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The Basics Of Western Astrology Explained

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 550)
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Introduction:

This article covers the basics of Astrology and how they are inter-related. Astrology is defined as 'the art or practice of determining the supposed influences of the planets and their motions on human affairs and human disposition'. From this practice a horoscope can be produced - a diagram (or chart) of the relative positions of planets and signs of the Zodiac at a specific time, usually the time of birth. A forecast can then be produced.

The Zodiac:

Western Astrology originated way back, around 500 BC, with a concept called the Zodiac being developed. This comprised of an imaginary sphere surrounding the earth, which followed the path of the Sun through the constellations during the year. The Zodiac was split into twelve sections, each named after the specific constellation noted in that area.

Elements:

Many ancient philosophies used a set of classical elements to explain the way nature behaved. Each sign was connected to one of the classical elements (fire, earth, air, or water) and was also related to a region of focus; social, personal or universal.

* Water signs are related to growth processes, identification and emotion. In tandem with the other elements, water feels that fire will make it boil, air will evaporate it, but earth will shape and channel it.

* Fire signs are related to action, passion, and energy. In tandem with the other elements, fire feels that earth will smother it, water will drown it, but air will fan and enliven it.

* Air signs are related to thought, perspective and communication. In tandem with the other elements, air feels that water will obscure it, earth will suffocate it, but fire will inspire and uplift it.

* Earth signs are related to sensation, stability, and practicality. In tandem with the other elements, earth feels that air will dry it, fire will dry it, but water will refresh and nourish it.

Modalities:

Each sign is connected to one of three modalities; cardinal (sometimes referred to as movable), fixed, and mutable.

There are four quadrants following the order of the zodiacal signs, with three signs in each. Each quadrant describes a season, beginning with a cardinal sign, continuing to a fixed sign, and ending with a mutable sign.

Modalities and Related Zodiac Signs:

* Mutable signs are related to adaptability, resourcefulness and holism. They are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.

* Fixed signs are related to determination, focus and individuality. They are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.

* Cardinal signs are related to creativity and initiation. They are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.

Summary of Zodiac Sign Characteristics:

* Aries (cardinal, fire, personal): defensive, energetic, head down, assertive, impulsive.

* Taurus (fixed, earth, personal): patient, indulgent, resourceful, thorough, devoted.

* Gemini (mutable, air, personal): quick, logical, inquisitive.

* Cancer (cardinal, water, personal): clinging, protective, sensitive.

* Leo (fixed, fire, social): theatrical, generous, proud.

* Virgo (mutable, earth, social): critically, practical, efficient.

* Libra (cardinal, air, social): lazy, co-operative, fair.

* Scorpio (fixed, water, social): anxious, passionate, sensitive.

* Sagittarius (mutable, fire, universal): careless, free, straightforward.

* Capricorn (cardinal, earth, universal): suspicious, prudent, cautious.

* Aquarius (fixed, air, universal): detached, democratic, unconventional.

* Pisces (mutable, water, universal): distracted, imaginative, sensitive.

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Comment On The Importance Of Human Life

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 624)
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The preservation of human life is the ultimate value, a pillar of ethics and the foundation of all morality. This held true in most cultures and societies throughout history.

On first impression, the last sentence sounds patently wrong. We all know about human collectives that regarded human lives as dispensable, that murdered and tortured, that cleansed and annihilated whole populations in recurrent genocides. Surely, these defy the aforementioned statement?

Liberal philosophies claim that human life was treated as a prime value throughout the ages. Authoritarian regimes do not contest the over-riding importance of this value. Life is sacred, valuable, to be cherished and preserved. But, in totalitarian societies, it can be deferred, subsumed, subjected to higher goals, quantized, and, therefore, applied with differential rigor in the following circumstances:

1.. Quantitative - when a lesser evil prevents a greater one. Sacrificing the lives of the few to save the lives of the many is a principle enshrined and embedded in activities such as war and medicinal care. All cultures, no matter how steeped (or rooted) in liberal lore accept it. They all send soldiers to die to save the more numerous civilian population. Medical doctors sacrifice lives daily, to save others.

