You can find TeX/tikz code here https://github.com/dilawar/playground/tree/master/Tikz/Bear
You can find TeX/tikz code here https://github.com/dilawar/playground/tree/master/Tikz/Bear
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.” – 1984, George Orwell
It is hard to imagine how one can learn without some form of thinking available at one’s disposal. If learning is the gift of life, then some form of thinking must be fundamental to all living beings. Thinking is processing, it will not be too much of exaggeration to suggest that thinking is a form of computation. But given the flexibility of this definition, even a small electrical circuit can be classified as thoughtful. For the purpose of this essay, let just say that all thoughts are computations but not all computations are thoughts.
For animals with linguistic capabilities, I’d suggest that main purpose of language is to compress lot of information. Some essential components of compressed information is retained as meaning which is associated with a symbol. Language can be defined as a collection of sequences formed by these symbols and can be used in two ways:
• Decompress the symbols and extract information for self to understand one’s environment.
• Send the symbols across for others to interpret (communication).
We restrict ourselves with the former because in case of the later, the individual might use language for various other tasks – obscuring the information for the purpose of confusing and tricking others for one’s advantage, not always unknowingly. This would not be an easy situation to analyze. When one is dealing with language to understand one’s own environment, perhaps the task of analysis for a person is much easier.
Much depends on the way society singles out certain activities and assign values to them. Needless to say, thinking associated with activities which are assigned high values by the society are going to be valued highly. Here lies the trap. Any language which provides any advantage for a highly values skill over some other language is going to be valued more. Perhaps it not hard to confuse the suitability of a language for a particular task with ability to think about that particular task.
How to neutralize the social content or value system of observer? Designing an experiment to overcome this seems to be a challenging task. Not merely because the designer of experiment himself has a value system to bias him but also because one can only express the experiment in a language itself. If something can not be overcome, it can be bypassed. To avoid this difficulty, we can definitely compare and contrast a complex and sophisticated language with the most primitive one.
Honeybees do pretty well (even perhaps better in some activities) as far as very basic life related functions are concerned. They can communicate the location of food accurately and reproduction effectively without having to evolve a language as complex as ours. On the other hand, if they were to cheat each other of food and sex, they would need a more complex language which allows more compression of information, ambiguous association of meaning with symbols, in which producing confusion and trickery is easier. Some higher primates have the faculty of building basic block of language – suffixing and prefixing sounds to create compound sound. And they are known to use it for various purposes: to get a head-start in competition as well as for cooperation. Yet they have not constructed a complex language, perhaps they are yet to realize that other do have thoughts and the best way to influence thoughts is to use language. It is hard to see how languages makes us better or worse at thinking as such. And even if they do, it would be nearly impossible to quantify such difference.
On the other hand, the idea that languages influence the way we think may be right if only we are willing to set the context. We need to ask us what kind of activity it impinges upon. Does Sankrit allows one to think in more modular way – composition of bigger sentences from smaller sentences is easier? Or German allows us to think more structurally? Music is also a form of language. We can compare Indian classical music with Western classical music. The former is hardly ever written down, instructions are transmitted orally from teacher to pupil. The Western music is almost always written therefore also extremely structured. In Western classical music, it is extremely easy to put a band of musician together and play a piece of music as complex as opera. With Indian classical music, one can hardly imagine putting up a something as complex as opera. There is simply no way to synchronize artists. Having nice structure allows one to create, play and disseminate music easily. On the flip side, you will never hear an entirely different version of Mozart as often as you might hear a raga sung differently. One can enumerate advantages and disadvantages of both musical systems. But it does not address the question if Indian or Western musical languages have certain advantages when it comes to create music as such. If a society put a high premium on team work then Western musical language is the winner, if a society value individual virtuosity more, then the advantage lies with Indian classical tradition.
In nutshell, language is a social category, it is not a neurological category. It might some some neuronal basis which we are yet to discover. It influences and get influenced by culture and traditions. And plays an important role in its own social context. It probably also modifies neuronal pathways, as any repeated activity would do. Some languages are perhaps better suited for expressing and accomplishing some tasks while others are good at others. To say more than that, one would need much more precise definitions of both thought and language.
To end, a good analogy would be of computer languages. Most of them are known to be Turing complete i.e. any program written in one can be written in any other. Using any of them does not limit our capabilities of programming as such. Yet there are problems which are are easy to program in one language are hard in other. Hardware are easy to control in imperative languages, while modularity is easy to achieve in functional framework. And choice depends on what you value more rather than the power they posses.
The mind of a man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beam of things should reflect according to their true incidence: nay, it is rather like a enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture. — Francis Beacon
Prof. Andre Beteille — whom I owe a great deal of intellectual debt — wrote once that the aim of intellectual pursuit is to scratch the surface of confusion caused by experience and observation. He wrote this as a social scientist, being fully aware of the fact that curiosity of a social scientist about a society is not the same thing as the curiosity of a mathematician about numbers. Nonetheless, I find this claim to be extremely rich about the general nature of intellectual pursuit.
Is “scratching the surface of confusion caused by experience and observation” is the purpose of a branch of natural science, or, if I may be too bold, of all sciences? This seems to be a good aim but I’d not push it too far for such a claim brings “subjectivity” and “subject” into foreground while claiming very little for the non-subjective part of scholarship, namely methods and routines which each branch of natural sciences has discovered and perfected over time.
It is useful here to draw a thin line between Science and Scholarship . Science is a pursuit of “reality”. It has methods which are to be mastered and perfected in a workshop before one can strike on one’s own. I am not denying the place of intuitions in science, but I believe that there should not be a large scope of personal virtuosity in science as there is in Jazz or Indian classical music. If a branch of natural sciences allows personal virtuosity and intuitions to take over methods and procedures of laboratory and workshop, it only says the such a branch of science has not matured enough. To summarize, mimicking Max Weber one can claim that while Science is “a slow boring of hard boards”, scholarship is flexible enough to accommodate other sort of intellectual adventures, including the useless and harmless one.
If we agree on that the purpose of science is to scratch the surface of reality than I have serious issues with philosophy of which there seems to be a great variety. Some branches of philosophies have turned into well established branches of science. It has been said that what was once known as “Natural philosophy” is now called physics. I wish to comment on the “field view” of philosophy which I find around me, rather than its “book view” which is very hard to grasp unless one is initiated or on its fertility to produce natural sciences in long run.
First, the scope of methods, facts, and arguments of science must be universal or universal enough. By X being universal I mean that X should not give a different result or lead to different conclusion, if applied correctly, merely because different persons are working with them or they were applied at a different times. Universalism does not seem to be a trait of much of philosophy, specially Indian philosophy. Moreover, it is not always clear if understanding reality is the ultimate aim of philosophy. I am not suggesting that Philosophy, Indian or non-Indian, should adopt a different framework or approach; or metaphysics is not worthy of our attention. But the existing framework tends to undervalue if not ignore the “principle of reality” which is or ought to be held sacred by science.
Second, scientists study or at least suppose to study reality as it exists. A philosopher will not be a philosopher if he does not create alternatives of reality. If philosophy is glamorized as a guiding force for humanity, it has to be said that it can easily turn into an impediment of understanding of reality. May be I am not philosophically musical, but to me, philosophy is confusing at best and misleading at worst. It is in the nature of human mind to mislead others, not always unknowingly. And philosophy offers vast opportunity to mislead others and oneself.
Third, newness in science and scholarship is not created because one has a strong desire to do so, and life of great many people will become better by its existence. Philosophy does not seem to have such constraints. One can freely build and refute theories to his liking. Philosophy can be a healthy recluse from the harsh, tiring, boring and unpredictable world of scientific pursuit but it can easily turn into an opium of intellectuals, especially for those whom the pursuit of science and scholarship seems to be endlessly tiring and fruitless. To them, Philosophy seems to offer vast opportunities for that intellectual art of squaring the circle.
