Sunday, June 26, 2011

Conceptualization of Objects, verbs, language in general.

It is clear that the "and" and the "or" are the primary drivers of the human conceptualization of objects.  Take the object "table" or the object "chair".   As a result of experience, the human brain begins gathering all things that match the word "table".   While the "and" is gathering objects that match this word, the "or" is separating these objects from objects that match other words, such as "chair".  Thus, these beloved forces are behind the development of human vocabulary, or at least nouns.   It would seem similar with verbs.  The mind matches actions that fit the word "throw", using the "or" to separate them from actions that match other action words.  We can say the same with the other elements of human language.  It is all synthesis and dissection.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More on mores and laws

But laws and mores are also designed for the benefit of the "or". For what many if not most of them protect are individual rights; the right of the individual to live(thou shalt not kill), individual property rights (thou shalt not steal) etc.  Thus, social cohesion (the and) is thought to result from the protection of individual rights, the right of the individual to function with a certain amount of autonomy (the or).  It might be asked, "Did the "and" use the "or" to its benefit?"  Or did the "or" hold the "and" hostage, telling the "and" that if it wanted cohesion, it must first preserve the individual(s)? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that here, as well as elsewhere, the two exist in a symbiotic relationship.  And we know that the erosion of individual rights (the or) often leads to the disintegration of the "and" or social cohesion.
Of course, we can't take this too far.  Laws that enshrine individual rights without recognizing any obligation to the collective may please Ayn Rand and various tea partiers but result in a society that is coming to resemble modern day America, where a select few control most of the wealth.  Rather, as in other cases, the "and" and "or" must work in harmony, and strike a balance, as set forth in my April 17 post on societal extremes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

laws and mores

Thus, an incredibly manipulative relationship exists between the religious leader and the congregant.  Which is not necessarily to say that every religious leader is evil.  But the structure of the relationship is inherently unhealthy.
We have said that the function of the religious leader, in part, is to enunciate rules or mores.  More can be said on mores.   Mores, commandments and laws are among the means by which the "and" holds human society together.   As we have said before, there is strength in numbers.  It is thought that at some point, the earliest single celled creatures banded together for protection and divided the labor to form multicelled creatures.  So it is with human society.  A society with a police force and an army can ward off individual thiefs or small sets of invaders.  An anarchistic society cannot.   And as society has grown,  as the division of labor has grown and as relationships have become increasingly complex, it has eventually come to be recognized that a formalistic set of mores and laws, set forth in writing, is needed to define and interpret what can and can't be done and how to handle disputes.   Thus, religious tracts have been written and codified, and secular laws have been enacted.  In a theocracy, the definition, enforcement and interpretation of laws has been left to the clergy.  In a secular society, it is left to legislators, executives and lawyers.
Legal disputes can be defined as a clash of differing sets of "ands".  They thus bear a resemblance to war, and it is not uncommon for lawyers and litigants taking cases to trial to say they are going to war.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


