Vivekananda On Schopenhauer & Will


An interesting distinction between the notions of Will in 19th century German philosophy and Vedanta as understood by Vivekananda.

I think Schopenhauer’s philosophy makes a mistake in its interpretation of Vedanta, for it seeks to make the will everything. Schopenhauer makes the will stand in the place of the Absolute. But the absolute cannot be presented as will, for will is something changeable and phenomenal, and over the line, drawn above time, space, and causation, there is no change, no motion; it is only below the line that external motion and internal motion, called thought begin. There can be no will on the other side, and will therefore, cannot be the cause of this universe. Coming nearer, we see in our own bodies that will is not the cause of every movement. I move this chair; my will is the cause of this movement, and this will becomes manifested as muscular motion at the other end. But the same power that moves the chair is moving the heart, the lungs, and so on, but not through will. Given that the power is the same, it only becomes will when it rises to the plane of consciousness, and to call it will before it has risen to this plane is a misnomer. This makes a good deal of confusion in Schopenhauer’s philosophy . . . . Continue reading

The Banned TED Talks

I’ve been fortunate enough to go to some TEDx events and I have to admit I enjoyed myself. However, I think I enjoyed myself in the same way I did when I was a kid going to church with my parents. There were smiles all around, mock pleasantries, lots of people who looked like me and had my tastes while we all got to marvel at the moral uprightness or genius of the speakers.

Debate of the matter at hand would have been inappropriate and shoo’d away like poor behavior at a dinner party. The speakers were sincere and trying to communicate an idea, a business model, or whatever, to those of us who were willing listeners. It wasn’t pretentious or insincere but it really wasn’t challenging either. Who isn’t against novel ideas of ending poverty? Who wouldn’t like to see a mildly disturbing (but not too disturbing) academic discussion on sexual tastes? It must be a comfortable venue for der letzte Mensch to enjoy.

The problem is that the presentation and milieu has all the authenticity of a dinner party taken out of an Oscar Wilde script. I sense that behind the utmost sincerity is something of an evangelical spirit that technology, right politics, and right reason are the way to the promised land. That seems particularly evident in the drama surrounding three talks that were banned. All three of them are unique and actually challenge the audience. They make us think and question some of the preconceived worldviews with which we entered the arena of ideas. I wish we had more of these.

One special talk I had the chance to see live was extraordinarily well done while also being challenging. It was Rick Steves’s on travel. Marvelous and bold.

The three that were banned call us to question some basic presuppositions. Like them or not, they are great representations of the type of discussion we should be having in the public square. Here they are:


Brilliant Article by Daniel Sarewitz in the Latest “New Atlantis”: Saving Science

20160816_TNA49SarewitzMicroscopew640Full article: The New Atlantis

This is the best and most thorough “as is” assessment of the state of science today. It takes an historical approach and reviews how we got here.

Daniel Sarewitz is a professor of science and society at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation and Society, and the co-director of the university’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes. He is also the co-editor of Issues in Science and Technology and a regular columnist for the journal Nature.


Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.

Article continues here.

Origins of the “Hard Problem” of Consciousness



From Marina Benjamin at Quartz 

First coined in 1995 by the Australian philosopher David Chalmers, this ‘hard problem’ of consciousness highlights the distinction between registering and actually feeling a phenomenon. Such feelings are what philosophers refer to as qualia: roughly speaking, the properties by which we classify experiences according to ‘what they are like’. In 2008, the French thinker Michel Bitbol nicely parsed the distinction between feeling and registering by pointing to the difference between the subjective statement ‘I feel hot’, and the objective assertion that ‘The temperature of this room is higher than the boiling point of alcohol’ – a statement that is amenable to test by thermometer.

Full article


Lakoff on Metaphor

411dBqY8iEL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_I’m a bit embarrassed and disappointed that I went through graduate school and beyond while never even having heard of this book. Too much continental philosophy and not enough philosophy of language. Fortunately and interestingly, it seems I have two friends who seem to know a great deal about this and can explain at length.

I have a detailed mind map of the text but want to get permission before posting it.

Interesting Story about Lord Kelvin (and the rest of us)

At the Royal Society Annual Dinner (June, 1900), it is reported that Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thompson) essentially stated that the Law of Thermodynamics pretty much explained all there was in the world of nature. However, there were still two little clouds of uncertainty remaining, namely: (1) the ultraviolet catastrophe and (2) luminiferous aether. As we know, these two unsolved mysteries at that time were quite important as one led to relativity and the other to quantum mechanics. At a time when science was at its most confident in worldview and method, these two little anomalies were simply waiting to upend all traditional models.

Today we also have two little problems that have not been solved. One is called “qualia” and one is called “quanta.” Qualia refers to inner experience, the sense of awareness and consciousness while quanta refers to the quantum measurement problem where the physical world seems to respond to measurement in some strange way. This coupled with demonstrations of entanglement and other anomalies could be putting us in the same state of false confidence that Lord Kelvin had at that dinner over 100 years ago.

I suspect it will become clear through experimentation and logic that traditional means of sensory, empirical, and materialist knowing will be seen as only a partial picture of how we come to understand our world. This will then dramatically influence metaphysics and our notion of the self. It seems that our current neat little Cartesian package of the “self” that “knows” the world in which it resides will be seen for what it was: a point in time theory when distinctly modernist humanity was just starting to grapple with issues that had been addressed (though not as systemically) by others before them and by others after them in our current post-Newtonian world.

Nietzsche had said that he was doing “philosophy with a hammer.” Often (and I even heard this in grad school) that was taken to mean that he was conducting a brutish and forceful assault on Western thought. However, I like to think of his method as using a small tuning hammer to tap on ideas that ring hollow or are well past their time. I think his hammer would find our predominant worldview of scientific materialism to be hollow, aging poorly, unsound, and crumbling.

The body’s hidden compass—what is it, and how does it work?

Originally found on Science Mag and written by  Eric Hand

That many animals sense and respond to Earth’s magnetic field is no longer in doubt, and people, too, may have a magnetic sense. But how this sixth sense might work remains a mystery. Some researchers say it relies on an iron mineral, magnetite; others invoke a protein in the retina called cryptochrome.

Magnetite has turned up in bird beaks and fish noses and even in the human brain, as Joe Kirschvink of the California Institute for Technology in Pasadena reported in 1992, and it is extremely sensitive to magnetic fields. As a result, Kirschvink and other fans say, it can tell an animal not only which way it is heading (compass sense) but also where it is. “A compass cannot explain how a sea turtle can migrate all the way around the ocean and return to the same specific stretch of beach where it started out,” says neurobiologist Kenneth Lohmann of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A compass sense is enough for an animal to figure out latitude, based on changes in the inclination of magnetic field lines (flat at the equator, plunging into the earth at the poles). But longitude requires detecting subtle variations in field strength from place to place—an extra map or signpost sense that magnetite could supply, Lohmann says.

Continue reading

Phenomenology of alternate means of knowing with Peter Sjöstedt-H (Univ. of Exeter)

Peter Sjöstedt-H is an Anglo-Scandinavian philosopher who specialises in the thought of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson and Whitehead, and within the field of Philosophy of Mind. Peter received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a Master’s degree in Continental Philosophy from the University of Warwick, where he was awarded a first-class distinction for his dissertation on Kant and Schelling in relation to ‘intellectual intuition’. He subsequently became a Philosophy Lecturer in South Kensington, London for six years but is now engaged in his PhD at Exeter University. Peter is the author of Noumenautics and an inspiration behind the new inhuman philosopher Marvel Superhero, Karnak.

From Inside the Rift.

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“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.” – Max Planck,  Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)