History of Human Rights

Which movements, ideas, and events have contributed to the history and development of the concept of human rights?  The following list is very selective; it shows some historical highlights that manifest the trend that runs through the Western legal and philosophical traditions. Traditional Religions all support idea that the human person has worth and value and should be treated with […]

World Population, 2013 – 2050.

It’s interesting to look at some long-term world trends at the end of 2013. The graphs appear more normalized, for instance with the population growth rate above. Countries like Nigeria (see population chart below) are unfortunate exceptions. How will the world really look like in 2050? Trends are extrapolations from current and past data, enhanced with some mathematical modeling. Forecasts […]

Ethical Systems

  The picture above suggests a way to integrate ethical systems on the basis of the structure of action. Ethical reflection can begin with the acting subject, the action itself, or the outcome.  Another consideration is the field of application: What actions can be subjected to ethical considerations? (Sneezing or falling from a tree is not an ethical act.) Furthermore, […]

China, India, and the United States: A Comparison

Why does the United States need urgent economic and political reform? An economic comparison between China, India, and the US reveals the stagnation of the US economy since 2000. The US has engaged in two useless and wasteful wars, and has failed to invest in infrastructure, education, research, health care, etc.The Obama Government is bogged down in a political stalemate […]

Russia at the Crossroads

Update 2017:  Liu Xiaobo died in a Chinese prison in 2017.  Update Dec 26, 2013: Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released from jail on Dec 20, 2013. He is now organizing a democratic movement for Russia from exile.  Note: This post was written in 2013; some things have changed, but the situation in Russia has become even worse, and the country faces […]

Ecological Thinking?

Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. One can even think about the human race in ecological terms, and this form of thinking is vital if we want to have a future. If we let our thinking transgress the boundaries of scientific disciplines, ecology becomes philosophy enhanced with information. Ecology stands for our relationship with nature. […]

Poetry, Nature, Thought. Rilke’s Late Poetry.

And we, spectators always, everywhere, turned towards everything, and never towards the open. It fills us. We arrange it. It decays. We arrange it again, and decay ourselves. Und wir: Zuschauer, immer, überall, dem allen zugewandt und nie hinaus! Uns überfüllts. Wir ordnens. Es zerfällt. Wir ordnens wieder und zerfallen selbst. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these lines […]

What are Philosophical Problems?

Philosophy clarifies our thought process and refines the basic concepts that we use to understand reality.  Like other sciences, it works on problems – it is driven by questions that cannot be answered easily, or that are unanswerable. If these questions, like the mind-body problem, cannot be answered (yet?), one may still be able to build a theory that illuminates […]

Radical Abundance through Nanotechnology?

In his newest book, Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, 2013, he tells the history of nanotechnology from its beginnings to today, and then he turns towards the future: What can we expect from the accelerating breakthroughs generated by nano-technological research? Will it benefit humanity, or cause us harm? He is very optimistic, and his answer is given in the title: We are going to experience radical abundance based on these technological breakthroughs.

Vanishing Butterflies and Dying Bees

The European Environment Agency just published a study about butterflies in Europe. It shows that from 1990 to today, over a period of 20 years, the butterfly population was reduced by 50%. The reasons for this disappearance are increased agriculture, and the overall reduction of wild meadows. Mono-cultures, intensification of farming, and lack of sustainable practices leads to a dramatic […]

In God we trust? Money, Debt, and Love.

The following comments are based on David Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5,000 Years.” 2011. His basic assumption is that economies did not evolve from barter systems; from the beginnings of civilization there were always elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. Economies started with debt, and we still operate in an environment configured by debt, guilt, sins, and […]

Darwin: The marvels of a riverbank

At the end of the “Origin of the Species” (1859) Darwin writes about a riverbank: It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from […]

Complex systems – a new scientific frontier?

Many of our most pressing challenges, like managing ecosystems and economies, or preventing mass epidemics and market crashes – require a better understanding of complex systems. In recent years, the science of “complexity” came into existence and has grown rapidly. “Complexity” has a precise meaning in science. We call a system “complex” if the whole transcends the parts and if multiple agents participate in it. Most complex systems consist of diverse entities that interact in space and in time; they can be real or virtual. Examples of complex systems are ecosystems, cities, universities, or the stock market. Systems that are merely based on a feedback loop, like automatic temperature regulators, are not complex. Complicated systems are also not necessarily complex. Complicated systems may have diverse parts or many variables, but they are not adaptive.

Chimpanzee Memory

Chimpanzees split from the human branch of evolution about four to six million years ago; they are our closest relatives in the animal world. They use tools like spears, they have limited language capability, and they are sophisticated group hunters. They can be deceptive in their behavior, and they are capable of planning for future events. They can mourn, and they can be altruistic within their groups. Our human sense of being fundamentally different from all other animals needs to be reexamined; it is probably the deepest hypocrisy we carry.

The German Coast Guard

A few points need to be made about the video clip below: Germany does not have a long coastline, therefore the German Coast Guard probably did not receive the kind of funding it needs. Advertisement can be brilliant; I think the video was created for the Berlitz language schools. My German accent has not gone away, even after more than […]

Comments on Althusser

Althusser, who died in 1990, became a very influential French thinker – not only because he was a teacher for many intellectuals, but also because of his outspoken Marxist and anti-humanist opinions. He is known as a philosopher who tried to develop a structuralist version of Marxism. With the general demise of Marxist thinking, however, Althusser’s influence in the intellectual debates has faded away. For most of his life, he was an intellectual ally of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, from whom he took some inspirations especially in regards to his theory of ideology. He was a very clear thinker who was not afraid to take a radical and critical position.

