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Introductions and Comments > Describe Your Philosophy in 300 Words or Less

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message 1: by Martin (last edited May 06, 2014 03:24PM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments All of us who make comments in the Philosophy Group usually apply them to a topic or subtopic that calls for a specific slice of our philosophical outlook.

I think it would be interesting (a) to see whether members have a philosophy of their own and (b) to get a succinct representation of that philosophy. To make such personal philosophies comprehensible for everybody, please do not namedrop or use specialized terminology.

Those of you who wonder whether I have a philosophy can read about it in the founding statement of "Why do we pursue philosophy?" See https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/.... But I do not want to make this thread about what I have found.


message 2: by Martin (last edited May 06, 2014 10:06PM) (new)

Martin Hi, this is the other Martin.

I've wondered about this too, as I've read posts where I'm not sure whether they are expressing straight beliefs or irony. And I've wondered if you could place people on a "philosophical compass" chart, like a "political compass" chart. Perhaps you can't, because there would be more than two dimensions.

You could certainly argue against the assumptions underlying the political compass chart (the idea goes back to the 1950s at least), but they have always rather interested me.

See

http://www.politicalcompass.org

and an analysis such as

http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukpar...

(I find there are things around that purport to be "philosophy quizzes", but they are very superficial.)


message 3: by Martin (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Hello, Martin. I have worked with allocative representations of values and think they can be helpful. The question whether entire philosophies or even parts of them can be represented on a two- or three-dimensional map is an interesting one. That would be a step above the multitudes of disconnected or limited comparative statements about philosophies. However, wouldn't you agree that there is a danger of reducing or diffusing the meaning of a philosophy too much in assigning a place to it in relation to other philosophies? So, I think such a map would only be of initial orientational value and would have to be communicated with such a qualification.

The purpose of this thread is actually the opposite of categorizations of any kind in relation to others. I want to see whether people can and are willing to step up to the challenge of formulating a philosophy. It does not need to be original. But even if they buy into the philosophies of others, they should be able to state these in comprehensible terms. I think observing one's absence of the ability or willingness to state one's philosophy - as well as the exercise of placing one's philosophy in writing - can give rise to interesting philosophical discoveries.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I wrote a post some time ago on my word press account explaining my philosophy as a spiritual philosophy. The idea of the spiritual element being to avoid the tendency to over-rationalisation. Living things have a tendency to not like being pinned down to one category or label as it tends to take the life out of what is trying to be explained. Many errors to my mind come from trying to explain living things via dead mechanisms such as recent attempts to reduce consciousness to matter in motion in the brain and to reduce evolution to random chance occurrences giving an illusion of a purposeful selection. The debate, thanks to positivism became completely polarised here, and so it is one of the areas where philosophy certainly needs to do some repair work, and be a bit less attached to socially dominant attitudes and ideologies in science. I know I have gone a bit off topic here, I apologise, but for the statement of my basic philosophy as I said, it on my word press page, a post called spiritual philosophy.


message 5: by David (new)

David Gaggin I just joined your group because I find your thoughts on this topic very interesting. My simple view of philosophy is that it is the search for reality. My philosophy can be summed up as follows: "The goal and task of every being is the perfection of the soul." The explanation of this philosophy takes far more than 300 words so I wrote it in a book titled "The Endless Journey". This is a very specific philosophy or worldview that I synthesized after decades of studying world religions, Eastern and Western philosophies, physics, metaphysics, etc.

In regards to the comment on Martin's thread regarding Hawking's statement that philosophy is dead, I agree with him that it is at least mortally wounded. Looking at the websites of the philosophy department's papers at some of the best universities in the U.S., they never propose philosophies of their own but instead spend untold effort analyzing what Kant or some other famous philosopher might have meant in some esoteric part of his or her writings; but offering no philosophy of their own. To isolate their views even further from the general public, they use specialized terms, like epistemology,to describe simple concepts, like the study of knowledge, so that only other philosophy professionals (or tedious fools like me) would ever bother to try to follow their train of thought. It seems to me that philosophy professors and indeed departments should have a clearly stated philosophy about something. This would at least give us all a place to start a discussion. Physicists have an ever changing philosophy about some aspect of the physical world and religions have some philosophy about the spiritual world. With scientific knowledge having a half life of about 18 months and religions being trapped in a historic period of time, philosophy has a great opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses in both views and try to bridge the gap. I believe that the value of rational and easily understood philosophical discussions would be very helpful to a lot of people searching for answers; but cannot abide by either religious dogma or scientific atheism.


message 6: by Elenabot (last edited May 13, 2014 03:57PM) (new)

Elenabot (makingsenseofmakingsense) It gives me great hope to see that more individuals are at least becoming dissatisfied with the sham that philosophy has become today, as practiced in academic institutions. I must, however, withhold my assent from the anti-academic stance on two grounds: first, acknowledging intellectual lineage is not "name-dropping," it is a healthy and good preservation of historical consciousness, which is badly lacking in our hyperindividualist culture. Second, the anti-academic line identifies the symptom (the degeneration of philosophy into a merely formal, soulless academic exercise) but doesn't have anything to say about the cause.

I hypothesized a few possible causes on the Philosophy is Dead thread; here's another: "The death of the author," with the concomitant parasitic encouragement of the critic/scholar. Philosophers now must become parasitic critic-scholars instead of original thinkers because people seem to think such sterile intellectual exercises in hermeneutics alone produce respectable "rigour."

