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The roots of philosophy...

 
 
Marius
 
Reply Sat 20 Feb, 2010 01:25 pm
When I say philosophy I should stipulate that I mostly mean essentialistic philosophy, or philosophy in the form of a quest to achieve wisdom or enlightenment - the belief that there is wisdom and a philosophic answer to be had for the treasure-seeker philosopher. I believe such philosophy is a phenomenon that finds its roots in language and the impact language has on us both socially and psychologically - as opposed to being rooted in some innate awareness that there are 'master-answers' in the universe that need to be discovered through the process of rigorous thinking and dialectic. I believe language can instill in us concepts and ideas that don't really exist outside of our heads. It can introduce ideals and arouse questions that don't really have meaning outside our heads as well. They are basically trick questions, but the questioner himself doesn't realize that. Things like "what is truth" and "what is our purpose" are examples of language and communication skewed because they were never meant to be taken out of the context that evaluates them. Such as "is what you say the truth?" The evaluation of the term is "what you say" which tells us that by using "truth" they're probably asking if the person is lying or not. "The purpose of the lawnmower is to cut grass." In this sentence the context allows us to evaluate purpose as "the activity the device is designed (or perhaps intended) to accomplish - specifically cutting grass."

Here's another example of language and its influence. You've doubtless heard of the word "love" and you've grown up learning about its inherent implications FROM society (television, books, your parents, your friends, or your spouse) - you've learned about how it's the most powerful responsibility, that it in some cases like a mother to child is unconditional or supposed to be unconditional while in other cases like boyfriend to girlfriend can be VERY conditional, that when you have it your supposed to experience joy at being together, etc. Now if these concepts were never COMMUNICATED to you, would you ever fall in love? We see other examples of this in isolated tribes - people who don't seem to have concepts that we take for granted every day. The Waorani for example didn't have the concept of forgiveness until it was communicated to them by missionaries. Many native americans didn't have concept of land ownership before that was rudely introduced to them. In ways such as these one sees how powerful and influential language can be on our minds, what we think we know, and the type of questions we ask.

As for the idea of how these questions of essentialistic philosophy (what is my purpose, what do I know or can I really know anything) managed themselves into our system of communication, and ultimately how it became ingrained culturally and psychologically one can perform a simple experiment. Gather a group of say 50 people and have them sit in a large circle. Tell one of them a little story (something like I went to the store to buy groceries, and there I got 2 apples 3 pies and a can of soup) or something of that nature and then ask them to pass it on to the next person. When the story reaches the last person in the circle have him/her recite the story outloud. Odds are what the last person says will be at least somewhat different than the story you had told. It is in a similar way, I think, that many concepts in philosophy - absolute truths or forms, good vs evil, knowledge and wisdom - came about. They started as one thing, then as they were communicated from generation to generation over long periods of time their meanings were altered and skewed. One can easily imagine that "freedom" in one era could mean something completely different to people in another era. The same with love, happiness, and even truth (in some eras truth was whatever the king says or whatever the oracle says, in other eras it was chiefly found within the contents of a holy book, while in others its the enlightenment attained through fasting and meditation, etc. Some cultures have even interpreted truth as coming from one's dreams.) Eventually these ideas became what they are today, with many people actually trying to solve the puzzle of "wisdom" or "what is the right thing" yet often forgetting or never even realizing how much development and alteration could be behind the premise they're starting with - namely that there is answers to be had and the answers will be recognized in HIS/HER way of thinking.

Though while I believe the morphing of concept and communication from generation to generation over long periods of time played a major role in these anomalies of philosophy found within human culture in the recent era, one obviously cannot ignore the fact that some could also have found their way in through the evolution of our mind (our instincts and behavior) as well. First of all in the history of evolution there has always been a definite advantage in numbers. Creatures who had the capacity to cooperate with each other and understood how the health and safety of the "group" has a direct influence on that of the individual stood a much better chance of surviving, despite not being very formidable physically. Due to this fact communal and altruistic instincts likely developed, and from preconditioned mindsets such as those and others (survival, fighting, and mating) an interest in the objectifying of certain styles of behavior and action could easily have formed. In this way behavior that was seen to benefit the groups survival could be categorized and easily separated from that which the group considered detrimental to survival. "Love" in the sense of having an interest in the wellbeing of another, would have been one such useful attitude for survival and therefore could be rooted in us through both communication and instinct. "Justice" in the sense of reinforcing cooperation of the group through maybe a reward and punishment system, would be another such example. Hence ideas such as good, evil, lust, valor, and cowardace may have their roots in the evolution of our instinct as well as language.

