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October 04, 2005

Comments

pyrrho

ok, a bit long. should I delete it?

Kav

...and you never once said 'frames of reference'...

Averroes

Delete because long? haarf!

Just a note at this time:

It is always dangerous toi try to extract philosophical meaning from science. For relativity, the example is usually S. Alexander, who wrote a book (based on his Gifford lectures) called, i think, Space, Time, and Deity. Nowadays he is rarely mentioned exccept as a warning against such a practice. Interestingly, before einstein's theory came out, he had philosophized using Darwin's theory as a model!

Of course, it is not necessary to condemn the glib practice of thinking that 'relativity' in Einstein has any but some glass bead game relationship to 'moral relativity.'

I would offer herbert Spencer as an even greater example of mixing science and philosophy. What a mess that is!

Having said that, i must confess that my uncompleted master's thesis compared the then fashionable holographic theory of memory storage in the brain with ideas in Merleau-Ponty which i maintained presaged the notion and provided an intellectual graoudwork for it. So, i am GUILTY!

I can't let tis pass (sorry): "Einstein, for example, used to deduce from thin air his theory of Special Relativity."

Very little in science comes out of thin air, and this is true of Einstein's theory. Certainly his previous work (for which he won the nobel prize) provides a background for this theory, as well as maxwell's equations, which actually contain the seeds of this theory in them. what powered Einstein was his ability to ask simple questions while seeing tensor mathematics as just as simple. it is a rare and powerful combination of talents.

Averroes

Before I dissect more, let me throw this one up:

"It is a principle of relativity that there is no privileged point of view, however, this does not mean all things are equal, ironically, it means the opposite. No two things are equal (or else they would be one thing). It means all you really can do is judge relationships, and this idea applies to social and moral life."

Seems to me that you are trying to slip a great unsubstatiated porposition by us. in fact, it seems to me that if you were writing about the topic at the proper length, you would have to devote a chapter to supporting just this proposition.

Just why and how does a proposition form the physical sciences apply to social and moral life?

kav,

I think in the human scale it's all about "relationships"... but usually I do say "frames of reference", because I love the way that sounds. I also like "reference frame"... and especially... "rest frame". Ahh.

Of course, it is not necessary to condemn the glib practice of thinking that 'relativity' in Einstein has any but some glass bead game relationship to 'moral relativity.'

I wish. Whenever I do that without addressing the glib practice up front... the conversation is about nothing else.

re: the "thin air" comment.

I'm standing by it. It's not literally true if "thin air" is the same thing as "vaccuum"... but my point is... Einstein took the principle of relativity and put it through "thought experiments"... just imagination... I personally do not expect such exercises, in general, to get very far, let alone revolutionize our understanding of reality in the most bizarre of ways. That's what I mean... usually if one follows a principle with thought experiments... one discovers the weakness of the principle.

So far, relativity shows no weaknesses.

pyrrho

those last two were me.

Av: I'm not sure which part you find me slipping in.

- the comment that no two things are equal

or

- the principle that all we can do is judge relationships


For the first... it's not particularly from relativity, though perhaps there is a derivations. Put really briefly... it is impossible for physical things to share all their properties, for at the very least they will not share their position-speed, their velocity vectors.

For the second... I'm claiming that is one way of putting relativity, the fact that you need at least two things, and to make a comparison, in order to measure, which I take "personal judgement" to be analagous to. You need two things, and you relate them... that is judging the relationship.

Averroes

pyrrho: "but my point is... Einstein took the principle of relativity and put it through "thought experiments"... just imagination... I personally do not expect such exercises, in general, to get very far, let alone revolutionize our understanding of reality in the most bizarre of ways."

Odd. I DO think that a good Gedankenversuch can lead to new and striking ways of seeing things. In fact, what is philosophy but such and experiment done in the cold thin air of the intellectual mountains with little to sustain it. At least Einstein knew what electromagnetic radiation was, and how the speed of light was woven into maxwell's equations, when he asked himself what he would see if he rode on a beam of light. At least he was working with things he caqn picture.

I DO believe, however, that our practical American education, which values engineers more than mathematicians, tends to kill in most of us the childlike ability to ask simple questions from a unique perspective. We love statistics more than abstract algebra. My generation took symbols of defiance, tie-dyes and jeans, and made them into a uniform. We Americans are such conformists.

"So far, relativity shows no weaknesses."

Even einstein was aware of weaknesses. To name perhaps the most glaring, it has been unable to reconcile itself with quantum mechanics.

"I'm not sure which part you find me slipping in."

neither: the unsupported assertion here, in the form of a quasi syllogism:

"It means all you really can do is judge relationships [in the physical world], and [therefore?] this idea applies to social and moral life."

Besides, i think that there may be some muddling of the heisenburg principle here, which doesn't really exist in the realm of relativity. that's part of the lack of reconcilability.

Remember, in relativity, any object may be uniquely described by a tensor. What relativity says in practice is that no one in the universe can know the unique tensor of all items, except, Einstein would remind us, God.

pyrrho

"I DO think that a good Gedankenversuch can lead to new and striking ways of seeing things."

well, obviously so do I ... I just said one revolutionized our whole understanding of the world. I just said... I don't expect that to be the RULE of such speculation.

pyrrho

Av, I'm not using the uncertainty principle in this case, but really the perspectivism upon which skeptisism is based, and drawing that from relativism.

I think there is nothing philosophically clear by proposing single tensors that God can know.

Instead, I'm pointing out we can judge a thing only by checking it's relationships with other things in the world, and we can indeed learn a lot this way, but one finds that some "qualities" of an object are different with respect to different relationships, in the physical example, one's mass will be different given the relationship to other objects, its velocity, many of the qualities which we classically like to assign and consider absolute thereafter, actually depend on the relationship used to declare the measurement.

Yes, there is something that unifies all these relationships... the object itself.

More than anything else this perspective emphasizes the need to include multiple valid points of view, even though they may contradict, whenever possible. The second thing is merely to point out in a world where judgement itself comes under attack... it is possible to judge relationships more easily than things-in-themselves. That is my thesis.

Averroes

pyrrho: " I'm pointing out we can judge a thing only by checking it's relationships with other things in the world,"

This is an unsupported assumption. You need a chapter to support it. In fact, it is unsupportable, although i wont't write my own chapter supporting THAT claim here.

"one finds that some "qualities" of an object are different with respect to different relationships, in the physical example, one's mass will be different given the relationship to other objects, its velocity, many of the qualities which we classically like to assign and consider absolute thereafter, actually depend on the relationship used to declare the measurement."

Now, I suppose we can saythat thismeans that in the physical world as described by Einstein, the attributes we ascribe to an object depend critically on the point of view of the ascribber, indeed, on attributes of that observer. Let's grant this. What does this have to do with moral judgments? That was my original question, now asked for the third time.

"More than anything else this perspective emphasizes the need to include multiple valid points of view, even though they may contradict, whenever possible."

You need to argue for this, not state it as an unsupported assumption. What you are saying here is that astronomy (for instance) is a fool's mission, because we are confined to our own narrow, earth-bound perspective, and therefore, we can make NO valid statements about, say, the mass of the sun, or the distance to the Andromeda galaxy. ultimately, you are saying that even the observations from earth of Mercury's orbital precession are meaningless, and do NOT therefore provide any confirmation of Einstein's relativity. In fact, despite your adoration, you relegate Relativity to just another "valid point of view" which cannot be said to be accurate in itself, but must be considered with other points of view, even if those are contradictory.

"The second thing is merely to point out in a world where judgement itself comes under attack... it is possible to judge relationships more easily than things-in-themselves."

Maybe. But it is also "easier" to understand the world with newtonian physics. That doesn't mean that we shouold ignore a better way because it is harder.

I must note here that you still have not made a case for using this questionable method in ehtics even if we grant something like this in physics.

As for the "thing-in-itself," bring that out here and show it to me. (A nod to the practicality of Ch'an Buddhism.)

