Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Theory vs. Reality.

The full title of the work is "The Popular Judgment: That May Be Right In Theory, But Does Not Hold Good In The Praxis".

Since I like to gripe, my main gripe here is that Librivox links to the works of Kant under  This work does have a significant political content, yet it was written in 1793, several years after the US Constitution was complete.  To even suppose an indirect influence on the US Constitution of his earlier works is to stretch the limits of credibility.

Kant's political writings mostly seem to be echoes of Locke, although he references other writers who also seem to be echoing Locke.  The only distinction I can see is that Locke was an advocate of revolution as soon as a government appeared to no longer be working, whereas Kant wants more loyalty, patience and an orderly transition to avoid anarchy.  Kant argues that the position of immediate overthrow is one based on the philosophy of Happiness as the end goal of humanity, whereas his philosophy of Duty to the Moral Law requires a different response.  

Kant also claims that the current society is greatly improved morally compared to earlier centuries and that improvement in the future can be realistically be hoped for.  He then describes a global government - a bit like the UN - which would raise moral standards to a higher level.  I wonder how he would feel about those of us who have lived to see the UN, but then view it as a drag on the morals of civilization.
California Whooping Cough Epidemic.

I have now completed two months of coughing and should only have one month remaining to recover from this undiagnosed ailment, presuming it really is whooping cough.  A few people have asked me how it is that someone as old as I am could get a children's disease.  My answer is that I am still young at heart.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Reconsidering Kant.

"The doctrine of Christianity, even if we do not yet consider it as a religious doctrine, gives, touching this point, a conception of the summum bonum (the kingdom of God), which alone satisfies the strictest demand of practical reason." - The Critique of Practical Reason

What more could I hope for?  Kant's reasoning that begins with the moral law - the knowledge of good and evil - leads him straight into Christianity.  Well, not quite.  Although Kant asserts the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and a universal moral law that we have a duty to obey, and acknowledges Christianity alone as having already realized this, it is still a long ways from Christianity.  The reason being that Christianity takes all that as givens that everyone is supposed to know by instinct before Christianity is introduced to them.  Back to this later.

Kant reiterates the fact that the classical philosophers had all viewed happiness as the end moral goal, although they argued that this was best attained through virtue.  Martyrdom to achieve happiness?  Augustine provided the best refutation to this in one book of City of God using empirical arguments, but Kant prefers a priori reasoning, should this be possible.  For this, Kant has earned some respect from me.

I am not sure precisely what the following means, but I take it to mean that Kant does not believe that a science of ethics is possible:

"By the methodology of pure practical reason we are not to understand the mode of proceeding with pure practical principles (whether in study or in exposition), with a view to a scientific knowledge of them, ..."

There are a great number of items that Kant hasn't dealt with that would seem to fall under his notion of Pure Practical Reason.  Sin and guilt are at the top of the list.  Elsewhere Kant asserts that a deity that would punish us for not obeying the moral law that he gave us would be an evil deity.  No derivation of this is to be found here.  To be fair, Kant noted that his work was "preliminary" and there were a great number of topics that he had to pass over.

One bothersome point in all this is Kant's notion that there is a Pure Reason involving logic, math and physics leading to the empirical that is totally disjoint from Practical Reason that involves the morals.  As such, it almost seems like he is opening the door to the bipolar views of modernists who want to embrace a Christian world view for their internal moral consumption and something contrary for everything else.  That could be a bit unfair to Kant.

Kant finishes with this simplistic shot at the history of mankind:

"The contemplation of the world began from the noblest spectacle that the human senses present to us, and that our understanding can bear to follow in their vast reach; and it ended- in astrology. Morality began with the noblest attribute of human nature, the development and cultivation of which give a prospect of infinite utility; and ended- in fanaticism or superstition."
Norway news:  Breivik declared insane.

Anders Breivik was the mass murderer who planted a truck bomb and then shot up a bunch of children after years of careful planning.  It seems to me - noting that I too have been called insane on many occasions - that Breivik's crimes are a good candidate for the death penalty, but this post is about the nature of insanity.  Thanks to being declared insane, Breivik will spend his life under the guidance of psychiatrists rather than prison wardens.

Breivik had wanted his country to discuss the implications of open borders and culture, but instead Norway will be absorbed in the discussion of the concept of insanity.  The insanity of the psychiatric profession is one candidate being discussed already, but also the belief of the far left that any one who has an opinion that deviates significantly from their own is necessarily insane.  There is the possibility that insanity is a mental disease that has multiplied in the modern era.  But then again, maybe an unwarranted broadening of the definition of insanity has simply drawn so many people into the net that we are all deluding ourselves that we are really descended from the Addams Family.

My philosophy of insanity starts with cats.  Cats are all insane, yet between them they have no such notion of insanity.  Whether they treat each other with respect or disdain is thus not effected by whether they hold the opinion that the other cat is insane.  Humans likewise should consider that we are all more or less equally insane, thus removing insanity as a factor in our consideration of the relative merits of one human compared to another.  An insane philosopher would then proclaim, "If my theory of insanity were embraced, all mankind would live in harmony".  I don't believe such, but it would certainly allow for more serious discussions if there was less discussion of insanity.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Sneaking Creationism in through the back door.

"Pure reason is practical of itself alone and gives (to man) a universal law which we call the moral law." - The Critique of Practical Reason, VII Fundamental Law of the Pure Practical Reason.

