Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On Hypothesis and Questioning

I want to discuss 'hypothesis', and this will be my attempt to set out some thoughts concerning it.  I want this to expand how I think of science, while still keeping it in close contact with how I think of philosophy, and particularly, metaphysics (as the study of the Being of beings).
Hypothesis is often used in terms of a prediction we make, and then test through experiment.  I don't know how recently this came to be the standard usage, and I am not interested in rejecting it but understanding why it has become natural for us to think of things as predictable.  I am going back to some usage I have seen in Kant and Plato which inspired me, and seeing if I can get better insight into my own thought about both science, and my work in metaphysics.
Hypo-thesis has a nice etymology: under-placing.  In this way you could imagine a hypothesis as a foundation for a building - something that one allows something else to stand.  I would like to emphasize this under-placing through a different image so that I can avail myself of certain language that I think will be helpful to develop other thoughts I have related to the subject.
Imagine a completely white space, brightly lit, so that you cannot see any differentiation in the field of view.  You are looking forward as a black backdrop is lowered some distance behind you.  As this happens, you see a number of all white objects that were in the field of view that were hitherto invisible (due to their non-contrasting with the environment) have now become visible.  I would like to consider the black backdrop here, which allows the white objects to stand out (exist, presence themselves), as illustrating hypothesis.
hypotheses allow things to show themselves.  A scientific hypothesis, taken in this sense, is a way of constraining the environment in advance in order to see something that stands out.  I do not want to consider hypotheses as physical equipment used to reveal things (so the black backdrop is only a metaphor): a light switch is not a hypothesis.  A hypothesis is rather a way of thinking of our environment in advance in a planned way - a way of constraining the environment in order that it seems different to us while we operate under the hypothesis.
In Plato's Meno, Socrates and Meno are unable to decide what virtue is, but Meno still persuades Socrates to answer if virtue can be taught.  Socrates advises that they continue as a geometer by operating under a hypothesis.  They agree to suppose that knowledge considered valuable, and teachable, will be taught, so that if virtue is both valuable and teachable then we should discover it being taught.  But it is not taught, and good men have bad sons.  If we agree or disagree with the hypothesis does not matter here.  What I am interested in is how something is used to reduce the field of inquiry to just those things which are being taught, and upon looking at this reduced field not finding virtue there, the conclusion that virtue cannot be taught is decided.
For complicated reasons (which I do not understand) we say that if a certain statistical regularity shows itself (through data gathered in a graph that reveals a bump or cluster), then we have reason to suppose that there is a higgs-boson particle.  This is a hypothesis.  This data is not gathered at random, but depends on many other hypothesis that have constrained the environment so precisely that, at CERN, we have built a particle accelerator on these hypotheses.  Presently, we have no other way of hunting around for the higgs-boson, and this particle accelerator served the need to to let the particle stand out, and in a way, first exist.  All of these scientific operations clearly suppose the regularity of nature, but nature is not regular - no events ever repeat.  We do not hold to hypotheses because nature operates in a regular manner: only by holding to a hypothesis can beings become predictable and regular.  If we forget this we risk forgetting how science works.
For many of us, in our school days, we measured the volume of things by seeing the displacement of something in water.  Perhaps we remember Archimedes' eurika story, as well.  In our experiment we already knew in advance that a displacement in water signified the amount of space that an object takes up.  Having this understanding in advance allowed us to operate in our environment in a certain way to provide answers to questions we were given to ask.  For Archimedes, who had a lingering problem that he was trying to solve, his own displacing of water in a bath tub led him to realize that he had found the answer.  Such fortunate accidents do not just happen, but with Archimedes, as with the story of Newton, our own questioning state of mind leads to such dawning consciousness.  Our own questioning operates on the environment in order to reveal in a way that a hypothesis does, but without knowing in advance what such an answer will look like, and so different from us in our classroom experiments.
Kant says that no hypotheses are allowed in his critical enterprise.  What does this tell us about his approach?  While operating under no pre-consideration of things, he is yet asking.  He is not trying to constrain the field of beings in order to simply let some beings appear, or for them to appear in a special way - he just wants things to be as they are.  However, as soon as he begins to provide his interpretation of what emerges in this space, he sticks to one part of beings - the immediate presence to intuition (sense) - as a guide.  This can distort, for his readers, the original view that he had towards the Being of beings, a view also required for him to write the second and third critiques.  (The third seeming to approach most closely to a pure interpretation of presencing with the judgment of taste.)  This may help illustrate how I think the basic difference between a special science and the general science of metaphysics (or ontology).
Special sciences, already operate in advance with an understanding of their hypothesis, and constrain the view to let certain beings appear.  Metaphysics, on the other hand, does not hold hypotheses, but asks concerning the Being of beings.  Sometimes this asking is just in regard to the Being of beings in a certain discipline (what is it to be a being of mathematical physics?), while sometimes it is with regard to a pure view to beings as such.  But even with our most pure view to beings, they are already in advance something that is able to be taken up by us into our asking, and so already we can see that they have a character that is able to be questioned (a questionable character).  This tells us about the pure Being of beings, and also about us and how we emerge in relation to the Being of beings as thinkers.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Using Kant's Table of Categories to Understand Heidegger

In Being and Time (German 65), Heidegger lays out four different meanings of "world".  Upon last encountering this passage, it struck me that this division may benefit supposing a backdrop of the table of categories in Kant.  I want to briefly discuss this possibility.
The table of categories are the different pure forms of thinking an object.  Each category is a model for a way of judging about a thing.  There are four headings of the categories: quantity, quality, relation and modality.  Kant is interested in having a systematic completeness in his reflections on things, and supposes that if he uses all the ways of judging a thing generally as his guide, he will be more apt at providing such completeness for his thoughts.  (A good discussion of the use of the categories for organizing reflection is in the Preface to the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science.)
Now, if we suppose Heidegger employs this method, then we should be able to draw a number of implications from it regarding his method of writing Being and Time, as well as the subject matter that he deals with.  (This interpretive hypothesis in no way suggests that Heidegger is simply repeating Kant's table of categories, but using a guide like Kant in the setting out of the subject matter.)
After laying out the four different senses of world, Heidegger informs us that he will be employing the third.  If we go by the way these sense seem to be lined up with the table of categories, then we will find that the third sense of world will be relational, which is does seem to be, since it concerns and cannot be separated from, Being-there's (Dasein's) being-in the world.
To draw an implication from this from the backdrop of the categories in Kant I will mention that the categories of relation are significant (along with the modal categories) in that they do not contribute to the constitution of an object, but to the constitution of experience as structures of experience (the unity of appearances, rather than just the unity of an appearance).  I find that this works well with Heidegger's interest in the structure of Being-in-the-world.
If the object of study in Being and Time is Being-there as concerned with Being, then perhaps we can see that worldhood doesn't concern something that constitutes Being-there's concern with being (it isn't a dealing that Being-there has), but it is rather constitutive of Being as such so far as Being will be brought out on the backdrop of the interpretation of Being-there.  Even for this, however, we will need to bring in the an interpretation of these structures of Being-there in terms of temporality, but at least we can guess at what will be indicated by the kinds of analyses in Division One of Being and Time.
When I speak of 'constitutive of Being' here, I am not suggesting that I can answer what the meaning of Being is.  Heidegger's analysis will only concern the constitution of Being in the way in which Being-there's concern with Being relates to Being as such, and since Being seems to both be the concern, as well as something supposed to be possessed by Being-there in its concern for Being, we can clearly see the circularity involved in the project of Being and Time.  This circularity isn't something that Heidegger hides from, but rather, it is something that he brings to the fore and which is important for the project as a whole.
There are other implications that we could draw from using the table of categories as a foil, but I'll leave off here, since I just wanted to raise this interpretive possibility more than anything else.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Interest and the Object in General

