Cut off at the Knees?

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Khethil
 
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 06:22 am
There's an aspect to our common interest that's long hit me with some measure of irritation and I'm curious if others see the danger also, or if perhaps I'm just getting it wrong. I'm going to couch this in an intentionally-exaggerated manner to illustrate the point and ask some questions at the end. Here we go..

KNOWLEDGE[INDENT] You arrogant fool - you can't absolutely *know* anything. Don't you realize that you are a prisoner of your own mind? In this, your little universe, you sit completely subordinated to your perceptions, preconceived notions, biases, personal experience and the undeniable fact that; well, you don't *have* all the facts - none of us do. That chair that sits in the corner, may not be at all. What you did this morning: Well that's very likely something you just *thought* you did. Don't trust your eyes, ears, nose, mouth or touch because they too only give you input, not necessarily reality.
[/INDENT]FREE WILL[INDENT] You didn't do that by your own decision, you were lead to. You might have thought you made a decision to pick that orange from our tree, but you didn't really. Your actions were simply a part of a complex set of variables; actions and reactions that inexorably led you to that particular next-step. If you think, for a moment, that you have done anything of your own free will you're an arrogant puss. You can't do anything of your own volition - you are a product of all that has taken place before you; but a link in the chain towards what will occur after. All actions are but reactions.
[/INDENT] NIHILISM[INDENT] You're here one day and gone the next. There's nothing you'll do here that wont, over time, be washed away by the passage of time, the actions of others or the elements. It's futile and fool hearty to try and make any difference since no effects of your actions will persist. So, you think (and) therefore you are? Think again, that's just a construct of your own ego, prove to me you actually exist; you can't, hah!
[/INDENT]ABSURDITY[INDENT] Bill is a great guy. He helps us all! From his place on high he dispenses justice according to his own ideas. No, you can't see him, you can't hear him, you can't touch, taste or feel him, but I tell you he's there! If he wasn't there, then how could we have birds, snickers bars or goat cheese?! Ok, well prove to me he isn't - prove to me you never read "War and Peace". You can't! See? I win. Besides, the Holy Book of Snufflelufugus says says that W=I and E=S.
[/INDENT]SEMANTIC BLUR[INDENT] "Air" doesn't really mean air. It means <this>, the dictionary is wrong. Sure, I know we used established dictionaries to define the terms in our world, but they're wrong. Fortunately I am here to give unto you the *real* meaning of this term. Further, since both an apple and an orange are both fruits, you shouldn't have any problem selecting when I ask you for a bite from that fruit bowl. They're both fruits and are therefore the same thing. What are you, dumb or something? Cows chew cud therefore cows and cud are the same thing.
[/INDENT]RAMPANT RELATIVISM[INDENT] God means whatever you want it to. Let's not talk about actual existence; because, well, that doesn't really matter. What's "right" isn't what's best for us as humans, it's all contingent on culture - they define what's right and wrong. So what's right for Sally or Arnold isn't necessarily what's 'right' for Sharon or Karen. Live and let live!
[/INDENT]What's really embarrassing, is that each of the above statements has some element of truth (some more than others!). Yet in philosophical circles, for years now, I've seen these pedestals proudly stood on in opposition to common experiential assertions. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to stand up for the principles that:

  • We should admit to our flaws of knowledge
  • We should acknowledge the fleeting nature of our existence
  • We must understand our actions aren't only a product of will
  • We need to admit there may be something greater than ourselves
  • All philosophers should appreciate the differences in word meanings

I say these should be concessions that temper and make malleable the hard line stances we take. They should not - not every - be used to summarily execute concepts that keep us grounded in everyday reality. I fear that we, as armchair philosophers, do damage by constantly grabbing at these titillations of life that should reasonably only modify, not decimate, the foundations of common, every day human experience.

"Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground" - Hell if I know

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
  1. Do you feel that, as philosophers, we use such disqualifications too much?
  2. Many believe that such disqualifications lie at the heart of philosophy; am I throwing out the baby and the bath water here?
  3. Could the over-reliance on such "murky-ing" concepts actually hurt the everyday benefit from philosophical inquiry?
  4. Should I have my keyboard taken away and sent to bed without dinner?

Thanks, I appreciate all your indulgence and patience in such an iffy, murky, conceptualized post. I shall now don my catcher's mask and stand up against the wall.


