The logical case for ‘luck’

March 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

‘Luck’ is often a rather blasphemous term to use in a quasi-philosophical discussion and is, as such, disregarded as entirely insignificant by most when recounting the factors governing human life. In fact, some times the derision amounts to an utter denial of it’s very existence. I personally believe that such an attitude is a sad error which deems to regard something that has come down the conventional wisdom and nomenclature as being wrong for these very qualifications; whereas a true measure would be to judge it rationally against a valid argument to affirm or reject it.
A number of events, being causal outcomes of other events, will inevitably collide at multiple instances, giving birth to other causal outcomes which are a result of the very collisions – a shared outcome, if you may, which may not be originally designed to procure by either of the causing events individually. Any sufficiently randomized causal system will then inevitably go down that path. Luck, keeping with the jargon of this writing, will then merely be one such incidental outcome, profiting one or many by sheer ‘chance’ (or the contrary).
This, then clearly establishes a place for ‘luck’, or ‘chance’, whatever way you’d have it as, and a role for it in human life. Whereas disregarding it may be fulfiling for an ardent believer of free will, that would be well removed from reality.
As far as the case for free will is concerned, it is quite obvious that this agency has it’s limitations. Particularly, when one can’t adequately determine the cause and effect of an instant, being disturbed by the aforementioned phenomenon, free will breaks down. I shall cite an example to make my point clear:
Let’s say you shoot an arrow and that you’re an exceptionally good at it. The arrow is bound straight for a tree shall no external event interfere. But ‘as luck would have it’, a bird flies right into it’s way and faces a rather unpleasant outcome. In this case, the bird was to continue its flight while the arrow was to strike the tree; but since both collided, the outcomes of both events were disturbed and gave birth to an unanticipated new outcome.
This, then, is luck. I know it’s a fairly obvious phenomenon and could be very easily reasoned and reached. But some ardent rationalists, or so they claim to be, tend to consider luck something of a nuisance when it comes down to arguing free will. And that, in turn, leads them to make fairly ridiculous and invalid remarks about it. This is just a quick rejoinder to such fellows.

Image courtesy Daniel

Azaab Theory And Other Absurd Arguments By Muslims

January 20, 2012 § 8 Comments

One of the oft-cited arguments by Muslims in addressing certain issues is the ‘Azaab theory.’ Of course no such formal theory exists and I have termed it thus for namesake only. What it necessarily entails is to first render a standpoint unfalsifiable, and then suddenly bring up a citation from the holy book as the proof of their truth. For instance, if a vile person is struck down by some natural calamity, they term it a sign from God or Azaab. When many vile persons lead their entire lives in debauchery and corruption and have a very happy ending at a cozy death-bed, Muslims would argue that God simply ‘let his rope loose’ so that he would indulge as much as he could and that for this, he will face the wrath of God in hell. The only problem with this is, obviously it is an unfalsifiable theory. You have an answer ready for both outcomes and you pitch one of them, as per the events.

But this is taken even further by certain ‘philosophic’ Muslims who tend to argue Islam against science or philosophy. For instance, Hamza Toru is hailed by many as a Muslim who can miraculously respond to all philosophical arguments and scientific proofs which negate religion. While I haven’t seen the recent debate between him and Professor Hoodbhoy that has been cited as ‘the triumph of religion’, I did have the opportunity to watch his brief talk with Mr. Dawkins. Here’s what I could grasp from it.

While Dawkins cited clear proofs of the process of evolution, Toru wanted to bring him to one single point, which he eventually did: how did the universe come into being? Of course this question is still unanswered by the science per se, although physically at a point where time’s value becomes zero, the instance becomes entirely irrelevant to us. But then, for argument sake, let’s consider it. Yes, science doesn’t have a definite answer to that. So? ‘Then that clearly means that there is a God since how can the universe come into being!! My holy book has an answer to what your science doesn’t!’ Toru resorts excitedly and rather triumphantly. Did that make sense? Of course not.

