• Amalac
    197
    David Hume objected to pyrrhonian scepticism, towards the end of his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, that a consistent sceptic would have to suspend all discourse and action, which would inevitably lead him to an end very similar to the death of Kurt Gödel, for example.

    Bertrand Russell, on the other hand, seemed to have a somewhat different view on this matter, as can be seen in this passage about Protagoras:

    The disbelief in objective truth makes the majority, for practical purposes, the arbiters as to what to believe. Hence Protagoras was led to a defence of law and convention and traditional morality. While, as we saw, he did not know whether the gods existed, he was sure they ought to be worshipped. This point of view is obviously the right one for a man whose theoretical scepticism is thoroughgoing and logical.

    For my part, while l agree with Russell that a sceptic is an arbiter as to what he should believe in practice, I think both he and Hume make arbitrary assertions: Hume claims that the consistent sceptic would just do and say nothing and starve, while Russell claims that “obviously” (doesn't seem that obvious to me) they would just adopt traditional morality, as well as the conventions and beliefs of their time and culture, such as belief in God (s), and in the case of those who lived in Hume's time and culture, the traditional beliefs derived from christianity, for example.

    The way I look at it, the sceptic has a choice between different ways of acting, but he also has a previous choice between acting in any way at all and not doing anything, just as someone may have a choice as to which place to go to, but also to stay where he is. Following Pyrrho, who held that no line of action is more rational than any other, we may say that the choice of acting rather than not acting is just as irrational as the choice of not doing anything at all rather than doing something.

    If that's the case, how does the sceptic decide? In theory, and from a purely logical point of view, the choice is indifferent, a 50/50 choice, resembling the choice when trying to guess whether or not a coin will land on heads after flipping it, or between two identical looking coins. This is one of the senses of the term “indifferent” given by the stoics:

    They (the stoics) suppose that the term “indifferent” has three senses: in one sense it is applied to that for which there exists neither inclination nor disinclination, — such as the fact that the stars or the hairs of the head are odd in number or even; in another sense it applies to that for which there exists inclination and disinclination but not more for this thing than for that — as in the case of two drachmae indistinguishable both in markings and in brightness, when one is required to choose one of them, for there exists an inclination for one of them but no more for this one than for that(...) — Sextus Empiricus

    From a practical point of view however, due to custom and habit the sceptic would take some of the actions indispensable for survival (except in rare cases such as Pyrrho's, who apparently was so concerned with his actions being consistent with his philosophy, that he didn't even mind not walking away from a cliff, on the ground that there was no reason to believe that walking away from it was a better course of action), but as regards choices that are not life-threatening, they have a free choice. And this is why I think choosing to believe in God is not an “obvious” choice just because it's more common and traditional, as Russell suggests, but is rather a 50/50 choice, where the sceptic can choose according to his taste and sentiment, as Hume would say. Russell's assertion seems therefore arbitrary, since he had the same right to say that Protagoras should not believe in the gods of his time.

    In that sense, I think Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche had a better view on this matter: Stirner held that we should be like a “creator nothingness”, we should create value out of nothing, and likewise should freely decide what to believe, even with regards to purely intellectual matters, however obvious some of them may seem. The sceptic could also “create truth” in that sense, then.

    As for Nietzsche, he made a distinction between an active nihilism and a passive nihilism, saying that active nihilism is to be preferred. The former is akin to Stirner's philosophy, while the latter is similar to the sceptic who starves to death that Hume describes in his Enquiry. It is clear then, that Nietzsche and Stirner's philosophies did not lead them to the same beliefs as those of Protagoras, despite the fact that they also seem to reject the idea of objective truth.

    My question for you is: Which of these 3 doctrines regarding scepticism would you adopt? Is a pyrrhonian sceptic forced by his philosophy to not act in any way and not say anything?
  • god must be atheist
    2.9k
    I am a skeptic, and I choose things to believe, while choosing other things to not believe. Ultimately, I appreciate that the real world (things that exist) are unfathomable for man, for we rely on our senses and sensations to detect the real world, and there is no telling if that channel is at all reliable.

    So in a sense I accept that my reality is / may be a phantom, or it may actually be the real deal. In my everyday movements, I CHOOSE to act in the belief that the reality I sense is the reality I live in. As I often say, in the words of the proverbial umpire, "I calls them as I sees them".

    Hume, Russell and and the third guy have different views, or not... whether you accept reality full blast, or not at all, or somewhere in-between in the gradual transition (spectrum), is arbitrary, just like my choice is arbitrary. If you want to get away from arbitrariness, you must also get rid of skepticism, because that view in and by itself is also arbitrary.

    So if you keep skepticism, you are forced to be arbitrary in your world view. If you throw away skepticism, then you are automatically arbitrary (from a skeptic's viewpoint).
  • Amalac
    197


    So if you keep skepticism, you are forced to be arbitrary in your world view. If you throw away skepticism, then you are automatically arbitrary (from a skeptic's viewpoint).god must be atheist

    I guess so, but maybe even this claim of yours is arbitrary (as well as my own claim just now). It seems in the end to boil down to this statement of Kolakowski:

    We can never escape the infernal circle of epistemology: whatever we say, even negatively, about knowledge implies a knowledge we boast of having discovered; the saying “I know that I know nothing”, taken literally, is self-contradictory
  • god must be atheist
    2.9k
    Yes, yes. And also note please: Arbitrary decisions are the easiest to make. If we were forced to make a decision on knowledge which is well-thought out, solid, and makes a point, we'd be hard pressed.

    So far philosophy of epistemology has not only shown that knowledge is impossible (except the knowledge of the impossibility of knowledge) but also that arbitrary decisions on what truth is can't be beaten. Can't be beaten for reliability, ease, and comfort.

