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Chris Thank you for publishing this interview. I like it very much. It shows me once again how much common ground there is between Islamic and Catholic thinking. You might not know that, but there have been declarations coming out of the Vatican in recent years regarding the theory of Evolution, that it is not opposed to the faith. Indeed there are many scientists, including biologist and astro-physicists, within the Church and even within religious orders. Like Dr. Dajani I also try constantly to look at physical science through the lense of my faith, and I try to re-interpret scripture through whatever knowledge I have about science and scientific theories. And I know that many of my fellow Catholics do the same. I also believe that for Christians it is extremely important to reach out to Muslims in a manner of solidarity and reconciliation. While there are differences, which should not be erased, there are also enough similarities to give us a vast common ground to stand on together. Actually I believe we Christians have more in common with Muslims than with any other religious group or with secular people. On the other hand finding common ground is an exercise of good will. Those who want to find it, will do so no matter how vast the differences, and those don´t want to, won´t no matter how close their opinions to one another actually are. As for my belief in evolution theory: I think Darwin should be replaced by Kropotkin. The latter wrote in 1902 a paper contradicting Darwin somehow. He called his evolution theory "Mutual Aid". According to Kropotkin the driving factor in evolution is not competition but cooperation. Kropotkin was not a Christian. He came to this idea by his observation of nature and the many examples of inter-species symbiosis he found. And today, the more one learns about micro-biology, the more one sees symbiotic relationships at work. The consequence of this kind of evolution then is not "the survival of the fittest" or survival of the strongest that can push others out of existence, but the survival of greatest diversity. It is diversity which makes life on earth so robust even under adverse conditions. Diversity allows for constant adaptations of flora and fauna to changes in climate and geological conditions as well as to ice-ages, inter-glacials and warm-ages. As a religious person I believe that God is at work in all life. And as a Catholic I believe that the "Giver of Life" is the Holy Spirit. At the same time the Holy Spirit is the "Love of God". And the outward sign of love is help, aid and cooperation. In this way the Love of God has created life through the principle of cooperation - or as the non-religious Russian biologist puts it: Life develops and sustains itself through "Mutual Aid".
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Chris You are right about the human need for stories, even mythologies. Myths can be tools, work as metaphors to explain parts of reality we would not comprehend otherwise. The creation stories in the Bible, for instance can be read literally or as metaphors. If you try to understand them in a metaphorical way and look closely you can see quite a few parallels with the way the origin of the earth and the beginning of mankind is explained by scientists nowadays. Truth and factual reality often can be found at the deepest level of what seems to be just a myth. Some people see all religion as collections of myths. However religions are more than just a bunch of maetaphorical stories, atheists call myths. A religion is a way of life, contains psychological and sociological tools for human survival and well-being. It creates culture and community. Religion translates the deep knowledge of the "undermind" (some call it the "sub-conscious"), the species survival tools, which imprinted in our human DNA, to the limited small portion of our brain, which is the conscious mind. What you mean by the "mythical void" is probably the turning away from religion by the atheist intellectual elite. Getting out of the "void" and returning to religion does not mean you have to turn away from reality and factual truth. While certain complicated facts can be made better understandable through stories, fictional images, fairy tales, myths and metaphors, I do not believe that physical reality is altogether exchangeable for myths. There are tangible facts. There is truth and there is untruth, lies or errors. A narrative can be fictional, and while everyone accepts that it is fictional, it can still convey a hidden truth about the world, just like a religious metaphor does not need physical evidence to contain spiritual truth. However,if a narrative which is a deliberate deception,if it is known to be fictional by their authors but still is being portrayed as reality nevertheless,then it is always harmful, no matter who authorizes this narrative. I do not believe that the truth needs to be authorized. Here is what Ghandi thought about it: An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2011 on The Mythic Void at Only a Game
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Ok, Chris, I´ll try
Toggle Commented May 16, 2011 on Spring Ceasing at Only a Game
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Happy Holiday Chris
Toggle Commented May 5, 2011 on Spring Ceasing at Only a Game
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Chris Sorry, I sounded like someone with a chip on her shoulder. I don´t think intellectual work or creative imagination are useless. (I always was fascinated by my children´s imagination and creativity. Nowadays after they´ve grown up, my older son still draws manga cartoons as a hobby, but he still dreams of publishing some of them one day; my daughter studies literature and wants to become a childrens´books author (who can live from writing); my other son is a young programmer, last year he wrote an interface program for medical device, but this year he writes the program for a game to be played on i-phones) Being creative with one´s mind and sharing this with other people is an important part of being human. And so is creating something with your hands, like the job of your father, building hospitals where they are dearly needed, a very good and very human thing. What maddens me sometimes, however, is intellectual arrogance which values individual human life only according to the number of a person´s IQ points or still worse, not at all. And here comes another of my "anecdotes": When I first started to read and communicate on the internet, I met people (online) who were quoting philosophers and their teachings. Although I might have heard some name or other, I still had no idea what these online folks were talking about. So I decided I needed a bit of a short-cut education. Google came up with a German site called:Philo-lex On that site most of the world´s philosophies and philosophers were afforded about half a printed page or so each, which was quite enough for me. I was truly grateful for such a nice and compact resource. And then I got curious about the man who had compiled all this information. I clicked on a link to his personal page. What I found there turned me off philosophy for the next few years. The philo-lex compiler by the name Peter Meyer declared, that after his intensive philosophical studies he had come to the conclusion that human kind was too stupid to solve today´s pressing problems, and therefor what would be needed, would be a process of self-evolution via genetic engineering, which would result in a new and smarter humanoid species. This new humanoid race would then take over the planet. But no worry, they´d really be nice and take good care of us. They would keep us "like animals in a zoo" (O-Tone Peter Meyer). My conclusion at the time (about 2003) was, that reading too much philosophy must be dangerous to your mental health. It can drive you bananas. You might loose all connection with reality. It might turn you into the ultimate misanthrope, a nihilist, a human self-hater. I later found out that Mr Meyer, who once used to be a Christian, wasn´t alone in his strange nihilistic philosophy. There are groups of intellectuals who call themselves "futurologist" who dream about the very same thing. And there are scientists who actually work on the task of creating a new humanoid species by trying to add one extra pair of chromosomes to the human genome. At the moment they only have a few mice-oids running around with extra chromosome pairs. But in five or ten years, bio-ethicist Richard Hayes says ( http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=3078 ), those scientists hope