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The Problem of Philosophy (Not the book by Bertrand Russell BTW)

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JP
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since 05-25-99
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Loomis, CA


0 posted 09-22-2000 12:47 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

This is a discussion that I began in MONEY, I thought it best to move it to it's own spot as it may very well develop into a entity in and of itself.  Here is the rehash of my original question and Brad's response:


I've been giving serious thought to the subject of philosophy, the study of philosophy, and students of philosophy as opposed to philosophers...

The idea of studying philosophy is where I run into a wrinkle.  I've spent time here, in this forum and we bandy about ideas of what Neitszche, or Russell, or Plato says, etc, etc, etc. and we give credence to the ideas of these thinkers as if theirs is the kernal of truth mankind is seeking.  We quote them, we emulate them, we agree or disagree with them, but seldom have I seen many here talk about what they have thought or believed.

  Is the study of philosophy a worthy endeavor?  I believe it is.  But is a student of philosophy a philosopher?  I'm thinking not necessarily.  To contemplate things, to search for wisdom, morals, etc. may not be the same as adopting and relaying the philisophical ideas of another.

   Were Russell, Plato, Nozik philosohpers?  Yes.  What made them so?  Plato quoting Socrates (if he ever really existed)?, Russell regurgitating what he read about other philosphers and thinkers? NO.  They were philosophers because they engaged in the process of thought, the search for wisdom, the ability to come to their own conclusions about the way existence is... this is afterall, the essence of philosophy isn't it?

  Is there anything wrong with agreeing with Russell's ideas on whether the red spot I see is the same red spot you may see?  No.  But to agree with that idea and to be able to quote it - does that make one a philosopher? Equally NO.

  So my quandry lies in the question:  where is the original thought?  Where are the philosophers?  The students of philosophy have spoken, the laymen have questioned, but have the true thinkers shared with us their OWN insights, their own revalations?

JP  

Brad's Response:

                      
{Portion of response deleted as it does not pertain to this discussion}

   JP,
   I also believe that philosophy is important.  It's my contention that orignal thought, original ideas are often no more than a paraphrase or a reduction of something some philosopher said a long time ago.  That is, those that say the philosophy or academics are unimportant will turn around (sometimes in the same thread) and espouse an idea that began in the academy or the historical equivalent of one.  I want to bring this to light.  

  I wish we had more discussion on Russel, Plato, Socrates, Nietsche or whoever. You say we discuss their ideas, I think we tip toe around them. You mention Nozick. I don't know who he is (unless you mean the historian). A real discussion would be a learning experience for me and that's something I'd enjoy.  

As I read in the alley and other sites on the internet, I still see a strong authoritarian impulse to claim 'truth', to claim a superior form of 'knowing' WITHOUT explanation.

  I see this as a rhetorical turn and it's a turn that stifles discussion.

  That is, I find 'truth' and 'originality' deeply suspect if presented in a vacuum. I believe, at the same time, that if we advanced more discussion (and more detailed discussion), something that might coincide with the meaning of those two words might actually present itself.

I think you touched a nerve by the way.    



So let us begin here.  Is there original thought or mere regurgitation of what others have already said?  I there only truth and originality in the words of what history notes as great philosophers or are we capable of divining truth for ourselves?
  


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

"Everything is your own damn fault, if you are any good."  E. Hemmingway


[This message has been edited by JP (edited 09-22-2000).]
JP
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1 posted 09-22-2000 12:54 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

BTW - Robert Nozik is one of the most stimulating modern thinkers of which I know...

He has written "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" "Philisophical Explanations", and "Examined Life" (my personal favorite).  

To me he is a great example of the ability of modern man to be original, seek truth, and be true philosphers.
  


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

"Everything is your own damn fault, if you are any good."  E. Hemmingway


[This message has been edited by JP (edited 09-22-2000).]
Trevor
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2 posted 09-22-2000 01:51 PM       View Profile for Trevor   Email Trevor   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Trevor

Hey JP,

Great topic for debate, I don't have much time to give a good solid response right now, so I apoligize but I just wanted to say a quick word and I'll try and better express myself when time permits.

"To me he is a great example of the ability of modern man to be original, seek truth, and be true philosphers."
  
