Archive for the ‘Short Research Papers’ Category


The Dragon Ball series, broadly speaking, illustrates the interrelations among the individuals whose actions are dictated by the lust for power. And this desire for power manifests itself in the quest for the Dragon Balls, which are said to grant wishes of anyone who has collected all seven of them. The Dragon Ball series, then, is a process of power struggle narrated from the viewpoint of Son Goku and his journey into the achievement of absolute power. In a sense, everyone fends for himself and everyone collects the Dragon Balls for his own gain. This is why Goku is suspicious of Bruma when they first meet. Bruma reasons well when she decides to keep Goku close to her as her bodyguard, while intending to steal his Dragon Ball. In this way, a seed has been planted for a potential conflict in the future, and an ally has become at the same time an enemy. This scheme is also seen in Dragon Ball Z, where Goku is defeated by Raditz and forms a coalition with his nemesis, Piccolo. It is a beneficial agreement for both of them, for Goku needs Piccolo’s help in order to save his son, Gohan, from Raditz, while Piccolo needs Raditz to be gone in order to defeat Goku with his own hand. In the similar manner, the seed for trouble unfolds itself naturally in both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, involving those who aim to achieve the absolute power. What is unique to Goku, though, is that he wants power not for his own sake but for someone else. This may seem rather surprising and inaccurate, since all Goku cares for is to be strong simply because he wants to be strong. But if we look at how he fights and how he gets stronger each time, we can see that he is always fighting for someone else. It was his desire to help others for their sake that got him involved with the Red Ribbon Army in Dragon Ball. In the battle against Raditz, he chose to sacrifice himself over defeating his nemesis, Piccolo. The reason why he was able to become a Super Saiyan too was out of anger of Kurilin’s death. This is strikingly different from any other characters when they become stronger, as is most obvious from the battle against Frieza. Frieza’s strength comes from the humiliation he suffers, while Goku’s strength comes from the love for his friends. As we may remember, this is the truth about Goku’s strength as Vegeta also finally recognizes at the very end of the battle against Buu. The Dragon Ball series, then, is not simply an anime about selfish individuals fight against each other, but it is about what a powerful caring individual should do to protect the others when surrounded by the selfish individuals. It is a story of ethics in power politics of everyday life. The Dragon Ball series, through metaphoric means, teaches us how to maintain the good in us when confronted with the evil. In a way, the conclusion is contained in the beginning: once you have learned how to use power for someone else, you have achieved the absolute power that no one can take away from you. Goku may be said to have possessed from the beginning ‘the seed of this enlightenment’, and to that extent, he may have been the strongest of all from the very moment he decided to help Bruma in Mt. Paozu.

*This is just the beginning of what is to come – a project I have always wanted to write. For those of you interested in reading further, you may occasionally come back to check on my earlier post “A Philosophical Interpretation of Dragon Ball Z” for the moment (which is itself incomplete as of yet) to get a better sense of where I am going with this. https://isseicreekphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/a-philosophical-interpretation-of-dragon-ball-z/ But eventually, my aim is to a comprehensive treatise on the philosophy of Dragon Ball series, and this is where it starts.

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First making its re-appearance in the 15th century Germany,[1] rhabdomancy remained worthy of attention by scientific communities until the end of the 19th century.[2]

Dowsing[3] is an art used to find underground waters and minerals by using a branch of a tree, forked so the dowser holds “one end of the fork in each hand, [and] walked over the ground, holding the stick before him, the ends pointing towards the earth,” and when he comes to the spot under which water is said to be, “the stick raise[s] itself and turn[s] over in his hand with such force as sometimes break itself.”[4] The controversy obviously involved with how it happens, since only a few randomly selected people seemed to possess this power to successfully perform rhabdomancy.[5] As can be seen from Lynn’s article cited in this paper, Jacques Aymar as well as many others used rhabdomancy not only to find water and minerals but also to find murdered bodies, (a bag of) gold under the earth, lost items and thieves, etc…[6] Further, although the stick used for dowsing should preferably be wood from the trees of hazel, “the almond, the willow, the ash, or somo fruit-bearing trees,” it could also be substituted with a metal or a clock spring, depending on what you are looking for.[7] Some dowsers in fact did not need a rod at all to detect water and minerals, making the rod no more necessary by the diviner than a cowl is necessary to the monk.[8] However, whenever it is used, the rod is always “a forked twig, the ends of the two limbs being held by the operator, and the fragment of the main stem projecting in front.” Holmes notes that this is a curious fact, as it is “the exact opposite of the way in which a forked rod would be held for the purpose of warding off the effects of the ‘evil eye’ by persons fearing that influence.”[9] He thinks that this also makes a rational sense, since with the case of warding off the bad spirits, the rod is used to reduce the effect or reception of the spirits onto the subject holding the stick, whereas in the case of rhabdomancy, the subject desires to be effected by the presence of minerals, as well as whatever is being sought for.[10] Hence, one dowser claimed that he was “conscious of a feeling of ‘chill’ when passing over water,”[11] another claimed that the feeling was “something like a cramp in his back, that the sensation was a painful one, and that it made ill if he continued the process for any length of time.”[12] Similarly, Aymar, who detected dead bodies and thieves, generally felt discomfort but “fell violently ill only when on the trail of particularly violent criminals and not when merely tracking thieves or finding springs and ores.”[13]

