Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Renaissance man

Dawn of Philo-Ethics; (Jan. 28, 2010)

In the previous post “Twilight for love of knowledge or philosophy”, I explored the theme that philosophy is reaching an end.

Before the 16th century, sciences in Europe were towed by philosophy until Galileo enforced the notion of empirical experimentation and measuring what was not measured. By the time of Descartes, philosophy started to limp and relied on religion as crutch to survive.

Sciences have taken over: they can extend answers to what can be answered.

Sciences are far more efficient than philosophy: faulty answers go unnoticed very effectively.  There are very few practiced scientists, and every man is a philosopher: man can feel what’s wrong with a philosophical system but he refrains to claim knowledge in sciences.

Knowledge is acquired by reasoning on the alternative options formed by perception of man and universe.  When we investigate our opinions and feelings we ultimately want to open up alternatives for the mind to discovering the immutable elements in the relationships. The brain is the field where perceived senses and reasoning procedures or processes interacts: without these interactions there are no perceptions, no actions, and no survival of any species.

It is not necessary to be a practicing scientist to have a scientific critical mind; otherwise, not many people would feel comfortable believing that they are endowed with sensible rational and empirical thinking. When I claim that we need to think philosophically, I mean that we need to combine the ethical component to whatever scientific thinking we undertake. The ethical mind should be the guiding rod to solutions or resolutions of any question.

For example, (it might sound a simple interrogation, but it might carry complex implicit ramifications), suppose that I stirred my Nescafe cup with a spoon.  My Nescafe includes no sugar or milk; just plain hot filtered water and Nescafe.  I got into wondering: should I rinse the spoon in tank supplied water (many germs) or just let the spoon dry when removed from the cup?  The idiosyncratic reaction is to rinse the spoon no matter what, isn’t it?

If I discover that the accumulated potent germs on a dried spoon are far less than the rinsed one then what would be your behavior?  The whole exercise is that we generally extend ready behaviors to our answers; we do not take a deep breath to wonder whether there are implicit reasons in the questions.

Philo-ethics (a new term that I invented) is to work on a set of stringent ethical reasoning that you feel are right.

The purpose is that you feel you have the right to state your ethics because you applied them.  The other advantage is that you won’t feel obligated to impose your ethics on people you like their company: you are in a position to be lenient and to compromise because relationships are more important than strict rules and regulations.

What can be the immutable norms that distinguish right from wrong?

What kinds of realities are eternal?

Cannibalism is not an immutable norm since many tribes still eat man in this century. Anyway, mankind is a carnivore and has been eating his own kind with various aspects of ceremonies such as eating the flesh, heart, liver, and brain boiled, raw, or roasted.  Thus, we need to be more attuned to ethnological studies and observations of the remaining tribes living separate from urban centers. We need to comprehend the behavior, customs, and traditions of primitive tribes since they resembled ours before we opted for urban life style, within mostly a fast developing virtual civilization.

Arne Naess disseminated the eco-philosophy which stated that western paradigm line of thinking is taking the wrong direction for a sustainable earth: Man is not in the upper chain of evolution and he has no right to destroy the other living creatures for his perceived universe. We are in a period of technological development that feed on itself and proliferates pretty much independently of any other sciences; technology feels confident that it does not need validation or control by third parties.

Fact is we need to have better understanding of the effects of our behaviors: mankind is on the same boat and everyone is asked to think that he is the captain of the boat.

Things have changed.  The world can be felt as reduced to a Town Square: instant audio-visual communications around the world is discouraging people to move out and investigate “his universe”.  Mind you that the Renaissance man had to travel on horses for long distances to educate his curiosity and talents.

The new wave of occultism, New Age, alternative lifestyle, mysticism, spiritualism, healing, astrology, clairvoyance, and telepathy are consequences of collecting mass “coincidental” happenings among the billions of people and which are relayed instantly on the Internet.  These coincidences can be explained rationally, especially if we believe in the power of the subconscious for erratic behaviors.

The worst part is that millions are still brandishing old Books or Bibles claiming every word for “truth”; as if we are in the Dark Ages.  Sciences and technologies have done serious empirical attempts to answering most of the dialectical problems in philosophy such as how the universe was started, how knowledge developed and progressed.

