Friday, August 11, 2006

Behind the Ad Hominem's stand the... (Updated 8/12/2006)pt2

Sound and Unsound Thought
I wanted to get farther with this post, but due partly to my Wife & Kids insisting that I actually am part of their lives (the nerve), and shear Post space, I’ll have to leave the remaining portion to the next post (and the ever important example's & links, so Nagarjuna, theory only this time, backing it up with examples next time). For this one I want to illustrate where conflicting Ideas are still debatable among people, and when there is just no point.

Starting at the top, thinking requires evaluating, reaching conclusions, integrating those conclusions into wider hierarchies of integrations, like climbing the stairs of a pyramid as you build it, step by step to the top of the conceptual pyramid. Once you’ve reached the peak, if you’re conscious of what you’re doing, you plant the flag of a Name on top of that structure together with an evaluative conclusion or connotation attached, identifying this conceptual pyramid as "This is Concept X and I judge it to be Sound (or unsound)", and that applies to all that lies under it.

Whether or not you’re not conscious of what you’re doing, your mind is still creating conceptual pyramids, but if unnamed, they will remain a vague “sense of things”, and their associations with other concepts will likely be weak and their integrations probably made somewhat shakily. An example might be one of a general sense someone might gather by associating sneaky people seen steeling things, noting their obvious race, creed or nationality, and make a conclusion from what stood out about them the most – say race or accent, and decide “those people” like that are sneaky thieves, and the flag planted on top of that pyramid might be “People who look like X do bad things”, and the evaluation “They’re bad, distrust them”, whereas if they had be thoughtfully examining the situation, the flag might have said “Behavior like X and/or Y may indicate bad intent” and the evaluation “Keep a close eye on people behaving this way”.

A thoughtful person should be aware of the possibility that they’ve unconsciously made errors in forming some concepts, and keep an eye out for contradictory information. There are two things that should cause you to want to reexamine either your structure or conclusion or both. One indicator might be the discovery of error in several small segments of data that on their own seem insignificant, but when taken together become weighty and possibly indicative of larger errors. A Second would be on being presented with additional info you hadn't before integrated with Concept X, or fundamentally different info being discovered within Concept X than that which you've used to build your conclusion with.

Unless presented with this additional info, or fundamentally different info, then your original conclusions must stand. Obviously, info of compelling evidence invalidating any fundamental part of the structure would, or should require you to reexamine your conclusions. But barring significant info, then no, you don't have to reevaluate your previous conclusions.

What to Criticize
When you come upon a new edifice of conceptual thought, and within which you can recognize an Idea that contains one or more of these faulty conceptual building blocks (for example Marxism, Kantianism, Rationalism) in positions key to the overall structure, then you should have no problem whatsoever declaring this new Concept Y as being unsound, and in fact it would be wasting considerable mental energy for you to rehash all of the reasons why you came to the conclusions you've previously reached.

Now, when you discover someone using Concept X or Y who you think to be innocent of the existing flaws, then it would be necessary to at least discuss some of the key flaws you've found within, and you should do that rationally and with as little emotion as possible, at least up until the point of summarizing all the conclusions you've already walked through with them. Anything else would be trying to sway, rather than convince them, to your conclusions.

When it's Appropriate to Criticize
You've also got to judge when it is and isn't appropriate to rehash ideas which should be understood for that setting. If you're teaching a class of Algebra II, and someone continues to ask questions that should have been understood in Algebra I, Basic Math or even English, if you're a decent teacher you're going to ask them to see you after class & not bore the rest of the students with such questions. If the stumped student continues to interupt the class you're going to have to tell them to keep quiet or leave.

When discussing matters with others that have reached similar conclusions (or when there's reason to assume that they have) there is again no need to explain each of the many conclusions that went into arriving at the crowning, or even fundamental, conclusion that you have reached. And you're free to indulge in whatever rhetorical flourishes you feel inclined to use amongst them.
When Discussion Is and Isn't Worth ItAlso, keep in mind there are some people who you can have a discussion with, and some you cannot, based on the number of numerous concepts that they have deeply associated into their beliefs, when most or all of those you profoundly disagree with. There are enough shared fundamental concepts and perceptions of the world, that I can and do have lively and enjoyable discussions with and even though I likely would still disagree (read "often LOUDLY", but with mutual grins at each others intermittent flying spittle), someone like a Joe Lieberman for instance. But there are people who have such radically different conceptual systems and Ideas adopted, that discussion just can't happen.

