Category Archives: communication

If only our minds could just click with each other

It seems that The Stone‘s contributors’ responses to readers’ comments are often better than their original posts themselves:

Philosophers typically try to illuminate with a combination of argument and (re-)conceptualization.  But the most careful and perspicuous argumentation, as indispensable as care and perspicuity are, will not convince someone who is disinclined to accept a philosopher’s way of framing a problem or phenomenon.  And, as the philosopher Stanley Cavell has stressed repeatedly, nothing guarantees that the arrogation of philosophical authority, no matter how well intended, will not turn out to be an act of mere arrogance.  In this way, in fact, philosophical expression and young women’s sexualized attempts at self-expression have something in common:  neither can be fully controlled by an author’s intentions, and nothing guarantees that they will come off in the way their authors hope they will.  –Nancy Bauer, “Authority and Arrogance: A Response”

Which, if you think about it, is what ails all human communication, but i think the problem is even more exaggerated when it comes to doing philosophy.  Philosophy is best done dialogically (because every argument requires counter-arguments to move forward, and the best counter-arguments come from those who have had different experiences than you have), and if your opponent cannot accept your way of approaching a problem or understand your intentions in communicating your ideas, the argument falls flat.  This is why philosophers, more than anyone else, need to find people who can understand the way they think and communicate in order to do their job.

Which makes me wonder, can real philosophy only be done between people who can “click” in this way?  I’ve spent many philosophy recitations frustrated and impatient because everyone had their own way of thinking, and each think-system was so disparate to the point where we were all on different wavelengths, trying to intersect somewhere, but usually failing miserably.  One person would require real life examples to contemplate any philosophical issue, and another would find such examples cumbersome and dangerously restrictive.  One would be engrossed in analysis, while another would constantly divert to meta-analysis.  One would subscribe to dualism, and another, to monism, and yet another, to pluralism.  No one would think to budge.  And why should they?  Their individual frameworks were the ones that helped them think about these issues.  But do you know what happens when such disparate individual frameworks gather in one room?  A question is raised, a claim is made, and a silence follows while everybody tries to evaluate the claim-maker’s think-system, ultimately rejecting it in favor of their own.  Repeat until time’s up.  You’re lucky if you get a single counter-argument.

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Filed under academics, communication, philosophy

Facebook: Looking back, and now

I joined Facebook sometime in the summer following high school graduation to keep in touch with friends and to transition to college by friending random NYU upperclassmen to ask them about the school, both in anticipation over attending it in a few months and in worry over whether i made the right choice.  I also randomly friended other NYU freshmen if i liked their Interests.  Shameful, i know, judging people by their Facebook profiles, but i didn’t know better back then.  Both these types of friend requests, especially the latter, would be considered inappropriate by today’s Facebook etiquette, and some of these friends are still on my list, showing up in my News Feed from time to time.  Not including those upperclassmen who were very nice to me, providing helpful advice and still checking in on me from time to time, and those “interesting profile” people who, to this day, write witty status updates and share interesting links (which i’m always looking for), these people don’t matter to me and i wish i hadn’t been so thoughtless to friend them in the first place.  I know there’s the option of hiding specific people’s activity, preventing them from showing up in your News Feed, but even the thought of doing that makes me feel guilty (even though i know they’ll never know), because i was the one who friended them.

Today, i use Facebook for three things:  keeping up with my friends’ lives, communicating with Facebook-appointment-making-exclusive friends (to be explained later), and for keeping up with the online and offline world.

Since my social life is nearly non-existent, i rely on Facebook to find out what my friends are up to and remind myself that there is indeed life happening above the rock i sometimes live under.  As for the above-mentioned FAME friends, i have a select group of friends, mostly those i’ve made in college, with whom i make appointments to see each other almost exclusively on Facebook (as opposed to by e-mail or phone).  And these are mostly college friends because, as opposed to high school when i didn’t have Facebook and didn’t need it to make friends, almost all of my college friendships either took place entirely over Facebook or were largely undergirded by it, with the help of friendly messaging and wall posting and link sharing.  In other words, without Facebook, it would probably have been much harder for me to make friends in college, especially since i went to a school with over 20,000 undergrads.  I don’t know if that says more about me or Facebook or NYU.

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Committed conversations

There’s something about late night heart-to-heart’s in New York.  The hustle and bustle of everyday life in the city makes you yearn so much for human connection that even sustained eye contact becomes something to be cherished, and soul-satisfying conversations crawl their way into secret repositories, like this one.