It is boils down to a quantitative assessment ("the numerical ratio between those saved and those sacrificed"), and to questions of quality ("are there privileged lives whose saving or preservation is worth the sacrifice of others' lives?") and of evaluation (no one can safely predict the results of such moral dilemmas - will lives be saved as the result of the sacrifice?).

2.. Temporal - when sacrificing life (voluntarily or not) in the present secures a better life for others in the future. These future lives need not be more numerous than the lives sacrificed. A life in the future immediately acquires the connotation of youth in need of protection. It is the old sacrificed for the sake of the new, a trade off between those who already had their share of life - and those who hadn't. It is the bloody equivalent of a savings plan: one defers present consumption to the future.

The mirror image of this temporal argument belongs to the third group (see next), the qualitative one. It prefers to sacrifice a life in the present so that another life, also in the present, will continue to exist in the future. Abortion is an instance of this approach: the life of the child is sacrificed to secure the future well-being of the mother. In Judaism, it is forbidden to kill a female bird. Better to kill its off-spring. The mother has the potential to compensate for this loss of life by bringing giving birth to other chicks.

3.. Qualitative - This is an especially vicious variant because it purports to endow subjective notions and views with "scientific" objectivity. People are judged to belong to different qualitative groups (classified by race, skin color, birth, gender, age, wealth, or other arbitrary parameters). The result of this immoral taxonomy is that the lives of the "lesser" brands of humans are considered less "weighty" and worthy than the lives of the upper grades of humanity. The former are therefore sacrificed to benefit the latter. The Jews in Nazi occupied Europe, the black slaves in America, the aborigines in Australia are three examples of such pernicious thinking.

4.. Utilitarian - When the sacrifice of one life brings another person material or other benefits. This is the thinking (and action) which characterizes psychopaths and sociopathic criminals, for instance. For them, life is a tradable commodity and it can be exchanged against inanimate goods and services. Money and drugs are bartered for life.

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When The Morning Dawns

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 499)
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The following article covers a topic that has recently moved to center stage-at least it seems that way. If you've been thinking you need to know more about unconditional love, here's your opportunity.

When darkness turns to day, the sun moves over the horizon and touches everything in sight. This movement across the landscape brightens everything. Such an illumination awakens us all. We rise with energy moving in and through us allowing us to create a new day. A day unique from all the rest and creatively woven into our soul.

This is the landscape of our soul. As you can see, nature has a way of showing us just how powerful we are. The same power that created the moon and the stars and the movement of all space and time lies within the human heart. It is the heart of creation itself, and perhaps, the heart of our Creator.

Human beings are fortunate to be able to be aware of our awareness. This awareness gives us an opportunity to reflect on our soul and find blessing in being alive. Our consciousness of a creative force inside us guiding us into this world, through it, and eventually to our eternal home allows us to fulfill a purpose on this earth.

Such a purpose is beyond our own ability to really know. Yet, we can open our heart enough to allow our purpose to find us. This is done by recognizing that the things in life that really matter ARE the things in life that isn't matter.

Yes, it is our soul's longing to fulfill the purpose for which we came to earth for. No one really knows how a baby is conceived totally. Science and human understanding still hasn't been able to fully comprehend such a force of nature. We can only embrace what is beyond us and find a way to bring into being forces of nature such as a tiny child.

When a child is born, we are in awe. The miracle of birth creates something inside us all. It is the remembrance that life does not come from us. Instead, life comes through us. As such, we are living in a dream come true. All of us are probably living our soul's purpose more than we know, and even, can know. It is the mystery of all mysteries.

This does not explain why some of us find peace and other's find pain. But, such a philosophy will enable us all to find grace in knowing our lives create in our world facets of ourselves we all are a part of. An understanding of such grace gives every one of us a chance to find mercy and grace and the same unconditional love we came into the world with when we were born.