    The best solution to date to epistemological questions is a Lexus or a Cadillac.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    Here's my own fallibilistic taxonomy:
    (A) non-cognitive skepticism – suspension of judgment (epoché), or doubt, on the grounds that non-cognitive statements, or dis/beliefs, are undecidable (i.e. claims for which evidence is inadequate). (re: Pyrrhonian Skeptics ... Wittgensteinian Quietists (e.g 'formal-axiological expressions only show what cannot be said'))

    (B) cognitive skepticism – empirical knowledge, or factual truth-claims, are unwarranted because they are not certain. (re: Academic Skeptics)

    (C) meta-cognitive (i.e. methodological) skepticism – 'fideism', or insight (into knowledge) is only obtained ("revealed") through faith, because 'inferential reason' is fundamentally question begging, that is, consists in 'demonstrations of conclusions (judgments) inferred from assumptions or axioms, with rules of inference, that are not demonstrated'. (e.g. Augustinian? Skeptics ... Cartesian? Skeptics ... Berkleyan? Idealists ... p0m0 (Protagorean) relativists > anti-realists > social constructionists > passive nihilists)
    — an Absurdist (i.e. freethinking *fallibilist* epicurean-spinozist)
    My understanding of skepticism, as you can see, Amalac, differs considerably from Hume's et al, perhaps due to better scholarship on ancient sources which have come to light in the last century or so.

    My question for you is: Which of these 3 doctrines regarding scepticism would you adopt?Amalac
    (A) Pyrrhonian skepticism.

    (My conception, not yours (or Hume's) which seems mistaken for (B) Academic skepticism.)

    Is a [Pyrrh]onian sceptic forced by his philosophy to not act in any way and not say anything?
    A Pyrrhonian skeptic refrains from committing to beliefs or disbeliefs (judgments), such as philosophical ideas (e.g. universals, categories, abstract concepts), which cannot be decided on the grounds of unambiguous experience and/or adequate evidence. S/He doesn't bother discussing such undecidable beliefs or disbeliefs except to account for being noncommittal or indifferent towards them. A Pyrrhonian, it seems, aspires to live simply (i.e. ataraxia), and by custom, convention and some sort of (e.g. Deweyan) pragmatics.
  • baker
    1.3k
    It is impossible not to act. Even plumping oneself down at a crossroads is an action.
  • Amalac
    197


    A Pyrrhonian, it seems, aspires to live simply (i.e. ataraxia), and by custom, convention and some sort of (e.g. Deweyan) pragmatics.180 Proof

    Ok, but I guess that's what strikes non-sceptics as suspicious, because the pyrrhonian cannot know that living by custom and convention is better than not to, so why does he decide to abide by them rather than not to?

    Once again, it seems the choice is arbitrary: why does he decide to remain a pyrrhonian instead of becoming a stoic or an epicurean, for example (or just create his own new philosophy)? If the sceptic doesn't know if it is better to not believe anything dogmatically rather than to believe some things dogmatically, then why does he talk about dogmatists (like Sextus does) as if it were better to be a sceptic than to be a dogmatist?

    Furthermore, why does he act as if he did believe some things dogmatically if he claims that he doesn't believe anything dogmatically?
  • Amalac
    197


    It is impossible not to act. Even plumping oneself down at a crossroads is an action.baker

    In a sense, it is impossible not to make any choices, that does seem correct.

    If I remained sitting in a chair without moving an inch and not saying anything until I starve to death, then one could say I chose to not do anything. But we would not say that I'm “acting” right? Because I would not be doing anything besides what does not depend upon my will (i.e breathing, seeing, ...)
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    Ok, but I guess that's what strikes non-sceptics as suspicious, because the pyrrhonian cannot know that living by custom and convention is better than not to, so why does he decide to abide by them rather than not to?Amalac
    There aren't usually any grounds to doubt (or disbelieve) most customs & conventions (i.e. social norms, ritual observances) which makes them, for ataraxia-seeking Pyrrhonians, more preferable in everyday practice to abide by than undecidable beliefs such a religious or philosophical ideas. The "suspicions of non-sceptics" are matter a faintly amused indifference to a Pyrrhonian ... like other superstitions.

    Once again, it seems the choice is arbitrary: why does he decide to remain a pyrrhonian instead of becoming a stoic or an epicurean, for example (or just create his own new philosophy)?
    "Arbitrary"? Apparently, Pyrrhonianism works better for him or her than other reflective ways of life. And why "create his or her own new philosophy" when philosophy is (mostly) what a Pyrrhonian is skeptical of?

    If the sceptic doesn't know if it is better to not believe anything dogmatically rather than to believe some things dogmatically, then why does he talk about dogmatists (like Sextus does) as if it were better to be a sceptic than to be a dogmatist?
    The premise of this question is untrue. It's not a question of "better not to believe than to believe" but whether or not there are grounds to doubt this or that belief: if there are grounds (e.g. undecidability), then set that belief aside; if there aren't grounds to doubt, then believing is not at issue. It's not "better to be a sceptic than a dogmatist" any more than it is "better" to 'filter-out uncertainties' than 'assert certitude'; a skeptic seeks a 'simple life' (i.e. ataraxia) and a dogmatist seeks an 'assertive life' (i.e. hubris). Besides, Sextus "talks to dogmatists" because there's more to learn from those with whom a skeptic disagrees than from other skeptics. :roll:

    Furthermore, why does he act as if he did believe some things dogmatically if he claims that he doesn't believe anything dogmatically?
    Where one lacks grounds to disbelieve (from sufficient evidence to the contrary) AND lacks grounds to doubt (from undecidability), one believes by default out of custom, convention or habit (re: Witty's, On Certainty). Such believing is not "dogmatic" in so far as a skeptic's beliefs are open to being reconsidered in the light of new evidence. I refer here only to Pyrrhonians and not to Academic skeptics (who were "dogmatic" in claiming 'nothing can be known because knowledge is not (ever) certain').
  • Amalac
    197


    There aren't usually any grounds to doubt (or disbelieve) most customs & conventions (i.e. social norms, ritual observances)180 Proof

    But there are no grounds to believe them either, according to the theoretical philosophy of the pyrrhonian, that's why the choice is still arbitrary.