Now, despite the cynical disclaimers like those of Riddick,[14] the fact is that these people were, with an outstanding rate of success, able to detect what they looked for. But how can we explain this phenomenon scientifically? Are the dowsers lying when they say ‘they didn’t move the tree’ when the twig apparently moves itself upon detecting water? Holmes does not think so, but he does seem to attribute the cause of the stick’s moving to the muscular motion, initiated psychologically by the subject himself.[15] If that is the case, then we must try and find the answer for the intelligible explanation for how rhabdomancy is possible at all. To rescue dowsers, Cartesians offered a corpuscularian explanation. Accoridng to the corpuscular theory, people leave tiny but very strongly constituted corpuscles behind as they pass. These philosophers expanded this basic tenant of corpuscular theory to suggest that “a dowser could ‘read’ the matter left behind by certain individuals just as one’s hand remains warm for a time after it is removed from a source of heat.” The rod was used as an instrument to focus on these corpuscles, just as the eye is needed in order to see corpuscles emanating from objects.[16]

Now, a couple of concerns still remain – for there is a sense in which this can be seen not as a gift but as a disease, like hydrophobia that stirred up a discussion in the Royal Society of London. According to the reports, a dowser feels pain in close proximity with water. This is quite stressful, as he must constantly be in pain since water is everywhere. If indeed a dowser becomes intense, and “starts off in a trance-like state” every time he senses water,[17] there is no reason why he should not be in a psychiatric hospital rather than publicly celebrated. As one doctor says, people “suffering from rheumatism and neuralgia [are] able to trace water by the sensation of damp.”[18] Also, a yet another set of concerns was also raised that rhabdomancy could be nothing but a case of tree-worshipping, believing that “the divining rod to be ‘a superstition cognate to the belief in sacred trees.’”[19]

As Browne concedes with a professor who explained that “‘[t]esting the divining rod is difficult and promises no answer that will be universally accepted.’ Following the negative results reported in one test come the favorable results reported in another,’”[20] I too believe that the authenticity of the dowsers’ claims will always be contested. But at the same time, it is these anomalies in sciences that propel us to further endeavor and undertake in trying to find rational explanations concerning natural phenomenon.

[1] Micheal R. Lynn, “Dividing the Enlightenment: Public Opinion and Popular Science in Old Regime France,” in Isis vol.92:1 (March, 2001), 34-54. See also Lee J. Vance, “Three Lessons in Rhabdomancy,” in The Journal of American Folklore, vol.4:14 (Jul. – Sep., 1981), 241-246. Particularly, at the footnote 1 on p.244, “The first mention [of the rhabdomancy] is credited by M. Chevreul to Basil Valentin, a monk of the fifteenth century.

[2] Its peak seems to have been at around 1880’s. See C.A. Browne, “Observations upon the Use of the Dividing Rod in Germany,” in Science, New Series, vil.73:1882 (Jan. 23, 1931), 84-86.

[3] A gerundive for rhabdomancy; someone who practices rhabdomancy, thus, is called a dowser.

[4] A.W. Buckland, “Rhabdomancy and Belomancy, or Divination by the Rod and by the Arrow,” in The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol.5 (1876), 436-450.

[5] For instance, astrologers claimed that the “positions of the heavenly bodies influenced the powers of the divining rod itself. Iron, for example, should be sought using a rod cut under the influence of Mars, while diamonds were under the sways of the moon.” But many dowsers did not fit the descriptions. See Lynn’s article.

