Monthly Archives: December 2017

Materialism and the Early Materialists

Materialism

Materialism is the idea that nothing exists independently of the material or physical world.

Many ancient thinkers appeal to supernatural or extranatural entities in order to account for certain features of the natural world. Materialists, however, deny the existence of any non-natural events, entities, or forces.

Early materialists include the Greek atomists, Democritus (c. 460-c. 370 BCE) and Leucippus (fl. early fifth century BCE), who argued that the world consists of nothing but atoms in empty space (even the soul was thought to be composed of atoms), and Epicurus (341-270 BCE), who postulated that the atoms move only in an up-down direction.

The significance of materialism is typically found in discussions of philosophical questions, such as how to account for the properties of objects and how to explain consciousness. For example, while Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE) sought to explain why, say, two blue objects look exactly the same by arguing that they participate in pre-existing (ante rem) universals, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) argued that all universals are present in existing objects (in re), and was thus a materialist about properties. However, both men seem to appeal to an immaterial divine being to explain the origin of physical reality, and to an immaterial soul to explain consciousness. Thus, it was deemed possible to be a materialist about some things and not others.

The comprehensive materialism of the sort defended by the atomists gained popularity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as advancements in science reduced the apparent need for extra-natural explanations, and pluralism in mathematics challenged the idea of a unique, Platonic reality of mathematical forms. More recently, advancements in our understanding of the brain have undermined older appeals to immaterial substances or properties to explain consciousness, but they have also served to highlight the limitations of materialism.

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Posted in Investing and Finance Philosophy and Wisdom

Zen Koan #13: Parable of A Buddha – Buddhist Teaching on True Love and Commitment

Zen Koan #13: Parable of A Buddha - Buddhist Teaching on True Love and Commitment Zen is simply to be consummately alive. Of course, Zen is withal a form of Zen Buddhism, but this is authentically just another way of saying identically tantamount. Zen Buddhism is the way of religious liberation, which finds its inceptions in the experience of enlightenment. It traces its history back to Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived in India twenty-five centuries ago and realized the truth of his life after a long and arduous quest. The method is another way of grasping onto thoughts, but it is a way that allows us to eventually overcome grasping.

The precedent two lines referred to Zen as being illimitable by time. Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern. A kind of cognizance, and for many the world behind Zen arts as well, seemed a divergent perspective from the Western and is one that has appealed to Westerners. That magnetization led to the sprouting of Zen centers in most major countries outside Asia and to a “Zen” cultural influence that has gone far beyond its formal practice, affecting art, architecture, music, poetry, novels, and even brand denominations.

This is another way of describing the totality of space. The previous thought is continually at war with the following thought.

Zen Koan: “A Buddha” Parable

In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha’s precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o’clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept.

One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.

“Hello, brother,” Tanzan greeted him. “Won’t you have a drink?”

“I never drink!” exclaimed Unsho solemnly.

“One who does not drink is not even human,” said Tanzan.

“Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!” exclaimed Unsho in anger. “Then if I am not human, what am I?”

“A Buddha,” answered Tanzan.

Buddhist Insight on True Love and Long-Term Commitment

The Buddha taught the pathway to happiness through body, through speech, through the heart, through the mind—altogether. These remain the guide through life to what is beyond life through long-term commitment, of millions of the human race. Think of the underprivileged person you have ever met, and then before acting asks if or how this act will be of benefit to that person. It is as is said here and elsewhere. Returning good for good is exceptional. That is true love. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Teachings On Love,

True love includes the sense of responsibility, accepting the other person as he is, with all his strengths and weaknesses. If we like only the best things in the person, that is not love. We have to accept his weakness and bring our patience, understanding, and energy to help him transform. The expression “long-term commitment” helps us to understand the word love. In the context of true love, commitment can only be long-term. “I want to love you. I want to help you. I want to care for you. I want you to be happy. I want to work for happiness. But just for a few days.” Does this make sense? We are afraid to make a commitment. We want freedom. But we have to make a long-term commitment to love our son deeply and help him through the journey of life as long as we are alive. We can’t just say, “I don’t love you anymore.” When we have a good friend, we also make a long-term commitment. We need her. How much more so with someone who wants to share our life, our soul, our body. The phrase “long-term commitment” cannot express the depth of love, but we have to say something so that people understand.

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Posted in Faith and Religion

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

A detail from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco Bad Government and the Effects of Bad Government on the City Life (1337-39), located in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.

Plato initiated the view that possession of absolute power inevitably has a corrupting effect.

