From Exegete to Moral hero

A strange turn has happened in my life. But, perhaps I can explain it in the terms of another person’s life, whom which this turn has had significant consequences.

This person was concerned with the beautiful truth and the holy books from which it comes. The practice of exposing these truths and addressing them critically is known as exegesis. This person, was, an exegete, one familiar with the word. It can be a good, yet quiet life, to read that book; it is different to preaching it, for preaching requires the work of exegetes to pave their way.

Something happened in this person’s life, this person’s time period, that they could not avoid. A human rights violation, a horrible transgression of society and the state. This person then used their powers of wisdom and exegetical background to show that word and mediate it through a unique but consistent perspective to show the state and society of its ills. This exegete became a hero, standing up for the rights of the marginalised and diminished. This exegete became a hero, streets were named after him, and the future changed forever because of him.

I too aspire to be an exegete; but something unavoidable has come, something that needs my knowledge of the word to fight and oppose. I must not fight for the rights of many, but the few who are abused and violated by the corpulent state; I am no anarchist, I just want to give lady government a kick up the arse and want to draw blood, before she backs off those poor people,

Exegetes can also be heroes too.

QED

A few future projects?

I have gotten a few ideas about future research avenues; two of which have an obvious political agenda.

I. An answer to the question: Are human beings rational? Addressing philosophy of mind, social science and metaethics. There will also be an answer to the question: Are rational/deterministic agents moral?

II. A definition of good art; acknowledging the present features of art being a social institution and having world-changing capacity. Acknowledges the potential of human destruction.

III. A manifesto for a new Enlightenment.

Cameron’s ‘family’ agenda

Today I was watching the news and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The conservatives refer to a piece of ‘research’ which correlates everything bad with having a bad family.

These ‘bad things’ include: poverty, substance abuse, criminality, educational failure. Divorce rate is on the up, and that is seen as a bad thing.

They made such a horrific characterisation: on ITV they said that the ‘ideal’ family is a heterosexual couple: Mr. and Mrs. Jones, with two pretty, successful and content with their lives.

BY CONTRAST: the ‘problem’ family is ‘ms. bovvered’ (alluding to Catherine Tate’s teenage character), who’s ‘partner’ is ‘mr. runaway’, who left her and the kids; her daughter is a teenage mother and her son has an ASBO. To put this sort of crap on the news is hurrendous. Worse still, people won’t mind this characterisation.

Some say it is a ‘back to basics’ revival of the Major years. I feel some of the sociological critiques made of then can be made of now:

i. Non-traditional families have different aetiologies than simply runaway fathers and promiscuous or non-married couples; homosexual partners, bereavement/illness, distance due to parent’s/parents occupation.

ii. The claims made by the conservatives is based on evidence; oh, so that must mean their stuff is watertight unless you disagree with the evidence, which is a ‘pointless’ venture – it is not pointless to question the methodology, however. These are naturalist, positivists who think only of social facts.

What if your deeply held desire was conditioned?

I was considering the various objects in my preferential set, and I considered this.

i. What if desire p was socially constructed?

ii. If p is socially constructed, what implications have these?

iii. What are the original, pre-set desires?

Part i.

People come to like something after first experiencing it and developing a liking for it.

People are made to like something because they are told to

People are made to like something because they are told that to be in the state of liking them is desirable (e.g. The desirability in the belief in God and other second order desires)

People are cultural slaves, they have little means of fighting the institutes whom groom them; eventually, those children will become the very oppressors who oppressed them; thus the incest of hegemony continues.

Part ii,

Perhaps theses like the culture industry (Adorno) show how passive-receptive we are in taking in desires

Maybe this is just a way we operate, some are taught to like pizza and hummous, whilst others are taught to like falafels and sushi (bad examples, I know); some people are groomed to become metalheads while others become classical cellists. I’m not saying its a simple causal link, there is a rich tapestry of phenomena which determines our preferential set, but my point is this: there are some desires which are invented and are not pre-existent.

The question is: which are they?

Some belief-desires which worry me in particular as possibly being conditioned:

  1. The ideal life is one of contemplation – to live to that ideal is an imperative
  2. Romanticism as the superior form of human expression – to pursue that as a form of beauty expression is an imperative
  3. Philos is not only possible, but desirable, an imperative for happiness and a good life.

