Tag Archives: reality

Cute: A Conspiracy Theory?

I’m always interested in the presence of abstracts in reality. I touched on this with my question of good and bad in my last post, but I come back around to it this week. (Because midnight and the end of Monday looms? We shall never know).

The question turning over in my mind right now regards cuteness. What makes something “cute?”

This idea was put to me in, I kid you not, honors Philosophy 101 my first semester of college. Of course, the prof didn’t use such a useful object for consideration. Instead, he presented the question of abstracts by means of a table.

We all know what a table is. What it looks like. We can consciously picture one if we try. And we could all definitely spot one from a hundred yards and say, without doubt, that it is neither a chair, nor a flamingo, a slide, or a plate. It’s a table.

But what makes it a table? Is it what it is made of? Wood or other materials? (So are chairs and some plates.) Is it what it has? A flat surface and legs? (So does a chair and a slide.) Is it what it does? Something you eat off of? (Like a plate or a very confused flamingo.)

The point is that in reality, any of us could see an object and correctly identify if it was a table as opposed to, say, a pink, stupid-looking bird. This is because (and I think this is from Plato, but I’ll defer to my philosophy-buff fellow writers, who’re probably fully erect right now because I said philosophy and abstract in the same post) we each have an abstract idea of what a table is. Without having to picture a distinct table. We know what a table is. Unassailably.

Back to my question. Forget the stuffy table example. Forget Philosophy 101 (erections drooping, I know). Back to cute.

I’ll ask again. What makes something “cute?”

Let’s start with an unassailable, we-may-even-rightly-call-it-borderline-abstract example of cuteness:

baby tails

This is a picture of my dog, Tails, when he was a 3-month-old puppy. No one, and I mean no one could argue that he’s not cute. Look at him. (To put it in perspective, that orange toy, Mr. Binky, is about 4 inches tall.) He is A-dor-a-ble. And cute.

But this post isn’t about a gushing dog owner’s infatuation with his pooch. It’s about understanding the greater depths of thoughts. About pushing boundaries.

So, as I was sitting here, thinking about what to write, I looked at Tails and thought, “why is he so cute?”

Bear in mind, he’s now over a year old and looks like this (still pretty cute, I think).

older tailsSo, while I can admit that he’s not as cute now, my question remains. What makes something “cute?” We have an abstract sense of cuteness. We can judge cuteness in variable spectra (e.g. “Tails was cuter as a puppy, but still cute as an adult”).

But would I know cute if it walked up and smacked me in the face?

Can I see what cute is? What it does? How it’s used? What it looks like?

Cute, unlike the easy table example my philosophy prof used, is even more abstract. But no less important.

I offer this post as a chance to wake up to the abstracts that surround each of us. Recognize the cute things around you today. Or the beautiful things. Or the any-number-of-other-adjectives-things.

Abstracts, they’re all around you. And you didn’t even know it.

davidrsheehan is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog. You can also tweet directly with him: davidrsheehan. He is happy to provide more cute pictures of his silly dog Tails, if anyone would like to counter his statement that Tails is unassailably cute.

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Filed under philosophy

Testing The Law Of Attraction

In recent years, several aspects of new age philosophy have permeated the mainstream, with such popular films as The Secret (2006) and What The Bleep Do We Know? (2004).  I feel that the most influential idea of these films is the Law of Attraction, a notion that we draw to ourselves that which we are thinking about.  If we focus on negativity, we will draw more of it into our lives, the hypothesis goes.  For instance, if we fixate on our fears of being late to work, or of a particular co- worker’s harassment, we’re likely to manifest more of the same.  In What The Bleep, quantum physics is used to explain, over a flashy techno soundtrack, how individual and group consciousness can affect reality.  Could this be possible?  Simply by focusing on our desires, could we draw them to ourselves?  Do we truly create  our own reality, every day, from the power of our thoughts?

Ideas like this are appealing for one very obvious reason.  People commonly feel a loss of control over their lives, as if things just happen to them.  They keep winding up in the same sorts of relationships, ending up in the same dead end jobs, suffering from the same problems.  It’s empowering to consider the idea that we can change all of this with the power of our thoughts, and little else. 

To an extent, it is logical to assume we have some control over our lives and can exert that power through a sort of thought- shaping.  As expressed in The Dhammapada, the Sayings of the Buddha:

“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unbreakable.”

I feel this is a sensible assertion, because one who is focusing on grievances against the world is likely to attract more negativity and more unpleasantness.  It’s obvious why this would work on a smaller scale.  Surely acting cheerful, businesslike, or angry will cause others to respond to you accordingly.  That’s not magic, but simply the ability of human beings to respond to social cues.  And yet, how far are we to take this notion?  Could this whole idea work on a much larger scale, granting us our heart’s desires, as claimed in The Secret, purely by focusing our attention?

On the one hand, believing that this is true would seem at least slightly delusional.  It is essentially magical thinking, which, in anthropology, psychology, and cognitive science is “nonscientific causal reasoning that often includes such ideas as the ability of the mind to affect the physical world, and correlation mistaken for causation.”  It’s been my experience that cultivating such misguided thinking is a very detrimental habit.

Testing this hypothesis is also incredibly difficult.  It’s absolutely true that most people go about their lives in a relatively unfocused state.  In attempting to test the Law of Attraction, I found it very difficult to focus intensively on a mental picture of what I wanted to attract.  In trying to do so, I rediscovered the importance of ritual.  Through ritual’s symbolic acts, a person can work their desire into their consciousness and really focus on it intently for a period of time.  If you want a new house, for instance, make a cardboard model of it and view it nightly in some sort of ceremony.  Whether you want to lose weight, conceive a child, find friends in your new neighborhood, or achieve a promotion at work, a symbolic act would allow you to better focus your attentions, your “energy”, if you will, on that goal.  Such is the premise behind spellwork and magic as it continues into the modern age.  The Secret recommends that you create a “vision board” for your goals.  This is a collage comprised of pictures representing what you would like to draw into your life, which would then serve as a focal point for your efforts.

It’s clear that ritual and ceremony can help us to clarify a mental picture of what we wish to attract to ourselves.  And yet, after doing so, could we safely believe that our action had manifested our desire?  As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to tell. 

And so, I ask my readers, how would you test this hypothesis?

Soahki is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

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Filed under philosophy, science