But how can someone be truly original if they are following someone else's examples of how to be original? Being original is no longer an original thought...though it was at its time of conception.

I do agree with both you and Brad a bit on this subject, you in the sense that we should think for ourselves and arrive at conclusions, when we can, by thinking things out for ourselves, however it is often the teachings of others, whether realized or subconsciously and not just hit and miss tactics that give us the tools needed to progress past our forefathers (or differently from our forefathers). If we were to, from birth, try to figure things out solely on our own without the influence of others we would all have the same intellect and mental capacity as early man. Its the very foundations of past knowledge that lets mankind further its own evolution. So that's where I agree with Brad, that we are just rethinking many previously thought ideas, an improvement sometimes, sometimes not...or often a rewording to more accurately fit current society.

Sorry but I'm out of time JP, must work for money cause I can't catch fish worth a damn

Thanks for the interesting topic, I look forward to reading the evolution of this thread.

Trevor
Trevor
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3 posted 09-22-2000 02:02 PM       View Profile for Trevor   Email Trevor   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Trevor

One more thing before I go worky-worky that I thought of...and thanks for making me late JP by starting this thread....see that kids, daddy's passing the ol' blame off onto someone else Just wanted to know people's thoughts on combining "original" thoughts. For example, when the first rocket was built how original was it, I mean it was based upon someone's knowledge of flight, math, physics, etc, and also the rocket was concieved yeeearrrs before in literature. So was the invention of a rocket something original because it had never existed before or unoriginal because it combined previously thought of theories, etc. A combination of old ideas to form a "new original" one? I dunno, I guess its a fine line between crediting the past for future success and knowing when one has truly thought of something never imagined before.


Gotta run, I'm late for work as is.

Trevor
JP
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4 posted 09-22-2000 02:58 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the study of philosophy or academic pursuits in general (if I did I would not have returned to school after 12 years to get my degree... but that's another story...).

I'm trying to make a distinction between thought, thinking, the process of discovery in our own minds, and the mere repetition of what another has said.

To build on someone's ideas, to continue a course of thought began by someone else is absolutely valid and wonderful.  But simply subscribing to someone else's ideas and saying "I'm a philosopher" is dishonest - to oneself mostly.

Please understand, I am not saying anyone here does that!  I am not accusing anyone of being superficial, I am just delving into the possibility of our shallowness and our potential for great thought..

Since I spoke against quoting philosophers I will give you a link to an essay by Russell:
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/2528/br_ph4laymen.htm



Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

"Everything is your own damn fault, if you are any good." E. Hemmingway
Tony Di Bart
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since 01-26-2000
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5 posted 09-22-2000 09:01 PM       View Profile for Tony Di Bart   Email Tony Di Bart   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tony Di Bart

JP

Hum very well put.  What my insights into the whole thing are as follows. First of all what makes a philospher a philosopher is that he is always a student of philosophy.  The moment a philosopher stops his search then he no longer is.  As far as students of philisophy I think we can divide them- as in every other aspect of life- into two groups leaders and followers.  The leaders such as the great minds that you have mentioned became leaders because they did not beleive in everthing that everyone else was proposing.

However, one cannot deny the fact that as a philosopher you start first with a search for meaning.  It is huuman nature to look for what is already there... after all we are all lazy or chose the path of least resistance.  When you have looked and not found the answer that will quench your thirst for truth then and only then will you start to formulate and play philosopher.  However, not everyone has the courage to stand on their own philosophical high ground.  Therefore, to quote is better that to fail for when you quote at least your good at something.

That it.  

PS please excuse my grammer..
JP
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6 posted 09-23-2000 01:19 AM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Ya know what Tony?  This line ought to be framed:
"Therefore, to quote is better that to fail for when you quote at least your good at something."

Well said


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.
B. Russell
Brad
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Jejudo, South Korea


7 posted 09-23-2000 02:58 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This discussion has taken an unexpected turn for me (that's a good thing).

What is the value of originality in and of itself?

How does it relate to truth claims?

