24.9 Arthur Schopenhauer

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Part four of my philosophy series, I have reached one of my personal favourites out of all the interseting people I am attempting to describe in this series. Schopenhauer built upon the work of Kant, and extended the theories he had developed out in unusual new directions. Kant argued that we cannot understand anything of the world around us, as we see only that which passes through our senses, that which our brains produce from the seemingly random data they recieve, and that therefore all patterns and appearances of logic and order in reality may well be created by our own minds. Schopenhauer, though, realised that there is some way we can understand a part of reality, he reasond that our own bodies exist, and that therefore they are a part of the outside universe, and that if we can come to understand them, from the inside as we are, we can understand something of everything else. (though as I proved some posts back, we really cannot understand most of what our bodies do.)
Schopenhauer’s idea of the universe was of everything being parts of a single whole, a continuous force or existance of which everything we percieve is just slightly different aspects. this force, he refered to as the ‘Will’, the driving force behind everything that happened, moving ever forwards, aimlessly and blindly but always leaving us struggling to keep up, a force that consisted mostly of a desire to continue existing. This theory, interestingly, has many parallels to other such ideas, both ancient and modern. Einstein, for example, proposed that matter is merely an expression of energy, and that the whole universe therefore is a single vast cloud of different forms of energy.
Schopenhauer, though, was rather pessimistic, he proposed that the Will was the force that drove our lives, controlled all our emotions and desires, all those things we wanted but could not quite have, the illogical, irrational things we did, everything that made life that little more difficult. He went and looked at reality and nature and saw terrible things, saw how so many living things had to eat each other to survive, how every living thing, in fact, was in constant competitoon with every other thing, a theory that would later on inspire such minds as Darwin and Wallace towards ideas of evolution in living organisms.
So, all life is basically a futile pursuit of desires we can never quite reach, and a competition with every other living thing for limited space and resources. However, there are some ways to avoid this. One is to set aside all desires and seek a life of simplicity, asceticism and meditation. The other is rather the opposite, to seek freedom through art. As with Kant, Schopenhauer argued that art liberated us from real world thoughts and desires, briefly setting our minds free from ‘servitude to the Will’. He particularly appreciated music, which he believed was the purest form of art, since the sounds could not be anything other than themselves, always purely abstract, just nice noises rather than an imitation of something real, as with say a painting of a vase of flowers. Many of Schopenhauer’s philosophies had many links to ideas of Eastern religions, Buddhism, Daoism and such like, though apparently he developed most of them with almost no contact with the original eastern Asian theories.
Finally, the idea that we are all part of the Will, of the whole of reality, has interesting implications, if our minds and bodies are a part of everything else, then everything else is a part of us, and in a sense we can feel that, that is why, for exaample, we can feel empathy for someone or something that has suffered harm or recieved bad news, because in a sense, we are all the same. And yet, still we compete continually with each other for our own advantage.

So, there we go, an unusual set of ideas, but something in them appeals to me, other than perhaps the constant pessimism, the endless competition and pursuit of desires, but then, I can see the truth in that all too clearly.
Anyway, next week, I shall move onto another rather interesting man, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who was working on theories of where the driving force of the universe was actually going, at the same time. (in fact, at the exact same time, Schopenhauer arranged to give his lectures whilst Hegel was giving his own, attempting to attract students away from what he saw as his biggest rival, but hardly anyone turned up so he gave in and returned to writing.)

