Saturday, March 31, 2012

'Bombshells' at QPAC

I saw bombshells tonight at QPAC and it was profoundly good. I don't usually write reviews; it's not really that type of blog - But this is an exception. Bombshells exceeded my expectations so much that I would be doing a disservice to myself and my (admittedly very small) amount of followers if I didn't share with you how well-written and performed it is.

Bombshells is a one-person show performed by Christen O'Leary. It runs for about 85 minutes in which O'Leary performs the whole time. Throughout the show O'Leary plays 6 vastly different, but equally interesting characters, in short segments. Some of the characters are amusing, some are heartfelt and emotional, but all of them are vividly real. The characters range from young (a school-aged talent-show enthusiast) to old (a volunteering widow) and from the everyday (a stressed housewife) to the eccentric (a cactus enthusiast). The skill with which O'Leary captures these characters is profound and rare. I found myself missing the old characters when the new ones were introduced, wanting to talk to them, to find out more of their stories.

The last show that really impressed me at QPAC was Mary Poppins, but that was a totally different theater experience altogether. Mary Poppins was impressive because of it's scale, it's light-hearted fun, it's magic and gimmicks and it's musical appeal. Comparatively Bombshells is on a stage one quarter of the size, performs to an audience an eighth of the size, features only one actress, and relies entirely on the the scriptwriting and acting to pull it all together. This is part of the reason I think that it deserves so much praise. In the world of Mary Poppins everyone is playing a character that is larger than life; in true Disney style you are transported to a whole different realm where anything can happen. Bombshells instills in you the same sense of wonder, except that the characters are believable.

I don't want to destroy the magic by describing any specific scenes or characters in too much detail so I'll just leave it with the suggestion that you see it for yourself.

http://www.qpac.com.au/event/Bombshells_12.aspx?showTab=Overview

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Voting

And now I vote.

Despite parental warnings that economic disaster awaits should Labor or the Greens come to power I will not be voting for the LNP. I just can't bring myself to vote for a conservative party and the so-called 'Liberal' National Party seems to me to be paradoxically conservative given it's 'liberal' title. The holding of values merely because they feel comfortable, because a certain generation has been taught a certain way and it seemed to work, is NOT a justification for these same values. What this amounts to is a conformity to custom. That is all. Until it is proven that allowing greater social freedoms (i.e. marry whomever you want, take whatever substances you want provided you are informed and do not harm anyone but yourself, terminate your life if you are rational and informed and no longer wish to live, etc) will cause the demise of the country I will assume that the naysayers are operating on hunches and guesses. Here's what Mill has to say on the matter:

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which is contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time. (John Stuart Mill. pg64. 'On Liberty')

Mill applauds the eccentrics that the conservatives mock. The queers, the tree-huggers, probably even the conspiracy theorists, are praised by Mill for escaping the vice-like grip that cultural norms inflict upon us. It is not that these people are necessarily right - It's the fact that they have continued to think and question society that makes these thinkers so valuable. Mill drills the point home some more when he says: 

A people, it appears, may be progressive for a certain length of time and then stop: When does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality. (John Stuart Mill. pg68. 'On Liberty')

I'm an arts student. I study philosophy. Whilst I try to engage myself in the economic discussion I am much more at home when discussing political ideologies. I want to vote for the party that maximizes liberty; I also want to vote for the party that encourages free-thinking and operates free of dogmatic belief. It is primarily the latter point that deflects my political compass away from the LNP. I am not convinced that the LNP are a bunch of free-thinkers. In fact it seems as if conservativism is fatally flawed in that it uses the thinking patterns of the past to influence decisions in the future. Isn't this obviously a closed-system with no room for progress or change? Hasn't every beneficial social revolution begun as a revolt again the norm? To accept the status-quo and advocate no discussion of change is to assume that we have reached the roof of our moral and political development - an overwhelmingly arrogant claim. The end of slavery and race discrimination would have once seemed like a 'radically progressive' ideal in the same way that allowing same sex marriage now seems, to some, like a 'radically progressive' ideal. The very fact that the idea of same-sex marriage seems 'radically progressive'  (or as Mill would say 'eccentric') to some shows to me that it probably has a lot of potential. All we need now is a discussion free of dogmatic religious influence (we are, let us remember, a secular country) and we may have a hope of coming to a conclusion. Unfortunately many of the anti-same-sex-marriage arguments amount to either a religious objection or an unjustified belief allowing same-sex marriage would cause everything that we hold dear to us to fall apart.

Fortunately there is a simple solution to our lack of consensus that is soundly based in science. When the results of a certain course of action are unknown (but may lead to immense potential gain) the scientist will perform an experiment. Provided the experiment is conducted under the correct circumstances the results of the experiment can confirm or deny previous hypothesis. So how do we discover the effects of same-sex marriage on the wider community - Simple, why not perform an experiment? Fortunately experiments in same-sex marriage legislation have already taken part here on earth and, perhaps surprisingly, the world didn't fall apart. In fact the academic literature on the subject is vast and easily accessible. A quick google seach delivered to me a recent study on the effect of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands on heterosexuals. (http://www.iza.org/conference_files/TAM2010/trandafir_m6039.pdf) It that found that:

"Same-sex registered partnership does not affect different-sex marriage negatively and the availability of an alternative institution increases the different-sex union rate."

