Friday, August 30, 2013

Objective Truth

Might it be said that I do not believe in objective truth? That I don't believe that things are how they are and not how they are not.

First I say that I am a human and I only concern myself with things that concern humans. So instead ask if I believe in an objective truth in relation to humanity?

Yes, I very much do. I believe in a big, objective truth; perhaps the biggest objective truth. For most the truth is the world - state what the world is and you state what the truth is. I on the other hand recognize that there is no stating the world without concepts and axioms and that concepts and axioms come from humans. I say that there is are innumerable true statements that can be made, but their truth stems from adherence to certain rules of thought that we ourselves develop. Sentences rely on their context for their truth value.

My conception of truth is the same as most peoples, just multiplied to the point of nigh-uselessness. If someone says science is truth (or more likely that science is knowledge) then they are identifying a certain method of thought that leads to the unqualified truth. Not a truth, just the truth. Likewise for those who say revelation is knowledge or intuition is knowledge, what have you. They are identifying methods for coming to knowledge, which is no more than identifying rules for evaluating sentences. The difference between them and me is that they put their method on a throne and have sentences that they declare true whereas I collect methods in my closet and have sentences that I declare true depending on how you look at them.

And of course if you do not set up a method as the correct method, what is the point in having methods? We develop methods that they might lead us to something. But what is it that we want to be led to?

Behind all the epistemology is people living their lives. Their methods will reflect this. Methods of thought will produce models and pictures, models and pictures will produce predictions, predictions serve as phenomenological anchors. If our methods are not serving us, we will make new methods.

Suppose I deliver a model showing how the stock market works, and then I deliver a list of 500 hypothetical methods of thought and how each method would evaluate my model. Perhaps my model is true according to 150 hypothetical methods and false according to 350 hypothetical methods. People might decide ahead of time whether my model was worth considering by finding their preferred method and seeing how it evaluates (well, it looks good according to the Voodoo method, the Freudian method, and the Hegelian method, not so good according to the scientific method or the Keynesian picture of economics). But of course people might actually use the model, and they might make a lot of money or they might lose a lot of money. That will be the test of whether or not the model lingers or disappears: people living their lives and determining whether or not my model has any place in their lives. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nothingness or the Mystical

When one forms a picture of the world, there is often room for words that lack any phenomenological anchors. The words may be essential to the coherence and completeness of the picture, but if someone pointed to the word and asked 'what does this look like' there would be no answer to give.

It is not hard to think of examples. The self. God. Statements of value. There is much that we speak of that we can not verify by appealing to the world of appearance, concepts that lack a phenomenological proof criteria.

That such language exists cannot be denied, what each person must work out for themselves is how they will regard such concepts. It seems to come down to either Nothingness or the Mystical. Let us take the Self for example: by my philosophy, Self is Perception, but this is a peculiar thought as we tend to conceive of perception as an activity. The idea of Self as Perception invites speculation that the Self is something deeper and Perception is merely the activity that we happen to be aware of. However, what could we possibly know about this deeper something? It is deeper than our body, it is deeper than our mind; how could we possibly grasp something that has more depth than our faculty for grasping? So when we talk about Self we are necessarily talking nonsense, but what kind of nonsense is it? Nothingness? or the Mystical?

If Nothingness, then all this Self talk is illusory nonsense. Perhaps it is a useful illusion, perhaps very adaptive and maybe we should hold on to this helpful illusion a bit, but illusion all the same.

If the Mystical, then the Self is something of such depth that we can only hope for little sparks of experience to shine light on something that must be lived rather than understood. We do not write the Self off, instead we see our language as limited.

Where is the substance of this difference?

Those who write off those things we cannot grasp as Nothingness can get on with doing the good work of grasping what we can grasp. Putting aside the question of the soul is a good first step to understanding the nature of cumulus clouds, the mating habits of brine shrimp, and building rockets that do not burn up in the atmosphere. In a way it can be seen as an efficient way of preserving processing power by requiring that concepts meet certain criteria before they are worth weaving into pictures.

However it is often felt that those who wave these concepts off as Nothingness lose their humanity in the process. Often not in action - it is not as though materialists are all monsters - rather that their pictures of the world are too small to actually depict the human experience. Those who see the Mystical find themselves living on the tip of an iceberg with a whole terrible and wonderful world lurking under the surface. All this could be nothing more than fantasizing and wish-fulfillment if it did not color the way we live our lives and the way we pursue knowledge. There are mystical forms of reasoning - and it is too much to consider the question of their validity at this time - which offer methods of gaining dim knowledge of the mystical. And of course one may treat their neighbors, lovers, and enemies differently if they regard them as the phenomenological tip of a deep and mysterious iceberg of a soul.

