Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Either you're the best or the worst!

[Image from:]

Anonymous reviews and comments give you that. Ring of Gyges ring a bell? Just had to put that in.

More TURING 2012 announcements

Via Wilfrid Sellars Society. "The conference, dubbed 'Turing 2012: International Conference on Philosophy, Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science,' is part of the global effort to celebrate the life and scientific influence of English mathematician, logician, and computer scientist Alan Turing."

The link is here. Other useful links are and

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Alan Turing Year Twitter, Turing 2012 here we come!

The twitter for the Alan Turing Year is here. Above is the publicity material c/o of DLSU StratCom
for Turing 2012. More details at and

Ayer and Sartre on the Meaning of Life 2

[The photo is from It identifies the photographer as Gilberte Brassai]
[The previous entry, "Ayer and Sartre on the Meaning of Life" is here. As always my comments in square brackets. So my comments on my comments? Still my work hehehe...taking a break from Thomas Nagel]

It is both peculiar and strange to find Ayer and existentialists like Sartre in similar straits. With any luck, it is not just that both have been classified as subjectivists about the meaning of life; but also because of the preceding discussions. As previously noted, a dialogue between those persuaded by either Ayer or Sartre may have been prevented by opposed characterizations of their respective traditions. It is already a historical question beyond the scope of this work to determine who started the quarrel, or if there really is any.["Oh but there is!!!" Anyway, I did not include what I considered a scathing remark of Ayer regarding Heidegger. But some may say Heidegger deserves that] Ayer, perhaps unknowingly, is reminiscent of Sartre when he (2000, 226) writes:
There is, however, a sense in which it can be said that life does have a meaning. It has for each of us whatever meaning we severally choose to give it. The purpose of a man’s existence is constituted by the ends to which he, consciously or unconsciously, devotes himself.

Instead of “ends” one may substitute, “projects”, in order to see more of the echoes of existentialism. The passage above exemplifies the subjectivist position on the meaning of life. But it cannot and should not be taken in isolation from the previous discussions of the other passages. The question about the meaning of life, for Ayer, is not a question about explanations found in either theology or even science. In Ayer’s view, such explanations miss the mark of the person who asks the question of the meaning of life. This does not necessarily mean that explanations do not matter at all, or at the extreme there are no possible explanations. The point is that even if you had such explanations, the question of the meaning of life is qualitatively different from such.  Ayer (2000, 226) continues:
Philosophers, with a preference for tidiness, have sometimes tried to show that all these apparently diverse objects can really be reduced to one: but the fact is that there is no end that is common to all men, not even happiness. For setting aside the question whether men  ought always to pursue, it is not true even that they also do pursue it, unless the word “happiness” is used merely as a description of any end that is in face pursued. Thus the question what is the meaning of life proves, when it is taken  empirically, to be incomplete.  For there is no single thing of which it can be that this is the meaning of life. All that can be said is that life has at various times a different meaning for different people, according as they pursue their several ends.

“Philosophers with a preference for tidiness” could have also applied to Ayer and his colleagues. [Of course this does not mean that one try to be obscure in order to look profound] I take the above passage of Ayer to be highlighting the subjective quality of the question of the meaning of life.  This existential question can be taken empirically but will be incomplete in the sense that it misses the subjective, undertaken by the person living that life. Empirically one can point to case studies done by psychologists, compiled interviews by sociologists or even autobiographies of famous personalities, to formulate explanations and arguments about how such lives came to be. From these materials one may even work out the commonality of what people view as making their lives happy or significant. Yet it would leave out the subjective aspect, of the persons who made choices in order to lead the lives they have led. It seems a bit wrongheaded to try, from such empirical materials, to really answer whether such persons were really happy or their lives meaningful. If we follow Ayer, these sets of materials (case studies, interviews and autobiographies) would not be able to address the person/s who ask the question of the meaning of life. These sets of materials may provide explanatory value, but are beside the point. Furthermore Ayer (2000, 226-7) writes:
That different people have different purposes is an empirical matter of fact. But what is required by those who seek to know the purpose of their existence is not a factual description of the way that people actually do conduct themselves, but rather a decision as to how they should conduct themselves. Having been taught to believe that not all purposes are of equal value, they require to be guided in their choice. And thus the inquiry into purpose of our existence dissolves into the question “How ought men to live?”

[Maybe more later]