Thursday, March 31, 2016

On Experience, Wisdom, Art and Morals

If Socrates is known for anything, it is that he was executed for supposedly doubting the gods and corrupting the youth and for claiming that all the he knew was that he ‘knew nothing.’  Or that the only thing that he could know with absolute certainty is that he knew nothing with certainty.  This claim has been completely ignored with modern Scientism – the na├»ve view that our descriptive account of the world is “reality” as it really (really, really) exists.  There is a type of laughable smallness in this – the smallness of a child who believes he is big.  Scientists will say “but we know so much!” routinely ignoring entirely the claims of the skeptics, of those such as Descartes, Hume and the Greek Skeptics.
In a way, the certainty of our “reality” and the “objective” or “self-evidently true” moral and political claims of our society are the gods that aspiring minds are “executed” for doubting in the form of ostracism and told to apologize for in the form of forced conformity and reduction of potential.  For a strong and yearning mind wants to explore, to play with possibilities and can handle the oceans of doubt that the small and weak minded populous of humanity is afraid of – instead taking shelter on the shores of alleged certainty, whether it be of faith or science.
The fact that if a child asks a parent a philosophical question, mainly will respond with either ignorance or hostility shows the lack of wisdom in our society – in both knowledge and sentiment.  Most are unwise not simply because they lack knowledge (this could easily be repaired with the correct legislation) but because they lack the reflectiveness (in regard to the intellectual) and activeness (in regard to the moral) which exhibits an appreciation for the higher capacities and potentials of the human soul – both intellectually and morally.
Skepticism and compassion, skepticism in the descriptive realm of existence and compassion in the normative, are the two great virtues of humanity; we must always work on improving ourselves through them, and help others by stimulating them to explore the moral and intellectual realms of human existence.  For though we can never anything about “reality” we can learn things about this world. 
Now more than ever before the most impactful fact of this world is that people live on it.  People live, and they exhibit behaviors, and though I can never be certain that other minds exist, because it seems to be the case, I have to act as if those who exhibit minds do in-fact have minds, because if I treated everyone as if they weren’t of moral consideration (they couldn’t really suffer) it would be far-worse than if I treated all living beings with due consideration and it turns out they never really existed the way I do.
We can observe behaviors that appear to take place in a world exterior to our own minds (regardless of whether or not my mind is generating this world; or if this world is “reality” or not – two entirely separate questions) and learn how it is that people think and feel.  How they respond to certain stimuli external to them both in action and in observed feeling.  We can use many things, art, politics, every day human acts of kindness, to change the world to reduce suffering which we ourselves have experienced and which we ourselves know the wretchedness of.  We can learn so much about the world simply through experiencing it and reflecting upon it.  We learn so much about people simply by observing them and our own internal existence – the consciousness in which we learn all things, both things interior and exterior to it.
Wisdom then is not the same as knowledge.  It is instead the capacity to reflect on experience and get out of it the proper meaning that has value – the meaning that is useful to obliterating, reducing or preventing suffering.  For if this is not wisdom then what can wisdom be that is useful to us?  We love wisdom because it is the wise reflection that sees existence in a light that is both purposeful to us and serene in acknowledgement of the purposelessness or meaninglessness of existence.  Existence is meaningless, but wisdom is meaningful, for it is wisdom that makes humans capable of generating meaning out of experience.  It finds meaning in otherwise senseless sense perceptions, and uses that meaning, that interpretation of something, to act, think and experience the world in a way that reduces suffering and therefore allows both the wise and those who are influenced by the wise (whether through instruction or wise legislation) to live both more pain-free lives through ethics and more meaningful lives through the pursuit and activity of wisdom.  Wisdom in its highest state acts as constant pondering, not proclaiming.  Those who are the wisest are forever in the search of wisdom; forever taking their experiences and reflecting on them in a way to better understand.  Forever swimming in the perhaps limitless seas of human thought, rather than living the banal life of the average on shore.
It is the wise man who both says he knows nothing about reality and is not concerned about reality but with the world.  He is concerned with understanding and acting properly in the world, regardless of the fundamental nature of everything.  Pragmatically there is no distinction between Materialism and Dualism.  As long as one views the primary concern as getting rid of suffering, and that it is sentient beings that suffer, whether there consciousness is separate in some way from the material realm is inconsequential, as long as both parties are in agreement that what matters is knowing and acting in a way that provides desirable consequences for these desiring beings, these desiring minds.

