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posts by Peter Auditor | joined 13 May 2004 | 89

posted 13 May 2004, 22:05 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeMoenghus = Mallahet? by Peter, Auditor

Norsiri, you say that Moenghus must be controlling the Crusade and that the Consult are only involved in it in order to counter him... Whilst I haven't made my mind up yet and whilst your theory has a number of strengths the presence of the Consult in the Crusade can prove nothing. If the Crusade were not the result of Moenghus, the Consult would still have a vested interest in it. This is because with him there is no reason for the Consult's treachery and manipulations to be discovered and so no reason for them to be incovered. In that case the Crusade benefits the Consult by damaging the fighting capacities of its enemies without really threatening them... Of course I could be totally wrong in this and as I said before your argument does seem to have other strengths. view post

posted 18 May 2004, 15:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

Apologies, that was me again (I will remember to log in one of these days) view post

posted 18 May 2004, 16:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

I would like to label myself a Kantian, indeed I try and follow his thoery of ethics, but given how difficult he is it is probably more accurate to say that I am a Kantian as far as I can understand him (next year I am definitely going to be taking courses on him). Anyway, I don't really mind nihilists, one of my best friends is one, indeed I agree entirely with Mr Bakker you have the high ground in the argument so as to speak. I do however believe that whilst Kantian ethics cannot prove you wrong it can protect me from nihilism. Is that clear, sorry I have a feeling that I'm not explaining myself very well... view post

posted 18 May 2004, 16:05 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

Hmmmmmm, interesting thought... I fear things may be a little more complicated than that however (although I admit that I am really only extrapolating from my own experiences which aren't the be all or end all). Beginning with a little intrspection I would say that my interest in fantasy began before anything remotely philosophical entered my mind. I read Lord of the Rings when I was about ten and began reading fantasy regularly from about the age of twelve. I can say that my interest in fantasy did directly lead to me getting into RPGs. My initial interest in philosophy began really around the age of 15ish and matured once I actually started studying it in school. On the other hand, my elder brother reads vast amounts of fantasy (he introduced me to Erikson) is reading a science subject at uni and finds just about the whole area of philosophy to be a complete waste of time. Perhaps I am basing myself too much only upon two cases but I would suggest that fantasy literature is broad enough for people to take what they want from it. As Mr Bakker said, fantasy literature gives the world meaning beyond the real one and this is something which can appeal to both the philosophical and the non-philosophical... view post

posted 18 May 2004, 19:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

I was hoping this wouldn't be asked cos there is at least one person here who will be able to point out why I have totally misinterpretated it, namely the resident philosophy graduate Mr Bakker... Damn I won't go into the argumentation for it except very briefly because I am a little rusty on this (been nearly a year since I last had to study it for exams). Basically Kantian ethics was developed by Emmanual Kant, a german philosopher of the late 18th century. It is a deontological theory, that is to say that morality is based upon following certain rules or duties rather than aiming for some supposedly desirable goal (as with utilitarianism). Essentially, Kant uses a type of argument called the Transcendental Argument through which one can determine a priori what are pre-conditions of certain things (I am not sure of this, the actual argument is more complex I am sure and this may actually be wrong... perhaps Myself could intervene here, he/she mentioned that he/she was interestred in Kant). through this argument Kant claimed he had found that if there is to be such a thing as morality then it must be universalisable. Universalisability essentially encompasses the idea that morality must be consistent, a rule cannot apply to one person in one situation but not to another in another situation with the same relevant criterion. That was the main argument bit which I am going to talk about, now on to what the theory claims we should or should not do. Kant, through more argumentation develops what he calls the Categorical Imperative which states that one should only act upon such maxims as one may at the same time will to be universal laws. This may seem a little weird, but he then clarifies what he means with an example. Imagine a person wished to universalise the maxim "always make lying promises" (i.e. promises which you have no intention of keeping). The problem is that if this maxim were made into a universal law (universalised) then all no one would ever intend to keep their promises and the institution of promising would cease to exist. The problem does not lie with the fact that no one could ever make any promises any more, that would be consequentialist, instead the problem is that when someone used the word "promise" post universalisation it would not mean anything and therefore the statement "always make lying promises" would cease to have meaning. Universalisation of this maxim destroys the meaning of the maxim and therefore the maxim cannot be universalised. As I understand the Categorical Imperative I think the same system can be applied to lying and theft, and possibly more things beyond this... Kant argues that the Categorical Imperative may be reformulated into what he calls the Practical Imperative which states always treat rational human nature not simply as a means, but also always as an end in itself. I have to admit I cannot remember how he does this and at the moment I do not have access to my book with this in because it has been lent out to a friend... :oops: One final point, how I defend myself against a nihilist... The Transcendental Argument does not require that I make a judgement about the nature of morality before agreeing that it exists (if it exists then it is like this) and from there on in I believe it follows a logically sound path. Someone who denies the existence of morality does so at the same time as I affirm its existence and as such there is no argument between us, merely faith. You have faith that there is no such thing and I that there is. Sorry if this is rather long and probably not all that interesting to most people... view post

posted 19 May 2004, 17:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

Oh dear, should have just kept quiet... :) Right, I hope you don't mind if I answer in two separate replies, that way I can keep answers to each separate in my head. I would like to start with Sovin Nai's because it is shorter and therefore easier to keep all in mind. All right, examples whcih support a lack of morality, I am not entirely sure what you mean here. If you mean can I provide empirical evidence for the existence of morality I would have to say I think that is missing the point. A system of ethics is not descriptive, it is not trying to describe how the world is, it is prescriptive, i.e. telling us how it should be. Therefore if I claim that X is immoral and someone points out that so and so has committed over 100 Xs in his life that does not disprove my claim, it merely shows that the world is not perfect. By this same point producing examples of moral actions will not prove the theory. Next, I think it was Dostoyevsky who said "without God anything is permitted". I am pretty sure Kant would have rejected this, but my answer is in no way claiming to be his because I don't claim to know what he thought about morality without God. Nonetheless, when we take his theory what we get is a whole structure built piece by logical piece (I would say that at least, there are certainly parts of the argument which may be problematic, but that isn't the topic here) upon the transcendental deduction. If you accept the transcedental deduction then by extension you accept the rest of the argument and you accept Kantian Ethics. The transcendental argument does not rely upon the notion of God, nor does it rely upon the existence of God, therefore our acceptence or rejection of the argument is separate from God. Kantian Ethics does not need God to make things Right and Wrong, human rationality fills that role. The fact that we are rational and that our moral value stems from this is central to the theory (who can spot the moral dilemma that leaves us with). Now if you do not consider that morality is possible without a God then you reject the transcendental argument and that is fine, but I still hold on to it and I think I am not being inconsistent... back to the nihilist vs Kantian stance again. I don't quite follow your comments about the size and type of universe which makes me think I have missed a central point of your argument and that all of the above is arguing towards the wrong bit... do you think you mught explain this a little further? view post

posted 19 May 2004, 17:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

Right, second reply, the one to Tattooed Hand... I agree with you when you say that we are not dealing with black and white moralities, but only if we take the general intuitive ethics approach. Some ethical systems would be able to make quite quick and complete judgements over all the actions of all the characters in the book (ok maybe not quick, book is long enough to warrant that). I am not sure I understand what you mean by the problems of making universalisable claims applicable... is this linked to your idea of viewing philosophy historically? Or is it more like Sartre's claim that Kantian ethics cannot encompass the essentially subjective nature of ethics (at least I think that is what Sartre said)? I am also a little confused by your example of the Crusades, the Pope was I would say inconsistent. Now he might have thought himself consistent and to some extent within his own set of beliefs he may have been so, but in reality his belief that infidels are not agents worhty of moral consideration is wrong (they are rational therefore we should treat them rationally). I am not sure what you mean by "This is a well honed mechanism in the application of universalist Enlightnment thought, an inherent problem". If they make a universal rule and then break it they are simply being inconsistent and immoral. Someone could at least try and defend slavery ("look it brought them all to America where their descendedts are much happier" one of the reasons I am not a utlitarian) on utilitarian grounds, but never on Kantian and a person who claims to be a Kantian but also to support slavery is being inconsistent. Oh yes, in the heat of debate I kind of forgot that this was all linked to Kellhus, thank you for bringing us back to him. I would both agree and disagree with you on your view of Kellhus, he does not consider himself in a good/evil context, but I would also claim that that does not stop us form placing him somewhere along a moral spectrum. The fact that he does everything with a single goal in mind may allow him to say the end justifies the means (although I doubt he actually thinks of needing justification), but surely we can still judge him... You mention that you think Kellhus has a kind of moral stirring when confronted with Serwe's rape, but I have to admit that is not how I read it. Consider when Cnaiur first finds Kellhus, around him were the dead bodies of about 20 men (something like that) who had followed Kellhus as some kind of messiah figure from Atrithau and we hear later from Kellhus that he had simply converted them with his words. I think that the way Kellhus treats Serwe is merely the same thing except here we get to see her side of things. Serwe becomes convinced that Kellhus is a god and that he loves her. That sounds like the kind of devotion he got from those men from Arithau. The fact that we never hear about Kellhus's view of her at any of the times that he narrates (at least that I can remember, I've only read the book once to my eternal shame... well eternal until I read it again) I think is meant to help us see Kellhus not as he sees himself, but as others see him. Hmmmm going to stop myself now before I fill up too much more space... Bad me, stop writing and do work instead! view post

posted 19 May 2004, 21:05 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

I partially agree with you on this one Mr. Bakker, what I find in fantasy is what I suspect many people find in relgion. However I think fantasy is different from religion because it does not contain faith. I may have no faith in God, but I certainly do not have faith in fantasy either, rather I take from it a few hours in which the world and things have proper meaning before returning to the real world. In religion the meaningful world is this one, in fantasy it is another. Perhaps this is the weakness those critics so abhor, but I wonder if they really are so much better themselves. There are times when I would almost like to believe, when the idea of a Godless world seems to horrific to contemplate. I think this would be a sort of escape from the world. It would make all the pain and misery mean something, people wouldn'r die on vain. As it is science takes away from us that crutch. On the other hand I believe that all too often people reject other things and make science their new faith. I can imagine those people who believe religion is for the weak saying "science will make us strong as people", but that is attributing a meaningful end to science as opposed to what it really is, models of reality with explanatory power. There is nothing human or strong within that, there is only the straight and narrow. view post

posted 21 May 2004, 16:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

When I use the word rationality, I mean man's abiulity to use reason and reason when given a logical argument can only come out with one answer. The fact that we can work out the argument "Socrates is a man. All men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal" is what shows us to be rational so there need be no averaging out. Also, even if rationality were a more nebulous (I like that word) thing, it is not our rationality which determines the content of Kantian ethics, but the fact that we are rational. Nazi values (I won't term it ethics) could not ever fit the Kantian ethics because their racial theories break the practical imperative of treating people as ends in themselves, basically it says we should respect people's humanity and the mere fact that they are rational. Kantian ethics lays down a set of specific rules and at least some of them should be followed in whatever circumstances (like the lying promises one), so there is no danger of it being merely a social construct, it applies as much to me as a Westerner as it does to a Hindu, an animist or a Musilim. Now having said that, I recognise that I may be wrong about Kantian ethics so I do not try and lay it down as the law for other people, especially if they have their own moral system which is relatively consistent internally (a utilitarian for instance) and does not differ too far from Kantian ethics (I might feel constrained to make my views known forcefully if someone honestly believed some moral or value system which claimed Africans were inferior human beings etc. view post

posted 21 May 2004, 21:05 in The Darkness That Comes Beforekellhus == good guy?? by Peter, Auditor

This is the point where I have to retreat and say faith in the existence of morality. The strength of the transcedental deduction (as I have understood it, which I cannot stress enough may be wrong) is that it begins in a vacuum, you have no more reason to reject the existence of morality than I do to accept it because we have given it no content as yet. You say no it does not exist and I say yes it does, you end up believing in no such thing as right and wrong and I end up with Kantian ethics. What is more you cannot attack my stance (well you can but not by denying the existence of morality, you would have to find fault with the argument) and conversely (and I would say unfortunately) I cannot attack your stance although I may try and convince you of the existence of morality (but not through arguments about its nature etc.), because the choice is made in the vacuum. view post

posted 06 Jun 2004, 18:06 in The Darkness That Comes BeforeJust bought my beautiful hardcover by Peter, Auditor

As a proud owner of the UK version of TDTCB I can't help thinking that the Canadian/US version looks so much better. I dunno, it caught my eye when I was looking for something to buy, but I actually put it back first time I picked it up (I have to admit I felt the blurb on the back didn't sound all that good initially, having read the book and knowing what it refers to I think better of it). I think the Canadian/US cover would really have caught my imagination more... view post

posted 09 Jun 2004, 08:06 in Off-Topic DiscussionFirst Word that Comes to Mind by Peter, Auditor

Shine (sorry very dull) view post

posted 09 Jun 2004, 16:06 in Tour and Signing InformationBakka-Phoenix this June 12th by Peter, Auditor

I suppose visits to the Uk would only be acceptable in conjunction with the words "wishing upon a star", or more likely "fat chance"... view post

posted 12 Jun 2004, 12:06 in Off-Topic DiscussionFirst Word that Comes to Mind by Peter, Auditor

Ball (as in "... of the") view post

posted 16 Jun 2004, 21:06 in Off-Topic DiscussionNow Reading... by Peter, Auditor

The Farseer trilogy is in my mind Hobb's best work (as either Hobb or Lindholm). I particularly enjoyed engaging with Fitz's character, indeed I have never found one like him, and Regal is an extremely good villain (if that is the right word). I would actually say that it is almost better not to pick up the Tawny Man Trilogy afterwards, Hobb leaves the final book of the Farseer trilogy on such a sublime note that anything after it fails to work and evens mars the reading of the first few books. Then again, I think elsewhere on this forum people have claimed that the Tawny Man trilogy is really good, so the above view comes with the disclaimer "Only my two cents, nothing more" :D. view post

posted 16 Jun 2004, 22:06 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

I dunno that I agree with Replay on this one (at least not with some of your points). I will try to begin at the beginning, but there is quite a lot to read and the talk about so please forgive any collapses into incoherence . First of all, on a rather pedantic point it may be the case that some things are not always either "is or is not". I am thinking of quantum mechanics where it is apparently true that a particle both is in a position x and at the same time it is in a different position y. This leads to the famous thought experiment which has spawned the title name thingy of one of the people on the board, namely "Schrodinger's cat" in which a the cat will be both alive and dead at the same time. Now I am no physicist so I may have got this wrong or misinterpretated things but assuming for the sake of argument that it is right, then nothing either is or is not. As I said however that is more pedantry than anything else because of course what is true on the micro level (quantum mechanics) is not regularly true on the macro level (the much more sensible world of Einsteinian physics ). So cats very rarely are in fact both alive and dead at the same time (if ever) or found in two places at once and so we can ignore that problem. This still leads to a problem with your is/isn't conception of the world where assumptions and faith are not needed, for we must assume that the effects of quantum mechanics are so incredibly unlikely to translate themselves onto the macro scale that they can be more or less ignored. Perhaps you will claim that I am assuming that physics is true either at the macro or the micro level, in which case I would agree with you. I would also however suggest that somewhere deep down you do too, if only because when you typed your last message you assumed that we would understand what you were saying. If you did not assume that we had not all suddenly lost the ability to understand English, or that in hitting the "submit" button the message would have been submitted would you have written the reply? When you say that "When you don't know, you act in a way which you feel is most right. There is no need for faith." isn't there implicitly the assumption that the way one should act is the way one feels such things are right. If there were no assumption surely there would be no reason to act either way (hmmmm this is sounding half existential). I agree with you on the certainty part, it is not necessary (and perhaps not even or ever possible), but I am not sure that we should not strive for it. The certain world you describe is quite barren I agree, but I am not sure a world in which I was certain of the truth of causality, or certain of the truth of the existence of other minds would be more barren. Certainty does not need to be the whole hog as it were, to some extent, if I am certain of the truth of maths then I can apply still apply it to a such as economics and find that I am uncertain within this secondary area and be pleasantly surprised etc. Having said this, I would agree with your points on the benefits of uncertainty, but a more limited form than you would preach. I do not claim to be certain of holding the truth in any one area, perhaps none of my beliefs are true, but it would not do to stop believing them. Uncertainty should breed flexibility, not a complete rewriting of our life. When you mention the Zen Don't Know Mind state of mind (if I may call it that), isn't there a certain normative content implicit in such a doctrine. What I mean is, you mention the richness it gives life, would followers of Zen attempt to achieve such a state unless there was the belief that attaining the Don't Know Mind gave them such an a perspective on life etc. People try to enter the Don't Know Mind state to attain this way of life, so the state is not really empty, or at least the run up to and the run down from such a state is not. I may well have misunderstood what it was you were saying, so please forgive me if I have missed your point there. Finally (yes, it is getting late here and I have spent far too much time on this already), there are one or two more things I would like to say, as well as some questions, but for the time being I will leave them to one side. I would say that if there really were no assumptions then there could be no knowledge and (by definition) no beliefs. We could form no views and learn nothing. Some assumptions do get in the way of learning, the assumption that a scientific theory is right despite the direct empirical data to the contrary, the assumption that one knows more than one's tutor etc. Others however are fundamental to our having any knowledge at all. The assumption that the past will resemble the future is fundamental to understanding the world (otherwise we could never be sure that the carrots we are about to eat haven't suddenly become incredibly poisonous to humankind etc). I can't think of any more good examples (and actually I am not very happy with the above one either), so I will stop there. Faith is necesarry to humans because, as Mr Bakker says, all humans will at some point act on assumptions and this is the same as saying that we act on some form of belief or faith. view post

posted 17 Jun 2004, 15:06 in Philosophy DiscussionFantasy and Philosophy by Peter, Auditor

I am sorry, I won't be able to respond for about a week as exams begin in three days and I have given my power cable to a friend so I am now surviving on battery power for my laptop until after exams. This I won't be able to reply properly until I finish exams and get my cable back. And yes having to give a friend my cable does show that I have no will power :oops: view post

posted 23 Jun 2004, 08:06 in Philosophy DiscussionDescartes by Peter, Auditor

I think it might be useful to think about the context of Descartes' Cogito. The Cogito appears in at least two of his works (maybe more, I'm not sure), his "Discourse" (actual name is quite a bit longer) and his "Meditations on First Philosophy". In Meditations, which is his main work, he is seeking to introduce certainty in his beliefs. So first he analyses all his previous beliefs (such as there being an external world, that he can know mathematical truths etc.) and finds that actually he can be certain of none of these things. The first thing he hits upon is the Cogito (although in Meditations he never actually says "I think therefore I am"). There is no way for this statement to be false [i:8dexm2qm]when uttered[/i:8dexm2qm]. It is not a necessary truth, but a contingent one, and we can only be certain of our own existence (at least initially) when thinking about the Cogito. The point I want to make is that Sovin Nai is right in identifying that the Cogito doesn't prove the existence of non-thinking things (indeed initially it can't even prove that there are other thinking things, because thought is entirely a subjective experience and so I can't know other people are thinking things and not just automotons). However, when Descartes utters the Cogito he cannot actually be certain of anything existing outside himself as a thinking thing (perhaps not even a bodily one), that comes later. Sorry, I had intended this to be a short message, but what I will say is that in modern philosophy, it seems to me that most people accept the Cogito to some extent. It is generally agreed however that Descartes fails later on in his work, most people concentrating on his proofs of God as the weakest links (indeed many would claim non-existent links). view post

posted 05 Jul 2004, 16:07 in Tour and Signing InformationChapters? by Peter, Auditor

Hmmmm, when you say Oxford Books, is this some bookshop in London or actually somewhere in Oxford? view post

posted 03 Feb 2006, 11:02 in Author Q & ARPG? by Peter, Auditor

On the one hand, because the D20 system is the most widespread game system there is it would be best to publish in it, but on the other the vast majority of translations from literature to D20 seem to be an exercise in getting rid of any background and replacing that with *cool* feats... There are so many other systems out there which I think would fit the world so much better. But yes, I would DEFINITELY buy an RPG of Earwa... view post

posted 03 Feb 2006, 11:02 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat philosopher suits you most? by Peter, Auditor