I read the Russel essay and while there is much there that I disagree with, he makes a nice point about Greek speculation and current Modern theories in science. Are they the same. If one is looking for a general consistency in thought, we would say yes. The Ancient Greeks (again) got there before us. The same can be said for ideas concerning Modern Physics and Chinese cosmology -- The Tao of Physics (can't remember how to spell the author's name right now). The parallels are there. I argued in graduate school that the distinction between 'ri'(principle) and 'ki' or 'chi'(energy) can be usefully compared to physical laws and our current relativistic concepts of matter/energy.

But they also can't.

They can't because the Ancient Chinese wouldn't have been able to understand the mathematics (at least right away) -- a discourse that would seem quite alien to them. These same thinkers would listen to the physicists, gloss over the differences, turn the talk around to fit what they already 'knew' to be true. They wouldn't see the difference and would claim the legitimacy of their own thinking. The physicists, on the other hand, would either agree (the unity of all knowledge) or more likely disagree because to them the details are what counts, the math is what matters.

That's where the work is.

Earlier I argued that the majority of concepts and ideas presented here and in academia and in coffee shops can be usefully compared to ideas that began from philosophy (check the original quote and see my shift here; I think I meant this -- feel free to disagree. I don't think I have to admit I was wrong but if you want me to . . .  ).

But the devil is in the details.

My main point, really, is that originality in general statements are overrated. If you want to be original, you have to be more specific and by comparing our thoughts to others (us or the famous), we can tease out that specificity.

If we have the time.

Thanks,
Brad

PS Tried to call you Trevor. Talked to your mom. A very lovely individual, she is.

brian madden
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8 posted 09-23-2000 01:01 PM       View Profile for brian madden   Email brian madden   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for brian madden

OK I always like to be vocal in this forum, and as far as Philosophy is concerned I am an Animation student so reading essays and the works and thoughts of Plato and Socrates
has never appealed to me and I remain fairly ignorant to them. I do however believe in self-education and using knowledge as a way of improving myself. It seems cool, almost a fashion statement to have a book by someone like Nietsche in certain circles. I am reminded of Otto (Kevin Kline) in A Fish Called Wanda. Ok my references are mainly film and fiction.

I enjoy literature especially the kind with an edge, fiction that makes me think but is entertaining all the same, a few favourites are 1984, American Psycho, Dice man, Torture Garden. For me where the philosophy the message is weaved into a story it is more interesting, I have a low attention span when it comes to having to study text, that does not mean that I can't sit down and spend a few hours with a good book.

As far as philosophy goes I can not say that I have been directly inspired by any except Taoism, I have not studied it at length in fact the only book I have read on is The Tao of Pooh, as well as the original manuscript. Yet the ways of Taoism fit my beliefs and outlook in life. I do not structure my life around Taoism, Taoism is structured around my life.    

I believe that Philosophy is a worthy purpose and would like if schools encouraged free thought and personal development not cramming minds with figures, facts, and mostly useless information.

JP I don't know if any of this in anyway relates to the topic, I often find it hard to explain or put forward my beliefs because there is no real need, I have never had to defend them and they are at times effected by different situations. I do not cling fanatically to one belief because there are flaws in very belief system even my own Taoism. I am interested to see where this debate will head and I do plan on reading everyone's replies, yes I am guilty of just jumping in there and replying without reading but I promise to catch up or at least try.


"an afixiation a fix on anything the line of life the limb of a tree
the hands of he and the promise that s/he is blessed among women".
Patti Smith
Trevor
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9 posted 09-23-2000 01:27 PM       View Profile for Trevor   Email Trevor   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Trevor

Hello,

JP:

"I'm trying to make a distinction between thought, thinking, the process of discovery in our own minds, and the mere repetition of what another has said."

I'm all for that and I know where you are coming from. Personally I often dislike it when someone will simply use quotes without referencing a personal understanding of the subject...the "its so cause this person said its so" problem where it seems a speaker is more of a parrot than someone who has grasped a concept. I'm not against quotes, I'm just against them replacing self-thought, "self-taught" efforts. In my opinion it doesn't take a genius nor much effort to repeat what is "correct" but it does take effort to understand why something may be correct. When a person begins to figure things out for themselves I believe you will often see them quoting less and wording their answers in a manner that suits not only the people they are having a discussion with but also in a way that suits their personality, experiences, etc.

