Showing posts from October, 2017

The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 3 of ?

Pain and loss are both unavoidable. They are inevitable. I have experience with pain and loss, you have experience with pain and loss, and we will both have more experience with pain and loss. We can't create a situation where we won't experience them, so we must adapt to them. Pain and loss are the two primary things that make life not worth living; therefore, they are two of the primary things that we must focus on when answering "What makes life worth living?"

Let's start with Benjamin Franklin, possibly the most important person in the founding of the United States of America. Few people know that he wrote a small dissertation in 1725 that deals directly with our issue. Franklin had 100 copies printed and gave a few to friends, but it caused such a stir within the people that read it that Franklin burned the rest of the copies. Here are 6 of the 14 propositions:

"1. A Creature when endu'd with Life or Consciousness, is made capable of Uneasiness or P…

The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 2 of ?

Oh boy, let's dive back in. We've taken the question from Camus, "Is life worth living?", and answered it: "Maybe." At this moment, in this place, it may be either a yes or a no. Either way, we've found a better question to ask, "What makes life worth living?", and "What could make life worth living?" Now, we endeavor to pursue answers.

Since I think that life is worth living at this moment, and most living people do, I am going to work mostly with the question, "What makes life worth living?" Worth is the key word in that sentence. What does worth mean? Eight definitions come up on Google, and even when we look into the etymology we see that it goes back to earlier words that also have a direct translation to value, price, and/or merit. These are fundamental concepts. A value is something that you seek to attain. I just made that definition up, and it's true. So, our question could also be phrased, "What makes lif…

Imitating the Greatest Novel of All Time - Part 2 of ?

Innovative imitation is not an easy task. I see a problem for paragraph four and I have not been looking forward to tackling it. But, here we go.

Here are the fourth and fifth paragraphs from "Replay" by Ken Grimwood.
"Do you know what we need, Jeff?"
And he was supposed to say, "What's that, hon?" was supposed to say it distractedly and without interest as he read Hugh Sidey's column about the presidency in Time. But Jeff wasn't distracted; he didn't give a damn about Sidey's ramblings. He was in fact more focused and aware than he had been in a long, long time. So he didn't say anything at all for several moments; he just stared at the false tears in Linda's eyes and thought about the things they needed, he and she.
So, why is this so difficult. Well, there are going to be a few reasons, but the first one is that the fourth paragraph is a repeat of a phrase in paragraph three that I'm not sure it makes sense for me to do in…

The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 1 of ?

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy."(1) So begins "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus. I think that there may be a better question.

We must first decide how we are to judge questions, what makes one superior to another. Camus has a view on this as well, "If I ask myself how to judge that this question is more urgent than that, I reply that one judges by the actions it entails."(2)
Albert Camus is the founder of Absurdism, the idea that humans seek meaning and that meaning cannot be found inherently, or even at all, in life. Camus even approaches the defining of the absurd in unusual ways, for instance: "What, in fact, is the absurd man? He who, without negating it, does nothing for the eternal."(3) And, "This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling…

Imitating the Greatest Novel of All Time - Part 1 of ?

I realized that I need to learn this skill of writing through more imitation here:
Then I chose what to imitate here:
Then I played with how to imitate here:
Now the real work begins.

Here is how "Replay" by Ken Grimwood begins.
Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died.
"We need--" she'd said, and he never heard her say just what it was they needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone fell from his hand and cracked the glass paperweight on his desk.

And this is how my imitation begins.

Tom Brooks was reading the newspaper when the lights went out.
"Terror in downtown . . ." he was reading, and he never got to read what the terror was, because something crackled outside, …

How to Imitate?

"The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" is Ben Franklin's second most interesting work, his first being his "Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pain and Pleasure". In his autobiography he explains in one long paragraph how he trained himself to be a good writer of prose. I'm going to think about his methods, but probably go my own way.

Franklin took short notes on some pieces of writing that he liked. He set them aside for a time, came back to them and tried to recreate the piece. Then he would compare his version with the original. He also would take an original piece and turn the prose into poetry, put it aside for a time, come back to it and turn the poetry back into prose, thereafter comparing the new piece with the original. I consider Benjamin Franklin one of the most interesting personalities in history, and this is no less so.
I am going to work with "Replay", the greatest novel of all time, even though it intimidates me a bit. I beli…

What to Imitate?

