Miscellany: (1) lying, (2) Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, (3) Corona lockdowns, (4) “a house divided,” (5) the concept a health

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Thank you for placing the issue of lying before us. In order to properly consider it, we would have to establish what exactly we mean by “the truth” and what this has to do with the propositions and grammars by which it is communicated, on the one hand, and with the speaker’s intention on the other. Once we have a clear grasp of these things, then we can derive a concept of lying but I think it is impossible to do it in abstraction.

Here are two interesting questions that can show why the distinctions above are important. Consider the scenario of a broken clock whose hands are arrested at quarter after five. Suppose someone asks me the time and I read it off the clock and suppose further that I just happen to be correct. Now consider three different cases. (1) In one case, I knew the clock was broken and believed that by reading off the time that it indicated I would be lying while in fact, by sheer coincidence and unbeknownst to me, the time just happened to be correct. (2) In another case, I knew it was broken and did not care one way or the other whether I misled my interrogator or not and read out the time indifferent to its correctness. (3) In a third case, I know the clock is broken but I also know that “the broken clock is right twice a day” and that this happens to be one of those times and so when asked what time it is, I read the time off the broken clock with the intention of providing a true answer. We could also consider the same hypothetical intentions on my part in a situation in which the clock was registering a time other than the actual time. I hope this helps to illuminate some of the complexity of this question but also, and perhaps more importantly, how to answer any question completely would involve answering all questions. I noted in the lecture on Plato’s Meno that he conceived of reality as syngenous, or “possessing a common origin” and I think this can give us a glimpse of this internal relation. 

Another question to consider is the typical white lie. Supposing someone asks “does this dress make me look fat” and I say “not in the slightest” while in fact I secretly think it does. Ordinarily, we think of this as a lie despite that it is most likely innocuous and hence we call it a “white lie.” But if the context of my speech act is considered and not merely the propositional content in abstraction from the intention of the one speaking it, then it is a truthful expression of my intention. And in fact, if I told the so-called “truth” in this case, I would be in discord with my intention. Again, I hope this example can reveal the complexity and interrelation of all of these concepts. I think it can also shed light on the question of why we begin to lie at a certain time in our development. It seems to be related to the ability to conceptualize meaning or intention as something related to, but distinct from language.

***

On the topic of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you observed that a hierarchy like this is a useful tool to conceptualize our priorities in life and to understand why we do what we do. I am in full agreement about this, and in fact I think that one hallmark of a “self-actualised” person is just this: that his or her priorities are totally transparent to him or her. By the same token, to the degree that our priorities are muddled or opaque to us, we have not become actualised in ourselves.  

It occurs to me that the hierarchy is representing the manner in which a value which may seem like a good in itself, can become subordinated and sublimated towards a higher good in the process of moral and intellectual development. Thus, comfort, for instance, which may seem like a good in itself, can be seen as something that is actually only valuable for the sake of providing for the expression of a higher value like love or creativity for example. In other words, the relatively lower is understood as something that is sought for the sake of the relatively higher rather than merely for itself. This, in any case, would seem to be the takeaway if Maslow’s hierarchy is conceived as a “map” of sorts for our own development. 

I wonder if you agree with Maslow’s ordering of these relative objects of value in his hierarchy. In principle, the notion that there should be a hierarchy of values seems correct and very useful as a tool for development. But the specific objects that he places on each level of the pyramid left me wondering in some cases.

***

Thank you for again bringing the significant and timely issue of lockdowns to light. It is a very complex situation because, while slowing the spread of the coronavirus is one important element to consider, it is far from the only one. For this reason, to measure the value of lockdowns, it is necessary to weigh their effects in the context of society and human life as a whole. It is an illusion to think that the value of lockdowns can be determined through models and abstractions that only take into consideration a handful of quantitative variables. The interplay of different elements of life and society is far too complex to be captured in such a simplistic way. A few aspects to the problem that I would like to put before us in the hope that it will allow us to form a more comprehensive picture of the situation are:

Society and socialization, especially for children. We don’t expect a flower to grow without water and human interaction is just as vital for our basic health. For this reason, anything that limits or constraints these interactions can be expected to be deleterious to our health. It has been established that health is just what the coronavirus presents a challenge to so it stands to reason that the healthier we are, the less vulnerable we will be to it. Returning to the question of lockdowns and their consequences: what can we expect, both presently and in the future, in respect to increases in suicide and mental health crises? Nobody knows because this has never been done before, but it is unlikely that there will be no effect.

Forgoing of routine medical checkups as well as the delay or forgoing of necessary and/or elective procedures. How many tumors will metastasize which might otherwise have been detected in routine cancer screenings? We don’t know but questions like this must be weighed in the balance.

Economic hardship and famine, especially amongst the most underprivileged. It is clear that the lockdowns place an economic burden on many people and that this burden is disproportionately born by the least privileged among us. Many people have probably seen recent pictures of the foodbank lines. Here is a link to very alarming report from September: https://www.wfp.org/news/wfp-chief-warns-grave-dangers-economic-impact-coronavirus-millions-are-pushed-further-hunger

—Education

These are a few elements of the question that I think are integral to a comprehensive picture of what is at stake. I’m certain there are many elements that I have overlooked and I invite anyone to contribute.

***

“But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’ Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’” (Matthew 12)

The passage itself strikes me as exceedingly complex and esoteric. I am certain that many of the terms and phrases would have born far more concrete meanings to Jesus contemporaries than they do to us today. “Beelzebub,” for instance, translates from Hebrew roughly as “lord of the flies” (hence the title of the famous novel by William Golding) and referred to a god that was worshipped by the Philistines, who were a neighboring people to the Israelites. It is very interesting that you have associated Jesus with critical thinking. Perhaps it is intentional on your part and perhaps it is just a felicitous coincidence but Christians believe that Jesus was the Christ, by which they understand that he was the prophesied Messiah of the Jews, but also the Logos and son of God incarnate. We briefly touched on the Greek word logos (Λόγος) and how it is so thoroughly saturated with meaning that it is nearly impossible to capture it in English. Words like word, speech, logic, dialectic, reason, argument, intelligibility, order, harmony, and meaning are all used to translate logos. If we reflect on the experience of understanding something, or gaining insight into something, it can be described as the perception of an inner unity or inner logic to various elements that before the insight appeared discreet and unrelated or perhaps even at odds with one another. It is our own possession of logos that both provides for the possibility of attaining this kind of insight, and also that provides the possibility for us to communicate it to other beings who also possess logos. In this way, we see that logos has to do with a “coming-together” of the parts of something. The diametrical opposite of (comm)unity is fragmentation and in the same way, the Devil is understood to be the enemy of Christ. Diabolos, as in “diabolical,” literally means “casting asunder” in Greek so I don’t think my discussion here has been as fanciful or abstract as it may at first appear.

***

Thank you for placing the profound question of “what is health?” before us. I agree with the basic sentiment that you expressed: that the conventional notion of health as “absence of acute disease” is woefully inadequate to the true meaning of the term. I would like to offer an etymological connection that I believe can help us achieve a more comprehensive understanding of health. “Health,” “whole,” and “holy” stem from the same root in Old English. You wished to emphasise the concept of acceptance in respect to health. I think that here we can find the deep significance of this concept to health because lack of acceptance means that two elements within oneself are pitted the one against the other and, to cite a famous person, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Again I think this internal dynamic between forgiveness and accusation finds archetypal depiction in the contest between Christ and Satan. 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. j says:

    Reblogged this on Wake Up To The Truth.

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