Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shudder

It is a little petrifying when right after this (where mention was made about a "value-vacuum"), one should read this (err ... don't judge a blogger by the url of his links) -

To assume the right to new values - that is the most terrifying assumption for a load-bearing and reverent spirit. To such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.
Nietzsche talks about how the spirit metamosphoses from camel to lion to child. One can see how this is the basis of his argument towards the √úbermensch. But somehow I have this nagging feeling that both Nietzsche and Camus had a similar end in mind while propounding their respective philosophies -- an end where man lives "non-destructively", despite the realization that life is futile and meaningless.
With Nietzsche, my problem is with the child phase.
But tell me, my brothers, what the child can do, which even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes. For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred Yes is needed: the spirit now wills his own will; the world's outcast* now conquers his own world. [Emphasis mine]
Consider a spirit having shed its camel tendencies and adopted a lion form. Now what is more easier? Creation or destruction**?
Nietzsche outlines three stages towards attaining the √úbermensch -
1. Destruction of already existing "weak" societal values.
2. Creation of new values (purportedly anti-nihilistic values).
3. Continuous improvement or self-overcoming, so as to repeat steps 1 and 2 above.
But then the problem with the idea of a Superman, in my opinion, is in step 2. What is to stop these values from becoming destructive? What justifies creation? Why is creation morally superior to destruction? Even Nietzsche argues for relativistic values i.e. one man's virtue is another man's vice, which is in fact the founding basis for a Superman. So it is not hard to imagine a Superman who seeks values contrary to those of Nietzsche's idea of Superman.
In other words, why not a destructive Superman?
Jesus F Christ.
Tyler Durden all over again.
* The outcast or he who is lost to the world. Very tempting here to draw parallels to Camus's The Outsider -- should the Meursaults of the world go on to become Supermen? Where Camus seems to advocate an indifference and apathy which is, to go out on a limb, characteristically French, Nietzsche is all for progress and creation, which, at the risk of generalization, sounds wonderfully German.
** On a moral plane. It all fits in now -- why Ayn Rand had to go out of her way to paint Ellsworth Toohey as a sissy, at least physically.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

"What is to stop these values from becoming destructive? What justifies creation? Why is creation morally superior to destruction?"

For the same reason that a day spent "creating" something, be it a blog post or building an airport, is immensely more satisfying and happiness-causing (than either destructing or being idle). Since it is happiness that everyone is after, I think this is why one gravitates towards Creation, rather than destruction.

As an aside, I do not agree with the concept of existentialism itself, so I am actually arguing a point that is implausible.

-sg

musafir said...

sg

I'm asking, not challenging - what is satisfaction? What is happiness? Why should happiness not be brought about by living "destructively" e.g. not "realizing" one's potential for the benefit of oneself/society? And even if we assume that everyone if after happiness, what are the odds that it is the same version of happiness? Even Saddam Hussein wanted happiness. So did Hitler, George Bush and the 9/11 terrorists. What is to stop someone from using all his strengths to bring about destruction simply because he wanted happiness, which -- for all the spiritual talk out there -- is still a psychological state largely determined by chemicals in the brain? All these questions interest me because of the number of times Nietzsche has been used (misused?) to justify mass killings.

As for your aside, I would be interested in your definition of "existentialism". My simple definition (which might appear to be a blasphemy to some) - it is the state of a mind which is aware of the futility of life in a meaningless universe where one has the right to shape one's life through his free will (free will being the subject of exploration for me right now). Which part of this don't you agree with? And why?

Anonymous said...

Right away, if I knew the answers to your questions, I would be Nietzsche-II probably. But, I see your point. My premise is this ( which differs from what Nietzsche says, and I also admit here, that I know only the most basic tenets of Nietzche-ian philosophy) - One man's virtue has to be a virtue for everyone else. If not, it's not a virtue at all. Conversely, if you spot a value that is relativistic, I am afraid it is a vice. So, when Nietzche mentions Point 2, I interpret it to be values that are creative and positive.

As to a different question you ask in your post, Creation is morally superior than destruction, because I believe the act of creation requires substantially more intellectual, physical or emotional efforts than those that are needed to destroy.

Finally, on the definition of Existentialism, my understanding of it is the same as yours. I borrowed it from the Myth of Sysiphus and I cannot reconcile myself to it because:

a) I believe in there being a purpose in everyone's life. Some locate it when they are 5, some when they are 50. It could be as trivial as writing amateur unpaid poems or as major as inventing a cure for HIV.

b) As with all beliefs, when there is a mention of the universe being "meaningless", we really are hazarding guesses all over the place. Neither you nor I can really talk about the meaning of something so vast, it is beyond the realms of imagination.

c) Free Will? Hmm. Call me tempered or meeked-down by life, but free will is not all that free. Yes, you influence most parts of your life by your actions and thoughts, but not all of it. No.

-sg

Anonymous said...

One man's virtue has to be a virtue for everyone else. If not, it's not a virtue at all.
tut tut...That is more Emmanuel Kant than Nietzsche :) Now "reKant" will you? :P
And I respectfully disagree hook line and sinker with points a) and b) though you are "getitng there" with c)..

&Musafir : The idea of destructive Supermen is quite well explored in man's cultural repertoire. Of course the over lying leitmotif is "Good wins over Evil".Surprisingly there doesnt seem to be much disagreement over what constitutes "good" and "evil" for a "collective" than an "individual". The thing about philosophy primarily dealing with "individuality" is the sense of self cannot exist unless a sense of collective exists to scorn at. Irony,that.

and Oh Did I mention? Ellsworth Toohey is my most favorite Randian Character.

On an unrelated note time to get back to blogging...have to tell the uninterested world what I think about them..

Hope you are having fun in the Fatherland!

Anonymous said...

@anon: Sadly (or,happily??) I have no idea on Kant or his ideas; all my philosophy is... well, my load of crap! :)

And since you don't elaborate on why you disagree, I choose not to recant!

-sg

Anonymous said...

@sg: Oh you should familiarize yourself with Kant . If you manage to wade through his convoluted prosev ( I confess after three valiant efforts on reading For Critique of Pure Reason ( such a delightful title..the rationalist in me was all eager to pick up the guantlet ) I decided I wasnt much the wiser. But I was able to get a gist of his philosophy ) )

mmm...I would gladly elaborate why I disagree with points a) and b) but something tells me musafir would be quick to pounce and accuse me of hijacking his rightfully comment space..:) So I will leave the explanation part to him and though we ( myself and musafir ) have never discussed it explicitly am sure I would concur with what he has to possibly say ( there could be minor variations of course ).

musafir said...

sg

"One man's virtue has to be a virtue for everyone else." I used to think so too. But then, to play Socrates, what is virtue? Why do you need virtues? Assuming you could define virtue and its need, would not having any virtues make someone morally inferior to one who has more "virtues"? (it is easy to see why the Karma way of life was so seductive; it simply took man's competitive nature and forged a moral system out of it) And to follow your argument, if one man's virtue was a virtue to everyone, then why is it so difficult to get everyone to agree upon a common way of life?

From experience, I've found virtues don't exist in social isolation. If you were on an island, or a desert, with nobody around, how would having virtues make any difference? But then one needs to live with society, man being a tribal animal and all that. So one agrees with the others upon certain "standards" of behaviour so as to make life easy for everyone else.

