Mysticism and Evidence

A presentation delivered to the Dunedin Theosophical Society Sept. 13 2017

What is it like to be blind? I do not mean spiritually blind, or morally blind, or blind with rage, but actually unable to see. Of course, when we try to imagine it for ourselves, as sighted people, we say that everything would just look black, but that is not quite right. Everything would not look black. There would be no visual impression of blackness, for there would be no visual impressions at all. (more…)

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Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine with Trick Jugs?

At a wedding in Cana, sometime in the first century, Jesus turned water into wine. At least, so it says in the Gospel of John. This was the first of Jesus’ public miracles. The story runs that after the wine had run out, Jesus ordered the servants to fill six water jars full of water. They obeyed. The servants were then directed to draw from the jugs and serve up a mugful to one of the attendees. Upon taking a sip, the attendee proclaimed ‘ you have kept the good wine until now!’ (more…)

Am I a Whack Job? Or Just a Conspiracy Theorist?

The recent “termination” of James Comey by Donald Trump has led many to think that Trump may have finally jumped the shark. The Trump administration first claimed that the decision lay with the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, but Trump later indicated the decision ultimately lay in his own hands. The lack of any unified public explanation for the dismissal, in conjunction with the fact that Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections, has inevitably led the media, the opposition and the public alike to posit a conspiracy theory: Comey was fired by Trump for refusing to protect Trump from the Russia probe. (more…)

Why Defend Philosophy?

In recent years there has been a spate of articles defending the study of philosophy. Philosophy is not all idle chatter, these defenses usually argue. On the contrary, philosophy is surprisingly useful. The skills that philosophers gain through their study are remarkably important in all arenas of life, and especially in growing and lucrative fields like commerce and tech. Philosophy, they say, is not only good for the brain, but good for business! Plato, as is well-known, said that studying philosophy made you fit to rule others. Apparently he was wrong. According to the many defenses on offer, philosophy doesn’t make you a good ruler, but a good earner. I dislike this defense. (more…)

Wilde vs. Swift on Disagreement

Oscar Wilde once said that to disagree with three quarters of the British public was a prerequisite of sanity. Although Jonathan Swift probably put the idea better when he wrote that one can recognize a true genius by the following sign: all the dunces are in a confederacy against him. Wilde and Swift agree that a mere disagreement is no reason to change one’s own beliefs. They agree that  if you find yourself up against a large number of people who think you’re wrong, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are. That seems a matter of common sense, but why? (more…)