The School Of Practical Philosophy: Philosophy Works - Week Ten
Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:33 AM by Ben Nadel
This week was the tenth and final week of my Philosophy Works class at the School of Practical Philosophy. It has just been a great experience in all respects - a wonderful teacher, a great group of people, and whole lot of high-quality, thought-provoking conversation. The second course starts in a few weeks and I'll definitely be signing up for that.
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In this final class, we talked about unity and truth (and even a bit about Schrodinger's Cat and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle). On the topic of truth, I brought up my discussion of the conflict between Truth and Need as portrayed in movies. I didn't get into my thoughts on it exactly, but I did bring up something very interesting that Clark had told me last week after reading my blog post.
He said that according to Judaism, each child is created with a complete understanding of the Torah. Then, upon birth, each child is hit in the head by an angel which causes that child to lose its memory of the Torah. The child's life then becomes a journey to rediscover the Torah within. It is then proposed that learning the truths of the Torah is such a profound experience because one is "remembering" rather than "learning."
I know next to nothing about religion, but this viewpoint is very much in alignement with the views of Philosophy that hold that ultimate wisdom comes from within each one of us and is a truth to which we all have access. But, whether you want to call it wisdom, or the Torah, or a unifying truth, or a moral compass, the most important thing to realize is that finding it and adhering to it requires practice.
A lifetime of practice.
Like a muscle, philosophy suffers more from disuse than from overuse. To call, once again, upon the lightbulb analogy, the machinery of time will always cover the source of our light - our truth - with dust. It is only by continually clearing that accumulation of dust that we can know wisdom. Philosophy Works has provided us with a set of practical exercises aimed at helping us keep that lightbulb clean. Going forward, however, it is up to us each one of us individually to put those exercises into effect.
As a closing thought, the teacher asked us if we got out of the class that which we had wanted. In the first class, I had expressed a desire to learn more about logic and rationality. And, while we didn't talk about those things specifically, I do believe that my goals where met in an indirect way; by learning ways in which we can better know and understand ourselves, we have been given a more effective way of gathering truths. And, the more truths that we have, the more logical, more rational we can be.
In the words of prophets Bill and Ted, "Be excellent to each other!"
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That's an interesting story. In a way, it does make sense. Babies are totally innocent and free of preconceptions. As they grow, life experience changes their sense of reality and some have more to overcome than others to regain a sense of that innocence. Even so, it can never be truly regained.
I like that view in Judaism. Sounds very interesting. :-) I had never heard that before, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Is Schrodinger's Cat and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle the same thing, or are they merely related? I have heard of Schrodinger's Cat, but not the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Any comments that could enlighten me?
I'm probably not the right person to clarify those topics, but from what I *think* I've read, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that there are different properties that cannot be known at the same time. So, take an electron (which is where I first heard of it) - the more you know about an electron's position, the less you can know about its speed (since you have no way of determining the speed). And, the more you know about its speed, the less you can know about its position (since you have to necessarily get "blurry" in order to measure the speed).
Schrodinger's Cat has to do with the parallel theories of reality. Inside a box, the cat is exposed to poison. Therefore, the cat is either dead or alive. But, according to quantum physics, the cat is *both* dead AND alive until you open the box and observe the state of the cat. In essences, it is the observation itself that determines the chosen reality.
Please take all that with a grain of salt. I don't know much of anything about quantum physics or quantum mechanics :D
@Ben: Thanks for answering the question. That really did clear up a lot. I heard about Schrodinger's Cat from the Big Bang Theory, lol, so I wasn't even sure that it wasn't just some joke at the time I heard it. :-) I like that show on occasion, because, like Schrodinger's Cat, amongst the jokes and attempts at humor, I often do pick up on an interesting topic or two I can then further research and learn more about. :-)
Excellent series. Thank you for it.
I would encourage you and anyone who are looking to find tools for determining truth (i.e. DOING philosophy) to check out the two following links (Neither of them are mine, just two that I've learned a lot from).
The reason I think they are helpful is that they layout the four principles for determining truth, which are:
1. Causality - The world works cause to effect.
2. Non-Contradiction - Contradictions do not exist, conflicts can exist.
3. Contrastive Thinking - Intentionally think of all different ways that things could be to rule out bad possibilities. The one that is left will be true (i.e. Sudoku)
4. Growth - It is only in pushing ourselves beyond what we are comfortable with that we begin to change. Intentional growth is uncomfortable because we have to face our wrongness. But facing that leads us to what is right.
These are definitely religious (Christian) sites, but I believe that they will take you a great way to some of the goals you have stated above.
Aside for the great content, both of the authors have been very responsive to comments and questions.
Thanks again, Ben, for the series.
I like the idea and believe I have been working with it myself, even called my site after it. All we do is recollect in a most constructive way, if only to preserve our work or how well the (philosophical) structure we built over time, always worked for us.
'Be Excellent to Each Other' - ain't that a great mantra for life!
