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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pessimism and Self-Annhilation


By refining Rousseau’s and Nietzsche’s pessimistic account of human development, a deeper and more disturbing pessimism can emerge with a haunting prediction of human self-annihilation.  There is much to criticize in how both characterize civilizing forces. For instance, human evolution is not a zero-sum game as Rousseau suggests. The simplicity of their pessimistic remarks on the human condition draws first from value judgments about the human being. Both Rousseau and Nietzsche judge a human in its unmodified state to compare it to an earlier human being. This places false boundaries on the human. My goal is to treat technology as an extension of the human being and society as humanity becoming part of a larger more powerful organism.[1]


Section I: Rousseau's Pessimism

            Rousseau images that man began in an uncivilized state in which he was completely independence and happy. The man in the state of nature was strong enough to get its own food and fend off against predators. The civilizing process according to Rousseau has many consequences for man’s virtue.

(1)               Body: Responding to contemporary arguments that technology has benefitted mankind, Rousseau argues that on the contrary, technology has weakened humanity. Take medicine. The man in the state of nature must fight every illness with his own immune system (Rousseau 109). The civilized man has medicine to do the work for the immune system. As a consequence, the civilized man’s body adapts to the benefit of having medicine and no longer has as strong an immune system as a result (Rousseau 109-10). Because the civilized man is so much weaker, he no longer can return to the state of nature (Rousseau 106). One needs the strength to fight off illness, so he will just die. Of course, Rousseau’s criticism is wide ranging, applying to tools like hatchets to luxuries like umbrellas (Rousseau 106). Tools weaken what man can do with just their body and luxuries reduce man’s ability to tolerate natural conditions like rain.

(2)               Dependence: Since civilized man’s body is no longer capable of providing for itself, he depends on others to provide for him. Those controls over resources have power by virtue that they can make civilized man (3) miserable by depriving him of what he needs (Rousseau 127). By miserable, Rousseau means painful privation and the suffering of the body or soul, which he thinks could not reasonably apply to the savage who is a free being with a heart a peace and a healthy body (127). This power implies artificial (4) inequality that goes beyond the natural inequalities such as height (Rousseau 101). While all men in the state of nature are naturally equal, civilization has actually made man unequal despite popular opinion.

(5)               Morality: The most virtuous and most truly sympathetic is the man in nature because he least resists the impulses of nature which tell him what harm is (Rousseau 128-30). By sympathetic, I am referring to Rousseau’s claim that the primitive man’s ability to feel pity when he sees another suffer (Rousseau 130). While the primitive man does not know good from evil, he is not subject to universal dependence and obligations to receive everything from those who do not obligate themselves to give him anything in return (Rousseau 128). This natural pity cannot actually be destroyed by even the most depraved morals, but as civilize man created morality that went further and further from principles of harm, he became to justify harm and subjection of his fellowman (Rousseau 131). Rousseau claims civilized man has weakened this feeling of pity and divided it into the virtues (132). Virtues like generosity, clemency, and humanity are in fact just particular applications of the feeling of pity (Rousseau 131).

(6)               Ability: Another force contributing to this dependence and inequality is division of labor. Through the industrialization process, man more and more is made to do only one thing. This results in man becoming less capable at doing everything else. The savage must be able to do many things in order to be self-sufficient, which is another reason civilized man cannot return to nature and the happiness it offers.

(7)               Fear of Death: The primitive man gains nothing so loses nothing when it dies (Rousseau 115). Since humans have consciousness of their freedom to deviate from natures commands, their instinct of what Rousseau calls Perfectibility causes them to become tyrants over nature (115). This means that man deviates from his natural apish state when it seeks enlightenment, and when death comes it has to deal with the loss of all that he has gained (Rousseau 114-5). This is the source of civilized man’s fear of death.

(8)               Freedom: Because man has this instinct of perfectibility, he exercises his will on all of nature. This includes himself and other man. Rousseau considers this will over nature tyranny because Rousseau considers nature’s commands as constituting autonomy as an organism (Rousseau 113-5). When man dominates his or another’s nature, he is forcing that organism to do what it does not naturally want to do, thus slavery.

