Philosophy

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Why Do Animals Have Four Legs?

All terrestrial vertebrate animals have four limbs (plus head and tail), except for snakes, who used to have them, but lost them again through evolution. But why do they have four limbs?

Evolutionary biologists will answer the question without answering it. They will explain that terrestrial vertebrates descended from a fish-like ancestor that had four limbs. C’est tout. But this answer does not satisfy. The answer insinuates evolution works at random, with no regard for form...

On Language Versus Metaphor

Ohhh ... Alright ... (1964) by Roy Liechtenstein

Similar to the chicken or egg problem, which came first, language or metaphor? The classic book Metaphors We Live By (1980) by Lakoff and Johnson explores how metaphors shape our understanding of the world, because they help us understand one thing in terms of another. The authors provide many examples, such as Time is Money or Life is Hard. But they do not explore the origin of metaphors. What was the evolutionary advantage to think about the world in terms of metaphors?...

Getting What We Want from Life

As newborn babies we rely on our parents’ ability and willingness to provide for us. We’re at their mercy. All children come into this world equipped with the social skills needed to secure the shelter and safety they need for their survival. A baby’s silky skin communicates it needs gentle touches. Babies’ cries signal hurt, danger, hunger or loneliness. Children have real needs and parents must find ways to meet them. In turn, children quickly learn to psychologically reward...

The Skill to Learn Any Skill

If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But if we overestimate him [then] we promote him to what he really can be. (Victor Frankl)

Reflecting on a decade of my professional life, I find that I accumulated many different skills. My various endeavors often had little relation to one another. But the one thing I did do consistently and continuously was learning the skill to learn any skill. In this article I’d like to share with you my understanding so far....

The Value of Human Dignity is Priceless

A butcher shop in Amsterdam around the corner from where I used to live has a small sign behind the counter. The sign reads:

Due to a shortage of personnel actual people work here. Be careful with them, they are very rare.

Every CEO in the whole world should put that sign on their desks right now. The problems we face in the world are never technical, but they are always...

The Moral Temperature

All Morals Come from Mutually Beneficial Behavior

Where do morals come from? For Christians, morals come from divine law, which implies that what is good or evil is the arbitrary decision of a central authority or “God”. In Confucianist spirituality, which offers no place for a central authority or “God”, morals stem from the social relationships between people - impossible, according to Western religion. But Confucianists are closest to the truth: human moral, what is right or wrong, comes from mutually beneficial behavior.

Two people who agree...

First World Pecking Order

Why Immigrants to the West Often Feel Discriminated

Immigrants coming to the First World, the West, often feel discriminated. In their own view, they fell discriminated against on the basis of the color of their skin. A complaint often heard goes that Western societies look at what immigrants can’t do, rather than what they can do. 

The truth, however, may be diametrically different. Most Western societies—whether or not founded upon democratic principles of equality, rule of law and economic freedom—tend to be governed by steep social...

Words of Wisdom

Two Profound Insights Taught by Steve Jobs

When asked if the societal impact of Apple’s inventions resembles a new Renaissance, Steve Jobs answered his work resembles nothing like it. The tech industry is such a unique one that whether writing code or making hardware your work will be obsolete within a decade. “Everything I’ve ever done will be obsolete by the time I’m 50.” In the same interview Jobs is asked about his view of the world. When we are born into this world we are told “this is how the world works”. Job’s counters that idea...

Chasing Meaning

Why Stress is Good for You

Rodin & Renoir by Frank M. Rafik, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Psychologist Kelly McGonical explains in her TED Talk why stress can be good for you. In her final remarks she recommends to “chase meaning in your life and accept the stress that comes with it.”

McGonical, game theorist Jane McGonical’s twin sister, may...