I think there ARE answers to why we sometimes feel the need to ask questions like "what is moral" "what is real" or "what is known," and why they strike us as mysterious, and why even the most rigorous investigation into the answers to these questions yields as much variety in their results as there are styles of artwork in the world (a da Vinci or a Picasso - we might as well label essentialistic or universalistic philosophies the same way despite the care given to their objectivity as maybe a Plato, or a Spinoza.) But I believe these answers lie in the science & investigation of language, communication, and behavioral evolution.

I might also add that this is why deconstruction can so often be a thorn in philosophy's side. Because deconstruction is sort of a way of HIGHLIGHTING the loopholes in language and communication through which many philosophic questions can manifest.

PS: Sry I'm new on this forum. Not sure whether this belongs in Language Philosophy or Metaphilosophy. I suppose I could've posted it in both.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Feb, 2010 04:58 am
@Marius,
A lot of very interesting discussion points here but a pretty big read and a lot of pretty big ideas in there too. So it is kind of daunting to take it on. Very interesting though and a lot of quality content. Might just need to break it into smaller pieces. It is a very sound-bite kind of media, this one. I would respond to some of the points you have raised, but unsure as to which one to start with. But keep going, you have much to contribute I'm sure.:bigsmile:
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Feb, 2010 05:27 am
@Marius,
Not big Ideas, but little ideas wearing big coats...They do it all the time...
0 Replies
 
MMP2506
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 12:23 am
@Marius,
As pointed out already, there are multiple interesting topics to discuss here, so I'll just grab one and try to expand on it a bit.


Marius;130331 wrote:
. Things like "what is truth" and "what is our purpose" are examples of language and communication skewed because they were never meant to be taken out of the context that evaluates them. Such as "is what you say the truth?" The evaluation of the term is "what you say" which tells us that by using "truth" they're probably asking if the person is lying or not. "The purpose of the lawnmower is to cut grass." In this sentence the context allows us to evaluate purpose as "the activity the device is designed (or perhaps intended) to accomplish - specifically cutting grass."



The beauty of context is that words aren't the only experiences confined by it. Every experience we encounter exists in a unique context or state of affairs. Language is only one medium for truth, and different mediums are required in different contexts.

The purpose, as you say, can be compared with somethings essence. The essence of something must exist in some state of affairs just as the purposes of words are understood by the context which they are performing.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:27 pm
@MMP2506,
MMP2506;132688 wrote:
As pointed out already, there are multiple interesting topics to discuss here, so I'll just grab one and try to expand on it a bit.




The beauty of context is that words aren't the only experiences confined by it. Every experience we encounter exists in a unique context or state of affairs. Language is only one medium for truth, and different mediums are required in different contexts.

The purpose, as you say, can be compared with somethings essence. The essence of something must exist in some state of affairs just as the purposes of words are understood by the context which they are performing.

really? I don't know
MMP2506
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 01:42 am
@Fido,
Fido;133122 wrote:
really? I don't know

Very insightful addition to the post.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 03:29 am
@MMP2506,
MMP2506;133136 wrote:
Very insightful addition to the post.


Are you sure you are from Missouri?
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 09:40 am
@MMP2506,
MMP2506;133136 wrote:
Very insightful addition to the post.

I hope not... It was late and there was a lot there that on its face demanded some doubt...
0 Replies
 
Twirlip
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 11:24 am
@Marius,
I attempted a reply to part of the OP (about "love") a few days ago, and then thought better of it. As others have said, there is a lot here to take in and reply to all at once. But for that very reason, it seems a shame just to let it go. So I'll start again, this time from the beginning, and stop when I've said a mouthful.
Marius;130331 wrote:
When I say philosophy I should stipulate that I mostly mean essentialistic philosophy, or philosophy in the form of a quest to achieve wisdom or enlightenment -

This threw me, right at the outset. I had to look up "essentialism", and I couldn't relate what I found to what you were saying. So I'll have to pass on that.
Marius;130331 wrote:
the belief that there is wisdom and a philosophic answer to be had for the treasure-seeker philosopher.