Tony:

Some very good points. Though I disagree with your definition of what a philosopher is, my opinion is, a philosopher is someone who studies the "realities" of life and looks for a concluding/definite answer for it all. A good philosopher to me is one who is also a scientist, a mathmetician, a doctor, a lawyer, a tradesman, a beggar, a king, etc....basically to me a good philospher is someone who is well-rounded and tries not only to see the world from his/her own perspective and understand that, but also tries to cut through one-sided perceptions and see the world as it may actually be according to others and incorperate that into their thoughts.  I guess this could even extend into the realm of inter-species understanding, I mean a whale's version of what life is, is probably completely different then ours yet they share the same planet and we are bound to them by the commonality of existence. Maybe some of their viewpoints of life has validity.

Brad:

Got the message that you rang, thanks, kinda weird coincidence that you called and it's my birthday. E-mail me your number so I can try to call sometime. BTW, to return your compliment about my mother, she said only nice things about you....which really surprised me and made me wonder, "Was it really Brad who called?"    

Trevor


jbouder
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Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash


10 posted 09-23-2000 03:10 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

JP:

Good thread.  I am reminded of something Mortimer Adler wrote on the subject: Philosophy is everybody's business but is not everybody's vocation.  

I suppose if you are asking whether every student of philosophy is a philosopher, I would have to say no.  I see the title of "philosopher" more in the sense as I see the title "theologian" or "scientist" or "doctor".  One can have a knowledge of philosophy, theology, science or medicine (perhaps exceeding the knowledge of those who make those fields of study their vocation) without being a philosopher, theologian, etc.  

I do think that every one philosophizes, even if they claim that they don't.  No everyone philosophizes well, but everyone certainly has a philosophical starting point in regards to how they view the world and people around them.

Moving on ... I think the value of "originality" is over-blown and I am suspect of anyone who purports to have an original thought or idea.  More often than not (in my experience), they are merely rehashing a mistake put to rest centuries ago ... and so the cycle continues.

I think there is tremendous value to be found in the philosophers of the past (particularly, in my opinion, some of the classic philosophers ... but even that period of time had just as many nuts as you are likely to find today).  We can look back and see the silliness of the optimism of Liebnitz or the unworkability of Mill's Utiliatarianism (yes ... I am trying to spark a debate ...   ).  

I'll shut up (for now).

Jim
JP
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11 posted 09-24-2000 02:23 AM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Where to begin? Where to begin?  So much good discussion here and so little time to organize my thoughts... ah well, just bear with my ramblings if you will, I may make a point at some time...

Orignal thought?  Is there such a thing and if so, what is it?  Does it have to consist of something nobody has ever thought before?  I don't think so.  I am often given to references to Nietzche (why can't that guy be called Smith?), or Russell, because they have a lot to say that I agree with, or can relate to.  In the case of original thought, I think back to my first university class and my History professor was rambling on about how dark and pessimistic Smith   was, while he was talking I could not help but to realize that I saw a message of hope in Smith's writings. His discussion on the Ubermensche, and the 'herd' and 'will to power'.  These things spoke to me as a message that we, as humans, have the ability to be more than what we are, to become 'more than human'.  In my mind, this was original thought.  The work of another, coupled with the effort of my own understanding and my personal insight, developed a whole new train of thought concerning the writings of Smith.

Okay, so you say "Thats's not original", perhaps not completely, but the originality comes into the game because no one else was standing on the corner shouting "Smith is the new messaiah! His message of hope will change the world!"  That was an understanding that I had....

The study of philosophy, in all it's forms, is important only to the point that it causes in us new thought, makes us forage ahead into new territory, or even snuffle around in the debris of old ideas to uncover some unclaimed truth, or to wipe the tarnish of a disgarded possibility.  Thought is the key.  

I wish life gave me the time to sit and stare out the window at a rainstorm, or to study a spider's web for hours, to see if I can find a kernal of truth in the beauty and ugliness around us.  Would that I could spend the time to truly become a philosopher and write great tomes of wisdom to be discussed throughout the ages.  But, alas, that time is not afforded me.  Does that mean I cannot find meaning in the littlest things?  Of course I can?  Of course I can philosophize about such things as the labor system and it balance of fair and not-so-fair.  I can reflect on the intricate beauty of a sleepless night, and all that it entails... a dance of eternity in dimly lit hours.  I can reflect on the poetry I write and why I write it.  I can think about what meanings there may be in those words that even I did not intend.

