Friday, February 12, 2010

A very random post

In response to the following post:

The Ultimate Aim of a Human Being (click)


I had seen pics clicked by you on Insignia's blog, and something made me make it a point to visit your blog. Am super-glad I did. :)

You have here asked some questions that are so fundamental to our existence, that to try to answer them from authority would be indulge in brainwashing.

Right now, I am short of time. But I will still try to answer a few questions, from what I feel and know, so obviously they are not the perfect answers. Some of the things I want to state would be in form of my posts or comments elsewhere. I will also refer you to some of my favorite blogs.

But just as you have somewhat doubted, I wanted to draw your attention to this philosophical trap that if reality is something that is indeed beyond the scope of our five senses, even then we would be able to know it. No! We cannot know it, if it is beyond the fives senses.

Let me try to add a few more factors. When we talk of five senses, actually we should also include the various extensions of our senses. Like, the electron microscope. You seem to be well read in (formal) philosophy as compared to average persons (and, if not, then I admire the intelligence behind your thougth processes even more). The sum total of all our five senses and their extensions is our "sensing system". Nothing that is absolutely static can ever be detected. Meaning, we come to know of any reality because something "changes". In physiology, a change in the environment is known as a stimulus. [photon - eyes, vibration - ears, repulsion at microscopic level, which changes the potential energy of the receptor - touch and pressure, etc.]. And invariably, that change is some change in energy. If we move from this assumption, that everything that exists will affect the Universe in some way, then it has to produce a change in energy. And it should be possible to detect this change in energy. This was briefly what we call "naturalism". But if one were to hypothesize that there is something that actually exists, but is so static that it does not produce any change in our environment, meaning it does not translate into a stimulus, then we cannot detect it. Now, upfron one cannot deny such a possibility. But then how would it ever be possible to assign a truth value to such an assertion?

So, in rigorous philosophy (in a branch called epistemology), it is conventionally believed that for a theory to be regarded as "true" it also has to be falsifiable. Meaning if one says that "object 'A' exists", then one has to also state that would be the consequeces of existence of such an object. If one states that its existence would have no consequence (its inherent static-ness), then it follows that there is no way such a claim could be falsified. So, at least for philosophical purposes, such assertions are excluded from the possibility of being truths.

But there exists a very large fraction of people who are also interested in learning the truth, who believe that just because something cannot be detected by the sum total of five senses, does not mean such a thing (object A) does not exist. This is known as "supernaturalism" as against naturalism. You could read about Russel's teapot on Wikipedia.

Right now I could not find the relevant post, but you could find very interesting posts on this blog. For convenience, wherever word God finds place replace it with the generic object A that is not accessible to our senses or their extensions.

Anyway, so I am not sure if it is actually possible to achieve self realization (assuming I have accurately understood what you mean by it is being able to know the absolute truth). So, whether self realization is possible or not depends upon, which of the two above modes of accepting something as truth do you prefer. If you believe there is a supernatural realm that definitely exists (as against the mere possibility of its existence, then you are dooming yourself to remain devoid of self-realization, because if it can be detected by any of the senses then it ceases to be supernatural!!! But if you assume that what is supernatural is as good as nonexistent, then there is still some hope that someday all that is to be known would be known (through the most developed faculty involving naturalism, called science).

You would find a few of my personal takes behind the driving forces for living and evading death here (starting from first comment by Harshad Srinivasan):

Of course, I have dealt with things there very superficially.

You will find how our perceiving environmental stimuli translates into a feeling of "self", here:

You'll find a few more ideas in these posts:

Lastly, technically, this statement is not correct:

"Well, the truth of the matter is that, if one cannot test something the way we test everything we know, it is not science, it is philosophy."

Because, then it would be fantasy, not philosophy. Unfortunately, philosophy is in daily life is used very differently than what it actually means or stands for. If you get a chance please do go through Encyclopaedia Britannica's artilcle on "epistemology". It was really interesting with example of pencil dipped in water, and how we could/should determine if pencil is actually bent (at the point that it enters the surface of water) or straight.

Subject to a few significant events in my life, I might or might not return to comment here.

Till then, wish you all the best and all the satisfaction that you truly deserve in life. :)

Take care.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why SRK is wrong/hypocritical?