For this reason I find it hard to believe that allowing same-sex marriage would have any significant negative effect on the heterosexual community.

This issue has been a large motivator in establishing who I will vote for, more-so than anything else. It might take an intelligent person to come up with a great monetary policy, but it takes an open minded, questioning person to come up with a great social policy. Arguably the LNP has better economic policies (I'm not sure whether this is true or not) and if so perhaps it points to a greater level of intelligence within the LNP compared to the Labor and Greens; However it is evident that the virtues of open-mindedness and questioning are to be found to a greater extent in the non-LNP parties.  A great philosopher is both intelligent and open-minded; but if I were to choose just one attribute I'd go with being open minded and questioning. Intelligence is wasted if the possessor of the intelligence is too close minded and unquestioning to apply it to anything worthwhile.   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nepal - Day #15 - Pokhara

I devoted most of my Sunday to finding travel gifts for my friends and family. I bought my sisters some woven pencilcases, some friends some prayer flags, my dad a Yak-wool blanket, and my best mate a traditional Nepalese board game. ('Bagh Chal')

I didn't do much us else during the day but that was fine with me. I lounged around in the hotel, read more rousseau and finished reading "eating animals". (I'd recommend it -  I might write a review of it sometime)


Guy went paragliding and described it as 'sheer terror' for the first 5 minutes followed by 30 minutes of 'beautiful, amazing adrenaline'.




(^An amusing nepali attempt at english)

In the evening we went back to the busy bee cafe (although really it's a bar) and I managed to engage Guy in a philosophical discussion. Although I'm really just passionate about philosophy and enjoy discussing it with people my intense questioning (some would say 'interrogation' - I disagree) is often interpreted as me trying to change the persons beliefs. This is so incorrect. Sometimes I wish people would change their beliefs of their own free choice - if I'm the person that triggers them to re-think their beliefs then 'so be it'. But I would hate to think that somebody would change their beliefs because I told them to.

Guy was quick to realize this, which made our discussions much easier.

I get a perverse satisfaction by putting forth the most controversial thought experiment I can plausibly accept and watching my companion squirm as I seem to defy all common sense. ('The philosophy of one generation is the common-sense of the next') My particular brand of hedonistic act utilitarianism (or 'extereme utilitarianism' to use J.J.C. Smart's term) is rarely accepted with ease.


Nepal - Day #9 - AKA 'The day I ate hash and crashed a Nepalise wedding party'

I didn't plan to eat hash today. Nor did I plan to find myself pulling embarrassing bloyce dance moves trying to impress Nepalise women. But I did. And on reflection it was probably among the most memorable days of my life.

The morning ritual was the same: hear alarm, hit snooze, fall asleep again, hear alarm, get up, have tea, go to work site. This morning, however, the worksite was uncharacteristically quiet. We were soon informed that the skilled workers (the one's who tell us volunteers what to do) were taking a day off today to celebrate Lord Shiva's birthday. We were given the option of continuing work regardless or taking a day off too. In the end we compromised and worked a half-day.

After work we walked into town in search of a temple. On the way our i-to-i co-ordinator explained that Lord Shiva smoked a lot of hash and had sex with a bull. This holiday is traditionally celebrated by doing as Shiva does, but with less bull fucking. (I hope...)

Anyways, we found a local temple, took our shoes off, and looked around. From the amount of grapes and bananas scattered around the temple I can only presume that Lord Shiva liked these particular fruits. (Perhaps they were an invigorating interlude between sessions of hash and bestiality)


A religious figure (brahman?) approached us and gave us a blessing by rubbing a red paste (tikka?) on our foreheads. He then offered us a small, white, apparently-edible ball - An offering that our guide explained is infused with hash. I was apprehensive yet simultaneously did not want to deny myself an authentic experience so I at half of the mystery white ball.

As it turns out the hash-balls were quite mild so I had a few more and waited in nervous anticipation for my digestive system to process the hash.

Meanwhile, Guy - who doesn't care for putting mystery substances in his mouth (clever chap) - had set out to find a smokable, Lord-Shiva-approved high. We found some friendly locals waving about bags of weed and making 'come hither' gestures at us. Guy asked for, and received, some weed, but on offering to pay the local said "No no, just live a good life and be happy". Pay? Don't be silly. Nepali people are very generous.

We wandered towards home - or rather, by this stage, I floated towards home - and on the way found a house that was surrounded by loud music and jubilant, dancing locals. We stopped and listened for a while before tentatively requesting to head inside. To our surprise they happily invited us in.

The atmosphere was incredible. Men, women, and children were all dancing, talking, and eating. Their attitude towards us was one of curiosity and wonder rather than the suspiciousness and animosity that we would impart of wedding gatecrashers back home.

