Top Ten philosophical issues of the 21st Century

According to Standford philosophers John Perry and Ken Taylor, and guests Brian Leiter, Jenann Ismael, and Martha Nussbaum on the 200th episode of Philosopher Talk

10. Finding a new basis for common sensibilities and common values.
The world is more economically interconnected than it has ever been. But it still seethes with divisions and social fragmentation. Can we find a new basis for shared values that will bring us together rather than tear us apart?

9. Finding a new basis for social identification.
Distant and powerful forces, not answerable to local communities, shape so much of our lives. Howcan we sustain local communities, communities with which we can identify? Or is the very idea of a local community an outmoded parochial idea suited only to centuries gone by?

8. The Mind-Body problem.
Neuroscience is revealing so much about the brain. Does this new knowledge solve age-old mysteries of the mind? Or does it reduce the mind to mere dumb matter and rob us of what we once thought was so special about us?

7. Can freedom survive the onslaught of science?
Science, especially neuroscience, is revealing more and more about the true workings of the mind, threatening to explode our ancient beliefs about things like the freedom of the will. Can traditional practices that presuppose human freedom survive this scientific onslaught? If we are not really free is it really permissible to punish people, and even put them to death, for their wrongful acts?

6. Information and misinformation in the information age.
The 21st century threatens to wreak havoc on the social organization of information and knowledge. We are awash in a glut of information coming at us from all sources — some reliable, some unreliable. But the old top-down authorities that once functioned to certify some information as true and other information as false, are quickly being dismantled. How can we distinguish the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff? We philosophers for a new century thus face epistemological problems hardly imagined by our predecessors.

5. Intellectual property, in the age of re-mix culture.
Ideas now spread like wildfire — mixing and re-mixing in the blink of an eye. Can the very idea of intellectual property survive in the age of re-mix? Are outmoded ideas of property stifling the growth of a new culture?

4. New models of collective decision making and collective rationality.
Solving the problems of the 21st Century will require coordinated rational action on a massive scale. But we really have no models of collective rationality, no idea of the institutional, social, political and economic structures that will allow us to meet these challenges. Can philosophers help build them in time to guide us in meeting the challenges of this century?

3. What is a person?
WIth the rise of cloning,designer babies, and drugs that can alter one’s personality, enhance one’s memory, or make one smarter, we may be forced to rethink the very idea of human person. What exactly is a human person, when every aspect of our biological and genetic and psychological make-up can be manipulated at will? What, if any, part of a person is fixed and unchanging?

2. Humans and the environment.
What relationship should humans have to the environment? Are we called to be stewards of the environment? Or is the environment just there for our exploitation and use? Never in the history of humankind have such questions been so pressing. But we have barely begun to think about them in a systematic philosophical way.

And the number one philosophical problem for the 21st Century:

1. Global Justice.

What new principles of justice will help us manage distinctively 21st Century problems like preserving the environment while allowing the poorer nations of the world to improve their standards of living? The philosophy of the past has given no real models for answering such questions. It is urgent that philosopher of the 21st century do so.

I got a strong view on number 10 and 7. scatted thoughts on some others.
I will write it up when i get the chance.
We dont need free willOn freedom and My world view is a snippet what i think about free will and justice. Both post are underdeveloped and needs to be rewritten though.


Blog Categorized

Spent the weekend and a bit recategorized all my past post.

Politics (74)
Society (56)
Neo*utO (40)
Links (27)
Economics & Business (23)
Science & Technology (19)
Philosophy (15)
Film (12)
Stuff (3)

Unsurprisingly, Politics has the most posts, as i write a lot about election engineering, domestic politics and international politics.

Check them out.

Ansels’ Blog

Those of you who reads Chinese, check out Ansels’ blog its full of interest short stories to read.

I find this one though provoking:



continue to read the rest



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

written by William Ernest Henley in 1875 on hospital bed being treated for tuberculosis.

Invictus is also the title of Clint Eastwood’s film on Nelson Mandela’s effort to heal a nervous post-apartheid South Africa through Rugby.

I saw Invictus last night. It is now my favorite sports movie, but it is so much more than a sports movie, its a historic narrative, its a political drama and as a Taiwanese its serves as a mirror to post Chiang reconciliation. Probably because of my background in political science, i am tremendously moved by it. I recommend study up on South African Apartheid history or watch Apartheid movies like Cry Freedom before walking into a theater for the full force of Invictus.

We dont need free will

Reading Stephen Pinkers’ “How the Mind Works”,
in its first chapter, before starting to explain how mind works he tries to preempt the use of his work to justified immoral behavior by claiming that understanding the physical condition that necessitate an immoral act does not mean the said acts are justified. He wrote “A human being is simultaneously a machine and a sentient free agent…”. He did not stray away from the view that free will is necessary for discussion of morality, law and punishment. in fact it seems that he went out of his way to show that the idea of free will is still intact even if science has proof it is an illusion.