I have recently been employing a discourse which feels well suited to discussing ethics.  This discourse is centered around the term 'interest' which will need to be clarified on its own.  I will focus on articulating 'interest' by developing it in relation to a specific context which is timely for me and will also form a cornerstone in the discourse: the encounter with the object in general (of Kantian fame).
A formula of 'interest': a thing is of interest if it is available for thought.  In this formula, thing is taken to be anything that could be an object of thought, and thought is considered in its role as placing (determining) objects under concepts.  In this formula any thing we are thinking of is interesting to us, but additionally, it suggests that there is a way we can be 'signaled' by a thing while not thinking it (not determining it under a concept).  I will be focusing now on this particular case of interest. 
To be available for thought must mean that something is taken to be an object in some sense.  The minimal way of being an object, and yet unthought (undetermined), is for it to be an object in general.  I am suggesting that an object in general must be able to present itself singularly in a way that is still undetermined by an empirical concept (at least momentarily); moreover, if such a 'description' of an object is not maintained, then we find no material with which to begin developing our empirical concepts.
In relation to an object in general, 'description' must remain in quotes because we can surely not describe such an object in general until we have determined it under some concept, which is to say, when we think of it less generally.  Therefore, when we remember this state we will not be remembering something about the object so far as it was an object in general; instead, it is something about ourselves, or the determinations we made as a result of the state we were in, that we will take interest in after the encounter.  The object in general never becomes an object of interest while remaining general, but our determinations of it, and our state in such an encounter, do.  Clearly, using object to refer to the object in general is problematic, and something we must consider later.
What is the state of the subject that becomes interesting?  Since this object in general is somehow to be thought, it could be the satisfaction of a certain kind suited to thinking. Given the previous paragraph which informed us that we strictly speaking cannot refer to the actual object in general, we can say that the object in general is nothing other than this satisfaction in us for thinking.
Because this encounter with satisfaction (object in general) must form the foundation for the cultivation of our concepts, and so of thought generally, we must see it as at the grounds of what we mean when we speak.  From this we must say that such an encounter is assumed in all discourse.  That is, so far as we relate to others, we demand that they have such encounters of satisfaction regarding appearances, and precisely in relation to the things we have now come to determine under concepts.
Further, the relation to others is only possible because there is this capacity to encounter the object in general supposed in common.  This encounter with the object in general is just the satisfaction that pushes us first into thinking and builds a bridge between the singular (representation) and the universal (concept), and which combine as the particular.  But these logical quantities only become necessary in discourse, and their named distinction emerge from an analysis of discourse.
Because we have no rule for describing the object in general it means we could not represent one to ourselves, and so we can only think it: it is a noumenon.  If such an object in general is assumed in discourse, then we find that the purely thinkable is already grounding discourse, and that the intelligible is also discovered through discourse.  This super sensible substructure is important for our ethical dealings.
(Some readers may have noticed a relationship this 'phenomenological description' of the object in general has with Kant's discussion of the judgment of taste.  This relationship is completely intended, as this post is meant secondarily as an introduction to Kant's manner discussing the beautiful while separating it from the term 'beauty' which seems to produce so much bias in the encounter of the third critique.  I have here provided an interpretation of Kant's object in general as being the satisfaction in relation to appearances which sets the stage for the determination under concepts.  This satisfaction then relates to the reproducibility, under rules, of something which of itself has no rules.  There is much to be gained in continuing this reorientation towards the object in general from possible in the third critique, and then carrying the interpretation through the rest of the system.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Understanding Pure Color and Tone in the Third Critique

In the Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Kant discusses how color and tone can only be beautiful if they are pure.  Whenever I have studied this text on my own and in a group this has caused some confusion, since it is ambiguous what a pure color or tone is.
The typical understanding of this passage in Kant is that Kant means colors that are unmixed, or primary colors, or any solid color, and for tones similarly only a single tone (with no overtones), or one of the tones of the scale.  This interpretation does not work for me, since it clearly involves a quality of the content of the experience that we would be able to put a rule to, e.g., we could specify red blue and green are beautiful.  Since there can be no rules, or reasons, for saying that something is beautiful, this clearly cannot be correct.
Rather than interpreting pure in this case as a quality of the content, I suggest interpreting it in the same way pure is interpreted everywhere else in Kant's system: not containing any empirical content.  But what is color or tone without empirical content?  The answer to this is the same as any case where we remove content: we are left with form.  So, I suggest that we interpret pure color or tone in terms of form.  How do we understand form in this case?
The pure forms of intuition (for the cognition of objects) concern the arrangement of content spatially and temporally.  The form of color or tone will also concern arrangement of content, but not into these extensive and intensive magnitudes of time and space, but into magnitudes that allow us to have differences in color and tone - that arrange the content of sense such that these differences make themselves apparent.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Differentiation Between Modalities Through the Application of Concepts

(Here I am concerned simply with the theoretical employment of the understanding, and the differentiation of the three modalities (possibility, existence and necessity) through the application of concepts in the determination of objects (constitutively).  As may be obvious, I will be employing the jargon of Kant's Critique to assist in my exposition, and am willing to clarify anything which may be murky in the comments.)

   Concerning a concept, there are always certain properties that are indeterminate in relation to a possible instance of it.  For example, the concept of a triangle does not specify the size of a triangle, yet any actual triangle needs a determinate size.  Something possible is the concept of something whose undetermined properties are all able to be determined in a definite manner.  If I assume some property of a concept which is required to be determined, and yet can never be determined (be exhibited in any way), then I think a concept that is impossible to apply to any experience of objects.  Such concepts are problematic, for we do not know if they are possible or impossible in themselves, yet we know they are impossible in relation to experience, and so are nothing to us so far as we are concerned with knowledge.
   Whenever a concept is employed in determining the existence of something, it means some one of the concepts indeterminate properties has been determined (immediately, or mediately) by an intuition.  If we employ a concept and state nothing other than what is determinate in the concept itself (that a triangle has three sides), it is impossible to differentiate between the mere thought of the concept and the existence of the thing.  If I determine parts of a concept in thought (arbitrarily), rather than through an intuition, then I am imagining an object.
   Whatever in a concept is already determinate (analytically; able to be stated in the exposition of the concept), is necessary.  My exposition of my concept of a triangle must contain 'three-sided' as a determinate characteristic, and so this property is necessary.  However, this does not mean that any triangles necessarily exist, but that 'three-sided' is always contained in the thought of a triangle.  Whenever I employ a concept to something as existing, I always goes beyond the mere concept, determining some quality which is indeterminate a priori, such as the size of a triangle.  Any particular size of a triangle is not itself necessary for their being a triangle, but it is necessary that such determinations are made (through some intuition) in order to satisfy the triangle being considered existent, and so these contingent characters of a triangle (size) are yet necessary for the employment of 'existence' as a predicate.  
   The final remark on existence needs its own space for development, and is not meant to conflict with the determination that 'existence' is not a predicate.  The whole purpose of such an exposition as this is to find such places where we can clarify  such things for ourselves; people certainly do employ existence as a predicate, and we can suppose that they means something by it; perhaps we have the key here to finding out what such an employment means, and can tell us about the truth of such arguments that require the employment of existence as a predicate (such as, the ontological argument).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reflection on Rights and Punishment

   In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant describes the connection of law and punishment in the following simple relation: if you violate a law, it is a violation of the security of some right or rights for everyone else, and so your own same right should be made insecure. After this, the Doctrine of Right proceeds to discuss a legal system that seems familiar, involving a central authority that meets out punishment.
   Given the manner in which the rights of the criminal are made insecure, it does not seem necessary that any punishment over and above this naturally follows.  Why could the judgment not merely end at the removal of the rights of the individual until such a time when they can be returned?  Of course, if you have committed a murder, and now are made insecure concerning your own life, the result could be worse (in brutality) than a punishment met out by the state: vengeance can be very bloody indeed.  However, there is also the possibility of forgiveness of the deeds which is impossible by means of punishment, and which also seems more needful and just than any punishment.  
   This accords better with the state, since the state ought to be concerned with the maximum freedom of all of its members, and so a violation of rights and subsequent exclusion from the state in certain ways (with the possibility of readmission), allows the state to strive to include a maximum of individuals with differences, but can exclude those who must make the state insecure.
   The human being, taken practically (morally), is the agent of his actions. There is no mechanism we can place underneath the actions of an agent without also destroying the form of practical thought that we think him under.  Any absolving of crimes that are met out through some kind of mechanism which measures out a particular amount to be repaid will never be commensurable with crimes committed by an agent: such correction must be reserved for mere equipment.  This is why it makes sense to untangle the theoretical and practical in this case, and require that forgiveness be the only means of absolution for crimes.  Forgiveness does not accept the crimes committed, but it accepts the person in spite of them.
   The degree to which we take as quite natural and fitting the punishment of individuals as a means of making amends for crimes, or the correction of these individuals as if they are broken equipment, is also a degree to which we take people as mere objects.  If justice is to concern persons in their full humanity, then the treatment of humans as mechanical also stands for the impossibility of real justice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Education and the Handing Down Philosophy

