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Chapter 26 Romanticism



Romanticism

Romanticism is the Europe’s last great cultural epoch.  It began toward the end of the 18th century and lasted till the middle of the 19th century. It started in Germany.The typical romantics were young men, often university students.  Romantics drawn attention to the ‘feeling’, ‘imagination’, ‘experience’, and ‘yearning’.

Many romantics saw themselves as Kant’s successors. They exploited Kant’s ego’s contribution in an almost unrestrained ‘ego-worship’. This led to the exaltation of artistic genius. Romantics think that artist can provide something philosophers can’t express. It was once said that ‘idleness is the ideal of genius, and indolence the virtue of the Romantic.’ in this epoch.

One of the features of Romanticism was the yearning for nature and nature’s mysteries. Romanticism represents not least a reaction to the Enlightenment’s mechanistic universe. It was characteristic of the Romantic view in general that nature was thought of as an organism. Romantics natural philosophy had Aristotelian as well as Neoplatonic overtones.  Romanticism helped strengthen the feeling of national identity.

Romanticism can be separate into two part. Universal Romanticism - It referring to the Romantics who were preoccupied with nature, world soul, and artistic genius. National Romanticism- It were mainly interested in the history of the people, the language of the people, and the culture of the people in general. 'Organism is the key word that united these two aspects of Romanticism.

Schelling was the leading Romantic philosopher.  He lived from 1775 to 1854. He wanted to unite mind and matter. He believed that all of nature is the expression of one Absolute, or world spirit. He said ‘nature is visible spirit, spirit is invisible nature.’

He believed that the world spirit can thus be sought both in nature and in one’s own mind. He drew attention to very gradual transitions from inanimate nature to more complicated life forms. He said explicitly that the world is ‘in God.’ God is aware of some of it. He believed there are other aspects of nature which represent the unknown in God.
 

Goethe Introduce the theme of unrequited love in his novel ----- The Sorrows of Young Werther.The suicide rate rose after the publication of the novel. For a time, the novel was banned in Denmark and Norway.

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Chapter 27 Hegel



Hegel
(1770-1831)

It is actually doubtful whether one can say that Hegel had his own philosophy at all.  What is usually know as Hegel's philosophy is mainly a method for our understanding the progress of history.  Hegel's philosophy teaches us nothing about the inner nature of life, but it can teach us to think productively.  All the philosophical systems before Hegel had one thing in common, namely the attempt to set up eternal criteria for what man can know about the world.  This was true of Descartes, Spinoza, Hume and Kant.  Each and every one had try to investigate the bases for human cognition but they had all made pronouncements on the timeless factor of human knowledge of the world.  Hegel on the contrast did not believe this was possible.  He believed the world spirit was just the sum of human interactions. He thought truth was subjective and that human reason changed each generation. Thoughts must be judged in their context, and right and wrong change accordingly. But human knowledge is always increasing through history, so history is progressive. 


He believed that the basis of human cognition changed from one generation to the next.  There were therefore were no eternal truths, no timeless reason.  The only fixed point that philosophy could hold onto is history itself.

To Hegel history was like a running river.  A river is at a constant point of change but you can not say at which place in the valley that the river is the truest river. Everything changes at the point were you are observing it.  A thought can be correct from where you stand in history.  Some things can be considered right or wrong in relation to a certain historical context.

You can not detach any philosopher or any thought at all from that philosopher's or thought's historical context.  But, because something new is always being added, reason is progressive. In other words, human knowledge is constantly expanding and progressing.  The world spirit has developed and progressed...toward an ever expanding knowledge of itself. 

Anyone who studies history will see that humanity has advanced toward ever increasing self knowledge and self development.  According to Hegel, the study of history shows that humanity is moving toward greater rationality and freedom.  Historical development is progressive...one long chain of reflections.

He also believed that thinking evolves(a dialectic process) dialectically—one thought (thesis) leads to its opposite or the negation (antithesis) and then we combine the two thoughts to form a new idea that contains the best elements of both (synthesis).

