• Siti
    72
    What the "bo" will tell you is that, for the practical purposes of reproduction, the gender rainbow is reduced down to three colors : 1. male, 2. female, 3. other. Apparently, they have no religious or political scruples about "other", which is not practical, but just for funsies. Perhaps the fun aspect is not an evolutionary adaptation, but just a "spandrel".Gnomon

    Perhaps - but they do seem to spend a bit less time trying to kill each other than either of their two closest evolutionary cousins - so perhaps a few minutes of indiscriminate "rainbow promiscuity" now and again does more to ease social tensions between the "essential" categories (groups) of individuals among a species than several decades of "constructive" detente? And maybe the propensity for "out-of-kind" (atypical, anormal) promiscuous behaviour is more than just a "spandrel" in evolutionary terms? Maybe its an "essential" evolutionary part of what makes the entire spectrum of "multi-coloured" humans, nevertheless all human? Perhaps?
  • David Mo
    193
    Welcome, David.SophistiCat

    Well met, Mr. Cat.
  • David Mo
    193
    In any case, welcome to the Forum, I encourage you to continue!Wayfarer
    Thank you. I'll try.
  • David Mo
    193
    I believe that recourse to human nature is conservative, irrespective of the fact that this link can sometimes be broken. This is because it is used as a barrier to any major change in society. "There will always be rich and poor"; "a woman is not equal to a man"; "a family is the union of a man and a woman", etc., are common conservative expressions. Their aim is to shield a social situation that progressives consider unjust. So what "is" opposes what "should be changed," nature opposes justice. "Never" or "always" can reinforce this "is".

    What is typical of this situation is that conservatives seem to make a statement of fact, but in reality it is a value judgment.

    Notice how easily conservatives abandon essentialism when it comes to making a conservative revolution.
  • Gnomon
    470
    I believe that recourse to human nature is conservative, irrespective of the fact that this link can sometimes be broken.David Mo
    Yes. Conservative personalities are not all the same, but they generally tend to be uncomfortable with change & complexity, preferring predictability & simplicity. Yet when translated into political or religious positions, the variety of personal expressions gets compressed into a few black & white creedal beliefs. And likewise for Liberals.

    An innate conservative may be confused by the alphabet soup of LGBTQ genders, wondering "why don't you behave normally?". But if asked why they are so afraid of novelty and variety, the conservative could only quote Lady Gaga : "I was born this way".

    I was probably born with a somewhat Liberal laissez faire personality , but was raised in a Conservative, Fundamentalist environment. So my adult personality is a sort of conflicted Moderate mish-mash. Apparently, your genetic destiny can be influenced by your cultural situation, and vice-versa. :brow:
  • BitconnectCarlos
    234


    What is typical of this situation is that conservatives seem to make a statement of fact, but in reality it is a value judgment.

    It's that they start with the statement of fact (something like "human nature is X, Y, Z") and from there they're able to evaluate political or moral systems. If one of these systems flies in the face of human nature it is dismissed.

    This is an approach that I use but I wouldn't call myself a conservative.
  • Siti
    72
    It's that they start with the statement of fact (something like "human nature is X, Y, Z") and from there they're able to evaluate political or moral systems. If one of these systems flies in the face of human nature it is dismissed.BitconnectCarlos

    How can anything that humans have devised "fly in the face of human nature"?
  • BitconnectCarlos
    234


    Because I believe that there are certain facts about human nature and if a system ignores or directly contradicts these facts it is bound to fail.

    I do believe morality and political systems are ultimately tested in their implementation.
  • Siti
    72
    Because I believe that there are certain facts about human nature and if a system ignores or directly contradicts these facts it is bound to fail.BitconnectCarlos
    But surely one of the most obvious facts about human nature is that humans have the propensity for devising moral and political systems that fail because of the enormous variability of human nature?
  • BitconnectCarlos
    234


    Sure, someone could devise a system that fails because it fails to take into account human variability, but I also believe in certain unchangeable facts about human nature and that if a system ignores or tries to endlessly suppress that fact it's going to fail. I don't believe in an endlessly malleable human nature.
  • Siti
    72
    unchangeable facts about human natureBitconnectCarlos

    Such as?
  • BitconnectCarlos
    234


    We can start with "men are not angels." Well, besides Kim Jung Un obviously.
  • Gnomon
    470
    What is typical of this situation is that conservatives seem to make a statement of fact, but in reality it is a value judgment.David Mo
    Insightful observation! Scientific Facts are supposed to be value neutral, whereas the application of those "facts" as "oughts" is a value judgment based on a particular worldview. That's true of both Conservatives and LIberals though. The judgments may be logical, but the worldviews might be prejudiced by limited experience or by indoctrination. So what ought-to-be will vary depending on innate or received values.