Kant's entire moral system is predicated on the belief that all men are born with a conscience that teaches us the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.  This is not something derived from experience or imparted by teaching, but truly something that we all have a priori.  But then Kant takes this a step further and asserts that this moral system that is in every human's conscience is universal.  This is the part that grabbed my attention.

As to whether or not mankind's moral compass could have occurred naturally or not, this is one of the critical defects in Darwinism.  All of us know people who have been both morally deficient and have done quite well in the survival of the fittest game so that the belief that our conscience evolved is hopeless.  "Not so!" they retort, because evolution has unimaginable supernatural powers.  Accepting that for the moment, we then face the observation of Kant:  The conscience that evolution has supposedly given the human race is universal, regardless of where the particular human was born and into what tribe and without any regard to where that tribe was from.  The Inuits who lived for countless generations in the arctic regions have the same moral law as those who came from the jungles or deserts along the equator.  It is a moral law that shows no significant deviation regardless of the particular species of human, yet we observed all kinds of other differences among men.  How is it that the various tribes of men could have evolved the same conscience in parallel?  The different environments would necessitate different arrangements among the members of a tribe for reasons of efficient exploitation of resources, and this would undoubtedly cause differences in the evolved conscience.  This we observe in all kinds of animals which exhibit different behaviors even among closely related species.

If we temporarily assume that - contrary to the beliefs of the Darwinists - that evolution doesn't have unlimited supernatural powers, then must seek some other explanation for how all members of the human race should be subject to the same conscience and that the moral law can thus be universal.  The Bible famously proposes that this was something that was given to Man when he ate of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as described in Genesis chapter 3.  We might also postulate that the reason that mankind has the same conscience is that it is transmitted to us directly by the Holy Spirit. Lest I be accused of neglecting possibilities, we could also suppose that space aliens came to Earth and reprogrammed the DNA of humans to have this conscience.  To simplify, we must either propose that mankind was universally programmed to the same moral law at some point or that some external force is imposing a universal law in spite of evolution.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Freewill and conscience.

"Freedom, however, is the only one of all the ideas of the speculative reason of which we know the possibility a priori (without, however, understanding it), because it is the condition of the moral law which we know." - The Critique of Practical Wisdom.

With the above and many similar statements, Kant imbibes a great deal of the philosophical framework of western theism and separates himself from Hume as well as the Epicureans and Skeptics.  The belief that the moral law - that is the knowledge of good and evil - is a priori is something that Christians receive in the beginning of the book of Genesis.  Undoubtedly Kant knows this, but doesn't mention it.  I should also note that this is one (of many) key difference between Genesis and the similar Babylonian writings.  

After the above quoted sentence, Kant provides the following to make sure I am thoroughly confused about whether he is a theist, and atheist, or both:

"The ideas of God and immortality, however, are not conditions of the moral law, but only conditions of the necessary object of a will determined by this law; that is to say, conditions of the practical use of our pure reason."

I should probably be careful to decipher this.  My sense is that he is saying that although God can't be shown to exist, the moral law effects our will in a way that causes us to need a notion of God.  Maybe he will clear thinks up more later.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Rebuttal to Looney.

"Nothing worse could happen to these labours than that anyone should make the unexpected discovery that there neither is, nor can be, any a priori knowledge at all.  But there is no danger of this.  This would be the same thing as if one sought to prove by reason that there is no reason." - The Critique of Practical Reason, Preface.

Yikes!  He foresaw my argument!  

My view on science, however, is best described by Popper's theory of falsification, which simply has no need of a priori knowledge. Regarding the classical Skeptic school, they rejected all knowledge, whether a priori or a posteriori as dogmatic ignorance.  My sense is that Hume, wanted to be known as both a Skeptic and a Scientist at the same time, thus he decided that he could safely admit tautologies as permissible a priori knowledge and use this as a basis for scientific inquiry that didn't conflict with skepticism.  For those of you who don't know what a tautology is, I will let Doris Day explain it since she is quite clear and eloquent:

A tautology is guaranteed to be true always, but avoids any potential risk of being wrong.  What will be will be, will be.  What is, is.  Man is a social animal because he is social.  Hume thus explains all of human nature by referring to what is, while steadfastly rejecting a purely empirical foundation to science, thus, attempting to keep his Skeptic credentials intact while providing a very long winded illusion of science of human nature.  To Hume's method the label of empiricism is given, thus causing intellectual confusion that reigns to this day.  Of Hume's science of human nature - and the wisdom of Doris Day's mother - no matter how much time is consumed studying it, you will know nothing more when you are done than when you started, which is the nature of tautologies.

I still have a lot to learn about Kant, but it is clear that he wants to not only include tautologies in his a priori catalog, but also all of classical logic and mathematics.  At the same time, in this preface to his work on practical reason he seems to be honoring empirical reasoning with a status that is worthy of respect while noting that it is entirely distinct from pure reason.  Wondering where all this leads ...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"I saw a man being beaten with my eyes." - Aristotle, Sophistical Refutations.

Ambiguous gems like this provide a bit of entertainment while reading this work.  If you hope to be a lawyer earning a living by making specious arguments, or fear that you might have to deal with such people, then this is the handbook.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Got lemons?

This is the lemon tree growing in my backyard.  I have taken about 40 or 50 lemons off the tree this season already, but it is still loaded.  Tomorrow I need to harvest another big load of them.  

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Then a miracle occurs.

