Big Conclusions

The Truth, Good, Just, God, to be enlightened, to be awakened, Quality, Right, the Way this list could continue.  The point is, all of those heavy words or phrases which are used to define something that is inherently undefinable.  Yet somehow, when we hear these words we know what they mean until one tries to sit down and get a solid definition on paper.  Try, what is Truth? Or Good? Or Just? A lot of time has been spent by other philosophers to sort out what these words mean, entire sections of thought are devoted to these questions, political and legal theorizing for Justice, Ethical theorizing for the Good, religions for any and all of the words.  There is still seemingly no absolutely solid definition, Merriam Webster when you look up “truth” uses the word “true” in the definition.  So, go to that word and you still end up with true in part of the definition and the rest of it does not seem to fully cover what “truth” really is.  Try this experiment with “good” you end up with the word quality, so go on to that definition you get, “a peculiar and essential nature” for a definition, that is not too helpful if you are attempting to establish really hard facts.

The next experiment though, you can point to something or someone and say that it is good or bad.  That it has a quality, that it is good quality, low quality.  You can say that this is just but that is not that this is right and that is not.  You can claim that God is separate from everything and in everything and created everything.  All of these terms defy a really good, solid definition like the word “dog” does.  (Although dog can be hard to define too even.) You do know what it means though, you know what it means to you which is enough and we all operate off of this, luckily our definitions can be in enough agreement that our society can function on some level.

In short, there are terms that exist which a person can recognize when they see it in the world but cannot rationally define with any sort of quality.  This seems to be a fundamental problem, especially as a scientist or trying to be super logical like some philosophers.  This fundamental split seems to be the focal point of differences between philosophers and people in general.  Some go with the “front-end” gut definition and work with it and others attempt a “back-end” rationalization.

This difference also appears to be on a pendulum, swinging back and forth through history.  Although often history is not as peaceful as this idea of the pendulum is.  This argument over priority to front-end or back-end almost appears to be a constant war in western thought.  A war which western thought has brought to all corners of the world (if it wasn’t already happening before, I’m not well-read enough to know).  One side being those who fully support rationality and the “church of reason” as some might say.  The other side being less rational, considered a counter-culture in recent years.  Of course each side has its variances with more and less extreme people through the spectrum of reason to romantics.

I like to imagine this spectrum as one side of an equilateral triangle and at each end of this side is either reason or the other, the final vertex is this thing that is called Truth or Good or God or etc. etc. etc.  On this discussion of a triangle remember that a triangle is considered the most stable shape in mathematics (or so I was told anyway).  Which I think is an unusually convenient path into claiming that having an equal spectrum of rationalism and this other end leads to being a solid equilateral triangle and thus every human being has a life that they would consider good.  The problem though is that war I mentioned earlier.

The two extreme ends do not like to share and would prefer that everyone end up closer to one end of the spectrum or the other which leads to weird bulges towards one vertex or the other, de-stabilizing the triangle.  This triangle recently has been incredibly unstable, a heavy lean towards the rational end of this spectrum.  My beginning research into this idea has pointed to the Enlightenment being when this destabilization took its full effect and western society has been dealing with that ever since.  Luckily enough though, it seems that I am at a point in history where the pendulum has begun its downward sweep back towards the other end of the spectrum.  This is all I have for the moment, once I can get some more historical research I hope to come back to this.

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A Statement on Economists

Economists do math on a giant thing which doesn’t really exist only show the problems of doing anything with it without providing a good solution.

Economists do not want anything to actually happen to the economy because they will be jobless.

Economists also probably recognize that our world is so focused on money as it is currently viewed that any actual change would cause massive problems for a while.

Economists tow an odd line where they are balancing: keeping a non-existing entity which the world relies on in existence in some form and being asked to give solutions to problems so fundamental to this entity that the only way to fix the problems would be to get rid of the entity.

Wisdom as Knowledge

This is a response to a comment on my post: Is Knowledge Really A Building Pt. 2

I ended the post with asking where we should go now after having found the idea of a building or web of knowledge somewhat problematic in my own understanding and then a person asked “What about wisdom?”

I am not entirely sure what the commentator meant so I will just take it as I interpret their comment.  As a place to go to sort out knowledge I certainly cannot disagree with wisdom being a sort of knowledge, even if my wisdom is limited from a lack of years.  The problem though, from how I understand empiricism, is still how do we know that a person’s wisdom is truly “knowledge” what is it based upon? How did it come to be known? Is it true? etc. etc.

So, in that way I do not know what about wisdom.

In another way though, I believe there is a way of understanding knowledge with wisdom.  Wisdom is the recognition that all knowledge that is scientifically approved or logically approved is only one way of seeing and understanding the world.  A wise person sees that qualifying everything that is “known” and trying to justify that it is “known” is a somewhat problematic position to be in because one is attempting to classify and logicize human experience.  Science and logic may be able to do a lot of things, explain a lot of things to us but, in the end, there is a missing part to the scientific account.  The experience itself.  Wisdom is a recognition of dearth of knowledge in scientific knowledge.

Wisdom recognizes that memories are going to inflict the present with their presumptions, emotions and images and in turn change how a person is going to deal with a situation.  Wisdom in this recognition also, I think, would have a general idea of the events that every human being is likely to go through and some of the basic sorts of experiences all humans have or will have.

So, that is a rough sketch of wisdom as I am coming to understand it and my response.

