Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Time flies.  It is the almost the end of 2007.  I am on my way to a 3 weeks long vacation / wedding preparation trip to HK.  I probably won’t update my blog when I am away on vacation.  I will resume writing after I come back from HK on the  2nd week of January.

I have to do many things for my short stay in HK  I have to visit all my relatives, Pat’s relatives and prepare for our wedding.  I will have 4 days of free time from 4 Jan to 9 Jan after Pat come back to Vancouver.  For my friends in HK, I will try to contact you and let’s find sometime to meet up with each other.  Please leave me your contact in the comments, which is only visible to me.

See you next year.

基督教思想史第二部 – 第二章﹕啟蒙運動及其問題

這個星期田立克敝開不說神學﹐改為先談論啟蒙運動﹐因為這是近代神學的基礎。他先解釋啟蒙運動的四個基本慨念﹐分別是自主性(autonomy)﹐理性(reason)﹐自然(nature)以及和諧(harmony)﹐然後講述啟蒙時代智識份子的主流想法﹐最後談論啟蒙運動面對的挑戰。

自主性

康德提認為人類最終要成長﹐並為自己的決定負上責任。自主性就是人可以運甪自己的理性﹐不需要外來的教導去作出正確決定。在古希臘文﹐自主性是由auto自己﹐和nomos規律兩個字組成。自主性的意義就是人內心有一套規律﹐人作出決定的標準可以不假外求。有些神學家批評自主性就是反叛神﹐但他們其實曲解了自主性的意義。人類的自主不是違反神的規律﹐而是神在創造人時已在理性埋下聖靈的種子。人跟從理性生活﹐就等同於遵行神的話語。在個人的層面﹐自由性就是要勇於思想﹐不怕用理性去質疑任何問題。

自主性的相反就是服從性(heteronomy)﹐在古希臘文的意義是服從外在的規律。服從性沒有任何規則可尋﹐因為我們從來沒有思考服從的對象。若果與我們理性不乎﹐就算盲目服從神也不是美德﹐因為我們只是害性怕罰或做錯事﹐才會利用服從來追求一份安全感。說穿了這只是逃避恐懼追求快樂﹐自主地思考才是真正服從神的規律﹐神直接在我們內心寫下的規律﹐而非外在可能有錯誤的教會規律。

理性

啟蒙運動中理性的慨念﹐與現代日常用語有些少不同﹐並不是指為求最大化的計算推論﹐更加不是與神示的對立面。理性有四個意思。第一個意思﹐是代表絕對真理存在﹐現實世界是充滿有規律和結構。這個規律結構除了包括物質世界外﹐還包括我們的思想﹐知識﹐道德良知﹐審美觀﹐一切一切等。這個世界宇宙萬物是由智慧所創造﹐也只有以理性去解讀明白世﹐包括世界中的哲學和神學。若果神學欠缺理性﹐那不過照背盲讀經文﹐並沒有明白經文的意思。第二個意思是批判性的理性﹐批判世界上不公義的事情。第三個意思是直覺的理性﹐就是柏拉圖所說﹐人看見真理的倒影。真覺理性不是用分析性的方法﹐而是用彩用描述的方法去思考。最後一個意思是技術理性﹐就是我們日常生活中所說的理性。

自然

啟蒙望動中的自然﹐並不是與人工相對的自然﹐而是批與超自然相對的自然。自然可以分為兩種﹐第一種是物質上的自然﹐第二種自然是指人的本性。換一句話說﹐人類的思想屬於自然的一部份﹐任何人類的行為也自然的一部份。

和諧

啟蒙望動和諧的定義﹐並不是指死板劃一的規律﹐而是說很矛盾地亂中有序。例如經濟學上的無形之手﹐買方和賣方也是各為私利﹐但最後的結果是互利。民主制度也需要和諧的基礎﹐正確點來說是需要和諧的信念﹐相信民主最終可以解決各方的利益衡突﹐達到保障大部份人利益的結果。天主教有教庭去頒報教義﹐但基督教的教會各自為政。是和諧的信念令基督教認為權威不需要集中在教宗一人身上﹐就算各個教會的教義相異不同﹐最終也會表達神的意思。

