Sunday, November 25, 2007


No one knows anything whatsoever. I don’t know what I really what to do or where I really want to live. The same is true of you and pretty much everybody else. When you are young because you are young; when you are old because you are old. Truth is, no one really knows anything whatsoever. And we still want to know. We love knowing; we embrace it; we cherish it; we look for it; we need it. Yet, we somehow manage to survive without it.

This is not a balm that’s meant to sooth you; nothing more than the recognition of a disgrace. There’s no such thing as knowing yourself either because there’s no self or because there’s no knowing. The choice makes no difference at all. Either way you loose your grip.

There is no necessary connection between one day and the other, one view or the other. There’s no predetermined list of things to get done. There’s not creationist alignment of actions to follow. Nothing needs any other thing to go through. And yet, we want things to be such. We want to follow straight lines. We want to be thorough, we want to be honest, and we want to be done. Some day!

All of which makes us humans. All of which makes no sense, at all, whatsoever. Aiming at straight lines with crooked timber. Such is happiness under human existence. How can we dare to know anything whatsoever about ourselves, when no desire begets any other desire by necessity, when no belief causes any other belief inevitably so, when you can be a professor for twenty years and then become a cook, or a plumber, or a thief. How can anyone know anything whatsoever? What they want, what they like, where they want to be, how they want to live?

The prospects of human projection are far more near-sighted than what we think of them. Some times it makes no sense to go beyond a few days. After that what you are fulfilling is not a long-term project but a short-term torture. How can we dare, then, to chastise and judge so much projective behavior on a moral basis? If projects make no sense, we can’t be responsible for their failure. And, surely enough, we can’t be responsible for their success either.

Yet, it seems we manage to project, to cheat on ourselves, to prolong our existence with overreaching hopes and desires, with ungrounded beliefs and fears, with nothing more than figments of our imagination we float and stumble, roll and fall, move.

No one knows anything whatsoever. They don’t know what they want, they don’t know where they are, don’t know where they’ll be or want. And there is nothing to be known, no chronology to follow, no ingredients to compile. No life necessitates any other sort. We can be kings; we can be miserable, gods or simply humans. Either way, it makes no sense, no need, and no push to go on. Because there’s nothing to be known, no one knows anything whatsoever on who they are or what they want. It is not difficult to see moral discourse as a useless tool for unnecessary purposes. It does little work for that much space in our toolbox.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Silencio (15)


Vuelvo a las letras y el árbol sigue ahí. No ha perdido una sola hoja. ¿Por qué volver a las letras, entonces? ¿Acaso espero tirar las hojas con palabras? ¿Qué no es más bien al revés? ¿Por qué no dejar la aletargada tortura de esperar, pluma en mano, el derrumbe? ¿Por qué no derrumbarse y ya? Tirarlo todo y ya. A fin de cuentas, quemar el árbol es otra forma de tirar sus hojas.

Silencio (14)

Sometimes it’s just difficult to talk. When a fully deployed civil war is taking place in your stomach, none of the soldiers is allowed to stand up and look around. It’s like those late trees in the fall, whose leafs are all but green. Full of decay, full of glory, full of time. And yet, they are all, none of them falls.

A day will come when all those leafs will be taken away. When a refreshing wind spreads them. And the tree will just let go. And the leafs will simply fall. All of them! One day.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Elusive Happiness

“If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.”
Moby Dick

I am sitting here with Explosions in the Sky; embarked in an extraordinary enterprise. Just like any other day. It is so simple, so pleasing, and yet distressing. Even worse, it is so distressing because it is so pleasing and so easily such. My eyes are open and so is my skin. The light is proper and the air is clean. It is warm in here. I am so tranquil, so relaxed. Yet, I worry, for how long is this going to last?

I fight. I want to keep close. I want to stay put. To feel each and every one of its degrees. This fleeting pleasure. Elusive happiness. I grapple. The head goes up and down. Left. Right. Arms up and left. There is nothing left for the legs. Where is it? What is it? I need to find it before I loose it. It fades. Now I fight myself for such a nonsensical search. Who would be stupid enough to look for what he has already got? Like any other day, happiness goes.

So it seems that pleasure is derived from change. That we cannot just seat and stare. And happiness appears to be a delayed inertia that ever more slowly comes to an end, as things calm down, as there is no change. For happiness is tranquility before it begets boredom. And boredom calls for change, movement, stress.

So happiness demands misery, comfort discomfort, movement no change. Of course! What else could it be?

Superficial Tolerance

Suppose that you and I have different sets of beliefs. You believe the world is M-wise. I believe it is O-wise. Suppose you happily engage in conversations with me about how O the world is. You do this even though you believe the world only has M properties. You are tolerant.

One would think that such a model successfully describes, at least, one way of being tolerant. It is simple and clear. Nonetheless, it is also misleading.

Suppose that M is intelligent design theory, while O is evolution theory. They are inconsistent, if just because O presupposes that there is no intelligent designer. Now suppose that you happily agree to discuss how evolutionary-like the world is, even though you actually believe it is more like intelligently designed. That’s supposed to make you tolerant.

If you are attracted by that way of thinking, you will be deceived. As a matter of fact, there are tons of M-people that will happily engage in conversations concerning the evolutionary properties of the world that would, nonetheless, happily kill someone who dares to attack their religious beliefs. That does not make them tolerant.

I think it is advisable to distinguish among, at least, two forms of tolerance: a superficial, conversational, tolerance; and a deep, critical form of it. Both will happily engage in conversations about opposing, and even inconsistent, views. However, it is only the latter that will be so disposed as to consider the possibility of being mistaken. Conversational tolerance goes easy (and even some dare to miss it). I think it is superficial. Argumentative tolerance, however, requires something more: the almost unattainable ability to disbelief oneself within reasonable limits.

If this is true, then we have an explanation of some interesting phenomenon. Statistically speaking, the overwhelming (capital ‘O’) majority (i.e., 90% or so) of the residents of Mexico prove to be religious (more specifically, catholic). The numbers are less embarrassing in the US. However, educated audiences in the US (i.e., undergraduates) prove to be way less tolerant of criticisms of intelligent design than their counterparts in Mexico. Why is it so?

Well, suppose there are, at least, two forms of tolerance: conversational and argumentative. Educated audiences in Mexico prove to be conversationally tolerant, whereas their US counterparts do not. Does this prove that they are also argumentatively tolerant? I would not be so sure. Rather, I would think that their presupposition (i.e., that intelligent-design is true) is so deeply assumed that it becomes impenetrable. They can happily engage in conversations that would otherwise (i.e., if they were critical about it) undermine their assumptions.

At the end of the day, conversational tolerance may prove to be superficial and, perhaps, worthless.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

La Belleza de la Rutina

Vuelvo al trabajo. Una vez más. Calculo seis horas de descanso a partir de la hora aproximada del sueño. Despertador a las cinco. Pasa el sueño, llega el despertador. Me ejercito. Me baño. Lavo platos y vasos. Hago el desayuno. Pronto serán las ocho. Para entonces estaré de salida. Llevaré la computadora en la espalda y un horario en la cabeza, con copia en la agenda. Al mediodía vendrán mis alumnos. Mañana entregan trabajos. Habrá que ayudarles. Como a eso de las siete cenamos juntos. Después vendrán los amigos. “Apocalypse Now” o alguna otra película. Siempre es así, todos los días. Es mi rutina.

Hoy, sin embargo, hacer todo esto me resultó muy distinto. Aún no llega la cena, faltan los besos y caricias de Cata, los amigos. Por lo demás, el día ha sido muy normal. De no ser por la pequeña diferencia que hace una creencia: y es que es terriblemente bella la rutina.

Me vuelvo a despertar. Me ejercito. Me baño. Antes de salir me pongo el sombrero. Los zapatos. Es tan rutinario que me permito adelantarme. Sé muy bien lo que voy a hacer. Pero no lo sé por decisión tanto como por predicción. Me he visto tantas veces ya lavar esos platos, levantarme del piso con manos y brazos, bañarme. Tantas veces me he visto ponerme el sombrero después de los zapatos y los zapatos después de que todo, absolutamente todo, está en orden. Tantas y tantas que me permito separarme. Me siento en el sillón de la contemplación mientras la rutina se cumple a sí misma. Se despierta. Se ejercita. Se baña. Lava platos, recoge papeles y se ajusta el sombrero. Me satisface ver cómo este personaje cumple el horario al pie de la letra.

Pero no sólo. También me satisfacen los colores, los sonidos, las texturas, el sabor de la rutina. Me fascina ver, oir, sentir y saborear todo aquello que no veo, no escucho, no siento ni saboreo. Recordar los desayunos con mi padre, todos los días, a las seis en punto. Sentado en la mesa de la cocina. Mientras veo los colores oscuros de una cocina mal iluminada, como a eso de las seis de la mañana. Escuchar las pisadas en la playa, que deja la fricción del sombrero con el cabello. Reconocer el olor de la camisa limpia, del cabello recién lavado, de la urgencia por llegar temprano a la escuela a media semana.

La rutina me saca de mi mismo. Me permite observarme, compararme, degustarme. Puedo comparar el sombrero de ayer con el de hoy, aunque sean uno y el mismo. Puedo distinguir el café americano de ayer con el de hoy, porque hay tres gotas más de crema y dos giros menos del agitador. Reconozco las nuevas grietas del pavimento, los cambios en la esquina y la ya retrazada llegada del otoño que las hojas se habría de llevar.

Escuchar al mar en cada día. Una vez más. Una vez más. No sé si de olas está echa la rutina o si de rutinas el mar. ¿Será que toda rutina es marea y que, por eso mismo, tan bello es el mar?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Silencio (13)

Dejé la casa. Ya no es la misma. En mi intento por concluir una casa hecha por mi hermana, terminé por recibir una casa distinta. Era inevitable. Mi hermana no estará más aquí. La casa ya no puede ser suya. Hay necesidades biológicas que se antojan metafísicas. Hay amputaciones psicológicas que resultan ontológicas. La taxonomía es un trasto inútil.

Aún no puedo hablar de ella. Me dejó sentado aquí, esperando. Sigo sentado. Esperando. Siempre estuvo al frente. Destapando el mundo. Yo sólo seguía. No más. No está a la vista. Camino. Pero no sigo. La definición misma me lo impide. Un acto de andar sin guía al frente no constituye seguimiento. Pero, camino. Por eso la gente cree que sigo.

Dejé la casa. Se dice bella. No es su casa. Su peso en mi pecho me otorga derechos de propiedad. Qué metafísica tan jodida, la que no vence a la biología.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Genoma Mexicano (una vez más)

Hace tiempo escribí algo sobre el proyecto “Genoma Mexicano”. Mi texto era crítico de la idea misma de tal proyecto. Hoy recibí un comentario poco cooperativo y (naturalmente) anónimo. “Jovencito, deje trabajar a quienes se preocupan por arreglar la casa.” Quien lo escribió parece opinar que quienes persiguen el proyecto se preocupan por una buena causa y que dicha causa tiene que ver con algo en común (la casa).

En mi opinión la idea que subyace al proyecto es racista y la opinión anónima (nada sustentada) que recibí también. He aquí mis razones.

