Sunday, 31 July 2016

Kidney disease

My father passed away six years ago, several weeks after going into cardiac arrest on Valentine's Day as a result of massive kidney failure.
We didn't know his kidneys had been failing. Our family doctor did, and he knew that my father hadn't once seen the nephrologist to which he'd been referred in all the years that he'd had the opportunity.  It took me years to accept that he was a grown man and knew exactly what he was doing through the time that he had ignored it.  He had been a pre-med student, after all.
For years, I felt like I should have seen the signs and daily beat up on myself for failing him. I also harboured a lot of anger and resentment toward our former family doctor.  The truth is that my father was not in good health, and between the excema, gout, several strokes and various other ailments, we just didn't see the symptoms.  We couldn't have, and he lied about it.  My mom had taken care of him on her own that whole time.  We were there, but she bore the brunt of it.  Knowing now how truly unwell she was, I become overwhelmed with guilt whenever I think about it. I wish I had helped more. And though it was always a priority for me, I had my own cross to bear at that point in time in my life, a story for another blog post.
Our family doctor retired a year or so later.  My father's situation aside, I am just disappointed with his treatment of our family and the loyalty we gave him in spite of it.
It wasn't long after my father passed away that my sister and I started paying really close attention to my mom's health.  It, too, was quite poor. It had always been. We had always accompanied our parents to their medical appointments but we trusted that they were listening to the doctor.  My father's passing changed that.  I learned that my dad refused treatments and medications for anything and everything. Accordingly, we began to watch our mom's health like a hawk.
I learned quickly that she didn't like to take her blood pressure medication because it made her nauseous, that she requested but was never given an alternate drug, and that she had been almost blind in her left eye for and indeterminate length of time and was due for a vitrechtomy.  She did manage to take sufficiently good care of her diabetes.  She really liked her endocrinologist and enjoyed visiting him. 
But my father's passing really affected her.  They had known each other since they were little children, growing up in their small town of Atimonan during WWII.  They were there through each other's other relationships, friends, family, school, and first jobs. They watched each other grow into adulthood before they got involved and married.  They remained strong while my mom came to Canada for work seven years before my dad followed in the 70's.  They started a whole new journey having me and my sister in the 80's.  I watched my parents weather rough storms where we didn't know if we would have a place to live, or food to eat.  I watched every disaster and the closeness that ensued.  In old age, I watched them go for walks together; enjoy morning coffee; watch Raptors, Leafs, tennis; stay up all night playing Scrabble trying to beat each other.  They were life-partners; through anything, they knew they'd be by each other's side.  And although she never said it, I know she missed him. For all her femininity, she is the toughest lady I know--there's what I saw as her daughter, but also what we had heard about her life before us.
It was only months after we lost my father that she suffered a series of strokes and was put into critical care--incidentally at the same hospital where my father had been admitted earlier that year--and I would learn what it truly meant to be a caregiver.  Up to that point, we thought we had been really active caregivers for our parents, having watched them both come in and out of the hospital for various health concerns since we were little children, but it was only the start.  This was the hospital stay where we learned that my mom's kidneys, too, had been failing and were already down to 15% functionality.  This was when I learned the consequence of not managing your blood pressure.  This was the event that robbed my mom of the dexterity in her fingers, preventing her from being able to administer her insulin shots. This was the stay when I learned simultaneously how superior the hospital's medical team was to the team composed of our family doctor and series of specialists to whom she'd been referred, and how immensely important it is to have family at the hospital to advocate for the elderly for everything from preventing doping patients with morphine to shut them up, pushing back on pressure to admit family to nursing homes, and demanding more information and tests.  All of this was foreign to us; we had no other family here in Canada or friends going through this at the time.  Our parents were old enough to be our grandparents.  I was 27 and had to learn quickly how to manage this, getting my education, paying all the bills and my own mental and physical health.
To be continued.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

