“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Nine: Techno-Humanism and Dataism

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New Religions are going to emerge from research laboratories. Thus sayeth Harari. Silicon Valley will be the birthplace of techno religion which :

“argues that humans have completed their cosmic task and should now pass the torch on to entirely new kinds of entities….Techno-humanism agrees that homo sapiens as we know it has run its historical course and will no longer be relevant in the future, but concludes that we should therefore use technology in order to create Homo Deus–a much superior human model.”(pp409-410)

Just as medicine is going to transform itself from an archeological discipline dedicated to the curing of disease, to an imaginative teleological adventure striving to bring immortality to the soul, so humanism narrowly conceived will transform itself into techno-humanism (imaginatively conceived) which will seek unknown experiences and strange states of consciousness in an infinite ocean of possible states of consciousness.

The narrow conception of humanism we have been provided with in this work was of course necessary for the plot of Harari’s drama to unfold as it has. The Humanism of Aristotle, Kant, Wittgenstein and their followers would regard what Harari calls ” ” the sect of techno-humanism” as a figment of the imagination, especially the following totalitarian phantasy;

“Like all humanist sects, techno-humanism too sanctifies the human will, seeing it as the nail on which the universe hangs. Techno-humanism expects our desires to choose which mental abilities to develop and thereby determine the shape of future minds. Yet what will happen once technological progress makes it possible to reshape and engineer those very desires?”

The author then continues to insist in accordance with his narrow conception of humanism, that humanists cannot identify their authentic will from the cacophony of internal voices competing for attention. Firstly it is not clear how our desires can decide to shape the character of our minds in the future. I can of course decide to become educated but this is a decision which is not visualising or imagining the exact consequences of such an extended process filled with unknowns. This is more like an existential decision to transform myself into something that I know that I value which in turn has been arrived at not through perception or imagination but by knowledge and argument. This existential force of knowledge in relation to the will must be acknowledged. Hannah Arendt in her work “The Human Condition” discussed the ability of man to use his will to create something completely new and related this phenomenon to the totalitarian movements of the 20th century. She points to the three forms of activity man can engage in: labour, work and action and attributes to the latter the ability to create something entirely new but it is not clear, even on this account, that one can decide to create a new self, although Sartre the French existentialist thought that this might be possible. That is, Sartre thought that I am able to recreate myself through my action from moment to moment. This “philosophy of mind” that “anything is possible” was, according to Arendt one of the motivating forces of totalitarianism. For O’Shaughnessy, on the contrary, the mind is divided into a willing half and a knowing half and this divide is more complete the simpler the organism that possesses it. This means that in relation to willed action knowledge plays a greater guiding role in complex organisms such as ourselves–hence the importance of the humanistic “decision” to educate oneself.

Julian Jaynes, discussing the phenomenon of hemispheric function, pointed to how with the development of our human consciousness( as a consequence of the development of language which occurred much much later than the author of this work has claimed) we spatialise time and even our consciousness itself which according to Jaynes is not a “something” but rather an operation that operates in accordance with an analogous “I” to the I that is, acts, and thinks. This “I” also operates in an analogous space to the space in which I act and think. This spatialisation of a metaphorical world enables us to imagine”ourselves” doing this and that with imagined outcomes. Narratization is the spatialisation of my temporal life strung out as it is in a chain of befores and afters. The assigning of causes and purposes or the saying of why we did a particular thing is also a feature of this narratization process. When we encounter on our daily walk a cat perched nervously on the branch of a tree we say to ourselves that the neighbours dog has probably chased it up the tree. Encountering putative facts about the mind, we then assemble them into a story. This spatialisation of the mind is a consequence of the integrated functioning of the right and the left hemispheres, according to Jaynes. The long tradition of the influence of oracles during the period of Greek ascendency was probably, according to Jaynes a consequence of right hemisphere dominant individuals.(ca 35,000 people a day from all regions of the Mediterranean were visiting Delphi at the height of the influence of oracles). Reason and knowledge enter into this picture via the goal of thinkers immersed in their various disciplines to arrive at truth or knowledge via methods and principles of reasoning such as the principle of non contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason which seek to disentangle the false and meaningless parts of our narratives from the true parts. Narratization obviously preceded the search for knowledge by thousands of years.

The above account of Jaynes may well, however, support the thesis that the will is the nail which the universe is hung upon but if this is so, it is the nail of knowledge and not the nail of power. All previous attempts to hang the universe on the nail of power have failed. The author openly admits that science knows very little about consciousness, and if history has taught us anything as a consequence of the failed attempts to control the masses via power, it is surely that these attempts failed because power hungry dictators did not have sufficient knowledge of the human psyche to transform it. If this authors work has taught us anything it is that science has no theory of the knowledge of value or knowledge of the good as Plato put the matter.

The author takes up in a spirit of excited curiosity, the prospect of experiencing a strange form of consciousness which no one else has experienced. These forms of consciousness remind one of the deranged desires of mental patients like Schreber who thought his body was stretched all over the universe. Many mentally deranged people believe they are all powerful in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary. They too are troubled by a cacophony of voices which they may not recognise as their own.

In elaborating upon his plot the author claims:

“Technological progress has a very different agenda.It does not want to listen to our voices. It wants to control them. Once we understand the biochemical system producing all these voices we can play with the switches, turn up the volume here lower it there and make life much more easy and comfortable. We will give Ritalin to the distracted lawyer, Prozac to the guilty soldier and Cipralex to the dissatisfied wife. Humanists are appalled by this approach but we had better not pass judgment on it too quickly. The humanist recommendation to listen to ourselves has ruined the lives of many a person, whereas the right dosage of the right chemical has greatly improved the well being and relationships of millions.”(p424)

The schizophrenic experience of being plagued by alien and sometimes hostile voices is, according to Jaynes , an interesting throwback to bicameral man, a throwback to a time before the advent of consciousness and it is , according to him, a moot point whether medication is the right method to lead the patient back on the road to full consciousness. Humanists like Aristotle and Kant who understood that we are physical beings composed of physical substances in a certain state of equilibrium would hardly have objected to any physical treatment which restored that lost equilibrium. Many medications, however, alleviate symptoms and do not restore the natural equilibrium of life. The humanist will naturally question such a state of affairs. Freud being a follower of Aristotle and Kant, would also have agreed with this position: remember he experimented with magnetism and hypnotism before the “age of medication” we now live in. There were patients who needed to be returned to a state of physical equilibrium before the so called “talking cure” could be effective.

The will of course is connected fundamentally to desire but it is also. as we have pointed out, connected to knowledge. Indeed along with the mysteries of consciousness the mysteries of the epistemological relation of the will to the world and its own body have yet to be fully explored, although it should be added that O’Shaughnessy has made a good start in this direction by philosophically exploring these topics in accordance with the traditions of Aristotelian and Kantian Philosophy. In the light of this work the following quote is somewhat surprising:

“According to Humanism, only human desires imbue the world with meaning.Yet if we could choose our desires on what basis could we possible make such choices?”(p425)

The explorations of the philosophers have indicated that we cannot choose our desires, they happen to us, and sometimes they need restraining. We can of course choose the objects of our desires and those can vary considerably if we ignore the prophecy of Apollo, “Nothing too much”. Narcissus, we should recall was consumed eventually by his own desire as are many mentally ill patients. Of course the mentally ill patients can “choose” to go to therapy in order to be returned to normal but the quotation marks around this word suggest that this may not be a choice in the normal sense of the word at all. Saying as the author does that when our desires make us uncomfortable, technology can remedy this situation does not make sense in the light of the above reflections.

Nevertheless let us follow this high speed train speeding into its station and ask how one might wish to manipulate our desires. The author claims that we should replace them with the element worshipped by the members of the new religion of the 21st century, namely information or data. The concept of information, however, is ambiguous. It can either refer to facts or to knowledge. If the former is what is meant and the information is value neutral and the product of scientific inquiry, we are by definition excluding all forms of humanistic and philosophical knowledge such as that which has been presented in the form of counterarguments in this review. This is also the case if the knowledge we are talking about is restricted to the algorithms of science. Replacing desire with knowledge instead of integrating these two parts of the mind is going to lead to a high speed catastrophe. The absence of value related to the knowledge of the good and the absence of the desire of individuals to live in freedom will be a very strange algorithm of ethical and political life indeed.

Dataism is what is going to give the 21st century its meaning, according to the author. This religion, it is claimed owes its existence to two different scientific origins: Firstly,Darwin’s “Origin of the species” which the author claims, somewhat enigmatically, leads to the modern scientific position that all organisms are biochemical algorithms, and secondly, the discovery of electronic algorithms by computer science. The confluence of these two streams will, it is claimed change the future structure of the world. Electronic algorithms, however, hold the real power to deliver this vision of totalitarian control. The humanistic means of controlling our existence is the law which incorporates in its laws knowledge of the good and respect for the freedom of the individuals that are subject to the law. Information or the facts of scientific knowledge are obviously important in legal cases but at the end of this process, constructed with the intention of distributing justice, is a human judging the evidence in accordance with the value laden humanistically oriented law(influenced no doubt by Greek ideas of the common good and Kantian notions of the practical contradictions involved in disregarding moral laws). This work “Homo Deus”, speaks very seldom of the law and its humanistic structure and processes and this is a limitation because the law is the humanistic discipline which best incorporates the findings from the inhabitants of the ivory tower where philosophers dwell. What we know about totalitarian regimes is that the first order of business is to dismantle respect for the existing law in order to replace it with “the law of the Fuhrer” or “the laws of history as interpreted by Lenin, Stalin etc” which often involves not just small alterations but veritable inversions of what is right with what is wrong. Harari’s system disregards philosophy, philosophical ethics philosophical psychology and political philosophy because it belongs in Greek or Enlightenment ivory towers. His system redefines and thereby inverts the value of Humanism, redefines Liberalism which also historically via liberals such as Socrates, Locke and Kant has had a great respect for the law, disregards the truths and knowledge of civilisation-building institutions such as religion, and elevates all forms of science and technology to fill the vacuums created. This is an algorithm for totalitarianism if there ever was one.

It is not clear that Harari shares the definition of information given by the OED because he constructs a chain of terms beginning with data, leading to information, and thereupon to knowledge and wisdom. It is not clear here whether he is envisaging the possibility of false information which is not possible with knowledge if we agree with the definition of the philosophers that knowledge is justified true belief. If false information is a possibility then it is not clear how it or data could be the focus of his “new religion”. What would be the value of “false information” or data which presumably could also be truth neutral or false? Arguments require true premises if they are to be valid. Imaginative narratives can of course contain accounts of robots or superhuman bionic men obeying the rules or algorithms of Google or Facebook but this is fictional. If these narratives are a consequence of studying the disciplines of computer science and biology then something has gone seriously wrong. It is argued that even societies are data processing systems and the only difference between capitalism and communism is that the former is a centrally organised data processing system and the latter a distributed processing system. The latter system is evaluated as being inferior to the former because of the impossibility of steering the price of bread centrally and as is the case with all singular instrumental judgments the evaluation does not take into account the possible advantages of steering entire artificial intelligence systems centrally in accordance with a policy of economically and politically interfering with other more distributed data processing systems. The author is very clear in his judgment:

“Capitalism did not defeat communism because capitalism was more ethical, because individual liberties are sacred or because God was angry with the heathen communists. Rather capitalism won the cold war because distributed data processing works better than centralised data processing, at least in periods of accelerating technological change. the Central Committee of the Communist Party just could not deal with the rapidly changing world of the late twentieth century.”(p434)

So, in the light of the above, would the unethical behaviour of centrally steered data processing systems, if successful be in any sense laudable? Surely, the author does not believe that the only residue of the Greek reflections on ethics and the Kantian reflections on ethics are individual liberties defined solipsistically or narcissistically or the religious dogma of an angry God?
Democracies and dictatorships are also defined in terms of centralised and distributed data processing systems and even if democracies appear to have advantages it is admitted that in some circumstances centrally steered systems may prove advantageous but in rapidly changing technological environments the government tortoise, it is argued can never outrun the hare. The amount of data is overwhelming and the average voter in a democracy is, it is argued :

“beginning to sense that the democratic mechanism no longer empowers them”(p437)

The average voter further believes:

“Government has become mere administration. It manages the country but no longer leads it.”(438)

In this environment, it is argued, some people search for conspiracy theories to explain why the society is taking the direction it is.

Harari asks what the output of international data processing systems are and refers to the “Internet of all things” which once it is installed will mean the disappearance of Homo Sapiens. According to the dogma of Dataism mankind is merely a tool to create this universal/cosmic data processing system:

“Homo Sapiens is an obsolete algorithm. After all what’s the advantage of humans over chickens? Only that in humans information flows in much more complex patterns.. Well, then if we could create a data processing system that can assimilate even more data than a human being, and process it more efficiently, would not that system be superior to a human in exactly the same way that a human is superior to a chicken?”(pp444-5)

In this maelstrom of the flow of information(and as pointed out above it is not clear whether the author means to regard false information as part of this flow) it is claimed that no one would understand fully what is happening. But, it is claimed, no one today understands how the global economy works or where global politics is heading. The recommended response to this state of affairs is to contribute to this information flow by writing e mails(which presumably might inadvertently contain false information) that could then be read by the system(Would the system detect falsehoods?), and part of this response requires trusting the invisible hand of the system. Apparently this system would not be anti-humanist because it has nothing against human experience: the system merely “believes” that these experiences are not valuable.

Music.according to the author, is just a mathematical pattern and God is a product of our imaginations which are merely biochemical algorithms and will be replaced by the internet of all things which will be monitoring for example how many eggs there are in my refrigerator. The previous modern alliance(?) between science and humanism had resulted in scientists accepting the guidance of humanism because, apparently, the author claims in the name of his narrow definition of humanism, feelings were the best algorithms in the world for millions of years. This alliance between scientists and humanists will be dissolved now that algorithms have replaced feelings. There will no longer be any need to listen to the internal voices giving expression to ones feelings because for example the algorithms will know how we are going to vote( making democratic elections also irrelevant). The algorithms will know how we feel and the interesting question to be raised is what if anything will be done with that knowledge especially if it indicates that all the humanists believe the system to be totalitarian. Instead of visiting a museum or climbing a mountain to view a beautiful sunset the more appropriate responses to the problems of life would be to have ones DNA sequenced, wear a bio-medical monitoring device, post pictures of all ones experiences on Facebook, allow Google to read your e mails and keep a record of your likes and dislikes. Finally, the author argues, even if Dataism is wrong and organisms are not algorithms this in itself might not prevent Dataism from taking over the world. The author then claims that the overthrow of homo sapiens is not inevitable and that the purpose of the book is to loosen the grip of technology in order that we may think in more imaginative ways about the future. The problem with this declared purpose is that human beings are rational animals capable of discourse and it is the denial of this thesis that has led us into totalitarian realms of the imagination where one can literally imagine anything.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Eight: Action, AI and Totalitarianism

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The Liberal order, according to Harari, is defined in terms of individualism human rights, democracy and the free market and is also a form of religion. Human rights as we learned earlier are figments of the imagination and Humanism, a term traditionally closely associated with liberalism, is also more or less defined in terms of a romantic solipsistic individualism which does not have very much in common with our traditional notion of an ethical humanism steered by law and reason. Ever since Kant associated ethics and human rights with freedom, freedom also became a more systematically characterised concept than it was when it was referred to by Hobbes as that which citizens have to partly abandon in order for the Leviathan or the commonwealth to provide security for nation states citizens.

As was the case with the difficulty of seeing the principle of the soul through a microscope or via imaging techniques we are now also informed that the free will cannot be detected with scientific instruments either. Looking for freedom with such instruments is of course what a philosopher would call a category mistake. Harari claims that the attribution of free will to humans is a fact and that is true but some facts are categorial such as “all men are mortal”: no observation would ever reveal the counterfactual that a man is immortal and trying to base this conceptual fact on purely observational grounds is failing to appreciate the logical and categorical nature of conceptual truths. Hume once tried this line of reasoning with the self and pointed out that we are not able to observationally detect the “self” and therefore the self did not exist. Kant pointed out a number of objections to this line of empiricist thinking , amongst which was the self or soul being an idea of reason(a principle) rather than a phenomenal thing to be encountered in the phenomenal world. He pointed out, in other words, that the initial premise that we can not observe the self is ambiguous. If the self is a principle which cannot be observed because it is a condition of what it as that we are observing than it cannot warrant the conclusion that there is no such principle or condition. Similarly if freedom is an idea or principle of ethical activity than claiming as the author does people are free because they “feel free” is incoherent. When people say they feel free it is a negative judgment which is in focus: the judgment namely that no one is preventing them from doing what they wish to, which in turn focuses attention on the fact that freedom is an idea or condition qualifying action and can not qualify sensation:actions and sensations are different psychological entities and even if sensations might peripherally be associated with action there is no logical connection between these logically different entities(See O’Shaughnessy’s “The Will: a dual aspect theory). There is even a difference in the causal origins of these two entities with action having an immediate psychological cause and sensation or feeling having an immediate physical cause. This discussion also accords well with the Kantian ontological distinction between “what happens to man” and “what man makes of himself”. therefore, all talk about there not being a self “present” in the stream of consciousness is an unnecessary spiritualist reification of the concept. One of the immediate psychological causes of action are, for example desire which certainly must be an occupant of the so called stream of consciousness, but one should not succumb to the scientific temptation of reducing action to mere bodily movement which can be observed, for two reasons: firstly there are mental actions such as trying to remember a name and trying to sustain a mental image. Both are mental actions sharing the logical structure of being active(one can ask people to stop doing them) and the relation to psychological rather than physical origins, secondly action is a concept that transcends the ontological realms of thought and existence and thereby is what O´Shaughnessy calls an apriori metaphysical concept which only a self conscious consciousness or language user is capable of comprehending. We know behaviourism is behind much of the confusion related to consciousness and the understanding of language. Having being forced to abandon experiments with humans because of the difficulty of controlling and measuring the variables, experiments with animals only succeeded in producing the limited results they did because of the presence of an animal form of consciousness and the consequent existence of teleological intentional behaviour. Attempting to generalise these results to humans failed because self conscious consciousness and language use is a higher form of life. O Shaughnessy points out how the way in which we linguistically demarcate the concepts of perception, action, and consciousness includes an ineluctable first person identification of the occupants of our stream of consciousness:

“While action and perception and consciousness have no tendency to cause any single phenomenon-or set-of-phenomena in one setting, they nevertheless have a characteristic “outer face” in the following sense. The simpler the organism in which they occur, the more they figure in causal transactions from inner to outer that are readily interpretable to a third person other. For example nearby perception by an insect of its natural prey or predator will very often cause movement: and this movement in this situation is readily interpretable. Then I would suggest that such an “outer face”, call it C phi must have been that via which the psychological item in question first came to the consciousness of some third person other.Yet it is one thing to know of and notice such psychological items in another via C phi, it is quite another to relate to them as does a self conscious consciousness. That is, to be in a position to notice and know of them/in oneself and another/ under linguistically demarcated concepts. This huge development depends on C phi- but also on the internal psychological setting of the outer phenomena, call it C psy. For example, physical action Phi gets thus conceptually demarcated via a C phi which includes “say” the presence of a quarry, and a C psy which includes desire. Now C phi and C psy are interdependent: indeed C psy rationalises C phi…In short the development of self conscious conceptualised knowledge of the physical act is made possible by C phi and C psy , and ultimately by C psy.”(Volume 1 p80)

C psy is inaccessible to the scientific method. Pretending that the firing of neurones is the desire for the quarry is a mind brain identification fallacy which is the only move available if one does not want to deny the existence of the internal phenomenon of desire. The science of Aristotle and Kant it should be pointed out had no difficulty in accommodating transcendental and metaphysical truths and did not need to resort to the spiritualisation of phenomena which cannot then causally interact with the physical world.

One of the major arguments used against the notion of the self is the following:

“Liberals believe that we have a single and indivisible self. To be an individual means that I am in-dividual(indivisible). Yet my body is made up of approximately 37 trillion cells and each day both my body and my mind go through countless permutations and transformations…..For liberalism to make sense, I must have one–and only one–true self, for if I had more than one authentic voice how would I know which voice to heed in the polling station, in the supermarket and in the marriage market…However, over the last few decades the life sciences have reached the conclusion that this liberal story is pure mythology…if I look really deep within myself the seeming unity which I take for granted dissolves into a cacophony of conflicting voices, none of which is “my true self”. Humans aren’t individuals. They are dividuals.”

The use and abuse of the term “liberal” in this work is similar to the use and abuse of the term “humanist”. If one connects liberalism to liberty and the positive concept of freedom then Kant must be the liberal par excellence in virtue of the fact that his reflections on the concept of freedom is the most systematic account we have. Kant of course reflects on the parts of the self which for him are sensibility, understanding, and reason. For him it would be perfectly consistent to maintain that someone could steal something in spite of hearing the voice of reason within telling the individual not to do the deed. When the individual finds himself in court and is asked why he stole the item he may like a good scientist cite a number of causes: he needed to pay his rent, his mother left him when he was 6 months old, his father became an alcoholic, he fell in with a gang of thieves etc. Now if the legal system were based on the causal principle of science the judge would have no alternative but to release the man. One cannot be blamed for ones choices if one has no control over them. But the criminal can be blamed: he heard the voice of reason and if he did not he ought to have developed his reasoning about his social existence to the extent that the voice did protest the deed. The criminal is blamed on the grounds of one of the key concepts of social science, namely freedom. The judge in sentencing him refers to the principle that the criminal could have chosen not to steal the item. He is sentenced that is for not using his freedom and reasoning powers. Now let us assume, incidentally, that our criminal is a scientist and as a Parthian shot shouts out that it was not he that committed the crime but some other person, the person he was six months ago is not the person he is today, literally millions of cells and chemicals are different in his body therefore he is different. This narrative indicates the irrelevance of scientific concepts in the realm of social science and law. We would not find Kant the liberal denying the validity of the assumption of the legal system that the criminal is the same person that committed the theft. The Sensible part of the mind may have been behind the action but the criminal will understand the reasoning of the legal system if he is not mentally ill. If he is mentally ill he may continue to insist that the voice telling him to commit the theft was not his.He may even complain about a cacophony of voices. There is a contradiction in insisting that the number of cells changing is logically relevant to the claim that there is not an individual self and many materialists have themselves attempted to patch up their faulty reasoning by reference to the functional continuity of the organs of the body that then may or may not be sufficient to claim the unity of the self. For Aristotle, the hylomorphic philosopher who acknowledges the truths of materialism, the functional unity of these organs were a partial explanation of the unity of the self, i.e. in modern terminology they were perhaps a necessary but not sufficient condition of the unity of the self. Functional unity, however commits one to teleology: the organ’s function is for the sake of the individual and many physical scientists do not want to be associated with this kind of “backward causation” as they incorrectly call this type of explanation. Teleological explanation is however very much tied up with our conceptualisation and linguistic demarcation of action. O’Shaughnessy points to instances of actions in which observation based descriptions of instrumental action would be confined to just the movements of the body. So when in walking to the shop to buy some milk, I say so upon being asked, and the scientist obsessed with observation claims that to be an illegitimate description of my action because all I can scientifically be said to be doing is walking. This after all is all that can be captured on his video of me on the way to the shop before being asked about the matter.

After discussing the respective different functional roles of the right and left hemispheres Harari claims that Daniel Kahneman’s experiments prove the existence of an experiencing self which remembers nothing(a moment to moment consciousness) and a narrating self which remembers selectively and is duration blind. It is this narrating self, the author argues that is behind the liberal belief that we have a single enduring self:

“Most of us identify with our narrating self. When we say “I” we mean the story in our head not the onrushing stream of experiences we undergo. We identify with the inner system that takes the crazy chaos of life and spins out of it seemingly logical and consistent yarns. It doesn’t matter that the plot is full of lies and lacunas and is rewritten again and again so that today’s story flatly contradicts yesterday’s.”(347-8)

The author goes on further to suggest that the self is a result of an imaginary story which we tell ourselves:

“just like nations, gods and money. Each of us has a sophisticated system that throws away most of our experiences, keeps only a few choice samples, mixes them up with bits from movies we’ve seen, novels we’ve read, speeches we’ve heard and daydreams we’ve savoured, and out of all that jumble it weaves a seemingly coherent story about who I am, where I came from and where I am going. This story tells me what to love, whom to hate and what to do with myself.. We all have our genre. Some people live a tragedy, others inhabit a never-ending religious drama, some approach life as if it were an action film, and not a few act as if in a comedy. But in the end they are all just stories.”

….which the author seems to be able to distinguish from the truth in some fashion that he thinks the people he is talking about do not possess the capacity to do. He assumes that the language located in the left hemisphere is one without a truth function which subjects putative facts to observational tests, testimony from other witnesses, different kinds of reasoning processes and different theories. If Aristotle is a liberal as he ought to be, given his suggestion of the importance of an educated middle class to the fate of the political community, why would he reject the above account so categorically? Here are some of the grounds he would use to reject the above account: Reason uses arguments and theories to determine the truth of putative beliefs which can occur uncontested in a narrative: Experience can be organised by narratives and also organised at a higher level by knowledge: My life is the true story of who I am where I came from what I am doing–it characterises my epistemic relation to myself. To the extent that I am capable of telling this true story is the extent to which I “know myself”.

Harari concludes this section with the following:

“The free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms.”(354)

…thus dispelling the myth that a story is told by one free individual to another which needs to be done if one is to accept the totalitarian story of the future which we will be treated to in the next section.

The arguments of Kant pertaining to the dignity and worth of the individual have made no appearance in either of Harari’s works thus far. If Kantian liberalism has survived the totalitarianism of the last century then it must be because of these arguments. The author claims, however that:

“liberalism succeeded because there was abundant political, economic and military sense in ascribing value to every human being. On the mass battlefields of modern industrial wars and in the mass production lines of modern industrial economies every human counted. there was value to every pair of hands which could hold a rifle or pull a lever.”(p357)

This makes liberalism a utilitarian Philosophy which resonates with the political philosophies of Hobbes and the Mill’s. We are all familiar with the futile attempts of utilitarian ethics to explain the worth of an individual and his freedom. Attempts which at the political level justify the unjust tyrannising of the minority by the majority however insane their policies are and at the individual level will allow the individual who is mentally ill the freedom to destroy himself. Utilitarianism was a political philosophy inspired by the science of the 16th and 17th century that relied on a method of resolving wholes into their parts and attempting to re-compose them back into the whole(the former process being of course much easier than the latter) and it also relied on an assumption of linear causation applied best to the billiard balls of Hume cannoning off each other. Utilitarianism was science “applied” to social phenomena with a teleological twist: man pursues happiness it was claimed. The test of whether something was good or not was a consequential test and Bentham’s sovereign principles of pleasure and pain were the key indicators of a mans happiness. If a man was happy, irrespective of whether he met the Kantian condition of deserving his happiness, this was sufficient test of the ethical good. What are we to say of the happy man who then asks himself the Kantian question and upon realising he does not deserve to be happy is now unhappy? This unhappiness is after all a consequence of a consequence and if consequences determine what is good why should one particular consequence be preferable to any other? This is of course a variation of Aquinas’ double effect theory which is a standard objection to any consequentialist ethical theory.

Ethics is of course a figment of the imagination for Harari as is human rights which is tied not to mans imagined happiness but to his actual dignity and worth. In his reasoning about the utility of man for the economic or political system he notes that artificial intelligence is decoupling intelligence from consciousness and that there is no guarantee that this will not lead to man becoming superfluous at the point at which all occupations can be performed more efficiently by computerised robots. This is a serious prediction. Hannah Arendt pointed to the consequences of the industrial revolution when large numbers of men became superfluous in Europe and created the economic and political conditions for two world wars. It should, however be pointed out that it was precisely the political and economical utilitarian value of these men which contributed to their alienation. Educational systems did not suffice to convince the masses of unemployed that they possessed a value in being human.

Sometimes there is something of the air of a science fiction film hanging over these reflections. Firstly, the reflections ignore the variable of freedom and consent. Would people consent to having AI based teachers and doctors and politicians? Secondly it is not clear that algorithms will be able to capture the essential elements of teaching to take one example. Everyone in education knows how difficult it is to change one small component of the educational system: there just is no hope of agreement over what constitutes a good education. There must literally be hundreds of thousands of algorithms involved in the educational system and we look forward to seeing the conference which will discuss where to start. Let us however explore this totalitarian vision to its logical conclusion:

“As algorithms push humans out of the job market, wealth and power might become concentrated in the hands of the tiny elite that owns the all powerful algorithms, creating unprecedented social and political inequality….Alternatively, the algorithms might themselves become the owners. Human law already recognises intersubjective entities like corporations and nations as “legal persons”….5,000 years ago much of Sumer was owned by imaginary gods such as Enki and Inanni. If gods can posses land and employ people, why not algorithms?”(p376-7)

The author appears to believe that if we provided Google free access to our biometric devices, our DNA scans, and our medical records it would provide a better solution to the problems in our lives than the narrating self with its “cooked up stories. Google will help us make choices in the supermarket, in the polling booth and the marriage market:

“once Google, Facebook and other algorithms become all knowing oracles, they may well evolve into agents and ultimately into sovereigns”(p397)

“The new technologies of the 21st century my thus reverse the humanist revolution, stripping humans of their authority, and empowering non human algorithms instead.”(p401)

All of this will apparently be based on the life sciences conclusion that a living organism is just a collection of algorithms. This in its turn will transform medicine from an ethical project of healing the sick to an elitist project of upgrading the lives of the healthy. Elites will want these services, it is maintained and further:

“some elites may conclude that there is no point in providing improved and even standard levels of health for masses of useless poor people, and it is far more sensible to focus on upgrading a handful of super-humans beyond the norm.”(pp407)

These super-humans will, it is argued abandon their “liberal” roots and treat humans “the way 19th century Europeans treated Africans”.

It is difficult to treat some of these reflections academically because of their “imaginative” science fiction-like character against the background of the absence of philosophy, ethics, philosophical psychology, and law but the purpose of this review thus far has been to present this absent background. With this in mind it is difficult to believe that given our natures and the knowledge we have of what happened in history the last time we encountered the above mentioned phenomena when “science” was left to dominate the field of humanistic explanation, we will travel this totalitarian road again without recognising its landmarks. We are free to choose not to go down this yellow brick road.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Seven: The Humanist Revolution.

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It is not clear what the author means when he refers to a great cosmic plan. Does he mean to include the cosmic intentions of Aristotelian Philosophy, Kantian Philosophy, or Post-Wittgensteinian Philosophy? He certainly means to refer to the texts related to those major religions who believe in an all powerful, all knowing, all good, God who is popularly imagined to be a kind of script writer for the human drama played out in his creation. In the beginning was the word and the word was God could symbolize such a state of affairs where God is the creator of the universe and all forms of life.

Much of the language of the Bible is metaphorical or symbolic. Biblical scholars have pointed out for example that the creation story when it refers to the creation of the earth in a period of six days is referring to a divine day which could be a billion years in our human scale of measurement of time. Similarly the drama whose beginning we are witnessing in the human events reported in the holy book may be the beginning of a sequence of events which will in its turn last hundreds of thousands or billions of years. In such contexts the ancient deluge and current nuclear threats will literally be nano-elements of the overall cosmic plan. When it is symbolically reported in the Bible that God saw his creation to be good he might have been seeing or “knowing” the beginning middle and end or endlessness of the drama. The claim during the course of this span of time that God is dead by a few modernist thinkers on the grounds of a temporary loss of meaning over thousands of years would not register as significant in the mind of a prophet who is seeing such events darkly through the divine lens of a meaning created by eons or ages of time.

The argument presented against believing is a cosmic plan is the following:

“God’s death did not lead to a social collapse. Throughout history prophets and philosophers have argued that if humans stopped believing in a great cosmic plan all law and order would vanish. Yet today those who pose the greatest threat to global law and order are precisely those people who continue to believe in God and His all-encompassing plans. God fearing Syria is a far more violent place than the secular Netherlands.”(p258)

For a philosopher like Kant the announcement of the death of God would have carried no more meaning than the announcement that a particular way of thinking
non philosophically about God was becoming less and less relevant. Neither he nor any serious philosopher would think that the law and order of the world (which is partly a creation of philosophical thinking from the arenas of ethics and politics) was going to collapse because of a collapse of a way of thinking that was not philosophical. Further even a scientist interested in collecting statistics of the number of people hurt or killed by terrorism or the violence of local wars( for example, in Syria) would regret this state of affairs but would not dramatise it in the way Harari has done especially when it is seen against the background of other sources of violence and destruction in the world. The statistics do not suggest there is a global threat to world law and order from these sources.

It is further claimed that because there is no cosmic plan there are no laws determining what is happening on a global stage. Aristotle, Kant and a number of other dwellers in the ivory tower of philosophy would disagree with this. The roots of humanism were planted by the ancient Greeks culminating in the work of Aristotle with the statement at the beginning of the Nichomachean Ethics in which it is said that:

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”

Only rational animals capable of discourse can think,plan and aim at this good.Animals lead their lives in accordance with the drivers of instinct, feeling and emotion and because of this they cannot cooperate in the large numbers needed to found cities and communities in which such art,activities and inquiries can be pursued for the purposes of the good. Reason for Aristotle enabled man to develop the virtues which then defined the good person and the good action. Here again feelings were either an incidental irrelevant accompaniment or psychic obstacles which needed to be circumnavigated. This is similarly the case in Kant where the ideas of reason such as Freedom and God jointly motivate the moral law in which it is scripted that man ought to treat his fellow (and himself) as an end in himself and never merely as a means. Thus for Kant, the God respecting philosopher, there is a humanistic script to the human drama leading to the formation of the Cosmopolitan man which is part of the cosmic plan and there are laws both moral and physical which will explain the free, chosen pilgrimage of man on the road to a kingdom of ends. For both Aristotle and Kant the pursuit of the good is the essence of humanism and Aristotle specifically says in the Nichomachean ethics that virtue is not a feeling because it would be absurd to praise or blame a man for the feelings he is experiencing. For him the humanistic drama playing out is a process of actualisation in which the political conditions are being created for man to acquire the virtues via politically created educational systems led by a politically educated middle class. Aristotle, the biologist, believes that man the rational animal capable of discourse is the most important proximate cause of this actualisation process: he believes, that is, that this process is driven by human nature which somehow participates in the divine through its possession of reason and the use of this reason in moments of philosophical contemplation. It is probably this kind of explanation of mans nature which causes Harari to call philosophising an activity that takes place in an ivory tower and it is important to point out that, apart from this name-calling, no argument is invoked to question this truly humanistic view of man which produces convincing arguments against the simplistic equation of humanism with the feelings man has. Kant too would agree with this counterargument and he would rest his case on a complex theory of the philosophical psychology involved in what he calls “Anthropology”. In his humanistic “Anthropology” Kant draws an Aristotelian distinction between what happens to man(feelings and sensations) and what he does( rational action). Both Philosophers would not get caught up in any premature populistic wave of declaring that there is no cosmic plan or that God is dead. Both would probably question the creation myths and narratives respectfully, being aware as they are of the wisdom they contain, on the grounds of the philosophical possibility that the universe has existed forever and God was always present in its form and the changes it undergoes. Neither would question the physical age of the earth that has been proved by science or the approximate dating of the emergence of life or the approximate dating of the emergence of our species. Both philosophers would have been fascinated by the writings of Julian Jaynes in which it is maintained that as consciousness emerged in man it did so originally in a bicameral form because of the biological probability that like all other major functions, language was present in both hemispheres of the brain. In the beginning , man, in stressful circumstances heard voices which were traces and perhaps combinations of the voices of other men(as is the case with schizophrenic patients today). These voices told men what to do. Jaynes points out that this phenomenon is recorded in the early texts of the Bible and that we see a gradual change in the mentality of man toward a higher level of consciousness in which man in such circumstances, with language now concentrated in the left hemisphere, begins to think for himself with the aid of his own thought( with perhaps more than a little help from the texts he finds important). This transition is also recorded in the early Greek literature of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Jaynes points out the important role of writing in this process of transformation from an oral culture to the culture of the text. Mountains of evidence are presented for the thesis of “deus absconditus”: the thesis of the retreat of the voices from consciousness. He also points to the major trauma of the eruption of Thera which forced millions of men to relocate after the devastation of a huge tsunami. The relocation could not have been a peaceful matter in a relativistic world where each community listened to its own voices and would have found confrontation with voices from other gods confusing. This tale of the confusion of tongues is also in the Bible. What Aristotle and Kant would have found to be alarming in our present culture is the power of our language games to detach themselves from the knowledge we have and generate relativistic theories about what a value is or what it is that makes a fact a fact. Post modernism is a movement that seeks to destroy the meaning of everything in the past as if it had no connection with the present. It has no patience with the painstaking work of the scholar in his ivory tower trying to work out what Socrates was right about and what he was wrong about, what Aristotle was right about and wrong about. Aristotle was certainly not wrong about the the 4 kinds of explanations presented in his Metaphysics and he as not wrong about the importance of teleological explanation in the spheres of action, ethics and politics. One must read and understand the Philosophy of Kant if one wishes to understand what Aristotle was mistaken about and even then the scholar working in his ivory tower might even find that there may be things Aristotle was right about which have not found their way into Kant’s Philosophy. Aristotle and Kant were both respected scientists of their times and built a philosophical framework for science which has not yet been fully evaluated. We find for example “scientists” like Freud, Piaget, and Jaynes using that framework intuitively in the arena of Psychology and Anthropology but we also find their messages lost in the babble of the confusion of tongues about what science is or ought to be. These three thinkers follow in the footsteps of Aristotle and Kant and sometimes they are affected by the babble and leave the straight and narrow to meander in the swamps of Babel but even when they do so we find them correcting themselves and returning to the road that leads from the city of ivory towers to the cosmopolitan city where all tongues are understood. A humanist does not believe as Harari claims that God is dead or that there is no cosmic plan or that there are no laws and principles guiding every event that happens. A humanist will not claim that humanism is based on feelings. Bureaucrats who share with Harari the distaste for the inhabitants and products of the ivory towers throughout the ages have “colonised” the texts of our holy books and past thinkers and Harari is right to deprecate the bureaucratic practice of dispensations, the practice of “paying” for ones sins. Bureaucracy has a long history and bureaucrats had by this time completely forgotten about the writings of the Greeks on the irrelevance of money for the life of virtue. Indeed they could not even see the relevance of what they were doing to the event of Jesus throwing the moneylenders off the steps of the church. Capitalism was beginning to make its presence felt under the cover of this collective “forgetfulness” of the very texts that stand for the foundation of our culture.

Harari believes a chasm separates the activities of the therapist from the priest because the former does not possess a holy book to define good and evil. Firstly we have to refer to the way in which language is used in the Bible. It does not work with definitions(for definitions one needs to consult Aristotle) but rather uses language symbolically in the realm of meaning where a latent meaning of the concept of sin for example can be “schematised” by various manifest images such as a stain, missing the target or inner accusations of guilt, each of which may refer to an advancing state of awareness of the meaning of evil. It is this realm which Harari believes is part of the modern covenant whereby man willingly trades this realm of meaning for power. Therapy has its roots in Freudian therapy and theory and whilst there may not be a definition of the good in Freud there is certainly an Aristotelian understanding of the concept operating in the idea of the superego regulating the value system of the ego. There is also a humanistic attitude toward psychic phenomena which respects the complexity of what one appears to observe and sees in the example of dreams that manifest themselves in our sleep the operations of latent structures of wishfulness and anxiety. Dreams are symbols and have both an archeological significance and are teleologically oriented: psychic storms seeking a state of equilibrium. The therapist is thus an interpreter in much the same way in which the priest is and if one peruses the pages of Freud, products of the ivory tower, one understands that how the patient feels about his dreams is just another symptom to be interpreted and there is much work to be done on the road to achieve a state of equilibrium in any patients life. If the patient happens to have marital problems according to Harari their personal feelings are what it is that give value to this bond and he asks:

“..if the very same feelings that once drove you into the arms of one man now drive you into the arms of another, what is wrong with that?”(p263)

Modern man, argues Harari justifies marriage in terms of feelings rather than holy scriptures or divine commandments.Why? Because it is argued:

“Humanism has taught us that something can be bad only if it causes someone to feel bad.”(p264).

As we have pointed out this is not Aristotelian humanism which lies at the foundation of the normative meaning of the concept we acknowledge today. Kantian humanism speaks specifically to the problem of marriage and sees in this institution, which he never embraced personally, an ethical core far removed from the sensibility of feeling and more related to the understanding of and the reasoning about the ethical action of making a promise. “Promises ought to be kept” Kant argues and the reasoning does not relate back to the individual and their private world of psychical storms but rather to the important role that the institution of promising plays in the life of man. Breaking a promise, Kant argues also brings up the issue of truthfulness and compromises the institution of truth telling. Promises are made before one is married and only the virtuous man should venture into such a commitment where timeless human institutions are the latent content of the manifest ceremony.