OK, I'll take it that that is what "essentialism" means in the present context. In that case, I'll put myself down as an "essentialist" (even though I've always thought of myself as a kind of "existentialist" - see part of my problem?).
Marius;130331 wrote:
I believe such philosophy is a phenomenon that finds its roots in language and the impact language has on us both socially and psychologically -

This is a hugely important phenomenon, one which needs to be thought about long and hard. It's a quite visceral reality. It is also quite plausible to me that all philosophy is a response to it. You would disagree, I presume, but at least we can both see, and agree, that our disagreement derives entirely from my being what you call an "essentialist", and your not being an "essentialist": for, unless I'm mistaking your meaning (quite likely!), you are not saying that all philosophy is rooted in a response to language and its socio-psychological impact on us, only that all "essentialist" philosophy is so rooted, therefore I, with my vision limited by my "essentialism", will almost inevitably make the mistake of seeing all philosophy as being so rooted. Is that correct, so far?
Marius;130331 wrote:
as opposed to being rooted in some innate awareness that there are 'master-answers' in the universe that need to be discovered through the process of rigorous thinking and dialectic.

Here again I am confused and brought up short by what you are saying, or what you seem to be saying. I see no necessary opposition - no contradiction, no conflict - between, on the one hand, believing that all philosophy is rooted in the impact of language (may I put that as, all philosophy is a struggle with language?), and, on the other hand, believing that hard thinking can, with luck, deliver us some answers to philosophical questions (or, if "questions" presupposes language too uncritically, then "problems"), and perhaps even some wisdom, or even enlightenment. I don't know about "master-answers", though. What do you mean by that term? On the face of it, it would seem to imply a certain hubris, a certain arrogance about the capacities of the merely human mind, in a mysterious universe which may be forever beyond our ken.
Marius;130331 wrote:
I believe language can instill in us concepts and ideas that don't really exist outside of our heads. It can introduce ideals and arouse questions that don't really have meaning outside our heads as well. They are basically trick questions, but the questioner himself doesn't realize that.

I'm with you so far (with the reservations so far stated). This is part of the "impact" of language. It bewitches us (is that the way Wittgenstein put it?), hypnotises us, leads us into illusion, into self-deception, into bad faith. That in itself is a major topic to think about. Examples would be helpful, so I will propose a few: (1) mental illness; (2) perversion; (3) morality; (4) reality; (5) self; (6) science; (7) God; (8) gender. In each case, (1)-(8), I suspect that language plays tricks on us. Not the same kind of trick in each case. I'm sure everybody has pet examples of their own; I'm just listing a few of my own, to pin my airy generalisations down to Earth. I don't particularly feel like talking about any of these things now!
Marius;130331 wrote:
Things like "what is truth" and "what is our purpose" are examples of language and communication skewed because they were never meant to be taken out of the context that evaluates them. Such as "is what you say the truth?" The evaluation of the term is "what you say" which tells us that by using "truth" they're probably asking if the person is lying or not.

Funnily enough, I recently responded to Reconstructo's questions about truth and its uses in a way very like this. So again, I'm with you, at least in part. I also wish to dissent; but I think I'll leave my dissent for another post (if this conversation continues), because I've already said a mouthful, or two.
Twirlip
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 12:20 pm
@Twirlip,
Just "bumping" this thread, in case Marius is still around, although he hasn't posted for nearly a week. Damn, I put a lot of effort into that!
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 01:24 am
@Marius,
I suggest that abstract thought is primordially numinous...the more so the more abstract it becomes, assuming that it synthesizes experience well enough.

Quote:

5.533 The identity-sign, therefore, is not an essential constituent of
conceptual notation.
i believe him. only the plus sign is, but the plus sign is also negative, if number is a two dimensional pseudo-spectrum, equality tempered. To double negation is indicate addition. And the reverse. So only one sign is necessary...but two are convenient.