to be ready to do the same to human(anoid) babies. Intellectual arrogance can lead to what I see as a form of truly dangerous nihilism and megalomania. As for 9/11: You have every right in the world, to avoid what you call "conspiracy theories", since accepting them is extremely painful, I know that. You can call accepting the facts about 9/11 "a paranoid leap of faith", if you like, in order to distance yourself from those people who do. But "paranoid" is just a word or according to your theory a fictional device. The word can be used to denigrate those who one disagrees with. You can also call us "tin-foil-hatters", if you like. I´ve seen the name-calling method on the side of the "truthers" as well. They call the "official conspiracy theory believers" sheep or sheeplets. I don´t think the name-calling game is very helpful. (Oh, and b.t.w. the official story is indeed a conspiracy theory. Just that in this case the conspirators are the now 9times dead binLaden from the cave and his gang of not all dead 19 robbers - some are indeed alive and well) Physical reality is based on more than fictional words. The laws of physics will always trump the question "how could they get away with it?" or "is such a coordination of power in any way possible?". Since the laws of physics tell us that it did happen,that explosives must have been used and any other explanation is physically impossible, then the organizational part becomes secondary. And once the physical questions have been clarified (and this wasn´t too difficult at all),then the other questions can be asked. And there it becomes far more difficult to find satisfying answers, since the matter is extremely complex. The answers to those questions have to be sought - in the philosophies of the perpetrators, - in the psychology of the onlookers of the event, - in sociological factors - in how information is compartmentalized in authoritarian structures like the military or corporations - in how intelligence agencies operate and their connection to mass-media outlets - in the way how information is "framed" when presented to the general public - and in the history of our current political system (I like to call it a "propagandocracy", a system which has slowly developed over the last 200 years or so.)
Toggle Commented May 4, 2011 on Realism vs. Idealism at Only a Game
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Chris As you suggested, I´m reading this series to understand Walton´s prop theory. The questions that came up in my mind are: - of what practical use are these theories? - isn´t Walton using the word "un-authorized" in a way that contradicts it´s ordinary meaning? There are theories which allow you to understand the world better and so to interact better with the people around you. But for you as a game developer can categorizing fictional "generation" between "Reality Principle" and "Mutual Believe Principle" actually help you to develope better games? or categorizing different kind of "work-worlds" - it sounds complicated, but if you don´t use that word as a category, it would be far more easy and understandable to say, that a reader or a viewer of a fiction series expects that a sequel or a latter season will not contradict the original movie (or book) or the former seasons of the show. If there are contradictions readership or audience will be frustrated. And most sequel writers and even (teen-age) fan-fiction writers know that, and they´ll try to stay within the paradigm created in the earlier part. And if they stray from it, they try to give a plausible explanation within the fictional world. And about the "authorized" and "un-authorized" use of art or fiction: Children will use their toys any way they want. And if the brother needs a space alien for a certain game, he´ll use his sister´s baby-doll, unless the owner of the doll objects and runs to Mom to complain. It´s then the little girl, the owner who has authority over the doll´s use and Mom is the highest authority, the supreme court. But the doll-maker, nowadays usually some factory in China, has no longer any authority over the doll at all. If the little girl is included her brother´s game, she might be quite happy to allow her doll to be cast as the space alien monster. Or say a work of art: Most people will try to figure out what the artist meant, except maybe the kid who is dragged into the museum against his will. He might try to see something really nasty in the picture just to annoy whoever dragged him there. His teacher or relative who forced him to go along into the museum might have authority over the kid, but the artist definitely does not. The only unauthorized use of the painting would be, if someone damages or destroys it without owning it first. But after he sold his work the artist has no authority over what the owners or viewers do with his painting. Hanging it up on the bathroom wall or flashing it down.... And while the producers of a movie or a TV show surely have a copyright, they still do not have authority over the audience of how they talk about it or what "silly questions" they might ask. "unauthorized use" seems surely to be the wrong word for what the Mr Walton meant.
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The only thing I did understand was this: The hermeneutic fictionalist is someone who thinks we tie ourselves in unnecessary knots by insisting that ordinary ways of talking are always to be taken literally. So, to use an old example of Wittgenstein’s, if someone says they “married money,” we do ourselves no favours by hunting around for the money they married. Likewise there’s no point in trying to make room in your world-view for the “hurdles they put in my path.” Wittgenstein thought a lot of philosophical problems were based in a kind of semantic over-scrupulosity, and he encouraged us to just get over it. Everything else was way over my head. I did learn a few new words, however. The more I read things like this, the better my English gets. And who knows, one day I might need to talk to someone like Mr Yablo, and then those words might come in handy. :)
Toggle Commented May 4, 2011 on Yablo on Fictionalism at Only a Game
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part 2 of my comment: What has brought me to redefine my reality (which exists inside myself), my understanding of the world around me (which exists outside myself), was the realization of 9/11 being an inside job. About 10 minutes after I turned on the TV that fatal day, I watched the second tower fall "live", after having watched the first tower fall several times in a rerun. For the rest of the day I was in a kind of daze, sitting without talking and without being able to move, staring at the TV screen(and scaring my poor kids terribly). Only one thought was in my mind at the time: "This is the beginning of WW III, the end of the world." Years later I realized, that this one-thought-daze of mine was the effect of a stage-set show, combining the constant rerun of the falling towers, with the headlines: "America under attack" About two years later I had finally come to the conclusion that the official story was absolutely false, since it contradicted the very laws of nature (nothing can go down in free fall speed, if it meets any form of resistance - this is a reality, which exists beyond the mind). I didn´t get to this point in one leap. It took me several smaller, intermediary steps to come to the acceptance of this reality. And the realization of it was extremely painful, more painful even than the initial shock of 9/11. My mind resisted for quite a while, because deep down I felt the consequences already before I accepted the facts. This is the consequent conclusion, which must follow automatically from the above realization: We do not live in a true democracy. A free media is the necessary watchdog of any democracy - without it there is none. In a democracy a free media would be free to tell the population the truth. They would also be free to lie, of course. But when everybody is free to tell the truth, many will do so. On the topic of 9/11 all mainline media outlets (print, radio and TV-media) supported the obviously false account of the American government, and that world-wide (the "corporate" media, the small private media outlets, the public media connected to governments of their countries, like the British BBC,the German ARD and ZDF, or the Icelandic RUV) Only independent media, mainly on the internet, did the research exposing the lies. The mainline media in an united front, first ignored, then ridiculed the researchers as crazies and psychologically deficient or attacked them as dangerous radicals. I