For me, I see no reason we must regard concepts without phenomenological anchors as Nothingness, but I do see the advantages of doing so for certain intellectual endeavors. Whatever Mystical knowledge we might obtain would certainly be very personal, and therefore ever in danger of becoming tyrannical when it is communicated to those who do not obtain the knowledge first hand. In some ways I might say it would be safer to regard those things without anchors as Nothingness, if it weren't for the fact that many would not be able to breathe that air.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mathematics as Pure Relation

It seems to me that the difference between mathematics and other studies is that mathematics consists entirely of relations.

Whereas other studies consist of objects and their relations to properties or their relations to one another (for example, in biology we say that the platypus is a mammal that lays eggs, which could be cast as a statement about how a platypus relates to the mammal property and the egg laying property; in history we say that in 49 B.C. Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon - which can be cast as a spatial relation between Caesar and the Rubicon and a temporal relation between 49 B.C. and all other dates), mathematics can be seen as being nothing but relation. What is the definition of '5?' We could define it as a relation - it is the relation of being less than 6 and more than 4. This is rough, of course, if one considers the infinite fractions or decimals that could also fit that definition, but what else is a number save a relation to all other numbers?

Mathematics can be seen as the study of the continuum relation. Can a relation exist apart from objects? Are there relations simply relating [void] to [void]? At this time I see no need to conceive of relations in this way. My concept of relations requires that things be related to one another.

5 + 5 = 10 is an abstracted mathematical relation. It is true in the way that any concept can be true: it is coherent, it does not violate the principles involved in its own definition, but it is not yet bound to the world of phenomena. Five marbles thrown into a jar of five marbles will produce what we call ten marbles in a jar; the abstract logical construct has now been bound to the world of phenomena.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Without Hell there is No Justice; No Morality without God"

When I first encountered the sprawling debate between skeptics and Christians on the internet, I found the oft-repeated comment that without God there is no reason to do good and without hell there would be no reason to do evil. Some people went so far as to say that if God were somehow proven to be nonexistent, the only reasonable course of action for them would be an amoral rampage wherein they indulged whatever appetites they had been starving for the sake of their faith. If one were so inclined, one could find thousands of posts on the internet stating that life would be meaningless without God - and thousands of skeptical responses mocking this notion and asking if those people really consider their romances, children, careers, and masturbatory habits to be completely meaningless.

I am, of course, speaking as an observer at the moment. But I have also been on both sides of this concept. There was a time where I too could not conceive of justice and morality without heaven and hell, immortality, and a supreme ethical judge who wrote moral truths into the universe. And, as should be obvious by now, that is not my present position. However, based on both observation and experience, I have come to the conclusion that the people who say that their morals are rooted in immortality and God are indeed speaking the truth, and that they are being perfectly logical when they say that without God their is no right and wrong. This is one of the best illustrations of concept definition.

Take two people from completely different cultures. If they agree that something is 'wrong,' what do they mean? It may take the form of a command, 'drinking from the green fountain is wrong' may just mean, 'do not drink from the green fountain.' It may also be the recognition of a conclusion from a certain method of thought, 'drinking from the green fountain is wrong,' may mean, 'according to the sign posted next to the green fountain, and assuming that what the sign says is correct, we may not drink of it.' In these cases, the word 'wrong' should have a fairly simple meaning requiring minimal shared context - the concept of 'do not' or the concept 'believe what signs tell you' for example.

However, take two people from the same culture, a culture that has grown and evolved over millenniums to reach whatever height or depth it happens to be at at the present moment. Suppose that these two people say that something is wrong. What they mean by the word 'wrong' may be something completely different to what someone from another cultural context means by the word - although it may seem superficially similar to an outside observer. Two Christians living in a Christian community may have grown up to see the word 'wrong' as meaning, 'forbidden by God.' 'Drinking from the green fountain is wrong,' would then mean, 'drinking from the green fountain draws one away from God,' or perhaps, 'drinking from the green fountain is contrary to the absolute law of God.' In this case, if one negates the concept 'God,' then one necessarily negates all moral statements for such people as well, because their definition of morality relies on the concept of God. Negating God leaves them with mountains of useless sentences - sentences that become empty words because of their reliance on a presupposition.

Perhaps someone asks what the substance of this belief is. What is the actual difference between different beliefs on the nature of 'wrong?' The substance lies in this: what things are forbidden, and the degree to which they arouse disgust or use of force or anger. No doubt it is baffling to many the way that some Christians seem so enraged by, say, homosexuality relative to more commonly held moral offenses like theft. One must look at the concept of 'wrong' that is being used to understand how homosexuality could arouse that degree of moral outrage.

