Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random accumulated thoughts and quotations

Below are some thoughts and quotes that have accumulated in my sticky note widget over the last week or two... the newest are up top, so the order may be clearer if it is read from the bottom. The quotations that are not cited are taken out of context from Daniel Hutto's Wittgenstein and the End of Philosophy.

"Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. - Since Everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain. For what is hidden, for example, is of no use to us." -Ludwig Wittgenstein
"The first step is to free ourselves from philosophical myths, the second is not to create new ones."
"...the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think." -Johannes Climacus (one of Søren Kierkegaard's pseudonyms)
"For philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday." -Ludwig Wittgenstein
--In my view, a fair reason for rejecting purely secular humanistic ethical systems is that they are anthropocentric. A desire to transcend this (esp. the claim that value arises due to human need) and to value being in totality is what may lead one to search for God (i.e. a leap from subjectivity to objectivity), even if that is without the assurance of validation. --Epistemological barriers become irrelevant in such cases. That something cannot be known does not make the possibilites of that something irrelevant.
"When we do philosophy we are like savages, primitive people, who hear the expressions of civilized men, put a false interpretation on them, and then draw the queerest conclusions from it." -Ludwig Wittgenstein
"All theology is anthropology" -Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach
Objectivity and subjectivity: the world and the subject are both elements of the same narrative.

Action and inaction are equally active activities, inaction does not remove the aspect of participation.
"Philosophy can at best clarify and make perspicuous that which is already known to us."
Freedom only exists from an internal perspective–-from an external perspective a polyvalent web of propensities and circumstances ultimately determines the conduct of the individual; although from an internal perspective the individual is still responsible for decision-making (even if it is influenced by external phenomena).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thoughts on morality, etc.

I started writing an outline for my understanding of what the function of the state is and how value relates to that...
i. Value and the function of the state

...But I grew tired of it and decided to start from morality on up. I'm hoping that I can have this be self-referential as far as political philosophy and axiology is concerned, so it may start epistemology onward. It's definitely not succinct or colorful yet, but here's what I have:

(This was written in OmniOutliner, which unfortunately can't export to PDFs and does an awful job of exporting to HTML... I modified the headlines so it is easier to navigate, but all italics, etc. were lost.)

11/17 update:

Nevermind! It can export to PDF, I'm just out of it. (And it probably can do fair HTML exports, but they aren't particularly suitable for use in Blogger.)

Here's the pdf version which is much, much more readable.

The not-so-pretty-or-readable text is still below:

- [ ] I. Experience is the case.
- [ ] A. Metaphysics is incapable of delineating anything beyond its
epistemological aspect, i.e. that nothing in it's domain can
be known.

- [ ] 1. Therefore, ethical systems, be they secular or
theological in nature, must be compatible or otherwise
not invalidated by experience in order to possess
legitimacy (i.e. relevancy to the world).
- [ ] B. Aside from physical traits, and perhaps some instincts, human
beings are brought into the world tabula rasa.

- [ ] 1. By instinct I am meaning aspects of the physical
constitution that encourage certain behavior, which are
essentially physical traits that are psychically manifest.
- [ ] 2. Therewith, any inequalities in the human condition are
due to physical or sociological factors.
- [ ] C. It is assumed that human beings are rational actors unless
somehow prohibited by cognitive faculties.

- [ ] 1. The conduct of human beings should be seen in light of
- [ ] a) By 'rationality' it is meant that decisions are
determined in accordance with applicable
circumstances and parameters (i.e. experience) rather
than arbitrarily.
- [ ] 2. It is my belief that this should invite optimism.
- [ ] a) And for fun, we could also say that freedom only
exists from an internal perspective–from an external
perspective, a polyvalent web of propensities and
circumstances ultimately determines the conduct of
the individual; although from an internal perspective
the individual is still responsible for
- [ ] II. Morality is based on aesthetic preference, i.e. desire, which is
a priori.

- [ ] A. Morality relies on vertical (i.e. hierarchical) relationships
between preferences.