had always trusted the media to explain the world for me in an objective and truthful manner. I had also trusted science and academia to be objective investigators of physical facts. I felt painfully betrayed by all of them. It also meant, whatever I have been told in the past is now open to questioning, including everything told to me about history, past and present events. And question I did, using mainly what I know about the laws of physics and physical logic. What I found is: that practically all major news outlets and most of academia are instruments of political manipulation using deliberate lies, distractions and misrepresentation of reality for the purpose of controlling public opinion for the benefit of a non-benign global power elite. This elite is fascistic minded, believes in a centralization of power in their hands and a totalitarian rule via military and police measures, economic oppression and blackmail, and monopolization and manipulation of information. But even worse, this elite is fanatically Malthusian, intend on reducing human population by all means (including wars, induced famine, diseases, artificially created resource shortages and forced birth control and abortions.) And that brings me back to the Church. I know for certain, that Catholic Church isn´t "in it" (not in bed with these fascistoid elites) since she is the only large organization in the world, that´s consequently non-Malthusian. In other words, I can be absolutely sure, that the Church doesn´t want me or my children (or anybody else´s children in whatever country they happen to live) to be erased from the face of this earth. (Oh, and I´m perfectly ready to discuss the evidence for the falsity of the Malthusian paradigm with anyone who might be interested) Thanks for reading
Toggle Commented May 2, 2011 on Realism vs. Idealism at Only a Game
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You can ask whatever questions you like. Chris is an open-minded person and this is his blog. I´m far less open-minded, I guess (since my ethics are derived from organized religion), but I think the rule of the game here on this site is to open one´s mind to the other person´s view-point, where-ever the other person might come from. These are my answers to your questions: 1) There were societies who tried that approach, namely the Soviet Union and China, or a more drastic therapy resulting in the death of the patient (religion being considered "opium of the people", and the state´s approach a kind of "war against drugs". And just like the American "war against drugs", it didn´t work.) Abrahamic religions might seem delusional in your mind, but it is your mindset that makes it so. Since religion can´t be proved or disproved in the physical world, there is no objective way to declare it delusional. As for the homosexual identity, I can´t prove that my theory of an psychological origin during puberty is right, but the genetic origin is a theory as well. The therapy I was talking about is not grabbing gay men from the street and using electro-shocks on them. It is a therapy for teenage boys who seek counsel together with their parents. Most are Christians or they wouldn´t go to such a counseling session. And as I said, the advice given is to hug more among male relatives, spend more time together, participate in contact sports in the context of Church or family outings (sports for fun not for competition), this will (according to experience) satisfy the desire for social acceptance among male peers, this social desire will no longer be connected to sexual thoughts. The comparison would be: a teenager from an atheist family being tempted by a Christian belief system, and he and his parents seeking psychological counsel to remove this temptation from his mind. And the process would be: more socially satisfying contact with atheist relatives and atheist social groups. It would also mean not demonizing the teenager´s Christian feelings but calling them natural but temporary. 2)I only have secondary sources, like the two below, to be sure. I´m not a researcher in these issues, just an ordinary person, trying to understand certain issues in the context of my experiences and my faith. The organizations, who did the analysis are surely biased. However, the sources they cite, from where they took their statistics, are quite obviously not biased, some of the researches being re-printed in magazines by and for homosexuals. http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS04C02 Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married (heterosexual) Couples Excerpts: - The Dutch study of partnered homosexuals, which was published in the journal AIDS, found that men with a steady partner had an average of eight sexual partners per year. - Bell and Weinberg, in their classic study of male and female homosexuality, found that 43 percent of white male homosexuals had sex with 500 or more partners, with 28 percent having one thousand or more sex partners. - In their study of the sexual profiles of 2,583 older homosexuals published in the Journal of Sex Research, Paul Van de Ven et al. found that "the modal range for number of sexual partners ever [of homosexuals] was 101-500." In addition, 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent had between 501 and 1,000 partners. A further 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent reported having had more than one thousand lifetime sexual partners. - A survey conducted by the homosexual magazine Genre found that 24 percent of the respondents said they had had more than one hundred sexual partners in their lifetime. The magazine noted that several respondents suggested including a category of those who had more than one thousand sexual partners. And here from a Catholic source: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html The Health Risks of Gay Sex Excerpts: "Monogamy" Monogamy for heterosexual couples means at a minimum sexual fidelity. The most extensive survey of sex in America found that "a vast majority [of heterosexual married couples] are faithful while the marriage is intact." The survey further found that 94 percent of married people and 75 percent of cohabiting people had only one partner in the prior year. In contrast, long-term sexual fidelity is rare among GLB couples, particularly among gay males. Even during the coupling period, many gay men do not expect monogamy. A lesbian critic of gay males notes that: "After a period of optimism about the longrange potential of gay men's one-on-one relationships, gay magazines are starting to acknowledge the more relaxed standards operating here, with recent articles celebrating the bigger bang of sex with strangers or proposing 'monogamy without fidelity'-the latest Orwellian formulation to excuse having your cake and eating it too." Gay men's sexual practices appear to be consistent with the concept of "monogamy without fidelity." A study of gay men attending circuit parties showed that 46 percent were coupled, that is, they claimed to have a "primary partner." Twenty-seven percent of the men with primary partners "had multiple sex partners (oral or anal) during their most recent circuit party weekend . . . ." For gay men, sex outside the primary relationship is ubiquitous even during the first year. Gay men reportedly have sex with someone other than their partner in 66 percent of relationships within the first year, rising to approximately 90 percent if the relationship endures over five years. And the average gay or lesbian relationship is short lived. In one study, only 15 percent of gay men and 17.3 percent of lesbians had relationships that lasted more than three years. Thus, the studies reflect very little long-term monogamy in GLB relationships. And here is the attitude of the Catholic Church (in the USA and Canada) towards homosexual individuals cited in the introduction of the article: "The Boards of both CERC Canada and CERC USA are aware that the topic of homosexuality is a controversial one that deeply affects the personal lives of many North Americans. Both Boards strongly reiterate the Catechism's teaching that people who self-identify as gays and lesbians must be treated with 'respect, compassion, and sensitivity' (CCC #2358). The Boards also support the Church's right to speak to aspects of this issue in accordance with her own self-understanding. Articles in this section have been chosen to cast light on how the teachings of the Church intersect with the various social, moral, and legal developments in secular society. CERC will not publish articles which, in the opinion of the editor, expose gays and lesbians to hatred or intolerance."