Voting is also an action related to promising, in particular the promises of politicians. Harari’s description of how one needs to “filter” away propaganda lies, spin and experts, and listen to ones inner voice is literally bi-cameral. The voter Harari describes is barely conscious: he is more like an automated robot following a program. It seems that this is how he imagines governments are selected and how referendums occur. Governments make promises at the end of chains of descriptions of problems and arguments about the rights and wrongs of alternative solutions. The “filter” being talked about is that of rationality and meaningfulness which are core elements of humanism but conspicuously absent in the conception of humanism we are encountering in this work.

Harari then makes fun of the account of artists being guided by the holy spirit to their great creations. Now a considerable amount of reasoning goes into the creation of a work of art and much of it is instrumental reasoning as Wittgenstein noted when speaking about a tailor creating a suit of clothes..” a little longer in the leg”, “more room for the waist”, “a little less grey”. Here there is a physical body operating as a standard for the tailors measurements and subsequent sewing activity. In many works of art the standard is the psychological feeling of appropriateness of the artists choice of motif his choice of colours, his way of painting the scene we are presented with, that gives rise to not just the feeling we get but also to the disposition we have to speak with a universal voice about the work should we find it to be beautiful. In a work of beauty such as Michelangelo’s Delphic Sybil, or his sculpture “Times of the Day” standing at the front of the Medici’s tomb why should we not say that some spirit rare and sacred guided the work. If all the laws and physics, evolution and psychology were involved in the bringing into being of these works, why should we not see Michelangelo as merely a medium for these processes which transcend any and every individual? Characterising all this as merely a “feeling” is dogmatising away a complexity that requires much philosophy to unravel. Characterising these processes as being caused by some “imaginary” anthropomorphic agent working in the heavens is a populistic picture of what the serious theologian or philosopher means by the term “God”.

The author suggests that :
“In the Middle Ages without a god I had no source of political, moral and aesthetic authority, I could not tell what was right good and beautiful”(p275)

Has the author forgotten about the fact that works of Plato were translated into Latin? Plato supplies us with a theory of the good the true and the beautiful which, though appropriated by the Church does not rely on reference to God as an authority. The works of Aristotle were not translated into Latin until the 1200’s but then there was still 200 years left of the Middle Ages. Aristotle’s hylomorphic works, it can be argued, even though appropriated by Aquinas and the church so undermined the dualist view of the universe that the Renaissance was an inevitability: a Renaissance in which Michelangelo could quarrel with the Pope about his aesthetic characterisation of God and biblical figures painted on the roof of the Sistine chapel. The Platonic and Aristotelian formula for knowledge was not “knowledge =Scripture X logic but rather “justified true belief” where the justification was not by faith but rather by the works of theories.
Thanks to the publication of Aristotle two centuries earlier the activities of science like all other cultural activities independent of the church intensified but again the author ignores the role of theory in his formula for scientific knowledge which is :Empirical data X Mathematics. Aristotelian science had no difficulty incorporating the idea of the good:all activity, including scientific inquiry we recall from the Nichomachean Ethics, aims at the good. The definition of humanist knowledge as “Experience X Sensitivity also ignores the role of theoretical explanation in the activity of inquiry and the accompanying idea that we should “observe” our inner experiences is a very modern formula for Solipsism or what Harari very liberally calls “liberal humanism”: one of the “sects” of humanism , as the author puts the matter. The other sects are even more controversial: communism and Nazism are also forms of humanism on this post modernist account of humanism. Both forms of totalitarianism disregard absolutely the principles of ethics and the belief in the philosophers Gods, not to mention their unified total disregard for the individuals feelings about what they were witnessing. Calling the two world wars, wars of religion between three sects of humanists surely must strain even the post modernists imagination!

The picture of liberal democracy or the solipsist crawling out of the dustbin after the two world wars to clean itself up and conquer the world is good comedy and farce but hardly serious history or Philosophy.

Harari asks where we are to find the answer to the questions that technology is posing for the human race and claims that the answer is not to be found in the Bible or sacred writings of any culture. The virtue principle of Aristotle or, even if you wish to go further back in Greek History to the myth of Apollo who issues the proclamations of “nothing too much” and “know thyself” should suffice as guidance if one has not abandoned rationality or meaning as standards by which to measure our discourse and actions. The author then asks what we are going to do when artificial intelligence surpasses or equals human intelligence. Will human experience be just another designable product in the supermarket of products, he wonders? This is of course in a sense quite “logical” once one falsely equates humanism with deaf formulae, dumb feelings and blind experience. But it is not logical from the viewpoint of the philosophers who are the guardians of logic.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Six. The Modern Covenant

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In response to social contract theorists Hume once asked for the evidence and concluded that there is none and the deal may be fictional: social contract theory then died to be resurrected again by John Rawls in his work “Theory of Justice” but not as an actuality. Social Contract theory for Rawls was an explanatory hypothesis designed to explain our social behaviour. In the original deal that Hobbes proposed we have agreed to give up some of our freedom in exchange for the security that the nation state offers. Harari’s deal that modern man makes is to exchange meaning for power. With Hobbes and Rawls it is clear that the parties to the deal are the nation state and its citizens but it is not clear who the parties to the deal are that the author of this work has in mind. Power and not truth, we know from earlier essays is what science is concerned with and insofar as meaning is concerned, the following is claimed:

“Until modern times most cultures believed that humans played a part in some great cosmic plan. The cosmic plan gave meaning to life, but also restricted human power. Humans were much like actors on a stage.”(p233)

If famine, plague, and war were in the script then everyone played their parts with varying degrees of Stoicism. Humans had no control of the script, no control over famine, plague, and war. It is this powerlessness that science challenges on the grounds that the cosmic plan has no meaning. Life , it is claimed has no meaning and “the universe is a blind and purposeless process, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing”. The feeling that life is without meaning is actually a symptom of the depressive phase of the mental illness, manic depression, and we know that the Shakespearean character associated with the above words was not in a stable mental condition so this statement that the life of humans and the processes of the universe have no meaning would be somewhat puzzling if we were not familiar with the cultural phenomenon of post-modernism. Post modernists begins by denying the truth and then they deny meaning on grounds that actually undermine their own position. To take post modernist claims seriously we would have to believe that they were true and meaningful. If these claims were not meaningful they could not be true and this relation between truth and meaning has been a fundamental tenet of Philosophy since the time of Aristotle up until modern times which Philosophers date back to Hobbes and Descartes. Hobbes as we saw wished for humans to give up their freedom which according to Kant is the source, principle and meaning of human action and human activity. Kant would not therefore have negotiated any deals with the Hobbesian Leviathan.
Normally the Shakespearean character in a mental state of confusion rants and raves about the storm and the lightning and sees an adversarial meaning in the storm. If he is finally blinded and moves toward a state of calmer equilibrium and as a consequence a greater understanding of what has happened to him, it is not out of the question that he might sit and ponder his behaviour in the storm and arrive at the Aristotelian analysis that the storm is a physical process composed of the elements of earth, air, water, and fire and processes of hot and cold, wet and dry interacting with the purpose of reestablishing an equilibrium in the weather system. The storm is not a blind process: its power has meaning. Modern culture does not reject this cosmic plan. Modern science might believe this but that is a problem that science needs to address. If science has been blinded by its power then it is about time that it calm down and sit in Shakespearean fashion and ponder its future.

Harari claims that the motto of modernity is “shit happens”. This is not exactly a Shakespearean response but it does fit into the post modernist cualdron of chaos. He then invokes a principle of freedom and insists that man can do anything he wants. Man is a powerful creature when armed with his science and his money. The economic concepts of growth and credit allowed man to trust in the future. The hubris is astounding in this account and reminds one of what happens to men of Hubris in Greek and Shakespearean tragedies. One is reminded of that almost megalomanic capitalist Cecil Rhodes gazing like the philosophers once did in awe and admiration at the heavens and instead of experiencing awe and admiration wished he could colonise the planets. Arendt discusses this example in her work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and points out that the motto of this aspect of the modern period, namely “everything is possible” was one of the driving forces of totalitarianism. One understands why the author of “Homo Deus” refuses to learn anything from Philosophy but it is surprising to discover that even history is going to be ignored. We should also recall in this context that Harari earlier claimed communism to be a religion thereby ignoring the normative meaning of the word. Why? Because as he says man has given up meaning for power. This is not true of course but if meaning collapses then so does the distinction between truth and falsity. This of course is not to deny that money can be a medium which can be used to do good. If, that is, man understands the ethical meaning of “the good”. Indeed not money but the cooperative intentions it unleashes may be a very important element on the road to the Cosmopolitan world Immanuel Kant envisaged. With this aspect in mind we could perhaps suggest an alteration to Hararis number one commandment of Capitalism. Instead of “thou shalt invest thy profits in increasing growth” an inhabitant of the ivory tower might suggest “Use capital to bring about a Kantian kingdom of ends”. There are signs that bubbling up beneath the surface of all this hubris of the modern world there is this kind of philosophical attitude emerging from the subterranean depths of our history. One of the richest men in the world, for example, Warren Buffet, relatively recently agreed to give up 99% of his fortune to “good causes”.
The threatening ecological collapse as a result of global warming is discussed and the logic of the bleeding obvious is applied when it is claimed that when the deluge or great flood comes the rich will have the Arks and the poor will pay the price. But , the author claims the poor are unlikely to support anything which reduces the rate of growth of the world economy because they see this as the only way in which the quality of their lives will improve. What about the middle class, that class which Aristotle predicted would choose the middle way between the extremes, take the golden middle road into the future? Of course it requires an education to do the right thing in the right way at the right time in all circumstances and such an educated class surely sees the meaning of the excesses of power and money which is meant to comfort us when as Harari so poetically puts it “shit happens”. Meaning is the currency of the educated man and such a man would not engage in “the modernist deal” or regard the megalomanic obsession with power as something to be desired. The educated man reads his Greek tragedies,reads his Shakespeare and studies his history. The author likens the men of the premodern world amongst which we have to include all the philosophers and cultural figures that have created meaning for us to lowly clerks in a socialist bureaucracy punching their time cards and waiting for something to happen or someone to do something. The business man is the authors hero who gets up every morning and gets on the treadmill connected to the giant wheel of growth. The business man is running in what the author calls a “rat race” and he points to the consequences:

“Every generation destroys the old world and builds a new one in its place”

This could be the motto of post modernism which is a movement committed to the dissolution of the “old” system of values in favour of the new. We are told that humans are greedy and that greed is good. We are further told that the world needed to be turned upside down in the name of modernism whose task it was to convince human collectivities and institutions that equilibrium is “far more frightening than chaos”. It is not clear what the author means but he claims that the modern world is devoid of ethics, aesthetics and compassion but not of morality beauty and compassion which he believes somehow has managed to flourish because of what he calls the new revolutionary “religion” of humanism. Separating humanism from ethics and uniting it with Capitalism and omnipotence is agreeably a chaotic assertion which could only be understood in a through the looking glass world where words can mean whatever you want them to mean and not only can cats smile but their smile can be separated from their bodies symbolising the separation of biology from psychology. But the world of the post modernist is much worse than the fictional world of wonderland because not only is it upside down it is like a landscape barren of everything human after an atomic explosion or a catastrophic tsunami.Somewhere the author realises this is un untenable position and in the next chapter agrees that the contract can be breached and must be breached because it is impossible to establish order without meaning after the so called death of God.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Five: Science versus Religion

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“Stories serve as the foundations and pillars of human societies. As history unfolded, stories about gods, nations and corporations grew so powerful that they began to dominate objective reality.”

For Harari, the decisive contents in a narrative are the elements in it which may happen to be false or fictional as he puts it. It was suggested in the previous lecture that the belief in the fictional elements of biblical narratives are not actually the components which facilitate cooperation between men but rather that function is produced by the element of the following of the ethical rules which are suggested in these narratives. The reason why men follow these rules are teleological: they hope that their actions will lead to a flourishing life for themselves and the people they care for. Corporations and nations are not “fictional entities” as is maintained but rather entities which scientific theory cannot adequately describe given its ignorance of what consciousness is and its ignorance of how to characterise action in general and ethical action in particular. Nations and corporations are not objects of belief but objects of action brought about by the activities of men. Action is as real as the suffering that cause it or it causes. Philosophical theory has been concerned with action theory for over two thousand years not through the activity of story telling but through the activity of theorising and arguing about it. The kind of action that avoids the consequences of suffering is the kind of action which builds not upon a shaky belief about something fictional but about knowledge of what is real, e.g. suffering.

Science is defended on the grounds that it has in fact relieved suffering by overcoming famine plague and war via its substitution of intersubjective myths with objective scientific knowledge. A confident claim which is immediately mitigated with a skeptical self doubt which verges on science fiction:

“Modern science certainly changed the rules of the game, yet it did not simply replace myths with facts. Myths continue to dominate humankind, and science only makes these myths stronger. Instead of destroying the intersubjective reality, science will enable it to control the objective and subjective realities more completely than ever before. Thanks to computers and bioengineering, the difference between fiction and reality will blur, as people reshape their reality to match their pet fictions.”(p208)

The implication of the above is that people will be able to live out their virtual realities whatever they are, whether they lead ultimately to flourishing lives or not. Science will, for example, be able to provide an elite with eternal youth!

There then follows a bewildering discussion about the supernatural:

“Modern physicians blame disease on invisible germs and voodoo priests blame disease on invisible spirits. There’s nothing supernatural about it: if you make some spirit angry, the spirit enters your body and causes you pain. What could be more natural than that?”

The observation of the action of causality in the one case and not in the other are the obvious grounds for calling the physicians germs and diseases “natural” and the voodoo priests spirit “supernatural”, Post modernists often operate with a Humpty Dumpty theory of meaning where words mean what they want them to mean. Wittgenstein pointed out that it is open to a group of language users to change the meaning of a word or suggest a change in the meaning of the word, if there was a clear purpose to do so. The attempt to define what is “natural” by fixating upon the normal perceptual characteristic of visibility or observation as a criterion at the expense of the gold standard of science, namely causality, needs further clarification. Or perhaps it does not because one of the reasons the scientist is not happy about the concept of God is that God cannot be observed. The philosophical response to this is to claim that if gravity can be observed then so can the philosophers God operating in both the physical and the ethical realm of human activity. The philosopher does not of course agree with anthropomorphising this activity as the bible tends to do for the heuristic purpose of understanding the ethical messages, but he understands the purpose of so doing, and would therefore be reluctant to dismiss texts filled with wisdom about human suffering as “fictional”, “subjective” or “imaginative”. As was pointed out previously it is a difficult task to capture this God in the web of the meaning of a narrative. It is, as the history of the philosophy of religion has proven even difficult to capture God in the clouds of religious and philosophical arguments men have brought to bear on this topic throughout the ages.

Claiming as the author does that religion is created by humans rather than gods and that religion is defined by its social function rather than by the existence of deities might at least be partly true. Analysis of Kant’s arguments for the existence of God has led many commentators to insist that insofar as humans are concerned it is the idea of God we have in our minds that is decisive for the relation we have to this idea of reason. Here the idea of God is not essentially different from the idea we have of human freedom which some scientists also claim does not exist because their eyes are fixated upon the gold standard of causality. Freedom is another idea that would be difficult to capture in a narrative without the use of “symbolic language”(Paul Ricoeur “Freud: an essay in Interpretation). Interpreters need, that is, to understand the intention or the purpose of this language in these texts and that requires philosophical argumentation at a high level of abstraction. Branding “intention” as “psychological” or “subjective” as some philosophers of science are wont to do only places obstacles on the road of our understanding. Branding religion and god as supernatural or superhuman is equally problematic.

When a religious person claims that the ethical principles we find in religious texts are not created by humans but by God, this statement requires interpretation. There is a story in the OT of Moses coming down mount Sinai with the ten commandments fresh from God. Mountains stretch up into the sky and sometimes even into the clouds. They are natural features which inspire awe and admiration from afar and feelings of freedom when we are walking amongst their peaks or climbing them. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help” is a psalm which places God in some relation to the mountains perhaps via the cognitive attitude of awe which so inspired the Greeks and Kant’s Philosophy. Now the mountains could certainly exist without any human presence on the earth as could all the forces that created them. Is not knowledge of this “fact” a part of my state of awe at something and the processes of its creation. Something that could well be older than the consciousness of man. Is my awe and the mountains and the processes that created them defined by social function? The content of the tablets containing the commandments that Moses brought down to his people certainly will be related to social function because social attitudes and ethical attitudes are certainly intimately connected in the way that Aristotle laid out. A man alone and isolated is not a man. he will either be a god or an animal, Aristotle argued.There is no great difficulty in referring to these commandments in a narrative although some of the assumptions behind these commandments regarding the origin and end of evil will not easily be characterisable. Popular images of devils and demons merely confuses the issue and turns the human landscape into a dualistic war zone between the good and evil. Symbolic language and hermeneutical interpretation of this language will hopefully restore some order and wisdom to our ancient texts. The ten commandments were obviously written by Moses in an awe inspiring environment and in a state of mind seeking help after a long period of homelessness and hunting and gathering in the wilderness. The commandments were what was needed to form a permanent settlement. Men cannot live together without principles or laws. The narrative of Moses is written in symbolic language by inspired scribes.Where is the science here? Well, it is in the facts that the life of hunting and gathering created a problem for which a trial solution was needed which in turn would require further error elimination until a state was achieved which in turn could be conceptualised as problematic. We are talking here about the transition from the hunter gathering phase of human existence to the agricultural phase. Harari is critical of the Agricultural revolution because he argues that for many people it did not symbolise a better life. On the contrary, Harari argues that there was a deterioration of our form of life(longer hours at work, disease etc). The question is whether, although problematic, this was not the necessary step needed to raise the level of mans awareness or consciousness of himself and his life. The dating of the so called “Cognitive Revolution” prior to the Agricultural Revolution suggests that man was sufficiently conscious to speak of imagined entities 70,000 years ago: this is highly controversial. Many commentators including the Psychologist/Anthropologist Julian Jaynes produces mountains of evidence which indicates that the kind of self awareness Harari is talking about probably only occurred ca 3-4000 years ago. He concedes that certain individuals may have reached the levels of consciousness being talked about earlier than this and they may have been regarded as “gods”. Like Moses they may have been the law makers of the communities they were part of. The Agricultural Revolution produced the conditions necessary for this heightened level of awareness and in accordance with scientific method we may , with Harari, see many things to be problematic and seek for new trial solutions to our problems. The industrial Revolution could have been such a trial solution seeking to eliminate the errors of the agricultural revolution which bound us to the soil. Greek Culture taught us that we needed freedom if we are to lead the kind of contemplative life necessary to solve the problems of existence. The Industrial Revolution seems to have given many of us this freedom in spite of some of its more problematic characteristics which almost destroyed civilisation with its invention of weapons of mass destruction.There seems to be here a thread of progress which means that in spite of the process of error elimination leading to a new problem, this problem bore with it a slightly better life than was the case previously. Harari claims that science must be assisted by religion because of its ethical concerns. Ethics as a search for the principles of a flourishing life and the good character who does the right thing in the right way at the right time has been a focus of Philosophical thinking for over 2000 years but Harari ignores this presumably because he believes logical argumentation is something that only the dwellers in ivory towers are concerned with. Logic was invented by Aristotle in accordance with the principles of non contradiction and sufficient reason and many Greeks saw this as a means to clarify the dialectical structure of Philosophical dialogues which in their turn were intended by Plato and other poets to use writing to dispel the limitations of stories and narratives. We see even here a thread of progression which Harari ignores. Religion is neither generally philosophical nor logical in its approach to ethical problems and exactly because of that fact will always remain perspectival in the face of other religions. There is one principle of non contradiction and one principle of sufficient reason and both are universal. You can question both if you wish but only at the expense of contradicting yourself or denying the role of reason in mans life. You can replace reason with imagination but only at the expense of taking a step back in our cultural evolution and helping the modernists and post modernists to turn our world upside down. Popular religion is dualistic and dialectical and perhaps those bureaucrats who have found themselves taking responsibility for the rewritings of words of ancient wisdom for heuristic purposes may in the long run have done a disservice to the tradition.

In a discussion of the relation between facts and values the interesting case of abortion is selected after the point is made that science deals only with the facts and religion deals with ethical judgments and values but also seeks to venture into the world of facts with claims that contradict scientific truths. It should be pointed out, especially in relation to the case of abortion that scientists too venture into the realm of value and on the basis of “facts” that are only probable make recommendations concerning the period of time when abortions are permissible. Harari claims that the contentious issue here is a factual one: when does human life begin. This may not be the correct question to begin this discussion insofar as the philosophical position on this issue is concerned. Elisabeth Anscombe is the most famous Philosopher to have debated this question and according to her any abortion after the zygote is formed is murder because of the so called “knowledge argument”: we know that the zygote is a human one and therefore we know the being which will actualise in the developmental process will be human, we also know that human life is sacred or absolutely valuable, therefore terminating that human life is murder. The medical argument which allows an abortion up until that time when a foetus can be kept alive without undue suffering outside of the womb is a dual argument and rests on the judgment that the foetus before that point may be alive but does not suffer. Whatever the merits of that argument it still remains the case that we know we are taking the life of a human being and we have in my view an unassailable argument for that position. An abortion is an action and cannot occur without a decision to that effect. Let us ask what the reason the decision maker could have for having an abortion. The principle often quoted is that if the decision is made by the mother the reason behind the decision is that the mother has the right to decide over what happens to her body. She is, in other words, free to exercise this kind of control over her body. This principle as has rightly been pointed out allows abortions to occur because having a child at a particular point in time might be “inconvenient”. There are many variations of these positions and the status quo “ethical” position is the one recommended by science. It is important to note however that there is an important philosophical counterargument based not on suffering but on the conceptual knowledge we have of something being human and the conceptual knowledge we have of the value of human life and perhaps all life.

Harari ignores this philosophical argument which may be implied by many ancient religious texts when he maintains that religious stories conflate ethical judgements and factual statements upon arriving at the position that abortion a single day after conception is not permissible or an unholy act. His argument for “conflation” appears to be that the issue can be resolved by biologists on the grounds of whether human foetuses have nervous systems immediately after conception or whether they can feel pain immediately after conception. When I lift my eyes to the hills and feel awe and admiration shall I turn to the physicist or geologist to explain the nature of my feeling of value or the meaning of my judgment “Those mountains are awesome!”? Similarly why should I turn to the scientist when I feel the same sort of awe and admiration at the creation of a human life? What is being conflated with what here? If the conclusion that abortion is an unholy act follows from the premises, and the premises are true then it is a fact and knowledge of the most certain kind. This is what is done in the ivory towers by the occupants trained by Aristotle, Kant and Wittgenstein. This is the knowledge that hermeneutical interpreters use in their interpretations of ancient texts.

There is a problem with construing science as the search for the totality of facts and this comes out in the discussion relating to ethical judgments and facts:

“Conversely ethical judgements often hide within them factual statements that proponents dont bother to mention because they think that they have been proven beyond doubt, Thus the ethical judgement “human life is sacred”(which science cannot test) may shroud the factual statement “every human has an eternal soul”(which is open to scientific debate)”(p228)

Unfortunately in order to decode this problematic paragraph we will need the aid of the occupants of the ivory tower(the philosophers) because what the above means is only seen through a scientific lens very darkly. Firstly a proof requires a conceptual argument and not an invitation to view an object because a concept is something that is thought and not something to be perceived. Secondly, if the statement “human life is sacred” is a conceptual statement and is not able to be tested because of that fact then exactly the same reasoning must be applicable to the statement “every human has an eternal soul”. What is meant by conceptual here? We have suggested in a previous essay that one ought not to look for an object with ones microscope when looking for a principle because for the philosopher and possibly also for serious theologians the soul might be a principle. Concepts are regulated by principles. The word “eternal” also needs parsing philosophically. We are not certain of the origins of this thought but for Aristotle knowledge was certainly connected to principles which are “timelessly true”. The principles of non contradiction and sufficient reason are examples. They are the very conditions of our discourse and experience and are unconditioned by any other principles. Unlike the principle of causality which is situated in a time stretching forever backward (on pain of contradiction–a first cause is a contradiction) these principles do not stretch forever back in time but create the framework of our experience and discourse: they create the framework of our knowledge.

In a final discussion on the relation between Science and Religion Harari has the following closing remarks:

“It is customary to portray the history of modernity as a struggle between science and religion. In theory both science and religion are interested above all in the truth, and because each upholds a different truth, they are doomed to clash. In fact neither science nor religion cares that much about the truth, hence they can easily compromise, coexist and even cooperate. Religion is interested above all in order. It aims to create and maintain the social structure. Science is interested above all in power…as collective institutions, science and religion prefer order and power over truth. They therefore make good bedfellows.”

An amazing closing statement. We see again the post modernist dismissal of the importance of truth and knowledge and refusal to recognize the conceptual truth that the cognitive attitude of understanding is inextricably bound up with the truth. Imagine Moses upon presenting the ten commandments to the learned men of his tribe saying “here they are but I am not sure whether they are true!”. The tribe would have returned to their worship of animal idols and the Israelites would probably have remained nomads with all the consequences that this kind of life entails. It is because these commandments were understood to be true that they were able to create the order that they did. Imagine if the learned men of the tribe said “yes they may be true but you have your truth and we have ours” and you will be imagining the consequences of the post modernist position on knowledge and truth. In a way this might be consistent with Harari’s overall position when he claims that the hunter gatherer life was in many respects better than the life of suffering during the agricultural revolution. It is a strange position. There are those who long to go back to the Garden of Eden. But to the wilderness?

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Four : Stories, Science, and Religion.

Hits: 249

Harari claims that animals live in a dual reality because they :

“are familiar with objective entities outside them such as trees rocks and rivers. On the other hand they are aware of subjective experiences within them, such as fear, joy and desire.”(p181)

From a third person perspective it is obvious that animals have contact with an environment which obeys certain laws and that the nature of this contact is sometimes a consequence of a moving force or principle within them. Asserting on the other hand that animals are aware of their own experiences attributes to them a complexity they may not have and one in which we could not possibly be aware of from a third person point of view given the fact that there is no possible first person point of view confirmation of such awareness. We humans are acutely aware of the difference there is between our species and the species of all other animals. Were they to possess this reflective form of awareness we would find them much more like us then we do. This is not a scientific question. No scientist could “discover” that an animal had this form of self reflective awareness. Our species is defined not just by a host of powers that animals do not possess such as the power of language but we are defined by these powers being what P M S Hacker called two way powers: powers to do things or refrain from doing at will. This is a philosophical position arrived at on the basis of a tradition of philosophising stretching back to Aristotle and forward to Kant and Wittgenstein. Harari then wishes to claim that we humans can be said to live in a triple layered reality because:

“in addition to trees, rivers, fears and desires, the Sapiens world also contains stories about money, gods , nations and corporations….Humans think they make history, but history actually revolves around this web of stories. The basic abilities of individual humans have not changed much since the Stone Age. But the web if stories has grown from strength to strength, thereby pushing history from the Stone age to the Silicon Age.”

Philosophy is conspicuous by its absence in all of Harari’s reflections on the progress of culture, except perhaps for a few passing references to philosophers living in isolation in ivory towers. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle certainly did not live in such isolation but Plato and Aristotle were at work on the creation of institutions of education which would in the future of the culture provide us with the setting(including the towers of learning at universities) to educate the citizens of our civilisations. In Ancient Greece pupils were educated in the hard won knowledge gained through the elenctic method of Socrates, the dialogues of Plato and the more systematic written reflections of Aristotle on the nature of knowledge. If in our time one wishes to insist that philosophers live in ivory towers that might actually be the case now, and if this is the case , it is probably an attempt to escape the plague of post modernist thinking that has infected our society. Post modernist thinkers do not see the role that knowledge has played in the growth of our culture: they do not believe that justified true belief is the gold standard and that imaginative stories are merely interesting cultural productions which in the past probably forced us to theorise more systematically in the way that Aristotle did. Even Science, or more correctly some modern scientists have been infected by the post modernist plague upon all our houses when they have insisted that there is no truth, or knowledge about reality only provisional theory and hypotheses which must be tested ad infinitum. Poppers scientific formula of the problem to which we find a trial solution and then eliminate the errors does not end in truth and knowledge but only another problem. Newtons work must be subject to error elimination by Einstein who was living in the modernist era and perhaps we could accept his work as an evolution of Science by the man who had read Kant at the age of 14 and believed in the philosophers God. But what do we do about those scientists that felt time travel was possible because of the imaginative thought experiment(story) of a man travelling on a beam of light away from a clock face. What do we do about quantum theorists who not only wish to deny the gold standard of science, namely causation but also wish to deny the gold standard of philosophy, namely, the philosophical principle of non contradiction: insisting upon the intelligibility of a story about a cat that is neither dead nor alive.

The gold standard of culture for the Philosopher was already registered by Plato when he pointed to the necessary role of knowledge in the polis if it was not to fall into ruin and decay. Of course one then needs then to reflect upon the nature of this knowledge in the way that Aristotle and Kant did but that is not the same thing as dismantling its significance as has been done in the name of post-modernism. Insisting as Harari has done earlier upon a distinction of “new knowledge” and “old knowledge” is of course following consistently Popper’s downward spiral of his problem-trial solution-error elimination schema. The consequence of this is that both truth and knowledge and their associated cognitive attitudes are marginalised

Reaching back into the mists of history as Harari does is nevertheless an interesting adventure. He suggests that a Cognitive revolution occurred 70,000 years ago that allowed Homo Sapiens an evolutionary advantage over the Neanderthals. The former, it is claimed began talking about the things in their imagination. There is no direct or indirect evidence for this claim as was pointed out earlier but there is certainly an interesting hypothesis to be formed relating to the ability to tell and understand stories and its relation to later supervening cultural activities of telling the truth, reasoning and the foundations of knowledge. The activity of story telling where one imagines things that did not exist may have occurred later than Harari suggests but the hypothesis that our story telling power pre-dated our more developed cognitive powers is very interesting. Kant certainly thought that our imagination was involved in the schematisation of our concepts but this was an imagination that was working with the materials of perception and intuition in the service of the conceptualisation of our experiences and the cognitive attitude of truth . That is, consciousness when it is operating at the conceptual level is asserting that something is the case: e.g. the lightning struck the tree. Now the imagination may well be brought into play when the mind seeks an answer to the Aristotelian question “Why did this change occur?” and a god is thought to be the cause of the lightning but we know that Aristotle himself postulated physical processes to be the cause of physical events such as this,i.e. he was postulating the pre-eminence of material and efficient causes for the explanation of events in the inorganic world. Aristotle would have dismissed any suggestion that a living organic being with its constitution could have secreted electrical power of this magnitude on the basis of his examination of the organs of such beings. The world may have been an infinite continuum of change but for him there were kinds of being and kinds of change which required inductive investigation if one was to ascertain the essences of such beings and kinds of change. For him God was a pure form that was in some sense active in the way that principles and thought are active. It would not be easy therefore to exactly specify the Aristotelian way in which God may have been involved in the lightning strike on the tree. Being had many meanings for Aristotle and it is not out of the question that he would have been sympathetic to Thales and his enigmatic utterance “All things are full of gods” but these gods(or God for Aristotle) would have been thought-like(a Gods thought would be very different to ours and have a connection to the physical world that is different to our thought) and resemble principles or a principle more than they would spiritual “ghost-like things”. It should also be pointed out in this discussion that the talk of God or gods of most of the Greek philosophers were not items of the imagination gleaned from stories, but rather condensations from clouds of argumentation. Even Kant would have objected to the claim that his philosophical idea of God originated in the imagination. For Kant God was an idea of reason that interestingly enough was only one of three ideas. The idea of God for Kant, in contrast, was not to be explained in the theoretical terms of Aristotle but more in terms of the moral law.

We should also remember that Einstein believed in Spinoza’s “philosophical” view of God and his reasoning may well have been Aristotelian and Kantian.Newton too believed in God but it is difficult to believe that his theological training at Trinity College Cambridge did not relate to the arguments of the philosophers. Wittgenstein’s belief in God was also based on argumentation not of the demonstrative theoretical kind but rather of the practical ethical kind. All of these figures, Newton, Kant, Einstein, and Wittgenstein of course probably read the bible closely but this reading process would more resemble a critical interpretative activity than a receptive emotional process of identification and introjection. These latter two processes may well involve the imagination whereas the former would require reasoned argumentation.

Harari’s cultural portrait, however, may be appropriate for the historical period prior to the advent of philosophical reasoning about our experience:

“Farmers believed in stories about great gods..In the first cities of ancient Sumer about 6000 years ago, the temples were not just centres of worship, but also the most important political and economic hubs. The Sumerian gods fulfilled a function analogous to modern brands and corporations. Today corporations are fictional legal entities that own property, lend money, hire employees and initiate economic enterprises. In the ancient cities of Uruk, Lagash and Shurupak the gods functioned as legal entities that could own fields and slaves and build dams and canals.”

The problem with the idea that because something is a legal entity it is somehow a fictional being has been discussed earlier. Wittgenstein in response to the tiresome post modernist philosophical tendency to wish for a theoretical logico-mathematical demonstration of the truth of statements on pain of being labelled “subjective” or “fictional”, claimed that the final justification for a large number of our claims is what groups of people do when they are for example, speaking or what a person does, for example, when he is grieving. This for him was a real objective justification. Actions spoke louder than words. The problem with regarding gods or corporations as fictional entities is that it fails to understand the philosophical and ontological character of action which has a beginning, intermediate stages, and an end and is related to other actions and objects which themselves are embedded in larger environments. Stanley Cavell, in the spirit of Wittgenstein, once said that naming actions was a difficult and sensitive business because they are related to the agents thought about both the ends to be pursued and the means to achieve these ends. Actions, in other words are intentional and just as it is almost impossible to capture the philosophical idea of God or gods in a story so it is difficult to capture the world creating intention of action in an ancient narrative. If this is true then it is possible that biblical narratives were not very good attempts to express the knowledge of “knowers” who had thought deeply about the principles of existence and the intentions of men. Receivers of these narratives at the time of their creation might then, not have been as ignorant as we might like to believe. If men 6000 years ago could be working for a God in the way we work for corporations they might have had more “knowledge” than our modern reconstructions give them credit for. We should remember here that it takes a considerable amount of organisation and cooperation to build a city and create laws which will govern the intentions of men. Laws are actions of government but no less real for that. Looking at the bible with a pair of post modernistic theoretical sunglasses may not be the best means of retrieving the wisdom in these ancient writings. Of course the assumption “god exists” is a key assumption of the bible but it is the nature of that existence which is the most important hermeneutical question here and not whether one can theoretically demonstrate the existence of something which may have an essentially practical kind of existence. “Figments of the imagination”, “subjective” “inter-subjective”, “fictional” are all theoretical terms and may not be categorically relevant to the kind of analysis required to analyse important ancient phenomena. The activity of living in a city obviously raised the levels of awareness of its inhabitants. Money and writing of a rudimentary kind appeared to assist in the task of organising everyones actions more efficiently. The collection of taxes became possible over large territories. The appearance of pharaohs who “embodied” the principle that organised ones activity previously transformed something that was previously abstractly real into something that was concretely real. It is not absolutely certain that this principal of kingship was not a “modern” “invention” of the times which we in our times no longer see the meaning of. An impersonal process was being made personal. What we ought to do ethically to maintain the status quo of the city was being transformed into the “personal brand” of a fallible man whose imagination was being overloaded by the trappings of power.The formal task of the pharaoh was to enable the continuity of a network of practices which had served the community well but as we have so often seen in history the focus of such figures rapidly shifts to themselves and their emotional needs. Perhaps this was the first “modern” mistake which was corrected when the Greeks attempted to restore the idea of an abstract principle in both theoretical and practical contexts. Was “the law” made more “realistic” by the presence of a fallible judge who had been untimely ripped from the womb of everyday human activity? The Greeks, especially Socrates and Aristotle sidestepped this “invention” and urged a belief in the model of the knowledge bearing man as the source of justice and truth. The virus of modernism may be ancient as may be the treatment. It is also important to note that Harari’s idea of the personal brands which he uses the figures of business and entertainment to illustrate would not have found a place in the Socratic “healthy city”: the life of wealth and pleasure was only ranked third out of three alternatives spoken about in the Platonic dialogues. The life of the politician leading his noble life in accordance with the principle of areté and the philosopher leading his examined life were superior forms of life for the ancient Greeks. The fact that our modern lives are so dominated by figures from the business and entertainment worlds would have led the Greeks to believe that though we might be leading very busy distracted lives in a world free of abstract ideas, respect for politics and Philosophy, this form of existence was a regression from that flourishing life they once talked about. Here we find no “scientific” talk of “fictional” or “imaginative” or “subjective”, only talk of abstract principles and concrete “misapprehensions” or “imitations of the real”.

Harari makes some interesting observations concerning the authority of writing which originally was confined to the educated elite. If as is being proposed here that the legal process of regulating mens intentions is not to be equated with either the practical imagination of human-like being or beings(God or gods) but rather to the meaning of the activity which indeed is connected with the meaning of the word legal: that is, to tie people together, then we can draw the conclusion that the meaningful activity of a collective of men has a natural authority. Writing grows out of meaningful activity and also acquires a natural authority because it is considered or reflective speech: words are written with the intention of being considered carefully and with the intention of being responded to carefully, as is the case when the laws are written down. It is with this kind of cognitive attitude that we should approach the bible–not with the kind of white wax tablet mentality of the skeptical scientist who believes that meanings are “subjective” or have to be concretised or proved before he can understand them. We need to approach the bible with the cognitive attitude of the philosopher armed with hermeneutical theory, who like Paul Ricoeur or any serious philosopher that reads the bible, understands that meanings are the dwelling place of laws and principles and who also understands that the language of the bible is symbolic or enigmatic and needs to be interpreted in accordance with a battery of philosophical concepts. “In the beginning was the word and the word was God” may not, that is refer to a fictional being but to the power of language to “reveal” the principles or laws embedded in our activity and speech. The authors of such a complex text were concerned with much more than telling a story about a fictional or imagined being. Only a scientist(not Newton or Einstein) could come up with such a tale. In this context it should also be remembered that Socrates did not write anything because he supposedly believed that writing would lead eventually to a general forgetfulness of the more important things of life. Plato disagreed and when we get to Aristotle it is clear that he thought that not writing the difficult abstract ideas of philosophy down might also lead to a general forgetfulness of them . Harari then discusses education and the writing down of precise scores in tests which in our bureaucratic schools then supplanted the original philosophical intentions of education. This might be regarded as evidence for the Socratic position. As Harari says :

“We use writing to describe the reality of fields, canals and granaries. If the description is accurate, we make realistic decisions. If the description is inaccurate, it causes famines and even rebellions. Then we, or the administrators of some future regime, learn from that mistake and strive to produce more truthful descriptions. So, over time, our documents are bound to become more precise”(p195)

Harari then points out how excessively bureaucratic regimes can even willfully falsify the truth of written descriptions. This is obviously not what is meant by the “original authority of writing” which the bureaucrats rely upon in their deceptions in the same way that people who lie rely on their hearers to make the very natural assumption that they are telling the truth. To question the natural authority of writing because of the behaviour of those post modernists who abuse that authority is itself a form of bureaucracy. A form of bureaucracy that undermines the meaning of meaning and the respect we have for the authority of abstract principles.
The argument continues by a strange bureaucratic argument:

“Holy Scriptures work the same way. The religious establishment proclaims that the holy book contains the answers to all our questions. It simultaneously presses courts, governments and businesses to behave according to what the holy book says.”(p200)

As a Historian, Harari should know that what is written in the Bible has many sources and that many thinkers in history, philosophical(Spinoza)and non-philosophical(e.g. Tolstoy) have pointed out that some of the things written in the Bible have had bureaucratic intentions and are clearly ill considered, even by the standards of clear thinkers of those days. Some of the things written are clearly metaphorical because of the difficulty in representing an abstract principle in concreto. Taking metaphorical language literally obviously leads to absurdities. Some things ought also to be taken with a pinch of salt considering that we are dealing with documents which originate from the childhood of our culture. Harari rightly points this out:

“Thus the ancient Jews believed that if they suffered from drought, or if King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded Judea and exiled its people, surely these were divine punishments for their own sins….The Bible does not recognize the possibility that perhaps the drought resulted from a volcanic eruption in the Philippines.”(p201)

It is rightly pointed out that this is self centred thinking typical of early childhood but Harari does not, as we do, wish to apply a principle of tolerance to such very early reflections. In spite of this observation, it has been argued by some scholars that the New Testament transcends some of the writings of the OT, e.g. in its insistence that “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. So there are signs of a growing self awareness in the Holy Book. Julian Jaynes also points to this growing complexity of consciousness even in the OT where there is a distinctive shift from men hearing and responding to the voice of God to men reflectively considering what would be in accordance with the wishes of God. This same author would of course hotly contest Harari’s account of the origins and evolution of consciousness with mountains of evidence as he would have contested the optimistic account of the kind of language we spoke 70,000 years ago based on the minimum of “evidence” presented.

