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Thursday, September 25, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Life changes if we change + news

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing the theme: Life changes if we change.
However, I have not been able to write an essay this week.

In the meantime I have two news items from Manuel and Miguel

---------------Manuel---------------
I think everyone interested on the play about the Spanish boxer Urtain
was aware of the meeting. Anyway you may want to e-mail it to the group.
It is on Valle Inclán theatre in Lavapies plaza, I think we could meet
Wednesday the 8th because it matches with spectators' day so tickets are
cheaper (up to 8 euros). It is played by a great theatre group named
Animalario. It could even be a interesting play to discuss in any of our
sessions because I think it is full of meanings.

Manuel.


--------------Miguel--------------

Miguel has given me a brochure about some Philosophy Courses organised
by David Lopez and supported by the Ambito Cultural : www.ambitocultural.es
Details about the first three courses/meetings can be found on this link:
http://www.elcorteingles.es/corporativo/cultura/madrid/esp/listado.asp


Take care and see you Sunday

Lawrence


IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Dimas Taxi service: mobile 627 219 316 email dimasobregon@hotmail.com

TINA Flat http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/photosphilo/TINAFLAT

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);
http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);
http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Life changes if we
change + news

Thursday, September 18, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is ignorance the secret to happiness? + msg from Mike

Dear friends,

This week we are discussing: Is ignorance the secret to happiness? Maybe
we are still too close to the summer holidays to appreciate the real
significance of this topic.

In the meantime, Mike for accommodation, can you please help:

hi lawrence, q tal grupo?
acabo de volver a madrid y
estoy buscando piso compartido, algo centrico, 270-400epm, yo (profe de)
Ingles, 9 añitos en Madrid, 40s, tranqui. 691 871 267
casamaja2001@yahoo.ie

x. fav se puede mandar a todos?
estaré el Dom.
gracias,y saludos,
mike m
job hunting too!!


Take care and see you Sunday

Lawrence


IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

[apologies for any typos and mistakes]

Is ignorance the secret to happiness?

Of course, there is always some truth in proverbs and sayings. We can
therefore expect some degree of truth in the saying that: ignorance is
bliss.

The issue here is what role does our epistemological state (of affairs)
play in our mental state? Furthermore, while we can reduce mental states
to brain states, can we reduce epistemological states into another form
or state? For example, into brain states? Of course, it does not work
the other way: not all brain states can manifest themselves into mental
states. Strictly speaking , our epistemological states are also a brain
states, since our "knowledge" does "reside" in our brain and does get
processed in the brain. There is neither a ghost nor a metaphysical
information processor in our brain.

We can also argue that sense perceptions manifest themselves into brain
states and maybe even mind states. The white sheet of paper and my pen,
which I am using to write the first draft of this essay, are sense
perceptions impinging on my brain. Thus, at least, I can say that I have
an epistemological state that my pen is leaving an ink mark on the white
sheet of paper. Or I can say that I have a mind state: I am writing this
essay (at least a draft) with a pen on a piece of paper. I might even go
further and say that I feel pleased, if not happy, that I have started
the essay because there is a good chance I might finish it by Thursday
night.

However, there seems to be a different process involved when sense
perceptions become epistemological states. Whilst mental states are
brain states, sense perceptions are not immediate mental states because
they are not even brain states when they impinge on our senses. For
example, light entering our eyes has first to be converted into suitable
electrical and/ or chemical states in order for the brain to accommodate
what we are seeing. And let's not complicate the issue by factoring in
the fact that the brain also contributes an input to build a picture of
what we are seeing.

Why is this introduction necessary? Ultimately, our happiness is also a
brain state and a mental state. But as I hope to show later on,
happiness goes beyond the brain and mental states. So how the world out
there interacts with our brain and how this is converted into metal
states, which finally introduces the claim, "I am happy" is very
relevant for us.

However, it is not enough to have sense perceptions of the world out
there to arrive at a mind state and an epistemological state. We must
also have other epistemological states in order to "give meaning" to our
sense perceptions. By meaning I do not mean semantic meaning but
perceptual relevance. Someone who does not know what a pen is would
presumably have difficulty figuring out what a pen is and what I am
doing with it. And if you want proof of this idea, next time you are at
the mechanic's having your car repaired have a close look at what he or
she is doing. Very few people know what mechanics do to cars.

