96 COMMENTS

  1. How much more do you have to explain and explain and explain the same thing over and over and over before the religious stop asking for an explanation???

  2. Good on you Richard for calling Lennox on jumping from a wide view of deism to a man who lived 2000 years ago. This is perhaps the core problem with the religious complicating –that is grasping at straws to keep their belief of God alive by projecting human traits onto the universe. The views ARE petty because they focus on little human views and problems rather than dynamic, expansive forces and processes on a massive scale.

    To hold tight to a Biblical view of God is placing their cherished views on thin ice. They need to make an attempt to grasp onto certain scientific views and force fit them into their religious views otherwise they can be easily be extinguished. As you review this video again, notice how he jumps from the a deist view to traditional religious views. Notice how the universe is humanized.

    The concept of logos has possibilities of being a good argument but becomes complicated and mired down by the projection of consciousness placed upon it. People have called the idea of logos, the divine logos, and Divine Mind. Whether a theist is traditionally religious, deist or new age, all must attach human personalities, emotions, and thought to stay in the game. Perhaps a version of logos does exist, but I think it would be more like an expanding computer system – a simple calculator adding and subtracting at first, then onto a more complex system – slowly changing over massive amounts of time that very few, if any of us can actually comprehend. Over and over again, I hear excuses because people cannot relate to gradual shifts made over millions if not billions of years. To have a grand design with all the details figured out beforehand seems an awkward and regimented process compared to how creation works – simple ideas expanded upon and elaborated over time. (Some survived, adapted while others did not.) Even human creativity reflect this process. No one was watching TV 40,000 years ago and the roots or seed of TV existing back them were not present.

    My former church (new thought) had similar views on “logos.” Logos or Divine Consciousness, Divine Mind was within all. By placing the God within everything, I assume some apologetic figured out that this was a solution to doubts and legitimate questions challenging the “man God in the sky” view of God. Yet, it brings up whole new sets of problems.

    One day my minister, who studied with the Dali Lama, commented during a Sunday service that God is an indifferent God – no emotion, no concerns, etc. I don’t think she realized how this Buddhist view that she learned after her studies with “his holiness” was in conflict with the church’s view that God was “love.” It stuck with me because it contrasted drastically to everything she ever said. If you remove all references and similarities of humans, personalities, attitudes, activities, thoughts, you get an indifferent universe. This is exceptionally challenging to a theist or deist. You need to peel away many layers and the closer you get to the core, you get processes and forces that simply exist. This means we really are alone (no God) with no inherent meaning in anything. It means that we are temporary. Human projection is a very strong phenomenon used as an attempt to fill this emotional hole by many.

    By the way, I was curious to hear his views on Evolution also. I have heard the view that Evolution follows the expansion of “Consciousness.” Lower life forms have lower/slower “Consciousnesses.” As “Consciousness” expands, the form of life adapts and changes becoming more complex. In this view “Consciousness”or thought comes first.

  3. As always, Richard is a great speaker. I do find it funny that know matter how prestigious his opponent is supposed to be, they always have the same arguments FOR religion. I sympathize with Richard’s position of having to constantly debate the topic, but praise him for doing so as it is what made me open my eyes.

    Thanks!

    KCW

  4. It must be absolutely exhausting making all the sense in a conversation. Terrific job, although I do not envy you your job.

  5. Tell a scientist that their respective field is the result of Yahweh’s puppeteersmanship and the scientist will probably move on to another topic. Tell a person of faith that Yahweh’s plan of salvation is petty and, well, people will die (or in the case of John Lennox, become visibly flustered).

    Why doesn’t this observation give someone like John Lennox pause to consider, “am I being honest with myself or letting emotion color my desires?”

    Mike

  6. Its so sad that I have to wait until this mediocre generation dies out. I won’t see a world ruled by reason and generous empathy. I won’t see every country invest in reason and blossom accordingly. I won’t see argument conducted in its purest form based on rational thought. NO. I have to listen to selfish, attention thieves, screaming like spoilt brats, yeah but… yeah but… yeah but… THERES NO BUTS YER WRONG! Now fuck off and go crawl back under the rock you came from and take your religious wingnuts with you and give us all a break. OOPS sorry I was thinking out loud. Mmm… yes interesting Mmmm…..good Mr Lennox you make a good point. Unlike genteel Richard, these meek and mild dog in the mangers unleash the chimp in me.

  7. One of the better debates on this topic, in that Lennox actually understands the concept of debate, which makes a change.

    He can’t keep up with Dawkins for obvious reasons but still, he puts up an interesting fight at times.

    …But why do you let them go on and on about the Jesus, when they simply refuse to explain why we should consider only their fancy stories and not everyone else’s.
    Just because this is what’s fashionable right now and in this part of the world is simply not an excuse.

  8. ” …The fact that laws are there. Richard honestly says he doesn’t know where they come from. They come from the logos.” !!!

    What happened to honesty then?

  9. Hardly a debate, Lewis is either extremely uneducated or is intentionally pushing nonsense, I’m undecided.

  10. I find it sad that the existence of Jesus is considered to be one of the pieces of evidence that there’s a god. The name “Jesus” was so common back in that time period, first of all, that wild mystical stories could have been made up about any man named Jesus from Nazareth. And why is it not even mentioned that the stories match almost identically to the stories that were told about every other “divine being” similar to Jesus, in belief systems long before this particular “messiah”…Fraud, fraud, fraud, and identity theft. It would have been nice if Dawkins had at least pointed out that if there was a grand design, by a grand designer, then why does this all knowing, all seeing being allow(and watch) the torture and murder of innocent children? The slow death of starvation of innocent children…that being surely could never teach the morality this fool claims he learned from him, unless he too enjoys watching “Hunger Games”. It makes sense he only believes in “top-down” learning…

  11. All design faults in living organisms & the universe can be traced back to sin. We live in a broken, imperfect world. What!!! What sort of rationalization is this? How is it supposed to work ,exactly? I can’t believe that a professor of physics could come out with this. It’s such nonsense! I’ve heard it before, proffered as some sort of argument and couldn’t believe my ears. Double- talk such as this should not be used in a supposedly intelligent debate.

  12. Firstly, bravo Professor Dawkins, a true bearer of the title Professor! (See video for pun!)

    As many have asked, “How can a ‘so-called’ professor, Lennox, be taken seriously when he quite literary lets his emotions rule his mind and totally cloud his objectivity? “

    There was a point were I gasped at his ludicrous ineptitude on evolutionary biological principles, and I’m no expert!

    So, once again, BRAVO! Maestro Dawkins.

  13. In reply to #1 by spockck:

    there Richard, I left a comment.

    No that’s a fragmentation.

