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unconditional.
unconditional. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all need love. This is because that love make us feel connected to others, and this connection eases, or even eliminates our biggest fear: loneliness. Thus love becomes the greatest – sometime the only – reason for us to live.

But, unfortunately, love from others are not entirely secure. It comes and goes without warning and it’s not within our controls. This is because love from others usually is “conditional”, which means it happens only if we possess certain conditions, such as physical beauty, wealth, social status, etc. So without these conditions, we are in danger of losing love. But, if one possesses a type of love that is “unconditional”, he/she would feel the most secure in his/her life, because this love is provided regardless how he/she is, and stays with him/her as long as he/she lives. 

So where does unconditional love come from? I found that they mostly come from two sources: 1, parents; 2, one’s own.

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The Argument Sketch

The Argument Sketch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to just admit that I love argument*. I found dialectics is one of most charming art humans ever created. I also realized, my fondness of dialectics is one of primary reasons that many people stay away from me, and the reason for that, I found, is just that most people think disagreement is too unpleasant to handle.

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Empathy
Empathy (Photo credit: TonZ)

In recently days I had some emotional disturbance over a small casual “social” encounter. This small social event again, demonstrated some dark image of human nature to me, that is the lack of empathy. Actually “lack of empathy” is an underestimation. What I really saw is a kind of mental state which I would name it as “an unconcealable joy upon others’ suffering”.

Yes, lack of empathy is far from the worst. I just finished reading a mystery novel “A Judgement In Stone”, written by Ruth Rendell, in which she brilliantly demonstrates what is “lack of empathy” (This book is a real classic!). Lack of empathy is just apathy, which would not motivate people to do harm to others, unless their lives are threatened. No, what I refer here is much worse. it is a kind of “joyousness” brought by others’ suffering. Yes, this kind of feeling does exist in plenty of people’s minds, and when facing others misery, they feel so “happy” that they could hardly disguise their emotion as anything else.

Sadly, I witness this fact through my ordinary daily life, now and then, more or less. Am I too sensitive? Or am I exaggerating facts?

It is one thing to kill for survive, another to kill for pleasure. I always wonder why during those historical disasters so many people were capable of committing stunning atrocities, wonder why those serial killers, torture or death executioners could go through all those gruesome “procedures”. The answer is “pleasure”. They “enjoyed” what they did.

I am not saying those people I interacted with are exactly this kind of “evils”, but they do remind me this mindset. I believe this mindset truly is the “champion” of the darkness of human nature, and it is responsible for many unnecessary man-made miseries, and it exists widely, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, in many people’s minds. And when time is “right”, it will do great damage, just as we witnessed before in the course of human history, again and again. Like Hu Ping (a contemporary Chinese philosopher) said: “People always put the word “kind” to all the weak individuals, but what they do not know is, the reason some of these individuals appear to be “kind” is only because they do not have chance to be evil.”

It will be a much more serious topic to think of why people act like this. By studying history I have some clues, but it would be too immature for me to explain in this short post. All I must point out here is, that the people who possess this “evil” mindset are not “evils” by nature, they are normal people, even “kind” or “nice” people in many people’s eyes. Truly, if we look at human society from evolutionary perspective, there is really no “good” and “evil” exist, only “mechanism”. That is, what drive people to “good” or “bad” sides are not “God” or “Satan”, but natural elements, include the genes, natural or social environments, experience, etc. So by this view, we would understand better why people act like this way. (Really, if you read “A Judgement of Stone”, you may really understand why Eunice Parchman kills Coverdale family with cold blood.)

However, isn’t this view harder for our human to swallow than the religious view, which we could put responsibility to “God” and “Satan” for all our “deeds”? Do we not to feel more lost, more helpless if we know that all these tragedies were driven by natural causes? My answer is “yes”. But to know is better than not to know, because only if we understand darkness better, could we do better to avoid it happens.

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Issues in Science and Religion
Issues in Science and Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somebody said Oscar Wilde said, “Old people believe everything; middle aged people are confused about everything, young people know everything.” Based on this quote, I found I was quite “normal” to be confused about lots of thing these years, because I am middle aged!

One thing I have been “a little” confused about was the difference between science and religion* (or faith). When I was young I was a science “believer”, but later I found the science had its limit, and realized that believing science was not much different from believing “God”. So, it seems to make sense to say, that there is not much difference between science and faith. But I am not satisfied with this thought. I found these two fields are still essentially different: one is derived from an objective thinking style: to know, or to understand how the world (universe) works; another is derived from subjective thinking style: to wish, to hope, so that human kind would be mentally in a better condition, either during or after our lifetime. Science respect facts  (“fact”, or “truth” here mean anything that can be verified by our sensory organs), regardless they are good (“good” means “favorable”) for humans or not; on the other hand, faith focuses on humans needs, regardless what they believe are true or false.

