Wednesday, November 29, 2006
one part of me feels very happy. the part of me who thinks "yeah! now people know my blog damn zai lah" and the part of me who thinks "now sure got alot of people come read my blog." in fact, in addition to IS, the KTM also deemed me worthy enough to be linked to his blog. wah, talk about high praise (and increased traffic!).
that was my pride and my vanity talking btw.
yet another part of me, feels very scared. "with great traffic, comes great responsibility" said spiderman. or something like that lah. the thing i need to ask myself is, with this increase in traffic, will i be inclined to blog differently? should i blog differently? you know ah, i was thinking, how blogs with high traffic, have some element of blogging for the sake of the readers. Take for example now, when kitana and gayle goh are busy with exams, they both leave some posts of some sort indicating to their readers that they are busy and hence will not be blogging as often.
will i become like that too? (or maybe i already am?) i'm a quite slow blogger, since i take quite a few hours to publish one post, and when i'm more busy with my offline life, then obviously i dun blog so much lah. if i ever reach "popular blog" status, will this mean i must blog at least once every two days, and then those days which i don't, must send apology post to my dear readers? must i be more careful, since i dun want to offend my new audience and be careful not to say something which might tick them off? or be even more lagi careful not to say anything seditious or anything that can "wound religious or racial feelings?"
but isn't blogging is just about writing what i feel like writing?
why do i blog in the first place?
this blog started out when i was introduced to the blogosphere during the WSM incident. i wanted to start blogging because i wanted to be part of the community which criticizes the pompous and tyrannical elite. (herd mentality?) but of course, i had to do it with style. no style means your blog won't get noticed mah. so i thought then lah. that was when i came up with the purple/blue spilt persona idea.
yet, very shortly after i started blogging, i was exploring around the blogosphere, reading what people say and trying to figure out their motivations, that was when i realized, actually i don't agree with many of the WSM lambasters after all. i began to examine my own motives for blogging, and found myself guilty of indulging my own pride and vanity, and therefore perhaps in some ways, i am not unlike WSM.
i found that i wanted to blog mainly because i wanted to impress people that i can be a zai blogger. i want to be a name regularly featured by IS. i want people hundreds of people to read me everyday, say what a great blog i have and stroke my ego. i found myself disgusting. That was when i contemplated closing down the blog, but in the end i decided to continue on, if nothing but for the sake for further self-discovery.
fast forward to where my blog is now. my blue and purple personas have more or less merged (as KTM have observed), and part of me wishes i chose blue and red instead, so now i can use purple as a merged persona =P. regardless, i have decided that i will still keep the purple/blue distinction, but now as a marker of content (purple = less serious, humorous, personal anecdotes; blue = more serious). purple has much less singlish and broken grammar now, and blue is more relaxed in tone, allowing for humour and occasional singlish. stylistically and tone-wise, purple and blue are pretty much identical, and as the KTM has noted, that's not a bad thing.
i find myself posting alot of "philosophical projects" which are thoughts i always wanted to discuss with people during my student days, but never found the opportunity or the medium. admittedly, some of them are rather technical in nature, but i do believe that they have alot of implications which are relevant to the plogosphere (issues about ethics, religion etc). i just need to find a way to present my projects in a more accessible way (i.e. more layman pple can understand me).
so what now from here? i have yet to complete my journey of self-discovery, and in all honesty, i have yet to discover the real motivation behind why i blog. perhaps this blog will eventually focus more on academic philosophy and will shift out of the relevance of the singapore plogosphere. or perhaps it will die a natural death (or i just suddenly shut it down), when i discover that i no longer have any reasons to continue blogging. i cannot predict. all i know is, i will continue blogging for now and let nature take its own course.
i would like to thank the KTM for his advice and comments, which have been influential in helping me to decide my own path as a blogger. his blog is also a big source of inspiration for me.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
this list is compiled mainly for personal reasons. i am planning to write a post on education in the future, and i thought blogs by teachers would prove to be a very important voice about education from the ground. i decided to publish the list because i thought it would be interesting for my friends, some of whom are teachers or teachers-to-be, to read what some of their peers are saying and feeling about education. I also thought it would be a good idea to compile a list and leave it on a blogosphere, since others might find it useful as well.
the short descriptions i wrote are mainly for me to identify which blog is which. because i do not frequent these blogs, i not familiar with them mah. but nevertheless, it appears that my description of the blogs (or blog authors) were disagreed upon by two the teacher-bloggers, so i've included addendums to those blogs who they like don't think my decriptions very accurate lah. if any of you think like my descriptions is inaccurate and think i should change it, please leave me a note. i'll do something about it. but my main purpose of the list was not like to "review" these blogs lah. i don't have anything bad to say about these blogs. just compiling a list for my own research purposes only mah.
sorry if like i offended or irritated some people.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Secondly, I want to talk briefly about this blog written by Thrasymachus. I was actually quite surprised I didn't find this blog sooner. As someone who is familiar with Plato, the moniker "Thrasymachus" is very interesting indeed. One can't help but wonder if it was with or without irony that he chose to name himself after someone who argued that pretty much "might is right". I personally find his blog very nice to read, especially his photo-filled "History of PAP" posts. With regards to his views, although he believes himself to be very much to be neutral, and to his credit he does seem to be critical of the incumbent government in certain issues, I personally would classify him more as leaning on pro-establishment. A rare find indeed, or am I just not looking hard enough? I also think this guy is a pretty nice chap, always insisting on a gentleman's ethic to respect and listen to all views, including detractors (of which he has many), and to give thoughtful and respectful responses. He is also (only?) 25-years old.
In my previous post about the KTM, I briefly mentioned about a "good blogger's ethic", and that it consists of thinking before you blog, and respecting all views. In this post, I am not going to blog about what is or is not a "good blogging ethic", but rather, explore why and how we disagree in the plogosphere. I must also add that I am not a student of media studies, unlike the author of this article, so all that I say right here is just my thinking aloud.
I have been thinking in recent days about the problems of a (necessarily) limited perspective, and how this translates into conflict and disagreement in the plogosphere. While I was formulating my thoughts on the issue, I stumbled unto the above mentioned blog, and read a rather lengthy conversation between Thrasymachus and Elfred in the comments of this particular post and I thought this very interesting as a sample of how people disagree in the plogosphere.