   Education, even when it is autodidactic, does not merely make use of the subjective, but requires something from outside (objective).  Just as little could education involve only something external, but whatever comes from outside must have a place in the student already prepared for it.  Just as we pass on a torch in a race, we teach only because we suppose that others are able to take it up again in the same way.  We also recognize that when we pass the torch we are no longer entirely responsible for what is done with it, and that the intention we held for the torch will be fulfilled; this makes education all the more important, particularly when it concerns our ultimate fulfillment.  
   We don't pass on teaching unless it is needful for our ends and for those of the students.  The needfulness of the teaching is part of what recognizes that it has a place in the student, even if the student does not recognize this place.  Philosophy is concerned with the needfulness (finitude, lack, synthesis character) in our being and an education in philosophy results in the opening up of this needfulness.  There are many other needs that manifest themselves first and more clearly.  Our bodies require constant care, but these problems can be faced, and even resolved so that we can transform our original anxiety over them.  
   Anxiety over plumbing does not arise for me save for when I leave these modern conveniences behind, and the anxiety is not in the face of not knowing what to do, but in my solution no longer being available.  Plumbing is a problem that has been solved.  It can be refined, and it can still become a concern, but the concerns that arise for us now are in light of the solution.  The anxiety we have over the lack of plumbing was not even possible prior to plumbing.  Such solutions to anxieties that allow new anxieties to crop up are not proper to philosophy, and the education in philosophy does not seek to develop these, but to continue to guide everyone back to the same needfulness of the human being which are not open to solution by man.
   Education in philosophy should try to open the learner up to their needfulness, and with an interest to the potentiality of having a true measure of their destiny and potential fulfillment - even if such fulfillment is beyond our power.  Our needfulness is of such a depth that it leads to the despairing wisdom of Silenus, that the best for man is to never have been born; it also leads to the pursuit of salvation in Christianity.  Philosophy itself does not give its own answer to this need without becoming something else (like theology); philosophy merely opens this need up again and again, and prepares the philosopher to face the great demands that come with being human.  (Receiving a degree in philosophy currently involves a study of the history of philosophers - many of whom have opened up the depths of human needfulness - and with some technical procedures in argumentation.  This is, perhaps, the most we can expect of philosophy treated as a discipline.)
   A reason why so many suggest that philosophy does not advance is in reference to the attempt of philosophy continually to uncover the same problems.  However, the material written by philosophers can advance us in its efficacy in assisting in that uncovering, and making it more penetrating.  To me, Kant was a greater help then Plato in first uncovering the problem of my needfulness, and after Kant I have been able to appreciate Plato in ways where his meaning stands out and further penetrates into these problems.  Penetrating further into the problem of my needfulness is why I study the history of philosophy, not to see who had the right or wrong answer; this latter practice degrades philosophy, and so far as it blocks the awakening of our own needfulness it is harmful to our humanity.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Descartes and the Lowering of God

(While this 'story' surrounds some few thinkers, I recognize that there are many lost to me, and to history, which I leave out.)

   Descartes' Cogito is often read as denying the reality of objects.  This is how I think Descartes understood it as well, but, as I have written on in the past, I think that Cartesian doubt is actually a doubt of the subject, and his ability to act in relation to objects: Cartesian doubt preserves objects unchanged (theoretically), while separating us from them (practically).
   The result of Descartes' interpretation of the cogito as the list of cognitive acts (perceiving, willing, denying, &c), leaves him with a jumble of things which he rightly recognizes as containing nothing that relates them to the same being (as existing) over time.  The unity of these 'representations' is not contained in all of these acts of the mind (taken in an empirically psychological manner).  However, the continuity of his existence he takes as granted, and so can say, analytically, that there is some infinite idea/being that he depends upon for (the unity of) his existence.  This being is God.
   In relation to Descartes, Kant recognizes the pure concepts which are required when we experience representations, and which - under the unity of apperception - explain the unity of experience.  The unity of apperception plays the same role in Kant as God plays for Descartes (in the third meditation).  However, Descartes choice had a peculiar result in the history of philosophy (as we have received it) which we can, perhaps, learn from.
   As a result of God taking the position of the unity of apperception, and becoming responsible for the unity of experience, we found a way of thinking God which was immediately connected in our theoretical experience of the world (analytically).  However, Descartes begins a tradition that results in the lowering of God.
   Malebranche's Occasionalism represents a view where God works a miracle at every moment to position things correctly.  Spinoza's Monist-Deism does more or less the same in terms of making everything in nature an act of God.
   Leibniz is the first thinker (known to me) in the rationalist tradition that has been handed down, and emphasized, to truly recognized the problem here.  Leibniz demanded that God should not be considered to have caused any miracle save for the bringing into existence of the World.  This single miracle is, to Leibniz, worthy of His greatness.  If we consider, also, that the bringing into existence of everything is understood by Leibniz in terms of the triumph of Good (since this is the best of all possible worlds) it is clearer that this reflects a kind of practical attitude at the foundation of his system.  This decision of Leibniz' seemed to be incredibly important for the development of Kant's thought in relation to this same area.
   I do not write this post to plant a knife in Descartes back, nor to complain about Malebranche's or Spinoza's shortcomings.  I think that all of these thinkers were in possession of the answer to the problem I have raised here - the answer just laid dormant in their systems until a genuine concern with goodness could once again take its place at the helm of the structure of the system (and not merely the interest in first attending to it).  In order to learn from Descartes, Malebranche and Spinoza, we can uncover these practical propositions in their work (as well as bring them out more clearly in Leibniz), and so recover a great deal of clarifying thought for our own benefit (and training).

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Practical Dialectic in Kant and Plato

