Monday, 1 August 2016

Tools

The people around us
serve us as both
mirrors and lenses,
two very handy tools
for understanding ourselves
and the world around us.  

Just remember
that both can distort the image.  

You need to understand the tool
in order to get the most
out of using it.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Kidney disease

My father passed away six years ago, several weeks after going into cardiac arrest on Valentine's Day as a result of massive kidney failure.

We didn't know his kidneys had been failing. Our family doctor did, and he knew that my father hadn't once seen the nephrologist to which he'd been referred in all the years that he'd had the opportunity.  It took me years to accept that he was a grown man and knew exactly what he was doing through the time that he had ignored it.  He had been a pre-med student, after all.

For years, I felt like I should have seen the signs and daily beat up on myself for failing him. I also harboured a lot of anger and resentment toward our former family doctor.  The truth is that my father was not in good health, and between the excema, gout, several strokes and various other ailments, we just didn't see the symptoms.  We couldn't have, and he lied about it.  My mom had taken care of him on her own that whole time.  We were there, but she bore the brunt of it.  Knowing now how truly unwell she was, I become overwhelmed with guilt whenever I think about it. I wish I had helped more. And though it was always a priority for me, I had my own cross to bear at that point in time in my life, a story for another blog post.

I still harbour a lot of anger and resentment toward our former family doctor.  He retired a year or so later.  My father's situation aside, I am just disappointed with his treatment of our family and the loyalty we gave him in spite of it.

It wasn't long after my father passed away that my sister and I started paying really close attention to my mom's health.  It, too, was quite poor. It had always been. We had always accompanied our parents to their medical appointments but we trusted that they were listening to the doctor.  My father's passing changed that.  I learned that my dad refused treatments and medications for anything and everything. Accordingly, we began to watch our mom's health like a hawk.

I learned quickly that she didn't like to take her blood pressure medication because it made her nauseous, that she requested but was never given an alternate drug, and that she had been almost blind in her left eye for and indeterminate length of time and was due for a vitrechtomy.  She did manage to take sufficiently good care of her diabetes.  She really liked her endocrinologist and enjoyed visiting him. 

But my father's passing really affected her.  They had known each other since they were little children, growing up in their small town of Atimonan during WWII.  They were there through each other's other relationships, friends, family, school, and first jobs. They watched each other grow into adulthood before they got involved and married.  They remained strong while my mom came to Canada for work seven years before my dad followed in the 70's.  They started a whole new journey having me and my sister in the 80's.  I watched my parents weather rough storms where we didn't know if we would have a place to live, or food to eat.  I watched every disaster and the closeness that ensued.  In old age, I watched them go for walks together; enjoy morning coffee; watch Raptors, Leafs, tennis; stay up all night playing Scrabble trying to beat each other.  They were life-partners; through anything, they knew they'd be by each other's side.  And although she never said it, I know she missed him. For all her femininity, she is the toughest lady I know--there's what I saw as her daughter, but also what we had heard about her life before us.

It was only months after we lost my father that she suffered a series of strokes and was put into critical care--incidentally at the same hospital where my father had been admitted earlier that year--and I would learn what it truly meant to be a caregiver.  Up to that point, we thought we had been really active caregivers for our parents, having watched them both come in and out of the hospital for various health concerns since we were little children, but it was only the start.  This was the hospital stay where we learned that my mom's kidneys, too, had been failing and were already down to 15% functionality.  This was when I learned the consequence of not managing your blood pressure.  This was the event that robbed my mom of the dexterity in her fingers, preventing her from being able to administer her insulin shots. This was the stay when I learned simultaneously how superior the hospital's medical team was to the team composed of our family doctor and series of specialists to whom she'd been referred, and how immensely important it is to have family at the hospital to advocate for the elderly for everything from preventing doping patients with morphine to shut them up, pushing back on pressure to admit family to nursing homes, and demanding more information and tests.  All of this was foreign to us; we had no other family here in Canada or friends going through this at the time.  Our parents were old enough to be our grandparents.  I was 27 and had to learn quickly how to manage this, getting my education, paying all the bills and my own mental and physical health.