Time and Consciousness?

We live in a world where everything seems to speed up. Everybody is pressed for time; the pressures to perform, to consume, to “manage” time effectively, or to “have fun,” overwhelm our need for rest and contemplation. Will the future bring us even more acceleration? Are we going somewhere with all this change? And further: what is our relationship to time itself? Can we become more conscious of the flow of time and thereby separate ourselves from the addictive absorption in current affairs?

At the root of the last 500 years of scientific and intellectual history lie the abstractions of space and time. The progress we witnessed over the last centuries begins with our ability to represent space three-dimensionally. This historical progress began in the early 15th century.

Possibility and Reality in Robert Musil

One of the key passages in Musil’s novel “Man without Qualities” (1930) explains why Ulrich, the main character, has no qualities. He lives as much in the realm of possibilities as he lives grounded in a sense of reality. He, and the whole society around him, exists in a state of floating, suspended between reality and possibility, past and future. […]

Scales of the Universe: Small, Large, and Complex

It is difficult for us to fathom the scale of the universe. The differences between the smallest structures and the largest are so enormous that linear scales are useless. We need exponential scales, which make the numbers appear to be easy, even when the geometry is simply incomprehensible. A simple example can demonstrate these size differences – there are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in all the oceans combined. (If you don’t believe it, here is the math.)

On an exponential scale in meters, humans are located at the midpoint between the nanometer scale (1×10−9 m) (a strand of DNA is 3 nanometers thick) and the scale of stars ( the sun is 1.4 ×109 m in diameter.) Reaching “down”, what we try to do in nanotechnology, is just as difficult as reaching “up,” exploring the solar system with our probes. But, the journey is only beginning.

Landscapes

The idea of landscape reaches to the core of human experience – we always require a space in order to imagine ourselves. Nature is our natural space. “My aim is to borrow from the (visible) world nothing but forces—not forms, but the means of making forms. Not history. Not décor. But the feeling of matter itself, rock, air, water, vegetable […]

Emergence

We are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in scientific thinking and explanation, away from reductionist and constructivist approaches. This shift is the result of the introduction of computers and the internet. Scientific researchers are now capable of collecting and processing much more information than ever before, and advanced modeling techniques allow them to develop and test scientific theories in ways […]

Mathematical Infinity

“There are two approaches to mathematical infinity. It can be seen as defining limiting cases that can never be realized or as existing in some philosophical sense. These mathematical approaches parallel approaches to meaning and value that I call absolutist and evolutionary. The absolutist sees ultimate meaning as something that exists most commonly in the form of an all powerful infinite God. The evolutionary sees life and all of a creation as an ever expanding journey with no ultimate or final goal. There is only the journey. There is no destination. This video argues for an evolutionary view in our sense of meaning and values and in our mathematical understanding. There is a deep connection between the two with profound implications for the evolution of consciousness and human destiny.” (Paul Budnik)

The History of this Website

January 2019 The modern version of “revolution” is “disruption,” and disruption becomes the default mode of operation in our global society. Everything is increasingly interconnected, but the direction of change is not easily discernible. Website Changes in 2018 The effects of this transformative flow of technology and communication can be seen on this website: it became almost obsolete, even though […]

Philosophical Assumptions

Philosophy as a distinct discourse began roughly 2500 years ago. Early on, the form of philosophy was defined by Plato’s dialogues. The participants in these conversations were sometimes ignorant or caught up in various illusions. The discussions produce insights or at least remove erroneous ideas. In contrast to this Socratic style of philosophy, the period of German Idealism introduces the […]

Kurt Gödel’s Proof of the Existence of God

Explanation of the terms  in the image above. This is Godel’s formalized proof of the existence of God. P(psi) P is “positive” G(x) x has the property God ess. essential E existing • (bullet) Necessary (Kurt Gödel (1995). “Ontological Proof”. Collected Works: Unpublished Essays & Lectures, Volume III. pp. 403–404. Oxford University Press. Gödel left in his papers a  fourteen-point outline of […]

George Spencer-Brown: Laws of Form

George Spencer-Brown: Laws of Form, Chapter 12 Notes. “It seems hard to find an acceptable answer to the question of how or why the world conceives a desire, and discovers an ability, to see itself, and appears to suffer the process. That it does so is sometimes called the original mystery. Perhaps in view of the form in which we […]

Thinking and Being: Lacan versus Parmenides

Summary: There are two onto-epistemological strategies: (1) we can either assume that there is an underlying identity of thinking and being (Parmenides) or (2) the real is different from knowledge, and this gap or “unknowability”  means that our knowledge is just a historically determined construction.  The following short essay discusses the consequences of these opposing approaches for the question of […]

Subject, Ego, Person

This short essay, written in August and September 2001, could also be entitled “The Religious Roots of  Our Concept of the Person.” I argue that: we need to make a distinction between “something” and “someone;” this was done in the past through a religious definition of the origin of the human being; it has been secularized into the concept of […]

Reason and the Subject of Philosophy

Summary: This short essay  traces the complex dance between rationality and subjectivity  in 20th century philosophy.  It touches on Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Adorno, and  suggests that if we introduce a new  concept to the mix, we might be able to stabilize  the philosophy of the subject. The concept in question is the idea of “personhood.”  (This essay was written […]