The Body You Deserve

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While driving to yet another committee meeting, I heard an advertisement for cool shaping, which apparently is some sort of method for shaping body fat to make a person appear less fat. What struck me about the commercial was the claim that cool shaping would give a person the body they deserve.  While this is certainly a clever advertising phrase, it does raise a matter worth considering.

On the face of it, a person who has not suffered an unfortunate accident or illness would have exactly the body he deserves. After all, the body a person has is the body he has forged by his efforts (or lack thereof), diet and lifestyle. That is to say, the body one has is the product of one’s choices and is thus deserved in that it has been properly earned. So, if a person is fit and lean or soft and flabby, then he has just what he deserves. If this is plausible, then something like cool shaping would not give a person the body they deserve, since the person already has exactly that body.

It could be countered that a person could have a body they do not deserve by arguing that while a person does earn his body by his actions and choices, the body he starts with is not one that he has chosen. After all, a person is born with (or as, for those who are materialists in the philosophical sense) whatever body he happens to get and this body is not something a person earns or deserves. After all, one just get (or is) it. Naturally, it could be claimed that Karma or some other metaphysical system in which a person does get the body he deserves (such as being reborn as a banana slug)-but I will set aside those considerations and just go with the view that they body one is born with is not deserved.

A person born with a genetic predisposition towards packing on the pounds would not deserve this predisposition and hence, it could be claimed, would not have the body he deserves. However, this leads to the obvious question: what sort of body does a person deserve? Do people, in general, deserve to have better bodies than they have? Or is this absurd?

I am inclined to stick with my original view, namely that even though people just get (or are) whatever body they are born with without deserving it, people do (in general) end up with the body that they deserve in the sense that they get what they earn-and that is what deserving is all about. In fact, aside from cases of unfortunate accidents, diseases and other such dire undeserved circumstances, this is one of the rare cases in which a person does get exactly what he deserves-that is, the body he has forged.

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33 Comments.

  1. Do more deserts make a better body? The phrase “the body you deserve” plays upon the emotions that demand deontological normatives. Utilitarianism has been used to counter the arguments of desert. From a utilitarian perspective, no one deserves anything.

    Perhaps a better approach the problem is to distinguish the difference between what one deserves as opposed to what one may expect. The example above may be better expressed by simply changing the rhetoric from cool shaping the body that one deserves, to cool shaping the body to what one may expect.

  2. More important is do we have the body we want. I can only speak for myself here when I reply in the negative. Have I got the body I deserve? yes most likely. As a very young man I was I suppose presentable, but slender I wanted to be a Mr Universe. I read all the physical culture magazines and associated Literature. This led to a lifetime trying to improve myself Mentally and Physically. Of course I never even became a shadow of a Mr Universe but I did improve my physique such that I was no longer embarrased by it.I still work out and read improving books. I got what I earned physically and mentally, To a large extent one gets out of life what one puts in. I did not get what I wanted, to be a Mr Universe and someone of importance in Science or Philosophy. However had I never tried I most likely would have ended up a skinny ignoramus.

  3. It’s a reformulation of L’Oréal’s “Because I’m worth it”.

    It’s an appeal to a particular kind of fat person. The kind who are greedy, lazy, and believes they are specially deserving.

    I’m going to apologise for my statement because it’s just not that simple.

    I know a medical specialist who treats obese patients (this is in the US, where he has lots of business). And he’s been getting in trouble with his patients, because he is really blunt with them (it’s not his lack of emotional IQ – why beat around the bush, he hasn’t got all day). A typical problem arises; the patient goes “Dr. why am I in so much pain”..To which my Dr friend replies “because you are so fat”. And the patient then goes on the internet going “Dr such and such is really mean, he has no bedside manner, blah blah blah blah”. The truth is you’d really want to punch these people. They are so fat they are crushing their spines. Why are you in agony?

