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John Castillo

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About John Castillo

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    Yep, it's me.
  • Birthday March 15

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John Castillo's Activity

  1. John Castillo added a post in a topic What books are you reading now?   

    I just finished reading The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. Normally, this wouldn't interest me much, but after reading Baker's The Mezzanine, I absolutely had to read more by him. The Mezzanine, by the way, is a very enthralling book, covering the course of about 15 minutes of a man walking back from a pharmacy to work. The catch is that every single thing in the book is expounded upon in such detail it's like zooming in on a fractal, with more and more branches, more and more footnotes-- and even footnotes to footnotes! Fascinating.

    Anyway, The Anthologist is initially not terribly interesting. You'll read a bit, put it down, and think, "Ah, okay. I'll wash the dishes now." It's about a sometime-poet who is trying to write an introduction to an anthology of poetry, but is having some difficulty. His girlfriend left him, you see, and his mind's not on it. You get to read what he writes as he muses about what to write. Eventually, you think about the dishes and realize you cannot do the dishes now. It's impossible. The love of poetry of this man shines through his banal existence so brightly that you begin to love it also. The tiny one-line quotes of poems in the book suddenly become the things you want to sound aloud, to desperately skip ahead for-- just so you can say them along with him. And I do admit that immediately upon finishing the book I went to the bookstore and bought an anthology so I could find more poems to read aloud. Highly recommended.
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  2. John Castillo added an answer to a question Your very first serious philosophy reading   

    My first was Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Interesting stuff. Was a bit long.
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  3. John Castillo added a post in a topic I know one thing which is absolutely true, can you think of anything else?   


    Nine children are lined up and they all get picked for teams except one. He has tousled hair and too short of legs. He can't move fast. He says, "Hey! I exist!" Well, yes--.

    How is this being used here? If Inzababa says, "I exist", what's being done? It's not doing what that last child was doing. We're not drawing attention to some unfair social practices in 6th grade. "I exist." What's something that doesn't exist? Unicorns. I've read about those in fairy tales. You can find pictures of them on the internet. Even so, they don't exist. I know about science and history and photoshop. You can't fool me. The existence of unicorns is not something I'm uncertain about. It's something I could be wrong about, though, because at any point a unicorn could pop in the front door and say, "I exist!" (though doing so uninvited would be bad taste-- you shouldn't invite yourself in unless you know somebody). I have a good idea of what a real unicorn would be like. Of course I do.

    "I exist". The table in front of me exists. It is an indisputable fact. One can't very well dispute the reality of this table! It's right here! But that just means: no one ever does dispute that tables in front of them exist. This causes a problem. There ends up being a distinct lack of criteria with which to show the difference between a real table in front of you and a fake table in front of you. This means that disputations about existences of tables in front of people don't really come to anything in particular. Who's right? Who's left? No one knows. Everyone gets very flustered, their cheeks get red. There are eager exhortations to rationality all round. The table just stands there until everyone's done, and after that it stands a bit more. Eventually someone puts a sandwich down and has lunch.

    "I exist". That seems a bit similar to the table. Who ever heard of saying to someone, "You don't exist!"? Preposterous. It's not done in polite society. If you do that you're just a mean person. And if I say "I exist", that isn't clarifying whether something is true or not. What would it mean for me not to exist? How would that work? What's the difference between a real me and a fake me? I'm not sure. I wasn't taught that in school. "I exist"? Am I telling someone to pick me for their team? To show them a point about pronouns in English? To parade my superior social standing about in front of a nonentity? Existence-- now that's a mystery. Do I exist? Well, I'm not sure what that means yet, if that is all that's said. I wish someone would tell me.
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  4. John Castillo added a topic in Play   

    Improvisational theatre
    About a year and a half ago I went to my first improv show at The Hideout in Austin, Texas. I don't remember the show, but it impressed me enough that I went back regularly throughout the next year. Eventually, I saw a show in which entire episodes of Star Trek Original Series-esque stories are made up on the spot. I love TOS Star Trek.

    Something broke, and I felt I had to get in on the action-- even though I had no previous acting experience and certainly am not the most outgoing person. I tend to stay in my head a lot. Not too surprising, right? The absurdity of many of the situations I saw in the shows appealed to my sense of humor and I figured that making stuff up couldn't be that involved.

