Professional Philosophy is over 3000 years old, but amateur Philosophy is as old as time. I fell in love with the subject at high school and soon headed out to University to dedicate myself to studying it in depth. That is a decision I have never regretted as my University years were a time of great learning and exploring the hundreds of books on this subject. I coined the following quote about the meaning of Philosophy:

Philosophy is not about having all the answers, it is about having a better understanding of the questions.

Analysis, rational thought and that ability to step back and ask “why?”. These are all skills the modern world is in dire need of. It is where we often find that we do things and really we don’t even know why we do them. It is here that we discuss and debate, here that ideas are thrown in the crucible and melted down to core concepts, steeled and ready to be beaten into the new.

Chan Buddhism, Daoism and Zen – Journey through the East

Writing an article about Zen is almost a contradiction in terms. That is unless I simply leave the rest of it blank…

Just a finger, pointing […]

The Purpose of Travel

We often take arriving at the destination to be the purpose of travel. Taken in this way the journey itself is not the point, rather […]

The Hidden Context in some Great Movies

I love the cinema and movies. I also make films myself. What stared as a simple passion for the action and adventure in films has become a life long urge to understand what the filmmaker, the artist using film as his medium, is actually trying to say. One of the best things about the cinema is that you often do not realise the full depth of what is on the screen until later when you think back. Filmmakers take advantage of this in different ways.

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On the nature of art, a definition

"Art is that human endeavour which illuminates the contiguous nature of reality. Momentarily breaking us free from our illusion that the Universe has a dual nature." Writes Basho. Find out why...

Physics versus Philosophy, can these two not get along?

The idea for this article came to me when I was listening to some Gorecki on my iPad while heading home on the train. I opened the writer and started jotting down my thoughts just as they occurred to me.

 

It just has always been my position that Philosophy and Science are not in competition to uncover the secret of reality, and that the attempts by Physicists to paint this dichotomy was self-destructive and not worthy of their time. It is almost as if they are leaving their old enemy of “Religion” alone and picking on a group they don’t think will fight back.

Well we will Physicists, we will. It starts here.

To the physicist reality is explained in terms of a mathematical framework, chosen for its ability to reproduce results. Calculations are seen to be of two types. Those regarding billiard balls (as it was said of Newton’s laws that his rules for the actions of billiard balls were so right, so settled, that any argument over the matter is futile) and those regarding the mysteries of the universe at large (of which we are unsure).

It seems to me that the physicist has invested in an attractive conceit that they cannot bare to face: the presumption that the rules for one are the same as the rules for another. It must necessarily be a presumption because human theories, human understandings, account for 3% or less of the Universe (i.e. the bit light reflects off).

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Inside the behavior of the UK looters, why do they make such bad choices?

The recent riots got me philosophically thinking and the following analysis is the results of those thoughts. Much of the behavioural science is from the book “Predictably Irrational”, which I highly recommend.

I realised upon seeing the chaos on our streets that we were dealing with many different groups of people with different agendas. The following is my take on those who casually looted during the riots. Particularly these two idiots I heard on the radio:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14458424

The mechanisms used by such people to loot during the recent sequence of UK riots are not well understood. Normal analysis of the behaviour of people has one enormous presumption: that the person was rational at the moment they made their choice to loot. But, to me, this doesn’t tally with their actions. I say they were irrational choices, but they must have had some mechanisms to assist them in making their decisions and in later justifying them (so drunken and stupidly) on the radio.

The behaviour of those casually looting elicits a number of different reactions and comments from “normal” people. Most respond with a large slice of “they’re just wrong’ns” vindictive spleen. It is as if once someone has committed a crime they somehow stop being human altogether and are instantly transfigured into Martians. While I too have very little sympathy for the fate of people committing crimes like this, I do feel it is very important to understand what was going on in their minds in order to be able to prevent such happenings from occurring again. This is not just important in terms of stopping future crimes, but also important in terms of preventing ill thought out, knee-jerk reactions such as, for example, blaming social media.

