Friday, January 29, 2010

100 abandoned houses

these are great

P.S. I got Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage for Christmas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

from my class on William James

Journal #2

Hume makes an astute observation by noticing that through introspection, we seem to come up with a notion of self so varied and seemingly changeable that it is just a flux of sensations and ideas. We might posit that the evidence of our essential self having some static quality is memory. It presents a problem though, because as a general rule, we don’t have any recollection of birth, and memory records nothing for a significant amount of time following birth, so the beginning of a chain of memory known as self is a sort of hazy fading in of recollections of sensory and other information. Even then we run into problems because our memories feel linked together in our minds, but when we try to explain them we run into some serious problems: we tell stories out of chronological order, we can’t remember who was where, names get forgotten, we forget words we purportedly said, etc. In short, if it is only memory that gives us evidence of a self, there are some big gaps that are hard to explain empirically. Nonetheless, we are able to recall key events consistently, and I think we do rely on these recollections for some sort of consistency in our mental construction of self.
Do we give credence to the notion that our memories link together and that is a sufficient construction to be called a self? I’m not really sure it is enough to refute Hume’s argument or to accommodate our everyday experience. On the other hand, I’m not so sure we should have any problem when issues come up in that sort of a construction; everything else in our world is in just as much flux. We like to say that large objects, like mountains, are constant in some way, are static, but if we start to look at them with just a slight empirical twist, we discover that billions and billions of atoms are moving around in those same mountains; some particles being scraped off, others being deposited by wind and weather, and the geologists tell us the whole mass of particles known as mountain is moving (!) anyway . In time, zoom out a little to where you are looking at a range of even a few hundred thousand years, and the amount of time it takes for a mountain to get leveled compared to the amount of time it takes for you to forget someone’s name might not really be that different. If time is infinite (again, !), a million years to form a landscape and a few weeks for you to forget where you hid your spare key aren’t really that different at all, so the link between memories is just as consistent as anything else. The fact that perhaps there is no mountain now is not a barrier to saying that there once was. Likewise, just because a person has died and we have no empirical evidence of a self available to us, maybe it shouldn’t raise any objections to our saying that at least there once was, and in the case of my self and the mountain still standing, there is right now.

(This doesn't address my belief that there is a soul in man, and though perhaps impossible to prove by human means (but not necessarily impossible to know), I think there is something deep and real about being human that gives people reason to believe they have a self/soul, and I think they are right. Even though I have a hard time justifying the belief by anything strictly rational, I am thoroughly convinced that there is something in me and every other person that is unbreakable, infinite, and undying. That is a soul.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

environmentalism and the stewardship of Latter-day Saints

One of my dad's oft-repeated sayings is "Life is a process of discovery and rediscovery." It's true. Of course, we hope that when we figure something out the second (or third, or sixteenth) time, it's in a deeper or somehow more significant way than it was before.

On that note, I try to be environmentally conscious, and I have always felt that my religious beliefs support that stance. I'm not great at it, but I try to do little things: I don't litter, I pick up other people's litter, I try to conserve paper, I walk to school and work, I turn lights off when I leave a room, I buy some things secondhand, I avoid plastic bottles, aluminum cans, batteries and disposable plates, etc.

It was interesting to see what an environmental lawyer had to say about our beliefs in relation to environmental  protection. I feel like I rediscovered my commitment as a Latter-day Saint to take good care of natural resources. I think most of what he said was right on. I also think it's good for people and families to patrol their own environmental habits and I am a bit skeptical about government regulation. That said, here's a short article I wrote about the lecture by Craig Galli, who has been in environmental law for over 20 years:

President Brigham Young said, "Nature helps us to see and understand God. To all His creations we owe an allegiance of service and profound admiration."

This is a great source for LDS perspectives on law:

And this link is to a study guide on LDS environmental stewardship with lots of quotes from prophets and other leaders about the earth and our relation to it:

Here's a thought: We believe that if we live worthily, we will some day be exalted and live in the presence of God with our families and others who were valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and so we try to harmonize our relationships with all mankind. We also believe the earth will be glorified and exalted and will be the residence of exalted beings who lived on this earth, and we ought to harmonize our relationship with the earth so she doesn't reject us in the hereafter.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

sometimes philosophy feels like...

blatantly copied from McSweeney's (


"I realize you are busy. I appreciate that the day's labors have left you weary, baggy-eyed, on edge. As I enter the 10th minute of spirited disagreement with the checkout girl, your exhaustion and hunger must be growing in a black double helix of frustration. But I think that your anger toward me will abate when you realize something about my present altercation—it's not about the money; it's about the principle of the thing.

My motives are pure.

Now, I will be the first to admit that a triumph in this dispute, over the price of jarred vegetables, would result in monetary gain—75 cents, to be exact. For me, though, these material benefits are irrelevant.

It is truth—not avarice—that moves my tongue. In fact, I will speed to donate some portion of my spoils to charity, provided I can find an organization devoted to truth and justice in supermarkets.

I believe I just heard one of you, Fellow Grocery Shoppers of Checkout Line No. 6, ask, "Who cares about the principle of the thing? Grey's Anatomy starts in 20 minutes!" A fair question, to be sure.

Let me ask a question in return: Hunger has blinded you to ethics, but what about logic? For, you see, I am fighting not just for what is fair but for what is correct. A "pickle," as I have now patiently explained a dozen times, can be any pickled vegetable matter, not just a cucumber. Perhaps if cashier Brianna would suspend her Chiclet-snapping and wrest her attention from that Us Weekly—which, by the way, did she pay for?—she would realize these truths of the universe.

I am right. Trader Joe is wrong.

The increased volume of your grumbling can only mean that I've won your support. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for joining me in this important fight. We'll stay here all night if we have to.

Monday, January 18, 2010

missing the boat...

Discovery News had never crossed my radar until the above story showed up in the ads on my gmail. I think they've got their priorities crooked.