Wednesday, December 14, 2016
About Russell. As a philosopher, mathematician, educator, social critic and political activist, Bertrand Russell authored over 70 books and thousands of essays and letters addressing a myriad of topics. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, Russell was a fine literary stylist, one of the foremost logicians ever, and a gadfly for improving the lives of men and women.
Bertrand Russell, third Earl Russell, was born on 18th May 1872 at Cleddon Hall, Monmouthshire, into one of the great political families of Britain. His grandfather, Lord John Russell, the Whig politician and first Earl, who twice became Prime Minister, steered the 1832 Reform Act through Parliament. John Stuart Mill was Bertrand’s godfather, and young Bertie was introduced to Queen Victoria when he was two years old. Russell became a great and innovative philosopher, but he had politics in his genes.
Russell’s mother died when he was two years old, his father when he was three. There were two older siblings, a brother Frank, and a sister Rachel, who died young. Russell and his brother were brought up by their grandparents in Pembroke House, in the middle of Regent’s Park in London. (The house was the gift of Queen Victoria, and had been given in gratitude for Lord Russell’s political services. This was fitting, since, without the Reform Act, Victoria might not have had a throne to sit on.) Here the friendless boy grew up, looked after by a succession of Swiss and German nurses and governesses, and taught at home by a succession of English tutors. He was lonely, unhappy and highly precocious... (continues)
Russell texts online... Russell's message to future generations (video)
On Russell's History. "A precious book ... a work that is in the highest degree pedagogical which stands above the conflicts of parties and opinions." -Albert Einstein... "Parts of this famous book are sketchy ... in other respects it is a marvelously readable, magnificently sweeping survey of Western thought, distinctive for placing it informatively into its historical context. Russell enjoyed writing it, and the enjoyment shows; his later remarks about it equally show that he was conscious of its shortcomings." -A. C. Grayling... "I had the good fortune to have Russell's History assigned by my professor for my first course in philosophy, and my admiration for its verve and clarity has never dissipated." -Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
"I regarded the early part of my History of Western Philosophy as a history of culture, but in the later parts, where science becomes important, it is more difficult to fit into this framework. I did my best, but I am not at all sure that I succeeded. I was sometimes accused by reviewers of writing not a true history but a biased account of the events that I arbitrarily chose to write of. But to my mind, a man without bias cannot write interesting history — if, indeed, such a man exists."
on Love, Sex, the Good Life, and How Moral Superstitions Limit Our Happiness... on Immortality, Why Religion Exists, and What “The Good Life” Really Means | Brain Pickings
Russell the peripatetic. “Every morning Bertie would go for an hour’s walk by himself, composing and thinking out his work for that day. He would then come back and write for the rest of the morning, smoothly, easily and without a single correction.”Gymnasiums of the Mind
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
After some stuttering off camera when I initially asked, and then the tripping over her thoughts that I caught on video—and placed earlier in this post—this nice woman came up with probably the most straightforward of the days answers.
I'm going t leave you with two more quote's. Both are said by Ender in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series. The first is from near the end of Ender's Game while Ender is trying to explain what war is to him, and the second is from Speaker for the Dead, and requires not even the minimal explanation I gave you for the first.
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.”
― Orson Scott Card,
“No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one's life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.”
― Orson Scott Card,
Here are the links to my two comments from other students installments:
To begin with, The sequence of Theories uses an overarching political domain to contrast with sub-domains in sequence. And using this structure, Rawls moves from the large international scale, to even animals. Furthermore, he addresses a "self-contained democratic society reproducing itself across generations". This democratic structure will be constructed over all sub domains. These sub domains would be further structures under the previous, however, perhaps containing other principles with which they are governed and operated. These establishments are in contrast with the utilitarian aspects of the political philosophy.