啟蒙時代的生活

啟蒙時代的人過的是中產階級(bourgeois)生活﹐個字起源於法文﹐字面意思是城市裏的人。中產與中世紀的鄉下人不同﹐中產階級具自主性和理性﹐不會盲目服從權威。中產的理念是要分析和改變環境﹐好讓他們可以完全地掌握四週的事物。他們認為環境是一連串可以計算的模型﹐透過精密的思考人可以作出理性的決定。

中產需要一個理性的宗教﹐ 神是世界運行的源動力。神創造了世界並定下運作的規律﹐神不需要事無大小地干預世界。神干預世界破壞了中產的理性計算﹐因為神是不依從自然的規律的超自然力量。中產不喜歡聽死亡或地獄的教義﹐因為死亡代表著人類自主的終結。原罪也受到中產的攻擊﹐因為這與在世上人類不斷進步﹐能夠通過理性找出善的理念不乎。理性的宗教﹐一切恐嚇和不安的教義被抽空﹐剩下來只是與世界沒有太大關係的神﹐以及人類靈魂不滅的信念﹐好讓人類可以在死後也繼續進步。

中產的最大道德信念是包容﹐因為他們受夠了上世紀的宗教戰爭。其次中產強調個人與神的直接關係﹐沒有一個宗教可以壟斷人神關係﹐換一句話說不會只有一種得救的方法。第三是中產支持政教分離﹐人與神不需要教會作為中介﹐教會就不需要世俗的權力。中產的生活是工作的紀律﹐通過工作改做世界﹐在地上建立神的國度。今天的中產已經變了質﹐失去了工作的紀律﹐改變世界的理想﹐只懂沉醉於奢華的消費品上。中產認為情緒是非理性﹐情緒不可以影響生活上的重要決定。於是人分為理性和情緒兩部份﹐不受理性控制的情縮﹐漸漸變成無知的代名詞。

Patent review meeting

Somehow I have to get up early every day this week, today is a 8a.m. patent review meeting.  I was asked to sit in the meeting to review two verification related the patent application from Israel.  Verification related IP is really hard to patent, it is not that we are not innovative.  The problem is there is no way for us to enforce our patent.  We see our competitors’ chips, but we don’t know how they verify their chips.  They can do pretty much whatever they want behind closed door.  In the past few years, we start to see 3rd party verification IP on the market.  Verification IP is just software, so it falls into the same category as software patents, which is different from the hardware patent my company familiar with.

Anyways, the Israel guys presents two patents application to the patent committee.  I was asked to review the initial patent application as one of the few “verification experts” in the company.  Helping the lawyers to determine whether the idea is patent worthy.  We have to examine the application base on whether it is new, whether it is trivial and whether the patent is enforceable.  If the patent in question is truly innovative, it will worth the trouble for me to get up early, but it is exactly the opposite.  The Israel guys are trying to patent an idea we have been using over 3 years in Vancouver.  This idea is so good that we even asked Cadence for feature enhancement to put it into their verification tool.  Actually, the idea is already implemented in the latest tool release.  The Israel guys must be living in a cave, it seems they are so out of touch with the latest verification technology.  Even if this idea is patentable, there is no way for us to enforce the patent.  We will never know other companies copying our way or not.  The only company we will ever see any infringement is from Cadence.  It is the last thing you would sue your tool vendor, when there are only two companies on earth making the tools of your trade.  Reviewing the patent itself is a total waste of time, I can’t believe some one is dumb enough trying to apply for a patent on this piece of antique.  However, it is an interesting experience to attend a patent review meeting.

Indian flu

My boss come back from a business trip in Indian and got a flu.  I am sitting right next to him, probably that’s how I got a flu.  When I woke up this morning, I am having a headache, muscle pain, soar throat and drowsiness.  Unfortunately, I have whole day meeting today and piles of work waiting me to finish before I take off for  vacation, so I couldn’t skip work today.  After work, I went straight to the pharmacy to buy Neo-Citron.  Hopefully my flu will go away tomorrow after I drink the flu formula and have a good rest tonight.