To delve into the crudity of examples, let us take punctuality in a corporate atmosphere. You should see my point now, I guess. Another less trivial example would be the issue of monogamy. Is that even a virtue in the first place? And if so, is a philanderer more virtuous than a saint? To use your argument, is Don Juan morally superior/inferior to someone like the Pope? You should see the relativity of virtues right now. To me, it seems a virtue is simply a form of systemized behaviour that helps one to live life in the way one wants to. To me, planning extensively for a trip has become a way of life. I know it's not a virtue -- it simply helps me have a "good" trip. But then again, I don't look upon others who don't plan their trips at all, simply because such plannign stands in the way of their having a "good" trip.

So much for the relativity of a value system. One man's terrorist is another's mujahiddeen.

"Creation is morally superior than destruction, because I believe the act of creation requires substantially more intellectual, physical or emotional efforts than those that are needed to destroy" -- I disagree on that. One of my first reactions to 9/11, I'm a little "ashamed" to say, was to say in admiration, "What planning and effort must have gone into that". And I'm sure it was satisfying for those terrorists/mujahiddeen. Value for life being another "relative" virtue. War itself being another example where humanity tends to think that life is less valuable than we usually deem it to be.

a) Agree on that. But then I would qualify it to say that having a "purpose" (as you define it) does not make one's life meaningful. It might help one pass one's time on this planet, but then each such way to fight boredom is, as you say, equally meaningful/meaningless as the other, IMO. And here again, you contradict your statement about "virtue being universal". If it were so, then why isn't everyone fighting AIDS (to each person's ability, of course)? What makes some problems more important than others? Or, to go back to the point I made in the post, should problems be fought at all? If one were to agree with you upon the universality of virtue, then who is superior? The one writing poems or the one fighting AIDS? Would the one fighting AIDs look upon the one Writing amateur poems as "not using his time creatively"? Is he justified in doing that? If "virtue is universal", then is one form of creation inferior to another? These are difficult questions to answer. One must also not forget the effects that the prevailing economic system has on the prevailing virtues.

b) Disagree with you on this. To take your argument to its extreme, why seek knowledge at all? If things are so vast, then why study anything at all? If life's meaning is not to be sought, what is to stopp applying the same argument to any other field of endeavour? To take your argument in a and use it in b, why even try and fight AIDS? AIDS would be so huge a problem, we shouldn't even try and think about fighting it. I disagree with you when you say that conjecturing upon life and its meaning is not for us. Of course, you could twist Absurdity and say if life is meaningless why even try and figure out its meaning. I have two answers for that a) to move that step up in awareness and be in a position to make that choice b) boredom. I understand the point you are trying to make, but then that's where one needs to be opinionated and open-minded. Opinionated in that one should assess available facts and try to reach a conclusion; open-minded in being open to new facts. It's always a balance between being overawed and dismissive.

c) Like I said, I am exploring free will. Agree wit hyou on this, unless I know better or figure things out in a different way.

anonymous

Kant or Nietzsche, one seeks. And that's all that matters. Full disclosure: I've never read his works simply because they are, as you say, too difficult to wade through. But yes I've read enough about his ideas wherever the prose has been kind to me. Maybe I'm not ready for him and the answers he has are not the ones for the questions I have. That's how it is with me. I read people who I "feel" have what I'm looking for. And Nietzsche is the object of my attention currently.

Yes, agree with you on the detructive Superman being a recurrent motif. Agree with you on "Good wins over Evil" being the way to go till date. What I'm interested in is whether such an idea is/ will be agreeable in today's world, and in the worlds to come. I like theory, sure, and I like models. But I don't respect them entirely. Every theory fails. Every model misses or neglects a detail. And the missed out detail assumes significance some day. I'm just wondering if that day has come. It's because, in my opinion, economics and philosophy have been in agreement mostly. But in today's world I think they are getting increasingly bifurcated and some of the premises are being constantly changed. Someone like me who is a liberal philosophically finds himself close to the centre economically. And unlike what you said in an earlier comment, philosophy, economics and politics are tied together, IMO. And this is what is fascinating to me.

About Toohey - no, you didn't. But it wasn't too difficult to gather that. Or to udnerstand why.

About hijacking the comment space - I don't think that's a fair comment to make. This blog has always been for conversations and dialogue. I know you're coming from the doctors for villages post. I stopped responding to comments on that post because people were indulging in ad hominem attacks, appeals to authority and strawmans. And I wasn't in the mood to take a class in logic. You just aggravated the situation by going on without offering any concrete explanation or argument. I wasn't going to tolerate that. And to be fair to me, I offered the option to email which you didn't use and that, in my opinion, shows how serious you were in making your point. If you have something to say, say it and back it up. You simply were not doing that. If you want me to respond to you, state and explain. If you want to go about blowing your trumpet, you can do that on your own blog. I'm not encouraging that here. In other words, "Show me the money". No offence meant.

And yes, your English is becoming readable. No offence meant again.

PS: Do leave some identification so that the people whom you respond to know that they are talking to the same person. I don't have a problem with identification, though.

musafir said...

sg

I think I made a hash of my counter to your a). Let me try again.

The point I was trying to make was that the virtue which makes someone fight AIDS is not the virtue that would make someone, say, like J.R.R.Tolkien write his magnus opus. Or, to further complicate the argument, the virtue which drives two people fighting AIDS could be different too. One could be driven by money or pride or external recognition, while one could be driven by altruistic "virtues".

You could say that the virtue is the same - "hard work" or "doing what you like really well" or "finding a purpose and being very good at it". But then that's where Camus was very good with his Sisyphus metaphor. Does it really matter how quickly you push the rock up the mountain? Does it really matter what the size of the rock is? Does it really matter which mountain you choose to push your rock up? Does it really matter, if at the end of a few days of doing the same, you say, "To hell with it, I'm just standing here till I die"? Do you really have to find a mountain? Do you really have to have a rock? Is it wrong to fall off the mountain and die? Is it wrong to go talk to other people and get them to fall off the mountain and die? Is it wrong to make it your life's purpose to make as many people fall off the mountain and die as possible? Would that not require great intellectual, physical and emotional effort?

The virtues that people talk about are somehow connected to the questions that I ask above. And virtues are, if you examine these questions, relative. And every time you answer no to those questions, you are closer to what I mentioned about living "destructively".

musafir said...

sg

To be more lucid, I don't think someone like Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa or Bill Gates is "a better person" than a beggar on the street.

Maybe they did a lot of "work" (even that can be argued against, but I'm letting that go for now) but "better"? No.

There, I just said that.

Anonymous said...

@musafir :

---> Ah well you know that way you can find philosophers who would at least partially have a viewpoint agreeing to what you "feel". I seriously have my reservations about that epistemological approach. That demands some a priori knowledge and what's worse a sense of 'being in '. I try to understand philosophy being as 'detached' as possible ( yes Neutral Perspective ) and it isn’t really that onerous.

---> "And unlike what you said in an earlier comment, philosophy, economics and politics are tied together, IMO. " I really said that??? Or was it a bad case of my inability to put it in understandable English? :P:) I doubt whether I would have expressed an opinion saying politics and economics are not related ( cos' that would be plain stupid of me ). But Philosophy and politics indeed 'need' not feed on each other. I guess you are probably having the World war 2 and the Nietzsche connection in mind. But even the philosophy precedes politics and only those view points of the philosophy which furthers the political cause gets 'selected' .( Kinda parallel to natural ) Case in point being Plato's idea of 'Philosopher's king' which selectively was used to establish the Church, Marxism ( if it can be called an economic philosophy ) for communism etc. Is it any surprise why a philosophical movement like Existentialism did not sprout any political movement? it is simply because of the nature of the philosophy. So I guess it is not fair to say Philosophy influences politics. It is fair to say philosophy with certain kind of tenets influence politics.