Though it is wisdom that develops attitudes and beliefs about existence and the world, it is not the primary faculty of action.  There are many faculties or motives of human action, but the primary one (arguably the only) of moral action is compassion.  Many philosophers (Schopenhauer being one of the main ones) argue that only compassion can be sufficient of (so therefore would be necessary for) moral intent, for it is only when we are compassionate that we value the well-being of others for their own sake, without regard to our own.  Just as it is the aesthetic mode of being, that sees existence through disinterested appreciation, so ethical mode of being is one that sees the ethical obligations towards others disinterested of the potential benefits one can gain from such actions.  Art is ethical because it alleviates suffering; and Ethics is beautiful because it is a personally disinterested perception or mode of being that can still feel good – the goodness of the Good Will.  But as aesthetics has us see existence as “intrinsically” good, ethics sees our world as intrinsically “potentially” good through normative claims.  That is – it is the ethical view of existence which “says” that existence is not inherently good but has the inherent potential for goodness through human motives, actions and states of being that are ethical.  That are focused on or embody the normative realm, which is a non-existent world where no one suffers and everyone embodies this good will of compassion and universal love for all beings.

On the Pragmatic and the Possible

One appealing trait of the Cynics that they possess as a distinction from their contemporaries is their philosophy is inherently non-systematic.  While Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and even in some way Epicurus base their ethics on epistemological and metaphysical conceptions of the world, the Cynics are largely divorced from such things.  They have a theory of human nature, yes, and proper human flourishing, but this stands completely within the realm of ethics, with normative claims about how we should live and who we should emulate – who possesses the traits we should value.  Plato and Aristotle however, have complex theories and systems, categories and notions of forms that have been either disproven by science or skepticism (or both).
The Cynics however are more akin to the Ancient Skeptics in that they make no claims about the ultimate nature of reality; not only this, but they spend most of their time criticizing the normative claims and evaluations of their society rather than expressing their own attitudes and conceptions in a “positive” way.  That is, they express what they believe by taking on a critical attitude, and expressing what they don’t believe or disbelieve in.  There is a certain value to this.  In today’s world, as in the world of the Cynics, there are people of any denomination, faith and philosophy who will express why you should hold position ‘x.’ The Cynics however, in a way, like Socrates, perform a type of ‘meta-ethics’ by evaluating the criteria of justification of those who base their views and values on the society they live in – those who accept the norms and “philosophy” of ‘x’ society because they are habituated into it.  It could very-well be that a certain society is right about ‘x’ claim, but them being right and them having valid justification are two entirely different things.  The Bible could be right that murder is wrong, but that in no way validates Divine Command Theory, and then it would be correct almost by “coincidence” like a conspiracy theorist who in his frenzied irrationality believes that aliens control his government and then by sheer happenstance he happens to be right.  He didn’t provide proper rationale for his claims, but that does not mean that they are automatically untrue – just that he didn’t provide good (or any really) reason why we should believe that such and such is true. 
There is also a type of “reductionism” or negation of claims in their asceticism, and saying that those with the least desires are the best well-off.  Now, this is a positive assertion, but it is one that in its nature dispels our intrinsic “claims” that such-and-such is a value.  That is, we instinctually desire and therefore value certain things, but what the Cynics (and others) are saying that such claims are not grounded.  Just because we want something, or society tells us something is good, in no way demonstrates or validates that it is good.  Once again, by “coincidence” it could be that they are correct, like the Conspiracy theorist who believes in an alien takeover who hypothetically is right.  In a way, the Cynics do to what Nietzsche ultimately values (instincts/urges) what Nietzsche does (successfully or not) to everything but psychological characteristics and inclinations.
In a way the Cynics and the Skeptics are two-sides of the same coin.  The Skeptics dealing intimately with the descriptive accounts of reality and what we can know about it (which is nothing in the absolute) and the Cynics with the grounding of normative claims and how we are to live; for the Cynics philosophy is intimate and personal.  That is, though the claims are grounded in external standards regardless of the nomos of society, they are based on our human existence and need to be lived and experienced, not academically debated in Universities divorced from the world – they are not determined by society, but they should determine society.
Now, someone could make the claim that the Cynics are delving into the descriptive when they say that we are to live “according to Nature” that this is the normative delving into the descriptive; but to say this is to misunderstand the separation of the two.  To say we are to live “according to Nature” is an entirely ethical (normative) claim.  To describe Nature is to delve into the descriptive.  Now, someone can reasonably make the claim that to say we should live “according to Nature” becomes an impossible task unless we have some accurate or reliable (valid) descriptive account of Nature.  But as a metaphysical anti-realist I would then be compelled to say that to know “Nature” or the external world is in no way to know reality.  But it does deal with the sense impressions of what we see in our external world, so it does deal with epistemology though not with metaphysics – so not with “descriptive” in the sense of grounding or defining reality with a capital ‘R.’