For our purposes there is a specific relevance to the status of our
perceptions and our mental states. If ignorance is the absence of
knowledge and information, how does this manifest itself into a brain
state? How does no knowledge or no information about the world out there
cause a brain state and mental state? How does a non-physical state
(ignorance) cause a brain state and then a mental state (happiness)?
After all, ignorance is not a mental state that is different from a
state of knowledge? In the brain, ignorance is the absence of a state of
knowledge; but not in the sense that I have no money in my bank account,
but in the sense that there never was a bank account nor any money. So
how does ignorance cause happiness which I have tried to argue is a
mental state and therefore a brain state?

Furthermore, we can agree that the brain is complex and functions in a
very complex way. But I think that we can also agree that there is a
qualitative difference between our brain being in a state after
perceiving something about the world out there and the brain being in a
state because of a drug or the manipulation of the brain.

There seems to be a qualitative and legitimacy difference between seeing
someone and mistakenly believing them to be my neighbour, and seeing
flying horse after taking some questionable pills. Surely, we are
concerned with naturally induced perception about the world. And by
implication naturally induced perceptions of happiness. Would it be
useful to distinguish between "philosophical happiness" which is derived
in the course of our normal life, and "behavioural happiness" which is
the product of a chemical or a pill?

Of course, there are problems with all this. How can we tell one form of
happiness from the other? Especially, if behaviourally we cannot tell
the difference. And does it matter how happiness is induced? Especially,
when a lot of people depend on some form of medical drugs to experience
happiness? I will opt out from offering an opinion on these very
difficult questions.

Since we are dealing with an epistemological problem, or at least it
seems as if we are dealing with an epistemological problem, it would be
very relevant to ask: what do we mean by ignorance? I will distinguish
three different types of ignorance:

Ignorance because we don't have any information/knowledge. There is no
information to have because it has not been discovered yet.
Ignorance because we have the wrong information or misinterpreted the
information we have.
Ignorance because we don't care whether there is information or
knowledge about some issue. Ignorance through carelessness or inertia.

For example, health has been causally linked with our state of happiness
(see Wikipedia on Happiness for example), but maybe the food we are
eating is contaminated with a toxin that will make us sick in less than
twenty-four hours. But we don't know that now, because there is, now, no
information about the toxin in the food. (I don't want to complicate the
thought experiment by introducing ideas such someone might have put the
toxin the food etc. etc.)

Being mistaken is also a part of life. However, we might be mistaken
about something that in turn might make us happy or sad. For example, we
might have a pain which we believe is caused by a serious problem, but
in fact our doctor can fix in no time at all. Thus we are unhappy, when
in fact we should be happy because the pain can be dealt with quite easily.

I would argue that lack of information and genuine mistake are instances
when ignorance might lead to happiness (or lack there of). And
furthermore, this would be a sort of legitimate happiness, what I
earlier called philosophical happiness.

Of course, our state of happiness might change once we know the truth or
have more relevant information about a given issue. A new instance of
sense perception changes our brain state, our mind state, then manifest
itself into happiness (or the absence there of). However, like our other
physical traits, it is unlikely that our state of happiness can last for
ever or a very long time. There is always something to interrupt a happy
state of affairs; even if for a very short while. Of course, I am not
considering situations when a disease causes nothing but constant pain
in a person with no real hope of remission.

Maybe sometimes ignorance is bliss, but what makes these instances of
this happiness legitimate is not necessarily our actions but the
circumstances in which we act.

In other words, we still seem to need some sort of "sense perception"
from the world in order to achieve a mental state that makes us happy.
But in the no-information case, we are missing some information which we
are not aware of: we find the food tasty but we don't know about the
toxin. And in the other case we misinterpret our sense perception
because we have false information: it is not our appendix that is
hurting but our tummy from a bad case of indigestion. In either example,
the causal link between the world out there (let's agree that our tummy
is in the world out there), our sense perception, brain state, mental
state and ultimately happiness, is not compromised.

