All entries for Tuesday 12 July 2005
July 12, 2005
In some ways I miss the days when I used to pour myself into this blog on a nightly basis. One of these ways is the license it would give me to comment freely on everything that is happening in the world that day. Now by the time I get around to it the moment has passed and events have overtaken me. Its an assumption I have in life that almost everyone is driven on some level by the basic idea that they are absolutely right about everything. This attitude is most common in relation to matters philosophical and political, or in one word idealogical.
I think it would be instructive to note the amount of times you have ever witnessed an argument on an idealogical point between two opposed figures end up with one admitting that the other is correct and switching his world view. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the answer is somewhere in the region of zero. My point is, that in an idealogical debate you don't 'win' by argument. The recent terrorist attacks in London seem to have brought this point into sharp relief across Warwick Blog Country.
I am a sometime political gadfly myself, dancing across the spectrum as mood and company dictates. At other times I may come across as broadly left wing, or even beyond the grasp of either in my Nietzschean outlook and mischievous desire to shock. Yet I always maintain a, no doubt frustrating, belief in my innate correctness. Its hard not to I think, I mean how can one have an opinion if one does not believe it, and if one does not have an opinion then one is becoming far too queenly.
Its difficult to illustrate the expressions of irritation that flicker across my face as I read many of the recent politically inclined blogs, and I'm sure if you've been writing them you know who you are, and I find myself contemplating the source of this irritation. Some of it may lie in my distaste for an argument or position that I initially agree with, being gradually teased larger and larger until it has become a global conspiracy. Some undoubtably lies when I can clearly detect a latent feeling that has been pasted over with argumentation, it feels out of place like a gay republican (In the american political sense) politician. A lot of it lies I think with a lack of intellectual honesty.
What am I saying then? Would I like everyone to become more like the idealized picture of myself I have in my head? What then would I have to distinguish myself from others to find out who I am in the morass of humanity?
I recently rediscovered my arguments for why I became a philosophical vegetarian, I had once spent a long time working through the issue after some contact with vegetarians who I already respected for their intelligence and sensitivity, however once I had evalutated my position I grew tired of defending it to the endless majority who questioned it and conveniently forgot the arguments but retained the conviction.
It basically boils down the the simple principle that people, if they are philosophically consistent, eat meat solely for the reason that they like the taste. In my mind this wasn't a good enough reason. The book that reminded me of this was a suprisingly good little book on philosophy which, while oversimplifying in places for popular appeal, was very readable and still philosophically penetrating and most importantly very good at drawing out the most recent 'conclusions of philosophy'. While some may disagree (they're wrong) philosophy seems to be a process of gradual refutation. Each thinker building on the work of past thinkers, and usually proving false the conclusions of the whole or part of what has gone before. Thus we can find somewhere in the body of philosophy a body of currently standing philosophical hypothesis that have yet to be refuted to a wider satisfaction.
There is something in me that would like to systematise this process and lay out the philosophical conclusions in a nice grid with a variety of philosophical hypothesis and their refutations leaving behind only the conclusions that we can currently draw reasonably. Thereby everyone could be made to study this grid or chart and know exactly what they are getting into when they attempt to enter a philosophical debate.
Ah! Finally it seems we have reached the nub of the issue, the superiority complex of the trained philosopher! I am resenting the interference of what I see as the philosophically uninformed masses into my domain with their unclean refuted hypothesis! Perhaps I think to myself, 'I would not dream of telling an engineer how to build a bridge, or a mathematician how to solve Fermat's Last Theorem!' Yet when it comes to philosophy it seems anyone can stick their oar in, throw their two pennys down the well, or sound off down the pub. And yet…
Is this not the greatest strength of philosophy? Its a field in which everyone has an interest, I'm reminded of the 'I don't do politics' tv advert. If you don't do philosophy, what do you do? While it may frustrate the professional philosopher at just how often the untrained get it spectacularly wrong, the fact that they are out there doing it should reaffirm just how valuable philosophy is to us all. Philosopical matters are often the closest things to peoples hearts. Its all too easy to use an intellectual conscience as a battering ram to demolish other peoples world views. If you do so do not be suprised if you recieve angry reactions.
I delight, nowadays, in compromise and diplomacy. A compromise is a creative act, formulating a solution acceptable to all from idealogically opposed positions. In fact I think an attitude of 'no compromises' is one of the things I dislike most, its tied in with a lack of tolerance. Some people belive that things like compromises and diplomacy are signs of weakness (anti war protestors? the war on terror?).
I think constructive solutions to global problems will only ever be found when 'terrorists' (the word carries with it a lot of power I think, labelling someone a terrorist has become the slur of the day, rather like calling them tossers. Imagine the news stories retold 'So prime minister is it tossers?', 'Today tossers blew up the french embassy in russia') and their victims can sit at the same table as presidents and prime ministers and discuss their views together openly and honestly and some philosophically consistent facilitator can weave a compromise. Gradually we can build enough compromises across the world that people stop killing each other long enough to have a chance to think, then they can reach an consistent intellectual conscience in their own time, or at least move closer to it.