Thursday, October 29, 2009

Squeezing time for fun

So we've been extremely busy with school and such, but fortunately we've been able to find a few moments of levity.

Here's Alissa at the Getty Villa (in Malibu). It was a part of a mega all-day date we had at the end of the summer before school started. The Greek and Roman architecture and art was amazing.

A few weeks ago, my folks came to visit for the weekend. We had a great time while they were here. Our first stop was at Solvang, where they got a taste of their daughter-in-law's heritage.

Here's my mom and Alissa having a great time walking around the city.

My parents ate aebleskivers (traditional Danish pancakes); and they had a heck of a time trying to pronounce it. My favorite part was all the cheese.

Here we are at East Beach in Santa Barbara.

Feasting on crabs... mmm, mmm...


My dad (the church elder) boozin' it up with his son... actually, he only had a few tastes, and then gave the rest to me... I love wine... oh yes, did I mention I love cheese.

My classroom where I'm teaching ancient philosophy at UC Santa Barbara. These two students were being disruptive... they get an F.

My mom and me. She's my best friend and my worst enemy wrapped into one. It was great having my parents visit. Now back to the ol' grind...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Family Goes to Hawaii

What an amazing place Hawaii is! One guidebook claimed that 11 out of the 13 major climates in the entire world can be found on the Big Island of Hawaii! The water was a perfect blue, there were breathtaking waterfalls, a menacing, active volcano, and of course, 100% Kona coffee straight from the growers. Does it get any better than that? My parents have become quite the tour guides of these pacific islands. I must say, I was very impressed with their vast knowledge of not only the inexhaustible tourist possibilities, but also the history of the islands, down to the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. Thanks, Mom and Dad for your generosity, and most of all, your priceless company on this unforgettable trip.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jessie's Wedding

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Happy Birthday, to my husband who is now 29!

Last Day

I am a free woman. On Friday, May 22nd, I turned in my key to the preschool and said goodbye to my life as a teacher.  I have come a long way since graduation, four years ago, when I first began tackling the task of managing three and four year-olds.  I came not knowing a single thing about children, and here I am now considering thoughts of my own.  I have gone from "Miss Tidwell" to "Mrs. Yang"...both of which names I have successfully learned to tune out when necessary.  

Through these past four years, my emotions have run the gamut, from fearing children, to falling in love with them.  It has been educational, observing our human nature on a child's level.  Adult behavior is not unlike a child's, but often we are better at masking our pouts and malice in socially acceptable ways.  I have learned how God sees our imperfect efforts and loves us anyway.  I have rediscovered how to play and imagine, while totally entering into a child's world.  I've also been reminded of how the physical touch from one hand to another can be so healing.  

Working with kids can be humbling as they don't always remember you when you're gone. But the work has long-lasting rewards.  I will miss being a teacher, but I look forward to moving on as I begin my journey as a counselor. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring love...

This Spring has been busy, but an eventful one...  First off, as soon as my quarter ended, we went back to Oklahoma to visit our friends Kevin and Aileen.  It was great to be back, eating the food we missed and just hanging out with old friends (we bumped into everyone, which was great).  It was good to walk back onto campus and see familiar territory.  OU campus is wonderful, and it was fun just taking a stroll on my ol' stomping grounds...

That is the library, my second home.  Had good times in there.  Way nicer than UCSB's library; SB's library doesn't even have a coffee shop inside... lame!

Then we went back to Alissa's old work place... Starbucks on campus corner (right next to campus).  I miss that place, getting free drinks everyday from the hot barista who looks white but had an asian last name...

After visiting Oklahoma, we went to D.C. and visited the White  House so that I could have a chat with President Obama.  He and I ended up playing a game of one-on-one basketball, and I helped pick out "Bo".  After the game, we hung out in the Oval office for some beverages, and I took this nice shot of his office...

Duh... of course it's fake.  Actually, Alissa's folks visited us for the weekend, and we went to the Reagan library here in Simi Valley.  It was amazing (my first time); they had a replica of the Oval office and a replica of Air Force One.  

That's a real section of the Berlin Wall.  Really cool!  After that Alissa went home for the weekend to hang out with her mom.

They're a happy couple; and it's unfortunate I can't say that about a lot of couples.  I'm lucky to have good models of a loving relationship.

And finally, it's wedding season again.  Pretty soon we'll be going to Jessie's wedding; this is Alissa at a bridal something or whatever (you know.. when girls get together and do stuff, of which is a total mystery to me).

And lastly, we got to celebrate my boy's wedding...  Stas and I are lucky; we ended up marrying girls WAAAAYYYY out of our leagues...  yay for us... they're a great couple!

Looking forward to the summer....  Happy Spring, ya'll...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

C.S. Lewis and contemporary philosophy

But we cannot possibly conceive of a reason as being consciously directed from outside in regard to its judgments; for in that case the subject would attribute the determination of his power of judgment, not to his reason, but to an impulsion. Reason must look upon itself as the author of its own principles independently of alien influences (Kant, gesammelte Shriften, IV, 448).

