Friday, December 23, 2016

Pointless Reminder I Exist

Hey everyone.  Sorry I've been out of commission for a while; mostly due-to preoccupation with school and work.  I have some stuff I'll likely be posting in the next week or two.  I finally have time to read and do some writing.  But I also want to play Xbox and see people over break.

Anyway, just another pointless update.  I would put more effort into this post but what effort I would put into this I should be putting into my essay(s) so instead I'll put effort into neither for now and play Sonic before sleeping and maybe writing if the stars align for it.

Take care.  And happy Secular Holiday Celebration.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

To What Extent Does Life Imitate Art?

The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters.

Fidel Castro

I never saw a contradiction between the ideas that sustain me and the ideas of that symbol, of that extraordinary figure, Jesus Christ.

Fidel Castro

An absolutely new idea is one of the rarest things known to man.

Thomas More

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”
Thomas MoreUtopia

The main interest of this paper is to examine Utopian literature to see if the seeming paradoxes and subtleties of radical politics in history can be properly fleshed out in literature, as well as to understand different understandings and uses of the word ‘utopian.’  For though art is typically an imitation of life, life can imitate art as well and there are some works of art that have achieved the goal of seeming more “real” than reality through encapsulating either something about people or about a society/political atmosphere perfectly – without all the unnecessary attributes that are inevitable out in the world with concrete particulars of people and places.

The first place to begin then is Thomas More’s Utopia.  Celebrating its 500th Anniversary,

A work of utopian literature that is one of the earliest Communist tracts written by a servant of Henry the VIIIth before he is executed by Henry for not converting from Catholicism to the at-the-time burgeoning Anglican faith.  In it, the character of Raphael is speaking to More about his travels, in the second book he goes into detail about the island of Utopia or No Place.  A perceived paradise that is both a criticism of European societies inability to live up to the perceived moral tenants and values of Christ and a proponent of what is the proper way to run a society. 

It is this layout that is the quintessential “Utopia” and highlights the main features of what it means for a society to be “Utopian.”  To dislike imperfection and multiplicity or differentiation of things.  To believe in moral idealism and to be incredibly harsh if not barbaric to achieve moral perfection, as well as the idea that Man can be perfected in this life.

Despite the lack of Catholicism or traditional religions in most Communist States there is a type of fervor within revolutionary movements and States that take on a religious dimension.  It is this moral zeal towards positive liberty and order which is the antithesis of Liberalism which has become even more so than Christianity (for Christianity has so many differing denominations and has declined in the West while Classical Liberalism, particularly a faith in privatization and Neo-Liberal economics has grown) the ideology of the West.  This Thomas More saw in Monarchism but would apply it likely to Republicanism or Classical Liberalism.

Since we are comparing the coiner of the word Utopia to Marxist theories and attempts to create it, it behooves us to analyze what Marx and Engels thought of Utopianism in their writings.  Bertell Ollman puts it rather well in bullet-point form[1].  For Marx Utopianism is akin to lack of comprehension of the “is-ought” distinction laid out by Hume.  Assuming Utopia or what the Utopian Socialists (what Marx and Engels referred to in a sub-section of Socialists as they criticized Saint-Simon and Owen[2]) advocated is desirable arguing for it or speaking of its goodness does not necessarily manifest it into reality.  Especially giving the Materialist presumptions of Marx, one has to have knowledge of the particulars of what is to implement the ought, not knowledge of the ought alone to implement itself.  Gaining further knowledge of the particulars of the perfect healthcare system does little in itself to manipulate the political pre-existing system to implement it.  If this is true, then to the extent one implements the ought (regardless of whether or not one has discovered it through proper reasoning – one can do the right thing “by accident” that is) it is better to be a Frank Underwood than a Plato.

Though More’s is the work to originate the word Utopia and Utopian it is not the first work to manifest notions of an ideal world fundamentally different than this one.  Though religions often speak of an ideal world in a different plane of existence most have a tendency to be pessimistic about the possibilities of life in this one (Ollman[3]).  However, in the works of Plato there is the Republic, which Aristotle refers to as “Communism” (the first use of the word if memory serves).  And in Epicurus there is the notion of breaking free from the calamity of busy Athenian society (what closely approximates to “bourgeois” society in the ancient world) and finding peace pursuing natural pleasures and philosophy in the garden.

Now that a brief historical overview has been given, what can we see in the More’s work that will give raise to comparisons of attempted Utopias (using the colloquial, not the Marxist use of the word)?

The most apparent similarity and arguably the one that makes nearly every other one possible is the lack of private property in Utopia[4] and the USSR (before the NEP, and after its revocation by Stalin after Lenin’s death).  Though private property seems to mean something to More that it doesn’t to Marx (Communist Manifesto[5]).  For More it seems to connote to a lack of private ownership of small things in Utopia (Utopia pg. 64[6]) – for Marx the Means of Production that the Bourgeoisie use as means of profit while utilizing the exploited labor of the working class.  Though industry and a division of labor seen in Capitalist economics did not exist in the sixteenth century (essentially everything was individually made or made by small groups) More seems to would have advocated a communalization of industry if we are to infer this from his stances on agriculture (ibid p.50-1[7]). 

More seems to argue for his asceticism and communalization of ownership for two broad reasons – one religious, the other secular.  More seems to believe that a focus on gold and material things is both sinful and not in people’s nature but a manifestation of want and vanity[8] – a similar position of behaviorism being held in Marxism.  But asides from this he argues implicitly throughout of the merits of collective planning being done for the good of society rather than for the profits and prestige of business class and kings – if there is a better summation of the Socialist message I am unable to think of it.

Another example of similarities between More’s Utopia and the USSR which could have been inferred from previously given citation is the centralization of planning.  Though not all forms of Socialism (some forms of Anarchism for example) involve State or Central Planning both Utopia and the Soviet Union appear to (ibid p.50[9]).