Hegel believed that this pattern didn't just appear in history.  When we discuss something we think dialectically.  We try to find flaws in the argument.  Hegel called that negative thinking but when we find flaws in an argument we preserve the best of it. Again it is up to history to decide what is viable (right).


Hegel also believed in the community over the individual and felt that language forms people, rather than vice versa. The world spirit realizes itself in three increasing stages—in the individual it is the subjective spirit, in the community the objective spirit, and in art, religion, and philosophy it is the absolute spirit. Philosophy is the greatest form of knowledge because it involves the world spirit reflecting on itself.


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Chapter 28 Kierkegaard



Kierkegaard
(1813-1855)
 


Kierkegaard felt that Hegel and the Romantics had moved away from a person's responsibility for their own life. He was angered by people's ambivalence about religion. Kierkegaard felt Christianity could either be believed in or not, and that the two options are exclusive.

An important question is whether Christianity is true.  This is not a question one can relate to theoretically or academically.  For a person who "understands himself in life", it is a question of life and death.  It is not something you sit and discuss for discussion's sake.  It is something to be approached with the greatest passion and sincerity. 
So we must there fore distinguish between the philosophical question of whether God exist and the individuals relationship to the same question....Many had previously tried to prove the existence of God-or at any rate to bring him within the bounds of rationality.  But if you content yourself with some such proof or logical argument, you suffer a loss of faith, and with it, a loss of religious passion.  Because what maters is not whether Christianity is true, but whether it is true for you.


quia absurdum- i believe because it is irrational

 The only important thing was each man's own existence.  It's only when we act-and especially when we make significant choices-that we relate to our own existence.  He founded existentialism, the philosophy that is concerned with the existence of each individual. He felt objective truths were useless and that each person could only attempt to discern what is true for himself (subjective truth). Reason is not that important, since we worry about things that it cannot decide.



Kierkegaard was a nonconformist and argued against the conformity in society (when people think and believe in the same things without having any deeper feeling about it). He believed life consists of an aesthetic stage (fun or boring and angst).  an ethical stage (right or wrong), and a religious stage (faith), and we must decide to move between them.  According to Kierkegaard, angst is almost positive.  it is an expression of the fact that the individual is in an "existential situation", and can now elect to make the great leap to a higher stage.  But it either happens or it doesn't, nobody can do it for you.  It is your own choice.

Existentialism flourished after Kierkegaard.

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Chapter 29 Marx



Marx
(1818-1883)

Marx was a historical materialist-he thought that material factors in society determined the way we think and affect history but they are not the only ones that affect history. It is all the changes all together that have a toll on the way the world functions. And the way the world functions today is what in the future will be called history. Lets say as Marx says, that if Honduras didn't have the climate to grow bananas, we wouldn't be called the banana republic, and we wouldn't be the country we are today. Everything has a play on how the world works and interacts.

Marx wanted philosophy to be practical (political).  He believed that economic forces caused change in society. He defined society in terms of material bases and a superstructure of culture.  Bases of society are its material, economic and social relations.  The superstructure refers to the way society thinks, what kind of political institutions there are, which laws it has and its religion, morals, art, philosophy and science. The bases is the foundation of society and supports the superstructure, but there is an interaction between the two, and so Marx is considered a dialectical materialist.

Three Levels of bases of society:

1.  Natural resources-determine what the society will produce and what type of society it will be.

2.  Means of production- the various equipment, tools, machinery and raw materials

3.  Those who control means of production (division of labor and mode of production)-determine societal norms, and this is usually the ruling class

"Marks emphasized moreover that it is mainly society's ruling class that sets the norms for what is right or wrong."


Marx believed that in all phases of history there has been a conflict between the two dominant classes of society and in his day it was between capitalists and workers (the proletariat) or those who own the means of production and those who do not. And since the upper classes do not voluntarily relinquish their power change can only com through revolution, and it was necessary because the workers were not laboring for themselves—they were exploited by the capitalists.  In a capitalist society labor is organized in such a way that the worker is in fact slaves for another social class thus the worker transfers his own labor and with it the whole of his life to the bourgeois.

Marx believed that their were several flaws in capitalism that would ultimately lead to self destruction.