    The diet enterprise has had weird Darwinian evolution to its’ current position – if your diet worked, you’d be out of business, wouldn’tcha. So, the vast majority of diet enterprises do not work. It’s an incredible fraud – if you know how to count ingredients (calories, carbs, protein) on supermarket food, the “diet” versions are as bad or worse than the non-diet versions. Who is to blame here?……A woman I know whose been struggling with a weight problem for years, all the food she bought in the supermarket was the “diet” variety. And then she learned to read the ingredients – and she was not a happy person.

  4. Mike,

    I find the whole notion of term ‘deserve’ to be on dodgy philosophical ground, containing as it does so many connotations of fitness as a virtue; and a lack of virtue with fatness.

    A better question might be “Should we expect the body we get?” because then we could address the psychological complexity of wanting one type of body while being stuck with another, for physical (body-physical) or psychological (brain-physical) reasons – i.e. there’s a predisposition in the philosopher to want to make a distinction where it’s not clear there is one; a predisposition to attribute ‘physical’ causes of fatness to ‘illness’, ‘genetic predisposition’, while ‘psychological’ causes of fatness are attributed to laziness and the body you ‘deserve’.

    “In fact, aside from cases of unfortunate accidents, diseases and other such dire undeserved circumstances, this is one of the rare cases in which a person does get exactly what he deserves-that is, the body he has forged.”

    Which ‘other undeserved circumstances’ apply here? Do you allow for the psychological predisposition not to like working out and to liking of fatty food? You seem to come down awfully quickly on the side that supports your personal efforts and body image, as expressed so often on these posts.

    Clearly, the advertising use of ‘deserve’ is foremost emotive, in that it appeals to the desire to avoid the guilt and disappointment of failing to get the body you want. This post seems to buy into that emotive position without questioning the real philosophical issue of whether there is any moral objection to such advertising, or the matter of whether bodies of any type have anything to do with virtues and what is ‘deserved’.

    The whole post makes only a token gesture to other possibilities, in paragraph three; but they are just as quickly dismissed in that very paragraph.

    “After all, the body a person has is the body he has forged by his efforts (or lack thereof), diet and lifestyle.”

    I wonder if a fat couch potato philosopher would keep bringing up the issue of fitness as much as one who is (self) renown for being a fit, running, martial arts enthusiast. Is narcissism a requirement for a fit body – another possible perspective to investigate rather than so quickly concluding what various body shapes are deserved?

    “I am inclined to stick with my original view …”

    I wonder why.

  5. JMRC,

    I’ll need to write about being worth it. You are right to note that such diets generally do not work. People want an easy and painless way to be fit or at least thin.

  6. Ron Murphy:

    Mike presents “what one deserves” above as being
    synonymous with “what one earns”.

    I can see that “deserving” is generally related to a concept of morality that you (and even I) don’t believe in, but “earning” seems less problematic.

    I make an effort and I earn a reward. For example, I run very fast, win the race and earn a trophy. It may well be that I run very fast because of genetic factors that have nothing to do with any metaphysical moral concept of desert, but within the game being played, that in which running fast wins a prize, I earn the prize.

    Or do you reject the concept of “earning” a reward too?

  7. swallerstein,

    I don’t reject the concepts of ‘deserving’ or ‘earning’, but in the context of an ad it’s fairly easy to see why it’s being used, and it isn’t about whether the seller has any interest in what any of the great variety of potential customers actually deserves in any sense of reward or earing, in terms of some measure of output for input. It’s a totally emotive ploy to appeal to people who for whatever reason aren’t the weight they would prefer to be.

    So, what is the post really about? All except the token gesture in paragraph three it seems like a simple statement of Mike’s opinion that fat-ass whiners who can’t lose weight deserve what they get: a fat ass, all the attendant health problems, and a general self-loathing. And that virtuous hard working athletes deserve what they get: good health, glory, and the self-satisfaction that comes from comparison to the less virtuous.

    “In fact, aside from cases of unfortunate accidents, diseases and other such dire undeserved circumstances, this is one of the rare cases in which a person does get exactly what he deserves-that is, the body he has forged.”