    Why, for instance, does the pyrrhonian adopt the customs and conventions of the country were he lives, and not those of some other country? He has no rational justification for choosing any of them.

    I suppose one possible answer is a kind of pragmatism: they would do that in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and hostility from the people of their community. But that brings the further question: If the pyrrhonian tries to doubt everything, why doesn't he doubt that pragmatism as well? After all, customs, conventions and traditional morality and beliefs are sometimes quite deplorable, and it may therefore be better to oppose them (at least sometimes). For instance, religious beliefs that were customary and traditional that some people in the past used to justify the crusades or the inquisition, were such that a person with a decent morality would vehemently oppose them. So I wonder: If Protagoras lived in the times of the inquisition, could he still say that God ought to be worshipped and that we ought to defend those religious beliefs on the ground that they are conventional and traditional? In theory, and from a purely logical point of view, he might be justified to think that in such a scenario, but if he then talked and acted accordingly I would find him contemptible.

    which makes them, for ataraxia-seeking Pyrrhonians, more preferable in everyday practice to abide by than undecidable beliefs such a religious or philosophical ideas.180 Proof

    Protagoras defended the religion and the customary philosophy of his time, and so he abided by them (to some extent, at least). They are included in “customs and conventions”.

    And why "create his or her own new philosophy" when philosophy is (mostly) what a Pyrrhonian is skeptical of?180 Proof

    Pyrrhonism is a philosophy too (as Sextus acknowledges), so if a pyrrhonian is sceptical of most philosophy, then he should also be sceptical of pyrrhonism itself. If he is not, then one wonders whether that's a case of special pleading. Why then is he sceptical of some philosophies but not others?

    if there aren't grounds to doubt, then believing is not at issue.180 Proof

    The pyrrhonian claims to know nothing, not even that very thing, (that is: he says he doesn't even know that he knows nothing) unlike the academic sceptic. If so, he has no way to know when there are grounds for doubt and when there are not (as Sextus himself points out: he has no criterion of truth to distinguish the two).

    I mean, did Gorgias have grounds for doubting whether something exists or not? Did Sextus have grounds to doubt the logic proposed by the stoics or whether or not addition and substraction are possible, as he did in his Outlines?

    Besides, Sextus "talks to dogmatists" because there's more to learn from those with whom a skeptic disagrees than from other skeptics.180 Proof

    Here you are putting words in my mouth, I never criticised Sextus for “talking to dogmatists” (he can talk to whoever he wants of course), but rather for talking about dogmatists...

    ...as if it were better to be a sceptic than to be a dogmatistAmalac

    Where one lacks grounds to disbelieve (from sufficient evidence to the contrary) AND lacks grounds to doubt (from undecidability), one believes by default out of custom, convention or habit (re: Witty's, On Certainty).180 Proof

    Supposing a sceptic claimed this, he has no way to know what the default position is nor, supposing that were the default position, to know that it is preferable (not even in practice) to adopt a default position rather than a non-default one. That is why I think their choice is arbitrary, their belief that some doctrine X “works better for him or her than other reflective ways of life” is also arbitrary, from a logical standpoint, as well as the belief or disbelief in the pragmatic criterion they use to choose, since they can't even know that it is more likely to be a better course of action than not.

    I suppose you may disagree with this principle though: If I do not know X is a better/ more rational way of acting than not-X, and I also do not even know if X is more likely to be a better/more rational way of acting than not-X, then the choice between X and not-X is arbitrary.

    Such believing is not "dogmatic" in so far as a skeptic's beliefs are open to being reconsidered in the light of new evidence.180 Proof

    That's true for more moderate forms of scepticism, but the pyrrhonian's scepticism is radical, they doubt even whether or not it is reasonable to conclude that belief X is more likely to be true than other beliefs even if the evidence seems to suggest that (assuming they even grant that the evidence exists and is not merely an illusion). They can use things like Agrippa's trilemma, the problem of the criterion, Hume's problem of induction, and/or Descartes's evil demon to doubt that.

    So in a sense, there is always grounds for doubting anything (even in practice), however obvious/ self-evident it may seem.

    That way, the sceptics can never be convinced that their position is mistaken, or even more likely to be mistaken:

    If we adopt the attitude of the complete sceptic, placing ourselves wholly outside all knowledge, and asking, from this outside position, to be compelled to return within the circle of knowledge, we are demanding what is impossible, and our scepticism can never be refuted. For all refutation must begin with some piece of knowledge which the disputants share; from blank doubt, no argument can begin. Hence the criticism of knowledge which philosophy employs must not be of this destructive kind, if any result is to be achieved. Against this absolute scepticism, no logical argument can be advanced. — Bertrand Russell

    However, it would seem also that nothing the sceptic says can convince those who think that asserting X is equivalent to asserting “I know that X” or “X is true” and that the sceptic contradicts himself, that they are wrong, because they can always retort that those who reject that are claiming that they know that X is not always equivalent to “I know X” or “X is true”, so that in the end they claim to know something, no matter how many times they deny it. It always goes something like this:

    Sceptic: I don't know anything/ nothing is true

    Dogmatist: So you know that you don't know anything/ you think it's true that nothing is true, and therefore your position self-destructs.