To make claims of the operations of the world and human behavior, but make no claims of the ultimate nature of things is the exact right view, in my approximation, to take.  It conforms to both what we should do pragmatically and what we are capable of doing in our potential.  To do otherwise is both to delve into the impossible and the unimportant.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Holy Religious Allegory Batman!

I saw Batman V Superman (what is this a court case?  Actually that’d be a lot more interesting) a few hours ago and I have to say despite its shitty story I enjoyed it.
First off, I don’t know why they made Batman a borderline Alex Jones NWO nut.  He has dreams about Superman taking over the world and he is suspicious of him from the get-go while not being concerned about Lex at-all.  So the genius crime fighter whose supposed to be the world’s greatest detective sees Superman as a likely (he reasons that if there’s a one percent chance that Superman could “go rogue” or act malevolently then it’s absolute certainty – he actually uses those words) threat to Mankind but doesn’t see the crazy guy who routinely refers to Superman as God?  Real subtle by the way movie, though Man of Steel (MoS) was thick with the religious metaphors, so I guess it’s a tradition now with these films.  Also it was an interesting choice to make Lex crazy and paranoid (which is why Batman didn’t need to be – Lex already filled that role) instead of a greedy Capitalist megalomaniac which is what is character is without any alterations.
They really laid it on thick with Lex having a “village atheist” complex of hating Superman because he cannot handle a supremely good being existing if he suffered.  He is right that suffering cannot exist if God is both all-good and all-powerful, but he then jumps to the conclusion then that God is not good or is evil.  But God could just be all-good and not be all-powerful, right?  Like Superman is conceptually.  So why would it be reasonable to hate him then?  I think there are major ethical problems with every religions interpretation of a God, believe me, but it doesn’t follow that just because there is suffering and a hypothetical God that the hypothetical God is automatically to blame or deserves blame.
They really fucked up Batman in this one.  They didn’t give any good reason at-all that he hates Superman – except maybe like Lex he hates that his parents died and Superman couldn’t save them?  You might not think that, but he mentions it in the oddest place and way in the movie.  Saying, “If I wanted the world to make sense I had to make it.”  So you’re killing Superman so the Universe will make sense?  How is killing a good person sensible?  Also more importantly how does it have anything to do with ethics?  That is why it is good or bad to kill Superman?  They should’ve had Lex manipulate and trick Batman into hating/taking violent action against Superman but that would require an understanding of deception and cunning and I guess the film wasn’t going for that – let’s just have the villain cry about how he hates God instead.  Because if you’re a bad person it’s just because you’re not right with God right?  Honestly, what is this, God’s Not Dead?
Also, why the fuck wouldn’t Superman just tell Batman his mom’s in trouble from the beginning?  Yes, I’m dying, but in my last breath I’ll tell you that there’s this woman you don’t know about that’s in trouble – as a hero you should be more concerned about that woman or any hypothetical man, woman or child being harmed rather than trying to kill Superman because you’re afraid of his potential.  I understand that like it is wise for the police to have weapons that can debilitate those who would harm others if they need them, it’s safe and reasonable for the Government (or some trustworthy person or agency) to have a weapon to stop Superman if they needed to.  But so many of the characters treat Superman like he raped their child and I’m just sitting in the theater thinking, “what the fuck did he do!”  I can understand Lex and some assholes hating Superman, but it’s almost as if they were planning on some elaborate plan Lex had (not the shitty one where he blows up Congress and somehow because Superman’s standing there he’s to blame – I’m not kidding) had for making everyone hate Superman and decided not to shoot it because they were running late and the director’s kid had a play he promised he’d be at.
The plot is absolute garbage until the last third; the stuff with Doomsday is pretty great and should’ve been more of the movie in preparation.  Unfortunately it was called Batman v Superman so they had to spend most of the movie building up to that (which they didn’t even really do – not in any legitimate way anyway) rather than focus on where the story could’ve excelled.  Of course they could’ve had a great story of Batman and Superman being against each other (like in Red Son or The Dark Knight Returns) but again, I guess they weren’t going for that.