The post is in response to this comment (click):

Simply J,

I will respond to other issues you have pointed out, but you have not addressed the original issue - what makes Pakistan a "great" neighbor? Isn't it the most objectionable part of his speech? What standards were used to adjudged the country as great? That way, all the countries would be great neighbors! Palestine should consider Israel a great neighbor, and vice versa! Peace-loving nature and international cooperation  (of India, for instance) would no longer remain virtues. Even if a government encroaches upon other country's territory, they are "great". Even if they shield the most wanted criminal of their neighboring country, they are "great". So by that standard, Indian private enterprises by not taking Pakistani players in their team are also "great". Why are we complaining, then? Why did he feel "ashamed"? Why set different standards for Pakistan and India to be termed as "great"? When he has called both India and Pakistan as good/great in the same breath, he has actually insulted the restraint India has demonstrated over the years. He has equated the international behaviors of India and Pakistan. By his standards, then if Indian government tomorrow decides to nuke any country still India would remain great, right? Then, why feel humiliated by something as trivial as Pak cricketers not getting picked up in IPL.

Again, you have not responded to the issue of Pak players' income being used to fund terrorism in India.

I couldn't find anything in the video clip that has not been quoted already. But thanks for sharing all the same! I had anyway watched the video yesterday.

"4. KKR makes most of its money cuz of its fancy ad campaigns, so makes sense to spend more there and buy the players cheap."

1. Exactly, that's what I pointed out. Pakistani players were going the cheapest, and that they were "champions" only added further value to them. So, strategy-wise, according to SRK bidding for them was the best thing to do ('cuz his team would win despite spending less), which he did not do, and later felt ashamed for not doing so! Why? And if SRK is entitled to have business concerns, why not other teams? Other teams also had business concerns! Reliance and Wadias both are from Mumbai. Most definitely, their shareholders would be disappointed with them at least somewhat.

2. What prevented him from 'buying' Razzaq was by SRK's own confession Razzaq's injured wrist. So, if according to SRK, Razzaq was the only person worthy of bidding, and not even someone like Shahid Afridi, or Sohail Tanvir (who had taken so many wickets in the first edition), then why did he raise such a storm by calling Pakistani team the best, and pointing out there world champion status?

3. "That's what he said about Aussies as well."

Then, what explains the fact that people bid for Aussies and actually bought them? In fact, SRK himself has two Aussie players in his team - Brad Hodge and David Hussey:

4. "suppose you buy a good player for a hefty amount, say Rs. X. Now, you have just Total money-X left to buy other players. So, you have to compromise with some average players in the remaining amount. Now, if the good player is not allowed to play ... that's what he said..."

But firstly, Pakistani players were coming the cheapest. And if his decision to not take any Pak player was so coldly strategic (to not waste money), what was the need for him to feel ashamed? I've never heard that to plan one's budget should invite shame! Remember, no one had asked him - "are you feeling ashamed for not taking a single Pak player?" He said that on his own! So, again there is a paradox in how he conducted himself and what he later said.

2. "I find it rather ludicrous to actually comment on. He could have named anyone, Afridi, Tanvir or even Moin Khan….how does that matter? Razzaq was not allowed to play in earlier versions of IPL cuz of his links with ICL. But after being granted amnesty, he did wonders for Pakistan in T20 WC. Makes sense to buy him."

You possibly missed the point. What I was trying to tell you is that there was no restriction on bidding only for Razaq. He could have still chosen from 6 other new Pak players that were available for auction. Why should he have chosen? Simply because they were the best in his words, and were also available for the lowest price. If he was willing to take Razzaq as the news had been floating around, why not some other Pak player? If on one hand he says, Pak players were the best, and despite that he does not take them, then isn't that kind of odd?

5. "It’s humiliating for him cuz it was done in a very crude manner."??

Why should he feel humiliated if it was done by others? See, this is where double standards become apparent. One should avoid doing things that make one feel humiliated. For instance, if I feel robbing will bring me shame, then I should not steal. I cannot go around giving "strategic" reasons as to why I decided to steal. The fact that I do something after a lot of thought is proof enough that I did not consider doing so humiliating enough in the first place. So, if he knew that not taking any Pakistani player, he would feel humiliated, then he should have taken at least one player! Had he taken at least one player, then he would not have felt humiliated. Simple! If you point out that there were uncertainties surrounding Pak players, then similar uncertainties were also there surrounding Australian players, and as I pointed out he has two Aussies in his squad. Plus, not to forget Australian team coach and physiotherapist.

6. "If you watch the clip, all he says is that we can’t just keep fussing over non-selection of Pakistan players."

