The Inclination Towards “Filling In The Blanks”

Gestalt psychologists have pointed out the interesting tendency of human brain to fill in the blanks in order to achieve an understanding of the world or sense data. Humans are incessant interpreters. They are all the time trying to figure out what something means.

Gestalt Closure

One sees a CIRCLE and a BOX. However, these are just lines that could possibly not even be related. But, the brain makes a figure out of them.

This quest and inclination has a helpful hand in enabling man to make a sense of things he cannot understand. He inputs data from his own previous experiences into otherwise seemingly meaningless data. Man is a puzzle solver and his attempt through hypothesizing and associating data with other data has given rise to a plethora of philosophies and ideologies. Especially, when the conjectures appear to be pragmatic and working well, the interpretations usually become sealed for posterity until someone is able to find a loophole in it.

The negative aspect of this inclination could be false suspicion and negative doubt. This process has been illustrated in many a novel and play of tragedy in literature. It also follows from a desire to make a sense of things happening; however, bad data and a wrong process of reckoning lead to false conclusions.

This is even more important in the context of spiritual faith. The spiritual man compares spiritual matters with spiritual matters. The natural man is not able to make any sense out of spiritual things. The Bible does not encourage blind faith; however, without faith one cannot even know God at all.

Kumarila Bhatta’s (660CE) Foundationalism (or Intrinsic Reliability)

The 7th century Indian philosopher and proponent of Purva Mimamsa (realistic view based on the pre-upanisadic Vedas) argued in favor of Vedic fideism in lines similar to what the Reformed Epistemologists, especially the Foundationalists, are arguing. Following is an excerpt from an article on this philosopher in Standford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:

…if it is thought that any cognition finally counts as a reliable doxastic practice only insofar as it can be demonstrated to be such (for example, by appeal to a subsequent cognition of the causes of the initial one), infinite regress ensues; for the subsequent, justifying cognition would, as itself a cognition, similarly require justification, and so on. Or, as Kumārila here suggests, if the initial cognition isn’t credited with the intrinsic “capacity” for conferring justification, then no further cognition could be able to bestow that, either—unless, of course, the further cognition is itself credited with immediately having that capacity, in which case, why not simply allow this with respect to the initial cognition? As Kumārila’s commentators like to put it, if it is thought that we must await second-order justification before thinking we are justified in crediting first-order cognitions, then “the whole world would be blind.”

Alvin Plantinga’s “basic beliefs” Foundationalism may find significant affinities in Kumarila’s arguments, though the latter argued in favor of the Vedic ordinances. 

The basic principle seems to show the limit of skepticism, whether evidence is warranted on every belief one holds, or whether it is necessary to start with doubt before coming to believe. The answer, obviously, is no. Humans do not usually start with doubts; they start with faith. And, certainly much of our “knowledge” acceptance is based on this.

However, this does pose problems for contradictory positions and this is where one needs to recognize the importance of proofs and the varieties of verification criteria.

Placebo and the Philosophy of Mind and Matter in Drug Research

A placebo is a non-therapeutic substance administered under the camouflage of medication to deceive patients into believing that they are receiving medications; this done solely for psychological and not for physiological effects. Placebo may usually be used to compare its effects with the effects of other drugs in drug research.

Let’s take the case of an experiment that tries to establish whether a particular drug, say to treat weariness, is genuine or merely has the effects of a placebo. Suppose 20 candidates are chosen for this experiment. 10 are given the drug and the rest are put on a placebo while they are told that the placebo is a genuine medication. They need to make sure that the deception is well carried on for the success of the experiment. If both the groups make similar improvements after taking the treatments, the new drug seems to only function as a placebo in effect.

The basic hypothesis of the placebo raises the question of mind over matter. Of course, this pushes the question into the domain of philosophy. If the dualism is strongly affirmed, one implication can also be that sometimes physiologically active drugs may not be effective when hindered by psychological conditions.

But, what is the nature of this “dualism”? Is there a limit of interaction? How far can one push the mind? Is it ethically justifiable to deceive patients to use placebo? How can knowing (even being deceived) affect therapy? What is the nature of faith and its relation to therapy?

Researchers continue to probe these questions.

Philosophy of Medicine Vs Medical Philosophies

It’s proper to understand the difference between “Philosphy of…” and “…philosophies”. For instance, philosophy of religion refers to the philosophical study of the epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical aspects of the phenomenon and concept of religion, including questions raised by it; whereas a religious philosophy is a particular philosophical viewpoint of a particular religious tradition–examples include samkhya, yoga, advaita, shunyavada. There are religious philosophies in the same manner that there are secular philosophies. While the start point of the former is revelation, tradition, or faith, the start point of the latter is reason. Following are some examples of the above distinctions:

1. Philosophy of Religion – Existence of God, Essence of Divinity, Death and Afterlife, Knowlege of God, etc.
Religious Philosophy – Calvinist Epistemology, Advaita, Yoga, Zen

2. Theology of Religion – Essence of Religion, Goal of Religion, Salvation
Religious Theology – Catholic Theology, Hindu Doctrine of Rebirth, Sikh Theology
Secular Theology – Panentheism, Deism, Existential Theology, Political Theology

3. Philosophy of Science – Epistemology of Scientific Method, Matter and Mind, Definition of Life
Scientific Philosophy – Darwinism, Utopianism, Scientism

4. Philosophy of Medicine – Epistemology of Medical Research, Mind and Matter, Ethics of Medical Practice
Medical Philosophy- Allopathy, Homeopathy, Taoist Medical Philosophy, Chi Philosophy, Ayurvedic Philosophy, Yoga

Plato’s Political Theory of Music

Ref: The Republic

Gymnastic is for the body, and music is for the soul.

Gymnastic as well as music should begin in early years; the training in it should be careful and should continue through life.

Music includes literature and literature can be true or false. Therefore, censorship is necessary.

When modes of music change, the laws of the State always change with them.

The music style must be more narrative than imitative; the artist, willing to imitate only the good and virtuous.

A song or ode has three parts–the words, the melody, and the rhythm. The melody and rhythm must depend upon the words

The State must not allow mixed styles that create confusion.

The State must banish melodies that express lament and sorrow, and also banish instruments such as flute for promoting such melodies. Thus, only the lyre and harp are allowed.

When a man allows music to play upon him and to pour into his soul through the funnel of his ears sweet and soft and melancholy airs, and his whole life is passed in warbling and the delights of song; in the first stage of the process the passion or spirit which is in him is tempered like iron, and made useful, instead of brittle and useless. But, if he carries on the softening and soothing process, in the next stage he begins to melt and waste, until he has wasted away his spirit and cut out the sinews of his soul; and he becomes a feeble warrior.

And so in gymnastics, if a man takes violent exercise and is a great feeder, and the reverse of a great student of music and philosophy, at first the high condition of his body fills him with pride and spirit, and he becomes twice the man that he was.

The end of music is the love of beauty.

Simplicity in music is the parent of temperance in the soul; simplicity in gymnastic, of health in the body.