(9)               Domestication: Animals in the wild are strong, naturally brave, and resourceful, but domesticated animals are weak, fearful, and servile (Rousseau 111). Rousseau thinks that since we are not all that different from other animals, the same civilization has made man weak, fearful and servile as well in the same matter as domestication has made dumb housecats out of resourceful felines (110-11). Man is now weak (1 and 5), fearful (6), and servile (2, 4, and 7). This is a response to Hobbes who thought that the man in the state of nature was fearful of every slightest sound, as an extension a natural fear of death (Rousseau 107).

Section II: Nietzsche’s Pessimism

While criticizing morality from a different angle, Nietzsche surprisingly has many similar things to say about how society has become weak. For the sake of supplementing Rousseau rather than contradicting, I will focus only a few major points in Nietzsche’s criticism of modern society.

(1)               Slave Morality: During the time of ancient Greece, there was only a value system. These values were between good and bad. Good was life-affirming like strength, health, and beauty, and bad was life-denying like weakness, sickness, and ugliness. By virtue of being strong, the good were the masters. It was their natural position. This value system is what Nietzsche calls Master morality, but this morality should not be confused with the modern concept of morality which has concepts like evil and blame.

The weak also had a value system that is equally natural to them. Like the masters, the weak see themselves as the good, but they make the opposite of them evil because they blame the strong for their strength. Nietzsche uses the parable of the birds of prey and lambs. The birds prey on the little lambs, and the lambs naturally resent that the birds can prey on them (Nietzsche 44-5). The lambs believe that the less one is like a bird of prey and the more like a little lamb, the more virtuous one is (Nietzsche 44). On the other side, the birds do not hate the lambs, for nothing is tastier than a little lamb (This is a joke in the parable, but Nietzsche has a point) (45). As Nietzsche argues, we all are little lambs, except for perhaps a handful of Overmen. We are a society of the weak. This change from a society with both weak and strong to a society of only the weak began with the slave revolt.

(2)               Slave Revolt: Nietzsche argues that slave morality was a “most spiritual revenge,” where the weak[2] reevaluate the values of their enemies (34). Through the cunny that the weak has, they convinced the strong of these values of values, the evidence being that this is the morality of today. In this morality,

“‘The wretched are alone the good; the poor, impotent, lowly are alone the good; the suffering, deprived, sick, ugly alone are the pious, alone are blessed by God, blessedness is for them alone—and [the aristocrats], the powerful and noble, anre on the contrary the evil, the cruel, the lustful, insatiable, the godless to all eternity; and [the aristocracts] shall be in all eternity the unblessed, accursed, and damned.’” (Nietzsche 34).

The impetus for this slave revolt is the “venomous eye of ressentiment” (40). Ressentiment is a psychological condition that arises from an unconscious that cannot regulate itself in the normal way (Nietzsche 39). The normal regulation is immediate discharge of will, but being weak and unhealthy, the slaves fail to regulate this. In other words, frustration, anger, and envy grow when the slave wants to do something but cannot because she is a slave. The unconscious finds another way to regulate this ressentiment, and in this case, it was inversion of morality. This inversion was so successful that now there is almost nothing but weak and weak-worshipping people on the planet.

Section III: Refining

            As I stated in the introduction, one of the big problems with Rousseau’s formulation is that it posits zero-sum game where all advancements have had a near equal drop in human strength. The flaw both have is that just because humans are physically weak does not mean the morality is merely a weak morality. Most importantly, both judge the human merely by his unmodified state. Humans have risen despite their birth bodies’ degeneration. The Perfectibility instinct of humanity has allowed humans to go beyond their mere bodies into new forms.

            Rousseau argues that humans are so much the weaker for their technology, but while this is the common case, a good number of humans have been able to go beyond the primitive man various respects. What Rousseau misses out that human strength in nature is not the maximum but merely sufficient for survival. Effort is what makes humans stronger, and civilized man is capable and does create obstacles that do not exist in nature in order to gain more strength. One could think of the weight lifter, but this most notably applies to the mind, which as a slavish people, we value as a generally non-endangering capacity.[3] While modern humans generally expend a far less effort than the savage, it is important to recognize that this degeneration is not a product of a zero-sum game.