To be continued.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

G. E. Moore’s Argument from Perspectival Variation

By Carolyn Ursabia

In Sense-data, a chapter in his book Some Main Problems of Philosophy, George Edward Moore builds a case for a theory of perception called sense-data theory.  There are many modes of gaining knowledge about the world, including but not limited to perception, memory, testimony of others and inference. Perception seems more fundamental than all the other modes of inquiry; the other modes of inquiry rely on it.  A theory of perception is a metaphysical account of the nature of perception; that is, it is a proposed answer to the question of what is happening when we perceive something with our senses[1].  Sense-data theory is one such theory of perception.  I will argue that Moore’s case for sense-data theory is weak on the grounds that it assumes too much.
According to Moore, what happens when we all saw the same envelope is the following:
o   The subject directly apprehends sense-data.
o   The subject indirectly apprehends the object.
To illustrate what he means by this, he uses the sense of sight and viewing an envelope as his example.  He assumes that the result will be transferrable to all of the other senses[2].  In his example, the object is the envelope.  Sense-data are the colour, size, and shape of the envelope.  Recall that we are only considering sight.  The subject is the person perceiving the object.  Moore explains the first part—that the subject directly apprehends the sense-data—through a distinction he makes between sense-data and apprehending sense-data.  The former are the sensible properties of the object, where the latter is what goes on inside the subject.  He gives two reasons for believing this distinction.  The first is that whereas the experience of seeing the whitish colour of the envelope ceases—namely, apprehending the sense-datum—when we look away from it, the whitish colour—namely, the sense-data—conceivably continues to exist when we look away.[3]  The second reason he believes that the two are distinct is because he believes the whitish colour of the envelope—the sense-datum—is really somewhere on the surface of the envelope, whereas the experience of seeing the whitish colour—apprehending the sense-datum—appears to happen somewhere within the subject’s body.   Moore calls the experience the subject has of seeing the whitish colour the direct apprehension of sense-data[4]
To explain the second part—that the subject indirectly apprehends the object—Moore first establishes that the object cannot be identical with the sense-data.  He does this with an appeal to what we will call perspectival variation; that is, how sense-data for the object will vary for every subject because each perceives the object from a different perspective.  For example, each subject will view a different colour, shape and size of the envelope, based on their location relative to it.  Some will see lighter or darker shades of white, and various quadrilateral shapes and sizes for the envelope.  Our perspective is dependent on our location relative to the object.  Moore argues that since each subject observes different sense-data for the same object, and the sense-data from multiple perspectives cannot all be identical with the object, then the object cannot be identical with sense-data; the two are distinct.  When we see the envelope, we directly apprehend a shade of whitish colour.  If we were to look at it again from a different perspective, we would perceive it as having a different shade of white, but we know that it is still the same object.  The object does not change: it has a true colour, shape and size that does not vary.  It exists independently of our minds, and when we apprehend sense-data, even when our perspective changes, we know that it is still the same object.[5]  In summary, Moore argued that what happens when we perceive something with our senses is that the subject directly apprehends the sense-data; sense-data are distinct from the object; the object exists independently of our minds; and that we come to know the object indirectly through its sense-data. 
The main reason that I find Moore’s argument to be weak is because he does not provide a satisfactory description of the relationship between the object and sense-data.  He argues once again from perspectival variation that we can never know the real size, shape or colour of an object.  If all the colours as viewed from different perspectives are part of the real object, then he says that all of the colours would occupy the same surface, and this “is difficult to suppose.”[6]  He concludes, therefore, that the colour, shape and size of an object is never “a part” of the actual object.  He then argues that it is possible that the sense-data that we directly apprehend could be qualitatively identical with the features of the real object, but we cannot know if it is numerically identical. 
“This seems to be the state of things with regard to these sense-data—the colour, the size and the shape.  They seem, in a sense, to have had very little to do with the real envelope, if there was a real envelope.  It seems very probable that none of the colours seen was really part of the envelope: and that none of the sizes and shapes seen were the size or the shape of the real envelope.”[7]
To show the relationship between the object and the sense-data, he instead appeals to the space that the object holds in time.  What each subject sees is “a part” of the real space that the object occupies. 
“…even if the colour presented by your senses is not a part of the real envelope, and even if the shape and size presented by your senses are not the shape and size of the real envelope, yet at least there is presented by your senses a part of the space occupied by the real envelope.  And against this supposition I confess I cannot find any argument, which seems to me very strong.”[8]
Even if this is so, this still fails to account for the relationship between sense-data and the object.  He holds that all of the colours, sizes and shapes could not be identical with the object; that we cannot know the real colour, size and shape of the object; but that we can directly apprehend the location in space and time of the parts of the object.  However, knowing the location in space and time of the object does not explain anything about the other sense-data.  We still do not know where they are located, and how they interact with the object.  He seems to end on the note that it is self-evident; a truism about the nature of objects and their sense-data.  Sense-data are distinct from the object; the former is not a part of the latter.  The subject directly apprehends sense-data, which could happen to be qualitatively identical with the “real” properties of the object, but we cannot know if they are numerically identical with them.  We do not where the sense-data reside relative to the object.  What then is the purpose in the object having a real colour, shape and size, if we can never know it since all we can be acquainted with are sense-data? 
Without a satisfactory account of the relationship between sense-data and the object, even though he has established that they are distinct, it is not clear that the object is a necessary part of perception.  Moore himself says that, “We must know, when we directly apprehend certain sense-data, that there exists also something other than these sense-data, that there exists also something other than these sense-data—something which we do not directly apprehend.  And there seems no sort of reason why we should not know at least this, once we have dismissed the prejudice that we cannot know of the existence of anything except what we directly apprehend.”[9]  But must we?  It is necessarily true?  No, I say it is not.  To make his case for direct apprehension of sense-data as something that distinct from indirect apprehension of the object, Moore explained away any need for the object.  It ceased to have reasonable relationship with what we directly apprehend.  If we are able to perceive all of the features of the object directly through sense-data, there no longer is a need for the object.  We should instead be looking for responses to his argument from perspectival variation—namely, that a location in space and time cannot have all of the perspectives, else find another theory.



References
Crane, Tim and French, Craig, "The Problem of Perception", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
Huemer, Michael, "Sense-Data", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
Moore, G. E. 1953. Some main problems of philosophy. London: Allen & Unwin.




[1] G. E. Moore, Some main problems of philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin), 29.
[2] Ibid., 29.
[3] Ibid., 31.
[4] Ibid., 32.
[5] Ibid., 50.
[6] Ibid., 35.
[7] Ibid., 38.
[8] Ibid., 39.
[9] Ibid., 50.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Boop

When we started seeing each other, Nick would poke my nose and in a robotic tone, say, "Boop."  Amused but perplexed, I would ask him why, and he would just do it again.  Poke, "Boop."