  14. Actually Lennox’s irrationality reminded me of Dr.McCoy who irritated the hell out of me during Star Trek!

  15. I was surprised how Prof. Lennox insisted on the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact. He may not be familiar with developments in the historical criticism of the New Testament books. Textual criticism of these indicates quite convincingly that the passages relating to the resurrection in the Gospels were not parts of the original passion narratives written fairly early by original Jewish disciples, whose belief in the resurrection (if Paul of Tarsus’s account can be relied on in this matter) was a subjective experience of some kind of presence of Jesus in their midst and which might be better explained in terms of psychology than of history. The passages in the Gospels as we have them now, which recount scenes of the tomb being found empty and of Jesus appearing postmortem among his disciples were added to the original passion narratives by a later generation of first-century, predominantly Gentile Christians to satisfy their more Gentile notion of resurrection and therefore cannot be regarded as accounts of anything that actually happened in history. The scriptural evidence, in other words, does not support the resurrection of Jesus that Prof. Lennox seems to believe in.

  16. In reply to #16 by mmarieden:

    I find it sad that the existence of Jesus is considered to be one of the pieces of evidence that there’s a god.

    The term “evidence”, has a special meaning in “The theist ‘mental dictionary’ of circular reasoning”!

    The name “Jesus” was so common back in that time period, first of all, that wild mystical stories could have been made up about any man named Jesus from Nazareth.

    Indeed so! Many were made up over 300 years later at the Council of Nicea. It seems there are also questions as to if Nazareth actually existed at that time!

    Xtian fundamentalists basically listen to bible stories, accept them as history and then switch off their brains.

    There was a recent interesting discussion on biblical history illustrating assertion v researched knowledge, here: – http://www.www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/1/22/public-school-bible-classes-plagued-with-religious-bias?category=Religion#

    And why is it not even mentioned that the stories match almost identically to the stories that were told about every other “divine being” similar to Jesus, in belief systems long before this particular “messiah”…Fraud, fraud, fraud, and identity theft.

    There was this interesting link to a Jewish site, on that earlier discussion here:- http://www.torah.org/qanda/seequanda.php?id=300#

  17. The (unfortunately) eternal debate between what is true, versus what people want to believe. Hopefully we will evolve to a state where these discussions are no longer necessary, and we can work toward a common goal unhindered by unimportant fantasies.

  18. Well, it seems as though staunch supporters of religion, like Lennox, are rapidly becoming a dying breed because of it’s conflict with science. Hell, even Pope Benedict has decided to resign and get out of the kitchen because the heated conflict is affecting his health. Maybe Lennox should vie for the position?!

  19. Lennox is an idiot. I will never forget his “do you have faith in your wife?” nonsense that he tried to peddle. But what annoyed me about that was our Proff completely let him get away with it.

  20. A thought which occurred to me whilst watching this: If the Christian God’s supposed self-sacrifice was an atonement for sin then it must surely have been for His own, and if so it was not nearly enough.

  21. GROAN !!!

    Did Professor Lennox really talk about us living in a ‘broken universe’ or am I hearing things?

    I mean even a numbskull like me knows that sin first took place in the Garden of Eden, oh er,except Lennox accepts evolution, therefore no Garden of Eden, therefore no original sin !

    If the universe is “broken”, are we going to blame Adam and Eve, or the big guy who made it!

    Professor Emeritus of Pissquickery Lennox.

    Jeez what a wind bag!

  22. Richard mentions that the universe had a simple beginning, and that starting simple and building up to something more complex over time is a far simpler explaination than positing that something complicated popped into existence (or has always existed). I’ve heard him use this argument before. However, from what I understand, the universe as a whole was in its most complicated/ordered state immediately after the big bang. The universe is getting less complicated and more disordered over time as per the second law of thermodynamics, as entropy increases. There may be some local instances of increasing order (life, for example), but the universe as a whole gets more disordered/less complicated fromone moment in time to the next. The universe is at a far simpler and more disordered state than it was before life existed anywhere.

    The fact that the origin of the universe was so well ordered is still one of the biggest mysteries in cosmology. Am I missing something here in regards to the point Richard is trying to make?

    Also, please don’t mistake me for trying to slip in a God as an explaination here, I am an atheist here and fully understand that a God is not an explaination at all, but rather a supernatural non-argument to disguise the fact that we don’t have an answer. I’m just trying to better understand Richard’s point and whether or not that point is consistent with the fact of a complicated universe at its origin.

  23. Watched this back then, can’t bear to suffer again, no matter how heinous my sinning! Just what is within that ’10 lb of ugly fat’ atop Lennox’ shoulders? I know, ad hom. is unfair but sometimes….

    ONE comment I did like- “We live in a broken, imperfect world…”
    That deals with the fine tuning argument nicely!

  24. In reply to #21 by Garrick Worthing:

    I was surprised how Prof. Lennox insisted on the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact. He may not be familiar with developments in the historical criticism of the New Testament books. Textual criticism of these indicates quite convincingly that the passages relating to the resurrection in the Gospels were not parts of the original passion narratives written fairly early by original Jewish disciples, whose belief in the resurrection (if Paul of Tarsus’s account can be relied on in this matter) was a subjective experience of some kind of presence of Jesus in their midst and which might be better explained in terms of psychology than of history. The passages in the Gospels as we have them now, which recount scenes of the tomb being found empty and of Jesus appearing postmortem among his disciples were added to the original passion narratives by a later generation of first-century, predominantly Gentile Christians to satisfy their more Gentile notion of resurrection and therefore cannot be regarded as accounts of anything that actually happened in history. The scriptural evidence, in other words, does not support the resurrection of Jesus that Prof. Lennox seems to believe in.

    Because Christianity hangs entirely on the ‘resurrection’ as fact- if false, Xtianity fails.

  25. In reply to #29 by Axulus:

    Richard mentions that the universe had a simple beginning, and that starting simple and building up to something more complex over time is a far simpler explaination than positing that something complicated popped into existence (or has always existed). I’ve heard him use this argument before. However, from what I understand, the universe as a whole was in its most complicated/ordered state immediately after the big bang. The universe is getting less complicated and more disordered over time as per the second law of thermodynamics, as entropy increases. There may be some local instances of increasing order (life, for example), but the universe as a whole gets more disordered/less complicated fromone moment in time to the next. The universe is at a far simpler and more disordered state than it was before life existed anywhere.

    Hmm. This is a tough one to address, but…

    There seems to be a conflation between the rather nebulous (sorry!) term “disorder” and the thermodynamic state variable called “entropy.” This arises. generally, because Shannon’s early work in information theory generated a term which acted and looked like entropy, but nobody, to my knowledge, has formally linked the two, statistical mechanics notwithstanding.

