In this entry I will discuss my belief in Atheism, not in much detail, but focusing particularly in the reasons of why I am a theoretical Agnostic Atheist and a practical Atheist, rather than an Atheist in both rationales.First, for those who thought that when one says I am an atheist, there is no difference in what you do in your life and your justification for being so (an atheist); there is actually a division on Atheism, practice and theory, and one can, peculiarly enough, be a theist or a believer in God in theory but an Atheist in practice.A quote from Diderot can illustrate this:It is very important not to mistake Hemlock for Parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God.He seems to be remarking that whether one cares for God existence or not, it is unimportant and carries no consequences in life.Wikipedia says that in pragmatic Atheism,The existence of gods is not denied, but may be designated unnecessary or useless; gods neither provide purpose to life, nor influence everyday life, according to this view.Methodological Naturalism, a epistemological and metaphysical position that science assumes, is a good example of pragmatic atheism, because God is not used or is deemed irrelevant for studies and discoveries in the natural world. Many scientists could be called pragmatic atheists, although they are not in theory like, perhaps, Kenneth Miller.Now, theoretical Atheism is based on arguments and evidence, like refuting proofs that theists give for God existence (cosmological argument, fine-tuning, ontological argument, etc.) or giving reasons to show that it is very unlikely that a deity might exist (problem of evil, materialism, contradictory qualities, etc.).There can be a direct causal-relation between these two of course, pragmatic and theoretical atheism, for example some theoretical atheists might be atheists also in practice, because somebody that find more reason (maybe he is convinced that the problem of evil is indefensible or a contradiction to the existence of a God) to be an atheist than a theist, will hardly be a theist in everyday life.I am an atheist in practice because I am simply indifferent to a deity/ies (whether be the christian God or the Hindu pantheon or Allah, etc.). I do my meals and readings and art without paying atention to the possibility that a god might exist or not. I do though, sometimes, feel curiosity, some sympathy for those deeply emotional religious people ,and see it as an scholastic game to think about God and his attributes, etc. But I feel no reverence or desire to know about him/her/ whatever.Perhaps it is because of my theoretical position, that of agnostic atheism, that I have so big lack of interest for the deity ,which says that the person does not believe in god but does not know if she/he exist or not.I suppose I should explain why, in theory, I am not an atheist instead of an agnostic-atheist. I have two reasons for that, one conceptual (having to do with meaning or to what it refers) and the other epistemological (having to do with knowledge limitations). This two reasons are related, in the sense that depending on the paricular conception of God I might propose, there can be a higher limitation to come to know about him/her (in arguments, or empirical data, etc.).The conceptual reason is based on the different ideas of what the word God means, just to cite a few examples:Pantheism (is the view that the Universe/Nature and God are identical), Panentheism (belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well.), Polytheism (the belief in and/or worship of multiple deities), Monotheism (the belief that only one God exists), Deism (the belief that God exists, created the universe but does not interfere). All of these beliefs are different.And that is not all, there is also the following conceptions of what a God could or can be, if we deem only necessary to posit something as God if he/she merely created the universe or life on earth:A highly intelligent and advanced civilization, which is someting Nick Bostrom speaks about in his Simulation Argument (A simplified version), i. It is possible that an advanced civilization could create a computer simulation which contains individuals with artificial intelligence (AI). ii. Such a civilization would likely run many, billions for example, of these simulations (just for fun, for research or any other permutation of possible reasons.) iii. A simulated individual inside the simulation wouldn’t necessarily know that it is inside a simulation — it is just going about its daily business in what it considers to be the "real world." Then the ultimate question is — if one accepts that the above premises are at least possible— which of the following is more likely? a. We are the one civilization which develops AI simulations and happens not to be in one itself? b. We are one of the many (billions) of simulations that has run? (Remember point iii.)Can that, if it existed, civilization or the one that pressed the button to start the simulation, be a kind of deity/ies?Today, if one pays enough attention to much of current debate and criticism to religion, it is usually the Christian God that gets attacked, especially with the problem of evil. But what if the Christian