Look at it another way. A person walks over to me and says ‘what is smaller than zero.’ I tell him that mathematically, nothing can be smaller than zero. He says come on, how is that possible. When I insist that I have no answer to that, he tells me he read in such and such book about something that is smaller than zero and so, his book furnishes answer to questions that I, or science (mathematics), can’t answer. Logically, that’s an utterly stupid argument. The inability of science to answer certain question does not render illogical interpretations from other sources the more credible source of knowledge.

Also on the point of interpretations, the Muslim enthusiasts who pitch all the weirdest interpretations to prove a scientific fact, the pseudo-scientists like Haroon Yahya, they fail to tell this to their ardent fans that religious scriptures have been reinterpreted again and again over times to make them compliant with the ‘scientific facts’ of their age. It is precisely the abstract form of holy scriptures that allows for virtually infinite interpretations and that, by no means, qualifies as ‘the proof’ of foretold scientific wisdom!

Finally, to my Muslim friends who stubbornly insist that religion provided knowledge for scientific discoveries and then try to cite proofs from Moorish era: that is SUCH rubbish! Religion, at best, instigated Muslim to attain scientific knowledge and it was the enthusiasm that an intelligent theological environment provided which enabled them to make those scientific advancement in Spain. None of them ‘discovered’ ANYTHING from the holy book, at best they merely got their inspiration from Quran. The scientific knowledge came from the Greeks on which they built wisely. Naturally, with this mindset which seeks scientific answers, riddles, formulae, and revelations in the holy book, Muslims are bound to dwell in scientific ignobility.

The Great Secret – Shams al-Din Hafiz

November 28, 2011 § 10 Comments

God was full of Wine last night,

So full of wine

 

That He let a great secret slip.

He said:

 

There is no man on earth

Who needs a pardon from Me -

 

For there is really no such thing,

No such thing

As Sin!

That Beloved has gone completely Wild-He has poured Himself into me!

I am Blissful and Drunk and Overflowing.

 

Dear world,

Draw life from my Sweet Body,

 

Dear wayfaring souls,

Come drink your fill of liquid rubies,

For God has made my heart

An Eternal Fountain!

The material quest

August 24, 2011 § 18 Comments

Life has many faces. It’s a multifaceted array of colors and contours. Nonetheless, some of its facets are quite discomfiting. Whereas the finesse, the refinement of thought and action elevate one to heights where one can truly cherishes the beauty of life, there are times when things aren’t so beautiful. Such is the ugliness in the mundanity of life that the heart is cleansed of all thoughts of a sight otherwise when such one to behold. True, many of us are forced by the whim of chance to be a part of this mundanity, if not at all times, then occasionally due to certain circumstance. Yet, if choice be, not one would wish to be there, not even with all those artistic renderings and noisy proclamations of humility towards the occupation – at least not when the details of such a choice are impressed fully and correctly upon one. Rustic ruminations are very illustrious for prose and so but very inadequate to accommodate the bitter truth of life itself.

As to the contrary disposition, that of a finer, more artistic and, often, scarcely affordable mode, that which is an amalgam of knowledge and affluence (and the latter often follows the former) – to that, everyone yearns. And why shouldn’t we? Life is but a small timeline with endless possibilities and all of us wish to make the most of it. Then such a tendency is only obvious, only too natural! Once we pull down the curtains of social regard, morality and such others, it becomes quite clear that materialism, itself, is the actual pursuit. To derive a conclusion that materialistic pursuit is the death of ‘true’ being is quite non-sense – in fact, any more arguments to that end shall be regarded as absurd and cliché because they have a tendency to be self-assuming without necessarily being correct.

