Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Tweets from the Twit in Chief

Posted: May 21, 2020 in Philosophy

We pay attention to tweets from the twit in chief because the twit entertains us like a court jester. In this case, the jester is in charge and we are the joke.

Time Travel Hypothesis

Posted: August 5, 2019 in Philosophy

A topic of interest to many people is whether or not time travel is possible, particularly backwards. Interesting novels have been written speculating on the possibility and TV shows have dealt with the topic with interesting stories. I have even written a short story speculating on the possibility. The purpose of this essay, however, is to think about the possibilities of time travel and some of the logical consequences.

Let’s divide the discussion in at least two parts. Either time travel is possible or it is not. It is easy to deal with the second. If time travel is not possible, then that ends the discussion. Certainly, there have been proposals that it is not because of a potential paradox. What if you went back in time and ran into yourself? Would there be two of you? Would only one of you be real? Would you recognize yourself? What if you were suicidal and decided to do it by killing your duplicate? Would you still exist? Some suggest you could not time travel back to a time of your own lifetime. A lame argument because if it were possible to go back further, the argument goes, then what would happen if you ran into your grandfather and killed him. That creates a paradox about your own existence. Or what would happen if you ran into yourself? What would that mean? Generally, these are the arguments used to argue that time travel is not possible.

Lets take the other point of view that it is possible, but we don’t have the means to do it yet. If it is possible, then you have to address the paradoxes given above and others that may be uncovered. There have been some borrowing from the world of science regarding the possible existence of multiple universes. This multi-universe hypothesis has been proposed as an explanation of some confounding physical experiments. I don’t propose to explore the argument for multi-universes. If there were multi-universes, then time travel might simply take you back to a universe remote from your current existence so that killing your grandfather would not produce a paradox since that would not change your current existence, only the outcome in the alternate universe. There have even been TV shows utilizing this idea. Still, this not that satisfying.

I wish to suggest another alternative that could explain how time travel is possible and will be done in the future. This requires an hypothesis about time itself. This hypothesis suggest that time is principally an illusion, like an optical illusion. It is a very strong illusion, one we have great difficulty avoiding if we can avoid it all. It is suggested that all time that we perceive as past and future is part of the same unchanging existence. We view time as something that changes. We feel the movement of time from past to present to future. Yet, it is an illusion. Time, like the other things we perceive is just an existing thing. Imagine, for example, that just as we move around in space, we change things. In the same manner, if we move around in time, we change things. Yet, like space, time is just a “thing” that already exists, past, present, and future, all illusions. If you are unwilling to entertain this possible perception of time, you might as well stop reading now.

If you assume that the space-time continuum is fixed, like space itself, then it is easy to conceive of the fact that all time-travel that ever will be done has already been done in what we conceive of as the future. Hence, there are no contradictions, no paradoxes because traveling in time that occurred in our perception of the future has already occurred, already changed whatever it was going to change. Someone can not, in the future which has already happened, change something in the past, which has already happened, because it has already been changed because there is no past, present and future as we normally conceive of it. So, time travel is possible, but all time travel that will be done has already been done in what we perceive as in the future.

What is Your Source of Authority?

Posted: October 25, 2018 in Philosophy

When we were children we on an adventure that was predominated by the question ‘WHY’?.  If you have been around young pre-school children, you certainly have been asked “Why” any number of times.  Sometimes this question of “why” is repeated over and over again when our first attempt to answer seems inadequate.  If this goes on too long, which length is highly dependent on the person trying to answer the child, the child usually gets either the answer “Because I said so!” or “I don’t know why.”

As we get older and ask a superior (read boss) “why”, we may expect a reasonable, rational answers, but it is also possible we are told “Because I said so!” or some facsimile of it.  Seldom are we told by a boss “I don’t know why.”  As children, we don’t have a clear distinction around the question of authority.  In fact, we don’t have a logical system of thinking able to formulate question “Why do you have authority over me to answer my questions or tell me what I must do?”  That is in spite of the fact that we begin to formally challenge authority as early as age two.  That ignores all the challenges we make by crying when we don’t have language to give reasons for our challenge.  Our challenges to authority typically are  searches for our own autonomy.