Samuel Oliver, author of, "What the Dying Teach Us: Lessons on Living"

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Vampires The Romantic Ideology Behind Them

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 867)
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The French Revolution constituted for the conscience of the dominant aristocratic class a fall from innocence, and upturning of the natural chain of events that resounded all over Europe; the old regime became, in their imaginary, a paradise lost. This explains why some romantic poets born in the higher classes were keen on seeing themselves as faded aristocrats, expelled from their comfortable milieu by a reverse of fortune or a design of destiny. Byron and Shelley are the prime instances of this vital pose. In The Giaour he writes on a vampiric character: "The common crowd but see the gloom/ Of wayward deeds and fitting doom;/ The close observer can espy/A noble soul, and lineage high."

Byron departed from England leaving a trail of scandal over his marital conduct and since then saw himself as an exiled expatriate. Shelley was expelled from Oxford and he fell in disgrace by marrying an in-keeper's daughter; he always struggled to reconcile his origin with his political ideas: "Shelley could find no way of resolving his own contradictory opinions" (Cronin, 2000).

This icon of the fallen aristocrat is rooted on another character revered by romantic poets: the fallen angel. As Mario Praz proves, miltonic Satan became the rebel figure of choice among romantic poets. Milton reversed the medieval idea of a hideous Satan and wrapped its figure with the epic grandeur of an angel fallen in disgrace. Many of the byronic heros share with Milton's Satan this fallen-from-grace condition, such as Lara: "There was in him a vital scorn of all:/

As if the worst had fall'n which could befall,/ stood a stranger in this breathing world,/An erring spirit from another hurl'd" ( Lara XVIII 315-16)

There is another social factor that is behind the formation of the romantic myth of the vampire. In the early nineteen century, the foundations of what would later become a mass society were laid; the expansion of the press and of the reading public produced an increased diffusion for literary works and fostered movements such as the gothic and the sensation novel. Byron himself experienced the event of being turned into a proto-bestseller. The unification of literary taste and preferences that was a correlate to this social changes could not be more alien to the romantic notion of individual gusto and original sensibility. In order to combat this unifying forces, romantic poets revered the individual who stands outside society and is free from common concerns. Many of Byron's heros look down on the masses from above, even though they walk among them and do not lean towards wordsworthian escapades into nature; they achieve to remain untainted by the masses in a sort of exile within the world akin to that of a ghost or a dammed spirit. This self-definition of Manfred is revelatory:

From my youth upwards

My spirit walk'd not with the souls of men,

Nor look'd upon the earth with human eyes;

The thirst of their ambition was not mine,

The aim of their existence was not mine;

My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers

Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,

I had no sympathy with breathing flesh, (Manfred II, ii, 50-58)

Not only Byron's works contrived to produce the modern image of the vampire in relation to the Male Seducer archetype, but also some odd events in his life and the life of those surrounding him exercised a decisive influence. A critical study bundled with an anthology of vampire tales (Conde de Siruela, 2001) attributes to the short story The Vampire (1819) by John William Polidori the fixation of the "classical images of the literary vampire as a villanious, cold and enigmatic aristocrat; but, above all, perverse and fascinating for women". Mario Praz, in the same line, also states that Byron was "largely responsible for the vogue of vampirism". Polidori was the unfortunate doctor and personal assistant of Lord Byron who died half-crazy at 25. The idea for the tale published in 1819 came from the famous meetings at Villa Diodati on June 1816 between Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and Polidori, in what was probably the most influential gathering for fantastic fiction in the history of modern literature. In order to pass the stormy and ether-fuelled nights, they agreed to write each one a ghost story. Mary Shelley (who was then 17 years old) got during these nights the idea of what later became Frankenstein and Polidori wrote the tale The Vampire that he would publish three years later. The story appeared in the New Monthly Magazine falsely attributed by the editor to Lord Byron (taking advantages of the aura of Satanism that surrounded the poet in the popular view to promote the sales of the magazine). A misguided Goethe hailed the story as the best that Lord Byron had ever written. The tale was, actually, a covert portrait of Lord Byron disguised as the vampire Lord Ruthven, a cruel gambler and killer of innocent girls. Polidori had introduced in the story fragments from an autobiographical and revengeful novel called Glenarvon written by Caroline Lamb, an ex-lover of Byron. The Lord

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A Brief History Of Creation

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 1760)
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What is the loop of Creation? How is there something from nothing?

