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Old May 3rd, 2017, 03:53 PM   #101
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I think it is clear that humans diverged biologically from chimpanzee-like apes in order to keep up with the evolution of their social and technological environment, and not vice versa, as simple-minded people think.

Naturally, there was a certain chicken-and-the-egg interplay between the two -- what the communists used to call "dialectic", and American science-geeks call "synergy". But the main driving force is the evolution of the environment. Recent human biological change is, in the main, a response to the evolution of the social and technological environment of humans, not the cause of that evolution.

If human children were torn from the social web that enfolds us all, raised without exposure to language and all the other aspects of modern society, I maintain that they would resemble chimpanzees (very autistic chimpanzees!!) much more than they would what most people think of as human beings.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 03:16 PM   #102
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Subatomic Logic

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In a quantum computer, information is stored not as a string of ones and zeroes, but as a series of quantum-mechanical states: spin directions of electrons, for instance, or polarization orientations of a photon. In 1985 David Deutsch of the University of Oxford pointed out that quantum physical law allows particles to be in more than one state at a time, making it possible for each particle in a quantum computer to hold more than one bit of information. (In this field, the term "bit" is replaced by "qubit," meaning quantum bit.) A computer containing, say, a hundred particles could execute a computation on 2100 numbers at once. The ability to crunch many numbers at the same time--known as massive parallelism--would make quantum computers ideal for some basic computing tasks, such as factoring large numbers. Two years ago, Peter W. Shor of AT&T Bell Labs presented an algorithm showing exactly how a quantum computer would carry out such task.
But there is much more to quantum computers than breaking down large numbers....
...Lov K. Grover, also at Bell Labs, announced a more down-to-earth application: a crafty algorithm that, building on Shor's ideas, would allow a quantum computer to make lightning-fast searches through a database. In this scheme, each item in the database would be represented by a quantum state of a particle in the computer. Relying on the inherently fuzzy laws governing those particles, Grover's algorithm would enhance the state in the system corresponding to the desired item and suppress the others. Rather than slogging dumbly through a list, the algorithm operates on all of the particles at once, so it could far exceed the speed and efficiency of a classical computer.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 04:20 PM   #103
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A bogus quote of non-pre-existent text, followed by no comment. WTF?
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Old May 11th, 2017, 03:14 PM   #104
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I think it is wise to make a distinction between taste, which is subjective, and aesthetic judgment, which has a core that is objective, and does not change.

I agree with Shakespeare, when he has Hamlet say,

"Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of which, one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others."

The objective core of art is notoriously difficult to define, but in a finger-pointing way of defining it, I think it comes down to the traditional cliché of the Good, the True, the Harmonious. As Plato said in the Philebus,

"If we are not able to capture the Good in a single idea, we shall do so with three: Beauty, Harmony, and Truth."

The highest works of art are those which best permit goodness, truth and harmony to shine through them; that is why Bach and Mozart are greater than any rock-and-roll or heavy metal music.

It may be objected that even in heavy metal music, American militarism and Nazi ritual there are aesthetic components which have a certain "beauty" of their own. This is true, but to become Platonic, these are very dim, fading shadows of the true Beauty which shines forth in the great works of Art. In general, whatever aesthetic components such trash possesses are merely formal, superficial craftsmanship and illuminate true Beauty very ill. Bach, on the other hand, raises us to a transcendent realm where we glimpse what the angels sing to God.

Germany produced Bach, and many, many other towering figures in the arts. Europe is resplendent with Great Art.

The United States produced Elvis.

American barbarism, if it had any sense, would bend the knee and worship at the shrine of European Greatness.
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Old May 12th, 2017, 04:09 PM   #105
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POWER CORRUPTS --- AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY

Alas, this is the downfall of all societies and governments ever since so-called "civilization" began, some ten thousand years ago.

And, of course, it is the downfall of the United States as it presently exists.

Sh¡t floats. The cheaters, the chiselers, the creeps always seem to worm their way up to the top of any organization, given enough time.

Is this preventable, or is it just a part of the human condition which must be endured?

It has never yet been prevented, but I think it is possible to prevent, or, at least, greatly mitigate.

Some ancient Indian philosophers thought that there were three grounds for valid knowledge: induction, deduction, and divine revelation.

I think that there are three grounds for a decent human society: the carrot, the stick, and the Beauty of Harmony.

Order the Beauty even of Beauty is,
It is the Rule of Bliss,
The very Life and Form and Cause of Pleasure;
Which if we do not understand,
Ten thousand Heaps of vain confuséd Treasure
Will but oppress the Land.
In Blessedness itself we that shall miss
Being Blind which is the Cause of Bliss.