Months passed, and I stopped asking.  I just always laughed whenever he did it.

Then one evening, when I was feeling really sad about something, he poked me on my nose and said, "Boop. It's your smile button. It never fails. Push the button ... Boop!"

This was cute for a couple of reasons.  One was that he had kept it to himself for perhaps over a year.  Second, that it worked infallibly and I'd had no idea.

I wonder how many more smile buttons I have, and how I'll find them.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Insomnia

Most nights I can't sleep.  I'm hurriedly awakened in the middle of the night to greet silence, alone in my room, by what has to be my own unconscious thoughts creating this persistent unease. I'm scared.
For all my foresight, I can't suppress the unpredictability, incalculablility of what happens next.
Is it lonely?  Will I be alone?  Will I care?  Will I have pushed everyone away?  Will I have preferred it? 

When my work is done, the homework finished, and other burdens laid to rest, who will I be? 
Perhaps it's this question that plagues me in my sleep.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Boredom

I don't feel like writing these days. Instead, I have spent a lot of time going back over old posts, seeing where my head was at. Man, I was sad.  I was sad for a long, long time.  I feel estranged from the person who wrote these posts, not in a way that suggests regret, but rather just because of the distance generated from the passage of time.

I don't know how else to explain it than to say simply that I have never been happier, and the happiness is rooted in a contentment with everything.  It is more than acceptance.  It is certainly not indifference. It is gratitude.

There were years there when I feared that I wouldn't find this peace, that I would spend the rest of my life searching for it.  Maybe I'll lose it again, but I doubt it.  It seems more something to build on than something that I move through cyclically, because if it isn't, I expect it to mean that I'm not learning.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The outfit

Scent can evoke memories.  We know this.  So can visual cues.  An outfit can do this for me.  I can look at a dress and it can bring me right back to a moment in time.

Perhaps it's time I purge my closet.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Dust Settling

Everything happens in good time, so let it.  Can't rush dust to settle; it has the opposite effect.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Gratitude

It's only 8:38 a.m. on this Sunday and I've had the chance to check in with four really close friends this morning.

I woke up this morning thinking about being single and how at times it feels as though I have this endless well of love and no one to shower in it. Then my friends remind me that this is not true.

I love and care so much, so deeply.  And the reciprocation from all of these wonderful people makes me feel so grateful that it brings tears to my eyes.

I wish everyone could feel this.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Walls

I could see you
Through all the walls you'd built.
Entrapped by all the suffering
And pain and all the guilt.

I climbed to the top to reach you.
To extend to you my hand.
Unwilling, you declined and I
Wanted to understand.

I dove in, I did not tear down
All the walls you'd built.
I surrounded myself with all your pain
And suffering and guilt.

And when I had my answers
To what brought your walls about,
You still had not taken my hand
And I could not climb out.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Love

I think love can look like a lot of things besides marriage, a house and kids if we open up our minds and try. The key word in there is "try".

Nick taught me so much about life and love. I thought I knew what I wanted and needed, but he showed me I was wrong. So much was immaterial. 

Relationships require trust, respect, loyalty and honesty to thrive.  Those four values can bridge gaps created by superficialities like age, socioeconomic status, and distance.

Now I know.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Generosity

Where it all began: in grade eleven, Daniel was moved to be seated beside me in Mr. Muccilli's French class (and Frank was seated in front of me, as usual). Admittedly, this wasn't when we first met. Daniel likes to tell the tale of how we were introduced to each other the previous year: he complimented me by saying I looked like I was in Grade 11, and I told him he looked like a "niner". But anyway, we really started talking in French class. Around the end of October, and after deciding that I "liked" him and all of my girlfriends were sick of hearing about it, they all pitched in to buy a ticket for him to the Halloween Dance. (I had my own ticket.) School dances weren't his scene. I went to all of them, and had never seen him at a single one. So I was surprised when my friend told me that when she had called him to give him the ticket and invite him to come that he agreed.

There was much more to that night, I know, but I mention this story for one very important and seemingly insignificant reason: he sang to me. Like every (every?) teenage girl, I fantasized about being serenaded, or at the very least, singing a duet with the boy of my dreams. That night, he and I were slow dancing through some fast song when he sang "Kiss The Girl" from The Little Mermaid into my ear, and then we kissed.

I was so impressed with Daniel from that evening. Daniel is by no means (no offense, Daniel) a singer, nor does he even like to sing for fun. He had the courage to step outside his comfort zone and do something that he really didn't want to do for me because he knew it would make me happy. It was better than any song anyone had ever sung to me.

Because of the sincerity and symbolism of it, this is one of the best gifts I have ever received. I knew then the way I know now that it wasn't something that he'd do for just anyone, and that is what made it special.

Perhaps it helped that I knew him well enough to know how special the effort truly was: it's hard to assess the meaningfulness of a gift when you aren't very well acquainted with the giver.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Caregiving

My tagline mentions caregiving, but I don't have a single post about it.  Let this be the inaugural one.  My sister and I have been exposed to the world of elderly caregiving since we were teenagers, so we have a lot of expertise in navigating the full gamut of services this city, province and country have to offer.  CCAC, Wheel Trans, tax benefits, etc.  We have done it all.

There was a time when it was daunting.  We felt lost, alone, and very confused.  Now that I see my friends beginning to embark on this journey, I realize that all this experience will help me help them.

We are only alone if we don't let people in.