Next to the communal ownership and management of things in society the largest similarity that we can look at when we are defining what is “utopian” is a paradoxical synthesis of moral idealism and barbarism.  Though More is very generous in a sense to his fictitious citizens, he is harsh to some with the existence of slavery in his perfect island State.  The slaves do the brute labor that More deems dehumanizing and unbecoming (ibid p. 61[10]) as well as other random tasks.  Slavery does not exist from ethnic classification/division in this society, but as a punishment for various offenses (ibid p. 64[11]).  This is comparable to the USSR where one could be punished to exile and hard labor in Siberia or other Authoritarian Communist States like North Korea where physically demanding labor in bleak conditions is a punishment for a host of crimes against the State.

Ignoring the harshness of slavery, another common trait one could see in the two is the potential for bureaucracy and a “soft authoritarianism.”  That is to say, without strict laws and harsh penalties, the very fact that one requires permission to use the things of common ownership of society or even to live one’s life as he or she wants and to do as one pleases is in direct contrast to our individualist notions of “live and let live” and not enforcing any notion of “the good” or normative values onto anyone save what directly violates another’s possibility to pursue their own happiness.  This is seen in Soviet policies of emigration and any travel abroad being forbade without explicit permission from the government. 

This “soft authoritarianism” also connotes a certain assumed reasonability and lack of prejudice among those who will be signing “privilege slips.”  This presumption of almost perfect wisdom amongst the rulers of this society is the antithesis of the Liberal Democracy (Constitutional Republic – whichever term is preferred) created by the American Founding Fathers, where there was an assumption of Man’s ignorance, baseness and ability to be corrupted by power and vanity.  This is why America’s Founders followed the writings of the political philosopher Montesquieu and created a separation of powers (three branches of government: legislative, judicial and executive).

When there is a surplus population in a town or grouping of towns, the extra Utopians go and form a new colony with the help of the native population who live in the area.  Very little detail is provided about these natives, but what is mentioned is that their agricultural incompetence is corrected in borderline miraculous ways by the management of the Utopians.  What they thought could not yield enough food for one group suddenly becomes enough bounty for two (ibid p.60[12]).  This could be seen as analogous to the Agricultural Collectivization under Stalin which was done in part to increase crop yields from what they were previously under individual peasant management.  In More’s Utopia there is little if any resistance from the Non-Utopians to the Utopian way of life.  However, in the USSR many Kulaks (the wealthier land owners) often killed their cattle or burned their crops rather see it be used collectively against their will.

In Utopia the food is distributed to all the communal dinner-areas proportionally after it has been given to the hospitals (presumably because the sick are in the most need for nutritious food) and the crème of the crop allocated to the Mayor and other legislators (ibid p.62[13]).  This preference to those who organize and legislate this supposedly classless society harkens to the hypocrisy seen in all religions and the Soviet Union.  In the center of Catholicism there is millions of dollars of wealth in art and architecture (among other resources) and the USSR’s leaders and politicians had the best living places and access to life’s luxuries despite the speak of common brotherhood, shared sacrifice and condemnation of the Bourgeois’ decadence and lack of concern for the suffering of the working class.

This could be seen as an indication of Egoism in our species that is innate rather than created through culture (Capitalist relations; Classical Liberal values and theories of human nature).  That is not to say that human beings are irrevocably selfish or selfish and nothing but (which is what Psychological Egoists maintain) but that humans are largely selfish and think of themselves and their families before the “brotherhood” of the human race (Aristotle’s main critique of Plato’s Republic).  This is not even necessarily an argument effectively saying Capitalism is superior to Communism – only that Communism can never be what it intends to be; a “pure” system where all selfishness and biases are purged from the human condition and everyone sees everyone as an equal deserver of attention to Utilitarian Calculation.

With both Christianity and Communism there is the idea that the sufferings of this material plane of existence come about through the “sinfulness” or lack of moral dealings in human beings.  There is also the notion that a perfect world can be achieved – in an otherworldly plane of existence for the Christian; on this Earth for the Communist.

Though they are expressed in different ways, and a Christian and Marxist may focus on different “sins” or moral-crimes, what they share is the view that the sufferings of this life manifest from the injustices and vice of this life.  With Christianity it is (depending on interpretation) the inherent sinfulness of Man and with Marxism it is the injustice of the Capitalist (or various other modes of relation which are unjust) system.

Both believe that human nature was originally good, was made sinful (the Fall of Man for the Christian; Marxists arguing the concept of inherent selfishness is a by-product of Neo-Liberal economics and profit-based incentives) and can be redeemed or corrected.  Through the correct social institutions for the Communist (ones that give proper education and opportunity for people – where they needn’t labor individually for their individual means of subsistence) and through death and being washed of sin and imperfection (and identity assumingly) in Heaven for the Christian.

There are however stark differences in certain areas.  In More’s Utopia gender roles are the conventional ones (ibid p.62[14]) the West and the world over (with a few exceptions) has seen as proper historically.  The men doing the more physically arduous tasks and the women doing the less laborious tasks of cooking and tending to the children.  Here More could be continuing the cultural traditions and verses of the Bible (I Corinthians 11:3[15].  I Corinthians 11:8-9[16]) or creating a society where gender relations reflect that of Aristotle (Politics 1259a41[17]) to use a secular example.

This is different than the USSR, for an early piece of propaganda used in the Soviet Union was stressing the equality of the genders in expectation and ability to perform the roles of society.  Women were not merely told they could be engineers, the main contention of gender egalitarianism in Bourgeois Liberal society which gives women the freedom to pursue whatever careers they please, they were told they should (V.I. Lenin[18]) do the tasks that men performed in greater numbers before for the benefit of society and to ensure gender equality.