    I signed up in November and have attended classes ever since. Right now, I'm about 3 months away from finishing the improv acting curriculum at the Hideout. There are various types of improv around, but it's usually divided up into two broad categories: shortform and longform. Shortform is more focused on playing games and short scenes, in a fashion akin to "Who's Line Is It Anyway?". Longform also contains games, but they are generally used in the service of a broader, not necessarily comedic, narrative. The Hideout's program is of the longform variety and the primary house troupe, Parallelogramophonograph, is quite famous for their longform shows. If you ever happen to be in Austin on Friday they play every week at 10p. They're extremely good.

    Frankly taking these improv classes has been one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. Getting up on stage and doing shows was wildly out of my comfort zone at the time I started. I couldn't imagine performing just a few months ago! In addition, the community of improv actors in Austin is huge and extremely welcoming. Being able to go to class and feel great the entire rest of the week because you or your friends killed a scene and just thinking about it makes you laugh is wonderful. Making great friends who are incredibly supportive is wonderful. Failing at a scene horribly, then saying "screw it!" and transforming yourself into a demon with anxiety issues because none of his minions listens to you is wonderful. I especially like working from backstage, just using my voice-- because doing that, there are literally no restrictions on what could happen... God could give friendly advice from upstairs or someone's subconscious could take control of an improviser on stage and force him around like a marionette.

    Of course, there have been times where I've thought, "this scene is terrible" and it was. And afterwards I would stress about it... of course, when I ask my fellow improvisers about it, it's never quite as terrible as I imagine. A great deal of getting better at improv, at least in my experience, is being willing to fail so horribly that no one has failed more than you... and then keep going. One of my instructors told me that to do improv well you have to be a "magical being who is invulnerable to self-doubt and has fun even when you have nothing".

    The two things that really makes it work, though, are:

    1. "Yes..and". Basically, accept EVERYTHING your partners give you, and then add to it. Don't negate anything unless you're VERY sure it will work out. If they say you're a mouse, then you ARE a mouse, and your goals in the scene change accordingly.
    2. "Sticking to your guns". More or less, if you come out into the scene obviously angry then STAY angry until there's a reason for you not to be. It's unrealistic to be intent on murdering someone and then decide to love them after they give you a lollipop, and it feels contrived.

    There's definitely a sort of zen-feeling when you're doing good work. I might add some more on that later, since the idea of wu-wei seems quite applicable to improv as a learned skill. I'd read through several Taoist texts during the period I've been doing improv and many of the ideas map very well onto it, probably just as well as they do to martial arts such as Tai Chi.

    If anyone happens to be in or around Austin next Sunday, I'll be performing at the 7p show at the Hideout. Anyways, I just wanted to post a short something to share my enjoyment of this extremely fun thing I do... I'm curious if anyone else here has tried doing improv, seen some shows or has any other thoughts or questions on it?
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  5. John Castillo added a post in a topic Expose your ethics!   

    1. Aquinas (100%)
    2. Aristotle (89%)
    3. John Stuart Mill (78%)
    4. Cynics (70%)
    5. David Hume (67%)
    6. Jeremy Bentham (67%)
    7. Plato (67%)
    8. Nietzsche (60%)
    9. Jean-Paul Sartre (59%)
    10. Epicureans (56%)
    11. St. Augustine (54%)
    12. Ockham (53%)
    13. Ayn Rand (51%)
    14. Kant (48%)
    15. Nel Noddings (45%)
    16. Stoics (42%)
    17. Thomas Hobbes (42%)
    18. Spinoza (39%)
    19. Prescriptivism (21%)


    Honestly, not particularly surprising... I've been reading quite a lot of neo-Aristotelian views lately... and frankly, my readings in Taoism aren't helping.
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  6. John Castillo added a post in a topic Science of Morality   

    I've actually been interested in this recently myself, particularly in the neo-Aristotelian views that have cropped up relatively recently (well, in the last 40 years anyway). I ordered Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue recently and am eager to read through it. From what I understand, this particular school believes that virtues are inherent in humanity - presumably they arose through evolution - and as such they are as objective as anything else one might say about what humans do. There seems to be some contention about which virtues are most basic, however, and it's not clear whether talking about virtues will provide a course of action in any given circumstance. But one could see that as a virtue in itself. Once I finish the book I'll probably post something about it.