But even this cause doesn't delve deep enough. I really do think, as I suggested on the other thread, that philosophy was attacked from within, by positivists, pluralists, and relativists. It simply has not met the cultural challenges placed upon it by developments in modern and postmodern culture, chief among which are the hypertrophic growth of modern science and its claims to alone provide an adequate expression of all of human thought and aspiration, the fall of the West and the rise of multiculturalism, and the increasing democratization and consequent loss of traditional cultural hegemonies related to a class society, such as hierarchical visions of the cosmos. The reason the philosopher must now revert to a critic-scholar stance is because this is the sole stance that is available to him, culturally: he must dig through the ruins of a shattered civilization, and nitpick at the pieces. Philosophers seem to have fallen to a new low in their experience of cultural dissolution from the days of Nietzsche when the thrust towards sytematic grasp was continuously thwarted and only the fragment remained available. Now there's not even a drive towards system; the whole idea has been debunked. The postmodernists call this drive totalitarian, logocentric, undemocratic in its lack of respect for irreducible cultural difference. The scientific positivists call the lie to it by claiming philosophy is not in a position to systematize; it is reduced to a subordinate role, content to merely explicate science.

So I ask, If modern and postmodern critiques of virtually all of the traditional equipment of philosophy, such as speculation and systematization (as critiqued by positivism and relativism alike), aren't met by philosophy, how can it discuss the matters that we all wish it would discuss? Until philosophy meets these challenges and carves out a definite domain of thought for itself, it cannot possibly be true to its traditional aspirations. It simply lacks the logical, rational, and conceptual means to broach those topics, as things now stand.


message 7: by Elenabot (last edited May 13, 2014 03:53PM) (new)

Elenabot (makingsenseofmakingsense) As for my philosophy, it is undeveloped, but my overriding aim is to explore the nature of thought itself. It is that through which all else is known. To this end, I am interested in formulating truly foundational problems in philosophy that have not been adequately formulated in the past (the truly foundational issues are scarcely touched on, strangely enough): the nature of form, of reason, of principle, of models, of abstraction. The project draws on cognitive science, the various human sciences (esp cognitive anthropology and cognitive psychology), neo-Kantian philosophy, aesthetics, phenomenology, comparative symbology (ie, a comparative study of fundamental patterns of symbolic construction common to many cultures), meditation, and more.


message 8: by Martin (new)

Martin Hello, other Martin! (post 3 above). I think I should rise to your challenge and make some sort of statement.

A long interest in philosophy has developed into a need for answers, as a reaction to the popular and growing materialism of the noisy crowd who promote atheism, determinism, minds-are-illusions, computers-can-think, everything-is-matter and so on, which fill shelves in the few remaining bookshops. Not unlike Jonathan, David, Elena above therefore. I have (unlike Elena) no philosophical training. I have no fixed position, but I think my ideas tend to be much more "Idealist" than most of the Americans who are active here. So I believe moral and aesthetic judgements are objective, that minds can never be explained materially, that we have free will and so on.

Commenting on the earlier posts, I think one should see the decline in philosophy (if indeed it is really in decline) as a consequence of Univerity funding. I went to a College with an intake of about 600 a year. In my year about half of those were doing science subjects, and three were doing philosophy.


message 9: by Martin (last edited May 20, 2014 06:59PM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Martin wrote: "Hello, other Martin! (post 3 above). I think I should rise to your challenge and make some sort of statement.

A long interest in philosophy has developed into a need for answers, as a reaction to ..."


I thought you were the other Martin, Martin (see message 2)! But maybe that is just my perspective.

I congratulate you on your courage to state a philosophy. I think we all have a compulsion to develop a philosophy, we want to know what it is all about for us and in general, or at least parts of it. Even stating a belief poses a hypothesis that we then might try to prove. Once we have taken a stand, even an incomplete or possibly temporary stand, we can begin to question and consider it and its premises, arguments, and conclusions. We can develop our philosophy.

However, there are powers in and outside us that keep us from pursuing a philosophy of our own. These powers, including the power arising from a perceived or furthered inability or prohibition to develop such a philosophy, would have us take refuge to distracting superficialities or in mindlessly adopting someone else's philosophical representations.


message 10: by Martin (last edited May 20, 2014 07:02PM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Elena wrote: "It gives me great hope to see that more individuals are at least becoming dissatisfied with the sham that philosophy has become today, as practiced in academic institutions. I must, however, withho..."

Elena, I can see that my use of the term "namedropping" keeps bothering you. I meant no offense by that. The purpose of my related request in opening this group simply was to obtain statements of philosophies in commonly understandable words instead of having people escape the 300 word maximum by incorporating entire philosophies or philosophical schools, or even aspects of them, through mere name references.

I think we must get back to simple language philosophy, as it was so beautifully practiced by classical Greek philosophy. Only then can we be certain that we converse about the same or at least similar subjects with others. Only then can we hope to advance philosophy to its place as leading science.

I once was part of the "universityspeak" community. But I found it an easy way to intentionally or unintentionally hide what one is thinking or whether one is thinking much at all. That is because those not schooled in "universityspeak" - and even many of those who are - do not understand concepts expressed in such speak enough to mount able criticism. I know how easily one can lose a grasp of even one's own concepts practicing such speak. It presents an air of legitimacy and grasp that - once a name is affixed - travels by that name even after some or much of the named content is forgotten. Add to that different interpretations of a name and you have utter confusion. To avoid that confusion and sophistry, I decided not to engage in universityspeak anymore, even at the risk and more likely close certainty of being regarded an unsophisticated thinker.