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The Running Man : My Gym Routine

Following on from last weeks’ EDC post, here is the list of what I take to the Gym.

Notes:

As the great Eddie Izzard said, I have “techno joy!”. This means I tend to take a high-tech approach to motivation and tracking. It prevents me from cheating myself and the program. I also post everything online to prevent laziness.
I am new to running. My background is in martial arts and this basically means I have a good grip, good leg power and explosive energy. I rarely needed to go through “the wall” in my past training. Martial arts fights are only 3 minutes in competition and 3 seconds on the street. I will be honest here and say that my skill level has “let me off” a lot of fitness in the past few years (even unfit I could handle all the Goju fighters up to 2nd dan). This is bad! I ended up seriously injured by not being able to “keep up” and consequently getting a foot in my eye.
I was once very fit (standing back somersault), but now I have a middle spread.
I am on the road but not at the end of this journey. This post is what is working for me. So far. I will post in much more depth when I have reached my goals.
What I have learned is that the only person you compete against in this world is really yourself. You may be able to do more, or less, than I – I have a friend who can run faster and further than me for example. However, we can all excel by breaking our times, improving our weight and increasing our strength.

Goal:

100 pushups, 10k run, 19kg weight loss.

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Announcing: buddhabooks.co.uk is now open

Dear all,

Announcing the opening of a new Basho website!
www.buddhabooks.co.uk
I have been writing reviews of books on this site for something like 5 years, also I […]

Stephen Hawking – “The Grand Design” book review by Basho

I’m an avid reader of New Scientist magazine. In fact I get it every week. The headline will usually be about something “quantum” or allude to some current or near “breakthrough”. Of course real breakthroughs are hardly on a weekly schedule. I know this, but still I buy into it. It is a classic marketing technique that tempts impulse buying. New Scientist covers about Quantum are the geek equivalent of putting Princes Diana or perhaps Jordan on the cover of a ladies magazine or putting Bruce Lee on the cover of a martial arts magazine. In each case the marketers know what make people pick up the edition, what buttons to push.

It is this technique that got me to buy this book.

A few weeks ago my wife started a Skype chat to me at work. Normally this signifies that I need to pick something up on the way home or that I forgot to turn the iron off, or similar. However, this time she was definitely excited about something,

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A Sudden Dawn: Book Review

The story of a simple Buddhist priest travelling from India to China in the 5th Century doesn’t sound like something that would make for an interesting novel, but the after effects of this solitary man’s journey still reverberate today. In all parts of the far east, the name Bodhidharma is still very well known. In Japan, for example, little girls have Bodhidharma key-chains and all sorts of other cultural influences and footprints can be found. And not only in the geek fringes or the religious halls, no his is a visage often seen in paintings; most of the time shown as an old priest with a particularly fierce expression of concentration, and it is for this ability that he was most highly prized. Bodhidharma didn’t bring Buddhism to China or Japan, but he started a school of Buddhist thought that spoke to something deep inside the Eastern people that heard it. Spoke to their marrow with a simple and unselfish message of compassion, dedication and submission.

This effect changed them forever.

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What is Daoism/Taoism?

Before we start I should add a caveat to this article: I am a philosopher and a Daoist.  As such, I suppose, I am open […]

What is consciousness? Is it the “self”? Is it “me”? Basho argues no!

You are in possession of the one of the universe’s most mysterious objects. Your personal copy of this object differs in function only slightly from all the other similar objects in our solar system. It is the part of you that feels pleasure and yet it is also the part of you that knows pain. It is a part of your body that you cannot see, but it is also that which you rely on to make sense of what you observe. It is built of more than 33 billion neurons, linked in a mesh up to 10 thousand times each, making a total number of connections greater than the observable stars in the sky. It is the true wonder of planet Earth; for it grew here in the same way apples grow on trees.