Throughout the history of human existence, the role of authority has played an important role and to a large extent power of one person over another still establishes the authority of one person over the other.  Religion also deals with the question of authority.  This has changed over the eons from the shaman to the priest or the holy scriptures.  In the secular world, we tend to rely on answers derived by the “scientific method.”  Over time, things change.  That is just the nature of the creative human existance.  The understanding of what constitutes “the authority” on things spiritual or secular also changes.  Who is the authority that we rely on today?

Much of the turmoil we experience today in the general decline of church participation or the willingness to ignore the consensus of scientific thought, for example, on climate change is the open question of what is our authority base.  In the West, the empahsis on the individual has consequences in authority as more and more people say they rely on themselves to know what is right or wrong, true or false.  It has the effect of setting people adrift, grabbing onto whatever seems most comfortable or least challenging to their thinking and way of living.  It ignores the fact that we are imersed in a culture whose characteristics, languages, and patterns of thought were not created by us.  They were not even created by people of positional authority, but by the language in which we swim and the culture which we enherited.

This search for a new basis of authority is an unfinished task, but in the long run, it will be invented by the creative nature of human existance.  Wish I would be here to see the outcome.

 

 

Thought About Political Gridlock

Posted: October 8, 2018 in Philosophy

I was wondering how we resolve the current (2018) political gridlock and polarization in the US.  It seems that national politics is in a state of hostility and working across party lines is a sure way to be defeated in the next election.  The parties value the success of their party now to such an extent that exercising power when in the majority and being obstructionist when in the minority is the rule.  We like to call out the hypocrisy of those who when in the minority ranted and railed about the practices of the majority only to exhibit that same shift-flip-flop when in the majority.  It is so bad, that most Americans have very low regard for national politicians even while re-electing those in their own identified party or simply failing to vote in disgust at the whole affair.

So, is there any resolution to this state of affairs?  I will admit that this suggestion would be difficult to achieve because of the lock the two-party system has on elections in the US.  It is one place that the two parties agree, locking out any other parties, rendering it very difficult for other parties to form and if formed to gain access to the electoral processes.  Yet, it occurs to me that one of the ways our political system might be improved is by the successful introduction of additional political parties.  OUCH, you might react.  How could it be better to have more of what we detest?

One of the problems is the growing inability of members of one of the two parties to cross the divide and work with the other party.  We are too polarized.  You would be defeated in the primary.  So, the party in power, if it can herd its members successfully, can control the legislative agenda so that we get partisan agendas, ones along the extremes, not ones in the center of our citizens’ willingness to support.  We get protests against all odds.  We get declining faith in our political institutions, no matter what party has power.

But suppose there were, in fact, multiple parties reflecting the many points of view in our society today.  It would then be necessary for the parties to form alliances in order to get things done.  In effect, politicians would have to make compromises in order to get the votes to pass legislation.  There might be a substantial party, but if it were not in an absolute majority, it would have to compromise with some members of other parties to gain support for legislation — similar to the parliamentary systems of Europe.  And compromise is a good thing, working across party lines.  Of course, there are no guarantees that this would improve the laws, but it would, in my opinion, offer a better chance.

It seems to me this might be worth exploring in today’s troubled environment.

People as Corporations

Posted: October 15, 2015 in Philosophy

Corporations are not people.  They are superior to people.  They have rights people don’t have.  They are not treated the way living human beings are treated.  So why can’t we all benefit from this superior existence.

There could be advantages to society if individual persons could incorporate themselves as a corporation.  It seems to me we could get rid of all the prisons.  Corporations are not put in jail or executed, they are just fined if they break a law or even kill people.  Corporations are not required to be sequestered and prevented from doing business for a certain time as their penalty for breaking the law.  People are jailed; corporations are fined.

This is something that might be fleshed out in more imaginative ways.  Exactly how many benefits do corporations have that are denied to “real” persons?  How could this fiction of corporations as persons be exploited to disrupt this fiction?


Vestiges of Slavery

If you define slavery as the condition in which a person can be bought and sold by others and that corporations are persons according to USA law, then slavery in the US is alive and well.  This idea was introduced to me in the book “We The People” by Buck and Villines.

