I am a thinker and a writer, and I study the universe.

Learning_Outside_College

Madness is Reason…

This might be a contradictory sentence, but I have never heard of a more perfect notion of madness than what we find in Foucault’s Madness and Civilization. In the fourth chapter, “Passion and Delirium,” Foucault argues that there is a kind of reason in madness. If a man is actually made of glass, and glass is easily shattered, of course he is going to have to be careful when he touches anything, right? That is a reasonable response. Thus, if a man believes himself to be made of glass, but he actually is not, then the most reasonable thing for him to do is to avoid touching anything that might shatter him. And yet we call him mad, unreasonable, irrational, because he really is not made of glass.

Madness, then, is not altogether in the image, which of itself is neither true nor false, neither reasonable nor mad; nor is it, further, in the reasoning which is mere form, revealing nothing but the indubitable figures of logic. And yet madness is in one and in the other: in a special version or figure of their relationship.

Madness and Civilization, p. 95, Vintage edition

Foucault argues that this relationship between madness and reason is that of a dazzled reason. In the dictionary, to be dazzled is to be blinded because of a sudden bright light. Foucault says that madness and reason both see the same light, but madness does not think it sees that particular light, but only the darkness and the things in its imagination. This is the ultimate difference between madness and reason. Madness is not a lack of reason, nor is reason a lack of madness; but they are one and the same, but respond differently to the same light.

My brother is schizophrenic. At one time, he was obsessed with the notion that to be shy is to be mean. Because he was a very shy guy, he believed that he must be very mean as well. When I ask him why he thought so, he lent me his dictionary that, under the word ‘shy’, led to another word, which led to another word, which led to another word that meant ‘mean.’ There is a definite logic to this. After all, if a synonym of ‘shy’ could lead to a synonym that meant ‘mean,’ that must mean he is mean, right? (I tried explaining to him that some words had different meanings, but I’m not sure if he understood what I said, though he doesn’t think about that anymore anyway.)

But I understand exactly what Foucault is getting at. There is a definite logic to the madman’s madness. If he sees a man that he believes is the Devil, and the man curses him, of course he is going to believe that he is cursed. If he believes that there is a bomb on his person that would explode if he moves, of course he would stop moving and stay as still as he possibly can. What’s scary about this all is that we all believe in things; the trick is to ask yourself if that belief is true or false.

Perhaps we are all mad in some way.


A Letter to a Cat Burglar

Dear Adrian (aka A. J. or Kitty),

I am writing to you as a token of appreciation. I am grateful to have found you yesterday doing what you do. You were trying to steal stuff from my house, and I just wanted to express my gratitude. Now I know this sounds too strange, but I have a wonderful explanation as to how you have made my life much better.

Before yesterday evening, I was a naive girl. My house had never been burglarized before, though I live in a poor part of the city, and so I never had any idea what it was like to be burglarized. My family and I took as many precautions as we could afford so that something like this would never happen, especially while on holiday. But yesterday evening, we found that somebody or something had ransacked our house. Little did we know, the cat burglar, Kitty, was still in there. I stepped through the doorway, and after a few seconds, you stepped out of the kitchen to face me and my family. You greeted me with a nervous smile, and I shouted, “Who are you??” You introduced yourself as A. J. and told us all that had happened, though much of it did not make any sense. You told me that you had stopped a fire that was about to start, that you had saw three older men running out of the house late one night a week ago (we were not gone that long), that you had called the police, who had decided to let it go since the three men had not taken anything, and that now you were protecting our stuff.

Kitty, you changed my life, perhaps for the worse…or perhaps for the better. I had been a naive girl back then. Funny how one’s naiveté can disappear in one moment. Funny how it is sometimes the worst people that help dissipate others’ naiveté. I am sure that you are not among the worst of people; in fact, my father was probably one of the worst, though even that is doubtful.

