Theists, Agnostics, and Atheists, OH MY!

Your Rent-A-Friend starts a long walk through the Metaphysical Map starting with God. When it comes to God, there are only three positions anyone can take: They know He’s there, they don’t know, they pretend He isn’t. Every religion on earth, from Atheism to Zen fits in here somewhere. But your view of the world will remain cloudy, and your metaphysical map will lead you astray unless you begin with the true God, Jesus Christ.

Come Learn stuff, and get Smarter! And thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.

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I Think, Therefore I Scribble (Or: Cogito, Ergo Ducky)

Your Rent A Friend is Listening to The Fall, by Nora Jones.

His mood is… too tired to go chasing pirates.

I think, therefore I am. How about you? Do you think? If not, what makes you think you exist? Oh, I guess if you thought you existed, that would be you thinking. It was a silly question anyway. I guess what I’m getting at is the fact that you’ve probably heard this phrase before: “I think, Therefore I am” (Or, in the original French, “Cogito, Ergo Sum,” and in Pig Latin “Iway inkthay, ereforethay Iway amway.”). But have you ever wondered where it came from? Good thing you have a Rent A Friend like yours truly to clear up the vast mysteries.

Actually “Cogito, Ergo Sum” is Latin, but the guy who made this phrase popular was French. His name was Rene’ Descartes, and he was trying to find a way to reduce philosophy to the most basic of self-evident premises. It doesn’t get any more basic than realizing that you exist. If you need a lot of evidence to believe that you exist, just give up. You’re never going to be anything but a skeptic.
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Is there a Ducky in Pascal’s Box?

Your Rent a Friend is listening to Dashboard Confessional

His mood is negatively effected by cheap French Onion Soup

Are you a gambler? Do you love the thrill of tossing those dice, spinning that wheel or pulling the leaver? Are you, like me, seriously disappointed by the new slot machines where you push a button? I mean, seriously! Push a button? Pulling the leaver is half of the fun! Where else in life do you get to pull a leaver anymore? Maybe if you’re a mad scientist creating a monster in a lightning storm, but for the rest of us (Or mad scientists in nice weather I suppose) we want the leaver! Don’t take away the only interaction I have before my money disappears forever! I want a leaver to pull and spinning pictures of fruit! I’d get that feature in my next car if it were available.I myself am not really a gambling man. The primary reason is this: I will always lose. You’re better off betting against me than against the Chicago Cubs. If there are dice in my hands, I am going to lose. I think it’s my spiritual gift. Which brings me to today’s topic. What if I could offer you a bet with a certain and amazing pay off?  Yes, you have to pay in at the front, but you can’t lose anything, and you have the chance of winning vastly more than you can possibly imagine. Sound good? Let me give you a metaphor: “Is There a Ducky?”!
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Brain Fat and the Metaphysical Nickel

Your Rent a Friend is listening to: Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

His Mood is: A little frazzled, a little swingin’ (Which is better than just frazzled)

In order to wrap up our journey across the Metaphysical Map, it is time for us to take a walk around Belief and Knowledge. Get your metaphysical shoes on, strap on your backpack of previous knowledge, and bring some philosophical bug repellant. When we get there, we’ll make hypothetical S’mores!

Let’s recap where we’ve been: GOD creates reality, which includes rubber ducks. I see the rubber duck, and I see it as yellow, which it really is, so what I see is the truth. I have “The Rubber Duck Experience,” which I think was the name of a Jimi Hendrix album. Or it should have been.

My experience of the ducky is now processed in my mind. My experience is chewed thoroughly by the teeth of reason. Reason asks WHY? and HOW? And if it’s classically trained and well versed in Shakespeare, Wherefore art Thou? And then my logic licks the sides of my experience for those tiny flavors of intangible truth which can be discovered with WHAT IF? And then, when I have made connections and met categorical boundaries and defined things according to context and previous experience, my brain takes the step of Faith and swallows my experience so that it can be digested in my memory and metabolized into the muscle of intellect and the fat of useless knowledge which only gets recalled while playing Trivial Pursuit.
If you’ve heard this metaphor word-picture before, I’ll give you a dollar. Suffice it to say, I could continue the metaphor, but let’s all be glad that I did not. It would have used the phrase “Brain Fart.” But I have more class than that.
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The Duck is on the Floor

A friend and I were walking down the street in the heart of Chicago, headed to find some food. Finding food is one of a very few selected reasons to be on the street in Chicago after dark, especially in the winter when the temperature drops low enough to cause all life functions to cease and then to be blown away in the hurricane-like winds that roar through the ice-crusted buildings. The other reason is to find entertainment, like the plethora of small theaters where actual actors stand on an actual stage and recite memorized lines. Or they drink beer and make it up as they go. I’ve been to both kinds of theatre in Chicago and the lesson there is: you get what you pay for.

