16-11-08

Break of Day

'Tis true, 'tis day, what though it be?
O wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise, because 'tis light?
Did we lie down, because 'twas night?
Love which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.

(..)

Must business thee from hence remove?
Oh, that's the worst disease of love,
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo.

John Donne, The major Works, Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 102.


Nothing like an early 17th century poem delivering an early 21st century truth. It is a testament to the ease with which words can travel - that's however not what I wanted to think about here. 'Busy, busy, busy,' - the more time we reclaim from nature, the less time we feel to have. Formulated in this way, it's a boring old commonplace but that's just because we don't take time to lie still at the break of day. If we would, we would question the busy-ness of business. Why do we reclaim time from nature, just to wind up spending all of it to change nature in ways that satisfy this self-defeating circular obsession to be able to spend ever more time changing nature?

The answer is simple: we're in need of some serious brainwashing! When we were all brutes & beasts we needed an unsatisfiable drive to bend nature in ways which would allow us to cease beasts & brutes. Such got some elites into a situation of humanoid behaviour, referred to pejoratively - from our current imperfect state - as decadence. This situation was not evolutionarily stable - through ups and downs the elite started to grow until, at least in some geographies, it became a vast majority. This growth is still ongoing; cultural pessimists need to realize that society 'deteriorates amazingly well' nowadays.

The role of cultural pessimists is a crucial one: they keep the evolutionary dynamics as per the above intact. They avoid us getting a thoroughly enjoyable brainwashing, keeping our hands & minds continuously dirty, by pointing out 2 things. The elite is, & will always be, a happy few so the struggle to get there or keep your offspring in it is a continuous sruggle. Let's call this first point the 'original sin argument', or, when you are less religiously inclined 'The Carrot'. On top of this they highlight that, being in the elite, too much is worse than not enough. Scare stories about 'decadence' are put in place taking coincidental moralizing standards & showing how a decadent elite not only will violate them but will infect the 'lesser' classes thereby blocking progress for all. Let's call this the 'armageddon argument', or the 'fall of the Roman Empire'-argument or, more simply, 'The Stick'.

This way the business that was the means to an end becomes the end in itself - and all of us hurry at the break of day away, away from our true love: spending time with ourselves and others disregarding nature, nurturing the words with which we speak to each other and using our movements for furthering our human pleasure. Yes, that's decadent! Once our brains are washed in a shower of nice words, and dried in a light of love, we will understand (and feel!) that decadence is what we need to create what others crave. We will never be busy again, & our business will be instrumental again, instrumental to get a maximum amount of people to become part of an elite that is bestial only insofar as it behooves them (in bed, in sports but not in business). This is not a plea against business - once our brains are washed clean from the desire to over-achieve, we will continue to consume (in fact we will only consume) because we know we are not responsible for keeping things on track.

In fine: we will know we are not responsible. Responsibility is a bestial notion. It is a notion that is completely superfluous in the context of real love - not lovy-dovy love, not romantic love of feeling responsible but simply love of being human & acting as humans with no interest except human interests. Neither the carrot, nor the stick will impress us. Insofar as the elite is by definition a minority, we will no longer feel this compulsion to be part of it or have what they have. Inasmuch decadence consists in violating the non-coincidental moral claims of what makes humans human all will be cognizant of the fact that such is not the way of real decadence - because decadent love is love of what makes humans human.

I am very pessimistic about cultural pessimism :-)


Whilst writing this I was listening to 'Shostakovich: The Jazz Album' but I advise you not to because it is a hoax, my friends.

13:32 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: friendship, optimism, decadence, dynamics, donne |  Facebook |

02-11-08

On Saying That

"If we could recover our pre-Fregean semantic innocence, I think it would seem to us plainly incredible that the words 'The earth moves', uttered after the words 'Galileo said that', mean anything different, or refer to anything else, than is their wont when they come in other environments. No doubt their role in oratio obliqua is in some sense special; but that is another story." Donald Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, p. 108, Clarendon Press 2001.


This essay is one of the most wonderful pieces of reasoning I have had the honour of reading. It does precisely what it sets out to do: make it plausible that a strange notion like 'intension' - a notion so private & subjective as to obliterate any hope of ever getting rid of the magical from our lives & our thinking - is superfluous. Instead of it a simple extensional alternative is put in place, an alternative that allows what we normally do in public discourse, in science, in any reasonable human endeavour: check with the observable facts.

Read the essay to get the alternative! Put succinctly (and undoubtedly incompletely) it goes as follows: when someone is indicating to believe, desire, want that ... what's happening is that someone is making a relation between herself believing, desiring, wanting and something that is pointed to (much in the same way as she would point to a bird in saying 'that is a bird'). So you extend the pointing to-reference to allow pointing to something non-physical. That's it. Away with the talk of thoughts that are mysteriously, opaquely embedded in clauses and somehow cannot break free out of the intimacy of the person thinking. Great!, isn't it?

Unfortunately, Davidson leaves it very much at that. That's unfortunate because it's one of the few philosophers that have achieved the credible link between philosophy of language and moral philosophy & that has done so by delivering a damning blow (there are philosophical knock-down arguments) to both moral relativism and a type of moral absolutism that prescribes behaviour in excruciating detail, leaving humans like shackled feet and hands to some arbitrary notions of 'the good life'.

Honouring the consensus that is building outside of the published works between all people busy with these matters - in other words: all people, as language & morality are not specific to philosophical investigations - honouring the consensus on such a link & its radical but softening consequences, we need to find Davidson's flaws in his philosophy of language in order to mend his remaining inadequacies in his morality. Indeed, his moral philosophy is inadequate: close, but no cigar. It does not allow to derive a categorical imperative, not even a very modest one.

That's what I need to research because I believe that, I am in fact convinced that, it is necessarily so that in morality we need something categorical. I also know that it's just not sufficient for me to point to that, even if I point vehemently to it. No, I need to not just demonstrate the truth of my little that-clause but I need to prove it and I will only be able to prove it by finding where the flaw is in Davidson's philosophy of language because I am willing to bet that that flaw is linked to the inadequacy of his moral philophy.

So, there you have it: a project. The project will maybe start with 'on saying that', as it is something that I think is safe; & along with it, all things it presupposes are safe and the consensus is building from there that there's nothing magical about thought that can keep it confined, under a spell, within our heads.

Thoughts are not in heads, thoughts are between heads - they're there to point to & to analyze from different angles in order to see whether they refer to the same, and from there whether they are consistent & ultimately true, or not.


Whilst writing this I wasn't listening to anything really.

23:47 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: language, davidson, convergence, tones |  Facebook |