Anyway, Kitty, despite all of my questions, despite all you said and how much none of it made no sense, I believed you because you seemed sincere. But I suppose a lot of my faith in you depended on what I always thought about cat burglars. The standard cat burglar is dressed in black, sneaks into houses in the dead of night, and, most of all, scatter like a cockroach as soon as there is any indication that somebody has come into the house or woken up. This last one was my biggest belief, because I knew perfectly well that not all cat burglars dressed in black or do their thing in the dead of night. But I ‘knew’ perfectly well that all cat burglars scattered as soon as they detect any indication of life. However, Kitty, this was not your way.

Because of you, I now know that I have a right to be suspicious, and even attack you, if there is a stranger in my own house. Before this, I did not know that. Because of you, I now know that not all cat burglars are the sneakiest people, and that sometimes they pose as hired workers just to gain access to a house. Before this, I never knew that. Because of you, I now know that not all cat burglars scattered as soon as the owners of a house returned. Before this, I never knew that.

Cat burglars are often sneaky, stealthy, and convincing. You, Kitty, were certainly convincing, at least to me, though my mother was not as naive. But your other flaws betrayed your plans. You did not know the family thoroughly enough to know when we were going to return home. You decided that perhaps we would be gone for a long, long time, and that you would have all the time in the world to take your time to take our belongings. If it had not been for your flaws, you would not have landed in jail. This is a negative for you. However, because of your flaws, and your skills, you have taught me a life lesson. You have taught me that I have a right to be suspicious if there is a stranger in my house, no matter how convincing he is. You have taught me that everything happens for a reason, that God had wanted us to arrive home at precisely that time to catch you in the act.

For all of your flaws and for all of your strengths, there has been some good that had come out of this incident. This good is precisely that I am no longer going to be naive. I suppose I also have my naivete to thank for catching you. If I had been suspicious from the beginning, I would have completely shown it, more fiercely than ever. I would have pretended to be a monster and tried to frighten you; I would have growled, shown my teeth, and told you to leave or that I would kill you. You might have left immediately and nobody would have known where to find you, or perhaps something worse would have happened. But because I was naive, you did not feel threatened by us, and so you stuck around a bit longer…until I called 911. I listened as the officers arrested you. When my sister and I went outside, you were sitting in a police car, staring at us ever so neutrally. I glowered at you for a moment, expecting that you would react. But you did not. Instead, you stared at me as if at a complete stranger.

Yes, I was a naive girl. But now as a woman, I know that if a stranger is in my house without my permission, I have a right to be suspicious, even if he or she seems official.

Again, thank you, Kitty, for teaching me an important life lesson. This might not have been the ‘good’ you had wanted to get done in the world, but it was a good nonetheless. I hope you suffer in jail. Perhaps you might go to prison! My neighbors tell me that you have a record of burglary, terrorizing other families, many of which probably had children. And because of this, they may not let you out for a very long time. I hope you have a good time during your stay in jail. And I hope all of your many nightmares come true!

Thanks again, my little Kitty, my little Cat Burglar, Adrian (aka A. J.)!

Yours truly


In quantum physics, what if our particles are controlling us?

I had an epiphany recently. In quantum physics, a photon can behave like a particle as well as a wave (we usually think of particles as particles and waves as waves). Scientists have done experiments that test this, and they have discovered that one way to make them behave as particles is to observe them; and one way to make them behave as waves is to not observe them. Many people people have interpreted this to mean that somehow consciousness is responsible for how photons work. The photons, when they are behaving like waves, would have to be in multiple places at once. Some people have interpreted this to mean that there are an infinite number of places the photon could possibly be, and it is only by our looking at it that it actually decides where it is. So in a sense, we are controlling the photon by forcing them to be in a particular place. However, others have interpreted this to mean that, they are in multiple places at once; that each photon is real and is actually there, but that only one of them is true in our world. The others came from other worlds, and the one we see when we look at it is the one that is true in our world. (This is called the many-worlds interpretation, and I’m not sure what the first one is called.)

However, I was thinking about something completely different, except not really. The first explanation was saying that we are controlling the photon. However, what if it was the other way around? What if the photon is controlling us? When the photon feels like it wants to act like a wave, it tells the particles in our brain not to observe it; and when the photon feels like acting like a particle, it tells the particles in our brain to observe it. And that would mean that there probably is ultimately no free will. Perhaps the particles in us are doing everything for us.