There is an interesting point to consider here: many who assume the path proposed above tend to abandon mid-way and return to what they term as ‘truth’ or shall we say spiritual modes. If I be asked, I honestly believe that this is because they are either worn down by the toll that such a path exacts upon their intellect and mental prowess in general. Or else, they simply lack the faculties to appropriately employ the resources they acquire and after squandering them quite stupidly, they assume it to be the ‘dark, vile materialism’ and thenceforth, set back to the good, ol’ spirituality. What they fail to comprehend is the lack in their own efforts, of styling themselves in the right fashion, the lack of which leads to such unsuccessful attempts. If only they knew how to be a true materialistic, how to spend days and nights in the pursuit of art, what with the divine prose of centuries and beyond and the elysian symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart and the cognizant philosophies from Greek down to our days; and the beauty of a Dionysian passion and the methods of understanding intellects and sifting through them and discerning their traits, a science in itself which shall be sufficient to occupy one for a lifetime; with all such promises that a true material pursuit holds, what else shall entice one?

And, shall the reader still be ill-convinced of the validity of this religion, I may add that humanity is an inseparable element to each of such indulgences, true material pursuit being rational and true rational model being one that encompasses a good for all.

If a material pursuit is being undertaken with consideration of this, it becomes the supreme mode of existence, that pinnacle of being where one expends his energies in attaining knowledge and truly justifying his birth. And all the while, enjoying every moment while it lasts. Such is a life truly worth living. And such is a life worthy of wasting a lifetime on!

 

The sin of innocent pride

August 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

“At a certain point on his path the absurd man is tempted. History is not lacking in either religions or prophets, even without gods. He is asked to leap. All he can reply is that he doesn’t fully understand, that it is not obvious. Indeed he does not want to do anything but what he fully understands. He is assured that this is the sin of pride, but he does not understand the notion of sin; that perhaps hell is in store, but he has not enough imagination to visualize that strange future; that he is losing immortal life, but that seems to him an idle consideration. An attempt is made to get him to admit his guilt. He feels innocent. To tell the truth, that is all he feels — his irreparable innocence. This is what allows him everything. Hence, what he demands of himself is to live solely with what he knows, to accommodate himself to what is, and to bring in nothing that is not certain. He is told that nothing is. But this at least is a certainty. And it is with this that he is concerned: he wants to find out if it is possible to live without appeal.”

-The Myth Of Sisyphus, Albert Camus.

The pinnacle of existence

September 9, 2010 § 7 Comments

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”

- Jack London

And indeed in those rigorous moments where life relentlessly knaps it’s head with a resolve against whatever is abating the way, therein with the incessant interplay of hope with a hopeless, hopeful, promising, empty despair that begets a promise of it’s own, in the instances when the strength of being is spent to the last before resigning to a fulfilling satiation – it all is what describes the true ecstasy of being, that which is experienced in an ephemeral ethereal moment and then passes, leaving behind a longing for more. A relentless and rigorous life, a life that knows no purpose except that to discern a purpose or to live fully, justifying the truth of being, straining all energies to the terminal extent and bringing out of them an intellectual output. And a life which concludes with the precipitation of that ardent desire to know more, do more and live more.

The leap of faith

July 16, 2010 § 15 Comments

The leap of faith or the trust?

 Whichever comes first; for if the latter follows the former, as many would claim, it is only a result of the ‘expectant’ circumstances faith necessarily entails. The possible becomes the ‘miraculous’ impossible-made-possible when an established agency is available to make claims of having the power to bring it about.

However, there is no case, at least none resting upon reasoning and logical rigor, that proves otherwise. That faith is posterior to trust. A belief’s cogency is marred by the inquirer and thus exposed when removed from the superstition that holds it together. Naturally, to one given more to logic than sentimentalism, the trust we talk of here never gains a root. And so, there is no faith.

Nihilism is the necessary malady for the disbeliever.

Crossing the lines

December 26, 2009 § 15 Comments

As if the likes of Dr. Shahid Masood, hosting pseudo-politicians like Hamid Gul, spinning their endless tales of conspiracy theories was not enough, I was pretty surprised to read a column in Nawa-i-Waqt today. Seems like we live in strange days where power shifts from army to judiciary and media and parliament in nowhere in the scene.