   This will be a simple attempt to expand my understanding of thinkers by thinking them through each other, and also an illustration of such thinking through.  This procedure runs along these lines: structures in philosophical thought are actually few in number, despite the rich variety in language, and so when two philosophers have thought about the same subject, it can be helpful to compare the structures they employ to see if they are actually indicate results that are only implied in the other, or which can be seen by structuring elements in one system by those in another.  The comparison here is between Kant and Plato, and concerns the highest Good in Kant and Beauty itself (which is also the True, Good, &c) in Plato, and how both thinkers see these highest ideas as providing for the highest objectives of human life.
   Kant sees man's practical life divided between two universal ends that are in conflict: virtue and happiness.  To be virtuous means to obey the autonomous moral law (duty), while happiness is the fulfillment of our heteronomous desires.  These universal aims are in conflict since our desires may always lead us astray from our duty.  These conflicts in human nature have been recognized through the history of philosophy, and attempts have been made to resolve the conflict intellectually.  Kant contrasts the attempt of Stoics in supposing that virtue is happiness with that of Epicureans in supposing that happiness is virtue and finds that both the popular Stoic and Epicurean positions ignore one side of the conflict, rather than actually resolve the struggle between autonomy and heteronomy.
   Kant names the fulfillment of perfect virtue and happiness the "highest Good", and notes that striving for its attainment is in our nature.  However, this goal cannot be accomplished by us, and so requires supernatural assistance for its possibility.
   For Plato, there are primarily two ways of thinking 'love': as philos and eros.  Philos is associated by us with friendship, and for Plato I will emphasize the motto (maybe maxim), "friends share all things in common" (Phaedrus, Lysis).  Eros is thought by us in connection with erotic love, and Plato considers it more broadly as the result of our feeling the lack (Symposium, Phaedrus).  I will associate philos with the demands of autonomy (virtue), and eros with heteronomy (happiness), and thereby use Kant's practical dialectic as a foil to predict some thing we can expect in these terms.
   Plato understands love (eros) of Beauty itself to be obtainable, and so it is not an ideal that guides us onward indefinitely.  Perfect fulfillment of heteronomous desire is an unobtainable ideal in Kant, and so not to be made equivalent with loving Beauty itself.  We should understand education in eros as the unveiling of new kinds of eros, and so new things that we lack and pursue.
   Beauty is manifest in all objects of desire, however, but there is an exclusivity involved in the love of finite things which does not exist for Beauty itself.  Still, even when we attain a love Beauty itself, we are still susceptible to finite objects of desire, and so are tempted to exclude others from them.  For Kant, a limit on our ability to attain to perfect virtue is exactly this constant possibility of desire for things, and so the struggle to attain a love of Beauty itself parallels the development of virtue somehow.  Now, erotic love is still heteronomous, and so the cultivation of it at any level will never suffice for autonomy, and so we should see if the cultivation of eros provides a foundation for virtue rather than its attainment.
   It is, at first, hard to see how philos has a relationship to the cultivation of virtue.  But, supposing that the cultivation of eros develops the ground for virtuous practice, we may find how this cultivation concerns philos.  Considering the motto, "friends share all things in common", we can project the development of relationships between people where conflict arises due to limited resources.  The perfect management of these resources, so far as we must have them, will be a progress towards universal freedom sustained mutually between agents, as well as an economy of objects desired.  If we were to only love things that were limited, then it would require a great deal of laws to keep us in a relation as friends (but this would itself not work without love of law - even begrudgingly).  However, so far as we can attain to a love (eros) of things which are not subject to limited resources, then sharing becomes much easier.  Here we can clearly see how the cultivation of eros lays the ground for the pursuit of philos as a maximum in sharing, freedom under laws, and how a perfect development of eros (so that we only love Beauty itself) would produce no need for laws.  However, so long as we are finite beings, we have finite needs which prevent us from a perfect love of Beauty itself.
   To review: if friends are to share all things in common, we will have great difficulty so far as we find ourselves needful of things that are limited and of which we have a limited amount.  The cultivation of loving (eros) Beauty itself (Good, Truth, &c) orients us towards a domain of things that are not subject to limitations.  This means that the cultivation of eros is at the same time the development of philos, but this development will still be on the side of a single individual, and so only makes an individual suitable to be a part of a community of friends without creating that community.  This can indicate the importance of education in Plato, and that education should not be seen in terms of passing on knowledge of finite things or even particular cultural mores, but rather is for cultivating eros to allow for better friends, and citizens (this also should be understood relative to letting things stand in their own light, as in the allegory of the cave`).
   Reflecting off of this insight into Plato's thought we can find insight into Kant.  We can see that Kant's description of virtue in the Metaphysics of Morals as the cultivation of our inclination for duty is exactly this cultivation of eros in Plato.  The universality of the Categorical Imperative illustrates how Kant considers duty to involve such a possibility of a community of friends in relation to individual developments of virtue.  Situating the universality of the moral law in these terms of the conditions of maximum sharing in common (philos) represent Kant's understanding of morals more accurately, and avoids the harmful reception of Kant himself pronouncing what one ought to do.
   Happiness (in Kant) is only attainable so far as we can bring about conditions of universal philos in ourselves and others, and for this we will always be striving in this life in our cultivation of eros or virtue.  Perhaps this life long striving revealed in Plato can provide us a good basis to move on to understanding the afterlife myths that involve the familial relationship he draws between the laws of a state and those of the afterlife (Crito), or the striving after the forms (Phaedrus), or the expression of power to free us from long standing tyranny (Republic), or Socrates easygoing relation to death (Phaedo).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Problem as a Transcendental Philosopher

   This post is on a personal level rather than a scholarly one.  There are difficulties I face in life because of my decision (fate?) to become a transcendental philosopher, and to pursue philosophy generally.  I am writing this to share the experience I have had of it, and conclusions that I have come to.  Perhaps they can be worth while to those who may face the same difficulties, and have not yet clarified them for themselves.  Perhaps there are those who can help me make the next move through suggesting another layer of the dialectic.

   As someone who considers himself a fellow worker of Kant, I engage in pure philosophy as a pursuit worthy of special development.  This continual engagement in life leads me to constantly be directed out of life towards the clarifying of its form, its possibility, its a priori ground.  Once I had grown accustomed to this procedure, and found the great sense of clarity, command, and peacefulness that it brings (and which accompanies any activity where we find confidence in our powers) the tendency to bring things into their clarity took over in a manner that led to a continual tendency to retreat from life; this is a tendency with which I struggle constantly.
   I do not regret, but feel greatly rewarded by my work as a transcendental philosopher.  When I see others faced with complex problems of life, I see a tendency in them to defer to someone  else, or find something to help them forget, or make light of the issue; sometimes the result is that they lash out blindly.  When I am faced with a problem I have a tendency to enter into a critical analysis.  Here, the anxiety is lessened, and I find myself in control; I carefully evaluate the concern into principles and secure my stability and orientation to the problem.  Since every problem has a form, there is no problem which I cannot evaluate and bring under my power.  This I count as a great blessing.  However, merely attaining to stability does not solve the problems analyzed; nothing gets done with regard to the problems so far as I merely analyze them into principles.
   There are disciplines which work much closer to problem domains faced in life, and pure philosophy has its place in relation to all of them, but not directly in relation to their solutions.  This can make me appear useless (and at times feel useless), so far as the solutions to problems always are legitimately accredited to something else.  This means that for me to contribute to solutions, I must also develop skill and understanding in a narrow domain or I must present a legitimate claim to provide assistance in relation to problems.  These options do not exclude each other, but there are reasons why the first option is more difficult for me.
   The legitimacy of transcendental philosophy in relation to all problem domains is in the removal of confusion surrounding the problems.  Any removal of errors, misunderstanding, or confusion, even if it is only a negative contribution, is in the end a positive contribution towards the goal of resolving the problem.  This is how transcendental philosophy's merely negative relation of analysis is ultimately productive for all disciplines.  However, I find that having the tendencies of a transcendental philosopher makes it difficult for me to commit myself to one problem among others, since I can just as well be clarifying the principles that underly natural science at one moment, and in the next transition seamlessly into the principles that ground civil law.
   So far as I am unable to put all of the special problems under one super-problem, I am faced with anxiety as a transcendental philosopher.  I feel that I possess a key to all problems, but the problems, considered by themselves, are indeterminate in relation to their ultimate contribution - the problems themselves do not dictate which comes first.  The demand for the super-problem is itself a problem I face, and is open to analysis; this analysis results in clarifying an ideal that governs all activity.  This ideal has been called many things: virtue, God (as a theoretical ideal and regulative principle), the Good (ἀγαθὸν), universal objective harmony, &c.
   Just as the analysis of more special problem domains did not lead to a solution to the problems, the analysis of the super-problem also does not lead to a solution.  However, this analysis of the super-problem does remove a road block by putting all problems into dialogue with a universal interest that guides all of them, and so a common standard for evaluating them (see post on objective harmony or the Good for more clarification).  However, this merely makes the specific problems comparable in their intended results, and does not solve a single one, nor does it remove the demand to complete even the most minor of them.  It simply allows us to evaluate where we should more properly start, and sets this evaluation as a positive task.
  Ultimately the goal of philosophy (not simply transcendental philosophy) is not to remove oneself from life, but to live life well.  This goal requires transcendental philosophy, but does not allow it to be the final end, only a stage one must pass through on the way back to life.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Highest Objective Harmony and Practical Reason