A traditional for-profit corporation is owned by its stockholders.  These stockholders, through their agents, the board of directors of the corporation, are the declared owners of the corporation.  The CEO may have lots of influence, may even be one of or a major stockholder, but he does not own the corporation in his role as CEO, only as he or she might own stock, capital rights, in the corporation.  The board does not own the corporation even though some or all of them own stock.  They are owners only in the proportion of capital, stock, they own.  The board is elected by the capital investors at large to act in their interests, usually limited to their financial interests, in growing the capital value of their stock and in the dividends that might accrue from profits proportional to their capital interest in the corporation.

Thus, in this regard, the stockholders are the true owners and collectively have the right to direct (command) and possibly sell the corporation — which in the US at least is declared to have the property of personhood.  This is the classic definition of slavery.  Of course, we don’t have empathy for the corporation as a person per se. Stock holders might, but usually don’t have empathy with those that define the corporation through their creative capacity or their day to day labor.

Given this strange fact of the existence of slavery of a corporation because a corporation by law has the characteristic of personhood and entitled to all the rights of such personhood, it seems to shed questions as to this apparent disconnect with reality.  I would suggest that what is wrong here is the idea that a corporation has in fact, in reality, the property of personhood.

Interesting to think about?  Maybe it can become the basis for some change in the personhood of corporations?


Capitalism versus Biosphereism

The -ism of Capitalism is best described in the following definition of the meaning of the suffix -ism.

A : doctrine: theory: religion <Buddhism>

B: adherence to a system or a class of principles <stoicism>

Hence, Capitalism is best understood as a doctrine/theory/religion or adherence to the same with regard to financial “capital”. We could summarize this by understanding capitalism as a value system, one that places ultimate value on capital. By confusing this value system with the necessity of markets in which goods and services are exchanged, the value of a sustainable biosphere in which all living systems are nurtured is lost.

The remedy to the story that Capitalism has embraced and has been sold and bought by society writ large is a new story, a new name. We need a clear and compelling story about Biosphereism, a doctrine/theory/religion that expresses the values of a sustainable world for all living systems. We need a new class of principles and a new assumption that we will adhere to.


Story as Antidote to Dogma

The following story has been shared with numerous clergy.  The general reaction is “That was interesting, but …”.  Generally the “but” relates to the fact that it does not follow traditional dogma about the story.  Originally, this idea was spawned when I learned that the Hebrew that refers to Jacob’s opponent is best interpreted as “a man”, not as an angel or God as many translations use– I think because, once again, dogma from many generations of scholars simply accepted the standard interpretation of the meaning of this story.  So, I present the story, first faithful to the scriptural record and then with another alternative ending not in contradiction to the scriptures.  For what it is worth…