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Text Without Context is Pretext for Proof Text (And a Person’s a Person no matter how Small)

Hold onto your hats! I, your Rent a Friend, have just made an amazing discovery which will shift the balance of religious debates forever! I was considering the declaration of such people as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) of there being NO God. As a Christian I know the Bible is completely true and free of errors, so I did a quick search on to see what the Bible says about that. And you know what I found? The Bible says “There is no God!” It says it fifteen times!

You think I’m lying. Well, let me quote you few verses:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “There is no god…”

2Samuel 7:22 “…there is no God…”

Psalm 14:1 “…there is no God.”

Over and Over! You think I’m messing with you? You think I made these up? On the contrary. These verses are in no way altered from the original! I looked it up, and then I coped and pasted it here! Have I just BLOWN YOUR MIND?!?!?!

Some of you are probably asking what I’ve left out. And that is an excellent question which brings us to my topic for the day: CONTEXT. When searching for truth in words or the universe around you, the CONTEXT is an important starting point. The Context is, in short, the big picture- the when, where, why, and who which will make clear sense out of the ideas, facts, or events being investigated. In my quotes above, for instance, I’ve left out a little context. When you put it back in, you find the first verse is God saying “There is no god BESIDES ME,” and the next is someone saying to God, “There is no God BUT YOU.” The best one here is Psalm 14:1 “The FOOL says in his heart, “There is no God.”” A little bit of context changes things a bit, wouldn’t you say?

Sorry Richard Dawkins. I guess I can’t help you after all.

Let us now consider the Metaphysical Duck. Our ducky is a small yellow rubber ducky. Suppose I am holding him as I’m typing and I write, “I am holding the ducky right now.” However, you don’t get around to reading this for weeks later. By then, not only am I NOT holding the ducky, but I can’t even find him since having done laundry. He’s lost under the pile of clean clothes that I am lax in putting away. So, is the statement TRUE or FALSE? In order to decide, you must consider the CONTEXT. The context of the statement was the time at which the statement was written. It does not say I am ALWAYS holding the ducky, it only says I am holding him “right now” with the understood context to imply that “right now” tells us that, at the time of the writing of that sentence, I was holding the ducky. It does not say anything about the time AFTER the writing of that sentence.

Similarly, if I were to say “Ronald Regan is the president of the United States,” this would be false because I am saying it NOW, in 2010. If I found that exact same statement having been said or written in 1983, it would be true because the statement IMPLIES the time. The time at which something was said or written, and the person who said or wrote it is its context. Without the context, there is no way to determine if the statement is true of false.

Another piece of CONTEXT is Prior Knowledge- the things you have already learned. Consider this statement: “MY rubber duck is exceptionally large!” IS this true or false? If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know the ducky of which I speak to be around 4 inches tall. This doesn’t answer the question, but it helps. If you also know how big an average rubber ducky is (between 3-5 inches tall), you will know that, in the context of typical rubber ducks, my statement is false. If aliens somehow have transformed him into an 80 foot tall mecha-ducky, we could all agree in THAT context that he was exceptionally large, and fairly likely at some point to wind up fighting with the Power Rangers.

Here is the trouble with some words. How big is “Large”? Is it 200 pounds? Is it six miles? Is it twenty five liters? $4,000? There is no answer to that, because it is a term relative to the context. Compared to the starting lineup for the Miami Dolphins, my ducky is VERY SMALL. Compared to a dust mite, he is HUGE. Thus it is the responsibility of both the speaker/writer to convey the context clearly and the listener/reader to discover the context. Without an understanding of CONTEXT there is much which cannot be determined to be true or false. I think you’ll find that lots of arguments are really based on this misunderstanding. Just listen to anyone arguing about which of two movies is BETTER. Do they mean, “Better at showing alien heads exploding?” or “Better at not whipping the camera around until I want to hurl,” or “Better at making me laugh with inappropriate sound effects,” or “Better at bringing in ridiculous amounts of money at the box office,”? Most of the time people will rant and rave at each other about which is BETTER without ever defining the context of BETTER AT WHAT?

I think we could avoid a lot of angry cafeteria fights (And probably most of those Political News shows) if everyone spent more time defining their context and less time assuming what it might be. One thing which is true no matter who you are or when it happens is this: If you spend an hour fighting with someone, using all of your reasoning skills and college style vocabulary words to demolish their position, but then you both find that you actually agree but simply had no idea what the other person was talking about, you are going to feel REALLY stupid. In this context, I’d like to suggest that maybe listening is better.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what the title of this post means (Text without Context is Pretext for Prooftext), it simply means this: Scripture without context will be used by people to try and get the Bible to say whatever they want it to say, instead of (With context) what it actually says. But as Dr Seuss taught us, everything is more fun to learn when it rhymes.