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant starts out being dismissive of all dogmatic proclamations of metaphysics.  He then moves into his transcendental doctrines where I soon found myself overwhelmed with distinctions that relate to the same general topics that are included in the collection of dogmatics known as Aristotle's Organum.  Yikes!  This is problematic since I can't process the material at the speed of the spoken word and clearly need to do some remedial work, starting with completing my own reading of Aristotle's Organum.  It is also problematic because Kant's Skeptical starting point is not capable of deriving anything, yet he is effortlessly deriving all kinds of stuff.  Thus, the cartoon.  The other thing I need to do is to read some commentaries on these works to make sure I am processing things without deviating too far from the correct understanding.  More work and all for a good cause ... if only I could define 'good' and 'cause'.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Space and Time.

Kant certainly deserves great praise for his ability in choosing profound sounding section headings. One that I am looking at is entitled "Transcendental Exposition of the Conception of Space". What could be more profound than that?

A bit earlier Kant writes:

"From this investigation it will be found that there are two pure forms of sensuous intuition, as principles of knowledge a priori, namely, space and time." - The Critique of Pure Reason

To this I must complain that space and time are not known a priori, but rather from experience.  The reasons for this are many, but my professional experience of using n-dimensions and non-Euclidean spaces is partially the reason, while the fact that a computer must be explicitly programmed with things to represent space and time in the same manner as any other quantity has destroyed any hope of me thinking this way.  Einstein is under a bit of pressure recently due to the famous neutrino experiments, but his conception of space and time is radically different from the one of Kant.  At the sub-atomic particle level, new dimensions are apparently required for the experiments.  As such the concept of space and time is ambiguous, being subject to a variety of conflicting representations with Kant's preferred a priori one being known to have many deficiencies.  Thus, I conclude that our conceptions of space and time were derived from our experience as children just as we learned of color, smell, texture and other properties.  Finally, my Christian viewpoint says that time and space are created entities, thus, it is impossible to conceive that they could be a priori realities.

As a further note, the handling of space and time in the Metaphysics does seem to me to be a bit removed from this so that it admits to more than one way of defining space and time.  Rather than space, for example, Aristotle chooses extension, while time is replaced with a sequence of causes.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Analytic vs. Synthetic; a priori; Science

Kant begins with some definitions that he deems important.  Analytic and synthetic are clearly critical concepts to understand what follows, thus, I will give them some attention.  These two terms relate to "predicates", which is to be understood as descriptions of objects.  

"Either the predicate B belongs to the subject A, as somewhat which is contained (though covertly) in the conception A; or the predicate B lies completely out of the conception A, although it stands in connection with it. In the first instance, I term the judgement analytical, in the second, synthetical." - The Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction, Of the Difference Between Analytical and Synthetical Judgements.

Since I have read Aristotle's Metaphysics, it seems quite clear that what Kant has defined as Analytic pertains to what Aristotle defined as Essence, whereas Synthetic pertains to what Aristotle defined to be Accident.  Thus, we see that although Kant condemns all prior metaphysical speculation as having been the work of babbling idiots, he proceeds to embrace the same concepts in verbal disguise. 

a priori 

Kant's definition of Metaphysics is that it involves the things which stand on reason alone utterly apart from human experience.  Reason that is independent of human experience he labels a priori, meaning that its truths are prior to experiment and not dependent on artificial hypotheses.  He asserts that this is of the utmost importance:

"As regards certitude, I have fully convinced myself that, in this sphere of thought, opinion is perfectly inadmissible, and that everything which bears the least semblance of an hypothesis must be excluded, as of no value in such discussions. For it is a necessary condition of every cognition that is to be established upon a priori grounds that it shall be held to be absolutely necessary; much more is this the case with an attempt to determine all pure a priori cognition, and to furnish the standard—and consequently an example— of all apodeictic (philosophical) certitude." - The Critique of Pure Reason

As for examples of a priori reasoning, we have this:

"Mathematics and physics are the two theoretical sciences which have to determine their objects a priori. The former is purely a priori, the latter is partially so, but is also dependent on other sources of cognition." - The Critique of Pure Reason

At this point I am certain that the notion of a priori is hooey - hooey being an Analytic predicate. The reason is that mathematics derived from experience.  Number theory undoubtedly started with the counting of fingers.  The rules of geometry became apparent most likely from architecture.  Algebra and calculus were the result of physics.  Logic itself, although seemingly the most obvious candidate for a priori, is also something we initially understand through experience.  Thus, I reject the notion of a priori with only one exception:

"And the Lord God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever'." - Genesis 3:22

Thus, the only candidate for a priori reason in humans is the knowledge of good and evil, but to make such an assertion would be to reject all of modernist notions of philosophy.


"Thus, the critique of reason leads at last, naturally and necessarily, to science; and, on the other hand, the dogmatical use of reason without criticism leads to groundless assertions, against which others equally specious can always be set, thus ending unavoidably in scepticism." - The Critique of Pure Reason

Again, we must highlight the difference between skepticism and true science with the notion of falsification.  The original leader of the Skeptic school, Pyrrho, was noted for needing to be saved by his friends when he was about to be run over by a cart.  Being a Skeptic, he could find no reason to determine if the cart was real or not, thus, he could not justify stepping out of the way.  Skepticism is - literally - intellectual suicide.  It is on this foundation that Kant proposes to establish the theory of science.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): The Critique of Pure Reason, second edition.

This is 17 hours of audio, so I will be at it awhile. The preface covers a huge amount of territory as Kant insists he has refuted Aristotle's metaphysics and invented an entirely new one that revolutionizes the concepts of human understanding. Kant has preempted any criticism by noting that his age (then 64) precludes using the rigor needed to avoid all inconsistency, but the overall thesis is unassailable.

