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Philosophy — a way of life   

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PATHWAYS CONFERENCE
Philosophy — a way of life
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Here are the postings for the Pathways Conference on Philosophy — a way of life from 3rd August 2004 to 19th September 2007. There were 150 postings totalling over 70000 words.

To obtain a key for the Pathways online conferences, you must be a member of the International Society for Philosophers.

Happy Conferencing!

Geoffrey Klempner


CONFERENCE TOPIC: PHILOSOPHY — A WAY OF LIFE

FROM: Geoffrey Klempner (08/03/04 6:34 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Philosophy — a way of life?

Welcome to the Pathways Conference!

This conference topic is 'Philosophy — a way of life?'

The title refers to a book by Pierre Hadot, 'Philosophy as a Way of Life' (Blackwell 1995). However, it is not necessary to have read the book in order to join the conference.

What is it to be a philosopher? Is there a difference between being a philosopher and merely being knowledgeable about philosophy? What are the responsibilities of the philosopher in the modern world? How should a philosopher live?

Do please remember our two ground rules:

1. Be prepared to consider the possibility that you might be wrong.

2. Treat one another with courtesy and respect at all times.

Enjoy your discussion!

Geoffrey Klempner

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Balaganapathi Devarakonda (09/17/05 1:07 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Indian View

    Philosophy always been a way of life for Indians. its a part of life, rather it is the life in india. Indian Philosophy is spiritualistic and even all the aspects of human life are spiritualistic. there is nothing that we could find whcih has the philosophical back up in the Indian way of life. either metaphysics or theology or cosmology or some other aspect of philosophy supported the indian system of life.
    bala

  • FROM: pooja vyas (09/29/05 3:53 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: philosophy is really a real way of life.

    I exteamely in support of this topic that philosophy- a way of life?
    It is really true b,caz i believe in that the philosophy is only away by which one can understand the way of life. One can learn by this that how he or she can lead a life. in short i can say it is a management of life.
    2. The another question is in this connection a philosopher must do his or her duties in term of play an imp role in day to day life.
    3 By this kind of dissccion people like us can impliment our phiosophy or we can say philosophical thought in a real form than only we people can understand how phiosophy is way of life.
    By diong this in reality one can feel the real joy of life and can lead a good and prosperous life. at last we wil achieve the state of 'nirvan'in budhist philosophy i mean in genral form than only we will know ourselves and God .

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Rachel Browne (08/05/04 12:59 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Hi!

Old members sort of discussed this. At least, Hubertus told us what a philosopher was.

Is there one such thing? Hubertus seems to me to be a philosopher, devoting all his time to thinking and writing.

I probably just DO philosohy from time to time, mainly reading philosophy, then answering questions or receiving essays (well at last until a while ago). I'm certainly not a philosopher but someone who likes to practice philosophy to demand, such as when an essay needs criticism or a question interests me.

Geoffrey is obviously a philosopher! But also a family man.

Then there are academic philosophers who just do a 9-6 job and have obligations to write academic papers. Geoffrey isn't like that as he is self- employed and has to be totally self-motivated.

Then, as Hadot says, there is the Sage. The man of wisdom and spirituality. It is a while since I read Hadot, but as I recall he thought the Sage would be out of place not just in the modern world, but was in the ancient. Being a Sage was not an obtainable state. It was a state you had to be in all the time. That rules all of us out.

One of you might be spiritual all the time? Own up!

I don't know how to start this up. But I do suggest that when we talk about the philosophical life we DON'T include the political life. The philosophical life is a subject on it's own and quite complicated enough.

Perhaps what philosophy means to us would be a way to go. Are we sages or doers?

Not a sage for a second (and you are meant to be in all instances according to Hadot),
Rachel

    REPLIES (5):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/08/04 10:46 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: being a philosopher and not knowing it

    Rachel, thank you for niceties.

    Well yes, after some time doing business as usual I am asking mayself "What am I doing here ? What a world I am thrown in ? What to make of it ?"

    Aristotle said, to be a philosopher you must wonder why things are as they are. And since you yourself are one of those many "things" that come into your consideration — or should — you may wonder "what am I doing here ?" Why should I go this way and not that one ? Why defend this position and not that one ?

    I hope people will be a bit more daring this time and come afore and speak their opinion. We had too many lookers on.

    The sage does not do philosophy, since either he has the answers or he doesn't need them. To be a good philosopher you must have good questions and you must be looking for answers.

    Today I will see the "I, Robot"-film with Will Smith. This is a philosophical event (see http://www.asimovlaws.com/with many links to click). This robot-film is not about those "smart-boxes on legs", but it is about Heidegger's and Wittgenstein's problem of the relation of concepts and reality. If you tell a robot never to be harmful to humans, what do you call "harmful" ? Offering a cigarette ? Offering a Bible ? Offering Marx ?

    Thus you have two quite different "meanings of meaning" : The lexical one looks trivial — harmful is doing harm — but the other one is terribly difficult : What does it MEAN to do harm to a human being ? This in mind somebody has written "Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things". It formally is on semantics, but in fact it is on living in this world of ours. The philosopher is wondering what this means, and maybe some time hence even the robot is ...

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Rachel Browne (08/09/04 10:36 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Hi back

    Well, Hubertus, why does the sage not do philosophy? Surely he has to write it or speak of his thoughts to others which is part of what is to do philosophy. Hadot mentions Seneca as an example. Seneca certainly seems to feel that he had the answers, and wrote like a sage (well, to me!), but he still wrote.

    You mention the book "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things" — by Lakoff, by the way — and it is either Lakoff — or perhaps Johnson — who subscribes to the view that there are radial meanings. There is no essence or definition, but relations between terms. So "a philosopher" might be so in many different senses but we can't find out what is necessary to being so.

    Not quite sure about the relevance here of robots and what it means to do harm to a human being. Perhaps you think philosophers are harmful?

    On the last conference, we didn't stick with philosophy and got onto politics. Perhaps this time we can keep to the question?

    Of course, if there is radial meaning, there probably isn't an answer. Perhaps we SHOULD read Hadot. Actually, since he writes about spiritual experience and the sage I think you'd like the book.
    Rachel

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/09/04 6:07 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: what is the meaning of "being harmful ?"

    Rachel,

    the idea was : You can tell robots — or humans — not to be "harmful to others". But how do you know what this MEANS ? Christians think Jesus was good, but those who got slain and tortured by Christians do not think so, and neither did the High Priest who delivered Jesus for death. Similar with Socrates. As Nietzsche had it :

    "How I understand the philosopher — as a terrible explosive, endangering everything..." (Ecce Homo, s 3.2.3, trans. Walter Kaufmann)

    Thus in Nietzsches opinion the philosopher can be very harmful. But what about a surgeon : He surely does harm, but with good intentions and (mostly) good results. Thus Nietzsche would see his own work as harmful but useful at the same time, similar to that of the surgeon.

    What I was trying to say : While we have some idea of what "harmful" and "helpful" is meant to be, we seem to know only in very simple cases what our actions come to. There are lots fo paradoxical effects. There even is Christian "felix culpa" : Without human sin there would have been no cause for God to become a human in Christ to save humankind. Thus "culpa" turned out to be "felix". You may call this twisted thinking, but there are many experiences of a great loss or fall or pain bringing somebody to his senses. Thus it is not an absurd problem, but a rather well known and common one.

    So once more : How do you know that something is "harmful" to you or to somebody else ? The meaning of the CONCEPT ist trivial, but the meaning of the THING ITSELF is not at all ! This was my point. And this is a central point with Asimov's famous Robot Laws too : The first "law" says, that a robot never should do harm to a human, but how do you tell the poor robot what this MEANS. And do you really think that Lakoff knows ?

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/10/04 2:47 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Who am I

    Hi everyone,

    When I awoke my first question was "who am I" and I can't recall an answer. Surely this ought to be answerable before we go any further.

    Well if not me who are you?

    Sonny.

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/10/04 4:39 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: I am many

    Mike,

    strange question "who am I ?" ! Well, there are fotos of both of us on the gallery. But those snapshots, no answers. In your memory and opinion you are changing always, but in a quite different way from outer changes. "You" is all your memories together — from childhood up to now, including all suppressed memories. But from the outside you are just what you are now, even while not 1% of all atoms that were yours only 10 years back are yours now. Even the memory that tells your that you are still this one person — Michael Ward — now is completely replaced atom by atom over the years.

    And then of course you are the totality of all the memories of people who know you. This even may be a better pic of who you are than that in your own memory. But think of all those pics that would have been possible if you had contacted other people than those you did ! Wonderfully disturbing question "who am I ?" !

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/11/04 10:34 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
I am one

This post is written in response to points raised in replies to the previous post. (Hi, Rachel.) One point that was raised is the basic question of the self-cognizant being: Who am I? (Hi, Michael.) I'd like to offer some thoughts on this one, if I may.

As I am new to the group, and it appears that at least some of you are already acquainted with one another, I'll first offer a simple, friendly answer to the question as applied to me. I am a young-to-middle-aged married woman with a BA in English lit., no paying job at the moment, very little formal schooling in philosophy, but with a deep and lifelong interest in and desire for Truth. As a thinker, I've been most convinced by, and therefore most heavily influenced by, a 'traditional' idea of truth as universal and objective and eternal. As I said, I offer the foregoing merely as a social introduction.

Now, to address the question "Who am I?" in another way. Hubertus (Hi, Hubertus. Nice to meet you all.) suggests (previous post, "I am many") that the self is contained in memory, either one's own memory of oneself, or in the memories of other 'knowers', other people. As he acknowledges, "wonderfully disturbing question", this understanding is fraught with difficulty: One's own idea of oneself changes over time. Several people's ideas may conflict with one another. People may have false ideas, based on misperceptions or faulty memory. Even one's own image of oneself may at times be distorted or unrealistic.

Potential contradictions as those above may be resolved if we posit one Knower who knows everything perfectly. In that case, things are as they are, and a single Mind is aware of them, perceives them, knows them perfectly. So the error or distortion in my own idea of myself can be objectively determined to be the difference between my idea of myself and the one true Knower's idea of me. Similarly, the misperception or mistake in my friend (or my enemy)'s idea of me can be objectively determined to be the difference between his (or her) idea of me and the one true Knower's idea of me.

A lot more can be said on the subject. I personally am particularly fascinated and attracted by the concept of 'name' as related to a person, a self. Also, I'm interested in the line of thought Hubertus opened up with his mention of Asimov's Laws in "I, Robot". (Did you like the movie, Hubertus?) But this is plenty long already for a single post, so I'll leave it for now.

    REPLIES (6):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/11/04 5:49 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: the "True Knower"

    Hi, Melissa,

    thank you for entering — daring to enter — the club. You are welcome and we all hope for a good exchange. Well : Me, Rachel, Michael could all be called "sceptics". But this should not scare you off. And the "True Knower" may be taken Aristotelian like "the first mover". As a philosopher — we are speaking here on "philosophy — a way of life" — I am just asking where does it get us ? And you did not explicitely call this being "god", so I do not either. I just put a question : Do you see or feel any NEED to have something (or somebody) "know it all" — independent from the other question what this could MEAN ? You are married. Do you reall WANT to understand your husband ? Do you not prefer to see him always in another light and surprising you ? Are not those people, movies, books etc. the most valuable that surprise us with every new encounter ? Should not the world surprise us every new morning ?

    The world may look like a mathematical formula or like a map for some true Knower, but I think it should not for me. I prefer to be an explorer and a pioneer in a strange country called "life". The riddle is what gets us interested, and to be interested causes us to turn our attention to something, a sort of caring. We should care our world. Thus we better do not know too much.

    And on the "I, Robot"-film : As usual today — too much action, not enough riddle. Compare the polished rectangular solid in "2001" of Kubrick. Some such "polished rectangular solid" or another "McGuffin" — a spiritual or intellectual one — would have done the film good. This was in part the secret of "The Blade Runner". People left the cinema uneasy. This time they did not, since Will Smith had made things clear. So there is even a connection to our philosophical theme of "knowing the truth". What do we WANT to know ?

    And why do we wrap up gifts — or even buildings and bridges like Christo ? The truth should be covered a bit and not go naked. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037674/

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/12/04 9:42 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: where it gets us

    Hi, Hubertus.

    Thanks for your response. As to the movie, I, Robot, I, like you, was pretty disappointed overall. The dialog, and the plot as developed in the film were too 'pat'. I did think the faces of the robotsespecially the 'star' robotwere very well done. And the twist in the robot's dream: that first the figure in the dream was Will Smith's character, but later it came to be the robot himself: was really nice. I suppose the film might have been more interesting if one had read the story first. Although the three laws were given prominence in the film, they weren't fully explored in terms of the questions you raise about them: How does one determine what 'harm' means?

    As to the rest of your post, I am a bit puzzled how you seem to arrive from the posited concept of 'an absolute knower' at a resulting absence of mystery, wonder and excitement in the subjective experience of life. What I am positing is not that I fully understand and foreknow every quirk of my husband's character, every thought of his mind, or of yours, but rather that there is indeed someone to know, and that some ideas about him may be false. If a man-on-the-street supposes my husband to be mean-spirited, or a liar, or if you imagine him to be 5'2 tall, these 'ideas' of him are not necessarily really and validly him. He is a particular person, with specific attributes. Some ideas of him may contain truth, or be close to truth: ideas in the minds of the people who _really_ know him. Other ideas may be mistaken. This is only tenable if we accept that there is some objective truth about my husband, some objective truth that is 'knowable'.

    It might be simpler to consider knowledge of inanimate things. Ideas of light for example exist in the minds of many people. A couple hundred years ago Newton and Leibniz were in dispute as to the nature of light, as to what it was. Newton suggested small particles traveling through utter void. Leibniz was not satisfied with this and made counter suggestions. Today we understand light as rays or 'waves' of radiation.

    My point is merely that 'light' _is_ not all things to all people. It is _not_ small material particles dissipated through vacuous space when Newton sees it, and then waves of energy when someone else sees it, and then something else again when I see it. Light is itself. It is what it is. Our ideas about it correspond more or less accurately to the reality. But the reality remains constant.

    This constancy and objectivity in reality is, in answer to your question, where the idea of 'an absolute knower' gets us. Positing some mind that conceives reality accurately, precisely, thoroughly and continually allows us to accept that things exist objectively: They don't fade in and out of being and change their own natures as we change our ideas of them. (The Cheshire cat exists where and how he exists. We may not know or understand what manner of existence that is. But we see that it is part of his nature to appear and disappear to sight, apparently at will, thus we add to our concept of Cheshire cat the attribute of being able to appear and disappear at will, and the attribute of an habitual grin. We haven't fully fathomed the mystery of the being of the Cheshire cat. But we have hold of a working concept that we trust has some real, objective, meaningful correspondence to the being we have in mind. If the Red Queen tells us in the next chapter that she knows the Cheshire cat, that he is shaped like a parrot and spits water and never talks to strangers: we can say to ourselves, with confidence, She may be talking about some other being whom we haven't met yet, but she is not talking sense about the being we know as the Cheshire cat. The Cheshire cat that we know is shaped like a cat and emphatically does talk to strangers.

    Far from doing away with the mystery and fun of exploring the 'land' of life, this supposition is what makes that land real and what makes exploring it possible and meaningful. There is indeed a marvelous land of life. We are really here, really present in that land, we are indeed able to experience, to marvel, to question, to learn, to remember, and to change our minds. It isn't all mirage, mere busy 'seeming'. It is real, reliable, actual fact. Our ideas of reality gain in relevance and grow in substance the more fully and truly they relate to the land of life itself with its many marvels.

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/12/04 4:16 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Whose truth?

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for joining the conference because through these exchanges we gain a better understanding of each other.

    The search for truth, if know what it is you're looking then there's no need to search. If on the other hand you don't know what you are looking for then stop searching because you will never know when you've found it. Now maybe there are some flaws in this argument but firstly ought you not to explore if absolutes can exist or not?

    I enjoyed the movie I, Robot but as Hubertus said it was thin on dealing with very real issues that our species is going to have to face shortly. It's not a new question and has been approached in numerous ways as with Matrix, Blade Runner and Brave New World.

    If we gain the ability to create an intelligent being, and by create I mean manufacture which is not at all like having children, we cannot give it less rights than we possess otherwise we create a slave class. The slaves used to be other human races and now we imagine them Alpha or Delta or Sonny or Data or Android Storm troopers.

    Back then to existence, if I ask of myself who am I is that a different question from the waking robot asking who am I if so why.

    I think very much like Hubertus in that the uncertainty of travelling is much more enjoyable to the finality or arriving. If it's still available a very interesting short read is God's Debris

    Regards

    Michael

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/12/04 4:23 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: what does "knowledge" mean ?

    Sorry, Melissa,

    I may have misunderstood you. When I read on "true Knower" I "heard" instantly behind your comment the Psalmist.

    Psalm 139 reads :

    1 O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
    2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my
    thought afar off.
    3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with
    all my ways.
    4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest
    it altogether.
    5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
    6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain
    unto it.
    7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy
    presence?
    8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in
    hell, behold, thou art there.
    9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts
    of the sea;
    10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
    11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall
    be light about me.
    12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as
    the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
    13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my
    mother's womb.
    14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
    marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
    15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and
    curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
    16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy
    book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned,
    when as yet there was none of them. (see
    http://bible.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/bible?passage=PS%2B139 &showfn=on&showxref=on&language=english&version=KJV&x=14&y=8)

    Now this is no scientific description but the prayer of a soul to its
    god. This makes the difference in MEANING. The meaning of "Hamlet" is
    not the sum total of the semantic meaning of the words making up that
    drama, but is the content of the drama as a whole. The drama is the
    message, and when you analyze every word you do so with the message in
    mind. If you only get the words and sentences you get nothing at all.
    "The whole is more than the sum of the parts." The sonata is more than
    the series of sounds that make it up.

    This means : We often do not know what "to know" means. There are "the facts", those "words and sentences", but there is PERSPECTIVE, DISTANCE,
    ILLUMINATION, READING — to mention but the most important. Thus we
    simply do not know what "to know it all" could be. The paradox is : To
    know it all at the same time could mean to know NOTHING. If you know
    every atom of a person, then you have lost every meaning of this person.
    If you know every raindrop making up a rainbow you will have lost the
    rainbow. If you approach what is beautiful you will have lost the
    beauty. If you are too near to the screen you only see pixels. Only by distance and mystery we "know". This is my constant objection to all "positivists". Thus once more : What do we MEAN by "knowing".

    You enter the example of light. And of course : Light is what it is and does not care whether we understand its paradoxical nature of being either wave or particel depending on the sort of experimental setup. And in the same way nature does not care whether we can "imagine" four- or ten- or even more-dimensional models of the physical world.

    But even granted that "knowing" the mathematical and physical and chemical world may be possible, these are "simple" worlds. To formulate the world in 4-11 dimensions, including quantum-effects etc., requires some math, but it remains "simple" in the sense of a game of chess : You can always precisely say what you are doing and why. Most things we want to know are not of this sort.

    What the Psalmist is speaking of is this feeling of a child that trusts
    in the all-knowing parents and feels secured by their being around all
    the time and not losing sight of it. This is the caring knowledge
    again, not the scientific one. Our problem with robots is : We may think
    that they know all of us in a scientific way, but they may not care,
    since they are no humans. In a purely "positivist" sense caring and
    compassionate knowledge is no "real" knowledge at all but is mere
    "fancy". Why? Because we have no quantifiable scales and data where to measure "quantities of caring and compassion". How do we "measure" the "greatness" of a work of art or music or literature ? What we know is "square inches" and "number of pages" and "duration of the symphony" etc., but this is irrelevant. In what way then do we "know" of the greatness — or of the compassion ? What would you say ?

    In the theory of hermeneutics knowledge is only a web of interpretations shedding light at each other. A "connaisseur" is somebody who knows many different interpretations — Freudian, Jungian, Marxist, Feminist, etc. — and from this derives a "richness of meaning" that may miss the uninitiated. But this sort of "knowing" cannot be reduced to some rules and facts. In the world of the true believer the positivist is "blind", while in the world of the positivst the true believer is "dreaming". In the opinion of the true Christian the Gospel is "Enlightenment", while in the opinion of the enlightened philosopher the gospel is "opium of the masses". Now who is "knowing" here ? And how to decide ? As you see : it is NOT a question of the "data & facts". Those "data & facts" are themselves "theoretical constructs" — mostly. Thus we have a circular problem.

    But of course there are some "simple" facts too, where we may tell truth and lie and error apart neatly.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/12/04 4:54 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: robots are slaves — or not ?

    Mike,

    as you know perhaps from the funny play introducing robots in 1921 (Karel Tchapek "R.U.R." = Rossums Universal Robots) those have been indeed mechanical slaves. And if you "add intelligence" to todays many sorts of robots (see http://www.dai.ed.ac.uk/) you still have a long way to go before you feel that they should be awarded human rights under the UN-Charta.

    The interesting question you touched in passing while unknowingly so is : By what criteria should we call ANY being "humanlike" and thus deserving "human rights" ? In my opinion the Turing test would not do : There is more to being a human than passing the Turing-test.

    For the churches this criterium seems clear : If a human egg and sperm-cell combine and become a fetus then it's a human with all human rights attached. But what do the churches say on some "electro-mechanical device" passing the Turing test or otherwise displaying "human intelligence" ? Rachel — pointing to the interplay of intelligence, language, and practical experience — would probably deny from the outset that "true" human intelligence without normal "being in the world" is possible. This is the stand of Searle and the Heidegger-school and Lakoff and others. But even if some advanced robots could get at true human intelligence according to these criteria — would we ascribe them a soul and by this humanity and human rights ? Have a look at "bicentennial man" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0182789/) : would you trash him ? This is a quiet but deep film on robots — as was of course "A.I." (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212720/) — just the opposite to the "I, Robot"-film. And because of this they both did not make much bang at the box-office, where action and sex is selling.

    So once more my question : What do we call a human-like being "in our class" — and by what criteria ?

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/13/04 8:44 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Threads

    Greetings, Mike and Hubertus.

    Thank you both for engaging in discussion. I can see that all of us are quite comfortable 'taking the floor' and soliloquizing. (At least you and I, Hubertus, seem to have that much in common with Hamlet, at any rate.) I'll try to reign in my own urge to ramble. One difficulty in discussions like this one is that, as each of us has his own complex train of thought, it is hard to stick to only one point at a time. Of its own momentum the discussion tends to branch out in numerous directions at once, all the time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a challenge to our abilities to keep track.

    There are many threads in the current discussion. I see at least three major ones emerging: (1) What is meaning? What is knowledge? Fundamental "epistemological" questions, as I believe the term is used. (2) The journey 'versus' the arrival at journey's end: a matter of attitude and, to some extent, of the basic rule by which to measure quality of life. (3) Human identity; also, theoretically, identity of all reasoning beings (e.g. self-cognizant robots).

    Granted, there's bound to be overlap between the above. I probably missed a few threads, too. Anyway, my idea is to bring these major threads back 'out' to the first tier of posts. Is that okay? I hope so.

    To all of our credit, I would point out that the three threads above all seem vitally pertinent to the Conference topic: Philosophy — a Way of Life. Wouldn't you agree?

    Kudos to us then, so far. With one qualification: Rachel seems to be the only one who has read Hadot, from whom we get our conference topic in the first place. Rachel, for what it is worth... I would like to read the book. I am a very, very slow reader, though. If and when I get the chance before this conference closes, I promise to come back here and discuss the book with you.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/13/04 9:03 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Knowledge, Truth, Epistemology

Mike wrote:

The search for truth, if know what it is you're looking then there's no need to search. If on the other hand you don't know what you are looking for then stop searching because you will never know when you've found it. Now maybe there are some flaws in this argument but firstly ought you not to explore if absolutes can exist or not?
_____________________________

Hubertus wrote:

How do you know that something is "harmful" to you or to somebody else ? The meaning of the CONCEPT ist trivial, but the meaning of the THING ITSELF is not at all ! This was my point. And this is a central point with Asimov's famous Robot Laws too : The first "law" says, that a robot never should do harm to a human, but how do you tell the poor robot what this MEANS.
...

We often do not know what "to know" means. There are "the facts", those "words and sentences", but there is PERSPECTIVE, DISTANCE, ILLUMINATION, READING — to mention but the most important. Thus we simply do not know what "to know it all" could be. The paradox is : To know it all at the same time could mean to know NOTHING. If you know every atom of a person, then you have lost every meaning of this person. If you know every raindrop making up a rainbow you will have lost the rainbow. If you approach what is beautiful you will have lost the beauty. If you are too near to the screen you only see pixels. Only by distance and mystery we "know". This is my constant objection to all "positivists". Thus once more : What do we MEAN by "knowing".
...
What the Psalmist is speaking of is this feeling of a child that trusts in the all-knowing parents and feels secured by their being around all the time and not losing sight of it. This is the caring knowledge again, not the scientific one. Our problem with robots is : We may think that they know all of us in a scientific way, but they may not care, since they are no humans. In a purely "positivist" sense caring and compassionate knowledge is no "real" knowledge at all but is mere "fancy". Why? Because we have no quantifiable scales and data where to measure "quantities of caring and compassion". How do we "measure" the "greatness" of a work of art or music or literature ? What we know is "square inches" and "number of pages" and "duration of the symphony" etc., but this is irrelevant. In what way then do we "know" of the greatness — or of the compassion ? What would you say ?

In the theory of hermeneutics knowledge is only a web of interpretations shedding light at each other. A "connaisseur" is somebody who knows many different interpretations — Freudian, Jungian, Marxist, Feminist, etc. — and from this derives a "richness of meaning" that may miss the uninitiated. But this sort of "knowing" cannot be reduced to some rules and facts. In the world of the true believer the positivist is "blind", while in the world of the positivst the true believer is "dreaming". In the opinion of the true Christian the Gospel is "Enlightenment", while in the opinion of the enlightened philosopher the gospel is "opium of the masses". Now who is "knowing" here ? And how to decide ? As you see : it is NOT a question of the "data & facts". Those "data & facts" are themselves "theoretical constructs" — mostly. Thus we have a circular problem.

But of course there are some "simple" facts too, where we may tell truth and lie and error apart neatly.
____________________________

(I hope you guys don't mind my quoting you like this. But these are interesting points, and I'd like to respond and to discuss them with you. This just helps me keep my own thoughts organized. Okay?)

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/13/04 9:42 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
The Journey

Hubertus wrote:

... Should not the world surprise us every new morning ?

The world may look like a mathematical formula or like a map for some true Knower, but I think it should not for me. I prefer to be an explorer and a pioneer in a strange country called "life". The riddle is what gets us interested, and to be interested causes us to turn our attention to something, a sort of caring. We should care our world. Thus we better do not know too much.

...

And why do we wrap up gifts — or even buildings and bridges like Christo ? The truth should be covered a bit and not go naked. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037674/
________________________________

Melissa wrote:

... Our ideas about it correspond more or less accurately to the reality. But the reality remains constant.
...
Far from doing away with the mystery and fun of exploring the 'land' of life, this supposition is what makes that land real and what makes exploring it possible and meaningful. There is indeed a marvelous land of life. We are really here, really present in that land, we are indeed able to experience, to marvel, to question, to learn, to remember, and to change our minds. It isn't all mirage, mere busy 'seeming'. It is real, reliable, actual fact. Our ideas of reality gain in relevance and grow in substance the more fully and truly they relate to the land of life itself with its many marvels.
_______________________________

Michael wrote:

...
I think very much like Hubertus in that the uncertainty of travelling is much more enjoyable to the finality or arriving. If it's still available a very interesting short read is God's Debris

    REPLIES (6):

  • FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/13/04 11:04 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:

    Michael,
    I haven't read God's Debris. I will check it out later and let you know if I manage to find it and read it. For the time being, I'll engage the idea as I see it.

    I am familiar with a basic Taoist formula to the effect: It's the journey that matters, not the destination. Maybe this is an oversimplification or mis-statement of what you mean. Feel free to correct me.

    What you say is "the uncertainty of travelling is much more enjoyable to the finality or arriving."
    To this statement I offer the question, How do you know that?

    If you are merely talking about your own experience of mundane travel in the past, if you are simply saying "I more enjoy the airplane ride itself than staying for a week at my cousin's place in Des Moines.", that's one thing. But I don't understand you to mean that.

    On the other hand if "the journey" under discussion is taken to be our personal experience of life itself, then I seriously question how you have managed to arrive at certainty as to your conclusion about the relative importance and fun of travelling versus arriving.

    Have you a clear concept of what the destination or "finality" of the journey of life is? Have you been there? Have you already spent a week in 'Des Moines'? Are you, indeed, comparing two things you have experience of and stating your personal preference? Are you speaking cognitively? Or are you speculating, theorizing as to which of two distinguishable states of being correlates most closely to your own aesthetic ideal?

    I suppose you are doing the latter. I acknowledge your right to do it.

    But I submit this for your consideration, if I may: On what basis have you come to draw a distinction between the journey and the journey's end? Or if they are indistinguishable, if it is impossible to tell, as Yeats put it, "the dancer from the dance", then have you given sufficient consideration to the possiblity that the dancer was shaped (given his "members" as Hubertus's Psalmist puts it) and the dance choreographed, and further, that the mystery of the shape and the fullness of the choreography have not been fully plumbed by the mind of the dancer himself...and yet he is able to dance in time, and dance beautifully...in fact to _live_ the dance...without boredom and also without compulsion: choosing to step here or there at will, and yet never making a step or a motion that cannot be fitted into the marvelous choreography?

    In that case, "the end" (or purpose, or ultimate "meaning" in Hubertus's word) of the dance itself, dance and dancer being indistinguishably linked, might be something, well, perhaps inconceivable, but, at a guess, glorious and fun, an "arrival" well worth arriving at.

    The Taoist formula I mention above, I believe, is a tool that serves the purpose of getting a person to reconsider and re-evaluate the significance, the preciousness, the beauty of the moment at hand. I think it is a fine tool, and I have great respect for it. But the study of Tao itself teaches, as I understand it, that the student makes a grave error when he tries to attribute to one of these teaching 'tools' the status of Law, or perfect statement of final meaning.

    Thus, the meaning hidden in the formula, "It's not just about getting there; it's about what happens on the way" is not discrete and static. There is an alteration of the mind, a refocusing of the concentration, that may occur when one considers this maxim...and it may prove a beneficial and a useful one...and it may do well to consider it and reconsider it often over the course of a lifetime. But to imagine it as a statement of absolute objective meaning, an assertion that utterly devalues the concept of journey's end, would be, I think, to misuse it and misunderstand it.

    What do you think? Anyone?

  • FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/13/04 11:07 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Children of Paradise

    Hubertus,
    I followed the imdb link above. It links to a French movie, Children of Paradise. Is this what you meant? Do you recommend the movie?

    I don't understand the tie-in. Can you explain?

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/13/04 5:24 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on "Les Enfants du Paradis"

    Melissa,

    yes, the film is correct. And the leading actress Garance plays "the naked truth" on a fair to earn money but is otherwise a quite mysterious person. For somebod who doesn't know the film my hint was a bit far fetched. But perhaps you can see the film from DVD or tape ? It is one of the really great films of history.

    And I will answer to your other postings next time, only not now.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/15/04 10:53 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: What the hell?

    the uncertainty of travelling is much more enjoyable to the finality or arriving is what I said and behind it were these ideas.

    1. There would be no activity if there was no desire, why do anything if it's not to satisfy some need.

    2. Human beings are, in my view, defined by their ability to struggle which is attempting to satisfy a need.

    3. The journey is the struggle and the end is the fulfilment of the desire.

    4. To live without desire would bland existence, you wouldn't need time because all would be static and there would be no change.

    5. The various religious concepts of paradise, nirvana or heaven as states of eternal fulfilment are closer to my definition of hell than any other place I can imagine.

    So using the analogy of a journey to Des Moines equally applies to our journey through life. It's just so much easier that De Moines is on a map and a path can be determined whereas in life we have to create our own map so to speak.

    Being eternally anything implies no change and it is coping with change that brings us alive. Would you want to be in an eternal state of happiness, I wouldn't.

    Michael

    (The angel whom the Book of Daniel represents as being the spirit prince, guardian, and protector of Israel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1). Jude 9 depicts him as an archangel fighting with Satan for Moses' body. In Revelation 12:7, he leads the war against the dragon (Satan) and casts him from heaven. His name means "Who is like God?")

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/16/04 11:38 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: slaying the dragon of time

    08/17/04 06:50 am

    Dear Mike,

    if as St.Michael you would slay the satanic dragon, you would bring about eternal bliss, and this would not be what you like, since, as you put it "Would you want to be in an eternal state of happiness, I wouldn't." Not even in Des Moines.

    Well : We always are in states of transition. When we are awake, we become tired and want to sleep. When we are sleeping we get awake again and jump out of bed. Life is busy always.

    Being a philosopher means "loving wisdom — but never getting it", since with every new step you will see new problems or at least old problems in a new light and from a different perspective. This is modern.

    Greek thinking did not see things in this way. "Wisdom" in Greek Antiquity was simply "knowledge" : If you know what is the case, then you will behave sensible. The Greek idea of the good philosopher simply was somebody "behaving sensible because of good insight". To see the philosopher on the way always as a pilgrim to some unknown goal called "wisdom" is modern. It is our modern world that is changing always and not knowing of a definite state of "what is sensible".

    But many people find such a situation unbearable. Around 1930 in Germany, shortly before Hitler came to power, the word dominating all thought and talk was "crisis". A crisis is a state of undecidedness. Hitler then was felt as a salvator, since he brought (or seemed to bring) as decision. The alternative then seemed to be communism. But not American liberalism, since liberalism was seen as a state of permanent crisis. People just wanted to settle somewhere. They wanted some definite answers, no more open questions. They wanted to arrive at Des Moines, not being underway forever.

    But if you become a saint, you will have no problem being in a state of eternal bliss. If you are a Buddha, you will never again be nervous. A true saint never runs or hurries, he ambles or saunters, walking along. And if you are a saintly robot, you will not be nervous either. There will be no dragons to be slain — not even in your mind.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Anonymous955501 (05/04/05 3:22 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: The Journey

    Hello Melissa,

    I agree with you in that the reason we are here is for the journey that life presents us with. Life is full of surprises and turns, requiring decisions, and the choices and decisions we make along with the lessons learned determine what our ultimate life experience will be. Truly we must make the most of the journey.

    I just joined the class and this is my first post, so I would like to take the opportunity to say hello to everyone and I look forward to many interesting discussions with you all.

    ~Justin

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Melissa Pop-Lazarova (08/13/04 9:58 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Identity of Rational Beings, or Definition of Self

Michael wrote:

When I awoke my first question was "who am I" and I can't recall an answer. Surely this ought to be answerable before we go any further.

...
If we gain the ability to create an intelligent being, and by create I mean manufacture which is not at all like having children, we cannot give it less rights than we possess otherwise we create a slave class. The slaves used to be other human races and now we imagine them Alpha or Delta or Sonny or Data or Android Storm troopers.

Back then to existence, if I ask of myself who am I is that a different question from the waking robot asking who am I if so why.

_________________

Hubertus wrote:

By what criteria should we call ANY being "humanlike" and thus deserving "human rights" ? In my opinion the Turing test would not do : There is more to being a human than passing the Turing-test.

For the churches this criterium seems clear : If a human egg and sperm-cell combine and become a fetus then it's a human with all human rights attached. But what do the churches say on some "electro-mechanical device" passing the Turing test or otherwise displaying "human intelligence" ? Rachel — pointing to the interplay of intelligence, language, and practical experience — would probably deny from the outset that "true" human intelligence without normal "being in the world" is impossible. This is the stand of Searle and the Heidegger-school and Lakoff and others. But even if some advanced robots could get at true human intelligence according to these criteria — would we ascribe them a sould and by this humanity and human rights ? Have a look at "bicentennial man" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0182789/) : would you trash him ? This is a quiet but deep film on robots — as was of course "A.I." (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212720/) — just the opposite to the "I, Robot"-film. And because of this they both did not make much bang at the box-office, where action and sex is selling.

So once more my question : What do we call a human-like being "in our class" — and by what criteria ?

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/13/04 6:07 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on what to call a human being

    Melissa and Mike,

    only one hint this time : Will Smith in the movies "Independence Day" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116629/) and in "Men in Black" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119654/) and now in "I, Robot" three times was the hero killing those dangerous aliens (the robots were aliens too, only man made). While the aliens in those vast space-ships of "Independence Day" were technically superior, they were shown as ugly crab-like monsters and very ill-behaved, sort of very bright barbarians. Likewise in those other movies. This is what the audience likes — especially the American one : "We defend our American and human way of life, and Will Smith is our hero !"

    But what if the aliens were not only superior technically, but even morally, if they were really beautiful and nice and wise ? In the A.I.-movie there is a central scene when outdated or failing robots get trashed in a sort of arena before a jeering audience. Since the script was drafted by Kubrick, who had no great opinion of humans anyway, the scene is depicted in a way that lets the doomed robots appear nice and loveable and the jeering humans ugly and hateful and despicable. And in the end of the film this approach is even topped, since the humans have vanished long ago in some eco-catastrophe, while the robots started their own evolution from their man-made ancestors and have become "saintly" in the sense of any great religion.

    I think that this in part explains why this film split the audience (as can bee seen from the visitors response) : Some people simply don't like to be told that robots may be "the better humans" some day — not only in technical intelligence but in wisdom and decency too. This was a typical Kubrick position. And the message of "Bicentennial Man" is similar. He — as a robot ! — seems to be the only really nice and decent "person" around.

    I think this is a possibility hard to swallow for the churches and for Western philosophy, while not necessarily so for Hindus, Buddhists, and Taoists. Since in Asiatic thinking a human is only one of many possible "incorporations" of a soul, from a devil or demon, plant or worm up to several stages of godlike beings. Thus even robots would fit in. But I don't know this time what Buddhists and Taoists really think on this. In Japanese films and animes cyborgs and robots seem to be quite natural. This would confirm my assumption. But it has to be checked.

    And it is clear why the churches cannot be happy : If the definition of a human depends not so much on being a human embryo but on certain qualities, then all gates of euthanasia and eugenics and PID and "genetic improvement" seem to open again. Thus there are two fundamentally conflicting ways of defining a human. And this will cause much philosophical and theological trouble and uneasiness.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Rachel Browne (08/15/04 7:16 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Hello!