    There just seem too many undertones of self-righteousness in this piece. Perhaps that’s as intoxicating as the self-loathing that couch potatoes acquire for themselves. It just didn’t seem like an impartial philosophical inquiry. If anything it feeds the prejudice against lazy fat-ass people. It goes along with the message that the ad is feeding on in turn.

    It includes a token gesture towards only what are seen as unavoidable ‘accidental’ or ‘illness’, but doesn’t address any of the human psychology at all, or the relationship between food sales, poverty, addiction, habit, where kids learn to become fat and can’t stop, where bigger meals sell more. This is a bigger social issue than a simplistic one of the virtues of being fit, or how much one ‘deserves’ or ‘earns’ a body state.

    What about the benefit of being fit (though the jury is out on exactly how fit we have to be to be healthy enough), the harm of being fat, and addressing social philosophical issues about how progress can be made to stop people falling into the bad health trap. It doesn’t need to be about making a moral issue, a virtue, out of being fit.

  8. Ron Murphy:

    I agree with you.

    Fatness is not an ethical issue nor is fitness.

    People with weight problems generally feel bad enough about themselves that it is unfeeling and cruel to add moral condemnation to their misery.

    In fact, an ethical attitude towards weight problems would be one of acceptance, solidarity and, if possible (and it is not always possible) helping them to lose weight rather than of self-righteous superiority.

    I am of normal weight myself, but I have lived with people who may be slightly above ideal weight and imagine that they are fat.

  9. “Do people, in general, deserve to have better bodies than they have? Or is this absurd?”
    I find it difficult to understand what this blog is about so maybe I am missing something essential. Subject to genetic predisposition and accidents we enter the world with bodies and minds. I do not think we deserve anything, things just ARE. It seems to me the human constructs of morals ethics and what we deserve, serve so often only to complicate matters. So here we are in the World and it seems that the evolutionary system has provided us with a substantial feeling that our will is free and we can if we wish, make certain changes to ourselves, for what we think is the better or worse. Thus the fat can try yo get thin the thin to put on more muscle. We can also improve our mental acumen or by means of certain lifestyles diminish it. Completely satisfied with ourselves we also it seems have the choice to do nothing. So where exactly is the problem?
    So far as the World of Advertising is concerned, this seems to vary from slight misstatements to downright lies. Generally it is best to regard it all with suspicion and remember the prime object of the advertiser is somehow or the other to sell the product in the largest quantities. It is their wealth not your well being which predominates their thought, but this is not to say that all things advertised are of no worth at all.
    So far as being fat is concerned, it is a problem for some. it may be best initially to remember that no fat people emerged from Hitler’s concentration camps, only starving people. This may give some, food for thought in the matter.

  10. There is an ethical issue concerning the growing obesity problem. However, that is not the main issue of Mike LaBossiere’s article. The issue is one of advertising using desert.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/desert/

    We are a mutant hairless species that spends it time covering itself with feather, furs, ornaments and makeup to simulate the remainder of the animal kingdom that some people refuse to admit they admire. It has been suggested that the purpose of the brain in warm-blooded animals is to find ways to keep warm.

    Then someone asks, “Do we deserve this?” I agree that desert is not the issue. Advertising is selling something that it cannot supply.

  11. Ron Murphy,

    As a runner, I must confess the the sin of self-righteousness. Like the member of any faith, I believe my own way to be the true path to salvation and, naturally enough, I gaze with pity upon those who are not part of the OTF (One True Faith).

    I have raised the question of “how much is me?” in a post by that name. Naturally, if we are deterministic or random systems, then we earn or deserve nothing in the usual normative sense of those terms. After all, if I am a (relatively) lean runner and someone else is chubtacular, we both are what we are based on the deterministic or random workings of the physical systems in question. We are what we are and deserving has nothing to do with it. On the downside, this entails that we lack meaningful agency: we are things rather than persons.