I would say that Machiavelli doesn't count as a philosopher, much more of a political theorist really. Also whilst I don't know Lao-Tze's thinking, I suspect it doesn't really fit into the Western Definition of philosophy, which is not to say that he is less intelligent/interesting, but rather that he most likely can't be compared to the list of philosophers on the poll. I also think the list is a little weird, you include Plotinus and Plato (the former principally interpreted the latter), but not Hume. Oh well doesn't really matter, after all everyone knows Kant is the greatest philosopher ever... view post

posted 05 Feb 2006, 12:02 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

A speaker at a rally in London outside the Danish Embassy on Friday I think... [quote:ffr3jsbq] He called on "the governments of the Muslim world to completely sever all contact with European governments" until they had "controlled the media". [/quote:ffr3jsbq] I find this shocking. Really, really, really shocking. And yet I would find it even worse if this sort of call were stopped. We need to distinguish between our judgements of what was actually said and someone's right to say it. We can condemn when something is said, we can say that someone ought not to have said something, but all these claims that freedom of speech ought to be limited by responsibility is either a totally vacuous statement or an attack on the notion of freedom of speech. So peaceful protests attempting to inform the Danish and other European newspapers that people were offended by these cartoons and that they think it was wrong to publish them are perfectly acceptable. Most of the protests seem to go beyond this claim (which is not to tar all the protesters with the same brush, some/many may well only be claiming the above). Attacking buildings, marching through London calling on terrorist organisations to target Europe, waving placards saying "Freedom go to Hell" and "Europe, you will pay. Your 3/11 is on its way!!!" seem to be disputing the actual right to freedom of speech rather than whether it ought to have been said. Now back to why I think that the claim that freedom of speech ought to be limited by responsibility is either unacceptable or vacuous. It is vacuous if it just means that people be held responsible for what they said. This will have to be a very minor claim, just saying that the person you agree or disagree with, the person you direct your arguments against is the person who said "X", and the people who support "X". So, freedom of speech requires that someone acknowledge what they say as being their own. Of course when saqying things which may well end up with death threats etc. this responsibility may be mitigated and actual identity hidden say. So the authors of the cartoons cannot simply pretend that they didn't do them, but nor do they need to proclaim authorship openly either. This claim is empty of restrictions on how one may use freedom of speech, and so is vacuous, at least within the context of this debate. If responsible is used in a different manner, meaning rather that people ought not to speak "irresponsibly", then we get into difficult territory. Who defines irresponsibility? In the case of most of the current claims, it would seem to be a claim that doing something that is seen as offensive to "Muslims", and therefore that this is irresponsible (I put it in inverted commas because I find the notion of referring to such a large group of people in one term and pretending that somehow it means something very suspect). But what is seen as irresponsible by one person is seen as perfectly reasonable by another and the whole point about freedom of speech is that it provides a forum in which such disputes can be resolved. So to claim that freedom of speech must be limited by this interpretation of responsibility is already to disagree with a fundamental part of the doctrine of the freedom of speech. I began by saying that we need to distinguish between "ought not to publish/say X" and "ought not to have the right to publish/say X" and I think that the latter is unacceptable, but now I want to argue that the case for saying that "ought not to publish the cartoons" is wrong, and rather that it is perfectly reasonable to publish them (not of course that one ought to, just that there is no "ought not to"). First of all, let us begin with the weakest argument, that the Koran forbids the depiction of Muhammed in picture. We will not even deal with the argument that their ethics ought to be imposed upon us because it does not even form a part of our moral spectrum of thought. Rather, a better argument for this would be to claim that because of this prohibition in the Koran it is especially offensive to Muslims to have such cartoons at all. I think that to answer this we need simply consider the problem of offense. What is it to be offended? It involves hurt and the impression of having been wronged (I would say), but the problem with this is that one is arguing that the offense caused [i:ffr3jsbq]is[/i:ffr3jsbq] the wrong. This is obviously problematic and surely it is reasonable to think that we should only take offense really seriously if we think that they have good reason to be offended (i.e. they have been wronged), but then the wronging must come before the offense and so the offense cannot be the source of the wrong which makes us think that "ought not to publish X". Of course if someone has not actually been wronged, but still feels hurt we do have other moral duties, but these relate only to the hurt and not to the wrong. So, what other arguments can be made to make us think that the action was wrong in itself and therefore that it was reasonable for people to feel offended? We have already rejected the idea that it was wrong because non-Muslims broke a law created for Muslims (well perhaps for everyone, but that claim in itself we say is limited to Muslims). So there must be some other reason to think that the cartoons were wrong. The best claim is that there was an intention behind the cartoons and their publishing to cause trouble, to incite problems and to hurt people (and because it is wrong to intend to hurt people then this would be to cause them an offence...). But is this really what we think they were doing? Some people seem to assume that this was their intention, but what really matters is the fact of whether the cartoonists intended to cause hurt or intended to try and open up a debate about Islam in the modern world, knowing that people would be hurt by it inadvertantly. The latter is acceptable so long as the hurt isn't too great, or isn't unreasonably too great. So if I say that I think that "X" is overweight with the intention of getting them to do more exercise, the fact that they might be hurt by what I say is probably not great enough to make my act morally wrong. If they do actually take massive offense at this, so much so that it might otherwise make the act wrong, then generally we will think they are overreacting and so will still not think that what we said was wrong. Is it therefore acceptable to do something which is intended to do one thing, but will also offend a number of people from a certain religious group. I have to lay my cards out on the table here and say that whilst the level of hurt might be very large, I think it is unreasonable that it be so large. What does someone else's opinion really matter, especially if you think they have got it so wrong. They are merely foolish, or misguided and being hurt by such things is unreasonable. So, [i:ffr3jsbq]if[/i:ffr3jsbq] the intention of the Danish cartoonists and editors was to cause hurt then we can say that they ought not to have published the cartoons, but [i:ffr3jsbq]if[/i:ffr3jsbq] it was to do something else, say to open up public debate then we cannot say that it ought not to have been published. I believe the latter and not the former and so think that no criticism is due. Rigth this is a long post for me and I am sure there will be inconsistencies and assumptions which I have not specified. Please feel free to blow me out of the water on this. view post

posted 05 Feb 2006, 14:02 in Literature DiscussionBooks that have induced a mindfuck by Peter, Auditor

I would second and third [color=blue:2x7wh995]House[/color:2x7wh995] of Leaves. I based an Unknown Armies game on it (for those who don't know, very very good rpg) and actually managed to scare one of my players to the extent that he didn't want to sleep... and that was second hand from the book. view post

posted 05 Feb 2006, 16:02 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

The quote is Evelyn Beatrice Hall's in "The Friends of Voltaire" where she paraphrases Voltaire's stance and references can be found here although he comes very close to saying it when he says [quote:1c00996x]Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write. Voltaire, letter to M. le Riche, February 6, 1770 French author, humanist, rationalist, & satirist (1694 - 1778) [/quote:1c00996x] view post

posted 10 Feb 2006, 00:02 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

[quote:n68y4k9q]What if FEAR forms your opinions and chooses your beliefs, and you rationalize them later? What if PRIDE or VANITY controls you? What if the MEDIA influences you? Or your upbringing? Or your FINANCIAL situation? What about ENVIRONMENT, or FAITH, or CHEMICAL IMBALANCE? How could you deny the influence of your DIET? The NEED to PROTECT your children? You must LUST? Surely, sometimes, because you are smart, or charitable, or neighbourly, you feel you deserve a little MORE than certain other people, don't you? [/quote:n68y4k9q] What if fear forms our opinions and stops us from realising it? What if our evolutionary upbringing makes us think we have good reasons for something, but in fact all there is behind that opinion is evolutionary necessity? This last may sound sarcastic, but it really isn't meant that way, it is a serious point. Essentially, there are a great number of things, possibly an infinite number, which can claim that the reasons we think we act are not the reasons for why do in fact act the way we do. BUT, in the end, the only faculty we have which can hope to tell us that we are not acting for the reasons we think we are, the only faculty that can spot this, is reason. Therefore, the best faculty we can use to try (note try, not succeed) to avoid being determined by fear etc. etc., is a self-critical reason. So, when someone is being reasonable (not just thinks they are) then they have a better chance of knowing the reasons behind their actions (namely practical reason). Of course you can claim that my resoning here begs the question, after all I am using reason to prove the reasonableness of... you guessed it, reason. Actually I don't think I am, I think reason is a lens through which we view the world, not a tool we find in it and then bring to bear, but maybe I am fooling myself over this. Well, maybe, but if I am then I can only say that surely NOTHING is secure (aaaah the problem of radical scepticism). Basically my point is that if we are genuinely self-critical then I think we have a better chance of discovering something approximating to truth and this is what I took Rellion to be saying. [quote:n68y4k9q]What if your neighbours--hated or not--were invaded and occupied for control of their only valuable resource? One in which your country was also rich? [/quote:n68y4k9q] Whilst that adequately sums up what seems to be an attitude amongst some people (and not only in the Middle East) I have to say I think it is not particularly fair. To say one country invades another for reason X is to make that country a unitary object which wills etc. as one thing. "America" is surely an entity made up of a vast number of people, all with their own agendas, desires, theories of ethics etc. and to claim that "it" invaded a country for a single reason is to ignore this. [quote:n68y4k9q]Show one culture to the other through a biased media, THEN what is true? THEN what questions remain? [/quote:n68y4k9q] Again, the question itself is biased, in claiming the Western media is biased you assume that it does not portray the truth, implying that you know the truth (or at least you know what is not the truth) and you assume that rational adults straining with all their mental faculties to make reasonable judgements cannot discern the truth even with imperfect materials (i.e. supposedly biased media etc.). [quote:n68y4k9q]Why do you think that EVERYONE who comes out against other cultures mentions some co-worker or acquaintance who is a member of said culture and is different? Nice? Relatable? It is because being around someone reminds us of our human bond, comforts us through real feelings of brotherhood. [/quote:n68y4k9q] On the one hand, so depressingly true, but on the other proximity is not always decisive. In terms of proximity the Jews in Poland lived cheek by jowl with the non-Jewish Poles and yet there was found some of the most rabid anti-semitism this world has seen. Proximity helps, but community is more of a glue and far better at excluding people and creating "the enemy" and "the other". Consider how most Britons view Austrailia vs how they view France. I think Freud said something about no difference being so small we cannot use it to discriminate against people based on it. This is why I find myself becoming more and more negative with regards to the notion of community in general. Wouldn't the world be so much better if we stopped regarding ourselves as <insert nationality/race/religion etc.> and regarding others as <insert nationality/race/religion etc.> and instead just saw each other as people (which the theory of ethics I follow values as an end in itself and worthy of absolute respect). Sigh, forward cosmopolitanism (which is why I like the EU and the UN, the closest we have ever got to these sentiments). view post

posted 10 Feb 2006, 10:02 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

[quote:etciyu5k]While I believe that humans are influenced, and sometimes controlled, by myriad forces (fear being primary among them), I also believe that reason can counter this to some degree. I do not think that this affects the point I was trying to make. Even if we accept the unlikely position that Reason is an absolute and incorruptable way to determine Truth, it does not necessarily follow that we would be capable of using it to this end. [/quote:etciyu5k] I think reason is not the only way to determine truth, but it is the only coherent way where we think truth (if it is there) will follow from our actions. If our reasoning is correct, if we are not basing our thinking on false or biased premises and if we are careful not to draw too much from our conclusions then we will begin to approach something resembling truth. On an aside I include empirical reasoning in our use of reason, not merely logical. Otherwise, I think I am probably a little more optimistic about reason being able to determine truth than you seem to be, but that is hardly a substantive point of disagreement (at least I don't think it is). [quote:etciyu5k]If you mean that reason is really a part of some sort of deep intuition in all humans, I might just agree with you... [/quote:etciyu5k] I am very wary of the notion of "intuition". It is used in far too many contexts to justify far too much for its use here to be unproblematic (I think at least). Reason is basic, and it is not justified in the same way that we justify say our belief that water is H2O, but this does not mean that we intuit reason and that therefore reasonable discourse is fundamentally no different from conversations which begin "Well, my gut feeling tells me that...". If this isn't what you mean by intuition (and I can certainly see why it wouldn't be) then ignore the above. I would argue that reason is more the minimum presupposition we have to make in order to be able to make the claim that we understand something about the world. If we assert that we do understand something about the world (and I think we can make this claim) then we have to assert reason. That is as good a justification as we can get for our use of reason, but I would also want to assert that at least logic, like maths, holds whether or not we ever think it (i.e. 2+2=4 is true independently of our study of maths, just like the law of logic that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time). [quote:etciyu5k]I would not ever try to deny this. I simply feel that Rellion's questions were inadequate. I was asserting my belief that his 'either or' questions are not, in my opinion, sufficient to cover the complex and important possible influences on these Muslim protests against the West. I hope, as always, that it is understood that my reply was meant to challenge, not to insult [/quote:etciyu5k] First off, I at least, viewed your reply as a challenge rather than an insult, hence why I replied (not on Rellion's behalf, as if Rellion could not do so himself, but because there were points I wanted to make). I think that whilst there are a great many complexities in the issue, this does not mean that we cannot say that we think the reactions we are seeing from certain people are unreasonable. The theory of ethics I follow would not allow for the complexities of regional and cultural history to undo the unreasonableness of the reactions of some people, for reason stands above (or perhaps underneath) all culture (I know I haven't specifically argued this, but I find it difficult to see how one could make logic and empirical reasoning relative to culture etc.). What it would allow is that we recognise that this history, this sense of being under attack, all allow us to reduce any blame we might be willing to apportion out. This might sound highly patronising, but I don't think it is. All it says is that sometimes people do wrong, but that they should not really be held responsible for this, because their situation was so hard. For instance, in the novel Sophie's Choice, Sophie is sent to Auschwitz and has to choose which of her two children is to be gassed and which is to be saved. In this case we may well think that there is a moral choice, but there is no way we will hold Sophie responsible for failing to make the right decision when we consider the psychological and moral stress she will be under. [quote:etciyu5k]You do not need to know the Truth to determine the existence of a bias--you simply need conflicting reports of a given event. I sometimes like to read and view a number of media reports, in different publications, in different English-speaking countries, relating to a single event. It is a fascinating, if frightening experience, to try to track the truth through such a muddle of different perspectives. I can only imagine (or trust second-hand) what non-English speaking countries might have to report... I did not claim (by implication or otherwise) that [b:etciyu5k]I know the Truth, and that no one else does or could. Again, I had hoped that I was making it clear by my tone how difficult it is for anyone to determine the Truth amidst all these various influences.[/b:etciyu5k] [/quote:etciyu5k] Ok, I take you point. Nonetheless, the mere fact that you [i:etciyu5k]can[/i:etciyu5k] make such judgement, that you can perceive the difference in coverage seems to me to be an indication that media bias is less likely to affect you (and so there seems to be no reason to think that a reasonable adult trying to perceive the truth cannot at least form some opinion which takes into account the bias of his source of information. [quote:etciyu5k] My point was that without actual human contact, any sense of kinship between people is theoretical and, so, more easily overlooked. [/quote:etciyu5k] Yeah, I wish you weren't right (well I think you are right, maybe I am wrong though...). Hey let's all get depressed at the state of the world, Yay.[/i] view post

posted 12 Feb 2006, 21:02 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

You know I am absolutely convinced that I replied to the above message. It is really weird. I can remember writing things in response to what you said. Seriously. I think I must be going insane. Did I dream replying or did I write out most of one then not have time to finish it and leave thinking I would re-write it? But then that is the sort of thing I would remember normally. Ok, here is something very similar to something else I am convinced I wrote... The main thing I think about Sophie's Choice is that the difficulty of the situation is enough to reduce her responisbility for failing to do the right thing (if there is a right thing to do, I have heard one philosopher say that perhaps more important than getting the right decision is coming to that decision in the right way). [quote:126y5p85] I refuse to believe (for the sake of my own sanity) that people are completely out of control and helpless.[/quote:126y5p85] A very reasonable view really. At the very least I think it is possible to say that we MUST view ourselves and others as acting freely and under our own/their own control. Not read the Levi book [i:126y5p85]Survival in Auschwitz[/i:126y5p85], but I feel now that I ought to. Not sure I agree with you though in thinking that the betrayal of the Jewish collaborator's is the same as the petty betrayals we find now. Context is very important in ethics (or at least I think so) and whether betrayal is a small thing which will only cause small hurt, or whether it involves turning your back on your very humanity is surely significantly different. I have to say I am still with the worst of humanity being found in petty tribalism. Nationality, religious group, race, ethnicity, class, status group whatever takes one group of people and says "us" and considers all others as "not us". Can't get worse than that I say (unfortunately whilst I can make sense of this point of view to myself I find I can never express myself well in my thinking, perhaps I am too radical when I say I dislike the very notion of community. All I can say is that I am still working this view out). P.S. Is it really the case that I haven't posted something like this already... it is so weird that I can remember doing it. view post

posted 16 Feb 2006, 23:02 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Speech and Tact by Peter, Auditor

[quote:3qq34p8z]This connection then caused me to wonder at the powerful influence of self-preservation and what anyone might be capable of doing in such horrifying conditions.[/quote:3qq34p8z] Then again likely those who acted best, who represented the best that people can aspire to were probably the first to die (at least the first if they survived the initial triage). I remember reading something on an online magazine called the Ethical Spectical (something like that anyway) where someone said that being a saint in the death camps definitely did not help you survive, indeed it may well have been prejudicial to your survival. That said I still think that responsibility is diminished (not extinguished) given the circumstances people were put in there. view post

Kant and the Dunyain posted 18 Feb 2006, 09:02 in Author Q &amp; AKant and the Dunyain by Peter, Auditor

Right, this is the thrid time I have tried to post this (or something similar) so hopefully my computer won't srew up this time. Basically I finished TTT last night and what struck me very strongly with it was how many points of reference and similarity between the Dunyain way of thinking and Kant's thought, both in his Transcendental Idealism (not so much with the Transcendental Deductions though) and his notions of autonomy and heteronomy. I could try going into some more detail, but given that the last two times I tried something went wrong, I woon't tempt faith. I can explain myself more fully at a later point if you want however. Am I reading this Kantian element in, or did you write Kellhus and the Dunyain with some Kantian inspiration in mind? view post

posted 21 Feb 2006, 10:02 in Author Q &amp; AKant and the Dunyain by Peter, Auditor

Yeah, my original attempt at posting included a more thorough account of the simialrities, then somehow before I managed to post it the window shut down and I lost it. Then the second time I tried it failed again, so the third time I thought I would keep it short and write more later if anyone showed any interest. Basically the whole Dunyain philosophy seems to revolve around a duality. On the one hand there is the world which is determined by what comes before (the Empirical Priority Principle) and on the other there is reason which is meant formally, but not ontologically, to lie outside the circle of the world (the Rationality Priority Principle). The Dunyain believe that in developing their Logos to a great enough extent they can overcome the Empirical Priority Principle and become self-moving objects. This sounds very much Like Kant's account of Freedom. When we move through the phenomenal world only, listen only to those phenomenal urges we have then we are acting heteronomously (i.e. acting for reasons given to us from outside ourselves). Rather Kant thinks that we must view our actions as being free (try thinking about a choice you must make such that you think that what you end up doing is not causally linked to what you choose, if you can't then you must at least see yourself as acting freely), but that free action must be governed by some law (after all if we are to see our choices as related to our actions there must be at least some apparent lawlike relation between the two). When we act according to this law, for Kant it is the Moral Law, we act autonomously and are therefore free. The similarity here is that both Kant and the Dunyain recognise the world as being determined, but both also have an account of freedom which can be attained through rationality. They differ in that Kant thinks that this use of reason is inherently moral, whilst the Dunyain think it is merely instrumental. The other similarity here is that both place freedom apart from this world. In recognising reason as formally outside this world, the Dunyain seem to be calling upon a notion very similar to Kant's noumenal world, which is most cogently understood as the world viewed from a different point of view (a point of view which humans can never occupy however). Finally it might be thought that the Empirical Priority principle might play a regulative role in the Dunyain philosophy. It may be that it is the lens through which they claim to understand the world, which would be similar to Kant's claim that space, time, number, causality etc. are features of our point of view on the world, not of the world itself. This last point I admit is a little stretched. So to recap the similarities to me seem to be that both allow for freedom through reason and both seem to have this dualistic view of the world and possibly the notion of regulative principles as well. Hmmmm, there was more in the original lost posts, when TTT was fresher in my mind... dammit. Well this may not seem as much as I had hoped for, but reading the book I was repeatedly struck by what seemed to me to be Kantian elements and I can't get it out of my mind. view post

posted 21 Feb 2006, 10:02 in Literature Discussionhouse of leaves by Peter, Auditor

Worth reading. A little pretentious and self-indulgent I would say, but definitely worth reading. I am even running an Unknown Armies game based on it right now (RPG). view post

posted 28 Feb 2006, 12:02 in Author Q &amp; ARPG? by Peter, Auditor

Almost immediately after having finished TTT I began thinking about playing in the world. I have been thinking about modifying the T8 system so as to get away from the extremes of hideous death spirals or invulnerability to damage that more powerful characters tend to get. Thinking of replacing d6 with d10 and changing the damage structure. I'd still need to sit down and think about how to balance magic (in relation to itself, balancing it with other people involves chorae... there hideous death is part of the fun :)). view post

posted 28 Feb 2006, 15:02 in Tour and Signing InformationTentative Schedule by Peter, Auditor

Grrrrrrr, one of these days I am going to have to do something about all my favourite authors being Canadian and not coming to the UK to do book signings. Damn, both you and Erikson as well... in the same room... I think I am going to have to go and cry in a corner right now :D (hmmmm that or start planning elaborate kidnappings :twisted:) view post

posted 28 Feb 2006, 19:02 in Tour and Signing InformationTentative Schedule by Peter, Auditor

What you mean that same Bonehunters book which I am 4-500 pages into already? :twisted: I haven't heard anything about Erikson anywhere round here, but then again I hadn't been looking out for it, must ask around though. Nonetheless, still waiting for Scott to come over... view post

posted 04 Mar 2006, 09:03 in The Thousandfold ThoughtSuper-Sorcery by Peter, Auditor