From this point of view, we’d better not ask truth in religion, nor, seek morality or emotional comfort in science, though these two fields do cross each other at some points. Take the human origin as an example. Both science and religion have their interpretations on this subject: science says human evolved from lower life forms, religion says humans were created by God. People from different sides always demand each other for proofs. I would say, please don’t ask science to provide evidences for evolution, because if there were no evidences, there would be no such idea; also please don’t ask believers to provide evidences for God, because the beauty of faith is “blind”. To say evolution is completely an objective view, not only because it was based on evidence, which means no one would just invent such idea by imagination, also because no human being would be “spiritually” or “emotionally” benefited by knowing we evolved from lower life forms. On the other hand, to say faith is subjective, not only because we got this idea out of our imagination, but also the idea makes us feel good. Imagine, if the story of Adam and Eve was true, would we not feel much better by knowing we are protected by God, and a guaranteed life after death? So, from this view, science and faith, which one would be “truer” should not be a dispute, and which one would make us feeling better but may not be true is also obvious.

Science doesn’t always do “good” to human, because it does not mean to – it is out of our curiosity, an instinct that is like our sex drive, or our appetite for foods. To simply put, we just need to know, regardless of the outcome; faith is not always truthful because it doesn’t care about truth, it was created for consoling our desperate living situation. The reason that science and religion fought so violently for centuries, by my opinion, is because most people confused by the essential difference of these two fields, so they ask science for “good”, religion for “truth”. When people found that science can do “bad”, they think we should not at all believe whatever science says, and when people found faith is not “true”, they would think we should be completely cynical, not to have faith at all. They forgot that these two fields derived from different side of our brains, serve for different purposes, and they have their respective necessities for humans. Unfortunately, I found many people, probably majority, due to many reasons – possibly both natural (biological) and cultural (educational) reasons, only possess one type of thinking style, either subjective, or objective. Only in minds of some, maybe minority of population, these two thinking styles can coexist peacefully.

By saying “these two thinking styles coexist peacefully”, I did not mean they (science and religion) should negotiate with each other, thus lose their own attributes, rather, I mean their difference is granted by their “owners”, and the owners know how to use them for different purposes, such as, when concerning about “truth”, or facts, they go to science; when talking about value of our life, struggle in despair, fighting with injustice, pursuing happiness, they would hold faith without hesitation.

So, science and faith, rather than letting them fighting with each other, we probably should realize that they can be “friends” to each other, and leave them as they are, without change their identities.

Hope I don’t sound so confused after all. 🙂

—————————–

*In this article, “science” means scientific spirit, or an objective attitude towards the world, doesn’t include all contents under the full meaning of “science”, such as knowledge, discoveries and technology, etc.; “religion” in this article means faith, or spiritual attitude towards the world, doesn’t include religion institutions and doctrines.

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This image is a crop from commons image File:D...
Image via Wikipedia

The biggest mistake within all mistakes humans ever made is avoiding making mistakes; the most foolish foolishness within all foolishness of humans is believing in absolutes; the weakest weakness within all weaknesses of humans is establishing power. There is no omnipotent power, not God, not science, not Truth itself. This is the enlightenment that “Reason of falsifiability*” brought to human kind.

— Liu Xiaobo, Spirit of Reason



*”Reason of falsifiability” is my temporary translation which may not be entirely correct.

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This image is a crop from commons image File:D...Image via Wikipedia

