Thursday, 12 June 2008

Sticks for Beating Philosophers With

Philosophy is a dead end. No single good thing has come from thought abstracted from everyday life. Those who really do good are those that live almost without thought, those who strive to help others with every action. Intellect helps no one. Intellect, even when true and pure in inspiration and just in its orientation, leads to political calamity, slaughter, abuse and a misguided literalism which destroys every good thing in the initial impulse.

But. The major problem really, is not the intellectual. This is the mistake that the Maoist revolution in China made. The intellectual is needed (desperately needed, if someone is to provide viable solutions to the dilemmas that now face humankind, and assist in constructing a world-view that will lead us into the future), but must be goaded into the service of just morality. It is moral considerations which must always come first, which must be the base for all further thought and action.

The major problem in fact, is when the intellectual is misunderstood. Those who do not share the sublimity of thought, then experience the power of thought in their (the intellectual's; the philosopher's) words, divorced from the extended world view which the philosopher inhabits. This is how atrocity happens.

So, what I should say is this: Philosophy is useless because so many are too stupid to understand it.

Monday, 9 June 2008

The Essence of the Matter

Essences. Tricky one. In a way this is related to universals, in another way to perspective. Think of a person. Some say the 'essence' of that person is information. That is, they can be wholly described as a pattern of information; and theoretically, be reinstantiated from that information. That information is usually a neurological one (but it could include much more) - a physicist may say that everything (or any particular thing) is wholly described by physics. That is, it can be reduced entirely to a description based on forces, particles, motion etc - it can be described by the categories, terms and concepts of physics.

But there is something wrong here. While we may concede that a planetary system, or a boat race, or an apple, can be described in solely physical terms, we find that this description is only satisfactory from a physics point of view: if one takes a sociological point of view, for example, no matter how much spatial and temporal detail we add into the description, we do not satisfy the criterion or the categories of the sociologist. Some physicists may argue that physics is "all-inclusive" and in fact the sociological factors are just an apparition generated from the physical mechanisms. However, this is to miss the point: the simple fact that physics does not have categories such as value, meaning, fun, nice, makes it unsuitable for certain modes of description. Ergo, it does not contain the whole picture: it is an interpretation. All the other modes of interpretation (eg religion; biology; art; medicine; psychology; choose any field you want) will suit certain situations and give answers which are valid in some specific way. If we begin with physics, pretty soon we must enter the field of biology and psychology if we are wanting to discuss social meaning; and then we will probably need sociology and religion to add the other dimensions to the picture, to make it fully rounded. A mental experience may appear reducible to atoms and forces, but this is only to look at it one way. The atoms are not its essence - they are just one valid description.

The problem is that physics descriptions always stay at the level of physics: but there is so much more to life than this. A human life is not reducible to particles, and not reducible to information. It calls on all those fields, all those levels of understanding. The essence of any "thing" is not in the thing, but dependent on the system we are viewing it from within (yet, it will never be sufficiently described from within any single system; or, any finite combination of systems). Because, as soon as we are abstracting and losing apparently 'extraneous' information, which in fact is only extraneous frmo the point of view we are looking at it.

More importantly, human experience, life from the inside, does not consist of atoms: experience happens at the meta-level, based on macroscopic objects and social processes. These are the constituents of life.

The Death of Philosophy

It seems that most of what pass for philosophers within academia, eek out an existence carving symbols on the walls in the dankest, darkest corners of the human mind.

Is this a noble profession? Can we argue that it is in fact, like pure math, an investigation of the most crystalline strata of human consciousness, that which is pure in its transcendence of the physical, its absolute dependence on the cogwheels of human thought to generate it?


Intelligence doesn't necessarily lead toward truth. It is merely a talent at manipulating conceptual thought. If intelligence begins to miss the point, it leads on very elaborate false paths. In order to find truth (to the extent to which this is possible) one must work to find a valid direction and orientation before applying intelligent thought to the issue.