  12. Mike LaBossiere,

    “You are right to note that such diets generally do not work. ”

    They certainly work for the diet industry. In same way donuts work for Krispy Kreme. Krispy Kreme even did a “low carb” donut.

    “People want an easy and painless way to be fit or at least thin.”

    I think the idea something needs to be unpleasant or painful for it to work is mistaken too. Fine if you’re doing some kind of endurance training and you already have a certain level of fitness, not fine if you’re very unfit to begin with. Many unfit people decide they’re going to turn over an new leaf, head to the gym, and murder themselves on the first attempt. And similarly they will attempt a very punishing diet – thinking the more punishing the better. Inevitably they will fail, they push it to the point it’s unbearable and then when they can no longer bear it, the inevitable happens.

    The less painful approach works better; no starvation, cut out a few things at a time, and walk; because not only do you need to learn to walk before you can run, you need to be physically capable of running. I have a friend who was morbidly obese, she was over 300 pounds – she’s now about 120, she has a small frame. It was very difficult for her to stand, let alone walk when she had the weight. This is someone who was in a lot more pain than a weight lifter who goes to a gym three times a week.

  13. Mike,
    Confession, sin, faith and salvation are not universal philosophical topics (UPT :smile: ). They are religious concepts not mentioned before. Perhaps there is a shift from your usual utilitarian arguments to something different. I see a Jesuit influence in these wordings. Do I misunderstand, or are you proselytizing these things?

  14. Mike,

    I don’t see the lack of meaningful agency as a downside. If we are indeed automata then that’s simply what we are. No point in worrying about it. On the upside perhaps we can be rid of blame in the moralising retributional sense and focus on cause and effect, problem and resolution, non-divisive progress. Of course that will happen only to the extent that causes come together to make that happen: physical causes, causing biological causes, causing neurological causes, causing psychological perspectives to change.

    Some worry about the nihilistic depressive pointlessness of life, should we not have free will, should life not have higher meaning, should we not get the rewards we deserve. But they needn’t worry. The physical causal processes that have resulted in evolved life seem to have also resulted in survival instincts that give us the illusion of a desire for life, for hope, even an illusion of free will.

    OK, so some people may become depressed in the realisation that free will and meaning are not real. But can this be any worse an outcome than all those people that have come to feel that the God they believed in has deserted them when they needed him? Or those that they feel they are failures because they failed in their presumed freely willed determination to be a success, slim, fit? Or those that are made to feel guilty because they believe that whatever happens is all their own doing, by their own flawed sinful non-virtuous free will? There’s an awful lot of negative emotional fallout from the very free willed outlook that many of us hold. Where’s the downside?

  15. Mike LaBossiere,

    “As a runner, I must confess the the sin of self-righteousness.”

    Ah yes…the smug self-righteousness of the runner. “Look at me, I’m engaged in a selfish act of running around (probably damaging cartilage) and because it’s a little painful and unpleasant it’s morally superior to smoking, drinking, eating junk food and getting fat in front of a games console…………”……….But you do the games console thing too.

    Mike…the whole penance business and self-flagellation. God is no fool – it’s not like he was born yesterday, or 9,000 years ago. There are people with weight problems who are just as bad “Hey, I just had a diet soda…so now I can eat a whole Domino’s annihilator, with double fries and a three choices of dip”.

    “Like the member of any faith, I believe my own way to be the true path to salvation and, naturally enough, I gaze with pity upon those who are not part of the OTF (One True Faith).”

    Mike, we’re just keepin’ our options open – see who has the best tunes, is there a bar, and all that.

    “On the downside, this entails that we lack meaningful agency: we are things rather than persons.”

    But Ah haw…This also provides a problem for the religious person. If it is God deciding their agency, do they really have any agency at all. Are they predestined for salvation or damnation….Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    Mike, hit me with some theology….Where in the bible is the believer granted radical freedom?

    And the Book of Ann Coulter will not do.