O bien el proyecto abarca todas y cada una de las combinaciones genéticas que todos y cada uno de los legalmente mexicanos tienen, o bien no lo hace. Para hacerlo tiene que incluir no sólo a quienes de hecho son mexicanos, sino también a quienes lo serán. Si, por ejemplo, un ser humano nacido en Africa Central y de padres nativos adquiere la nacionalidad mexicana el día de mañana, entonces el proyecto “Genoma Mexicano” habrá de abarcar también su carga genética. Si el proyecto tienes estos alcances (científicamente extraños) entonces merecerá elnombre.

Pero dudo que los tenga. El proyecto no está analizando (ni analizará) todas las posibles combinaciones genéticas que los legalmente mexicanos presentan y pueden presentar. El problema entonces es que, si el proyecto no tiene esos alcances, entonces o bien no merece el nombre o bien es tan sólo una versión modernizada del racismo Nazi. Recordemos que los nazis también distinguían a partir de cargas genéticas, o al menos suponían hacerlo.

Suponer que el proyecto merece el nombre es suponer que podemos distinguir a los ciudadanos de un país a partir de su carga genética. Es suponer que la propiedad política de ‘ser mexicano’ tiene algo que ver con las propiedades genéticas de los individuos. Mejor forma de concretar un nacionalismo, o racismo, no encuentro. De otra manera no entiendo de que sirve llamar ‘mexicano’ al genoma.

Lo anterior me hace pensar que una idea sumamente estúpida subyace al proyecto. Muy probablemente le llamaron ‘mexicano’ simplemente por motivaciones políticas o mercadológicas; motivaciones muy comunes en esa parte del mundo (y también muy estúpidas). Por las mismas razones creo que el comentario anónimo que recibí también es sumamente estúpido. No sólo presupone lo anterior, sino también que hay algo común a todos los mexicanos que la biología genética puede proteger: lo que el autor llama ‘la casa’. O sea que la idiotez es doble. La propiedad política tiene bases genéticas y las propiedades genéticas tienen bases políticas.

¿Qué resultará de creencias y deseos tan idiotas?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On Being Stalnakered

There is a particular feeling I associate with philosophical enterprises. It comes and goes every now and then. It lurks around my chest when I talk to philosophers about philosophy. (I know this sounds a bit redundant but, believe it or not, some philosophers can in fact talk about other things.) The feeling becomes unbearable, most commonly, when I intend to defend or attack some or other position. Until now I never knew what it was or how to call it. Now I know what it is and will steal a friend’s expression to dub it. I hereby call this the phenomenon and feeling of “being Stalnakered”.

Stalnaker taught us that all participants in a conversation share a common goal: to reduce the context set or the set of shared presuppositions of the conversation. Whoever dares to make an assertion must conform to the following principle: the assertion made must be true in some but not all of the possible worlds in the context set. If it is false in all the worlds it eliminates the context set and, hence, the conversation. If it is true in all the worlds then you’ll be trying to do something that has already been done. If you fail to conform the rule then what you do is either “unreasonable, inefficient, disorderly, or uncooperative.”

Philosophical conversations with philosophers tend to be defective. No one ever agrees upon the context set. There always are divergences that are relevant to the issues at stake. Hence, there is a big chance that you find yourself either saying something that puts an end to the conversation or doing something that has already been done. Most of the time, however, one makes an assertion because one does NOT take what is expressed to be presupposed to be true or false. So whenever your assertions are either presupposed to be false or presupposed to be true by your conversational partners, you do not feel unreasonable, inefficient, disorderly, or uncooperative. You feel conversationally assaulted. You feel Stalnakered!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Tricks of Racism

Last Friday I ran into yet another version of racism. This time, however, the racist act was peculiar enough to prove that this sort of unwarranted discrimination goes on across all boundaries.

We were at someone’s party at a house nearby. The party claimed to be ‘Mexican’. What made it Mexican was unclear to me. Though I did notice they had appropriate flags hanging by the window, pictures of Zapata, Villa, and Vicente Fernandez. Everything else was just like any other party that I have been to in Ann Arbor. I tend to think that rather than showing what ‘Mexican’ means (if it means anything at all) this kinds of thing show what people think it is for something to be ‘Mexican’.

Anyway, the issue here is different. The fact is that, at some point, the cops came by. We were told to turn down the volume or… you know. While the cops where still around someone decided to address himself to me by saying: “La Migra, la Migra!* Be careful”. In Mexican-American slang, "La Migra" refers to the Immigration Police of the US that dedicates its efforts to deport (or otherwise get rid of) illegal immigrants. The term has a clear negative connotation. More than 400 people die every year while crossing the Mexican-American border. Some of those are owed to La Migra.

I did not quite understand at the time. Someone nearby that seemed to know this person said something in reply to which he said: “That’s no problem man. I am black. I can say that shit.” He then went on to address me once more, trying to explain his behavior. “You know man, as a black person I have to take care of many problems. But, at least, I don’t have to worry about La Migra.” He seemed to presuppose that 'being Mexican' is synonymous with 'being illegal'.

I guess there are many things to be said. The person in question was in fact what in politically correct terms is referred to as African-American. He clearly seemed to accept a hierarchy of, say, kinds of people. There are normal people (i.e., those who do not have to deal with many problems); black people (i.e., who have to deal with many problems); and Mexicans (i.e., who have to deal with many problems plus La Migra). It also seems as if for him the fact that there is some other kind of person lower in the hierarchy is comforting. After all, there is someone having a worse time.

More interestingly, though, I would like to mention two features of this kind of behavior. First, racist assertions of this sort have an important attractive ingredient: they make you feel better than what you think you are. That is easy to do when you have convinced yourself that there is someone in a worse position. Second, racist assertions of this sort seem to for some for of a safety net that, in fact, does not exist. The person in question here thought that because he is in fact a victim of racist discrimination he is therefore allowed to do so. I think that both of these are powerful magnets. These are the tricks of racism, what partly explains its success. Many fail to notice that there is no safety net for racism. There is no such thing as a position from which you are, in fact, free of charge and allowed to judge. Furthermore, as the case shows, there is no such thing as a ‘good position’, or a high-enough position, once you accept a racist hierarchy.

So, racist comments, like invalid arguments, are everywhere. Like stupidity, they get communicated almost by osmosis.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Silencio (12) Placas Tectónicas

“Una placa tectónica es un fragmento de litósfera que se desplaza como un bloque rígido sin presentar deformación interna sobre la astenósfera de la tierra.”

Una placa tectónica es como un bloque rígido que, sin deformación interna, desplaza un fragmento de litósfera sobre la astenósfera de la tierra.

Un fragmento de litósfera que, sobre la astenósfera de la tierra se desplaza, como un bloque rígido, sin presentar deformación interna, se fragmenta.

Una persona que, sobre la superficie del miocardio, se desplaza, como un bloque rígido, sin presentar deformación interna, se separa.

Cuando parten se desplazan. Les siguen los infartos. Se podría decir que en efecto no hay deformación interna, porque las placas se superponen, al igual que las personas. Temer es reordenar. Cuando se tiembla fuerte, cuando se llora en demasía, cuando no parece haber más placas sobre las que hacer mundo, ahí nos espera la calma.

La astenósfera y el miocardio comparten ritmos y glorias. Comparten penas. Sólo cabe imaginar cuánto teme la tierra al temblar. Cabe pensar en un largo y tedioso funeral. Cabe pensar. Sólo cabe pensar.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


A veces quisiera
escribir con certeza.

Briefly Put

De pronto se me ocurre. Sin pensarlo mucho la certeza es instantánea. Y es que tal parece que la diferencia entre un escritor y un suicida no radica en la temeridad del segundo. Más bien parece radicar en la vanidad, o tal vez la necesidad, del segundo, quien no se suicida simple y llanamente porque lo quiere contar. Ni uno ni otro dejan de asombrarse ante lo increíblemente mal que pueden ir las cosas. Incluso cabe pensar que, una vez hecho el relato, el segundo acompañará al primero. De no ser porque, por corto que sea el plaso, entre vivirla y contarla ya acontecieron más desgracias por relatar, el segundo habría adelantado al primero hace ya algún tiempo.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Más Médula

No sé bien cómo decirlo. Pero estoy seguro de que Descartes sabía de México y de que Heidegger lo ignoraba. O, al menos, pretendía hacerlo. De haber vivido en nuestros días, Rene seguramente habría encabezado las fuerzas de lucha contra el fraude. No por nada, más que un racionalista, Cartesio es un recio antifenomenólogo. Aquello de que la apariencia – encubierta con esa pátina de intelectualidad por la evanescente palabra ‘phainomenon’– lo es todo, no era sino el anatema de Descartes. Y todo porque Descartes sabía bien, muy bien, que las apariencias engañan.

Todos sabemos que no se permitía creer siquiera lo que su mente le decía (a excepción, claro, de algunos secretos egocéntricos). No sabía bien a bien si tres mas dos son cinco o veinticinco. Dudaba, mas no temía, sobre la existencia de un suelo firme a su alrededor. Y de vez en cuando se permitía el lujo, eso sí, de imaginar demonios y desaparecer dioses. Tal era su exacerbada desconfianza que uno se pregunta obligadamente qué le hacía dudar. Él confiesa públicamente que todo se debe a un prurito intelectual.

Yo, sin embargo, sospecho que las razones son otras. Sospecho, como dije ya, que Descartes sabía de México. Sabía que no podía confiar lo que su vista le decía porque, por ejemplo, una línea interrumpida y de color blanco sobre el asfalto no era razón suficiente para creer que se circula por una autopista de dos carriles y un mismo sentido. En más de una ocasión, se supo, han circulado autos en sentido contrario por ese tipo de caminos. Sabía también que no podía confiar en autoridad alguna, porque un médico que afirma que los estudios señalan una salud infatigable bien puede soslayar un cáncer rampante. De esto sabía, es claro, por sus amigos mexicanos. Y aunque un solo caso en el mundo no era suficiente para destruir un argumento inductivo, el gran poderío deductivo de Descartes le impedía confiar siquiera en los más afamados médicos ingleses.

Pero, ¿qué es lo que tanto temía Descartes? Él decía temer al error, más acertadamente, a la creencia falsa y efímera. Ante todo, había que huir de la ignorancia. Pero esta respuesta es insatisfactoria. Muchos japoneses ignoran fehacientemente a Descartes y aún así confían en un sistema social que no deja de cumplirles. ¡No señor! Descartes no temía a la ignorancia, ni tampoco al error. Es necesario ofrecer otras respuestas. Descartes, aventuro, tenía un profundo temor al fraude, la expoliación, el timo, la estafa, el engaño, la gitanería, el truco, el ocultamiento, la falsificación, el embeleco, la calumnia, pero sobre todo tenía una fobia ininterrumpida al chamaqueo chilango, pues como todos saben, Descartes era un sujeto epistémico maduro. Es decir, sufría de chamacofobia, lo cual no quiere decir, como algunos se han atrevido a adelantar, que no gustaba de la pedofilia.