    Sceptic: No, I don't know that either, and I don't claim that it's true that nothing is true.

    Dogmatist: So you know that you don't know that you don't know anything, and you claim that it is true that you don't claim that it is true that nothing is true, and therefore your position self-destructs.

    Sceptic: No, I'm not saying that.

    Dogmatist: Oh, but then you are claiming to know what you just said/ that what you just said is true...

    ... And the cycle repeats forever and ever, leading absolutely nowhere.

    Here I ask: Is it not obvious that neither party can ever convince the other, no matter what they say?

    Doesn't this show that it is futile to even pick a side and to try and discuss anything related to (radical) scepticism (even with regards to their practice) pretending to try and solve the problems raised by scepticism, as some philosophers still do at the present day?

    At any rate, there seems to be no way out of Kolakowski's maxim:

    We can never escape the infernal circle of epistemology: whatever we say, even negatively, about knowledge implies a knowledge we boast of having discovered; the saying “I know that I know nothing”, taken literally, is self-contradictory
  • j0e
    443
    Doesn't this show that it is futile to even pick a side and to try and discuss anything related to (radical) scepticism (even with regards to their practice) pretending to try and solve the problems raised by scepticism, as some philosophers still do at the present day?

    At any rate, there seems to be no way out of Kolakowski's maxim:

    We can never escape the infernal circle of epistemology: whatever we say, even negatively, about knowledge implies a knowledge we boast of having discovered; the saying “I know that I know nothing”, taken literally, is self-contradictory
    Amalac

    :up:

    I like the idea of a pragmatic or practical skeptic. It's insane or insincere to doubt the 'know how' of practical life, but it's possible to be fascinated by dazzling abstractions and play with them without being captured by them. I associate the skeptic and stoic as two different reactions to pluralistic chaos (to a culture that swarms with opposing voices, both seeking ataraxia, but with the skeptic being more metaphysically adventurous, something of an 'ironist' and joker, but not incapable of or uninterested in careful reasoning. One could speculate that it's only a gut-level faith or confidence that allows one to play with ideas that might terrify or swallow others.
  • baker
    1.3k
    In a sense, it is impossible not to make any choices, that does seem correct.

    If I remained sitting in a chair without moving an inch and not saying anything until I starve to death, then one could say I chose to not do anything. But we would not say that I'm “acting” right? Because I would not be doing anything besides what does not depend upon my will (i.e breathing, seeing, ...)
    Amalac
    It depends on how narrowly you want to define "action". Whether you limit it only to (some) bodily actions, or whether you include the mental and the verbal (when you think or speak, this is doing, it's action).

    If you find yourself in a situation where you feel faced with a decision, like when you're at a crossroads, but then you plump yourself down, you're actively procrastinating, doing things to avoid making a decision about which way to go.
    (Which is different from resting simply because you're tired.)
  • Amalac
    197


    It depends on how narrowly you want to define "action". Whether you limit it only to (some) bodily actions, or whether you include the mental and the verbal (when you think or speak, this is doing, it's action).baker

    Agreed. I think we can infer that Hume uses a sense limited to bodily actions that depend upon one's will, and thus draws the conclusion that if a pyrrhonian tried to make his practice conform to his theory, he would be led to complete silence and to wait for his death by starvation:

    (...) a Pyrrhonian cannot expect, that his philosophy will have any constant influence on the mind: or if it had, that its influence would be beneficial to society. On the contrary, he must acknowledge, if he will acknowledge anything, that all human life must perish, were his principles universally and steadily to prevail. All discourse, all action would immediately cease; and men remain in a total lethargy, till the necessities of nature, unsatisfied, put an end to their miserable existence. — Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • j0e
    443
    Ok, but I guess that's what strikes non-sceptics as suspicious, because the pyrrhonian cannot know that living by custom and convention is better than not to, so why does he decide to abide by them rather than not to?Amalac

    I think @180 Proof touched on this, but here's my version. I think it's better to not view (most of) custom & convention as a conscious choice. We are trained like animals to talk, eat with forks, use paper on our ass, stand at the appropriate distance from strangers, etc. You might say that we enact beliefs that rarely become conscious. By the time we can compare skepticism and dogmatism and discuss them as options we are like complicated machines, smoothly enacting a dance of habits/beliefs without conscious effort or awareness. Genuine doubt is auto-pilot switching off with conscious troubleshooting switched on. In short, custom-convention is primarily not a choice at all but where we start, and starting with no beliefs (no enacted habits such as being able to speak a language or chew food) is clearly absurd or insane.

    We can think of all the philosophers sharing this starting point in common, speaking the same language, able to navigate ordinary life, with the dogmatists making grand statements that beyond this default, that might fascinate the skeptic without capturing him. We can also imagine the skeptic living a simple life, not desperate to keep up appearances but careful also not to needlessly offend or confuse.
  • Amalac
    197


    I think it's better to not view (most of) custom & convention as a conscious choice.j0e

    I agree that many of our actions are determined by custom and habit, but I was hinting rather at other customs and conventions, such as religious beliefs,customs and conventions, and some other (more controversial) principles derived from the traditional morality of their culture.

    For example: I don't think a sceptic should have defended the slavery of ancient Greece on the grounds that his scepticism leads him to do so because it is conventional and traditional. I also don't agree with Protagoras' choice of being sure that the gods of his time ought to be worshipped, specially considering the influence that such teachings would have on the people to whom he taught as a sophist, which could have been quite bad if it led them, paradoxically, to fanaticism.