The fuss was about to settle, but was given a shot in the arm by SRK himself by propounding the "great-nation-theory".

7. "He just expressed his feelings that the youth should show the way ahead to the two nations whose destinies are so entwined. What’s wrong in that?"

I find many things wrong in what he said. I will try to point out, though it may make me unpopular, I would try to answer these with all honest I could summon, and pragmatically.

7.a. I do not find my destiny entwined with Pakistan or Pakistani youth any more than say youth from Brazil, Somalia or Singapore. Could you please elaborate on how Indian youth's destiny is entwined? Pre-independence historical connection is too old a thing. My life does not depend on Pakistani youth in any way, except for if one of them decides to blow up one of the trains/buses in which I or one of my relatives/friends, etc., might traveling. I do not find my destiny entwined with Pakistani youth because my employment is not going to be in Pakistan, financially, I will not be dependent on Pakistan, for entertainment, I watch bollwyood and hollywood movies, which are not made in Pakistan, none of the food items I consume grow exclusively in Pakistan, and if I would (say, sugar), I pay (through government) the price they ask for in accordance with free market principles. So, I do not find my destiny entwined with Pak's youth in anyway. And I believe same to be the case with vast majority of Indians. And using the same standards, our destiny could get entwined with any nation's. Possibly, our lives get affected by what happens in the US much more than what happens in Pakistan, except for of course, all the violence Pakistan perpetuates against Indians.

And if someone suggests that by Pak's players playing in IPL, the probability that number of terrorist attacks in India will reduce, I again don't agree with the argument. Because, all major wars and terrorist attacks had taken place in India when both the countries were anyway playing cricket with each other!

7.b. Let's get a step ahead. Alright, possibly loving Pakistan's youth could be a good thing. So, hasn't India shown enough love by never carrying out any kind of military attack in the past?

Isn't it high time Pakistani youth simply reciprocated that love by not carrying out terrorist attacks in India and letting us live in peace for at least half a decade?

How much unrequited love can we show? And, why? I have one simple concept - that which is freely available is of very little value. Love, for instance. Love is for values represented by a person/nation. I do not find the values Pakistan stands for worthy of my love, at least. And hence, I disagree with SRK. I cannot go on loving people/nations simply because they exist. Loving every nation simply for existing would be like giving full marks to every candidate for simply appearing for in the exam! Even SRK in his movies falls in love with only one or two heroines. Why? Why does he not love just about any character in the movies?

8. "And as for his appeal, well, why single out him?

Wasn't he the only person who felt humiliated of all the team owners? In fact, Shilpa Shetty so clearly indicated their team's choice was their prerogative, and they were not answerable. SRK was singled out because he only started anwering questions that nobody asked him!

9. "At some time or the other, many of our national leaders, and leave them, we ourselves have expressed such a feeling."

In my knowledge everyone who has expressed such feelings after Kargil, Kandahar, Parliament attack and 26/11 has been criticized. SRK is one of the most prominent personalities in India, and he knows that despite the fact that he calls himself "an ordinary citizen". Given Pakistan's track record (for instance, only today itself Pakistan's EAM, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has declared that Kashmir as an issue is non-negotiable, which in simpler words means, either India accedes Kashmir or violence in India will continue), I consider it either naive or hypocritical to give Pakistan any benefit of doubt. And, undeserved love seems even more naive/hypocritical. I also used to wishfully believe in SRK's purported love before Kargil happened. And after that too, too, too many things have happened to be able to love Pakistan. Now, P. Chidambaram has been criticized simply for saying that his government would have provided complete security to Pakistani players, and not even that we should love Pakistan. Whichever leader has called Jinnah secular has also been criticized. The 'aman ki asha' drill of ToI has also been criticized.


If you might be wondering why such a stubborn attitude towards Pakistan, then, it is simply because, we can and ought to stop doing them favors till they stop hating and hurting India. I do not get the logic behind limitless love in face of unremitting violence emanating from Pakistan.

And very lastly, if someone wants to suggest that the "common" people of Pakistan are good and love India, then, firstly I am skeptical of the claim, and secondly, just like how in a cricket team, if only one bowler bowls badly and gives away too many extras and the entire team "losesS", or if just one player hits a century (and rest all play badly) the entire team wins, similarly entire nation is great/not great.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What is "I"?