---> * Sigh * I was obviously kidding about 'hijacking the comment space' . Even if you do what makes you think it will make a difference to me? If I think something warrants a comment I shall endeavor to do so. That is my right. Just as it is your right to a) ignore it b) delete it of course. That way everybody wins. I was going to respond to him but knew you will anyway as I didn’t think there would be much difference of opinion between us with respect to those two points.
Sheesh.


---> I have largely seen though two persons might concur on their philosophical attitudes there could be a world of difference when it comes to 'politics' and 'social contract'. That was quite evident from your post, comments, my comments and your response to mine. I didnt see the point in continuing because I was sure you wouldn’t understand why I said what I said. Mutatis mutandis of course. We both were "rational" but with a difference.

---> What was that about "blowing my trumpet"?? I didn’t get it..if you meant it in the 'show off' sense my only response is " Et tu "? :)

- TMWWT

musafir said...

TMWWT

1. My approach to philosophy has always been to find out the question that troubles me the most. Think through the question and adopt a stance. And then go out and find someone who's handled that question. It suits me since I like to munch over my thoughts and let them gestate. Also, being someone who likes to read slowly (sometimes very slowly) and take notes, I find it helps me skip over stuff I would otherwise not have good reason to read. It also means I read stuff only when I have to and when I do, I take away more than I would than when I read without an agenda. To each his own.

2. Right, you didn't say that. And I never said you did -- that politics and economics should not be mixed. But what you did was to say philosophy and politics should not be mixed in the comments section of a post which had economic repercussions to it. To me, that was like saying politics, economics (I'm doing away wit hthe assumption that politics includes economics) and philosophy should not be mixed (note all three and not just politics and economics; I never said you said that). What's more you didn't say why they should not be mixed. Or perhaps, like now, were you waiting for someone to come along and explain why?

3. You were kidding? Makes no difference to what I said. As for waiting for me to reply, I don't think that helps in having a conversation with the person you're responding to, a person you're disagreeing with but won't say why. That's just kiddish and not taking responsibility for a comment (Just like not leaving an id behind). Why then did you have to disagree in the first place? I would have done that. You just had to wait for me. And I'm aware of the libertarian stance, thank you very much.

4. Agree with the first part; have problems with the second. You never made a comprehensive stance for me to agree or disagree with. Saying you didn't continue because you were sure I wouldn't understand is just conjecture. Expecially when available evidence says otherwise.

5. I don't have problems with people blowing their trumpets at all. Feel free. I also don't have problems with people who do so in a comment space and make their point. Indulging in the first alone is just juvenile. Especially when they do so in response to a counter and not counter the counter. Why waste other people's time? What is this -- some kind of classroom where each kid outshouts the other? You want respect? Earn it. Makes me say, "Et tu?"

musafir said...

TMWWT

Valid point you make there about "philosophy with certain kind of tenets influence politics" and how "Existentialism did not sprout any political movement".

I've wondered about why certain philosophies are "popular", much like how a lot of people like Ayn Rand and not Camus. Reminds me of what Scott Adams says in God's Debris about different "levels" of people. Existentialism somehow seems to be for the higher levels, which should explain why even though it is easy to come to terms with it intellectually, it is difficult to reconcile oneself emotionally with it. It calls for a greater degree of spiritual advancement than I find myself capable of currently. Moreover, existentialism -- if one were to think of an evolution of philosophies -- comes last in the chain and is too intricately connected with questions of ambition-career etc. And politics in the democratic age being concerned with the masses, it is highly unlikely that a political system can evolve out of exitentialism unless there is economic parity. Which brings the question -- is a political system based on existentialism possible under a system of nation states? The only politico-economic model which might support existentialism would be one where the nation states break down and we have either just the multi-national corporation setting the rules of play or total anarchy. Hence my fascination about the link between the three.

Anonymous said...

Virtue is relativistic - but not in the sense you mention. It is relativistic in that each one of us has our own set of values that we believe are virtues. As a whole, it is much more internalized than just a banal "set of systematic rules". For all your intellectual posturing (sorry, if I sound rude; it's not personal) with quotes from philosophers, I'd just like to know if at all it is just a system of values, would you kill a man consciously and fully aware of your actions? (Assuming there is no law or police to stop you)

And, please, no excuses on the premise of "social conditioning".

-End of Comment1 (Virtues)

-sg

Anonymous said...

It's quite a coincidence that you quote the 9/11 example because I too was thinking about it when I posted my comment. I will let the numbers do the talking here:

The WTC took 13 years (61-73), $900 mn and hundreds of engineering brains to build, creating also in it's wake engineering innovations like the use of Vierendeel trusses and a park from the landfill.

The destruction of WTC, on the other hand, took less than 5 years (as a stretch since the planning actually took place in 200), less than $0.5 Mn and 19 terrorists, destroying in it's wake 2500 lives and a nation's calm.

-sg

Anonymous said...

I find it also an extremely negative and generalized view when you quote wars as an example of humanity's lack of value for another's life. If a population of 6 bn actually had the lack of value for another's life, we wouldn't number so much. Again, you may quote UN or the US as examples of "systematic rules" but in the end these rules are formed by people right? And these people form these "rules" out of ideas emerging from valuing the existence of another person, anothe community, another country. In the end, these are individual ideas that are carried forward.

You talk about humanity as a whole, but what is it that you would do? Do you or do you not another's life?

-end of Comment 2&3 (reg. creation/destruction)

-sg

Anonymous said...

b) there is a pacific gap between life and the AIDS problem. I and you can define the AIDS problem. But, I (and I, immodestly, suspect you as well) cannot define life. So my point was just this - If you can't define or imagine something, how can you even go about finding it's purpose?

But, yes, I agree with you that a higher level of awareness is needed to go anywhere with this puzzle.

-end of comment 4 (on meaning of life)

musafir said...

sg

"each one of us has our own set of values that we believe are virtues" -- Would it then be possible for some virtues to be in conflict such that one man's virtue is another's vice (example -- monogamy and polygamy)? Would it then be safe to agree that virtues are not universal?

As for the question you ask of me, that is precisely the reason why the post is titled "Shudder" :). Because the answer is so troubling, and the inevitable philosophical conclusion is towards nihilism and anarchy. Why should I make a reference to Ellsworth Toohey and Tyler Durden? Imagine if all of a sudden you realize killing someone else is not wrong (intellectually), if you realize that everything that you've held near and dear makes no sense. It is a deeply troubling question at present. Intellectually one tends to say yes, emotionally one tends to say no. I don't have an answer to that. All this "intellectual posturing" is just a means to an end. Nothing more, nothing less.

As for 9/11 and the WTC, your argument is open to attack on several fronts -

1. Aren't we losing sight of the fact that the WTC itself was symbolic of the thousands of lives that have been lost, directly or indirectly, due to globalization? Why should the terrorists choose to attack it? Did a lot of nations not lose their peace -- including the US -- just because of what the WTC represented?

