Archive for the ‘Concept’ Tag

Vedic Astrology

Image Credit: Darrell Hargett

Albert Einstein; the great physicist said, "Time is the fourth Dimension," Vedas say that "Time is the first dimension." In the beginning there was nothing. This concept of "nothing" is beyond the comprehension of ordinary human mind! It is so because before the concept of time there was absolutely nothing which is known as the "Shoonya" or ‘Zero’ or complete silence. Only the yogis who have attained "Nir Vikalpa Samadhi" state can experience this "nothing" and none else can. It is a state beyond time or "timeless state."

Vedas say that from this nothing originated vibration known as the "Pranava" or the sound ‘AUM’. From this sound there emerged five symbolic instruments of creation of universe. These were known as the Five "Tan matras". From the Tan matras came five primordial forces called Space and Time, Atmosphere, Light, Fire, Liquids, and finally the solidification of all. The mixing of these forces resulted in creation of the universes, as we know it now. It is an accepted scientific fact that even the universes are time bound. The theory of relativity; so called because all facts are related to time, speaks of speed in relation to time.

Vedas speak time as the limiting factor for all creation. Every thing is time bound. So the question came as to what is the scale of time? The Vedic seers, who are known as the Rishis, Maha Rishis, Brahma Rishis and Deva Rishis according to their knowledge of time and creation, have equated "Time" in relation to the age of Brahma the agent of creation. His age is 100 years in a special time scale. Note: Brahma is the name of the creative agent which should not be confused with "Brahman" the Timeless primordial force behind all creation.

The Rishis found that as far as the earth and the life in it are concerned the motion around the Sun is enough as a time scale for knowing the changes which would occur with the movement of the earth in relation to the Sun. They also found other celestial bodies like the Moon, Mars, Mercury; Jupiter, Venus and Saturn cast their influence on the earth. The seers also advised that every action must produce a reaction which comes back to the source of its origin in due cycle of time. The word "Karma" means action. Newton’s third law of motion is based on this concept.

The Planets were found to be the best guides as to the type of forthcoming reaction good or bad in the moving time scale. Thus was born the science of Vedic astrology, which is known as "Jyotisha" or ‘illuminator’ in Sanskrit. Vedas are knowledge taught by teacher to disciple through the medium of sound. They cannot be learnt by reading or memorizing. An ordinary example can be cited to illustrate the point. Ordinary "Yes" means I accept. "Yes? Also means what do you want? ‘Yyeess’ means I have my doubts, ‘Yus’ mean’s reluctant acceptance, Yes sir means please tell me and so on.

Astrology is a part of Veda hence it is known as Vedanga (anga means limb). We call it Vedic astrology because it is based on time schedules stipulated in Vedas according to yogic meditational observations of the planets in motion around the sun in relation to the earth and its motions.


Rejection Assists Entrancing Our Unknown Creative Selves

In 2006, Stefani Germanotti had hit a turning point in her career. She had quit a rigorous musical theatre program at an elite college to focus on her musical passion and, after a year of hard work and little income, had signed a deal with Def Jam records. But this promise wouldn’t last. Just three months after signing, Def Jam changed its mind about Stefani’s unusual style and released her from her contract.

Rejected, Stefani went back the drawing board, working in clubs and experimenting with new performers and new influences. These experiments produced a new sound that was drawing positive attention from critics and fans. Within a year, there was another offer; this one from Interscope Records. Nearly two years after her initial rejection, Stefani was finally able to introduce her sound and her self to the world – as Lady Gaga.

Rejection happens and, when it does, how we respond to it matters. Lady Gaga responded by experimenting with new influences and making her sound more unique. Just as Gaga experienced, recent research suggests that when most of us experience rejection, it can actually enhance our creativity, depending on how we respond to it.

In a series of experiments, researchers led by Sharon Kim of Johns Hopkins University sought to examine the impact of rejection on individuals’ creative output. In the first experiment, participants were given a series of personality questions and told they would be considered for participation in several group exercises in the future. Rejection happens and, when it does, how we respond to it matters.

When the participants returned to the laboratory a week later, some of them were asked to complete a few tasks before joining their group (inclusion), others were told that the none of the groups had chosen them and they would need to complete their tasks independently (rejection).