Lo cierto es que Descartes alguna vez conoció a una morena de Bucerías. De ella supo de las playas de arena y sol. Transcurrió su vida torturado por los dilemas que su prurito antifenomenólogo y su amor a Bucerías le generaban. Deseaba vivir en México, pero tenía razones para la duda. Sabía que para llegar al paraíso había que confiar en las aparencias, no temer al fraude, al engaño de los sentidos, a la falta de sustancia, al funcionalismo que lo mismo le da un ser humano que una computadora, un taco de pastor que uno se soya; había que abrazar la fe ciega, vivir en casas de unicel que aparentan cemento, viajar en autos de plástico que ansían acero, sobre autopistas de tierra y alquitrán que insinúan concreto; había, en resumidas cuentas, que vivir a la mexicana. Pero Descartes no estaba dispuesto a ser un fenomenólogo de cepa, con ascendencia, de estirpe, con confianza y fe en lo que no se alcanza a simple vista. Para él la fenomenología, creer y aceptar las apariencias sin más, no era sino sinónimo del fraude. Nunca logró dejarse timar. Por eso fruncía el ceño con un dejo de incredulidad cada vez que Heidegger, desde su cómodo rectorado, amparaba la apariencia y firmaba al calce. “Habría que mandarlo a Bucerías” se decía Rene “a ver si ahí no pide un poco más de médula.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

poesía fantasma

Hace tiempo intenté defender que las mitologías son producto del amor. Dicho más burdamente, prentendí sostener que el amor resulta necesario para la vida y que los fantasmas y religiones son resultado de su ausencia. Amamos tanto que no podemos permitirnos la huida. Desde entonces vivo un poco convencido, un poco injustificado también, creyendo que la religión es una adaptación poco ventajosa ante las desaveniencias de una adaptación claramente evolutiva: la capacidad de amar entre los miembros de la especie humana. Así nos permitimos construir casas e igualmente derruirlas. Por eso en su ausencia es necesario inventar su permanencia eterna. Los fantasmas son la solución preferida.

Desde entonces no he querido y, por ende, no he logrado encontrar otras razones, otros contextos más útiles, más claros a favor de tal postura. Recién encuentro lo que tomo por ser la misma afirmación pero en forma versicular. Éste es de Vallejo. Cabe señalar la gran aportación de Vallejo. Los fantasmas son de propiedad común. De otra manera no sirven, no amedrentan, no existen.


Al fin de la batalla,
y muerto el combatiente, vino hacia él un hombre
y le dijo: "¡No mueras; te amo tanto!"
Pero el cadáver, ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Se le acercaron dos y repitiéronle:
"¡No nos dejes!¡Valor!¡Vuelve a la vida!"
Pero el cadáver, ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Acudieron a él veinte, cien, mil, quinientos mil,
clamando: "¡Tanto amor, y no poder nada contra
la muerte!"
Pero el cadáver, ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Entonces todos los hombre de la tierra
le rodearon; les vio el cadáver triste, emocionado;
incorporóse lentamente,
abrazó al primer hombre; echóse a andar...

Hay golpes en la vida tan fuertes...
Cesar Vallejo
Editorial Andrés Bello

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Una Tache más

Sigo pensando en mi hermana. Lo cual no es noticia. Por ahora pienso en una más de las ridiculeces que trae consigo esta forma de vida que tildamos de humana. Tras la muerte, llegué naturalmente a la fobia antiplanificadora. Eso de vivir para después me resultaba, y resulta aún, completamente estúpido, autodestructivo y común. No sé cuántos años pasé lejos de mi familia. Ciertamente más de los que pasé en el extranjero. Uno puede estar a unos metros y aún así no estar. Me dedicaba a planear y seguir los planes. Todo seguía tal cual debía ser. Cuatro años más y todo sería mejor. Pero no pude contar con cuatro años, ni dos. En realidad uno no puede contar siquiera con quince minutos. Y aún así nos atrevemos a arrastrarnos día con día. Solemos planear para alcanzar una estructura económica, social, cultural e incluso política. Solemos buscar esa estructura para vivir bien. Pero de nada sirve la estructura sin los demás. De nada sirve un departamento para uno sólo. De nada sirve el dinero, ni la comida y menos aún los planes.

Uno pensaría, pues, que habría que olvidar el mañana. Ojalá fuera tan sencillo. Ojalá tuviéramos salida. De nada sirve olvidar el mañana. Imagino fácilmente los resultados de un afán que disgusta de planear, el afán del que gusta de estar aquí y ahora, rodeado de familia y amigos. Todos juntos. Suena muy bien, pero no tiene estructura. Los días soleados serán pocos. La necia maquinaria del quehacer caerá con fuerza sobre sus cabezas. Y entonces el día a día se hace pesado. No hay manera de sostenerlo con las manos. Se va la familia, se van los amigos. Y uno termina, al parecer, igual que el amigo del afán planificador.

Pero entonces qué puede un humilde humano hacer. Se me ocurre no ofrecer recomendaciones. Olvidar el mañana literalmente implica olvidar el día de hoy. Vivir mañana literalmente implica no vivir. Y qué puede uno hacer después de alojar a pensamientos tan sucios, tan oscuros de tan religiosos. Qué puede uno hacer si no asquearse de uno mismo, terminar la frase anterior y poner punto final a una divagación idiota.

Debo confesar que no entiendo a aquellos que alaban tanto la vida humana. Ese resultado de una selección natural ciega a favor de una forma retrógrada de subsistir. Terminemos, pues, con este juego.

¡Buenas noches!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Aceptación Completa

Hoy he pensado un poco en la aceptación completa. Es decir, he pensado en la extraña conducta que resulta de apreciar todo lo que uno hace. Incluyendo, por supuesto, el bolo alimenticio, los jugos gástricos y el excremento. Y es que, pocas veces nos detenemos a observar los trozos cilíndricos de mierda que dejamos flotar a nuestro paso por los escusados. Todos, sin embargo, sentimos la necesidad de asegurarnos de la calidad de la obra. La mirada inspectora, sin embargo, es fugaz y escondida. Como si temiera verse a sí misma observando con placer los resultados de su persona. Que triste rechazo.

Pero, por fortuna, no todos portamos el mismo estandarte autófobo. Se tiene por sabido que hay quienes han logrado cultivar bellamente el arte de la aceptación total. Nosotros, los enemigos de sí mismos, solemos justificar nuestras penas agraviando a los avanzados, esos maestros de la aceptación completa. ‘Sucio’ y ‘enfermo’ son palabras que suelen venir a cuento, cuando no ‘cerdo’, en plena actitud de vilipendio, se trata de ‘escatófilos’ o ‘escatólogos’, palabras que se emplean en relación con la duración temporal de la observación del producto y o con la calidad del intercambio entre creador y obra. Hay maestros capaces de pasar decenas de minutos frente a la obra, como si se tratara de un dibujo escheriano difícil de encuadrar. Los hay también quienes son capaces de intervenir el arte y participan manualmente de la obra, permitiéndose así un compromiso total con la máxima expresión de vida.

Creo yo que no hay razón de alarma. Habría que eliminar la carga patológica que dichas palabras suelen tener. Los maestros de la aceptación completa no son psicópatas ni cerdos. A lo sumo pecan de Narcisismo. Pero éste es un mal que a todos aqueja. Y cabe señalar que el narcisismo de quien se acepta plenamente es mucho más genuino, más ‘de raíz’ (o de víscera, si se prefiere) que aquel que comparte el común de los mortales. Mientras unos (los enfermos) se dan a la tarea de aceptar las consecuencias necesarias y naturales que su propia existencia conlleva, los otros (los sanos) en realidad se dedican al rechazo de su ser mediante la idolatría de una imagen que tienen de sí mismos y que poco corresponde con su realidad.

Nada más real que la propia mierda que a uno le sigue día con día. Dicen algunos budistas que el camino hacia el nirvana comienza con la aceptación completa. El excremento propio es la puerta de entrada. Quien logra cultivarse en la apreciación estética y la relación amorosa con su propia mierda está a un paso de amar al excremento ajeno. Este segundo paso es una muestra de la asunción humana. Pues seguro es que aquél para quien no hay nada más bello que un pedazo de mierda ha logrado la difícil tarea de la eliminación del yo y la consecuente identidad universal.

Comencemos, pues, por el escusado.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

No se puede caminar en Coyoacán

Que nadie se lleve a engaño. Los libros no se escriben a mano, ni a ojo. Algunos se encuentran a oído, pero todos, o casi todos, se llevan a pie. Leer no sirve para escribir, sólo para escuchar y, en ocasiones, tampoco. Uno creería, por lo tanto, que desde la instauración del imperio de las supuestas letras mexicanas en Coyoacán, alias la Fundación Paz, alias la casa de Octavio, un sinnúmero de copistas proletarios habrían de establecerse en los terruños del señor feudal. Pero no fue así.

Que nadie se lleve a engaño. No se puede caminar en Coyoacán. Quien decidió mantener el empedrado, seguramente algún otro señor feudal, aseguró que nadie escribiría en Coyoacán. Coyoacán no se camina, sólo se mira a sí misma, como cuentan de las putas en escaparates del primer mundo, sólo se vende a sí misma, se sacia en sí misma. Pero no se escribe, no se lee, no se piensa. Y todo esto, porque no se puede caminar en Coyoacán. Cuando no un árbol es la mierda de un perro, vaga reminiscencia de las grandes mierdas de los otrora paseantes de Coyoacán, esos grandes caballos de la historia que se encargaban, como ahora sus homónimos mecánicos, de que nadie camine en Coyoacán, o la premura de un centauro en hora pico, la que le impide que uno escriba en Coyoacán.

Que nadie se lleve a engaño. Nadie camina en Coyoacán. Todos caminan en París con Rambó, en la India, donde se confunde a monos con lingüistas, o en Niú Llork, donde toman al Bronks por Lepanto. Coyoacán se hizo para sentarse. Como las grandes letras mexicanas, que en gran número son guías de viajero, para quien quiera conocer el mundo exterior sin dejar su cómoda silla mecedora en Coyoacán.

Que nadie se lleve a engaño. Los libros no se escriben a mano. No se puede caminar en Coyoacán. Sólo en el llano. Que un arrebato de cordura nos haga confesarlo. No hay muchas letras mexicanas. Tampoco tiene porque haberlas. Pero no poca virtud hay en poner sus apellidos a los nombres.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Innocent Perversity

I have claimed that religion finds its natural origin within the experience of death and because of the strength/dependence that human individuals find in their social relationships. I argued specifically that love relations, such as those found between parents and offspring, or among siblings, play an important role. They are too strong for the individual to face the absence of the beloved one. Hence the imaginary creation of an afterlife, a different dimension where the love ‘allegedly’ lurks.

I now think that this move not only comes with the ‘innocence’ prize, but also with a ‘perversity’ one. To believe that there is an afterlife, when there is no evidence whatsoever supporting it, is not only innocent (or stupid) but also perverse. The sheer idea that there is some such thing is meant to justify the mortal events. The general pattern of explanation (e.g., ‘they died because you had to live’, or ‘they died because DOG said so’) is intended to give us reasons to calmly accept that the beloved ones are no longer alive.