    To get down to basics, entropy started as a fudge factor of sorts. The initial postulate was that the change in the internal energy of a gaseous system (and at this point in the development disregarding any changes in chemical potential – that came later with the remarkable insight by J Willard Gibbs) was due to energy losses by Newtonian work (PdV) and energy gains due to influx of heat, dQ. Hence the famous dU=dQ-PdV. Since temperature (T) clearly had something to do with dQ, entropy (S) was introduced to mirror the PdV term: dQ=TdS. It was found that in all closed systems, and applying the empirical observation the “heat does not flow from cooler bodies to warmer bodies” (“warm” and “cool” being measured as differences in T), that S was NOT a conserved quantity, but nevertheless never decreased in any properly closed system. Moreover, it changed relative to P, T, and V in ways such that it actually was a state variable. This is not at all surprising, given the initial formulation of S as a state variable – as I said, a fudge factor adjusted to make the equations close. Nobody’s ever built a direct entropy meter. (To be fair, nobody’s built a direct energy meter either, but energy is a lot easier to quantify and sell since it is a conserved quantity – something Newton knew nothing about, by the way.)

    So, to say that the unvirerse was “more ordered” early on because the total entropy had to be less is misleading. Yes, there’s an awful lot of this fudge factor “entropy” distributed throughout the cosmos but planetary systems, life, aggregation of matter into ordered structures, etc. is not precluded.

    If you really want to get into it, the Second Law can be seen as synonymous with “cause precedes effect” or more basically “time moves forward in the same direction for all things.” This last is a bit of a circular argument, however, since we have no independent “time” against which to measure our usual notion of time. This is put forward rather elegantly by Ilya Prigogene (sorry, I haven’t a reference, but I think it’s in Order Out Of Chaos, by Prigogene and Stengers) when discussing his work on non-equilibroium thermodynamics (for which he won a Nobel prize.)

  26. In reply to #31 by Nodhimmi:

    Because Christianity hangs entirely on the ‘resurrection’ as fact- if false, Xtianity fails.

    Indeed! Paul of Tarsus says as much in his First Epistle to the Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ cannot have been raised either, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith.” (1 Co 15:13-14)

    Whenever a Christian holds forth about the resurrection in a public debate, I would see that as an important and apposite point on which to challenge him with the evidence of textual criticism, for thus the soapbox that he has taken for granted is kicked from under his feet.

  27. Lennox Vs. Dawkins Debate –

    Has Science Buried God ? (2009)

    Nope!
    While theists have put much effort into burying and hiding their gods in obfuscated obscurity, and in a diminishing succession of inaccessible “gaps” in knowledge, neuroscientists and psychologists have left the little god patches and their generated delusions in the believers’ brains, exposed to view and scientific scrutiny!

  28. I always find it humorous when theologians use God as a point to explain the world and the universe. As if all explanation stops with God. Adding God to the equation only begs the question: where did God come from? How did it get his power? The problem of infinite regress is problem enough not to use God as an explanation of anything. Purporting a God only adds more problems to an already complicated question. Now if you want to use the concept of God as a metaphor for what we don’t know about the universe and give the mystery a title… I suppose I’m more sympathetic to this claim. But using God as an explanation doesn’t seem to explain anything.

  29. It’s frustrating that I can’t find a full transcript for this debate. I’m deaf and the video’s captioning is terrible.

  30. Adding God to the equation only begs the question: where did God come
    from? How did it get his power? The problem of infinite regress is
    problem enough not to use God as an explanation of anything.

    God is eternal so there is no infinite regress.

    But using God as an explanation doesn’t seem to explain anything.

    But it does. ‘God created the universe’ explains how the universe came into being. That’s an explanation, is it not?

    Andrew

  31. Andrew

    The cosmos (or some property of it) is eternal and simpler. Of the five main cosmogenies 3 have eternal properties and the other two merely have nothing to say about before a universe or after it as their models, don’t have any such provision.

    Spacetimes like our current universe are created (most probably) from Quantum Realities which are time symmetric and effectively acausal.

  32. Andrew Chapman #33
    Sep 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Adding God to the equation only begs the question: where did God come from? How did it get his power? The problem of infinite regress is problem enough not to use God as an explanation of anything.

    God is eternal so there is no infinite regress.

    If gods can be eternal, so can universes (meaning there is no need for creating gods) – but there is no evidence to support claims for either!

    But using God as an explanation doesn’t seem to explain anything.

    But it does. ‘God created the universe’ explains how the universe came into being.

    There seems to be a big “How?” question unanswered!

    That’s an explanation, is it not?

    Nope! Explanations give details of mechanisms, – including the origins of this god, and if and when his/her’s/it’s existence and origin has been established, a sequence of procedures is required before this can qualify as “an explanation” of a construction technique!

    Better to stick to the honest answer:- “Before the inflationary stage of the Big-Bang, we do not know!” – But from inflation onwards, there is no evidence that gods are required for the evolutionary processes of atoms, molecules, stars and galaxies, to proceed through to the present time!

    The actual physical evidence is much simpler!
    The god-delusion is really close to the believer – inside their brain, – and it merely patches indoctrinated egotistical self-deceptions over any gaps in personal knowledge which are sufficient to mislead those ignorant of astronomy, cosmology, and physics to give a false confidence in pseudo-knowledge of “god-did-it-by-mysterious-magic”!
    Directions to look at little known places in distant areas of space and time, are merely diversionary distractions to assist in hiding the presence of which ever version of the thousands of gods has been implanted by indoctrination.

  33. Phil #35

    At first I thought that Richard was letting him speak too much then, I thought, great, let him talk. He is making a fool of himself. The comments by the audience at the end brought me back to my original feeling. What is lacking in Lennox’s knowledge, as a scientist, to make him believe the things he does?

  34. What he doesn’t know, not the least inkling of, is how we become “moral”.

    God is the only answer he has and it causes him to use evidence backwards. (I haven’t seen this in a long time. I am referring to other things I’ve seen, but its likely to crop up in this). So he takes evidence of the golden rule cropping up everywhere in most religions (he neglects that it crops up in non-religious philosophies stronger and less qualified) during the same axial age and claims it for God. That it is, rather, a cultural invention adopted by religions doesn’t occur to him.

    That, mirror neurons, spindle cell, the PFC, the ACC, oxytocin C-tactile nerves, hair, over-imitation, premature brains, wild wiring and associative corteces, metaphorical centres that lever physical bliss into love, hyper dependency, mammal-wide infant detection, culture, as if kin detection, kin selection, more culture, exist…. and exactly go to form our moral aesthetics and values is unknown to him.

    Me, the golden rule is a bit duff for me. Why not at least try and do unto others what they would wish for themselves, the Platinum Rule? Or will Granny get some more power tools for Christmas?

  35. Phil #38

    I can see the model for morality through evolution but the model for his brain doesn’t make sense for what he does. Even if he didn’t understand it, surely it would only take a short while for him to learn the basics, enough to convince him, with a scientists brain that works on logic. How does a scientist ignore pear reviews and decide they are all wrong even if it is not in his field? He relies on this system as a scientist. Do many scientists tell other fields they are wrong in such a strong way?

