• Noble Dust
    3.2k
    What are your biases?

    This seems like a good starting point for philosophy. It's a good starting point for philosophy because it's a good starting point for self-evaluation, and self-evaluation seems like a good starting point for philosophy. To evaluate myself in the context of philosophy means reflecting on why I inquire on certain philosophical lines instead of others. This self-reflection requires honesty, and honesty will lead to the uncovering of biases, assuming no one is without bias. I want metaphysics to be real (or at least necessary), I do not want any form of physicalism or materialism to be "the case"; or the converse: someone does not want idealism, dualism, or a spiritual dimension to be "the case"; they do not want to have to grapple with a real metaphysic. To inquire philosophically sans bias would seem to be the state of inquiry of a computer; purely an "if/then" affair. But a philosophy built on this seemingly unbiased structure would not be a philosophy; it would be a science. A science of "the love of wisdom" would contain no love and no wisdom; By their nature love and wisdom are existential states; states of the subject. The subject has a capacity for love, and a capacity for wisdom. Removing these states form the subject and placing them "in the world" over and against the subject as "objects" to be dealt with removes them from reality, which removes philosophical inquiry from reality. And bias, the state of having a fundamental desire for the world to exist in a certain way, compels all inquiry, especially philosophical; To ask a philosophical question is to express a desire. Bias, then, rather than an inherent negative, is a byproduct of the existential state of being human; it fuels inquiry, and the biases of many thinkers lead the inquiry of each down roads disparate from one another. It seems like to be biased is to be alive; desiring, feeling, and thinking, in that order. In our world, the negative stigma of bias seems, among other things, to arise from the suppression of those first two actions: desiring and feeling. We get the order wrong; we say: "think, feel, then desire. And the world will reveal itself to you". But nothing reveals itself; thought and thought only presents itself. Instead, an acknowledgement of the primacy of these first two actions over thinking reveals the proper place of bias. And the acknowledgement of bias opens up the existential reality of philosophical inquiry, and this opening up in turn opens up heretofore clogged lines of philosophical dialogue; if each philosophical discussion opened with a full disclosure of bias...what then? How would inquiry move along?

    Am I wrong? Is it possible to inquire philosophically without bias?
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I don't know if 'bias' is the right word for what you're trying to express.

    Bias
    /ˈbʌɪəs/
    noun
    inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
    "there was evidence of bias against black applicants"
    synonyms: prejudice, partiality, partisanship, favouritism, unfairness, one-sidedness; More

    verb

    cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something.
    "readers said the paper was biased towards the Conservatives"
    synonyms: prejudice, influence, colour, sway, weight, predispose; More

    Is a 'conviction' a bias? How about a pre-disposition? Is aspiration a form of bias?

    Maybe what is motivating the question, is the sense that modernity tends to view convictions (and the like) as social constructs or as matters of individual conscience, rather than as matters of fact. Fact is felt to pertain (as you say) to those things which can be measured objectively. But that in turn is a function of the way that science has tended to displace religion as 'arbiter of truth' at least for the secular worldview, and the associated presumption that meaning or moral law is inherently subjective, personal or social.


    So - I have a very similar motivation to your own in philosophy, but I wouldn't necessarily describe it as 'a bias', so much as a disposition.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    Valid points; within the context of your response, I think your assessment of my use of bias is valid, but within biases's use on the forum and within cultural discourse at large, I would argue my use of bias is more accurate. If anything, it looks like your more accurate (at least via the dictionary) definition actually doesn't parse against how the word "bias" is used in political and philosophical discourse. I think this is self-evident, but I can try to cull some examples together if needed. Generally, "bias" is an accusation of being "pre-disposed" to a certain viewpoint, and that "pre-disposition" is what I'm getting at, yes, and that idea seems to parse with what you're saying. But really, where is the line drawn between the classical definition, and how the word is used in culture? What does the cultural use of the word signify?