    And also, though it may be hard to act contrary to custom and habit, it's not impossible if one has the will to put in a lot of effort, and sometimes one may argue that it is better to fight against conventions and traditions rather than not to, even if it's hard.

    If a sceptic insists that one should never do that, then it could be argued that they are no different from any ordinary citizen who never thinks about philosophy, since they behave in a very similar way in practice. What good was his scepticism then? It just lead him right back to where he started.
  • j0e
    443
    For example: I don't think a sceptic should have defended the slavery of ancient Greece on the grounds that his scepticism leads him to do so because it is conventional and traditional. I also don't agree with Protagoras' choice of being sure that the gods of his time ought to be worshipped, specially considering the influence of such teachings to the people to whom he taught as a sophist would have, which could have been quite bad if it led them, paradoxically, to fanaticism.Amalac

    :up:

    Good point. You mentioned Stirner earlier, and we can think of Marx's & Hegel's criticism of the (irresponsible) skeptic. Marx attacks Stirner directly and Hegel attacks 'The Irony,' an artsy-philosophical movement of his day. I don't think it's an easy problem to solve.

    And also, though it may be hard to act contrary to custom and habit, it's not impossible if one has the will to put in a lot of effort, and sometimes one may argue that it is better to fight against conventions and traditions rather than not to, even if it's hardAmalac

    :up:

    My understanding is that 'private' solutions like skepticism become popular when people feel powerless to change things. Kojeve presents scepticism (& stoicism) as a sophisticated manifestation of the slave mentality that won't risk its life against 'the master' (tyrants, ugly norms, etc.) for genuine (political) recognition of self and others and instead creates an escapist fiction. He also presents the Christian as an escapist who fantasizes a heavenly master who is the master of his worldly master, so that they are both slaves. In this vision the goal of history is a state where all individuals are recognized as equal.

    If a sceptic insists that one should never do that, then it could be argued that they are no different than any ordinary citizen who never thinks about philosophy, since they behave in a very similar way in practice. What good was his scepticism then? It just lead him right back to where he started.Amalac

    Morally I agree, though the skeptic might still enjoy a questionable sense of superiority to his relatively unsophisticated neighbors.
  • j0e
    443

    Since you mentioned Stirner, you might like this quote. It's Hegel's portrait of the Irony which more or less condenses Stirner into a few paragraphs.

    Now if we stop at these absolutely empty forms which originate from the absoluteness of the abstract ego, nothing is treated in and for itself and as valuable in itself, but only as produced by the subjectivity of the ego. But in that case the ego can remain lord and master of everything, and in no sphere of morals, law, things human and divine, profane and sacred, is there anything that would not first have to be laid down by the ego, and that therefore could not equally well be destroyed by it. Consequently everything genuinely and independently real becomes only a show, not true and genuine on its own account or through itself, but a mere appearance due to the ego in whose power and caprice and at whose free disposal it remains. To admit or cancel it depends wholly on the pleasure of the ego, already absolute in itself simply as ego. Now thirdly, the ego is a living, active individual, and its life consists in making its individuality real in its own eyes and in those of others, in expressing itself, and bringing itself into appearance. For every man, by living, tries to realize himself and does realize himself.

    Now in relation to beauty and art, this acquires the meaning of living as an artist and forming one’s life artistically. But on this principle, I live as an artist when all my action and my expression in general, in connection with any content whatever, remains for me a mere show and assumes a shape which is wholly in my power. In that case I am not really in earnest either with this content or, generally, with its expression and actualization. For genuine earnestness enters only by means of a substantial interest, something of intrinsic worth like truth, ethical life, etc., – by means of a content which counts as such for me as essential, so that I only become essential myself in my own eyes in so far as I have immersed myself in such a content and have brought myself into conformity with it in all my knowing and acting. When the ego that sets up and dissolves everything out of its own caprice is the artist, to whom no content of consciousness appears as absolute and independently real but only as a self-made and destructible show, such earnestness can find no place, since validity is ascribed only to the formalism of the ego.

    True, in the eyes of others the appearance which I present to them may be regarded seriously, in that they take me to be really concerned with the matter in hand, but in that case they are simply deceived, poor limited creatures, without the faculty and ability to apprehend and reach the loftiness of my standpoint. Therefore this shows me that not everyone is so free (i.e. formally free)[52] as to see in everything which otherwise has value, dignity, and sanctity for mankind just a product of his own power of caprice, whereby he is at liberty either to grant validity to such things, to determine himself and fill his life by means of them, or the reverse. Moreover this virtuosity of an ironical artistic life apprehends itself as a divine creative genius for which anything and everything is only an unsubstantial creature, to which the creator, knowing himself to be disengaged and free from everything, is not bound, because he is just as able to destroy it as to create it. In that case, he who has reached this standpoint of divine genius looks down from his high rank on all other men, for they are pronounced dull and limited, inasmuch as law, morals, etc., still count for them as fixed, essential, and obligatory. So then the individual, who lives in this way as an artist, does give himself relations to others: he lives with friends, mistresses, etc; but, by his being a genius, this relation to his own specific reality, his particular actions, as well as to what is absolute and universal, is at the same time null; his attitude to it all is ironical.
    — Hegel

    Here's where the criticism kicks in.