I'd have to go with the impossibility of mixing the two schools of magic. Think about it, the power of the sorceries is not in [i:2reymjnq]being[/i:2reymjnq] passionate/intellectual in general, it is in using passion/intellect to remake the world. The essence of gnosis and anagogic magic is purity of meaning, it is a wholly intellectual exercise. To add in passion to the actual sorcery is to dilute the purity of that meaning, after all, how often do people really know what on earth they are saying (hell, even thinking) when they are in some heightened emotional state. Moreover, to add intellect to passion [i:2reymjnq]is[/i:2reymjnq] to cool it, because the use of intellect stands apart from the passions and to analyse things without weighting them according to our raging emotions. Basically the use of one sort of sorcery is, I would suggest, by definition (i.e. defining what it is to use sorcery and then what passion and intellect require/are) separate from the use of another. What might be possible is that the same one individual could use both types of magic, so at one point using rapture to pour fire down upon the enemy, and then later willfully tearing up the world with semantic purity, but only insofar as these two are separate. Well that's what I think at least. view post

posted 12 Mar 2006, 20:03 in Interviews and ReviewsMy ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT Interview by Peter, Auditor

If your question about Neil Gaiman's tailor means that you met him on your book signing tour AS WELL AS Steven Erikson then I think I am going to die of envy right now. One of these days dammit, one of these days... :x :evil: view post

posted 12 Mar 2006, 20:03 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat philosopher suits you most? by Peter, Auditor

Just because one philosopher considers that he is taking another philosopher's works "further", by pointing out all of his mistakes etc. neither implies that he is right and the previous philosopher is wrong, nor even if he is right, that he is therefore greater philosopher of the two. A lot of what the vast majority of philosophers do is essentially dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants. At the very least, I don't think it is obvious that Hegel is better than Kant (although I have to admit I haven't studied Hegel directly, but I suspect it would be a lot like Plato and Aristotle, i.e. depends who you prefer). view post

posted 15 Mar 2006, 11:03 in The Thousandfold ThoughtAnasurimbor Maithanet? by Peter, Auditor

[quote:s5uiowgc]Since we know nothing of what makes a "bastard" (or if there ever are any bastards in the noble houses) in the various Earwic societies, I think it's a bit premature to talk of illegitimate Anasurimbors (especially by applying our own real-world standards). [/quote:s5uiowgc] [quote:s5uiowgc]My guess is that all it takes for someone to inherit in Earwa is the consent of the head of the House, provided the "bastard" does have the right blood.[/quote:s5uiowgc] Just because it hasn't been stated explicitly that bastards are considered like X,Y,Z, doesn't mean that we can't make some educated guesses. So, One would have thought that a in a society with such a rigid caste system then at least traditionally bastardy would be a problem if it were between castes. So a noble who gets a commoner with child will hardly be adopting it into his household, let alone as an heir. After all the whole point about having castes is to keep certain people in power (by excluding everyone else by telling them that "it is natural" etc.), and bastard children can threaten that. Also, generally speaking, the nobility tend to have a certain interest in lineage, which tends to imply a certain interest in the 'purity' if the line, so again the mere fact of nobility would (I think) tend to militate against the open recognition of bastards. Both these points presuppose that there are certain similarities between castes/nobles in our world as in the Three Seas, but to a certain extent, we are not dealing with wholly alien cultures and given Scott's decision to describe the Three Seas in these terms I don't think it unreasonable to assume a certain amount of baggage. That said my second point is, I think, weaker than my former. Also, the Anasurimbor, historically are probably a little different, if only because I get the impression that the caste-system of the Three Seas is probably not something which goes back thousands of years (hundreds almost certainly). And as for Kellhus, well let's be honest, he can do whatever the hell he likes really. If I remember correctly he is beginning to work at undermining the whole caste system anyway, so whether or not Esmenet's child is a bastard or not is likely to be rather less important. view post

posted 15 Mar 2006, 11:03 in Philosophy DiscussionNuclear Power by Peter, Auditor

Actually, I'd go more with Fusion power rather than Fission... only seventy years away now (although apparently they were saying seventy years in the 1980s). After all no waste that we need to deal with which is really expensive, and I think also more efficient energywise (once we get cold fusion that is). Also, Chernobyl isn't the only nuclear accident, there have been at least two in the States as well, although much less well publicised (one at Three Mile Island and the other I forget) and in fairness an accident in a nuclear power plant is worse than one in a coal plant etc. view post

posted 15 Mar 2006, 11:03 in Philosophy Discussionwho should determine what is &quot;right&quot;? by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1nj1ltaa]And in attempts to define right *hides behind bullet-proof glass* I'd say "right" or "good" is the conforming to nature....if man gets burnt by fire, he doesn't touch fire again. touching fire is bad[/quote:1nj1ltaa] First of all, we shouldn't use right and good as meaning the same thing, cos then we lose some rather useful distinctions. After all, we might want to distinguish between paying off a debt and giving to charity as moral actions. The former is morally and legally required (there was a promise), the amount of money to change hands is specified and once that amount has been paid the moral obligation disappears. The latter is morally required (on some accounts at least) or morally praiseworthy (on others), but there is no set amount which ought to be given, nor is there any foreseeable point where our moral obligations to be charitable are going to be completed. I would suggest that the former type of obligation be called 'right' and the latter 'good' and furthermore that we have duties towards both (duties of right and duties of benevolence). I should note that there are other accounts of 'good' and 'right', such as claiming that what is good is what creates happiness in the world and what is right is just what is most good. I prefer my version, I think it better captures our moral intuitions. [quote:1nj1ltaa]well, one the one hand, i would say that it is up to the individual to decide what is right. however, what if one person thinks it is right to kill someone out of revenge? it is up to those who are in power to set out some rules and guidlines as to what is right and wrong. [/quote:1nj1ltaa] If the government [i:1nj1ltaa]ought[/i:1nj1ltaa] to intervene and stop certain individuals from doing some things which he thinks of as 'right' then don't we think that this implies that really there is a right and a wrong and at least one of the two actors here is mistaken (of course both could be). So the prospective murderer thinks he is right in trying to kill someone and we think that he is wrong. But it cannot simply be up to the government to set up guidelines as to what is right and wrong, because they could be mistaken too, and governments can do a lot of damage when they think they are doing the right thing. After all, the Nazis thought it was right for ordinary citizens to hand Jews over to the state and they legislated to that effect. This hardly makes it right. So we get back to our conundrum, who decides what is right and how should we act on this. If we say the individual, we seem to be giving murderers free license. If we say the state we could be letting ourselves in for something worse. What is needed is some general set of principles, based upon some universal human (although not limited to humans) characteristic which creates a level playing field for people to debate on. Perhaps utility (happiness) can determine the right, or perhaps rationality. Of course there is no such universal system, but we can work towards one by rational dialogue. And with regards to the problem of state vs individual, what we need to do is to engage in a process of reflective equilibrium where we as citizens restrain the state, but the state also restrains us and eventually we will come to a point where we recognise the full legitimacy of what the state asks of us and the state recognises the full legitimacy of our control over it. Of course this will never come to pass, but it is an ideal we can work towards. P.S. Right now I should be preparing revision notes for my finals which start in just under 10 weeks. Yaaaaaaay, no wait... crap. view post

posted 15 Mar 2006, 19:03 in Off-Topic DiscussionPoll: What would you be in prince of nothing? by Peter, Auditor

Mandate Schoolman. Philosophy [i:3sjjilt0]and[/i:3sjjilt0] tearing people apart with purity of meaning and geometry, a better combination has yet to be thought of. Second choice would be something less grand and less deadly... I never like the big strong unstoppable hero (so Kellhus is ok, cos I don't see him as heroic in any shape size or form). view post

posted 23 Mar 2006, 14:03 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Peter, Auditor

[quote:2v7oijd7]If I reject the belief of unobservable inputs upon matter and energy we have precisely as much "free will" as a can of soda. Human thoughts and actions are more complicated examples of rocks falling down hills, controlled completely by our past actions and the world around us. Humans are lightning in meat. If I accept the existence of unobservable inputs upon matter and energy, and further posit that those inputs act upon the "lightning", then it is those inputs which constitute free will. In that case I consider myself precisely as free as the degree to which my consciousness is composed of these phantom inputs. I believe in the first of these hypotheses. Thus, I believe that I have no free will.[/quote:2v7oijd7] Unless of course we go with a different account of free will. What if we started with the idea that we are free just when we are not unfree. If we then work out what it is to be unfree, we can know in a negative sense, when we are free, and this even with complete scientific determinism (which falls apart because of quantum anyway). So, I know that I am unfree when I am stopped from acting the way I want to act. If I am put in prison, if I am being held down, if someone is using mind-control techniques on me, these are all cases where I would clearly consider myself to be unfree. If this is unfreedom, then when I am considering whether or not to eat this apple pie I am free to the extent that there is not someone standing over my shoulder with a tazer waiting for me to choose to eat it (or not to eat it). All this account is saying is that freedom is being able to follow our desires (including second and third order desires) and this is perfectly compatible with determinism (hence why the theory is called compatibilism). Also you might go with something like Scott's Dunyain. I don't have the glossary to hand, but the idea that logic is formally (if not materially) outside the darkness that comes before and that be acting according to reason we are able to defeat it. This I think comes mighty close to the Kantian notion of Autonomy (although Scott did say that there are Hegelian elements in Dunyain thinking and given that I haven't read Hegel yet it may be closer to him than to Kant). Essentially a lot of free willists argue that the identification of free will with being able to overcome causation and subsequent attacks on that notion is really only targetting straw men. BTW if anyone asks this counts as work (ahem) :D... Why no I don't have finals starting in just over eight weeks time. (cough cough). view post

posted 27 Mar 2006, 12:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Peter, Auditor

[quote:324wom2d]Why is it good? Because god wants it, and god is good. Why is god good? Because he does good things. So, if one can't use this argument to determine that god is "good", it again becomes a matter of complete arbitrariness. Why is god good? Because. [/quote:324wom2d] I think this isn't entirely fair. the idea that what God decides as good is good is not necessarily circular, after all it might simply be a property of God's that what he designates as something is that thing. So, God decides that charity is good, then it is good. God decides that what he does is good, then it is too. The circularity only works if we assume that it is good that God defines what is good before He decides that it is so. I disagree even more strongly with your idea that Good is arbitrary without god to define it. To a certain extent we all use the word already, we say that this orange is good, or that Mother Theresa was good, so we know there is something there, that the word isn't meaningless (unless you want to say that the above sentences which we seem to understand are in fact meaningless). So if we come up with some definition (or more likely set of defninitions as good is a word with a broad range of uses) which fits our useage, which is developed in some theoretically rigorous manner, can't we say we have some non-arbitrary notion of good. So, for moral goodness, which I distinguish from pleasure, but not all theories will might be defined by some sort of moral theory (and we need have no circularity, for our theory does not have to derive from what is "good") etc. If this is the case, then we can know what it is to be good and hence, we can know what it is for God to be good. If this is the case, then we can say that if God exists and if he has characteristics x, y and z, then he is omnibenevolant. Of course if our definition of goodness is independent of God, then we don't need God to be good and morality is secular. That said, I think the problem of evil proves that God, at least as an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolant being, cannot exist. The defence that this is in fact the best of all possible worlds and we just can't know God's mind etc. works for someone who already believes in God, but is in no way convincing to someone who isn't (so we reach a stalemate as far as I can see). view post

posted 28 Mar 2006, 21:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1j3isvlt]This means morality becomes arbitrary if it is defined merely by God's will. [/quote:1j3isvlt] Actually I would say that makes good arbitrary from a certain point of view. If someone honestly means by 'good' just 'that which God defines as good', then it isn't arbitrary. I could call anything in this box here *profers metaphysical box of exampleness* 'neark' without it being arbitrary, even if the actual content in the box just decided by me. So neark could refer to a piece of lint, Alexander Beetle (in which case the box would be match box) or whatever, but to the extent that it is in the box, it is neark. The problem is that it is a wholly formal definition (whatever the box contains), it has no content and it is generally thought that good has to have content. It is why Plato's Eurythphro (spelling) argument is so potent at dividing morality from God. Either good is prior to God, so we can describe it w/o describing him, or God defines good, he could have decreed child molestation to be good and [b:1j3isvlt]it would be so[/b:1j3isvlt]. It is because most people can't accept the latter point of view that we now tend to think of goodness as not being tied to God. It is only an arbitrary definition if we [i:1j3isvlt]already[/i:1j3isvlt] think that (to return to the box definition) what is in the box is what matters, not the box itself, and to the extent that Alexander Beetle really is in the box we might use the word neark to refer to him, but would think this an arbitrary name, as Alexander bettle might escape and then neark would refer to 'nothing' (there is nothing in the box). But if we think that the formal definition is what matters, then that the content can change is unimportant to us. It is simply the case that most of us do think that what is in the box matters. So we reject a description of good which is purely formal. Hmmm, that wasn't meant to go on for so long... sorry. :oops: [quote:1j3isvlt]I like your idea of a definition of a morality without relying on divine fiat, but I don't think it can be anything but a consensus. God being in the equation is the equivalent of an expert, in the absence of expert testimony you are essentially argueing legs on unicorns. My notion is as true as I can persuade everyone that it is. If our notion of good is a consensus, then likewise our notion of evil ought to be. Thus the problem of evil is simply a case of minority action. Its reasons will be specific to each act of "evil". [/quote:1j3isvlt] And I was aiming to argue wings on to a pixie, really missed the mark then :D (seriously though, the unicorn thing is a cool turn of phrase which I might just have to steal). Actually I don't think I am, I think that rationality can do the work of divine fiat without any of the problems. Essentially we start with the fact that we are all rational beings (i.e. capable of means/end reasoning, deducing conclusions from premises, inducing the future from the past and abducing the most reasonable explanation for a set of facts), and more than that, that we are practically rational beings. This means that we have to think of ourselves as acting freely (just try imagining your actions in a deliberative way, i.e. trying to make a decision for yourself, from some third person, deterministic point of view). But freedom is not a wholly negative concept, the madman is not free because he acts according to no rules whatsoever. So, true freedom is action under some set of rules. Now a certain favourite philosopher of mine then goes on to argue that this law is the moral law and so moral action is [i:1j3isvlt]just[/i:1j3isvlt] rational, consistent action. The real beauty of the argument is that the form of moral law (rational, consistent) is also, its content. You will note I haven't explained how we show that the moral law is the law of freedom, that is because it is late, my notes are downstairs and the last time I looked at this was months ago. Just trust me that there is some sort of argument there (I won't ask you to trust me that it is right... but is is :) ). [quote:1j3isvlt]If you are looking for a persuasive argument for God's existence I like to use the Watchmaker. [/quote:1j3isvlt] Persuasive... I prefer the Ontological argument. It appears very, very persuasive to begin with, and is much more fun to discuss (not having to deal with those dirty, nasty, horrid little details like empirical evidence etc.) [quote:1j3isvlt]You reject BOAPW, so your assumptions include that God isn't preventing all evil as he defines it, then you derive from evil's existence as a human defines it that a God who prevents evil as a human defines it doesn't exist?[/quote:1j3isvlt] Yes, an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent God, is on my understanding of the world (there is evil in it) and on my understanding of God, impossible. I think the best plqce to target me is the claim that there is evil in the world. Simply put, it might seem like evil, but actually it isn't, it is somehow all for God's great plan. I can't accept that; but in the end I can respect someone who thinks that. [quote:1j3isvlt]My basic definition of good/evil comes down to selflessness vs. selfishness.[/quote:1j3isvlt] I agree that there is no need to bring superstitition into discussions of morality (or even discussions of God which are not always the same thing), but selfishness/unselfishness isn't enough I think. I would even go so far as to say that there are some, perhaps many unselfish acts which are lacking in moral merit. view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 17:03 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Peter, Auditor

Hmmmm, how about this interpretation of the most recent points in the argument. 1. There is such a thing as being evolutionarily good (i.e. increases chance of survival). So, man's capacity to develop complex tools to control his environment is evolutionarily good because it helps the species, man, survive and helps individual members if the species pass their genes along. Therefore all technology which helps man deal with its environment is evolutionarily good, including technology to alter our genes. A quick note this use of good is meant to be purely descriptive, there is no prescriptivity in it, so there is no notion that good is how things should be (should just has no place here). 2. There is such a thing as being good for humans (i.e. increases chances of survival, of being happy, content, of flourishing etc.). So, man's capacity to develop complex tools to help him control his environment is good for humans because it helps the people survive, it takes away their pain, satisfies their desires and allows them to flourish as people. Therefore all technology which helps man deal with his environment is good for humans, including technology to alter our genes. On a quick note for this use of good, it is not necessarily prescriptive in nature. It could be purely descriptive, although I would expect most people not to think of it in that way. It seems to me that Dawnstorm is arguing from 1 and Randal from 2. Both notions of good include survival as good, but the second has more content (in and of itself that is not meant to be a value judgement, more content is neither good nor bad for the theory, it depends on what that content is and what we value). I think that Randal views evolution in terms of the good it does for humans, so technology is different from evolution in that it offers a different approach to creating greater good for humans (and that it can do better than evolution). So, when Dawnstorm says that technology is just a more complex effect of evolution, he is saying that technology is good for survival. When Randal says that technology allows us to improve upon and overcome evolution he is saying that evolution is not as good for humans as technology is (or could be with enough work). If this is the case (and let's be honest here, I may have not only got the wrong end of the stick, I might have got the wrong end of the wrong stick), then really all we are seeing here is a discussion about the use of the word evolution. I would be inclined to see it more like Randal, but then I am not a scientist, and this certainly doesn't mean that Dawnstorm is wrong (just that I think Randal's account gives us greater scope for discussion of interesting notions). If I have totally misrepresented your views then I apologise. view post

posted 29 Mar 2006, 17:03 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Peter, Auditor

[quote:2lg3c6uf]I agree with your points, mostly, save that I do not agree that "good" defined as "god's will" actually constitutes "good" as normally understood or defined by humans. [/quote:2lg3c6uf] I agree with you, sorry didn't make myself clear (then again in philosophy I am sure there is some rule against that... I mean there must be right :D ). Most people would really not accept that it is good to molest children, even if God said so. [quote:2lg3c6uf] In fact, I do not see the need for the concepts of "good" or "evil" at all in this case. I'd argue there's merely "god's will" and "opposing god's will", where the former is deemed admirable, and the second is condemned. No good, no evil. No morality as such. [/quote:2lg3c6uf] Hmmmmm, in the end I agree with you, but that is because I have a conception of morality which does not amount to "God said so". But for some people all morality is is this addtion of little emotive flags saying "boo" and "hooray" next to words like 'murder' and 'charity'. So why not have 'following god's will' "hooray" and 'opposing god's will' "boo"? I can see where this argument comes from, but... yeah basically it ain't morality if it is merely emotivism or subjectivism etc. view post

posted 06 Apr 2006, 15:04 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Peter, Auditor

[quote="gierra":3s7gxro5][quote="Ziin haj-Anzrini":3s7gxro5]I spent the last hour reading through this thread and I would like to say that it is a credit to the character of the people on this forum that this thread has retained an air of civility for over a year. I have participated in many discussions such as this over the internet and they have an unfortunate tendency to fall apart. I, for one, am a firm believer in Christianity... I won't cite my denomination because I don't want to be categorised as such.[/quote:3s7gxro5] i noticed that as well. mature and tolerant people, here.[/quote:3s7gxro5] Yeah, we really must do something about that. I mean what is the point of discussion boards if not to descend into petty name-calling. Next you'll be telling me that tolerant open discussion allows for people to better understand not only each other, but also the ideas involved. :D view post

posted 06 Apr 2006, 15:04 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Peter, Auditor

[quote:3t3c039s] The poor actually contribute more to the economy than the rich do.[/quote:3t3c039s] I am intrigued by this, what do you mean precisely? Is it that if we define the rich as a class (say 10% of society) then as a class they contribute less to the economy than the poor (say 60% of society, with everyone else being neither)? Or is it that on average a single rich person is a less good wealth creator than a single poor person? Also, I am not entirely sure what you mean by contributing to the economy... is it wealth-creation, increase in GDP, GDP per head (I don't think the first two are the same thing, but I could be wrong, it is two years since I last did any economics and I sucked at it badly)? If you meant the former, it isn't saying too much, if the latter... well I would be surprised in all honesty. Better education, better salary (hence higher spending which contribites to the economy) and jobs which are often involve larger scale decisions than lower down (which therefore affects the economy more) still means less contribution? [quote:3t3c039s] Except of course Capitalism itself is built on the backs of the disenfranchised[/quote:3t3c039s] Actually surely Capitalism is built on the back on capital. And to then say that someone is disenfranchised in this context can only mean that they are disenfranchised from Capital, so actually disenfranchisement is built on the back of capitalism... What I mean is that to be disenfranchised in the way I think you mean, we already need to have a capitalist system in place. Which is not to gloss over the iniquities of capitalism. Nonetheless many of these come from market failure (so if the markets were working properly there would be less pollution, fewer monopolies, less malpractice etc.). Although there the question becomes, can the market work better and if not, what are we going to do? Finally there are definitely areas the market should not go, such as education, healthcare etc. where efficiency must make way for fairness. Sorry, a little off topic... ahem. view post

