• Joshs
    1.5k
    ut to Banno's point - this ain't a brilliant thing for the philosophical enterprise if accurate.

    If true, it raises follow up questions - can this be overcome or dealt with in some way? How is it identified?

    Can we make an effort to read and understand thinkers we are not drawn to? What should matter is the quality of the content, not whether it appeals, but I guess it could be argued that even our ability to sit with some ideas and not with others may rest with personal taste.
    Tom Storm

    You’re missing the very essence of understanding. You’re mistaking the pre-condition for comprehending anything with some sort of flaw, which is the point Nietzsche is trying to make. But you’re not alone here. There are never ending laments on this site about ‘prejudice’, ‘bias, the appeal of ‘emotion ‘ over objectivity. What you’re calling ‘personal taste’ is the result of the fact that the understanding of anything new must be based on compatibility with a pre-existing frame of reference. What makes us drawn to certain thing s over others is our ability to relate to them, to find them relevant and significant to our concerns. Something appeals to us because it matters to us, and it matters to us because it is comprehensible and meaningful in relation to how we see the world. Things and events completely outside of our worldview not only don’t matter to us, they are entirely invisible to us. This isn’t something unique to philosophy, it’s how scientific knowledge functions as well, which is what Kuhn was getting at.
  • Joshs
    1.5k
    And here various truths are filtered in favor of maintaining the system of explanation that most assists oneself in making sense of existence. Thereby, that system of explanations which best helps one to live. I’m by no means any exception to this bias.javra

    Are you saying there is an alternative to this ‘bias’? If sense-making is a bias , what is the alternative to sense-making?

    If there were to be a theory of everything in philosophy, it would need to explain everything to a t: both real and fictional, both metaphysical and physical, and so on. Thereby holding complete explanatory power for everything - for that which our own temperaments value as well as that which we find no great value in, though it be valuable to others.javra

    I thought that every comprehensive philosophy in history, from Plato through Kant and Heidegger, did just that, explaining everything to a t. As Heidegger and Nietzsche would argue, all forms of understandings are value systems. A value system isn’t based on ephemeral ‘temperament’ , but represents a qualitative gestalt that organizes all the details of our experience in a meaningful way. There is no such thing as a value-independent fact.
    The reason that theories of everything end up getting replaced is that ‘the ‘ everything’ they are describing isn’t a static set of facts but is constantly evolving, because we are a part of this everything and are constantly evolving
  • Joshs
    1.5k
    if philosophy is to be a logical enterprise then philosophy can just as easily act to correct tendencies to be governed by our guts.magritte

    The last thing philosophy needs to be is a ‘logical enterprise’. That would divest it of everything meaningful it could say about the world.
  • Joshs
    1.5k
    Often the matter of truth does not seem to be quite clearly distinguishable from the matter of taste.spirit-salamander

    Nietzsche would suggest that’s because there is nothing to distinguish. Truth is nothing but valuation masquerading as a universal.
  • Tom Storm
    1.3k
    You’re missing the very essence of understanding. You’re mistaking the pre-condition for comprehending anything with some sort of flaw, which is the point Nietzsche is trying to make. But you’re not alone here. There are never ending laments on this site about ‘prejudice’, ‘bias, the appeal of ‘emotion ‘ over objectivity. What you’re calling ‘personal taste’ is the result of the fact that the understanding of anything new must be based on compatibility with a pre-existing frame of reference. What makes us drawn to certain thing s over others is our ability to relate to them, to find them relevant and significant to our concerns. Something appeals to us because it matters to us, and it matters to us because it is comprehensible and meaningful in relation to how we see the world. Things and events completely outside of our worldview not only don’t matter to us, they are entirely invisible to us. This isn’t something unique to philosophy, it’s how scientific knowledge functions as well, which is what Kuhn was getting at.Joshs

    Joshs, Interesting! I'm not sure this actually changes what I said, it only adjusts the terminology and perhaps clarifies a point or two. But I wasn't going for depth.

    So my 'preexisting frame of reference' (personal taste) makes them 'significant to my concerns' (worldview).

    Things outside this worldview are 'entirely invisible' to me. Well, some are and some are not. Some are shadows and shapes.

    And yes, that's precisely my point.

    Now here's the thing. I have sometimes been made to read something (I did not want to consider) by someone (work/friendship/associates) and it has significantly changed or enlarged my worldview. I'm pretty sure we can behave in ways which trigger such moments more often.