"who is the you, then"

I can answer this only at a psychological level, that too only very roughly because I am not an expert of psychology. So, do not take what I write here as authoritative explanation of psychology, but it is merely my understanding. You can read all this on Wikipedia if you are interested. And, most of this would sound like nonempirical philosophy, because in certain ways psychology is not a purely scientific field, because hardly anything in it can be quantified. I will slightly transform the question - who is "I"

'I' is an environment constructed by the brain, a kind of bubble, which segregates all the sensations into 'internal' and 'external'. This in psychology is known as 'ego'. And I think in Sanskrit it is known as "aham". For instance, children as they grow up, because of various experiences build an 'ego boundary', which separates the intenal from the external. An infant does not understand that he has an existence separate from the environment. He feels that the fan or toy he sees, are also a part of its "I". The first thing it recognizes as having a separate existence from his own is the mother. Building of ego boundary requires the child to test all the sensory modalities. If he places his hand on a surface, and then you tap the surface with a key, the child will hear a sound and also see that the key and the surface are coming into contact. The child initially is not able to understand that the sound of tap and the moment of impact of key and surface have any relation. But as he sees such events repeatedly, he builds a correlation between the two. The he starts thinking one of them as the cause (contact) and the other (sound) as the effect. The sound would be felt within the ego boundary, but the sight of contacting of key and surface would be outside it. But now, instead, if you would tap the child's palm with that key, he will experience the sense of "touch". He would realize that whereas, sound is produced even if key is made to impact anywhere on the surface, sensation of touch occurs only when things come in contact with very specific body parts. So, he starts making this distinction. The limbs and especially the skin over it marks off the ego boundary. Because wherever the child goes, these body parts can be seen consistently. Also, whenever something comes in contact with some body part a sensation of "touch" is produced. So, the child starts discriminating between body part, say, palm ("me") and surface on which he had kept the hand ("not me").

Gradually, the child also starts recognizing other sensations like hunger, bowel and bladder pressure, etc. They are seen as originating from "inside". Further ahead, the child starts recognizing emotions (not sensations like pain) like anger, desire, fear, lack of fear (sense of security), etc. These are also recognized as coming from "within" (possibly, because they cannot be seen in the outside environment). All this further strengthens the idea of an ego boundary. Whatever lies within the ego boundary is "me", and whatever lies outside this ego boundary is "not me". This all is somewhat corroborated by what people feel on consuming cannabis (bhaang that people consume during the festival of holi). The ego boundary is blurred after that and people experience what is known as "depersonalization", i.e., they can actually hear themselves speak as if it was spoken by someone else. Through, cannabis example I only wanted to explain that even this ego boundary could be influenced (and actually caused) by neurotransmitters. Because, cannabis can enter the brain and act on specific receptors.

Still, I have only vaguely been able to answer what is "I". I have only explained the possible process that leads to the genesis of ego boundary, but not yet as to where in the brain the center for "I" exists. It is also suggested that the concept of "self" arises largely because of memory of events that had occurred in contiguity.

But let me try to put the whole situation in an entirely different perspective. When something "touches" your finger tip, there is actually no real contact, because actually at the atomic level, hardly any atom can touch the other because of intense force of repulsion. So, what actually gets transmitted to the brain is the iformation of force of repulsion. Yet, you do not feel it as 'repulsion'. It is still a touch for you. To give another example, most of the animals are color blind. For them, green is no different from red. In fact, in nature there are no different colors. Only different wavelengths and frequencies. But yet, you feel that there is a color. There is no sound, there is only harmonic vibration and its amplitude. Yet, what you perceive is sound. If you place a tuning fork on your behind the prominence of your ear, exactly same vibration would be felt as vibration (by the skin) and also as sound by transmitted by the ear. So, this proves that brain actually synthesizes "perceptions". So, brain is entirely capable of creating a bubble, within which all the sensations, memories, emotions, decisions, etc. are contained. This bubble need not be "material". Just like how color is not material, but is an indicator of a stimulus. But if something goes wrong perception of color could still arise without the original stimulus. So, why can brain not create such a bubble I am talking of? And this bubble is "I".

Possible ways in which God could exist

"You probably don’t know that you have simply restated Vedic truth which explains manifestation and un-manifestation of energy, which simply ‘exists’ as part of the ‘energetic’, termed as God, except that you removed God from the picture."

I think I understand this, maybe not exactly the way you understand it. In fact, there need not be a distinction between energy and the energetic. They could be one and the same entities. I will give you my interpretations of how I understand these things. You could correct me wherever you feel I have got something wrong (assuming, you don't mind the time it might take you).

