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Peter Auditor | joined 13 May 2004 | 89 posts


truth glistens posted 08 June 2006 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... <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->


<!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> I'll get my coat. view post


The problem of evil posted 22 June 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe problem of evil by Peter, Auditor

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.


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 <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s: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 <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s: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... <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s: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


Drugs posted 11 July 2006 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... <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) --> view post


Now Reading... posted 13 July 2006 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


Gaming? posted 15 July 2006 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&amp;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


who should determine what is &quot;right&quot;? posted 20 August 2006 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 &quot;right&quot;, then generally it is part of the definition of &quot;right&quot; that it is more important than desire. That one can &quot;ought&quot; 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 Beyond Good and Evil etc.).

Anyway, I am going to stop here as I want to play computer games <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> . view post


who should determine what is &quot;right&quot;? posted 24 August 2006 in Philosophy Discussionwho should determine what is &quot;right&quot;? by Peter, Auditor

Quote:
Actually, right is the opposite of left. Which is why communists are so evil.


That makes perfectly good sense.



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 only 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.

This debate seems to use alot of circular reasoning


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.

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.


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


&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo posted 13 September 2006 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


&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo posted 14 September 2006 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. <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> view post


&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo posted 15 September 2006 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.

By the way, I think Sokar's answer is spot on: the question isn't more about saying &quot;yes&quot; than &quot;no&quot;. It's about the realisation that we want to say &quot;no&quot; because nobody contains all of our mind themselves


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.

But saying is just as much underestimating yourself as saying no is ridiculously arrogant.


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


The new craze posted 04 October 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe new craze by Peter, Auditor

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


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


Was Cnauir gay? posted 08 October 2006 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


&quot;Have you ever met someone who is smarter than you?&quo posted 15 October 2006 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 &quot;smart&quot; 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


Was Cnauir gay? posted 15 October 2006 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


Right thing to do? posted 26 October 2006 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


Will anything change? posted 09 November 2006 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 &quot;100-days&quot; 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... <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) --> ), 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


Will anything change? posted 13 November 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionWill anything change? by Peter, Auditor

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.


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 &quot;The Power Elite&quot; 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


Leaving Iraq by 2008 posted 05 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionLeaving Iraq by 2008 by Peter, Auditor

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?


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 because 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 &quot;act&quot; 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. <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> view post


Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 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 because 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 should 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


Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 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 &quot;nation&quot; 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


Nationhood posted 12 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

I'm always a bit leery of defining something which actually exists as being &quot;illogical&quot; and especially of saying that it &quot;shouldn't&quot; exist.


I can see where you are coming from here but I would say to you that if someone came up to you and said &quot;I like all cats, but I hate all mammals&quot; there is an obvious inconsistency, such that it is simply basic to our capacity to think about anything that we must think &quot;He shouldn't think like that&quot;. If we don't think like that on some level I suggest that we don't even think.

Should is a bit of a silly word for conversation of the level you seem to want to have. What do you mean by &quot;should&quot;? Are you religious, in which case your &quot;should&quot; might be translated to be &quot;Divinely commanded&quot;? Are you an atheist (humans are lightning in meat) in which your &quot;should&quot; comes out as something like &quot;I prefer that&quot;.


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 &quot;Don't do X&quot; etc.


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.


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 should be changed, in the sense of should above.

I hope that my argument is not saying &quot;I don't understand the mechanisms behind the foundation of the notion of nationality, hence it must be irrational&quot;, but rather that &quot;the only possible causal explanation of how the concept of nationhood is arrived at gives us only circular reasons to adopt such a notion and hence is irrational&quot;.

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.

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.


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 &quot;Nations are imagined to arise out of a distant past and sail on into a glorious invisible future&quot;... 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 &quot;one doesn't steal from one's fellow citizen&quot; 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 still 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


Nationhood posted 13 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

First off..the posts are really too long..so I am going to keep it short and simple in hope you will too...


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.

Anyway..the notion of nation is not irrational..it 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 nation..it makes not sense to continue this argument.


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 &quot;justified&quot; 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 &quot;If P then Q, If Q then R, and finally P but not R&quot; is failing to think intelligibly and to the extent that we cannot explain this behaviour away with reference to circumstantial facts (i.e. &quot;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 &quot;less violence&quot; 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.

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 (&quot;there are no facts, only interpretations&quot;), 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...


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 &quot;Greek&quot; as Athenian, is as &quot;Greek&quot; 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.


.. The existence of nation-states is very logical..at least them coming into being..the fixed territorial boundaries (initially for the population, eventually for resources)..in 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 nation-state..to exist... And since I define these causes as logical..you might say they are also rational.


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.

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).


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?

Oh..and I see now that I have failed to keep it short...


Sorry, me too. <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> Better luck next time? <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->


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.


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 &quot;My country right or wrong&quot;. view post


Nationhood posted 18 December 2006 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 &quot;ought implies can&quot;, 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 impossible for them to live alongside each other. It used to be argued that it was impossible 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 &quot;international&quot; 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) &quot;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&quot;. view post


Nationhood posted 28 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

Ok, sorry for the delay in answering...

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.


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.

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..


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.

As it goes for Aristotle, book 7 chapter 7 says that Greeks are a nation, and if it were united into a state, Hellas &quot;would be able to rule the world&quot;.


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.

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...


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 &quot;Rule by the Best/most Talented etc.&quot;. 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.

&quot;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&quot;

Or rather, because Aristocracy is almost always hereditary (at least we can imagine dealing with one now).

&quot;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&quot;

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.

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..


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.

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 time..in 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...



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. &quot;Object 1 is in location L at time T&quot;, say call this P. &quot;Object 1 is in location M at time T&quot;, 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.

When you say nation..do you mean nation-state or nation itself..? Do you mean the sentiment or the actual application of the sentiment..?


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


The sovereign rights of a nation. posted 30 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionThe sovereign rights of a nation. by Peter, Auditor

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?


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.

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.


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.

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


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


The Meaning of Life posted 21 January 2007 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. &quot;Cats with flees ought not to sit on sofas). The meaning of life is going to need reasons, and not just causes. view post


The Meaning of Life posted 24 January 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Peter, Auditor

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)


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 reasons 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


What philosophers informed The Prince of Nothing? posted 08 February 2007 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


Life and Death posted 25 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionLife and Death by Peter, Auditor

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.


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, or 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 &quot;To steal the money from the box so that I can buy myself a car&quot; as selfish and self-regarding as (and here please take only the intention as stated, with no additions... i.e. literally just the words I write) &quot;To bring grapes to Toby's sick aunt in hospital&quot;. However, it is clear that the latter intention is not selfish and self-regarding as it is presented.

The two intentions are not the same and the latter cannot be selfish or self-regarding, for it does not mention &quot;me&quot; at all. Logically speaking, the latter intention cannot be self-regarding.

The argument then 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 &quot;To bring grapes to Toby's sick aunt because that will make me look good and will therefore benefit me&quot;.

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 &quot;Humans who have lived&quot;, 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 &quot;nice&quot; 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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