Humour, Thoughts

World Philosophy Day – Four philosophical questions to make you think

No Comments 20 November 2008

As the title alludes to, today is World Philosophy Day. For those of you who know me really well you’ll know that I like those questions that really make your brain hurt. The questions relating to the universe, the What If questions and the questions that may seem silly but really are tough to answer (What would chairs look like if our knees bent the other way?). I love these kind of questions. I took a philosophy course last year and our prof asked us some really tough ones. Several of which I still haven’t been able to come up with an answer to for which I’m happy with. On that note, the BBC provides 4 philosophical questions to make your brain hurt:


Suppose Bill is a healthy man without family or loved ones. Would it be ok painlessly to kill him if his organs would save five people, one of whom needs a heart, another a kidney, and so on? If not, why not?

Consider another case: you and six others are kidnapped, and the kidnapper somehow persuades you that if you shoot dead one of the other hostages, he will set the remaining five free, whereas if you do not, he will shoot all six. (Either way, he’ll release you.)

If in this case you should kill one to save five, why not in the previous, organs case? If in this case too you have qualms, consider yet another: you’re in the cab of a runaway tram and see five people tied to the track ahead. You have the option of sending the tram on to the track forking off to the left, on which only one person is tied. Surely you should send the tram left, killing one to save five.

But then why not kill Bill?


Consider a photo of someone you think is you eight years ago. What makes that person you? You might say he she was composed of the same cells as you now. But most of your cells are replaced every seven years. You might instead say you’re an organism, a particular human being, and that organisms can survive cell replacement – this oak being the same tree as the sapling I planted last year.

But are you really an entire human being? If surgeons swapped George Bush’s brain for yours, surely the Bush look-alike, recovering from the operation in the White House, would be you. Hence it is tempting to say that you are a human brain, not a human being.

But why the brain and not the spleen? Presumably because the brain supports your mental states, eg your hopes, fears, beliefs, values, and memories. But then it looks like it’s actually those mental states that count, not the brain supporting them. So the view is that even if the surgeons didn’t implant your brain in Bush’s skull, but merely scanned it, wiped it, and then imprinted its states on to Bush’s pre-wiped brain, the Bush look-alike recovering in the White House would again be you.

But the view faces a problem: what if surgeons imprinted your mental states on two pre-wiped brains: George Bush’s and Gordon Brown’s? Would you be in the White House or in Downing Street? There’s nothing on which to base a sensible choice. Yet one person cannot be in two places at once.

In the end, then, no attempt to make sense of your continued existence over time works. You are not the person who started reading this article.


What reason do you have to believe there’s a computer screen in front of you? Presumably that you see it, or seem to. But our senses occasionally mislead us. A straight stick half-submerged in water sometimes look bent; two equally long lines sometimes look different lengths.

But this, you might reply, doesn’t show that the senses cannot provide good reasons for beliefs about the world. By analogy, even an imperfect barometer can give you good reason to believe it’s about to rain.

Before relying on the barometer, after all, you might independently check it by going outside to see whether it tends to rain when the barometer indicates that it will. You establish that the barometer is right 99% of the time. After that, surely, its readings can be good reasons to believe it will rain.

Perhaps so, but the analogy fails. For you cannot independently check your senses. You cannot jump outside of the experiences they provide to check they’re generally reliable. So your senses give you no reason at all to believe that there is a computer screen in front of you.”


Suppose that Fred existed shortly after the Big Bang. He had unlimited intelligence and memory, and knew all the scientific laws governing the universe and all the properties of every particle that then existed. Thus equipped, billions of years ago, he could have worked out that, eventually, planet Earth would come to exist, that you would too, and that right now you would be reading this article.

After all, even back then he could have worked out all the facts about the location and state of every particle that now exists.

And once those facts are fixed, so is the fact that you are now reading this article. No one’s denying you chose to read this. But your choice had causes (certain events in your brain, for example), which in turn had causes, and so on right back to the Big Bang. So your reading this was predictable by Fred long before you existed. Once you came along, it was already far too late for you to do anything about it.

