we Westerners
losing our culture?

Friday, November 09, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Are the psychological and physical realms independent?

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing a rather long question: Are the
psychological and physical realms independent?

It is a long question but it is not a difficult question since as I
indicate in my essay it is a matter of language how we understand this
question. If you don't feel like reading the essay just have a look at
my conclusion.

Are the psychological and physical realms independent?

This question was originally: Are the psychological and physical realms
ontologically independent? We dropped the "ontologically" not to occupy
too much space in the subject heading and also not to make Sunday's
topic sound too complicated.

So basically the question starts with the old mind-body problem,
although the present question is slightly different since it is about
the psychological and physical realms. You will remember that the key
issue about the mind-body problem is how can the soul or mind interact
with the body.

Descartes is usually credited with introducing the problem in modern
thinking by trying to establish what is real or true. He first proposed
to distinguish between thinking things (beings) and matter which is
unthinking. Then he moved on to distinguish between thinking as
something unextended, because he can think of matter not existing, and
matter as an extended thing but does not think. The problem with the "I
think therefore I am" (French: je pense, donc je suis) is how can the
thinking part, i.e the mind or soul influence the body?

We can make an allowance for Descartes in that he was influenced or
constrained by the role of religion in the belief that humans have a
soul, and this soul is not physical. So if the soul is not a physical
thing than what is it? And to add confusion to false thinking we were
also supposed to believe that animals do not think because they have no
soul. Even though they seem to do many things that humans do as well:
like be happy, be scared, ask for food and so on.

For me Descartes failed in his philosophy (the cogito) by the fact that
he never doubted the language he was using for his ideas. Today, thanks
to Wittgenstein, we accept that language is a public affair. Descartes
should have said, "I know French and Latin, so I am a human being", but
that another story!

Today, mind is used in psychology to cover a myriad of behaviours and
mannerisms such as: "…..set of cognitive faculties including
consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory.
(Wikipedia)". Of course, this is not a sophisticated definition of mind
in psychology but an illustration how far the meaning of mind has
changed from something akin to a soul to something akin to behaviour and

This evolution of the term mind or should we say "meme" suggests that
whatever mind is and more importantly what it is suppose to be has moved
on from the realm of philosophy into the realm of psychology. In a way
this is the role of philosophy, to clear the confused thinking in our
head. But psychology tries to solve people's behavioural/mental
problems, and at the other end how these mind components work. But to
put a cat amongst the pigeons, how can we explain in psychology the
Heisenberg uncertainty principle in Quantum Mechanics of the observer
affecting the result of what the observer is trying to discover?

Indeed our topic limits this issue of duality to the scope of the human
set of "behaviour" and the physical world. This is important in that
today we recognise that the physical world interacts and influences our
behaviour. My consciousness is an experience of things around me which I
also recognise many to be independent of me. And unlike Descartes, my
memory of the nice cake I had in Gijon last year was not a fiction of
some evil god, but a real temptation that no reasonable person would
resist from outside the tea shop.

But we still have to ask whether the mind, whatever it is, or the
psychological, as a modern term to what eons ago was called the soul or
mind or whatever term was the fashion at the time. Indeed today we
accept that the brain (and nervous system) is where the mind inhabits
and our consciousness, and language, and memory and so on happen in the
brain. But the problem of duality still exists in the form of The
Mind/Brain Identity Theory (see The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Basically this identity theory suggests that states of the mind are
states of the brain although the mind is not necessarily the brain. The
Encyclopedia article gives the example of saying something like "She has
a good mind" as equal to "She has a good brain" but not "Her mind weighs
fifty ounces (1.4Kg)". But the problem is not one of language, of
replacing the word mind with brain or vice versa; it a problem of
ontology. Meaning, at the very least, that mind and brain are entities
with their own identity. The way I understand this is not to compare
steam and ice as being states of water, but with orange juice and brandy
being different forms of "water" or "liquid".

So is the mind or the psychological independent, i.e. different, from
the body or the physical world? Much as I hate to go contrary to ideas
in other disciplines, this issue of psychological/physical is no less a
confused state of our natural language than Descartes' failure to
consider that language can also be a fiction of some evil deceiver.

To ask the question "what is X?" in science is to fall into some form of
Aristotelian category or taxonomy: basically a language exercise in the
hope of converting large amounts of information into tidy parcels of
patters our brain can cope with.

The scientific question we should be asking is "what causes X?" and then
maybe move on to "How is X caused?"  The scientific question should not
be what is the mind? Or what is consciousness? Or what is language? But
what causes consciousness etc etc? Today we are beginning to come round
to talking about causality in human beings. Indeed, I would argue, there
is only the brain, and that we have the ability to speak about
consciousness and so on is an achievement of how powerful our brain is
to be able to create a tool like language and that our brain is able to
make sense of steam and ice!!

So, expressions like "she has a good brain" and "her mind weighs 1.4kg"
are not problems of ontology, or the physical or whatever, but a
capacity of our brain making sense of these perceptual stimuli. At this
point I have to repeat my mantra that the "mind is what the brain calls
itself in polite society." The collective brains of past and present
people have created this tool called language that can help us
distinguish such statements as "I have a headache" and "I have tooth
ache" and still recognize the semantic concept of pain.