Harari maintains that:

“The Bible accordingly shows no interest whatsoever in understanding the global ecology, the Babylonian economy or the Persian political system.”

But it does show considerable interest in the ethical and psychological well being of the reader when it speaks of loving other things outside of oneself such as God and ones neighbour. Admittedly the New Testament is less occupied with historical and political matters and more concerned with telling the story of the life of Jesus in the spirit of exemplary necessity, the spirit of how one ought to live. It is important to point out in this context that this was a new beginning for man, the Biblical equivalent of the Greek focus upon the importance of the knowledge of the workings of the mind and its importance for the flourishing life. Of course this narrative was to have a greater appeal to the masses than the hylomorphic theory of Aristotle which required the presence of an educational system before it could be fully appreciated.

Harari concludes this section by claiming that fictions enable us to cooperate better. One wonders whether he is questioning the veracity of the life of Jesus. Of course it is maintained that he was the son of God, born of a virgin mother, walked on water etc, but should not this be taken with a grain of salt in a spirit of tolerance for the immature thinking of the time? It could even be the case, if we assume a knowledge of the Greeks and their adherence to a philosophical God, that the author used the above “falsity’s” to attach a kind of holy significance to the life of Jesus. The above “false” elements of the narrative could be an intended fiction, not intended to deceive but intended heuristically for self-education. This in its turn, of course, inevitably leads to better cooperation with neighbours and strangers(if someone steals your coat offer him your cloak, if someone strikes you turn the other cheek). One can, however ask this question: would the truth of the above collection of ethical prescriptions be more important to the cooperation referred to than the falsity of those parts of the elements of the narrative designed to rhetorically “persuade” the readers of the importance of this mans life? (or even the lives of the prophets and kings of the old testament).

The touchstone, however, of the real for Harari is not the truth of the ethical statements and their capacity for the facilitation of cooperation but rather suffering. The reason for suffering might be the “fiction” of “deus absconditus”(Julian Jaynes) but the suffering itself is real, Harari proclaims. Dying for ones country or for the money of corporations or for ones religion is dying for inventions of the imagination. The section ends with an ominous prediction:

“In the twenty first century we will create more powerful fictions and more totalitarian religions than in any other previous era.With the help of biotechnology and computer algorithms these religions will not only control our minute by minute existence, but will be able to shape our bodies, brains and minds, and to create entire virtual worlds complete with hells and heavens. Being able to distinguish fiction from reality and religion from science will therefore become more difficult but more vital than even before.”

This from the same author that claims that humanism and Nazism are “religions”.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Three: The Human Spark and the Mind.

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The myth that human beings have eternal human souls is still:

” a central pillar of our legal, political and economic system. It explains why, for example, it is perfectly okay for humans to kill animals for food, or even just for the fun of it.”(p118)

This is a puzzling and complex claim. It assumes that the popular religious idea of a soul inhabiting and surviving the death of a physical body has had more influence on our legal and political systems than the philosophical idea of a soul as a principle explaining and justifying our human activities. Since Philosophical discussions of this idea have been systematically ignored it is difficult to evaluate this particular claim. The philosophical opposition to many religious claims and an acceptance of the ideas of the soul and God as principles which reasoning can illuminate (even if not completely understood) has been an important part of the historical development of Homo Sapiens. These philosophical ideas are, it could be claimed uncertain as to the implication for animals rights discussed in this section. Many people are vegetarians and it is not out of the question that some are reasoning philosophically about the rights of animals to a natural existence without unnecessary suffering. We wish our dogs, cats and pets to lead flourishing lives and we systematically relieve their suffering and allow them to lead “semi-natural” lives. We establish national protective parks which enable animals to lead a natural life. Should these attitudes be generalised to all animals?

There is a long fruitless discussion relating to the scientific attempt to “prove” that there is no such entity as a “soul” inhabiting our physical bodies or the physical bodies of animals. In one sense it is as obvious that there is a principle guiding the activities of a human psuche in much the same way as it is obvious that gravity is the principle explaining the falling of bodies and the orbiting of heavenly bodies in outer space. We do not observe gravity in separation from its effects. In the same way we can not “observe” human attitudes separate from its effects. It was the philosophy of the later Wittgenstein which brought to our attention the fact that there are grammatical criteria helping to “connect” attitudes to physical behaviour. In his work the “Philosophical Investigations” he famously claims that our attitude toward a person is an attitude toward a soul. He does not mean here that we can observe a soul in the way in which we can observe a person. This talk of attitude towards persons does not then preclude a justified belief in the theory of evolution which is a theory of how our bodies(and animal bodies) achieved the shape they have and possess the organs that they have. The claim that Harari makes that “Darwin has deprived us of our souls”, however, does not make any sense. How can a theory about the evolution of a physical body deprive us of a philosophical theory of an attitude which is an expression of a principle?:

“Darwin has deprived us of our souls. If you really understand the theory of evolution, you understand that there is no soul.”(p120)

This claim could only be true if science could engage directly with the argumentation of Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein and “prove” that there is no principle governing out attitudes, thoughts, etc. How would that be done? By observation? This is completely ignoring the fact that Darwin’s theory is as much a theory involving reasoning about animal populations as it is a theory incorporating the observation of animal populations. The person standing before me now might have been evolved “by degrees” over millions of years but my recognition of this person as human is only partly constituted by this long history of his human bodily form. He stands before me and I recognise him to be the kind of being that is capable of discourse and a source of rational argumentation in spite of the fact that he is at the moment staring at the cat in the room. It is my expectations of him and his expectations of me that constitute the kind of interactions we can have with one another. Referring to these expectations as either “subjective” or “intersubjective” is an “idle use of language” as a Wittgensteinian might be inclined to comment.

Many “secular people” Harari claims would :

“nevertheless want to believe that each human possesses an eternal individual essence that remains unchanged throughout life, and can survive even death intact.”(pp120)

And many secular people would believe the former and not the latter claim. That is, we believe in our legal system which refuses to accept that a person at one point in time is for legal purposes significantly different from a person at another period of time, perhaps decades later. You will be held responsible for your actions on the basis of the assumption of a continuous personal identity. The legal system, however does not have rules and regulations for the bringing to account of souls that have vacated their bodies. Here the legal system is philosophical to its core– and not on scientific grounds, it must be added– because the assumption of a continuous personal identity is a philosophical assumption partly captured by the Wittgensteinian claim that our attitude toward a person is an attitude toward a soul. The political system’s major responsibility is the forming and passing of laws and this means that both these systems jointly accept the continuous personal identity assumption.
The confusion of the idea of the immortality of the soul and the assumption of a continuous personal identity enables Harari to then claim the following:

“Unfortunately, the theory of evolution rejects the idea that my true self is some indivisible, immutable and potentially eternal essence.”

The word “indivisible” is important in this context because there is a discussion of the meaning of the word “individual” in terms of its meaning,i.e. in terms of its indivisibility. Now the individual can mean the individual body which Aristotle was happy to define as the sum of its parts: the sum of its tissue, bone, organs etc and the individual can also refer to the principle which sets these parts into motion and wills perhaps all the parts to come to rest and take a nap. “The will” for Kant was the principle behind all ethical behaviour when it was willing that the maxim of its action become a universal law and treats people as ends in themselves in a social/political arena where one willingly obeys the moral law which was such a focus of Kant’s awe and admiration. If one thinks of this individual holistically in terms of an indivisible will then the fact that the individual’s body is composed of neurones, hormones and muscles is irrelevant to the claim of the formal and final cause of ones action.

Harari is happy to speak freely of minds and claims that :

“the mind is a flow of subjective experiences such as pain, pleasure, anger and love. These mental experiences are made of interlinked sensations, emotions and thoughts, which flash for a brief moment, and immediately disappears…This frenzied collection of experiences constitutes the stream of consciousness. Unlike the everlasting soul, the mind has many parts, it constantly changes, and there is no reason to think it is eternal”(pp123)

Here the mind is being reified into a divisible substance. For Harari this rag bag is then held together by a thread of Cartesianism:

“The stream of consciousness, in contrast, is the surest thing in the world. You cannot doubt its existence.”

Sensation and desire, it is claimed are the so-called fundamental characteristics of subjective experience which robots cannot share because robots are not capable of experience.Now, this is a curious argument from someone who has been arguing so materialistically and concretely throughout both this work and his earlier work “Sapiens: a brief history of mankind.” Resting ones case against robots on Cartesian dualistic grounds which is the final motivation for an idea of a disembodied mind is inconsistent. Aristotle would have argued against the robot being able to experience anything on the grounds of its physical embodiment which is the substrate of our human experience. He would have argued that robots do not have sensations and desires because only a being with a certain bone, tissue and organ constellation is able to have an experience. This physical embodiment possesses a “form” or “principle” which is the source of its “experience whether that be the passive reception of sensations of pain or the activities of discourse and rational argument.
The question is then raised by Harari, as to whether animals have conscious mind similar to human minds and the surprising admission is made that science knows very little about minds and consciousness:

“Current orthodoxy holds that consciousness is created by electrochemical reactions in the brain, and that mental experiences fulfil some essential data-processing function. However, nobody has any idea of how congeries of biochemical reactions and electrical currents in the brain creates the subjective experience of pain, anger or love. Perhaps we will have a solid explanation in ten or fifty years. But as of 2016 we have no such explanation, and we had better be clear about that.”(p125)

Aristotle would agree that the entire organ(including the brain tissue and bone system is the “material” cause of consciousness but would argue that the cognitive, emotional and conative powers thus produced then require other types of explanation which will fall under what he called the formal and final causes of the consciousness or the mind of a person. Materialist assumptions , the methodology of observationalism and experimentation alone will, however, need other assumptions and another methodology if the enigma of the mind or consciousness is to be resolved. This would mean that science would have to retrace some of its theoretical steps back to philosophy. The more likely alternative, however, is that of denying the relevance of the enigma and continue the work of studying brain activities, together with individual and social behaviour in accordance with current nonphilosophical assumptions. One immediate consequence of this is, of course, an abandonment of the sphere of value because as is pointed out by Harari there is no difference of value between the neurones firing, the behaviour and the institutions involved in torture, and the neurones firing, the behaviour and institutions that contribute to humans leading flourishing lives. The whole arena of human value collapses because there is nothing significant that science can say about it. The Aristotelian framework of formal and final causes would undoubtedly include an awareness of the reasons why one is behaving in a certain manner and an awareness of the value of one’s institutions: these are capacities which undoubtedly for Aristotle required a language using being. Of course, animals are aware of what they are doing and an example of A Swedish ape throwing stones at onlookers is cited in evidence. Not only is this ape aware of what he is doing he can also plan the activity by collecting the stones he is to throw well ahead of the event. This, however, does not imply that he knows why he is doing what he is doing. The onlookers may irritate him but the kind of logical connection between the two events of irritation and the action of throwing the stones are probably not integrated into the logical unit of conscious intention and action. This probably partly due to the fact that the ape is not an animal for whom epistemic states of understanding and asserting the truth are part of his nature, It would be absolutely absurd to arrest the ape for disturbing the peace because an epistemically oriented animal is the only kind of animal that would be able to understand such an action.

Harari discusses then the idea that it might be the case that the ape Santino is conscious but lacks an awareness of self that psychologists have referred to as self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is an awareness that one is undergoing or has done something or is about to do something: this is an epistemic state connected to the Philosophers notion of consciousness. Brian O’Shaughnessy in his work “Consciousness and the World” points out that a self-conscious being observing a lightning strike on a tree both notices the event and knows that the lightning has struck the tree. The event activates the state of possibly exclaiming or asserting that the tree has been struck by lightning. Here we see a complex integration of the powers of attention, perception, conceptualisation, and judgment which, whatever the similarity of the neural substrate with apes is not a possible activity for our primate cousins.

In a section entitled “Long live the Revolution” Harari points out that history has shown that the ability for large groups of strangers to cooperate with each other points to a significant difference between homo sapiens and other species of animal. This ability also allows revolutions to occur when relatively small groups exercise power over larger groups:

“In order to mount a revolution, numbers are never enough. Revolutions are usually made by small networks of agitators rather than by the masses. If you want to launch a revolution, dont ask yourself, “How many people support my ideas?” Instead ask yourself “How many of my supporters are capable of effective collaboration?” The Russian Revolution finally erupted not when 180 million peasants rose against the tsar, but rather when a handful of communists placed themselves at the right place at the right time.”(p155)

Communism in Russia then fell, it is argued, because of an inability to cooperate and organise the country. Harari also discusses the dramatic fall of Romanian communism under Ceausescu and points to the televised event when he was giving a speech to 80,000 of his countrymen who began booing and shouting:

“Ceaucescu and his comrades dominated 20 million Romanians for four decades because they ensured three vital conditions. First they placed loyal communist apparatchiks in control of all networks of cooperation, such as the army, trade unions and even sport associations. Second, they prevented the creation of any rival organisations–whether political, economic or social–which might serve as a basis for anti-communist cooperation. Third, they relied on the support of sister communist parties in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe….Ceausescu fell from power only once all three conditions no longer held.”

Harari points out that in such circumstances the power does not necessarily pass to the rebels but rather to those who are best organised and who can proclaim support for the revolution, in this case , the National Salvation Front, a branch of the communist party.

The interesting question to pose is what is the significance of cooperation and organisation when viewed through the theories of Philosophical Psychology. Aristotle would maintain that being at the right place at the right time and proclaiming ones support for the revolution in front of the microphones of the media would fall under the heading of the efficient causes of the acquisition of power. But later philosophy would also insist that there are a large number of psychological powers at work in the processes of political cooperation and organisation: sensation, perception, attention, imagination, will, language, conceptualisation, judgment desire,expectation and attitude. Many human powers are, as stated by P M S Hacker in his work “Human Nature: The Categorical Framework”, so-called two-way powers which are expressive of our voluntary choice or will to do one thing rather than another. These powers are both integrated with each other and some build upon others. It is the task of Philosophy and not Scientific Psychology to chart the relations of these powers to each other in an all-embracing theory.

The important role of language in the process of cooperation and organisation is emphasized by Harari in a section entitled “The Web of meaning”. We cooperate with each other and organize ourselves into large institutions because we believe in the same stories. The limited infrastructure of subjective intersubjective and objective reality again is called upon to bolster up the argument:

“..there is a third level of reality: the intersubjective level. Intersubjective entities depend upon communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans. Many of the most important agents in history are intersubjective. Money , for example, has no objective value. You cannot eat drink or wear a dollar bill. Yet as long as people believe in its value, you can use it to buy food, beverages and clothing.”

The polarisation of fact and value we encountered before again produces a confined debate. Desire, expectation and attitude would have been better terms to use if one wished to systematically explore the nature of value and its relation to reality. Isolating the cognitive attitude of belief from knowledge is sometimes in some contexts useful but it might also be argued that the belief we have in money is justified exactly because of the desires,expectations and attitudes of everyone using the money. This is similarly the case with language which is even more deeply embedded in our lives and consciousness. A word is connected to the practical desires, expectations and attitudes of language users and there are objective criteria for its correct use: thus embedding it in the arena of value(the arena of what we ought and ought not to do). Claiming that this kind of objectivity is “subjective” is misleading. It is in fact the same kind of reasoning which will claim that ethical action is “subjective” and this has always been welcomed with open arms by communist and fascist leaders throughout history. One should add to Harari’s three conditions the taking hostage of knowledge and truth which all dictators know they must somehow control if they are to retain power. Given the fact that these dictators never reasoned their way to power, the only means to control these powerful values is of course by violence and by the use of stories which appeal to the limited use of the people’s imagination rather than the whole battery of cognitive powers people normally use when evaluating those in power. Description will, in such circumstances, eventually replace explanation and justification by raw power and violence will replace justification by theory and argument. It was such a state of political affairs that motivated Plato’s famous words relating to the state falling into ruin and decay unless philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers. The first task of these philosophers would be to keep the warriors of the state under control by educating them.

Harari diminishes the value of truth, explanation and justification by emotionalising our cognitive attitudes:

“We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another.”(p170)

This is a weak account of meaning. The meaning of our words are connected to their objective use, according to the work of Wittgenstein, and whilst many stories may be describing events wished for or related to objects of our anxiety, many narratives, including historical narratives are judged by the objective criteria of truth and knowledge. Biblical narratives may even be more complex than historical narratives if they incorporate what Paul Ricoeur referred to as “symbolic meaning” when they reason about good and evil.

Harari even goes so far as to say that our convictions about human rights (resting upon over 2000 years of philosophical argument, theory, and justification) is only a story whose meaning might unravel in future ages.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Two: The Anthropocene era

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Never before has something born of the earth been a threat to that earths very existence but this has become the case with Homo Sapiens in what Harari calls the Anthropocene era. This work rightly raises the question as to whether we ought to fear Homo Sapiens more than we do the tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and tsunamis.

Homo Sapiens since the beginnings of the Agricultural Revolution has domesticated the wild animals of the earth and the question is raised as to whether this causes suffering. Pythagoras, when a fellow Greek kicked a dog in the street causing it to yelp and howl, complained about his fellow’s behaviour on the grounds that given the response it was obvious that dogs have souls and therefore should not be made to suffer unnecessarily. Harari and many other interpreters of materialistic bent think they know what the Greeks mean by the term “psuche”. They assume, that is, that psuche means some kind of spiritual entity dwelling “in” a physical body. We know that Aristotle used the term “psuche” to refer to a life-principle, which roughly amounts to an idea or a form which explains the behaviour of those organisms that function in accordance with this principle. It is possible that Pythagoras the mathematician also thought in this way about the dog’s psuche. Materialists often complain that such an idea or form transcends experience and is therefore an unverifiable metaphysical entity. They fail to realise that the arguments in favour of gravity are also transcendent and metaphysical in exactly the same way. One cannot verify gravity without using the idea in a hypothesis which we then apply to falling and orbiting bodies. This is why Newton retained the term “philosophy” in the title of his book. Harari believes that Philosophers sit in their ivory towers contemplating transcendental and metaphysical entities which are merely figments of their imagination woven into a web of the stories they tell each other about the existence of things. The truth of the matter is that the philosophers being referred to in this work are committed to principles. Principles for example, which explain the changes we see in nature and are present in these processes in the way the form of an animal psuche is present “in” the dog that howls when it is kicked. The quotation marks around in indicate that there are not two things in one relation here but rather one thing in a process of change which is explained by a principle.

Whatever the confusions over the philosophical issues here, Harari’s basic point, that we are in the name of the superiority of our species subjugating animals to a life of abject suffering, needs to be taken seriously even if he sometimes seems to be wondering whether animals really suffer and are instead just a collection of algorithms:

“how can we be sure that animals such as pigs actually have a subjective world of needs, sensations and emotions? Aren’t we guilty of humanising animals, i.e. ascribing human qualities to non human entities, like children believing that dolls feel love or anger?..In recent decades life scientists have demonstrated that emotions are not some mysterious spiritual phenomenon that is useful just for writing poetry and composing symphonies. Rather, emotions are biochemical algorithms that are vital for the survival and reproduction of all mammals.”(p96)

An algorithm is a formal descriptive “device” for bringing about changes in machines or for bringing about changes in a material world of ingredients(as when one follows a recipe to bake a cake). Algorithms in relation to machines have a mathematical character because instead of a declaration at the beginning of the recipe of the ingredients needed we have a declaration of the variables to be manipulated. These variables all have values relating to the function of a machine which in itself was created by an algorithm that resembled a recipe. The origins of applying a machine analogy to animals goes all the way back to Hobbes and Descartes, the first two philosophers to rebel against the hylomorphic philosophy of Aristotle. There is no mental “substance” Hobbes argued, not realising that what Aristotle meant by this term was “form” or “principle”. Man the animal is a physical substance whose elements are to be determined by the resolution -composition method and his bodily life was to be characterised in much the same way one characterises the springs and wheels of a machine. Descartes added to this that animals are just machines without any mental “substance”. If “substance” does mean “principle” as Aristotle maintains then neither Hobbes’ or Descartes remarks make much sense. Yet it is these assumptions that form the background to the thought that animals might just be a bundle of algorithms. Harari is more Hobbesian than he is Cartesian and this is revealed in his determination to use the term algorithm to depict lifeworld activities such as drinking a cup of tea:

“Over the last few decades biologists have reached the firm conclusions that the man pressing the buttons(of a vending machine) and drinking the tea is also an algorithm. A much more complicated algorithm than the vending machine, no doubt, but still an algorithm. Humans are algorithms that produce not cups of tea but copies of themselves…The algorithms controlling vending machines work through mechanical gears and electric circuits. The algorithms controlling humans work through sensations, emotions and thoughts. And exactly the same kind of algorithms control pigs, baboons, otters and chickens.”(98-99)

Yet an algorithm is not a principle. The principle behind an algorithm is theoretically a hypothetical principle or practically an instrumental principle, both of which presuppose basic categorical principles or forms. The principles governing the tea drinking human psuche are the principles governing the rational animal capable of discourse. Pigs oinking at the drinking trough are not socialising or arguing rationally about whether what they drinking is good or not. To characterise this difference in terms of a difference in degree rather than a difference in kind requires further argumentation. It may be the case that homo sapiens can only appreciate differences in degree because they can understand and even perceive differences in kind. The difference of degree versus the differences in kind are more akin to the difference between the laws of electro-magnetic radiation and the laws of gravity. The comparison with these physical laws fails in some respects because there is a kinship relation between the form of life of a pig and the form of life of homo sapiens. This kinship can be expressed in terms of both being mammals or more basically in terms of both being life-forms or forms of psuche. The sensations, emotions and biological problems associated with being animals have to be partially expressed in modified forms and partially regulated because of the fact that we are social and rational animals who need to behave in a civilised manner in the company of each other. Our behaviour here is more a matter of social attitudes than of socially based emotions and it is these attitudes that enable us to form cooperative bonds with one another. Harari does not say that the algorithms are different, he insists they are the same and this is going to create difficulties even at the perceptual level. Many psychologists claim that there is built into the perceptual systems of different animals a species recognition function which even at this level recognises a difference in kind rather than a difference in degree. Tigers recognise other tigers in a way that they do not recognise lions as lions: a threat is not the same as a sexual partner. The grounds for saying the algorithm is the same is probably conceptual and categorical: man is both a mammal and an animal. For Aristotle these are forms of psuche and the categories that name them register this way of thinking about the infinite continuum of possible life forms. Yet on the developmental line of mans biological and psychological powers the latter acquire increasing significance as the organism matures or actualises its essence or nature, and in fact it is the actualising of linguistic and rational powers which serve both in hylomorphic theory and in terms of language as criterial differentiators between man and animals. The infrastructure of subjective-objective-intersubjective is the typical scientific framework that is used to reinforce Harari’s prejudice in favour of the argument that the significant difference between animals and man resides in his power of sensation, emotion, imagination and language: these four capacities are systematically separated from action and reason and thereby from the philosophical frameworks of hylomorphism, Kantian critical Philosophy and Wittgensteinian Philosophical investigations.

Behaviourism is a topic that is touched upon in order to highlight the importance of the emotions in childhood development. John Watson’s childcare advice is rightly ridiculed and the following conclusion is reached:

“Today we look back with incomprehension at early 20th century child rearing advice. How could experts fail to appreciate that children have emotional needs, and that their mental and physical health depends as much on providing for these needs as on food, shelter and medicines?”(p104)

Freudian childcare advice aside. One can wonder why Freudian ideas from this period were ignored in this discussion except for a brief mention. Perhaps it was because it was “too philosophical” for the scientific subjective-objective-intersubjective framework. After all Freud himself suggested that his Psychology was essentially Kantian. Perhaps it was because Freud saw the limitations of the emotions and the imagination for the purposes of leading a flourishing life in accordance with what he called the reality principle. For Freud, language was amongst other things an instrument for making what was unconscious conscious and in so doing connecting to memory systems in order to restore a more healthy relation to ones past. The real memory of real events is distinctly distinguished from the wish fulfilment and anxiety orientation of the imagination. For Freud as was the case for Aristotle the emotions involved in wish fulfilment and anxiety need regulation by the kind of self reflective reasoning about oneself which occurs in therapy or philosophical examination.

The above reasoning is then used to further conclude that homo sapiens in the process of domesticating animals were in their practice of removing these animals from their mothers perhaps guilty of breaking the most essential emotional bond in the animal kingdom. The argument of the farmers for doing this was essentially religious it was argued. The sacrifice of animals to the gods was commonplace in pre Christian temples. So, it is claimed that the Agricultural revolution was both an economic and religious revolution which justified the inhuman exploitation of animals. Animals were property and fodder to placate the gods.

According to Harari it was Science that silenced the gods in favour of homo sapiens who now stood alone on the world stage. Newton himself is God. Newton not only believed in Philosophy, he also believed in the relevance of religion and the bible for the leading of a human flourishing life.The argument then transitions to our scientific/technological oriented societies in which humanists worship humans and the implication is that humanists condone the suffering of domestic animals. The explanation for this state of affairs is as follows:

“Whereas the Agricultural Revolution gave rise to theist religions, the Scientific Revolution gave birth to humanist religions, in which humans replaced gods. While theists worship theos(Greek for “god”), humanists worship humans. The founding idea of humanist religions such as liberalism, communism and Nazism is that Homo Sapiens has some unique and sacred essence that is the source of all meaning and authority in the universe.”

The conflation of the ideas of religion, liberalism and Nazism is a reminder of the limited infrastructure which earlier conflated differences in degree with differences in kind. The absence of attention to ethical issues of rational justifications for action explain claiming that political positions such as liberalism are “religious”. This is the inverse position of that adopted by Euthyphro in his discussion with Socrates in which he was conflating the holy with the just. This section of the work is conflating the religious with the political.This is a minor objection however, compared to the willingness to call Nazism both humanistic and religious. Language and the philosophical criteria for the use of these terms are completely ignored and we find ourselves deposited in a relativistic post modernist world where nothing can mean everything and everything can mean nothing. This is of course the kind of world that the Nazis were striving to create, with some success apparently. The image of Science allowing factory farming on massive scales where animals are cramped together in small spaces whilst waiting for eventual slaughter of course take the mind back to the Nazi “final solution”, to the problem of the Jews who were literally thought of as animals thanks to the Science of the times. Given this it is somewhat paradoxical to focus on Religion as being solely responsible for the narcissism of human beings. Newton, like Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein saw no contradiction in searching for explanations and justifications of phenomena whilst at the same time being religiously committed to their philosophical ideas of God. All three would have taken the general thesis of homo deus with considerable skepticism. The situation is, however, complex, given, for example, the implications of Kantian Philosophy that God is an idea of reason “in” the mind of man.

Sixth Centrepiece Lecture from “The World Explored, the World Suffered: The Exeter Lectures”(Jude Sutton)

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Jude stood ready at the front of the lecture hall waiting for the students to arrive. He had not had a drink for a few days and he was feeling strange: a combination of anxiety and a numb trance- like state. He was looking down at his rather sparse notes which he had fished out of his waste paper basket, when Robert and Sophia arrived. He began the lecture exactly on time:
“Today I am going to talk about Science and the Theory of Knowledge. I begin with a quote from Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics” which I believe I have mentioned before:
“Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and choice seems to aim at some good, accordingly the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”
“Let me say right away for those of you who have heard firstly, my ethical criticisms of some forms of science and, secondly, my criticisms of those scientists who believe that science is more concerned with exploration and experimentation than explanation and understanding, that I believe the pretensions of this subject exceed its achievements especially when it concerns the understanding of the human sphere of existence. I, of course, acknowledge the considerable achievement of scientists in the realm of physics, chemistry and biology and am keenly awaiting the general unified theory of all regions of Science, which is lacking at present
Let me also say that I am largely in agreement with both Plato and Aristotle’s definition of knowledge as Justified True Belief. In spite of the modern remonstrations of many scientists claiming that their theories only provide models of reality, which is probably true in the absence of a general unified theory, their aim must surely be at the good that in this context must be, understanding the truth. Aristotle as part of his method asks us to take heed of what the common man regards as the truth, because even here amongst common men if someone claims something to be true which they know to be false, it is said that such men lack understanding. Another aspect of Aristotle’s method is to consult the wise man who uses the same criterion as the common man, the only difference being that the wise man will be considerably more rigorous in his examination of his beliefs and will not cease his investigations until an understanding of principles is reached: principles which can be philosophically defended and justified.
Understanding is also aimed at in the so called practical sciences such as ethics where it is claimed that the good to be aimed at is related to our understanding of action and its relation to ultimate ends such as the flourishing life. The term used by the Greeks was eudaimonia that as mentioned earlier has unfortunately been problematically translated into the English term “happiness”. According to Aristotle the flourishing life lacks nothing and will therefore include both theoretical and practical understanding of reality. Through the flourishing man’s theoretical understanding of reality there will be an understanding of reality as an infinite continuum that brings with it a realisation that one of the problems with searching for a general unified theory of all physical phenomena, is that these phenomena are conceptualisable in different ways. It may be useful in this respect to talk about the mathematical scientists’ activity of describing and explaining motion in the world. He regards the motion as starting at a particular point and as coming to rest at another. These points divide the infinite continuum of space into a discrete length or unit. The motion thus traces a line in infinite space between the two points. The distance may be measured purely spatially in terms of length or more complexly in terms the time the motion takes. The scientist may proceed further and using a category of his understanding, namely causality, ask the question “What caused the motion?” In the inanimate physical world the cause would lie outside the object that was moving. If the object moving was a billiard ball, and had been caused by the impact of another billiard ball, we can continue asking the causal question until we arrive at a cue striking the ball, and a man acting to bring about the first movement. We can, that is, map a history of motion in a theatre of space all the way to the biological flexions and contractions of the muscles of the billiard player’s body, the chemical actions and reactions, in and amongst the cells involved, and the chemical elements involved. Notice how the transcendental question of causation that, by the way, is not directly derived from experience as Hume so acutely proved, is organising this whole field of experience. The field can also be organised by so called metaphysical laws such as matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed and, which like transcendental categories such as causality or transcendental intuitions of space and time, cannot in themselves be experienced but function as conditions of experience. If we wished to completely map the psychological theatre of human space we might begin to look at a non- physical elements such as the choice of a human to play billiards, to focus their attention on just this segment of the billiard table in order to play their shot, in order to score points in order to win the billiard game, in order to win some money, in order to pay the rent, in order to have a safe base to bring up the family etc. etc. Had the billiard player lost the game and lost his money for the rent we could have then posed the ethical ought- question: “ought he to be gambling and risking the security of his family?” Notice now the difference between the physical and non- physical chains of causation: notice how the former seem to move backward in time until we encounter a source and notice how the former “causes” stretch forward in time in order to rest at an end. With the introduction of the action and choice of an agent we leave the domain of the forever fluctuating continuum of the physical world and enter into the world of the mind or soul which can perceive think and reason in relation to its actions. We encounter therewith a stream of reality where the principle of movement no longer lies outside of the object moving but rather within the moving object. The human billiard player is not caused to move by outside forces as he would be if he fell off a cliff, but rather causes himself to move by amongst other things his tactical and strategic thoughts concerning which ball to play and how to position his white after the play in order to pot as many balls as possible and win the game. His actions occur in the field of physical causes and these can be investigated by the sciences mentioned above. The billiard ball of course is an artifact and has therefore a mixed theoretical and practical history that would take us outside the immediate theatre of the game of billiards. The same is true of the agent who is a composite of causes of different kinds. We have referred in earlier lectures to the importance of Aristotelian hylomorphism in our explanations of such diverse kinds of phenomena. In a complex human situation such as the game of billiards all 4 causes or kinds of explanation will be needed for a complete explanation and understanding of all of the phenomena involved. Two kinds of explanation will be needed for the material involved in the motion and the immediate proximal causes of the bringing about of motion in the game. Two of the causes or kinds of explanations will refer to the intentions, tactics and strategies tied up with the agents involved in the game and also perhaps to life projects and plans extending beyond the space-time continuum of the game. These latter two types of explanation will combine what Aristotle called the formal and final causes. All 4 causes are interwoven.”
Robert raised his hand and asked:
“Is there a science of game-playing?
“Interesting question given the fact that you major in Physical Education. Aristotle used the term “Science” much more broadly than contemporary science would countenance. For him there were the theoretical sciences, the practical sciences and the productive sciences. We moderns need to bear in mind that the word “aitiai” in Greek, which we translate as “cause”, actually bears the meaning of the basis or ground for something. Aristotle’s 4 cause’s schema then translates into 4 kinds of foundation or explanation. Modern science would probably reject at least one if not two of these foundations. The formal cause or foundation in contemporary science is certainly of secondary importance in comparison to the material cause or foundation. The inner structural organisation of the material will explain the forms it takes and not vice versa. To the physicist the teleological movement forward to an end instead of backward to a source will be an anthropomorphic view of the process of material motion. To the biologist the study of animate forms of life must involve teleological explanation that in its turn perhaps involves a hierarchy of principles all moving the organism towards maturity or a flourishing life or telos. Perception and locomotion needs are integrated with nourishment growth and reproduction needs. If one needs the language of mathematics to express everything here perhaps one can say that the flourishing life equation will be composed of the values of these variables. Now to directly answer your question: animals do not engage in game playing in general or billiards in particular but in terms of our human playing billiards, Aristotle would examine these activities in accordance with their contribution to a form of life which has a need for theoretical understanding of the world, a need for acting with the best practical intentions, and he would investigate how these higher level activities transform and integrate with such lower level activities as nutrition, growth and reproduction. To take just one example: the flourishing human life would engage in having friends for dinner and conversation where all manner of things would be discussed and reasoning about these things would occur. After dinner activities may include billiards or cards or other games where the point of the activities will be to show ones knowledge or skill by playing well: winning or losing gracefully and in the latter case hopefully having learned something in the process of losing. All of this will occur as part of the flourishing life—the full account of which we will get only by combining both Aristotle’s and Kant’s thoughts about the matter. For Aristotle, Ethics is a practical science and involves practical modes of understanding. For Kant, Ethics is logical and systematic and the following of principles of action is not merely connected to pleasure, as is the case with game playing: for Kant one has an obligation to follow the principles of ethics as a matter of character. So, in answer to your question, there can be a science of game playing but only in relation to the broader meaning of “science” embraced by Aristotle. But someone who thinks that theoretical science with the rules of procedure which constitute its method can explain game playing is confusing the theoretical with the practical.”
A Science major raised their hand and asked:
“But surely has not science shown time and again that reducing a whole to its parts and examining the functioning of those parts is the road to discovering important things about the whole. Was it not Aristotle who divided the phenomenon of the weather into four elements and two processes: earth, water, air, fire, hot and cold, wet and dry?
“In a sense the infinite continuum has to be divided but the question is how and into what kinds of parts. Perception obviously begins the process on the basis of discriminating differences, and the understanding subsequently unites the manifold parts under a basic unit of thought whose basic function is to connect things. Thought can connect particulars such as those that make up the meaning of the name Socrates, and particulars which have something in common with each other such as the past present and future exemplars of wise people…”
The Science major interrupted:
“It would be useful to know what mechanisms are involved in the thinking of universals.”
“The process begins with experience and memory of, for example, manifold exemplars of men which are initially discriminated by the processes of perception but then subsequently these differences are abstracted away and the exemplars are subsumed under one concept or term which we call “man”. Perception itself becomes organised in this process and we learn to perceive wholes on the basis of having conceived these wholes. These processes or mechanisms allow us then to move on to the next stage of thought when we say or think that “Socrates is mortal”: this latter is a true judgment that has the structure of thinking something about something. This stage of the process allows propositions to be connected in valid arguments and it also allows demonstrations or proofs to be constructed and understood. This would very roughly be Aristotle’s account. The point of all processes for Aristotle must be connected to actualising forms potentially contained in the material concerned. Remember that he was committed to an idea of matter that lacked form and as such matter was something fundamentally indefinite, which cannot therefore be thought to have a nature. To return to your weather example: a weather system is obviously an organised system containing 4 elements and two processes. Take any of these elements or processes out of the system and the remaining elements would behave in different ways. The so called elements in themselves will not be pure material but rather be form-ed . This can actually be more clearly seen if we focus our attention on biological life forms: on animals and their parts, for example bones, limbs, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, brain etc. which in themselves are composites of form and matter. Confronted with these parts we have a choice posed by the modern chemist or the ancient biologist, Aristotle: we can move backward in time linearly and look for the material cause, eventually resting at the material of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen nitrogen, sulphur, phosphate and a few trace materials: we could, however on the other hand look instead for the formal and final cause, proceeding forward in time and discovering that these parts are in service of the life principle of the organism if we are dealing with the parts of non- rational animals or, alternatively, the flourishing life principle if we are dealing with the parts of rational animals.
Robert raised his hand:
“So Aristotle is definitively saying that the body is there for the sake of the soul”
“Yes, this would be essential to his holistic program. He would seriously question any analysis of the whole into parts that did not have reference to the whole. Saying as some scientists do that bodies are merely swarms of particles would have been incoherent as far as Aristotle was concerned.”
Robert continued:
“What about the slogan “Mens sana in corpore sano”?”
Well Latin may be regarded as a classical language but its translation of Greek terms has not always been very useful for scholars seeking to academically reconstruct Greek thought. The above quote seems to be neutral on the question of the priority of its elements. It may, that is, be purely descriptive and translatable into the dualist statement “A healthy mind in a healthy body” or more neutrally “a healthy mind healthily embodied”. The quote also, I suppose raises the question of the relation of the mind to the soul. Some commentators feel the two terms are identical, but I think that identification is mistaken. The soul, for me, is the more universal comprehensive idea because it more naturally includes the idea of something physical as a substrate and bearer of potentialities that will be actualised during a complex process of development. I say, “includes” here but perhaps the better term would be “regulates”, not in the way something physical regulates something else physical but rather in the way in which a law regulates an event. On this continuum of development powers will build upon powers and lead the organism from merely being alive to the possession of a flourishing life. These powers or capacities will include discriminatory perception, conceiving, the perceiving of something as something, the thinking of something and the thinking something about something, and finally, acting, in order to bring about the various forms of the good. To use the concept of a mind here appears to be unnecessarily cumbersome because it seems more difficult to think of the mind as containing an idea of the body as Spinoza hypothesized. It also seems difficult to believe that the mind can be the bearer of powers or capacities. The term “mind” goes back to Old English and perhaps there was this non- physical spiritualist aspect already present in the old English use of the word, or alternatively, it could have been the Latin translation which introduced the spiritualist connotation. There also seems to be a natural tendency to attribute minds to humans only. It does not, for example, make sense to say of animals that they have lost their mind. This particular fact inclines one to the position that mind is a power, but a power of what? The body? The person? I do not deny that some of these difficulties will also haunt the idea of the soul. If animals cannot lose their minds in the way humans can, then this may suggest that frogs either are not capable of leading flourishing lives or that the word “flourishing” in the context of animals has purely a biological significance.
Let me conclude by distancing myself from the flat world of the billiard table, where the event of one billiard ball impacting another encourages the idea that we are witnessing two events happening and not just one holistic change. Aristotle takes us to the building- site to reflect upon such matters: houses are built on building sites, and, according to Aristotle there is only one activity going on and that is the builder building the house. One change is occurring. The divided whole, namely, the builder building and the finished house are theoretically possible at a descriptive level. But we should not then proceed from this theoretical possibility to ask about the practical relation between the two events. Answers will necessarily be two-dimensional and appeal to billiard- ball kinds of mechanisms linking these two “imaginative hypotheticals”. This process of the house being built is teleological. The process is conceptualized in terms of the end of the activity, or the good being brought about by the activity. Proceeding in the opposite direction in search of a linear regression and asking about the event preceding the part of the activity one is currently perceiving will cut the whole process into unrecognizable ribbons. One terminus of such a scientific regression could end somewhat paradoxically in Platonism. Here the search may end up at an idea of the house in the builders mind. Another possible outcome of this scientific regression is that the process is broken into so many fragments that no principle uniting them into a whole activity can be thought of or imagined. In the attempt to frantically re-introduce the whole into the fragments, mereological fallacies are committed such as “the brain understands language”: which a number of brain researchers believe to be true. A brain is a part of a man but only a man understands language. You can try, as some have, to avoid the issue by placing “understand” in quotation marks but that will not help matters. You will also need to make highly artificial stipulations to the effect that “by “understand” I mean that such and such brain circuits will jump into operation. Neural circuits of course jump into operation when I perceive a cat, or move a muscle or eat my food or when I am pricked by a pin. When this is pointed out the neural scientist then sets out to find differences between neural circuits. That is, he tries to find an Aristotelian form embedded in the neural circuits. The whole investigation at this point has become so convoluted that the philosopher does not have the heart to tell the scientist he is looking in the wrong place. Next week we will continue this Odyssey when we ask whether the Human Sciences or Psychology can contribute anything to this epistemological debate. Psychologists, when they detached themselves from Philosophy in 1870 took two life rafts with them: one was the method of science which we have discussed almost ad infinitum not to mention ad nauseam, and they also took a second life raft: the concept of consciousness. Will this method and the concept of consciousness permit a reunification of the two subjects or will we find in this concept, the attempt to restore dualism in more modern dress. What we will find is that there is a refusal to reduce red to anything physical: whether it be angstrom units or neural circuits but there is also a subsequent problem of defining consciousness so that it can be the home of holistic powers such as reasoning and the home of simple qualities such as the perception of the quality of redness. Now, the perception of red whilst being very physically dependent upon physical substrata is nonetheless never identical with such substrata.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts or, perhaps more accurately the parts are less than the sum of the whole.