Friday, 25 March 2016

Spring Thoughts

I used to go for daily walks alone, and write in a little notebook.  I still have many of these notebooks.  Around the time that I stopped doing this, I was forewarned that I would.  A then-new friend from whom I've since gained significant insight on life, love and everything in between, told me that I wouldn't need to anymore. Even if that's true - that I don't need to write to myself - I do miss the benefit of seeing what changes such short periods of time could bring.  It was a reminder of how unpredictable and exciting life could be.  I tended to capture all of the little things that get lost in the constant shuffle of daily life.  Perhaps, should I resume, it would not be because I need to but choose to...

Looking back at older versions of myself through the lens of age and experience makes me feel content.  It's been an interesting tale.  I wonder what the next three years will bring.





Friday, 11 March 2016

Can we give a full account of time with only the B-series?

The terms “A-series” and B-series” were dubbed by J. M. E. McTaggart in an argument that he
presented as proof that time does not exist.  The latter term describes an order and directionality
of events in time.  The former adds to that a dynamic quality, that of a moving “now” through
the series.  In his argument, McTaggart aimed to show that attempts to clarify the understanding
of each series leads to absurdity, namely that the B-series is incoherent because it lacks a
dynamic quality, thus requiring the A-series; and the A-series contradicts itself by attributing to
each moment all three mutually exclusive properties of pastness, presentness and futurity.  His
conclusion was that time could neither be an A- nor a B-series; that it is unreal.  Since it is
questionable that the B-series requires a dynamic element, that such an element be supplied by
“nowness”, or even that there is contradiction in the attribution of pastness, presentness and
futurity to all moments, there are good reasons to question the soundless of McTaggart’s
argument.  What we do gain from McTaggart are terms and a framework for looking at time, and
the question of passage.  What is not at issue is the ordering or directionality, namely the features
of the B-series.  The question is whether or not there is reason to believe in a moving “now”, as
described by the A-series.  I believe that there is not.

In “The Myth of Passage”, Donald C. Williams supplies a case against passage. He writes that
“as soon as we say that time or the present or we move in the odd extra way which the doctrine
of passages requires, we have no recourse but to suppose that this movement in turn takes time of
a special sort: time1 move at a certain rate in time2.” That is, assuming an ordering of events in
time, if there is a present moment that moves through the series, it does so at some rate, namely
that “the moving present slides over so many seconds of time1 in so many seconds of time2,”3 It is
clear to see that the rate of the present through time2 would need to be defined. This line of
thinking leads to an infinite regress, never yielding an answer to the question of at what rate the
present passes. It is on this basis that Williams discards the notion of a present. A response might
be that it is absurd to think of time as something that moves with a rate through time.  The
confusion could be linguistic.

To show the necessity of an A-series, one might instead try to identify an absurdity in a B-series
conception of time.  One such example could be the intuition that it entails a strict determinism.
This would be unappealing to anyone who has the sense that we have choice in the future; that
the future is not fixed.  However, under careful examination, we will find that a B-series account
of time does not entail a deterministic universe. Let us define a world W as deterministic if and
only if every world with the same physical laws as W, and the same initial conditions as W, all
have the same history as W.  Let us further define a world W as non-deterministic if and only if
there is a world W’ such that both are subject to the same physical laws and initial conditions,
but W’ has a different history from W.  Consider the world within which in the next hour I opt to
go outside and to enjoy the day.  Now consider the world within which I choose to sit inside and
finish this paper.  Up to this point, both worlds are the same. Looking at the two options ahead,
we can define the world where I go outside as world W, and the world where I finish the paper as
W’, both worlds are subject to the same physical laws and initial conditions, but with different
histories.  That I will experience one of these worlds (likely the latter), does not preclude the
non-existence of the other.  It means that we can interpret these options as different worlds that
are subject to the same physical laws and initial conditions.  Since we defined W as non-
deterministic in the event that there is a W’ with these conditions, then we can say that W is non-
deterministic.  In this way, it makes sense to say that a B-series timeline, one in which there is an
order and direction of events without a “present”, does not entail a strict determinism.  A B-
series account of time permits freedom.  If it is to be considered insufficient, then it has to be on
other grounds.

Finally, an A-series proponent might want to point to experience as proof that the present exists.
We experience time. It is possible that it is illusory, that the experience of the passage of time
suggests that time could be a secondary property of matter.  For example, we consider mass and
charge primary proprieties, and colour, flavour and smell as secondary properties.  After all,
physical laws seem to have no requirement for a ‘now’4. Just because we perceive it doesn’t
mean that it exists objectively.

The conception of an “absolute” A- or B-series is built in a Newtonian model, where absolute
simultaneity is defined and an absolute ordering of events is possible.  According to Einstein’s
Special Relativity theory, there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. That the speed of light
remains constant in all inertial reference frames has consequences as the relativity of
simultaneity.  A distinct ordering of events is possible within each inertial frame of reference.
There is no privileged frame of reference.  Although an ordering is preserved in each reference
frame, without absolute simultaneity there is no absolute order.  Without an absolute order, what
is the ‘now’ that moves through time?  Does the present that we are searching for also become
relative?  If there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity, then there cannot be objective facts of
the form “t is present”.  But recall that this is the concern for inertial reference frames.  The Earth
rotates on an axis, revolves around the sun, and the sun through the galaxy.  In what sense are we
ever measuring in an inertial frame of reference?  Unfortunately, when we look at time dilation
in Einstein’s General Theory of relativity which takes into consideration time within non-inertial
reference frames, the matter only appears to become more complicated.

