Re: belief, faith, truth

From: Benjamin Udell <>
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 00:38:59 -0500

Brent, list,

>>> Your explication seems to turn on a pun. "End" as something of value doesn't imply a beginning.
>> To the contrary an end or goal or terminus generally entails a beginning. A person interested in this subject from a theoretical viewpoint does have to confront that. It may help to have some acquaintance with past thought on the matter.

> OK, I'll bite. I sometimes consider having something to eat a value. What beginning does that entail?

Wondering whether to eat, how to go about it, whether it's worth it right now, etc. Weighing and deciding. A mini-contest in one's head, or perhaps in discussion or argument among a group about whether they shall eat now or later. To the extent that this decision-making sets precedents, has ramifications for the group's future decision-making, etc., it has political significance. Deciding who or what gets to decide, by what steps to decide, etc. This shows that the word "political" is less broad than the word "economic" since it's easy to conceive of economic issues for a man alone on a desert island. One can't do likewise with the word "political," or even the phrase "political-or-martial," one has to speak more broadly about "power" issues -- the man's control over things on the island, the man's self-control, capacity to govern and pace himself and exert himself to prepare for things, etc. There's no mot juste for all this.

>>> 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".
>> I mean like power, control, force, things that make things happen or not happen, things that decide what happens. People want to decide and determine things, not just be means to things or to be the ends, Pygmalions or prey, of others.

> OK, they value autonomy - I guess that's why some get so exercised over the compatibilist view of "free will".

People value beginnings, means, ends, i.e, make general ends of all three. Actually it would be better and less complicated conceptually if we take off the "value" wrapping instead of straightway getting into multiple conceptual layers. I mentioned people "wanting" to decide & determine things, just in order to place it in a familiar context. I'm not talking about something unfamiliar. There are all kinds of issues with power and freedom and independence. Power over others, avoidance of being under others' power, etc. Ruling, being ruled, ruling oneself. Well, there's ruling and then there's governing. Anyway, the politics of everyday life, some of it mild and minimizable, some of it not.

>>>> 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?

>> I'm talking about religious people and people who at least have religious tendencies. Religion is a common phenomenon with a lot of history to it.

>>>> 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.

>> The leader of one's own process. As in, being in charge, in situations where being in charge is not a given. This situation includes basic aspects of one's life.

>That seems to be a dualist position in which YOU are something apart from your processes. Or do you mean aspiring to power over others - which some find very gratifying?

At this point I'm not talking about aspiring. I'm talking straightforwardly about being in control, making decisions -- at least for oneself. Some want more power than that. Some have more power than that and don't want it. Some have all that and want still more. Parents reasonable want control over their children. Most of us have had the opportunity to test our self-control, resist destructive temptations in life, etc. There's nothing any more or less "dualist" (I don't know what you're getting at) about self-governance than about self-awareness or any other reflexive sort of thing. Making one's own choices, being free to do that, having the backbone to do it, etc., these are everyday issues.

>>>> _/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?

>> You have commited yourself to that view in dividing everything into means and ends ("instrumental value" and "inherent value"). Since you hold that view, you must say that the carpenter's decision to do a job is a means to that job or the end of that job.

> No, that's not exactly my view. As I said, things can have both instrumental and inherent value. So a carpenter might decide to do a job because he needs the money and because he enjoys doing capentery. I didn't divide *everything* into "ends" and "means". I noted that *values* can be of two kinds or have two dimensions: instrumental and inherent. Some things aren't values at all - a decision is not usually a value for example.

I don't see the conceptual or discussional advantage of preferring to keep framing means and ends as two instances of general ends -- values. Nevertheless, the idea that a decision is not usually also a value leads to incoherence. If a decision is not worth making, then why make it? And if the decision to make a door is of value in making the door, and that value is neither the value of a means nor the value of an end, then what sort of value is it? For me, it's first of all the value of a kind of beginning, a taking up or taking on, an empowering of oneself to risk a test. From another viewpoint, the given decision may be a means, and from another viewpoint, an end, and from another viewpoint, a confirmation. If the confirmation was sought, then the door-decision served as a confirmation which for its part was a goal achieved.

>>Yet it is plain that the carpenter's decision is the carpenter's means and it is plain that the job is not a means for the carpenter to decide to do the job. This shows the inadequacy of means-ends as a dichotomy, a division of a whole into two.

>It is not plain to me that the carpenter's decision is the capenter's means. If his decision is make a doorway, then his means are a series of actions. Of course making a door is not a means to decide to make a door. But what are the "means to decide"? I'd say they are consideration of the consequences of making a door and how they comport with the carpenter's values.

Sorry, that was my typo. A carpenter's decision is NOT the carpenter's means. As for the rest, the carpenter's decision is not the end. If it were the end, then his decision to make the door would be the end, the goal, accoomplished by his making the door. The making of the door, and the made door itself, are not means to deciding to make the door in the first place. The carpenter's decision to make the door is, then, neither the means to the door, nor the end of the door (nor the end of making the door). Yet it has a role qua deciding in this means-end structure.