   In a previous post I considered different types of contradiction, and hoped to elaborate on one of these that was potentially more obscure: practical contradiction.  Practical contradiction depended upon the goal of a highest objective harmony, the idea of which I will elaborate in order to hopefully reveal some new considerations of practical reason.
   The possibility of the conformity of all objective employment of reason (its employment concerning objects), both in the understanding of nature, and in its application to action, is the possibility of the highest objective harmony (coherence).  There is no need for us to worry that nature will not be in conformity with itself, since it must follow certain laws necessarily.  However, concerning actions as bringing about states of affairs (as objective), we are guaranteed nothing of such a harmony save for the possibility (at least in thought) of such a harmony.
   The complete objective harmony of the practical employment of reason concerns objective states of affairs as brought about by action in a manner as consistent as nature's own laws.  This concerns all possible actors, which means that this concern with objective states of affairs also places a demand on subjects universally (so far as we think this highest objective harmony).  Any act which disrupts this objective harmony is called a practical contradiction.
   If all subjects cannot perform the same act (in the same context) then it is not compatible with a rule, and so contradicts the highest objective harmony, since such a harmony concerns the complete regularity in the production of objective states of affairs according to rules, and so demands a uniformity resulting from the laws of freedom that is comparable to the results of laws of nature. 
   When we experience duty (feel that we are called to perform or omit an action), we do not experience it as optional.  This necessary character of duty postulates our freedom, but also a regularity of this freedom as governed by laws which would make a necessary demand.  The connection of freedom with necessary duties is by means of a principle of practical contradiction which is given in a formula as the demand for objective harmony. This can be seen as another formula of the Categorical Imperative.  (There can really be an indefinite number of such formulas, since each has merely to express the sort of necessity we find in duty in a general and universal manner.)  The objective harmony can be used to illustrate the meaning of contradiction in Kant's Categorical Imperatives. I will consider this with respect to Kant's discussion of a lying promise.
   A lying promise, as Kant explains, produces a (practical) contradiction when applied to the Categorical Imperative.  Under the Categorical Imperative (law of nature formulation), a promise would always be cognized immediately with the knowledge of its not being meant, and so not as a promise, making the act of promising impossible.  We can understand the sort of contradiction which Kant has in mind more clearly in relation to the highest objective harmony, since there we considered a demand of reason concerning the maximum of regularity in all objective cognitions.
   This objective harmony may be something of a linchpin between theoretical and practical reason, and suggests that pure practical reason only emerges from a combination of theoretical reason with something else which is called on to conform to the same regularity as natural law.  Perhaps this can help give direction for the connection of the faculties which cognize ends (purposes) with theoretical reason, and which result then in the production of a pure practical reason in their combination through a synthesis of objective harmony.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Different Types of Contradiction - Theoretical and Practical

   We are all familiar with contradiction, but contradiction is applied in many nuanced ways.  It can be very beneficial to go through different senses of contradiction, and I will briefly lay out some of these here, and then in another place develop some of them more closely.
   The sort of contradiction that seems most familiar is that the same object cannot be in two opposite states at once, e.g., something cannot be entirely black and entirely white.  However, we allow an object to have mutually exclusive properties/states over time.  This is understood well enough, and is typically the model of the other ways we speak of contradiction, which is confusing since it transports everything into the context of objects with properties too quickly.
   A more obscure sense of contradiction involves rules that connect a cause and effect (ground and consequence).  We take every effect to have only one cause (even if this cause is a complex - and it usually is), and when we connect a cause and an effect it forms a rule, and so we can say that is contradictory to have two rules for the same cause and effect pair.  To illustrate this sort of contradiction, consider the following: when one object displaces another, we call the connection of these moments impact (or various other terms that describe the same thing), and we say that impact is the cause of one object displacing another.  Impact names a rule that connects the two states (cause and effect).  It would be contradictory to say that besides impact, the rule that connects the cause and effect is a force that acts at a distance, and so the impact of the objects is accidental.  The reason this would be contradictory is that we cannot maintain that the rule of displacement requires impact, and also that the rule of displacement does not require impact; perhaps something can be moved by impact, and at a distance, but they exclude each other as rules connecting the same ground and consequence.
   Another form of contradiction which is obscure is a contradiction between contexts.  A context holds together a number of rules and purposes of things for some activity.  The context of wood working holds certain uses to the tools of the wood working, and the goal one has makes the context of wood working necessary to develop.  It is possible to have a context from which one can evaluate different possible contexts (ways of organizing ourselves and our things in an activity), but we cannot have more than one context at a time.  Even when we are accomplishing two tasks through one action, we have a context for this, as well.
   A context can be contradicted if it does not produce the results that are desired.  We may think that a certain organization of activities and materials will produce the results we aim for, but when it fails we must consider if there was some error or defect in our skill or the material, or if the context was poorly designed to begin with.  If we decide the the context itself is at fault, then it would be insane to repeat the same procedure expecting a different result.  I want to refer to this as a technically practical contradiction.
   Even though we can narrow our interests to certain contexts and achieve the goals we set in them, we can hardly ever remain in any one context at all times; the demands of life pull us into different contexts.  While we do not expect to find a single context that is specifically suited to all tasks, we strive for all of our tasks, and their respective contexts, to harmonize with each other, and so we eliminate contexts not only when they do not work, but also when they conflict with each other and make a harmonized life impossible.  This brings me to another sort of contradiction, which I will call simply a practical contradiction.  When a context functions (attains its aims), but falls into conflict with other contexts (and so throws our life into disarray), we have a practical contradiction.  An example of such a practical contradiction would be a lying promise.
   There is a peculiarity of practical contradictions (both technical, and pure) which makes them very distinct the first two sorts of contradictions (which I will call theoretical).  The first two sorts of contradictions have subjective necessity (we simply do not operate without them, and so they form a part of all of our practical contexts as well).  The theoretical contradictions also have objective necessity, since all objects must obey them, as well.  Now, for practical contradictions, there is no subjective necessity.  We can violate technically practical rules and continue to do the same ineffective thing over and over again — if we could not, then it would have also been impossible to try it the first time.  We can also act against our own interests in having a chaotic life which tries to hold together many different opposing contexts (opposing goals, ultimately), but this is problematic for attaining our higher ends, even if it always seems easier at any time.  These practical contradiction, which are by no means newly devised by me, will benefit from further development elsewhere.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leibniz, Kant and the Principle of Sufficient Reason: Part I

   Leibniz and Kant share a great deal in common, and we can come to appreciate both thinkers more through getting a sense of how their thoughts meet.  One point of Kant's thought opened up when related to Leibniz's concerns the principle of sufficient reason which states that there is nothing without a reason.  I will briefly cast a glance at what seems most different about Kant and Leibniz in relation to this principle, and then describe how it is that these differences are different so that they can once again fall into a relationship of sameness.
   Through the principle of sufficient reason Leibniz understands a demand placed on us to provide grounds for every finite truth.  For example, whatever happens depends on something before, and this gives us an infinite series.  But what is the sufficient reason for the existence of this entire causal series?  The being which stands beyond the series of causes as its ground is God, and, being infinite, God requires no further ground.  We recognize this as the cosmological argument, and may remember that Kant found it to be insufficient.  This insufficiency of the cosmological argument is just one instance where Kant found our reasoning goes astray, but this insufficiency is symptomatic of reason's whole functioning.  This signals a marked difference in the attitude Kant has towards the role of the principle of sufficient reason.
   The very first sentence of the Critique of Pure Reason, which I quote on this blog frequently, reads:
"Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer."