Taoism, Buddism, Christianity, Judeism... all give us philosophies to grapple with, and all give us much the same philosophies, regarding the treatment of each other... one may choose to reflect on that aspect alone and develop a new insight into the meaning and intent of organized religion.

Meaning is out there, truth is out there.  Do we seek to find one truth or many truths?  Is the one truth the idea that there is no ONE truth?  Do we have a purpose for being here or closer to home, what is the nature of our being here?  Are we offspring of primordial ooze or evolved genetic experiments of alien life forms?

Philosophy?  Original thought?  It's there, just waiting for us to dive in.


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.
B. Russell
Tony Di Bart
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since 01-26-2000
Posts 163
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12 posted 09-24-2000 10:06 PM       View Profile for Tony Di Bart   Email Tony Di Bart   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tony Di Bart

JP.

I agree with you in the fact that a philosopher should be well rounded.  However, I disagree with the fact that a philosopher is " someone who studies the "realities" of life and looks for a concluding/definite answer for it all.  coupled with

"and tries not only to see the world from his/her own perspective and understand that, but also tries to cut through one-sided
perceptions and see the world as it may actually be according to others and
incorperate that into their thoughts."

I do not think that we can really ever see the world as another does... the observer can never be removed from the observation.  THerfore we can only see the world through our own interpretation and therefore our own reality.  I think philosophy is a highly personal pursuit.  Even the great thinkers and what they have postulated is still personal. Yes, some of their theories and ideas appear to be universal and well grounded in "reality". But, theories only bare relevance to the observer and the readers agreement with these theories is in fact still and observer making an observation.  Your reading a theory by Plato, socrates, hume etc and your incorporating it only occurs when you the observer decides to. Well accepted theoris are a large group of people accepting something as part of them.  

In my opinion philosophy is always a personel observation of the world. Is there some absolute truth out there that defines everything? I do not know.  I'm only looking for patterns.  

That's it that's all

Tony Di Bart.
JP
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13 posted 09-25-2000 03:19 AM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Tony, are we not saying the same thing?  Are we not both promoting the idea of individual insight and personality as true philosophy?  I think we are, albeit in different verbiage.

I've become increasingly bothered by the idea of the study of philosophy.  Granted, the study of the great thinkers and great philosophies is important for many reasons - as a purely academic pursuit?  Absolutely.  There is nothing wrong with academia for academia's sake.  The study as means to give us a knowledge base on which to build?  Positively important.  A way in which to avoid the rehash of what has already been covered - a great time saver that...


What concerns me is the pointlessness of study for study's sake.  To what end do we study the writings of one like Plato?  We study what he wrote, we study his life, we study Greek society of that age, all for what?  To try a determine exactly what he was saying and why he was saying it?  That is not philosophy!  That is Rhetorical Criticsm!  To gain insight into why one would say or write something at the time one said or wrote the thing has its academic value. But that value is limited to how that knowledge can progress current thought.  To do a rhetorical study of Neitzsche would reveal a mentally unstable, drunken, drugged, mysogenist. Not much philisophical value there.  But to study his writings, to read them with new eyes, to glean our own meaning from what he wrought from his tortured mind - Ah! Yes!  That is philisophical originality!

Study for the sake of study, arguementation for the sake of the art of argumentation is the hall mark of cliched academia. The stagnation that inevitably will occur in arguing the argued. Academia has earned a reputation as something reserved for those who have little other purpose in life than to sit around and discuss ancient knowledge - providing little of substance to the present day world other than a source of knowledge discovered and documented by ancients... that is a pity as I feel academia is perhaps the key to humanities continuing evolution into our ultimate form.

If all we do is study Plato, and never add anything of worth to those volumes ourselves, our ability to evolve ceases.  Did Jesus merely study the old texts and discuss them with the Rabi's?  No, he knew the old texts, studied them thoroughly, and added to them with his own wisdom and philosophy (his or God's whichever you choose to believe), did Christianity benefit from the addition?  I think so.

Did not Descarte say "Cogito, ergo sum", is that the same as saying "I know what I've read, therefore I am."?  
  