    To render the invisible visible (your word) is something I believe can be done by exposure to ideas and philosophy not to one's taste - and that essentially was the nature of my comment, which you nicely deconstructed for me.
  • javra
    1.2k
    Are you saying there is an alternative to this ‘bias’? If sense-making is a bias , what is the alternative to sense-making?Joshs

    Hmm, by “truth filtering” I was referring to forsaking certain truths that don’t cohere into one’s system of explanation in favor of those truths that do. And not to "sense-making". As one possible example, that the human mind is inherently teleological, goal-driven, thereby granting teleology an ontological reality, is a truth that is filtered out of the picture by all those whose system of explanations holds no place for teleology in the cosmos. To the latter, teleology is bogus, fictional, illusory, and so forth, even though they have goals in mind in so conceiving. Such as that of establishing what is and is not real.

    As to an alternative, it's difficult if at all possible to establish, but it would be that of not denying the reality of truths which don’t fit in with one’s currently held system of explanations - regardless of how much damage this would do to one's presently held system of explanation. Fallibilism, what the ancient Greeks termed “skepticism” - which, unlike Cartesian skepticism, is in no way contingent upon doubts - can help to better establish such state of mind.

    The reason that theories of everything end up getting replaced is that ‘the ‘ everything’ they are describing isn’t a static set of facts but is constantly evolving, because we are a part of this everything and are constantly evolvingJoshs

    Even by this account, their so called explanation of everything failed to explain everything: here, failed to explain the evolution of everything. Thereby in fact not being explanations of everything.
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Theodor Adorno, but I noticed this passage in the entry on him in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy which I feel has some relevance to this discussion:

    Adorno’s moral philosophy is similarly concerned with the effects of ‘enlightenment’ upon both the prospects of individuals leading a ‘morally good life’ and philosophers’ ability to identify what such a life may consist of. Adorno argues that the instrumentalization of reason has fundamentally undermined both. He argues that social life in modern societies no longer coheres around a set of widely espoused moral truths and that modern societies lack a moral basis. What has replaced morality as the integrating ‘cement’ of social life are instrumental reasoning and the exposure of everyone to the capitalist market. According to Adorno, modern, capitalist societies are fundamentally nihilistic, in character; opportunities for leading a morally good life and even philosophically identifying and defending the requisite conditions of a morally good life have been abandoned to instrumental reasoning and capitalism. Within a nihilistic world, moral beliefs and moral reasoning are held to have no ultimately rational authority: moral claims are conceived of as, at best, inherently subjective statements, expressing not an objective property of the world, but the individual’s own prejudices. Morality is presented as thereby lacking any objective, public basis. The espousal of specific moral beliefs is thus understood as an instrument for the assertion of one’s own, partial interests: morality has been subsumed by instrumental reasoning. Adorno attempts to critically analyse this condition. He is not a nihilist, but a critic of nihilism.

    Adorno’s account of nihilism rests, in large part, on his understanding of reason and of how modern societies have come to conceive of legitimate knowledge. He argues that morality has fallen victim to the distinction drawn between objective and subjective knowledge. Objective knowledge consists of empirically verifiable ‘facts’ about material phenomena, whereas subjective knowledge consists of all that remains, including such things as evaluative and normative statements about the world. On this view, a statement such as ‘I am sitting at a desk as I write this essay’ is of a different category to the statement ‘abortion is morally wrong’. The first statement is amenable to empirical verification, whereas the latter is an expression of a personal, subjective belief. Adorno argues that moral beliefs and moral reasoning have been confined to the sphere of subjective knowledge. He argues that, under the force of the instrumentalization of reason and positivism, we have come to conceive of the only meaningfully existing entities as empirically verifiable facts: statements on the structure and content of reality. Moral values and beliefs, in contrast, are denied such a status. Morality is thereby conceived of as inherently prejudicial in character so that, for example, there appears to be no way in which one can objectively and rationally resolve disputes between conflicting substantive moral beliefs and values. Under the condition of nihilism one cannot distinguish between more or less valid moral beliefs and values since the criteria allowing for such evaluative distinctions have been excluded from the domain of subjective knowledge.
    Adorno's moral philosophy

    Bolds added. It seems to me that an awful lot of the debates on this forum reflect this analysis.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    If only Adorno had studied Popper or Levinas.
  • Tom Storm
    1.3k
    Isn't that just 20th Century footnotes to Nietzsche?