    Could it be that he actually knows all this but still thinks morality taught by religion, particularly his brand, is a stronger force and put a story together that he thinks will keep people in religion and under its control? He is telling stories to fool the fools and satisfy his thoughts. He thinks Richard is just going the wrong way which I thought the bit where he pleads that there is room for both in the world and the way he, at one point, squeaked the words, “but where do you get your morality from Richard” looking pained. ‘Yes science is like this but we have a bigger controlling force that I would like to see remain’. He thinks he is taking the high ground from Richard and Richard is a silly boy that is playing with fire.

  36. The Golden “Rule”.

    Yes, I put quotation marks up there.

    Interesting thing about our morality: no rule can make one moral. The golden rule is not a rule; it is practiced by people who are already moral and would be that way regardless of having any knowledge of the “rule”.

    No rule or maxim or theory of morality can make a person kind; all it can do is influence behavior – up to a point. And following a rule or a commandment (whether it’s the so-called golden rule or a commandment) is no more moral than doing the right thing out of fear of punishment or out of desire for praise.

    The inner origin of real loving-kindness, therefore, is a difficult problem to solve. It cannot be brought out in someone by explaining why one must or should be good – even if those explanations are absolutely correct.

    It does no harm to teach ethics or manners or the golden rule; in fact, it can help one get in touch with one’s self in an ethical sense; it helps one’s development along if one’s own inclinations (not quite conscious yet) are corroborated by and supported by a well-known maxim. – A crystallization of ethical self-awareness.

    Moreover, without having at least some awareness of the basis tenets of morality – good ones, that is – one is left to grope in the dark; and even if one is basically good one is more vulnerable to being misled and corrupted, is more likely to unwittingly develop false values. So teaching morals does have some practical benefits. It can serve as a guide of sorts, but one has to be capable of being guided; and no guide can compel one to be capable of being guided; that presupposes the inclination as already existent, as I said before.

  37. Basic , not basis (tenets)

    Phil

    …mirror neurons, spindle cell, the PFC, the ACC, oxytocin C-tactile nerves, hair, over-imitation, premature brains, wild wiring and associative corteces, metaphorical centres that lever physical bliss into love, hyper dependency, mammal-wide infant detection, culture, as if kin detection, kin selection, more culture…

    I have the impression when I read things like this that you think we are all just being acted upon by various mechanisms within the brain; and while those mechanisms have been in motion by environmental factors, we are all just basically passive beings controlled and formed by our own brains and our own bodies. I don’t think you have ever once ever really defined what moral goodness is, unless I am mistaken. It is not something that can be explained very easily; and my hunch is that neurobiologists can only explain what triggers this and what triggers that; but what it is that is triggered, that is, the feeling of sympathy itself, its essential nature, has remained unexplained….perhaps. (Don’t know for sure.)

    I worry that in the future morality will not only be a branch of neuroscience it will belong exclusively to neuroscience. This already seems to be the fervent wish of many. So we can make people moral with drugs or chips or surgery. Better yet, just zap someone with some electricity the next time he wants to steal something. That’ll cure him, alright.

    (I am all for sedation if needed; but that does not improve one’s character; it only controls behavior.)

    -Dan the ignoramus

  38. Dan

    you think we are all just being acted upon by various mechanisms within the brain

    Yet again NO!

    We are those mechanisms. We are those memes they carry, those tastes and aspirations and quirky fritzed bits.

    A zap here a tweak there to tidy up? NO!

    I’m the one who calls for tolerance of neural diversity and calls it a brilliant strength, the basis even of a creative culture. Mutuality carries the “weaklings” like Newton, Cavendish, Dirac, Schopenhauer, and we blossom! But all dead and gone in Macaque culture. Likewise Blake or Van Gogh. etc.

    I’m not repeating this. FFS.

    SSRIs, Lithium?

    Hell yes. I’ve seen people in abject misery without. Suffering is the test. What else could it be?

  39. Dan,

    It never needed ethics for kindness and mutuality to evolve on a physical substrate and then on a mental one. It started a long way back and keeps proving to itself to be efficacious.

    Its not just religion’s co-opting of it that hacks me off.

    “Love rang out before the chapel bell”

    But ethics that too often seems to think its in charge.

    More than anything I love being a mammal almost more than than my primate inferencing machine, reason and discovery. Being built for play and cuddles underwrites who I am more than any ethical or such like rule.

  40. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/26/health/brain-moral-judgments/index.html

    Of course SSRIs and mood stabilizers. I think those are good. There’s a new one that acts upon the 5-HTIA receptors, an atypical SSRI. Supposed to be very good. In fact I know it’s good. Not sure if it’s considered an SSRI.

    Okay, I hear you, Phil. Neural diversity. Good. But what does “we are those mechanisms” mean? Mechanisms are mechanisms and “we” are we. (Rhetorical. Just think about it. Problem of self is huge and of infinite interest.) And what the hell does FSS mean? Sick of acronyms. (Could it mean: find some science? friday saturday sunday? fried salad supper?)

    Greene’s study suggested that three brain structures — the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate and angular gyrus on the left and right sides — “play a central role in the emotional processes that influence personal moral decision-making,” Raine and Yang wrote.

    My opinion:

    So what? There has to be something going on there. So that’s what’s going on! Why is this so interesting? Exactly what I said: this is triggered and that is triggered. Eventually we will have eradicated immorality completely – through surgery or some other kind of medical intervention. It will probably happen. Not a question of if as much as when. (Unless we are wiped out through extinction, and that could easily happen.)

    Raine and Yang suggest, based on research, that “antisocial groups” such as psychopaths may know what is moral, but they may lack a feeling of what is moral.

    Ya think? Okay, they got that right.

    I have a theory that, as a rule, as humans gets “smarter” they get stupider. We can all learn something from Socrates.

    You haven’t answered my question yet on the Open Discussion thread: can time itself be perceived?

    And following a rule or a commandment (whether it’s the so-called golden rule or a commandment)…

    Corrected: And following a rule (whether it’s the so-called golden rule or a commandment)…

  41. Ollie

    Could it be that he actually knows all this but still thinks morality taught by religion….

    I don’t think he does. But I think he studiously avoids not looking too carefully. I think a shrink may uncover a fear that it may be true, but for his day to day integrity it is well smoothed over.

    It very easy to see parts of this and dismiss it as partial in need of godly assistance to do the big things like altruistic self sacrifice or concerns for the future of others. But you have to give someone a copy of Sapolsky’s Behave and maybe a year’s MSc course to see how remarkably its all coming together.

  42. Dan,

    We are a hundred billion mechanisms, interconnected with each other a thousand fold. And then there is the data at each synapse.

    You’re the reductionist, not me.

    I’ve written extensively about the self. It is indeed fascinating. I’ve written about how its key elements (self model making their need and nature) may underwrite the very quality of the Hard Problem, the biggest mystery of all! But this is not fruitful between us.

    I’m still thinking about observing time. Part of me wants to talk about David Eagleman’s research, some physics stuff, but this isn’t a thrilling prospect for me.

