Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

The Codex Quaerendae

An in-progress outline of a system of philosophy covering a variety of topics from logic to aesthetics.

The Codex

About This Book

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The following is an exploration of philosophy in its wide range of topics and positions, culminating in a detailed presentation of my own comprehensive system of philosophy. In it I aim to reconcile the precision, detail, and professional, detatched abstraction of contemporary Analytic philosophy, with the breadth, holism, and personal, practical applicability of more historic and Continental philosophy.

I also aim to make this work approachable to laypeople, yet still defensible against the most educated academic researchers. To this end, I will present my entire philosophical system with equal weight regardless of how novel or well-known each particular position is. Also to that end, this is presented as a work of fiction, a dialogue between invented characters, but with its two parts written to follow, as closely as possible in dialogue form, the method of discovery and the geometric method of philosophy, respectively.

The first part, Discovery, traces a fictionalized version of the thought process which led me to my final philosophical position, using loose language requiring only an educated layperson's understanding of philosophical ideas. The second part, Exposition, begins from the deepest and most fundamental aspects of that position and shows how the rest is thereby entailed, precisely defining the terms and ideas presented along the way.

The four interlocutors of my author-surrogate are intentional caricatures meant to exemplify the extremes of a range of possible philosophical positions, giving a frame of reference within which to establish my own philosophical position. Their positions are the result of taking various general principles to their logical conclusions without compromise. As such, they are not intended as straw versions of any actual persons or philosophies, though as caricatures they are meant to bear an easily identified resemblance to various broad streams of philosophical thought. To the extent that any actual person does not agree with the character whose position most closely resembles their own, any arguments made against that character are not intended as arguments against that actual person.

I aim to defend what I consider to be the basic, common-sense opinions from which various philosophical schools of thought deviate; and then to refine those into more sophisticated, rigorous forms which can withstand the temptation of such deviation.

Those basic opinions I will argue for are essentially these: that there are certain uniquely correct answers to all meaningful questions about both reality and morality, and that we can in principle differentiate those from the incorrect ones; and that those correct answers are not correct simply because someone decreed them such one day, but rather they are independent of anyone's particular opinions and grounded instead in our common experience. Put another way: that the true and the good are beyond the control of any of us, yet within reach of each of us; and that we can always eventually tell whether someone's opinion is right or wrong, but we can never immediately assume any opinion to be such and must give each the benefit of the doubt until proof is found one way or the other.

I will give arguments for why we must accept such common sense, and rigorously define the principles thereof, then attack various philosophical positions by showing how they deviate from those principles. In the first part of this book I will critique broad philosophical schools in this manner; then in the second part, I will examine a set of particular philosophical problems in light of these principles.

Discovery: A Dialectical Discourse

Digging down through competing positions in search of fundamental premises.

Introduction

Setting the stage and introducing the characters.

Early one Saturday afternoon, near the end of my years at university, four friends and I saw a film together at the local theater. This film featured a dystopian future in which the United States of America had become a totalitarian state backed and controlled by fundamentalist churches and giant megacorporations. Wealthy businesses had funded religious demagogues to rally populist support for policies placing the state squarely in the hands of the churches and corporations. This corporatist theocracy was the ostensible villain of the story, and the intrepid heroes were a motley alliance of disenfranchised urban youths, ivory-tower academics, and backcountry farm folk. The protagonist was a country boy who had come to the city aiming to become a professor, but had had to quit after completing his undergraduate studies for financial concerns, falling in among the urban poor thereafter.

As the oppression of the corporatist theocracy mounted, the first seeds of revolution began when small farmers in the farthest reaches of the country dropped out from the rest of society and formed small self-sustaining communities of close friends and family, which slowly grew as more acquaintances and relations fled the increasingly distasteful trappings of civilization in the cities. But the lower classes in the cities, who did not have the means or connections to make such pilgrimages, grew gradually more inflamed as the burden of oppression weighed increasingly down upon them, and soon violent riots began to erupt, but to no long-term effect, being easily quelled by military might. Meanwhile in the universities, the last bastions of free thought and expression, many professors and students alike protested the turn their society had taken, only to find themselves increasingly limited in the liberties permitted them to voice such opinions.

The revolution began outright when such freedom of speech was curtailed completely, and all publications or broacasts were required by law to be vetted for content before release. In protest, many of the academics resigned their positions, and in defiance of the law took to the streets to march against it. They were met, as expected, by police action; but the protagonist recognized his favorite professor among the protestors, and rallied his friends — the uneducated, underprivileged, downtrodden youth of those streets — who then rose violently to their defense, and took the academics in to shelter as yet more riots broke out on the streets. There, plans were hatched, centered around the protagonist's family in the country who had joined a "drop-out community" with their neighbors. With the middle-class means and connections of the academics, an exodus of these passionate urban revolutionaries fled the cities to rally in the distant countryside where once-meager farms had become virtually tribal communes of refugees.

With the knowledge of the academics, the resources of the farm-communes, and the passionate manpower of the formerly-urban youths, a revolution was plotted, and the first strikes made; but all to little avail, as the might of the corporatist theocracy was overpowering and its influence pervasive. Until hope came at last in the person of a young minister, a junior congressman, and recently-promoted chief executive of a prominent arms manufacturer. This man had come to realize that what his state had become was not what his country once stood for, that the lessons taught by his church were not in keeping with the spirits of his religion, and that running his father's company to fuel the beast that the system had become was not what he wanted to do with his life. In secret he contacted the revolutionaries, and after winning their trust, began to covertly feed them information and resources that allowed the revolutionaries to make effective inroads.

Guerilla strikes with stolen weapons against police and military targets kept those forces busy; meanwhile impassioned public speeches delivered on the university quads and the footsteps of churches rallied support in the public consciousness; and the destitute were fed and sheltered in public parks or brought to the country to learn to make a living off the land. Networks of revolutionary cells in the cities, the universities, and the countryside, sprung up across the nation, and the corporatist theocracy rapidly began to lose its support, and desperately struggled to retain control of the ostensible democratic republic still framing their regime. The revolution's benefactor and informant within the system was unfortunately discovered and "disappeared", a tragic reward for the vital role he played in the near-salvation of his society.

The protagonist had thus far mediated the vast differences between the constituent groups of the revolution, but had shied away from the outright leadership role into which others had tried to thrust him, and that hesitance allowed the hopeful future ahead of them to fall to ruin. Division arose in the ranks of the revolutionaries over the nature of the new society to be established after their inevitable victory. The academics favored a libertarian government administered by panels of educated experts, while the farm folk favored a socialist government ruled by direct democracy. But as these two parties hashed out their differences, the guerillas continued their attacks, and in the end took it too far, murdering numerous high-ranking government officials, church leaders, and corporate executives in a series of brutal terrorist attacks, leaving the society effectively leaderless. In the chaos that followed, the farmers and the academics each returned to their respective domains to ride it out in their own way. The farms continued to grow together into massive communes in the country's heartland, and the university-towns around the coasts became virtual city-states allied together into a loose confederation.

The resolution of the film left the future of that future uncertain. While I found this ambiguous ending quite satisfying and thought-provoking, and most of the friends accompanying me were happy with the resolution (though not, it turned out, for the same reasons), our friend Tina found the movie offensive, and expressed to us her dissatisfaction with the direction its plot had taken. She contended that the purported heroes of the story were in fact an alliance of villains, and that the ostensible villains were in fact — though admittedly quite flawed themselves — the victims of a tragic injustice at the hands of even greater foes, who in turn had accomplished the destruction of American civilization.

Tina was what you might call a preppy: an upstanding all-American citizen with excellent grades from a private college-preparatory school, and even better grades here at the university. She was by far the cleanest, most well-mannered, organized, and best prepared of all my friends. As a business-law major with eventual political aspirations, she knew where she was going in life and had mapped out how to get there, and she wasn't going to let sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll get in her way. This disciplined and dedicated attitude was in fact the only thing which really held our friendship together, as I shared a similarly clean lifestyle (unlike most of my other friends), but beyond that our differences of opinion were vast. Had it not been for our adjacent seating in a class on Philosophy of Law, I doubt we would ever have met.

You see, quite unlike myself, Tina was an avowed theist and statist who happily supported the mixing of church and state; though she did so with the best of intentions, of course. While I could mostly agree with her on what she would consider moral issues of lifestyle choice, our thoughts quickly diverged on the question of why those choices were superior; and especially on whether they should be choices at all, or rather mandatory as she would prefer.

For Tina, faith in her religion was the core of her entire outlook on life. She believed the Christian Bible was the absolute, literal truth, handed down from God himself; that it contained all the answers to life's most important questions; and that a morally legitimate state ought to enforce its law here on Earth. To deny the legitimacy of the Bible was to attack the foundation of her entire philosophy; to her, it was tantamount to declaring the world a meaningless, amoral chaos. In Tina's worldview, faith in her sacred text was the only hope of escaping such nihilistic despair, and the only hope of finding truth and goodness in the world.

Normally Tina was civil enough not to proselytize to those she knew did not share her faith, but this film had so offended her that she had to voice her objections:

I mean, yeah, she began, of course the government in that movie wasn't that great — they were written to be the villains, of course they're going to be nasty bad guys. But the so-called good guys all made it out like that was all the fault of their religion. They may as well have blamed all their problems on Jesus himself for how blatant an attack on faith that was.

At this point another friend of mine, Frank, felt compelled to chime in:

But it was the fault of their religion, he said. That's always what happens when you get religion in your government; freedom goes right out the window. America wasn't the only theocracy in that movie; the Muslim countries they were fighting abroad were exactly the same, just with a different holy book. There's not just a problem with any particular religion; there's a problem with religion, period.

Frank was about as different from Tina as you could possibly imagine. He was a "punk" with a mohawk and piercings, who smoked like a chimney and drank like a sailor. He had never declared a major when his parents sent him here to school, and he had finally dropped out last fall after three grueling years of barely slacking his way through classes. He had stayed in town rather than return home to face Mom and Dad's wrath, and had been couch surfing in the local punk community ever since they had cut off his rent.

But for all his academic failings, Frank was far from stupid. In fact he was quite bright, and read plenty of philosophical literature in his own free time; his favorite place to sleep was at the local anarchist book store. He only faltered in school for lack of effort, not for lack of talent. He didn't care where he was going in life and saw no point in jumping through so many hoops to reach a destination that was ultimately meaningless. You see, Frank was not only a self-professed atheist and anarchist, but a complete nihilist, a solipsist, and an egoist, who thought everything was exactly as Tina faithfully held it wasn't — meaningless and amoral — and he thought her a deluded fool for believing otherwise.

While Frank was never shy about voicing his criticism of politics and religion, it was rare that he and Tina would be found in the same crowd, and so this incident sparked a rare philosophical debate that I will remember for all my years to come.