Shifting Conceptual Gears
I’m going to shift gears here, and mix metaphors with a different analogy. When I started this I was going for a more 21st century image of interfaces, templates, relational databases, etc, but that’s going to take a lot of explanation and space. Maybe something more physical would work best here instead.

Picture a person’s personality as if it were made up of a series of gears, with each of the conceptual structures I’ve been talking about making up toothes on those gears. If you tried to mesh it with one whose teeth didn't match up and interlock well with its own, it would clash, create sparks, and eventually become jammed. But, a pair whose essential values, "gears", interlocked, even though one might be larger than the other, as long as their teeth, their essential ideas & values, meshed, they would work with and power each other. The better conversations & relationships will be driven by the larger, lower gears merging smoothly together, and the smaller ones pick up speed from them and zing away at high speed. Though one may have developed, in their smaller more delicate gears, a taste for classical music and a dislike of football, and vice versa; their lower drive gears, even though spinning at different speeds, could still work well together while enjoying a discussion, maybe even a growing and rewarding friendship.

Less durable conversations & relationships - acquaintances - will be those that come together at the higher levels only, sports, entertainment, and on that level they carry on fine, but if the lower gears aren't able to mesh, the strain will be too much for the smaller gears to sustain their entire connection for long periods of time - like trying to stay in 3rd gear for street, highway & starting & stopping.

The Drag of Error/Falsehood

In relationships, using the image of the gears, truth, knowing the truth about each other, is going to allow each others gears to see what is compatible, remain clear and ready to match and mesh properly, enabling a smooth transfer of energy, motion and progress, or quickly make it apparent that you don't match up, and need to look elsewhere.

Falsehood and error in your ideas & relationships gives the impression that your gears will line up well when in fact they're not a true match at all, but have been altered by a layer of cheap plating, to make them appear to be the same size. Trouble is, that plating of falsehood is weak and easily cracked, once that happens you have to begin slopping grease and eventually a sawdust of excuses & ‘epicycles’ into the works, and keep slopping more and more in it to smooth out the chips that keep appearing, and the ever weakening plating cracks and chips, and those chips keep falling into the works, causing the gears to slip and bind and work against one another, if at all.

Some people when they come up against each other find no matching gear sets for their conversational machinery to interlock – there’ll be no transfer of power at all, and the work of conversation & thought will just grind to an immediate halt.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The same thing is going to occur in a person’s interaction with reality. Again, at some level, the gears must interlock. While they’re raised in idle, some gearings can dazzle you with their interlocking Ivory Tower combinations & whirring sets, and aren’t the little bitty ones just humming and spinning at a mile a minute! But when you bring them into contact with the driveshaft of reality, if those lower gears don’t mesh with the real world, there’s going to be a grinding and chipping, and the whole structure begins to lurch to a halt.[insert any Marxist, Communist, Socialist theory & 10 year plan here], and if that gear box represents an entire society, the more the dictator tries to jam the gearshift into place, the more the transmission shudders & rattles, and the shrieks of millions of lives being used as sawdust to smoothen the process is horrendous.

There are people that you can imagine having a conversation with - areas where you think you'd be able to connect, and although you don't see right off the full sense of their ideas, you think if you could talk, you might be able to get up to speed with them. Then there are those that, to your mind, their gears are so glazed with false plate, grease & sawdust, you can't imagine any points of communication being open. I don't think that I could find any matching splines or shared ideas with the machinations of someone like George Soros, to establish or expand any useful communication. I don't think I could at all with Noam Chomsky, unless it was a highly formalized setting such as a public debate, where we wouldn’t be trying to communicate or convince each other of anything, but would instead be talking for the benefit of the audience.