--- Thomas Traherne

But I guess that is just my "hive mind" at work again.

Contrary to the wisdom of political leaders, economists, and Ayn Rand, I just can't help feeling that:

It is better to serve in Heaven, than reign in Hell. ---
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Old May 14th, 2017, 03:09 PM   #106
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I would never say that there is no aesthetic virtue at all in the inferior productions of American mass culture, but these worthy elements are swamped by the vastly greater amount of evil that is propagated by this "culture."

Plato had justification for wishing that inferior art be banished from his ideal Republic --- which was, of course, a metaphor for banishing it from the life and consciousness of the individual person.

Even if we do not go so far, it is wise to treat any art which is not worthy to be considered High Culture as a dangerous drug, which may serve some positive ends, but which should always be used with a keen consciousness of the evils which it may introduce into the purity of the soul.
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Old May 14th, 2017, 03:18 PM   #107
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I would never say that there is no aesthetic virtue at all in the inferior productions of American mass culture, but these worthy elements are swamped by the vastly greater amount of evil that is propagated by this "culture."

Plato had justification for wishing that inferior art be banished from his ideal Republic --- which was, of course, a metaphor for banishing it from the life and consciousness of the individual person.

Even if we do not go so far, it is wise to treat any art which is not worthy to be considered High Culture as a dangerous drug, which may serve some positive ends, but which should always be used with a keen consciousness of the evils which it may introduce into the purity of the soul.
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KISS is awesome culture - get with the program!

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Old May 18th, 2017, 03:39 PM   #108
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My favorite work of non-monumental Egyptian art, even if it does come from the New Kingdom, is the bust of Nefertiti which is presently held by the Ägyptisches Museum in Berlin.



As with all great works of sculpture, it looks very different depending on the angle at which it is viewed, and the type of lighting with which it is illuminated. Sometimes she looks young and innocently mischievous, but I am most impressed when she is seen as holding a noble pose, looking eternally across the ages, never flinching as she awaits her gods to speak to her. That sometimes moves me almost to tears.

P.S. What has the United States ever produced that even approaches the magnificence of this single work of art?
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Old May 18th, 2017, 03:40 PM   #109
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My favorite work of non-monumental Egyptian art, even if it does come from the New Kingdom, is the bust of Nefertiti which is presently held by the Ägyptisches Museum in Berlin.



As with all great works of sculpture, it looks very different depending on the angle at which it is viewed, and the type of lighting with which it is illuminated. Sometimes she looks young and innocently mischievous, but I am most impressed when she is seen as holding a noble pose, looking eternally across the ages, never flinching as she awaits her gods to speak to her. That sometimes moves me almost to tears.

P.S. What has the United States ever produced that even approaches the magnificence of this single work of art?
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Last edited by Aufgeblassen; May 18th, 2017 at 03:46 PM.
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Old May 23rd, 2017, 03:50 PM   #110
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It is true that I am impressed by a wider range of art than many people appear to think. However, the purpose of my postings on this thread has been to draw a clear distinction between art seen as craftsmanship, technique and taste, and High Art, which illuminates the Good, the True and the Beautiful to a much higher degree than art which merely appeals to individual taste.

In the United States there is much art which displays individuality, quirkiness and interesting techniques, but there is a remarkable lack of High Art which inspires one with a love of the highest pinnacle of human awareness, the knowledge of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

Yeats has one of his fools say:

All men live in suffering,
I know as few can know,
Whether they take the upper road
Or stay content on the low,
Rower bent in his row-boat
Or weaver bent at his loom,
Horseman erect upon horseback
Or child hid in the womb.
Daybreak and a candle-end.

That some stream of lightning
From the old man in the skies
Can burn out that suffering
No right-taught man denies.
But a coarse old man am I,
I choose the second-best,
I forget it all awhile
Upon a woman's breast.
Daybreak and a candle-end.


Americans, in general, prefer comfort, like the fool in the poem. They turn their backs on the Fire from Heaven.
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Old May 24th, 2017, 12:17 PM   #111
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Democracy, Oligarchy, Monarchy, Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Corporatocracy, Kleptocracy, etc.

There is one way of approaching life that is not troubled by those pesky suffixes: REASON.

To understand it as synonymous with "intellect" is false to history and philosophy. It derives from the Latin "ratio", relation, balance, harmony---and comes ultimately from an Indo-European root meaning a joint, a ball-and-socket, bones that fit together and function smoothly.