To Frank's assertion, Tina replied, Maybe that's how you think things are in real life, but at least in that film the Church was far from the villain. In fact I'd say they were as much a victim as anybody else. Their Church had been hijacked by elite monied powers, merely as a means to sway the decadent and inattentive populace into enacting laws and policies more favorable to their corporate overlords. It's like, there's three kinds of people in the world: wolves, sheep, and shepherds. Ideally everyone would be shepherds, figuratively speaking: we would guide and protect each other together. Unfortunately, most people are sheep — weak and helpless; and many people are wolves — cruel and dangerous. If it weren't for the few shepherds, who are neither weak nor cruel but rather strong and gentle, the wolves would devour the sheep. Real churches are just associations of shepherds; but in that film, it was not the shepherds themselves who were to blame. Rather, the wolves had devoured the shepherds, donned their clothes, and in that guise lead the gullible sheep to the slaughter. Had more of the people been shepherds, rather then ignorant sheep or savage wolves, things wouldn't have gotten nearly so bad. The rise of the Church to power wasn't at fault for that dystopia; the fall of the Church from power was! Religion was just a scapegoat.

At this point the other two friends present, Jacqueline and Johnathan, tuned in to the conversation, as Tina had just mentioned both of their respective personal peeves, namely elite monied powers and an inattentive and decadent populace.

I think you skipped over the real villains there, Tina, said John. Yes, the wolves as you call them did instigate the changes that lead to the film's dystopia, and yes, they were merely wearing the vestments of religion as a way of rallying popular support — but the people who were ultimately responsible for all that mess were the people, who as you point out are nothing but a lot of decadent and inattentive sheep. I'm sure there are some good shepherds like you in the churches somewhere, but clearly on the whole religion is just a front for self-affirming majorities to clothe themselves in some illusion of genuine legitimacy. And that sheep-like nature of the people, always following the rest of the herd wherever the shepherd guides them, is exactly what led to that mess. If those people had thought for themselves and not just done whatever their pastors and politicians told them, the wolves would've just been fringe jerks without any traction to push their agendas on such a large scale.

This line of argument was common for John, who as something of an overachiever had always looked down on average folk as ignorant and backward, especially after his mistreatment as an unpopular "geek" in his youth. Driven to prove himself, anything less than perfect scores on any test he took were simply unacceptable to him, and so he pushed himself forward even harder than Tina did. He was a skilled computer programmer and something of a mathematical genius by now, but he applied his efforts here at the university to the more practical major of aerospace engineering with the ultimate goal of helping pioneer mankind's expansion to other worlds beyond the Earth.

Quite the contrary, Jackie was an easy-going social butterfly in most respects, who somehow was friends with just about everyone, no matter how different they might be from her or each other. Though no slouch at other subjects, she preferred to dedicate her life to art, music, and generally making beauty wherever she could. Here at the university primarily for self-enrichment, she was majoring in art history, about which she was quite passionate. Her passion for beauty was exceeded only by her passion for social justice; like Frank, she was very anti-establishment, but whereas his expression thereof was to ignore the law or break it out of spite, she was a revolutionary socialist who sought to inspire a democratic uprising and drastically reform society for the better. Being the archetypical "hippy", her ultimate goal in life was to help return everyone to a quiet rural life style, where they could live in touch with the land and with their families and each other. She thus disagreed with John quite vehemently on many issues, though she was tactful enough that it did not compromise their friendship.

I don't know, John, Jackie replied. I think you're putting too much blame on the people there, who were, after all, the ultimate victims of the film's plot. It's true that had they been wiser and more thoughtful they could not have been manipulated so, but to blame them for being easy targets is like blaming a rape on the way the victim dressed. We've got to put the blame right where it belongs, on the heads of those wolves, who exploited peoples' trust and lead them nearly to their doom. I will agree with you, however, that the Church cannot be let off so easily as Tina would like. Religion has always been used as a tool for the rich and powerful elites to control the good people. It's just another hierarchical power structure to keep the lower classes in line, so it's no wonder they were in bed with the evil corporate overlords who were behind the whole thing.

By this time we had been standing in the plaza outside the theater for quite some time discussing this, and as the afternoon wore on we began to get hungry. Frank, satisfied to leave this point as the conclusion of our discussion, suggested that we should move on to other things.

Well, I'm just happy that most of us can agree that religion is bad, he said. Wolves are bad, sheep are bad, and shepherds are just wolves in sheep's clothing. Now as interesting as this has been, can we go order some lunch before I drop dead of starvation?

Tina evidently was not too happy with dropping the conversation right here, but we were all hungry and John and Jackie were satisfied enough with this as a place to stop, so we went into a nearby restaurant and ordered ourselves some food.

The Fideist & The Nihilist

A dialectical discourse on faith and doubt and practicing what you preach.

After we had ordered and sat down to await our food, Tina renewed the conversation we had been having in the plaza before.

So you guys, she said, the only point I was trying to make outside was that, sure, we can all agree that sheep and wolves are bad, and the so-called Church in that movie was bad; but can't we all likewise agree that a real church, staffed with real shepherds — strong, gentle, and wise people — would unquestionably be a good thing? I mean, without the guidance of religion, we'd be left with the kind of chaos that Frank purportedly advocates, and out of that turmoil the things that you two most fear would come about, she spoke as she gestured to John and Jackie. There would arise concentrations of power, be they in the form of capitalist robber-barons like in the film or literal warlords like in other times and places. They would then use their influence to sway the gullible masses to their side and drag all of society down to it's doom. To prevent that sort of mess, some sort of guiding authority is necessary, and since people are never all going to unanimously agree to consent to the same authority, sometimes that authority must be imposed by force on those who would not follow willingly.

Once again, Frank rebutted her. But Tina he said, in imposing yourselves on those who do not follow you freely, your chosen authority is no different from the mob-swaying warlords you claims it exists to prevent. The way I see it, people like you and the religion you advocate are what are dragging society to it's doom.

[NEED TO WRITE THIS SEGUE]

Clearly, some things are good and others bad, some things are true and others false, declared Tina. But of course people disagree about which is which. The only way to find out who is correct is by appealing to some authority on these issues, and the ultimate authority is who we call God, who makes what's good, good, and what's true, true, by his word alone. The Bible is the genuine word of God, and therefore to arbitrate disputes over what is true or false, good or bad, etc, we must turn to it's evidence for answers.

But your claims of authority are suspect, replied Frank, supported only circularly by the very authority in question. Anyone else may claim the same degree of authority on the same basis, and yet disagree with you. There is no reason to think that your Bible is the word of God, or even that God exists, other than that the Bible says so; and there is no reason to accept what the Bible says other than it supposedly being the genuine word of God, who is, again, only infallible according to sources attributed ultimately to him. Therefore we must conclude that there is in fact no God, and therefore no ultimate authority to appeal to, therefore there is no good or bad, no true or false; there are just differing opinions, all equally baseless, some merely more popular than others, or backed by more powerful interests.

But Frank, I interjected, You're still essentially buying into the Tina's whole system, and only attacking the keystone of it, bringing the whole thing toppling down with nothing to take its place. Frank nodded in agreement, as that was the whole point of his nihilism. And conversely, Tina, I continued, your position in many ways collapses to Frank's position with only the almighty God to give you reason to think or act differently from him.

My position collapses to Frank's!? she asked incredulously. How is that so?

Well for example, I replied, it is your position that what is good equals what God commands, correct?

That's right, she answered.

And what if someone were to ask you why anyone should do what God commands? I asked. And don't say 'because God is all good' — I know you're smarter than to make a circular argument like that.

[INSERT GENERALIZED EUTHYPHRO ARGUMENT AGAINST AUTHORITY HERE; EXPAND TO COVER DESCRIPTIVE TOPICS AS WELL]

Well... she said, and thought a moment. If they won't do it just because it's the right thing to do, I guess I'd say they should obey God's commands because God will punish them for doing otherwise.

Exactly! I replied. That, I would argue, is ultimately a reduction to ethical egoism, just like Frank's position. Frank smiled almost smugly, before I turned to him and said, I'm not agreeing with you either, Frank.

He raised an eyebrow in mild confusion, and said It sure as hell sounds like you are.

No, I said. That's my whole point. While I agree you are right to attack that keystone of divine authority, you do not go the extra step of attacking the fundamental design of the system which so depends on it. Your philosophy is just Tina's philosophy minus God, which, since Tina's philosophy is built entirely around God, leaves nothing. But what we need is a new system which does not depend on the existence of an ultimate authority like God to separate good from bad and true from false.

Both Tina and Frank looked at me with cautious interest, while John and Jacqueline listened on and smiled, almost knowingly. I continued: Tina, you intuit that there is an absolute truth, and then infer that someone must know it, and make a leap of faith as to who. Because you have such faith in the correctness of your own opinion, you are highly critical towards differing opinions, and quick to challenge them wherever faults may be found. She opened her mouth about to protest, but I interrupted: That's not a bad thing. She looked at me quizically, as though unsure whether to accept my response to her unspoken objection. Frank, I continued, you on the other hand deny all such leaps of faith; you deny that anyone has access to the absolute truth, and from there you deny that there is any absolute truth at all. You are thus extremely liberal toward others' opinions, seeing them all as equally worthless as your own. He nodded in agreement.

I say, I continued, that both of your intuitions are correct, but both of your arguments rest on the same, backward, hidden inference: namely, that if there is an absolute truth, then someone knows it; or conversely, and equivalently, that if no one knows the absolute truth, then there is no such thing. While it is obvious that if someone genuinely knows the absolute truth, there must be some such thing, the inverse does not follow; there might be some such thing even though no one knows it. Likewise, if there is no absolute truth, then obviously no one could know it, but the inverse does not follow there either; just because no one knows the truth does not mean that there is none. I hold, like Tina, that there is an absolute truth; but, like Frank, that no one has direct access to it; we are all just making our best educated guesses — some of those guesses better than others, but none of them infallible — based on our limited experience.

Thus, I concluded, for our quest for truth to be properly conducted, we must concern ourselves not with who is or is not an authoritative source, or even whether or not any such an authority exists, but on some method of determining, independent of the authority of any particular source, what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong; or at least, which of our ideas are more true or more false, better or worse, and so on. We must, like Frank, hold no opinion on unshakable faith; and in doing so we must always be open to the potential viability of other possible opinions. But, like Tina, we must believe something, even though we cannot prove ourselves correct; and we must keep a keen eye out for the faults of all those various possibile opinions, including our own favored ones, slowy weeding out the worst of them, and narrowing in ever closer to the truth of the matter, whatever it may turn out to be.

But from your behavior, I added, I would guess that somewhere inside you both already suspect this. Because Tina, as faithful as you are in your own beliefs, and as critical as you ostensibly are of others beliefs, you rarely voice that criticism; in practice, you leave others to their own faith so long as they leave you to yours, and prefer not to engage in a battle of beliefs like we've entered into now. And Frank, as much as you preach against preachers and claim to have no beliefs yourself, you are the most vocal evangelist of your personal philosophy of anyone I know, constantly criticising everyone else. I think both of you are subtly aware of the unreasonability of yours respective ostensible philosophies. I think you have some wise kernel of doubt, Tina, that your personal beliefs may not be absolutely correct, otherwise why would you let others beliefs go so completely unchallenged if your conviction was as strong as you say it is? And I think somewhere you know, Frank, that there is some standard against which to judge people's opinions, that there is some way of telling true from false and right from wrong, otherwise on what grounds do you go around telling everyone else how wrong they are?

