Fluffykins Vs Lucifer, Defining Art Might be Fucked Up, Pt 1

Fluffykins: What the fuck is this?

Lucifer: The Miss Universe Pageant, want to watch?

Fluffykins: Not really… I don’t know how I feel about this sort of thing.

Lucifer: Maybe it’s problematic, I don’t know, but it’s a guilty pleasure so hush or I’ll damn you n’ stuff.

Fluffykins: That’s not what I was getting at. Do you think it counts as art?

Lucifer: What do you mean? Certainly I think a beauty pageant can count as art, if we are speaking in terms of lower case art. At its core, a pageant is gathering of “beauty” among other things and whether or not it is judged, there is certainly lowercase art at the least to be found, do you disagree?

Fluffykins: No, but that’s the problem. Other controversies that surround a beauty pageant such as this include its effects on young women who look up to these figures as symbols of beautiful people and try to imitate them. Women performing can have a size 0 waist-line and despite whatever they have to do to keep that, there are younger viewers who see them and strive for the same size stomach. It’s no giant step to consider the eating disorders sparked from this display among the viewers, those who would do anything to participate, and the participants themselves. However now we’ve encountered the problem of distinguishing the eating disorder from the art.

Lucifer: Surely you aren’t suggesting that a person with an eating disorder qualifies as a form of art? That would be super fucked up…

Fluffykins: I don’t want to, but to play devil’s advocate for a while, there are forms of performance art that include self harm. I’m referring to lower case art here, without trying to define “Art”, allow me to reference some examples that I believe should be included as art. To start small, think of tattoo artists using a tattoo gun to sear patterns into flesh. Surely tattoos count as art and the process does involve intense pain, so we’re willing to accept some pain in our definition, but then does that mean there is a threshold of harm included in art? If so, when would it something stop being art and start being plain dangerous?

Lucifer: Well before I’ll allow your query, I’m hesitant to accept your example with harm in art. While tattoos may be widely accepted as art, I’m not so sure the process of getting a tattoo does. Tattoos themselves don’t hurt anyone, it’s the process of carving out skin that evokes pain.

Fluffykins: An interesting point, I’ll address it later, but to satisfy you now let me reference body suspension, the performance art. This art form originates from the Mandan tribe of Native Americans from what is now called North Dakota. While contemporary influences have changed it slightly, this practice still involves skewering segments of skin with large hooks in order to suspend the body in the air. Practitioners claim that it alleviates stress, but the blood dripping from the wounds lead me to believe that at least some pain is involved, no matter how stress relieving. I just finished taking a Native American Art History class which covered Navajo blankets among many other things, but it doesn’t seem like body suspension would be any different. Do you disagree that body suspension either counts as art or is not painful?

Lucifer: Without defining “Art” it’s not obvious that anything at all can be considered art, but for sake of discussion I’ll agree to both counts.

Fluffykins: Well if we allow some forms of performance art that includes self harm like body suspension, then it’s not clear when the line can be drawn from something that is just blatantly dangerous like an eating disorder and something that may be performance art that includes self harm like intense fasting for slim waist. To put my question clearly, when can we say someone is not eating as a form of performance art as opposed to someone who is not eating because they have an eating disorder?

Lucifer: It’s obvious from your question. If someone isn’t eating because they have the intention to be slim or a performance artist, then it’s art, but if there is no such intention then it is an eating disorder.

Fluffykins: You don’t mean to say that if someone doesn’t eat for a bit they may have an eating disorder? I could skip meals for a day as part of a healthy diet–

Lucifer: Do not miss the point of our discussion idiot. I simply mean that someone who undertakes severe fasting can be either a performance artist (I’m including someone who wants a slim waist for beauty’s sake in here as well) or someone with an eating disorder, distinguishable by intent.

Fluffykins: Thank you for clarifying, but nonetheless a fool’s mistake. Art cannot solely depend on intention to qualify, while artists may have purpose for producing their work, it isn’t necessary to call things art. Consider the Native American clay sculpture “Horns of Dilemma” by Peter B. Jones; its purpose according to him is to comment on the negative effects that western influences had on Native people. Take away the purpose from the consideration, assume that the piece now means nothing, would you say it no longer counts as art?