Toggle Commented May 2, 2011 on Was Gay Ever Sinful? at Only a Game
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Chris You are right, my point of "equal value" needs clarification. In case of the homosexual issue, it means, that although I disagree with my brother´s life-style choices, I do not see him as a person of lesser fundamental human value than myself. (He´s been living in a gay relationship for nearly 2o years now. I thought first this meant a monogamous relationship until he told me that he thinks monogamy and total fidelity is unfeasible and not good for heterosexual marriages either. Later I found out that my brother´s attitude to monogamy and fidelity is very typical for the whole gay community. To be fair there are many things my brother does a lot better than I do. For instance does he take a lot better care of our mother. And this counts for God quite a lot, I think) The fundamental value of a person as human being, his right to life and respect of dignity does not disappear if he or she makes a few wrong choices. God, who knows us and created us, will eventually judge us. But we should not say that one person has more value and right to live than another. I´ve seen, heard and felt the consequences of a belief system, that denies human value to outsiders with my own eyes, ears and skin. I was horrified and thought this kind of thinking and behavior is an anachronism, it can´t be true in this day and age, but it was. And I tell you later more about it.
Toggle Commented Apr 29, 2011 on Relative Ethics at Only a Game
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I agree Chris, that what people do in the privacy of their own bedroom is really none of my business. If it is a sin, then the sinner will feel, that he has done something wrong, and this is between him and God. I would not want to criminalize sexual acts unless somebody gets hurt as in a rape or a sexual child abuse. On the other hand campaigning for recognition of a homosexual relationship as a marriage, makes it a public concern. If in the gay community for about 90% of the members marriage means something different than for over 90% of the heterosexual community (that is monogamy and a promise and expectation of fidelity)then marriage is not the right word to use for a homosexual union. The meaning of a word is normally defined by how it is used by the majority of its users. Another point is, that some American gay activists have stated loudly and clearly that their real intention in seeking gay marriage recognition is to destroy the traditional institution of marriage. This sounds nearly like a declaration of war on the value system of the majority population (not just conservative Christians) This said, the issue of gay marriage isn´t a very important political issue for me (while the matte of abortion is very important for me indeed) I don´t think that gay radicals will ever succeed in destroying heterosexual marriage, no matter what they try. The institution is rather old and established. I just brought it up to explain that the Church´s position and my support of it can be justified (at least in my mind) on ethical grounds,not just on theological ones. (Homosexual acts aren´t mentioned in the Gospels, the Apostle Paul, however, clearly called them sinful. So the position of the Church isn´t just Old Testamentarian) As I said, I see a homosexual life-style as a health issue. Allowing a young person the option of not falling into this life-style gives him a better chance for a life without these life-style connected health issues. And that´s a good enough reason for me to provide this option by promoting an alternative explanation for the origin of a homosexual identity than the one, that it´s genetic. (Especially since I think, that the alternative explanation is more likely objectively true). As for Jesus: you and I seem to have a different image of Jesus. Jesus said we should not judge, but He also said that we should care about our neigbour´s wellbeing both physically and spiritually. Jesus forgave the adulteress, but He also told her to "go and sin no more". Jesus ate with sinners (prostitutes and tax-collectors) but when challenged on the issue he said that not the healthy need a doctor but the sick. And He saw himself as the ultimate physician for the sickness of sinners and His message, which included a call for repentance and reconciliation as a healing balm.
Toggle Commented Apr 29, 2011 on Was Gay Ever Sinful? at Only a Game
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Chris If I ascribe a position on your scale to myself: I´m definitely a realist, but not a materialist (positivist?) I believe that reality exists independent of the mind, although of course we do need the mind to understand reality. And for me truth is absolute not relative, both the spiritual and the physical truth. However, since the true nature of God is by definition beyond human understanding, spiritual truth can only be determined through the instrument of faith. And there the metaphor of the elephant in the dark room (everyone feels a different part and describes the animal as something different) might work pretty well. Although different religions seem to contradict each other in human understanding, for God, who is beyond physical space and time, the different religious metaphors might not be contradictions at all, but describing different aspects of a divine reality, which is as a whole far beyond human comprehension. When it comes down to physical truth however, this can be determined by human reasoning, physical facts and the laws of physics. The more physical data we have the closer we can come to describing reality correctly and knowing the truth about some event, past or present. And I believe, that getting to know reality and accepting it as it really is, is the first step of true freedom. You are now free to become your own actor within reality, even change some things. If you are lost in a manipulated false perception of reality however, you will become a helpless pawn in other people´s game. You are an intellectual Chris, a writer, a philosopher and a fantasy game designer. I´m just a lowly working-class girl. My reality is physical and touchable and sometimes scary, real scary, not horror movie scary. Life is no game in my mind, and there is no reset bottom in my reality.