            Morality is not merely value-orient but rather has a future component as well. The primitive man and the slave both only see the world in its present qualities. Since the weak have to think in order to accomplish something which they cannot immediately do, there is a need to teleological philosophy. Goals and hopes have allowed humankind to work together in a way that creates higher level of organization. Teleological thinking also transforms the body into a tool to be changed to fit the ends the human seeks. While the old value-oriented morality still exists, it is diminishing as society becomes more and more technological or rather transformative. Rousseau does not make a connection with the instinct of perfectibility with morality, and Nietzsche does not make this distinction between the old weak and the new weak. If they had, I think they might have created an even dark story of the direction humanity is going.

            Since the human body is but a tool on which the will acts upon, the will is not limited to itself. Rousseau gets near this when he discusses how humans dominate each other by forcing a deviation from nature, but he misses the present consequences of a will beyond the unmodified organization. It is not actually a distinction between natural and artificial but between organizational levels that Rousseau is actually referring to when he speaks of deviating from nature. Organizational levels like molecular, cellular, multicellular, intelligent, and societal are all natural. The civilized man operates on both the intelligent and societal level. The intelligent level organizes how the multicellular body parts operate, and it create and modify those body parts beyond the self-regulation of the multicellular level. To make a long discussion short, nothing is unnatural about what humans do to themselves because nature does not stop existing at an arbitrary organizational level. This taken into consideration, the will of modern man can increasingly enlarge itself through incorporation of tools, and while the unmodified body might be weak, even the couch potato has access to more power and strength than the primitive man could ever be capable of. Take the atomic bomb as the pinnacle of modern man’s might. No savage could destroy the world.

Section IV: The Ultimate Man

            In a refined pessimism, there is the story of our future, of our becoming the Ultimate man. Unlike Nietzsche’s Ultimate Man, this one cannot exist. By this I mean that to achieve the ultimate state is self-annihilation. There are two ways the ultimate stops existing.

First, the man achieves pure ego. This is obvious when considering the modern intellectual. They are basically heads with legs, where the only purpose of the body is to move their head to conferences. Ancient Greek intellectuals were far different. Take Socrates and Plato, both fought in wars. How many modern intellectuals could lay claim of having the constitution of a soldier. As technology improves, humans need less and less of their bodies. In the case of humanity’s future, computer technology may finally free humans from the limits of embodiment. Even now, it is not unheard of to have someone spend ninety percent of their time on the internet. This person has become an internet being through the will’s power of extension. It is important to note, that by becoming information on the internet, the will has become subject to all that entails. One, all information on the internet is delocalized and constantly moving. Second, this information is constantly cut, altered, and pasted as it transverses across cyberspace. In the anime Serial Experiments Lain, the main character, Lain, is being from the internet who asks the existential question, “If I am nowhere, who am I?”(Prevost 186). This is half of the destruction of humankind.

The other half lies in the opposite, egolessness. This state occurs often during times of societal duress in which everyone drops their individual projects to join in a societal effort. This is the evolution into a societal being. The process towards a complete organization of humanity into society has been going on for thousands of years. First, humans subsumed their will into tribes. Next, they subsumed into towns with their professionalization. Later they subsumed into city-states and empires which gave the evolving societal organisms military power. Nations arrived much later but with them a truer organization towards society. Unlike a monarchy in which subjects are loyal to a human individual or family, loyalty towards a nation is importantly different. While nationalism is close to the transcendence of the teleological will to the societal level, humanity is still divided. The true ultimate evolution lies in globalization and world peace. It is only matter of time before the embryo of society finally becomes ready to be born, and with it, all divisions between humans will disappear, destroying individuality. The Ultimate man puts these two halves together and completely cancels himself out.

Works Cited:

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Genealogy of Morals. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and RJ Hollingdale. Vintage Books: New York, 1967.

Prevost, Adele-Elise. “The signal of Noise.” Mechademia 3: Limits of the Human. Edited by Frenchy Lunning. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2008.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. The First and Second Discourses. Edited by Roger D. Masters. Translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters. St. Martin’s Press: Boston, 1964.