All things considered it’s passable.  I wouldn’t call it great by any stretch, but entertainment wise it’s about a B- and plot is a D.  I’d recommend seeing it on discount night in theaters if you like these kind of movies.  And regarding Affleck as Batman:  I never gave a shit and I still don’t.  I did see him as Ben Affleck a few times but otherwise I just saw a passable Batman performance.  Honestly Batman’s a character that I’ve never seen an actor do a spot-on impression of if that’s even possible.  The closest thing is Kevin Conroy (I think that’s his name) in the Batman Animated Series.  And he’s not bitter at the world for taking his parents away, so he’s not cool enough to be a contemporary Batman.  You gotta have a raspy voice, like Batman just sucked a carton of Menthol’s, if you wanna be cool bro.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Politics and Social Philosophy OR: On the Social aspect of the Ethical Realm of Existence

Schopenhauer’s politics is in the half-way point between advocacy of freedom and slavery, between sensibility and insanity, between sober-mindedness and fevered hysteria.  He says in one passage that all men have equal rights (though not equal powers, roughly what Aristotle said) and in another says that the Monarch must be held above the Constitution (any abstract or intellectual conception of justice) and is himself the law maker – or at-least should be considered as such.  Whether he agrees with Hobbes that the King creates what is normatively good and bad, or whether he sides instead with Plato that the Philosopher King with absolute power merely interprets and then decrees with absolute authority what is good and bad is debatable; however, since he supports hereditary monarchy because he believes breeding the most wise men with the cleverest women will produce the best people (something Thomas Paine outright discredits in his political writings) or the wisest (in capacity) of men shows a presumption that there is an external standard or criteria of wisdom that the King can meet or fail to – expressing the sentiment implicitly that the King does not create the standard of the good, and therefore is more akin in this regard to Plato than Hobbes.
It is even more surprising that Schopenhauer has this view of a need for an absolute ruler, given his view of human nature.  He says that most people most of the time are egotistical, vane and have at-best a mediocre intellect.  True, yet it does not follow from this that a ruler is to decide what is to be law and what is not.  If anything, he without acknowledging so expresses why societies should be Constitutional rather than Monarchal.  That is, why they should be ruled by Law not by Law-maker, by societies reasoning and not one man’s desires.  Of course, since the world is a complicated and multi-faceted thing, full of many nuances and conflicting interests and opinions, it serves society to have judges that may have leeway in their rulings based on the particulars of the case.  It is this reasoning that has us have a spectrum of severity for the same punishment, both in terms of length of prison sentence and amount paid to the State and whether even prison time or fines will be place on the citizen or instead there will be community service or other punishments for their alleged crimes that the defendant is to be found guilty of through evidence collected by the State.
Now, it should be expressed here a caveat to my defense of Rule of Law.  Rule of Law is preferable to Autocracy and the derogatory use of the word “Anarchy” (but not legitimate Anarchism) because it pre-supposes an external standard that through either oligarchic or democratic means using whatever standards or criteria for evidence possible one can demonstrate the legitimacy of.  However, Rule of Law does not create the standard, therefore the Law itself should not always be followed.  A bad law, a law that causes more suffering (for if Negative Utilitarianism is true, and what is preferable is to be measured by reduction or prevention of pain, then laws should be seen as merely the guidance and instruction of society to aid the greatest prevention of the greatest pains possible) than it prevents is indefensible normatively and therefore is without bearing or legitimacy.  The only defense of such a law is the argument that to violate an unjust law (or fail to enforce it) is to create more pain than to follow the unjustifiable and unjust decree.
Schopenhauer’s conception of the State falls within the realm of Social Contract Theorists rather than Virtue Ethicists.  That is to say, he believes the State came about and is justified through prevention of domestic and foreign ills, rather than to make people virtuous (improved, or better according to some standard) which is Plato’s and Aristotle’s conception.  For the Negative Utilitarian, if he or she properly views the human condition, both are valid and necessary operations of the State.  The “Libertarian” conception of the State that it exists only to protect us leaves out much of the human condition which without guidance or structure is prone to suffering.  That is, in a State where only physical protection and protection of negative liberty is guaranteed, there will be more suffering than otherwise preventable because the lack of legislation and proper execution of housing codes, say.  Though a central government is not necessary, execution of external standards of existence are, and these are not guaranteed through natural human action or the profit motive.  Instead, a decentralized federation of peoples should guide the functioning of their societies to make sure all children receive what it seems all children do to flourish and become adults that can live lives that are of minimum burden to themselves and to their fellow citizens.
Schopenhauer rightfully is skeptical of the State involving itself in the “spiritual” or existential realm of human existence.  He writes that every man should be free to attempt to find “salvation” through what he finds to be best or most reasonable; and he is right in saying this.  If a State is to exist, it is within its proper realm to legislate the social realm (both “public” and “private” in the sense of private corporations which are social in nature) and not the private of existence.  That is, the exterior and not the interior realm of human existence.  The opinions and attitudes contained within a man’s skull are of no interest fundamentally to the State; instead, only the community in which many men, women and children with many different attitudes, beliefs and conceptions is the State’s proper role to ensure the proper course of actions that are the most likely to prevent the greatest suffering.
Now, one might say that logically then, if Negative Utilitarianism follows, that conceptually there could very-well be a situation where a person’s personal beliefs and thoughts might create more suffering in the world than otherwise; and this is perfectly true.  However, history has shown that State’s create far-more suffering through State censorship and forced uniformity (things which are both painful in themselves, and create more pains by stifling creativity and free expression) than the pains they aim to end but largely fail at doing so.  This is because the State is delving into the interior realm of existence, something far-more immediate and important to Mankind to correct the problems of the exterior – and not correctly either.  The interior realm can be altered to influence the exterior, but through natural molding as through education say, not through force.  So though there are instances in theory where the State could rightly delve intimately with the personal realm of existence with force, as a matter of typical operations the State can serve society better by focusing on social matters and ensuring safe and consensual relations amongst all beings that can give consent, and the “practical” safety of beings that cannot give consent (that is, safety for animals but at a certain point, as long as they’re killed painlessly, I don’t see it unjust to kill them, especially if it is to devour them).