To me, one of the most interesting criticisms in the plogosphere is to accuse your detractor of being "polemic" (or "rhetorical" or "partisan"). Usually, your detractor would reply in a furious "I am NOT being polemic, this IS my argument as I would see it." and by this point, both parties would be talking past each other. Now, both parties may try to be gentlemanly and polite (as I believe Thrasymachus and Elfred have been), but no doubt frustrations arise when much effort is spent explaining and laying out your stand, yet the other side just does not seem to get it. However, most of the time, one or both parties will not try to be as polite or gentlemanly (or just run out patience), and very strong words are exchanged, usually resulting name calling, or labelling the other as "naive" or "self-centered" etc. I also believe even the very best of us have our moments of weakness, and say nasty stuff to our detractors, as shown here by both Thrasymachus (comments to Akikonomu) and the KTM (comments to Whispers of the Heart).
Why does this occur? [As for why we ended up with different perspectives, that will be the subject of another post]. Why is it so difficult to convince one side of another's point of view? Postmodern thinkers might suggest interesting worldviews where reality is subjective, as Mr Wang had suggested in a comment to my previous post. But such assumptions aside, we think, surely at most one person must be correct? And surely the correct person has the better argument, and surely the incorrect person will be able to identify that his argument is incorrect?
If you haven't read this before, take the time to read this introduction to singapore angle. I think Huichieh explains it much better than I can. Through the process of rational discourse, we are bound to have disagreements. Deeply seated disagreements about issues we feel strong about even. Precisely because they are deeply seated issues which you feel strongly about, that is why you are not likely to change your view. It appears to me that humans, by and large, when they decided their opinions about something, they are quite stubborn about it. I believe this to be true even outside of the blogosphere, and even outside of "rational discourse on substantial issues". The way we consider our views is almost always that "I am correct". I believe very few people go around with the mentality "I may be wrong", and even less go around thinking "I AM wrong". We all believe we have good reason to think that we are correct. After all, we thought about it, and fully convinced ourselves of our own point of view.
But reaching your own opinion is not really a matter of pure rational deliberation, so I believe. Professional philosophers, who earn their living by pure rational deliberation day in and day out, disagree about everything all the time. My guess is, if you learn anything from being a philosopher, you learn that pure rational deliberation is usually not enough for you to reach conclusions on most substantial matters. Usually there is something else, be it "intuitions", influences from other people, or just deeply rooted values and beliefs. And these things vary greatly from person to person.
Okay, so people disagree. And convincing each other is something not very likely (although possible) to happen in the plogosphere. So what now? I suggest we adopt the attitude of trying how to disagree gracefully. Now, this is just a suggestion. I am not trying to propose some kind of plogosphere decorum to be upheld. I am sure there are people who will disagree (hee =P) with my proposition for graceful disagreement on the basis of "what's wrong in being confident of my views?" or "why can't I just say what I want to say?".
By "graceful" I do not mean elegant or beautiful, like in "a graceful ballet dancer", but in manifesting goodwill, favor, kindness and forgiveness, such as "an act of grace" of "in good grace". How do you disagree gracefully? I do not have a template, nor do I think a template is a good idea. I believe it is possible to disagree gracefully yet sincerely. These are just a few suggestions I want to throw up:
1) Ask yourself, are you angry? If you are angry, it may be a good idea to not reply immediately out of your righteous indignation. That will likely result in further misrepresentation of your own beliefs. Instead, try to calm down, perhaps reply only several hours, or a day later.
2) Ask yourself, have you tried to understand what the other side is saying, or are you merely trying to find the weak spots where you can attack? Remember that to understand what the other side is saying goes beyond reading the words, try to identity his/her mentality, his/her approach, and his/her argument, whether or not you think it correct.
3) After you have written your reply, read it again before posting. Check if you are really answering his criticisms, or if you are just reiterating your previous points. If you find yourself reiterating, perhaps you are not truly understanding the criticism? If so, reply that you do not understand.
4) Upon re-reading your reply, ask yourself if you have replied in a way which is an accurate representation of your own views, yet is phrased in a non-offensive and respectful manner? If you suspect that you are not a good judge of whether or not it is non-offensive enough, you may want to ask a friend to judge for you.
5) Most importantly, tell yourself that it is okay to disagree. It is not necessary (and indeed it may be impossible) to convince your detractors. That is not due to a lack of reasoning on the other side , or lack of conviction on yours, but such is just the nature of rational discourse. People just do not agree.
But disagreement is not a good reason why we can't all get along.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
when me was watching singapore idol earlier this year (yeah lah, yet another trashy show), i couldn't help but notice there was always a mantra spoken "as long as you believe in yourself, anything is possible". "keep working hard". "don't stop chasing your dream". And similar phrases of encouragement were espoused in earlier seasons of singapore idol and project superstar, i'm sure. now this got me thinking. why did kewei take part in the competition, if not to pursue a dream? and if that dream is worth pursuing, surely it is worth quitting your current job over? unless of course, you think its not a dream worth pursuing. meaning, either kewei thinks that the chances of her winning are so low that it is not worth losing her job over, or she thinks that even if she does win the competition, she does not want to lose her current job because of it.
based on her performance in the qualifying round, and blessed with her jamie-teo looks, myself and my peers thought she had quite a good chance at the competition. but of course, i know not what she was actually thinking. maybe she decided that she just didn't want to go through with the rest of the competition liao. maybe from the start she had no intention to be "superstar", but just wanted to put her own abilities to the test and see how far she could go. maybe lah. no one knows. but what i want to do, is draw attention to the tension between two conflicting values: "pursue your dreams" and "do the practical/pragmatic thing".
this blog is written by lily goh. lily goh was the deaf girl who took part in the first Singapore Idol (appeared in episode 1), and praised by the judges for her step of courage. since then, she recieve sporadic media coverage, often highlighting her never-say-die spirit, her determination to pursue her dreams despite the obstacles she faced. lily hopes to become a deaf-performer, a percussionist musician not unlike Evelyn Glennie, whom she has met twice. if u read her blog, you can see that she is still determined to pursue that dream, even if it means making sacrifices such as taking time to take music lessons, and thus having less time to earn income. yet, lily is but human. she clearly expresses her frustrations at the obstacles she faces, the family and friends who do not support her dream, of her slow progress towards her goal, of being rejected my music schools because of her deafness. Still, she does not give up. Perhaps she believes, as do many of us, that a life is not worth living when you give up what you care the most about, and if that happens then you end up having nothing to live for.