"The true world--we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps? But no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one."--The Philosopher

Can we merely say that Hume was right?

I had hoped that the sort of democratic relativism of habermas had not gained such a foothold (and, yes, I realize that habermas himself is not a relativist--he actually believes-BELIEVES- that everyone talking will reach the- dare we say it a century after N.?- THE TRUTH.)

Now, pyrrho, it is certainly taken as true, both by newton and Einstein, that a body unrestrained by any other force will fall to earth at a certain acceleration no matter what its mass (even though there are NO such bodies- we call this a "law.") From this, do you propose that we know that the degredation of sin sinks us at the same rate no matter the "mass" of the sin?

Brooke

I found pyhrro's initial post very interesting, but I'm having a terrible time following the resultant discussion -- probably because I've spent days reading Averroes's posts on the "Grand Old Spenders" thread and now my brain is fried :)

Anyway, the discussion has brought to my mind a play written by Tom Stoppard called "Jumpers," which is sort of an argument against moral relativism. I'd just like to quote a passage -- the end of a long speech by the main character -- and not because I'm making any kind of argument myself. I just think it's interesting because Stoppard appears to be using the concept of looking at relationships as an argument against moral relativism.

The character who delivers the speech, a philosophy professor named George, is arguing against his relativist colleague McFee:

"... Professor McFee ... goes on to show, likewise but at even greater length, that the word 'good' has also meant different things to different people at different times, an exercise which combines simplicity with futility in a measure he does not apparently suspect, for on the one hand it is not a statement which anyone would dispute, and on the other, nothing useful can be inferred from it. It is not in fact a statement about value at all; it is a statement about language and how it is used in a particular society.

Nevertheless, up this deeply-rutten garden path, Professor McFee leads us, pointing out items of interest along the way ... the tribe which kills its sickly infants, the tribue which eats its aged parents; and so on, without pausing to wonder whether the conditions of group survival or the notion of filial homage might be one thing among the nomads of the Atlas Mountains or in a Brazilian rain forest, and quite another in the Home Counties. Certainly a tribe which believes it confers honour on its elders by eating them is going to viewed askance by another which prefers to buy them a little bungalow somewhere, and Professor McFee should nto be surprised that the notion of honour should manifest itself so differently in peoples so far removed in clime and in culture.

What is surely more surprising is that notions such as honour should manifest themselves at all. For what IS honour? What are pride, shame, fellow-feeling, generosity and love? If they are instincts, what are instincts? The prevailing temper of modern philosophy is to treat the instinct as a sort of terminus for any train of thought that seeks to trace our impulses to their origins. But what can be said to be the impulse of a genuinely altristic act? Hobbes might have answered self-esteem, but is the attraction or the point in thinking better of oneself? What is BETTER?

A savage who elects to honour his father by eating him as opposed to disposing of the body in some -- to him -- ignominious way, for example by burying it in a teak box, is making an ethical choice in that he believes himself to be acting as a good savage ought to act. Whence comes this sense of some actions being better than others? -- not more useful, or more convenient, or more popular, but simply pointlessly *better*? What, in short, is so good about *good*?

Professor McFee succeeds only in showing us that in different situations different actions will be deemed, rightly or wrongly, to be conducive to that good which is independent of time and place and which is knowable but not nameable. It is not nameable because it is not another way of referring to this or that quality which we have decided is virtuous. It is not courage, and it is not honesty or loyalty or kindness. The irreducible fact of goodness is not implicity in one kind of action any more than in its opposite, but in the existence of a RELATIONSHIP between the two. It is the sense of comparisons being in order."


I don't know if that actually adds anything to the discussion at hand, but just thought I'd throw it out there 'cause I like it :)

Averroes


Brooke, sorry i fried your brain.

Fortunately, it is too late, and i am too tired to fry it soe more here. i'll try to get back later, for your post has indeed sent a few synapses alight in my poor excuse for a cerebrum, but, in truth, the fingers are feeling the cold, and hunt and peck has become as slow as "stalk over the outback, carefully aim, and peck."

So, more later. i was actually waiting for pyrrho a bit.

pyrrho

"pyrrho: " I'm pointing out we can judge a thing only by checking it's relationships with other things in the world,"

This is an unsupported assumption."

that does not make the thesis incorrect. The fact is this is considered true and is well established for physical events.

We are physical beings. There is still much to say about why it would apply, but I am taking the principle of relativity, which claims that, and showing how it applies, I think.

Why do I think so in the first place? This principle, sprung to apply to human affairs and skeptical epistemology was taken and refined by natural philosophers.

Einstein had no reason to think it applied to time itself... but by assuming it might and using thought experiments, he found phenomenon which could be detected if his theory proved true.

My goal is similar but less ambitious, since relativity applies to human affairs even more naturally than physics (eveyone knows there is more than one side to every debate... but it was shocking to find out that's true of physical events)... apply the principle of relativity and see if the results are detectable.

For one... I've deduced, I think, that things must be analyzed as bundles of relations... e.g. through analysis of the thing's relationships.

If I'm right much more than a single book will have to be written to fully explore it and explain it.

pyrrho

"What does this have to do with moral judgments? That was my original question, now asked for the third time."

the same is true of moral judgments. All judgements are from a given frame of reference, are reliable within that frame only if they are sound, and still, though sound, not to be assumed for another frame of reference. The calculation from that other frame must be done independently.

pyrrho

>What you are saying here is that astronomy (for instance) is a fool's mission, because we are confined to our own narrow, earth-bound perspective, and therefore, we can make NO valid statements about, say, the mass of the sun, or the distance to the Andromeda galaxy.

funny, astronomy went no where until it did have this perspective. When absolute knowledge was thought to exist and assumed to be aprehendable... astronomy languished for centuries.

you are assuming that relativity means all things are equal.

do you not hear me telling you it really means that all things are comparable, that they must be compared, that in the comparison we can find sound judgement, we can apprehend the world, through relativity. But you adopt the classic line that relativity means there is no apprehension... NO, relativists have measured relationships and found approximate knowledge. The absolute knowledge crowd, they are the ones yet, ever, not one, to come up with even ONE PIECE OF ABSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE... except for a tautology to be constructed as such.

pyrrho

>As for the "thing-in-itself," bring that out here and show it to me.

at least understand my position that what you ask is impossible, and we deduce an understanding of the thing not by successfully unravelling it's infinite details, but rather by measuring a finite number of relationships.

pyrrho

brooke, very interestiing passage.

I'll say... "moral relativism" is a special term, it applies to a kind of nihilism, in contrast to what the princciple of "relativism" argues.

The history, in brief... relativism and skepticism before it are philosophies which urge open mindedness, because they argue that however things appear to you, they may appear quite different from a different point of view, be that someone else's point of view, a future point of view you might have, potential points of view you could have or simulate, etc.

These philsophies of open mindedness have been maligned for thousands of years by dogmatists that claim they are nihilistic, that with an open mind, NOTHING can be believe, NO judgement can be made.

Well, there is much indeterminate here, but the part I claim to know is that relativism is a WAY TO JUDGE, not a prohibition on judgment, and I will be happy to develop that way of judging sufficiently such that it can be compared with other ways of judging, especially the dogmatic ways of judging.

Now, that comparison should be made in a fair way, but I believe I know the outcome, as it's happened already in the natural sciences and also in democratic culture. The dogmatic will fail as too rigid, as requiring certainty that is unattainable, and the relative will prosper because it allows flexiblity and apprehends the world via the knowledge available... approximate knowledge.

Averroes

pyrrho: [quote] ""pyrrho: " I'm pointing out we can judge a thing only by checking it's relationships with other things in the world,"

This is an unsupported assumption."

that does not make the thesis incorrect."

No, but it akes it an article of faith. And you KNOW what i think of aticles of faith in rational arguments. You are, then, proposing a dogmatic thesis here.

"We are physical beings."

So, presumably, if we were accelerated close to the speed of light, we would find ourselves of more mass. And so?