Lucifer: I’d still like to say that it’s art, but I think you’re wrong in assuming that art could have no intention. All art is made by an artist and where there is an artist, there is intention, no matter how whimsical. A person with an eating disorder is not an artist and there is no intention, therefore it can’t count as art.

Fluffykins: It seems that you’re eager to dismiss the idea, but you’re still a dumbass. It may be clear to the person with an eating disorder that he/she isn’t a performance artist making art based on your account of art, however it’s not clear to a 3rd party. Suppose Fred had an eating disorder and sought medication to help him, however because the prices for medicine are absurdly high he asked his insurance company for support. Big Bad Insurance company declined his request, so Fred took them to court, in which a lawyer is trying to prove that Fred is just a bad performance artist. Surely it sounds ridiculous to Fred, who knows he has an eating disorder, but by your account of art we can confuse the case a bit. If Fred were in a coma and couldn’t attest to his intentions or lack there of, it’s not possible to distinguish Fred 1, who wants insurance to pay for meds to abuse, from Fred 2, who wants insurance to pay for meds he needs. It’s not obvious that there is intention in this circumstance. If there is, it has the potential to be art, but if there isn’t then it must be an eating disorder by definition. However without Fred to make his case, the court is left to hear the one sided argument presented by the insurance company who cannot distinguish him from a shitty artist and thus has grounds to decline medical support. If you’re still not convinced, think of Tom, who is in the exact same position as Fred except he is a shitty performance artist who wants the insurance company to pay for pills he intends to abuse and he’s not in a coma. While it’s clear to Tom that he’s not an artist, its impossible to distinguish for anyone else if he says he is in fact an artist. Any fool can see how this is an issue when considering if something should count as art.

Lucifer: I see your point, but does art need to be perceived as art to be art? Consider a world that is entirely red, would its inhabitants need to be able to call it red for it to actually be red? It seems as though a blue dot introduced in that world would allow the people to appreciate red, but nothing would change in the color itself, the world was always red. Regardless if art is called art by the public, it should still be art no?

Fluffykins: I suppose so, but you’ve stepped away from the issue at hand. Your response to the jury is virtually non-existent, but your attempt at defining uppercase “Art” is desperate. The problem with this account is the ontological commitment to “Art”. While it seems that it’s appreciation is irrelevant to its necessary definition, you’ve offered nothing to postulate why “Art” should exist at all. Not that you are to blame, but “Art” poses a heavy burden to one who would desire to define and accept it.

Lucifer: Now aren’t you the one who sounds feeble? Just because it’s weighty doesn’t mean it wouldn’t exist, it’s just a pain in the ass to define. Because I’m infinitely evil and stubborn, shall we begin this arduous task sooner rather than later?

Fluffykins: No, you dick, I have a better solution, but I’d like a day to gather my thoughts. I’m too drunk and too tired at the moment to continue and I don’t want to do something stupid lest I be damned to your place.

Lucifer: Very well, I’ll grant you one day’s time to continue our discussion. Begone knave!

 

*to be continued…*

Why I hate who you think you are

The aim of this argument is to crush who you think you are. I want you to consider who you are, not only in an existential way, but also in a pragmatic one. By the end, unless you comment otherwise, you must learn concede that you are nothing more than an ignorant, hopefully lucky, relatively intelligent mammal and self-proclaimed human. But I’ll love you anyway because I’m trying to be one too.

 

To accomplish this weighty challenge, I’ll attempt to carve out great portions of this thing called an ego from your flesh (not literally, don’t look at me that way). But I’ll try to be nice and start with myself. If I were to begin to think about the things that make up “me” I wouldn’t have a very long list. As Descartes famously put in the Cogito, “I think therefore” I’m using an overly quoted line. While I find his point interesting, the valuable aspect of the Cogito is to demonstrate what you are not. Descartes stripped his identity down to the simple certainty that he “was”, whatever he “was”. Friends and family call me a philosophy major and while it’s fine to say this lightheartedly, I’m just a philosophy major contingent on my university’s records. Let’s say that I’m a neon pink house cat, this would be true based on facts about the universe that include me as a neon pink house cat. My being a philosophy major ends the moment we take away the university from the equation, so it’s not really about me rather a title bestowed upon me.