that however, is only half the story. you see ah, i am also a musician. in fact, i play the exact same instrument as lily goh and evelyn glennie. it is also my dream to become a professional percussionist (and teach in a university/conservatory). but i know that currently, i am eons away from achieving that dream, but still, i am closer than lily is to achieving that dream. i am already moderately proficient in the instrument, but lily goh is only a beginner. based on my musical opinion (which it must be noted that i am not a professional hor), lily's dream is very very difficult to achieve. even more so because she is in singapore. and even even more so, because she is deaf.
so how? what should i tell her, should i even tell her anything? i've been told by the leader of my musical group not to approach lily. doing so will offend her current instructor, and since the music community is small in singapore, politics need to be carefully played. so i cannot approach her. fine. which still doesn't answer the question: if i am given a chance to talk to her, what do i want to say to her?
the more conservative side of me might tell her "be responsible for your own life. if you are truly aware of how massive the task is before you, then perhaps it is in your best interests to stop chasing fairytales. not everyone can be singapore idol. not everyone can be evelyn glennie. you still have your mother to look out for, and your own livelihood and sustenance to be responsible about." the more liberal side of me might tell her "never give up on your dreams. you only live life once, and if you decide to give up on your dream, regret will forever lace your life." is there even a right or wrong answer?
i believe there probably is. the problem is, none of us know the "right answer". we can only give opinions. and our opinions are already very heavily influenced by whatever ideals of values we already believe in (conservatism or liberalism). perhaps i ought not to give advice, even if i am given the chance to. despite that i can probably help her more than her other friends can due to my unique position, the fact remains that i will have no idea if my own opinions are in close vincinity of what would be the "right" action for her to take. And since the rest of her life is at stake here, how could i make such a decision flippantly? i may as well just tiam tiam and not say anything.
the wrong actions, even if borne out of good intensions, would be just as damaging. but i think ah, we humans are too preoccupied with what's right and what's wrong. because i so afraid of helping her to make the wrong decision, then i would rather not have such a responsibility. i wash my hands clean lah. but yet i wonder lah, maybe its not so much about making the right or wrong decisions. maybe its about how hard we try to help ourselves, and help each other. i still very much want to help this girl, because i feel for her plight (and in some ways i share it), and because perhaps nobody else is in the same unique position i have to help her. does it matter if i eventually help her to make the "wrong decision"? perhaps life is not about decision making based on projected outcomes, but decision making based on what matters to one's heart, be it dreams or practicality.
that is why i believe, being superstar was never something which mattered in kewei's heart. and if so, good for her that she decided not to quit her job.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
A primary school teacher in a "well-known school". Honestly expressive about her(?) problems and disappointment with her circumstances, but pledges to help her students to reach their fullest potential.
[Addendum: She has since blogged that she is not "disappointed", only "consciously aware" of her circumstances]
Light-hearted posts authored by boredslacker, who has her personal blog separate from this one. Appparently she is in NIE, but gives lots of tuition by the side.
Familiar to those of us who frequent Intelligent Singaporean, Trisha teaches in a secondary school, and is a also a "struggling but cheerful mother, pragmatic wife, lover of gadgets and all things that have a computer chip in it".
Authored by Piper, an unhappy teacher in a secondary school, an Arsenal fan and an FFXII addict, (and also not someone unfamiliar to Intelligent Singaporean). I have a hard time imagining the Piper to be a female, but apparently she is.
[Addendum: Piper has also blogged in response to what is written here. She says that she is actually pretty happy where she is, and is not unhappy. She just believes things could be much better.]
A Pedagogue's Progress
English and History graduate from Dartmouth College. Currently in NIE, and judging from the 2 year gap between graduation and enrollment in NIE, kungfuzi is also probably a PSC scholar.
Voice of a Young Singaporean Teacher
Teacher in a secondary school, and devout Christian. So devout that he(?) would rather go for his Christian cell group and miss his school's annual dinner. Which probably didn't go well down with his Head of Department.
Wind in my Head
This teacher seems to be a GP teacher in a JC, possibly in a school with through-train. Her blog does not say much about her work, but is a joy to read. She is also a "WoW widow and despises the game with every fiber of the body."
To See a World in a Grain of Sand
This was once a blog, but apparently this teacher's students (primary school it seems) found the blog and spammed insults, and she ended up moving the blog to a new location (which I cannot locate). Most disheartening an affair.
Blogging from my Mackie
A Mac user, and currently a student in NUS, but who hopes to become a teacher. Perhaps is already an MOE scholar/award holder.
A secondary school teacher in an all-girls school. Very well written. This is actually my favourite blog among them all.
Not a blog with a huge archive, but clearly authored by a teacher who was unhappy with his/her circumstances and recently got his/her transfer accepted to another school.
[Addendum (07/10/07): Many of these blogs are no longer updated or even around. As there is still a number of people who regularly visit this post, let me point you towards a new blog that has, I think, a more extensive list of teacher bloggers. ]
Friday, November 24, 2006
In talking about altruism, Butler identifies 3 separate views which argue that altruism cannot exist. The first view, is the view that believes an altruistic act is a psychologically motivated act, and the motivation behind that act does not contain any trace of self-interest. Many people like this description of altruism because it is the most "selfless" version. Let us consider the case where a fireman is sacrificing himself to safe a little girl from a burning building. According to the first critic, if you claim that the fireman is doing an altruistic act, you are committed to saying whatever motivations the fireman has for performing that act, none of them are self-interested. Butler claims that for such an extreme definition of altruism, practically everyone will agree that no such version of altruism exists, there is no disagreement, and such critics of altruism are setting up a straw man.