    Morality is thereby conceived of as inherently prejudicial in character so that, for example, there appears to be no way in which one can objectively and rationally resolve disputes between conflicting substantive moral beliefs and values. Under the condition of nihilism one cannot distinguish between more or less valid moral beliefs and values since the criteria allowing for such evaluative distinctions have been excluded from the domain of subjective knowledge.Adorno's moral philosophy

    I'm not sure if moral beliefs were any easier to discern before rationalism - pre-democratic, verging on monolithic cultures, nurtured less diversity.
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    I have often wondered about this and have written here that temperament and aesthetics probably inform people's choices.Tom Storm

    I agree that temperament is a strong determiner of philosophical approach. I'm an engineer - genetically, psychologically, spiritually. Pragmatism, otherwise known as engineering philosophy, works for me.

    If true, it raises follow up questions - can this be overcome or dealt with in some way? How is it identified?Tom Storm

    I don't think it's a bad thing. It's inevitable and reasonable. What I believe reflects my heart, my mind, and my soul. Somebody said:

    Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,--and our first thought, is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.

    From my own perspective I am personally struck by this from Nietzsche's The Gay ScienceTom Storm

    I like the quote, and it's right. There is not just one correct way of looking at things. Our philosophy has to let us live our lives. One philosophical approach will never supersede all others without coercion. Philosophy isn't about winning a fight, it's about searching for the best path forward.
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    I'm not sure if moral beliefs were any easier to discern before rationalism - pre-democratic, verging on monolithic cultures, nurtured less diversity.Tom Storm

    I think it’s a consequence of liberal individualism where the individual is the arbiter of morality. The arguments on this subject often revolves around whether there’s an ‘objective’ moral code. But then, science is held to be the authority as to what is ‘objectively the case’, but it only falls on the ‘fact’ side of the ‘fact-value’ dichotomy. However if you propose a transcendent source of values, that usually provokes ‘what do you mean’ or ‘according to whom’ and the strong presumption that you’re therefore ‘theist’. A lot follows from that.
  • Tom Storm
    1.3k
    Yep. I certainly do understand that. But a morality founded on a faith or a deity has no more substance than a secular one. Either way, it is based on people's subjective interpretation of what these transcendent sources of values stand for - hence the huge differences between believers, sects, schools, etc. All the same arguments about who is right ensues. In this way, theistic morality, for instance, avoids none of the problems that face secular morality.

    Now, sure, I hear this idea that in theory 'the good' is in some way connected to, or emanates from a transcendent source. But what is the precise advantage of saying that morality is founded on something when there's no clarity about what that something stands for or might require from people in terms of moral behaviour?

    It sounds to me as if moral concerns - divorce, abortion, capital punishment, gay rights, euthanasia, roles for women, environment - are matters for secular debate. As in fact they generally have been, often dragging theisms into a more compassionate and humane world, but let's not go there.

    Incidentally, in case we are heading here, can we wait a bit before we go down the path of where human rights and the 'sacred' status of human beings originate?
  • spirit-salamander
    147
    You are just describing an epistemic vice in yourself and projecting it onto others, it seems to me.Bartricks

    What you say may be true. I think it's important to be honest with oneself first. I have certain philosophers that I believe are closer to the truth. But these philosophers have also appealed to me "tastefully". When I introduced them to others, I often heard them say: I don't like that, and the interest of the others was quickly gone.

    Rightly you say the following about them:

    But those people are not really doing philosophy. For they are not trying to follow reason but trying to get reason to follow them.Bartricks

    Perhaps there is a certain dialectic at play: I hold this philosophy to be true because I like it, and I like it because I hold it to be true.

    My philosophical views do not reflect my tastes. I had no desire to believe in God, and no vested interest in doing so, yet now I do due to philosophical reflection.Bartricks

    The question is, how exactly did your intellectual development proceed? Perhaps one would be able to psychologically uncover taste dispositions during this time.
  • spirit-salamander
    147
    A matter of need more often than taste. Our shifting philosophies serve a vital need to make sense of our lives, they are not decorative.Olivier5

    You're right, I was probably thinking more along the lines of "decorative" philosophy.
  • Possibility
    2.2k
    My philosophical views do not reflect my tastes. I had no desire to believe in God, and no vested interest in doing so, yet now I do due to philosophical reflection. Lots of my views are like this. Don't you change your views when you encounter arguments for views you do not yet hold yet cannot refute?

