Time is the necessary context of existence. Without temporality, there would be no way to Be. Can we treat the context of our experience of phenomena, as a phenomenon that can be reduced to rules, like linearity? It seems pretentious to attempt to do so. A philosopher considering time travel may be like an opera singer, singing scales before a performance — a warm up for thinking that makes a difference.
I admit to being a time-traveler. I always travel at the same rate, in the same direction, and without much thinking about it, because that's what has worked for me, so far. Maybe "it's time" to "spend some time" thinking about time.
If I want to go somewhere, I need to think about things. Fortunately, most of these thoughts are automatic, but for the sake of this inquiry, suspending this automaticity may be useful. If I were at the University of Edinburgh and I wanted to travel to Inverkeithing, I would have to consider a few questions, before I get to the question of "How do I get to Inverkeithing?" The question of "Why do I want to go to Inverkeithing?" doesn't matter, but there are a few questions crucial to this timely consideration.
Where am I now? University of Edinburgh, near a golf course.
Is there a place called Inverkeithing, a specific, exclusive, agreed upon location? Yes.
Where is Inverkeithing in relation to where I am now? About 21 km. northwest on A90. (It's interesting to note that the right-now Inverkeithing is not available to me for direct observation. The half-hour-from-now Inverkeithing could be, if I hurry.)
Where is northwest? What is a kilometer? Take the train! What is “train”? Never mind.
Am I delusional or self-deceptive, in any way? Yes. In truth, I am just taking a MOOC, and I live near Chicago, USA. I've never been to Scotland.
Now, let's make a few paradigmatic replacements to apply probative questions to time travel. Perhaps I would like to visit Inverkeithing during the battle of July 20, 1651. I want to see if Pinkerton Burn really ran red with blood for three days (damn Cromwell), or if that was an exaggeration.
When am I now? For now, let's say that I am now, now, and I expect to continue being now, for now.
Is there an historical event called the Battle of Inverkeithing that occurred on a date called July 20, 1651? Yes.
When is July 20, 1651 relative to when I am now? About 132,100 days in the past.
Where is the past, now? Uh-oh.
Here we are — now — at the pivotal question of time-travel inquiry. If we don’t know where we are going, we are unlikely to get there. I have some idea where Inverkeithing is now, even though I cannot see it. Where is the Battle of Inverkeithing, now? Where is the past, now? Where is that-which-is-not-now, now? If we are ever going to find our way there, we must first find where and when “there” is.
While Augustine postulated a linear time stream, to fit his theological point-of-view, I can be certain of one time only, which is the context of one place only: Now. The existence of anything is temporal and that time is now. Yet I know the past (as well as the future), exists somehow. I know this because we talk about it, and we talk about it a lot. Perhaps the existence of the past, the future, or any possible time-that-is-not-now has a particular kind of existence, now. Perhaps the not-now is present, now, as an element of language that we project into the past or future, while remaining radically now-in-the-present.
Human Beings have a propensity to constitute themselves as everywhere and always except for here and now (the only place and time where one can be alive). My inquiry into time leads me to the full experience of now. I can appreciate that the question of time travel, like the T.A.R.D.I.S itself, is much bigger on the inside.
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In the current, public discourse on marriage rights, reproductive rights and so on, what seems to be missing is a basic familiarity and understanding of Human Rights. We tend to think of one's rights as 'something,' and something known to us, and yet it is apparent that we lack this essential knowledge. As my first post on this blog, I offer this as an introductory course.
There was a time, not so very long ago in the history of Western Civilization, when Human Beings didn't have rights. Kings had rights; priests had some limited rights, and that was pretty much it. Human Beings like you and me had no rights. At that point in history, Human Beings didn't even have a vocabulary with which to contemplate such a possibility. Generations and centuries came and passed. Occasionally a King, who was concerned about keeping his head attached to his body, would extend rights to barons or noblemen, and just as often, the next King would revoke them.
In Fifteenth Century Italy, the seeds of Humanism began to germinate. In France, René Descartes famously asserted, "Cogito ergo sum (I think, therfore I am)." Medieval despotism and feudalism began to give way to the Age of Reason, French and German Enlightenment philosophies and British Empiricism. The propositions arising from these philosophical movements provided the necessary lexicon for an ongoing inquiry into Human Rights and social contracts, profoundly affecting political thought. The English Bill of Rights (1689) delineated several of the rights now familiar to us, although domestic citizens were privileged over colonial citizens and some rights were limited to Protestants. The fundamental document of the French Revolution, the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) includes this remarkable statement in Article VI,
"The law must be the same for all, whether it protects or it punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible for all important offices, positions and public employments, according to their ability and without other distinction than that of their qualities and talents."
In defense of the French Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote his pamphlet, Rights of Man in 1791. Paine claims that Human Rights arise in Nature and precede government, writing:
"The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist."
Notice the relentless expansion of the concept of Human Rights, so much that they eventually supercede the government. The rights became more expansive, inclusive and comprehensive, as philosophy and polital theory continued to forward valuable questions and generate specific language with which to continue the conversation. When James Madison wrote the United States Bill of Rights, also in 1791 he recognized the expansive nature of Human Rights and included as the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
What is the significance of all of this? Whether Human Rights arise from Nature or one's creator, or not, the concept of Human Rights did not exist just a few hundred years ago. We as a species were able to speak and write the concept of rights into existence, where those rights have grown into a reified reality. Human Rights cannot be contained or limited in scope or range. Human Rights inexorably expand to include more people, and those people become inheritors of an ever-expanding treasury of rights.