For the sake of argument, lets consider what such a definition of altruism would imply. Among the motivations why the fireman would want to save the girl, even though knowing full well that he may die in the process, is the motivations "saving the girl is the right thing to do" or perhaps "saving the girl is my job". A critic may then argue that the fireman acts out of knowing that he is doing the right thing, or doing his duty, and knowing that he is doing the right thing is self-interested. I personally think that such an argument needs further elaboration before it can work, i.e., one needs to connect the link how "knowing that he is doing the right thing" to self-interest, but it is not difficult to come up with some psychological claim about a sense of emotional or moral fulfillment (fulfilling a desire to "do the right thing"). Even so, I think the onus is on the critic to establish that such a sense of moral fulfillment is indeed the psychological motivation behind the fireman saving the girl's life. It will not be incoherent for the fireman to claim that he saved the girl's life not out of any personal fulfillment of any kind (say, he was depressed), but if he did not do so the girl will die. Another take on the argument is that even though the fireman died in the process, if he had chosen to not save the girl and not die, he would suffer from so much guilt and remorse it is better in his self-interest to end his life to save the girl. This argument strikes me as intuitively unlikely, although the critic can always claim such to be the basis of the fireman's "instinct" to save the girl's life.
The second argument against altruism is an assertion of psychological egoism. This is the claim that all humans are motivated by self-interest, and self-interest alone. This is a popular belief among many of us sometimes, when we get too cynical and disillusioned with the people around us. Butler provides a very clever and interesting argument, which most philosophers believe to have convincingly refuted such a formulation of psychological egoism. First, it is necessary to distinguish between what is known as a first-order desire, and a second-order desire. A first order desire is any basic desire, such as "I desire chocolate flavored ice-cream". A second order desire is a desire about desires. Such as "I desire to fulfill all my desires". The claim of psychological egoism is that humans are only motivated by their self-interest, i.e. the only thing they desire, is to pursue their self-interest. What constitutes "self interest"? A very plausible formulation is the fulfillment of one's own desires. If you are interested in something eg. fame, wealth, or whatever, that is only because you care about somethings and desire those things. Therefore, that the second order desire "I desire to fulfill all my desires" is what motivates all humans all the time, seems to be a plausible formulation of psychological egoism.
Butler then notes that if that is indeed all that you care about, then you have no other desires, other than that particular second order desire (about fulfilling your desires). But the thing is, if you have no other desires, then your second order desire has no other desires to act on. You would have no motivation to do anything. Consider a parallel example. Imagine a universe that lives only 3 angels. Each of these angels have only one psychological motivation: a second order desire to fulfill the desires of other persons (let's call this "selflessness"). However, each of these angels have no other desires, nothing else they care about, other than the second-order desire to fulfill other persons' desires. None of these angels will be motivated to do anything, since for the first angel to display her selflessness, she needs to help the 2nd or 3rd angel fulfill their desires, but they each have no first order desires for her to help them fulfill. They each have a second order desire, but she cannot help them fulfill that desire, because she herself has no first order desires than she can allow the others to help her fulfill. Similarly for the psychological egoist, if all he cares about is the fulfillment of his own desires, but he has no first-order desires, then he will not have any motivation to act on anything.
What does this mean? This means that there must exist first-order desires, in order for the second-order desire to have any motivational push. But first order desires are not self-interested. That you desire to eat chocolate flavored ice-cream is not self-interested. That you desire to fulfill that desire to eat chocolate flavored ice-cream (the second-order desire) is the one which is actually self-interested. Let us consider another example. Assume I care for the football club Manchester United (which I really don't). That I desire for the well-being of the club Man U is a first order desire (this is what is meant for "I care for Man U"). If I desire of the fulfillment of this desire, that is a second order desire, eg. I desire that Man U will defeat Chelsea in tomorrow's game, since defeating Chelsea is a fulfillment of my desire for the well-being of Man U. I may have self-interested reasons for the fulfillment of the second-order desire (I will be upset if Man U loses), and I may be motivated to help bring about that state of affairs (bribe Chelsea players) but I do not have a self-interested reason for the first-order desire. I care about Man U because I just do. It is not coherent to argue that I care for Man U because it is in my self interest to do so.
The third argument against altruism, is a reformulation of psychological egoism in response to the previous criticism. This formulation allows for first-order desires, but among the first-order desires, the critic maintains that within the list of first-order desires that we have, the desire for the well-being of other individuals is not existent. In other words, we can care about many things, but we do not care about other people. Butler thinks that empirically, we know this is not true. I too, believe that it is quite plainly true, that people care for other people. Most parents care very much for their children, for example. Of course, critics may further want to explain that such are not indeed real desires, but only an illusion of so. Such that mothers do not really care about their children, it is an inbuilt biological response. Of course, such an argument will probably have much difficulty explaining how an "inbuilt biological response" is indeed not a "real desire" for the well-being of the child.
Empirically, we are often led to think that humans are all inherently selfish. I personally find it hard not to think that way when we interact wifh the ugly Singaporean everyday. Nevertheless, such observations does not really entitle us to believe that altruism (selfless intensions and behaviour) is philosophically impossible. It's probably just not practised very often.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
she said her post took her 9 minutes to blog. wah lau. damn zai lah. for me, a post that length takes about one hour plus. probably becoz my england not always very powderful, got idea but dunno how to say, so think long long. then when start blogging that time, started saying something, but by the time blog finish say another thing. then spend many hours type liao ah, read already still think i not very clear. sucks to be a blogger lah. unless you as zai as gayle lah. or maybe just i louzy? =(
she also "urged everyone to look at things objectively". heh =). wise words indeed, despite coming from one so young.
isit because pple think "wah, got big news/controversy, i must definitely say my 2 cents worth". which is nothing wrong to think that lah. but for some people maybe its also like "wah, confirm got thousands of pple techorati/google 'GST hike', then confirm some will tio my blog one. hosay lah, i can now attract pple to read my blog", which is what some unkindly people might describe as "attention seeking". me admits, i sometimes feel like i am like that also. but me is more scared that when pple technorati my blog ah, then think "wah lau. so louzy blog. waste my time reading".
or maybe i too suspicious of pple's intentions lah. maybe its just "i got view, i blog loh. that's what my blog is for what. for me to express, for me to kao pei garmen, for me to whine, for me to talk cock. who cares if my post not "intelligent" enough, or "sophisticaed" enough, or too "partisan". blog is blog what. not anybody else's business what i blog what". maybe lah. if the blogosphere is a platform just for ranting, or random musing, then okay lah. but see what WSM's ranting got her into.
