Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: February 1997
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Dick P. Writes: "Why does Dr. Lane start and end his article (puportedly on neuroscience) with a discussion of animal rights? Why does he administer a vegetarian diet to his canine companion? What does he do to keep his dog from a running a squirrel down for an afternoon snack?" DAVID LANE REPLIES: Kent is right, this is actually pretty funny. There's only one glitch in the system, though, Dick. I don't own a dog. I haven't had a dog since I was eleven or twelve (her name was Kubla). Your "author" profiles may be helpful at times, but occasionally you may get your signals crossed. Why? Because my best friend, Aaron Talsky, happens to share my computer account with me. If you look closely at my author profile (which apparently you have through dejanews), you may also notice postings on hockey and satellite television. Aaron likes hockey on T.V.; I wouldn't know a "Canuck" from a "Puck". You see, Aaron posted a few items on hockey and "vegetarian" dog food and satellite T.V.'s or something to that effect. I will confess to being the guy who named Aaron's dog. It was between Nietzsche (his choice) and Basho (my choice). Basho is the name of Aaron's dog. Sorry to say, he has never lived with me. I do love the dog very much, however. As for what to feed him, I have never fed the dog except once and it formed the basis of an interesting argument. I was on the beach one day with Aaron and I had some donuts. Basho, that most brilliant of labs, looked hungry. I threw him one of my donuts. He ate it whole and seemed to relish it. Aaron got pissed. "How can you serve my dog junk food?" I would have also offered Basho something to drink, but I only had a Pepsi on hand. And, you know Dick, there are limits to what I will feed a dog..... Coke, yes; Pepsi?--I probably would have gotten arrested for animal endangerment. Well, to this day (Basho is about 5 years old, if I am not mistaken), Aaron and I still argue about the rightness of donuts for dogs. Sidebar: It was a vegetarian donut, by the way. When I was getting my Ph.D. at UCSD and teaching in the Warren Writing Program I shared an office with Don Matson. He had this most amazing cat (appropriately named "Warren"). This cat would drag in all sorts of creatures, particularly birds. He would either eat them or play with them (when they were half alive). I tried to tell him about "ahimsa" but he kept showing me his canines. I even gave the cat my article on WHY I DON'T EAT FACES but I don't think he could read very well. ----------------- As to your other question about why I brought up vegetarianism/animal rights at the beginning and end of my book review of THE ASTONISHING HYPOTHESIS, it is again fairly simple: I really liked Crick's book (indeed I used it in my Introduction to Philosophy classes for a couple of years; I have recently used Paul Churchland's latest tome), but I disagreed with his section on animal experimentation, especially his analogy with gorillas getting a college degree. You see, Crick's argument is a materialist one: we are nothing more than a sophisticated neural net. Our "I" arises and falls with the cerebral symphony. No neural activity, no "I" awareness." It is the very complexity of the neural net that has led to our self-awareness, according to Crick. Now if we accept this, then the question naturally arises about what distinguishes human beings from other species. Crick's answer is again pretty clear: not much. Well, if that is the case, then I think we should be much more attentive to the complex brain activity of other primates. Indeed, this is as we speak a pioneering field with startling results. Now let me make something very clear: I do not think that human beings are vegetarian by nature. As I have argued before, we are more less omnivores (certainly there are some things we cannot eat, but geez we are really good at adapting--from shrimp to cows to grass to paste to (oh the horror) lady lee cola. I see vegetarianism as a moral choice--individualistic and situational. If you want my views on "Karma" theory, please read the last section of THE ENCHANTED LAND. I personally think the concept is like cotton candy: very sweet at the first bite but eventually comprised of lots of air. -------------------------- Dick Asks: "How about it, Dr. Lane? Why are you so reticent to discuss your own transrational experiences?" DAVID LANE REPLIES: Well, let's put it another way. Let's say you didn't ask me about mystical excursions, but asked me about my "best" sexual experiences. Would I give you an answer then, especially with something so grounded or embedded (intentional word play?) or empirical? No. Why? Because there are some things in life--rightly or wrongly--that are best kept close to one's heart, a hidden treasure perhaps. Now following this analogy (sexual experiences and mystical experiences), I know that there are certain things that I like to keep personal. This does not mean, of course, that such experiences (sexual or mystical) are trans-neurological, but only that they are both of an intimate nature and some experiences are just too intimate (even if purely brain