And in similar fashion, in ANY discussion of legitimacy between any of the terrorist types or their supporters and sponsors – with Israel - there is no equivalence. I give no credence what so ever to the claims of the terrorists or their sympathizers. None. And to the people of Lebanon, while the families have my sympathy (the thought of the children in that... it shreds your soul), but to put it coldly, they actually voted for Hez-Ebola – and will, not too surprisingly, inevitably suffer the consequences of bringing a terrorist organization into their government.
(Again, I'll dive into the gory details next post for examples pertaining to Soros, Chomsky & Hez-Ebola .)

Calling a Spade a Spade

But as I mentioned in an earlier Post, I have read a representative portion of what Chomsky has written, I was initially intrigued with what he had to say, but his political comments are - frankly, ludicrous. I have spent several hours watching him speak on what he considers sound reasoning. IMHO, there is so little correspondence between what he says and with what I can see as being the facts of reality, that I must say that he's as nuts as you can be without being put into a straight jacket. And if he was to ever implement his Ideas, the grinding from the gearbox would surely reach the level coming out of North Korea in no time flat. (I know, I know, examples – next post)

Nagarjuna asked "Are you telling us that all Chomsky's EVER done with respect to China from the time of Mao to the present is praise it?" No, what I am telling you is that there was plenty of evidence available at the time as to make any pronouncement of the kind he made, glaringly irresponsible, off base, and actually lending moral support and the appearance of credibility to Evil, and I mean Evil in the foulest and most secular sense of the word. And personally, I do think that that is a bad thing. Chomsky may have hedged & backed off a few of his statements over the years, such as with Cambodia, but only by quibbling degree not in significant kind.

His positions leave me no other choice than to radically disagree with very nearly everything he has said. The very nature of those disagreements, and the potential damage, yes real damage, I see inherent in the thoughts he promotes, tends to crank up my emotional response plugs because he supports and promotes that philosophy, which brings to power, and sustains, Despots of the worst kind imaginable.

So yes, I do think that by giving moral and intellectual support to evil, you promote and guarantee the further spread of evil and at an increasingly greater magnitude. Hitler, Stalin, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Syria, Iran… and they all thrive on that support given them by such Intellectuals. As a lower level example, why do you think that the Hez-ebola are bothering to stage their "Innocents Killed! Get your Innocents Killed Photo ops here!"? It feeds the sympathetic MSM, which feeds the sympathetic Intellectuals, the U.N. and so on.

The True Powers of History
But on a historical scale, such Political/Military leaders are really the merest of piker’s when it comes to creating either prosperity or destruction. The greatest amount of destruction done in the world is due to the philosophers, Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel & Marx being our modern plague rats, and their footmen, the intellectuals.

Descartes, with his Cogito Ergo Boom! "I think therefore I am" (yes I know he didn't originate it, but he re-popularized it) set one of the most destructive cycles of Philosophical history into motion. Perhaps we can say he was in "honest" error and deserves the benefit of the doubt as to his intent, but it is true that from that point Western thought began dividing from Reality in the Modern Era.
Does Rousseau deserve the benefit of the doubt? No, he was downright wicked. Aside from his writing, look to the fate of his children for evidence (and his influence on the education of generations ever since for further evidence).

Kant? Most respectable Professors acknowledge that it was Kant that did the most to bring the Age of Enlightenment to a close (one reference I know off the top of my head is Robert Kane, Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin). There is also debate about whether he was knowingly evil or not (mostly among Objectivists), but whatever the case, you can't read him and think that his major ideas were his honest interpretation of how the world (noumenal or otherwise) worked; they were what he thought would fly high enough to give cover to his overall philosophy, which as he stated, he wrote "to make the world safe for religion". The irony is he nearly destroyed both science and religion as a result of his efforts.

Kant said he awoke from his dogmatic slumbers to write his philosophy after being alarmed for the safety of religion, after reading Hume's new scepticism (I just finished re-reading Hume and that man was a major bonehead! Hume also introduced large errors into Western thought, but without the larger disturbances from Descartes & the boys, his errors would have been self correcting as scepticism always runs itself into a deadend rather quickly), but the result of his meditations, more than any other person or event, was to undermine and bring to an end the enlightenment.

Thank God the Founding Fathers came together before Kant came to his full influence.

