Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Will and Reason

I have blogged much about Will and Reason, usually by talking up the role of Will as determining the context in which we reason and downplaying Reason as doing the grunt work once Will determines the axioms and values. It has occurred to me lately, though, that Will without Reason is limp.

Without Reason to provide models and pictures, Will has no form or direction. I want, but the want has no structure. Maybe we could call it dissatisfaction: it does not quite rise to the level of moving us to act, but it does ensure that we sleep poorly. It is only after Reason provides us with Concepts, Relations, and Paths that our Will actually takes on a form and compels us to motion.

Suppose a man is dissatisfied. There is nothing he can do about it. Suppose the man observes that after lifting weights there is muscle growth, and after cardio there is weight loss, and that after eating some foods his muscles are larger and feel better and after eating other foods his gut becomes larger. Reason allows him to define concepts like Hypertrophy, Caloric Deficit, and Nutrition and it allows him to relate proper Nutrition to Caloric Deficit and Hypertrophy, finally showing him the consequences that result from his actions relevant to these concepts.

Only with the model does his dissatisfaction become something like Will-to-Health or Will-to-Strength. Prior to the model, it's just a little groan he gives when he grabs his gut fat.

The World as We Found It

I conceive of the world as one fact. We must carve it into tiny pieces to make it usable, but this does not mean that it is truly composed of tiny pieces.

I conceive of language as an inherent falsehood, and I say that the xRy nature of our language indicates human creativity and a segregating of facts apart from other facts that the world does not actually resemble.

All this is to say that the entire history of philosophy, science, literature, poetry, and essentially language and mathematics entirely is one big book called The World as We Found It. What we meant to write was The World as It Is, but that is not what the final product turned out to be. The text turned out to be a creative work that emerged through the interactions of Selves with the World, determined to varying degrees by either those Selves or by the World, but never without the interaction with the two. No Self ever produced a work without appealing to the World beyond himself, and the World has never been described without passing through the filter of a Self who encountered it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Proof Criteria

I have my concept, and as a part of my concept I must include a Proof Criteria. Now, in life, concepts are not defined so intentionally, but we who live in a world thoroughly saturated in human creativity can look at what we created naturally and attempt to create artificially as well. So consider the way that we talk about 'proof,' and 'evidence.'

Suppose we knew a man named Jack and we asked for proof that his name was, in fact, Jack. What would be the Proof Criteria here? This is written into the concept of a Name. Jack could point to several people who call him Jack, and it is the nature of Names that they are what one is called. Jack is called Jack; Jack responds to the name Jack; if you asked people where Jack is they would direct you to the man being questioned. This is proof that his name is Jack.

Perhaps one would object that this is evidence, not proof. Perhaps they object that people calling this individual Jack would lead one to believe that his name is Jack, it hints at it, but it may very well not be. Maybe his name is actually Clive.

But then one must look at the concept of a Name. Is a Name the thing written on your birth certificate? Is a name your full and proper title?

We define the concept of the Name. If I were a government agent trying to discover a fugitive, then for me the concept of a Name is the name written on the birth certificate - the name in the eyes of the State. It would not matter to me that this man is called Jack if the name his parents gave him is Clive. That people call him Jack is evidence - evidence that may lead me away from the actual truth.

If I am Jack's friend, I do not care what his parents called him. For me a Name is what I use to address my friend, the name I use to refer to my friend, the name I write on gift tags to my friend, the name I use to find his phone number in my contacts list. If I call him Jack and he responds this is not evidence that his name is Jack, it is proof. By my concept of a name, this is what a name consists of.

To ground a concept in the world of phenomena we must define the appearances that must appear to us for us to evaluate the concept as True or False. This is what we mean when we say that a concept is verifiable.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The World as One Fact

I wonder if an improvement on the idea of determinism might be the notion that the world is a single fact. Perhaps it is the nature of human limitation that we have to break the world into xRy sentences in order to analyze and work with the world, but that is not to say that the world is actually a sum total of xRy sentences. And perhaps it is not the case that we see cause-and-effect relations throughout the world, but rather that what we categorize as causal is really just the nature of the one fact.