    The next form of this negativity of irony is, on the one hand, the vanity of everything factual, moral, and of intrinsic worth, the nullity of everything objective and absolutely valid. If the ego remains at this standpoint, everything appears to it as null and vain, except its own subjectivity which therefore becomes hollow and empty and itself mere vanity.[53] But, on the other hand, the ego may, contrariwise, fail to find satisfaction in this self-enjoyment and instead become inadequate to itself, so that it now feels a craving for the solid and the substantial, for specific and essential interests. Out of this comes misfortune, and the contradiction that, on the one hand, the subject does want to penetrate into truth and longs for objectivity, but, on the other hand, cannot renounce his isolation and withdrawal into himself or tear himself free from this unsatisfied abstract inwardness. Now he is attacked by the yearning which also we have seen proceeding from Fichtean philosophy. The dissatisfaction of this quiescence and impotence – which may not do or touch anything for fear of losing its inner harmony and which, even if pure in itself, is still unreal and empty despite its desire for reality and what is absolute – is the source of yearning and a morbid beautiful soul. For a truly beautiful soul acts and is actual. That longing, however, is only the empty vain subject’s sense of nullity, and he lacks the strength to escape from this vanity and fill himself with a content of substance. — Hegel
    https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/ae/introduction.htm#s7-3

    FWIW, I think Stirner's attack on Feuerbach fails. As Marx also saw, the (Cartesian) ego is one more spook, and Stirner's gestures toward thoughtless-wordless freedom (a potential escape from the ego-as-spook) aren't appealing or convincing. Stirner himself was, I think, a good guy at heart and imagined himself as a liberator. I do like his concept of the 'sacred' that functions as an archetype for authority, as the general form of what anyone ultimately appeals to in an attempt to dominate with words.
  • j0e
    443
    You also mentioned Nietzsche, and this passage (one of my faves) came to mind, which presents Jesus as a sort of mystical skeptic on the 'other side of ' or 'behind' language.
    What the “glad tidings” tell us is simply that there are no more contradictions; the kingdom of heaven belongs to children; the faith that is voiced here is no more an embattled faith—it is at hand, it has been from the beginning, it is a sort of recrudescent childishness of the spirit. ... A faith of this sort is not furious, it does not de nounce, it does not defend itself: it does not come with “the sword”—it does not realize how it will one day set man against man. It does not manifest itself either by miracles, or by rewards and promises, or by “scriptures”: it is itself, first and last, its own miracle, its own reward, its own promise, its own “kingdom of God.” This faith does not formulate itself—it simply lives, and so guards itself against formulae. To be sure, the accident of environment, of educational background gives prominence to concepts of a certain sort...But let us be careful not to see in all this anything more than symbolical language, semantics, an opportunity to speak in parables. It is only on the theory that no word is to be taken literally that this anti-realist is able to speak at all. Set down among Hindus he would have made use of the concepts of Sankhya,and among Chinese he would have employed those of Lao-tse—and in neither case would it have made any difference to him.—With a little freedom in the use of words, one might actually call Jesus a “free spirit” —he cares nothing for what is established: the word killeth, whatever is established killeth. The idea of “life” as an experience, as he alone conceives it, stands opposed to his mind to every sort of word, formula, law, belief and dogma. He speaks only of inner things: “life” or “truth” or “light” is his word for the innermost—in his sight everything else, the whole of reality, all nature, even language, has significance only as sign, as allegory...Here it is of paramount importance to be led into no error by the temptations lying in Christian, or rather ecclesiastical prejudices: such a symbolism par excellence stands outside all religion, all notions of worship, all history, all natural science, all worldly experience, all knowledge, all politics, all psychology, all books, all art—his “wisdom” is precisely a pure ignorance of all such things.
    ...
    If I understand anything at all about this great symbolist, it is this: that he regarded only subjective realities as realities, as “truths” —that he saw everything else, everything natural, temporal, spatial and historical, merely as signs, as materials for parables. The concept of “the Son of God” does not connote a concrete person in history, an isolated and definite individual, but an “eternal” fact, a psychological symbol set free from the concept of time.
    ...
    The “kingdom of heaven” is a state of the heart—not something to come “beyond the world” or “after death.” The whole idea of natural death is absent from the Gospels: death is not a bridge, not a passing; it is absent because it belongs to a quite different, a merely apparent world, useful only as a symbol. The “hour of death” is not a Christian idea—“hours,” time, the physical life and its crises have no existence for the bearer of “glad tidings.”... The “kingdom of God” is not something that men wait for: it had no yesterday and no day after tomorrow, it is not going to come at a “millennium”—it is an experience of the heart, it is everywhere and it is nowhere....
    — Nietzche


    https://www.gutenberg.org/files/19322/19322-h/19322-h.htm
  • Amalac
    197


    Interesting, I confess that I unfortunately haven't had the time to read Hegel's works in order to make a proper judgement of them, but those passages that you mention are indeed quite interesting and give a good picture of the philosophy of Stirner/Nietzsche, as well as good criticism of them. Guess I should add it to my list of books to study now.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    Why, for instance, does the pyrrhonian adopt the customs and conventions of the country were he lives, and not those of some other country?Amalac
    This question makes no sense. Like everyone, the skeptic does not "adopt the custom and conventions of the country where he lives" any more than she "adopts" her parents or mother tongue.

     If the pyrrhonian tries to doubt everything, why doesn't he doubt that pragmatism as well?
    Again, you're confused. Academic skeptics doubt (the possibility of) knowing anything but Pyrrhonians only doubt undecidable beliefs (i.e. claims for which evidence is inadequate). Practices (habits) – which are not the same as e.g. Peirce-Dewey's 'philosophical pragmatism' 2,300 years after Pyrrho – work.

     If Protagoras lived in the times of the inquisition, could he still say [ ... ] on the ground that they are conventional and traditional?
     
    Non sequitur. Firstly, Protagoras was a relativist and not a skeptic. Secondly, your speculative guess about his attitude toward the Inquisition is as good (or vacuous) as anyone else's. A far more adequate example of a Pyrrhonian contemporary of the Holy Inquisition would be Montaigne (read his essay "Apology for Raymond Sebond" (on why he's a Pyrrhonian) collected in his Essais).