As for me Philosophy seems to offer options to choose without giving too much about what costs are involved in each choice. This is definitely better than having no choice but I’d rather turn to Sociology, Biology or Psychology when I feel confused about my condition.
As for the word race, it has so many different meanings, as to be useless in scientific discussion, to very useful for getting members of the same nation to hate one another. — JBS Haldane
A resolution passed recently by European Parliament recognizing caste-based discrimination as a form of racial discrimination reminds one of an article written by the social anthropologist Andre Beteille about a decade ago. Beteille described a similar attempt by U.N. to accommodate caste-discrimination as a form of racial discrimination as ‘politically mischeveous’, and what is worse, ‘scientifically non-sensical’. (Race and Caste, The Hindu, March 10, 2001).
After reading his article, one gets the feeling that to Beteille, treating caste as a form or race is non-sensical, because ‘it is bound to give a new lease of life to the old and discredited notion of race current a hundred years ago’, and, it is politically mischeveous because it ‘will open up a Pandora’s box of allegations of racial discrimination throughout the world‘ for it ‘will encourage religious and other “ethnic” minorities to make allegations of racial discrimination not only in India, but everywhere’. For if discrimination against disadvantaged castes can be defined as a form of racial discrimination, then it would take little imagination to paint any discrimination against religious or linguistic minorities as “racial”.
Interested parties naturally welcome such a move. One observer in our national daily welcomes it, praising it as a “historical resolution recognising caste-based discrimination and discrimination based on work and descent as a violation of human rights and an obstacle to development” which he finds to be ‘remarkably constructive’ for it ‘circumvents the Indian government’s contention that caste is not an element of race and therefore must be excluded from laws against racial discrimination’ (The EU flexes its muscles on caste, The Hindu, November 5, 2013).
Caste-based discrimination is indeed reprehensible and must be condemned by all; but do we need to paint it as a form of racial discrimination to do so? It is now a well established fact, at least in Anthropology, that there is no such thing as race. One can, if one is so inclined, talk of racial elements. There is only one race and that is the human race. The idea of race dies hard in popular imagination and one can understand why this is so. But what is remarkable is to find the intelligentsia promoting the myth of race. Perhaps it is in their nature to stretch the point somewhat when they believe that doing so will only serve a good cause. But promoting myths in the hope of bringing about a social changes may prove costly in the end, especially when these myths can easily be put to different uses.
One can throw cold water on this established anthropological fact by stating that “race” may be myth for anthropologists but people are conscious of it and see themselves belonging to a particular race; therefore, as far as discrimination based on race is concerned, race is real enough. Starting from here, one can then justify the basis behind this resolution by focusing on what is common to both caste-based and race-based discriminations rather than to the categories called race and caste. Myths are indeed powerful tools but they are dangerous weapons too.
People can be easily moved by myths, for both constructive and destructive ends. Who can deny that millions of Hindus have been convinced that they are indeed backward and inferior than other Hindus. But do we, as a responsible member of intelligentsia, have to build our arguments on populist lines. The progress in knowledge is made in the teeth of popular prejudice; and not by constantly pandering to it. Perhaps more and more people have started taking serious what Ashis Nandy wrote once in preface of his well received essays, “the way to fight the myth : by building or resurrecting more convincing myths”.
In the past, some groups claimed superior rights (and many still do) on the ground that they belonged to a Aryan or Teutonic race. Beteille tells us that the Anthropologists rejected these claims on two grounds: ‘first, on the ground that within the same human species no race is superior to any other; but also on the ground that there is no such thing as an Aryan race or a Teutonic race.’ And he goes on to ask if it is acceptable to ”throw out the concept of race by the front door when it is misused for asserting social superiority and bring it in again through the back door to misuse it in the cause of the oppressed”. He further cautioned us that “the metaphor of race is a dangerous weapon whether it is used for asserting white supremacy or for making demands on behalf of disadvantaged groups”.