"Why do I think so in the first place? This principle, sprung to apply to human affairs and skeptical epistemology was taken and refined by natural philosophers."

I know i haven't been paying attention much to philosphy in the last couple of decades, but if what you say is true, the horrific path taken by some of the "post-moderns" and people like Habermas is more widespread than i thought.

note: "natural philosphers" is an old term for "scientists." In fact, i tried to warn you against just waht you say has happened. It is a fool's errand, taking an even well-regarded thesis from one discipline and applying it in anbother to see what happens. it involves the second sin against science, against rationality.

For another example, look at Structuralism, which developed from certain observations of the mathematical behaviour of linguistic systems, was properly applied, through the mathematics, to some other realms, and then taken without the mathematics to disciplines like philosophy "to see what happens." Entertaining, for instance, is to read Piaget, the renowned zoologist, and then turn to his philosohical works on "Structuralism."

"Einstein had no reason to think it applied to time itself.."

Sure he did. it was in maxwell's equations.

"My goal is similar but less ambitious, since relativity applies to human affairs even more naturally than physics (eveyone knows there is more than one side to every debate... but it was shocking to find out that's true of physical events)... apply the principle of relativity and see if the results are detectable."

Here you have made the error even YOU say should be avoided. You dragged the term 'relativity" glibly from one discipline to another. AND you made another unsupprorted assumption that the physuical, highly mathematical theory applies even better to "human affairs." the fact that 'every argument haws two sides" has NOTHING whatsoever to do with relativity. It is merely a commonplace of human existence.

I smell a quasi-habermas thingie here. Habermas also says that there are no priveleged opinions that show us the truth, but argues against relativism, which says that there is no truth against whcih we can measure our opinion. he argues that there is truth, but it is exactly what one gets when all the opinions of everybody are compared and weighed according to the rules habermas sets out, and through this democratic process, one opinion arises as "the truth," although it is a bit paler and flimsier than the old truths. The truth arises from some sort of democratic process, in other words.

This explains why habermas, and you, presumably, forego the advice of a physician when you are sick, instead repairing to the nearest street corner to poll the opinions of the passing multitude as to cause and treatment.

"For one... I've deduced, I think, that things must be analyzed as bundles of relations... e.g. through analysis of the thing's relationships."

And here it is, something for which one must have a nose. One must ignore the merely visual, the representation and sniff. And here is the the rotting corpse of marxism, which lies behind so much modern philosophy.

Here is the notion that the reality of an individual is in his relationships. If he is without relationships, he passes from knowable reality. Marx, countering Aristotle: "Man is by nature a societal being." To be, one must be in relationships. "Individualism" is a philosophy of non-reality which cannever tell us anything about reality, which does not have individuals, but "relationships."

(Note here that Marx's notions have been full of insight in sociology. but this is philosophy.)

"All judgements are from a given frame of reference, are reliable within that frame only if they are sound, and still, though sound, not to be assumed for another frame of reference."

In what frame of reference is the speed of light not a constant? WE treat it as such, and provide reasons for devience. btw, you have, in your first sentence here, announced YOUR dogma.

It is important, for it says that there are no objective moral statements. It slides form nietzsche's perpsctivism into relativism. To see the difference, take this typical Nietzsche quip:

“The good four. Honest with ourselves and with whatever is friend to us; courageous toward the enemy; generous toward the vanquished; polite-always that is how the four cardinal virtues want us.”


Clearly N. is offering these as virtues. And clearly he does not thik we have to resort to "relationships" to define these as virtues. What is in Nietzsche's perspectivism? The overall moral command in nietzsche may be "Become who you are?" We may interpret this as "find those virtues whcih are in yourself, and expand them." To do this, we need to be able to honestly look within ourselves for these virtues.

Now, this is impossible for the relativist. He cannot look within for virtue, because, to him, virtue does not reside there. it resides in "relationships."

The question now is, whgen we look within for virtues, how do we know the virtues within us from the other stuff? Believe me, the answer is NOT, for Nietzsche, to examine oiur relationships to find out what a virtue is.

Nietzsche's list of virtues is not unlike a list any of us would make up. What differentiates Nietzsche's perspectivism from the dogmatic moralists is that he doesn't believe that one should simply accept such a list without looking inside to one's own virtues, thoise which belong to you. Dogmatic morality is a control mechanism. Nietzsche's notion is to practice virtue from the fullness of life, and to do this, one must know which virtu4es are conducive to YOUR life.

The relativist, on the other hand, is more like the dogmatic moralist (much as the atheist is as dogmatic in his atheism as the theist is in his theism.) The relativist dogmatically styates that there is no objective morality, and that any morality arises, not from individuals, but from the interaction of individuals.

Let's examine a common moral problem. For the totally dogmatic moralist who believes that one should always tell the truth, when the proverbial Nazis arrive at your door to inquire about the Jews in your basement, you have to anwer them truthfully. You MUST answer 'yes' to a question of whether or not yu have jews in your basement. The rule is more important than the result.

But most of those who hold to dogmatic morality would not see it this way. To them, the individual rules of morality are subserient to some general principles. thus, they analyze such situations on a "lesser of two evils" basis. this does not involve charting relationships in order to find the moral principle. It simply says that sometimes the consequences of telling the truth are so onerous rthat they viol;ate the generqal principle, do not do good, and in those cases, the lesser of two evils should be chosen. one would lie to the nazis.

Nietzsche might analyze this differently. He might ask what virtues lead you to the fullness of YOUR life. It would be hard to think of an example in which Nietzsche might say that you should tell the nazis about the jews in the basement, buty he does not preclude thepossibility that for someone, that indeed might be a part of the way they became who they were.

What of the relativist? i suppose that he should plead that there are no moral absolutes, no moral judgments, get on his computer, and take a poll as to what he should do. He might include the relationshiup between him and the Jews, that between him and the lawful authorities, that between jews and the nazis. And the answer would be...?

Well, we don't know. it depoends on who is online at the moment, and not insignificantly on how the relationships are described. Oddly, these relationships are no better known, are no better judged, than the absolutes of the old morality. For, it is certainly foolish to assert that we know the relationship between unknowables better than we do the unknowables. "I don't know if we have ghosts in the house, but they love one another."

One does well at this point to go back and reread Hegel's famous explication of the master-slave relationship. one then can move on to Sartre's. While both have overtures of the marxist ontology, they both recognize that in describing the relationship, any result arises because those in the relationship are individual beings. In fact, in the end, it is just because this is a relationship that fences in the being of the participants that we say that it is not a truly human relationship, or, in the older language, not a fully moral relationship. (To be simplistic, the slave in such a relationship is forbidden to practice his full autonomy while in the relationship; the master has his autonoimy removed by the relationship, becomeing dependent on the slave. When the relationship is over, the slave gets the better of it. But the Christians know that, don't they?

"funny, astronomy went no where until it did have this perspective."

False on its face.

"you are assuming that relativity means all things are equal."

Nope. Relativism is not about things.

"do you not hear me telling you it really means that all things are comparable, that they must be compared, that in the comparison we can find sound judgement, we can apprehend the world, through relativity."

I heard the dogma.

"NO, relativists have measured relationships and found approximate knowledge. The absolute knowledge crowd, they are the ones yet, ever, not one, to come up with even ONE PIECE OF ABSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE... except for a tautology to be constructed as such."

I believe that this is a false dichotomy. the resuolt of lumping many things together into a "not like me" bucket and labelling them.

[Quote] ">As for the "thing-in-itself," bring that out here and show it to me.

at least understand my position that what you ask is impossible, and we deduce an understanding of the thing not by successfully unravelling it's infinite details, but rather by measuring a finite number of relationships."

Again: "The true world--we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps? But no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one."--The Philosopher

The point is NOT that there is some true world which we do not have absolute privy to, thus having to relegate ourselves to some quasi true world of, say, relationships, to come to some less than perfect understanding of moral statements. the point is that there ARE moral judgments that we can make.