  16. How do you account for height, bone structure, hair, skin tone, shape of hands or feet, size of breasts or other characteristics, and so forth? You may have some control over the muscle-fat ratio, but that seems like a pretty small part of one’s overall body. No matter what his regimen, Danny Devito will never be Arnold Schwarzenegger…

    I think the best you can say is something like, you get the version of yourself in keeping with the life you choose to lead. (Which is true mentally & ethically as well as physically)

  17. Miranda Nell,

    I do note that a person does not have control over the body s/he is born with, so the starting “womb original” body would not be deserved (or undeserved).

    While some aspects of a person’s appearance would not be impacted by such choices as exercise and diet, many of these would be influenced. For example, bones respond to exercise, albeit in less dramatic ways than muscles or fat. My main focus is on what a person does with what s/he gets, so while Danny will never be Arnold, Danny could get into great physical condition.

    I realize now that I was mainly thinking like a runner/martial artist-that is in the functional aspects of the body rather than so much about the appearance.

    So, I would agree with you: a person gets the body s/he deserves in keeping with the life chosen.

  18. Mike LaBossiere,

    I am not sure that anyone has the body that they deserve. Deserve according to whom? Certainly not an obese person who has tried (or believes they have tried) absolutely everything in their power to get into shape. There are many people (including myself) who have resolved themselves to losing the weight, and have taken the steps to do so. That’s why at the start of the new year, gym membership sales skyrocket =). So many do make the decision that they are not happy with their bodies, and make the choice to lose the weight. However a large percentage of those people quit within the first month. In turn some may hate themselves for not being able to follow through on their commitments and often punish themselves further by engaging in behaviors that contributed to obesity in the first place.

    Saying that people have the body they deserve, can be analogous to telling a drug addict or an alcoholic, that the consequences they suffer are what they deserve. While it can be argued (perhaps) that when someone picks up a drink or a drug, that this is the efficient cause; they have made the choice to do so. Subsequently, (if they are addicts and alcoholics) they continue to drink and use, but they do not understand why they continue to do so. Some will respond that it alleviates the emotional pain they feel, or to “get out of themselves” because they are not happy with who they are. They actually believe that the drink and the drugs make them better people, yet in the search to become “better”, they are destroying themselves. Do they deserve it?

    Like addiction, it seems obesity could be due to determinism. Sure it seems to make sense that people should be accountable for their decisions, but does that hold true for those who make decisions without understanding why? For the addict and the alcoholic, when you ask them why they use, they will tell you they have no idea why – you could ask the same of the obese person who started working out, and then quit after only a few weeks and get the same answer.

    I do know where you are coming from Mike. I made the decision two years ago to lose weight. I am 5’6″ and was nearly 250 lbs. It took some serious soul-searching, support from friends and family, and the ability to understand my decisions to get down to 167 lbs only a year later. I am lucky that I have that because not everyone does. It took a lot of hard work, and sacrifice – a lot of exercise and proper eating. I am still 20 lbs overweight, and still do not feel like I have the body that I want.

    I do agree that decisions have consequences (positive and negative), but I think unless we understand those decisions, and have a clear understanding of what the problem (perceived or real) is, that we are not in a position to get into the solution. Are we accountable? Sure. Do we deserve it? Not so sure.

  19. Mike, how much choice did you have to be a runner and martial artist?

    Did you have control over your genes? Your upbringing? The country you were born in? The availability of training and experts? The ability to reject so much calorific food at such low cost? The free time to engage in training and exercise?

    This post, ranting aside, skips over ideas of identity, psychology, sociology, physiology, advertising, labeling, nutrition, food science, evolutionary biology, and more besides, in order to reach the self-righteous conclusion that you are what you deserve to be and because I like what I have I’m better than you.

    In reality you are what you are and that is a crap shoot based on humans’ evolutionary biology, a shuffling of human genes, social pressures, advertising, which era you were born in etc. etc.

    The advert, unintentionally, suggests there is a ‘you’ which is separate from the meat wrapping it.