Now, we have among us certain self-interested persons and groups that believe Human Rights have expanded all that they ever need to. They feel that further extensions of rights for Human Beings would go too far. They believe that extending rights to any more people would somehow diminish their privileged position. None of that matters. What makes a difference is that Human Beings will continue to move away from authoritarianism toward liberty, and any attempt to thwart that movement is depraved and perverse.
The philosopher Hegel, said the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. We have the opportunity to look back from here to learn from history that any expansion of rights for Human Beings improves the quality of life for all of us. The rights of marriage equality and reproductive rights are both elements of the inevitable expansion and extension of Human Rights. The sooner, the better.
Update: Here is a lovely short film that says much the same thing in different ways…
13 "If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, 14 and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, 'I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,' 15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 And the young woman's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. 17 Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, "I found your daughter was not a virgin," and yet these are the evidences of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; 19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.
20 "But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.
22 "If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die -- the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.
23 "If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor's wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.
25 "But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. 27 For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
28 "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days."
We won't even get into the part about how many wives a man can be married to all at once. Good luck trying to sell stoning, marrying the man who raped you and subjective tests of virginity as your gods' definition of "traditional marriage." I recommend developing genuine humility when considering the relationship of any two people who love and are willing to commit themselves to each other. Perhaps it has nothing to do with whatever deity you favor.
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To be honest, there are many things I hate about the United States of America. Here are ten:
10. American exceptionalism. The idea that the USA is the "greatest" invalidates all the others. (Is that really our intention?) This seems to be the 'one true religion' in the United States. Entangled and entwined with this outrageous belief is the Judeo-Christian ideology that supports it.
9. September 11, 1973: CIA led coup d'etat perpetrated on Chilean democracy. This is representative of hostile actions, both overt and covert, by which we have attempted to shape the world according to our own selfish interests. The history of America is extremely bloody.
8. Unquestioningly supporting Israel, Saudia Arabia and other oppressive regimes.
7. The devastation of Iraq, cradle of Western Civilization.
6. Undermining the Labor Movement, Unions and Guilds. Most Americans work for a living, yet very few consider themselves 'Labor.' Here's a hint at no extra charge: If you do not own a controlling interest in the company you work for, you're Labor. Join a Labor Union before it's too late!
5. Narrowness of discourse: from center to extreme right. (That's right. The people that the right-wing calls 'commies' and 'socialists' are really quite centrist, compared with leftists in other countries and cultures).
4. Unconstrained greed and laissez-faire Capitalism. They go hand-in-hand. Even Adam Smith (1723-1790), the Scottish economist who wrote The Wealth of Nations, the sacred scripture of Capitalism, warned that greed would be the downfall of Capitalist economies.
3. Acrimony and intolerance for other points-of-view. Political discourse very often devolves to ad hominem attacks.
2. Great nation? Greatest per capita imprisonment of citizens, ever!
1. Perpetuating poverty and inequality, at home and abroad. If you don't think this is so, please talk to a few random people at 79th and Cottage Grove in Chicago, or anyone in Lick Hollow, West Virginia. Or talk to the children in Honduras who make those ubiquitous t-shirts with high-minded slogans, used for fundraising in the United States, for ten cents an hour. Ask them what American wealth and consumption has done for them.
There are also things that I love about my country. Alas, I could only think of three:
1. The mountains, valleys and plains, the oceans, the seashores and lakes, Great and small. From the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, from the boundary waters to the Rio Grande and Gulf of Mexico, this is a glorious and beautiful place to Be.
2. About 307 million of the people that I love. People who struggle for answers, suffer uncertainty and doubt, experience love and tenderness, people who smile, people who cry. Human Beings like you and like me.
3. The people who, by an impressive majority, enthusiastically support a President who accepts responsibility for the damage we have done in the past, warmly greets other leaders in the world despite any differences of opinion, and is willing to listen, rather than glibly making pronouncements.
This is a country, like many others, with great possibility. Unfortunately, we have not always been responsible for who we are in the world. Perhaps we are emerging into a new age of enlightenment. I for one will stand for the possibility that we are, and operate from that principle. What may come of that?
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Patriotism is the willingness to kill or die for trivial reasons.
-- Bertrand Russell, English Philosopher (1872-1970)
In the 1970s, The United States was perpetrating a war of imperial aggression on the people of Vietnam, with many similarities and a few differences to the current war of imperial aggression in Iraq. Although I had been taught, as we all were, to assume that the 'we' were the 'good guys,' and that patriotism was a virtue, it occurred to me that the Vietnam War, along with the Cold War and various other military skirmishes, had been going on for my entire life. By the time I entered high school, I was deeply sad and disappointed. The tragedy of all the people who had killed and been killed in a war so trivial that most of the people I knew could barely pay attention to it, was almost unbearable to me. I wore a black armband, and every morning, while the good youth of America were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I sat in my seat and looked at the floor. One day, a Social Studies teacher was watching the room for our homeroom teacher and flew into a rage when I refused to stand and recite the pledge. He pulled me, by my hair, into the hallway, where he beat me with a wooden bludgeon -- a pine board with a handle carved into one end, painted white, with blood red lettering that styled it the "Board of Education." The beating was long and violent and public. I was aware of my fellow students who had flooded out of their homerooms to witness this spectacle.
I may never know what effect the beating had on the students who watched in silence as I was battered for my lack of patriotism. I am fifty years old now. I can still feel the pain in my hips when the weather changes. This country is still involved in wars of imperial aggression. Human Beings are still killing and being killed for trivial reasons. I still refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.
It is clear to me that the persistence of Human Being in this Universe depends on the fall of this bloodthirsty, 'patriotic' empire.
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