The tasks in the experiment were a series of Rapid Associative Tests, a common measurement of divergent thinking. A Rapid Associative Tests question works by presenting three seemingly unrelated words like fish, mine, and rush and asking participants to think of a single word that can be added to all three to create a meaningful term, for example, gold; goldfish, gold mine, gold rush. The Rapid Associative Tests question is a useful measurement because it requires both elements of creative thinking, novelty and usefulness.

When they calculated the results, the researchers found that "rejected" participants significantly outperformed those that were included in a group. But that wasn’t all the researchers found. Embedded in the personality questions was a measurement of how individualistic or collective participants viewed themselves; independent or dependent self-concept. Those who had test results that labeled them as independent showed even greater gains in creativity after feeling rejection. Consider the difference between those who respond to rejection by sulking versus those who respond by rolling up their sleeves and thinking "I’ll show them."

Those who had test results that labeled them as independent showed even greater gains in creativity after feeling rejection. The researchers wanted to know if this independent self-concept could be manipulated. Could people be put into a mindset that dealt with rejection in a way that enhanced their creative output? To answer this, they re-ran their experiment with a slight tweak. Instead of embedding the self-concept measurement in their personality questions and examining correlations afterward, participants’ self concept was altered or "primed" through a simple activity designed to focus participants either on themselves or on how they fit into a larger group. Remarkably, even a task as small as circling the singular "I" or plural "we" pronouns in a story was enough to alter their self-concept and affect their response to rejection.

As they expected, participants primed with an independent self-concept solved significantly more Rapid Associative Tests problems following rejection than those primed to think collectively. The results were conclusive. Rejection breeds creativity, especially for those who consider themselves highly independent. In final a follow-up study, the researchers found the same trend using a different measurement of creativity. Taken together, these experiments hold interesting implications for responding to rejection. While it is never a comfortable experience, the feelings of rejection can actually help us access our more creative selves. Free from the expectations of group norms, we can push the limits of novelty. Moreover, we can enhance that ability by changing the way we respond to rejection. Instead of dwelling too much on the pain of being turned down or turned aside, consider the freedom you now have to explore new possibilities and less mainstream options. Feelings of rejection can actually help us access our more creative selves.

Being rejected is often a statement that you or your ideas are too far from the current mainstream to be considered safe or comfortable. This could actually be a good thing. You’re ahead of your time. While the group or client may not believe they need you right away, the world probably does. If you’re too far from the mainstream, you could be the one pushing progress forward.

Consider how Lady Gaga’s work was too unique for Def Jam, but was an international hit just two years later with Interscope. Decades before Gaga, George Bernard Shaw, the Nobel Prize winning writer, weighed in on the same phenomenon, saying "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."


What is freewill? What determines its definition? As for any concept, two questions provide the key to a valid identification: What aspects of reality give rise to the concept? What is its purpose?

What freewill tries to account for is our introspective conviction that we are in control of many of our choices, and thus our destiny – that we are free to think and decide. We contrast this flexible, conscious control that we enjoy with the involuntary action of, say, our heartbeat or digestion, and with the instinctual imperative of a bird’s nest-building or a dog’s conditioned response. Our decisions are far more independent of nature and nurture than any animal’s. We are aware of our ability to think and of the consequences of our choices – we can claim responsibility for our actions. These are the meaningful differences that give rise to the concept of freewill.

The two primary motives for wanting this concept, and for determining its validity, are the all-important questions of life’s meaning and of personal responsibility. Without freewill, if we ultimately had no control over our goals and choices, if all of our actions were simply the inevitable operation of forces outside of ourselves, if freewill was some kind of illusion, then to many of us life would seem bleak indeed. Planning, self-esteem, prescriptive morality, self- and social responsibility would be quite meaningless. However, formulating the concept and proving its validity are two separate tasks – wanting something to be true does not make it so.

Let me construct a description of what we actually know about the concept that we call freewill – lest we smuggle in some unjustified or unnecessary aspects: A meaningful theory of freewill must account for our undeniable experience of freedom of choice. However, it does not necessarily need to conclude that our choices are free from antecedent factors – empirical evidence and reason must resolve that issue. Secondly, it must account for the flexible, conscious control that we experience in everyday life – the fact that we deliberately select goals, values, and optional plans of action. I insist that the question of what kind of mechanism gives rise to these abilities, whether it is deterministic or not, cannot form part of the definition of freewill.