Now, of course, Fred didn’t really exist, so he didn’t really predict your every move. But the point is: he could have. You might object that modern physics tells us that there is a certain amount of fundamental randomness in the universe, and that this would have upset Fred’s predictions. But is this reassuring? Notice that, in ordinary life, it is precisely when people act unpredictably that we sometimes question whether they have acted freely and responsibly. So freewill begins to look incompatible both with causal determination and with randomness. None of us, then, ever do anything freely and responsibly.”

Events, Family, Maritimes, Remembrance Day, Thoughts

John Thomas MacLeod. My grandfather.

No Comments 11 November 2008

This is a notice that was posted in the newspaper when my grandfather, John Thomas MacLeod’s plane was shot down during the 2nd World War:

Could you imagine being a parent in the 1930’s with no internet and barely any phones? Parents might not know their son/daughter is dead/alive for days/weeks/months.

Writing from memory and being brief, my grandfather was a figher pilot in the 2nd World War. He was shot down by enemy gunfire and in order ot survive, he had to climb out onto his wing and parachute to safety. However, when he landed safely on the ground, he was captured by German soldiers and taken as a captive. He told me that he was a captive for roughly 40 days and during that time was required to sleep in a closet standing up, was fed water and bread and saw his fellow comrades executed in front of him by gunshots. He was lucky to survive and later became the father of 5 children, one of them being my mom, in my eyes, the most amazing person that I will ever know.

He passed away in April of this year and I unfortunately was not able to fly home to attend his funeral. I was in the middle of exams and my grandmother told me to stay here and study and be a good student.

I talked to my grandmother on the phone last night and it was great to hear that she is doing ok. She told me that on Sunday in church they read a brief summary of grandpa’s time in the war in a moment of remembrance for him and what he did.

Margo is up visiting grandma and in addition to visiting grandpa and mom’s gravesites, I think they are going to be attending the remembrance day ceremonies at the cenotaph. That is a cereomony I wish I was there for. Maybe next November 11.

In any case, no matter where you are or what you are doing on November 11 at 11:11am, please take a few moments and remember those who have fallen, those who are serving us and think about how different our lives would be had it not been for them.

RIP John T.

Events, Family, Remembrance Day, Thoughts, Videos, World Issues

Remembrance Day – Please Take a Moment

No Comments 11 November 2008

Tuesday, November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada. In case you forget why we take 2 minutes of silence to remember those who have died, watch this video and read the lyrics. The video/song is called A Pittance of Time, by Terry Kelly.

A Pittance Of Time 4:43
Written by Terry Kelly © Jefter Publishing – SOCAN

They fought and some died for their homeland.
They fought and some died, now it’s our land.
Look at his little child; there’s no fear in her eyes.
Could he not show respect for other dads who have died?

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who went over.
In peace may they rest, may we never
forget why they died.
It’s a pittance of time.

God forgive me for wanting to strike him.
Give me strength so as not to be like him.
My heart pounds in my breast, fingers pressed to my lips,
My throat wants to bawl out, my tongue barely resists.

But two minutes I will bide.
It’s a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who went over.
In peace may they rest.
May we never forget why they died.
It’s a pittance of time.

Read the letters and poems of the heroes at home.
They have casualties, battles, and fears of their own.
There’s a price to be paid if you go, if you stay.
Freedom’s fought for and won in numerous ways.

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls all over.
May we never forget, our young become vets.
At the end of the line,
It’s a pittance of time.

It takes courage to fight in your own war.
It takes courage to fight someone else’s war.
Our peacekeepers tell of their own living hell.
They bring hope to foreign lands that hate mongers can’t kill.

Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who go over.
In peacetime our best still don battle dress
And lay their lives on the line.
It’s a pittance of time

In peace may they rest,
Lest we forget why they died.
Take a pittance of time.

Events, Remembrance Day, Thoughts, World Issues

Flanders Fields – John McCrae

No Comments 11 November 2008

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

About Rob

Rob "Frisbee Rob" McLeod is a motivational speaker and frisbee ambassador living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He competes in ultimate, disc golf, dog disc and overall flying disc competitions. Rob currently holds 6 Guinness World Records, 10 World Championships and the Canadian Distance Record.


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