    FFS = For Fuck’s Sake.

  43. Phil,

    Yes, I may be a reductionist; I am certainly skeptical of a great many things. And no, I am not a reductionist at all. On the contrary. Depends on the context.

    No we are Not a hundred billion mechanisms. That doesn’t mean anything (to me).

    We can only observe our bodies, actions, thoughts, feelings, and the biological processes that correspond to (or “cause”) these actions, thoughts and feelings. We can only observe, period. The self observes itself? or does it observe what it (the self) does and what the body or organism (which may or may not be the self) does?

    You might as well say that we have no self. To say it is a hundred billion mechanisms is less meaningful to me than saying it is nothing. (I wish I had access to all of out interchanges on this site, and with an index!) There are many ways of defining the self… What is the self? Don’t you see how questions like this are inextricably bound up with the question, what does it mean to know something? and what does it mean to say that something is something?

    The hard problem may be fruitful for us to discuss at some point; but it is a relatively recent concept, I think; and I am not quite sure what that problem is, frankly. I cannot find a good definition. I tried Wiki. Not helpful.

    Just tell me, when you can, if you think that Time itself can be observed (perceived).

    And do you think Space itself can be observed? We have discussed this at length, but I still would like a yes or no answer (on the other thread).

  44. Good, pertinent (for the self), clip Ollie.

    “The Self” is not a thinking tool it is not even a cognising tool, at least, not for a while. It is a post hoc narrator “explaining away” what you have just done experienced or recalled, a thing we are compelled to do at every turn to quickly parse events within a simple frame and make them simply potentially memorable.

    A patient undergoing neural surgery is conscious and a neuron is stimulated and as expected he laughs. Asked why he laughed he explains it was because of the funny expression on that doctors face.

  45. Phil #50

    A patient undergoing neural surgery is conscious and a neuron is
    stimulated and as expected he laughs. Asked why he laughed he explains
    it was because of the funny expression on that doctors face.

    I can relate to that.

    My depression, years ago, was diagnosed by my doctor when I happened to mention (didn’t know much about it then) that peoples faces looked like they were annoyed with me and I blamed it all on me for not coping and becoming a miserable bastard and driving them all away. He was over retirement age and had recently gone through a depression himself after a divorce. Hearing my description of faces he knew instantly.

  46. Phil

    Is that what it is? You have it all figured out, don’t you? It “explains away” Brilliant! …..not

    Couldn’t watch the sharpie-smoothie with his pumped up pectoral muscles, had to can it. I’ve heard that story about the guy with the rod in his brain who survived and then acted differently. Big surprise.

    (There is no mind versus brain. There is only a brain or a mind. Depends on what you want to say. Different connotation. But no non-physical spirit associated with anything mental. How could there be?)

    FFS. Thought it was FSS. Must have been my brain’s mistake. (And it wasn’t me who attacked the messenger again; it was my brain. I just narrated.)

  47. I literally stared in the mirror just now (at my less than handsome face) for about five whole minutes trying to figure out what I am. I almost concluded that my “core self” (if there is one) has to be my brain, as that is where my consciousness emanates from. But then I reminded myself that consciousness is just consciousness of something, and that something can only be my body; and the brain, while contained within the skull, is also part of the body, and is quite observable under certain conditions. So how could it be that that which is me is observing, is conscious of, itself – and is at the same time the core-self itself? – That would seem to imply that the core-self (what I am) is something that is merely observable. But if what is observing and what is observed are one and the same thing then I have no answer to my question, just a paradox. The hand cannot grasp itself.

  48. Dan #53
    Sep 26, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    So how could it be that that which is me is observing, is conscious of, itself – and is at the same time the core-self itself? –
    That would seem to imply that the core-self (what I am) is something that is merely observable.
    But if what is observing and what is observed are one and the same thing
    then I have no answer to my question, just a paradox.

    The answer, is that you can be observed by other humans: – who by their understanding of the genetic relationships of humans within the species, can imply that their brains and bodies function on closely similar lines! In science we rely on others (often specialists) of integrity to observe and report what we cannot personally observe directly!

    The hand cannot grasp itself.

    But another hand can grasp it, and it can grasp another hand!

  49. It “explains away” Brilliant! …..not

    Then what explains the utter folly of the untutored, the religious, the superstitious? Why do they model themselves so simple mindedly?

    We are not brilliant fresh out of the box. Culture is key as a cursory glance at the planet shows. The problem approaching this issue is that Dan and Schopenhauer look in the mirror for their subject. Absolutely the hand cannot grasp the hand nor the eye see itself (without tools). We are, you and I, exquisitely en-cultured. We are not able through introspection alone to see the join of cultural glue that makes us whole and modern and Dan.

    Sitting at the mouth of a cave, staring out, rather, is where we would better project ourselves when seeking something more foundational.

    One of the biggest clues to evolution is that it constructs its outcomes one thing atop another. The earlier made substrate constrains and forms what is built upon it. In our development as humans from conception evolution is replayed and we are constructed in like sequence. There is no master plan just a sequence of building instruction (collected sequentially) contingent on the recently built and the environment. A self comes to mind, is built, after skills and some semantic knowledge is acquired (lemons, spit!) and with sustained socialisation, and when a rudimentary personhood proves useful to help advantageously navigate people.

  50. Watched this little fellow last night on 5. Born with just 2% of his brain and spina bifida. Does anyone know the story? At the age of four, they scanned him again and were amazed that his brain was now at 80%. It was more than hinted at that his family, Mother, Father and sister, helped by setting up a system where every interaction was about learning something new or repeating things already learned.

    I got a little confused when one of the specialists mentioned about the brain being squashed by the fluid and the pressure which had me distrust the programs claims a little. Was the 80% squashed into 2% of his skull or had it in fact, as the main claim was, that his brain had grown itself by a considerable amount? Huge difference between the two possibilities but some of these programs hint at the truth but let the sensational part rule regardless.

  51. Remember we expect our brain to grow from 28% to 80% in just a few years and for it to reach peak complexity in 18 months. It grows wildly in that period and takes many years after to be pruned back into a more useful and analytical thing.

    Our great leap forward among primates was to be born prematurely and with less brain than they so we could grow it and prune it in the midst of cultural input.

    Chimpanzees are born with 50% of their adult brain mass.

    Growing outside the uterine environment leads to more, and more random, connections, perhaps because of the wild complexity of inputs with no initial processing to put it in some kind of relational order. In the womb the signals are calm and ordered and result in a reliable and consistent grown brain structure, all that is needed to make sense of the simple signals.

    Brain growth may be terminated by simple cerebro-spinal fluid pressure. When the skull gets full, stop making brain. A hydrostatic switch would be clever because it assess all areas and transmits to all areas. A high CSF pressure (due to some osmotic fault, say) may have terminated brain growth prematurely for this little lad. After birth the genetic/protein growing signal is still there and if the stop switch is reset, growth can carry on.