[Connect this to thought vs feeling or impression vs expression somehow? c.f. facts vs norms with John and Jackie]

The Scientist & The Communist

A dialectical discourse on the relevance of popularity and the conflation of facts and norms.

[Need to rework this into a real, readable dialogue.]

[Our food arrives here.]

Jackie point out that Tina is a transcendental realist and an austere moralist - objective but not phenomenal in both factual and normative matters - and thus she is a fideist. Because she is internally liberal but not critical, she is externally critical but not liberal: "We don't have to answer to you, we're right, so do/think as we say".

John point out that Frank is a solipsist (thus implicitly an empiricist) and an egoist (thus implicitly a hedonist) - phenomenal but not objective in both factual and normative matters - because he is a skeptic. Because he is internally critical but not liberal, he is externally liberal but not critical: "Think and do whatever you want, but we're all equally wrong".

John considers himself to be rejecting fideism without buying into nihilism. On factual matters he leans more toward Tina's side of things, affirming the existence of a mind-independent reality, but rather than Tina's transcendental realism, John's factual position is partly phenomenalized — (factual) materialism, the position that only things which have some empirical impact are real, though they have an existence beyond that appearance as well. Because he fails to distinguish between facts and norms, and because norms per se have little or no empirical presence, on normative matters he leans more toward Frank's side of things, skeptical of all normative claims, but rather than Frank's egoism, a concern about populism leads John's normative position to be partly objectivized — a meritocratic individualist, he views morality as a personal matter for each individual to pursue on his own, with no obligation on anyone else except as they be persuaded to accept by contract.

But Jackie contests that John goes too non-objective in his rejection of morality, and he doesn't go phenomenal enough in his rejection of transdendence, seeming to equate pure empiricism with solipsism; the latter of which, combined with a sense of elitism in reaction to his concerns about populism, leads him dangerously close to fideism about factual matters, in the form of scientism, or at least so Jackie claims.

But John flatly denies his adherence to scientism, though he still shows inklings of it in his distrust of popular opinion; and when pushed by me, he concedes there are undue traces of transcendence implied in his (factual) materialism as stated.

Jackie too considers herself to be rejecting fideism without buying into nihilism. On normative matters, she leans more toward Tina's side of things, affirming the existence of a morality beyond personal desires, but rather than Tina's austere moralism, Jackie's normative position is partly phenomenalized — (normative) materialism, the position that only things with some impact our quality of life are morally relevant, though they have moral relevance beyond just the pleasures and pains they induce. Because she too fails to distinguish between facts and norms, and because facts per se have little or no normative import, on factual matters she leans more toward Frank's side of things, skeptical of all factual claims, but rather than Frank's solipsism, a concern about elitism leads Jackie's factual position to be partly objectivized — a social constructivist, she views reality as something of a "collective dream", a social fiction existing only as a power relation between groups, most properly defined by majority consensus.

To this, John retorts that Jackie goes too non-objective in her rejection of reality, and she doesn't go phenomenal enough in her rejection of austerity, seeming to equate pure hedonism with egoism; the latter of which, combined with a sense of populism in reaction to her concerns about elitism, leads her dangerously close to fideism about normative matters, in the form of communism, or at least so John claims.

But Jackie flatly denies her adherence to communism, though she still shows inklings of it in her distrust of private enterprise; and when pushed, she concedes there are undue traces of austerity implied in her (normative) materialism as stated.

I say John and Jackie are both on the right track, rejecting authority, appealing to independent reason and the senses in factual arguments, and to the physical wellbeing of the common man in normative arguments, but neither takes their starting principles to their logical conclusions, which are in fact the same. Instead both veer dangerously close to the pitfalls of Tina and Frank.

They both make the error of assuming objectivity requires at least some transcendence/austerity, (though they both require some empiricism/hedonism as well) and of assuming that criticality requires at least some authority (though they both require some liberty as well). They also both make the error of conflating facts and norms as the same type of judgement. Where they differ is on whether norms reduce to facts (John) or facts reduce to norms (Jackie), and whether majorities (Jackie) or minorities (John) make better authorities.

[Talk about Rousseau's statistical proof of majority correctness, and my inversion of it.] Unlike Fideist vs Nihilist, both John and Jackie are (implicitly) using the same correct inference but opposite premises, the conclusions only reinforcing their initial biases. People in the majority find the average person more credible than not, and so statistically conclude that larger groups are usually more correct. People in the minority find the average person less credible than so, and so statistically conclude that larger groups are usually less correct. The resulting concerns about populism and elitism are what lead John and Jackie astray from the convergent ends of their respective trains of thought.

[Somewhere in here, Frank tries to pin down my position, and paints me as a "scientistic-communist": a materialist in both the factual and normative senses, supporting a form of earthly authority in the form of panels of experts checked only by each other and dictating what is right to the masses. I set him straight, by disclaiming the transcendent aspects of both senses of materialism, and the authority of experts to dictate what is right.]

[In response Tina tries to pin me down instead, and paints me as an "individualist idealist", supporting a society of independent people each pursuing their own ideals of truth and goodness unhindered by the nay-saying of anyone who might want to call them wrong. I set her straight too, by affirming the need for some kind of mutual criticism grounded in common experience.]

If, as John holds, property rights are absolute and inalienable, then every contract constitutes a morally invalid surrender of rights, and without contracts many of the classic institutions of capitalism become untenable, resulting in a sort of propertarian socialism. Similarly if, as Jackie holds, it is wrong to impose your notions of morality on others, then majority rule is exactly the sort of might-makes-right imperialism she derides, and moral relativism collapses to an individualistic liberal anarchism.

Likewise, as materialism eschews the unwarranted notion of 'material substances' and turns to plain physicalism, and idealism eschews the equally unwarranted notion of 'mental substances' and turns to plain phenomenalism, the two converge into a physicalist phenomenalism or empirical realism like that of the logical positivists.

Metaphilosophy

Wherein the scope of the problem is established, and a way forward proposed.

[We finish eating. I suggest we go for a walk]

[NEED TO REORGANIZE THIS SECTION. Offer analytic pragmatism as justification of axioms, and hopeful humility and the underlying principle for that. Then answer questions about why we should care to try to answer philosophical questions, and thus why we should apply hopeful humility to that endeavor to get analytic pragmatism: respond with analysis of what exactly philosophy is, and how so many other endeavors distantly depend on it; or perhaps conversely, start with the technology and business the world runs on, highlight the engineering and entrepreneuring that that all depends on, then the natural and economic science that that all depends on, then the epistemological, ontological, deontological, and teleological principles those operate by, and the role of philosophy in establishing those principles.]

But so what? said Tina. You say Frank and I make a common error despite our great differences, as if to dissuade us from our opinions by showing them to be like those of our rivals. And you critique these two, and sway them to your opinion, by showing how they veer close to one or the other of us. But what is wrong with those assumptions which you claim we have wrongly made? Are not you simply assuming their negations in turn?

You've got me there, Tina. I am, in fact, simply assuming the premises I am, as you claim. However, if you will bear with me, I think I have some good reasons for assuming them.

But if you have reasons, then they aren't really assumptions, are they? interjected Frank.

In one sense, yes, you're right; but in another sense, no. In that first sense, we must end at impasse at this point in our discourse, for a valid logical argument can never contain anything in its conclusion that was not already present in its premises. A valid argument merely demonstrates to the listener beyond a doubt that those things in its conclusion actually are in its premises. Thus at some level of discourse, some collection of premises must be simply agreed upon by all involved parties, or else no one will be able to convince anyone else of anything and the discourse will go nowhere. Because of this, it is impossible to have a logical argument about the most fundamental of premises: the axioms of one's philosophical system.

But that does not mean that no justification can be offered, and that we are doomed forever to either complete skepticism or, ultimately, blind faith. It means only that any fundamental justification must be an extra-logical one — a justification based not on appeal to logic per se but on appeal to something else beyond logic — and I propose a pragmatic justification; that is, a justification appealing to practical concerns.

However, I do not propose that we take what is useful or practical in just any sense at all to be assumed true. More precisely, I propose that we assume true all and only those propositions which are necessary to conduct a search for the truth. In other words, I propose that any proposition whose assumption would impede our ability to conduct a philosophical discourse must be assumed false, and its negation thus assumed true. While the negation of such axioms may in the broadest sense remain possible, inasmuch as we can offer no sound logical disproof of them, we cannot assume those negations without undermining our ability to even attempt to make philosophical progress; and as philosophy lays the groundwork for all other intellectual endeavors, without the ability to make philosophical progress we lose also the ability to make any scientific or social progress.

I call this metaphilosophical approach Analytic Pragmatism.

This pragmatic method of discovering axioms may be compared to the logical observation that any proposition which implies its own negation must be false, and its negation thus necessarily true, because the implication from something to its negation is equivalent to the disjunction of its negation and its negation, which in turn is equivalent to simply its negation. Likewise, any proposition which cannot be disproven without using itself is necessarily true, as that entails that said proposition is a necessary condition for its negation, equivalent to that negation implying the proposition itself, which by the same logic as above is equivalent to the disjunction of the proposition and itself, which is in turn is equivalent to simply the proposition. Similarly, for the pragmatic purpose of seeking truths beyond those provable by mere logic alone, substantial truths about something other than relations of ideas to each other, we must assume any proposition which, if true, would render it impossible to pronouncing anything as definitively true, to be false; and its negation conversely to be true.

An analogy can also be made here between logical reasons and temporal causes. If a highly unexpected event occurs, one person [here I looked at Tina] might pronounce it a miracle, say "God did it", and investigate its causes no further. Another [and I gestured to Frank] may shrug it off on the notion that the universe is weird and random, with no causes to be found, asking rhetorically "who really knows why anything happens anyway?". In either case, we learn nothing; and perhaps there is in fact nothing more to learn, either because God just did it and that's that, or because there really is no explanation to be had at all. But if we approach the event curiously, saying "that was strange! I wonder why that happened?" — and following up on that wonder by investigating the world to try to find an answer, working thus under the assumption that there is some answer there to be found — then we might actually learn something, if there is indeed anything to learned.

Likewise, therefore, we must assume such axioms as are necessary to conduct a philosophical investigation in order for it to remain even possible for us to make any progress in knowledge or justice whatsoever. It may be the case that such progress is in fact impossible, and all our philosophical efforts in vain. But if we assume that that is the case, then it certainly will be; while if we assume the opposite, we retain some hope of making progress, if progress indeed is possible.

[INSERT GENERALIZATION OF THIS TO PROTOPHILOSOPHY OF 'HOPEFUL HUMILITY' HERE]

Philosophy itself explores neither factual nor normative claims per se; it does not tell us whether anything in particular is or ought to be. Instead, philosophy explores analytic and pragmatic claims, conditional facts and norms; concepts of what might be, without saying whether anything exists to instantiate them, and maxims for how to do certain things, without saying whether or not we should. Concepts and maxims are always conditional: a concept says "if something is this kind of thing, then it must be like so"; a maxim says "if we are to do this kind of thing, then we must do so like so".