    Well, there is masses to read here!

    Hi Melissa!

    I don't understand this about objective meaning and knowledge. Beauty adds meaning to a picture, say, and appreciation of beauty requires a subjective response. That doesn't mean we can't "know" something is beautiful, even if it can't be measured. A film can make us cry and for that it is more meaningful to us. It strikes a chord. We can't say, given our response, that we don't know that the film is sad.

    What does "know" mean?

    I wonder if philosophy CAN be "a way of life". If the philosopher defines knowledge as justified true belief, he can't say he knows a film is sad if he is the only one who finds it so, without reference to the unquantifable response of his sadness.

    Or something. I'm afraid I'm not too good at soliloquizing as Melissa and Hubertus are.

    Anyway, Hadot's book is more about the sage in the world than the philosopher who goes around defining knowledgde. So perhaps we can forget about this!

    Glad to see that you all getting on with this conference!

    By the way, I think that when I think of "who I am" I think this cannot be detached from body awareness.
    R

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Michael Ward (11/29/04 5:13 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
MENTAL ILLNESS

MENTAL ILLNESS

RUSTY WESTON left his family farm in Valmeyer, Ill., in 1998 to save the world from cannibals. He believed he would find salvation in the Capitol rotunda -- a ruby red satellite system capable of reversing time and curing disease. He found two police officers, instead. Mr. Weston shot and killed them. Today, he inhabits a landscape nearly as bizarre as the delusions that brought him to Washington: the American justice system.

Mr. Weston is seriously mentally ill. He has an incurable biological disorder, schizophrenia, that affects how he perceives the world and how
he acts on those perceptions. Still, federal prosecutors want to put him on trial for his life. To do so, they have asked that Mr. Weston be forced to take anti-psychotic drugs to make him competent to stand trial. This month, a federal judge agreed.

Mr. Weston's attorneys plan an appeal. They believe that, if the drugs work and Mr. Weston is restored to something approximating sanity, he
may be sentenced to death. Juries in the United States almost never accept insanity pleas.

Americans are remarkably ambivalent toward mental illness. Thousands of people with untreated mental illness wander our streets. We, as a
society, subscribe to the belief that, no matter how delusional, everyone has the right to refuse medication. Yet we allow prisoners to be forcibly medicated so they can be made competent for execution.

Mr. Weston's attorneys have said they would immediately withdraw their appeals if prosecutors promise not to seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors have refused. If Mr. Weston were found not guilty by reason of insanity, no one could force him to receive treatment after he is
stabilized. He could simply walk away. He did it before, in 1996 when he was committed to a Montana hospital.

Somewhere between inflexible toughness and societal hand-wringing lies another approach, balancing justice and the rights of mentally ill
defendants. It might include experienced, specially trained judges presiding over cases where an insanity defense is used. It might also
include a legal definition of insanity that is more consistent with the medical definition, so defendants could not feign insanity to escape
punishment.

Above all, it would include a well-reasoned rationale for seeking the death penalty in cases like this, where it could only be justified as a
deterrent to prevent others from traveling to Washington in search of a ruby red satellite system.

Justice requires that Mr. Weston receive the best possible care, including medications ordered by his doctor. It demands that he stand trial, and that he spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital. But it does not demand the death penalty.

Copyright 2001, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/29/04 5:14 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: First thoughts

    Conference Members

    The Rusty Weston story raises some fundamental questions which I believe can only be fully addressed from a philosophical perspective:

    The extents of what we call being Human, is it only physical appearance or behaviour.
    If no amount of verbal interaction would restore his defective mental processes should we enforce altering his brain chemistry.
    Would the original Rusty Weston be the same as the chemically altered Rusty Weston sufficient to be considered culpable.
    In terms of identity who killed the policemen, the body or the mind, but the body is only the agent of the mind like the trigger releasing the hammer on the gun.
    Is there any merit in a case to be made for redefining some Rusty Weston's as sufficiently non-human thus rendering them to a different scale of justice as we might say put down a vicious dog. (please discount the slippery slope objections)
    Should there not be a separate pre-trial to determine being eligible for human justice.

    I have posted this and the original article on the conference web site in the hope it will initiate some responses.

    Regards

    Michael Ward

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/29/04 1:02 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: answers of Hubertus on the Weston case

    Dear Mike,

    below my answers to your questions on the Rusty Weston case :

    > * The extents of what we call being Human, is it only physical appearance or behaviour.

    A: The position of the churches is definitely that a human is defined by being the child of humans. By this argument even a brainless human (acephal) is a human and cannot be dismissed as a mere "thing". The Romanian Orthodox Church explicitely requires that the donor of organs is able of a free decision to offer his organs as an act of helping love. By this the use of an acephalous (brainless) child as a donor of organs is explicetly excluded. See http://www.orthodoxnews.netfirms.com/127/POSITION.htm

    And see
    http://btobsearch.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp ?sourceid=00395996645644787198&btob=Y&pwb=1&ean=9780670031108

    I think that the position of the Roman and the Protestant churches is similar by the same argument. The argument includes, that not even a brainless child should be taken for a body only, from which to take organs, but a free will is conditional for any act of donation.

    > * If no amount of verbal interaction would restore his defective mental processes should we enforce altering his brain chemistry.

    A: In my opinion the concept of illness — contrary to the position of the anti-psychiatrists (see http://www.antipsychiatry.org/) — is as applicable in a natural way to mental problems as to bodily ones. The nervous system — including the brain — is as natural an organ than is the lung or the skin or the digestive system etc.. Thus there can be any sort of malfunction from genetical or traumatical or chemical or whatever causes. In the cases of BSE and Alzheimer and PD this is generally agreed. Thus to "stabilize + correct" brain functions in the case of Weston is not different from chemically reducing addiction to alcohol or cigarettes etc.. The core of the problem is of course our concept of "freedom of personality". While homosexuality since some 30 years is not longer on the official US-list of "mental disorders" needing a clinical treatment, we seem on the way to attach this label to cigarette-smoking. In Stalinist countries dissidents were often treated as "psychopaths" and locked up in bedlam to avoid criminalization and by this to avoid charges of the West against "suppressing political opposition". Thus the question comes to : "By what standard would we label a Socrates or Jesus or Luther or Marx a psychopath ?" This is similar to the old problem by what standard to deny the IRA-fighter or the Hamas suicid-terrorist the status of a martyr and call him/her a common criminal.

    > * Would the original Rusty Weston be the same as the chemically altered Rusty Weston sufficient to be considered culpable.

    A: If you have killed somebody in the status of a drunken car-driver, you are held to be fully responsible. But this is because you should have known in advance what to drink and whether to drive a car. But Weston has not freely decided to be "mad". Thus in my opinion not Weston is accountable but society which did not take care of Weston. If you know of somebody that he is mad you have to lock him up or supervise or treat him appropriately. In this case society is evading a problem by shifting all responsibility to Weston.

    > * In terms of identity who killed the policemen, the body or the mind, but the body is only the agent of the mind like the trigger releasing the hammer on the gun.

    A: This is always the case. See my answer to the foregoing question.

    > * Is there any merit in a case to be made for redefining some Rusty Weston's as sufficiently non-human thus rendering them to a different scale of justice as we might say put down a vicious dog. (please discount the slippery slope objections)

    A: From what I said before I don't think so. Weston is in need of treatment as "a normal human in an abnormal mental condition" But this condition is chronical and out of his control. Thus society has to take care of Weston to prevent disasters as this killing of two policemen.

    > * Should there not be a separate pre-trial to determine being eligible for human justice.

    A: there once has been a time in the Middle Ages, when even animals and dead objects could be charged and punished officially by a judge and bench.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/04/04 12:59 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
What does "know" mean?

It doesn't matter what know means except that it
always means the same thing but the word know has many different uses.
I can know how a clarinet sounds but not be able to
express this in words.
I can know that a film is sad and may be able to
explain this in words.
I can know the importance of axiomatic set theory
and may be able to explain this exactly in words
but not many people would be able to understand the
explanation.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/04/04 1:12 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
The Rusty Weston Case

I should start by saying that I am opposed to
capital punishment under any circumstances on the
grounds that it will result in the execution of
innocent people.
However given this we have no real knowledge and no
real understanding of the Rusty Weston case. Being
mentally ill may excuse you from some sorts of
actions but not from others.
How did policemen fit into his mental disturbance?
Were they supposed to be cannibals?
Every case has to be decided on its merits and not
on easy blanket judgements that someone who
is mentally ill cannot be willfully guilty of a
crime.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/11/04 11:58 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
When I awoke my first question was "who am I" and I can't re

Only if you are suffering from amnesia

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/12/04 10:49 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Bodies and minds and crime

I can commit a crime but my mind and my body cannot
commit a crime.
It will never be an acceptable excuse in court to
say I didn't commit this crime. It was my body (or
mind) that it.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Richard Grear (07/02/05 6:24 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Cheep Cheep Cheep Cheep

Are their no more wise indiviuals who can express their knowledge about this topic? I cannot say that I am knowledgable in any topics of philosophy, but I will tackle this question using my somewhat virgin logic. So bare with me now.

The question I first intend on answering is the following: Is philosophy a way of life?
To answer this question one needs to know what Geoffrey meant by "philosophy", "way" and "life"

Way=
1. A road, path, or highway affording passage from one place to another.
2. An opening affording passage: This door is the only way into the attic.
3. Space to proceed
4. Opportunity to advance
5. A course that is or may be used in going from one place to another
6. Progress or travel along a certain route or in a specific direction
7. A course of conduct or action
8. A manner or method of doing
9. A usual or habitual manner or mode of being, living, or acting
10. An individual or personal manner of behaving, acting, or doing
11. Distance
12. A specific direction
13. A participant
14. An aspect, particular, or feature
15. Nature or category
16. Freedom to do as one wishes
17. An aptitude or facility
18. A state or condition
19. Vicinity
20. A longitudinal strip on a surface that serves to guide a moving machine part. Often used in the plural.
21. The structure on which a ship is built and from which it slides when launched.

Life=
1. The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism.
2. The characteristic state or condition of a living organism.
3. Living organisms considered as a group
4. A living being, especially a person
5. The physical, mental, and spiritual experiences that constitute existence
6. The interval of time between birth and death
7. The interval of time between one's birth and the present
8. A particular segment of one's life
9. The period from an occurrence until death
10. Slang. A sentence of imprisonment lasting till death.
11. The time for which something exists or functions
12. A spiritual state regarded as a transcending of corporeal death.
13. An account of a person's life; a biography.
14. Human existence, relationships, or activity in general
15. A manner of living
16. A specific, characteristic manner of existence. Used of inanimate objects
17. The activities and interests of a particular area or realm
18. A source of vitality; an animating force
19.Liveliness or vitality; animation
19. Something that actually exists regarded as a subject for an artist
20. Actual environment or reality; nature.

Philosophy=?

Geoffrey did not define which of the above equivelents of "way" "life" and "philosophy" he meant when he said "way" and "life" "philosophy", in the question "Is philosophy a way of life"?. This question is not clearly defined (broken up into its smallest components) as to give a correct answer. So Geoffrey, what did you mean by "way" and "life" and "philosophy"? Once I know what you meant I can clearly define the unknown and be able to find its equivelent.
Richard Grear

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Richard Grear (07/05/05 7:54 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Answering the proposed questions

Is philosophy a way of life? First we must define "philosophy" into its component words (we must define "philosophy"). Philosophy= A systematic examination consisting of particulars, of what exists at a given moment, by means of logical, rational, and analytic thought.

We must now define "a way of life". It seems to me that "a way of life" means "a created rule for acting which comes about by any means, be it philosophy, or blind imitation". This interpretation of "a way of life" is one of several possible interpretations, just a side effect of a language with multiple meanings. But we will choose the proposed interpretation.

When one possesses a way of life, he possesses a rule for living that, to the possessor, seems to provide a high probability of "the right doing of the possessor's actions" (whereas right doing=logical doing) in the situations in which the "rule" applies. It is no guarantee for logical doing. It just provides a guide that more or less increases (perhaps decreases?) the chance of doing what is logical at any given moment (That is, if there is such a thing, which I do somewhat conclude to exist. Since enjoyment and non-enjoyment exist, and causing enjoyment instead of non-enjoyment is clearly logical, I conclude).
An example of wayS of life would be "The Ten Commandments". The Ten Commandments is a set of 10 "ways of life". An example of a way of life is the "rule" that many great people live by, which is to examine every situation to the fullest extent possible, to reach the best conclusion as possible, in order to act as logical as one possibly can in every situation. A person who does this can be called a philosopher. A true philosopher is one who lives by a single "way of life" (whereas this "way of life" equals the following: (a rule to practice "philosophy" as defined above, to the fullest possible magnitude).
So is "philosophy" a "way of life"? No. A way of life is a social rule. Philosophy is an act of systematic examination etc. A way of life may include philosophy. Whereas (in my opinion) the most logical (best) way of life equals the one that only includes philosophy. A single rule that merely states, "Practice philosophy to the fullest extent possible".

On to the next question. What is it to be a philosopher? Since philosophy is "a systematic examination consisting of particulars, of what exists at a given moment, by means of logical, rational, and analytic thought; Then, one can easily conclude that a philosopher is one who performs the act of philosophy. Whereas "philosophy" equals the definition provided above.

On to the next question. Is there a difference between being a philosopher and merely being knowledgeable about philosophy? Does being one who is systematically investigating etc. equal being one who is knowledgeable about the act of systematically investigating etc. Well, creating music is different than playing music.

What are the responsibilities of the philosopher in the modern world? The only true responsibility one has is to be a philosopher. Ones actions regarding the world will depend on what one concludes is logical from one's own philosophy. I'm not sure if that answered the question. But it's my best answer at the moment.
How should a philosopher live? A philosopher will live however his/her philosophy tells him/her to live.

This is what my logic tells me. I don't know of its truth.

    REPLIES (8):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/07/05 7:49 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: how to live a philosophers life

    Dear Richard,

    since you have posted two messages concerning the header of this forum, you deserve a first greeting an a first answer. Thus I say hello! without knowing anything about your background or whereabouts.

    I have never been to a philosophical seminary, but from your style of arguing I think you have. In my opinion philosophy is just "loving to find out the underlying truth". And to make it a way of living only means — in the sense of Socrates — that you want to find out, while most people don't care a trifle.

    This should not be mixed up : Of course all people want to know what they are doing in a practical sense. Even little children do. Thus they connect cause and effect in the sense of "be good then you will have people nice and smiling, or be bad, then people will shout and be ugly."

    But this was not what Socrates — as a true philosopher — had on his mind. He was asking not for other people's applause but for the truth hidden behind common assumptions and usages.

    He started with doing natural sciences, but got disappointed, since he could not learn what is essential with respect to his own being and doing.

    Well, he could learn, as we all do, that we are humans with two legs and a head and ears and eyes and pains and joys etc.. But this in his opinion — and in that of all philosophers therafter — is not telling us much about "what it means to be a human". Do you see the difference of both questions ? Thus you have two very different concepts of "what it means to be a human" : A bio-medical one as used by primatologists and doctors, and a philosophical or even theological one, which is quite different.

    In the way you put your question there are countless difficulties. What do your mean by "doing what is logical at any moment" ? The verbal meaning of logics is just "speaking reasonably". But what is "reasonable" ? For the atheist to speak of God cannot be reasonable, since there is none and God is only some imaginary concept of mad people. For the true believer to keep God out of your speech is quite absurd and unreasonable, since God in his opinion is the very cause and center of your existence. Thus if a theist and and atheist try to dispute their ways of living, they call each other's arguing "un-reasonable" and by this "illogical".

    But taking philosophy for a way of life means to be interested in just this sort of debate, while many (most ?) people think this to be just rubbish and a waste of time.

    For Socrates it was not : As he said in the Phaedo — where he was awaiting his poison the same day — he tried to be a good philosopher all his life in the hope of being near to the gods in the other life and not becoming an animal there. For the Christian true believer this problem is solved already by the grace of God. And for the atheist both ideas are meaningless, because after death you are simpla that — dead. And the question of whether you will be near to the Socratic gods or to the Christian God or become an animal or whatever simply evaporates into nonsense.

    Thus you see that "doing what is logical at any moment" can be a very difficult task — or let's say : An impossibility.

    So much for the moment. But I hope I have not scared you off. There will be much more to learn on the way to be a good philosopher. Think of it — and then put your next question or answer as you find it.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Richard Grear (07/07/05 7:47 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:

    I'll post a response to you shortly (July 8?)

  • FROM: Richard Grear (07/08/05 5:47 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Another response to a good individual

    Let us evaluate your statement, "philosophy = loving to find out the underlying truth."

    Words are just symbols of particular existence. They can also be symbols of collections of symbols. Sentences are symbols for a collection of symbols. Just as 1=.5+.5 (1=sentence .5=word)

    The word "philosophy" is just a symbol for an existence whereas the existence is what we cannot agree upon.(???) We both have our own idea of the "particular existence" the word/symbol "philosophy" is. I say it is a systematic examination etc., while you say it is loving to etc.. What "particular existence" should we agree upon?

    We should agree upon the "particular existence" that is agreed upon by the system of language in which it belongs. To not do so, would be to create another definition for the same word, and would further degrade the English Language. I think we have more than enough [same word, many definition] catastrophes in this Language of ours.
    Instead of assigning a new particular existence to an already used symbol "philosophy", one should create a new symbol for a particular existence.
    To summarize what I said :Instead of assigning new definitions to the same words, we should create new words for the new definitions. That way there will be no same word situations, and disagreements (like ours) on the meaning of a word. We should also not assign the same definition to more than one word. Can you tell that I hate this language?

    Both of our definitions are in the English dictionary, and agree with the English language. Thus, we can justifiably say it is both things, since our language says it is. This is a classic example of the problems that occur when different definitions/particular existences are assigned to the same word/symbol. In this case the symbol is "philosophy".

    Since philosophy has two meanings, then everything you said in your response is correct, and everything I said was correct, even though they were based on two different definitions of philosophy.

    What does it mean to be human? To be human is to satisfy the "particular existences" defined by the definition of the word/symbol "human". In other words, if you fall under the definition of a human, you're a human.

    What do I mean by "doing what is logical at any moment"? Perhaps logical was the wrong word to use, since I didn't obey its definition when I used it. I should have used "Enjoyable".
    Thus I meant, "doing what would promote the greatest possible amount of enjoyment for the greatest possible amount of time, in any given situation" (Perhaps this definition does not yet have a word to attach it to). This is an impossible feat for someone with finite intelligence and abilities. But it is possible to get close to achieving it.

    I believe that good, in the way people use it, should mean enjoyable. What is good at any moment in time is what is enjoyable in the present. I think that the definition of logical, based on the way we use it, should be changed to "enjoyable in the present" Oh no! Multiple words with the same definition!

    I don't know if I am making any sense anymore. I am getting really tired.

    As for what you said in the end of your response "doing what is logical at any moment is an impossibility"; I think I made it clear that I already conceive that from what I have said above. But it is true, that with philosophy, one can get close, but not quite. For the complexities of this world are infinite, and a finite mind could not possibly conceive them all. That is unless, I am wrong about the complexities being infinite. Perhaps they are finite? Hell, everything I said could be wrong! I have to say good by now. I have other matters to attend to (a trip to the Adirondack mountains). I'll be gone all of next week, so I cannot continue the discussion myself. Perhaps someone else could. Yes, I'm talking to you! You who listens, but does not speak!

  • FROM: Shaun Williamson (07/08/05 10:57 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Philosophy a way of life?

    Well I don't know how to invent a new language or a
    more precise language so if we are going to have a
    discussion we will have to use the old language with
    which we are all familiar. What I am not clear about
    is what you are puzzled about or what you want to
    discuss.
    For me philosphy is being willing to criticise your
    own most precious and strongly held ideas about
    life.

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/08/05 11:44 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: concepts of philosophy

    Dear Richard,

    this time I have put my answers directly into your text (in the form of >...<) for better referencing :

    You wrote :

    Let us evaluate your statement, "philosophy = loving to find out the underlying truth."

    Words are just symbols of particular existence. They can also be symbols of collections of symbols. Sentences are symbols for a collection of symbols. Just as 1=.5+.5 (1=sentence .5=word)

    The word "philosophy" is just a symbol for an existence whereas the existence is what we cannot agree upon.(???) We both have our own idea of the "particular existence" the word/symbol "philosophy" is. I say it is a systematic examination etc., while you say it is loving to etc.. What "particular existence" should we agree upon?

    >Well yes, we have to agree on whether a whale is a fish or something else. So what do we call a fish ? The Italian speak of "frutti di mare" — "fruits of the sea".<

    We should agree upon the "particular existence" that is agreed upon by the system of language in which it belongs. To not do so, would be to create another definition for the same word, and would further degrade the English Language. I think we have more than enough [same word, many definition] catastrophes in this Language of ours.

    >This seems to prove that you are spoilt by this modern obsession with mathematical clarity in philosophy. This in my opinion is the real catastrophe. Why ? From what it looks like, people have any cause to call a whale or a seal a "fish", while if you take into account a "jelly fish" it does not look like a herring. You cannot enforce the modern usage of biological naming on common people, because language is first a means for practical mutual understanding and not for scientific clarity. The world of the biologists is quite different from that of fishermen. Both groups are not allowed to enforce their vocabluary on each other.

    And in the case at hand : Where do you see the difference between "a systematic examination" and "loving to find out the underlying truth"? What else is the aim of "a systematic examination" than "to find out the underlying truth"? <

    Instead of assigning a new particular existence to an already used symbol "philosophy", one should create a new symbol for a particular existence.

    >Well, we could agree on discriminating "philosophy 1" (= your concept of philosophy) and "philosophy 2" (= my concept). And if I am right, "philosophy 1" would turn out to be equal to "philosophy 2", i.e. "ph1=ph2", where ph1 and ph2 are labelling different existences, i.e. concepts. <

    To summarize what I said :Instead of assigning new definitions to the same words, we should create new words for the new definitions. That way there will be no same word situations, and disagreements (like ours) on the meaning of a word. We should also not assign the same definition to more than one word. Can you tell that I hate this language?

    > As I said before, I do not know of your background and sort of study. It now looks like the typical "mapping of sets" of modern mathematics, where the concepts of injective and surjective and bijective and reversible mapping etc. are introduced. This is not even a bad idea. But as I tried to point out in the case of "whale=fish?" the definition of the elements of a set is dependent in this case not on the words but on the theories behind them. For the biologist a whale is a mammal, a fish is a fish, and a jellyfish is a mollusc. For the fisherman they all are "catch". Thus you first have to know what people are trying to do with words. The real existing whale of course does not care what you are calling him. "That what we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet" (Shakespeare). <

    Both of our definitions are in the English dictionary, and agree with the English language. Thus, we can justifiably say it is both things, since our language says it is. This is a classic example of the problems that occur when different definitions/particular existences are assigned to the same word/symbol. In this case the symbol is "philosophy".

    Since philosophy has two meanings, then everything you said in your response is correct, and everything I said was correct, even though they were based on two different definitions of philosophy.

    What does it mean to be human? To be human is to satisfy the "particular existences" defined by the definition of the word/symbol "human". In other words, if you fall under the definition of a human, you're a human.

    > This is a bit circular, because "to define a human" can be a difficult as to define a fish. F.i. for the Catholic Church the human begins with a fertilized human egg, while others think that "a true human" is developing from somewhere behind the 12th week of fetal development or even from the moment of birth. There are many difficulties today in "defining a human". <

    What do I mean by "doing what is logical at any moment"? Perhaps logical was the wrong word to use, since I didn't obey its definition when I used it. I should have used "Enjoyable".

    Thus I meant, "doing what would promote the greatest possible amount of enjoyment for the greatest possible amount of time, in any given situation" (Perhaps this definition does not yet have a word to attach it to). This is an impossible feat for someone with finite intelligence and abilities. But it is possible to get close to achieving it.

    > That ideal sounds a bit like Aristotle's "bliss" or Buddhist "satori" or something like that. But do you really think people are after something of this sort ? I don't think so. <

    I believe that good, in the way people use it, should mean enjoyable. What is good at any moment in time is what is enjoyable in the present. I think that the definition of logical, based on the way we use it, should be changed to "enjoyable in the present" Oh no! Multiple words with the same definition!

    > This is the typical modern idea of what is good. Socrates and Kant and most philosophers in between and many thereafter would have denied such a concept of "good". They would have preferred a more objective idea of the good, something that could even be scaring and terrible and not at all enjoyable. To be "enjoyable" is by necessity a subjective concept, needing somebody who enjoys, while to be good could be an objective term, connected with the object "being good by itself" and not "for somebody". F.i. in mathematics, we think that to be "true" is a property of a proven proposition, not a subjective feeling. Thus to be "enjoyable" is only one of many meanings of "to be good", a subjctive one, while to be "true" is another of those many meanings, an objective one. <

    I don't know if I am making any sense anymore. I am getting really tired.

    > But this was the normal feeling of those who quarreled with Socrates. He was showing them that they never really had thought of what they were speaking of. From this point all philosophy starts. <

    As for what you said in the end of your response "doing what is logical at any moment is an impossibility"; I think I made it clear that I already conceive that from what I have said above. But it is true, that with philosophy, one can get close, but not quite. For the complexities of this world are infinite, and a finite mind could not possibly conceive them all. That is unless, I am wrong about the complexities being infinite. Perhaps they are finite? Hell, everything I said could be wrong! I have to say good by now. I have other matters to attend to (a trip to the Adirondack mountains). I'll be gone all of next week, so I cannot continue the discussion myself. Perhaps someone else could. Yes, I'm talking to you! You who listens, but does not speak!

    > To be totally confused is not a bad precondition for a philosopher. I am always. I am just thinking these days on the difference between "reason-1" and "reason-2", which means "scientific reason" (r-1) and "practical reason" (r-2). There may be even more forms of reason, so as when the differnce is made between "prudence" and "wisdom". There are many open problems in philosophy always. <

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/09/05 12:08 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on what philosophy is

    Hello Shaun,

    glad to see you ! Last time we parted you were commited to the question of free will. Was this meant to be a dispute on some of "our most precious ideas about life" or was it meant to be a scientific problem in its own right ? What I then said in essence was : The neurologists may be right on their findings, but they do not answer any of our great philosophical questions, thus the neurologists seem rather irrelevant to philosophy. As far as I see this moment, most philosophers meanwhile converge on this argument.

    To put it a bit different : If you see the history of philosophy before you, from the Presocratics up to Kant and Wittgenstein and Quine, say, would you say that all arguments of those philosophers become meaningless in the light of recent neuro-science, or would you think (as I do) that it is rather the other way round ? My question to those neurologists was : Do they tell us anything worthwhile, deep, and important — even if they are right ? I don't think so, and I tried to explain why.

    But perhaps the neurologists view on "free will" is in your opinion challenging "our most precious ideas about life" and by this qualifies for great philosophy ?

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Shaun Williamson (07/11/05 10:24 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Neurology and Free Will

    Hubertus

    I don't know why you persist in attibuting the
    most bizarre opinions to me. When I was last here
    I remember trying and failing to get a discussion
    going about 'free will and determinism' between
    you and Michael. I did this because most of the
    posts to the conferences here came from yourself
    and Michael and just consisted of dogmatic
    statements of your opposing philosophical
    assumptions.

    You believe in free will Michael believes in
    determinism. But I could not see that either of
    you understood these things and neither of you
    were prepared to see or discuss the other's point
    of view.

    The world is full of people who have philosophical
    beliefs just as it is full of people who have
    religious beliefs but this has nothing to do with
    philosophy and philosophising.

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/14/05 4:04 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on reason and madness

    Dear Shaun,

    I regret if I have misunderstood your arguments and intentions re. "free will". But then I have put a clear question : If Mike and me were wrong and ignorant on this issue, what would YOU call "free will" ? But so far I have not got an answer from the expert. Well, you need not enter this stuff again. I have got me a bit more informed on the neurological arguments and have not found them that exciting anyway.

    What I would be interested in is quite another question that was a topic on this conference already but that seems to justify much more study. This is : "What should we call 'mental sanity' as opposed to 'madness' ?" Or put differently : "What should we call 'sensible' or 'reasonable' as opposed to 'insane' or 'mad' ?" This of course is a really hot potatoe. So we should be careful.

    It is a very difficult and a very philosophical question. It is NOT just a question of epistemology. It is NOT asking for truth in a scientific sense. Thus it does not help much to address Kant or Popper or Quine on this. For a first introduction perhaps read my own essay (cf. PATHWAYS, http://www.shef.ac.uk/~ptpdlp/newsletter/, #98 as of 7th Feb. 2005) on "Two Concepts of Truth".

    We all know of cases where to call somebody "mad" or "crazy" seems justified. But why do we think so ? And where are the limits ? Is to burn witches or heretics in the name of God an act of madness ? Is to kill western people in NY or London or elsewhere in the name of Allah "mad" ? Is denying the Holocaust or the Darwinian evolution "mad" ? Was Ted Kaczinski ("The una-bomber") a madcap ? (see http://www.etext.org/Politics/Essays/unabomber.html, and see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/32886.stm and http://www.neurodiversity.com/sociopathology.html and http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/notorious/mcveigh/dawning_1.html) Was Hitler ? Was Pol Pot ?

    The context of this question is : When we speak of "truth" in philosophy, we typically ask for "provable" truth in the way Descartes or Kant or Popper did : "How to avoid fallacies ?" By this we assume that there is something to be called "truth" out there. But what if truth is not "out there" but is defined by a certain frame of reference, by some theory ? Then we have to show that this frame of reference is faulty and misconstructed in itself. But in a time of PC (political correctness) it is anathema to call any frame of reference faulty or misconstructed. This would mean another "clash of cultures" and "confessional war".

    You wrote //The world is full of people who have philosophical beliefs just as it is full of people who have religious beliefs but this has nothing to do with philosophy and philosophising.//

    I don't think that any of the great philosophers from Socrates to Kant and after would have subscribed to this position. Were Plato, Augustinus, or Spinoza merely uttering "philosophical beliefs" or were they "doing philosophy" ? You have to defend your position on what in your opinion "philosophising" means. I am interested.

    Well, this is really hard stuff, but I am serious about it. I think to understand the difference of "reasonable" and "mad" is a truly philosophical topic.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/10/05 12:14 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Philosophy — a way of life

Hello Hubertus, hello Richard,

My name is Nikos Bakalis and I am a newcomer in the ISFP. Since I find your discussion very interesting, I would like to participate with my concepts on the subject Philosophy — a way of life?.

At first I would like to point out that the approach to the subject through the analysis of its verbal components, in my opinion it doesn't lead us anywhere, since as we know the letter o is different from the letter n , as well as the word on is different from the word no. Trying to approach the subject essentially, I would say first that the definition of philosophy is according to the Ancient Greeks philo (loving) sophia (wisdom), which is different from possessing the wisdom, just like the philosopher (friend, lover of wisdom) is different from the wise man (sophos). Philosophy then as a method of achieving the wisdom, would mean the method to find out the real nature of all things (including ourselves), or else the underlying truth as Hubertus defines it. This method as a matter of fact includes reasoning and rational arguments both inductive and deductive ones.
In association now with the way of life, the question for me is whether this method of trying to find out the nature of all things is potentially (dynamei) or actually (entelecheia) a practical rule of life. For it is another thing the potentiality and another the capability of acting in accordance with one's philosophical principles, since the latter requires knowledge of oneself. Furthermore, how philosophy affects actually one's life, and how it can lead a happy life? Finally, what is happy life and what is happiness (eudaimonia)? Enjoyment, non-enjoyment or it just lies beyond pleasure (hedone) and pain (ponos), and is only the activity in accordance with human nature? For each being is happy when lives in accordance with its nature. And what is the human nature? To know oneself is it related to have knowledge of one's nature? And to know oneself and to act in accordance with his nature is it related to virtue e.g. justice? Is it a matter of being Christian or pantheist or even atheist to think universally and realize the value of justice and to act in accordance with it, or everybody no matter what he believes would agree with the just acts?

This is the coherence of questions that cross my mind when I think about this subject, and I would be very interested in your comments.

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/10/05 4:28 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on sophia and reason

    Dear Nikos,

    Richard is to the Adirondacks this time for vacs. So I try a first answer.

    From your name and the translations of Greek terms given by you I assume that you are Greek ? Living where now ?

    You are right on "splitting hairs and words". Did you ever read something from Plato or Aristotle ? If not, you should do you the favour.

    You say that being in accordance with one's own nature should cause happiness ("... each being is happy when it lives in accordance with its nature."). But then you rightly state that it may be difficult to say what this means. Is a Zen-Buddhist (I am none) "knowing his nature" when he/she achieves satori, which is similar to the "bliss" of Aristotle or the ekstasis of some Christian or Islamic mystic ?

    While Socrates was interested in "knowing thyself", he in fact was much more interested in becoming a good human and philosopher, as he tells his friends in the first part of the Phaedo (see the link below). But this is a very different goal, not a goal of KNOWING something, but a goal of BECOMING something. And in the case of the Buddhist monk or nun (or take a Christian monk or mystic instead), to know oneself is not that important, but to be in harmony with you or with God is. Thus even in contemplative forms of happiness, to konw oneself is not the main goal — if a goal at all.

    To think that you have to know an instrument to use it well seems a natural idea but it is not. To become befriended to another person or to an animal : Do you have to know them before ? In whgat sense ? Sometimes it is better, f.i., when you try to get befriended to a venomous snake or scorpion (which happens !). But even then "to know" is not doing much psychology or anatomy or something like that, but only to know some behavioural traits.

    And I wouldn't translate "sophia" as "wisdom". This is a meaning of the later, Hellenistic and Christian tradition, as in "Hagia Sophia", the famous church, dedicated to the "Holy Wisdom", which is a typical Greek-Orthodox concept. In the times of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, "sophia" simply meant "knowledge" as opposed to "ignorance". In the Platonic dialogues this is quite evident, since there is "sophia" of the craftsmen. But sophia included knowledge of mathematics besides knowledge of a good life, which too was seen as a technical thing, a matter not so much of "wisdom" but of "experience and reason". In the later Christian context this turned into "knowing how to live according to the Bible". But on this read "The Wisdom of Salomo" or the "Proverbs" or the "Ecclesiastes" in the Bible. This too is "wisdom" and "prudence" at the same time. Not to act according to the rules of God or the Fathers is just an act of stupidity. Our modern usage of "wisdom" is a bit misleading in this respect. As Socrates explains in the Phaedo, he tried to be a good philosopher to be "near to the gods" in the other life and not become an animal there.

    Open the Phaedo here : http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0169 &query=text%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D61a&chunk=page

    And click "page" on the left margin, and click either "Greek" or "English" as you like, and read from "Phaedo 61a", which you must enter in the search-field. Have fun!

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/11/05 1:05 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Philosophy, a way of life

Dear Hubertus,

Thank you for your prompt response to my questions.

At first I would like to introduce myself, as you want to know more about me. Yes I am a Greek and I live in Meerbusch Germany since 2000. I grew up, studied and worked in Thessalonica Greece, and I have also lived some years in England in the past. With regard to your enquiry, whether I have read Plato or Aristotle, I actually have studied for many years Ancient Greek philosophy, from Presocratics to the Stoics, therefore I have written a book, which recently finished Handbook of Greek Philosophy from Thales to the Stoics, Analysis and Fragments and can be found on the site www.trafford.com/04-2651, in the next days. Thanks anyway for your recommendation.

Returning to our discussion, at first I would like to say that my definition of philosophy does not arise from the Hellenistic times, but from the Presocratics (e.g. Heraclitus fr. 112 , Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics VI 1141b ). This was the sense that I distinguished philosopher from the wise man, we can call e.g. Socrates philosopher and wise man but ourselves only philosophers.

And the goal of becoming something, I agree that is different from knowing something, therefore I referred to the Aristotelian terms potentiality (dynamei) and actuality (entelecheia), however to know something is prior from to change it after having knowledge about this.

As for the association way of life happiness virtue according to the nature can be seen in Plato's Politeia 444d, where Socrates is referring to the virtue of justice .

Referring to the matter of happiness (eudaimonia) in connection with the knowledge and virtue I had the following fragments in my mind when I was putting my questions. (Plato Politeia 585 d,e) (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics X 1178 a).

As for the fragments of Plato's Phaedo, thank you very much that you reminded me. I find it really extraordinary, as well as the fragments of Aristotle concerning the creative and impassive nous which is indivisible and originating cause (Aristotle On the Soul III 430a).

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/11/05 3:26 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on what is best and just

    Dear Nikolaos,

    so you are living just 100 Km north from me, since I am from Bonn, and of course know Meerbusch. While I had some Greek in school, I never was good at it and I am not able to translate the Plato text without a lexicon and some difficulty. So I always use the English version or the German one. But the most famous German one (Schleiermacher) is horrible as a translation, correct but quite unnatural. So I even prefer to read the English one.

    On the details : I cannot enter your detailed hints now, but thank you anyway, since I have the translations available to look them up next time. But I would be interested in the following :

    Please try to put a specific problem or thesis now after our first exchange, so we may go along trying to answer or analyze your question or thesis. My thesis, if you remember, has been, that Aristotle was wrong when assuming that people are out for "bliss" as in the opening pages of the Eth.Nic.. In my opinion, this is a typical "philosophers trap" : If there is always something better or more important as an explanation of what you do or go for, then there must be some best or most worthy thing, some uppermost good, where to go. But this is not consequential. There are good works of art or of music or of literature or good people and good meals etc., as compared to "less good" counterparts, but there is never a "best". And we instantly know that this is in fact the case and that there is no contradiction. You may have a "Miss World", but this surely is NOT "the most beautiful woman on earth" but is just the winner of some contest.

    Now translate this to different contexts. Then instead of having some linear order of quality you rather have a distribution of points in some n-dimensional "space of qualities". Let the point of origin denote "no qualities whatsoever" and points lying at the largest distance from the origin denoting some combination of "high qualities". But in a space these "points of high quality" may denote very different combinations.

    Now try to interpret such a model : You may be highly qualified as a saint or as a soldier or as an artist or as a scientist etc.. This is what Aristotle and Plato would call "arete" of a certain sort.

    My thesis was : There is no such thing as a "best arete", since there are many of them incomparable, even perhaps incompatible. But there may be some set of qualities that set apart a "sane" personality from an "unsane" one, a "fit" from an "unfit" one etc.. This resembles the concept of "justice" in the Politeia.