Upon the time Liu Xiaobo won his Noble Peace Price last year, I knew nothing about him and his works. Due to my apathy towards politics, I also never had enough interest to get into know him as well, until I read his book Mist of Metaphysics (briefed as “Mist” below).
Lu Xun said “It’s better to read Chinese books as less as possible. Actually it’s better not to read them at all” (he used “books” as a general term, but I believe he specifically meant those books of moral teachings, which pretty much includes all traditional Chinese books). I happened to be such a person who doesn’t read many Chinese books, not because of Lu Xun said so, but simply because they never inspired me that much. But Liu Xiao Bo’s Mist is an exception – it was one of the best philosophy books I have ever read. And by reading it I gained an general impression about the author himself.
The book appears to be a history of western philosophy – it started from ancient Greek thoughts all the way to modern western thinkers. However what make it better than most history books is that even though it was written chronologically, the whole book was coherently interweaved, every part is interactively collected, and the development of western thoughts were animatedly displayed. This development of western philosophy, under Liu Xiaobo’s interpretation, was a “organic life being”, made by the contradictory between the desire of eternal “absolute” and the transitory reality. The whole history is a struggle through a never ending process of the pursuing of this “absolute” and destroying it.
Whereas the “appearance” of this book is a history of thinking, it is virtually an highly original work of philosophy, in which Liu input lots of his own thoughts. Briefly speaking, Liu firmly disprove the existence of “absolute truth” (that’s why he called it “mist”), not only in the sense of metaphysics, but in any other sense or forms – such as “God”, “empiricism” or “science”. The whole western metaphysics originated the confidence about human reason, but this confidence is a plain delusion. Any declaration of “absolute” is self deceit, any faith on “absolute” is biased and subjective. From this perspective, art (especially music), by its most direct and essential way, is the only mean that human can experience life.
My impression of Liu Xiaobo from this book is that he is a highly intelligent, yet highly passionate person. He seemed to be greatly influenced by western modern philosophy, especially Existentialism, include modern literature and art. His grasp of the whole development of western thoughts is very impressive, and the points he made for different thinkers and philosophical schools seem to be spot on, and the way he put all these elements together was very inspiring, surpassed most of Chinese “professional” scholars (“pedants”?). So far I conclude Liu Xiaobo as a person contains three aspects: an absolutely independent thinker; an counter-rationalist and a pessimist.
First of all, Liu Xiaobo is an individual thinker. Just by this reason alone, he (or any independent thinkers) is a absolute rebel of his own culture (Chinese tradition). This is because any independent thinkers (a rational being) will not accept any orthodox ideas without personal examination, and this is due to a simple fact that “doubt” is the most essential aspect of reason. Like Liu said in the beginning of the book: “The history of thoughts is the history of questioning”(Mist, Introductory). Unfortunately, this “doubting spirit”, is exactly what Chinese traditional ideology/thoughts repel – Chinese traditional ideology is all about “authority”.
As an independent thinker, Liu also gave out his definition of Human being – the ultimate subject of philosophy: “(human) life is first a sentient and animated system, second, it is a (self) consciousness of this system (reason).”(Liu Xiaobo‘s essay: About Reason) I personally absolute admire this interpretation. To me it is to say, only those who strongly possess both “sentience” and “reason” can have a real experience life and a clear conscious of it at the same time. Based on this understanding, Liu highly adores Kant – who was a combination of acute intuition and profound reason, and on the other hand, Liu despises Hegel – who lacked this sentient/animated system totally, and built his whole theory as a grandiloquent decoration over a lifeless body.
And from this understanding about life, Liu naturally criticized “Chinese people” on this very essential level: “if one’s sensation were oppressed totally (servility) , one cannot have rational spirit (reason). If one had, it would be a kind which is nothing more than a blind obedience…the “reason” that Chinese people possess is just a blindly obedience to Chinese traditional orthodoxy” (Liu Xiaobo‘s essay: “About Reason”).
Liu Xiaobo’s “attacks” to Chinese culture is thorough, non negotiable. He thinks during Chinese ancient history there were never anything called “knowledge” existed: “There were never any independent classes – such as Intellects or vendors – existed in ancient China. During the entire Chinese history, only two classes ever existed: rulers and the ruled.” (Mist, page 41) And I personally believe this is the same place that Liu stands on together with Lu Xun, who slashed Chinese culture by his literature works. From philosophical perspective, Liu might be a step furthe