1.  Exploitation- when capitalists pickets the value of a sum ( profit) actually created by the worker.

2.  Capitalism lacks rational control

3.  Capitalism is progressive because it is a stage on it's way to communism

4.  Effective production leads to fewer workers required which in turn leads to more societal problems

5.  Competition for prices -->less wages-->fall in purchasing power-->revolution

After Marx the Socialist Movement split into two mainstreams:

1.  Social Democracy- Europe
2.  Leninism- E.Europe, Asia and Africa

Today Marx is criticized for giving too little thought to the people who would be the administrators of communist societies.
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Chapter 30 Darwin



Darwin

(1809-1882)

Naturalistic Scientist exclusively relies on natural phenomena.

Marx pointed out that human ideologies were a product of the basis of society.
Darwin showed that mankind was part of a slow biological evolution.
Freud's study of the unconscious revealed that people's actions were often the result of animal urges or instincts.


Charles Darwin
was a Biologist/Natural Scientist.  He was the scientist in most recent times to openly challenge the biblical view of man's place in creation.  As a Biologist he went on a five year expedition around the world and studied the way everything changes over time. He made many observations throughout his lifetime, and believed that tiny gradual changes could result in dramatic alterations over long period of times.

In 1859 he published The Origin of Species.  In it he advanced that all plants and animals had evolved from earlier forms and that this process occurs through natural selection.  The raw material behind the evolution of life on earth was the continual variation of individuals within the same species plus the large number of progeny which meant that only a fraction of them would survive.  The actual mechanism or driving force behind evolution was thus the natural selection in the struggle for survival.  The selection insured that the strongest or the fittest survived. 

He used several arguments in favor of biological evolution, and it was a controversial topic, since it contradicted the Creation story in the Bible.  Darwin considered the artificial selection that humans impose on domestic animals and came up with the idea that nature does the same thing.  Animals that are best suited to their habitat will survive. However, this does not mean that those who survive are better, since they are better suited only to a particular environment.  Any change in that environment might result in different features favored by nature and other animals surviving.

In 1871 Darwin published The Decent of Man in which he drew attention to the great similarities between human and animals, advancing the theory that men and anthropoid apes must at one time have evolved from the same progenitor (ancestor).  The essence of Darwin's theory was that the utterly random variations had finally produced man.  Darwin had turned man into a product of something as unsentimental as the struggle for existence.  How that random variation arose pointed to weakest point in his theory since Darwin had only the vaguest idea of heredity and his theory was later supplemented by Neo-Darwinism.

Neo-Darwinism

All life and all reproduction is basically a matter of cell division.  When a cell divides into two, two identical cells are produced with exactly the same hereditary factors.  A cell copies itself  but occasionally infinitesimal random changes or errors occur (mutation).  A mutation may be discarded or saved and sometimes that mutation aids in the struggle for survival.

*Modern medicine has put natural selection out of commission*


Recent findings about the origins of life on earth:

All life on earth both animal and vegetable is constructed of exactly the same substances.  The simplest definition of life is that it is a substance which in a nutrient solution has the ability to subdivide itself into two identical parts.  This process is governed by a substance we call DNA. DNA is the chromosomes or hereditary structures that are found in all living cells.



How did the first molecule arise?

The earth was formed when the solar system came into being 4.6 billion years ago.  It began as a glowing mass which gradually cooled.  This is where modern science believes life began between three and four billion years ago.

Since there was no life there was no oxygen in the atmosphere.  Free oxygen was first formed by the photosynthesis of plants.  It is unlikely that life cells, which contain DNA, could have arisen in an atmosphere containing oxygen because oxygen is strongly reactive.  Long before complex molecules like DNA could be formed the DNA molecular cells would be oxidized.  This is how we know for certain that no new life arises today not even a bacterium or a virus.  All life on earth must be exactly the same age.  An elephant has just as long a family tree as the smallest bacterium.

Each cell in our body carries the same hereditary material.  The whole recipe of who we are lies hidden in each tiny cell.  One of life's great mysteries is that a cell of a multi-cellular animal have the ability to specialize their functions in spite of the fact that not all of the different hereditary characteristics are active in all the cells.  Some of the characteristics or genes are activated and others are deactivated.