2. Is all progress good then? Is technological progress and innovation a necessity? Is innovation a good thing? If yes, how? Yes, the atom bomb was a culmination of a lot of scientific progress, but then try telling that to victims of Hiroshima-Nagasaki. The more one tends ot think of it, the more one feels about the chaos that one is surrounded by. Have you heard of a community called the "Amish" in the US, a community which refuses to use technology which it doesn't need? Has the free-market and advertising corrupted human civilization beyond repair?

3. So if something costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time and involves the efforts of a lot of people, it is superior? I have to disagree with you on that.

Anonymous said...

"To be more lucid, I don't think someone like Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa or Bill Gates is "a better person" than a beggar on the street"

As I said, dude, let go of the cynicism. I haven't met Gandhi or Teresa but I believe they did good work. Yes. They may not be better than you or me. We'll never know. But, I know for sure, they have done more good for a fellow being than I have (or will ever).

PS: I though you were a staunch Rand-ian. So, how come this "looking down" upon individual greatness and achievements?

PPS: Pls. take all my comments on face value. None of them are ad hominem and based only on the comments here

-End of Comment 5 (on cynicism)

-Sg

Anonymous said...

dude major correction immediately

Pt3: you say if it takes a lot of money is it superior????? I only quoted that example to:

a) prove that creation involves more phyiscal, intellectual and emotional efforts than destruction. I never it is superior or inferior than anything!!!! :O

b) Don't dismiss money as some materialistic notion. in the end, it is the simple most quantification of effort involved (albeit skewed at times). Doesn't your promotion for a job well done involve money???

-sg

musafir said...

sg

Tied up with work. Will get down to answering presently. Keep them coming. This is going to make for an interesting discussion :)

~SuCh~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~SuCh~ said...

would have loved to read the comments, hadn't I been ignorant of camus and neitzche.. (dunno how to pronounce it right... )

But hey, I liked Toohey... I belive he is the only one who knew the world and how it worked... The rest were in schizophrenic in their own ways ! He didnt appear sissy to me, inspite rand's characterisation...

And yep, why not a destructive Superman... We have our own version of Ramayana that paints Ravana in a slightly different hue... But even then touches of white are needed to tone down the black and make it palatable... Light makes things more visible than the dark...Afterall we are naturally diurnal creatures... (a feeble metaphor..)

Glimpsed thru all the discussion above.... Maybe ignorance really is bliss... I, for one, wouldn't want to be confronted with more moral dilemmas than what I already face, however intellectually stimulating it might be...

Pardon me if I am naive, but what comes out of all this discussion????

Is life going to make more sense than it already does ?? If someone were to give me a chance mouth my set of inane ideas, I would say that every school of philospohy is absolutely infallible, being at the same time inherantly fallible... and any amount of discussion is tantamount to intellectual marijuana... If anything is to be done with them, its that they should be absorbed as such, and let mingle within, and shape an intuition , or create a nervous breakdown...

And yes, in other words, I find all this too heady.. :) Anyways, you dont have to bother responding to me, and carry on... :)

Anonymous said...

@such: I incidentally was looking for intellectual marijuana when I chanced upon here and was duly rewarded. so, yes you are right - heady stuff and just what I needed :)

PS: I am ignorant about nietzche and kant et al too. Musafir's post mentioned something about destructive virtues so that started me off!

-sg

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

---> 1) Oh does that work for you? I have tried that ( sans the note taking part ofcourse ) and it doesnt work for me. I keep analyzing my thoughts and look
for inconsistencies or things 'which dont fit in". Of course while reading I cannot help being reminded of the two basic tenets:
"At the end of the day even a Philosopher has to eat!"
"Eventually everyone dies including the Philospher !"


I would have added the mating part too but philosophy doesnt really rate high on a look-at-me-lady scale ( how many Simone de Beauviors' are around anyway?
And what is the possibility they would cross our path? )

You would be surprised the kind of perspective the above self evident truths give one.


---> 3) * sigh * I didnt elucidate further because I had to run for meeting and knew you were going to respond. I didnt shy away from responding. Having made
a counter point it is but natural I( or anyone whose viewpoint I acqueisce ) need to elucidate. If you hadnt I would have. Chillax...:)

--->4) There is a reason I didnt make a comprehensive stance. Because I realized I was in no position to take a stance. I was neither in the doctor's shoes
nor in the politician's.At best I can only give an armchair view and I did. You might rightly ask would my response be any different? Frankly I cannot be
sure. By you wouldnt "understand" bit I was referring to the arm chair view. Like I said our political and social proclivity are different. Your argument had
Objectivistic leanings and I was taking a holistic view. Hence we both were "rational" but with a difference.( and I reiterate a sense of self cannot exist
without a sense of collective to give it perspective )


---> 2) and 5 ) I guess I have explained that bit..?

Now lets talk about the idea of "Free Will" which has been bothering me from quite some weeks. In what seems to be an increasingly Deterministic world the idea of Free Will is becoming largely suspect. Allow me to illustrate The Dillema of the Bowling ball.

Take a Bowling Ball and release it down the track to knock out the pins. From your perspective "you" released the ball and the "purpose" of the ball is to
"knock out the pins". So far so good. Now lets assume hypothetically the ball gets consciousness ( yes yes I know defining what consciousness is indeed a
Herculean task but for the sake of argument, we can take it as the same it would mean ,if you say you are 'conscious' ) and the bowling ball mid way knows it
is on it's way to knock out the pins and thinks ( as it is not aware of your existence ) that is indeed it's "purpose" and is doing it because of it's own
"free will " !!
This could ofcourse lead to an infinite regress..."you" think you released the ball but it might as well be the "effect" of a cause of which you have
absolutely no knowledge about. We can neither affirm it nor negate it. We are just in the "ball's" position. Now imagine a scenario where multiple balls are released from different directions and each ball attaining "consciousness" midway. Why indeed the various
factors like "gravity","friction" which affect the motion of the ball have their own "causes" which again could go on an infinite regress and end in first cause ( Big bang perhaps? ).


None of this is new ofcourse. Spinoza ( His philosophy off late I am increasingly beginning to respect! ) has already said that.

So we have a problem now Houston.
Check this :
http://health.howstuffworks.com/mind-reading.htm

Crude ofcourse..still needs a lot of research .Also if possible get hold of Steve Pinker's "How Brain works"! Fascinating book! All this increasingly suggest
we are only in "pseudo" control of our "decisions". Which ,when one comes to think of it dispassionately does make sense. I mean what is it we call
"providence" anyway? How does one mathematically represent "luck"? But can we still ignore the part luck plays in one life?
Add to it the DNA code and the increasing research which suggests nurture really doesnt play that much of a role in shaping one person. Connect the
redoubtable MBTI types which is uncannily reasonably accurate but none the wiser as to "why" people think the way "they" think.
All this of course doesnt necessarily mean there is an "intelligent" purpose behind it or anything.
But it doesnt negate it either.
There is no way for us to know for we can argue we were "hard wired" to such a view point.

And also the realization that even if our thoughts,actions etc are predetermined there is nothing much we can do about it for if we were to thwart it that would assume an apriori knowledge and one can argue one was programmed to thwart anyway. (slippery slope I know )
This is an impasse and I cannot think of a way to break the deadlock. So does this change the way I view life? Yes and no.
Can you imagine Existentialism without the idea of "choice"? that rocks the whole foundation...