But among the most important concepts it explores are those which tell us what it is for something to exist or what it means to say we should do something, and among the most important maxims it imparts are those that tell us how to tell what is and what ought to be. In exploring concepts and maxims about truth and goodness, we may then make tentative philosophical claims: if something is true, then it must be like so; if something is good, then it must be like so; if we are to pursue truth, then we must do so like so; if we are to pursue goodness, then we must do so like so.

It is always left as an exercise for each individual to decide whether truth and goodness are meaningful and important to them to begin with; whether to apply any concepts of truth and goodness, and whether to pursue them via any maxim. But if they elect to do so, philosophy will help them settle on the correct concepts of them to apply and the correct maxims by which to pursue them. If we then grant that truth and goodness are meaningful and important, we can at last proceed with substantial philosophical assertions: given that something is true, it must be like this; given that something is good, it must be like this; given that we are to pursue truth, we must do this; given that we are to pursue goodness, we must do this.

The opinions of those people who are unconcerned with making progress toward wisdom, who do not consider truth and goodness to be meaningful or important, can be safely disregarded for the purposes of those of us who are concerned with making such progress. But such people may still be persuaded to accept the importance of wisdom, of the ability to discern truth from falsehood and good from bad, if shown the importance of such a ability to all other fields of human endeavor.

With a criteria for what to count as true and a process by which to apply it, the natural sciences can go about assessing what data there are to explain, and formulating theories by which to do so. Engineers may then use the more accurate theories which arise from that process to build machines, and technologists may then proceed with the day-to-day operation of those machines.

Likewise, with a criteria for what to count as good and a process by which to apply it, economic sciences can go about assessing what needs there are to fullfil, and formulating strategies by which to do so. Entrepreneurs may then use the more effective strategies which arise from that process to build businesses, and administrators may then proceed with the day-to-day operation of those businesses.

Philosophy is thus, while among the most abstract and contemplative of all fields, also of great concrete applicability, and progress in philosophy a necessary, albeit distant, precursor to progress in all the ventures which at least tacitly depend upon it.

Only positions which grant that truth and goodness are meaningful and important can even be considered philosophical at all, for philosophy is philos sophia, the "love" of, or attraction to, wisdom. The practice of philosophy is thus literally the quest for, or pursuit of, wisdom; the action upon one's love thereof. Wisdom, in turn, we may define as the ability to discern the true from the false, the good from the bad; or at least the more true from the less true, the better from the worse; the ability, in short, to discern superior answers from inferior answers to any given question.

Thus the ultimate practical aim of philosophy, the end product of philosophical discourse, is a means of commensurability: a means of comparing the correctness of prospective answers to various questions. The superiority of a system of philosophy may thus be judged on the basis of its success at reaching this goal of commensurability. Any so-called philosophy which halts the quest for wisdom and fails to provide a means of commensurability is no philosophy at all, and may better be called phobos sophia, the "fear" of, or aversion to, wisdom.

There are two categorical types of such phobosophy: the type whereby one holds that wisdom is unattainable, and it is therefore futile in the first place to seek it; and the type whereby one appeals to something arbitrary in order to prematurely claim that full wisdom has already been attained — where by arbitrary I mean to say that one could appeal to something different with just as much justification, and yet arrive at different answers, thus failing to conclusively answer anything. These two errors are committed by nihilists such as Frank and fideists such as Tina, respectively.

To practice philosophy, to pursue wisdom, we must make the tentative, working assumption (albiet with almost paradoxical certainty) that there is some sort of wisdom to be pursued, that some answers are correct and others incorrect, or at least that some are more correct than others; and that said wisdom is attainable, or at least approachable, that is, that there are ways we might find of telling superior answers from inferior ones. In other words, we must adopt an objective attitude, as Tina does; but also a critical attitude, as Frank does. In turn, such criticism entails that our objectivism must be tempered with phenomenalism, that is to say, grounded in experience; and such objectivism entails that our criticism must be tempered with liberalism, that is to say, open to all the possibilities; as both John and Jackie's philosophies approximate to various degrees.

These four principles — objectivism, phenomenalism, criticism, and liberalism — are the axioms of my philosophical system, and their necessity to the practice of philosophy is the pragmatic justification I offer for them. And I believe that complete adherence to them can make a person truly wise, in that together they give one the means of discerning the true from the false, the good from the bad; or at least the more true from the less true, the better from the worse, and so forth.

But even a perfect system of philosophy will not give the answer to every question, for philosophy is not about what is nor what ought to be, but about how to tell what is and ought to be. Thus a perfect system of philosophy will always give a way, in principle, for any valid question to be answered, and a way to tell which questions are valid to begin with. That is, it will tell us either where to find our answers, or it will tell us that there are none and not to bother looking. But there is a class of essentially philosophical questions, questions which any complete system of philosophy must answer, for these questions concern the means of asking and answering all other questions:

  • First, to properly answer a question, we must first address what exactly it is that we are asking. To do so we must address how to ask our questions clearly and precisely, if only to ourselves. Thus philosophy must answer questions regarding linguistic matters such as logic and semantics, not only as they concern the communication of thoughts to others, but more so as they concern the structure of our own thoughts.
  • To fully address what it is to think something, to ask a question or pose an answer to such, we must also address the fundamental nature of the subjects or people doing the thinking, the questioning and answering. Thus philosophy must answer questions about the mind (that faculty of a person concerned with what is) and the will (that faculty of a person concerned with what ought to be).
  • Having answered what it is we mean when we think that something is, or that something ought to be, we must address what it means for such an opinion to be correct, what it means for something to actually be real or moral; that is, we must address the criteria on which to base our judgements about what is and what ought to be. Thus philosophy must answer questions about the fundamental nature of the objects or world being asked about, answering questions about reality (how the world is) and morality (how the world ought to be).
  • We must then of course address the methods of applying those criteria, the methods useful to the end of answering our questions, the means by which we attain wisdom. Thus philosophy must answer questions about knowledge (sound judgement of what is) and justice (sound judgement of what ought to be).
  • We must then address the operation and structure of the institutions which are to utilize such methods, and how they may do so in a fashion consistent with those methods themselves. Thus philosophy must answer questions about academics (those institutions dedicated to determining and pronouncing what is) and politics (those institutions dedicated to determining and pronouncing what ought to be).
  • And finally, we must address the practical means of inspiring the use of such methods and the establishment of such institutions. Thus philosophy must answer questions about aesthetics and poetics, not only as they concern what is beautiful or dramatic per se, but more so as they concern the practical application of beauty and drama to inspire wisdom and the love thereof.

For each of these questions, I propose that the answer be sought via an analysis of the topic at hand with the goal of determining what practical function in philosophical discourse it concerns. The answers which, if assumed true, would impede our goal of commensurability, must therefore be assumed false, and their negations thus taken as the axioms of our philosophy.

The first and last of these questions, concerning the logical structure of the ideas considered by the mind and will, and the aesthetic means of inspiring the establishment of academic and political institutes, are in a sense the most distilled or rarefied of philosophical questions, for they segue into the only two fields equally, if not more, foundational than philosophy: math and art.

Math is entirely analytic, dissecting ideas to their core parts and seeing what new ideas could possibly be assembled from rearranging those parts, without any concern to whether any of those parts are actually available and whether the new construction is something we would actually want to build. Math is thus concerned with modeling what could be; but paradoxically, without concern for whether it 'really' could be; a sort of prototypical possibility more fundamental than 'really possible', a mere "logical possibility".

Art is entirely pragmatic, equally as exploratory and creative as mathematics, but concerned much more with how to instantiate certain ideas from the available materials, and even more so with deciding on which ideas to actually instantiate. Art is thus concerned with critiquing what should be; but paradoxically, without concern for whether it 'morally' should be; a sort of prototypical permissibility more fundamental than 'morally permissible', a mere "aesthetic permissibility".

Philosophy bridges the two by modeling how we model things and critiquing how to critique things, from the combination of which emerges more substantial concepts of reality and morality: how to enumerate options of what maybe is or ought to be, and then select from amongst them. Philosophy is where logic meets aesthetics.

The intermediate of these questions, concerning the mind and the will, and academic and political institutes, are the most purely philosophical questions, inasmuch as they are questions to be answered by philosophy alone and that is the end of it, with no further fields of inquiry spawned by them and dependent on them, though fields such as psychology and sociology investigate similar topics, respectively.

But the middle two of these questions, concerning the objects and methods of truth and goodness, are the most productive and substantial of philosophical questions, from which we can proceed with the hard work of figuring out what in particular is true and good, and applying that to more practical ends.

Outline

Exposition: A Pragmatic Analysis

Building up from fundamental premises to a complete philosophical system.

Ontology & Teleology

A pragmatic analysis of the objects of cognition and volition.

[John asks me how criticism implies phenomenalism, as it clashes with his materialism. I reply with an attack on representationalism, reducing it to transcendentalism, and thence to fideism; and a reconstruction of objectivism compatible with phenomenalism]

[Define criticism and fideism as opposites; fideism holds that something is beyond questioning, criticism holds that nothing is beyond questioning]

[Define phenomenalism and transcendentalism as opposites; transcendentalism holds that some things are beyond experience, phenomenalism holds that nothing is beyond experience]

[Criticism implies phenomenalism if and only if transcendentalism implies fideism. Prove the latter to prove the former.]

[Insert attack on transcendentalism; how it implies unknowable and thus uncriticisable facts, i.e. fideism. Model this after Agrippa's Trilemma; if not Tina's Platonic realism (c.f. fideism), then John's representative realism (c.f. foundationalism) or Jackie's collective idealism (c.f. coherentism), which both reduce to it; or else Frank's plain nihilism (c.f. infinitism).]

[representationalism collapses to transcendentalism [e.g. materialism] (which leads to fideism); or to the denial of objectivism [e.g. idealism] (which is nihilism). (collecive idealism can go either way depending on whether multiple collective realities are allowed). John is a representationalist about facts, and Jackie likewise about norms.] Tina is a transcendentalist and thence a fideist. Frank is a skeptic and thence a nihilist.]

[Commensurablism implies objectivism. But it also implies criticism, which implies phenomenalism. But how can phenomenalism, inherently subjective, be made compatibile with objectivism? Appeal to liberalist process: always eventually evaluable but not always immediately evaluable]

Thus any commensurable basis of comparison of opinions must be phenomenal in order to avoid the pitfalls of fideism. The term phenomenon derives from the Greek phainomenon, meaning "that which appears", and thus by "phenomenal" I mean "as things appear" or "as things seem". We must take as true what seems to be true, and take as good what seems to be good, rather than taking what seems to be as some illusory veil over what "actually" is, and what seems good as some crude diversion from what is "actually" good. Thus the basis of comparison for our opinions must be empirical, regarding perceptions or sensations, in the case of opinions on reality; and hedonistic, regarding desires or appetites, in the case of opinions on morality.