    I have always questioned this concept, which is very specifically "Greek" : The Greek of the 5th century BC always were looking for some equilibrium, some balanced state of affairs, which they then called "beautiful". In the opinion of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the ideas of "the true", "the good", and "the beautiful" somehow coincided. But this is a very special assumption, and we may well question and debate its justification. So I suggest to do just that.

    What do you think of this idea that "the true", "the good", and "the beautiful" somehow coincide ? Do you think it to be a good and sensible idea ? If not, why not ? And of course you may give the whole debate a new twist of your own, trying a different approach.

    Hubertus

    P.S.: You may be able to fluently read and write German. But for the other participants on the forum we have to write English.

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/12/05 1:39 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Virtues, good itself

Dear Hubertus,

I am glad that we are living close in a country of great philosophers, and I appreciate your interest in Greek philosophy.

Referring to your proposal of discussion, I find it really interesting, since it could be important for the other participants to present their notion on the subject.
With regard to Aristotle's notion, that there are many and different goods (agatha), which perfect each activity of life (e.g. strategy, architecture etc.), and there is not only one, he himself reaches to the conclusion that there is a perfect and chief good (teleion agathon), and this is happiness (eudaimonia). Because for the sake of this good exist all the other goods. We want to be perfect e.g. in architecture because we hold the view, that through this we will achieve happiness. However, happiness is good itself since we choose it for the sake of itself, and not for the sake of anything else.
Plato on the other hand, holds the view that the good itself (auto agathon) and the beautiful itself and the true itself are attributes of the Being, adopting the Parmenidean notion that the Being (einai) is the source of everything, which is perfect, eternal and true (fr. 8 Parmenides' poem), something that Descartes adopted as well (God cannot deceive me).

With regard to the virtue (arete), according to Aristotle it lays in the good performance of the activity (the virtue of the good lyre player lays in the good performance). Therefore the virtue of the complete life is to lead to happiness, and this virtue is the mean (mesotes) between excess and deficiency (temperance, bravery, justice, prudence etc.). However to achieve happiness, one must live in accordance with his nature, since each being is happy when lives in accordance with its nature of the Ionian Presocratic school (which the Stoics adopted as well). As a man's nature is composite of social and rational being, therefore, on the one hand, the life according to intellect (kata noun vios), as knowledge (episteme) and contemplation (theorein), since this is the actuality (entelechia) of the individual soul (Leibniz's conatus of perfection of monads), contributes to happiness as a rational being. On the other hand life in accordance with the virtue of the mean contributes to happiness as a social being. Virtue involves reason and thought (phronesis) and is after free choice and deliberation (prohairesis).

As for Socrates' notion of virtue, the justice (dikaiosyne) is the complete virtue, since it presupposes the three virtues of each part of the soul — moderation (sophrosyne) for the appetitive irrational part (epithymetikon), bravery (andreia) for the spirited (thymoeides), and prudence (phronesis) and wisdom (sophia) for the rational (logostikon) part of the soul. In this way the three parts are in harmony under the guidance of the rational part, which has knowledge (episteme) of the needs of each part, and therefore justice is in accordance with nature, since each part does what is appropriate for it by nature. Then, justice is knowledge and injustice is ignorance (amathia).

As we can see then, the two views concerning happiness and virtue coincide somehow, therefore life according to these virtues was considered to be happiness by the Greeks. As for the Good itself in the sense of Being of Plato and the prime mover as originating cause and actuality (entelecheia) of the substance of Aristotle, there are some differences which we can discuss in another forum I suppose.

Concerning then the philosophy- a way of life we can say that this would mean for the Ancient Greeks a rule of life according to the virtues of prudence, moderation, temperance, bravery, piety, modesty, dignity and of course justice. Certainly to live in accordance with these virtues, this presupposes knowledge of oneself and of the false preconceptions (prolepseis), therefore this is a long process.

To sum up, all these I had in my mind when I first put my questions, therefore I would like to hear your comments, as well as some other approaches on the subject from the other participants who may are skeptics or individualists or whatever.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/12/05 2:58 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: to be good is not to be virtuous

    Dear Nikos,

    thank you for clarifications. I am not nearly as well read in Greek philosophy of course as you are. And I give a hint to some really wise texts from one of our contributors to the PATHWAYS, Daoud R. Khashaba from Kairo. See his "Let us Philosophize"-page on Socrates and Plato :

    http://www.back-to-socrates.com/

    My question to you and others was : What do you think of this approach of Socrates and Plato and Aristotle to the ideal of being a philosopher and a good human ? I am working on an essay on "what to call a good human", and I don't think that I suggest anybody to follow in the steps of those three. In my opinion there are really deep problems hidden in the idea of "a good human" never addressed convincingly by most philosophers.

    Remember that I said in my first answer to you, that "to know thyself" is not the idea of most people — and not even should be — but to "become thyself" and "to achieve something" is more to the point. You want to become a good scientist or a good musician or a good writer of novels, but all this does not mean "to become a good human". We generally are just not interested in becoming "a good human". And why should we ? Even to become "a good philosopher" usually does NOT imply to become "a good human". I don't think that "to become a good human" was much on the mind of Descartes or Leibniz or Hume or even Kant, not to speak of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche or Heidegger or Wittgenstein or Popper etc.. But they all wanted to be "good philosophers".

    This idea of "becoming a good philosopher" as somehow identical to "becoming a good human" is a bit similar to the idea of the Buddhist of becoming free from "hate, greed, and ignorance". But not nearly all people are interested in becoming Buddhas. And neither were the great Christian saints interested in living a "life according to the virtues of prudence, moderation, temperance, bravery, piety, modesty, dignity and of course justice." They were interested in living a life according to humility and obedience before God and doing some good in His name. This is not the same as fulfilling your list of virtues.

    So the problem of what to call a good human is in fact a very difficult one and the answers given by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are very special and not really convincing answers in my opinion.

    To give a hint on the nature of the problem : Ethicist tell you that you never should hurt another person without a really good cause. Even Jesus could become irate sometimes. But now see this : To drive the history of mankind people like Alexander and Caesar and Napoleon surely were needed. Whether this applies to Hitler and Stalin too is debatable. But this means, that from a world-historical point of view much of what we call "ethical advice" looks rather meaningless. And we cannot ask the Bible on this, since the Bible is full of bloodshed even with God's approval. And Socrates has been a soldier and never objected to it, because he saw this as part of the obligations of being a citizen of Athens. Here you see again a typical example of what I call "the philosophers trap" : A tendency to mix up logical conclusions with requirements of the real life, even religious life.

    Thus there is much left for debate on this forum.

    Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/13/05 1:37 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
To be virtuous is to have knowledge

Dear Hubertus,

Thank you for your recommendation concerning the web site of Mr. Khashaba, which I had already seen, and it reveals his profound knowledge of Plato's work. However, I don't completely agree with his interpretation of Plato, concerning the creative nous and theory of knowledge, as well as with his notion about Aristotle.

Returning to our discussion, as I said to become a good human presupposes to know oneself, therefore the virtue presupposes knowledge, deliberation and choice, otherwise in my opinion, it would be impossible to become good, when one doesn't know his actual bad disposition so as to change it. Buddha, Christ and Socrates lived in accordance with their philosophical principles with knowledge of good and evil, therefore were wise men. However, all of us, as long as we have understanding of the necessity of some virtues, we try to comply with them.

Referring to the argument of the Christian saints and any religion in general, I would say that each religion contributes to the true opinion (doxa alethes), which is important for becoming a good man, but is different from knowledge and understanding (episteme) the virtues. As for example, each child is brought up in accordance with some virtues, which are important for the certain society, and complies with them, without having knowledge and understanding. However, when it grows older realizes their value. In the same way, philosophy can help a man to realize and understand the value of the virtues. Because knowledge of the virtue of justice for example, means to be aware of the just action, which has to be done, of the consequences, of the end and the persons included. Therefore prudence is necessary. And this is different from the habitual opinion, which someone follows. Therefore, Socrates and Aristotle distinguish knowledge from opinion about the good and as a consequence about virtue. Opinion sometimes can lead to fanaticism, something that we have been experiencing throughout history. Therefore, many Fathers of the Church studied and practiced philosophy as we know, and many monks used the Handbook (Egheiridion) of the Stoic Epictetus as a moral law.

With regard to the obligation of Socrates, he didn't simply comply with the laws of Athens, but he had a knowledge of the necessity of the existence of the laws, therefore he gave that answer to his disciple Crito, when the latter proposed him to escape and avoid the punishment by the law. To think universally, in a sense what would have happened if everybody did what I intend to do, before each action, is completely different from acting just like any unjust man, who simply complies with the law for the fear of punishment, or for the social acknowledgement.

As for my list of virtues certainly, each one is associated with the other and all of them presuppose prudence.

Concerning the historical point of view (Alexander, Caesar etc.), in my opinion the ontological and philosophical one is superior to it, since expedience is a necessity but not universal.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/13/05 2:42 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: being fit in this world and the other one

    Dear Nikos,

    there is much to be answered, but I have not the time needed this moment and will answer tomorrow or on Friday. I think I will proceed in the following direction : There is a conflict of goals whether you try to be "fit for the other world" (as f.i. Socrats in the Phaedo) or to be "fit for this world" (as f.i. Alcibiades or Alexander). But Socrates succeeded in being fit for both worlds, since he handled his obligations as a citizen of Athens quite well. But even then "philosophy as a way of life" is different from "saintity as a way of life" and from "being an achiever and conquerer as a way of life". So much for the moment.

    All the best from Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/14/05 12:06 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Virtue — knowledge — life according to our nature

Dear Hubertus,

I am really looking forward to proceeding our discussion in the direction that you propose, whenever you have time.

In the meantime, I would suggest, in order examining the matter of Socrates succeeding in both worlds, to have a look, apart from the fragments mentioning in my answer of 11th of July, to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, as well as to the Epictetus' Discourses Vol. A Chapter 4, which I also mention in my book.

In this way, I believe, we could see, how the life according to our nature, the virtue, the knowledge and the daily deeds are associated with the perspective of the two worlds.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (3):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/18/05 6:24 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Greek, Jewish, and modern view of humans

    Dear Nikos,

    now finally a first try of my thesis on Aristotle and Greek thinking. The (classical) Greek philosophers were obsessed with eternal FORM (you may correct me, but this was my layman's impression). On the one hand, this made them great thinkers on mathematics and logics and metaphysics. On the other hand, humans and human things are not only form but LIFE. But life is changing and flexible, so the Greek (even the biologist Aristotle) had difficulties to handle it. If you depict life's "forms" you have not living animals and plants but only "dead bodies". Those may be wonderful to look at, but they still are dead.

    The many thousands of people you meet at rush-hour during this summer-time in downtown Duesseldorf where you live are hustling and bustling around driven by countless personalities and intentions, and this was not different in the Athens of Sokrates, Plato and Aristotle. But they did not like it as philosphers. They were always asking for the eternal things below and above the "common turmoil". But by this they lost sight of what humans really are : Not forms but living and striving beings.

    While we humans are in some way "typical" if compared to the apes or to the elephants or to spiders etc., as a "human species", this is not our main concern. Our main concern is our biography, our daily business, our singularity and exceptionality as PERSONS. On this the Jews have been better : Because Jewish thinking is "personal" and not "typifying", the idea of the singularity of each single human person is quite natural to the Jewish rabbi while it looks irritating to the Greek philosopher. This is one aspect of my problem.

    There is another one : "Life is striving and breathing" could be the motto above the entry of my academy (instead of Plato's "meden ageometretos eisito" — "nobody not loving geometry should enter here!"). Which means : We need sleep, but we then are awake and busy again. We need restriction and form, but then again we like to expand our feelings into the "romantic apeiron". We may like math and logics sometimes, but then we are given to wild romantic passions at other times. We like some orderly conduct generally, but then we like jesting and riddling and "carnival" and playful things too. Etc.. Thus once more : To live is quite different from being pinned down like a moth to some blotting paper or medical text-book illustration as a "type" called "an exemplar of the human species" for scientific study.

    In this way the classical philosophers developed a system of ethics, which is "a form", but they were not too much interested in human behaviour in the way sociologists and ethnologists and historians and psychologists are today. The rational norm seemed more important than the factual "irrationality" — which is not "irrational" but "rational in a different way". In Plato's "Politeia" the human social order and conduct has to follow PHILOSOPHICAL principles. But in modern social sciences human social order and conduct has to follow ECOLOGICAL principles. ECOLOGICAL here means : Human social behaviour is only a variant of primate social behaviour, which is a variant of animal social behaviour. This animal social behaviour is a genetically defined achievement over a-social animals. Thus while "violence" and "envy" and "dominance by terror" may be objctionable on "ethical" grounds, they are quite plausible as forces driving evolution by way of "the egoistic genes" (cf.
    http://www.carpediemcommunication.com/axelkahnUS.html).
    And there is a vast debate on "socio-biology" (cf. http://dmoz.org/Science/Biology/Sociobiology/)

    Well, I would not defend "biologism" in the way "social Darwinists" and the Nazis did. But you see the difference of "ethical" arguing and "ecological" arguing here. This was a main concern of Nietzsche : How to reconcile both. In his opinion, Christianity was proposing a "slave morale" of praising humility and denouncing pride and strength. While I think that Nietzsche was very wrong on this, you see the problem put to ethics quite clearly now. Marx and Freud, contemporaries of Nietzsche both, did not argue in a Platonic "ethical" way but in the "ecological" way, asking not how people SHOULD behave but how they DO behave — and why. The 19th century philosophy of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, but of Pragmatism too, was characterized by a change from the classical epistomological question of "is it true?" and "how to know?" to the question "why on earth do or should we care!" There are countless "true facts" around everywhere, but most of them are of no interest. Even wars are nearly never fought over "facts" but over "goals and values". To put it bluntly : Life is asking for food and sex, not for a THEORY of food and sex. 200 years ago, to hint at this simple fact was a revolution.

    This was my approach when I said that Alexander the Great or Luther or Newton were not interested so much in becoming "good humans" or in achieving "eudaimonia", but were interested in some other personal achievement. They were striving and fighting for some good, but this good had nothing to do with "eudaimonia" which was just not on their minds. In this sense classical Greek philosophy looks "prescriptive" and "principled", while modern thinking looks "Darwinist", asking what people are doing or trying to get ahead in the "struggle of life". The first major philosopher to see things in this "modern" way may have been Schopenhauer (1788-1860), while there may have been forerunners.

    Much to debate now ! And of course do not hesitate to fight me as fierce as is needed. I am not touchy.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (07/20/05 12:45 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Form

    Hubertus

    I think that you misrepresent the classical Greek philosophers by using a psychopathological term, "obsessed," in describing their understanding of form. In fact there was a clear difference between Plato and Aristotle in their understandings of form. The richness of classical thought is obvious, when you seriously consider the agreement and disagreement between Plato and Aristotle and the other philosophers, even with the limited classical library available to us today.

    Hubertus, your limitation of achievement in Greek Philosophy to mathematics, logic, and metaphysics and not on "life" is an over simplification. Just consider one of the classical philosophers, Aristotle's biological treatises. Of course over about 3,000 years our scientific understanding of life has advanced. But there is no reason to dismiss Aristotle's contribution to the science of life.

    I am also puzzled by your contrasting the greater sense of life, not just the biological, to the classical philosophers. I seriously doubt that our "rush-hour" masses in Duesseldorf and elsewhere have a superior understanding and appreciation of life's passions than the classical philosophers. Your attempt to create a dichotomy between form and life, between form and passion, is over simplistic to say the least.

    Nor can you create a dichotomy between ancient Jewish thought and the Greeks. Witness the "Ecclesiasticus," or the "Wisdom of Jesus (Joshua) The Son Of Sirach," as it is called in the Apocrypha, written by Joshua ben Sira. Ancient Jewish thought is many things, certainly not a reductionist individualism.

    Neither is there necessarily a dichotomy between the ancient philosophers, whether Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Indian, etc, and the modern world. I suggest that you look at the evolutionary connections, not just look at differences. Just selecting one of your points, about sociobiology, I suggest that you compare Aristotles' technique in his History of Animals (Historia animalium) to the technique employed by one of the founders of sociobiology, E.O.Wilson, as described in Wilson's autobiography, "Naturalist," and in Wilson's published scientific work about ants and other social insects. There is surely an evolutionary technique linking Wilson, the naturalist, to the observations of the biological world by Aristotle.

    Your simplification reducing consideration of form to typification is inaccurate. There is much more! But at this time, I will just suggest that you consider form and the idea of patterns in nature and form and the idea of patterns in truth (not limited to ethics).

    And since you are "not touchy," I think it is a gross simplification to lump Alexander the Great, Luther, and Newton together as not being "interested so much" in becoming good. Then jumping to a limitation of modern thinking to things Darwinist.

    By the way, war is an extension of politics, not just about Darwinism. To put in bluntly, life is about food and sex (ecology) and a myriad of other things, much in which patterns are clearly discerned.

    Your take on Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche as ecologists is new to me. Is that related to E.O. Wilson's, biologist and ecologist, ideas, about ideas coming together?

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/20/05 2:15 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: a crying from the barnstable

    Charles,

    this time I really got the beating ! Well, I can take heat. And I will answer to that, but this time only some hints :

    Yes, the Greek philosophers were indeed obsessed with order, with Kosmos, with classification and things making sense. On this Plato and Aristotle were not different, and neither were the Presocratics or the Stoics. Their question always was : "How does it fit in the overall sensible scheme of this world ?"

    But neither the ancient Jews nor those moderns like Nietzsche etc. (in my list) were interested in such a sensible scheme of things. Since God was the creator of the universe in Jewish thinking, we humans need not know his plans. He knows best. So why should we care ? Because of this the "classical" Jews never were interested in mathematics. Later, in the Middle Ages, this changed in part by the new interest in the Kabbala. But it was not genuinely Jewish thinking and never central. The typical Jewish-Christian thinking was "to trust in God" and not doing calculations and being too nosy. While math was clearly central in the view of Plato. And Jesus Sirach was a Hellenistic Jew.

    What I called "ecological" thinking in Nietzsche pp. was an attitude of : "We don't care any such nonsense as a 'great order of things' in the way this stupid Hegel did, we just try to get along in a fiendish and absurd world." This is what I called "the smart rat going for it's pellet" : The rat need not know — and need not care — any "grand view" of the maze, it just tries to find a way to get at the pellet. This is what I called "ecological" thinking in contrast to "systematical" thinking.

    Greek thinking always was systematical, trying to find the fundamental order of the world. The thinking of Luther and of Nietzsche definitely was not. They just were not interested in "the fundamental order of the world." Luther left it to God, while Nietzsche did not care. This was my point.

    But keep on beating me, have fun ! (You perhaps know the standard sado-maso joke : The maso begs to be beaten, but the sado says "NO!")

    Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/18/05 3:37 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Modern and philosophical view of life

Dear Hubertus,

I am glad that you are coming back in the discussion with the arguments and the values of modern life, as well as with the arguments of Nietzsche and Darwinists.

You argue that the Greek philosophers were interested in eternal forms and not in daily life. I could remind you that the times of philosophies flourishing in Greece are called golden age of Pericles, and that Pericles himself was a disciple of the philosopher Anaxagoras, along with the poet Euripides. And that is an example of how philosophy was applied in the daily social and individual life, in a sense of practical wisdom (phronesis prudence). In addition, the a/m era was full of creative life in Athens, in your sense or in any sense.

With regard to the argument of the sciences of sociology, ethnology, history, psychology and biology, which study the motto of the human being, I can say that I partly agree with you, therefore Plato in his Politeia and Laws, and Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics and Politics point out the importance of careful upbringing by the State, since the word ethos (ethics) is associated with the word aethos (habit). Which means that the upbringing in accordance with virtue can be initiated habitually until it becomes conscious will and action (character).

However, we can distinguish philosophy from the a/m sciences, since Ontology is prior in substantiality from the other sciences. I mean that, all the motives of human behaviour according to the other sciences, can be deduced in the primary one that the instinctive impulse of the human being is the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. And this is applied to each aspect of daily life, pleasure in the abundance of food, money and sex, in social dominance and acknowledgement and so on. Because, according to Plato's dialectic, the principles (archai) of each science must be deduced to one prior principle, which unites and includes all the others. Therefore, philosophy was considered to be the top of all sciences. This instinctive impulse then is irrational, since we share it with animals, while the search of eudaimonia is rational and lies behind pleasure and pain.

To be more specific in your arguments about our daily worries and interests, I would refer to my answer of 12 of July, concerning the three parts of the soul (appetitive, spirited and rational). Our appetitive part in the search for pleasure seeks for abundance of good food, sex and all the pleasures of the five senses. Our spirited one seeks for pleasure in winning, dominating, achieving fame etc. Our rational part, e.g .can have knowledge of the needs of the other two, can protect our body from getting ill etc., therefore it is considered to be superior of the other two. Therefore its virtue is prudence or practical wisdom (phronesis) since it can keep in balance and harmony the three parts. Since the rational part is twofold, its other actuality (entelecheia) is the theoretical knowledge and contemplation. The virtue of this part is wisdom then. Therefore I distinguished in my previous answer wisdom from prudence. As we can see the so-called modern worries and enquiries are not very new, since they have been also examined by the Greek philosophers.

As for the argument why on earth should we care, I could refer to the argument of Plato in Protagoras (356) concerning the good in the long term and the good in the short term, where Socrates shows that the good in the long term is the good, therefore prudence in a sense of foresight is the virtue of it.

With regard to the principles of the new philosophers — and in association with the forms and the dead bodies that you mention — (Will to power of Nietzsche, trend of live organisms to the higher ones of evolutionists etc.), we could say that each philosopher tried to find the actuality (entelecheia), in the sense of principle (arche) of the substance, which is immaterial and is the driving force of it. So, as we can see even the very philosophers of life (Lebensphilosophen), conclude to the immaterial metaphysical principles, which determine the substance (individual or not). Marx as well applied the principle of war of the opposites (polemos) of Heraclitus to the history in order to discover the motive of the history (war of classes).

We could say more, but I tried to response only to the essence of your arguments.

All the best from Nikos.

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/21/05 9:55 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: "why should we care at all ?"

    Dear Nikos,

    so many questions to answer ! So I break your text down along the paras and this time only answer one, the others then and now when I find the time to do it.

    Now on 5th para. You wrote :
    //
    As for the argument why on earth should we care, I could refer to the argument of Plato in Protagoras (356) concerning the good in the long term and the good in the short term, where Socrates shows that the good in the long term is the good, therefore prudence in a sense of foresight is the virtue of it.
    //

    This was not my point. See it this way : As you know, the main concern of Luther was how as a sinner to assure God's grace. But if you are an atheist, there is no God, and so the whole problem vanishes. In this sense I always say "there 'are' no (philosophical) problems. It's WE who are posing them." Only if you first pose a personal God in the Jewish sense who is punishing sinning humans, then you have the problem of how to assure this God's grace. In the same way to care for the "good" in the long run is not at all "natural". There are countless people who simply do not care. That we should is a special conviction of Socrates and others. Thus the question why on earth should we care? is always justified. And this applies with scientific questions too : When Tycho Brahe, the forerunner of Kepler as "Astrologer to the Emperor" in Prague, proved by careful observation, that the orbit of Mars was in fact not a circle (as he tried to prove) but an ellipsis (as Kepler then showed), the driving question for both — Kepler and TB — was a theological one, not a practical need. And when Newton found the law of gravitation, his motive once more was a theological and not a practical one. Thus in both cases the question "why did they care at all?" was very justified. The Asiatic scientists were as bright as the Greek or the European ones, but they simply were not interested in some fundamental problems that haunted the Greek. Suppose Aristotle had been occupied not with biology and medicine, and some of his contemporaries had not been occupied with astronomy and geography and math etc., but they all had been given to esoteric speculation or to the study of psychology, then this would have been as natural, but there would have been no "Greek science". This is why I wrote of an "obsession" of the Greek with "form" : You NEED not be interested in "form", and most people and peoples are not at all. The Jews for example were not. There is no NATURAL cause or necessity to be interested in "form".

    And this is what "Lebensphilosophy" is stressing : Instead of asking always "is it true or is it not?" we should first ask : why on earth should we care, why should we be interested in the problem in the first line? Before you can ask : "Is this the true solution of this mathematical problem ?" you first have to become interested in "this mathematical problem". If you are not interested in "this mathematical problem" (or in ANY mathematical problem), then you will not care the answer either. This was my point.

    By the way : I don't like the translation "philosophy of life" for "Lebensphilosophie", because it is misleading : "Lebensphilosophie" is not "the philosophy of life sciences" in the way "philosophy of physics" is a philosophy of the physical sciences. "Lebensphilosophie" is trying to do justice to the fact that our very problems have their origins in our life and not in the "facts" themselves. It was not the problem of God's grace which was posing to Luther, but it was the struggling human monk Luther who made this question a problem for himself. The problem rose out of the life of Luther, not out of an eternal set of problems.

    To put it differently : There are no problems lying around like stones. There are living and thinking humans who "create" the problems like they are creating houses and works of art and gods. Nature does not know of problems. There are none. To have a problem you have to be a living and thinking being. It's always YOUR problem, the problem arising from YOUR life in this time and place. This was the idea of "Lebensphilosophie". We are looking for solutions to problems that are only "there" because WE are, and that would vanish together with ourselves.

    Hubertus

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FROM: Michael Ward (07/19/05 6:25 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Philosophy — a way of death?

Hi,

Unprepared to compromise his philosophy Socrates chose death. Five others recently unprepared to compromise their "philosphy" also chose death in London as well as furthering their cause.

I do not think terrorism can be stopped only contained in proportion to our loss of liberty.

Only ideas can defeat ideas — so philosophers what ways would bring us back to kindness towards each other?

Michael Ward

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/20/05 9:38 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: the kindness of philosophers

    Hi Mike, glad to see you again !

    Don't tell me of those Islamists who blasted 5 bombs in London lately ! Hitler blasted at least 5 MILLION and killed much much more people by this ! And he had a simple idea : The Jews and the Anglosaxon (!) greedy capitalists are the origin of all evils. And Hitler not even acted in the name of any religion or GOD, he acted in the name of REASON !!! In his opinion the Jews and the Anglosaxons were a sort of malign tumor of humankind which had to be exstirpated. And he surely would have used the A-bomb if he had it to his disposal to blast London and other such centers of evil...

    One of the kindest and most sensible and bright people on earth has been Einstein. What did he suggest as a way to speak kindly with Hitler ? He suggested (even before the war!) in a famous letter to FDR to build the A-bomb before Hitler could do it and thus caused the "Project Manhattan". Sometimes the only way to get your nice ideas across to some madcap is at gunpoint. The Nazis had to be crushed — plain and simple. And this may be the fate of Islamic terrorists too — or of any other (IRA, ETA, etc.) terrorists : You have to chase them down, because no niceties will talk them out of their mad convictions. What they lack is humility and love to respect other people's opinion. They are the ones who let "the bombs talk".

    But of course : Your suggestion once more is proof of your own faith in human reason and kindness. Thus your voice should be heared on this forum more often.

    All the best always from Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/20/05 1:52 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Knowledge and opinion

Hello Hubertus, hello Michael,

I am glad that our discussion goes to the reflection on actual events.

As far as I can understand, Michael is referring to the young people who are convinced to become terrorists, and not to their mentors. Therefore, I would like to say that, at first I agree with the old Stoic doctrine ideas can defeat ideas, or else what can overpower one impulse but another impulse? and so on (Epictetus Discourses Book A, Chapter 17).

However, to identify the ignorant young terrorists with Socrates, who had knowledge about good and evil, I don't find it right. Socrates chose to suffer death, in order to comply with the verdict of a court, although he disagreed with that, because he considered the existence and the compliance with the state's law higher than his personal will. While the fanatic young terrorists, consider their spiritual mentors' opinion — which speak in the name of the only one objective truth, and promise reward after death to their followers higher than the respect to their own and other humans' life, as well as the constitution of the state that allowed them to grow up and study peacefully. And as their spirited part of the soul is searchin for fame and acknowledgement, which they don't find in their isolated small society, they rush to death with the hope of achieving the eternal glory.

Therefore in my answer of 13th of July, I distinguished knowledge of the virtue of justice from the opinion about it. To live in accordance with one's philosophical principles and their virtues, which arise from personal reflection, reasoning and foresight (phronesis), is completely different from following emotionally and blindly the commands of the so-called saviours of the world.

Best regards

Nikos Bakalis

    REPLIES (3):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/20/05 2:29 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: distractions and delays

    Dear Nikos,

    I owe you a fair answer, but for the moment have a look at what I answered to Charles this evening and to what I answered to Shaun on 14th. I will answer your posting directly next time, hopefully tomorrow.

    Meanwhile a question : What in your opinion was the idea of "reason" in Greek thinking as compared to madness ? You have answered this in part, but I think you did not get down to the core of the problem : By what argument would Aristotle call the burning of witches and heretics, or the bombing of passengers on London subs, or the Holocaust, the Gulag, and the "Killing Fields" "unreasonable" ? All these deeds (crimes ?) have been done in the name of a better world ! Should we call them "reasonable" by this standard ? If not — why not ? This was my question concerning the "deeper" understanding of the concept of "reason". If these deeds are called "crimes", where then was the fault in the thinking of those who commited these crimes ?

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/20/05 3:07 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on justifying strange deeds

    Well, Nikos,

    your answer to Michael in part answers my question put just at the same time as your answer below. But your answer should rather be a starting point of a serious debate on "reason". The "superior" of the young terrorists may be — Allah ! At least in their own opinion. This is not different from the Christian Crusaders or from the pious Grand Inquisitors who burnt "heretics" in the name of God. The Grand Inquisitors — like the High Priest Kaiphas who put Jesus to death — were really pious men and highly qualified theologians, not young fanatics ! And the same can be said of Grand Ajatollah Chomeini when he published his fatwa on Rushdie. Thus things are not nearly that simple. And as I wrote in my answer to Michael, Hitler and Stalin were acting in the name of reason, not in blind hate. Even the assassin of Theo van Gogh said that he felt no hate against his victim, he only had to obey Allah's command from the Quran, that whoever is insulting Allah should be beheaded. This is exactly the way Himmler justified the Holocaust : He too said he felt no hate against the Jews, he just had to eliminate them for the better of mankind. He called it his sorry moral duty.

    This is what I suggested to Shaun : If the concept of "reason" is defined by the accepted frame of reference, we have to call the deeds of the Grand Inquisitors and of Chomeini, or those of Hitler and Stalin "reasonable" by their frames of reference. The only way out seems to be that we could — as is done in science and by "paradigm change" — reject some frames of reference as faulty. And this will result inevitably in a clash of cultures and confessions. The downfall of Stalinism has been largely a downfall of the Stalinist (if not the Marxist) frame of reference, and so has been the downfall of fascisms in Italy, Germany, Greece, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere.

    If I am right, we cannot answer whether some deed is "reasonable" without referring to some frame of reference justifying the deed. This is not different from evaluating the meaning of a sentence : We have to read the sentence as an utterance in a certain language and context. Without reference to a certain language and context any "sentence" is neither right nor wrong but just meaningless. But I would be surprised to hear that this was on the mind of Aristotle, while it may have been on the mind of some later Stoic philosopher of language.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (07/20/05 5:08 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Degree not principle

    Nikos,

    I recognise the Socratic good and evil perspective and like you Nikos and Hubertus emotionally "feel" this suicide bomber to have wrong values. However, when I analyse what the differences they seem to be a matter of degree and not of principle.

    One mans terrorist is but another mans freedom fighter each believing their cause to be just (at least in their own frame of reference) and thus reasonable. The moment that one bases ones values in a belief system they are beyond challenge — in the words of de Bono "I am right and you are wrong" or binary thinking.

    The only interview I have ever heard with a failed suicide bomber was from Israel where the boy gave a rather regretful account of how both "religious" social and pier pressures combined to provide an irresistable pressure on his actions — in short he had no other means or voice or desire to see the world from other possible perspectives.

    How does one distinguish a real saviour from a "so called" saviour, why do we need saving in the first place anyway?

    It may be argued on utilitarian grounds that the Einstein solution of "retaliation first" would have produced the greatest good (or least evil) who knows but is that not what we should be resolving?

    Regards

    Michael Ward

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/21/05 2:06 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Noble deeds, reasoning and passion

Hi Michael, Hi Hubertus,

As far as I can see, our discussion goes to more essential questions, therefore in my opinion, I should better define the concepts I used in my previous answers, so as to proceed further and draw some conclusions about principles, beliefs, virtue, knowledge, justice and way of life in general.

At first, I distinguished the young terrorist from their spiritual leaders, because to act in ignorance and led by passion is different from to act after choice and deliberation like the criminals of the mankind. For both virtue and vice presuppose choice and deliberation, while the action under the influence of any passion is ignorance according to Aristotle. And action in ignorance is regretful, while action after choice and deliberation is not. Both, the one who chooses the virtuous and noble deeds and the one who chooses the vicious deeds are aware of the consequences of their actions, the persons that will suffer the action, the means, the aim etc. However, the noble deeds are for common good (universals), while the vice is for the personal advantage of a certain person or group of people or community to others disadvantage. And the noble deed is virtuous and according to our nature. Virtuous because is after deliberation and choice, in order to search and find out the means, to foresee if the consequences are for the good, etc. therefore presupposes reasoning and prudence (phronesis). According to our nature because it complies with the universal law (Logos, Being, Good itself), which is perfect and preserves the universe eternally. And since we share a part of this universal substance (nous), and is the superior part in us, life according to intellect is life in accordance with our nature. This is the concept of virtue according to the Greek philosophers from the Presocratics to the Stoics. Hubertus as for the Jewish concept, I don't know how one can understand virtue, if he hasn't got knowledge and understanding of the Being.

With regard to the demagogy of the criminals of the mankind, it is not reasoning and is not addressed to a man's reason, but to the passions of fear, envy, jealousy and revenge, therefore can fanaticize and blind their followers and lead them to madness. Reasoning follows another way, by examining the syllogism in order to find out and distinguish the prior from the minor premise. I mean prior in quantity, quality, potentiality, actuality (aim), in other words in substantiality. In the syllogism e.g. in the name of better world to extinguish the half world there is logical contradiction, since better world means better world for all. But I want the world to be in accordance with my desire is not reasoning but a desire (passion, pathos). As well as, is a political expediency prior or minor to universal expediency? Or else, is the universal good prior to the advantageous or expedient one or not? If a philosophical principle were examined in this way it wouldn't lead to madness I suppose.

As for the difference between Socrates and the terrorists, that Michael mentions, the difference is not in quantity (grade), but in quality and in actuality. The unjust action is exercised towards the others by the terrorists; the just action is exercised to himself (Socrates). The action of Socrates is based on reflection and is just since it complies with equality against the law (universal), while the action of the terrorists is based on belief, and is unjust since is for the advantage of a special group of people and to others disadvantage.

Michael, concerning the saviours, we could consider the heroes who die when defending their countries in a war as saviours of the others, while the so-called ones, they only pretend to be because they aim at their own personal advantage. In my opinion, each one of us has the potentiality to become a saviour of himself, as long as he lives in accordance with justice of Plato or the mean of Aristotle or the peace of mind of the Stoics.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/21/05 5:10 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on being reasonable — and not

    Dear Nikos,

    I this time only take one para of your posting :

    //With regard to the demagogy of the criminals of the mankind, it is not reasoning and is not addressed to a man's reason, but to the passions of fear, envy, jealousy and revenge, therefore can fanaticize and blind their followers and lead them to madness. Reasoning follows another way, by examining the syllogism in order to find out and distinguish the prior from the minor premise. I mean prior in quantity, quality, potentiality, actuality (aim), in other words in substantiality. In the syllogism e.g. in the name of better world to extinguish the half world there is logical contradiction, since better world means better world for all. But I want the world to be in accordance with my desire is not reasoning but a desire (passion, pathos). As well as, is a political expediency prior or minor to universal expediency? Or else, is the universal good prior to the advantageous or expedient one or not? If a philosophical principle were examined in this way it wouldn't lead to madness I suppose.//

    This argument is clear and sound — but this is exactly the thing Schopenhauer and Marx and Nietzsche were opposing : They all said "People are not using their brains to be nice and reasonable, but people are using their brains to get at their pellets. Man is a thinking animal, but first he is an animal. He is out for food and lust, and reason is just a means to get at bloody meat, at power and wealth and lust, and only in very very few cases is 'eudaimonia' on the mind of the striving smart rat." THIS was the great transformation of 19th century thinking !

    This is what I called "ecological" : Life is a constant struggle, a fighting, and our minds are just weapons of survival against the terminators. Against this background "Lebensphilosophie" called Greek philosophy and Christianity "naive". In the view of Marx it is naive to think that philosophers and theologians are out for "the truth". In his opinion they are out to forge and mould the weapons of "class struggle".

    See your whole answer in this light, then you see what I try to get across here.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (07/22/05 8:50 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Noble Savage?

    Nikos,

    You wrote: the action of the terrorists is based upon belief, and is unjust since it is for the advantage of a special group of people and to others disadvantage.

    This is very much what I have been advocating to Hubertus over much time about the net benefit of religion, which I argue is fundamentally an irrational belief system.

    I think it is very misleading, but politically advantageous, to consider the bombers as criminals when clearly there is no personal advantage to be gained by them in this life. I think the issue that is not being addressed is the fact that western military actions on top of western economic warfare is probably killing more people than these bombers why is addressing this so uncomfortable I wonder?

    Another reason it is an easy option to call terrorists criminals as it avoids us living the examined life and the anguish that would present most human animals with.

    In practical terms weakening the terrorist network by infiltration is probably the best means of containing this violence if it can't be defeated by changing ideologies (for all participants)

    Regards

    Michael

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/22/05 2:06 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Thinking animal

Dear Hubertus,

As I said yesterday, reasoning is the way to examine the premise in order to draw the conclusion. Therefore, I will examine your premise in connection with the subject philosophy a way of life.