Now, the problem is this: in so doing we are ipso facto accepting that whatever accounts for the tragic events is SUFFICIENT for the tragic events to happen. In other words, to accept this account is to accept that, say, the afterlife, the spirits, or DOG’s will, is good enough for, say, your entire family to die in a car accident. That is human perversity in its wildest form. I cannot imagine anything justifying many tragic events. I cannot imagine any afterlife (no matter how beautiful and nice) outscoring the pain and suffering of an innocent kid that dies after the radiation caused by the Hiroshima bomb.

The very idea that any future (or past) event in my life will be (or was) good enough to explain why my family had to die in a car accident, seems to me to be even more fundamentally wrong than the thought that claiming the end of the war is good enough to explain why the US Army had to kill a thousands in Hiroshima. I say ‘fundamentally wrong’ because it is not only perverse but also profoundly stupid. Why would anyone in her five senses admit of anything as worthy as the life of her entire family?

I see only two explanations of such a way of think. Either one is comfortably sitting in someone else’s story, without questioning, without thinking, without feeling. Or one’s family was not really a family but a perverse group of non-loving criminals. Since my family was perhaps the best I could think of, and I still cannot find anesthetics for such a grief, I simply don’t buy that way of thinking. I’d rather accept the crude, meaningless, reality of death, than be stupid, innocent, and (worst of all) perverse enough to think that the dead deserved to die.

There is no justification for death. People die because they are (physically, chemically, and biologically) pathetically fragile. And that is all there is to it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Silencio (11)

Ya son casi cinco meses. En sentido estricto, pasado mañana serán veintiún semanas. Todo este tiempo que llevo cargando en el pecho, en las pestañas, en los tejidos que no los músculos sino los tejidos que sostienen los músculos, esos pequeños hilos de acidez que recorren el cuerpo en su parte superior principalmente. Todo ese tiempo en que siguen corriendo la rabia y sus lágrimas, la negación sintáctica que se apila una sobre otra, con más peso cada vez, con más dolor en cada ocasión, un peso duplicado sobre sí mismo, un peso insoportable, una rabia interminable, una tristeza inmisericorde sin fin, sin meta, sin consuelo. Este domingo será uno más en luto, uno más de gris, de todos los cientos de domingos ya, que habré cargar en la espalda, rostro y pupilas. Seguiré soñando con una conversación telefónica frustrada.

Veo con curiosidad que hace seis semanas no escribía así. Dentro de algunos años, quizás, vuelva a ver con curiosidad algo completamente similar. Sin duda.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

No se sabe de qué se aburre

Es una desgracia completa la vacuidad del hastío. En ocasiones puede llegar a ser fatal. A diferencia de otros estados mentales, como la creencia, el deseo y la pasión, el aburrimiento carece de contenido. No se sabe de qué se aburre. No hay algo en el mundo de lo cual uno se aburra. Por mucho que se diga, por muy maldito que sea el poeta, generar aburrimiento o hastío no es propiedad alguna, de objeto alguno, en mundo alguno. Por mucho que uno desee que así sea, no hay contenidos del hastío. Uno no se aburre acerca de los árboles ni de los mares, tampoco se aburre sobre las novelas, ni con respecto a la fenilketonuria que al aburrimiento, en el lóbulo frontal, habría de controlar. No tampoco es de ello. El aburrimiento no es sobre nada, porque todo, absolutamente todo, es aburrimiento. El hastío es por consiguiente, y en verdad, un estado simpliciter. Uno, simple y llanamente, se aburre.

Lo cual resulta profundamente desagradable para dos tipos de personas. Para las personas sin más, es decir, sin apellidos, que sufren en su humanidad las inclemencias del hastío; pero también para otras, esas sí con apellido, que gustan de creer que la conducta humana se explica a partir de contenidos mentales. Para los primeros, los sin nombre, es una desgracia a secas, sin apellidos por igual. La desgracia consiste en que, a diferencia del miedo, el placer y el deseo, la falta de contenido del hastío se traduce en una falta de soluciones. Piénses, por ejemplo, en los helados. Quien tema, se complazca o desee un helado, sabrá muy bien que evitar o frecuentar. Pero quien se hastía así sin más no sabrá bien qué hacer. De nada le servirá evitar o frecuentar la heladería, ni la zapatería y mucho menos la librería. De lo cual resulta evidente y necesario que cuando no se es sobre algo o acerca de algo, no se tiene solución ni medio alguno. Y si se es problema, se es, entonces, problemón. Punto.

Para los demás, con apellido, como Fodor y amigos, el problema resulta tener apellidos. Es un problema teórico y por tanto fácil de presentar. Si los estados mentales son causas internas de la conducta humana, es porque esos estados internos tienen por contenido algo externo, dando así lugar al movimiento. ¿Qué pasa, sin embargo, con el misterioso hastío? Hacemos muchas cosas por hastío. Este texto es prueba irrefutable de ello. ¿Cómo explicar esta acción a partir de un estado interno sin contenido alguno? “Porque estaba hastiado” es tan buena explicación de “se puso a escribir” como de “se dedicó a pisotear hormigas” o, por qué no, “encontró una infinita pasión por las partículas macroscópicas e incomprendidas que polulan las superficies de los escritorios del mundo los martes a eso de las dieciocho, hora de Greenwich.”

No hay manera de explicar lo que hacemos por hastío. Y aún así todo lo destacado, o casi todo, se ha hecho por hastío. El hastío no es perfecto. Sin duda que también muchas porquerías se han logrado con el hastío. Como ésta que ha logrado llegar a su final.

Psychology and Philosophy

There are many topics within philosophical discussion. One can even distinguish them for their relevance in different areas of research. Some are relevant for political theory and political science, some for sociology, others for literary and film theory, and some for psychology. It is the last of these that I am interested in. I want to know how humans cognize their environment. Typically, this is understood within the broad study area of Philosophy of Mind. The question is wide. It may even involve some biology, depending on the standpoint. My present worry, however, does not concern the relevance of philosophical discussions within theory of mind. Rather, I am worried about the philosophy-psychology relation itself. How, if at all, are we supposed to cash out the psychological data in philosophical terms?

One way to do this, the one I can imagine (at least), is to assume that all philosophical claims depend upon implicit or explicit assumptions about human psychology. Thus, I tend to think that ANY philosophical theory of, say, perception or perceptual content, MUST fit in the evidence from psychological studies. I know of, at least, three ways of attacking this claim.

One possible attack comes from the hardcore narrow-minded philosopher. According to her, whether or not philosophy meets the psychological data is, at best, a matter of coincidence. Thus if, say, a Cartesian theory of knowledge comes out to be psychologically non-sense, still there might be some room for it within the altar of philosophy. I think this view is either too arrogant, or too humble. In both cases, it turns out to be useless.

Another possible attack comes from the hardcore separatist. According to her, philosophy and psychology split. One is concerned with psychological facts, the latter with logical facts. Thus, when we wonder whether Descartes theory is correct, we wonder whether it is logically consistent. And it might be logically consistent even if psychologically impossible. One reply to this, the one I have to offer, is to demand that the subject matter be determined. It might very well be (though I doubt it) that logical and psychological questions split at some point. Nevertheless, if both philosophers and psychologists are wondering about the same subject matter (i.e., how humans cognize their environment), it better be that their answers are consistent with each other.

Finally, a third attack comes from fans of philosophical prior. According to her, philosophy is always prior to any other inquiry. As such, it must first be answered before any other inquiry can get started. Psychological evidence presupposes a solution to the central philosophical issues. Thus, it is useless, for philosophical purposes, to appeal to psychological data. It turns out to be some sort of a vicious circle. I believe the history of science has greatly retorted to this objection. If philosophical solutions were really needed, we would have no scientific development for the past millennia – assuming, as it seems to be, that no agreed theory has come up for philosophical problems about cognition since, at least, Aristotle. It seems that psychology is pretty well off without solving philosophical problems.

The way I see this, logically consistent theories of knowledge are plentiful. The number of good, acceptable ones is pretty large. In any case, it is definitely larger than the number of acceptable psychological accounts of human cognition. After all, logical laws bound logical inquiry, whereas psychological inquiry is bound by the data. It seems to me to be natural to expect that the psychological accounts narrow down the inquiry by eliminating logically possible, yet unsuitable, accounts of cognition. And this can be done by demanding from our philosophy that it fits-in the psychological data.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Knowing and not Believing

I know I am going to die some time in the future. I cannot, however, conceive of me dying in any manner. And so, I cannot believe that I am going to die. I think this is true of my psychology, and I also think it is true generally, of a good number of other humans. I think, furthermore, that this falsifies the traditional theory of knowledge in terms of justified belief, and that it also contradicts traditional views of moral inconsistency.

Call whatever it is that I know, but cannot believe, ‘a content’. For the former case to be so, it must be possible for humans to hold some contents as known without, therefore, holding them as believed. If this is so, it seems that knowledge is not belief at all, whatsoever. So it cannot either be a justified belief, whatever.

Here is another example. I know that my family is dead. I cannot, however, conceive of them dying in any manner whatsoever. I cannot, for that matter, convince myself that they are dead. And so, I cannot believe that they are dead. I think this is true of my psychology, and I am confident it is also true of most (if not all) cases of grief.

Just like before, this seems to require some independence between holding a content as known and holding it as believed. The best way to understand this, I think, is to take the knowledge-belief relation in similar ways as we understand the belief-desire relation. The three of them, I propose, are, up to some degree, independent of each other. I cannot, it is true, know something without having any belief whatsoever. Just like I cannot have any desire without having any belief whatsoever. It seems, however, that I can have the desire to be able to fly, without having the belief that I can fly. Likewise goes for knowledge, I think. I can know something, and still not believe in it.

To hold this degree of independence between knowledge and belief allows us to understand, also, the otherwise problematic phenomenon of inconsistency. I haven’t met any perfectly consistent person, much less any perfectly consistent moral philosopher, which is able to do what their moral views tell them to. The traditional way to account for this is to criminalize the inconsistency. Some think we should punish the moral philosopher for never acting according to their theories. I think this is just a misunderstanding.

I hereby present a different story. A moral philosopher, and for that matter, any human being, will be able to have a theory, and know what to do, and still do something else, without thereby committing a crime. The reason this is so is not because the subject is inconsistent. Rather, persons are such that they can know something (or, better, hold some content as known) without thereby desiring, believing, or even conceiving it. There is no crime here. That’s just how we are.

We should perhaps not demand impossible tasks from our fellow humans.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bergman and Kim-Ki-Duk

In the past few days we saw a couple of movies: Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander” and Kim-Ki-Duk’s “Address Unknown”. They share many different characteristics. They are products of highly famous Film Directors. They are beautifully shot. They are both able to either make you cry, shy away, or get mad. My case is the latter one. I think both films also share another central characteristic: they lost their sense of their own limits after the first forty minutes. I call this last feature “arrogance”, and I will not defend this practice here for matters of space.