or maybe lah. just maybe lah, no evidence or philosophical arguments hor. maybe ah, people are not REALLY interested about the poor lah (or maybe only a small number ah). maybe they are so ingrained in their minds "garmen are idiots", that when they hear "GST hike", then they naturally think "wah lau, garmen take my money again" and then very buay song. which is okay to be buay song lah. becoz you voted the garmen in mah. but then, ah, when you already buay song about the garmen take your money ah, you will be less sympathetic towards arguments that say "GST hike not necessary bad thing". because you already buay song liao mah. me is not saying bloggers dun think, but no one is 100% objective mah. things like how buay song you are affects the conclusions you draw from the arguments you read.
now me realizes i sounded alot like what KTM said in his comments to this post. salah lah, why i sound more and more like KTM ah? lidat looks like i got no blain one and i blindly agree with what i read in the blogosphere. wah lau, maybe the garmen is correct about the fact that blogs are dangerous!! so how ah? i know!! to maintain integrity, i must become anti-KTM!!! KTM, you are a blasphemous pro-garmen blogger. how dare you betray your brethren and support the garmen!! you shall die!!!
[eh KTM, i only joking hor. dun throw your kuali at me pls =P]
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Talking about the KTM, I was reading the comments on Kitana's excellent post (want to see what she wrote in reply to my comments mah), and in the KTM's comments, he quoted scripture twice, and offered for Kitana to drop him a note if she would like to discuss matters of faith. This, I found to be rather interesting, and considered to it to be somewhat unexpected, coming from a notable social/political-commentary blogger, and I became very curious in the KTM, and what kind of blogger is he.
On retrospect, I it should not have been that unexpected. I did read his not-so-recent post on WSM, and it end with another scriptural quote, although back then when I read it, I was so new to the blogosphere and read so many posts that I got all of them in my mind mixed up. So, out of curiosity, I read some of KTM's archived posts, and returned to read the WSM post, and for the first time, the comments. I thought that how KTM responded to the comments was very illuminating on the kind of person he is (aren't all blogs illuminating with respect to their authors?).
Firstly, among all the blogs I've read so far (and it's not that many, since I'm a newcomer), the KTM is by far the most politically moderate voice, in my opinion. And being moderate, against the backdrop of a predominating anti-establishment blogosphere, would make him seek starkly pro-establishment, and possibly, a quite disliked figure. Whispers of the Heart suggested that the KTM might very well be "a p65 MP hiding behind his stall", a thought which, I must admit, crossed my mind as well. How else can be invited to be a blogger for SPH's stomp? =P
Secondly, KTM reads comments on his blog, and responds to each and everyone of them. In the case of the WSM post, this must have taken hours, due to the sheer number of comments (mostly from detractors). Perhaps everybody does this, maybe it's blogosphere culture. But if its not, it shows the respect the KTM has for every opinion, every blogger, every voice. (or maybe he just deleted the comments he didn't want to respond to =P). I sort of think that's why he read my blog =).
Thirdly, whether or not you agree with the KTM, his views are well thought out, and important to consider. The KTM have on more than one occasion used the disclaimer "Don't take the KTM too seriously. Even the KTM does not take himself too seriously [insert smiley]", which somehow I doubt. I think he takes his views (or rather, the views he chooses to blog about) very seriously, in the sense that he definitely takes time to think through what exactly he wants to say, and probably spends much time thinking through how he wants to say it (usually, in a very simple, non-verbose but effective way). He rarely comes across as ranting (despite claiming that he is indeed ranting), and always appears thoughtful and considerate.
My point is, the KTM is a blogger who ought be highly respected in the blogosphere, if for nothing else, than for a good blogging ethic (think before you blog, respect others), and for daring to speak his mind even if it goes again the grain of the blogosphere. And he IS highly respected by some. (My guess is that's why he's a contributor to Singapore Angle). But, if I am right, if the KTM is a blogger who is significant in the blogosphere, and deserves all this recognition and respect of other bloggers, why do people respond in such a fashion to his post on WSM? This led me to think and ponder upon the nature of the Singapore blogosphere.
Granted the criticism that the KTM had been rather nasty in some of his posts and his replies to comments, and could possibly have been more diplomatic. But almost all (save a few, such as the one by Jolly Jester [incidentally, the KTM and Jolly Jester have a very interesting conversation about Derek Wee in this post]) of the bloggers who comment are equally, or even more so, "undiplomatic". Yet, the KTM responds to them all. [Although I did think, his argument with Whispers of the Heart turned a little ugly, but to his credit, he apologized. He also has a similar ugly argument with Laksa Lady, in Kitana's post about minimum wage] So, why are bloggers so angry at KTM?
Part of it, I'm sure, is the whole emotional furor which captivated the blogosphere because of WSM's comments. But I wonder if I should not take this as an isolated incident, but rather an insight to the Singaporean blogosphere psyche. If so, I am led to believe, Singaporeans make very poor bloggers (I'm referring to "serious" political/social-commentary bloggers, and with this distinction I believe I am excluding the bulk of those whom lambasted WSM). Why do I say that? I think we impose some kind of double standards upon the Singaporean blogosphere. We claim the blogosphere to be the platform where if a person wishes to blog, he/she has a chance to voice, a chance to be heard. The platform is not equal in the sense that having the correct keywords will help your blog get found on technorati, but it IS equal (supposedly) in the sense that all views, no matter of what alignment, are taken seriously and respected. Surely, when we blog, we hope our own voice to be taken seriously and be respected by those who read (this applies also to the satire blogs, just 'taken seriously' in a difference sense).
Yet, for a blogosphere who claims to have such openness (18-year old Gayle Goh is our celebatory icon on blogosphere inclusiveness), we seem to be rather intolerant of views whom we don't agree with. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the WSM incident is ought to be isolated, perhaps I hold too high standards of politeness and decorum on the blogosphere, or perhaps there is just something about the KTM which rubs people the wrong way. But I think a similar conumdrum still exists: we read some blogs or some comments, and then we think to ourselves "this blogger is a just a ginnah", and then we decide to not take such views seriously. And indeed, we ought not to, as proven by WSM. But yet, at the same time, we all hope (or at least I do) our own blogs and comments fall not into that category, that our blogs sound intelligent/knowledgeable/zai enough to warrant recognition by the rest of the blogosphere (or am I the only neurotic blogger around?). I can't help but feel that there is still some kind of "bo pian" double standards there. Perhaps this is why the KTM noted that as bloggers, we must all we willing to take flak (difficult I believe; bloggers seem to have fragile egos), and that most of us "don't know what we are talking", and that the internet is "free-for-all and full of random chatter". Perhaps this is so. Perhaps something like this is also what Yawning Bread meant by selective folly, and this is part of the reason why the blogosphere will largely be ineffective and mediocre.