Sex change operation

I just discover something that is more disgusting than being gay, it is the sex change operation. There is a guy in my company going to change his sex next month. At first I am not aware of his abnormality. When I work with him, I thought he is just a skinny guy with really long hair. Although he loves to wear tight clothes, I never notice he has breasts, not until someone point out to me. Well, why would I pay attention to his breasts if I assume he is a guy. Some of my colleagues noticed his breasts, and keep wondering whether is he a he or a she. Finally the mystery is solved when reliable source told us he is under going a sex change operation. He is injecting female hormones now. In next month, he will remove the extra body parts and officially become a woman.

This guy brings up lots of questions. After he turns into a she, presumably he will act like a real woman and love guys. Would any normal guy with a sane mind willing to marry a sex changed woman? If he loves guy, why can’t simply be gay? Compare to sex change, gay seems much more acceptable, at least gay guys are still guys. If there is a disgusting scale, gay is just medium disgusting. I can tolerate gays around me, as long as they are not my kids. I don’t think I want to deal with any sex changed woman. Sex change operation is on the extreme end of the disgusting scale. Pretending to be a woman while born as a man is out right lying, which is socially unacceptable, it is an act that destroy our social fabric.

I do acknowledge there are some men really want to change their sex. They have serious psychological problem, so we should treat them and cure them. If we can’t turn them back to 100% normal, at least we should turn them into gay. Helping them fulfill their sex change desire is not right way to treat their abnormal state of mind. I hope he better pay for his sex change operation fee out of his own money. As a tax payer, I do not approve the government health plan spend a single dime on sex change operation.

PHIL120 Moral Philosophy 道德哲學

PHIL120 說起道德﹐很多人會聯想起性行為﹐婚外情等題目﹐其實這些只是道德的一小部份。道德很笵圍很廣泛﹐讓我們分辨什麼事情是對﹐什麼事情是錯﹐什麼是善﹐什麼是惡。我這個學期修讀了道德哲學課﹐探討什麼是道德這個問題。雖然這課道德哲學是一年級的課程﹐但不是那種幾百人的大班﹐只有三十多人的小班。讀哲學不能擠在巨型講室單向接收課本內容﹐學生必須與教授在課堂內有互動討論。不過一年級學生大多數很少發問﹐不知是害羞還是無心向學﹐上課時更有不少人拿著手提電腦上網。反而我們幾個兼讀的成年人﹐上堂前讀熟指定閱讀課文﹐是堂上與教授討論的中流扺柱﹐令到課堂的氣氛活潑不少﹐沒有大班教學那麼沉悶。

道德的客觀性

上第一課時教授就已經開宗明義﹐明確地指出一般人對道德的誤解。道德不可能是相對性的﹐不可能只是每個人的不同觀點﹐不可能依附在宗教或文化上。若果道德是相對性﹐那麼就沒有絕對的對與錯﹐任何有關道德的討論也會變得沒有意義。柏拉圖早已指出道德與宗教沒有關係﹐一來我們不能客觀地以神作為推論的起點﹐二來神諭沒有劃一性﹐明日的神諭可以推翻今日的神諭﹐根本不能用作分辨對錯的標準。道德必定超越文化的規限。我們不可能無條件認同其他文化的所有道德準標﹐難道有文化會殺嬰我們也不能批評他們有錯嗎﹖二來我們根本不能清楚介定文化的範圍﹐難道黑社會文化也有黑社會殺人的道德嗎﹖道德必定是一套客觀的普世標準﹐不論任何時間也是放諸四海皆準的真理。道德哲學就是找出這一套善惡標準的方法。

這課分成為兩個部份。前半部講四大傳統道德理論﹐分別是功用主義﹐康德的道德責任論﹐社會契約論﹐ 和亞里士多德的德行論。每個道德理論也有完整的推論﹐可以合理地解釋一般的道德問題﹐如殺人﹐偷竊等。可是每個道德理論也有其限制性﹐在一些具爭議性的課題﹐採用不同的理論配合不同的前設﹐會得出不同的結論﹐這正是這些議題為什麼具爭議性的原因。下半部探討現今社會熱門的道德爭議﹐包括安樂死﹐墮胎﹐死刑﹐動物權益﹐環保等議題。教授會羅例正反相方常見的論據﹐然後以不同的道德理論去作批判思考﹐讓我們看清楚那些論據不合理之處。每篇指定閱讀課文均是這些課題的重要論文。或許我不認同某些文章的立場﹐但全部文章都寫得很有說服力﹐是寫批論性文章的極好的學習對象。