[1] From the word organism, I am focusing on the aspect of natural organization and self-preservation.
[2] To avoid culture specific nature of Nietzsche’s criticism, I am generalizing Jews and the Priestly caste with “weak.”
[3] There are, of course, many cases in slavish religion in which thinking freely was considered dangerous, but to an ever greater degree since the Enlightenment that assumption has been challenge for a new value of intellectual achievement.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kane's Lucky Self

 Kane attempts to construct a naturalistic account of freewill compatible with indeterminacy by positing what he calls Self-Forming Actions, but Kane's theory is undermined by a lack of a natural self that can act freely and responsibly. The goal of Kane's theory is to refute of the Luck Principle (LP) which is: “If an action is undetermined at a time t, then its happening rather than not happening is a matter of chance or luck, and so it could not be a free and responsible action” (Kane 415). In order to refute LP, Kane argues that the self has control over the outcome of a personal indeterminacy. The resolution of a personal indeterminacy is what Kane calls self-forming actions (SFAs). Despite Kane's convictions, his narrative about the nature of human indeterminacy and self-forming actions undermine freewill and responsibility because the inability of the natural self to resolve a quantum indeterminacy in the brain.
Kane attempts to give a naturalistic narrative about human indeterminacy which takes place in the brain. By indeterminacy, Kane does not mean constant transcendence like in dualism but rather a supervening natural self resolves an indeterminacy when it occurs. There are times during humans' lives in which they become conflicted between two or more choices. Kane argues that there is legitimate indeterminacy when brain is in this state of conflict. According to Kane, the conflict between two or more neural pathways, each representing one desire or choice, creates chaos in which the self has an opportunity to exercise freewill.
Kane uses the Assassin trying to kill the prime minister in order to demonstrate that indeterminacy does not undermine freewill and responsibility (420). The assassin tries to kill the prime minister but an indeterminacy in his nervous system causes his arm to waver. If he does hit the prime minister, Kane believes that the assassin is to be held responsible despite indeterminacy in his arm because he “succeeded in doing what he was trying to do” (420). In other words, the assassin is not “lucky” in the irresponsible sense, but Kane does admit that indeterminacy does act as an obstacle. In the case in which the indeterminacy is in the brain, the individual overcomes the obstacle of indeterminacy “nevertheless by [his or her] own effort” (420). Because Kane posits that this effort is involved in the resolution of the indeterminacy, Kane believes that SFAs are “genuine exercises of freewill” (421).
Kane characterizes self-forming actions with mixture of folk psychological concepts and neurobiology. Kane believes that there is a robust self that resolves indeterminacy through an act of will. Kane identifies the self with the brain and identifies each side of a conflicting neural battle in the brain with a neural pathway. Take Jane who could choose a vacation in Hawaii or Colorado. In other words, she has a conscious neural conflict. Since the self does not determined path corresponding to its form, the self must choose. Kane believes that Jane chooses the vacation spot that she wills or wants more (426). When Jane's self chooses, it forms her self, changing her dispositions and desires for the future. This is what Kane means by self-forming.
Kane demonstrates that he identifies the self with the brain when refutes the criticism that his theory of indeterminacy divides the self. The objection goes: 1) Each self has one will. 2) Kane posits two conflicting wills in brain fighting to direct the body towards their respective goals. 3) Since Kane posits two wills at times of conflict, he implies that there are two selves in the brain during that conflict. This is to suggest that Kane's theory is counter-intuitive, since it undermines individuality, so Kane appeals to parallel processing to show that his theory is neither radical nor implies two selves. Just like a single computer can have two processes running simultaneously, a single self can have internal conflict without becoming two separate beings. Since Kane does not identify the self with specific parts of the brain, he must identify it with the whole. This notion of the self, however, is incompatible, as I will discuss further later, robust freewill because the brain lacks the ability to resolve a quantum indeterminacy.
Kane revises LP, but by doing so, he presents the main problem with his theory. The LP argues indeterminacy implies that what one does is involuntary and unintentional. Kane's theory, however, makes the indeterminacy between two things one could voluntarily and intentionally do. Kane revises the LP for the incompatibilists, calling it LP*, which argues that since one could do A voluntarily and intentionally and do B voluntarily and intentionally, what one ultimately voluntarily and intentionally does is a matter of luck or chance (422). In order to refute this new version, Kane posits a robust kind of control.
Kane's theory of control is in response to the claim that indeterminacy is a hindrance to the will. Since in his model there are two efforts which create a struggle within the self, each side makes it harder to will the other side of the conflict. This means that this indeterminacy hinders, but as Kane argues, the hindrance exists when each effort is considered separately. As an extension of Kane's theory of identity and parallel processing, Kane believes the humans have plural voluntary control (426). The self has power to bring about whichever option it wills or wants most (426). This means that the self still has robust control even when there is indeterminacy. Where is this control, though? This seems impossible given the nature of the brain which lacks what Dennett calls a single decision maker (443).
In Dennett's strongest criticism of Kane's theory, he demonstrates the flaws of his concept of SFAs. Dennett uses a thought experiment of how Kane's indeterminacy actually undermines human freedom and autonomy. There is no single decision maker in the brain, no button which the self can push to solve quantum fluctuations in the brain. Another factor must be the cause for the resolution of an indeterminacy (Dennett 443). To provide a possibility, Dennett uses a needle quivering up and down, to represent the chaos between two decisions (442).
If this accurately reflects how the conflict works in human brains, the resolution has everything to do with when it occurs. Since humans are in environments that often force them to act immediately, the environment is what stops the needle on one decision or the other. While danger very obviously forces humans to act, Kane might argue that this is a form of coercion; however, Dennett's argument does not only undermine freewill during times of duress but also during calm. The environment can subtly influence the needle. This is obvious to advertisers who put ideas in people's heads all the time, so that when they think they chose to have a soft drink, a poster during the time of indeterminacy formed the will to that direction. In other words, there is no robust control given Kane's naturalistic narrative of human indeterminacy. Without this control, Kane cannot refute LP*; therefore, it is a matter of luck what humans intend. This leads to deep consequences to freewill and responsibility.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Apathy the Postmodern Condition .

Why do people value nonsense, waste, and stupidity? When did life become a joke? This is the question I am attemption to answer, and in order to do that, some history is necessary.

In the nineteenth century, European philosophers, now called modernists, saw the industrial revolution, the power of their mighty nations, and the progress that these nations have achieved and created a story about the future. The communists told of a nation in which everyone gets along and there is no government and no property.

Universality of these grand narratives drove these nations to attempt to 'spread civilization' which increased local development of some of these Western nations' colonies. This universalism and rapid progress from the industrial revolution led to a manifest destiny over the world. This can be seen in Nazism, Soviet communism, and Japanese Imperialism.

Modernism and its belief in Utopia derives a morality from those in power. In Western terms, morality was a reflection of white heterosexual adult males. Theologically speaking, it is the white man that was made in God's (aka perfection's) image. Women and all other races are less in God's image, and early justifications for heirarchy stem from this morality.
While there was a lot of debate about the nature of morality during this period, the ideas came from this theological humanism and Enlightment ideas of autonomous individuals.

The next generation faced the world wars and the contradictions it posed to stories of progress and greater peace. The devastation of lives many people feel like humanity had failed. For instance, many Japanese hated surrender and living under a flag that was not their freedom (the occupation of the US). They blamed society for cowardice for not dying for their ideals. The philosophy that grew out of this disillusionment were absurdism and existentialism which in part tried to understand humanity in an indifferent world, a world without a guiding narrative or god leading humanity to its bright deserve future.

Though only a bit later, the postmodernists came, and existentialism became known as the shortest lived philosophical periods. Postmodernists were not merely skeptical but pessimistic about the power of modernists narratives like that of communism. They saw Stalinism, sexism, racism, and colonialism and argued that Utopia is impossible and that these narratives only make things worse. The common critique of Communism is that it does not take in account for human nature, which is summarized by John Acton's famous quote: "power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

While postmodernism displaced the narratives, morality, and ideals of modernism, this philosophy slowly fed into culture. The rise of a new age of satire and parody, both of which seek to deconstruct all ideals. Around the nineties, the truely postmodern culture arose around entertaining nonsense. Because the need for a narrative was thrown out, nonsense became acceptable. This is most obvious in internet culture, especially in regards of internet memes and 4chan.

The attraction of this nonsense is all in the affect, which is a technical term for a subjective response. For instance, a girl running to school with a piee of toast in her mouth. This is in the last episode of the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evagelion (literally, the Gospel of the New Genesis) and is sometimes refered to as the beginning of the turn to nonsense. The idea is that this is completely non-deconstructable. In other words, one cannot critize what it is saying about humanity if it says nothing. (An earlier example that is more global is Dada in art.)

This leads to a culture that values something that in the past would seem to be without value or actually gross. While postmodernism has rejected the evil of modernism, it has left the world without a future to tell itself. Though there are still politicians who claim things that fall under the modernist tradition, the old ideals compete in contemporary consumerism with the ever enticing nonsense. The deepest questions is what kind of people are we now, when we breadth nonsense everyday. Will we not ourselves become nonsense?
The manifestation of the postmodern Zeitgeist is not simple or the same in each place. The important thing is that it will be hard to create a new spirit with hope for progress. I am a Nietzschean in that I believe a great person is required to create new values. This position is dangerous, for value creators can easily become dictators. I suggest a wise person, a philosopher president of sorts to lead society on a nuanced path. The values created from knowing what is worth dying for, what is worth fighting for, and what is worth protecting

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moral responsibility and Freewill for Moore and Chisholm

The Western tradition has tied moral responsibility and freewill together. Contrary to popular opinion, I would like to divide these two concepts from each other because the truth conditions for both are different. For moral responsibility, the truth conditions for morality do not exist in the world since being cannot justify an ought; as a result, the methodology for creating a moral theory is not as clear as in an empirically informed metaphysics. A philosopher can in this vagueness define moral responsibility without necessarily appealing to a fact about freewill. Freewill on the other hand is an metaphysical issue which has all the same requirements for proof that comes with that field. With this distinction in mind, Moore and Chisholm both successfully create a means of thinking about moral responsibility but fail to provide a convincing case for their respective account of freewill. Moore's freewill lacks the actual ability to do otherwise which is necessary for freewill, and Chisholm freewill lacks facts.

Moore argues for compatibility by making a distinction between to senses of could. Could1 is the strict metaphysical sense (Moore 397). Could2 is a vague sense which Moore defends as allowing for both a sense of freedom and moral responsibility compatible with determinism (397). In other words, one could1 not do otherwise, but one could2 do otherwise.

Could2 depends on a division of a subjects abilities from their expressions. Moore sees an agent as having many logically possible actions for any given situation. These logical possibilities depend on the abilities of the subject. While an agent could1 only express itself one way, the agent had the power to act differently. For instance, a murderer was causally determined to pull the trigger, but his or her body has the capacity not to pull the trigger. This commonsense language formulation of the word could allows Moore to bring in moral responsibility into his theory.

While this provides a commonsense way of assigning blame in a society which recognizes determinism, Chisholm is justified in critiquing Moore's more radical argument for calling this could2 freedom. Morality is a pragmatic construct that helps keep society stable and self-justified, but freedom is an issue of fact. Chisholm demonstrates that one of Moore's formulations of freedom reveals its self-defeating nature. Moore's goal with the two senses of could is in order to reach a commonsense reformulation of the following premise: One could2 do otherwise (Moore 397). Moore claims in that this formulation is equivalent to: If one had chosen, one would have done otherwise (Moore 399). As Chisholm argues, the second formulation has no bearing on the first because the second can be true while the first false. Since this is true, Moore unsuccessfully reformulated the first statement. Chisholm further demonstrates this point by providing another reformulation: One could2 have chosen to do otherwise. If determinism is true, this third formulation also deserves to be rejected because one does not have the ability to choose. If the third is rejected, what Moore cannot achieve any meaningful notion of freewill in the first formulation. Since formulation two is separable from any meaningful definition of freewill, one can accept a principle of blame and reject freewill.
Chisholm also defends a radical notion of freedom, which he believes does not have the faults of the indeterminist and determinist position. Chisholm's issue with both determinist and indeterminist positions is that both assume that there is only transuent causation (from one state of affairs to another) (404). The indeterminist believes that one could1 do otherwise, but this does not mean an agent actually chooses, rather from a purely transeunt perspective this means that the actions are random. Since Hume demolished any chance of ever knowing something actually causes another, Chisholm feels as if he can provide a solution to the freewill debate by positing a rehashed medieval concept of immanent causation (404). Instead of only positing God as a primemover, human agents become primemovers as well for Chisholm (404). This simultaneously explains where transeunt causation comes from since a transeunt cause always requires another cause before it and how to place blame upon human subjects.

There are two objections against transeunt causation which Chisholm addresses, and the first he dismisses far too quickly. The first objection is that the self doing something to the brain is just another transeunt cause. Chisholm's response is to say that immanent causation is not about doing but about making something happen (405). This is unsatisfying. My intuitions tell me that while I may indirectly make something happen by doing something, I cannot make something happen without doing something. In other words, the brain event that supposedly I make happen requires something to directly cause it to happen. Chisholm might mean however that this make something happen that the self controls physics. This again baffles the determinist mindset, for how does willing bring about changes in physics (I avoid “laws of” to be charitable to a Humean critique)? Because Chisholm's notions of causation are so counter-intuitive, his early dismissal of the first objection is unjustified.

Another reason why the first objection cannot be easily dismissed is that the solution implies the second objection. In order to answer why this is not only transeunt causation, Chisholm introduced a distinction between making A happen and doing A (404). Objection two is attack on the conceivability of this seemingly indirect form of causation, which I already applied in the criticism of his answer to objection one.

Despite this, Chisholm's opinion about how causation should be thought about in the vacuum left by Hume is conceivable. It is an opinion because since causation and the self have become free to be reinterpreted, there are several equally counter-intuitive ways to salvage moral responsibility, which many value more than the truth. It is conceivable because if one shares in the Humean skepticism, causation could work radically differently than that of the regular naturalistic notion. One can still believe emotively in Chisholm's answer in order to salvage morality, but until freewill is verified, one ought to remain skeptical in regards to his or her metaphysical position.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Philosophy is a Joke


From my title, most can already tell that I am being extremely provocative, especially as someone who thinks itself a philosopher. I admit it too.

Contrary to popular opinion, philosophy is not simply serious. It is a joke, which most philosophers do not even realize. There is a barrier to their understanding, which prevents them from seeing the joke they themselves perform.

The View of the Over-human: 

The over-human is a pretend role philosophers perform in which they envision the human and its condition from outside it. In other words, the over-human is the meta-level which underlies philosophy. This is not to be confused with Nietzsche's overman, though I do draw inspiration from that.

The joke is that a philosopher has to do the impossible (be something other than human) in order to pretend to be a philosopher. It does what is in principle what it cannot do, or rather it has to pretend to do the impossible to do philosophy.

There are three levels of philosophers. Level one maintains the paradox of being human and over-human in its game of philosophy without knowing it. Level two pretends to be merely over-human in a dehumanizing philosophy. Level three is the cynical recognition of the paradox and the even more cynical continuing to play at philosophy.

Take meta-ethics. The level one philosopher will unconsciously do the ethics of meta-ethics, in which it appeals to a normative criteria in the game of selecting or creating a ethical system. Of course, this is a joke because there can be no criteria, especially normative criteria, at the meta-level.

The level two philosopher will do meta-ethics without bringing in an ethics. It is essentially unhuman. This philosopher looks at those ants called humans. It looks down on social immune system or social program called morality, and this philosopher begins to describe it. This is the science of the over-human.

Level three realizes the flaws of both level one and two. It does not give any credit to putting the human in the over-human as with level one nor does it believe that the philosopher can actually be the over-human in case of level two. Upon achieving level three, one could abandon the philosophical game in despair that comes when any grand narrative falls from underneath the human. The philosopher could also embrace game playing because there was never anything else to do and perhaps it was a bit bored.

The Ultimate Joke: 

Some may have already realized a major flaw in the analysis of the philosopher. It seems to be a level two analysis or perhaps level one if one thinks the levels are normative. This is intentional because to reject my argument and the paradox that I maintain in order to play at it is to simultaneously reject philosophy. This is the ultimate joke on philosophy. To discover that philosophy is a joke, one must use philosophy, but philosophy is a joke so the conclusion that philosophy is a joke is a joke. Since philosophy depends on the pretending on being a over-human, this joke is a necessary conclusion of any serious philosopher who plays at the over-over-human.