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.
B. Russell


[This message has been edited by JP (edited 09-25-2000).]
Tony Di Bart
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14 posted 09-25-2000 10:46 AM       View Profile for Tony Di Bart   Email Tony Di Bart   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tony Di Bart

JP.

I guess we are saying the same thing.  

I do not know if you have ever read a book called the Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse.  If you have not you should I think that you would most definitly enjoy it.



Brad
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Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


15 posted 09-27-2000 07:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I've read through this and a number of different philosophies are mentioned, some of them are assumed, but the conversation still seems quite vague to me. On the one hand, Tony, JP, and Trevor seem to be arguing for a kind of Cartesianism - I think therefore I am. I am an individual. I have something to say. Okay, but that goes against the philosopical school of a decentered self - a school that argues that the 'self' is the product of numerous conflicting forces from outside and inside your own fallacious individuality.

This school argues that the individual is a kind of point in a constellation of different forces and can never be reduced to something unique or special, something outside that constellation. A quick example is the word for human in Japanese (ningen) which literally translated means among people rather than person.

Dare I say that it resonates with the Heideggerian idea of 'being-in-the-world'?

JP,
For the record, I agree with this assessment.

Jim wants to argue against utilitarianism - "value resides in the greatest happiness for the greatest number" and Leibnitz (not sure what he means by optimism here) and, in a certain way, JP seems to argue FOR that philosophy when he argues that academics is too caught up in useless philosophical speculation (this also a very American way of thinking).

For the record, I disagree with JP. Talking about Plato matters because much of Western society - laws, traditions, cliches, and so forth -  partly come directly or indirectly from many ancient Greek thinkers.

It matters when many people think such thoughts are natural, obvious, undebatable when they were the thoughts of one man in an historically situated context rather than ideas that all people 'naturally' see and believe in. I know they don't. What if we got what he said wrong? What if we have limited ourselves to an erroneous view not only of what Plato said but also believe that erroneous view is unchallengable?

Rhetorical criticism becomes very important in such a context.  I'll even argue that rhetorical criticism is the crux of philosophy.  

Brian argues that he is, for the most part, a Taoist. Yet, there are many types of Taoists in the world (historically and geographically). I've never read the Tao of Poo but I have read Lao Tzu (in translation which brings up a lot of problems with the difficulty in translating Classical Chinese). So, do we want to talk about the way or flow, about non-interaction and passivity, about limited government, about immortality?

For the record, I'm not a Taoist.

Actually, if one takes the idea of expanded text from Derrida - "There is nothing outside the text" - and combine that with the Cartesian idea of self, JP wasn't far off when he said "I am because I know what I read."    

Now, I've thrown out a lot of ideas here,
I've tried to paraphrase what some people have said here, and tried to reduce/paraphrase what many philosophers have said (There is a certain silliness to the idea that 'you' don't exist).

All of these are my opinions.

Every one of them is contestable in a certain way.

Opinions are easy to have. Everybody has them and it's amazing how so many people will state as a defense mechanism, "Well, I don't know anything but . . .". It's hard to paraphrase and actually say, "This is what I think you said."

That's what I've done here.

Am I wrong?

Let's talk about it.
Brad
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16 posted 09-27-2000 10:16 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

just 2 things:

actually I believe Descarte never actually said cogito ergo sum ( I think therefore I exist ) although he may have phrased it that way at some other point...

in his original writings what he said was doubt was the sine qua non -- the very fact that he could doubt his existence was the foundation upon reason to believe that he did...

incidentally -- many mistakenly think descarte was an atheist or agnostic -- in fact -- it was his opinion that we could not concieve a perfect being or God being the imperfect beings we are -- unless there was a perfect being that placed that notion in our psyche... so -- in reality he was a type of gnostic

and yes Aristotle and Descarte are more or less the cornerstones of the western paradigms...

JP
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17 posted 09-29-2000 12:25 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Brad - wrong?  Can't say you are wrong, but brief, most definitely.  This may be off the thread a bit, however, I have seen a lot of responses in this forum that through out a lot of names, a lot of 'sound bites' of philosophy, but do not delve deep enough into a subject to give it grist for the mill.

I have no problem admitting that I am not intimately familiar with most of the people y'all talk about.  Passingn knowledge of who they are and what they supposedly are known for (kinda like those who know Nietszche as a nazi...).

