23 March 2007

Today's reading

... is on the subject of reductionism as applied to human beings. I.e. having a model of the individual as a somewhat deluded robot. (Question for the gifted* — which current television documentary series draws on this theme?)

from Mediocracy: Inversions and Deceptions in an Egalitarian Culture (p.100)



* The "gifted", according to a recent government definition, are the top ten per cent of the population.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your criticism of the mediocratic view on the individual, fabian, i don't agree with the notion that we have free will. search the free will problem and you will see what i mean, even schopenhauer was a hard determinist.

but i do agree that there are and should be individuals with individual selves and consciousness. oh and i love it when you mention how the individual submits to mediocracy's authority figures, haha how comedic and tragic it is when i see it..

Fabian Tassano said...

Thanks for that interesting comment.

Two points.

1) I was careful in the book to confine myself to highlighting prevailing ideological biases, and to avoid arguing about whether particular models are true or not. So, for example, I note that much of modern philosophy has reductionist tendencies, but I wasn't saying that any particular position was wrong. I am not, for example, completely closed to the argument that consciousness is an illusion, I just suspect the reason this idea is fashionable has far more to do with the fact it suits interventionism than with the soundness of the philosophical arguments.

2) Since you raise the question of free will, I will however give my personal take on this. I believe this is one of those issues which it's impossible to settle by analysis - or by empirical investigation either come to that. Probably because the conceptual apparatus being used to think about it is not adequate to the problem. I certainly don’t hold that determinism must be false, and I don’t for example regard attempts to find a loophole for consciousness in quantum indeterminacy as promising.

Interesting you should mention Schopenhauer, because he comes close to capturing what I regard as the most tenable position. I’m not sure he could be characterised as “hard determinist”. I don’t think he said “free will is an illusion” exactly, just that will cannot be said to override determination. Nor did he assert compatibilism, he just left it all a bit up in the air. Which perhaps is the best approach possible under the circumstances.

The Prince of Truth said...

Schopenhauer, was most surely a hard determinist Fabian and made this very clear.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Freedom_of_the_Will

Fabian Tassano said...

I disagree, and can only repeat what I said in my previous comment. Schopenhauer seems to have subscribed to determinism, without agreeing that freedom of the will is a delusion. You can argue he was being inconsistent, but I think there is something in the idea that the issue isn't a simple either-or.

The Prince of Truth said...

Where does he disagree about the freedom of the will being an illusion? Because I see no such place where he was inconsistent.


Freewill is much more incoherent than determinism. If a baby and a child aren't responsible for who they are, then when they become older they are products of not only their childhood but also their heredity and environment. We would like to put an age on when adults are "responsible" but this is arbitrary in my opinion. Also, it's mostly privelaged people (libertarians) who most subscribe to freewill because they like to think that everyone can be "successful" which we all know isn't the case.

Fabian Tassano said...

"Where does he disagree about the freedom of the will being an illusion?"
- Where does he agree?

"Freewill is much more incoherent than determinism."
- What makes you think these are exhaustive and mutually exclusive options?

"If a baby and a child aren't responsible for who they are, then when they become older they are products of not only their childhood but also their heredity and environment."
- Sure, there's lots of things you're not responsible for, does that mean there is nothing you are?

"It's mostly privileged people (libertarians) who most subscribe to freewill because they like to think that everyone can be 'successful' which we all know isn't the case."
- I don't think libertarians generally subscribe to "free will", they subscribe to the idea of leaving people alone. If no one has free will, why should that make it more desirable for some people to interfere with others? And I suspect your link between libertarianism and privilege is little more than prejudice. In my experience, paternalism is a far more popular option among the "privileged" than libertarianism. For the obvious reason that they typically get to be the ones to orchestrate the intervention.

The Prince of Truth said...

Schopenhauer agrees about the illusion of freewill when he says things like this:

"Everyone believes himself a priori to be perfectly free, even in his individual actions, and thinks that at every moment he can commence another manner of life... . But a posteriori, through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, but subjected to necessity, that in spite of all his resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, and that from the beginning of his life to the end of it, he must carry out the very character which he himself condemns...." from The Wisdom of Life, p 147

or this:

"You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing." from On the Freedom of the Will

These views are concretely determinist and I see no notion of "freewill" in them.


What can you be responsible for really? Let's see, you don't choose to be a gifted child or many other talents and abilities and consequently your future will be different because of heredity. You don't choose your desires, including what you want to do with your life, so that determines many things. Alcoholism could be entirely determined, and recent research has shown that paedophilia seems to be so as well. You don't choose where you were born, or how much money your parents had, you don't choose loving or hating parents, you don't choose when you were born. All these things determine everything about your life. You don't choose to go to state schools. You don't choose how many and what jobs there are in your city or in the country, consequently this determines many things. If a person in poverty becomes "succesful" that is entirely based on circumstance and situation. Usually they had something to start with, then they have connections or incidentally find connections, and so on and so on. It is a chain of causes and effects. Jeez when I look at everything, there doesn't seem to be anything that I can sincerely be responsible for. What did I miss?