r on the rational thoughts, but both are determined, and powerful.
Just like Lu Xun, Liu is a total individualist. He said:”I believe, one’s most valuable moment of life is not to declare to the world as such: ‘I am reprehensive of human’, but as this: ‘I am a only one in the world. I do not represent anyone else but myself.’”(Mist, page322) (Here I could clear see the influence of Existentialism).
And just because Liu is not only a “rational being”, but also a passionate and sentiment “life form”, he is well aware of the limitation of our reason and stepped out of “absolute rationalism” firmly. He doesn’t believe that our reason can bring us to the “absolute truth” (simply it doesn‘t exist). He believes one can only achieve the full meaning of life by experiencing life “itself“ – that is to say through our animated instinct, or through ART: “Irrational state is not a state of animal. The higher level of irrational state is the life in its full bloom. Without this state there is no creativity. … Life starts with music and ends with music.” (Mist, page51)
Liu’s thoughts resonates the anti-rationalist trend in modern western philosophy. In this book, he compared philosophy with art, said if we call the modern western art “pure art” because of it anti-rationalist tendency, we should as well call the modern western philosophy “pure philosophy”.
This anti-rational tendency made Liu Xiaobo somehow a little “religious”. Of course, he would not blindly accept any religion doctrines due to his rational mind, but he certainly has his insight on religion. He thinks religion is our instinct needs: “human, as a self conscious life, not only need to be satisfied with our current life, but also the next life (or eternal life)… to some extent, the victory of science over religions since Renaissance is just an illusion. In terms of the value of human being, religion is not seconded by science. Believing that science is omnipotent is a new religion. …” (Mist, page27)
Beside these two aspects I mentioned above (independent thinker and anti-rational tendency), Liu Xiaobo also is a pessimist. This is because of his insight on the transient nature of human being. The consciousness of this transient nature leads human to transcends, and at the same time human also conscious the impossibility of such will, thus tragedy is inevitable: “all creativities human made are for one goal: transcendence. But the limited existence cannot creates any such kinds. To human, the so call “transcendence”, only exists in will, eagerness and illusion. ” (Mist, page 6)
However, this “pessimism” is not in a mundane sense, but in philosophical sense. This is not the kind of attitude of being sad/complaining, but a confrontation to the reality, an embrace to the tragedy of life. This kind of pessimists, do not need any delusion (such as “absolute”, “God”) to satisfy his/her survival need. And from this perspective, I think Liu Xiaobo again shares Lu Xun’s pessimist spirit.
These are my “impression” on Liu Xiaobo based on the book. The book has over 400 pages, briefly covers over 2000 thousands history of western philosophy. Liu wrote it during his early 30s, and it took him less than half year long. It truly was a work of inspiration. In my opinion, Liu Xiaobo deserves to be recognized as a genius thinker.
I do not know what kind of developments Liu Xiaobo made on his thoughts over the course of twenty years after finishing this book, but I know he once said (despite of his passionate and sharp criticism): “I have no enemy“. However this is just what he said from his perspective. From the perspective of the “country”, the Chinese government, he is the most dangerous enemy they ever had, and that’s why they put him in prison (I just found the currently is the third time. The first time was after 6.4 students movement 1989). I only hope, Liu Xiaobo has not been enduring too much in prison. I also hope, after he is released in future, he would choose not to live in that country, because that piece of lifeless land (or any lifeless land) is not worth any of his sacrifice (or of anyone who loves freedom).
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Immanuel Kant developed his own version of the...Image via Wikipedia

(From Mist of Metaphysics, Chapter 4: Kant – the Copernicus-like Revolution )

Religionizing Science is the most indiscernible and most dangerous (process?), but religionizing faith is the nature of life. The impact of Kant’s idea – God had nothing to do with science – to modern philosophy is to remind us: never to religionize science and knowledge. In modern philosophy, Karl Popper’s scientific philosophy -that is the denial of religionizing science – is much more important than Nietzsche’s denial of God, because what Popper said was what we are capable to do, and what Nietzsche was not.

p215
(Kant) Fallacy originated from the pursue of absolute, ultimate or infinite by our reason, and the belief that this is achievable. This is what I said “mist of metaphysics” – the belief that our reason is capable of deciphering nature, unveiling the secret of life, deducing the existence of God, proving immortality of our soul. But all of these “capabilities” are delusional and fallacious. p226
The blind belief on fallacy is harmful, but not all harmful in terms of ethics. It brings infinite, unlimited and valuable hope to limited, transient and meaningless life. This “hope” can be both positive and negative: when it works as only a reference, it is positive; when it works as an absolute, it is negative. From this perspective, the losing “hope” of modern people is not really so hopeless, not really a collapse of everything, but just a destroy of those “absolute” – which worked as the only value of life, as a bound our hope. p226
No matter how dexterity and smart the Hegel’s philosophy seems, overall, there’s never been any philosophic systems as “obese” as Hegel’s, never been any as “radiant” and “grand”, and as stupid and pale. It indeed was a sparkling pyramid, but underneath, it didn’t hold a seed of any life, but buried a putrid dead body. A tomb is a symbol of dead, no matter how grand it is. The wit of history is such: the true end of metaphysics was not marked by its sharpest opponent Kant, but by its most loyal follower – Hegel. p262
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