    Some foundational deficits may be there without the calm growing time. (In future they might learn to keep a simple womb like environment during a catchup phase.) BUT given his chance to do more of what made us special, this all might just make him extra special.

    The lack of fundamentals might not be too catastrophic either. The Chinese woman born without a cerebellum at all, slowly learned the tasks usually allocated to it. A French civil servant whose brain growth terminated at 25% due to hydrocephaly lived a perfectly normal life. (This latter is a testament to the few stresses of a French lifestyle, an easy government job and much pleasure. He got by with an IQ of 80. French and US average IQs tie at 98. I suspect that the average American lifestyle with its lack of welfare and support demands an IQ of 115 for similar ease.)

  52. Thanks Phil. Brilliant as always and this time think I understood it all 😉

    The amount of fluid was the problem and his head was larger than it should have been because of it. They put in a valve and slowly let out the pressure. The new brain began to fill the space.

    Some foundational deficits…

    He struggled with numbers but was a little ahead on other things. One specialist said he used the iPad better than her.

  53. Phil,

    Thanks for the elaboration of your idea of the self.

    But herein lies the difference between us: I look and cannot find the self in me; you look at the self outside of and all around you and never succeed at explaining or locating any one thing either. (Then you go on and on with biology and leave the troublesome question behind.)

    And looking in the mirror doesn’t work; that can be regarded as allegorical, although it really happened.

    The self might be a word signifying nothing or it might conceivably be a collective meta-substance, but if it isn’t in us it is not a self. I suspect at times that the “core self” has to be understood ultimately in a non-physical, i.e. moral sense – and cannot and will never be known directly.

    (And Schopenhauer did not look for that self in the subject; that would require the knowing subject to become its own object. The self for S. is the intelligible character – which becomes and manifests itself as the acquired and empirical character, respectively, through action vis-a-vis the decisions we make throughout life; and knowing our empirical character might not be so wholly different than your narrating self. You can wiki “intelligible character” but you won’t get a very good definition.)

    (Wrote something on Descartes on the other thread.)

  54. Cont.

    Knowing and Being are two separate things and must always remain separate. The most that we can ever hope to obtain is knowledge of self; but it may be that in order to gain that knowledge one has to “become the being that one is”. (Nietzsche) And we still can only know what we are. We can be what we know we are; but knowledge is always something apart from that which is known.

    We are what we are. And we do what we do. And maybe we do what we are. But, yet again, knowing and being are two entirely separate things.

    I asked (#48) what it means to know something and what it means to say that something is something. You said something like “the self presents a narrative.” Perhaps that is all it can do. How much closer to the self can we get apart from exhibiting what our (moral) character is through experience?

  55. you look at the self outside of and all around you

    You don’t actually have a soul, Dan.

    You are in pieces, the which were coalescing in your brain, tens of millions of years apart.

    You have possibly forgotten my theory (though I have repeated it several times here) how the self is a compound contingent self narrative, maintained with utter obsessiveness, that helps us navigate the future by allowing us to know what we will do. A modest few elements that appear most pertinent to allow us the quickest accurate enough assessment of ourselves and our likelihood to act and manner of acting.

    Most important about its obsessive maintenance is the effect on the quality of our experiences and our subconscious assessments of what consequentially is salient, what becomes conscious and therefore potentially memorable.

    We are manifold and then integrative. This is why we can introspect at all.

    The illusion works to seal of the work the many actors and decision makers, the better to project a singular self to ourselves and others, the better to navigate among others and as unexpected benefit creates the very cause (the obsessive self interest) of our vivid experience.

  56. Your remarks are laced with tautologies and unclear to me: “the self is a compound contingent self narrative…”

    What is the hard problem in your own words? (I will try and solve it.)

    Found this: “The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.”

    Is it a “why” question? Why not ask why any physical state is non-conscious rather than conscious?

    Perhaps we should continue any further discussion concerning the self or the “hard problem” on the Open Thread.

  57. Dan #60
    Sep 28, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    We can be what we know we are;

    We can be what out stages of development allow us to be, and can know what we are, with objective research, and critical reflection, but we can only be what we “know” we are, insofar as our perceptions match physical reality.
    Delusional preconceptions of subjective “knowledge”, can never come into the physical reality of the real world.

    but knowledge is always something apart from that which is known.

    BUT:- the collective knowledge of all humanity, is always something vastly greater, and most of it apart from that which is known by the individual.

    Fixed

  58. Dan #63
    Sep 29, 2017 at 5:17 am

    Found this: “The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.”

    This is purely a matter of defining the term consciousness in physical material terms. It is only a “hard problem” for those vague thinkers, who lack the perception to recognise this question as a vague circular argument!

    Is it a “why” question? Why not ask why any physical state is non-conscious rather than conscious?

    The answer is to look at various features of activities of brains and nerves, and define which of these, neuroscience recognises as (conscious? sub-conscious? unconscious? autonomous? reflex?) thought processes, – be it in chordate worms or vertebrate or mollusc brains.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2017/09/researchers-unite-in-quest-for-standard-model-of-the-brain/

    Neural activity, like may scientific issues which simple minds fail to grasp, has a range of levels of complexity, and is not a black and white issue!

    The fumblings of earlier philosophers about “consciousness”, are like the fumblings about what is, and is not, “matter” (Molecules, atoms, sub-atomic “particles”, energy, forces, etc.).

    They are trying to shoe-horn “souls” into brains, just as those who went before them tried to shoe-horn phlogiston into materials!

  59. “We can be what we know we are.”

    An awkward phrase. That is, however, as far as one can conceivably go – although I don’t think many humans have attained anything close to perfection as far as self-knowledge in concerned; nor do I know what could ever constitute an adequate proof that what one thinks one knows about one’s self is really what one is. My point was that being and knowing are forever divided by the division into subject and object.

    I am not so sure that we can learn about our own selves (if there is one) by studying the selves of others. Another person’s body is no different than our own, and a subject can never “know” a subject. An object can never know an object. Studying the brains of others is no different than studying our own brain. But is the brain the seat of knowing or being? Whether it is the former or the latter everything I said still applies. If the brain knows than we are looking at that which knows. If the brain is literally what we are than how could it be both knower and known, both subject and object? If it is both, than we would have to use the knowing part in order to know the being part. But that would be like looking in the mirror and pointing: “there I am.” That being, whether it is a part or a whole, this part of the brain or that, is a mere representation of perception – in the brain. If one accepts the analogy of the self and the core of an apple, one could, I suppose, expose the core and say: here it is. But all analogies are imprecise…

    “The world is entirely representation, and as such requires the knowing subject as the supporter of its existence.”

    We cannot find God in outer space, and the self cannot be found in the inner body. The preconceptions associated with objective knowledge can and have been at odds with reality as well. The history of dogmatism, fanaticism, religion, and superstition is proof of that.

    I am discussing the issue of knowledge of the self. What is the self? is it capable of being known? can it be said to exist?, etc., etc.