The skeptic mode of anti-reasoning is still employed, so that we see this kind of statement:

"This is of course very easy; as the same arguments which demonstrated the inability of human reason to affirm the existence of a Supreme Being must be alike sufficient to prove the invalidity of its denial."

Needless to say, the proposal of a skeptic philosopher to develop an unassailable science of metaphysics should cause the classical philosophers to engage in uncontrollable fits of laughter from their graves.  Unlike Hume, Kant does seem to have an interest and familiarity with the progress of true science as he discusses Copernicus and Bacon along with the ideas of Newton without naming him.  I am anxious to see how far he succeeds in this work.

Professionally, I also have an interest in this subject.  My job being scientific and engineering software development, the understanding of human cognition so that I might understand and map the abstract mental processes onto a computer implementation is something that I constantly face.  Thus, whether I agree or not with Kant's conclusion, the intellectual engagement will undoubtedly stimulate me to something better.

There is one statement in the preface which has me scratching my head a bit regarding Kant:

"Criticism alone can strike a blow at the root of materialism, fatalism, atheism, free-thinking, fanaticism, and superstition, which are universally injurious—as well as of idealism and scepticism, which are dangerous to the schools, but can scarcely pass over to the public."

Is he speaking of scientific criticism?  Or the critical methods of the skeptics?  These are mutually exclusive, so it cannot be both.  That Kant here asserts atheism to be "injurious" begs the question of in what manner his doctrines differ from atheism.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):  Call to Duty.

This is a review of The Fundamental Metaphysics of Morals.  This work has a promising start as Kant observes that the greatest good is that of a good will:

"Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a good will."

At this point he should have acknowledged the existence of John Calvin and the doctrine of Total Depravity, but this was not to be.  Instead, the topic is pontificated about a bit and then dropped.  A big problem for the neo-Epicureans is that the only moral code they were able to draw upon was one of enlightened self interest, but Kant is smart enough to see that this won't work.  Furthermore, even if enlightened self interest causes someone to do what is right, because he did it for self interest we do not credit him with having done anything morally significant.  Kant hits upon the notion of duty as being the missing item.  To this end the notion of duty is developed with Kant's version of the Golden Rule.  Another admonition involves treating men as ends rather than means which also seems to me to be a well intended but faulty rework of "love your neighbor as yourself".  

A smirk is in order here because Kant is clearly drawing on theistic notions of duty to patch up a failed atheist system.  The rewording is necessary to avoid giving too much credit to the source.  One point that I especially like in Kant's system is that he requires a notion of free will, even though atheism explicitly rejects free will:

"A rational being must always regard himself as giving laws either as member or as sovereign in a kingdom of ends which is rendered possible by the freedom of will. He cannot, however, maintain the latter position merely by the maxims of his will, but only in case he is a completely independent being without wants and with unrestricted power adequate to his will."

This free will is much less than most Christian theologians, since it is a free will that is only effective until an animal impulse kicks in and we start craving something.

Having stolen his system from theists, Kant somehow thinks it good sense to condemn the author of the system that he plagiarized:

"Amongst the rational principles of morality, the ontological conception of perfection, notwithstanding its defects, is better than the theological conception which derives morality from a Divine absolutely perfect will.  ... the only notion of the Divine will remaining to us is a conception made up of the attributes of desire of glory and dominion, combined with the awful conceptions of might and vengeance, and any system of morals erected on this foundation would be directly opposed to morality."

Or to put it another way, the speed limit is immoral if there are police driving up and down the highway ticketing scofflaws.   Kant is unable to face the Doctrine of Total Depravity.  The problems with the atheist duty model are the exact same that Plato noted:  There is no one to whom our duty is obligated and there is no controlling legal authority.  No matter how many eloquent words are put in print, it all adds up to nothing.

Back to the self-interest vs. duty topic: At the beginning Kant asserts that these two motivations alone represent all possible motivations for moral behavior.  To this I must also object and cite a Bible verse:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

The problem is that God's saving of mankind was neither self-interest nor duty, yet God chose to do this anyway.  There is a higher and purer form of ethical behavior that Kant cannot conceive of, much less explain its metaphysics.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):  Question Authority.

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another." - What is Enlightenment.

Maturity means never listening to someone else's opinion, but formulating ones own whether one is capable or not.  Immaturity the reverse.  If only it were so simple!  Given that errors come in far more varieties than truth, and Kant's formula prizes deviation for the sake of deviation, it would seem that his quest for enlightenment should be realized to the same degree that error increased.  Aristotle gave a three-fold split regarding opinion:  There is philosophy, sophistry and dialectic.  Sophistry is the deliberate fabrication of wordy but erroneous arguments, while dialectic is about being nitpicky to the point that nothing gets accomplished.  Aristotle believes only philosophy is valid, although sophistry and dialectic are by far the most common.  Kant doesn't seem to know about such distinctions.

There is another point of interest:

"In the same way, a clergyman is bound to instruct his pupils and his congregation in accordance with the doctrines of the church he serves, for he was employed by it on that condition. But as a scholar, he is completely free as well as obliged to impart to the public all his carefully considered, well-intentioned thoughts on the mistaken aspects of those doctrines, and to offer suggestions for a better arrangement of religious and ecclesiastical affairs."