Toggle Commented Apr 29, 2011 on Realism vs. Idealism at Only a Game
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Chris thank you for your answer I like the idea of an ethical "common ground". This would be the place from which cooperation between different cultures and traditions are possible. But I believe the minimum requirement for reaching this common ground is that I accept that the other person, no matter to what tradition he or she belongs to, is of the same fundamental value as I myself. Reaching an understanding with someone who believes that your life has no or barely any value is pretty hard, I think. On the other hand, the Christian attitude of loving one´s enemy and blessing those who curse you, might change the attitude of the enemy eventually. For most Christians (including me), however, to follow this commandment is very hard. As for biologically based ethics: My own experiences with small children and stories I heard from others suggest that there is a biological altruism that predates reason and social teaching: For instance: three tiny children look at the sparks of a cold fire band that hangs on Christmas tree. The older children, a boy and a girl two and three years old are terrified by it and they see that the sparks fall on their one year old brother who sits close to the tree. Realizing that the grown-ups in the room aren´t doing anything, the boy and the girl come closer to the tree in spite of their fear, they grab their little brother and drag him away from the perceived danger. Or this story where the danger isn´t just perceived but quite real: Two little boys, two and three year old brothers, are rescued by Social Services. The boys are severely undernourished and the younger one has a large burn-wound on his arm. The boys are separated and put in different foster homes. (One foster family are friends of mine). But whenever the boys are allowed to see each other, the same things happens every time. When there is food on the table, the older boy grabs some food and starts feeding his little brother before he even puts one morsel of food in his own mouth. My friends had learned from Social Services that the mother of the boys had many times left them alone locked up in a room with some food, while she had left the house for days. What must have happened is, that the older brother who was himself barely more than a toddler must have realized that his little brother was too small to reach the food or to feed himself. And though the older boy must himself been quite hungry, he still fed his little brother first. Unless you believe that this behavior was a result of a miraculous divine intervention, there is no other explanation than a biological altruism instinct, an instinct that told the child that the survival of his brother was more important than his own wellbeing. For if the older brother had started to eat first until he had stilled his hunger, there might have been not enough food left for his little brother to survive. Both brothers b.t.w. when they were picked up by Social Services were then diagnosed as retarded. Neither could speak understandable language, while they had developed their own form of language to communicate with each other. While the younger boy after being put in foster-care was able to learn ordinary German pretty well, the older one hadn´t learned it by age six when I moved away and lost contact with the foster family. I think that a basic form of altruism is a God-given instinct and survival-tool. And our reasoning capacity, which starts to grow in us no earlier than at about age four, is a kind of manual over-ride that allows us to justify doing thing which we feel in the pit of our stomach to be wrong and refraining from doing other things which we feel in the deepest recesses of our hearts we should do. As for the Abu Ghraib guards: From what I read I don´t think they were just a few bad apples who hated their enemies. They were actually ordered "to rough the prisoners up" for interrogation. And they seemed to have acted according a CIA play-book, a torture manual, which states that psychological torture works better than physical to break a person, and that in some cultures, where nudity is a taboo, the use of nudity and sexual humiliation "works especially well". Other methods were the denigration of a persons faith and the symbols of faith he holds sacred (besmearing pages of the Koran and flashing them down the toilet, as has been done systematically in Guantanomo). The guards themselves, rather than being bad apples, seem to me to have been far more the "victims" of Hannah Arend´s "banality of evil". They have adapted to a culture of violence and abuse. And while they were inside that culture they were blind to the realization of evil. From an outside perspective, however, the evil is quite clear to most everybody. And the soldiers after they get out and leave that culture behind and having to adapt to normal life again, can see the evil as well. Many war-veterans have a really hard time to come to grips with what they have done or witnessed while they were still inside. That´s why so many veterans end up as homeless alcoholics or drug-addicts.
Toggle Commented Apr 28, 2011 on Relative Ethics at Only a Game
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translucy Insight, that´s worthwhile, is in my opinion always a result of many different sources. "No man is an island" and everything we are and we think is a result of what we have learned from those around us and from those who came before us. That´s the way society works. Chris: Interesting post - all words are make-believe, I don´t think I agree there But all words are metaphor - yes, I can see that, since non-physical entities (words) are being used describe a physical reality. But I disagree that "saving time" is a dead metaphor, which lacks metaphorical force. You haven´t read the German book "Momo" by Michael Ende, a beautiful tale for children and grown-ups. In the book those people who are persuaded to "save time" by mysterious grey men from the "time saving bank" (just about everybody in town except the children)are actually getting linked and the "saved time" is in reality stolen from their life-time by these grey men. I think you would like the book and its deeply metaphoric story. For more details put in a "search" for "Momo (novel)" on Wikipedia.