Man is a thinking animal, but first he is an animal, this implies that the predicate animal is prior to the thinking, which means that the animal side is superior to the intellectual one, in other words if we cultivate our instincts we can have better quality of intellect, while if we develop our intellect we cannot take care of the body etc. Do you find it right? Or the other way around? And that the most of the people use their intellect as a means to get their pellets and not as an aim, it is known since thousands of years, and it is not a great transformation of 19th century thinking. For your reference, I quote the fragments of the Presocratics, Democritus and Heraclitus.
The perfection of the soul will correct the depravity of the body, but the strength of the body without the reasoning does not render the soul better (Democritus, Fr, 187 Stobaeus III, 1, 27).
The best (aristoi) choose one thing in place of all else, everlasting glory among the mortals, but the many (polloi) are glutted like cattle (Heraclitus, fr. 29 Clement Strom. V, 59, 5).
Nietzsche was aware of the last fragment; therefore he distinguished the herd from the great man and from the Ubermensch, with the superiority of his Geist. The same as with Marx, therefore he introduced the vanguard of the working class.

If then, the intellect is prior to our instinctive impulses (without excluding the minor), one must develop this first; otherwise what is the sense of philosophy, literature, poetry and arts in general? If the most of the people don't realize it, this doesn't mean anything.

Philosophy a way of life would mean then, that one searches through reasoning and reflection to find out the right principles of life, according to which he will choose to live.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/23/05 2:56 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Two forms of rationality

    Dear Nikos,

    thank you for your detailed answer, but it is in a fascinating way completely incongruent to what I try to get across.

    You are trying to prove — in a good Greek manner — that the intellectual side of man SHOULD be superior to the animal side, and you tell me, "that most of the people use their intellect as a means to get their pellets and not as an aim, is known since thousands of years, and is not a great transformation of 19th century thinking." And then you even add something of Heraklit on the difference of the noble soul and the herd.

    This whole approach is "normative". But the approach of the 19th century was "scientific" : Positive science — and this is what Marx and Freud thought to deliver — was not interested so much in what people SHOULD do or find valuable, but in what they really DID do and found valuable. They were trying to get at the facts. Their scientific approach was : To change mankind to the better, we should not first study what "better" means, but we should first study mankind and how it really works. This change from the normative to the positive approach is what I called "the great transformation of 19th century thinking.

    You always try to show me what "rational behaviour" is. But the great "finding" of 19th century science was, that there are TWO sorts of rationality : A philosophical/moral one and a biological one. And that these two not always go together. Thus from a philosophical/moral point of view, to suppress and terrorize and even kill your neighbour may be irrational, evil and forbidden, but from a biological point of view that highlights the struggle for life it may be "rational in the sense of the egoistic gene".

    My last sentence was : << In the view of Marx it is naive to think that philosophers and theologians are out for "the truth". In his opinion they are out to forge and mould the weapons of "class struggle". >>

    This is "biological rationality" : Marx and Freud — and even Nietzsche with his concept of "slave morale" — all tried to show, that "it can be rational to be irrational, it can be important for your survival to lie and to suppress the facts — even before your own consciousness."

    You completely missed this argument, because you insist that there is only one form or rationality. Well : In classical Greek thinking this was a canonical conviction. And in European philosophy generally it was too — up to around 1800. But then this conviction gave way to the other one proposed by Schopenhauer : That the animal comes first and the thinking comes thereafter, and that this is just a scientific empirical fact whether you like it or not.

    You — like Socrates-Plato and Aristotle — seem to take it for granted, that people SHOULD be interested in "the truth" or in "eudaimonia". But Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx all questioned this assumption and asked: "Why should they ? From the point of view of their practical needs they should go ahead for their pellets by whatever means — cheating, lying, killing, suppressing, self-deceiting, whatever."

    Only on a very high level of approach — "the Greek level" — to be reasonable in the Socratic sense is "natural". But for the rats (the ancestors of man) roaming the undergrowth of the jungle, survival is the only meaningful program.

    Look at it this way : For a baby the only meaningful "ethical strategy" is to get at its food and avoid pain and discomfort by crying. All "higher" ethical criteria — of being decent and responsible and helping etc. — are completely beyond the horizon of a baby. The baby just tries to survive with the means at its disposal. Thus on the level of the baby to be "immodest" and "annoying" is not unethical or irrational, but is "rational by a biological standard". See the Kohlberg-stages of moral development on this :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development

    This was the way scientists and philosophers tried to look at man after about 1800 : Instead of asking from an inappropriate philosophical point of view "is this behaviour 'reasonable' ?" they asked : "What is the meaning of this behaviour from the point of view of a striving intelligent animal ?" It was exactly this way of questioning that led Marx to his concepts of "class-struggle" and "ideology" etc., and that led Freud to his concepts of "ego" and "id" and "suppression" and "neurosis" etc.. Freud was not asking "is neurosis good or bad ?" but he was asking — as a scientist : "What is the FUNCTION of neurosis, and how does it work ?" Thus he was paying tribute to "the other rationality", the rationality of the body and the biological organism coping and surviving the dangers of its environment. Classical Greek philosophy was only dimly aware of this problem, which became central from around 1800 in European anthropological thinking. This was the meaning of "man is first an animal and only then a thinking one."

    Now you see what a really great revolution this change of view has been, and what the true meaning of "Lebensphilosophie" is.

    We still may (and should) ask, what is "reasonable". But after Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Feuerbach, Marx, and the many scientific results of the ECOLOGICAL study of man coping his problems as an intelligent animal trying to survive, our approach cannot be as naive any more as it has been in classical Greek times. Of course the Greek were well aware of all sorts of human passions and madness. This was not my point. But when Freud introduced "Oedipus"- and "Elektra"-complex, he was not just describing and labeling forms of madness. He was asking for their MEANING from an "ecological" point of view. And this makes an enormous difference.

    Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/22/05 2:18 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Prior and minor good

Dear Michael,

I mostly agree with your remarks, I was only referring to the acts of terrorists compared with the action of Socrates. This doesn't mean that I find just those western military actions that you mention.

Therefore I put my questions, what is prior, political expediency or universal one? and what is prior, the good, the advantageous, the expedient? for further reflection on the subject.

Best regards

Nikos

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/25/05 1:25 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Induction, deduction and science

Hi Hubertus,

Finally today I have time, so I can answer to your comments.

From your whole approach is evident that you consider that the reasoning of the Greek philosophers was not scientific. Therefore I will try to explain the induction and deduction in association with the scientific thought. When a scientist asks, what is the meaning of this behaviour, what is the function of neurosis and so on?, he is trying to find the causality of certain behaviour. Furthermore, out of different sorts of causalities he draws a conclusion about the principle, which determines all these sorts of behaviour. This method is called induction (epagoge), and proceeds from the first principles to the universals, from what is already known to the universals, as Aristotle explains in Posterior Analytics and mentions in Nicomachean Ethics VI 1139b). This method has been applied by the most Presocratics.
Appearances are a glimpse of the obscure (opsis gar ton adelon ta phaenomena) Anaxagoras fr. 21.
Democritus used to say that he prefers to discover a causality rather than become a king of Persia (Democritus fr. 118).
As I said in my answer on July 18th through deduction all the principles can be deduced to the reasonable and instinctive reaction of a man, but not rational one. All the scientists, whom you mention, have used the induction and deduction; therefore I don't understand why the Greek way of thinking was not scientific. Furthermore, Werner Heisenberg of quantum mechanics in his book Physics and Philosophy Chapter IX concludes that the definition of matter as potentiality and the kind as actuality by Aristotle, is closer to the modern physics.

As for your argument that the animal comes first and the thinking comes thereafter, as I said (21th of July) prior in substantiality is not prior in time, like the baby that you mention, which tries to survive first. As you well know from the Biology that you invoke, the potentiality for thinking and for surviving both exist in the chromosomes of the baby even though the potentiality of the survival instinct becomes actuality first and then the rational one (prior in time), this doesn't mean that is prior in substantiality. Because for the sake of thinking we have this type of brain and body, and this is the actuality (entelecheia, end) of it. And actuality is prior to potentiality, because for the sake of the eyesight we have the eyes, and not the eyesight for the sake of the eyes. Therefore actuality is prior in everything, because for the sake of this exist all the other categories (quantity, quality, potentiality). Actuality then is a principle (arche) (Aristotle Metaphysics Book IX). The actuality then of the body is the soul in two kinds, as knowledge (episteme) and as contemplating (theorein) (Aristotle On the soul Book II 412).

The baby then of your example, later will start using his reasoning and will stop behaving like you mention, but the simple animal not because it hasn't got this potentiality. Everybody of course uses his brain as a means of fulfilling his desires, and through pleasure (enjoyment, joy, praise etc.), and pain (disappointment, fear, reprimand etc.) learns how to use it. However through pain he realizes that he has to live a life with prudence. Therefore, he gradually escapes from this animal side, which tortures him with its infinite desires. Then he realizes that the rational and prudent life with virtue must be his aim and not a means, just like the man of the cave of Plato. Because, living with cheating and lying and killing etc. doesn't lead anywhere, both for himself and for the others around him. Afterwards, he realizes that this intellect (nous) is of divine origin, and is part of the universal law, which governs the universe.

The biologist Aristotle describes the function of practical nous compared to the irrational appetitive part in the mind of the abstinent man as follows, on the one hand the appetitive part urges the man through imagination to taste the object of appetite, and on the other hand prudence through practical nous fight against it in the imagination and does not originate the movement of the body towards this aim (Aristotle On the Soul Book III 433). Nowhere is mentioned evil and forbidden.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/25/05 10:03 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Every insight has its time

    Dear Nikos,

    I greatly esteem your diligent and detailed answer to my objections. I will enter on some details perhaps later on.

    Generally : There is nearly no science of nature flourishing anew during 19th century, that has not had its origins in Greek thinking of the period that is coverered by your book. So you surely are right that the Greeks were aware of many problems connected with this sort of study. But in the history of science and philosophy the "positivist turn" from the normative has been a revolution in the 19th century in a similar way as the Renaissance in Italy during Quattrocento has been a real revolution from medieval thinking. In both cases I am interested in both aspects : You are stressing — quite naturally as a Greek — what has been said and known before, and I really like to know it. But I am stressing what is new in its time, what made the revolution. Since whatever you say on Aristotle and his followers, for those living during Quattrocento or during 19th century, what they found they felt as new and revolutionary and opening a new era, indepenent of whether there may have been similar findings in Aristotle and after. It's like in your own biography : You may have read a certain book or heard a certain theory in your youth or early student's times, but did not pay much attention. But 20 years later the same book or theory opens to you like a revelation.

    Every insight has its time. This too is "ecological". I always tend to ask — against the modern prevalence of analytical thinking : "Why has this theory become interesting and fruitful in just this moment ?" Some theories and some books are "sleepers", awaiting their time. Without the later Roman Empire and without Christianity the history of Greek philosophy would have been very different of course. It's all a matter of chance and dumb luck. The Arabs preserving the Greek works and then transferring them by way of Cordoba to the Occident where the universities of Paris and Oxford were rising "just in time" during 13th century etc.. At least Christianity was able to accept it, which was not even sure. There was much anti-Aristotelianism in Christian thinking.

    Thus on this "revolution", that it looks not that great from your point of view, you are right, but I am too. Seen in historical perspective my "great revolution of 19th century" could be defended. The style of arguing from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx and Freud ist very different from that of Leibniz, Hegel and Schelling. The latter are going for "the truth" in a systematic way, while the former are asking for the MEANING of truth ("what do I care, what and where does it get me ?") What is the value of a good meal if you are either not hungry or have no penny to buy it ? You would say "but it's a good meal anyway!" while I would say "for whom ?" So who is right on this ? We have to see the problem !

    All the best from Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/27/05 2:11 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Revolution from medieval thinking

Dear Hubertus,

I am glad that we finally agree on something, so to say that the origins of philosophy and science come from the Greek thinking.

As for the revolution that you mention, it was really revolution from medieval thinking, but not from Greek thinking. Medieval thinking under the influence of the institution of the Christian Church was far away from Ancient Greek thinking, although allowed the teachings of some parts of Aristotle's philosophy. As you know, at this time the Universities' Professors had to swear that they would not teach certain parts of his philosophy, as well as that the whole philosophy of the Presocratics was unknown.

With regard to the essence of the argument what do I care, what does it get me, I refer to my answers of 12th of July, concerning the virtues of Greek Antiquity, of 18th of July concerning the pursuit of pleasure, and my last one concerning the priority of the thinking animal. Taking into account all these, I will try to answer.

At first, was not unknown to the Greeks this argument. Therefore both Plato and Aristotle are referring to that. Plato first in Politeia (350-358 and 440-445) by the analogue of the three parts of the soul to the three classes of the state, he concludes that the unjust man is a split personality, just like a divided city, even when acting in secret an nobody notices his injustice. He is also referring to that in Protagoras (353-358) as he is pointing out that the right estimation of pleasures and pains is knowledge, and is advantageous for a man in a long term.

Aristotle as well in Nicomachean Ethics book I, 1096-1098 and book X, after having examined the virtue, and concluding that it lies in the good function and perfects the activities (virtue of a good lyre player etc.), he also concludes that the pleasure is desirable and perfects our activities. But life is an activity and prior to certain separate functions, as it includes all the others. Since the actuality of life is happiness, because for the sake of this (end, telos) we choose certain activities, then the life according to virtue, which is in accordance to our nature, leads a happy life. The virtue of the mean in each activity of life through prudence (phronesis, practical wisdom) is in accordance with our nature, because everything in nature is destroyed by deficiency and excess. However, since the nature of the soul is twofold (practical and theoretical intellect), life according to theoretical nous in a sense of knowledge and contemplation, also leads to happiness.

Therefore, I still don't understand why this utilitarian question was unknown to the Greeks. To the Christianity yes (because of moral standards in association with fear of punishment), therefore revolution, but to the Ancient Greeks not.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/27/05 4:22 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Greek and modern thinking

    Dear Nikos,

    thank you again for your detailed answer. I am just working on a chapter on "vindication of modernity" of my book. What is modernity ? Modernity is — in the sense of Kant and Locke and Jefferson ("Declaration of Independence") to acknowledge the right of every person to use its own brain and pursue its own happiness. Aristotle, in the way you try to depict him, is telling me, what I should do to become happy. From a logical point of view he may be right. From a biological point of view he is not, because the true nature of "happiness" is not well defined in his work. Happiness is only a vague concept without a specific content. (Please correct me if I am wrong on this, I am no expert on Aristotle!)

    Now what Schopenhauer etc. are saying is : This whole approach of Aristotel (as you describe it in your answer) is NORMATIVE, it tries to tell us, how we should go for a reasonable and balanced life to become happy. But what, if we in fact are animals going for lust and even seek lust in atrocities and sexual extremes etc.etc.? We just wouldn't care what Aristotle or Plato are telling us. In fact Aristotelian and Platonic ethics is a normative as is Jewish-Christian ethics.

    Once more : The aim of Schopenhauer etc. was NOT to describe "bad and stupid behaviour" and then to analyze it and to admonish us on how to become better humans. Instead the whole approach was very different from the Greek one. What Schopenhauer etc. are telling us is : There is no such thing as "the truth" out there for the human animal. We all are going for our pellets — AND THAT'S IT. Which means : As an animal you are not interested in any theory of the pudding, you are interested in the pudding and how to eat it.

    As I wrote in my essay on "Two concepts of truth" (see http://www.shef.ac.uk/~ptpdlp/newsletter/issue98.html) the "proof" of Jesus for a true Christian is not in proving anything in a logical way but is "following in the steps of Christ". This is not a logical thing. And read on this the introductory essay of the great book "Mimesis" of Erich Auerbach "Odysseus' Scar" (see http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/069111336X/ qid=1122495328/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/102-2137856-4669723 ?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 or see http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/3772012752/qid=1122495253/ sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_11_1/028-6772642-7482108 ). There Auerbach contrasts the completely different approach of Greek and Jewish thinking to "reality".

    The essential point to behold is : THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TRUTH IN A LOGICAL SENSE. Well, in logics it is, and in part in science. But the artist or tha saint are not going for this sort of truth. They are going for experiences, "for the real pudding". And you can't define — even if you are Plato or Aristotle — what "the real pudding" is. The very idea that you can know this somehow is typical Greek. For Greek thinking the world is fundamentally reasonable. For modern thinking it is fundamentally disturbing and unreasonable. This is what Karl Lowith in a famous book called "the revolution in 19th century thought." (see http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0231074999/ref=sib_dp_pt/ 102-2137856-4669723#reader-link or see http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/3787313591/ qid=1122495923/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_11_2/028-6772642-7482108)

    Hegel and Schelling in the line of Plato and Aristotle (and Thomas and Spinoza) tried to design a reasonable universe. But Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche jeered at this endeavour and said (essentially) : >> This is as absurd as to prove the existence of God ! There is nothing to prove at all. Life is (much more so than even Pascal thought) a dangerous voyage in unknown waters and to unknown lands. It's completely meaningless to tell us something on 'the truth' or 'how to go for happiness'. It's just irrelevant. Life is an existential challenge and we try a daring answer — or a meek one. But there is never some inherent fundamental reason of this world and an appropriate reasonable behaviour. People are never going for "the" truth, they only are going for "their personal" truth. The one is fighting for his Christian "truth", the other is fighting for his socialist-atheist "truth", the third is fighting for Allah etc.etc.. There is no instance to decide which of these innumerable pictures of truth is "really true". The whole world of arguments is an open debate. This does not mean, that the debate is pointless, but like a debate on "beauty" or "liberty" or whatever, we never should — as the Greek did — assume, that there must be any "substance" underlying our debates, something like "the true concept of liberty". Those are "guiding ideas", concepts as "virtual" as the center of the milky-way : There must be such a center, but it is not "special" in any way. It is just some geometrical point in space, where neither a black-hole nor a star should be expected. In the same way the "true meaning of liberty" may be void — and the "true meaning of happiness" may be likewise. Our debates are circling around those central concepts like the billions of stars of the Milky-Way are circling around some imaginary "center" which is "not there".

    This explains why we today once more have a sort of philosophy dominating which is concerned with the use of language and concepts and methods and "discourse analysis" (Wittgenstein, Quine, Habermas etc.) : Our world is not "out there" to be explored and seen as a great order of "kosmos", but our world is a virtual existence emerging from our countless talks and concepts and intellectual interactions. Our world is like a music or dancing : There is not "the dancing" and "something else", but "the dancing" is all there is. And in this sense there is no point in going "for this or that". <<

    Thus you see that the world of Plato and Aristotle and of modern philosophy are indeed very different. There may be some similarities to some later Stoic schools, since then (as in the Renaissance) there was a similar interest in concept-formation and language etc., a similar confusion over the concept of "reality". But I don't know about this.

    So much for the moment. But I too think that this exchange is fruitful and is getting us somewhere eventually.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (07/27/05 11:36 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Life as a dance.

    Hubertus says life is just "the dance." He concludes that there is nothing else.

    But after just a little philosophical contemplation, life as dance supports many possibilities. Any dance, even if spontaneous, is determined by some sort of form, at least the form of the body doing the dancing. What patterns or forms might another observe? Is rhythm involved? If so, where does the rhythm come from? What is rhythm anyway? And where does this dance take place? If it takes place only in Club Material, how does that effect form and rhythm? The questions and attempted answers go "on and on."

    Charles

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/28/05 3:54 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Actuality, potentiality

Dear Hubertus,

Thank you for your complete answer. I am glad that you put in our discussion the old arguments of skepticism in a new version people are going only for their personal truth, so to say man is the measure of all things of the sophist Protagoras, as well as there is not such a thing as the truth, so to say Opinion we may have, but certainty and knowledge are impossible of Pyrrho.

I agree that each one of us creates with his intellect his own truth; however there are some things, which are common in our concepts, therefore those who share it, agree to act together (Fighting for the Christian truth, for the atheist-socialist truth etc. of your example). These concepts and visions are created by our intellect, for the sake of happiness, since we believe that through them our fellowmen and we will become happy. In the same way, the artist, the saint and the conqueror are acting for the sake of happiness in their opinion. These concepts also exist in each creation that we make and build, for example before we make a table we construct it in our mind first, as you also describe it very well in your Pathways essay. And this virtual plan underlies the concept of the table and is therefore its actuality (entelecheia), according to Aristotle, since it has been designed to serve a certain purpose; therefore it has certain qualities (three or four legs, round or square, from wood or from metal and so on). As it has been created first in the mind, and then in the physical form, therefore, as I said, actuality is prior, in time, in substance and in everything to potentiality. In the same way, Aristotle says in Metaphysics, there is an immaterial principle (concept) for every living being and everything in the Universe. This immaterial principle he calls it actuality (entelecheia), and is the substance (ousia) within every living being. In this way he examines the human body to find out what is its actuality, and as I said, he concludes that its actuality is knowledge (episteme) and contemplating (theorein). In the same way there is actuality of each part of the body, of the soul, of a society, of the universe etc. To find out the actuality of each thing and being then, is to find out the truth in each substance.

As for the matter of happiness, he concludes that the virtue of the mean, is relative to each one, since each one of us is in different distance from the excess and defect, therefore prudence is necessary. Since the actuality of a man is a social and rational being, therefore happiness must fulfill both these aspects. On the one hand life through reflecting (life according to intellect) to satisfy the rational part, and on the other hand life in accordance with virtue of the mean to satisfy the social part, can lead a happy life, since both these two are in accordance with a man's true nature. The instinctive impulses (forces) can help a man to keep the body healthy as long as are guided well by the rational part, otherwise they will destroy it.

As for the chaos and disorder exist as potentiality, but not as actuality, therefore actually cannot exist truth and false, being and not being at the same time for the same thing, however potentially it can (Metaphysics XI, XII). Just like the particles of physics potentially can become this atom or its opposite, however when it becomes actually atom does not possess the opposite qualities any longer.

By applying the same method, we could say that the same driving forces within us can be potentially good or bad for us at the same time, but through the exercising of the virtue can transform us into actually good.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/28/05 6:16 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on Greek and modern thinking II

    Dear Nikos,

    thank you for your answer again. And I am once more fascinated by the fundamental difference of the approach. Let me try again to keep things clear and apart :

    people are going only for their personal truth, is NOT Protagoras, as well as there is not such a thing as the truth is NOT Pyrrho. Well, they look similar, but this is missing the point.

    The point was : To say that there is not such a thing as the truth is NOT necessarily a SCEPTICAL position, but may be the position of PERSPECTIVE. Thus if you see a landscape from different points of view or under different illuminations or through the different temperaments of different painters or of your own different moods, you are not saying that the landscape is not there or that its existence may be doubtful, but you are saying that the landscape is "in the eye of the beholder" — whatever else it may be. And in THIS sense there is not such a thing as the truth. This is not "Pyrrho" but this is "modern". It simply denies the possibility that there can be agreement on anything, since as all our statements are not describing "what is out there" but are describing "what is in our minds and words" — which is quite a different thing. THIS was the "Copernican revolution" initiated by Kant and then completed by most of 19th and 20th century philosophers. Phenomenology and Hermeneutics and "common language"-philosophy and Existentialism all were variations on the new theme of "subjectivism", of "the truth is in the eye of the beholder" or "the truth is an artifact of language" or something like that.

    When reading your explanations, I begin to "see" Greek philosophy. And at the same time I "see" its essential greatness and its essential restrictions. The deepest conviction of Plato and Aristotle alike, and of the Pre-socratics too, was a fundamental, underlying, unchangeable truth, which is the topic of metaphysics. But after Kant — "the destroyer of metaphysics" — we cannot speak of such an underlying truth even if it is there. We always and by necessity describe some temporal and personal aspect of truth, but never "the" truth. Only in mathematics and logics — which are taken to be equivalent by most experts now — this may be different, because these are FORMAL sciences. Well, this is a bit misleading too, since the structure of the universe and of the atoms and subatomic particles seem to follow mathematical beauty in the sense of Pythagoras. He and Plato would be delighted and feel confirmed by modern physics. So there is something more to it than mere formalism. But this is a difficult topic, and I leave it at rest for the moment.

    But all else is "subjective" not necessarily by its nature, but by method. This means : Even while we may be convinced that "the landscape" is "objectively there", we only can paint pictures or give models of it, we never can get at "the real thing". The "real thing" would be the landscape itself. This is the point of the mystic and the true content of the famous last sentence of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus" : "What you cannot speak of, thereof you should stay silent." This is "Buddhism". The flower is what it is, there is nothing to say, only to see. This is what Heidegger said in a very fine talk with a student from Japan on the nature of language, on what can be said and what cannot. See Tomio Tezuka "Eine Stunde mit Heidegger" in "Unterwegs zur Sprache", which is in vol.12 of the German Edition of Heideggers works.

    What he practically sais is, that we only can "hint at" things but never can do justice to them when speaking, because language is always a very poor means of "modeling" reality. I think that the trust of Aristotle or even Platon in the possibilities of language was much greater, while I would side with Heidegger here. As you may know, the concept of "category", so dear to Aristotle, Thomas, and even Kant, has been weakened together with metaphysics as not very helpful. There is a strong anti-metaphysical bias characteristic of most philosophy since Schopenhauer up to Heidegger and Wittgenstein and after. This is NOT Protagoras or Pyrrho ! At least these are misleading in this context.

    Protagoras and Pyrrho are saying something very different from what was on the minds of Wittgenstein and Heidegger. Wittgenstein and Heidegger did not deny "truth" as such. They only said — similar to the Buddhist : "We cannot speak about it, because our words are missing the real thing." This is similar to modern physics : We cannot "see" the electron, but we can write long and detailed books about its behaviour. Thus we "see" the electron only by its predicted effects. In the same way we never "see" gravitation, but we can describe its effects. Thus in a strange way the electron and gravity are at the same time there" and not. It's a matter of methodology. In this sense Aristotle was a realist, while modern philosophy is "post-nominalist" or better "methodologist".

    Since concepts like "freedom" or "justice" or "beauty" are only existent in the complex evaluation of humans, coming into being and vanishing together with our evaluating awareness, they are "artifacts of our mutual cultural understanding" They have no existence independent of us, while the electron and the gravity may have. But in this realm of "our mutual cultural understanding" concepts like "freedom" or "justice" or "beauty" etc. are "there", i.e., they influence our private and social thinking and behaviour. Thus its all a matter of ontology.

    This was the meaning of my comparison, when I wrote >>There is not "the dancing" and "something else", but "the dancing" is all there is.<< If the music stops, the dance stops too and vanishes. There is no "substance" of the dance, it's all "actuality". Well, difficult stuff.

    In my opinion you try to approach modern philosophy in a similar way as somebody who approaches modern music with concepts of melody and harmony and rhythm. You may think that these are "natural" aspects of any good music, but they are not. Much of modern music knows of neither melody nor harmony nor rhythm — but is good music notwithstanding. This comes a bit shocking on first realization. But simply listen to any good modern film-music. Then you will find it confirmed. In a similar way you seem to expect that all good philosophy somehow must show some similarity to classical Greek philosophy, but it does not necessarily. And even if it does, it may be in a very different context like in a modern artists collage, where photos or even natural objects may be part of a work of art which overall is not meant to be in any way "naturalistic" at all. See f.i. the works of Robert Rauschenberg (1925- ) (try http://images.forbes.com/images/2001/01/03/hot1_377x465.jpg or http://www.uwrf.edu/history/images/art/rauschenberg-monogram.jpg)

    Thus even while the animals — a crow and a goat — are "real" (= stuffed out), the "picture" is not meant to be "realistic".

    Sincerely Hubertus

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/30/05 1:52 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
On the dance

Dear Hubertus,

Thank you for your clarifications concerning your meaning of the truth in association with the landscape.

However, my initial point is that all the new, revolutionary and modern arguments that you invoke, they don't sound very new to me, in a sense that all these questions have been raised throughout the history of ancient Greek philosophy.

The dance of the philosophers was always for the sake of the same questions. Does exist a principle (arche, being, substance, thing itself etc.) or not? Is it material or immaterial? Is it finite or infinite? Is it divisible or indivisible? Is it intelligible (Anaxagoras, Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle atc.), is it of mystic nature (Pythagoras, Heraclitus) or is it perceivable through the senses? Is it knowable or unknowable? If is knowable by which means? Through the intellect by the use of forms (Plato) or mathematics (Pythagoras) or actualities (Aristotle), through the interpretation of the sense data (Democritus), through the language and nominalism (Antisthenes), through the evident preconceptions (enarges prolepsis, Stoics, Epicurus) etc.? Are the forms or noumena knowable or not? Do we share a part of this, so as to be able to know it or not? To know it like by like (Parmenides, Plato, Empedocles) or by privation and negation (Heraclitus), or both (Anaxagoras, Aristotle) or only description? Is the method of knowing it inductive, deductive, dialectic, canonic, etc.? Or we cannot know it at all, since through eyesight we see the seeable (orato), through hearing we hear the hearable (akousto), through speech we reveal the speakable (logos) and through mind we perceive the thinkables (fronoumena), while the being is none of these, like Gorgias says (Gorgias, On what is not, Sextus adv. Math. VII 81-87).

This was the music of the dance in Ancient Greece and its notes and rhythm (Ontology, Gnoseology, Epistemology). From the combination of all these notes and rythms arose the modern music with further development of the means of it (method, language etc.).

Even though there are not any common entities to agree upon in order to approach the a|m questions, there are some common entities concerning the way of life, because of the necessity of the social co-existence or because is in accordance with our nature, or because of social awareness as you call it. Therefore my first question was is it a matter of being Christian or pantheist or atheist to realize the value of justice and to act in accordance with it?.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/30/05 4:26 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: the wave and the water

    Dear Nikos,

    once more a fascinating read ! In a strange way you are right and not. So I try again to see what the problem is.

    In the way you put it, there would have been nothing lost to the philosophy of mankind if philosophy had stopped with the Stoics around 100 BC. All questions were put and most answers were given. So why bother to know St.Augustine or even Plotinus, let alone St.Thomas or Descartes or Leibniz or Locke, Hume, and Kant, or Hegel, Marx, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Carnap, whoever.

    But this of course is absurd. Thus we have to know the meaning of the error. And I think it is a very "Greek" sort of error. It's a certain way of metaphysical thinking that always puts content over form. "Form" in this thinking is the temporal and therefore the unimportant. Only the timeless is of real importance. The temporal is only the wave, the timeless is the ocean, the "water" in the sense of Thales, the "principle".

    Seen in this light, the Cologne Cathedral or St.Peters Cathredral are only different forms of "the temple", which is a timeles "principle". And in the same way any religion is only some variation of the underlying "principle of religion", and the Christian God or the Islamic Allah are so many examples of the underlying principle of "a god". Etc..

    But if you see things in this way, you destroy the very meaning of the world we live in. Here a remark is in place : I am no Christian true believer, I am no member of any other religion, not even "the religion of atheism". I am just using well known examples for illustration.

    Now, for example, the Christian God as Christians from St.Paul to St.Augustine and St.Thomas and Luther etc. have understood "Him", was something VERY different from anything known to Greek philosophy, even to what Socrates calls "the god" in the Phaedo and wich seems similar to the concept of "the god" in Pythagoras. This in part explains why the God of Aristotle was once more a "meatphysical" god but not — as the Jewish-Christian god or the Islamic Allah — a personal God. You cannot pray to a "first mover" in the way the Christians do or in the way the Jewish Psalmist does. Something like Psalm 121 is completely alien to Greek religiosity or philosophy. (see http://bible.gospelcom.net/passage/?search=psalm%20121&version=31)

    Thus while the principles and the fundamental questions may be the same everywhere and at all times, the way we see the world is not. And we cannot ignore this fact. This was my hint at "the real pudding". We are not out for "the principle of the pudding" but for the real thing.

    In your way of arguing the whole of Christianity and of Islam and of Buddhism and of Socialism and Atheisms would evaporate as meaningless, because everything is reduced to "principles". There would be no lions and dogs and buffalos and crocodiles around, only "the principle of the animal". It would be a very abstract world where nobody would like to live. And this is exactly what I always charged against Plato and Aristotle : Their models of the state are just of this sort : Very reasonable, very logical, but nothing for real humans — which are thinking animals after all — to live in.

    This was when I said that it is simply not true that people are going for happiness or for eudaimonia — or even should. To think otherwise is a characteristical Greek misunderstanding. By your way of seeing things you become blind for any other way of approaching "reality". This reminds me on an old joke: Some candidate in zoology is very good at the science of worms. So when he is asked about the elephant, he begins with describing the elephant and finally comes to the point where he says : "And the trunk of the elephant looks like a worm. The worms are a very fascinating class of animals, which can be divided into the subclasses of ...etc."

    So you should be careful to avoid this trap ! What do you gain when you subsume all painture from Giotto over Rafael and Rembrandt up to Picasso under the global header "paintings" and then try to understand "the principles of painting" ? You will gain nothing but loose all there is. The whole richness of art will be lost to you.

    And I am really interested in this sort of controversy this time, since I am working on the "meaning" of a better future world for us humans. But you cannot handle such a theme if you start in the way of Pythagoras or the Stoics and say : "It's all irrelevant, it does not matter. You only keep to the moral principles of the wise man and let the world be."

    Now you see how by this sort of approach the whole world begins to vanish. This is what I call the "oriental trap" : Instead of being interested in the details, in the "waves" say, to become a surfer and enjoy life, you begin to say : "What do I care the waves that come and go, I am interested in the timeless principle of water." Thus no surfing and wave-riding. You will miss a whole world. And this was what enraged Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche ea. : They saw in the system of Hegel a mere bloodless formalism where the real humans and their passions and dreams, their values and goals got lost. In a paradoxical way the very intention to make the world look like a system made it at the same time look alien to "normal humans". They got "alienated". The "real pudding" got replaced by "the principle of the pudding". Who is eating such a stuff ?

    What gives life to the work of St.Augustine is not Plato but God, and what gives life to the work of St.Thomas is not Aristotle but God, the personal God of Jewish and Christian experience, the "mysterium tremendum et fascinosum", so utter alien to all Greek philosophical thinking, which is a thinking of the underlying principles of reality and trying to "make an image of it". Just because of this Jewish and Christian religiosity is admonishing us not to make an image of God — not even in the mind or in the theory. But this too is a valid philosophical position. So we should think a bit on what the difference of these two approaches could be. This is the famous "Jerusalem vs Athens" problem — or some aspect of it.

    And as for the dance : The dance of Shiva or Kali in Hinduistic thinking is creating and destroying the world. This if anything is an aspect not alien to the Greek tragedy (Euripides "Bacchoi") and the concern of Nietzsche : The Dionysian ! It was the Dionysian that got lost to Socrates, and this was the main objection of Nietzsche to the Socratic school. But this element was continued always in the Greek mystery cults of the Orphics and others but was something of "suppressed thinking". Well : Freud would have said that Greek philosophy is representing the "I" of reason (or "the eye of reason"), while the Dionysian is representing the "Id", the hidden force of life, the earth where the "I" has its roots.

    Hubertus

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FROM: Michael Ward (07/31/05 8:16 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
The meaning of meaning

Nikos and Hubertus,

Firstly apologies but at present I do have as much free time to respond as often as I wish, still

Political or Universal expediency, the good and the advantageous, let me reflect.

I favour the Kohlberg model of a moral hierarchy. Where I question it is whether it really applies well to human beings as they are now or how they could become. IF we want there to be an improvement in the human condition I think it can only come from the rational rather than the emotional aspect of humanity.

Hubertus sees a world of robots when the brainies are prioritised I do not, yet I do see a world without hope for improvement when the hearties are prioritised. For the Kohlberg model to have strength then reason must direct emotion.

I do not think there are any absolutes hence all values are relative. Be it either political or universal expediency, good and evil are but arbitrary points on a scale created by humanity. And yet our animal evolutionary ancestry has brought to where we are and given us survival value might we be prisoners of our past?

Hubertus remains constant in claiming that People are not asking for "reason" per se, they are asking for "meaning" — which is not the same. They are asking for coherence which gives identity to their ego and meaning and focus to their deeds and thoughts. I think I agree with him but from a different perspective, using an analogy of a drug addict looking for the next fix we humans struggle to find meaning without knowing really why we want it and then if we get it will it really be to our benefit.

Because we don't know enough to answer the question how we erroneously ask the question why. What is the meaning of meaning anyway?

It seems to me that there is always part of the question what is the meaning of X missing and it should be what is the meaning of X to me when this is kept in mind it becomes obvious that meaning is subjective and subjective experiences cannot be shared with any degree of certainty. You know what I mean?

Michael

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (07/31/05 2:27 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
On the waves

Dear Hubertus,

Thank you for your detailed answer, however I think that you misunderstood me.

I never underestimated the value of the modern philosophers and of all the philosophers in general. As I said the questions that you raised, have always been the same in the mankind, and the Greeks having examined these questions, proposed methods of approaching them. Those methods have been developed further by the philosophers throughout history of humanity, or inspired them to invent new approaches of reasoning. Since the knowledge is infinite in my opinion, for the knowable is infinite, each philosopher has contributed to the understanding of it through methods and symbols (language, mathematics etc). There is nothing modern or revolutionary in this eternal process of dance, since each philosopher is modern or revolutionary compared with his predecessors. Therefore no one can claim that he possesses the only one and absolute knowledge. Just like the photons, which are scattered to infinite directions and we perceive them through their polarized directions.
You will not find out the boundaries of soul, even by traveling along every path, so deep a measure does it have. (Heraclitus fr. 45 Diogenes Laertius IX 7)

As for the waves, when I search for pleasure I enjoy the surfing, when I search for utility I study them to produce energy or to built the ship, when I want to avoid the tsunamis I study its cause, BUT WHEN I SEARCH FOR THE UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE I REACH TO THE OCEAN. I don't reduce everything to the principle, unless I search for its underlying concept. Each painting apart from its beauty has its underlying concept (entelechy) as I also explained with the example of the table (28th of July). By deducing the concept and the means of each painting of each painter we reach to the trend of the painter and the painters (expressionism, surrealism etc.). The same with your definitions in philosophy e.g. post nominalism, phenomenology etc.

Referring to Nietzsche's Dionysian lost aspect (universal force of life, infinite) in Greek philosophy for the sake of the Apollonian (measure, order, finite) mentioned in his book Geburt der Tragodie, he doesn't mean all the Greek philosophers (see Nietzsche, Will to power 427-443, 463).

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (07/31/05 3:32 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: anything new under the sun ? I think so !