[6] See Lynn’s and Buckland’s articles. Also Browne, 86.

[7] See Buckland’s and Browne’s articles cited above.

[8] T.V. Holmes, On the Evidence for the Efficacy of the Diviner and His Rod in the Search for Water, in The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol.27 (1898), 233-259. Holmes also describes the account by the diviner that “he could do just well without any [rod] at all, and that the use of the twig was a mere dramatic detail of the situation so far as he personally was concerned.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid. It is also interesting that in almost all instances throughout the history, ‘the dividing rod’ where applicable, is in a form that “resembles the letter Y, [which is] vaguely the form and number of limbs of the body,” and Vance quotes Walter Kelley, the author of Curiosities of Indo European Tradition and Folklore, who argues that “a forked rod is the simplest possible image of the human figure.”

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Lynn, “Dividing the Enlightenment,” 41.

[14] Thomas M. Riddick, in his article, “Dowsing – An Unorthodox Method of Locating Underground Water Supplies or an Interesting Facet of the Human Mind,” argues that there is no mystery in explaining how dowsers can tell where the water is, for he says that “I have no doubt that moderately non-saline and ‘drinkable’ water can be withdrawn from locations,” and that locating of “simple dug wells is not astounding or amazing, except to those who wish to be amazed by treating the commonplace as miraculous.

[15] Holmes, 240. He says “[n]o doubt they are perfectly honest,” but “we know by experience… our own hands [can] deceive out intellect.” That is, honest dowsers are easily deceived by the unconscious actions of their own muscles.”

[16] Lynn, 41.

[17] Vance, “Three Lessons in Rhabdomancy,” 241.

[18] Buckland cites Dr. Spratt saying “there are evidently certain nerves connected with the brain that appear to become more active if over-pressed with local irritation,” in connection with the ability to trace water.

[19] Holmes, 253.

[20] Browne, 86.

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When Leibniz wrote to his friend, Bierling, on July 7th 1711 and asked what Dr. Kaempfer was up to, anxious to read his latest work, he was probably referring to Amoenitates Exoticae of 1712.[1] A German naturalist and physician, Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716) traveled Holland, Sweden and Russia amongst other places, and he had been compiling the book for publication for over two decades now. That Leibniz was much interested in learning about his travels can be seen from another letter written to Leibniz by Nicolaas Witsen where he informed Leibniz “he had read the work with pleasure.”[2]

Like Linnaeus in Sweden, Krasheninnikov on Kamtschatka and the Academy of Sciences in Russia, Kaempfer’s aim was to collect factual data in the native islands and compile them in an encyclopedic manner what people practiced, believed and knew in the regions.[3] Just as Linnaeus was systematically gathering data on botany, Kaempfer, although not a systematist like him, also collected and valued each piece of information in its own light. His observational writing style perhaps resembles that of Krasheninnikov in that he not only states facts objectively but also inserts his impressions on the subject matters. In these sense, Kaempfer’s project was much the same as those who came decades after him: expansion, and consequently accumulation, of factual data as scientific knowledge so the later generation could benefit from it. What is of a particular interest to me is his The History of Japan, published posthumously in 1727 in London. He had traveled to Japan from 1690 to 1692, and recorded what he saw in a great detail. His two years residence in Japan afforded him with a rich account of how people lived their everyday life in the minutest detail, supplying “more detail on this topic than any Japanese source, for he describes the commonplace, which no Japanese bothered to record at the time.”[4] The nature of observation made is compatible with the interests of scientific institutions throughout Europe, that is, a record of anything that could be of any use. For instance, he records of how Japanese people believed the “bony little sword at the tail” of a sting ray to be “an antidote against snake bites,” and that “Japanese carry it in their breast pocket for this purpose with other house medicines.”[5] On another occasion, he tells us that Japanese believe turtles to be “an auspicious and the most noble animal among the amphibians with shell and feet” for their longevity.[6] What may seemingly be a frivolous observation can, however, reveal quite a lot about the society in the region. For instance, from the former quote, we can learn not only that the tail of sting ray was used as an antidote against snake bites, but also that it was something people carry around with them. Especially since there are so few writings on the 17th century Japanese medical practices, his information about how a certain fish (i.e. Funa) was used for a cure against worms,[7] how the empty shells of cicadas are “collected and used for medicinal purposes,”[8] and how specific types of snakes (i.e. Hibakari, or natrix vibakari; boie) are “preserved in close-up pots, calcined, [so] it produces a famous powder, daoso, which is used internally for a variety of illnesses”[9] is particularly valuable for scholars working on early modern Japanese medical history. That consuming fugu fish is a potentially dangerous thing is commonly known to us, but we could not have known unless we are in the culture that “[p]eople who are weary of life because of an incurable illness prepares themselves a final meal from the unwashed meat of the fish” for its being kind of delicacy food.[10]