>>>> 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"?

>>> No - I don't insist on *everything* being a means or an end. Somethings are neither, e.g. "volition". My view is that volition is a feeling that the brain attaches to decisions to mark them as internal - as opposed to, for example, perceptions which are external and not voluntary.

I don't see the difference between human deciding and human volition. I don't mean the words "volition" or "will" in such a strong psychological sense. To will is just a more general term for to try, to seek, to decide or take, to adhere, or the contraries of those (to reject, etc.). Human agency is volition, humanly being affected is affectivity -- one's being affected by some of those external decisions which you mention. Cognitive perception is more a being or becoming supported than a being affected (e.g., wrenchingly). I think that the means-end dichotomy is weakened if you have these other relations constantly essentially _involved_ in it but they're just "other stuff.".And I don't think you succeed in delimiting a realm of "value" that can be divided into means and ends exhaustively, the same problem reappears there. You have "instrumental" and "inherent" value -- mesic & telic -- and I pointed out (in different words) that there are archic values that are neither mes!
 ic per se nor telic per se. The Greek _arche_ does work better than the English "beginning."

The problem is that will, deciding, etc., is always related to means and ends. So what is it, in means-ends terms? Means and ends are middles and ends, moyens et fins, medios y fines, mesa kai teloi, etc., etc. But the willing, the deciding is not, qua the kind of "beginning" which it is, either means or ends.

>>>> 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.
>> So what? You're confusing the decision-making with the goals and values and feelings, as if, given a set of goals, the decisions were already made, or get made automatically, and as if people's decision-making were a trivial process.

> I'm not sure what you mean by "trivial"? How do you know they aren't? Are you aware of the experiments of Libet and Grey Walter.

No. I am extremely doubtful that some "experiments" are about to overthrow all the trouble that people take over decision-making in everyday life, in various disciplines, in various communities, in various practices and employments, and especially in various arenas -- in debate, in sports & fashion, in business & finance, and especially in politics and in war and combat. The making of decisions, and the making decisions stick, is a very big part of life. We have police forces and justice systems for it, for instance. Sometimes people overemphasize process, but some respect for decision-making processes is essential in a free society.

You might as well ask how I know that all thought processes represented on the everything-list aren't trivial. The selective employment of hyperbolic Cartesian doubt is not constructive.

>> But goals and values and feelings sometimes conflict, in multifarious ways. Sometimes there is no clear answer and one has to decide anyway.

> So what? It is usually uncertain what all the consequences of an action may be. Also people often have values that are not transitive, i.e. they prefer A to B
and B to C and C to A; particularly when A, B, and C may be in different mental categories.

This makes no sense. You're arguing that decision-making is still trivial even when decision-making is difficult and when the outcome is not absolutely assured. Is this supposed to be true in an individual, or among individuals in groups, or both? If we care about what kind of society we live in, I don't think that we can regard decision-making, either in an individual, or among individuals, as trivial. And also you say that sometimes preferences are clear and somehow the occurrence of such cases is "good enough" -- for what? Is that supposed to be trivial or nontrivial decision-making? I'm not sure of your point there.

>>>> 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.
>> The carpenter may be of more than one mind on what to do. I don't mean that the carpenter has a multiple personality. I mean that the carpenter may be of more than one mind in just the sense that "more than one mind" is commnly used. Some element in the carpenter's mind will have to gain the upper hand. This will embody certain interests and efforts rather than others by the carpenter in his/her life. Or maybe the carpenter will solve diverse problems together with creative solution.

> But whatever choice he makes it is his choice - his control wasn't at stake?

Control within him was at stake. What are the controlling choices which he makes in life, the controlling repeated choices and habits? I'm not switching to psychology, but this is elementary psychology. And in every case you can also consider situations involving individuals in a group, and in various and overlapping groups.

>>>> 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*.
>> They can use it all they like, that won't stop the terminology from being inferior. Since we're talking about mathematicians, in whom eloquence is rarer than speech in goldfish, my safe guess is that they're just using words like "means" or "instrumentality" in sub-optimal ways. Economists talk about the inherent value which people ascribe to things but they call it "utility value." Unfortunately I can't recommend contemporary lit. depts. as any sort of remedy.

> I'd recommend contemporary lit depts as sources of disease. :-)

Well, we're in agreement there. I wonder why back when there used to be a "literary scene" in the USA, lit professors didn't find it strange that their depts., even the most prominent of them, had no relationship to it. On the other hand, at least in the old days lit professors very often did take some interest in literature. Anyway, I'm out of the lit loop these days.

>> Anyway, I see no reason to take such terminologies seriously -- it's useless and counterproductive when the purpose is understanding.