Also for More there is stern punishment for sexual promiscuity (Utopia p.83[19]).  This type of attention to an individual’s sex life is not often so in Socialist Societies – there are examples of censorship of sexuality but this is not limited to societies that have a planned economy.  Also a quick note: it’s strange that More notes the absurdity of not providing people proper education and then punishing them for their poor behavior but does not see the ultimate absurdity of punishing a couple for sex outside of wedlock by in effect condemning them to eternal abstinence – for if sex is a crime then More is expecting them never to commit again what it is in every man and woman’s nature (far more so than theft and acts of violence) to commit.

There is a great more to examine in More’s Utopia, a particular point of interest being in examining the philosophical and religious beliefs of the Utopians – for despite their simple living they are depicted as far from simple minded and love little more than the pleasures of the mind (ibid p.59[20]).  However, such issues are not directly relevant to the task at hand so they will be postponed for further mining.

In conclusion, if I am allowed to give my preference of these lofty ideas of social structure I find the normative ideals and prescriptions of Communism (Communitarianism) to be on the whole more appealing than Liberalism (Individualism) but not without its flaws and failings.  Though these opposing sentiments and ideologies will often naturally reject any attempt to take parts of the one into the other I find this is what’s best for a healthy community that also values individual creativity and autonomy.  Whether this is a form of Communism that is more in some areas individual-orientated (essentially Social Anarchism) or a form of Liberalism that recognizes the importance of a safety net and collective funding for things used by all (Social Democracy) I think is on the whole irrelevant.  While one may be better than the other (I’ll leave that to the reader to decide) both seem to be better than the extremes of Neo-Liberalism and Authoritarian Communism. 

[1] From what Marx and Engels said on this subject, utopian thinking would appear to have the following characteristics:
1.        The vision of the future is constructed primarily—though not necessarily exclusively—out of hopes, wishes, and intuitions, whether envisioned by an individual or taken from the writings of other utopian thinkers, or some combination of the two.
2.        Constructed in this way and from such materials, this vision is externally related to whatever analysis one may have made of present conditions (each is viewed as logically independent of the other).
3.        But without any necessary connection between the two, there is no need for extensive analysis of the society in which one lives, and as a rule there is very little.
4.        Constructed from one’s hopes and wishes, and logically set off from one’s understanding of the present, the vision of the future generally precedes whatever social analysis is undertaken and occupies a central place in the thinking process.
5.        The future, so constructed, then serves as an independent standard for making evaluative judgments of whatever conditions and events come into one’s study of the present and the past.
6.        Finally, as a result of all the foregoing, there is a serious overestimation of the role that moral arguments rooted in this conception of the future play—and can play—in bringing about the desired reforms. Of all these interlinked characteristics, it is the first one that is decisive, since it engenders all the others.

[2] In the formation of their plans, they are conscious of caring chiefly for the interests of the working class, as being the most suffering class. Only from the point of view of being the most suffering class does the proletariat exist for them.
The undeveloped state of the class struggle, as well as their own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favoured. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without the distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see in it the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?
Hence, they reject all political, and especially all revolutionary action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, necessarily doomed to failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new social Gospel.

[3] Rome doesn’t seem to have produced any utopian literature, nor did Christendom—unless one counts Jesus’ tales in the New Testament—until the surge of peasant rebellions in the late Middle ages gave us a few religiously inspired visions of a heaven that people could enter before death.
[4] Each house has a front door leading into the street, and a back door into the garden.  In both cases they’re double swing-doors, which open at a touch, and close automatically behind you.  So anyone can go in and out – for there’s no such thing as private property.  The houses themselves are allocated by lot, and changed round every ten years.
[5] The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?
We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.

[6] You needn’t any luggage, for wherever you go you’ll be equally at home, and able to get everything you want. If you stay in any place or more than twenty-four hours, you’ll be expected to carry on with your ordinary work.
[7] At regular intervals all over the countryside there are houses supplied with agricultural equipment, and town dwellers take it in turns to go and live in them.  Each house accommodates at least forty adults, plus two slaves who are permanently attached to it, and is run by a reliable, elderly married couple, under the supervision of a District Controller who’s responsible for thirty such houses. Each year twenty people from each house go back to town, having done two years in the country, and are replaced by twenty others.
[8] …he’s allowed to take away without any sort of payment, either in money or in kind.  After all, why shouldn’t he? There’s more than enough of everything to go around, so there’s no risk of his asking for more than he needs for why should anyone want to start hoarding, when he knows he’ll never have to go short of anything?  No living creature is naturally greedy, except from fear of want – or in the case of humans, from vanity, the notion that you’re better than other people if you can display more superfluous property than they can.  But there’s no scope for that sort of thing in Utopia.
[9] There are fifty-four splendid big towns on the island, all with the same language, laws, customs, and institutions.  They’re all built on the same plan, and, so far as the sites will allow, they all look exactly alike.
[10] The slaughtering of livestock and cleaning of carcasses are done by slaves.  They don’t let ordinary people get used to cutting up animals, because they think it tends to destroy one’s natural feeling of humanity.
[11] If you’re caught without a passport outside your own district, you’re brought home in disgrace, and severely punished as a deserter.  For the second offence the punishment is slavery.
[12] When this happens, natives and colonists soon combine to form a single community with a single way of life, to the great advantage of both parties – for, under Utopian management, land which used to be thought incapable of producing anything for one lot of people produces plenty for two.
[13] However, once the caterers for the hospital have got what the doctors have ordered, all the best food that’s left is divided equally among the dining-halls – that is, in proportion to the number registered to each – except that certain people receive preferential treatment, such as the Mayor, the Bishop, Bencheaters and diplomats.
[14] In the dining-halls all the rough and dirty work is done by slaves, but the business of preparing and cooking the food, and planning the menus, is left entirely to the women of the household on duty – for a different household is responsible for providing the meals every day.
[15] But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."