Since there was no oxygen in the atmosphere there was no protective ozone layer around the earth.  That means there was nothing to stop the radiation from the cosmos.  This is significant because this radiation was probably instrumental in forming the first complex molecule.  Cosmic radiation of this nature was the actual energy which cause the various chemical substances on the earth to start combining in to a complicated macro-molecule.

quick summary:

Before macro-molecules (all life) can be formed at least two conditions must be present:
1.  no oxygen in the atmosphere
2.  access to cosmic radiation


In this hot little pool or primal soup there was once formed a gigantically complicated macro-molecule which had the ability to subdivide itself into two identical parts.  This began the long evolutionary process began.  Simply put this is the first hereditary material, the first DNA or the first living cell.  It subdivided itself again and again but from the very first stage transmutation was occurring.  After eons of time one of the mono-cellular organisms connected with a more complicated mutli-cellular organism thus the photosynthesis of plants also began and in that the atmosphere came to contain oxygen.  This had two results.  First the atmosphere permitted the evolution of animals that could breathe with the aid of lungs.  Secondly the atmosphere protected life from  the harmful cosmic radiation.  Strangely enough the radiation that was probably the first spark of life is also harmful to all forms of life. 


How did the earliest forms of life manage?

Life began in the primal seas which is what is meant by primal soup.  There it could live protected from the harmful rays.  Not until much later when life in the oceans had formed an atmosphere did the first amphibians crawl out onto land...


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Chapter 31 Freud



Sigmund Freud
(1856-1939)

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian cultural philosopher who studied medicine at the University of Vienna. Developed “depth psychology” or “psychoanalysis,” along with, most importantly, his ideas of the unconscious.


The Unconscious – Freud held that there is a constant tension between man and his surroundings. In particular, a tension – or conflict – between his drives and needs and the demands of society. Freud discovered human drives.


Human Drives
– The idea that man’s actions are not always guided by reason, and thus, not the rational creature that eighteenth-century rationalists like to think. Irrational impulses often determine what we think, what we dream, and what we do. Such irrational impulses can be an expression of our basic drives or needs. Freud then bridged the gap of ideas by demonstrating how these basic needs can be disguised or ‘sublimated’, thereby steering our actions without our being aware of it.


He also showed through empirical study that infants have some sort of sexuality this made him very unpopular with the respectable middle-class Viennese.  We call it Victorianism when everything to to with sexuality is taboo.  He had also seen how numerous disorders or psychological disorders could be traced back to conflicts during childhood.  He gradually developed a type of therapy that we could call the archiology of the soul. Called thus because a psychoanalyst with the patients help digs deep into a person's life and brings to light the experiences that have caused the psychological disorder. Since according to
Freud we store all the memory of our experiences deep inside us.


Id – When we come into the world, we live out our physical and mental needs quite directly and unashamedly. If we do not get milk, we cry, or maybe we cry if we have a wet diaper. Ultimately, we give direct expression for certain things, such as physical contact and body warmth. Freud deemed the “pleasure principle”, id. This id, or pleasure principle, comes with us into adulthood and throughout life.


Ego - In accordance with society however, we learn to regulate the pleasure principle in relation to the ‘reality principle.’ In Freud’s terms, we develop an ego which has this regulative function. Even though we want or need something, we cannot just lie down and scream until we get what we want or need.


Superego
– The third element in a human’s composition; the superego is the moral demands of our parents and society. Because we are constantly entrenched in these demands, we adapt them and retain the echo of such moral demands and judgments. Conscience, for example, is a component of the superego and the internalized expectations we take from society.  Freud claimed the the superego tells us when our desires are bad or improper. He also believed that the guilt feeling around sexual organs and sexuality remaines in the superego and most people feel guilty about sex all their lives. At the same time he showed that sexual desires and needs are vital for human beings.


Freud concluded, after years of experience in treating patients, that the unconscious is only a small part of the human mind.