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Jesus F. Christ!! Did I actually type the above yesterday??? You must be wondering what I had been smoking….
Join the club. But whatever it is apparently it is still having it’s effect so we might as well get on with the rest of the comments eh? So let me throw my “humble” hat in…

@sg :
Virtue is relativistic - but not in the sense you mention. It is relativistic in that each one of us has our own set of values that we believe are virtues. As a whole, it is much more internalized than just a banal "set of systematic rules". For all your intellectual posturing (sorry, if I sound rude; it's not personal) with quotes from philosophers, I'd just like to know if at all it is just a system of values, would you kill a man consciously and fully aware of your actions? (Assuming there is no law or police to stop you)

And, please, no excuses on the premise of "social conditioning".

-End of Comment1 (Virtues)

-sg

I am afraid I didn’t get the import of the argument. If I understand you correctly on one hand thou art arguing virtues are “universal” and on the other hand you are saying they are “internalized” and to quote you
“….each one of us has our own set of values that we believe are virtues” .
I sense a major contradiction. Of course as it has been pointed out “virtue” is relativistic not only among individuals but also among cultures.
Case in point being Cannibalism. So is it a Vice or a virtue?
As for the hypothetical conundrum of killing I simply need more information. If you are asking me whether I would kill ‘just because I can’ then I wont. But there are obviously extenuating circumstances. So frankly whatever I say now will be more of armchair views when it comes to matters like these. Because more often than not there is a dichotomy between thought and action because even assuming one is a “ruthlessly rational” person one cannot be sure one has all the information at hand which during "action" time cna tilt the balance.

I find it also an extremely negative and generalized view when you quote wars as an example of humanity's lack of value for another's life. If a population of 6 bn actually had the lack of value for another's life, we wouldn't number so much. Again, you may quote UN or the US as examples of "systematic rules" but in the end these rules are formed by people right? And these people form these "rules" out of ideas emerging from valuing the existence of another person, anothe community, another country. In the end, these are individual ideas that are carried forward.

You talk about humanity as a whole, but what is it that you would do? Do you or do you not another's life?

-end of Comment 2&3 (reg. creation/destruction)

-sg

Kindly define what you mean by “humanity”. Isnt it another term for “universal values (albeit specific to homo sapiens ) “? We haven’t even established such a thing exists yet. And Oh I would think why we “procreate” has more to do with “because that is what we are supposed to do” than any compassion for human life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene
I am no Biologist of course so make your own conclusions.

b) there is a pacific gap between life and the AIDS problem. I and you can define the AIDS problem. But, I (and I, immodestly, suspect you as well) cannot define life. So my point was just this - If you can't define or imagine something, how can you even go about finding it's purpose?

But, yes, I agree with you that a higher level of awareness is needed to go anywhere with this puzzle.

-end of comment 4 (on meaning of life)


I didn’t get it. What is there to “define” life?

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

musafir :
I've wondered about why certain philosophies are "popular", much like how a lot of people like Ayn Rand and not Camus. Reminds me of what Scott Adams says in God's Debris about different "levels" of people. Existentialism somehow seems to be for the higher levels, which should explain why even though it is easy to come to terms with it intellectually, it is difficult to reconcile oneself emotionally with it. It calls for a greater degree of spiritual advancement than I find myself capable of currently. Moreover, existentialism -- if one were to think of an evolution of philosophies -- comes last in the chain and is too intricately connected with questions of ambition-career etc. And politics in the democratic age being concerned with the masses, it is highly unlikely that a political system can evolve out of exitentialism unless there is economic parity. Which brings the question -- is a political system based on existentialism possible under a system of nation states? The only politico-economic model which might support existentialism would be one where the nation states break down and we have either just the multi-national corporation setting the rules of play or total anarchy. Hence my fascination about the link between the three.

Ah missed this…very interesting observation! I largely agree with it though pray what do you exactly mean by “spiritual advancement” here? Is there a disconnect between your intellectual and emotional stuff?
Yes ambitions/career are indeed intricately connected with it but espousal of it makes the attainment/non attainment of them redundant.
Nation states definitely doesn’t support it and no marks for guessing what kind of political system “might” support it…
Total anarchy wont work….that demands a state of “civilized”(?) homo sapiens only possible by “social conditioning” ( leads to eugenics ).
It is a dangerous line of thought I know.
In fact I would think the connection between Sex and Economics and the way the interplay has shaped human civilization so far would be a fascinating study in itself.

~such~

Glimpsed thru all the discussion above.... Maybe ignorance really is bliss... I, for one, wouldn't want to be confronted with more moral dilemmas than what I already face, however intellectually stimulating it might be...

You don’t choose moral dilemmas (moral ? really?) They choose you…:P

Is life going to make more sense than it already does ?? If someone were to give me a chance mouth my set of inane ideas, I would say that every school of philospohy is absolutely infallible, being at the same time inherantly fallible... and any amount of discussion is tantamount to intellectual marijuana... If anything is to be done with them, its that they should be absorbed as such, and let mingle within, and shape an intuition , or create a nervous breakdown...

Above doesn’t make sense…:) Thou shalt not slight marijuana of any kind. Intellectual or otherwise. What’s that with “shaping an intuition”??

Anonymous said...

@the man (sounds more cooler this way eh?):

Point1:
The first thing I did when you mentioned the dreaded "U" word - universal was to go back and check if, and where, exactly did I write that virtues are universal. Both you and musafir misunderstood - Virtues are internalized but if it has to be a virtue it cannot be a vice for someone else. Honesty is a virtue (it's individualistic and does not cause malice to anyone) for me, say. And, truth is a virtue for you. Which makes it a different virtue for everyone. The universality, if you wish to introduce that word, owes itself due to the universality of its nature - it cannot be harmful.


Point2:
What is this?? Interpret-things-wrongly-day?? Where did I talk about procreation???? :O

I meant the advances through the ages with regards to health, engineering and even, world politics. We do not have as many wars in India as we used to say, a thousand years back, do we?

And dude, way off when you say humanity means universal values! In my context, humanity meant just what it is - the 6 bn mass of anthropodial species that inhabit the earth.

Point3:
Then, please go ahead and enlighten us with the definition of life (if at all there is nothing to it!) :)

-sg

Anonymous said...

@the man:

sorry missed the example:

no cannibalism is not a virtue.

LOL! Dude, if you have any doubt that this is NOT an armchair discussion, you seriously have been smoking something!! So, please do go ahead and present your armchair views. On the aspect of more details requried - Yes. Will you kill just because you can with absolutely no external factors stopping you from doing so? If your answer is No, you will help me in refuting musafir's query on what is stopping a man from turning destructive.

-sg

Anonymous said...

lol!what i find most amusing in the above discussions is the basic paradox. see for instance when musafir says he believes in existentialism.....it doesnt make sense...because exsistentialism is against belief... and one wouldnt be so serious for an exsistentialist...no?one would have to live with the basic premise of frivolity(excuse my spellings)

so what is more interesting or important to me than philosophies is the life of philosophers....like how i met a man who teaches philosophy who told me about how schopenhauer was against life or the purpose of life, how he said it makes sense for man to kill himself. so i asked if he practiced what he preached, and ofcourse i wasnt much surprised by the answer. he lived long and waited desperately to see if his books were successess or not.

like im sure how you, musafir, contrary to what you may say about creation or destruction, will find it more satisfying to create in your blog than to destroy it.

so if we went slightly deeper into it....wouldnt our only premise be the ego?or i would like to ask what exactly makes you want to have to subsribe to a belief system......when it is such a changing world.....where one is not what one was in the last minute.....also i want to know how you manage to live with the paradox
-ar

Anonymous said...