Here is sampling of traditional descriptions: "Freewill is the ability to freely choose one of several possible alternatives, to make decisions the outcome of which is and cannot be known in advance", "Freewill is the doctrine that human choices are not predetermined", "Freewill means that we are self-determined, not ultimately subject to forces outside of our control – it means, we could have done otherwise", "Freewill is the ability to choose and act according to the dictates of our own will", "Freewill comprises choices not caused by, and independent of antecedent factors"

There are many ambiguities, errors, and misconceptions that lurk in these definitions. In order to expose these fallacies let us return to what we know about the phenomenon of freewill and carefully analyze its various elements:

Who chooses?

What kind of choices?

What does it mean to be able "to have chosen otherwise"?

Choices free from what?

How are freewill choices made?

Passivity to Conceptualization and Fundamental Principles

The main characteristic of this mentality is a special kind of passivity: not passivity as such and not across-the-board, but passivity beyond a certain limit; passivity in regard to the process of conceptualization and, therefore, in regard to fundamental principles.  It is a mentality which decided, at a certain point of development, that it knows enough and does not care to look further.  What does it accept as “enough”?  The immediately given, directly perceivable concretes of its background.  To grasp and deal with such concretes, a human being needs a certain degree of conceptual development, a process which the brain of an animal cannot perform.  But after the initial feat of learning to speak, a child can counterfeit this process, by memorization and imitation.  The anti-conceptual mentality stops on this level of development; on the first levels of abstractions which identify perceptual material consisting predominantly of physical objects and does not choose to take the next, crucial, fully volitional step—the higher levels of abstraction from abstractions, which cannot be learned by imitation.

The anti-conceptual mentality takes most things as irreducible primaries and regards them as “self-evident.” It treats concepts as if they were memorized percepts; it treats abstractions as if they were perceptual concretes.  To such a mentality, everything is the given: the passage of time, the four seasons, the institution of marriage, the weather, the breeding of children, a flood, a fire, an earthquake, a revolution, a book are phenomena of the same order.  The distinction between the metaphysical and the man-made is not merely unknown to this mentality, it is incommunicable.

This type of mentality has learned to speak, but has never grasped the process of conceptualization.  Concepts, to mentality, are merely some sort of code signals employed by other people for some inexplicable reason, signals that have no relation to reality or to himself.  This mentality treats concepts as if they were percepts, and their meaning changes with any change of circumstances.  Whatever it learns or happens to retain is treated, in such mind, as if it had always been there, as if it were an item of direct awareness, with no memory of how he acquired it like a random store of unprocessed material that comes and goes at the mercy of chance.  Passivity does not seek knowledge—it “exposes himself” to “experience,” hoping, in effect, that it will push something into the mind; if nothing happens, it feels with self-righteous rancor that there is nothing it can do about it.  Mental action, i.e., mental effort—any sort of processing, identifying, organizing, integrating, critical evaluation or control of his mental content—is an alien realm.

This mentality is not the product of ignorance nor is it caused by lack of intelligence:  It is self-made and self-arrested.  In the brain of an anti-conceptual person, the process of integration is largely replaced by a process of association. What his subconscious stores and makes routine is not ideas, but an indiscriminate accumulation of sundry concretes, random facts, and unidentified feelings, piled into unlabeled mental file folders.  This works, up to a certain point, so long as such a person deals with other persons whose folders are stuffed similarly and thus no search through the entire filing system is ever required.  Within such limits, the person can be active and willing to work hard.  A person of this mentality may uphold some abstract principles or profess some intellectual convictions without remembering where or how he picked them up.  But if one asks him what he means by a given idea, he will not be able to answer.  If one asks him the reasons of his convictions, one will discover that his convictions are a thin, fragile film floating over a vacuum, like an oil slick in empty space—and one will be shocked by the number of questions it had never occurred to him to ask.