Perhaps "the ball caused the window to shatter" is all wrong. Maybe instead we should see that a ball of a certain mass traveling a certain velocity and crossing paths with a window is a shattered window. Or rather that the entire situation of balls flying and a window shattering is all one big relation. We can choose to shave it down into smaller and smaller relations, or we could step back and look at larger and larger relations; this is human limitation.

Understanding that we could not grasp the world in this way, we could see that the world is one giant unity. One fact, not a collection of facts.

Although, am I saying that it is somehow illegitimate to observe tiny relations? No, no not at all.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Science as Communal

Let me cast science in this way: science is a method of developing theories via a consistent approach to phenomena to provide a set of communal theories. By this I mean that we all make observations, we all encounter phenomena, and we all imagine how these phenomena relate to one another. These imagined relations are theories. These theories aim at the truth (how things really are), but the truth can not be determined independently of perception; so we have two criteria that allow us to sort theories: coherence and pragmatism. Scientists take theories and apply pragmatic tests to them to see what works and what does not - and decent scientists and philosophers and lay thinkers can read popular theories and see which ones cohere together and which ones do not.

Fundamentally, science must be communal. The theories that science declares the best possible theory at any given time may not be the best possible theory in relation to a given individual. Perhaps the individual requires a theory that affirms his image of himself or perhaps he needs theories delivered to him with a taste of anthropomorphism. This science need not do. The individual's genetic make-up and life-experiences may incline him to certain idiosyncrasies when theorizing on phenomena; science restrains itself to pragmatism and coherency because these two criteria are useful for nearly every human trying to make sense of the world (indeed, it is hard to imagine someone who would value a theory for not working even if they happen to value a non-working theory over a working one).

The result is that science allows people from varying backgrounds, with varying wills, to sit down and imagine relations between appearances that can guide and inform anyone. Scientific theories are public theories.

Air so Thin You Can't Breathe

The difficulty of philosophy is that it consists, at least in part, of chopping the world into tiny atoms and then contemplating very simple relations. It all comes back to the basic sentence: xRy. We may suppose that when we engage in this kind of activity we are putting life under the microscope. We are looking at the world very closely to slip past all the messiness and complexity so that we can see the underlying order and simplicity. The presupposition is the world is simple and orderly and that life only perplexes us because there are so many simple and orderly relations sitting atop one another that it creates the illusion of chaos.

Yet, something has bothered me ever since my failed attempt at studying philosophy in college. In philosophy the air is so thin you can't breathe. The more complexity you strip away in the course of forming a picture of some aspect of the world, the less and less that your picture resembles the world. We philosophical types are the ones who have some defect of the brain that compels us to wrestle with these pictures and try to make them into something that we can live by; talk to someone who is struggling to get through an obligatory Intro to Philosophy class and note the way that the pictures being presented to them are utterly void of content for them. They find philosophy to be like offering someone a photo-realistic sketch and then handing them a stick figure.

Of course, stick figures just consist of lines on paper. Philosophy boasts an incredibly expansive vocabulary, esoteric word usages, mountains of primary texts next to ranges of secondary texts, and people who can sit down and actually speak in philosophy. From this the non-philosopher gets the impression that philosophy is deeply sophisticated, so the non-philosopher devalues himself by saying that he just can't understand it. He treats philosophy as something beyond him and comes to hate it bitterly.

What the non-philosopher does not understand is that philosophy is beneath his world. The pictures offered by philosophy are simplifications - that is - fictions. If the pictures bother you, it is probably because you realize you can't live in a world so small.

Even in my own writing this is something I am ever aware of. In my last blog I talked about loving the world deeply. As I re-read it I realized that it was entirely useless information for anyone other than me. My description is small, anyone reading it will picture a small world, no one could breathe that kind of air. Of course the ideas that preceded the blog mean the world to me; they have a deep significance, they are something that I can try to live my life by. The words themselves, though, are a kind of byproduct of a way of life. To someone living differently in a different situation with different values, my words have to be meaningless, it is the only way we forge our own individual lives is by being capable of not feeling the significance of every sincerely held worldview.

If you ever read a worldview that seems so small that you do not see how a person could actually live in that kind of world, one need only remember that someone is, in fact, living their life while espousing it.