Climate and Terrain of the Three Seas posted 06 Apr 2006, 16:04 in Author Q &amp; AClimate and Terrain of the Three Seas by Peter, Auditor

I was just wondering about the nature of the climate and terrain iin the Three Seas. I can easily picture Kian and sort of see Nansur (North Africa/near east for Kian and Greeceish for Nansur), and have some image of Nron (actually despite how far south it is I see it sort of as isalnds in the Channel (cold, wet, with not much happening)), but the Eastern Three Seas I find difficult to see or understand. For instance, I see Galeoth and Thuneryus as being colder and wetter in general, but they are close to the same lattitude as Nansur (I suppose currents might do something, kinda like Eastern Seaboard in the US and Northern Europe). But I am really stumped for Conriya, Ce Tydonn and High Ainon. I ask because, as I think I have mentioned elsewhere I am looking to roleplay (well dm) in Earwa and at the moment I can't get a great feel for the actual places (the people yes)... If you could just give a brief idea I'd be really grateful, thanks. view post

posted 07 Apr 2006, 16:04 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Peter, Auditor

"Let us create one, two, three, four many Vietnams..." or something very similar, said at the i-forget-which-internationale. So he advocated multiple wars pitting thousands of drafted American soldiers against millions of ill-equipped, ill-trained natives who would die in their millions all so as to humiliate and slightly incapacitate a country he thought evil. He was not only willing to sacrifice millions of the natives of whatever countries he hoped would emulate Vietnam, but also thousands of innocent Americans for crimes committed by the country (holding them personally responsible for things they did not do I suppose). Sounds pretty bad to me. Thinking that America was in the wrong in Vietnam... acceptable (but no worse than the Communist leaders I would suggest). Suggesting that in and of itself Vietnam was a good thing... No I can't accept that anyone who thinks like that has a properly developed moral sensibility. view post

posted 10 Apr 2006, 14:04 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Peter, Auditor

[quote:b7xwcq4x]I am not going to descuss communism with people who don't understand the basic idea of it. [/quote:b7xwcq4x] I have not studied marxism directly, however I have studied it in school, in Political Sociology and in Theory of Politics under the latter two under a tutor who is Marxist so I think this a slightly unfair accusation. I do recognise that not having studied it directly I can't critique all the subtleties of it, but I don't think that should mean thatI can't critique it at all. [quote:b7xwcq4x]But just to critique your obscure phrases in a simple way, why don't you read the context he wrote/said that in and then tell me if what he wrote/said was actually wrong. Every sentence can be critised outside of its context. [/quote:b7xwcq4x] I realise that my quote is not sourced, nor particularly precise, it came from my history lessons about 3-4 years ago, so I looked it up on the internet here ... nental.php These are taken from his speech (it was to the Tri-Continental, sorry, I got confused, not an Internationale) at the above link. [quote:b7xwcq4x]New uprisings shall take place in these and other countries of Our America, as it has already happened in Bolivia, and they shall continue to grow in the midst of all the hardships inherent to this dangerous profession of being modern revolutionaries. Many shall perish, victims of their errors; others shall fall in the tough battle that approaches; new fighters and new leaders shall appear in the warmth of the revolutionary struggle. The people shall create their warriors and leaders in the selective framework of the war itself — and Yankee agents of repression shall increase. Today there are military aides in all the countries where armed struggle is growing; the Peruvian army apparently carried out a successful action against the revolutionaries in that country, an army also trained and advised by the Yankees. But if the focuses of war grow with sufficient political and military insight, they shall become practically invincible and shall force the Yankees to send reinforcements. In Peru itself many new figures, practically unknown, are now reorganizing the guerrillas.Little by little, the obsolete weapons, which are sufficient for the repression of small armed bands, will be exchanged for modern armaments, and the U.S. military aides will be substituted by actual fighters until, at a given moment, they are forced to send increasingly greater numbers of regular troops to ensure the relative stability of a government whose national puppet army is disintegrating before the impetuous attacks of the guerrillas. It is the road of Vietnam; it is the road that should be followed by the people; it is the road that will be followed in Our America, with the advantage that the armed groups could create Coordinating Councils to embarrass the repressive forces of Yankee imperialism and accelerate the revolutionary triumph[/quote:b7xwcq4x] Here Che seems happy at the idea that South America is on the way to becoming another Vietnam, which given the suffering in Vietnam is not a pleasant sentiment. [quote:b7xwcq4x]It is absolutely just to avoid all useless sacrifices. Therefore, it is so important to clear up the real possibilities that dependent America may have of liberating itself through pacific means. For us, the solution to this question is quite clear: the present moment may or may not be the proper one for starting the struggle, but we cannot harbor any illusions, and we have no right to do so, that freedom can be obtained without fighting. And these battles shall not be mere street fights with stones against tear-gas bombs, or of pacific general strikes; neither shall it be the battle of a furious people destroying in two or three days the repressive scaffolds of the ruling oligarchies; the struggle shall be long, harsh, and its front shall be in the guerrillas' refuge, in the cities, in the homes of the fighters — where the repressive forces shall go seeking easy victims among their families — in the massacred rural population, in the villages or cities destroyed by the bombardments of the enemy.[/quote:b7xwcq4x] Here Che admits that violent, protracted revolution is the only way forward and whilst he admits that useless sacrifices should not be made, he certainly seems willing to make sacrifices (of himself and importantly of others) which he deems useful. [quote:b7xwcq4x]We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be, make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.[/quote:b7xwcq4x] The people who are to be so targetted hardly seem viewed as humans to me, rather Che seems to think of them only in terms of agents of capitalism or imperialism. Again, the idea that the enemy exists only as the enemy and that therefore anything is permitted is something I am not so keen on. [quote:b7xwcq4x]This means a long war. And, once more, we repeat it, a cruel war. Let no one fool himself at the outset and let no one hesitate to start out for fear of the consequences it may bring to his people. It is almost our sole hope for victory. We cannot elude the call of this hour. Vietnam is pointing it out with its endless lesson of heroism, its tragic and everyday lesson of struggle and death for the attainment of final victory.[/quote:b7xwcq4x] Again, it seems to me that he admits the war will be long and cruel, but then seems to glory in it. I admit that he sees it as the only way to achieve his final goal, but surely this attitude is unpleasant. [quote:b7xwcq4x]How close we could look into a bright future should two, three, or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world with their share of deaths and their immense tragedies, their everyday heroism and their repeated blows against imperialism, impelled to disperse its forces under the sudden attack and the increasing hatred of all peoples of the world! [/quote:b7xwcq4x] This was what I orginally referred to. He is calling for the sacrifice of MILLIONS of people for the revolution. This kind of conviction, this desire for so much suffering in the name of the greater good is surely dangerous. The idea that he might be wrong does not seem to register and when he is calling for this sort of thing, some sort fo doubt, some worry, some hulmanity is surely needed. So, yes Che's context is one in which he views himself battling for humanity against a great evil, but my point is that Che is not only willing to sacrifice his own life for this great undertaking, but the lives of millions of others. Context here does not, I suggest, save him from being morally condemned. On a side note, I am a Liberal (in the Continental, British and American senses of the word, though I reject the negative overtones in the American version) and more importantly a Kantian, so of course my criticisms will be coming from a cetain point of view, one which rejects many of the assumptions a Marxist might make, but I don't thik that makes conversation, dialogue or argument impossible. view post

posted 10 Apr 2006, 17:04 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Peter, Auditor

[quote:3eo6g16d]Granted, marxism cannot work on a large scale, but I dare you to find any form of government that can. We don't have democracy, it's the same lie. The mere fact of existence of a bureaucracy is enough proof for this. [/quote:3eo6g16d] Define democracy. At the very least it is almost certain that we do have elitist democracy (as per Schumpeter) which essentially says we choose which elites rule us every five years. If you mean direct or participationist democracy, then you might want to look a little more closely at local democracy in the US. As far as I can see that seems to be people engaging in the decision-making process in a way which seems in line with general notions of direct democracy. Perhaps it isn't, but I suggest that it isn't obvious. [quote:3eo6g16d]For somebody who studied marxism, you sure have a strange form of criticism. You should remember the endless struggle of classes, this is an ongoing process (actually one of the few critiques that can be applied to Marxism in general). [/quote:3eo6g16d] I didn't want to give the idea that I had directly studied Marxism in depth, only that I think I have enough of an idea of it to be able to hold up my side of an argument and possibly level some critiques at it (albeit from a point of view other than the Marxist). I was a little confused by what you said here (possibly because my experience with Marxism is more tangental than direct), but what do you mean when you say that my form of criticism is strange for someone who has studied Marxism? Do you mean that there is some Marxist critique of certain forms of criticism (forms which I indulge in) which argues that use of such forms is illegitimate? If so, then if I reject that critique as false can I not continue in my use of these forms of criticism? When you say that the notion of class struggle being an ongoing process, but that this is a critique applicable to Marxism, do you mean that Marx got it wrong when he claimed that once beyond the socialist system, there would be no classes? [quote:3eo6g16d]Even so, your interpretation of his speech is not correct. He does advocate war, but he sees it as the only means of following the course that is desired by the state and by the population, instead that one desired by the US. Whether he is right or wrong is not for you, nor me for that matter, to decide, but for the Cuban people, those who actually are dependant on the course taken. [/quote:3eo6g16d] I disagree emphatically with this idea that 'the people's' will is not for us to judge. Indeed the very notion that such a thing as 'the people' exists is highly suspicious to me, it seems to posit an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. After all I suspect a large number of people would not have wanted a long protracted war similar to Vietnam and to say that 'the people' did is either to bring in some majoritarian principle where a majority of the population can decide what 'the people' actually want, or you have to say that there is an objective thing that 'the people' whether or not anyone actually does want it (so people can be mistaken about their desires). Neither of these I find convincing (though I suspect Sokar might find the latter more appealing than me), so I reject that a group of people can want anything they haven't all said they want. So, if we have 10 people who form the London Morris Dancing fellowship and 9 want to dance x and one wants to dance y, then the group does not want anything. So if there is no such thing as 'the people', then what is there? Majority rule becomes problematic because of Arrow's impossibility theorem (essentially whenever there are more than three voters and more than three issues it becomes possible for there to be no majority view that is stable, that can't be defeated by some coalition or other), nor is such rule moral per se. Other principles are required to render it so and if this is the case then we have a set of moral principles [i:3eo6g16d]to which even the majority must obey[/i:3eo6g16d]. As such we can disagree with what the majority wants on moral grounds. Now if the group had got together and decided to form some sort of a constitution which instituted majority rule, then insofar as the one willing y willed to be ruled by the majority, then he does will x because he wills the majority rule. But this can't help Che (for me as a Liberal at least), because I hold that a consitution which breaches someone's fundamental rights is not valid and forcing someone to will their own likely deaths when they have done no wrong is surely not respectful of their basic humanity (and hence a breach of their most fundamental right). Anyway, I suspect the notion of contract theory is hardly one which a Marxist would wish to uphold. [quote:3eo6g16d]I would agree with you on one minor point, he does advocate war by populist means, no doubt that he was one. But in order to succeed in this there is a need for sentiment from the people, and if this sentiment exists, then you cannot "morally condemn" him. This only proves that people share his view, even if he is a populist. I cannot find a single word in his speech where he invents an evil in order to justify the wars (which actually US did). [/quote:3eo6g16d] See above for comments on notions of 'the people' and the impossibility of moral condemnation. [quote:3eo6g16d]The fact that you are a Liberal and Kantian does not mean anything, it creates a dialogue between us two. I never rejected the fact that a dialogue is not possible, I simply noted that your arguments are obscure and my non-willingness to participate in a discussion with people who are brainwashed with the idea of democracy (just as much as those with any "faith" they have, without any reasoning).[/quote:3eo6g16d] The point of my mentioning my affiliations was to indicate where my arguments were coming from (it makes things much clearer if one has an idea of the presuppositions from which another is working). As to the idea that anyone who professes support for Liberal Democracy as the most moral form of government they know (even when comparing theory to theory, even including the notion of an ideal marxist state, I hold Liberal democracy to be superior) is brainwashed, well I suspect you don't hold that view. But then you assume that I have not spent many hours and days considering my views on democracy, that I have not written essays and read large amounts on precisely this, that I am not truly capable of self-reflection to some degree. I have my reasons for my rejection of Marxism, they are not reflexive "USSR bad" thoughts and whilst they may well be wrong, I do not think they are clearly and obviously the result of too little thinking and too much blind acceptance of the darkness that comes before. :D Having said that I fully understand your desire not to discuss Marxism, it is a complex topic, perhaps too difficult to truly argue about across a message board. view post

posted 11 Apr 2006, 16:04 in Philosophy DiscussionChe Guevara by Peter, Auditor

[quote:60lds7my]Let me start with the elitist rule, for bureaucracy is not a rule from the elected elite. Just look the meaning of the word on or something. Bureaucracy by definition means it is not elected. But more importantly, where do you get the idea that we are engaged in decision-making process? More interestingly, should we? [/quote:60lds7my] Sorry, yes forgot about the bureaucracy bit. Nonetheless I don't see the existence of a bureacracy as hugely prejudicial to elitist democratic rule (it is much more so to participationist democratic rule, or would be if this were ever widespread). A bureacracy does indeed have entrenched interests and is usually not elected (although actually many positions in US local government that are essentially bureaucratic are in fact elected), but it remains a tool, its exists to carry out policy and at most it can block or slow down things, it cannot create (well it can depending on the system, but it does not have the influence over legislation a minister, say, does). As to whether we should have participationist democracy, well I would argue that to the extent that it is theoretically possible, then yes, because it is only through self-legislation that we can become fully free (for a given definition of free). [quote:60lds7my] You are right of saying that the long-lasting war was probably not the will of the "people", but this does not mean that at that stage, where the Cuban people were actually fed up by the US supported dictator, there was no support in resistance and indeed violence towards the ruling crass. That from the whole population, some were indifferent towards the revolution, does not mean that the revolution was unjustified. [/quote:60lds7my] You are right, that some people are indifferent or opposed to a revolution does not mean that the revolution is unjustified, but equally that a majority does believe a revolution is right does not mean it is justified either. Justification for revolution is not a simple majoritarian decision, there are other factors to be considered (I would argue at least), such as people's rights and duties. Also as a general rule when a revolution succeeds it is usually because the majority (or a very significant minority) of the population are actively or passively against the ruling elite, but this is not equivalent to saying that they are for whoever takes power later. After all, the Bolcheviks were a minority in Russia in 1917, the revolution happened because so many people were against the Tsar etc., but they took power in a putsch. [quote:60lds7my]To bring the Constitution to it, how does one arrive to have a Constitution and why are there endless amendments (to constitutions in general). What if Y never wanted a constitution in the first place, why does his birth become a burden to the society? Why does Y in this situation have to addapt himself to the traditional ruling system? Moreover, what are fundemental rights? Are they not just as well similar to constitution that limits one's action and even thought?[/quote:60lds7my] The problem of explaining why someone should obey a constitution (or rather the state set up by one) is one of the central problems of political philosophy today. I would argue from a concept of rationality demanding that we obey just constitutions (or mostly just ones), or strive to create them when the current ones are not just. As to why a state should support people who have not explicitly consented to society, well I think this should happen for the same reason that the state should organise aid for poorer countries, duties of benevolence (note I don't say that the West does this now, but it should). Fundamental rights are those rights that we have by virtue of being rational beings and they do indeed limit our actions (insofar as there are sanctions for breaking them). The thoughts thing I will deal with below. [quote:60lds7my]I do not call you brainwashed for the reason of lack of thought, I do call you that and the vast majority (including myself) brainwashed as our thoughts are not our own. Thougths are a reconstruction of some experience, be it physical mental or whatever else experience. Our research may change, shape or indeed strengthen our thoughts, but in no means they would be ours. [/quote:60lds7my] I have to say I think this a rather strange definition of brainwashing or what it is to own our own thoughts. On your definition NO ONE owns their own thoughts, and that includes Marxists, and if Liberals are brainwashed and this is bad, then the same holds for them. If on the other hand, being a Marxist allows one to avoid the brainwashing (which I presume you do wish to claim, otherwise we descend into nihilism and then why wouldyou even be engaging in this discussion), then you must explain what it is about Marxism that permits this. It is surely not simply having the requisite Marxist beliefs, for someone could believe without understanding or for the wrong reasons. If it is not the content of the beliefs then it must either be the form or the manner in which the beliefs are arrived at that creates thought free of brainwashing. If this is the case then it must be possible for someone to think using this form or reason in the same way as the Marxist, but with a different content of the thoughts and therefore be free from brainwashing and yet not a Marxist, for to the best of my knoweldge Marx doesn't argue that content can derive from form, unlike Kant (even though the Marxist might still have true beliefs and the other false ones). Now as it is I disagree with your definition of brainwashing. That all our thoughts stem from experience seems to be an assertion of some form of determinism, but if we can be compatibilists about free will and determinism (and I have argued for this elsewhere on this site), then why can we not say that our thoughts can be made to be free through rational self-reflection. To the extent that our beliefs are rational they are formally free, they are our own. It is only heterogeneity of thoughts, thoughts which come from the Darkness that Comes Before that are unfree and we overcome this darkness with rationality. It seems to me that research, self-reflection and philosophy all seem to help us on the road to rationality and to that extent then education etc. can render us free. Now I relaise that there is the claim that all of these are just tools of fooling ourselves, or of prosecuting class interests, but for the reasons given at the beginning of this part of my response to you (i.e. why a Marxist cannot alone be free). [quote:60lds7my]Finally, it is irrelevant to see where arguments come from, the only relevance is what the argument is. Maybe in order to understand the argument there would be a use of knowledge from which angle, but there is no need for such, once the argument is clear (I know I am lacking this ability).[/quote:60lds7my] You are right, where the argument comes from is irrelevant, only the argument matters (which is why I find the Marxist notion of superstructure so frustrating). But, when, as it must be in such a context, one's arguments are ambiguous and less than fully rigourous, knowing from which position the other is arguing is often a great help in understanding what the other argument is meant to be. view post

posted 05 May 2006, 12:05 in The Thousandfold ThoughtThe Amoral Khellus by Peter, Auditor

I'm going to have to be brief here cos I need to be somewhere soon. Two main points. Firstly, why is the Logos inimical to morality, isn't it possible for there to be a way in which reason and the shortest path coincide (and in fact I would argue define) what is right. So, the Dunyain have the aim of throwing off the shackles of the darkness that comes before. Death ends such a goal and hence to follow the goal they must defeat the No-God (more ocmplex arguments can be formed). Secondly, I really think this idea that Kellhus is becoming emotional is NOT necessarily equivalent to his becoming moral. If he begins to feel pity and pain for no good reason then surely these are valueless. He feels pain at Esmi's not loving him (if he does)... how does this make him moral? It is also too easy, too simplistic, the cold hard logic defeated by human emotion. Far too much the final scenes of the least unteresting and most formulaic of Hollywood films and surely not worthy of a series as complex and clever as Bakker's. We'll have to see what Kellhus will become in the AE to decide whether he is 'becoming' good or not I think and maybe not even then. view post

posted 06 May 2006, 09:05 in The Thousandfold ThoughtThe Amoral Khellus by Peter, Auditor

I am not convinced that Kellhus is moral, or developping morality. Just because Kellhus feels some emotions (and how we interpret these emotions is another question) does not imply that he is moral. Hoss loved his children, Hitler was kind to his dog. [quote:34u5spzr] There is also his discussion of the Consult and the Inchorai with his father when Kellhus speaks of their "sins and crimes". His father is puzzled with his use of these terms and, as always with Dunyain, one has to assume a deliberate choice of spoken words[/quote:34u5spzr] Quite apart from the notion that Kellhus might be trying to place his father off balance, just because Kellhus thinks that others have committed sins does not mean that he himself has become moral. Many people are more than willing to recognise the sins of others and Kellhus could still consider himself above and beyond mere herd morality. This is more speculation than fact, but all I am trying to show is that this evidence could easily be interpreted in many different ways. [quote:34u5spzr]Although one is reluctant to draw conclusions about a Dunyain's behavior, Kellhus seems to regard a number of people with affection, even as necessity commands that he ruthlessly manipulate them.[/quote:34u5spzr] Either he has begun to view people as people, in which case his continued manipulation is akin to a burglar recognising his victim's right to property and still stealing it, or the affection he has developed is similar to the affection people have for dumb animals. If the former, Kellhus is no longer amoral (I admit), but he is immoral, and if the latter then he continues to be amoral. Of course my analysis of immorality is based upon a specific conception of it, so you may be able to argue that Kellhus is moral on some different account of morality (if he thinks such manipulation is necessary to some greater good etc. and that this is moral). view post

posted 08 May 2006, 13:05 in The Thousandfold ThoughtThe Amoral Khellus by Peter, Auditor