Truth is, nobody is a "perfect" blogger. Nobody is 100% objective. It is impossible to please everybody. And Singaporeans behind a computer monitor and a keyboard, are probably not the most carefully thinking, respectful and diplomatic people on the internet. And they are never meant to be. If bloggers blog according to the greatest kind of empathy they hope to get from their readers, then the whole blogosphere will turn out to be one big uniform, anti-establishment ranting space, while maintaining the pretense of sounding intelligent and objective. The blogosphere will turn out to be the exact mirror to the Straits Times.
We need to celebrate and appreciate bloggers like the KTM. I think many of us already do. Whether or not we agree with his views, you have to agree that if more people in the blogosphere blogs like him, it would be a much less nastier place than it is now. I started blogging, all excited with this new discovery, hoping to find a platform (a vent?) to express my views and to discuss with others about serious issues. Yet, I find myself the victim of wondering if my blog or my comments are "good enough" to warrant the attention of others, and I almost forced myself to blog things which were not my real inner voice. It is an interesting place, this thing we call the blogosphere. I am still exploring what it does. I believe, all of us are still exploring too.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Desires, for the most part, are just impulses or appetites. But beliefs can be quite complicated. Beliefs can also be normative (suggest a preferred path of action). For example, I believe that when someone is at the door, I should open the door. In fact, a good number (all?) of the conscious decisions we make in life are based on our normative beliefs. But where do these normative beliefs come from? I am going to assume that all our beliefs come from the outside world, i.e. from what we detect from our senses. [Just a quick argument: if a baby is born without sight, sound, smell, hearing and touch, do you think he able to learn anything? think anything?]
Our most basic beliefs come directly from our senses: 'I see a bright object [the sun]", i feel something underneath my feet [the floor]". But our more complex beliefs, such as our normative beliefs, are usually taught to us, directly or indirectly. For the most part, it is our parents and our teachers (or whoever who had a hand in bringing us up) which imparts to us these beliefs, either through teachings or being a role model. Later on in life, when we develop a stronger cognitive ability, we form our own beliefs based on our previous beliefs and new data from our senses. Once in a while, we may even come across sensory data which seems so incoherent with our previous beliefs that we choose to reject one or more of our past beliefs.
Some (many) of our beliefs, are tacit. Meaning, we do not consciously think about them, or are aware of them. But we believe them anyway. For example, if you get to work every morning by driving a car. Do you check if your car has been rigged with a car bomb before you start the engine? Do you check if there is anybody hiding in the backseat? Probably these thoughts never crossed your mind. But somewhere deep in your motivational self, you must have believed that your car is free from car bombs or murderers hiding in the back seat, otherwise you would not have drove your car to work. Note that this belief is also an assumption, that you do not really have any evidence that your car was not rigged with a bomb, nor did you check if there was indeed someone hiding behind the back seat. You just assumed so.
I am going to propose, that we call the entire collection of all our beliefs (tacit or otherwise) our worldview. And indeed, the collection of all our beliefs is indeed our view of the world. Everything we have ever experienced, seen or heard, was taught to us, what we inferred and deduced in our minds; this is what we perceive the world to be. I am quite sure, all of us, except for maybe Descartes, have never systematically considered ALL our beliefs. And even if we did, we probably could not be able to uncover all our tacit beliefs. Hence probably, we all have some beliefs which come into conflict with each other. Perhaps later when the conflict in beliefs is brought to our attention, we will choose to abandon one (or more) beliefs to maintain coherence. But I think it is safe to assume that nobody has a set of beliefs (i.e. worldview) that is 100% coherent with each other.
Now I am going to propose, that for our purposes, we equate the word "religion" to the word "worldview". Let me try to justify that proposition. Religion has a very muffled and confused meaning the way it is used in our society. My religion is either Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist or free thinker. We have very conveniently categorized religion to a point that we identity religion to be an institution, instead of it being a set of beliefs which propose to teach us how to live our lives. The belief "there is a god" is a religious belief, but the implications of such a belief would lead to other beliefs such as "I believe there is a heaven" or "I believe in reincarnation", and such beliefs in turn strongly affect the way we choose what actions we do in our lives. Note that according to this definition, all individuals have a religion, because all individuals have a worldview.
A rejoinder is that we may choose to declare ourselves a certain religion (because we were "born into" the religion), but we find that we don't really believe in what that religion says. Then my response is simple, your declared faith has little to do with what your real "faith" is, i.e. what are the set of inner-most beliefs which govern your daily behavior in life. For some religious people, their inner-most set of beliefs align very closely to the tenets of the institutionalised religion, but others align less closely. Many (most?) of us don't subscribe to a religious institution, so our religion/worlview is just based on what we have experienced, learnt and reasoned in life so far. Which, no surprise, varies greatly from person to person. In fact, I believe each and every one of us has a unique worldview. Each and every one of us have a unique "library" of sensory experience, and it is from this store of sensory experience which we derive our beliefs, and our worldview.
Now, here is the really important point I wish to make. Most (all?) of our beliefs, are assumptions. Take the belief "there is a god". A good number of people believe that to be true. But there is no way to know for sure, if there is a god. Incidentally, there is also no way to know for sure if there is no god (atheists might disagree with me here). At best, we have varying degrees of confidence in the belief of the existence (or non-existence) of a god. And therefore it remains an assumption. Take the belief that 'there is someone behind the door when you hear the bell'. You usually would not doubt such a belief. But there is no way you know for sure, if there is indeed someone who is behind the door. Perhaps it is a monkey who pressed the bell, perhaps there was a technical fault with the electronics of the device. There is no way you can know for sure, but you assume anyway. In fact, those of us familiar with Descartes or The Matrix, will know, almost everything we know and assumed to be true, could possibly been untrue. There is no way to know for sure.