    Conventional wisdom says that Conservatives get their values primarily from authoritative scriptures or traditions, while Liberals get theirs from personal experience and inner feelings. Both value systems are retained in memory as beliefs (i.e. facts or truths). The usual distinction that I've seen says that Conservatives judge people as typical of their social or political group (group essence), while Liberals judge them as unique persons (individual essence). But in my experience, it's hard to tell where to draw the C/L line. Maybe that's because I prefer to judge people by what they do, rather than what they are; not as representatives of a group, or a sun sign, or a personality type. or a blood type . . . :chin:
  • David Mo
    193
    We can start with "men are not angels." Well, besides Kim Jung Un obviously.BitconnectCarlos

    OK. But that kind of thing is very abstract. You won't get precise rules out of them. Besides, they don't need to respond to a human nature, but could be the result of habits or customs. What is your method of distinguishing one thing (nature) from another (culture)?
  • David Mo
    193
    That's true of both Conservatives and LIberals though.Gnomon

    Well, we were talking about the use of human nature to sneak in values. That's a typically conservative resource. That's not to say that reformists or revolutionaries don't mix facts and value judgments too easily. Even human nature itself (see Rousseau).
  • TheMadFool
    4.9k
    That there is a blurring of distinctions doesn't necessarily imply the absence of distinction. To think so would be to slide down the slippery slope from just a resemblance to exactly identical. Imagine if the courts did that.

    That there's a dusk and a dawn doesn't mean night and day are same.

    As for gender, essentialism and human nature, I think one needs to be aware of whether it's in terms of quality or quantity. Qualitatively there really is no point in saying what is or is not human nature. Nevertheless, statistically it's possible to say that the majority represents human nature.
  • Wayfarer
    9.3k
    After a brief review, I get the impression that today the notion of fixed categories in nature is held primarily by Conservatives, both political and religious.Gnomon

    Actually, the meaning of 'essential' is 'of the essence' which is the defining character of what makes something what it is; 'essence' is 'is-ness'. This thinking originated with Plato and Aristotle, in particular, in the effort to articulate what it is that makes a particular being what it is - why it is this being, or this kind, and not some other, or nothing particular at all.

    That was central to Aristotle's nascent science, but really the whole schema became embedded in Western science generally, due to the way that Aristotle's thinking had become absorbed by in medieval philosophy and science. If you look at the fundamental work of the biologist Carl Linnaeus, who practically invented the modern science of biological taxonomy, it seems to be that it is essentially Platonic and Aristotelian in orientation, having adopted and refined the basic taxonomical schemas and also adopting formal latin descriptors of same.

    But there was another current in later medieval and early modern thought which was quite antagonistic to many aspects of Aristotelian philosophy. This is associated with the advent of nominalism, which is associated with some of the early figures in modern science, particularly Ockham and Frances Bacon. They tended to disparage scholastic metaphysics, as did David Hume, who was very much in that stream also. And the deprecation of essence, substance, and formal and final causes was one of the reasons for the decline of Western metaphysics. And with the advent of Darwinian evolution, humans were now understood as being in some sense continuous with their animal forbears, and the sense of the unique nature and destiny of humankind was eroded by this. (In fact in modern culture it is often frowned upon to say that humans are something other than animals.)

    That criticism is associated with conservatism, as for example in Richard Weaver's very influential post-war book, Ideas have Consequences, which was a treatise on the harmful effects of nominalism on Western Civilization since the Late Middle Ages. This book has subsequently become highly influential in American conservative circles.

    However, some similar ground is also found amongst the New Left. Adorno and Horkheimer's work on the Dialectics of the Enlightenment wrote of the 'eclipse of reason', mainly on the grounds that 'reason' was no longer revered as sovereign for all rational beings, but was increasingly instrumentalised, that is, subordinated to science, techne, and economic rationalism. And this in turn also erodes any sense of common humanity or shared values.

    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. 1.

    Notice that this basically equates ethical judgement with matters of personal preference. Practically the only authority in matters of fact is science, but, as Hume pointed out, science itself can provide no foundation for values. And the privatised or subjectivised nature of the individual conscience which was a consequence of Protestantism, is one of the major factors in the rise of subjectivism and relativism.

