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keon-v asked:

Do you, eh, update this blog anymore? Your post on teōtl was one of a very few resources on the Aztec religion I've been able to find that really answered some burning questions I've had. If you do read this, where did you learn about that?

You know, I’ve intended to but haven’t made too much progress. The time is short and the thoughts are long, I suppose. I’m glad you enjoyed the post; unfortunately, it’s been some time, so I don’t recall exactly where I gleaned my knowledge from. It was a compilation of a few things, and I know each source was from the Internet. This one is particularly familiar:

Some Talk about Categorization

Something that peeves about most philosophical discussions I’ve engaged in is that there’s a real tendency to get bogged down in categorization. Of course, categories are necessary: there are far too many phenomena to treat each individually. Nevertheless, I would argue that the topic at hand in any philosophical discourse does not necessarily lend itself well to such treatment.

The beef I have with most definitions is their failure to properly treat properties that exhibit gradation; definitions often create categories that can’t account for such gradients. For instance, the color spectrum is, for all practical purposes, a gradient (to be further discussed in a separate post). Yet, the classes “red,” “yellow,” and so forth have been defined. Most of us even possess an uncanny ability to split hairs between the greenest yellows and the yellowest greens.

Although the whole ROY G. BIV business seems fairly innocuous, it poses a fairly serious philosophical dilemma by widening the void between the human perception of color and the physical manifestation of color (i.e. differences in wavelength.) It’s apparent that the universe recognizes no categories of color because wavelength doesn’t occur in discrete categories.This doesn’t render our ideas of color categorization useless but does restricts their usefulness: they serve as a reflection of the human perception of the universe and as a communicative tool but have little philosophical value as a means of understanding the universe itself.

In cases like this, I think it’s more appropriate to define a scale because this more effectively reflects a gradient; in terms of color, the electromagnetic spectrum could be quantified in terms of wavelength.

A second problem with defined scales is their relativity. Although some degree of arbitrariness is inevitable, some scales have clear absolutes about which the rest of the system may be defined. A defined system I think is nice is the Kelvin temperature scale. Although the units themselves are arbitrary, the concept of “zero” is well-represented.

As a remedy, I’ll advocate philosophically conscious categorical systems that minimize—or at least recognize—the arbitrariness of absolutes. Nevertheless, the examination of common systems of categorization is an interesting way to discern the differences between the human experience and the nature of the physical universe itself.

Elements 114 & 116

The latest newly discovered elements, flerovium (Fl) and livermorium (Lv), are elements 114 and 116 on the periodic table, respectively. Temporarily known as ununquadium, Flerovium was named in honor of the Russian Flerov Laboratory; Livermorium, previously known as ununhexium, received its name from Livermore National Laboratory in California. After a five month period open for public comment, these two elements will be officially added to the periodic table by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Both of these elements are highly radioactive and decay within fractions of a second. Both Flerovium and Livermorium were detected in Russian labs over ten years ago, but the half-lives of the particles were so short that the scientists were unable to verify their discoveries. In fact, scientists claim to have produced  elements with atomic numbers 113, 114, 115, 116, and 118, but many of these claims have not been verified because of short half-lives. Element 117 has only been reportedly observed by scientists six times.

Both elements are synthetic, and both are very heavy. They are considered Transuranium, or “super heavy” elements; little is known about their properties because they decay too quickly for experimentation to be performed and they cannot be found in nature. Livermorium was first synthesized through the collision of calcium and curium atoms in a laboratory, while flerovium was created when plutonium and calcium atoms collided.

Scientists at the Flerov Lab in Russia and at the Livermore Lab have collaborated to make these discoveries and plan to continue their partnership as they investigate other super-heavy elements. They predict that they will soon confirm the discoveries of elements 113, 115, and 118.

A Discussion of Recent Doubt Cast Upon Einstein’s Relativity

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity posits that nothing can exceed the speed of light in a vacuum, and space and time are therefore relative to the speed of light. However, recent experimentation has suggested that particles known as neutrinos can move more quickly than the speed of light. Neutrinos are neutral subatomic particles with very little mass; interactions between neutrinos and other particles are rare. Additionally, neutrinos are known to oscillate between three different forms. 

CERN’s experiment OPERA shot a beam of neutrinos a total distance of 732 kilometers through Earth’s crust; clocked in Italy, the neutrinos were speculated to have arrived sixty nanoseconds faster than they would have if they had traveled at the speed of light. Although more recent experiments at CERN have been in agreement with this result, a much more vast body of evidence is necessary to bring Einstein’s theory under further scrutiny. Even though numerous precautions were taken to ensure accuracy— for instance, the experiment was carried out underground to prevent interference from cosmic rays— plausible sources of error remain.

There are several possible sources of error in this experiment, including timing errors, distance errors, difficulties in neutrino production, and problems with the travel of the neutrinos in itself. CERN has published a paper that analyzes timing (of both neutrino production and the travel of the neutrinos) and distance errors, and the organization has concluded that any errors in these categories would amount to less than sixty nanoseconds. This means that, despite this margin of error, the neutrinos’ speed would exceed the speed of light. Other sources of error, however, may still have skewed this result. Some scientists believe that the neutrinos may have passed through a wormhole, thus shortening the distance, or that oscillation between the types of neutrinos may have affected the results.

The implications of this experiment are expansive: a dismantling of Einstein’s theory of relativity and a great deal of rethinking physical law would be necessary were CERN’s results to be verified.

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity

"Sorry it’s taken me a bit longer to reply than needed.  School and stuff.

Reality may be what is objectively evident, but this is not necessary in my statement.  I am only disagreeing with you on the idea that a philosopher’s motives are relevant in a discussion of metaphysics.  Addressing his motives might be interesting from a psychological perspective, but it is largely irrelevant as logical coherency is not invalidated by ulterior motives and the like.