So there is only one mathematical operation, as well as only one true number, determined by partial negations, indicated by means of 10 digits and a positional value system, and the one universal operator. This is a root of philosophy for me.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 06:07 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;135808 wrote:
I suggest that abstract thought is primordially numinous...the more so the more abstract it becomes, assuming that it synthesizes experience well enough.

i believe him. only the plus sign is, but the plus sign is also negative, if number is a two dimensional pseudo-spectrum, equality tempered. To double negation is indicate addition. And the reverse. So only one sign is necessary...but two are convenient.

So there is only one mathematical operation, as well as only one true number, determined by partial negations, indicated by means of 10 digits and a positional value system, and the one universal operator. This is a root of philosophy for me.

How would you go about measuring more abstract, or less abstract...We cannot in the least conceive of our world except through the medium of abstraction, and we all try to build up a complete picture, a narative, if you prefer... It is all abstraction... There is no more or less abstraction....
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 02:16 am
@Fido,
Fido;135859 wrote:
How would you go about measuring more abstract, or less abstract...We cannot in the least conceive of our world except through the medium of abstraction, and we all try to build up a complete picture, a narative, if you prefer... It is all abstraction... There is no more or less abstraction....


I disagree. I think that number is more abstract than most words. And that formal logic in its basic form is even more abstract. Wittgenstein, man...he reduced it to lowest terms.....

Abstraction is to remove a word/number/sign from qualia-sensation. It becomes pure identity. A = A. And this "A" is recognized as contingent. You can say "being" or whatever you like. The singled undifferentiated concept. It indicates a transcendental. Just as we have rods in our eyes that can perceive color, we have something in our brain that unites qualia and other concepts, allows for the creation of math....and this is the fundamental basis of human thought.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 05:47 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;136418 wrote:
I disagree. I think that number is more abstract than most words. And that formal logic in its basic form is even more abstract. Wittgenstein, man...he reduced it to lowest terms.....

Abstraction is to remove a word/number/sign from qualia-sensation. It becomes pure identity. A = A. And this "A" is recognized as contingent. You can say "being" or whatever you like. The singled undifferentiated concept. It indicates a transcendental. Just as we have rods in our eyes that can perceive color, we have something in our brain that unites qualia and other concepts, allows for the creation of math....and this is the fundamental basis of human thought.

What you say of numbers is true of all forms... Each one is an abstraction...It is easy, having numbers tied to reality, to think of numbers as only abstractions... We could do the same in picking up a bunch of words and uniting them to praise a girl who never was...
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 06:58 pm
@Fido,
Fido;136430 wrote:
What you say of numbers is true of all forms... Each one is an abstraction...It is easy, having numbers tied to reality, to think of numbers as only abstractions... We could do the same in picking up a bunch of words and uniting them to praise a girl who never was...


Yes...Kepler used a 2000 year old equation to determine the orbits of planets....Apollonius was his name I think.. Who fantasized focii for ellipsis, for the thrill/beauty/? of it?

---------- Post added 03-05-2010 at 07:59 PM ----------

Fido;136430 wrote:
What you say of numbers is true of all forms... Each one is an abstraction...

That's why I think that abstraction/conception is transcendental. We can't not think digitally, in unities. And we use one basic "operator" to build an entire system of concepts, and we are this system....and this system includes the invention of time, causality, god, self, etc. All inventions...
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 07:48 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;136711 wrote:
Yes...Kepler used a 2000 year old equation to determine the orbits of planets....Apollonius was his name I think.. Who fantasized focii for ellipsis, for the thrill/beauty/? of it?

---------- Post added 03-05-2010 at 07:59 PM ----------


That's why I think that abstraction/conception is transcendental. We can't not think digitally, in unities. And we use one basic "operator" to build an entire system of concepts, and we are this system....and this system includes the invention of time, causality, god, self, etc. All inventions...

We can't think except by unities... Dogs are unities...Cats are unities...If you cannot class everything with the united examples of the same class then forms/ideas would be useless...
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 09:39 pm
@Fido,
Fido;136743 wrote:
We can't think except by unities... Dogs are unities...Cats are unities...If you cannot class everything with the united examples of the same class then forms/ideas would be useless...


Right, and this is a big deal. As one can infer behind all unities a function of the mind that unifies. And one can see how "accidental" all our "essences" are.