    Dear Nikos,

    I think we are speaking at cross-purposes now. You always tell me that there are some general questions and people try to find an answer. In the way of Aristotle you always try to bring "order into chaos". While I stress the other aspect : The important aspect is not the technical one — how to handle the bomb — but the subjective one : "why blast innocent people at all ?" You tend to call this a mere problem of psychology and sociology and not of philosophy. But when people decide to become suicide bombers, they do so with seemingly rational arguments. Thus my question was not in the first line "are they right ?" but "Why do they pick those arguments ?"

    As I said, the fascinating and "revolutionary" fact about philosophy is that great philosophers not only find answers, but even find PROBLEMS Plato and Aristotle never would have thought of. Luthers "grace of God" surely NEVER was on the minds of Plato or Aristotle. In the same way the thinking of Schopenhauer pp. was VERY alien to classical Greek thinking. The "natural" reaction of most people to "modern" art was : "You just can't paint this way — it is no art at all !" If this is no revolution I don't know what to call a revolution. And people coming from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven find it quite "natural" to expect melody, harmony, and rythm, and then call modern music, if it lacks all three "essentials", a mere "noise". But it's real music. Only a very different one.

    You said in the line of Aristotle, that people are out for happiness. And I countered and said that they are not. They are out for goals and meaning, NOT for happiness. Or the concept of happiness itself becomes meaningless and void. We do many things because by some inner necessity we "must" do them. Then we are not free to go for happiness. The murderer of Theo van Gogh, who is servicing a lifelong sentence now, was not out for happiness. He said that he had to commit this murder to be true to his faith. It was an obligation.

    Greek philosophy from Plato and Aristotle is always shining in a mild light, but life is not. And later philosophers did justice to exactly this fact. The Christian God of "tremendae majestatis" is not the God of the philosophers. He poses quite different problems scaring St.Augstine and Luther and Pascal and others. You say it's all new answers to old problems. No, it's new answers to NEW problems, since problems rise and vanish like the species of the animals.

    Well, I let it be for the moment. We have had our fight on this and should change the topic now. What do you suggest ?

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/02/05 2:20 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Reason and irrational drive

Dear Hubertus, dear Michael,

As far as I can see, we came to a point of what is reasonable?, what is reason in all aspects, how is it associated with the emotions and how it could be better.

Therefore, I propose to discuss the a|m matter, each one from his own perspective, as Hubertus suggests as well.

Michael says that they are asking for meaning, coherence and identity, Hubertus that they are asking for meanings and goals. I said what lies behind our action is the hope of achieving happiness. Let me explain it more.

The archetype of becoming a hero in one's opinion, is very old in human nature and it has a lot to do with searching for meaning and identity. This Dionysian aspect of human being according to Nietzsche, namely desire for coherence, identification, unity with the whole or with eternal ideals and values, is the same drive like Eros and love, which Socrates explains in Symposium (206-210). The human soul seeks for immortality, whose one aspect is to leave offsprings behind, creations of any kind, reputation etc. Therefore I spoke about the eternal glory, and therefore they pick those arguments and kill innocent people. The other aspect of it is the love for the eternal truth, wisdom and beauty, and this force drives a man to seek for truth, to become a philosopher, according to Socrates. Since this force is innate in our nature, we expect irrationally that through this fulfillment we shall become happy.

How then, reason and knowledge could help a man to lead these desires and emotions, to bring order into chaos? And reason in what sense, scientific, political, moral, universal?

About these questions I would propose to debate, if you both agree.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/02/05 4:20 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Happiness maybe?

    Nikos

    Nikos wrote: How then, reason and knowledge could help a man to lead these desires and emotions, to bring order into chaos? And reason in what sense, scientific, political, moral, universal?

    Yes Nikos this would be interesting to debate and I would like to address the a priori acceptance that people want happiness. I find such an idea difficult to sustain as I would consider happiness to be an emotional condition and I would define all emotions as unsustainable. Surely the measure of any emotion is but a comparison with it's paired antithesis. I cannot accept that happiness has any measure without experiencing unhappiness. I also think there is a time limit as to how much of any continuous emotion remains valid as an emotion — surely what we are taking about is stimulation.

    Now, peace of mind is a different matter to happiness.

    Michael

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FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/03/05 2:41 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT:
Peace of mind, prudence

Dear Michael,

I am glad that you agree with the proposed topic, and that you begin with the definition of happiness in comparison with pleasure and its paired antithesis pain.

Through inductive at first, we can agree that all people search for pleasure and try to avoid pain. Pleasure of course in my definition has a wide sense (sensual enjoyment, joy, excitement, success, praise etc.). Its paired antithesis is pain, in a wide sense as well (displeasure, disappointment, sorrow, anger, fear etc.). I agree that both are apt to stimulation from the external events, which challenge us to achieve and to taste them. When we succeed in that we feel pleasure, but when we fail we feel pain. Therefore these emotions have no endurance and stability. The definition of happiness then, would be the virtual continuous and invariable emotional state of pleasure, or if we define it by privation the absence of pain, which is not dependent on the external events. In the same way Epicurus also defines these two states. Therefore, he concludes that the definition of happiness is the tranquility or peace of mind (ataraxia). The Stoics also adopt the peace of mind in a sense of apatheia. Happiness then is beyond pleasure and pain is not dependent on the external stimulants, is an inner invariable state, since one becomes the master of his inner emotional state, for he cannot change always the externals.

The most of Greek philosophers also distinguish happiness (eudaimonia) from the variable pleasure (hedone) and pain (ponos), and all agree that through prudence (phronesis) one can achieve this state. Democritus e.g with his equanimity and good spirits (euthumie), Plato with justice, Aristotle with the mean, all conclude that through reasoning and prudence one can achieve these states, therefore happiness is associated with the virtues (moderation, bravery, respect of oneself etc.). Apart from that practical aspect, the fulfillment of the soul with what is appropriate by nature, can lead a happy life, for Plato and Aristotle (knowledge, contemplation).

The one who is always searching for bodily pleasures for example, cannot achieve peace of mind, since these desires are infinite and can also turn him into an unjust man who is full of fear and perturbation. On the other hand noble deeds require noble sentiments and courage. Therefore the knowledge and understanding of these virtues is a long process, since due to our upbringing we have adopted many false preconceptions (prolepsis), which have to be examined about its truth. Gradually then one can develop instead of envy and hatred for the others' pleasures and advantages, sympathy, solidarity and all the kind and noble sentiments for the human being and the world.

To this concept as a first approach to the topic, I would like to hear your comments Michael and Hubertus' as well.

Best regards

Nikos

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/07/05 5:20 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: two concepts of reason

    Dear Nikos and Mike,

    this moment I have not the time to enter some lengthy commentary on "reason". But you may have a look at the books and the readers comments from the list below.

    On my own position : We should clearly keep apart what can be proven in any scientific way and what is "needed" by humans. In my opinion, most if not all esoteric stuff — including "traditionalism" etc. — is not "wisdom" but "void". On this I am in line with Michael to a large degree. We humans have to do our homework and use our brains, not to contemplate last and first things. In my opinion the very assumption that the human mind is out for eudaimonia — or should be — is misleading.

    The human mind is not made to look for eternal truth and eternal bliss, but is made to help the smart rat survive in a strange world. This is not contradicting what I said before. I did not say that the human spirit should stop on the level of the smart rat and become "utilitarian". He should strive and go for the utmost insight and greatness. But this is NOT identical to going for eudaimonia.

    This is the fundamental difference of "contemplative" and "exploitative" or "instrumental" striving. At the end of the one way you see the Buddha and the Zen-masters. At the end of the other way you see Einstein and Lilienthal and Captain Kirk. This is what we may call "the real clash of cultures". And here we are at "two concepts of reason".

    But why "clash" ? Why not combine ? Why not see things under the guiding idea of yin and yang, of man and woman etc. again, needing and helping each other and growing offspring ?

    This I think is what we should debate.

    Hubertus

    --------------------------------------------------
    Some books, where to read the comments :

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0195152972/ ref=pd_sim_b_2/102-2137856-4669723?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

    on which one anonymous reader wrote :
    //Deserve More Responsible Treatment, July 4, 2004
    Reviewer: A reader
    Although it gives the impression of being a serious scholarly treatment of Traditionalism in the 20th century, the over-riding problem with this book is that it fails to treat the intellectual content of the writings of the major figures of this influential school of thought. Instead, it often relies upon a journalistic approach which is based upon secondary and tertiary sources, often 'anonymous' sources. Also, the links between such figures as Mircea Eliade, HRH the Prince of Wales, Thomas Merton and Julius Evola are so broadly drawn that one is left wondering what the key points of reference might be that these widely diverse individual share in common. It is strange that the underlying message of this work suggests that there is some kind of 'secret' which has kept the traditionalists unknown to 20th century scholarship. On the contrary, many books on the subject exist. I would especially mention Harry Oldmeadow's "Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy", "The Sword of Gnosis" edited by Jacob Needleman, "Forgotten Truth" by Huston Smith, "The Only Tradition" by William Quinn and "Modern Esoteric Spirituality", edited by Antoine Faivre. Moreover, it would be too tedious to list the many articles and studies which have appeared on such important authors as R. Guenon, F. Schuon, S.H. Nasr, T. Burckhardt, M. Lings and other key traditionalist authors during the last 40 years. One might also mention that the American Academy of Religion has held major presentations on Traditionalist thought during past conferences. Perhaps rather that being a secret, Prof. Sedgewick has just recently become aware of these authors.//

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0941532550/ ref=pd_sim_b_2/102-2137856-4669723?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/9559028049/ ref=pd_sxp_elt_l1/102-2137856-4669723

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0941532577/ ref=pd_sim_b_5/102-2137856-4669723?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0941532615/ qid=1123322462/sr=1-4/ref=sr_1_4/102-2137856-4669723?v=glance&s=books

    http://www.kheper.net/topics/Hermeticism/

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0791444368/ qid=/sr=/ref=cm_lm_asin/103-0114521-1155805?v=glance

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0631193324/ ref=pd_sim_b_6/102-2137856-4669723?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0304701785/ ref=pd_sim_b_6/102-2137856-4669723?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

    and see http://members.ozemail.com.au/~ddiamond/esoter.html

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/08/05 1:46 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Practical and theoretical "nous"

    Dear Hubertus,

    I am glad that you agree with the discussion concerning the concepts of reason, which you define as two. As far as I can understand, the one concept is of Buddha and the other is of science. I am wondering where do you rank the Greek philosophy?

    I am also wondering, how on the one hand the human mind is not made to look for eternal truth and eternal bliss and on the other hand he should strive and go for the utmost insight and greatness. By which means if not by the human mind? Is there any difference between going for the utmost insight and looking for eternal truth or contemplating last and first things? Unless you mean the other method of approaching, which comes out from the books you quote.

    Of course exist religion, mysticism, alchemy, esoteric, symbolism, doxography, and there is reasoning in all these. However, belief, metaphors and analogues are quite different from inductive, deductive, dialectic, kanonic. Both approaches help one to approach the understanding of the substance of all things, but the first one can lead to blind faith, zealot, lack of judgement etc, while the latter to the understanding. Furthermore, as Aristotle says in the Poetics man learns first by imitation, namely in the form of symbolisms, myths etc. all these can spark off a further reflection on these matters and allow one to develop the method of reasoning, which the universe follows as well. By understanding more the principles of the universal law one can understand better the value of its virtues, so as to apply to himself. That was the reason that all the Greek philosophers turned to the study of the nature (physis).

    With regard now to the practical aspect of the reason, as I said through prudence man stops behaving instinctively (pleasure-pain), and possesses gradually the virtues of moderation, courage and justice, develop noble sentiments for the human being and the world, and as a result can reach the state of good spirits and ataraxia.

    This gradual development of the double aspect of reason, theoretical and practical nous- the practical one for the rat to lead a prudent life and the theoretical one (reflection, contemplation) for the human — can lead one to happiness.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/20/05 4:28 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: a difficult answer to difficult problems

      A remark before : I sometimes exchange with Nikos privately, and I held back this answer, which is in fact of August 11, 2005 11:40, because it seemed too lengthy and confusing. But I did not find the time to put a good short and clear answer. So to keep things together I put it as is to have other readers and myself understand what was going on.

      Hubertus

      --------------------
      This is an interleaving answer to Nikos by Hubertus. Nikos wrote :

      Dear Hubertus,
      >
      > I am glad that you agree with the discussion concerning the concepts
      > of reason, which you define as two. As far as I can understand,
      > the one concept is of Buddha and the other is of science. I am
      > wondering where do you rank the Greek philosophy?

      The Greek philosophy belongs to both. As I wrote it is "contemplative" vs. "exploitative" reason. Pythagoras f.i. did both — as do most scientists : "Nothing is more practical than a good theory." This applies with Newton and Maxwell and Einstein of course, but was the idea of Pythagoras too. But the Buddha was not interested in this, and some Greek philosophers were not either. Socrates, according to the Phaedo, gave up on science of the physical world and got interested in the science of the moral world instead. Aristotle was interested in the physical things again, esp. in biology.

      I am interested in both sides again : We have to know the facts, i.e. study psychology and sociology and history and ethnology etc., to know human behaviour and its causes and driving forces, but at the same time we have to understand the philosophy of human behaviour, i.e. the normative arguments guiding human conduct in the sense of Plato's "Politeia" or Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics".

      What I want to find out is : What does "being reasonable" mean this time ? Was Marcuse right on calling modern consumer society a madness ? In his opinion consumerism is like going for drugs and become addicted. But I do not think so, because the concept of consumerism is not well defined : If you are a Beethoven-fan and getting you a dozen takes of Beethoven's sonatas or symphonies etc., are you then "fallen to consumerism" ?

      Those "traditionalists" (Guenon etc.) denounce the whole of modern life as fundamentally misguided and erroneous. They ask for "eternal wisdom".
      At least "eternal wisdom" is a bit more specific than "happiness", but I think that both are implausible goals from an evolutionary point of view. Is it "reasonable" to have a family with wife and children ? Does it make happy ? As you see, BOTH questions are just not to the point. These were NEVER the questions on the mind of a father of a family. If you only want to be happy you may enter a cloister or go on drugs. We don't approach life this way. And surely the animals don't, since they do not think anyway. It's not the chimp or the bull who thinks that he should have offspring, but it's nature in his "egoistic genes". "Lust" may be a trick of nature to get things done, but this has nothing to do with "reason". There is no "reason" involved and the concept is misleading. We humans are free to say "no" and have no offspring. The Pope has not, the Dalai Lama has not, Kant had not and Albert Schweitzer had not, there are many.

      Thus in my opinion this whole way of arguing is misguiding. People do what they do because they think they have some cause and find it worthwhile. So we only should ask whether they are right on their own terms.

      Aristotle fell into a logical trap : He said, that the bridle-maker is caring the horses, and the rider is caring the military, and the general is caring the state, and the politician is caring the well being of humans, where the well being of humans is in some way the ultimate goal.

      As a model of arguing this is not bad, but it is leading into a trap. The goal of the saint is to improve himself, not to improve the state or humanity. The same with the scientist or the artist etc.. They all are doing what they find proper to do. So does the monk or the Buddha.

      Thus there is never some "absolute" meaning to the term "reasonable", but you always need some frame of reference whereby to define your concept of reason : To become a monk may be reasonable, but to become a warrior may be reasonable too. It all depends on what you think is a valuable way of living.

      To understand "the nature of nature" in the way Pythagoras or Einstein did is not going to tell you what to find valuable in your life, and where to go, whether to have a family or not etc.. It only will tell you something on the world you are living in. A road-map is telling you where you are, not where to go. Not even Kant's "Critique of Practical Reason" does. This is only another road-map, a moral road-map. You then still have to choose your way.

      To "reasonably" choose a way and to assess the situation you are in are two very different forms of reasoning. That was my point. And then I added : Greek wisdom never would have assessed the situation in the way Christianity did (or Islam). But since making up your mind on where to go is dependent on how you assess your situation, there are meaningful ("reasonable") goals well defined in Christianity (f.i., to become a priest or monk, or to ask for God's grace etc.) but not defined at all in Greek philosophy.

      To find out what the world is like — be it in Buddhist or in Greek or in Christian or other terms — is the one thing. To find out where to go and how to do it right is quite another thing. By this we have at least two forms of reason, or, if you split up the "where" and the "how", even three. But of course all three forms of reasoning are interdependent.

      And there even is a fourth question and a fourth concept of reason, which comes from the "why"-question : Why going where you want to go ? But I think this to be another — third — aspect of the "where" question. If you tell somebody "I want to go there" the natural questions will be "Why and how do you think you should do it ?"

      Well, it all looks a bit complicated now, but it is not. I all began with opposing "contemplative" vs. "exploitative" reason. The first is asking "What am I doing here, where should I go ?", the second is trying to assess "the facts". But from a practical point of view the facts are not completely independent of my intentions. If I am a Christian true believer, God and "his grace" etc. are "facts" and may be of utmost importance for my life, but if I am an atheist, those are no "facts" and so become irrelevant for my behaviour. And since much of what Pythagoras or Plato or even Aristotle was not a "fact" in any provable sense, but was "metaphysical speculation", we cannot escape this problem of two interconnected while formally independent problems of reason.

      >
      > I am also wondering, how on the one hand the human mind is not made
      > to look for eternal truth and eternal bliss and on the other hand
      > he should strive and go for the utmost insight and greatness. By
      > which means if not by the human mind? Is there any difference between
      > going for the utmost insight and looking for eternal truth or
      > contemplating last and first things? Unless you mean the other
      > method of approaching, which comes out from the books you quote.
      >
      I am no friend of those books and their special outlook. But in a similar way as Aristotle denied the necessity of Plato's "ideas" to explain why something is remembered or valued, so I think that to go for the utmost quality does not include that this means to go for eternal truth or bliss. It just means that "happiness" is no well defined goal. You can be happy in the way a pig is or a junkie, or in the way a scientist or an artist or a child is after finding the solution of some difficult task (solving some formula, finding some good idea for your novel, doing something you can be proud of, etc.). Formally all those states of happiness are equivalent if you only see happiness as a certain mood or feeling and nothing else. But in fact we are always valuing some outcome, and by this there are differences in those examples given above. My question is : How do we justify those differences ? Socrates surely did ! He — like Pythagoras — always clearly said that the goals of a human should be different from the goals of a pig. But neither Socrates nor Pythagoras in this respect spoke of "happiness" in the first line. They came the other way round : If you are in full agreement with your nature, you are happy. Since the nature of man is different from that of a pig, the nature of "true" happiness in humans should be different from "true" happiness in pigs. Thus happiness was no absolute idea but a relative one, depending on the nature of the agent. But since this "evaluative scheme" of Socrates and Pythagoras etc. gets lost in the mere ideal of happiness, I tend to avoid the concept of happiness altogether. We should concentrate on goals, and happiness is no goal but a state of mind.

      Once more my problem is to avoid misleading terms : The artist is out for "a great work of art", but he is not out for "eternal truth". There a many "great works of art" from many artists, but there is no "definite" truth in art. Thus to go for "eternal truth" is not meaningful (because we do not know what this means), but to go for "for the utmost insight and greatness may very well be.

      > Of course exist religion, mysticism, alchemy, esoteric, symbolism,
      > doxography, and there is reasoning in all these. However, belief,
      > metaphors and analogues are quite different from inductive,
      > deductive, dialectic, kanonic. Both approaches help one to approach
      > the understanding of the substance of all things, but the first one
      > can lead to blind faith, zealot, lack of judgement etc, while the
      > latter to the understanding. Furthermore, as Aristotle says in the
      > Poetics man learns first by imitation, namely in the form of
      > symbolisms, myths etc. all these can spark off a further reflection
      > on these matters and allow one to develop the method of reasoning,
      > which the universe follows as well. By understanding more the
      > principles of the universal law one can understand better the value
      > of its virtues, so as to apply to himself. That was the reason that
      > all the Greek philosophers turned to the study of the nature
      > (physis).
      >
      Yes, of course. But see what I wrote on this interdependence of "facts" and "values" above. I well understand the mimesis-idea. But we should never forget : What is natural may be ethically forbidden (f.i. euthanasia), while what is "ethical" may be "unnatural" (f.i. chastity). Man is always responsible to his own insight, not to the ways of nature. So we have to understand the difference. That's the problem.

      > With regard now to the practical aspect of the reason, as I said
      > through prudence man stops behaving instinctively (pleasure-pain),
      > and possesses gradually the virtues of moderation, courage and
      > justice, develop noble sentiments for the human being and the world,
      > and as a result can reach the state of good spirits and ataraxia.
      >
      Yes, of course. And this was the idea of Kohlberg's levels. But once more this concept of reason is void, since it does not tell us whether to become a monk or a playboy. And a profi-killer or James Bond is as much ignoring "pleasure-pain" and behaving according to the virtues as a good person. We once more have to ask for the goals. Socrates was right : To know what is reasonable you have to see the situation of "man in the world", you have to see the whole thing. This is what I called the "frame of reference" to define what is "reasonable".

      >
      > This gradual development of the double aspect of reason,
      > theoretical and practical nous- the practical one for the rat to
      > lead a prudent life and the theoretical one (reflection,
      > contemplation) for the human — can lead one to happiness.
      >
      What if the rat is happy with it's pellet but the philosopher is unhappy with his insight ?

      Well, this was overall a difficult and confusing anwer, and I hope to give some better one next time, when thoughts have settled a bit.

      Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/13/05 3:17 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Prudence, scientific knowledge, understanding, wisdom

    Dear Hubertus,

    As I said there are two aspects of reason, practical and theoretical one. The practical one is referring to our daily life, and its virtue is prudence (phronesis), while the theoretical is referring to the contemplative activity of the intellect.

    Since our life is a pyramid of activities — whose basis is the instinctive aspect of the human being and the top is the human aspect each activity has its virtue, which perfects it and allows the other activity to be accomplished. To be more specific, the rat first has to survive, therefore must find its pellets in order to have a healthy body. The activities, which belong to those functions, are related to the nutrition, clothing, housing, body care etc. The pleasures that accompany these activities are the sensual pleasures and the virtue of them is moderation (sophrosyne), namely not excess or deprivation, which is referring to the appetitive or profit loving part of us. In order to accomplish all those, man needs the external goods (food, money, work, etc.). The actuality then of the healthy body is the potentiality of a social human being (politikon on), since it allows a man to participate in social activities. The virtue of this spirited part of us is courage (andreia), since it perfects our social activities. In a sense that, one is not so high-flying (excess) to achieve honour and reputation by all means, or cowardly (deficiency) to avoid any brave and noble deed because of fear. The actuality then of the social being is the potentiality of the real human being, in a sense of allowing it to develop the real actuality (entelecheia) of the human being, which is, as I previously said, the scientific (episteme) and the contemplative (theorein) aspect of the intellect. The activities of that intellective (logistikon) part of us are referring, on the one hand to taking care of the man as a whole and its virtue is prudence or else practical wisdom (phronesis) and justice, and on the other hand to learning and knowing the nature of the things and its virtue is scientific knowledge (dianoia of Plato Poiteia 508-511, episteme of Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1139-1144 ), understanding through contemplation (noesis of Plato, nous of Aristotle), and wisdom (sofia), which combines all the previous mentioned virtues. On this pyramid of activities with their relevant virtues and pleasures, as we can see each one presupposes the previous one, and all of them contribute to happiness (eudaimonia), since for the sake of the top exist the base, namely for the sake of happiness, in a sense of science and understanding through contemplation (entelecheia), exist the other virtues.

    To live in accordance with nature, as you well said, is to live with human goals and not with the ones of the pig, and these goals are the ones that I just described. Because the social and thinking animal needs these virtues to perfect the proper activities, which are in accordance with its true nature so as to become happy. Otherwise if a man fulfils only one part of him, the other parts will be unhappy, and as a matter of fact the man as a whole.

    The point is not what to do (to become a monk or a family man or a governor etc.), but how to do what you do. Pericles and Marcus Aurelius were more virtuous than any Great Inquisitor. Pythagoras, Socrates, Aristotle and Epictetus were family men. Whatever one does can be done with virtue, which perfects the activity and improves oneself, or with excess and deficiency that destroy oneself. Just like the example of Ding the Butcher of Daoism who learned Dao through the perfection of his craft. Of course we make a choice in life, each one according to his specific nature (talent), but the important is to do what we do with virtue, which presuppose reasoning and deliberation, namely prudence.

    As for the consumer society, is another thing to live only for fulfilling your artificial needs (aim), which the media convince you that you need, and another thing to by some CDs of Beethoven. When the means become an aim (entelecheia), then starts the problem I suppose.

    As for your last question, the rat feels pleasure as long as it gets its pellets, but not happiness because is human and not simply rat. He is always full of fear and perturbation for the next pellets, and something is always missing.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/20/05 4:33 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: another preliminary answer

      Remark before : This is another lengthy answer from the private exchange, this time as of August 13, 2005. 23:47. Hubertus

      --------------------------------------
      Dear Nikos,

      I did not give up on our debate, but was just too much occupied with other things and hesitated to put my lengthy answer to the conference. I will think it all over tomorrow, including an answer to what you wrote this time, but all in a much more concise and organized form. But I find your resistance helpful.

      For the moment : If I am not mistaken, I think your concept of reason is too simple. I am just working (in the context of "what to call reasonable") on the "Frankfurt School". See Google and Wikipedia on this. The founding father of this "school", Horkheimer, in 1946 wrote a book (in English, since as a Jew he was in American exile in California then) under the title "Eclipse of Reason", dedicated to the problem (inter alia) of the Nazis killing the Jews "in the name of reason". This in his opinion was only one aspect of the more general issue of "technological or technocratic or instrumental reason". Therefore the book was later titled in German "Kritik der instrumentellen Vernunft" (= "Critique of instrumental reason") and accompanied by a similar book on "Dialektik der Aufklaerung" (= "Dialectics of Enlightenment").

      If you are a Christian or Jew or Musleem, to treat any question without taking God or Allah into account seems "stupid". But if you are (as Michael is) a confessed a-theist, to do take God into account seems "stupid". Now who is right on this ? Socrates took "God" into account as is clearly seen from the Phaedo. Was he a stupid ? But this even looks harmless when compared to the inner difficulties and contradictions which are hidden in the a-theist approach too.

      The point seems to be : It does not make any sense to define what is reasonable outside of human practice. This is why I always speak of "ecological" thinking and of "Lebensphilosophie" and "Pragmatism". It is meaningless to call any deed or thought "reasonable" whithout asking "for whom and under what conditions". Because of this the concept of "arete" in the Aristotelian sense seems the best point from where to start any debate on reason. The Platonic concept seems much more linked to the concept of nous — knowing the true essence of things — an not to the concept of arete, which is more practically oriented.

      This difference is what I had in mind when separating two concepts of reason : The one is contemplating "eternal reason", the other is applying "instrumental reason". You prefer the terms "prudence" (instrumental) and "intellect" (fundamental). We have to see how both are working together like yin and yang. That was my idea.

      The problem is : What is the value of intellect, if it does not tell us even whether God does exist or not ? And what is the use of prudence if it does not tell us whether to kill Jews or "capitalists" or "witches" or "unbelievers" or "heretics" ? Thus we are going on the merry-go-round here. It's really difficult.

      The greatness of Plato was to design a scheme of absolute truth. But he admitted by the mouth of Socrates that he did not know what this scheme would look like. He only said that there should be such a thing, while Aristotle (if I am right) doubted this assumption.

      I think we have to accept that man is an "intelligent ape", i.e., his evaluation cannot be that of a "spiritual robot". Which means : We cannot accept that certain humans — f.i. the Nazis — decide on certain other humans — f.i. the Jews or the Gypsies. And the reason for this is: If we allow anybody human to decide on anybody else, he himself comes into the focus of being decided on. This seems logical on first sight. But it is not. As the High Priest Kaiphas, when condemning Jesus, said "It is betther that one man perishes than the whole people." Now by this argument we are at the Nazis again — and again on the merry-go-round.

      Well, we may find a way out by the argument, that Jesus was not put to death because of his race but because of his deeds and speeches. But in principle the argument is not different : Somebody is called a danger, a public enemy. Thus the FORM of the argument must be wrong.

      The only true way out is to love people and never put them to death by principle but at most put them to custody. But would it have been a better solution to put Jesus or Socrates to bedlam ? Do you think that Plato or Aristotle had some answers to these questions ? I don't know.

      You may be right on the difference of "happiness" and "pleasure". But I still doubt that happiness is a helpful concept. I still think it is misleading. People are trying to do what seems right or needed even if it means hardships. If you take up tortures and even martyrdom not even for some paradise but just for your honour and self-esteem — are you going for happiness ? I think this is stretching the concept too far. You better be content with what seems reasonable to do and then try to understand what "reasonable" means. Seen in this light, you are at the intelligent rat again, while at the "spiritual" rat, going for a life "near to the gods" like Socrates did. The difference is — in the Kohlberg scheme — that the rat cannot see behind the immediate situation, while Socrates sees "what is not there", "the other world" as he calls it. Thus he too is going for pleasure, for some "spiritual pellet" through a much greater invisible maze.

      And on your "pyramid" see the Maslow pyramid of needs (see http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/maslow_pyramid.html). But remember that even the desert-hermit (St.Antonius) and the stylites (St.Simeon) have to be covered by this concept ! Thus the "physical base" may be very small.

      There will be much more to think it over. This moment I am tired, but will try to put an answer tomorrow.

      Sincerely Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Gerald Boone (08/18/05 7:37 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Philosophy — a way of Life? ........my view

    I have enjoyed reading the comments posted (I liked A.I better than I robot) sounds like a good group of people are posting and I hope to hear from others that maybe have been a little shy.
    My view on the question Philosophy- a way of Life? Is to say that we all are philosophers in as much as our behavior reflects philosophical pre suppositions.
    We don't rise each morning with a brain that is a Blank Slate. We have values, opinions, and beliefs we base our decisions upon (philosophical presuppositions).
    One of the reasons people passionately argue over politics is because there are philisophical differences between canidates. We take our philosophical presuppositions quite seriously, we just don't call them philosophical presuppositions.
    Did you eat today? If you did eat, did you pray over the food, if yes why? If no why? Did you eat meat? Not everyone eats meat, some believe it is wrong. Some believe it is wrong based upon religious presuppositions. Some believe it is wrong to eat meat and have no religious beliefs they have other presuppositions they base the decision not to eat meat upon.
    So my view is everyone is engaged in some activity that involves philosophical presuppositions every day of their life.

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/20/05 5:13 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on reasoning robots

      Dear Gerald,

      I too think that "A.I." (6.8/10 points from 39,025 votes) is much better than "I, Robot" (7.1/10 points from 25,430 votes this moment), which is the simpler and more conventional and thoughtless one, while displaying more of the expected "whodonit"-drama, that hooks the common filmgoer.

      And take this as a comment on the topic of "what is reason". Reason can be very difficult indeed.

      Hubertus

      An attachment :

      This is one of the best evaluations of Kubrick/Spielberg's "A.I." (2001) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212720/) :

      18 out of 31 people found the following comment useful:-
      The Kubrick Dialectic, the Spielberg Inheritance, the AI Challenge, 9 July 2001
      10/10
      Author: votarus4 from New York

      The "literalists" are clearly not happy with A.I. So now is a good time to recall that "2001: A Space Odyssey" was greeted upon release with derision, confusion, dismissive reviews, public consternation, and, oh yeah, some thought it was an absolute masterpiece. Beyond the monolithic influence of that film (think of Han Solo's jump to lightspeed, etc.), the symbols of "2001" -- TO THIS VERY DAY -- cannot be decoded using anything but the most personal, interpretive language. The obelisks, the message of the obelisks, the Star Child, Cosmonaut Dave's "room", HAL-9000's true motivation all these things remain in our collective subconscious as indelible images that refuse to be concretely defined between or among viewers. WHAT CAUSES THIS CONFLICT OF PERCEPTION? IS IT INTENTIONAL? Again and again, Kubrick's films take us to a No-Man's Land of narrative and moral ambiguity, stranding us, forcing us to make decisions, demanding interpretation (or we can judge the surface, walk away, hate the film). To my perception, Kubrick is the only, true "Brechtian" film director. The device Brecht proposed is "Alienation Effect", or put simply, Leading the audience down two, divergent paths at once. My favorite example is "Barry Lyndon". Being the adventures of a young man, handsome, virtuous, well-meaning, ambitious, full of promise. Yet in every scene, the camera "pulls-back" revealing Barry (but never to himself) to be womanizing, self-absorbed, criminally inclined, socially inept, not very bright, morally bankrupt, and at last, a broken shell of a man. Or let's consider "Strangelove": Did Kubrick really create a headbanger, slapstick comedy about nuclear proliferation, mass destruction, and military/political incompetence? The real question is "Who else could have?" Well, that's my take on Kubrick's artistic sensibility, and, without daring to presume Spielberg's motivation, it's what drew them both to "A.I." Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy, cuddly Teddy Bears on one hand, but on the other hand social institutions are faltering forever -- parenthood, childhood, science, industry, sexuality -- all distorted beyond repair. And Humans, the ultimate A.I. protagonist, seem blissed-out, in denial, more interested in creating "Davids", "Darlenes" and "Gigolo Joes" than in rising water levels and the imminent threat of extinction. Therefore, I believe A.I. is getting precisely the response all Kubrick films "INITIALLY" get. Spielberg's reputation and career can withstand anything that public perception might bring to his films, but I keep thinking that A.I. is the riskiest moment of his artistic life.

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/21/05 5:10 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Comments on reason

    This message was sent on 14th of August.
    Dear Hubertus,

    Thank you for your answer. I will try to write some short comments.
    You wrote:

    >>>I did not give up on our debate, but was just too much occupied with
    other things and hesitated to put my lengthy answer to the conference. I
    will think it all over tomorrow, including an answer to what you wrote
    this time, but all in a much more concise and organized form. But I find
    your resistance helpful.

    There is no problem, whenever you have time. I am looking forward to that.

    >>>For the moment : If I am not mistaken, I think your concept of reason
    is too simple. I am just working (in the context of "what to call
    reasonable") on the "Frankfurt School". See Google and Wikipedia on
    this. The founding father of this "school", Horkheimer, in 1946 wrote a
    book (in English, since as a Jew he was in American exile in California
    then) under the title "Eclipse of Reason", dedicated to the problem
    (inter alia) of the Nazis killing the Jews "in the name of reason". This
    in his opinion was only one aspect of the more general issue of
    "technological or technocratic or instrumental reason". Therefore the
    book was later titled in German "Kritik der instrumentellen Vernunft"
    and accompanied by a similar book on "Dialektik der Aufklaerung".

    Why the concept is too simple? I was referring to the main categories of reason. Of course exists prudence in politics, prudence in economy, in education, in science etc. However, all these sorts refer to practical wisdom, which are different from theoretical knowledge (dianoia) and understanding through contemplation (nous), therefore I gave the hints of Plato's Politeia, and Aristotle's Nicomachean.

    >>>If you are a Christian or Jew or Musleem, to treat any question without
    taking God or Allah into account seems "stupid". But if you are (as
    Michael is) a confessed a-theist, to do take God into account seems
    "stupid". Now who is right on this ? Socrates took "God" into account
    as is clearly seen from the Phaedo. Was he a stupid ? But this even
    looks harmless when compared to the inner difficulties and
    contradictions which are hidden in the a-theist approach too.

    Most of the Greek Philosophers took into account God, not in a sense of religions, but in a sense of Universal Law (Logos), Nous, Being (einai), Universal substance, Prime mover etc.

    >>>The point seems to be : It does not make any sense to define what is
    reasonable outside of human practice. This is why I always speak of
    "ecological" thinking and of "Lebensphilosophie" and "Pragmatism". It is
    meaningless to call any deed or thought "reasonable" whithout asking
    "for whom and under what conditions". Because of this the concept of
    "arete" in the Aristotelian sense seems the best point from where to
    start any debate on reason. The Platonic concept seems much more linked
    to the concept of nous — knowing the true essence of things — an not to
    the concept of arete, which is more practically oriented.

    Both Plato and Aristotle distinguish the practical virtue derived from prudence, and the theoretical knowledge and understanding (nous), which of course affects the practical virtue.

    >>>This difference is what I had in mind when separating two concepts of
    reason : The one is contemplating "eternal reason", the other is
    applying "instrumental reason". You prefer the terms "prudence"
    (instrumental) and "intellect" (fundamental). We have to see how both
    are working together like yin and yang. That was my idea.

    Therefore in my previous answers I said by understanding the principles of the universal law, one understands better the value of its virtues, and applies to himself.
    >>>The problem is : What is the value of intellect, if it does not tell us
    even whether God does exist or not ? And what is the use of prudence if
    it does not tell us whether to kill Jews or "capitalists" or "witches"
    or "unbelievers" or "heretics" ? Thus we are going on the
    merry-go-round here. It's really difficult.

    Of course prudence can tell us if we want to apply it.

    >>>The greatness of Plato was to design a scheme of absolute truth. But he
    admitted by the mouth of Socrates that he did not know what this scheme
    would look like. He only said that there should be such a thing, while
    Aristotle (if I am right) doubted this assumption.

    Plato is not only Phaedo, and Aristotle didn't doubt about the universal substance and the prime mover.

    >>>I think we have to accept that man is an "intelligent ape", i.e., his
    evaluation cannot be that of a "spiritual robot". Which means : We
    cannot accept that certain humans — f.i. the Nazis — decide on certain
    other humans — f.i. the Jews or the Gypsies. And the reason for this is:
    If we allow anybody human to decide on anybody else, he himself comes
    into the focus of being decided on. This seems logical on first sight.
    But it is not. As the High Priest Kaiphas, when condemning Jesus, said
    "It is betther that one man perishes than the whole people." Now by this
    argument we are at the Nazis again — and again on the merry-go-round.

    >>>Well, we may find a way out by the argument, that Jesus was not put to
    death because of his race but because of his deeds and speeches. But in
    principle the argument is not different : Somebody is called a danger,
    a public enemy. Thus the FORM of the argument must be wrong.

    Of course the Form of the argument was wrong, therefore I spoke about political expediencies.

    >>>The only true way out is to love people and never put them to death by
    principle but at most put them to custody. But would it have been a
    better solution to put Jesus or Socrates to bedlam ? Do you think that
    Plato or Aristotle had some answers to these questions ? I don't know.

    As all of us we share a part of the universal substance, we cannot decide so easily about the death of the others. However, each society has its values, and decides according to these. Justice has many aspects, but always follows the entelecheia of a certain society.

