Cynosarges (Open Thread On Philosophy.)

I don't have an image for this yet, but I've realized that I enjoy Discussing philosophy and would enjoy having an open space for it. While I cannot provide the exercise mats, sauna, public bath, and small 420 friendly coop cafe that I envision as a part of the ideal, I can at least dream wistfully of that day.

I also realized that I have no desire to engage in the study of dead men whose words are used as justifications for living the way we do. I instead simply want to talk about it. I want to discuss it. I want to make it a part of my life.

So with that I have partaken of a bit of Marijuana. I believe the strain I am enjoying today is called, "Tri Fi". It's not the best strain, but does have the advantage of being local, cheap and plentiful. While the physical relief it provides is less than ideal, the mental relief allows me to turn my thoughts to something more relaxed.

So if we're going to discuss philosophy, let's start with the big, and most important question, that no philosopher has ever answered for anyone but themselves.

Why?

To which I simply answer 42 and move on. It has no bearing on my life. Philosophy has spent years asking this one question, when a flippant response that makes me smile is far more satisfying. I accept that I cannot know the answer, and that allows me to move my mind on to other things. The deep dark question that makes others fear for their theoretical immortality makes my transitory life all the more enjoyable.

If anything, the entire exercise is one of conjecture at that point. It has no concrete value to the real world. It becomes bogged down into the splitting of hairs and the third and fourth order suppositions upon the supposed thoughts of dead men whose words have been selected to properly make a point. We are attempting to divide the human experience by a quantity that has no value. In essence, it treats the greatest and most complicated question as a problem to be solved for X, when the answer will always be undefined.

However, I am aware that there are other opinions on this, and I'd love to hear them and debate in a friendly and pleasant manner. Heck, even a fight can be pleasant, as any person who has ever participated in a combat sport can tell you.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

...and the stoned insights, myself.

"No matter where you go, there you are."

A friend once described the philosophical process as, "a group of monkeys sitting in a circle grinding over and over again that which is already powder."

At some point, I found the neat split between Eastern and Western philosophy, between the practical and the theoretical, between physics and metaphysics. I jumped to the East but I did look back long enough to organize all of Western philosophy into a series of footnotes to Plato's Republic.

"Why?" rarely comes up.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Pluto's Republic The very basic question which is at the heart of philosophy is neglected by most philosophers. Until they answer this question for themselves, and truly know that it is the proper answer, they cannot truly speak from authority.

For me, It's fairly simplistic. I think the purpose of a human life is to be human. It's a tautology, I admit, but at the same time, we wrap so much significance around this one basic fact that it's worth it to contemplate.

It's why I really feel that philosophy got off track in the west when it skipped into the realm of the priests and the saints. They start with an assumption not in evidence, that there is value beyond experiencing life. Since that alters the basic fundamental of the question, it immediately creates out of whole cloth an entire millennia old tradition based off the assumption that you can solve the following question:

Why = Humanity/Soul

Simply answering 42 does not deny the value of the soul, rather it suggests that the Human experience has a value, as does the soul. Any thing that can be divided and result in the number 42 can be the answer. If I were to say that the soul is valueless, there can be NO answer to the question. Giving a value to the soul means that there must logically be a value of some kind to Humanity. But as that value is subjective to every observer, logically, there are nearly infinite numbers of possible answers.

Yes, I think I just mathematically proved that 42 is the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Pluto's Republic's picture

Although it remains: That which humanity creates physically and socially, with the tools and abundance it has been given, must be a reflection of the value and meaning of its soul.

I should think

For myself, I have complicated the landscape by reaching for a meta-platform from which to judge. Thus I include all of the sentient societies throughout the universe that have failed or succeeded. I can't know them, but I see their patterns and pitfalls and imagine their possibilities. I do determine their purpose. And I do judge the attempt that has been made on earth.

We are all soul-bound to that, for now. Which is why places like this exist. Is there any way we can prevent species-caused extinction so early in the process of conscious evolution?

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Pluto's Republic is correct, that the creation is a reflection of the soul, that does suggest that the ascribing of things of value to a corporation, essentially creates a soul out of whole cloth. Since actions and works are done in the name of a corporation, shouldn't logically the things done in its name truly represent the soul?