But though phenomena are to some extent inherently subjective, I do not mean to suggest that we should take what initially seems correct as the final answer on what is correct, without further reflection, for some notion of objectivity is necessary to avoid the pitfalls of nihilism. I merely mean that our reflection upon what is actually correct must be based solely in comparisons of such seemings or phenomena, which can be compared and criticised. In this way, objectivity may be understood in a way reconcilable with phenomenalism as that toward which subjective opinion converges through the practice of the proper process of opinion comparison, the nature of which is to be established next.

Translated into separate statements regarding factual and normative matters, this implies:

  • The ontological thesis I call empirical realism. Ontology concerns substances, the objects of reality, or what factual assertions propose to be — and which such substances actually are real. It concerns the question "What (in general) does exist?" Empirical realism is the answer that what is true is just what seems to be true, and would seem so to anyone else as well, upon a complete and thorough consideration of all sensations. Loosely put, something is true if and only if an omniceptive (roughly "all seeing") empiricist (someone who believes what he "sees") would believe it.
  • The teleological thesis I call hedonistic moralism. Teleology concerns purposes, the objects of morality, or what normative assertions propose to be — and which such purposes actually are moral. It concerns the question "What (in general) should exist?" Hedonistic moralism is the answer that what is good is just what seems to be good, and would seem so to anyone else as well, upon a complete and thorough consideration of all appetites. Loosely put, something is good if and only if an omnipathic (roughly "all feeling") hedonist (someone who intends to do what he "feels like" doing) would intend it.

I call this approach to ontology and teleology Phenomenal Objectivism.

[HOW TO INCORPORATE THE BELOW?]

Pattern-recognition is the cornerstone of all mental activity; pattern-recognition involves breaking down the undifferentiated continuous mish-mash of data flowing into our minds from our experience into discrete parts, basically recognizing objects or "tropes"; this process is the origin of the concept of numbers (quantities) and of abstract structures (qualities), since we separate that continuous feed of indistinct whatever into a number of instances of certain structures; and this grouping/structuring/pattern-recognition process requires concepts of some sort of medium of separation (space and time) and some sort of binding-together or connecting of what would otherwise be merely coincidences of instances of structures (substance, which connects thing in space, and causation, which connects thing in time). Thus from pattern-recognition we get a complete framework of thought including number, structure, space, time, substance, and causation.

causation : substance :: time : space. The pragmatic argument for the presumption of objectivity is an argument for the presumption of causation as much as it is an argument for the presumption of substance. That is, it defeats the Problem of Induction right along with immaterialism: to presume that there are substances just is to presume that there is some objective order in the arrangement of experiences in space, and to presume that there are causes just is to presume that there is some objective order in the arrangement of experiences in time. To deny either presumption is to give up the search to discover that order, or in other words, to abandon the quest for wisdom.

Epistemology & Deontology

A pragmatic analysis of the methods of knowledge and justice.

[Jackie asks me how objectivism implies liberalism, as it clashes with her communism. I reply with an attack on justificationism, reducing it to skepticism, and thence to nihilism; and a reconstruction of criticism compatible with liberalism]

[Define objectivism and nihilism as opposites; nihilism holds that no position is actually correct or incorrect, but rather true and false, good and bad, etc, are all just matters opinion; objectivism holds that true and false, good and bad, etc, are not just matters of opinion, but rather some positions are actually correct or incorrect]

[Define liberalism and skepticism as opposites; skepticism holds that without some authoritative base of appeal no opinion is justified; liberalism that opinions may be justly held even in the absence of any authoritative appeal]

[Objectivism implies liberalism if and only if skepticism implies nihilism. Prove the latter to prove the former.]

Skepticism leads to the problem of infinite regress, which leads to nihilism, or to fideism to halt that process. (INSERT AGRIPPA'S TRILEMMA HERE: if not fideism, then foundationalism or coherentism, which both reduce to it; or else plain infinitism.]

[justificationism collapses to skepticism [e.g. infinitism] (which leads to nihilism); or to the denial of criticality [e.g. foundationalism] (which is fideism). (Coherentism can go either way depending on whether multiple coherentist justifications are allowed). John is a justificationist about facts, and Jackie likewise about norms. Frank is a skeptic and thence a nihilist. Tina is a transcendentalist and thence a fideist.]

[Commensurablism implies criticism. But it also implies objectivism, which implies liberalism. But how can liberalism, inherently unconstrained, be made compatibile with criticism? Appeal to phenomenalist criteria: beyond everyone but accessible to anyone.]

Consequentialism is analogous to confirmationism.

Consequentialism specifies by what standard a strategy should be judged good (e.g. satisfying appetites, as in hedonism), and then says that intending such a strategy is deontically obligatory to the extent that it positively approximates that standard, e.g. finding that a strategy would satisfy many appetites is taken as reason why everyone should intend it, even if it violates some few appetites along the way, and other strategies could also satisfy those appetites. By contrast, a liberal deontology says that no strategies are obligatory, all and their negations are permissible, unless their direct negations can be shown to violate that standard (e.g. violate any appetites) at all.

Confirmationism specifies by what standard a theory should be judged true (e.g. satisfying sensations, as in empiricism), and then says that believing such a theory is epistemically necessary to the extent that it positively approximates that standard, e.g. finding that a theory would satisfy many sensations is taken as reason why everyone should believe it, even if it violates some few sensations along the way, and other theories could also satisfy those sensations. By contrast, a critical epistemology says that no theories are necessary, all and their negations are possible, unless their direct negations can be shown to violate that standard (e.g. violate any sensations) at all.

Confirmationism and consequentialism are thus both analogous to the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent, "[idea] implies [conformance with standard], therefore [idea] is correct" (x implies truth, therefore truth implies x), whereas the only logically valid inference is "[idea] implies [conflict with standard], therefore [idea] is incorrect" (x implies untruth, therefore truth implies not-x), which does not entail the former.

Thus any commensurable basis of comparison of opinions must be liberal in order to avoid the pitfalls of nihilism. We must take opinions to be justified until they are shown otherwise, rather than demanding that no opinions be held unless some definitive justification for them can be shown. Thus we must let people say what they believe and do what they intend, and not counter them in either speech or in action, unless in doing so they would tread upon the same liberty of others, denying the validity of those others' perceptions and desires; not merely because they can provide no justification for why they would do or say as they would. You do not need to justify your beliefs or intentions to yourself; you are free to hold them non-rationally, for no reason; but only for as long as they can withstand rational criticism, that is, so long as there is also no reason contrary. To justify your beliefs or intentions to another person — to get them to agree with you — you need only appeal to some common ground between you, and the 'depth' of this foundation may be arbitrary, may vary between dialectic partners, and may even be non-logical, as is the pragmatic justification underlying this whole philosophy.

But though such liberty is to some extent inherently faithful, I do not mean to suggest that we should let anyone say or do anything and never speak or act against them for fear of impugning their freedom of conscience or deed, for some notion of criticality is necessary to avoid the pitfalls of fideism. I merely mean that our counter-speech or counter-action must be based solely on reasons beyond personal disagreement, which can be objectively evaluated. In this way, criticality may be understood in a way reconcilable with liberality as the way in which assumed opinions are weeded out through the application of the proper criteria of opinion comparison, the nature of which has been previously established.

[Where to put this? Conception and compassion derive via abstraction from the empirical realism and hedonistic moralism established previously; abstraction from one's present beliefs and intentions to what is universally possible or permissible. Loosely speaking, something is logically possible if and only if some perfectly rational empirical realist person could believe it, and epistemically possible if asuch a person with our confirmed sensations would; and likewise, something is logically permissible if and only if some perfectly dutiful hedonistic moralist could intend it, and deontically permissible if such a person person with our confirmed appetites would.

I call this approach to epistemology and deontology Criticoliberalism.

[the effects which definitions and contracts can have on necessity and obligation are highly limited; neccesary truths and obligatory goods are only so given some assigned meaning of words and some assigned ownership of property. Definitions can change the meaning of words, and contracts can change the ownership of property, but that is it; purely formal necessity and obligation, independent of or meaning or ownership, cannot be changed by definition or contract, respectively.]

(Putnam's causal theory of reference mirrors Nozick's historical theory of ownership. Terms and properties must have a history of justified acquisition and transfer of referents and owners, respectively, in order for their present nominal referents and owners to be legitimately so, and thus the necessities and obligations depending on such meaning and ownership to be legitimate. Uncontested use over time tacitly transfers ownership of property and reference of words. Given existing ownership and reference, uses may be validly contested; so long as they are thus contested, change of use does not legitimately change ownership or reference. Thus initially unexclusive property comes to be exclusively owned by those who use it for their own purposes, initially undefined words come to be defined in reference to what they're used to mean; and disused property and disused words may return to their initial, unexclusive, undefined states, and their use taken up by others if such is not contested. Ownership and reference can of course by explicitly transferred as well. [Also: All truths regarding particular individuals are necessary truths in virtue of the fixed reference of names, and all goods regarding particular individuals are obligatory in virtue of the ownership of oneself]).

(Where to fit this in? Knowledge is belief caused by truth; justice, as a character trait, is intention caused by goodness).

Epistemology concerns the methods of knowledge and reason, comparing and contrasting concepts and beliefs with the aim of believing all and only what is real. Deontology concerns the methods of justice and duty, comparing and contrasting maxims and intentions with the aim of intending all and only what is moral.

(Or? Epistemology concerns the regulation of speech and deontology concerns the regulation of action. All speech is action and all action is speech, any behavior of one kind is behavior of the other kind; "speech" [communication] is the information-transmitting aspect of the behavior and "action" [manipulation] is the energy-transmitting aspect of the behavior).

The Mind & The Will

A pragmatic analysis of the subjects of cognition and volition.

[Jackie asks what empirical realism implies about the mind and the will - are we all just robots then?]

[I reply with why phenomenalism demands subjectivism, but objectivism demands functionalism, and how to reconcile the two]

John and Frank both say consciousness and free will are illusions; Jackie and Tina both say they are real and fundamental aspects of people.

John and Tina are both determinists and realists, though Tina is a theological determinist and transcendental realist while John is a strictly causal determinist and materialist; Jackie and Frank are both indeterminists and irrealists, though Jackie believes in personal causal and substantial power while Frank believes everything is just random illusions.

John is thus a hard determinist and an eliminative materialist (consciousness doesn't exist because consciousness is immaterial and only matter exists).

Jackie is a metaphysical libertarian and a subjective idealist (consciousness is all that exists, because existence is a construction of our collective consciousness).

Frank believes we have no free will because everything we do is random, and that consciousness doesn't exist because nothing exists.

Tina is believes free will is alignment of oneself with God's plan, and that consciousness is an immaterial spark of divinity given to each of us by God.

My argument is that consciousness and free will are independent of materialism or determinism (or their negations) per se, both being functional properties, but that they do depend on something approximating them, some objective substance and causation, to be instantiated in; and that (per ontological arguments in previous section) there must be some objective substance and causation, and furthermore that we can tell that we are (at least sometimes) conscious and free of will, by simple introspection.