It is your brain.

And while we can explore the furthest reaches of light-enabled space, we cannot claim to have begun understanding this small lump of tissue we each possess. Our sciences regarding it are crude at best and mostly replying on mere observation. That sum of knowledge eventually comes down to this: which bits you should not poke. On the other hand, our mental science experts, doctors and scientists try to reduce the functions of the brain down to an increasingly morbid collection of faculties about which they then bicker and argue about endlessly.

And every single one of them has missed the point… […]

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ : Book Review

The first line of Philip Pullman’s novel reads:
This is the story of Jesus and his brother Christ, of how they were born, how they lived and how one of them died.
Despite the use of the definite ‘the’ in the first line of Philip Pullman’s new novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, it is not actually claiming to be the real back-story of the influential spiritual leader. Rather it is a telling of a myth; a fable. And in doing so makes us face what the story of Jesus really means. All stories of the Gods are the subject of myth and they all have within them the patterns that stretch directly into the mind and subconscious. As with other tales of half remembered, but not forgotten, ancient wisdom, the story of Jesus has meaning beyond the telling. His is the hero’s story told again and again through the ages, and its lessons are to be read and dwelt upon over many tellings. So, as he steps though the doors of his life – the foretold stages of his journey – we step with him and arrive on the other side together.

The layers of understanding, which come with changing from child to man, are ones I remember clearly. At 10 I was always told that Jesus was also a God. Or was the Christian God himself in a certain form. This lesson led to my childlike wondering of, given the immense creative powers ascribed to this God, how it was that Jesus allowed himself to be nailed up in the first place. Why did he not use his godly power to save himself? Such are the practical thoughts of the child.

To an adult, the answer to this question is Gnostic and illuminates the spiritual level, understanding and beliefs of the speaker. The story sold to me at my Sunday school was that Jesus let himself be executed because he wanted to save us. This was something my young mind could not understand and, I presumed at the time, I would have to ‘grow up’ to realise. In the same sense that one finds an answer to Santa Claus’s apparent ability to travel around the world in one night, I did. In the sense of coming to an understanding of the churches’ view of Jesus, I did not. Growing up involved coming to terms with the world, my limited place within it and to walking some of the steps of the spiritual journey within myself. Together with the practical teachings of my schooling, the categorisation of reality scientifically defined in certain ways, this meant that the Christian God did not fit into my life.

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The Harsh Judge

For most martial artists, being mugged in broad daylight is an unlikely occurrence. Fit, aware and confident looking people do not make inviting targets. However, in modern society criminals are more brazen than ever and how we react to such violence is the measure of us. We need to stay on the correct side of the law and control our reactions but, as the old-question asks, “is it better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6?”

There follows a true story of a situation that took place in the street, but equally could have been straight out of a dojo training session. It is interesting because it highlights many things: the dangers of being “switched off”, the speed of the trained man’s reactions, the attitude of the police and the judgement of others. It also highlights a part of conflict that is often missed and shows that in the end the most harsh judge is in fact yourself.

This story is true and happened in late 2009, I repeat it here as it was told to me with permission of the person involved.

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Is the Insanity Defence Itself Insane?

As with my first article expounding my political thoughts, philosophical views and religious methods, a reader has kindly taken the time to compose a question and view point long enough to require 3000 words to answer!

The question is this:

alexander hiboux. Further to your post of the 7th, and having taken some time to consider same, I agree that if someone were to act unlawfully in a moment of insanity, that persons temporary insanity should not absolve him of blame as to his actions, because, to return to a view expressed in my earlier post, a difference must be drawn between “temporary” and “permanent” insanity. If someone acts out of temporary insanity, then by definition, for the prior, and presumably post, act period, that person is in a state of sanity and as such they are aware of what is right and wrong, and thus must be aware of what could loosely be termed natural justice. Ergo, they have at sometime understood right and wrong, and presumably do so again. The fact that this was rejected for such period as to “allow” the act to happen should be no basis for a defence. However, if a person has always been “insane”, then that person may well have never understood the concept of right and wrong, and perhaps never will. Thus there has been no rejection of right and wrong, but rather a fundamental inability to understand the concept at any time, not just at the time of the act itself. The fact that the rest of society understands the concept should not be imposed upon the individual, otherwise we are moving towards a point where any deviation from popular and societal norms may be considered unacceptable, and in the extreme, criminal. Thus, whilst, for the safety of the rest of the population (the moral majority, if you will), the permanently insane should be kept from harming others, perhaps by effective imprisonment, (or hospitalised in a secure unit as the more p.r. conscious would term it), it is for the safety of others, and not for the permanently insanes inability to understand right from wrong, or his actions, that this should occur. Of course, if the “permanently” insane person were then to be medicated to a point where they were no longer deemed to be insane, and such that they no longer posed a threat to society, that would then open up a whole other argument…Here we go!

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Killing for Pleasure?

This post is a break from the normal schedule. It is a corollary to the “Philosophy Bites?” post a few days ago. I am going to try an answer one of the questions raised by readers of that post, in this case my old sparring partner Tom; who posted the following in the comments:
So, not to disagree with you, because I don’t, but merely to add to the argument, not so much in war, but in the scheme of moral judgements, where do you stand on killing for pleasure? and I don’t mean just for humans…
Note: Any complete answer could stretch to the length of a whole book. Ideas are not isolated but rather conjoined in a massive net of links comprised of concepts, indeed that is their purpose, and I am wary of giving a less than full account of an answer by the necessity to keep within a blog post length. Suffice to say, that this is a “clip notes” version. There may be much here that is lightly treated, but that is not (I hope) because it hasn’t been thought through.

Anyway, the short answer is this:

To kill purely for pleasure is to kill because one is grasping at desire.

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Philosophy Bites? (Killing in War)

I regularly listen to the podcast Philosophy Bites presented by Nigel Warburton. In each episode, a new and interesting topic is raised with a guest philosopher (someone always of note) who has about ten minutes to present their view. I have not written about it before, but this is not because it has not stirred me. On the contrary, I often have to stop myself exclaiming aloud in disagreement with some of the guests, for I have long felt that Nigel goes “too easy” on them. Indeed sometimes his questions are more the gentle nudge of a teacher than the interlocutor’s retort. Something only asked to tease out the argument a little more.

This reminds me of my old philosophy professor, who would often fence with me on a subject by gently passing me back questions to naturally draw out my thoughts into a more coherent (ha!) mode of expression.

Clearly with no great success.

The fencing analogy is apt here, as this is exactly how fencing is taught: gently. The Maestro leads the pupil through a slow and safe sequence and at the moment of commitment points out, by gently prodding them, that they have overreached and should have covered quarte instead. However, I prefer being taught in the vein of the martial arts. In karate, any point of view is thrown mercilessly into the crucible of combat and tested to destruction. If it is right, then it works. There is no gentleness and no kindness. Only something that stands and something that falls. It is true that when you over-reach you are battered, but at least you learned something and your master has shown you some honesty.

Honesty is always refreshing. As John Lennon said, “Just give me the truth.”

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Nick Griffin on Question Time, a liberal view

Last night, Question Time: the BBC’s ‘political debate’ show, invited the leader of the BNP onto the panel. This caused a lot of furore in the papers and calls for the government to refuse to appear or send in a ‘bug gun’ to shoot the BNP down. The result was that veteran politician Jack Straw was dispatched to inform what the government think of the BNP. They were not happy about being on such a panel with him.

However, I say they should be.

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Life Stories 1 : I had a hamster

My hamster teaches me a valuable life lesson...

Freewill

My answer to this question posted on Yedda,

lebenlechzer
Do we have a freewill?
Do you think mankind has a freewill? Is everything predefined or do we […]