Which brings in the question of those that act not with their own volition, but rather those that act under the direction of an entity without body, but with purpose and will. In a very real sense they have ceded their soul to entity, since their acts become its acts.

In a very real way, working for a corporation steals the reflections of the soul, if not the soul itself. In essence the corporation has become a spiritual cancer, robbing the humans to sustain and grow itself.

Those that do so must be aware of the fact that they are sacrificing a great deal more than their time when they "Just follow orders."

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earthling1's picture

Is there a difference between 42 and forty-two?
Yes and no.
Philosophy always left me with that answer. To me philosophy is picturing in your mind the reality around you as probably real. But not necessarily so.
Imagine going into one of those antique malls, where each little stall represents some deceased persons worldly belongings, left behind to be sold to strangers who put out of their mind that they are buying a dead person's stuff.
You can tell right away if they were male or female, or about when they were born. And their hobbies, whether they were fishermen or collected china.
Imagining how these people lived and even judging by their hunting jacket or dresses what they may have looked like is akin to philosophy.
You don't know, for sure. But you have a wealth of evidence before you to form a vision of who they were.
And every stall is different.
Every life is different.
Every reality is too.
Thanks for the post, DMW.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@earthling1 To be honest, I've been reading translations of the Greeks recently, and they feel very familiar, like going though a family member's belongings. And reading Antisthenes honestly feels like finding a package I mailed to myself a long time ago but forgot to open.

Other philosophies feel like rummaging through a stranger's things, uncomfortable and uncertain. Sometimes I can grow to enjoy the new things. Other times, (Like with the Germans) I find the entire process overly ornamented, full of bells and whistles, but ultimately valueless.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for adding.

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earthling1's picture

@detroitmechworks @detroitmechworks
Aristophanes plays from the 4th century BC is filled with dark humor, much of it political.
"Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever".

Edit for a better word than fraught.

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enhydra lutris's picture

teleology is bullshit.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

detroitmechworks's picture

@enhydra lutris Very quickly before I get into my disagreement, I mean this disagreement in a friendly way, as a defense of my position. Consider this the Bow before the sparring match begins, and you'll get the spirit of what I'm trying to convey. Smile

I was unfamiliar with that word, so This morning I took the time to look it up, contemplate it, and think about it before responding.

First off, I see that the concept derives from Plato. Right off the bat I disagree with his argument that volition requires a reason Socrates is sitting. That is not a value judgement. I do not question his volition, or his own choice to sit. I do not state that sitting is good or bad. I rather observe that he is sitting. Yes, there may be many factors that brought him to the point at which he chooses to sit or not, but ultimately the choice and action is his alone. Therefore the choice to sit can be as simple as "I was tired, and chose to rest my body."

Therefore, the question of "Why?" is just as simple or as complex as we make it. A simple, flippant response can be just as insightful and true as a complete book on the subject, because of the fact that the question has as many answers as there are humans.

So I do not consider it an illegitimate question, but rather one that is at the core of the human experience.

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enhydra lutris's picture

@detroitmechworks thought of as the final or ultimate why, the last, if your will, of an endless series of whys. It is the why in why do we exist or why does the world exist. The one that comes after each answer to a volitional or emperical why ha been given. Why did socrates decide to sit and rest his bones - he wanted to be more comfortable - and why did he want that - and on and on, peeling the onion until we get to and why is there a universe; what is the purpose of reality. It is the why that searches ever for the ultimate all encompassing final purpose of everything, the purpose beyond decision and choice, the purpose of gravity, etc. It is the why that searches for the falsely presumed purpose for all whyic Az correctly said belongs to theology, because it asks a question that cannot be solved by observation or reasoning. It is always out there one regress away.

42, as an answer, btw, suits me fine. Down the regress rabbit hole, there is a place where why and how fork. In the example, somewhere in the vicinity of why does Socrates have neurons. How, at that point, belongs to science and a why not answerable with a how response leads to woo.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

detroitmechworks's picture

@enhydra lutris @enhydra lutris And when we get to that point, I personally feel that a healthy dose of agnosticism is a neat way to sidestep the issue and still be able to function.