Yes, i am arguing here nothing less than that honesty is a virtue. I also say that in practice, honesty might be superceded by a greater virtue, or may lead to an evil, and we so adjust our practice.

If one assumes that there is a real world of morality, but that we can't know its "infinine" computations, but have to rely on the imperfect knowledge of relationships, one can never come to any statement of morality, as you have said. You might say, "honesty, as far as i can gtell at this time, polling the people of the world, is often a virtue."

My teacher, Solomon, used to tell the story of his teaching an Ethics class back in the "if it feels good, do it" hippie days. he was young, and, trying to be hip and cool, he presented the class this way:

"We are all students here, all learners. I am not going to stand up here and tell you what so-and-so said about ethics, i am not going to tell you what ethics is, and i am not going to tell you what the right ethics is. I have suggested a few books for us to read. Please flip through them so that we may come to an agreement about which ones to read. Feel free to sugest other books."

Well, the class went meandering on its way, as you might expect. The most common moral assertion was on the model, "If such-and-such is your thing, cool. you should do it." sometimes, some people wanted to add, "if it doesn't hurt anyone." But the collest among the class pointed out that hurting people might be your thing. The rejoinder was that one should do just what the "tribe" thought you should do. (Remember, Woodstock was described as "the meeting of the tribes.") this leg of the class thought that one should be a part of the tribe, and if you didn';t like it, go to another tribe, to which you could subsume your relationships.

Needless to say, nothing was accomplished in this class. Around nobember, reports Solomon, he took over. The final stimulus was a person who said, "Hey, i don't thionk that you shouod commit murder, but, hey, man, if murder's your thing, sho am i to say that you shouldn't commit murder? who am I to judge?" In other words, he was saying that no one could make objective moral judgements.

Thing is, i don't think that my teacher would have been open to any argument here that the morality of murder has to do with what we have gleaned from relationships. We count murder to be immoral just because we have made certain statements about the value of human life. And here we intersect Nietzsche again.

"The history, in brief... relativism and skepticism before it are philosophies which urge open mindedness, because they argue that however things appear to you, they may appear quite different from a different point of view, be that someone else's point of view, a future point of view you might have, potential points of view you could have or simulate, etc."

And, you seem to imply, this was unrecognized by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Marcus Aurelious, Tertullian, Boethius, Augustus, Aquinas, Averroes, Ibn Cina, Dun Scotus, Pico della Mirandola, DesCartes, leibnitz, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, kant, Hegel, Shilling, ......In fact, DesCartes, the most dogmatic of philosophers, STARTS with just this observation.

"These philsophies of open mindedness have been maligned for thousands of years by dogmatists"

Now, now. In buddhism, the two great wings of the religion are sometimes divided into the Hinayana and the Mayayana. The former means "Litle Vehicle," while the latter means "Great Vehicle." Care to take a guess as to who came up with these names? In fact, the "lesser" vehicle call themselves "Theravada," the way of the elders.

here, you cast those you like as goodness and light, while the others are "clesminded." On the contrary, what i have loved about philosophy is that all philosophers are open-minded. To say otherwise is an example of closed-mindedness. one might as well say that the way of rationalsim is the correct way, the path of the open-minded, and those who do not follow in the footsteps of DesCartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, and maybe kant, Hegel, and Husserl, are closeminded.

"Now, that comparison should be made in a fair way, but I believe I know the outcome, as it's happened already in the natural sciences and also in democratic culture."

God, what a leap of faith! Surely a sceptic would turn up his nose.

"The dogmatic will fail as too rigid, as requiring certainty that is unattainable,"

What in the world are you talking about? Sounds like a giant straw man.

I had a teacher who wrote a little volume called The Cognitivity paradox. In it he argued that philosophy was unlike mathematics just because while the other demanded certainty to say that something was true, this was impossible in philosophy. he argued that philosophers argue that their take on reality is the best take. they do not search for "certainty," even in ethics.

Maybe nietzsche was right. he distiguished between true philosophers, who, acting with instinct, saw thngs that no one else saw, and by pointing them out, made them real, that is, they "stamped the character of being on becoming." They pointed to something new across the river, through the fog. The lesser "philosophers," like Plato, are the ones who place the stepping stones (using rationality) of "truth" by which we can cross the river to more closely see what the philosopher has pointed to.

There is no doubt who Nietzsche want us to be, if that is who we are: he wants us to look acrowss the river, through the fog, for new things. The stones present their own pitfalls; he would rather that we swim. Philosophy is dangerous. Without postulates.

Yet philosophers have always and everywhere said that "you must doubt everything," and if you don't, you are closed minded, and if you don't accept this dogma, you are dogmatic.

And upon that rock, they avoid the stream.

pyrrho

This is long, read at your own peril.

-------
pyrrho: [quote] ""pyrrho: " I'm pointing out we can judge a thing only by checking it's relationships with other things in the world,"
This is an unsupported assumption."
that does not make the thesis incorrect."

No, but it makes it an article of faith. And you KNOW what i think of articles of faith in rational arguments. You are, then, proposing a dogmatic thesis here.

It is not an article of faith because I do not press you into faith in it. I only expose you to it... which is another thing entirely. Besides, one can see I am arguing for it, and not assuming it... I have also described the source of my "faith" insofar as I'm already convinced.

>"We are physical beings."

>So, presumably, if we were accelerated close to the speed of light, we would find ourselves of more mass. And so?

what? no. In your frame your mass remains the same.

>"Why do I think so in the first place? This principle, sprung to apply to human affairs and skeptical epistemology was taken and refined by natural philosophers."

>note: "natural philosphers" is an old term for "scientists."

or, "scientist" is just a new name for the natural philosophers. Historically, there should be little debate about the origin of Western Science, which is generally traced back to Aristotle and beyond, of philosophy.

>In fact, i tried to warn you against just what you say has happened. It is a fool's errand, taking an even well-regarded thesis from one discipline and applying it in another to see what happens. it involves the second sin against science, against rationality.

rationality... it is a lack of education that allows people to consider "rationality" as not a part of philosophy... these philosophers are the very persons that invented the formal logic which is the first tool of rationality, but people glibly assume that the rational is OPPOSED to the philosophical. Perhaps they took a poll, and determining this view popular... set to believing it... even if they are as educated as you.

It is to laugh! I don't care what people choose for their popular notions, that comes and goes Averroes... rational thought is what philosophy is all about. "But why have they more than one conclusion then?"... um... because it's a relative universe and rationality leads to more than one valid conclusion. SHOCK! AMAZEMENT! DISMAY! Oh well, those are the apparent facts.

>For another example, look at Structuralism...

stop, there is no general argument to say that elements of science are not allowed to have impact on human affairs, our world view, or our philosophy. You can urge caution, and I have been very careful drawing my conclusions from the principle of relativity.

>>"My goal is similar but less ambitious, since relativity applies to human affairs even more naturally than physics (everyone knows there is more than one side to every debate... but it was shocking to find out that's true of physical events)... apply the principle of relativity and see if the results are detectable."

>Here you have made the error even YOU say should be avoided. You dragged the term 'relativity" glibly from one discipline to another.

in the book it takes to defend my thesis I will make clear there is a genealogy to relativity. The principle is evident in ancient philosophy, and preferred, for example, by skeptics. In the outlines of pyrrhonism sextus defends skepticism often on relative grounds... that things will look different not only to different people, but to different animals, etc. These arguments for a fundamental reason to be open minded (rather than just from humility or good heartedness) are always attacked by the dogmatic that think fundamentally there is reason to be harshly judgmental, but who sometimes admit from humility reasons to act otherwise.

It was the natural philosophers that took this principle, just as they took the skeptical principle that all knowledge is mere theory (iow: that all knowledge is approximate) and proved it's fundamental validity. I merely do what all philosophers have and ought to do when a particular school develops cognitive tools and achieves with them... and that is to reclaim the principles with the improvements made back into general application. If the general application fails, it will be apparent. This application, however, will NOT fail, as the origin in relativity are common sense origins... things seem different to different people. The natural philosophers proved there is a fundamental truth to this... they have verified the principle more exhaustively than ever hoped or, indeed, needed.

