Re: belief, faith, truth

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 13:56:36 -0800

Benjamin Udell wrote:
> Tom, Brent, Bruno, list,
> Bruno wrote & Brent agreed,
> > I think everyone has religious faith...
> I don't think that I could go along with that, at least not in the
> strict sense of "religion" -- true enough, religion has, at its core,
> valuings with regard to power and submission, ruling and being ruled,
> and also self-governance. But in the strict sense of "religion," there's
> usually, at the core, some beliefs, some claims, of miracles, magical
> events, etc. Not everybody believes in that sort of thing. Then in
> another sense, but a less strict one, a "religion" can be a set of
> life-shaping beliefs immune to nontrivial revision despite all contrary
> experience. I don't think that absolutely everybody has a life-shaping
> set of such beliefs. Or maybe they all do, but it doesn't seem
> hands-down obvious that they all do.
> Most people, however, do have some sort of views, which are or have been
> significant in their lives, about what are traditionally called
> metaphysical questions -- God, freedom, immortality, psycho-physical
> relationships, etc. Many have one or another kind of metaphysical faith.
> It seems increasingly clear to me that Bruno is doing a machine
> metaphysics, or a computer metaphysics, or a metaphysics of, by, and for
> computers or machines (I can't remember why Bruno opts for "machines"
> instead of "computers."). It's a shame that the word "metaphysics" is
> ruled out by (if I remember correctly, it was in a post a while back)
> reaction of intellectuals in Belgium. Moreover, "machine metaphysics" is
> kind of catchy in its alliterative way. Metaphysics is not religion but
> instead a philosophical study of questions which are among the important
> ones in religion. Philosoophy, however, can be applied in living, so the
> distinction is not a barrier impenetrable in practice (or, therefore, in
> theory either).
> As to universals, as Brent says they're "ruled out" way too often. it's
> that old Saul Steinberg "View of the World From Ninth Avenue" thing
> again. Intellectual foreshortening.
> Some look at decision-making (& related "ruling arts" aka "governing
> arts") about lives & living, and see the custom-tailored, the singular,
> as the goal and object(ive). This is true in the same sense as it is
> true that "know-how," practical/productive arts, strive not for the
> singular and one-time but the reliable & repeatable, though still the
> somewhat specialized -- not the universal, theoretical, etc. -- and it
> is true in the same sense that affective arts tend to strive for
> totalities, universes, worlds in terms of which certain qualities take
> on special and vibrant values -- and it is true in the same sense that
> universals are the object of maths & sciences. It's true in those
> senses, as far as they go, which is not unlimited.
> Instead, those senses are limited, and, for instance, it is patently
> obvious that, in _/subject matters/_, the research disciplines vary
> every which way in typical scope -- physical, chemical, and life
> sciences have concrete singulars in their unreduced, unabstracted-away
> idiosyncrasies as their _/subject/_, howsoever universal the _/object/_
> of such sciences is. And what's more, the disciplines of research vary
> even in the scopes of their elementary objectives.
> - The goal of empirical research is to learn more particulars -- _/is/_
> there a tenth planet, _/is/_ there an earth quake in store for some
> island, _/are/_ there more fossils of intermediates stage between whales
> and land mammals, etc. -- and on a kind of higher level, to learn about
> universals as specially applicable to them. Those universals are no more
> interesting to such empirical research than the concreta which they help
> explain and predict, so economically.
> - The goal of statistical theory is to draw inductive conclusions from
> samples to _/total populations/_, not universals -- yet, on a kind of
> higher level, to learn about the _/universals/_ which apply to them.,
> across them, etc., in statistical study.
> I'm not sure how best to distinguish these "levels" and they don't seem
> divided by impenetrable barriers -- last I heard, there's evidence that
> lightspeed has changed relative to other fundamental quantities, and so
> lightspeed, though a universal, is seen as a big, developing event -- a
> kind of universal event (which in a sense it always was).
> It's just a piece of intellectually unjustified but intellectually
> practiced foreshortening, to hold that all this diversity of typical
> scopes is unique to the disciplines of research. Much less are
> disciplines of research concerned only with universals, which is just a
> silly idea. In decision-makings and leadings, in performance and means,
> in ends and satisfactions, and in checks and knowledge, and in the
> respective disciplines of those things, there are or at least can be the
> full variety of scopes involved some way or other in terms of subject
> matter, or some kind of objective, even though each general area has its
> general, "higher-level" (I'm not sure I even want to call it "higher"
> but I just don't know what to call it) tendency to one or another scope
> of object(ive).
> I'll also reply to Brent here.
> >The serious researcher strains to test his theory, to give it the best
> chance to fail.
> Yes, s/he does that too, most definitely.
> > I would say "always"; information always falls short of providing
> certainity.
> That's true. But sometimes it falls a lot shorter than at other times,
> and still we must act, or refrain, decisively, some of those times.
> > I agree. That's why political leaders like to invoke religion and why
> the professional military are often very religious. "Jumping to
> conclusions" and "having convictions" are just two sides of the same
> coin. Scientists tend to make poor political leaders.
> "No atheists in foxholes." I think that I would have a desperate time of
> it trying to maintain my agnosticism in such a situation, and little
> time or energy to put into such a maintenance. "Metaphysically," I'm
> just not particularly committed, but I'm old enough that I'm not about
> to jump onto any particular bandwagon.
> > But is the value of logic and evidence inherent or only instrumental?
> Here you ask some questions which go deep, very deep, so I can only
> ramble. Now, as far as I know, I'm the only person who thinks as I do on
> these subjects.
> The value of logic and evidence is neither "inherent" (i.e., an end in
> itself, satisfying, delightful, contenting, pain-alleviating, felicific,
> eudaemonic, etc., etc.) nor instrumental. It's neither means nor end.
> The _/valuation/_, the socially institutionalized valuings of logic,
> evidence, standards of rigor, evidence, standards of what's worth
> knowing, etc., etc., are embodied in the disciplines of maths &
> sciences, but they are broader in society, as any innocent defendant on
> trial will hope, despite Richard Rorty's vicious nonsense about the
> sciences' supposedly have nothing to offer to philosophy (originally
> love of knowledge) about truth, inquiry, etc. Don't ask me to look it up
> right now, but I'm sure he said it. Anyway, the basic value of logic and
> evidence should be understood in terms of their basic role, which is
> that of neither means nor end (which is not to deny that they have added
> value because they can be means &/or ends, just as ends have because
> they can also be means, and so on).
> Instead it's a matter of checks, confirmations, supports, etc. With
> respect to the checked end the check is not a means, it is not a means
> to that end, it may be a means to some other end but, _/to that end/_,
> it is the check, the confirmation or corroboration, etc., the
> expectation-fullfilling side-effect or sign etc. which help to
> evidence the achievement of the sought end. It's simply another
> category, another flavor, than means and end, and is on a par with means
> and end. One might try to get out of this by saying that it's a means to
> pleasure-sensations dependent on external outcomes, the
> pleasure-sensations being our "real" ends, our ends per se to the
> exclusion of anything else, rather than being our often besought
> intelligent appreciation of ends, but these sorts of "anthropo-nomy"
> epicycles cause more conceptual problems than they're worth, unless one
> prefers to view humanity as an elaborate puppet show with the puppeteers
> emerging clearly only in our latest greatest theoretical conceptions.
> The means-end dichotomy is inexhaustive and inadequate both in
> conception and application.