Toggle Commented Apr 27, 2011 on Metaphors, Make-Believe & Mythology at Only a Game
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Thank you so very much for answering all my comments, especially in so much detail. Thank you for your broadmindedness. I wasn´t sure how you would react on sensitive issue like homosexuality. From what I have read on this site so far I thought you might be tolerant enough to accept a different belief, but from my experience with liberal peoples´ tolerance has rather strict limits. "You ugly bigot" is the normal reaction to a traditional Catholic viewpoint. Now I don´t expect you to answer allways so extensively, since you surely have a lot else to do. I just enjoy thinking about what I read and being able to express my thoughts, although I´ve still trouble to see a text as a whole. Instead I pick out pieces which I can connect to and disregard the parts I feel I don´t understand. (Since you don´t believe in general gender differences I won´t argue that this is typical female, as far as I´ve read, women see the details, while men see the far distance and the big connection :) - and I used the word "despair" as a possible reason for a homosexual indentity, just as it might have been - according to Kierkegaards definition of sin - in earlier times a consequence of homosexual acts. Although I guess you´re quite right, this is not the way Kierkegaard understood the word. Now, I do not intend to convince you of my beliefs in this regard. I just want to be able to honestly state them without being rejected as a worthless person. And it isn´t so much the personal rejection I´m worried about. What bothers me most is, that issues like homosexuality (and abortion), because they are dealt with mainly on the name-calling basis make cooperation between traditional religious people (both Christian and Muslim) and liberals, left-wingers and many libertarians very, very hard. And worse, the issue is even used to get liberals on the boat for a future war against Iran (if the false nuclear weapons claim shouldn´t work). In the last 10 years I have slowly but certainly come to the position that our western system is in a terrible state and we are on the way to extremely dark ages of either a centralized global totalitarian regime or a world war using destructive capabilities of unprecedented proportions - and quite frankly this scares me a lot. As far as I can see, the only way that this could be prevented a miracle, a world wide change of heart towards cooperation against the oligarchic elite currently pushing for this outcome. I call this a miracle, because I don´t see the kind of mindset that would be necessary for this cooperation very often. The Christians I know keep to themselves, refrain from thought about and involvement in most political issues except the few concerning Christian morals. When they join anti-war or social justice causes they get alienated by the secular members and often pushed out by their insistence that pro-abortion and gay issues must be included in the cause, issues most Christians feel have nothing to do with the cause at hand. Constantly being accused of bigotry doesn´t help either. (Online I´m a member of a libertarian site. To have my posts linked to and so presented to a wide readership I must refrain from any positive mention of the Church or my religious beliefs. As I said, freedom goes even for libertarians only so far. I also must endure regular pretty hateful attacks on my faith and Church without being allowed to even try to set the record straight by bringing in information I have that might put a different light on certain matters. On the leftwing sites where I would like to submit, I can´t even get an answer to any submission I write, it´s either my lousy English, my female pattern of communication or the fact that I have written about a few controversial issues on my blog) There are one billion Catholics in the world, most of them conservative. There are also one billion Muslims, most of them conservative. A global anti-fascist and anti-war coalition must include the bulk of Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as the majority of Catholic Christians. Other Christians and other religious groups should of course be included, but in comparison they are a minority. I believe that, while many good ideas can come out of small groups, these good ideas can only make positive changes if they are freely accepted and embraced by the majority. If minorities impose their will arrogantly on the majority (because they have the economic or military power or the means to manipulate and falsify information), the end-effect will not be good On a different comment I´ll tell, if you are interested, how I came to my present rather despairing views of our political system, here I just say that the Church is the only organization in the world I still trust. I used to be more liberal on sexual issues, just like the European liberal world around me. And you are right while I thought, that being gay was something a person is born to, being opposed to gay marriage stands in contradiction to my equality ethics. But this world and liberal western society have lost my trust, while the Church has gained more and more of my trust. And since I cannot live without fundamental trust I had to make a choice. I choose to believe that Church was founded by Jesus Himself, and that she is let by the Holy spirit. Everything I read coming out of the Vatican in recent years has confirmed my trust. The egalitarian and universal ethics the Church teaches coincide with my personal ethics. And although I know that in the past some of the Popes were indeed very corrupt (sinful) individuals, not in tune with the Holy Spirit at all,I find comfort in the promise of Christ that the Church will not be destroyed to the ends of time. And I can see that God has prevented the Church from self-destruction many times over. I figure it like this: God does not force goodness and truth on any humans. Even times of corruption and serious mistakes can teach us necessary lessons by the inevitable consequences which follow. And the individual or the community ready to learn and accept the lesson taught will emerge stronger and morally improved. Every time of great corruption in the Church also fostered a spiritual renewal movement which eventually became so strong that it overcame the corruption. Even the recent "pedophile scandal" is a case in point: The Church learned that relaxation of sexual morals will lead to criminal behavior of some individuals (far, far, far more than at times when the morals are clear cut) and injury to the reputation of the Church as a whole. (I doubt that there will be any Vatican III any time soon where the Churches position on sexuality will be changed, the lessons drawn from the scandal at the moment will make this unfeasable) Although the scandal felt rather painful to me, it actually increased my trust in the Church, since the way it was used by the mainline media, twenty, thirty and forty year old cases being rehashed over and over again, made it quite clear to me, that the Church (or the Vatican) is not "in it", as some other conspiracy theorists think. The Church is not in bed with the fascistoid elites and she has no secret agenda, only a public one which anyone can access. The Church today sees herself as a moral authority, a teacher in the way of Jesus. She is not a political institution with the police power to coerce people into her thinking. Some from all levels of society will listen to her ethical teachings, others will not. This is the way Jesus did it. He was teacher not a ruler, the One who suffered violence not the one who perpetrated violence. Following Jesus means to reject worldly power and the use of violence for oneself. I basically trust the Church, but I also reject any form of blind obedience. And therefor I have to find logical reason to understand the Church´s position on some issues: I believe that God is Love and that He loves us. He wouldn´t give us commandments just to make us unhappy. My personal reading on neurotransmitters, behaviorial addictions and violence as well as on health issues suggests to me that sexual rules (banning promiscuity hetereosexual and homosexual alike) exist to prevent suffering of individuals and the community. My personal research brought up evidence that convinces me, (although I do realize, that the same evidence might not seem logical to you at all): First of all, as I mentioned above, for several reasons I believe that a homosexual identity while it can´t be "healed" after it has fully established, it might be prevented before that time. Second, a homosexual life-style is on avarage far (by statistics accepted and often provided by the gay community), far more promiscuous than a hetereosexual one. Large scale promiscuity is a serious health risk. The more promiscuous the life style, the worse are the health consequences which lead to loss of life expectancy by over and above twenty years in male homosexuals. Although for many years now condome use is being promoted by gay community leaders, it seems like on many occasions gay people rather risk their health (AIDS is only one of those many health risks) than play it safer with condomes. Besides loss of life expectancy the health problems also bring on a serious loss of life quality for the sufferers (being constantly on some form of strong anibiotic or antiviral medication, or some pills to manage the side-effects of the medication). Third: From articles and book excerpts I read which were written by gay people, the male homosexual community in general is far more concerned about physical beauty than the heterosexual males. They judge each other relentlessly on their physical attrictiveness and have a strong aversion of signs of aging (a bit like single women who are also feel being judged according to their physical attractiveness) But gay men, even those who are in permanent relationships cannot relax their fears of being judged and their judgement of other men. And this leads me to the crux of the gay marriage issue: According to one statistic I read - 90% of gay couples who are in legaly binding relationships have sexual encounters outside their relationship already in the very first year. And there is absolutely no comparison between this and hetereosexual marriage. While in hetereosexual marriages some people cheat on their partners, this cheating, if it is discovered, is considered a serious offense and often leads to the break-up of the marriage. It rarely happens in the first year and practically nobody enters a hetereosexual marriage with the intend of having sexual encounters outside of this marriage. A hetereosexual who feels he or she can´t commit to a single partner for the rest of his or her life, just will not get married. For hetereosexual couples marriage means more than just a sexual union - it´s a place to raise a family, it´s an economic union where you share financial resources and it´s a social and psychological support system where you can grow old securly with all the problems of aging. But it also is a promise of sexual fidelity. And for nearly all hetereosexual married couples this is one the most important points. If in homosexual culture marriage does not mean a promise of fidelity and an expectation that this promise is kept, how can it be expected by the hetereosexual majority culture to call a homosexual union a marriage?