    Pyrrhonism is a philosophy too (as Sextus acknowledges), so if a pyrrhonian is sceptical of most philosophy, then he should also be sceptical of pyrrhonism itself.
    Yes and no.

    Yes, Pyrrhonians are skeptical of undecidable dis/beliefs (i.e. claims for which evidence is inadequate) made even by skeptics, including and especially Pyrrhonians, which is why they refrain from doing so, offering only methods for suspending judgment (epoché) as a praxis and not a doxa. Besides, the Pyrrhonian method works, therefore lacking grounds for doubting itself (à la Descartes). If there were an even less dubious yet effective method, I suspect Pyrrhonians would adopt that praxis instead.

    No, Pyrrhonians are not "skeptical of most philosophy" per se but only skeptical of undecidable statements (of which mere opinion/gossip, myths, religious scriptures or creeds, political ideologies as well as most philosophies consist). Academic skeptics, not Pyrrhonians, inconsistently doubt "most philosophies", just as they do less-than-absolutely-certain knowledge, as dogmas except for the dogma of Academic skepticism.

    Why then is [Pyrrho] sceptical of some philosophies but not others?
    See above.

    The p[yrrh]onian claims to know nothing, not even that very thing, (that is: he says he doesn't even know that he knows nothing) unlike the academic sceptic.
    Again you're mistaken, Amalac, and have these positions reversed.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/524556

    I mean, did Gorgias have grounds for doubting whether something exists or not?
    Of course not. Sophists, like Gorgias, use rhetoric to pursuade instead of evidentiary or logical grounds to warrant their claims. Also, he wasn't a Pyrrhonian ... IMO not relevant to the discussion.

    Did Sextus have grounds to doubt the logic proposed by the stoics or whether or not addition and substraction are possible, as he did in his Outlines?
    I don't know. (It's been decades since I'd read Sextus.)

    I never criticised Sextus for “talking to dogmatists” (he can talk to whoever he wants of course), but rather for talking about dogmatists...
    Apologies. Trivial difference, however.
  • Amalac
    197


    Like everyone, the skeptic does not "adopt the custom and conventions of the country where he lives" any more than she "adopts" her parents or mother tongue.180 Proof

    Like I answered to j0e, I agree when it comes to trivial and uncontroversial customs and conventions, but not as regards controversial/ important ones (such as slavery for example).

    Non sequitur. Firstly, Protagoras was a relativist and not a skeptic.180 Proof

    I would say he was both, take for instance his doctrine that “man is the measure of all things”:

    He (Protagoras) is chiefly noted for his doctrine that "Man is the
    measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not."
    This is interpreted as meaning that each man is the measure of all things, and that, when men differ, there is no objective truth in virtue of which one is right and the other wrong. The doctrine is essentially sceptical, and is presumably based on the "deceitfulness" of the senses.
    — Bertrand Russell

    Also, what Russell says after that shows the connection between scepticism and pragmatism:

    One of the three founders of pragmatism, F.C.S. Schiller, was in the habit of calling himself a
    disciple of Protagoras. This was, I think, because Plato, in the Theaetetus, suggests, as an interpretation of Protagoras, that one opinion can be better than another, though it cannot be truer.
    For example, when a man has jaundice everything looks yellow. There is no sense in saying that things are really not yellow, but the colour they look to a man in health; we can say, however, that,
    since health is better than sickness, the opinion of the man in health is better than that of the man who has jaundice. This point of view, obviously, is akin to pragmatism.

    It is true that Sextus says that some aspects of the philosophy of Protagoras differ from Pyrrhonism, but he also says that his main doctrine is akin to Pyrrhonism:

    Protagoras thinks that man is the measure of all things; of things that are, that 216 they are; and of things that are not, that they are not. And by "measure" he means the criterion, and by "things" he means objects or facts. So in effect he says that man is the criterion of all objects or facts; of those that are, that they are; and of those that are not, that they are not. And for this reason he posits only what appears to each person, and thus he introduces relativity. Wherefore he too
    seems to have something in common with the Pyrrhoneans.

    Sextus often holds tenets which are more or less those of Protagoras, for example the mode of relativity:

    The eighth mode is the one based on relativity, where we conclude that, 135 since everything is in relation to something, we shall suspend judgment as to what things are in themselves and in their nature. But it must be noticed that here, as elsewhere, we use "are" for "appear to be," saying in effect "everything appears in relation to something." But this statement has two senses: first, as implying
    relation to what does the judging, for the object that exists externally and is judged appears in relation to what does the judging, and second, as implying relation to the things observed together with it, as, for example, what is on the right is in relation to what is on the left. And, indeed, we have taken 136 into account earlier that everything is in relation to something: for example, as regards what does the judging, that each thing appears in relation to this or that animal or person or sense and in relation to such and such a circumstance; and as regards the
    things observed together with it, that each thing appears in relation to this or that admixture or manner or combination or quantity or position.
    Of course not. Sophists, like Gorgias, use rhetoric to pursuade instead of evidentiary or logical grounds to warrant their claims. Also, he wasn't a Pyrrhonian ... IMO not relevant to the discussion.180 Proof

    1.Tell that to Sextus then, since he presented the argument of Gorgias in a way that makes it clear that he thought Gorgias had grounds for the claim that “nothing exists” (if you read Adversus Mathematicos you'll see that that is so).

