Miscellany: On the reason for belief, the perfection of design, freedom versus constraint, and other topics


On whether we believe things because we perceive them to be true or whether we believe things because we perceive that believing in them will confer social utility to us:

As to whether the basis for mutual understanding has anything to do with genetics, I remain agnostic. Instead I am content to observe the obvious phenomenon that people seem to divide themselves into different camps. I keenly experience both sides of the issue viz. the telos of belief, though I believe my “center of gravity” is firmly placed in one of them. I like to think that whenever they are in conflict, I will always choose the truth over personal utility or expediency. I have found, like many people, that this tends to alienate me from people who prefer to have their views affirmed than to get to the bottom of things. On one hand, it is a pity to compromise these relationships. On the other hand, maybe it creates the space for new relationships that are established on a basis less fickle than popular opinion. This is my utopian ideal of how the views can be reconciled. Is it possible to create a community of “philosophers” in this sense, which is to say, people who prefer understanding above any standpoint? If the answer is “yes,” then the disjunction would be nullified since it would be precisely the quest to reach the truth that would endear a person to her community rather than ostracize her from it. Perhaps this will be a “pearl of great price” that can be won from the Coronavirus fiasco. Time will tell. 

Incidentally, I have seen people define “philosophy” in the sense I have employed the term above as a sort of autism or “neuro-divergence,” to be politically correct. Sometimes I wonder if the designations of “neuro-typical” and “neuro-divergent” were invented and defined by bourgeois idolaters in the bottom of Plato’s cave for the sake of shoring up their illusory shadow-science.

On On Liberty and the question of the truth or falsity of religion:

J.S. Mill would likely advocate that a person depart from a false religion, but I don’t think that it is right to think of the truth or falsity of a religion in the way we think about the truth or falsity of a scientific statement. Either pure water freezes at 32° F at sea level or it doesn’t. But religious precepts are not disjunctive like this. Instead I think religion is much more favourably compared to language than to factual propositions. In what contexts would it make sense to say that English, for instance, or any other language, is false? English per se could not really be false, despite that it could be enlisted to propagate falsehood and it can also be employed ungrammatically or without good taste, etc. The only way I can think of a language being false per se is if it were incapable to express specific meanings and experiences of the human condition, like “Schadenfreude.”

On the ineluctable inadequacy of utilitarianism to offer what it promises by way of a bona fide theory of ethics:

Only an omniscient being could be a satisfactory utilitarian. The rest of us will be forced continually to bind our moral plight to the extrapolations and conjectures of our abstract scientific intellects viz. the downstream consequences of actions, which, be reminded, we are always compelled to perform in concrete scenarios in the present tense.

On perfection in design:

The ordinary handsaw is an example of perfectly ingenious design. This is evident by the fact that you can give it to an orangutan and the orangutan will start sawing things with it. Very few technological artefacts can hold a candle to the ordinary handsaw.

On freedom and/or discipline:

The question was posed as to why ascetic and orthodox traditions are met with so much animosity in the modern world? I think the problem is that, without wisdom, we will interpret freedom to mean “doing whatever I want,” not realizing that it is an unconscious rationalization by our desires in order that they may maintain their sovereignty over us. They have, Q.E.D., even co-opted our reason to their ends.

Philosophers since Plato have recognized that a man is least free when he does as he pleases. This accounts for the paradoxical effect of all of the “liberation movements,” in every victory is a pyrrhic one. Hence, it is not a question of giving free license to desire and abiding by no law, but rather by becoming autonomous, which is to say, capable to set the laws by which one abides in will and in consciousness. Freedom, in other words, is not the negation of discipline but rather the fruition of it. Ultimately, and almost as a matter of definition, a law that is chosen in lucidity and without distortions wrought by arbitrary sympathies and antipathies will be ordered towards the Good and is thus a law that is set by God. Hence Christ said “I came not to abolish the law,” and added, “but to fulfill it.” The ascetic practices have been necessary to cultivate disciple for the sake of freedom (i.e. freedom to do what is truly good rather than what seems good to one or another desire in us) and people that neglect the first thing do so, as a rule, out of a lack of understanding for the virtue of the second.

“Why are ascetic and orthodox traditions met with so much animosity in the modern world?” Because the desires, which the modern world has come to worship as false gods, hate to be constrained and hence they violently oppose anything that threatens their free rein. Again, an illustration:

“[there was a demon] Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24)

On capitalism and/or the common good:

It has been observed that generosity with food waste would risk driving down the demand for food and hence shareholders in relevant corporations have a vested interest in destroying food that is not purchased rather than distributing their product to those most in need of it. On the other hand, it is unlikely that a society depending on pure charity for its initiatives could have ever given rise to an infrastructure that is capable of providing for some many consumers as that which we presently enjoy. This is an obvious case in which capitalism needs to be regulated so that the engine of greed is driven into the proper channels. Many people have, ostensibly on these grounds, assumed a violent ideological opposition to capitalism but this often strikes me as more of a posture adopted for the sake of social currency than a thoroughly considered philosophical position (Cf. the section above re the telos of belief). In light of the Good-beyond-Being, everything must find its place. Hence even greed, or desire for profit, cannot be bad, per se. By analogy, a horse is actually good for a cart as long as it doesn’t drive it off of a cliff, and the same fluid dynamics by which a river can serve as a source of life and sustenance and renewable energy could also run the river right through a village and demolish it. It seems like it should be possible to “thread the eye of the needle,” so to speak, and reconcile the antithesis between capitalism and the common good.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s