While the city was celebrating 420, my friend and i sat in bed, Guinness draughts in hand.  We shared our individual pasts, reminisced over our high school years, and revealed our hopes and dreams.  Maybe it was the Guinness talking, but maybe it was also our hearts connecting.

For the first time in a long time, i had what i call a “committed conversation.”  We each had the other’s undivided attention for once, undistracted by the city’s beauties and failings.  The tension of NYC in daylight fell away as we drank, leaned back, and indulged in the silence of my room and the authority—the sweet audibility—of our voices.

Last night replenished my soul, and i’m finally unafraid to plow through the three weeks i have left here.

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Filed under communication, new york, sketches

On creativity

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I do not believe that you’re either born creative or not–creativity is just as much a state as it is a trait–nor do i believe it is impossible to enhance creativity.  But a recent article in Scientific American discusses a research on “an easy way to increase creativity,” a research so preposterous that i couldn’t help but assume that its researchers are exactly the type to say something like the above.

The main argument put forth by the researchers is that psychological distance enhances creativity, and one can effect psychological distance by displacing an event into the future or a far-off place or imagining an event to be unlikely. This makes sense (as one commenter put it, “Ask an artist – these are no new ideas to us.   We do this naturally”), but the research seems over-simplified and i am highly skeptical of some its conclusions. For instance, the article ends with the suggestion that modern technology gives us ready access to faraway “people, sights, music, and food,” which might mean that we are getting more creative. I would think the exact opposite:  the web, whose communication transcends space and time, makes these faraway and exotic things seem near and familiar. Is anything even “faraway” anymore?

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questions on the loo, issue #6: Which of your senses would you lose if you had to lose one?

This is a common question that i’ve seen pop up in many places, but i never thought deeply about it until my best friend asked me it the other day.  At first, i confidently said, “Smell.”  I couldn’t give up sight; i’m a visual artist.  I couldn’t give up hearing either because i think it’s even more powerful than sight.  Touch was out of the question because i’m too sensuous, and as for taste, well, everyone knows i’m a foodie.  Smell and taste work together, of course, but between those two, i thought smell would be the least useful.  But then i remembered all those days of snuggling with loved ones and breathing in their unique smell emanating from their bosom; those days of hallucinating their smell when i missed them and smiling inwardly knowing that my nostrils had somehow “memorized” their smell; those days of stumbling upon articles of clothing they’d left behind, the pillows they’d slept on, and being hypnotically reminded of the tender memories.  I think i could live without smelling all those other scents i love like that of the rain, the ocean, the fresh-tilled soil, but i don’t think i could give up the scent of the human being.

So which would i lose?  I’d lose hearing.  I honestly think i appreciate dead silence more than the most sublime music, the pristine sounds of nature, maybe even the human voice.  Sound is more often an irritant to me than a pleasure.  There are surely things i’d miss hearing, especially water and wind and certain voices, but when i imagine myself first without smell and then without hearing, i see myself much unhappier in the former case.

Now it’s your turn:  which would you lose?  And a bonus question:  if you could choose one last thing to sense before losing your chosen sense, what would it be?  I chose hearing, so i’d choose to hear my love’s voice, whoever that may be at that moment.

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Filed under communication, nature, perception, questions on the loo, the body

The voice of Film & TV

Why is TV promo/film trailer narration always done in a male voice?

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Nonverbal expressions of love

I’ve been told that i’m pretty good at expressing love, but sometimes even i have to resort to nonverbal expression, because i have my shy moments just like anyone else.  Here are the ways i express love nonverbally:

-cooking

-making tea

-impromptu gifts, usually ones that will only make sense to me and the significant other

-sharing beauty, usually in the form of art

I’d say the most subtle way (and therefore the easiest to accomplish, emotionally speaking) would be the last one.  Whenever i see something beautiful, i want to share it with a loved one.  Sharing art isn’t just about sharing taste, and neither is it only about letting someone else express your love for you; it’s about experiencing the beauty of life with a loved one.  It’s a union not only between you and another, but also between you two and the universe.  The most ideal way of sharing beauty would be experiencing nature together, but you have to admit, in our increasingly technological world, finding an untouched enclave of nature, planning the convenient time and method to get there, and finally getting there with your significant other is difficult to do.  But what has become much more efficient is communication, and that’s what makes it so easy to share art, which, by contemplating the human condition, is what comes closest to embodying the universe. 

And now for the inevitable question:  how do you express love nonverbally?

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Filed under art, communication, food, love, personal