    So, the point is, the questions around 'essentialism' and whether or not there is something which is essentially human, are themes which figure in both conservative and radical analyses of late modernity.
  • David Mo
    193
    I had a Lacanian friend who said sentences like blocks and left you thinking for an hour. I don't know if she knew what she was saying, but she was very provocative. One of her sentences was:
    "Mental illness is not a lack". I found it difficult to understand that she was meaning "a lack of humanity".
    Or put another way: A person with Down syndrome is no less a person because of it.

    So, what is it to be a person? (Humanity).
    I doubt we can find a single answer.
  • Gnomon
    470
    So, the point is, the questions around 'essentialism' and whether or not there is something which is essentially human, are themes which figure in both conservative and radical analyses of late modernity.Wayfarer
    Yes. The ancient Greek philosophers observed that humans were superior in some way to animals, but obviously not in physical attributes. Since all autonomous creatures were presumed to be animated by Spirit, they concluded that metaphysical Soul (Reason) was the defining characteristic of humanity. In the pre-scientific era, that "fact" was probably not even debatable. But today, closer scientific observations, from a Darwinian perspective, have revealed that animals (e. g. chimps & porpoises) are capable of reasoning that is much closer to human capacities. Hence, the gap has been narrowed; which has raised some ethical questions that were not taken seriously in the past.

    For those who value science and progress, that blurring of the distinction between human and animal essences may seem inevitable and progressive. But for those who value tradition and religion more highly, the notion that souless animals are on the same developmental continuum with ensouled humans, is absurd and sacrilegious. Therefore, one side emphasizes the similarities, while the other argues for the differences. And both have "facts" to support their case. So it seems that hierarchical Conservative values require human superiority and domination, while holistic Liberal values require a more egalitarian relationship, as found in the worldview of vegetarians. Yet moderate philosophical values may acknowledge that there is truth in both views, and attempt to apply their facts judiciously.

    Apparently, the same polarized opinions are found in moral judgments of fellow humans. Some find it reasonable to label fellow humans as sub-human (Jews, Blacks, Queers, Gypsies, etc), while others are appalled at such self-serving hubris. The challenge for my own values is to acknowledge the meaningful differences in people, while respecting the significant similarities. That's what I call the BothAnd principle.


    BothAnd Principle : http://blog-glossary.enformationism.info/page10.html
  • BitconnectCarlos
    234


    OK. But that kind of thing is very abstract. You won't get precise rules out of them. Besides, they don't need to respond to a human nature, but could be the result of habits or customs. What is your method of distinguishing one thing (nature) from another (culture)?

    I don't think it's abstract at all; we see it throughout history. In my discussion with Siti he only asked me to list one immutable fact of human nature. I gave him one, and he has since disappeared from the discussion. It's been years since I've picked up Marx but if I remember correctly it is a Marxist assumption that human nature is seemingly endlessly malleable and it is a product of the economic system.

    In regard to not getting "precise rules," just a knowledge of this fact can help you eliminate certain political systems immediately. Could you show me a culture in which men are angels? The claim that all you need is good culture to turn men into angels is patently ridiculous and I don't see how anyone can take it seriously.
  • Wayfarer
    9.3k
    today, closer scientific observations, from a Darwinian perspective, have revealed that animals (e. g. chimps & porpoises) are capable of reasoning that is much closer to human capacitiesGnomon

    This is nonsense. The motivation for it is to provide humans with an excuse not to recognise what the endowment of reason amounts to. It arises from a fear of being human. And it's not a matter of 'valuing tradition and religion'. By virtue of reason and language, humans are able to comprehend ideas and principles that no animal will ever understand, the fact that chimps use communication devices and crows can count to five notwithstanding. And mankind can see beyond reason, into the domain of transcendent reality.

    (Interestingly, Buddhists are generally very kind and humane to animals, but being reborn into the animal realm, which is said to be extremely common, is an enormous misfortune, because animals are stupid and so can't understand the Buddhist teaching leading to liberation.)

    Alfred Russel Wallace, who is credited as the co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection, himself did not agree that Darwinian theory could account for the rational intellect of man. Of course, later in life Wallace became very interested in spiritualism and so his opinions are generally disregarded, but his Darwinism Applied to Man makes his argument clear.