@musafir: on your comments:

pt1 - WTC? And Globalization???? That's fodder for a completely different debate. But, your line of argument is quite frivolous - for that matter any creation can be dismissed by you as standing for something negative.

pt2 - as i said earlier, the net effect of the collective advances of the human race is positive. For every hiroshima-nagasaki you mention, I'll give you an example of millions of lives saved by the invention of small pox vaccine. If the Amish community is actually an epitome of ideal living, why has it not been replicated? Again, using Rand-ian logic, if something is good, it should have been adapte by everyone right? with market forces and all.

-sg

Anonymous said...

@musafir: I agree with ar. frankly, i think all kinds of philosophy told by others is useless. The philosophy that I am interested in is the kind of lives people lead- the kind of rules you lead your life by. So when you quote Camus or Kant or whoever it is, I care a squat about what those guys write or wrote. I am more interested in knowing what is it that you actually believe and follow. As an extension, I am interested in knowing how people lead their lives - that gives me pretty much all the clues about their philosophy. I don't need to read what Socrates did some 2 ton years ago. I don't think it will do me much good.

ps: sorry if i sound rude. No offence intended.

-sg

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

@sg :
I am quoting you..
… My premise is this ( which differs from what Nietzsche says, and I also admit here, that I know only the most basic tenets of Nietzche-ian philosophy) - One man's virtue has to be a virtue for everyone else. If not, it's not a virtue at all.

Pray where is the wriggle room for misunderstanding here? : |

And then again you claim…
“..Virtues are internalized but if it has to be a virtue it cannot be a vice for someone else. “

By my interpretation you have a common ( read universal ) definition of interpretation of Virtue. So according to you if ‘X’ is defined as a virtue ,it is the same for persons A,B,C etc irrespective of their philosophical ,cultural and social dispositions.
Correct me if I am wrong.

This is what I disagree to and told you why as well. I think one cannot make it a common ( read: Universal ) attribute because it “depends” on the political, social and philosophical climate.
Talking about “truth” who said it cannot be harmful?
Consider a situation where you are a witness to a self defense murder. Let the social and political situation be that they follow Hammurabi’s code. Eye for an Eye, tooth for a tooth. So will you be “honest” about having witnessed the murder well knowing you would be sentencing the person to death?
Think about it. Remember there is almost always a dichotomy between thought and action.

..If a population of 6 bn actually had the lack of value for another's life, we wouldn't number so much.

Ah mea culpa. Obviously my error in interpretation of the phrase “wont number so much”.

As for definition of life I can try the facetious line “small gap between one oblivion and another “ : ) All we know is “we exist” and with respect to our cognitive capability “Existence precedes essence” .

No I don’t think the philosophical view points we express here are “arm chair” . It shouldn’t be because that defines our “thought” . Now the arm chair part comes in when it comes to action. Because as far as “thought” is concerned it is all in the realm of my mind. But “action” extrudes into area where other sentient beings are involved. That is a whole different ball game.
This is reality..not a Rand novel : )

Anyway I cannot speak obviously for mankind and whether I answer your question in the affirmative or negative is not indicative of anything except about “me”. Though I largely expect a majority of them to answer in the negative I wont be surprised if some answer in the affirmative genuinely.

ar
I am not sure what your understanding of Existentialism is but you are quite way off when you claim one “believes” in Existentialism. It is not merely a play on semantics but one doesn’t “choose” to “believe” it.
It just “is”. It is contingent. Where did frivolity come in..?

With due respect to the philosophy teacher Schopenhauer definitely wasn’t against “living” or purpose of life. Yes he indeed had a pessimistic view but how he chose to lead his life is his prerogative.

Also musafir and myself have never claimed we enjoyed destructing etc etc..we are trying to understand the mind of a man who would want to…and why it is indeed possible to do so.

But of course Ego plays a huge role . But perhaps not in the sense you meant it. It isn’t believing for the sake of believing. What exactly is the paradox you are talking about?

sg :
”frankly, i think all kinds of philosophy told by others is useless. The philosophy that I am interested in is the kind of lives people lead- the kind of rules you lead your life by. So when you quote Camus or Kant or whoever it is, I care a squat about what those guys write or wrote. I am more interested in knowing what is it that you actually believe and follow. As an extension, I am interested in knowing how people lead their lives - that gives me pretty much all the clues about their philosophy. I don't need to read what Socrates did some 2 ton years ago. I don't think it will do me much good.

Though it was addressed for musafir let me try to answer it as well….philosophy is not religion.
Period.
When we quote Camus,Kant or Nietzsche we are trying to understand “why” they wrote “what” they wrote. We are not aping them or saying “ok so Camus said this so I shall follow it”. It’s the opposite actually. Will it make sense if I say I have no “rules” perse that I consciously live by?
You cannot get an idea about a person’s philosophy by the way they lead their lives. At the risk of repeating myself again there is always the dichotomy of thought and action. Some times they merge but mostly they don’t.
You might rightly ask what use is “philosophy” then? But you are asking the wrong question. It is the very philosophy which tells you “why” they don’t necessarily merge.

Anonymous said...

@the man:

ok let's discard the messy business of defining and refuting what virtues are. I will directly jump to your example. Here goes:

Assumptions are (which is inherent in your question I presume):

a) Honesty is a virtue I practise
b) Murder is a crime in the land

Now, the man is guilty of a crime. You will also have to ask me if you believe that a person should be punished for his crimes. If you do, I'll answer yes. Right. Now, you have a case where I believe someone who commits a murder should be punished and I bear witness to that act. Since honesty is a virtue, I believe in, I will go ahead and practise it.

Yes I admit my definition of virtue did not include the rejoinder that no harm should be caused to anyone who does not deserve any harm . I'll give you another example:

A man tells the truth when asked if his co-worker bunked work (who actually did). The rules of the company do not allow for this. Hence, the co-worker gets punished. I still think this is virtuous.

If you have issues with the punishment, or how the laws are, either change your lawmakers or change the land you live in.

- end of comment1 (on virtues)

-sg

Anonymous said...

@the man:

What??? I didn't understand a thing about thoughts and action! Sorry

As I said earlier to musafir, I am not interested in what mankind does (at least in this discussion). I am only interested in what you think. Please don't assume the response for the rest. Pls. go ahead and tell how would you answer - yes or no.

-end of comment2 (on killing and thoughts/actions)

-sg

Anonymous said...

@the man:

LOL! Ok so this is basically an exercise in studying the thoughts of preachers who didn't practise what they wrote. I find that extremely phoney. Which also explains why I have issues with them. A dichotomy between thought and action???? I cannot reconcile to that, sorry.

I always liked this quote by Thoreau - "How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live"

With this comment, I retire from further discussions on philosophers and philosophy. Our interpretations differ way too much to actually discuss anything. No? :)

- end of comment3 ( on philosophers)

-sg

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

sg:
With due apologies to Robert Frost

“I shall be typing this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Was a dichotomy between thought and action, and I-
I took the effort of explaining it,
And that had made all the difference. “

Disclaimer: What I say will not make much sense to you if you believe in an anthropomorphic “prayer responding Father figure in the sky” .