[quote:5a0trdb8]Under utilitarian ethics, just about anything is justified if it prevents the horrors of a Second Apocalypse[/quote:5a0trdb8] Which is precisely why utilitarianism is so distasteful. Second Apocalypse minus one death is permissible in certain circumstances. If Kellhus is going to embrace any system of ethics without us realising he is being 'moral' then a thoroughgoing utilitarianism is the one for him. To a certain extent this might fit Kellhus' methods of acting. The utilitarian perceives people as causal nexuses for the creation of utility, whilst Dunyain thinking has the conditioned treat themselves and others as causal nexuses for finding the shortest path. But, can we really think that Kellhus has become a utilitarian? I find the notion questionable. Why should he care about utility? What ever reason one finds for it seems to be a retreat to the Darkness that Comes Before. There is generalised benevolence (why is this good?), Mills intersubjectivism (define visibility in terms of what is visible, so why not desribility in terms of what people desire, i.e. pleasure, but then why is desire the same as visible?)... hmmm run out of reasons to be a Utilitarian apart from moral intuition (which surely the rational Kellhus will nto simply "discover"). [quote:5a0trdb8]He does care about the emotional well being of Esmanet and Akka. He could, of course, have long terms manipulative goals in mind, but his actions at the end of the book when both of them have become replacable and Akka an enemy seem to suggest otherwise[/quote:5a0trdb8] In the past we have seen how long term goals dominate what Kellhus does, why not here? It seems that you are arguing from the premise that Kellhus has developed emotions which cause him to act less rationally to the conclusion that Kellhus has developed emotions which mean that he is no longer amoral. Perhaps I am being unfair, I think your argument can be taken in non-circular ways, but there does seem to be the threat of begging the question. [quote:5a0trdb8]Why let Akka leave his thrown room alive after his attempt to take Esmanet?[/quote:5a0trdb8] If we take this to mean that Akka attempted to take something Kellhus valued and cared about (i.e. Esmenet), then you are positing emotions in Kellhus to prove that he has emotions. I will assume you don't mean this If you are suggesting that Akka attempted to do something against Kellhus' rational interests and that he is being irrational in not killing Akka, hence that he suffers from emotions then you admit that it is in Kellhus' rational interests to keep Esmenet close to him. So here from you argument, we must suppose Kellhus deems it rational to keep Esmenet and there is no need to explain his actions with regards to her in terms of emotions. The question now is whether it is possible to explain Kellhus' actions with regards to Akka more readily in terms of emotion or rationality. You state the argument that it is emotion by trying to show it to be irrational on Kellhus's part, so [quote:5a0trdb8]He's allowing a dangerous enemy who knows too much about him to live. His statement about Akka kneeling the next time they met is the bare minimum he can make and not loose face.[/quote:5a0trdb8] Akka is indeed a dangerous enemy, so was Cnaiur. I contest that when he let Caniur live he did so because he knew he still needed Cnaiur. That, at least, is my recollection from the The Darkness that Comes Before, given that Kellhus still needed to learn about the Three Seas area and about Warfare from an acknowledged master. So, what about Akka, why let him live? Well I obviously can't prove that there are rational reasons to do so, we haven't had Kellhus' point of view on this. What I can do is try to show firstly that Akka is not a threat and secondly suggest why his being at large might even be helpful Firstly, Akka is not a direct threat to Kellhus, he simply cannot compete with Kellhus' sorcerous excellence. Secondly, Akka cannot present a threat in terms of Kellhus' dominance over the Three Seas, he has not the resources. Thirdly, with the information Akka has on Kellhus (how much is it really, I suggest not much of use or deep meaning actually) who could he turn to? The people of the Three Seas will not listen to a Wizard, not when they have a Shaman who is by far more convincing and more powerful, nor will he turn to the Consult, Seswatha would not allow it. Akka is simply not a threat to Kellhus. What reasons do we have for thinking that it might be useful to Kellhus to let Akka go. Firstly, if Kellhus is a manipulator (as we have evidence that he has been, and so good reason to think he will continue to be, unlike really with the emotion), then even as a Shaman he needs to give a show of 'humanity' to keep people following him. Consider Christ on the cross, if he had not doubted, if he had known he was not going to die (fully) then he would have made a much less impressive saviour. It was his weakness that makes him human, and so with Kellhus (only Kellhus has good reason to fake a weakness he may not have). Secondly, Akka may not pose a threat to Kellhus, but that doesn't mean he won't try and there is nothing like bringing people into line with threats both external AND internal. The war with the Consult is coming and there is a Wizard causing trouble (but not much) at home. It would mean more excuse for social control over people. Finally there may be reasons which are hidden from us (I am certain we lose Kellhus' perspective precisely because there are things we cannot know about his plans). This last point is I fully admit the weakest, I bring it in only as a possibility... In a more general evaluation I suggest that the evidence so far lies more with Kellhus as manipulator than Kellhus as moral manipulator. Moreover, if you are arguing that Kellhus is moral because he has emotions which undermine his rational thinking (letting Akka go when it is dangerous to him) and Kellhus is a utilitarian there seems to be a tension, for the moral thing to do if Akka is a threat to defeating the Second Apocalypse is simply to kill him. There is no equivalent tension in thinking him a rational manipulator and not a utilitartian. [quote:5a0trdb8]The words he chooses with his father are not ones likely to appeal to a Dunyain. "Sin" is not a concept they embrace. Even living in the World for decades and being exposed to the limits of Dunyain lore (the Consult, Sorcery, Outside, etcetera) his father has clearly not adjusted his world view, merely integrated the information into his familiar patterns. Moenghus is nearly as tied to his past a world born man. Kellhus, on the other hand, has adapted to the truths he has discovered in the world.[/quote:5a0trdb8] [quote:5a0trdb8]Kellhus would not have used words like "sin" to get cooperation from a Dunyain unless his experience in the World had convinced him of importance of moral values. [/quote:5a0trdb8] I agree, Moenghus is not as adjusted as Kellhus to the world. Kellhus has a better grasp of how to use these variables than Moenghus, presumably because he wasn't blinded, but all this shows is that Kellhus can use these terms to confuse Moenghus and defeat him on his own conditioned ground. I don't think Kellhus was trying to convince Moenghus, I think he already knew it wouldn't work. Moenghus needed to be defeated. I have no doubt that Moenghus and the Dunyain would/will join the Consult once they fully understand the implications and that Kellhus will not, but I don't see this as proof of Kellhus' being moral, rather that Kellhus has perceived certain things which the others have not and perhaps could not. [quote:5a0trdb8]If he was a concienceless manipulator, he would embrace that path himself. Instead he opposes it.[/quote:5a0trdb8] I don't think things are that simple. A concienceless manipulator can have many reasons for action, it doesn't reduce down to just two options A and B and it doesn't reduce down to just two reasons for action, moral and non-moral. Of course, as a Kantian, even if all the above is wrong I can still say that Kellhus is immoral insofar as he refuses to treat people as ends-in-themselves. Ahem, sorry, long post. :oops: I have finals to study for... This counts as studying right? view post

posted 12 May 2006, 13:05 in The Thousandfold ThoughtThe Amoral Khellus by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1dopss9j]Utilitarian ethics are highly useful, your disdain for them is not withstanding. Using them exclusively does lead to some distasteful decisions, which is one of the reasons to employ multiple ethical systems.[/quote:1dopss9j] My disdain for utilitarianism stems from my belief that it is a self-defeating theory. Act-utilitarianism in any world bar one full of other act-utilitarians will either lead to a state of perpetual war or withdraw so far from issuing actual moral advice that it will only be able to say "Do what is best" and rules-utilitarianism if consistently applied hardly seems utilitarian and if not consistently applied descends into act-utilitarianism. So, on my understanding of utilitarianism, the two main theories are self-defeating [i:1dopss9j]and[/i:1dopss9j] lead to distasteful decisions. There are two reasons for rejecting it as a theory. To reject utilitarianism as a theory is not to say that we need to reject the notion of happiness as good, or that happiness is in some sense valuable. Aristotlian Virtue theory invokes a thick concept of happiness without needing to be at all utilitarian. Kantian ethics counts the promotion of the happiness of others as one of our prime ethical duties. We can account for happiness without needing to invoke utilitarianism [i:1dopss9j]at all[/i:1dopss9j]. There is nothing we need to take from utilitarianism that we cannot consistently derive from other theories and much of what utilitarianism does provide is at loggerheads with our moral intuitions. In relation to the idea that the best morality is one which invokes mulitple theories of ethics, I have to say I find the idea strange to say the least. The only way I can see this working is if you mean other consequentialist theories can invoke some of the principles of utilitarianism, but not all. So a theory might place a consequentialist value on happiness and then disvalue on injustice, torture etc. thereby getting rid of the problems the utilitarian faced. This would make sense of the idea of having 'multiple ethical systems' if we read it as meaning 'multiple sources of value' which come together to make one ethical system. If, on the other hand you mean actual ethical systems be added together I find this less reasonable. A duty-based theory of ethics is inconsistent with a consequentialist system, not only in the actions it claims are right, but also in the structure of moral thinking. Duty-based theories rely upon analyses of the individual's internal moral motivation, their perception of their duties etc., consequentialism relies upon external features of actions etc. The final thing I can understand you as meaning is that different theories of ethics express different sets of values all of which are important and what is needed is some general theory which can incorporate all of these values. If this is the case, well I would suggest as above that most valuable things in utilitarianism can be taken up in other theories (and for their own reasons, not in any way related to utilitarianism), and to the extent that they are not this is because they are inconsistent with the central values of the other theory. [quote:1dopss9j]Regardless of this, it is a natural system for someone trained by the Dunyain, who do charming things to their failures involving hooks and wires, to adopt. [/quote:1dopss9j] Very briefly, I would argue that given the Dunyain emphasis on autonomy and freeing oneself from the darkness that comes before, the natural system of ethics for them would be one in which reason itself set the goals of action. Utilitarianism comes from outside the agent (when agent is understood as the mere rational being) and so is inimicable to the Dunyain. [quote:1dopss9j]I wasn't speaking of emotional attachment to Esmanet in the throne room. Akka just tried to steal the Warrior-Prophet's (and Aspect-Emperor's) wife in full view of some of the most powerful people in the nation. Kellhus can't be seen to tolerate that. Killing Akka on the spot would have been the best answer. It ends a threat, saves face, and prevents the truth about Kellhus's abilities from spreading. Instead Kellhus lets him live with only a warning to save face. This is the bare minimum a man in his position can do and far from the optimal decision. He should Akka. All the practical consideration demand Akka's death. He doesn't and instead lets him off with a warning..[/quote:1dopss9j] Ok, so reason demands that Kellhus kill Akka on your interpretation and the fact that Kellhus does not shows that Kellhus is in the grip of emotion. I simply deny that it is the most rational thing for Kellhus to kill Akka. I have given reasons already as to why it might be rational to keep him around, but you are right, I failed to account for the fact that this was in front of the great names etc. I think the question is, who has lost face here from the perspective of the great names (not us, the readers). We know that Kellhus has the whole room wrapped round his little finger and only Akka can see this. When Akka leaves therefore, we know that he is trying to escape his leash, we know that walking away from Esmenet is a sign of an inner determination and this is a noble thing to do. We see Akka as something of a hero. The great names see a lovelorn man ask the Aspect-Emporer's own wife to leave with him ("what a silly thing to do, she obviously 'loves' Kellhus and has all she could ever wish for with him"), then when she denies him he leaves, utterly shamed. To me the perception of humiliation belongs only to Akka, not to Kellhus, who actually appears magnanamous and more regal. There is no driving need to save face and kill Akka, Kellhus won the battle in front of the great names and as I argued above, there may well be reasons for keeping him alive. We don't need to invoke morality to explain Kellhus' decision, and given how Kellhus was, we can predict that he will continue to be unconcerned with emotion, looking only towards his goal (whatever that is, I don't claim to know). view post

posted 15 May 2006, 11:05 in The Thousandfold Thoughthalloed hands by Peter, Auditor

[quote:fmuq4mrh]Wow. A lot of posters seem to think Kellhus (and, by extension, other Dunyain) tells lies. I'm still waiting for evidence of this.[/quote:fmuq4mrh] Kellhus claims to be the Prince of Atrithau. Very easy, very simple and very clearly a conscious lie. Now the claim that Kellhus tells people the truths they have not seen themselves and uses this to control their actions can, I think, be made to fit the idea that Kellhus ends up fooling himself (not that I think that is what is happening though) if we move away from lies and into deception. Kellhus may lie only rarely (though I dispute this), but almost his entire time in the books is spent deceiving people in one way or another. He may not tell people he is a prophet initially, but that is beacuse it is a more effective way to get people to believe that he is if he denies it. So he takes something that he (initially) doesn't believe is true, i.e. that he is a prophet, and through his actions and words manipulates people into believing that he is. That may not be lying, if we define lies as verbal assertions of things known to be false and intending to deceive listeners, but it is deception and it may be that the deception, along with the hardships lead to him coming to believe he is actually a prophet. As I said I don't think this is the case, I suspect some greater plan, but we'll have to wait for AE to know that. view post

posted 16 May 2006, 08:05 in The Thousandfold Thoughthalloed hands by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1d5ukhm6]The assertion that his is the prince of Atriau is someone else's lie, and Kellhus is initially confused by concept of claiming that he is something that he is not [/quote:1d5ukhm6] I really don't remember that being the case and I reread TDTCB only a couple of months ago. Also, when Kellhus arrives he claims that he left Atrithau (whether or not someone else decided he was a prince from there, which would be a pretty random thing to say), [i:1d5ukhm6]because[/i:1d5ukhm6] he had dreams of thr holy war etc. Now he did have dreams, but not of the holy war, rather he had them of Shimeh and his father. I am certain that no one informed him that he must have been having dreams in order to have wanted to come down from Atrithau. Kellhus must have lied about this. I nowhere found the idea that using deception or lies to have been alien to Kellhus or the dunyain. They seek to master the darkness that comes before, in order to make themselves free. They must therefore recognise the difference between acting from free and unfree motives. Given that we can be relatively certain that a motive based upon false beliefs (Unless I sacrifice one virgin a day to the sun [edit] it [/edit] will not rise) is unfree and part of the darkness, the dunyain must recognise the difference between truth and falsehood. If they recognise this then given that they believe in the shortest path and in using other people's darknesses to achieve their own ends (consider Kellhus and Saubon for instance), then it seems inconceivable that they don't recognise the capacity to lie. [quote:1d5ukhm6]He doesn't initiate those lies, they are born in the darkness that comes before.[/quote:1d5ukhm6] How is it that the fact of not initiating a lie is somehow permissible? Imagine I am walking down the street and someone comes up to me and says, "Hey, are you Bob Smith? You must be, you look just like him. I've been looking all over for you, here is this cheque for the money I owe you. I expect you'll be pleased to have all this money, after all the orphans need feeding don't they.". Were I to say "Yes, yes I am Bob Smith, thank you for the money" then I might not be initiating the untruth but I am certainly morally culpable for what I do. On the moral system I follow it is deception, hence it is wrong, on almost any other moral system it would also likely be counted as wrong too (though sometimes deception can be right for other systems). [quote:1d5ukhm6]As for making use of lies that others believe in... well thats hardly evil. Personally I ascribe no value to coins and notes, and yet I help maintain the illusion that they are worth trading for goods and services. As long as everyone else maintains this lie, no-one gets hurt.... Getting paid and spending money isn't lying, but it is making use of a lie. Different things.[/quote:1d5ukhm6] It seems to me that you are basing this argument on a theory of value which ascribes real value to objects above and beyond human use for them, so that goods and services would be worth some determinate something even if there were no humans around. If this is the case, how come people are willing to pay different amounts (even using barter systems so as not to invoke money) in different societies for precisely the same good. I can only explain that in terms of relative wealth (by which I mean GNP), supply and demand, all of which implies that value is created by people who have desires and seek to fulfil them with goods of some sort (not only material goods of course, being a member of a church might count as a good for someone). The goods therefore are only valuable to the extent that they exist as means to our ends, but if this is a case money is different from other goods only in that it is more usually a mediate good, it is a means to getting other goods. But even then this division does [edit] not [/edit] differentiate money from all other types of good, for I might buy a television [i:1d5ukhm6]in order[/i:1d5ukhm6] to watch my favourite programs. There is no lie in money, it has actual, real value. If I hold up ten Euros and say "This is worth x amount of that good" then I am saying something true. It is not an illusion, it is merely true because of how society is constructed. To say that it is a lie is like saying that "Murder is against the law" is a lie because it is only against the law because we all accept legislative procedures in government which have ended up forbidding murder. Making use of a lie, that is deception at least. Consider my example above. If I use something I know is not true to get you to do something, that is definitely deception. view post

posted 19 May 2006, 19:05 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat philosopher suits you most? by Peter, Auditor

[quote:4bed99n4]So if anyone wants to recommend a good place to start (I've read Lao Tzu, Nietsche's "Beyond.." and Plato's "Republic")[/quote:4bed99n4] I have to admit I have neither read Lao Tzu, nor Nietzche directly (read some stuff on him) so I'm not sure what might interest you, but Descartes' Meditations is really excellent. It is philosophically fascinating (and massively important in the history of philosophy), but also elegantly written (like Plato). Depending on how you want to go after that you could either read more history of philosophy (which does not mean it is irrelevant to contempory philosophy), like Locke's [i:4bed99n4]An Essay Concerning Human Understanding[/i:4bed99n4] and Hume's [i:4bed99n4]An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding[/i:4bed99n4], or you could read about the history of philosophy, such as Russell's [i:4bed99n4]A History of Western Philosophy[/i:4bed99n4]. I would say contempory introductions should be fine, but I think most contempory academic philosophy is quite difficult to get into without some sort of basis. [quote:4bed99n4]Machiavelli[/quote:4bed99n4] I would say, more of a political theorist than a political philosopher (even in his [i:4bed99n4]Discourses[/i:4bed99n4]). view post

posted 08 Jun 2006, 09:06 in Philosophy Discussiontruth glistens by Peter, Auditor

Descartes walks into a bar, and a few pints later he begins philosophophising. Eventually he comes to the conclusion "I am therefore I think"... but not that is wrong (silly French accents prepared) zat eez putting de cart before de horse... badum boom tsch... :D :oops: I'll get my coat. view post

posted 22 Jun 2006, 18:06 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Peter, Auditor

[quote:2w5rwxpt]I'm interested in your notion that freedom is action udner some set of rules. Can you give me a better description/elaboration on this? Or perhaps, just point me towards some learned sage who has set down this position's definitive stated if you don't have the time or inclination to write it out.[/quote:2w5rwxpt] The idea that freedom is acting under some law is, I think, not entirely uncommon. I believe that quite a few of the Natural Lawyers held something like this, but I could be wrong. However my position is taken from Kant (if you look through my posts here you may notice a very slight *ahem, obsessive or worse fanboyish :oops: * interest in him) and I think his is an improved account because he is able to derive this law from premises which all rational individuals must accept (much like the laws of logic). I will try to sit down and write a fuller account later, but at the moment I am still basking in my end-of-finals feeling where I imagine I shall never have to do work again (please, don't disabuse me of this notion just yet :D ). So whilst waiting for this I suggest you read The Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, The Critique of Practical Reason and the Metaphysics of Morals... :D Failing that the Groundwork is a good introduction to Kantian Ethics, but not, I think, a definitive statement of it. On a general side note, FINALLY found TTT in British bookstores and bought it (I had to read my brother's edition ordered from Canada). view post

posted 11 Jul 2006, 10:07 in Philosophy DiscussionDrugs by Peter, Auditor

Whilst I would agree IQ is not necessarily a measure of intellect, I had alsways been told that it is supposed to remain relatively stable over time, so your IQ aged 4 is roughly the same as it is aged 40. I have specifically heard it said that schooling barely increases IQ scores, as in it grants about a 1 point increase per year (and that perhaps only starting in secondary school). I admit this information could easily be misrembered, so if anyone has more accurate or definite accounts of IQ I'd be grateful to know what... :) view post

posted 13 Jul 2006, 10:07 in Off-Topic DiscussionNow Reading... by Peter, Auditor

The entire Pratchett Discworld series. At least that is the plan for the Summer. Before that reread Perdido Street Station. Sigh, books... so good. view post

posted 15 Jul 2006, 15:07 in Off-Topic DiscussionGaming? by Peter, Auditor

I've done quite a bit of gaming (though I still know gamers who have been playing longer than I've been alive), so I won't list all the different game ssytems I've played, rather I'll note the major/best ones. AD&D (2nd ed.), Tribe 8, Unknown Armies, Earth Dawn, Vampire: Dark Ages/The Masquerade, Witchcraft and R.A.S. Aaaaaaah, roleplaying... On a side note if you are interested, Unknown Armies is quite simply the BEST contemporary roleplaying game out there. Buy it. Buy it now and play it. view post

posted 20 Aug 2006, 20:08 in Philosophy Discussionwho should determine what is &quot;right&quot;? by Peter, Auditor