This reply is getting long. I will respond to your other content separately.


message 11: by Igor (new)

Igor Ljubuncic (igorljubuncic) | 4 comments Monty Python's Meaning of Life. There.
Igor


message 12: by Martin (last edited May 21, 2014 08:10AM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Igor wrote: "Monty Python's Meaning of Life. There.
Igor"


That is a great extreme illustration of what I am talking about in message 10. Thank you, Igor.

We have to give labels to concepts, but the further we venture with such labels from the (already problematic) immediacy of common impressions, the more we run the risk of others not understanding us. And even we may curtail further philosophical thought by deeming labels we have applied as conclusive remedies for insecurities.


message 13: by David (new)

David Gaggin Martin wrote: "Elena wrote: "It gives me great hope to see that more individuals are at least becoming dissatisfied with the sham that philosophy has become today, as practiced in academic institutions. I must, h..."

Well said Martin. To add to the problem, I think that the philosophy 'lingo' so common in academia is not used consistently across the community. In addition, when a writer refers to someone else's philosophy, it is often impossible to understand which aspect of that philosophy they are referring to. Sometimes the thought process is simply impossible to follow. If we cannot express our ideas using common everyday terminology then we have lost the ability to communicate.


message 14: by Candy (new)

Candy | 29 comments Hello Philosophy Group!

I am Candy and a film maker living in Chicago.

In 300 words?

(human) Life is a series of small sets held together by stories. If life is a game and a stage and we are the players...we can choose to be good sports or sore losers. That is the extent to which I believe in free will...but I think thats enough. I believe in common sense and friendship and community. I love talking about all kinds of topics and ideas.

And...meeting without eating is cheating.


message 15: by Joshua (last edited Jun 14, 2014 05:39PM) (new)

Joshua | 18 comments Philosophy is a fool's errand undertaken only by the wise. It is a relentless search for an intelligible form of life; a journey that never despairs of its ending. Philosophy is an education or communication which goes beyond the imposition of identity to shine the light of true knowledge. Perhaps this can be a difficult and at times blinding experience. The historical depth of philosophy, as of life, is scattered with detritus; fragments and even deliberate falsehoods. Amongst these fragments there are clues that we must learn how to read. Philosophy tracks an elusive prey; wisdom will not be taken by force.

If life is a game and philosophy its set of rules, what kind of rules are they? They must be rules which I create, as the law of my own free being, and which yet remain authorized from beyond my finite being. Perhaps it is philosophy that is the game and life the rules by which it must play.


message 16: by Candy (new)

Candy | 29 comments I like your post very much Joshua...it was lively and had a great pace.

I think the rules to the game of life are to be found in observing nature. I love ideas and philosophy...but all that we ever wrote in a book or sacred text can be found in nature, no?


message 17: by Martin (last edited May 22, 2014 07:32AM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments David wrote: "Martin wrote: "Elena wrote: "It gives me great hope to see that more individuals are at least becoming dissatisfied with the sham that philosophy has become today, as practiced in academic institut..."

David, I did not mean to ignore your post further above, and my response to Elena regarding "universityspeak" to which you reply was obviously also referring to your earlier contribution - and agreeing with it in large parts.

But I would like to more specifically address two points you are making in message 5. One is regarding your comment that "[p]hysicists have an ever changing philosophy about some aspect of the physical world" and that scientific knowledge has a half-life of 18 months. Can you expand on that?

The second is regarding your book "The Endless Journey." Unfortunately, authors are not allowed in the Philosophy group to link to their books or websites. However, I created a group called "New Philosophy" (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...) that does not have any such limitations. You can post there as much as you like about your book.

Still, maybe you can give us here a short synopsis anyway. I am curious what you have to say.


message 18: by Martin (last edited May 21, 2014 09:57PM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Candy wrote: "I like your post very much Joshua...it was lively and had a great pace.

I think the rules to the game of life are to be found in observing nature. I love ideas and philosophy...but all that we eve..."


Welcome, Candy. You bring up concepts of belief and love in your two posts. These are human particularities that play a heavy role in philosophy. We could never achieve knowledge if we would not love it, if we would not believe that achieving it is meaningful.

However, in forming one's philosophy, I would go with David's comment in message 5 where he says it is a quest for reality or as Joshua says, a quest for true knowledge. You seem to be referring to something similar when you claim nature as the foundation of everything. Are we not when we philosophize looking for the nature of what we can and what we cannot observe but only suspect? Are we not going for the truth, even if it should shatter our beliefs and kill what we love?


message 19: by Candy (new)

Candy | 29 comments Martin said...Are we not when we philosophize looking for the nature of what we can and what we cannot observe but only suspect? Are we not going for the truth, even if it should shatter our beliefs and kill what we love?

Yes, for sure. I think philosophy is about the nature of reality at heart. It's Platos Cave over and over. You get out of one cave and then maybe find there was another layer. And then after finding there is a cave within a cave...it might make you humble...that maybe there is a push and pull. One I want to know something...and then blast...I've just had another observation.

I think its like developing a muscle...it's okay to kill off what we love. Or what we cling to for comfort. It's better to leave the cave. And also not to underestimate the endorphins of a surprise idea, an aha moment, a paradigm shift...all very addictive.


message 20: by Martin (last edited May 24, 2014 02:13PM) (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Elena, I needed some time to think about your two posts 6 and 7 and retrace some of your earlier comments in other threads ("Philosophy is Dead" and "Why Do We Pursue Philosophy?"). Both posts 6 and 7 are chillingly noteworthy in my opinion, and I think you are on a very important quest.

It is a pity that - by the nature of the thread system - contributions like yours that are written with so much dedication and consideration are buried by subsequent comments. I would encourage you to create a group to house your critical analysis and related ambition toward working out the foundations of thought.