Obsession over knowledge that cannot be tested, proven, or fully relayed without initiation into mysteries strikes me as a distraction from the practical, and so I would argue that the whole field of theology is an attempt to overcome human limitations. In essence, the idea of theology as attempting to solve for X when the variables can fluctuate from as simple an action as choosing not to get out of bed. While theoretically, there may be some future Theologian who can collate the vast human effort in this search into a viable and concrete proof, but until such time, they are reliant upon nothing more than conjecture.

Perhaps I'm just re fighting a long decided argument, since Theology has far more adherents these days than Philosophy.

But thank you for the debate, again. I see we agree far more than we disagree, and I feel sharper and more secure in my position from the discussion.

Edit: Apologies, I appear to have restated my position in the Essay. However, thank you for the discussion, and I'll absolutely cede the point to you on this one because of it. Smile

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Azazello's picture

At least that's what it says on my bachelor's degree. That means I know something of the history of Western philosophy and who said what. How has this helped me ? Well, I was able to pass on some valuable knowledge to my son. After a quick review of my employment history and lifetime earnings he chose to study engineering.
The WHY question is not really the subject of philosophy. That's what theology is for.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Azazello Considering that the major practitioners of Theology have constantly muscled in on the domain of Philosophy, demanding that their concepts beyond the human experience demand priority.

Take a look at many of the early writings of the Catholic Church, Especially their magnum opus, and you'll see many railings against philosophers. We do not think of Confucius or Miyamoto Musashi as Theologians, yet their texts contain many practical explorations of the question "Why?"

And it's this practicality which differentiates Philosophy and Theology. I find that much of what I read with regards to Philosophy ideally will affect the daily life and thought processes in a practical and constructive way. Theology on the other hand turns the attention and the energy of the human towards a theoretical end. While Philosophy deals with observed fact and emotions and thoughts which we have strong evidence actually occurred at some point and can experience ourselves easily, Theology immediately begins with a conjecture that there is more than what we observe and see. Theology demands that emotional feelings with regards to the beauty and mystery of the world must come from a source outside ourselves, which to me suggests that social control is far more important to a Theologist than improving the world.

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Azazello's picture

@detroitmechworks
in so many different contexts, that it is sometimes difficult to determine just what it means. Football coaches are said to have "philosophies" fer chrissakes.
What you will get if you study Philosophy formally is something like this: The Branches of Philosophy
You'll note that "the meaning of life" is not among those branches. Philosophy, as I understand it, is a Western notion, starting with the ancient Greeks. What is called "Eastern Philosophy" is, in my mind, not philosophy at all and I wish there were a better term for it.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@Azazello felt that it was disrespectful to the Gods and Killed Philosophers for discussing it. Catholic Church did the same damn thing, and killed off those that challenged the social order.

However, I feel that philosophy, still is an important word to describe this, since it represents "A body of knowledge" If we see philosophy as merely the forerunner to the sciences, then such a division makes sense. If on the other hand, we take a more broad approach, and treat the entire body of knowledge as valuable, then we have access to a richer view of both the world and thought itself.

I think when we think of "Eastern" philosophy, we're thinking of philosophy, minus the divisions of the thoughts into neat and tight partitions. Instead we have a sequence of roles, that the practitioners learn and gain from. Each represents a way of living, and the earliest philosophers did not divide how they lived from how they thought.

But thank you for the considered and respectful disagreement. Smile

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enhydra lutris's picture

@Azazello
is something I like to think of as metalogic, dealing with the rules governing logic systems and truth systems. It it nowhere formally taught, or wasn't when I was in college, but one can often trick philosophes and even logicians into admitting its existence. Paul Feyerabend danced around the edges of this in some of his lectures and coursework.

Quantum physics, for example works best when one abandons the law of the excluded middle. Multiple logic systems and truth systems can be designed around the omission of said law, but what characteristics must they possess in order to be utilitarian, relevant and potentially valid. Internal consistency, for one, etc.

The law of contradiction and the identity principle can likewise be eliminated, generating other deviant logic systems that may, nnetheless have utility. In a non-scalar frame of reference, one can assert that "F is true of P" implies only that "F was true of P", etc.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Azazello's picture

@enhydra lutris
kinda' like non-Euclidean geometry. I'll bet somebody's playing with it somewhere.

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