--------
 
jgweed
 
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 09:12 am
@Khethil,
Your list of pseudo-philosophical positions, bordering all-too-often upon informal fallacies, seems to be right to the point, and if I could make ten "thank-you's" for the post I would absolutely do so.

I would suggest that one of the problems is a confusion , or better a failure to distinguish, between two definitions of philosophy. In one sense, the word can mean a general view of life and meaning; for example, opinions shared in a college dorm late at night whilst sipping Scotch about the "Meaning of Life." In a stricter sense, philosophy is rational discourse and argumentation about important aspects of life and the world though in a common mediation about a subject that alters our perception of it or at least elevates it from everyday thinking (or non-thinking).

Pulpiteering and sharing mystical visions have their place in the world, one would suppose, but hopefully a forum about philosophy will keep to the second sense I mentioned, and at least attempt---given the nature of forum posting that makes communication difficult---to emulate the kind of thinking that has characterised the best philosophers even though we all may fall terribly short of these models in practice.

What is being executed by the positions you have mentioned, is philosophy itself as a meaningful and important activity that---if it cannot promise Absolute Truths, hip hip hooray---can at least allow us to avoid error and to amplify and deepen our understanding.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 09:17 am
@jgweed,
Thanks again for your affirmation. I think at times its important that we, as learners, step back from the minutia of our postulating and get our feet back on the ground, as it were.

jgweed wrote:
... or better a failure to distinguish, between two definitions of philosophy. In one sense, the word can mean a general view of life and meaning; for example, opinions shared in a college dorm late at night whilst sipping Scotch about the "Meaning of Life." In a stricter sense, philosophy is rational discourse and argumentation about important aspects of life and the world...


I really liked this. This differentiation is something I hadn't considered - nice addition.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 09:55 am
@Khethil,
A lack of such distinctions leads to needless confusion and "category mistakes." I have often considered a large part of the philosophical effort be be one of clarification and making distinctions that bring to the forefront the various nuances of meanings that a word can have from various horizons and perspectives.

Looking for distinctions is very therapeutic to thinking.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2008 02:14 pm
@jgweed,
I'd give ten thanks too. That was somewhat refreshing actually, and I'd like to give some more thought to your final questions. I think too little credit is given to common experience, and too much credit is given to ideas that appear to fit life in an understandable box.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2008 03:06 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
NeitherExtreme wrote:
I think too little credit is given to common experience, and too much credit is given to ideas that appear to fit life in an understandable box.


Thank you, and I agree it is!

The fit use of philosophy is not to reduce us to the feeling that nothing's solid. It should give us perspective on that grounding, not obliterate it. I feel we do this all too often.

Thanks
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 02:42 am
@Khethil,
I agree with these statements, and thanks for this good topic. Ultimately, I see philosophy as being a productive enterprise as long as the pursuit of knowledge is taking place. "Pursuit" there implies that one is always moving forward, chasing some idea, and is not pigeonholed into one set of beliefs or another.

We should avoid the dangerous practice of "pursuing evidence" which is then used to support a preconceived philosophy that is built around some concept that is too rigid to be realistic, where some kind of bias has entered the thought process.
 
Shlomo
 
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 03:14 am
@Khethil,
Khethil;26425 wrote:
* We should admit to our flaws of knowledge

We should admit that knowledge cannot grasp all the reality. We need faith to resolve the vital questions of life.
Khethil;26425 wrote:
* We should acknowledge the fleeting nature of our existence
We should break through the miserable fleeting existence to Eternity
Khethil;26425 wrote:

* We must understand our actions aren't only a product of will
We must understand our actions aren't a product of only our will
Khethil;26425 wrote:

* We need to admit there may be something greater than ourselves
We need not only to admit there is God, but submit to Him.
Khethil;26425 wrote:

* All philosophers should appreciate the differences in word meanings
And thus recognize the authenticity of Babylon Tower story. This may help in advancing to another level of understanding.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 07:30 am
@Khethil,
Khethil;26425 wrote:
There's an aspect to our common interest that's long hit me with some measure of irritation and I'm curious if others see the danger also, or if perhaps I'm just getting it wrong. I'm going to couch this in an intentionally-exaggerated manner to illustrate the point and ask some questions at the end. Here we go..