You would have noticed that until now I have not mentioned morality or
moral issues. The brain, of course, does not need morality to function.
However, our brain has devised survival strategies that do include
concepts of morality: for example, cooperation, altruism, sharing,
caring, justice, fairness etc. But because we are not automata coming
off a mass production line, we are disposed to employ these strategies
in various degrees. Some are more cooperative than others, etc. etc.

Biological survival, and I would add psychological and emotional
survival, are also part of the natural process of life. And in and of
themselves these activities are amoral, just natural processes. It is
when we employ morality as part of the strategy that what was once
natural and amoral becomes moral and therefore good or bad. For example,
if I share my freshly killed antelope with my friend, this would just be
an act of sharing in nature. However, if we label sharing as morally
good and then encourage sharing, then sharing my antelope with my
friends would cease to be just an act in nature but now also becomes a
moral act. And it is because of this moral act that ignorance also
becomes a moral issue and not just a state of affairs in nature.

But I would argue that only one type of ignorance assumes this special
condition: precisely, ignorance because of a lack of interest or inertia
from seeking more information.

Maybe we might feel virtuous and happy from having saved a hundred euros
on our new washing machine. But a market transaction, I would argue, is
not devoid of moral implications. Therefore, it would be legitimate to
ask, what are the costs of my virtue or my happiness? Maybe my washing
machines uses more water than the machine I did not buy. Maybe the
people who made my new machine were paid very low wages.

I want to argue that happiness as a result of ignorance from lack of
interest or inertia is a different kind of happiness; maybe a happiness
that also carries a moral price tag. As I said earlier, this moral price
tag in not inherent in this type of happiness or transaction, but
becomes part of the transaction because we have developed metal states
that represent a moral perception.

This interpretation has its own set of problems. For example, what
justification do we have to judge others by our morality? Are moral mind
states reducible to brain states? And what does a moral state look like
in its brain state manifestation? Although there are scientists who are
working on these issues (search for fMRI and ethics) I do not wish to
discuss these questions here.

However, I do want to consider some examples of happiness that might
have a bearing on my discussion on morality and ignorance.

In two editions of Scientific American (ref. below; these articles were
also reported in other media at the time) we find two articles with the
following headlines: "Why are conservatives happier than liberals?" and
"Money can buy happiness."

Researchers found, amongst other things, that from 9000 people over 10
countries, right wingers reported greater life satisfaction across
cultures than liberals. The researchers of this study suggested that
"conservatives tend to rationalise inequality as the result of a fair
process in a meritocracy, whereas liberals tend to see inequality as
inherently unjust."

The obvious comment one feels like making at this stage is that
conservatives ought to spend more time considering the world out there.
But I am interested in a different sort of issue. Is self justification
a form of mental state or a brain state? After all, being better off is
a state of affairs in nature; having more means we have more resources
to survive. But "meritocracy" is a moral concept by definition. However,
where does merit stop and avarice begins? Feeling "good" about one's
state of affairs is different from feeling "justified" for being in a
certain state of affairs.

On the other hand, if society establishes a criteria under which we can
accumulate scarce resources, then surely we are justified to feel happy
if we are justified to feel happy if we pass the necessary test? But
what that test is and what is the nature of that justification are, in
my opinion, issues beyond morality, mental states, brain states and
happiness. I think these questions also take us into the realm of
politics at the very least.

"Money can buy happiness" but only with a twist. The researchers of this
study found that money can buy happiness but only if we spend that money
on others. But before liberals might feel elated with this study, there
is an important caveat: the money we spend has to be our own money. (But
see the article.)

Studies consistently show that at least half of our happiness is
genetically determined. (See The Science of Lasing Happiness and
Wikipedia on Happiness.) Ten percent of happiness is due to
circumstances and 40% is believed to be due to "intentional activity."

Therefore, if we share (money) with others makes us happy, is this
because we feel morally obliged, maybe through social pressure? So this
sharing makes us feel good and therefore positively feed our genetically
inclined happiness. Or is the case that sharing is also a genetically
inherited trait and maybe there is a genetic correlation (or causal
relationship) between happiness and sharing?