 

While this doesn’t appear too detrimental for the title of a certain college major, an identical issue occurs in most attributes people commonly use to describe themselves. One of the most apparent fallacious claims to identity are careers. It’s obviously a social construct, contingent on an institution or knowledge that you presume to have by which you may call yourself a professional. Let’s take football players for example, they are “football players” so long as the game of football exists. It’s very easy to imagine a world in which professional football leagues are forgotten relics of the past. In that world there would be no football players, so to identify one’s self as such seems more like a momentary idea. If you don’t believe me, how many gladiators do you see today? Surprisingly few… The gladiator was a socially constructed term used to describe people who fought in the Colosseum, it’s the ego that took it on as part of itself. The same can be said about the concept of football players, it’s quite literally a tool used to describe those who play football. This term, as I see it, is nothing more than any other adjective such as tall or cold. It’s society that has allowed the ego to absorb Football Player with a capital narcissist.

 

Let’s pick on doctors next. This is more interesting because even if there were no hospitals, clinics, health-tents, etc., it seems to me we can still identify the doctor. In this case, the doctor is a doctor based on a particular set of skills and knowledge acquired through study and experience. However, even the knowledge and skills are part of a social demand for them and not really part of the identity.  Imagine a (glorious) world in which universal peace was established and medicine was automated to perfection. Nobody would fall ill from bacteria/viruses/microscopic asshole particles/ etc. and it would be rare for people to get hurt. If they did, thankfully mankind is advanced enough to have the automatic healing machine and if the wound was too grievous, the conscious could be digitized. There may still be doctors in that world, but what do you think that title would mean? No doctor would perform surgery, diagnose patients, prescribe medicine, perform regular checkups, etc. That doctor would be something completely different from what we refer to as a doctor today. My point is that a doctor in today’s world, like a football player, is a term that is used to describe skills and knowledge someone may have, but nobody is a doctor. They simply have the doctor title for as long as that knowledge is necessary.

 

So why isn’t this just semantics? It certainly seems like an arbitrary point whether someone is a title or they have a title. However, we can easily let go of the things we have, but we cling dearly to what we think we are. Being a doctor sounds a lot better than being an ignorant “human”, but it’s simply not the case. It matters because it’s a common scenario to have one doctor butt heads with another over who has the correct diagnosis. Every Law and Order episode seems to include police officers engaging in a metaphorical pissing match to see who has jurisdiction. The fact that it’s a TV drama is irrelevant, it’s the possibility that I’m concerned with. It’s this thing called an ego that engages in the pissing matches, biggest dick contests, and who-is-right arguments. It inflates not only competitions, but also people’s heads. If you couldn’t tell by now, it’s hard for me to hide my annoyance for the inflated ego. I believe it’s important to have as a sense of self awareness, but in today’s society it’s allowed to grow wildly out of proportion.

 

Why does this matter past my own irritation? Why does the thought of a lonely island (lol) sound so wonderful? I’m not a loner and because an inflated ego is a real problem to human progress. It helps to have to get competition going, but that time has past when Europe was able to advance past a shit-hole and catch up with China hundreds of years ago. It was a necessary quality, but now is the time to start cleaning it up or major consequences will follow. I’m referring to the hatred called xenophobia. America is a perfect example of the necessary cycle of an ego. Born in 1776, it has an incredibly short history to rally a people together behind compared to countries like China, England, India, and Egypt to name a few at random that go back a few thousand years. To compensate for a lack of history and culture developed and refined over time, a sense of hyper-nationalism was needed. That’s all fine and good; apparently it worked and America was able to exert it’s authority on the world stage in less than 200 years, but patriotism has its ugly side as well. With so much “American” pride, any threat to the country or people is treated as an unspeakable act of terror. That part is fine. What’s remarkable is converse side to nationalism and how easy it is for these hyper-nationalists to dehumanize non-Americans. Let’s support a minimum wage so that everyone may afford their cost of living… or we can say fuck it and outsource jobs to foreign countries where we don’t have to give a damn about health issues and minimum wages. The 2nd amendment allows citizens the right to bear arms, but if anyone else walks around holding a gun, let’s destroy them with ours. Should we donate to end poverty in America or around the world? I don’t even understand how that can be a valid question. How can anyone consciously judge people’s lives by distance from their toilet?