    So that’s the hard problem? (65) I’m sorry I asked.

    Confused. And my heads feels weird. I don’t claim to have any answers…. And forgive me for my inadequate remarks. I rarely succeed in expressing myself to my satisfaction.

  60. “The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.”

    Though not wrong in one reading this is too careless for me.

    The problem is not one of why this happens, to which my answer is because it encapsulates information that subconscious heuristics judge are potentially salient and are fitted to be short term memorable with the prospect of becoming actual, biographical memories. (I have numerous other such conjectures on why. Unlike some I don’t believe it to be a mere spandrel of evolved brains.)

    The Hard Problem is of how brain-states like thus and so (in a situated cognitive being) create the quality (not the informational contents) of experience.

    The one to one correspondence of conscious experience and potential biographical memorability, signals a fundamental involvement in what the self is.

  61. In 61 the last paragraph should start

    The illusion works to seal off the work of the many actors and decision makers, the better to project a singular self to ourselves and others,

  62. Dan #66
    Sep 29, 2017 at 7:02 am

    If it is both, than we would have to use the knowing part in order to know the being part. But that would be like looking in the mirror and pointing: “there I am.”

    Of course in modern times, we can look at a video instead of a mirror, and while that is seeing ourselves as we were recently, rather than seeing a near instantaneous reversed image in the mirror, so we can do self analysis with the aid of suitably sophisticated technology!

    I am not so sure that we can learn about our own selves (if there is one) by studying the selves of others.
    Another person’s body is no different than our own, and a subject can never “know” a subject. An object can never know an object.
    Studying the brains of others is no different than studying our own brain.
    But is the brain the seat of knowing or being?
    Whether it is the former or the latter everything I said still applies.
    If the brain knows than we are looking at that which knows.

    Similarly, neuroscience is moving towards the point where we can look at recordings of our own brain scans, and a chemical or functional analysis.

  63. But what is being? It seems as if it is a process of complete interdependency of parts. The whole cannot explain the parts which comprise the whole. But the parts cannot explain the whole.

    Our own self as an existing entity, in this particular sense only, is analogous or comparable to the Big Bang in so far as no first cause can ever be identified. There are no ultimate and final answers. Only negations of insufficient explanations. What was before it and us? And similarly, no one part of us can be isolated or identified as a cause of our being, as “it” cannot function in isolation or outside of a continuous and never-ending chain of interconnecting links. The law of causality in time prohibits the mind from identifying the nature of an origin of existence – whether it be or own or the existence of a universe.

    All we can do is amass knowledge of the relations between elements that are part of the undying and unceasing process of cause and effect. And no one thing can be extracted from that process and held up as either primary, self-causing, or irreducible. If we remove all parts of the human body and nothing but the brain remains and somehow we could keep that brain alive, then we could say that we have isolated the essential part of life. But then we would have to go inside the brain too and remove each part of it in order to isolate the essential part. And we’d be left with what? Where would that take us? You turn off one too many switches and you extinguish life. Proves nothing; only reinforces the idea of the interdependency of the parts within a process of a chain of causes.

    There is no one origin or one end. But there are numberless origins and endings.

  64. Alan, Phil,

    “Similarly, neuroscience is moving towards the point where we can look at recordings of our own brain scans, and a chemical or functional analysis.” (Alan4D #69)

    I guess we can learn more about our “selves” that way. Who needs psychoanalysis? and forget introspection: it’s a dead end.

    (I think I’m going through a bit of a crisis. But I’ll be all right; par for the course for a philosophically minded person.)

  65. I guess we can learn more about our “selves” that way. Who needs psychoanalysis? and forget introspection: it’s a dead end.

    Most unlikely. I think we can come to understand “selves” schematically, but as someone who thinks neuro diversity is an inevitability given the sheer contingency of how we are made, from a sequenced list of protein manufacture to our(situated) cultural formation, that we are made in no-one’s image, that we help make each other, that we make at an increasing rate, that art is our best tool for self revelation. that understanding “selves” schematically is just another small glimpse into the tools of our trade of taking better control of our lives, acknowledging our mental muscles like we should with biceps and gluteals, I cannot for a moment agree. Selves for all their schematic commonality will not only evolve schematically (quite quickly too) but are wildly different in content one to another serving personal lives.

    I used to be squeamish about grisly organs. Now I think our plumbing astonishing. Of course there is plumbing for everything about us. Where do our morals come from? Fuck right off religion, we have moral plumbing… quite a lot, and our Selves have woven it into the stories they tell us to help us gain traction in the world and carry our best evolutionary trick of mutualism forward into our new (mutual!) adventuring.

  66. Phil,

    I don’t know who I am or what I am! We come to be and pass away. Pretty soon we’ll all be dead. A brief moment and then Nothingness. It makes no sense! No sense at all! Where’s the Life Driven Purpose thread? Ah, I’ll find nothing there.

    (Sorry. I’ll be okay. I need some rest, that’s all.)

  67. Dan. Lets stop this.

    Time for books and other pleasures.

    My son is getting into French philosophers and discovering the delights of those a million safe miles from Derrida and such, Bachelard and Deleuze whose works read rather more as artistic statements. In discussing many topics of human experience this seems a more honest approach. I must go look. I’ll report back.

    May I urge Richard Holmes The Age of Wonder about the Romantic Poets in an age of discovery. It is a delight in my view and took me straight back to Coleridge and Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley, left behind in school for too long.

  68. Okay, my friend. Back to fiction and other pleasures for a while. But only for a while. I cannot abandon my eternal beloved and my persecutor, my mistress: philosophy.

    I’m not really into poetry.

    May I urge F. O. Matthiessen’s American Renaissance: Art And Expression In The Age Of Emerson And Whitman. It’s one of the great works of literary criticism. It includes one of the best studies of Melville ever written. (Poor Matthiessen committed suicide in 1950.)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._O._Matthiessen

  69. I’d love to read it, Dan. It is highly spoken of I see. $42 for the paperback (over here) though. I’ll see if the library can get it.

  70. If I had an address I’d buy it for you. I like to send books and other gifts to people.

    Remember when I offered to send you that telescope? (Just a bit of nostalgia – as it were.)

    Check the library.

    What the hell happened to my photo! Damn it.

  71. No poetry at all? Not Whitman or Frost? Maybe Canadian, Earle Birney?

    Poet-tree

    i fear that i shall never make
    a poem slippier than a snake
    or oozing with as fine a juice
    as runs in girls or even spruce
    no i wont make not now nor later
    pnomes as luverlee as pertaters
    trees is made by fauns or stayrs
    but only taters make pertaters
    & trees is grown by sun from sod
    & so are the sods who need a god
    but poettrees lack any clue
    they just need me ……& maybe you.

    OK. Silly but sweet, atheist and true unlike the ghastly Kilmer poem it lampoons.

