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    1. The Trolley Problem

      An interesting thought experiment that I vividly remember from undergrad philosophy courses is the trolley problem: You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise...

      An interesting thought experiment that I vividly remember from undergrad philosophy courses is the trolley problem:

      You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise incapacitated) people lying on the main track. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track, and the five people on the main track will be saved. However, there is a single person lying on the side track. You have two options:

      1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
      2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

      A variation of the problem that we were also presented with was:

      You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise incapacitated) people lying on the main track. You are standing on a bridge that runs across the trolley tracks. There is a large man on the bridge next to you, who if pushed over the bridge and onto the track, would safely stop the trolley, saving the five people but killing the large man. Do you:

      1. Push the man over the bridge, saving the five people.
      2. Allow the trolley to kill the five people

      Which is the more ethical options? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?

      17 votes
    2. Excerpt from "Myth and Ritual in Christianity" by A. Watts

      ... The very insistence on the one historical incarnation as a unique step in a course of events leading to the future Kingdom of God reveals the psychology of Western culture most clearly. It...

      ... The very insistence on the one historical incarnation as a unique step in a course of events leading to the future Kingdom of God reveals the psychology of Western culture most clearly. It shows a mentality for which the present, real world is, in itself, joyless and barren, without value. The present can have value only in terms of meaning—if, like a word, it points to something beyond itself. This "beyond" which past and present events "mean" is the future. This the Western intellectual, as well as the literate common man, finds his life meaningless except in terms of a promising future. But the future is a "tomorrow which never comes", and for this reason Western culture has a "frantic" character. It is a desperate rush in pursuit of an ever-receding "meaning", because the promising future is precisely the famous carrot which the clever driver dangles before his donkey's nose from the end of his whip. Tragically enough, this frantic search for God, for the ideal life, in the future renders the course of history anything but a series of unique steps towards a goal. Its real result is to make history repeat itself faster and more furiously, confusing "progress" with increased agitation.

      —Alan Watts, Myth and Ritual in Christianity. 1954

      11 votes
    3. On Having No Head (D. E. Harding) - Help me understand

      I've been interested in meditation for some time now - tempted by the insight into the human condition that it purports to offer - but I haven't yet experienced any kind of 'breakthrough' moment...

      I've been interested in meditation for some time now - tempted by the insight into the human condition that it purports to offer - but I haven't yet experienced any kind of 'breakthrough' moment that has brought any clarity, let alone insight.

      I have read Sam Harris's Waking Up, and have done some of the course in his app. The most I've been able to achieve is to observe (and subsequently limit, control) getting angry. This has proven pretty useful but doesn't feel profound.

      Anyway, I'm now about half way through D. E. Harding's On Having No Head, and I am struggling with it.

      I keep telling myself to stick with it because what he's saying might become clear, but I'm finding the reasoning behind it to be wilfully obtuse at times. I fear I'm exposing myself as some kind of idiot in even asking about it, but can someone help me see his point?

      He talks about looking at what you're pointing at. Makes sense. I can see those things, therefore they're there.
      And then to point at your face. You can't see that. Ok. Makes sense. I can't see that, therefore it's not there?
      I can vaguely see a blur of my nose, but that isn't anything worth worrying about?

      But I can demonstrate that it's there. I can photograph it. I can look at it in a mirror. I can touch it and feel it (and it can feel).

      I feel like I'm the fool staring at a metaphor and screaming about it not being real but I can't see the bit I'm missing!

      Does anyone have any insight they can share?

      4 votes