Toggle Commented Apr 27, 2011 on Was Gay Ever Sinful? at Only a Game
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Are all ethical principles relative in your view? Are there no ethical principles which transcend all human cultures, principles which hard-wired into our very human nature? -Principles, which if they are broken cause guilt feelings in most offenders and outrage in those who observe the breaking of those principles? Something like: "Thou shalt not kill" (innocent people) Yes, this principle is daily broken all over the world thousands of times, and often is the killing rationalized in some way (as a form of self-defence with occasional collateral damage or the innocent are made to look guilty and their death is called a "just punishment") But in spite of the rationalizations the principle per se still stands. Or the principle of respecting human dignity. "dignity" at first seems like just a word that can be interpreted in many ways. But then outside of all semantics, when the people of all human cultures all over the world, when they looked at the images of the Abu Grhaib prisoner abuse, they knew with certainty that this was a violation of human dignity, no question about it. Some Americans might have justified the abuse as a necessary measure to fight the insurgency, but they still knew, that what was done to these people was principally ethically wrong. If there are points practically all human beings all over the planet agree, that this or that behavior is just plain wrong, then wouldn´t it mean that their are indeed a few points of universal human ethics?
Toggle Commented Apr 24, 2011 on Relative Ethics at Only a Game
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Notsylvia 1.level beginner/searching for the rules Background:Found game by accident, doing a test-ride Attributes: Gender: female Current Location: Iceland Nationality: German Career: none, but mostly gainfully employed Talents: few Interests: many Humor: lacking (according to American doctrine, Germans are genetically missing a humor gene) Specialty: Looking for truth
Toggle Commented Apr 24, 2011 on Player's Handbook at Only a Game
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There is no doubt, that higher levels of testosterone correspond with a higher tendency towards aggression, however couldn´t it be that there are societal factors which cause these higher levels. From studies I have read, it is actually a combination of dopamine and nor-epinephrine, which cause a higher production of testosterone. And in a laboratory experiment with chimpanzees it was the combination of high levels of those three neurotransmitters which increased the level of violence so much that the apes were attempting to kill each other. I´m convinced that social attitudes (revenge versus forgiveness) aren´t caused predominantly genetically, but rather more by beliefs which are passed on from one generation to the next. On the other hand I do believe that there are fundamental differences between men and women apart from their sexual organs. Female brains are connected differently than male brains. Experience has shown that even in countries where there is a large emphasis put on the equality of men and women (like here in Iceland), young women still choose predominantly social sciences above natural sciences, and social and service jobs above technical ones. By the time kids enter high-school the majority of kids who are good in math are boys and in the computer programming classes my son took sadly there was not a single girl. Every complex thought is a combination of many electro-chemical impulses coming from different parts of the brain. It seems to me that the less connectedness of the male brain allows men to concentrate better on mathematical logic than women. Women can learn to concentrate in the same manner, but it doesn´t come as easy. Since a womans brain is more connected than a man´s her thoughts will more often combine some emotional factor with her logical thinking. So while men can plan ice-cold wars from a pure statistical point of view, a woman would always connect the statistics with the human consequences. A man will see the numbers of bombs and fighters needed for success of the war, while a woman will automatically visualize the torn up bodies of children. Of course men can train themselves or can be trained by their environment to think like women, while women can train their brains to neglect any emotional distractions and think like men. There is one thing I found in my personal experience, that is that men communicate in general different from women, even on the internet even in writing. I´ve once taken the trouble and started counting the contribution of men versus women on left-wing political websites. And although the editors publicly proclaimed their sympathies for womens rights they could not bring themselves to even try get an equal proportion of men and women contributors. The proportion was in all cases about five men to one woman. I asked myself why. Are there really not enough women sending in contributions? Actually I don´t think so. I think rather that womens´ contributions do not meet male standards of expression, because women just communicate different from men. And in the male brain these kind of differences appear as unprofessional or lacking objectivity or what the crap else. In order for a woman to be accepted by a male editor she has to turn herself into a male look-alike pretzel to meet the male standards of the "right" kind of communication. In case you wonder, why I´m writing all these long comments,Chris: It´s kind of an experiment for me. I want to see, if it is possible for me, a religious woman, to have a rational and honest discussion with a secular man on philosophy and politics. So far it was seemingly impossible for me to communicate without the men feeling attacked or offended, although I did not mean any offense, just stated an opinion different from the one the man has stated. Can it be that any from of difference of opinions coming from a woman will feel for a man as being a personal attack on himself?