Certainly there is more to the mind and the will than such functionality. Clearly at least something has subjective, so-called "phenomenal consciousness", which is just what it's like to be a subject of sensation, to be acted upon; and "phenomenal willpower", which is just what it's like to be a subject of appetite, to be disposed to act. If nothing else does, we people clearly do. (Analogy: consciousness and willpower are like love. If it seems to you that you are conscious, willful, or in love, then you obviously are, for those things consist of nothing more than that "seeming" to begin with). But what of everything else? Either everything besides us also has such mental attributes, or only things sufficiently like us do. The latter requires an arbitrary line to be drawn somewhere, and leads thus to fideist (uncritical) incommensurability. We must thus conclude the former: that everything is a subject of "experiences" of some sort of another, however simplistic they may be. But that does not mean that we cannot distinguish between the different sorts of experiences that functionally different things may have...

(I call this approach to the philosophy of mind and will Functional Subjectivism).

[THIS SECTION UNDER HEAVY CONSTRUCTION. To segue from psychological topics, via a logic of attitudes, into a more conventional logic of ideas in the next section].

Let us begin by establishing a clear and precise terminology by which we may refer to different kinds of thoughts and related mental activities, beginning with the notion of an opinion:

Opinion
An attitude toward an idea.
Idea
A mental image, or analogous for non-visual qualities, of a way the world maybe is, or maybe ought to be.
Attitude
A disposition or inclination, in this context meant in relation to an idea as it regards people and the world.

We will later undertake a more detailed analysis of the structure of ideas. Ideas may be referred to by other names to indicate that they are being considered as objects of one sort of attitude or another:

Concept or Theory
An idea considered as an object of cognition; something that might be perceived or believed. Referred to as a concept in the case of relatively simple ideas, and as a theory in the case of relatively complex systems of ideas.
Maxim or Strategy
An idea considered as an object of volition; something that might be desired or intended. Referred to as a maxim in the case of relatively simple ideas, and as a strategy in the case of relatively complex systems of ideas.

We are concerned here with three categorizations of attitude: thoughts as opposed to feelings (differentiated by our attitudes toward an idea as it regards other people), cognitions as opposed to volitions (differentiated by our attitudes toward an idea as it regards the world), statements as opposed to questions. As the last distinction is straightforward enough — merely the difference between the sentences "It is raining outside." and "Is it raining outside?" — we are most concerned with the first two distinctions.

Feeling
An opinion held in direct response to an experience, without reflection or universalization; that is, without concern for whether other people should hold the same opinion, or for their opinions about your opinion.
Thought
An opinion held reflectively and universally (that is, with concern for whether other people should hold the same opinion, and for their opinions about your opinion), but not neccessarily in direct response to an experience.
Cognition
An attitude toward an idea disposing a person to change that idea as neccessary to match the world.
Volition
An attitude toward an idea disposing a person to change the world as neccessary to match that idea.

By experience we mean a subjective impression of the world as it seems to a person that it is, or as it seems to a person that it ought to be. There are two corresponding kinds of experience:

Sensation
An experience which induces a cognitive attitude in a person.
Appetite
An experience which induces a volitional attitude in a person.

By reflection and universalization we mean a person's consideration of his opinion from the perspectives of various other (actual or hypothetical) people, or equivalently, a person's consideration of his opinion as if it was held by various other (actual or hypothetical) people, thus objectivizing the attitude of the opinion. The two faculties of a person concerned with reflection or universalization we term thusly:

Consciousness or self-awareness
The mental faculty of accurately reflection upon cognitive opinions; accurate self-awareness.
Willpower or self-control
The mental faculty of effective reflection upon volitional opinions; effective self-control.

By combination of the aforementioned types of attitude, we can establish four types of opinion:

Perception
A cognitive feeling; a theory formed intuitively, in direct response to sensations.
Desire
A volitional feeling; a strategy formed emotionally, in direct response to appetites.

An entity with these sorts of attitudes (deriving from the functional attributes of pattern-recognition, memory and anticipation), a feeling thing, we call sentient.

Belief
A cognitive thought; a theory accepted consciously; a perception of the (in)accuracy of a perception.
Intention
A volitional thought; a strategy accepted willfully; a desires for the (in)effectiveness of a desire.

Such functional faculties of consciousness and willpower are just reflexive versions of perception and desire: having (accurate) cognitions about our cognitions, and (effective) volitions about our volitions. An entity with these functional attributes, a thinking thing, may rightly be called sapient or a person.

A thought (belief or intention) is an infinitely cascading reflexive feeling. That is to say, a belief is not merely a perception of the accuracy of a perception, but also a perception of the accuracy of that higher-order perception, and so on consistently ad infinitum. Reflexive perceptions can reverse each other some finite number of times (i.e. a series of perceptions of lower-order perceptions being inaccurate), but if such reversals continue infinitely then no belief is formed. If the number of negative higher-order perceptions is even (e.g. [an infinite cascade of perceptions of the accuracy of] the perception of the inaccuracy of the perception of the inaccuracy of the perception of something), then a belief in the thing perceived is held; this includes the trivial case of zero negative reflexive perceptions. If the number of negative higher-order perceptions is odd (e.g. [an infinite cascade of perceptions of the accuracy of] the perception of the inaccuracy of the perception of something), then a belief in the negation of the thing perceived is held. Likewise desires and intentions as perceptions and beliefs.

The behavior of an entity is the whole of its objectivity: there is nothing more to say about something as an object besides how it behaves. (c.f. behaviorism)

The experience of an entity is the whole of its subjectivity: there is nothing more to say about something as a subject besides what its experience is like. (c.f. qualia)

Everything is both a subject and an object; what distinguishes them are their functions.

The function of an entity is what maps the inputs it experiences to the behaviors it outputs; function thus shapes both the experiential or subjective nature of an entity and the behavioral or objective nature of it. (c.f. functionalism)

Everything experienced is the behavior of something else.

Every behavior in turn is experienced by something else.

Each entity's behavior thus shapes its (and all others') further experience.

Each entity's experience is in turn shaped by its (and all others') behavior

Intelligence is the function of recognizing patterns in experiences, differentiating the blurry continuum of experience into distinct discrete quantities of distinct discrete qualities bound together as distinct discrete substances in space and distinct discrete causal events in time. (Quantity, quality, space, time, substance, and cause; a Kantian framework of phenomenal experience). It is "carving up the world at the joints" and building a mental model of it.

Sentience is the function of separating experience into indicative and imperative aspects (sensation and appetite), recognizing patterns in them both (building models of the world that is and the world that ought to be), isolating the differences in those patterns. It is the function of differentiating between motivating or imperative aspects of experience and informing or indicative aspects of experience, building two separate models of the world how it is and the world how it ought to be, recombining the two streams based on an accumulation of past experiences into behaviors (which quality as actions rather than mere reactions) which shapes further experiences of the world to eliminate those differences.

Sapience is reflective sentience; sentient experience of and behavior upon oneself, reshaping oneself to function in a manner such that one's indicative experience of oneself does not differ from one's imperative experience of oneself; such that one finds oneself is as one finds oneself ought to be.

Flowchart from experience to behavior in a person:

Experience undifferentiated by direction of fit

Experience differentiated into sensations (indicative) and appetites (imperative)

Feelings interpreting experiences into perceptions and desires (from external experiences to reactive behaviors)

Thoughts considering upon those feelings as beliefs and intentions (from internal experiences to active behaviors)

Behaviors differentiated into communication (information-transmitting) and manipulation (energy-transmitting)

Behaviors undifferentiated by direction of fit

All behaviors impart experiences onto other things, and all experiences result from the behavior of other things, closing the circle.

Metaphysics & Metaethics

A pragmatic analysis of the structure of cognition and volition.

With this terminology established, we may now begin to analyze the formal language we will use to structure such thoughts. But first, a note on notation: All formulae in this system of logic are constructed as operations on lists, which may in turn be members of other lists. Whether these lists are treated as ordered or unordered depends upon the operation upon them.

A list is denoted as a series of members contained within parenthesis and separated by vertical bars. For example, the list containing x, y, and z is denoted (x|y|z). A list containing only one element is equivalent to that element simpliciter; for example, (P) is equivalent to just P.

Any string of characters unbroken by whitespace immediately preceding a list denotes a operation operating on that list, with the list members being the variables the operation's value is dependent upon. For example, the operation F operating on the list (x|y|z) is denoted F(x|y|z). A nullary operation, or in other words a constant, is denoted simply by its name, in this example F, although formulations such as F() are also acceptable.

Formulae using only the (far) below operations merely "paint a picture in words" - they describe a state of affairs, or some range of states of affairs, but they do not propose that it is so or that it be so; they are devoid of grammatical mood.

Moodless formulae merely encode ideas. Mood operators encode attitudes. Formulae with mood operators thus encode complete opinions.

To add grammatical mood to our moodless formulae, we can use any of a series of eight mood operations differentiated by these same three criteria, each describing one aspect of the speech-act being performed: indication/imperation (denoted d/p), impression/expression (denoted i/e), and proposition/inquisition (denoted !/?).

  • di!(P) impresses a belief that P is so
  • de!(P) expresses a perception that P is so
  • pi!(P) impresses an intention that P be so
  • pe!(P) expresses a desire that P be so
  • di?(P) asks (requests impression of a belief) whether P is so
  • de?(P) wonders (requests expression of a perception) whether P is so
  • pi?(P) asks (requests impression of an intention) whether P ought to be so
  • pe?(P) wonders (requests expression of a desire) whether P ought to be so

By proposition/inquisition I mean to merely distinguish between statements and questions.

By expression/impression I mean to denote the difference between sentences whose function is merely to demonstrate the mental state of the speaker, and sentences whose function is to effect a change in the mental state of the listener. Assertions are impressive propositional sentences, or put another way, assertion is the speech act of impressing a thought, rather than merely expessing a feeling.

(c.f. Moore's Paradox: saying "P is true but I don't believe P" or "P is good but I don't intend P" is like screaming in a rage "I'M NOT ANGRY!" What you express by your statement performatively contradicts what you impress by it, so either you are lying, or simply incorrect, about your mental state, or you are pretending, or accidentally appearing, to have a different mental state than the one you really have. However, one may still perceive P and yet hold P to be false, or desire P and hold P to be bad, so long as one does not conciously or willfully accept those perceptions and desires, which is to say, believe or intend their contents).

By indication/imperation I mean to denote the "is"/"ought" or "fact"/"norm" distinction. All assertions impress propositions, however:

  • "Indicative" assertions (those denoted "di!") impress factual propositions (or, when such assertions are correct, facts simpliciter). That is to say, one proposes that something is some way, copula in the indicative mood. Indicative or factual assertions are meant to impress cognitive thoughts, or beliefs.
  • "Imperative" assertions (those denoted "pi!") impress normative propositions (or, when such assertions are correct, norms simpliciter). That is to say, one proposes that something be some way, copula in the imperative mood. Imperative or normative assertions are meant to impress volitional thoughts, or intentions).
Qualification

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We must first have a consistent way of denoting the qualities, attributes, or predicates of which ideas consist. Quality operations may be of any arity.