For those who are disheartened by this, simply remember that the way we define our concepts relies heavily on the situations we are in and the needs we have. If a devout Christian has a concept of the meaning of life and a concept of morality that relies on the existence of God, and that devout Christian then comes to lose faith, they will fall into nihilism but there is nothing that demands that they stay there. They have an opportunity to define new concepts, and in most cases they will probably do so. Who has not defined a concept later in life in a way that is different from what they were initially taught?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Wrestle with Public Phenomena

Will, Reason, Concepts, Lenses, Presuppositions, all of these things are relatively Self. We can perceive (perception being the ultimate extreme of Self) them change, we perceive their trends and their twistings directly, we perceive the world differently according to their state. These things are very near to us, and they are very personal. I can not perceive my will the way that you perceive my will; and likewise I can not perceive another person's will the way that I perceive my will. My will is unique to me.

This is why in this day and age it is expected that the philosopher give a bow to the scientist. Even though my narcissism prevents me from agreeing with this sentiment, I do understand it. The scientist must wrestle with the world of public phenomena, his perception being colored by his lenses, but him making every effort to do his work with lenses that any person could wear. He does not work with those things that are near to him, his work is far more with Other than the philosopher's work is. His rules do not easily change, the areas and solutions that are prohibited to him are many. He can not think as himself, he must put his own inclinations aside and adopt the perspective that has been put into language by a community.

And most of all, he must measure the phenomena. He can not merely take note of a phenomena and form theories about it that seem coherent and workable to him. He must gather data, he directly works with the outside world as it appears to him. He has far less power and freedom than the philosopher does.

Is it any wonder that his profession produces so many more concrete benefits for the species?

All this is not to give credit to scientists - although they do of course deserve their share of credit - rather it is to acknowledge that focusing on the changes and developments of that which is near to us produces a futile picture of the world. What does it matter how Will and Reason develop without an outer world of phenomena for it to interact with? How could Self ever develop without an Other to draw it beyond itself?

Never forget that what one sees can be theorized about in numerous ways, but it is only seen in one way.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Despair at the World Being as the World is

It is common for a person to look around at the world and feel crushed. It is not what they want it to be. It is not filled with the air their want to breathe. If this person is of sufficient intelligence, they will write books about how the world is. These books will portray a world that is fundamentally broken: while the world's logical structure is portrayed as coherent there is some breakdown between the human perspective and the structure of the world. They create an objective kind of despair by saying that humans are such, the world is such, and humans and the world cannot get along in a way that produces happiness.

But, then, while the world may be such given one starting vantage point, it is something else entirely from another vantage point. And while humans may be such given one way of life, they may be something else entirely given different presuppositions and values.

The answer when one comes to despair at the way that the world is is not to argue the point. It rarely does good to sit down and analyze the mechanics of a worldview in hopes that there are little contradictions written into the foundations that can bring the whole damned building down. Instead simply present a new point. Build a different building, and in that different building you will find that the discrepancy between humanity and the world can simply fade away.

Feel the weight lift off your spirit once you, for example, make peace with the fact that you are not alive to enjoy yourself and that there is no need to live as though you exist to enjoy yourself. Whatever pain that human existence guarantees is much less bitter once one ceases to resent it. Likewise, surrender your picture of an objective meaning of life for humanity that is to be found in the world, then your failure to find one will cease to be baffling.

Once you build the new worldview, ask what obligation you have to sit in the first worldview when you are much more at ease in the second? Does it truly have any coercive power over you? Is it 'true?'

I don't say this to the pessimists. I don't say this to the optimists. I say this to the optimists who feel obligated to fit themselves into a pessimism that does not fit them right; likewise to the pessimists who can not find all of their pessimism confirmed by what they see in the world.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Evolution of Will and Reason Applied to Skill Development

Previously I wrote about the way that a primitive stage of will and a primitive stage of reason build off of each other to eventually evolve into Will and Reason. I now think that this particular bit of theorizing can actually have a practical application, seeing as there is no reason to suppose that this is isolated to the development of a human being, but should be able to be adapted to more particular situations. In fact, I think that this model could be used as a guide to acquiring new skills later on in life.

We begin with dissatisfaction(W), which leads to movement, which leads to encounters(R). When encounters are multiplied they become experience(R), and experience filtered through the particulars of our nature becomes preference(W). Preference compels us to act in such a way that we avoid some things and cling to others, necessitating a model of the world to guide us, this model being Reason or Language. Reason and Language give form to our preference allowing us to pursue even that which does not sit in front of us, at last resulting in Will.

This is the picture of I have of the evolution of Will and Reason, now apply this picture to the acquisition of a more particular skill.

