What I’ve Learned this Past Year — 2010 Edition

If you know me, I don’t do New Years Resolutions.  Instead, I reflect on the past year.  To me, if one hasn’t learned things within the past year, then it’s as if one hasn’t gained wisdom.  And if that’s the case, then was that past year even worth living?  Thus, here’s a list of things that I’ve learned this past year:


  • I’ve learned a lot about economics by reading some good books, but I’m far from being an expert.  I wish I knew more but going back to school has taken up a lot of my time and learning about economics has taken the back burner.  I’m hoping to get back into it as soon as I can.  But I guess a good start is to learn about Keynes and Hayek.


  • I’m not a big proponent of natural rights.  To me, the notion is too abstract.  Instead, I opt for freedom and it seems that there are various levels of it where one can use one’s positive freedom and live one’s life to the fullest.  Simple negative liberty is simply living; positive liberty, it seems, helps one to live life to the fullest.  I explain more here and I hope to expand on this topic later on.
  • “Fighting for Freedom” seems to be empty rhetoric.
  • I still don’t get how one acquires property.  I think Rousseau may be right: someone simply says it and everyone else believes it to be so.
  • In my last class, oppression is a political ideal that doesn’t get any attention.  Mainly it’s because classical liberalism doesn’t see anything as oppressive except in the negative sense.  Positive liberty needs to make some headway.

Health Care



  • I’ve lately gotten interested in issues about Free Will.  Is it possible to exercise it?  I think one can.  Psychologists have made a lot of studies of people who have made their own choices in life, and those that have had choices made for them.  Not everyone prefers to make their own choices, some prefer to have other choose for them, or they believe that they cannot really exercise effective control.  But those that cannot or do not make choices has been strongly associated with depression, suffering, less fortitude, and overall loss of control of life.  Now here’s the interesting thing: even if determinism is true, I still think people could have a healthy belief in choice-making and their own choice-making effectiveness.  By capturing and incorporating one’s free, people can live healthier and take on a lifestyle with a robust attitude.



  • What can one do about being a snob?  In some ways, it’s helpful, but it’s just so downright high and mighty too.  Maybe the solution is to be an elitist for the common people.
  • The Middle East has many problems.  There are, however, some solutions.


  • Again, whenever you hear “it’s just my opinion,” it simply tells me that the person doesn’t want to argue because that person wants to hide behind a fake facade of one’s own comfortable dogmas.  If you really want to argue effectively, check this out.

But when everything is down, just remember: Awesomeness is everywhere.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Culture, Economics, Free Will, Health, Psychology, Relationships, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to What I’ve Learned this Past Year — 2010 Edition

  1. Chris says:

    I’m not a big proponent of natural rights. To me, the notion is too abstract. Instead, I opt for freedom and it seems that there are various levels of it where one can use one’s positive freedom and live one’s life to the fullest.

    I feel like you just said “I don’t like natural rights, instead I opt for natural rights”. 🙂

    Knowing that you like “freedom” — as with the concept of natural rights — doesn’t tell me anything about how you go about resolving conflicts between one person’s claim to freedom/a right against another person’s, or whether freedom is a “terminal value” (end in itself) to you, or instead a means towards some other terminal value like individual or societal happiness/well-being. It doesn’t even tell me whether you’re a consequentialist or a deontologist, though I suppose it hints towards deontology.

    So, I guess I’m saying that I don’t advocate using that word, because I don’t think it tells anyone anything about how you think people should act, or even about what you like, or who you think also deserves to be able to enjoy that thing that you like, whatever it is.

    Oh, and happy 2011! 🙂

    • shaunmiller says:

      Hi Chris, I’m not a big fan of natural rights because it relies on natural law theory. Natural law theory, in my view, has too many flaws in order to salvage it. But, one can have notions of duties (in the moral realm) and liberty/freedom (in the political realm). If I had to accept the notion of rights, I’m more inclined to say we accept rights because it’s part of our well-being of creatures in society. But at the same time, I find rights a funny and another yet abstract way of saying “don’t harm me.” This view is coming from a phenomenological perspective but I don’t phenomenologically experience any usage or hold onto any notion of rights unless it’s in some legal context. However, I do phenomenologically experience freedom and duties. I hope that clears it up.

  2. Kristina says:

    “Something tells me that God cannot be omniscient and He cannot be outside of time.”

    I thought that time was only a relative thing (physics). That is to say unless God is being considered a worldly being, then this notion of time would apply. But since no one has actually seen God (that we know of exclusively), would this not suggest that God is outside of time, if in fact God is not a worldy creature as I believe alot would suggest.

    That said. How can you actively argue against omniscient knowledge if time is not relevant? What would be the benchmark of these sorts of conclusions.

    I personally like to believe that God is not omniscient, if we are measuring in human existence terms. And that we each individually partake in humanity in total. That there is an inevitable outcome, as chaos theory (fractal geometry) would suggest. That is a natural order in chaos, int eh longer than human terms. But that is simply my thoughts.

  3. Kristina says:

    I believe that would be setting earth, or planetary objects as the starting point. And ignoring the universe as the start.