What is outside the realm of sciences is in the domain of faith, which should not be confounded with religious philosophical belief systems.

A few facts can now be settled that set the stage for the dawn of philo-ethics or for questions related to the dignity of man for freedom, liberty, opinion, shelter, clean water, health, safety, food, clean air, voting rights, anti-discrimination attitudes relative to color, religion, gender, and country of origin.

The hardship that you subjected yourself to is to keep sensible relationship working: a climate of genuine compassion to human frailty gives incentives to overcome shortcomings that may be surmounted.

How have you been “existing”? (Jan. 25, 2010)

            The main philosophy of the last century was called “Existentialism” that Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) disseminated after WWII with the cooperation of Simone de Beauvoir who published “The second sex”.  What differentiated Sartre’s existentialism from Kierkegaard, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger is that Christianity is no longer a crutch to lean on for processing the concept to its final outcome.

            In that philosophy, man and woman have no innate “nature” to fall back on.  They just have to create themselves, their “natures” (their “essence”).  The feeling of alienation is that mankind was created without his will and yet, he is condemned to be free for taking responsibility of his actions knowing that there are no eternal values or norms for guidance and directions.  The individual has to create his set of values and his nature from actions among choices, even default choices.

            That Sartre’s existentialism allied to Marxist movement (Sartre never accepted to be a member of a political party) is part of this century struggle for enjoying the freedom that we never asked for; but “man is condemned to be free” in taking responsibility of his actions simply because he is created to be conscious of his existence and his death: mankind is not “in itself” but “for itself” and an individual relies on his existence to be whatever he might otherwise be “his nature”.

            For example, Stephen Hawkins, this crippled astrophysicist, grabbed the question of his interest (nature) “How the universe was created”.  That Hawkins offered the Big bang theory is irrelevant to the universe or to everyday man is important philosophically.  What is most important is that Hawkins must have enjoyed “the meaning of his life”.  The Big Bang proposition may be accompanied by all kinds of mathematical formulas it does not make it more believable than a childish storytelling in Bibles that are so funny to kids.  For example, why just one Big Bang? Is it because God must be one and only one?  Anyway, how many of us seriously engaged on his journey for discovering the meaning of his life existence?

            Current nuclear physicists are fundamentally pre-Socratic in their quest for the elemental matters; they want to be able to offer a satisfactory explanation of “what is matter?” This problem is thus a vital part of their “life’s philosophy”, the “essence” or an answer to the question “what is my nature”?

            Existentialism was the source of modern style in writings called the “absurd”.  For example, when you show the lack of coherence or meaning in life, then the reader or audience is forced to cultivate his “own meaning” of the story.

            Things have changed.  The world can be felt as reduced to a Town Square; instant audio-visual communications around the world is discouraging people to move out and investigate “his universe”.  The Renaissance man had to travel on horses for long distances to educate his curiosity and talents.

            Arne Naess disseminated the eco-philosophy which stated that western paradigm line of thinking is taking the wrong direction for a sustainable earth: Man is not in the upper chain of evolution and he has no right to destroy the other living creatures for his perceived universe.

            The new wave of occultism, New Age, alternative lifestyle, mysticism, spiritualism, healing, astrology, clairvoyance, and telepathy are consequences of collecting mass “coincidental” happenings among the billion of people and which are relayed instantly on the Internet.  These coincidences can be explained rationally, especially if we believe in the power of the subconscious for erratic behaviors.

            The worst part is that millions are still brandishing old Books or Bibles claiming every word for “truth”; as if we are in the Dark Ages.  Sciences and technologies have done serious empirical attempts to answering most of the dialectical problems in philosophy such as how the universe was started, how knowledge developed and progressed.  What is outside the realm of sciences is in the domain of faith which should not be confounded with religious philosophical belief systems.

            The “meaning of life” is not a solution: it is the trip, the journey to answering a single definite bothering question, a question that interest you mostly among hundreds of other pretty much non answerable questions.  This trip means working toward a resolution to the question “What is my nature?”  It is hard work, relentless, and tricky journey but nothing has meaning if we don’t feel the obstacles and hardships.