    The American legacy is awesome. My son found Ginsberg fascinating (at least as a historian) and my daughter has recently discovered Langston Hughes. (A lot of atheists around.)

    Poetry is my biggest thrill of open-handed magic, along with music. How can these few utterances placed and sounding just so, so interfere with my life?

    Opera? Why am I in tears over this?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMY3Ou9L5xE

  72. There’s poetry in literature. I love metaphor and symbolism…

    I want my photo back, and I don’t have it anymore. Mods, any idea what happened?

  73. What the hell happened to my photo! Damn it.

    Have you been time travelling again? Stop playing cupid with your parents when they were teens.

    V. kind offer, but the library is there for a reason… to be tested.

  74. Have you been time travelling again? Stop playing cupid with your parents when they were teens.

    That went straight over my head. Where’s my avatar? No one’ll know it’s me! Wait a minute; others are gone too. Olgun had one.

  75. And I can’t upload another one either!

    Upload Failed! Error was: Unable to create directory 239131/avatars/239131. Is its parent directory writable by the server?

  76. I hate poetry

    Especially ones that don’t rhyme

    Especially ones that are not my own

    Why do some have to be so morose

    Why cant we celebrate our joy in verse

    In Barbados

    I once heard a man singing happily about his broken lawn mower

    Another sang about the advantages of having an ugly girlfriend

    Don’t tell me you love me

    Just make me smile

  77. I have two pix the site uses differently for some reason. One is an image placed with Gravatar which links with the site here and another is linked in some other way that I forget. There were numerous options.

    I suspect that there is a problem with some code that is being “tinkered with” as part of the ongoing revisions to the site. (We’ve seen a number of things going and returning and changing.)

    I suspect the avatar pix will return in a few days, or you can get yourself a Gravatar logged image to use here there and everywhere.

  78. Olgun, My only contribution to poetry was an absolutely filthy limerick I created for this site in an ad hoc limerick competition around 2008. It was probably contributory to the adoption of moderation here. Sadly it hinged on knowing how to pronounce Welsh place names. Bold Bronwen, who hailed from Machynlleth…

  79. No, sorry, no idea what’s happening with the avatars, but Phil is quite right in saying there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes at the moment to repair a number of issues inherited from earlier versions of the site.

    We’ll let the techies know, in case they’re not aware of the issue.

    The mods

  80. Ollie I do have one that is pertinent to our earlier discussions here. I even hope it is a little restorative of spirits.

    Will and I

    My unseen companion is a tireless lover of life, when I am haunted by self pity,
    My decision maker despite my earnest dispute,
    Clear leader, that I must stumble behind.
    I stop, awed at his easy ability discerning the path.

    Author to my agonised actor, he says suddenly,
    “Here. Here is where you tread next. Just here.”
    “But, of course.”
    “And here is what you must say.”

    Ungraciously, I take my part, and still fail to see
    That it comes from beyond that event horizon,
    Towards which I daily dismiss all the stuff of my life, the good and the bad,
    And from whence is returned, new-formed, its next instalment.

    He, my dark heart, unfathomable
    And I, self-styled, actor,
    We, step precisely and with perfect timing,
    Through the fleeting, endless entrance to our life.

    On dark days, though, he leaves me stranded.
    Beached and bereft on my island bed, I scour the concealing surface.
    Briefly I may glimpse that inchoate leviathan of ancient fears and nameless tatters
    Billowing beneath, reminding me that I have no idea of his reach or parts.

    What cold glint is in his little eye?
    Where my trusty author now?
    Does he still thrill to the sleek, living line of narrative,
    Or, rather, the myriad senseless terminations of chaos?

    And there we are. It is his will be done,
    Decided by things I have no conception of, but,
    But, if we are to move deftly across the world’s stage
    Will needs to see my rehearsals, feel my agonising, to sweeten his script.

  81. Phil

    In the little episode of me writing poetry for my two sons, I got that feeling, that I had heard of for such a long time, of the poems writing themselves. The second line was there before I had finished the first. I didn’t really feel in control but claimed the results. This site has helped me explain what happened and how interaction with others is the next level. Didn’t really understand before but is this the e-robot you talked about?

  82. For me its in the last line, Ollie, but started here.

    Ungraciously, I take my part, and still fail to see
    That it comes from beyond that event horizon,
    Towards which I daily dismiss all the stuff of my life, the good and the bad,
    And from whence is returned, new-formed, its next instalment.

    The stuff of my (our) life is the grist for that unseen mill, our very own companion-Bard. But it is tested “before the actor’s very eyes” rehearsed and agonised over to sweeten the next version of the script.

    Will and I, the Bard and the actor are but one person. The production is entirely theirs/ours because of the iterations, but it seems only one gets to tread the boards and feel in the spotlight…

    And to be clear this is only an account of how it feels to be me. The metaphor(though mixed later) perhaps inevitably involving acting, forgetting my lines, the events that haunt me to this day.

  83. Phil

    Interesting searching poem. I remember this one from the past.

    Will as in “Free-will vs. Determined will” and Will (the bard, and the author of your actions). Means both. And you are what you will (Schopenhauer) and are also an actor (not absolutely free?) on the stage and in life.

    Plus, the stage is analogous to the already dream like aspect of life; and our actions in life are, in a sense, a performance, an exhibition.

    Ambiguity. And a considerable degree of irony (as you’ve always been critical of the idea of Will, and The Bard can be said to have a master plan of sorts, and is evocative of the image of the Christian deity; “it his will be done”.) Double and treble meanings: was that your conscious intention?

  84. No it was not all conscious. Much was handed to me. But I could see (at least eventually) that it was the stuff of my earlier life (as an actor) being handed back to actor me from bard me in narrative form. I don’t see the moment of “creative genius” but I get to weigh it consciously after, rehearse it, mouth it, imagine it listened to, test it against other utterings. My (conscious!) agonising goes back over the event horizon and maybe the line is sweetened.

    The metaphor is broken on the dark days, when I become depressed, anhedonic, and I realise he is gone and I am beached and bereft like on a little island. Is he even human? Does he still thrill to the living line of narrative? I have no real feel for his tastes. But so reduced and lonely am I made I sense he was vaster than I, perhaps formless in his isolation from me. Billowing tatters, nameless fears. Underwater, silent, leviathan, his little cold eye. (I imagine now resentful my lacking of willingness to live and feed him the grist for his creative mill. Who has abandoned who?)

    My periods of anhedonia and depression are periodic and have become more manageable over the years. Like a young child comes to learn of the continued existence of objects out of sight, I eventually trust the continued existence of my lost Bard. Once I have the thought that compared to little lonely me, though battle scarred and scared himself he must be fucking huge, and isn’t going away in a hurry, a corner is turned as it always is.

    The images came well before I accepted them and in testing them they were not analysed like this, now, but judged much more intuitively and rewritten. Its only after many years that they feel a little like a present from early me that I can unwrap a few more layers and see more what was done.

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