Often when considering the origins of the universe, we have to contend with the question: What caused the Big Bang? On the face of it, it’s a good question. It is, however, somewhat misleading.
I suppose that a post on free will has been a long time coming so I felt perhaps I ought to get round to finally writing it. In this essay I want to make two points: 1., that claims of free will are faith-based, being made without the burden of proof we would normally require, and 2., that choices seemingly invoking free will are in fact a product of competing desires.
I’ll begin by saying it: I don’t believe in free will. I used to – in fact I used to think it was one of the most self-evident things in the world – but a few years ago when I examined the situation, I came to the conclusion that I hold now: There appears to be no acceptable evidence to support a belief in it. None at all.
A couple of days ago I was asked whether I thought a pragmatic agenda was essential for an ideological organisation to function, and whether pragmatism ever encroaches on our ideals. I responded that I did consider pragmatism essential.
On my way to work today I was thinking about abstract things, and I came across the interesting question of whether a statement is truthful if, only by the fact of saying it, it becomes true. The example I was thinking of was the following: Imagine a person, me, and I want to go swimming with two beautiful girls (philosophy can be so enjoyable sometimes). I ask one of them, Jane, “will you go swimming with me?” She replies, “I will, but only if Sarah comes with us.” So I go to Sarah and ask her the same question, and she replies, “I will, but only if Jane is coming too.”
Hello and welcome to the Journal of Interest blog.
Journal of Interest originally started as a place for me to share my essays, and subsequently evolved to host my wiki, Budōka, for recording technical notes from my practice of Japanese martial arts (aikido, iaido and jodo). Now I’ve added this blog, integrated with the essays, to allow me to share shorter writings and thoughts on a variety of subjects, including philosophy, psychology, society, self-improvement and martial arts, as well as day-to-day things such as recent training, ideas, book reviews, and so on. By writing here often, I hope to be able to both improve as a writer and also provide myself and others with a record of my progression in thoughts and skills, alongside things I’ve found interesting or useful.
I have a fierce interest in self-improvement, and this website is primarily the result of that. One of my principal ambitions in life is to promote the virtues of compassion and rationality; this website has in a way become a manifestation of this, considering that often writing will naturally seek to promote its author’s values. I’d like to write enough to one day consider myself an essayist and, if possible, I’d like to influence others in what little ways I find in my power.
To read more about me or this website, check out the about page. Otherwise, feel free to check out my essays, thoughts or the blog itself. I hope the occasional reading of my writing here will prove of interest.
In this article I want to explore the idea of using time travel to affect the course of history, to right wrongs, and otherwise impose one’s own wants and wishes onto the past in order to shape the course of historical events. Righting the wrongs of the past is a common theme in time travel fiction, and it represents an attractive proposition to us: Can we save the unsavable? Supposing we had access to a classical time machine,1 could we do it? My answer is… Well, probably not.
The technical term for what the layman would consider a ‘time machine’ is a ‘Wellsian’ time machine – where a brave adventurer straps himself in, flips a switch and catapults himself forwards or backwards in time. It’s named after H.G. Wells, author of the sci-fi classic The Time Machine. ↩
Speck of Sand
Above our nations’ selfish thoughts
There hangs a ceiling black and bright
A hundred million sparkling spots
Nature’s gifted humbling sight
Lost in blindness goes its grace
Its twinkling beauty left unseen
Through blood and tears we hide our face
And daily make our hands unclean
Only some can hear its voice
To stop the silent howls of hurt
And realise that we have a choice
In drawing lines with sticks in dirt
All this strife for wanted land
From humans’ greed and goodness’ lack
All to claim a speck of sand
Adrift amidst the ocean black
When a person studies history, they do so with a careful attention given to themes. The past teaches us about the present and about ourselves; it can show us to what degree our behaviour exists as a product of our culture and to what degree it exists independent of it. Through a thematic lens there is much to be discovered, but one theme in particular I am interested in is that of nationalism, and prejudice.
This morning I was involved in a debate in which a person noted that some atheists condemned the actions of God as immoral, and so he pushed them to give him the moral standard against which they were judging his God. He argued that without objective morality, there is no set-in-stone standard to make any meaningful judgements – and I’m inclined to agree with him. As soon as one admits that morality is subjective, then any one definition of it becomes as valid as any other, and being that they are all mutually exclusive, they each become valid and invalid in equal measure, and we can go nowhere. It seems imperative to me therefore that we be able to find an objective means to determine whether a given action is ethical or not, and to this end I set about approximately two years ago to establish for myself a theory of ethics1 based on the principles of compassion and rationality.
A theory of ethics is a long project; unfortunately there are still many questions I need to find the answers to, but I stand by the conviction that I will be a better person for my pursuit of them. ↩
Like many people, I spent a long time trying to decide on what I felt was the purpose of my existence. I’ve come across so many answers to the meaning of life that it took me a long time to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and find some robust reasoning upon which to grasp what seems genuinely true.
Social apathy seems to have stricken developed countries. I don’t see it fit for me to criticise what others should be interested in, but if there’s something that, as a society, we should all collectively be interested in, it’s how our society is governed. This is a subject that ought to appeal to all people – from the selfless who care for those around them, to the selfish who care for themselves. From the two opposite ends of the spectrum, both Russell and Rand were interested in government, and so should all of us be. If we aren’t, we actively hand the reins to those who are, who will always use that power for the securement of their own interests – including preventing us from taking those reins back.