Archive for ‘Philosophy’

November 27, 2019

Gongshi

Taihu stone

Gongshi also known as ‘scholar’s rocks,’ are naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars. As rocks are broadly fractal (geology journals require a scale to be included in images of rocks), the small rocks can resemble the larger landscape.

Scholars’ rocks can be any color, and contrasting colors are not uncommon. The size of the stone can also be quite varied: scholars’ rocks can weigh either hundreds of pounds or less than one pound. The term also identifies stones which are placed in traditional Chinese gardens. Chinese scholar’s rocks influenced the development of Korean suseok (viewing stones) and Japanese suiseki.

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November 12, 2019

Homo Economicus

Neuroeconomics

The term homo economicus, or economic man, is the sometimes satirical portrayal of humans as agents who are consistently rational, narrowly self-interested, and who pursue their subjectively-defined ends optimally.

In game theory, homo economicus is often modeled through the assumption of perfect rationality. It assumes that agents always act in a way that maximize utility as a consumer and profit as a producer, and are capable of arbitrarily complex deductions towards that end. They will always be capable of thinking through all possible outcomes and choosing that course of action which will result in the best possible result.

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November 7, 2019

Rationality

Homo economicus

Rationality is the quality or state of being rational, i.e. agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of a person’s beliefs with their reasons to believe and of their actions with their reasons for action. When a goal or problem requires making a decision, rationality factors in all information that is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge).

It is meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated. Rationality is relative: in models that optimize for personal benefit, self-interested or even selfish behavior is rational; in models that favor benefiting the group over the individual, purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational.

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October 16, 2019

False Equivalence

False balance

False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two completely opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.

False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn’t bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. False equivalence arguments are often used in journalism and in politics, where the minor flaws of one candidate may be compared to major flaws of another.

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September 9, 2019

Word Painting

Madrigalism

Word painting (also known as ‘tone painting’) is the musical technique of composing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song’s lyrics.

For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death.

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September 5, 2019

Third Eye

Upper Dan Tien

The third eye (also called the mind’s eye, or inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept of a speculative invisible eye, usually depicted as located on the forehead, which provides perception beyond ordinary sight.

In Dharmic spiritual traditions from India, the third eye refers to the ‘ajna’ (or brow) chakra (supposed ‘life force’ energy centers in the human body). The third eye refers to the gate that leads to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. In New Age spirituality, the third eye often symbolizes a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply personal spiritual or psychological significance.

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August 1, 2019

Dog Days

Canis Major

The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

In addition to following Orion into the night sky, the Dog Star Sirius can be easily located in the heavens by following the line created by the prominent asterism (a popularly-known group of stars) Orion’s Belt.

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March 7, 2019

Sandman

Sandman

In Scandinavian folklore, the Sandman is a mythical character said to sprinkle sand or dust on or into the eyes of the child at night to bring on sleep and dreams.

The grit or ‘sleep’ (rheum) in one’s eyes upon waking is the supposed result of the Sandman’s work the previous night. Rheum, also known as gound, is a thin mucus naturally discharged from the eyes, nose, or mouth during sleep.

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February 24, 2019

Legend Tripping

Legend tripping is a name bestowed by folklorists and anthropologists on an adolescent practice (containing elements of a rite of passage) in which a usually furtive nocturnal pilgrimage is made to a site which is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting.

While the stories that attach to the sites of legend tripping vary from place to place, and sometimes contain a kernel of historical truth, there are a number of motifs and recurring themes in the legends and the sites. Abandoned buildings, remote bridges, tunnels, caves, rural roads, specific woods or other uninhabited (or semi-uninhabited) areas, and especially cemeteries are frequent sites of legend-tripping pilgrimages

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January 5, 2019

Gadfly

Plato Apology

gadfly is a person who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potently upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities. The term is originally associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, in his defense when on trial for his life.

The term ‘gadfly’ was used by Plato in the ‘Apology’ to describe Socrates’s relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse. The word may be uttered in a pejorative sense or be accepted as a description of honorable work or civic duty.

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December 10, 2018

Belsnickel

Belsnickel is a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald area of Baden-Württemberg. The figure is also preserved in Pennsylvania Dutch communities.

Belsnickel is related to other companions of Saint Nicholas in the folklore of German-speaking Europe. He may have been based on another older German myth, ‘Knecht Ruprecht,’ a servant of Saint Nicholas, and a character from northern Germany. Unlike those figures, Belsnickel does not accompany Saint Nicholas but instead visits alone and combines both the threatening and the benign aspects which in other traditions are divided between the Saint Nicholas and the companion figure.

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September 23, 2018

Belief Perseverance

Belief perseverance (also known as ‘conceptual conservatism’) is maintaining a belief despite new information that firmly contradicts it. Such beliefs may even be strengthened when others attempt to present evidence debunking them, a phenomenon known as the ‘backfire effect.’ For example, journalist Cari Romm, in a 2014 article in ‘The Atlantic,’ describes a study in which people concerned about the side effects of flu shots became less willing to receive them after being told that the vaccination was entirely safe.

Since rationality involves conceptual flexibility, belief perseverance is consistent with the view that human beings act at times in an irrational manner. Philosopher F.C.S. Schiller holds that belief perseverance ‘deserves to rank among the fundamental ‘laws’ of nature.’

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