> One way of understanding the mind is to create an artificial one. People who do that find the terminology useful. See for example John McCarthy's writings on robots and self-awareness.

Okay, seriously, I don't know anything about the terminology of mathematical decision theory. If I saw it, I might find it quite reasonable. The idea that they call decisions "means" bothers me, if that's what they do. I know how they'd take such objections -- they'd ask, how would meeting such objections improve decision theory? Well, I wouldn't know specifically.

>>>> 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?
>> 1. Choice and decision-making. 2. Means, methods, practices.
>> Then I combine those two things in four ways.

> Oh, OK. So choice about means is economics - but isn't it also engineering?

The soundbyte characterization of economic activity as choice in regard to means is from the Austrian School of economics.
I would characterize engineering as a discipline, a cultivated kind of know-how. Knowledge in regard to means. Again, a soundbyte characterization. I don't mean I read book and become an engineer. If you set such practical/productive disciplines concerned with means, as engineering, set them alongside decision-making about means, the differences will stand out better and the reasons for such choices of characterization will appear more clearly. Business is competitive, businesspeople make decisions, decisions about reforming a company are also business decisions, and in competition things get decided beyond the power of individual businesspeople. It's a larger decision-making process, rife with unintended consequences. Conflict, competition, decidings. That's what it is. And it's in regard to means, resources, etc. Sure, one can pursue a discipline of business, but that's a discipline _about_ business and applied in business. Nobody calls business, itself, "know-how." One im!
 mediately associates "know-how" to things like engineering. Business, in the general sense, is more like "decide-how," though it's true that nobody would call it that, I think because somehow that "how" doesn't clearly evoke means in the full-fledged instrumental sense.

Art has been characterized as essentially a process of selection, or selective composition, by Wordsworth for instance. But I would characterize it as a _discipline_, a cultivated kind of knowing or understanding in what effects one feels things (affectively). This combination of cognition & affectivity in its basics has, I think, something to do with why beauty (or whatever one wants to call it, the aesthetic value) is not necessarily hedonistic and seldom has been hedonistic. Artistic beauty is a spectator kind of thing, the spectator may feel moved and infused with complex precise feelings, but remains usually a spectator, though some playwrights in particular have tried to change that. Anyway, the works are embodiments of such understandings. Not a systematic, scientific knowledge or understanding. Such would be affective psychology. Psychology or any discipline of knowledge or research is a cultivated kind of learning or knowing in or on what light or basis one learns o!
 r knows things.

> And don't generals choose the means the means to attack or defend? I guess "with regard to" seems very vague to me.

They are some very general characterizations. I think such characterizations have more value if done systematically, such that, for instance, the linking "with regard to" varies systematically when made more specific. That's just too complicated for this discussion.

A means which is a way of contesting or fighting to retain control, where control is significantly at stake, is not just a workaday means, it's a weapon, an enforcer, a decider, your decider against others. Arms, defensive & offensive, armadas, ammunition, etc. Then think of all those things which in nonviolent conflicts we call weapons and defenses -- not literal swords and shields yet serving parallel functions. Again, the overall context is important -- is it a context of struggle to gain or keep control, or is it cooperative or at least tolerant, with forces safely under control? It's the difference between fighting, and work or chores.

Now, any added thing which enhances is apt to be called a means. Icing on the cake is kind of means or way to enhanced pleasure. Really it's an enhancement of the end, not a tool or resource toward an end. But still, it's one of those added things. The sword isn't you (though you're supposed to wield it as an extension of yourself), it isn't your goal or your opponent or your victory, it's in between and amid those things, so it's natural to see it as a kind of middle. But its role is really not that of mediating and facilitating, instead it's your will, or your general's will, in steel, clashing for control, whereby you empower yourself or your general, or are overcome.

>>> Or maybe a lot of categories we've invented for the work.
>> Politics & martial affairs; business; management & compliance; skills of labor & cooperation -- "invented categories"? That's not a serious remark.

> Why not? I could also categorize the same actions as communication, calculation, and physical labor? All categories are invented. My point was that simply classifying something according to a lot attributes doesn't make that something any bigger (or smaller).

Which of those activities could possibly be categorized as "calculation"? That's the most surprising thing that you've said. If categories are all "invented," arbitrary, then there's no point in their whimsicality. Anyway, the point of those four was to bring into clearer relief the destinctions between deciding and performance, character & competence, etc, by pondering what each of the four actually involve. One of them could be classed as calculation? That's a stretch right out of sight.

>>> 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.
>> I was talking about Tegmark's Levels and correlations thereto, as I mentioned that I thought I should try to bring the discussion "back to the Everything," I'm not aware of high-low valuations among those Levels.

> OK.

Another piece of agreed clarity. But I don't know how much longer we can get away with this off-topicality.

Ben Udell
Received on Tue Jan 31 2006 - 00:40:27 PST

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