Probably the most ancient expression of the idea that power has a corruptive effect appears in the parable of the Ring of Gyges in The Republic (c. 360 BCE) by Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE). In the parable, the otherwise virtuous Gyges indulges in corrupt behavior after finding a magic ring that renders him invisible.

However, the maxim “absolute power corrupts absolutely” originates much later, being a paraphrase of a letter written by Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834–1902), a British Catholic historian better known as Lord Acton, to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Acton scolds Creighton in the letter for his suggestion, in previous correspondence, that the pope, king, or any other person holding comparably high station ought to be judged according to standards different to those applied to common men. Acton argues that, quite to the contrary, “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton The British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (1887):

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which … the end learns to justify the means.

Acton, however, followed at least two distinguished persons in associating power with corruption: in a speech that was delivered in the British House of Commons in 1770, Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708–78), had claimed that, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, tyranny beginsl” Acton’s observation was also anticipated by French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790– 1869), who, in his essay France and England: a Vision of the Future (1848), had claimed “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free … the master himself did not gain less in every point of view .. for absolute power corrupts the best natures.” Acton, too, believed that few could resist power’s corrupting effect, asserting, “Great men are almost always bad men.”

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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Welcome to An Era of CEO Activism

Welcome to An Era of CEO Activism

Gone are the days when managers would shrink back from revealing their beliefs and viewpoints on matters that had little to do with their company’s routine endeavors.

Leaders should think carefully before jumping on the closest soapbox. Starbucks’s Founder and CEO Howard Schultz learned that the hard way in 2015 when he started the Race Together campaign in the aftereffects of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Schultz inspired Starbucks baristas to converse about race relations with customers whilst serving them their morning coffee. That didn’t come down with easy. In due course, Starbucks dialed back the initiative.

  • Topic: Race relations. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz got into hot water after he launched Starbucks’ Race Together campaign which encouraged baristas to talk about race with customers.
  • Topic: Vaccination. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg incurred the wrath of anti-vaccine commenters when he posted a picture of his Infant daughter visiting the doctor for routine vaccinations.
  • Topic: Common Core Education. ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson aroused the ire of education advocates when he referred to American students as “products” that companies simply don’t want to buy.
  • Topic: Global Warming. Unilever’s Paul Polman has publicly maintained that businesses and governments should commit to environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Topic: LGBT Rights. CEOs of Salesforce, Apple, Intel, Dow, Bank of America, Facebook, Yahoo! and others have come out against a wave of anti-LGBT legislation in several states.
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Posted in Global Business Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership

Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #12: Judas and Matthias

Kiss of Judas (1304---06), fresco by Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

Holy Scripture tells us that Jesus knew that both Peter and Judas Iscariot would betray him. Yet Peter repented and, receiving forgiveness went on to lead the apostles in their ministry as head of the early Christian church. However, Judas, though he too later regretted his crime against his master, could not bring himself to seek mercy from the one he had betrayed. Instead, consumed by guilt and grief, he took his own life, thus condemning himself.

The gospels give no clue for his treachery, suggesting only that the betrayer had come to be possessed by evil. The tragic events unfolded in this way: At the time of the Passover feast, the crowds in the city streets of Jerusalem hailed Jesus as a prophet, causing the corrupt chief priests in the Temple to fear for their own position of power. They wanted to be rid of Jesus, but they needed a means that would not enrage the public. Judas Iscariot, for the small price of thirty pieces of silver, showed them the way.

On a clear moonlit night, Judas led armed troops to the private Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus could be captured quietly. Judas arranged to identify Jesus with a signal, thus when he came upon his master, the traitor kissed him, saying, “Rabbi!” Immediately, the troops seized and arrested Jesus. Later Judas tried to give back the “blood money,” but the priests refused, turning their backs on him. According to tradition, Judas then rang the silver pieces down and Red. In the end, the betrayer hanged himself.

Saint Matthias, Workshop of Simone Martini

After Judas’ death, the holy apostles understood that the fellowship had to be made up to twelve again by appointing someone who had accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry. (Acts of the Apostles I: 15-26)

Two disciples out of the seventy who followed Jesus fit the requirement: Matthias and Barabbas/Justus. To decide between these good men, sacred lots were drawn for the first time by the apostles, and Matthias was chosen. Some believe that beyond the drawing of lots, a ray of light shone down from the heavens to rest upon Matthias’ head, thereby verifying that he was indeed the right choice. Judea was assigned to Matthias, and he preached there and in Armenia, performing many miracles, and went to his eternal rest in peace.

  • The symbol for Matthias is the ax.
  • Holy days: In the West, Matthias’ life is celebrated on May 14; in some Anglican churches, February 24; and in the Orthodox Church, August 9.
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Posted in Faith and Religion