Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tough as Nails But as Thoughtful as Socrates: The Life and Beliefs of John Muir

Installment no. 1 (H02)

           John Muir is an immigrant from Scotland and became known as one of the greatest environmentalists in all of history during his life in America. His writings have contributed so much to conservation efforts in America and to the overall philosophical canon of the West. Though his views are somewhat rooted in theological beliefs, he does stray from the traditional Christianity of the time and offer insightful views on how humans fit into existence. 
         Muir's life is an important factor in understanding his philosophical views. Ever since he was a young boy in Scotland, back in 1838, he loved nature. Author Amy Marquis notes that he began his "love affair" with nature while young, and implies that it may have been in reaction to his strict religious upbringing. It was then when Muir become interested in the writings of  Scottish naturalist Alexander Wilson. In 1849, the Muir's traveled to the "Land of Opportunity", and thus began John Muir's true fascination with nature. Once he had settled down in San Francisco some several years after his arrival in America, Muir visited the Yosemite Valley. He was taken by it's beauty and grandeur and instantly fell in love. Muir would spend the rest of his life in and out of this valley, never growing tired of it. 
         John Muir operated a saw mill in the valley and used his free time to explore. He would set off into the wilderness without a tent, pad, nap sack, or any other luxury. All he brought was himself, his journal, and a few reading materials. Eventually he stopped bringing an overcoat because it got in the way. every night he would set up his campfire and lay by it reading until he fell asleep, completely unprotected from the snowfields and ice sheet prevalent throughout the valley. 
         For most people, Muir's lifestyle seems a little rough, but that is what he believed was wrong with society. Man is too concerned with money and luxuries. He believed that "every creature on the planet was as worthy as any other, and that Man had no special place in the ecosystem; simply a place that was exalted enough to have a great deal of responsibility attached to it." This quote comes from the video below.
         If you would like to learn more about the lifestyle of John Muir, This documentary captures the essence of his life and what it was like perfectly. It might be a little long, but if you are interested in the subject it is worth a watch:

In the second installment, I will continue with the philosophies of John Muir. This was merely a short summary of his life and an introduction to his beliefs. There is a lot to talk about through his encounters with Emerson, Roosevelt, and others and his desire to preserve Yosemite Valley.

Also, books by John Muir include:
     The Mountains of California
     Our National Parks
     My First Summer in the Sierra
     Nature Writings: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth

Martha Nussbaum (H3)

After going back and forth between a few choices for my topic, I have decided to write my first installment over a modern philosopher. I researched about modern philosophy, and came across Martha Nussbaum. She is an American philosopher and professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago. She advocates for women's rights, gay rights, and animals rights. She also has an interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, and political philosophy. However, the main reason I chose to write a report over her is because her main area of philosophical work is the emotions and their impacts. I did not have much knowledge on this topic and was interested to further my understanding.    
First, some basic life background on Martha Nussbaum. She was born on May 6, 1947, in New York City. Her father, George Craven, was a lawyer, and her mother, Betty Warren, was an interior designer and homemaker. She described her upbringing as "East Coast WASP (white anglo-Saxon protestant) elite...very sterile, very preoccupied with money and status." She spent most of her free time alone, reading books, including many by Dickens. She studied theater and classic philosophy at New York University before receiving her MA and Ph.D. at Harvard University. During this time, she married Alan Nussbaum (they divorced in 1987), converted to Judaism, and gave birth to her daughter Rachel. She taught philosophy and classics at Harvard and Brown University. Now, she is the current Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, a chair that includes appointments in the philosophy department and the law school.  
Nussbaum is one of the most successful philosophers of our time. She has published twenty-four books and 500+ papers, received 50+ honorary degrees from colleges and universities, and received countless awards. In 2014, she became the second woman to give the John Locke Lectures, at Oxford, the most eminent lecture series in philosophy. One of the most distinguished awards she has received is the Inamori Ethics Prize, an award for ethical leaders who improve the condition of mankind. She also won the Kyoto Prize, the most prestigious award offered in fields not eligible for a Nobel. (She won five hundred thousand dollars from this!) Only a small group of philosophers have received this award, including Karl Popper and Jürgen Habermas.   
In one of her newer books, Anger and Forgiveness, she writes about anger in personal relationships, daily interactions, and in politics. She covers topics that range from the criminal-justice system to revolutionary movements. She analyzes anger as both a motivation and source of moral conflict. In an interview by Emma Green, an author for The Atlantic, Nussbaum was asked what exactly is anger. Her response was, "A good place to begin is Aristotle’s famous definition. The basic ingredients of anger are:  
(1) You think you’ve been wronged,  
(2) The damage was wrongfully inflicted, and  
(3) It was serious damage to something you care about.  
Aristotle also thinks the damage is always a kind of insult—what he calls a down-ranking, or a kind of slighting that puts you lower in the scheme of things. I ended up saying that’s not always the case. However, I think that’s an important ingredient in a lot of anger that people have.  
The last thing—and this is the crucial one, I think: Aristotle, and every other philosopher known to me who writes about anger, says that part of anger itself is a desire for payback. Without that desire, it’s not really anger—it’s something else." This desire for payback can greatly affect the way people react to anger.  I can agree with her definition of anger, and this can be useful in helping people understand why they are angry and how to properly deal with it. 