It seems upon my review of your contributions that we share much of our thinking in both aspects (although my enthusiasm for Kant is markedly lower than yours; but I carry an open mind to hear what fascinates you about his model of thought).

I have thought and written quite intensely about the foundational problems to which you refer and am curious what you think of my approaches to these problems. Let me know if you want to know about what I have developed.

I agree with the notion in your two posts that we must go back to basics before we can go forward. I also agree mostly with your listing of causes why this has become necessary.

Particularly so-called analytical philosophy, which had some claim at accomplishing the revelation of basics, has painted itself into a corner in a very small room in the palace of philosophy while often claiming that this is the whole palace or even having given up on that. It mostly seems to engage in busy work to overcome its intellectual desperation with occupation therapy. Originally an emigrant branch of what is now distanced as "continental philosophy," it has been pursued in English-speaking countries as advanced thought in contrast to - and often the exclusion of - the "old" thinking of continental Europe (and even "old" Britain). This type of blind parochialism that dismisses thought of other cultures (and even the foundation of the parochial culture in other cultures) has disfigured and damaged philosophy in English-speaking countries almost beyond recognition. This, together with the other developments you describe, Elena, has left a void in philosophical leadership and example.

The bankruptcy of philosophy in its current state makes it necessary to build new philosophy. However, while this work and its dissemination are in progress, I think it is important to encourage individuals in their power and, as I believe, the requirement to develop their philosophical thinking. This can help them to find their way in the absence of new helpful philosophy, to comprehend and reflect on the correctness of that philosophy, and to protect them from old and new abusers and charlatans.


message 21: by Martin (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments Ok, it has been now one month since I started the experiment of inviting people to share their philosophy in 300 words or less.

Very few have stated their philosophy. I think it is worthwhile to have a discussion about the reasons for this failure.

Is it the case that the vast majority of people do not have a philosophy to speak of? Do they have a philosophy but are they not willing to share it? What could be the reasons for not sharing it, even in the anonymity of this forum?

Is the outcome of this experiment typical for populations at large? Do its causes befall particularly or to a lesser extent individuals who seem to be interested in philosophy?

And what does all of this absence of personal philosophy or at least its communication mean for individuals and humanity? Is it helpful or necessary that individuals communicate about their philosophy? Why are we contributing our thoughts to a philosophy forum?


message 22: by Elenabot (last edited Jun 13, 2014 08:21AM) (new)

Elenabot (makingsenseofmakingsense) Martin, my apologies for the late reply. I have been unwell as well as busy, so I did not get the chance to reply sooner. I just wanted to extend my gratitude for your kind words, as well as express my interest in finding out about work you've done on identifying and redefining the fundamental problems of philosophy. The general response of modern and especially postmodern thinkers to the general dissolution of the Western worldview was to deem the whole intellectual tradition somehow bankrupt and to declare philosophy itself to be dead. It was then to be replaced by something else - some science, or history, or art, or some form of mysticism. This approach to the problem, however, is flawed for obvious reasons. Far more sensible would it be to simply revisit the old formulations of fundamental problems of thought, and to seek out ways to either expand those formulations, or to complement them with new ones that identify problems that underly all the traditionally acknowledged ones, but that have yet to be articulated. It is therefore sensible to, as you say, go back to basics and touch ground again before hoping to move forward and build with any security.

I also agree with your analysis of analytic philosophy, as well as the unacknowledged parochialism implied in the whole distinction between analytic and "continental" modes. True thought is free thought, and free thought knows no frontiers, either cultural or political.

What fascinates me in Kant's work, as I stated elsewhere, is simply his identification of what I believe to be the securest starting point for thought. The question of first philosophy, or of identifying legitimate starting points for thought, has perhaps never been as pressing as it is in our age. Greek thought began with the intuition of the intellectual nature of being, the idea that things possess an essence or substantial core whose structure can be apprehended, as it were, by the power of the intellect. Medieval philosophy began with the impulse to synthesize the Aristotelian and the Christian definitions of man and nature. Here, the starting point was dual, but relatively clear: the definitions were there (Aristotelian man, the "social animal," and the Christian man, the fallen creature in need of redemption whose core is somehow "outside" the generative cycle of nature). What was needed was to explicate them and reconcile them. And then modern philosophy begins with the Cartesian phenomenological method, which sprouts both an ontology (mechanistic) and a theory of human nature (the res cogitans, grounded in the phenomenology of isolated self-consciousness). All subsequent modern thought built upon this, and defined itself relative to this ultimate ground, even when it strove to reject it.

But we have nothing like that to stand on, no universally acknowledged "ultimate ground." There seems to be, instead, a maddening profusion of candidates for grounds, with no center and no way to discriminate between them all. So our problem, seems to me, to be to discover a way to restate all this multiplicity to a single scheme, a single conceptual language, so that we can reveal their similarities, and make useful comparisons between them all instead of being awed by their incommensurability.

Kant's critical approach gives us a hint as to how to go about this problem. Only from the vantage point he began to describe can you gain such a comprehensive view of the different provinces of knowledge. He argued, persuasively, that beneath the jungle of discrete forms that the human mind creates (whether to deal with the objects of science, art, religion, etc) there must be discoverable some network of logical principles that can bind together and relate all these diverse forms and point them to the center by which they are known - the distinctly human reason. There seems to be no better way to deal with these issues that concern our intellectual scene than to build upon that approach and that starting point that Kant, and his later pupil, Cassirer, defined. To be sure, his map of the principles of rationality is rudimentary and quite primitive. But the starting point is, as I noted elsewhere, sound.


message 23: by Elenabot (new)

Elenabot (makingsenseofmakingsense) I think many people say that they are "too busy" for philosophy. Nonetheless, the entertainment business seems to proliferate like a great cultural cancer despite everybody's perpetual "busyness."


message 24: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Martin,

I am a brand new member to this group, but I will plunge right in and take up your challenge. I have a degree in political philosophy, but have followed a practical vocation as an engineer. I will ignore your “no name-dropping” advice. We shouldn’t be ashamed of learning from the history of philosophy.