We started out this journey trying to answer the question of whether or not there was reason to
believe in an A-series account of time, and where I’ve ended up is with concern that the problem
of passage as a question between the A- and B-series accounts appears to be more of a false
dichotomy.  Neither the A- nor the B-series can give a full account of time.





References

Kosso, Peter. 1998. Appearance and reality : An introduction to the philosophy of physics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Savitt, Steven. 2014. Being and Becoming in Modern Physics. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-bebecome/.

Williams, Donald C. 1951. The myth of passage. The Journal of Philosophy 48 (15) (-07-19): 457.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Story

I had originally written this back when he was first charged.  I hesitated to post it. Now that we're watching the trial, I thought, you know what, I called it.
__________________

I can see so many parallels between what I experienced and the accounts described - anonymous and not - by Jian's alleged victims.  Well, Jian just lawyered up with one of the best.  Forgive my cynicism but I have no faith that he could be charged as the criminal that he allegedly is in the eyes of the law ... any more than any of the other predators out there who haven't faced penalty or reprimand.

If I could say something to all those out there who cannot understand why the victims would not come forward, then it would be this: not all crimes are criminally punishable and coming forward only means reliving the experiences over and over again until the legal proceedings conclude.  These women aren't seeking legal judgement any more than I was when I was in their situation.  It was just to share the story; to expose the truth; to cast doubt on the image of this seemingly perfect man.

It is a financially and emotionally draining process to pursue charges, even when you have proof that would hold up in court.  In my case, I had a team of lawyers who, knowing we had a solid case with medical records and more, advised me to instead focus on myself and not on seeking justice.  Why?  They told me that libel suits would be launched against me following any criminal charges I laid, and that I would be held up for thousands of dollars in legal fees defending myself against false attacks on my character, while having to relive the emotional trauma over and over again for years to come.

I shared my allegations; he backlashed. It resulted in my having to endure 6 full days of interrogations regarding the events in question, and one full year's worth of attacks on my character that took the form of several hundred page documents "supported" by "testimony" and pedaled off as "evidence".

I documented everything thoroughly and supplied my extensive evidence.  I did my part.  The rest is on their heads.

I feel satisfaction knowing that my account brought it to a shade of grey. Without it, it most certainly would have been painted black and white. I can't control how the shades of grey are perceived. I am giving you my account of the story.  That is all I can do.

If I could say anything to the women, then it would be this: I'm glad you told the story.  The story is important.  When I'm on my death bed and I look back on my life, I will be proud that I told it, that I wasn't censored into silence by fear of the repercussions.  The rest was out of my control.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Time--Qualitatively, Introspectively, Retroactively

I met a kindred spirit this year, and I regret to say that I discovered it too late.  He's leaving.  Rather, I should say, he has left.

I don't meet many anymore.  Perhaps I never did.  I haven't thought about it.  I haven't had the time.

One of the last discussions we had was about time.  He warned me that it would pass ever more quickly with age, and I retorted that I had found the solution.  I related a story about how I had received that very same warning when I was twenty-five, a warning I very diligently heeded.  In fear of passively watching the years slip past me, indiscriminately melding into an indiscernible collection of past events, I decided to take action!  I would make each moment memorable.  What better way to slow down time than to ensure that each moment was filled with memorable things, places and people.  It was logical.  I spent the following years refining the process, taking on exciting new opportunities, trying a variety of new activities, and getting to know a lot of interesting people.

It's eight years later, and I believed I had worked out the kinks.  The years have been discernible.  Each had a character; or, at least, I retrospectively assigned it one.  It's hard to say which is the case.  This should have felt like success.  But the other day when this kindred spirit kindly warned me that time would pass ever more quickly with age, and I proudly regurgitated my usual logical solution-as I've so done since first formulating it when I was twenty-five, something felt amiss.  I remember everything, regardless of any interesting characteristics; with or without any prejudice.  I remember it all.

It was a gross miscalculation.  I understood the concern to be that I would lose track of all the details.  Accordingly, I formulated a solution centred on slowing down the perception of the passage of time, namely making it memorable.  But my thinking was fallacious!  Effort to make each moment memorable is required assuming that without it, I would forget.  It's so striking.  It's so obvious an implicit premise.  It's so pessimistic.  It's so ... disappointing.

I didn't need to go out of my way to make each moment so special that I'd remember it.  I was going to remember it, anyway.  Problem solved.  So why was it still so unsatisfying?

Though it wasn't good-bye, if age has taught me anything, it's that it probably was.  We parted ways on book recommendations that would "trouble" the other.  By "trouble", I mean "afflict intellectually".  It has been a long while since I've been "troubled" by a book.  It's been even longer since I've been excited to read one recommended to me. I wished I'd told him that.  Instead, I blamed the work environment for how rare it was.  The truth was that even in environments where it was expected to have been commonplace, it wasn't.  It meant a lot to me that I could inspire someone to be excited about a book.  It meant a lot to me that I could be excited.  Most importantly, why have these final exchanges been troubling me?


And it was in feeling so troubled that I realized the answer. It's how I knew when muttering it that my formulation was wrong. I have been so busy making everything exceptionally memorable, retroactively ascribing meaning to moments in time, when the actual problem was that I haven't been moved.

What's tragic about losing the years is neither that we age nor that we forget. It is when we are not engaged emotionally. Even worse, it remains tragic when we are. It's terrifying that a moment could be so riddled with emotion, making an experience simultaneously beautiful and sad--beautiful because of how precious those feelings are; sad because it's fleeting. 
It is ok if I can't recall it all. It wasn't the content of the hours. It's what I felt as I filled them. This has been my failure - in logic, but also in life - as of late.