 

So let me just get a few things straight: you are not any kind of professional because you really don’t know much to begin with. Even something like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, it’s only knowledge if it’s true and there isn’t (at the moment at least) a way to tell if it’s objectively true. We could never know that we are all brains in vats, but as long as it’s a possibility nothing is really known. You aren’t a race or ethnicity, it’s just an adjective that can be used to describe you, it’s the same as being tall/short/blonde/brunette. Things like man and woman don’t even really exist, unless you’d like to provide in the comments section why men and women are correct and transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer are not. You could say it’s a romantic idea to accept them and men and women are evolutionary required, but aside from the not understanding the terminology who is anyone to say that people are wrong for being? I am male based on nothing that I’ve done and by my society classifying me into the “male” category, there’s no reason for me to be proud or feel anything at all about it. It would be like feeling like a lower class citizen because of the color of my skin. Only recently (relative to history) are we beginning to drop skin color a demonstrator of anything. For society to progress as we’ve seen with the decline of racism (not good enough, but not my point), we must drop the concept of being these nationalities and accept that they are simple, arbitrary descriptions. By all means continue to celebrate culture and use history to remember the past, but to give in to the ego and let it assume superiority is reckless.

 

We are ignorant humans at the very end of the day. We are things things that fancy ourselves human, and we don’t know a whole lot about anything. We are lucky in the sense of being born into certain titles that have higher standards of living at the moment, unlucky if we’re not, and we’re intelligent relative to every other living thing on Earth, and that’s assuming  you buy that we’re actually people and not brains in vats. All the titles beyond those are arbitrary; while they may be nice to have for cultural purposes or serve useful as special skills, they’re just things that we have and can be drop. I just ask that you think of a world in which we have tamed the ego and imagine how it would be different from ours.

 

Being an ignorant human is in no way a bad thing. It was Socrates who called himself ignorant because he was aware of the fact that he knew nothing. Striving to fully understand our ignorance in the world should be our goal, I believe the process would be humbling and maturing. It would also lead to a world with significantly less hatred. Think of all the times you may have gotten angry because someone called you immature or an SOB, what if you replied with either, “yea I know, I’m working on it thanks”, or “dude, do you really think my mom’s dog?” Seriously though, with the ego placed in check, nobody’s pride could be wounded. Competition will undoubtedly suffer, but thanks to the information age technological advances are possible thanks to self motivated people around the world that can find the information. If poverty was ended and everyone had Google at their fingertips (a long ways away, but again not the point) would humanity still need to rely on something so reckless as competition to motivate advancements? I don’t know, but I really hope not…

Why You Have to Love My Neon Pink Banana Hammock, Part 2

The goal of this idea/discussion remains to figure out if there are things/could be things that people are required to love. Not how to enforce it, meaning if they don’t love what they should, I won’t be concerned with how to “fix” them, perhaps that could be another discussion.

Continuing where I left off, if it seems reasonable that people love and there are clear benefits to doing so. However, just because there are benefits for humanity to love doesn’t entail people should love, it just means that it has the potential to serve human flourishing. There are many cases in which people couldn’t care less about human flourishing and should everyone have to? Should the artist down the street selling his work have to care about how s/he can benefit humanity? No, fuck it! Let the artist be an artist and do as s/he pleases. The only problem that arises if the artist decides to slay some local townsfolk with his/her paintbrush. That seems obviously shitty.

So what if the artist just had to love not slaying people? Broadening it, if people were taught to love “not slaughter” could they go around doing as they please? It seems to me that they could. If everyone was, in some way, systematically taught to love things at least neutral to humanity (neutral might be a messy idea right now, I attempt to clarify further on) and nobody cared for something that would seem negative, it sounds like a step forward. Not saying it’s immediately possible, nor do I know how it would be, but the conclusion seems like something everyone can agree on. Everyone from the most selfless to the most greedy people are ultimately trying to cause what they perceive as good to themselves. The murderer wants to kill to gain something, the sociopath to satisfy an urge, the saint to help whoever, the politician to support legislature they believe in (hopefully), etc. If everyone loved something that was to lead to the conclusion of “not slaughter” wouldn’t that be valuable? I’m not arguing for what people must do, especially in gray areas such as moral dilemmas, but rather than love personal gain in a selfish way, wouldn’t it be better if they loved and believed in an outcome of least possible cost with best benefits? At the risk of belaboring it to further clarify what I mean, I’m not necessarily supporting a utilitarian approach to a moral dilemma, but instead a world in which the person making the decision believed they were making the right choice. It doesn’t have to actually be the “right” choice, determining that could be messy, but the choice wouldn’t be selfishly motivated. To achieve a world like that, as it stands now, seems quite valuable to humanity.