- [ ] 1. Without verticality there is no distinction between the
relative value of certain principles in relation to
others. Since morality is essentially the prioritization
of different principles when they come into conflict,
strict horizontality in a moral system would not be
- [ ] a) This does not mean, however, that there cannot be
horizontality with verticality. What such a case
would mean is that a moral system would not
be fixed: there are principles in which there is no
basis on which to rank them (essentially a moral
system with ambivalences and gaps at certain places).
- [ ] b) Horizontal principles could also be understood as
"uncoordinated" desires. Desires that are
simultaneously present but not suited to be weighed
against other principles of the same verticality.
- [ ] 2. One could argue that morality could instead only
encourage or prohibit certain forms of behavior, but this
would result in a generally untenable system of
morality–there would be no way to handle cases when
principles conflict.
- [ ] a) Take, for instance, the example of a person with an
axe chasing after another person with the intent to
kill them. The person being chased passes you and
the axe-wielding person inquires as to which way the
other went. If you held the principle that one
should always tell the truth but at the same time
held that if one is capable of protecting another
from harm without placing others or oneself in harm's
way, one should do so, then you would be at an
impasse. A tenable system of morality would argue:
the value of protecting the person's life is clearly
superior to that of being truthful and sincere, or
perhaps even vice versa if one's rational desires
allowed for such reasoning.
- [ ] B. Desires may be divided into two categories: (1) somatic and
(2) rational.

- [ ] 1. Somatic desire pertains to the form of instinct
previously discussed, they are desires that are
physically manifest, e.g. appetitive desires (hunger,
thirst), the avoidance of pain, genealogical
psychological desires, etc., etc.
- [ ] a) Although somatic desire alone could constitute a
system of morality, I believe that it would not have
any established verticality (preferences would shift
constantly) and that it would widely be considered
undesirable and lacking for normative reasons, namely
that on a large scale it would be unordered.
- [ ] b) Additionally, there could be no tenable political
morality with such a system of morality.
- [ ] 2. Rational desires are not immanent extensions of somatic
desires, but rather principles that the subject creates
or appropriates for his or her self, although these may
take somatic desires into account.
- [ ] a) Rational desire may invite intangible distinctions,
e.g. good and bad, right and wrong, beauty and
- [ ] (1) If intangible distinctions are avoided
altogether, there is no basis for fixed morality
as this would render only horizontal
- [ ] C. Aside from somatic desires, experience intrinsically lacks

- [ ] 1. Experience is passive. Value, by nature, must be
prescribed or appropriated by a subject.
- [ ] D. Rational desires develop aesthetic value preferences (moral
tenets) upon which morality is expounded.

- [ ] 1. Value preferences are based upon intangible distinctions,
which cannot be established by somatic desires alone.
- [ ] a) Good and bad, beauty and not-beauty, etc. are
distinctions that are foreign to experience in and of
- [ ] 2. Moral judgments expound upon (are "explications" of)
moral tenets, incorporating nothing more.
- [ ] E. Value preferences are a priori.
- [ ] 1. Tenets are obviously developed in light of experience,
but they are nonetheless constituted a priori.
- [ ] a) Intangibility is an a priori qualification.
- [ ] 2. Although pleasure/pain may seem to be a universal, innate
(as well as somatic) value distinction, one's preferences
may accept or reject these. This, eo ipso, disproves
innate, a posteriori value preferences.
- [ ] a) This is furthered by the initial assumption that
experience begins tabula rasa.
- [ ] 3. Providing that a system of morality is exclusive of
horizontal principles, there may only be one proper form
of reasoning for a given circumstance; unlike reasonings
would only be possible if the initial tenets differ.
- [ ] F. Aesthetics are subjective-psychological in nature.
- [ ] 1. Therefore, conditioning and behavioral modification can
play a significant role.
- [ ] a) Conditioning is probably the most prevalent and
efficacious during an individual's upbringing.
- [ ] 2. Competition is limited between entirely differing initial
- [ ] a) Such competition would likely be between incompatible
worldviews or "existence spheres". (That tenets are
a priori also contributes to this conclusion.)
- [ ] b) The goal, then, is to discover normative initial
tenets and advance a tenable moral system from

2/28/07 update:

This is all wrong. I'll release a version that is to the point and well-founded some time in the future.

Thursday, November 2, 2006