    So, what is it to be a person? (Humanity).
    I doubt we can find a single answer.
    David Mo

    The point about understanding the nature of the essential is not to arrive at a simple answer. Essence is not a formula.
  • Pantagruel
    596
    today, closer scientific observations, from a Darwinian perspective, have revealed that animals (e. g. chimps & porpoises) are capable of reasoning that is much closer to human capacities
    — Gnomon

    This is nonsense
    Wayfarer

    One should always be cautious how one words one's objections. Our closest relatives may posses a theory of mind.
  • Wayfarer
    9.3k
    Sure, point taken. It is one of my hot-button issues (and I've made a retro-edit). But I believe there is an ontological discontinuity between h. sapiens and hominids, and evolutionary biology, which nowadays underpins the standard account of human nature, doesn't generally recognise such discontinuities, as they don't form part of the hypothesis, which is fundamentally biological in orientation.
  • Wayfarer
    9.3k
    And as for that study - familiar with the expression ‘drawing a long bow’? :smile:
  • Gnomon
    470
    This is nonsense. The motivation for it is to provide humans with an excuse not to recognise what the endowment of reason amounts to. It arises from a fear of being human. And it's not a matter of 'valuing tradition and religion'. By virtue of reason and language, humans are able to comprehend ideas and principles that no animal will ever understand, the fact that chimps use communication devices and crows can count to five notwithstanding. And mankind can see beyond reason, into the domain of transcendent reality.Wayfarer
    Are you saying that Reason is a divine "endowment" and not an evolutionary development? The "nonsense" statement said that "animals are capable of reasoning that is much closer [but not equal] to human capacities". Before Darwin, most philosophers assumed that there was an unbridgeable gap between animal minds and human Reason. So the story goes, God must have bestowed rational souls only upon the descendants of Adam --- hence Essentialism.

    Ironically, the Genesis account makes it seem that humans obtained their Reason, not in accordance with God's Will, but despite it. Until they ate the magic apple, Adam & Eve were essentially senior animals in the continuum of animated beings. Only after the intervention by Satan were the innocent-babes-in-the-garden able to see beyond the here & now, to the consequences of their behavior -- to knowledge of good & evil. You could say that imagining the probable future gives us access to a "domain of transcendent reality".

    It may be true that no non-human animal will ever understand abstract ideas and principles. But Darwin has shown how an insignificant species of mammal could, given long stretches of time, evolve into the most significant species on Earth. He also described a mechanism by which simple rat brains, via a continuous incremental progression, could evolve into larger, more complex, dolphin and human brains. The only thing Darwin couldn't explain is how living thinking bio-chemical beings could have developed from inert matter. But even the otherwise unlikely emergence of Life & Mind can be understood as inevitable if evolution is an intentional program of En-formation via Cause & Effect dating back to a Rational First Cause. In that sense, I can agree that human reason is an endowment that matured only after billions of years from the initial investment (evolution).


    En-formation : the process of enforming, creating forms.
    To Enform : verb 1, To form, to fashion, to create https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/enform
  • Siti
    72
    Interestingly, Buddhists are generally very kind and humane to animals, but being reborn into the animal realm, which is said to be extremely common, is an enormous misfortune, because animals are stupid and so can't understand the Buddhist teaching leading to liberation.Wayfarer

    Don't know about that - it would presumably be an even greater misfortune for a Buddhist to be reborn as a fundamentalist Christian - who (from a Buddhist point of view) only imagine they know the way to liberation! But I guess that's a far less common regression.

    science itself can provide no foundation for values.Wayfarer

    I also have to disagree with your objection (after Weaver and co.) to the elevation of "fact" above "value" and your contention that science provides no foundation for values. I believe science enables us to "en-fact-uate" (I think I just made that word up) our values...e.g. is the individual "right" to own personal property to be valued more highly than the collective "need" to conserve biodiversity? Absent scientific "facts" we wouldn't even know there was a "biodiversity" to be conserved, let alone how important it might (or might not) be to future generations of humans. Point is, some "value judgements" simply cannot be made by pure reason in the absence of scientific facts and have - it seems - not been handed down as transcendent moral strictures.

    just for funsiesGnomon

    To get my example back on topic, is it part of an "essential" human nature to exploit natural resources without regard to the consequences - or is our propensity for destroying our own habitat a just-for-fun 'spandrel' in the works of cultural evolution?
  • Wayfarer
    9.3k
    Are you saying that Reason is a divine "endowment" and not an evolutionary development?Gnomon

    NEITHER. The capacity for reason evolves, but what can be discovered through reason is something else altogether.

    The traditional account of the rational soul is not the exclusive property of Christian evangelicalism. In fact, many elements of it were appropriated from 'pagan' philosophy within which it was argued on impeccably rational grounds. But the movement away from religion threw the pagan baby out with the Christian bathwater, and the result is, basically, that humankind has lost a great deal of what really does make them different from animals. And you see a lot of animal behaviour in developed economies.