If, however, the 50% of our happiness is attributed to genetics does
this mean that our problem is not even an epistemological issue, but
rather a physical issue? And does this mean that our happiness is as
much the result of our inherited brain state as our mental stats due to
our circumstances? Does this mean that pill-popping is OK to become
happy? And where does this leave morality? These are of course questions
which I do not plan to answer here, and then there is the Big Daddy of
these questions: are conservatives excused for their role in society?

Maybe we are happy not because of our ignorance, but despite of our
ignorance. Maybe happiness is so important in our life that nature does
not want to take any chances and leave this vital part of our well being
to our epistemological states and our intentional hands. Could it be
that nature knows something we don't know: maybe that we are, indeed,
ignorant?

Take care

Lawrence


Money Can Buy Happiness
March 24, 2008
Karen Hopkin reports
© 1996-2008 Scientific American Inc.
http://www.sciam.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=D35CE872-DDF8-C4D8-FD7967170523903D

Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?
- Christie Nicholson
June 24, 2008
http://www.sciam.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=BABCDEA5-D180-499B-094168CBE5442468
© 1996-2008 Scientific American Inc.

The Science of Lasting Happiness
March, 2007
By Marina Krakovsky
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-science-of-lasting-ha
© 1996-2008 Scientific American Inc.

Happiness. (2008, September 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 19:03, September 18, 2008, from
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Happiness&oldid=238741349


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Dimas Taxi service: mobile 627 219 316 email dimasobregon@hotmail.com

TINA Flat http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/photosphilo/TINAFLAT

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);
http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);
http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is ignorance the
secret to happiness? + msg from Mike

Friday, September 12, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is war necessary?

Dear Friends,

May I once again thank Ceit for chairing the meet last Sunday at short
notice. I am reliably informed that the meeting was a major success. I
must find out more about Ceit's techniques! And also a big thank you for
your get well messages. I think I'm ok now.

This Sunday we are discussing <Is war necessary?> Just over a year ago
we discussed <Can we live without wars?> so I am enclosing the few
paragraphs I wrote at the time unedited.

Hope to see you Sunday and take care.

Lawrence

IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Can we live without wars?


Unless stated otherwise, war is usually associated with weapons,
killing, soldiers, invasions, civilian casualties and every thing else
that one needs to have a good old fashioned war. Some times it is stated
otherwise, so we get cod war, cold war, drugs war and price war. War is
conflict.


Traditionally, the meaning of war centred on the meaning of: actual,
intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities.
Of course the second world war was indeed a war under these criteria. A
gang fight is not a war.


The main arguments against war have been: the just war, realism and
pacifism. The just war position is to accept a moral justification for a
war usually based on self defence. On this argument, going to war is not
justified but self defence is. Pacifism, accepts that there are moral
principles that apply to wars but nevertheless war is always wrong.
Realism, as one would expect, argues that morality has nothing to do
with war. It is all about power and cunning. In a way realism might be
as palatable as cold steel, but it does exploit a weakness in morality.
In a way realism is saying, Okay, wars might be wrong, but morality has
never stopped a war, now, has it?


On the above definition, 'armed' seems to be the decisive concept to
have a war. Using this criteria today, European countries, it can be
said, are not at war. But once we remove 'armed' from the definition we
end up with something quite different. For example, economic conflict
looks like a good candidate for possible war.


Let's go back a step or two. Looking back in time, armed conflict has
been around since well into pre-history. It is true that the concept of
'political' takes a rather new meaning, but this is a difference of
substance not form. A family or a tribe may be regarded as a political
community for our purposes.


We can therefore safely say that so far we were unable to live without
wars. And since a war is a war, no matter how justified it is or how
much we wish it away, it is a reasonable move to look at the causes and
effects of wars.


I'm sure that each war had its own circumstances to get started, but
without checking the history books wars seem to fall into one of the
following categories: power, economics or security. Have you noticed
something? These are also the three main categories for conflict in an
individual's life.


Let us look at the effects of war. Death, distraction, curtailment of
freedom, refugees and fear to mention just a few ideas. Have you noticed
something? If we remove 'armed' from our classical definition of war we
can say: death by inequality of the distribution of resources;
destruction by pollution and toxic waste; curtailment of freedom by
financial emasculation, economic migration and fear through social and
financial instability.


It seems clear to me that there is more to war than just arms and
killing people. What's not clear to me is whether anyone cares enough to
stop wars.