idea of God is mistaken? Maybe God is just incompetent, or lazy, or evil. Mill at the end of his Three Essays on Religion says the following:So we can conclude that there is no basis in natural theology for attributing intelligence or personality to the obstacles that partially thwart what seem to be God’s purposes. Two other possible sources of the limitation of his power are more probable. (1) They result from the qualities of the material: the substances and forces of which the universe is composed don’t admit of any arrangements by which his purposes could be more completely fulfilled. (2) God’s purposes could have been more fully attained, but he didn’t know how to do it: his creative skill, wonderful as it is, wasn’t perfect enough to accomplish his purposes more thoroughly.andConsider the idea that this Being, not being omnipotent, may have produced a machinery that falls short of what he aimed at, so that he sometimes has to intervene •to make corrections•. This is in itself neither absurd nor impossible, though in none of the cases in which God is thought to have intervened is the evidence anywhere near conclusive.So it is a possible idea of God this bad architect and it can avoid the problem of evil.Other thing to have in mind is Aliens, can they qualify as Gods if they planted a seed of life as Francis Crick and L. G. Orgel suggest in their paper Directed Panspermia (abstract):It now seems unlikely that extraterrestrial living organisms could have reached the earth either as spores driven by the radiation pressure from another star or as living organisms imbedded in a meteorite. As an alternative to these nineteenth-century mechanisms, we have considered Directed Panspermia, the theory that organisms were deliberately transmitted to the earth by intelligent beings on another planet. We conclude that it is possible that life reached the earth in this way, but that the scientific evidence is inadequate at the present time to say anything about the probability. We draw attention to the kinds of evidence that might throw additional light on the topic.The Raelians at least seem to take this idea very seriously, Raëlism, or The Raëlian movement, is a UFO which teaches that all life on Earth was created by humanoid extraterrestrials called Elohim, which was the word used for God in many ancient writings.My Epistemological reason is simple. It is imposible to know with absolute certainty if God exist or not (whatever conception of God I include here), it will always be probabilistic. Someone could tell me that it is not necessary to be 100% sure, and I agree. Most, if not all, of our behavior and beliefs do not require 100% certainty. The problem of Induction is a good proof of this.I have no rational proof, or there is no logical inconsistency, for supposing that tomorrow the sun will not rise, although we know that it will, yet we cannot prove it rationally. Why? Because we use past experiences to explain a future event. It is true that the sun has risen 100.000 times already, yet is this a proof that it will rise tomorrow? Russell in his book The Problems of Philosophy says:Do any number of cases of a law being fulfilled in the past afford evidence that it will be fulfilled in the future? If not, it becomes plain that we have no ground whatever for expecting the sun to rise to-morrow, or for expecting the bread we shall eat at our next meal not to poison us, or for any of the other scarcely conscious expectations that control our daily lives. It is to be observed that all such expectations are only probable; thus we have not to seek for a proof that they must be fulfilled, but only for some reason in favour of the view that they are likely to be fulfilled. Things which we see become associated, by habit, with certain tactile sensations which we expect if we touch them; one of the horrors of a ghost (in many ghost-stories) is that it fails to give us any sensations of touch. Uneducated people who go abroad for the first time are so surprised as to be incredulous when they find their native language not understood. And this kind of association is not confined to men; in animals also it is very strong. A horse which has been often driven along a certain road resists the attempt to drive him in a different direction. Domestic animals expect food when they see the person who feeds them. We know that all these rather crude expectations of uniformity are liable to be misleading. The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.So our knowledge of most, if not all, things it is either an habit, probabilistic, or a mix of the two.To conclude, I hope I explained why I am not an Atheist in theory (I think the conceptual part is more relevant, since the episitemological one is probabilistic and we could say that, based on all the evidence we have, we can, not with certainty, but with high probability, assume that God does not exist) but one in practice.Maybe in some other entry I will critic arguments for theism and atheism. This entry was mostly to explain my personal belief.
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This post is big and, I fear, I will not achieve a symmetry and a ,complete, coherent message; I hope although, that my central claim is taken.