I tried my best to act as a sort of "ambassador of dance" representing Australia but more realistically I probably just looked like a fool who'd just wandered into a spiderweb. Nevertheless the locals clapped and cheered and were as enthusiastic as we were.  I danced with the children, the high-as-kites men, and one particularly beautiful and flirty Nepalese woman. The hour or so that we spent at that party was so surreal, so vibrant, and filled with such a pure joy that surpassed all cultural differences that I'm sure  will remember it for the rest of my life.












Almost as enjoyable as the party itself was recounting the afternoon with Guy on the walk home. We were all enjoying the warm afterglow of hash and talking and really didn't feel like anything could have possibly made me happier at that point.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nepal - Day #14 - Pokhara

NOTE: On re-reading this page in my journal I am tempted to omit it. *sigh* I make myself cringe. I'm going to write it out, as is, and justify it with 'well my readership is basically non-existent so no-one will every really know. . .'

My ex-girlfriend once bought me a t-shirt that read 'Damn I look good today' as a birthday gift. The fact that I loved that shirt and wore it proudly for about a year probably reveals a lot about the state of my ego at that point in time. Whilst I still posses what I'd call a 'healthy ego' I can't help but cringe when looking back at my 'Damn-I-look-good-today' shirt wearing phase.

The reason that I'm telling you this story is because that same attitude experienced a brief revival today. I've always been skinny, but never noticeably muscular. It seems that even just 2 weeks of physical work combined with the all-you-need-but-nothign-more nutritional quality of daal baht can cause that to change. I now have abdominal definition. I stood in front of the mirror being literally everything that I hate about the self-obsessed, gym-junkie, stereotype. I ran my hands over my body. . . and although I will regret admitting it, very nearly took a picture to immortalize the moment.

Anyways, enough of that, back to the holiday...

After breakfast Guy and I head off in search of 'Davis Falls', which had been described to us as a 'must see' in Pokhara. We barely knew where we were going so we had to stop and ask for directions many times. We met two young Nepalese boys who spoke excellent english and offered to escort us to the falls - we accepted. On the way our young Nepalese guides pointed out landmarks, gave tips of places to explore next, and were just generally helpful.


When we were only a few minutes from the waterfall one of the boys (who we discovered is only 11) asked for some money for his informal tour service. It caught me a little off guard but in retrospect maybe I should have been expecting it. Anyhow, we negoitiated and settled on 100 Nepalese rupees (the equivilant of $1.30AUD) for their services and we all left pretty happy. Although some people may think that the kids 'swindled' me it really did seem like a fair deal. I couldn't have found my way to the falls without their help and his entrepreneurship was probably deserving of more than 100 rupees.

The falls turned out to be quite underwhelming but it is, admittedly, the dry season. Much more spectacular were the nearby caves from which one could get a much better perspective of the waterfall. We walked home by the river, stopping to feed a beggar some street food (I violated the recommendations of the lonely planet book and had some too) and to watch the locals wash their clothes in the river.








Day #13 - To Pokhara

Due to much disorganization at the worksite there was not much work we could do with the materials at hand. We used this fact to our advantage and requested a day off so that we could travel to Pokhara for the weekend. Everyone was happy to oblige, even suggesting that we take monday off too, and our host helped us book the bus.

In Nepal there are 2 types of buses: Public buses (people hanging out the door, goats everywhere, sacks of potatoes in the aisles); and Tourist buses (less goats). You could call the bus we caught from Chitawan to Pokhara either an 'upmarket public bus' or a 'run-down tourist bus'. Either way, 5-6 hours on a bus is never too fun.

Fortunately the destination proved worth the journey. Pokhara reminds me of Byron Bay: it's touristy, sells a large variety of artwork and handmade goods, and is next to water (in this case it's a lake). The general vibe here is relaxed and friendly and is probably the most 'westerner-friendly' place in Nepal I've visited so far. I'm glad that my trip can combine weekend trips to places like Chitawan National Park and Pokhara where I can enjoy hot water and western bathrooms yet I can still experience the 'real Nepal' through the week at the rural Parsha.



We went to a lively bar called 'busy bee' and met some friendly English travelers. (the shisha pipe was fun ^^)

Nepal - Day #12

More of a grind today, although I do feel as though I am becoming quite a competent shoveler. I shoveled out an entire bay on my own today (when I first arrived I could only manage half a bay) and my arms are barely sore. Unfortunately though it's been far hotter here than I expected (feels like 25-35 degrees most of the time) so I wouldn't say it's ultra fun or anything working in the sun. Nevertheless I've developed quite a tan.

Nepal - Day #10

Despite having missed a day of work for Shiva's birthday we had been progressing very well work-wise. We'd shoveled gravel into 3 classroom bays and filled one of them with rocks. Today the skilled worker would arrive and give us further instruction.

The skilled worker arrived and told us that we had drastically overfilled all 3 bays with gravel. Essentially we now had to undo all of the work we'd done so far. I was angry; at the people who told us to fill the bay to the original height, at myself for not realizing the error, and - unreasonably - at the skilled worker for delivering the news.


I don't like past-orientated anger - it's pointless and childish. Yet somehow I would have liked nothing better at that point than to have had a rage; and tantrum.


Needless to say, work today was uninspired and seemed harder than usual.