23.9 one week later

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

So, this time last week, I set myself the challenge of making up for all that I had been avoiding doing before, and generally getting myself organised and sorting things out. How has it gone?
Well, firstly and most clearly, I have done the work that was required of me. I had the things to present to my teacher on Tuesday that were on my list of things to do, and I finished my other project this morning in time to hand it in. Admittedly, it was not as good as I had hoped. See below for a very long, detailed description of what went wrong with the computers, I returned very early this morning, managed to get it to print, and then had only a couple of hours to finish everything else, so they turned out rather rushed and not to as good a standard as I had intended.
Meanwhile, as well, I have written out a new list of things to do. My old list I only looked at once every few weeks, and it had some vague ideas of what I should be doing, and suggestions by some of when within the next few days it should be done, then I would on occasion look through it and cross a couple of items off. The new list gives a few points for each day, dividing the work I need to do in the week up, giving me specific projects to work on every day, precise goals to aim for point by point, and if I can follow it properly and keep adding to it as I go, I should be able to get everything done nice and quickly, barring any more computer related issues.
Then, though, there come the less good bits, I am still putting many things off until later in the evening rather than getting things done nice and early, with the single exception of work that needs to be done within the next few hours. I have been struggling with typing recently. Last year I comfortably managed to complete the nanowrimo challenge as well as staying up to date on all my other writing projects. This year, all those other projects have pretty much been put on hold, and I am still struggling to keep up to target with just that one. OK, so the last few days I have been having to spend a lot more time than usual on my university work, that has not given me as much time as I would have liked for typing or for my other projects, now that I have finished this project and organised the work for the next few days, I can get that all more organised, or at least get more done.
Finally, I said I wanted to get into interacting more with other people, talking with my neighbours and classmates and so on, that has not happened so far, I think it might need another week. Trouble is, not only am I a generally shy and quiet person, I know that I am and so often do not bother trying to be anything else, and everyone else knows I am so they do not expect anything else of me, which just makes it, those few times when I do actually want to go to someone and say something, feel just that little bit more awkward and difficult. What I think I need is just to start small, exchange a few words with one person when there is noone else around for them to be talking to instead, and once I have reminded them (and myself) that I can talk, gradually build up from there. We shall see how that goes this next week, then. Meanwhile, having had a busy day, and then put everything off all evening, it is now getting rather late, so I shall end here and get ready for bed, I think.

22.9 computers again

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I need to remember not to use computers for my work, it has been my new year’s resolution two years in a row, and I always break it, with predictably bad results. Or at least, if I do have to do something computer based, I need to make sure it is early enough in the project that there is plenty of time to fix all the problems or, if necessary, to redo it all properly (by which I mean by hand, with a decent ruler and set of pens).
All I had to do was draw three pictures on three different programs and print them all on a single page. The drawings themselves did not cause too much trouble, though som parts took rather a long time, little complex details, especially trying to get the curves just right, but eventually I had them all done, then I had less than 24 hours until the work was due in, plenty of time to print it out, right?
The plan was, where I had done two pictures here and one at the university, I emailed my two to myself, so I could open them at the university and copy all three into another program to arrange them all and print. I got to the comouter room, the first computer I tried just refused to let me log in for no reason, so I moved to another, and this did not work. It seems the university thinks it a good idea to put different programs on each computer, with no indication of what is on each, so often I find myself trying to do something only to discover I need to move to another computer to find the right program. This time, though, the program was there, it just did not work. This particular one, there is some problem, on occasion it pops up with a message that a serial number has been found and needs to be entered, or some such, but whatever you do is wrong and it closes. Sometimes this happens after half an hour or so working, on this occasion it happened half way through loading over and over, until I gave up and moved to computer three.
There, I managed to extract the three images and put them into photoshop, which was surprisingly difficult, the program seemingly designed to be just a little annoying and overly complicated at every point, and there was no way of measuring the separate images to ensure that they were all to the same scale, but I did my best, it looked quite reasonably OK, if not quite perfect, as is usual with computer work, then I saved it and went to print.
And that is where the real fun begins. It seems photoshop doesn’t print any more, I go to print, nothing happens, and when I go back to try again, the option has been greyed out. So, I turn everything off and go to another computer, back in the main computer room. The same thing happens there, I visit the technicians, they have no idea what is wrong, but the file has not appeared in any print queue. Then they send someone over that has no idea what they are doing, I watch them trying a few things, move over to computer five, which is really old and slow, and everything takes so long to load, with the exact same result. Saving as a different format did not work, all the export options were suddenly unavailable, and copying the image into another photoshop file just broke the whole computer.
So, back to looking for another computer, the technicians having given up I decide the best thing would be to redo the whole thing again, but someone has been going around all the computers stealing the mice, even the ones padlocked to the computers. I find two that still have mice, one doesn’t work, the other doesn’t have the right program. By the time I had finally given up here, of course it was getting late, the shop I had needed to visit was closed, so I cannot get on with that part of my work either. That means, work due in early tomorrow, and nothing to show for the three weeks effort.
At least the other page worked, I did all that by hand, I had wanted to draw it, scan it into the computer and edit it there, but the scanned images were useless, they tell us to work on A1 paper all the time, but then only ever provide A4 scanners, so I had to scan lots of separate images, folding my paper up to fit it in, then piece them together afterwards, where they were not all quite the same colours, or even all quite the same sizes. Then, with that done, there was nothing I could do with the file, the background was slightly off white and so many different shades it would have taken hours to change the colours, to fit it to a different background image, even to rub out the little mistakes and replace them with the background colour. Certainly I could not actually colour in the picture itself. then, how would I go about fitting other images to it, they would all be so much brighter being taken from a computer, and how would I have the one I wanted such that it faded from one side to the other?
So, I gave up on that and worked on it all by hand, with a set of colouring pencils, and within an hour it all looked rather nice, less time, in fact, than it had taken me to get the scanner to work in the first place. Such a shame the other part is a computer drawing exercise.