Anyhow, for some reason there is a connection between a particle-acting photon and its being observed. We are not sure what this connection is yet. Perhaps we will know sometime in the future; perhaps we will never know.


The Ancients

To all who actually read my stuff, I apologize for not writing for a while. I wanted to use this post to tell you all that I have passed all of my courses (all A’s, including the one at SLCC and including one A-) for my very first semester at UVU. And now I am back for my second semester. I am now technically a senior, even though it’s still my first year here, because I have more than 90 earned hours now.

Anyway, I wanted to write about something else…I was thinking over the break that learning more about ancient philosophers, such as the ancient Greeks and ancient philosophers from the eastern traditions, would be absolutely amazing! I have been interested in them for a long time, but now that I have an actual chance to study them, I might take it up (specifically, an Integrated Studies degree in Philosophy and Classical Studies). I was also wanting to learn about the science in their times. But I don’t know what kind of school would offer those specializations: ancient philosophy and science (including those of the Eastern and Western traditions, and any other traditions for that matter). I’m going to need go to my advisor and ask her about it.

I was holding off on doing classical studies because if I were to do it, I would need to learn some kind of language. I already have background knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, but I simply never had any time to continue learning it. However, this semester the language department is offering two Beginning Ancient Greek courses, a language I have always wanted to learn, and I have registered for both, 1010 and 1020 (both of them are half a semester). So if I took them both this semester, I will only need to take 2010 and 2020 next school year. Perhaps an area of emphasis in classical studies might work after all. We will see how it goes.

I have already begun searching for programs that do ancient philosophy in both the western and eastern traditions. I have also tried to find any kind of information, any articles, that talks about ancient science in the east. However, I so far have had no luck. Maybe someday I could find something like that…or maybe I could even start something like that…

I found this book entitled “Chinese Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology,” and on Amazon, it is about $419. Why would it need to be so expensive? This kind of book might be perfect for what I’m interested in…and yet I am unable to afford it. It’s more expensive than an iPad! But that’s just what it is…


But What about Them?

I think I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts, but in April, my school had their annual Student Writing and Social Justice Conference. I got to participate with a piece of my writing. I was so afraid that everyone would tell me to get the heck out of the room (or something of the sort), but right now I realize that that might have been a strange thing to be afraid of. Now I also realize that I haven’t posted the piece here. So I am copying and pasting it onto this post. The piece is called “But What about Them?” Enjoy!

—————start————–

I was on the bus earlier this month, going home, when I overheard two young men speaking to each other. They were both serving their country through the military, and they were talking about two people they knew that both sustained injuries: one had injuries that were accidental, and the others’ injuries were self-inflicted. The first one received medical benefits, and the other did not. This may not seem too surprising because we all know that this country doesn’t take mental ailments as seriously as physical ailments. There are many people that cannot live as fulfilling a life because of a physical illness, and the government helps them a lot. However, there are also many people that cannot live as fulfilling a life because of a mental illness. So what about them? Are they to be left on their own?

There was an illustrated picture floating around Facebook that depicted a sad young girl with the word “broken” across it. Some of the comments were, “Nobody cares about you,” “You are weak,” “Stop complaining,” “Everyone else’s lives are worse than yours,” “Oxygen thief.” We tell the people that are going through physical health problems that they are strong, brave, and great role models for children. But to the people that are going through mental health problems, we call them lazy, crazy, selfish, shameful, silly–oxygen thieves, and we keep our children away from them. If anything, this serves no purpose but to make them feel worse about themselves than they already do. There’s a Jewish proverb: “An enemy is one whose story you do not know.” You don’t know this girl’s story; therefore you have no right to judge her. Many of you have stresses in life, such as paying your bills, finding a job, or getting your education, the things that matter to you. But what about what matters to her?