Nussbaum was then asked about Trump rallies, and if she believes there is collective anger there. She believes there definitely is, and that often times, people feel helpless in many situations throughout their lives. She also believes anger can get a grip on us and be a way to extricate ourselves from helplessness. People (particularly Americans) do not like to be passive. Rather, they like to have control. Nussbaum states, "I think what Trump has found, and very cleverly so, is that there’s a lot of helplessness out there in the middle of America: People who feel they’re not doing as well as they want; people who aren’t doing as well as their parents did. Jobs are going to China; jobs are going to other countries. He makes them feel that if they turn their helplessness into rage, they will accomplish something." I agree with what she has to say about Donald Trump; he has a way of gaining Americans' support through anger and fear. However, this has the potential to do great damage to Americans in the long run. Turning helplessness into rage will not help people accomplish anything.   
In the interview with Emma Green, Nussbaum also discusses crime, punishment, and the criminal-justice system. Nussbaum believes a major thing people should realize is that punishment is too late. "Garden-variety" crimes, or commonplace crimes, are the result of hopelessness, but at a much earlier level. Nussbaum thinks people who commit these crimes don't have enough family love, nutrition, a good education, employment opportunities, or perhaps a mixture of them all. There are a lot of factors that take place before a crime is committed, and people have different reasons for doing different things. People find it easier to just say, "Oh, they committed a crime. They deserve to be put in jail," than to think about what caused them to do what they did. Nussbaum also believes that mass incarceration does no good, of which I can agree with her on. It's not cost effective, nor has it reduced crime. The criminal-justice system needs to take on a different approach. Nussbaum thinks there are 3 sides to the system, the first being retribution and payback. The second focuses on doing what is best for the future, and the thirds focuses on reform. And of course, two and three go together, because one of the things that might be useful for the future is reform. The problem, however, is that Americans love payback. It’s hard to have a more rational and future-oriented approach to the criminal-justice system when a whole society has a mentality of payback. 
I have discussed just a few topics that Nussbaum is passionate about. Emotions, particularly anger, can have an effect on people's everyday lives. We are all susceptible to being influenced with anger (like how Trump plays into people's fears) unless we are able to notice it up front. Our country cannot get better unless we realize how important the underlying cause of our anger can be. Nussbaum's views on anger, Trump, and the criminal-justice system has greatly interested me and I will continue to research more on the philosophy of emotions and their effects. 

Buddhism H02 Morgan

Where Did Rubbing the Fat Guy's Belly Come From?