Finally I would like to recommend two impending events. Tomorrow our resident Welsh genius Dr. Glynn Samuels will be giving a lecture entitled “The World suffered and the world explored”. This will be the opening lecture of a series of four on Religion, Philosophy, and Education. The first lecture is open invitation in the lecture hall but the following lectures will require a signing up process. I believe there are only eighty places available. The second event will be a series of seminars given by Dr. Harold Middleton on “The Psychological aspects of the world suffered and the world explored”.

“Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part One: Humanism and the new human agenda.

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Humanity, Harari argues, is in the process of recreating itself during the twenty first century. It is no longer threatened by the kinds of catastrophe that have haunted mankind for tens of thousands of years namely, famine, plague and war. These are problems, it is claimed, that are fading into insignificance because man with his pragmatic/scientific approach to problems has largely eliminated them as global threats. Harari concedes firstly, that there are still hundreds of millions on the earth living below what is regarded by civilised countries as the “existence minumum”, secondly that there is still the risk, however small of locally restricted infections(Ebola–responsible for 11000 deaths). He must surely also admit to there being the risk of a conventional war in some regions of the globe and also to the fact that this possibility has probably marginally increased since his work was published. We are in agreement, however, that insofar as the humanist view of these matters is concerned there has largely been significant progress in world affairs.

The difference between the humanists perspective and that of the author’s is that the humanist is, in spite of what they see to be the slow march of progress, acutely aware of the fact that there are many important respects in which man is not living up to his potential. The humanist is aware that in this disenchanted world, there is a great deal of suffering and injustice which cannot be addressed by the mechanisms and methods that have brought about the changes in our physical well-being and health Harari refers to. The humanist is aware improvements have been made in the material quality of our life by knowledge of general biological, medical and political facts such as that bacteria and viruses cause disease, famines can be avoided with better political organisation, and even conventional wars have disastrous consequences for everybody. But the humanist is also acutely aware that these achievements have not been characterised by an corresponding level of psychological contentment: a fact which probably has its explanation in the “mythical” Apollo’s two challenges for humanity and the humanist, namely “nothing too much” and “know thyself”. The claim, for example that the peace we are experiencing today is not merely a temporary respite from war but is rather a peace based on the assumption that war is almost inconceivable today may manifest a misunderstanding of what might transpire in the future if Apollo’s warnings of “nothing too much” and “know thyself” are not heeded. Ignorance of both of these ethical imperatives were certainly among the causes of the two first world wars of the last century and just because 70 years have elapsed with a manifestly downward trend in the statistics of violence this in itself is not cause for celebration or the announcement of new human agendas. The global forces that are operating in global development (and ethics and knowledge(in the Aristotelian sense are two of these forces) are involved in an unseen war the outcome of which is uncertain because outcomes from this kind of conflict of global processes are measured in millennia rather than centuries(causing Kant to tentatively suggest that the conflict will be resolved in 100,000 years)

Harari in an attempt to explain our “good fortune” claims the following:

“We have managed to bring famine plague and war under control thanks largely to our phenomenal economic growth, which provides us with abundant food, medicine, energy and raw materials. Yet this same growth destabilises the ecological equilibrium of the planet in myriad ways, which we have only begun to explore.”(p23)

Not to mention the effect on our psychological equilibrium which Freud was beginning to register in his consulting rooms at the end of the nineteenth century. Apollo must be heaving a melancholic sigh at the sight of “too much” and “Ignorance of oneself”.

This work formulates a definition of humanism which inexplicably includes a desire to become divine. This is a misunderstanding of what key humanist thinkers such as Aristotle and Kant have had in mind when they spoke of the divine. Both thinkers through reasoning(neither believed in revelation) arrived at the conclusion that our reason was the presence of the divine in us in a finite form(Kant referred to what was holy about our will). Our finitude necessitated observing imperatives such as those uttered by Apollo or found in our religious texts. These imperatives were not, however orders which we blindly obeyed but rather prescriptions for which there were good reasons to obey that we could fathom if we led the life of contemplation that both philosophers recommended.The finite could never become the infinite and anyone possessing the desire to actually become divine would for these thinkers have been a sign of insanity and a candidate for treatment on Freud’s couch.

So, given our “good fortune” and the fact that three of the major threats to humankind are no longer global threats, what will humankind use its cognitive capacities to focus on in the future?:

“What else will humanity strive for? Would we be content merely to count our blessings, keep famine, plague and war at bay, and protect the ecological equilibrium? That might indeed be the wisest course of action, but humankind is unlikely to follow it. Humans are rarely satisfied with what they already have. The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more. Humans are always on the lookout for something better, bigger, and tastier. When humankind possesses enormous new powers and when the threat of famine plague and war is finally lifted, what will we do with ourselves?…humanity’s next targets are likely to be immortality, happiness and divinity.”(p23)

Harari has no clear conception of normative values to assist in the interpretation of the phenomena he discusses. The conception of normative value we need to appreciate if we are to evaluate the phenomena discussed correctly comes from the mythical figure of Apollo and from Aristotle , Kant and their followers. The imperative mode of normative discourse proclaims what ought to be the case. Apollo probably saw countless examples of the hubris of man all around him and his imperatives were explicitly designed to mobilise the normative knowledge of the wise men of the community to lead flourishing lives instead of the lives of restless pursuit of a cluster of desires which were multiplying out of control. This normative knowledge is necessary if a correct diagnosis of the human conditions is to be recorded. Apollo might have been mildly surprised that our hubris had in fact infiltrated one of the branches of our knowledge to such an extent that it had produced weapons of mass destruction which had actually been used for the annihilation of non combatant civilians but he would also have been able to point to his imperatives as the reasons for this state of affairs.

Of course it is a fact that humans in general crave more and more if the culture around them does not normatively via the use of imperatives and reasoning regulate this vicious multiplication of desires. But facts are not themselves regulative in this situation. That is, it is not true that just because this is how humans in general behave that this is how they ought to behave. Normative knowledge is what regulates this states of affairs and allows humankind to know the facts about themselves but transcend these facts with what Harari refers to as wise judgement and behaviour. Speculating upon what excesses and deficiencies will lead to in terms of the cause-consequences frameworks of the businessman and the scientist, will merely ignore the role of the normative(the ethical) and the role of knowledge in the bringing about of happiness as a result of leading the flourishing life.

Humankind will seek after immortality Harari argues because death is no longer an ethical telos at the end of life but rather a technical problem which science(wearing the same white coats they wore whilst splitting the atom) will eventually “solve”. Fear of death or the survival instinct(the wish not to die under any circumstances) are equated and perhaps those are the only alternatives if one regards the human condition as primarily determined by its biology. There is, however, a psychological level above that, which may even wish to die peacefully or be prepared to even die violently by ones own hand. The one level is related to the other and the relation is complex, far more complex than is acknowledged in this work. This notion of levels does not stop here but reaches up to the social and political conditions of our existence. Reducing the human condition to its biological substrate of course enables one then to regard death as a scientific problem to be solved. It also enables one to view the acceptance of death as a result of leading a full life which has been , as the Bible puts it, “full of years”, as well as those committing suicide by their own hand, as anomalies to be explained by the physiological sensations these groups of people feel.

Of course one needs more than a primitive utilitarian theory to explain what is going on in the complex human relation to death but this is what we are provided with by Harari. He cites Bentham’s Psychological theory of being ruled by two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain. Harari concedes that the happiness principle which subsequent utilitarians have extracted from Bentham’s pleasure-pain rule at some point will have to admit that happiness is determined by expectations. Yet, contrary to the humanist position that peoples expectations are real and determining factors of almost everything important that we engage in, Harari wants to regard these expectations as subjective and reduce them to our biochemistry:

“On the biological level, both our expectations and our happiness are determined by our biochemistry, rather than by our economic, social or political situation…We never react to events in the outside world but only to sensations in our own bodies. Nobody suffers because she lost her job, because she got divorced or because the government went to war. The only thing that makes people miserable is unpleasant situations in their own bodies…people are made happy by one thing and one thing only–pleasant sensations in their bodies.”(p40-41)

Firstly one ought to note that there is a difference between situations where expectations are embedded in a cognitively structured situation such as education where one is learning much because of the expectations of the teacher and emotional situations such as those described by Harari. Emotions are, as we have learned from William James, producing psychological effects from physiological disturbances. But not everything psychological is caused by a physiological disturbance. The “psychological” use of Knowledge, for example is related to truth which in its turn refers to an object and not the sensations which the objects cause to occur in us. Normative knowledge, i.e. knowledge of what we ought and ought not to do is based on action and its intentions, and not on the kinaesthetic sensations accompanying action or sensations(if there are any) connected to the formation of intentions.

Harari rightly points out the transitoriness of sensations:

“The bad news is that pleasant sensations quickly subside and sooner or later turn into unpleasant ones.”(p42)

This is the “fault” of evolution it is claimed because our biochemistry is attuned not to our happiness but rather to our survival. Let us be clear here about the nature of our criticism. It is not being denied that underlying everything we do is a physiological substrate. Humans are, as Piaget pointed out, sensory-motor systems. Piaget was influenced both by Aristotelian assumptions(being a biologist himself) and Kantian Philosophical Psychology which distinguished between that which happens to man(which involves sensations and sensory experiences) and that which man freely does(involving the sensory-motor system). This means for example that action involving the motor system can regulate the sensory system. The role of thought in this process is not sensation related but rather related to the objects of action, that is to the reality one is intending to change. Aristotle and Kant, both believed that what we do is subject to an evaluation system much more complicated than the survival imperative and also that this evaluation system is more a matter of thought and its objects than the private sensations of individuals. It is also worth pointing out in this case that were emotions to be based only on sensations and not also the behaviour elicited, third person descriptive language about them would not be possible, as Wittgenstein and many other philosophers have pointed out.

Harari then argues that if it is true that happiness is essentially a biochemical matter then “the only way to ensure lasting contentment is by rigging this system”. We could also, it is argued, send electrical signals to the brain.

There is a then a brief discussion about the efficacy of Buddhist meditation and its supposed goal of merely reducing our craving for pleasant sensations the following is the conclusion:

“At present humankind has far greater interest in the biochemical solution. No matter what the monks in their Himalayan caves or philosophers in their ivory towers say, for the capitalist Juggernaut, happiness is pleasure. Period.With each passing year our tolerance for unpleasant sensations decreases, and our craving for pleasant sensations increases. Both scientific research and economic activity are geared to that end.”

So, the new human agenda is going to be determined by the capitalist juggernaut and the norm-free scientist who has never probably even heard of the mythical thousand headed monster of the ancient Greeks whose heads keep multiplying in accordance with the growth of the desires of the monster.

These scientists will be engaged on reengineering the mind of Homo Sapiens and at this point we will achieve the status of gods. Homo Sapiens will become Homo Deus. This is inevitable it is argued because, if we apply the brakes to this process, the economic systems of the world will collapse based as it is on a logic of endless growth and an endless number of projects. Apparently Eugenics the favourite project of the Nazis will also make a comeback.This in spite of the fact that it is claimed that we study history in part in order to shake ourselves free from its “logic” based on the assumption that the past must be like the future.

In this discussion it is clear that Humanism is a straw man erected for the purposes of the impending bonfire. It is not true as is claimed that the projects of humanism have been a striving for immortality divinity and happiness. The humanism of Aristotle, Kant and Wittgenstein all acknowledge the essential finitude of man, they all acknowledge an inevitable death and a long long period of time before mankind as a species can achieve lasting happiness. The humanist is not an atheist nor is he a blind believer in the popular idea of God. He is a believer in blind justice which does not distinguish between classes or races in the dispensation of justice. He is a believer in knowledge and ethics both of which are steered by reason and both of which are global processes required to achieve a global community: in other words he believes in norm defined progress. The humanist is not a desperate pessimist or a reckless optimist, he is a man leading a contemplative reflective flourishing life.

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY COURSE: Aristotle Part 6 ( Productive Sciences: Art and Tragedy)

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Jonathan Barnes in an essay entitled Rhetoric and Poetics in the Cambridge Companion to Aristotle argues the following:

“An art is a body of knowledge, practical in aim but systematic in organisation, in which particular theorems and precepts are shown to follow from a relatively small set of fundamental truths.”

This may be an over-theoretical account of a realm of human activity which resembles more the realm of practical science than the realm of theoretical science but it has the advantage of manifesting the relation of art to truth which is often forgotten in the hasty retreat to the realm of experience which is a key concern of the arts. Aristotle insisted upon a threefold distinction of sciences: Theoretical, Practical and Productive. But he did not envisage that the practical and the productive sciences would have no connection with the truth.
The human activity of Art, is an activity of mimesis or imitation. Art is imitation Aristotle argues, not of external nature but rather of mans mind, in particular his character, emotions and actions. But why does one desire to imitate? Because firstly,there is both an instinct to imitate demonstrated in the fact that humans distinguish themselves from animals partly in the fact that they learn from other humans by imitating them and secondly because we take delight in imitations. But what then is the telos, the purpose of these mimetic productions? The creation and appreciation of art must be related of course to the flourishing life and its explorations of regions of our mind that seek for understanding with universal intent. The idea of the good object is obviously of major significance in the arena of artistic activity and must be related to both its intellectual and emotional aspects. “Universal intent” here obviously refers to organising our experiences such that we connect emotions and actions that should be connected and differentiate between emotions and actions where there are real differences. Such organisation also entails an understanding of the role of the subject and the role of the object in this process of trying to fathom the depths of the mind. If we are to believe Psychoanalysis, at the bottom of these depths lie the shipwrecks of our experience scattered on the ocean bed and the connection of these fragmented experiences are often not real or as Freud put it, in accordance with the Reality Principle. Death trumps life in such scenes of the unreal.

According to Adrian Stokes in his essay “The Invitation in Art”:

“Structure is ever a concern of art and must necessarily be seen as symbolic, symbolic of emotional patterns, of the psyche’s organisation with which we are totally involved……Patterns and the making of wholes are of immense psychical significance in a precise way even apart from the drive towards repairing what we have damaged or destroyed outside ourselves……in every instance of art we receive a persuasive invitation…we experience fully a correlation between the inner and the outer world which is manifestly structured. And so the learned response to that invitation is an aesthetic way of looking at an object.”

The common element tying all three sciences together is , according to Jonathan Lear in his work on Aristotle, the desire to understand. Man is not satisfied by facts alone, Aristotle claims, he seeks the justifications for these facts, man wishes to know both what and why. The Why could be the principle which would be revealed by the four kinds of explanation outlined in the Metaphysics.

Hylomorphic theory has been haunting aesthetics from the time of Aristotle up to and including the Critical writings of Adrian Stokes. In this theory we have a theory of how the complex human being is teleologically driven in a process of actualisation/development where powers build upon and integrate with other powers beginning from the level of the biological moving to the level of self consciousness via perception, memory and language and terminating in the telos of the actualisation of the potential of rationality in the spheres of practical and theoretical reasoning. This process will obviously involve the holistic organisation of the sensible and intellectual parts of the mind that occurs in symbolic aesthetic encounters with symbolic aesthetic objects. The Desire to understand these parts of the mind is for Aristotle part of the idea of the flourishing life. In a discussion of the representation or imitation of terrible events like death Aristotle points to the interesting fact that even if pity and fear may be involved this occurs under an all encompassing attitude of the desire to learn something from these represented events. Indeed this may be the “mechanism” of the famous Aristotelian “catharsis” where it is insisted that pity and fear are purged or purified. The suggestion here is that the situation of these negative emotions in a positive context transforms them into positive elements of the experience.

The Arts are divided by Aristotle into two categories: those associated with material such as paint stone etc and those associated with “voice”: the former being spatial objects and the latter temporal objects which, include the use of music which is suggestive of various uses of language. The use of language however is not demonstrative as is the case with the theoretical sciences but rather the artistic use of language is in accordance with a technical process designed to instrumentally bring about an effect which given our instinctive delight in imitations must be related to the experience of pleasure. The pleasure involved would seem, however, to be a contemplative reflective pleasure and presumably not the kind of pleasure that we might get at the technical creation of a table for a particular use. Such an act of creating a table will not require the kind of systematic knowledge required for the production of an art object. This is connected to the fact that tables are generic objects whereas art-objects have a uniqueness condition tied to their creation. A table can be an imitation of another table but an imitation of another art object merely encourages a negative judgment and a loss of interest in the object. Also a table is not symbolic of anything else as is a classical image of a man in a classical pose of serenity. Such classical images symbolise the importance of the contemplative or reflective life as well as the importance of the independent self sufficiency of ideal humans in an ideal world. Both of these aspects are so important to the Aristotelian ideal of the flourishing life. One imagines obviously a connection to Philosophy and a reflective use of language in accordance with the slow measured music of self sufficient independent argument Contrast this with our modern art which Stokes claims issues from a depressive anxiety reaction to the loss of good objects in an environment dominated by gasometers and towers. All one can aesthetically do in such an environment is to ignore or accept the offending objects. The invitation of such objects is very different to that of the environment containing the Parthenon. Stokes , in this context, quotes the writings of Renoir’s son:

“We know that in Renoir’s opinion the ugliness of buildings towards the end of the nineteenth century and the vulgarity in design in articles in common use were of far greater danger than wars.”

Renoir himself says:

“We get too accustomed to these things and to such a point that we do not realise how ugly they are. And if the day ever comes when we become entirely accustomed to them, it will be the end of a civilisation which gave us the Parthenon and the cathedral of Rouen. Then men will commit suicide from boredom, or else kill each other off, just for the pleasure of it”(Renoir 1962)”

Impressionism, Stokes claims was a response to the aesthetic poverty of the streets of our cities and the desire in art to shock its audience thereafter stems, he argues from a response to a disjointed chaotic environment. Such reflections lead us to the inevitable conclusion that art must be a kind of therapy for both artist and appreciator. A thought echoed in his account of the catharsis of the emotions of pity and fear in our appreciation of tragedy.

Stokes is drawing attention to an aesthetic tragedy in the process of cultural evolution: a tragedy of which we are largely unaware given the momentum of the transformation of the physical transformation of our urban environments. What is the cause of our failure to use the knowledge we have had access to since Aristotle? Is the desensitising of the aesthetic aspects of our mind the major factor or it the case that we are witnessing the same relativism in this arena as we have witnessed in the ethical arena where the assumption of “utility” has trumped the idea of an actualising process that acquires its identity from a telos or end in itself which is unconditionally valuable. The Good aesthetic object and the good ethical action share an attitude toward tragedy which requires us to learn from them both. “Man desires to know” Aristotle claims in the Metaphysics. What can we know about tragedy after reading Aristotle’s “Poetics”?

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is:

” the imitation of an action that is serious and complete, and which has some greatness about it. It imitates in words with pleasant accompaniments, each type belonging separately to the different parts of the work. It imitates people performing actions and does not rely on narration. It achieves through pity and fear, the catharsis of these feelings.”

A serious and complete action requires attention to both plot, character and thought. In the former the plot must tie all the elements together into a whole in which events occur “because of each other” and not merely in a reported narrative of ones life “after one another” There must be a beginning, a middle and an end in which there is space for the development of the plot where a good character as a result of a flawed action of considerable magnitude experiences a reversal of fortune and towards the end a recognition of what has happened and its causes and consequences. The plot shall not be too long but be of a magnitude which can be taken in by the memory. The beginnings and ends of tragedy should not be arbitrary but appropriate. The middle of the plot must be necessitated by the beginning and necessitate its end. The final cause of the tragedy is its cathartic effect upon the emotions of fear and pity which naturally arise as a consequence of what we are witnessing. The term catharsis obviously has medical connotations and one often forgets that the medical intention of purging was healing and this was the argument Aristotle made against the objection of Plato to the arousal of such emotions. The pleasure that supervenes upon the learning of what there is to learn in the tragedy occurs not in a frenzy of emotion but rather in the calm after the storm..

The resemblance of this process to what goes on in psychoanalytical therapy has often been mentioned. Sir David Ross in his work on Aristotle has the following to say on the process of catharsis:

“The process hinted at bears a strong resemblance to the “abreaction”, the working off of strong emotion, to which psychoanalysts attach importance. There is some difference however, to what they try to bring about in abnormal cases Aristotle describes as the effect of tragedy on the normal spectator. Do most men in fact go about with an excessive tendency to pity and fear?And are they in fact relieved by witnessing the sufferings of the tragic hero? That we somehow benefit by seeing or reading a great tragedy, and that it is by pity and fear that it produces its effect is beyond doubt: but is not the reason to be found elsewhere. Is it that people deficient in pity and fear because their lives give little occasion for such feelings are for once taken out of themselves and made to realise the heights and depths of human experience? Is not this enlarging of our experience, and the accompanying teaching of “self-knowledge and self-respect” the real reason of the value which is placed upon tragedy?”

The above refers to Aristotle’s learning process in the arena of ethical action. The arrival at the golden mean via a process of inductive trial and error learning is here applied to our emotions and their regulation. One can almost imagine that the terminal response imagined by Aristotle of the audience of the tragedy is well depicted in those sculptures of men in a state of contemplation. The reference to “abreaction” is perhaps only apt if it refers to the mental effects of the talking cure on anxiety levels once the troubling traumas or wishes are subjected to transformation in the memory by being consciously talked about. Catharsis in psychoanalysis differs from catharsis in art in that the former process is happening to the hero of the tragedy and the latter is happening to a disinterested spectator who is not viewing or conceptualising the chain of events as a particular series of events happening to a particular person but more generally and hypothetically: namely, “if someone does this kind of action is done then this kind of fate is the inevitable consequence”. Kant referred to this as “exemplary necessity” in his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.
The cathartic process of a patient involves a learning or “recognition” which increases ones own sense of self awareness that one cannot speak with a universal voice about. The cathartic process involved with tragedy on the other hand justifies the use of the universal voice because of the involvement of “exemplary necessity”.

Our modern tragedy of course is related to the failure of our present day culture to be able to speak with a universal voice about itself. Culturally, i.e. politically, ethically and aesthetically we appear to live in a disenchanted tragic world in which the voices of Aristotle, Kant and Freud and their followers are drowned out by the collective contradictory voices of the popular mythical thousand headed monster. The knowledge spoken of at the beginning of this lecture is no longer being taught. There are no rescuing heroes anymore and there is no catharsis for anyone in such circumstances, only disenchantment.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Ten: Intelligent Design

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A genetically engineered fluorescent green rabbit and a mouse with an ear on its back are cited as examples of the presence of intelligent design as a principle of life forms. Evolution, it is argued, as a biological limit and explanation comes to an end in the twenty first century. This so called principle of intelligent design is of course “scientific” intelligent design which raises the obvious question as to whether this is in accordance with the philosophical concept of intelligence. William James argues in his work “The Principles of Psychology” that the concept of intelligence is a descriptor of the “way” an intelligent life form does something or solves problems. His citation illustrates the principle of the freedom humans possess in choosing how to act. A magnet attracts iron filings but if you insert a cardboard strip in between the magnet and the strip the filings will never reach its goal. On the other hand, if Romeo is attracted by Juliet but her family places a fence between his goal and himself, he will find a way to eliminate the obstacle of the fence and find a way to his goal, Juliet. Intelligence, then, does not refer to any particular goal but rather to the way in which we achieve that goal which will include thinking critically about how to solve the problem. The iron filings when it reaches the magnet without any intervening obstacle is not intelligent.
In the light of these reflections one can wonder whether the use of the word “intelligent” in this principle of intelligent design is an appropriate term to use in relation to the insertion of genes into organisms that do not naturally possess these genes. If rabbits needed to be found in the dark or mice were hard of hearing then of course these feats of “engineering” would be motivated and may deserve the term “intelligent”. Indeed it seems difficult to even say whether there was any point to the “goal” that was achieved considering that no natural processes were involved. On the contrary, these experiments appeared to require disruption of natural processes. Of course these “experiments” are revealing of the practical reasoning capacities(or lack thereof) of the scientist. The whole process positively reeks of the lack of intelligence of earlier “experiments” such as the splitting the atom which managed to produce a weapon that could destroy humankind in a world war(One must admire the consistency of Science: if the universe began with a Big Bang human life might as well end with a little bang). There is, as has been pointed out on a number of occasions nothing in the scientist’s assumptions or methodology which will enable him to evaluate whether just because something can be done, it ought to be done or ought not to be done. The author has on a number of occasions used the term “imagination” in relation to nations, human rights etc which are intelligent “creations” of moral and political agents respecting the processes of cultural evolution from families to villages to city states to nations. For Aristotle this process was both organic and intelligent. It is exactly because science lacks the “tools” and concepts to describe the process of cultural evolution that Freud was forced to resort to mythology and its “Intelligent ” theory of what is important to mankind. Since the ancient greeks it has been observed that as soon as one divides a whole into its parts, its parts inevitably become opposites which then somehow need to be reconciled again. The “Intelligence” of the early Greek thinkers is revealed in the thoughts of those who had succumbed(as Socrates finally did) to the axiom of Anaxagoras that “All is mind” and everything that is not mind are finite things shaped from an infinite medium such as the major oppositions between hot and cold , wet and dry. This could be sustained theoretically because of a logic of the values of the finite in its relation to the infinite. Human minds are the principle of the carving of the manifold of finite things and processes out of the infinite mass of possible matter, energy, and experience. Here you will find no “imagination” of singularities such as the big bang where no laws of nature were operating because there was no time in which they could operate. For the Greeks and their way of thinking there may have been a Big Bang but something caused it and there was a time before the Big Bang when the conditions for the Big Bang were assembling themselves . The medium for this scenario was the infinite One, about which nothing could be said or thought. This idea can be found in some religions and mythologies. Freud’s use of the Platonic opposites of Eros(the creative force of life) and Thanatos(the destructive force of life) in an arena where the outcome will be determined by this infinite One or Ananke was an attempt to inject the philosophical spirit into his barren scientific hypotheses relating to the well being of his mentally ill patients. Nothing is said in this work by Harari of the miserable record of Science in the arena of mental illness. It took Freud and a number of other humanistically inclined therapists to clean this particular mess up. Even after the theorizing of Freud it is still a question as to whether the “scientists” dispensing their medicines today know what the goal is for those who are mentally ill. Remember this work “Sapiens” has maintained that ideas about the meaning of life are “delusions”. Women, of course, made up the largest number of the victims of “science” and its barren venture into the realm of mental illness.

In this final section of the book there are experiments suggested that bear the quality of schizophrenic hallucinations: the resurrection of Neanderthal man, the end of Homo Sapiens when the final singularity of our lives arrives at that point when all the concepts that make our lifeworld meaningful have become irrelevant:

“Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us”

The author here is imagining the scientific success of the creation of a race of Gods.

The problem with believing that almost everything of value is imagined is that almost anything can be imagined and value disappears in this process. Whatever criticisms one wishes to bring to bear on the process of mythical thinking it manages to preserve a world of value. The Freudian picture of the battle between the life creating forces and the aggressive destructive forces is an apt one to apply to the history of science, and by history I do not mean the virus the author takes it to be but that philosophically based intelligent narrative of the existence and value of things. One can imagine something good and under the influence of the dialectical logic of the opposites imagine the bad is an opposite that can never be related to any object that is good. Something that is good cannot be bad at the same time in the world of the imagination. These are two different things. And yet the mature ethical outlook of those leading flourishing lives is that there can be wholes that are both good and bad in different respects. Indeed these opposites are united in the wholes that are the source of different kinds of good once the explanation for what is imagined bad has been given. Psychoanalysis is the domain for this philosophical discussion of the holistic attitudes housing the practical reasoning concerning the good and the imagination of opposites that seem to demand the functioning of different instincts: the life instinct controlling what is good and the death instinct destroying or denying what is bad. Object relations theory operates in accordance with this logic of the wholes, the parts and the meaningful life and replaces the role of myth in the task of the explanation of value.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Nine: The Meaning of life

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The Industrial revolution, Harari argues :

“..opened the way to a long line of experiments in social engineering and an even longer series of unpremeditated changes in everyday life and human mentality. One example among many is the replacement of the rhythms of traditional agriculture with the uniform and precise schedule of industry. Traditional agriculture depended on cycles of natural time and organic growth. Most societies were unable to make precise time measurements, nor were they terribly interested in doing so. The world went about its business without clocks and timetables, subject only to the movements of the sun and the growth cycles of plants.”)pp394)

These experiments in social engineering dominated by the scientific methodology and scientific materialistic assumptions decoupled from both religious ethical theories and the ethical theories of philosophy that led to the concept of human rights, eventually resulted in the bizarre totalitarian “experiments of Hitler and Stalin. What exactly is meant by an experiment relating to human mentality, however, is not clear. Is the suggestion being made that the Industrial revolution changed our mentality? If so, Science, which was a precursor and one of the theoretical conditions of the industrial revolution must have been a contributor to this change.Does Harari mean that we shifted to a state of discontentment because of the new disenchanted world we were forced to live in?

In practical terms, prior to the Industrial Revolution, the institution of care was the family which was:

“also the welfare system, the health system,the education system, the construction industry, the trade union, the pension fund, the insurance company, the radio, the tv, the newspapers, the bank and even the police.”(pp399)

What the family could not deliver was left to local community. Did this produce a general mentality or was it the case that there was merely a generalised attitude toward the family which caused Aristotle, for example, to characterise the family as the fundamental political unit of the society? According to Aristotle the family is not sufficient insofar as the needs of the individual is concerned and for him the meeting of these needs motivates the association of families into villages. Even villages cannot meet the complex needs of the human individual and this in its turn necessitates association into a city state which can meet even his more luxurious needs. For Aristotle it is the city that best provides the conditions necessary for Eudaimonia, the flourishing life.

Psychoanalysis was the psychological theory which truly examined the development of the emotions and personality in the context of the family but it also extended its theorising to examining “civilisation and its discontents” ending in a question as to whether all the work involved in building a civilisation is worth the effort. Freud’s analysis reached back into ancient Greek philosophy for its overarching powers or capacities of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke. These three mythical “forces” shape the battlefield of civilisation and the mentality of the individuals who are subject to fate as a consequence of the psychological powers of the life instinct and the death instinct(manifested partly in aggression). Freud’s theory, as we know moved from resting uneasily on quantitative considerations relating to energy distribution and the experience of pleasure and pain to the realm of meaning which better characterised analytical discourse. He refused to acknowledge that the world should be purified of its myths although of course he led one of the battles against religion in the name of “scientific psychology”. Later on in the work Harari is going to speak of delusions. In the light of the hallucinatory wish fulfilment connotations of this term in psychoanalytical theory we will return to Psychoanalysis when considering this claim. We will also return to Psychoanalytical theory when we consider the role of art(compared with science) in the shaping of our civilisation.

The collapse of the institutions of the family and the local community was motivated by Harari in the following manner:

“”Life in the bosom of family and community was far from ideal. Families and communities could oppress their members no less brutally than do modern states and markets, and their internal dynamics were often fraught with tension and violence–yet people had little choice. A person who lost her family and community around 1750 was as good as dead. She had no job, no education and no support in times of sickness and distress. Nobody would loan her money or defend her if she got into trouble. There were no policemen, no social workers and no compulsory education…..All this changed dramatically over the last two centuries. The Industrial Revolution gave the market immense new powers, provided the state with new means of communication and transportation, and placed at the governments disposal an army of clerks, teachers, policemen and social workers. At first the market and state discovered their path blocked by traditional families and communities who had little love for outside intervention. Parents and community elders were reluctant to let the younger generation be indoctrinated by nationalist education systems, conscripted into armies or turned into a rootless urban proletariat.”(pp401-2)

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, in 1781 Immanuel Kant wrote his first major work, “The Critique of Pure Reason” which pointed to the displacement of the idea of God with the idea of Freedom . This is of course a more positive observation in relation to the change of “mentality” of individuals: mentality here probably refers less to states of consciousness or moods of the individual and more to the individuals attitudes. On Kant’s theories this social change was a positive phenomenon although he was already pointing out the inadequacies of the nation state in relation to human rights and war. Just over one century, well into the era of the Industrial Revolution, Freud begins to address the issue of the mental health of citizens of nation states just at the time when they were embracing an “expansion at any price” business and marketing policy. His work “Civilisation and its Discontents” was a kind of judgment on the mentality of modern man living in his relatively modern industrialised nation states.Freud’s individual cases however very often exposed the shortcomings of the family and it was partly his work that contributed to the later movements which consequently thought in terms of the right a child has to a non-oppressive or brutal upbringing. Thanks to Freud’s work children too could free themselves from oppression and repression.But Harari claims:

“..the liberation of the individual comes at a cost. Many of us now bewail the loss of strong families and communities and feel alienated and threatened by the power the impersonal state and market wielded over our lives. States and markets composed of alienated individuals can intervene in the lives of their members much more easily than states and markets composed of strong families and communities…..The deal between states, markets and individuals is an uneasy one. The state and the markets disagree about their mutual rights and obligations, and individuals complain that both demand too much and provide too little. In many cases individuals are exploited by markets and states employ their armies, police forces and bureaucracies to persecute individuals instead of defending them.”(pp403)

Insofar as states an markets interfere with the human rights of the individual there should be no doubt that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The medium of the market is finance and those who have finances to invest are obviously favoured over those that do not but this is not a matter of human rights or justice as long as the state has provided everyone with equal opportunity in the form of education etc. States have signed the universal declaration of human rights and are subject to sanction if their citizens rights are systematically violated. Some people may feel alienated by not being able to be active investors or by being unjustly treated but in the former case where the middle class capable of active participation in the investment market is growing and where there are more and more opportunities for education this is clearly an improving situation. These are clearly examples of the progress we are making. Feeling alienated in such a context may be a signal for one to contact ones therapist for a diagnosis. Harari argues that this alienation is the result of millions of years of living in families and communities: a result of evolution. We have become alienated individuals, he claims. He does not see what Kant already saw in the American and French revolutions that the individual is being freed from his chains. He further argues that the market is putting chains on our ideas of romance and sex and here again he underestimates the power of freedom and knowledge to recognize and criticise the kind of stereotyping that occurs in the advertising world. There are dangers for the youth of the day but educational systems are well aware of this problem and tailor their messages accordingly.

Imagined communities, Harari argues are communities of people who do not know each other but imagine they do. He gives as examples kingdoms, empires and churches. But he also claims that the nation is an imagined community in which we imagine a common past, common interests and a common future:

“Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. They exist only in our collective imaginations, yet their power is immense..”

These realities have been brought about partly by historical processes and physical factors that have nothing to do with the power of my imagination, for example, living in the same geographical territory for a long period of time under a government that both in one sense stays the same and in another sense changes. It is not even clear that we imagine in any sense the people we do not know. Is that even possible?

Many examples of the progress of our existence are discussed including the reduction in human violence both in state context and in a community context. States no longer invade each other after the second world war(with a few exceptions) partly because of what the author calls Pax Atomica: the guarantee of mutually assured destruction if the countries in question possess atomic weapons of mass destruction. This is, it is argued, “real peace and not just the absence of war”

The question that naturally emerges next is “Are we happy?” The author admits that this is not a question historians discuss. Perhaps not. But insofar as there are ethical assumptions operating in history is there not therefore indirectly a concern with happiness? The difficulty of answering this question is related to its ambiguity, i.e. related to the fact that happiness is a terms that means many different things. Harari to some extent acknowledges this:

“most current ideologies and political programs are based on rather flimsy ideas concerning the real source of happiness. Nationalists believe that political self determination is essential for our happiness. Communists postulate that everyone would be blissful under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Capitalists maintain that only the free market can ensure the greatest happiness of the greatest number by creating economic growth and material abundance and by teaching people to be self reliant and enterprising.”(p422)

Harari asks whether scientific research could contradict these assumptions and admits that there are few studies looking at the long term history of happiness and also that both scholars and laypersons only have a vague idea of what happiness is:

“In one common view, human capabilities have increased throughout history. Since humans generally use their capabilities to alleviate miseries and fulfil aspirations, it follows that we must be happier than out medieval ancestors, and they must have been happier than Stone Age hunter-gatherers. But this progressive account is unconvincing. As we have seen, new aptitudes, behaviours and skills do not necessarily make for a better life. When humans learned to farm in the Agricultural Revolution, their collective power to shape their environment increased, but the lot of many individuals grew harsher. Peasants had to work harder than foragers to eke out less varied and nutritious food, and they were far more exposed to disease and exploitation. Similarly the spread of European empires greatly increased the collective power of human kind by circulating ideas, technologies and crops, and opening new avenues of commerce. yet this was hardly good news for millions of Africans, Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians…Power corrupts..and as humankind gained more and more power it created a cold mechanistic world ill-suited to our needs.”(pp423)

Counterarguments to this position are presented and we only arrive at the crux of the matter which is that humankind ought to use their powers and capabilities ethically in the following quote:

“Philosophers, priests and poets have brooded over the nature of happiness for millennia, and many have concluded that social ethical and spiritual factors have as great an impact on our happiness as material conditions. Perhaps people in modern affluent societies suffer greatly from alienation and meaninglessness despite their prosperity. And perhaps our less well to do ancestors found much contentment in community, religion and a bond with nature.”(pp425)

The ethical factor will contest the primacy of happiness related as it is to desire rather than reason which determines how we use our capacities and powers. The discussion of happiness as the product of material factors such as health diet and wealth is rightly seeing that happiness is the consequence of a kind of activity of man but is wrongly identifying that activity in materialistic terms. It is, the Greeks and their followers and Kant and his followers claim, a product of rational/ethical activity. What it is that determines whether or not one is going to lead a flourishing life is the worthiness of the agent experiencing the happiness or flourishing life.

The worth of the agent will not be determined by the power of his imagination but rather the power of his practical reasoning in the sphere of ethical action.

The idea of a persons worth is not a subjective inner state but rather an objective universal matter to be determined by either virtue theory or Kantian deontological ethics. The definition:

“happiness is “subjective well-being.”

is subjectivizing an entire area of philosophy, namely, practical reasoning.
Having defined the flourishing life as something subjective we are then asked to attempt to “measure” this subjective well being by questionnaires which reveal that money brings happiness but only to a point: that family and community have more impact on our happiness than money or even our health. Apparently freedom which we value , according to these studies , is working against us because we may freely choose our spouses but they in turn may use their freedom to leave us. The outcome of this long and meandering discussion is that the questionnaires do not reveal causation but can only speak about the correlation of variables. The cause of happiness it is argued is chemical:

“determined by a complex system of nerves, neurones, synapses and various biochemical substances such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.”)pp432)

and then the following incredible statement is made:

“A person who has just won the lottery or found new love and jumps from joy is not really reacting to the money or the lover. She is reacting to various hormones coursing through her bloodstream, and to the storm of electric signals flashing between different parts of the brain.”

This is, to cut a long story short according to Wittgensteinian analytical philosophy, a confusion of the object of our state with its cause. It is true that in a sense the brain structures and chemistry are, to switch to an Aristotelian objection, material causes of our states but these do not enter into our consciousness of these states which is directed towards its teleological objects such as the money it has won or the person one loves. So, for Aristotle the confusion is between the different types of explanation or “causes” that can be used in relation to the phenomenon to be explained.