But there is, the more I think of it, one thing like nationalism: religion.  Both are tools that the one or the few use to control the many.  Both are prime examples of both the "and" and the "or".  In both cases, these elements are used to bring people together and to create a sense of exclusivity among them.  And both, throughout history, have been means to horrible ends.  Religion, of course, is a much more powerful tool, for while nationalism appeals to pride, religion relies largely upon fear, a feeling of powerlessness, and the lack of any objective marker (other than a priest, imam or rabbi) upon which the individual can rely to tell whether he or she is on the right path.  For God is someone who can't be seen or heard.  And one who can't be seen cannot be destroyed.  And unless one can experience him through  visions or auditory hallucinations, one can't be sure how one should behave or believe.  And the fear, the fear of death and of harm, is a fear all biological beings are programmed to have.  And the sense that one "should" behave a certain way is a feeling all social units have programmed into us in order to propagate their survival. (More on this later.)  Thus, the religious leader(s) takes advantage of this fear, this uncertainty, by providing a "way". By thus doing, he resolves the terror of death and harm,  relieves the the uncertainty and exercises his grip upon the many.  And when one or some of the many protest that the evidence mitigates against the existence of a just God or a practitioner of miracles, the religious leader  chastises them,  saying this evidence, and the ability to close one's eyes, is a test of faith.
In religion, of course, we see other relationships.  Each practitioner is led to believe he or she is in a personal relationship with God.  However, when that individual reaches out to God, he or she neither sees nor hears anything concrete.  Which leads the practitioner to reach out for the religious leader for guidance on what he or she should be feeling.  In essence, the "and" reaches out for something that isn't there, and thus reaches out for the leader and the written word with "burning questions".  That leader becomes an incarnation of God,  answering those questions and assuring fidelity.  In sum, we see that religion functions in a similar manner to nationalism in acting as an agent of the "and" (providing for social cohesion among the followers) and the "or", in acting as an agent of their exclusivity.   However, for the reasons stated above,  "and" between the religious leader and his/her flock is infinitely stronger than the "and" between the nationalist leader and his countrymen.  The religious leader takes advantaget of the feeling of powerlessness and poverty of his followers, promising that in another world, all past wrongs will be remedied.  He thus appeals to their craving for justice.  He appeals to their fear, even terror of death.  He appeals to the human belief in a "should", in rules and the desire to know what those rules so, so one can be a "good" person.  He appeals to the uncertainty and confusion that results when the follower reaches out to God and finds no one there. All these bonds, when considered cumulatively, are almost impossible to break.
   It is also likely that the "and" between the members of a congregation or considerably stronger than the "and" between countrymen under the sway of a nationalist leader.  At most, the countrymen are headed towards world dominance.  The flames of nationalism can be extinguished, at least temporarily, by defeat.  Something as concrete as defeat is not a possibility for those who believe.
In sum, given the reality of the "and" and the or, the development of religion seems almost inevitable.  For it is the strongest manifestation of these two forces.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

War and Nationalism

Almost invariably, war is in large part motivated by nationalism.  Nationalism fuels the desire for conquest, and nationalism fuels the the thirst for independence.  And this sense that there is something that distinguishes one's "own" people from others can almost be said to be an expression of the "or" in its excess.  While self esteem is essential to good health, the self esteem that nationalism confers is of little value.  For it confers this esteem not based upon any actions the individual may take, or values he/she may harbor, but self esteem based upon something entirely external to the self.  Nationalism also fuels acts of courage and foolhardiness and, unfortunately, the tourist trade.  (And soccer riots, TV ratings and steroid use)
While nationalism is, in large part, an expression of the "or", it also fuels the "and".  More appropriately, it might be said that the "and" uses nationalism to bring people together, largely so they can kill each other.  Thus, nationalism represents an excess of both the "and" and the "or."   There is nothing like nationalism.