We begin by being dissatisfied with our skill set. Maybe we are well accomplished, but we lack, say, a musical skill, or perhaps we are utterly unskilled from years of laziness and we wish to reverse this. So we begin searching for a skill to learn, we watch films, we talk to friends, we surf the internet, and we start having encounters. We see the art of guitar playing from the outside, we hear someone play the piano, we listen to a dear friend explain the exact technique for copulating with an oboe. Preferences begin to emerge - we certainly do not want anything to do with the oboe, but the piano arouses our passions, the prospect of learning it excites us. Perhaps we pursue the piano, and then find that we miss the showmanship associated with actually moving our instrument around with us as one does with a guitar - perhaps we find that we are more interested in an instrument that can be carried around and played at any moment - these things we discover with experience, which in turn refines our preferences and makes them more specific.

Finally, with preference and experience, we can use reason and language to state a goal or objective. We take our preferences and we state that we want to be a part of a band, or we state that we want to play at street fairs or what have you. This is the form that our will takes: Will-to-Bandhood or Will-to-Irritate-Fair-Patrons. Then we can organize our lives and efforts in the context of this will, acting in such a way as to bring about the desired.

At least until we decide that we really should learn a classic game, chess perhaps?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What is an Emotion?

We all use the word "emotion," we can live with the concept, but can we clarify it? Can we draw it out of the messy context in which it is actually used and present a polished - albeit artificial - definition of the word? No doubt we can, Websters should be more than sufficient for that task, but can we do so from where we are sitting right now, right off the top of our heads? I imagine any psychological thinkers in my audience could, but could the man outside that preoccupation?

I myself am not certain that I could. I tend to conflate the words "emotion," "feeling," "passion," and sometimes "impulse" or "inclination." But then, when I think of a feeling I do not think of an impulse, nor do I see passion as being quite the same as an inclination. I tend to use the word "emotion" in contrast to "reason," "analysis," or "language." I sometimes say that I think people have acted out of emotion, especially when I can not fit their behavior into the context of a larger goal or schema. I speak of an emotional part of myself, a category into which I fit certain states of being - the state of being excited or terrified or joyful.

Frankly, I think the way I use the word is a terrible mess. It lacks clarity. What appearances is it bound too? What part of the world am I trying to describe?

When I ask this question, I see something that I think is essential: the emotion is an appearance that others can not see except through me. That is, anger, say, appears to me ("that makes me so angry"), and I change in such a way that others see anger expressed through me ("look at his fists, GTW is angry"). Whereas the appearance of an object is something that we can all approach on equal footing ("there is a rock" "there is a rock") I have a special relation to an emotion that others do not share. It is more sensible to say that I am angry than it would be to say that I am appeared-to-rockly. In some sense the emotion is a part of me, it is closer to Self whereas objects are closer to Other.

Does the emotion proceed from me or does the emotion happen to me? At what point in the continuum of Self and Other do we mark "me?" Answer that and I can answer whether it proceeds or happens. Regardless it is not a neat break: we have emotions in response to that which is outside ourselves, we do not directly control the emotions, nobody can directly arouse an emotion in us on command they can only take note of those things that tend to arouse certain emotions, and sometimes the same external situation produces different emotions. This much is clear: it is much nearer to Self than objects are, and others can not experience our emotions as we do.

This is where I shall begin: an emotion is an appearance that I have privileged access to relative to other human beings.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Recording One's Life

We only exist in a moment.

Everything we experience, everything we perceive, it all takes place in a moment. There is no past for us to experience: memories exist in the present. There is no future for us to experience: speculation exists in the present. For your truest self, Perception, there is only a moment - the present.

But using reason to step outside of Self into Other, well, you can divide the world into Past and Present to help make sense of things. And of course we - in some sense - exist for a lifespan. And when we from our single moment try to grasp that lifespan everything gets fuzzy. Memories are hazy and prone to revision, speculation nearly always excludes far too many factors to be worth a damn for accuracy, and we tend to tune out most of our lives anyway.

I am especially guilty of this. I love the idea of journaling and recording life, but I never stick with it. I have an OhLife that I haven't touched in about a year, I think I have some blogs set to private taking up space on a server somewhere with just two or three entries, I don't know how many documents on my computer detailed the events of one or two days before getting stuffed in a "I'll go through all this later" document never to be seen again.

And really, that is sort of sad to me. Events and experiences that I have a privileged view of I have let tumble carelessly into the memory hole. I have made no attempt to preserve them in language or some kind of model or memorial. Sometimes I reflect on this and feel as though there is a certain failure in this, or, if not a failure, certainly a missed opportunity.

Upon reflection, I realize that what must be taken into account is that time spent recording is not time spent living. If you spend one hour a day recording your life, then you only have 23 hours left to go do things worth writing about. If you spend a half-hour, that is still a half-hour that breaks up your actual living. If pausing for a half-hour seems all too easy for you, are you sure that you are living richly enough to begin with? And of course life is mostly business-as-usual, that is, after all, the definition of 'business-as-usual.' What does one record when you sit down at the end of a day and try to pick out the stand out moments to record and then realize that your day is a haze of routine, habit, and the same old shit?