Right is the opposite of wrong. That might seem to be either hugely uninformative, or at best unargued. After all if that is the case, which I am assuming it is, then I can legitimately ask what is wrong. If you can then define wrong in some concrete terms and hence derive what is right all well and good, a useful contribution, provided one can argue the case for all this. If you then go on to define wrong as the opposite of right then you say nothing at all about either definition, at least nothing concrete. If that is your point, that nothing concrete can be said about these concepts because they are meaningless, then you should argue it, because it is at least contentious to claim that right and wrong are meaningless terms (after all many people appear to use and understand them in some sort of fashion and by the principle of charity we should give them the benefit of the doubt). Without dealing with the question of what right and wrong are it seems impossible to then claim that it is a futile question. If there is such a thing as right (as commonly understood), as I have argued (i.e. stemming from our basic capacity to think and act rationally), then the claim that self-interest is the only cogent methid of making decisions seems not only wrong, but utterly unfounded. At the very least, to be able to claim the ethical egoism (I presume you think that everyone should act in their own interests, not that everyone should act in your interests, if not, then why is what is logical for you not also logical for others) you espouse you must present some sort of argument. Why is it more important to ask what do I want? After all if there is such a thing as "right", then generally it is part of the definition of "right" that it is more important than desire. That one can "ought" to do X and want to do Y implies no contradiction, but that it is more important to do Y usually requires some explaining (like Nietzche's [i:1pvm2vgu]Beyond Good and Evil[/i:1pvm2vgu] etc.). Anyway, I am going to stop here as I want to play computer games :D . view post

posted 24 Aug 2006, 09:08 in Philosophy Discussionwho should determine what is &quot;right&quot;? by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1wj559ws]Quote: Actually, right is the opposite of left. Which is why communists are so evil. That makes perfectly good sense.[/quote:1wj559ws] If by this you mean precisely that we can know what left is by knowing that it is the opposite of right and vice cersa, then I do strongly disagree with this idea. To say [i:1wj559ws]only[/i:1wj559ws] that right is the opposite of left and vice versa does not tell us that they exist as a form of spatial relation, that they work laterally rather than vertically etc. and that doesn't seem to be reasonable. If not then I could claim to use blarg and blorg meaningfully but only say that blarg is the opposite of blorg and vice versa and surely no one would accept that blarg and blorg are meaningful (at least not as I have portrayed it) If on the other hand you mean that we can come to know one of the two meanings independently of the other (learning what left is first say) and can then extrapolate the other from this, then this is right, but fails to address the question of why we can learn left (presumably through observation, being told that x, y and z are to the left and abstracting what is similar, or learning to use language involving the word left in a publicly consistent manner etc.), but not learn right through exactly the same way. Hence, if the analogy between right and wrong and right and left is to be accurate (which you seem to be claiming), then you must, if you are to be consistent, admit that it is not only possible to give an account of these notions independently of the other, but that it is necessary to do so with at least one of them. [quote:1wj559ws]This debate seems to use alot of circular reasoning[/quote:1wj559ws] If so, could you point out where in the arguments so that I can defend myself, or reconsider my views in the light of the circularity. [quote:1wj559ws]Especially if you accept the belief that there are no absolutes. Even though the statement that there are no absolutes is an absolute in and of itself.[/quote:1wj559ws] If there is one absolute, what arguments do you have for this, for why should we accept this claim if it is not backed up (and any arguments that it is unimportant to have arguments for that claim will need to be absolute if you are right) and hence, these must presumably be absolute also, otherwise the absolute statement is unfounded and ungrounded. But if these arguments are absolute, then so must their premises and if those premises are absolute, then perhaps they need to be supported by other things. It seems to me that if you accept that there must be at least one absolute thing you already admit a number of other things, including logic, certain basic premises etc etc. But with those premises and logic it seems reasonable to think we can derive more conclusions. So it seems unlikely that the only absolutes there could be would be logic, certain premises and the conclusion that apart from these nothing is absolute. view post

posted 13 Sep 2006, 15:09 in Philosophy Discussion&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo by Peter, Auditor

I am not sure what you mean by intelligence being qualitative rather than quntitative. I mean, I would say that I am pretty damn sure that my tutors in Uni were by far brighter than I am. I don't need to compare IQs, I just need to talk to them about intellectual subjects for a while (i.e. during tutorials). When it comes to my peers I can see where things get muddy (my verbal skills are greater than yours, but my mathematical skills are far far inferior etc.), but I still think it is somewhat possible to place a general intellectual comparison (though usually needing to be developed up over a large amount of time). Essentially, I know mathematicians who I think are far smarter than me, despite the fact that I am trying to consider different sorts of talents, because there is something generally intellectual that can be compared. I would admit that I am stumped when people talk about emotional intelligence, because there seems less that is comparable between having good mathematical skills and being empathic (which is not then to relegate one to a lesser level, the mere fact that a skill is not intellectual should have no value judgements attached). In other words judgement here becomes difficult or one can claim that this is a case of apples and oranges. So I don't see a problem with judging intelligence (in a rough and ready manner) and at the same time admitting that the judgement is not precisely quantitative. view post

posted 14 Sep 2006, 18:09 in Philosophy Discussion&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo by Peter, Auditor

Could you explain a little more what you mean by complete emotional understanding and where it fits in to judgement. I don't think you mean just that our minds are mostly closed boxes to others and so whatever they say to us and about our thoughts etc. could be mistaken, and hence judgement is impossible for both them and us (and vice versa) but I can't see what else you mean. Dammit, I should really get round to some in-depth reading of german philsophy post-Kant. :D view post

posted 15 Sep 2006, 09:09 in Philosophy Discussion&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo by Peter, Auditor

I don't know that really agree that intelligence is not comparable. I think that the notion that there is something which is generally intellectual which is engaged in by all people working in and on intellectual topics. I cannot really give you a definition of it, beyond saying that it involves capacity to reason, to consider questions from multiple angles and to derive conclusions from these musings. This seems to exist across intellectual disciplines and hence is somewhat comparable (although I admit that if you include emotional intelligence, then I am more stumped, hence why I brought it up before). That I am less good at applying these skills in mathematical situations is no different from a tennis player being less good on clay courts as opposed to grass, they can still be considered to be a tennis player of roughly such and such a level. So I still think that general comparisons are possible, even if at times they exist in a grey area where the fact of the matter (if there is one) is obscured. [quote:fnr4j9x1]By the way, I think Sokar's answer is spot on: the question isn't more about saying "yes" than "no". It's about the realisation that we want to say "no" because nobody contains all of our mind themselves [/quote:fnr4j9x1] Here I am going to have to disagree again. I really don't think there is necessarily a temptation to say 'no', unless you think it is somehow subconscious (and I have issues with the notion of the subconscious which mean that I would find that claim suspiscious). I believe I have met people whose intellects tower above mine, who could, if they set their minds to it out-think me in every discipline which I would call intellectual. [quote:fnr4j9x1]But saying is just as much underestimating yourself as saying no is ridiculously arrogant.[/quote:fnr4j9x1] I agree with you when you say that we have the possibility of underestimating ourselves, because no one else is everything we are and a little bit, because nobody is everything we are, but I would say that in most cases this is a danger only for the individual judgement made within a specific context. So, with regards to Ms. X I might be doing myself down in relation to them, but with regards to everyone I have ever met, statistically speaking (assuming a bell curve distribution) it is highly unlikely that I have not met someone smarter than myself. view post

posted 04 Oct 2006, 19:10 in Philosophy DiscussionThe new craze by Peter, Auditor

[quote:2fgwn2ky]you know, i think a lot of this shit stems from the fact that we discourage violence of any kind. years ago, two boys would have a fight, and they'd give eachother black eyes, learn their lesson and become to best of friends. but now we say fighting is wrong in all cases, so these kids bottle it up, cos we haven;t taught them any other way to work out their problems[/quote:2fgwn2ky] I can see the point here, but I dunno... A couple of years ago I was sharing a house with some guys and one of them was military family, having the army pay his way through uni, going to Sandhurst (UK equivalent of West Point), and he truly believed that in school if he got into a disagreement with someone and they wouldn't see reason (or 'reason') it was perfectly legitimate for them to go at it with fists to settle, well I am not sure what, who was right, who was top dog... Now to me this is obviously more civilised than taking a gun and shooting people, but it hardly seems a reasonable attitude to life. If it is an argument, then violence does not determine right, and hence is irrelevant, and if it is just about vying for social supremacy then it seems particularly backward and bestial (in the way that certain animals fight for supremacy, killing and maiming their opponants). I am not sure I can really complain about the attitude that promotes the view that all violence is wrong, if men find then that they need to take guns to their problems, then that is their failing and not that of the attitude. Having said this I am not advocating the view that a few school shootings is an acceptable cost for ideological purity, rather that if we are presented with two options both of which seem wrong, we should seek for an alternative which is not, i.e. how can we channel and control this violence, stop the factors which ostracise people and drive them to such acts. We could, in theory, attach explosive neck braces to all males and simply detonate them whenever something like this happens, that would be a solution, but most people would rather find some other option, and so we could attempt to encourage young men to work out their anger in fighting each other, but perhaps we should be looking at other ways of dealing with the problem. On a final note, awful as these shootings have been, similar things happen in Africa every year (and probably every day), and yet there is not the same interest. Young men (indeed so young as to be only boys often) there seem to have the shooting people (often other young people) market quite stitched up. I am not arguing for a downgrading of the importance of school shootings, but rather an upgrading of such deaths elsewhere. It's all very depressing. view post

posted 08 Oct 2006, 16:10 in The Thousandfold ThoughtWas Cnauir gay? by Peter, Auditor

Am I the only one who thinks Cnaiur strongly desires Proyas? I can't remember when exactly, but in TWP Cnaiur saves Proyas after one of the battles, indeed carries him bodily to safety and the whole scene seemed to be dripping with homoeroticism. I don't have the books to hand, so I can't look it up and quote things, so I may imagining. More generally I think that Cnaiur is inherently homosexual (although this may be because of having been screwed around by Moenghus) and that his heterosexuality is more of a social construct. Serwe is Cnaiur's proof of his adherence to his people's ways, in part I read that as meaning that she proves his supposed heterosexuality. view post

posted 15 Oct 2006, 21:10 in Philosophy Discussion&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo by Peter, Auditor

If it is a question of how one is smart then we must explain what is meant by smart if we are to get an answer. If we can explain what it is to be smart and being "smart" is a meaningful and helpful description of someone's being, then we must be able to identify something that is held in common across different smart people. If there is to be a certain measure of commonality, then it must be the case that between people there is a like with like situation and so it does not seem impossible that this like can be quatified (however vaguely). It occurred to me that comparing intelligence between people might perhaps be like comparing strength between people. In both instances the words denote a large number of attributes which are somewhat interlinked, but which do not logically imply one another. Anyone who ever watched the World's Strongest Man competitions (ah the heady days of youth) will know that there were a number of different types of stength which were tested (lifting weights is not the same thing as pulling fire engines with rope etc.) and so for intelligence (the mathematical, verbal etc.). I think that at the higher levels it is virtually impossible to make comparison because the whole notion of strength or intelligence breaks down into being very strong in all areas and very, very strong in certain specific ones. In the strength areas the plucky Wekshman can lift 10Kgs more than the stoical Swede, but the Swede can pull the Fire Truck 100m 5 seconds faster. It is a case of apples and pears at this level. Intellectually one ends up comparing Einstein's scientific acheivements to Kant's philosophical ones. Both are paradigmatical examples of what it is to be smart, but who is smarter is not a question which can be asked in this situation because the whole notion of intelligence has somewhat broken down when comparing them. The comparison becomes purely qualitative. However, this does not mean that for the rest of us comparison is impossible. Just because the Swede and the Welshman (sorry I can't actually remember their names) are not defineably stronger the one than the other, does not mean that it is impossible to describe one person as stronger than another. I am definitely not as strong as either of those two individuals. Equally, I am not a intelligent as either Einstein or Kant and I am not as intelligent as people I met as an undergraduate (not least my tutors). If I can make the former judgement, then I think it is relevantly similar enough to the notion of intelligence that I can legitimately make the latter judgement. view post

posted 15 Oct 2006, 21:10 in The Thousandfold ThoughtWas Cnauir gay? by Peter, Auditor

Maybe I misread. At some point over the next year I intend to re-read the trilogy and I will pay specific attention to the relationship between Proyas and Cnaiur. I will say that what I remember was a certain tenderness (for a given value of tenderness I suppose, given that it is Cnaiur) on the part of Cnaiur which could be paternal (I didn't think of it at the time, but then again I suppose not being one I might miss the signs), but it could also derive from a less platonic source. I don't know and I will need closer re-reading to make a more determined judgement. view post

posted 26 Oct 2006, 17:10 in Philosophy DiscussionRight thing to do? by Peter, Auditor

To the extent that you have no reason to believe that the man needed them (i.e. looked stressed, in need of calming down etc.) then I can't imagine what features of the situation might indicate that either giving or not giving the money would be moral. If you had reason to question that the person was old enough to buy them (what would it be, 16?), then you might wonder if they have developed their reason enough to make such decisions themselves (i.e. to smoke), in which case I suppose you might think that you have a duty to protect him by not giving him the money. Possibly you might also have a duty not to break the law (buying ciggarettes for minors). Yeah, but generally I can't imagine that such a situation really being moral at all. view post

posted 09 Nov 2006, 16:11 in Philosophy DiscussionWill anything change? by Peter, Auditor

Insofar as foreign policy is principally the domain of the Executive (ok the Senate has to ratify treaties etc.) then the veto power of Congress will come to nothing in this domain and so that has not changed. Of course domestic policy could be blocked, but this is the final half of the second term of the President's term and so there is always going to be less of this (the majority of policy comes through in the so-called first "100-days" of a President's term). Insofar as no one has been voted in or out of the executive (we'll come to Rumsfeld later) there will not be a change as comes from presidential election. Insofar as Congress, as with just about every other legislature in the world, does not really have any power to propose legislation (well there are powers of proposition but very very rarely is there the power to follow through and make it law), then this will not change anything. So, the basic conclusion is that no, things will not change. But, this basic conclusion is too restricted The election was fought in part on the platform of foreign policy and the defeat will be read as a sign of disapproval at current foreign policy and put pressure on the government to change. Rumsfeld was not competing in this election and yet, he was definitely a casualty of it. The effects of the election have been felt in the executive and insofar as Rumsfeld's replacement is not an exact clone of Rumsfeld and has power then it is nearly certain that there will be some changes following from this. Legislative proposals are not easily begun in the legislature, but they are not impossible, and with the joint support of an entire party, especially a party in the majority, has more of a chance of getting things done (though the committee system will admittedly nearly overcome this advantage). Whilst Congress might not be able to directly affect foreign policy, it can propose legislation which will hinder certain sorts of foreign policy and it can block legislation which favours other sorts. Basically, legislatures are at most, stoppers to legislation, not creators of it (usually, with caveats, when one understands that this is not always the case... and all other things being equal... :) ), but that does not mean they will be powerless. Having said all of this, it depends on what the Democrats are willing to do. Changes are definitely going to happen, and larger ones are actually possible, but what, where, how and when depends upon a lot more than can be analysed. view post

posted 13 Nov 2006, 18:11 in Philosophy DiscussionWill anything change? by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1fg90uqj]I think the party system is kind of a joke because by the time anybody reaches a certian level of power they are basically the same.[/quote:1fg90uqj] Hmmmmm, I can see the point here. Indeed, have you (or anyone else) read C. Wright Mills and his... don't remember exactly, but it is something like "The Power Elite" and based on an analysis of 1930s Germany by (I forget his name) a German who emigrated before WWII. Basically the argument is that in terms of education, upbringing and culture the Captains of Industry, the Party Elites and the heads of the military are all the same. Indeed it is so similar that the roles are more or less interchangeable (ok perhaps not from the former two into the the last). Eisenhower certainly became president. Mills' argument was that only organised Labour with its bottom up democratic structure could hope to present an alternative and even then the leaders of Labour would, in joining the power elite, suffer from homogonising pressures. So, the Party Elites are likely to have these sorts of problems, all coming from the same background with similar education sorts. This is probably true, with some exceptions (look at Schwarznegger). But, what does that mean for politics? Does it mean that all policies will be the same, that all approaches to policy will be the same? Well, on the one hand there will certainly be a joint interest across parties to have higher salaries, more influence and perks. Does this imply all the policy proposals will be the same? The American model is essentially lacking a left wing in the manner that is found in Europe, and this would fit with the idea that leftwing policies harm power elites. But then again, how many socialists are there in America? We can't tell how the country would be with a stronger socialist movement, but in other democratic countries there do seem to be socialist movements, even when run by party elites. Perhaps it is lack of democratic pressure. Moreover, there do seem to be differences between Democrats and Republicans (though I admit more arguments between the two seem to be negative at the moment), just look at the rhetoric on the Iraq war (there are other differences). Insofar as the US is a democracy, the elites may be the same, but the people are not, so the elites will try and gain votes, but how will they do this except by policy options? Just because the party elites are all the same doesn't mean they won't compete with different policies, at least not if competition like that is one of the best ways of acheiving their ends (i.e. salaries and power). I am not sure it is obvious that dishonesty in any truly extreme way (embezzling money etc.) is going to benefit party elites more, given the dangers of getting caught. This is not to say it won't happen, but even if they do, in order to stay in power there is at least a minimal requirement to do something for their constituents. Of course it might be that being seen to do things is more efficient than actually doing things, or explain pork-barrelling etc. Nonetheless, the power elite theory doesn't seem certain to me, just something to keep in mind when considering checks and balances. Also, apologies for the long post. I get carried away view post

posted 05 Dec 2006, 17:12 in Philosophy DiscussionLeaving Iraq by 2008 by Peter, Auditor

[quote:ccmkdaje]Is it possible to war for reason and not for faith? i defintely believe for revenge but what about pure logical reasoning. the loss of so many men for any cause, is it reasonable or logical?[/quote:ccmkdaje] It all depends on how you are going to define reason, thinly or thickly. A thin definition will include only minimal contentless requirements of reason, such as consistency and perhaps adherence to the laws of logic (but perhaps not even that), whereas thick conceptions will include contents as inherently reasonable. So, we might think that it is inherently reasonable for someone to pursue their desires, or even to seek certain specific things, such as love or happiness. The thicker the definition we give, the easier it will be to argue that certain actions are performed from reason, but also the weaker our defninition of reason will seem. If we make reason so thick that we require reasonable people to seek something like love, then we must define anyone who seeks for other things (material goods, spiritual awareness etc.) as being either irrational, or seeking these things in the pursuit of love, neither of which option seems very acceptable. Even a moderately thick account of reason, such as economists use, which states that pursuit of power is reasonable (because power, usually in the form of money is the means to all other goods) seems to have problems. The ascetic living on a mountain top seems to require no money or power (or only a very little, and certainly not so much that he may be defined as a power-maximiser) and yet it seems somewhat harsh to say that he is unreasonable [i:ccmkdaje]because[/i:ccmkdaje] he doesn't seek for these. Of course it may be that he is unreasonable for other reasons. So, I suggest that a thinner account of reason is preferable, one requiring adherence to certain basic rules of consistency in thought etc. Many people argue that this account of reason is so thin that it cannot motivate action, for it is so thin that almost all action is equally reasonable and there is no rational preference for one choice over another. On this account, war could not be motivated by reason. Of course we might imagine a sect of ultra-rationalists who despise all things deemed untrue or ungrounded and hence unreasonable, such as faith or belief in the supernatural and seek to eradicate such beliefs from the world. In such a situation one might imagine war in the name of reason. But this would be to treat reason as an object of belief, rather than the foundation of belief or a method underlying the holding of beliefs etc. which is not precisely what reason is (at least according to our definition above). Now personally I believe that even a thin definition of reason can give one cause for action, if it can be shown that consistency of action demands that certain actions not be performed etc. and that certain ones are required. I won't go into the full arguments, but Kantian Ethics develop from the premise that we must perceive ourselves as being free (even if we are not), that this freedom requires that we act according to a law (if we "act" without any consistency at all we can not even be said to be acting, let alone acting freely) and this law, when properly developed, will promote certain actions (development of one's talents etc.) and forbid others (theft, lying). Eventually, the argument develops such that people are taken into account etc. But here it seems unlikely that one could go to war for reason, because it the positive duties we have (to other people's happiness, to developing our talents etc.) are all capped by restrictions on how other people are to be treated. In a certain sense, war is forbidden, after all in a perfect world there would be no good reason for war, but in the imperfect world that we live in there might be circumstances in which military force might be justified (though the vast, vast, vast majority of wars would not be). Self-defence, defence of others (though this would have to be impartial, not just because they speak the same language or belong to the same ethnicity etc.) might be reasons, but even here, sometimes passive resistence might be morally superior. But even if a war were sanctioned, it would not stem from reason, it would be consistent with it. I cannot see a situation where reason requires war, though it may exist. In relation to the OP, I think that the US is now in a position where nothing it does is going to be deemed morally justified (because the alternative not undertaken will always be held to have been self-evidently superior), but on balance I think withdrawal so soon will lead to actual civil war. Most deaths are now sectarian. The Americans are universally hated, but the killing is between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds and full-scale civil war is probably held in check only by the US and allies. The question is not and never should be about national interest (I want to start a thread up at some point about the problems I perceive with the notions of nationhood and even community), but rather ONLY about what is right. Of course what is right will take into account the danger to US troops, but will likely be outweighed by the danger to Iraqis posed by a withdrawal. Sigh, mostly I think that Iraq is going to go to hell with or without continued US presence, but at least staying will slow things down leaving the thinnest modicum of hope for some peaceful conclusion. Another long post... I get carried away. :oops: view post