    Of course, many are not like this and decide approximately what's true in advance of philosophical investigation and then look to philosophy to provide them with rationalizations of their convictions. But those people are not really doing philosophy. For they are not trying to follow reason but trying to get reason to follow them.
    Bartricks

    I do technically agree with most of this - even though you and I rarely agree.

    I will say, however, that this God you now believe in consists of a formless quality that you attribute to a certain language structure of three letters. How you might describe or define ‘God’ is then a matter of taste.

    I also think that you’re willing to ignore or exclude feeling or desire for the sake of logic, but this is arguably a narrow reasoning. I get that you’re trying to ‘follow reason’, but I’m afraid we’re really not as rational in word and action as we might assume. We only appear rational by projecting affect or emotion outward as ‘logical’ judgement or evaluation.

    My own philosophical reflection might have been a mirror image to yours. Except it brought me instead from an existing belief in God to a broader understanding that I hold, despite a desire to believe. I cannot refute the existence of ‘God’, as you say, but nor can I refute its non-existence. Logic would insist that only one of these can be true, and yet nothing but ignorance or judgement either way would tip the scales. My philosophy, therefore, must allow for both possibilities, even as I’m aware that my words or actions at any time will always be interpreted as if only one is true.

    So, despite what reason tells me, I cannot ‘follow reason’ with entirely rational action. I can only render reasoning with affect, logically excluding one possibility or another. Any attempt to explain such an inclusive philosophy seems paradoxical, contradictory or illogical. Which is how I think you justify a change in view by ignoring the equally unrefuted possibility that ‘God’ does NOT exist.

    I’m not really interested in an argument about the existence of ‘God’. I merely wanted to illustrate what I see as a distinction between reason and logic. Logic is arguably as much a matter of taste as Shakespeare’s timeless question.
  • Banno
    12.7k
    Why do you disagree with people (and publicly ridicule them etc.), if not because you believe there is One True Philosophy (which also happens to be yours)?baker

    In order to point out the error of their ideas.
  • Joshs
    1.5k
    Things outside this worldview are 'entirely invisible' to me. Well, some are and some are not. Some are shadows and shapesTom Storm

    It’s an interesting issue. Negative emotions like fear, threat and anger mark our response to events that we are not able to comfortably assimilate into our existing worldview. In other words, ideas and ways of being that are just beyond the frontiers of our thinking, which represent opportunities for personal growth , are precisely what we instinctively flee from. We can’t just force ourselves to embrace such unassimilables, at least not without some way to make what appears incoherent understandable. Otherwise personal chaos results. The best one can do is to believe in principle that there are many equally valid ways of construing situations , and to approach what appears threatening in a piecemeal fashion.
  • Janus
    10.3k
    Not all relativism accepts the claim that all truths are equally justified, but rather, take the position that all justification is relative. — Fooloso4

    Other than grammatically, I don't see any significant difference between our respective definitions.
    180 Proof

    The difference is more than merely grammatical. To say that all justification is relative is not necessarily to say that all justification is equal.Just as to say that all aesthetic judgement is relative is not to say that all works of art are equal.
  • Joshs
    1.5k
    Hmm, by “truth filtering” I was referring to forsaking certain truths that don’t cohere into one’s system of explanation in favor of those truths that do.javra

    But if one’s system of explanation functions as a unity, like a scientific paradigm , then it wouldn’t be a question of seeing certain truths and then making a decision to foresake them , but of not having a coherent glimpse of them in the first place. Kuhn said that events that fall
    outside of the scope of a paradigm are not experienced as evidence.

    To the latter, teleology is bogus, fictional, illusory, and so forth, even though they have goals in mind in so conceiving.javra

    I would say that what is meant by teleology isn’t properly grasped in the first place by the group rejecting it, because they have no framework in which to make it coherent.
  • Noble Dust
    4.1k
    Reading through the thread, I think it's premise is being demonstrated pretty well, especially in relation to those of you who's views I know pretty well. Great topic, @spirit-salamander.
  • Bartricks
    3.3k
    I will say, however, that this God you now believe in consists of a formless quality that you attribute to a certain language structure of three letters. How you might describe or define ‘God’ is then a matter of taste.Possibility

    No she isn't. Nothing I've said gives you any ground for thinking such a thing. She's not a language - languages don't issue instructions, people do. So Reason is a person - a mind. So, one of us. Just she's also going to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent, by virtue of being the one among us whose attitudes constitute reasons. And thus she will qualify as God. So the exact opposite of what you said. She - God, Reason - is a personality. And nothing stops her having a flesh and blood body too, if she so wished.