To conclude, I want to separate different uses of the term "religion". The definition of "religion" which I am interested in, and which I believe is most pertinent when it comes to intellectual discourse, is that one's religion is one's worldview. A set of beliefs, including assertions about how we ought to live our life. I also claim that religion has a functional purpose. That religion is a necessary part of our life, or else we would have no intentional motivations, and we would fail to do anything, except perhaps to satisfy our desires (some people claim this is all we do anyway, but to deny that is a separate argument altogether). Lastly, I claim most of the set of beliefs which make up our worldview (and our religion) are assumptions. They may be beliefs we believe very strongly in, or believes that we have strong reason to believe in, but they are not beliefs which we can know for sure to be true.
why the heck is this front page news??
Friday, November 10, 2006
but other than the ramifications for homosexuals ah, another thing which makes me say "harh??" is the whole "wound religious feelings" thing. what the heck u mean by "religious feelings?" me is scared that, since 'religious feelings' so vague ah, then the definition can bend anyhow for the ISD to detain pple in many many circumstances. very scary leh. me think this is not good. me believes that religious differences should be worked out through mutual understanding and respectful dialogue lah, not i scared kena ISD detain so i just shut my trap. what u need is more communication, not less. that's what me believe lah.
another thing which happened also is the whole goh meng seng step down from WP news. i read the different articles ah, then i got this question hor: "so what the heck really happened???" this is another eye opening experience for me lah. the media, (especially through selective ommission), can sound neutral but actually maybe it's not. wah, our MSM damn power lei.
the explanation offerred by TVD is that goh meng seng probably kena tricked by netizens (yet another eye-opener for me. net pple so devious one ah) until he say something not so smart, then pple complain to WP, then he siao liao. of course, we also dunno what happened after that lah. was he forced to step down or volunteer one? i think his blog reply is carefully worded, so cannot take at face value also. all this ah, makes me realize, being opposition party ah, really lugi leh. i thought netizens are very pro-freedom of speech one. really make me sigh lah. whatever happened to civil discourse? talk and respectfully debate about ideas?
If you (especially if you subscribe to Christian ethics) have read my previous post (short discussion on christian ethics and homosexuality), you might disagree with me when I said 'Christian ethics don't apply to individuals who do not believe in the assumptions of Christianity', and your rebuttal might something along the lines of: 'according to Christian ethics, if God says it is wrong, it is wrong period. It's rightness or wrongness does not depend on whether or not you believe it to be right or wrong."
To better explain my point, I need to explain an important distinction of moral philosophy: the difference between moral relativism, and moral realism. Moral relativism, casually explained, is basically 'what is right for me is what I believe to be right, what is right for you is what you believe to be right.' If you are a moral relativist, you believe that there is no absolute right or wrong; what is right or wrong depends totally on your personal beliefs. Moral realism, on the other hand, is precisely the opposite. A moral realist believes that "true morality" exists, whatever it is, and it applies to all humans, regardless of what each individual may believe.
When I said 'Christian ethics don't apply to individuals who do not believe in the assumptions of Christianity', I was NOT making a morally relativistic statement. That means, I was NOT saying: 'Christian ethics only works for Christians. You cannot judge a non-Christian to be immoral (even if you are a Christian) because non-Christians do not subscribe to Christian ethics.'
What I WAS saying is this: since many non-Christians do not believe in the existence of God, they therefore would not believe in Christian ethics, and as a result any moral discourse which appeals to Christian beliefs will not be very productive or successful. I was making a claim about how people with different conceptions (beliefs) of ethics and morality will have a very difficult time talking to each other. I was NOT making a claim about whether it is not justified or incorrect for a Christian to apply Christian ethics to non-Christians (I will talk more about this later).
Take the assertion 'Homosexuality is immoral because it is unnatural" as an example. If your concept of "unnatural" is based on religious conceptions on what is natural or not, then when you try and talk to someone who does not share those religious conceptions, then you will very likely not have a very useful discussion (this usually results in insults, name-calling, and anything but what we call civil discourse).
The point that I've taken so many words to make so far may seem quite "duh", but it is quite important for me to lay this point clearly, for I will be attempting to argue for a possible platform of discourse where you can talk meaningfully to another party who does not share the same ethical beliefs, yet at the same time not abandoning your own (such as for example, Christians talking to homosexuals), and without resulting to insulting and name-calling.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Premise : Homosexuality is unnatural
Premise : Whatever is unnatural, must be immoral
hence, conclusion [C]: Homosexuality is immoral.
If one subscribes to Christian ethics, one might unpack premise  further, into something like this:
Premise : Whatever is unnatural, is not from the intended design of God.
Premise : Whatever is not the intended design of God, it is evil/immoral/sinful.
Now, I believe this is a gross over-simplification of Christian ethics, and is not quite the response a sophisticated Christian theologian would supply to the "Christianity vs Homosexuality" debate, but I think for purposes of this post, it will suffice.
Now supposing, (and a very big "supposing"), this is around the arena why Christians think homosexuality is immoral. One obvious implication from the formulation of this argument is the conclusion [C] cannot stand if one denies the existence of a God, or believes in the existence of a God but denies either premise  or premise  (or both).
That also means, atheists, agnostics, and basically anyone who is not Christian, Muslim or Jew, would probably fall in the category of "this argument does not work for me". My point is simple (although I've made a big detour in making it): Christian ethics don't apply to individuals who do not believe in the assumptions of Christianity. And that also means, a moral conclusion (such as "homosexuality is immoral") derived from Christian ethics (assuming it is so derived), also does not apply to these individuals.
The question is then, how then should Christians and non-Christians interact when it comes to such ethical controversies? If we declare, "Christian ethics only apply to Christians" and ignore them completely, would we not be guilty of oppressing and marginalizing Christians? Yet, if we make law (criminalizing homosexuality) based assumptions and postulations which don't apply to the certain groups of individuals, are we not oppressing and marginalizing those individuals instead?