Another Interpretation of the Jacob and Esau Story – Esau’s Trick

By Cecil Denney

The story of Jacob and Esau recorded in Genesis is a story with intrigue and irony. Jacob, who received the undeserved blessing, who had to flee for his life, and who was himself tricked by his uncle Laben finally wins the bribe of his eye. Yet, there may be more to this story than has traditionally understood. We read that Esau was twice tricked by his brother. First Esau is tricked out of his birthright by Jacob, then Jacob steals Issac’s blessing of the first born intended for Esau. In rage Esau swears “…I will kill my brother Jacob” (Gen 27:41) and Jacob must flee for his life. Although Issac did not give his blessing to Esau, he did promise “but when you break loose, you shall break his yoke from your neck.” (Gen 27:40) I think he remembered this promise! So we find the “blessed” Jacob fleeing, in mortal fear to his uncle Laben. There he falls in love with Rachel, the younger of Laben’s two daughters. Laben exacts a price of seven years work for the hand of Rachel. But now it is Jacob’s turn to be tricked and he ends up with the elder Leah. Laben then exacts another seven years of work for Rachel’s hand. Jacob appears to prosper with many sons, and he aspires to return to his home country. When Laben objects, Jacob works his own trick with Laben’s flocks. His wives, Laben’s daughters steal their father’s gold and Jacob once again flees, but this time back to Caanen from whence he came. When Laben catches up with him, Rachel manages to hide the stolen gods (gold) and Jacob throws a “hissy fit” and shames Laben into making a peace pack. Now he had to face another possible problem, Esau. So, he sends a delegation ahead to Esau with cattle to assuage and soften Esau. But when the delegation returns, he learns that Esau is personally coming to meet Jacob with four hundred men. In fear of his life, Jacob splits up his band so that if one is destroyed, the other might survive. Having once believed that God had told him to return, he now questions his safety and becomes humble in the face of his impending disaster. He prays for safety reminding God of his promises. He devises a scheme to appease Esau sending successive waves of servants ahead with cattle as presents for Esau. Meanwhile, Jacob stays in the camp sending his wives, maids, and children away, leaving himself utterly alone to contemplate his fate. So far, what is written is reflected in this story. At this point, I will interject my own speculation of the meaning of the rest of the story. Esau, who many, many years earlier was willing to kill Jacob has himself prospered. His anger has diminished, but his sibling rivalry is still active as is reflected in coming with four hundred men. He will not be tricked again. But as the waves of servants and cattle meet him with presents, he realizes that Jacob still fears for his life and he decides Jacob deserves a little trick from his older brother. His spies learn that Jacob is alone, so in the cover of a moonless night, Esau, always the more rugged of the two sneaks into Jacobs camp and wrestles with him. Esau is at advantage since he knows Jacob, but Jacob has no idea that his brother as approached him, thinking he is with the four hundred men. To Esau’s surprise, Jacob has grown strong too, so they struggle through the night until finally, Esau manages to dislocate Jacob’s hip. He now has struck mortal fear and escapes before daylight and without identifying himself leaving Jacob to believe he has struggled with an Angel of God. He is injured, but he feels he won the battle. God has spared him. He has been humbled once again. The next day, Jacob approached Esau realizing it could be his last. He bows and scrapes before Esau and his four hundred men. Esau’s heart melts on seeing his long forgiven little brother humble himself and he is ashamed of his little trick and never tells Jacob. What is there to make of this new possible (not negated by scripture) story line? I think this is the old testament story of the prodigal son, but with a twist. While a father might accept his son without reservation, this is a story of a sibling who in all rights might have rejected his brother for his ill deeds. He did not seek revenge. He did not even accept Jacob’s offer of gifts. He only exacted a small harmless trick that turned out God used to strengthen Jacob’s faith. No doubt, Jacob had to explain his limp to his brother when they met and seeing Jacob’s faith in God, Esau chose not to destroy it with the truth.


Jobs and Work

 

What do you do? Where do you work? What’s your job? How do you earn a living? These are some of the ways we ask each other about our livelihoods. We tend to overlook the significant difference between a “job” and “work”.

 

The difference between a job and work by a loose analogy is the difference between duty and passion. A job is something you have in order to do other things that you like to do. You don’t have to like what you do on a job, you just have to perform in order to be paid, preferably fairly with money which you can use to buy the stuff you want to have and live a life, outside of the job, that you prefer to live. Typically, when you have a job, you celebrate TGIF on Fridays and Groan when the alarm goes off on Monday.

 

In contrast, having work you love to do is stimulating, affirming, pleasurable, rewarding with or without a fair compensation. Typically, with work you love, Monday mornings are energizing and having to quit work on a Friday is hard to do. Work gives us self-value. Work has a sense of contribution to the world, to be a worthwhile way to spend your time. Others need not benefit from our work, but we are rewarded when our work is appreciated and adds value to the lives of others.

 

Too many people think they will be satisfied to have a job that pays them enough, no, more than enough to live life outside of the job. Some people realize that satisfaction with life comes from having the right kind of work to do as opposed to having stuff or lots of money. Sadly, some people only discover this after they retire and discover that work that they freely chose to do is more rewarding and life affirming than the job or jobs they had for the past 40 years.

 

If you are one of those lucky ones that has work to do that you love to do with an added benefit that it supplies your needs in life, rejoice. If not, reconsider how you spend your time chasing money in a life-sucking job in order to have the stuff and a life once the job hours are over.

Community Assisted Agriculture

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Philosophy

Why I Support Our Table in Sherwood, Oregon
Cecil Denney

 Our Table is a 58 acre small farm located on Morgan Road in Sherwood, Oregon. It is organized as a mufti-tiered cooperative that includes workers, farmers and other producers. The values expressed by those involved both as producers and consumers address a number of issues that impact not just Portland or the Northwest. The following issues are ones that are of concern to me. They are related to why Our Table is an important resource for me to support.