The author returns to a more philosophical account when he cites some research which seems to suggest that happiness is not related to desire or pleasure but rather :

“consists in seeing ones life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. There is an important cognitive and ethical component to happiness.”)pp438)

In the ensuing discussion, however it is suggested that any meaning which people ascribe to their lives is delusional!:

“So perhaps happiness is synchronising ones personal delusions of meaning with the prevailing collective delusions.”(pp438)

Psychoanalysis is the “science”(in the Kantian sense) of the states and processes of our mind and provides us with our best account of delusional states and processes. In this account it is very clear that the delusional states of mind which schizophrenics for example, experience, are primitive dysfunctional affairs in which there is an inadequate relation to reality. Suggesting that all ideas of a flourishing life or the meaning of life are delusional is a popular use of the term which undermines its more objective meaning. Of course one of the “mechanisms” of the schizophrenic’s delusional state of mind is the “imagination” that other people for example are listening to their thoughts. Given that for this author human rights, money, the nation state etc are figments of the imagination the whole account risks falling into a kind of psychological reductionism that serious psychologists like Freud manage to avoid.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Eight: The creed of greed in a disenchanted world.

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Max Weber claims that the Enlightenment creed of reason has failed to replace traditional religious world-views that once gave meaning and unity to life. All it has managed to do, Weber argues, is free us of our superstitions, prejudices and errors and create what he describes as ” a disenchanted world”: a world in which we solipsistically and selfishly pursue materialistic goals that have freed themselves of more universal value perspectives.
Thomas McCarthy the translator of Jurgen Habermas’ work “The Theory of Communicative Action” has the following to say about the Enlightenment:

“The Enlightenment’s belief in progress rested on an idea of reasons modelled after Newtonian physics which, with its reliable method and secure growth was thought to provide a paradigm for knowledge in general. The impact of the advance of science on society as a whole was not envisioned in the first instance as an expansion of productive forces and a refinement of administrative techniques but in terms of its effect on the cultural context of life. In particular the belief –for us today, rather implausible–that progress in science was necessarily accompanied by progress in morality, was based not only on an assimilation of the logics of theoretical and practical questions but also on the historical experience of the powerful reverberations of early modern science in the spheres of religion, morals and politics. The cultural rationalisation emanating from the diffusion of scientific knowledge and its emancipatory effect on traditional habits of thought–the progressive eradication of inherited “superstitions, prejudices, errors”–formed the centre of an encompassing rationalisation of social life, which included a transformation of political and economic structures as well.”

Habermas’ response to this modern “disenchanted” state of affairs was to–as he saw it–shift the centre of gravity of theory from the explorations of the powers of consciousness to an exploration of the powers of action and language or communicative action. Communicative action aims at consensus as a result of arrival at a situation of mutual understanding in our common lifeworld. The problem is that there are also steering media in society which attempt to coordinate actions. Habermas characterises this state of affairs in the following manner:

“the transfer of action coordination from language over to steering media means an uncoupling of interaction from lifeworld contexts. Media such as money and power attach to empirical ties: they encode a purposive-rational attitude toward calculable amounts of value and make is possible to exert generalised strategic influence on the decisions of other participants while bypassing processes of consensus-oriented communication. Inasmuch as they do not merely simplify linguistic communication but replace it with a symbolic generalization of rewards and punishments, the lifeworld contexts in which processes of reaching understanding are always embedded are devalued in favour of media steered interactions:the lifeworld is no longer needed for the coordination of action.”(Volume two of “The Theory of Communicative Action”, p183)

Money and Power are steering mechanisms of the systems of economics and Politics. Habermas is continuing a long tradition of philosophical criticism of these instrumental tools of money and power stretching from Socrates Plato and Aristotle and their followers to Kant the Enlightenment Philosopher and his followers to those modern Philosophers attempting to build upon the structures that have been constructed by the aforementioned thinkers. Habermas’ only contribution to engaging with this tradition is a modernist Philosophers criticism of Kant which falsely equates Kantian theoretical philosophy with a Cartesian or empirical epistemology of consciousness. This in spite of the fact that Kantian theoretical philosophy clearly criticised both the epistemological rationalism of Cartesianism and the empirical epistemological tradition of Hobbes Hume et al. Kant’s metaphysics transcended any and all epistemological approaches with its logical insistence on the principles of non contradiction and sufficient reason. Metaphysical and Transcendental logic are the real accomplishments of this Enlightenment Philosopher. The Metaphysics of action have an Aristotelian hylomorphic structure which has not been addressed by either of the above epistemologically oriented traditions of Philosophy. Habermas’ criticism is however not primarily philosophical but more in the tradition of social science: Systems theory, Weber and Talcott Parsons being important reference points. A systems environment colonises the lifeworld and turns into into an almost technological/instrumental arena.Insofar as there is a cultural “system” functioning in accordance with the “mechanism” of a trust in knowledge such a decoupling of lifeworld and system cannot occur because here, it is argued, use has to be made of the “resources of consensus formation in language”. Habermas does not argue this but it is almost as if language itself is a systematic “steering mechanism” rather than something organically embedded in a lifeworld with diverse functions amongst which is of course its rational use. The idea of rationality being a value in itself is regarded in modernist and post modernist discourse as contentious from both theoretical and practical perspectives. In practical perspectives Habermas seeks to replace this idea of logical rationality with an idea of strategic rationality which necessarily gives rationality both an instrumental and causal structure This violates a crucial Kantian distinction between instrumental and categorical reasoning. The tactic that seems to be operating here is a reduction of the categorical to the instrumental on the grounds that the categorical does not really exist: it only possesses a subjective form.

“Communicative action” might be a perfect technical disguise for the rhetoric used in ideological exchanges where the aim is “systematic” persuasion. The most reliable perspective on the role that science plays in this unholy alliance between money power and science comes from Hannah Arendt’s work “The Origins of Totalitarianism in which she has the following to say on this topic:

“Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all the others:the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races….free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views. The tremendous power of persuasion inherent in the main ideologies of our times is not accidental. Persuasion is not possible without appeal to either experiences or desires, in other words to immediate political needs. Plausibility in these matters comes neither from scientific facts, as the various brands of Darwinists would like us to believe, nor from historical laws as the historians pretend, in their efforts to discover the law according to which civilisations rise and fall. Every full fledged ideology has been created, continued and improved as a political weapon and not as a theoretical doctrine…Their scientific aspect is secondary and arises from the desire to provide watertight arguments, and second because their persuasive power also got hold of the scientists, who no longer were interested in the result of their research but left their laboratories and hurried off to preach to the multitude their new interpretations of life and world….The blame is not to be laid on any science as such, but rather on certain scientists who were no less hypnotised by ideologies than their fellow citizens.”(p159)

Could it be that the very attitude that Harari praises: the hypothetical attitude which in professing its own ignorance and refusing the certainty of the moral law, made the scientist more susceptible to the arguments of these times? Can we be certain that murder is wrong when it is so commonplace in animal kingdoms, wars and primitive societies? Perhaps our system of moral convictions constitute only a hypothetical theory awaiting further evidence which might prove its falsity? Perhaps life is a struggle for survival red in tooth and claw. The Philosophy of Science of Aristotle and Kant would reject this hypothetical observations-based relativism, but as we all “know” science has conclusively disproved the validity of these theories via the empirical revolution and its economic and technological benefits(are these part of the system of rewards and punishments Habermas referred to in his discussion of the steering media). Money and power steer us blindly unless we are persuaded by the communicative action of influential ideologists. Arendt describes the period immediately after the end of the first world war as a period after a devastating explosion that had destroyed the world as we knew it. There was no longer anything to be certain of except perhaps that we cant be certain of anything ever again. This was the perfect environment for the steering media of money and power to “colonise” what was left of our lifeworld. Hannah Arendt points out how Imperialism was preparing for the advent of totalitarianism in the three decades prior to the first war from 1884 to 1914. Amongst these preparations was the challenge of the bourgeoisie to the nation state and its inability to provide a framework for the further growth of capitalist economy. The ensuing struggle for power was indecisive. The nation state with its institutions resisted “the “brutality and megalomania of imperialist aspirations”(Cecil Rhodes’s desire to colonise even the planets). The bourgeoisie pointed to the obvious fact that trade and economics had already involved every nation in world politics. In the resultant “communicative action” there was no quiet and reflective weighing of philosophical ideas of justice and morality but only a restless desire to get what one wanted whatever the cost.

Harari points to the creed of growth and places a positive spin on what Arendt has described and explained in her philosophical and historical reflections:

“Money has been essential both for building empires and for promoting science”(p341)

It has certainly never been essential in Philosophical activity. The paradigmatic attitude of Philosophy toward this “steering mechanism” is to acknowledge its existence in the lifeworld but firmly limit its influence in accordance with the more important virtues which structure our life in society. Socrates pointed out that the medical doctors primary concern is the good of his patient and payment for his work is only a secondary concern. This “institution of care” begun in ancient Greece is still with us today. No doctor will refuse to treat someone whose life is in danger at a road accident or in an aeroplane. The doctor is a breed of ethical scientist. He may be ignorant of many things including what to do about viruses but he is not ignorant about what needs to be done when his patients lives are in danger. The nation state obviously supports such ethical institutions. To the extent that the nation state was seduced by the businessman’s persuasive arguments the concept of “expansion” became political despite the fact that conquest and empire building had very few political arguments in their favour. There were political parties and movements, however that were more than ready to push this concept to its limits.

“Growth” is an economic reality argues Harari. From 1500 up until today the total production of goods and services have expanded from 250 billion dollars to 60 trillion dollars today. The economic pie has increased in size, and Credit, Harari argues is the main driver of economic expansion. The modern scientist with his prejudice in favour of induction and its role in the growth of knowledge through the accumulation of observations also believed in “growth” and quantitative progress. The bank giving its businesses credit and the scientist both trust in this growth and progress principle. The bank has a revolutionary theory of mankind which Harari traces back to 1776(the era of the Enlightenment):

“The belief in the growing global pie eventually turned revolutionary.In 1776 the Scottish economist Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations”, probably the most important economics manifesto of all time.In the eighth chapter of its first volume Smith made the following argument…an increase in the profit of private entrepreneurs is the basis for the increase in collective wealth and prosperity. This may not strike you as very original because we live in a world that takes Smith’s arguments for granted…Smiths claim that the selfish human urge to increase private profits is the basis for collective wealth is one of the most revolutionary ideas in human history..revolutionary not just from an economic perspective but even more so from a moral and political perspective. What Smith says is, in fact that greed is good, and that by becoming richer I benefit everybody, not just myself. Egoism is altruism.”(p348)

I am not sure that Smith is claiming everything Harari says he is claiming here
but let us comment on Harari’s commentary. Now interrupting ones holiday to attend medically to someone having a fit on an aeroplane is disrupting ones holiday and may give rise to the urge not to help the patient. But this urge is not to be indulged but rather denied if the doctor is to do the right thing here. A community of doctors giving in to their private urges at the expense of the lives of their patients would not be a lifeworld most of us would wish to be a part of.
The above argument is very typical of our modern period. Take something morally questionable like greed or egoism and reverse its polarity(because we can never be certain of anything can we?) and then find some argument that will appeal to the personal desires of the mob and persuade them that the very negation of what they thought to be true is really true. It is of such stuff that our modern revolutions are made of. The logical conclusion of this kind of thinking is that this greed can result in devastating consequences for the finances of the world as was the case of the Lehman brothers crash in 2007 for which no one was held legally responsible: this state of affairs prompted an economic criminal emerging from prison just after the crash to say “I see greed has become legal while I have been away”.

Capitalism colonised our lifeworlds and what was left of Ancient Greek institutions and ideas: it also colonised the Enlightenment Philosophy of Kant which provided a counterargument to Smith’s revolutionary thesis. All of these things were submerged in a mainstream popular movement that Harari describes well:

“Capitalism began as a theory about how the economy functions. It was both descriptive and prescriptive–it offered an account of how money worked and promoted the idea that reinvesting profits in production leads to economic growth. But capitalism gradually became far more than just an economic doctrine. It now encompasses an ethic–a set of teaching about how people should behave, educate their children and even think. Its principal tenet is that economic growth is the supreme good because justice freedom and even happiness all depend on economic growth.”(p351)

Now whilst the characterisation of Adam Smith is questionable, this description of a theory of how capitalism functions and how this theory has colonised the arena of our ethical beliefs and convictions is certainly accurate. Not only has this “new ethics” colonised out everyday lifeworlds it has also brought about significant historical events. Harari describes brilliantly how “companies” using this “new ethics” contributed to the building of empires with mercenary armies and engaged in the disgusting practice of buying and selling human beings in the service of the supreme good as characterised by economic theory. Toward the end of the chapter the author raises a question:

“much like the Agricultural Revolution, so too the growth of the modern economy might turn out to be a colossal fraud. the human species and the global economy may well keep growing, but many more individuals may live in hunger and want.”(p372

Capitalists respond in two ways to this. Firstly, the capitalists have now created a word that only capitalists can run. Communism the only serious alternative has failed miserably to demonstrate that it can run societies. These kinds of society, Harari argues, “are worse in every way”. Secondly, we need to trust the Capitalist a little longer. Soon everyone will be satisfied with their slice of the pie:

“true, mistakes have been made such as the Atlantic slave trade and the exploitation of the European working class. But we have learned our lesson, and if we just wait a little longer and allow the pie to grow a little bigger everybody will receive a fatter slice”(p372)

Weber talked about our disenchanted world and the above quote is an excellent example. Compare the above image from the bakery with Socrates great speeches about justice and virtue, or with Kant’s writings about the awe and wonder we experience in the presence of the starry heavens without and the moral law within. These great moments in our intellectual history do now seem to be part of a lost world which we are mourning in silence.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Seven.

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The section entitled “the Marriage of Science and Empire” raises immediate normative issues for the philosopher searching for an analysis of the anomalies of the modernism and post-modernism eras of our History. This work certainly falls into one of these two categories. Having said this it must be added that this is one of the most interesting chapters of the book and it provides a great deal of empirical explanation relating to the material and efficient causes of the phenomena of these periods.

The author begins by pointing out that British exploratory expeditions beginning with Captain Cook’s in 1768, were in the habit of transporting scientists of various kinds to conduct both inductive scientific investigations in new and strange environments and to verify more deductively structured theories which predict the existence of events, objects etc that have not yet been observed. Harari does not in this discussion make the traditional philosophical distinction between Science in the context of Discovery and Science in the context of Explanation. Indeed his talk in the last chapter of “new knowledge” appears to highlight the observational activity of the scientist at the expense of the theoretical activities of thought and reason.

Harari reports how the causes of diseases like scurvy which had been responsible for the deaths of large numbers of sailors were discovered on the voyages of exploration. Experiments on different groups of sailors were conducted by Lind in 1747 and these proved the efficacy of citrus fruits, an old folk remedy. Cook apparently saw some kind of relation of citrus fruits to sauerkraut and took both on his voyage and did not lose a single sailor to the disease. This event was of historical significance for the British control of the oceans of the world and the transportation of armies that would help build the Empire. This expedition laid the foundation for the conquest of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, events that had devastating consequences for the indigenous peoples of these areas. Harari refers to the comfortable alliance of Science and empire building with more than just a hint of normative criticism:

“The corpses of the last Tasmanians were seized in the name of science by anthropologists and curators. They were dissected, weighed and measured and analysed in learned articles. The skulls and skeletons were then put on display in museums and anthropological collections. Only in 1976 did the Tasmanian Museum give up for burial the skeleton of Truganini, the last native Tasmanian who had died a hundred years earlier.”(P310)

The justification of Normative criticism of course requires the kind ethical theory that science cannot provide. It is clear from the above that the scientists of the time were on a blind search for the facts even if observationalism was the guiding “philosophy”. There are historians(Hannah Arendt) who seek to minimize the normative criticism of this period of History by claiming that the British Empire was acquired in a state of absent mindedness in which the intentions were good. Harari partially acknowledges this in his remark that whilst the evil deeds could full an encyclopaedia, the achievements of the era could fill another encyclopaedia. So in the end even he agrees that using his infrastructure of Science and his normative free view of history we cannot justify neither the blame nor the praise that has been levelled at the British of this period. The words from the work of the earlier Wittgenstein that “The world is the totality of facts” naturally emerge here in spite of the fact that they were written in 1922. Wittgenstein finally abandoned this position and one of the reasons was that the philosophical importance of value judgments was significantly diminished. His earlier work was a part of the “scientific revolution” against the work of Aristotle which then needed to backtrack in his later work in order to justify normative discourse.By this time(1951) the global centre of power had shifted towards Europe and was already shifting westwards towards the the “New World”, the USA. Harari asks the salient question “Why Europe? and gives the answer:

“The global centre of power shifted to Europe only between 1750 and 1850, when Europeans humiliated the Asian powers in a series of wars and conquered large parts of Asia. By 1900 Europeans firmly controlled the worlds economy and most of its territory. In 1950 western Europe and the US together accounted for more than half of global production whereas China’s portion had been reduced to 5%. Under the European aegis s new global order and global culture emerged. Today all humans are, to a much greater extent than they usually want to admit, European in dress, thought and taste. They may be fiercely anti-European in their rhetoric, but almost everyone on the planet views politics, medicine, war and economics through European eyes, and listens to music, written in European modes with words in European languages. Even todays burgeoning Chinese economy, which may soon regain its global primacy, is built on a European model of production and finance.”(p312)

In partial answer to this question of “Why Europe?” the author cites military-industrial-scientific factors which matured faster in Europe. Science for the philosopher is more than observation-experiment and technological innovation in the context of discovery but we should reiterate this is not the position of the author of this work. Industrialisation obviously occurred much faster in Europe than elsewhere and the economic and political consequences were significant. The author talks of the development of railroads, the steam engine and machine guns as examples of the first wave of the revolution:

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines(which could be freely copied or bought). They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalised rapidly….The Chinese and Persians could not catch up as quickly because they thought and organised their societies differently.”(p 314-315)

Values finally appear as an important factor in the attempt to answer this question. Ethical values are implied in the working of the judicial apparatus and observation-experiment and the manipulation of variables are largely irrelevant in the context of justification in the realm of law. It would be absurd to claim that the system is searching for new laws and new experiences. Values emerge but immediately subside into obscurity and Harari points to the European capitalist and scientific behaviour underlying key technological innovation, regarding this as the legacy of European Imperialism. It is noted that between 1500 and 1950 the Far East and the Muslim world did not produce “minds as intelligent and curious as those of Europe”, “did not produce anything that comes even close to Newtonian physics or Darwinian biology.”

What is not mentioned is the context of these scientific works, a context of the agenda of justification of theories which we inherited from the Greek philosophers. These theories emerged as a consequence of a critical spirit just as important as the spirit of curiosity and exploration seeking for new experiences. It has been claimed by philosophers, for example, that Oxford university have never ceased to teach Aristotle since its inception when Aristotle was the major thinker dominating the university syllabus. The work of Darwin obviously surfed on the wave of Hobbesian anti-Aristotelianism in spite of the respect that Darwin had for the biological works of Aristotle. Darwin was probably aware of Aristotle’s ethical and political works and famously manifested his modern ambivalence to some of these ideas by refusing to defend his work from ecclesiastical attack leaving that task to Thomas Huxley. The same ambivalence was probably behind his initial reluctance to publish his work during his lifetime. Darwin was not an Imperialist, he did not want to conquer the world with his ideas. The mentality of conquerors shared the mindset of the technological innovators. Both conquerors and innovators, argues the author, admit their ignorance but not in Socratic manner where Socrates knows what he does not know but knows for example that the kind of instrumental reasoning manifested by conquerors and tyrannical rulers is not the kind of reasoning that will reveal the essence of justice or the good. Rulers who rule instrumentally in their own interest do not possess the kind of normative knowledge needed to justify just actions. Instrumental reasoning is not only used by imperialists, it is also the mindset of technological innovators, Heidegger, for example, has argued. Instrumental reasoning for Heidegger will never reveal the real concern of our curiosity which seeks a metaphysical understanding of the nature of being in general and our own being in particular: a variation on an old Aristotelian theme. It is possible that the continuity of this kind of metaphysical curiosity is that which accounts for the power of scientific and Historical explanation. Given the ethical orientation of the metaphysics of action this historical continuity of variations on a theme is also responsible for the stability of our political and legal systems which the author claims lies behind the way in which our societies function. Historical knowledge informed by this metaphysical spirit in which categorical assumptions and explanations provide the framework for the having of new experiences and discovery of new events and knowledge has always been a part of the British and European mentality. It is this spirit which it is necessary to understand if one is to correctly interpret the following observations:

“When the Muslims conquered India, they did not bring along archeologists to systematically study Indian history, anthropologists to study Indian cultures, geologists to study Indian soils, or zoologists to study Indian fauna. When the British conquered India, they did all of these things. On 10th April 1802 the Great Survey of India was launched. It lasted 60 years. With the help of tens of thousands of native labourers, scholars and guides, the British carefully mapped the whole of India, marking borders, measuring distances, and even calculating for the first time the height of Mount Everest and the other Himalayan peaks. The British explored the military resources of Indian provinces and the location of their gold mines, but they also took the trouble to collect information about rare Indian spiders, to catalogue colourful butterflies, to trace the ancient origins of extinct indian languages, and to dig up forgotten ruins.”(p332)

It was, for example, a British officer named Rawlinson that eventually managed to decipher the Sumerian cuneiform script by using a knowledge of Modern Persian to understand the ancient Persian the script was using.. Rawlinson is described as a modern European Imperialist and one wonders whether this is a fair description of this feat of interpretation which enabled us to understand “the bustle of Sumerian bazaars, the proclamations of Assyrian kings, the arguments of babylonian bureaucrats”. In education one, as a result of the influence of Ancient Greek philosophy, is accustomed to acknowledging a distinction between understanding something in order to do something else, i.e. understanding the structure of the atom in order to construct a bomb. This is a very different attitude to seeking understanding just for the sake of understanding itself in the way Pythagoras did in relation to his mathematical investigations. The Imperialist uses knowledge instrumentally, the educated man like Rawlinson seeks knowledge as a value in itself.

“another notable imperialist scholar was William Jones. Jones arrived in India in September 1783 to serve as a judge in the Supreme Court of Bengal. He was so captivated by the wonders of India that within less than 6 months of his arrival he had founded the Asiatic Society. This academic organisation was devoted to studying the cultures, histories and societies of Asia, and in particular those of India. Within two years Jones published his observations on the Sanskrit language, which pioneered the science of comparative linguistics.In his publications Jones pointed out surprising similarities between Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language that became the sacred tongue of Hindu ritual, and the Greek and Latin languages, as well as similarities between all these languages and Gothic,Celtic, Old Persian, German, French and English…Jones’ study was an important milestone not merely due to his bold (and accurate) hypotheses, but also because of the orderly methodology that he developed to compare languages. It was adopted by other scholars, enabling them systematically to study the development of all the world’s languages.”

William Jones was undoubtedly an educated man and one wonders why one would wish to focus on the the obvious fact that “Knowledge of Linguistics was necessary to understand ancient languages” and interpret this in terms of instrumental necessity rather than logical necessity. Of course the Europeans knew their empires very well, in the same way as they understood their own countries very well as educated people are wont to do. So what makes this an activity of Imperialism? This superior knowledge, according to the author brought obvious practical advantages. Normative judgments of blame involving the term “imperialism” require an attribution of evil intentions. The educated man concerns himself with knowledge of principles which have a value in themselves. What is the evidence for assuming that such neutral or good intentions were not in play in the desire to understand the origins of Sanskrit? Of course one can observe the misuse of this research which came afterward( in the Nazi misappropriation of this research in their “biological” thesis of the superiority of the Aryans). Does just this fact of the observation that one thing came after the other mean that the original intentions of the research were evil? There is some kind of causation linking these two events but it is not an ethical link in which evil intentions generate evil consequences and good intentions generate good consequences. One cannot reason back from a evil consequence to an evil intention without asking oneself exactly how the intention should be correctly described and whether the relation to the consequence is an ethical relation. One thing following another in time in accordance with ones observations is not sufficient to logically and ethically unite these two events into one ethical activity. What is at issue here is a scientific view of ethics which claims that what makes an action ethical is its consequences. This challenges the traditional “old” view, a more philosophical Aristotelian and Kantian account in which the reason given by the agent of the action in the form of his/her intention is what ontologically defines the action,, is what gives the action its ontological identity. Both of these philosophers have produced decisive arguments against consequentialism. Even Aquinas in the spirit of Aristotle acknowledges the complexity of human reality when he claims that if consequences are linked in terms of the one coming after the other then it is conceivable that one consequence of an action could be good and the one following it could be bad which is exactly the case with the Sanskrit example. The scientist will of course, indoctrinated by a materialistic theory of mind, dogmatically claim that intentions cannot be observed because they are “in” someones mind. The mind is not a spatial container although it is often analogically characterised as such. It is, according to Aristotle, the form which is embodied in actions and speech and observers can certainly observe actions. In simple actions like the hailing of a taxi across the road by the raising of my arm it is clear that this is intentional and this might be occurring whilst the person hailing the taxi is thinking anxiously about a speech he/she is about to give.

The question to ask here is whether the Imperialists actually had Imperialist intentions, whether they actually intended the exploitation and oppression of conquered populations. Inhabiting a sparsely inhabited continent like Australia which had no organised government to defend its borders is not clearly an ethical matter. Kant has claimed in his moral writings that the earth belongs to no one. Marking the boundary of ones territory clearly signals ones intentions to inhabit and work the area and to the extent that indigenous peoples who did this were removed from the area this is clearly only illegal if there is a government to pass laws to that effect. We are dealing here with what Thomas Hobbes called a “state of nature” in which life is solitary poor nasty brutish and short up until that point when men form governments to regulate their lives together. For some political philosophers it is at this point that human rights occur. This has been the verdict of history too. There were large numbers of stateless people in the world prior to the second world war and there were no governments or a united nations organisation prepared to defend their rights. All the countries that are members of the UN have signed documents which state the conditions under which they have responsibility for the human rights of people in their territory. They have made promises in their applications to be a member of this organisation and whilst they are members they have a duty to honour their commitments. This line of reasoning is behind the position in Political Philosophy which reasons that a right only exists if someone(a government, the United Nations) has a duty to protect it. This political position assumes a Kantian ethical position in which intentions play a decisive role in contradistinction to consequences.

The author produces a number of examples of new rulers in India who it is claimed were concerned only with enriching themselves. It is not clear from the text whether the author believed that this was encouraged or sanctioned by the British government and it is in this context that he claims :

“Due to their close cooperation with science these empires wielded so much power and changed the world to such an extent that perhaps they cannot be simply labelled as good or evil. They created the world as we know it, including the ideologies we use in order to judge them”(p337)

It is not clear what the author means by ideologies but one suspects that they are not connected to what he would regard as the “old” knowledge of the good which comes from the Philosophies of Aristotle and Kant that eventually gave rise to the objective idea of human rights that rules the world today.

It is, however, admitted that science can be used for “sinister ends”:

“Biologists, anthropologists and even linguists provided scientific proof that Europeans are superior to all other races, and consequently have the right)if not perhaps the duty) to rule over them.”(p337)

What did this so called “proof” look like, one wonders. Philosophically , it is quite clear that the relative concepts of “superior and inferior” are constructs of what Philosophers call the “naturalistic fallacy”. The so called “proof” moves from the acknowledgment of a number of facts(so called is-statements) to an ought statement, namely that a particular group of people “ought to rule”. This realm of value judgments is a realm that science and its concern with observation and collecting the totality of facts is something that as Wittgenstein claimed “must be passed over in silence” because the assumptions do not allow anything to be said. The problem is that scientists want to use their assumptions in an area they cannot be used and consequently end up producing “proofs” of the above kind which proved very useful for Hitler and Stalin. Wittgenstein in his early work at least had the academic honesty to stay silent on the issue of values and he realised in his later work that he needed to abandon his “scientific” assumptions if he was to say anything meaningful in this area of Philosophy. Hitler and Wittgenstein apparently attended the same Gymnasium school. The Post modernist form of this “scientism” is the contention that human rights are a figment of our imagination and science and culture are viruses that care nothing for their hosts.

“Culture” or “culturism” is also discussed in the above context:

“There is no such word, but its about time we coined it. Among today’s elites assertions about the contrasting merits of diverse human groups are almost always couched in terms of the historical differences between cultures rather than biological differences between races. We no longer say, “Its in their blood”. We say “It’s in their culture” “(p338)

So according to this we should pass over in silence all comparative judgments based on our knowledge of what is good and what is not. We shall not for example think it is meritorious to have learned to build railroads before the Indians and then use this meritorious skill to improve the infrastructure of India (exactly because their culture did not possess this instrumental and scientific knowledge). We should not have used the skills we historically acquired in order to map out the area of india for the purposes of government, law and defence.

This of course does not necessitate historicism as Marx’s theory did but culturism does remind one of the Marxist view of the historically determined fate of the proletariat which only historical laws could rectify. The cultural difference between classes is blamed for many of the ills of society. This is a position which is at least as divisive for a society as racism. What this bring to our attention is the fact that looking blindly for differences rather than for what humans have in common leads to divisions which cannot be reconciled without conflict. Elevating this thinking to the cultural/national level results in the same deterministic difficulties which can only be escaped by reference to the importance of the Kantian idea of Freedom and more controversially perhaps presages a globalist community which has a duty to validate the idea of the equality among nations, thus actualising the idea of the universality of human rights which may be part of the globalisation project. Hannah Arendt claimed that Imperialism and its ambiguous spirit of “Expansion” was not sufficiently controlled and formed by the nation state and that one of the results was the totalitarianism we saw in the 20th century. If this is true then the will to extend ones activities beyond national borders may have positive as well as negative characteristics.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Six “Uno Sola Ochiata”

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On several occasions in this work it has been suggested that the infrastructure
of history and biology has been unable to provide adequate accounts of the complex holistic phenomena that are being discussed. This chapter at the beginning of a section entitled the Scientific Revolution, “The Discovery of Ignorance” interestingly focuses its attention on a negative(ignorance) as many other relativists and post modernists are inclined to do. Knowledge for the Greeks was defined at the birthplace of mans search for understanding and knowledge as “justified true belief” and the telos or the endgame of knowledge was “holistic”, an attempt, that is to say, to perceive the world in the realm of thought “uno sola ochiata” at one glance. The impression of this work is of a series of fragments which one approaches linearly and consecutively and if the aim of the work is to present humankind uno sola ochiata then the work has singularly failed in this task.

The term “uno sola ochiata” comes from a work by Adrian Stokes entitled “Art and Science”. It arises in the work as part of a larger discussion of the relation of these two branches of our knowledge in the 1500’s, the date the author of “Sapiens” sets as the beginning of the Scientific Revolution. The historical time period is that of the Renaissance, the rebirth of mans holistic consciousness of the project of understanding and knowledge. Interestingly the historians who named this period like those that named the period of the “Enlightenment” did not share the flair for the dramatic of those historians who see revolutions under every stone of history. The Renaissance, according to Adrian Stokes, a reputable art historian, involved an intensification of all forms of cultural and exploratory activity which had been discontinued under the auspicious bureaucratic eye of a church which refused to explore the physical and human world with what we moderns would call an open mind. Religious dualistic justifications had been called into question in Aristotle’s work and religious authorities refused to translate Aristotle from the Greek until Aquinas could “domesticate” the ideas to the satisfaction of church authorities but not to the satisfaction of serious Aristotelian scholars for whom the definition of knowledge as “justified true belief” required an intensification of all forms of human activity if it was to be understood completely and holistically. The Renaissance, then could be seen as the rebirth of an Aristotelian attitude toward the past, the present and the future: it was a Proto-Enlightenment period. Aristotle had no difficulty integrating Art and Science, Religion and Philosophy, Rhetoric and Politics, Physics and Metaphysics. His thought processes surveyed the world uno sola ochiata.

Let me illustrate this point with a dispute between the painter Giorgione and a group of sculptors who claimed that the art of sculpture was superior to the art of painting:

“The phrase(uno sola ochiata) occurs in a story Vasari tells about Giorgione and some sculptors on the subject of the Colleoni statue(at the time of its unveiling?). The sculptors claimed their art to be superior because a statue could show all aspects to anyone walking around it. Giorgione replied that painting was superior in just this respect because all the positions could be apparent in a painting for one glance, for una soal ochiata, instantaneously, without perambulation. And he proved it by a picture he then pained of a nude in a turning position. Clear water before the nude, polished armour to one side and on the other a mirror, reflected more aspects.”(Volume 2 “the Critical Writings of Adrain Stokes”, p202)

Such an attitude toward revealing the aspectual multi-dimensionality of physical objects in a physical world was also presented in architecture, in the Tempio at Rimini for example and in another painting of the Three ages of man by Giorgione which painted the same man as a boy, a man and an old man on the same canvas. What Giorgione and the Quattro Cento artists were drawing attention to here was an attitude which in thought was promised and made possible by Aristotle’s Philosophy. It was this attitude which was being reborn in a world teeming with fragments and contradictions needing integration into understandable Humanistic wholes. Northrop Frye in his theorising about the act of reading texts suggests a thought-equivalent of una soal ochiata when all the events of the narrative are present in the mind of the reader completing his reading. Is this a kind of pre-conceptual understanding that Art is about?

Harari opens with a story of the life of a Spanish peasant peasant who falls asleep in 1000 AD and awakes again 500 years later and claims that the world would be totally unfamiliar to such a man. This is probably true and since he probably would have been unaffected by the desire to understand his world and probably would not have been able satisfy his curiosity even if it did cause a certain restlessness in his soul we can legitimately claim that he would be in a different position to that of Aristotle had he fallen asleep in the Lyceum and awoke in a modern school building where the pupils were surfing on their computers and mobile phones while the teacher is talking about a biological problem related to evolutionary theory. The former Spanish peasant may be feel forever estranged in his relatively similar situation whereas I would wish to maintain that it would not be very long before Aristotle understood pretty much everything that was going on around him. It would not take him very long to take in the whole of the Modern Greek culture uno sola ochiata(once he had mastered modern Greek), exactly because he knows what knowledge is and what ignorance is and because there is an Aristotelian core operating in the continuity of History. He would look at the laws, talk to the politicians and University Professors, spend all his days at the library catching up with History Philosophy and Literature.
The Literary landmark of the so called Scientific Revolution was according to Harari, Newton’s “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” which claimed that the book of nature was written in the language of mathematics, The events of physical nature were quantified in accordance with what Kant would call metaphysical and transcendental principles thus justifying the term “philosophy” in what otherwise is a scientific Tractatus which inspired many attempts to apply these essentially physical principles to areas of investigation requiring more Aristotelian formal and teleological kinds of explanation. There was a universalism expressed in this work but it was not necessarily a scientific or mathematical universalism. Newton’s “Principles” focussed on only two out of the four kinds of Aristotelian explanation(material and efficient “causation”)

Two other technological landmarks are discussed. The landing of a space vessel on the surface of the moon might have sent an anticipatory subjective shiver down the spine of the capitalist Cecil Rhodes who wished that man could colonise the planets in the spirit of capitalism and colonisation but it certainly objectively was a clear signal that almost anything was possible to achieve in the sphere of technological innovation. If this was not sufficiently self evident we are taken to the concluding moments of the Manhattan Project and the testing of the atomic bomb which provoked Robert Oppenheimer to utter the words from the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”. Words which were to haunt the scientific community long after the dropping of two atomic bombs on the civilian population of two Japanese cities soon after. The universal message of science driven technological innovation was that man had entered the gates of the sub atomic world within the world and there was nothing which he could not master. The power of life was dwarfed by the power of the splitting of an atom and the political decision to drop the bomb on civilian populations. The share price of life fell on stock market of knowledge. In a sense Harari is right to claim as he does that capitalism is a factor in both the unholy alliance of science with technology against more humanistic forces and an expression for globalisation processes. These scientific-economic instrumental anti-humanistic sentiments were used very skillfully by totalitarian leaders and President Truman and Harari’s description of viruses aptly characterises these utilitarian sentiments. Heidegger pointed to the essentially instrumental nature of technological activity and the relation of this instrumentalism to a scientific materialist linear principle of causality. This is a complex attitude that uses the scientific strategy of resolution-composition that divides up wholes into parts and an experimental method that mirrors this structure mathematically by isolating variables and dividing them up into dependent and independent variables in the search for the magic relation of causality. In the humanistic field of education it is not unusual to hear the complaint that the results of the experimentation in this area seldom proves causation and one has to base ones judgments on correlation. In a field demanding holistic solutions to holistic problems this is obviously less than satisfactory. This of course fits in with the claim that the scientific community is collectively aware of its ignorance and is therefore a much more credible alternative in epistemological pursuits to, for example, religion because of its admirable attitude of humility. A distinction between old and new knowledge is made which disregards the philosophical definition of knowledge as justified true belief which would claim that, because the hoi polloi believed it to be true that the world to be flat and thought that they could justify this fact with their observations, that this so called “old knowledge” is in fact not knowledge at all. According to the philosophers, the conflict being referred to here is one between false belief and knowledge that the world has the shape revealed by the observations of astronauts orbiting the earth. Science is not dogmatic it is claimed but dogmatically ignores the philosophical definition of knowledge on the grounds that it is searching for new knowledge as man was searching for new experiences by flying to the moon.
So much is almost admitted when Harari claims on p283 that:

“Mere observations , however, are not knowledge. In order to understand the universe, we need to connect observations onto comprehensive theories.”

The difference between the old religious theories and modern scientific theories is that the former use stories to formulate their theories and Newton used mathematics. The philosophical character of Newtons theories seems to have escaped the attention of the author. He is not immune, however to the subsequent philosophical debates which limited these theories to certain kinds of motion and change in the physical world. Acknowledging this with reference to more complex aspects of reality(the human sciences) he points to the use of statistics which as we claimed above might work in the instrumental world of economics where measuring the quantities and movement of money are important(in the world of the calculation of widows pensions for example) but clearly does not work in the categorical holistic field of education where the variable of homework is so intimately intertwined with a great number of other variables that it is impossible to make categorical causal judgments regarding its role in relation to the academic results of pupils. There seems that is no way to divide the continuum of education up into logically discontinuous events.

The best argument for the usefulness of statistics is that it is part of basic university requirements in a number of subjects, including psychology. At the same time the argument is made that most people find modern science “difficult to digest” because of its mathematical language. This language often, it is argued, contradicts common sense. We should not worry too much about this because the author claims “knowledge is power” and even if:

“Presidents and generals do not understand nuclear physics..they have a good grasp of what nuclear bombs can do.” (p288)

So we can disregard the categorical philosophical definition of knowledge in favour of the thesis that “knowledge is power”. This “tool” theory of knowledge stemmed from Francis Bacon’s “revolutionary” idea of linking science and technology. Wars use science: QED. The author claims that so called “old knowledge” cannot prove its positions and that is correct on his terms if this is the standard of proof of “new knowledge”. A more nuanced philosophical discussion such as that conducted by Jurgen Habermas in his work “the theory of Communicative action” would however point to a confusion in the identification of knowledge with power. Both, he would claim are steering mechanisms of human activity and judgments but power is an instrumental tool used by the political system whereas knowledge is not just a tool but also a telos or aim of the cultural system of society.

The author quotes Jesus as saying that “the poor will always be with us” and points to the latest findings from the sciences of agronomy, economics medicine and psychology which claims that poverty can be eliminated. It may be that Jesus did not intend this as a prediction but rather as a rhetorical strategy to reorient the disciples critical attitude toward a woman who was intending to do a good deed. The philosophical “science” of hermeneutics would be better able to resolve the exact meaning intended by words which would seem to me require a less dogmatic interpretation. Even if the authors interpretation can be sustained which I believe it cannot be, erecting a straw man to represent “old knowledge” rather than engaging with the theories of the iron men of philosophy is a puzzling strategy for a work that is attempting to give us an account of the activities of humankind, There is, however, an Oz-like atmosphere over much of what is said in this chapter.

The chapter concludes with the problem of death and the so called “Gilgamesh Project”. An ancient Sumerian myth claims that Gilgamesh suffered from hubris and was determined not to die but was eventually forced to recognise the truth that when the gods created man they created a being that must necessarily die. Upon learning this Gilgamesh is forced to accept his mortality. The “new knowledge” we have of the success of science in the treatment of disease and investigation of genetics, the author argues, does not entail this acceptance:

“How long will the Gilgamesh Project–the quest for immortality– take to complete? A hundred years? Five hundred years? A thousand years?When we recall how much we knew about the human body in 1900, and how much knowledge we have gained in a single century, there is cause for optimism. Genetic engineers have recently managed to double the life expectancy of Caenorhabditis elegans. Could they do the same for Homo Sapiens? Nanotechnology experts are developing a bionic immunity system composed of millions of nano-robots, who would inhabit our bodies, open blocked blood vessels, fight viruses and bacteria, eliminate cancerous cells and even reverse ageing processes. A few serious scholars suggest that by 2050, some humans will become a-mortal(not immortal, because they could still die of some accident), but a-mortal, meaning that in the absence of fatal trauma that their lives could be extended indefinitely.”