Big decisions, big decisions. I must choose what to imitate. I feel like this is a huge decision, although I may be putting too much import upon it. I could always jump around from work to work, but I kind of feel like really doing a deep dive. This post is about making that decision.

If I really commit to a book then it's going to be a major time, energy, and attention investment, but I think it's probably for the best. I have the list down to ten books.
"Fevre Dream" by George R. R. Martin "Elantris" by Brandon Sanderson "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J. K. Rowling "Candide" by Voltaire "The Dice Man" by Luke Rhinehart "Zorba the Greek" by Nikos Kazantzakis "Replay" by Ken Grimwood
None of them are huge, but four of them are pretty sma…

Imitation Precedes . . . Everything

"Imitation precedes creation" is a great saying that I picked up from Stephen King's book "On Writing." William James and Thomas Jefferson both called humans the "imitative animal." I believe there may be a secret here that I'm missing and I need to learn.

The recent experiments with string pulling bees show some interesting things about imitation, and skill acquisition. Here are some links if you want to dig deep.

I noticed that the bees are able to acquire the string pulling skill in two ways. The skill can be broken down into its constituent parts by humans, pieces can be trained, and then slowly expanded upon. Or, the bees can watch another bee do the skill and try to copy them. But, the bees don't rea…

Concerning the International Society For Philosophers

I've been meaning to write four essays for the International Society For Philosophers for the last few years. I think I have four interesting subjects to expand on finally. Philosophy can be boring, but it shouldn't be.

The meaning of life is the most obvious choice for me. I studied the subject for about a decade in a serious way, after an emotionally traumatic death when I was 13. The first place to start is to determine the meaning of meaning. That sounds slightly boring, but it's not. In one case meaning can mean definition, a symbol or representation of something. In that case we arrive at a question closer to what is the definition of life? In that case we lead into subjective experience and sensation. Next we can determine that most people mean something closer to significance, so the question becomes more about what is the significance of life? In that case we delve into values, and I'll probably bring in some information about the subjective theory of value fr…

Stories to Explain Sayings, or The Etymology of Idioms

A few months ago I had a short session with a man from Eastern Europe that specifically wanted to work on learning English idioms. Then, around six weeks ago, a member of my Toastmasters club brought up the subject of explaining the etymology of idioms for short impromptu speeches. I often reference The Fox and the Grapes from Aesop. It seems like idioms might be an interesting subject for short little stories replicating the style of Aesop.

What is an idiom? An idiom is an expression where you cannot discern the meaning of the saying by knowing the meaning of the individual words. If you took it literally you may be confused, or do something very odd.

A site with a great list of idioms is

All of the idioms must have some story to go with them already. Turning a blind eye has a cool origin. A Royal Navy commander in the British forces was given an order to retreat by the Admiral through a flag signal. The commander, Horatio Nelson, held the…

The Myth and Reality of the Great Idea

In writers groups I've heard a similar sentiment over and over again, one I didn't expect to hear, "If only I could come up with a great idea." I find interesting ideas easy to come by, but there's more to it than that.

There are 129 million book titles in existence. Completely new ideas are going to be rare, they always are. In order to have a new idea you need to integrate information from a variety of sources and innovate them. Usually the innovation small, many times just a small change in style, and only when the change is large will it be considered a new idea.

What and how you try to innovate will depend at least partially on your goals. Some writers write to entertain, others consider it an art. The entertaining write writes to keep attention. An artistic writer writes to communicate something of significance. A great writer does both.

A few weeks ago another one of these posts popped up in a writers group I am in. The woman gave a couple of examples of s…

An Inadequate Attempt at Categorizing the Skills of Writing

While I was reading "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle and "The Art of Fiction" by Ayn Rand I started to think about the different specific skills of writing that could be chunked down so that they could be studied, practiced, and then reassembled back into the total act of creating fiction. I came up with a list of 25 before I realized that they might not all be useful. But, I think that if I do a little work I may be able to come up with a reasonable list that could be very useful in helping to develop the skill of writing.

I'm not sure how to categorize or organize these ideas and skills yet. I've tried a few different ways, but I'm not particularly satisfied. Let's see if we can come up with just the essentials.
Conflict is probably the most important aspect of a story. The conflict of values between people or within people. You could detail a story where a person doesn't have internal conflict and doesn't conflict with another person, I …

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