Tuesday, August 03, 2004


The wisest commentary I’ve ever read about the difference between the “internal world” and “objective reality” is Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert M. Pirsig), which you an read for free on-line at


This book is still selling briskly since it was published in 1974. It makes what should be a simple point, but it “goes down hard” because you just don’t hear it anywhere else. The point is (if I’m reading him right):

  1. Aesthetics can’t be derived from any other source. Aesthetics are primary. You can’t really teach people what to like or what is “good”. You “get it” or you don’t.
  2. Aesthetics underlie all human experience, including “Science”. Scientists keep poking around and re-checking their data until they come up with theories that are “elegant” and “powerful”. These are aesthetic criteria.
There is little point in arguing over aesthetics. My favourite little “mini drama” illustrates this:

HE: What’s your favourite color?
SHE: Blue
HE: No, it’s not

One implication of Pirsig’s work is that the way we see the “big picture” is governed by our aesthetic sense. Part of being human is to be unhappy with the aesthetic of the world as it is. We build. We landscape. We're not happy with the cruel nature of the real world. It makes better aesthetic sense that the Universe is somehow kind to “good people” and gets even with “bad people”. It feels better that there is a meaning behind everything that happens, even if it’s not immediately plain what that meaning is. The result is that we want to live in an aesthetically pleasing world and we strongly resist any outside force that makes the world seem aesthetically less pleasing (such as a Godless, meaningless world).

Arguments about the “existence of God” or the “Truth of the Bible” are arguments about aesthetics and therefore pointless, like the argument over favourite colors. Believers often talk about the beauty of nature convincing them of the existence of God. But beauty is obviously an aesthetic judgment. I submit that God is, too. A world without God offends our aesthetic sense. We're likely to insert him into our internal picture of the world to make the world look "right".

This process is quite natural and it occurs in Science as well as Religion. For example, the earth-centered universe made sense to Ptolomy and he went to great lengths tinkering with the orbits of the planets which "must" be based on circles (a "perfect" shape). It's not hard at all to see the world the way Ptolomy saw it. For us, the sun still "rises" and "sets". More obscure examples of this can be found in phlogiston, the fictitous "substance" of fire and the "aether", the equally fictitious substance that pervaded the Universe and served as the stuff that "waved" when light waves travelled through space. These ideas slipped in to our thought without much examination as scaffolding for our thinking.

One of the most common current concepts along these lines is the idea of the "soul", which is pictured as a kind of thing or substance that houses the essence of what we are. This idea supports all kinds of related ideas that make the universe more aesthetically pleasing. Once you have a "thing" like this, you can imagine it invisibly migrating to a higher reality or moving from body to body over the ages, straightening out the the injustices of the "real world" as it goes along.

A much more plausible analogy would be to see the "soul" as a process like a waterfall, but this does not lend itself to all the aesthetic corrections we can make with the "solid soul".

Whether you believe in God and/or soul or not, it's important to understand the role of your personal aesthetic sense plays in the way you see the world.


At August 08, 2004 10:58 PM, Blogger somethingh4x said...

I took a good read through your blog and I really enjoyed all of your articles.

In reference to my Windows bashing, its to be taken as frustrations. I understand the difficulty for Microsoft in maintaining a secure Operating system when they are the largest distributor in the market. There's a lot more people out to crack windows, and script kitties to hack up IE scripts, then there is Linux junkies to screw around with your box. I do take account, and respect your years ahead of myself as a programmer, however I disagree that Windows is a more stable OS. Linux has never crashed on me, and despite windows XP is quite stable, I find it does thave the tendency to implode when enough spyware hits it - thats a big problem that will hopefully be solved in sp2.

The portability and open source nature of Linux I find more appealing than windows. For instance, I can recompile linux to 64 bit on my computer, i can also run it on my mac laptop as a PPC. I agree, setting up linux can give you stress.. ive spend almost as much time doing linux installs as I have playing games on windows. Again, I find myself learning more about computers in linux, where as in windows or "wintendo" as I call it - i find it more of an amusement park for retards.

The operating system itself is completely overpriced as well. Windows XP home edition sells for nearly 300 dollars, and Pro, 400. This is years after its release still! MacOSX, full version, is 180 dollars or less. I love my Mac, sure its caused its weird share of problems, the odd freeze here and there, but when it locks up, its only the application. Windows xp seems to enjoy dedicating al the processor resources to that single application while you trying to solve the problem goes to shit.

Windows is probably what i spend the MAJORITY of my time using on my computer. The reason for that is simply - it just works. Compatibility wise with my hardware and my software. The next desktop I plan to buy however, is a G5. Applications like Xcode come onthe mac for free, and are great dev tools - windows charges you an arm and a leg again just to get a c++ compiler.

Needless to say windows XP / 2000 are the only two existing windows os's to date that are worth half a damn. 98 doesnt know a driver from my left nut, and ME, well cmon admit it.. ME is ME.. its just.. bad.

Your points are valid, however, you say that microsoft has good support - I dont know anyone that has ever used microsoft support at home. So the support is no good when most people dont know about it.

Windows needs to tune up the install, to give the user more configurations (maybe even a network install to upgrade as you install?)

As well, windows needs to teach users, or create a system that will enable the user to use windows NOT in administrator mode!

It defaults the first user as an administrator! most users dont know this is the first step to getting completely ripped apart by spyware / trojans.

Im not quite sure what else there is to say about my distaste towards the OS.. .in spite of my use of it.


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