Daal Baht was particularly good today, or, rather, being served daal baht was good. I am, you see, becoming increasingly smitted with Ansita, the young cook and all-round domestic goddess here at the school. She can't really speak english and probably has a Nepalese arranged marriage lined up but if you feed me delicious food and look attractive then all of that is soon forgotten.


In the afternoon we wandered into town for supplies -  my supplies consisted of a family-sized block of Cadbury chocolate - and in the evening we sat on the roof with candles and looked at the stars.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Nature and Value of our Human Essence


The Nature and Value of our Human Essence

Holy wow, I'm really high. My attention span is so short right now that typing this seems like a miracle. Riding my bike home was a miracle. I could feel the boundaries between dreams and reality becoming blurred. It was like my subconscious was king. It was dark but I kept seeing the path I was riding on as becoming lighter. Between brief moments of regular perception I would see light beams through the trees, feel warm, and blissfully, perfectly happy. It felt like I was recalling a fond memory of having done this ride before, as a child maybe. Yet it was my first time having done this ride.

I said 'miracle' but 'miracle' suggests religious influence - This is not the sense of the word I mean. What I mean is that everything seemed (and continues to seem) miraculous, wonderful and confusing. I feel like an inquisitive child taking delight in seeing the world free from the influences that afflict our sense of self in adulthood. My body feels warm and tired, yet part of me races off chasing wonders and distractions. I'm swaying erratically while trying to write and am constantly wanting to find interest in smaller and smaller things. I want to prove to myself that I can find more wonder in less, to increase my wonder in spite of lesser influence. Sometimes that's what it's felt like. It feels different now and in my increasing sobriety I'd like to describe my bicycle ride home.

It was like the best kind of compulsory mission. The type that you know is compulsory yet the fact you know it is compulsory is no hindrance to the well-being of the mind nor body. The body follows, obeys, and chases, and the greater you is pulled too. Though it has no other choice the greater mind follows. But you enjoy it. The greater you enjoys it's paralytic tug and obedience of the brainstem because it is relieved of greater tasks. It is relieved of following order, of following the incessantly vocal inner monologue. The self that proudly states itself as master yet is too much an infant of evolution to grasp the knowledge of it’s true nature. Maybe the answer, the philosophy, will never develop. Maybe it has not proven evolutionally beneficial to question such things. Or maybe evolution simply doesn’t apply to the greater self. Presumably, even if it did, these people, these thinkers of the things, would drive themselves insane contemplating the elusive wonder of the greater self. So the greater self has wonder too, but just in chasing different things. Chasing better things? We'd like to think so. But the red herrings in our thoughts reveal more about us as second order beings (frankfurt) than do our bodily transmutations. And there are many red-herrings.

What is the essence of the human being? Perhaps you would argue that our second order volitions are what is important. This would be mightily filled with a philosopher-superiority complex. To claim spuriously that only those who have developed 2nd order volitions are the bearers of true human essence would be to mistakenly overlook a crucial question - Should we be assessed according to our processes (our mechanical jolts of neural power), or should we be judged by the far richer mechanical nature within the greater machine - The greater self? The machine that develops within the machine that almost seems independent enough to run off on it's own but cannot reach this goal yet. The intricate but dependant crux that has escaped it's master in it's dreams only but can still taste this freedom - It seems like a worthy choice. Despite the typical philosophical arrogance found in claiming that exercises of the brain indicate superiority I pain to say that I cannot escape it's allure.
Here is why.

Our mechanical jolts would interest a scientist god, and interests like this should remain with them. We should not assume that we are the masters of our own creation. That would be absurd. Where would we create from? We would certainly not create from the 'us' as we know it. The place that we experience life from is our 'greater self' under both meanings of 'greater'. It is larger (in the size of 'human essence') and also better (more great). We are living a distinctly human life in our thoughts, not our digestion. To say that those with more advanced 2nd order thinking are now more deserving of praise than the lesser 2nd order thinkers would be to jump forward too enthusiastically. It would be akin to the current worthy criticism of racists. To criticise that they are of a different race to you is senseless because even if there were something intrinsically bad about certain races (a statement I disagree with) that person didn't seem to choose their position. Only a manifestation of a 2nd order desire in the physical world is truly free. Whether one experiences this manifestation within them is determined. This is where the concepts of morally right and wrong and morally praiseworthy or blameworthy need to be distinguished. The 2nd order thinker may be 'objectively better' (more on that later) but not more praiseworthy.

