Monday, May 23, 2011

Entry 64 5.12.11

Entry 64, May 12, 2011, 2:27pm (ship time GMT +2)

I'm sitting in a cafe just off of Plaza de la Marina in Malaga, Spain, sipping a coffee and reveling in the fact that I just ordered entirely in Spanish. It's a small victory, to be sure (I only ordered cafe americano), but it's a start. I even said please and thank you!

Mmm. Good coffee.

I was debating whether or not to get off the ship today, as I was feeling particularly lazy. Staying in and reading a book sounded like a reasonably good idea. However, I dragged my bones off the ship around noon and now I am glad that I did. Nicky convinced me – she said that I could either read alone in my plastic, air conditioned cabin, or read at a street cafe, sipping on a coffee and attracting beautiful Spanish women (oh, who is that mysterious American over there, so absorbed and studious? So handsome as well!). Somehow I doubt that Hume's “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” is going to be a big hit with the ladies, but we'll see. I'll try Kant next if Hume strikes out.

The people watching has been good so far. Almost as soon as I sat down, a group of African women walked by selling necklaces and bracelets, their wares balanced effortlessly on their heads.

Ugh. I just discovered that I do not like sugar in my coffee.

And before I forget, congratulations to my friend Rusty Smith for getting hired to play lead trumpet on the Liberty! We dock with the Liberty in Palma, so maybe I'll have a chance to see him then. Small world, when the guy you played trumpet with in middle school jazz band gets hired to play a ship you dock with in Spain.


A few interesting ideas from Hume already. He defines an idea as the shadow of something left behind by an experience, and then asserts that all ideas proceed from experiences. The imagination, at first seeming to be limitless and unbounded by any of our physical concerns, is instead revealed to be extremely confined and narrow as it can only operate by combining qualities and objects we already have experienced. We can imagine a golden mountain, but that is only because we know the material gold and the concept of a mountain. New ideas cannot come from inside, only outside the mind.

My immediate objection here is the concept of God. If we cannot create ideas, this means that someone must have experienced God from outside and told everyone else about the concept because there is no way we could have come up with it on our own (ideas come only from outside). Hume anticipates my objection, explaining that God is a being who knows, thinks, and is virtuous – all concepts readily gleaned from other aspects of human understanding that have merely been taken to the level of infinity.

Infinity is interesting when viewed from this standpoint. None of us have experienced infinity, but we talk about it as an idea. Where did it come from, then? When we talk about infinity, we don't actually hold the idea infinity in our head – we couldn't, we've never experienced it. Instead, we substitute the ideas of “really big,” “a lot,” or “larger than,” which we do understand.

Hume's other proof that ideas come only from the external world is thus: a blind man cannot understand the concept of “blue.” Here he admits a flaw in his assertion that ideas come only from the outside. Suppose a man has lived his entire life seeing all the various shades of blue except for one. Then, suppose that all these shades were set in front of him in a gradual spectrum, leaving a space for the one he had never seen. Is it possible that he could synthesize the missing shade? An interesting question.


A man and a woman wandered by just a second ago. I overheard a little bit of their conversation; it jumped out at me, as they were speaking in English . . . “He has a laptop, maybe there is?” she said. “I'll check” he replied, heading into the cafe proper.

There's no internet, if that's what you're wondering.” I said.

Oh really? That's too bad.” The guy came out from the cafe. “There's no internet, Carlos.”

We got to talking – he's from Chicago, and she's from New Jersey. They're co-workers on the first day of a backpacking trip in Spain, and were glad to find another American here in Malaga. It turns out that the guy was a trumpet player for seventeen years, and even studied with Arturo Sandoval (!) for a little bit. Talk about a small world. Anyway, I gave them my map (I can get more at the cruise ship terminal, and I know my way back (I hope)) and they set off to find a particular plaza they've been looking for. Nice people, I hope the map helps. She's cute, too, I wonder if they're just co-workers? Perhaps they're in that weird label-less time of a relationship, or just shy.

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