It is difficult to know exactly what to say about this kind of speculation filled with hypotheticals. No one would question the usefulness of not dying prematurely. We all understand the wisdom of the Biblical words which suggests that one should be “full of years” before we die and the extent to which science can help to prevent a premature death would to most people be a valuable contribution to their lives. A question that arises for those who are full of years is whether these individuals would wish to have their lives extended. The universal generalisation “All men are mortal” which is being discussed here may refer to the fact that those individuals who are full of years and do not wish for life to be unnaturally extended are obeying a normative universal that men who are full of years know that they ought to die. The life instinct is of course a biological instinct but even an instincts power may fade over long periods of time and transform a wish to live to a wish to die. If this is the case then the wish for immortality is merely a young mans dream powered by a life instinct which will after a long period of time lose its motive force.
Perhaps as there is more and more to experience in the world the term “full of years” may change its meaning from four score years and ten to 8 score years and ten but this would still be in accord with the universal generalisation “All men are mortal”, which is knowledge of the most ancient kind.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part five

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The Chapter entitled “The Secret of Success” makes an interesting claim that the move toward the telos of globalisation is due to historical processes or forces. Three mechanisms are postulated:

“Commerce, Empires, and universal religions eventually brought virtually every Sapiens on every continent into the global world we live in today. Not that this process of expansion and unification was linear or without interruption. Looking at the bigger picture, though, the transition from many small cultures to a few large cultures, and finally to a single global society was probably an inevitable result of the dynamics of human history”.

Harari raises the issue of determinism in his subsequent discussion of how and why it was that Christianity took over the Roman Empire and claims that whilst historians seem to have no difficulty describing how this process occurred they have considerably more difficulty explaining why it occurred. He distinguished between these two questions in the following manner:

“What is the difference between describing “how” and explaining “Why”? To describe “How” means to reconstruct the series of specific events that led from one point to another. To explain “why” means to find causal connections that account for the occurrence of this particular series of events to the exclusion of all others. Some scholars do indeed provide deterministic explanations of events such as the rise of Christianity. They attempt to reduce human history to the workings of biological, ecological or economic forces. They argue that there was something about the geography genetics or economy of the Roman Mediterranean that made the rise of a monotheistic religion inevitable. Yet most historians tend to be sceptical of such deterministic theories.This is one of the distinguishing marks of history as an academic discipline–the better you know a historical period, the harder it is to explain why things happened one way and not another.”

The above explanation of the difference between describing how something happens and explaining why it happens does not clarify the issues raised relating to what philosophers refer to as the logical status of “future contingent” statements. Describing is obviously something one does in accordance with the principles of judgment which are operating at a conceptual level and where the correctness of ones judgments are determined by the correct use of the criteria for the concepts one is using in ones description. These criteria will inevitably use various categories of being which may or may not include causation which links events together in a narrative like structure that has a beginning , a middle and an end. This narrative will largely be composed of what one takes to be the facts. We can see how history has an important descriptive role in our knowledge of the events of the past. Explanation however, is at another logical level. It presupposes “something described” and gives a “reason” for the fact or facts as presented. Here a logical structure supplants a narrative structure and we do indeed find reference to explanatory theories in many historical texts. Justification will not be at the conceptual level composing individual judgments(did these happenings meet the criteria for a revolution?) but rather at the level of the relation between judgments and “causation” here will not be solely restricted to what Aristotle refers to as the material and efficient causes but will include the more complex formal and final causes which arise in logical structures where justifications are not merely at the conceptual level but at the level of combinations of claims which produce an argument for a conclusion. The claim that Christianity took over the Roman Empire is a descriptive judgment. Asking the question why it succeeded is a reasonable question to ask but it is probably not a question we can answer definitively as yet. We may need first to establish its role in the bringing about of globalisation, for example. But we are, if Kant is right, only at the beginning of the process of globalisation and whilst its ethical essence was clear for Kant(but not for the author of this work), and whilst Kant regarded the end of this process as necessary, many historians regard the end of this process as a future contingent and adopt an unfinished narrative attitude towards Kant’s claim. What for Kant was a future necessity is for historians a future contingent except perhaps for that small tribe of historians who believe that some states of the world are predictable and not chaotic. Plato Aristotle and Kant all believed that logical explanation transcended a fact retrieving narrative but that narrative would not to take a philosophical/historical example, ever reveal that man is not essentially a potentially rational animal. This, for the philosophers is a future necessity and transcends the workings of the imagination so important for this author. Philosophically one cannot imagine a human being that did not possess a rational potential. One can of course imagine a man that is factually not rational: an insane cannibal for example, but the explanation for why this man is an insane cannibal will presuppose what he lacks, namely rationality. The explanation will presuppose a potential that did not actualise for a number of reasons. Without this presupposition we are left with chaotic narratives.

The issue being raised is determinism and Aristotle rejected determinism for future contingents but not for his theoretical explanations. Human beings are necessarily rational animals capable of (non post modernistic) discourse. Four different kinds of explanation will fully explain why anything with an essence has that essence it has. A human being rationally discussing with himself or others the reasons for a future action or a future judgment and carrying out that action or making that judgment is a “causal” sequence. These are not examples of a material cause related to a material effect. One of the forms of explanation(or “causes”) relates to human action which according to Aristotle is to a large extent “determined” by the final cause or intention of the action(and to some extent by material and efficient and formal causes). Voluntary action is “chosen”. The Emperor Constantine could have chosen a number of religious cults as the religion which would unify the Roman Empire but he chose Christianity, Harari, argues. One can wonder whether Constantine’s choice was “rational” because his choice helped to convert Christianity into a so called “universal” religion. Did he fully understand what he was doing? We no longer have access to his thoughts but we do have access to documents recording his actions and thoughts that contain the trace of his thoughts. If those documents contain direct or indirect proclamations of the future importance of Christianity, it would be a valid historical judgment to claim that it was his intention to create a universal religion.In such a case the choice was fully voluntary and the intention of the action explains why it was performed. Could we say before the choice that the factors to determine the action were present in the mind of Constantine and that the outcome of his action was already determined before it happened? Constantine is not available to answer any questions which might arise concerning his intentions as recorded in the documentation relating to this choice so it is conceivable that there was something in this situation which would speak against the judgment that Constantine had the intention to convert Christianity into a so called “universal” religion. In the end the evidence may be incomplete and the status of the judgment has to be regarded as “hypothetical”: i.e. it is “possible” that his intention was to create a “Holy Roman Empire”but we do not know. To the extent that determinism decrees that only material and efficient causes are the ” real” causes of change is the extent to which Aristotle would disagree with such forms of determinism. The bones and muscles pushing the quill belonging to Constantine which signs decrees relating to the institutionalisation of Christianity are material causes of such an action but they are of no particular interest for the historian. In this form of material reductionism the cause effect relation requires two separately perceptually identifiable events which can be related. Intentions as reasons for doing x are not known observationally. They are as Anscombe pointed out known non-observationally. Aristotle Kant and many modern followers would therefore argue that for every fact there is a justification or explanation which is in a sense a “cause”. Future contingents such as whether or not there will be a nuclear war are literally situated in a field of thousands of variables all of which may not be known or knowable at a particular time. Categorically saying either there will be a war or there will not( cf Aristotle’s example there either will or will not be a sea battle tomorrow) is assuming first that we can have complete knowledge of all the variables and also that we can also have knowledge of the very large set of consequences that follow from such extensive knowledge. There is moreover more than a reasonable doubt about whether this is the way our minds naturally work(computer programs begin by defining the field of variables that will define the scope and limits of the program).
There is a strange passage in the book which claims that the more knowledge one has the harder it becomes to explain why things happened one way rather than another because it is argued the future is a fog. Insofar as future contingents are concerned the future is a fog but this does not suffice to destroy the deterministic position that one can in principle explain why there was not a nuclear war when it has become a fact(The Cuban Missile Crisis). The people at the time might not understand the reasons why there was not a war but it does seem somewhat paradoxical to insist that after the work of historians has been done we will still find ourselves in the middle of a fog. And yet this is the position of the author:

“Historically cannot be explained deterministically and it cannot be predicted because it is chaotic. So many forces are at work and their interactions so complex that extremely small variations in the strength of the forces and the way they interact produce huge differences in outcomes. (p267)

This is classic post modernistic thinking. Aristotle in our position today would gesticulate towards the tens of thousands of history books we possess and challenge us to find the four kinds of explanations if we wish to cease to live in a fog about our past. There are satisfactory descriptions of the facts in these books and satisfactory explanations and justifications of these facts. We should bear in mind that Hobbes and Descartes were the originators of the modernist rejection of Aristotle. Post Modernism needs to reject not only Aristotle but Kant and his Enlightenment position as well. Rejecting Aristotle for scientific reasons is just about understandable if not justifiable but rejecting both Aristotle and Kant for “chaos theory” is not coherent:

“Not only that, but History is what is called a “level two” chaotic system. Chaotic systems come in two shapes. Level one chaos is chaos that does not react to predictions about it. the weather, for example, is a level one chaotic system. Though it is influenced by myriad factors, we can build computer models that take more and more of them into consideration and produce better and better wether forecasts. Level two chaos is chaos that reacts to predictions about is and therefore cannot be predicted accurately. Markets, for example are a level two chaotic system. What will happen if we develop a computer program that forecasts with 100 per cent accuracy the price of oil tomorrow? The price of oil will immediately react to the forecast, which would consequently fail to materialise.”

Because everyone, it is argued will rush to buy oil and the price will rise. Buying oil is a future contingent and not a past fact so it is difficult to immediately see the relevance of this example of history being a level two chaotic system. It is not even certain that there is in principle any difference between a computer program that predicts weather patterns and a program that predicts prices. All a programmer would need to do in this situation is define a future buying pattern variable(based on empirical data) and which calculates the likely buying response and the likely responses to that. The field of variables would of course be much larger than those defined in a weather system program but in principle there is no significant difference since we here are dealing with quantitatively definable variables in both cases. An exact cost prediction might be possible but a range prediction might be.

Harari, to support his chaotic suggestion of levels of chaos points to what “people” living in Constantine’s time(the hoi polloi?) would do in the face of the suggestion that an esoteric Eastern sect religion was about to become the official Roman Religion. They would laugh the oracle out of the room. The Greeks which are conspicuously absent in this entire account of the history of mankind let the oracles operate in temples and the hoi polloi would laugh at them at their peril. Post modernist’s are modern populists and anyone(the people) saying just anything seems sufficient to count as an argument against the best argued positions exactly because the people referred to above do not understand what a good argument or good history is and their opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

This ethical relativism is confirmed in this quote which follows shortly after a claim stating that we do not study History to make predictions but rather to understand that something other than what happened could have happened:

“Different cultures define the good differently and we have no objective yardstick by which to judge between them.”(p269)

The assumption is that the yardsticks provided by Aristotle and Kant and the generations of Aristotelians and Kantians over thousands, or hundreds of years have obviously been proven to be inadequate by theorists who believe for no good reason that both the future and the past are foggy.

Relativism is often accompanied by anti Humanistic theories and we see this unholy alliance in this work too:

“There is no proof that history is working for the benefit of humans because we lack an objective scale on which to measure such benefit.”(p269)

Anti humanistic theories take many forms but this one uniquely compares our cultures to viruses living parasitically upon host bodies, caring nothing for them and sometimes even killing them. Relativism allows anyone to say anything so one cannot say anything about this except perhaps to agree with Aristotle that such descriptions and claims become like the meaningless noise of grasshoppers in the trees.

This chapter concludes with a discussion of memetic theory, post modernist theories of discourse and game theory and these are called upon to prove that

“the dynamics of history are not directed towards enhancing human well being.”

Auspiciously, the author then illustrates this argument by referring to the Scientific Revolution which began around 1500. History and the scientific revolution, it is argued cares not for human happiness and well being, both proceed blindly on an uncaring path, indifferent to the fate of the human species. They are viruses. Aristotle would have agreed with this verdict insofar as modern science and chaos theory is concerned but would have contested this point of view insofar as history was concerned. He would have claimed that the essential function of history was to understand the past and use this understanding to philosophically attempt to understand the future.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part four

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In a section entitled “The Law of Religion” Harari argues from a definition if religion which is as follows:

“…a system of human norms and values that is founded on a belief in a superhuman order”

In defence of this definition it is claimed that:

“today religion is often considered a source of discrimination disagreement and disunion. Yet, in fact, religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires.Since all social orders and hierarchies are imagined, they are all fragile and the larger the society the more fragile it is. The crucial historical role of religion has been to give superhuman legitimacy to these fragile structures. Religions assert that our laws are not the result of human caprice, but are ordained by an absolute and supreme authority. This helps place at least some fundamental laws beyond challenge, thereby ensuring social stability.”

The Kantian Philosophy of the Enlightenment situated religion squarely in the matrix of an ethical based humanism based on the concept of freedom and this account, in contrast to Harari’s work, fully explains why religion has been a great unifier of humankind in spite of its factual errors and sometimes faulty assumptions about the nature of the physical world. “Religio” means binding together and the way in which this binding occurs has been the theme of philosophical Psychology since its inception in the metaphysical system of Aristotle the first philosophical biologist and the first systematic unifier of the areas of ethics, politics, religion and philosophical psychology. Aristotle’s philosophical psychology discusses a range of psychological powers and in this discussion the nature of the imagination is clearly distinguished from the powers of language and reasoning that are operating in the arena of norms and values. Aristotle firmly relates the rational activity of law making to the stability of our social orders and he claims that the extent to which the laws do not create the desired stability is a failure of rationality which may be related to a failure to eliminate imagined equalities or inequalities.

The presence of the term “superhuman” is loaded with reactionary anti-religious assumptions. It is not a term we will find embedded in myths or religious documents which are only access to early mans beliefs and consciousness of fault. Paul Ricoeur in his work on “The Symbolism of evil” explores the latter dimension philosophically. Whatever one scientifically believes about myths it remains the case that they are the objectification in discourse of the anguish associated with fault and the awe associated with beliefs that are embedded in mans relation to what he once considered sacred. The language we find in myths is not a factual structure in which the meaning of the terms are related directly to physical states of affairs. It is rather a language of value in which a manifest meaning is related to a latent meaning of mans relation to the sacred. We encounter here a structure of double meaning requiring acts of interpretation to clarify. Myths and religious documents are not merely records of what man believed but rather also expressions in the imperative mode of discourse relating to what we ought to believe or how we ought to act. This imperative mode is nevertheless universal, that is it relates to all men in a real relation to the sacred object whether it be a God, gods, or a desired state of understanding. Ricoeur’s work is of particular interest here because of the claim of the author of “Sapiens” that Humanism is a modern religion. If we use Ricoeur’s work as a guide in this matter we will clearly see that Philosophical Humanism follows Kant’s and Aristotle’s lead in retaining a place for the divine or the sacred or holy in ethical and political reflections. This move acknowledges that there is a rational core in religious discourse which cannot be attributed to the fragile acts of imagination. Ricouer’s work testifies to the fact that this rational core has survived the bureaucratisation of religion, romanticism, scientism’s attempts to reduce everything non material to the “Subjective” and the more general post-modernist onslaught on practical rationality: a period of over 2000 years. The ideas of the sacred and Freedom are not figments of the imagination but real holistic ideas that bind communities together into holistic entities by pointing to what man ought to do in the realm of norms and values. This indicates that philosophical humanism has a very different conception of norms and values to the definition in this work which risks dehumanising the human and subjectivising the role of the rational in what Ricoeur refers to as the human beings desire to be and effort to exist. Reference to the superhuman order is the work of an imagination which has dismissed the value of practical rationality we find in the works of Aristotle, Kant and Ricoeur.

An interesting historical analysis of religion begins with an account of animism as the dominant belief system of hunters/gatherers:

“When animism was the dominant belief system, human norms and values had to take into consideration the outlook and interests of a multitude other beings, such as animals, plants, fairies and ghosts. For example, a forager band in the Ganges valley may have established a rule forbidding people to cut down a particularly large fig tree, lest the fig tree become angry and take revenge. Another forager band living in the Indus valley may have forbidden people from hunting white-tailed foxes, because a white tailed fox once revealed to a wise old woman where the band might find precious obsidian. Such religions tended to be very local in outlook and to emphasise the unique features of specific locations, climates and phenomena.”It was pointless to try to convince inhabitants of some distant valley to follow the same rules”(p 235-236)

Harari dates the Cognitive Revolution to 70,000 years ago and what is claimed to be the emergence of fictive language. This is not in accordance with linguistic and psychological/anthropological theories. Julian Jaynes in an article entitled “The evolution of language in the Late Pleistocene” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science” offers an interpretation based on current evidence and brain research which suggests that insofar as language is concerned fictive language comes relatively late in its evolution. First come the stages of modifiers, then the stage of imperatives. The first sentence with a noun and predicate modifier probably occurred between 25000 and 15000 BC. he argues:

“this period corresponds, I suggest, to the invention of pottery, pendants, ornaments and barbed harpoons and spearheads, the last two tremendously important in spreading the human species into more difficult climates.”

There is another serious question as to whether the cognitive operation of following rules is possible before the later stages of the evolution of language: possibly at the so called “age of names” sometime between 10000 and 8000 BC. It is this age, well into the next revolution(the Agricultural Revolution) which is conditionally necessary for narratives to begin and this would seem to be necessary for an awareness of fictive language to be possible. What level of awareness is required for the establishment or following of rules? Rules in Wittgenstein are connected with the mastery of techniques and rational agreements. Could Hunters and gatherers before 10000 and 8000 bC be said to be “Masters” of any technique? One wonders here whether Harari is projecting relatively advanced mental states onto relatively primitive behavioural patterns. Prior to the systematic functioning of language the medium of cultural transmission, according to Jaynes is imitation of someone else’s behaviour. This cannot be construed as following a rule which requires a level of consciousness beyond that required to follow a command by someone or imitate their behaviour.
The use of the linguistic shifter “I” comes even later than the age of names and signifies an even higher level of consciousness in which first person avowals become possible which may be necessary for the operation of following a rule. The avowal “Now I understand” may be necessary if one is to be able to follow a rule and this cognitive level may also be necessary for the understanding of fictive language.

Animism began to weaken during the agricultural revolution, Harari argues and animated rocks springs ghosts and demons gave way to a polytheistic collection of gods:

“While the king in his capital city sacrificed dozens of fat rams to the great war god, praying for victory over the barbarians, the peasant in his hut lit a candle to the fig tree fairy, praying that she help to cure his sick son.”(p237)

We can see a difference in the conceptualisation of life forms in the above example. Animals and natural phenomena are “mastered” during the agricultural revolution and the result is a consciousness of the difference between the kinds of existence of physical phenomena and animal forms of life. Polytheism then develops into a stage on the way to monotheism where there is an acknowledgment of of a power superior to these gods, Fate, Moira, or Ananke.
It would be pointless to ask such a power for a victory in a local war because such a power has no concern with human desire to be or effort to exist. Kingdoms and Empires may rise and fall in the purview of this power. Such events are ephemeral and whilst undoubtedly events of significance such significance might not be what we think it is because of the span of infinite time.

Local and regional gods waned in importance possibly because of the cognitive awareness of the inefficacy of “deals” with the god of war. The humanist will see this as a natural progression in an awareness of ones own active responsibility. If one wishes to win a war acquire knowledge of how wars are won and prepare accordingly. This is not Harari’s position who praises polytheism in the following terms:

“Polytheism is inherently open-minded, and rarely persecutes “heretics” and “infidels”. Even when polytheists conquered huge empires, they did not try to convert their subjects.”

Harari rightly points out that monotheists saw other monotheists as heretical or as infidels and responded very often in violent terms but does not explore the possibility that there were a number of reasons for this states of affairs. Harari points out that polytheism also gave birth to dualistic religions which divide the empire of the world into two:the good and the bad but he does not explore the extent to which this dualism infected monotheism to the extent that this battleground of the good and bad was fought by “us vs them”. He points out how difficult it was for monotheists to accommodate the assumption of dualism. The God of monotheism was a god of order and order cannot be produced on a battleground that seeks to divide up the empire of the world into two camps. The monotheist Aristotle believed in a God of order who was necessarily good and conceived of the fight between good and evil as an activity in some sense “aiming at the good”. There cannot be a battle therefore between what is good and what is evil, there can only be a battle between what is “good” and what is “evil”. This is the message of humanism but for Harari Religious humanism would be a kind if contradiction which it is clearly not.

Harari points to the phenomenon of the emergence of religions during the first millennium BC which were characterised by a disregard of gods: Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Stoicism, Cynicism and Epicureanism:

“These creeds maintained that the superhuman order governing the world is the product of natural laws rather than of divine wills and whims. Some of these natural law religions continued to espouse the existence of gods, but their gods were subject to the laws of nature no less than humans, animals and plants were…Gods could no more change the laws of nature than elephants can.”(249)

For the humanist like Aristotle it is not the case that his idea of the divine was subject to the natural laws(the laws of physics?) It is indeed not out of the question that for Aristotle there is a conceptual identity between laws of change and the divine.

There is a very interesting discussion of Buddhism in which the central figure is as Harari says is “not a god but a human being” who sought for explanations behind the various forms of human suffering:

“He saw that men and women, children and old people, all suffer not just from occasional calamities such as war and plague, but also from anxiety, frustration, and discontent, all of which seem to be an an inseparable part of the human condition. People pursue wealth and power, acquire knowledge and possessions, beget sons and daughters, and build houses and palaces. Yet no matter what they achieve, they are never content. Those who live in poverty dream of riches. .. Even the rich and famous are rarely satisfied. They too are haunted by ceaseless cares and worries, until sickness old age and death put an end to them. Everything that one has accumulated vanishes like smoke.”(p249-50)

The restless mind seeks to escape suffering and can do so this work argues only be putting an end to ones craving by training the mind to stoically accept reality as it is, accept Fate, Moira, and Ananke. It is not clear what exactly is meant here. If it is the case that the desire for enlightenment is motivating all our activity and our restless activity then is this too a fire that must be put out? If so this as we know is the motivator of the reincarnation thesis and this Harari says nothing about in his evaluation of this “religion”.

The most startling claim in the book is contained in a section entitled “The Worship of Man”:

The last 300 years are often depicted as an age of growing secularisation in which religions have increasingly lost their importance. If we are talking about theist religions, this is largely correct. But if we take into consideration natural law religions, then modernity turns out to be an age of intense religious fervour, unparalleled missionary effort, and the bloodiest wars of religion in history. The modern age has witnessed the rise of a number of new natural law religions such as liberalism, Communism, capitalism, nationalism and Nazism.”(p254)

Humanism is not on this list but it might be implied by liberalism. If so we are being asked to regard Humanism, Capitalism, Communism and Nazism as “religions”. This is the clearest consequence of the failure of this work to include a consideration of philosophical ethics in its reflections upon the history of mankind. It is clear that the idea of “the good” and the “Sacred” are being bracketed in the production of the above incredible members of the category of “religions”. The question is whether any restless activity craving change of any kind does not qualify for membership of the above very tenuously constructed class. The problem arises because of the separation of the idea of god and the good from so called “laws of nature and not recognising the conceptual connections between these notions which have been discussed by Philosophers for over 2000 years. Harari does not care much for the cognitive structure of language which stops one using just any term for any phenomenon one wishes to name and in that respect his work falls clearly into the niche of post modernist writings. here is an example of this same kind of carelessness:

“If it makes you feel better, you are free to go on calling Communism an ideology rather than a religion. It makes no difference.”(p255)

There are no clear boundaries between these concepts he claims but he does not motivate an abandonment of a number of long traditions of inquiry which would insist on the difference between a political system and a religion between a system of monetary distribution(capitalism) and a religion. It is not as if Harari is advocating for the importance of religion.

Finally Harari, ignoring the counterexamples of Humanism of Aristotle Kant, Ricoeur and Wittgenstein claims that humanists believe that humans are the most important thing in the world and the supreme good. This may or may not be an acceptable account depending upon whether the limitations of human rationality which all the above humanists share an opinion on is included in the account. More contentiously Harari divides humanism into liberal humanism, social humanism(Communism?) and evolutionary humanism(Nazism).
Totalitarianism was characterised by Hannah Arendt as an ideology which inverts the good into evil and vice versa. Hitler and Stalin were mass murderers and placing them in the same humanistic category as the above philosophers is an example of both post modernist and totalitarian thinking: a fine revisionist view of history, philosophy and language.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part three

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The title of this book is ” a brief history of mankind” but there are major historical omissions which probably relate to a) a limited view of the role of Philosophy in our History and b) a limited view of philosophical politics. The Ancient Greek contribution to ethical and political universalism is mysteriously conspicuous by its absence in this account as is the Kantian account of the universalism and objectivity of the moral law which turned out to be the moral argument for universal human rights. The following quote illustrates this point:

“The first millennium BC witnessed the appearance of three potentially universal orders, whose devotees could for the first time imagine the entire world and the entire human race as a single unit governed by a single set of laws. Everyone was “us” at least potentially. There was no longer “them”. The first universal order to appear was economic:the monetary order. The second universal order was political: the imperial order. Te third universal order was religious:the order of universal religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Merchants, conquerors and prophets were the first people who managed to transcend the binary evolutionary division “us vs them”, and to foresee the potential unity of humankind. For the merchants, the entire world was a single market and all humans were potential customers. They tried to establish an economic order that would apply to all, everywhere. For the conquerors, the entire world was a single empire and all humans were potential subjects, and for the prophets, the entire world held a single truth and all humans were potential believers. They too tried to establish an order that would be applicable for everyone everywhere.”

Aristotle is reputed to have claimed, in the name of political philosophy, which does not aim military conquest but rather emphasises the role of knowledge of truth and the good in the flourishing life, that the Greeks “armed” with its political philosophy could rule the world. It is not clear whether Alexander the Great was attempting to instantiate this Aristotelian idea but Jonathan Lear in his work on Aristotle focuses not on belief but rather on the desire we all universally posses to understand our world. Lear argues that this is the telos of rational human activity. If he is correct, it is a short step to propose that this might be the basis of all human and political activity everywhere. Knowledge and understanding of the truth and the good are not the primary concern of merchants or conquerors but it is the concern of prophets even if the approach of the latter very often clashes with philosophical ideas of justice. We are all familiar with the Platonic dialogue “Euthyphro”in which Socrates contested an action done in the name of the “holy” arguing that it was “unjust”. There is, in the desire to understand, a concern with abstract knowledge that we will not find in the activities of merchants working in their markets or conquerors building their Empires. Socrates began a tradition in Philosophical reasoning which attempts to achieve an understanding of the truth and the good in all areas of activity. He also emphasised the perception and understanding of differences between for example fact and fiction, myth and religion, the wealthy life vs the examined life. This spirit was again embraced fully by Kant in his Enlightenment Philosophy in which knowledge of human nature, ethics,and political philosophy are central concerns in the formation of the idea of the Cosmopolitan citizen. The interesting question to ask is why Harari in a work on mankind chooses to ignore such an important part of the history of mankind in this work. It might even be the case that the philosophical view of universalism is the most important mechanism driving the world in its global or cosmopolitan direction. The kingdom of ends for Kant was neither a market nor an empire nor a purely religious phenomenon, although we find that in Kant’s kingdom there is room for a belief in God grounded not in mythology but in ethical understanding and reasoning.

In a section entitled “The New Global Empire” there is some historical comment on nation-states but not as much as one would have expected. It is correctly pointed out that mankind has spent most of its time living in Empires. The nation state is a relatively recent phenomenon and Harari also rightly takes the position that the signs are that we are heading in the direction of a new global empire. Nationalism exploded in our faces during the last century which Hannah Arendt described as “this terrible century” where she argued nationalism, capital and military expansionism contributed to the emergence of a new form of totalitarian government based on class and race which set the world on fire. There is no mention of this aspect which religious prophets and philosophers may claim to have foreseen. Arendt quotes the story of Cecil Rhodes expressing a wish to colonise the planets as an illustration of the excesses that drives capital searching for investment and men searching for their fortunes. This aspect of capitalisms insatiable desire for greater and greater accumulation is not mentioned in this sweeping historical account. The argument presented for the new global empire is however, occasionally philosophical with a biological twist:

“As the twenty first century unfolds, nationalism is fast losing ground. More and more people believe that all of humankind is the legitimate source of political authority rather than the members of a particular nationality, and that safeguarding human rights and protecting the interests of the entire human species should be the guiding light of politics. If so, having close to 200 independent states is a hindrance rather than a help”(231)

Pragmatism and instrumentalism also makes an appearance:

“….The appearance of essentially global problems such as melting ice caps nibbles away at whatever legitimacy remains to the independent nation states. No sovereign state will be able to overcome global warming on its own. As of 2014, the world is still politically fragmented, but states are fast losing their independence. Not one of them is really able to execute independent economic policies, to declare and wage wars as it pleases or even to run its own internal affairs as it sees fit…States are obliged to conform to global standards.. “(p231-232)

Philosophers would in this context refer to global understanding and the importance of knowledge of the truth and the good in naming the underlying mechanisms of the global transformation we are witnessing. These are the tools of the progress we are now seeing after the terrible twentieth century and its economic and political excesses. After excess comes the inevitable return to the golden mean, Aristotle would argue. Kant specifically claimed that this progress away from excesses was not toward a world government because such a government would inevitably be tyrannical and be forced to tyrannise minorities. We know he suggested an organisation such as the United Nations where countries would participate voluntarily and cooperate for the common good. Such an organisation is indeed an embodiment of the global understanding of the importance of peace in the world if Progress is to continue unhindered. But we should also bear in mind that this march of progress is a slow affair and we should not expect the ethical and political notion of a perpetual peace in the world in the next one hundred thousand years. The golden mean is even in historical terms a long way beyond the historical horizon and unfortunately in this work we get no indication of the time scale for the emergence of the new global empire or the reasons why states feel obliged to conform to global standards.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari)Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part two

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Yuval Noah Harari has this to say in his chapter “Building Pyramids” by way of comparing the acts of imagination which lay behind the building of the pyramids and the acts of imagination that he claims constitute our idea of Human Rights:

“Homo Sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas, and chimpanzees have no natural rights….A natural order is a stable order. There is no chance that gravity will cease to function tomorrow, even if people stop believing in it. In contrasts an imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. In order to safeguard an imagined order, continuous and strenuous efforts are imperative. Some of these efforts take the shape of violence and coercion. Armies, police forces, courts and prisons are ceaselessly at work forcing people to act in accordance with the imagined order.”(p125)

Harari does admittedly qualify this extreme Hobbesian position by saying that belief in the objects of the imagination is also needed. Once again we see the distorted results of a bi-polar characterisation of the world in terms of myths and facts. What is needed to correctly describe the above state of affairs is a whole universe of discourse with large numbers of interconnected concepts possessing logical relations to each other and an Aristotelian/Kantian Philosophical psychology which will recognize imagination to be a power that principally is connected to our powers of perception and emotion but can also be connected to two powers that radically transform its function: the powers of language (discourse) and reason. This latter claim is behind why we believe in both gravity and human rights. There are , however, probably many more reasons to believe in the existence of human rights than the existence of gravity and whilst there is absolutely no reason to doubt the existence of the latter law, there may be philosophical reasons to doubt one or more of its underlying assumptions: The claim that space is curved for example for some philosophers may contain a contradiction forced upon us by a belief that space has real mathematical properties. Is this latter belief a result of the mathematical imagination? Could it be a myth? If so the bi polar division of our experience of the world into imaginative myths and real facts is otiose. What puzzles me is that Harari in his determination to involve using philosophy in the infrastructure of his argument is providing old discredited philosophical pictures of our social and political realities. Hobbes we know was passionately anti- Aristotelian for no good reason and talked about violence and coercion as means the state can use to bring about order in society. The Aristotelian/Kantian picture of man being a rational animal capable of discourse bringing about order in society by educational processes using argument and logic is undermined by the simplistic distinctions of the imagined and the real: belief and knowledge.

Echoes of the Hobbesian picture of a middle class businessman seeking to lead what he called a commodious life are present also in the following continuation:

“it does not take much to provide the objective biological needs of Homo Sapiens. After those are needs are met, more money can be spent on building pyramids, taking holidays around the world, financing election campaigns, funding your favourite terrorist organisation, or investing in the stock market and making yet more money…”(125-6)

Aristotle was the first biologist and embedded his biological theory in a philosophical theory of immense scope and complexity which included four different kinds of explanations for all physical social and political change in the world. This theory was built upon a view of man as attempting to fulfil his potential as a rational animal by the systematic use of discourse aimed at shaping minds. Aristotle would have scoffed at the commodious life of the Hobbesian middle class businessman which Harari provides a sketch of above. Bi-polar explanations may satisfy such a Hobbesian man or the man Harari claims wishes to please his wife by building a pyramid for her. It is important to note however that such bi-polar explanations are not exactly educational, i.e. they do not shape minds. Arguments and explanations shape minds in the Aristotelian universe where the ideal is the middle class man whose mind is shaped by educational argument and discourse: for example, by the middle class man who leads an examined life which might include taking a holiday to a)further ones knowledge of the different forms such an examined life might take and b) to communicate ones knowledge of the world and ones culture.For Socrates, Plato and Aristotle the life of the wealthy man failed to actualise the potential of a man to lead a flourishing life and whilst they may have agreed that imagination played a large role in the life of such a man they would have pointed to failures on the part of such men to submit their beliefs to a tribunal of rational, critical scrutiny. Such a scrutiny may reveal a belief in myths such as that making money can shape ones mind or that the gods are smiling upon such activity but such myths cannot be compared to the reasons someone influenced by philosophical reasoning may give for their belief in the importance of knowledge and human rights. The distinctions between what is a good reason to believe in something and a myth completely disappear in this part of Harari’s work. The distinction between the CEO OF Peugeot who faces the tribunal of his shareholders every quarter with his power point presentation and the leader of a political party who faces with his arguments the tribunal of critical discussion of his/her ideas every day also disappears.

Justice and human rights are inextricably linked so it is no surprise to find Harari in his chapter entitled “”There is no Justice in History” claiming that
justice is an imagined order which historically has been neither neutral nor fair. The problem with his reasoning is again that his simplistic infrastructure of history plus biology does not enable him to make historically and philosophically established distinctions between social and political structures. He points out that Hammurabi’s code was hierarchical where the law specifically refers to the social classes of the superiors, the commoners and the slaves and he points to the American Constitution which although saying that all men are equal was accompanied by continuing social practices of owning slaves. A modern political analysis would philosophically establish that the intention of the constitution was clearly egalitarian and its role was to signal to the social system that discrimination and oppression ought not to occur on the grounds of colour creed or wealth: a wealthy white Christian stands before the law and ought to be viewed in the eyes and principles of the law in exactly the same terms as a poor black muslim. This may not always work in practice because judges and juries are people who allow their prejudices to cloud their understanding of the law but this does not permit the degradation of the reasoned body of doctrine we call the law into a figment of the imagination. The problem here does not lie with the law or our concept of the law but with the individuals and social processes enforcing the law. Equating this body of doctrine with myth is confusing individual and social practices with political ideals. Laws do not work immediately on individuals and social practices, rather, they work at the pace of history which is a quicker pace than evolution but a slower pace than many critics imagine or wish for. The American civil war was fought over the Enlightenment idea of the dignity of all men which had been argued for Philosophically in the 1780’s and 1790’s by Kant using the idea of a moral law. The American civil war did not immediately enforce the Kantian moral law which was based on the teleological assumption that all men are ends in themselves and were therefore to be valued equally and respected equally. This moral law amounted to saying that they ought to be valued and respected which does not actually logically entail that they are. It does not, either, on the other hand, logically warrant the claim that there is no ground for engaging in the desired behaviour. The moral law is one of the assumptions of our modern legal systems in Europe where the wealthy white Christian stands accused and is subjected to the same neutral regard until found guilty as is the poor black muslim. Notice that I am not denying that social practices involved in the implementation of the law sometimes disobey the moral law or the intention of the laws of the land. But also notice we do not, as a consequence of our disappointment, change the law because it cannot be universally applied in all cases. We attempt to correct the social processes causing deviations from its universal application, and we continue to do so sometimes with social and sometimes with political processes. Martin Luther King used social processes to force an alteration of laws which were in fact not in accordance with the moral law or the US Constitution and he used a combination of moral and religious argumentation to do so. So, one civil war and one civil rights movement has undoubtedly improved the social situation but it is still dysfunctional. What we are witnessing here is the slow rate of change of social processes in accordance with the Kantian and philosophical idea of “progress”. Kant wisely spoke of a future state of affairs as the kingdom of ends” and claimed that such a kingdom would take one hundred thousand years to establish. What is occurring here is a process of change which is not evolutionary(taking millions of years) or historical(taking hundreds of years) but something in between. Such processes bear witness to the fact that the rationality of the species of homo sapiens will take a long time to fully actualise. That it was however a telos guiding our activities was never, however, doubted by Kant or by Aristotle. In the light of such considerations the title of this chapter “There is no Justice in History” is paradoxical or at the very least unnecessarily ambiguous.

Social processes may well contain contradictory activities but it is difficult to fathom how the political ideas of equality and liberty are contradictory. Firstly it is important to note that equality does not mean “equal with respect to every characteristic”: something “equal in every characteristic” to something else would be identical with that thing and the two hypothetically postulated things would in fact be one. The idea of equality is related to a social context and a legal context. In the social context it refers to equality of opportunity and in the legal context it refers to equality in relation to the way in which the law treats two individuals of differing characteristics(the wealthy white Christian and the poor black muslim). Harari claims the following in relation to this debate:

“Unlike the laws of physics which are free of inconsistencies, every man made order is packed with internal contradictions. Cultures are constantly trying to reconcile these contradictions. For instance , in medieval Europe the nobility believed in both Christianity and chivalry. Another example is the modern political order. Ever since the French revolution, people throughout the world have gradually come to see both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedom of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short changes equality.The entire political history of the world since 1789 can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile this contradiction.”(p182)

Kant did not see any contradiction once one recognises the necessary distinctions between the absolute values of freedom and equality embodied by a moral law that respects the absolute value of the dignity of man and the relative values of a French aristocracy defending its class related privileges. Richer than..or poorer than… are obvious relative values and can best use the quantitative instruments of the mathematician and scientist to measure the differences. No such instrument can be used to measure the dignity of man which is a concept that does not behave like a variable looking for a value.The dignity of man is an idea that cannot be quantified.

“Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) Critique and Commentary from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part one

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This is an enthralling and interesting book taking us on a journey across enormous spans of time with a minimum of infrastructure of History and Biology. The timeline given at the beginning of the work sketches both the enormous scope of this work as well as its enormous limitations.
13.5 billion years ago Dr Yuval Noah Harari claims matter and energy “appeared” together with atoms and molecules. Earth it is claimed formed 4.5 billion years ago with the first organisms appearing 3.8 billion years ago. 2.5 million years ago saw the emergence of the genus “Homo” with “Homo Sapiens developing around 200,000 years ago in East Africa. All of these are scientific claims and one presumes that these are facts in spite of philosophical concerns about the grounds for saying that matter and energy appeared at these dates. Is this a description of what the scientist imagines must be the case because of a host of facts or is there some calculation which would tell us the time of the emergence of matter and energy from some primeval source? If there is a “proof” that the universe began to exist at some point in time and everything “exploded into existence then Philosophers would be able to free themselves of the antonymy of the claims that the universe has always existed versus its coming into existence ex nihilo without a cause that itself must have had a cause. It is not as if it is possible to believe the one or the other because even if there is a scientific proof or calculation it is made on the assumption of a kind of causality that appears to be contradictory. Imagining this ex nihilo form of causality is indeed a feat of scientific imagination which the philosopher believes may not be cognitively possible. Indeed it may be the case that the Philosopher is more inclined either to believe that nothing significant can be said about the beginning of the universe exactly because it is logically possible that the universe has always existed in some form or another and the dramatic forms imagined by the scientist are merely changes for which there are causes. Aristotle would of course probably have insisted that some kind of unknowable cause or telos could well be operating along with other kinds of cause(material, efficient, formal) With events as vast as the size of the infinite universe it is of course almost impossible to estimate or guess what such a telos might be. It becomes easier with the emergence of life where one can survey the possible telos of the end of all life because of the ability of the logical imagination to conceive of a world without life and a world where life forms begin to exist. Life, this great biological concept, according to Aristotle must be conceived partly teleologically because its essence or formal cause must include the end of the condition that allowed it to come into being. There are of course also the material and efficient causes of life which is the concern of the scientist to chart (without the use of any ex nihilo concept of “cause”)
Dr Harari places several “revolutions” on his timeline, the first of which is “The Cognitive Revolution”( 70,000 years ago) which he associates mysteriously with the emergence of the language of fiction and which he claims “kick-started” history. Two of the characteristics of the use of language are its abilities to claim what is true as well as the ability to claim things which are false or fictional. Harari puts a premium for some reason on the latter rather than the former power in spite of the fact that the former must have been the “original intention”, namely to say something or proclaim something that is the case. Both powers are dependent upon one another but it does seem somewhat perverse to emphasize a secondary power at the expense of the primary power. If Julian Jaynes is right and the original source of language is exclamational, a shout of warning, there has to be something which the shout is about(a present danger) if we are to make sense of this otherwise instrumental form of communication. Jaynes claims in his work”The Origins of Consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind” that “narratisation arose as a codification of reports of past events requiring a number of previous stages of language. Julian Jaynes speaks of exclamational shouts and possible modifier functions of language(40,000 bc) to indicate the nearness or farness of the tiger and the development of this to nouns(25,000-15000 bc)and the commanding of actions. Names for people, argues Jaynes came late around 10,000-8000 bc. This is probably the key to narratization because it does seem to be a logical requirement that one has a name before one can be imagined in ones absence. Jaynes points to the Natufians at Eynan and the burial practices dating from 9000 bc in towns of about 200 people in contrast their ancestors who were hunters living in caves. This is around the time of the second revolution, the so called Agricultural revolution in which wild species of wheat were domesticated and cultivated. But Jaynes insists that no narratization was as yet possible because that required a more complex cognitive skill of forming in ones mind an analogue self in which they could “see” themselves in relation to others. This required in Jaynes’s view an advanced form of mental development in which individuals could begin to plan their futures, a skill involving involving an analogue I that could do x or y. Jaynes thinks that this is the moment of of the advent of consciousness which he dates very late , certainly after the 1470 bc earthquake and eruption of Santorini. The guiding influence of this period Jaynes, argues are the hallucinated “voices” of God operating in the context of a rigid hierarchical structure which often collapsed when unusual events demanded unusual actions requiring perhaps a more methodical and reasoned form of consciousness.It is only at this point a long time after 70,000 years ago that we can indeed begin to think of a cognitive revolution involving narratization and intentional historical record. Dating the Cognitive revolution from 70,000 years ago when it probably occurred well after the start of the Agricultural revolution is therefore probably misleading. A command and control form of language with a putative source in the procession or pantheon of Gods was probably occurring for most of this period when there was no linguistic condition for the truth or falsity of these utterances. The procession of dead kings or Gods(the memory of a dead king, according to Jaynes) begins to become a more historically structured phenomenon after writing was invented but this was an event a long time after 70,000 years ago, the so called beginning of the revolution. The word “revolution” is an interesting one in this context. One can wonder whether it is a purely cognitive matter as T S Eliot suggested when he claimed that at the end of all our explorations we will return back to the beginning and know the place for the first time. Or we can move back in time to that age of intellectual exploration par excellence and reason with Kant that revolution has to do with the kind of change that is “progressive”. History, for Kant, in other words is “teleological” and aiming for a better future. It is not as Harari appears to suggest a bare record of the facts moving toward a totality of facts. History is a value-laden cognitive adventure which has its roots in many of the ancient Greek ideas of what is good and what is Just, formal and final causes. This brings us to a major limitation of this work. There is on this timeline nothing from ancient Greek world which launched our investigations into reasoning and consciousness, the basic elements of any so-called “Cognitive revolution”: basic elements of the so called “intelligent design” of our societies and world order. The date 70,000 probably refers to the migration of Sapiens from Africa due to what Harari refers to as new ways of thinking and communicating(caused by genetic mutations affecting the functions of the brain) which enabled them to 1. displace the Neanderthals from their place of supremacy in the Middle East and Europe and 2.crossing the sea to Australia and 3 the invention of boats lamps bows and arrows and needles and 4 speak a new type of language . There is a strange discussion of Peugot and the Stadel lion found in the Stadel cave in Germany dating from 32000 years ago. The figure is of a lion-man and this is evidence as far as Harari is concerned of the ability of the human mind to imagine things that really do not exist and indicate what he refers to as the “fictional narrative language referred to earlier. These new linguistic skills, it is claimed, enabled Sapiens to gossip for hours on end(the “gossip theory”)and enabled the organisational group to increase in size to ca 150 individuals. This theory plus the exclamation theory are valid accounts, Harari concludes from a discussion that makes absolutely no reference to Philosophy of language or linguistics. Fiction, Harari argues enables man to imagine things that do not exist collectively. It enables us to transcend the limitations of the gossip theory. The traditional philosophical view that the sizes of the group increased due to the teleological needs of the individual and group and the rule of just laws is not even mentioned. Somehow Harari, the scientist and historian who should be guided by facts and objective values and needs resorts for his explanations instead to Mythology and Religion which he thinks is on a par with mythology in contradistinction to philosophers who believe that religious thought transcends mythology with its proclamatory functions of language which embody judgments of what the community values.Paradoxically Peugot enters this discussion because as Harari claims: “Modern businesspeople and lawyers are in fact powerful sorcerers”. The fact that the average life span of a company is 30 years may support the sorcerer theory but the inclusion of lawyers in this category is an astounding view of the nature of the validity of law in the process of holding communities together since the time of the Code of Hammurabi. Apparently some lawyers have taken to calling joint stock companies “legal fictions” on the grounds that it is not a physical object but has legal rights. This is not the controlled use of language that we expect from legal thinkers and we are not far from asserting that because we cannot “see, hear touch, measure a human right” it too must be a fiction. If one is working with a primitive non philosophical theory of language one should not be surprised at such absurd conclusions. If something is not a fact it is a fiction. What other logical alternatives are there? Well, there are literally thousands and it is extremely puzzling to be confronted by an either /or theory of bipolar extremes. Aristotle would not have made such a logical mess of describing non physical states of affairs.He would not have thought of Athens as an imagined entity without reality.

Harari uses History as a part of the infrastructure he needs in order to move beyond the limiting confines of Biology when it comes to talk of the forces and powers that enable large communities to exist as unities. Paradoxically, given the total absence of Philosophy in this discussion it is argued that it is the ability of Sapiens to play games which enables Sapiens to transcend his biological limitations. Aristotle has a hylomorphic theory which enables him to integrate the biological life of the body firstly with with the imagination of the emotional spirit of man and secondly the truth functional and rational nature of mans cognitive nature. This is a more panoramic view of the arena of mans existence which does not constrain us speak either in terms of facts or in terms of fictions/games.

Our actions historically evolve in terms of our cognitive powers which for Aristotle include perception, memory, language, emotion, imagination, and reason. Imagining on its own as a mental function can certainly weave a fabric of fantasy around a carved man-lion and tempt us into believing that the people who made this object are much like us. According to Jaynes’ more philosophically based theory, the people who carved this object were not conscious and were not aware of the difference between reality and fiction. If they could speak to us we probably would not be able to understand them.

Harari also mentions evolutionary psychology in his attempts to “get inside the heads” of our ancestors in order to understand our present day social and psychological characteristics.

Wittgenstein is a philosopher one can use to try to understand why we should not try to get into someone else’s head if one wishes to understand them. The final justification for him is what we(groups of humans) do. Writing was invented around 3000 bc and at the same time we see the emergence of the first Egyptian kingdom and the Great’s Akkadian empire comprising more than one million subjects. Are these two facts merely accidentally related or is there some kind of causal relation between them. Could it be that proclamations of laws in writing (and not something going on in individuals heads like imagining entities that do not exist) are necessary conditions for the existence of real kingdoms and empires? Is it really tenable to argue that the myths people believed in played a larger role in the maintenance of kingdoms and empires than the laws that regulated peoples judgments of each other? If Jaynes is correct in his assumption that gods are just dead past kings then are not their judgments just as real as the present day kings who apply their judgments in their legal systems?

Harari uses the example of the Code of Hammurabi in order to illustrate human cooperation in groups. The code was from around 1776 bc and was used as a model for all legal codes in coming generations. It was used to regulate the largest city on earth at the time, Babylon.. Reference was made to previous gods who laid down the framework for the code:
“to make justice prevail in the land, to abolish the wicked and the evil, to prevent from oppressing the weak”

There is no need to describe these beings as imagined entities that do not exist, just because they are previous dead kings. This code is very hierarchical and places monetary values on the lives of women and slaves. Jaynes referred to the instability of hierarchical theocracies that often collapsed when reality became too difficult to deal with. According to Harari, these proclamations are associated with imagines entities and cannot therefore possess any different status to the Proclamations we find in a document created during 1776 AD in which it is claimed that all men are created equal in the eyes of God. Men have evolved argues Harari, therefore they cannot have been created. The document is therefore fictional. The problem with Harari’s bi-polar one dimensional theory of human cooperation is that one cannot see the law of progress operating between the two codes, especially in terms of the idea of the good and justice. The American Declaration of Independence sufficed to hold millions of citizens together for hundreds of years. One cannot, that is , on Harari’s view take a Kantian view of the teleological processes operating in History and mans historical existence in groups. Harari basically objects to the Constitution on biological and scientific grounds. One cannot measure happiness, only pleasure he argues and we therefore cannot regard this as anything more than something inside someones head. Aristotle had no difficulty in characterising conceptually what happiness was and laid down the axiom that in order to be happy a rational language using animal must use his power of rationality. Man is not yet collectively happy but that is because rationality is in the process of installing itself in the species. It is in thoughts such as these that we see the integration of Philosophy, Biology, History, Psychology, Epistemology, Physics and Metaphysics: something we cannot see in the very limited infrastructure of Biology, evolutionary psychology and History that Harari attempts to use in his attempts to characterise Aristotle’s “rational animal”

Fifth Centrepiece lecture by Jude Sutton from the work “The World Explored, the World Suffered: The Exeter lectures.”

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Sophia and Robert sat waiting for their Philosophy lecture to begin. The notice board had announced the fact that today’s lecture entitled “Epistemology” would be a double lecture to compensate for the previous cancellation. There were two minutes remaining but no one in the class expected the lecture to begin on time and Jude’s entrance as a consequence passed almost unnoticed. The lecture began exactly on time:
“Epistemology, or Theory of Knowledge is one of the traditional divisions of Philosophy along with Metaphysics, Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Logic. It has been the area of Philosophy most susceptible to influence from Science. It may be too soon to tell, but this century may go down in history as being the Third Major Revolution in the History of Philosophy: the first two revolutions having been initiated by Aristotle and Kant respectively. It is always notoriously difficult to point to exactly when a revolution began, and by the way, as revolutions go this one compared with the other two is a minor affair, but I would suggest that, when Bertrand Russell tried to reduce Mathematics to Logic and then subsequently Logicians went on to use Logic to dismantle much of what had been previously established in Metaphysics and Ethics, this was the firing of the first shot by rebel troops across the bows of traditional philosophy. Prior to this of course Science had been surreptitiously undermining the above key areas of thinking and this state of affairs culminated in the establishment of the school of the Logical Positivists. Science allied itself with Logic and Epistemology in the positivist school, and proceeded to colonise every area of knowledge: dismantling religion, politics, and aesthetics on the way. The resultant philosophical landscape was as open and barren as a desert, with cultural sand-atoms lying juxtaposed ad infinitum in all directions and being shifted only by the winds of scientific and logical methodologies. Almost everything erected by the architects of Aristotle and Kant and their followers had been levelled and all that could be heard in the desert was the wind of the talk of the existence and quantities of X. An American logician by the name of Willard van Orman Quine, inspired by logic and the scientific project claimed: “To be is to be the value of a variable”. In such terminology one can detect the presence of the wraith of a Philosopher who distrusts European metaphysics. Philosophy then responded with the work of Wittgenstein who, in his earlier work spoke for the opposition, but was stopped in his tracks by the collective tonnage of argument from the traditional philosophers. The later Wittgenstein subsequently began restoring the landscape of traditional Philosophy from his base at Trinity College Cambridge where I met him. His restoration of archaic concepts and arguments from the ancient Greeks and the Enlightenment period, occurred in his posthumous works. This restoration work was performed of course with the tools from Wittgenstein’s toolbox.
In last week’s lecture we talked of certainty and the difficulty of specifying the criteria that provide the truth conditions of the physical world. Descartes in response to scientific and mathematical methodologies felt the philosophical landscape being eroded and began to dig the grave of metaphysics by locating certainty epistemologically in an “I”, which thinks. “Cogito ergo sum”, he famously argued: “I think therefore I am. Perhaps he too, like at least one of the pre-Socratics who were responding to the natural philosophers of their time, thought that everything of importance was located in the mind. But like Plato, a fellow traveler, Descartes was a mathematician who surpassed his predecessor by resting his case on methodology. He rested his case on what some commentators have referred to as a skeptical methodology that may be a contradiction, if a methodology’s primary purpose is to coordinate facts and principles systematically. In connection with this point we should also note that a certain kind of mathematician seems to believe only in those ideas he has constructed himself. He “knows” 7+5=12 because he knows the rule for the construction of seven, he also knows the rule for the use of “the plus operation” which requires moving sequentially in the system of numbers, five times. The answer “twelve” then presents itself for inspection like the time on the face of a clock. In this constructed world there is no room for mistakes. Everything works with the precision of the military. We should not forget that Descartes was also a military man who would sometimes search for wars to fight in. The man who could die the next moment, ladies and gentlemen, has no use for ethics or metaphysics. Everything is a variable with a possibly varying value. Logically, a variable is a quantity. What else is a desert, ladies and gentlemen, than a quantity of sand? The desert traditionally is the place to look for God. For Descartes, only God could assure us that our calculations and thought-experiments were not the doings of an evil-demon intent upon imprisoning us in a bubble of false certainty. On Descartes’ right shoulder sat a priest in clerical robes calling out in a desert for God. On his left shoulder sat a philosopher in Grecian robes calling for justice and wisdom, trying to navigate away from the desert of atoms and numbers to a human world. But Descartes never made it out of the desert and settled firstly, for a lone thinker thinking about his landscape, and secondly, for the importance of his own thinking. Descartes’ “Cogito” argument, ladies and gentlemen, was the result of this cocktail of Religion, Mathematics, Science, Psychology and Philosophy. “I think therefore I am” is an epistemological argument, an argument in the theory of knowledge. The argument is solipsistic, a lone predator in a philosophical wilderness and because of this it is unable to acknowledge any of the ethical truths of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle.”
Mark Cavendish, raised his hand and asked:
“But surely there is a great deal of truth in the solipsistic system of Descartes. Take the 30 people sitting here with their thoughts. For all we know everyone is interpreting what you are saying in their individual ways and everyone will take their own truths from this class”
“Well”, “Jude answered, “If that were true, teachers would be redundant: at best our words would be stimuli to be responded to. A collective of solipsists does not a class or a society or a course in philosophy make. We are all sitting here for a collective reason or purpose. The words I utter have a collective reason or purpose because of their content and context. I am, however, inclined to agree with you that there is an individual, psychological component that probably relates to the way in which we understand the content. But there is a very important ethical element in this collective image and that refers to the products of reason that relate to how we ought to live and perhaps also, to how we ought to think. Aristotle made significant philosophical contributions to both of these aspects of our collective image of the teaching situation via his writings on Logic and Ethics.”
A Mathematics major raised his hand tentatively and asked:
“I do not quite understand your objection to the Mathematical claim that reality contains quantities best measured by our number system.
“It’s a long story, but one of my objections would consist in questioning whether we can, in fact, reduce the qualities we are experiencing in reality to quantities. I am sure some of you have come across the following example in the literature for this course: It is claimed by scientific reductionists that “Red is 690 Angström units”. The “is” in that formulation functions logically more like the “is” of identity than the “is” of predication simply because the units must logically be quantities and the quantities involved here seem to be quantities of angstrom units rather than the quality of red. Put more simply, I do not believe that scientific or mathematical characterisation or quantification of qualities are in any sense, essence specifying. The only sensible way to analyse the statement “Red is 690 Angström units”, in my opinion, is to regard it as a “hypothetical”, for example, “If color is measurable in a particular measuring system then red may be 690 Angström units..”. However in retreating to the realm of the quantitatively possible or the hypothetical, we lose the relation to the categorical truth that Aristotle maintained it was the task of science to demonstrate. According to Aristotle, Science should tell us categorically what kind of thing is in the universe. Imaginative hypotheticals belong to the realm of the possibly true and the possibly false.”
The student continued:
“Let’s confine ourselves to Mathematics and the Pythagorean claim that reality is mathematical. Surely there is nothing hypothetical about that claim”
“Good point. The Pythagoreans claim that the qualitative experiences we have of the harmony of harp strings is describable by the relation between numbers and there is also as you say a categorical claim to the effect that reality is mathematical. I pluck the strings of the harp and the sound waves emitted are then measured by a scientist in the vicinity of the vibrations. He also notes, or knows, that the sound waves are an effect of the vibration of the strings. These are the first links in a chain of phenomena which are required if we are to be permitted to speak categorically about the qualitative harmony of the qualitative notes heard by a listener in the vicinity of the vibrations. Of course the listener may have been listening to a novice learning to play the harp and the sound/notes may not have a harmonic quality at all: but even in this case there is no motivation to reduce the experience to its quantitative measurable characteristics. Why? The scientist is actually measuring waves of vibration and in doing so could conceivably ignore the sound as heard by any listener. If this makes sense then the two are not identical. Sound is received and processed by our perceptual system that can of course operate quantitatively. We complain, for example, that the sound is too loud or too low. Notwithstanding this observation, the primary purpose or telos of our perceptual system, is to detect change in general but also to discriminate, to detect differences between entities. We hear, for example, that one note is different to another, that these notes are harmonic and those are not. In arguing about the differences between the quantitative and the qualitative we refer to what Aristotle called categories of being. For him, Being had many meanings of which the meaning “substantial being”, was at one point in his work the most important. The quantitative and the qualitative are two aspects of being or reality. The quantitative aspect of reality is certainly the concern of the physical or natural scientist. The mathematician, for example, may concern himself with the structure of space and time that may well be infinite if Pythagoras is right about our number and geometrical systems being a reflection of reality and its infinite structure. Another aspect of reality is qualitative: this aspect is concerned with the way in which our perceptual system organises physical phenomena into a system of differences, using perceptual difference as the criterion: red is different to blue which is different to yellow, which is different to green and each is different to every other. This is just one chapter of a long story. So, to cut this long story short I will just say that in answer to your question I would admit that space and time is probably best described quantitatively using the tools of the mathematician. I might be prepared to concede that matter is also potentially infinite in a number of respects and is best described and explained using the instruments of the scientist. But this admission does not rule out that space and time can and perhaps should be investigated qualitatively—in terms of our experience of them. Here the long stories of the great novelists might contribute to this kind of investigation. The lived space and time of the body and its body image might, to take another example, be usefully investigated by phenomenological psychologists such as Merleau-Ponty. Finally, the lived space and time of a consciousness oriented towards the memory of its past and towards the future of its projects might be usefully investigated by existential psychologists such as Sartre and Heidegger.
In short I agree with Aristotle that there are many different kinds of explanation as to why reality is as it is. Some explanations will have a quantitative character and some will have a qualitative character. As a matter of fact, one might believe, as many philosophers have done, that the qualitative explanations may be more philosophically interesting.
Robert put up his hand and asked:
“Have you given us a complete argument for the existence of qualities and how is this relevant to the relation between epistemology and metaphysics?”
“Upon being confronted by something which is aqua-marine blue a philosopher might ask “What is aqua-marine blue?” and receive the obvious answer that it is a shade of a colour. The philosopher may then ask: “What is colour?” and receive the answer “A quality”. The answers up to this point may be within the scope and limits of our knowledge. The further question: “What is a quality?” and its answer: “A quality is a quality of something real” may take us into the realm of metaphysics, the realm which Heidegger designates as the study of being qua being. So, in answer to your question the answer “A quality” may be an epistemological terminus of the questioning. In other words that something is a quality is an epistemological justification for it being a colour. An epistemologist may not be able to justify that colours exist but he can justify that red or aqua marine are colours. The interesting question here is whether it makes sense to ask whether qualities exist. I will leave this open.
The Mathematics major raised his hand again:
“Ok I understand it is difficult to state categorically what the relation of Mathematics to reality is, but it seems to me that Mathematics is a system of knowledge that has its own methods of justification for the truth of its claims, if we exclude for the moment the ultimate justifications for mathematical truth. Surely there is not much doubt that 7+5=12 is true”
“Yes I take your point but let me in the name of leaving that question open, challenge you with a question on an epistemological level: Would you want to claim, for example, that “7+5=12 is true” has a more secure justification than the statement, “Michelangelo’s sculpture “Times of the Day” is a beautiful work of art”
“Well disputes about 7+5=12 don’t break out amongst mathematicians as they seem to do among art critics or the general population”
“Good point. You are appealing to the principle of inter-subjective agreement amongst mathematicians who are in agreement over the methods they use to solve even more difficult problems than that raised by the issue of what the sum of 7 plus 5 amounts to. Thus far we are in agreement. With respect to the judgment about whether an art object is beautiful or not, I think we are in the realm of whether a technical activity has uniquely created a universal feeling that one can speak with a universal inter-subjective voice about. This realm requires an understanding of the Greek terms techné and arête as well as how the ideas of the good or the excellent organises perception and action. Art as distinct from craft is curious in that it is a deliberated-upon series of action which does not call for action on the part of the spectator: the call is for a suspension of any commitment to action, an activation of perception and thought which in turn should “quicken”(to use Kant’s term) in the appreciator a general attitude about our lives. This attitude is referred to in Wittgenstein’s earlier work by the term sub specie aeternitatis, a term that means looking at the world in wonder and seeing it under the aspect of the timeless. Kant in his work the “Critique of Judgment” described this attitude in terms of a boundless happy outlook on life. Now perhaps a mathematician may wish to claim that 7+5=12 is a timeless truth, a truth for all time. What the mathematician means by this is that nothing can happen in the world to change a 7 into a 6 or into an 8: similarly nothing could happen in the application of the operation +5 so that instead of landing on 12 when applied to 7 it lands on 11 or 13 instead. The happenings in the world are irrelevant to numbers once they have been inserted into a framework of calculation. A temperature may change from 15 degrees centigrade to 20 degrees centigrade but the number 15 cannot change into the number 20, unless it is inserted into an equation: e.g. 15+5=20. But even in this case it does seem somewhat odd to insist that the number 15 has changed into the number 20. Numbers are differentials, discrete entities, and it would seem therefore to be more natural to insist that the number 15 retains its identity even after undergoing the operation of the addition of 5. To illustrate this, imagine I am given the task of counting the cows in two towns. I discover 15 cows in Plymouth and 5 cows in Exeter. In the report I write that there are a total of 20 cows in the two towns but surely somewhere in the report I refer to the 15 cows in Plymouth and the 5 cows in Exeter. Here it seems that the number of objects engages with the concept of identity but I nevertheless think it is an open question whether the identity of the number, the 15 cows from Plymouth, is part of the space time continuum, or whether it is part of the thought quantifying the space time continuum. Many philosophers in relation to this question would side with the critical idealists against the Pythagorean realists, the latter rather than the former “
Robert raised his hand again:
“But is it merely the agreement of a community of mathematicians which justifies the truth of 7+5=12? Surely the mere existence of an activity or group of activities cannot make something true? Is it not rather the Scientist who is the true follower of Pythagoras? If a scientist claims that All Swans are white and reality throws up a non-white swan, the claim has to be abandoned. Reality is the standard by which he measures his truth claims.”
“And yet Plato, dedicated follower of Pythagoras that he was, seeks his standard not in the fluctuating ever changing stream of reality but rather in the forms the mind uses to understand reality. But I take your point, because perhaps it is Aristotle who is the true follower of Pythagoras and because Plato could not philosophically explain how the forms came to be in the mind. His pupil Aristotle took the plunge and insisted that the forms are out there in the ever-fluctuating river of reality. He saw the order in these processes of fluctuating change, an order he claimed was produced by the essence of things: essences that make things what they are. This order is tracked by our thought enabling the concepts we use to classify and categorise events in the world to be combined in what Heidegger called a veritative or truth making synthesis. Reality gives rise to classification and categorisation that in turn gives rise to the truth of our statements. Aristotle saw that the problem with Plato’s forms was the fact that they disguised the different metaphysical weights different forms possessed. The two statements “Heraclitus is pale” and “Heraclitus is human” have basically the same metaphysical status for Plato. There is this metaphysical form of paleness and Heraclitus is a part of this form or participates in it. He participates in the form of Humanity in similar fashion. Aristotle saw that these two statements have very different logical implications. Heraclitus spends a day on the beach and is tanned as a result and everyone complements him on his healthy tan. No one regrets the loss of his paleness. On the other hand, were Heraclitus to lose his humanity everyone who knew him would regret this loss. Confronted by the non-human remnant of Heraclitus, there may even be a reluctance to use his name to call him. Whatever we are now confronted with would belong to some other category of reality than human substance. We know that Heraclitus himself thought that he had lost his humanity and had become a divine being. Aristotle’s world is constituted of a manifold of essences and in this account reality is quite clearly the standard bearer of our knowledge of the physical world. My objection to your claim that modern scientists are the true followers of Pythagoras is simply that I wonder whether Pythagoras would subscribe to the reductionism we see in modern science. The categories of substance, quality, action, time and place are ruthlessly reduced to the categories of quantity and relation. Pythagoras made no statements about the humanity of harp players. He was concerned to describe and explain the physical vibrations of the harp strings and the relation of these vibrations to the experienced harmony of sounds produced.
Sophia raised her hand
“Can you give us a concrete example of how the combinations of terms belonging to different categories can generate Truth?”
Take the two expressions “Parmenides” and “is swimming”. Hopefully we all agree that these two expressions refer to different kinds of things in reality—firstly, what Aristotle called human substance and second, the action of a living creature possessing a body with arms and legs. Combine these two terms into one and you get “Parmenides is swimming”: this is a proposition that claims something to be true of or in reality. This can be demonstrated by asking what makes this statement true. Clearly Parmenides walking up a hill will not make the statement true and the observation that Heraclitus is swimming in the river will also not make the statement true: only certain very specific events occurring in combination in reality will suffice to make the statement true. Parmenides, that particular form of human substance possessing arms and legs that he uses to swim across the river is what is needed. In other words reality needs to manifest firstly the criteria for the existence of this particular form of human substance we call Parmenides and secondly the criteria for that activity or action we call swimming.
Robert raised his hand:
“How would you characterise human substance? Does it take the place of Platonic forms in Aristotle’s system?”
“In a sense, yes. All other categories depend upon substance for their existence. You cannot, for example have swimming without some human or animal-like substance doing the swimming. The substance that Parmenides possesses is not shareable amongst a number of things but this substance is a bearer of properties that are shareable. Parmenides may, for example weigh more than 65 kilograms and this may be true of many other human substances. If we see him walking up the hill after his swim we may ask the question “What is it?” and there are two possible answers: “Parmenides” or “a human being”. The latter answer refers to what Aristotle would refer to as the formal cause of “Parmenides”.
The Mathematics major raised his hand:
“What kind of substance is number, then?”
“Mathematicians speak of the cardinal and ordinal aspects of the number system and some have defined its cardinal aspect in quantitative terms and some have defined the ordinal aspect of the number system in relational terms. The philosopher when confronted with these two aspects, of course begins to wonder whether one aspect is the primary aspect and the other secondary. One route we can use to investigate this matter would be to ask the questions “Quantities of what?” “Relations between what?” The answer some mathematicians have been inclined to give in both cases is “Units”. The quantities are quantities of ones and relations are relations with respect to a sequence of ones. Quantities seem then to be generated by an operation or rule n plus one. This rule can be seen to be ruling the idiosyncratic fluctuations of the stream of events in reality by measuring it in terms of the same plus the same. Thus, imposing a unitary measure on the before’s and after’s in relation to time. We should notice here the relation of the terms “unit” and “unitary”. It was an ancient dream of Parmenides and perhaps of some philosophers coming after him to gather all difference and plurality in the world into the “One”, the “unitary”. Condense everything into one point. Now we can imagine the entrance of Pythagoras and his reflections into the debate on the relations between a starting point and a resting point: an operation, which generates an actual straight line from two potential mathematical points. And from lines we can generate triangles and even circles and every imaginable and conceivable shape except perhaps square circles. So what we have is a continuous space made up of points lacking extension and a time made up of mathematical units each following upon one another, capable of measuring vast extents of past and future time, maybe even up to infinity. This space can of course be divided up into discrete parcels with both concepts and numbers and the continuous motion of certain physical processes is clear evidence that time is continuous. Some mathematicians believe of course, that the structures of space and time have been “discovered”. Perhaps it has been easier to explore their discreteness rather than their continuous nature. And if everything that happens, must happen in space and time, then it is small step to take, to claim that what has been discovered is the structure of the world, is a structure which has been constructed by points and numbers out of given continua. The claim is that everything in space and time is measurable and the question then becomes, are things determinable in their existence only because they are measurable, or are the forms of things more than the quantities and relations that can be predicable of them. To return to one of the examples discussed earlier we can now ask: does the sound of the harp require not just the form that organises vibrations in the air when strings are plucked, but also the form of a perceptual apparatus that can experience sounds: sounds which are not just experienced as too loud or too low but also harmonious: as organised in time in accordance with qualitative rules which state, for example, that the three sounds I am now hearing build a harmonious theme together and are therefore more than just noises occurring in the world.”
A music major raised his hand and asked:
“But where is the substance? Are you saying it is the human musician that chooses to create three sounds. Is substance the human intention to produce a harmonious constellation?”
“Excellent answer to your own question. The human musical agent familiar with the art he has been trained in, that is, the musician, has been trained to realise or actualise the musical forms he has learned, perhaps as a consequence of a lifetime of striving to produce melodious or harmonious themes pleasant to the ear and congruent with that attitude of mind Kant described as a boundless outlook onto a happy future. On the basis of this training the artist intends to produce pleasure with his creations. Aristotle, in similar vein, might have claimed that the pleasure which supervenes upon the hearing of the musicians melodious or harmonious creations is partly caused by the appreciator learning how sound can be organised in time and is partly constitutive of eudaimonia or the flourishing life.
“But”, the music major continued, “Not everyone appreciates good music”.
“Agreed. I don think we can suggest that 7+5=12 is good mathematics. It is just mathematics. But I am sure a mathematics teacher might put a comment on a student assignment: “ a good answer”, “ a good proof” etc. In doing this he is probably expressing an attitude towards the skill the pupil is demonstrating. What we need to bear in mind here, however, is that the comment by the teacher is designed to initiate the pupil into the form of life of mathematics. I think I have been unclear here and you have as a consequence shifted amongst the meanings of good. The harmonious three notes from the harp is good music in a different sense from the sense of “good” you are referring to. But since my lack of clarity has caused this, let me stipulate that we are talking about a good piece of music in your sense. Could we then reasonably say that there could be disagreement in attitude toward the music? So, let us take an example of Mozart’s music. Surely one could imagine different attitudes to the music, one listener, finding it boring, another finding the music wonderful. I don’t think that any appreciator would be able to argue coherently that Mozart’s music is not good in the sense you mean. I do not deny that it is possible for someone to personally not like the piece in question. But such a response in the above circumstances must be a personal response and by definition fails to meet the criteria of the general disinterested attitude great composers expect from their audience. This disinterested attitude entails that one abstract from one’s personal likes and dislikes and apply established norms and standards to the art works one encounters. One may also be speaking comparatively and believe other music is more interesting. But even this would probably be a personal comparison and not meet the criteria of the general disinterested attitude that constitutes good taste. There may be radical disagreement over the work of a composer who does not set out with the intentions to create in their audience this general disinterested attitude but instead is perhaps aiming to arouse a nationalistic sentiment. In this case, one could imagine a critic criticising the music for not possessing a genuine artistic intention. We are now in the realm of aesthetic judgments, which are judgments about artistic action or activity. Music is interesting in that it can be performed. This fact introduces an interesting aspect of Art, namely, that a great violinist of the day can imitate Mozart. Shakespeare’s plays are also imitations of great tragedies from which we can learn much about reality. Perhaps someone might want to say that we can learn more from history than we can from Shakespeare’s plays and I would question this by pointing out that the narratives of art explore the continuum of everyday life more than narrative history does. History we should bear in mind dissects the continuum into discrete events and focuses on events of magnitude which politicians for example must pay attention to. However, the everyday continuum is the medium in which most people live their lives and it is partly the responsibility of Art to present events which everyman can learn something from. It should also be pointed out that we could learn theoretically by coming to understand something and we can learn practically by appreciating for example that good actions have good consequences and tragic actions have tragic consequences. This is the practical and ethical logic which inhabits much of our literary and performing arts.”
An Arts student asked:
“But is all art attempting to imitate reality in order to learn something from it. Is there not art which has a purely cathartic intention—purifying the emotions of the tribe, so to speak”
Interesting question. Which takes us into the realms of Psychology and the emotions. There is a psychological theory, which is not defended by academics but maintains that the mere experiencing of an emotion is beneficial for mental health. Let’s take a crude example. Say someone insults me. It is better, it is argued, for me to demonstrate my anger in response to the insult than to bottle it up, either going home and then beating up my wife or not expressing the anger at all and dropping dead of a heart attack at 50. This is called popular comparative psychology and it certainly does not meet the criteria of more academic philosophical psychology which believes that emotions can and should be tempered by reason, i.e. it is better to view the insult with the right attitude: either disdain or indifference if it is unmotivated, and either embarrassment or of purely cognitive interest if it is motivated. But in response to this it might be claimed that if one is going to teach a temperamental child to control their emotions, art may be able to play a role here. Seeing King Lear trying to call forth love from his three daughters by the bribe of a kingdom and the tragic consequences of such an act might be a useful learning episode in a man’s ethical development. Everything depends here on what is meant by “cathartic”. The mere repetition or feeling of an emotion produces no desirable effect unless it occurs in some kind of reflective or intellectual context enabling the experiencer to create a psychological distance to the feeling. Indeed habitually expressing anger at insults, for example, may merely serve to habituate the behavior which, in accordance with practical and ethical logic and over long periods of time lead to misfortune”
Robert raised his hand:
“You referred to ethical development and you have argued previously that ethics is objective and its objectivity is connected to concepts embedded in what you called the ought-system of concepts. But surely our aesthetic judgments must be subjective, a matter of feeling or emotion!”
“Yes, thank you Robert for your point. I have been using a large brush to represent emotion when much finer strokes are needed. Firstly let me say that emotions, though subjective are cognitive, that is they are purposive if I am acting, and they manifest an attitude both when I am acting and perceiving something emotionally. The putative insult, if it is not childish, may have mature intent, to call into question my character or my agency in the world. Now above I claimed that I could respond with indifference or embarrassment. I may be indifferent because I do not feel that I need to demonstrate my integrity or agency but suppose I become angry and demonstratively strike the table in my anger as a challenge to the person behind the insult. I might even shout out “Who do you think you are?” Now one can imagine an argument ensuing in which the insulter motivates his insult, and indifference or embarrassment supervene on my part. If, that is, the argument calls attention to something I had not realised about one of my actions which was the focus of the insult, e.g. “Did you not realise that when you said what you did about Mathematics it offended her because she was a Mathematician”. What we have here is a subjective exchange about people’s feelings but I would maintain that it is nevertheless cognitive. The cognitive lesson I learned was the following: theoretical objections to the assumptions of Mathematics could be regarded as offensive in the opinion of individual Mathematicians. That is, I learned a lesson in practical logic, namely, that one ought not to say what I had said. Your question has shifted us nicely onto the grounds of “Action” and “Judgment”. “Action”, as we have seen was one of the categories of Aristotle and “The Critique of Judgment” was the title of one of the works of Kant. Now neither Kant nor Aristotle specifically set about classifying kinds of actions but both philosophers operatively referred to kinds of actions in their various theories. Aristotle’s virtue theory, for example, discussed the Greek term arête that is variously translated as virtue or excellence, in an attempt to characterise “the good” as definitive of what action is striving to achieve. He also talked about eudaimonia or the flourishing life. This term “action” in relation to the flourishing life introduces a possible philosophical problem into the discussion, namely that “action” is a psychological term, which cannot be objectively characterised. This mistake is also sometimes connected to a mistaken psychological view of logic that believes that logic is descriptive of how we do reason and not prescriptive of how we ought to reason. We find certain popular philosophers reasoning that “If logic prescribes laws of thought and there is evidence that there are people who do not reason logically, then the laws do not hold universally” After all, it is argued if stones in a normal gravitational field failed to obey the law of gravity we would abandon the law. What has been argued in previous lectures is that someone committing a murder does not suffice to overturn the law relating to murder. Here as in logic, the law determines how we ought to judge the action. Now the point of this in the context of the Arts is that of course not everyone appreciates good music but they ought to, and even though this is a subjective matter we judge them correctly to be insensitive, meaning that they ought to have a feeling they do not have. Furthermore we believe that sensitivity of this kind probably leads to flourishing lives. Kant’s analysis of aesthetic judgment relies on a theory of mind he defends in earlier works. This theory maintains that sensory experiences of the world can be ordered by the rule-governed concepts of our faculty of understanding and it is this dualistic interaction that underwrites our knowledge claims. In aesthetic contexts, however the sensory manifold is ordered by a general emotion or attitude which emerges from the activity of understanding, and functions subjectively or self- reflectively as exemplary and universal. In answer to the earlier question relating to the inter-subjective nature of mathematical agreement, I agree it is easier to arrive at agreement in relation to a conceptual rule governed activity such as mathematics than it is in relation to an intuitively organised activity such as art but nevertheless the exemplary universality of our thought in the aesthetic case surely demands agreement even if in fact that agreement is more difficult than agreement over objective rules. Furthermore there are notorious disagreements amongst mathematicians when they discuss their theories. Mathematicians are not, for example in agreement over whether non Euclidean geometry is dependent upon certain truths of Euclidean geometry. This disagreement looks purely theoretical but brought down to earth will affect the relation of the theory to space. One can wonder in the light of non- Euclidean assumptions whether the statement “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line” is necessarily true. I see by the clock on the wall that we have overrun by 20 minutes so we will stop at this point. Some of what I have alluded to today will be relevant to next week’s lecture on “Science and the Theory of Knowledge”

Introduction to Philosophy Course: Aristotle Part 4: Ethics(Phronimos, logos, areté, eudaimonia, akrasia)

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Jonathan Lear in his work “Aristotle” says the following on p149:

“Freedom is important to us not as one value among others, but as that which constitutes our very being. Other animals may have beliefs and desire but humans distinguish themselves from the rest of nature by the ability to become consciously aware of these beliefs and desires, to consider them and to decide what to do on the basis of that consideration. A human agent need not merely be caused to act by his desires: by his reflecting on his desires and deciding which to satisfy and how, the desires become reasons for him. In acting for these reasons and agent manifests his freedom and humanity but, unfortunately, we have little understanding of what this manifestation of freedom consists in. Since this freedom helps to constitute our humanity, in being ignorant of its working we are ignorant of our essence. We lack an understanding of what it is, fundamentally to be us:”

Now we could be forgiven for believing that the above remarks are about the ethics of Kant but they are rather meant to articulate what Lear thinks is an important implication of Aristotle’s ethics. Lear does however throughout his work on Aristotle articulate support for the claim that Aristotelian ethics is an ethics of freedom. In the course of this “comparison”, however, a surprise is in store:

“According to Kant, a free agent must reflect on his desires from a standpoint outside the desires themselves. The deliberation will not be truly free unless it is carried out from a perspective which can view the desire and so consider it as one factor among others, but which remains independent of its causal sway.On this conception of reflection is a manifestation of freedom precisely because it is a form of detachment. The moral agent, for Kant, is one, who, in thought detaches himself from his desires, particular interests and circumstances and considers solely what a purely rational would will.Hegel, a devoted student of Aristotle, criticised Kant’s conception of free will. Such a will, Hegel argued, would be so detached from its own desires and from the circumstances of deliberation and action that it would be empty: it would never be able to determine what to will.”