[16] "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." 
[17] [T]he male, unless constituted in some respect contrary to nature, is by nature more expert at leading than the female, and the elder and complete than the younger and incomplete
[18] "To effect [woman's] emancipation and make her the equal of man it is necessary to be socialized and for women to participate in common productive labor. Then woman will be the equal of man."
[19] Girls aren’t allowed to marry until they’re eighteen – boys have to wait four years longer.  Any boy or girl convicted of premarital intercourse is severely punished, and permanently disqualified from marrying, unless this sentence is remitted by the Mayor.
[20] They never force people to work unnecessarily, for the main purpose of their whole economy is to give each person as much time free from physical drudgery as the needs of the community will allow, so that he can cultivate his mind – which they regard as the secret of a happy life.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I Am Alive!

Hey guys.  Know I've been gone awhile.  Been busy with (procrastinating) classwork and fending off the defenseless people of Nin from the evil forces of the Trump's Toopians.

Also just beat Spyro:  A Hero's Tail.  The only Spyro game I played growing up that I didn't beat.  Now I've beaten all of them ignoring the handheld one's and the awful one's that come out after A Hero's Tail.  AHT was mediocre.  Slightly worse than Spyro 3.  Ultimately I would highly recommend the first two but after that they become fairly forgettable.

Maybe I'll work on Sonic Adventure 2 now, maybe a Resident Evil game, maybe Poke'mon Black.  Who knows.

Oh, also I got a new job - yeah wage slavery!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sea of Dreams

It's been a while since I've written anything beautiful.  But I still feel beauty.  I still want to share these feelings and sentiments with others.  I just haven't had the words as of late.  This song gives me an experience of the feelings I want my writings to create in others:

And if you haven't watched Bojack yet what the fuck is wrong with you?  Get on that.

Random update because why the fuck not

Because of the clownishness of Trump I'm slightly glad that it's self-evident that Clinton will be winning this election.  They're both shit policy wise but sometimes character trumps policy and Clinton at least pretends to be a decent human being.

Things are pretty good school wise despite the fact that I have a lot of shit due Tuesday which I've spent very little time on because fuck it I'm doing what I want when I want.

P.S. I know I haven't written on here in a while.  Been busy with classwork and other random shit.  Wrote minor things but nothing I want to post on here.  Also have been polishing one paper so that's where "philosophy time" (the little there is) is going.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On Ought and Volition