Actually, when it comes down to it, I think this may not be too far off the thread.  This is part of what has caused me to speculate on the value of philisophical study for study's sake....  What is the value of throwing out a name and saying "I agree with what so and so said in his essay "yadda yadda yadda."?  What is the value to US as the others in this conversation?

My first class in philosophy was merely 6 years ago when I returned to school... It was my first introduction to the great thinkers and sitting there learning about who they were and what they had to say and why was invigorating.  I finally understood references to Descarte, Plato, Nietszche, Siddartha, et al.  I had gained an understanding into what they were about.  That class had philisophical value to me because it opened my eyes to a method of thought and discourse and allowed me to seek out my own ideas in a much more patterned and thorough manner.

Other philosophers followed as my time allowed me to pursue extraneous knowledge, but in no means am I well-read on the subject.  Ultimately, it leads me to question, what is the value of pure academic study if it does not benefit everyone?  What benefit do I derive from study for the sake of study?  What benefit does my brother or wife derive if I spend my time writing essays on the misconceptions of the Socratic method or the underlying message of hope in Nietszche mysogeny?  If I do not share that knowledge with them, and do not involve them in the discourse of thought, and do it in such a fashion that they can participate and expand their minds, do I benefit anyone other than I?

Is that not contrary to the ideal of philosophy?


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.
B. Russell
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18 posted 09-29-2000 12:38 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

JP...

It would seem to me the benefit of study is -- first of all -- whithin the workings of the normal human psyche (and I don't even want to get into what normal is since the foregone conclusion is that everyone is slightly neurotic)there is the natural questioning of who am I? what am I?  why am I here? what more am I than this?  what may I become? -- study allows us to not have to re-invent the wheel.... by observing what has been thought before we don't have to go through the same steps our forebearers made and hopefully we can build on it and -- add to the perspective -- which collectively benefits everyone -- if we never share that perspective though -- it becomes of little value excepting that through the way we live our lives we will have influence on others -- and we're only 6 steps away from everybody on the planet... supposedly..
jbouder
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19 posted 09-30-2000 04:05 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

quote:
Jim wants to argue against utilitarianism - "value resides in the greatest happiness for the greatest number" and Leibnitz (not sure what he means by optimism here) and, in a certain way, JP seems to argue FOR that philosophy when he argues that academics is too caught up in useless philosophical speculation (this also a very American way of thinking).


This was my bad ... I should have said "Leibnitzian optimism".  Have you ever read "Candide" by Voltaire?  It is satire that pokes fun at a popular Enlightenment philosophy the perverted Leibnitz's work and presented the someone metaphysical argument of "All things happen for the good".  Leibnitz said something to that effect (quoting Romans, actually) but those at whom Voltaire was directing his ire didn't get the context right.

quote:
For the record, I disagree with JP. Talking about Plato matters because much of Western society - laws, traditions, cliches, and so forth -  partly come directly or indirectly from many ancient Greek thinkers.


You're right here.  Cicero (the famous Roman legal scholar) leaned heavily on the works of Plato.  Anglo-American Law is largely a Roman/Mosaic composite at its roots.  Utilitarianism has found its way into the American legal system (Economic theorists are basically Utilitarians).  Your more liberal legal scholars tend to be Economic theorists.  

quote:
What if we got what he said wrong? What if we have limited ourselves to an erroneous view not only of what Plato said but also believe that erroneous view is unchallengable?


I guess the "Leibnitzians" Voltaire wrote against were of this sort.  

quote:
Rhetorical criticism becomes very important in such a context.  I'll even argue that rhetorical criticism is the crux of philosophy.


I wouldn't.  

quote:
Actually, if one takes the idea of expanded text from Derrida - "There is nothing outside the text" - and combine that with the Cartesian idea of self, JP wasn't far off when he said "I am because I know what I read."


You bring up the value rhetorical criticism and then you quote Derrida, "There is nothing outside the text."  If only it was that simple.