Libertarians like to leave people alone because we don't generally care about homeless people or criminals. If Schopenhauer is correct, these people did not "choose" to be where they are, it's like saying a regular joe was responsible for the 1929 Stock Market crash, when the truth is that it was caused by deliberate market manipulation at the hands of the Federal Reserve, which is a PRIVATE bank, creating money out of thin air, backed by nothing, and putting interest on it. Ahh yes the Federal Reserve, that monster created by the Rothschilds and other corrupt banking families, not only is it unconstitutional, but it also created income tax, again unconstitutional.

There are times when "interfering" makes sense, such as giving jobs to the homeless. There are times when intervention doesn't make sense, such as state education because it doesn't do anything for you.

Also, it's ironic that paternalism is far more popular among the privelaged according to you, since that means that the bourgeois (?) wants to do something that they're traditionally against?

Fabian Tassano said...

Re Schopenhauer, let's agree to differ. Neither of your quotes establishes your point:
- "he finds to his astonishment that he is not free" is prima facie a psychological analysis rather than a statement of S's position
- "in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing" says you cannot will other than you will, which doesn’t mean your will is necessarily an illusion.
More important than what S really thought is the fact that there is an essential irreconcilability between the physical world and consciousness, and this makes all related philosophical issues intractable IMO. Free will may be an incoherent concept within a physicalist framework, but so is a stream of consciousness that includes the (illusory) experience of "will".

"Libertarians like to leave people alone because we don't generally care about homeless people or criminals."
Nonsense, and if you consider yourself a libertarian, you're not doing the cause any good by saying that. I care about homeless people, sick people, and so on, I just can't necessarily do anything for all of them (if one came knocking on my door I'd do what I could), and (this is surely what defines libertarians): I believe that delegating "help" to the state does more harm than good. It doesn't necessarily help the recipients, it can easily lend spurious legitimacy to doing them harm (e.g. coercive psychiatry), and it causes harm to the rest of us who are coerced into financing the supposed "help".

"The bourgeois (?) wants to do something that they're traditionally against?"
The bourgeoisie has driven all post-war culture and politics, for better or worse, though often in the name of the proletariat. One of the peculiarities of a mediocracy is that the bourgeoisie generate anti-bourgeois legislation and propaganda. It's basically about power: how do those in power expand or consolidate their position? In a so-called "mixed" economy (i.e. 40-50% of GDP flows through the state) it's by expanding the state, and indirectly by generating culture and ideology that legitimates expansion.

The Prince of Truth said...

" 'he finds to his astonishment that he is not free' is prima facie a psychological analysis rather than a statement of S's position"

What??? If it was merely an analysis he would have said so, not delibrately and clearly claim it that it is his own statement and position that he believes it is true. He would have said, "I THINK this is such and such, not, I conclude that he is not free."

"says you cannot will other than you will, which doesn’t mean your will is necessarily an illusion."

Uhhhh, Arthur and I never said the WILL is an illusion, I said FREEwill is an illusion.

"the fact that there is an essential irreconcilability between the physical world and consciousness, and this makes all related philosophical issues intractable IMO."

Wrong. What is the irreconciability? Our consciousness could be an entirely physical process, not an illusion but just a physical process, like Data on Star Trek.

"Free will may be an incoherent concept within a physicalist framework, but so is a stream of consciousness that includes the (illusory) experience of "will"."

The "will" as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and Freud formulated it, is not an illusion AT ALL. It is obvious that we look for assertion, power, expression, dominance, aggression, desire, striving, etc etc... The "will" definitely and concretely exists Fabian, it's just the "freeness" aspect of it that is most likely an illusion, due to causality and child development and genetics and the environment.

I am a libertarian, but I only like to think that I "care" about homeless people, such as showing empathy whenever I see them, of course that is all I can humanely do, but it's far from "caring." This caring that you speak of Fabian, I'm too cynical about since if we really did care, we would go out and help them on our spare and precious time, not "help" them if they... goodness gracious, walk up to our doors! How convenient.

The only state help I'm talking about here is providing regular jobs and work for money if they desired to work, this isn't welfare. This is I think a good idea, because employers won't hire you if you don't have an address or mailbox, well they won't hire you if you're homeless!

Funny you mention it's basically about power. Do you realize how corrupt the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are? Do you realize that these are PRIVATE banks created by the Rothschilds and other corrupt criminal banking families? These institutions literally type up money on the computer and POOF create money, backed by nothing. Then they LEND it to you with INTEREST on it! Do you realize how screwed the US and Europe are because of this? For shit sakes, you don't even have control of your own money!! And whoever controls the money, controls the world. Forget about monarchy or constitution, the banks have nullified these things and you with it, they are feathers, they are on their knees and begging for it. Trillions of dollars of endlessly rising debt, impossable to pay back interest, etc etc... The world's wealth concentrated in the hands of a few corrupt families, starting wars and who knows what else. Power indeed Fabian, power indeed. Read this if you have the truth and honesty for it.

http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/article.asp?ID=1885