Glad you asked, Buddhism was established somewhere between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE in India. It quickly spread into Asia where and inexorable decline in the practice began in India. Buddhism has risen to a current 7% of the world's population practicing it, making it the world's 4th most popular religion. But is Buddhism a religion? Most religions revolve around a creator or higher power; however, Buddhism does not. Buddhist schools are goal oriented towards self liberation. There are many different paths that Buddhism follows, which also makes it stand out from other religions. In one path, known as Theravada, one's goal is to achieve Nirvana, total enlightenment, to escape the cycle of rebirth. In another path called Mahayana, things are quite the opposite. One's goal is to follow bodhisattva, which is staying in the eternal cycle of rebirth to help other reach their enlightenment. One main aspect of Buddhism is The Four Truths. The Four Truths consist of: Dukkha, Saṃsāra, Dukkha (again), and Nirvana. 
Dukkha is considered a central characteristic in this life and loosely translates to "incapable of satisfying." It is more commonly, but incorrectly, translated to "suffering." It does not refer to literal suffering, but to the unsatisfactory nature of temporary states, including pleasant, but temporary, experiences.
  Saṃsāra translates to "wandering," or "world." It refers to rebirth and "the cycle of all life, matter, and existence." The only thing to disrupt Samsāra is Nirvana, which breaks the cycle of rebirth. Rebirth is a fundamental belief of Buddhism, as the different paths of the religion revolve around it.  
Nirvana, not the band of course, is the belief that when one reaches total enlightenment they are liberated from the cycle of suffering and rebirth. 
Another core belief of Buddhism is Karma. “What goes around comes around,” I am sure we have been told that at least once in our lives by somebody “old and wise.” However, this concept is more complex in Buddhism. Karma exists from the seed of good or bad thought, not the actual bad or good action itself. Karma is the reciprocation of nature to a deed committed by any person.  Karma is believed to restore balance to nature and is not always negative as the connotation of the word leads one to believe. Karma, as above stated, is enacted by the thought, or “seed,” of a negative or positive thought or idea. Karma would really be a bitch if it happened to everyone who made an honest mistake with good intentions. If a person was to think about harming another, than karma would reciprocate a bad action unto the thinker of the harm. Thoughts are the basis of action and that is where karma enacts. However, is a person was to think about doing a good deed, than the universe would do something good to that person. Karma is a core idea in Buddhism and is arguably one of the more important aspects of it.
Practice of Buddhism occurs most commonly in two forms. The Middle Way and The Noble Eightfold Path. There are many more paths than this, but many present Buddhists adopt one of these two.
The Middle Path is the idea of living in the area, “between the extremes of asceticism and hedonistic sense pleasures.” The Middle Way finds a medium between the idea of permanent soul, eternalism, and a soul that does not cycle, annihilationism.
The Noble Eightfold Path is eight interconnected factors that, when melded together, lead to the cessation of dukkha. The Nobel Eightfold Path is a fourth of the Four Truths. The eight views of the Nobel Eightfold Path are: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. This path teaches the way of ending cravings, clinging, and karmatic accumulation, thus, ending the endless cycle of rebirth and suffering.
The beginning of the Buddhist path is the traditional observation of The Three Jewels. The Three Jewels are : The Buddha (the Gotama, the Blessed One, the Awakened with true knowledge), The Dharma (the precepts, the practice, the Four Truths, the Eightfold Path), and The Sangha (order of monks, the community of Buddha's disciples.) Reciting of the three refugees is considered a thought that purifies and uplifts the spirit.
Śīla is the set of Buddhist morals. The go as follows:  Abstain from killing (Ahimsa), Abstain from stealing, Abstain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct, Abstain from lying, Abstain from intoxicants. To commit one of these acts is believed to influence the ascension to Nirvana, ending the cycle of rebirth, and karmatic influence. Once one becomes a monk, the new set of morals become:  No sexual activity, Abstain from eating at wrong time (only eat solid food before 12 noon), Abstain from jewelry, perfume, adornment, entertainment, Abstain from sleeping on high beds. Some Sangha also include: abstain from dancing and singing, and abstain from accepting money.
Buddhists spend much of their time meditating is a way of cleansing the soul and finding inner peace. Nirvana cannot be reached without the practice of meditation, as it has to be observed several times a day. Meditation is also a way of self-reflection to balance out personal karma and understanding of karmatic outcomes.
Buddhism is an enlightening spiritual path that is open to anybody who cannot devote themselves to any one religion. I myself have many Buddhist practices and beliefs and find it to be a satisfying lifestyle all around.  