In spite of the fact that it is impossible to prove that anything exists beyond one's perception since any such proof would involve one's perception (I observed it, I heard it, I thought about it, I calculated it, and etc.), science deals with a so-called objective reality "out there," beyond one's perception professing to describe Nature objectively (as if there was a Nature or reality external to one's perception). The shocking impact of Matrix was precisely the valid possibility that what we believed to be reality was but our perception; however, this was presented through showing a real reality wherein the perceived reality was a computer simulation. Many who toy with the idea that perhaps, indeed, we are computer simulations, deviate towards questions, such as, who could create such software and what kind of hardware would be needed for such a feat. Although such questions assume that reality is our perception, they also axiomatically presuppose the existence of an objective deterministic world "out there" that nevertheless must be responsible for how we perceive our reality. This is a major mistake emphasizing technology and algorithms instead of trying to discover the nature of reality and the structure of creation. As will be shown in the following, the required paradigm shift from "perception is our reality fixed within an objective world," to "perception is reality without the need of an objective world 'out there,'" is provided by a dynamic logical structure. The Holophanic loop logic is responsible for a consistent and complete worldview that not only describes, but also creates whatever can be perceived or experienced.

Stating that it is impossible to prove the existence of anything beyond one's perception is not saying there is nothing beyond perception, only that if there is anything, then whatever that is, is indefinite. It could be argued that the existence of physical laws, the universal perception that the apple falls to the ground is proof of an objective reality. However, this universal agreement is also our perception. It could be argued that if we cannot decide what to perceive, and everybody perceives the same physical reality, then there must be some lawfulness that dictates how we perceive and therefore, this lawfulness could be external to our perception. However, this lawfulness, as we shall see later on, is the precise lawfulness that creates perception, the process of definition, which is not external to perception (this process creates the perceived and the perceiver, which then gives meaning to this process - a loop - but about that, later). It could be argued, that hitting our knee on the table - whether we believe in the table or not - will hurt. The table is external to our body, but not to our perception. What then is perception? It is relating, a process of definition, defining and thereby rendering meaningful what has been perceived.

What then is this process of definition? It is creating borders within which one's perception gains meaning. The word "definition" comes from the Latin de finire, meaning, making finite or limited. In Hebrew, definition is HAGDARA (הגדרה), meaning, to border. Any definition necessarily implies what the definition is not, or stated differently, to have meaning, whatever is defined explicitly includes the meaning by implicitly excluding everything else. Consequently, to define means to place the defined object within borders that by default create something beyond the borders of the definition. What is this something beyond the defined? The implicitly excluded everything else, or in other words, the indefinite. The paramount importance of incorporating the indefinite within a consistent logical structure cannot be overemphasized. The indefinite itself is a paradox, and incorporating it within the Holophanic logical structure engenders the loop of Creation where the dynamic structure of paradoxes is both the creative force of existence, and also the proof of the necessity of existence.

To better grasp the impetus of Creation, let's look at the indefinite and paradoxes. What does "indefinite" mean? Anything as long as it is not specified (not defined); anything that appears both within and beyond the borders of the definition and thereby rendering the border superfluous, which means, no border, no definition. If nevertheless we would attempt to define the notion "indefinite," then that's a paradox because if we succeed, then it is defined, which contradicts its meaning - its indefiniteness - and the word "indefinite" means that it cannot be defined. This is an example of a paradox, that in essence means, if it is what it is, then it is not what it is, yet if it is not what it is, then it is what it is. A paradox is a creature that consists of a structure (how it is defined, the dynamic process on its way to stabilization) that contradicts its significance (what it is, the stabilized entity). What characterizes a paradox is the motion between its structure and significance, where the structure implies that its significance contradicts its structure, and vice versa.