    But I am firmly of the view that reason transcends any Darwinian account, as it is something more than, and other than, an evolutionary adaptation (such as tooths, claws, feathers). To explain it in Darwinian terms is invariably to deprecate it, which is exactly what neo-darwinism (think Dennett and Dawkins) do. So whether reason is 'divinely endowed' or not, it is not in principle within the scope of science to explain, in fact, we have to be able to reason before science can even get out of bed. A lot of the rest of it are just so stories.

    (Hey this is a really interesting chat but am busy with household duties, I'll come back later.)
  • Siti
    72
    But even the otherwise unlikely emergence of Life & Mind can be understood as inevitable if evolution is an intentional program of En-formation via Cause & Effect dating back to a Rational First Cause. In that sense, I can agree that human reason is an endowment that matured only after billions of years from the initial investment (evolution).Gnomon

    If its an "intentional program" then "essentialism" is the only option, nothing is really genuinely the result of constructive (creative) evolution but rather an inevitable and pre-programmed consequence of the original "idea"... and given that the emergence of human-kind was, at some point, the result of a single sexual liaison, doesn't that imply that ALL sexual liaisons are predetermined and therefore part of the "essence" of each of the individuals involved? Then on what basis is ANY behaviour to be ruled "immoral" - the caprice of the divine Mind that thought it up in the first place?
  • Gnomon
    470
    If its an "intentional program" then "essentialism" is the only option, nothing is really genuinely the result of constructive (creative) evolution but rather an inevitable and pre-programmed consequence of the original "idea"Siti
    No. The Enformationism worldview does not imply predestination or essentialism. Instead, it views evolution as Ententional*1 in the sense of modern Evolutionary Programming (EP)*2, in which the final outcome is unknown. EP is a learning process, not a defining act. The only essence of evolved creatures is EnFormAction*3, which is essentially Creative Energy, which causes change in a certain direction. The entention is to reach a future state (godlike??), but the specific paths, and intermediate states, are left to chance, yet guided by specified parameters (normative natural laws) and initial conditions (the setup).

    EP is a counterintuitive concept because it is not top-down design, as humans do, but bottom-up design, as evolution does. I view Evolution as a gradual optimization program guided by programmer-selected criteria, not as a magical act producing instant perfection, such as the Genesis Creation. So humans were not created with the fixed essence of a "sapiens" Soul, but have gradually homed-in on a form of intelligence (Reason) that is adaptive to current conditions, and will continue to evolve to suit future environments. Therefore, the current form of human nature is not "inevitable and pre-programmed". It is merely a phase --- a step in the direction of the intended goal ("original idea"). The "form" of each stage is not a fixed essence, but a temporary phase.

    For all I know, the next step in evolution may be Artificial Intelligence, whose Essence could be radically different from the human kind. For example, AI should have no need for sexual reproduction, no Male or Female essence. And the "races" of AI would not involve skin color or geographic origin. This is indeed "constructive (creative) evolution". And the only consistent Essence throughout this process of learning to be "the best you can be" is EnFormAction, the creative urge.


    *1 Entention : "Ententional" is an adjective that applies to the class of objects and phenomena that refer to or are in some other way "about" something not present.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entention

    *2 Evolutionary Programming : simulated evolution as a learning process aiming to generate artificial intelligence
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_programming

    *3 EnFormAction : the creative power to enform; to cause transformations from one form to another.
    http://bothandblog2.enformationism.info/page29.html
    http://bothandblog3.enformationism.info/page23.html
  • Gnomon
    470
    But I am firmly of the view that reason transcends any Darwinian account, as it is something more than, and other than, an evolutionary adaptation (such as tooths, claws, feathers).Wayfarer
    Can you refer me to the "pagan philosophy" that argued for a transcendent rational soul on "impeccable rational grounds"? Or will you give me your own synopsis of how transcendent Reason is related to immanent material Reality?

    In my personal worldview, immanent human Reason is indeed a pale reflection of transcendent Logos, which is presumably an essential quality of the hypothetical First Cause. But our severely limited reasoning ability is compromised by the emotional needs of the evolved human body. So, human Reason is both a divine endowment and an evolved development. However, being a developmental phase, it is not a fixed essence. Reasoning ability may be the defining quality of homo sapiens, but it's a quality that we share to some degree with other intelligent creatures.


    Crow's reasoning ability : https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/26/crows-reasoning-ability-seven-year-old-humans
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