>AND you made another unsupported assumption that the physical, highly mathematical theory applies even better to "human affairs." the fact that 'every argument haws two sides" has NOTHING whatsoever to do with relativity. It is merely a commonplace of human existence.

non sequitur. It has to do with every existence and is absolutely about relativity. Truth, or what is held as truth, one's "side" of the argument, appears different to different points of view. It is "relative" to the point of view. There is no difference.

Btw, don't mistake the principle of relativity with specific theories that use relativity, such as Newtonian Mechanics, the General Theory of Relativity, etc. I'm not deducing this from a scientific theory, but from a principle of relativity which has proven itself in many domains.

> The truth arises from some sort of democratic
process, in other words.

an abysmal theory. I don't hold that at all.

>This explains why habermas, and you, presumably, forego the advice of a physician when you are sick, instead repairing to the nearest street corner to poll the opinions of the passing multitude as to cause and treatment

hah hahhah. very funny.

And still, reality is relativistic, and no REAL argument stops me from using physicians...

>Here is the notion that the reality of an individual is in his relationships. If he is without relationships, he passes from knowable reality.

without relationships would mean... no photons strike him and then another object. Quantum isolation. Of course, by relationship I mean physical relationships, of which "human" relationships are just one small part.

> Marx, countering Aristotle: "Man is by nature a societal being." To be, one must be in relationships.

again... as I am invoking physical relations... certainly you see the absurdity of your criticism here? A hermit bears many relationships with the world... and "exists". On the other hand, an unknowable God has no relationships, and is not known to exist. And on the third hand... a God that is knowable... through communion, miracle, or vision, could be known to exist.

>>"All judgments are from a given frame of reference, are reliable within that frame only if they are sound, and still, though sound, not to be assumed for another frame of reference."

>In what frame of reference is the speed of light not a constant? WE treat it as such, and provide reasons for devience. btw, you have, in your first sentence here, announced YOUR dogma.

The speed of light actually changes when passing through materials... the maximum speed of light is constant. Still, I understand the complaint. However, the relativity of the speed of light comes due to the odd fact that it always appears to travel at a given speed in any frame. Relativity explains how that is possible... that's the main purpose of the General Theory of Relativity... to explain how the velocity is "constant".

If you travel .5 the speed of light, then from my frame you seem to go half the speed of light. The speed of light is twice your speed. You will reach the moon in twice the time it takes light. But in your frame, you are not traveling .5 the speed of light, you are at rest. Relative to me, you seem to go .5 the speed of light. But to yourself, you go 0 percent the speed of light.

That is... the speed of light provides the reference frame, speeds relative to it scale.

Why energy has such a fundamental character is not known, nor really the question. If you really want to explore this analog, I agree, there may be similar phenomenon... what is the speed of light in moral relativism? I suspect there are such "constants", and these are how we correlate the relative points of view. Obviously, drawing on relativity cannot be taken to mean there are no constants... it's just that constants need a relative explanation, not an absolute one.

If the speed of light were absolute, rather than constant, then when I went .5 the speed of light, I'd see light travel at .5 it's actual speed. This is what the classic model would expect.


>It is important, for it says that there are no objective moral statements.

and why are "objective moral statements" needed? if they are needed, how are they deduced?

You can tell us we are lost without objective moral statements... but... we have none, and are still not lost.

>We may interpret this as "find those virtues which are in yourself, and expand them." To do this, we need to be able to honestly look within ourselves for these virtues.

>Now, this is impossible for the relativist. He cannot look within for virtue, because, to him, virtue does not reside there. it resides in "relationships."

no. I said analysis relies in relationships... firstly, I've looked within and found the heart of a skeptic and relativist and assent to the apparent reality of this. As for inside... are you an atom... have you no parts? have they no relations?
I find it funny how antiquated a personal view one such as yourself is willing to adopt in philosophy. Forever condemning philosophy as irrational, but adopting, assuming, the idea that there are no relationship within... because of course we are being of immutable soul, chunks of atomic living-ness. If you take away the relationships within, one thing is certain... you'd be dead.

>The question now is, when we look within for virtues, how do we know the virtues within us from the other stuff? Believe me, the answer is NOT, for Nietzsche, to examine our relationships to find out what a virtue is.

you misread Nietzsche and lie in a bed of semantics. Nietzsche did think the history of the world was a struggle between the will to power of humans... such a struggle includes relationships. Should I even go on? You don't seem to understand relationships are physical. I'm applying physical reality... human relationships are made of physical contact... sight... photons that have struck another and then yourself (specifically your retina)... etc. Do you think that Nietzsche puts the individual in an isolation, separate from all other things, and asks what a virtue is? Of course not... Nietzsche s thoughts on this are unequivocally about the relationship between the strong and weak willed.


>Dogmatic morality is a control mechanism. Nietzsche's notion is to practice virtue from the fullness of life, and to do this, one must know which virtue4es are conducive to YOUR life.

those that defend objectivism, as you are, consistently believe it is all or nothing. The alternate complaint goes and comes, that relativity is TOO personal, all your personal beliefs are now equal with all others. Too much leeway is given the individual. Alternately, too much leeway is given to others, and you argue, no state, that it's impossible for the relativist to look inward... for the truth is out there.

But the skeptical approach is the relativistic approach... and it admits appearance, it admits "demonstration", it allows "convictions"... we look within to our nature and out to the world at our relation to others... and then meta, to the nature of our relations, and the relationships between the relations themselves, an so on.

I find it odd that anyone should attempt to compel me to look one place or the other for truth, but not both.

>But most of those who hold to dogmatic morality would not see it this way. To them, the individual rules of morality are subservient to some general principles.

too bad that is inconsistent with the rest of the dogmatic system. That's one reason I offer, we offer, relativity instead. We know that morality is "relative" to more general principles. The dogmatist puts it in terms of "subservience" because "servience" is something they are really concerned with, as you say, it's about control for them. They want to control the ideas of others.

But they have no way to explain this compromise... which is why all dogma is self-inconsistent. There is no way to apply a dogma without compromises of this sort, or to eventually have them thrust on you – or so I hold... book of proof yet to come.

> thus, they analyze such situations on a "lesser of two evils" basis. this does not involve charting relationships in order to find the moral principle.

a bold assertion. Doesn't "lesser" imply a comparison? Why yes, it does. Is a comparison not made by relating to things, measuring one against the other? Oh, yes, it does. Sounds like it's a search for a relationship to assign one of two, greater, and the other lesser.

>What of the relativist? i suppose that he should plead that there are no moral absolutes, no moral judgments, get on his computer, and take a poll as to what he should do.

just stupid Av. Do you really think those are the options?

MY THESIS: there are no moral absolutes... there ARE however, moral judgments, that's the main part of my thesis... relativism DOES allow moral judgments, by the bucket-load. And as for your recurring crack about opinion polls... how does the man believing in moral absolutes find HIS opinions... not through a poll? RIIIGHT. SUUURE. All those Christians in the crusades just independently came to the conclusion they had absolute truth on their side! It had nothing to do with peer pressure or common opinion, nothing to do with their "polling" to learn the opinions of their culture. RIGHT!

This is the typical thing I face in this argument, without fail. Projection. Projection by the absolutist, the biggest pack animal in human history. "Without absolute knowledge... relativists will act arbitrary and judgmental! (as we always have)"

In spite of developing a law of fundamental open mindedness, we relativists will become like they, and expect Popular Opinion to be crowned Fact.

Not very credible, and convincing only among unreformed dogmatists.

>>"funny, astronomy went no where until it did have this perspective."

>False on its face.

years of dogmatic "knowledge"... absolute certainty, led to centuries belief in incorrect systems, such as Ptolemy's. How it is incorrect? That can be measured by it's relationship to the facts, to the measurements we can take, working up from the positions of the stars and other celestial objects to one another and ultimately to ourselves.