Why is it important, therefore, to establish whether the psychological,
or mind, is independent from the physical? The reason is basically the
same people like Descartes wanted to establish what is true, or what is
real, precisely to establish what is moral and what is the good? In the
17th century it was acceptable to assume that what the king said was
good, in the same way that good was what god said was good.

But what is good or what is moral or ethical does not bring an iota of
goodness in the world. How to cause goodness does bring about goodness
in the world. The cake pâtissier in Gijon knows how to make goodness.
Doctors who care and maybe cure their patients know how to create
goodness? Politicians who provide a political environment of fairness
and justice know how to cause goodness. Our concern should not be what
is the psychological but what causes the psychological?

Best Lawrence

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

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Are the
psychological and physical realms independent?

Thursday, November 01, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Interesting people

Interesting People

In every society and country we find heroes, saints and celebrities.
Indeed with the advent of social media our celebrities have probably
become our heroes and saints. This is not to say that we have abandoned
our past heroes and saints but that today's celebrities are more
relevant for us.

What is important for our topic is that many people might think a
particular celebrity is an interesting person but not another. So
recently I was at a film premiere photocall where many popular celebs
were expected to be there. Eventually the leading actor of the film
entered the photocall and all the fans at the back erupted into a single
scream calling out his name. But a particular fan had an even more
penetrating voice (scream) than the rest. So every time her hero
appeared she would scream her head off. Sometimes she would shout the
name of another actor or actress posing, until an actor came along to
pose; much older than the hero but not as handsome as the hero. So this
young fan upon seeing this older actor screamed his name at the full
capacity of her lungs followed by "….you are here already!!!" At which
point everyone around burst out laughing.

The moral of the story is that even heroes have competition and there is
always someone else who is even more interesting. The question is why?
Why do we feel that some people are more interesting than others?

By interesting I do not mean attractive, sexy, handsome, beautiful,
friendly, nice, intelligent or whatever, although some of these
characteristics might be present. We simply find one person interesting
and not another. We might even not know anything about the person but
still think they are an interesting person. Of course, we might
eventually discover that they are not that interesting after all but
that's a different matter.

This experience is something, I guess, we have come across since our
school days. Some class mates were simply funny and the jokers of the
class, others were the troublemakers, but sometimes there would be
someone who everyone respected and always listened to what they had to
say; very difficult to achieve at school but it does happen sometimes,
they were just interesting. Today, as adults, I would venture to say we
can spot these "interesting" people in every aspects of our daily life,
including the setting of a bus or metro ride.

Of course, in the animal kingdom especially primates there is the
element of respect and the focus of every animal on a particular
creature, but this is more due to fear and power than to "the animal
being interesting". At least we can reasonably assume that this is the
case with animals. But even this phenomenon is present when humans look
at animals; some animals are more interesting than others.

Although I have excluded a whole list of characteristics from being the
cause of being interesting, I am in no doubt that a number of perceptual
and psychological indicators or factors might be playing a causal role
in our judgement. Maybe subconsciously we are looking for friend or foe
type of signals from a person in question; healthy or diseases, unusual
or angelic looking.

Indeed, all successful catwalk models have to be able to perform what in
the business is called an "eyesmile"; basically smiling with one's eyes
with no other facial expressions. A smile is indeed a signal of a friend
or friendly posture thus a model that can perform an eyesmile will
attract our attention much longer and thus look at the apparel she (or
he) is wearing that much longer. Actors can eyesmile, except this is
more controversial since actors have to convey the character they are
playing whilst models are trying to be different by being friendly
instead of the expressionless pose of the catwalk. Please note this has
nothing to do with being seductive; in most cases the designer instructs
models to eyesmile or be seductive but not both.

But even the way we look at people might shift the balance between being
interesting or just being. Maybe these subtle mannerisms from people
plus other context signals might play a key role in finding a person
interesting or not. Some might argue that this is just a sexual
attraction in disguise. No doubt some cases are precisely a sexual
attraction, but this assumes that interesting people can only be
interesting if they belong to a gender we are attracted to or at the
very best also sexually attracted to in some specific cases.

Maybe because we are inundated with sexual messages or stressed out
(otherwise known as frustration) about sex that we miss other forms of
subtle signals from people who might be as advantageous and useful to us
as much as mating. One thing we can all agree upon is that we are really
interested in interesting things and people; who wants to spend time
with dull and boring people?

It is true that someone we might think is interesting might turn out not
to be. But this idea implies that we had the opportunity to find out
more about the interesting person in question. What is relevant is not
that we were wrong, we are more often wrong than right about many
things, but that we were right about someone we think they are
interesting when we knew nothing about them.

An actor or actress we know nothing about but think they are an
interesting person might turn out to have been a super success at
university or some other profession. Maybe a politician might have an
unusual hobby or qualification. There is no question about it, every
time we correctly predict a future event, in our case the person is
really interesting, not only do we feel good about it but feel more
confident in our method of predicting future events.

So where is the philosophy is all this? To begin with, what are the
necessary and sufficient conditions that make someone interesting? Are
these conditions natural, subjective or even universal? Are we really
that good at predicating future facts about people, compared say at
predicting the lotto, or is this interesting people phenomenon just a
random event of our imagination? And maybe, are we programmed to search
for interesting people or is this a passive trait we have and sometimes
we are bothered to notice?

Best Lawrence

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

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Interesting people

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