    >>>You may be right on the difference of "happiness" and "pleasure". But I
    still doubt that happiness is a helpful concept. I still think it is
    misleading. People are trying to do what seems right or needed even if
    it means hardships. If you take up tortures and even martyrdom not even
    for some paradise but just for your honour and self-esteem — are you
    going for happiness ? I think this is stretching the concept too far.
    You better be content with what seems reasonable to do and then try to
    understand what "reasonable" means. Seen in this light, you are at the
    intelligent rat again, while at the "spiritual" rat, going for a life
    "near to the gods" like Socrates did. The difference is — in the
    Kohlberg scheme — that the rat cannot see behind the immediate
    situation, while Socrates sees "what is not there", "the other world" as
    he calls it. Thus he too is going for pleasure, for some "spiritual
    pellet" through a much greater invisible maze.

    No animal can stand the tortures and do noble deeds, but a man can, because of the intellect for the sake of virtue, which is for the sake of happiness.
    The spiritual rat is no longer rat but a human since the intellect is in accordance with human nature.

    >>>And on your "pyramid" see the Maslow pyramid of needs (see
    http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/maslow_pyramid.html). But
    remember that even the desert-hermit (St.Antonius) and the stylites
    (St.Simeon) have to be covered by this concept ! Thus the "physical
    base" may be very small.

    The pyramid is according to Nicomachean Ethics and certainly includes the hermits in the aspect of understanding through contemplation (noesis, nous).

    Best regards
    Nikos

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/21/05 2:49 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Preconceptions and judgement

    Dear Gerald, dear Hubertus,
    As I can see our discussion leads to a point what is presupposition, how is related to the reason and to the way of life?.
    Certainly each one of us has certain presuppositions, some of them are reasonable and some not. I would say that each one has certain prejudices and preconceptions (prolepsis) and he judges everything through them. Some of them we simply adopted throughout our upbringing, without having examined them, and some we were forced to examine and to change them. Therefore, in my opinion, there starts the problem. These preconceptions are the criteria of our judgements, which we call reasoning. However, they are not philosophical principles, in a sense that one has reflected on them, has judged them by reason, proved its rationality and live his life in accordance with them. On the contrary, most of the people simply adopt unexamined principles and live up to them. Therefore, Heraclitus said: We should not act like children of our parents, or in detail according to what has been down to us. (Fr. 74 Marcus Aurelius IV, 46), and Socrates Know thyself (gnothi sauton), and the most of Greek philosophers suggested that one has to examine all these preconceptions about its truth through rational refutation, in order to find out which are true and which are simply false prejudices or else irrational, habitual and emotional attitudes.
    The method of course to examine these preconceptions is through induction, deduction, dialectic etc. This reasoning helps one to avoid the false beliefs and as a result the wrong presuppositions and principles, which are not in accordance with the human nature and destroy him. Therefore, in this way in my opinion, one has to examine his life, and base his decisions on free choice after reasoning and deliberation. And this doesn't concern only what we eat etc., but more significant decisions which have serious consequences on the others' life as well.
    Best regards
    Nikos

      REPLIES (2):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/21/05 4:31 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: reason to be judged in a frame of reference

      Dear Nikos,

      while I am just working on a more systematic answer, I first do this answer to the central weakness (in my opinion) of your argument : You seem to take it for granted that there is something "out there" that could be called "reasonable" in any absolute sense like some truth of nature. But this is exactly what I doubt is true — even if questions of plausibility are ignored. Which means : We know from experience, that people are guided by personal experiences and temperament and passions and misunderstandings and false expectations etc.etc.. But even if they could sit down with Socrates or Aristotle to weigh all arguments for relevance and "reasonableness" before deciding what to do, it is not at all clear that they would converge on the one and only answer. Even a parliament of 500 bright and well-meaning and experienced members, or a hand-picked bench of jurors, or a conference of bishops or a Supreme Court etc. will seldom agree on the best way to go. In the end there will always be a "dissenting minority". If people agree, then it is mostly because they are led by some tradition and shared convictions and presuppositions, NOT by reason. To put it differently : If all cats on the bloc behave in a similar way under certain conditions, they do so because they are cats guided by instincts and CANNOT argue.

      To think that people should come out on some "reasonable" result in my opinion is a very "Greek" expectation — and a false and even dangerous one. Why dangerous ? Because it leads to a false idea of "common sense" and "good sense" in the way that allowed the Nazis or the Stalinists to decide what is a "reasonable" work of art or literature or thinking and what is "mad" or "unnatural" or "perverted". In such a frame of thinking a dissident may be either taken seriously and then put to prison, or he is held to be "crazy" and then put to Bedlam.

      Of course I don't assume that you are proposing such ways, but you see the difficulty of the concept of reason. From our modern point of view the "Politeia" of Plato looks as "totalitarian" as Huxley's "Brave New World" or any other Utopia.

      I think the whole concept of "reasonableness" is much more complicated than even Aristotle may have imagined. More on this left for another posting.

      Hubertus

    • FROM: Gerald Boone (08/22/05 10:19 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Black and White or Shades of Grey?

      Dear Nikolaos,

      Thank you for your comments. I especially liked the wisdom you shared at the end commenting how the choices we make effect not only our own lives ut others as well. Please post a photo of yourself in the gallery, it makes discussion much more personable.
      Concerning the discussion of reason I must say my view is that people with very opposite opinions claim to employ "reason" and make an agruement which is "true". People make logical arguements both for and against abortion, for and against gun control, for and against the death penalty, the list is endless. All concerned believe they employ reason, they also believe what they state is true.
      Philosophy can help us examine and detect obvious fallicies but often conflicting points of view are not black and white, often they are both shades of grey. Often each side can argue a very compelling case based on reason.
      In my view the question is not who employs reason and who does not the question is what line of reasoning do I agree with. People will choose the line of reasoning their philosophical presupositions are nearest to.

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/23/05 2:37 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Individual and social reasoning

    Dear Hubertus,

    Today I have more time, so I can answer your comments.

    The reasoning I was referring to concerns the individual choices and decisions and not the social ones. Certainly in an assembly of people there are as many opinions as persons. And this is the greatness of democracy. However, they finally agree through argument on the most reasonable proposals, after taking into account all parameters of an issue.

    As I said, we have to examine our life through reasoning, which means before each action we have to deliberate, taking into account all the parameters of our action, the consequences of it, the persons involved, and this the meaning of prudence (phronesis) I am talking about in all my answers. However, there are also some false preconceptions, which we adopted and prompt us to act emotionally and habitually. The examination then of these preconceptions should be a part of deliberation, if one wants to avoid mistakes of judgement. And certainly each one has different preconceptions, therefore the different opinions. Therefore the virtue of the mean (moderation) is personal and different for each one. This is the reason that each one even after deliberation adopts different principles. What I meant is that, there is a great difference between acting habitually and calling these attitudes philosophical principles, and examining and deliberating on each principle that one adopts.

    As for the totalitarian view of Plato in Politeia, this concerns the internal state of man, and Plato by the use of the analogue of the Republic concludes that the rational-intellective part of the soul (king philosopher) decides on what sort of education must have the spirited part (guardians) and the appetitive one (craftsmen). Therefore in his Statesman and Laws proposes another model of governing the state.

    With regard to totalitarian regimes of Hitler, Stalin, theocracy etc., since all the persons are part of the state, and the actuality of the state is to produce happy life for all its members (not only for the few), therefore all its members should have equal opportunities and apart from that, the same right of expressing and deciding about it, for all humans have the potentiality of reasoning. This is the base of democracy in my opinion, and not one class, which speaks in the name of the absolute truth to decide about the others' life.
    Hunger in democracy is more preferable from the so-called prosperity of the authoritarian regimes, just as freedom is from slavery. (fr. 251 Democritus' gnomai).

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/23/05 5:02 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on reason and illumination

      Dear Nikos,

      thank you for your answer. I cannot enter it in all detail this moment, but I still think that your are fallen to "petitio principii". Plato tried to set up a "reasonable order" as you have described it. But did he ever ask the women or the slaves what they were thinking ? Surely not. He was the master — as were Hitler or Stalin. And you cannot call this "unreasonable" from principle, you only can refute it from another principle. But this other principle then is a meta-principle defining "meta-reasoning", i.e., your private concept of what you defend as reasonable. You then become the master to decide under what criteria either Plato or Aristotle or Hitler or Stalin etc. is right and "reasonable". Do you see the problem here ?

      Of course you may invoke modern democratic principles of "one person one vote". But this was not a "natural" principle defined by reason, but a historical principle. When Jefferson wrote into the Declaration of Independence that "all men are born free and equal etc." he did not include the negro-slaves any more than Plato or Aristotle would have done. This is my constant charge since weeks now against your concept of reason : It does not take into account its HISTORICAL dependency of our evaluations. Today slavery is called incompatible with a decent life, but in the times of Plato and Aristotle — and even in the case of Jefferson — it was not seen in this way. Thus what you call "reasonable" is not nearly as well defined as you seem to think. That was my point.

      Thus we really have to go down to the fundamentals and ask ourselves FIRST "by what arguments and standards do we call something reasonable?" and SECOND "What do we expect from a 'reasonable' judgement?".

      Similar with gods or "the god". Even if it is granted that f.i. the Phaedo is an "un-Socratic" Platonic text, many of Plato's arguments are not "reasonable" in a different light, since he speaks of god or the gods and of the other world, but an a-theist would deny the existence of these, as did his opponents in the Phaedo. Well, Socrates in the Phaedo did overcome his opponents, but it was Plato, "the director of that movie", who made things come out this way. It was Plato who decided that Socrates — or his persona of Socrates — was right against his opponents.

      The arguments of Plato are "reasonable" in the sense of being somehow consistent. But this same can be said of the arguments of St.Augustine or St.Thomas or Luther : They too were arguing consistently and by this "reasonable" and not irrational. Instead of postulating "eternal ideas" they postulated in the tradition of Plotinos "eternal thoughts of God". By this they were not really different in their way of arguing from Plato. And neither are the Muslims or the Buddhists etc.in their different but consistent ways of arguing.

      You say that "personal reason" is different from "parliamentary reason". Well, you can defend that view by invoking perspectivism or "illumination"-theory or something like that. Socrates/Plato and then St.Augustine and St.Thomas said that we have to evaluate arguments in a certain "illumination". I would agree to this, but then you have a new approach to the concept of reason, and I think we should study this approach and its value.

      This is mirrored in Kant's "third critique", the "Critique of Judgement": Our judgements are "reasonable" in a way that is neither "scientific" nor "practical". So what is this third form of reason ?

      Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/25/05 2:11 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Aspects of reason

    Dear Gerald, dear Hubertus,

    As I can realize, we can proceed now further to our discussion with more significant concepts.

    Gerald, with regard to my photo I am planning to send one to the gallery the next days. As for the line of reasoning that one agrees with, I hold that this has to do with the habitual preconceptions that one has adopted. Therefore in my opinion, each one chooses certain line of reasoning to agree with. Certainly, no one can claim that possesses the absolute reasoning, however he can come closer to the thing itself as long as he follows consistent reasoning.

    Hubertus, as for the women and slaves, exactly this I meant with the false preconceptions. Even the masters of reasoning Socrates and Aristotle, who examined every argument, failed to see the unreasonable attitude to the women and slaves, due to the habitual preconceptions. Socrates, who taught the method (elegtiki), that one should approach each issue without prejudice, and without taking anything for granted (en oida oti ouden oida: one thing I know that I don't know anything), he took for granted the institution of slavery. Aristotle as well in the Politics (1254a-1255b) although he applies faithfully his reasoning concludes to the unreasonable argument that a slave is in accordance with nature to be a slave, as he failed to see that all men by nature have the same potentiality. Something that Epicurus saw later by applying the same reasoning, for he allowed the slaves and the women to participate in the meetings of his philosophical school (Kepos). Therefore, I pointed out the importance of examining all our preconceptions in order to prove their truth or falsity by their consistency or not respectively. And this is not historical reasoning in the sense of Marx, but inconsistency while applying the method of reasoning and not taking into account all the parameters of an issue, since this parameter (slaves) was not so important, for no slave could raise this question in an argument. Necessity (anange) is a significant principle (arche) for the development of a certain society, according to the Greek philosophers. Therefore were many different evaluations in different periods of human history and in different societies. In this sense of historical I agree with you That was the meaning that the actuality (entelecheia) of a society is to produce a happy life for all its members, which nowadays means minorities rights, animals rights etc.

    As for the third aspect of reason of Kant (apart from practical and scientific), belongs to theoretical as I said, and is the understanding (noesis) of Plato's Politeia 510-511, when one tries through the forms to approach and comprehend the first principle of all (tou pantos archin), or the pure intellect or else comprehension (nous) of Aristotle's Nicomachean 1139b-1141 b, which can grasp the first principles, namely the ideas of reason of Kant that allow the man's intellect to complete its striving for unity.

    To sum up with reason in my view, practical reason with regard to the daily life (individual and social) in accordance with virtue, after deliberation and examination of all the preconceptions, theoretical reason, which has two aspects, the one is the scientific knowledge and the other is the understanding of the first principle or principles of all things.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (3):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/26/05 4:51 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: how to avoid "false preconceptions".

      Dear Nikos,

      we finally get on the right track now. So try to redefine what went wrong in your opinion with the arguments of Socrates/Plato and Aristotle and Jefferson. How should we define what is reasonable in some general sense to avoid falling to "false preconceptions". Was to accept the Gospel (as f.i. in the case of St.Augustine or St.Thoas or Luther etc.) "falling to false preconceptions"? By what argument ? If to accept slavery for a given was by "false preconceptions", was to take gods for a given in Plato by "false preconceptions" too — or the immortal soul remembering those "ideas" ?

      Please be assured that my questions are not meant to be ironical ! If you see some good argument to avoid "false preconceptions" then it will be great. We are asking here "what is reasonable — and by what argument ?" So let us go ahead like in any Socratic "dialogue".

      Hubertus

    • FROM: Gerald Boone (08/26/05 5:27 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: It would be nice if all was empirically based then Reason w

      I see where you are coming from and would like for nothing better than issues of Reason to be consistant, uniform and unambiguous. In some instances that is the case. We may both have a car with what we believe is a bad generator, we agree based upon Reason that we should remove the alternator and take it somewhere it can be (empirically) tested to see if our assumption is correct. That is clear, uniform and unambiguous Reason.
      Contrast that with the experience I have had in one small town in northren Michigan where the city fathers have a "buck pole" . Basically promoting the killing of deer during hunting season by hanging dead deer in the city square (wish I could enclose the photo). The "Reason" behind the buck pole, cancelling school for children opening day of hunting season, and giving shotguns to children (who can hunt as long as they are with a parent) was in the mind of most of the city completely Reasonable. For myself and for a great number of people such behavior is unreasonable. You can argue (which I did) that hanging dead deer in the center of town is wrong however the counter arguement is that the "buck Pole" attracts tourism and that father/son hunting trips promote bonding and traditional values. even saying "kids shouldn't have guns" was countered with how the gun teaches the child responsibility.
      With the generator (an empirical object) Reason is clear, the data unambiguous and irrefutable.
      With the Buck Pole Reason becomes much more difficult to arrive at in a way everyone can agree upon.
      Unfortunately life has few empirical objects and a vast array of "Buck Poles"

      My view, for what its worth :)

      Best Regards
      Gerald

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/27/05 9:47 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on "buck-poles" and closed minds

      Dear Gerald,

      this "buck-pole" is a good example for our debate on "reason" ! We should never be fixed on a certain preconception of what to call reason. From a sociological and cultural point of view those people defending the "buck-pole" are quite right. Instead of asking whether it is "reasonable" in a scientific sense, they say it is reasonable in a socio-cultural sense, promoting tourism and the kid's ability to handle guns and responsibility. This too is "reasonable". This is exactly the way I am defending Plato's idea of "forms" and "eternal life of the soul" etc.. Such postulates give meaning to the world we live in. As I said many times : Our modern science has become possible from THEOLOGICAL assumptions, NOT from "scientific" ones. Even Newton said that he would not have "invented" gravitational law without the theosophical arguments of Boehme. Even the assumption that electricity is somehow related to magnetism was originally based on the pansophic idea of Oerstedt, that alle forces in nature are related in some way. Only this "romantic" assumption made him test it. What we call "reason" is any assumption to explain "what world we are in". The "facts" themselves are always meaningless. We are always looking for pattern and meaning and are fighting absurdities.

      How strong this tendency is to cling to some assumption and so to defend meaning against absurdity may be shown from the following examples : Look up http://storm.prohosting.com/~farsight/index.htm

      But as I said in my essay on "truth" — and as Nikos is trying to tell us from Aristotle : The value of philosophy and of science is to question even the assumptions of "common sense" and "plausibility" and "evidence", which all may be erroneous. Thus it is an ongoing fight between "settling with beloved assumptions" and "being stirred by nagging doubts". We know that false assumptions can be dangerous, but so can be "no assumption" because they leave us clueless and we cannot live in a meaningless world. Even in "The Matrix" people have to live on illusions.

      I think the great problem is to keep two quite different realms of reason apart : The "inner reason of nature" as explored by Einstein e.a. is what it is. But the "reason" of culture is not of this sort. It is not a "given", it is our own "invention", like the reason of a great building, which is man-made. In this sense any culture is a man-made "building" and the "buck-poles" are "meaningful" parts in this building.

      Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Gerald Boone (08/27/05 7:06 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Do philosophers notice more?

    I went to the Appalacian Fair today. walking to the Fairgrounds from the parking lot you pass a funeral home, then a graveyard, all the while seeing the rides and attractions of the fair in the background. The bright colors and loud sounds of life contrasting with the monotone tombstones and silence of death.
    I thought as I walked viewing this scene what Jean Paul Sartre would say if he was walking beside me. This experience reminded me of his writings.

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/27/05 10:10 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: philosophy is but one means to highten awareness

      Gerald,

      I don't think you need a Sartre, you only need an open mind. You are an artist. If you were a novelist, you would have seen as much. Think of what Shakespeare of Goethe saw ! Sophocles and Euripides surely were as sensitive as was Plato. And I think the artist in Sartre was more important than the philosopher. But of course his awareness as a poet may have been sharpened by philosohical studies. While I am essentially a historian, I feel that my awareness of historical problems is sharpened by philosophical debates.

      Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/28/05 2:35 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    The "other" aspect of reason

    Dear Hubertus, dear Gerald,

    As I can see, you have exchanged interesting views on significant matters.

    Gerald, the buck pole in the name of the financial good of the area is reasonable, however the good of the city is not only the money. There is also the moral good of the area and a moral universal good. The habitual and false preconceptions are related always to space and time (specific timing and area), while the universal ones are beyond space and time. This type of reason is what Hubertus implies, and I referred in my previous answer, namely the understanding (noesis of Plato or nous of Aristotle) of the first principle of all.

    This Dionysian aspect of reasoning, which all the religions tried to apply (in a wrong way in my opinion) in order to understand the unity and establish moral universal standards, which are beyond space and time. This aspect of reason most of Greek philosophers applied to approach the hidden harmony of nature (Pythagoras), to understand the universal Law (Logos of Heraclitus), to focus on the ungenerated, imperishable and perfect Being (Parmenides). Through the forms and dialectic Plato tried to reach the understanding (noesis) of the first principle, or through contemplation (theorein) Aristotle tried comprehend the universal entelechia and grasp the first principles of all things. Through reasonable and inconsistent hypotheses each one of the Greek philosophers tried to proceed to the first principles which unite and include all, and understand this Universal Intellect — since they held that we share a part of this — or the inner reason of nature (Einstein used to contemplate every day on Heraclitus' sayings, as we know), which is perfect since it can preserve the universe forever. After having understood this universal principle one can discover the real moral values, which are in accordance with human nature and with the divine Law so as to live in accordance with them.

    This is what Plato means when he says: a man can become like God when he becomes JUST and PIOUS WITH UNDERSTANDING (Theaetetus 176b), or Aristotle with the life according to intellect: kata noun bios, or the doctrine of the cosmic sympathy of the Stoics.

    With reference to poetry, Sophocles in Antigone shows exactly this strife between the universal moral values and the transient and domestic values and laws.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/28/05 3:53 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on small and big concepts of reason

      Dear Nikos,

      you write //After having understood this universal principle one can discover the real moral values, which are in accordance with human nature and with the divine Law so as to live in accordance with them.//

      I think this is exactly the point where we have to collide : Your's is a typical "Greek" approach, and I think it is a misleading one, while very common and the origin of natural rights theories in Aristotle and Thomas.

      You are speaking of "moral" values, while I am speaking of "values of life" — which is NOT the same. From a moral point of view there never should habe been an Alexander or Caesar or Ghengis Khan, and not even from the point of view of "reason". There simply is no NEED for some sort of "progress". As I said before, there ARE happy cows and chimps around. Human cultural evolution is not a question of reason nor of morals. We could all have stayed those friendly wise herdsmen and fishermen of "Golden Age" or of the 3rd book of Plato's "Laws" (Nomoi) (see http://www.latein-pagina.de/ovid/ovid_m1.htm and http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext ?doc=Perseus%3Aabo%3Atlg%2C0059%2C034&query=624a from http://plato-dialogues.org/links.htm)

      Our problem today as ever is "how to build a good future" and not "how to behave according to eternal laws."

      Try to see it this way : From a principled point of view one could say that "harmony is better than disharmony". But as any lover of music can confirm, this is not true, because many of the greatest works of music are full of disharmonies, even terrible disharmonies. Thus the idea of harmony and the idea of "greatness" are very different. So what do you prefer : A world of harmony or a world of greatness ?

      Of course this alternative is a bit simplistic, but it shows a problem.

      You cite Einstein. But the concern of Einstein was nature, and nature is what it is. The problem of humans is FREEDOM, and this includes independence of nature. If you are told that "it is un-natural and unreasonable to kill yourself", you may kill yourself just to demonstrate your freedom as a human by behaving "un-natural and unreasonable". Man by his intellect is "thrown out of nature". He is put against nature. He is a free rebel.

      But this of course is "fundamental un-Greek".

      The core of it all is our human ability to become independent from the here and now. Much of what Socrates did was in view of the afterlife and of eternal truth, not in view of the here and now. Sugar, smoking, and alcohol or other drugs may be "good" here and now, but not in the long run. Likewise "sinning" may be good here and now, but not in the long run. Thus "short term reason" may tell us different things from "long term reason". This is a problem not known to animals generally.

      Now in the case of "Sugar, smoking, and alcohol" you may think that long term reason is superior, and Socrates or the saint may think in similar lines with respect to "sinning" or misdemeanor. But the great emperor may think in the line of Alexander and that killing here and now may be good in the long run for some greater aim. They all are using the same form of argument. Even Hitler and Stalin did.

      You are right of course that to define what is reasonable you may invoke some grand timeless order in the way Antigone did. In a world of angels this approach could be defended, but in a world of historical humans it cannot. Nature is not nice, it is fighting. So why should humans be nice ? We are trying to achieve something in the same way as a composer is trying to deliver a "great" work of art and not a "harmonious" or a "reasonable" work of art.

      What I try to find out is a proper realm of applicability of the concept of "reason". Where does it apply ? What is it, that Plato or Aristotle called "unreasonable" ? Well, they said — as did those great tragedians — that you should know your limits, you should not fight against the gods or against eternal order, since this was "hybris" and losing "measure". In a formal analysis this is clear enough. But if you try to apply this simple idea to practice, you are in for trouble.

      Since what does it come to ? It comes to the advice that you should not be nosy and (f.i.) not understand the laws of nature, since that could lead you to find out about nuclear forces or genetics and then you may invent the H-Bomb or the genetically engineered monster or cloning or whatever horror may be. Thus our concept of reason cannot be that simple. We have to find a way out that defines reason in a world of freedom, and that is in my opinion the real difficulty.

      What I am trying to avoid is a "small" concept of reason that is telling us to live in flats. Why not living in villas ? This too is compatible with reason, but since villas are more costly and consuming more space and material and energy etc. we have to redefine our concept of what is reasonable. This is my problem.

      Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (08/30/05 2:07 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Evaluation of the "goods"

    Dear Hubertus,

    At first, I am wondering how your utilitarian and Nietzschean arguments are consistent with your supposed defending of Plato Ideas on your answer to Gerald (August, 27)! However, there are some reasonable arguments in your answer.

    I agree that the point is how to build a good future, but this is not incompatible to how to behave according to our nature or the eternal law. Human being can build a good future and live in harmony with nature. Certainly, each man is free to choose to be imprudent and destroy his life. However, even a young child when it realizes the limits of its nature stops behaving imprudently and becomes more cautious, and protects his body.. Man is not independent of nature; he has to eat, to drink to protect his body and all these activities that I explained on my answer of August 13. Freedom then in your sense makes no sense, since it is simply an illusion. What a man can do is to live in harmony with his nature, his fellowmen and the universe as well, in this sense could be freedom reasonable and applicable, in my opinion. We are free to choose, to create and to act according to our concepts, and to face the consequences of our actions, therefore I said the virtue of this practical reason is prudence, which allows us to foresee.

    Of course there is a need of progress, therefore the need of improving the man's life, and the need of the great men (conquerors, creators, scientists etc.). This is not unknown to the ancient Greeks in the Golden Age with the flourishing of economy, sciences, arts etc. Prometheus of Aeschylus was a typical example of that. However, this utilitarian aspect of practical and applicable reason is not the aim of human being (entelechia) but the means, as I explained with the example of pyramid. Therefore, Nietzsche ranks Ubermensch higher than great man.

    Prudence in individual life and social life means that, one has to take care of the individual good in the long run — which does not violate the others' good — of the common good in the long run, which is compatible with the other communities' good, does not violate the laws of nature and destroy it, does not violate the universal law etc. Therefore the need of the understanding of the universal law, the need of moral standards, which is the highest aspect of reason (noesis of Plato, nous of Aristotle). If in the name of progress, development and prosperity of a certain community we extinguish other communities, we put the mankind and the earth in danger, then the means of happiness become the aim, and we loose the aim.

    To sum up with reason again, practical reason (individual and social) for the daily life, theoretical in the sense of science and theoretical in the sense of understanding the universal good and law. The evaluation then which follows should be: first universal good, then common good, individual good, individual body's good. In this way mankind could avoid the absurdities of the scientists, dictators etc.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/02/05 1:37 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: what does it mean to be "good" ?

      Well, Nikos, of course you are right on all this. There always has been this dream of a blessed island, of Kythera, where all people are nice and understanding. This is depicted in a modern version in Aldous Huxley's last novel (1962) "Island". This island community built on a culture of Buddhist ideals is exactly what you have in mind. Only the greed of a mad neighbour who wants to get at the oil beneath the island leads to its final destruction.

      I think we all agree that a "resonable" society should be possible. Never has a society been as peaceful as modern Europe. The only killings are from some private problems (jealousy, greed, anger etc.) and from professional crime and gangsters, which are mad anyway. Thus it is only a question of removing the last "hot spots" in any society to get near to your ideal. If to be reasonable is just that, then it can be left to the social sciences and there to the "social problems"-department. On this I would agree and so we may leave it as a philosophical problem solved.

      As a historically thinking person I am more pessimistic "from a Kohlberg perspective". Look at Iraq today : They could have agreed on a good constitution for everybody. But perhaps they have agreed on what will turn out a civil war. Why ? Because the Shiites, who want an islamic state and stay in control of their oil were not able to come to terms with the sunnis, who want a secular society and a fair share of the oil too. Of course you now can say that they are unreasonable and will be punished by history for being so. From a philosophical point of view this would be trivial and not worth further study.

      The idea of Kohlberg was — and the idea of Bush when promoting democracy — was : If you see things from a more advanced level, you will agree in your own interest to a good compromise and see that clinging to a short sighted interest will do harm to everybody and even to you. Thus you have to rise your level of evaluation — which of course is the advice given by Socrates and Aristotle too.

      But — and there philosophy enters again : To see things from a higher level was a claim defended by Hitler and Stalin and the Grand Inquisitor too. They all said "We are not killing in our own interest, we are not mad or greedy, we are killing in the better interest of humankind".

      So what to do now ? We have to find a less formal approach and see what "a good life" is like. Then we may set up the principle that everybody is to afford a good life and that the idea of Hitler pp. of what is good for humankind was in itself mistaken. And we have to show in what sense it was mistaken. We have to compare the ideas of Hitler pp. to those of Socrates and Jesus etc. and ask : What made the difference, why are the latter convincing us in the long run while the former are not ? What in the argument of Hitler etc. was faulty ?

      As you see, this is still a matter of "real" good, not of "ultimate" good. Perhaps this was what irritated me in Platon and Aristotle : This constant striving for something "ultimate". As I said before : There are good and impressive works of art, of music, of literature etc., but there is no "best" work — and there cannot be.

      To evaluate something in a "not metaphysical" way, ie. not asking for principle and "best" or "worst", but only for "better" and "less good" is at the same time cautious, pragmatic, and realistic — to avoid the word "post-modern". The post-modern view is "anti-metaphysical".

      Perhaps look at this "pragmatist" list of values below and ask yourself in what way they fit into the scheme of Aristotle. Those "universal values" need not — and should not — be brought into a metaphyical hierachy. I think this is always a danger : There is no "uppermost good". Surely life is not, since people are giving their life for several things of greater value — honour or truth or love etc.. Perhaps this makes me fight that stubbornly against all mere "niceties" that on first sight seem that plausible — but are not on second sight.

      Which means : To be nice to each other seems "plausible", but in such a view that people could offer even their life and their freedom for "honour" or for "love" or for "truth" becomes unknown. What is it, that Socrates defended when declining to flee his prison. What is it, that enabled Mandela and Gandhi and others to spend many years in prison, or to face death for their fight for liberty etc. ? From which we see that people are fighting for what is not directly in any way "comfortable", but is part of being "a free an honoured member of a free and honoured society". This is a "spiritual" value, something not accessible to animals, something specific human.

      And now we have to find out in what way to defend these "spiritual values" can be said to be "reasonable".

      Well, I would agree that Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics were proposing the general insight : You have to see the whole of society's well-being in a long-term perspective to know what is "reasonable". But to avoid the false conclusions of Hitler etc. we have to combine this whith the short-term and interpersonal approach. To die for the values of the Nazis is not the same as to die for the values of Jesus — or is it ? That is my problem. What makes the difference ?

      Hubertus

      The following material is to put some flesh to the bones of value-theory.

      Look up this one :

      http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/statistics/index.html
      from
      http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/statistics/index.html

      and

      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0806646780/ ref=pd_bxgy_text_1/102-2137856-4669723?v=glance&s=books&st=*

      and

      http://www.thiederman.com/products_detail.php?id=10

      and

      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1555426034/ qid=1125435723/sr=1-4/ref=sr_1_4/102-2137856-4669723?v=glance&s=books

      and

      http://www.communitycolleges.org/leadershipbiblio.html

      and see this article :

      Universal human values: finding an ethical common ground. (includes related article)

      Public Management; 6/1/1995; Kidder, Rushworth M.

      An interview with two dozen respected personalities in their fields by the Institute for Global Ethics reveals the moral decay in the 20th century. This, according to the interviewees, can only be addressed by love, truthfulness, fairness, freedom, unity, tolerance, responsibility and respect for life.

      Values Give a Foundation for Building Goals, Plans, and Tactics

      In the remote New Zealand village of Panguru, tucked into the mountains at the end of a winding gravel road, a Maori woman nearly a century old pauses for a moment as she talks about the moral values of her people. "This is God's country!" says Dame Whina Cooper with great feeling, gesturing toward the flowers blooming among the bird songs outside her modest frame house. "Only, we the people running it must be doing something wrong."

      Halfway around the world, in a United Nations office perched under the eaves of a fifteenth-century building in Florence, a leading journalist from Sri Lanka is asked what will happen if the world enters the twenty-first century with the ethics of the twentieth. "I feel it will be disastrous," Varindra Tarzie Vittachi replies simply.

      Midway between, in his well-appointed residence in San Jose, Costa Rica, former President Oscar Arias explains that our global survival "will become more complicated and precarious than ever before, and the ethics required of us must be correspondingly sophisticated."

      Turn where you will in the world, and the refrain is the same. The ethical barometer is falling, and the consequences appear to be grave. That, at least, is one of the impressions to be drawn from the two dozen individuals from 16 nations interviewed over the past few years by the Institute for Global Ethics.

      These interviews did not seek to discover the ethical failings of various nations, but rather to find the moral glue that will bind us together in the twenty-first century. These voices speak powerfully of an underlying moral presence shared by all humanity — a set of precepts so fundamental that they dissolve borders, transcend races, and outlast cultural traditions.

      There is a pressing need for shared values in our age of global interdependence without consensus. But there is one very real question unanswered: Is there in fact a single set of values that wise, ethical people around the world might agree on? Can there be a global code of ethics? If there is a common core of values "out there" in the world, it ought to be identifiable through examination of contemporary modes of thought in various cultures around the world. Can it be found?

      On that topic, the two dozen "men and women of conscience" interviewed had a clear point of view. "Yes," they said, "there is such a code, and it can be clearly articulated." These interviewees were chosen not because they necessarily know more about ethics than their peers — although some do, having made it a lifelong study. Nor were they chosen because they are the single most exemplary person of their nation or community — although some easily could be nominated for that honor. They are, however, ethical thought-leaders within their different cultures, each viewed by his or her peers as a kind of ethical standard bearer, a keeper of the conscience of the community, a center of moral gravity.

      Each of the interviews began with a common question: If you could help create a global code of ethics, what would be on it? What moral values, in other words, would you bring to the table from your own culture and background?

      In an ideal world, one would have assembled all the interviewees around a table, had each talk for an hour, had each listen intently to all the others, and finally had them arrive at a consensus. If they could have done so, here is the core of moral values upon which they probably would have agreed:

      Love

      Despite the concern of foundation executive James A. Joseph in Washington that "the L-word, love," is falling sadly into disuse, it figured prominently in these interviews. "Love, yes," said children's author Astrid Lindgren in Stockholm. "This is the main word for what we need — love on all stages and with all people."

      "The base of moral behavior is first of all solidarity, love, and mutual assistance," said former first lady Graca Machel of Mozambique. Buddhist monk Shojun Bando in Tokyo agreed, detailing three different kinds of love and insisting that "it shouldn't be that others should tell you to love others: It should just come of its own will, spontaneously." Or, as author Nien Cheng from China put it, "You cannot guide without love."

      For tribal chief Reuben Snake of Nebraska, the central word is compassion. "We have to be compassionate with one another and help one another, to hold each other up, support one another down the road of life," he recalled his grandfather telling him. Thinking back on her dealings with a global spectrum of cultures at the United Nations, former Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick in Washington noted that, no matter how severe the political differences, "there was a kind of assumption, on the part of almost everyone, that people would help one another at the personal level."

      Truthfulness

      Of the four theses that form Harvard University ex-President Derek Bok's code of ethics, two center on truth. "You should not obtain your ends through lying and deceitful practices," he said, and you have a "responsibility to keep [your] promises." Astrid Lindgren put it with equal clarity when she spoke of the need to "be honest, not lying, not afraid to say your opinion."

      Looking through the lens of science, the late economist Kenneth Boulding of Colorado also put "a very high value on veracity — telling the truth. The thing that gets you run out of the scientific community is being caught out telling a lie." Fortunately, said Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus, the spread of technology makes it increasingly difficult for the truth to be hidden. In the future, "people will be forced to reveal themselves," he said. "Nothing can be kept hidden or secret — not in computers, not in the halls of government, nothing. People will feel much more comfortable when they're dealing in truth. You converge around and in truth."

      Here, however, as with many of these global values, there also was a residue of concern — a fear that trust, which is central to honesty and truthfulness, seems to be falling into abeyance. "The idea that you ought to be able to trust somebody is out of fashion," worried Katharine Whitehorn, columnist for The Observer of London. That's a point seconded by corporate executive James K. Baker of Indiana. "Little by little," he said, "if we let that trust go out of our personal dealings with one another, then I think the system really begins to have trouble."

      Fairness

      Elevating the concept of justice to the top of his list, philosopher and author James W. Gardner of Stanford University said, "I consider that probably the number-one candidate for your common ground." By justice, he meant "fair play, or some word for evenhandedness."

      "Here, one could get caught up in the very complicated theories of social justice," warned James A. Joseph. "Or one could look simply at the Golden Rule. I relate fairness to treating other people as I would want to be treated. I think that [rule] serves humanity well. It ought to be a part of any ethic for the future."

      For many, the concern for fairness goes hand in hand with the concept of equality. "The pursuit of equality is basic," said columnist and editor Sergio Munoz of Mexico City and Los Angeles. "The people who come from Mexico and El Salvador have the same values, in my point of view, as the person who comes from Minnesota or from Alabama or from California — those basic principles that are common to all civilizations."

      For some, like Joseph, the concept of fairness and equality focuses strongly on racial issues. Others, like author Jill Ker Conway from Australia, see the need for "greater equity between the sexes." Still others, like UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor of Spain, see the problem as one of international relations: Despite the groundswell of interest in democracy arising within the former East Bloc nations, Westerners "have not reacted as humans, but only as economic individuals. . . . Even equity — the most important value in all the world — has collapsed."

      Freedom

      Very early in human history, said John Gardner, "the concept of degrees of freedom of my action — as against excessive constraints on my action by a tyrant or by military conquerors — emerged." Even the earliest peoples "knew when they were subjugated" — and didn't like it. That desire for liberty, he said, persists to the present day as one of the defining values of humanity.

      But liberty requires a sense of individuality and the right of that individual to express ideas freely, many of the interviewees said. "Without the principle of individual conscience, every attempt to institutionalize ethics necessarily must collapse," said Oscar Arias. "The effect of one upright individual is incalculable. World leaders may see their effect in headlines, but the ultimate course of the globe will be determined by the efforts of innumerable individuals acting on their consciences."

      Such action, for many of these thinkers, is synonymous with democracy. "I think democracy is a must for all over the world," said Salim El Hoss, former prime minister of Lebanon. He defined the ingredients of democracy as "freedom of expression plus accountability plus equal opportunity." While he worried that the latter two are lacking in many countries, he noted that the first condition, freedom of expression, increasingly is becoming available to "all peoples."

