July 12, 2005

Not about bestiality

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.

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  1. Well spoken, until you lost me with some of those big words. I am a simple physicsist after all. (Except that I'm not anymore…hurrah!)

    I have come to the conclusion that my most recent post was a bad idea. I should have supplied it as the answer to the original conversation I was having, and left it at that, without giving the world the chance to argue with me. Not because I don't want the argument, but because it is pointless (as neither side seem likely to agree with the other any time soon), time consuming and aggrovating. Of course, now it's there I can't really take it away, without looking like I am admitting defeat. So on the whole I am just ignoring it.

    12 Jul 2005, 17:03

  2. John Dale

    The book that reminded me of this was a suprisingly good little book on philosophy…

    You tease us with this enticing description, but then don't tell us what the book is!

    12 Jul 2005, 20:10

  3. This is a really excellent post, Dan, it says a lot of stuff that I tried to touch on in one of my earlier self–obsessed rants, or whatever it is that I do on that blog of mine. I would tend to agree with a lot of what you've said here, but I'm still a young, developing mind, and I'm not too sure that I'm ready to commit myself to diplomacy just yet. That said – excellent entry, top notch stuff, I'll photocopy it and slip it inside the Big Issues that I'll no doubt be selling on the streets in a few years time.

    12 Jul 2005, 20:11

  4. To throw my two pennies down the well… I'd say that compromise is good, however, there must be some opposing viewpoints that simply don't have an acceptable compromise, or at least not one that is discoverable by anyone with enough influence to suggest it to all parties.

    13 Jul 2005, 03:21

  5. I was right, this did piss me off a bit, but not as much as it would have last night when i was already pissed off with you. I would scream at you but you look far too sweet.

    13 Jul 2005, 06:46

  6. The book I was refering to was 'The Philosopher at the End of the Universe'. It explains philosophy through modern science fiction cinema.

    Nick: I had considered adding a paragraph about limits to compromise but then I figured that the philosophically consistent facilitator could deal with most extreme cases so I didn't bother.

    Helen: :p

    13 Jul 2005, 08:57

  7. lol

    13 Jul 2005, 13:38

  8. Philosophy being essentially thought, it would be a shame for everyone not to be able to join in. In fact, to jump in the middle of a big metaphorical lake, one might argue that those who don't jump in are the most dangerous as they will follow what they are told without any greater reflection. Religious extremists are often brought up in this set way of thinking, and act before anyone has a chance to offer them a different point of view.

    At least by promoting democracy and the freedom of thought, these people will be more open to a wider debate and will be able to engage in a more open dialogue. Perhaps then, these groups will gradually fade away…

    14 Jul 2005, 16:19

  9. will

    Yes very deep. But could you just make another pirate box next time.

    22 Jul 2005, 16:00

  10. Well that would't be very original now would it?

    I have facets! Facets I tell you!

    25 Jul 2005, 12:54

  11. I wanted Bestiality :(

    27 Jul 2005, 19:47

  12. You would.

    28 Jul 2005, 13:07

  13. Wouldn't we all? (Appart from Colin – beastiality seems too light a subject for the dark lord of the hat…)

    28 Jul 2005, 21:37

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