Archive for philosophy

A Good Philosophy to Live By

Posted in Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by Konstantin

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Over the course of my short-life, I’ve made it a habit being skeptical to the point of cynicism. Often times, people define themselves not by what they believe in, but what they have rejected.

Morality, whether we choose to believe it or not, is relative.  Some need a higher power to solidify their moral compass, others tend to rely on societal and post-conventional cues.  Regardless of affiliation, we all have a guiding principle that helps us differentiate between right and wrong.  My personal strategy for distinguishing between the two lies in one simple rule of thumb:

Any belief that implicitly produces inequity between a group of people [whether by lifestyle choice, faith, or physical composition] is inherently flawed.

Is what I believe the absolute truth?  Certainly not.  But it sets a standard whereby equality is judging two separate individuals by the same standard and it has never failed me.

-Konstantin Ravvin

Being Wrong is an Essential Part of Getting it Right

Posted in Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by Konstantin

Lesson:

Being wrong is an essential part of finding the correct answer.

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Economics is at its core the study of incentives, choices and their consequences.  It is of paramount importance to understand that theories, conjectures and models associated with something so ambiguous are never set in stone.

During my understudy years at the University of Central Florida, I took a course which required the completion of an empirical study between variables.  I relished in the allure of autonomy; being able to create my own study, with variables of my own choosing. But of course I knew that my findings, no matter how convincing, would be subject to drawbacks.

When it came time to present, I noted something uniform about the students that preceded me: there were no mentions of ‘drawbacks’, no evidence to the contrary, not even subtle hints of fallacy.  Of course, it wasn’t because the students were confident in the accuracy of their work, nor was it their arrogance or stubbornness; it had a lot to do with the lack of emphasis on ‘being wrong’.

Statistically speaking, confidence intervals, reliability measurements and correlation coefficients do not tell the whole story.  These are all valid mathematical instruments designed to insulate against statistical error, but when such error exists [and it is inevitable], we cannot undermine its importance.

There are two types of wrongs: 1) Factual 2) Moral.  

The latter is more hotly contested than the former by virtue of its vagueness and subjectivity.

In hard science [that is the science based on empirical evidence, mathematical deduction of discrete values, and adherence to the laws of nature] precision is a function of trial and error; meticulous experimentations whereby hypothesis are disproven and knowledge is refined by the process of elimination.  I say precision because even in the realm of scientific inquiry, correctness is measured by proximity to an exact value or outcome.

There is a lot less room for self-indulgent pride in hard sciences because evidence can be easily established and quantified, contradicting previous findings at a whim.

The same cannot be said for philosophical wrongs, or wrongs associated with soft sciences.  Ambiguity tends to take center stage in these matters, and no experimental methodology could encompass the vast diversity of human thought or belief.  Soft sciences have a particular knack for confirmation bias [that is, favoring information that supports an individuals preconceived notions].

In such cases, it’s impossible to [literally] enumerate the confidence interval of an approach but it is essential to understand where your beliefs and/or findings can be flawed.

Philosophically, some cling to their biases by molding a reality that favors their perspectives, but such approaches are ultimately futile and shortsighted, particularly in the 21st century.

We are no longer a tight-knit group of nomads or hunters/gatherers that rely on culture and tradition to survive; we must acknowledge that we will, in our lifetime, be met with ideas that starkly contrast our own.

Open mindedness is not your ability to tolerate the beliefs of others.  It’s your ability to tolerate the idea that you could be wrong.

The need for introspection is imperative; it is a vital component of societal renovation.  The moral history of humanity is a progression towards inclusiveness; a steady, but continuous critique of social constructs that imprison expression so that we may rid ourselves of such wrongs.  In many ways, recognizing that we are wrong is a vital component of getting it right.

-Konstantin Ravvin

Doubt as a Complement to Faith

Posted in Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Konstantin

Lesson: 

Faith without Doubt is unreasonable. Doubt without Faith is unsustainable. 

faith and doubt

In many respects, ‘faith’ and ‘doubt’ are antonymous; diametrically opposed concepts that are mutually exclusive and polar opposites on the spectrum of human sentience.

Faith is defined as ‘knowledge without evidence’.  Doubt is defined as ‘skepticism towards knowledge as a result of lacking or unconvincing evidence’.

Conclusively, based on their aforementioned definition, the two terms would negate one another.

The abstraction of ‘faith’, in many cultures, is perceived as virtuous; a spec of hope and resilience in the face of almost inevitable calamity.  After all, it is faith that so humbly reserves a space for the word ‘almost’ prior to ‘inevitable’, allowing for that minuscule ray of hope to flourish from improbability to certainty.

In a global society that constructs cultural frameworks under the pretense of self- preservation, faith has found a resounding place in the human psyche; a place whose pertinence is unmatched in ensuring the survival of the human race.

Faith is the sentiment by which we project our hopes and dreams into the future.

In many ways, faith constitutes an integral part of human adaptability and survival.  But there are drawbacks, the implications of which can be disastrous.  Faith is often confused with certainty as it is often used to alleviate uncertainty.  It can balloon to such proportions that it no longer has the ability to control itself; it becomes blind, self-reinforcing and belligerent towards anything that invokes doubt.

I often encounter this sort of faith in religious zealots that are incapable of compromising their faith.  So set are they on eliminating all remnants of doubt that they alienate themselves to the reality of life.

So is ‘doubt’ the antithesis of  ‘faith’?

Before the age of reason, doubt had always reserved a dreaded corner of the human mind.  It was the culmination of all the obstacles in the human mind that impeded catharsis.  Oftentimes we say ‘my heart is filled with doubt’ when we are overcome with grief and uncertainty, and unmoderated doubt is bound to produce such results.  But logically, doubt has its perks; it constantly serves to refine the standard of what is ‘acceptable evidence’ required to deem something truthful.  Doubt is the process by which we produce inquiry and thusly progress.

In many ways, faith and doubt are complementary.  Where faith serves as a hedge, albeit an unproven hedge, against uncertainty, doubt serves as a hedge against blind faith.

Doubt is the failsafe that mediates faith, ensuring it does not grow beyond its intended purpose.

As an ardent skeptic, it was difficult for me to reach this conclusion.  Doubt had always been a weapon best deployed in the event of idiocy; often encountered idiocy.  I was hasty in my generalizations: I had come to recognize faith as unbridled devotion to mad ramblings in the holy scriptures of Abrahamic religion.  I had broken my own rule.

Rule infinity: Moderation is key

Faith, in small doses, is an elixir of analgesic properties, both spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically.  It has the potential to alleviate burdens which are otherwise perpetuated by doubt, acting alone.  In excess, faith is counterbalanced by doubt; opposing forces that convolve to create balance, neither favoring hopeless doubt nor blind faith.