    I get that you’re trying to ‘follow reason’Possibility

    And a bloody good job I'm doing too, if I do say so myself. And why is 'follow reason' in inverted commas? You show already that you're not interested in doing so, not seriously, and that you've already made your mind up about how things are with Reason.

    but I’m afraid we’re really not as rational in word and action as we might assume. We only appear rational by projecting affect or emotion outward as ‘logical’ judgement or evaluation.Possibility

    Speak for yourself.

    Logic would insist that only one of these can be true, and yet nothing but ignorance or judgement either way would tip the scales. My philosophy, therefore, must allow for both possibilities, even as I’m aware that my words or actions at any time will always be interpreted as if only one is true.Possibility

    You do realize this argument proves God, right?

    1. Imperatives of Reason exist
    2. Existent imperatives require an existent mind to bear them.
    3. Therefore, imperatives of Reason are the imperatives of an existent mind
    4. A mind whose imperatives are imperatives of Reason will be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent
    5. Therefore, the mind whose imperatives are impertatives of Reason - Reason - is a mind who exists and is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent
    6. An existent mind that is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent is God
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    You don't think it does, because you don't follow reason. If you did, you'd know the conclusion follows and the premises are all true far, far beyond a reasonable doubt.

    I’m not really interested in an argument about the existence of ‘God’.Possibility

    Yes, because you're not really interested in following Reason. (And again with the inverted commas).
  • javra
    1.2k
    But if one’s system of explanation functions as a unity, like a scientific paradigm , then it wouldn’t be a question of seeing certain truths and then making a decision to foresake them , but of not having a coherent glimpse of them in the first place.Joshs

    I so far don’t find a necessary contradiction between your statement and mine. As adults we all dwell in our own paradigms. A Young-Earth Creationist will build museums exhibiting a time when dinosaurs and humans coinhabited Earth, because this aligns to his paradigm. That he “forsakes the truth of biological evolution” else “doesn’t have a coherent glimpse of the truth of biological evolution in the first place” seem to me to go hand in hand for all purposes here intended. Likewise with the reality that we experience goal-directed behavior, this just as much as we experience physical reality. That we hold firsthand experience of goal-directed behavior is an unequivocal truth. But the belief that no such thing as a goal-directed processes can metaphysically occur forsakes this truth, denies it, fails to glimpse it as such, on grounds that it is deemed contradictory to the paradigm one upholds and via which one’s adult awareness of reality is filtered.

    Kuhn said that events that fall outside of the scope of a paradigm are not experienced as evidence.Joshs

    Yes, but were this to have been pivotal for Kuhn, he would have never addressed the reality of paradigm shifts in physics.

    I would say that what is meant by teleology isn’t properly grasped in the first place by the group rejecting it, because they have no framework in which to make it coherent.Joshs

    I would concur. If X contradicts one's system of explanations, either one's system of explanations is wrong or X is wrong. Unlike with young enough children, we adult humans will almost without exception choose the alternative that X must be wrong, rather than question and reevaluate our own system of beliefs. But then, so habitually doing leads to dogmatism, as per the Young-Earth Creationist previously mentioned.
  • Banno
    12.7k
    Because there is at most one complete truth about anything. The whole point of that last post of mine is that many competing philosophies are all partial truths, so whatever the complete truth is, it would thus incorporate all of them. The alternative is that there is no truth in philosophy at all, in which case everything we’re doing is meaningless nonsense.Pfhorrest

    A complete truth. It's statements that are true or false. So a complete truth is perhaps the conjunction of all true statements. Is that what you have in mind?

    So suppose you had such a thing. For you, philosophy would be finished? There would be nothign left to philosophise about?
  • Banno
    12.7k
    I understand philosophy as a performative and noncognitive exercise.180 Proof

    Noncognitive?

    I wonder what you are getting at here. In so far as philosophy has pretences to rationality, mustn't it be cognitive?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.5k
    So suppose you had such a thing. For you, philosophy would be finished? There would be nothign left to philosophise about?Banno

    Yes, though I don't think it's possible to ever actually get to there, only to make indefinite progress toward there.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    211


    If only that were true. I started off philosophy with Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. Later Plato.