Occasionally I feel the need to be inventive. This is one of those times.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why I am Politically Useless

Every so often I will read some dipshit on the internet spouting off his opinions on politics and I will think to myself, "you know, I could be that dipshit. I could spout political opinions. Why don't I?"

And the problem is that I would never be able to feel as though I were providing any kind of information. With my philosophy I often discuss the inherent subjectivity of our reason, so when I sit down and write down opinion I do not feel like a liar. I have made clear that my philosophy relies a good deal on my will and my desires and I have tried to explore that philosophy can not be otherwise. So I don't feel like much of a liar, I find myself doing philosophy in an honest capacity.

Politics on the other hand carries an inherent pretension to objectivity. No one sharing a political opinion can sensibly emphasize that his conclusions rely on premises that are personal to him - this is obviously true, but you can not emphasize it. Politics is essentially about the way you want others to be situated and behave. One can always work to situate oneself in a certain way and work to behave in a certain way; politics is about arranging society in such a way that either it is advantageous for others to situate and behave certain ways or it is mandatory by threat of force.

However, how can you express in the same breath that your reasoning is dependent upon your own subjective experience and also that it should apply to others outside of you? How can you say that we should all live according to the world as you found it?

Of course, you can not. Not publicly, only in private could you admit this to yourself. The great oddity being that we haven't got much choice, we have to arrange society in some way and oftentimes those arrangements will need to draw on private wills for their fine points and other times we will simply have to invite private wills en masse to compete with one another to see what direction we will ultimately steer the ship in. Certainly there is a better arrangement, but at least in our time it is necessary for us to pretend that those proclamations which proceed from our own natures are, in fact, inferences drawn from the nature of the world.

And I fixate far too much on that fact. Consequently, I become politically useless.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Absence of Love

In the absence of Love, one will do whatever strikes the highest balance of ease and stimulation. Without Will to compel us to chase or seek after something, we will turn to what we already have that is able to keep the boredom at bay.

In short: find something to pursue or settle in for a life of binge eating and masturbation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Evolution of Will and Reason

We do not begin with Will or with Reason. When you see a baby crying, can you really say that it is expressing will? Will to what? If you gave a baby a series of buttons that would provide various things that a baby might need (a diaper change, milk, a cuddle, a fork to check out what's going on in that outlet over there), what would a crying baby do? Probably smack them all - does the baby know why it cries? This much is certain: the baby cries.

We will not say that babies are not smart, but are they exercising reason? Experiences they desire, experiences they shy away from. What actions are performed to bring about these experiences. Is this reason? I would not call it that. All of it is experience, encounter, appearance. The baby is bombarded by the world. The baby does not talk, the world is not put into words.

We do not begin with will, we begin with dissatisfaction. We do not begin with reason, we begin with encounters.

How do we distinguish between will and dissatisfaction? Dissatisfaction compels us to move. Will compels us to move somewhere. Will contains an aim, a destination, it is Will-to-Something. Dissatisfaction is just a need to move.

How do we distinguish between reason and encounter? An encounter can not be put into language, it simply is. Reason is judgment and language, a model of the encounter that can be used to relate and predict encounters.

Dissatisfaction and encounters escalate one another. One is dissatisfied so one begins moving nowhere, leading to more and more encounters - Experience. One has more and more encounters and the proliferation of encounters allows Preference to emerge from the interaction of Experience and Nature. Once we have Preference we need to understand the world so as to navigate it and increase that which we prefer and mitigate that which we dislike, we need information for a purpose and that leads to Reason. Once we have Reason we can cast the world into different forms by the use of our words and through the creation of relations, only then do we give form to our Preference and turn it into something that can be pursued: Will.

I do not actually imagine that these things happen all at once, as though Dissatisfaction occurs, Dissatisfaction produces Experience, which produces Preference, which produces Reason, which produces Will. Rather I think there are a multitude of tiny back-and-forth interactions wherein each reinforces and builds one another.

We must wonder, though, is Will and Reason the terminus?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Walter White Will Commit Suicide

Also, just throwing this out there in case this turns out to be correct, I would like a record indicating that I called it.

Breaking Bad is going to end with Walter White using the ricin on himself. I imagine that he will use the M60 to save someone - presumably his family, and I am fairly confident that the show will end with Walter's suicide via the ricin. Walter is beyond redemption at this point; Skylar and Hank both know who he is and there is no way for him to just gloss over his time as Heisenberg and live out his days as Walter the Car Wash Man. Besides, his cancer is back, his days are numbered. In the pilot episode he was told that, best case scenario, he has a couple more years.