Suffice it to say that both movies are boundless. Bergman’s is a fairly recent piece where he never, ever, stops making use of the same resources. Take Bergmann’s thesis that human beings are all actors, since they are all Personas, and we already know (thanks to him) that Personas are actors. This is an interesting claim of Bergmann’s, not an original claim of his, though, but an interesting one. It was good enough for him to make “Persona”. But why does he keep bringing it up once again? In “Fanny and Alexander” he takes a bit more than three hours (with a film-made intermission, I must say) to let you know that we are all Hamlet, or not. The same thing goes on and on, anguish, courage, control, and desperateness. Now we even have a bishop explicitly claiming that he has one mask only, that he cannot take off. Interesting claim, as I said, but we do not need three hours of the same thing over and over again. For two reasons: we are not stupid, and we get fed up. That’s how this boundlessness becomes arrogance. When the director does not realize where is the limit to what he can say, and even worse, he does not even realize there is a limit.

Kim-Ki-Duk’s is fairly similar. Unlike Bergman’s we are not dealing with Personas, nor actors, but misery: boundless misery. From the very first shot until the very last one, Kim-Ki-Duk is not shy to deliver “exactly the same miserable content”. The movie starts with a kid carving out a toy gun from an empty wooden box. He adds a metal cylinder, a few straps, and gun pellet. He then goes on to try his toy by shooting at an empty can placed above his sister’s head. The shot goes wrong and hits her eye. For the rest of the movie (except for a few very miserable moments) the girl looses that eye. Nice beginning! The movie ends up with a soldier finding a letter that was lost by someone else. The letter came too late to save a woman and her kid. The woman kills herself by burning the bus where she used to live. What goes in between these two pieces of story just is the same. This is really, “really”, disturbing and in a bad way. As with Bergman, one should say that Kim-Ki-Duk does not even realize there is a limit. Like Bergman and his Persona, Kim-Ki-Duk seems to be screaming every five minutes, while hammering his fist on the table, “Human Life is Miserable!”, “Human Life is Miserable!”, “Human Life is Miserable!”. We heard pretty well the very first time Sir. We were watching the movie. Remember?

And all this, just because I love to watch movies.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

De las desventajas de no ser hormiga

Mujeres, hormigas y hombres hacen ambientes por igual. Pero no sólo, también son igualmente cosmopolitas. Hay hormigueros por todo el mundo. Quizás más y mejor distribuidos que las ciudades, los pueblos y las chozas. Hormigas, hombres y mujeres también, no se puede negar, son patéticamente frágiles de manera individual. Ningún hormiguero y, por lo tanto, ningún recoveco de cueva alguna de cualquier hormiguero, está hecho por las antenas y mandíbulas de una sola hormiga ni de su contraparte sexual. Igualmente, ni hombres ni mujeres, ni las contrapartes sexuales de esos hombres y mujeres, han hecho esquina alguna, de cuarto alguno, de edificio alguno del mundo. Patéticamente inútiles como individuos. En esto el marcador es parejo. Hombres, mujeres y hormigas son igualmente patéticos.

Aún así, patetismo de por medio, tanto hormigas como mujeres (hombres en menor cantidad) viven en cuartos, tienen recovecos, recelan sus esquinas y hacen y deshacen hormigueros. En proyectos megalómanos seguimos con el marcador en ceros.

Hay, sin embargo, una diferencia de magnitud industrial. Y es que mujeres y hombres, por igual, pero no hormigas, se dedican a concebir tal megalomanía. Esto resulta en una diferencia enorme contra mujeres, hombres y contrapartes (sexuales o no). Pues concebir lo que sea es la mejor manera de no hacerlo. Pasan los días pensando, soñando e imaginando, pero no haciendo. Y es que concebir no les sirve de mucho. Imaginan el proyecto acabado, pero no los pelos y señas necesarios para lograrlo. El resultado es una cantidad de frustración directamente proporcional al número de hombres, mujeres, contrapartes, sexos y asexos capaces de concebir sin hacer, que pueblan el mundo entero. En suma, unos cinco punto nueve billones de infelices. Demasiada. Insoportable. Frustración.

Los hormigueros se hacen de granos de tierra. Los edificios, de arena. Pero la imaginación hace edificios duros, acabados, de concreto cubicular, ergonómico, antropomorfo, comfortiforme, con conexiones de banda ancha y energía eléctrica. Pero el mundo no tiene concreto cubicular comfortiforme. El mundo tiene granos de tierra y cantidades industriales de arena. ¡De nada sirve imaginar sino se tiene la alquimia necesaria para convertir la arena en un chile en nogada, en una bicicleta de acero o en un poema de Fierro¡

De ahí que mi elección, entre humano y hormiga, lleve a las desventajas de no ser hormiga.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Silencio (10)

Desde hace tiempo me pregunto qué sentido tiene este afán de dar sentido a las cosas.

En algún momento entre los dieciséis y dieciocho comencé a desmoronar las creencias religiosas que Mamá inculcaba. Todas ellas, en conjunto, me parecen cada vez más estúpidas. Cada vez más días parecen traer consigo cada vez más evidencia. Supongo que por eso Mamá dejó de tenerlas.

Papá nunca tuvo la paciencia. En el fondo, creo, Papá nunca tuvo siquiera las creencias. Nunca lo vi rezar. Nunca lo vi temer. Nunca llorar. Supongo que era difícil creer en tanta tontería cuando, como en su caso, se tiene por padre a una máquina de golpes. Así era el abuelo y nunca supe por qué. Y supongo que Papá tampoco. Supongo que absorví esta nostalgia sempiterna de Papá.

Desde entonces me pregunto qué sentido tiene este afán de dar sentido a las cosas.

Ahora tomo este procesador de emociones, de palabras, para ver a mi hermana en una foto de fondo. Duermo casi siempre con enfado por no hacer algo que no sé bien a bien qué es. Pienso en mi Padre e imagino un futuro distante, sin poder siquiera concebir cómo habré de llegar a él. Pienso en mi Hermana y me lleno de una misantrópica pasión por quemarlo todo. Todo. Mamá me da la fuerza necesaria, sin limitaciones. Para llegar a un futuro quemándolo todo. Todo.

Ellos, sin embargo, no se preguntaban por el sentido de este afán. Quizás por eso les resultaba tan útil. He resuelto, por consiguiente, eliminarme por completo, dejar atrás estas preguntas tan idiotas y vivir con encono la insensatez del afán. ¡Mira que se necesita ser estúpido (o Platónico) para buscarle sentido al sentido!

Seguiré durmiendo con molestia. Porque si un día no es suficiente para una vida, menos será para tres. Cobraré, una a una, las sonrisas de mi hermana y llevaré, paso a paso, los viajes de Papá. El éxito está garantizado siempre que siga Mamá a la cabeza.

Desde entonces ya no me pregunto qué sentido tiene este afán de dar sentido a las cosas. Me sigo preguntando, eso sí, qué tan estúpido puede llegar a ser uno mismo.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Aging with the city

I am growing old with Ann Arbor. Since I have been here, there are two new apartment buildings, one new School of Public Policy complex, and the Business School and Museum of Art are on the path of getting their new structures. That’s just form the side of the new. The central thing is really a different one. I am worried about the old.

One of my very first graduate seminars took place at the Frieze Building, the old Art School/Department of Linguistics/Film School building. As of now, there is no more Frieze Building. Time has taken it away.

I have been in Ann Arbor long enough to learn from a building that does not exist anymore. I have been here long enough. I am aging with Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Perception, Belief and Thought

It seems to be a central claim of possible worlds semantics that propositional attitudes have, all of them, the same content. Furthermore, possible worlds semantics seems to assume that perception and belief states can have the same content – provided that perception is also understood as a propositional attitude. I think these claims fail to account for a very simple and intuitive difference between perception and belief. That is, the intuition that external objects are not objects of belief, whereas they clearly are objects of perception.

This intuition is supported by our ordinary accounts of perception and belief. We do not ordinarily think that the house in front of me can be believed or thought of, but we clearly speak of it as if it could be seen and touched. There is nothing at all problematic about the sentence ‘I cannot see that house’, but there is something terribly mistaken about the sentence ‘I cannot believe that house’. Notice how different this is from the sentence ‘I cannot believe that there can be such a house’. This one sounds right. However, it seems mistaken to say ‘I cannot perceive that there can be such a house’.

Thought, on the other hand, seems quite amiable with belief. One can substitute any belief sentence for a thought sentence and nothing weird comes out. Similarly, one cannot substitute any perceptual sentence for a thought sentence without saying something wrong. It is mistaken to say ‘I cannot think that house’, but nothing problematic comes out of saying ‘I cannot think of there being such a house’ – though you would be confessing a pretty limited imagination thereby.

Nonetheless, according to possible worlds semantics, the content of a belief state is a set of possible worlds, or a set of possible individuals, or a set of relevant doxastic alternatives according to Lewis. If so, then the objects of belief and thought are just the same as those of perception. Possible objects and individuals certainly are perceivable (at least the actual ones). But what makes us think that they are also believable, or thinkable? It seems then, that possible world semantics cannot account for this intuitive distinction between objects of perception and objects of thought.

One might try to make it up by arguing for a difference content and object of the attitude. If one’s theory of propositional attitudes takes the ‘content’ and the ‘object’ of a mental state to be metaphysically distinct entities, then nothing should be inferred about content. It might still be, for all that theory claims, that perceptual and intellectual (i.e., perception and thought) content are the same. I don’t know how much can be done here. I am not convinced that there is actually any good distinction between the object and the content of a propositional attitude. It is clear to me, however, that these states do not have the same objects. We perceive objects, but do not believe them. Thus, if one claims that the content of a mental state is a possible object and, hence, that it is an object of perception, like possible worlds semantics does, then one is failing to account for an important distinction between objects of perception and objects of thought.

A controversial way to make this distinction would be, I guess, to say that there is no such thing as belief ‘de re’ if the ‘res’ of the beliefs are the same as those of perception. Perception, on the other hand, seems quite amiable with its being ‘de re’ and, also possibly, ‘de dicto’.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Estoy leyendo el libro de Corripio. Resulta que es un libro de fuerzas gravitacionales en planos semánticos. Es decir, un libro de ideas afines. Aristóteles dice que una vez que una idea comienza a dar vueltas en la cabeza adquiere un momentum propio, de manera que la idea sigue y sigue dando vueltas sin control. Algo similar pasa con las ideas afines. Una empuja a la otra, como en un juego de pool. El problema es que, si no ponemos muchos límites, guardando algunas bolas de billar en las buchacas, cualquier idea nos lleva a cualquier otra. Lo cual resulta en una gran locura e incomprensión. Tanto que hemos creado una clasificación especial para los libros que se dejan llevar por esta inercia. El de Corripio es de ideas afines, otros se llaman ‘Diccionarios’ y otros más ‘Lexicógrafos’ y ‘Tesoros’. Todos, no obstante, son la misma novela, sobre el mismo pueblo, desde montañas distintas.

No por nada decía Hume que la sinonímia, o la causalidad entre una y otra idea, es tan inexplicable como la gravitación en la mecánica de Newton.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Are they all names?

I am trying to work out a theory of proper names (PN) according to which a PN is not a part of natural language. This, I’ve heard, is Mill’s view of Language. Names simply name, and that is that. Names do not have meaning, on this view. And so on. And so forth. I have an initial problem with this view: it cannot work out for everything we call names, not even everything philosophers ordinarily call grammatically proper names.