It is troublesome to write posts that discusses sexuality and representations at the same time, because it is such a vast topic! Sexuality, particularly human sexuality, with all its beauty and ugliness, is a most complex phenomena. No wonder it is a subject of so much dispute and discrimination/prejudice.
People are too ignorant of the richness of human sexuality, and thus, we are too eager to condemn and patronize with our impressions, than to to be charitable and give a deliberate reflection and analysis to a subject, which some seem to enjoy, that we cannot admire.
Homosexuality, transexuality, bisexuality, "perversions", fantasies, fetishes, etc. Are all misunderstood and wronged by our ignorance, which is sometimes mistakenly disguised as, either, an appeal to science (psychology mostly) or nature. We must educate ourselves more about this subject, sexuality, and even challenge conventional assumptions. We cause to much harm by not doing so. First of all, we should do away with that ridiculous embarrassment and pudor when talking the subject; probably an heredity from victorian irrationalism. Second, we should read the most we can about it and do not fear or disgust too quickly with the unfamiliar. Third, we should check if there are inconsistencies with what we profess to be good or normal and what we condemn to be bad or not-normal; he who is very interested in female feet, might too easily feel ashamed of having a friend that likes hentai. Both sexual tastes, and objects of sexual stimulation, are not that unrelated.
Nevertheless, since this post is more concerned with hentai and anime, and how these art forms arouse emotions and sexual excitement, we cannot concentrate on the more broad topic of human sexuality! I apologize for the divagation.
One cannot help wondering, is it really that curious that one may feel attracted or aroused by anime (hentai particularly)? Anyone that surfers the internet will notice forums dedicated to this for crying out loud! Millions of users dropping saliva for pictures and videos with anime girls in sexy poses. So factual evidence shows that it is not an isolated phenomena of a few people. But let us not focus on mere factual research; I want to examine this in a more sophisticated manner.
Historical Aside: Pin-ups were a famous and very successful artistic enterprise in the 1940's, and soldier’s lockers were full of them. So it is not that weird to be aroused by drawings anyway . Here some examples:
There are many representations (signs that stand in for and take the place of something else - it is plain obvious that this in itself a subject of intense debates, theories and ideas for philosophers since millenniums) in art. The most adored ones are:
•Lines, shapes, form, perspective, color put in a certain order or no order in a canvas (painting).
•1's and 0's, vectors, pixels, lines, dimensions in a computer screen (computer graphics).
•Symbols/ words in a piece of paper - as Borges so beautifully put it, "It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordination’s, one of them — at least in an infinitesimal way — does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others" (literature).
•Photos (which are a recording radiation on a sensitive medium, "drawing with light") in sequence (films).
•Figures created by shaping or combining hard materials like marble, metal, glass, or wood, or plastic materials such as clay, textiles and softer metals (sculpture).
•Organized pleasant vibrations in the environment (music, a disputed definition )
All these art forms are capable of provoking in us thought, emotional catharsis, joy; literature for example, I wrote someplace else, incites us
To reflect/think about others, to understand better and not judge to quick and harshly, to be more considerate. We are able to develop this qualities by reading and getting acquainted with a variety of fictional personas, from a woman in need of a more candid love, to a man that finds himself turned into a insect when he awakes in the morning.
Another reason (related to the one above) for reading, is to be familiar with other eras, societies, individuals.
"Literature transports us into another era and into another person. It gives us a slight touch in the shoulder and whisper to us, that perhaps, our dilemmas, be it moral or intellectual, are not so much our troubles but the troubles of human nature."
I also seek, when reading, a sort of witty or emotional revelation, be it intellectual, moral, spiritual or any other. A couple of examples can illustrate:
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.."
And literature is just symbols in paper put in some specific or systematic order!
Now anime is very similar to film, the difference is in the materials used, but, briefly, both are sequential arts. One can ask, if anime causes wonder (regarding intellectual, emotional and sexual arousal) why do not the other arts? In short, the answer is lack of thought and consistency in our ideas concerning the particular art, in this case, anime.