These are tenets which are very important in my life. If I were to learn that they were culturally conditioned; what would that mean?

  1. To construe them as meaningful truths is meaningless and false
  2. They are artificial desires, get rid of them
  3. They are the only desires I have, stick with them, until a desire with greater yield comes along

Part iii.

Let us speculate, what possible ‘factory setting’ desires there are:

i. Self-preservation

ii. Fulfillment?

iii. erm–that’s it…

The second one I speculate, satisfaction is not a necessary way to live a life, as Kant shows us.

But self-preservation? That seems to be the most fundamental desire and in some way, everyone seeks to be self-preserving.

What about self-destructive behaviour? Cries thee

Self-destruction is self-imposed, one preserves their autonomy.

Decline of the self

Lets assume a ridiculous metaphysical concept, namely, the self. The self is a semantic concept which refers to the phenomena of a physical body of atomic parts which is also said to have an individuality, rationality and decision-making capacity. What is it about these combinations of molecules that make the person ‘Kirk Bear’? Perhaps alone a liver is a liver and a hand is a hand, but when put all together, it forms a new classification in our ontology, a new entity characterised by the sum of its parts.

The sum of its parts also consists of human, interpretive categories imposed over naturalistic ones, these said human categories include:

A sense of meaning

Set of beliefs/preferences

Process of rationality

Personality

etc.

Let us put this notion of the self aside, we shall come to it later.

In our lives, we are considered to have characteristics unique to us over other living organisms; we have sentience and a moderate means of translating and understanding each other. We construe our actions to be meaningful insofar as we are understood to be following a rule; of course, I am not talking about a rule as a ‘norm’ specifically, but a convention like grammar, or behaviour with understandable tacit assumptions.

We understand ourselves in a manner most intuitive to us, using categories which are not directly naturalistic.

Consider the phenomena of a breakup, both sides use concepts like ‘honesty’, ‘reciprocity’, ‘honour/alleigance’ and so on. Categories more alluding to the aretaic than it is to the materialist. From this, we are to understand the human self as something unique, special, beautiful and dare I say, semantically (and maybe ontically) distinct from natural phenomena; the difference between me and a plant is that I can make a joke and experience hatred, where a plant is but vegetative (although I am vegetative too).

So, it seems, the self is special, it persists as a semantic concept even when our molecules that constitute our physical bodies are replaced.

There are phenomena, which show that the physical ‘components’ of selfhood are much greater than our semantic understanding of a holistic and interpretive self.

Drug addiction. It is a physical dependance, some may act desperately to feed their desire. Some may transgress the norms that they have previously held to fulfil their desire.

When a tragic illness affects a person, they die before their body meets demise; the incapacitation means that the person is physically unable to be the person they want to be, eventually their desires change, as their desires change, a significant degree of who we thought they were dies away; as a person increasingly faces incapacitation, some feel their dignity dies away, thus some favour euthanasia.

What does this tell us? Phenomena can change that which we perceive as having an intrinsic dimension. As the body changes, decays, so it leads to changes in the thing that we call ‘self’. The self is not a fixed semantic term, it is fluid and conditional to the state of affairs that construe that term.

To say Kirk Bear at t1 is much different when we refer to the Bear of t932. Where is the persistence? Does something persist in virtue of the semantics that construe it? If we had no term for it, would it not exist? Perhaps we are inventing a category by grouping many composites.

Proposal of a vanguard of humanity

Disclaimer: I am not recommending anything literally reminicscent of the following idea; this is an expression, and exploration of where we are, who we are, who we can be, and what yours truly idealises as virtuous. Don’t read this politically/literally, but symbolically/literarily. This is more an excercise in psychoanalysis than any real idea I have.

A series of events, sequenced in an order that we construe as the linear progression of time. A sequence of events, called a timeline, that pertains to the events of humanity. We want to characterise the temporal progression of events of humanity in certain undercurrents; are we going in a particular direction?

Forget about the direction of humanity genera. What about individual units; you, me, and so on. Mentioned is a suggestion of putting an underlying theme to human history. What of our own lives?