I didn't refer to "means-ends", but if you value logic ;-) then "having inherent
value" and "not having inherent value" must define an exhaustive dichotomy.

>It's vaguely like conceiving of matter and
> energy while ignoring motions and structures. It's more exactly like
> talking about middles and endings without considering beginnings and
> checkings (as a middle or continuation is like a staying-begun, a
> checking is like a staying-ended, an entelechy but with the emphasis on
> the heldness, the firmness, of the "perfection" rather than, as
> Aristotle did it, on the perfection itself. What holds up and is
> supported, firm, is confirmed; vegetables have ends, intelligent animals
> have checks and learn). In typical human affairs such that happiness or
> satisfaction (I don't mean the pure sensations thereof) is generally the
> end and rational work the means, what is the beginning?

Your explication seems to turn on a pun. "End" as something of value doesn't
imply a beginning.

> Why wouldn't there be a general aspect of beginning in the same sense as
> there is of ends or means? (I think that the beginning would be
> deliberation and trying.)
> Now, this is the sort of angle about which only philosophically minded
> people can care: In applying since at least the Ancient Greeks the
> comparison of means and goals with middles/continuations and haltings
> ("ends," culminations), which seems to occur throughout European
> languages (I don't know about others but I'd bet the comparison or
> analogy is pretty frequent there too), one has to stop and ask whether
> "everything exists" and whether the comparison or analogy is to be
> extended systematically to the other two terms or "turns" of becoming.
> It's certainly strange for such a comparison to work so well for two
> steps and then just be absent for the other two steps. In fact, if it
> doesn't persist through all four, there must be something radically
> wrong with it. After these thousands of years, and that seems unlikely.
> But only the philosophically minded will care about this angle. I'll get
> more into examples.
> > I'm not sure I undestand what you mean by, "valuings and carings in
> regard to the sources, powers, principles whereby one moves and acts."
> Every one has values (things they care about). They include things like
> security, companionship, stimulation, children, sex. But I don't know
> in what sense they care about "source, powers, and principles" except
> perhaps instrumentally.
> They care about the powers in their lives and the ethical, political,
> and other principles whereby they act. They care about their virtues,
> strengths, and fortes. They care about their rights and freedoms and
> others' rights and freedoms.

Sure, people care about (value) all kinds of things; even the words used to
describe things - see recent debate over "theology" vs "metaphysics" - some
inherently, some instrumentally, and some mixed. But I'm not sure I'd call
those "powers" - I guess you mean something like "motivations".