Adjectives are simple constants (e.g. "green").

Nouns are complex adjectives.

Verbs are gerund (e.g. "moving") and are all at least unary. Adverbs are arguments for verbs (e.g. "moving(fast)" = "quickly moving"). Complex verbs with direct and indirect objects may take more arguments (e.g. "throwing(lazy|ball|Robert)" = "lazily throwing a ball to Robert")

The quality "void", indicated with an asterisk "*", reads as the adjective "nothing", as in the predicate "is nothing"; it is equivalent to the infinite joint denial of all qualities, and as such may be taken roughly to indicate non-existence, inasmuch as it indicates that that of which it is predicated has no qualities, or is a member of the null class. Likewise, its negation reads as the adjective "something", as in the predicate "is something"; it is equivalent to the infinite disjunction of all qualities, and as such may be taken roughly to indicate existence, inasmuch as it indicates that that of which it is predicated has some qualities, or is a member of the universal class.

The quality void is analogous to the quantity zero, and facilitates the expression of ideas such as as "nothing being nothing" (i.e. zero quantity of things being void of all qualities), and "something being something" (i.e. a non-zero quantity of things being not void of all qualities)".

Junction

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We now need a way to combine these qualities into more complex ideas.

The Junction operation of() serves as a sole sufficient truth-functional operator. of() is a binary operation upon an ordered pair consisting of a number (or list of numbers) in the first argument, and any formula or list of formulae in the second; for example, the Junction operation taking the number n for its first argument and the list (P|Q|R) as its second argument is denoted of(n|(P|Q|R)), and is spoken "n of [the following list]: P, Q, R". The value of the first argument determines the number of the variables from the list in the second argument which must be returned to satisfy the formula.

This single operation, when operating on constants representing propositions, is thus capable of expressing all the formulae of standard propositional logic by itself, as well as many other formulae not expressable in standard propositional logic.

Notation English Reading Abbreviation
of(0|P) "None (or zero) of the following: P"
"Not P"
(negation, "NOT")
not(P)
of(0|(P|Q|R)) "None (or zero) of the following: P, Q, R"
"Neither P, nor Q, nor R"
(joint denial, "NOR")
none-of(P|Q|R)
not(none-of(P|Q|R)) "Some (not none) of the following: P, Q, R"
"Either P or Q or R"
(disjunction, "OR")
some-of(P|Q|R)
none-of(not(P)|not(Q)|not(R)) "None (or zero) of the following: not-P, not-Q, not-R"
"All of the following: P, Q, R"
"P and Q and R"
(conjunction, "AND")
all-of(P|Q|R)
not(all-of(P|Q|R)) "Not all of the following: P, Q, R"
"Some (not none) of the following: not-P, not-Q, not-R".
"Not-P or not-Q or not-R"
(alternate denial, "NAND")
nall-of(P|Q|R)
all-of(some-of(P|R|Q)|nall-of(P|Q|R)) "Some but not all of the following: P, Q, R"
(exclusive disjunction, "XOR")
xome-of(P|Q|R)
some-of(all-of(P|R|Q)|none-of(P|Q|R)) "Either all of none of the following: P, Q, R"
(mutual implication, "IFF")
aon-of(P|Q|R)
not(some-of(not(P)|Q)) "If P then Q", or "P only if Q", or "Q if P"
"Not neither not-P nor Q", "Either Q or not-P"
(material implication, "IF-THEN")
if(P|Q)
Approximation

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But we may not always want to state an idea so definitely; we need a way of expressing different degrees of qualities.

The approximation operation ly() denotes any idea of a stated similarity to a stated idea.

This operation in conjunction with the preceding operations is capable of expressing all the formulae of standard fuzzy logic.

Notation English Reading Abbreviation
ly(0|F) "Not at all F" non(F)
nonely(F)
not(non(F)) "Partly F" partly(F)
non(not(F)) "Wholly F" wholly(F)
Variation

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Furthermore, we need a way of generalizing ideas to cover ranges of various states instead of only one very specific state.

The variation operation for() serves as a sole sufficient "quantifier", in the sense in which that term is used in predicate logic. for() is a trinary operation upon an ordered triplet consisting of a number (or a list of numbers) in the first argument, a variable (or list of variables) in the second argument, and any formula (or list of formulae), normally involving the variable(s) from the second argument, in the third argument. For example, the variable operation taking the number n for its first argument, the variable x for its second argument, and the formula F(x) for its third argument, is deonated for(n|x|F(x)), and is spoken "for n [values of] x, F(x)". The value of the first argument determines the number of values of the second argument for which the third argument satisfies the formula.

This operation in conjunction with the junction operation, when operating on formulae representing predicate functions and their objects, is thus capable of expressing all the formulae of first-order predicate logic by itself, as well as many other formulae not expressable in first-order predicate logic.

Notation English Reading Abbreviation
for(0|x|F(x)) "For no (zero) value of x, F(x)" for-no(x|F(x))
for(0|x|(not(F(x)) "For no values of x, not F(x)"
"For all values of x, F(x)"
for-all(x|F(x))
for(not(0)|x|F(x)) "For some (not zero) values of x, F(x)" for-some(x|F(x))
Situation

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We also need a way to limit the range of an idea.

The situation operation at() "situates" an idea, that is, it denotes the circumstances in which to find it. Thus at(C|c|P) reads as "at context c, P", e.g. "at world w, P" or "at time t, P" or "at location l, P", etc.

This operation in conjunction with the preceding operations is thus capable of expressing all the formulae of standard modal logic, as well as many other formulae not expressable in standard modal logic.

Notation English Reading Abbreviation
for-no(w|at(world|w|P)) "For no value of w: at [possible] world w, P"
"At no [possible] world, P"
"It is not possible that P"
impossible(P)
for-all(w|at(world|w|P)) "For all values of w: at [possible] world w, P"
"At all [possible] worlds, P"
"It is necessary that P"
necessary(P)
for-some(w|at(world|w|P)) "For some value of w: at [possible] world w, P"
"At some [possible] world, P"
"It is possible that P"
possible(P)
Quantification

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Finally, we need a way of describing what actually has the qualities we have been combining.

The quantification operation designated being(n|F) describes a state of affairs wherein n things have the quality F. Such formulae do not by themselves express complete propositions, but are rather descriptions of states of affairs which could be asserted to be, commanded to be, or otherwise spoken about in formulae that do express complete propositions. Thus, these formulae read in English as incomplete sentences with gerund copulas, e.g. "[the state of affairs of] nothing being F" rather than the assertion that "nothing is F":

Notation English Reading Abbreviation
being(0|F) "Nothing being F" none-being(F)
being(0|not(F)) "Nothing being not-F"
"Everything being F"
all-being(F)
being(not(0)|F) "Something (not nothing) being F" some-being(F)

I call this approach Psychological Semanticism.

Academics & Politics

A pragmatic analysis of the institutes of knowledge and justice.

[John asks what hedonistic altruism implies about government - must we have a benevolent dictatorship then?]

[I reply with why liberalism demands autonomism, but criticism demands pannomism, and how to reconcile the two]

Academics concerns education and enlightenment.

Politics concerns correction and empowerment.

(TO DO: This used to be Religion & Politics. Need to reorganize. Where to put the stuff about deities and polities? Maybe after academics and politics proper; to segue into inspiration, mysticism and romanticism. Religion concerns academics and politics equally.)

Panautotheism (all is God; all are 'gods'):

[TODO: reorganize this into god/church/priests/enlightenment. With no legitimate god, there is no legitimate church; instead, everyone is the "church", and its "priests" are only so by degree of enlightenment].

The very concept of an entity beyond the universe is invalid; as per the metaphysics earlier, the truth, and thus the object of reason, just consists in universally observable phenomena; and there is thus no legitimate reason to accept the existence of such entities as an abstract god purportedly above and beyond the universe. Some may argue that the existence of such a god can be proven by definition, arguing that the perfect being is defined in part by existence, and as such necessarily exists. However, as per the earlier stated epistemological limits on establishing facts from definition, one cannot define any arbitrary entity into being.

"Gods" composed of parts of the universe are possible, but are not legitimate gods. Some may argue that the existence of such an entity is neccesary to explain the creation of the universe, but the same question can then be pushed back to such a god; what created it? As such a question can be asked indefinitely, the only solution is to accept that there is no ultimate first cause; only an infinite web of mutual causation. ("Creation" is the act of making some state of affairs true [by fiat?]).

The only thing that could legitimately be "God" is the universe itself - and the universe could fulfill all the functions usually attributed to God. But unless the universe is perfectly united into a single cohesive mind, then such a legitimate universal god does not exist. Because such unity is such an unlikely state of affairs - and because if it does in fact obtain, doing so will necessarily serve such a god anyway, everyone's individual mind being cohesive with such a universal god's mind by definition - it is best to assume that every individual must do his or her part as one of many surrogate deities on behalf of the hypothetical one true god, "the universe", though with overlapping jurisdictions, none of them can be true "gods" in the classical sense.

The closest possible approximation to the mind of such a universal god will then emerge from the aggregate effects of such behavior; though it does not therefrom follow that beliefs of the majority represent the greatest truth, for minority opinions may still represent relevant but neglected perspectives, and so should not be discarded simply in favor of the opinion of the majority.

Scientists - that is to say those who fastidiously apply critical empirical realism to compare different proposed theories and figure out which implies the most truth - are the universe's natural priests, and all it takes to be a successful scientist is to be enlightened.

Enlightenment is the state of the mind being (or the process it of becoming) fully conscious or self-aware and self-critical. You cannot enlighten someone just by telling them facts, even if they're asking you for facts which will enlighten them; for enlightenment is not a collection of beliefs but a mode of operation of the mind. You cannot simply tell them to operate their mind in that way either, for there is a bootstrapping problem there; they couldn't do that unless they were already enlightened to begin with. Instead, you must somehow inspire them to exercise their mind, give them - both in fact and just as importantly in their perception - opportunity and motive to think for themselves of their own accord. It will of course take much of such inspiration for such enlightenment to stick permanently.

Panautocratism (everyone together is the State; every single individual is a 'state'):

[TODO: reorganize this into state/government/governors/empowerment. With no legitimate state, there is no legitimate government; instead, everyone is the "government", and its "governors" are only so by degree of empowerment].

The very concept of an authority beyond the people is invalid; as per the metaethics earlier, the good, and thus the object of duty, just consists in popularly pleasurable phenomena; and there is thus no legitimate duty to obey the commands of such authorities as an abstract state purportedly above and beyond the people. Some may argue that the authority of such a state can be established by contract, arguing that a political body is contracted into a position of authority, and as such is owed certain obligations. However, as per the earlier stated deontological limits on establishing duties by contract, one cannot contract any arbitrary authority into being.

