Something I’ve noticed: in 95% of the arguments I’ve witnessed or partaken in, any of the two positions the debaters take is logically defensible. Excluding the irrational arguments I’ve witnessed, arguments generally center around a small group of positive statements with the disagreements being concerned with normative statements.In high school forensics, we always, always played devils advocate as an exercise in argumentative discourse. The point was not so much as to understand the other side’s view as much as it was to see how easy it was to construct a defensible position on almost any public policy question.
To change subjects slightly (I’ll bring them back around in the end… I promise), my own personal beliefs have been constructed via the following process: investigate the positives, reconcile my normatives with the positives, and form my own beliefs around them. But after starting college, I noticed an interesting trend; friends started adopting other friend’s normatives, then seeking out positives to support them. While I feel my normatives are based on a philosophical structure (in which I hope none of my opinions cause me to ‘backtrack’), I felt because my friends normative values were unstructured because they weren’t a result of their own investigations. In listening to their opinions on various public policy, I’ve found them to have stances on an issue that cause them to contradict a stand on another. I’m by no means saying I’m not guilty of the exact same thing; in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I have one or two beliefs that may contradict each other (but when they come to light, I’ll do my best to reconcile them). My concern is that I feel people are taking positions on policy because their friends are taking them. Just because a person can defend a piece of public policy doesn’t mean they’ve thought out how that piece of policy reflects their own personal philosophy. In other words, I really feel that people advocate positions without contemplating how those policies, or what those policies imply on their moral/ethic/philisophical structure (the dashes are ‘or’s because some people have no ‘moral’ structure for philosophic reasons).
In one sense, I really don’t believe it matters, based on my own personal philosophy, but on another level, I think it’s sad for the person because having been easily swayed one way, it’s simple for a person who is adapt at arguing to sway the other person, and that person’s position based on their own highest values is never realized.
The “truth” of something does not need verification to be a reality, but it does need verification if it needs to have any value attributed to it.
That comes from someone much smarter than me.
After doing some reading last year, I decided to abandon many of my normative values in an attempt to re-evaluate everything. However, I realized that instead of just a re-evaluation, I should re-apply my normative values in order to better analyze them. After all, the age of a normative value sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) correlates with an inherent truth or wisdom in adopting that value.
If that didn’t make sense to anyone, please complain about it.
Ironically, reading is causing me to procrastinate.
I’m reading Children of Dune (and yes, I’m skipping a book in the dune series because they don’t have Dune Messiah) . I missed a little bit by not reading the second book, but one of the main outcomes is that the main character Paul is damned to walk the desert with the knowledge of the future; that is, knowing exactly how the universe will unfold without being able to change its destiny. Three characters in the book who share the same potential Paul did, that is, knowing varying paths of the future, struggle to not succumb to this curse.
It seems that one of the underlying themes (but not the main one, which is more encompassing) is that the certain future is to be feared. Given a choice between the known and the unknown, humans must always choose the unknown and train themselves to fear the known.
While I don’t know if I deem this an appropriate philosophy to live by, I think it is useful to help us break out of whatever rut of “sameness” we experience every day. Think of how much easier it would be to face our fears if we were no longer afraid of and instead drawn to the unknown. By doing this, I also think we can uncover a lot of hidden fears that may seem ridiculous but are actually legitimate.
Consider the fear of success: a seemingly absurd fear. But consider the obligation that comes with success. Is it ridiculous to see those obligations as chains that limit our ability to act? Perhaps it is indeed the fear of expectation that drives the fear of success, but it is ultimately the fear of success that provides the person with that fear a comfortable path to complacency, perhaps even failure, blinding that person to the fact that the path he chooses opens one or two doors in front of him but locks others behind him. But what if that person explores the unknown and accepts the chains that success binds him with? The answer to this, of course, is obvious, but it also highlights the fact that we need to face the unknown and that we should learn to fear the comfortable path.
“The eye that looks ahead to the safe course is closed forever.”
My thoughts on the wisdom of this shift from day to day. On one hand, we can say that looking back makes it easy to see how far we have come. On the other hand, it is easy to keep looking back for so long that we forget to look ahead and miss some very important opportunities. It makes sense pragmatically to never look back as it isn’t necessary in regards to progress, shedding light on the wisdom this maxim holds. But on the other hand, why move forward if you can’t look back?
I didn’t feel the following had anything to do with my last post, hence the double post.
I remember when I was first starting to read Nietzsche my friends and I would always make fun of a famous quote by him. It was something along the lines of “if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Now, I haven’t been fortunate enough to read the quote in its full context yet, but I think maybe I’ve uncovered part of its mystery, and I hope that I am not perceived as being pretentious for doing so.
The concept that we as humans have attempted to confine to the idea of “truth” (I know, saying “truth” would have been so much easier, but truth doesn’t necessarily encompass “fact”, “what is”, and a host of other concepts) is perhaps the very abyss Nietzsche was talking about. Humans can look into the abyss, but often times it is a frightful thing to look into . Perhaps this is because of an inability to cope, perhaps this is because of the revelation that a glimpse of truth is able to inspire, or perhaps this is because of another reason, but it seems that the true, unreported number one fear of humans is in fact not public speaking but a true firm understanding of “what is” (perhaps we can call it truth, but we can only do that by realizing that the standard conception of “truth” is not in fact “truth”). Perhaps we as humans, as a race and as a vast set of individuals, are so fearful of falling into a Nihilistic spiral that we have to come up with meanings and purposes, have to construct lies and deceit, have to deceive ourselves so that perhaps we cannot fully understand ourselves and the mistakes we make. Perhaps we are incapable of understanding ourselves because “truth” is that abyss that we are so fearful of looking into. (Borrowing from concepts learned in economics) Perhaps the opportunity cost of comprehending “truth” are far inferior to the benefit of discovering it. Is it worth the possibility of falling into a nihilistic depression to understand “truth”?