This is only a short primer. I'm planning to blog about a more complex idea where Christians and homosexuals (or non-Christians, for that matter) can have a platform of discourse, and yet not compromise their own ethical beliefs. That idea will need to be rolled out in stages though, and I will blog about them separately, but soon.
you see ah, last time, i just wanted to say my 2 cents worth in every single social/political issue which comes out, and then i want to say solid solid stuff. and then ah, i also want to say one blue way and one purple way, which according to my original idea, each blue/purple post will be substantial enough to stand on its own, yet complements the other post, yet does not repeat material twice. wah damn cool idea, but super difficult to write. in the end spend so much time planning this one write blue, this one write purple, then in the end hor, the issue nobody talk about anymore. sian right?
so now i decided lah. don't need to be so stylistically cool lah. impress other pple for what? only for your own ego only. so now ah, me will still blog sometimes purple, sometimes blue, but won't die die must blog both at once. then ah, i think i'll probably talk less commentary about issues (but still will lah), partly becoz i no got time, partly becoz i scared gahmen whack my backside lah. instead, blue probably will write more philosophy inclined posts. blue alreadi has some ideas what to blog abt, so you all wait and see lah.
but me noob hor! please give comments and advice!! thanks hor.
In light of the recent amendments to the penal code, Yawning Bread and Mr Wang have both blogged about what this could mean to the homosexual community here in Singapore. This reminded me of an argument that might (or might not) be useful when discussing about the ethics of homosexuality. The argument below did not originate from me; it was taught to me by my philosophy professor, who also happened to be a die-hard New York Giants fan.
One potential argument against homosexuality is that it is “unnatural”, and hence it is immoral. One possible construction of the argument is:
Homosexuality is unnatural. (Premise )
Whatever is unnatural must be immoral. (Premise )
Hence by deduction, Homosexuality is immoral (Conclusion )
Note that I’m being very loose with my wording and I have not defined “unnatural”. However, I believe for my current purposes, this construction which I have presented will suffice.
To understand how I will attempt to refute this argument, we need to understand a bit more about a particular popular American sport: baseball. Most of us would know that baseball mainly revolves around a pitcher, who throws (“pitches”) the baseball, and the batter, who attempts to hit the baseball being thrown towards him by the pitcher. There are many ways for a pitcher to throw a baseball towards a batter. One of those ways is known as a screwball.
A screwball is a type of pitch where the baseball spins in a motion opposite to what is the natural spin of the baseball when normally thrown. In basketball, when we normally shoot a basket, due to the natural motion of the fingers on the basketball, the ball spins backwards. If you can shoot the basketball while making the ball spin forward (instead of backwards), you would have accomplished the equivalent of baseball’s screwball.
One of the greatest screwball pitchers is Carl Hubbell, who played for the New York Giants his whole career. In 1934, during the all-star game, he struck out (meaning the batter failed to hit his screw ball 3 times) 5 hall-of-fame batters (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin) in succession, setting a baseball record.
Now, anybody who knows much about baseball also knows that the human body is not designed to throw screwballs. [In fact, Jim Mecir, another baseball pitcher, was good at throwing the screwball precisely because of a birth defect (clubbed feet)] So, it would be very logical to say that to throw a screwball is “unnatural”. Yet, nobody ever accused Carl Hubbell to have done anything immoral as a result of his pitching screwballs (except perhaps Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin =)).
Based on this account, we can see that premise , “Whatever is unnatural must be immoral”, fails to be true, or at least requires further substantiation, and hence conclusion , “homosexuality is immoral”, cannot be considered a sound conclusion, at least based on this simple construction of the argument.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I discovered that as I read more and more blogs, I felt very inadequate about myself. That whatever I could possibly write in this blog would be substandard compared to all these blogs I'm reading, and perhaps I shouldn't blog at all.
I wondered about the recent spite against all things "elitist", and if the problem was not an "elite" group of people, but values and mindsets which transcend all singaporeans (all humanity?) regardless of social class. Maybe its not about social class, wealth and snobbery, but about kiasuism, vanity, pride, and selfishness?
I discovered that I've been more pre-occupied with blogging to impress, than blogging to express. That is why I feel I shouldn't post anything whom I feel lacks quality compared to the other blogs out there.
I wondered if the singapore blogosphere is more a vent for various different frustrations, than a medium for reasoned debate. Perhaps bloggers are more interested in stating their own points of view for all to read, than trying to engage and discuss with each other.
I discovered that I wanted my blog to be one that people will read and regard it to be one of the best. If it was regarded as any less, I would feel that it would not be worth my blogging. Either you are the best, or you are not good enough.
I wondered if the reason why "elitists" behave the way they do because from young they are put through a system where they are taught to compete with each other. If you do not have 10 A1s, you are not good enough. If you do not have 4As with 2 S papers, you are not good enough. If you do not get into medicine or have an overseas scholarship, you're not good enough. If you're not the best, you're not enough.
I discovered that I am a product of the system.
I discovered that I am an elitist.
I discovered myself.
Friday, November 03, 2006
me also pretty much found which are the blogs i really think very zai. me really wish me can write as atas and cheem as xenoboy, as funny as mollymeek, or as cool as kway tiao man (eh, this dude really sell char kway tiao in real life ah? hosay lah). kitana and her 'significant other' are really good bloggers too, and they both say nice things about this blog. that makes both of you really cool lah! but ah, the blog which i realli realli like the most, is the one by bernard leong. becoz me wish i can blog like him, philosophically sophisticated, yet can explain clearly and make it applicable to our context. he probably very good teacher too loh.
then ah, blogging scene also more diverse than i anticipated.got pple ranging from university students like kitana and ben, A-level students like weikiat, gayle goh and even a 16-year old. "high-flyers" like a lawyer, a doctor, and a dude whom sounds very much like a PSC scholar. benard leong is a prof (of entrepreneurship) in NUS (wah....), and this dude (who i suspect to be the incarnation of AcidFlask), is a phd student in US. of couse that's not like a super wide spread lah, sure don't include people who are too poor to access internet or pple who not english literate.
although me realise many good things about blog scene, me also see alot of limitations lah. at first becoz its like so many new things i dunno, i very excited. but then ah, i realise also got ugly side, the whole WSM thing for instance. then ah, like in kitana's blog, the comments so long like macham forum liao, then like in any forum ah, can have pple make trouble. but i also din noe trolls got so sophisticated one lah, pretend to engage in serious discussion, but merely baiting the blog owner and other bloggers.
me also realize, after reading so many good blogs, me is not very good blogger. and maybe me shouldn't blog. after all, i not sure if anything i say got any substance since i so noob, and i not very good writer. aiyah, i just wait and see how lah. besides, my readership so low, not like anybody notcie i write badly right? hahaha.