Perhaps one could respond, "but wait, anime is always - this is false of course - distortions and unreal characters, with big eyes and small breasts sometimes, with no hair, etc."
This remark can be given a very interesting and fascinating response. Here I will have to dwell in philosophy of art, history of art, science and my own musings and musings of other fellow cybernauts. I want to be systematic, so I'll do a little list of things to reflect and consider when analysing and studying representations in art:
•Character and Culture
•Evolution and psychology
Of course, not all arts fall in all these categories. Literature, I believe, for example, to be much more dependent on imagination and character and, probably, is unrelated to any of the ideas that Ramachandran gives in his paper Science of Art (a work in the field of neuroscience) which are more suitable for painting and sculpture.
With respect to character and culture, I can refer with this, roughly, to the individual education, environment, beliefs and his/her dispositions to novel and different ideas (an open mind). I regard myself lucky here, and to not fall in a vulgar indulgence of my vanity, I will claim quickly, that I am fond and open to all fields of art, or to anything that tries at least, or is trying, to be art or of aesthetic significance. Ceramics, sculpture, music, painting, comics, anime, cinema, architecture, gardens, novels, poetry, videogames, etc. I love them all!
I think that having an amenable disposition, is a very important factor when coming in acquaintance with something new and different. A so-called receptive mind to proliferation of ideas. By practicing this, we can always earn something aesthetically pleasant and meaningful, of course not all experiences will have the same value, but it is much better than dismissing in a irresponsible manner something because of laziness and prejudice.
Of imagination, I spoke already above. I'll say something about habit now. Pretty straightforward, I wonder if merely getting accustomed to an art form is enough to develop an attraction and respect to it. I know I should elaborate more here, but I cannot think something important to add to this "habit" idea. I will give an anecdote though. I have never been an anime (hentai particularly), fanatic, I am not one now either, although I am much more fond of, and interested in, it than previously (before I did not even dare to look at it! I had an immense dislike for it). I came afterwards acquainted with Cowboy Bebop and many other works of meaning, and then I developed a taste for anime. Now I am not sure if this is really just habit and not, perhaps, the dispelling of prejudice, or mix.
Nonetheless, habit is a weak idea. Now for the more interesting and controversial ones, because they may fall into reductionism, neuroscience and evolution.
Evolutionary ideas are simple. A particular shape and form in a body is arousing.
The 3 Main Physical Factors of the Biological Attraction in Humans
Even at the stage of fecundated egg, the human body starts developing from dividing cells. If each division went perfectly, we all would be perfectly symmetrical, the left and right sides being mirror images. But this never happens, due to environmental disturbances, as the organism does not live in a constant environment (food, temperature, humidity, predators and so on) and this slightly alters the division.
That's why any human and animal presents a certain degree of asymmetry between the right and the left side. Smaller symmetry means an individual has powerful genes enabling him to stand bad conditions and survive better, being more healthy and fertile.
"It makes sense to use symmetry variation in mate choice. If you choose a perfectly symmetrical partner and reproduce with them, your offspring will have a better chance of being symmetric and able to deal with perturbations." said evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill of the University of New Mexico.
His symmetry researches on people revealed that both men and women rated more symmetrical members of the opposite sex as more attractive and healthier than their less symmetrical individuals.
2. Body shape.
Psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas investigated people's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) relationship with sexual attractiveness and found that women with a WHR of 0.7 (a waist much narrower than the hips) are most desirable to men. An analysis of Playboy models and Miss America contestants found that the majority were situated around a WHR of 0.7 or lower.
"In general, a range of 0.67 to 1.18 in females is attractive to men, while a 0.8 to 1.0 WHR in men is attractive to women, although having broad shoulders is more of a turn-on." said Singh.
WHR encodes a crucial fat clue: if the individual possesses enough energy to care for offspring.
The way fat is stored on the body is controlled by sex hormones. The proper levels of estrogen in women will produce the right WHR ratio and testosterone does the same in men.
People with the right WHO, no matter their weight, are less vulnerable to conditions like cardiovascular disorders, cancer and diabetes, and are more fertile, as revealed by many researches.