In the ways in which he compiled what he saw, hence, was very much in line with, and also was at the very heart of, any natural philosophers’ project at that time to discover and understand other parts of the world that had not previously been explored. Kaempfer, in this sense, might have been the pioneer in ‘periphery science.’

[1]Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey, ed., Kaempfer’s Japan, trans. Bodart-Bailey (USA: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999), 1. Leibniz to Bierling, 7 July 1711 in C. I. Gerhardt, Die Philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (Hildesheim, 1961; facsimile Berlin 1890 edition), 7:499. (translation by Bodart-Bailey)

[2] Ibid., 7. Nicolaas Witsen was a learned mayor of Amsterdam.

[3] Malcolm Oster, ed., chapters 12-13 in Science in Europe, 1500-1800: A Primary Sources Reader and A Secondary Sources Reader, (NY: The Open University, 2002).

[4] Bodart-Bailey, Kaempfer’s Japan, 10.

[5] Ibid., 80.

[6] Ibid., 81. It’s hard to imagine if this means anything, for instance, how just how many ‘amphibians with shells and feet’ are there, other than turtles?

[7] Ibid., 79.

[8] Ibid., 73.

[9] Ibid., 73.

[10] Ibid, 78-79.

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The Society of Jesus was founded in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola to propagate and defend the faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, and such that its charter of the order, Formula of the Institute contained a number of Rules for Thinking with the Church. There, the basic attitude towards the Church was clearly elucidated.[1] The members of the society were called Jesuits, and they developed a particular interest in experimental science and rational investigation of natural phenomena. For instance, it was Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671), and not Galileo or Descartes, who first accurately determined the rate of acceleration for a freely falling body.[2] One unique methodology employed by the Jesuit scientists was probabilism. It stated that “an action could be deemed moral [or correct] if at least one respectable authority had judged it so, even if his opinion was less probably than that of authorities who denied its morality.”[3] Thus, Riccioli maintained that “The probability of an opinion remains as long as the opposite is not evidently known,” and hence “an opinion was not to be dismissed simply because the opposite was possible and even apparently supported by some evidence.”[4] When the motion of the sun was observed, Riccioli hence concluded that, even though reason clearly convinced him that the sun is immobile while the earth is in motion, “one is not allowed to say… it is not impossible for human senses to be wrong” and pretend to ignore the sense evidence that the sun is moving.[5] This philosophy of his put him in a unique position where he knows what reason tells him is probable but also knows sense-data are equally reliable, and hence cannot be dismissed easily. He refused to conclusively agree either with heliocentric view or with geocentric system of the universe on the basis that neither hypothesis offered definitive proof.[6] What happens, then, when two opposing hypotheses are of equal weight? His solution was that “authority alone could settle the question.”[7] In this dispute, he was content that “the principles of the Catholic faith provided ‘certainty without evidence,’”[8] and opted out for the heliocentric system. But what happens if the Church condemns the probabilism? In fact, thinkers like Pascal criticized Jesuits heavily for their commitment to probabilism. Even though the Church frowned upon the practices of probabilism, probabilistic aspect of Jesuit science did not cease away, as one might expect would happen from the Rules that states one is to believe what is black white if the Church says so. In this case, even the ultimate authority, i.e. the Church, could not settle the issue, which suggests that Jesuits’ adherence to the probabilism has a higher authority than the Church does. Does such a scientific method as this, where the hierarchy of authority loses its final say even though it is based upon the supremacy of the authority, really work?

[1] Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700 (NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 66. See also Malcolm Oster, Science in Europe, 1500-1800: A Secondary Sources Reader, 133, “[T]he thirteenth Rule of Loyola is explicit: ‘If we wish to be sure that we are right in all things, we should always be ready to accept this principle: I will believe that the white I see is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it.’”