induced) to broadcast. Naturally, I am not amiss to talking about generalistic features as such. That would be fun and I don't mind putting myself in the guinea pig's role. Let me end with some excerpts from one of my favorite poems from Rumi which may softly infer the heart of my spiritual practice: I have seen no joy without you in both worlds. I have see there wonders--nothing was like you. Cupbearer, dearer than my eyes, I have not seen one like you in Iran, Iraq! Pour out such wine that I may leave myself I have only seen fatigue in my existence....... -------------------------------- Dick P. Writes: "I "challenge" Dave because I want to understand his various viewpoints. >From some 1994 correspondence: "I just know that my mind/my writings are filled with different viewpoints, each reflecting but a part of my own very limited vision. Keep writing ---- your criticisms are both annoying & fun --- Dave" Now, how does a mystical agnostic materialist "know" that his mind and writings are filled with different viewpoints? Is it related to knowing canine vegetarianism leads the canine to a human incarnation while averring agreement with a nobel laureate about the neurological basis of consciounsess. Is Dave hedging bets? I don't know. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but somebody tell me the punch line, please! DAVID LANE REPLIES: Naturally, we can define our "knowing" in small and big ways (and here is where your punch line will arise). In big ways (ontology, absoluteness, ultimate matters, final truth), I find myself NOT KNOWING (I just don't know). Now in small ways (hey, what's MSAC's phone number? How long is that stick you are riding, Dave? Hey I got to take a whizz), I am relatively much more confident. So when I use the word "know" it oftentimes has to be put into context. This is a particularly important point that sometimes gets lost with my students when I lecture about Nicholas of Cusa or Socrates or even Heisenberg. I point out about how limited our "ultimate" knowledge really is. As Socrates once stated (or as Plato so reports), "All I know is that I don't know." Now some Dick in the audience during that time may have queried, "Hey, So Crates, how do you "know" that you don't know. Isn't that a contradiction, oh robed one?" Well, if Socrates would have met Bertrand Russell (Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, Part Five?), he may have leaned on the Russellian idea of categorical types and mentioned that he was using the word "knowing" in two different fashions. And even then, our "unknowingness" is so entrenched that we cannot even make absolutely pronoucements about our ignorance. Oh, the Wittgensteinian nature of our sea of language. Is philosophy really just a bad Falafel? The straight answer is quite simple, if profound: I ultimately don't know much (there is your punch line, Dick), but temporarily I have some confidence in some procedures. Like accuracy of phone numbers (could change, though.... what do you mean Samorez doesn't like getting those late nite phone calls from Dick wanting to talk about marketing?--oh, just an area code change, I see), surf reports (it was on at C street, Saturday), and that eating a dog while it is alive "appears" to cause the animal some pain. It is not a question of hedging bets, but rather a question of not knowing enough to even make bets and asking a deeper question: What's wrong with being Con-fused? Don't want to make ultimate religions out of nursey school thinking; likewise, wouln't want to make ultimate religions out of 40 year middle age thinking, either. I feel the difference between me at 4 and 40 is simply this: I am much more aware of how much more I don't know. Mystical Agnostic Materialism is Confused....... That's the point. Imagine a cow that could cognate (this is a parable..... watch the kids Nathan) or reason or speculate on its ultimate ontology thru its limited purview...... Moo this, Moo that....... But such Mooing at the Moon or the Sun or Billy Bob's stun gun would be just that: sophisticated mooing..... Okay, so I know three languages (English--not well, just ask Kate; Hindi, not even well, just ask Dr. Choudry at Landour; Surfonics, too well, just ask my Ebonics teacher, Professor Green Room) and some math and some other tidbits. In terms of Infinity or Naked Singularity's or Dairy Queen's This sucks ice cream, what in the fuck does that add up to? Not much. Precisely my point. Sophisticated mooing, sophisticated English, sophisticated Hindi. It's still a limited number, and a limited number in relation to Infinity (thanks Nicholas) is still Infinitely beyond....... But I do "KNOW" that Coke is better than Pepsi! Even an agnostic mystial materialist can see that...... The clarity comes with the burn....... oh yea ----------- I hope this doesn't help too much, since if it is that clear I haven't exemplified the weirdness of being a human alive in the midst of a very strange place....... ------------ As I guarantee my philosophy students on the very first day of class. I know you will be more confused after taking my class than you before coming here..... The scary thing is this: I think that is positive.
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