 The same reason that this criticism of racists seems sound applies in parallel with the question of whether 2nd order volitions (or something else) contains what could be called the human essence. Humans have their mechanical structures evolve; But our tendency to seek 2nd order desires hasn't done the same. This seems to prove that the mind can operate free of evolution when pursuing 2nd order desires.  It doesn't seem as if the collective amount of '2nd order volitions-holders’ has increased in accordance with the rest of our evolutionary benefits. Surely the philosophical greats would have realised that they are the possessors of human essence only to the extent that they can dominate over their mechanical selves through their higher order thinking.  Yet this assumption does not seem to fit with the evolutionary argument (which must be inherently and entirely physicalist) and with our perceptions of time. In fact the number of 2nd Order Volition realizations has probably diminished over time in opposition to the increasing mechanical changes that we call evolution. So our 2nd order volition realisations must be able to operate external to evolutionary influences, which would mean that they must be a made of something non-physical, something metaphysically different to everything else. Is this our soul? A diminishing (if one believes 'diminishing' to be the case) of the mind, or even a non-changing amount of 2nd order volition realizations over time, would disprove it's possibility to be a part of the evolutionary process. To argue that 2nd order volitions have evolved would be to argue that we have become at least slightly more 2nd order volition aware than Socrates (or Plato, or Epicurus, or maybe even the more recent Mill!), and this is an enormously large claim. If this were to be true than why are these geniuses so shy in expressing their epiphanies to the world?! Couldn't science benefit? And (assuming this theory is tenable) wouldn't widespread realization of 2nd order volitions in turn influence our evolutionary compass so that it directs us towards a life of greater human essence? My wavering scientific knowledge inhibits me a little here but I tentatively claim that 'yes', it would do so very slowly - at the speed of evolution in fact.

This is why I pursue philosophy. Because right now I feel that philosophy can lead to the discovery of 2nd order volitions in a direct path, and this in turn would benefit our consequential well-being seeking because the acknowledgement of second order volitions also comes with great pleasure. I think that the refinement of this theory is best done by philosophers, the application of this theory best discovered through science and it's promotion (which is – consequentially speaking – the most essential part) should be done by anyone and everyone - In this case it's me. We should want to see the flourishing of these 2nd order volition seekers achieved through whatever method possible because they have discovered the 'true human essence' - The true expression of ourselves. This part of the self is the hedonistic place that Bentham and Tännsjö are looking for. Their aim was worthy but their eyes were faulty. Happiness is truly the greatest good. It is probably also expressed in hedonic pleasure, and that only. But in humans the apex of pleasure is connected to development of the 2nd orders volitions. So their aim, though the most worthy of all possible aims, was ever so slightly impeded by missing the connection between hedonistic bliss and securing desires of the second order. Securing second order desires can be motivated by a realization that our pleasure response is a reward of evolution, pleasure tells us we are on the right track. It is a standard and constant physical norm and attractor. Since the dawn of time pleasure has felt good and we have instinctively, egoistically, gone and pursued it. It is when we acknowledge this and accept it that we can realise that when we pursue the maximization of 2nd order desire realisations we also are pursuing that pleasurable, self-interested, mechanical pull of the primal self. The pursuit of 2nd order desires can be justified in a hedonistic sense. People don't know this, but it is in the best interests of both the mechanical and the greater self that they obligingly follow this pull. You can open people's eyes to that. With the knowledge, you can. And perhaps you should. Maybe that is the one and only justification to paternalism.

That:
When reasonable expectations of greater 2nd order volition development are predicted as a consequence of an action infringements on liberty that are incurred in the completion of this action may be accepted as a form of 'loving paternalistic life re-direction'. 

The liberty infringement may be rather high however their potential for self-meaning illumination would surely always swing this metaphysical felicific calculus in favour of enlightenment. This ‘enlightenment’ being the possession of the true human essence through the recognition of the links between 2nd order desires and the happiness caused by these same desires.

2nd Order volition theory (according to Frankfurt) goes hand in hand with the hedonistic pleasure theories of Bentham and the collision of the 2 leads to some interesting conclusions.
1) That 2nd order volition realisations actually result in a discovery of the true essence of humanity - that the pursuit of the pleasures of the body is only fully achieved to the extent that one develops their thinking to seek 2nd order volitions.      
2) That philosophy - or whatever means best achieves the most recognition of 2nd order volitions- ought to be taught. (Moral Prescription)

I say all of the above with the bashfulness of the most modest of philosophers. I profess that this is merely my knowledge so far and to say I've hit the crux of my knowledge would be arrogant at the age of 21. Nonetheless it seems so obvious to me that this is the case. It is in my nature that nothing makes me happier than when I realise that I am the captain of my ship despite the uncontrollable forces of the ocean. I can only presume that this bliss can be experienced by others. Given that I am not a strange anomaly (oh please, no) I can be justified, consequentially speaking, for vehemently pursuing conditions that lead to greater 2nd order volitions in myself and others. This goal essentially becomes the new intrinsic good and brings with it the obligations to pursue it.

Utilitarianism is correct, the intrinsic good should be maximised. Only it wrongly defines the intrinsic good as happiness, assuming that the one that bugs 'but why is that pursued?' is speaking nonsensically. That person would actually be speaking quite legitimately. The answer is 'because it leads to the production of 2nd order desires and hence the discovery of the human essence', and with a full knowledge of  the theories  of Frankfurt and the Hedonistic Utilitarians I think that the connection between happiness and 2nd order desires is evidently the final say. No further can one be bug bugged 'but why is that pursued?' because (for reasons stated in this essay) the actualization of 2nd order desires is so evidently the final word in the story; no, the full-stop. That being said, the apparentness of this theory to me may be afflicted with a logical flaw - and if so I implore you to find it. Content your desire to point it out to me and I will be equally content in that I can now satisfy my 2nd Order desire to further develop philosophically by correcting and refining this theory.

