Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Occam's Razor

After a childhood nurtured by the Methodist Church as it was incarnated in Raleigh, NC during the era of racial segregation, I went off to UNC-Chapel Hill. My first year I started handing out pamphlets for the Student Peace Union, a tiny group of students who wanted to "ban the bomb." This group eventually became local leaders in the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill, which reached a kind of climax when a sit-in was held in the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce.

I dropped out of school in the fall of '63, and happened to be riding between Durham and Chapel Hill when the radio gave out the news that Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. In December I was sitting on a park bench at the old Capitol Building in Raleigh watching a Klan Rally in full regalia march past, something I didn't know was going to happen. I'd just gone down there to look at the monuments to the Civil War and toss peanuts at the squirrels. When I went back to Chapel Hill for the Spring Term, I started my study of philosophy. Mostly, philosophers tend to deride religious thinkers as a muddled lot. And indeed, it is hard to see why God is required for the practice of a moral life. What does God add? And what does the carrot/stick approach of heaven or hell add to the moral choice. Isn't "doing good" because otherwise you'll "go to hell" a way of coercion rather than of encouraging moral action and principle. And if an action is coerced, isn't its morality thereby diminished, if not destroyed.

This is Occam's Razor in action. And as a matter of personal fact, I do believe Occam's Razor is the best touchstone. However, the other day, when I used a picture of Ganesh to head my post about the Affordable Care Act, the picture itself spurred me to find out a bit about Ganesh, the Hindu deity which was omnipresent as Libby strolled around Bangalore recovering from her eye surgery.

I found out a few things. A tiny few admittedly. If you want to go follow the way of Ganesh after reading this, you will have a long path. But here are the few things.

Ganesh is the deity who overcomes obstacles. In order to do this, Ganesh rides a mouse. Why? Because a mouse can go anywhere. Thus, Ganesh's mount makes his power pervasive. I ask you, I dare you. Apply Occam's Razor to this! And this wonderful fact is but the tiny first step. The best is next.

Where, you may ask, does Ganesh originate? The answer is most wonderful. Ganesh originated in Shiva's laughter.

Here is Ganesh dancing (one of Shiva's favorite activities). His mouse is at the bottom if you look carefully:

There is the poetic way of thought, and the mathematical. There is the appollonian and the dionysian. As Wittgenstein said, the world is all that is the case. Herr Ludwig said much more, but I'll stop there.

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