Preconscious Vs. Unconscious – We don’t have all our experiences consciously present all the time. But the kinds of things we have thought or experienced, and which we can recall if we ‘put our mind to it,’ Freud termed the preconscious. He reserved the term ‘unconscious’ for things we have repressed (things viewed as unpleasant improper or nasty). Because unconscious reactions are always seeking to surface, we can observe ways in which they try to resurface.


Parapraxes, slip of the tongue or pen. Accidentally saying or doing something we once try to repress.

Rationalization, trying to avoid giving the real reason for what we do (to ourselves or other people), because the real reason is unacceptable.

Projection, when we project we transfer the characteristics we are trying to repress in ourselves onto other people. A person who is very miserly, for example, will characterize others as penny-pincher.



Freud's point was that these slips are neither as accidental nor as innocent as we think.  These bungled actions can in fact reveal the most intimate secrets. The art is precisely not to expend too much effort on burying unpleasant things in the unconscious. It is actually quite healthy to leave the door ajar between the conscious and the unconscious.

A neurotic is a person who uses too much energy trying to keep the unpleasant out of his consciousness.  Frequently there is a particular experience that the person is desperately trying to repress and can be recovered (find his way back from the hidden traumas) with the aid of a technique Freud discovered- free association. In free association the patient just talks about whatever pops into his mind.  The idea was to break through the lid or control that has grown over the traumas.

According to Freud the royal road to the unconscious is our dreams.  His main work was published on this subject "The Interpretation of Dreams" in 1900,  where he showed that our dreams are not random.  Our unconscious tries to communicate with our conscious through dreams. He determined that all dreams are wish fulfillments. In adults the wishes that are to be fulfilled are disguised, that is because even when we sleep censorship is at work on what we will permit ourselves.  And although this censorship (repression) is considerably weaker when we are asleep than when we are awake, it is still strong enough to cause our dreams to distort the wishes we can not acknowledge.
Freud showed the we must distinguish between the actual dream as we record in the morning and the real meaning of the dream. He termed the actual dream image-the manifest dream.  This manifest dream content always takes its material from the previous day.  But the dream also contains a deeper meaning that is hidden from consciousness-latent dream thoughts. These hidden thoughts which the dream is really about may stem from the distant past.

But it is not the doctor who interprets the dream.  He can only do it with the help of a patient.  In this situation the doctor simply fulfills the function of a Socratic midwife, assisting during the interpretation.

The actual process of converting the latent dream thoughts to the manifest dream aspect was termed by Freud the dream work (decoding).

Freud believed that the dream was a disguised fulfillment of a repressed wish.

After Freud the unconscious became very important for art and literature. Surrealist began to exploit the power of the unconscious in their work. Surrealism-super realism. In a sense Freud administrated that their is an artist in everyone.

Freud also delivered impressive evidence of the wonders of the human mind. His works with patients convinced him that we retain everything we have seen and experienced somewhere deep in our consciousness, and all these impressions can be brought to light again.





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Chapter 32 Our Own Time



Existentialism is a collective term for several philosophical currents that take man’s existential situation as their point of departure. Several of these existential philosophers, or existentialists, based their ideas not only on Kierkegaard, but on Hegel and Marx as well.



Nietzsche

(1844-1900)

Another important philosopher who had a great influence on the twentieth century was the German Friedrich Nietzsche.  He, too, reacted against Hegel's philosophy and German 'historicism'. He proposed life itself as a counterweight to the anemic interest in history and what he called the christian 'slave morality'.   He sought to effect a 'revaluation of all values', so that the life force of the strongest should not be hampered by the weak.  According to Nietzsche, both Christianity and traditonal philosophy had turned away from the real world and pointed toward 'heaven' or 'the world of ideas'.  But what had hitherto been considered the 'real' world was in fact a pseudo world.  "Be true to the word," he said.  "Do not listen to those who offer you supernatural expectations."



Martin Heidegger, a German existential philosopher was influenced by both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.


Sartre
(1905-1980)

Jean-Paul Sartre, was the leading light among the existentialists-at least, to the broader public.  His existentialism became especially popular in the forties, just after the war.  Later on he allied himself with the Marxist movement in France but he never became a member of any party.

