Sunday, February 18, 2018

Genetics Question

Let's say I have two groups of breeding Arabian horses:

Group one consists of three unrelated females and two unrelated males.

Group two consists of four first-cousin females and three first-cousin males.

I breed these two groups together in isolation from each other and exclusively, being careful not to inbreed them too closely. After ten generations which group has the most genetic diversity?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Arguments For Recurrence (Reincarnation) And Nirvana

Baseline awareness is the calm state everyone returns to after anger, excitement or sadness. This state is what a person is. Pleasure and pain occur to awareness. Thoughts occur to awareness (i.e. It occurs to me that it is Monday.) So one simply is his awareness. If I have the baseline awareness that is the same as or mostly the same as a person's baseline awareness from 1,000 years ago then I am the reincarnation of that person. The ontology for this is like that of a song. Awareness can cease to exist then exist again. I am not necessarily suggesting that awareness survives a person's death, but that it (maybe) ceases to exist, then recurs in a new fetus later. 

Baseline awareness has been carefully bred into us by evolution. In order to fashion a tool one must be in a calm state. Also, if I have four computers with four different types of hardware I can run windows on all four computers and have the same interface for all four. This could be analogous to the subjective experience of emotions. In order to get a group to work toward a single end everyone needs to be on the same page emotionally. So the experience of baseline awareness could be the same for everyone. Finally, if I wake from a coma with a different personality I am still a continuation of what I was before the coma. So a person in this lifetime does not have to have the EXACT SAME baseline awareness as he had in the previous lifetime.

An objection to this might be that the brain is constantly changing. But since a person calms down to the same underlying state each time this objection does not matter. As long as there is a certain overlapping sameness between the faculties of this life and the previous life reincarnation could have occurred.

If I am an enlightened being and you are an enlightened being, and I am my baseline awareness and you are yours, and if all enlightened beings have the same baseline awareness, and I die before you die, I will become present in your awareness. This is nirvana (maybe).

Joel Fry

Monday, February 5, 2018

"Social Progress"

In the novel Far From The Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy describes a sheepdog that was aggressively trying to herd sheep to the point that some sheep ran off a cliff. He compares the over-zealous action of the sheepdog to a philosophy that has gone too far. Whenever I think of this I always am reminded of the idea of social progress we have in the West--an ideal which we have had with us for about 400 years. This is a philosophy which has definitely run its course. It has become an embarrassment to anyone with any sense. Just look at all the bullshit that the universities churn out--all this victim culture and talk of "microaggressions." Jordan Peterson is right to suggest we need a return to a culture that values responsibility.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


The hero is prized because he exemplifies how a certain good is worth an indefinite amount of pain to acquire. Odysseus did not perform a Hedonic calculus before he decided to set out on his sea voyage, nor does any hero.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

An Apology For Poetry

Poetry serves a handful of purposes, each of which is different for every person.  It may concentrate the eye so that it sees through stone.  It may console, which opens up the reader.  It  may expand something that was once flat.  It may enlarge a single point into a vista without having ever made it into a line or a plane.  It may skip across the surface of a tranquil lake, making the only noise for miles.  But poetry never flattens.  It never turns a verdant valley into a Picasso the scenery of which occupies only the foreground.  It can destroy, but it never reduces.

What poetry needs, perhaps more than anything, is an apologist, a teacher, to sell poetry to the people.  We love Billy Collins for his poetry, and when he talks about all the specifics, how poetry creates a space, how the reader shouldn’t have to create his own door into a poem, we enjoy the scenery of those statements, but mostly it feels like he’s talking to other poets, giving them writing pointers.  What we need to give people is a more enduring reason to read, an assurance that each person can enrich himself more in his general reading by reading poetry.  Eliot said, “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”  I would add that appreciation often comes before understanding.  The point of poetry isn’t to get it but to have it get you.

Pleasure is infinitely better than nothing at all.  Pain is not infinitely worse than nothing at all.  When you return from a long voyage neither the gravedigger nor the swineherd will recognize you.  Constantine saw an angel standing in the sun.  Poetry helps me notice things like this.  I sharpen my vision on the stone of metaphor.  I have a gaze that 
can cut through fog.  When I go out to the world I tan and dress myself for battle.  I watch and listen for all the giving and taking people will do.  I wonder, because I have been taught to wonder by reading poems like “My Mother On An Evening In Late Summer” by Mark Strand.  To be carried along by a poem you must read it carefully.  Then when the truth appears like a stag in the clearing you will be ready to see.  You will be ready to connect—not to snag a fact—as if one more fact will keep you from drowning—but to behold the world that is always fleeing from your view.  To behold it is to cause it to flee.

Back when I was a Christian I used to read the King James Bible almost daily.  One verse that always troubled me was Matthew 6:23: “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”  I always thought this verse began by saying, “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole soul shall be full of darkness.”  Because I expected to read soul I “saw” soul rather than body.  Then at the age of 32 I finally perceived the verse correctly. 

No self-help guru sells his formula for living by promising that his students will be able to live the life they expect to live.  What they sell is something that is supposedly better than can be expected.  And yet how many times do people suffer half-spent lives because they follow their expectations?  Poets don’t have the secret everyone is looking for either.  But we do see the “Marks of weakness, marks of woe.”  —Not that we have a device to make life easier, but we have a balm that, once applied, will cause the reader 
to enter the necessary solitude more deeply and suffer in a richer way.  When I read “The Room In Which My First Child Slept” by Eavan Boland I weep for the truth that all this is passing away, that it never was, that while the pleasure is infinite and the pain finite, it too will pass.

How to sell this indeed?  How to sell our souls and get a good return for our investments?  The whole business is like finding treasure in a field.  What you find is a house which your soul can inhabit, because the body isn’t enough.  That which cuts through leather dances on the skin like starlight.  Yet starlight is worthless if we don’t see what it illuminates and what causes it to shine, if we don’t see how the impossible has been made possible and is made possible each time we dream, if we do not see the great lines of Emily Dickinson:

 We paused before a House that seemed 
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

—we won’t know how to answer the madman when he asks us what it feels like to be mortal.  We will have no response, because we have not heard those lines without their context overshadowing them.  Because context is supposed to hold all the answers we need, it holds none of them.  What a joy it is to isolate lines and give them special attention.

Are my horses’ heads toward eternity?  Can I say that honestly?  If you want to please the giant you’re afraid of, pluck the flea from his scalp.  Tell him something about himself 
he didn’t know.  Isolate yourself in his gaze.  But listen for all the routine trains and cars that pass in the night and read those things back to him as if he were small.

The truth of poetry is that when I read it I enter the space of absolute thought, the space of complete memory, where everyone hopes to end up.  If these aren’t good reasons for reading I don’t know what could be.  We all have a place to go to when we are alone, and I am persuaded that poetry can get most people there if they love it.  It is only when we are alone that we are surrounded.

Joel Fry

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Model of Mind

If I stop to think of whether I am fat, and I reason that I am, then I reason that I will go on a diet—on the next day I will no longer have the desire to eat lunch. This lack of desire is caused by my expectation to forgo lunch which I formed the day before. I formed this expectation based on reason rather than emotion. 

Free will is a continuum, like independence. I am more independent now than I was at the age of five, and I was more independent at the age of five than I was as an infant. No one “has free will” except as a relative percentage. Also, I can freely boycott actions. I demonstrate a free won’t.

Mind is a process, not an object. Mind has the ontology of a process, not the ontology of an object. If I throw a basketball into a volcano I can never have it again. But I can play a song on ten different radios ten different times. A song can cease to exist then exist again. A mind is this way.

I am not my thoughts. I am not my senses. I am not my body. All sensory data is part of consciousness. Other than this I am no more my body than I am the chair I am sitting in. Consciousness occurs to awareness. Pleasure and pain occur to awareness. It (a fact of consciousness) occurs to me (my awareness) that it is Sunday. I (my awareness) reacts to consciousness.

If I have four computers that all have four different sets of hardware I can install windows on all four computers so that all four computers have the same interface. Likewise it is conceivable that four different brains experience that same emotion the same way. This would be necessary in order to get everyone on the same page working toward the same goal.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


My intent is embodied in my words and my actions. If I say something with a twisted motive it will be communicated as being twisted even if I get the wording of the statement right. Judgement has two branches: consideration and pronouncement. Pronouncement is embodied in the act. Consideration is not. Punishment follows from conviction, not trial. I know that if I say something with a wrong motive I am corrupted by it, because the fullness of the intent is embodied in my words. 

Joel Fry