One might say that your question could be answered briefly by a simple translation from the Greek: Philosophy (mine, yours, or anyone’s) is love of wisdom. But I think one needs to break this down a bit more. Let’s take the traditional categories of philosophy: logic, metaphysics, and ethics.

I agree with Michael Dummett that one needs to start with logic. If we can’t agree on what is a valid argument, we can’t make much progress in agreeing about the other categories. Here I accept a four-valued logic: true, false, neither, or both.

With this is as my logic, then the metaphysics falls out. What is the nature of being? Theories of being come in three types: dogmatic (Plato, Aristotle, and most of their Christian followers), nihilistic (the Academic critics of Plato and Nietzsche), and that of the sceptics. I am in the third camp. Sceptics keep on searching for truth.

As for ethics, I am impressed by Reverend Gotama’s consequentialist ethics: 1) We see suffering around us; 2) This seems to come from ego-grasping; 3) Let’s try to ameliorate suffering by; 4) pursuing a path of compassion and open-minded understanding.

So there you have it in 255 words.

Randal


message 25: by Joshua (last edited Jun 14, 2014 09:58PM) (new)

Joshua | 18 comments Randal,

I actually found Martin's advice quite useful as a disciplinary exercise. Our own thought does have a historical depth, and it is important to be aware of that depth. Names of individual philosophers and schools of thought serve a purpose as signposts or markers of the philosophical landscape. They can become a kind of shorthand that enriches our discussions and pursuit of knowledge. For this shorthand to be useful a robust understanding of the ideas and concepts as well as the contexts in which they were formed is required. Otherwise we are left with stale caricatures which presuppose the inertia and stasis of all thought which does not operate within the parameters of the particular camp with which we happen to identify. The dogmatic/nihilist/sceptic typology is neat and names your philosophical course as one that easily avoids the traps of claiming to know too much or too little through the doggedness of your own pursuit. The broad strokes with which you paint your opponents, however, raises the eyebrow of suspicion. The picture is a caricature, not a portrait.

Of course, I probably shouldn't lambast you for caricaturing. How could a philosophy in 300 words or less be anything else? The point, I suppose, was that unfolding the historical depth of philosophy within our present context and leaning on the authority of history are not the same enterprise.


message 26: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 12:02AM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Joshua wrote: "For this shorthand to be useful a robust understanding of the ideas and concepts as well as the contexts in which they were formed is required."

Joshua,

And exactly what robust understanding are you referencing? I find nothing in your prior post here to indicate that. What is your alternative logic, metaphysics, or ethics?

And what are we to make of your statement that "unfolding the historical depth of philosophy within our present context and leaning on the authority of history are not the same enterprise." Do you draw any conclusions at all from that history?

If philosophy is a "fool's errand", tell us, pray, what is "the light of true knowledge"?

300 words is a significant challenge. I assure you that I took that challenge seriously and attempted no caricature.

Regards,

Randal


message 27: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 32 comments Randal wrote: "Here I accept a four-valued logic: true, false, neither, or both. "

Would you classify that statement as true or false or neither or both?


message 28: by Alan (last edited Jun 15, 2014 07:46AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) Elena wrote: "I think many people say that they are "too busy" for philosophy. Nonetheless, the entertainment business seems to proliferate like a great cultural cancer despite everybody's perpetual "busyness.""

Alas, Plato was on to something when he assumed, pessimistically, that most people have no interest in philosophy and related intellectual pursuits. Republic passim; Seventh Letter 340b-341a. Socrates appeared more optimistic, but his reward, courtesy of the demos, was a cup of hemlock. To be clear, I prefer James Madison's political theory to that of Plato. Both Plato and Madison had a deep understanding of human nature, but Madison (with a little help from his friends Locke, Hume, Jefferson, and others) devised a political solution that apparently never occurred to Plato or to anyone else in antiquity. Nevertheless, Plato (understood on his own terms and not through the distorted lens of Christian Platonism) has much to teach us.

As for my own philosophy, I don't think anyone stated it better than Socrates: "What I do not know, I do not think I know." To me, rational skepticism is the most important philosophical value. That does not mean that one cannot ultimately arrive at some answers, but I think that philosophy ("love of wisdom") is in important ways more a process than a result: see Plato's dialogues. Elena makes an eloquent case for Kantian principles. As previously noted, I will reserve my evaluation of Kant and his successors until such time as I study them further.


message 29: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 08:33AM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments David Sven wrote: "Randal wrote: "Here I accept a four-valued logic: true, false, neither, or both. "

Would you classify that statement as true or false or neither or both?"


True!

In the four-valued logic that I prefer, most statements are either true are false. Some, like the Liar, are both. Some others, like certain vague statements, are neither. But most are either true or false.

Bows,

Randal


message 30: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Alan wrote: "Plato was on to something when he assumed, pessimistically, that most people have no interest in philosophy and related intellectual pursuits. Republic passim; Seventh Letter 340b-341a...."