"States" composed of parts of the people are possible, but are not legitimate states. Some may argue that the authority of such an entity is neccesary to maintain governance and order amongst the people, but the same question can then be pushed back to such a state; who governs it? As such a question can be asked indefinitely, the only solution is to accept that there is no ultimate high authority; only an infinite web of mutual authority. ("Governance" is the act of making some state of affairs good [by fiat?]).

The only thing that could legitimately be "the state" is the people themselves - and the people could fulfill all the functions usually attributed to the state. But unless the people are perfectly united into a single cohesive will, then such a legitimate popular state does not exist. Because such unity is such an unlikely state of affairs - and because if it does in fact obtain, doing so will necessarily serve such a state anyway, everyone's individual will being necessarily cohesive with such a popular state's will - it is best to assume that every individual person must do his or her part as one of many surrogate polities on behalf of the hypothetical one true state, "the people", though with overlapping jurisdictions, none of them can be true "states" in the classical sense.

The closest possible approximation to the will of such a popular state will then emerge from the aggregate effects of such behavior; though it does not therefrom follow that intentions of the majority represent the greatest good, for minority opinions may still represent relevant but neglected perspectives, and so should not be discarded simply in favor of the opinion of the majority.

Mediators - that is to say those who fastidiously apply liberal hedonistic morality to compare different proposed strategies and figure out which implies the most good - are the people's natural governors, and all it takes to be a successful mediator is to be empowered.

Empowerment is the state of the will being (or the process of it becoming) fully free or self-directed and self-controlled. You cannot empower someone just by telling them what to do, even if they are asking what to do to be empowered; for empowerment is not a collection of intentions but a mode of operation of the will. You cannot simply tell them to operate their will in that way either, for there is a bootstrapping problem there; they couldn't do that unless they were already empowered to begin with. Instead, you must somehow inspire them to exercise their will, give them - both in fact and just as importantly in their perception - opportunity and motive to take the initiative of their own accord. It will of course take much of such inspiration for such empowerment to stick permanently.

[compress all the above into a briefer description of why people all have to teach and guide themselves and each other since there cannot be anything beyond them to do it and none of them are any more privileged to do it than anyone else; then move on to how can the people do it. Analogous to Mind & Will section, "why there can't be a transcendent soul yet we obviously have consciousness and willpower anyway, so what are they in that case?" If there is no legitimate church or state, how are people to teach and guide each other?

I call this approach to religion and politics Panautonomism.

Necessity for organized education and punishment (seeking to correct violations of truth and the good), and organized research and legislation (seeking to fulfill the truth and the good, satisfy observations and appetites, without violating them).

[TO DO: write more on correction/punishment. Re deontological punishment: make sure the victim loses nothing in the end, or gains enough else to compensate for any irreversible loss; and make sure the perpetrator gains nothing in the end, or loses enough else to compensate for any irreversible gain. Re epistemological correction: what is the equivalent?).

Respond to speech only with speech, and only to action with action, both only as necessary to make the correction and no more. For example, say a person thinks that some woman ought to be burned, on the grounds that (fact) she is a witch and (norm) witches ought to be burned. If he merely SAYS that she is a witch, and you think this to be false, you ought to contradict his speech with your speech; but no other action is yet justified. If he merely SAYS that witches ought to be burned, and you think this to be wrong, you ought to contradict his speech with your speech; but no other action is yet justified. If he TRIES to burn her, because he thinks she is a witch and witches ought to be burned, and you think either of those to be incorrect, and you cannot convince him otherwise with speech, then you ought to contradict his action with action.

Confirm anomalous experiences before discarding an idea because of them. When anomalies are confirmed, use meshes of different domain-limited ideas as necessary to satisfy all experiences, down to a case-by-case basis if necessary; work slowly toward broader, more general ideas that still satisfy all experiences.

We can't think nothing or do nothing; we must have current best working theories and strategies. In dealing with imperfection, sometimes you have to use a theory known to make some false predictions because of all theories yet considered that one is the best; and sometimes you have to act upon a strategy known to have bad consequences because of all strategies yet considered that one is the best. This doesn't mean accepting the false things as true or the bad things as good; it just means dealing with the false predictions or bad consequences on a case-by-case basis, requiring more effort and undermining the point of coming up with broad theories and strategies to begin with.

The aim of academics is to find a minimally entropic, maximally accurate theory to describe reality.

The aim of politics is to find a minimally difficult, maximally effective strategy to implement morality.

Among equally accurate theories, the one requiring the least information to describe is preferable.

Among equally effective strategies, the one requiring the least energy to implement is preferable.

Equally accurate, equally entropic theories are formally as well as empirically equivalent and thus in every sense the same theory, just stated differently.

Equally effective, equally difficult strategies are formally as well as hedonically equivalent and thus in every sense the same strategy, just stated differently.

If it takes more information to describe a theory than to describe its implications case-by-case, the theory is unwarranted.

If it takes more energy to implement a strategy than to implement its implications case-by-case, the strategy is unwarranted.

If it's less entropic to describe a simple theory and some exceptions than to describe a more complex theory that fits the exceptions, the more complex theory is not yet warranted. The existing theory must still be used, but its domain limited to exclude the known exceptions.

If it's less difficult to implement a simple strategy and some exceptions than to implement a more complex strategy that fits the exceptions, the more complex strategy is not yet warranted. The existing strategy must still be used, but its domain limited to exclude the known exceptions.

  • A field with known cases less entropic to describe than any accurate theory is in an unstable proto-scientific phase, with no theories sufficiently proven;
  • A field with theories less entropic to describe than the cases they fit, and no known exceptions, is in a stable normal-science phase, with all its theories sufficiently proven;
  • A field with theories to which there are are known exceptions, but which theories and their exceptions are less entropic to describe than any other theories, is in a metastable revolutionary-science stage, with its current theories disproven but no other theories sufficiently proven.
  • A polity with known cases less difficult to address than any accurate strategy is in an unstable proto-political phase, with no strategies sufficiently proven;
  • A polity with strategies less difficult to implement than the cases they fit, and no known exceptions, is in a stable normal-politics phase, with all its strategies sufficiently proven;
  • A polity with strategies to which there are are known exceptions, but which strategies and their exceptions are less difficult to implement than any other strategies, is in a metastable revolutionary-politics stage, with its current strategies disproven but no other strategies sufficiently proven.

(c.f. Ockham and Kuhn above)

When possible, explain your ideas to the satisfaction of anyone who questions them, and question the ideas of others until you are satisfied, before you assert or act on any idea. But when expediency demands, do not let lack of explanation stop you from correcting something to the best of your ability; trust others and speak and act authoritatively as necessary, but do not appeal or defer to authority per se, simply excuse the lack of time to state or demand reasons.

(TO DO: Write more on perfect and imperfect reasons, ala perfect and imperfect duties).

Aesthetics & Poetics

A pragmatic analysis of the inspiration of knowledge and justice.

[This last section is extremely rough and under heavy construction].

Mysticism and Romanticism help inspire enlightenment and empowerment, respectively.

While reason is the correct adherence to abstract rules of cognition, mysticism goes beyond (but not against) reason to the unmediated, undifferentiated appreciation of the beauty of the world. Mysticism thus drives the quest for the diverse contingent truths beyond the necessary truths of mere reason.

While duty is the correct adherence to abstract rules of volition, romanticism goes beyond (but not against) duty to the unmediated, undifferentiated appreciation of the drama of the world. Romanticism thus drives the quest for the diverse supererogatory goods beyond the obligatory goods of mere duty.

Mysticism inspires curiosity which leads to enlightenment. Romanticism inspires nobility which leads to empowerment.

Art is anything presented with the aim of inspiring feelings in people: anything meant to impress emotions or intuitions, just as logical propositions are meant to impress intentions or beliefs.

Just as logical propositions can impress or express statements or questions, so too can art. A work or art can impress truths and morals, or postulate possible truths or morals, or it can raise questions about truth and morality.

The quality of art is thus proportional to its success in impressing such feelings.

But feelings vary from subject to subject, artist to artist and audience to audience, and to that extent the quality of a given work of art, or its status as art to begin with, is subjective.

However, the same could be said of logical propositions, but that has not stopped us from objectively distinguishing true propositions from false ones. Likewise, we can still objectively distinguish good art from bad art, and in the same way: by examining what the objectively correct intuitions and emotions are; what should be perceived or desired; poetically put, what God would mean to impress upon us by his art.

The answer in short (from the rest of the preceding philosophy) is that good art is that which satisfies perceptions and desires and stirs intent to satisfy others perceptions and desires. On other words, good art informs (imparts truth), intrigues (imparts a quest for truth), pleases (imparts goodness), and inspires (imparts a quest for goodness).

Anything presenting a detailed look at the workings an object or world accomplishes the first part; if the object or world depicted is real, it informs and intrigues, and if it is fictional or of uncertain reality, it at least intrigues. Likewise, epic battles of good against evil accomplish the last part; if the forces of good are victorious, it pleases and inspires, and if they fail or the outcome is uncertain, it at least inspires.

The simplest of good art will simply prevent obvious truths and clear heros easily trumping obvious villains, with little room for questioning what is real or what is moral: it simply tells you what is real and what is moral, and is only "good" as art to the extent that its blunt message is correct.

More nuanced, complex art will still require some recognizable truth for what is depicted to be conceivable to the audience (verisimilitude), and some recognizable virtue in the protagonists to inspire any compassion for them (relatablility). But, the more nuanced and complex it is, the more unfamiliar and subtle those grains of truth and virtue can be, the more speculative the systems of reality and morality presented can be, and more uncertain it can be about what is real or moral to begin with.

Audiences, of course, must be likewise more sophisticated to appreciate such ambiguity about reality and morality, understanding the unfamiliar or subtle truths and virtues used to grant the verisimilitude and relatability which allows the audience to accept the art, being able to suspend judgement enough to "try on" the speculative systems proposed in the work, and comfortable enough with uncertainty to appreciate the art despite it.

The best art, then, depicts detailed truths about unfamiliar, uncertain, or exotic elements of the real world, as well as epic triumphs over extremely difficult and morally complex challenges, in a way that effectively imparts those truths, causes people to question what is true, rouses support for those forces of good, and causes people to question what is good.

For non-representational art, these same qualities can be drawn out into more abstract qualities of beauty and drama. The same consistency amidst complexity which grants verisimilitude can be drawn into non-representational beauty. Likewise, the same positivity amidst gravity which grants relatability can be drawn into non-representational drama.

Appreciate the beauty and elegance of the world, don't just analyze it.

Make your life not only just, but full of love and heroics.

The world is a great work of art, and life is a great adventure.

I call this approach to aesthetics and poetics Rational Romanticism.

[We arrive at the beach at sunset by the end of our walk]

About The Author

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Forrest Cameranesi was raised in the small town of Ojai, California, where he attended a variety of state primary schools, and participated in a number of home tutoring and independent study programs for his secondary education. For his tertiary education he later enrolled at Santa Barbara City College and after that the the University of California at Santa Barbara, from which he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy.

He has been writing the precedessors of this work since before he even knew what the academic study of philosophy involved, due to his lifelong interest in language, science, politics, art, and all things intellectual.