The final episodes will have Walter returning to his roots, to the initial state that eventually led to him breaking bad and becoming Heisenberg. In the pilot episode we see Walter attempt suicide and fail only because the safety was on, we know that he initially began cooking Meth to provide money for his family, and we know that the catalyst for all this was the lung cancer. With eight episodes left we know that the lung cancer is back. He has alienated his family (Skylar and Hank, anyway, with Marie and Walt Jr. being affected by Walt's actions without direct knowledge of what he has become), to return to his roots Walter will need to use Heisenberg-esque tactics in support of his family. Finally, throughout the entire show we have seen Walt go from being a meek, humiliated man tossed about by the world beyond his control to a man who can manipulate, control, and prevail in nearly any situation. He will not allow cancer to take him: he will decide when he dies.

A year into the future we have seen the word "Heisenberg" spray painted on his family's trashed living room. When Carol sees him, she is stunned and terrified. Obviously his identity has become known. How many enemies does Walt have? In the first episode we know that Lydia came to him complaining about the declining quality of the product and asks him to provide a tutorial to bring the product back up to his standards, which he refuses. What effect will that have? Obviously people want Walt's services and he refuses to provide them.

Walt let people down by exiting the game. They will not be above kidnapping his family to draw him out of hiding. And as long as he lives his family will be in danger, people will target them to gain leverage over Heisenberg. He will rescue his family. He will use the ricin on himself; ricin being slow acting, he could take the poison prior to any kind of mission or rescue attempt and be secure in the knowledge that he will soon be dead. In the end, Walt wins and loses all at once. He gains nothing considering that he will be dead, his family is left without a husband/father just as they would have been if he had never become a meth cook - which continues the Breaking Bad world's tendency to show that sin never leads to profit and always brings about ruin and just happens to make the world as worse place in the process. However he will experience a taste of redemption in that he will return to living for his family, the motivation he had at the start before he had dreams of running an empire, and of course he will be victorious in that he will save his family from the danger that he himself brought on them.

Or, maybe not. What do I know? This is the only TV Show I watch.

Will and the World

Given the conception of the world as one fact, what can we say about the will? The will does indeed still exist as a part of the world, as a part of the one fact, not divorced from it. This is not typically what we conceive of when we talk about free will, for the will in this conception cannot be separated from our situation and our backgrounds.

Our will is free - depending on what you mean it to be free from. Suppose a man asks for a will that is free from the world but not free from himself. In this case he has provided us with the context needed to consider the possibility: it is still his will but he wants it to be free from the world. This, I think, is what most people are really after when they begin speaking in absolutes with regard to free will.

At once we must ask a question: does the man exist on any level apart from the world? If he does not, then it is logically impossible for a will to be free from the world for him. This is not a question that can be investigated; the answer is found in the basic lenses one uses to see the world. If you believe in spirits, then he does indeed. If you are a materialist, then he does not.

What can be investigated is the question of what gaps might a transcendent will fill? We can examine the will that is not free from the world: we can investigate that behavior that is tied to the arrangement of matter in the brain, we can investigate the way different chemicals cause men to pursue different things, we can investigate the way that conditioning can cause a man to perform to some extent on command. Is there room for pursuits and behavior that have mysterious causes where a transcendent will might be responsible?

To some degree, this is a matter of investigation. To a greater degree, this is a matter of lenses.

We have not fully investigated the world of neuroscience, brain chemistry, drug interaction, or behaviorism. If we say that these things can explain all human behavior we are not stating a fact that emerged from following an epistemological method, we are instead stating an assumption or a faith that allows us to use an epistemological method. Even if we do advance to the state where we can say that there is no more progress to be made in these fields, how could we ever know with certainty that there were no background processes working that made the more prominent factors work? Maybe there are all kinds of souls and spirits swirling around every brain, without which no neurological process or drug interaction would ever produce a result? Simply because we are committed to Occam's Razor does not mean that the world shares our enthusiasm. In this way, the question is a question of lenses: are you willing to accept transcendent factors or do you restrict the world to the One Fact?

Let us end on a note of speculation. If there are transcendent wills, what does our experience of life tell us about them? They are not very powerful. Whatever they can do is very simple. Whenever we face a decision we tend to experience that decision as something that came from within us - perhaps the transcendent will is nothing more than a spirit that can choose to say or not say "yes" to an opportunity in the world. Forgive me - this is in large part philosophical fiction. Most significant in this concept, however, is the fact that the One Fact is being shaped by a multitude of transcendent factors. The form that the world takes can not merely be the form of the One Fact, it is the One Fact as tempered by billions of tiny wills making tiny changes.