He seems able to understand a discussion or a rational argument, sometimes even on an abstract, theoretical level.  He is able to participate, to agree or disagree after what appears to be a critical examination of the issue.  But the next time one meets him, the conclusions he reached are gone from his mind, as if the discussion had never occurred even though he remembers it; he remembers the event, discussion, not its intellectual content.

It is beside the point to accuse him of hypocrisy or lying though some part of both is necessarily involved.  His problem is much worse than that.  He was sincere, he meant what he said in and for that moment but it ended with that moment.  Nothing happens in his mind to an idea he accepts or rejects; there is no processing, no integration, no application to himself, his actions or his concerns.  He is unable to use it or even to retain it.  Ideas, abstractions, have no reality to him; abstractions involve the past and the future, as well as the present; nothing is fully real to him except the present.  Concepts, in his mind, become percepts—percepts of people uttering sounds; and percepts end when the stimuli vanish.  When he uses words, his mental operations are closer to those of a parrot than of a human being.  In the strict sense of the word, he has not learned to speak; however, there is one constant in his mental flux.  The subconscious is an integrating mechanism; when left without conscious control, it goes on integrating on its own and, like an automatic blender his subconscious squeezes its clutter of trash to produce a single basic emotion: Fear.

It is the fundamentals of philosophy; particularly, of ethics that an anti-conceptual person dreads above all else.  To understand and to apply them requires a long conceptual chain, which he has made his mind incapable of holding beyond the first few rudimentary links. If his professed beliefs, the rules and slogans of his group are challenged, he feels his consciousness dissolving in fog; for this reason, his fear of outsiders.  The word “outsiders,” to him, means the whole wide world beyond the confines of his village or town or gang—the world of all those people who do not live by his “rules.” He does not know why he feels that outsiders are a deadly threat to him and why they fill him with helpless terror.  The threat is not existential, but psycho-epistemological.  To deal with them requires that he rise above his “rules” to the level of abstract principles.  He would die rather than attempt it.

“Protection from outsiders” is the benefit he seeks in clinging to his group.  What the group demands in return is obedience to its rules, which he is eager to obey: those rules are his protection—from the dreaded realm of abstract thought.  Racism is an obvious manifestation of the anti-conceptual mentality.  So is xenophobia—the fear or hatred of foreigners “outsiders.”  So is any caste system, which prescribes a man’s status; assigning him to a tribe according to his birth.  A caste system is perpetuated by a special kind of snobbishness (group loyalty) not merely among the aristocrats, but, perhaps more fiercely, among the commoners or even the serfs, who like to “know their place” and to guard it jealously against the outsiders from above or from below.  So is guild socialism.  So is any kind of ancestor worship or of family “solidarity” (the family including uncles, aunts and third cousins).  So is any criminal gang.

Tribalism is the best name to give to all the group manifestations of the anti-conceptual mentality.  Observe that today’s resurgence of tribalism is not a product of the lower classes of the poor, the helpless, the ignorant, but of the intellectuals, the college-educated “elitists;” which is a purely tribalistic term.  Observe the proliferation of grotesque herds or gangs—hippies, yippies, beatniks, peaceniks, Women’s Libs, Gay Libs, Jesus Freaks, Earth Children—which are not tribes, but shifting aggregates of people desperately seeking tribal “protection.”

The common denominator of all such gangs is the belief in motion, mass demonstrations, not action—in chanting, not arguing—in demanding, not achieving—in feeling, not thinking—in denouncing “outsiders,” not in pursuing values—in focusing only on the “now,” the “today” without a “tomorrow”—in seeking to return to “nature,” to “the earth,” to the mud, to physical labor that is to say to all the things which a perceptual mentality is able to handle.  You don’t see advocates of reason and science clogging a street in the belief that using their bodies to stop traffic, will solve any problem.

Posted November 2, 2012 by dranilj1 in OBJECTIVISM

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The Nature of Freewill-2

What Free To Choose Connote?

What Free To Choose Connote?

What Free To Choose Connote? 