There is no evidence to believe that there is a sense of “goodness” or “evil” in nature.
Your comments suggest you possibly believe it. Correct me if I am wrong. Take away that premise and if you aren’t bored already try to re read the comments.
Also if possible re read the comments assuming there is no God. ( if you are indeed a theist of the disclaimer variety )

Then do tell me which part of the comments didn’t make sense.

And oh Thoreau had definitely different kind of “thoughts” in mind when he wrote that line. That is for hypocrisy. What dichotomy I am talking about is a completely different thing.

To give an analogy here I am talking about the idea of “geometrical figures” ,ways of representing “figures”,” purpose” of it, the ryders etc etc.

You are talking about compass , dividers and existence of “perfect” circles,parabola etc..

Though we are ostensibly talking about related stuff we are actually discussing completely different things.

Like difference between knowledge and epistemology ...

musafir said...

everyone

What the .... ? Piled under work now ... will respond when I have the time, but judging from the comments it looks like it's gonna take a day to gather everything that's been said :)

Anonymous said...

@the man:

a) Epistemology is an intellectual, and in my opinion a useless, pursuit. There I said it. So, since I have absolutely no idea on (or care about) what Socrates or Camus or whoever thought about the nature of knowledge, I am adequately ill-qualified to discuss that with you. I will be only interested in what any of these afore-mentioned gents wrote if any of the learnings from my life matches with their thoughts.

b) the usefulness of our discussion is also nullified by the fact that you ask me to assume the non-existence of

1. God
2. Goodness in nature

I cannot do that since I am not sure of the former but am definitely sure nature is inherently leaning towards the good.

PS: I did not get your analogy about geometrical figures either :(

PPS: Where does it say Thoreau wrote that referring to hyporcisy? Did a Google+wiki search in vain!

-sg

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

@sg :
Ok for what it is worth...

a) Epistemology is an intellectual, and in my opinion a useless, pursuit. There I said it. So, since I have absolutely no idea on (or care about) what Socrates or Camus or whoever thought about the nature of knowledge, I am adequately ill-qualified to discuss that with you. I will be only interested in what any of these afore-mentioned gents wrote if any of the learnings from my life matches with their thoughts.
Oh come on..how can you say epistemology is useless?? That is the foundation on which you get to understand how you understand!! So what if it is “intellectual”? I guess “intellectual” is the most abused word ever..:)
You don’t have to discuss Socrates or Camus…but then you can discuss “what” they have written (some of which we quote ). The content per se remains the same irrespective of who wrote it right?
Okies so might one ask what are the learnings from your life?
Now do you get the analogy of the geometrical figures? : ) You have “learnt” from your life about parabolas,ellipses,circles etc but what we are talking about here is the idea of Euclidean geometry and why it is what it is ,the idea and necessity of axioms,etc etc. Does it make some sense atleast now?


b) the usefulness of our discussion is also nullified by the fact that you ask me to assume the non-existence of

1. God
2. Goodness in nature

I cannot do that since I am not sure of the former but am definitely sure nature is inherently leaning towards the good.

On what basis can you be “definitely” sure? See being “good” and “altruism” is just an evolutionary trait . I mean think about it. A trait which encourages people to kill each other will not survive simply because the genes carrying the trait will perish with the people carrying it. Only traits which ensure sustenance of genes will survive both in the gene pool and the “cultural “ pool . Isnt that commonsensical? I am not saying everyone will become destructive and start killing each other. But some people definitely can and we the way our political society has evolved if such a man occupies power it is quite possible to wipe out mankind.

So much for your inherent “goodness” in human nature. Capiche?

Anonymous said...

@the man:

:'-(

sir, please stop picking on technical arguments like "let's talk about what socrates wrote instead of socrates himself". To quote myself, what I wrote was this:

"no idea on (or care about) what Socrates or Camus or whoever thought about the nature of knowledge"

Not just care about Socrates or Camus :O

"You don’t have to discuss Socrates or Camus…but then you can discuss “what” they have written (some of which we quote ). The content per se remains the same irrespective of who wrote it right? "

If you please re-read what I wrote, this is exactly what I don't want to discuss (simply because I am neither interested nor equipped to do so)

Learnings from my life ? To live like Kramer (from Seinfeld) :)

Thanks. Yeah I got the analogy now. As I said, I am happy with my parabolas and ellipses. At the most, I might be interested in what other geometrical figures look like. That is more interesting than having to learn how those figures were drawn or what some axiom did to some circle.


b)

Yeah it is an evolutionary trait right? So it is ingrained in all of us in some way right? So it is natural right? So you agree with me then. Yeah the reasons could be evolutionary or divine or creationism or whatever, but goodness does exist in nature. You analyze it to trivialize it. I appreciate it's beauty to admire it. I find analyzing stuff (though a super intellectual kick) is actually quite boring!!

-sg

PS: my keyboard and net connection sucks so excuse grammatical/spelling errors

PPS: nice touch on the robert frost poem

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Alright alright lets leave the dead philosophers mm..dead. But then how can you not discuss their ideas which are still extant when we are discussing philosophy? : | Perhaps one can but I express my inability to do…
It’s like trying to discuss Marxism by not bringing in Karl Marx or Engels. Not impossible but hardly the same thing.

Anyway you cannot live like Kramer simply because “Kramer” himself doesn’t live like “Kramer” in life ( Ok I am not sure but am willing to bet ). Reality is a whole different ball game.

Sure not everyone has similar interests and I can readily understand why you would be content with parabolas, circles and other stuff. Honestly. But can you understand why some of us wouldn’t be content with that alone and express more than a healthy curiosity to understand ,as you pit it, what the axiom did to the circle ? : )

That is the major difference.

Well I don’t see why analyzing it ( reductionism always gets a raw deal doesn’t it? ) tantamount to trivializing it. I mean ok so If I sit down and analyze Beethoven’s music how does that take away from the visceral pleasure I get from listening to it?
Not that I intend to give a lecture on ‘Nature of Beauty” but why must something have an element of “enigma” or magic to be “truly beautiful”? How does trying to understand why something “is” how it “is” take away the intrinsic beauty of it? I mean Beethoven’s music is still Beethoven’s music just because one understands it is nothing but wave patterns of a certain kind hitting the cochlea of a person generating neuron impulses in a rhythmic pattern which the brain interprets as enchanting music :p

Gotta run now..more later...

Anonymous said...

@the man:

For the same reason that a dead man's words are open to multiple interpretations, esp if it is related to something as abstract as epistemology. Just like how you think Thoreau was talking about hyporcisy while I'd like to believe he was talking about (against??) intellectual masturbation. I really would be much more comfortable arguing with you or musafir on your points of belief/thought because I can discuss right away and get my misinterpretations cleared up.

yes you are right - i do understand why you might be curious about it but as I said not my cup of tea, mate!

"wave patterns of a certain kind hitting the cochlea of a person generating neuron impulses in a rhythmic pattern which the brain interprets as enchanting music"

Ahaa wasn't that as melodious as Beethoven's music? :P

Again, let me quote one of my favourite-est lines from movies here:

"Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer"

-From Good Will Hunting


Yes it might not take away anything from a thing's beauty if analyzed, for you. But, my personal experience, has been that it does. At the very least, it certainly does not add to the beauty of Beethoven's music to have it analyzed.