Under Schopenhauer’s State (and Plato’s and Hobbes’) all citizens are treated as if they are children.  And while it is proper that children not be given absolute liberty of mobility and action, for they do not possess the cognition nor the maturity to properly act both for their own welfare and that of society, adults generally speaking, when given the proper resource, though they will almost never do the best course of action will often act in an acceptable course.  That is to say, since it would be worse for all actions to be legislated at all times by the State, it is best that the State respect the feeling of autonomy of every grown man and woman and interfere directly only as exception, not as rule. 
Schopenhauer rightly says that force is necessary to have a just society because justice (the external standard of right and wrong) itself is of little or no sway to some (and to a much smaller degree many) and they must be prevented physically from harming the public.  However, this does not prove rationale for punishment it should be noted and this does not say that force is generally speaking the correct way to go – it is acceptable or permissible in certain cases, but not in every one.
Force can be used in an Anarchist society, what is antithetical to Anarchism is illegitimate (what is deemed legitimate or not will depend on the Anarchist and for many Anarchists, the individual situation described or occurring) force and hierarchy; one could say that the distinction is meaningless since everyone is against what they perceive as illegitimate force, but not necessarily.  Many times people justify force used by the State that wouldn’t otherwise be acceptable – incarcerating people for drug use for example.  The unacceptability of this injustice is what separates the Anarchist from the Liberal who believes in “absolute” Rule of Law – that is that it is proper for the government to make and then enforce all laws whether they are just or not. 
The Anarchists are largely the political consequence (without their realizing it) of the individual and social philosophy of the Ancient Cynics.  They are in the political realm what the Cynics are in the personal.  That is, the Cynics believed that the external standards of individual belief and society conception – what people valued and thought would make them happy or of-value – are in no way legitimate measures of value and that largely these values come from within.  This is much like Anarchism, which also preaches asceticism (anti-consumerism) and says that the merits of God and King are of no consequence to whether an action is right or wrong, nor is it of consequence what the personal preferences of the individual are.  Right and wrong are exterior to the desires of any agent, save in the sense that since what is right and wrong depends on the existence or non-existence of suffering, desires come into play only so far as desires cause or prevent/reduce suffering – they are not the deciders of right and wrong in themselves however.
They not only are alike in this emphasis on rightness outside of the mores of any particular religion or society, they are alike in what they chastise.  Namely the superficial and banal concerns of most people to be well-liked or own things in pathetic attempts at happiness or fame.  Schopenhauer, despite his failings in the political realm, expresses this wisdom of focusing on the internal (personally, not ethically) in his The Wisdom of Life.  However, a major difference for the two is while the Cynics believe the role of the philosopher is in essence political, that is, rabblerousing, Schopenhauer has no such conception and at his most social believes that the philosophy might (if the person is able, though Schopenhauer then would likely say that the person would already be in such a mental state himself and not need a philosopher) be able to help people achieve wisdom and cease striving after the external and meaningless.  The Cynics have a value in promoting the philosophers role, not only in the social but in the political conceptions and values of society.  Though they do not rule the State as in Plato’s Republic, which shows essentially the understanding implicit in Anarchism.  It is the role of wise men to guide mankind not force them into hypothetical wisdom that cannot come through force through the very nature of being and thought.  A blind man must be guided not pushed.
Here Schopenhauer suffers from his geneticism (though he was ignorant of genetics) and his general fatalism.  He holds that people largely (or even entirely) are as they were born and can be molded very-little – it is then clear why he thinks it a waste of time for the State to mold young minds.  The Cynics seem far-more behaviorist in their conceptions of human nature, constantly barraging people with quips and rude remarks, trying to have them alter their conceptions of things that were given to them by their culture which they’ve accepted due-to lack of reflection.  Now for some things Schopenhauer is largely right, people seem at-least partly determined by their genetics and to attempt to alter their steps or being through criticism seems largely futile.  Whether a person is cheerful or melancholy for example seems largely based on a combination of genetics and early life experiences that is impossible to entirely undo.  However, when it comes to conceptions of the social and normative claims, this is where philosophy, discussion and persuasion can come in and one’s life styles, political beliefs and even mode of being (say being more ascetic and less prone to materialistic pleasures) can be altered.  The Cynics believe it is our moral responsibility to be involved with the public conception of morality and what is the “good life.”  Schopenhauer seems to hold that these things are based largely on one’s nature, and so people of different natures (intellectual introverts or stupid party-goers) should be left to their own devices and attempt what they deem to be “salvation” in their own ways.
Schopenhauer rightly equates poverty with slavery and shows the pros and cons of Capitalism (supposed freedom but economic servitude to the Capitalists) with Feudalism or Slavery.  This is a sentiment that many philosophers of varying traditions and viewpoints can get behind, if not stated implicitly or out-right (Aristotle for example defines citizenship as a “free person” with total freedom from labor).  I’ve often been befuddled as how a man who exalts compassion and depicts the wretchedness of most people’s lives could be such a defender of the status quo politically.  But then I remember his fatalism and his presumption that this is simply what life is, that people suffer; and though he is right that people are doomed to suffer through their nature when speaking of the psychological or internal realm of existence (we cannot help but want things and suffer through wanting) he is wrong to make the same remarks about the social or external realm of existence which can be improved and suffering mitigated through proper resources and social structures to provide the foundation of a good life (“a” not “the” because the various forms and needs of humanity expresses that what may be the best life for one may not be for the other, and that people for their own sake should pursue what they have aptitude for which will also provide the greatest benefit for society generally speaking – the doctor doing what the artist would lament in doing) for all who are capable of living it to the extent that they are.
To summarize Schopenhauer is better to be studied for his theory of aesthetics (of which he is one of the greatest minds of – if not the supreme) and ethics and epistemology.  He deserves far-more respect and attention than he currently receives, though you wouldn’t know it if you have only read his short work on politics.  Perhaps his own writings and what he pays attention to is one of the greatest arguments for his claim that every man and woman makes a world after their own image – that is, will naturally make their life suitable to their nature.  Schopenhauer’s was not of a political nature, as opposed to the socially motivated firebrands of the Cynics and Bakunin (and the other Anarchists) who’re compelled by their nature to give every person the foundation necessary (which Schopenhauer’s State ignores) to live their best life and be their best self.

