Tag Archives: imagination

The Profanities of Hume & Spinoza

Religion is not getting a lot of slack nowadays. Maybe in reading those who were first to be overtly critical of religion we can learn exactly what occasioned the onslaught. This is an exercise in that, FWIW.

1. Introduction

In tracing back the questions raised in the early modern period we may hope to trace back the current secular attitude to religion. To make a start with this analysis, I focus on 2 short texts by Baruch Spinoza, The Metaphysical Moralist (1), and David Hume, On Superstition and Enthusiasm (2), where they explicitly treat of the threats inherent to religions when the imagination goes unchecked by rationality. My analysis tries to bring to light that there is a crucial difference in their treatment: whilst Spinoza sees linear progress in using reason to eliminate ‘uncalled for’ imagination, Hume puts reason as a mediator between two extreme uses of imagination (one leading to docile superstition – the other to fanatic enthusiasm). In my view there is something of fanatic enthusiasm to Spinoza’s view on rationality which, in denying a constructive impetus in imagination, denies something more basic to the human condition than the arbitrary conventions of specific religions. Both Hume and Spinoza utter profanities against religion, but only Spinoza utterly desacralized the human condition. Continue reading

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Imagination and Autism

It’s common to see autism linked to (a lack of) imagination, sense of humor, empathy and a host of other human qualities. That makes me wonder. After all, I feel ‘all too human’ to identify with robots or “very-large-brained” apes. I kid you not: these are analogies made by a leading autism researcher in a best-selling book. He might defend himself by saying it was an attempt at vulgarizing science. That does not change the fact such comparisons are, plainly and simply, vulgar.

Maybe it’s because since my diagnosis I finally form part of a minority (instead of merely feeling that way) that I’m more philosophically sensitive about generalization (instead of merely finding them bullshit). Denying human qualities to people is inhuman. It isn’t any less inhumane to qualify that such qualities are statistically less present in a certain set of people. We’re after all not talking about length or the ability to dance or dress well.

So, the problem has to lie in a confusion of how the word is understood. Clearing up such misunderstanding then has the double benefit of understanding better what such human qualities are not and taking away related false generalizations holding a minority down.

This is what I attempted to do in a (philosophical) way in this paper for one case: that of autism and imagination. I do not believe it is an easy read but if you want to check it out at the level of the abstract, you’ll find that below the fold as a (non-?)appetizer. Continue reading

Proud to be Aut

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m autistic. I’m 48 years old. My diagnosis was confirmed last week. I have been labeled with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for a little over a week but the label means that I have been autistic all my life. That feels right given I’ve always felt a little off. When you live your life feeling out of phase with the world you can do two things: change the world or change yourself. I did both. I defined being normal and tried to live up to the standards. Any remaining awkwardness I compensated by controlling the context. It is not a strategy exclusive to autistic people, if you read attentively it is a common strategy for strangers to cope with and compensate for a world which is not (yet) theirs. In my case, I don’t look like a stranger and I don’t have a world which is self-evidently mine.

I’m writing this not as a complaint against the world nor as a frustration about myself. I’m writing this in the hope you might come to appreciate what it is to be different. Continue reading

Poems for the mildly off-beat

As a freak of nature
I was
nurtured to be a fool.

It makes me terribly
sad so
joyous I want to be.

Foolish I want to be
but a
terrible silence mutes me.

Happy happy happy Continue reading

Mind is made of words

Mind is made of words. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. 
 
I am made of your words and so are you now made of some of mine.
 
Chemistry and electricity give the mind a body. It is not the other way around.
 
When are we born? When do we die? These are the most questionable of questions.
 
The body is connected to the mind. The body is man or woman. The mind, it has the choice.
 
I can doubt all this because words are made up all the time. Words are never in time.
 
Bodies are time-bound. We can make them hell like birds making our own cages.
 
‘My words to your words, my mind to your mind’, is just what we are.
 
We cannot die, as long as we don’t try to fly. Only time flies.
Is this mysterious hogwash? It is less mysterious than the hogwash that sees mind in all matter. In essence the common fight of communism and capitalism is a fight against words, a fight for what matters. Capitalism merely is more cunning at it, discrediting words as just words, whilst crediting money as all that matters. The economy of minds gets modeled on animal biology, survival as the only test of fitness. That’s hogwash as well. Economics is not a mysterious form of exact science; it is a human science, a social science and only a derivative one at that. Poetry is first.

Continue reading

Anarchism

“Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist.”
Sébastien Faure as quoted on p. 11 of ‘Anarchism’, by George Woodcock, broadview encore editions, 2004.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 31-03-2010.]

Since this is at the moment degenerating into a ‘what am I reading’-diary, and I was anyway looking to do a ‘Pop Culture’ entry (it being long ago and all), why not do an anarchist quote?

It’s not like the reader – if any – has a choice in the matter 😉

So I’m an anarchist. That means I have a problem. Because to a real anarchist I will be an example of le nouveau bourgeois. Continue reading

Book III: Of Morals – Conclusion

“The interest, on which justice is founded, is the greatest imaginable, and extends to all times and places. It cannot be possibly serv’d by any other invention. It is obvious, and discovers itself on the very first formation of society.”
David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Penguin Classics, 1985, p. 669.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 23-12-2009. I don’t know how good or bad what follows is, but it is for sure a great quote.]

Call it the Roddenberry-principle: you can’t imagine, can’t conceive of, a society that is composed of intelligent individuals in which there is no basic notion of justice & therefore of fairness. So much so that even the biggest bands of thieves have some code of law internal to them and that any changes to current laws are invariably justified – with recourse to some ‘higher’ principle of justice. Continue reading