I think, tomorrow I will have to be up and in the university really early, I can have another go at recreating that same set of images, I think I will try a different program, see if I can find any others that allow pictures to be imported from elsewhere, and I might try photoshop again, perhaps if I reduced the resolution of the pictures a bit, so that it does not take up so much space or take so long to load? Got to be worth a try, at least.

Meanwhile, yes, my laptop is broken now, only a couple of months after I got it. Every time I plug it in, it just switches off, so I have to run it on the battery and recharge it only between uses. Fun.

18.9 need a name

November 12, 2011 Leave a comment

These last couple of weeks I have been working on the plot of a new story idea that I really want to start writing. Most of it is coming together quite well, but yet I have continually been unable to choose a name for my main character, a typical 18 year old boy who suddenly starts developing magical powers. I asked around for suggestions, and of the first few I got, my favourite to start with was Jimmy, but yet something about it did not seem to quite fit, even after I used it for a whole day. Since then, I have also considered Nathaniel and Lucas, and more recently have been thinking of Jonny, a name I intended to use elsewhere but then didn’t.
So, I turn to others for help again, I thought, this could be a good chance to try out this interesting looking poll feature on my blog, and get people to vote on their favourite. well, I could try it at least, if I can figure out how to make it work.
So, if it does work, simply vote for the name you think works best for this character, or even better, provide your own suggestion.

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , , ,

17.9 Immanuel Kant

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Philosophy day part 3 shall deal with arguably the most influential single philosopher in some centuries. Certainly in philosophical history, the subject is often divided into two parts, before Kant and after Kant. Though he worked in a number of different areas and attracted a great deal of interest from scientists, mathematicians and philosophers, his most famous single contribution was the effective union of the seemingly opposing ideals of Empiricism and Rationalism.