  20. Keddaw,

    As far as my choice goes, it would depend on the metaphysics of the world. If it is a deterministic world, then I had no choice-and neither did anyone else in anything that has been done or shall be done. If it is a random universe, then I also had no choice.

    But, laying aside the metaphysics and engaging your questions:

    “Did you have control over your genes?”

    Not yet. However, I could control how they were expressed. That is, by training hard I achieved what my genes would allow. To use an analogy, my genes gave me an empty container that would hold 10 gallons of water. While I don’t pick that, I do get to fill it up to that limit.

    “Your upbringing?”

    The aspects under my control-that is, the choices I made in response to the life I was born into.

    “The country you were born in?”
    No. But runners are born around the world. The best runners tend to come from Kenya and some are born into extreme poverty. Fortunately, running is cheap.

    “The availability of training and experts?”
    I did seek out other runners, but I did not control them.

    “The ability to reject so much calorific food at such low cost?”
    What do you mean? The ability to withstand the temptation of food? I’m actually kind of bad at that and will eat like a horse if given the chance.

    “The free time to engage in training and exercise?”
    To some degree-if my choices impact my career.

    If your point is that we are just determined meat, then this would apply to everyone. The serial killer is just what he is. The serial rapist is just what he is. The dictator is just what he is. And so on-there are no heroes, no villains. Just meat dancing mindlessly to the beat.

    While we might live in such a world and what I type is just determined, I am apparently determined to think that we have enough freedom to be moral agents. That is, people and not just meat.

  21. Mike, it is trivially easy to prove that the world is not strictly deterministic*. As a victim of classical physics however, you, in this sense, didn’t have a choice.

    On the other hand, the person doing the training wasn’t the current you either, so you’re taking credit for someone else’s hard work, albeit someone very, very similar to you.

    But these all get into areas of philosophy that I don’t think you intended to with your post…

    * Make a classical decision based on a quantum outcome, e.g. go home if radioactive particle X decays, go to bar if it doesn’t.

  22. keddaw,

    “* Make a classical decision based on a quantum outcome, e.g. go home if radioactive particle X decays, go to bar if it doesn’t.”

    Or, if the particle is in a superposition of both states, go home and go to the bar. Or another interpretation you’d could choose, you could go to the bar in one universe and go home in another. Or you don’t know whether you’re heading home or going to the bar until you arrive at either and then there’s still a small uncertainty as to if you’re really there. You could go home and your wave function could be entangled with the bar – spooky drinking at a distance.

    I would say the brain is so dense, quantum effects play a major role in its’ function.

  23. Mike LaBossiere,

    “If your point is that we are just determined meat, then this would apply to everyone. The serial killer is just what he is. The serial rapist is just what he is. The dictator is just what he is. And so on-there are no heroes, no villains. Just meat dancing mindlessly to the beat.”

    No, but there is a flaw here, and in Miranda Nell’s “The life you chose”

    The reasons for your motivations are simply not always available to you. There can be a neurotic impulse behind your actions but your conscious narrative completely hides this motivation from you. This happens to everyone. Most of the time it really isn’t a problem – when it become pathological; when it causes suffering, then it is a problem.

    Anorexics go to the gym. Bulimics will eat box after box of cornflakes and not know why they’re doing it. And neither may be aware they have a problem.

    No heroes or villains. The worst villains in history believed themselves to be heroes.

  24. @JMRC,

    Latest thinking is that as soon as quantum entanglement reaches some not-even-classical-magnitude the wave function collapses. So, much as I love the idea of it going as far as it can, it turns out the uncertainty inherent in reality becomes concrete at sizes that are at such a scale that it doesn’t impact humans.

  25. Keddaw,

    Ah, if only proving such fundamental questions were so easy. A while back I wrote an article about chance. The gist is that I steal Hume’s analysis of causation and apply to chance. That is, we never have any empirical evidence of chance (non-determinism) since all we every observe is what has occurred. We never observe what might have been. Even we could somehow travel to an alternative world (or just know about them), this would not help. After all, we would just see a world that is as it is rather than seeing what our world could have been.