Rhetorical criticism, in my opinion, is certainly an important discipline.  But it is not the only discipline and, while it is an important discipline, it usually does not stand on its own (unless I have misunderstood your definition of rhetorical criticism).  Theology has a school of criticism that is called Redaction Criticism which largely ignores legal/historic examination of the texts (historical context of the document, author's purpose, collateral historical documents, authenticity of the document, etc. ... Harold Bloom is a redaction critic, btw).

To my point ... if there is truly nothing outside of the text, how can the true meaning of an ambiguous text be text be fleshed out or how can its authenticity be tested?  And if the historical context or author's intent shed light on the ambiguity of a certain text, would the rhetorical critic be able to divorce himself from his interpretation, even if it proves to be inconsistant with certain facts that have been brought to light?

Discerning the meaning of a particular text involves (1) examining what is inside of the text (word usage, textual context, etc.) and (2) examining those things that are outside of the text (historical context, collateral documents, etc.).  There are internal AND external tests.  Neither is more important than the other but neither can stand fully on its own.

Just an opinion.

Jim

Brad
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20 posted 09-30-2000 05:36 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

JP,
I agree that throwing out names with the expectation that others will know what you are talking about is both assumptive and defensive. It's assumptive in that I'm pretty sure we don't have any practicing philosophers posting here (am I wrong?) and therefore wrong to assume that any of us can really understand the subtleties of what each individual author says (I'm including myself here); we shouldn't use the short hand they use. I throw out a lot of names more as a way for those who are interested in any particular theme so that they can pursue it (I don't expect many to but you never know). It is defensive in that it avoids having to deal with the complexity of the ideas themselves. I give names and quotes often because I also think I should give credit to where credit is due.

Sometimes, I post quotes because I think something is particularly interesting in the way it was said -- some irony or obvious contradiction of something that I just thought was written better than I could have done. I'm interested in what other people feel about the quote, their own interpretations, and then later give a gloss of my own. I've come to think that I should give my own gloss with a quote. The danger here is that others might just read what I read and not give me new information or interpretation.

That's boring for me. I already know what I think.  

However, the problem involves when to stop the quote. I quoted Derrida above (I should have known better because that happens to be one of his most famous and one his most easily misunderstood quotes). I should have been more careful.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we should, in this forum, work from quotes and readings of the quotes as best we can without assuming that others necessarily know what we're talking about. We should accept that misunderstandings will occur and that it may be that our own readings will employ misinterpretations of our own.

That's the fun part.  

I'll leave the pragmatic utility of such endeavours for another thread (I still consider this forum as an entertainment forum for those who are interested in subjects of a philosophical nature) except to say most of what philosophy is arguing does matter to your brother and your wife.

I think so anyway.

Jim,
Sorry about the Derrida quote. You are not alone in reading that statement in the way you have but I disagree. Derrida expanded the idea of the text to include the context. What he argues is not that reading as opposed to not reading is the only endeavour but that reading is the ONLY thing we can do. It's funny because it's such a provocative quote and yet when Derrida actually defended it, most people go:  "big deal."

In a way they're right.

The Bloom comment deserves its own thread.

Talk to ya later,
Brad

JP
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21 posted 10-01-2000 01:01 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Brad -

That's boring for me. I already know what I think.

You may already know what you think, but I don't, and what you think is of paramount importance to me (what everyone here thinks is important to me) moreso than what Derrida, Plato, or Diogenes thought.

If the great thinkers of the past are the cornerstone for your own philosophy, by all means give credit where credit is due, however, I am here to hear your thoughts, your ideas, your philosophy (yours meaning everyone here) not thiers.

The established philosohpies are important to all, for various reasons, the study of those philosophies are important for many reasons stated by many of us here (one idea is so as not to rehash old ground...) I do not want any to believe that I think the study of those philosohpies is a waste, I don't.  However, I suppose I took a stand against it in order to make a stronger point, to elicit more discussion on the value of our own thoughts and philosophies rather than the vomiting of existing thought.

One final thought.  If I make a point, or posit a philisophical hypothesis, and someone responds that "so and so said this about that...", does that mean I am wrong?  If Heidegger argued a point and I disagreed with it, does that make him right and me wrong?  I don't believe.  The beauty of this forum is that we have the opportunity to challenge the old thinkers and say "Just because you wrote a loquacious essay regarding this idea doesn't mean I agree with it or that you are correct - this is what I think".


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.
B. Russell
 
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