"The idea is that beauty is conveying information about health
3. The face is the first factor that tells the gender. And the person's fertility degree.
"Estrogen caps bone growth in a woman's lower face and chin, making them relatively small and short, as well as the brow, allowing for her eyes to appear prominent," Thornhill explained.
Testosterone carves masculine faces, with a bigger lower face and jaw and a prominent brow.
"Men and women possessing these traits are seen as attractive, because they advertise reproductive health." said Thornhill. and fertility, and we admire that," said Singh.
So, it does not matter whether it is
Venus de Milo
A nude painting (Bouguereau)
All these representations are stimulating. Although one would expect to get aroused by "real" persons, not representations! Well our brain is a complex machine and full of surprises, it can also be tricked presumably.
To avoid one kind of misty conjecture for another one (more vague speculation), I'll focus, in the second part (because I cannot post too many pictures in one blog entry ), on psychology and evolution, with regards to facial features and skin, a very important factor which determines, overall, our attraction to someone.
Presumably, these are some of the common characteristics that make for a beautiful person (from Cosmetic Beauty):
A luminous, clear complexion is a major signal of youth and beauty. Skin that is free from imperfections is a sign that a person is free from disease, and a wrinkle-free complexion is a signifier of youth. Interestingly, a recent study has found that wrinkles aren't the only cue our eyes look for to evaluate age.
‘Whether a woman is 17 or 70, the contrast of skin tone plays a significant role in the way her age, beauty and health is perceived,' says study co-author Dr Bernhard Fink from the University of Goettingen, Germany. ‘Skin tone homogeneity can give visual clues about a person's health and reproductive capability, so an even skin tone is considered most desirable.'
Numerous studies of beauty have found that female facial attractiveness is greater when the face has certain features, in particular large eyes, thin eyebrows, a small nose and full rosy lips.
A female face is generally perceived to be more attractive when possessing high, arched eyebrows, widely spaced large eyes with dilated pupils, high cheekbones, small nose, high forehead, narrow face with thin cheeks, large smile, full lower lip and a small chin. These appealing characteristics in females are typically developed under the influence of estrogens and signify youth and therefore fertility.
The article ends with scepticism and an honest admission that what biology says is not everything to beauty:
While perceptions of beauty differ from culture to culture and change with the times, there is certainly some consensus that facial symmetry and harmony play a significant role in how human beings determine a beautiful face. In the end, however, our individual perceptions of beauty are personal, and there are many other factors that make a person attractive, such as warmth, charisma, personality and intelligence.
Now I think is too tedious to search for examples, but heck, let me try (I do not promise success though, since I am choosing those that seem attractive to me):
Yes, I know is Scarlett again.. Isn't she beautiful!
I do not think every face has to stick to the rules of course. This one has smaller lips, which gives a kind of delicate, feminine feeling, and her cat eyes like, with long eyelashes, are sexy.
I think in anime, the cute factor is exploited more. We have faces that seem to beg for protection and love .
Enough! Really, I am getting tired -I have been written this post non-stop-. So I will proceed now to Ramachandran neuroesthetics ideas and end with some thoughts by others cybernauts on this subject.
The idea I want to remark from Neuroesthetics is the Peak Shift Principle and Rasa (essence ,an Hindu art concept), Ramachandran explains as follows:
Hindu artists often speak of conveying the rasa, or ‘essence’, of something in order to evoke a specific mood in the observer. But what exactly does this mean? What does it mean to ‘capture the very essence’ of something in order to ‘evoke a direct emotional response’? The answer to these questions, it turns out, provides the key to understanding what art really is. Indeed, as we shall see, what the artist tries to do (either consciously or unconsciously) is to not only capture the essence of something but also to amplify it in order to more powerfully activate the same neural mechanisms that would be activated by the original object. As the physiologist Zeki (1998) has eloquently noted, it may not be a coincidence that the ability of the artist to abstract the ‘essential features’ of an image and discard redundant information is essentially identical to what the visual areas themselves have evolved to do.