Globalizing Bellamy (Finaly Essay) (H3) Part 2

Currently no international or regional body had the power to do this but I do not think this will be permanent.  I believe that the world is moving to a point where states will eventually surrender some of their sovereignty to a much large region or international entity that will have the power to enforce its rulings and bring member states into line.  We will call this body the Regional Authority (RA) for the purposes of discussion.  The RA will be able to level economic sanctions like the UN, and be able to shift political power against dissident members, but also be able to bring military and legal power to bare to force members to comply with rulings.  Have surrendered their right to refuse, in the RA, China will not be able to refuse the South China Sea ruling, because they will not have the right or the power too.  The RA will have to be set up in such a way that reduces the ability of large members to use it for their own benefit against the interests of smaller, less powerful nations.  States will have much less power individually.  By giving up some of their sovereignty they will give up some of their ability to self-administer unchecked.  One thing they will likely give up, for example, is police powers.  Although each state will have its own police the RA will have its own police force with the authority to operate in any nation in the RA they are dispatched to and to cross borders freely in the same way that federal police in the US are not bound by county or state lines.  Local authorities will not have the power to hinder them legally as long as they do not step outside their bounds since states will have given up this right.  This seems bad, but this force will not be the tool of a police state, since the police force will work for an organization run by and made up of the member states, it will be a very important and powerful tool of enforcing international law and reducing crime.  Another thing it will likely have is a more liberal authority to dispatch peace keeping forces.  Currently, the UN Security Council need a unanimous vote, not counting abstentions or absences, to launch a military intervention into a conflict.  This has happened once, during the Korean war.  It only happened because, by a fluke of chance, the Soviets had just withdrawn their UN delegation in protest and were absent of the vote (Ahh those wily Russians), allowing the US to rally the Council to a unanimous vote for intervention in the Korean peninsula.  This is never going to happen again under the current UN, there is just too much faction, political posturing, and jockeying for anyone but the post-WW II United States, in a council made up of post-WW II countries, minus the soviet, to ever do that again.  No nation will ever get that perfect storm of circumstance, influence, and chance again.  Yes, I used the word again a lot there. I all seriousness though this is why the current United Nations is so ineffective.  The safe guard put in place to prevent it from being arbitrary or abusive mean, because of the multitude of different voices and very different opinion and goals, that it is almost impossible to get anything truly significant done.  When attempts are made it is often a debacle.  The RA will have to have strict, but looser parameters.  Let’s say the RA has ten members on its Security Council, Instead or requiring unanimous vote by everyone who does vote.  They should require a majority but not unanimity.   Let’s say they have a four/fifth rule.  So if all ten members vote, only eight vote are needed to approve an action.  I would say that no more 30-40% percent of the seats should be permanent if there are any permanent seats.  Under this kind of organization decisive action is far more likely to happen, and although military enforcement should never be the first option.  Sometimes it is needed and the ability of the RA to do so will be important. 
A regional or International body like the RA, I think is inevitable.  The search for great control and security in a world where a countries sovereignty means less and less for control in the face of International corporations, international crime and terror, and other non-governmental organizations, legal or otherwise.  The world is not such a big place anymore.  Individual nations used to be able to operate as separate, independent entities.  They could be self-sufficient and self-contained and did not need others to operate.  But as the world gets more and more interconnected that is more and more impossible.  Boarder control is a great example, international criminals are finding new and better ways, day by day to get around even board control for countries like the United States.  Then there are matters like food supplies, fuel supplies, products, raw materials, the list goes on.  Whatever your country needs to survive, it probably needs to get it from somebody else.  Personal interconnectedness is another thing.  More and more people are traveling, their exploring the world, and they are living out in it.  Expatriates from every country live in nations all over the world and particularly in America and the West.  These people may or may not assimilate into their adopted society, but no matter what they will bring in their own culture and they will stay connected with theirs.  This is causing a mixing, as cultures and civilizations meet and bleed into each other the lines become more and more blurred.  The only way countries, in the years ahead, will be salvage the loss of control these factors create is to unite into a stronger body or to break down into smaller more manageable ones.  Personally, I do not think breaking down will prove effect, or is likely.  So we will have to go bigger.  We will have to make something like the RA.  It might not be anything a big and grand as United Earth or the Imperium of Man, but we will have to develop something moving forward.  I do not think it is a matter of survival, it is a matter of the tides of the world and where they are taking us.