Before I expand on the meaning of “free”, let me discuss a question that is often, but mistakenly, posed as a test for freedom of will: “Could I have chosen otherwise?” However reasonable this question may seem, I contend that is quite meaningless and invalid within the usual context. Let’s try to make its premises and context explicit: Could have chosen otherwise – if what? If everything was the same? Naturally, if everything was the same, including our will, then we would have chosen in the same way. If on the other hand we assume that our will was different, then what would that tell us about freewill? Not much, because we would be talking about a person with a different will or context. To illustrate this point, what is the sense of saying for example “I could have chosen to lie to you”, unless we define the circumstances under which this statement can be judged as true or false? I could have lied to you – if I was less honest? If I wanted to avoid hurting you? If I had thought more about it? If I had reason to? If I held a different morality? If I was I different person? Or, whatever. Each of those scenarios introduces new variables, new motivations, new information. It is hardly controversial to say that humans can make different choices when faced with different situations, beliefs, or motives. Yet we have no reason to believe that in identical circumstances we would choose differently. This line of thinking does not help to illuminate freewill. 

Another common variation on this theme is the claim that we could have chosen otherwise “if we turned back the clock, if we rewound the tape”. Apart from the fact that this idea involves the impossible concept of assuming access to an entity with omniscience, to the extent that we can make sense of it at all, this simply restates the issues of the previous paragraph: If we “rewind” everything, then by definition it must produce the same results. This is true even for quantum events, etc. because if they don’t act the same way, then they cannot have the same starting conditions. This blanket assumption of replaying history is a cognitive dead-end. 

The flip-side of this error is the fatalistic belief that in a deterministic universe the future somehow already exists, it just has to “unfold”. Consequently, in this view, choices that are the product of mechanistic processes don’t “really” affect the future. But – the future does not yet exist. There is no roll of film that contains the script of the future, just waiting to be projected, viewed, experienced. We do not live in time – time is a measure of change. The past and future exist only in our memories and imagination. It is only the present that exists – parameters and choices of the present create the future. The future is not written, it unfolds and develops according to both blind and aware choices. 

If “could have done otherwise” does not help us define freedom of will, then what does? To get clarity on this issue we must first understand that the concept “free” is always relative – relative to either what something is free to do, or something that it is free from. For example, birds are free to fly, while prisoners are freed from their cell. Depending on whether we are focusing an added ability or constraint, we use either “free to” or “free from”. “Free” always describes relationships between entities, and it always requires a context. Absolute freedom from everything, or freedom to do anything, denies identity. This is true for material as well as mental entities and abilities. Nothing is causeless, even if we do not, or cannot know its cause. 

What kind of freedom do our minds have? Our choices cannot and obviously should not be totally free from or fail to take into account our knowledge, values, and perceptions of our environment and ourselves. Our choices are not free from past thoughts and decisions, nor from external influences. Our choices can also not transcend the laws of nature, i.e. do the impossible. Once we relate our mind’s abilities to that of non-volitional entities, we find that the freedom in freewill is not the elimination of influencing factors as such, but the expansion of our choices by our unique ability to deal with abstract concepts; by our self-awareness, our imagination, our ability to seek out knowledge and project the future; and, most importantly, by our awareness and monitoring of our own thinking. This is the source of our freedom; this is what makes us self-determined. This is the crux of the true understanding of freewill: Not free from influences, but free to make intelligent choices. 

In case you’ve wondered why I use the older spelling of “freewill”, I have done this deliberately in an effort to break free from a semantic cognitive trap: the words “free will” imply a will that is free from controlling factors, whereas I believe it is cognitively more useful to concentrate on what our will is free to do – our unique abilities versus those of animals. Naturally, “free from” can always logically be converted to “free to”; however, the emphasis differs. 

How do we choose? What is the meaning of “intelligent choices”? By this term I do not mean that only those choices that are clever or wise qualify as free choices; I use “intelligent” in a wider sense: choices that are made with conceptual awareness and understanding. Freewill is of course our ability to make such choices, not whether we actually do – a dog has the ability to swim even if it never actually encounters water. 

According to a widely held belief, free choice must be uncaused – meaning in effect “chosen for no reason” – nothing could be further from the truth. Surely, volitional choices are made for reasons, compelling reasons. Our deliberate choices are based on evidence and values, and on anticipating their consequences – nothing suggest non-logical, uncaused thinking. It is absurd to assume that freewill choices are not based on antecedent causes, that they are made for no reason; or that they are based on random factors or factors beyond conscious thought. How could such choices represent personal responsibility? It is the fact that we consciously weigh the pros and cons of each freewill choice that provides for accountability. Our choices are implicit or explicit conceptual calculations. 