Hegel claimed that he would stand the philosophy of Kant on its head ad in attempting to do so may well have turned the worlds of Aristotle, Kant and the common man upside down. Hegel’s dialectical logic replaced the Metaphysical Logic of Aristotle and the Transcendental Logic of Kant. Hegel’s inversion of bottom and top via his dialectical logic remind one of the psychological subjects of Stratton, wearing glasses which invert their retinal images and seeing the landscape upside down on the first day. On the second day these subjects felt that their bodies were upside down until finally after a number of days acting under these strange circumstances everything returned to normal again. Wearing the glasses of Hegel to view the Philosophy of Kant can indeed make the world of Kant seem a strange world itself in need of conversion. It is to say the very least rather surprising to find Lear subscribing to this Hegelian position, succumbing to this Hegelian deconstruction. We need in such a context, to remind ourselves of the texts of Kant which disprove the detachment thesis. Firstly, in the Critique of Judgment Kant clearly claims the existence of an intimate relation between practical reason and desire:

“In the same way reason which contains constitutive a priori principles solely in respect of the faculty of desire gets its holding assigned to it by the critique of Practical Reason.”(Preface)

Lear is apparently failing to register Kant’s claim that there are two kinds of concepts, theoretical and practical which generate separate and different principles of the possibility of their objects. Concepts of nature and concepts of freedom have a reflectively different structure. The application of concepts of nature an acting will generates what Kant calls technically-practical principles in which it is legitimate to conceive of a kind of separation or detachment of the subject and his/her action. Such technically-practical principles regulate and agents skills in accordance with the law of cause and effect and this places such concepts and principles clearly in the realm of theoretical philosophy far from the ream of desire. Kant defines desire in the following terms:

” a faculty which by means of its representations is the cause of the actuality of the objects of those representations.”

This clearly relates desire to practical reason and to the bringing about of states of affairs by means of principles in the practical world. Kant, in this discussion is careful to distinguish between empirical cases in which ones desire for a particular object precedes the practical principle and transcendental cases in which the determining ground of choice is the practical principle. An example of the latter would be in the case where the principle “Promises ought to be kept” determines my choice of what I must do and transmits my desire down a chain of action related reflections. There is no space for any detachment or separation of the agent from his action in such circumstances. In cases of a desire for a material object which is not being directed by a principle, the desire could arise and be abandoned in favour of another desire and in such circumstances one might say that the agent had a detachable relation to the object of the desire and the desire. This possibility on Kant’s view is a result of what he refers to as a lower faculty of desire which he contrasts with a higher faculty in which “promises ought to be kept” is a principle which one cannot abandon as a practical agent. The former lower faculty of desire, argues Kant is concerned with pleasure related to the object desired and its agreeableness. The Latter is concerned with what Aristotle would call the good in itself which in its turn is a concern with our well being and worthiness to be happy. For Kant this is a key condition for an ethical position and this may indicate a key difference between his position and the finality of the happiness condition which Aristotle proposes.

It is therefore puzzling to find Lear asking how a self conscious being on the Kantian account could make decisions at all as if the Kantian self consciousness resembled the Cartesian self consciousness reflecting theoretically upon its own desires. Hegel, we know, did not appreciate the relation of Kantian ethical theory to the ethical theory of Aristotle’s in which we see both adopting the vantage point of reflecting upon the relation of practical reason to its object rather than reflecting on the relation of a state of mind to its object.

One may wish to contradict this account by insisting that Aristotle’s theory of virtue specifically argues that virtue is a state(lexis) rather than a capacity(dunamis) or a feeling(pathos). The question, however, is how would Aristotle wish to characterise the state of the soul. He would not for example countenance this state as a state of consciousness and he would not want to countenance this state being characterised as many modern philosophy of mind theorists do as something “private”(feelings are private and particular). Rather, the “state” Aristotle is referring to here is a state of the soul which for him is differentiated in terms of different principles, defining different kinds or essences. Indeed, the word “disposition” might be a more appropriate term. For these purposes a practical disposition would be construed in terms of a law-like principle that has been sculpted by the processes of training, education and habituation in accordance with social and cultural processes such as that of the “Golden Mean”.

Practical dispositions are given their initial characterisation in the opening remarks of the Nichomachean Ethics:

“Every art and every enquiry, every action and choice, seems to aim at some good:whence the good has rightly been defined as that at which all things aim.”

For Aristotle, we should recall, the good has many meanings depending upon whether it is aiming in discourse at peoples character, their actions, the place or time they live in etc. But all have in common the essence of the good for man or eudaimonia, which for Kant was a part of his ethical religious idea of the summum bonum. It is especially difficult given this rather strong resemblance in their positions to imagine the ethical Kantian agent being detached from his own happiness or flourishing life. There is moreover a hylomorphic element to Kants theorizing which is unmistakeable. In much of his reasoning there is specific reference to matter and form and if we analyse the two formulations of the categorical imperative it would be difficult not to see the formal aspect of the ethical law in the first formulation and the material aspect in the second formulation. Were there to be only one formulation, namely, the first, one might be able to argue more forcefully for if not the detachment thesis Lear proposes, perhaps an accusation of formalism or “emptiness”. The first formulation asks us to “will” that the maxim of ones action be regarded as a universal law and if there is no such universal law then the logical consequence is surely at the very least “emptiness” and more seriously perhaps the impossibility of ethical action. The second formulation however fills the first formulation with content by insisting that we should act so that we treat everyone including ourselves as ends in themselves. This latter formulation is moreover, reminiscent of the kind of respect embedded in the Aristotelian account of friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle speaks here of a kind of fellowship existing between individuals or citizens of a polis which is similar to the the affection that siblings have for one another. In Aristotle the good is in mans character from the beginning in the form of a capacity to be developed by nurturing and education into a disposition. Just as we learn to be builders by building, and teachers by teaching doctors by doctoring, we learn to be brace by doing brave acts in encouraging circumstances. This is the route by which states of character are formed. In this process of forming a good disposition pleasures and pains need to be organised because, as Aristotle claims, “the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain” are the main sources of vicious action. Feelings are originally also capacities and are part of the material that needs to be formed by the nurturing of a virtuous disposition so that one feels the right feeling in the right circumstances at the right time.

It is obvious from the above account that virtue cannot itself be merely a feeling because as Aristotle rightly argues we do not praise or blame men for the feelings they are having, because this is something passive, something that is happening to them, within the privacy of their own bodies. The ethical attitude is an active attitude inextricably tied up with human activity, with action and with choice. Such activity is formed by a method shaped by an aim to hit a target or achieve an end. The difference between the generous man, the spendthrift and the miser is one of an active attitude towards men and money.

We can only choose to act, Aristotle argues if the action is of the kind, voluntary. Actions caused by external factors(compulsions) or ignorance are for him involuntary actions and cannot be freely chosen: such actions can therefore neither be praised nor blamed, i.e the agent cannot be held fully responsible for them. The notion of choice however is not related to the end of the flourishing life because this latter is a rational wish of Eros and is not itself chosen but rather succumbed to in the manner an educational process is succumbed to. Deliberation chooses the means to accomplish the flourishing life. For a holistic view of the process of deliberation stretching from the moment of succumbing to the moment of making the good occur see Sir David Ross’s account in “Aristotle”:

Ross situates choice in the matrix of desire, deliberation perception and Art:

“Desire I desire A
Deliberation B is the means to A
C is the means to B
N is the means to M

Perception N is something I can do here and now
Choice I choose N
Art I do N “

Ross does not do this but one can describe this process of deliberation in terms of areté which is a term Aristotle uses for both ones moral character and ones skill in thinking. Translating this term as virtue becomes clearer when it is used in the context of “the virtuous life” which when coupled to the term eudaimonia or the flourishing life embraces both the intellectual virtues and the moral/ethical virtues which include phronesis, courage and temperance.
The character of a virtuous man is, then, a set of dispositions(formed capacities) which organise ones desires and feelings in relation to the final end of eudaimonia or the flourishing life which inits turn is also the actualisation of the potential of the rational animal capable of discourse.
The Phronimos, the man possessing practical wisdom which he demonstrates with his correct reasoning , reasoning in the right way, or orthos logos, is the man whose psuche or soul best integrates the rational and the irrational parts of the soul. Aristotle indicates the consequences of falling short in the aim of fulfilling ones potential, namely forms of life which are neither excellent(areté) nor flourishing(eudaimonia. He illustrates this claim by pointing to the life of pleasure pursued by non rational animals, the life of honour pursued by men of ambition and the life of the Phronimos who, one assumes, fulfils his potential most completely because of the Platonic argument that he is the being who has experienced all the three forms of pleasure associated with these different life forms and as a consequence knows which pleasure is the best.Plato would have argued that the pleasure experienced by the Phronimos is pure(more intellectual) and unrelated to pain which by definition is a condition caused by a body striving for homeostasis. The lives of the hedonist, the wealthy man, the ambitious man are all pain avoidance related and therefore dependent on either external or internal causal factors. None of these forms of life meet the criteria of the self sufficient flourishing life.The great souled, Phronimos, on the other hand, is self sufficient because he reasons in the right way about the world of conduct and feelings(the feelings of pleasure and pain, fear and anger).

It is also important not to lose sight of the systematic connections of the above account with Aristotle’s claims about the psuche and human nature. Because humans are animals and organisms they necessarily possess an ergon(inbuilt function)as well as a telos which is dependent upon material and efficient causes. The human however, distinguishes itself from other forms of life through a unique capacity and its potential: rationality. Rationality is a term we attribute to humankind for its disposition to reason well and excellently. Reason is on this account a capacity and rationality a disposition(the well developed capacity of reasoning excellently).

One can wonder, as G E Moore did, whether including the natural, biological material and efficient causes of being a human in the definition of “moral value” condemns Aristotle’s account to committing the naturalistic fallacy, i.e. the fallacy of defining moral value in terms of natural capacities. We have argued above that moral virtue is dispositional and dispositions are formal and developed capacities. If this distinction is observed, there is no fallacy, no contradiction: capacities, we have argued, are actualised into dispositions given the appropriate conditions for the actualisation process to occur. That is to say, there is no logical equivalence between the natural capacities of a human organism and its moral dispositions which are , as has been argued, constituted of the exercise of natural capacities excellently.

Aristotle characterises all forms of activity and art as striving for the good and areté so it is important to point out that even if one possesses the capacity to build a house and do it well this activity of an artisan is not a form of moral excellence but rather a form of aesthetic excellence. Lear points out the fundamental differences between these forms of excellence:

“There are three conditions of acting virtuously. 1. The agent must have practical knowledge. For example for a given act to be courageous(not merely done in accordance with courage) a person must know that in these circumstances taking a stand would be the right thing to do. He must be aware that this is not a case of foolhardiness, bravado, or silliness. 2.He must choose the act and choose it for its own sake. He must be doing it because , in these circumstances, it is the courageous thing to do. 3. The act must flow from a firm character. It should not be a chance event as it would be, for example, if a man fought fiercely because in those circumstances he happened to find no way to flee. Such a person may have a strong survival instinct, but he is not courageous.”(p170)

The pursuit of aesthetic excellence requires only the first condition of the above three conditions. Lear continues:

” A builder needs only know how to build a house–choice and character are essential to virtue.”

There is a further major difference between moral and aesthetic virtue or excellence which is connected to the distinction Aristotle recognizes between acting(praxis) and producing(poesis). This is noted by G J Hughes in his Routledge guidebook: “Aristotle on Ethics”:

“Health is indeed the product of the art of medicine just as a house is the product of architecture, or a statue of sculpture. But eudaimonia is not the product of the actions of a good person. Fulfilment in life is not something over and above someone’s actions which those actions produce. Fulfilment consists in doing what one does just because one sees those actions as noble and worthwhile…. living is not a process one undertakes for the sake of something else which is produced as a result. The point of the good life just is the living of it.”

Hughes continues by pointing out that this puts Aristotle in the deontological camp in our modern ethical debates. He cannot be a consequentialist, argues Hughes, because:

“Aristotle has nothing comparable to Bentham’s definition of an action as a “mere bodily movement” from which it would indeed follow that the value of an action must depend the consequences that action produces, as Bentham says. Instead Aristotle defines an action in terms of how the agent describes or sees their behaviour at the time and draws no particular line between action and its consequences”

The implications of this are devastating for the utilitarian position which finds itself at odds with two of the most important ethical positions. For Aristotle, the agent must adopt a first person perspective to what they are doing and not a third person observationalist perspective which in the absence of the declaration of intention by the agent of the action might well see “mere bodily movement”. Confusion is endemic in this area of debate. We can see one kind of confusion in the utilitarian camp where the theoretical obsession with a reductive-compositive method together with an observationalist/experimental interpretation of that method postulates “atoms” of pure movement which can then be inserted into a theoretical framework of linear causes and effects. The movement “causes” a state of affairs which is logically different from its cause, thus dividing what was a unitary action into two elements which can only be composed into a unity at the expense of the holistic account of deliberative practical reasoning we find in Aristotelian ethics.

Confusions between praxis and poesis may even assist in this attempt to subject this domain to the theoretical framework of scientific reasoning. It is of course easier to dissolve a skill(needed for the production of an object) into movement and the product produced at the end of the activity because here quite clearly the observer can for example see the builder building and the “consequence”, the completed, produced house. Aristotle would immediately criticise this theoretical attempt for failing to appreciate the role of intention in identifying the activity, in correctly describing the activity. This for him could only occur from the first person point of view. The builder sees what he is doing from the point of view of the idea or form of the house he has in mind and this for him logically determines how one can describe such building activity. All art aims at the good, Aristotle declared but there is a difference between the good house being built which is largely an aesthetic matter and leading a good flourishing life which is a broader, ethical/political good. We need also to recall that we are in the realm of forms for Aristotle, forms which are subject to his metaphysical theory of change. Forms for Aristotle were hierarchically structured with sexual reproduction of living forms at the lower end of the scale being followed by the production of artefacts and finally by the learning and teaching of the forms. The production of artefacts as we pointed out involves practical knowledge but not choice and a stable character. Here it seems we are clearly dealing with an activity or work but not fully fledged action(Arendt distinguished in her work between labour, work and action) An organised soul is required to perform the actions which aim at a flourishing life: only work-activity is required to produce the objects of techné.

So, knowledge is involved in firstly, the action as a result of practical reasoning and secondly, in the deliberative calculation of the work activity behind the creation of objects of techné. We need to enquire into the different kinds of knowledge one can encounter in the different kinds of science one can encounter as part of the flourishing life. Aristotle distinguishes between three different kinds of science: the theoretical, practical and productive sciences. In relation to theoretical science he claims, in the spirit of knowledge being justified true belief, that essence specifying definitions or principles are the justifications we find in the theoretical sphere of scientific activity. These both provide a form of logical necessity not to be found in the other two sciences, which are both aiming at something for which, as yet, there are no essence specifying definitions but there are principles. Theoretical sciences aim at the truth and use logical demonstration that move from first principles or essence specifying definitions to logically related conclusions. Practical sciences may be related to the truth and logic or “analytics” as Aristotle called logic, but the primary aim of these sciences is the good. Because of areas of commonality we find in this area that particular conclusive judgments follow from universal and particular premises. Similarly, in the practical sciences “justification” will also involve the elements of Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change in which reference will be made to 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 “causes” but here agents, powers and actions will be the focus of attention.

In the “Posterior Analytics” Aristotle gives us an account of the acquisition of knowledge which it has been argued by Jonathan Lear is common for all the sciences:

“Man is not born with knowledge but he is born with the capacity to acquire it. But the world must cooperate with him if he is to exercise that capacity. Man starts life with the ability to discriminate among sensory phenomena, an ability he shares with other animals. His soul retains a record of its sensory encounters. Through repeated encounters with items in the world our sensory discriminations develop into memory and then into what Aristotle calls “experience”. Experience, Aristotle characterises as “the whole universal that has come to rest in the soul”. From repeated perception of particular men, we form the concept of a man, and the knowledge that this thing we see is a man is experience. If the universal or concept were not somehow already embedded in the particular, we could not make the transition from bare sensory discrimination to knowledge of the individual. As Aristotle says, “though one perceives the particular, perception is of the universal”(p2)

The above is a fine account of how the desire to understand involves powers building upon powers and integrating into the unified disposition of mind that we believe generates knowledge. This process, surely is, as lear claims, common to all the sciences. It accounts for how we differentiate animals from each other, of how we differentiate men from each other and also finally how we differentiate objects and actions from each other. The above account does not mention the powers of language and reason but these will certainly be involved in the generation of knowledge. The 4 causes or explanations of the theory of change will also be involved in our judgments of the good man striving to actualise his potential to live the flourishing life. They will also be involved in scientific judgments in relation to the good action which as we have been told plays an important role in the above actualisation process. The desire to understand oneself and know oneself will also probably be a part of this journey of awe and wonder. Aristotle’s idea of the flourishing life is one where both the moral and intellectual virtues form a unity in which knowledge whilst not being perhaps a seamless robe is at least one coat of many colours.
The idea of the good will in this account include both knowledge and understanding of oneself and the world one lives in.
Aristotle did engage in discussion of one aporetic issue which directly highlights the ways in which theoretical and practical knowledge are integrated in ethical action. Socrates argued that if a man knows the good, i.e. really knows and understands the universal idea of the good, then he will necessarily always do the good in his actions. On the fact of it the opening sentences of the Nichomachean Ethics, claiming as they do that all art, activity and enquiry aim at the good suggests that Aristotle too, must accept this Socratic analysis. Awareness of the phenomenon of the man claiming to know the good and then not doing it, however, pushed Aristotle into giving a more nuanced account of this so called phenomenon of akrasia or incontinence. For Aristotle it was necessary for him to acknowledge this phenomenon and give it an acceptable explanation. Now if it was the case that all men as agents aim at the good, it is difficult to understand how an agent can perform an incontinent action where that is defined as an action that is intentional and performed against a background of the knowledge that a preferable alternative action is available to the agent. If we are imagining a rational agent wholly constituted of their beliefs, desires, values and actions then:

“We can see a being as an agent, as acting intentionally, only insofar as we can see his behaviour within the schema of beliefs and desires that we attribute to him. It is among his beliefs and desires that we must find a reason for acting as he does. But we are able to identify his beliefs and desires only via his intentional actions, by what he says and otherwise does.It is in these actions that what is of value is revealed:there is , in principle, no independent access to his values.”(p176)

Socrates was criticized by Lear because he wanted to characterise akrasia in terms of states of the soul but the above quote seems to be a similar attempt, using states of mind and the terminology of analytical Philosophy. Aristotle’s account of akrasia is actually better characterised in terms of his own terminology of the powers of perception, memory, language, knowledge and reason in an organised soul: . On this account it is not possible. If there is an alternative action for which there are good reasons, it must be the case in an organised soul that all things considered and understood this must be the action one chooses to perform(not being aware of what one is doing and being drunk with passion are excluded as possibilities). This suggests that the phenomenon of incontinence must be explained by their either being a lack of knowledge or ignorance of how to act.
The power of judgment will also necessarily play a part in the deliberative process which leads to action. Lear develops this point in the following manner:

“Given that the premisses of a practical syllogism necessitate the action-conclusion, Aristotle needs an account of how the premisses might on occasion be blocked, rendered inoperative. He distinguishes various senses in which one can have knowledge or understanding: there is the sense in which one possesses the knowledge though one is not at present exercising it, and the sense in which one is actively contemplating. Aristotle accepts that a man actively exercising his knowledge could not act incontinently with respect to it, so he concentrates on those cases in which a man may possess the knowledge but somehow be prevented from exercising it. Strong anger r appetites may actually change the condition of the body…strong passions work like a drug which shuts judgment down, just as does wine or sleep.”

The virtuous soul, of course, is a well organised soul and will not allow its powers to be compromised in the above ways. The soul on its way to virtuous organisation may, however, be like an actor on a stage and be going through the motions of knowing, i.e. exercising deficient powers of knowledge by believing that he ought to be doing some alternative better action but because of the confusion in his soul is not able to settle on the completely articulated reason for what ought to be done. We should also remember, considering the fact that we are dealing with practical reasoning and rationality that the soul will not acquire what he calls the logos by merely hearing something and assenting to it: language is not a sufficient power to install the kind of knowledge being referred to. The apprentice knower, that is, must imitate his betters in an environment of ethical guidance and the journey from being an apprentice to being a virtuous man is one in which one is learning about oneself and the world . The possibility of course exists in such circumstances that someone may be right in ones judgments about the world but wrong in ones judgments about oneself, i.e. incontinence will be on display in such a case.

Fourth Centrepiece Lecture by Jude Sutton taken from “The World Explored, the World Suffered:The Exeter Lectures”: Epistemology

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Jude was 10 minutes late to the lesson. Another anxiety attack. He would not have made it if he had not drunk his last two barley wines. Sucking on a spearmint tablet he entered the class.
He threw his pen on my desk again and wrote on the board “The pen is on the table”

“If I say I know the pen is on the table and you Browne ask me on what grounds I know it I might say “On the grounds of seeing the pen on the table, feeling the table and the pen, hearing the pen when it dropped to the table, perhaps smelling the pen if it has a distinctive smell”. In other words, I know, by means of the senses. Now these grounds can be challenged. We know, do we not, that our senses have deceived us in the past and we have been quite surprised to learn that either what we thought to be there was not, for example the seeing of the mirage of water after a long waterless sojourn in the desert: or vice versa, for example, I was certain my gloves were not in the drawer but found out later they were. Further, that what we thought to be an x turned out to be a y, for example I thought I saw a round tower on the horizon but upon approaching it I see it really is square. What sometimes can deceive me can always deceive me. Hark unto the voice of the skeptic ladies and gentlemen for his voice is very convincing. Last night I dreamt that the wind was blowing me toward a cliff and there was nothing I could do about it. I woke up and realized it was only a dream or a nightmare. At the moment I think I am standing and lecturing before this class. I am certain of it as certain as I was of being blown toward the cliff in my nightmare last night. Could it not be the case ladies and gentlemen that I am only dreaming that I am standing in front of you and giving a lecture. The real me, the dreaming me, is back in another location preparing to wake up from this dream. So if I can not trust my senses and I can not be certain about whether what I see is part of a dream, how can I with certainty say I know the pen is on the table? But, on the other hand, surely we know that the pen is on the table. If we don’t know this how could we be said to know anything?” Logically we represent this state of affairs like this.”
He wrote on the board
“Knowledge of P = being able to apply the criteria for P being P
We can infer P from the premises fully specifying the criteria for P
Which means the criteria for P = P”
“But”, Jude continued, “Surely this cannot be so. Surely my knowledge of the pen being on the table amounts to more than the story told about the relation my sensory experiences have with this state of affairs.”
Mark Cavendish, a science major, put up his hand and responded
“ We need to think about the way in which we conceptualize the state of affairs, that is, the language we use to state the fact. There are not two things to be related here, merely two aspects of the same complex phenomenon.”
Jude stopped himself from continuing the lecture and asked
“And how would you describe this complex phenomenon”
“Not in terms of its truth conditions. This may be an infinite set or a very large uninteresting set. Language has a more important communicative function”.
“Are you saying that the communicative function of language has nothing to do with its truth function?”
“No, but I might be saying that if a hammer when it hammers is expressing its true function or its essential function, then this is what makes the thing we are talking about a hammer This would seem to be of greater significance than the fact that all the sensory criteria for this particular act of hammering have been met and are expressed in a theoretical characterization of this fact.”
Jude smiled his little private smile of recognition before his tone hardened:
“You are characterizing the world as a totality of functions or processes which take place in the continuum of time. If I were to take an example of hammering to illustrate my point it would not be a particular occurring in a continuum of change. It would be a timeless truth, which is made true by general criteria relating to the concept of hammering. The question I am asking is :”What is the relation of these criteria to the concept?”
Mark Cavendish, hesitated, unsure that he had understood everything that had been said. He looked at Robert questioningly for help.
Robert responded:
“Hammering may not be the best example to take in order to see the difference between the two positions. Imagine instead that you see a birdhouse I have recently built and you add this new fact to your arsenal of knowledge. Whilst it is being built it seems that the only reference point outside of the hammering and other activities occurring to bring the event of a completed birdhouse about, would be in the mind of the builder. His idea of a completed birdhouse would seem to be, at the time of having the idea, free of the physical space-time continuum. That is, anybody anywhere and at any time could build a completed birdhouse using this idea. Amongst other things what seems to be needed are general ideas of the function a birdhouse performs, and general ideas of what building are, before any such activity can take place. Although, by taking such a practical example, we may have wondered away from the original example which seemed to be about characterizing physical states of the world such as the pen being on the table. Dr. Sutton is asking, what the relation of criteria, is to the truth of this idea but I think Mark’s point very relevant anyway. The pen being on the table may not be fully and completely characterized by any set of purely physical criteria, even if we include physical laws, if that is what Dr. Sutton meant when he said that the pen on the table may involve more than my sensory experiences of this state of affairs.”
Cavendish nodded in enthusiastic agreement and Jude had now completely lost the thread of his lecture but something stirred within as he registered the student’s enthusiasm.
“Let us turn away from the abstract account of the criteria for P and away from the state of the physical world which contains Roberts birdhouse but towards an example which I believe can point us in the right direction insofar as ascertaining the grounds for knowledge claims is concerned. Let us imagine that I am in pain and that everybody can see the symptoms of the toothache I am suffering from. Let us further consider this example in the light of the question “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a pain to be a pain? Gather ye symptoms as ye may, they do not seem to add up to the necessary and sufficient symptoms for a pain to be a pain. That is, it always seems possible that an agent could fully be manifesting all of these symptoms and there be no pain—he might for example be acting a part in a play. Or, alternatively, the agent is in pain but he is in unfriendly circumstances and is using his Spartan training not to display any of his symptoms. He is in pain but only he seems to know it. But have I not in this admission that he knows he is in pain given the game away to Descartes and his followers who might at this point say in the most skeptical of voices “Only the person experiencing the pain can know that they are in pain”. Caught in these skeptical pincers one may want to try to deny that the agent “knows” he is in pain. It is too intense for him to know anything, someone may want to maintain: He is in pain, and this means that the experience is not an epistemological state, not a position in which one can know anything. Well, I think the agent does know he is in pain, and claiming that he is not, is only going to change the example we are talking about. Let us give the Cartesian his due: the agent knows he is in pain in spite of the fact that I believe the Cartesian could not give us a good philosophical account of what kind of being possesses a state of mind in which he is both in pain and knows that he is. The Cartesian argument Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, is supported by an argument which is meant to refute the skeptic, namely the argument that one cannot doubt that one is thinking because in order to doubt that one is thinking one would have to be thinking. This is a good argument but not an account of the state of mind of a being that can acknowledge this to be a good argument. And anyway it is at best only an account of how I know myself to be in pain. It is not an account of how I know some other sentient being to be in pain. And since I do not share in his conscious state, his conscious state, by logic, therefore, could not be attributed to me. We can rule out that I am conscious of his pain in the way he is. Well, then, how do I know? By observation, by using my senses and the application of criteria to ones observations, is one possible position. But this is only going to lead us back to the position previously referred to: we might settle for a large set of symptoms and find that they will not suffice and then we will add others and they will not suffice and eventually we will throw up our hands in dismay and agree that no theoretical set of symptoms will ever amount to the pain itself. I am told that Socrates left his studies of the physical world because of this kind of problem after having read the work of a pre-Socratic philosopher who claimed that the foundation of everything was Mind. The attempt to ground knowledge on the nature of matter will always fail philosophically because we will, in Kant’s words never arrive at its nature however complex the set of symptoms for it are. Aristotle claims matter is infinitely mysterious and we can only know its forms –the result of its apprehension by the mind: or in other words, the way in which we conceptualize it. Some ancient philosophers thought that the problem resided in the fact that all we could know of matter are its mathematical properties and since these are provably infinite, when considering it in its quantitative dimension, there can never be a complete set of symptoms for its state. Be that as it may, I think it suffices from the point of view of logic to merely point out that all that needs to be the case is that some given physical phenomenon is alternatively conceptualisable, say as a wave, or as a particle:- and if this is the case we clearly have a logical problem unless we rest with the idea that alternatively conceptualizing this phenomenon is a matter of characterizing different forms or ideas of matter.
A Mathematics major raised their hand and asked:
“Can you elaborate on the proof, that the number of mathematical properties of any material thing will be necessarily infinite?”
“Yes, There are a number of paradoxes, most of which are attributed to Zeno, in which it is maintained that objects in space are totalities or collections of potential points. Take any two points AB on their surface and calculate the number of potential points between AB and it will be an infinite number. These paradoxes even point to the difficulty of quantifying motion once the variable of time is added into the equation”.
The Mathematics major nodded, satisfied with the answer
Jude continued:
“Is there, then, no way out of this labyrinth except the ancient resort to forms in the mind?
Wittgenstein discusses this issue in his Investigations and arrives at the position that the forms in the mind have been put there by some objective process. We were not born with them. We may have been born with Aristotelian powers but not Platonic forms, and even Aristotle made fun of the theory of forms in spite of his abiding respect for his teacher.
In learning language, we fall and hurt ourselves as children, and are in pain. Our linguistic mentors then teach us to say that “We are in pain” and we move from the world of instinct, where animals are in pain and other animals sympathetically lick their wounds, to a kind of intellectual game in which I say “I am in pain” and other members of the community commiserate and offer me their sympathies, helping me over the pain. When I am initiated into this new form of life of talking about pain rather than the bare experiencing of it we are led into the human arena of caring for one another and the forms of life that are associated with this. If there is a principle behind all this it is the principle of Care—a very practical principle, which I would like to connect to the previous ethics lecture but for the moment I will restrict myself to the point brought up earlier about the language we use. It is a language relating to Humanity and Society not persons in abstraction from their relation to each other in communities…”

The European Qualification Framework(EQF) and the Global Educational Reform Movement(GERM).

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The Council of Europe has a long history of facilitating International cooperation since its inception in 1948. The history of international cooperation via business and trade goes back to The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
In recent times beginning in 2008 the Council of Europe has suggested a framework of educational levels(called EQF) ranging from 1-8 which are intended to be used for the purposes of evaluating educational qualifications internationally and thus facilitating the free movement of people between different sovereign nations

The Global Educational Reform Movement is a modern educational movement partially initiated by so called “progressive” pedagogues in the USA. This movement has swept the globe and produced devastating consequences for educational systems around the world. It is important to note however, that the movement actually has a very long academic history which goes all the way back to Hobbes and Descartes who heralded the beginning of the modern scientific and political age by dismissing the works of Aristotle: works which had actually been the foundation of all progress in Europe. Many philosophers throughout the ages have argued that the reason why Scientists have pursued their subjects so systematically is due to the systematic and universal approach to the subject. If this is so one must be wondering how two Philosophers of the modern age can have succeeded in dismantling Aristotle’s thousand year influence. Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages in the course of translation by Religious authorities who controlled the flow of ideas in the world. the work of Aristotle was falsely represented for reasons we do not yet fully understand. This was followed by a time when academic scientists with one eye on the treatment of Galileo sought to free themselves of the chains that were confining their scientific theorising about the structure and origins of the universe. The feeling was that we needed to reinvent the wheel of knowledge in a space free from Religious intervention. The Scientist wanted to be left alone to pursue his observations and formulate his theories in order to provide us with explanations of the origins and structure of the universe. This picture of the lone scientist completely disregarding the history of his subject and setting off into the desert and mountains of the universe with his instruments was the image which actually inspired the American revolution in Education that in turn suggested the child should adopt this a-historical backwoodsman mentality in the classroom. The teacher’s role should be as an advisor and guide and learn about the child’s mind via this uniquely revolutionary approach to education. We know now that this was a disaster and a number of generations of pupils instead of experiencing a truly progressive historical educational system based on the Philosophy of Aristotle with its amendments and improvements by Kant and the work of the later Wittgenstein, have been forced to participate in a romantically inspired adventure which has to my surprise not yet ended. It is my suspicion that, of all places, the Council of Europe are still more influenced by the limited perspectives of Hobbes and Descartes than they are by the systematic theorising of Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein.

First we should point out that it is thanks to the work of Aristotle that we have the framework of the differences between theoretical, practical and technological science. It is thanks to Aristotle that we have the divisions between the sciences we have today, e.g. the physical,the biological, the psychological, the theological. It is thanks to Aristotle that academics do not believe the “stories” about ethics we get from theoretical scientists in which it is claimed that theories about ethical behaviour are not as objective as their theories about natural events and processes. This latter point is not an expression of a position in an academic quarrel but rather is an expression of the fact that our educational systems maintained their strong ethical focus for so long. For Aristotle, Education aims at the philosophical: it aims at universal knowledge which flows from the structure of the human mind which he examined in a way which to this day dwarfs all other examinations. The range of complexity of his theory is still being written about by scholars today. It took great minds like Kant and Wittgenstein to accept his framework and make improvements upon it. All three philosophers were highly critical of the scientifically inspired “framework” that developed as a consequence of the “modernisation of Philosophy and knowledge by Hobbes and Descartes. A framework which would eventually lead to the GERM.

The Council of Europe were undoubtedly influenced by Descartes lonely meditative figure reflecting on himself and by the materialist Hobbes and his vision of the good life which was the bourgeoisie businessman’s life dedicated to commodious living and occupied with a hedonistic calculation of the value of human life. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would have scoffed at this simplistic vision of the complexity of man as would have Kant and Wittgenstein. They would have suggested that if one followed such a vision one would end up with a society of the kind we currently see in the USA–the businessman’s paradise. If this is true, is this not a fascinating thought that the Council of Europe shares its values with a USA that largely ignores the ICJ and the UN and spreads the GERM everywhere it can.

So, in the light of the above considerations let us examine one of the latest products of the Council its EQF “instrument of evaluation”. There are eight levels in the EQF system. Level 4 is the level of gymnasium education, level 5 is a level between Gymnasium and University and there we see an amazing anti- Aristotelian thought, namely that as education advances it “specialises” into ONE area and as we progress toward doctoral studies at level eight we are dealing with a part of a subject. The very title-name of Ph.d is Aristotelian: it refers to a doctor of Philosophy and philosophy in Ancient Greece was the most universal of all the subjects. It was the subject which examined the mind which sought to understand everything about the universe,and not just the internal organs of the coffin worm which could be the topic of a science Ph.d. Aristotle that is, was using philosophical and first principle thinking when he identified all the domains of study which would later become the subjects we are studying. So for Aristotle the doctoral level of study should not be specialising but universalising. This is not reflected in the criteria we see for level 8.

Now the GERM has also all but destroyed our once excellent European University systems. It has definitely destroyed the University system in Sweden. When I was attending Universities in England in the 1970’s the GERM was just beginning to make its presence felt and I can honestly say I was given the original Aristotelian education at two Universities in England. Arriving with these qualifications in Sweden in 1979 I was forced to “alter” my Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian attitude in order to obtain a Swedish doctorate. That is, I was forced to write a worse doctorate than the one I would have otherwise written.
I am sure the Swedish University system is even as we speak requiring the same behaviour of students who come into the system with a genuine philosophical background and the difference is that they today are now able to point to two Council of Europe decisions and the EQF evaluation instrument in support. The dreams of Hobbes and Descartes of men and institutions created in the image of their Philosophies have come true. Sciences proliferate in accordance with the spirit of specialisation like the mythical thousand heads of the monster of the ancient Greek imagination. In the last 50 years the Humanities subjects in the spirit of philosophy have constantly diminished in stature and teaching hours at University level. These are the concrete consequences of the GERM with the added support of the EQF instrument and an ever increasing population of scientists at these “Universities”. How long before we call them by the more appropriate name: “Specialities.”?

I am a product of the English A level system and have been teaching in the Swedish Social Sciences/Economics and Natural Science programs as well as the International Baccalaureate Programme. All four programs would be placed in the current EQF system at the EQF 4 level. One program (the A level system) was a pre-GERM system and has with one qualification which we will not discuss here have a claim to be a higher level educational system than level 4.

On the basis of an Aristotelian/Kantian/Wittgensteinian framework where knowledge does not proceed in a specialising direction but rather a philosophical holistic universal direction one might conceive that the above 4 programs should be placed at three different levels ranging from 4 for the Swedish programs to low 5 for the IB AND 6 for the Olde English A level system before it was contaminated by the GERM. IB is currently placed at 5 because at its inception it had truly Philosophical intentions and should have been placed at a 6 in my new proposed system but with the expansion of the system in America and other non English speaking countries, the GERM system has managed to affect the quality of education produced and a current realistic estimate would be that the Ib system should be on the boundary between a 4 and a 5.

Let us note here that that the argument being put forward is not that science is not an important subject in the gamut of subjects we learn and teach. It is rather that, according to Aristotle, Science had characteristics which would firstly, explain its differentiation into different parts in accordance with the segments of physical reality it seeks to describe and explain and secondly would explain the universal nature of the subject where universal principles organise these descriptions and explanations. Science,in other words proceeds universally in accordance with the principle of non contradiction and other universal principles outlined by the Philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein. Proceeding in the direction of universalisation at University level might also have resulted in more research into the relations between the biological, psychological and theological “universal” sciences.

The IB deserves a place above normal gymnasium systems for three reasons. Firstly because of its attempt to incorporate its philosophy of education in a course given to the students called the Theory of Knowledge course. Secondly because of its inclusion of the subject of Philosophy amongst the range of options it offers in its humanities section. Thirdly because of the essay based approach which is assessed in terms of criteria which are intending to evaluate not specialist understanding of concepts but universal understanding of principles and systems of concepts.

The problem with this suggestion of a new scale and the new criterion of universalisation rather than specialisation is the problem of how we are going to find differentiating criteria for the higher levels. Again I would suggest turning to the ancient Greeks and the hierarchy of understanding that is involved in study over a period of time: the young man(bachelour) studying for three years at the Academy or the Lyceum is obviously learning how to make judgments on the material he is presented with in accordance with principles. The more mature man(master) who has studied somewhat longer has mastered the concepts and principles and is not merely capable of making judgments in accordance with the principles but can make judgments on the principles, i.e. can make critical judgments. The doctoral level is a more mature position,and involves the application of a critical approach for the benefit of the subject and its relation to all other subjects and the society one is part of as well as other societies. This would be a hierarchical escalation on an evaluative scale in accordance with the principle of universalisation rather than specialisation.

All the reasons for this approach can not be given in a short lecture of this nature and would require amongst other things also studying the work of Philosophers working with the same or a similar theory of knowledge. It would also require the study of the History of Psychology/Social Science and the History of Education as well as the History of the subjects of a school and university curriculum.

Let me in conclusion appeal to the study of two Psychologists whose work has been in the spirit of Aristotle, i.e. in the spirit of a holistic understanding of man, namely Maslow and Freud. Maslow’s work we know appeals to the businessman who is frantically searching for a theory which he can apply to his fickle customers or unreliable business partners but it is in fact an academic theory inspired by Aristotle’s theories. Maslow is trying to describe and explain what it is that motivates man and why. We are animals, as Aristotle pointed out, and as such we are motivated by physiological needs(which include the sexual) and safety needs: a place in a territory we have defended where we feel safe.
As animals capable of discourse and reason we also experience the need for a kind of love which animals do not possess. According to Maslow once we receive the required amount of love which occurs over a long period of time over a long childhood, a need at the next level of the motivational hierarchy emerges namely the need to feel self esteem and receive respect or esteem from others in ones environment. In Maslow’s earlier theory it was enough to fulfil needs at this level in order to become self actualised, i.e. reach ones full Aristotelian potential of being the fully functional rational animal. In order to test his theory he applied the criteria of his theory to his university students and discovered to his surprise that they fulfilled the criteria for esteem but not for self actualisation. Maslow asked himself why this was the case and realised that his theory was missing a dimension which is very relevant to my thesis, namely experience in the attempts to answer three universal questions that have come down to us from Greek Philosophy in general and Aristotle in particular, namely What is true? What is the Good?, and What is beauty?.
These are the universal questions one attempts to answer at University and one supposes that Maslow may also have reasoned in the light of the GERM that there was no guarantee that these questions receive satisfactory answers at many Universities.So Maslow believed in universalisation rather than specialisation in his motivational theory.

Sigmund Freud was a brain researcher of significance at Vienna University before he founded the universal psychoanalytical movement which lay completely outside the University system.His earliest theories attempted to use purely scientific concepts and principles in order to explain why people were not mentally healthy and he failed monumentally to such an extent that he even attempted to hide this embarrassing fact from future generations by burning his “Project for a Scientific Psychology”. As he progressed in his theorising, it is not difficult to see how he used definitions and concepts which were Aristotelian in order to develop a framework from which to treat his patients. Toward the end of his career he even turned to Plato for the concepts of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke when he sought to explain mans futile attempts to embrace the rationality principle of Aristotle in the wider context of life in so called civilised societies. This is an escalation from specialisation toward the universal.

My last argument is that the very word “university” means “universal” and all education aims at universal knowledge if we all are to understand the world in all its forms. It is without question useful to specialise and understand the functioning of the internal organs of the coffin worm at the extreme ends of this universal-specialisation spectrum but it is a finer thing to wish to understand the mind of man and the universal principles that determine the shape and form of the infinite starry universe above and all around us.