Another example of a paradox would be "wholeness." Wholeness (totality, infinite, boundless) can only be wholeness if we can find a way to define it so that it includes everything and there is nothing beyond it. However, if we define wholeness, then to have meaning, it must be bordered within the walls of the definition, which implies that there is something beyond this border, in which case it is not wholeness. Or in more formal language, wholeness is only wholeness if it is not wholeness, which is an inconsistency. If we are satisfied with that, then we have completed the definition of wholeness. However, if we try to include the beyond created by our earlier definition within the borders of our next attempt at defining wholeness, then we gain a new definition of wholeness, which by the sheer structure of the process of defining creates a new beyond. In this case, the process of defining wholeness will be consistent but incomplete, and wholeness will remain indefinite.

Contemplating the paradox of Creation, the ancient Egyptian myth of Creation springs to mind, the myth of the self-creating god, Amun (or Amon). Amun masturbated and swallowed his semen, after which he spit it out in the form of a ball, thereby impregnating his mother, the sky. And only then, was he born. Thus Amun was his own father. Those pious who discovered the illustrated version of this myth in Karnak covered up the erect phallus of Amun, and with it, this story of Creation was laid into obscurity. The Holophanic model of Creation could regard this Egyptian myth as Amun retromorphously creating himself. I have coined the word retromorphous to mean, defining in retrospect, turning non-being into the potential of whatever the observation is made from, or in other words, creating the past from the present, creating the source from its outcome, which is the basis of complexity in the context of the loop logic. That is, only after Amun was born can he give meaning to his mother, the potential from which he emanated and to the process that created him (as represented by masturbation and incest) whereby he was born. Of course, neither the sky nor the masturbating Amun have meaning until Creation takes place de facto and Amun emerges. I find this an enticing illustration of the basic paradox of existence.

So how can there be something from nothing? What is "nothing?" Nothing is what didn't turn into the potential of something. If there was something from nothing, then that nothing would have turned into the potential of something, because when we ask, how is there something from nothing, we ask this question from something, when something already exists. If we take a deeper look at "nothing," we'll discover that "nothing" is a paradox. Any definition is something, so if we defined "nothing," then it would become something, which contradicts its essence of being "nothing." Another way of looking at "nothing" would be by means of it being something that is meaningless. That is, "nothing" could be something that does not relate and that no thing or no one relates to. That is, if there was something totally alone in the universe, then that would be nothing, but it would be meaningless. If such existed, its existence would be external to our perception, and as such, this "nothing" would be indefinite.

We said that the indefinite could be anything, as long as it is not specified (not defined). However, if we nevertheless tried to define "nothing" (the indefinite), what would we get then? Since "nothing" is non-definable, it is transparent as the object of our inquiry. So when we attempt to define it, all we have is what we put into it, which is the process of definition. "Nothing" stayed nothing, we didn't define it, only made the process of definition explicit. "Nothing" gains meaning when we fail to define it; but having tried, we are left with a bonus, a something, which is our process of defining "nothing." Creation of something from nothing is not a function of defining something, but a function of attempting to define "nothing." And then, if that process of definition - which already is an existence - looks back at its origins, if this process of defining investigates into its own genesis, then what does it see? It sees itself. It sees the process of definition - self-reference.

If there is nothing external to perception, then this process of definition is the overall wholeness, the creator of meaning when it can relate to itself. However, to have meaning, the process of definition has to be defined; this definition would be a self-referential quasi-infinite and continuous process of establishing borders that create the indefinite beyond that establishes borders creating the indefinite beyond that establishes borders… which means, wholeness would continuously and forever fail to define itself while succeeding to define something - anything but itself.

Of course, both the totally defined and the totally indefinite are idealized notions that would be inconsistent with the Holophanic loop logic, nor can they be found in nature. The totally indefinite would be the total meaningless nothing, the kind of non-being that cannot be fathomed because if we would think about it, it would already be something. On the other hand, there can be no total definition either. I have used the term uncertainty of sameness to describe the logical impossibility of total definition. A defined entity can be said to have reached sameness

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Words To Live By

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 614)
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Watching the news the other day, it occurred to me that people who have "words to live by" often begin to attack and even kill others. I thought back to my own angry youth, when I could easily use words to justify violent thoughts which might have become violent actions. Words are tools, and yet it seems that they can be more dangerous than gunpowder.