Though Schopenhauer rightly appreciates the aesthetic in the personal realm in existence, something that the Cynics completely ignore; he completely ignores the ethical realm of existence save in writing.  That is, he writes on moral philosophy, but completely ignores the moral potential of every human being to improve the plight of his fellow sufferers.  Though in the personal realm of existence Schopenhauer and the Cynics are largely comparable in their asceticism and individualism (and Schopenhauer even has something to teach them in his appreciation of art) when it comes to the ethical or social realm Schopenhauer is lacking greatly and the Cynics seem to be who we (if the writings above hold weight) along with the Social Anarchists should refer to when asking the questions of the legitimacy of things, proper evaluation of what is in our lives and how society is to be structured as to have the best life based on the correct values.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Has Art become a Science?


 
A modern study has found that the intelligence of pop (popular hits) songs have been measurably reduced in intelligence over the past ten years.  This is a problem; however, this is not seen as a problem for capitalists that make millions of dollars selling garbage.  One of the major problems with Capitalism is homogenization for profits.  Soda is more profitable than juice or milk, so they encourage consumption of Pepsi or Coke products (and those two, very seldom is there an alternative like Sprecher soda) rather than something healthy and damn the consequences both health wise (physical and mental) and financial (externalities that can be measured).
Shows like Bar Rescue show that any business is more of a “science” than an “art.”  Creativity and individuality is reduced, and instead a formula is put into place to maximize profit.  The same is true with entertainment in today’s world.  Though the market place has grown increasingly diverse with the rise of Netflix and other outlets, and the ease of someone to make a movie when in the past it would take an entire film studio and a twenty-five year old could never afford a camera to shoot anything with, ultimately everything made (or at-least most things) are merely products that are calculated and studied by marketing groups extensively before being produced for mass consumption.  Art isn’t art anymore; that is to say, it isn’t about creativity, individuality or expressing a certain viewpoint.  It is about calculated formulaic consumption – even art is to some degree consumed by Capitalism and science which homogenize everything.
While art focuses on the individual’s mind and growing as an individual (normative claims), science is merely concerned with understanding and applying universal law (descriptive).  If things can be mass produced – all the better.  Science is innately concerned with the how and not the why or why not.  With meeting human needs and desires (and increasing profits in a Capitalist economy) and questioning the rightness or wrongness of the desires and whether or not people should be different, should strive for more, or not strive and be more ascetic – once again, something only art and philosophy properly understood are concerned with.
Thankfully, true artists with a genuine voice and active conscience still exist.  They are few and far between but this world hasn’t been entirely consumed by Capitalist mediocrity or soulless formulaic showmanship.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

On Aesthetics



Aesthetics is the study of beauty; to take an aesthetic attitude to something is to see it in its relation to the capacity to arouse the feeling of beauty in people – the “Platonic form” of beauty as it were.  Aesthetic appreciation of the world is one of the few saving graces of humanity.  It is one of the few forms of pleasure not attached to biological or psychological yearning, which by the nature of it creates more pain than pleasure.  Beauty instead, when disconnected from human sexuality that is, is concerned with admiration of the thing in itself, as Schopenhauer points it, it is appreciation of things as they are rather than how they pertain to us.  If this is true, it is a sentiment in stark opposition to the teleological argument for the existence of God.  For such an argument holds that all things were made with a purpose, and we are in-effect the purpose of all other things in Nature; it is a stupid, selfish and solipsistic view that a cursory glance will suffice in discrediting.
The teleological argument for the existence of God completely obliterates the very conception of Aesthetics as “disinterested appreciation.”  It holds that all of reality was made for one specific utility or another, and we are the end for which a thing is to be measured in its utility.  Aesthetics then, if anything, reinforces the calm achieved through Existential Nihilism.  While Existential Nihilism is Man’s way of coming to terms with the fact that nothing matters (personally, not ethically) and accepting the fact that he is mortal and will die (which is irrelevant) in explicit and intellectual terms, it is art and aesthetics which help Man achieve the solace and even appreciation of the same wisdom through more meaningful and implicit terms. 