At this moment I find this idea lovely and completely unpersuasive.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Philosophy Then Science

I want to say that Philosophy and Science are two complementary practices that both deal with the fundamental relation between Man and World. This is the way that I conceive of them.

In the beginning is the life. Man is in the world. Man encounters phenomena. Man finds ways of living with the phenomena and even thriving. In the course of thriving, man turns back to look on his practices and wonders what he might be able to make out of those practices.

Philosophy arises as he builds models of the world. He turns the raw phenomena into concepts utilizing properties and continuums, relates the concepts together based on what he observes, builds a model of his world using reason and language that seeks to go deeper than the appearances.

Science arises when several competing philosophies arise and it becomes necessary to begin measuring those philosophies. Science takes the predictions that the philosophies make and then compares them back to the world of appearance to see which philosophies best predict and explain the appearances that arise. In this case, the world of appearance is referred to as empirical data, and the comparisons are referred to as experiments.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In the Beginning Was the Life

In the beginning was the life.

This cannot be emphasized enough. Philosophical types - perhaps scientific types too, for that matter - should have this written on their walls. Tattoo it on the backs of their wrists. Write in on chalkboards one hundred times daily. Scream it out at the moment of sexual climax.

The reason being that once one spends a length of time thinking philosophically about human behavior - that is, thinking deliberately about human behavior - one tends to forget that life was being lived prior to any theorizing or philosophizing. And if mass illiteracy were to suddenly sweep over humanity and if all language was reduced to grunting "food, fuck, bed" with varying tones of urgency, life would continue being lived although any heights of philosophy would have slipped out of reach.

Consider ethical philosophy. Consider Kant's categorical imperative and the system of morals that can be derived from that primary starting point. Now consider the utilitarian calculus used to determine the best possible action. Think to Aristotle's works on ethics and virtue. Now remember that people still found a way to make society work and found a way to behave decently toward one another prior to all of these philosophical projects. In the course of living their lives people had to work out ethical ways of living.

Which came first? A theory of ethics or ethical behaviors? Like most things I imagine that they exist in a kind of loop. One does a little theorizing which leads to a little more behavior which provides more data to be theorized about which leads to more refined behavior and so on. It seems to me that determining which one came first is a bit like finding the starting point in a circle. I mention this only so that there is no confusion that I am offering a theory about which came first - I do not care whether ethical behavior or ethical theory has chronological primacy. What I am saying is that deliberate philosophical systematic theorizing comes about after a way of life already exists.

In this way, I think we can see philosophy as a kind of refinement of natural human living. Perhaps we could say that it is life with art applied to it: an artistic rendering of what we were already doing. So ethics, for example, could be seen as taking the morality and concepts already guiding human behavior and chiseling away what had become useless and providing metaphysical groundings for what remained valuable so as to lend it power in debate and legitimacy in the face of disagreement, most importantly it allowed for the reaching of ethical heights which we never would have touched just living the way that came naturally. Epistemology too is just a matter of creating methods of thought that refine our natural more instinctual behavior pertaining to sorting reliable information, bullshit, error, and irrelevance.

Philosophy, then, is a kind of height, a luxury. We also see a way in which it can be evaluated. If the philosophy provides a method that allows us to live better than our instincts do, then we have encountered a philosophy that we help ourselves by living by. On the other hand if a philosophy provides a method that makes our lives more difficult, then we have found something that does not rise to the level of our instincts and cannot supplant or supplement them. Like someone trying to improve on a cupped hand by baking clay in a rounded shape with several holes in the bottom: we're better off with a cupped hand until you seal the holes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Resisting the System

In the past all I wanted was to weave all my thoughts and theories into one big, coherent system that explained my fundamental views on the world and invited (read: coerced) others to come live in that system. Today I think my thinking is more sophisticated than it has ever been, but I also find that it resists systematization. I think in remarks, I think in isolated games and relations, I oftentimes relate those relations to one another, but they do not have their proportions worked out. I don't have a hierarchy, I don't have a scale for those games in relation to one another.

Sometimes I want to sit down and build that system, but I resist that urge. Why?

To get the baser reason out of the way: because not trying ensures that I won't fail. For the more fundamental reason, though, I have come to distrust systematic thinking.

I find relations to be more personal than nouns. When we observe phenomena we tend to observe them in largely the same way - that is when we talk about them we don't seem to spend much time squabbling over, say, the blueness above us or the greenness beneath us. We don't squabble terribly much when we observe common relations, like the being-on-top spatial relation between a cat and a rug or the prior-to temporal relation of Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. But we do notice increased squabbling around the point where we discuss relation, like discussing the similarity relation between a given lasagna and a given pizza. We are left in dark and confusing territory when we begin discussing causal relations, like bad parenting, destructive culture, genetic predisposition, and mental disorder in relation to a given committed crime. Then we enter into full-on war when we discuss the proportional relations like the balance of strength and speed in successful martial arts strategies.