Not Enough Knowledge To Fully Support

It appears that Western philosophical thought is plagued by a constant dichotomy in basically every issue.  Due to my philosophical focus in school this is what I will be looking at with more detail and ever-so-slightly more knowledge.

These two lines of philosophical thought are far, far from being clear-cut like I am hoping to draw out here but I think that this is an undefined undercurrent that can be found within philosophical though.  These two branches are the Rationalist (not necessarily in any usual philosophical sense of the term) and then a group that is much harder to name.  I want to use Reasonable just for entertainment and to be confusing but that is not the best term for this other line, for now I’ll just call it the Other for clarity.

So, these two branches, the Rationalist and the Other branch.  I want to put down a really quick sketch of the thinkers and how I categorize some of them.  Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas (pretty much all famous early Christian theologians to my knowledge), Descartes and Kant are all members of the Rationalist branch.  See why that name works so well for this group?  They really strongly push for logic and trying to make everything as clear-cut as possible and try to argue for some sort of bigger thing out in the universe which is truth, justice, God…etc. etc.  These are the people who try to figure out what are the underlying laws in nature and the universe. If you know the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance this idea of underlying laws/forms is known to you.

The Other branch has Xenophon, Emerson, Nietzsche in my opinion, due to my philosophical training those are some of the only writers I have studied well enough to feel pretty sure about my placement.  This Other branch appears to focus more on how to live as a person, not the universal laws of nature or anything to that affect, just how to actually live a life worth living, remembering, enjoying.

These two branches seem to float through the entire history of Western thought, at least in my limited knowledge of philosophical and legal traditions.  Yet I have only run into one professor who seemed willing to acknowledge this dichotomy directly.  The rest of the professors I’ve had seem to simply want to focus on the Rationalist group and ignore the rest as much as possible.

… hmmm, sounds like analytic philosophers to me…..

Pot-shots and generalizations aside, I do see this in my limited scope of knowledge yet no serious teaching has been done on this subject it seems like professors and academics would simply prefer not to talk about this subject and I am curious as to why they hold this opinion.  Something like this seems like it could be kind of important for philosophical discussion and it would be useful to me as a student to simply help fill in another part of my education.  I thought we were supposed to become “well-rounded” through undergraduate education and this is why all of those pointless general education requirements are set, yet there is this entire Other side of thought that never seems to be discussed.  How in the world can I be well-rounded without this side too?

If the world would leave me alone to study for a while I’d probably be much more knowledgeable and able to back this up in a more thorough manner, but until then I’ll just have to moonlight as the Other branch with the day job of Rationalist.

A Thought On Hope

Have you, as a human being, ever wondered how to destroy a person?  Not just killing them, but have you ever wondered how to destroy the person in the human?  Has the realization ever hit you that it is amazing how much slavery and destruction happens between human beings?  Just some thoughts.  But, these questions were brought up in a documentary I watched not too long ago.  This documentary not only answered the questions, it also told me how to prevent this from happening, how to save a person in such a situation.  Destroying a person is amazingly simple and saving someone is even simpler.

To destroy a person you only have to do these things, not in any particular order:

  1. Get rid of their name.
  2. Get rid of the sacredness/privacy of their own body, make them feel like they have no control over themselves.
  3. Rip them away from their family and their entire community.
  4. Make them feel insecure at all times.
  5. Prevent them from using their own language.
  6. Make their body or part thereof an embarrassment and source of shame.
  7. Prevent the construction of a new community.
  8. Don’t let them imagine, keep their heads out of the clouds.
  9. Crush all hope through constant vigilance and seeming impossibility of escape.
  10. In short, make them forget their identity and that they are also human.

To save a person though requires much less than that, so much less luckily.  In order to try to save a person from finally succumbing to the power that has put them in the above situation all you have to do is give them hope.  It doesn’t matter how much, just the smallest twinkle of hope can keep a person alive all the way until the simple physical limitations of their bodies take affect, but at that point they still will not have lost their identity or their hope and you can consider it a successful saving of an individual.

Hope is the fountain which gives individuals all of their power and can keep anyone going further than they ever imagined.

Another Life Metaphor

Life is a constant war and one must live like a soldier.  Your armor is your character and yourself. Every morning you have to wake up and carry this armor with you.  Every action you take has to be defining and defending yourself.  Every action sharpens your blade, strengthens your shield and hardens your armor.  The world we live in is always trying to crush you, make you a tool, to make life secure. Security requires the disarming of yourself and letting your armor go.  A secure life is the undefined life. The defined life is a constant struggle, always a chaos that you create and control.  The life of definition is hard, dirty, and uncomfortable.  The life of definition is always on the very edge of living and sanity.  The defined life is lonely because you are yourself, but the best of companions can be found there.  When two stand on their own they can truly respect each other.

Thoughts On Honor

Honor, not the stupid useless honors courses, classes, frats, sororities and other academic groups.  There is no honor in academia.  In fact it often seems that society could get rid of academia and still do just fine, that’s another discussion though.

True honor needs to come back to society.  This feeling of honor was one of the many good things to disappear from society in this “post-modern” world and it needs to be brought back.  Not necessarily nationalistic, just personal honor and groups that support that honor.

Everyone needs to feel that they are bound to an honor code of some sort.  This by itself would lead to a lot of things getting sorted out in the U.S. we all felt honor-bound to either do or avoid certain actions and truly felt pride in having this honor we would end up doing or avoiding those actions.  It just seems to me that a true honor society that you have to work at to join and stay in is needed for everyone.