Maybe I am reading too much into this, but given the surrounding words I understood Kant to mean that a clergyman, though employed for the purpose of imparting Christian doctrine, has a higher duty to teach atheism, destroy the faith and corrupt the morals of the congregation.  No doubt he would deny this, but I still see it as a call to seminary professors, preachers and other teachers to make war on Christianity and civilization in general while speciously claiming that they are under an unshakable moral obligation to do so.

To express it a different way, I would consider an Islamic cleric teaching Jihad.  I may think this wrong, but to the degree that the cleric's teaching and life were in conformance with his genuine belief, I would not condemn.  For an atheist to pretend to be a legitimate Islamic cleric for the purpose of gaining money and disturbing faith, however, I would consider more reprehensible than a deluded, but sincere terrorist. 

Enlightenment:  Enlightenment is the process of going around a town at dusk, pouring gasoline everywhere, soaking flammables into every structure, and then striking a match.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):  Occupy Earth.

In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, Kant is in a bad mood.  Everywhere he sees injustice, violence and war.  How to fix it?

As with the current occupy crowd, he sees it in political reform, but somehow gets things backwards.  Regarding direct democracy he says:

"Of the three forms of the state, that of democracy is, properly speaking, necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power in which "all" decide for or even against one who does not agree; that is, "all," who are not quite all, decide, and this is a contradiction of the general will with itself and with freedom."

Instead, Kant's sole hope is in the establishment of Republics that conform to natural law.  Theoretically the US would be the prime example.  (It should be noted that Kant's statement is a rephrasing of identical ideas from Plato and Polybius.)  In our current age, even this hope is gone, but I generally wonder why such a hope sprung up anyway.  The first appendix has one statement that jumped out:

"Then it may be said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of pure practical reason and its righteousness, and your end (the blessing of perpetual peace) will necessarily follow.'"

We should compare this to the Biblical reference from which it is taken:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33

'God' has been changed to 'pure practical reason'.  Noting that I haven't yet gotten to Kant's peculiar definition of 'pure practical reason' in my readings, this still seems to be putting man in God's place.  I have a sense that Kant views pure reason as something inherently good morally, and to this I strongly disagree.  The reasons include the fact that good people frequently have less intelligence than the wicked and as others have pointed out many times, reason in its most intense form is too often observed taking the lead in evil deeds.

The second Appendix struggles to end on a positive note after all the negative ranting, but it doesn't seem particularly convincing.

"If it is a duty to make real (even if only through approximation in endless progress) the state of public law, and if there is well-grounded hope that this can actually be done, then perpetual peace, as the condition that will follow what has erroneously been called "treaties of peace" (but which in reality are only armistices), is not an empty idea. As the times required for equal steps of progress become, we hope, shorter and shorter, perpetual peace is a problem which, gradually working out its own solution, steadily approaches its goal."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): The Golden Tin Rule.

"So act that you can will that your maxim could become a universal law, regardless of the end." - Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, Appendix I

And for quick reference this seems to relate to the Golden Rule:

"Do to others what you would have them do to you." - Matthew 7:12

And the inverse form used by Plato and Confucius:

"Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."

I have heard Kant praised for his form but - being hopelessly biased - I find it highly problematic.  As C.S. Lewis noted, the form that Jesus gives us is the only one that provides guidance for positive action.  We could argue that Kant's view does permit positive maxims, however, we would only be able to justify them if we felt it reasonable to compel all of mankind to do the same.  This is a non-starter.

A separate complaint is that Kant's rule presumes someone of a universalist philosophical mindset.  Practically speaking, the vast majority of people aren't so inclined.  The Golden rule and the rules of Plato and Confucius have the benefit that they can adapt themselves to the circumstances of localities.  Kant's rule cannot, unless we want to add vast quantities of fine print.  Anyway, when I was healthy my maxim was to start swimming in a cold lake at 6am twice a week.  The world is undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief that I have not followed Kant and imposed this as a universal law.

What would have been helpful is if Kant had listed the Golden rule and its variants beforehand and then defended his version in contrast to the others.  This was the method of Aristotle and the better Scholastics, but the style has shifted so that this kind of preparatory work in philosophical writing is passed over.  
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): The Injustice of Illegal Downloads.

The actual title is The Injustice of Counterfeiting Books.  Kant argues that the counterfeiting of books is a violation of elementary moral principles.  The part that stood out to me relates to distinctions between art, inventions and books.  For example:

"A drawing, which any one has delineated, or got engraved by another, or executed in stone, in metal, or in stucco, may be copied, and the copies publicly sold; as every thing, that one can perform with his thing in his own name, requires not the consent of another." - The Injustice of Counterfeiting Books.

and in contrast:

"But the writing of another is the speech of a person, and whoever publishes it can speak to the public but in the name of this other, and say nothing more of himself, than that the author makes the following speech to the public through him."

I was inclined to agree with Kant when I started this, but the more I listened the more I disagreed, since statements like the above seem to be brought up with no basis other than to fluff up the argument.