I think this disagreement stems in part from incomplete or misunderstood definitions of objectivity and subjectivity.  Could you define them in your own words for me?”


I define objectivity as the quality of being evident outside of one’s mind, while I ascribe subjectivity to concepts that differ depending on how or by whom they are considered. Above all, I question why objectivity is so greatly revered.

Regardless, thank you for the discussion!

Glut-1 Deficiency Foundation

I know I’m not one to diverge from my usual topics of discussion, but this is important enough to me that I thought I’d share. My brother has a rare condition known as Glut-1, which is a metabolic disorder that results in seizures, reduced fine and gross motor control, and learning delays. The Glut-1 Deficiency Foundation is dedicated to spreading awareness and funding research to find a more effective treatment for Glut-1; in fact, a highly beneficial type of oil was recently discovered, but the funding necessary to acquire FDA certification is not yet available. Recently, I stumbled across a website that provides an easy, free way to support the Glut-1 Deficiency Foundation:

GoodSearch is an affiliate of Yahoo that donates half of its profits to charity. For every search you make through GoodSearch, one cent is donated to the Glut-1 Deficiency Foundation. If you wouldn’t mind helping me out, I’d appreciate it!

"I would say that the subjectivity of desires to find objective truth is irrelevant. Almost every philosopher holds, in some way or another, that philosophy is the study of the nature of reality. Thus, any real philosophical claim would be objective."


In stating so, do you intend to define reality as what is objectively evident? Or have I misread you? 

The Pursuit of Objectivity (and its flaws)

As I have pondered philosophy over the past two years, I have, to a significant degree, associated objectivity with truth: I have looked to the clues of empirical sources (as opposed to intuition) when faced with the questions of theology, I have rejected universal ethics on the basis of its want of physical manifestation, and I have denounced the various theories of the soul on the premise that I neither touch, nor smell, nor feel, nor taste, nor engage in discourse with my soul.

I question my motives on two counts; first, why is objectivity dependent on external assessment and the empirical? I suppose one could dismiss this question with a simple definition, so I will address it no further. 

Secondly, why should objectivity be considered inherently philosophically superior to subjectivity? The mere preference for objectivity is subjective. 

It seems to me the purpose of philosophy is not to find answers but to ask questions.

"depressing, but affirming."


I suppose it depends on how you think of it. In many respects, I find it depressing as you do; yet regardless, I find there is something innately beautiful about existing merely as a cog— conscious though I may be— in the elaborate universe-machine. 

In Response to Majidrazvi

"If hard determinism obtains, it seems that we nonetheless have to adopt a fictionalist view of free will to make sense of “why should one x”-type questions."


Yes, this is precisely the difficulty I have been facing. The influence of conscious thought on action provides some degree of illusory ‘free will,’ creating a human tendency to seek meaning in personal influence. Determinism, however, indicates that I prefer one philosophical standpoint over another only because the universe is aligned in such a way that it must be so, thus undermining the notion that my ideological decisions have any more intellectual value than the motion of a physical object through space as the laws of physics decree. My thoughts are moved by predetermined laws and occurrences, as objects are.

The Self-Annihilation of Determinism

I have struggled as of late with the seeming self-deprecation of determinism: I believe that the universe behaves in a fundamentally deterministic manner because deterministic factors have dictated that I would believe as such. This does not endanger determinism particularly but rather leaves to question the validity of philosophical inquiry as a whole— why should one seek enlightenment if it is no greater an end than reaching one’s predetermined point of view?

Hence, my lack of presence here. 

A Note on Knowledge

I find the distinctions between a posteriori and a priori knowledge highly ambiguous, if not purely subjective. The two categories are based on experience, but leave to question when experience begins and what qualifies as experience. I find that reason itself is a posteriori, as human reason may be derived from the conditions— the laws, common sense, and interactions— of the universe. Therefore, all knowledge obtained through directly empirical means (that is, sensory perception) or through deduction must succeed experience. As a result, a priori knowledge is whittled to instincts intrinsic to the physical construction of the human body and mind. In a sense, these instincts qualify as a posteriori as well; they are the consequence of the experiences and resultant evolution of our genetic ancestors.

onthought-deactivated20130703 asked:

I would have to disagree in regards to the biological assertion of your post ("the biological material"). All conscious decisions are determined by neuron excitations. Whether or not a neuron is fired is determined by how many electrons hit said neuron. Electron behavior is indeterministic thus fundamentally uncaused, true free will. How can you see electron movement, our "will", is unfree if it is indeterministic?

My apologies for the delayed response. Such a question hinges upon your definition of free will; I do not consider random interactions to constitute free choice, as I have no more control over the indeterministic movement of electrons than a coin has over the result of a coin toss. However, I find biological arguments weak compared to basic logical arguments of a similar nature. 

A Note on the Fallibility of the Senses

Gathering sensory input is generally considered a reliable method of gaining knowledge about the physical universe. External stimuli may be misconstrued, however: as one’s sight may be “tricked” by optical illusions, the other senses are subject to various discrepancies between reality and the interpretation of the nerve impulses that represent it. The ability to sense temperature, for instance, is particularly susceptible; a hand that has been exposed to extreme cold may experience a burning sensation upon contact with a substance that is merely warm. Fear may incorrectly result in feeling as though one has heard sounds that do not exist or the sensation of insects crawling over one’s skin. Such responses are generally dismissed as evolutionary measures that increase human alertness and ability to react to dangerous situations. All in all, the senses provide the neurological input necessary to create a mental reckoning of reality; this conception of reality, however, is not definitively accurate. 

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