In the Encyclopedia of Philosophy it is defined as "the faculty and function of grasping necessary connections." Webster defines it (under "ratio") as "the real ground or nature of a thing, especially as determined by its relation to other things."

All modern education and social structures are dedicated to hiding and falsifying the true relations between things---since consumer-units are easier to control if they are clueless.

Until they are guided by Reason (properly understood), all social strategies will end in disaster --- especially if they represent rigid and fossilized abstract programs.

Reason can triumph only if large numbers of people begin to perceive the wonder and glory of Truth and Beauty --- for they are the root of all balance and harmony.
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Old June 1st, 2017, 04:31 PM   #112
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The point that leads me to favor realism over the theory of the observer-dependence of reality is that reality does consistently answer electron questions with electrons, and wave questions with waves, and that it refuses to answer certain other questions----for example, questions concerning phlogiston, or angels----consistently or at all. --- Freya Stark

The evidence for the reality of the world is not that the appearances ---the data--- reveal the objects as they are in themselves [how could they?], but It is amusing that people generally dismiss Platonic Realism (if they have even heard of it) as airy-fairy nonsense, whilst they blithely accept as confirmed truth : absurd politics, the patter of brainwashing they have absorbed, and absolutely incoherent notions of science and social relations.

Platonic Realism has had an illustrious history going back hundreds and thousands of years. Even if they have not agreed with it (generally, because of their lack of understanding of it) legions of brilliant and educated people have felt it necessary to take it seriously.

The most important and influential mathematician of the 20th century, Kurt Gödel, was a confirmed Platonic Realist. Enormous numbers of scientists and mathematicians take it seriously, Alfred North Whitehead took it seriously, and so did Albert Einstein :

"I think that there are many things in the universe that we cannot perceive or penetrate, and that also we experience some of the most beautiful things in life only in a very primitive form. These mysteries I sense deeply."

As far as accepted "knowledge" goes, Realism has been astoundingly confirmed for many centuries---if you have the education and understanding to be able to conceive the matters involved. Clerk Maxwell's four equations that define electro-magnetism spring to mind---without them modern society could not exist. I'd call them "accepted knowledge," and something that obtrudes into "physical sensory perception" on every hand ! · · ·
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Old June 3rd, 2017, 04:18 PM   #113
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Everything is infinitely fine, and any opinion is somehow coarser than the texture of the real thing.
---John Updike

The following have been in my armamentarium of apophthegmata for decades :

Consciousness will always be one degree above comprehensibility.
---G. Ehrensvard

The more observers are made similar, the more they can agree upon.
The less similar observers are, the more complex and subtle must be the language in which they converse.

---Ahem! Modesty forbids!


"The behavior of One Who Wanders Beyond becomes Wu-wei : sensitive and responsive without fixed preconceptions, without artifice, responding spontaneously in accordance with the unfolding of the inter-developing factors of the environment -- of which one is an inseparable part."
---Steve Coutinho
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Old June 7th, 2017, 04:49 PM   #114
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"Beyond Religion" : The Dalai Lama's Secular Ethics

I have met the Dalai Lama, and I found him a quite admirable chap --- almost on a level with myself. The only area in which I do not find him a model to be imitated is in his fondness for sweet pastries.
People here should note this :

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These problems are not limited to the developing world. In the richer countries, too, there are many difficulties, including widespread social problems: alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, family breakdown. People are worried about their children, about their education and what the world holds in store for them. Now, too, we have to recognize the possibility that human activity is damaging our planet beyond a point of no return, a threat which creates further fear. And all the pressures of modern life bring with them stress, anxiety, depression, and, increasingly, loneliness. As a result, everywhere I go, people are complaining. Even I find myself complaining from time to time!....

By inner values I mean the qualities that we all appreciate in others, and toward which we all have a natural instinct, bequeathed by our biological nature as animals that survive and thrive only in an environment of concern, affection and warmheartedness -- or in a single word, compassion.
The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being. [emphasis added] This is the spiritual principle from which all other positive inner values emerge.
Long-time members of this site should know by now that compassion is one of the many virtues which I possess to a high degree. Not to as high a degree as my wisdom, of course, but that, I suspect, is beyond the bounds of human possibility. ---

What is the chief end of man? : "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." --- Shorter Catechism of the Anglican Church

What is the chief end of man?: "To glorify Beauty and enjoy it forever." --- yours truly