I was recently in a class, and we were all waiting for the teacher. There was one older student who was talking to the members of her group, and she said that suicidal people are very dangerous to the people around them because one that has no regard for his or her own life has no regard for others’ lives either. I was inclined to believe her because of her age, but I looked it up and found that only 1.8% of suicides in America every year were murder-suicides. So this woman’s statement was not correct. Sure, there are probably a few mentally ill people that wouldn’t mind taking others’ lives. However, there are many more that would never take anyone’s life but their own. So what about them? Are they to be stigmatized too?

Sometimes I feel like society has already removed a lot of the stigma associated with mental illness, and then something comes up to tell me that they haven’t, especially with recent events in the country. The shooting in Connecticut served no purpose but to destroy the lives of innocent children and their families and to put the stigma back into mental illness. The classmate was referring to the shooting and to the bombing in Massachusetts, which she thought were connected. I am sure many more people think the same thing she did after the shooting, that people with mental illness are dangerous to society. However, here is something you may not know: people with mental illness are at an increased risk of being murdered. A study done by researchers from the U.S. and Sweden examined 615 homicides between 2001-2008, and almost 23% of that population had a mental illness. Again, occasionally, there is that one mentally ill person that kills others, but there are many more that are murdered. So what about them? Are they to be forgotten?

After the shooting in New Town, all anyone could talk about was how crazy the shooter was and how we needed new gun laws to protect our children from people like him. I do not believe new gun laws could have prevented that disaster because it wasn’t the shooter that bought the gun himself; it was registered to his mother, and it was his mother that taught him how to use it. Yes, the new laws could prevent other mass shootings and homicides, but the particular one in New Town, I believe that a more liberal discussion on mental health and its stigma in the United States is the only thing that could have prevented it. If a parent learns that their child has a mental illness, they tend to deny it and say that there is nothing wrong with the child. They do not want to get caught up in the whole dilemma because they are afraid that society would look down on them. Our society has made even the mothers afraid to speak up for their own children when it comes to mental health. This may be all well and good for the parents and for a society that doesn’t want to hear anything about mental illness. But what about the children? Are they to be ignored?

Here is something else you may not have known. Last semester, there was a study done in Sweden that confirmed a link between mental illness and people in the creative professions, especially among writers. For most other artistic and scientific professions, the rate of a mental illness among family members was very high. But among writers, the likelihood that the person would die by suicide is almost 50% compared to the general population.

Here is a new look on creativity: if we come together to break down the stigma of mental illness from our society and petition the government to improve our mental healthcare, this country would have a lot more to offer, and much of it will come from those with mental illness.

In light of all this, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to sit back and just let the world go by? Or are we going to get up and do some good by helping those that cannot help themselves?

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Omelas

Yesterday I read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” a short story written by Ursula K. Le Guin, a popular sci-fi/fantasy writer (at least that’s what I know her as). The plot goes something like this: Omelas is a wonderful town, full of happiness, prosperity, and anything else a paradise would contain. It is almost perfect…except for one thing, a terrible secret that the town holds, the only thing that gives the town all the perfectness it has. One child has to live in darkness and filth its entire life. The children of the town learn this truth when they grow old enough to understand it. They are all shocked and appalled, but most of them are able to accept it and move on with their lives. However, and this is the big however, some of them cannot get over the shock, and so they stand up and walk away from Omelas. Nobody knows where they go or what happens to them, but they seem to know where they are going.

This story was meant to illustrate the foundation of utilitarianism, an ethical theory that is described as the “greatest happiness principal.” The right thing to do is always to do what is best for the most number of people. If the country calls upon a young soldier who is about to have a baby to war, the right thing for the soldier to do is to go to war…for the good of the nation.

Upon reading this story, I found a connection between it and Christianity, particularly with the Atonement. I thought about another story that I heard back in high school seminary, about the Atonement and donuts. Another seminary teacher wanted to illustrate the doctrine in a more real-world way and used a student in the class. The student was instructed to do 10 push-ups for each other student so that they could have a donut. At first, it was easy for the boy to do those push-ups, but as time passed, he had to struggle more and more. When the other students saw his suffering, most of them didn’t want to accept the donut the teacher gave them. Some of them even cried.

The boy was like Christ, the one that had to sacrifice himself so that everyone else could have something good. The students were like everyone else. The teacher said that those who did not want to accept the donuts were like those people that do not want to accept Christ’s sacrifice for us. And they are like the ones that walk away from Omelas.