Hallmark examples of freewill include extraordinary acts of will that counter non-volitional desires and emotions: hunger, sexual desire, fear, rage; choosing not to eat contaminated food when starving, willing yourself away from a potentially detrimental sexual encounter near the “point of no return”, or leveraging your values and reason to overcome fear or rage. Animals can do these things only in response to another, stronger emotion; we have the capacity to do it my means of conceptual thought, considering the consequences, and comparing it to our values – by exercising our freewill. Lawful causation is not the opposite of freedom, but the very cause of it; lawful, rational deliberation is a prerequisite for our additional ability and freedom. Furthermore, because our freewill choices are based on our values, and the reasoning employed is our reasoning, it is valid to say that our choices are self-caused. 

Naturally many of our choices have indirect, and often unpredictable, consequences, but our intelligence allows us to monitor and modify our decisions as situations unfold and as we learn more. For example, a choice to think about morality may affect us in far reaching and unforeseen ways; it may fundamentally change our perception of right and wrong, and how we live life. Here, the initial decision to contemplate ethics – which in turn was based on its own antecedent factors and circumstances – can lead to radically different choices: to select a career as a missionary in Africa, or a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills; to “gracefully” grow old and die and “make room for generations to follow”, or to vigorously pursue a pro-active, fulfilled existence and maximum life-span. 

There are millions of unknown and uncontrollable factors in our decisions. Random events, other people’s choices, and our own cognitive errors and limitations all impinge on optimal goal selection and attainment. It is our freewill – our intelligence – that provides the freedom, the ability, to counter and correct these influences. 

From this it follows that freewill is a feature of high-level conceptual intelligence, and not something separate, not some prerequisite to intelligence. Any entity, any animal or machine that possesses the ability to think abstractly, and that has self-awareness and awareness of its own ability to think and decide, will have freewill. 

Introspective awareness of our ability to choose – of the control we have over our destiny – is a byproduct of conceptual intelligence. Our minds are self-aware. The mind’s understanding that it is making all of the calculations and decisions, is what gives us the unshakable knowledge that we are – the mind is – free to choose. This belief is not an illusion, it represents our real power and control. However, what we cannot know purely by introspection, are details of the various subconscious factors that shape our decisions. Nor can our subjective experience of freewill directly identify its underlying causal mechanism any more than our experience of touch can reliably locate how sensations are generated – witness the phenomenon of amputees’ phantom limbs. In fact, logically there is no possibility of ever having immediate detailed awareness of the specific processes involved – these processes are invariably more complex than their resultant capacity can directly apprehend. In addition, at the time of choosing we must by the very nature of the task focus on the goal at hand, and not on awareness of the reasoning process itself. 

While introspection cannot by itself shed any light on whether freewill is determined or not, nor sense the neurons that give rise to it, conceptual investigation has no such limitations. There is every reason to believe that the phenomenon of freewill – and of consciousness for that matter – can and should be explainable in terms of naturalistic mind/brain processes; questions that are the purview of cognitive science. While such analysis will ultimately explicate all aspects of mental experience, it can, of course, never replace the experience itself. Unfortunately, a common philosophical position seriously hampers progress in this field: the belief that our first-person experience cannot in principle be reconciled with psychological or scientific models of cognition. This outdated view simply perpetuates the ancient mind-body dichotomy. 

Something else that is not quite an illusion, but a pervasive misunderstanding, is our feeling that “we could have chosen otherwise”. In a limited, but important sense this can be meaningful; we could indeed have chosen otherwise: We considered several different alternatives, and depending on circumstances and goals, the conclusions we came to could certainly have been other than they were. While choosing, we were aware of some of the alternatives that we considered and could have chosen, had we not rejected them. In this context it does not matter if the reasons for our rejection were rational or emotional, conscious or subconscious. Ultimately, our subjective experience of free choice is the certainty we, our minds, are doing the choosing – that we select from a great number of possible alternatives. Our certainty does not imply that those choices are free from either goal-defined considerations, or from neuronal processes.

Posted August 28, 2012 by dranilj1 in COGNITION, The Nature of Freewill

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