"God", from the standpoint of human conception, is much too limited a notion. "Beauty", on the other hand, is truly infinite, and is the only trustworthy guide to human thought and action --- particularly Beauty in its highest and most universal aspects.
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Old June 7th, 2017, 10:14 PM   #115
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"Beyond Religion" : The Dalai Lama's Secular Ethics

I have met the Dalai Lama, and I found him a quite admirable chap --- almost on a level with myself. ...snip.....
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That you feel yourself to be above the Dalai very clearly indicates you most certainly are not.
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Old June 9th, 2017, 01:08 PM   #116
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That you feel yourself to be above the Dalai very clearly indicates you most certainly are not.
Those who still think in terms of "above" and "below" are far from the Path of Wisdom.
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Old June 9th, 2017, 01:46 PM   #117
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I see....perhaps I misinterpreted this:
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I have met the Dalai Lama, and I found him a quite admirable chap --- almost on a level with myself.
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Old June 9th, 2017, 02:22 PM   #118
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I see....perhaps I misinterpreted this:
Do I need to use the same emoticon twice in the same posting? --
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Old June 9th, 2017, 02:41 PM   #119
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Julian Jaynes

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...he argued that ancient peoples were not conscious.
Jaynes wrote that ancient humans before roughly 1200 BC were not reflectively meta-conscious, and operated by means of automatic, nonconscious habit-schemas. Instead of having meta-consciousness, these humans were constituted by what Jaynes calls the "bicameral mind". For bicameral humans, when habit did not suffice to handle novel stimuli and stress rose at the moment of decision, neural activity in the "dominant" (left) hemisphere was modulated by auditory verbal hallucinations originating in the so-called "silent" (right) hemisphere (particularly the right temporal cortex), which were heard as the voice of a chieftain or god and immediately obeyed.
Jaynes wrote, "[For bicameral humans], volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurological command, in which the command and the action were not separated, in which to hear was to obey."
A critic of Jaynes wrote :

"His theory, in simplest terms, is that until about 3000 years ago, all of humankind basically heard voices. The voices were actually coming from the other side of the brain, but because the two hemispheres were not in communication the way they are now for most of us, the voices seemed to be coming from outside. They seemed, in fact, to be coming from God or the gods.
"So far, so good. That is certainly imaginable to most of us, because we know that schizophrenics and some others still hear voices in apparently this manner today.

"But he also posits that many sophisticated civilizations were created by men and women who were all directed by these godlike voices. What is not very clearly explained (a serious gap in his theory) is how all the voices in these "bicameral civilizations," as he calls them, worked in harmony. But his theory is that ancient Greece, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, and less ancient but similar Mayan and Incan kingdoms were all built by people who were not "conscious" in our modern sense.

"When one hears voices, whether then or now, the voices tend to be commanding and directive, and the need to obey them compelling. Free will is not possible. And so the people who built the pyramids were not self-aware as we are, did not feel self-pity, did not make plans, but simply obeyed the voices, which somehow were in agreement that the thing must be done."
[emphasis added]

I think that the criticism in bold type is not that serious. On Jaynes' view, ancient people had little in the way of conscious self awareness, but functioned on the basis of habit, and by obeying the verbal or hallucinatory directions of a semi-autonomous portion of the brain.
How did such automatons co-ordinate their activities in order to create relatively complex civilizations? One of the most striking characteristics of humans, as far back as we can see, is complex ritual. Ritual was probably indispensable in the creation and development of language, and complex ritual, common and prevalent throughout the year, probably co-ordinated all the complex activities of early civilizations.
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Old June 12th, 2017, 04:32 PM   #120
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When I was younger, I corresponded with Jaynes. In one letter from 1985 I wrote :

"I would like to suggest that the process of achieving consciousness is not complete even today, and that many people, even in technological societies, are still at a level of consciousness that is frighteningly similar to that of four thousand years ago. How else would you explain the irrational behavior of so many national leaders in the twentieth century?

"Enormous crises hang over us : why are most people so uninterested in them, and, in fact, so unaware of their existence? If an enormous tidal wave were racing to the shore, and the people on the beach did not see it coming, or even saw it coming but still went calmly strolling on, might one not be justified in considering them to be in something resembling a somnambulistic state?

"Nuclear war, environmental degradation, over-population are desperately dangerous threats to our continued existence. One would think that conscious people would consider them to be the most important facts in their lives and bend every effort to deal with them. But instead, what do we see?

"If your ideas can give some insight into the very great levels of unconsciousness in modern man, that may in fact be their greatest practical importance."

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