The recent series of events makes it clear how certain media outlets have specifically targeted the ruling party and been exaggerating things against them, which also would perhaps explain the unneeded and rather immature statement along with the ruling on NRO given by the Supreme Court. One of the hawks of lawyers’ movement, Ali Ahmed Kurd, himself lashed on SC over such an unnecessary move and pointed out that SC judges were treading a very dangerous line, making rather political moves.

I must say it’s not that hard to connect the dots here. At one side, rightist media outlets along with the power of a major media group have taken their position against PPP generally and Zardari in particular. And no matter what, they don’t seem to be stopping at anything but their removal. While that’s the situation, their aggravation of the affairs pretty much led to all the noise over NRO and the post-NRO-ruling.

This creates a picture where media is bringing things, by sort of creating a hype, to SC’s consideration and SC, empowered by what I may call media support, is making rather reckless decision. The parliament is entirely out of the scene and in fact, the entire ruling party is like held accountable for cases that aren’t yet proved against them. I don’t have anything for PPP but I believe that such a situation means only one thing: media is striving it’s best at either derailing the democracy or else is playing at the whim of other political players who already are in the good books of SC judges. Either way, the pieces fit.

Coming back to the column I read today, the great writer suggested that army and judiciary should join hands in order to bring the corrupt politicians to justice. This is just too much! The guy, in other words, is simply telling army to help judiciary destroy the democratic structure since his ‘suggestion’ entirely rules out the inclusion of parliament in the picture. It’s flabbergasting how openly these columnists are proposing such outrageous possibilities.

And let me show what the connotation is: the connotation is that SC is making such statements as this where it suggests the government to take the aid of eunuchs to pressurize corrupt personnel. I mean…what the hell! Where is it all going! How can a sane person even suggest that – and not to forget, SC’s suggestion was a ‘serious’ one, not one made in humor. And to top that, Geo was pretty quick in launching an interview of Bobby Almas, citing her ‘special strategy’ she’d launch to carry out SC’s suggestion.

So the point I am making is: with the unlimited support of a deeply biased and very immature media, SC is on the way of making controversial decisions, which may (let’s hope it doesn’t) at one hand, compromise SC’s own credibility, and at the other, damage the democratic structure irreparably, thus giving army another excuse to intervene. And considering the current security crises we are going through, I believe now would be the most unfeasible time for such a happening.

Studying contemporary intellect

November 10, 2009 § 3 Comments

‘I am inclined to think that his(Russell’s) lack of systematic philosophical education was an advantage and that nothing can do more to stultify original thinking than a thorough knowledge of past philosophers acquired too early in life; because it brings with it the deadening discouragement of realizing that most of the ideas one thinks up have been thought of by someone else before.’

Alan Wood

I couldn’t agree more. On a similar streak, I’ve held the opinion for quite some time now that people tend to be all too embracing to the accepted contemporary intellect, considering it per se and very reluctant in questioning anything in it ‘s content. In fact, the whole affair of studying the ‘great minds’ start with the basic principle: they can’t be wrong. And with that start, even when one may well be capable of questioning the intellect of one of those great mind, he totally drops the option. And that, I believe, renders the very purpose of such study useless.

Free will and Determinism

February 17, 2009 § 9 Comments

determinism_by_rm_rf1

The question of free will and determinism has vexed the philosophers of all times, down to our days. Whether or not our actions are pre-determined and how much role, if any at all, the notion called ‘destiny’ plays in the course of our actions. Such and similar conundrums mark the vital discussions of philosophy.

Coming to theological perspective of the idea, there have been, again, many varied interpretations of the paradox of determinism and consequently, different answers cited as to the exact nature of it. Some argue man is allowed the space to decide his fate and hence is responsible for his own actions. Yet others pose the argument that fate or what we may call destiny pre-defines a man’s actions-to-be and hence he isn’t able to do anything against that certain, specified fate he’s ‘destined’ to.

