Wednesday, January 16, 2008

election 2008

Well, this blog might be doomed, but I thought I'd give another topic a shot:

What issues are most important to you for the upcoming election, and optionally, which candidates do you see as most aligned with those issues?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tell a Story

This month, December, observe the world around you a little more pointedly than you have in November. When the time is right, tell a us a story about the most peculiar thing that happened to you or around you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No One Is an Atheist on Their Deathbed (Right?)

Mark Edmundson writes this in his article about Sigmund Freud's later years in Sunday's New York Times Magazine:

"The ability to believe in an internal, invisible God vastly improves people's capacity for abstraction. [Sigmund Freud writes in "Moses and Monotheism"] 'The prohibition against making an image of God--the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see,' he says, meant that in Judaism 'a sensory perception was given second place to what may be called an abstract idea--a triumph of intellectuality over sensuality.' If people can worship what is not there they can also reflect on what is 'not there, or on what is presented to them in symbolic and not immediate terms. So the mental labor of monotheism prepared the Jews--as it would eventually prepare others in the West--to achieve distinction in law, in mathematics, in science and in literary art.' It gave them an advantage in all activities that involved making an abstract model of experience, in words or numbers or lines, and working with the abstraction to achieve control over nature or to bring humane order to life. Freud calls this internalizing process an 'advance in intellectuality' and he credits it directly to religion."

In the words of Linda Richman, discuss.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Liberty for All

It's fairly likely that you recently participated in Fourth of July celebrations. It is also likely that there were fireworks, patriotic music and ice cream. If you attended one of the bigger ones, you may have been treated to fighter jets zooming more closely overhead than you were comfortable with and making all the babies cry.

We take pride in being American, some of us do anyway. Being American is about independence, personal liberty, international power. For some, it's about being white and speaking English. That's why we want to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out, and insist upon passports in the hands of every Canadian at the border to the North (they are a bit more civilized than the Mexicans, after all; and might find a wall insulting). Whether the literal and/or figurative walls actually get built, there is no denying that Americans exhibit an overwhelming sentiment against letting large groups of outsiders in easily.

[Here's an interesting immigration antecdote. Stories like this one suggest rather strongly that immigration policy is in need of reform.]

With this in mind, here are some questions for consideration:

  • Should the US adopt a policy of amnesty for current illegal immigrants?
  • Should the US be responsible for opening her doors to particular oppressed groups (i.e. Iraqis)?
  • What other policies might help fix the immigration problem (trade, labor, etc.)?
  • Is the government responsible for making the citizenship/immigration process accessible/comprehensible/reasonably efficient?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Plus Minus

I love a website called Edge. Every year, the editors pose a question to a number of leading scientists and philosophers. This year's question is "What are you optimistic about? Why?" Some of the answers are quite intriguing, and they inspired me to ask all of you the same. The answers on Edge lean toward the scientific, but obviously we will have a much different take on the question. Specifically, I'd like to ask you what you are optimistic about with regard to your personal life.

Shortly after I read the Edge answers, I came across a great article on the power of negative thinking. In it, John Gravois argues that blindly reciting Oprah-esque mantras to oneself is dangerous, and that some forms of negative thinking, such as envisioning horrible (but plausible) events to plan a reaction, actually help people retain more control over their own lives. For example, imagining what actions you might take if that mean dog across the street were to break from his leash is probably going to help you a lot more than thinking to yourself "I'm good enough, I'm strong enough, and doggonit, people like me." What are some of the negative thinking exercises you regularly engage in that you believe help you in your daily life, or that you think might help you in a future scenario?

I'm interested to see your answers to these questions, because I've been intrigued by thought experiments lately. The gist of my question is this: how does your negative or positive thinking affect your daily life? What sorts of positive or negative thought experiments do you execute on a regular basis?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Corporate Globalization

From Wal-Mart to Microsoft to McDonald's, the trend of corporate globalization has been exploding. There are good and bad side effects from these trends. I feel the negative side effects outweigh the positive side effects, but I am interested in seeing a legitimate argument for or against corporate globalization. Is it immoral, unethical, or wrong in any other way? Or is it just bad for the consumers, but otherwise permissible? Is it just "good business"?

I suspect a majority of the readers will find corporate globalization to be negative in some respects, and if so, what can or should an individual do?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Soul and Meat Handbook

1. This blog is intended as a forum in which all of us can share ideas, write essays, and ask thought-provoking questions. Please refrain from dominating any discussion--try to treat each post as a conversation, not a lecture. This blog is not a one-person soapbox.

2. We reserve the right to vote people off, once it gets out from this "core" group of people (forrest, indubitably, LL, mia, sammee, Sweet Jane, thecrazydreamer and whatyoudream). We also reserve the right to delete posts and comments, without asking the post-er, if there is a consensus by a few of us to do so.

3. Our contributors should write a short essay/post introducing a topic. In this essay, they can take the approach of asserting something or simply inquiring about something. After explaining what their thoughts are, they should indicate what they would like the conversation to encompass, as well as specific things they don't want to include in that topic. For instance, if I were to make a topic about abortion, I might decide to limit the topic of whether a fetus should be considered a human as well as the morality of abortion, but I might restrict the topic by saying I'm not interested in discussing the politics or legality of abortion.

4. When posting an essay or a question, please try to do so only after the previous post has been addressed by those interested in the discussion. Allow about a week for the discussion to die out before creating a new post, so that someone's post doesn't get buried too soon.

5. Take turns posting. If you have an idea that just can't wait, save it as a draft instead of posting. Then we can have a moderator publish the drafts on a regular schedule, so that we always have a queue of topics.

6. We reserve the right to moderate comments so that they are relevant to the topic and productive.

7. When posting a topic, please utilize the label option, so we can organize thoughts. Use whatever general or specific labels you think are appropriate.

8. Until we come up with a different procedure, one person will start a post, and the rest of us will continue the discussion in the comments section for that post. If you feel your response merits a full-on essay, start a new post, but try to wait at least a few days so that the original post isn't buried.

9. Try to comment under the relevant post. In other words, don't comment about a post from June under a topic written in August; if you would like to re-start discussion on a topic, consider writing a new post, phrased in a different way. (If you're anything like Sweet Jane, you'll obsessively check archived posts for new comments anyway, so don't worry about your thoughts getting lost.)

Our guidelines will necessarily evolve with the blog. When we change a rule (after a consensus builds in the comments on this post), we will add it to the bottom, or edit an existing rule by striking through the original, Constitution-style. Please read the new comments for this post every once in a while so that we can make the necessary changes as a group.