      Unity

      As a counterbalance to the needs of individual conscience, however, stands the value that embraces the individual's role in a larger collective. Of the multitude of similar terms used for that concept in these interviews (fraternity, solidarity, cooperation, community, group allegiance, oneness), unity seems the most encompassing and the least open to misconstruction. For some, it is a simple cri de coeur in a world that seems close to coming undone. "I want unity," said Dame Whina Cooper of New Zealand, adding that "God wants us to be one people." For Tarzie Vittachi of Sri Lanka, the idea of unity embraces a global vision capable of moving humanity from "unbridled competition" to cooperation. "That is what is demanded of us now: putting our community first, meaning the earth first, and all living things."

      The problem arises when the common good is interpreted "by seeing the relation between the individual and the common in individualistic terms," said Father Bernard Przewozny of Rome. Carried to the extreme, individualism is "destructive of social life, destructive of communal sharing, destructive of participation," he said, adding that "the earth and its natural goods are the inheritance of all peoples."

      Tolerance

      "If you're serious about values," said John Gardner, "then you have to add tolerance very early — very early. Because you have to have constraints. The more you say, 'Values are important,' the more you have to say, 'There are limits to which you can impose your values on me.'"

      "It is a question of respect for the dignity of each of us," said Graca Machel. "If you have a different idea from mine, it's not because you're worse than me. You have the right to think differently." Agreeing, Derek Bok defined tolerance as "a decent respect for the right of other people to have ideas, an obligation or at least a strong desirability of listening to different points of view and attempting to understand why they are held."

      "You have your own job, you eat your own food," said Vietnamese writer and activist Le Ly Hayslip. "How you make that food is up to you; and how I live my life is up to me."

      Reuben Snake traced the idea of tolerance back to a religious basis. "The spirit that makes you stand up and walk and talk and see and hear and think is the same spirit that exists in me — there's no difference — and I'm seeing me in you."

      Abstracting from the idea of tolerance the core principle of respect for variety, Kenneth Boulding linked it to the environmentalist's urgency over the depletion of species. "If the blue whale is endangered, we feel worried about this because we love the variety of the world," he explained. "In some sense I feel about the Catholic church the way I feel about the blue whale: I don't think I'll be one, but I would feel diminished if it became extinct."

      Responsibility

      Oxford don A. H. Halsey placed the sense of responsibility high on his list of values because of its impact on our common future. "We are responsible for our grandchildren," he explained, "and we will make [the world] easier or more difficult for our grandchildren to be good people by what we do right here and now." This was a point made in a different way by Katharine Whitehorn, who noted that, while as a youth "it's fun to break away," it's very much harder to "grow up and have to put it together again."

      For Nien Cheng, the spotlight falls not so much on the actions of the future as on the sense of self-respect in the present. "This is Confucius' teaching," she said. "You must take care of yourself. To rely on others is a great shame."

      Responsibility also demands caring for others, Hayslip said. But, under the complex interactions of medicine, insurance, and law that exist in the West, "if you come into my house and see me lying here, very sick, you don't dare move me because you're not a doctor," she pointed out. "So where is your human obligation? Where is your human instinct to try to save me? You lost it because there are too many rules."

      Yet, paradoxically, "responsibility is not often mentioned in discussions of world politics or ethics," said Oscar Arias. "There, the talk is all of rights, demands, and desires." Human rights are "an unquestionable and critical priority for political societies and an indispensable lever for genuine development," he said. "But the important thing is not just to assert rights but to ensure that they be protected. Achieving this protection rests wholly on the principle of responsibility."

      Chicago attorney Newton Minow agreed. "I believe the basic reason we got off the track was that rights became more important than responsibilities, that individuals became more important than community interests. We've gotten to the point where everybody's got a right and nobody's got a responsibility."

      At its ultimate, this sense of responsibility extends to the concept of the right use of force. "You shouldn't perpetrate violence," said Derek Bok simply, finding agreement with Jeane Kirkpatrick's insistence that "war is always undesirable" and that "any resort to force should be a very late option, never a first option."

      Respect for Life

      Growing out of this idea of the responsible use of force, but separate from and extending beyond it, is a value known most widely in the West from the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not kill. For Shojun Bando, it is an inflexible principle: Even if ordered in wartime to defend his homeland by killing, he said, "I would refuse. I would say, 'I cannot do this.'"

      Such an idea, expressed in today's peaceable Japan, may seem almost naive when examined through the lens of such war-riddled areas as the Middle East. Yet, Salim El Hoss took much the same view. "I was a prime minister [of Lebanon] for seven and a half years. I can't imagine myself signing a death penalty for anybody in the world. I think that is completely illegitimate, and I think that is the kind of thing a code of ethics should deal with."

      Reuben Snake, noting that the North American Indians have a war-like reputation, said, "Probably the most serious shortcoming of tribal governments is their inability to effectively resolve conflict within the tribe and externally." He described earlier Indian traditions, however, in which great efforts were made by the tribal elders to prevent killing. That's a point with which Tarzie Vittachi — himself from the much-bloodied nation of Sri Lanka — felt perfectly at home. The first element of the Buddhist "daily prayer" under which he was raised, he recalled, is "I shall not kill." It is also central to the Ten Commandments of the Jewish decalogue under which Newton Minow was raised and which he said he still feels form the basis for the world's code of ethics.

      Other Shared Values

      There were, of course, other significant values that surfaced in these interviews. Nien Cheng, for instance, pointed to courage. "One should basically know what is right and what is wrong," she said, "and, when you know that, be courageous enough to stand for what is right."

      Figuring strongly in Shojun Bando's pantheon was wisdom, which he defined as "attaining detachment, getting away from being too attached to things."

      Whina Cooper put hospitality high on her list, recalling that her father said, "If you see any strangers going past, you call them — Kia Ora — that means to call them to come here." Astrid Lindgren put an emphasis on obedience — a quality that runs throughout the life of her most famous character, Pippi Longstocking, though usually in reverse.

      Kenneth Boulding pointed to peace, which he defined simply as "well-managed conflict." Thinking of peace brought Salim El Hoss to the concept of stability. "Peace is equivalent to stability," he said, adding that "stability means a long-term perspective of no problems." These and other values, while they don't find broad support, had firm proponents among those we interviewed and deserve serious attention.

      Other values mentioned included the burning public concerns for racial harmony, respect for women's place, and the protection of the environment. Many of the interviewees touched on them, and some elevated them to high priority. Speaking of the need for racial harmony, James Joseph put at the top of his list a sense of "respect for the cultures of other communities, respect for the need to begin to integrate into our collective memory appreciation of the contributions and traditions of those who are different." Jill Conway topped her list with a warning about the "increasing exploitation of women" around the world. And of the many human rights identified by Father Bernard Przewozny, the one to which he has dedicated his life is the "right to a healthy environment."

      So what good is this code of values? It gives us a foundation for building goals, plans, and tactics, where things really happen and the world really changes. It unifies us, giving us a home territory of consensus and agreement. And it gives us a way — not the way, but a way — to reply when we're asked, "Whose values will you teach?" Answering this last question, as we tumble into the twenty-first century with the twentieth's sense of ethics, may be one of the most valuable mental activities of our time.

      RELATED ARTICLE: Why Should Administrators Be Concerned?

      Why is the concept of global shared values so important to local government administrators?

      Consider this: Clearly needed is an improved community dialogue around moral problems evidenced at the local level, a dialogue that grows naturally out of a recognition of shared values. What are some of these moral problems?

      * In 1994, the National League of Cities asked 382 elected officials in the United States to identify specific conditions that have deteriorated most in the last five years. With the exception of unfunded mandates — a bread-and-butter topic for most elected officials — the five top issues all centered on moral concerns: youth crime (31 percent), gangs (26 percent), violent crime (25 percent), drugs (19 percent), and school violence (18 percent).

      * Citizens, too, believe overwhelmingly that values have a place in the making of public policy. "Our government would be better if policies were more directed by moral values," said 84 percent of the respondents in a March 1994 U.S. News and World Report poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters.

      A focus on shared values can help officials to design and evaluate the progress of community goals and objectives. Administrators must ask, "Is this goal/plan/result consistent with our stated values?" Even if citizens may disagree on the tactics of busing minority children to other school districts, they probably all can agree on the value of equal opportunity as a cornerstone to quality education. Looking at issues from the vantage of shared values tends to emphasize areas of agreement, heal divisiveness, and reduce finger pointing among factions — powerful incentives for encouraging the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

      But the language of shared values also helps local administrators address some of the deeper dilemmas they face. Consider the following fairly tough choices:

      * Does the public's right to know take precedence over someone else's right of confidentiality?

      * Should we hire the most experienced person or give an inexperienced individual the opportunity to serve?

      * Should we simply patch up the potholes to get through the year or go into debt to improve the roads over the long term?

      * How can we resolve a conflict between an individual's private property rights and the community's desire to plan for future growth?

      These conflicts — between truth and loyalty, fairness and compassion, the short term and long term, and individual and community, respectively — each pit two powerful core values against each other. And when two such values come into conflict, we have what those of us at the Institute of Global Ethics describe as "a right-versus-right dilemma." Understanding that the really tough dilemmas are created when core values come into conflict is an important first step in learning how to resolve them.

      Patricia Brousseau Executive Vice President Institute for Global Ethics

      Rushworth Kidder is president of the Institute for Global Ethics, Camden, Maine.

      COPYRIGHT 1995 International City-County Management Association

      The above article is from Public Management, June 1, 1995.

      This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

      HighBeam Research, LLC. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

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    FROM: Charles Countryman (08/30/05 5:34 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Neoplatonism in the 21st Century

    What would neoplatonism look like in the 21st Century, a postmodern world?

    I think that Rupert Sheldrake is correct in identifying materialism's lack of adequate explanation for morphogenesis. However Sheldrake's critics may be correct in identifying Sheldrake's argument as being about metaphysics not science.

    Rather than attempting to make a scientific argument for Form like Sheldrake, perhaps one should make a clear distinction between science and religion, accepting their equal validity and value but different realms as Stephen Jay Gould apparently did.

    So can a metaphysical argument be made in the 21st Century, using 21st Century language and sources, about the necessity of Form, complementing rather than conflicting with materialist explanations about the meaning and nature of life?

    Charles

      REPLIES (4):

    • FROM: Gerald Boone (08/31/05 9:56 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: I think the two camps would find it difficult

      A problem arises when people who have religious presuppositions discuss the meaning and nature of life with people who do not but hold entirely materialist presuppositions about the meaning and nature of life. They tend to regress into argueing the existance of God and little else. Some people hold theistic or atheistic presuppositions very passionately. They begin dialog assumeing the other camp has little to offer. I think the best we can hope for is that both groups continue to offer explainations about the meaning and nature of life and we (not them) decide which parts we can use to form our own explaination about the meaning and nature of life.
      If Steven Jay Gould can incorporate both aspects of his humanity into a harmonious, complementary whole he has shown both camps what is possible.

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/02/05 2:26 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: a minor on "morphogenesis"

      Charles,

      I suggest "by Occams razor" to keep as much to "simple" modes of explanation as possible. You wrote

      //I think that Rupert Sheldrake is correct in identifying materialism's lack of adequate explanation for morphogenesis. However Sheldrake's critics may be correct in identifying Sheldrake's argument as being about metaphysics not science.//

      But what does "morphogenesis" mean ? "Religious" people — or romantic ones — tend to see and postulate in some anthropomorphic way "striving for light" (f.i.). But the plant is not striving for light at all. There simply are some molecules (like in any commom potato) which stimulate growth in the dark. Thus the darkest parts of a plant by a simple molecular mechanism are stimulated to growth and that give the overall impression that the plant is "striving for light". It's a simple chemical mechanism without any "soul".

      This does not exclude the possibility of a "soul" even in plants. But compare it to the motion of planets : It was a shock to many people when Newton has shown that this motion can be explained from a simple "law of gravitation" without any demons pushing the planets along on their orbits. But this sort of explanation eventually resultet in "explaining God away" — first declaring him the "blind watchmaker" of Deism, then spending Him altogether in "enlightened atheism" in Hume or Kant.

      In my opinion, the question whether there is "something else we do not understand" is always left open. But as long as we cannot justify any such claim by good arguments we are in a weak position. I too think that Sheldrake is claiming much more than he is able to defend.

      Hubertus

    • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/03/05 7:50 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Form does not require soul.

      Hubertus

      I'll stretch the range of argument and borrow from Christian philosopher Nancey Murphy and the argument of the nonreductive physicalists: "nearly all the human capacities or faculties once attributed to the soul are now seen to be functions of the brain." I doubt if a 21st Century argument for Form would include "soul."

      Rupert Sheldrake describes 3 theories about biological morphogenesis in his hypothesis of morphic resonance, including a mechanistic (reductionist) explanation emphasizing DNA. I guess that if one accepts that a reductionist materialist argument adequately explains everything, including "beauty" for example, then there is no need to bother with Form.

      Charles

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/05/05 3:35 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on the searching mind

      Charles,

      I think that reductionism is pretending to have solutions where there are none. To say that Plato or Shakespeare or Rembrandt or Mozart or what artist else was creating great works "because he had to" is a void pseudo-explanation. Every great work of art is a wonder, something nobody expected or even thought of before. What we call mind or spirit of the creative genius is very different from everyday "common sense" or "good understanding". And just as life is always looking for another "ecological niche" to create another form of life, so the mind is looking for new challenges.

      But to assume that there is some creative genius in nature itself is a strong and hard to verify claim. I would not exclude this possibility, but I don't like wild speculations that are not pointing to some serious method of Popperian falsification. What does Sheldrake offer in this respect ?

      Hubertus

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    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (09/01/05 1:23 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Philosophy and science

    Dear Charles, dear Gerald,

    Many modern thinkers try to approach the philosophical problems taking into account the new inventions of science. This is the aspect of scientific reason, I was referring to in my last answer.

    Charles, I really find interesting the views of Sheldrake about morphic resonance and fields. The patterns of the memory in the DNA of the living beings refer to the Forms of Plato and their dynamic to Aristotle's entelechia. This sounds to me like the underlying substance, which is within the living beings and is the driving force of evolution of the living beings to create higher organisms. However, I would say that philosophy along with science could help one to reach the aspect of understanding the nature of all things. Religion, in my opinion, is valuable and helpful for establishing moral standards certainly, but does not follow the reasoning of philosophy (induction, deduction, consistent hypotheses etc,).
    Gerarld, everyone chooses explanations about the meaning and nature of life, which he finds more reasonable according to his own view. However, people can compromise and agree upon moral standards and values, which are for the common good, no matter what explanation they adopt.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (2):

    • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/03/05 8:25 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: What about beauty?

      Gerald and Nikos

      I need to clarify my question about whether or not a 21st Century argument can be made for Form. While I am a Christian in my family's tradition and in my personal belief, here I am interested if a more metaphysical than religious argument can be made for Form. I notice that Socrates in Phaedo proceeded to argue for Form, without depending on the naturalistic explanations of his time. Today it seems to me that the reductionist mechanistic (naturalist) explanation for even the basic biological state described in morphogenesis reverts ultimately to a denial of the existence of any ultimate questions, including that of beauty. It appears to me that today unless one accepts that mechanistic explanation is fully sufficient in denial of the existence of ultimate questions, then there needs to be serious attention paid to a 21st Century argument for Form.

      Charles

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/05/05 3:47 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on form an beauty

      Charles,

      I do not really understand your problem. Do you mean that beauty is something objective that nature is out to realize ? I think that beauty is in the mind of us humans. At least we cannot prove otherwise. It would be easy to program a computer (there are pattern-recognition programs all around in the modern industry meanwhile) in such a way, that he "knows" the difference of "attractive" and "repulsive" forms, which then could be translated into "the robot knows the difference of beauty (= attrative) and ugliness (= repulsive)". But would this convince you ? Suppose Socrates in the Phaedo is just a robot given to "attractive" ideas of "the other world". It would be quite easy to program our modern computer to always start singing hymns when seeing some form he finds utmost attractive according to his program. So what would this prove ?

      The real question is not, how to define what is beautiful — which is easily done even in robots. The real question is how to understand why what Socrates saw should be called "valuable". What is it, that makes the Phaedo charming even today ?

      There is "good good" and "bad good" — the old difference of Christ and Anti-Christ. This difference to understand is the real problem.

      Hubertus

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/01/05 5:23 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    on mad humans and saintly superhumans

    Dear all, this is another comment on reason :

    I just saw from DVD "Natural City"
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0378428/
    On this page no DVD is hinted at.

    The film "Natural City" is from Korea ! The Koreans are noted for extreme passions, more so than even the Japanese, while being Buddhist too. See

    http://www.play.com/play247.asp?pa=srmr&page=title&r=R2&title=175418

    which I found out when searching for a subtitled version.

    I found the visuals great, while the story is more or less absurd as in most such movies: A human loves a female robot. But who cares. The typical story of cyborgs and heavy violence among jealous men etc., with much of blood and destruction and in a mostly darkish scenery like in Blade Runner, which was a model for this movie.

    The Japanese (and Koreans ?) are fascinating, since they always show this strange mix of extreme gentleness (cherry blossoms, ikebana, Zen-gardens, smiling politeness etc.) and extreme violence and sex. I think this is correlated : They feel the violence inside and try to calm down by all means and then explode all of a sudden. Similarily the (classical) Greek — and maybe even the Germans. There is so much to explode in the human mind. This is a scaring human animal.

    Kubrick hated it and therefore created "Clockwork Orange"
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066921/and "Full Metal Jacket"
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093058/and "The Shining"
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081505/.

    In the end he invented the "saintly" robots of the final part of "Artificial Intelligence"
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212720/that don't understand humans, because they — the robots — are peaceful and reasonable by nature.

    Take this as another comment on "what is reason".

    As I said before, we humans are victims of our "apish ancestry" with "genes fighting it out", while robots can be "reasonable", since they need not "fight it out". They are not of a fighting nature. Nature is not nice — and never was. Of course there is love and caring and grooming, but there is much of fighting for status and food and territory and women too.

    Hubertus

      REPLIES (7):

    • FROM: Gerald Boone (09/03/05 9:04 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Oriential art and cinema

      Both Paul Gaugain and Vincent Van Gogh owned (Japanese) block prints. Which they bought at a time they couldn't afford (Theo Van Gogh yelled at Vincent for buying his). The bright colors, bold composition, and simplcity of the prints these heros of impressionism had to own.
      I think we see some of the same today. Oriental cinema is riviting. The acting conveys more emotion. The storyline is strong in whatever direction the genre takes it. If they wish to create a peaceful scene it is the most peaceful scene imaginable, if they wish to create a violent scene it is terrifying! They produce their art on a budget 1/4 the size of American films but somehow do a better job.

      Currently in America there is much arguement about video games (yes I said video games) Some senators are seeking to legislate law because of the content of some video games (you would think government would have better more important things to do). What I would be intersted to know is if nations that allow free expression of entertainment art forms (Japan) have a lower crime rate per capita than nations that pass laws against video games and the like (USA). Acknowledgment of our genetic carnality (apeish genes) and venting in safe directions (video games/cinema/ect) may be a good thing. The senators reasoning is that video games CAUSE crime to happen. Which I think is just silly.
      Again thanks for the links
      Gerald

    • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/03/05 10:41 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Reason = Life?

      Hubertus

      You seem to make an assumption that robots are reasonable and then use that to jump to a conclusion that robots are a better form of life (because they don't fight like apish humans).

      First, I doubt your assumption that robots will ever be reasonable beyond their programming, which is dependent on their programmers reason. I am sure that you can come up with many examples of hope for reasonable robots, from M.I.T. experiments to the cinema. However reasonable robots remain figments of the imagination. No supposed reasonable robot has survived the complete test of the real world. Also, the case for something like "robo sapiens" (and continued progressive technological development) remains to be made and cannot be assumed.

      Second, I doubt your transfer of responsibility for fighting in humans to D.N.A. It seems that some conditions like "will" need to be considered, even in examples of fighting between other primates. Transfer of blame for the human condition to D.N.A. seems to me to ultimately be denial of any significant role for moral consideration.

      Whether your definition of life includes humans simply as the highest result of natural selection or life resulting from some form of creation, a basis for moral consideration needs to be established. I think that many moral considerations need to be made before defining life as = reason.

      Charles

    • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/03/05 10:57 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: The case for form seen in computer games.

      Gerald, Hubertus (and all)

      Observing my son's and his friends' interest in certain computer games like "Star Wars" causes me to conclude that more than bodily, instinctual stimulation is involved. While a reductionist behaviorist solution may be appealing in its simplicity, it does not explain the mythic interest the children or young men and women have in and develop in their total involvement with these games and stories. Nor does the behaviorist position completely explain the need of the players to develop the will to turn the games off (and the obligation of the parents to encourage the development of this moral capacity).

      Charles

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/05/05 4:10 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on saintly humans and mad robots

      Charles,

      we can prove or disprove about everything. There are and always have been some truly saintly humans like Gandhi or Schweitzer or Mandela or Dr M-L King and many others. They are proof that humans CAN be made to "forget" their apish ancestry. But generally this is not possible, since otherwise the world would be a different place. Thus we have to take into account "normal" humans which are greedy and aggressive and etc., displaying their "apish ancestry" and "fighting it out". At least 90% of all movies — Japanese or Western alike — are showing humans of this "un-saintly" sort. And I think this is about realistic. To say that "it need not be" is not wrong but void. Where is this Island of Bliss, this Cythera or Shangrila, where all inhabitants are of the saintly sort ? This is not the world we live in. Thus Kubrick was quite realistic on this.

      On the other hand re. the robots I only said that they NEED not be aggressive or envious or greedy etc., since they are made to what they are. What I am stressing is the difference of a reasonable being, a being that does what is reasonable, and a human being, which does many things not because they are reasonable now, but because they have been reasonable 10 million years ago in the savannah. We are always carrying the ape with us in our genes. But some have learnt to keep it in check.

      Hubertus

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/05/05 4:18 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: turning off computer-games

      Well, Charles, even the kids sometimes feel hungry or bored with the game. To be given to a computer-game is not different from being given to mathematical or philosophical work or to music or painting or gardening or solving chess-problems. Only that computer-games look a bit silly.

      This is interesting : Why is playing endlessly riffs on the guitar a culturally esteemed practice, while killing endlessly villains or monsters in the dungeons of some computer-game seen as despiceable ?

      Hubertus

    • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/05/05 6:22 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Form in the 21st Century

      Hubertus,

      First you seem to be saying that humans are limited by their ape form. Then you argue for morphic fluidity in claiming that some humans (saints) can forget their ape ways. Are you saying that there is a higher metaphysical human form concept than the mechanistic DNA concept of human form to which humans can aspire?

      Charles

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/09/05 1:56 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: on transcending humans

      Well, Charles, of course I do !

      See it this way : We happen to be thinking beings that never reflected on their special "form" as you call it. They just got along thinking in their way. But then somebody realized, that thinking is dependent on brain and upbringing etc. and thus on some causes that are not natural but could be changed. Then the question arises — the fundamental question of Enlightenment philosophy : If man is of such a crooked nature, what about getting him straight by education and transforming society and culture, and even by transforming his brain with a little help from genetics and electronics ?

      The instant you realize a relation of cause and effect, you begin to ask how you may effect "improvements" by turning some screws on the causes. And this is our situation since some 250 years. The moment nuclar fission was understood, the suggestions of building nuclear bombs and power plants offered quite naturally. The same applies with neurology and genetics and electronics in view of "improving the human".

      There is a "historical" human — this apish one we know from daily experience — and there is some as yet unknown "potential" human, we are trying to define. But "potential" is always ambivalent — it could be a monster or a saint. Hollywood has already shown both possibilities. I will not expand on this here. I only tried to make very clear the difference of "historical man" and "man as a first model in a long series of 'improved versions'" like from "Tin-Lizzy" to a modern Toyota Lexus or something like that, or from DC-6 to a modern Jumbo-airplane etc..

      Thus the question becomes : "What does it MEAN 'to improve man' ?" And where are the (many) pitfalls of this project. And here the question of "what is reasonable" enters again.

      Hubertus

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    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (09/04/05 5:07 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Common values

    Dear Hubertus,

    Thank you for your detailed answer, and your hints.

    As for the article with the universal human values, I find it really interesting as an attempt to define the common values, however, I would add some more values, namely democratic institutions to secure the freedom and tolerance and to avoid the saviours of humanity (Hitler, Stalin etc.), moderation, respect of oneself, respect for the nature, and above all prudence in order to be able to live in accordance with all these values.

    Certainly not all the people agree upon their philosophical concepts about universe and nature, religion holds other views, atheists others, scientists others, I have others and so on. Some hold that exists the ultimate good, some that only the better or the lesser bad and so on. Of course this is not the problem, as long as the society can secure freedom and tolerance through democratic institutions. Then, all of us we can agree upon some common values for the common good and fight for them beyond metaphysical concepts.

    What makes the difference between Jesus, Socrates on the one hand and Hitler and Stalin on the other hand? Many and great are the differences. At first the motto. To de after the good of the mankind or after the good of a certain community excluding and extinguishing the others? Second the aim. To claim and appeal on some principles and to live in accordance with them, because this is the right thing according to your concept? Or to claim the principles for the common good and actually to pursue the control and the power over the people by extinguishing all the opponents? Then the way (related to the aim). To die for you principles or to have a comfortable life without suffering for them? To be kind to the others or to use them for your aims?

    I quote some characteristics of the tyrant from Aristotle (Politics V 1313b-1314a).
    The tyrant must put to death men of spirit.he must be upon his guard against anything which is likely to inspire either courage or confidence among his subjects.he must not allow common meals, clubs, education and the like he must prohibit schools or their meetings for discussionthe people having to keep hard at work are prevented from conspiring. The tyrant is also fond of making wars in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader. Hence the tyrants are fond of bad men, because they love to be flattered, but no man who has the spirit of a free man in him will lower himself in flattering, good men love the othersthe tyrant dislikes every one who has dignity or independence..
    I think you can find some of these methods in Hitler's and Stalin's ideals.

    With regard to our apish ancestry, this doesn't mean that one must stay forever there, just like the child doesn't stay forever child. Through prudence one learns how to escape from this lower nature and can be evaluated to a real human. As for reasonable robots, I am wondering who will program them, on behalf of whose interest, and on what moral standards to be reasonable, as well as about their free will and choice in different circumstances of real life.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/09/05 5:11 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: trying to get at some systematics of reason

      Dear Nikos and all,

      I have a bad conscience since I still did not find the time to do the debate and your postings justice. Well, I am leaving town for 6 weeks now, up to 23rd October (!), so I put what little I tried to deliver. It is still not to the point. Perhaps I have some better idea in the vacs. Here my text :

      Now I try to formulate something consistent on what I think is "reason". But first you should perhaps look again into the first paras of a
      classical text of Kant :

      http://www.infomotions.com/etexts/philosophy/1700-1799/kant-fundamental-143.txt

      Nature is what it is. We may err on its proper function, but nature does not care. This is "physics". And the science to be applied is
      epistemology and methodology of the natural sciences. Kant did much to clarify the interactions of "reasoning" and "data" when studying physics, and he himself was obliged to lecture on physics, since this was in his time — as "natural philosophy" — part of philosophy proper.

      Today Peirce and Popper and Hempel and several others are most famous on methodology of science. So this is one aspect of being reasonable : Not given to superstitious beliefs. But there is something more to be said on this below.

      The "science" of ethics is quite different : We may — as the Greek tried to do — think of some ethics "appropriate to the nature of things". "Natural Law" tried to expand on this idea in the work of St.Thomas and during 17th century and the first half of the 18th.

      But even Herodotus knew that there are many different cultures with different rules of conduct, and Aristotle tried to systematize them all. Plato in his "Politeia" ("Republic") and "Nomoi" ("Laws") tried to find out some rational arguments on which to build a "reasonable" ethics.

      But there is a fundamental conflict between "scientific reasoning" and "ethical reasoning" : Nature is what it is. But intentional and
      intelligent behavior is expressing freedom, not necessity. Animals may act "by necessity of the genes and the circumstances" to a large part,
      but humans are not. Humans may commit sucide or do something "for honour" etc.. Thus humans are not only interacting with outer "circumstances" but as much with inner ones. They are acting in a cultural frame of reference, not with a natural one. But this cultural frame of reference may not only contain "things and persons that are not there", but may contain mid- and long-term expectations total alien to animals. Animals may react to a person shouting around, but they never act with respect to a person that may shout around in, say, a weeks distance or even after ones death. But Socrates clearly was behaving with his afterlife on his mind, as he stated in the Phaedo.

      This means : To understand what is "reasonable" in humans, we have to know their complete inner world of references, which is not completely
      known to the outsider, not even to the acting person itself when we think of suppressed or unknown wishes in the sense of Freud. By this the
      concept of "reasonableness" becomes very difficult in humans. Much of what looks absurd to the observer may become quite meaningful if the
      hidden arguments of the actor become known. Humans seldom can be judged "from the situation", because we seldom know what "the situation" is.

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      contd. on Sep. 6, 2005 :

      You can't just sit down and "invent" physics. Not even the greatest genius can. Newton and Maxwell and Einstein needed some facts and some mathematics to do their impressive work. Why ? Because there are so many ways in the world, if you have not the slightest hint where to go you will be lost. That's the difference of true science to speculative pseudo-science : The pseudo-science is working out into grandiose
      systems some private ideas without any proven or provable relations to reality, to some hard facts. Of course you can do that, you can invent
      anything, but then it is a work of art, not of science. Science tries to explain what the facts are telling us about truth — whether in the case
      of Sherlock Holmes or in the case of Einstein. A work of art stands for itself and tries to tell its own truth. Thus even if you have invented a
      really good theory of some physical or social phenomena, you have to try to falsify your theory by checking it against some hard fact predicted
      by your theory.

      Remember "rationalistic" philosophy of 17th century Europe, i.e. Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and their followers. Not by coincidence the
      "empirist" school rose at the same time to fight "rationalistic arrogance" by stressing the need of "data". Finally Kant succeeded in combining the best work of both schools in his analytical study of the limits of any metaphysics.

      Then Hegel and Schopenhauer — while heavily opposed — did the next two important steps : Hegel demonstrated the essential "historicity" of our questions and answers. Questions are not just laying around out there waiting for some answer. Questions develop from certain problems which
      arise and fade away in the historical context. Schopenhauer saw a similar while different problem : Questions are not only historical in a social context but even in a private one. Every single mind is struggling with his private problems for a lifetime. What Schopenhauer (and Kierkegaard, one generation younger) were fighting in Hegel was the latter's tendency to speak for a whole world and a whole society. They insisted that truth is first and foremost a private concern : It's concerning my own life, not that of some generality. I have to come to terms with my own private fears and hopes, not with some general fears and hopes. It's me who is responsible for leading my life, not God or the generality.

      Thus against the thesis that there may be some truth out there they all said : "That may be, but what do I care ? If you are Rembrandt you are not a Roman painter of the 1st century AD but a Dutch painter of 17th century Holland. And if you are Rembrandt you are not Vermeer nor Hals. Thus it is quite meaningless to say that as a painter you can paint anything you want. No, you can't. If you are Rembrandt you only can and will paint what you paint as being Rembrandt — and nothing else." And of course the same applies with philosophy.

      Seen against this background, the concept of reason becomes blurred and difficult again : What is to be called reasonable is dependent on what
      you want to achieve, and what you want to achieve is dependent on the historical situation. We only can ask whether there are goals that are "wrong" from the beginning. But how to decide on this ?

      Well, you would not set the goal to become a murderer. If somebody becomes a murderer we call this person mad. But what if you earn a living by being a professional killer ? A killer does not kill by personal madness. Likewise a freedom-fighter does not. They are not "driven by inner forces they do not control", but they are "doing what is needed". Thus to evaluate we have to go one level of evaluation above this and ask : "Are there true and defendable goals that justify killing ?" This of course includes wars and "just wars" and death-penalty and abortions and euthanasia. This is a vast and difficult debate.

      But here we are at the core of the problem of "reason", seeing the whole spectre(sic!). To justify or refute any single act, we have to justify or to refute the whole historical and cultural context by which the meaning of this single act is defined. As long as only the technical side of some act it evaluated, arguments are straightforward. Even a murderer may ask what the most "reasonable" way of committing murder could be in a special situation. But one level above the question becomes whether committing murder is reasonable in the context of a life, and still one level above the context of a certain life may be questioned from some religious viewpoint etc.. Thus in the end we have to evaluate the whole model of man and society and culture under some overarching questions.

      We need a whole "historical anthropology of reason".

      And this is not the end of it, since there is "structuralistic" ethics and "doing something because it is the usual way to do it" (independent of whether it is "reasonable") and "symbolic actions" etc.. Thus there are realms of action that are thought to be "outside of reason" — and not only play. But this is much more to think it over, so I leave it for the moment.

      Hubertus

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    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (09/04/05 1:32 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Scientific knowledge and philosophical understanding

    Dear Charles,

    Your question is clear, therefore I referred to the scientific reason, which many philosophers have taken into account.

    However, as I said in my previous answers, the highest aspect of knowledge according to Plato and Aristotle is the philosophical understanding (noesis and nous respectively). Socrates renounces the scientific knowledge of his contemporary (Anaxagoras was not a naturalist, but a philosopher who introduced the dualism of intellect and matter, by the way) in Phaedo, while Plato in Politeia (Republic VI, 509d-511e) with the analogue of the line considers scientific knowledge (dianoia: thought) the first subsection of the knowledge (episteme) of the intelligible realm. The principles derived from these sciences, in the next stage of knowledge (understanding) one has to use them as hypotheses and not as principles, to enable him to step on in order to reach the unhypothetical first principle of all things (tou pantos archin). This is the dialectic method of Plato, therefore he considered philosophy the highest form of knowledge (episteme). Aristotle as well considered science the first step of knowledge and the second and highest is the comprehension (nous) through contemplation (theorein). Most of the Greek philosophers also took into account contemporary scientific knowledge.

    Therefore, I said that philosophy along with science could help one to reach the understanding the nature of all things. Science (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy, Medicine, Psychology etc.) throughout the history of mankind discovered many aspects out of the countless of the thing itself, and each scientist believed that he had just discovered the theory that can explain the nature of life. However, many theories were proved false, while many philosophical concepts and hypotheses of Plato and Aristotle were able to survive all scientific refutations until nowadays with their account still intact. This means to me that are closer to the nature of all things than any temporary, scientific discovery. Apart from that, signifies that philosophical reasoning (induction, deduction, consistent hypotheses, conclusions etc,) is prior to scientific principles since it includes them. There are many unanswerable questions in Sheldrake's theory, for example where this trend either for habit or for creation comes from, why the creation follows the way to perfection (better and higher organisms) and not the contrary, what is the nature of it, what is the nature of social sub consciousness, etc.? And by the way the fields (magnetic, electric etc.), are not void according to modern physics but sub-particles created and destroyed continuously in some trillionths of second.

    Philosophical reasoning then, in my opinion, cannot be endangered by any new scientific explanation, since the latter are referring to a part out of countless aspects of all things.

    Best regards

    Nikos

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/05/05 9:20 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Necessity of philosophical thinking.

      Nikos

      Thank you for clarifying Anaxagoras' position. I would now understand him as a pre scientific thinker and philosopher, not a naturalist.

      I think that Rupert Sheldrake is attempting to deal with some of the gaps left by absolute materialist thinking in his hypothesis of morphic resonance. Perhaps though Sheldrake hesitates to go all the way. He seems to be reluctant, despite his observations about the temporary and inconclusive nature of scientific discovery, to place his conclusions within a higher philosophical model. In looking for a 21st model of form, scientific method is obviously necessary. But the limitations of science should be acknowledged. There are not only limitations concerning the moral realm in scientific method. There are also limitations in science's establishment of the origin and parameters of the real world.

      Charles

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    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (09/11/05 1:43 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Scientific, historical and philosophical reasoning

    Dear Charles, Gerald and all participants,

    As Hubertus sent his statement and comments before he left, I would like to commend on that as an answer.

    At first, concerning the nature and animals which act by necessity of the genes while the human not, as I said, to live in accordance with human nature is not to live like animals. A man has the potentiality to act in accordance with virtue through prudence, but the animals not, since they don't possess reason. Then what is natural to a man is not natural to the animals. Virtuous actions presuppose choice, deliberation and noble ends in advance, and certainly are related to a cultural frame of reference.

    However, this neither means that every action after choice and deliberation is virtuous nor that every habitual action for the universal good is virtuous. Vice according to Aristotle is after choice and deliberation as well. Action under compulsion or the influence of passion (ignorance) is not the same as the action after choice and deliberation. Action according habitual adoption of false preconception is not considered to be virtuous either.

    Apart from that, the historical and cultural frame of reference is not prior or higher to the universal values. Even the masters of historical reason (Hegel, Marx etc.) took for granted some universal values, which are beyond space and time. Therefore, I said that through philosophical contemplation one could understand the value of the universal goods, appropriate for the human nature.

    Science is not useful only for avoiding the superstitious beliefs (false preconceptions), but also for understanding the nature of all things. As I said, the principles derived from sciences (history as well) can be used through deduction as hypotheses to reach the first principle of all. Philosophical understanding then includes these principles, which means Ontology is higher than Psychology and Sociology. Universal values are prior to common values of a certain community of a certain era (space and time). This is the value of the Greek philosophers, who after having taken into account the scientific reasoning and through philosophical contemplation established some moral standards beyond space and time, and not only systematization of different rules of culture. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no conflict between scientific and ethical reasoning, since the nature of man (free choice and deliberation) is different from the nature of the animal (necessity of the instincts).

    There are always some moral standards who remain the same and don't change throughout the history of mankind, and some that are dependent on the certain space and time. The latter are conditional but the first remain always. For example to kill a relative after choice and deliberation in order to inherit his wealth has always been an act of vice. To kill someone in order to defend your country has always been a virtuous action. To kill under compulsion or for survival, or under the influence of anger or passion — which indicates ignorance — has always been different from killing after choice and deliberation for a personal advantage. However, to kill a slave or another inferior being, this is dependent on the historical reason of a certain society. There comes the argument of conditional ethics according to the values and the ends of a certain community.

    Of course each one is unique, and every era is different but there are always some common principles, which can be applied to different forms of the same trends. And apart from that, there is always the potentiality of choosing freely, something which is beyond the necessity and the determination of being Rembrandt. There comes the free choice and deliberation to transform through reasoning the potential (dynamei) into the actual (entelecheia).