One of the major problems in ethical philosophy is the linguistic problem of defining what we are talking about when we use the word ‘morality.’  Is it the actions and conditions which bring about a preferred (normatively superior) world?  Or is it the conditions of mind made by a rational free will?  This is essential, because the view of ethics for a thinker like Kant is even if the world would become a global Utopia overnight, if human beings are not rational free agents but instead entirely causal beings then there is no morality because there is not the conditions for “rational free choice.”  Of course under the consequentialist and pragmatist purview it doesn’t matter in the slightest that humans and other beings in creation are causal, and in fact to the extent we can know the effects of their actions and what caused said actions is the extent we can know what is moral and how to make a more moral world through moral education (teaching people to behave in a way that has desirable effects) among anything else that appears to effect the causal chain in a desirable way.
This paper will not attempt to argue for a consequentialist approach to ethics but will approach ethics from a consequentialist perspective.  Instead, what I am interested in exploring is the possibility of moral responsibility assuming both A) that human actions being in a causal chain is required for them to be of normative significance and B) that if human actions are in said causal chain it seems that humans cannot “help” or ultimately alter what they will or will not do.  If determinism is true then human agents like all other physical phenomena act according to physical law, are subject to said law, and cannot act otherwise.  And even if Hard Determinism is not correct, even if there is some indeterminancy relating to human action, humans cannot control the indeterminancy of whatever fundamental metaphysical substance truly exists (of which I hold we can never truly know – but this is another topic that doesn’t hold immediate relevance to the topic at hand) but are subject to their own nature and how it is affected by outside forces.
On one hand it is the causality of our actions which give them any moral significance at all – if they had no effect on the lives of others they would hold no importance.  But if our actions not only produce effects but in turn are themselves the results of prior actions and happenings of other entities sentient and non-sentient in the world then it seems like we cannot hold people accountable for what they do.  There can be no “ought” for as Kant stated:  Ought implies can.
However, just as Kant’s categories of understanding have nothing to do with “things in themselves” and instead only with how humans can gain knowledge of things, so I would argue the “can” of ought implies can is not the physical but instead the theoretical potentialities based on our experience of what certain agents can do.
We see this in the example of a man stranded on an island who is accused of not following his moral obligations from his seclusion.  We instinctively find him free from any potential moral obligations we would give to others due to his inability to help anyone from his state of involuntary isolation.  If it was his own actions that brought him to the island, then perhaps we accuse him or criticize him of doing what he did, when he theoretically could’ve done otherwise, to arrive on the island but once he is stranded he is given a “pass” morally speaking.  Similarly, though we may call someone immoral for performing actions which lead to the deaths of himself and several others, once he is dead we do not call the corpse immoral – and the stranded person is just as capable of helping someone in Brooklyn or Tanzania as a corpse is.
But it seems we need to return to our original quandary:  if people are causal beings can we hold them responsible for what they do?  And like all great philosophical questions the answer is in some sense yes and another no.  We cannot hold him responsible in the “radical” sense of “blaming” them the way we would assign blame to a radically free agent, but we can in another sense with the assumption that other possibilities were “abstractly” or theoretically possible. 
Let us look at the example of infanticide.  Both humans and our cousins in the Great Ape family have been exhibited to commit it as well as to refrain from it.  It has been observed to be a common practice in chimp clans, and though we are compelled to ask whether or not it is immoral for chimps to perform this action we will bracket this normative question for it is not immediately pertinent (though I’ll quickly say that it seems that just as much of the evil that can be perpetrated by Man in part follows from biology and evolutionary psychology, so just because a behavior is commonly observed in nature does not excuse it morally – the intuition that moral blame can be placed on humans alone is a trait of Kantianism that holds no bearing).  Both humans and chimps are capable of killing their young and not killing their young.  I give the example of behavior observed across species because I wish to emphasis the lack of human uniqueness in this view.  For both humans and non-human animals the actions of the agent can be seen either as a passive misfortune when actions are performed that detract from what is preferable or manifest or increase what is unpleasant or seen as detestable.  The difference being if one focuses on the causality of the agent or the alternatives the agent had regardless of whether or not he was “fated” to do ‘x’ or ‘y.’ 
Because human beings are much alike in their non-cognitive abilities we are often under the same purview of theoretical possibilities.  If a man is run over by a train the people on the platform of the station are not held morally responsible in the eyes of most because regardless of determinancy or indeterminancy they are incapable of saving him.  However, if Superman disguised as Clark Kent was in the station, there would be one person that would be theoretically able to save the man regardless of whether or not he would – making the assumption that whether or not he would being determined by physical law and not a “rational free will.”
It would be wrong or unreasonable and unproductive to hate Superman for not saving the man, for it is unreasonable to hate anyone for not doing what they could not or for doing what they could not help but do.  However, it would be reasonable (assuming somehow it was known by the public that Superman did not save the man) to scold Superman for not saving the man assuming that scolding (or any other action we would take) would produce desirable results in the future.  Scolding children similar to teaching them can only have effect on the future – punishing the child cannot change the past and it is in changing the world that is the only goal of consequentialism; “praise” and “blame” in the radical sense make no sense from the point of causality.
If Superman did not save the man for example because he chose to no longer act as Superman and instead live the life of an earthly mortal, it would be right to hold him in some sense responsible for he can in the future make choices (such as resuming the role of Man of Steel) that would affect the lives of similar people in similar situations.  However, if he did not save the man either through physical inability (he was affected by Kryptonite) or through moral obligation (to save the man would be to cause greater harm to others) then it seems he could not even theoretically done otherwise to improve things.  He cannot save the man if he is affected by Kryptonite, and to save a man that he morally shouldn’t save (through any sound reasoning that would find the likelihood that more would be worse off through saving the man) is to do the wrong thing – which certainly is not the aim of ethical action or reasoning to replicate.
This view in effect reconciles that of Aristotle and the Hard Determinists.  Things are causal in nature yet there is volitional action (volition which is pre-determined) which alone can be called virtuous.  It alone can be called virtuous for it alone we can have any semblance of control to alter or affect.  It may be pre-determined that a man help another, but that does not mean it is not virtuous.  Some will say that the moral-status of the action is dependent on the psychological state of the actor.  Did the person help the other for selfish or unselfish reasons?  But even if we are to presume that states of mind are involved in the determining of ethical statuses (which can be claimed considering the likelihood that motives have on effects and future events) these virtuous states of mind are too caused in nature.  The good man is only good because of things ultimately outside of his control just as the unvirtuous and vice pursuing man is as he is outside of his control.  However, humans are likely to pursue what is encouraged in society and repelled towards what is demonized or criticized; therefore it holds that even if the murderer cannot help but be as he is it is ethical to both prevent further violent actions and condemn murder making the assumption we wish to see less of it in our society. 
In some sense, this view is the happy medium, or “golden mean” of Platonism and Kantianism.  For while both hold human beings to be unique in some radical sense, which more biological thinkers such as Aristotle and Schopenhauer are more akin to human beings as natural and causal beings, it is the view of Plato that no one “knowingly” does wrong, and the view of Kant that people are “rational free agents” that can do right or wrong which is determined by the Categorical Imperative.  It is the view of Aristotle among others that humans can do wrong, but are subject to their particular circumstances which determine whether or not their conduct should be praised or blamed.  If we made praising or blaming the child a universal, would it prevent the action in the future?  If we praised a child for being tall it would not affect his height nor the height of other children, so it would seem ludicrous to do so even if height has positive correlations with health.  However, a child does have volitional control over his diet which in-part effects his health and his actions.  It therefore is reasonable, despite the child being pre-determined to eat healthy or not, to praise or blame the child based on the effects that said compliment or criticism has on himself and society. 
It should also be noted that this potentially solves the problem of “self” regarding punishment.  If human beings change over time, and all of our thoughts and feelings are fluid then our self changes over time and there is only the illusion of a constant thing we call ourselves.  To punish someone on non-consequentialist grounds seems harsh and unwarranted then, because the murderer who is sent to jail is not (typically) committing murder while he is in jail but instead is suffering for the actions of another person – his past self.  However, if punishment, as well as all action (for there are other actions and civil policies which are just as if not more effective in some regards than punishment in deterring criminal action and promoting virtuous conduct) is evaluated by its consequences then the notion of the “self” is irrelevant.  The only necessary criteria for punishment being warranted is A) evidence that acting otherwise was theoretically possible B) the action performed is one that produces more harm than good and C) punishment deters future performances of the crime or action which likely will produce more harm than good.  Though one can give example of individual exceptions (which I’ll get to shortly) in regards to general norms of law none of the three individually are sufficient and all three are necessary to make suffering (punishment) ethically permissible.
It needs to be an action or circumstance where the person potentially could’ve done otherwise for otherwise any notion of punishment to deter further repetition for the individual in question or others would be futile.  If, not regarding causality but theoretical possibility, I could not have done otherwise but fall on a man and kill him from an airplane (true I could’ve theoretically not jumped out of a plane but there was no reasonable expectation of landing on a man and it was instead manslaughter via “freak accident.”) it would be pointless if not counter-productive to punish me for a crime that there was no other option but to commit.  The State is essentially giving the message that no matter what you do, even if it was something you could not have done otherwise but commit, you will still suffer.  This will have the opposite effect of just laws and punishments which is to encourage people to refrain from actions that are harmful to the public – done of their own cognizance to state the obvious.  For just as a parent who punishes a child regardless of what they do is likely to produce a child that does more wrong than otherwise (for no matter what he does he suffers and therefore he sees little incentive in being good) so a State that punishes actions that are either not harmful or not preventable is likely to have a populous that does not respect the merit of the law and obeys (when able) out of fear rather than respect.
One could give the hypothetical of “unjust punishment” on consequentialist grounds in the following way.  Though we know for certain that a man did not commit an action he is being accused of, or did but it is not one that would without extenuating circumstances produce more harm than pleasure, the results of him going free would produce more harm than good – say in a lynch mob that believes he did perform the deed or he should be punished for doing a banal action.  Though one can create argument on consequentialist grounds for the execution of one innocent man, one cannot generalize this to be a norm of our judicial system, for to do this would be to have ramifications on society which surely would produce more harm than good.  Just as the hypothetical of killing the one man in the waiting of the hospital with a body full of fully functioning organs to save the lives of five who require liver, kidney, heart and various other transplants may be acceptable on consequentialist grounds after one incident, if this action were repeated unless there was some crack cover up force word would surely spread and no one would go to hospitals out of fear.  Unjust laws that are implemented out of fear of the consequences of the lack of them will lead to more harm through cultural and moral degradation as well as lack of proper grounding in legislative and judicial execution.  The realities of a current situation but be taken into account but so must the capacity of human malleability and an emphasis on the capacity of improving normative values and conditions rather than continuing the status-quo out of fear or passivity.
Shifting back to what we praise and blame, this also could be seen as an effective instrument for what to praise and blame not only in regards to what is praise or blame worthy but what we should spend time in praising and blaming.  For though it may be a good for society that people drive according to the laws of their State, if saying “good job” to everyone who does not break traffic does not change their behavior then it would effectively be a waste of time.  However, emphasizing kind actions and proper conduct in both children and adults can bring about desired improvements which would lead us to the conclusion that said emphasis is a sound investment in our time and mental energy.
It should also be noted the “is-ought” distinction which on some level seems in conflict with the declaration of “ought” implies “can.”  If there is such a radical divide between the normative and descriptive realms then it does not matter in any way whatsoever that an action is impossible in relation to its ethical bearing.  Which of course in some sense is true.  It doesn’t matter if I can save the world, or if the stranded man can help those he cannot, if either of us performed the impossible then it would be a preferable thing.  The “is-ought” distinction exists within the realm of the actual – existence as descriptive and normative phenomena.  However, the declaration of “ought implies can” is a useful ethical declaration of how to judge ethical norms of conduct in the theoretical realm of potential action – which is subject to our limited knowledge and therefore we will never know in absolute and with absolute certainty and can only judge to the extent our knowledge seems conclusive and reliable.