Sartre said that “existentialism is humanism”. Existentialists start from nothing but humanity itself. Sartre’s allegiance was to what we might call an atheistic existentialism. His philosophy can be seen as a merciless analysis of the human situation when “God is dead”.

The key word in Sartre's philosophy, as in Kierkegaard, is 'existence'.  But existence did not mean the same as being alive.  Plants and animals are also alive, they exist, but they do not have to think about what it implies.  Man is the only living creature that is conscious of its own existence.  Sartre said that a material thing is simply 'in itself,' but mankind is 'for itself.'  The being of man is not the same as the being of things.

Sartre said that man's existence takes priority over whatever he might otherwise be.  The fact that I exist takes priority over what I am.  'Existence takes priority over essence.'  By essence we mean that which something consists of- the nature, or being, of something.  But according to Sartre, man has no such innate 'nature'.  Man must there fore create himself.  He must creat his own nature or 'essence,' because it is not fixed in advance.

Throughout the entire history of philosophy, philosophers have sought to discover what man is-or what human nature is.  But Sartre believed that man has no such eternal 'nature' to fall back on.  It is therefore useless to search for the meaning of life in general.  We are condemned to improvise. We are like actors dragged into the stage without having learned our lines, with no script an no prompter to whisper stage directions to us. We must decide for ourselves how to live.

Sartre said that when people realize they are alive and will one day die-and their is no meaning to cling to-they experience angst (a sense of dread).  Man feels alien in a world without meaning (from Hegel and Marx).  Man's feeling of alienation in the world creates a sense of despair, boredom, nausea, and absurdity.

Sartre experienced man's freedom as a curse.  'Man is condemned to be free,' he said.  'Condemned because he has not created himself--and is nevertheless free.  Because having once been hurled into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.'

Not being asked to be created as free individuals we are nevertheless free and this freedom condemns us to make choice throughout our lives.  There are no eternal values or norms we can adhere to, which makes our choice even more significant.  Becuse we are totally responsible for everthing we do. 

Sartre emphasized that man must never disclaim the responsibility for his actions.  Nor can we avoid the responsibility of making our own choices on the grounds that we 'must' got to work, or we 'must ' live up to certain middle-class expectations regarding how we should live.  Those who thus slip into the anonymous masses will never be other than members of the impersonal flock, having fled from themselves into self-deception.  On the other hand our freedom obliges us to make something of ourselves, to live 'authentically' or 'truly'.

This is not least the case as regards our ethical choice.  We can never lay the blame on 'human nature', or 'human frailty' or anything like that.  Now and then it happens that grown men behave life pigs and then blame it on 'the old Adam.'  But there is no 'old Adam.'  He is merely a figure we clutch at to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions.

Although Sartre claimed there was no innate meaning to life, he did not mean that nothing mattered.  He was not what we called a nihilist- a person who thinks nothing means anything and everthing is permissible.  Sarte believed that life must have meaning.  It is an imperative.  But it is we ourselves who must create this meaning in our own lives.  To exist is to create you own life.

Sartre tried to prove that consciousness in itself is nothing until it have perceived something.  Because consciousness is always conscious of something.  And this 'something' is provided just as much by ourselves as by our surroundings.  We are partly instrumental in deciding what we perceive by selecting what is significant for us.

For example, two people can be present in the same room and yet experience it quite differently.  This is because we contribute our own meaning-or our own interest--when we perceive our surroundings.  A woman whi is pregnant might think she sees other pregnant women everywhere she looks.  That is not because there were no pregnant women before, but because now that she is pregnant she sees the world through different eyes.  An escaped convict may see policemen everywhere...

Our own lives influence the way we perceive things in the room.  If something is of no interest, we don't see it, we 'annihilate' whatever is irrelevant for us.

Existentialism and Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir
attempted to apply existentialism to feminism.  She denied the existence of a basic "female nature" or 'male nature'.  She believed that women and men must liberate themselves from such ingrown prejudices or ideal.  Her main work, published in 1949, was called The Second Sex

Existentialism and Literature

Existentialism also had a great influence on literature.  Sartre himself wrote plays as well as novels.  Other important writers were the Frenchman Albert Camus, the Irishman Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, who was from Romania, and Witold Gombrowicz from Poland.  Their characteristic style, and that of many other modern writers, was what we call absurdism (meaningless or irrational).  The term is especially used about the 'theater of the absurd'.