The dogmatic eras have always been hard on astronomy. Galileo invented the modern idea of relativity... specifically from astronomical motivation... and it started a great revolution in science. But you think it's not related? False on its face? Objectivists and dogmatists are stuck with such arguments, I find, since they lack what they tell us we need to be credible... absolute certainty.
>>"NO, relativists have measured relationships and found approximate knowledge. The absolute knowledge crowd, they are the ones yet, ever, not one, to come up with even ONE PIECE OF ABSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE... except for a tautology to be constructed as such."

>I believe that this is a false dichotomy. the resuolt of lumping many things together into a "not like me" bucket and labelling them.

excuse me... please provide at least one piece of absolute knowledge that is not a tautology, true by definition. You ignored my complaint. But why is there no shame among the defenders of the absolute? You have nothing absolute to offer... but you say all knowledge hinges on having something of that sort. To me it sounds as if you don't believe knowledge is possible. Skeptics and relativists, to the contrary, admit relative and approximate truths... so I think we are ahead in the game of knowledge. I'm certain when you find an objective truth the rest of your system will fill out nicely, it's just that you'll never find that truth.

Some are willing to wait for the fountain of youth to be discovered, some have given up on it and moved on, choosing a healthy diet as, if not quite as good, as good as you can get.

>If one assumes that there is a real world of morality, but that we can't know its "infinite" computations, but have to rely on the imperfect knowledge of relationships, one can never come to any statement of morality, as you have said. You might say, "honesty, as far as i can tell at this time, polling the people of the world, is often a virtue."

you draw a lot of conclusions from very little. There is moral judgment... relative moral judgment. And that's all it takes. We don't need more, and if we do, we don't get more anyway.

Here, have some far more realistic, practical, and well justified relative judgments, relative morality, and enjoy your approximate truth without a paradoxically comical foundation.

>> ... it." sometimes, some people wanted to add, "if it doesn't hurt anyone." But the coolest among the class pointed out that hurting people might be your thing.

Stop. Halt. Reality check. Genghis Khan lived that philosophy. This is no mere "thought experiment" you offer to confuse us befuddling relativists. This is the real world knocking. Knock knock, "there are people that think it's great to oppress and violate your freedoms, and profit from it if they can."

My answer: when you find someone that honestly feels that way... you need not look around for a philosophical model with which to defend yourself... but a weapon.

Yes, Av, some things come to blows. I acknowledge some DO like such a malevolent philosophy, I've seen such people -claim- to be members of dogmatic philosophies as well, even using Christianity as their source though I do not believe this was Christ's view on his message... I acknowledge such people.

I am not one of them. Relativists rarely are, because we know that other people's views come into the mix relative to our own.

My only choice is to stop those people if they act on their preferences. But tell me... in the dogmatic and objective world, when people commit crimes wantonly because "it's their thing"... do you just jump up with a compelling bit of your dicta and find they are convinced by your argumentation? When being robbed, does sound objective truth seem affective?

For that truly would be amazing and reason to hold such a philosophy.

>The rejoinder was that one should do just what the "tribe" thought you should do.

not me. You've quoted Nietzsche often enough (though missed his point I think)... I accept his idea that madness in individuals is the exceptions, but in groups, is the rule. There is nothing in anything I've said that implies the polls are where the truth is to be found... though I note that is often where dogmatic truth is found. Just a coincidence, I'm sure. lol.

> (Remember, Woodstock was described as "the meeting of the tribes.") this leg of the class thought that one should be a part of the tribe, and if you didn';t like it, go to another tribe, to which you could subsume your relationships.

madness in baby boomers even more so.

>Thing is, i don't think that my teacher would have been open to any argument here that the morality of murder has to do with what we have gleaned from relationships. We count murder to be immoral just because we have made certain statements about the value of human life. And here we intersect Nietzsche again.

the absolute value of human life... right. except for... well, lots of cases. The "absolute" value of human life... like for example... there should be no killing of the unborn fetus... well, unless it's collateral damage in Iraq.

Very "absolute" I find these principles not. When will the "absolute" realize their system has failed? You had a nice long chance, you kept us waiting and filled our heads with 1000 lies... absolute truth which turned out to be lies... not just errors, but lies because of your defense and persecution based on these... false dogmatic truths called "objective".

>>"The history, in brief... relativism and skepticism before it are philosophies which urge open mindedness, because they argue that however things appear to you, they may appear quite different from a different point of view, be that someone else's point of view, a future point of view you might have, potential points of view you could have or simulate, etc."

>And, you seem to imply, this was unrecognized by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Marcus Aurelious, Tertullian, Boethius, Augustus, Aquinas, Averroes, Ibn Cina, Dun Scotus, Pico della Mirandola, DesCartes, leibnitz, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, kant, Hegel, Shilling, ......In fact, DesCartes, the most dogmatic of philosophers, STARTS with just this observation.

no... I don't imply that, indeed, I've pointed out this principle is not FROM the natural sciences, it's FROM philosophy in general, but the natural philosophers have refined it well, both because of their skeptical rigor... reserving doubt, and because they have proved it where even relativists and skeptics least expected, right in the fundament of physical reality.

As for Descartes... PLEASE... he did not START from that observation, he adopted it in a philosophical work in order to try to work his way out of it... and failed miserably but declared success, concluding in the end that skepticism wasn't valid because... God wouldn't lie to him! ROFLMAO.

Nice coordinate system, though, dude, I use it daily. Very impressive, but where shall I place the origin point..? oh, anywhere I want? Thank you! I'll choose a place relative to the problem I'm solving, shall I? Thanks!

>>"Now, that comparison should be made in a fair way, but I believe I know the outcome, as it's happened already in the natural sciences and also in democratic culture."

>God, what a leap of faith! Surely a sceptic would turn up his nose.

It's insulting for you to assume those things hidden in my past experiences, that have led me to my beliefs, are "leaps". No, it has been a long slow traversal... many steps of which I have revealed to you, many more are yet to come. I suppose you HOPE it is a leap of faith, but I think you know there is more to it than that... for one, thousands of years of failure to find that objective truth y'all promised us.

Eventually, people will give up faith there even IS a Fountain of Truth.

Some people just can't get around the fact that the world view we developed as tribes of animals just don't hold... but they don't.

>>"The dogmatic will fail as too rigid, as requiring certainty that is unattainable,"

>What in the world are you talking about? Sounds like a giant straw man.

You don't understand how those that believe in absolute certainty rest their argument on ... certainty, and that lacking certainty... their argument fails? You don't get that? You think some appeal to humility is sufficient? We're waiting for these absolutes you tell us we MUST have. Yes, we've forgotten you really mean, by absolutes, the forceful dicta of your historical religions, depending on culture and era, and still, we're waiting... you won't give up your faith in a kind of knowledge proved untenable... so provide some absolute truths for us to rely on... quickly, and make them moral truths.


>Maybe Nietzsche was right. he distinguished between true philosophers, who, acting with instinct, saw things that no one else saw, and by pointing them out, made them real, that is, they "stamped the character of being on becoming." They pointed to something new across the river, through the fog. The lesser "philosophers," like Plato, are the ones who place the stepping stones (using rationality) of "truth" by which we can cross the river to more closely see what the philosopher has pointed to.

but you hate that... right? you prefer Plato's approach. At least, you have castigated me for "leaps of faith", for seeing something others do not see, pointing it out, making it real, and stamping the character of becoming into morality. (I agree with N, there is no "being"... only becoming).

>Yet philosophers have always and everywhere said that "you must doubt everything," and if you don't, you are closed minded, and if you don't accept this dogma, you are dogmatic.

why fear doubt..? there can be a little doubt, at least, in everything, and a lot of doubt for most things (e.g. popular things)... and really, it's a quite nice thing, doubt, and I don't understand why the objective and absolute fear it so... unless it has something to do with that "subservience" issue.

Averroes

Short one:

Isn't the great, unnamed assumption here that Bush "knew" that there was no need for a war, but diabollically pushed for one anyway, using any means, fair or foul, possible?