KNOWLEDGE[INDENT] You arrogant fool - you can't absolutely *know* anything. Don't you realize that you are a prisoner of your own mind? In this, your little universe, you sit completely subordinated to your perceptions, preconceived notions, biases, personal experience and the undeniable fact that; well, you don't *have* all the facts - none of us do. That chair that sits in the corner, may not be at all. What you did this morning: Well that's very likely something you just *thought* you did. Don't trust your eyes, ears, nose, mouth or touch because they too only give you input, not necessarily reality.
[/INDENT]FREE WILL[INDENT] You didn't do that by your own decision, you were lead to. You might have thought you made a decision to pick that orange from our tree, but you didn't really. Your actions were simply a part of a complex set of variables; actions and reactions that inexorably led you to that particular next-step. If you think, for a moment, that you have done anything of your own free will you're an arrogant puss. You can't do anything of your own volition - you are a product of all that has taken place before you; but a link in the chain towards what will occur after. All actions are but reactions.
[/INDENT] NIHILISM[INDENT] You're here one day and gone the next. There's nothing you'll do here that wont, over time, be washed away by the passage of time, the actions of others or the elements. It's futile and fool hearty to try and make any difference since no effects of your actions will persist. So, you think (and) therefore you are? Think again, that's just a construct of your own ego, prove to me you actually exist; you can't, hah!
[/INDENT]ABSURDITY[INDENT] Bill is a great guy. He helps us all! From his place on high he dispenses justice according to his own ideas. No, you can't see him, you can't hear him, you can't touch, taste or feel him, but I tell you he's there! If he wasn't there, then how could we have birds, snickers bars or goat cheese?! Ok, well prove to me he isn't - prove to me you never read "War and Peace". You can't! See? I win. Besides, the Holy Book of Snufflelufugus says says that W=I and E=S.
[/INDENT]SEMANTIC BLUR[INDENT] "Air" doesn't really mean air. It means <this>, the dictionary is wrong. Sure, I know we used established dictionaries to define the terms in our world, but they're wrong. Fortunately I am here to give unto you the *real* meaning of this term. Further, since both an apple and an orange are both fruits, you shouldn't have any problem selecting when I ask you for a bite from that fruit bowl. They're both fruits and are therefore the same thing. What are you, dumb or something? Cows chew cud therefore cows and cud are the same thing.
[/INDENT]RAMPANT RELATIVISM[INDENT] God means whatever you want it to. Let's not talk about actual existence; because, well, that doesn't really matter. What's "right" isn't what's best for us as humans, it's all contingent on culture - they define what's right and wrong. So what's right for Sally or Arnold isn't necessarily what's 'right' for Sharon or Karen. Live and let live!
[/INDENT]What's really embarrassing, is that each of the above statements has some element of truth (some more than others!). Yet in philosophical circles, for years now, I've seen these pedestals proudly stood on in opposition to common experiential assertions. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to stand up for the principles that:

  • We should admit to our flaws of knowledge
  • We should acknowledge the fleeting nature of our existence
  • We must understand our actions aren't only a product of will
  • We need to admit there may be something greater than ourselves
  • All philosophers should appreciate the differences in word meanings

I say these should be concessions that temper and make malleable the hard line stances we take. They should not - not every - be used to summarily execute concepts that keep us grounded in everyday reality. I fear that we, as armchair philosophers, do damage by constantly grabbing at these titillations of life that should reasonably only modify, not decimate, the foundations of common, every day human experience.

"Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground" - Hell if I know

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
  1. Do you feel that, as philosophers, we use such disqualifications too much?
  2. Many believe that such disqualifications lie at the heart of philosophy; am I throwing out the baby and the bath water here?
  3. Could the over-reliance on such "murky-ing" concepts actually hurt the everyday benefit from philosophical inquiry?
  4. Should I have my keyboard taken away and sent to bed without dinner?

Thanks, I appreciate all your indulgence and patience in such an iffy, murky, conceptualized post. I shall now don my catcher's mask and stand up against the wall.


--------


There is a story that Zeno and a friend were at the race track together, and Zeno was cheering for a horse. After the race Zeno's friend said, "I watched you cheer for your horse to win, but I thought you proved that nothing really moves". And Zeno replied, "I know, I know, but it's so exciting".
 
chad3006
 
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 03:45 pm
@Khethil,
I love the post. I don't have any answers, but I never do.

Billspeed, Khethil!
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 07:00 pm
@chad3006,
chad3006;102241 wrote:
I love the post. I don't have any answers, but I never do.