Thanks for a thought provoking set of posts, Ben
I keep meaning to watch Big Bang Theory - people tell me the first season is great!
Thanks for the links; they sounds very interesting. I have no problem with religiously founded concepts; like all things, I take from it that which I find meaningful and let the rest pass.
Sounds interesting, but I am not exactly sure what you mean.
Thanks :) I thought it was a good note to end on.
What I mean is that being born with complete understanding of the Torah, and then lose that memory, could explain why we must "constructively recollect". http://crpa.co/CRPA-Philosophy.htm
Ahh, cool. I'll have to check out that site. I'm definitely turned onto Philosophy these days!
Wish I could introduce you to a friend of mine. He has a degree in philosophy, knows 8 languages, has the most powerful voice I've ever heard, is a devoted family man, owns a motorcycle. Runs a business . . . showing tourists around historic sites in Rome. Sorry . . . you'll have to go to Italy to meet him. ;-)
Of course you could introduce me to your friend, if you believe he might be interested in my philosophy and/or me in his. However I live in Amsterdam, not in Rome. Perhaps social media could mediate? Anyway, thank you!
If you check out that page, do also take a look at the software that goes with it that I developed with the philosophy and has the same name.
@Ron, he's on FB, as am I . . .
If either or both connect I will accept. I suspect you are "Lola LBL" but I cannot be sure.
@Lola: you could introduce me to him. he sounds like an interesting guy, and someone who would be a good contact for anyone to get to know and network with/expand themselves/learn more about themselves and the world through. :-)
@Ben: Love the show. Especially the fact that I get to be introduced to concepts like Schrodinger's through it, if in a roundabout way. I got the entire first season on dvd. :-) And actually, I've got an autographed picture from the guy Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon that a friend got me who knows how much I love the show. :-)
I took a quick look at your site. Seems interesting.
Quick question, what is your definition of truth?
Thanks for the visit and taking a serious look. Truth to me is what is or can be independently confirmed, both outside of us (science, justice, journalism) and inside of us (consciousness - the way I see it).
I love The Big Bang Theory show too. I love it how it led you to look up quantum physics..:) Do you know they have real physicist who draw up those equations and formulas on the whiteboard. Also most of the scientific dialogues are written by their help. Jim Parson practices those for days to deliver flawlessly...:) @Ben - you have to watch this show. You are right season 1 is the best. I've been watching since the first show.
@Ben, this is yet another thought provoking blog of yours...:) Keep it coming.
Not sure if you have heard about Osho. One may not agree with his philosophy completely. But I find some of his analysis very enlightening. Here is his take on truth that makes the most sense to me.
hey @Smita! :-) I heard that Jim Parsons originally trained in classical music/broadway/theatre, and was basically on his way to audition for something there when came to this opportunity and embarked on this somewhat different track. I think it is AWESOME to hear that he practices his lines for days. That is refreshing. Often, it seems the actors have it so easy, doesn't it? It's really cool to hear of a hard-working one and to know the hard work that goes into it!
I love figuring out how smart people's brains work...that's one of the reasons I watch the show. And also, to see how they act in society. I just find it fascinating. I am a people watcher, and sometimes it's comforting to do it in the luxury of my own house. :-)
Now, speaking of smart people, and the Big Band Theory...well, litterally the Big Bang Theory...it sounds like this 12-year old boy has almost pretty much disproved the big band theory:
to be fair, he is a genius, so it wasn't like your average 12-year old figured it out, but I can totally connect with what he says. It completely makes sense to me. I have kind of a mathematical mind. For awhile, there have been a few things about that and other theories that have bugged me from a mathematical standpoint, but I wasn't able to articulate it so well. He's doing a pretty good job!
I learnt and appreciated the mystical mythical ideas on the path of souls' journeys from their "repository" under heaven's glory to the internal force which animates us as living beings as told to me as a child. The "bump" on the head was not a Peter Sellers' "bimp-ON-MA-'ED", rather a touch by an angel between the lips and nose forming the mid-line crease anatomically named the philtrum. A far gentler Knock_Out. This reference to Torah or knowledge as innate, forgotten and recovered, I believe relates to the Pythagorean doctrine on the transmigration of souls ( as it differs from reincarnation). These traditions gained life as ideas of mystics and artists through the ages. In current culture I wonder if the term soul-mate reaches back to the other basic part of the myth that the soul is originally a FUSION that separates into a duality that destiny more or sometimes less re-unites. Other Judaic mystical terms such as "beshert" a destined match and a Dybbuk an aspect of possession popularized in the titular work of Yiddish theater, also come to mind.
I look forward to my joining the ranks of the students at Philosophyworks. I can tell the tale, but for me neither angels nor souls can no longer dance on the head of a needle.
THANK YOU BEN
Thanks for sharing your experience with the Philosophy Works course. I spotted their subway sign (1st NYC trip/1st subway!) last January and hadn't lost my curiousity since returning home. Your posts for those 10 weeks felt somewhat like I was there.
Kind regards, Dawn