Therefore, we should practice both determination and humility in regards to both physical and moral knowledge of particulars, for not only do we not always know the variables that lead to a desirable or undesirable result, we also lack ultimate foundation for what will bring about the best and worst of all possible worlds.  So while we know that to have sight is to see (or to behave well is to leave the world with less suffering let’s say) we from person-to-person vary in our abilities to reason on what the objects are in the world (how to achieve the desirable in terms of descriptive interactions) and how these objects relate to us (what is desirable in a more particular sense of what is good and bad in achieving the abstract goods of pleasure and lack of pain).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Yeah, yeah yeah...

I'm finally done with my summer classes.  I exerted myself somewhere between twenty to thirty percent and I'm getting an A in Psychology and most-likely a B+ in Political Science - maybe a B if I bomb what I just handed in and I could get an A- theoretically but that's unlikely.

Also I recently have found yet another reason why JS Mill is my soul brother - he's a snooty asshole just like me: I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it.

I've read a lot of stuff from him where he speaks of the importance of individual-mindedness and how most people go with the crowd.  I would say that ignoring the Greeks, Schopenhauer and the Russian Anarchists he's the most readable philosopher I've come across and he is one of the top three I identify with the most.  I love reading his stuff but haven't finished Utilitarianism for some reason.

Might go to a gathering of Socialists in Madison soon - that'd be Marx's sole pair of pants.  And yes, that's my attempt to make a Marxist spin-off of "cat's pajama's."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Anti-Realism and God's Revelations

I've spent some time thinking about faith, and whether it's rational to believe in a God that "works in mysterious ways."  I think it's rational to be a skeptic and neither confirm nor deny the existence of a God that is "myserious."  That is, keeps a consistent standard of creating a Universe that appears to those minds in it that it operates either without a creator present or in a way where a creator being present or absent becomes indistinguishable.  However, gods of various faiths reveal themselves to mortals in the holy works of various faiths.  They want to use empirical data or sight to make some people be convinced while others are expected to believe the miracles they did not witness and believe in a god they did not hear.  Even if everyone in the world agreed on a proposition, unless there is evidence for that claim I would have to remain a skeptic in-regards to it - once evidence arises belief becomes founded though only in the Anti-Realist sense.

Anti-Realism makes miracles and the existence of God very interesting.  For even if God revealed himself to me, and somehow proved he was not a particular delusion of my own mind - he revealed himself to me and a reliable person I knew - it could be that this God is just another manifestation of "The Matrix."  All deities could be apparitions the way angels and ghosts were defunct programs in The Matrix.  It becomes then impossible to prove the existence of not only God but anything except my own mind and my mind senses A or B if Anti-Realism is true - once again, in the metaphysical sense (what is) rather than the epistemological (what we can know in the anti-realist sense).

PS - know I've been gone a while.  Been busy with class work.  But call off the international search - I'm alive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

With everything going on in the world you need to know this!

About to start my essay on Hotel Rwanda for my Poli Sci course.  I'm really happy I got to write something this morning.  Will get to the other stuff I have planned eventually.