Christianity, my own religion, is utilitarian in nature! I had never thought of it like that! Christ had to sacrifice Himself so that the rest of us could have salvation! Thinking about the child that had to suffer in Omelas and the man that had to suffer in Gethsemane makes me a little nauseous. I had always believed in Christ and His Atonement, but now that I see a correlation, I’m not sure if I want to be just one of the many people that accepts it and moves on. However, I’m not sure that just walking away would help anything at all, even in the story (although it could be their own personal protest against that kind of a society). The child still suffers even if some of the people walk away. And I’m not sure what is synonymous with walking away with the Atonement. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Christ had still suffered, and there is nothing we can do to change it. All we can probably do is to be grateful for His sacrifice.

However, there are a couple of differences between the Atonement and Omelas:

1) The child had to suffer all of its life, but Christ only suffered one night in Gethsemane and a day on the cross. Although it may have felt like forever to Him, and He probably went through so much more than the child could ever go through, we can take solace in the fact that He isn’t still suffering everything.

2) The child had no choice in the matter (at least, I don’t think it did), but Christ chose to make this sacrifice, knowing full well what kinds of things He may need to experience before He experienced them.

So in a way, the Atonement is a much better utilitarianism than Omelas ever was. I guess that’s something.


Philosophy Conference?

I am so sorry that I haven’t added a new post for almost two months! I have just been so busy…so much has happened since I last wrote. First of all, I was the only student that got a 100% on the philosophy midterm (I found out on the very day I wrote the last post)–but I have also caught a mistake I made, and my philosophy teacher told me that I was right, that I shouldn’t have gotten a point for it, but that he wasn’t going to change the credit. For a long time, I have wanted to do a major in philosophy, but I was never sure if it was right for me, or for anyone. After all, last semester, my institute teacher laughed when he said that his brother had done a major in philosophy, and so did the entire class. I had wanted to scream at them, but I had wanted to scream at myself too for ever considering a major in it.

However, I have decided…

I am going to do a major in philosophy…and I have never been happier. In my philosophy class we had to write a paper on a philosophical problem, and I chose the problem of universals. I worked so hard on the paper, especially the research part because it is a difficult problem to understand, and I have to say that I did not understand it probably at all. But I did as much research as I could and finally just wrote it. My teacher allowed the students to turn in a rough draft, and I sent my rough draft to him via email, and the next day he told me that it was better than most papers he has ever read in an intro class. I was surprised. I worked hard on the research part, but I wrote it almost in a hurry, so I was surprised when he said that I understood the problem well and that I was a great writer.

On our very last day, when we had our final exam, he pulled me into the hall when I turned in my exam to give me back the final paper I had turned in. He told me about the International SLCC Philosophy Conference and how he wanted me to submit this paper to them this year. I was invited to submit something to that conference…from my philosophy teacher! I have never felt as good about myself as I had that time! In fact, I believe it was the very first time anyone has really praised my writing. Others have said I was a good writer, but I feel like they were just saying it. My philosophy teacher this semester, however, didn’t have to say it. He and I were never friends, and we never talked about pretty much anything. I usually never asked questions or made comments. And yet he loved my paper. So I think it was genuine.

Fall semester, I will be going to Utah Valley University. I have my schedule worked out: I will have classes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays there (the Honors Colloquium [oh, and I was also accepted into UVU’s Honors Program, which they say is really hard to get into], Modern Legacies [also another honors course], Classical Social Theory [an upper-division class under sociology; I have already taken the Intro to Sociology course at SLCC and loved it!], Metaphysics, and Bioethics). But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will have a class at SLCC because the philosophy teacher I had this spring is teaching it, and it transfers to UVU as one of the required classes. I am excited. The total number of credits is 16, but the Honors Colloquium seems like a confusing class because it seems like we have to make ourselves available for a whole bunch of events. So I won’t be able to work this fall. I’ll try to work more this summer to save some money, though. Anyway, I’m just rambling now. I guess this is good-bye.