Alan,

I too revere Plato, our consummate philosophical artist. I recently returned from a pilgrimage to Syracuse in honor of Plato's (unsuccessful) attempt to turn young Dionysius toward republican government. This was a follow-up on a Socratic pilgrimage to Athens. I think the Theory of Ideas is wrong (and that Plato's own work leads to this conclusion,) but I accept that he believed in it until the end of his life (at least to the period of the Seventh Letter.) Your suggestion that Madison improved upon Plato's political ideas is an interesting one, which I will investigate more.

Regards,

Randal


message 31: by Alan (last edited Jun 15, 2014 10:53AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) Randal,

Thank you for your comment (post 31). I first studied the Seventh Letter in depth circa 1970. If you haven't already read the new book by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away), you might find it of interest. My Goodreads review is at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show.... Goldstein points out (p. 42) that Plato himself cast doubt on the Theory of Forms in his dialogue Parmenides; you are probably referring to that dialogue, among others. Leo Strauss considered Plato's Theory of Forms to be a myth, and the so-called Straussians treat it accordingly. It is an interesting question whether Plato's thought evolved as he aged, or whether the dialogues should be considered as one great interrelated work of art. Strauss tended toward the latter conclusion. Goldstein appears to be agnostic on the question. I am undecided.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams disliked Plato intensely, associating him, unfairly, with Christian Platonism. See their fascinating correspondence on the subject in The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams, ed. Lester J. Cappon (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987). Madison, as always, was more circumspect. His Federalist No. 10 essay, along with similar views expressed in his correspondence and elsewhere, is the definitive statement of how a representative republic can work over a large area (contrary to the view of the ancients as well as Montesquieu and others).

Best,

Alan


message 32: by Alan (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) I meant to add that Madison took one of the central concepts of Federalist No. 10 from a political essay by David Hume. Madison was not particularly interested in Hume's more speculative writings, but he did utilize this idea. Sometimes the eclectic approach has much to recommend it, Madison being the example par excellence. Madison took ideas from other thinkers, added some of his own, and formulated what became some of the most important principles of the United States democratic republic.


message 33: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 05:55PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Alan,

I was not just referring to the Parmenides. (BTW, my Syracusa visit was part of a larger pre-Socratic pilgrimage to Elea!) The TOI, I think, relies on acquisition of knowledge. That the Theaetetus ends in aporia, I think dooms the TOI. I have written much more about this on my blog.

Regards,

Randal


message 34: by Alan (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) Exactly--I think you are correct. I note that you have read some of Strauss's books (from "My Books" on your profile page). I'll check your blog out. Your trip sounds very interesting. Perhaps I can talk my wife into taking such a trip! We were going to go to Athens last year, but the tumult in Greece kept us away and we went on a Rhine cruise instead.


message 35: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 32 comments Randal wrote: "Some, like the Liar, are both."

I would have that in a four-valued system it would have been neither?

The Liar's paradox doesn't assert it's own truth. So I'm not sure what value that sort of statement has to a truth seeker? I guess I'm asking why bother with four-valued logic? What does it add over two-valued logic when making philosophical statements?


message 36: by Joshua (last edited Jun 15, 2014 01:07PM) (new)

Joshua | 18 comments Randal,

Thanks for calling me out on my sanctimonious bulls**t. Sometimes I think I privilege my own position to the extent that I make vast assumptions about how my own comments will be interpreted. As you point out my little iconoclastic piece does not do justice to the historical depth of philosophy. My objection to your initial piece, which I don't think I expressed very clearly, was based on my (mis)reading of your metaphysical section in which I understood you to be unfairly privileging your own sceptical position based on a simplistic rejection of other branches of philosophy as either dogmatic or nihilistic. Your subsequent comments reveal that your appreciation of the philosophical tradition is much more nuanced than I had understood it to be originally. I have to agree with Alan here that philosophy is in many ways about the process and not only the result, and apologize for my own clumsy approach.

Peace,

Joshua


message 37: by Martin (new)

Martin Janello | 36 comments I would like to thank some of the last few posts for beautifully illustrating the reasons for my original inquiry in this thread.

There is no question that we can and should learn from the philosophies of others about which we hear or read or that we witness in practice. However, references to famous philosophers or interpreters, schools of philosophy, or publication titles can easily conceal a lack of effort, inadequate or erroneous understanding, particular interpretation, or a failure to digest inhaled thoughts into well-reasoned positions of our own.

That may already pose enough problems for ourselves. But it also threatens to disable philosophical discourse because participants have difficulties knowing what, if anything, hides behind these references.

I would therefore suggest that philosophy cannot be pursued in earnest by throwing wholesale names and labels around.

Even experts in philosophy - and even experts in the same philosophy - must avoid names and labels to the extent they have not agreed on a specific definition if they are to engage in fruitful discussions. It seems that nonexperts who are not able or willing to establish the content of shared definitions might benefit from stating right out what they are talking about without wholesale references. I would also submit that philosophical experts ought to express themselves in this manner whenever they communicate with colleagues who have not agreed on common definitions or when they communicate with the public.

If philosophy is to ever take its place as a considered guidance for human behavior, it must be plain-spoken - as most people are. Where that is not the case, most people's minds glaze over rather quickly. Some might be impressed by actually or pretentively erudite references and cryptic comments. If they are or deem themselves erudite, they will respond with similar banter. But substantive philosophical discourse will most likely be curbed.

I understand that what I argue may fly in the face of how some people think of themselves, what contributes to their social standing, or what they have learned about how to engage in philosophy. But I see no other way to make philosophy what it should be.

Attempting to summarize one's philosophy to oneself or to others is, as Joshua wrote in message 26, a disciplinary exercise. It is an exercise on the way toward taking a considered position and competently discussing philosophy. That one would refuse or fail in this exercise should make one ask why that is so. It might lead to philosophical discoveries of various kinds.


message 38: by Candy (new)

Candy | 29 comments Martin, and other commentators here...

regarding Martin's post #22...

