Sunday, June 28, 2015


Indeed there is an element of continuity with the past in every single aspect of modern life even if we don't noticed. In many cases, this can be tracked clearly way back, in many others, the actual connection is usually forgotten by most of us, generating the idea that something is supposedly new or random. Let's talk about something supposely random... anyone knows what is the standard train gauge? It happens to be exactly four feet and eight inches! It is also a perfectly reasonable width in its context, back from the time of the train development: in the begining carriages began to be made by.... horse carriage builders! The natural width to then use was the width of the standard horse carriage... rounded within the imperial units (which they have a lot of continuity stories on their own, beyond the scope of this argument anyway). How about language? I am not going to go in much detail here as we all (I hope) know about this etymology bussines, which helps to have good spelling and so on; for example, it turns that romans soldiers were paid with bags of salt hence the word "salary"... lots of this stuff can certainly fill an enjoyable trivia evening! A subtle language I am going to explore in a bit more detail here is the one of music, in particular, the way occidental music works. The main questions here: why a piece of music sounds "good" and another not quite good or bad? What is the foundation for modern music and how it is assessed as "good" or "bad"? It turns that this continuity bussiness has lots to do with it and reasons can be track easily at least to the Gregorian chant. This ancient form of music was originally designed to be sang by a human voice based on a written text. Melodies were in fact an extension on the inflections in the text and phrasing, pitches well defined by a singing voice. As a matter of fact, many centuries later, these simple constrains evolved into rules of good melody creation, and still we divide any melody (even those that are not to be sang but played by an instrument) in phrases and motives. In a nutshell, effective melodies are of course those easier to sing! So it turns that continuity somehow develops what is good or bad; godness what is been laid out by tradition, badness what wonders out too far from it. Having said that, little by little, things change; after all we don't compose Gregorian chants anymore! This is usually done in little unnoticeable steps since bigger steps wouldn't be allowed easily as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring proved at the beginning of 20th century. And the most important idea of this post, backed up by modern musicians: nothing really sounds bad! It is all a matter of getting used to new sounds, providing that there is an structure of a kind under (I give credit to the intention of making music! Long life to the structuralism!). In summary, I am pointing out something broader than music or languages here, as the concept of good or bad are linked with continuity. in that context, moral not just has the breadth of the struggle between subject and society (as claimed in a previous post), it has also the problem of context or continuity related to how a moral idea has evolved in a particular society.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

According to Adam Smith the human being is selfish and only selfish reasons are his main motivation. Indeed, we cannot perceive reality from outside of ourselves and everything is done or assessed from that subjective perspective. Psychologically, the first human crisis is when he/she realizes that he/she is not the centre of the universe and parents won't do everything wanted! So selfishness is natural and central to explain primordial human behaviour, any other behaviour being learnt later by interaction with other human beings and reality. Under this perspective, selfishness (i.e. to put our conscience first, the remaining of reality including other beings, second) is not immoral and it is a natural consequence of our perception: everything is thought from our perspective. Now the obvious question here is in what instant selfishness becomes immoral and why. We need to broaden the original definition given by Smith. The human being is a dual entity, subjective and selfish from his/her point of view, but at the same time member of a group that exist outside of himself/herself. Humanity is the permanent struggle between being ourselves and make the effort of putting that into a social context. From that struggle morality is created and from the idea of "outside" combined with morality the idea of a higher entity follows. Because of this struggle, moral rules need to be stated and written down; the contract/compromise that we will sacrifice our subject when is time to put it in the social context, which is outside of ourselves. Because this structure cannot be proved from the subject, the idea of higher rules that are valid outside have to be introduced. I think I have answered from where comes the moral, God and the struggle, however I cannot address the moral value of being selfish because such assessment is done in the structure outside the human being and from that perspective selfishness is always immoral. Along the same lines, assessing the moral value of selfishness from the subjective perspective produce the opposite result. Because a moral system should apply in the dual perspective, it follows that it cannot assess concepts that are not part of the duality like itself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scotland's referendum

Although I usually don't blog about political issues I am going to make an exception today regarding the Scottish referendum (enough time has passed anyway). The main issue that bothered at the time was the actual motivation everybody had to actually vote yes or no! I'm not European so I couldn't vote, but still I am interested in human relations transcending a particular political aspect. In fact is back to my theme on selfishness from older posts if you really think about... All the arguments in favour or against independence were crafted around the lines of whether it was going to be better or worse for a given individual in all the possible scenarios, along the lines "you will be doomed if you do it" or not (I personally liked "you still will be able to watch Dr. Who" in the TV). Well, I believe that decisions like these shouldn't be based on arguments for the good of the individual because from my personal view the concept of a nation ought to supersede it. Or, as John Stuart Mill put it, the concept of common good is more important than personal good. Its boils down to the question "is a nation only the sum of the individuals or it is something else"? In my opinion, it is indeed something else! A nation is the synergy of current individuals plus the past individuals and the individuals to come. It also includes heritage and tradition, which in turn affect the individuals. So, it seems to be a higher value that should be considered at the time of make decisions; it is not whether a given alternative will be economically better or worse for you but along the lines of what is right or wrong in the broader context of the future of a nation. And I believe, both campaigns somehow failed presenting that mostly focussing in the pros and cons of the decision for somebody like you rather than the nation and its heritage. Politicians, should give more credibility to the public, not everybody is selfish!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Social Media

A few days ago it was my birthday. Normally I don't make a big fuss about it and generally eating out is enough treat at my, almost, fifty years hanging around. I do social media. The fact that you are reading this post proves that! I have a Facebook account, an internet web page etc. but at the same time I am a bit reserved with my personal data, particularly, my date of birth, which exposed a very interesting issue that happens with social media, which I will try to describe in this post. Facebook is an interesting beast with a very fast dynamics. For example, it is almost impossible to find the same post twice (and a humble suggestion for the developers would be to have a "search" option for posts' keywords) and particularly, birthday notifications happen at the speed of bites. This because, as many of you surely already know, one of the features of Facebook is to automatically remind you the birthday of a friend and thus, almost every day these are posted in the news feed. Consequently, the birthday boy or girl gets lots of posts of his/her friends wishing happy birthday, which, kind of loose meaning if the list is vast and thus, it becomes a formality. In any case, this is not new and social media is not particularly responsible of such formality, which I am not going to criticize here. I don't list my birthday in Facebook and as expected I didn't get posts of people wishing me a happy one. However the unexpected point is that I didn't get meaningful greetings either as I used to by any other means, and that is the aspect I am interested on commenting today. You see, lots of the greetings are meaningless whether they come from the social media or not, and now they simply get reinforced and increased by this modern technology. Hence, what social media really does is decreasing the importance of meaningful greetings by boosting the reminders of every potential greeting. In the old time, only the relevant birthdays were remembered and perhaps annotated in a diary in a proactive way, since the date was relevant. Those few greetings had meaning as the consequence of a proactive intention: I love X --> I care about X. Today, we get all the dates in a passive way; I don't need to do anything but log in to know who's birthday is today and worse, I don't care to remember the birthday of X because I am assuming the system will tell me so precisely on the right day. So, I am not surprised not getting greetings from every single friend I have in the social media, but it is really disturbing that people who used to remember proactively those dates don't do it anymore and rely on the reminders, first of all, forgetting the relevance of a date watered down among many other dates and second, rendering the relevance into irrelevance when the date is not remembered proactively. Today, we chose to transfer our brain and thinking from our heads into our pocket, inside the case of a smart phone and choose to forget what the phone can remember on our behalf. The question is what is left behind for us to remember?