下面我會簡單講述四大道德理論的內容。至於堂上討論的道德課題 ﹐因為涉及太多推論和背景資料﹐很難在這兒作一個簡單總結﹐有機會在另外撰文細說。有趣與的朋友﹐可以參看我那兩篇有關墮胎動物權益的功課。

功用主義

功用主義可以用一句話來總結﹐道德上的善或對﹐就是給最多人最大的快樂。功用主義可以細分為三個部份。第一部份是結果論﹐以結果來衡量一件行為的對錯。第二部份是好的定義﹐快樂就是好﹐痛苦就是壞。第三部份就是平等性﹐在計算功用的結果時﹐每個人的快樂和痛苦也佔同樣比重。

功用主義的問題﹐其實分別是三部份的內在問題。若果道德只用結果來衡量﹐很容易會變成為求目的不擇手段﹐成為大多數人侵犯小數人權利的藉口。若果快樂就是好﹐痛苦就是壞﹐那麼無痛苦的虛擬世界就是最好的世界﹐那The Matrix的電腦豈不是在行善。若果我的快樂和非洲飢民的快樂也佔同樣比重﹐那麼我把錢花在吃大餐而不捐給飢民﹐在功用主義的定義中就是行惡。平等性令到道德的要求太過嚴格﹐道德會淪為沒有人會認真執行空中樓閣。

康德的道德責任

康德認為道德是客觀性﹐可以用人類的理性去推論出來。他認為動機是分辨一個行為善惡的標準。若一個人做一件事﹐是出於想達到某些目的﹐這件事就不是善。若他在做同一件事﹐他並不是要求達到任何目的﹐他的行為出於道德責任﹐他就是在行善。道德責任可以分為兩種。第一種是完全責任﹐人不論在任何時候也不應該﹐如殺人。第二種是不完全責任﹐人應該要間中做﹐但不需要任何時間也做﹐如捐錢。至於有人那些道德責任﹐他提供兩個檢定的方法。第一個方法是黃金定律。簡單來說就是已所不欲﹐勿施於人。若果你不想每個人都做一個行為﹐又或者邏輯上不可能每個人都做同一行為﹐這個行為就是惡。第二個方法是以人為本﹐簡單來說就是不可以利用他人作工具。每一個人也有理性﹐可以自主作出決定﹐若果利用他人作為工具﹐就是不尊重他人的理性﹐否定他們作出決定的能力。

康德道德責任主要有兩大問題。第一﹐同一個行為若配上不同的動機﹐就可以左右是否通過黃金定律的結論。第二﹐道德責任論推論出一些很明顯違反常識的結論﹐最出名的是殺手敲門的兩難題。若果有個人被壞人追殺躲藏在你家﹐殺手來敲你門問你知不知那個人在那裏。康德認為對殺手說謊是不道德﹐你應該要供出那個人的藏身地點﹐好讓他給殺手殺害。

社會契約論

社會契約論認為道德只是人與人之間的建立契約﹐讓人類可以生活得更加好。試想象一個沒有法律沒有道德的原始地方﹐每個人也有自由作任何事情。因為沒有人可以憑力量長久統治﹐這個地方將成為每個人與每個人為敵的可怕地方。人類出於理性和自利的天性﹐就會走在一起商議﹐達成一個約束每個人行為的共識﹐建立起一個大家能夠安居樂業的生活秩序。道德就是人與人之間的和平條約﹐規定每個人的道德權利和義務。

社會契約論有兩個問題。第一﹐社會契約並不是必然地需要全人類的參與。只要大部份人簽定和約有足夠的力量﹐就可以對剩下來的小部份人為所欲為。社會契約不能解釋為什麼種族歧視或性別歧視是不道德。第二﹐在社會契約中﹐只有能夠履行道德義務者﹐才有參與契約的資格﹐才可以擁有道德權利的保護。社會契約不能解釋小孩或智障人士的基本人權。