The theater of the absurd represented a contrast to realistic theater.  Its aim was to show the lack of meaning in life in order to get the audience to disagree.  The idea was not to cultivate the meaningless.  On the contrary,  but by showing and exposing the absurd in ordinary everyday situations, the onlookers are forced to seek a truer and more essential life for themselves.

The theater of the absurd often portrays situations that are absolutely trivial also called a kind of 'hyper-realism'.  People are portrayed precisely as they are. It can also have surrealistic features where the characters find themselves in a highly unrealistic and dreamlike situation.  When they accept this without surprise, the audience is compelled to react in surprise at the charters' lack of surprise. 


Science

Modern science is still dealing with many of the questions that the ancient Greek philosophers asked. And what is special about philosophical questions is that they must always be asked over the years and cannot be answered in any permanent sense. New trends and so-called New Age science are really just superstition passing as science. There is nothing supernatural. Publishers, publish what people want to read, not necessarily good books.

 
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Chapter 35 The Big Bang
Final


The Big Bang

Earth is only one of may planets orbiting the sun.  Yet Earth is the only living planet.  But it's possible that the universe is teeming with life.  The universe is inconceivably huge.  The distances are so great that we measure them in light-minutes and light-years.

A light-minute is the distance light travels in one minute.  And that's a long way, because light travels through space at 300,000 kilometers a second.  That means that a light-minute is 60 times 300,000--or 18 million kilometers.  A light-year is nearly ten trillion kilometers.

How far away is the sun?

It's a little over eight light-minutes away.  The rays of sunlight warming our faces on a hot June day have traveled for eight minutes through the universe before they reach us.

Pluto, which is the planet farthest out in our solar system, is about five light-hours away from us.  When an astronomer looks at Pluto through his telescope, he is in fact looking five hours back in time.  We could also say that the picture of Pluto takes five hours to get here.

Our sun is one of 400 billion other stars in the galaxy we call the Milky Way.  This galaxy resembles a large discus, with our sun situated in one of its several spiral arms.  When we look up at the sky on a clear winter's night, we see a broad band of stars.  This is because we looking toward the center of the Milky Way.

The distance to the star in the Milky Way that is our nearest neighbor is four light-years. But that's only the nearest star.  The whole galaxy--or nebula, as we call it- is 90,000 light-years wide.  That is another way of describing the time it takes for light to travel from one end of the galaxy to the other.  When we gaze at a star in the Milky Way which is 50,000 light-years away from our sun, we are looking back 50,000 years in time.

The only way we can look out into space, then, is to look back in time.  We can never know what the universe is like now.  We only know what is was like then.  When we look up at a star that is thousands of light-years away, we are really traveling thousands of years back in the history of space.

Everything we see meets the eye in the form of light waves.  And these light waves take time to travel through space.  We could compare it to thunder.  We always hear the thunder after we have seen the lightning.  That's because sound waves travel slower than light waves. When we hear a peal of thunder, we are hearing the sound of something that happened a little while ago.  It's the same thing with the stars.

Astronomers say there are about a hundred billion of such galaxies in the universe, and each of these galaxies consists of about a hundred billion stars.  We call the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way the Andromeda nebula.  It lies two million light-years from our own galaxy.  That means the light from that galaxy takes two million years to reach us.  So we're looking two million years back in time when we see the Andromeda nebula high up in the sky.  If there was a clever stargazer in this nebula--pointing his telescope at Earth right now--he wouldn't be able to see us.  If he was luck, he'd see a few flat-faced Neanderthals.

The most distant galaxies we know of today are about ten billion light-years away from us.  When we receive signals from these galaxies, we are going ten billion years back in the history of the universe.  That's about twice as long as our own solar system has existed.

Although it is hard enough to comprehend what is means to look so far back in time, astronomers have discovered something that has even greater significance for our world picture.  Apparently no galaxy in space remains where it is.  All the galaxies in the universe are moving away from each other at colossal speeds.  The further they are away from us, the quicker they move.  That means that the distance between the galaxies is increasing all the time.