Mind, matter, time, causality, self, God, Nature.....all of these unities are imposed by something which cannot be conceived, as it is the source of conception itself. This is what Hegel saw that Kant did not see. That all logic and science and thought is built from a fundamental principle of unification, which can only be inferred. This is how Hegel transcended all dualities. Duality is the by-product of unity. Self-consciousness on this matter allows us to step back from any finite distinction.
north
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 09:57 pm
@Reconstructo,
exploration , discovery , thought , objectivity , truth
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 10:52 pm
@north,
north;136788 wrote:
exploration , discovery , thought , objectivity , truth

Are these not unities???

---------- Post added 03-05-2010 at 11:57 PM ----------

Reconstructo;136781 wrote:
Right, and this is a big deal. As one can infer behind all unities a function of the mind that unifies. And one can see how "accidental" all our "essences" are.

Mind, matter, time, causality, self, God, Nature.....all of these unities are imposed by something which cannot be conceived, as it is the source of conception itself. This is what Hegel saw that Kant did not see. That all logic and science and thought is built from a fundamental principle of unification, which can only be inferred. This is how Hegel transcended all dualities. Duality is the by-product of unity. Self-consciousness on this matter allows us to step back from any finite distinction.

Not exactly... We learn what is there, and when cause is followed by effect we learn this, and call it a law, but it is more of an observation... It is not inferred, but observed... We are made out of our ability to recognize patterns, and unity is a pattern, but ultimately our abstractions rest only on a feeling, a spiritual conception of self that we usually call consciousness..
0 Replies
 
longknowledge
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Mar, 2010 04:30 am
@Marius,
Dear Marius,

Welcome to our Forum!

You will find that a few of us will take the trouble of responding to all or parts of your original post (OP) while others will take a statement you make as an excuse for continuing a dialog that they have started elswhere and seemingly go off on tangents. This is one of the defects of having a thread structured in such a linear way. Other forums that I have partcipated in have a branching structure that allow participants to continue the discussion of their topic, while others can branch off and discuss another aspect of the questions you raise. A linear structure gives a "hopscotch" effect where successive resplies are seemingly unrelated. This one, for instance.

I will start by responding to the first part of your OP.

Marius;130331 wrote:
When I say philosophy I should stipulate that I mostly mean essentialistic philosophy, or philosophy in the form of a quest to achieve wisdom or enlightenment - the belief that there is wisdom and a philosophic answer to be had for the treasure-seeker philosopher. I believe such philosophy is a phenomenon that finds its roots in language and the impact language has on us both socially and psychologically - as opposed to being rooted in some innate awareness that there are 'master-answers' in the universe that need to be discovered through the process of rigorous thinking and dialectic. I believe language can instill in us concepts and ideas that don't really exist outside of our heads. It can introduce ideals and arouse questions that don't really have meaning outside our heads as well.


I would recommend two books for you to read:

The Origin of Philosophy, by Jose Ortega y Gasset (Norton, 1967; paperback, University of Illinois Press, 2000)

'This concise, elegant essay on the roots and historical justification of philosophy marks a decisive step in posing the problem of what philosophy is. With consummate clarity and the charisma that distinguished him as a lecturer, Jose Ortega y Gasset re-creates 'that moment when Parmenides began talking about something exceptionally strange, which he called 'being". How and why, he asks, did such a surprising adventure come about? Considering the human qualities that prompt a curiosity about existence and eternity, Ortega examines philosophy's etymology, its connection to poetry, and its differentiation from religion and other modes of thought'.'He lucidly delineates radical differences of doctrine and style among early Greek thinkers, especially the 'madman of reason' Parmenides and the 'absolute individual' Heraclitus. He also considers philosophy's fundamental task of revealing the latent world poised behind the manifest world and discovering the relations between them. 'Unable to find lodging among the philosophies of the past', Ortega observes, 'we have no choice but to attempt to construct one of our own'. "The Origin of Philosophy" argues for the vital importance of philosophy as a human endeavor, even while noting that each generation of thought reveals the past as 'a defunct world of errors'.

and

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, by David Abram (Pantheon Books, 1996; Vintage paperback, 1997)

In his book David Abram traces the evolution of language and especially its written form to indicate the progression from words created in primitive cultures as a direct response to the natural environment to the invention of alphabetic representation of words, allowing them to be considered as abstractions independent of the contexts in which they originated.

longknowledge

:flowers:
0 Replies
 
 

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