    2. You are mistaken: Gorgias (and other sophists like Protagoras) did have logical grounds to support their claims. For instance, for the claim that “nothing exists”:

    Gorgias of Leontini belonged to the same party as those who abolish the criterion, although he did not adopt the same line of attack as Protagoras. For in his book entitled Concerning the Non-existent or Concerning Nature he tries to establish successively three main points — firstly, that nothing exists; secondly, that even if anything exists it is inapprehensible by man; thirdly, that even if anything is apprehensible, yet of a surety it is inexpressible and incommunicable to one’s neighbor. 66. Now that nothing exists, he argues in the following fashion: If anything exists, either it is the existent that exists or the non-existent, or both the existent and the non-existent exist. But neither does the existent exist, as he will establish, nor the non-existent, as he will demonstrate, nor both the existent and the non-existent, as he will also make plain. Nothing, therefore, exists. 57. Now the non-existent does not exist. For if the non-existent exists, it will at one and the same time exist and not exist; for in so far as it is conceived as non-existent it will not exist, but in so far as it is nonexistent it will again exist. But it is wholly absurd that a thing should both exist and exist not at one and the same time.
    Therefore the non-existent does not exist. Moreover, if the non-existent exists, the existent will not exist; for these are contrary the one to the other, and if existence is a property of the non-existent, non-existence will be a property of the existent. But it is not the fact that the existent does not exist; neither, then, will the non-existent exist.
    68. Furthermore, the existent does not exist either. For if the existent exists, it is either eternal or created or at once both eternal and created; but, as we shall prove, it is neither eternal nor created nor both; therefore the existent does not exist.
    For if the existent is eternal (the hypothesis we must take first), it has no beginning; 69. for everything created has some beginning, but the eternal being uncreated had no beginning. And having no beginning it is infinite. And if it is infinite, it is nowhere. For if it is anywhere, that wherein it is is different from it, and thus the existent, being encompassed by something, will no longer be infinite; for that which encompasses is larger than that which is encompassed, whereas nothing is larger than the infinite; so that the infinite is not anywhere. 70. Nor, again, is it encompassed by itself. For, if so, that wherein it is will be identical with that which is therein, and the existent will become two things, place and body (for that wherein it is is place, and that which is therein is body). But this is absurd; so that the existent is not in itself either. (...)

    ...and he goes on like that, concluding at the end:

    Such, then, being the difficulties raised by Gorgias, if we go by them the criterion of truth is swept away; for there can be no criterion of that which neither exists nor can be known nor is naturally capable of being explained to another person.

    I think the sophists (who are also sceptics in my opinion) tried to show by these arguments what David Hume called the “imbecility of reason”.

    All in all, I quite agree with what Russell says here with regards to Pyrrhonism:

    There was not much that was new in his (Pyrrho's) doctrine, beyond a certain systematizing and formalizing of older doubts. Scepticism with regard to the senses had
    troubled Greek philosophers from a very early stage; the only exceptions were those who, like
    Parmenides and Plato, denied the cognitive value of perception, and made their denial into an
    opportunity for an intellectual dogmatism. The Sophists, notably Protagoras and Gorgias, had
    been led by the ambiguities and apparent contradictions of sense-perception to a subjectivism not unlike Hume's.

    Again you're mistaken, Amalac, and have these positions reversed.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/524556
    180 Proof

    Well, let's make things clear: when speaking about pyrrhonism I'm refering to the doctrines set forth by Sextus Empiricus in Outlines of Pyrrhonism and in Adversus Mathematicos.

    As for the support of the claim to which this particular quoted statement of yours responds to:

    As I said above, there have been not a few who have asserted that Metrodorus and Anaxarchus, and also Monimus, abolished the criterion — 88. Metrodorus because he said “We know nothing, nor do we even know the very fact that we know nothing” — Sextus Empiricus

    He (the sceptic) considers that, just as the "All things are false" slogan says that together with the other things it is itself false, as does the slogan "Nothing is true," so also the “Nothing more” slogan says that it itself is no more the case than its opposite, and thus it applies to itself along with the rest. — Sextus Empiricus

    (...)even if it does banish itself (here he is talking about the argument which deduces that proof does not exist) the existence of proof is not thereby confirmed. For there are many things which produce the same effect on themselves as they produce on other things. Just as, for example, fire after consuming the fuel destroys also itself, and like as purgatives after driving the fluids out of the bodies expel themselves as well, so too the argument against proof, after abolishing every proof, can cancel itself also. 481. And again, just as it is not impossible for the man who has ascended to a high place by a ladder to overturn the ladder with his foot after his ascent(...) — Sextus Empiricus

    I don't know. (It's been decades since I'd read Sextus.)180 Proof

    I'd suggest you re-read both Adversus Mathematicos and Outlines of Pyrrhonism then.

    Apologies. Trivial difference, however.180 Proof

    It seems for some reason you are ommiting what I said right after what you quote, so I'll put it here:

    If the sceptic doesn't know if it is better to not believe anything dogmatically rather than to believe some things dogmatically, then why does he talk about dogmatists (like Sextus does) as if it were better to be a sceptic than to be a dogmatist?Amalac

    Talking about X (dogmatism) as if it were worse than not-X ≠ Talking about X.
  • j0e
    443
    :up:

    Glad you found them interesting. I don't pretend to 'get' all of Hegel, but he's a rich mine to explore. For those with an unmystical-secular mindset I'd say Kojeve's take on Hegel is fascinating (and eccentric.)
    If you like Stirner, then Marx's attack on him is fascinating (The German Ideology.)

    Anyway, I really like the issues you are raising. I think working out which position is virtuous or good is the center of philosophy.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    We're relying on incommensurable sources so it's pointless to contest our respective interpretation and procede any further with this discussion. My first post above answers the OP adequately. Thanks for the exchange.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.