Consider the peak shift effect — a well-known principle in animal discrimination learning. If a rat is taught to discriminate a square from a rectangle (of say, 3:2 aspect ratio) and rewarded for the rectangle, it will soon learn to respond more frequently to the rectangle. Paradoxically, however, the rat’s response to a rectangle that is even longer and skinnier (say, of aspect ratio 4:1) is even greater than it was to the original prototype on which it was trained. This curious result implies that what the rat is learning is not a prototype but a rule, i.e. rectangularity. We shall argue in this essay that this principle holds the key for understanding the evocativeness of much of visual art. We are not arguing that it’s the only principle, but that it is likely to be one of a small subset of such principles underlying artistic experience. How does this principle—the peak shift effect—relate to human pattern recognition and aesthetic preference? Consider the way in which a skilled cartoonist produces a caricature of a famous face, say Nixon’s. What he does (unconsciously) is to take the average of all faces, subtract the average from Nixon’s face (to get the difference between Nixon’s face and all others) and then amplify the differences to produce a caricature. The final result, of course, is a drawing that is even more Nixon-like than the original. The artist has amplified the differences that characterize Nixon’s face in the same way that an even skinnier rectangle is an amplified version of the original prototype that the rat is exposed to. This leads us to our first aphorism: ‘All art is caricature’. (This is not literally true, of course, but as we shall see, it is true surprisingly often.) And the same principle that applies for recognizing faces applies to all aspects
of form recognition. It might seem a bit strange to regard caricatures as art but take a second look at the Chola bronze—the accentuated hips and bust of the Goddess Parvati (Plate 1)
and you will see at once that what you have here is essentially a caricature of the female form. There may be neurons in the brain that represent sensuous, rotund feminine form as opposed to angular masculine form and the artist has chosen to amplify the ‘very essence’ (the rasa) of being feminine by moving the image even further along toward the feminine end of the female/male spectrum. The result of these amplifications is a ‘super stimulus’ in the domain of male/female differences. It is interesting, in this regard, that the earliest known forms of art are often caricatures of one sort or another; e.g. prehistoric cave art depicting animals like bison and mammoths, or the famous Venus ‘fertility’ figures.
In brief, the principle speaks of the distortions, exaggerations, pronounced characteristics of a figure that make it more pleasant and exciting than a normal o real one, or rather, the principle shows that in fact the distortions is more real than reality. It captures the substance, essence. For example Picasso cockerel is a classic illustration:
Gombrich says of this artwork, Picasso was not content with giving a mere rendering of the bird's appearance. He wanted to bring out its aggressiveness, its cheek and its stupidity. In other words he has resorted to caricature (the peak shift principle at work here). But what a convincing caricature it is!
Should it be a surprise then that some anime art is so disproportionate in their facial and body features and yet, loved by fans?
The prehistoric art in France (Lascaux) is another good example:
Very simple lines and colors, almost a sketch, but it seems very alive does it not!?
Ending now. There is an idea too about idealization, which Michio discusses, but dismisses to quickly in my opinion.
Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet: the persona in that book is an aesthete, and he notes in an entry (as the novel is somewhat a compilation of disjointed entries) that he likes to appreciate beauty from a distance. He likes to view human beauty (in women, most especially) from a distance, because if he tried to interact with the woman he appreciates his image towards her shatters: there is inevitably something flawed in that lady, and since he doesn’t want his ideals to be destroyed he remains distant; he sees human beauty as he sees art’s beauty – perfect and untouchable.
I think this is indeed applicable to anime and to feeling attracted to particular characters. I do wonder if I was able to enter in a relationship with the character I am so fond of, would I see her the same way? Or would I get tired of her and the magic would be gone, as Maupassant writes but men grow tired of everything, especially of women? Is it because she is unattainable and an impossible romance, that I feel fond of her and imagine her to be perfect?
Is this the end of the topic? Of course not, there are many other ideas for the why of emotional and sexual arousal, like fantasies, fetishes, even psychoanalysis. I end here though.
I leave you with these two links, one to Michio's piece and another, a video, that summarizes this post: