Author: M

A collection of high-quality academic essays.

St. Anselm’s version of the Ontological Argument and Gaunilo’s objection to it

Anselm of Canterbury was one of the early promoters of the Ontological Argument supporting the existence of God. He argues that God exists on the basis that ‘something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought’ should necessarily exist in reality. In other words, just as anything a painter can conceive of can be materialized into a painting, the conception of God is a terminal point for human imagination. To the extent that it is imaginable, the object exists. To the extent that it is the ultimate in the scale of imagination, it must be God. Anselm goes on to claim that that God cannot be thought not to exist is further proof. He says, ‘something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought’ exists so truly that it cannot even be thought not to exist. If a creature is able to think of something better and bigger than God, it would have to be above its Creator and be judging its Creator. Since this is logically impossible, it is only God who not only truly exists but also exists to . . . Read More

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Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg

It is important for all of us to have spiritual moorings. To be able to negotiate the vagaries of life, a spiritual support is essential. Sharon Salzberg’s informative book Faith is a personalized account of the necessity of faith. Talking from her experiences as an American Buddhist teacher, Salzberg offers readers several insights on the subject.

One of the main concepts spoken by Salzberg is the ‘discovery of truth’. Citing Buddhist understanding of cognitive processes, she reckons that human senses are not adequate to comprehend spiritual insights. To be able to get enlightened, disciplined pursuit of truth is necessary. Salzberg talks about how her own spiritual journey was marked by phases of doubt and confusion. Indeed, it is these challenges which make knowledge concrete, pulling away from its conceptual abstractions. In her own case, she encountered confusion whether to follow the Burmese or the Tibetan tradition of spiritual contemplation. She states that such . . . Read More

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The considerable overlap between Buddhism and Neuroscience

Following the thesis of Weisman’s article for the Seed Magazine, this essay will further furnish evidence in support of its claims. This essay will argue that much of the distilled wisdom of Buddhist thought is congruent with modern findings in neuroscience.

Of late Buddhism has found a following in the West. The major reason is that it is seen as a practical and philosophical system than a dogmatic religion. For example, the practice of meditation is far from being an esoteric mystical aspiration. There are palpable everyday benefits arising from regular meditation practice. Just as working out in the gym is good for the body, the daily practice of meditation is seen as a mind-exercise. To the extent that the mind is a manifestation of the physiology of the brain, meditation can also be seen as a brain exercise. Neuroplasticity is the term used by neurologists for describing the mutability of brain structures. Just as a body builder can shape and grow his muscles . . . Read More

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Can political regimes have legitimacy without democracy?

It is imperative that any political regime first gains its legitimacy before enforcing its authority on people. At the outset, it is important to differentiate legitimacy from legality. Legality is a technical concept, which may or may not always satisfy criteria for legitimacy. Legitimacy, on the other hand, is ascertained through an ethical evaluation of an action, phenomenon or an institution. In public affairs, many laws get contested on claims of their illegitimacy. Inversely, many laws are enacted on the basis of legitimate necessities for their existence. The role of democracy, in this context, is to legitimate what is legal and vice versa. Whether it is a representative democracy or direct democracy, the role of democratic processes is to bring a moral bearing to the legislatures. More broadly, democracy is the force of virtue through which a state can exercise its authority. The rest of this essay will elaborate various facets to the interrelation between legitimacy and . . . Read More

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Stalin’s Barber by Paul M. Levitt

Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?

Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.

What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)

Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read More

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Characteristics of 19th century Nation States

The 19th century saw many key developments in political science. It was a period of fertile intellectual discussion about various forms of government and their merits and demerits. It was a time when many societies were coming out of agrarian economies and embracing industrialization. On the political front, imperialism still held sway as the dominant geo-political formation, even as older forms of monarchies and principalities continued to exist. In the flux created by new industrial methods of production, warfare and administration, the idea of ‘nationalism’ came to fore. With Europe as its epicentre, nationalism was mooted as the collective geo-political representation of a race (ethnicity) of people. Another feature of most modern nation-states is their capitalist orientation, although it was less pronounced in the 19th century. (Cottam & Cottam, 2001)

The modern state is defined by a few key characteristics: contiguous territory, salaried bureaucrats, common . . . Read More

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Exploring the way poets present their thoughts about relationships

The three poems in question are much contrasted in their content, tone and style. The poem by Willam Butler Yeats is a classic, whose lines have been invoked on many a romantic occasion by the English speaking peoples. The poem is a ode to love, but its real beauty comes from the angle of self-love. While admiring the object of his desire in unequivocal terms, the author implores her to have consideration for his heart. It is a charming way of wooing the lover, by showing the fragility and politeness of the besotted. It is a clever romantic ploy as well, for, by boldly claiming to be poor and modest, the narrator is putting the burden of rejection on the part of his lover. This is an enchanting way of tapping into her guilt. But what the poor romantic lacks in wealth, he duly makes up in imagination. The presentation of the golden, colourful and embroidered clothes of heaven as a carpet to the girl’s feet makes for powerful imagery.

In the poem Valentine by Caron Ann Duffy, . . . Read More

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Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan: A Leadership Profile

One of the persons I admire a lot is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He is the current President of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE does not follow a democratic political system, but is a monarchy. As a result Mr. Al Nahyan inherited the Presidency from his father on 3rd November 2004. This might appear to be an easy route to power. But in truth Mr. Al Nahyan has had an illustrious career in public affairs prior to his ascension. For much of his political career prior to becoming the President he served as the Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi. He had also served varyingly as the Minister of Finance and Minister of Defence. This quality of having first qualifying himself before taking up a big responsibility is something I admire in him.

Sheikh Al Nahyan was born with a silver spoon – his family is said to possess a collective wealth of $150 billion. This is a whopping figure by any standard of measurement. It can easily make the fortuitous individual feel vain . . . Read More

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Should a liberal-democratic government protect the ‘social rights’ of its citizens?

It is self-evidently true that a liberal-democratic government should protect the ‘social rights’ of its citizens. There are copious arguments from various eminent thinkers that back up this claim. Ranging across eras and philosophical schools, various intellectuals have endorsed the protection of social rights of citizens. This essay will draw upon the ideas of philosopher Socrates (through his disciple Plato), American founding father James Madison, and 20th century political scientist T.H. Marshall. In doing so, the essay will back the position that a liberal-democratic government should protect the ‘social-rights’ of its citizens.

Social rights can be loosely defined as those rights which are operant in public places. While this is not a legal definition of the term, it serves as a guideline for the essay. In a nation with diverse racial, ethnic and religious demography as the United States, it is expected that the laws reflect secularism and social equity. These . . . Read More

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C. A. Campbell’s Has The Self ‘Free Will’?

Rubric: What two conditions must be satisfied, according to Campbell, in order for a choice to be an exercise of free will (in the morally significant sense)? How do these two conditions relate to determinism? Also provide a reasoned evaluation of Campbell’s defense of free will.

At the outset, there is no consensus among philosophers as to the definition of free will. The definitions have ranged between the most banal to the most intellectually rigorous. Since Campbell believes that a well-defined problem facilitates its solution, free will is identified with two attendant features – moral responsibility and consequences. In other words, free will is said to be operant whenever an action is seen to be morally responsible or lack thereof. In the same vein, free will is applied to those actions which lead to significant consequences. The second condition is important, for there is no utility in dissecting the intentions of an individual when they do not . . . Read More

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