Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Song of the Morning: Best Not to Think About It

I've been thinking about tautologies all day long. Don't ask me why; they're not in any paper I'm currently working on (that I know of). So finally, on the train home from work, I started scrabbling a bit in my notebook. When I actually got home and checked what a tautology is, I had to make some adjustments in my thinking. Here's what I came up with:

First, let's get the (semi)-formal definition out of the away: in propositional logic a tautology is a propositional formula that is true under any possible valuation (also called a truth assignment or an interpretation) of its propositional variables (Wikipedia). Straight forward enough.
Example: the not so meaningful proposition "A or not-A" is a tautology (oddly enough, in propositional logic, truth, as it is manifested in a tautology, is meaningless as it adds nothing new to our knowledge of the world, as Wittgenstein pointed out; it is the contingent truth that may hold the more interesting daily 'truths').

OK. But if we translate it to the natural language, for, shall we say "it will either rain or it will not rain" things get complicated. According to the law of the excluded middle there are only two options: rain or no rain. However, I propose, that for the 'only' part of the sentence to work (and thus create a tautology) one has to have some sort of "knowledge of the world" (whether it is about rain, the possibility of rain or even, perhaps, the application of logical laws on the subject matter itself). If this is so, then a natural language tautology is not pure a-priori but requires some sort of empirical elements.

There are three possible and mutually exclusive conclusions I can draw:
1. The proposition I gave as an example is not a tautology because of the supposedly empirical element (it requires verification and contains the possibility of it being not true).
2. The proposition is a tautology. Natural language tautologies, unlike formal language tautologies, do contain an empirical grain.
3. There was an error in my deduction/thought process and there is no empirical grain in the proposition.

Considering how tired I am right now, I'm leaning towards option 3.

This post's song, not unlike previous posts, has some pun intended. Regardless of my sorry, layman doubling here though, it is a good song by a good band.

Athlete - Best Not to Think About It {MP3} (from Beyond the Neighbourhood)
Band picture from their artist's profile on Last.fm.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Song of the Morning: Hope For Us

Hobbes and Leibniz are in. No, I don't (just) mean it in the popular term; I was finally able to write a few more paragraphs in my biggest paper this year (so far). This only leaves me the 18th-21st centuries in Philosophy, main eastern and western religions and all of Psychology (with William James attached). After that, it's just a matter of completing the Gedankenexperiment, writing the introduction, conclusion and intra-connecting chapters and that's it. Four more papers to go. Yay.

This post's Song of the Morning is rather emo-inflected, as it were, but still catchy enough to wake up to. It's title and opening line have a particular appeal for me these days. So, as I move on to Kant (it's because of him that I'm writing this paper, after all), just keep in mind: there is hope for us.

The Jealous Sound - Hope for Us {MP3} (from Kill Them With Kindness)
Band picture from MTV.com.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Song of the Morning: No More Running Away

I haven't posted anything lately because I am consumed. Consumed by work, by school, by the many papers I have to submit.
Musically, I am very much devoured these days by Shearwater. I just can't stop playing Rook (the CD, not just the haunting song of a similar t name) in my mind or the stereo.

But it's not just that. All this strain is challenging me in ways I've not let myself feel or be exposed to. I admit - there are some PC games I use "cheats" to win. Have I "cheated" elsewhere in my life? Perhaps, mainly by avoiding it. But there comes a time when you just can't use "cheats". It does not work, and I don't mean just morally. It feels wrong.

Sure, the fear is great and yes, the anxiety is paralyzing. I am tired all the time and my body works out of automation as if I were a zombie (besides the brief unpleasant bodily reminders that I'm still alive). In a very deep sense I am not happy. So, usually at this point I'd get depressed. The thing is, I'm actually not depressed (and that is weird). So either I'm masochistic (possible), too busy or in denial to be depressed (also possible) or maybe I'm actually trying to deal with life and myself (could it be?). Am I beginning to grow up?

I didn't wake up with this post's featured song, unlike in previous posts. I actually woke up to Damien Rice's "Cold Water" (from the wonderful 'O'), specifically the lines "Lord, can you hear me now? Or am I lost?". But I'm going to sleep with another song. It's not because I turned optimistic (I'm not). The more I think about it the more it seems overly simplistic to live life as either "optimistic" or "pessimistic". As if that was all to life. It's because I need to face my fears, face my challenges and do my best, while I can. So, no more running away for me.

Air Traffic - "No More Running Away" {MP3} (from Fractured Life)
Air Traffic's picture from the lovely music review podcast site "Have You Heard".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Song of the Morning: Irreligious Ecstasy

What do you feel when you listen to music? When you experience it? When you sing along unafraid or uncaring if anyone will overhear you? When you dance alone in the dark?
What are you when you are one with it?

While what we may enjoy may be different and there's no account for taste (or is there?), the capacity to enjoy music in the deep sense seems to be a universal trait. At least, I hope it is. While some physical aspects of this feeling can be explained, you still have to get the right "connection" to it - there's a definite subjective element at work. Sometimes I'd like a certain song, other times I'd have enough of it; sometimes I'd discover (or re-discover) a song that has been playing at the background.

The special times are when I manage to let go of myself and connect directly (or as much as I can without the neighbors interfering or my co-workers throwing sharp objects at me) and feel it, flow with it, like being carried in a mighty current towards a roaring waterfall. When the song ends, I feel drained but happy (or, more usually for me, deeply saddened), and very much alive.

This post's musical jewels are affected by religion and religious experience. The first, "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin, is an adaptation of the Christian "The Lord's Prayer" in Swahili. The second is a segment from the Misa Criolla, a unique blending of South American Christian Mass/Gospel music by Ariel Ramírez.

Can the feelings of wonder, deep meditation and ecstasy be fully explained by science (here and here)? Even as a non-believer I have my doubts (or perhaps especially as a non-believer). I don't have to share in a belief in order to respect it and those who practice it, especially when they create beautiful music, be it as a part of their worship or not (strangely enough, Mr. Tin seems to be creating music in his sleep).

So, while I don't believe the existence of these feelings in themselves are any sort of evidence to the existence of God, I do believe it is a very strong evidence to the existence of a compassionate, creative and living Humanity, which is something we need to keep in mind just as much as the possible being of the Almighty.

Christopher Tin - "Baba Yetu" (from the PC game Civilization IV)
Ariel Ramírez - "Gloria" (from Misa Criolla)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Incoming Lull

It is quiet now;
That peace that was allotted to us continues to elude,
Elusive in its path, it's elucidating the eco-systems of our lives:
An intermingled puzzle of duty, denial and derivatives
So cunningly contrived as to demand its own object of belief
And so alarmingly complex as to register as unity.
But I know the storm is coming,
I feel the currents in the air;
And though throughout the tension's rising
It is in peace I find despair.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Song of the Morning: "Buildings & Food"

"Woke up this morning,
Got out of bed,
Feeling no pain move over my head;
Food in the kitchen And the coffee is hot -
If I believed in God I'd thank him a lot.
But I don't and that's OK
'Cause love means next to nothing when it's going your way

But I don't and that's OK
'Cause love means next to nothing when it's going your way."

The opening lines of "Buildings & Food" by Resplendent & Mike Downey (I hope I got them right).

Well, I'm agnostic myself, so maybe half a thanks will do. Anyway, this is a realistic good day song, if that means anything (recognizing that life is not perfect but worth living none the less).

Have a good one.

Listen: "Buildings & Food" - Resplendent/Mike Downey (MySpace)