Tutoring is going well and I spent $0.75 on a can of Aquafina sparkling water even though I was almost certain I wouldn't like it because of all the chemicals in it - as opposed to the flavored water that's just carbonated water and whatever they use for taste.

Okay.  Back to your lives everyone.  We have decaying to do.

On The Ontology of Other and the Interrelatedness of Psychological with Social

The existence of other minds, or rather our state of mind in-regards to said minds, is perhaps the largest source of psychological suffering on this planet.  Anxiety, depression, shame, desire, pangs of rejection, all stemming from the perceived ontology of mind that is incorrect.  That is an ontology where the attitudes and projections of other minds towards us is what constitutes our being.
Human beings psychologically, regardless of whether this is true metaphysically, are dualists.  That is everything for them is either “stuff” (things to be used for utility) or other minds capable of passing judgement and is both a subject and an object.  Whether or not it is ethical to view animals as mere “objects” in the ethical sense (that is that which is not an agent of moral concern, the view that is taken if you view reason or high-levels of sentience as a prerequisite to moral worth) human beings certainly do this in-regards to perception and emotion.  People aren’t concerned about what their dog thinks of them and do not feel personally violated when attacked by a bear the same way they often feel when assaulted by their fellow man.  Whether they would feel the same indignation and psychological disturbances if injured or even simply accosted or rejected by an artificial intelligence (a robot, or thinking machine) is pure speculation.  But there does seem to be something to the nature of mind (or at-least the human mind) in relation to other minds.  The idea of judgment or disapproval of other beings is terrifying to others, and concern for our reputation of others takes up more people’s time than fear of bodily pain or death.  There seems to be something to Sartre’s claim “Hell is other people.”
This however, could potentially not be a dissoluble or permanent aspect of the human character or mind.  There are some who seem to be completely carefree in how others perceive or act towards them, and everyone (or most) are carefree in their relations to some and their thoughts and attitudes towards him or her.  Some have mild social anxiety when speaking towards people they do not know, while others have the same state of mind in relation to others they know intimately or know casually.  It does seem to be though that there is more potential for fear or dread in others we know though since there judgments of us seem (regardless of whether they are) more meaningful in-regards to who we are as individuals.  This defining ourselves through other minds is the main source of anxiety and perturbed psychological states ignoring materialist or biochemical explanations of suffering of the mind through states of the brain.
This is why it is of paramount importance that to the extent this can be inculcated in youth to bring them up to implicitly define themselves by their actions and internal traits rather than how they are esteemed and treated by others.  Unfortunately, there are some mechanisms of evolutionary psychology that seem innate in us, and it seems likely that for most these mechanisms of the psyche’ can only be mitigated against rather than cured or removed.  People will largely always yearn for some form of reaction from others, whether it be approbation, admiration or affection.  Though this yearning is a fundamentally bad state of affairs, it can be and is acted upon in psychologically healthy ways that can even bear fruit.  Much like Freud thought artistic creativity was “libidinal energy” redirected for productivity, so Man’s desire for approval though psychologically destructive or harmful can be a motivating factor for good works.  Though the purest of motives is regard for the “thing-in-itself” for its own sake – the sufferer for the sake that they are suffering without regard to one’s own relation to them or others – human beings are fundamentally egotistical (or most are most of the time) and can only occasionally be seen to act on genuine compassion and sympathy rather than to play the role of a moral actor because of the presence of watching eyes and judging minds. 
It seems then, assuming that this cannot change, that just as Freud thought that some repression of our libidinal impulses were necessary for civilization to continue and prosper (in fact for him civilization was little more than were our libidinal impulses are restricted and redirected in formation of our individual Egos and Super Egos) it seems that some attachment to other’s judgment of others is necessary for good works.  However, the existence of fear of judgment of others will produce no fruit if the judgments of the populous are not virtuous.  That is to say, many people much of the time make judgments, but they are either superficial or vicious (counter-intuitive to virtue).  They judge others based on their appearance, something that following the yearning of acceptance of will certainly produce no virtue or good works, or even worse, as someone like Nietzsche may point out, there are those who are envious or contemptuous of virtue whether it be the calm or cheerful demeanor, intelligence, generosity, wit or good fortunes and will act in negative judgment towards the person for that which should be encouraged.  This is one of the main reasons why children must be taught proper morals and values.  Not only in the hopes that they embody virtue and live good and decent lives, but so that they highly esteem and praise others for the virtue seen in them, rather than tacitly encourage shallowness and mediocrity in associating with those who pursue vices over virtue.
This favoring vice and mediocrity over virtue and excellence is potentially largely societal and the outgrowth of social conditions stemming from that which is only indirectly related, but it could also be in some to some degree innate.  The Greek Philosophers all worshipped virtue and thought that it alone (asides from Epicurus) as sufficient and necessary (though Aristotle thought that other things were necessary) for a good life.  But did their Greek contemporaries hold the same view?  Were they as enamored with virtue and goodness of character and mind as those we remember?  If the writings of said philosopher is to be what sways us it appears not.  Most philosophers, particularly the Ancient Greeks (e.g. Plato, Cynics, Stoics, Epicurus, etc.) talk of the common Man’s obsession with sensual desires and satisfaction of the appetites rather than the stimulation and growth of virtue.  Aristotle in his writings on friendship writes that there are three kinds, but the best and truest form of friendship (love of friend for their own sake and the shared virtue seen in each other) is rare largely because there are few good people in this world. 
This pessimism about human nature may or may not be founded.  Considering we will never escape the social influence of society it seems impossible to see “human nature” pure and without the influence of the life history of the child playing out and molding their mental and physical constitution to the extent that it can.  It does seem somewhat possible to glimpse at likely common traits or distinct personality types that go through the ages via the study of history and persisting themes despite the changing of scenery.  This is what Schopenhauer speaks of when he talks of the allegorical truth behind Hinduism:  the actors change through the ages, but the play on this stage of a world remains largely the same – the same lives living throughout the centuries, simply in different forms and with different names.  In one age the hero is Heracles, the next it is Superman, but they are largely the same soul or essence inhabiting different bodies.  The wise seeing through the particulars and witnessing the general traits and themes of this existence and taking pleasure in the spectacle of it all; the common Man seeing little more than his or her life and what he or she believes to be the sources of pain and pleasure in it.
Despite its impossibility the desired life both for self and others would be complete psychological disregard for others minds (having others opinions and attitudes towards one’s self be only a physical fact like a leaf on a tree or the presence of a bear, with no lingering or additional psychological aspects) but complete and total regard for them ethically – that is to say, concern for the state and well-being of other minds for their sake, rather than the affect they have on our own insecure psyche’.  If this could be done, it would be both the utter annihilation of Egoism and insecurity, as well as the propagation of compassion and moral consideration of other beings – seemingly ending nearly all forms of psychological and physical suffering. 
Perhaps this is why in all conceptions of paradise, whether earthly or supernatural, all members in this utopian world are both good and content and there are no psychological or societal worries or cares.  The two being intrinsically connected, the state of our minds having direct effect on the external state of our societies and vice versa.  For Schopenhauer was right in saying that Man brings most of his suffering upon himself; humanity through our nature and upbringing do much to add to our worries and little to alleviate them.  We concern ourselves with the estimation of ourselves through others and have little concern for others which is a far-better state of mind to be in personally – through our selfishness and pettiness we suffer and fail to achieve what we desire (for the only things humans truly personally desire is contentment and fulfillment – all individual things are merely window dressing or believed means to the end of happiness) and could have attained through virtue.  We will achieve a good world only to the extent that virtue is acted upon, and virtue will be acted upon only to the extent that people desire the good life over the one of sensuality and reputation or fame. 
Many if not most philosophers have spoken of this wisdom in one form of another – in Plato it is focusing on the Forms rather than this world of appearance, in Augustine it is the City of God over the City of Man, in Kant it is the Kingdom of Ends where all are respected for an End in Themselves rather than merely how they relate to or can service us, in Marx and the Anarchists it is the stateless utopia where all are free to own their own labor, pursue their passions and freely associate with others without having the material restrictions and societal conditionings of class and hierarchy to pull them from virtue and towards passive obedience and moral resignation.  The wise have always told us these timeless truths of virtue and self, and the common have always lived much like the Cynics describe.  We live however in the Catch-22 of all time.  To see if things could change we would need the change to already happen.  To see if paradise of body and soul is achievable we would first need said paradise to raise the children to live in this world of universal virtue, good will, and consistent cooperation to solve material or societal concerns as they arise or persist. 