Suppose that some agent, say Jones, at time t1 has a belief M1, and the content of M1 is the proposition that ‘either P or Q, and not-Q’. Now suppose that Jones at t2 has a belief M2 and the content of M2 is the proposition that ‘P’. If we want an explanation for Jones’ conclusion that P, we might ask, “Why did Jones think that P?” One explanation could be that Jones deduced the proposition P given his prior premises and the recognition of the logical entailment from the premises to conclusion. However, if physicalism is true, an entirely different explanation can be given. At t2, Jones’ belief that M2 is supervenient on a neurophysiological state N2 (and M1 supervenes on N1 at t1). According to physicalism, N2 is sufficient for M2; that is, no other cause or explanation is required to account for a full explanation of M2; M1 is neither necessary as a cause nor as an explanation. Thus, we have two different explanations, and the physicalist causal explanation rules out explanation by reasons. The content of M1 need not play any explanatory role since the story at the neurophysiological level will be enough to explain why M2 occurred.

Donald Davidson’s anti-reductionist view (with regards to types) does not, according to Jaegwon Kim, solve the problem of mental causation, and thereby does not resolve the incompatibility of rational and mechanistic explanations. Kim states his criticism in the following way:

"What role does mentality play, on Davidson’s anomalous monism, in shaping this [causal] structure? The answer: None whatever. For anamolous monism entails this: the very same network of causal relations would obtain in Davidson’s world if you were to redistribute mental properties over its events any way you like; you would not disturb a single causal relation if you randomly arbitrarily reassigned mental properties to events, or even removed mentality from the world. The fact is that under Davidson’s anomalous monism, mentality does not work . . . What does no causal work does no explanatory work either." (Kim "The Myth of Nonreductive Materialism" Proceedings of APA 63, 1989, 34-5) [italics mine]

Davidson’s account leaves mental states causally impotent since the events that enter into causal relations do so only in virtue of their physical properties. The mental aspect, including its content, plays no causal role. The agent will not hold his belief because of reasons but because of the neurophysiological events that are sufficient for causing another neurophysiological event. Though the neurophysiological event is also, at the same time, a mental event for Davidson, the mental content has no causal relevance. Thus, we are left with a brand of epiphenomenalism that leaves mentality causally irrelevant; so no reasons-explanation.

Another resolution to the incompatibility of mechanistic and rational explanations is to claim that the two are distinct kinds of explanations that “say different things” about the event that they are explaining; in Wittgensteinian terms, they employ different “language games”. Elizabeth Anscombe, a student of Wittgenstein, responded against the charge of explanation incompatibility and argued that reasons-explanations are not causal explanations at all; that is, they do not figure into the causal sequence and so are not in conflict with a causal explanation by physical processes. Her argument was a response to a chapter in a book by C.S. Lewis, where he attempted to demonstrate naturalism/physicalism as a self-refuting thesis. Given the insightful objections by Anscombe, Lewis’ original arguments were deemed defective.

In response to her criticisms, Lewis revised the chapter for a later edition; and though his revised argument has been largely ignored, I believe that the distinctions made are worrisome for any compatibility thesis between physical and rational explanations given the commitments of a physicalist. Essentially, the argument is that reasons-explanation must be causally relevant for the production of the belief, otherwise there is no need to posit such an explanation. If the reasons are not responsible for bringing about the belief, then no belief will be held based on any rational ground. Thus, we must turn back toward finding a causal role for reasons-explanation.

Lewis’ strategy hinges upon a distinction between two different kinds of relations: a connection between cause and effect, and a connection between ground and consequent. The former relation is what holds between physical processes in nature, whereas the ground/consequent relation is a logical relation that holds between propositions. It seems somewhat correct to construe the ground/consequent relation as a reasons-explanation and the cause/effect relation as a mechanistic explanation of physical processes. Instead of merely stipulating their incompatibility, Lewis suggests that unless the ground/consequent relation is causally relevant, an incompatibility will arise since the rational explanation is not necessary for the production of an event:

"Unless our conclusion is the logical consequent from a ground, it will be worthless and could only be true by a fluke. Unless it is the effect of a cause, it cannot occur at all. It looks, therefore, as if, for a train of thought to have any value, these two systems of connection must apply to the same series of mental acts . . . Even if grounds do exist, what exactly have they got to do with the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event? If it is an event it must be caused. It must in fact be one link in a causal chain going back to the beginning and forward to the end of time. How could such a trifle as lack of logical grounds prevent the belief’s occurrence and how could the existence of grounds promote it." (Lewis, Miracles, 16)

On closer inspection, Lewis’ criticism is fairly similar to the criticism Kim makes in his argument against Davidson’s anomalous monism. Even if reasons-explanations do exist, that is even if reasons-explanation are not reducible to causal explanations, the event can be fully explained in virtue of its causal explanations of physical processes. Rational inference, much like mental-types, turn out to have no causal work. Thus, Anscombe’s resolution falls prey to a similar kind of epiphenomenalism as well. And what has no causal role has no explanatory role as well. So reasons-explanations are not necessary for a full explanation of why an event took place.