I totally thought I had been dead succinct in my answer without using technical jargon or convoluted language. I was literally telling you my general philosophy.

I am a curious person...therefore the nature of reality is an interesting topic.

I believe plain-speaking is very important...especially when conveying a discipline to people who are not as well versed or studied in such technical language.

I believe that kind of plain-speaking can be the job of philosophers or a journalist who writes about philosophy. As an example, Stepehn Jay Gould, Edward O Wilson and James Gleik are gifted in communicating complicated, difficult concepts without using the technical language of the disciplines they are writing about to explain thei\ories and history of theories to general readers.

However, I have a friend who is a philosopher in Ontario Canada...and he writes in a very intense fashion. His work is challenging to follow and understand yet...there is a poetry to it that draws one in...and if one persists the ideas can be grasped. I wouldn't want him to compromise his writing or thinking style. I think at some point his work will be "translated"...and thats okay.

Candy who really did mean what I said in post #15.


message 39: by Alan (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) Martin wrote: "I would like to thank some of the last few posts for beautifully illustrating the reasons for my original inquiry in this thread.

There is no question that we can and should learn from the philos..."


I think the problem is in the premise underlying the formulation of the question. Does one have "a philosophy" like one might have a position on a political issue, or does one engage in philosophy by thinking about the root issues and comparing one's reflections with those of the wisest philosophers of the past? Just as one would not attempt to invent mathematics from scratch, so one would ignore the long tradition of philosophy at one's peril. We are not starting with a blank slate. Philosophy is, to my mind, a continuing search for answers in which one reasons by oneself and also tests that reasoning against that of some of the greatest minds of the past. I don't think this has anything to do with "how some people think of themselves, what contributes to their social standing, or what they have learned about how to engage in philosophy." But perhaps I am missing something.


message 40: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments David,

I don't know about a four valued logic, but there is some application for three valued logic. If the choices are true, false, and neither, this allows one to reject the law of the excluded middle. It's a cornerstone of some intuitionist approaches to math, and it rejects proofs like Cantor's diagonalization proof of different orders of infinity.

Can't say much about the value "both". Chairman Mao liked it. Sidney Morgenbesser, when asked whether he agreed with Mao that a statement could both be true and false, said, "Well, I do and I don't." That about sums it up for me.

As for the topic in general, I haven't answered because I don't have "a philosophy." The question itself implies some priority to a system, and I tend to distrust systems of philosophy. Also, for at least some of the perennial problems, I sympathize with the Wittgenstien view that philosophy is a strange illness that can only be cured with more philosophy. Moreover, I've found the illness to be a recurring one; the cure only temporary.


message 41: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 08:12PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Alan wrote: "Exactly--I think you are correct. I note that you have read some of Strauss's books (from "My Books" on your profile page). I'll check your blog out. Your trip sounds very interesting. Perhaps ..."

Alan,

I am no Straussian, for sure, but I recognize his great scholarship. Persecution and the Art of Writing was a great book and the books on Platonic Philosophy, Hobbes, and Machiavelli are standard positions in the field. Natural Right and History is where we really parted company. But I read them all many years ago.

I picked up my unread Library of America volume of Madison's writings today. I will do some reading.

With your interest in the Greeks you need to go to Athens. To be in the Agora is a must for anyone who reveres philosophy. Velia (Elea) was the high point of my Magna Graecia trip this year. It is a small site, but it was important to me to be in the home of Parmenides and Zeno!

Regards,

Randal


message 42: by Alan (last edited Jun 15, 2014 07:28PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) Thanks, Randal, I'll certainly keep a possible future trip to Athens in mind. Strauss wrote in his preface to the 7th impression (1971) of Natural Right and History that "if I were to write this book again, I would write it differently" and that "[s]ince the time when I wrote the book, I have, I believe, deepened my understanding of 'natural right and history.'" I'm not sure exactly what he meant, but, in any event, I have never called myself a Straussian (or any other "ian" for that matter). Although I respect Strauss's scholarship and have learned from it, I do not agree with him on every issue. I have addressed the controversy over Strauss relating to foreign policy in another Goodreads post: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... (post # 12). I said everything I wanted to say on that subject at that location and need not repeat it here. That post also contains an Internet link to audiotapes of Strauss's courses (accessible at no charge). I was a student in one of those courses before Strauss left the University of Chicago.

The Library of America edition of Madison's writings is very good. Madison's notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention are available in many editions, including the classic Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), which contains the notes of other attendees as well. I would also highly recommend The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826, ed. James Morton Smith, 3 vols. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995). Strauss pointed out that there is no dialogue of Plato between equal minds, e.g., between Socrates and Plato. These volumes of Jefferson-Madison correspondence constitute a dialogue between two first-rate minds, and reading their letters is an exhilarating experience. We have no politicians today of the caliber of Jefferson and Madison (or of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams), even though each of these Founders had his faults. There are also several good secondary works on Madison. If you are interested in the latter, you can search "My Books" on my Goodreads Profile page for "Madison."

My apologies to readers in countries other than the United States. For the record, I am not an advocate of "American exceptionalism," especially in foreign policy. But Madison, Jefferson, et al. were exceptional Enlightenment figures.

Best,

Alan


message 43: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 07:55PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments David Sven wrote: "Randal wrote: "Some, like the Liar, are both."

I would have that in a four-valued system it would have been neither?

The Liar's paradox doesn't assert it's own truth. So I'm not sure what value t..."