The Nerd to MetaDucky Dictionary

Greetings fellow Philosophers! This is your Rent-A-Friend with today’s Metaphysical lesson. First off, I need to tell you what Metaphysical means. I was talking to my suave and cool friend, Bert and I told him about this blog. He said, “What’s it about?” and I said, “Metaphysics.” He replied, “I don’t even know what that means.” And I thought, of course he doesn’t. He isn’t a nerd.

Don’t worry, I know you aren’t either. Someday, thanks to friends like me (Rented or otherwise), cool, good looking people like you will know all the wild stuff nerds have been hording for themselves. To start with, META is a Greek prefix (It goes at the start of a word) that means After, or Beyond. Chemistry asks “What’s it made of?” Physics asks “What does it do?Metaphysics asks “Why is it and why does it do what it does?
In short- BEYOND Physics is Metaphysics. So, let’s go beyond! Today I’m just offering you the basic definitions. Nothing fancy. In the near future I’ll get into details. This is a reference for those of you looking to understand your rubber ducks. Metaphorically speaking.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Keep this in the Glove Compartment

GOD– Eternal, all powerful, self-existent, Creator of the universe and all things physical and spiritual.
God is (More or less indirectly) the cause and ruler of all rubber duckies.

Reality– God and his creation. Includes the physical universe, time/space, spiritual creations, events and all of the properties of God and his creation.
Anything Real, including rubber duckies (does NOT include the ducky in your dreams)

Context– The real facts surrounding a piece of data; the culture, language, time, place, etc. in which words, thoughts, or perceptions exist.
For example, when and where your rubber duck is while you ponder it.

Prior Knowledge
– Those pieces of information already in the mind of an observer- not necessarily accurate.
Any previous experience you may have had with your rubber ducky, or any knowledge you already have about rubber, ducks, or the color yellow before you come to ponder your ducky.

– The five senses gathering information about reality through contact with it (eyes, ears, nose, skin, brain, etc.).
Looking at your ducky, smelling it, tasting it, feeling it, or, in select special cases, reaching out to it with the Force™.

Truth– Word, thought, or picture accurately reflecting reality (in as far as the word, thought or picture intends to reflect it).
What you say about the ducky describes the actual ducky with no inaccuracies. Rubber ducks don’t like being lied about. But who does?

– Word, thought, or picture NOT accurately reflecting reality. i.e.- a lie.
For instance, if you call your rubber ducky a plastic chicken. It’s close, but wrong, and it will not make them happy. Again, would you like to be called a plastic chicken?
I didn’t think so.

– Total perception over some period of time, and internal response to perceptions (Physical, Mental, and Emotional).
As Bob Dylan used to say, “You need to do more than just know about the ducky. You have to Experience the ducky, man!”

– The mental attempt to answer “Why?” Experiences are compared to find predictive patterns for causation of perceptions/experiences in the context of prior knowledge.
For instance- “Why is the ducky Yellow? Why is he not  Puce, Chartreuse, Cyan, Fuchsia, or any of the other colors that are only used by artsy weirdos that normal people couldn’t identify in a police line up with the three little pigs? ”

Logic– The mental exercise of using reason to discover truth by creating links of causation, meaning, or categories of definition for things, ideas, events, etc. Most often related to the art of argumentation. Goes beyond reason by going beyond perception, experience or prior knowledge.
For instance, “If the ducky was blue, could it be argued that it would be sold for more money to the same target demographic as a yellow ducky? What about if he doubled as an MP3 player?”

– The will, choice, or hope to embrace something as truth.
“If I put my ducky on the couch, I have faith that my cat will not eat him. I don’t have the same amount of faith in my dog.”

– An idea embraced as truth through faith
“I believe that, when I squeeze him, rubber ducky makes noise.”

Knowledge– Ideas believed to be truth because of faith, logic, reason, or education.
“Rubber Ducky, I know I am awfully fond of you.”

– A statement proposed as Truth either about a thing observed, or about the observer’s response to the thing observed.
“My rubber duck is the cutest rubber duck of all.”

Self Awareness– A sentient being’s ability to perceive and analyze his own perceptions, thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs and self awareness.
“I am aware of my feelings of fondness for my rubber ducky as they pertain to the time of bathing.”

Rubber Ducky
– A metaphysical point of philosophical discourse comprised of the sap of the rubber tree, formed in the likeness of a species in the Anatidae family of birds, which is known for making bath-time lots of fun. (See also “Joy of Joys.”)

OK, that’s all you need for now. Next time I’ll start breaking these babies down for you one at a time. You’ll be able to chat with the nerds almost like you’re one of them soon enough, except that you’ll look debonair.

You’re welcome.

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