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Analyzing the apoha theory of meaning via exclusion

At its core, the raw content of our experience consists of a distinct set of sense perceptions that we’ve perhaps never encountered before. And yet, we somehow manage to make sense of them, by mapping these unique particulars to more familiar abstract universals.

To give an example — when browsing in a store, you come across plenty of objects that you’ve never seen before. But associating them with a more general class of things that you’re familiar with (shirts, pants, shoes, etc.) helps you reason about their nature and purpose.

Generalities are also deeply ingrained in the way we communicate…


On the interconnectedness of all things

Photo by Nicolas Picard on Unsplash

In 17th century London, John Donne fell deathly ill. The field of pathophysiology wasn’t much of a thing back then and sickness was considered a manifestation of sin that warranted a visit from God. Rather than rest through the anguish, Donne decided to chronicle his reflections during this period. Fortunately, he survived and eventually published these reflections in a volume, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. The most famous of these meditations is perhaps familiar to many.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. […] Any man’s death…


Is there even such a thing as the scientific method?

Image by PixelAnarchy from Pixabay

Reading an introductory science textbook gives you the impression that there is a clear, well-defined structure to the scientific process. You start with an observation, develop a hypothesis that is consistent with existing theories, run an experiment to test it, and collect the results. If the findings match your model, you’ve got a working theory. Otherwise, you refine your hypothesis, rinse your instruments and repeat until it does.

While a neat definition that fits on a flash card makes for a good exam question, does it accurately reflect reality?

Attempts to define science are numerous, diverse and probably as old…


On the teachings of Sanjaya the skeptic

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The modern human is conditioned to think in terms of strict dichotomies.

News reports must be judged as real or fake. One’s political beliefs must belong exclusively to the left or the right. The existence of a higher power must either be constantly affirmed or vehemently denied.

We’re forced to choose between two extremes. And led to believe that a refusal to endorse one position is tacit support for its opposite.

This kind of thinking stems from an intuitively sound principle, known as the law of excluded middle. It asserts that if a proposition isn’t true, its negation must be…


Exploring the paradoxical realm of paraconsistent logic

Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

We conventionally associate the term logic with bivalent logic. A system in which any proposition is assigned just one of two possible values: true or false. But, what if there was more to it?

The most certain of all basic principles is that contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously.

This principle laid out in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, called the law of noncontradiction, is a fundamental axiom of classical logic. Aligned with our intuitive understanding of semantics, this law also seems to have been accepted as indisputable canon in various schools of formal logic. …


Rest is crucial to productivity and fulfillment

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The prominence of #hustlelife posts on Instagram reflects the values of our current times. The capitalistic society we live in glorifies overwork and vilifies rest. We are led to believe that any time not spent on so-called “productive” labor is a sinful waste that must be diverted to more useful endeavors.

Stories of successful people who are constantly working litter our cultural mythos — like CEOs who sleep on the factory floor while personally overseeing production. We’re taught that to be successful, you must be willing to dedicate your entire life to work and sacrifice all leisure. …


Insights from the apophatic method

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Philo Judaeus was a Jewish philosopher from Alexandria, who lived contemporaneous with the Christ. While Jesus walked around extolling the positive attributes of a unitary God: compassionate, merciful, loving, kind. Philo preferred a different approach to describing the absolute — by negating characterizations.

In Philo’s allegorical exegesis on the Old Testament in Greek, he spurned the anthropomorphization of God. His view on human-like descriptions of God in scripture was that they were not to be taken literally, but instead considered metaphors. Since humans, “frame our conceptions of the uncreated from our own experience” (De Confusione Linguarum).

Rather than endorse the…


Lessons learned at a Vipassana retreat

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I recently completed a 10-day Vipassana retreat, which was a pretty enlightening experience. I’d highly recommend it to anyone seeking to reduce their suffering. I learned a lot, but my key takeaway from the entire exercise is that our suffering arises from not accepting the reality of things as they are.

Our minds are constantly engaged in constructing a fictional ideal world conditioned by our desires while heedlessly ignoring the true nature of things. This breeds nothing but misery.

The Sanskrit word yathābhūtaṃ is a compounding of the words for “in whatever manner” (yathā) and “reality” (bhūta), which approximately translates…


Examining a non-nihilistic denial of essentialism

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

For millennia, philosophers have debated whether essences (svabhāva) are real entities. In the West, the essentialist doctrine was famously espoused by Plato’s Theory of Ideas which claimed that real-world objects are imitations of transcendent Forms.

In his book The History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell criticizes this view, claiming that it conflates a linguistic convention with metaphysical ontology.

We apply the same name, on different occasions, to somewhat different occurrences, which we regard as manifestations of a single “thing” or “person”. In fact, however, this is only a verbal convenience. …


Analyzing the roles that issues play in software engineering

Photo by Pankaj Patel on Unsplash

Bugs, issues, tickets: They go by many names but serve the same purpose—tracking a task that needs to get done. It’s the lifeblood of project management in the tech industry, where nothing gets done that isn’t tracked somehow. And, like most invented concepts, it’s simply a formalization of our innate ways of thinking about tasks.

Humans have probably been trying to quantify work ever since we started hunting together. …

Vasuman Ravichandran

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