Limits to Growth
There are limits to the resources of planet Earth. They may be large, but they exist. Already, we are beginning to see reduced availability of fresh, clean water. Food is in short supply in some regions due to drought while the population continues to grow. Simple logic tells us that there are limits to the number of people the planet can support if for no other reason, the limits of resources, water, food, shelter. At some point, it is obvious that planet Earth has limits to the growth of its human population.

Impact of Fossil Fuels on the Environment
In the development of the industrial revolution, no one considered the potential negative impact of using fossil fuel. We now know enough about the history and chemistry of global climate variation to see that human use of fossil fuels at their present level have already impacted climate in ways that will be detrimental for years to come. Global use of fossil fuel has supported enormous increases in agricultural production while also contributing to environmental pollution.

Perspectives on Wealth
There are three kinds of wealth. Primary wealth is the raw natural resources of the Earth and those natural resources that can be restored through the capture of solar energy by plants and man’s initiative. Secondary wealth represents the products that we can create out of the natural resources of the earth by adding energy and labor to primary sources. Secondary wealth is subject to decay at varying rates. Tertiary wealth is measured by trust documents (money) as to the value of primary and secondary wealth. It is considered by many as primary because it can be exchanged for primary and secondary forms. But, money is not wealth itself. Land is primary wealth whose value is determined by its use value and whether this use is limited or perpetual. With labor and energy land can be made to generate secondary value. That value can be easily exchanged for other goods produced elsewhere.

Compound Interest
Whether you are a borrower or lender, compound interest is addictive. As lender, we appreciate the idea that a small amount of money can become a large amount of money when left alone to generate compounded interest. Compound interest results in exponential growth. Exponential growth is inherently unstable. Compound interest is an important element of our capitalist culture. The desire to have goods and services now rather than later are the foundation of renting money at compound interest. On the other hand, bartering, saving for future purchases, recycling of usable goods, and sustainability in general can undermine renting money.

Worker Cooperatives Economic Model
It was not long ago that slavery was taken for granted. It was OK for one person to own another. The value of a slave was reflected in the cost of purchase or cost of raising a child slave. The value came from the ability to compel them to labor, to produce goods and services of value to the owner. We got beyond slavery even if we did not get beyond structural indentured services and discrimination.
     It was not long ago when women were also virtual slaves considered to be the property assets of their family or husband. They did not have rights themselves and their labor, their contribution to the sustenance of the family, their value was owned by their spouse. We have substantially overcome that form of slavery today yet criminal elements continue to engage in human trafficking. Discrimination based on sex still exists.
     Generally, we still accept that in exchange for a small sum, one person can own the creative labor if not the body of another person.

(A product or service is produced with raw materials, energy, and labor. A company makes little distinction when calculating the cost of a product or service. This can not be accomplished without workers who dream and design these products and services. Yet, the company typically reaches beyond the concept of labor to ownership of ideas and information produced by a worker, even ideas conceived and developed independently from the workers assigned tasks. It is as if the company owned the whole person, day and night. It is a slave concept. Only the company, not the human source of the idea is entitled to share in the profit that results. )

     People still consider it OK to sell themselves into a kind of wage slavery wherein they have no rights. Commercial enterprises consider human workers to be inventory upon which they can use to deliver a value to an end product. It seems obvious that when a company considers a worker as a piece of inventory the inventory(worker) has no rights to share in the profit produced because of his/her contribution to a product.

Health and Nutrition
Simple facts. Fruits and vegetables are important to our diets for good health. Fresh produce, harvested near its peak maturity is more nutritious. Transporting produce thousands of miles takes not only fossil fuel, but in most cases, it must be harvested before maturity. In many cases the addition of freshness preserving chemicals in the form of pesticides and even chemical fertilizers diminish the nutritional value in order to favor the ability to produce on a large scale.

Sustainable Use of Soil
When produce is grown, the produce extracts chemical nutrients and water from the soil. When the produce is then transported to another location to be consumed, in effect, the nutrients and water extracted from the ground are also transported away. Water is restored either through natural or artificial means to the soil but the nutrients are not automatically replaced. If the wrong kinds of chemicals are used in the production, they can and usually do negatively impact the quality of the soil organisms that differentiate soil from dirt. Over time, the rich soil which contains live organisms is converted into dirt without living organisms.