G. E. Moore’s Argument from Perspectival Variation

By Carolyn Ursabia

In Sense-data, a chapter in his book Some Main Problems of Philosophy, George Edward Moore builds a case for a theory of perception called sense-data theory.  There are many modes of gaining knowledge about the world, including but not limited to perception, memory, testimony of others and inference. Perception seems more fundamental than all the other modes of inquiry; the other modes of inquiry rely on it.  A theory of perception is a metaphysical account of the nature of perception; that is, it is a proposed answer to the question of what is happening when we perceive something with our senses[1].  Sense-data theory is one such theory of perception.  I will argue that Moore’s case for sense-data theory is weak on the grounds that it assumes too much.
According to Moore, what happens when we all saw the same envelope is the following:
o   The subject directly apprehends sense-data.
o   The subject indirectly apprehends the object.
To illustrate what he means by this, he uses the sense of sight and viewing an envelope as his example.  He assumes that the result will be transferrable to all of the other senses[2].  In his example, the object is the envelope.  Sense-data are the colour, size, and shape of the envelope.  Recall that we are only considering sight.  The subject is the person perceiving the object.  Moore explains the first part—that the subject directly apprehends the sense-data—through a distinction he makes between sense-data and apprehending sense-data.  The former are the sensible properties of the object, where the latter is what goes on inside the subject.  He gives two reasons for believing this distinction.  The first is that whereas the experience of seeing the whitish colour of the envelope ceases—namely, apprehending the sense-datum—when we look away from it, the whitish colour—namely, the sense-data—conceivably continues to exist when we look away.[3]  The second reason he believes that the two are distinct is because he believes the whitish colour of the envelope—the sense-datum—is really somewhere on the surface of the envelope, whereas the experience of seeing the whitish colour—apprehending the sense-datum—appears to happen somewhere within the subject’s body.   Moore calls the experience the subject has of seeing the whitish colour the direct apprehension of sense-data[4]
To explain the second part—that the subject indirectly apprehends the object—Moore first establishes that the object cannot be identical with the sense-data.  He does this with an appeal to what we will call perspectival variation; that is, how sense-data for the object will vary for every subject because each perceives the object from a different perspective.  For example, each subject will view a different colour, shape and size of the envelope, based on their location relative to it.  Some will see lighter or darker shades of white, and various quadrilateral shapes and sizes for the envelope.  Our perspective is dependent on our location relative to the object.  Moore argues that since each subject observes different sense-data for the same object, and the sense-data from multiple perspectives cannot all be identical with the object, then the object cannot be identical with sense-data; the two are distinct.  When we see the envelope, we directly apprehend a shade of whitish colour.  If we were to look at it again from a different perspective, we would perceive it as having a different shade of white, but we know that it is still the same object.  The object does not change: it has a true colour, shape and size that does not vary.  It exists independently of our minds, and when we apprehend sense-data, even when our perspective changes, we know that it is still the same object.[5]  In summary, Moore argued that what happens when we perceive something with our senses is that the subject directly apprehends the sense-data; sense-data are distinct from the object; the object exists independently of our minds; and that we come to know the object indirectly through its sense-data. 
The main reason that I find Moore’s argument to be weak is because he does not provide a satisfactory description of the relationship between the object and sense-data.  He argues once again from perspectival variation that we can never know the real size, shape or colour of an object.  If all the colours as viewed from different perspectives are part of the real object, then he says that all of the colours would occupy the same surface, and this “is difficult to suppose.”[6]  He concludes, therefore, that the colour, shape and size of an object is never “a part” of the actual object.  He then argues that it is possible that the sense-data that we directly apprehend could be qualitatively identical with the features of the real object, but we cannot know if it is numerically identical. 
“This seems to be the state of things with regard to these sense-data—the colour, the size and the shape.  They seem, in a sense, to have had very little to do with the real envelope, if there was a real envelope.  It seems very probable that none of the colours seen was really part of the envelope: and that none of the sizes and shapes seen were the size or the shape of the real envelope.”[7]
To show the relationship between the object and the sense-data, he instead appeals to the space that the object holds in time.  What each subject sees is “a part” of the real space that the object occupies. 
“…even if the colour presented by your senses is not a part of the real envelope, and even if the shape and size presented by your senses are not the shape and size of the real envelope, yet at least there is presented by your senses a part of the space occupied by the real envelope.  And against this supposition I confess I cannot find any argument, which seems to me very strong.”[8]
Even if this is so, this still fails to account for the relationship between sense-data and the object.  He holds that all of the colours, sizes and shapes could not be identical with the object; that we cannot know the real colour, size and shape of the object; but that we can directly apprehend the location in space and time of the parts of the object.  However, knowing the location in space and time of the object does not explain anything about the other sense-data.  We still do not know where they are located, and how they interact with the object.  He seems to end on the note that it is self-evident; a truism about the nature of objects and their sense-data.  Sense-data are distinct from the object; the former is not a part of the latter.  The subject directly apprehends sense-data, which could happen to be qualitatively identical with the “real” properties of the object, but we cannot know if they are numerically identical with them.  We do not where the sense-data reside relative to the object.  What then is the purpose in the object having a real colour, shape and size, if we can never know it since all we can be acquainted with are sense-data? 
Without a satisfactory account of the relationship between sense-data and the object, even though he has established that they are distinct, it is not clear that the object is a necessary part of perception.  Moore himself says that, “We must know, when we directly apprehend certain sense-data, that there exists also something other than these sense-data, that there exists also something other than these sense-data—something which we do not directly apprehend.  And there seems no sort of reason why we should not know at least this, once we have dismissed the prejudice that we cannot know of the existence of anything except what we directly apprehend.”[9]  But must we?  It is necessarily true?  No, I say it is not.  To make his case for direct apprehension of sense-data as something that distinct from indirect apprehension of the object, Moore explained away any need for the object.  It ceased to have reasonable relationship with what we directly apprehend.  If we are able to perceive all of the features of the object directly through sense-data, there no longer is a need for the object.  We should instead be looking for responses to his argument from perspectival variation—namely, that a location in space and time cannot have all of the perspectives, else find another theory.