    I was absolutely delighted like many students reading these authors. It would have been great to have been able to fully commit to Plato there, to reject Aristotle's critiques. Because, of course, Aristotle is not as fun to read. Instead of a series of polished dialogues we mostly have cluttered, meandering lecture notes stapled together. It would be preferable to get to ignore him, if he wasn't right. Nietzsche is like a thunderstorm, pouring down vigorous prose and ideas, Aristotle is dry like a desert, and only the thirst his burning sun creates keeps one going onward. It's his sound analysis that draws people to him.

    People often change their philosophy over time. However, just as often they either feel they have resolved, or fail to resolve major issues, such as the existence of God and grow weary of retreading the old steps. The paths they travel over and over become calcified. People don't choose philosophies, they have philosophies carved into them over time.
  • spirit-salamander
    147
    I was absolutely delighted like many students reading these authors. It would have been great to have been able to fully commit to Plato there, to reject Aristotle's critiques. Because, of course, Aristotle is not as fun to read. Instead of a series of polished dialogues we mostly have cluttered, meandering lecture notes stapled together. It would be preferable to get to ignore him, if he wasn't right.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I would like to add a quote from Schopenhauer to this:

    "Aristotle’s main characteristic could be described as the greatest sagacity, combined with circumspection, talent for observation, versatility, and lack of profundity. His view of the world is shallow even if ingeniously elaborated. Depth of thought finds its material within ourselves; sagacity has to receive it from outside in order to have data. However, in those times the empirical data were in part scanty and in part even false. Therefore, the study of Aristotle is nowadays not very rewarding, while that of Plato remains so to the highest degree. The lack of profundity reprimanded in Aristotle of course becomes most visible in metaphysics, where mere sagacity does not suffice, as it does elsewhere; so that in this he satisfies least. His Metaphysics is for the most part talking back and forth about the philosophemes of his predecessors, whom he criticizes and refutes from his point of view, mostly in reference to isolated utterances by them, without really penetrating their meaning, rather like someone who breaks the windows from the outside.a He advances only a few, or none, of his own dogmas, at least not in systematic fashion. That we owe a large part of our knowledge of the older philosophemes to his polemics is an accidental achievement. He is hostile towards Plato mostly where the latter is completely right. Plato’s ‘Ideas’ continue coming back up into his mouth, like something that he cannot digest; he is determined not to admit their validity." (Parerga and Paralipomena Short Philosophical Essays. Volume 1. Translated and Edited by Sabine Roehr, Christopher Janaway)

    So there is another way to look at it. Schopenhauer was by his nature rather a Platonist, therefore he had given a preference to Plato.

    What I mean by taste is perhaps always the whole of a philosopher, not individual arguments with which one would agree.

    I like Aristotle here and there, some analysis and the basic idea of individual substances as ontological primacy. But otherwise he is not part of my philosophical reading, he is more useful for reference. Or books about him are more interesting than he himself. His style is often atrocious. His arguments are also often vague and imprecise. This is only my personal impression.

    People often change their philosophy over time.Count Timothy von Icarus

    People don't choose philosophies, they have philosophies carved into them over time.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I agree with you only in part. I want to bring up again a quote that is also about the decision to be a Thomist:

    "FOLLOWERS. The difference between great philosophers who disagree is perhaps less considerable than that which separates them from their followers. Members of philosophic schools or coteries live on what others have seen, and the disciple usually applies his master's insights with a confidence which, most of the time, the master lacked.
    The adherent of a philosopher is often a man who at first did not understand him at all and then staked several years on a tireless attempt to prove to himself that he did not lack the ability to gain an understanding. By the end of that time he sees clearly that his master's critics simply fail to understand him.
    Whether one becomes a follower of Wittgenstein or Jaspers, Heidegger or Carnap, Thomas, Kierkegaard, or Hegel is almost accidental in some cases: what all such followers have in common is that after their initial great expenditure no capital remains for a second, third, or fourth investment of comparable magnitude, let alone a novel enterprise.

    [...]
    Followers are people with no wish to be convinced, and great philosophers rarely understand the criticisms urged against them.

    [...]