Billspeed, Khethil!
I also appreciate the sentiment. My german friend calls it "going german." It means get real. I don't have any answers either except to not let the screen door hit me on the way out. Earnest good wishes.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 10:02 pm
@Khethil,
... I recently came across something Dewey said regarding this ... his opinion was that the way we carve up the world is problem specific ... and that a major problem in philosophy is that philosophers, having successfully dealt with a problem, mistake what is relevant in that problem-specific carving-up as "the real" in opposition to everything else ... what he called for was an "empirical philosophy", where philosophical positions were not "here's what's real", but rather "here's an interesting way of carving up the world, here's how I came upon it, and here's what it's good for" - that is, it is important never to forget how you got there and why ... the question that popped into my head, however, was whether or not the "empirical" was really a solution here, considering that the over-specialization in the empirical sciences has led to a similar proliferation of "here's what's real" positions Wink ... anyhoo, I'd thank you for your OP, too, but for some reason the "Thank You" button is missing! ...
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 10:15 pm
@paulhanke,
Philosophy as self-consciousness that makes us aware of our limiting/confusing assumptions, thereby freeing us from them, enlarging our conceptions of existence. I love Dewey, but I usually experience him via Rorty.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 10:24 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106229 wrote:
Philosophy as self-consciousness that makes us aware of our limiting/confusing assumptions, thereby freeing us from them, enlarging our conceptions of existence. I love Dewey, but I usually experience him via Rorty.


You think that is what Rorty thought philosophy was about? That's novel. Are you sure you are not confusing Rorty with Wittgenstein? I have always thought of Rorty as the purveyor of confusion, not our liberator from confusion. A kind of anglophone Derrida.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 11:02 pm
@Khethil,
Well, first, Rorty was a great prose writer. Derrida is longwinded and boring (although I did manage to immerse myself in Spurs).

Rorty wanted to drop the mirror of nature paradigm. To do so is to transcend/ignore most of the classic philosophical knots. He was very much a linguistic philosopher, borrowing heavily from Wittgenstein and Davidson. From Nietzsche he took the conception of truth as "a mobile army of metaphors." And this is a dynamic conception of truth, one that expects the continual evolution of truth, which is a property of sentences.

Rorty thinks that redescription is an endless process, and what we call truth is nothing but descriptions, all the way down. He suggests the abandonment of the notion of a nonhuman reality that truth must correspond to. "Truth" is based on consensus.

I would say that Rorty is both quite radical and at the same time somehow quite consistent and simple. From Dewey, he borrowed the primacy of politics. This is where he plugs into "reality," you might say. But his politics are not what I find exciting about him. I see him as the great Sophist of the 20th century. He's not whiny like a Nietzsche or a Heidegger, or obscure and needlessly flashy like a Derrida.

Check out Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Or Essays on Heidegger and others. Both great books.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 11:14 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106252 wrote:
Well, first, Rorty was a great prose writer. Derrida is longwinded and boring (although I did manage to immerse myself in Spurs).

Rorty wanted to drop the mirror of nature paradigm. To do so is to transcend/ignore most of the classic philosophical knots. He was very much a linguistic philosopher, borrowing heavily from Wittgenstein and Davidson. From Nietzsche he took the conception of truth as "a mobile army of metaphors." And this is a dynamic conception of truth, one that expects the continual evolution of truth, which is a property of sentences.

Rorty thinks that redescription is an endless process, and what we call truth is nothing but descriptions, all the way down. He suggests the abandonment of the notion of a nonhuman reality that truth must correspond to. "Truth" is based on consensus.

I would say that Rorty is both quite radical and at the same time somehow quite consistent and simple. From Dewey, he borrowed the primacy of politics. This is where he plugs into "reality," you might say. But his politics are not what I find exciting about him. I see him as the great Sophist of the 20th century. He's not whiny like a Nietzsche or a Heidegger, or obscure and needlessly flashy like a Derrida.

Check out Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Or Essays on Heidegger and others. Both great books.


I have read very early Rorty, and some later Rorty. I preferred, by far, the former. The later Rorty reminded me of the protagonist of the television show, "The Shadow", who was given "the power to cloud men's minds".
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 11:29 pm
@kennethamy,
I read him from his pragmatic outing onward, and found him pretty consistent, and quite sublime. Aside from his politics, I could call myself a Rortian. But Rorty is the competition.

He reminds me of the Cheshire Cat, and also of battery acid.
 
 

 
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