亞里士多德的德行論

德行論與先前三大道德理論不同。先前三大道德理論﹐是套分辨一個行為是善是惡的準則。德行論則把決定善惡的方法反過來。善的行為是出於人性中好的本質﹐惡的行為是出放人性中惡的本質。亞里士多德決定本質好壞的方法﹐簡單地說就是孔子的中庸之道。兩個極端就是壞﹐在極端中間的就是好。舉個例子﹐勇氣是好的本質﹐但太少勇氣是懦弱﹐太多勇氣就是好勇鬥狠﹐兩個極端是壞的本質。行善可以培養好的本質﹐好的本質就是快樂之道﹐而人生的意義就是追求快樂。

德行論聽起來好像沒有問題﹐可是對我們應如何分辯善惡完全沒有幫助。亞里士多德沒有說明﹐如何劃分好壞本質的界線。一個人也不殺是極端﹐見一個殺一個也是極端﹐中庸之道豈不是要殺一半人﹖

Skiing season begins

Today, I went to Whistler to start my skiing season.  I am horribly out of shape.  After the first run, I already felt my adductor muscle stiffed up and stressed out.  It is really cold and windy today.  The Peak Chair and the Harmony Chair is closed due to strong wind.  It is chilling riding on the chair lift.  The cold wind blow so hard that it seems like freeze up my face.  My face can’t feel anything when I am up in the chair.  When we were riding the gondola in the afternoon, the wind was so strong that the gondola has to stop for 5 minutes, wait until the wind died down before keep moving.  The gondola was swinging back and forth in mid air.  I can’t imagine what if we were stuck when riding chair lift instead of the gondola, probably we will freeze into an icetude.  Somehow the wind is so strong that it sucked the gondola door half open.  Luckily the gondola is quite empty so no one is leaning against the door.  The snow condition is pretty good today, we have lots of fresh snow, but the weather is pretty bad, in the afternoon, we have almost zero visibility.  Well… we  got some free lift tickets, so it is essentially free today.  Since we are not paying, our mind works differently.  We don’t have squeeze as many runs as possible to get the most worth of the ticket, we can take it easy and ski down relaxingly.

Company Party

Company party is one of the most boring and time wasting event. I wasted a whole fine Saturday evening. If the food is good and there are have lots of door prizes, maybe it still worth my time. However, the winter party of my company offer none of them. The company party is simply not fun, party is not free, drinks are limited to two per person, the casino game uses fake money and the dance music is pretty lame. If I want to have fun with my friends at work, there are much better things to do than go to the company party. The only positive reason I can come up with for the party is it is a great way to know the spouse of your colleagues. Normally don’t see the spouses of your colleagues and you don’t get to introduce them to your spouse. It is nice to let your spouse know your friends at work, so when you whim about work at home, she can link the names with the faces.

Heroes 英雄

Heroes 說起「英雄」很多人會聯想到李連杰歌頌暴君的那套舊電影﹐但此「英雄」非彼「英雄」﹐這套是去年美國NBC電視台最受歡迎的科幻連續劇。話說有天我約了位靚女吃飯﹐吃完飯問她有沒有時間喝杯東西﹐她竟然說要趕回家追看電視劇集。這足以引起一向很少看電視的我的興趣﹐看看到底這套劇集有什麼魔力。回家後我馬上下載第一季﹐不看猶自可一看不可收捨﹐兩天內看完二十四集。從此以後每個星期一﹐我也乖乖地下載新一集﹐追看劇情的最新發展。