Growing up in Germany in the 18th century, Kant read quite a bit about many topics. Though he stayed in the same city of Konigsburg almost his entire life, the world effectively came to him through books, and over the first part of his life he made quite a name for himself writing popular essays and books on a very wide variety of topics. Then, however, all this suddenly stopped, he dedicated ever more of his time to trying to understand how the human mind actually worked, beyond the point where data from the outside world had passed through the sense organs. He effectively disappeared, shutting himself away just to read and write and think, and when he emerged from this isolation, it was with a huge, incredibly difficult book that hardly anyone even bothered trying to read.
Writing more, and attempting to write short, easy to read guides to his longer works, Kant gradually developed a new theory of philosophy, in which he attempted to apply the scientific method to the study of thought.
From this, he developed a sequence of ideas, to start with, simply that we can only know and understand that which we can actually sense. But, he suggested, there was no way of proving that things we could not sense did not exist. there was, however, no way of proving that they did, and so he proposed to set all such thoughts, particularly religious debates, aside as being impossible to decide one way or another, and to focus entirely on things that could be understood.
Effectively, he argued, all of what we see and hear and feel around us comes to us from our senses, meaning that we are, though a part of the universe around us, in some way separate from it, in that we can only know what our minds can process for us. What we see may not be what is really there, there is no way of telling what the real world outside out mind looks like.
In fact, one of his most important and influential arguments was that, this being the case, the mind imposes some sort of structure on the otherwise random and meaningless data that pours in continuously. we understand objects and events as being within space and within time, but we cannot actually see these things in the world around us, only understand them through the things that exist within them. Therefore, surely space and time exist only in our minds, they are patterns imposed upon reality by our minds to help us understand what is going on around us.
As well, our minds impose some idea of order, of cause and effect, even though there is no physical connection between two events, we see them happening together often enough that we learn that one always leads to another, and assume it to be so, and an integral part of the way the world works, even though we cannot know what will happen next time.
Space and time may not exist outside of our minds, what of beauty? That is not a physical thing in itself, not an integral part of an object, it can be understood not by what it is but only by the response it creates within our own minds, the same as with, for example, comedy, which can only be known as what it is because it is anything that makes people laugh, but there is no comedy atom inherent within certain things.
Even within the mind, that is always changing, how we feel about one thing can affect how we then feel about something else, different things can invoke different responses at different times, for different reasons, nothing can be considered absolute in that way. Indeed, it began to seem that people like Hume were right, that all our actions were goverened by emotion and passion rather than rules and logic and so on. Indeed, the entirety of our existance is controled by our feelings, which are always there, though there is one way to escape them, momentarily all other cares disappear in the presence of great beauty, a piece of art, architecture or music, for example.
Meanwhile, however, Kant’s interest in combining science and philosophy led him to the absolute laws of science, those rules that structure reality and are the same everywhere. Are, Kant wondered, there absolute laws on how the mind works? In particular, are there laws outside of ourselves governing morality? This led to the creation of the Categorical Imperative, a rule that states that, though there may well not be absolute laws of morality, we should act as though there are, that is, any moral we create for ourselves, we should assume applies to everyone else as well.

So, in summary, things we cannot sense may or may not exist, there is no point trying to prove one way or another. We cannot understand the world around us, only the data that comes to us from our senses (as in Empiricism). Time and space may or may not exist outside of our own minds, it could be that we are imagining them, and the ideas of cause and effect, just to impose order on the random data coming to us from the world around (this links back to Rationalism’s ideas of all understanding of reality being a part of the mind). Beauty, comedy, morality and other abstract ideas are only a part of our minds, but yet we should act as though everything we do was a rule that applied equally to everyone. All our actions are dictated by emotions, and the only way to escape these momentarily is to experience great art or music.

Next week, then, Arthur Schopenhaur takes these ideas and extends them, coming to some interesting realisations about the reality of existance and the existance of reality.

17.9 Before and after

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I feel I should put this up here, perhaps it will even encourage me to take it more seriously once it is official. As of yesterday, I have a new plan, yes, yet another one. I have given myself a week to try to sort out all those little things I complain about but never get around to doing anything about.
Yesterday was yet another day where I sat around thinking or flicking from one website to another just in case anyone had added a new comment in the last few minutes, or anything else I could think of just to avoid doing any real work. I ignored my timetable much of the time, I put things off until too late, and even then worked on them slowly and reluctantly. I am behind on my university work, and still not putting much effort into actually getting it done, and so on…
I am not going to expect myself to simply wake up in the morning totally different, I tried that before and it doesn’t work, so I am giving myself one week.
Next Thursday my second piece of university coursework is due in, I will have that finished on time and done well, and have made significant progress in all the various aspects of the next project. I will have gotten into the habit of working quickly and efficiently throughout the day, getting lots done for all my projects, university related and otherwise, leaving myself plenty of time to dedicate to whatever I want to do, rather than to waste simply trying to avoid work, I will have tidied up my room a little, gotten things organised, nice lists of what to do and when and how, will have ordered that book I have been meaning to get for a while, and pehaps, if all goes well, will have started getting to know my neighbours and classmates a little better. A lot to do, though really it should not be that hard, let’s see how well I manage in practice.

So far, only a few hours in, I have dedicated quite a bit of time, at the expense of following my previously worked out timetable, to catching up on the university work I have been putting off. Keep on like this and I will soon have caught up there, though it does mean all my other projects get put off to later in the evening again, and I will be rushing to get them done before bed again, especially since I have been back most of an hour and not even started any of them yet…

17.9 eleven

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

It is now 11:11, 11/11/11
I just thought I would put that out there, I might well never get another chance.
Meanwhile, Philosophy Day chapter 3 will follow shortly…

Categories: Other stuff Tags: , ,