Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Tue Apr 22 20:29:34 2008
Emotional Reasoning

When I first began a serious study of Nietzsche, I was still enamoured of formal logic, saw math and statistics as the end-all of human knowledge, and believed in the power of sufficiently careful debate to demonstrate who was right or wrong in most areas of human thought. Nietzsche (later, like Marx) challenged tthis - his arguments were based on a different kind of logic that placed human drives and emotions as priorities (note: compare Nietzsche's "human spirit" to Ibn Khaldun's). While his thinking was clearly faulty from the framework I had then, it had a strong inner logic. In later times, having a worked out value framework means that I can see that his standards for constructing a Weltanschauung are just based off of different values and concerns than the framework I grew up in, and with that same value framework and the distance from my own values I've learned to hold when useful has made it possible to understand a number of very different perspectives, most reasonably sensible in themselves, many mutually insane without that distance. It is this duality that I think people should aim for when they break with moral absolutism -- that there are a variety of perspectives possible, some of which work out to the same practical ends, some do not, and to stop using absolutist language, all at the same time being willing to push one's values on society in the same way that absolutists do, when appropriate. The last nuance is critical - "weak relativists", as I've used the term, take that broadness in perspctive and wed it to meekness in pushing their values ("who am I to ...") that castrates their philosophy, and they then often hold that meekness as one of the few values worth standing for. The birth of this in European philosophy is the nihilism that Nietzsche says we must pass through as we reevaluate our value system - Nietzsche was more about the journey than the destination so he was unclear whether his description ends in another absolutism or "strong moral relativism" - I hold that the latter is preferable, as while between two mental equals with well-thought out value systems it still admits stalemate, it is the more aware of the two choices, and self-awareness is something I see is even more important than the growth of the Roman spirit N speaks of - I have come to conclude that that spirit is in fact harmful - while claims that N was anti-semitic are ill-informed and easily disputed, N's concerns are more concerned with the well-being of the individual, and as almost as divorced from and harmful to people as Ayn Rand's Objectivism.

I am still wrestling with the question, "Is Philosophy Dead?" - does relativism destroy the strong kinds of arguments that traditional philosophy makes by showing that their foundations and standards of admittance are foundationally aesthetic or arbitrary? Philosophy should not be read like a mathematical proof - being reasonably consistent is enough, but as one reads Hobbes or Rawls, if one finds a foundational element that one cannot agree with or accept (the difference between rejecting and refuting an idea becomes very murky when one's standards for doing so are held as loosely as I believe one should), one ceases to be convinced/inspired in the fullest sense and is instead aesthetically engaged. One this has happened enough, can we ever construct a framework to our own standards that we would describe for others to consider? Would a more honest and careful philosophy that says "I admit this not to be the only reasonable way to go but I like the aesthetics of this choice..." in several places be as convincing? Is it worthwhile to construct a vision of human ideals or governmental ideals (like N or Rawls or Machiavelli or Hobbes) in the end and hope the vision and aesthetics are both strong enough to inspire others?

I was going to go out to get some Fondue tonight (and if anyone were to want to do half-price with me at that place in Oakland for that, I'd be game - call me), but I also picked up some Sauvignon Blanc and Brie so I can learn to cook it.

Largely unrelated, I remembered the name of the awesome French restaurant I went to some years back with Nicole and her father -- Laforet. They served some of the best french food I've had in my life (hard to compare it to the food my family had in Paris when I was 14 or so -- that was too long ago). People up for an excellent (albeit fairly expensive) french meal should check it out.