There are many aims one can have in life, many directions and motivations. The most fundamental distinction is this; one can live with motivations given by sentiment and conditioned preference; the given way to live; or, one can live guided by the faculty of reason, deciding which is the best possible way to live.

Much can be said for a life that is driven by sentiment and conditioning. Life goes on, one day, after another, judged by how happy one is, how much pleasure one recieves and their mindset for the future; life is judged by quantifying.

What of reason? The life of reason is not judged so much by what is achieved, what is pleasured. Reason is pursued as an ends in itself. The ideal life is the contemplative one, its nice to have a full understanding of the world, let me know if you have one; let me know if you have derived axioms of human behaviour, a model of semantics and pragmatics in the performances of utterances and communicative acts. Tell me your ontology, your epistemological foundations, your appreciation of the verstehen, your account of the human condition and its trajectory, what about the laws of thought and its relation to the laws which construe our reality, apodictic principles which fit our universe and explain much about it. Do you have any of those things?

We don’t need to start off with big, complex questions, but atomic and direct ones with address a single issue. Start with definitions, elucidate your thesis and then do your proof.

There was a time when reason began to seep through tradition. The Catholic Church had St. Anselm proclaim ‘Fides Quorum Intellectum’: where faith directs rational inquiry.

Descartes’ through several points, showed us that reason was a force to be reckoned with, but in a distinct way: reason is a force independent from tradition/faith.

The great rationalists came and blew us over with their metaphysical and logical fireworks, Leibniz showed us Monads, Spinoza showed us there was no evil, Mendelsson goes back to Platonic intuition.

The age of reason came, this thing called reason began to set the program for humanity, questions such as:

i. Rule of the powerful

ii. Political economy

iii. How to live a good life

iv. True knowledge and its justification

v. Understanding reality

vi. Understanding beauty

Although we were not in enlightened times we were in the age of enlightenment. Reason was a shining beacon on our dark land of irreason and dogma. But what happened?

Somehow, the enlightenment failed. I’m not sure how, or why. My best-fit explanation comes from Weber; after the capitalist political economy was formed, a new type of thinking became predominant in the increasingly capitalist society; namely, instrumental rationality which lead to the parasitic and life-draining bureaucratic management that dominates our lives today as an end in itself.

What if…

What if heroes, greater than the Greeks, greater than contemporary characters, greater than say, the Justice League, the X-men or the Seven Dragons of Heaven (x/1999). Heroes who are tragically flawed, but it is only in virtue of their flaws that they are great.

They will be a group; a fellowship: let me introduce you to the members:

i. Sophos – her head lies in the transcendent world, often disjoined from her own body.

ii. Tracker – he is an information wizard; he knows what is going on, where it is happening, how to get there. Tracker applies most of the abstract principles of the other members but has his own end of information management, Tracker is embracing of technology but reflexive of its consequences.

iii. Fixer – in conjunction with Tracker, he is a designer of technological implementations to practical problems. Fixer also uses the techniques of the other members, but his focus is on helping others, not just in practical terms, but also the members in and of themselves.

iv. Cleric – A person who does not fully adhere to the enlightenment values as construed as non-traditional. Cleric is traditional, but rational. As a member and envoy to the dogmatics, he represents the willingness to change. Cleric is unreliable to the project of the enlightenment’s success, but without him, the project would not be open and available to all. Cleric represents that the vanguard is non-partisan

Lying to children and the literary hero

I shall concern myself with two, perhaps unconnected thoughts:

I. Should we lie to children about a complex reality by telling them about a false, but simpler one?

II. What kind of person is the ideal hero as a literary idea or model of eudaimonia?

I.

Firstly, a lie is a willing deception of an individual. To tell someone of a reality that is factually false, but one which one was not aware of being false, is not a lie.

Why is this important? We teach children from an early age, and that is a great human historical development (note I didn’t say ‘civilisation’ because I am not technically allowed to say that as it is not PC); however, as our worldview meets new evidence, our conceptions also change, in short: reality is blood complex! Examples:

Ever tried to understand the formal properties of language? Oh boy, that is a nightmare – try reading Chomsky’s linguist work on generative grammar or John Perry’s paper on demonstratives and indexicals, and you’ll see how complex this thing called ‘language’ is.