    Observationally, deterministic, free, and random worlds all look the same. That is, we just see what is/was and never observe what might have been.

  26. True-I do not always know why I do what I do. But, to steal from Kant, it seems that in order to have morality and agency we have to assume that we do have a meaningful role in who we are and what we do. We could be wrong about this, but if we can think we are free, we should think that. After all, if we are right, then we got it right. If we are wrong, well, we were not free to think otherwise.

  27. keddaw,

    “Latest thinking is that as soon as quantum entanglement reaches some not-even-classical-magnitude the wave function collapses.”

    The idea of wave function collapse is misleading. It just gets to a point where it’s impossible for a human or machine to do the calculations -( this is also called decoherence, which means it’s too complicated for it to be coherent) . If one wave interacts with another, then that interacts with another, etc. According to Prince Louis de Broglie, you are a wave.

  28. Re:-JMRC March 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    How is it that observation of any type, be it human, or contrived by a machine, causes collapse of the wave function, and the location of a particle is thereby determined. You will remember Schrŏdinger’s Cat which is an analogy to expose the peculiarity of Quantum phenomena were it applied to the macro world as we experience it. The cat is both alive and dead until we observe it. So far as Quantum entanglement is concerned, which has now been demonstrated in microscopic diamonds; this so far as I understand, is such, that after a process where sub-atomic particles are made to interact physically, and then become separated, it is possible to alter the physical states of one particle like momentum, spin, polarity, and these will immediately be evident in the other particle notwithstanding any magnitude of distance separating the particles. This suggests that if there is anything in the nature of a “message” between the particles it is transmitted at a speed exceeding that of light. I am not sure how collapse of a wave function applies in the case of entanglement.
    Quantum Phenomena lies absolutely outside of human experience I am guessing when I say that the evolutionary process saw no survival value in becoming acquainted with Quantum phenomena the same might go for relativistic phenomena, although that is easier to demonstrate. So is there really a quantum wave function out there out there? I think not, although attempts have been made to demonstrate it cf Quantum Mirage, Wikipedia. The fact is that the mathematics work and give accurate consistent results. Those physicists who like me wonder what is actually going on out there are often told by some of their colleagues to shut up and just calculate. That works, but otherwise there is really no phenomena that impacts human conscious observance.

  29. Mike LaBossiere,

    “True-I do not always know why I do what I do. But, to steal from Kant, it seems that in order to have morality and agency we have to assume that we do have a meaningful role in who we are and what we do.”

    We do have a meaningful role in the decisions we make. But if our reasoning has been formed through some emotional experience, the reasoning may not be good. I believe you always have a responsibility to question your reasoning. But it is complicated. If you believe the absurdities of an idiot, and then go commit a terrible crime on the basis of those absurdities, who is responsible, the original idiot, or the idiot who commits the crime.

    Psychotic reasoning is a little different again. There may be a reason (the reason may not be material) for an activity, but the reason is completely hidden from the psychotic. They may have an absurd rationalization in its’ place. The wife beater believes his wife made him beat her; “look what you made me do!!”. And if the wife believes her husband, she is now a psychotic too.

    What does Kant have to say on wife beating?

  30. Don Bird,

    “Quantum Phenomena lies absolutely outside of human experience I am guessing when I say that the evolutionary process saw no survival value in becoming acquainted with Quantum phenomena the same might go for relativistic phenomena, although that is easier to demonstrate.”

    I’m not sure that’s completely correct. (Quantum biologists – I think there are 12 of them in the world – believe they may be onto something). I’m just hacking away at modern physics as a hobby – it’s a surprisingly good way to get to sleep. We observe the classical world and for a very long time we believed what our eyes were telling us but if special relativity were not true, and the particles were not waves, could anything even move?

    Special relativity is true. You can see red shift in stars with the naked eye – or the greenness of the aurora borealis.

    Are you a walking wave like Louis Debroglie believed. I wouldn’t be surprise. Is there a mathematician somewhere doing all the maths somewhere, I doubt it.