 

Now enjoy this lovely (but kind of early)  intermission: click for fun

 

So what could possibly be something people must come to love for humanity to progress without forcing anyone to actually do anything? Hmmm…. this must be tricky… cats? Well I fucking love cats, plush cushions of warm fur that purr and do funny shit but try to play it off… maybe it’s cats. Then again it could actually be my neon pink banana hammock, some say I look quite stylish in it (nobody has said this). It’s not complicated at all really. If you haven’t heard me say it yet (you have) something people could love which would benefit humanity, is in fact humanity. Love humanity. Do it you shlub! Love everybody! If we all treated each other with the reverence of our dearest friend, our parents, our children, and our loved ones, would there be as much strife as there is today? No, obviously not. We fight with each other sometimes for sure, but don’t we still love them? If they didn’t do anything that they believed could cause problems, even if there was a disagreement, if we loved them what could the worst possible result of that disagreement be? I don’t know exactly, but the best interest is in mind. If 20 of 30 people believed doing M would be the best course of action and it turned out to have horrible consequences, if we truly loved couldn’t we forgive? If my the world decided my mother should be sent to the moon god as a sacrifice, then it turns out there’s no moon god, in today’s society a special kind of hatred is born. The world took my mother for a foolish purpose, fuck the world, I’ll see it burn.  What if that could be replaced with love? What would happen? Love not born, but understood. I could understand that the world tried to do it’s best, what’s done is done, now we can only continue to find the next suitable solution (more people?). Revenge is sweet? Bha, Revenge is immature. Hating is so easy to do, but loving hard. Ultimately though, which do you think is worth it?

Thinking about it, I don’t think loving humanity is good enough either. I believe we must learn to love all life. For the same reasons as humanity: animals, plants, and life in general we must learn to love. This is an especially big leap from humanity though, to love the land as deeply we do one another. Certainly not a common characteristic at the moment, but absolutely necessary. If we loved life from the ants we step on to the plants we remove to construct malls, I contend that it would be in the interest of human progress. Before you think I love ants and refuse to go outside anymore, I’m saying within reasonable possibility. I’ll concede that it’s a very loose term, but with today’s technology there’s no way to easily avoid stepping on ants when walking outside. Even if something is invented, it would have to be highly affordable and mass produced. The point is to leave as little a footprint on the Earth as possible so that it would be that much easier to sustain, if not self-sustained. The extent to which we must love things like bacteria seems to vary from something like a tree. Loving all bacteria could prove problematic to the medical world, but I don’t believe saving a deadly form of bacteria is incredible benefit to human progress. Maybe isolating and keeping it in a laboratory to study (like polio I believe? I could be wrong) but it doesn’t seem like keeping it in an afflicted person (or animal) is all that promising.

 

The question now becomes what precisely will benefit human progress? Who am I to decide that the bacteria is wrong and I am right? Who am I to say how many animals may be hunted/farmed to sustain humanity while keeping the animal population in balance? So many gray areas come with trying to determine what is right and what isn’t and I 100% do not have a sweeping moral code to provide you. Instead, may I humbly suggest loving life? If you believe to the best of your knowledge, consult with experts, or do whatever research to make the best possible decision you believe you can, let me take this time to commend you. Whatever results may follow, I love you. I really do. My last question is if you believe me when I say to you, the most honest way I can while typing, that I love you, how does that make you feel? Think about it and comment!

 

Love yourself. Love me. Love everyone. And love my Banana Hammock. Maybe you’ll even love loving it.

as always I welcome corrections/opposing arguments,
thanks for reading, I.H.

Why You Have to Love My Neon Pink Banana Hammock, Part 1

Are there things we must love? Like my banana hammock?

 

Well I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m going to make the case that there are in fact things we – as members of the human race – should all learn to love. If this goal sounds like it could be the beginning of bigotry, that those who do not love what is to be deemed as love worthy should be corrected, you do have something to fear because it will sound like that. However, my hope is that with critical analysis it may be possible to avoid this fear and carefully conceive of values that should be universally loved, at the very least it’s worth thinking about.