Imagine two men facing each other, pointing past one another. One is pointing at a tornado that is coming, and the other at a raging fire headed towards them. Each sees their own truth and is angry at the sight of the other's hand. Each feels that the other's hand is "wrong." This may seem silly, but replace the tornado and fire with any modern issues, and the hands with words, and this scene describes how we often try to communicate.

We point past each other with our words, arguing as though we are looking at the same facts and experiences. We want to prove our words are the right ones, instead of learning to look at what the other's words are pointing at. Words are seductive, and for all their undeniable usefulness, they also can lead us away from understanding when we focus on them, when we make them more important than the truth they are meant to point at.

There Are No Words To Live By

This isn't just about communication with others. We focus on, and get trapped in a net of words that we use to explain the world to ourselves. We call things "right" or "wrong" for example, according to how they compare to our "definitions." Unlike mathematics, though, word formulas and definitions can never be so precise. They cannot encompass the whole truth of reality. For example, with the least effort, you can create a circumstance where "stealing" would be right, and "helping" someone wrong.

This isn't an argument against using language or logic. It is just that both only go so far. Like a car that takes you across the country or world, they are useful, but like a car, they are only useful in certain ways, and you have to get out of them when you arrive at your various destinations. Taking a car to the lake isn't a problem, but taking it into the lake is. This is what we do when our words and logic take us to dangerous situations.

Can having words to live by be dangerous, though? Absolutely. I once heard an otherwise compassionate person say he was against animal cruelty laws because he couldn't find a logical and defensible set of words to defend them. If he saw a new machine, would he refuse to believe it existed until he could explain it and describe it? Reality, and the reality of right and wrong exist outside of words - they are not the words themselves.

I watched a man say on the evening news that we have the right to drop a nuclear bomb on Iraq, and that we should. As he explained why, you could see that whatever compassionate impulses he had, they were over-ruled by his total allegiance to his words, logic, and where these take him. It never occurred to him that maybe there is truth outside of his words and logic.

It's great to have guidelines, like "don't lie," or "we have the right to defend ourselves." It is even better to remember that these rules will someday fail us, and we will have to make new ones. Words are just tools. There are words to die by, but there are no words to live by.

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The Science Of Superstitions

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 995)
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"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science."

Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, 1931

The debate between realism and anti-realism is, at least, a century old. Does Science describe the real world - or are its theories true only within a certain conceptual framework? Is science only instrumental or empirically adequate or is there more to it than that?

The current - mythological - image of scientific enquiry is as follows:

Without resorting to reality, one can, given infinite time and resources, produce all conceivable theories. One of these theories is bound to be the "truth". To decide among them, scientists conduct experiments and compare their results to predictions yielded by the theories. A theory is falsified when one or more of its predictions fails. No amount of positive results - i.e., outcomes that confirm the theory's predictions - can "prove right" a theory. Theories can only be proven false by that great arbiter, reality.

Jose Ortega y Gasset said (in an unrelated exchange) that all ideas stem from pre-rational beliefs. William James concurred by saying that accepting a truth often requires an act of will which goes beyond facts and into the realm of feelings. Maybe so, but there is little doubt today that beliefs are somehow involved in the formation of many scientific ideas, if not of the very endeavor of Science. After all, Science is a human activity and humans always believe that things exist (=are true) or could be true.

A distinction is traditionally made between believing in something's existence, truth, value of appropriateness (this is the way that it ought to be) - and believing that something. The latter is a propositional attitude: we think that something, we wish that something, we feel that something and we believe that something. Believing in A and believing that A - are different.

It is reasonable to assume that belief is a limited affair. Few of us would tend to believe in contradictions and falsehoods. Catholic theologians talk about explicit belief (in something which is known to the believer to be true) versus implicit one (in the known consequences of something whose truth cannot be known). Truly, we believe in the probability of something (we, thus, express an opinion) - or in its certain existence (truth).