Crane, Tim and French, Craig, "The Problem of Perception", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
Huemer, Michael, "Sense-Data", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
Moore, G. E. 1953. Some main problems of philosophy. London: Allen & Unwin.

[1] G. E. Moore, Some main problems of philosophy (London: Allen & Unwin), 29.
[2] Ibid., 29.
[3] Ibid., 31.
[4] Ibid., 32.
[5] Ibid., 50.
[6] Ibid., 35.
[7] Ibid., 38.
[8] Ibid., 39.
[9] Ibid., 50.

Monday, 18 July 2016


When we started seeing each other, Nick would poke my nose and in a robotic tone, say, "Boop."  Amused but perplexed, I would ask him why, and he would just do it again.  Poke, "Boop."

Months passed, and I stopped asking.  I just always laughed whenever he did it.

Then one evening, when I was feeling really sad about something, he poked me on my nose and said, "Boop. It's your smile button. It never fails. Push the button ... Boop!"

This was cute for a couple of reasons.  One was that he had kept it to himself for perhaps over a year.  Second, that it worked infallibly and I'd had no idea.

I wonder how many more smile buttons I have, and how I'll find them.

Friday, 15 July 2016


Most nights I can't sleep.  I'm hurriedly awakened in the middle of the night to greet silence, alone in my room, by what has to be my own unconscious thoughts creating this persistent unease. I'm scared.
For all my foresight, I can't suppress the unpredictability, incalculablility of what happens next.
Is it lonely?  Will I be alone?  Will I care?  Will I have pushed everyone away?  Will I have preferred it? 

When my work is done, the homework finished, and other burdens laid to rest, who will I be? 
Perhaps it's this question that plagues me in my sleep.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


I don't feel like writing these days. Instead, I have spent a lot of time going back over old posts, seeing where my head was at. Man, I was sad.  I was sad for a long, long time.  I feel estranged from the person who wrote these posts, not in a way that suggests regret, but rather just because of the distance generated from the passage of time.

I don't know how else to explain it than to say simply that I have never been happier, and the happiness is rooted in a contentment with everything.  It is more than acceptance.  It is certainly not indifference. It is gratitude.

There were years there when I feared that I wouldn't find this peace, that I would spend the rest of my life searching for it.  Maybe I'll lose it again, but I doubt it.  It seems more something to build on than something that I move through cyclically, because if it isn't, I expect it to mean that I'm not learning.
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