Degrees of improvement are possible, but it seems as if this stage will remain forever the same – the same souls of virtue and viciousness, of yearning, passion, charity and immorality will consist more or less the same but in different forms until the sensuality and apathy of Man destroys itself.  Forever eliminating the possibility of the normative merging with the descriptive (the ideal becoming reality) except in the sense it is preferable that this play be finally cancelled and darkness and silence to be on the stage once again.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

God Damn I Love that Man

Just spent the afternoon with my father and had a pretty good time.  Glad to have him home.  Not doing any gardening tomorrow so I might do some writing if  I don't get too preoccupied by my friend whose coming back from Paraguay.  Know you're all shaking violently in your closet with anticipation for my next essay like a Heroin junky joanzing for his next fix.  Or her.  Sorry female drug addicts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How Things Are

Started weeding and planting flowers for a ninety-three year old woman and am tutoring someone with writing whose attending college in the Fall.  Also classes started though I can't do anything in them yet because my books haven't arrived.

I'm reading Mill and might write something on him and Schopenhauer (maybe though in Augustine) before I write my Adventure Time essay.

Things are good.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Where I am Now

I had a really good time in my hometown.  Was there for just short of a week and I'm a little surprised how much I managed to do.  Now I have interviews to follow up on and classes beginning Monday.  You'll probably see some writing from me but ultimately I'm focusing on getting the things I need to done.

I like where I am now.  Things can be good if we just learn to see them that way.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On Our Relation to Ourselves

The people I've truly cared for and who have cared for me I rarely if ever feel anxious around.  Anxiety has to do with having false-values, and wanting something for your own self-image that you either are worried about losing or not having and feeling that you need.  Insecurity comes from not realizing that the only person that can define and give shape to your life is yourself.  Only your actions of how you treat others are in your control and those alone define who you are as a person.  Most people yearn for validation from others and though they may receive it it's only a temporary fix while understanding that we are who we choose to be reminds us that we are our treatment of others rather than how others treat us.

Anxiety is fear of the unreal.  Both of what may or may not be true but also the unreal in terms of grounding yourself in that which is outside of your control and the Ego which is vicious and always seeking its own temporary satisfaction rather than engaging in meaningful and virtuous conduct.  Virtue is that which is self-sufficient, and therefore what we have anxieties over is not virtuous.  We may believe it's for a virtuous cause or pursuit, and though there may externally be ethical conduct there (feeling anxious about your job organizing a political campaign to fund special needs programs for example) internally our frame of mind is focused not on the goal but what achieving the goal (or failure to do so) says about us.  We are then driven for the image of success rather than actually succeeding in that which is the good and this focus on self-image is derived from insecurity which is the source of anxiety.

We must always remember the good in us and keep true to it rather than seek for external validation which is never centered on virtue but instead of things like fame, reputation and money.  Virtue is that which psychologically is focused on "the-thing-in-itself" then and not the illusions which pervade much of our world.  This is why only through virtue can we be reliably happy and act in a way that has us concerned with good action, rather than the social perception of good action.