I hate to admit the influence of external factors, be it other writers and philosophers, to my own philosophical intuitions and well…the citing above may just be taken as mere references. Coming to my take on the matter, well..first let me take things to default settings. I don’t have any thoughts, belief, idea of pre-determinism and so I’d start thinking from point zero.

So, I do an action, say I drink water. I am now to decide whether it was pre-defined and I was necessarily to perform the task or did I just feel thirsty, got up and drank it? In the first case, there’s something which’s inculcating the outcome I am made to perform. What can that something be? ‘Fate’, ‘destiny’ , ‘Divine decision’ or what? There’s also this possibility of the determinism of my actions by external and internal laws, which can all be perhaps be accounted for and maybe also calculated, scientifically. Nevertheless, that would still be pre-determinism since my biological modeling (read genetic coding) contains instructions to make me act that certain way, in other words, I’m not really free to do things.

If we give it a closer look, biological pre-determination may also be called what’d be the Divine destiny-setting for us, considering for the moment the theistic view of us being created by God. In this frame, the scientific and theistic take on the issue merge to be a single one, except at the point that all actions can be calculated pre-handedly through scientific manipulation of our genetic structures, something which may be conveniently possible in the coming years, according to some researchers. This point needs particular elaboration here since it’s also something put forth very enthusiastically by the active proponent of AI but for now, we’d elaborate on it respective to the issue at hand – i.e. pre-determinism and free will.

Well….the scientific argument is that since every action within our body is a result of certain biochemical reactions, these reactions can be accounted for (somehow with advanced tools in the coming years) and hence calculated, manipulated. Not only that, but that these actions, the possible doing of a being can be directly known from his DNA, the structures containing our genetic information.

I personally find this argument very exciting and astonishing in its possible implications. Yet I find something in it which doesn’t quite conform to logic. I think we may account for all possible happenings within a human body by calculating all biochemical reactions within us. For example, I get angry when hormone X and chemical reaction Y happens. In this way, we may be able to calculate all the combinations of all the possible reactions in us. That, of course, would be a huge, very huge amount of manipulations and data for even a single being but, nevertheless, I believe that’s possible. What leads on, however, is contrary to the proposed implications of the theory. I agree that all possible happenings for human beings, in general, can be calculated but since we can’t account for the occurrence of a certain external factor, which can be most random and unusual at any time, we simply can’t determine, scientifically, the course of a human’s actions. That is, although we know whatever a human being A can do, yet we don’t know what, of the possible outcomes, he chooses at a certain time. Not only that, by deploying ‘creative reconstruction’ of his experiences of past, he may even do something which wasn’t scientifically accounted for. That something won’t be contrary to the possibilities from his genetic pool – only that he intermingled, creatively, those possibilities to result in a newer outcome.

In this way, through the inhibition of the calculation of the kind and occurrence of a certain stimuli, we simply can’t calculate the way a person may, will act. Thus, the concept of scientifically knowing, pre-handedly, a person’s possible life-doings is not plausible, at least to me.

A very important, though redundant in the grander history of philosophy, conclusion is also immediately reached through the above arguments. This, that a human being is only partially free to perform a certain task. This is because he has certain genetic settings which allow him certain paths to follow, inhibiting him to reach out of those limitations. (Yet the possibilities, the paths this genetic setting sets, are too numerous to be considered a limitation in a smaller sense) On the other hand, since an external stimulus depends on something more than that person, or even at human beings alone, that person is free to elicit a response he desires, at the occurrence of that stimuli allowing him the choice to choose an element from the available set or a combination of those elements.

This logically sums the notion of a human being’s being partially-free and partially-pre-destined to ‘fate.’ It also, I believe, amply addresses the notion of ‘pre-determination and free will’ by elaborating on the limitations beings are imposed wit hand space they’re let, in many different ways. The idea may still be incomplete in some ways but to me, it works logically. My meditation on the notion, of course, will continue, for we should never consider our take on anything as absolute and ultimately correct. Therefore, the possibility that I may improve this understanding of pre-determination is always there.

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