    ” The fact is that the mathematics work and give accurate consistent results. Those physicists who like me wonder what is actually going on out there are often told by some of their colleagues to shut up and just calculate.”

    I think “shut up and calculate” is more of a case of “shut up and don’t let your mouth get into trouble”. There is no end of trouble your mouth can get you into.

  31. Re: JMRC March 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I think it is quite likely that the mass of a human body can be expressed as a wave as per de Broglie. It seems easily done for infinitesimal masses as are found in atomic and subatomic particles. So far as I remember this is achieved by dividing Plank’s constant by momentum, the momentum being Mass(Kg) times velocity. I don’t know how this equation fares for much larger bodies say a cricket ball. I guess something in the way that classical mechanics can get us to Mars but when speeds approach that of light relativistic amendments have to be taken into consideration. However I do remember for my own amusement, some years ago calculating my diffraction, as I passed at an angle through a doorway. I used the above formula to calculate my wave function at whatever Kg was my mass and regarding the door, assumed it to be a slit. You may remember waves are diffracted when passing through slits. The angle of diffraction was of course so small as to be virtually non existent but is was a fascinating thought at the time. I am speaking from memory so I hope I have it right; somewhere here, there are papers on it.
    My own academic training has been in Philosophy although I have never practised professionally and my main interest is the Philosophy of Science. Don’t ask me to explain the Schrödinger Equation I cannot, the maths of Quantum Theory evade me. Here is an excellent quotation from Niels Bohr “There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature..” I think this holds for much of what we say in philosophy and similar discussions, and as you say, mouths can be a danger at times. All we know is a Human viewpoint on any thing, and more importantly all we know is our own viewpoint. Basically these points of view are genetically instilled to get the vehicle which our genes have constructed successfully to survive and reproduce; cf Richard Dawkins here “The Selfish Gene.”
    The best non mathematical explanation I know of concerning Quantum theory, is Jim Al Khalili’s book, “ Quantum a guide for the Perplexed” Other books well worth reading are David Eagleman’s “Incognito” “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality Enjoying life without illusions” by Alex Rosenburg who for me, hardly puts a foot wrong. “Decoding Reality, the universe as quantum information”, is also thought provoking. If you like biographies “The Strangest Man, the hidden life of Paul Dirac Quantum genius” is wonderful, containing sadness, hilarity, love, in the life of a slightly autistic Theoretical physicist and genius. It has a happy ending too.
    What on earth this has to do with the Bodies we deserve I do not know but I have given a more direct answer to that somewhere here. I sometimes wonder how much we are allowed to diverge when replying to these blogs.

  32. Don Bird,

    de Broglie believed all matter was made of waves. You take it even further and say the universe has its’ own wave function.

    Niels Bohr’s statement can easily be stretched to cover every comment science has to make on reality. It’s all just abstract descriptions. It has strange history. But, according to someone I know who does semiconductor research, at the really small scales semiconductors are now at they do have to use the wave equations and quantum theory. So it’s not as abstract as it might have been in the 20s. Or even in the 90s.

    These days I’m trying to read text books. Popular science books can be really misleading and confusing. Some popular books are really dreadful – several hundred pages of hand waving.

  33. I have something else to add.

    I do not have the body I deserve.

    A few years ago, I was at a party with some friends – enjoying myself. And one of my friends remarked, and precisely, that I did not look like I deserved to look (these were his precise words). I should have looked a bad 55 that’s not going to make 60.

    I’m slim, I look youthful, and I have muscles. My secret; my regime; cigarettes, alcohol, and high salt/high fat foods. The truth is, although I have had many misfortunes in my life, through some unfair genetic mutation, I have been able to get away with it.

    Ultimately, nature is just too unfair to make any kind of judgement. I know people who were very active, sports the gym, diet, the works, but they still looked an unhealthy 45 at 25.

    In the end, you don’t get what you deserve, you just get what you get.

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