    And more importantly than semantics: regardless of the word you choose, this "predisposition" to viewpoints that we have needs to be sorted out, and it's mostly not being sorted out. I want to sort it out.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    To further elucidate what I'm trying to say, your dictionary definition doesn't include "ideas", only persons, except for the word "something" in the verb definition. Whereas in common usage on the forum and elsewhere, "bias" is used to signify a preference for a viewpoint, position, etc. The buzzwords of "prejudice against a group" and what have you aren't pertinent when the word is used this way. And the reason I think this is important is because of usage; the dictionary says what it says, but people say words, not the dictionary.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    ‘In culture’? There is no ‘culture’ now. There are fragments and pieces of various cultures, thrown together like found objects, vying for traction in the marketplace of ideas. It’s the Kali Yuga.

    Your and my great-grandfathers would have been lamenting the abandonment of Biblical standards, as a harbinger of chaos. “Don’t you see?’ they might have said. “We won’t even be able to agree on what to disagree about! Everything we took to be the foundation of culture and society is melting into the air!. Things fall apart!’ And actually, while that’s true, it’s also necessary, and might even be good. But still requires that we realise the utter enormity of the predicament we’re in.

    So trying to come to terms with all that, as you’re doing, requires a standpoint, a perspective, in this dizzying bardo of Modernity. That’s not a bias - that is the germinal seed of wisdom.

    (In my other tab, I have this open: https://nyti.ms/2JeiObb . )
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    ‘In culture’? There is no ‘culture’ now. There are fragments and pieces of various cultures, thrown together like found objects, vying for traction in the marketplace of ideas. It’s the Kali Yuga.Wayfarer

    Sure, and so dictionary definitions, then, become even more obsolete, no? The meanings of words become even more fragmentary, not less.

    Your and my great-grandfathers would have been lamenting the abandonment of Biblical standards, as a harbinger of chaos. “Don’t you see?’ they might have said. “We won’t even be able to agree on what to disagree about! Everything we took to be the foundation of culture and society is melting into the air!. Things fall apart!’ And actually, while that’s true, it’s also necessary, and might even be good. But still requires that we realise the utter enormity of the predicament we’re in.Wayfarer

    I agree that things falling apart is necessary and good; I'll even remove the "might even be". As always, I think we agree, but we're getting hung up on semantics, it seems.

    So trying to come to terms with all that, as you’re doing, requires a standpoint, a perspective, in this dizzying bardo of Modernity. That’s not a bias - that is the germinal seed of wisdom.Wayfarer

    I think maybe I see your perspective now? I'm not arguing that my own "bias" is as valid as someone else's, and so therefore we're all biased and there's nothing "true" or some such; I'm trying to underline that "bias", as it's colloquially thrown around, is actually the basis of philosophical thought, in the sense that everyone enters dialogue from a standpoint that is deeper than they know. I'd rather embrace this and encourage it, rather than to demonize it, which I'm sure you'd agree with. Again, I don't doubt that we're on the same page. Maybe I'm being too clunky with usage.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    You’re not being clunky, jjust too obliging! It’s not a bias, it’s an intimation, an inkling, an intuition. The ‘standpoint which is deeper than they know’ might well be what Plato meant by anamnesis - you know that you know something, you just don’t know what, yet. You have to be up for it, you have to be willing to take it on - which you are! - and it definitely ‘goes against the current’ of our current culture. Take up thine light sabre, and have at it! :strong:
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    You’re not being clunky, jjust too obliging! It’s not a bias, it’s an intimation, an inkling, an intuition.Wayfarer

    Well thanks. :up: But what about the intimation, the inlking, or the intuition that goes against mine? Is a materialistic "inkling" an inkling in the same sense? That's what I'm getting at with "bias"; both sides of the court seem to have a similar "predisposition"; and without even getting into the messy details, I'm trying to start at that "meta" standpoint. If that makes sense.

    Take up thine light sabre, and have at it! :strong:Wayfarer

    :strong:
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    As I said, I think you’re being too obliging. I mean, many people who accept materialism as an attitude might be perfectly fine people - but it’s not by virtue of that philosophy, but in spite of it. Materialism essentially denies the reality of being - there’s just no way to sugar-coat it. That’s why Daniel Dennett does such a sterling job - he’s a passionate advocate for philosophical materialism, and many of his critics, such as Nagel and Searle and Chalmers, none of whom are the least religious, just say (not to mince words) that his fundamental claims are just not tenable. And it is the difference between ‘beings’ and ‘objects’ that his work is basically dedicated to denying. So the fact that a world-recognised popular intellectual can dedicate 50 years to producing books about a fundamentally empty claim actually does us all a service!