    As for my own opinion as of right now, I am partial to the idea that morality arises from the way we live and is therefore a legitimate target for scientific investigation. However, I do not believe the results of such an investigation would be normative. One can always choose to behave in a way contradictory to your natural instincts. But speaking as a human being-- I like being "moral". And if enough people are like me, maybe that's enough for a moral theory to suffer a legitimately scientific investigation.
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  7. John Castillo added a comment on a blog entry Quite Simply Madam, I'm Afraid   

    Your post reminds me of the story in Lucian's Charon:
    Charon thinks it is comical that any man would wonder about without keeping in mind that he is a man, and by nature destined to die. One might say that your reaction is most appropriate. At any rate, it does seem better than to have this awareness of death than to be a ridiculous character like the man in the story.
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  8. John Castillo added a comment on a blog entry Suicide Again   

    I also don't think that depression is "get-overable", or at least not philosophical depression. I suffered quite a long time, and still do occasionally, due to my rejection of Christianity. I could and did, as I thought then, weave words and prove myself right, but what I really wanted was God. His lack left an empty feeling in my soul. A happy ending, however, was not forthcoming, so I've just gone on existing. In the interim I've found other things to occupy my time--- but rub the right itch and I'm back where I started. Once again up the hill, Sisyphus...
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  9. John Castillo added a post in a topic The Logical Structure of Time Travel   

    I am reading mosaic's point as this:

    Suppose you have a time machine that reverses entropy through the entire universe, while keeping you "traveling forward" normally. So, if you were to embark in this time machine and visit your grandfather, it would be entirely possible for you to kill him and still exist: your existence now would not depend on the way things occurred previously (or rather, it would, but your timeline has been and will always be continuous no matter what you do in the past).

    If I remember correctly, this sort of time travel was featured in the game Braid, where you use it to solve puzzles.
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  10. John Castillo added a post in a topic The Logical Structure of Time Travel   

    David, you might recommend they watch the movie 12 Monkeys. The depiction of time travel in it, if I remember correctly, is exactly what you are trying to get across. Perhaps if they saw it in a non-argumentative context they'd be more inclined to accept its possibility.

    Edit: or, I forgot, you could show them this, the film on which 12 Monkeys was based.
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  11. John Castillo added a post in a topic Bed Bug extermination Day   

    I lived with bed bugs for for several weeks before destroying them, and I know what it's like. Occasionally I'll still wake up (Its been over a year since I lived at the place I had trouble with them) to scratch an itch, and I'll have the uncontrollable urge to turn on the light to make sure it wasn't a bedbug. I even have a small LED light that, while it was not its original purpose, is mainly used to do this now.

    One thing you might try is diatomaceous earth. I'm not sure how effective it is, having never tried it by itself, but I did use it liberally in conjunction with some extreme measures like poring over every inch of my apartment with a vacuum and throwing away my bed and bedframe completely.

    Since their eggs hatch later on, I sat up several nights being a "bedbug attractor", watching them mindlessly crawl at me through the DE-laced carpet and eliminating every single one I could find by hand. It seemed to work and for the last few weeks I lived there I didn't find any more of them-- but that didn't help me sleep any better. Good luck.
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  12. John Castillo added a post in a topic Negative Utilitarianism & The End Of The World   

    I guess what strikes me about this idea is that it is so simplistic. Why should we assume there is a "greatest" moral imposition? Why should there be only one? Why shouldn't the "greatest" perceived moral imposition depend on the circumstances a person finds himself in? Why should minimizing suffering be valued above everything else we value? And frankly, why would anyone interested in human morality want to imagine that "minimizing suffering" is all people mean when they justify their actions?

    I know one major reason I was interested in a "definitive" moral system a while back. My hope for it was this: if I had enough time to think about something, I would always find the right answer. But why shouldn't morality be hard, and some moral questions obscure or even impossible to answer satisfactorily? We don't expect this out of any other feature of the natural world. Are viruses alive? Is Pluto a planet? I can adopt a system which, by identifying particular points of interest that lets me answer those questions in one way or another. But the answer we get from reframing the question by no means should be considered authoritative; the very fact that we adopted this system means we can adopt another. Our current moral "system" depends on our inclinations, interests, feelings, living conditions, personal influences, upbringing, education and a million other factors, none of which are simple-- so why should moral answers be simple?

    Is it really possible for Abraham to be, at once, a person who was ready and willing to murder his own son and showing all signs of homicidal psychosis, and yet have his name spoken through hundreds of years as the father of faith, a well-respected individual whom it is appropriate to emulate? Is it really possible for a person to live comfortably in a first world country, and not give thought of the sufferings of others elsewhere, and still be a good person? When the answer to a moral question depends on the method of evaluation, the answer that you get is: these situations are not only possible, but exist even now.