Value of Shared Risk
Insurance is a commercial financial process for sharing risk. People combine what alternatively could be savings into a common pool and those that incur loss can make withdrawals from the common pool out of proportion to the contributions they made to the pool. When a person purchases a product, it may come with (or without) a warranty that has a limited time duration. Generally, however, when a purchase is made, the purchaser expects the purchase to work as advertised. Corporations may purchase insurance to insulate themselves from risk. Bankers and investors hedge their investments with insurance. The 2008 financial collapse introduced us to Credit Default Swaps where investors and banks attempted to insure each other assuming good times would continue. How does a small farm manage its risk of a crop failure? There are several alternatives.

Metrics in Addition to the one of Financial Profit
Gross Domestic Product; profit; assets and liabilities; average sale price of homes; salary level — measures, metrics we use to determine the economic well being of our society. They do not measure the health of all we value about our society as we have all been lead to believe. The country of Bhutan has an index of happiness, which ‘measures’ spiritual well being. It is an example of metrics that go far beyond the limited dependence on financial status. Of course, having what one needs for survival is essential. But using money based measures in no way guarantees a fullness of life.

======= Conclusions =======

What do all these issues have to do with Our Table?
As a worker cooperative, Our Table offers an economic model that is not based on taking advantage of workers. The worker, in addition to earning an income, has ownership in the venture. Work is not for “the boss”. When work is well done a boss does not expropriate the benefit of profit from the work of someone else, the worker directly benefits. As a cooperative, it is not every person for themselves, but every person for the good of the cause. In a cooperative, one must learn a new paradigm of work relationship, one of cooperation, not competitiveness with the other workers. The worker’s work is owned by the worker, not some other owner. The competition goes beyond rival services. The competition seeks to honor and value work that provides a benefit to the community, not the subtle financial rape of your neighbors. Cooperative enterprises can call on the best of the human experience while expanding the circle of family-ness. Ultimately, the rise of cooperatives challenge conventional wisdom about how an economic system can work – not cut throat competition but competitive cooperation. Competition based on the best contributions to the common good. Only through the experimentation of models like that of Our Table can we find our way out of resource depleting consumerism society that ignores the limits of this planet.

Our Table seeks not just a producer-consumer relationship. The worthiness of the cooperative model asks the consumer to share in the risks that go with farming. A crop may fail, a weeks share may be sparse, but with confidence in the cooperative model and the fact that the workers put their own well being at risk, the consumer shares in the risk. It is an affirming, shared trust relationship not normally experienced. It helps even those removed from the primary wealth of the land and secondary wealth created by hard workers on the farm to get in touch again with real wealth and its risks and rewards.

We generally understand the term water-shed. Our Table represents a commitment to the food-shed. Much of the food grown in Oregon is shipped elsewhere while we import food from other areas. Keeping the radius of transportation small, less fossil fuel is required to deliver food. It also means the time between harvest and consumption of the harvested food is shorter and thus the nutrition and flavor is better. Our Table even delivers some of its food via human power (not fossil fuel powered) transportation. This exhibits a value worthy of support.

How long can you farm before you remove all the nutrients? How much fertilizer will be used to substitute for sustainable methods? Our Table farms on land trust that is committed to perpetual health. Our Table works organically to restore to the earth. What it takes out in nutrients Out Table is committed a perpetually sustainable method of farming restoring to the land the nutrients by natural methods. It works to be here not only for you, but your children and grandchildren and their grandchildren. Through its practices and economic model, it works for sustainable operations. The land and its ability to produce high quality food is a source of primary wealth that if nurtured can produce goods and services for many generations to come.

Our Table can and should grow. It is an important model for our age. It should be supported in the face of the limits to growth of our world population and the impacts of climate changes already in the stream of future assured impacts. They are producing good products with the right values and dedication of a committed community of workers invested in its success. They are demonstrating a model of business that can serve as an example. They are not demonstrating debt and consumerism. The are demonstrating mutual sharing, health, dignity of work, economic alternatives. This is why I support Our Table and enjoy their products while doing it.