[2] Malcolm Oster, Science in Europe, 1500-1800: A Secondary Sources Reader, 129-130.

[3] Ibid., 132.

[4] Alfredo Dinis, “Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science of His Time,” in Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters, ed. Mordechai Feingold, 195-224 (USA: The MIT Press, 2003).

[5] Ibid., 204.

[6] See Dinis, 208, Riccioli says that “[s]o far, no proof based on celestial phenomena has been produced, which can demonstrate either the truth or the falsity of any of the hypotheses.”

[7] Ibid., 204, “In any controversy in which reasons favoring opposite sides are of equal evidence, we should only choose that position which is favored by authority.”

[8] Ibid., 205.

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          Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) defines virtue as an ability to do whatever one wants and yet get away with anything while maintaining power. If that is the definition of what virtue is, Descartes, I think, is the virtuous philosopher in the 17th century Europe. Descartes faced a number of serious problems with his new philosophy, but was always able to discern the circumstances he was in, and hence avoid the crucial damage to his reputation. First thing that comes to my mind is the abandonment of the publication of Le Monde in the 1630’s. His philosophy certainly endorsed Copernican heliocentric system, however, upon hearing the Galileo trial, he immediately abandoned his project from circulating in public and later explained his reason for not finishing the book as his coming to his senses.[1] In Principles of Philosophy (1644), Descartes attributed no motion to the earth strictly speaking. This, he did first by defining what motion is, and then describing the earth to be without motion. He says in Part 3 of Principles of Philosophy that “the term ‘motion’ in the strictest sense… is simply the transfer of one body from the vicinity of the other bodies which are in immediate contact with it, and which are being regarded as being at rest, to the vicinity of other bodies” and that “there is no motion occurring in the case of the earth or even the other planets, since they are not transferred from the vicinity of those parts of the heaven with which they are in immediate contact, in so far as these parts are considered as being at rest.”[2] Here, he was able to maintain his belief that the earth rotates around the sun, while not contradicting the Church’s view that the earth is at rest. Lastly, even when his denial of self-subsisting accidents challenged the miracle of Eucharist, he was ingeniously able to fend off the attacks from his opponents.[3] His explanation was that there are three types of surfaces, namely, 1) the surface of the bread, 2) the surface of the air that surrounds the bread, and 3) the surface intermediate between the air and the bread. The first surface changes when the bread undergoes changes, but does not change when the air that surrounds the bread changes, since it does not belong to the air. In this way, the surface remains numerically the same. Similarly, the surface of the air changes with the air but does not change with the bread, but there is this third type of surface, which belongs neither to the bread nor to the air that surrounds it. It only changes with “the shape of the dimensions which separate one from the other.”[4] Because we only see objects, he argues, by looking at the surfaces [L. species] of the objects, what we see in the Eucharist as bread is actually the surface belonging to that dimension and not the surface of the substance of bread or of the air. Just as we recognize a river the same to-day and 10 years ago, even though the surface of the water that flows in the river as well as the air that is over the river changes, the bread we see in the Eucharist is actually the surface that is in between the bread substance and the air substance, which being independent from either of the substance stays numerically the same. This is good for transubstantiation, but certainly not for res extensa, where body just is extension, and surface is a mode of a substance, which cannot exist in its own dimension apart from the substance. When pressed to explain this issue by Arnauld, he wrote to him that since this is of such a crucial significance, “if I dared to come to come to any conclusion on the matter… such conjectures as I make I would prefer to communicate by word of mouth rather than writing.”[5]

Once again, it seems that he was able to answer without really answering the question. For all these reasons, I believe Descartes was a virtuous philosopher par excellence in the 17th century Europe.

[1] See Descartes’ correspondence with Mersenne in November 1633, where he announced he had decided not to publish the treatise, “For I would not for all the world want a discourse to issue from me that contained the least word of which the Church would disapprove, and so I would prefer to suppress it than to have it appear in a mangled form.”

[2] Malcolm Oster, ed., Science in Europe, 1500-1800 – A Primary Sources Reader (USA: The Open University, 2002).

[3] Malcolm Oster, ed., Science in Europe, 1500-1800 – A Secondary Sources Reader (USA: The Open University, 2002).

[4] See Descartes’ correspondence with Mesland, 9th February 1645.

[5] See Descartes’ correspondence with Arnauld, 4th June 1648.

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