Additionally, Rawls' work in the political region includes the Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory. The Ideal Theory assumes two separate subjects. The first ideal theory establishes the assumptions that societies and citizens alike would chose to accept whatever laws are provided and that they would not war or commit crimes. The second, establishes that both society and citizen are in acceptable living conditions that their morality in decisions is affected. As in, citizens are not starving and a country is not failing. Using the ideal theory, we are able to deconstruct real society that is the non-ideal world and locate its faults. The Non-ideal theory focuses heavily on the ability to use the ideal society and citizen to recognize the faults in the non-ideal society or citizen, as well as establish the ability to use this reflection to adjust the characteristics of these non-ideal entities and make them ideal.
Furthermore, one of the more individualistic reviews that Rawls conducts is the Reflective Equilibrium Theory. By using this theory, one can assess their own political views and compare them to other beliefs they hold. It is a reflection on one own's political judgement and their ability to be equal in logic and reasoning as other. Using these judgments, one is able to draw upon conclusions for other topics related to the same matters and produce the same stance on them. For example, looking down upon slavery would also expect one to believe that everyone has basic rights, and vise versa. All of one's stances on political matters are suppose to be reflective and supportive of each other. One is to strive to have all of their judgement line up, however, this is not possible as perfect equilibrium is not attainable, believes Rawls. One must pursue a conformity of their believes. If a belief of there's conflicts with there preexisting template for judgement, they must alter that belief to get it as close to the others as possible, as this is the only way to justify one's beliefs. The closer one gets their beliefs, the closer they are to narrow reflective equilibrium, or a coherence of initial beliefs. The most unique part of this theory is the emphasis on one's ability to change their beliefs to better fit the mold established by the supportive construct of previous judgement.
The next theory combats a seemingly contradictory method and attempts to establish law over multiple beliefs, this is the legitimacy and stability theory. First off, in order for a society to be free and correct, every citizen is entitled to their own beliefs. No one is going to be entirely the same in moral and political belief. And it must be at the up most Democratic will that people are able to have their own differing opinions. However, when it comes to a society in whole, there must only be one, unifying law. Therefore, even if topics of gay marriage or religion differ from person to person, in a state there must be a set decision on every topic. However, Rawls understands that this would seem to have issues. The first, would be legitimacy. This raises the concern that if it is democratic for a state to impose its will on the individual. Should all citizens be coerced into a set belief even if it is against their own. Secondly, the issue of stability. How would it be possible for citizens to follow and obey laws established by the state which differ and maybe even contradict their own. However, it is necessary for this to be so, else there can be no law and order.
To confront the issue of legitimacy, Rawls turns to the subject of reason. It would be apparent that it would seem illegitimate for one individual to force their beliefs onto another. And in a democratic structure where only one stance must be established, such a problem arises. Therefore, it comes down to the requirement of reason. One citizen must reasonably belief that the law which they establish is the best for all. Additionally, it must be a reasonable assertion that others that may disapprove fully of a set law would be willing to follow it. People must be reasonably accepting of the enforcement of a set of laws established. And that political structures must be accepted freely and not require forceful domination for their enforcement. Therefore Rawls leaves the legitimacy issue up to citizens to be reasonable in their deciding of a law's ability to be enforced.
Such reasonable citizens would be in search of a proper cooperative society. A reasonable citizen would want a society where they would follow laws and those around them are also expected to follow the same laws to the same degree. Citizens would follow the laws even if it requires sacrifice, however, they acknowledge the greater good of a law. And it would also be expected that these reasonable citizens would also expect their fellow citizens to be reasonable and therefore not expect that fellow citizens conform entirely their own beliefs that they see as entirely true. They would also acknowledge that others have equally reasonable beliefs. It would be the fundamental requirement that all citizens attempt to reach a degree of compromise. An ideal outcome features mutually agreeable terms for both parties on each matter and law that comes to light.
Tolerance is a fundamental part of this ability for individuals of a society to be able to create the ideal scenario. Especially, for matters of religion and morality. Rawls states that these subjects are so deep that even those with some of the closest beliefs on political and social issues could have different religious and moral ideologies. It is imperative that citizens of a society understand that those in the society with them have differing ideologies and that these are also capable of being held by reasonable and good willed people. These issues are captured by his burdens of judgement. People use their collection of experience and upbringing to draw their own opinions on these matters and a reasonable citizen must be willing to respect and cooperate with them for the greater good.