Take care


Lawrence

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Dimas Taxi service: mobile 627 219 316 email dimasobregon@hotmail.com

TINA Flat http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/photosphilo/TINAFLAT

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);
http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);
http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is war necessary?

Friday, September 05, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Do we learn from our success or do we learn from our mistakes?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing : do we learn from our success or do we
learn from our mistakes? I have written a short essay this time, I hope
you will also find it relevant.

In the meantime, Dimas has told me that he is now working as a taxi
driver (Licencia Municipal PM 100238) and I thought you might want to
make a note of his contact details in case you need a taxi. Also
important is that he is currently working the night shift, but check
with him for availability. These are the details: Dimas: mobile 627 219
316 email dimasobregon@hotmail.com.

Take care and see you Sunday

Lawrence

IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Do we learn from our success or do we learn from our mistakes?

How we learn, is a different proposition from, how best to learn
something. So, how we learn is more of a neurological issue and how best
to learn something is more of a psychological issue. The question for us
is therefore what are we learning and what kind of knowledge is
accessible to us via our successes and our mistakes?

I shall assume that learning is an essential process in our life and,
furthermore, we have to learn different types of information or
knowledge in our life. I can further assume that different sorts of
information or knowledge are best learnt in a manner ideal for their
situation or context.

For example, rote learning might be used to learn lists or what the
Wikipedia article on rote learning calls foundational knowledge. The
periodic tables and the multiplication tables are instances which are
usually learnt by rote learning. But rote learning depends on memorising
rather than understanding or thinking. Rote learning is effective
because we get to know the information required in a rather short time.
But I can see at least two objections (there are more) to rote learning.
The first is that it assumes that all people have the same neurological
states and abilities to memorise the required information. The second is
that it is also an effective technique to teach inequitable doctrines,
such as political dogma or religious beliefs, to young or inexperienced
people.

However, as the Wikipedia article points out, those cultures (eg. Japan)
who put a lot of emphasis on rote learning seem to do better at
international tests and contests. This brings me to the next issue. What
are we learning when we engage in a learning process? If we are using
rote learning to learn the main cases for contract law then we might say
we know what the cases are and we have immediate (more or less) access
to that list of cases. But does this make us clever lawyers or excellent
contract law lawyers? Probably not, I would hazard a guess and say that
it takes more to be a good lawyer than just knowing your case law. In
effect, there is a difference between knowing-that and knowing-how.

It seems to me that the key issue when we are asked to learn a
discipline such as law, medicine, chemistry and so on is to learn the
foundations of the disciple to the point of being intuitive knowledge
but also to have access to the complete body of knowledge of the
disciple followed by applying this knowledge in the context of the
problem at hand. The question we can ask ourselves how much foundation
knowledge should one know? But even more serious, a professional person
depends on access to the whole body of knowledge for that person to be
effective. How effective would a physician be without access to the
PubMed database? But of course, the learning process never stops because
the body of knowledge does not stop growing. Thus access to knowledge
and information is an important for us as learning itself.

In reality, maybe the situation is that when we come to learn the
foundations of a body of knowledge there would be a process of
mechanical learning and a learning through understanding and thinking.
Thus the difference between two candidates learning a body of knowledge
is their environmental, physical and psychological states. This theme is
well discussed by Sir Ken Robinson (Do schools kill creativity?) and Dr
John Medina (BrainRules)* so I won't discuss this idea in any detail. In
effect, Robinson suggest that the education system ought to develop the
creative abilities of children and Medina looks at the various
physiological and neurological states that help us learn efficiently and
effectively.

However, there is something that Robinson says that is immediately
relevant for us. He says that today we "run our companies by
stigmatising mistakes" and that in education mistakes are the worst
thing we can make. He is not suggesting that being wrong is creative,
but rather, if we are not prepared to make mistakes we cannot hope to be
creative.

In effect learning from successes and mistakes is the very foundation of
what we call the scientific method (see Wikipedia and Google). We are
all familiar with this method: we collect evidence, through experiments
or observations, about the world around us to confirm or reject a
hypothesis. Thus every time we have evidence that confirms our
hypothesis we are encouraged to consider this as knowledge and then move
on to discover some more. And every time we find evidence that disproves
our hypothesis we either change the hypothesis or discard it altogether.
Since this is a really basic description of the method I won't consider
the issues of induction or paradigm shift.