All humans believe in the existence of connections or relationships between things. This is not something which can be proven or proven false (to use Popper's test). That things consistently follow each other does not prove they are related in any objective, "real", manner - except in our minds. This belief in some order (if we define order as permanent relations between separate physical or abstract entities) permeates both Science and Superstition. They both believe that there must be - and is - a connection between things out there.

Science limits itself and believes that only certain entities inter-relate within well defined conceptual frames (called theories). Not everything has the potential to connect to everything else. Entities are discriminated, differentiated, classified and assimilated in worldviews in accordance with the types of connections that they forge with each other.

Moreover, Science believes that it has a set of very effective tools to diagnose, distinguish, observe and describe these relationships. It proves its point by issuing highly accurate predictions based on the relationships discerned through the use of said tools. Science (mostly) claims that these connections are "true" in the sense that they are certain - not probable.

The cycle of formulation, prediction and falsification (or proof) is the core of the human scientific activity. Alleged connections that cannot be captured in these nets of reasoning are cast out either as "hypothetical" or as "false". In other words: Science defines "relations between entities" as "relations between entities which have been established and tested using the scientific apparatus and arsenal of tools". This, admittedly, is a very cyclical argument, as close to tautology as it gets.

Superstition is a much simpler matter: everything is connected to everything in ways unbeknown to us. We can only witness the results of these subterranean currents and deduce the existence of such currents from the observable flotsam. The planets influence our lives, dry coffee sediments contain information about the future, black cats portend disasters, certain dates are propitious, certain numbers are to be avoided. The world is unsafe because it can never be fathomed. But the fact that we - limited as we are - cannot learn about a hidden connection - should not imply that it does not exist.

Science believes in two categories of relationships between entities (physical and abstract alike). The one is the category of direct links - the other that of links through a third entity. In the first case, A and B are seen to be directly related. In the second case, there is no apparent link between A and B, but a third entity, C could well provide such a connection (for instance, if A and B are parts of C or are separately, but concurrently somehow influenced by it).

Each of these two categories is divided to three subcategories: causal relationships, functional relationships and correlative relationship.

A and B will be said to be causally related if A precedes B, B never occurs if A does not precede it and always occurs after A occurs. To the discerning eye, this would seem to be a relationship of correlation ("whenever A happens B happens") and this is true. Causation is subsumed by a the 1.0 correlation relationship category. In other words: it is a private case of the more general case of correlation.

A and B are functionally related if B can be predicted by assuming A but we have no way of establishing the truth value of A. The latter is a postulate or axiom. The time dependent Schr

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Unlocking The Bible Codes

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 373)
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Did you read the DaVinci Code or maybe see the movie? Did it get you interested in history and secret codes? You do not have to travel to Europe to see the true secrets from history; technology now lets us unlock the oldest secret code in the world, the bible code. For centuries there have been rumors about the secret codes of the bible. Now with the power of your home computer you can unlock the bible codes and see the truth for your self. Whether you are a true believer or a doubtful skeptic, evidence can be found with your own research on the secret codes of the bible.

Bible codes, sometimes referred to as Torah codes, have been part of the Jewish tradition and mystery for over 2000 years. In Hebrew (the language of the original bible) the bible codes are called Gematria which is a translation from ancient Greek which when translated in to English is numerology. Around the time that the Old Testament was written the Greeks were the world leaders in math, so it would be natural that they would influence the composers of the original bible codes. It is information like this that can be found in the software responsible for unlocking the bible codes.

The bible codes can also be seen in other forms of the bible not just the original Hebrew. The King James Version has hidden bible codes and mysteries just waiting to be unlocked. The Greek version of the bible was the first ever translation of the bible and it too has many secrets waiting for you.

Using your home computer you can unlock the bible codes and explore history on your own. There are plenty of wonderful programs and DVDs which reveal the secrets of the bibles codes, and let you explore the magical Holy Land from home. One program called Holy Land Journey takes you on an interactive tour of the Holy Land and matches up bible stories with pictures. There are several bible decoders which are made to work in your native language and help you to start unlocking the secrets of the bible in a simple way so that you can understand.