    THOMIST VERSUS NON-THOMIST. Even the difference between Thomist and non-Thomist is apt to be a matter of temperament and loyalty as much as a matter of belief. This, of course, takes our argument a step further, and what has been said so far does not stand or fall with this extension. For Thomism involves acceptance of an unusually articulate and comprehensive theology.
    Consider a book which is in many respects at opposite poles from St. Thomas" Summa Theologica: Genesis. A resourceful philosopher should be able to present all of his thought in the form of a commentary on Genesis. This would be a tour de force, but not impossible. It is a reflection of our current climate of thought that those who write philosophy at all prefer to sail under their own colors—or under those of a previous philosopher, like Thomas.
    A great deal of the present book could have been presented in the form of a commentary on the Book of Job. A quotation from Job 13, in my own translation, may show what I mean:

    Behold, my eye has seen all this,
    my ear has heard and understood.
    What you know, that l also know . . .
    But you, you beautify with lies,
    idol-physicians, that you are. . . .
    Would you speak wickedly for God
    and deceive for his sake?
    You think, you favor him?
    You think, you take his side? . . .
    Be still and leave me that l speak,
    and let come on me what will.
    Wherefore? I will take my flesh between my teeth,
    and my life I will put in my hand.
    He will slay me? For that I hope.
    But my ways I will maintain to his face.
    And let this be my salvation
    that no hypocrite comes to face him. (Cf. § 65.)

    My critique of theology, and my polemics against finished philosophic edifices and the finding of dubious reasons for what we believe anyway, could have been forced into the mold of a commentary on Job.
    In that case, the verse "I only am escaped alone to tell thee" might have evoked the reflection that beasts earn survival by being fit while men must justify their survival after the event. And this might have led to a revision of the quotation from Gide's Counterfeiters, used early in the Preface: What right has a survivor to do over again what other people have done already or might do as well? A commentary on Job need not be dry or impersonal.
    The man who chooses Genesis or Job has much more freedom than the Thomist; even those who take off from Plato will encounter less constraint.Thomism furnishes an extreme case, but even the decision to be a Thomist cannot be understood in terms of agreement alone.
    The decision is made before one has studied all of Thomas' writings and is not meant to be provisional. A Thomist does not adopt Thomism as a working hypothesis. He is not prepared to renounce it the first time he comes across a sentence which seems false. Rather he decides that he will interpret apparently false sentences in such a way that they will not be false. And he finds his reward in hundreds of surprises: Thomas already knew this, and Thomas anticipated that.
    The same attitude is feasible in relation to Plato, Aristotle, Kant, or Hegel, and some have adopted it; but no other philosopher can offer a sense of community with as many others as St. Thomas.
    And this sense of being part of a living tradition, of not standing alone, of belonging, is part of the meaning and inspiration not only of a man's acceptance of Thomism but of adherence to any religion.
    " (Walter A. Kaufmann - Critique of Religion and Philosophy)
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    211


    Whether one becomes a follower of Wittgenstein or Jaspers, Heidegger or Carnap, Thomas, Kierkegaard, or Hegel is almost accidental in some cases: what all such followers have in common is that after their initial great expenditure no capital remains for a second, third, or fourth investment of comparable magnitude, let alone a novel enterprise.

    For sure, I am currently working my way through J.M. Bernstein's two semester series on Hegel and reading reading Hackett's 1,700 page line by line commentary on PoS, after having had to brush up on Kant and Boehme to get started. I can't imagine taking on a similar project for many years.

    The part of me that preferred Plato to Aristotle had to fight of the temptation to go after Boehme and the Hermetics instead of continuing with old Georg.

    As to Aristotle being so boring, I believe classical sources point to "delightful" dialogues by him with his mature thought included. They have just all been destroyed. What we have left is quite possibly not even written wholly or at all by Aristotle, but is a later compilation to save his insights, so he can't totally be faulted for that, just like how PoS is full of grammatical train wrecks, but we have to cut Hegel some slack since Napoleon was bearing down on him as he wrote it.
  • spirit-salamander
    147
    As to Aristotle being so boring, I believe classical sources point to "delightful" dialogues by him with his mature thought included. They have just all been destroyed.Count Timothy von Icarus

    So it will always remain speculation. I consider it a legend that there was ever anything delightfully readable by Aristotle. For one cannot construct a great literary man out of Aristotle from the extant writings, whether one or the other of them is by students.
    But who knows. Maybe something will be discovered someday.
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