If you have a balloon and you paint black spots on it, the spots will move away from each other as you blow up the balloon.  That's what's happening with the galaxies in the universe.  We day that the universe is expanding.

Most astronomers agree that the expanding universe can only have one explanation:  Once upon a time, about 15 billion years ago, all substance in the universe was assembles in a relatively small are.  The substance was so dense that gravity made it terrifically hot.  Finally it got so hot and so tightly packed that it exploded.  We call this explosion the Big Bang. The Big Bang caused all the substance in the universe to be expelled in all directions, and as it gradually cooled, it formed stars and galaxies and moon and planets...

The universe is expanding because of the explosion billions of years ago.  The universe has no timeless geography.  The universe is a happening.  The universe is an explosion.  Galaxies continue to fly through the universe away from each other at colossal speeds.

Will they go on doing that for ever?

Possibly but there is another.  Even though the universe continues to expand, the force of gravity is working the other way.  And one day, in a couple of billion years, gravity will perhaps cause the heavenly bodies to be packed together again as the force of the huge explosion begins to weaken.  Then we would get a reverse explosion, a so-called implosion.  But the distances are so great that it will happen like a movie that is run in slow motion.  You might compare it with what happens when you release the air from a balloon.

Will all the galaxies be drawn together in a tight nucleus again?

Yes.  There would be another Big Bang and the universe would start expanding again.  Because the same natural laws are in operation.  And so new stars and galaxies will form.

Astronomers think there are two possible scenarios for the future of the universe.  Either the universe will go on expanding forever so that the galaxies will draw further and further apart--or the universe will begin to contract again.  How heavy and massive the universe is will determine what happens.  And this is something astronomers have no way of knowing as yet. 

But if the universe is so heavy that it begins to contract again, perhaps it has expanded and contracted lots of times before.

That would be an obvious conclusion.  But on this point theory is divided. It may be that the expansion of the universe is something that will only happen this one time.  But if it keeps on expanding for all eternity, the question of where it all began becomes even more pressing.

For a Christian, it would be obvious to see the Big Bang as the actual moment of creation.  The Bible tells us that God said 'Let there be light!'  From this 'linear' point of view of a Christian belief in the creation, it is better to imagine the universe continuing to expand.

Some cultures with a 'cyclic' view of history (history repeats itself eternally).  In India, for example, there is an ancient theory that the world continually unfolds and folds again, thus alternating between what Indians have called Brahman's Day and Brahman's Night.  This idea harmonizes best, of course, with the universe expanding and contacting-in order to expand again-in an eternal cyclic process.

The planet is alive.  All organisms are made of elements that were once blended together in a star.

When radio telescopes can pick up light form distant galaxies billions of light-years away, they will be charting the universe as it looked in primeval times after the Big Bang.  Everything we can see in the sky is a cosmic fossil from thousands and millions of years ago.  The only thing an astrologer can do is predict the past. 

If it's a clear night, we can see millions, even billions of years back into the history of the universe.  So in a way, we are going home. 

We also began with the Big Bang, because all substance in the universe is an organic unity.  Once in a primeval age all matter was gathered in a clump so enormously massive that a pinhead weighed many billions of tons.  This 'primeval atom' exploded because of the enormous gravitation.  It was as if something disintegrated.  When we look up at the sky, we are trying to find the way back to ourselves.

All the stars and galaxies in the universe are made of the same substance.  Parts of it have lumped themselves together, some here, some there.  There can be billions of light-years between one galaxy and the next.  But they all have the same origin.  All stars and all planets belong to the same family.

But what is this earthly substance?  What was it that exploded that time billions of years ago?  Where did it come from?

We ourselves are of that substance.  We are a spark from the great fire that was ignited many billions of years ago.  However, we must not exaggerate the importance of these figures.  It is enough just to hold a stone in you hand.  The universe would have been equally incomprehensible if it had only consisted of that one stone the size of an orange.  The question would be just as impenetrable.  Where did this stone come from?

 

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