These "questions prescribed by the very nature of reason" that transcend reason pertain to what Kant describes as the ideas: soul, World and God.  Among other descriptions, Kant calls reason the faculty of ideas.  As the faculty of ideas, it pursues the unconditioned of the different series of relations.  This is much in the same spirit of Leibniz, as we can easily see that what reason demands of us in the questions it prescribes is the same as the demands of the principle of sufficient reason.  However, for Kant, while a sufficient reason is demanded, human cognition is insufficient to the task - at least in its theoretical employment, that is, when it concerns knowledge of what exists.
   Because Leibniz confidently proceeds with the great principle of sufficient reason to God, and Kant does not, it seems to us that this is a great point of difference between these to great thinkers.    However, we may not understand this difference.  We can align Kant with Leibniz by pointing out that even while Kant says that we cannot attain to a knowledge of the unconditioned, reason still has this idea which pushes us towards such completeness.  For Kant, we do posit God as that which grounds coherence, even if it is merely as an idea.  Further, Kant's denial of our knowing God's existence ultimately amounts to the inability to be given any (empirical) intuition of Him.  Leibniz would also agree that we do not sense God, and so Leibniz would agree that if knowledge of existence requires a possible intuition, then we cannot possibly come into this relation to God.  For Kant, God is part of our nature, for Leibniz, God is something we satisfy ourselves about with a proof.
   Leibniz takes the employment - the use - of the principle of sufficient reason in relation to all the finite world demands that we must assent to the existence of God (I must note again that existence does not mean the same thing here that it means for Kant).  Kant, on the other hand, does not speak of the principle of sufficient reason when discussing the ideas, but it is clear that he sees reason as the operation of that principle - not as a piece of equipment which we employ for use relative to this or that truth, but concerning the demand our own nature puts on us a priori.  While Kant denies that we can know the existence of God, God is still a necessary idea of reason governing the coherence of all knowledge.  This is to say, that Leibniz's argument is not wrong, but it is an argument which need not, perhaps should not, be given: our very nature is already entangled with the form of this argument.  But, what is the problem of giving the argument?
   (Heidegger noted that Kant took the scandal of philosophy to be that no proof of the external world has been given, and, maybe, Heidegger thought he improved Kant by saying that the real scandal is that we tried to prove the external world at all.  Perhaps we can see now that Kant did not need any assistance from Heidegger, though we can appreciate his clarification.)  
   Kant does not argue for God's existence, but rather shows how God is posited by our very nature — by reason.  Everything we argue about – that we speak about – is in conformity with our way of thinking, and so has the character of an object in general.  This means that it depends upon the possible application of the categories - it depends upon the temporal.  If we are to give an argument for God's existence (or the existence of the external world) we begin to treat God under the categories, and bring him implicitly into the scheme of the temporal as if he were another thing among others which would required something to cohere it with all other beings - that is to say, the sort of God we argue for is restricted in advance to require an even higher God (just as Parmenides points out for Socrates the problem of the regress in forms).   I hope to deal with this more completely in another place.
   For Kant, God must remain 'problematic', which is to say, indeterminate whether it is possible or impossible.  God must remain this way at least for theoretical reason, which concerns existence, but as a posit that guides our activity - as a maxim - God has a practical reality for us.  Kant's conception of Practical Reason is another key for coming to understand how this difference between Leibniz and Kant, and perhaps will guide us to see how Leibniz is justified in arguing for the existence of God without the result of him being a member of an even high order series.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How Should We Understand 'Feeling Free'?

(This post is meant to continue clarifying some problems with the contemporary discussion of determinism and free will which were mentioned here.)

   In the dispute over free will, I find an acknowledgement from all factions that we possesses a feeling of freedom. It is crucial to cultivate our discourse on this feeling, since it determines when the term 'free' is suitable.  And, while there is no doubt that we all have some feeling of freedom that allows us to speak of freedom (even to deny freedom), I am not sure that the same thing is always being spoken of.  Further, the standard that governs the discourse on free will has changed over time in a way that is less suited to topics, such as morality, that bring us to the discussion to begin with.
   I hope to get clearer on the standard for discussing human freedom, and help get this discourse back on track.
   Freedom is often understood relative to a feeling accompanying decisions. It is not clear that these resolutions of indecisiveness are helpful as the standard of freedom, and there is another potential standard of freedom that will seem more helpful as this discussion develops.
   We often find ourselves acting easily, and, without reflecting, knowing how to proceed. There is always some level of our activity that is arranged by an understanding of how to proceed; even when we are indecisive we have a mode of proceeding in getting ourselves back on track. When we consider this way of operating, it is not a mere connection of appearances, but a connection of possibilities and objectives along with a known technique and skill for operating. This knowledge of how to proceed, is a form of our experiencing the world and cannot be constructed from any mere aggregate of things. This 'knowing how to proceed' (or at least a portion of it) serves as another possible standard for human freedom.
   Choice results from a breakdown in our knowing how to proceed, and so stands in an important relationship to it. Understanding the context where freedom emerges as this break down constrains us to think of freedom in contexts where we are lacking in direction and thrown into the realm of trying to find our way again. In this context, the free act presents itself as the choice that resolves our indecisiveness and restores our feeling of knowing how to proceed. However, the choices we make are the result of either some discursive reasoning, or what seems to be impulse, and so if choice is taken as the paradigm of freedom we also tend to include this deliberation or spontaniety.  This is where choice as the standard of freedom introduces some problems.
   (Understand how rationalizing — an activity where we know how to proceed — returns us to knowing how to proceed in the some other domain is crucial, but I will leave this as a topic for the future.)
   Because we cannot admit real spontaneity (randomness) as freedom (since this would not place us in 'control'), we must look to the rationalization we put into making the choice. When we consider such rationalizations, we seem prone to only concern ourselves with gathering up facts and values. If we agree that our choice was by an aggregate of facts, then it was decided by something external to us; if it is our values, then we must either argue for the essential validity of our values, or give external reasons for their correctness, and in either case we will end up deferring to something else which has determined us, or something spontaneous again.
   From the above, it may seem like I am arguing against free will, but really I am trying to show how we cannot get back to our concerns with morality when we take the standard of freedom to be choice. When rationalizing is fetishized so that being a rational man means giving arguments, then the vast majority of our activities, which simply operate in the mode of knowing how to proceed, are removed from consideration, since these become unconscious, and even irrational.
   Sometimes knowing how to proceed is involuntary, such as times when we flinch, and these do not seem good candidates for our standard of freedom. However, there are times when knowing how to proceed comes explicitly with our agency being involved - when we experience a duty to act in a certain way.  
   The experience of duty is an experience of knowing how (we ought) to proceed, where the action is demanded of us. This sort of knowing how to proceed requires that we postulate ourselves as able to carry out the action under our own power. This phrase, 'under our own power', must be made clearer. If the action I take is considered merely as the result of some mechanism that continues outside of me, the agency must be attributed to all parties in the series of causes equally, or we must agree that by moral responsibility we think something akin to the results of hot potato (and perhaps some do, but I do not think those who say so are entirely clear about their experience of moral feelings such as responsibility, guilt and indignation towards others). In contrast, acting under our own power means considering a result as stemming from something that has no prior moment determining it, and also considered as resulting as an effect of us.
   Duty, or knowing how we ought to proceed, does not need to emerge due to deliberation — and usually does not. It also does not settle what will happen any more than our knowing how to proceed settles our success in the matter. However, knowing how we ought to proceed serves as our best standard for the suitability of applying the term 'free' to ourselves, since while we are experiencing it, we are implicated as agents (as able to produce effects by our own power). Now, this does not settle the 'reality' of free will, but it is the only standard we have for not only our acceptance and denial of this important concept, but also of its intelligibility.
   Even though when we know how we ought to proceed we are determined, it is not in a manner that thinks our connection to the mechanism of nature, and so we must cease trying to understand our freedom in terms of an indeterminacy which misses our concerns through randomness, or on the basis of rationalizing which must once again defer to something else or spontaneity. To be free is to be determined, however, to be more precise, self-determined, and the feeling most suited to grounding this is that of knowing how we ought to proceed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Regarding Conflicts Between Science and Forms of Experience

   By 'forms of experience' (or forms of unity, forms of cognition, forms of order, or, simply, form) I understand the basic power (unities, orders, cognitions) we can speak of that make up our considerations of anything.  By 'forms of experience' I understand only primitive forms, not forms of things only knowable empirically; forms of experience concern only forms that are necessary, that is, where their possibility is sufficient to show their existence - things we cannot learn from experience, yet are required for experience.
   Because sciences are higher level organizations of what is given through our forms of experience, it is clear that all sciences are governed by forms of experience.  By being drawn from only some forms of experience, a science excludes consideration of other forms, or brackets them from consideration, which excludes concern with sciences grounded through other forms of experience.  Additionally, no science can undermine a form of experience, nor should it be considered rightful in any science to reject a form of experience.  This is because either a science has bracketed forms of experience, and so has no dealings with them,  or the science is developed out of those forms of experience, and so depends upon them.  (It is true that science first begin without a clear determining ground, but this does not mean that they do not depend upon this ground.)
   In spit of the relationship between forms of experience and sciences, confusion about this relationship leads forms of experience to be challenged by arguments drawn from the vantage point of certain sciences.  More often than not, these challenges really arise from conflicts between two sciences which are each grounded on different forms of experience, and seem to have incompatible concepts.  Compounding these difficulties is the apparent fact that many conceptions of a science are given the same name, and so different things are sometimes spoken of as equal.  The summation of all this is that many disputes that proceed along the lines of these perceived difficulties are chaotic and undisciplined (they  have no clear grounding principles).  In time I would love to address all of these difficulties, but for now I will restrict myself to clarifying the supposed conflicts between forms of experience and sciences, so far as these forms of experience lead to sciences that appear to compete.
   When someone is drawing from a science in order to reject a form of experience they are either:

a) demanding that the analysis we have carried out for some form of experience be clarified, since we have excluded possible experiences, or including impossible experiences, within the forms we have accounted for.  Or,

b) that the science is itself concerning forms of human experience.