I am sure, looking backward from 100 years in the future or so the people of the planet earth of 2116 will think how unusual and unstable this time was.  They will also probably think we were all idiots, but that is another blog post for another time.  I also think they will be able to look back on the results of Globalization after they have more or less reached their conclusion and be able to judge it for the best or for the worst.  We unfortunately, can only look forward try to guess what will happen and make the best out of our current situation.  So now that we have looked back ward and we have also looked forward a bit at where things are likely headed.  Let’s tell a bit of a story, and see how things fit if we place them into Bellamy’s proto-Globalization model.  Over the next ten year NGO’s of all kind grow increasingly powerful.  Corporations become even more exploitative of smaller poorer nations, and lack of international regulations means that little can be done.  At the same time the UN is helpless to do anything do to political divisions within it.  Nations, especially rising states like China, will take this opportunity to assert their own authority at the expense of others. Seeing that the UN will not help them, and not having enough power to act on their own Regional bodies will form.  They will regulate ad bring into line NGO’s and international corporations first.  Slowly, more and more power will be given to them until these regional bodies become “Great Trusts”, massive political, military, and economic unions with member state and likely member corporations as well.  It is likely that several of these will form and might eventually merge into great state of their own over time.  What these states will likely do is generate economic stability and growth, positive cultural feed back and flow, as well as peace, once these larger bodies will prevent military disputes between members, and will not likely go to war with each other.
Now for what everyone is thinking this sounds great but it’s a lot of politics, where’s the philosophy?  Well let’s talk about Bellamy for a moment.   He is known mostly for what has been called Happy Socialism. Because the socialist paradise of the great Trust comes about peacefully and not through armed revolution.  Being a socialist he was influenced by Marx’s and. Of course, Hegel.  Hegel, a I am sure you all remember.  Was famous for his conception of the inevitability of history.  It was all leading up to one point, the end of history when it all makes sense.  If you want to trace this even farther back this actually goes as far back as Saint Augustine.  Before Augustine, Democritus basically set the mold for the circular conception of time in the west until Augustine, who mainstreamed the linear conception of time, which culminated in the completion of history with the second coming.  For Hegel it ends with perfect knowledge, for Marx with the Communist utopia and Bellamy with the Great Trust.  Many other philosophers have put forth ideas about the end of history.  Bellamy I think stands out among his more modern counterparts because he actually might have hit the nail on the head with his socialism with a smile, the new world order won’t come in fire or revolution, but with the stroke of a pen, and the creation of Regional Authority.  
When you say world government many people get nervous.  It makes people think of big centralized government controlling everything leaving the people of the world at it's mercy, usually the beast and the antichrist, the red terror, or numerous other political or religious symbols get thrown in.  We have every reason to think that. When you think world government you think of the Soviet Union wanting to dominate the world, of Hitler wanting to cleanse it of his "undesirables"  We think of imperialism, and tyranny.  As American,s the most powerful nation in the world.  We only see the potential for us to become less powerful and become subject to the whims of others.  Something all powerful nations fear.  It doesn't have to be though,  I do not see world government as Orwellian, but rather Bellaminian, it a brave new and much smaller world with a smile. There is the potential for abuse but no more than our current forms of government,  for that matter no less potential for overthrow if true abuse is present.  their is the potential for a whole world of good people often ignore.  It could be a force for good, a force for peace and for acceptance, and for liberty.  This is where Bellamy's true lesson comes in.  The future is not in the hands of the politicians, and businessmen, and lawmakers of the present. Even if the Regional authority, or world government is inevitable it's form is not.  It's in the hands of those of tomorrow, whether we get the Great Trust, or Big Brother, it is up to us whether to take the path we know, or try something different.  I hope Robert Frost will not mind, if I periphrases his words.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Past their:
To watching eyes at every pass
high iron gates,
From there I could not have turned back.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
It was unseen and unheard
without a marker of its path
Without a sign of where it led
Free of any ill of good
Of Iron gates, 
Or something worse yet.
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
I kept iron gates for another day
I trod that uncertain path
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this without a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, 
one was certain, 
and one less
 and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.