So my view faces an initial problem: to put the limits to the phenomena I want to explain. It is often accepted that things like ‘London’, ‘Aristotle’, ‘Pegasus’, ‘Phlogiston’, and ‘Peter Ludlow’ are all within the same category. On my view, this is false. I am not sure about ‘London’ but it seems clear to me that ‘Pegasus’, ‘Phlogiston’ and ‘Aristotle’ are no within the same category as ‘Peter Ludlow’. There is an important difference between them. From the speaker’s point of view neither ‘Pegasus’, ‘Phlogiston’, or ‘Aristotle’ refers to anything with which there can be acquaintance. Thus, form this point of view, what makes something a PN is not the object that it refers to, but the relation that holds between the object and the subject.

Both ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Phlogiston’ are empty names. There can be no acquaintance whatsoever with what we intend to refer to by means of them. Thus, none of them is a PN. No worries then if those linguistic entities have a meaning. No worries if such meaning is determined by a definite description (DD).

It turns out that whether or not something is a PN is an a posteriori matter. Just like ‘Vulcan’ turned out to be an empty, fictitious, name, so may many other theoretical terms like ‘Neptune’, or ‘Pluto’ for that matter. What these names have in common is the fact that they are introduced by means of a theory that gives us the identity conditions of the object.

To contrast, consider the case of a paradigmatic introduction of a PN. I walk with Jon down the Diag and run into Axel. The introductory ritual, more often than not, goes as follows: “Have I introduced the two of you before?” I say, “No” they say, “Jon Axel. Axel Jon” I say, “Jon” says the one, and “Axel” says the other. Have we used any theory, presupposed any property, or associated any description whatsoever? It seems to me that we haven’t. From that moment on, both Axel and Jon are acquainted with each other. And that’s all we need, nothing more, nothing less.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bio Pumps

I ran into Larry today. It is eight thirty by now, so he's been working for good three or four hours. That's probably the reason why he was enjoying the NY Times with a cup of coffee. I inevitably asked about the news, and he gave one of his most fantastic replies:

L: "Did you know they're going to have Bio-Diesel now?"
E: "No, I didn't."
L: "What are they going to have now? Vegetarian Pumps?"

I started, and couldn't stop, laughing.

L: "Vegan Pumps, perhaps?"
E: "No. They'll have ethical pumps."

And so it goes when there's no limit. Once ethics is all over the place, it just becomes hilarious.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Boring Fellini

Why is Fellini so boring? For the past few days Cata and I (and sometimes Juanito) have been trying to digest Fellini. We started with “Lo Sceico Bianco”, and then moved on to “E la Nave va”. I have to say that the latter was much more enjoyable than the former. But still boring. Furthermore, I have to say I really loved the second one. The whole idea of paying honors to a former friend, a great friend that past away, and to do so by having a whole opera set up in a transatlantic journey, can really touch some inner chords. But still, it is still boring. Why is Fellini so boring? Here are some ideas:

There are two main sources of boredom. Boredom comes from situations which we either (a) already understand (or believe to understand) so well, from top to bottom, that no questions come afore; or (b) something so utterly distant, obscure, and difficult that it is difficult to even imagine what is the use of it and, of course, no questions come afore either. They both tend to be inoffensive, but sometimes (b) gets too close to arrogance.

I think Fellini’s problem is the second one. It seems to me that he is so immersed in complicating things, in trying to show how difficult everything is, how senseless, how incomprehensible, that he actually manages to reach the top of boredom. Ok! I agree, experience is a difficult thing and we are made in such a way as to simplify things. Otherwise we die, either out of stress, boredom, or radical inability to do anything (which results from both). But this is something that not even Fellini can change, and his intent to show how cumbersome things are is just another futile way to give a story – and, therefore, a simplification – of what human experience is. Even to say that this makes no sense is a simple way to put things. So why not accept this fact? Why be so arrogant and insist in spitting out a relentlessly cumbersome story that may last forever?

There is still much of value here. I’m just complaining about the boring side of it. It is always nice to see that, in spite of Fellini’s obscurity, la nave va!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Throwing what down the toilet?

Possible-worlds are highly appreciated. Possible-logical-spaces, however, are not. I have been wondering about this for a couple days now. I see why people may think it is useless. But uselessness is not a proof of impossibility; and, thus, of non-existence at all.

If possible worlds are nothing over and above the objects and that inhabit them, and the distribution or pattern they observe, then logical space seems to be nothing over and above the possible worlds, and the distribution they observe, that define it. But then, if a different distribution of inhabitants is enough to determine a different possible world, why can a different distribution of possible worlds not define a different logical space? There seem to be many different logical spaces. There are infinitely many, in fact.

If possible worlds are nothing but the most inclusive set of things that are causally connected with each other, then logical spaces are nothing but the most inclusive set of things that are logically connected with each other. And if we can rigidly refer to inhabitants of possible worlds, maybe we can do so with inhabitants of logical space.

If closeness and similarity are relations that hold between possible worlds, then they are properties of different inhabitants of a possible logical space. If the same worlds, which we can refer to across logical spaces (i.e., rigidly), can have different relations of closeness and similarity among them, then the same worlds are inhabitants of different logical spaces. Hence, the worlds Plunk and Plank may be close in Logical space Peter, but not so much in Rob.

But then, a counterfactual that holds in close and similar worlds within logical space Rob, might never the less not hold within Logical space Peter. And so, counterfactuals, laws, and what not, require us to fix into a logical space (or a set of them), and not only into possible worlds (or a set of them). So they will be true in so far as we decide to narrow down our minds.

Surely this must be nonsense. For different worlds cannot differ in relation with other worlds (e.g., be closer or farther, similar or different) without differing in the way they are. But if they differ in the way they are, they are really just a different possible world. One and the same world cannot occupy different positions in logical space.

Even more surely, this latter cannot be so. For if there need be only one logical space, then there can’t be any different ways a world can be. Possibilities are not possibilities of worlds, worlds are always necessarily so, there cannot be any different ways a world might be. Hence, there cannot be such thing as change.

So I do not know, what chunk is it that we should junk? Is it possible worlds, or possible spaces? Is it both?

Silencio (9)

Seré menos categórico. Tomé el calentador y lo convertí en objeto, en volúmen o, más bien, en masa. No sé bien cómo funcionan los conceptos de los físicos. Sospecho que no corresponden del todo con los míos. Pero ese objeto blanco, con apéndice largo y flexible que según los conocedores entrega energía eléctrica al objeto en cuestión, ya no es un calentador. Tomé el cable y lo separé de la pared. Cuidadosamente levante un mueble oscuro de la sala, para recoger el cable sin peligro. Lentamente fui enrrollando el cable en torno a una ranura que sobresale del rostro de ese objeto blanco y amorfo. Lentamente el cable iba entregando su estatura. Lentamente el calentador iba perdiendo su función. Lentamente.

Ahora ocupa un lugar privilegiado en la ontología de mi habitación. En perfecta coordinación con otro objecto de volumen distinto y masa superior, que justo en frente se permite obstruir el paso de la puerta que resguarda la salida de emergencia, este objeto blanco, antes calentador y ahora masa, se permite estorbar el giro de la puerta que resguarda el umbral entre la sala y mis ideas, entre los demás y su reflejo. Y esa cosa que antes me protegió del frío, ahora me permite disfrutar el calor de una primavera lenta. Una primavera que me entrega bocanadas de aire y amor, un viento que echa a volar fotografías y papeles y que, de pronto, hace esta habitación mi casa y se vuelve Sandra, Consuelo y Eduardo. Fotografías vuelan por aquí y por allá. Y la sonrisa, extrañamente, sigue en mi rostro.

Esa masa amorfa. Una primavera que tardó mucho en venir. Pero que ha llegado, al fin. Y si lo dudan, pregunten a ese objeto blanco que me mira fijamente a mis espaldas. Lo tengo ahí, en primera plana, como testigo principal del cambio.

Miento. Terriblemente. Esa sonrisa, no se mantiene siempre en ese rostro. A menos, claro, de que las sonrisas determinen a los rostros. Entonces he de decir, que esas sonrisas se mantienen en algunos de mis rostros. ¿Y los demás? ¡Los demás son mayoría!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Menú 1

El Paraíso. Veintinueve de Mayo de dos mil dos. Descansa Eduardo porque hoy no hay nada complicado en el menú. Hay Crema de Apio o Consomé. El Apio lo tenemos y para hacer la crema sólo me toma una media hora. La pienso hacer mientras están los guisados. Por el consomé ni te preocupes. Voy a necesitar papas y zanahorias para guisar, así que, junto con lo que quedó, podemos hacerlo sin chistar. Pero no olvides poner el pollo a hervir. Porque el consomé que quedó no es suficiente. De todas formas tendré que levantarme a las cuatro. El del New Yorker no se levanta sino hasta las nueve y el doctor siempre llega temprano. Además le tengo que pagar al de la Basura, esperar al del Gas y comprar el pan, las tortillas, la leche para la crema y la pasta, pues continuamos con Spaguetis o Arroz. Hay Eduardo, ¡estás loco! Se te va a secar el cerebro. Haz lo que tu quieras, pero no olvides comprar el Chicharrón, que nada más tengo la salsa y los nopales y después seguimos con Nopalitos con Chicharrón o Salchichas con Puré. Sí, está bién. No se me olvida. Lo voy a apuntar, mira, ahí está juntito con la pasta, la leche y los cigarros de mi hija. ¡Oye! Y estás segura de que quieres hacer también el Pollo a la Hawaiana. Recuerda que mañana vas al Seguro. Luego no tienes tiempo y ahí estamos todos corriendo. ¡Chín! Se me había olvidado que tengo cita mañana. ¡Ay! Y es que sí me duele la espalda. Yo no sé que tengo, pero siempre por las tardes me punza aquí abajo. Aunque seguro la doctora me va a decir lo de siempre. Que yo no puedo trabajar de pie. Que tengo que estar relajada. Que mi columna no está fuerte. Que debo hacer más ejercicio. Pero bueno, por el Pollo no te preocupes. Eso lo hago rápido. Na’ más no se te olvide comprar la piña y los pimientos, porque después viene el Salpicón. ¡Ah! Y de paso te traes un poco de ajonjolí para las enchiladas. Acuérdate que todavía hay crema y bastante cebolla. Y no vayas a comprar más galletas, que entre tu y tu hija ya me tienen harta. Se la viven trague y trague todo el día, como pajarítos pero bien que le entran. Van a acabar echos una bola los dos. ¡Ay sí! A mi ni me metas en tus broncas. Además de que, tu, ni digas eh, mi Chemita. Que tu le entras a la comida pero con singular alegría. Hubieras visto manito, la otra vez me quedé a ayudarle a mis papás porque tuvieron muchos clientes afortunadamente. Lo único malo que es que acabamos muy tarde y sin comer, ya sabes, como hasta las 6 de la tarde. Como a eso de las cinco ya ninguno podíamos. Papá apenas y lavaba un traste cada tanto y yo ya quería sacarlos a todos de las greñas. Pero hubieras visto, estábamos Mamá, Papá y yo preparándonos la comida. Mamá preparó carne asada con su ensaladita de lado para nosotros, mientras se servía un plato sopero de nopales con salsa para botanear con sus tostadas. Luego, se sirvió una carne para ella sola. No habíamos terminado cuando ya se había servido otro poco de pollo desmenuzado, con mole y cebolla. Y para rematar, se sirvió, de postre, un plato de arroz con leche y su bolota de helado. ¡Papá y yo nos quedamos así! Nunca la había visto comer tanto. Eso no tiene nada que ver. Yo como a mis horas. Ustedes no paran de tragar. Por eso están tan gordos ya. Mírame a mí. Comeré mucho pero no estoy gorda. ¡Ay sí, ay sí! ¡Qué presumida! Qué presumida ni qué ocho cuartos. Véte de aquí que estoy haciendo el menú con tu padre. Ya tienes el mole. ¡Verdad! De postré haré gelatina. Por eso ni te preocupes. Yo ahí veo de qué tenemos y con eso la hago. Y por los frijoles y el arroz con leche ni te preocupes, que ahí hice ayer y aún queda bastante. Y eso de que la comida incluye un vaso de agua de fruta lo vamos a tener que eliminar pronto porque no está costeando. A ver si no terminamos por subir los precios otra vez. Pues es que esto está de la chingada oye. Mira nada más cuanto nos llegó de luz este bimestre. Y el gas del mes pasado no fue nada barato, carajo. De veras que en este país no se puede hacer nada. Lo tienen a uno agarrado del pescuezo. Cada vez suben más los impuestos y los costos. Y la pinche gente parece que se va a morir de hambre, porque ni a comer viene. Y eso de: 'cerveza, refresco, agua y huevo a once, nueve, cinco y tres por respecto', también lo vamos a cambiar. Tu no te preocupes. Nos va a ir mejor. Nada más no te me aceleres. Porque si no se me pone muy pesado y entonces sí ni pa’ tras ni pa’ lante. Y tu Eddie, sigue escribiendo. Pero si ya terminé. Cuál ya terminaste. Si to’vía te falta. Gracias por Preferirnos. Servimos Almuerzos desde veinte punto cero cero pesos.

