Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Clear Explanation

This fellow sums it up. (Hat tip Thrutch.) He explains the root cause of terrorism as well as our inability to face the problem.

70 Comments:

Blogger Farmer John said...

No, the problem is the same problem we've been fighting for millenia...only in modified form. It's Rome vs. Judea, two opposing systems of moral values,

Nietzsche "Genealogy of Morals" (& apologies in advance for the length of the post...

Let's bring this to a conclusion. The two opposing values "good and bad," "good and evil" have fought a fearful battle on earth for thousands of years. If it's true that the second value in each pair has for a long time had the upper hand, there's no lack of places where the battle goes on without a final decision. We ourselves could say that in the intervening time the battle has been constantly drawn to greater heights and greater depths and has become continuously more spiritual, so that nowadays there is perhaps no more decisive mark of a "higher nature," a more spiritual nature, than that it is split in this sense and is truly a battleground for these opposites.

The symbol of this battle, written in a script which has remained legible through all human history up to the present, is called "Rome Against Judea, Judea Against Rome." To this point there has been no greater event than this war, this posing of a question, the contradiction between these deadly enemies. Rome felt that the Jews were something contrary to nature itself, something like its monstrous polar opposite. In Rome the Jew was considered "guilty of hatred again the entire human race." And that view was correct, to the extent we are right to link the health and the future of the human race to the unconditional rule of aristocratic values, the Roman values.

By contrast, how did the Jews feel about Rome? We can guess that from a thousand signs, but it is sufficient to treat oneself again to the Apocalypse of John, that wildest of all written outbursts which vengeance has on its conscience. (Incidentally, we must not underestimate the deep consistency of the Christian instinct, when it ascribed this very book of hate to the name of the disciple of love, the same man to whom it attributed that wildly enthusiastic amorous gospel—there is some truth to this, no matter how much literary counterfeiting may have been necessary for that book to make its point)

The Romans were the strong and noble men, stronger and nobler than any people who'd lived on earth up until then—or even than any people who'd ever been dreamed up. Everything they left as remains, every inscription, is delightful, provided that we can guess what was doing the writing there. By contrast, the Jews were par excellence that priestly people of resentment, who possessed an unparalleled genius for popular morality. Just compare people with related talents—say, the Chinese or the Germans—with the Jews in order to understand who's in first place and who's fifth.

Which of them has proved victorious for the time being, Rome or Judea? Surely there's not the slightest doubt. Just think of who it is people bow down to today in Rome as the personification of all the highest values—and not only in Rome, but in almost half the earth, everywhere where people have become merely tame or want to become tame—in front of three Jews, as we know, and one Jewess (before Jesus of Nazareth, the fisherman Peter, the carpet worker Paul, and the mother of the first-mentioned Jesus, named Mary).

Now, this is very remarkable: without doubt Rome has been conquered. It's true that in the Renaissance there was a brilliant, incredible re-awakening of the classical ideal, the noble way of evaluating everything. Rome itself behaved like someone who'd woken up from a coma induced by the pressure of the new Jewish Rome built over it, which looked like an ecumenical synagogue and was called "the church." But immediately Judea triumphed again, thanks to that basically vulgar (German and English) movement of resentment, which we call the Reformation, together with what had to follow as a consequence, the re-establishment of the church, as well as the re-establishment of the old grave-like tranquillity of classical Rome.

In what is an even more decisive and deeper sense, Judea once again was victorious over the classical ideal at the time of the French Revolution. The last political nobility which we had in Europe, in seventeenth and eighteenth century France, broke apart under the instinct of popular resentment—never on earth has there ever been heard a greater rejoicing, a noisier enthusiasm! It's true that in the midst of all this the most dreadful and most unexpected events took place: the old ideal itself stepped physically and with unheard-of splendour before the eyes and the conscience of humanity—and once again stronger, simpler, and more urgently than ever rang out, in opposition to the old lie, to the slogan of resentment about the privileged rights of the majority, in opposition to that will for a low condition, abasement, equality, for the decline and extinguishing of mankind—in opposition to all that there rang out a fearsome and delightful counter-slogan about the privileged rights of the few! As a last signpost to a different road, Napoleon appeared, the most singular and late-born man there ever was, and in him the problem of the inherently noble ideal was made flesh. We might well think about what sort of a problem that is: Napoleon, this synthesis of the inhuman and the superhuman . . .

17

Did that end it? Was that greatest of all opposition of ideals thus set ad acta [aside] for all time? Or was it merely postponed, postponed indefinitely? . . . Some day, after a much longer preparation, will an even more fearful blaze from the old fire not have to take place? More than that: isn't this exactly something we should hope for with all our strength—even will it or demand it? . . .

Anyone who, like my readers, begins to reflect on these points and to think further will have difficulty coming to a quick conclusion—reason enough for me to come to a conclusion myself, provided that it has been crystal clear for a long time what I want, precisely what I want with that dangerous slogan which is written on the body of my last book: "Beyond Good and Evil" . . . at least this does not mean "Beyond Good and Bad"

9/7/06, 8:04 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

...aristocrats vs commons... the inevitable defeat of the last men by the feminine virtues. Marxism is only the latest incarnation of a diaspora, taking up the Jewish project, and carrying it to its' ultimate end.

Courage is dead. Long live temperance.

9/7/06, 8:11 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Verba non Acta!

9/7/06, 8:12 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

...but do not dispair Zarathustra! Think about it!

Nietzsche, "Zarathustra"...

When all this went on Zarathustra spake only a word: "My children are nigh, my children"-, then he became quite mute. His heart, however, was loosed, and from his eyes there dropped down tears and fell upon his hands. And he took no further notice of anything, but sat there motionless, without repelling the animals further. Then flew the doves to and fro, and perched on his shoulder, and caressed his white hair, and did not tire of their tenderness and joyousness. The strong lion, however, licked always the tears that fell on Zarathustra's hands, and roared and growled shyly. Thus did these animals do. All this went on for a long time, or a short time: for properly speaking, there is no time on earth for such things-. Meanwhile, however, the higher men had awakened in Zarathustra's cave, and marshalled themselves for a procession to go to meet Zarathustra, and give him their morning greeting: for they had found when they awakened that he no longer tarried with them. When, however, they reached the door of the cave and the noise of their steps had preceded them, the lion started violently; it turned away all at once from Zarathustra, and roaring wildly, sprang towards the cave. The higher men, however, when they heard the lion roaring, cried all aloud as with one voice, fled back and vanished in an instant.

Zarathustra himself, however, stunned and strange, rose from his seat, looked around him, stood there astonished, inquired of his heart, bethought himself, and remained alone. "What did I hear?" said he at last, slowly, "what happened unto me just now?"

But soon there came to him his recollection, and he took in at a glance all that had taken place between yesterday and to-day. "Here is indeed the stone," said he, and stroked his beard, "on it sat I yester-morn; and here came the soothsayer unto me, and here heard I first the cry which I heard just now, the great cry of distress.

O ye higher men, your distress was it that the old soothsayer foretold to me yester-morn,-Unto your distress did he want to seduce and tempt me: 'O Zarathustra,' said he to me, 'I come to seduce thee to thy last sin.'

To my last sin?" cried Zarathustra, and laughed angrily at his own words: "what hath been reserved for me as my last sin?"

-And once more Zarathustra became absorbed in himself, and sat down again on the big stone and meditated. Suddenly he sprang up,"Fellow-suffering! Fellow-suffering with the higher men!" he cried out, and his countenance changed into brass. "Well! That- hath had its time!

My suffering and my fellow-suffering- what matter about them! Do I then strive after happiness? I strive after my work!

Well! The lion hath come, my children are nigh, Zarathustra hath grown ripe, mine hour hath come:This is my morning, my day beginneth: arise now, arise, thou great noontide!"-

Thus spake Zarathustra and left his cave, glowing and strong, like a morning sun coming out of gloomy mountains.


The Shi'a commoners are throwing off their aristocratic Sunni masters (like the bin Laden's). Nothing more. Nothing less.

9/7/06, 8:19 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

aka (a misnomer) - The progressive movement.

9/7/06, 8:45 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

What is man's great defect? He cannot keep any law given to him by another. His own "will to power" is too great.

G_d gave mankind one simple rule to follow...

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

and mankind was unable to keep it. His snake got the best of him.

Men will have no one over themselves. Not an aristocrat. And after a while, not even an all powerful G_d (once the aristocrats have been defeated).

9/7/06, 8:53 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

...eventually the common workers are going to organize and depose John Galt. It's inevitable!

9/7/06, 8:55 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

It is helpful to have a clear explanation of "the root cause of terrorism as well as our inability to face the problem." Now, I do not view the fundamental problem as terrorism (but as Islam enabled by social democracy). Still, I accept the analysis of Ed Locke (and Jason Pappas) that the proximate problem is Islam.

On the other hand, I question Ed's view that our "inability to face the problem" is due to religion per se. He should know this, for he attends meetings of the "Foundation for Economic Education" which is (generally) religious, but not pacifist. As with the religious "Acton Institute" it is a free market organization that believes in Ayn Rand's principle of the non-initiation of force, which includes the imperative for self-defense.

Now there are Objectivists, such as Ed, who seem to have to attack all religionists (including those who are up in arms against Islam). Let us first note that we cannot treat all religions as fundamentally the same, for surely there have been religions that practiced human sacrifice, and worse. On the other hand, there have been religionists, such as most of our Founders, with a very different approach.

*Perhaps the best way to deal with this issue is to analyze the beliefs of those who are unable to face the problem.* Here, we find a commitment to the view that men are good, and can be dealt with by rewards, benefits, and negotiations (i.e., social democracy). Many of these do harbor religious views that are pacifist, such as loving one's enemy, and turning the other cheek. Yet other religionists are not pacifist, and interpret such maxims differently.

Thus, if we analyze our inability (to face the problem of Islam) in terms of our approach to aggression, we find that religionists & atheists can be pacifists, or can both counter aggression. Why then should we describe our inability in terms of religion (as oposed to atheism)?

The proximate problem is Islam; the underlying problem is social democracy. The solution to the former is to trounce the enemy, and provide disincentives which set back their agenda; the solution to the latter is to re-establish the principles of our civilization.

9/7/06, 10:01 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Locke’s style is terse; as I was recommending the article, I thought that each paragraph – indeed, each line – almost merits an article of explanation. That’s why I have copious posts and long articles.

Locke accepts that Christians today are not the problem and credits that to their incorporation of our Classical heritage: reason, science, liberal society, rule of law, etc. He didn’t go into these details. When he talks about religion, he means religion qua religion, i.e. to the extent that faith (belief without proof) is the sole means of acceptance of belief. There is, of course, no pure religion in that sense. No one just has arbitrary beliefs and clings to them without question.

That’s why I think it is worth assessing prospects by examining the doctrines and the long standing practice. The doctrines are easier. The practice is tougher. Here, I’ve argued that with Islam is has been more likely to transition to a secular regime where the religion becomes a mechanical ritualistic practice that is marginalized. That would take generations and in the meantime we have to defend ourselves.

Many conservatives, base their experience on Western Christianity. Seeing how religion can be vigorously practiced in private while creating secular (in fact if not in name) societies in the public realm, believe that Islam can do the same. They have a universal positive regard for religions in general and believe that one can’t be without a religion. So I think he’s right that conservatives, because they don’t fully understand the degree of our secular Classical heritage and because they think a long-standing religion must be good at its core, are hesitant to vilify Islam.

The left, of course, is plagued by moral relativism and can’t criticize Islam at all or in relative terms as compared to the West. They are the big problem. Conservatives, in many cases, are merely being too generous. That’s why I think conservatives can come to their senses before the left; and many have.

9/7/06, 11:43 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

That's where I differ from you Jason. The Islamic religion embraces and enshrines classic aristocratic ethics. It is the embodiment of the ancient ethos of courage/honor. It is "Spartan". It is "Roman". It is "masculine".

This isn't a clash of civilizations. It is a final clash of the sexes. Adam vs. Eve.

We are the children of Daneus and Hypermnestra (Europe). They are the sons of Aegyptus. Aeschylus' "Suppliant Maidens" best explains the origins of the "fundamental difference" in the foundation of both societies.

Think of humans scaled up. Of one to many. Plato..."Republic" society as mental-state. Monarchy - Oligarchy - Democracy as mental states. Family as an "intermediate" grouping/ small scale model of the larger society.

Worrying about the "religions" of the adversaries merely clouds the nature of the overal conflict.

9/7/06, 1:12 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason points out that "Locke accepts that Christians today are not the problem and credits that to their incorporation of our Classical heritage..." That is quite true, and I apologize for not mentioning it. I might add however, that in the Binswanger Objectivist blog, which Ed and I had participated in a few years ago, religion itself was claimed to be the enemy (and at that time, I was the only participant who claimed there was an essential difference between Islam and Judaism & Christianity today).

Next, Jason mentions that "reason, science, liberal society, rule of law" have been instrumental in modifying religion. Here it may be noted that some religionists have contributed to these approaches, although most others had resisted them. (The rule of law in particular was of religious origin, as were economic doctrines.) So it remains problematic as to whether our classical heritage was opposed to religion, or represented its proper outgrowth. (As an aside, it may be noted that Newton & Godel, the greatest scientist & the best logician, believed in God.)

This raises the issue of what is "religion qua religion", which Jason defines as "faith (belief without proof) as the sole means of acceptance of belief." Now were that the definition, I would concur that religion is venal (although not the essential enemy of mankind, which is the initiation of force). If someone were to claim that regardless of evidence or logic, he would hold to his faith, that would be untenable. And to be sure, there are religionists (as well as atheists) who hold to that position, where one Christian wrote 'I hold to my faith precisely because it runs counter to all evidence and reason.'

Yet, the religionists (including priests and rabbis) with whom I have conversed, maintain the opposite, claiming that if something is refuted by evidence or logic, it would not be religious to support it. (They aver instead that it is God Himself who has given us a law governed world, as well as reason.) What then is their 'faith', and how does it relate to evidence and logic? It seems to be the inner knowledge of that which is viewed as ultimately significant, i.e., the summa bonum. One believes that he is alive, that he cares, that there are things he must not do, etc. *Such ultimates are not provable or disprovable in the sense of tangible measures, for their gauge is the subjective one of what he wants to live for.* Here, if the religionist found that what was most meaningful to him was what he found in the Bible, or what others said was revealed, that would not be a matter of evidence or reason, but what he found to be most compelling. (Of course, evidence or reason might show that the facts were not as he thought.) It should be added that the Koran is not tested by evidence or reason, for it is the Koran itself that is the desideratum for testing evidence and reason.

Now, aspirations can be misguided, for they can lead one astray, in that they result in dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, *the final desideratum of an aspiration remains an aspiration*, and not the evidence or reason that modifies or refutes it.

At any rate, my question for those who are opposed to religion, is whether they deny the validity of having a summa bonum, and whether such an aspiration can only be derived from evidence and reason.

9/7/06, 1:19 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

the essential enemy of mankind, which is the initiation of force.

A woman's view of the problem of society. She is not physically stronger than her husband. He (his superior power) is the evil.

9/7/06, 1:55 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Mohammed isn't afraid to smack her around a few times to get her to comply.

9/7/06, 1:58 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Especially since he's married to her, and she needs him to support her (oil/ energy).

9/7/06, 2:01 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Now the RNC advises them to stay married, and for her to fight back. The DNC wants us to leave him and hope that he will be willing to send her alimony (oil), prvided she services him whenever he requires servicing.

Now he's threatening to keep the kids (Shi'a). The DNC hasn't said whether or not they care how badly the kids can be abused.

9/7/06, 2:17 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Heck, he likes smackin' them around more than her!

...and so I end my simplistic analogy. You guys tell me how we're gonna resolve this little domestic dispute... especially since the cops are British and don't carry any guns, and the courts are filled with idiots, just like Mohammed.

9/7/06, 2:22 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

This raises the issue of what is "religion qua religion", which Jason defines as "faith (belief without proof) as the sole means of acceptance of belief." Now were that the definition, I would concur that religion is venal.

I mention that because we have to keep in mind what Locke means so as to understand him. Remember the ARI approach (thinking in essentials) assumes the reader agrees or at least understands what is said in essence. I find this limited if not supplemented by a description so as not to talk at cross purposes. That’s why I might throw in a redundant modifier and say “blind faith” instead of “faith” so as to make sure the reader understands what I’m talking about even if they use the term “faith” to mean something more general (“things I believe in but can’t always prove.”)

You raise two more important questions that I’ve never discussed except in passing. One is the relation of blind faith to force. Does the former 1) lead to the latter, 2) add to the chances of the latter, 3) stem from the same motivation (concomitant), or 4) have no casual relation but merely accidental to the circumstances that they both arose? This is a big question. The only time I addressed this is in my first essay where I said:

“Of course, both Christianity and Islam share the problems of dogma and authority, elements that lend themselves to illiberal societies. In suppressing Christianity, Roman Emperors were fighting what they considered an intolerant monotheistic cult. After the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 312 AD, Christians rose to power in the empire and by the end of the century nearly suppressed all other religions. It wasn't long before pagans were fed to the lions. It would be more than a thousand years before religious tolerance returned to Christianized Europe.”

In this article I was referring specifically to the dangers of dogma and authority. Dogma is the unquestioning acceptance of doctrine. Such a practice is antithetical to the cultivation of a capacity to reason. Deferring to authority is antithetical to cultivating the character required in a free society. Starting in the 11-12th century, the West started to rediscover Aristotle. But it was in the British Enlightenment that the idea of individual judgment and individual initiative were fully appreciated in theory and widely appreciated among the populous.

In the process we see changes in how people regard and practice their religion. What you noted – i.e. people modify their religion to meet the challenges of reality – shows a great respect for reason and empirical considerations. The British (and consequently Americans) are extremely empirical in disposition.

The other question you raise is the role and nature of an ultimate goal. That’s another post. I just wanted to appreciate that Locke didn’t do what leftists do: make a moral equivalence between today’s Christianity and today’s Islam. ARI writers in the past have insinuated that we have an equal problem from both camps. I thought Locke made it clear that he sees different cultures even if Christians won’t accept his explanation for the cause of that difference. But that’s what makes them Christians while he isn’t.

9/7/06, 3:05 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I like what Friedrich has to say about the Roman Empire for its day, i.e. “up until then.” But he sees the masses as only a resentful envious lot and associates noble aristocracy with the Aristocracy. This may be more often true in Continental Europe. Here in America (and Britain) the individual (every individual) is a sovereign master in his own rite; neither master nor servant, proud but not envious, equal in stature but not station, etc. At least this was our founding ideals.

Let’s also mention that it was in Rome that Cicero (circa 80 BC) put forth the doctrines of natural right; this became a potent form of universalism. The Stoics, who advanced this notion, came to be a major force in Rome during the following four centuries. Many people would argue that Rome’s manly strength came from it ability to extend the franchise and respect the rights of a large citizenry. I wouldn’t call Rome a mere aristocracy.

The Classical Ideal, from Herodotus and Aristotle, is that there are 3 types of governments -- rule of one, rule of a few, and rule of many –- that come in both good and bad forms. Some Romans used to see their government as a synthesis of the three in their good forms. That’s a more complex picture. And our founders had some sympathy for the notion. We have an Electoral College system, a senate (originally chosen by the States), and Supreme Court that’s removed from the electoral process, in addition to the popularly elected members of Congress. It looks like the Roman ideal of a Republican government.

Islam isn’t Roman at all. It is masculine; but in a pathetic and crude manner. Honor is laudable only if what one honors is worthy of being held in esteem. The crude posturing of Islamic jihadi are laughable. Baghdad Bob is a clown. They need to be shamed for their vicious and ignoble ways. That's why we have to abandon multi-culturalism.

9/7/06, 3:36 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

The above two posts were written without time for editing. I hope they are not too terse or confused to understand.

9/7/06, 5:03 PM  
Blogger JINGOIST said...

Great post! I hope Alec and Edwin have carry permits. They have guts, that's for sure!

Morgan

9/7/06, 5:07 PM  
Blogger JINGOIST said...

VERY interesting posts Farmer John and Jason. For further insights into how the Jews felt about the Greco-Romans read the Maccabees.

Morgan

9/7/06, 5:28 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason correctly writes that we have to keep in mind what Locke means, which is that blind faith characterizes religion. Yet consider that there are religionists on this blog. *Would any one of them agree that if evidence or logic refuted a belief, he would still hold to it because of his faith?* (If one of them says so, I shall concede the validity of the definition offered.) Conversely, *if we cannot find a single religionist, whether Christian, Jew, Taoist, or Buddhist, who holds to that position, on what basis can we define religion as immunity to evidence and logic?* Moreover, if that is the definition of religion, does it include those atheists and agnostics, who are similarly immune to evidence and logic?

Next, Jason asks whether faith (in the sense of immunity to reason) relates to (the initiation of) force. I believe that these are correlated, since that is a know-nothing attitude, stemming from passions, rather than reason. So we agree that dogma and authority “lend themselves to illiberal societies.” I do not deny, but affirm, the horrendous practices that have accompanied religion. Rather I ask whether these follow from having aspirations that transcend man (such as revering truth and justice). In other words, I would treat religion at its best, when being critical of it, just as I would treat science at its best when being critical of it.

And again, I appreciate Locke’s denial of “moral equivalence between today’s Christianity and today’s Islam” and should have mentioned it. Here, Locke and I agree on the beneficial role of reason, law, etc. My question is whether these are antithetic to aspirations that are not completely derived from evidence and logic.

9/7/06, 5:45 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

My question is whether these are antithetic to aspirations that are not completely derived from evidence and logic.

Possibly or possibly not. The evidence is incomplete and so no complete derivation can be made from the evidence, leaving lots of room to theorise.

Results to date of practicing theories can be used to compare tangible results, but not provide evidence as to whether an ultimate good is derived beyond measurement and what is indeed the ultimate good is.

9/7/06, 8:02 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I think the change in emphasis in Locke’s essay in important because, as you and I have long noted, there was a tendency to conflate Christianity and Islam by some Objectivists. Indeed, some still criticize me for seeing a great difference.

Bill Visconti says:
“I also see some Objectivist influenced people making arguments that are sympathetic to the Christians. For example Jason Papas (from Libertyandculture.com) who has written some truly excellent material keeps making a recurring argument to the effect that not all religions are equal and that there are "structural" and "doctrinal" differences b/w Islam and Christianity that make Islam worse and completely incompatable with an enlightened, liberal culture. I have problems with this. “

So there is some discomfort in singling out Islam. But it is vastly different from other religious practices today.

In any case, in the first few days after 9/11, when I was discussing Islam and religion in general, I was corrected by several Catholics who reminded me that the canonical Church position is that there is no conflict between reason and faith. That, of course, is the achievement of Aquinas when he took up the cause of defending Aristotle. There is no one like him in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and consequently they’ve stagnated and fell far behind their Latin counterparts.

9/7/06, 8:50 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

By the way, that same website posted the Locke-Epstein essay; notice the difference in the discussion! Except for Jeff Perren (who has graced these pages with comments in the past) the other so far can't get off the old nonsense of equating all religions. They can't even give Daniel Pipes and others credit!!!!

9/7/06, 8:58 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

But here's a disappointing turn from Ralph Peters. He just doesn't understand Islam and wants to believe that Islam is like Judaism and Christianity. This is the flip side to those who conflate the religions and call the both equally bad today.

As Ibn Warraq says, "there are moderate Muslims but there is no moderate Islam." Here lies a profound statement that I'd wish Peters would come to grips with. I and most others understand that some Muslims are moderate. The question is how do they achieve that: by being lax or by practicing another Islam. Peters is convinced that the Jihadi have bastardized the religion and says they are only a few. But Pew Center Polls show they have vast support. He doesn't understand the distinctions that have to be made.

He's religious and in his case can't accept that a religion can be bad.

9/7/06, 9:08 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

". . .a tendency to conflate Christianity and Islam by some Objectivists. Indeed, some still criticize me for seeing a great difference."

The "conflation" (is that a word?) of Islam and Christianity derives primarily, I think, from the issue of faith per se.

The reason (no pun intended) that the Catholics (and I was one, baptized and confirmed, so I learned the catechism!) are wrong here: (". . .the canonical Church position is that there is no conflict between reason and faith. That, of course, is the achievement of Aquinas when he took up the cause of defending Aristotle.") is precisely because faith, the acceptance of something in the absence of evidence, and reason, which requires evidence in order for something to be accepted at any level - are mutually exclusive concepts.

St. Thomas was not successful at demonstrating that reason and faith are equally valid; it just about drove him crazy trying to prove that faith and reason were both valid means of acquiring knowledge. Aristotle and Plato couldn't do it, and they were the ones who had the original arguemtn; Acquinas couldn't do it; it can't be done now; and it will never be done.

Words have MEANINGS; black is not white, cold is not hot, a negative is not a positive, slavery is not freedom, and faith is not reason. They, are absolutely, completely, and forever MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE concepts!

Just a short time ago, the Church (for which I retain a certain affection) granted that Galileo wasn't - well,wrong.

What is happening is that as the world moves - not always smoothly, to be sure - in the direction of knowledge acquired through reason, the Church finds itself in the uncomfortable position of having to soften its view about reason. That's not so hard to understand when you understand that at one time in Christendom,just as in Islam today, reason was considered a sin, an act of immorality.

However, with the growing use of reason in daily life, and with the obvious benefits we gain as a result, if the Church persisted in saying things like "Galileo was wrong" and all that, people would have to make a choice: Can I have confidence in an institution that says I am compelled to believe things that fly in the face of evidence and proof?

That, I believe, is why the Church is trying to convince the Flock that reason and faith are equivalent means of acquiring knowledge. That makes it easier for people to "compartmentalize;" they can still have their faith, but not feel guilty of some grossly immoral act when using reason.

That's progress, though, and it is how Islam will one day be defeated, whether that defeat comes from its elimination as such, or whether it changes to a form that would make it unrecognizable to the likes of Mohammed or the Ayatollah Khomeini.

"Compartmentalization" is what enables even the most fiercely faithful people of other religions function with each other and with the faithless in certain parts of our lives. That would include our partnership in our current problem with Islam, in which faith knows no bounds, and no compartmentalization is possible. In Islam, faith and the state are totally fused. Faith displaces reason completely; Islam grants reason no place whatsoever in its system.

"Compartmentalization"- which allows some separation of faith and reason - is also what has enabled the Jews, a people of no small faith, and who constitute only 0.02% of the world's population, to be awarded 115 Nobel Prizes. Compare this to the number of Nobel Prizes won by Muslims, who constitute 20% of the world's population. The number - the total number - is 7 (one Egyptian was a Christian), and two of those were the Politically Correct Peace Prizes, one of which was awarded to the terrorist Yasser Arafat.

The ratio of the number of Nobel Prizes/total population in each group is a very visible contrast of the ability of faith vs. reason as a means of acquiring knowledge.

If you throw in all the gentiles who have won Nobel Prizes, the Islam/Infidel contrast becomes even greater.

Lemme see; hmmm...well, I'm no candidate for the Fields Prize, so I'll let you do the math; the Jews alone have won 115 Nobel Prizes, even though there are only about 14,000,000 in the world. The Muslims have won 7 Nobel Prizes, yet there are 1,200,000,000 in the world.

Islam's total rejection of reason is the "inequality factor" in that equation; Islam paralyzes the mind.

And for this, they blame us?

9/7/06, 10:44 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Re: Ralph Peters - yeah, that's a terrible disappointment.

It helps to recall that his "dream job" would be to be the headmaster of an Episcopal school. He is a man of great faith, and there is no doubt that he wears the "tunnel vision goggles" that afflicts so many religious people - the conviction that because they all believe in a divinity, their moral codes are somehow, way down deep, all the same, and that all we need for peace is recognize that we have this value consonance.

It isn't true, of course; the moral codes - that of the West in general (and even, to some degree, of other peoples of the world) and that of Islam - are 180 degrees apart, and like reason and faith, they can never be reconciled.

Col. Peters hasn't quite grasped this, but the upside is that even though he doesn't ascribe the little problem with Islam to Islam as a whole, he fully recognizes that there are enough who do to threaten the well being of all the rest of the world, and he's not afraid to do what's necessary to win the war.

He totally rejects the "Just War" theory so very nicely discussed by Brook and Epstein in the Objective Standard. The "Just War" theory, which is taught at all our military schools, is the Politically Correct version of war, and it's just as useful to us as Political Correctness is in our daily lives.

Despite his shortcomings, based on what I know about Peters, I'd love to see him as SecDef. He doesn't fool around when push comes to shove, which I believe is rapidly happening now.

9/7/06, 10:55 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I think Aquinas’ position wasn’t that faith and reason were identical as processes but that they both lead to the same truth, i.e. they gave the same in content. Now, I don’t agree that faith achieves that, but that seems to be his position. He argues that religion is needed because not everyone can be as smart as Aristotle. Of course, we don’t have to be as smart as Aristotle (or Newton) to learn about their achievements but that’s an angle he didn’t consider.

But I think you’ve hit the important point on “compartmentalizing” faith by keeping it private and personal. And most Christians agree.

Perhaps that’s why Peters think Muslims can do this with equal ease. In any case, you are right, he’s still a fighter and after all, you aim for the one’s who are shooting. He also doesn’t seem to be fooled by the Saudi clan … or is it klan? I “pick on him” because I respect him and offer positive criticism to move him forward (and others who respect him.) It also shows that we still have an educational effort in front of us.

9/7/06, 11:20 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Oh, yes. There was another reoccurring theme in Aquinas: religion completes reason. Reason can achieve many of the virtues the Greeks discussed but there’s more that Christianity cultivates including the ultimate goal of being with God. It’s interesting how it’s only in the last 200 years that religion has been seen as a personal and private matter, limited to personal salvation. The recent re-introduction of religion in politics rightly worries many people, including most Christians.

9/7/06, 11:38 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

However, with the growing use of reason in daily life, and with the obvious benefits we gain as a result, if the Church persisted in saying things like "Galileo was wrong" and all that, people would have to make a choice

The problem is there is no obvious benefit for Arab rulers of oil rich states to allow reason. The oil wealth provides all the benefit they can handle and they have no need of a taxable, reasoning, industrious, productive work force that may be in time be less than willing to see all of the oil income directed to the ruling family.

9/8/06, 12:30 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Cubed addresses “the issue of faith per se” claiming that “faith, the acceptance of something in the absence of evidence, and reason, which requires evidence in order for something to be accepted at any level - are mutually exclusive concepts.” He goes on to deny that faith is a valid means of acquiring knowledge. Here, he correctly points out that the Church considered reason a sin, and an act of immorality. Cubed might have noted that even today many believers are unable to simply say that the Church was wrong, as well as tyrannical.

He then asks “Can I have confidence in an institution that says I am compelled to believe things that fly in the face of evidence and proof?” (to which I would answer “Of course not”). From his perspective, there is simply no need for faith, so the best that people could achieve is compartmentalization, which permits people to disregard faith, as they follow reason. Cubed views the disparity of faith and reason as absolute, so they are competitors, where faith deserves to lose.

Jason similarly views faith and reason as competitors, where he disbelieves that “both lead to the same truth, i.e. they g[i]ve the same in content.” So he too advocates compartmentalization, which keeps faith private and personal.

Allow me to clarify the relation between faith and reason, by treating them indirectly, as dichotomies, which involve differences in kind. Examples include: mind/body, episteme/doxa, subjective/objective, theory/practice, realism/nominalism, a-priori/a-posteriori, metaphysics/epistemology, culture/ government. The components of a dichotomy, while metaphysically inseparable, are epistemologically distinct. I do this, not to complicate the discussion, but to clarify that *the components of a dichotomy are partners, rather than competitors*. All too often in philosophy, there is a tendency to think of these components as having the same ontological status, thereby trying to remove one of them, or treating components as though one merely derived from the other.

One example of employing a dichotomy as a partnership, was given by Karl Popper, in “Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge”. His view was that there are hypotheses or guesses, which are tested, leading to validation, modification, or refutation. Thus, ‘conjectures’ provide promising paths of investigation, while ‘refutations’ (or validations) determine what to conclude. Let us note that it would be misleading to say “Which is correct, the conjecture or the refutation?” or “Conjectures are unfounded, or are mutually exclusive from refutation” or that “They lead to different conclusions”. Conjectures, whether right or wrong, have been, and remain, indispensable in science. They have utilized intuition, and motivated avenues of research.

Another dichotomy has been employed by Ludwig von Mises, where he differentiates the a-priori (which we know from within) from the a-posteriori (that is validated by empirical evidence). Thus, we know that man has intentions, although whether someone operated from an intention, or did so inadvertently, is found empirically. Note again that it would be misleading to view the a-priori and the a-posteriori as competitors, where one is to remain, while the other must go, or where one is unfounded or derives from the other. It is true that the a-priori can be wrong, such as in our sense of the simultaneity of time (one of Kant’s categorical imperatives). However, without such intuitive notions, philosophy would be diminished.

The above digression was not intended to say that faith is strictly a conjecture or an a-priori view, but rather to indicate that it has the role of a component in the dichotomy of faith/reason. The former operates as an aspiration (or a summa bonum) while the latter operates as a shaping of that aspiration, even if it violates one’s faith.
This treatment does not resolve the relation between faith and reason, or adequately define the meaning of each. The means of operation of these components are different. One does not decide whether he believes he is alive, or cares for a loved one, by finding a scientific test, while one does not determine whether an accused was guilty, by having faith in man. Nor does one reject Platonic realism by requiring physical evidence of a book of truths, or of poetry whereby one would “climb the highest mountain”. To reject faith would be to reject such aspirations as truth and justice, which cannot be fully captured by empirical means, for aspirations do not complete reason, but reach beyond it. *That which we know, is less important than that which we must learn.*

9/8/06, 11:23 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

You’re taking the use of faith and reason in perhaps broader senses. It sounds like you see faith as a preliminary stage to be confirmed by or transcended by reason, similar to conjecture? And it seems that you take the ultimate purpose as something requiring faith. That’s a fairly standard viewpoint. I’d offer another viewpoint but I’d have to prepare my presentation. Of course, the other issues you raise open the discussion to a major examination of epistemology … another big project. I have to put that on the shelf for now.

By the way, Cubed is female. Perhaps you two haven’t been properly introduced.

9/8/06, 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Weingarten:

You're equivocating on the meaning of faith. Faith properly is belief in the absence of evidence. As an epistemoligical process, it reduces to the denial of rational thought. Reason and faith are mutually exclusive. Jason Papas is wrong when he says that some Christian theologians have reconciled reason and faith. It has never been done and can never be done.

You're doing what Christian theologicans have been doing for centuries. You're claiming that reason has deficiencies or limits which only faith can solve. Such is not the case. Reason and faith are not two different tools of a toolbox. Reason *is* the toolbox.

As regarding the difference between Christianity and Islam, the essential difference is that Islam is dominated by a faith based epistemology. Christianity because of its Hellenization has a mixture of reason and faith. Put another way, Islam is pure poison, Christianity is a watered down poison that will kill you just the same in the end, but because of the mixed in Enlightenment elements will take longer in doing so.

For the life of me I don't understand why Jason constantly apologizes for Christianity. Well maybe I do. But at this point it really doesn't matter.

D. Eastbrook

9/8/06, 3:10 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Eastbrook, I corrected my earlier statement by saying:

"I think Aquinas’ position wasn’t that faith and reason were identical as processes but that they both lead to the same truth, i.e. they gave the same in content. Now, I don’t agree that faith achieves that, but that seems to be his position."

It's his position, not mine.

As for Weingarten, he realizes that I don't use the word in his broad sense; I've explained that faith means "blind faith" in my book. I understand that other people use the word loosely to mean "confidence" or "hope" or something else but I don't accept that as a primary definition.

I'm still interested in what others think and I asked them to define their terms in the process. And they seem interested in understanding why I seperate out all that's achieved by reason and evidence from the process of faith, authority, and dogma.

9/8/06, 4:05 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason clarifies that I’m “taking the use of faith and reason in perhaps broader senses.” Yes, I should define my terms, and clarify why I hold them to be objective, rather than stipulative or theoretical definitions. (Note that I do not view Locke’s definition as objective, since it fails to apply to virtually any person of faith.)

My apologies to Ms. Cubed, but the fault is understandable, since one does not presume that a female is Cubed, but rather Rounded.

Eastbrook claims that “Faith properly is belief in the absence of evidence” and “reduces to the denial of rational thought” where “reason and faith are mutually exclusive.” Now on what basis does he claim that such is an objective definition? Does it apply to Isaac Newton, to Kurt Godel, to the religionists on this blog, or to myself? In each of these cases, the holders of faith accept evidence and reason as allies. We would argue that a ‘faith’ that denies evidence and reason is not faith, but insincerity. However, if Eastbrook stipulates that faith means immunity to evidence and rational thought, then he is correct by definition.

Next, Jason asks for a definition of terms. Here, I advocate the use of objective definitions, to capture what is essential. Men of faith have primarily been known for their visions, where they aspire to such ultimate values as truth, justice, decency, and righteousness. Such terms go beyond what can be captured by tangibles, although they are consistent with them. Now, I would define ‘faith’ (as serious theologians have done) as ‘an attachment to the transcendent’. This will make a rationalist see red, for it speaks of a realm that transcends reality, while the rationalist believes that reality is everything, so nothing else can exist. Yet, as I employ the term, it is the rationalist who is dogmatic, rather than the man of faith.

To clarify, let me address the world of mathematics. To the realist, reason & evidence apply solely to what actually exists. So there is no such thing as a straight line, a circle, or a triangle, but only objects that are approximated by them. Yet how can they approximate anything, since they don’t exist? A straight line is infinitely divisible, but nothing in reality is. Even if you say that we can divide a line many times, it is a leap to speak of infinite divisibility. A few years ago, I argued with an objectivist mathematician, who claimed that there was no such thing as ‘pi’, but only finite sequences, such as 3.14 that approximated it. Similarly, there was no such thing as ‘e’ but only sequences that approximated it, such as 2.718. Furthermore, there was no such thing as ‘i’, which was only a concept of method. (I shall not go into the physical interpretations of ‘i’ as displayed within electrical engineering.) Let us note however, that pure mathematicians live in the transcendent realm, where they find such relations as ‘e’ raised to the power of ‘pi i’ equals –1. Not only are they not helped by viewing these ideals as approximations, but they could not be guided in their reasoning unless they had concepts of completed infinities. Moreover, consistently, their creations (such as calculus, orders of infinity, probability, multi and fractionally-dimensional geometry, nonstandard mathematics, etc., etc.) were denounced by realists as lacking justification. Similarly, Einstein’s imaginary flight on a beam of light could only be considered as departing from the constraints of reality.

*People of faith live in the transcendent realm of ideals that are not viewed in tangible terms; their visions are intuitive, allusive, and poetic.* The problem for the realist is not to decry their admitted lack of reality, but to explain why such approaches can be so productive. Why for example is it so helpful to use straight lines and circles, if they don’t exist? Why does the physicist ultimately reduce matter to the equations of models, which lack any physical existence? Why does the visionary encounter a sense of justice for which people will give their lives, when the ideal of justice has no physical counterpart? How did religionists derive such concepts as freedom of conscience, or the inalienable rights of the individual, when there was no physical residence for such ideals?

At any rate, I submit that life in the transcendent realm provides aspirations which have not been formed by strict reliance on realities. It permits going beyond what we deem as reality, to form visions which in turn determine what becomes our reality. To lump this faith with authority & dogma is akin to lumping poetry with thought-control, and Ayn Rand with fascism.

9/8/06, 7:50 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

We’re getting into another area. I don’t accept that concepts are unreal just because in their formation one abstracts away specific magnitude. This is a type of Platonic viewpoint. Real circles do exist given a specified degree of precision. For example, to 4 mils, one can make a physical circle, i.e. deviations less than 4 mils are negligible and everything that holds for circles is true to that degree.

I noticed you referred to Popper’s epistemology in an earlier post. He denies that knowledge is established; in his view generalities are only refuted or not yet found to be refuted. According to this viewpoint, Newton’s mechanics was refuted by relativity and quantum mechanics. Whereas I’d say that Newton’s laws hold in a context of knowledge – one of precision – to order of (v/c) squared. What makes more sense?

There’s an Australian philosopher who was a major critic of Popper. He described Popper’s view of the history of knowledge -- not as the advance and increase of knowledge -- but as the creation of a mountain of dead theories. It’s an amusing way of putting it but he has a point.

Does it make sense, on the first pass, to put Newton’s mechanics in the category of “false” along with Alchemy and Astrology? Or does it belong in the category with relativity and quantum mechanic? Should we consider it a different kind of falsity than Astrology? Or should we consider both Newton’s mechanics and relativity as kinds of knowledge -- valid in their respective realms (i.e. contexts of precision)? I’d argue that the differentiation of validity, by domains of precision, is more natural, centered, and correct. Isn’t there good reason that engineers still study Newton’s mechanics and not Alchemy?

Now this seems to get away from the topic at hand; but it doesn’t, really. I’d argue that the fundamental epistemological distinction is between warranted means of establishing knowledge and mere acceptance (either feeling or faith.) I understand some people use the word “faith” as a noun for the groups of doctrines and practices that make-up a religion regardless of their cognitive standing but that’s another used of a overloaded word that has so many meaning.

As a process, the fundamental question is: do you want evidence or is it not required? The former commits one to search for a proper means of acquiring knowledge. One needs concepts, to distinguish the former (reason) from the latter, which has many variants depending on the non-rational source of one’s choosing. That captures the fundamental decision we face even if it doesn’t scratch the surface of what’s required in any detail.

I have no objections to overloaded words; one just has to know which version one is using. But one should also know what is fundamentally most important and insure that there is a word to make that distinction.

9/8/06, 10:24 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason denies any difference-in-kind between ideal circles and real circles, viewing their differences as matters of degree (as when one approximates pi by 3.14). Yet if one cannot recognize the difference-in-kind between that which is ideal, and that which is real, he overlooks the very essence of what differentiates mathematics & logic from the empirical disciplines. What makes pi important to mathematicians is not its closeness to 3.14, but that it is a completed infinite decimal expansion. Jason might as well say that there is no difference-in-kind between a completed infinity and a finite decimal. *Well, if the difference between the finite and the infinite is merely one of degree, then there is no such thing as a difference-in-kind.* The very notion of a mathematical or logical proof is quite different from an empirical proof. There is simply no measurement or approximation that will suffice to show that there is no largest prime number. Apparently Jason thinks that a real circle, defined by (x squared + y squared) = r squared, exists in the same sense as the circumference of a dime. Would he find a geometric proof about circles by measurements on dimes?

Now I addressed Popper’s view on conjectures and refutations. Jason points out that Popper denies that knowledge is established. *That is an error on Popper’s part, but it does not indicate any mistake regarding the difference-in-kind, or the partnership, between a conjecture and a refutation.* (To repeat, conjectures and refutations are the components of a dichotomy.) So whereas I concur that Newton’s laws hold in a context of knowledge, that does not indicate that conjectures and refutations are merely differences in degree, nor that conjectures do not contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge.

Now Jason claims that there is a fundamental distinction between establishing knowledge and mere acceptance, by which he rejects ‘faith’ as the latter. Yet this fails to note the different role played by conjecture and refutation (or hypothesis and proof). Note that we cannot prove or refute a hypothesis without there being a conjecture to begin with. Moreover, proofs are not solely a matter of empirical approximations, but include mathematical derivations, particularly in areas where empirical measurements cannot be performed.

Jason goes on to ask “do you want evidence or is it not required?”. Since I have asseverated the indispensable role of evidence & reason, I can only conclude that he believes I have claimed that faith is their competitor (rather than their partner).
Moreover, I have stated that when faith is refuted by evidence, it is the faith that must be rejected. To illustrate, there are Jews and Christians who claim that the messiah is going to arrive (not allegorically, but) physically. They merely differ as to whether he has been here before. Yet let us suppose that tomorrow a huge comet (or an anti-matter object) is going to destroy the earth. Will they still say that the messiah is going to come, and will establish a messianic age? My contention is that those with faith (by which I require sincerity) will acknowledge that he won’t arrive. Those who claim that the comet does not exist are not exhibiting faith, but rather wishful thinking.

Finally, Jason writes “I have no objections to overloaded words; one just has to know which version one is using. But one should also know what is fundamentally most important and insure that there is a word to make that distinction.” Now I have defined ‘faith’ as ‘an attachment to the transcendent’ and stated why that is the proper definition. If Jason wishes to make his case, shouldn’t he define his terms, and state why his version is proper?

Cubed claims that it is compartmentalization that explains the disproportionate contribution of the Jews, which she gauges by recipients of Nobel prizes. Now I do believe that there should be a distinction between faith and reason, but that does not show that the contributions are due to compartmentalization. Perhaps Cubed would adduce arguments to support her position?

*My belief is that the Jews have been visionaries, which is precisely a matter of holding a transcendent view.* To them, the physical world was a reflection of the Beyond, in partial analogy to a physicist who sees the physical world as a reflection of abstract models. Moreover, long before there were nations or science (let alone Nobel prizes) the Jews were at the fount of civilization. It was their moral vision, where God was displeased with murder, theft, lying, coveting, etc., that differentiated them from other peoples. Many other people rejected immoral behavior on an experiential basis, but the Jews derived this on transcendent ground.

It is true that the Jews have disproportionately contributed to science (as well as art & industry). However, what was more important was their contribution to Christianity, which as an aside provided the best scientists, artists and industrialists. (This is not to deny the contributions of those who were neither Jews nor Christians.) Both have contributed to the formation of the greatest nation on earth, with our republic, and the inalienable rights of the individual. There has then been a strong correlation between the people of faith, and their contributions. This should challenge those who see faith as their enemy, for they should have expected that the peoples who lacked such faith would have been the one’s to make the greatest contributions to civilization and science, etc.

Again, whereas something is demonstrated by the Nobel prizes, such as the disparity between Jews & Christians and Muslims, there are more fundamental considerations. Perhaps the most pertinent contributions for dealing with the problems of the world are Objectivism and Austrian economics. Here, I do not think it a coincidence that their theoreticians are primarily of Jewish origin (while secondarily of Christian origin). Ayn Rand (Alicia Rosenbaum), Ludwig von Mises, et al, did not view themselves as Jews, nor do virtually any Objectivist and Austrian theoreticians. Nonetheless, they have inherited the visions and missions of their forefathers, be they of truth, justice, or righteousness.

Yet, as we consider the contributions and potential contributions of the Jews, we ought to also consider their failings. Jews have been the primary theoreticians of socialism, and now social democracy. The latter is the fundamental problem of our age, for it has enabled Islam, and protected it from attack. Christianity has similarly viewed Islam as warranting respect and support, rather than bestowing the retribution it deserves. Yet again, the prime culprits are the theoreticians, and these are primarily of Jewish origin.

At any rate, my concern is neither to commend, nor to blame, but to point to the central role of visions and aspirations. To treat these as irrelevant, or as of lesser import than reason and evidence, is to overlook what is most important in the war of ideas, namely what one lives for.

9/9/06, 11:59 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I had written "Allow me to clarify the relation between faith and reason, by treating them indirectly, as dichotomies, which involve differences in kind. Examples include: mind/body, episteme/doxa,...culture/government."

It occurs to me that I didn't differentiate differences-in-kind from differences-in-degree. Allow me to define a "dualism" as a difference-in-degree, such as hot/cold or short/tall. I acknowledge that the terms "dichotomy" and "dualism" are often used interchangeably, or are not defined at all, where they simply refer to a pair. However, I am stipulating that they now refer to differences-in-kind and differences-in-degree respectively.

What is clear about a dualism is that there is a gradual change from one component to the other, as when a cold object is heated until it becomes a hot object, or when a short person grows until he becomes a tall person. There is no clear-cut separation between cold and hot, such as at 70 degrees, for one simply transitions into the other.

Conversely, in a dichotomy, one component does not become the other, and there is a clear-cut separation. Thus, no matter how many decimal places are given of pi, it never becomes a completed infinite decimal expansion. Even if one takes a zillion digits, the finite decimal is no more a completed expansion than is one with 2 decimal places. Another example is where the mind decides that a statement is true, whereas a body, no matter how developed, cannot render that decision.

Why does it matter whether there is a difference-in-kind or a difference-in-degree? The former indicates the imperative to work with its components using different methods, such as when we employ logical or empirical techniques (or a combination of them). We differentiate between saying that 'since John is a bachelor, he cannot be married', and that 'John cannot be married because he never encountered any candidate.'

Now others needn't accept my formulation. However, when they claim that something is a difference-in-degree or a difference-in-kind, it would be helpful if they defined their terms, and showed how to tell them apart.

9/9/06, 1:46 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

A few points before we proceed further. You take difference-in-degree and difference-in-kind as mutually exclusive. This doesn’t allow for something to be a judged as different-in-kind because it's difference in degree is great enough to warrant such a judgment. Objectivism implicitly allows such a judgment; indeed, it often requires it since we often have to differentiate between commensurate objects on a continuum. A stool and a table are topologically equivalent but the difference in degree is great enough that they are different in kind and normally suitable for two different purposes.

There are matters that have virtually no conceptual common denominator: (i.e. width and sweetness, anguish and telephones, etc.) But these distinctions are not the focus of deliberation.

Secondly, it still isn’t clear how you use the concept of conjecture and why it is important. There are conjectures and there are conjectures. If one extrapolates beyond the domain of an established law, one has a conjecture. If after examination, one realized that a combination of elements might create a solution to a problem, one has a conjecture. Tentative statements, partial patterns, and intermediate steps in an investigation involve conjectures. None of these are completely out of the blue. They are not arbitrary but they are also not yet established. The completely arbitrary conjecture, the conjecture that ignores long-establish knowledge, the hope based on little when more fruitful avenues are open, all suggest questionable conjectures.

Conjecture isn’t a fundamental epistemological category.

Rather than go into detail about geometry, you still didn’t do justice to the notion that all circles, which you call idealized or not, are worthy of study while astrology should not be on the list of matters of such respectability. Do you see astrology in the same category as geometry: conjectures? Or would your answer depend on whether one has seen the refutation of astrology. Thus, an extrapolation of Newton’s laws to high velocities, statements about circles in geometry that seem to hold in every case but not yet proven, and astrology for those when it was first created, are all conjectures worthy of consideration in your view.

Even in the course of an investigation, the source of the conjecture is important. There can be unlimited number of conjectures. Given finite time you need to decide which have a respectable origin that warrants the time and effort to study them. The idea of conjecture, divorced from reality, is too broad. Reality suggests, metaphorically speaking, what is worth pursuing.

That's a quick write-up; I'll check what I wrote later but it raises concerns with your conceptual division.

9/10/06, 8:33 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason writes that a difference-in-kind can result from a great difference-in-degree, and illustrates this by how a stool can be modified into a table. That is the case, but let us note that stool/table is neither a dualism as is hot/cold, nor a dichotomy as is mind/body. When I spoke about conjecture/refutation (or hypothesis/validation) I was dealing with fundamental categories of thought. Here, just as 3.14 cannot become a completed infinite decimal expansion, the components of a dichotomy cannot turn from one into the other.

Next, he writes “it still isn’t clear how you use the concept of conjecture and why it is important.” It is the conjecture that yields promising paths for investigation, and provides guides prior to validation, as well as indicating what to validate. Jason notes that there are questionable conjectures and fruitless conjectures, as though that would deny the indispensable role of sound conjectures. Note that when I raised the notions of faith that had conceptions of truth, justice, righteousness, I was not referring to aspirations that were arbitrary or fruitless, but to those that were at the fount of civilization. Similarly, in mathematics, I mentioned several conjectures that in time led to significant advances. *Do I understand Jason to be claiming that conjectures are unnecessary in science because there are poor or fruitless conjectures?*

Then he notes that “Conjecture isn’t a fundamental epistemological category. Clearly, no component of a dichotomy is “a fundamental epistemological category” nor is any given dichotomy. The fundamental epistemological category is “dichotomy”. Perhaps Jason is suggesting that dichotomies (or fundamental differences-in-kind) do not exist, or should not be differentiated from differences-in-degree, or do not constitute a fundamental epistemological category?

Next, Jason says I didn’t do justice to the notion that circles are worthy of study, while astrology is not. Surely as a mathematician I appreciate the study of circles, while astrology is pure superstition, and is not even consistent within its own formulations. *I have no idea what I could have said that would indicate any respect for astrology, which is unworthy of consideration.* Moreover, I have agreed with Jason about the virtues of Newton, whom I have referred to as the greatest scientist there ever was. The imperative of conjectures and hypotheses does not in any way presume that all of them are worth considering. Should I conclude that Jason’s recognition of fruitless conjectures means that there should be no conjectures at all? *Would he deny the fruitfulness of the Riemann hypothesis or the Goldbach conjecture?*

Somehow Jason claims that I favor conjectures that are divorced from reality, or that I do not differentiate between those that are promising, and those that are not worth the time and effort to be studied. Conjectures are imperative precisely because they are necessary to determine which areas are worth investigating. (In seeking designs for computer/communications, one cannot investigate all possible candidates, but employs conjectures that are promising for finding near-optimal solutions; in mathematics, a fruitful conjecture for the decimal expansion of a transcendental number is that of a random sequence of digits.)

I welcome criticism of my position, but cannot find it in statements that: there are matters with no conceptual common denominator (which I agree with), there are poor conjectures (which I agree with), ‘conjecture’ is not a fundamental epistemological category (which I agree with), astrology is unworthy of consideration (which I agree with), Newton’s laws hold (which I agree with), or that conjectures shouldn’t be divorced from reality (which I agree with).

One can criticize my position by showing: there are no dichotomies (or fundamental differences-in-kind); hypotheses are not different from proofs; conjectures are not helpful in science; visions and aspirations are not important for man.

9/10/06, 11:34 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

It seems that you’re agreeing with me: what is important is whether something is well-founded or not. Even conjectures, if based on reality (but not yet conclusive) are warranted avenues for investigation.

Overall, I sense that I might find your epistemological criteria too stringent and that pushes some concepts or statements into the category of faith (on your part) that I would include in knowledge. Once in the category of faith (which you define broader than mere belief) you make further distinctions to avoid many of the things that we agree that are absurdities. Is that the way our difference seems to you?

Back in March, I wrote about the difference-in-degree and difference-in-kind approach to singling out Islam from respectable ideologies. I mentioned how the religious will use the latter while the secular will appeal to the former. And if we face reality, we both can agree “The first order of business is to fact the fact that there is a vast difference between them [Islam] and us [the West]; then we can move on to the question of what has made our culture great. The latter should be an enjoyable and ongoing debate.” … “Blind faith is required to support an oppressive religious ideology. The nature of Islam requires this methodology. Religion in the West has accepted the coin of reason in everyday affairs while the Greco-Roman tradition, which dominated secular thought before the rise of relativism, provided a solid foundation for the ethical truths that were once widely accepted.”

Let me get back to that in the next post.

9/10/06, 12:34 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

It was their moral vision, where God was displeased with murder, theft, lying, coveting, etc., that differentiated them from other peoples.

Actually, this is not correct. Let’s take murder, which is defined as unlawful killing. Many societies had such a concept. In Aristotle’s day there was such a thing as murder. Of course, the question arises: what is unlawful killing? In Exodus lawful killing is so prevalent and mandated to such a broad number of infractions that it is hardly a document of civilized behavior. As soon as Moses comes down from the mount with the Ten Commandments and sees the worship of the Golden Calf, he orders the ritualistic death of one male from each tent.

The Judeo-Christian model of ethics is a paternal authoritative model. God issues commandments to be obeyed, just as a father might issue the rules for children to follow regardless if they understand or agree. These laws of issued by Divine fiat – God’s positive law. They are not discovered, proved, or justified. They story of Exodus fits the purpose of such law-giving. The Jews [in Exodus] are free for the first time in their lives with little practice or preparation for such liberty. They can’t handle this freedom: they haven’t had the opportunity to cultivate character required to meet the challenges of liberty. They are like children requiring stipulations and guidelines.

Aristotle, on the other hand, is writing as a citizen in a fairly free and developed society. The question is no longer: should we condemn theft and murder? He’s taking that for granted and describing how to live life to the fullest in a civilized regime.

Leo Strauss has an excellent review of ethical history (“Natural Right and History”) in which he compares the Judeo-Christian tradition with the Greco-Roman tradition. The idea of natural law is Greco-Roman. Here the great thinkers wanted to understand what laws lead to human flourishing just as they wanted to understand what medical laws lead to human health. Philosophy influenced Judaism and Christianity during the first three centuries AD, but most importantly Aquinas rediscovered and furthered the notions of natural law and natural right.

The difference centers on whether ethical laws are stipulated by God independent of man’s nature or whether ethical laws are determined by man’s nature. During the Enlightenment, we find a viewpoint the holds that since God created man’s nature, the laws discovered by investigating man’s nature must be the same revealed by sacred texts. Thus, the founders talked about “nature’s God.” This viewpoint allowed reality to be the final check and override sacred texts even if adherents often maintained that they weren’t changing the meaning of the texts. Thus, natural law triumphed. Unfortunately, after Hume’s naturalistic fallacy and Kant’s deontological ethics, stipulated ethics became the norm with society substituting for God.

All societies had the earlier phases of paternal stipulations, to be accepted on authority and dogmatically embraced. However, it was the Greco-Roman culture that introduced the idea that ethical laws must be based on nature. In this way one can weed out the mistakes, refine the good laws, and define the scope and limits of the law. After all, even religious people have to decide which religion makes sense. Doesn’t that require a standard beyond religion?

This doesn’t mean that one can’t find inspiration from literature, religious or sacred. Often good literature reflects an important truth about reality. Notice how I see Exodus as a good description of the needs of a people with no experience with freedom. Thus, I see little hope for those in Afghanistan or Iraq because of the history of deprivation. How can they vote for a liberal regime and maintain one if they are given it?

I think the broad notion of a reality informed belief-system that subject to the test of rational analysis is very Greco-Roman in spirit.

What do you think?

9/10/06, 12:38 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason writes that what is important is whether something is well-founded or not. That is correct, but conjectures are founded not only on evidence and reason, but on subjective considerations as well. (Were a conjecture merely that which was necessitated by evidence and reason, it would not be a conjecture, but a fact.) Thus a vision can be sensed in terms of how inspiring and uplifting it is, as well as by extrapolating from past experience. Scientists, artists, doctors, and entrepreneurs, attempt to convey and employ intuition, as well as dealing with tangible considerations.

Jason thinks that my epistemological criteria are stringent, and questions whether the distinctions I make explain our differences. That is not the way it seems to me, but rather that I am addressing something that is more fundamental.

As an aside, he questions what differentiated the Jews from other peoples, writing that in Exodus there was lawful killing. Yet “Thou shalt not kill” always allowed for differences between murder, which was unjustified, and other killings which were justified. Self-defense killing was advocated, as well as preemptive strikes, even on the Sabbath. Killing those who worshipped the Golden Calf was viewed as obligatory. *More significant is that this does not address my point, which was that the moral vision of the Jews was derived on a transcendent basis, where it was demanded by God.* One can criticize this as paternal and authoritative, but that in no way denies that it was treated as revealed, rather than as man made.

Yet this issue (while worthwhile) is far removed from what I raised (but is a queston as to what occurred in history). Let me then reiterate my position, and show why I view it as unassailable.

I concluded my previous entry with “One can criticize my position by showing: there are no dichotomies (or fundamental differences-in-kind); hypotheses are not different from proofs; conjectures are not helpful in science; visions and aspirations are not important for man.” Now, there are things that must be taken as given, for their denial is contradictory. We cannot argue that there are no intentions, since that argument presupposes an intention (to show something). Similarly, we cannot prove that there is no such thing as a proof.

Let us suppose someone claims there are no differences-in-kind, but only differences-in-degree. He is then stating that the former doesn’t exist, while the latter does. This presupposes a difference between what doesn’t exist (say a unicorn) and what does exist (say a horse). Yet that constitutes a difference-in-kind, not a difference-in-degree (unless one can transform a unicorn into a horse, or a horse into a unicorn).

Next, consider that someone denies a particular dichotomy, such as between a hypothesis and its validation. For example, we consider a man who thinks he might find a drink down the road. He might do so, or might not. In either case, he followed his hypothesis, which cannot be the same as its validation or refutation. It could not have been validated if it were known to be true (for how could one know something to be true without validation); it could not have been refuted if it were known to be false (for how could one know something to be false without refutation). Moreover, unless there was the view that one might find a drink, he would never have walked down the road.

Similarly, the value in conjectures, visions, and aspirations, are self-evident, for they cannot be avoided when attempting to ascertain what is unknown. To prove or refute a candidate theorem, one posits its existence which is a conjecture (as with Goldbach’s conjecture). Without a vision of discovery, or the aspiration to discover, one would not make the attempt to begin with. Were someone to try to show that visions and aspirations were unnecessary, he would be following a vision and aspiration for carrying out his plan.

Note that these considerations are not based on stringent epistemological criteria or philosophical distinctions. Man has no alternative but to employ dichotomies (including that of hypothesis/refutation) and to rely on conjectures, visions and aspirations. To deny this is to affirm it.

9/10/06, 5:16 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Still, Allen, I don’t quite understand your distinction. Clearly, knowledge grows. In the course of that growth, one has partial knowledge that awaits completion. One must proceed with caution in this case. If I understand you correctly, you put many (if not all) ethical concepts in the category (justice being one you mentioned.) I don’t see these ethical concepts as questionable by being partially lacking support (and requiring faith.) Thus, I come back to the question of whether you remove such concepts from being of reality and put them in part or complete in the realm of transcendent (being beyond reality.)

Your examples don’t quite get to the problem. You select matter which are digital and thus you return to you differences-in-kind. Let’s take another example. If you read John Locke’s essay in toleration (a landmark on the subject) he doesn’t extend toleration to atheists and Catholics. He understood the rationale for toleration but couldn’t see the full range of its applicability. He believed Catholics were in the service of a foreign power, the Pope. Eventually, Catholics and atheists were accepted as having the same rights (in the UK and America.)

Thus, most knowledge about human affairs is extended, enriched, or modified during the course of history. Locke made gains but didn’t go far enough. So did our founding fathers. This seems like a better example to discuss the nature of ethical knowledge.

9/10/06, 8:11 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason:
We are really talking past one another. I had presented a view, employing certain definitions, where faith and reason were partners. This was based on the notions of dichotomies, conjectures, etc., to which you objected. Those objections stated that: there are matters with no conceptual common denominator, there are poor conjectures, ‘conjecture’ is not a fundamental epistemological category, astrology is unworthy of consideration, Newton’s laws hold, and that conjectures shouldn’t be divorced from reality. *Not one of these displayed any flaw in my position, which affirms all of them.*

So I then mentioned how one could argue against my view on dichotomies, conjectures etc., and went on to write why such arguments were self-contradictory. Here, you might have addressed the fundamentals of dichotomies, conjectures, etc. Yet instead, you write about: the growth of knowledge; ethical concepts; the realm of the transcendent; Catholics in the service of a foreign power; and the nature of ethical knowledge. Those are worthwhile considerations, but *since the source of our contention is on the fundamental level of categories of thought, they are not pertinent.* I can only conclude (unless you say otherwise) that you believe: there are no dichotomies, there is no difference between a hypothesis and a refutation, that conjectures are not helpful in science, and visions & aspirations are not important for man. Moreover, you appear to believe that these statements can be proven by speaking about the growth of knowledge, ethical concepts, etc. (On the other hand, you might simply find no need to address my position, in which case it is perfectly sound to write about anything else that you choose.)

Well, I do not think that my view has been addressed. However, I can instead address the view that you presented, which employs your definitions. You wrote that it is blind faith that accounts for Islam, while “Religion in the West has accepted the coin of reason. Here, the Greco-Roman tradition, which dominated secular thought before the rise of relativism, provided a solid foundation for the ethical truths that were once widely accepted…The Judeo-Christian model of ethics is a paternal authoritative model” where the Jews are like children. Aristotle on the other hand describes how to live to the fullest in a civilized regime. Then philosophy influences Judaism and Christianity toward natural law, where our founders talked about nature’s God. Thus reality became the final check, overriding sacred texts. So Judaism and Christianity were initially inferior, authoritarian and dogmatic, while Greco-Roman culture spelled success.

Now let us oversimplify your position as stating that 'faith is bad, while reason is good'. We should then expect that those with faith would do poorly, while those with reason would do well (where we subtract for faith and add for reason). Our first historic prediction would have been that Jews & Christians would have perished, as have most peoples. (As an aside, Arnold Toynbee wrote that Jews are an anachronism, and will disappear.) Yet instead the great civilizations of Greece and Rome no longer exist (today’s Greeks and Romans only pretend to be the descendents of those civilizations). Similarly, ancient Egypt and Babylonia no longer exist. Yet the people of faith, the Jews & Christians, are still here. Shouldn’t it have been the people of reason who survived?

Next, we would have predicted that the people of faith would not have contributed proportionately to the world. Yet they have contributed disproportionately with regard to values, knowledge, industry, etc.

Finally, it is puzzling why our founders took the Bible so seriously, when all that was needed was Nature’s God? If it was solely natural law that led them to revere justice, and to declare that all men had inalienable rights, why did they state “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” Apparently, they were not men of reason, for those would have said ‘We hold these Truths to be demonstrated by natural law, that all Men require comparable legal status, because their innate nature requires the positing of certain rights which we have not as yet fully defined.’

9/11/06, 10:23 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

The reason I moved on to the nature of knowledge in general instead of focusing on the concept of dichotomy was because I can’t seem to get a global view of your philosophy of knowledge. I don’t see where you’re going and how the elements fit into the whole. The word dichotomy itself is an interesting choice. It isn’t mere difference. It tends to be employed to indicate opposing or clashing differences. For example, most secular philosophers would take reason and faith to be dichotomies while you don’t. Thus, it mere begs the question. That’s why I was trying to get a sense of the whole and I presented a very brief description (or hint of a description) of my view as a contrast.

Your description of history is interesting but the analysis is missing. It’s true that most people in the West over the last 1700 years have called themselves Christians. But one has to do an attribution analysis before one can attribute achievements or failures to the religion or to other factors. That’s a daunting task. As an analogy let me remind you that it’s the same problem with America’s economics history. We called our system Capitalism but we’d have to do an attribution analysis before we can credit (or blame) specifics on the dominant element or the deviations (i.e. regulations and subsidies) that always existed. (Often the failures were do to deviations but the dominant element was blamed.)

If I gave a global summary, I might talk about the greatness of Rome during its Pagan days (up to 300 AD), the decline of the West when secular Greco-Roman culture was suppressed (particularly the Dark Ages: 500-1000 AD), the 12th century Renaissance with incorporation of Aristotle into Scholastic learning, the 15th century Renaissance, the setbacks of the Reformation and religious wars of the 16th century, the Age of Reason and the empirical spirit of the British Enlightenment, the counter Enlightenment (starting with Kant,) and the corruption/decay from post-modern thought.

But if I did that I still wouldn’t have proven anything. After all, the same criticism holds. What is attributed to the religious element, what is attributed to the secular-rationalist element, and what is attributed to the secular-irrationalist (post-modern) element? It suggests my view by the description but it doesn’t prove anything. I don’t think this approach is easy.

I’m still curious about how you see knowledge growing, what you hold as knowledge, how you see faith supplementing (or aiding) reason, etc. You used words like aspiration and transcendence. The latter suggest moving beyond reality but that may not be your usage. What’s “real” in your book.

Arguing is fine and I enjoy it. But, without trying to convince you of anything, I’d like to know how you put everything together to get a total picture or worldview. I’d prefer a description instead of a debate since the former better aids understanding and the latter is best suited for a micro-analysis to deal with an isolated point. Don’t you think?

9/11/06, 11:17 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason:
You write that you cannot get a global view of my philosophy. I am enough of an egoist to endlessly go into my outlook (and will give a brief outline later on). However, before going into a discussion, there must be agreement on certain bases. Allow me to clarify one basis. If someone reasons about a chair, there must be an actual chair, and the thought-of-a-chair. Note that the chair can never become the thought-of-a-chair or vice-versa. Yet both components are indispensable for reasoning about a chair. This is not a matter of epistemology nor of philosophical distinctions. Rather, to deny it is self-contradictory. Thus reasoning presupposes a dichotomy. Similarly, one would not engage in reasoning without a purpose for doing so. Thus, purpose/reasoning forms another dichotomy. Again, the purpose for reasoning cannot be identical to the reasoning itself, nor vice-versa. Their difference cannot be of degree, but of kind. Now you mention your getting a view of my philosophy. This presupposes the dichotomy of you/me, where neither of us can become the other. (Even if you were to become me, we would not be having a discussion, for me would then be talking to me.)

I do not fathom how anyone can take issue with this, unless I am unclear. Perhaps my presentation is poor, for how else could you write to me that “most secular philosophers would take reason and faith to be dichotomies while you don’t.” I thought that I defined the way I used the term, and wrote several times that *faith/reason is a dichotomy* (which is why they constitute a partnership rather than competitors).

Next you write that my description of history lacks an analysis. I thought I was engaging in your analysis, namely if you held that faith was detrimental, you would have expected those with faith to have done poorly. Surely, if you attribute survival and contribution to other factors, it wouldn’t follow. I presumed that your attribution, ala Ayn Rand, would have been to the predominant beliefs.

You ask how I see knowledge growing. It is the same way as most everyone does. One aspect is by conjecture and refutation (or hypothesis and validation). Promising pathways are given, and then tested. I do not think this is disputable. Many of these conjectures are shown to be wrong, such as Einstein’s cosmological constant, which he viewed as his greatest blunder, but which recently has proven promising. Hilbert’s program (which virtually all mathematicians agreed with) included the aim to prove that mathematics is consistent, leading to the valuable refutation by Godel which proved that this could not be done.

However, this is not a theory or creation of mine, but is taken as given by most scientists.

It is also evident that knowledge grows because of *aspirations* to find the truth or to secure justice. There is a difference between those (such as yourself) who care about truth & justice, and those with an agenda (to make a point, or secure an advantage, or gain funding). Don’t you think that the aspiration to bring about what ought to be is helpful?

As to the difference between ‘real’ and ‘transcendent’ that is not complicated. Socrates and Plato (as well as all mystics) have found it effective to conjure up a realm beyond reality that provides a means for understanding it. Here, one can view that realm as etiological or actual. This is analogous to whether a mathematical circle exists, or is merely a helpful concept. A Platonic-realist believes it exists, while Ayn Rand might view it as a concept of method. Both however would take advantage of those circles. (There might be no castles in the sky, but we will not discard the rent we obtain from them.)

At any rate, although I am pleased to debate and argue, I do not find the above to be any more controversial than saying ‘There is a chair, and an idea of a chair, and these are not differences-in-degree.’

Finally, you write “I’d like to know how you put everything together to get a total picture or worldview.” That is an insightful request, but it would involve an extensive conversation, which is unlikely to be of interest to your readers. However, my method is somewhat analogous to an axiomatic system, where I begin with SINCERITY (which an individual knows from within) and on that basis derive morality, philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy), civilization, which in turn covers Objectivism, Conservatism, Libertarianism, method, science, systems, etc. This is not quite axiomatic, since many concepts are interdependent and evolving. Thus, it is more akin to organic growth, where different components evolve together.

Nonetheless, I do believe that each individual should form his own Weltanschauung, from his primaries to his conclusions. He would then not only have a clearer idea of who he is, but would be better able to systematically converse with others. By the way, how do you put everything together to get a total picture or worldview?

9/11/06, 2:56 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Doggone it, Jason, there you go,blowing my cover!

"My apologies to Ms. Cubed, but the faultis understandable, since one does not presume that a female is Cubed, but rather Rounded."

Weingarten, no apologies are necessary!I actually enjoy it when I am mistaken (in my writing) for a man - I am as aware as the next person of the stereotype, but I don't take it personally. After all, the stereotype is a generalization derived from real,
demonstrable, biologically-based and statistically significant differences in the concerns and manner of thinking between men and women.

There is some overlap, and sometimes, the kind of thinking I enjoy falls into the area of the overlap.

Re: "Cubed" vs."Rounded" - about 20 pounds TOO "rounded" to suit me!

Weingarten, you said "Cubed claims that it is compartmentalization that explains the disproportionate
contribution of the Jews, which she gauges by recipients of Nobel prizes. Now I do believe that there should be a distinction between faith and reason, but that does not show that the contributions are due to compartmentalization. Perhaps Cubed would adduce arguments to support her position?"

Oh, boy, I hope I can be easonably brief.

Maybe I didn't make myself entirely clear.

The primary question, which I think is understood, isn't "Why are Jews disproportionately
represented among Nobel Prize winners," it's "Why is it that
some people of faith are intellectually stuck in the mud
while others are able to produce so much intellectually?"

I choose the "disproportionate number of Jews" vis a vis Muslims simply because the number of Nobel Prizes won by each population is
such a convenient, easily reconized measure of intellectual activity, and the figures were
readily available to me. As I said, if the other infidel winners
had been thrown into the hopper, the distinction between Islam and other religions would be even greater.

I do maintain that "compartmentalization," a process of "setting aside" faith as a means of acquiring knowledge, is a crucial distinction between the religious achievers and the religious non-achievers. The degree to which a person of faith can do this is the degree to which he can disentangle opposing notions of how to acquire knowledge, and stick to reason.

I think it's useful to say that high intelligence alone doesn't account for the difference; Muslims have the same "brain genes" as the rest of Homo sapiens, and obviously, there are many Muslims of very high
intelligence. We can discern that even in the absence of a long list of Nobelists, so we have to look for some other cause for the differences in achievement.

Islam adheres to faith in every aspect of life more tightly than any other large population. It
actually forbids the use of reason, insofar as it can.

It can't totally discard the basic "machinery" of reason, though, such as low-level concept formation, because that capacity is inborn and at the lowest level, hard to avoid; the capacity for reason is "in our genes." It's what our brains DO.

Even a Muslim can figure out that a "camel" and a "bird" are both animals, or that a "chair" and a "table" are both "furniture."

In order to do much better than that, though, we have to refine our capacity for reason, practice it, study it, and really work on it.

High-level concept formation requires greater reasoning skill than low-level concept formation does.

Concepts such as "justice," "rights," "the meaning of life"and "the nature of the universe" require a HUGE effort.

Low-level concept formation is so easy that it comes reasonably close to running on automatic; with relatively little effort, a child learns language, how to count, and so forth, while high-level concept-formation doesn't come so easily.

You know the old saw, "You don't have to know how to build a car in order to drive one."

Well, you don't need to know all the details about how concepts are formed in order to use them, either. Aristotle, Galen, Galileo, Pasteur and Bill Gates didn't know how the concept "animal" got from "camel" and "bird," but they still achieved a lot, and used reason quite nicely.

Just as you can refine your driving skills without knowing how to build a car, you can refine your reasoning skills without knowing exactly how to get from "camel" and "bird" to "animal."

Most Jews, Christians, and other
infidels can put faith in one box and reason in another temporarily for purposes of conforming to the
demands of the "real world" in order to thrive.

Islam, on the other hand, lets just enough reason seep into the lives of its followers to survive
an intellectual subsistence level.

Most of what they have they did not create themselves, they adopted from more productive systems which don't view reason with such harshness.

Islam comes closer than any other to putting faith and reason in the same box all the time, and faith squishes reason up onto the sides of the box the way increased intracranial pressure squishes the brain into a thin, dysfunctional layer against the skull.

Did you know, for example, that Muslim kids are taught that it is
morally improper to say "One day,
medicine will cure all illness." The reason that it is "un-Islamic"
to say such a thing is that "Only Allah can cure all illness, so it
is immoral for a human to claim that he can achieve that which Allah alone can achieve."

How many Jews, Christians, or other infidels do you know who
would say that?

Or this one (I'm not kidding; they actually TEACH this stuff!):

"If a flame is placed against a cotton boll, it catches fire, but it isn't the flame that causes it, it is Allah's will; Allah 'wills' the flame to burn the cotton boll so often that we have grown to expect the boll to burn whenever a flame is placed next to it. If Allah didn't will it, it would not happen."

Talk about micromanaging control freaks! But that's why when a Muslim ends some statement with "If Allah wills" it isn't a mere social convention. He means it.

Now, those are a couple of xamples
of how Islam views reality through the lenses of unmitigated faith. And that sort of thing goes on all
the time in Islam.

Among Christians, some of this goes on too; some of the faithful believe that we were all created in one fell swoop, and they have a real problem with evolution. Embryonic stem cell research presents a similarly faith-blocked area of intellectual nvestigation, since it states that a fertilized ovum, a morula, and a blastula have souls, and that to use them to investigate cell function would be the moral equivalent of murdering men, women, and children.

But by and large, thanks largely to the re-introduction of Aristotle in the West, this sort of intrusion of faith is limited, and Christians, Jews, and other infidels are fairly free to use
reason, if they wish.

While I used the preponderance of Jews winning Nobel Prizes as a convenient illustration of how some people of faith can separate faith and reason in order to solve problems, there is much other evidence of the effect on the daily lives of Muslims that Islam's prohibition against reason.

I'll list a few such for you, and for purposes of illustration, I'll use "the Arab world," since Islam was invented there, has been there longer than anywhere else, and as a result, its presence has had a more profound - although still highly significant - effect on its followers than it has had in some other parts of the Muslim world:

1) In the Arab world, the illiteracy rate, depending on your source, is between 50% and 80%.

2) In Europe, the number of books per person is ten times greater than the number of books per person in the Muslim Middle East and Africa combined.

3) The number of books translated into Arabic in the last ONE THOUSAND (1000) years is equal to the number of books translated into Spanish alone in ONE (1) year.

4) Between 1980 and 1999, the number of patents from Arab countries registered in the United States was 370. During that same time period, the number of patents from South Korea alone was 16,328.

5) At Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, there is a large map with lights that shows the number of searches going on at any particular moment. The whole world is bright, except for the region stretching from Morocco to the border of India, where it is almost completely dark.

6) In the Arab world, the number of computers per 1000 people is 18; the number of computers per person world wide, including poor nations, is 78 per 1000.

7) When the "outsourcing" of hi-tech jobs was discussed at a meeting in Davos, Switzerland, countries as diverse as India, China, Mexico, and Ireland were mentioned. Countries in the Arab world were not considered, because they don't have the infrastructure or the educational level to support such work.

Maybe in the future I'll add into evidence the contrast between the numbers of Nobelists in the Jewish and Muslim worlds as "Exhibit 8."

9/11/06, 3:53 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Cubed raises the interesting question "Why is it that some people of faith are intellectually stuck in the mud while others are able to produce so much intellectually?" She avers that compartmentalization is what permits one to acquire knowledge and stick to reason. To show this, she points out that intelligence alone is not explanatory. In addition, Islam forbids the use of reason, while concept formation requires it. Conversely, most Jews, Christians, and other infidels can compartmentalize.

Now this demonstrates that compartmentalization is lacking among Muslims, while it occurs among other peoples. She then documents how the former do poorly, while the latter do much better. So it is surely plausible that compartmentalization explains the difference.

Yet there are other factors that could be explanatory as well. Thus, there is a difference in the aspirations between Muslims and others of faith, where the former find it virtuous to be base, while the latter find it virtuous to be uplifted. Islam unleashes the very passions that are sublimated by Christians & Jews. (One aside is that the submission of Muslims permits nothing akin to the Jewish tradition of arguing with God.) I could go on with regard to differences between the parties, but the point is more general. Cubed presumes that it is the freeing of reason that is explanatory, whereas my contention is that the explanation is also a matter of the aspirations contained in the respective faiths.

To contrast our explanations, examine yourself. Are your intellectual achievements strictly due to reason, or are they also influenced by your aspirations? Does your quest for truth, justice, and achievement play no part, but only your ability to remain in the compartment of reason? Another way of asking this, is whether it is only sticking to reason that is influential, and not why one cares to reason things out?

One of the main contributions of culture is the shaping of aspirations. Are we to conclude that this is irrelevant to the capabilities that are developed, while all that matters is the capability to reason? Would we not expect a difference from the youth who dreams of being the world’s greatest chess player, and another with the same reasoning capability, who dreams of being the world’s greatest bully?

9/11/06, 6:10 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Allen, you’re giving me fragments. For example:

“You ask how I see knowledge growing. It is the same way as most everyone does. One aspect is by conjecture and refutation (or hypothesis and validation). Promising pathways are given, and then tested. I do not think this is disputable.”

I notice you list conjecture and refutation but not confirmation (or proof.) What am I to make of this omission? I’m confident that you hold that knowledge is possible but you mention only having and discarding hypothesis.

“It is also evident that knowledge grows because of *aspirations* to find the truth or to secure justice.”

Yes one must be motivated and committed but why mention this? Later you indicate that “sincerity” is a basis for metaphysics and epistemology. I find this an odd assertion. However, your approach is unique. I sense we won’t agree on fundamentals but as you seek to avoid the false alternatives of skepticism and dogmatism, we may often arrive at the same place. Given the radical and unique approach, it is unlikely that I could understand the totality without reading your “book” on the subject. We’ll just have to realize that we use terms differently when it comes to some of the fundamental concepts of philosophy and find common ground in other areas.

9/11/06, 10:46 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason quotes me as mentioning “conjecture and refutation (or hypothesis and validation)” and writes “I notice you list conjecture and refutation but not confirmation (or proof). Yet ‘validation’ is precisely confirmation or proof. Thus, I included proof in the term ‘refutation’ or ‘validation’, and surely *any mathematician believes in proof*. To show that I was in no way denying ‘proof’ by my terms (and referred to Newton’s laws as such) allow me to give two examples. The proof that the square root of 2 is irrational is performed by describing it as the quotient of integers (p/q) and then 'refuting' it by showing a contradiction. Similarly, the proof that there is no largest prime, is performed by presuming that it, or P, exists, and then 'refuting' this, by constructing a prime larger than P. I cannot understand why Jason writes that I deny proof, when I affirm it. Frequently, I have credited Ayn Rand for proving (or validating) her positions, and try to do so for my arguments (by deduction from first principles). For Jason to state that I do not appreciate proof, is akin to his claim that I find astrology worthwhile, or that I deny that faith/reason is a dichotomy; I have no idea why he says so, since I asseverate the opposite.

Next, he writes “Yes one must be motivated and committed, but why mention this?” I mentioned it in response to his request to explain how knowledge grows.” When I responded to Cubed, who wrote about the need for compartmentalization, I spoke about aspirations (which constitute motivation) as part of the explanation for the growth of knowledge. Since Jason agrees that one must be motivated, I presume that he too would mention it as part of the explanation for the growth of knowledge. (There is another reason for my mentioning this, which I will get to later.)

Allow me to illustrate the significance of motivation. I know of two siblings, where the older was brighter. Yet the motive of the older was to seek social acceptance, while the younger strove for achievement. In time, the older underachieved, while the younger overachieved, and dwarfed the older. Here, motivation was the primary determinant. Note that I am not denying the role of intelligence & compartmentalization, but “rounding out” the explanation of their contribution (to the growth of knowledge) by “about 20 pounds”.

Next, Jason acknowledges that we use terms differently. That is why it is helpful if each person defines his terms, and the discussion of one’s views is performed by employing his terminology. (Moreover, when feasible, we should derive objective definitions.) I presume that Jason agrees with this, but would appreciate it if he stated otherwise.

Finally, I wish to elaborate on the importance of motivation (or aspirations). “Liberty And Culture” aims at defending our civilization. Yet *our civilization is not solely a matter of employing reason, but of doing so for certain purposes.* Here, our culture motivates, providing aspirations, and inspiration. To build our civilization requires functioning in these areas. Often, it has been faith & religion that have dealt with these matters, where aspirations (such as truth, justice, righteousness, achievement, honesty, decency, peace, harmony, beauty, family, standards, etc., etc.) have been stressed. Now there is nothing that prevents atheists and agnostics from developing, modifying, or refuting such concepts. However, we cannot build our civilization without addressing purposes. It is true that man must have liberty, yet there is also the matter of what man does with his liberty. It is true that we must win wars, yet there is also the purpose for doing so, which is cultural rather than military.

I recognize that some Objectivists believe that nothing more is needed than to follow the dictates of reason, where they claim that every ‘ought’ can be derived from an ‘is’. Yet ought/is is a dichotomy (as is motivation/reason) where the former component cannot be derived from the latter. Moreover, the latter cannot reach as far as the former, just as what-we-know cannot determine what-we-have-yet-to-learn.

To the article “This Little Brit’ I commented “communism was motivated by a sense of justice, where the oppressive capitalists would be prevented from persecuting the workers and minorities.” They got a lot of mileage by exploiting their vision of justice as a motivation; would that we did as well by ours.

9/12/06, 2:36 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

The pieces are starting to fall into place. You are denying that reason can be employed to understand and define man’s proper end. Thus, reason is only instrumental for ends which have another basis. Is that correct?

9/12/06, 2:50 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason:

You wrote "You are denying that reason can be employed to understand and define man’s proper end." I don't know where you get that view. Of course reason has been employed in that manner. Science, economics, and Objectivism surely make their contribution. What I have said is that there is also a role for visions, motivation, aspirations, conjectures, hypotheses, poetry, etc.

Theory & history demonstrate that both motivation and reason are significant. They are as hand and glove. Dichotomies, such as mind/body in no way imply that only 'mind' counts, or only 'body' counts.

Haven't you said that motivation matters? Does that mean you don't believe that reason does?

9/12/06, 4:37 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

But what of man’s ultimate end? What role do you see for reason in understanding this end?

9/12/06, 4:46 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason:

You ask "what of man’s ultimate end? What role do you see for reason in understanding this end?

Reason can show the imperative of liberty, understanding, industry, dedication, non-initiation of force, and all sorts of things that are spelled out by Ayn Rand. You and I agree on this. Yet when you speak of "man's ultimate end" that will include more than man can currently know.

Do you have any doubt, that in a millenium, man will find out things that are not yet known, and will revise many beliefs that are mistaken? (Did not Einstein & Godel find results that contradicted what appeared to be certain?)

Reason tells us a lot, including that there is much that we do not know, and that it is important to learn. Yet what we shall learn cannot fully be captured, but will be an outgrowth not only of our reason, but of our imagination, investigations, hypotheses, and willingness to be corrected.

Do we not agree that reason tells us much, but does not tell us all, including what we might learn tomorrow?

9/12/06, 6:06 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Of course, we are not omniscient. Reason is a means to knowledge; our knowledge is continuously expanding. If we were omniscient we wouldn’t need a means to knowledge.

You didn’t answer my question about an ultimate end or goal of ethics – what’s often called a Telos in Greek philosophy or known by the Latin Summum Bonum in Medieval Philosophy. Other ends are view as not final but means to further ends. A bus ride is a means to work with is a means to supporting oneself, etc. Aristotle’s Telos was Eudaemonia, Aquinas’ Telos might be communion with God, Deontologists see duty as an end in itself, etc.

What is the proper end for man and how is it validated?

9/12/06, 8:41 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason:

You wrote “You didn’t answer my question about an ultimate end or goal of ethics – what’s often called a Telos in Greek philosophy or known by the Latin Summum Bonum in Medieval Philosophy…What is the proper end for man and how is it validated?”

I wasn’t being evasive, but thought that the context in which we were discussing ‘reason’ was whether it provided the ultimate end, or could only do so in a partial manner. So I spoke about how reason provided part of the answer, but that a fuller answer would unfold by ”our imagination, investigations, hypotheses, and willingness to be corrected.”

However, it appears that your interest was not in relation to discussing whether faith/reason was a dichotomy, but rather what is my view regarding Telos and the Summum Bonum. Now I am pleased to pontificate on these matters (even if I don’t know what I am talking about). But afterwards, I shall explain why I view something else as more important regarding the ultimate purpose of man.

I begin with the Biblical view that purpose is built into existence (in contrast to the view of other religions and philosophies that existence is cyclical). So I accept the term ‘Telos’ while employing ‘Summa Bonum’ (or SB) for what that purpose is. My view is that the proper end of man is ‘integrity’ where the individual is united within himself, and in partnership with others, toward his personal SB. Man would then be guided by his highest aspirations (including the truth provided by reason) where his passions (or emotions) would be subservient.

I recognize that this requires elaboration. Currently, I view man as a hybrid between his aspirations and his passions, where civilization is guided by his aspirations, while barbarism is governance by his passions. For man to become human, his passions would have to serve his aspirations, just as his bodily pursuits would serve his spirit (including his mind).

I have taken as given, that each individual has a unique purpose, which he ascertains intuitively and subjectively. (For example, a child might watch a dancer or singer, and recognize that that is what is most fulfilling for him or her.) At the same time, man’s institutions and groups would have their own SB, as well as an ultimate SB for all of mankind. In addition, it is plausible that man is transformed into a being higher than man. (I cannot imagine that a million years from now, mankind would be in a permanent final state, but would transition into something beyond my ability to comprehend.)

Validation, or proof, is a matter of reason and evidence, so I couldn’t hope to provide it, since that would be far into the future. It could only derive after experimentation with various candidate SBs. However, I can say why I find my vision plausible or promising. First, there is the subjective experience of how one knows himself. Then there are the visions that have been bequeathed in history (where to me, history is the story of the victory or the few against impossible odds, and where it is the purest vision that eventually prevails.) And then there is natural law, which indicates how virtues (including insights) coalesce into pristine primaries.

Now, I do not claim to have much insight into this area. I only wish to point out that although my perspective has been influenced by reason & evidence, it has also been conditioned by subjective, intuitive, and poetic notions. It might be noted that the most promising visions of math & science have in time been replaced by what would originally have appeared preposterous.

Consequently, it may be less promising to seek a final SB, than to deal with candidates that seem most promising for the challenges of the day. For today, I find that a sincere individual, who seeks truth, justice, and righteousness, suffices for an ultimate SB, where these (fuzzy) guides have been evidenced by natural law and by our inspiring visions.

Now, I do not think that what we face, when meeting our challenges, is a final notion of the SB, but the operational intermediary one. To clarify, let us consider the solution to a jigsaw puzzle. When one begins, he has little notion of the solution, other than somehow it all fits. He proceeds bottom-up, by trial and error. In time he sees some patterns, be they of shapes or colors or boundaries, and uses those notions of parts of the solution, to proceed top-down as well. As time goes on, one has an ever clearer notion of the end (or SB) and increasingly operates more top-down than bottom-up. Thus *the SB that he employs operationally is less the ultimate one, than the intermediary one that helps him deal with his immediate challenges.*

Allow me to illustrate how this works for the individual. Consider Isaac Newton, for whom I claim that his SB was the calculus for mathematics and his determinate laws for physics. He fulfilled himself by perfecting these, rather than by working on what would become mathematics and physics centuries later. Additional cases are: Wagner/ operas; von Mises/ Wertfrei-economics; Ayn Rand/ Objectivism (or validation). Such individuals have found their purpose in existence, not so much by what would be ultimate, as by what would be most helpful in succeeding with their immediate challenge. So for those of us who have found their SB, it is primarily that which best helps us respond to what is pressing. I phrase this as “The most important thing in the world is one’s next moral choice.”

The application toward a worldly SB is similarly operational. For example, for those who are guided by the Bible, or by their philosophy, it is better viewed as a work-in-progress than as a final product. One does not unify everything, but rather synthesizes what is most propitious at the time; i.e., one seeks growth, rather than finality. Moreover, the key to achieving the ends of truth, justice, and righteousness, is that of ‘sincerity’, where finding one’s mistakes is more important than focusing on where one is correct.

I must apologize for writing in terms that may be confusing, or are not responsive to what was requested. Yet that is simply how it seems to me.

9/13/06, 1:38 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

You have most of the elements and asking such a broad question is almost unfair.

Your view seeks to integrate aspirations and passions with the former being the key to civilization. Is the “integrity” you speak of achieved when “man to become human, his passions would have to serve his aspirations?”

You then say “each individual has a unique purpose” and give illustrations depending on an individual’s capacity to achieve excellence in particular domains while similar purposes exist for associations and mankind as a whole.

You site the influence of “reason & evidence” followed by “subjective, intuitive, and poetic notions.” This gives “operational intermediary” goals created by an inductive bottom-up approach. On a larger scale this is a “work-in-progress than as a final product” that grows as we move forward.

Over all it has many reasonable elements. You spend much time on individual specific elements such as career choice and take for granted some of the universal elements of character. Thus, the virtues of productiveness, rationality, justice, courage, are sometimes mentioned but not with the same extensive discussion as individual talents and achievements or they are implicit in the fact that such achievements involve the virtues.

A purely ethical discussion would focus on the commonality whereas an application of ethics would require the detailed specifics of each individual. Thus, productivity is a broad virtue applicable to all, while being productive in science, arts, business, etc. would take into account the specifics of the individual and his context. I’d organize the discussion to make that hierarchical order apparent. The broad ethical category helps to integrate the individual specific endeavors.

There is much in your discussion that is similar to Aristotle’s eudaimonia. This is the self-actualization achieved by thought and practice over an extended period. Character in general, and specialized skills in particular, have to be cultivated. The passions, without cultivation, lead to hedonism. Aristotle holds that cultivated character aligns the passions, to a great degree, so that one’s disposition is appropriate and in proportion. The Stoics aren’t so sanguine. At the other extreme, Hume sees man as a “slave to the passions.” You have rational judgment evaluating the passions and aspirations (I assume.)

Do I have it about right?

9/13/06, 4:03 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Jason:

As you say, in my view “integrity” requires that man’s passions ought to serve his aspirations. To put it negatively, when people are governed by their passions (where power, status, & wealth, lead them to immoral behavior) their integrity is undermined. Yet in addition, “integrity” requires that one’s aspirations be organized toward his Summa Bonum.

Next, you correctly state that, in my view, each individual has a unique purpose, with analogous purposes for associations and for mankind. (Perhaps the purpose for "Liberty And Culture" is to establish civilization on a sound basis?)

Then you note that my focus on the individual is central, while for him the universal elements are secondary. Yes, I hold that whereas for the animal it is the group (or species) that is primary, while the individual is secondary, for man it is the individual who is primary, while the group (or collective) is secondary. In particular, for an individual to achieve his Summa Bonum, he might have to compromise that which is ethical in general. Moreover, reasoning, creation, and morality, derive from the individual, rather than from the group.

As you say, I emphasize self-actualization (which Ayn Rand might refer to as ‘selfishness’, while I call it ‘self-enhancement’). Here I can agree with Aristotle, that man should aim at this, while at the same time agreeing with Hume that man is generally a “slave to the passions.”

Finally, there are rational judgments that can evaluate the extent to which man is guided by his passions, or by his aspirations. Ayn Rand might say that man should be governed by his reason, rather than by his emotions. (To her, ‘evasion’ is the source of man’s evils.)

So you have conveyed my position, and have described it better than I did (whether it is right or wrong). The only thing I am unclear about is why you chose to discuss this matter to begin with?

9/13/06, 5:36 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Weingarten,

You spoke of reason as having a role in our lives, but that "there is also a role for visions, motivation, aspirations, conjectures, hypotheses, poetry, etc."

I'm a simple person, with a simple approach, so I'll keep it simple.

It seems to me with that statement that you find some complete separation between things like visions, motivation, aspirations, conjectures, hypotheses, poetry, etc. and reason.

Why?

Let's take some definitions (by the way, it was Aristotle who developed the concept of genus differentia, giving us the ability to define terms and have dictionaries!):

1) "Vision." Of course, we're not talking about eyesight here. My guess is that you're talking about the "ability to have a mental picture, a concept in the imagination," or maybe the "ability to anticipate possible future events and developments."

For example, a vision could be something like: "For everyone to one day recognize that only reason is a valid means of acquiring knowledge."

In what way is this a "vision" unrelated to reason? The definition includes "an image or series of images as seen in a dream or a trance, usually with religious, revelatory, or prophetic significance." If that is what you are talking about, then the association with reason is loose indeed.

2) "Motivation." There are several definitions, but they aren't so very different from each other, so I'll just put this one down, as it does seem to fit best what we're talking about: "A reason for doing something or behaving in a certain way."

What motivates us doesn't do so by falling out of the sky and hitting us on our heads. What motivates us is our values. Ayn Rand defined a value as something we act to gain or keep. We value something because we see in it something that benefits our lives. We determine whether it benefits (or harms) us by using reason.

I value my family, my cats, my garden, the climate in my part of the world, chocolate, integrity, the courage of the astronauts, the Constitution, medicine, MIT, the fact that I was born in the U.S. at this particular time in history and the book I've been working on for at least thirty years (it's sort of a hobby)," among many, many, other things.

Because I value these, I am motivated to do whatever I can to keep them as part of my life, which I regard as deriving benefit from them.

3) "Aspiration: an ambition or desire to achieve something." Someone who aspires to something sounds as if he has found something that he thinks will benefit his life in some way, that it's something he values, and that he would like to include it in his life.

4) "Conjecture: the formation of judgments or opinions based on guesswork."

All this says to me is that we don't know everything, and that sometimes we have to fill in the "knowledge gaps" with guesswork. But even guesswork isn't usually totally divorced from reason, either. Often, "guesswork" is based on some knowledge, however sparse, about something. It would be hard to guess about some aspect of something without at least some clue about it.

A conjecture, like a vision, is not totally divorced from reality, and we need reason to help us sort out what we actually know from what we don't, and how to pursue the truth about it.

5) "Hypothesis: A tentative explanation for a phenomenon, used as a basis for further investigation."

I see a lot of reason going on in a hypothesis. . .

6) "Poetry: Literary work written in verse." Poetry is an art form, like literature, music, sculpture, painting, etc. and like all art, it expresses values, although it does so non-verbally.

I see lots of reason at work in poetry, too.

Somewhere, you also mentioned something about "inspiration." I just have to say something about that here, too.

7) "Inspiration: Something that stimulates the human mind to creative thought, or a sudden, brilliant idea."

Tell me that reason isn't involved in "inspiration." Inspiration can give you such a "rush" that it feels, literally feels, like something so marvelous that it's outside of ordinary, day-to-day experience.

Our brains have some areas where specialized functions are carried out (vision, tonality, etc.). Around each of these, though, there is an "associative area." These areas are HUGE in comparison to the special function areas, and it's through them that all the information processed by one specialty area are "associated" with all the information in all the others.

A lot of data are processed by the specialty function areas, then associated through the associative areas, and finally stored away, out of sight so to speak, in our memories. If we couldn't store away a lot of the stuff we experience, learn, etc., we'd be overwhelmed with everything we'd ever sensed, perceived, or conceived of, and couldn't focus on any one thing at a time. What a mess!

But one day, let's say you come across something and it's processed, associated, and then - wait a minute - wow! All of a sudden, something "clicks," falls into place! The final piece of a puzzle you might not even have been aware was there! Oh, man, you found the explanation, in reality, for the Ten Plagues of Egypt! What an inspiration!

The "rush" you feel is due to the release of hormones.

Weingarten, there obviously isn't enough space to discuss all this in excruciating detail, but I hope you catch my drift.

Jason mentioned the Dark Age (from about 500 CE to about 1000 CE). There's an interesting story about it.

The most important cause of the Dark Age was the paucity of reason as a tool of survival. Plato had displaced Aristotle shortly before the Dark Age, and that bore the greatest burden of responsibility for it (just as it does today in Islam).

For purposes of illustration of the difference in effect when there is little reason and more reason, it is helpful to know that there was a great geophysical calamity going on during that time (beginning in 536 CE and lasting about 15 years).

The planet underwent a kind of mini-mini-ice age (there are several hypotheses about the cause), with massive crop failures etc.

Even though the period lasted only about 15 years, the effect was devastating, with the survival of many humans hanging on by its teeth.

A few hundred years later, it happened again, only this time it was worse, and lasted a lot longer. By this time, though, Aristotle (and reason) was back in the picture. Oh, life was hard, and many died, but creative juices continued to flow, and it was during this period of thunderous philosophical growth that the Enlightenment was born, and the Industrial Age was being gestated.

The difference in the Human Condition during these periods was the presence vs. the relative lack of reason.

Hmmm...maybe I ought to go through my notes and develop this more; I could introduce it into evidence as "Exhibit Number 9."

I just have to quibble a little bit more with you before I go:

You said, "There is no clear-cut separation between cold and hot."

OK, so to a thermometer there isn't, but to something with an intact central and peripheral nervous system, there definitely IS a clear-cut separation between cold and hot. Think about it...

Now, I promise, this is the last one: You said,

"Finally, it is puzzling why our founders took the Bible so seriously, when all that was needed was Nature’s God? If it was solely natural law that led them to revere justice, and to declare that all men had inalienable rights, why did they state “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

In point of fact, only some of the Founders took the Bible seriously. For example, Benjamin Rush did, but Thomas Jefferson didn't.

And to whom do we ascribe major authorship of the Constitution? Hmmmm?

Poor Jefferson, who thought things like the Virgin Birth were ridiculous, was excoriated for insisting that our Constitution be secular. There is only one reference to religion in it (or maybe two - I'll look it up), and that was a prohibition against the establishment of a state religion.

Jefferson was a "deist." He believed that there was a Creator who jump-started existence, but thereafter retired to let nature take its course. Religious leaders of the time HATED him and the others - and there were many among the Founders - who had a distaste for the forceful imposition of belief.

The fact that the Jeffersonian "vision" of the Constitution prevailed actually ended up - as intended - protecting the right of the religious citizen to believe whatever he wanted to, free from the fear that he might be prosecuted for it.

The idea was placed on the front burner by a pre-Revolutionary author named Robert Molesworth. He had studied tyranny (a major concern of the Founders) and concluded that when religion and government were fused (as they are in Islam) and government functioned as an agent of God, rather than as a human production, then honest criticism of government could be interpreted as a sin (as it is in Islam) rather than a simple disagreement.

There's lots more to it, but you catch my drift... again.

Thanks for your statement, though; now you've gone and "inspired me" to start taking notes so I can write this up. Maybe I should post it on the 4th.

9/13/06, 8:58 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Cubed:

You write that I find some *complete separation* between motivation (et al) and reason. I have no idea why you say this, since I have asseverated the very opposite. Do you think that if I say there are things that work in unison, that implies their complete separation? Have you never heard of cooperation or synergy? You continue in this vein, asking how vision is unrelated to reason, as though I hadn't viewed them as partners.

You point out that we can value something because it follows from reason, yet we can also value something on subjective grounds, prior to proving their value (which is discussed as ‘subjective utility’ by the Austrian economists). Apparently, it is not that I have ever suggested that there is a complete separation, but that you seem to claim that there is virtually no separation at all. Let us note that when I described faith/reason as a dichotomy, I treated them as partners, while when you discussed faith and reason (using your definitions) you treated them as completely separated.

Next you write that guesswork isn’t totally divorced from reason, as though I had suggested it was, or that I had implied that a hypothesis had nothing to do with being reasonable. Isn’t it evident that a hypothesis should be plausible, and that it means something other than what has been proven by reason? Were it proven, it would not be a hypothesis, while if it is a hypothesis it cannot be a fact.

You then go on to demonstrate how reason is effective, as though I had advocated a paucity of reason.

Next, I said that some things were a difference-in-degree, to differentiate them from a difference-in-kind, and wrote "There is no clear-cut separation between cold and hot." You mention that in a given situation, the difference between something that is hot and something that is cold can be a complete separation. That of course holds for all differences-in-degree, and does not relate to the concept, but to a context in which there are other considerations.

Finally, it is true that a few of the founders were atheists and agnostics. That however does not deny that most took their Bible seriously. In particular, although Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence (using the Virginia Declaration of Rights by George Mason) it was intended to capture the views of the delegates, and was accepted by them. There was not then a complete separation between the faith and the reason of our founders.

9/13/06, 10:12 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

As you say, I emphasize self-actualization (which Ayn Rand might refer to as ‘selfishness’, while I call it ‘self-enhancement’). Here I can agree with Aristotle, that man should aim at this, while at the same time agreeing with Hume that man is generally a “slave to the passions.”

Personalisation of summum bonum by taking as the highest good whatever is one man's hope. For the man to follow this hope without succumbing to his fears seen as integrity. Fears that could force him to consider comforts that are padding unneccesary to the fulfilment of the hope. Such a man would indeed be ruled by his passions, ruled by his hope.

9/14/06, 8:40 AM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

What is the proper end for man and how is it validated?

The ultimate purpose of man is to obtain total power over destiny. This is validated by the way power is always rewarded in human societal interactions.

9/14/06, 9:02 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Unaha-closp describes my position as “Personalisation of summum bonum by taking as the highest good whatever is one man's hope.” That however is not my view, which is instead that we each have a built-in destiny, which is best found subjectively by one’s purest aspirations. Moreover, there is also the Summa Bonum for mankind.

I am not critical of his interpretation or position, for this is not an easy subject, and I may have been unclear in my presentation. However, Unaha-closp is discussing his view, rather than mine.

Finally, I am unclear as to what he means by “The ultimate purpose of man is to obtain total power over destiny.” If for example man’s destiny includes ‘understanding’, does one submit to destiny by achieving understanding, or obtain power over it by changing it into something else?

9/14/06, 10:03 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Cubed: A conjecture, like a vision, is not totally divorced from reality, and we need reason to help us sort out what we actually know from what we don't, and how to pursue the truth about it.

Allen: Were it proven, it would not be a hypothesis, while if it is a hypothesis it cannot be a fact.

That’s the point. It’s the cognitive status one assigns to something that’s not proven (or only partially supported.) Reason requires that something not yet proven be considered questionable. Faith, in the traditional definition, allows for the acceptance as truth that which is not [yet] proven by reason. Your definition of faith, Allen, is not the standard historical definition. Correct me if I’m wrong but you define the consideration of the unproven as faith even if one doesn’t claim it is true but only a conjecture or hypothesis. By contrast, the standard definition would allow for truth claims without proof or validation.

The important point is that you reject dogma and authority, demand evidence and logic, and (if I’m correct) withhold judgment that X is true until entitled by a valid process of reason. Is that so?

It’s difficult to work with non-standard definitions. One reason I rarely use the word “altruism” is because the common colloquial usage differs from the scholarly usage (and original intent by Comte.) Even if I define it I’ve notice from experience that readers and listeners can’t keep my definition in mind. And to use it in a blog aimed for a broad audience, I’ll have to continually explain the meaning of the term. Thus, I appreciate your frustration that we can’t remember the unique way you use particular words.

I find other people also have different definitions or impressions of the matter. In his book, The End of Faith, Sam Harris uses the word faith to mean “blind faith” and dogma. He ends his book with some reference to spirituality which may be very similar to your usage but quite frankly I can’t remember it. It’s hard to remember everyone’s unique definition so we have to bare in mind this difficulty when trying to communicate.

It takes time to understand another’s philosophy unless it is one of a few standard versions. Yours is quite unique and new (to my knowledge) … not that that’s bad. It takes time to understand how you group "things of a kind." Of course, there’s the question of what motivates you to such a usage. But that would take another 60 posts. It’s best to be aware that we’ll have some trouble with concepts tied to religion and focus on others.

9/14/06, 3:23 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

There have been many interchanges that began when I brought up the issue of faith/reason. Allow me then to restate the original point.

I view man’s evolution as moving to guidance by his aspirations, from governance by the passions (where individuals are hybrids of aspirations & passions). By ‘aspirations’ I meant to include the whole panoply of virtues (such as the higher man, civilization, actualization, inspiration, imagination, …); and by ‘passions’ the panoply of vices (such as the lower man, barbarism, deterioration,…). So I intended generic categories, rather than specified definitions, which indicated the difference between what should and what should not be.

How does this relate to the discussion of the dichotomy of faith/reason? I view ‘faith’ as generating our aspirations, and ‘reason’ as validating (or modifying them). This is the partnership advocated, in contrast to those who see only the need for reason, and not for motivation. (Can it be doubted that in America today there is not only a lack of reason, but a void regarding why we should protect and build our civilization?)

Finally, I agree with Jason that it would not be fruitful for me to pursue the subject of religion at this point.

9/14/06, 4:03 PM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Cubed:

With regard to whether our Founders were guided solely by natural law, or also by the Bible, let us note part of the final paragaraph of the Declaration of Independence.

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, *appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions*...And for the support of this Declaration, *with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence*, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes, and our *sacred Honor*."

This is immediately followed by the signatures of all of the delegates.

9/15/06, 3:16 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Weingarten,

The Declaration of Independence isn't the Constitution. It's the Constitution that describes the relationship between and organization and its membership, not a declaration of independence.

And while there is room for a lot more latitude in a simple, single-purpose declaration of independence than there is in an all-emcompassing constitution, I see nothing in our Declaration of Independence, as cited by you, that contradicts what I said, that the view that prevailed at the Founding was of deists, who promoted freedom of thought for the entire spectrum, and not just for the religious among us.

9/16/06, 7:46 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

Cubed writes "The Declaration of Independence isn't the Constitution. It's the Constitution that describes the relationship between and organization and its membership, not a declaration of independence. "

The booklet put out by the Cato Institute on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution includes: "To better understand and appreciate the form of government we have, therefore, it is important to look first to the Declaration, where the Founders outlined their moral vision and the government it implied."

Therein is the theory, vision, and the purpose of government. In addition, it is the Declaration that clarifies why the Constitution is designed as it is.

Cubed apparently sees nothing in the wording of the Declaration to indicate that its delegates took the Bible seriously. Moreover, when she writes that they "promoted freedom of thought for the entire spectrum, and not just for the religious among us" views that as an argument against their holding a religious vision.

Yet, George Mason, who (as I mentioned) set the prototype for the Declaration wrote "That Religion, or the Duty which we owe to our Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence, and therefore all Men have an equal natural and unalienable Right to the free Exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience, and that no particular religious Sect or Society ought to be favored or established by Law, in Preference to others."

In other words, *it was his religious vision, that promoted freedom of thought and conscience for all.* Is the Objectivist view against faith such that it cannot simply acknowedge that there was something worthwhile in the faith of men like Mason?

9/16/06, 10:29 AM  

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