David,

The Liar statement, "This statement is false." is true if it is false and false if it is true. In other words, both true and false. Given Martin's proclivity against quotation and naming, I will stop there. I have written a bit on this, but I think Martin's strictures for the discussion prohibit my referencing them.

As for the neither position, this is as old as Aristotle. I think it applies to vague statements, like "Will there be a sea battle tomorrow?"

The Pali Canon presents several examples of four-valued logic. I accept it out of relative completeness. The Jains thought that they needed 7 values. I think four is enough.

Cheers,

Randal


message 44: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 08:10PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Joshua wrote: "Randal,

Thanks for calling me out on my sanctimonious bulls**t. Sometimes I think I privilege my own position to the extent that I make vast assumptions about how my own comments will be interpre..."


Joshua,

Not to worry. Not "bulls**t". Just call it youthful enthusiasm. I thought that you had been deeply offended by something that I had written. I am so glad if you now think otherwise. No offense was intended; to Plato, you, or anyone else. Again, Martin's strictures on quotation and reference preclude my saying more. Thanks for your post.

Randal


message 45: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments Alan wrote: "I meant to add that Madison took one of the central concepts of Federalist No. 10 from a political essay by David Hume. Madison was not particularly interested in Hume's more speculative writings,..."

Alan,

Hume is another one of my revered philosophers. Although Bon David and I would probably disagree on almost everything about politics, we profoundly agree on the basic sceptical stricture to work every issue back to a Socratic conclusion.

I fear I have already violated Martin's monastic orders!

Regards,

Randal


message 46: by David Sven (last edited Jun 15, 2014 08:12PM) (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 32 comments Duffy wrote: " don't know about a four valued logic, but there is some application for three valued logic. If the choices are true, false, and neither, this allows one to reject the law of the excluded middle."

I can see how three and four-valued logic have application in things like computer programming and electronic circuitry etc -
And I think when most people aren't making philosophical statement or trying to argue points they adopt a type of three-value logic - there are things I know are true, things I know are false, and things I don't know which I just assign value "N" to. I could also asign N to statements that are self contradictory.
But my reason for engaging in any philosophical enquiry is to look for truth and for things to be clearer. The point is to determine the truth about things I don't know if possible. I don't see how a three-valued logic helps me do that.

For example - take the proposition Bob is tall.
In a two-valued system I might want to know if the proposition Bob is Tall is true. Does it have a truth value of T or F.

My first question would be "define tall." Because I don't know what "tall" means. But in three-valued logic I could just assign "Neither" as a truth value - and...end of query. It seems I'm none the wiser using three-valued logic than I was using two-valued logic. Which is fine if I don't want to know if Bob is tall or not.
A two-valued logic forces me to clarify terms and definitions. Which seems rather useful if I'm seeking truth and clarity.
I don't know why I would want to employ a multi-value logic that is happy to leave the unknown as unknown without further inquiry. I don't need philosophy to do that.


message 47: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 09:03PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments David Sven wrote: "But my reason for engaging in any philosophical enquiry is to look for truth and for things to be clearer. The point is to determine the truth about things I don't know if possible. ..."

Will there be a sea battle tomorrow? I think, "hard to tell."

Is the statement "This statement is false." true or false? I think, both.

Not saying these are common instances. Just that they can occur. For all the rest, you are welcome to take refuge in two-valued logic. Just saying, "Some things are actually true and false or neither."

What if things aren't actually clearer (or are clearly both true and false)? Do you insist on stuffing them into a true/false set of boxes?

Regards,

Randal


message 48: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 32 comments Randal wrote: "Will there be a sea battle tomorrow? I think, "hard to tell.""

Yes - but my ignorance doesn't mean that the proposition "There will be a sea battle tomorrow" doesn't have a True/False value.


Randal wrote: "Is the statement "This statement is false." true or false? I think, both."

A two-value logic is good for identifying self contradictory statements. It doesn't prevent anyone from making them.

Randal wrote: "Just saying, "Some things are actually true and false or neither.""

Not in a two-value logic system.

Randal wrote: "What if things aren't actually clearer (or are clearly both true and false). Do you insist on stuffing them into a true/false set of boxes?"

In a two-value logic, necessarily, propositions can't simultaneously be true and false or neither AND be valid propositions. I wouldn't be trying to stuff them anywhere or entertain them at all except to demonstrate they are invalid propositions or arguments


message 49: by Randal (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments David Sven wrote: "Yes - but my ignorance doesn't mean that the proposition "There will be a sea battle tomorrow" doesn't have a True/False value...."

In classical logic you are quite right. Aristotle wondered about this, though. Why are you so sure?

David Sven wrote: "A two-value logic is good for identifying self contradictory statements. It doesn't prevent anyone from making them....."

Some statements actually are both true and false.

David Sven wrote: "Not in a two-value logic system......"

You have made my point. If you insist on a two-valued logic, nothing else is possible! But if not . . . .

Regards,

Randal


message 50: by Randal (last edited Jun 15, 2014 10:47PM) (new)

Randal Samstag (scepticos) | 44 comments David Sven wrote: "A two-valued logic forces me to clarify terms and definitions. Which seems rather useful if I'm seeking truth and clarity.
I don't know why I would want to employ a multi-value logic that is happy to leave the unknown as unknown without further inquiry. I don't need philosophy to do that. ..."


But what if some things are really vague or contradictory? You can ignore this and insist on putting them into a true or false box, but is this philosophy? Is this truth seeking? If you make the (truly) "unknown" fit into true or false, aren't you falsifying its truth value? I wonder about this.

Regards,

Randal


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