Living Minds, Relational Beliefs, and Mosquitoes

I was raised to hate mosquitoes. And, for twenty 26 years straight I learned to hate and destroy them. I used to live in a part of town where mosquitoes are around all year long. Mexico City almost never goes below 32, and when it does it makes sure to warm up to 70 at noon. Mosquitoes were kept indoors.

Today, twenty-six years, two months, and four days later I discovered myself fancying mosquitoes. When are they going to come? When am I going to feel their minimal teeth biting my skin? Will I get to see those capricious forms that they manage to perform while dancing in the air? That great point-size, and point-shape, epidermic sensation finally came today.

The winter is officially gone. This crazy winter. This tough winter. This terrible, unforgettable, winter. There might still be some insinuations of it in the days, months and years to come. Nonetheless, this winter is gone.

Today Ann Arbor is in the mid 70s. The sun is all over the place. I have learned to love mosquitoes, and cherish the sun like I’ve never done.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Minimal Ethics?

I am thinking too much today. For some reason I remembered the conclusion of the vegetarian debate that Sam and I had before. It started here, and ended up here (not without going through here and here). The last word on this was Sam's. After I kept pushing against the 'in principle' part of being a vegetarian for ethical reasons, Sam said: "well, of course it all depends on whether you think or not that humanity is intrinsically valuable." I said nothing afterwards. It felt like the right response, and it still does. I am certain that much of what philosophers argue concerning ethics and value is contingent on whether we do or do not think that humanity is intrinsically valuable. I have a few thoughts to add on this.

First, if the answer is correct, then we must have reached the bottom line. Since we must presuppose something as fixed (e.g., human life is intrinsically valuable) in order to determine what to do - if we are consequentialists, but also even if we are deontologists: e.g., treating humanity, in myself as in others, as an end in and of itself - this sounds like a good place to stop (or we get into an infinite regress).

Second, if we are not compelled by the claim that human life is intrinsically valuable, then that fixed pivot point up there is gone.

Therefore, third, if we don't think human life is intrinsically valuable, there is (at least) no systematic way to determine what to do in which cases. In other words, there is no such thing as 'an ethics' or 'the ethics' as some philosophers might want it to be.

Suppose, then, that we don't share that thought. So what? There is nothing inconsistent about it. To believe that humans are not intrinsically valuable is not an impossible mental state (not even humanly impossible). It is also not a contradictory mental state. Furthermore, it is not something I believe in. So, again, what follows?

Well, if it is true that to determine what to do - regardless of your favorite philosophical (or metaethical trend) - you must get a fixed point, why not be more humble and let that fixed point change by context? But, I hear the voice of the biologically informed philosopher (of the evolutionarily informed thinker) we have evolved as a species with morality, language, and thought, with social capacities, and cognitive capacities. But not only, also poetic capacities, and political capacities, and philosophical capacities too. Isn't that intrinsically valuable? My answer is, of course, NO. We also evolved with the capacity to kill and destroy (even among our own); why isn't that also intrinsically valuable? Your answer is, of course, that it goes against the goal of evolution (but evolution is supposed to eliminate goals!!!!). And my reply is, of course, that (thanks to evolution) I could not care less about evolution when I determine what to do. There is no inconsistency, no impossibility, in just aiming at the destruction of a species (after all, we do it all the time). So what, then?

Well, then, I will say again that I do not intend to vanish moral claims and ethical distinctions. I just intend to keep a low ethical profile by assuming that, in principle, there is no principled manner to determine the right actions. In other words, there is no chance for an ethics if by that we mean 'a principled way of telling us what to do and how to live'.


Silencio (8)

De mi hermana a los sobrevivientes

"¡Qué poca madre!"

La Princesita

Friday, March 23, 2007

One stupidity more

'Stultorum infinitus est numero'

When he wrote that sentence, Mr. Spirit was probably counting on the street-preachers’ interpretation of the Bible. Their readings seem like a collection of stupid claims. The most common ones include a homophobic god that, nonetheless, loves all his creatures, an all controlling god that kills, and rapes at will, and, nonetheless, loves all his creatures, and (as I was told a few weeks ago) a god that can assassinate your whole family because he knows what he is doing and why he is doing it, and still loves you.

Today I recognized a new item in that infinite list of human stupidity. As I was walking back to Angell Hall, with a delicious scoop of Stuchi’s Mackinack Island in a Waffle Cone, a preacher stopped me. After a few minutes of (I don’t know how to call it. It was not a monologue because I did say something. It was not a dialogue because we did not share any common relevant beliefs; and it was not an argument because, well, he didn’t argue. Umh! I guess I can, following Pereda, call it an “Argumentative Vertigo”) he realized I would not buy his cheap products, and left. But not without pointing out that, given my reluctance to believe in God’s existence (and perhaps also owed to the stunningly red color of my jacket, as it reproduced itself in his eye-jelly) he would start believing that I (yes, me) am the devil!

Now, before asking any particular, outstanding, violence-making, genocide-producing, devil-like favor from me, please ask yourselves, as I do, the following question: if there is such a thing as Lucifer, would she (I suppose that, since this character is a lot more interesting than God, and since God is a male, Lucifer must be a female) would she, beautiful Lucifer, believe or not that God exists?

Here are a few possible answers:

1 Yes (obviously! How can Lucifer, one of God’s most entrenched enemies, not believe that God exists? After all, Lucifer herself is defined relative to God.)

2 No (perhaps Lucifer is amnesiac, so she forgot who she is allegedly opposing to).

3 No (perhaps Lucifer is Meinongian, so she knows she’s God’s opponent, but she thinks God merely subsists, right next to the round square, and the wig-bearing king of France).

4 No (perhaps Lucifer is a spiritualist, so she thinks God is an intentional object. Oh my God!)

5 No (perhaps Lucifer is just an idiot, so she thinks she can oppose God without thereby being anything she opposes to)

Of all these, and all the other infinitely many possible negative answers, I think (1) is the only one close to not being stupid. (2) is just a bad answer, since it does not explain why refusing to believe that God exists turns you into Lucifer. (3) is wrong because, as Lucifer knows, subsisting objects cannot be the origin of existing ones (unless, of course, Lucifer is stupid). (4) is wrong because, as Lucifer well knows, intentional objects do not cause any physiological change, and Lucifer is a material object (unless, of course, Lucifer is stupid). (5) is wrong because, well, God’s must beloved and powerful creation can’t just be stupid (so (3) and (4) are fully cancelled), unless, of course, God is stupid.

But, if (1) is the only non-obviously-mistaken answer, doesn’t this make a theist out of Lucifer? And if so, aren’t all preachers asking us to become like her? But then, why make such a fuss about agnosticism, when the enemy is at home, among the theists? As far as this goes, agnostics seem to be better put aside, way beyond God and Devil (all puns intended).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Oh! The lonely people

I have been thinking about this for a long time now, more than ten days for sure. So, I am sure there is something important in here. These reasons must be the right ones. I have stumbled into the paradox of the shy and unfriendly.

Problem 1:
Ludmila is a very lonely girl. She barely talks to people other than Jenik, her husband. She has a cell phone, but rarely receives calls. Ludmila complaints about it all the time. Jenik has suggested that she takes part of a local group of people sharing the same social problem. But, loneliness does not imply stupidity, and Ludmila quickly notices that Jenik is asking her to achieve an impossibility. “It’s like Russell’s set of all sets that are not members of themselves.” She replies. Then, Jenik, friendly but stupid, finally understands. Is it then true that it is not possible to have a group of lonely people? Does the Association of People who know no one exist in this or any other world? If someone, say Ludmila, belongs to the Association she therefore knows someone, and so cannot belong to the association. But if she does not belong, then there’s no chance to know anyone, so she must belong!

Ludmila cries at the perspective of finding herself lonely of necessity.

Problem 2:
Vasek is a very shy guy. He barely talks to anyone, for he is afraid of everyone. In the same building, and in fact in the same floor and same department, there is Tobias, Vasek’s colleague. Tobias is just as friendly as Vasek. Their shyness is so extreme that they put effort on avoiding people. But they both quickly realize this is, again, a goal that is impossible to fulfill. For if there is a restroom, coffee place, or library that people tend to avoid, it is that coffee place, or restroom that any shy guy would look for. Thus, both Vasek and Tobias would end up going to the same restroom, same coffee shop, and same library. The best way for Tobias to avoid Vasek is to avoid the lonely places, but the same is true of Vasek. Further, to avoid the lonely places just is to attend the crowded ones. So there is no option left for any of them. Now, both have conceived the possibility of coordinating each other’s movements, such that they never find each other at any lonely spot. But they both promptly realize this would imply negotiating and talking with each other. Vasek and Tobias would end up being friends. A preposterous possibility for both.

Vasek and Tobias blame each other. For the other’s shyness has precluded each one’s shyness to thrive.