Cases of “Historical Dialectics” of human and knowledge development; (Dec. 23, 2009)

            Dialectics is not only used to comprehend historical development of human or knowledge development but is basic in discussions and effective dialogues. Hegel was first to introduce “dynamic logic” and used the term of historical dialectics as the interaction of an extreme opinion (thesis) that generates an opposite extreme counter opinion (antithesis) which results in a consensus (synthesis).  Historical dialectics is a macro method for long range study and it does not explain the individual existential conditions (survival situations).  Hegel offered dialectics as a method for explaining how human knowledge developed by constant struggle between contradictory concepts among philosophical groups. The purpose of his method was to demonstrate how the “universe of the spirit” or ideas managed to be raised in human consciousness.

            Before I offer my version of knowledge development it might be useful to giving a few examples of historical dialectics. In Antiquity, the pre-Socratic philosophers were divided between the Eleatics or philosophers who claimed that change of primeval substances was impossible: we cannot rely on our senses.  Heraclites reacted with his position that we can rely on our senses and that everything in the universe is in a state of flow and that no substance remains in its place.  The synthesis came Empedocles who claimed that we can rely on our senses but that what flow are the combination of substances but the elementary particles do not change. 

            The Sophists during Socrates were the paid teachers of the elite classes and tore down the mythological teaching of the period and focused on improving individual level of learning.  They were in effect in demand by a nascent City-State democracy of Athens that relied on a better educated society to participate in the political system. Socrates reacted by proposing that there are fundamental truths and knowledge is not an exercise in rhetorical discourse. The same dialectics worked between the world of ideas of Plato and the empirical method counterpoint of Aristotle.

            In the Medieval period the Catholic Church set up a barrier or distance between God and man and forced people to believe that all knowledge emanates from God.  The Renaissance man (wanting to be knowledgeable in many disciplines) reacted by promoting the concepts that God is in every element, that man is a complete microcosm of the universe, and that knowledge starts by observing nature and man.

            Another example is the position of Descartes who established that rationalism was the main source for knowledge.  David Hume responded by extending that empirical facts generated from our senses are the basis for knowledge. Kant offered the synthesis that the senses are the primary sources for our impressions but it is our perceptual faculties that describe and view the world: there is a distinction between “matter” of knowledge or the “thing in itself” and “form” of knowledge or the “thing for me”. Kant became the point of departure for another chain of dialectical reflections.

            Many philosophers used the dialectic methods to explaining other forms of development.  Karl Marx wrote that Hegel used his method standing on its head instead of considering human material conditions. Marx claimed that “philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it”; thus, he defined three levels as basis of society: condition of production (mainly the geographic, natural resources, and climatic conditions), means of production (such as machineries and tools), and production relations (such as political institutions, division of labor, distribution of work and ownership). Marx claimed that the main interactions are among the working class (the new slaving method of production) and the owners of the means of productions or the ruling class: it is this struggle that develop the spiritual progress.  Another dialectical process is the extreme feminist political claims of equality between genders which brought about a consensus synthesis for a period.

            My view of progress is based on the analogy of combination of two schemas:

            The first schema is the coexistence of two strings of evolution (picture a DNA shape): the knowledge development (mainly technological) and the moral string (dominated mainly by religious ideologies).  The second schema is represented by historical dialectic evolutions in the shape of helical cones. The time lengths of cycles for the two strings are not constant: the technological progress phase has shorter and shorter cycles while the moral string has longer cycles.

            The two strings are intertwined and clashes frequently.  When one string overshadow the other string in evolution then there are a slow counter-reaction culminating in stagnate status-quo phases between the two forces. Technological or level of sustenance period has time length cycles that is shrinking at the top of the cone before the cone is inverted on its head so that the moral time length cycles start to increase and appears almost invariant (that what happened in the long Medieval period that stretched for over 11 centuries in Europe); then the cone is reverted on its base for the next “rebirth” cycles (for example the Renaissance period that accelerated the knowledge string ascent).


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