Class Warfare Blog

June 7, 2020

Blame It On the Greeks?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
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The Greeks came up with some rather odd ideas. One was eventually codified into Platonism. This is a view that Ideal Forms and Ideal Ideas existed. This is not such a radical idea but they insisted that these Forms and Ideas existed in reality . . . in another realm (maybe beyond space and time?).

Socrates wanted to know all of the attributes of virtue so as to be able to guide the careers and lives of virtuous men (women didn’t count yet, #free_women). So, the Greeks also invented formal categories.

I don’t think that such concepts would exist at all, or exist in much detail, if it were not for philosophers, philosophers who were . . . what? They seemed to be people who wanted to sit around bullshitting and getting paid for it, kind of like the people on sports talk radio and TV are now.

So, think about a man at a bazaar looking to buy a knife. He picks one up, feels its balance and overall size, observes the workmanship, and then talks to the vendor, possibly haggling over the price. Does the category of “knives” even enter his thinking anywhere? I should think not. Now, later, sitting around a campfire the buyer of that knife might show off his new knife to his companions and they might comment as to whether it is a good knife, or a good deal, or whether it is preferable to another style of knife. (Think of Conan and Otli arguing over whose god was better around a campfire in the first Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movie.) Do you think the “category” of knives would come up in that discussion? I don’t think so.

So, what were these philosophers up to (other than no good—ask your mother if it would be okay to hang out with a bunch of old men who do not have jobs)?

Clearly, looking around it is easy enough to see that nothing observable was perfect. Everything has flaws of some kind. The most beautiful young man you might fall in love with turns out to be as dull as a sack of hammers, your mirror has small specks in its polished surface, the vase you arrange flowers in has a base that isn’t quite flat, and so on. So, I can see playing a game of “What if he were perfect, what would he be like? Or what would a perfect knife be like? Or a perfect vase, or . . . or. . . . but to pontificate that the perfect versions of these things exist somewhere and the things we have are only bad copies is beyond bizarre. A sane man would speculate that the process of perfecting a creation could never be ended, and so perfect objects do not, and cannot exist. Ta da! Done! Consider that new knife designs are still being created. Is there a limit to the number of possible designs? What the heck could be the perfect avatar of “knives” when so many knives are different? Is there an “Absolute” for each design? And if you find that daunting, tackle “beauty” . . . they did!

What has the idea of perfect exemplars of every form and idea given us? The answer is . . . misery. This is where thoughts like “Jesus is perfect, man is flawed” come from. And where does Jesus reside? In another realm, along with all of the other perfect things, including a mansion with many rooms and you may get to live in it. Wow, I wonder if they have servants in that mansion?

Now that would be an interesting version of eternal torment. Those who fail to get into Heaven end up being servants in the Heavenly Mansion, living in meager servant’s quarters, eating leftovers, wearing hand-me-down garments, and no days off. All the time they are exposed to the wealthy mansion that all of the right acting and right thinking god-fearers get to enjoy. Now that would be everlasting torment, being forever exposed to all you lost out on. But no, those assholes had to dream up a Lake of Fire and demons! Why did God create demons? Only a dick would deliberately create demons or beings that could transform into demons.

I see imagination as a mental ability that we developed that helped us greatly to stay alive. Through imagination we could detect agency, that it we could imagine that rustling in the tall grass was a predator sneaking up on us and take actions to elude the stalking animal. But, of course, we have to take everything to extremes, especially when given leisure time (aka time not having to work to gather food, make shelters, make clothing, etc.) so we invent effing philosophers to do what? Imagine up all kinds of stuff, none of which has the possibility of benefiting the ordinary people, but much of which can be used by the elites to control the masses so they can siphon off our “surplus labor.”

* * *

Now I can see the value of categories. My academic subject field, chemistry, would be much more difficult without them. By assigning a chemical substance to a category, you can then characterize that substance with the general attributes of the category (e.g. metals are good conductors of electricity, and are malleable and ductile, etc.).

But one has to look carefully at what one is doing. In Plato’s case he said things like “A wind is pleasantly cool for one person but uncomfortably cold for another. A wine is sweet to a person who is well but sour to the same person when ill.” but then goes on by implying that human knowledge needs absolutes. Take that wine, for instance, is it sweet or is it sour, it can’t be both, no? Yes, it can. When I moved to the Midwest of the US from California I ended up with people who claimed a dish we were eating was “very spicy” but I thought was bland. (The offending spice was black pepper.) What I conclude is that perceptions depend upon context and aren’t absolutes. So, the wine is sweet when the person was well and sour when he was ill (but not at the same time), that is his sense of taste was affected by his illness. There does not need to be an idealized absolute “Sweet Wine” in the Realm of Absolutes so we can tell the sick person that they are wrong, the wine isn’t sour, so they can’t be tasting that. (My cartoon mind has the voice of Crocodile Dundee playing in the background saying “That’s not a sweet wine . . . this is a sweet wine.”)

These are the ideas of people who are too smart for their own good . .  our own good.