Monday, June 13, 2011

thoughts on war, killing, life, history and death

War can be defined as the clash of two "ands". Each "and", a collection of people, nominally controls certain territory.  The clash may not be over the territory itself, although it usually is, at least unconsciously.  In any event, the result of this clash is usually that one "and" is absorbed by the other, or at the very least, rendered inoperable.  How does this occur?  The connections, or "ands", within the "and" that is absorbed are themselves ruptured.
The connections are invariably ruptured through killing, so it is worth taking a look at what killing involves.  Killing can be defined as the extinguishing of one individual by another.    As discussed earlier, each individual person is a collection of "and" and "or" processes, which occur at various levels, including a cellular level.  It is generally agreed that one distinguishes a living thing from a nonliving thing is that the living thing has the ability to derive and generate energy from the environment and the ability, with a little help, to reproduce.  Among the properties shared by all living things, whether plants or animals, is the property of respiration.  Respiration consists of inhalation and exhalation. During inhalation, molecules of one type, oxygen in the case of humans, are breathed in, or brought into the individual so that they can combine with other molecules and provide some type of nourishment.  Thus, inhalation is a case of the "and" in action.  Exhalation, in which molecules of another type are expelled, is a case of the "or" in action.  Thus, respiration can be defined as a process of the" and" followed by the "or."   Various "ands" and "ors" and taking place within a living individual at any time, including some of the cellular processes we discussed earlier.   An individual animal or person, of course, is not just some random collection of these and and or processes.  Rather, it is a collection, that seems, at least visually, to function as a distinct unit that to some extent functions independent of the environment, or "or"ally (pun).   Killing involves the extinguishing of all these or and and processes, including the generation of energy from the environment, reproduction and respiration.  As earlier noted, for killing to occur, one individual has to kill another.  And when killing occurs, these two individuals come together for a period of time before one extinguishes or neutralizes the other.   Thus, killing involves the and.  However, unlike eating, in which one individual absorbs the other, killing itself does not involve absorption.  After the brief union, the extinguished individual stops functioning and in essence drops off, or is "ored" from the other.  Killing is sometimes followed by eating.
When war is over land, it is largely analagous to the acts of killing followed by eating.  The communicative processes within the obliterated foe are neutralized (i.e. the foe is killed.) Then the foe is absorbed by the victor.   The "and" prevails.  Thus, the act of conquest is a victory of the "and".  
While this is true, it must be acknowledged that world conquest has never occurred.  The Romans may have harbored the illusion of world conquest, the the reality was far different.
  Rather, world history has largely consisted of acts of division; division of land into countries, cities etc., and ever shifting borders.   Thus, the "or" has held steady.  What empires have existed have been short lived.  We may even conclude that history can be seen as a series of and/or progressions.  Conquests followed by divisions followed by conquests.  Mapping this out can be left to the historian.  However, it is almost entirely self evident that history would have to be thus.  World conquest is chimerical because the "or" is real and cannot be obliterated.   Anarchy and libertarianism are no more than dreams that some misguided souls harbor because the "and" is such an essential part of human society.
Some last thoughts on war, which as we've found requires a rupturing of the "and" within the vanquished, which in turn requires killing and death.  We must briefly return to a discussion of what death is.  
 While a living individual is a collection of "and" and "or" processes, living itself involves both the "and" in terms of ones relation to the environment, and the or, in terms of one's existence as a seemingly distinct unit.  When one dies, the "and" stops functioning in the sense that one is no longer absorbing energy from the environment.  However, it functions anew in the sense that the environment now absorbs energy from the dead individual.  The dead person, animal or plant fertilizes the soil etc.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Clownification is the process by which philosophers become clowns.  They become so enamored of their ideas that they attribute to them a reality that has no basis in fact.  Take for instance Aristotle's metaphysics, in particular their emphasis on form and matter.  All things consist of matter (the physical stuff things are made of) and form (their shape).  Brilliant ideas and also attempts to correct Plato's overemphasis on forms, which become a world of ideas.  As I recall, Aristotle believed in the primacy of the particular; i.e. forms did not have any independent existence outside of physical things.  In any event, Aristotle became so enamored of his metaphysics (metaphysics is supposedly the foundation for physics) that he attempted to apply these ideas to biology.   He asserted that during reproduction, the male provided the form while the female provided the matter.  Way off!!
Kierkegaard leveled similar criticism at Hegel.  While Hegel's descriptions of spirit were inventive and obviously insightful, when he asserted that spirit was real, he became a clown.   Similar criticisms can be leveled at Marx, the logical atomists, early Wittgenstein, many existentialists and probably most philosophers.
And of course it can be leveled at my attempt to apply the "and" and "or" to all that is.  Certainly, there is a naiviety to my descriptions of early man, and his supposedly ideal relationship with nature.  Early man's preoccupation was with food and shelter.  He probably spent a great deal of time thinking about how he would get his next meal and devising schemes to extract it from the world around him, rather than worshipping the trees.  No doubt he probably did have a more intimate relationship to the natural world than most of us.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A couple more thoughts on the development of human society

Thus we see that as human society evolved, the "and" was stretched out, thinned almost to the point of nonexistence.  But in another sense, both the "and" and the "or" thrived as never before.  Think of the thousand of people who worked together to build the great pyramids.  Think of the multinational corporations, the vast government bureacracies.   Granted, these connections were superficial and temporary when compared to the connections found in hunter gatherer socieities.  However, their scope was and is monumental.