    I look forward to some comments from the other participants as well.

    Best regards

    Nikos

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    FROM: Michael Ward (10/06/05 8:16 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Philosophy a dying way of Life

    Hello readers,

    Firstly welcome to the new participants Balaganapathi and Pooja.

    I'm going to address the Philosophy a way of Life statement upon which these messages are founded.

    Having practised a philosophical approach to life for some time now I find myself very depressed. There is a growing apathy amongst people at large, at least in my direct experience, to put much effort into anything. In particular there is great reluctance to attempt anything that is either mentally challenging or requires critical self examination.

    Charitable and philanthropic organisations seem to be on a progressive decline which seems almost inversely proportional to the increase in intolerance and the pursuit of a hedonistic life style.

    If philosophy isn't addressing the issues people are facing in their daily lives and offering at worst consolation and at best solutions then what kind of life are we philosophers living? Are we really anything more than a bunch of anoraks engaging in our own techno babble even if we came up with some life altering idea who in the great wide world would be in the least interested in listening about it.

    Here is an example: a few nights ago our philosophy group met and we discussed the issues relating to two families recently in the news here in the UK who both were single mothers with sixteen children receiving well over a thousand pounds a week in benefits.

    We all agreed it wasn't an acceptable situation and came up with many improvements to the welfare system. But where it stopped, and always does, is raising the awareness of this type of dilemma with people in that situation and challenging them to balance their rights versus their obligations to the society they live in. If we cannot do simple things like this then where is the future for philosophy except as a niche interest amongst a group of well meaning nerds.

    Socrates went out amongst the people, challenging their ideas which both irritated and confused them what are we doing?

    Perhaps we should re-title the discussion:- Philosophy a dying way of Life

    Michael Ward

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Gerald Boone (10/08/05 8:04 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: Philosophy a dying way of Life

      With regret I have to agree with most everything you wrote. The problem with the apathy modren culture exhibits towards philosophy I believe has been explained by Ivan Illich who spoke of the modren educational system and Noam Chomsky as he wrote of the media.We who value philosophy also contribute to its demise when we use overly complex language simply to impress or viciously attack those whom we disagree with. There is a desert of new ideas simply because of the fear involved in presenting original ideas. We hide behind "professional" philosophers. We hide behind our complex and many words. We need to create an enviroment where original ideas are examined and if disagreed with, disagreed politely. We need to apply philosophy to the study of common questions that affect all of us.

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Gerald Boone (10/09/05 7:48 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Everyone a Philosopher

    Perhaps the following brief article I wrote will illistrate how everyone is compelled to be a philosopher wither they know it or not.

    The Meaning of Life
    Ask a person what the Meaning of Life is and you will likely get a blank stare....or worse you will get a parroted answer created by people the person speaking has never met.
    Few care about such esotaric philosophy. Most live entire life never caring what the meaning of life is. Perhaps we should care since we all answer the question what is the meaning of life everyday.... not with words...but rather by our behavior. If you spend a majority of each day shouting at people, shouting at people is what you are spending your life doing. You live to shout at people. Shouting at people is your meaning of life. When you die that is what people will remember about you, how you always shouted at people. We can be known for good, we can be known for evil, the responsibility for who we truely are and what we really represent lies upon us and us alone.
    How we choose to live our life is the working text of the script the meaning of life. We write that text daily. If we take an honest look at ourselves and find we don't like the text we are reading...we can change the text.

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Nikolaos Bakalis (10/13/05 2:09 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Challenging the modern values

    Hello participants,

    Welcome to the new participants Bala and Pooja. I agree with the spiritual aspect of Indian philosophy as well as with the philosophy as management of life and the accomplishment of one's duties.

    However, Michael goes further and examines the problem of the apathy to the social awareness. Yes Michael, I agree with you, there is a real problem, the most of people don't want to know anything either about the suffering of their fellow men or about themselves, and they avoid the pain and the difficulties, because they pursue the easy and the pleasant. We have to realize that we live in a world of egoistic and hedonistic values. But before one faces the problem and offers solutions, first he must examine the roots of the problem.

    I firstly agree with Gerald that is a matter of education and the media. As I said in my previous comments, each one of us has adopted some false preconceptions (prolepses), due to his upbringing. After the continuous repetition of these attitudes they become our character. These false preconceptions prompt us to be egoistic, to pursue the pleasure, to care only about the material things (money, power, fame etc.), like the philosophers of Gerald's example, and to despise the common good.

    These values of the pursuit of the personal advantage and pleasure one can challenge in the system of education (Schools, parents' education etc.), in the media, in the consumer society, and anywhere else where they are promoted. We have to convince those who we want to listen to us, that we the human beings have not only senses but also CAN have intellect, understanding, sympathy, virtues etc., and if each one of us takes care only for his personal advantage we shall return to our apish jungle. We have to distinguish the short term from the long term advantageous, and to realize that the short-term personal advantageous turns out to be disadvantageous. And first of all we have to be able to reach the people that we want to convince them.

    In this way I can see a prospect of the problem, which Michael is addressing.

    Nikos Bakalis

      REPLIES (1):

    • FROM: Gerald Boone (10/16/05 2:57 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: Challenging the modern values

      Thinking is discouraged in many venues. My daughter is homeschooled (my wife was a teacher in the school system). What I hear fairly often from my daughter is " Dad I asked the same question from my teacher when I went to public school, I was told to keep quiet and do my work, I'm glad you and Mom do your best to help me find anwsers to my questions". I think we live in a society which is taught to keep quiet and do their work. Lifetimes are wasted satisfying the physical, doing the ordinary and never ever asking why. This is one of the few places I have found where important questions of existance are explored, questions asked, and diversity of opinion respected and encouraged.

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: Gerald Boone (11/30/05 9:28 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    The Moral Evolution of Man

    I propose that there has been a moral evolution of man. As the centuries have progressed so has the capacity of man to treat his fellow man with respect. Slavery while still a practice is at least not a state sanctioned practice. The acceptance as equals of persons of divergent racial background has improved. The rights of women have improved.

    The League of Nations, and latter the United Nations has been adopted by most nations. The concept that nations should settle disputes through diplomacy rather than war is a first. A desire to solve disputes through diplomacy rather than bloodshed; this is a milestone for the moral evolution of man.

    These thoughts are nothing new and fit well inside the philosophy commonly called, "Humanism". What question I ask is perhaps new: "Has the moral evolution of man reached a plateau?" "Will the moral evolution of man actually regress?"

    Evolution in nature is due to natural selection. Evolution in nature is due to science. Evolution in nature must necessarily move forward. Evolution of society is not based upon science. Society chooses how it wishes to proceed. Society may or may not continue to evolve. Regression of past developmental advances is possible.

    Often there is the misconception that mankind develops morally as he develops technologically. Granted some technological adveances, especially in medicine have been of great benefit. However the same science that cured disease has produced weapons. Technology is neutral when it comes to moral development, it neither helps or hinders. We need a measure different than technology to determine if we are becomining a society with a greater moral conscience. I would argue that the measure of morality has to be the ablity of persons to live in peace, to have mutual respect and to have some level of cooperation which is mutually beneficial.

    Why care about the moral evolution of man? Well simply put the future of all life on the planet depends upon the moral choices each society makes: "Should a nation without nuclear weapons seek to develop them?" "Should a nation that has a stockpile of nuclear wweapons use them?" "Can the nations agree to reduce green house gas emissions?" "Will the moral milestone of the Geneva Convention become something of the past?" All the important questions are being asked now.

    Politicians are a relection of the society they represent. Politicians may legislate guns instead of butter but it is the society they represent that voted them into office.

    You can't blame the political leaders. The moral evolution of man either foreward or backward is dependent upon the philosophical presuppositions a majority of society embraces as their own. Politicians usually legislate what a majority of the people want or feel they need. The opinions of the politcian are known before they are elected, what they will do is predictable, the people decide who best represents their views. Hence the views of you and I are what determines how our particular society is known. The values the society embraces will become the policy the politicians adopt.

    We the people are the ones responsible for detemining the moral evolution of man. We choose to move foreward or backward.

      REPLIES (10):

    • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (12/08/05 2:32 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: The Moral Evolution of Man

      Dear Gerald,

      well yes, I think you are right on this one point : There seem to be some institutions — as f.i. slavery — and some forms of behaviour — as f.i. beheading or whipping people in the marketplace — which are no more acceptable in the Western world of today. Even the Nazis did not dare to openly admit to the killing of the Jews. They did it clandestine in the concentration camps and tried to keep a silence. At the same time they tried to justify their killings as "needed", and in a famous speech the head of the special personnel doing the killings, Heinrich Himmler, lauded those in charge as heroes for doing "what was needed" even against feelings of shame and remorse.

      Thus we have two different problems here : Behaving and admitting. F.i. the Roman Church is absolutely opposed to abortion, as are the "pro lifers". They see it in the light of Nazi concentration-camps as something which could and should not be admitted to, because it is downright murder of innocent children. Well, I don't think that this is as simple, and even many religious people don't. But at least it makes the difference of "doing and admitting" very clear.

      There is another problem : Some people call the dropping of the Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 a criminal act of terrorism. But then they should call the bombing of Tokyo and Dresden in the springtime of that same year likewise "criminal", because not only the number of dead was about the same in all four cases, but it really does not matter too much whether you are burning from some chemicals or from the heat of an atomic bomb.

      And one more aspect : The same persons who dropped the nuclear and non-nuclear bombs killing and maiming many thousands in only some hours would not have dared to kill a single person with a knife. They never felt as "murderers" or "killers", but as "soldiers on duty."

      And then we have a new problem : Today intentional killing or even neglecting severely handicapped persons of old age or early babies is called a crime, the crime of "euthanasia". But 100 years ago those people would not have lived anyway, because the technical means to keep them alive would have lacked. Thus by what standard do we call this a gain ? "Primitive" people look quite proper without ailing or crippled members in their group. This is not because they live "more natural" like the hippies, but because they are neither able nor willing to care for those who cannot care for themselves. But would or should we call the behaviour of those "primitives" criminal ?

      Still another point : Albert Schweitzer in his memorabilia wrote on the blacks attending his clinic in Lambarene at the Ogove, that they lacked an idea of "common humanity". They felt obliged to members of the same tribe or family, but not to other humans generally. The concept of a general humanity obliging all humans entered Western thinking around 200 BC by some Stoic philosophers. From this the Christian idea of universal brotherhood and sisterhood then derived. It was a revolution !

      You write : //Politicians usually legislate what a majority of the people want or feel they need. The opinions of the politcian are known before they are elected, what they will do is predictable, the people decide who best represents their views.//This is not generally true. Hitler has been elected not even by an absolute majority of the Germans but only by a relative majority. And he has not been elected for killing the Jews or leading the Germans into a World War. If the Germans in 1933 would have thought either of this possible, they NEVER would have elected Hitler. Hitler has been elected for goals that looked quite sensible not only to the Germans, but even to — of all persons — Churchill, who congratulated the Germans to such a good leader. Churchill and many other political leaders were as much deceived by Hitler as the German electorate.

      Often people do not know what they are doing or up to. See the article

      http://www.tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=w051205&s=stuntz120605 on this.

      (If you cannot open it, then let me know, I will send you the text.)

      And who is to decide on the "nuclear stockpiles" ? People are full of fears. The regimes of North Korea and of Iran are well aware that they could not stand a "conventional" assault of the USA any more than Iraq or Afghanistan could. So they try to get at nuclears to feel secure, because if you have nuclear warheads on long range rockets the price for any aggressor would be prohibitive. This is "rational behaviour". And in both cases it is not a decision of the people, since the people in Iran or in North Korea is not asked on its opinion any more than the German people was asked by Hitler or the Russian people by Lenin or Stalin. Thus the peoples are not deciding anything in such cases.

      The best things to happen today could be globalization and the internet : Both means are forcing the leaders and their bunch everywhere to admit to evil intentions and to be interested in international gains. If it does not pay to behave like a villain you may refrain from being one. By using the internet and economic means the international community is trying to put the villains under pressure. But from the examples of Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro you see how frustrating this can be. Such persons simply ignore the needs of their peoples in the same way as Hitler and Stalin did.

      On the general trend to a more "civilized" behaviour see the work of Norbert Elias (1897-1990), a German sociologist (see http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Norbert_Elias).

      You write : //What question I ask is perhaps new: "Has the moral evolution of man reached a plateau? Will the moral evolution of man actually regress?"//

      From what I wrote above you see that the question is not quite up to the problems. "Progress is a hydra : if you chop one problem there will be seven new ones instead."

      There is a fundamental paradox of progress : If you stay content and frugal and refrain from progress and instead live on by the way of shepherds and farmers and fishermen, you may live this way into all eternity. But if you enter the way of "progress" you will never know where to stop, because there will never be a "natural" end — the word "end" here understood in both readings : As a goal and as a stop. Plato must have felt this paradox when in his last work, the Nomoi ("Laws"), he tells us (in the 3rd book) of many deluges and firestorms and other catastrophes that have killed most humans many times over in the past and always allowed for a new beginning in the form of a modest life of just those frugal shepherds and farmers and fishermen I spoke of above. Thus he is saying : "Forget about any progress. The one and only way to be a good and reasonable human in a good and reasonable society is to keep to the simple life." This — in a modified form — is not different from the ideas of Rousseau or Marcuse and the Hippies, or of the "Island" in Aldous Huxley's last novel. It is the deepest and most difficult argument of all critique of modernity and progress.

      I personally don't share this view. I think we should go ahead. But this means that our future is open. And I have an argument here : To be content means to be innocent of possible futures, to live "before the fall". But man is living "after the fall", he is obsessed with thinking of his future and of other things beyond the here and now. As long as man is free and full of phantasy he will dream of wonderful things — of kingdoms and dragons and princesses etc. — beyond the horizon. He will not sit idle for long, just keeping to the "good old ways of the fathers."

      And what does "regression" mean ? Darwin rightly did not speak of "survival of the best" but of "survival of the fittest". Thus on a stormy island it will be better for birds and insects to have only rudimentary wings to be not blown away. And this in fact happens. Should we call this "regression" ?

      Perhaps in this paradoxical world it can be a cause of extinction to be too bright or to be too much concerned with moral "goodness" ? Nietzsche thought so. Suppose all humans become saintly and stop having sexual intercourse, since saintly persons generally refrain from "lower passions". Then all of humankind would be extinct in a few generations from being saintly — and not from throwing nuclear bombs. And if our western mathematicians and physicists had been less bright and not invented quantum mechanics and relativity theory there would be no atom bombs and no population bombs and the survival of humankind would be much more probable.

      Thus you see : Your problem is full of paradoxes.

      Sincerely Hubertus

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/15/06 11:14 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: The Moral Evolution of Man

      I do agree that it is realized (vis- the united nations, world humanitarianisms) that society cannot proceed with out respect for and consideration of others-their suffering, joys, good and evils. However, I believe that empathy as guiding light does not reflect the real lesson, it is only a component tangential to moral enlightenment. The actual maintaining force of social evolution, is in the free and independent thinking of citizen to develop his own reasoning. A gangster knows simple good from bad, might vote very consciously with respect to humanitarianism issues, have good sense and feeling about others, but a society of gangsters is not the same as a society of priests and nuns nor the same as a society that does want you or your elected politicians to do what mommy and daddy did and never spoke of. Each of these cases describes a consenting and non general group. A crowd defined with respect to and I think no different in meaning to the crowd referred to in "don't go along with the crowd", "everybody's doing it", "don't be a member of the group", "crime doesn't pay". A redefining of god removes him from our lives in manner akin to worshiping the value Pi (3.14159) verses respect for the natural directions of nature. The real issue is diversity, a "think for-your-self" society can drown if everyone thinks for himself the same thing whether good or bad, right or wrong, or well intended, as the world is, regardless of the lines and categories we intellectually create, a place of everything that is different from everything else like an egg that on first division divides unequally so that each and every offspring of it is different from the other. Any other world is exactly neutral in energy like a dam with the levels equal on both sides. Any grouping of likes effecting things in a like way grows into recession -repression of the soul itself. Jokingly, I wouldn't mind -could possibly feel mores secure if all the gangsters got on a boat for Tim-buck-too, but the world left behind might not work well. The busing of blacks to middle class schools doesn't always work. The moving of salts and minerals from one place to an other can cause terrible problems over time. The most ridiculous act I have heard of is of the conjectured use of a type of bacteria to make batteries(they are abundant we can grow millions of them that nature would not miss-they have no feeling, free will-yet their growth in the wild is naturally regulated(for some reason or they would all turn into batteries to drive light bulbs)- they put more energy into the food chain just living and dying, as could any named united groups of people if (as I suppose many of would prefer than the demands of participation ) if they fed themselves and slept the rest of the time.
      The bottom line of this is that mathematical additions, the solutions of the masses really require only a diverse set of self-found resolve, a diverse million micro resolutions . Ethical standards are useless without it. Dependence on science(especially science with questioned ethics-worse than a society of gangsters that know right from wrong)) can cause depression and failure in a like way.

    • FROM: Michael Ward (11/16/06 8:29 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: The Moral Evolution of Man

      Hi,

      Some comments on the previous two postings;

      The destiny of societies is internally determined by who is in charge and externally by nature, although recently through science people have gained the ability to overcome more and more natural catastrophes.
      It's easily conceivable today that everyone could have a say on any social decision being sought without the need to resort to elected politicians or any political party type systems. The question then is would society naturally progress or regress.

      My fear is that morality and ethics would regress as decisions are more likely made upon emotional preferences (which are hardly durable or consistent) rather than principles.

      I didn't understand the objection (if that's what it was) to batteries from bacteria. Any form of energy to sustain life involves early death that's the food chain is it not?

      Regards

      Mike

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/16/06 2:15 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: Marvin's reply to mike

      Dear Mike: about your comment "Any form of energy to sustain life involves early death that's the food chain is it not?"
      I have two types of thoughts:
      -one is scientific- energy to sustain life does not come as an expense to life. For example the energy that runs a battery is chemical and does not involve the living begining to end or have to involve fossil fuel which comes from the dead.
      You can make a battery at home with some coca-cola and two pieces of metal-copper and zinc or lead. Put the metals in separate containers, a wire to each-fill the cells with coca -cola and connect the liquids with a wire it the cola solutions ..and you can get enough energy to atleast run a watch.
      The electric in houses can come from a lot of places-dams, wind, gasoline or oil-fossil fuels, natural gas etc. Food we eat can involve the slaughter of animals (i.e early death), but we can also eat other things (plants etc). But we are not taking from thing to do another. Nature is aplace of things of high energy )like the top of a dam of water) and low(like the bottom). Living things are unique in that they have a skin that filters and exchanges with the outside. Within the skin things are built from energy taken in. And things are maintained because they ware and tare with age and use. Living things maintain an order that is higher that the random environment in which they dwell.
      Thus their is not a way for living things to get order by taking the order(by deceasing life span)of other animals. When other animals die their corpses do have chemical energy, but the possible energy a livng thing can get from the dead, does not sacrifice life time or span of the other. Is not a borrowed time like situation?

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/16/06 3:37 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: marvin reply 2 for Mike

      The sense of a borrowed time comes from the fact that it is possible for man to damage nature-ruin the ecology balances that are grown and tested with time over eons with his heavy hand and machinery. There are more things in the air and water than we know of and even a constructed dam to get energy from the gravity of falling water can cause other changes that work against us. In this sense the extraction of energy from nature gets billed back to us.
      My criticism on the use of bacteria to make batteries, with these ideas in mind, is the ultimate example of blunt lack of commonsense, practicality, and vast expense that is not obvious but reflective of the general attitude in todays science. With respect to energy efficiency-without looking it up in a library or tables of biochemical reactions, I can easily say in terms of the ridiculousness of the idea, that eating the bacteria(or some other bacteria if those are not edible) give folds more energy to mankind than makeing batteries out of any living thing, as the energy that comes to living things, that the process to build and maitain themselves is not very efficient in terms of the type of energy chemicals are composed of. The bacteria intended for the batteries have to get the energy themselves togrow and be batteries from food they ingest. This energy in the food they ingest has first to be used to build the bacteria , drive it's machinery.....is so totally ludicrous to consider to plan to do something like this,that the project becomes suspect(as all projects are basically oriented to solve problems) that the scientists involved have some anticipated(I think of habit of their study-unconsciuosly evolved perspective on things) to need to find energy this way(this way which amounts to the DUNE novel of Herbert of drinking the blood of the dead for liquids). A look what might o or is possible(batterys made of life), the proposal of it, can be very tell taleing of a false truth guiding science. Living things are esentially batterys, but very few students have a very broad perspective in their study to know this or the sense of using batterys to feed batterys. I as a past graduate student can envision myself with such creative thinking, but it is half complete. I thought once ,to use muscle proteins, which can be cause to swirl in solution, and plant proteins to make the ATP needed, to drive a toy train from light a s a potential source of power. I thought the application would be from corpses and decay, a little like getting energy froma sewer-this though sounding more practical than the directed purpose of breeding bacteria to make energy, and is more ethical (than the tampering of living things mechanically) is probably not practical for the same reason of efficiency -input of materials and ordered things for output. Might tell us something in a lab if it could work, but it is hard to rationalize a broad application. I do not know why scientists insist on this(now we have bacteia that generate a potential voltage in our labs-why do we need to use them for energy-if we understand our studies we do not have such a question(bugging us?)...from the unspoken facits and wisdoms of the study). We need to get our heads together-the absolute survival of civilization I do no think needs all this science-we create the extra baggage ourselves that demands a need for its support-what is the difference of not making batterys out of our natural support and needs for our needs, not cloning genes to change dog ears into frogs, thriving off of the liquids of the dead ..is still a downwards trip whether we have made the mistake or not..a half full glass should not be emptied as if an alcoholic with his last bottle of booze.
      A last though I have on this from your statement is about why am I here, do I owe for it? Who or what do I owe for it? The mean guy across the street who shouts at me all day? The clouds because they have to get newmoisture after the rain to rain again. Yourself, have to plow the fields to grow the food that fertilizes the soil that supports the balances that make the clouds, and the clouds rain to support the fields...... Is just a gift requiring only, for instance, as a guest in a strangers house that you do not mess up the carpet, ruin the lawn and water. Things, that in the doing require an assertive energy, batterys made from the fibers of the carpet or the blades of the grass, won't cover up-conceal-or replace the damage.

    • FROM: Michael Ward (11/16/06 3:56 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: Marvin's reply to mike

      Marvin,

      Only the lower life forms use chemical or light energy after that it's one species feeding on another (animal and/or vegetable). Both you and I are also in a symbiotic relationship with other life forms which both feed upon and within us generally in a state of some equilibrium.

      If we produce a voltage from either photovoltaic cells or bacteria I see no meaningful difference do you?

      I agree that life represents order in an increasingly disordered universe but to both do and maintain this it takes energy. It's no surprise to me that that the larger the brain the more the energy demand which can only be met from higher nutritional input if every waking hour is not to be spent gathering food. In short carnivores are us.

      Is there another aspect to this for you?

      Regards

      Mike

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/16/06 9:45 PM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: reply to mike

      Dear Mike: Regardless of higher or lower on the evolutionary scale, all iving things obey the same laws of order(entropy laws that ultimately say that the energy of the universe tends towards equal distribution with the limit at no work going all, no potential differences, anywhere and a constant temperature. Livng things are unique in that they are machines that do the opposite-they create order rather than disorder as all things are trended. It doesnt matter how evolved any life form is it is a machine that works within vast opposition. Simple elements that form for instance a voltaic are not assemblies-they start with a certain amount of energy and go down hill from there. It would be very in efficient to use living things to chemical(electrical) energy. The order they maintain-essentially against the flow of things reuqires a vast amount of energy to maintain far in excess of its possible output. to create a voltage. From a more universal frame of reference using them this way takes from the energy available for the order in all other living things-gets billed back in a wya that simple chemical voltaic cells do not charge(excuse the pun) the rest for. They do not have to maintain a living order and a vast energy boundary with the environment-they just troll down hill instead of being stationery-stationery, akin to using the force of gravity on the ball rather than relase froma change in state of a fast trip to a new level. In essense ,it would be like cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Whether lower cells or whole animals the outcome is the same. The application of free will involves he learning of all the possible route while on the hill and it would be like using the forces of life giving us what we define as our souls, to generate energy for the utility companies. How many men do you think it would take to turn a crank to supply london with electricity.. There would be no people living in civilizaton after a while.
      It is very difficult to make the connection between the work of bacteria and that of men, but essentially(taking from energy balances that maintain living states) we would be harnessing a part of ourselves like trying to fly without an airplane of lifting ourselves by the bootstraps.

    • FROM: Michael Ward (11/17/06 4:00 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: Souls and Entropy

      Marvin,

      I appreciate that life reduces entropy locally but in the greater cosmic scale entropy is increasing disorder with the ultimate cold death of everything. Well at least if you buy into that theory. What then of entropy if the universe started to contract would it reduce and would order return?

      Let us also consider there could be a life form which could live anywhere and it expanded to it's limits. Would it have limits in terms of universal energy balance and how would that overall effect entropy?

      Finally, you said forces of life giving us what we define as our souls I am unsure as to how you see this. For myself I would see it as similar to the force of the wind you can see the effects but we all know that there is no intentionality behind the force of the wind. Is this the way you see it or is this force of life purposeful?

      Regards

      Mike

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/17/06 11:25 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: mike from marvin

      Dear Mike: I do appreciate your questions. I take the view as a concept before I say what I think that if for instance the word infinity is part of our description of things, then it is a part of the universe and not a property of it. For example-you can call the universe -what we know of to be a place of trees and roots and branches. But 'is a place of' does not mean it a root and branches- itself. The question is almost absurd to think that there is something else beyond this (place of trees)-the question has no meaning to life, no instinctual motivation for the question. Yet we come across referal to beginning in science referals for some indirect direction, tangent. So in the middle, between this fact and the ensueing branched roots of science pursuit there is a fallacy in thought that has a topic science vs religion, creation vs evolution. Inthemeaning of evolution we can only say scientifically-evolved from a point-changes occured of which we have gather some scientific description-maybe of evena mechanism. Am exact start- i.e came totally about from evolution is beyond sceince logic.
      You asked about the forces of the soul. I do not really think it can be quantated scientifically, only described in terms of contents and container-the world a container-its' contents exactly defined by it. If one canthinkof all the possible routes, paths decisions that come from the survivals of the past-the whole contents of which there is nothing beyond-our souls might be said to be(even with our saying so a part of the soul and from whence it came) to be a composite of this -near infinite to comprehend or quantitate-continuous as there is nounoccupied space in the container. Perhaps, as inthe power struggels injustices that exclude women and persecuted women in history maybe the word justify-cornering-power struggle have us eseeing differently

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/17/06 11:25 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: mike from marvin

      Dear Mike: I do appreciate your questions. I take the view as a concept before I say what I think that if for instance the word infinity is part of our description of things, then it is a part of the universe and not a property of it. For example-you can call the universe -what we know of to be a place of trees and roots and branches. But 'is a place of' does not mean it has a root and branches- itself. The question is almost absurd to think that there is something else beyond this (place of trees)-the question has no meaning to life, no instinctual motivation for the question. Yet we come across referal to beginning in science referals for some indirect direction, tangent. So in the middle, between this fact and the ensueing branched roots of science pursuit there is a fallacy in thought that has a topic science vs religion, creation vs evolution. In the meaning of evolution we can only say scientifically-evolved from a point-changes occured of which we have gather some scientific description-maybe of even a mechanism. An exact start?-i.e came totally about from evolution is beyond sceince logic.
      You asked about the forces of the soul. I do not really think it can be quantated scientifically, only described in terms of contents and container-the world a container-its' contents exactly defined by it. If one canthinkof all the possible routes, paths, decisions that come from the survivals of the past-the whole contents of which there is nothing beyond-our souls might be said to be(even with and including our saying so, a part of the soul and from whence it came) to be a composite of this -near infinite to comprehend or quantitate-continuous as there is no unoccupied space in the container. Perhaps, as inthe power struggels injustices that exclude women and persecuted women in history maybe the word justify-cornering-power struggle have us seeing differently

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: marvin kirsh (11/27/06 5:06 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    The Exchange of Ideas

    To Charles-RE: The exchange of ideas

    Dear Charles-I agree that exchange of ideas between cultures is essential. What is added by computer is a decreased time interval -spontaneity. This is ok in most cass as any two elements in most case are reflective with respect to action. Things do go slowly in history though and the real truth is never known. Two minds (or a million minds)can be worse than one. Consider this the types of communications between ourselves. They have a certain philosophical quality to them -the arguments themselves are always valid or seek validity. Truth and validity, or the discussion of one or the other is not the same thing. A kink to the slow workings of time is the talking nose-it short circuits intellectuals revolution- of Hegels immediate sense learning , no matter the nature, lifetime, or applied wisdom's- of ,an always, approximation of the world, of a limited tunnel view of which the more exacting, mathematically appealing and fitting to valid test results, the more dangerous-when two parties agree to solutions to problems that involves science and the forces of nature-especially elemental, very theoretical type forces and science theory. Scientists forget that certainty of 100 percent is never possible, they believe their data and ideas-it doesn't matter on the majority of consensus. Even worse than this is the bad use for military purposes-always works out logically to be unethical and eats away at us psychologically-though we always find justification-real understanding of the nature of truth, science- religion, history creates a more formidable intellectual and instinctual barrier to these actions. These are the real types things that are essential in the exchange of ideas. Technology, medical, discourses I believe instead, result is a loss of total diversity as a final result. Diversity, has a maximum and best rate of change-absolute beneficial limits that can be short circuited in a matter akin what happens when there is excessive crossbreeding, no isolation and incubation to produce stable new combinations.

    I think this is all known and understood up to he point of the causation of psychological auto immune like disturbance-for your bread you must design weapons, clone animals-is an absolute disease causing indoctrination from simple mental application that spreads into behavior, is passed onto offspring as one route of its' social and historical effects ,less the resulting terribleness of the consequences, which again feeds back to cause those to seek and find more solutions with the same method. This paints a picture of a slow abortion process-everything downhill instead of up-sometimes the same persons or ideas cannot fix what they break-especially if those persons actions cause a decreased variation from which new hands and ideas are not found. Altogether, this description is of something with second rate of change -changes faster over time like a geometrical progression starting with a number unequal to one -and by definition leads down hiil(gets very large or very small). After early times of civilization, the idea to include notions of a void in science theory, all of our ideas and equations never have limits of one -they are either zero or infinity,zero=infinity where diversity is concerned as diversity has finite limit (depending on the (though unknowable starting point) to a tangible starting amount that is not zero or infinity-is the same in description as a descriptive "one". Zeros and infinities should fall out of our equations-exist in reality on both sides of the equals which are written slanted-offset to have filtered over history into our thinking and the way we absolutely perceive he world.(a scientist could have reasoned to write these kind of equations easily, confusing a seed of motion-impetus with a void within what exists that he directly perceives). In the dark a oneness to all things, life and matter-the universe- is not apparent- requires a second sense learning-is perceived very far beyond the intellect as illogical unamendable to science, not on the surface of reflection or nearby it, that instinctually it is ignored to the limit of its' exclusion from the tools of reason. If not for the investigations in to the life sciences, and the progress, (today we are in a stage of frustration to connect the physical sciences with the life sciences)

    I WOULD HAVE NO RAY OF HOPE AT ALL FOR THE SURVIVAL OF ANYTHING IF NOT FOR THE SIMPLE EXISTENCE OF A BASICALLY SUCCESSFUL LIFE SCIENCES AND A KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXISTENCE OF UNKNOWNS F AN UNREOLVED DICHOTOMY ARISING FROM THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES(I.E HOW CAN I ACCOUNT FOR BIOLOGICAL LIFE WITH QUANTUM MECHANICS?-

    LIKE THE EXISTENCE OF A STERILE REGION IN A QUICKLY SPREADING INFECTION.

    The problem: all attempts at equations look like one=one- are very simple in relations to the complexities we have created ourselves resembling "I think therefore I am" which is already written; involves all the "baby" sciences(many of which, like psychology are very disorganized without a universal agreement that exists in the physical sciences) and the truth cannot be found without a universal notion to include both; it is also very discouraging and involves extensive economic loss vs total loss if human behaviors do not change radically.

    IT(THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM) ARE UNKNOWN/UNELUCIDATED WITH RESPECT TO THE REMAINEDER, PETTY IRREGULAR-LIGHTLY PERCEIVED -CONNECTIONS AND APPEARING INSTABILITIES THAT ARE IGNORED IN LIEU OF ESTABLISHED AND TESTED PILLARS; IS NOT A COMMONLY KNOWN LESSON-THAT THE WHOLE AS FAR AS TOTAL COMMON EXPERIENCE IS ALWAYS ONE-TODAY'S KNOWLEDGE OF THIS IS AT THE FRINGES, IN THE MATHEMATICAL AREAS OF INQUIRY.

    How does a chromosome appear to condense when pulled on?, how do species traits not always follow expectation, what is the purpose of reverse transcription(things from outside getting established in the genes)-imprinting-dynamics of survival that do not appear linearly directed, inorder with time, what are nanomaterials -surface reactions in relation-are nanomaterials things one their way uphill or down -(or are some just testing dangerous and explained as so from the known models-are they always naturally exisiting-can a balance be affected from our utilization of them -what is classified as nanomaterials-are all of those classified or suspicious as, of the same characteristic or like heroin is to a drug addict i.e a relieving but defeating technical solution.

    -----------------------------------------------

    FROM: sina royaee (01/28/07 1:51 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    countless way

    Hi!
    One can ask which philosophy you mean? Which life's perspective are you talking about, what do you mean by WAY? Of course discourse's doors cannot be closed by plurality of definitions of philosophy and life but these doors can increase the plurality as well ineffectively! What determines the substantial elements for each of subjects of this discussion is what we commonly understand of them. Obviously each philosopher has dream about the essence of philosophy and life. Let's think about countless subject matter of philosophy as its only advantage to science. Is it imaginable an epoch when the countless things itself can be countable? Science itself cannot predict its future. How could man imagine life expectancy as a countable category?

    It seems what we call countless aspects of life is what we regard as useless nature of it. A narrow edge of life that is not accessible without reflecting on inutility moments of life. Moments that computation is not imaginable. In Heidegger's language we always already fascinate. We cannot count something because we cannot define a utility in its character. Therefore countless seems to be equal to inutility; If we are lucky we can learn this lesson from philosophy as substantial character and the original way of life. Philosophy illustrates an aspect of life which our common regard of philosophy cannot culture it Devoid the contents of what dealing with, philosophical tasks have separate identity which is what we as a learner of philosophy, really desire from life.

    In Metaphysic, Aristotle describes philosopher as most similar human to God because both are not bearing in mind any utility in their knowledge. Since philosophy and creation have no utility in their nature. The counterpart between countless and inutility is questionable if we don't reflect on mysterious manifestation of the second.

    Best regards
    Sina Royaee

      REPLIES (2):

    • FROM: marvin kirsh (03/06/07 3:36 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: countless way

      To Sina: I like your thoughts about this. One can ask a lot of questions:
      1) Do we get better at counting the more we count?
      2) How does what we count change if it does?
      3) Can we count on inutility?
      4) Is seeking a number of which itself has a confusing utility? Wanting does not give pleasure...having does. So what is the utility in seeking? And we still seek with an intuition that our lifes pleasures have no real utility either. Life , birth and death, as an entire inclusive set of things must hsve their own high priority utility without any utility (to exist)at all.
      When I read this I think of the daily millions of input to the senses that cannot be catagorized for any practical purpose. Do they have any relation to practical purpose? ..that requires sorting and counting. .. is obviouisly very stressfull sounding,especially for a contrivance oriented society..that we have defined contrivance as appropiate..along with all that leads to it and have confused in meaning countable, practical, and contrivance, raising all of our science applications to beyond question in the ordinary mind, when they may really be innappropiate to the real balances of life birth and death.
      What terrible potential confusion and destruction if we stop attempting to count and order. Paints the portrait of a self indulging, self addicted pathological drunkard.

    • FROM: sina royaee (03/29/07 9:02 AM GMT -06:00)
      SUBJECT: RE: countless way

      To Marvin: thank you for your worthy comment:

      We cannot get better and more powerful gadget than counting but it depends to our co-operation with the world and life. Ok, one can ask many questions which its origins relates to the usage of the words in the question (philosophy as a way of life?): Is the impression of the word like 'life' equivalent to a word like 'the world'? Despite of their abstract character, it seems their impression is different. Life is more 'private' than the world even if we apply both of them in a same context. We do not examine the world without our perception of life.
      Therefore, the notion of life is more general or embracing and at the same time, private than our concept of the world. Paradoxically, the notion, which supposed to makes general concepts, is at least one of the most concrete notions. The character of life is too paradoxical to consider only counting as its essence. However, this does not use for the world. What you have mentioned about 'getting better than counting' can apply for the world but I fear about using it for life. Life does not let us to penetrate to its essence unless according to Hussrel by intersubjectivity and its private effects to each of human minds. In addition, this impact provides a general meaning of life for everyone who contemplates to this subject.
      Moreover, if you review my previous comment you will see how I stressed to our misunderstanding of counting. I defined inutility as a true name of uncountable things that only philosophy as a WAY OF LIFE can deal with them. I did not centralize uncountable things or things that have no utility. Thus, the first three questions are out of discourse.
      In addition, if we define a practical role for philosophy as a way of life then we can abandon many things that history of philosophy dealt with them
      Relying on statistic diagrams, numbers and averages, raises more serious problems than self-addiction if we regard them as a gadget for philosophy to find a way of life. Philosophy serves only to our theoretical purposes
      For this reason preserves its meaningful distance with morality and religion. Therefore, indirectly may helps to contrivance-oriented society but this do not considered as its main task.
      Perhaps the next scientific revolution happens with another dropping apple from tree but it is much harder to find a Newton under it for reflecting on this accident with inutility attitude.

      Sina Royaee

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    FROM: Richard W. Symonds (09/19/07 2:35 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT:
    Philosophy — a way of life ?

    Hello, I'm a new student here — finding my feet...

    I've read the last few comments — interesting.

    For me, philosophy is a "way of life", and I have always been encouraged by someone who said something like this :

    If you ask the question 'Why?' you are a philosopher — whether you realise it or not...so many millions of children are philosophers...and I count myself as a child.

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