The metaphor, the symbol, and the myth, called “race” is both powerful and dangerous like any other myth or symbol can be. Intellectuals do not like to be called populists, it is a term they reserve for those who are object of their disdain and intellectual wrath. Moreover those who have bitten by the calling of “change the world” do not mind inventing their own symbols and myths. They may not do so with evil intentions but it must be hard for them not to feel intoxicated when they feel that their ideas resonate with masses. They must consider the possibilities when symbols and myths created by them put to the uses which are different from the one for which they create them.
Many are welcoming the resolution passed by EU which treats caste as a form of race. Perhaps it is futile to ask them to reconsider their stand. Intellectuals do not like to change their stand unless the evidence on the contrary are overwhelming. Merely because one is not expected to take responsibility for creating myth, one ought not create them. As for me, I can’t see what benefit they expect to get from all of this for caste-based discrimination can be handled no less effectively as it is without painting it as a form of racial discrimination. The benefits are doubtful, if they exists at all, but the risks seems to be real enough to ignore
What good is happiness if it cannot buy you money!
– Attributed to Zsa Zsa Gabor
In 2008, New Scientists, summarized the results of a survey covering 65 nations to show the largest proportion of happy people lived in, of all places, in Nigeria, followed by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico. Last year, some other survey identified Bangladesh as the happiest country in the world, and perhaps a year or two before that, it was Vanuatu (heard the name before?). Going by Human Development Index, one can argue that they should be among the least happy nations on the planet. They say that money does not make people happy and they also seem to say that poverty does not make anyone sad; perhaps it makes them happier. What are those ingredients these surveyors thought essentials for happy life? These Ingredients can be measured, compared and contrasted!
In these times, it is no longer taboo to talk about ‘feelings’ in plain terms – at least in academic circles, if you are lucky enough to be in one. You can criticize feelings and they will not come after you like they did with Bertrand Russel. Game theory, economics, sociology and psychology have taken quiet a dispassionate and blunt approach towards human feelings (or passions). Although results have been mixed but ‘feelings’ are no longer a sacred cow anymore which can not be put under the scanner of logic. People are more open to question their origin of feelings and much more open to accept their criticism if they ‘feel’ results are helpful for them e.g. a emotionally troubled person is seeking a psychiatric advice.
I ‘believe’ that ’emotions’ are unsettled logic. Here I would like to make a rather non-intuitive distinction. The calmness is not a feeling at all. It is the absence of most of the feelings which causes anxiety. A calm face and a smile one can expect on the face of a man who have understanding of things he is curious about. Buddha is known to carry a smile all the time because he believed that he knew the solutions to all problems. Knowledge, thus, must decrease the level of feeling in a man. knowledgeable man can not posses a troubled mind, he is very likely to posses an ‘uneasy’ mind. A noted Political Scientist Rajni Kothari is of the view that, ‘uneasy is the Life of Mind’. True, that one can not acquire all the knowledge but one must strive for section or part of it about which he is most curious. If I understand why a child is behaving is such a selfish manner, I may be able to laugh it off and I can even trick him to change his behavior. Parents who have poor knowledge of child’s psychology tends to get angry and end up beating them up.
Whatever one knows becomes a part of ones rationality or common sense. Whatever is unknown causes emotions. The desire to know is strong in humans. If one can’t know something for sure, then, at least, one must get a feel of it. A human likes emotions and often use them because it saves them their precious time and energy he would spend thinking over it without any guarantee of success. The time and energy I saved, I might spend in some activities which I ‘feel’ worthy or dictated worthy by my social group. I may like to work to earn more money, I may spend this time chatting with friends or writing blogs, I can also use this energy reading fiction or playing sports. Same way, I may like to put an impressive picture on Facebook rather than figuring out why I am doing it in the first place.
PS : I believe that ‘abstract reasoning’ which is the mother of all reasoning is a defense mechanism against the pain feelings cause. Empirically, one can prove it by noting that how many philosophers are known live ’emotionally painless’ life?