It is with these social and political theories that Rawls was able to be just an influential philosopher of his century. Rawls seamlessly transitions between the philosophies of a social order and its inhabitants. He uses a wide variety of theories which have their own importance as well as a contribution to his over arching establishments. These theories span from matters of economy to state to an individual's ability to establish their own moral code and to apply themselves with others for the greater good of a society. Using these theories, Rawls paves the way toward what he sees as an ideal society of individuals with differing, but acceptable and reasonable ideologies.
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Comments on other's:
In my previous installment, I compared the two different pseudo-utopian societies presented by Karl Marx and Plato, and analyzed the factors that would contribute to their eventual success/failure if implemented. I also examined the pros and cons of the society we are a part of today, and pointed out that there is definitely room for improvement. Finally, I finished the post off by presenting what I believe to be the key for creating an ideal society that will stand the test of time. For coverage's sake, here's a quick list to recap in more detail:
- The communist society Marx believed would overcome the capitalist system and bring equity and freedom to the triumphant working class was doomed to fail, as it ended up being even more exploitable than the current social complex. This is evident in the rise of communist powers such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the early-mid 20th century, who were able to gain the support of the public by masquerading as champions of the socialist ideals, but promptly turned upon their people once they had achieved the absolute power they had sought the entire time.
- The ancient Greek philosopher Plato outlined his ideas for the "perfect society" as well, almost two millennia before Marx was even born. However, Plato's Republic is nearly the complete opposite of what Marx had in mind, structurally speaking (Marx's communism is obviously motivated more by economic factors, but they are comparable on the grounds of measurement of social status between the individuals that theoretically make up the two societies). Plato envisions a nation divided into different social classes, such as soldiers, merchants, scientists, etc., all ruled by a caste of philosopher-kings. The success of such a society relies entirely on the citizens' contentment with the individual tasks which they are each assigned early on in their lives; needless to say, not many people would be willing to settle for being forced to spend their lives in a position that they do not enjoy. Plato's Republic would collapse under the weight of the envy and resentment which would fill its populace from the moment of its inception.
- Our society today is adequately composed for most, but there are areas in which it can be significantly improved. Although modern society has made great strides towards equality for all races, genders, religious creeds, sexual orientations, etc., there are still conflicts between different groups which make productivity and advancement in certain fields a painstakingly slow process. Specifically, I mentioned the contentment with physical and emotional weakness that permeates our society, and how most of our generation is coming into the real world expecting the rest of society to hold their hand in every aspect of life, instead of dealing with its challenges and bettering themselves individually. I ended the post by explaining that the way to minimize such conflict is to create a brand new society which is tolerant and indiscriminant of all manner of people, but by necessity excludes those whose personal beliefs directly conflict with the ideals that your society is built upon.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
We spent a long time talking about the perfect system for the world, having gotten off topic from the real question and finding ourselves in a much more interesting discussion. Instead of talking about why our present nation-state system didn't work (like we were meant to) we got a little off track. Instead talking about ways to fix it. First we decided that obviously what we are doing now doesn't work; nation states don't work. First let me explain what they are... It's actually super interesting philosophy. States are the geographic boundaries that we live inside of; there is no difference between the word state and the word country. A nation is a mental construct, if you consider yourself to be, you are. If you consider yourself American, then you are American. The main problem with the nation state system we said, was that everyone was out for themselves, and there is no big force that can stop a nation state from harming their own people to get it. Genocide, tyranny, multi-national companies, global warming... All running rampant.
Like I said, the main problem with the nation state system is that every one is out to do what's best for themselves. What we devised to fix this is: nation states can't work alone. The only way to solve the global issue is to first come together as humans. When we go to another country, and someone asks us where we are from, we automatically say American. That is our national identity, there is almost nothing stronger than that. If Mexico invaded California tomorrow, and the government called for more soldiers, how many of us would volunteer? It's a higher number than you might think. That's because our nationalism compels us to help, it is part of who we are as humans; find a tribe, join a tribe, defend the tribe. We think it's time for a new tribe. A global tribe; so before anyone identifies with a country, they identify with their fellow humans. We think that it is necessary for global peace for everyone to recognize first that whats best for the good of humanity is what's best for us all first and foremost. I understand though that this is an extremely liberal point of view, and I'll admit it is idealistic.