What about empirical reality? It seems, at least, over history, that our conceptions of the world can radically change. Although, of late, I don’t know if our macrostructural construction of the world will significantly change, but developments in microstructural reality has become very interesting and a problem comes in putting the former consistent with the latter – schoolkids are taught to get definite answers, not be left with even more questions – let them be perplexed at least after puberty!

Its strange, how some of my contemporaries tell me as they learn more about their subject, they find out that what they have been told is ‘wrong’ and on a higher level the ‘truth’ is something more complex. Sociology never admits there is no controversy, if it ever did the subject would fail to become critical. Philosophy, on the other hand, can sometimes teach college or secondary level stuff in a way that makes them think about age-old questions, but gives them a conceptual schema too simple to use in contemporary philosophy.

Examples of this:

1. ‘Hume’s fork’ or ‘Kant’s box’ – where statements are judged a priori/posteriori analytic/synthetic neccessary/contingent. This distinction is considered to understand philosophical positions and jargon, but when we get to Quine and Frege, we have to question firstly, our definitions of these terms, and secondly, whether these terms are actually salient.

2. Definition of knowledge. Plato’s definition: JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF, without one of these elements there is no knowledge. Bring in Gettier and the Gettier cases? Oh dear, we are left question-begging.

3. Ethical theories distinguished in college level between ‘teleological’ or ‘deontological’, some even distinguish between ‘relativist’ or ‘absolutist’. As for the first distinction, I’ve never heard anyone in a journal article, anthology, textbook or key text refer to ethics as being ‘teleological’, that is some bullshit people like Peter Vardy teach A-level students and they accept. As for the latter distinction, it is characterised in such a way that relativism is inherently a strawman or only idiots would believe in it (something I have buried in my mind which I consider as a truth, I sorrowfully admit), and absolitism as being the only way to truth, people then want to force in ‘God’ afterwards.

But this isn’t all about teaching philosophy, this is about the teaching of religion, science and history (political and social).

Regarding religion:

Thesis – children should be taught about religions properly – I fear the multicultural policy will water down the details in favour of diversity – leading to bad education and strawman bigotry. Either teach them one religion WELL or don’t teach them it at all. I was in Catholic schools for 14 years and only after I left I properly understood the bible and theology.

Antithesis – Teaching religion is not a critical excercise, it is merely exegesis. You can teach a class on Marx without having to be a strong Marxist or anti-Marxist in its reception, you may not care, but just learn the stuff to pass the exam! However, exegesis could be dogmatic without context, or too complex for children to understand – they won’t care about Church encyclicals or historical precedents.

Regarding science:

Thesis: Simple science, so they understand the world. Education is empowering to the individual and the society they will integrate into.

Antithesis: Simple science, but one which is conditionally true or factually false. Teaching simple science in public education means that false knowledge will be taken as givens in the public discourse, people like Dawkins always try to rebut the typical conceptions of evolution. If something is understood simply (e.g. laws of motion), it may be propated in the name of ‘truth’ in public discourse, even though scholars know better.

History:

Thesis: The young need to know the world that formed the backdrop of their parents, their grandparents, their distant ancestors or even that of their host nation. Spinoza says that the point of history is to avoid its mistakes; teaching kids about slavery and bigotry in our history is important. It also is helpful to ideology construction – by teaching them a simplified idea of our intellectual history they form the position(s) that their parent generation holds.

Antithesis: Education is public, a state-governed body. We may consider the ‘6 million’ death toll of Jews a given in today’s discourse, but I’ve never seen any coroner’s records, UN or historical evidence, I just hear it said by many people on the street and on TV, and then of course those people who are labelled holocaust deniers and wackos because they disagree with this view put forward in history textbooks, the government and media. Maybe ‘knowledge’ is defined as such by institutional powers, and public education and its details propagate ideology, ‘common knowledge’. We teach kids ‘facts’ and not ‘method’.

Why is this thought important? I was having a chat to a friend back in London over the summer and we argued about some things; basically he disagreed with my Kantian moral psychology and treatment of our social reality, so, I gave definitions and arguments.

This guy disagreed because he didn’t even listen to my definitions. I defined a word in a technical sense but he assumed it still in a putative sense, I defined the former sense in contradistinction from the latter. Furthermore, he didn’t even address the empirical significance of the premises of my argument, their rational plausibility or even the logical relation between premise to conclusion. His antithesis was: you think too much, dude.

