Monday, August 30, 2010

The arbitrariness argument

Recently came across the Euthyphro dilemma while reading about the Ontological argument. While the essential question it raises is of course pertinent, it does so in the context of morality, the relativistic nature of which in a logical debate raises problems.
Assume therefore that the concept of morality in the Euthyphro dilemma and in the arbitrariness argument is replaced with physically measurable (or mathematically computable/derivable) quantities - e.g. the cosmological constant, or the gravitational constant or the speed of light. A common theistic argument, the Fine Tuning Argument or Anthropic Principle is that for life to exist as it does, these constants must be precisely what they are. Let's assume this to be true. Let us also, for the sake of argument assume that the quantities were chosen by God to be so.
God being omniscient and omnipotent (two common assumptions in theology) could well have chosen other numbers for the above constants and still make the universe work in exactly the same way as it does right now. But he chose to go with the numbers we now measure or calculate to be true. In picking some numbers over the others, God is being arbitrary since no number is inherently better than others (42 of course, is an exception...).
Alternately, there are parallel universes out there with all possible combinations of these constants.
The first argument goes to show that arbitrariness is a necessary attribute of God if we believe in the concept of numbers. The second lacks physical proof and suffers from the same drawback - an omniscient being could well have interchanged these combinations amongst the other universes.
Since arbitrariness is generally thought of as an undesirable quality - one cannot 'trust' someone who is arbitrary with making 'correct' (quotations added to reflect fuzziness of the words and their inappropriateness in a logical discussion) decisions - we must conclude that our otherwise perfect God has arbitrariness as an undesirable adjoint attribute (alliteration!!).
The arbitrariness does not magically disappear even if one chooses to believe that there is a perfect reason somewhere for this set of numbers to be chosen unless, of course one considers numbers as being too illogical to figure in a logical argument.

One could alternately view God as the benevolent creator who let things proceed as they did. The constants then are not a product of design, but turn up that way just coincidentally and that we run into problems when we try to justify things by sticking probes and measuring quantities by assigning numbers to them - a limitation of man as it were. The essential problem with such a view is that it lies outside the domain of logical discussion and one enters the domain of belief, where, suddenly (and magically), our logical devices and faculties cease to function.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Measured cinematography, exceptionally underplayed artwork that fits the setting, brilliant sound work, real acting (save the story telling bit), superlative lyrics.

Minor quibbles that might indicate that the negatives are more than the positives. That truly isn't the case. They should've hired locals/actors from the region to portray locals (students, father, uncle), they've gone with Ronit Roy (who does a pretty good job) for the father and Ram Kapoor for the uncle, and (what seems like) two Marathi actors (The senior and the old guy in the hospital). In this respect, I felt that authenticity was compromised. Naav suggests a fight back, but the ending seems like a cop-out. In general, the lyrics aren't perfectly suited for the screenplay (Getting it perfect must be a real bitch especially if the lyrics are so awesome). Some scenes don't fit: The car breaking scene indicating angst and frustration followed by incarceration. Highly unlikely - not the car-breaking by protagonist, but doing that in front of a cop risking incarceration - then again, I probably feel that way because I can't put myself in his shoes. The kids end up running the restaurant - again, fortuitous and artistic license must be given. Ditto for the end scene in which Rohan smuggles the kid away - just when his dad has gone to get the auto. The MoTumaster isn't that fat...

I think Rohan was his uncle's son, not his father's, both literally and figuratively. The dialog in which the uncle tells him that every father wants his kid to be just like him followed by the album scenes and uncle whispering into his ears indicates as much.

All said and done, very much worth the watch. If just 5% of the 1000 odd films made every year were qualitatively as close to this film...well it would be awesome wouldn't it?

In case my preference for local actors is somehow misconstrued as some sort of parochialism, I wish to clarify that isn't. I just like accents in a movie to be as authentic as possible.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bi Got, these guys are awesome!!

Zaid Hamid and Glenn Beck. Two demagogues, different continents, same philosophy, similar styles. Similar audience. By and large, so far, similar results, thankfully.
I worry about the day these guys become influential enough to affect policy changes in their respective countries.
I also think (but I'm not putting my money on it) that 28-10-2010 is GB's political launch pad just as Takmeel-e-Pakistan was for ZH. But things look rosier for GB since he isn't in the kind of religious trouble ZH is in Pakistan.

Update: The good Neeraj Gaur has since brought it to my notice that Raj Thackeray belongs to the group too. True that. Other than the fact that he's already a politician, he's a good addition to the group. I'm sure GB and ZH would concur.