What strikes me as interesting is that C.S. Lewis had similar worries regarding the problem of mental causation as Kim does for anomalous monism. And Lewis, I suspect, would probably argue that such worries are also a problem for Kim's reductionist account (cf. Hasker, Reppert). A literary figure doing serious philosophy... awesome... (not too uncommon; see Chaucer wrestling with the problem of "necessity" with respect to God's foreknowledge and human freedom).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Proud of my Big Bro

My Bro:

"Chief Resident Isaac Yang performs a pupillary and glasgow coma exam on a traumatic brain injury patient at the San Francisco General Hospital as Geoff Manley, chief and professor of neurosurgery, watches over the entire team in the background."

That's my older brother, Isaac...  this picture is on the homepage of

He's a neurosurgeon at UCSF, finishing up next year.  I'm proud to know that he's trying to be a good man.

It's great to see someone excel at something they love doing; especially when such a task can help others.  I'm proud of ya, bro!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Single Awareness Day, Finally Redeemed

As we were driving off to L.A. this past evening of February 14th, Eric and I realized that we have never spent a Valentine's Day together.  Here is a little Yang history for ya: Feb. 14, 2006, he first wooed me with his ways and we became more than just band-mates (details given upon request), Feb. 07, we were engaged but Eric was living in Oklahoma, and Feb. 08, we were married but he had class so I picked up an extra shift at Starbucks-real romantic. 

Therefore...this picture dates my very first Valentines date with Eric-EVER.  Eric took me to The Stinking Rose for dinner and afterwards, we went to the Griffith Observatory.  If you've never been, you must go! I've never seen such a view! It's good to be home in So. Cal...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


If you've been following my facebook, you know that the end of last year was a Harry Potter  month for me.  In December, I finished the last four books (the last three in about a week and a half of that time), and enjoyed most moments of it (I think Order of Phoenix was awful, and my guess is that she just scrounged together scattered stories in her mind just to meet publishing deadlines and just to get a book "out of the way" in order to get to the "good stuff" [which really is good] in Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows).

Although written at the primary level, the theme and plot are quite sophisticated (e.g., her use of literary alchemy [notice the color scheme of black, white and red], symbolic naming, and the most pronounced device viz. Austenian misdirection [her favorite author is... no surprise... Jane Austen]).  

In order to keep this post brief, I won't go into much of the fascinating literary aspects.  But I would like to highlight an obvious one, namely the head/heart/hand relationship.  This tripartite relationship has had various forms and modifications (e.g., intellect/will/passion, rational/spirited/appetitive, prophet/king/priest, etc.), but a roughly three-aspect feature of the human person has been highlighted all throughout literature.  A very obvious one is found in the work of classically trained writer L. Frank Baum, who brought us "The Wizard of Oz".  It is no accident that Dorothy can only "go home" (another popular literary feature, e.g. the "Odyssey") with the aid and unity of a head/Scarecrow, a heart/Tin-man and a hand/courage/Lion (one might also count the tripartite feature exemplified by Gandalf/Aragorn/Frodo and by Spock/Kirk/McCoy).

Keeping in step, Rowling uses the same device:  head/Hermione, heart/Harry and hand/Ron.  Notice the difficulty that head has in ruling hand (Hermione's difficulty in "controlling" Ron, who wants to be lazy, not do homework, and most of all eat gluttonously).  However, it is the heart (Harry) who can "make them friends" (cf. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man").  Moreover, whenever one of the parts is missing, the others have an especially difficult time carrying on their mission.  The wholeness of their community is isomorphic to the wholeness of one's soul.  The three need to be together, and they need to be related in the right way.

Although I am a man of "middle earth", it was a nice excursion to visit Hogwarts.  Perhaps years from now, I might visit again... I may have to go back to Zonko's to fill up my trick-bag....  levicorpus... aguamenti....  EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!!!    

(for those who know, my patronus would be a hamster....)


Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Happy Holidays...

Well, the end of last year came with some trials... but all in all, it was a good holiday season for us...

In April of last year, my brother got married to Nancy...  she's pretty cool, and she and Alissa get along really well...  I like her, but she has one huge defect... she likes my brother....

I think after living with only boys for 27 years, my mom was glad to have some female presence in the household.  She now has the daughters she's always wanted (I guess me having long hair didn't cut it).  It's weird to see how feminine she really is... seeing her giddy about shopping and girly stuff is new to me... I think she's really glad to have daughters... 

These are the youngest of my cousins (minus one boy).  They are cute.. I fear that they will grow up and no longer be the cute babies I once knew them.  The smallest one (Ashley) was our flower girl...

Yep, that's right... Isaac and I whipped out our old Nintendo (that's right... the original one), and had some fun with Super Mario Bros. (the original)... Apparently I'm still good since I passed the game in less than 10 minutes (given the "warps".... remember that.. for any old school video game folk)....  

The best part of the holidays was having time off and being with the hottest girl on the planet... We had a good time with our relatives and both sides of our family.  We are blessed to have good parents and in-laws.  But now we're back to the ol' grind... here goes.... happy 2009, ya'll...