I went furious. His mentality represents everything that the enlightenment project tried to fight against. The enlightenment seemingly has failed among the populace of our nations. I remember arguing about Kant’s big distinction (you know the one by now, my darling blog readers :p), and this girl said ‘oh, but that is just a human distinction’. I blew up inside, I can’t stand stupid points like that. So what were you hoping for you stupid fuck? Divine distinctions? transcendental knowledge? If you understood anything about metaphysics you would understand WHY this limiting notion is important, you wretched WHORE (this is not an ad hominem in that ‘whore-ness’ does not undermine the agent). What about the words with which you uttered your refutation of me? isn’t that SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED? YOU IDIOT! Furthermore, isn’t that a TRANSCENDENTAL ARGUMENT you are using against me? I bet you haven’t even heard of a transcendental argument you fucking dogmatic bible-believing pre-Lutheran king james edition homophobic conservative non-evolution believing protestant anti-thomistic textbook learning pathological rule-following cunt! Using a transcendental argument against a Kantian is like shooting your own side, you IDIOT. HUMAN CREATION, YOU FUCKING MORON. I hope you die and your family suffer in despair. Oh my, I have digressed. My point is that a textbook learning society can’t think beyond that textbook; life is about thinking for yourself and exploring things on your own; sure there are things we have to be told or taught, but what is most important is our intellectual autonomy.

II.

Heroes are the protagonists of art and cultural ideas; they inspire us in pastoral and moral dimensions. I shall consider characteristics of the hero:

I. Excellence – In Return of the Jedi, Skywalker totally changes from the arrogant youth to a mature adult in his fight on Jabba’s sail barge, he embodies bravery, temperance, justice, and something indescribable, one is totally captured by his heroism, totally shocked at his greatness. Another example of greatness: Aeneas’ change from victim to hero.

II. A blemish – a great hero must be flawed. Aeneas kills Turnus in anger, Luke succumbs to the dark side and arrogance resulting in the loss of his hand. There is something beautiful about the beautifully flawed; romances seem all the more sweeter when there are two horribly flawed people who, when, together, are very different and compensate for each other.

III. Experience – this one speaks for itself. A hero knows about vice as well as virtue, as she has engaged in them both. A hero knows about falling as well as ascending. This experience is both a virtue and a flaw.

IV. Connections – the relationships one has with others, between herself and her friends, her enemies, and her ambivalent peers.

What else is there? please tell me so i can amend

If not, so what? : Thoughts following Hume’s essay on suicide

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a post about suicide, for God’s sake. I am tired of my blog readers telling me that I keep having suicide undertones in my writing. This is a post about Hume’s argument from suicide – namely, his argument against natural law! Geez! So, if I talk about Durkheim’s study on suicide (something important for sociology and philosophy), does it mean I have some kind of ideation? No, it doesn’t affirmatively (well, it does contingently-possibly). So now I go on…

People say all the time something is ‘unnatural’ implying ‘wrong’. They say ‘homosexuality is wrong because we weren’t meant/designed to be doing that sort of thing!’. Well, unless you have got an argument from design, an argument from cosmology and an ethical system based on natural law and teleological metaphysics, I think you should SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Lets consider this putative notion of the natural; the things we do that nature normally would have done differently:

I. False teeth

II. Vegetarianism/veganism – as some teeth are formed specifically for meat eating

III. Organ transplants

IV. Blood transfusion

V. Artificial conception (note that contraception can occur ‘naturally’)

VI. Any type of surgery or large scale medical process, cosmetic (not that a lot of cosmetic surgery serves to help people as opposed to casually enhancing them) or corrective.

VIII. Animal testing leading to the developments of important technologies helping degenerative brain conditions.

Contraversial: Non-reproductive sexual practices?

So what are we to say about these ‘unnatural’ processes? We need them, it seems, to keep on living the kind of lives we do live. It is a testament to reason that our loved ones can live longer and more importantly, have a dignified life through these medical treatments which are not in accord with the way of nature.

The question I put out to you is this, so, if we established that most of those things I listed are not concord with nature, so what?