Archive for September, 2009

Fellow Critical Thinkers,

On behalf of Mark T. Market, I wish to apologize for the delay on new posts.  I also regret to announce that the The Critical Thinker will be on hiatus for awhile due to unavoidable circumstances.

As you may know, Tropical storm Ondoy slammed into the Philippines on Sept.26, Saturday morning, and within 24 hours poured nearly 17 inches of rain, the heaviest rainfall in 40 years, on the capital and its surrounding areas.  The torrential floods burst dams and swept cars from the street. Mark and his family are one of the hardest hit by the hurricane, and while they survived, they have lost their home, their car, and all their belongings, leaving them only with the clothes on their backs.

As a long time friend of Mark, I have organized some friends to provide support for him and his family during this unfortunate disaster. Of course we will welcome any financial contribution from our readers as well. If you can and would like to help Mark get back on his feet, please leave a note and I will send you some details.

Below are some videos taken by ordinary citizens, detailing the devastation caused by the typhoon. The first one in particular is taken from a place not far from Mark’s home.

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“Newspeak” is a term used by George Orwell in his novel: 1984, referring to a fictional language used by the totalitarian government in that story–a language that reduces meaning into simple dichotomies (i.e. good vs. evil, right vs. wrong) in order to facilitate propaganda by the state.

The the following video, juxtaposed with media-clips criticizing him, George Soros describes the practice of newspeak especially its most recent and successful example: “The War on Terror” as an idea.

We recently posted Randy David’s criticism of morality being used in politics. Moralizing in politics are also a form of newspeak.

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Nirvana: after destroying the source of all sorrow within oneself, and having gained the ability to metabolize “light” or a higher frequency of existence to receive it comfortably, bliss is experienced, liberation is attained. A certain lifestyle follows while here on earth, and what gains respect from most of the community is a type of ascetism.


Upaya: It may be an illusion, a delusion, or deceptive, but one is comfortable after having developed the ability to metabolize a chosen life as it is, without avoidance of the usual gross matters that ascetics do away with. Upaya places great emphasis on rules not necessarily having to be followed, at the same time not necessarily having to be broken, and thus an intense type of alertness and discernment are required.


Grasping the essence of these concepts is important because humans go through almost the same challenges in normal life, especially modern living.



Please click here to read more:  http://www.sandrasorayaalzona.wordpress.com

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Kim Kiyosaki (wife of Robert of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame) shares an interesting insight about what she calls: 4 kinds of people, grouping them by their mantras:

  1. I must be right — people who love to be validated and proven correct.
  2. I must be comfortable — people who like settling in their comfort zones and not push boundaries.
  3. I must be liked — people who live to please others and patronize.
  4. I must win — people who will do anything to succeed.

Although doubtless there are more archetypes than Kiyosaki claims (depending on whatever typology you subscribe to), the thing I find interesting about the 4 types above is how they would react and utilize critical thinking.

  1. Critical thinking seeks to clarify, not simply validate.
  2. It is often uncomfortable and involves challenging the status quo.
  3. It is not patronizing, and is often deprecating.
  4. It seeks to achieve its end goals.

Of the 4 types above, only those who seek to win would push criticism to its limit.

Kim says know who you’re dealing with and that will bring you success. In critical thinking it’s the same: it’s important to know who your talking to, who your audience is, and who you’re criticizing.

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This is an editorial from Philippine journalist, Randy David, commenting on the political scene in the Philippines–which is due to have its next presidential election in 2010. It’s a good critique of moral views in politics–where politicians often use moral arguments to further their platforms, without really addressing the real issues at stake.

Good And Evil In Politics
Randy David

As my previous columns on politics may have shown, I am one of those who squirm each time I hear people reduce Philippine politics today into a fight between good and evil. I view this way of thinking as a residual habit from traditional society. And so to hear it from modern Filipinos who ought to know better is truly dismaying and alarming.

I don’t know what prompted Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, perhaps the most modern of those who have aspired for the presidency, to say in a recent Inquirer interview: “You know, this is good versus evil. This is tuwid versus baluktot. This is tama versus mali.” The interviewer, who had merely asked how he felt after his momentous withdrawal from the presidential race, wondered if she got it right: “As simple as that?” And Mar replied: “Yes. That’s why I was very willing to engage in this; it’s because it boils down to that. All the frustrations, all the anger, all the hopes of our people—it’s not anymore in the policy this or policy that. It’s just good versus evil. You know, that’s the campaign the reformists are going to wage.” Wow! I hope Mar uttered this more out of a sense of frustration than as a matter of conviction.

For, such moralistic formulations preempt and disparage the need for a careful and reasoned analysis of the problems that confront us as a nation. They tend to focus on the character of the doer than on the origins and consequences of the deed. They ride on unexamined moral prejudices, and simplify the search for political solutions into a quest for heroes. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may be the most despised president in the nation’s history, but instead of ascribing to her sole authorship of everything that is bad in our government, I find it more arguable to think of her as a reflection of our society’s basic problems, or the street-smart personification of a dysfunctional social order.