In the former case there is no conflict of science, but if there is something excluded (or superadded) by our account of the forms of experience, then we have an excellent opportunity to improve our account of the forms of experience.  In the latter case, there will be a conflict of metaphysics (systems of forms of experience), and we can work to see if the basic principle of our forms of experience are compatible or not with the others suggested.  When comparing different systems of metaphysics we must decide if there are real conflicts, or if the conflict is ultimately over terminology and the structure of terms - a procedure that is beyond the scope of this essay.
   In my experience of philosophical disputes, a conflict between forms of experience is rarely acknowledged, and usually  a distinction between forms of experience and sciences is needful.  In order to illustrate this more common scenario, I will select an example that, I hope, will be familiar.
   Physics draws its basic concepts from some forms of experience of objects (of a possible experience), while excluding other forms of experience.  It is often supposed that freewill is in conflict with laws of physics.  I do not intend to resolve this debate here explicitly, but merely to show the landscape of the debate from the vantage point of the distinctions I have been articulating.
   If we grant that the science of freewill, which I will call praxology, is derived from forms of experience excluded by physics, then physics and praxology are not themselves in conflict; instead, we have a question concerning our understanding of forms of experience.  As we already noted, if a science has a concern with the accuracy of our articulation of the forms of experience, this conflict is to be understood as a demand to clarify, and once more explicate, our forms of experience - a practice that is always needful.  However, the debate rarely becomes this productive since the following circumstances are often in play:  someone thinking vaguely along the lines of physics - a science which is not, by its nature, interested in freewill - does not recognize that they have bracketed certain forms of experience which praxology depends upon, and concludes the absurdity of praxology.  At the same time, a praxologist who also does not see this bracketing will be unable to understand how their own manner of thinking is able to be rejected, but is also unable to justify it.  By ignoring the difference between forms of experience, and sciences, this arrangement will never lead to a productive discussion, but only confusion.  
   Praxology, understood along the lines of Kant's practical philosophy, depends upon a different conception of cause than physics does, namely the notion of a self-cause.   Cause and self-cause both form foundations for different manners of organizing knowledge, and their is no need to suppose that the discussion of either comes in to determine what the state of the other is.  I hope to face this particular example in greater detail soon in order to clarify the notion of a self-cause, but there is no room in the current essay for this.
   The arrangement above is not an attempt to describe disputes between sciences as empty, but as typically in a chaotic state.  There is a lot to be gained by coming to terms.  I hope that all of this suggest that when sciences come into conflict, and particularly when they come into conflict with forms of experience, there is a lot to consider in order to make sure that those who argue do not make a spectacle of themselves.  Unfortunately, the crowd who may recognize such a spectacle for what it is seems to be small, since it is far more common that these sorts of conflicts tend to divide people into factions immediately, and before any investigation into the origin of the dispute has been made.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Facing the Ambiguity of "the Good"

   In my experience, the platonic insistence that all things go towards the Good is polarizing: people either think it is either a very helpful or completely empty sentiment.  As one who finds talk of the Good important, I would like to attempt an apology.
   Frequently, those who find the Good useless as a theme, confront those who appreciate it with the question: "what is the Good?"  Those who are comfortable with the discourse about the Good are very happy to answer that it is indeterminate.  However, if this is as far as the conversation goes it is frustrating for everyone — especially if this same conversation repeats frequently.  How can something indeterminate be helpful?
   Rather than taking the Good as a peculiar fact claim or occult object, I think it is helpful to consider it an expression concerning the philosophical life.  The Good signifies the highest possible 'thing' to reflect on, and while I must leave this "highest possible thing" as something undetermined, I can at least say that the upshot of the discourse about the Good, and particularly that all things go towards the Good, is that there is nothing which is excluded from this highest reflection.
   Far from suggesting the discovery of some particular thing that everything is guided towards, those who concern themselves with reflection on the Good should be characterized as seeking to understand how all things relate themselves to what is best, even in conditions where we continually need to re-evaluate what Good is.  While it seems unhelpful to be guided in reflection by something unspecific as a particular, consider the following:  why do we not have this same concern with the 'all things' portion of the relation to the Good, since we clearly do now know what constitutes all things?
   When we hear 'all things' we do not see before us an aggregate  of all objects, but rather 'all things' serves to guide us in appropriating things into the context of reflection.  In the same way 'the Good' should not call to mind some particular Good, but rather should serve to guide our reflection over everything that is mediately good towards the hazy depths of whatever is good in itself.  The combination of 'all things' and 'the Good' in the claim that all things go towards the Good, leads to a connecting of the pursuit of our interests in the world, with our interest in how we are ultimately concerned with the world, and primarily claims that these two halves - the world and the best - are to be understood as best as possible together.
   The Good should stand as a constant reminder for much more difficult and pressing work than dispute over the term 'Good' being useful or not.  However, far from suggesting that anyone adopt the use of 'Good', I am rather trying to provide some direction back to concerns that we can all rightfully share in common whenever this discourse is causing fractures in philosophizing together.  These pursuits should be more important to us than simply defending the term 'Good', but when it is being used, those who have the will to understand should try to allow themselves to see that it is suggesting something that we all can and should participate in.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Discourse on 'Rational' and 'Irrational'

(I found the original passage in the Aristotle's Physics (thanks John) that I had in mind, and it did not mention this distinction as between the rational and irrational, but I will pursue it as such, anyway, since I don't need Aristotle's permission.  For the relevant passage, see Physics Book θ, 251a30.  Also, Book θ is amazing generally.)

   Here is a distinction between rational and irrational:

The rational has many possible effects

The irrational has only one possible effect

   By this, we can say that heat is irrational because it can only bring about heat, but knowledge is rational because it can bring about many different things.
  A recent conversation about this distinction developed it and suggested a number of things that seem peculiar, but may shed some light as a discourse which can cut across the history of philosophy.  I have decided to develop the distinction from that conversation in the following way:

Something absolutely rational is not determinable by us, since it is that from which all possibility itself depends upon.

   Something absolutely irrational is something conceived such that it is entirely determined.  For something to be entirely determined requires that we cannot think of any other possibility for the thing that is either not already understood in it, or is contradictory to it.  (It is impossible - for us - to determine any particular so precisely.)
   I also add the notion of relatively rational, which is how we actually think objects in our finite way.  In this case we have outstanding possibilities which we can think concerning the things which we can think of as determined, but are unknown to us.
   As an additional note, I am thinking 'rational' and 'irrational' here as relating back to the Greek 'logos' (discourse), and not to 'nous' (mind).  This is very important, and I will spend the rest of this post detailing how it is important that 'discourse' is given a central role in this.  (I am understanding 'logos' with an etymological significance of 'gathering'.)
   Generally, I will think of discourse in terms of the manner in which we speak of things.  When we have more and more precise discourse, that is, more determined discourse, we find that it is less and less rational since the terms have more and more narrow uses the more we try to constrain them.  In human discourse, through language, we must necessarily think certain determinations through what we say, and so human discourse is already relatively irrational (in different degrees).
   Pure logical notation is very rational precisely because it minimally determines particulars, and for merely this reason.  A discourse which tries to speak about particulars, such as a first hand description or historical chronicle, are less rational, since they become more and more particular as to how the objects in the discourse are determined.  
   As a discourse becomes less rational, the possibility of contradictions multiply, and the more rational the discourse the fewer possible contradictions.
   When we think of 'God' we are thinking of something that is absolutely rational, and so something we cannot capture in discourse since all discourse must be determinate in at least some manner.  We are also thinking of an extreme which stands as an opposite to all contradiction, since with the absolutely rational no contradiction is possible.  It is interesting and needful to distinguish this kind of opposition to contradiction from what it means when we say other things can't contradict themselves, for example, when we say that what exists never contradicts itself.
   When we say that existence contains no contradictions, we do so while being able to think of alternate possible realities which do contradict what is.  However, with the absolutely rational, which we cannot actually think, we can at least negatively say that we could conceive of no other possibility since it is that which is compatible with the whole realm of  possibilities - even those which we cannot conceive of except for negatively.