So let’s cover a couple basic definitions first, if I miss any you feel important comment with a reason and I’ll post it so we can talk about it:

Love: I’m not going to try to define Love with a capital “L”, fuck that, I’m single so what the fuck would I know about that anyway. However love with a lowercase “l” is a simple verb we learned as children meaning something we deeply care for. I love my family, friends, professors (some), pets, myself (on that journey), nature, the smell of coffee in the morning (but not the actual coffee), baby size shoes, you get the idea.

Value: not trying to come up with a hard theory on objective value either, in this case value will mean it’s overall benefit to human flourishing.

So to begin thinking about the possibility of things everyone must come to love, it seems appropriate to ask why everyone should even have to love something, why people should love anything at all, and why do people love to begin with? Since childhood there are things I’ve come to love (see above, unless you want me to tell you MORE about my life), and at particular times in my life I can be certain I love them. My point is that it’s not valuable to question if I love or am capable of loving, because avoiding “Love”, it seems very clear that people love.

Why do people love? Watch the french movie Amelie and find out. Seriously, leave donations to me as well (note the lack of parenthesis before which truly emphasize the seriousness… not really, but it’s a great film). People love because it makes them happy (not “Happy”, just happy). It doesn’t seem very complicated, when I love something, let’s say walking on the beach, it brings me great pleasure to then walk on the beach. However I believe there is also a more important reason for loving as well, it makes me feel alive. Watch this one minute clip explaining what I mean by a magnificent piece of art for our time. Watch it! Despite what you may think, I contend that it’s 100% spot on. Isn’t it wonderful to enjoy a relationship with someone we care deeply for? Do most people enjoy relationships or not? Let’s take a look at the current population of Earth and imagine how each generation came into being… hmmm…. surprisingly, it seems that for the most part people enjoy romance, sex, hanging out together, all that stuff that comes with being in a relationship (I’ll be honest, I haven’t a clue… don’t judge hater). With relationships comes negatives as well, but as Butters clearly explained, something would have to make you so happy before it can make you feel bad. Isn’t it strangely beautiful that we can feel anything at all? The good must come with the bad, something must be sacrificed for the greater good.

A viable counter argument could include (and please do if you feel this way or similarly) something along the lines of the inconsistent triad part of an ontological argument against the existence of god conceived by David Hume and refined by J. L. Mackie: “God is good, god is omnipotent, and there is evil in the world.” The point has nothing to do with God, but Mackie does discuss orders of good and evil. 1st order goods include good health and happiness. 1st order evils include pain and suffering. 2nd order goods include compassion and heroism that can only exist if 1st order evils are given. 2nd order evils include cruelty and cowardice, attributes only possible given 1st order goods. The argument itself is rather interesting between Mackie and Richard Swinburne, who claims there is a 3rd order good: freedom. The final point from the theist (the relevant counter point to my argument here, sorry about that), comes from the book of Job of the Old Testament. I’m not usually one to quote the bible, but the point is relevant nonetheless: when god speaks to Job through the whirlwind and says to Job, (you don’t have to read all of it to understand my point, just the first 8 lines or so, but it’s a beautiful read)

38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 38:2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 38:3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 38:5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 38:6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 38:8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? 38:9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 38:10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, 38:11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? 38:12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; 38:13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? 38:14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment. 38:15 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken. 38:16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? 38:17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? 38:18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. 38:19 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, 38:20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? 38:21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? orbecause the number of thy days is great? 38:22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, 38:23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? 38:24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? 38:25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; 38:26 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; 38:27 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? 38:28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? 38:29 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? 38:30 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen. 38:31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? 38:32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 38:33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? 38:34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? 38:35Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? 38:36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? 38:37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, 38:38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? 38:39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, 38:40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? 38:41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

Regardless of my own religious beliefs, it’s a wonderful piece of literature, but the point is we weren’t there when the assumed God performed the moral calculus of the universe, so who’s to say that 2nd order goods are worth it at all? This counter argument to mine doesn’t need God to exist, it simply questions my authority to deem orders of good and evil worth our love. I’ll argue they do, I see heroism and compassion as highly beneficial attributes to further our human progress and flourishing, but you’re welcome to argue otherwise.