Let me elaborate more (and, oh no!, analyze:P) - Like Sean says above, when you begin to analyze things, the experience of actual beauty begins to fade away in the glare of analyses. So, you may hear a strain of Beethoven's divine music and you start thinking, did he create this particular line because he was deaf? Because he had a bad childhood? Because he was depressed?

analysis is over-rated, me thinks (what with all job descriptions asking for an "analytical and logical" mind!).

-sg

PS: Apologies to musafir for completely spamming up his comment space!! :O

musafir said...

sg and TMWWT

Just because I'm not replying doesn't mean I'm not reading all this you know :) ... keep it going, have a deadline tomorrow, so will be late in responding. And don't bother about spamming the comment space as long as the comments are on topic.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

sg

For the same reason that a dead man's words are open to multiple interpretations, esp if it is related to something as abstract as epistemology. Just like how you think Thoreau was talking about hyporcisy while I'd like to believe he was talking about (against??) intellectual masturbation. I really would be much more comfortable arguing with you or musafir on your points of belief/thought because I can discuss right away and get my misinterpretations cleared up.

Agreed..potatoes..potaatoes…

But the point is we are not acquiescing with something “because” Camus,Nietzsche or Paris Hilton said it…it is not an authoritative induction. You would understand it is impossible to agree with everyone simply because some aspects of philosophy is indeed a product of time.
I have mentioned my philosophical attitude ( but then remember this blog post wasn’t about “Tell me your Philosophy”..it was about Nietzsche before we, as it always happens ,slightly digressed to our personal philosophy) Ok did you read about the Dilemma of the bowling ball? What’s your take on that? That’s a philosophical conundrum am grappling with. Otherwise my personal philosophy is brilliantly captured in this post
http://2x3x7.blogspot.com/2005/07/parable-of-desert.html

There you have it . That is “me” exposed and bared. I am sure musafir would acquiesce too. Looks it’s a logical inevitability.

Oh please….not a quote from Good Will Hunting ( much as I like some parts of the movie it was too Hollywoodish ... a brilliant theme could-have-been-done-betetr movie )

________________________________________
Allan: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollack, isn't it?
Museum Girl: Yes, it is.
Allan: What does it say to you?
Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
Museum Girl: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?
- Play it Again Sam


Ok am assuming you aren’t a Woody Allen fan? : )

Like Sean says above, when you begin to analyze things, the experience of actual beauty begins to fade away in the glare of analyses. So, you may hear a strain of Beethoven's divine music and you start thinking, did he create this particular line because he was deaf? Because he had a bad childhood? Because he was depressed?

Guilty as charged. I admit it is seldom I can separate “art” from the “artist”. But that is because we are looking for primarily different things. Because I am trying to understand “man”. Why would he rather do “something” than “nothing”. What motivates “him” to create such magnum opus! As Rand appositely said (something like ) the story of civilization is the story of man!
Just look at the way “man” has evolved! Also if you notice analysis may or may not add beauty to the object-of-attention but it definitely does not mitigate it. At least for me.
You probably think it is a waste of time : ) I find the fact that you find it “waste of time” interesting. See? There will never be a dull moment when the mind is continually “engaged”.
And oh can you really think of scientific progress without an analytical mind? As I said even “Creativity” is nothing but a wrapper over analytics beneath.

Over rated??? Think again! Analytical people never get their due : |


@Musafir:
Ah thought you had abandoned your blog in this deluge :p But I couldn’t resist…believe me I tried hard . Looks like there is plenty of replying for you to do.

musafir said...

TMWWT

Haha ... why resist? Go with the flow :) ... and yes, I think I should start writing a book!

Anonymous said...

@the man:

Point taken. The argument on philosophy started because, I think, somewhere you mentioned just because you don't agree with something doesn't mean that you can't analyze that. I find that ...hmm.... unappealing for me to engage in a debate with. I never mean to insinuate that you agree with something because some XYZ said it.

Will read that link up later (Caught up with things now :))

Hollywoodish? :( I'll make no pretense about understanding stuff. Please talk to me like how you would to a hmm...12-year-old. Because I am seriously lost with terms like Hollywoodish, Euclidean Geometry or Epistemology (I always copy-paste it from your comment!)

And I also missed the point from the Woody Allen movie lines. Re-inforcing existentialism as a romantic experience for the Saturday night?

I see we agree to disagree on the poing of analysis then :) Yes I too find the human mind fascinating but I am more interested in seeing how it acts, reacts and behaves than why it acts, reacts and behaves the way it does. So, both of us are duly engaged in our own pursuits!

Hmm.. Scientific progress may be not. But, I must seriously wonder if a Picasso analyzed how irregularly-shaped geometrical figures in his paintings would fit with his audience and hence, introduced cubism. Nope. Creativity prospers inspite of, and not because of, analysis.

Talk about dues! I have the dreaded A-word in my Job designation and I don't get paid that much! :O :P

-sg

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

sg:

--> I find it amusing how one can claim one "disagrees" with out analyzing.

Hollywood + ish --> Market driven sentimental kitsch (mostly ) :)

And I also missed the point from the Woody Allen movie lines. Re-inforcing existentialism as a romantic experience for the Saturday night?

* sigh * * A bigger sigh *

So what did you say you are doing Thursday night?

Ah..you definitely missed the point. I said whether one realizes it or not there is "always" a layer of analytics beneath creativity.
Having said that I have to admit I am an ignoramus when it comes to static art ( except photography ). Anything which has to do with "symbolism" or "poetic metaphor" leaves me none the wiser. I need a foundation else I will just shrug...So Picasso's cubism you will have me floundering :)

Maybe musafir is more adept at symbolism going by his posts. Or it just maybe an attempt to see whether he can do it. I confess I can't.

So you an artist? or just sensitive to the kind?

musafir:
So when is your book coming out?
Anyway what was that again about how when two people with almost diametrically opposite viewpoints argue they come out even more convinced about their view point?
mmm...

sg said...

@the man:

Woody Allen, Hollywood and Analytics. Can we announce that we have officially gone off-topic on this blog-post now? :)

A -> Where have i disagree without analyzing?

B -> This Thursday night I went out with a friend.

C -> "whether one realizes it or not there is "always" a layer of analytics beneath creativity" Proof Please. (Or is it just a belief?). Alternately, can you illustrate for a still photograph that you liked, the analytics for your liking?

D -> I picked up a book of Picasso's paintings and loved some of his creations. I didn't try locating any symbolisms in them though! I just liked them.

An artist? No such luck :) Just sensitive to the kinds. Really, we need more of them.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh excuse the typos! :(

-sg

~SuCh~ said...

Is there an end to anything at all in this world ? !

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

sg:
Yes we have and I can visualize the raised eye brows of musafir and fingers ithcing to shoo us off :)

We both have made our points and lets just agree to differ. else we will be ploughing through the same furrow again...

And oh I did enjoy this exchange :)

Such : Well there is always the letetr 'd'....

sg said...

@the man:

Ditto here :)

@such:

Yes, there is and you have reached one of them (I think!)

~A said...

Being honest is a virtue whether one is honest or not. But, is Cannibalism a vice?

Now, for the benefit of others, if one of you can summarize where it (this discussion) stands and what is being discussed, it would be great for starters like me.