For what objective meaning or purpose is there in art?  Is not Man’s creativity and passion towards so much nothing (e.g. paintings, sculptures, poems) a representation of the “so-much-nothingness” that he puts himself into in his daily life – the distinct difference being that he is self-concerned in his daily life while he frees himself in disinterestedness in art.  The amount of time and effort people put into art, and the very fact that people appreciate art though it has no “utilitarian” benefit using the unphilosophical definition of the word should remind people of the innate and fundamental silliness of the human condition, and encourage people to enjoy life more by appreciating its sheer being as a form of cosmic error more and the particular things in it less.  It is by focusing on the things in life, rather than life itself, that we make ourselves miserable.
The more we focus on the particulars of our lives, what we have and what we don’t have, what we want, who we want and whether they want us in return, the more unhappy, petty and small we become.  All of philosophy is dedicated to obliterating this smallness, whether it is aware of it or not (in some sense it cannot be while it is busy processing what it is processing) but is incapable of doing so the same way intellectually as art can aesthetically.  Philosophy strictly speaking, that is, intellectual pursuit of wisdom and clarity, has its own form of solace and grandness but distinct from aesthetics.  Aesthetics – as phenomenon not philosophic study of aesthetics – is related to philosophy in experience but not in concept.  That is to say, we can experience life aesthetically through philosophic contemplation, and can be brought to contemplation through aesthetic experience, but this has to do with the inter-relatedness of human experience, not the concepts themselves. 
Conceptually aesthetics is related with a non-intellectual appreciation or feeling of something; while philosophy is the attempt to understand the world.  There is a goal or claim implicit in philosophy that does not exist in aesthetics.  To do philosophy is to make the normative claim that one should know.  One wishes to know what is, right and wrong, and how to justify and ground all claims.  Aesthetics deals strictly with descriptive claims however.  There is no “ought” in beauty and to the extent that there is it can never be rationally justified.  If one say that in regards to aesthetics that there ought to be more blue or red in a painting, and one asks why, all one can say is it will look better that way.  There is no rational or causal reason or understanding why someone will find such a thing preferable as to the current painting, just as there is no logical reason why people generally find beautiful what they do.  It is an enigma of humanity that is as miraculous as it is mysterious. 
Aesthetics however mirrors our essential disposition towards existence; as to why there is anything at-all and why the things that are are as they are as opposed to pi being a completely different number and the speed of light being the speed limit of a road in rural Kentucky.  The teleological explanation does not do, just as aesthetics existing to serve us will not do either.  Not only would saying that having a “disinterested outlook” exists for our own interests be seemingly a contradiction, but it no way explains the functioning of the mechanism in its particular state.  Why does red look attractive here as opposed to over there?  If aesthetics existed for our own enjoyment, like existence in theory, then why not just take aesthetic appreciation in all things all the time?  Aesthetics it seems is a state of appreciating existence “as it is” that otherwise would be impossible.  It is one of the few things we have that makes our lot in life enviable as opposed to that of lower animals.  It is an evolutionary fluke much like our own existence and very likely the existence of anything at-all – though this is pure speculation.
Aesthetics then is the ultimate blessing.  For while we are all born into this world without giving consent, and must cope with being alive in our own ways, ultimately aesthetic appreciation is the most absolute appreciation and enjoyment of existence; it is enjoying things as they are and not wishing them to be anything else or appeal to us in any way.  We are born in a type of cosmic game of dice, and we will die in the same random and meaningless fashion.  Ultimately, if we are to try to gain anything from this intellectually we are left at a stalemate.  There is nothing to lament but nothing to rejoice over either.
All we can rejoice over is that there is not a meaning to life that we fail at, not a normative claim other than ending and preventing suffering that we are subject to and that our suffering is not eternal.  We came into the world through error, we suffer for a time and then the error of existence is corrected.  Aesthetics however is the human mind’s only sincere and reasonable (though non-rational) way of seeing existence as something good.  It is without justification but since it is devoid from the realm of rational claims in some sense it is without need of justification.  It is our existence without the burden of suffering and yearning, before the figurative Fall of Man, before Man become a carnal or sensual being.  The Aesthetic mode is life as it should be (personally, not ethically) and can be momentarily.