A Theistic Answer to Chaos

My response to how we are to love in chaos is that we must love ever deeper. That the answer to the inevitability of despair is more love. That the answer to uncertainty is love. And I call my answer theistic not because one must necessarily believe in God, but because I consider this response to be foundational block to a higher theism that is rooted in love of God first and treats belief as a secondary concern.

To draw out my response, I offer this scenario:

A man loves a sick woman. The woman is fragile; she may live, she may die, she may live well, she may live broken. The man loves her, but he can protect himself from despair by starving his love for her. He can take rational, tactical steps to kill his love by choosing to meditate on certain thoughts, directing his attention on certain areas, and placing himself in certain situations. Likewise he can feed his love and grow ever nearer to her, to the point that her death might leave him a broken man.

If he constrains his focus in this way he will either starve his love and become a living-dead stoic or he will feed his love and invite the world to destroy him. What would I tell this man to do?

I would tell him to love the sick woman. Love her more and more. And love his house as well, the house he can share with her and that will remind him of her if she should die. And love their friends and family who will stand near him but be able to do nothing to console him internally. Love his job, which will become a heavy burden if he has to perform it while grieving. Love the world which is so arranged that his misery is a certainty. And love God to such a degree that he will continue to love if she lives and love if she dies.

This scenario, captures what I mean by adding more and more love. If using the word "God" makes this difficult, I invite you to instead use the word "Other." Make the choice to feed your love of that which is outside of you, that which you can not control. Love what you love and love in such a way that you will love even if love leads to despair.

One may perhaps wonder if we have rendered the word "love" meaningless. What is it to multiply love in this way?

Scream that you want her to live - deepen your commitment to her and do not let yourself pull back to protect yourself. And if she dies, own your despair and defiantly spit out, "your will be done." And then live in that way still, continue loving and knowing that with or without your permission, "his will be done" and react to that with acceptance. Return at all times to a harmony between Self and Other/Perception and Mystery/Man and God, resisting both the urge to remove one or the other.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Love in Chaos

Suppose you lived in a world full of treasures that commanded your affection. It was not necessary for you to own them to love them, simply the fact that they existed made you happy. Like any love, however, you could starve or feed your attraction. Then suppose that these treasures just started shattering. You wake up one morning and some lovely statue that you would have happily sold your grandmother for now lies shattered on your feet; that night the most magnificent building ever created just sort of crumbled into a nearby lake. The rubble killed a lot of beautiful fish. The most gorgeous woman in the world let herself go at dinner last night and turned into Bruce Vilanch. The sweetest drink that would ever touch your lips got watered down and added to some Mountain Dew.

Living in such a world, what would you do with your love? Would you feed it? Would you let yourself get attached to all the stuff that was falling apart, opening yourself up to despair? Or would you starve it? Would you continue living due to some accursed Will-to-Live, but stoically trying to live without love or affection as though you were already dead to avoid the pain of loss?

Perhaps the world is not quite so chaotic, but then it is not entirely right to say that we do not live in a world like the one described. The things we love do fade - it is a certainty that any person we love will one day die and it requires the cooperation of a wide network of people in order to preserve any particular object through the ages. And neither option of starving or feeding love is exactly a winner. Indeed, it is very brave and noble and tragic to dare to love despite the inevitability of despair, but, from the point of view of the person who despairs, is it truly an enjoyable life? And a long, drawn out suicide-by-avoidance just sounds exhausting as hell to me. How could you get up in the morning if you viewed each day as an opportunity to try to avoid any attachments in life? So far as I can tell this worldview only really works if you do not acknowledge it - or only acknowledge it with feigned irony; by all means start on the porn at one in the afternoon when you finally wake up and finish up by the time you've exhausted yourself back to sleep, but how will you find the drive to even Google if you say that plan out loud?

Of course there is the Platonic/Jesus option:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21
Escaping the chaotic world for the sake of another world: a world of forms or a kingdom of heaven. Something general, something essential, something fundamental, something perfect, something incorruptible. Something that isn't falling apart.

Maybe it works for some people, but I find that this leads us to one of two positions, one of which is untenable the other of which I can agree with but do not find especially meaningful. 