Compassion and heroism are both types of 2nd order goods that have the potential to, and do, greatly benefit human flourishing. People with compassion are capable of protecting others and animals. Maybe they wouldn’t need protecting in the first place if suffering didn’t exist, but who’s to classify what suffering is? When a cheetah hunts down a gazelle and feeds it’s young, is that suffering? Should we petition the cheetah community to stop being carnivorous and evolve more peacefully? However, let’s say we grow up near the gazelle (or house cat, it doesn’t matter) and become attached to it (are there cases in which people are close to animals? I won’t even), do you think said people would want to protect said animals? Of course, and it’s completely natural. This feeling of compassion allows users (in this case people) to fulfill the role of protectors and carefully guard life so that it may mature. Would a mother protect her daughter from a wild dog that’s trying to provide food for it’s own litter? Is denying the starved dog’s family your daughter as a delicious meal wrong? Obviously not, and it’s compassion, sympathy, empathy, etc. that let’s us believe that. Unless you would continue to argue that protecting our children isn’t right and you’re a shitty politician, it seems clear that: compassion… is… good! Not only to ourselves and animals, but people can be protectors of the Earth through various “Green” campaigns. If there was no Green suffering (pollution, energy wasting, dogs peeing on your lawn) what would there be to fix and improve upon? Before I belabor the point further and completely steer off topic, compassion is highly valuable as a direct influence on human progress and flourishing.

Now that I reasonably established why people love, you’ll see how the rest of this comes easily. While I may not be able to convince you to love my banana hammock (there will be no photos lest my blog be taken down for being a grievous wound to humanity) My aim still remains to prove that we, as a community of people, have to recognize certain things that are worthy of our universal love. I’ll finish up the thought in part 2, right now I have to go find some swimwear and enjoy the beach.

Fight Me! What do you know anyway?

Please don’t, I’d rather not be physically wounded.

But what is this property we casually drop as “knowing”? I ask that you bare with me as I attempt to quickly summarize popular thoughts of knowledge, if you know them (Plato, Gettier, Nozick) or don’t care (well you’re mean) I’ll die a little but skip ahead to the bold marker, you’ll know it when you see it.

Written by Plato, about Socrates, a dialogue dubbed “The Meno” contains the so-called standard account of knowledge. It’s claim is that knowledge is “justified true belief”, therefore when person S believes idea P, has good evidence to believe P, and by causal properties of the universe P is true, then we can say S knows P. If I believe the grass outside is wet because it’s raining above my house and the grass is in fact wet (I’m not on an LSD trip or my neighbor isn’t trying to mess with me somehow), then I can say “Hey, I know it’s raining outside” and appropriately reward myself for my impressive deduction.

However, in 1963, American Philosopher Edmund Gettier wrote an essay entitled, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” unsurprisingly critiquing Plato’s account of knowledge. The examples provide an incredibly short (so read them, they’re each basically a paragraph, gosh) but initially complex idea to wrap around, but Gettier basically says that Plato got it close, but this isn’t a hand grenade so nonetheless wrong. The problem ends up being that it seems one can hold an appropriately justified reason about a true belief, but still not be able to claim it as knowledge.

Then in 1981, a book entitled Philosophical Explanations (here’s a wikipedia link, just read the Epistemology section, also short) by Robert Nozick, he devises a 4 condition proof to respond to the Gettier problem and claim a revised account of knowledge. The first two conditions are straight from Plato, that “P is true” and “S believes P”. The last two are “If P were’t true, S wouldn’t believe P” and “If P were true, S would believe P”, and only by satisfying all 4 conditions can we say that we know something. The issue that Nozick attempts to resolve is the lack of tracking pointed out by the Gettier problem. There were facts that made P true and different facts to explain how S could believe P that lead to a lack of knowledge as seen by Smith and Jones in the Gettier problem. Nozick’s final two conditions help track these facts to appropriately assign cases of knowledge.

