14 October 2007

Humanist Carnival

There's some really good stuff at this week's Humanist Symposium. Highly recommended for people to skim through.

A few of my favorites:
The Meaning of Life, especially the discussions in the comments.

Excerpt: "This view, that meaning can only ever be imposed from the outside, seems to me to be a pessimistic, limiting, and (dare I say it) depressing conclusion. We make our own meaning in this life - we can choose what we are here for, and I find this far more worthy of celebrating than the forced imposal of another's will on our life. I certainly do not find it depressing. Look on it as a choice between admiring the works of another painter, or being given an easel, a canvas and a palette and told to paint what you want - I know which I would find the more liberating."

This next one amuses me: Train Your Brain to be Happier. It amuses me because there's nothing new in it. Buddhists have been saying similar things for centuries. We develop habits of mind, so if we can develop good habits, we can be happier. The methods may differ a bit, but the idea is the same.

And lastly a distinction that I was aware of but hadn't thought much about: Rationalism vs. Empiricism. Science is empirical. It can never be 100% certain because it can never test each and every possible situation. New results require adjusting of old theories. As Barrow points out in the book of nothing, however, the new theories must "collapse" to the old theories under certain conditions. Rationalism, as defined at the link, is seeking to start from base principles and prove everything that way. Math and logic are rationalistic disciplines in this sense. Philosophy also tends to be rationalistic, but it isn't always.
ADDENDUM: Not from the Carnival, but it fits in with the theme anyway, I just came across a very interesting post at Forbidden Gospels, explaining why she named her blog that.

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