Rights Presuppose Authority

To acknowledge the validity of rights is to assume the authority of a rights-giver. This, in short, acknowledges the validity of social institutions as part of a system of authority, which assumes the inherent good of democracy or majority rule. Thus, to acknowledge the validity of rights is to assume an inherent dependence on, and subjugation to the will of, the majority.
— 2007 journal entry

Today, I would phrase this as follows:

Rights imply a rights-giver, a kind of authority. Since rights are a foundational part of a democracy, acknowledging the validity of rights is tantamount to accepting one's dependence on, and subjugation to the will of, the majority. In a democracy, the majority is the ultimate authority.

What is normal?

People often complain that something isn't normal. For example, if a guy wears high heels in public and there isn't a pride parade, passersby might glare and whisper, "That just isn't normal." But the word "normal" always refers to the most commonly observed segment of a distribution. Most guys don't wear high heels. If they did, then wearing high heels would be normal. And I would be abnormal.

So, because "normal" is a segment within a spectrum or continuum, "normal" is not an absolute or fixed point. In fact, in any given case, if you zoom into the segment of things that are considered normal, you might find the most common subsegment, which makes what was normal now suddenly abnormal!

And if you keep segmenting, you might eventually realize that the only "normal" segment represents only a small sliver of the entire spectrum. Suddenly, "normal" becomes rare! And that, I'm afraid, just isn't normal.

The neurobiology of love

This isn't so much a philosophical as neurobiological topic, but there is plenty of philosophical impact.

Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice

These data contribute to our view that romantic love is one of the three primary brain systems that evolved in avian and mammalian species to direct reproduction. The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek a range of mating partners; attraction evolved to motivate individuals to prefer and pursue specific partners; and attachment evolved to motivate individuals to remain together long enough to complete species-specific parenting duties. These three behavioural repertoires appear to be based on brain systems that are largely distinct yet interrelated, and they interact in specific ways to orchestrate reproduction, using both hormones and monoamines. Romantic attraction in humans and its antecedent in other mammalian species play a primary role: this neural mechanism motivates individuals to focus their courtship energy on specific others, thereby conserving valuable time and metabolic energy, and facilitating mate choice.


And notice, as an attempt at a humorous aside, that love isn't only for the birds.

So, we have:

Sex drive (testosterone) -> Attraction (dopamine) -> Attachment (oxytocin)

Is thinking about reality the problem?

Earlier today, I was asked to explain a quip I made over iMessage, Apple's new messaging platform for iOS. iMessage occasionally reveals flaws in data transmission, such as by not updating to a "Read" status or by inserting a comment from a previous conversation (apparently, to make more people watch Fringe).

My friend commented that we should note when things don't make sense, of course with regard to iMessage, to which I just had to reply that the Big Bang and the binary nature of reality don't make much sense to me. And of course, just as cosmology and information theory are topics of interest that I almost never discuss with anyone because most people outside of the respective fields of physics and computer science know very little (just as I know zero about fixing a carburetor), that remark required a bit of explanation.

Below is what I explained. I'm told it's accessible.

It's all about: Difference

At the heart of knowledge and understanding lies difference. In other words, you can learn or experience and know something only because it differs in some way from what you knew before. It's something new. So, you have a set of things you know and you add one thing to it, like this:

What you knew before: set of (1, 2, and 3)

What you just learned: 4

What you know now: (1, 2, 3, and 4)

You had 3, now 4. And 4 is not 1, 2, or 3. It's unique.

This can get complicated but the idea is that "learning" is short for "learning something new" and something new is something different, in some way, shape, or form in your mind, by necessity.

It's all about: Binary

This suggests that reality is binary. What? Why? By way of example, let's say you hear about a new color. If you think about it, all of the colors you knew before made up one big set of what you might call Color. And when you hear that Crayola just invented a new color called SMURF (not that they did; Google suggests not), you add one more color to Color.

Before you had: Color (lots of colors)

Now you have: Color (lots of colors + Crayola trying to make money and kill trees)

But why binary? What is binary, aside from how computers think? Binary is 0 and 1. It's two options or states. On and off. Yes and no. True and false.

Back to our example, before you learned about SMURF and Crayola's impending bankruptcy, Color contained a bunch of colors, right? That's one option or state of things, which we can call 0 (or A or X or whatever). And when you hear about SMURF, we need a way to call your new state of knowledge. Let's call that new state 1.

First 0, now 1.

It's about: Information

So, reality seems binary. Or, rather, it seems that what we know as reality is binary. And that means that reality is basically about information, not atoms. We get It from Bit. It's about knowing one thing from another. And it's about knowing lots of different things, all of which combine to hopefully clarify and sharpen our view of reality. Each new piece of knowledge adds one new perspective or understanding about this thing we're all going through for a little while before we return to dust and then make oil for Chevron and see none of the profit.

It's about: Illusion?

But if reality, as far as we know (pun?), is information at its heart, then maybe the Zen masters (yes, I know we are all Zen masters, so maybe Zen writers or legends would more accurate) are right and knowledge and words and thinking and making all of this difference is not really reality. Maybe reality is an illusion.

But, then, what is behind reality? It's not nothing. It has to be something, right? Oh, wait, that's binary.