Thoughts filed in: Philosophy

Prev 1 2 3 Next

On the causes of the First World War

WWI was one of the most costly and the most gruesome of wars that mankind has ever seen. It was also one of the most pointless. I've just finished reading The First Casualty, a ripper of a novel by author and playwright Ben Elton. The novel is set in 1917, and much of the story takes place at the infamous Battle of Passchendaele, which is considered to have been the worst of all the many hellish battles in the war. I would like to quote one particular passage from the book, which I believe is the best summary of the causes of WWI that I've ever read.


Consciously directed healing

The human body is a self-sustaining and self-repairing entity. When you cut your hand, when you blister your foot, or when you burn your tongue, you know — and you take it for granted — that somehow, miraculously, your body will heal itself. All it needs is time. However, there are many injuries that are simply too severe for the body to repair by itself: in these cases, help may be needed in the form of lotions, medicines, or even surgery. Why is this so? With all its vast resources, what is it that the human body finds so difficult and so time-consuming in healing a few simple cuts and bruises? Surely — with a little bit of help, and a lot more conscious concentration — we should be capable of repairing so much more, all by ourselves.


Economics and doomed jobs

There are a great many people in this world — particularly in third-world countries — that spend their entire lives performing jobs that are dangerous, labour-intensive, unhealthy, and altogether better-suited for machines. I've often heard the argument that "it's better that they do what they do, than that they have no job at all". After visiting the hellish mines of Potosí in Bolivia, I disagree with this argument more strongly than ever. I'm now 100% convinced that it's better for jobs as atrocious as this to disappear from the face of the Earth; and that it's better for those affected to become unemployed and to face economic hardship in the short-term, while eventually finding newer and better jobs; than to continue in their doomed and unpleasant occupations forever.


Pleasure vs pro

It's become popular in recent times for people to quit their boring day jobs, and instead to work full-time on something that they really love doing. We've all heard people say: now I'm spending every day doing what I enjoy most, and I couldn't be happier. Call me a cynic, but I am very dubious of the truth of this approach. In my experience, as soon as you turn a pleasurable pastime into a profession, you've suddenly added a whole new bucket of not-so-enjoyable tasks and responsibilities into the mix; and in the process, you've sacrificed at least some of the pleasure.


Must have, must do

We humans are naturally selfish creatures. Perhaps it's just me, but I think that the nature of this selfishness changes over time. As children, we are obsessed with owning or possessing things: our entire lives revolve around having toys, having food, having entertainment. But as we get older, we seem to become less concerned with having things, and more concerned with doing things. This strikes me as a fascinating change, and also as one of the key transitions between childhood and adulthood.


Stop shining that light in my face

Evangelism. For centuries, many of the world's largest and most influential religions have practiced it. The idea behind evangelism is that one particular religion is the one true way to find G-d and to live a good life. It is therefore a duty, and an act of kindness, for the followers of that religion to "spread the word", and to help all of humanity to "see the light". I say to all evangelists: stop shining that accursed light in my face!


On death and free minds

For many years, a certain scene from a certain movie has troubled me deeply. In The Matrix (1999), there is a scene where the character 'Neo' is killed. Stone dead, no heartbeat for over thirty seconds, multiple bulletholes through chest. And then he comes back to life. Up until now, my friends and I have always derided this scene as being 'fake' and 'medically impossible'. But like Neo, I believe that I may finally have the answer.


A patch of flowers, a patch of code

Every gardener has a little patch of this planet that he or she loves and tends to. To these people, a patch is more than just a rectangular plot of land filled with dirt and flora. It is a living thing that needs care and attention; and in return, it brings great beauty and a feeling of fulfilment. The same is true of programmers the world over, and of the countless patches of code that they lovingly maintain throughout cyberspace.


The river without a river-bed

All things in nature are like a river: they flow from their source, down their long-established river-bed, until they reach their destination; they then journey until they once again reach their source, and so the cycle continues. Is humanity a river that has run astray of its river-bed, and that now follows its own course, for better or for worse?


What a mean word

Some words are perfectly suited to their alternative definitions. The word 'mean' is one of these. 'Mean' refers to the average of a set of numbers. A mean is a cruel, unforgiving, and brutally honest number: in short, it really is a mean number. Read on for more about 'mean', and about other words that have multiple but related meanings (polysemes).

Prev 1 2 3 Next