When books could only be copied by hand the notion of counterfeiting in copying wasn't even dreamed of.  If one person could copy a book faster than another, he would be praised and no one would care if he had a right to make a copy.  Why is it that the ability to copy a work at costs that are hundreds of times less expensive than a hand copy should result in the creation of a new act of injustice?  The only possible reasoning is that the ability to make cheap copies of books generates new economic activity that we deem beneficial to society, and counterfeiting threatens this new economic activity.  Society must, however, make a decision that the new economic activity is something that it values first. An argument from natural law is impossible, since we accept trashy novels along with publications that are good and wholesome with no distinction under this counterfeiting rule.  It seems to me that Kant should have first begun with an argument that professional writers and publishers protected by copyright laws are beneficial to society, but he has completely ignored this point.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716): Monadology

This work is more like a table of contents for a larger work.  What I am gathering is that there was some effort to try to bring physics, psychology and the human soul, together with theology all into a single grand theory of everything.  The atomists were one school with their notion of very small, infinitely hard spheres.  Leibniz considers that this would be insufficient and proposes something he calls monads which have more complex behavior.  I won't pretend to understand all this, giving the excuse that I have been doing a lot of kinetic theory derivations and simulations recently so that the monadal makeup of my soul is not capable of harmonically resonating with that of Leibniz.

What strikes me after reading many 16th-18th century philosophers is the effort expended to formulate the Theory of Everything.  Aristotle famously tries to cover everything while the Epicureans flattered themselves that they actually achieved knowledge and understanding of Everything.  As philosophy revives with the scholastics, the emphasis is on theology with man as a secondary part and God the primary.  No attempt is made to fully derive the psychological makeup of man, while physics is a given.  I haven't read the middle scholastic writers, so can't comment, but the Theory of Everything seems to be resurfacing as I read Descartes and especially Spinoza.  Bacon discusses all three elements also, but doesn't seem to try to unify them.  Locke supposedly gets the ball rolling further with his works that I haven't read, while Hume - not knowing the difference between a scientific theory and a tautology - conceitedly proclaims to have developed the science of human nature in a manner that explains everything.  My next destination is about 40 hours of recordings of Immanuel Kant's writings.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

After the rain.

My wife and I had a nice outing in Sunol Park this morning.  The cough accompanied us, but we are thankful to the Creator that we still had the energy.  Fall in northern California is when the dry season ends.  Some trees start shedding their leaves, but the rains start turning the grasses from brown to green.

John Locke (1632-1704):  Religious Toleration.

John Locke wrote A Letter Concerning Toleration in 1689, the same year he wrote Two Treatises of Government.  Both of these works are important to the founding of the United States.  Reading these two works essentially together, it is clear that they have a unity of thought that would make it suspect to try analyzing their principles separately.  Locke's view of civil government is one that is extremely limited and subject to being rescinded at any moment by the people.  A "church", as Locke has defined it, is similarly a voluntary association of individuals who join together for purpose of religious ceremony.  Within this framework there is considerable room for separation and Locke gives us this:

"This only I say, that, whencesoever their authority be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the Church, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the Church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immovable. He jumbles heaven and earth together, the things most remote and opposite, who mixes these two societies, which are in their original, end, business, and in everything perfectly distinct and infinitely different from each other." - A Letter Concerning Toleration.

Keeping in mind that the governments of the 17th century were necessarily limited for reasons of technology and economy, the above assumption that church and civil society had no need to bump into each other might not be totally implausible.  Still, he allows for some friction between the two and outlines what appear to be sensible principles for arbitration. A question that is completely absent from both of Locke's long dissertations is how to handle education - whether this fall under the civil or church authorities.  

Locke's view of toleration is that all religions should be permitted to worship both privately and publicly.  This would include papists, Mohammedans, idolators, Jews, etc.  Between all these groups, he allows for persuasion of all kinds to be used with no limits set by the civil authorities.  In this matter, however, he identifies three exceptions:     

1. "I say, first, no opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare. For no sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness as that it should think fit to teach, for doctrines of religion, such things as manifestly undermine the foundations of society and are, therefore, condemned by the judgement of all mankind; because their own interest, peace, reputation, everything would be thereby endangered."

In our day and age, we do have groups which deliberately work to undermine the moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society.  At the same time they make false accusations against those who would preserve the morals that they are actually debasing them.  Oh well.

2. "Again: That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince."

Having listed Mohammedans and papists as ones who deserve religious toleration, Locke then lists the same two as violating this principle.

3. "Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist."

The problem here is that there are atheists who - in spite of their beliefs - are truthful for reasons of custom or conscience, whereas there are examples of religious folk who have no regard for God and lie anyways.  
Watch Out.

It was inevitable.  After several days of missing my watch and finally writing a blog post lamenting the fact, there came a bit of whimpering sound from under my desk.  A careful search followed and my beloved watch was found.  How could this happen?

I have been sick for nearly two months with what is probably whooping cough.  Periodically the coughing picks up to the point that I pass out.  Twice I woke up on the floor, but usually I collapse in my chair and onto the desk.  The best I can figure is that in one of those fits I knocked my watch onto the floor and kicked it away.  She was hurt, but promised to try and not take it too personally.  It is important to be forgiving in relationships.
John Locke (1632-1704):  Power to the People!

Locke's Two Treatises on Civil Government Book II is a must read for anyone who would hope to be a Teaparty member in good standing.  It outlines the branches of America's current government and provides the arguments for which this design was chosen.

Locke begins with a discussion of "natural rights" and the affairs of American Indians.  The Indians held great tracts in common, yet their greatest leaders were poorer than a common laborer in England.  Locke claims that the reason that the extreme wealth of the English compared to the poverty of the Indians was centered in property rights:  The English had the power to work there own land in security, thus, increasing output a hundred fold.  He then compares a miser who hoards up tremendous wealth but doesn't use it to the Indians who held vast tracts but didn't sensibly employ it. His end conclusion is that the first and foremost purpose of government is to establish and preserve property rights so that the people will flourish.  Inheritance of property rights is also fundamental.