A Difference ‘tween Christianity and Buddhism



In a previous essay I provide some differentiation between the Eastern and Western faiths – to summarize:  the former focusing on compassion and suffering and the latter focusing more (though compassion is extolled) on obedience and sin.  I however would like to make another remark that very-well might have slipped my mind in writing it.
Namely that the virtue of the Buddha is attempting to teach us how to reach salvation – rather than offering it through mindless devotion to him.  There are of course Buddhists who wrongly worship the Buddha, but that does not change the fact that there is a difference ‘tween the two, just as someone praising Epicurus as a god doesn’t change the fact there’s a difference between him and Joseph Smith or Muhammad.
Jesus of Nazareth offers us salvation from sin through him.  It is not a practical concern, not how to live our lives first and foremost, nor necessarily how to treat other people, it is rather salvation offered through obedience and faith rather than wisdom and compassion.  Compassion is encouraged, but seemingly only because God wants it, not because suffering is bad.  If suffering was always bad for the Christian, he would acknowledge that God is evil (as he would be if he existed) for creating Hell.  More than that – for creating the world as it is.  I’m not a Theologian, and am not incredibly familiar with the intricate components of Christ’s reasoning for compassion; I remember a passage however where he says that people should treat others as if they were acting that way to Christ – another egotistical remark that is frankly insane, saying that he is the standard of all morality and the greatest of all beings.  If he said that type of piffle today he would be locked up and medicated.  We shouldn’t be good to each other because it’s right, not because people shouldn’t suffer, but because it would be wrong to treat Jesus a certain way, and Jesus doesn’t want us to do it (treat people badly).
The Buddha despite his mysticism is far more sensible in his moral pronouncements.  Here was clearly a sound mind that was trying to figure out the world and help others; not a lunatic who suffered a god-complex and was more concerned with people’s souls than with the real suffering of this world.  The Buddha is humble where Jesus is egotistical.  He provides merely advice and reports on his own reflections and experience; offering to guide us to what he has discovered as a way to alleviate the sufferings of this life.  Jesus demands we worship him or suffer forever.  Not even the worst tyrants of history have had the gull to make such a claim.