Some Random Historical Comments:
   Plato's conception of forms as being the most perfect should not be understood in terms of the absolutely irrational, or totally determined, but in terms of the the absolutely rational or indeterminate.

   This discourse seems helpful for understanding Leibniz' insistence on the importance of possibles, and perhaps can provide some clarity for how he conceives of God as related to all of the possibles, since even for God there are more possibilities.  This is in contrast to Spinoza, where everything follows from Gods nature, and so there is only one possible way things can be, which means that there is no absolutely rational thing in the sense developed above in relation to God.

   Kant's understanding of noumena, or the problematic, would be that which is the most rational, but by being the most rational it is undeterminable by us while being exactly what our reason strives for.

   We can see man, as the rational animal, in terms of being the animal who has less specifically determined about him, and so this definition from Aristotle can be seen as very similar to Nietzsche's own, that we are the hitherto undetermined animal.

   For Hegel, the difference between being and nothing seems to be between the absolutely rational and irrational.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Choosing Existence over Possibility

(This post relates in some manner to my other recent post Siding in Favor of Existence as a Problem.  I hope to return to this topic by means of these reflections, as well as the discussion of understanding the question concerning why there is something rather than nothing.)

   Recently, while reading Part I of Either/Or, I was considering what it is ultimately pulls us out of our life of possibilities into the world we often call the actual, or existing world.  There are clear advantages to a life in the possible: I can construct any story I wish, follow the paths of different lives, skip what's not interesting, change elements of my life on a whim, and many other obvious things.  However, we choose to emphasize the world which appears to us apart from our imagining and projecting, and tend towards using this as a standard for organizing our life.  
   From just noting that the actual world does appear to us is not enough to show that we must, even always do, organize our life exclusively around it: sometimes we think through the possibilities available to us to decide what to do, and even when we do not see how these possibilities relate to our current situation, we can understand from them how it is we want to advance in any circumstances.
   It is clear that we require empirical concepts for our projections of possibility, and so possibility must at least take their standard from the world so far as it will project particular possibilities, however, at some point could we simply begin to rank and prioritize the possible over the existent, even when it leads to our doom in the world of existence?  Perhaps we can, but I do not mean to try to develop a view to convince anyone to pursue this goal, but I am interested at least in why it is that the existent continually pulls us back in, not because these things are not obvious in their own way, but because it is important to get clearer on them, and their central role in determining our orientation to life.

   (We could just as well consider how even though we tend towards emphasizing existence, we sometimes are called out into the possibilities and emphasize those; how do we understand this shift in interest in an a priori manner (according to forms of experience)?)
   There are events which involve interest in the existence, such as, pleasure and pain, the beautiful and duty.  All of these play some role in orienting us to the existing. The latter two of these, beauty and duty, place us in a free relation to existence: in the case of the beautiful, we are interested in the object and it is susceptible to our understanding; with duty, we are responsible for something, and so cognize ourselves as able to bring it about ourselves apart from circumstances.  In contrast, pleasure and pain place relate us to existence through interest in continuing or ending a feeling, and not to us in a free determining relation to nature (as minds, with beauty, or agents with duty).  
   Not only is our enjoyment (and pain) tied to existence, but also the source of our sense of higher calling, and self worth.  From this, it seems little wonder why we prefer to concern ourselves with the existing, and would laugh at anyone who pursues a life of pure possibilities - to the degree they could attain this life, they also could not have actual enjoyment or actual self-worth.  (However, we learn from Kierkegaard to not have a hard heart towards those who feel they can avoid difficulties by trying to live a poetic existence, as the  aesthete does in Either/Or, even if he is not necessarily to be emulated.)
   These interests of pleasure, pain, beauty and duty all show experience, and us, to be organized in a certain way a priori, and first seem to allow us to start organizing and integrating more and more into a developing perspective.  There is a lot of work to be done in understanding how these different original interests in experience relate and develop in relation to each other.

A note on Leibniz:
   Leibniz maintains that all possibilities have a degree of being, but are not actual.  What determines them as actual cannot merely be their non-contradiction, since there are many non-contradictory possibilities, and so something else needs to play this role of determining the actual from the possibles: goodness.  It is possible to see this as related phenomenologically to the discussion above: we think and project all kinds of possibilities and certain of them are more vivid (have a greater degree of being) for us because of the characteristics which Leibniz emphasizes - goodness.  Perhaps the fact that it is by degree that the possible is separated from the actual is a signal that to Leibniz the interests in the actual illustrated above play a role in settling this ranking, and so Leibniz' rather strange sounding account of the determining of actuals is merely a phenomenological account of how we do cognize the actual from the possible, given that both are available to us with the same level of access.

Monday, March 25, 2013

On Behalf of our Cultivating a More Complete Moral Outlook

(This is a continued reflection on a-moral situations.)

   In the fourth meditation Descartes writes, "When no reason inclines me in one direction rather than another, I have a feeling of indifference—that is, of its not mattering which way I go—and that is the poorest kind of freedom. What it displays is freedom, considered not as a perfection but rather as a lack of knowledge—a kind of negation.  If I always saw clearly what was true and good, I should never have to spend time thinking about what to believe or do; and then I would be wholly free although I was never in a state of indifference."
   If we consider, with Kant, that our freedom is recognized as a postulate whenever we are cognizing our duty, then the passage just quoted from the Meditations can be thought in terms of a life lived where we are always cognizing some duty and so constantly engaged as free beings.  This state of constant and complete moral determination doesn't imply that we are always acting out of duty, but that we always have something moral to be doing in every case.  If we consider this to be a positive direction to move towards, as Descartes does, it may be helpful to understand why, as well as what pursuit brings us closer to this state.
   Ultimately, the reason to engage ourselves in developing a complete moral outlook will need to be moral, and so something we discover on our own, so I will need to discuss how this duty may emerge.  But first, we may find this ideal of a completely morally determined orientation to the world attractive to us by repeating what Descartes says: "I would be wholly free although I was never in a state of indifference."  You would always experience yourself in action, and interested.  Also, you would be potentially attaining to higher levels of self-esteem; you would feel closer to having attained the goal of perfect virtue, since you would see it tested at all moments.
   (Recognition of a completely determined moral orientation as an ideal provides a new challenge to the validity of Schopenhauer's virtue of denial of the will to live, since Schopenhauer's argument arises out of thinking that we must necessarily find ourselves in a position of boredom when we are idle.)
   In considering how such a practical ideal for our moral outlook could emerge, we can consider how different understandings of nature and degrees of worldliness must always result in differences in moral judgments.  From this alone I assert that bringing humanity to a unity in moral matters depends upon agreement on our study and interpretation of nature (I will develop this topic elsewhere).  Our  fallibility  in interpreting our situation can call all our moral judgments into question, and so there seems to be a potential demand we could come to recognize morally (which I have come to feel) that clarifying the situations we are in to our utmost is important, but this duty right away conflicts with many other duties which may overrule it, particularly where we have special knowledge such as situations where we are inclined to lie.
   While I know that no theoretical argument can be given to support a moral judgment, I can at least hope to continue to articulate an interpretation of the situation that can heighten a concern with our understanding of the situation, and will hopefully foster this sense of duty to understand for ourselves in others.