For instance, if I’m incredibly rude by being drunk at a circus sitting next to an older couple and their grandchildren and claim to see a neon pink dragon, can I claim that as knowledge? Let’s assume the first 2 conditions are satisfied and there was in fact a neon pink dragon and I believed it, then consider: If a neon pink dragon in the circus weren’t true, then I wouldn’t believe there was a neon pink dragon in the circus. If I were being deceived by the circus performers with a poorly made drawing that I believed due to my public intoxication and it wasn’t true but I believed it anyway, without the 3rd condition I would still “know” that there is a neon pink dragon in the circus. The facts that allow me to believe that a dragon is there are my drunkenness and the shitty drawing that I see. The fact that makes it true is if there actually is a dragon. However, because I’m drunk and believe the deception, I can say I know there is a dragon in the room when I obviously wouldn’t due to my mental state even if there was. It’s like believing in the dragon because I see a picture of one, and coincidentally there happens to be a dragon. Nobody would claim that I know there is a dragon if I believed the picture, but there just happens to be a dragon. Nozick added this condition to track the reasons we have for believing something and the knowledge that it leads to.

Similarly with the 4th condition: If I were being radically deceived by an evil demon were true, then I would believe I were being radically deceived by an evil demon. Do you think you could ever know for sure if you were in the matrix, a brain in a vat, or being systematically and radically deceived by Descartes’ evil demon? According to Nozick and his 4th condition of knowledge, no, but according to Plato’s, yes. Assuming the demon is competently deceiving you, there’s no reason you would see through it’s deception and point out to the sky screaming, “AHAAA! I found you out you crafty asshole, this is fucking candyland not Paris!’ Instead you would just continue on believing in the deception or living as a brain in a vat. According to Nozick, you can never know if your a brain in a vat, even if it were true. Interestingly though, it would be possible to know that you’re physically a human moving through reality as popularly conceived, it would just have to be independently true. If I were a real person were true, I would believe I were a real person. Makes sense.

 

Ahem… Anyway, so what do you think about those critiques and accounts of knowledge? Think about them and comment with an answer of your own, but I challenge you to actually think about it. That means no “kind of agree” answers or “don’t really like it”‘s or “good/bad”‘s, if I wanted that I’d just talk to some of my former high school philosophy class mates, you know who you are.

It seems to me that if I did buy the Gettier problem and Nozick’s response, then in many instances I still can’t know if something is true. The truth is necessary in Plato’s account as well as Nozick’s, and while I can confidently assume that I’m typing on a keyboard, can I know I am, and more importantly could there even be a way for me to? However despite that, I find it to be a very compelling account of knowledge and a successful response to the Gettier problem that pointed out a true flaw in Plato’s account. While epistemology can be boring and seem like it’s just nitpicking, it’s the very foundation that supports anything we think to know. Maybe a proper definition of knowledge won’t be achieved tomorrow, but that doesn’t make it unnecessary. It seems fundamentally necessary for greater progress. I’ll borrow the famous some famous words from Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

BOLD MARKER! I’M LOOKING AT YOU WHO DIDN’T READ THAT! THIS IS YOUR CHEAP BOLD MARKER!
Why does this matter at all? Well can we actually know someone committed a murder? In the cases that lack the convenient DNA matching super computer, video evidence of the incident, witnesses (maybe the murderer actually thought to murder when nobody was around?), etc., how do we know anyone did anything? If your trying to embark an a spiritual journey of your own to love yourself, how would you begin to know who you are? Let’s say you know you love cats, but that’s only true in the moments in which your whimsy loves cats, something could easily happen and cause you to not love cats, so do you really know that the entity that is you loves cats? Do you even know that it’s occasionally true? How do you know if you can beat your friend in beer pong or if you could smoke a J faster than your philosophy professor? Let’s assume there are beings in the universe that have evolved immensely further than we have, do you think even they would still struggle with the concept of knowing? Before we can decide what the right thing is to do instead of the wrong thing, shouldn’t we be able to properly identify how we could know either to begin with?

I mean you can very easily dismiss these ideas as philosophical hair splitting and claim to know that you know what you know because of XYZ and be off on your merry way and enjoy a cheeseburger or something, but just remember, people once zealously believed the earth was flat and imprisoned anyone who would contest otherwise. Before we claim scientific properties to be truths about the universe, doesn’t it seem fundamental to grasp a reason as to how we could know them? It’s worth thinking about to have a mature understanding of critical analysis, so think about it and respond!

Any questions feel free to comment or email (there’s a $5 surcharge  that goes to college fund/pizza money…. not really, but maybe eventually) and if you spot anything incorrect, comment/email and I’ll fix it and give credit, thanks for reading!