The scientific method has so far worked very well. What is important
about the scientific method is that mistakes and failure are built in
the very system itself. Mistakes are a key element for the success of
the scientific method. Contrast this with dogma and beliefs based on
faith or indoctrination where change is unthinkable and failure an
abomination. Of course, political dogma and religious beliefs do change
and do fail but we are not allowed to say so.

But as Robinson's ideas imply, mistakes are fast becoming a taboo in our
community. We can see the evidence of this from the very serious, for
example pharmaceutical companies not too willing to publish negative
results of clinical trials, to the frivolous, the fuss surrounding a
public company when it fails to achieve the profits people expected it
to make.

I have assumed so far that what we are learning is both legitimate and
valid. I will consider learning in a context later. Thus, if we are
learning the periodic tables, a success would be to reproduce the
elements in order. And if we are learning the implications and
applications of a case decision in an court of appeal, success would be
a correct use of this case to solve a client's problem. But these
instances of success are straightforward and neutral. What if, however,
success was for something erroneous or inequitable? What if success
depended on applying some therapy which is not beneficial to the
patient? Or applying a dogma that goes against the rights of minorities,
children or women? Success, in other words, might achieve our objectives
but it tells us nothing about whether we have achieved the right, good,
equitable or realistic objective. Much as we applaud and strive for
success it is not immune from the problem of induction: there is no
logical reason why what happened in the past ought to continue tomorrow.
Success can therefore turn out into failure especially if it is not
based on equitable or reasonable foundations.

Mistakes are more immediate and maybe even more clear cut. Failure to
land the contract from a client is immediate and beyond doubt. Being
excommunicated from a religious community is decisive and clear cut. On
the other hand, mistakes can show us where things went wrong. For
example, we now know that flight has nothing to do with flapping or
feathers, but in man made machines what matters is the profile of the
wings. However, we know this because those who tried to build a flying
machine and failed kept on trying until they found the right solution:
or rather their peers and successors did. As Robinson points out,
mistakes are not being creative, but a necessity to explore and
experiment with new and creative ideas.

There is no doubt that the answer to our question is not an either-or
but both. Particularly because we need the lessons both successes and
mistakes have to teach us. Success saves us time and effort, while
mistakes show us the way, first, the way not to follow and then the
motivation to consider alternatives.

However, there are some contexts where the question is not whether we
learn from successes or mistakes, but what are the costs of success or
mistakes. If we're crossing a river and being chased by a crocodile, the
issue of learning from success or mistakes is rather irrelevant. If we
fail to cross the river before the crocodile reaches us then surely it
does not matter. And if we do succeed to escape the jaws of the
crocodile or reach the bank unscathed few would want to repeat the
experience. Some lessons are best not repeated not even if repeated
successfully the first time.

In life we are faced with many similar cases. What matters is not
whether we learn from success or mistakes, but whether we really want to
repeat the lessons we have learnt. But this is irrelevant to our debate.
What is relevant is whether our successes or mistakes are achieved in
good faith. Or whether we manipulated others to achieve our successes or
were coerced by others in our mistakes. In the same way that manipulated
experimental data would sooner or later be discovered, personal
successes or mistakes not done in good faith would soon catch up with us.

If we were coerced into following an inequitable dogma sooner or later
this state of affairs would become intolerable. And if we bribed an
official to promote our career our incompetence would sooner or later be
discovered.

However, as with the scientific method, the emphasis in our life ought
not to be with success and mistakes, but with learning. And for those of
us who do not react well to being told what to do we are not alone. This
is what Winston Churchill had to say on the matter: Personally, I am
always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.


Take care

Lawrence

*Sir Ken Robinson, Do schools kill creativity?, (Video)
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Dr. John J. Medina (Website)
http://www.brainrules.net/about-the-author


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from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Do we learn from
our success or do we learn from our mistakes?

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Philosophy, Social Issues, Classical Philosophy, Citizen Philosophy, Applied Philosophy, Non-Political Meeting, Non-Religious Meeting,