July 28, 2016

The Problem of Evil … Solved!

Uh … well … no. Sorry.

Christian apologists have always been drawn from the pool of small caliber intellectuals and their arguments often show this. Recently a noted apologist by the name of Alvin Plantinga (of the same stature as William Lane Craig or as I prefer to call him “Bill”) authored a massive formal logical defense of the solution to the problem of evil that centers on the existence of free will. He “proves” that an all-good, omnibenevolent god is perfectly compatible with the existence of evil.

For those of you whose heads are spinning a bit, recall that the “Problem of Evil” is simply a contrast of the supposed existence of an “all-good, omnibenevolent” god who created this system with the fact that evil is all around us. That god is responsible for all of that evil, and therefore isn’t really “all-good,” no?

Now I do not want to get bogged down in the philosophical fine points. For example, some philosophers break “evil” down into types, even describing a “natural evil” in the form of earthquakes, forest fires, landslides, etc. I think this is sort of silly because I consider nature to be neutral. If you happen to die in a landslide, it may be sad but there was no intent on the part of nature to do you in, it just happened. So, gliding gracefully over trivial sticking points, I proceed. Let’s get to the core of the matter.

Plantinga and Craig and all of the others use school boy logic up to and including very refined philosophical logical systems to make their points. But they all, Plantinga included, make basic mistakes that are quite appalling. They state premises like “you can’t have good without evil.” Uh, really, says who? Such a premise is loaded and cannot be the basis of a sound conclusion.

Consider the parallel argument: you can’t have the rich without the poor. Well, there are countries in which poverty has been virtually eradicated (there are always a tiny minority of the poor which fall between the cracks but not a big enough cohort to supply the wherewithal to support a class of rich people). In these countries without significant poverty, have rich people disappeared? In fact, would this not be a way to deal with inappropriately powerful rich people? Get rid of poverty and their wealth would collapse. Yes, it is a ridiculous statement because it is a ridiculous premise for any discussion, as is “you can’t have good without evil.” Dichotomies of opposites were popular a couple of thousand years ago and still have a lingering power, but sheesh!

I am a science-fiction buff, so allow me a flight of fancy. Intrepid ’Merican space jockeys reach a number of alien planets and on one they discover a society in which there is no evil. Bad things happen all of the time but none of them have evil intent on the part of any alien. For example, a youth was swimming in a lake and got a cramp and drowned. An adult witnessed this but did not jump into the water to try to save the drowning youth. Surely that is evil. But, actually the adult could not swim herself and would have drowned, too, if she had jumped into the water to attempt a rescue. The adult frantically tried to find a flotation device, a rope, or a boat to effect a rescue, but none was available. This was a sad event. It was “not good.” You see “not good” is the opposite of “good,” not evil. You do not need the extreme contrast of evil to be able to identify “good,” there is plenty of contrast in the “not good,” the absence of good. It would have been good to be able to save that alien youth’s life, as it was it was not good; if you unsure, ask his mother.

On this planet, nobody ever has the thought to run into a church and blaze away with a gun, killing as many people as they can. None thinks to strap explosives to their bodies, then go into a crowded theater and detonate them. No one thinks that it would be a good idea to butcher their neighbors for meat to feed their dogs or kidnap young females and keep them as sex slaves in their basement. These thoughts just never occur to the aliens.

Our philosophers seem to think that evil is the cost of us having free will. That if we don’t have totally, completely, awesomely free wills, we would be diminished beyond repair. The aliens in my little fantasy have oodles of free will. They get to decide what they want to train for in the way of a job, which jobs to apply for, where to go on vacation, how many kids to have or whether to have kids at all, which church they want to belong to, which sports teams to root for, which car to buy … <pant, pant, pant>. Do you get the idea? They just don’t have the will to do evil things.

Are we better off having the part of our totally awesomely free will that causes us to commit evil acts or are we better off without it? Is the cost of not just free will, but the part of free will that enables us to do evil so precious that it is worth the price you see? The apologists think so. I suspect that normal people do not. They would prefer to live in a world without evil.

The Christian apologists are black and white absolutists. You can’t have good with out evil. You can’t have any restrictions on free will otherwise we are just robots, etc. Then they top it off and say things like their god loved us so much that He gave us free will including the evil part, you know, so we could have some good, too. They even indicate that He couldn’t have done it any other way, that a society without evil results in us being without free will and therefore being robots having no reason to live (in their minds the reason to live is to be able to freely, and without coercion, worship their god).

They say this while making the contradictory claim that their god has already done exactly that: He created a world in which evil doesn’t exist yet humans will enjoy immensely. He called it “Heaven.” The philosopher-apologists responded with “Well, Heaven isn’t really a world…,” yeah, right.

Let me make it simple. If I can imagine a world in which there is only good and not good, filled with happy people free to make myriad choices about how to live their lives (aliens are people, too), why couldn’t their god?

I’ve got to tell you, sometimes my people (intellectuals) embarrass me. To them, the truth is pretzel dough to be twisted into the shape desired for today’s eating.

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