To 2016!  I hope this year is filled with lots of peace, love and happiness.




Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day

My father was born during WWII.  He and my mom told us so many stories about growing up in the mountains in the Philippines.  It didn't click in till we were older that they were only in the mountains to escape the war.  Their hometown of Atimonan was invaded by the Japanese the year my father was born.  It was a port town, an entry point.  It was burned down during the war, with all city records, including birth certificates.

My grandfather on my father's side fought and died during WWII during what has come to be known as the Bataan Death March.  I was born 40 years later in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The destruction of the records made it almost impossible for anyone from that town to emigrate to Canada.  My mom and dad did, but no other member of our family was able to join them.

Since that time, Japan has issued an apology to the Americans for their losses.  I don't think they did the same for the Filipino POWs who lost their lives in that death march.

When I think of Remembrance Day, I think of this.

#LestWeForget

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Family Trip

I can only remember going on a single family vacation with my parents and sister as an adult.  It was a long weekend trip to Niagara.  We went to Niagara often, so I was disappointed that it was the destination. We did do new activities, though, so it turned out to be a really nice trip.

This mini-vacation comes to mind for two reasons: it conjures up fond memories of time with my late father, but also because of how we all planned to but chickened out of riding the cable car over the Falls.

We're a family of chickens, and when are all together, such chicken-ry is magnified to incredulous proportions.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

J. J. SMART’S ‘SIMPLEST EXPLANATION’ ARGUMENT

In ‘Sensations and Brain Processes’, J. J. Smart presents the ‘simplest explanation’ argument in defense of a form of physicalism called brain-state theory.  According to brain-state theory, there is an identity relation between mental states and brain states.  Particularly, every mental state is identical to a specific brain state.  While Hilary Putnam, too, propounds a physicalist perspective, in “The nature of mental states”, he highlights the failure of Smart’s brain-state theory to account for multiple realisability. The ‘multiple realisability’ of a mental state is the idea that different creatures with entirely different physiologies can experience the same mental state.  In “Mad pain and Martian pain”, David Lewis attempts to rescue brain-state theory with a move that mitigates Putnam’s concern with brain-state theory, allowing it to account for multiple-realisability.  However, I will argue that although the move accounts for multiple realisability of mental states, it complicates the physicalist brain-state theory to the point where it is no longer ‘more simple’ than dualism, undermining the premise on which Smart relies in his ‘simplest explanation’ argument.
The 'simplest explanation' argument, as presented by Smart in 'Sensations and Brain Processes' is a physicalist account of the interaction between mind and body.  Smart would like to establish “that there are no philosophical arguments which compel us to be dualists”[1].  Smart claims that the relation between ‘sensations’ and ‘brain states / processes’ is one of identity, where ‘sensations’ are mental states, and each mental state is identical to a particular brain state. He takes a step further, and says that all “sensations are nothing over and above brain processes”[2].  There is only one type of stuff, that which can be described by physics.  The mental is physical, in Smart’s view. 
Smart contrasts this with dualism, which he describes as requiring “ultimate laws [that] would be like nothing so far known in science”[3] to explain the interaction between a non-physical mind and the physical body.  He uses the example of orthodox geologists’ and paleontologists’ theories for the age of the Earth to illustrate two “empirically equivalent” theories, and the principle that when two theories are empirically equivalent, it is more reasonable to believe the simpler theory.  “Empirically equivalent theories” are theories that both successfully account for empirical evidence.  If we accept this principle of theory choice, and both physicalism and dualism are empirically equivalent, then for Smart, it follows that it is more reasonable to believe physicalism.
In 'The Nature of Mental States', Putnam introduced a concern with Smart’s brain-state theory that would undermine his claim that it is empirically equivalent to dualism. Putnam argues that Smart’s brain-state theory is unable to account for the ‘multiple realisability’ of mental states.  The ‘multiple realisability’ of a mental state is the idea that different creatures with entirely different physiologies can experience the same mental state.  Putnam characterizes Smart’s brain-state theory as requiring each mental state to have a specific physical-chemical state.[4]  Then, given the transitivity property of identity, brain-state theory would entail that for a creature with physiology different from mine, it would not be possible for both I and that creature to experience the same mental state.  This is a problem for Putnam, since he believes that there is some sense in which my pain is identical to the pain of a creature’s whose physiology differs from mine, while he does not want to permit the existence of pain as a mental state that exists distinctly from our physical bodies.  Putnam assumes that mental states are “multiply realizable”, and so in his view, Smart’s brain-state theory cannot account for it.  This undermines Smart’s physicalism as an empirically equivalent theory to dualism, which is one of the premises on which he builds his ‘simplest explanation’ argument.
In David Lewis’ “Mad Pain and Martian Pain, Lewis proposes a version of brain-state theory that can account for the multiple-realisability concern introduced by Putnam.  Like Smart, Lewis identifies each mental state with a particular brain state.  However, he agrees with Putnam that multiple-realisability is possible, and thus a concern.  Lewis uses the example of “the Martian who sometimes feels pain just as we do, but whose pain differs greatly from ours in its physical realization[5]”.  Smart’s brain-state theory cannot account for the Martian’s pain, since a Martian’s physiology differs from ours.  Smart’s theory does not identify the Martian’s pain as our pain.  To account for multiple-realisability of pain in this comparison, Lewis defines mental states as relative to a population: “The Martian is in pain in another sense, or relative to another population”[6].  For Lewis, an individual X is part of an appropriate population if:
(1) X is ‘us’,
(2) X belongs to it,
(3) X is not an exception within in, and
(4) the population is of a natural kind.[7] 
This move to relativize mental states permits the brain-state physicalist to say that I experience human pain, the Martian experiences Martian-pain and any individual member that is not an exception within its population experiences mental states relative to its population.  That is, the introduction of population-relative mental states to brain-state theory accounts for multiple-realisability, addressing Putnam’s concern.
Although Lewis’ hybrid theory reconciles the physicalist brain-state theory with concerns of multiple realisability, it undermines Smart’s premise that physicalism is more simple than dualism.  Lewis’ modification to brain-state theory can only be achieved with the definition of an appropriate population for each individual.  Lewis proposes four criteria and provides examples of how to use them to determine the appropriate population for the following:
·         you/I, unexceptional humans
·         the Martian
·         the madman, who feels pain just as we do, but who differs greatly in its causes and effects, and
·         the mad Martian, the Martian analog to the madman. 
In the case of you/I, Lewis says that the four criteria “pull together”.[8]  In the case of the Martian, Lewis writes that criterion (1) is outweighed by the other three.[9] In the case of the madman, criterion (3) is outweighed by the rest, so the madman is conveniently considered part of the population of ‘mankind’.[10]  In the case of the mad Martian, criteria (2) and (4) together outweigh either (1) or (3) by itself. [11]   I list this out to show that there is no consistency in the use of the four criteria for determining an individual’s appropriate population.  We are left with the possibility that there may be no clear definition of an appropriate population for some individuals.  Now consider criterion (3), that X is not an exception within a population.  The term ‘exceptional’ is also vague. Imagine a population with some set of arbitrary Type-Z properties who are ‘exceptional’ because they are outnumbered by unexceptional ‘unexceptional’.  There can easily be any number of similar Type-Y, Type-X, etc, populations with various sizes, but that are still outnumbered by ‘unexceptional’ humans.  This shows that there may be varying degrees as well as varying types of what is meant by ‘exceptional’.  Now imagine the situation where the population of Type-Z individuals breeds rapidly to outnumber the people who are unexceptional.  Because they outnumber the other types of human populations, they are now ‘unexceptional’.  Would this mean that there is something indexical about the concept of ‘unexceptional’?  If so, then this further complicates the determination of an ‘appropriate population’ for an individual.  By introducing population-relative mental states, Lewis enables brain-state theory to account for multiple realisability, but the result is a vague and more complicated physicalist theory.  Smart’s ‘simplest explanation’ argument would fail with Lewis’ modification.  Multiple realisability as presented by Putnam is attractive, but it need not necessarily be accepted. Brain state theorists will still need an account for mental states as experienced by creatures not physiologically similar to us, but it should not be at the expense of a consistent theory for physicalism.
Bibliography
Lewis, David. 1980. “Mad pain and Martian pain”, in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. I. N. Block, ed., Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 216-222.
Putnam, Hilary. 1975. “The nature of mental states”, in Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, 1980, pp. 429-440.
Smart, J. J. C. 1959. Sensations and brain processes. The Philosophical Review 68 (2) (Apr.), pp. 141-56.