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2011 on Fe/Male at Only a Game
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In some ways, I like Feyerabend´s kind of "relativism": "my main objections against intellectual solutions of social problems is that they start from a narrow cultural background, ascribe universal validity to it and use power to impose it on others. Is it surprising that I want to have nothing to do with such ratiofascistic dreams? Helping people does not mean kicking them around until they end up in someone else’s paradise, helping people means trying to introduce change as a friend, as a person, that is, who can identify with their wisdom as well as with their follies and who is sufficiently mature to let the latter prevail" And believe it or not, the attitude of accepting local traditions and living and working with people as friends, not imposing solutions but working together, is now a very Catholic one. Most Catholic charities are based on this principle nowadays. And the official "Social Agenda of the Catholic Church" from 1991 takes this position based on the Scriptures and on Papal Encyclica written in the last 100 years. On the other hand I can´t accept the total rejection of any objective truth. It´s true that in an argument of two disagreeing parties both could theoretically be equally right and the problem between them was only one of different forms of communication. But if you look at the problem apart from communication, only as a problem of physical reality, then there must be a yes or no, even though at the moment the yes or no cannot yet be fully determined for lack of knowledge of all the relevant facts. Let´s take "Global Warming/Climate Change" either it is catastrophic for our environment or it is not, either it is mainly caused by human economic (or agricultural) activity or it is not. Either of these two positions, if taken up politically have enormous economic consequences. If political measures are based on false premises needless suffering of possibly billions of people in the world will follow. Relativism might lead to the position that since there is no objective truth and perception is everything, there also is no objective untruth. It is therefor permissible to artificially create any kind of perception in the mind of others, if it serves your purpose. However, every society is built on trust. Trust is based on the belief that truth actually exists and can most often be determined and that those you trust in will tell you the truth as best as they can. If all trust is lost, society will self-destruct.
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2011 on Farewell to Reason at Only a Game
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Sin is a religious concept, I think, it can´t be seen apart from it´s religious context. According to many Christian theologians sin (or at least serious sin) can only be committed in full knowledge that what you are doing is wrong. So sin in this sense is a matter of perception. Despair or regret is therefor a consequence of the perception of having done something wrong. On the other hand most Christians believe that the Church or the Scriptures do have the authority to define certain acts as sinful. Some protestant churches do no longer define homosexual acts as sinful under certain conditions. For the Catholic church homosexual feelings are not sinful, homosexuals acts are. The question is, does the Church have the moral right to define homosexual acts as sinful, if homosexuality is natural? And what, if homosexuality isn´t something you are born with? What if it is a perception of reality and not reality itself? Is it ethical to ask this question? How could theoretically such a perception occur? Here is the theory: During puberty young people experience an enormous surge of hormones, causing a volatile up and down of emotions often accompanied with depression and a yearning for acceptance by one´s peers. Yearning and unfulfilled desires cause a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. High dopamine levels subsequently increase the levels of sexual hormones. In this physical state of mind all unfulfilled desires can now become sexualized. Most homosexual adults I know or I´ve read about describe themselves as lonely outsiders in their youth who felt rejected by their peers. The desire to be like an admired same-sex person or accepted by this person might now be sexualized. This sexualized feeling will suggest to the young person that he or she is indeed homosexual. If he or she subsequently has a homosexual experience with a partner, this will then be seen as proof of one´s homosexuality. And so the homosexual "nature" is born as a personal perception. Once this perception is held for a long enough time, it can no longer be changed, since the perception has become an automatic brain response. That this theory might be true is suggested by the success some Christian therapies have with young men who feel homosexual, but have not yet had any physical homosexual experiences: The therapists suggest an increase of positive social experiences, non-sexual contacts, including contact sports with other males especially in the family and the Christian community. By reducing and diminishing the pressure of unfulfilled desire for male acceptance, thoughts towards other males will no longer be sexualized and sexual desire can now be directed to female persons. According to those therapists the approach works. According to this theory despair is not only the consequence of a sinful homosexual act but also the very reason, that is the despair of getting one´s social needs and desires fulfilled. And faith would indeed be the remedy, since social desires can be fulfilled within the community of the faithful. If homosexual feelings are a matter of the interpretation of hormone surges in the brain, it is the community which will strengthen the respective interpretation which then will form the person´s sexual identity. Of course this theory is unproven, on the other hand neither is the theory that homosexuality is genetically caused actually proven. The question is, what positive or negative consequences have the acceptance of either theory on the individual or on society.
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2011 on Was Gay Ever Sinful? at Only a Game
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Thank you for your site. I stumbled upon it, when googling for Hannah Arend´s philosophy. I also like your take on militant or fundamentalist atheism. I´ve met (mostly online) a few people who in my opinion quite easily fall in this category. Now, while I agree with atheists, that atheism is not a religion (since it lacks the ritual aspects of religion,) to me it surely seems to be an often rigid and doctrinal belief system which fights opposing systems (in words and sometimes in violent actions) and the adherents to this belief system often seek fervently converts to their beliefs. About my views: Most of my life I had no use for philosophy, thought it to be more or less a waste of time. My attitude has changed radically in the last few years (starting with my questions on the events of 9/11). I now believe that most of what is being done in the political arena is based on the belief systems (philosophies) of the political actors, both the public actors and the more hidden and far more powerful ones behind the scenes (acting through their economic power and through intelligence agencies). Not only on the stage of big politics but on every level of human society our life is far more influenced by our beliefs, by how we perceive the world and ourselves in it, than by the actual physical reality around us. As human beings we have the ability to change our physical surroundings far more than any other species on earth to suite our needs. However, what we perceive to be our needs, depends in large parts on how we see ourselves as individuals as communities and as a species. And there is where philosophy and ethics comes in and religion. The way I see it, philosophical and religious thought burns basically down to two different views on human beings. Either you believe that every human being is of equal value and has an equal right to the protection of his or her life and dignity, a sacred right that transcends all other considerations, or you don´t. Practically all fascists, social-darwinists, malthusians and nietzscheans and most neoliberals, esoterics, marxists and radical environmentalists fall in the category of "don´t". The "don´t" people also promote the view that "the ends justify the means" with all it´s man-murdering consequences. In my opinion if those belief-systems govern the political system of western society, it will become unsustainable in the long run - and eventually it will collapse. For me personally I have come to the conclusion that in spite of all her occasional human failings the general philosophy of the Catholic church is the most ethical and sustainable in it´s view of God, men,society and the physical world. Basically I do believe in all of Catholic doctrine, however, I also believe that God allows different religions and beliefs for some good purposes. One purpose might be to teach us to accept and live with differences in tolerance and respect for one each other. Another purpose might be that diversity in itself is a good thing, for it spurns thought. It also might help humanity to find positive solutions to serious problems, if the problems are looked upon from diverse angles.
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2011 on A Brief Introduction to My Philosophy at Only a Game
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