We find some relations which rely heavily on common, public appearance and phenomena, like spatial relations. Then we find relations which seem to be based largely on personal intuition and seem to be perceived much differently depending on the one who perceives. Sometimes these latter relations can be cast in a way that can be publicly measured, sometimes they cannot.

In terms of system building, it seems inevitable that much of the scaffolding will be made of these personal relations. Perhaps to me we have to start with the absurdity of human existence, or perhaps we have to start with the question of what can be known, or we can ask how we follow God in a modern age, or we can ask what is the Good. Perhaps I say that this starting question (whichever one I choose) has a primacy relation to all other questions, my question must be asked first. Of course there is no appearance that we can measure to see if this is true, and there is no shortage of people submitting alternative questions that they claim has a primacy relation. The system becomes deeply personal, less and less available to other people living their lives.

Or, to put it in a another way: perceived abstract relations contain something personal to the speaker. The bigger the relation, the more personal it becomes. The more personal it becomes, the more alien it is to other people. So whereas my little isolated relations and games contain a little that is personal and offers itself to other people as eager, helpful tools, if I were to turn them into a large system it would taste so much like me that only those who happen to like my flavor would be able to thrive living by my system.

Friday, August 2, 2013

From the Point of View of 60-90 Years on a Spinning Rock

Suppose that there is indeed a creator God and suppose that there is no life outside of planet Earth, just an enormous universe that is indifferent to man and arouses indifference in man. For what reason would a creator God create such a universe?

Consider also the lifespan of a human being. Compared with the timeline of the universe a human being who manages to see his one hundredth year still does not rise to even a hair's width on that timeline. Even the timeline of human history makes any individual life seem hopelessly short. Supposing a creator God, why would the world be set up in this way?

Pausing to note that this question can not be answered in any satisfying way, I remind you that the question is asked to shed insight on a facet of life, not to actually try to discern the artistic sensibilities of an incomprehensible deity. That would require a blog post at least twice this length.

I take this arrangement of the universe and this arrangement of lifespans as creating a situation wherein one can not sensibly live while trying to view the world sub specie aeterni. We cannot make sense of our lives by looking at the universe - by trying to see the one fact. Our lives are hopelessly insignificant looked at from that vantage point, we would not be able to rise from our beds in the morning if we felt and valued as people who grasped the universe. Instead the only way to live is to every day see the world from our point of view: from the perspective of a chunk of rock spinning around a star and only about 60-90 years of that point of view to boot. Any other point of view makes life unlivable.

Does this mean that I think that objectively our lives are insignificant? My god, objectivity is not an option! But, no, I do not say that objectively our lives are either significant or insignificant. The significance arises when the world is seen from a certain perspective. If you adopt certain perspectives, the entire human condition becomes a sickly mistake; adopt other perspectives and there is nothing more important than a human life. That is, objectively human life is absurd given certain contexts, and objectively human life is epic given other contexts.

And if there is a God, I think that this arrangement of the universe was a method by which he choked off certain kinds of perspectives.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Absolute and Relative

It seems to me that a good deal of philosophizing goes into trying to answer questions without relating the concepts that compose the questions to anything outside the question. That is, making questions absolute and then trying to come to an answer.

Suppose I ask who is smarter: John or James, how would we go about answering that question? How could we ever answer it? The concept "smart" has no definition in this scenario. It does not really mean anything.

If I were a sports reporter and John and James were athletes and I asked this question, we would be able to define "smart" in terms of regularly making decisions that further a winning gameplay strategy. John is smarter than James if his actions on the field further a winning gameplay strategy more often than James' actions do.

If I were a teacher and John and James were my students, then it is not clear precisely what I mean by "smart," but the definition can be narrowed down. Perhaps I mean, "performs better on tests," perhaps I mean, "gets better grades," or perhaps I mean, "asks more insightful questions and makes more insightful statements," or even, "makes statements that display greater lateral thinking."

If I am a High-IQ fetishist and John and James are two Mensa prospects, then it is clear immediately what I mean by "smart." It means "scores higher on standardized tests."

But now if it is just I and I just ask who is smarter between John and James, we are lost. We know that "smart" pertains to intellect by virtue of the fact that I am an English speaker. Once we try to narrow it past that we begin making arbitrary leaps. Some would say that the absolute meaning of "smart" refers to IQ, others would say success in society, others would say displays of calculation and creativity. We might pour our energies into trying to make such absolute definitions, but we cannot reach any definition that is not easily brushed aside given just a little context.

When a debate becomes a battle of semantics, perhaps we would do well to ask if there is enough context to
even have a discussion. If there is not, then maybe we would do well to ask if silence might not be the best course of action.