Wondering what a star is

Image result for stars

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, 
How I wonder what you are!

Probably as a child we wondered. Now we no longer wonder. After all, we have studied physics in school. We now know that a star is nothing but a huge nuclear reactor blazing away to glory far far away. So what is left to wonder. Most things in life have such prosaic explanations. There is nothing left to wonder about. That is the materialistic view of reality. 

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

But wait! You cannot shut down wonder so easily. "But why?" you ask. I don't care if it is a nuclear reactor or a twinkling diamond. What I am interested is why does it shine in the sky. 

When this blazing sun is gone,

When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, through the night.

Of course, isn't the answer self evident? The star is there to show us light when it is dark. It is there to show us that there is something to give us light even at the darkest hour. That is all that matters - the idea of light in the hour of darkness. Thus we move from materialism to idealism.

All that is fine. But what does the star's purpose got to do with me. I am a simple man going about my day to day life, toiling away at an office to earn my daily bread and coming home for a peaceful sleep.

Then the traveler in the dark

Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

On days, I go out in the night, there are stars in the sky to give me light. That is all that matters to me. Fro my experience I know it won't be pitch dark even on a new moon night. There will still be the stars to give me some light. That is all that matters to me. A pragmatist I am.

But how would things be from the star's point of view. Is the star just driven by the thermonuclear reactions or is some unknown force causing it to convey a message to humanity? Does the star have no will of its own? Does it have to strive tirelessly to do someone's bidding?

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
Till the sun is in the sky.

Am I also like the star? With no free will? After all I am a sentient being and the star is not. If the star were a sentient being it would choose its own destiny. Each star will choose for itself. One star may decide it does not concern itself with the traveler's welfare and choose not to twinkle in the night. Another star may decide it does care about the traveler's welfare. A third star may decide it cares about the traveler but helps him develop self reliance by not guiding him and choose not to twinkle. A fourth star may not care about the traveler but just likes shining and so shines. The stars take on an existential view of things.

The star, while it may have a semblance of freedom may not be fully free. After all the nuclear reaction cannot be shut down at will. So despite its choice it may have to twinkle after all till it finds a way to switch the nuclear reaction on and off at will.

As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Or maybe it doesn't matter what I choose and what I do. All it matters is that it is there. Beyond the twinkle, the light and the guide in the night there is something deeper - the essence of the star's being. The core experience of being a star. The phenomenon.

But then why am I breaking my head over a silly rhyme. After all reason triumphs over rhyme. I try to personify a star and derive its motives. But a star is no person. It is just a thing. So it is absurd to think of it as having a motive or a purpose. What makes sense is that the star twinkles. For a star by definition is something that twinkles in the sky. If it did not, it would lead to contradiction and hence it is analytic. Also the fact of the star being up above the sky so high can be proven if he had means to measure how distant is the star. Of course we need definitions of how high is high, what exactly we mean by sky etc. If we do that, we have synthetic reality that can be proven on disproved.  That's the linguistic analysis. 

I guess I am done wondering about stars. If all this makes no sense, it is not my fault - the fault is in the stars.

A Black Sheep Baba

Image result for black sheep"Ba Ba Black sheep, have you any wool?"

"Yes Sir. Yes Sir. Three Bags full."

"One for my master, one for my dame."

"One for the little boy who lives down the lane"

Now this was a good sheep who willingly gave away all it had. But what if this were the proverbial black sheep that sought to deny its wool to us humans.

He would have answered. "No Sir. No Sir. No bags wool."

On being challenged on his claim of lack of wool, he would have attempted an argument from ignorance and asked you to produce evidence of his having wool in his possession?

Or he would do a hypothesis contrary to the fact and claim that if he had been fed better quality grass he would be having wool now?

Or he might let the question go begging with, "No sheep black or white would  deny if but he had the wool."

Or try to exploit the straw man fallacy with an aggressive, "Are you trying to stereotype all black sheep as dishonest?"

If all fails there is a recourse to pity. "Please spare me. I am but a poor little sheep. Why would I keep my wool hidden?"

Or on the contrary if you don't look too strong and the sheep is endowed with nice sharp curved horns, it might brandish them at you and say, "You dare call me a liar? Do you want to feel the sharpness of my horns?"

And then there is this approach of  reification. "My ovine sensibilities do not allow me to indulge in a prolonged discussion on the topic of wool."

And if you try to argue, the sheep is only too fast to call the fallacy.

"Every other Sheep I asked said they had wool. Why only you are refusing."

"There you go my friend. That is Post Hoc fallacy. You are assuming, your asking a sheep causes it to come into possession of wool."

"No. Nothing of that sort. All the sheep most likely had wool already. They only admitted to me when I asked."

"And how many such sheep admitted to be in possession of wool?"

"Around 50 of them. You are the first to deny."

"There you go. That's a classic case of hasty conclusion. How could you have come to an universal conclusion about sheet just based on such a small sample?

By now the man is tired of all these arguments. "Why all this unnecessary talk. I can clearly see the wool on your back. I just need to get the shear to relieve you of it."

"Wait, wait my friend. Can you really trust the evidence of your senses? Maybe your mind is playing tricks with you and you are seeing only what you want to see."

"Well. I can reason it as well. All sheep produce wool. You are a sheep. So it follows you must be having wool. Now do I get to go at you with the shear."

" Not so fast, my friend. Your rationale is built on two assumptions - that I am a sheep and all sheep have wool. Let's take the second one - what makes you conclude that all sheep have wool."

"All sources of authority make the claim."

"What sources of authority?"

"Books written by scholars who have interacted with numerous shepherds and by zoologists as well. And none of these accounts disagree."

"Fine now, lets move on to the other claim. How do you say I am a sheep."

"I know a sheep when I see one."

"You mean an intuition?"

"Yes. But I have corroborated by intuition with logic. You have all characteristics of a sheep - four legs, 2 horns, the right height. Also you responded when I addressed you as Ba Ba black sheep. "

"Now you have me cornered. Ok I admit it - I have wool. But what's the point. There is none for you. You are neither my master nor my dame. Nor are you the little boy who lives down the lane."

"Well - at least I learnt about all the fallacies."

"That was just nine. There are hundreds more. Even if you knew what would you do?"

"I can now go and apply them in win arguments on social media."

"You can never win arguments against sheep."

"But I just won against you. I mean you still didn't give the wool but at least I got you to admit you had wool."

"That is because I am a black sheep. Social media however is full of ideological sheep who will keep bleating what their ideology states. They will beat you with sheer persistence if not through personal attacks."

"Ok. I give up now. What do I do now?"

"Close down all your social media accounts and spend your time on something more productive. Like say getting me some fresh grass. And a tub of clean water while you are about it."

The Quest for Johnny's Truth

Image result for sugar jar
Many years back, there used to be this serial called True adventures of Johnny Quest. It was kind of paradoxical because the story was about a technology that could produce a virtual world. So actually it was more about the virtual adventures rather than true adventures of Johnny Quest. But before rejecting something as true, don't we have to understand what does true mean?

I look to philosophy for answer. I know philosophy is the wrong place to look for answers. Philosophy generally ends up leaving you with more questions. It is religion that gives you the answers. However that's not much fun, is it?  When has religion ever been fun? In fact one may even argue that the whole purpose of religion is to take the fun out of things. More like renounce fun in this world so as to have fun in the next world of whose existence you are not even sure of. Anyways, religion's approach to finding the answer would be like reaching the top of a mountain on a helicopter rather than trekking your way to the top. So philosophy it is going to be - the slow and arduous way. 

Philosophy apparently mentions three ways something can be ascertained as truth - correspondence, coherence and pragmatism. What correspondence says is to check whether what you take as statement of fact about something is actually the nature of that thing. But how do we determine the nature of something? Through the evidence of our senses. So does the virtual Quest World pass this test? I guess it does. Whatever is happening there is supported by the evidence of touch, sound, smell, taste and sight. So the first theory says Quest World is true.

Now moving on to the second one - coherence. What is that about? It says for something to be true, it has to agree with everything else that is held to be true. Now in Quest World, one can be whatever one chooses to be. Jeremiah Surd the antagonist is a handicap on wheel chair. However in the Quest World, he can be an strong athletic man with perfect use of his limbs. So the truth of his existence in the Quest World negates his existence in the real world. So it fails the test of coherence. But what if instead of rejecting the truth of the Quest World, Jeremiah chooses to reject the truth of the so called 'real world'. If two pieces of facts disagree, which to consider true and which false. Ideally the approach would be to match the two pieces of facts against the other facts of life. In this case the life history of Jeremiah which would include the incidents that lead to his being handicapped as well as the laws of the physical world, which may not all hold in the quest world. This would prove the unreality of the Quest World.

Now consider a world like that depicted in the movie Matrix. Say someone has lived all his life within the matrix. All his history would be his experiences in the matrix world. So if he becomes aware of the real world, for him the Matrix world would pass the test of coherence and the real world would fail it. 

Let us leave aside the matrix and consider a less extreme case of two pieces of information that fit with all other facts but only do not fit with each other. What do we do in that case? Which one to keep and which one to discard? Now comes the third test - pragmatism.  Keep the one that is useful and discard the one that isn't. For Jermiah Surd, here the choice is clear. The Quest World is definitely the pragmatic choice as it allows him to experience the world in its fullness as against the real world which leaves him bound to the wheel chair.  That's the three methods.

Well, when I set out to write I was not thinking of this Johnny at all. I was thinking of the other one from childhood, whose father was testing the truth of the statement that he had not eaten sugar. How does that fare by these methods? Correspondence - If Johnny were to open his mouth and his father manages to observe the contents in there, correspondence is established. But he subverts that possibility by responding with 'Ha, Ha, Ha' . Now his refusing to open his mouth and the missing sugar would not be coherent with the fact of his not having consumed the sugar. So he was definitely eating the sugar going by coherence. Now moving to pragmatism, definition of pragmatism would be different for Johnny and his father. Johnny does not want to be punished. So the truth of the statement that he has not eaten sugar is the pragmatic choice. For his father it would depend on his nature. If he wants to avoid the uncomfortable situation of having to punish a child, the truth of the statement is the pragmatic choice. If we wants to reinforce the message that it is wrong to eat sugar, then the pragmatic choice depends on the establishment of the truth by the other methods for punishing Johnny unjustly would not serve the purpose nor would let him go unpunished if he deserved it. On the other hand if Johnny's dad was just a sadist who took pleasure in pelting his kid's backside, pragmatism would suggest that statement of Johnny not having eaten sugar would be false.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces