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Ch. 4 - Cleaving the Air 
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Post Ch. 4 - Cleaving the Air
Ch. 4 - Cleaving the Air

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 4 - Cleaving the Air.


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Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:23 am
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Hellooooooooooo......

Is anybody else out there actually reading this book?????

I found this chapter fascinating, particularly the author's analysis of our common-sense notions of causality and how different they are from current scientific descriptions of reality. And yet, as Pinker illustrates, our natural grasp of time, space, substance and causality, as revealed by our linguistic conventions, are clearly useful for dealing with reality at the human scale. They define reality as it pertains to human needs and goals, even though they are rife with inconsistencies and contratictions.



Mon Jan 14, 2008 7:37 pm
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Don't worry, seeker! I'm in Chapter 3. This is quite normal, as people get a few chapters in... :)


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Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:04 pm
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Post Eternal Return
On page 156, Pinker writes, "Nothing in that nothingness could distinguish one moment from the next, so we would have no way of understanding why the Big Bang went off at the moment it did go off, as opposed to a few trillion years earlier or later or never. Not to mention the disturbing possibility that if time goes on forever, a re-run of every possible event that has happened will happen again an infinite number of times, a cosmic version of Groundhog Day."

When I read these lines, I instantly thought of Nietzsche and his idea of eternal return. What is eternal return? According to Nietzsche, it's the idea that "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything immeasurably small or great in your life must return to you-all in the same succession and sequence-even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over and over, and you with it, a grain of dust."

I believe that this idea is a stronger incentive for people to make better choices in their lives than the idea of a heaven/Hell destination after death. For me, to face a life that will return forever where I live the same destitute and miserable existence is scarier than going to Hell for eternity. It would compel me to actively participate in life and take responsibility for my life status and happiness that has nothing to do with whether or not I am pleasing some supernatural being.

However, I have a hard time believing in the idea of eternal return. In fact, just this morning I watched a show on the learning channel about our universe and black holes. Scientific evidence supports the idea of time constantly moving forward, but not cyclically. We started with the Big Bang, and our universe has been ever-expanding since then. Eventually, our world will come to an end either by a collision with another galaxy or from the expansion of our sun. These events have never occurred in our past, and once they happen, how will our world be made the same again? It's kind of like arguing that after I bake some brownies, I can get the original ingredients back out of the finished product --the same amount of water, the same eggs, and the same oil. Sorry, but there's just no evidence to support the idea.



Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:26 pm
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tlpounds...I'm not ignoring your thoughts on eternal return, but I think it's been discussed nicely in the Chapter 3 thread (and, I've only got a couple of minutes before I have to take my morning shower and get on with my life!!)

I wanted to pop in and leave this sentence by Pinker (p. 161), that just summarizes so much research, so succinctly:

"Each patch of cortical real estate is dedicated to a fixed spot in the visual field, and contours in the world are represented as contours across the surface of the brain, at least on a large scale."


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Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:17 am
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