Nationhood posted 11 Dec 2006, 17:12 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

Warning, this is a long post. For some time now (probably two years) I have been working my way towards this point of view, though it is still definitely a work in progress. Very simply put it is this: I believe that the notion of nation is inherently flawed and irrational and hence that it is irrational to want to belong to a national community. I will state at the outset that I am a third culture child, so British parents, but brought up in Belgium, went to a sort of international school etc. and this may explain (causally) why I argue as I do (though what matters is whether the arguments are sound, not where they come from). I am going to use a rather general account of National Identity, shared culture, history, language and a desire to live together. Of these history is going to be the most important, followed closely by culture (lots of nations share languages and non-nations can easily desire to live together). This shared history and culture is going to be central to national identity in a way that language and desire to live together are not. Language because same language does not imply same nation (consider England vs. Scotland vs. Australia vs. America vs. India etc.), so it is not a sufficient basis for a nation, and nor is it a necessary one, for it is conceivable that a nation can be formed from different linguistic communities (perhaps Belgium, or Yugoslavia before it broke up). So neither necessary, nor sufficient, but rather only something it is useful to have. Desire to live together is necessary to the notion of nationhood, after all it is hardly possible to claim identity with some greater group and yet wish to be entirely separate from them. Add to this the idea that nationhood generally implies a move towards statehood (or is held to do so). It is not however sufficient, after all many groups of people have similar desires to live together, even in states of their own. Cults move out to the desert to commune with their conception of God (or other), certain people want states identified by religious affiliation etc. A desire to live together does not imply or entail nationhood, so it is not sufficient. More central to nationhood is shared history and culture, which will certainly be necessary to nationality and although they will only be jointly sufficient to provide a foundation for nationhood with desire to live together, I would suggest that a reasonable interpretation of this desire is that it springs from the shared history and culture. So, if I can show that there is some problem with the notion of shared culture and history, then I think I can show that there is a problem with the notion of nationhood. What is my gripe with shared history and culture then? The answer is very simple, boundaries. There are no boundaries to what belongs to nation which are not drawn from the notion of nationhood already. What I mean by this is that to know what, say, British history is, we need already to know what it is to be British (I admit that Britain is not a nation, but it is not relevantly different with regards to the purposes of this argument) It cannot be defined by physical location, i.e. “British history is what ever happened in this area of land, which we nowadays call the UK”, because paradigmatically “British” history occurred all over the place, from the battle of Trafalgar, to India, to the South Pole. So perhaps we might describe British history as that which is performed by British people, but there we must define what it is to be British without relying upon a notion of British nationality. Again the territorial option is not good enough, Wellington was born in Ireland, Tolkien in South Africa, and many other famous Britons elsewhere in the world. We might suggest something about being born to British parents, but then that seems to cause problems for naturalisation as well as requiring some people to be British without being born to British parents. Even if we accepted this definition of British people as the basis for British history, we still would not get what we wanted. Apparently, the majority of sailors and ships on the victorious side in that sea battle were, by the above definition, not British. When ships were captured, it was often the case that the crews would be hired by the side that captured them, and so, apparently, the majority of ships and crews on the “British” side were French and Spanish in fact. Was it therefore a British victory? One might argue, I suppose that it was led by Nelson who was British and hence that the event in question was a British victory. But then on that account, the battle of Waterloo was a joint British-Swedish victory, for Blucher, the commander of the Prussian forces, was Swedish. Perhaps it might be argued that historical events are “owned” by whichever nation it most effects, so the victory at Trafalgar safeguarded Britain against invasion by Napoleonic troops etc. But then causal effects spread out in all directions, irrespective of nationhood. Pearl Harbour ensured that Britain was able to stand against Germany by ensuring that America entered the war (admittedly Hitler declared war on America), and so by causal action, Pearl Harbour seems as much to belong to British history as to American or Japanese. In the end, the only reasonable interpretation of historical events which allows one to place ownership of them in one camp or another is the explicit or implicit use of the notion of nationhood. Trafalgar is a British victory, because it was done by “Britain” in “Britain’s” national interest. No other account of ownership of history can account for everything which is supposed to be paradigmatically owned by some particular nation. But if we accept this interpretation, we find that our notion of nationhood relies upon shared history and culture and the notion of sharing history and culture relies upon the notion of nationhood. Rather, we imagine a community, an identity which we then impose on objects which we find in the world. We will never meet and come to know every other person in our nation, so we imagine that there is something held in common between us, this history, but the history itself is imagined (i.e. the ownership of it is). Again an example might help make my point. The Blitz in 1940. Imagine two people, A and B. A lives in a nice part of London whereas B lives in a less nice area and the two have never, nor will never meet. One night during the Blitz B’s house is hit and completely destroyed and what little is left is looted. My complaint is that people identify A and B as having both essentially lived through the same experience in 1940, namely the Blitz. Actually the two have had completely different experiences and B will have more in common with a German person whose home and goods were destroyed than she will with A. And yet there is a shared sense of “the Blitz”. It is an imagined unity. I hold that the nation is the same, we have vastly different experiences of life and yet imagine that they are unified by something “greater”, something shared. But there is nothing, it is illusory. It might be argued that there is a unity of experience in a nation. For instance, in Britain there is a national curriculum, so every school child learns much the same thing as every other child. Or the fact that the free healthcare exists for all people creates a similarity in everyone’s lives. I have two gripes with this. The first is that the national curriculum and the NHS exist [i:2yazy26y]because [/i:2yazy26y]we have imagined that there is such a thing as a nation and shared history and hence it is reasonable to impose some general features on everyone’s lives. My second complaint is more basic and more important, I think. I disagree with the idea that everyone has the same experience. How one is taught in a school is very important to how one experiences it, just as how one is oneself (interested in learning, desirous of doing well etc.). The national curriculum does not ensure that we all experience the same sort of thing, because we are all different and were taught differently and experienced different class dynamics etc. The NHS differences are even starker, for I may never enter a hospital in my life, or I may be struck down with cancer aged 28. My experiences of the NHS will be vastly different from most other peoples, because most other people will not be ill in the same way I am, and so to believe that we experience the same thing in free healthcare is imagined. Nations are like this, they are imagined. They are artificial. They are based upon a notion of shared history and culture (ok I haven’t specifically dealt with culture but I hope it is relatively clear how the arguments will work) which relies upon the concept what it is to belong to the nation already. I don’t make the claim that nations are not real, if I were then whenever I made reference to “British, French, German” etc. not in quotation marks I would be speaking of unreal things and hence my arguments would reduce to meaningless incomprehensibility. My point is not that they do not exist, but that their existence is irrational and hence that they [i:2yazy26y]should[/i:2yazy26y] not exist. More generally I think that most of these arguments will apply to any community which one comes to belong to without some element of choice. I can belong to the role0playing community, in a very general sense, because I have chosen to take up role-playing as a hobby. The real feature of my enjoying role-playing games ties in to the real feature of other people enjoying role-playing games and insofar as I am interested in groups of people who share my interest (as I will be because role-playing is not a solitary activity) one might want to describe me as a member of a community. But I am not British, though I have a British passport, and I am not European, though my natural inclinations pull me towards this sort of identification. I am two things. I am an individual defined by a point of view on the world and I am a member of the set of rational beings (rationality being a shared characteristic relevant enough to warrant identifying with a group). I relate to other people either as members of this set of rational beings (when I don’t know them and have no common or repeated interaction with them) or as individuals who I know (note both groups are to be treated with respect and dignity, but the latter group, in being friends, family and acquaintances can make other demands on me). Right, this is a long post I realise, but I would be interested to find out what people think. view post

posted 11 Dec 2006, 18:12 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

And this is why I posted here. I did not think about protection. My initial problem is that people could band together for help without needing to be a "nation" and I wonder if people actually consider being a member of a nation for reasons of security. And if they do, how do we explain the First World War? Anyway, got to go, but I'll hopefully get a more complete reply out soon. view post

posted 12 Dec 2006, 00:12 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

[quote:hlf0wunk]I'm always a bit leery of defining something which actually exists as being "illogical" and especially of saying that it "shouldn't" exist.[/quote:hlf0wunk] I can see where you are coming from here but I would say to you that if someone came up to you and said "I like all cats, but I hate all mammals" there is an obvious inconsistency, such that it is simply basic to our capacity to think about anything that we must think "He shouldn't think like that". If we don't think like that on some level I suggest that we don't even think. [quote:hlf0wunk]Should is a bit of a silly word for conversation of the level you seem to want to have. What do you mean by "should"? Are you religious, in which case your "should" might be translated to be "Divinely commanded"? Are you an atheist (humans are lightning in meat) in which your "should" comes out as something like "I prefer that". [/quote:hlf0wunk] Why does an atheist have to abandon a normative (i.e. action-guiding) understanding of should? I am an atheist, but I happen to believe that certain sorts of thing are immoral, simply because they are practically inconsistent (in a technical sense of practical which refers to action). When I am not so tired I will try and find somewhere on this section of the forum where I have argued this position so you can see where I am coming from. At the very least I can tell you now that I follow Immanual Kant's system of ethics (or at least how I have understood them) and God actually must take a back seat in this. You might want to look up Plato's Eurythphro argument to see why God is not necessary for, and indeed can get in the way of, morality when issuing edicts of "Don't do X" etc. [quote:hlf0wunk]You base the irrationality of nations upon the foundation that you have not been able to rationalize their existence. I imagine that you are also (offhand) unable to explain the full workings of your computer, or your local hospital. Clearly its irrational and shouldn't exist. The idea that your idea of rationality is the litmus test that all human institutions must pass in order to be justified (with the almighty should!) in their existence is hilarious, but oddly attractive. [/quote:hlf0wunk] The workings of a computer or a local hospital are not usually irrational. To the extent that a computer consistently came up with incorrect answers, say in a calculating programme, or the hospital came out with the explicit policy that nurses should both wear Nurses uniforms and not wear Nurses uniforms, then that running would be irrational and [i:hlf0wunk]should[/i:hlf0wunk] be changed, in the sense of should above. I hope that my argument is not saying "I don't understand the mechanisms behind the foundation of the notion of nationality, hence it must be irrational", but rather that "the only possible causal explanation of how the concept of nationhood is arrived at gives us only circular [i:hlf0wunk]reasons[/i:hlf0wunk] to adopt such a notion and hence is irrational". So, I could give an objective causal account of my writing this sentence. It would tell me nothing about the reason I wrote it. Reasons are derived from deductive and inductive (perhaps also abductive) systems of thinking and justifying and that something is caused need not have a reason. [quote:hlf0wunk]Accepting then, as read, the idea that nations are not inherently logical by virtue of having come into existence and endured thousands of years of stress testing we come to the conclusion that further proof is necessary. I propose that you accept nations as rational based upon their utility. I think if you examine the actions of nations you will have some difficulty in determing another group which could and would take on those actions if nations were to be dissolved.[/quote:hlf0wunk] Firstly nations have not endured thousands of years of history, they have endured about 300 at the most. The concept of a nation is embedded in 17-18th century Western European thought. Scottish kilts, English manners, military parades, country-wide civil service all serve to create and bolster an imagined unity, the nation and all created in the 19th century I believe (not so sure about the military parades). My point was that the notion of naitonhood takes ownership of historical events and claims them as its own, when it is the belonging of these historical events to a unified history which are meant to create the nation. Benedict Andersen has a lovely quote (which I may find later if I can) saying something like "Nations are imagined to arise out of a distant past and sail on into a glorious invisible future"... ok he puts it better than that. As for the utility argument. Well that might appear to make it rational to pretend to support nations with all their created community etc., but really we get to a prisoner's dilemma problem. It is rational for you to get everyone else to believe in the nation, to go off and fight wars in its name, to obey the law because "one doesn't steal from one's fellow citizen" etc., but that does not mean that if one is merely seeking utility that it is rational for you to do so. It is rational for you to duck military service because you might die. It is rational for you to steal from people to the extent that you can get away with. Essentially, where there are social goods for which one is not pivotal in providing, then it is always rational to let other people bear the burdens of the social good and gain personal goods associated with not paying these costs and [i:hlf0wunk]still[/i:hlf0wunk] get the social goods (like security etc.). Now I think that actually such 'rational' thinking, i.e. based in utility, is not fully rational, for reasons given by my support of Kantian ethics. We should not steal from others for reasons entirely separate from what good it will or will not do me. I also think that nationhood has led to some of the worst outcomes imagineable in the history of humanity. Nations mobilise people in a way which is unheard of in history, save perhaps in things like the Crusades etc. Admittedly, nations have been mobilising themselves in the era of modern communications etc. which has helped enourmously, but when a nation moves in a given direction it can bring to bear enormous power, pressure and weight. The war economies of the two World Wars required modern communication, but they also required identification with the nation. In the 17th c. Dutch merchants sold guns and ammunition to countries with which they were at war and this was not thought to be odd. I very much doubt that if this attitude had been prevalent throughout society in the World Wars, that the requisite levels of mobilisation of resources and manpower would have been at all possible. To be a part of one nation is not to be a part of any other, but more than this it is to perceive other nations as rivals. Community almost by definition (though not entirely) entails a concept of the Other, who is to be reviled. Perhaps this is human nature, but if it is, it is something to be militated against. Even if nations weren't, in my view, irrational constructs which we would do well to drop as soon as possible, the horror they have wrought and made possible surely tells very much against them. Local militias in the Congo, for instance, are horrific (and I think part of the reason they are so is because of the fact that they form a specific community which defines the Other, just as nations do), but at least they are not organised so that they can do more damage. Now, as for the problems of getting along without nations, well I would like some sort of highly federalised world state, but insofar as this is utopian, then when dealing with the real world, I think it is more a question or trying to argue and get people away from tribalistic, particularistic groups. Perhaps I can't stop someone feeling British, but maybe I can make them hate the French less. view post

posted 13 Dec 2006, 00:12 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

[quote:2ra39ppl]First off..the posts are really too I am going to keep it short and simple in hope you will too... [/quote:2ra39ppl] Bah, long posts are a sign of strength. Ok, you are right, long posts make for difficult reading. I defend the length of the initial post because I think the ideas need to be spellt out clearly (or as clearly as I am capable of doing). I am guilty of verbosity however. [quote:2ra39ppl]Anyway..the notion of nation is not is our confirmity with the nation that can be seen as irrational. This brings us to the discussion you guys already have..utility vs rationality. Since rationality is just as ambiguous notion as that of a makes not sense to continue this argument. [/quote:2ra39ppl] I am not sure I agree with you when you say that the concept of nation is not irrational, and that I argue only that our adoption of it is. A concept which implied both P and not P at the same time (this object both has three internal angles and does not have three internal angles at the same time) would be irrational and it would be irrational to adopt such a concept. I argue that the concept of nationhood can only be "justified" by reference to itself. Therefore it is circular in its nature. The concept of nationhood relies upon the concept of nationhood. Insofar as circularity is irrational, then adoption of any concept which is circular in nature must be irrational too. I can see why one might think that the notion of rationality is ambiguous. People use it in lots of different ways in lots of different contexts. So, let us be clear about this, the rationality used here is describable in terms of intelligibility Intelligibilty is, very briefly, characterised by a minimal requirement of consistency (I cannot explicitly believe, at the same time, both P and not P and remain intelligible to someone else) and more generally a general acceptance of certain rules of thinking, principally the laws of logic. Someone who consistently states that "If P then Q, If Q then R, and finally P but not R" is failing to think intelligibly and to the extent that we cannot explain this behaviour away with reference to circumstantial facts (i.e. "he is under a lot of stress and isn't thinking clearly), then may also be classed as irrational. With this account of rationality, I think I can say that the concept of nationhood is irrational because it fails to conform to the laws of logic, specifically the problem of circularity. This is not to say that it is automatically irrational to adopt the concept of nationality, for we can render intelligible why someone might mistake themselves and think that the concept is rational. Mostly people will simply not question the provenance of the concept, which is not irrational. However, once someone accepts that the concept is irrational, then they will become irrational if they continue to adopt and uphold the concept. So, it is not irrational for someone to hold the belief that TV does not affect people's behaviour and so all this "less violence" stuff is ridiculous and also, at the same time, the belief that the world would be a better place if there were more religious programming on the box. If we take it that the implicit implications of both beliefs do, in fact, lead to inconsistency (they don't have to, but could easily, so let us assume they do), then once it is pointed out the person only becomes irrational if they accept the inconsistency but refuses to abandon or modify his beliefs. So, perhaps I was too strong in my initial argument. It is not irrational to want to belong to a nation, although I think my argument shows that the concept of nation is irrational. It is irrational if someone accepts my argument and continues to accept the concept of nation. I do however think that people should accept my argument, because I think it is sound (i.e. both that the structure is valid and that the premises are true) and insofar as it is irrational for us to hold beliefs we know to be false (because belief aims at truth, and knowledge implies belief anyway), then people should abandon their concept of nationhood. [quote:2ra39ppl]In fact I believe you are tackling the issue from a 'wrong' angle. It would be more interesting, indeed, to see how the nation comes to existance. I have had some history classes only, so I am not sure if i am entirely correct here..but didn't the Greeks have a nation? the Persians? The fact that Euro-centric scholars see the notion of nation slowly finding its purpose! after the Middle Ages, does not mean that they never existed. I was reading Aristotle's Politics some days ago and I am sure that the word nation is in it. Now, I agree that translations (to English this time) can be deceiving, it could have just as well be the new interpretation ("there are no facts, only interpretations"), yet it could just as well be the unity of the Greeks that made them a nation..even if the notion did not exist. Furthermore, Aristotle (and so many other) often talk of the Hellenes and the barbarians, which necesserily implies that there was such a thing as the self and the other... [/quote:2ra39ppl] Causal accounts are, to me, always less interesting than explanations. A causal account describes, an explanation gives an account of why. As for the historical. I am specifically targetting the concept of nationhood, which is definitely a modern notion. The Greeks had a concept of race, and a common language, but no desire to live together and no shared history (though they did have something of a shared culture). I have read Aristotle's Politics too, so readable compared to so much stuff I read now, and he does identify the Hellenes as opposed to the Easterners (Persians) and the Barbarians (everyone else), but this is not a nation, it is an ethnic group or 'race'. Modern Greece required precisely the sort of ownership of history to come into being which I think is illegitimate. Spartan history is as "Greek" as Athenian, is as "Greek" as Corinthean etc. despite the fact that the Spartans, the Athenians and the Corintheans would not have identified themselves as having a shared history, except insofar as they interacted as sovereign states. Before European 17-18th century thought there were administrative units which made up states, there were not nations. There were things which fulfilled similar roles to nations, religion for instance. The Islamic Caliphate ran from Bagdhad to Andalucia, all nominally under the control of the Caliph, but what held people together was religion, not nation. Perhaps the Jews could be said to have formed a nation before this (Nietzche apparantly credits them with the founding of the idea), but the shared language is sacred (Hebrew was the language of the Torah and nothing else for a long time) as are the shared customs and history. I would say that it was a religious imagined community rather than a national one. All of this said, I don't deny the existence of imagined communities prior to the nation. There are many actually existing (religions for example) and there were many others (of all sorts). I strongly suspect that to the extent that we are simply born into them that there will be similar problems as with nations, but I don't want to get into that yet. Once (if) I am on firmer footing with nations I'll go further. [quote:2ra39ppl].. The existence of nation-states is very least them coming into being..the fixed territorial boundaries (initially for the population, eventually for resources) order to keep the population under the rule one must find the necessary legitimacy (based on your interpretation, I suppose you would see these as lies)..legitimacy is won slowly of course..first by security..then by extension of rights etc... I don't have much time to look into the subject right now..but my point is that their is a logical series of causes for a state..thus also a exist... And since I define these causes as might say they are also rational.[/quote:2ra39ppl] Causal accounts are not normative. They do not indicate whether something should be the case or not, simply that this is how things are and how they happened. I can give a causal account of my shooting someone, from the physical brain states, down to the muscle movements and catastrophic effects upon the other person's body that the bullet has. This account explains that I shot someone. It does not explain why I shot someone (even if we include brain state descriptions prior to the shooting). This is the case even if we claim that brain states are all there is to thinking (a reasonable claim, though not entailing that all that can be known about thinking resides in brain states), for the reasons exist independently of the brain states. In a pre-neuroscientific age it is still possible to explain why it is that I shot the person, so explanation cannot be identified with physical brain states (if they were we could not know of them without our scientific account which is plainly false) As to the actual causal account, I have seen a number of different interpretations. Most of them invoke some sort of notion of necessity deriving from economic models. The mass labour required for capitalism can only be unified with something akin to nations etc. These explanations tell me how it is that nations came about. They do not give me reasons to think that it should have come about or that it should remain. If nations remain purely because they are useful, even though the concept is irrational, then I claim it should be abandoned because it is irrational. [quote:2ra39ppl]You example of A and B supposing to have the same experience is void..because you do not have this sentiment..yet others might... C, for example, coming from Scottland, might feel the same sentiment for entire different reasons..yet his union with the rest of the Brits! can only be explained by him.. It would be his need/desire for his community (just as your need for the RPG community). [/quote:2ra39ppl] I have to say I don't really follow this part here. Are you saying that it is legitimate for C to desire to be British because of his desire to become part of a community? I would say that his need to become part of a community cannot be enough for nationhood, because there are uncountably many different sets of people with whom he could desire to form a community. He could base his desire on any number of characteristics, real (like being a roleplayer, or being an admirer of the qualities of tin) or imagined (like being British, or being a Hellene). Sorry I am not really clear what you mean by this, do you think you could elaborate please? [quote:2ra39ppl]Oh..and I see now that I have failed to keep it short...[/quote:2ra39ppl] Sorry, me too. :oops: Better luck next time? :D [quote:2ra39ppl]Why have a nation still? People need leaders. Leadership appears to be defined in a society by the rules/laws. I realize my post is not perfect but I speak in terms of perception rather than actual reality.[/quote:2ra39ppl] Yeah, sorry, I didn't see this reply initially (sorry blind). I don't want to go on too much more, so I'll say that I can see why it might be the case that people need leaders and nations provide a firm basis for creating leaders, but I think that other systems might do it better. National leaders will follow the national interest and this will harm the interests of others. What I want is leadership which deals with individuals and with all rational beings. No ignoring the plight of Africa because they are poor, no hatred of the French because history tells us to and no "My country right or wrong". view post