One of the main problems is that some humans are inherently selfish, not every country will think this way... How do we fix that? One of the ways we came up with: give the UN or the EU more power to regulate international power. The problem with that is that not every state would be represented. So make it one country one vote we said, but wait thats not fair either. We decided to leave the system for another day in favor of another blatant problem; neither body is mandatory. The UN has by far the most international cooperation of any governmental body in history but anyone can leave and rejoin at times that are convenient for them. So make it mandatory we said. The problem is, and threaten them with what? Here is where the group and I differ: we could use hard power (aka war), to threaten other countries into doing what we want -my idea-, or we could use soft power (economics, trade bans, that kind of thing) -their idea-. They didn't want to threaten death, my philosophy is, that there are always going to be people who will go around the trade bans to make some cash (I'm just not as idealistic). But wait! What if we let them leave but then just enforce the rules anyways, they just don't get the voting rights anymore. Ahh. No, it's been proven by the fact that we rebelled when Britain did this to us that this isn't a great idea. So at an impasse we look at our options again. We look and we realize why we even need to discuss this in the first place.
Constructivists believe in changing the ideas that the world is based on, and that it is easier for some than others. It tends to be easier for people in high places than normal people because people will listen, that in itself is because of some of the rules that the world is already based on. The world is an endless cycle of changed rules, little bitty rules framed by how life already works. They see the world as something that is built out of interpersonal relationships, the social construct everything is based on.Constructivists ask questions on a much larger scale, so it takes longer to answer. If people were to doubt the construct, the whole thing disintegrates, everybody decides it stops, so it stops. It could be some other way, red is an arbitrary color for stop, but everyone knows that it means that. If someday we were to choose a different color, we could, everyone would just have to believe it to make it true. Everyone believes that there are states so there are.
How much of belief structure do you have to share before you can have international relations? You can’t establish diplomatic relations with people who don't understand the concept to a state. This is the international problem. Each country is different in that they each have their own sense of right and wrong. We can't have a working solution to global issues right now because not all countries have the same problems. What we here in America consider a concern is probably infinitely different than what someone in China considers an issue. This is what political realists consider to be the issue. As long as we are so widely varied we must accept diversity but we cannot depend on others. Because we do not share our ideologies, today's friend could be tomorrows enemy; you can't trust anyone to repay a favor tomorrow, so each thing is something for something, every man for themselves.
Anyways, just wanted to let everyone in on why the global political system is trash. And why it's ineffective and useless at the time being. It has no power to effect global issues or human rights grievances until we give it some. That's why I'm glad our biggest problem in the US right now is someone that we didn't want for president to win. Although a large portion of the country is unhappy, it was inevitable either way. I think truly the fact that we are so upset is insane. The democratic and republican parties don't even really differ that much on ideologies. In fact, the US it the MOST ideologically mushy country in the world, the things we make such big issues about are actually relatively small issues. I'm just glad that I line in America where everyone pretty much believes the same thing, agreeing on the majority of the big things instead of constantly fighting over the big things. I think the country would run much smoother if we were all constructivists and decided that the different parties didn't exist anymore, we were all American and that that is what matters, not party alignment, but again, I realize how ideological and unlikely to happen this is. Everyone has their own beliefs, and here in 'Murica, we are allowed to express them, no matter how much others might disagree.