    I am bothered by the fact that many sincere, well-intentioned and apparently educated persons hold to such mistaken ideas. Heck, that’s what they’d say about me also, and I have to be open to the possibility that it might be so. But overall, I have the view that there is in the genuine sense a higher truth and that we have to find it out - I think there is actually ample historical and phenomenological evidence for that. To those that say there’s not, that we’re just biological organisms subject to such delusions - well, all I can do is be decent and compassionate towards them, but there’s no way that I have to regard what they say as philosophically meaningful. I have noticed there is fantastic scope for delusion in modernity, and also that many people actually have very little inkling of what’s real. That’s part of the challenge of the age we’re in. The stakes have never been higher, the opportunities never been greater, and the pitfalls never more dangerous. Welcome to modernity.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    As I said, I think you’re being too obliging.Wayfarer

    But again, what about the "bias" of a materialist? I ask, because I have good friends who are materialists, by one bent or another, and they've intimated to me that the idea of materialism is more comforting than otherwise (a spiritual world, dualism, etc.). I'm trying to understand that viewpoint. What I've noticed is that, for folks like you and I, @Wayfarer, we feel some degree of comfort in our views that there's more to the world than the physical. And, conversely, with discussions with my actual friends, and discussions on this board, I've intimated that the converse seems to be also true: folks of a materialist bent seem to be comforted by their own views that nothing exists other than the physical. And then there's all those folks who are caught in between. And so that's really where this discussion of bias stems from. I'd love to see this "bias" brought to light on both sides. I recognize it's unrealistic, but I figure making a thread about it is better than doing nothing.

    I fully agree with the rest of your post.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    It’s not about comfort. A lot of folks seem comforted by the notion that death is the absolute end. What if it’s not? I think if you honestly thought that was true it would be uncomfortable.

    Many of my friends basically have a secular~scientific view of life. I don’t talk philosophy with them - it would be uncomfortable. That’s the reason I joined philosophy forums in the first place, because here at least it’s up for debate.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    It’s not about comfort. A lot of folks seem comforted by the notion that death is absolute. What if it’s not? I think if you honestly thought that was true it would be uncomfortable.Wayfarer

    Again, we have no disagreement. "Real talk", as my asinine generation says. (i.e., I agree with you).

    But...comfort is something, isn't it? Only the mystics defy comfort, yes? And so?...

    Many of my friends basically have a secular~scientific view of life. I don’t talk philosophy with them - it would be uncomfortable. That’s the reason I joined philosophy forums in the first place, because here at least it’s up for debate.Wayfarer

    True. I'm pretty quiet in real life, but I guess I'm also that guy who annoyingly brings up the topic if the time is ripe/enough booze has been consumed. :cool:
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    and the reason i’m thinking death is not an absolute end, is not because one has an immortal soul, but because we’re inclined to leave a lot of unfinished business.

    And hey, I’m writing this on my iphone at the pub.
  • LD Saunders
    314
    I think the science is pretty clear --- we have biases that are largely based on our biology. When a neuroscientist can come up with a more accurate prediction of whether someone is right-wing or left-wing based on a brain scan of brain structures, than a social scientist can predict based on political party affiliation, then we are looking at biology as a basic foundation for our political, moral, views. Other research has also linked numerous psychological dispositions to biology and personality traits as well. Given this, I don't think it will be possible for any person to ever look at the world without having a biased view to some extent.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    @Wayfarer
    Bias
    /ˈbʌɪəs/
    noun
    inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
    "there was evidence of bias against black applicants"
    synonyms: prejudice, partiality, partisanship, favouritism, unfairness, one-sidedness; More

    verb

    cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something.
    "readers said the paper was biased towards the Conservatives"
    synonyms: prejudice, influence, colour, sway, weight, predispose; More

    Since you are swilling gin and tonic and typing on your iPhone at a bar [pub], I presume you copy/pasted the definition from the web.