The "or" has grown on a comparable level as the division of labor keeps expanding.  The expansion of the "or', of course, contains the seeds of its own destruction.  As man developes more and more specialties, he developes tools, and now robots and computers, that will one day render the division of labor a nullity.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Agriculture; means to an end

So what was the impact of agriculture upon the "and" in human relations?  Well, for one, it separated people, in the same way it separated plots of land.  Fences were built.  People were expected to stay clear of each other's property.  Whereas, the men and women of hunter gatherer societies functioned in a cooperative relations, where men would work together while hunting, and tribes would gather around the campfire, agriculture gave rise to competitive relationships. Thus, we can say that the development of agriculture resulted in the augmentation of the "or", without any substantial benefit to the "and".  To some extent, the "or" largely drained and stretched the "and", as will be described below.

 Property arguably became the prism through which family members were viewed.  It has been speculated by some that in certain "primitive" socieities, men and women were not fully conscious of the fact that the sexual act was responsible for procreation.  Clelarly, agriculture, specifically the breeding of animals, dispelled any doubt in this regard.  It is thought that prior to the advent of agriculture, socieities were largely matriarchal, and children would remain part of the mother's clan.  The awareness of the man's role in reproduction also bred the realization that a man's children were his.  And since everyone knows how labor intensive agriculture is, the children, and the wife were needed to work the property.  Thus, and to assure that the children in a household were truly the husband's, the wife and children came be be seen as property rather than as partners.

To a very limited extent, the "and" benefited, as agricultural socieity made room for more people, and more relationships. Since people were no longer hunter gatherers, there was a need for more stable structures.  Which meant more builders, more tools, and more advanced tools.  And a need for people who would perform services for those who worked the land; more trades, a division of labor.  This division of labor, of course, also strengthened the "or".  To the extent these socieities included more  T people, and a greater web of relationships, the "and" benefited.  But these relationships were by and large superficial, based solely upon commerce or citizenship.

With the division of labor, and the creation of new tools,  man's relationship to nature became even more attenuated, as his relationship became focused on extracting a tool, or a garment from nature.  Nature, again, was simply a means to an end. When we work with tools, we do not focus on their shape, smell, beauty etc.  Rather, as Heidegger said, they are experienced as simply "ready at hand".  Thus, over the years, as people became lost in their activities, their relationship with nature suffered.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

even more on agriculture

Agriculture changed our relationship with the land, and with each other, on several other levels.  For one, it accelerated the development of the concept of private property.   Thus, land became valued more as a means to an end rather than as an entity in itself. No longer did man worship the forest and its mystery. Rather, it simply became a means for growing food.  This is analogous to the contrast between a genuine loving relationship, in which one loves the whole person, and a purely sexual relationship, in which the other merely a means to a temporary sexual satisifaction.   Thus, the "and" between man and nature was weakened.   Similarly, much like some sexual relationships, it acquired an addictive quality.  For as population grows, the farmer is contantly seeking ways to increase crop yeilds.  As we've already said, farming in itself largely results in a decrease in biodersity.  And it can't be said that even the healthiest soil on a farm is as healthy as the soil in a peat forest.  Nonetheless, during the earlier days of agriculture, it was possible to increase crop yeilds to adequate levels without harming the soil.  However, as with the case of a sex addict, the increase in crop yeilds was never enough, and now the use of artificial fertizilers has been deemed necessary.  And there does not appear to be any genuine dispute that the overuse of said fertizers damages the long term health of the soil.   Thus, the "and" between man and nature has been weakened both on a psychological level and a more concrete level.
As noted above, the development of agriculture accelerated the development of the concept of property.  In such a case, the earth is no longer one with me, but is something which, or at least something some of which, is mine.   Thus, the relationship between man and nature becomes attenuated on yet another level.  Finally, property is finite.  And we all want property.  Thus, at some point, it becomes necessary to divide land into separate lots.  Thus, when viewing the land itself, the "and", or the connectedness of the entire forest and nature itself, is further dissipated, and on a superficial level, the "or" is strengthened in the guise of separate lots of property.  As we've already said, in reality, the biodversity of the "or" is being destroyed.
Agriculture's affect on social relationships will be discussed in our next post.