[1] Smart, J. J. C. 1959. Sensations and brain processes. The Philosophical Review 68 (2) (Apr.), pp. 143
[2] Smart, J. J. C. 1959. Sensations and brain processes. The Philosophical Review 68 (2) (Apr.). Pp. 145
[3] Ibid. Pp. 143
[4] Putnam, Hilary. 1975. “The nature of mental states”, in Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, 1980, pp. 436
[5] Lewis, David. 1980. “Mad pain and Martian pain”, in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. I. N. Block, ed., Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 216
[6] Ibid. Pp 221
[7] Lewis, David. 1980. “Mad pain and Martian pain”, in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. I. N. Block, ed., Harvard University Press, 1980, Pp 220
[8] Ibid. Pp. 220
[9] Ibid. Pp. 220
[10] Lewis, David. 1980. “Mad pain and Martian pain”, in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. I. N. Block, ed., Harvard University Press, 1980, Pp 220
[11] Ibid. Pp 220



****
There are some inaccuracies in this.  Sorry about that.  Homework assignments are rushed.  Anyway, this got me an A, so hope it helps.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Missing the Point

I logged into Facebook today, and noticed that someone posted a screenshot of a spam text message that included an image of an overweight, middle-aged woman in lingerie with a caption akin to "I don't know how this person got my number".  The following private message conversation ensued:

Carolyn Ursabia

Hey, you probably shouldn't circulate that photo without the express consent of the person in it, even if it was spam.

Anonymous FB Friend O'Mine
Hi Carolyn, I don't know if spammers have copyright protection, though I highly doubt it and I know of no legal precedent on the issue. Assuming spammers do have copyright protections, I believe this usage falls under the 'fair use'. Despite that while I don't agree with you, I decided to take down the post given that in hindsight I should have anticipated someone would have probably made fun of the woman displayed in the image which was not my intention and the random spamming was what the post was aimed at.

Carolyn Ursabia

It wasn't the copyright issue. It was that it seemed you didn't know the sender, and so you didn't know if that picture was actually permitted to be circulated. Suppose, just as an example, that that picture was an intimate photo shared between a couple that has since split up, and the spammer was circulating the photo because they were angry at them. When you don't know the sender, you don't know the source of the image. That was my only point. My personal message to you was more for your protection and I apologize if it was taken in any other way. Take care.

