Why Finish Books?

, , on March 14, 2012

Why Finish Books? by Tim Parks.
I stopped reading the article a little more than half way through.
Just kidding.
The article is slightly pretentious and highly interesting and raises a lot of questions. How quickly can you say a book is not worth reading? Is it possible for that to be objective? A bunch more questions veering off into the value, significance, and existence of art. Is it bad to not finish books? How do we differentiate between impatience and satiety? What is one’s goal in reading books; quantity, quality, satisfaction, breadth, knowledge? What do we do with a good book? Is it bad to reread books? Do we need books to end? How can a book not end? Have I properly experienced a book if I have not read every word, or read it as the author intended? Would I have ‘read’ it? Could I pass judgement on it? Is the book more for the reader or the author? What if we could not physically tell where a book would end, how would that influence our reading experience? Do authors like ending books? How arbitrary do they view their endings; as creators of worlds, how do they decide when to end them? Do readers like endings; they seem more polarizing than not? Is the structure of the book, with a physical linearity, inherently unsatisfactory and misleading? How does linear art compare to nonlinear in terms of popularity, satisfaction, and meaning? Do we want to know in advance how books end, to have some idea of what is coming? Are abrupt endings better than complete ones? Are unhappy endings more realistic than happy ones? How would the reader like having an influence on the ending, knowing it isn’t set in stone? Would it still be an ending? Are there endings? How do we choose when to stop? Do we even choose to stop?
[via The Browser]

The Mystery of the Millionaire Metaphysician

, on February 15, 2012

Eleven philosophers are contacted by a secretive Institute to read and critique a sixty-page work of metaphysics titled “Coming to Understanding” in exchange for $12,000. Read on to find out the identity and motivation of their mysterious benefactor!
Only the last two sections and the comment by Dean Zimmerman are worth reading; they bring up some interesting themes.
[via The Browser]

Who are you?

, , on February 4, 2012

Brains are pattern recognition machines that output symbols. Consciousness is the brain symbolizing itself; a symbol for the ability to create symbols. Our sense of self is a convenient, easily produced, recursive manifestation that we employ to recognize patterns in our own behavior. This ability is apparently evolutionarily beneficial (speeding up learning and adaptation), not to mention cool (full disclosure: I may be biased).
The functioning of the symbol generator is not revealed by its constitutive components, but how they are put together (this is true of anything, because only change and interaction create meaning, their absolute subunits are arbitrary). Consciousness is an inevitable result of a sufficiently powerful symbol generator.
Perception is the intersection of senses. Consciousness is the ability to replay perceptions, and it emeges once enough sense domains converge.

Nature, Nurture, Fortune, Will

on January 31, 2012


Which is the most important?
[via The American Scholar]

On Famous People Telling You To Become Who You Really Are

, on December 5, 2011

Authenticity, if it is to be a valuable way of life, must be its own reward.  It must go hand in hand with the realistic acceptance that one’s life may turn out to suck, and suck hard, no matter how nonconformist you are.  And, to play on an old Socratic refrain, it’s better to be a nobody in touch with reality than a profoundly deluded someone.

Article by Nick on Yeah, OK, But Still.
Who we are is determined by our genetics, our environment, and possibly a touch of free will. There is some wiggle room. One of the beauties of the game of life is that (in theory) you can set your own winning condition.
I think that what these famous people are trying to tell you is perfectly valid — in fact, I’ll give ‘advice’ the benefit of the doubt and propose that any of it is — but one problem is that advice is inseperable from a single person’s isolated perspective. That is what differentiates advice from philosophy: ideally the latter is less self centered and more intellectually and sociologically diverse. If you want another opinion when choosing a paint color for your dining room, no problem, but I would be warry of anyone telling you how to live your life (especially if you just wanted a yes or no on that lovely puce).
It is worth remembering that validity is independent of feasibility and utility.

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