Oh the lonely people! Where do they all come from? Not from any possible world, I am sure!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Silencio (7)

¿Qué pasaría si escribiera sin pensar?
(Para escucharse con Part, A. 'Streichquartet No.5' por Kronos)

Tan tan, tan tan,
Tan tan, tan tan,

Quiero escribir como Arvo Part. Pero no puedo pensar. Pero no puedo pensar. Tan tan tan tan. Tan tan tan tan. Por aquí por allá, un sonido, una idea o algo más. No lo sé más, no lo siento más. Sigue siendo así, sigue siendo, sigue siendo así. Subo y bajo, lentamente, voy girando sin parar. Subo y bajo. Y punto. Y no hay más. Pero claro, esto no termina. Va y viene, ahora va… Y ha vuelto al fín. Con su vértigo y mareas, sigue, viene y va. Esa voz lenta, que penetra, sin siquiera taladrar. Es que esto es intraducible.

Taca, taca, taca tan
Taca taca, taca tan
Taca taca, taca taca, taca taca, taca tán….

Un dos tres cuatro,
un dos,
un dos tres cuatro,
un dos,

Muy rápido, muy rápido, no hay manera de alcanzarlo. De pronto se detiene. Lanza un lamento al aire, voltea angustiosamente, para perder el rostro, de tanto llorar. Y comienza a girar, sin el piso abandonar. Se arrastra sin hacerlo. Como si brincara paso a paso, como si apenas las puntas, de desconocidos pies, alcanzaran a hacer tierra. Y sin embargo, se arrastra. Y vuelve, vuelve, vuelve, vuelve.

No, no, no no,
no, no, no no.

Corre, corre, que no hay tiempo. Se acaba el día sin dar paso, la semana sin escribir, sin pensar ni sentir. Se acaba el mes y los demás siguen de frente. Las fechas comienzan a caer, una tras otra, compromisos olvidados, escritos sin escribir, ideas sin pensar. Y sigue y sigue, sin rezago sigue. Acaba el semestre, el año, los estudios y el trabajo. Y de pronto acaba uno, por vivir tanto.

Para caer y correr.

Corre corre,
corre corre,
corre corre,
Más más más más,
más más más más.

Para consumirlo todo, hace falta un día. No cinco años. Ni un proyecto. Ni la lotería. Qué ritmo, qué ritmaso! Vamos juntos, paso a paso, que esto no dure, ni siquiera un año.

El poetazo equivocó.
Seguramente de sintáxis forzado,
El adjetivo dislocó.

¡Quienes viven toda la vida,
sólo han perdido el tiempo,
no se han ganado el cielo,
ni imprescindibles vuelto!

En la lógica de los neutrinos
nada resulta imprescindible.

Tun, tun, tun tun,
tun, tun, tun tun.
Taca taca, taca taca,
taca taca, taca TUN!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Illusory Interpretations

A friend of mine, who knows about my intent to translate a Philosophy book from English to Spanish, told me about it. Apparently, some people (translators, philosophers, I think) believe that in order to translate someone’s work one must, first, be fully knowledgeable of the author’s philosophy. Otherwise, one will fail to translate properly certain terms or concepts, perhaps a group of them, or else. I think this view is wrong, and that it stands on a mythical view of what interpretation and translation is.

First of all, the view presupposes that interpreting and translating are radically different processes, which they are not. It is not true that interpreting and understanding an author is somehow ‘more objective’ than translating, such that, later on, your understanding serves as a proper basis for your translation.

Leading to the second problem: it presupposes a mythical view of language, a very platonic one. It presupposes, for example, that there is some such thing as English independently of English-speakers, but common to every one of them. All empirical research, however, points to the fact that every single speaker develops her own communicative strategy. Thus, as I said, to understand someone else you must already translate.

Third, and last, it presupposes a mistaken view of translation. Every translation is an interpretation of the original text, but so is any single reading of it. There is no way you can escape from this fact. Translation is not a mindless activity where you simply put words for words, signs for signs. Of course, there is no way a translation may be exactly as the original. But then again, no single reading will be exactly as the original. And so, becoming an X scholar before translating X just is a fancy, bureaucratic distinction that will not help you getting a closer translation. It will, at the most, yield a different translation (or get you a job in a Philosophy Department). Furthermore, it will perhaps give you a more biased translation given that, by then, you will have picked up more and more habits from your reading the text.

To say that one must first understand Mr.X before translating his work, is just like saying that one must first translate Mr. X before translating his work, or that one must first understand Mr. X before understanding him. It seems to me that all this is nonsense, and the kind of nonsense that someone that is trying to justify his translations as the work of higher cognition would offer. I should call it, then, arrogance.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An Argument Against Identity

A version of the identity thesis goes like this: each type/token of mental state is identical with a particular type/token of neural state. There is an important distinction between the type/token versions. Non-reductive materialists accept the token/token identity, and turn it into a contingent fact by rejecting type identity. Though this world is such that the tokens of mental states are identical with tokens of neural states, it is not necessarily so. I now think there is an interesting argument against this thesis, even in its token-token version. Of course, reductive physicalism (the thesis that all mental states are reducible to neural states) would go too.

Baltes has famously argued for a highly general account of cognitive development. His view deals with two basic causal determinants of cognitive development: biological endowment (e.g., the brain) and culture or society (e.g., family and school). His claim is that these two causal determinants follow exactly opposite directions. On the one hand, the cognitive benefits (e.g., neural capacities) we get from our biological endowment decrease through life span (e.g., human beings age). On the other hand, the cognitive benefits (e.g., knowledge, information) we get from our cultural surroundings increase (e.g., we get more and more, better and better education). It is a further claim of Baltes that the efficacy of culture in cognitive development decreases. Once humans reach the fourth age (80-85 years and beyond) there is, to put it bluntly, nothing that society (or its institutions) can do to stop decrepitude (therefore, human ontogeny is incomplete).

This decrepitude, however, is not a general one. It is mainly a biological one. Think of it this way: The peak of brain-power (i.e., memory size, processing speed, etc.) is mainly distributed between infancy and adolescence. For instance, the biggest amount of neural connections appears between 3 and 7 years of age, when the human infant is acquiring her native language. The point is, once you are 25, neural connections are not going to increase. And once you are 35, they will start shutting down. However, our cultural cognitive capacities, clearly, do not decrease. It would be just ridiculous to suggest that a 22-year-old graduate student is more capable (cognitively speaking) than a 50-year-old faculty member.

If this is so, then there is a very important property of neural states that is not a property of mental states: decrepitude. Baltes conceives of the mind in a rather Aristotelian way: it’s got a mechanics and a pragmatics. The former collapses through life span, the latter does not, in fact, it increases and thrives (of course, provided certain mechanical and social conditions). “Our reading and writing skills, educational qualifications and professional skills (…) can extend further into the life course than the mechanics.” p 373

Now, let’s go back to the identity thesis. If it is true that every token of a mental state is identical with a particular token of a neural state, then it must be the case that every property of a neural state is a property of a mental state, and vice-versa. But neural states reduce their capacities and collapse earlier in the life span than (at least) some mental states. Thus, there are some mental states that do not share all the properties of ANY neural states, namely, those that constitute our intellectual capacities. It is false that any token of a mental state is identical with a particular token of a neural state. And so is any claim to the point that the mind just is the brain, either contingently or necessarily. Eliminativism (the thesis that there are no genuinely mental states, but merely neural ones) is not even worth considering.


Baltes, Paul. “1996 Award Address: On the Incomplete Architecture of Human Ontogeny” in American Psychologist, April 1997, Vol. 52, No.4, pp.366-380

Monday, March 12, 2007

Non-conceptual content?

Sometimes it is good advice to be skeptical about baroque and highly cooked theoretical claims, and follow the ordinary use of terms and concepts to guide one’s thoughts. There have always been, and, as long as the human species keeps on being suggestible, there will always be fancy misguiding theories that catch all reflectors from Main Street. I believe that theories of the so-called ‘non-conceptual content’ are among these. Everyone seems to note the contradiction in terms. If you are a content you’d better be the content of a concept. So how can you not be conceptual? Nonetheless, non-conceptual-content friends like to think that that is a problem of meager imagination. I believe otherwise. I think there’s no such thing as non-conceptual-content. But then I have to face the famous case on behalf of my fancy opponent: you can see red26 without having the concept ‘RED26’! I think there is a simple way to accept this without being a non-conceptual-content friend. First, there is no contradiction in claiming that all representational contents are conceptual and accepting that I can represent (through my very first experience of) red26 without every having that concept BEFORE this experience. Second, the only thing you need is a theory of concepts that tells you that concepts are part of our biological endowment, something that develops through experience. So here it is, the theory we need: ‘A theory of concepts as empirical structures that are born, grow up, and reproduce’. There you go, so whenever you face a new red26 or blue34, do not worry! The chances are that a somewhat new concept is taking place. Just like when you first learned how to identify orange things some years ago. Sometimes it is good advice not to follow fancy theories, because, like many other human projects, they aim at fame, and very few else.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hoy Descubrí

Hoy descubrí que estoy rodeado de polvo y que mi café envejece. Después de meses de cielo gris, hoy se han llevado las nubes de Ann Arbor. Es el viento, dicen por ahí. Hay mucho sol ahí afuera. Demasiado sol aquí dentro. Hay tanto que veo a detalle mis alrededores. Puedo ver, por ejemplo, el humo alarmante que se despega de los techos de las casas. Como si el sol, con paciencia y también con fuerza, absorbiera la casa palmo a palmo. Pero no sólo, también puedo ver cómo todo lo demás se está desmoronando. El sol golpea directamente en mis ojos, a través de mi ventana, pretendiendo robar mis emociones. Yo me defiendo con un pedazo de arbol, hecho papel, sobre el que he impreso lo que Xu y Carey piensan de la metafísica infantil. Sacrifico, pues, al papel por mis ojos. Es un toma y daca, una entrega justa, creo. Pero el papel sufre; lo veo partir lentamente. Veo cómo pierde inmensos trozos, masivos conjuntos de moléculas que a simple vista sólo vemos brillar camino al cielo; que a simple léxico sólo llamamos polvo. Hoy descubrí que las casas se hacen vapor y mis ojos se vuelven polvo.

Todo sería aceptable sino fuese porque, también, veo envejecer al café y taza que día con día me acompañan. Comienza joven, robusto, fuerte y sumamente placentero. Tanta es su riqueza que se permite el lujo de soltar al aire bocanadas de sí mismo. Recién servido, ¿qué puede importarle su fin? Arrogantemente me invita a probarlo, a saborearlo lacerando mi paladar con su dureza, con su pesadez y fuerza. Pero no antes termino de relatarme este placer cuando ese gran café, otrora joven, adquiere un sabor a tierra. Un sabor que, más bien, es una falta. Mi café envejece perdiéndose a sí mismo, como el papel entregándose al sol y a las inclemencias del tiempo. Comienzo a creer que el café no es amargo, sino que los tomadores han errado el propósito. El café no es lo que se toma, sino lo que se pierde al tomar. Eso que de tan duro y lleno de sabor no puede más que dejar una estela de amargura y terregal.

Hoy descubrí que estoy rodeado de café y que mi polvo envejece. Hoy descubrí que mi café está rodeado de polvo y que yo envejezco.