Why did he do this? here's one i haven't heard: he is an addictive personality, as evidenced by his former drinkin' (as it's known in Texas) and when we went to war in Afghanistan, the rush was so overwhelming that he just HAD to chase it. Iraq was the best bet at the time, but, as might be predicted, the high wasn't as good, except for that first little rush. (That was like, shock and awe, man!) But you know how hard it is for addicts to stop chasing the high. Fortunately, Bush thinks, there's iran, and North Korea, and Syria, and......

Averroes

Oops,. wrong place. Sorry, pyrrho. it;s a goody though. think i'll copy it and put it where it belongs.

Averroes

pyrrho, last night wrote a long, point by point replu=y, and lost it all in a computor crash just as i was about to send it. but this will not stop me froim trying again. but my new strategy is to post smaller, and then take my medicine to get my fingers working again. (Actually, i take the medicine because it is hard to concentrate and write when a loud voice in your head is telling you that you must kill again.)

passim you post above, i must say that i siometimes wondered who you were arguing with. It seemed to me at times that you were giving your well-rehearsed argument, and it didn;t matter if it had anything to do with what i wrote.

I also noticed that you use terms in odd ways at times, without expressly defining them. In fact, I haven't been defining mine either. i think that this has led to some misunderstandings.

I was particularly interested in your insistence on "natural philosophers" instead of the jmore usual term "scientists." let me guess here: you don;t believe in philosphy in and of itself, but have found some "philosophers" from the ancient past, who doubt the ability of philosophy to do its task, and have decided to do swhat they didlk which was to basically oversee the replacement of philosophy with science. Sometimes they do this with the old "reductionist" argument. youj know it: everything is physical, so that what philosophers talk about, if it has any meaning at all, could be said in strictly physical terms." Sort of sits there alongside the "there;s no difference between thought and feeling" assumption.

I also realized that i don't make myself very clear, being woefully out of practice.

In light of this, I propose to offer nietzsche's take on philosophy, and its relationship to science, from the horse's mouth, we might say. I will then close, and come back later to further rhapsodize.

Note: these three parapgraphs will probably be considered long, in this format. i could take someout, but i don't want to be seen as poreening the argument to make a point. i will bold a couple of things, not because I think that these things are more important than the rest, but because i think i want to talk about them later, in the context of your post above.

On to nietzsche:

"Greek philosophy seems to begin with a preposterous idea, with the proposition that water is the origin and mother-womb of all things. Is it really necessary to stop there and become serious? Yes, and for three reasons: Firstly, because the proposition does enunciate something about the origin of things; secondly, because it does so without figure and fable; thirdly and lastly, because in it is contained, although only in the chrysalis state, the idea: Everything is one. The first mentioned reason leaves Thales still in the company of religious and superstitious people, the second however takes him out of this company and shows him to us as a natural philosopher, but by virtue of the third, Thales becomes the first Greek philosopher. If he had said: "Out of water earth is evolved," we should only have a scientific hypothesis; a false one, though nevertheless difficult to refute. But he went beyond the scientific. In his presentation of this concept of unity through the hypothesis of water, Thales has not surmounted the low level of the physical discernments of his time, but actually leapt over them. The deficient and unorganized observations of an empiric nature which Thales had made as to the occurrence and transformations of water, or to be more exact, of the Moist, would not in the least have made possible or even suggested such an immense generalization. That which drove him to this generalization was a metaphysical thought, which had its origin in mystic intuition and which together with the ever renewed endeavors to express it better, we find in all philosophies the proposition: "Everything is one."

"How forcefully such a faith deals with all empiricism is worthy of note; with Thales especially one can learn how philosophy has behaved at all times, when she wanted to get beyond the hedges of experience to her magically attracting goal. On light supports she leaps in advance; hope and divination wing her feet. Calculating reason too, clumsily pants after her and seeks better supports in its attempt to reach that alluring goal, at which its divine companion has already arrived. One imagines two wanderers by a wild forest-stream which carries with it rolling stones; the one, light-footed, leaps over it using the stones and swinging upon them ever further and further, though they precipitously sink into the depths behind. The other stands helpless there most of the time; one has first to build a pathway which will bear a heavy, weary step; sometimes that cannot be done and then no god will help one across the stream. What therefore carries philosophical thinking so quickly to its goal? Does it distinguish itself from calculating and measuring thought only by its more rapid flight through large spaces? No, for a strange illogical power wings the foot of philosophical thinking; and this power is creative imagination. Lifted by the latter, philosophical thinking leaps from possibility to possibility, and these for the time being are taken as certainties; and now and then even whilst on the wing it gets hold of certainties. An ingenious presentiment shows them to the flier; demonstrable certainties are divined at a distance to be at this point. Especially powerful is the strength of imagination in the lightning-like seizing and illuminating of similarities; afterwards reflection applies its measuring and models (templates) and seeks to substitute the similarities by equalities, that which was seen side by side by causalities. But though this should never be possible, even in the case of Thales the indemonstrable philosophizing has yet its value; although all supports are broken when logic and the rigidity of empiricism want to get across to the proposition: "Everything is water"; yet still there is always, after the demolition of the scientific edifice, a remainder, and in this very remainder lies a moving force and as it were the hope of future fertility.

"Of course I do not mean that the thought in any restriction or attenuation, or as allegory, still retains some kind of "truth"; as if, for instance, one might imagine the creating artist standing near a waterfall, and seeing in the forms which leap towards him, an artistically prefiguring game of the water with human and animal bodies, masks, plants, rocks, nymphs, griffins, and with all existing types in general, so that to him the proposition: "Everything is water," is confirmed. The thought of Thales has rather its value—even after the perception of its indemonstrableness—in the very fact, that it was meant unmythically and unallegorically. The Greeks among whom Thales became so suddenly conspicuous were the anti-type of all realists by only believing essentially in the reality of mortals and gods, and by contemplating the whole of nature as if it were only a disguise, masquerade and metamorphosis of these god-humans. Humans were to them the truth, and essence of things; everything else mere phenomenon and deceiving play. For that very reason they experienced incredible difficulty in conceiving of ideas as ideas. Whilst with the moderns the most personal item sublimates itself into abstractions, with them the most abstract notions became personified. Thales, however, said, "Not man but water is the reality of things"; he began to believe in nature, in so far that he at least believed in water. As a mathematician and astronomer he had grown cold towards everything mythical and allegorical, and even if he did not succeed in becoming disillusioned as to the pure abstraction, "Everything is one," and although he left off at a physical expression he was nevertheless among the Greeks of his time a surprising rarity. Perhaps the exceedingly conspicuous Orpheans possessed in a still higher degree than he the faculty of conceiving abstractions and of thinking unplastically (without images); only they did not succeed in expressing these abstractions except in the form of the allegory. Also Pherecydes of Syrus who is a contemporary of Thales and akin to him in many physical conceptions hovers with the expression of the latter in that middle region where allegory is wedded to mythology, so that he dares, for example, to compare the earth with a winged oak, which hangs in the air with spread pinions and which Zeus bedecks, after the defeat of Kronos, with a magnificent robe of honor, into which with his own hands Zeus embroiders lands, water and rivers. In contrast with such gloomy allegorical philosophizing scarcely to be translated into the realm of the comprehensible, Thales' are the works of a creative master who began to look into Nature's depths without fantastic fabling. If as it is true he used science and the demonstrable but soon outleapt them, then this likewise is a typical characteristic of the philosophical genius. The Greek word which designates the sage belongs etymologically to sapio, I taste, sapiens, the tasting one, sisyphos, the person of the most delicate taste; the peculiar art of the philosopher therefore consists, according to the opinion of the people, in a delicate selective judgment by taste, by discernment, by significant differentiation. He is not prudent, if one calls him prudent, who in his own affairs finds out the good; Aristotle rightly says: "That which Thales and Anaxagoras know, people will call unusual, astounding, difficult, divine but—useless, since human possessions were of no concern to those two." Through thus selecting and precipitating the unusual, astounding, difficult, and divine, Philosophy marks the boundary lines dividing her from science in the same way as she does it from prudence by the emphasizing of the useless. Science without thus selecting, without such delicate taste, pounces upon everything knowable, in the blind covetousness to know all at any price; philosophical thinking however is always on the track of the things worth knowing, on the track of the great and most important discernments. Now the idea of greatness is changeable, as well in the moral as in the esthetic realm, thus Philosophy begins with a legislation with respect to greatness, she becomes a nomenclator (name-giver). "That is great," she says, and therewith she raises us above the blind, untamed covetousness of our thirst for knowledge. By the idea of greatness she assuages this thirst: and it is chiefly by this, that she contemplates the greatest discernment, that of the essence and kernel of things, as attainable and attained. When Thales says, "Everything is water," we are startled up out of our worm-like mauling of and crawling about among the individual sciences; we divine the last solution of things and master through this divination the common perplexity of the lower grades of knowledge. Philosophers try to make the total-chord of the universe reecho within themselves and then to project it into ideas outside themselves: whilst they are contemplative like the artistic, sympathetic like the religious, looking out for ends and causalities like the scientific, whilst they feel themselves swell up to the macrocosm, they still retain the circumspection to contemplate themselves coldly as the reflex of the world; they retain that coolheadedness, which dramatic artists possess, when they transform themselves into other bodies, speak out of them, and yet know how to project this transformation outside themselves into written verses. What the verse is to the poet, dialectic thinking is to philosophers; they snatch at it in order to hold fast their enchantment, in order to petrify it. And just as words and verse to dramatists are only stammerings in a foreign language, to tell in it what they lived, what they saw, and what they can directly promulgate by gesture and music only, thus the expression of every deep philosophical intuition by means of dialectics and scientific reflection is, it is true, on the one hand the only means to communicate what has been seen, but on the other hand it is a paltry means, and at the bottom a metaphorical, absolutely inexact translation into a different sphere and language. Thus Thales saw the unity of the "Existent," and when he wanted to communicate this idea he talked of water!"