I recognize the emotional power of moral language in everyday life. But, instead of exploiting it, I think it gives us all the more reason to use it sparingly in public affairs. In complex societies like ours, we can no longer take for granted the existence of moral consensus. Though they may use the same words, today’s Filipinos are likely to have different notions of what constitutes good and evil in various situations. Moreover, we may find that most of the moral dilemmas we encounter in everyday life are not so much choices between good and evil, as they are conflicts of values—choices between two equally desirable goods.

After Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972, many of our people accepted the restrictions on their civil liberties and political rights in exchange for the promise of peace and order and economic prosperity. Had he succeeded in using his vast authoritarian powers to transform the Philippines in the same way Lee Kwan Yew rebuilt Singapore, he would likely be remembered today as a statesman rather than as a tyrant. But because he failed, only the abuses that were committed by him and his regime are remembered.

For this and many other reasons, it was not difficult to portray Marcos as the incarnation of evil in the 1986 snap presidential election. To combat evil, what the nation felt it needed was not another politician but someone of Marian purity, a person who could symbolize everything that was good and decent in our culture. There was no one else but Cory, the widow of the martyred Ninoy. Where politics had poisoned society, her political inexperience became a virtue. This morality tale quickly seized the imagination of the public. It shaped our politics in unexpected ways. It foretold the end of the Marcos regime, but it also defined the terms of the people’s engagement with the Cory government.

Instead of treating social reform as a continuing project of people power, Filipinos promptly withdrew from public affairs, preferring to leave the business of governing to the good men and women that Mother Cory had recruited. They were caught unaware by the power struggles that ensued among those who had fought Marcos. Many could not understand the virulence of the coup attempts against Cory, except as an effort to bring back the evil that was Marcos. But the “evil” did not go away with Marcos, it continued to reside in the system.

The reality is that while it is a great advantage for a nation to have an incorruptible president, it is not enough. Beyond serving as a moral exemplar, a modern leader is expected to be a statesman whose function—said the political philosopher Hannah Arendt—“was not to act but to impose permanent rules on the changing circumstances and unstable affairs of acting men.” In short, to build institutions.

Today, Noynoy Aquino finds himself cast in the same role that his mother played in 1986. He must not waste this chance to form a durable constituency to support a vision and program of social and cultural transformation. Because of the credibility he enjoys, Noynoy is uniquely situated to wage a campaign to change our people’s beliefs about politics in general—to make them see how, in many ways, they too unwittingly contribute to the problems that bug our society.

I would advise him against playing the morality card not only because it has no place in modern politics, but because it conceals the complex nature of our problems and the solutions they require. It is correct, in my view, to zero in on the record of the Arroyo government as the main issue in 2010, not in terms of the kind of person Arroyo is, but in terms of the kind of governance she exemplified from which she could not rise as president. But, we cannot stop there; we must take pains to define the alternative.

Original link is here.

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Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb teams up with the authors of Dance With Chance: Spyros Makridakis, Robin Hogarth and Anil Gaba — and discusses with them key concepts common amongst all of them. The four authors are advocating a certain kind of activism to bring the public to awarness of irrational expertise, our overreliance on experts, and how we naturally downplay the role of luck and randomness in our lives.

Apart from financial markets, they cite healthcare and medicine as potentially affected fields where the ‘expert problem’ is rampant.

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A couple of months ago, Nassim Taleb spoke out in Bloomberg about the “reforms” taking place in the financial system under the Obama and Geithner plans. He expressed his disgust and disappointment that not only are governments bailing out failed institutions but the new accounting standards being proposed after the crisis allow for even less transparency in reporting of gains and losses.

Towards the latter part of his interview Taleb briefly touched on a two-tier concept for the financial system: one side solely for utilitarian purposes but very low risk (banks), the other side solely for risk taking (hedge funds). The key to making this system work is that governments will be very protective of the banks for as long as they are not allowed to freely take risk, whilst the hedge funds can take on as much speculation as they wish, but are not subject to bailout. This would reduce moral hazard and would provide a more robust financial system. In a speaking engagement in Germany, Taleb specifically describes this two-tiered idea.

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Given the example of patients and doctors and prescriptions, freedom of choice becomes an oxymoron when choices are given to individuals who are not trained or prepared to make an intelligent decision. Whilst Dan Ariely talked about irrational decision making, Barry Schwartz illustrates how having choices end up limiting individuals rather than empowering them.

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Doing a reprise of Nikola Tesla, MIT engineer Eric Giler demonstrates how electricity can be transmitted wirelessly through magenetic fields. The concept is safe, portable, and commercially viable. The applications for wireless power are immense.

We featured Tesla’s work on Electricity before as well as his flying machine concept.

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Are we truly in control of our decisions? Dan Ariely, a behavioural economist, illustrates how flawed our intuition can become sometimes. Often our decisions are dictated not by our cognition, but by the availability of options given to us. This flaw can lead us into making some surprisingly stupid decisions.

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