.
.
.

*sigh*


Monday, 16 February 2015

Armani Sunglasses and The Tavern

I often tell stories of my time in the U.S.  I stayed in woodsy northern Maryland, worked in Pikesville, and regularly ventured to NYC, DC and into Baltimore. I used local websites, The Food Network, FourSquare, Yelp and word of mouth to develop my 'to hit up' list of top restaurants, bars, live music venues and clubs.  I visited these venues one by one, often solo, but not always.  At the outset, I saw it as fun but as I trained in restaurant management, it quickly turned into research and business.

One important bar-restaurant that I needed to see was the Mt. Washington Tavern.  Known to locals as "The Tavern", it was known for being a great hangout that offered great food in a great atmosphere.  I should have tried to catch their dinner service or grab an evening drink, but I was never going to make it with my work schedule, so I eventually decided to go to The Tavern for a lunch. It's a lot like the Madison in Toronto: a collection of bars, each of which with its own character, shoved into a large mansion-like building.

We were seated in a very well-lit area for lunch.  It was empty with a skeletal staff.  There was one server, one busboy, one hostess working but not in my area, and no front-of-house managers visible.  The food was prompt. I had the beet and goat cheese salad and found it disappointing.  It would have been nice if they beets were drained better, and the goat cheese was warm.

After lunch, upon getting into my car, I realized that I had left my sunglasses on the table.  They were Armani Exchange's brown square butterfly style and matched everything I had.  I was in a rush to get to work, so I called The Tavern from my car while in the parking lot, and spoke with the hostess.  I told her where I had left them - on my table by the condiments.  She put me on hold briefly, then came back to say she didn't see anything on my table.  I was surprised because I remembered where I had left them and it had been less than a minute, but decided it was my fault for leaving them.  I headed straight to my restaurant to get ready for our happy hour opening.

Several hours later at my restaurant, I chatted with my bartender, Bryant, and the patrons about it.  Bryant interrupted, "Do you mean those really pretty brown Armani bugeye ones that all the girls are wearing these days?"  I nodded in affirmation.  He then asked me if my server was a young female.  I said yes.  He told me, "Yeah, those were stolen."  All the gentlemen at the bar agreed.

This was my first introduction to the difference between Toronto and Baltimore.  I was so used to Torontonian waitstaff, who would reasonably wait a least a week before claiming finder's keepers on personal effects left behind by patrons.  I decided that I was going to get my sunglasses back.  Several gentlemen offered to accompany me and be my "muscle", but I politely declined. I told them, "I got this."

As soon as our dinner service looked like it was under control, I headed out.  It was about 9 pm, 8 hours after the incident.  This venue had several entrances; no main one.  I entered through the same entrance that I used at lunch and spoke with the hostess.  Let's call her Hostess A.  Hostess A was not there at lunch. I asked her about their lost and found processes, and described the pair of sunglasses I had left earlier that day.  She told me that they have a lost and found at each hostess stand at each entrance, and she offered to check.

I watched her check by where we were standing and not find them.  She told me that she wanted to ask the hostess at the nearest entrance, let's call this one Hostess B, since Hostess B had been working all day.  The other stand was about 10 m away, and I watched their exchange.  Hostess A approached Hostess B.  Hostess B looked at me then spoke aggressively with Hostess A.  Her hand gestures looked like she was telling Hostess A what to do.  Hostess A appeared taken aback and changed from pleasant to uncomfortable, with tensed eyebrows.  I found this very interesting.  All the while, the busboy from lunch walked by.  I stopped him and asked him if he bussed the tables in my area at lunch.  He said he did.  I thought, "perfect!"  I asked him if he had seen a pair of brown bugeye sunglasses left at my table from lunch.  He said yes, and that he had picked them up and put them in the lost and found.

I looked back over at Hostesses A and B.  Hostess B now decided to approach me while Hostess A stayed back.  Hostess B told me that she had been there all day, but that the sunglasses that I described were not retrieved.  I told her that I just spoke with the busboy who confirmed that he had picked them up and put them in the stand.  I looked her square in the eye and asked to speak with the owner.  She went into the kitchen.

A floor manager came out.  He said that the owner was not in.  I explained what had happened and requested: (1) a copy of the lunch staffing schedule, (2) the name of my server, and (3) the owner's contact information.  He walked to the back.  I waited about one minute before he came back out appearing panicked and in tears.  He told me that his sister was the server at lunch, that she was in class until 10 pm and that he could return my sunglasses  at that time.

I didn't report the server, my sunglasses were returned, and everyone lived happily ever after.  Or did they?

My sister and I had our second sets of tires stolen last Thursday.  We left them in our parking spots in our building's parking garage. We knew there was risk in leaving them out, but it was a shared risk: everyone in my building left their extra sets of tires in their spots.  Unfortunately, only ours were stolen.

This theft reminded me of the sunglasses.  I asked everyone if they could have moved them before I believed that they were stolen, and I was comfortable with my loss so long as it was my fault. Once I realized that it was the handiwork of a liar, I had to do something about it.

My sister and I have filed police reports, and will be meeting with our building's security to review the security tapes tomorrow.  We may never see the tires again or get any remuneration for our trouble, but the hope is that the perpetrators will learn that they cannot get away with theft.

..but will these thieves ever learn?  I am pessimistic.

Post Script
The Tavern was burned down some time later that year, an event that inspired many to message me to tell me I 'didn't have to do it' because I got my sunglasses back.
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