pyrrho

I'm not sure what you meant by including that passage but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

In it, applied to the topic of this essay, I think Nietzsche says, "pyrrho can do this project this way".

As for lack of definitions... I do use technical definitions and sometimes oddly technical, that is... they have succombed to my own techniques... I do try to make this clear, sometimes I forget I use the word in a special way... the most common example. I try to keep value judgements out of words and put them in sentences where I think they belong.

I do try to make that clear, but space is limited, or time is, and I have not found that trying to parenthetically drop into definitions of terms is very fruitful for communication in all cases. I am always willing to explain a term, but in many cases I also have become willing, but I didn't start out this way, to let the words flow without preperatory glossaries... and respect the reader to know that terms have different senses for different speakers, and to detect when possible meanings of words lead to divergent interpretations of the text, and to ask for clarification, or to provide clarifications themselves.

After that passage... how can you complain if I jump from rock to rock to cross the river, sometimes? I return, with the engineers, to build a bridge... I admit when the stone have sunk, or are likely too, I admit when it turns out to be impossible to build a bridge there, I admit this all by not claiming anyone is compelled to jump across the same stones... I generally caution that it may not work the same for others. I don't try to sell people on my paths or even conclusions.

I present them, and if you like the concepts I have found, I have created, then you are welcome to them, and I'm honored if you do... but if you don't, I'm not dishonored, for they were my concepts to begin with and they still can be.


Averroes

I continue my hit-and-run posting here....

It seemed to me during the night that the arguments here can be modeled simply like this:

A: One should be sceptical of everything.

B: I am sceptical of that proposition.

A: You are just like those dogmatic people who have been responsible for all the evils of history, from dandruff to the inability of ptolemaic astronmy to explain where Polaris would be in the sky tomorrow night.

I stuck this in, ironically, because your argument with ptolemaic astronomy is not that it didn't do what it set out to do, describe the skies in a way that allowed accurate prediction of astronomic events, but that it didn't find The Truth. Your argument seems to be that the false ptolemaic astronomy outlasted its time just because it was backed dogmatically (this is historically true), and that we should adopt a new dogma, called the theory of relativity. In fact, you seem to want to apply this new dogma dogmatically, like some sort of intellectual salsa, to everything.

Let's just say that i am sceptical.

A quick comment on the passage in the last post....

It is more natural for me to say this in another context. The philosopher as defined by Nietzsche is like the enlightened man. How does he convey what informs his enlightenment? By all means human. He writes sutras, he prescribes practice, and, like D.T. Suzuki, he writes "philosophy."

But the enlightened man, and Nietzsche's philosopher, is like a man who first looks up and sees the moon. He points to the moon. That pointing is the sutras, the practices, the "philosophy." And it is ever true that most "mistake the pointing for the moon." They think that the sutras, the practice, and the rational "philosphy" are the moon, and seek to comment on, to rationalize and extend, to oppose and refute, to "understand" those pointings. In so doing, they never see the moon. And it is just this sort of rational "philosophy" against which Nietzsche argues. He BLAMES Socrates for this, and Plato.

Q: "What is the meaning of the Bhodisattva coming from the west?" (This means to axk what the meaning of Buddhism is.)

A: "The cypress tree in the courtyard."

THIS pointing is purposely set up to be unavailable to the rational. But that has not kept a millenium of students from trying to solve it rationally! It has not stopped, in other words, a millenium of students from mistaking the pointing for the moon.

The Sentences of Peter Lombard (after Abelard) mark a high point of medieval philosphy. They mark an attempt to discuss the doctrines of the church without resort to the more mythological aspects of church doctrine, in line with the new avidity for learning. But while the hundreds of following Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard are certainly, in the main, a worthwhile undertaking, they remain bound by their attempt to explain rationally what Lombard said, as opposed to what he saw.

When one opens Spinoza's Ethic, one can certainly be sceptical immediately of its plan, its couching of its argument in the language of geometry, with propostitions, demonstrations, corollaries, and the rest. As we read it, we may well judge that this or that argument falls short, that a demonstration is unconvincing. But what person can read this work and not be filled with pure joy? Who could not be filled with the vision of Spinoza? Who cannot read this man and, even if denying all of his "rational" arguments, not partake at least partially in what he sees?

What makes Spinoza a philosopher is NOT his writings. Those are the pointings. What makes him a philopsopher is what he saw. To truly read Spinoza, we need the most exquisite taste, and the greatest empathy. Now there is nothing wrong, certainly, with engaging the arguments rationally, but this is not what nietzsche would call philosophy. It is a measure of our decadence that it IS what is commonly called philosophy!

I had a professor who had risen to stardom rather quickly, writing five books in five years after he got his Ph.D. (along with a couple of collections of papers on the same topics of his books.) He made this distinction among "philosophers", unwittingly, another way. He proposed that graduate schools of philosphy should not be in the business of nurturing philosophers, althpough they should not refuse to do so. he thought, rather, that such schools should train "professional philosophers," that is, people who could make a living teaching and writing in the area of philosphy. These "professional philosophers" are just those constrained by rationality to follow after philosophers in Nietzsche.

For the philosopher, it is different. Philosophy is not something one chooses; in fact, it is hard to see why anyone would choose the solitude, the loneliness, to be daily involved with the "unusual, astounding, difficult, divine but—useless." Philosophy is somethng which one cannot escape, from which one seeks to hide at his own peril, at the peril of risking his life, for it flows from within.

It is the philosopher who "sees the universe in the eye of the frog."

It is the philosopher who offers

"A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence on words or letters;
Direct pointing into the mind;
Seeing into one's [own] nature, [and thereby] attaining the Buddha [that is, seeing the essence of Reality]."

Certainly the philospher may write down in a rational way a pointing to his moon. But those who treat such writings as scripture, to be taken as ratinal truth, or to argued for or against, are mistaking the pointing for the moon.

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