故事講述某些人因為基因變種而獲得超能力﹐這個設定X-Men早已用過﹐但不同的是「英雄」中沒有變種特務組織﹐也沒有明顯的正邪對決。劇中的角色是與你和我一樣的充滿人性﹐他們對自己的超能力會感到彷惶﹐不知道應該如何運用得到的力量。他們沒有光頭博士的指導﹐只好在生活中找出適應之道。這劇集的中心思就是劇中日本仔常常說的那一句話﹐每一個人也有預定的角色﹐每一個人也可以是英雄。故事中有差不多大大小小十位主角﹐每個人的超能力也各有不同。第一季的主線是圍繞一個可以預見末來的畫家﹐他畫了一幅紐約核爆炸的預言。各路互不認識的人馬﹐抱括拯救人類當英雄的決心﹐找出阻止這個大災難的方法。由於有一個角色有時空轉移的能力﹐故事結構十分複雜龐大﹐謎題橫跨不同的時間軸。劇中有一幕把謎題與各人的關係﹐用線與交叉點很影像化地展示出來﹐看起來比蜘蛛網還要錯縱複雜。第一季的結局寫得不錯﹐每一條線索也是指向同一目的地﹐在約紐街頭把所有角色的命運連結起來。

正如以往的超能力電視劇一樣﹐ 「英雄」中的超能力者大大細細有十數人。每個人的戲份比重不同﹐但沒有一個是明顯的主角。我最喜歡的角色是日本仔﹐他的對白和身體語言很搞笑﹐他亦是串連起所有人物的關鍵。原本想逐一細說劇中的主要角色﹐不過會提及他們的超能力﹐無可避免的透露重要劇情。這套劇集吸引觀眾之處﹐就是每集也埋下伏筆﹐讓觀眾猜想劇情會如何發展。若果預早知道了劇情﹐觀賞時就會失去一半的樂趣。我還是不要說穿謎底﹐留給未看的朋友自行發掘。不過有一樣劇情不吐不快﹐某位靚仔主角的超能力實在太過屈機。第一季他的能力未完全醒覺﹐問題還不算太大。不知在以後的故事﹐編劇如何可以保持力量的平衡﹐不會天下無敵戰果完全一面倒。

上星期剛剛播完第二季﹐十分令人失望。原本第二季有二十四集﹐但因為荷里活編劇鬧罷工﹐刪減至十一集草草完場。故事開始時埋下的幾個大謎題﹐最後兩集忽然很兒嬉地解決了﹐無驚無險大團完結局。第一季有些角色死了﹐第二季添加入一些新角色。不過十一集實在太短不夠時間﹐沒有足夠戲份去交待他們的劇情。有幾個超能力者只出了場幾次﹐觀眾連名字還未記清楚﹐編劇就快手地送他們上西天。我還有另外一個投訴﹐主要角色的生死﹐應該是一個強烈的戲劇元素。第二季的角色卻可以隨意復生﹐連死亡也可以不當一回事﹐還剩下什麼故事元素﹐可以讓觀眾替主角緊張。第二季越看下去﹐越有在看龍珠的感覺﹐超能力可以天馬行空﹐但不代表故劇情可以不合情理啊。希望只是編劇罷工的暫時性問題﹐第三季時劇情能夠回愎第一季的水準。

美國的電視連續劇沒有完整的故事﹐只要有收視就一季接一季不停的拍下去﹐所以我也不會期望「英雄」有一個真正的結局。一個沒有結局的故事﹐總是覺得欠缺了些東西。不過可以換個角度去想﹐美式電視劇不單只是說一個故事﹐而是創造一個劇中世界。劇中世界正如現實世界一樣﹐永遠也有新的故事發生﹐沒有一個既定的大結局。

Two faces

I had worked under this VP for 7 years and I never seen him smile. Well, I didn’t see him that often, probably once a quarter in the department update. He always wear a strict face. He don’t like to talk, he only say the words absolutely necessary to get the message across. I never heard him joke or make fun of things ever. I always though he must be a robot.

In the last round of restructuring, he was striped all his sub-ordinates. He keep his VP title, but moved into the research department to work on strategy planning. Today, I was chit-chating with some colleagues talk about the latest layoff rumors, he came and join the chit-chat. It is the first time I ever see him smile. He make some good jokes about himself being the last man remaining on his aisle, everyone sitting around him got laid off. We have some good fun and waste half an hour bad mouthing the company.

He seems like a totally different person to me. I wonder, does a person can change this much between when he is playing the role of the boss and when he is simplify a peer worker.