This protection of free will comes from the believe that our justice system cannot function without it. in the sense that free will allow us to punish people who commit crime and reward people for their good deeds. without free will there will be no agent to punish or reward.

I disagree. I do not believe that free will is needed for a functional justice system.
Criminals dont have to be met with punishment because they deserve it, but because our society collectively decide thought democratic process to raise the cost of acts they committed. Punishment become not a form of revenge, but an incurred cost to prevent occurrence of socially undesirable act.

Indeed, it is the rejection of the notion that people are free, and they comment crime because they are evil; and the acceptance of people commit crime because their behaviors system demands it under certain circumstances, can we look beyond punishment as the only preventive tool but a tool among many.

We can look at what causes a criminals’ behaviors system to grown to such a state that will act criminally where others wont and seek to neutralize those causes. Those causes will come in forms of how is build up by the accumulated interaction between genes and the environment (parenting, schooling, memes, culture, society in general). Understanding those cause, will lead to innovative solutions that may involve better parenting education, better education system, legal systems and other current unknown factors.

Acknowledging free will as an illusion, demystify human thought and open up possibility for new crime prevention strategy. Free will, I believe, we are better off without it.

Favorite films of 2009

Top 6 films of 2009 (because i cant make up my mind on top 5)

My best cinematic experience in recent memory. I was critical of James Cameron’s previous work because i felt that it was simply the result of lots money thrown into making a genre typical movie, and a genre with proposition that i do not like, namely dating a young handsome guy is romantic and older rich guy is cynical. Avatar is similar in a way that its also lots of money thrown into a familiar story, but the world Cameron envision is so attractive and his means of delivering his envision so immersive, i helplessly felt in love with it.
There are weakness in Avatar. The culture of the human race was unconvincing. Human that live long enough to develop the advanced technology to reach Pandora would not behave in such crude belligerent manner. I understand the  anti military privatization/resource imperialism message that Cameron want to use to help people relate, but i selfishly hope that those problem no long plague human civilization in 2154. Other weakness are insignificant enough to warrant a mention here.

District 9
I felt like District 9 is Avatar’s more brutal more mature but cheaper made sibling. With similar human abusing alien then found humanity in aliens theme but far more powerful than Avatar in its ability to force us into repentance about our action towards each other (racism) and towards other species (speciesism), both individually and collectively.

What a heart warmer, tear jerker of a movie is Up. I absolutely adores it. the screen play is efficient, character are lovable, and montage are insanely effective. There is something about delivering simple emotions through animated characters thats is very effective (counter intuitive, i know). Its probably because the cast is as good as the animator can make it (unlike with human actors, where you have to scout for someone with the closest resemblance and settle on less than perfect) and; there is no preexist impression on any of the cast to interfer with effective performance, because they there are completely new. Animated characters will probably have problem with coveting nuanced or ambiguous emotions. *spoiler alert* only complaint i have is the scene where Muntz got stuck on too few balloons, suggesting death is either contradicting the nature of the story, or ineffectively executed if the director is meant to show that Muntz got drop off the house safely.

Inglourious Basterds

If terrorism, suicide bombing and inhuman treatment is ever justified, its when used against Hitler’s Nazi. In my book this movie made the best case for aforementioned acts. Quentin Tarentino did it with great dialog, character and pace. Best supporting actor of the year belongs to Christoph Waltz (A.K.A Col. Hans Landa) for its gripping performance in English, German, Italian and French.

The Hurt Locker
Gripping, heart wrenching, unpredictable, surprise use of actors and i cant remember the last time i was kept at the edge of my sit like the way this movie does it in recent memory.

500 days of summer
Innovative screenplay on the ageless theme of ordinary boy meets Indie dream girl. I really liked its play on cynicism vs. faith-in-true-love.

Honorable mention
Synecdoche, New York – Glorious, ambitious and original piece of art, but too hard on the audience perhaps.

Let the Right One In – Original melodramatic take on the vampire genre.

This is it – Intimate insight into the creative process of an genius, however limited by the death of its main character.

In the loop – Witty hit job on the bureaucrats in the 10 Downing st and White House.

Ponyo – Sweet and imaginative fairy tale, I heart it.

Infuriating Movies
The September issue – Vogue infomercial / Anna Wintour cult worshiping that i got scam into watching. The possibility that some reviewer rated this movie favorably to get on Wintours/vogues good side disgusts me. This documentary needs to show more intimate insights like This Is It. A total waste of an good premise.

Red Cliff 1&2 – Inadequate character/background building, unconvincing depiction of originals battle wits, alter the original story for the worse and crappy acting. John Woo successfully turned a Chinese classic into a mindless action flick.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
– last years movie i saw this year. arch-typical character and story annoys me so much i wrote this in response.

Blood: The Last Vampire – Shitty even if its reviewed as an genre film.

Twilight: New Moon – No one consequential in the making of this movie took their job seriously. I mean no filme makers serious attempt can be this bad.