We could go into basically a few possible combinations of nature of God, his/her/its relation with the rest of the Universe, his/her/its role in "creation" of the Universe, and how we humans perceive God and the Universe:

1.1 God totally permeates whatever "exists": in fact whatever exists, and part of it that can be perceived by us are just the manifestations of this 'essence' of existence called God (I think which you to called above as "energy") [and hence there could/must be other aspects of this essence that we cannot perceive - the supernatural domain]. This essence even permeates the souls of all the living organisms; here souls could be separate from God, having a limited independent free will (probably, something stated by Vivekananda in an example he gave of a cow tied to a tree with limited mobility - an assertion for which I have serious objections, but might deal with it some time later) or the souls could be the manifestation of the God and whatever be the inclinations/tendencies/choices of these souls, they too are manifestations of the God, and occurring "within" God, with God's "will". This was pantheism. Here, what all we perceive - it could exist in "reality" or could merely be the constructs of our senses and thus be illusory.

1.2. God is a separate entity and has "made" the Universe: So, obviously even living organisms and souls are those creations and separate entities. This was panentheism.

If the first is the correct description of scheme of things, then, the entire theory stops there. Meaning, adding further attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, etc. to that essence of existence (God) would be redundant. Because the moment we assign such attributes, we are transforming God into a sentient being just like humans. Of course, that entity would be possessing the qualities in spectacular degrees (for instance, all-knowing, all-powerful), but we would still be humanizing God. Now, if we take the second case to be 'correct', we can have two more possibilities:

2.1. The above God could be impersonal as in not having a "will", "intention", "plan", "desires", "emotions", etc., with regard to 'how' (in what manner/state/condition) the Universe and its components (manifest as well as unmanifest) exist, or what 'changes' should occur in the Universe. This is deism. Here, the truth is that everything exists (or seemingly exists), and God has no 'stakes' in the manner in which they exist. So, one of the consequences would be that: to God, our prayers, desires, wishes would make no difference. But, just like any other cause-and-effect relationship (established by God), our actions through some chain-reaction will have consequences. These consequences need not affect us directly. They may affect an entity totally unrelated to the one doing the deed. And probably by stating this I have roughly stated the 'law of karma'. Here, if you see carefully, whether reincarnation occurs or not, it does not make a difference. Because for consequences to be realized, they need not occur to the same entity that had performed the deed. So, though the God would be omnipotent and omniscient, God would not "do" anything using those abilities because God would have no active will; whatever was to be done has already been done by God. And since, there is no particular "manner of existence" of Universe that God has adjudicated as 'good' or 'bad', defining God or events as 'good' or 'bad' is pointless. Or maybe, whatever God "thought" as 'good' is anyway happening, it is just that we humans perceive it differently. Here, the determinant of our decisions and choices is some pre-existing cause (akin to "destiny"). While, our decisions have consequences, those decisions are also pre-determined as a part of chain of cause-and-effect. So, we would not possess genuine free will.

2.2 The above God could be more like humans: who has definite ideas about how the Universe 'should' be. A God who listens to us, alters his plans due to prayers, or because of the way we think and behave. So, obviously such God will require to award the souls with complete independence of free will, so that the organisms could be rightly held 'responsible' for their actions. This is a God, who rewards, punishes and alters the courses of fate (if pre-determined by him) depending on various factors like person's actions, thoughts, etc.. And probably this is the kind of God that 99% of people believe in.

Okay, so with this I end my description of the various possible of attributes of God and how God is related to Universe and us, humans.

Probably (if my memory is not failing me), I had asked you before and you had refuted, but from my understanding, the "essence of existence" is what is known as Brahman in Vedic philosophy, and is equated with God. But I could not understand how the two things could be different! :) If one has to strike a distinction between them, then one of the two (i.e., God or brahman) will have to be relegated to the status of "creation" or the "effect", and the other would assume a more fundamental and absolute status of "cause".

So, all the above combinations (with minor variations in treatments of: God, absolute reality, perceived reality, possible modes of acquiring knowledge, relation to soul with absolute reality and the "amount" of free will they possess) are one school of Vedic thought or other, or that of the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The last three can be best described as the combination 2.2 that I mentioned (wherein God indeed has intentions, plans et al). I don't know much about Buddhist philosophy. Jainism believes in philosophy very close to the combination 1.2.