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On Being Human

(category: Philosophy, Word count: 1153)
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Are we human because of unique traits and attributes not shared with either animal or machine? The definition of "human" is circular: we are human by virtue of the properties that make us human (i.e., distinct from animal and machine). It is a definition by negation: that which separates us from animal and machine is our "human-ness".

We are human because we are not animal, nor machine. But such thinking has been rendered progressively less tenable by the advent of evolutionary and neo-evolutionary theories which postulate a continuum in nature between animals and Man.

Our uniqueness is partly quantitative and partly qualitative. Many animals are capable of cognitively manipulating symbols and using tools. Few are as adept at it as we are. These are easily quantifiable differences - two of many.

Qualitative differences are a lot more difficult to substantiate. In the absence of privileged access to the animal mind, we cannot and don't know if animals feel guilt, for instance. Do animals love? Do they have a concept of sin? What about object permanence, meaning, reasoning, self-awareness, critical thinking? Individuality? Emotions? Empathy? Is artificial intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that passes the Turing Test may well be described as "human". But is it really? And if it is not - why isn't it?

Literature is full of stories of monsters - Frankenstein, the Golem - and androids or anthropoids. Their behaviour is more "humane" than the humans around them. This, perhaps, is what really sets humans apart: their behavioural unpredictability. It is yielded by the interaction between Mankind's underlying immutable genetically-determined nature - and Man's kaleidoscopically changing environments.

The Constructivists even claim that Human Nature is a mere cultural artefact. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, are determinists. They believe that human nature - being the inevitable and inexorable outcome of our bestial ancestry - cannot be the subject of moral judgment.

An improved Turing Test would look for baffling and erratic patterns of misbehaviour to identify humans. Pico della Mirandola wrote in "Oration on the Dignity of Man" that Man was born without a form and can mould and transform - actually, create - himself at will. Existence precedes essence, said the Existentialists centuries later.

The one defining human characteristic may be our awareness of our mortality. The automatically triggered, "fight or flight", battle for survival is common to all living things (and to appropriately programmed machines). Not so the catalytic effects of imminent death. These are uniquely human. The appreciation of the fleeting translates into aesthetics, the uniqueness of our ephemeral life breeds morality, and the scarcity of time gives rise to ambition and creativity.

In an infinite life, everything materializes at one time or another, so the concept of choice is spurious. The realization of our finiteness forces us to choose among alternatives. This act of selection is predicated upon the existence of "free will". Animals and machines are thought to be devoid of choice, slaves to their genetic or human programming.

Yet, all these answers to the question: "What does it mean to be human" - are lacking.

The set of attributes we designate as human is subject to profound alteration. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all cause irreversible changes in these traits and characteristics. The accumulation of these changes can lead, in principle, to the emergence of new properties, or to the abolition of old ones.

Animals and machines are not supposed to possess free will or exercise it. What, then, about fusions of machines and humans (bionics)? At which point does a human turn into a machine? And why should we assume that free will ceases to exist at that - rather arbitrary - point?

Introspection - the ability to construct self-referential and recursive models of the world - is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What about introspective machines? Surely, say the critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection is willed - WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover, the notion - if not the formal concept - of "human" rests on many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding - why presume that men and women (or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were not. A lot separates males from females - genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to these two sub-species that makes them both "human"?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonian Form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence separate from the body. A machine-supported energy field with mental states similar to ours today - would it be considered human? What about someone in a state of coma - is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human - or, at least, fully human - and, if so, in which sense? What about a future human race - whose features would be unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence - would it be thought of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing "human" with "person". The former is a private case of the latter. Locke's person is a moral agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted by the continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke's is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human persons (machines, energy matrices) if the functional conditions are satisfied. Thus, an android which meets the prescribed requirements is more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes' objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume that such "souls" possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable. Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a "person" as a "primitive". Both the corporeal predicates and those pertaining to mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all the individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity. Some, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible persons to animals - but this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizes the personhood of a brain damaged human ("capable of experiencing"). It also incorporates Locke's view of humans as possessing an ontological status similar to "clubs" or "nations" - their personal identity consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

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