    Drink responsibly. If you 'aspirate' your gin and tonic, you'll have a severe coughing fit.

    I looked up "bias" in a 1981 and 1992 printed dictionary; the earlier definition conforms to Noble Dust's usage. The later definition is closer to Wayfarer's, with a Usage Note, which mentions that 90% of the Usage Panel approved [a usage akin to Wayfarer's]. Bias now applies with some specificity to racial prejudice.

    Obviously a biased definition. Fie upon them.

    FIE: Used to express disgust or outrage. ‘Alas, my lord, that you should confuse your bride with another. Fie, I say!’

    Origin: Middle English: via Old French from Latin fi, an exclamation of disgust at a stench.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I think a book that you would really get something out of is The Heretical Imperative, Peter Berger. I encountered his books when doing comparative religion; he is co-author of a very well-known book Social Construction of Reality. He was a very insightful sociological theorist with a kind of pan-religious philosophy. Anyway - the Heretical Imperative is about the fact that the original meaning of 'heresy' was actually derived from making a choice or having an opinion. Whereas, in the smorgasbord of ideas that now comprises the modern world, one has to make a choice - hence, 'heretical imperative'. But he says a great deal else besides. It's probably around as a PDF copy, it's been published a good while.

    I think the other theme that this discussion suggests relates to Eric Fromm's 'Fear of freedom'. Fromm's books were very popular amongst the counter-culture but I think the central idea of this book is pretty important. Basically it argues that many of the social constraints and the roles that went with them, have been stripped away by modernity. We're supposed to be free individuals who have unprecedented ability to choose our own destiny. But that is actually scary because at the same time many of the traditional archetypes, occupations and social roles that would have guided us have dissappeared. Hence the 'fear of freedom' and the impulse to take refuge in some corporate identity, ideology, slogan, belief system, or so on.

    In respect of the topic at hand, I think this is also what drives a lot of the attraction to what I'll call 'scientific secular' thinking. It's because, in the absence of traditional norms, then science is supposed to be the guide to how the educated person thinks. Which of course it is - in some respects. The exemplar of that attitude is, of course, Steve Pinker, whose recent book on the virtues of Enlightenment thinking has been praised by many tech luminaries, including Elon Musk and Bill Gates. I actually respect the defense of Enlightenment values, and the kind of 'can-do' attitude that goes with it - provided that its gaps are recognised, which I don't think Pinker is the least capable of, although that's a discussion for another thread.

    Anyway - Berger's book is def. worth a read in my opinion if you can get hold of it.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    Great; so science suggests that we have bias in our political views. What about bias in our philosophical views, as that's what the OP is about?
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    Stop being so unbiased; you're undermining the thread.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    In respect of the topic at hand, I think this is also what drives a lot of the attraction to what I'll call 'scientific secular' thinking. It's because, in the absence of traditional norms, then science is supposed to be the guide to how the educated person thinks.Wayfarer

    Which is a bias; an unconscious bias for most. One that I'm not comfortable with.

    Anyway - Berger's book is def. worth a read in my opinion if you can get hold of it.Wayfarer

    :ok:
  • LD Saunders
    314
    Noble Dust: The science has shown we have bias in our political and philosophical views. In fact, it's so well established, it's amazing that it's hardly ever mentioned in philosophy forums and by political pundits. Why is Trump talking about a "caravan"? It's because the right-wing is xenophobic. Why are they xenophobic? Partly because of their genes. Some of our ancestors survived better by not mingling with foreigners, which made their immune systems safer, as one example. For others, they like foreigners. Why? Again it's partly genetic. Some of us had ancestors who gained an advantage by mating with those outside the tribe, as it limited the negative impact of inbreeding too much. People's opinions on immigration are rarely the result of some unbiased opinion regarding philosophical arguments on the topic, but rather, one's built-in predispositions greatly affect the arguments one is willing to accept on the issue. And it should not surprise anyone that Trump is a germophobe, as many top racists, including Hitler, were/are. This also explains why racists commonly use words like "vermin" and "parasite" in describing the Other --- the hatred really is biologically based, in significant part any way.
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