Sometimes we create a picture of Heaven by taking our world and stripping out everything we dislike, leaving us with something two-dimensional and unsatisfying since it is, after all, a reduction of our own world. When I see people posturing on the internet by linking to some given immorality and then saying "come quickly Lord Jesus," I do not see someone who is speaking out of love for heaven, but someone who is speaking out of loathing for earth. In fact the desire for an Otherworld seems entirely based on a recognition of the inadequacy of our own world: any attempt to actually describe what would make the Otherworld so lovely tends to reduce to just cutting off the nasty bits of our own world. Those who do try to describe their Otherworld tend to start slashing at their membership roster as one man's utopia tends to be another man's hell.

Other times we acknowledge that if there is an Otherworld, it is a mystery to us. We have no appearances to form a picture of it from. We do not know what appeal it will have for us. I like this approach in that it does not try to say more than it can say, but we must still acknowledge that it does not say much.

What then are we to do?

Monday, July 8, 2013

I and the Body

Which is the more correct picture?

I have a body.
I am a body.

It seems obvious to me that saying "I have a body" creates too inadequate a picture. I have a car, and if you were to take a sledgehammer to it that would make it terribly difficult for me to get to work tomorrow, but my inner life would remain the same. If you took a sledgehammer to my body, however, you might change the fundamental nature world. Right now I experience the world, in part, through the sense of touch in my right hand; if you were to smash my right hand and destroy the nerve endings I would now have a world void of sensations as they appear to the sensitive right hand. Let alone the possibility that you could do damage to my brain - possibly producing someone who experiences anger at different rates, is unable to empathize with the feelings of others, or even someone who can no longer make decisions.

My body is my world. Therefore it appears correct to say "I am a body."

Yet, this seems inadequate to me as well. The inadequacy is different in this case, though. In the former case, the inadequacy was so great that I would imagine anyone holding such a picture to be constantly wracked by doubt as the world regularly presented him with phenomena that could not fit comfortably with the picture. In this case I think one could live life according to this picture, but it would have an intuitive wrongness to it. One would live according to this picture only if one had a prior commitment: presumably materialism.

The intuitive wrongness lies in the fact that the motions of my own body are experienced differently than the motions of another body. If someone runs I see their legs lift, I hear their pants rub together, if I were close and creepy enough I would smell sweat, and if I placed my hand on their thigh I would feel the muscle tighten under their skin. If I run, I might have these same experiences, but I would have the sensation of muscles reluctant to move and the shortness of breath that comes with exertion. I might observe this in the other runner, but I experience it in myself.

It may be that the motions of my body and the motions of the other body are identical. Yet I experience mine and I observe theirs. The mere motions of my body are inadequate, there is something emergent in the relation between I and Body. The subjective. The experience. The perception.

One can live without regarding perception as something otherworldly. This does not mean that it is not still inadequate when compared to how we really experience the world.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Evidence and Phenomena

Suppose someone says that what we say is not supported by the evidence - what does this mean? Put it into other words. I suppose that we could view it in this way.

There is phenomena, appearance. Our sentences can be built upon these phenomena; in such cases the number of words is determined by what we perceive, their order is dictated by the way our perceptions appear to us, the sentence serves to show how we suppose that these appearances relate to one another.

The sentence "the ball broke the window" is built upon the appearance of a ball, the appearance of a broken window, the appearance of the memory of the window being recently whole, the sound of a shattering, the appearance of the ball breaking the window, and the understood concept that balls can cause windows to become shattered.

Now suppose we have a sentence like, "Timmy is a delinquent." This is not rooted in appearance, this is instead rooted in other sentences which are themselves rooted in appearance. If we have sentences like "Timmy broke the neighbors window," "Timmy glued Fluffy to the doghouse," and "Timmy poured water on the new computer," then we may use these models of appearances as grounds to make a sentence placing Timmy in the 'little bastard' category. Much language is rooted in other language, but there is also language that is rooted in appearance.

Let us leave aside for a moment the question of the validity of moral statements that claim we should only believe what is rooted in appearance. For now it is enough to note that we can distinguish between sentences that are rooted in appearance and those that are not - or rather - sentences that are heavily rooted and those that are shallowly rooted.