As for the kind of government, Locke believes that a commonwealth - actually a Democratic Republic - is the only legitimate kind where a group of individuals consciously choose to live together under common laws.  Fear of tyranny is a key part of this, so checks and balances are discussed involving the three branches:  Legislative (which has the primacy), Executive and Judicial.  Those who legislate may not judge, and vice versa.  This rule is to insure consistency in the rule of law and minimize corruption.

A theme running throughout his writing is hostility to inherited title and lordship over others.  He asserts that each person is born free and this is undermined by notions that someone can inherit lordship.  This principle cuts two ways.  Locke asserts that someone can legitimately be a slave having had a Just War waged against them and having been defeated and forced to submit.  But just as lordship cannot be inherited, so it is also that slavery cannot be inherited either.  Thus, Locke lays out an argument against both monarchy and slavery in the  same text.

Locke has a number of classical references including Plato's threefold discussion of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy.  A weakness is that Locke has mainly waved his hands over the problems that Plato highlighted - that the end of democracy was the people voting to steal each others property.  Locke tries to remedy this by asserting that the commonwealth has a right to dissolve itself and reconstitute a new government in any case where tyranny has taken hold.  So what do we do if populist madness overcomes the Democracy and use their authority to appropriate the property of their neighbors?  Or the opposite - that the slightest injury from the government is taken to be proof that the government has descended to a tyranny that violates natural rights?  The formula seems to me be something that leaves the nation always on the edge of upheaval.  Thus, the second amendment.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


This post is to lament the disappearance of my Casio Pathfinder watch.  If it had been a mere Rolex, I would not be in mourning, but a Casio Pathfinder is something different.  The altimeter and compass accompanied me over countless mountains in the fog, letting me know where I was and what direction I should go.  She accompanied me on swims to and fro around Alcatraz and on bicycle rides for great distances.  We have trekked through scorching desert heat and gone to frozen mountain summits.  Even on the airplane she provided me with additional data regarding the ascent and descent of the plane together with information about the cabin pressure management of different aircraft.

We first met each other at a watch store in the mall near the University of California, San Diego.  My daughter had just started there in 2004 and we were accompanying my daughter to get her settled in.  As we were shopping we came upon a little shop where my eyes were somehow drawn to the Casio's beauty.  It was love at first sight.  The band was just the right kind that I could be comfortable with.  The display large enough to be clearly seen in various lighting conditions.  It was heavy duty.  The store keeper told me how this watch was the kind that was issued to US soldiers and that one and had helped keep him alive.  I purchased her and brought her home with me.

The relationship continued faithfully for many years.  All the other watches that had been in my life I put aside and cherished this one alone.  So it continued until my beloved watch became sick about two years ago.  I took her to a nearby repair shop to see if the battery replacement would solve things.  The repairmen looked at it and informed me that this kind of watch has four batteries and would need additional cost to repair.  With this input, I knew why it was that she had seemed so electrifying, so I immediately said "fix her whatever the cost".  This done, we went our way and cherished two more years of intimate companionship.

But now she is gone.  Oh how I miss her!  My wife pulled another watch from the drawer which my son inherited from me, but then gave back.  This is a Polar heart rate monitor watch which is also good for sports, but lacks the compass and altimeter.  Somehow I can't bring myself to go back to this earlier acquaintance.  Yes, the Polar watch still has the appearance of youth and beauty like when she was new, but it is hard to move on when my heart still yearns for my true love.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

David Hume (1711-1776):  Burn it!

"If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion." - An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, final concluding thought.

The above quoted sentence is from Hume's sequel to his earlier more massive work on human nature.  Now that I have gone through more than 1,600 pages of Hume's metaphysics, I am prepared to answer those questions that Hume proposes - with the caveat that "experimental reasoning" I will change to "scientific experiments", since most of us have had enough of politicians engaged in "experimental reasoning".  

Did Hume do any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?  NO!  Did he perform any scientific experiments concerning matter of fact and existence?  NO!  'nuff said.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

David Hume (1711-1776):  Proud as a Peacock.

"It is plain, that almost in every species of creatures, but especially of the nobler kind, there are many evident marks of pride and humility. The very port and gait of a swan, or turkey, or peacock show the high idea he has entertained of himself, and his contempt of all others. This is the more remarkable, that in the two last species of animals, the pride always attends the beauty, and is discovered in the male only." - A Treatise of Human Nature, Book II, Part I, Section XII

I suppose my pride is like the pride of a male peacock, but what of my wife?  Anyway, it struck me that all male peacocks are proud in the same way at the same time for the same reason - and this is driven by a natural instinct related to the preservation of the species.  What do we make of a person who is proud of his Rolex watch?  The variety of things that humans are proud of is breathtaking, yet just about everything we are proud of can also be a source of shame.  Hume notes this and declares that the strength of his system is that it can explain all that.  This may be true but - as with evolution - it never achieves more than 0 digits of precision.  Like evolution, Hume's psychology also accepts all possible outcomes so that falsification is impossible.  Back to the peacock, however, and I will put my skeptic hat on to declare that a male peacock has no concept whatever of his pride or his contempt of others.  He is simply overwhelmed with hormones and behaving in a way that is devoid of consciousness.  As soon as  the hormones are gone, so will be the pride.  This is totally different from a grandparent's pride in a grandchild.  There are no hormones driving anything.