First Comment Here
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First Post Here Words: 1,248
In the myth of Sisyphus as written by Albert Camus, he talks about Sisyphus as being the "absurd hero". His passions on the earth and his scorn and disobedience toward the gods is what secured his spot in the underworld. His own reckless actions on earth and below it in the underworld are to blame for his fate for eternity, and while nothing is said about Sisyphus in the underworld one can imagine his thoughts while he rolls the stone, when it stops and begins rolling down the hill again, and when he goes back again towards it. Camus says that the part of the myth that interests him the most is the decent of Sisyphus to the bottom of the hill. He writes "I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end... At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock". I find this a very interesting viewpoint, as this is where his absurdist viewpoint is prominent. He believes that instead of dreading the descent toward the rock, that Sisyphus actually enjoys the descent. But why? Well, he imposes his absurdist point of view onto Sisyphus, and states that even though he is not free to do what he wants, he is superior to his task, and therefore free in a certain way. After reading this passage a couple of times, it began to creep in my brain that he may have found a sort of newfound freedom in his eternal punishment. He also writes, "One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness". This is a line that particularly stood out to me, as it put into words thoughts that have been in my mind for some time. Accepting the absurdity of life and it's ridiculousness is not exclusive to being happy; for if Sisyphus accepts his fate, as Camus suggests, and what comes with it, he could become liberated by his life and duty of rolling the rock. He has one job, and there is a certain peacefulness that must come with accepting his fate and finding a certain tranquility in it.
This is not the only time that Camus talks about absurdity and happiness. Later in the myth he says
that, "happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth", which is another way of saying that the two go together, like apples and oranges. Absurdity is all about accepting that we, as humans, will never be able to comprehend the complexities of this world or all the information in it; and if or when we accept this fact, we are liberated in ways thats that are second to none. Soren Kierkegaard wrote extensively on the subject of absurdity a century before Camus, and greatly influenced his thinking. Sisyphus must have realized at some point durning his punishment that there is no other reality for him, no other opportunities; the rock is his only reality and the only thing that exists for him. And as he pushes this rock and watches it roll back toward the dark abyss from which he had come, he has two choices of what to think about, two mindsets to adopt. He could dwell on the negatives of his situation, the eternal pain that he has to endure and the monotonous struggle of pushing the rock up to never achieve anything. Or, he could choose to find joy in his struggle, as he is the master of his rock and the master of his days. He is superior to his fate. If he accepts his eternal struggle as his fate, is it really that bad? Or is it simply something he has to do?
Again, this brings us full circle to his fate; as I stated in the other installment, where would the punishment be if he had a goal to achieve and success to look forward to and work for? His work is futile and unfulfilling, thus eternal turmoil ensues. He is conscious of his punishment and the actions that led him there, as it is the only thing that he can think about when he pushes that rock up the hill. That is the main source of his pain according to Camus; the fact that he is forever concious of his task. However, what overshadows this fact is that when he reaches the end of the mountain and watches that stone roll away, there is nothing but him and his own universe, the one that he created and is that master of. As Camus says, "the struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart" and Sisyphus is just that, a man whose decisions led him to the reality that he faces. And Sisyphus is just that; a man that is faced with a task he must endure.
We are more similar to Sisiphyus than we may realize. Well, obviously nobody reading this post is going to have to push a boulder up the side of a mountain for eternity, but we each have our own individual struggles that we have to deal with. Just like Sisyphus, we are all humans, and we are all the products of our choices. The present is an accumulation of all of your previous choices and decisions in your life up to this point. And, just like Sisyphus, we all have the opportunity to look at our life in one of two ways. If we choose to let our past control us then we are doomed to never excel and go forward in life as we could. Living in the past is a surefire way to never change. Unless you allow yourself to free your mind from the past and realize that life is what you make it, you will be caught in a cycle that will be hard to break. We are the masters of our own fates. "Captain of my fate master of my soul," as said by William Henley in his poem Invictus, and I must say that I think Camus would agree with the quote. At the end of the myth, Camus says that "one must imagine Sisyphus happy", and I have to say that while I may not agree, I can see where Camus believes that he could find a sort of peacefulness in his eternal punishment, as stated earlier. However, I do believe that everything and every situation is what YOU make it; nobody else is going to live your life for you. So my question to you is how are you going to live your life; are you going to accept it or create it?
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