>They care about their relationship, such as
> they believe it to be, their relationship to the power of the universe
> itself.

"The power of the universe itself"? What would that be? Are you going all
mystical on me?

>These are sources, beginnings, leaderships, principles, (Greek)
> _/arches/_. This is not mere instrumentality. Deciding and determining
> is not a mere means, the decider employs means to ends. The decider in
> that sense is the beginning, the leader.

Not if no one follows.

> _/Arches kai mesa/_, beginnings/leadings, and means. It's the difference
> between (a) **will & character** and (b) **ability & competence**.
> Aristotle wrote his ethical treatises about character in a broader sense
> than exclusively that of morality, and character in that broader sense
> is what it's about. It's a shame that Aristotle didn't also write
> treatises about ability and competence, _/hikanoteta/_. Now, a
> carpenter, for instance, is not simply a means to carpentry, a means for
> carpented things to actualize themselves.

Has anyone every suggested such a thing?

>The carpenter tries and
> deliberates, pursues, chooses or accepts (or rejects), and adheres to
> (or renounces) his/her underlying decisions even to do the work at all,
> throughout the process. Is all this volition a "means"? Somebody else's
> means, perhaps; the market's means perhaps, and so on. But it isn't the
> carpenter's means, it's the carpenter's leading, deciding, etc. which,
> by means, tools, resources, s/he carries out. This striving and deciding
> is most clearly seen as no mere means in contexts where control is truly
> at stake.

I would suppose that a carpenter has pride of workmanship and so there is
inherent pleasure in doing his job well. His choice of this tool or that is
partly instrumental relative to that pleasure. But he also does carpentry as a
means to food, shelter, etc.

>In the carpenter's sawing, hammering, etc., the exercise of
> skills and abilities, control is not really at stake. But in the
> carpenter's will and decision-making, control of the situation among
> various factors in the carpenter is at stake.

I think I understand the words, but the sentence leaves me blank.

>Now, one is free to devise
> an epicycle-filled "anthropo-nomy" in order to describe intelligent
> beings while classing volition and decision-making as mere means, but
> it's not particularly useful.

It's the basis of a whole branch of mathematics called decision theory, a branch
which is widely *used*.

>Another way to see this is by a set of
> examples comprising an exhaustive set of a certain kind of combinations
> of the two.

What two - you seem to introduce a lot more than two things below?

> Choice and decision-making with regard to means is the _/economic/_ field.
> Choice and decision-making with regard to choice and decision-making
> (deciding who or what gets to decide, etc.) comprise the _/political and
> martial/_ field, also sometimes vis-a-vis nature, e.g., firefighting,
> hunting (where it's not purely sport and not safely under control
> (animal husbandry)), etc.
> Means, methods, practices with regard to choice and
> decision-making, comprise the field of _/management, administration, and
> compliance/_.
> Means, methods, practices with regard to means, methods,
> practices, comprise the field of _/skilled labor, crafts, cooperation,
> etc._/
> Sometimes you'll see a renovator having to be the businessman, the
> manager, and the co-worker, all at once in various ways, and sometimes
> having to be the fighter or politician too. A lot of work!

Or maybe a lot of categories we've invented for the work.

> Examples of the differences in terms just of disciplines. Table produced
> directly in markup (Outlook Express is good for that), no tedious junk code:
> Discipline:
> Ruling/governing arts
> (& arts of being ruled,
> governed; arts of self-governance)
> Disciplines of deciding and character
> Practical/productive arts/sciences
> Disciplines of means, competencies
> Affective arts (lit., music, dance, painting, sculpt., stage, screen,
> etc., etc.)
> Disciplines of ends, satisfactions, sensibilities
> Maths & sciences
> Disciplines of checks and intelligence, knowledge
> Discipline, cultivated cognition regarding _________: beginnings,
> _/arches/_
> (decision-making, will, character) middles, means, _/mesa/_
> (ability, competence) ends, culminations, _/teloi/_
> (affectivity, sensibility, but again not just the feelings in
> themselves, divorced from the actual; electrode implants would
> suffice for that.) checks, _/ichnoi/_, _/entelecheiai/_
> (cognition, intelligence, etc.)
> Scope of "higher" object of said discipline: singulars among more
> singulars non-universal generals totalities, universes, gamuts universals
> Level associated with such scope:
> (A bit off-off-topic, in order to get back on-topic -- I have to bring
> this back to the Everything _/somehow/_!)
> I do think that biggest pictures should fit together.
> Level I Level II Level III Level IV
> Best, Ben Udell

I'm always suspicious of schemes with "Levels". Sometimes the schemer invents
the levels to put his opinions at the highest (and implicity, the best) level.

Brent Meeker
"Pushpin's as good as poetry."
        --- Jeremy Bentham
Received on Mon Jan 30 2006 - 17:07:48 PST

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