Hume does seem to have some stimulating thoughts at times, and one is with regard to the relationship between passion and reason:

"Nothing is more usual in philosophy, and even in common life, than to talk of the combat of passion and reason, to give the preference to reason, and assert that men are only so far virtuous as they conform themselves to its dictates. ...   In order to shew the fallacy of all this philosophy, I shall endeavour to prove first, that reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will; and secondly, that it can never oppose passion in the direction of the will." - Book II, Part III, Section III

Of course Hume - being a skeptic - has no positive principles, so he can't show anything.  Yet at the same time, this is certainly a concept worth pondering.  First, I would note that in all Hume's science, there is not a single tool or instrument at his disposal that wasn't available from the beginning of humanity.  We observe character and make judgments, yet what we (OK, just I) judge seems to be as often completely wrong as right.  Classical philosophy did identify passions as bad and reason as good, although Cicero's On The Nature Of The Gods has an Academic character who argues that reason can be an independent source of evil in itself.  To this there is a remark by the Apostle Paul in Romans that would seem to apply:

"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" - Romans 8:21-24

I don't think things need to be so neatly packaged.  Reason can be for both good or ill.  Passions in the most primitive state are certainly neutral, yet I believe that human passions are reinforced or trained for good or ill by experience so that they move out of the morally neutral condition.  Hume seems to acknowledge this also as he tries to hit every possible angle of his philosophy of psychology.  So which is the controlling one?  I feel this is a bit like asking whether a zebra is white with black stripes or black with white stripes.  It is hardly worth disputing.  That we are composed of both passions and reason is simply a fact. That we have conflicts or agreement between passions and passions, between reasons and reasons, and between passions and reasons is much of what makes psychology intractable to science.

Friday, November 11, 2011

David Hume (1711-1776):  The consequences of the doctrine that "All Opinions Are False".

"Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm, which beats upon me from every side. I have exposed myself to the enmity of all metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at the insults I must suffer?" - Book I, Part III, Section VII (Conclusion of this book)

My advice to Hume is to stick to your principles.  How do we know that all those metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians and theologians even exist?  Is this view of existence of intellectuals not merely a product of custom?  And how can we discern an insult from a complement?  If such entities as logicians exist and are always wrong, would they not be offended at a true conclusion so that an insult was merely conclusive proof of the truth of Hume's system?

There is only one puzzle for me to sort out, which is why Hume - who rejected the truth of all opinions - should have wanted so badly to make a career out of publishing and teaching opinions.  Reading the Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) article on Hume, it appears that Hume escaped much criticism for the simple reason that few bought this massive book and even fewer cared to read it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

David Hume (1711-1776):  Regarding Cause and Effect.

"According to the precedent doctrine, there are no objects which by the mere survey, without consulting experience, we can determine to be the causes of any other; and no objects, which we can certainly determine in the same manner not to be the causes. Any thing may produce any thing. Creation, annihilation, motion, reason, volition; all these may arise from one another, or from any other object we can imagine. Nor will this appear strange, if we compare two principles explained above, THAT THE CONSTANT CONJUNCTION OF OBJECTS DETERMINES THEIR CAUSATION, AND [Part I. Sect. 5.] THAT, PROPERTY SPEAKING, NO OBJECTS ARE CONTRARY TO EACH OTHER BUT EXISTENCE AND NON-EXISTENCE." - A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part III, Section XV

In other words, correlation can be observed, but causation is a myth - or at least causation is something that Hume believes that human understanding is not capable of discerning.  I have already listened to Hume lecture for several hours, so I must recall back to an earlier comment:

"Ideas produce the images of themselves in new ideas; but as the first ideas are supposed to be derived from impressions, it still remains true, that all our simple ideas proceed either mediately or immediately, from their correspondent impressions." - Book I, Part I, Section VII

Here Hume seems to be saying that there is a strict order of cause and effect where impressions give rise to ideas that give rise to other ideas.  Based on the fact that those who are born blind never have an impression or idea of color, he also argues that no idea can come into being without there being a corresponding impression.  Hume does allow for some possibility of ideas not caused by impressions, but then gives us this:

"I believe there are few but will be of opinion that he can; and this may serve as a proof, that the simple ideas are not always derived from the correspondent impressions; though the instance is so particular and singular, that it is scarce worth our observing, and does not merit that for it alone we should alter our general maxim."

It seems we are reaching a point where Hume asserts that Cause and Effect are concepts easily demonstrated for the science of human opinions, but not for mechanics.  We can go further and say that Hume claims that human's are subjected to the laws of Cause and Effect, but otherwise nature is not.  Another note is that Hume is quite adept at discerning cause and effect regarding human opinions in other subtle ways:

"Custom has two original effects upon the mind, in bestowing a facility in the performance of any action or the conception of any object; and afterwards a tendency or inclination towards it; and from these we may account for all its other effects, however extraordinary." - Book II, Part III, Section V.

Given the amount of ink spilled on like topics, it is tempting to say that Hume's philosophy is an effect where the cause is a desire to employ political rhetoric as a substitute for the scientific method.  Political rhetoric is full of ad hominems such as "my policy proposals are correct because my opponent is a womanizer".  Thus, the various ad hominems of political rhetoric are categorized, dissected and presented in a long winded manner as if they are the only means whereby humans form their opinions.

Book I Part III Section XV does outline a few criteria for determining Cause from Effect, but they are such as to be no more than what the simplest of humans will deduce, while providing us no guidance for anything of moderate or greater difficulty.  In this manner I feel that Francis Bacon writing 120 years earlier was by far the superior scientific philosopher.