    The impression I get from the major systems of morality like utilitarianism is that they paint the moral landscape in god-sized strokes and fantastically bold primary colors, when really what we should look for, as human beings, is a brush that fits into our own hands and colors that are own lives are composed of.
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  13. John Castillo added a post in a topic How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the "F" Bomb   

    I don't think anyone is rejecting any "standards" - at least they're not advocating that senselessly vulgar conduct is acceptable. What has happened is merely the rejection of a clumsy tool which limited freedom of expression without regard for extenuating factors. Yes, now it is possible to swear like a sailor-- but here, as offline, that is not without its own consequences.
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  14. John Castillo added a post in a topic Video Discussion: On Being Optimistic About Man   

    I don't think that philosophy has an overarching purpose as you suggest. People have purposes, to which they put (or don't put) what they've taken from the study of philosophy... This idea also seems to forget that huge sections of philosophical discourse (e.g., philosophical Taoism) don't think that reduction of suffering is intrinsically valuable. One shouldn't assume, just because everyone you can see is using a screwdriver as a prying tool, that it is useless for turning screws (or in other words: just because people in general don't seem to use philosophy to examine and guide their morality doesn't mean that it is unsuited for this purpose).
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  15. John Castillo added a post in a topic Does God have the right qualifications?   

    I am not sure this is quite the direction I was looking for earlier. I merely meant: if it is possible to have ethical obligations to another person who is obviously no more intrinsically special than yourself, then there shouldn't be any problem having similar obligations to a God with whom your relationship is similar to, e.g., a parent-child relationship. And yes, it is a fact that children are physically incapable of the range of abilities that most adults have, and in such respects they are clearly inferior. This doesn't mean they are any less persons; it just means that they are human beings at a particular stage of development.

    I don't treat my parents as Gods because they simply are not Gods --- that is, they are my parents and I have particular obligations to them as such. Not because they are my biological parents (I don't see how that would matter anyway) but because they do love me, despite their occasional mistakes, and have tried their best to look out for me throughout my life. And I, for my part, do not wish to be a faithless son, a person who would treat them and their lives as something of no consequence and no importance to me...

    What superiority the Christian God is supposed to have over human beings? Our relation to him as created beings. Which is not to say, e.g., that we should obey God because he is smarter/more powerful/etc than us, even though he is all of those things; but we should do so because we were created by him in a certain way, and will only be fulfilled and happy as human beings when we accede to our nature. We were, after all, "created in the image of God." If that sounds demeaning in some way, consider the question: in what way could it be different, if God does not have a choice about his own nature as your own requirements specify?


    Certainly that's reasonable. I'm 100% Against Religious Sophistry And Fearmongering.


    I may have not been clear enough last time, so I apologize. I merely mentioned atoms as a convenient way to show that distinctions are still meaningful even though an alternative method of reference with a wider application can be used. So, even if God were to be a "natural" being, according to your definition, it would not affect his abilities, his actions, or his relationship to us. With all of those intact I see no reason not to call such an entity God.


    First, it's unclear to me that God must have evolved. I see no reason it should be so, and I know of no one with the knowledge to calculate the probabilities involved, if indeed they could be calculated (which seems doubtful). Probabilities are contextual and there doesn't appear to be any context to consider.

    Second, you appear to be suggesting that people accept something directly at odds with human nature as social beings; viz., the rejection of morality wholesale. I am an atheist who subscribes to a more or less Aristotelian virtue-ethics based moral outlook. As such I couldn't disagree more that ethics is a matter of the supernatural, nor could I embrace the idea that people could not be blamed or praised for their actions. Thomas Aquinas also endorsed a similar approach, so it's clear that virtue ethics is not exclusively non-Christian view.


    It's unclear to me how the status of the almighty creator and immanent personal God of the universe could be exaggerated... I mean, what more could you say?

    From your comments here I think you may have more problems with plain old bad people than with theological speculations. I do agree with you that it is often quite frustrating that people can be so incredibly closeminded with regard to their religions, and I am often disgusted with their conduct (e.g., the Westboro Baptists). But I think that has more to do with being brought up in such a deviant manner compared to the population at large than with the fact that they are religious.
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