AFTERWORD:

This piece of writing started with the descriptions of my internal experiences while high. So where does the strange but briefly beautiful servitude of the 2nd Order Volition seeking mind to the mechanical mind fit into the mix of things when related to the drug experimentation? Can experiences like this help to answer thought experiments like Nozick's pleasure machine or solve the moral dilemma of whether the robotic bliss of the characters in Huxley's Brave New World should be promoted or not? I think experiences like this can help to further unpack whether a medicated wonderland is plausible. If it was scientifically verified that a certain brain tweak (or a certain drug) could allow humans  non-diminishing, lifelong bliss with 2nd Order volitions present in their life that are all, in the end, fulfilled, then that brain tweak (or that drug)  should be our moral obligation to administer to everyone. I could not imagine a more fulfilling existence than the existence I just described.   

*****************************

Written between the hours of 11pm and 3am on the 14th and 15th of March, 2012, by Andrew Bloyce. It was since edited as minimally as possible to improve coherence and fix mistakes of phrasing and grammar. Essentially though, the content is exactly the same. The section about second-order desires and evolution is fairly weak and unsubstantiated - I left it in there nonetheless so that it would be a complete work of what I wrote on that night. What started out as an external monologue of cannabis-experience-expression turned into philosophy. The world is an interesting place.

Reference Notes:

Most of the influence for this essay came from Harry Frankfurt. Particularly this article:
H.G. Frankfurt. 1988. 'Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a person'

The rest of the influence came from the classical hedonistic philosophers – Epicurus, The Cyrenaics (Aristippus), Bentham, and more recently Tännsjö.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nepal - Day #11

Today marked the second day of un-doing our first weeks work. It was a grind. Although I'd love to say that my spirit of goodwill overcame the frustrations and pains of the work I must admit that the day went slowly and was a chore.

In other news my facial hair growth experiment (don't shave for the duration of the trip) is yielding abysmal results. My chin and upper lip hair is thin, light in colour, and just very disappointing. There is a small, vain, part of me that wants to abort the mission just in case I meet my dream girl on the weekend only to discover that she has an aversion to feeble facial hair growth. Since I'm planning on heading to Pokhara on the weekend having a shave is become a serious consideration. Writing less in my blog about embarrassing facial hair concerns is also becoming a serious consideration. 


I took a 3hour nap in the afternoon and had an early night - Party animal.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nepal - Day #8

Today I had a culture-shock relapse resulting in introvertedness, mild irritation at just about everything, and a longing for the mundane - but safe and comforting - routine of home. I didn't feel like talking to Guy (or anyone else) and didn't care to explain my sudden somberness. 

I sat around reading "Eating Animals" by Johnathan Safran Foer and waiting to feel human again.

NOTE: So far "Eating Animals" is a great book and is deserving of the hype it has received. If I were to remain an omnivore I would want to conduct the same sort of research that Safran has. The book is set out in a rather freeform ordering of scientific data, personal reflections, and testimony's from PETA 'radicals' and factory farmers.

The afternoon brought me back to my normal optimistic state after playing a few games of table-tennis with the children back at the school. I'm a worthy opponent in the table tennis, but need practice at the volleyball.






I spent the evening reading Rousseau's "Discourse on the arts and sciences" before the power cut out and I went up to the rooftop to look at the stars.

Nepal - Day #7 - Chitawan National Park - Nature walk

Today was a big day. I went on a nature walk in the national park in the hopes that I would have a close (but not too close) encounter with some of the local animals. We did a round trip of about 8kms and I saw plenty of spotted deer and one rhino. The rhino was a male so we couldn't get too close, so we took photo's from afar.



Guy had been elephant riding and we both finished at around midday to sit and chat with the hotel manager. The hotel manager had quite and enthusiasm for marijuana and hash, which he called his 'herbal medicine's'. He explained that a hindi festival in celebration of Lord Shiva was approaching where the police turned a blind eye to the drug laws and everyone smokes marijuana and hash in praise of the Gods. Our manager had obviously started celebrating quite early and was keen to sell us some 'medicine'. Not this time though.

I took a 3hr nap in the afternoon and we again head into the town for cheap cocktails.

Nepal - Day #6 - Chitawan National Park

Although a little sore from the previous day's work I awoke motivated to finish the gravel shoveling task so that we could go to the Chitawan National Park on the weekend and relax.


In an effort to avoid muscle pain I adapted to shoveling left-handed and now consider myself and ambidextrous shoveler - My personal development has already begun! Like the previous day the children were keen to help and did so seemingly oblivious to the heat. It feels like an Australian summer here it Chitawan except that it is cold at night.

We finished the shoveling slightly early and the children and I celebrated by doing flips into the sandy pile of excess gravel. - I took photos.





We talked to Ramu (one of our hosts) about Chitawan and he said he knew a good place to stay; he even offered to take us there on his motorbike. The offer was too good to refuse so we piled all 3 of us onto the back of his motorbike and head off for the Chitawan National park.

The place that Ramu suggested was certainly very nice. It seemed quite apparent that the owner of the hotel and Ramu had come to some sort of agreement when we discovered that the previous volunteers had come to the same place. Nevertheless we couldn't have chosen better on our own. Ramu had mistakenly (or perhaps not so mistakenly. . ) organized us the deluxe suites consisting of a television (rare), a queen sized bed (rarer still), and a bathroom with a western toiled and 24hr hot water (practically unheard of in Nepal).

After a meal of vegetable mo-mo's (if you haven't tried these you should, they are amazing) we set out to explore the town. We found a roof-top bar with a five hour 'happy-hour' with 'buy one get one free' cocktails. When converted back to AUD's this is ludicrously cheap.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nepal - Day #5 - 1st Day Volunteering.

Today was our first day of actual volunteer work. We were shown some half completed classroom foundations and instructed to fill them with gravel.





The work was difficult but it could have been far worse. When I had heard that we'd be shoveling gravel I'd imagined lots of small rocks - in reality it was half sand half medium sized rocks. After a while you forget that you are shoveling and settle into a rhythm.

A 13 year old Nepalise boy helped us shovel for a while and did so with incredible vigor and strength. I struggled to keep up with him despite his tiny frame.

We ended up finishing about half the shoveling today, putting us far ahead of shedule (Bal planned for 7 days of shoveling).

In the afternoon we played hacky-sack with the children (a game they play a lot of in Nepal). The hacky-sack is made out of a small bunch of rubber bands. Some of the children can kick the hacky-sack into the air 20-30 times without having it hit the ground. I struggled to get 4-5. Nepalise children play very co-operatively I have noticed: both in the volleyball and the hacky-sack.

Next we played around doing cart-wheels and flips and walking on our hands.

A girl named Supi (who has VERY good English skills) had transcribed the Australian National Anthem in english in preparation for my arrival. Given her efforts I could hardly refuse to sing it for her. This led me to being brought back to their dorm rooms and having to sing it over and over again. It was a small price to pay for the privilege of being invited into their dorm rooms.

In the girls dorm room Supi tried her best to teach me Nepalise and I feel that I am slowly learning. The children are good teachers and are very patient.






That's Supi in the middle ^^.

Later on Guy and I rushed into town to have a quick beer before dinner, stopping on the way to buy some candles (to get us through the nightly power cuts - 'load shedding' as they call it). On the way home, however, Guy and I hit a crossroads - Both literally and figuratively speaking. He was certain that we should take a left and I was equally certain that we should take a right turn. It didn't help our decision that it was pitch black apart from our measly torchlight.

I gave Guy the benefit of the doubt and we went left only to find ourselves lost in the dark at night in the Nepalise countryside. We were both becoming quite worried. In an incredible stroke of luck we came across a local who was not only friendly but spoke english. He escorted us back home and explained that in Nepal "guests are gods" so tourists need not worry in Nepal. When we arrived home we tried our best to express our gratitude to the friendly local. I kept repeating "dahnyabahd" (thank you in Nepalise) and Guy gave him cigarettes as a parting gift.

Our Nepalise family was not very happy with us because we were home an hour past dinner time. We offered them the candles we'd bought as a sort of reconciliation gift and they served us our daal baht nontheless.

Overall and interesting day.

Nepal - Day #4 - Kathmandu/Chitwan

Today we got up at 5:30am to get to Kathmandu so that we could catch the bus to Chitawan. The bus ride was long (6 hours) but we stopped for lunch (daal baht or course) along the way.


The school in Chitawan (or more preciesly 'parsha') is lovely, as is the rest of the landscape in Chitawan. Unlike Kathmandu there are many trees in Chitawan and it is common to see fields of grain and vegetables.











On arriving at the school Guy and I were bombarded with excited children who fired questions at us in astonishingly well spoken English. Because both Guy and I have long hair they think we are rock-stars and actors; they also call us 'sir'.

We played volleyball with the kids and were amazed at their skill level. They play better than most of us did back at school (in grade 12) and they are, on average, about 8 years old. One boy called 'Ramesh' became particularly attached to me and promptly declared that I was his best friend. He followed me around all afternoon, it was kinda nice.

We wandered into the village and had a beer and then came back to endure a daal baht thats heat rivaled the sun. Lava wishes that it was as hot as this daal baht. . . ok, so it probably wasn't that hot but still, far too 'piro' ('spicy' in Nepalise) for me. Other than that it was definitely the tastiest ('mitho') daal baht I'd had since being in Nepal.

<----- That's daal baht. We ate it twice a day, everyday.
 

It's quite warm in Chitawan, t-shirt and shorts weather.

Nepal - Day #3 - Bhaktapur/Kathmandu

Day 3 began with a bread and jam and an omlette ( a worthy representation of a western breakfast). We then continued our orientation with Bal and learned about the treatment of women in Nepal. In short it's pretty awful.



Women are often forced to sleep in cow sheds when they are menstruating and are subject to a life of 'loving servitude' to their husbands. Marriages are arranged by the parents of the couple and the women's family is expected to pay the husband's family a 'dowry'. This dowry is essentially a wish-list of items that the husband (or husband's family) desires and demands.

Dowry's are generally fairly expensive items (cars, laptops, 100,000 rupees) which means that families (wanting to avoid financial stress) often hope for male children rather than females. I couldn't help wondering about the prevalence of abortions in Nepal; Bal assured me that it was uncommon, however given the information at hand it seems likely that home-abortions would occur. Despite my pro-choice position I think the choice to abort should be a least minimally rational and the procedure conducted to be safe and professional. The dowry system is archaic, dogmatic, and encourages greed.

A worse problem still is women trafficking. This involves a Nepalise man feigning interest in a woman in order to secure the families dowry before selling the woman to a brothel (most often in India). Because menstruation is seen as an 'impurity' young girls are in particularly high demand. Women, or more accurately children, are forced to satisfy 5 to 25 clients a day; some of the children being as young as 11.

After orientation it was lunch time and I decided that I would eat it the Nepalise way. It was quite enjoyable eating with my hand even though my lack of skill proved amusing to the locals. In Nepal it is only acceptable to eat with your right hand because your left hand should be used when visiting the toilet.

In the afternoon we visited the monkey temple just outside central Kathmandu. It's a Buddhist temple atop a large mountain with a lot of monkeys. . . I guess the name gives it away a bit. I picked up a few souvenirs and took plenty of photo's.






In the evening Guy and I went back to Sam's bar in Thamel (see photo ^^), but only for a few drinks this time.

As a sidenote we discovered today that my companion Guy's name means 'cow' in Nepalise. This fact provided Bal and I with much amusement.

Nepal - Day #2 - Bhaktapur/Kathmandu

Day 2 was much better than Day 1. I met Guy, the other volunteer I'll be working with. He's really friendly, has dreadlocks, enjoys a good beer (or 12) and works as a stonemason back in Chichester in England.

The morning consisted of Daal Baht ('Daal Baht' for breakfast, 'Baht Daal' for dinner!) followed by our orientation with Bal. We learned about the caste system in Nepal (4 arbitrary classes based on blood-line), learnt some basic Nepalise, and talked about the Nepalise education system (It seems like the ability to buy an education causes the same injustices and class divides in Nepal as it does in Australia - Surprise, surprise).


In the evening things really kicked off when Guy and I decided to head into Kathmandu. After only experiencing the dusy - and rather depressing - streets of Bhaktapur seeing Kathmandu restored my hopes that Nepal could be exciting. It was. The streets of Kathmandu are narrow and crowed , filled with Nepalise locals, tourists, and drug dealers. ('hashish sir?'. .'opium?'. ..'heroin sir?')

We went first to a touristy sort of bar called 'Sam's'. At sams the walls are covered with messages written by the visitors. There are stories, quotes, tips, and pictures scribed on the walls. I added my own mark on the wall with one of the few quotes I've managed to internalise:





After a few 'Everests' (the local lager-style beer) Guy shared with me a story about a girl he'd me at a nearby bar a few weeks ago. His enthusiasm for the particular woman was revealed to me without hesitation. He gushed. It was good.

Next we went to a more traditional bar where we sat on cushions on the floor. Guy explained to me on the way there that this is where he had first met Christina (his aforementioned love interest). I think we both knew that the chances of Christina being in the same bar weeks later and the same time that we visit would have to be very slim. Yet by some miracle she turned up!

Christina is from New Zealand and undeniably attractive. She told us about a trip she took to a temple in which she meditated with monks in absolute silence and darkness for 10 hours a day for 10 days. I wondered whether I would have the willpower to do something like that. It's certainly something I'd like to attempt.



I also met a few french travelers and we all ate and drank together.(Christina is the one on the far right)






By this time of the night we'd all had quite a lot to drink and were feeling very jolly but we decided to head to more more bar before home. This last place had a small cover band that played heaps of popular western music. I bought a gin and tonic that was poured freehand to a ratio of 40% gin to 60% tonic. This cost me about $2.50AUD!

On the taxi ride home Guy gushed some more about how Christina is the perfect woman for him - I can't decide whether it was irritating, heart-warming, or amusing. Either way, drunken mumblings generally reveal a lot about a person, and to know that I'm spending the next month with a hopeless romantic means we'll probably have a lot to talk about.

Nepal - Day #1 - Kathmandu/Bhaktapur

Overwhelmed. It's been a couple of hours since arriving in Kathmandu and I feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew. So this is what 'culture shock' feels like.

I was met at the airport by a young Nepalise man who took me to the accomodation that I will spend the next two nights at. The short trip from the airport to Bhaktapur was rather nerve-racking. The Nepalise have an informal road system in which there are no lanes and little indication. Instead they
beep their horns a lot and spontaneous order miraculously occurs - not dissimilar (I imagine) to a bat's use of sonar.


I walked through bhaktapur with my guide and couldn't help feeling like a spectacle. My clothes, white skin, and long hair was obviously not a common sight. While we walked we talked about arranged marriages, girlfriends, university, and wealth. I felt like a promiscuous, rich, prat.






Now i'm in my room feeling exahusted and hungry but I can't bring myself to go back out there again right now.
 

On an unrelated note the weather is fine, it's about 16 degrees Celcius. Nice.