posted 18 Dec 2006, 16:12 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

The imperfection argument is both very powerful and very unfair in some ways. It is powerful because most ethical systems adopt the principle that "ought implies can", i.e. if it is not possible to do it, then it cannot be the case that one ought to do it. If there were not this reauirement then moral failings could occur through no fault of one's own and yet one would be just as guilty as if it were the case that one could have done something and didn't. So, one might argue 'there ought to be some system by which general decisions can be made. Either governments or absolute direct and participatory democracy could make decisions. Absolute direct and participatory democracy is impossible, so only governments should take such decisions and so governments should exist.' Then one might argue 'Governments can only exist if there are nations (or equivalents), so nations ought to exist'. Other things being equal perhqps nations are bad things, but so long as having a government and nation is better than not having a government and not having a nation, then one ought to have a nation. The imperfection of humanity implies the impossibility of government without some form of national community (or equivalent), at least gov. at the level at which it is needed for the modern world and the impossibility of absolute direct and participatory democracy at the level required for modern society. The argument is, I think, valid (if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true), but it is not clear that all the premises are true. The danger of arguing from our own limitations here is that it can be a veil for all sorts of easy conclusions. Some/many (at the very least Nick Griffin leader of the NF in Britain) on the far right claim that races have inherently different characteristics, including social and behavioural ones and that because of this it is [i:23iwwd7s]impossible[/i:23iwwd7s] for them to live alongside each other. It used to be argued that it was [i:23iwwd7s]impossible[/i:23iwwd7s] for women to be fully educated as their brains couldn't handle it. I think we can be relatively secure in rejecting both these claims, but if we do, should we reconsider the impossibility of living without nations? I reject the concept of nations, though I admit I have inclinations which are not as universal as they should be given my point of view (I strongly identify with a 'European' identity). Intellectually I have come to an opinion and I try to act consistently with it. I don't see that I am unique and special and that therefore my views are destined to obscurity (they are destined to obscurity for other reasons, to do with my own personal limitations). Moreover, when I am feeling optimistic I think that sometimes the world is moving in a less tribalistic and nationalistic direction. The UN may be less than what it should be, it may be a petty talking shop for the great powers to impose "international" will and the lesser powers to make incoherent noise, but the ideal behind it is something to be taken in awe. And the mere fact that it recognises this ideal is enough to give me some hope. On the other hand when I am feeling less than optimistic I find myself echoing Brian Barry when he says (roughly) "I fear we are heading for a new Dark Ages, and there is nothing philosophers [or anyone perhaps] of a liberal persuasion can do to stop it". view post

posted 28 Dec 2006, 12:12 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

Ok, sorry for the delay in answering... [quote:29qu2o2f]First, there are several beliefs on this: modernist, primordialist and the perennialist. The modernist claim that nations are indeed irrational and that they are and have been a political tool to control the masses. Even in the past, starting with the code of Hammurabi even, there was a need to keep and justify the authority over the mass and this was done, partially, through means of 'nationhood'. Primordialists oppose this and say that nations are natural, that they have existed and always will, a clear divide between people has been present throughout history. Similar to this is the perennialist argument that says even though nations were not existent as such, meaning nation-states, there were always collective! cultural ties. [/quote:29qu2o2f] Yeah, I remember this from my Political Sociology lectures. If the Primordialist argues that nations have always existed, then it seems obvious that this is false. It may seem that the French Nation has drifted out of some immemorial past, but 3000 years ago there definitely was nothing resembling the French. If they are claiming that there have always existed nation-like entities, I would still disagree, for the earliest communities would have been of villages and families, all small enough that every member of the community could know every other member. This is a significant difference and it is the difference between an imagined community where the links between people are artificial and imagined and a community based upon actual relationships formed between people. Once we start getting groups of people larger than which it is possible for all to know all, then we move into territory similar to nations. I say similar because there are differences in how the community is imagined if it is based on the notion of a nation or, say, a religion. Here I am not yet ready to say whether this is likely to be a relevant or irrelevant difference. Perhaps non-national imagined communities are not going to be irrational. I suspect they are but I don't have much inclining me either way. This, I think also deals with the Perennialist, insofar as I recognise that there have been communities. I just don't think that will make Nations rational. [quote:29qu2o2f]There is also a book of Anderson, I think it's called Imagined Communties or something of that sort. I haven't read it myself, but I read another which talks about him also (Smith, The Origins of Nation; which I read partially only, for some work in the university). I think you would find it rather interesting.. [/quote:29qu2o2f] The Andersen is indeed what set off this whole train of thought, though it was set me in an essay dealing with Ethnicity rather than Nationality. I was initially hostile to it, but found it very difficult to ignore. Thank you for the Smith, I shall have to look it up at some point. [quote:29qu2o2f]As it goes for Aristotle, book 7 chapter 7 says that Greeks are a nation, and if it were united into a state, Hellas "would be able to rule the world". [/quote:29qu2o2f] Certainly this is closer to the notion of a Greek nation than I had thought, but I am not sure that this indicates a desire to live together under a state amongst the Greeks, nor that it would overcome the individual histories of each city-state. Could the Spartans have claimed the same sort of ownership of the Delphic League (I think that was the name of the Athenian alliance against the Spartans) as the Athenians? To the extent that you think yes, then they could have formed a nation. I don't know (meaning really that I don't know, not that I think it unlikely etc.), and so perhaps we should put out a call to Ancient Historians tell us what they believe. [quote:29qu2o2f]Finally, you are indeed tackling the point from a wrong angle, at least even more so after your explanation. To find the cause of things is necessary, given that you find a cause instead of a speculation on the cause. I am not interested on the fact that you shot someone, but rather on the what led you to shoot someone. In other words, I am not interested on the function of your body, but the whole surrounding, the whole setting, not only your mind, but even more so the mind of the other to make you shoot him. To put it differently, to ban something that is irrational is irrational in itself. If you accept that there is a purpose for the nation, the economic or the stability, perhaps even legitimacy of the state, then it is rational to have the nation. If they are useful there is a rationality behind it! Damn how I hate exclamation marks... [/quote:29qu2o2f] Ok. The roots of the word Aristocracy are Arete and Cratos, meaning Talented, Great, Superior etc. and Power. Essentially, an Aristocratic system of government literally means "Rule by the Best/most Talented etc.". Here we can see the legitimation of an Aristocracy, that it allows for the most talented to rule, and that is legitimate because the most talented will make the best decisions for the whole. So the argument for the rule of Aristocracts might be put like this. "The most legitimate Government is the one which best rules the whole in the interests of the whole. We believe that the most legitimate Government should rule us, because that is most in our interests. The best rule (i.e. most in our interests) will come from the most talented. Therefore, the most talented should rule" Or rather, because Aristocracy is almost always hereditary (at least we can imagine dealing with one now). "The most legitimate Government is the one which best rules the whole in the interests of the whole. We believe that the most legitimate Government should rule us, because that is most in our interests. The best rule (i.e. most in our interests) will come from the most talented. The most talented will have the most talented children. Therefore, the most talented and then their children etc. should rule" The argument is, I think, valid (that is to say if the premises are true then the conclusion MUST be true). It is pretty clearly not sound (not all the premises are true). It is not necessarily true that the most talented will best serve the whole, indeed there is good empirical evidence to suggest that anyone in a position of power will be tempted to screw people over and therefore the aristocracy, in being the most talented, will simply screw people over more efficiently. We can give a causal explanation as to why Aristocracy exists or existed. The most talented took power and then transferred it to their progeny, who benefitted from the better food and lifestyle and so were more talented themselves. The reason we had for adopting and supporting an Aristocracy was its superior rule in the interests of the whole, but in actual fact that is not what Aristocracies do. So, knowing that the reasons we have to support an Aristocracy are not sound (i.e. not true), it is irrational then to support an Aristocracy. The causal explanation is neither here nor there when considering reasons for something. [quote:29qu2o2f]Finally I don't get your circularity is irrational argument, perhaps you could explain it me.. But I must tell you that everything is circular..[/quote:29qu2o2f] Socrates is a man. All men are mortal Therefore Socrates is mortal. Valid and presumably sound argument. From Wikipedia p implies p suppose p therefore, p. So, If Socrates is a man, then he is a man Socrates is a man Therefore he is a man. The conclusion merely restates one of the premises. For the conclusion to follow from the argument, the conclusion must already be supposed, and this is an invalid argument. I think there are philophers and other people out there who think we don't need logic or it isn't necessarily true, or that somethings are true but illogical (i.e. actually invalid as above), but I actually find it impossible to understand that point of view. If circularity really is not a problem in reasoning, then reasoning rules nothing out at all and I suggest that thought stops at that point. [quote:29qu2o2f]Also, maybe you should explain to me into a deeper extent why you think that something can be P and not P at the same time. There is a 'rational' explanation for both being and not being at the same physics we are getting to this point where the same object can be in two places simulatneously..why not in thought, which is by far much easier...[/quote:29qu2o2f] Sorry this bit is going to get quite technical, so feel free to ignore it. If you talk to physicists and applied mathmeticians they will tell you that Schroedinger's cat is not a thought experiment to show how modern physics has overturned logic, rather they will tell you that it was a thought experiment designed to show how utterly weird quantum mechanics are by showing them in action at the macro level. Quantum mechanics, like all science is simply a model explaining data. The dual existence is not the problem one might think it is either. "Object 1 is in location L at time T", say call this P. "Object 1 is in location M at time T", say call this R. P and R, no contradiction. To get the contradiction you need to go further. You need to get it that P implies not-R and R implies not-P. To say that you need to show that L does not eqaul M and that the same object cannot exist at both L and M at the same time. But then this isn't a logical contradiction, for it isn't a logical contradiction to say that a thing can exist at two points at the same time. P can only imply not-R if something cannot exist in two places at the same time. The logical truth is simply that it cannot be the case that the object exist at L and not exist at L at the same time, not that it might exist at M as well. [quote:29qu2o2f]When you say you mean nation-state or nation itself..? Do you mean the sentiment or the actual application of the sentiment..? [/quote:29qu2o2f] I agree, I haven't been very clear about this. I believe that support for the concept of nation (regardless of whether expressed in an actual state) is irrational, and therefore that supporting the nation in sentiment and action will, when one is fully aware of the irrationality of the concept, be irrational. I therefore belive that the effects of such sentiment and actions, such as nation-states will be irrational. Of course all of this needs to be qualified by my earlier definition of rationality, where people can be rational in believing irrational things because of limited information, or being under stress. Subjectively a thing may be rational, when taken objectively it would be irrational. Long post again. I find it difficult to keep them down. view post

posted 30 Dec 2006, 18:12 in Philosophy DiscussionThe sovereign rights of a nation. by Peter, Auditor

[quote:3slsqsin]A few questions for examples, if we as a more powerful nation see a people being murdered wholesale by there government or armed forces do we not have a right to interfere? when a majority of poeple are persecuting people in a country should we not try and help them? If a country cannot cope with the strains put upon it by natural disaster should we not give aid? [/quote:3slsqsin] National Sovereignty acting as a barrier to any of this seems to me to be patently absurd. Even if Nationhood etc. is accepted that doesn't stop individuals having rights and insofar as individual's rights are most basic (at the very least we will think they are more basic than Nation's rights) then there simply is no question about intervention or not. However the same goes for assertion of National Interest. Even if we admit such a concept has a place at all in decision-making, we ought to think that it is subservient to Individual's rights. [quote:3slsqsin]During WW2 oriental members of the USA were put in consentration camps and perihad from mainstream society. Britain is the only nation on Earth to have effected total genocide of an entire nationality of people. The slave trade may have been around for thausands of years but the European nations made it into an international money maker. The only country to use weapons of mass destruction on a foreign land were the Americans. There have been more wars and death caused by the Christian religion than any other in the entirity of recorded history. [/quote:3slsqsin] Of course the US concentration camps were probably not quite the same as the German ones and there certainly were no death camps. Which nation (sorry this isn't meant to appear as a challenge to your claim, I see no reason to disbelieve it, I merely want to know where, when and who. If it wasn't read as being aggressive, please don't feel I am being patronising, I find it difficult to read intention in text often and would rather appear obvious and clumsy than rude and aggressive)? Slavery was pretty commercial under the Arabic slave caravans, but much less efficient. The West industrialised it, but the principles behind it are not much different, unlike how they are different from the Ancient World etc. In defence of the US, they have been the only country to have Nuclear Weapons and be in the position they were in, namely war with a determined, industrialised enemy. That said I can't and don't condone their use. Christian Wars causing more deaths is principally caused by the fact that the Christian World industrialised first and were hence the first to reach industrial methods of killing. When slaughter on a mass scale has been possible for non-Christians, they have embraced it. Christianity is unlikely to be a significant causal factor in number of war deaths. [quote:3slsqsin]My point although a little convoluted, is this, there may be a need at times to interfere with other nations soveiregnty, though the decision for this is a moral one and should be made by those with a clear concience......i.e not really any nation or government i can readilly think of......we've all been a bit shitty to each other in the past.....putting it very lightly[/quote:3slsqsin] This sounds very reasonable, but shouldn't something be done nonetheless sometimes? This is a real question, I don't know. If our government is not qualified to intervene, should we allow it to do so when we believe it to be right to do so? No obvious answer suggests itself to me. view post

posted 21 Jan 2007, 16:01 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Peter, Auditor

Yeah, any meaning there is to life is unlikely to come from any facts about genetics or survival, because the meaning is likely going to be normative, something about how the word should be, whereas facts about genetics or survival will simply be descriptive. It is called the fact/value distinction. The fact that Tiddles the cat has fleas cannot, on its own inform us that Tiddles ought not to sit on the sofa, you need to have a normative premise (i.e. "Cats with flees [i:jpg4s04u]ought[/i:jpg4s04u] not to sit on sofas). The meaning of life is going to need reasons, and not just causes. view post

posted 24 Jan 2007, 09:01 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Peter, Auditor

[quote:1cycuiid]Well my argument is that there is no intrinsic meaning to life, because life simply is.Unless of course you believe also in some sort of higher power, which I think predisposes people to want to attribute meaning. But we are human, and humans want to attribute meaning to everything. (Look how we apply human attributes to everything from pets to the weather) [/quote:1cycuiid] Well sort of. I think that we can and do set ourselves goals and ends in life and that we can derive some meaning of life from these when these goals and ends are rational, and derived from rationality. This would not suffer from the fact/value distinction because in dealing with rationality it deals with [i:1cycuiid]reasons[/i:1cycuiid] and not mere facts. This, though, would be a very general meaning of life, and there are only two rationally derived duties which might really fulfil these roles, self-development and helping other people develop their own happiness. I won't go into the arguments behind this, unless people really want me to, but I will flag up that they are contentious and are taken from Kantian Ethics. So, the basic idea is that meaning cannot come from facts of the world, won't come from God (well I don't think it will, because I don't believe), but can come from reason. view post

posted 08 Feb 2007, 17:02 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat philosophers informed The Prince of Nothing? by Peter, Auditor

Well I noticed certain Kantian overtones in the books, but there is also a lot of Hegel apparantly. Ummmm, otherwise I am not so sure. Not too many others as far as I can tell... view post

posted 25 Mar 2007, 23:03 in Philosophy DiscussionLife and Death by Peter, Auditor

[quote:73s74cbr]In my opinion the will to live is nothing more than instinctual. Our instincts, and every living thing's instincts are to live and procreate. That's it. All the other things which fill our lives, which we fill our lives with, are the selfish drive of sentience. We Need to fill our lives with the belief that we have a purpose. We Need to kill the time between feeding and creating offspring, and we fill it with things we believe give us a purpose.[/quote:73s74cbr] I have to say I don't see that because, as a matter of fact, we are driven by instinct implies that there is no meaning in life. It merely implies that if meaning is a normative concept (and most people would say it is) and if it really is the case that we can derive no ought from is, then the meaning of our lives does not come from our biology. It doesn't show that meaning cannot supervene on our biology or that it cannot be an emergent property starting once we arrive at a certain level of cognitive complexity. It doesn't show that sentience alone might ground meaning, after all sentience really is something apart from instinct (at least on your definition, because sentience is what we do between being instinctual). Moreover, when you define sentience as being inherently selfish, well, I think you are mistaken. You are either making an a priori claim about the nature of intention, whereby, by necessity if you intend something, that intention is self-relating, [i:73s74cbr]or [/i:73s74cbr]you are making a merely psychological claim with evidence stemming only from your own experience. I suggest that the way you present your views implies that you support the psychological claim rather than the a priori, but I will try and argue against both anyway. Now I don't have my lecture notes with me, so this will only be a rough construal of the argument. The problem with the a priori view is that it is committed to asserting that the intention "To steal the money from the box so that I can buy myself a car" as selfish and self-regarding as (and here please take [i:73s74cbr]only[/i:73s74cbr] the intention as stated, with no additions... i.e. literally just the words I write) "To bring grapes to Toby's sick aunt in hospital". However, it is clear that the latter intention is [i:73s74cbr]not[/i:73s74cbr] selfish and self-regarding [i:73s74cbr]as it is presented[/i:73s74cbr]. The two intentions are not the same and the latter cannot be selfish or self-regarding, for it does not mention "me" at all. Logically speaking, the latter intention cannot be self-regarding. The argument [i:73s74cbr]then [/i:73s74cbr]is that no one ever actually has the latter intention. No one ever intends to bring grapes to Toby's aunt because they are sick, rather they intend "To bring grapes to Toby's sick aunt [i:73s74cbr]because[/i:73s74cbr] that will make me look good and will therefore benefit me". But that is not an a priori claim about the nature of intention. It is an empirical claim about the nature of human psychology. The wonderful thing about intentions, however, is that they are inherently closed to the outside world and so cannot be studied in the way that most scientific phenomena can be. In matter of fact we actually have direct access only to our own intentions. So to make a claim about someone else's intentions we need to extrapolate from our own experiences, meaning that we are going from one single example (one's own expereiences of one's intentions) to draw up conclusions about 6 billion other people (rather more if we are going with "Humans who have lived", which one should do if one is making a psychological claim about humans in general). But actually, that is not standardly an acceptable inferential system. We think that all solid objects fall to ground when dropped, not because we once saw a rock fall to ground, but because we have seen hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of solid objects fall to ground before. I think that the belief that only selfishness acts as a motivation to action (or rather on your model, selfishness and instinct) derives from a mistaken inference from the fact that many of our own intentions are selfish and from the fact that many of our own intentions turn out to be selfish when they appeared to be altruistic (sometimes we do do "nice" things simply to gain the kudos from doing them). And then when we encounter an intention which appears altruistic and for which we cannot discover a selfish hidden motive, we simply assume that the motive is well hidden, rather than that there is no such motive. More generally, I know very intelligent believers. I have considered religion and faith in a Christian God, and I have rejected such beliefs, but I also know that not one of my arguments would, or should convince an intelligent believer. They are enough to convince me and (I believe) to ensure that my position is defensible. Not so long ago BBC Radio 4 did a set of three interviews of religious experts (Christian[the Archbishop of Canterbury], Jewish [the British Chief Rabbi] and Muslim [a French Islamic scholar whose name escapes me]). Certainly the Archbishop and the Chief Rabbi have pursued philosophy degrees and I suspect the Islamic Scholar will have done something similar. None of them convinced me in the slightest of their beliefs, though all convinced me thoroughly of their deep and abiding humanity, but even when pressed on the most difficult of problems, the Problem of Evil, they were able to defend their positions cogently and seriously, at least satisfying me that I could not have gone further against them. Of course many arguments for belief in God are poor arguments. Sometimes I suspect atheists come off as being strongly anti-religion because they argue so strongly against parts of it, the poorly thought out parts (which deny evolution etc.) and eventually become carried away with themselves, or are portrayed as having done so. Still, give me a rabid Richard Dawkins any day over the Texan radio show host who agreed with a caller that the fact that Charles Darwin had never won a Nobel Prize indicated a certain lack of scientific credibility in his theory of evolution. Apologies if this seems a rather rambling post, it is late for me and I am beginning to suspect I have simply be typing for half an hour without the brain really engaging. view post


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