    It also suggest that God is material, and elusive due to means of location. However, if this be the possibilities, what is to say that God ever has been here, or even is still. And if God has not ever been to Earth, or even is still among us, that might open a box for other issues that would deteriorate the original premise we have about God by any measuring stick.

    So if this be the case. We start again at the beginning.

    I suppose you need to have a assumption about what God is/means from the start to jump around planet to planet.

    • shaunmiller says:

      However you want to conceive of God, my previous post that I linked shows that there are absurdities with making God outside of time. What would be the responses to that post?

  4. Kristina says:

    Rereading what you said “He could be somewhere else out there in the universe and still be in time.” You may not be referring to literally on another planet as my previous post suggest. If this is what your saying, God could just possibly be elsewhere. That is correct. But it doesn’t explain what we already know about time. That is it being exclusively a physical, gravitational phenomenon.

    • shaunmiller says:

      This is where I disagree with the metaphysics. People like Shoemaker and Kant have pointed out that time is not an empirical intuition. From Shoemaker, imagine that the whole universe simply froze and this freezing lasted for five minutes. With that, I can easily imagine time going on without change nor depending on my gravitational pull.

  5. Kristina says:

    1. “God knew if you were going to Heaven or Hell before you were born.”

    This does seem a burden. But, this ignores the possibility that the notion of heaven, hell might not even be. Even if the least suggest they are not what humans (good/bad) mean. There might be some truth to hell on earth. Or other people are hell. What says that there even is a hell. As in a place of vague abstract, yet simultaneously we know we dont want to be there.

    2. “God is eternal. However, the question is this: is God in- or outside of time? ..Now this is where it gets interesting. If God is outside of time, then He looks at the past, present and future all at the same time. Thus, because God knows everything, God can see into your past, present, and future: He knows what you did, what you’re doing right now, and what you will do (even the choices that you will eventually make).”

    We could go further, but lets stop there. Who is to say that God dabbles in the affairs of humans. In the words of Einstein quoting spinoza “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.” Could God be informal and distant, yet still love and be involved in your affairs. I think so. I have to look no further than Humans to see this all the time. I could care about a stranger if I looked. And still know nothing about them before hand. And sticking to the judeo christian theme. Who is to say God doesnt actually meet you until after.

    “Potentially, we could have an infinite amount of souls. Could this really be the case? Is it true that your soul is already in the afterlife and we are just playing out that role to reach to the point of what we will eventually become?”

    This is something I thought about the other day. Could there be infinite souls. I suppose so. After all if I thought not, I would have to question my own thinking as elitist. As in it could happen to me, but not to an unlimited number of others. As far as life, death etc. Could you be here and there at the same time? I think there might be some truth to that.

    Physics teaches us that there are alot of strange things. Even as strange as the observer effect, and entanglement theory.

    Who is to say that all these obstacles proposed are anything more that human limitations of thinking, rules, etc.

    • shaunmiller says:

      Concerning all God talk, this assumes the traditional notion of classical theism and of the traditional notion of God. If you bring up any ideas about how this assumes God exists or this assumes heaven and hell are in different places, or that hell is on earth, or bringing up Spinoza, we’re out of the realm of tradition and classical theism. Part of my post was assuming classical theism, now here’s what’s wrong with it. With physics as well, they don’t touch upon God in classical theism.

  6. Kristina says:

    Oh I see. I thought this read really (even for you) heavily on traditional Christianity concepts. I must have missed the assumption part of classical theism part in my scanning.

    “now here’s what’s wrong with it. With physics as well, they don’t touch upon God in classical theism.” Can you clarify what you mean more? I assume you mean literally touch upon God as a one box fits all universal not bible God? Or you mean like a Judea Christian one?

    Because the Heaven or Hell reference leans only one way.

  7. shaunmiller says:

    Physics, in classical theism, is something that God controls. He can bend the laws of physics or break them; this is known as miracles. However, physics don’t affect God or anything supernatural. Because physics is natural, it is below the supernatural realm.

  8. aubreycierra says:

    Whether it is perceived or not, the idea of making choices in ones life does directly effect the standers of that life. When working with people with disabilities, if a caregiver makes all of the choices without asking the other person, then quality of life decreases. However, if the disabled person is given choices and feels as if he/she has control over their life then they are more likely to see improvements in the condition they have. It is interesting because practically determinism (if truly believed and acted upon) is counterintuitive. If a person who accepted determinism acted and truly believed that they had no choices and everything was predetermined, it could lead to a decrease in life expectancy. So on a practical level there must be at least a belief in choice.

    • shaunmiller says:

      Indeed. I’m wondering if this could still work out even if determinism is true. I’m sure the determinist could still reply that if one has more control over one’s life, that was determined. It seems that the way out is to have some sense of compatiblism perhaps. It’s interesting to think about and it’s something that I’m interested in so I may have more to say later.

      • aubreycierra says:

        I agree that it is interesting. But I question the practicality of saying a person having more choices was determined. This allows the determinist to say that everything is determined and yet allow them to act and think as if it is not the case. Makes it hard to refute but I would still argue that regardless of the truth of determinism the illusion of choice must at least exist. So we would not want to honestly accept determinism because it would interfere with the standards of life for that person. As for it being compatible, maybe to some degree that could work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s