So Descartes goofed and began gave credibility to the separation of thoughts from reality in the West, Rousseau twisted them into knots, Kant codified their errors into a philosophic force, and soon after Hegel & Marx applied their systems of thought divorced from reality, into political forces capable of justifying any evil for whatever idealized Whim happened to suit your dogmatic pleasure. Napoleon was the first to pick up on the early stages of this, and the world has bled & bled and bled ever since.

Laying the Blame
What portion of that blood do you measure out to the Philosophers and the lower Intellectuals as a Just portion of guilt? I don't know, it may be more a case of in for a dime, in for a dollar, but the guilt is there for all of them to bear. Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel & Marx delivered up such a blizzard of disconnected thoughts, that they released justifications for violence and destruction unprecedented in history. I lay the deaths of hundreds of millions of people at their feet, and I make plenty of room for each of their followers (hello Chomsky) to draw their fair share of that guilt.

Did they intend such bloody consequences to come from their cogitations? Probably not (with the possible exception of Rousseau - yep, I really, really despise him). But what they did intend to do, was to make the causes they favored appear to be respectable and true, and without the benefit of their ‘proofs’ blurring the issues and undercutting the positions of those who might otherwise have been better able to defend Reason, it is their Philosophies that have produced the world wide horror we've witnessed over the last 200 years.

Identification vs. Name Calling

Now back to your point about ‘Name Calling’ vs. fully explaining your each and every point. We all tend to get our ideas & their gearboxes set up just how we like them, and when everything seems to be zooming along just fine – why should we change them? For one thing, since everyone experiences a little grinding when shifting gears now and then, you should always be open to examining your thoughts, but it’s not something you can or should do whenever you bump up against someone you don't successfully mesh with. Cracking open your conceptual gearbox and rebuilding the transmission is a tiresome and time consuming operation.

When you should do it, like it or not, is when you become aware of evidence showing that any of your concepts or the conceptual structures built upon a concept, are questionable or downright invalid. If someone were to come along with conclusive proof that "these seven neurons are responsible for the appearance of free will, but they are actually directly determined by events occurring in your background”, and I could see that the underlying structure of that proof was indeed valid, then in that situation you're going to have me doing some serious re-evaluating and rebuilding, overhauling and downright replacing my entire mental drivetrain - but without that, not so much. Any speculation or 'proof' that rests on questionable or invalid concepts, have by implication, already been evaluated, found to be wanting and in error, and worthy of no further thought than to be labled as such, along with those who might propose them.

Nationalized healthcare? Minimum wage? Protectionist economic policies? Subsidies? Worthless, and those who support them I dismiss out of hand. They are ideas that have been exposed & refuted over and over for over a hundred years - see "The Law" or "Economic Sophisms" by Fredrich Bastiat
(one of the last worthwhile Frenchmen) for some of the first, and very readable, refutations of each, from 150 years ago.

Also, look at the space I’ve taken up with this post, and I don’t doubt that you’ll agree that I’ve still fallen far short of making a thoroughly complete & convincing case for my point of view. A Blog is simply not the forum to fully and deeply justify every opinion and assertion each and every time they are raised. If you've already looked into, reviewed the material, reached your conclusions, and indicated the general direction & justifications for your positions, you simply cannot continue rehashing them over and over before giving your conclusions - you simply have to say "It's Wrong!" or "He's Nuts!", indicate the direction of thought for your conclusions, and let it go at that.

Trust but Verify
You have to have some respect for your readers own ability (and free will) to look for further information to back up ideas which they may be unfamiliar with, or in conflict with, what they thought was so. I find it interesting that those who lean towards a deterministic viewpoint tend to think readers must be protected from a lack of detail & false information, and those with a free will viewpoint tend to think people will discover the facts as long as they're free to look for them.

There are several more points I intend to delve into deeper to give some more solid background to what I think is important for the views I’m developing – how we integrate our thoughts & why, how errors in that process give rise to the unease & chaos we experience daily, how that process might be reflected in the spiritual & religious sensations prevalent amongst us. But it’ll take time & post space.

And lots & lots of examples.


Gagdad Bob said...


"If you're teaching a class of Algebra II, and someone continues to ask questions that should have been understood in Algebra I, Basic Math or even English, if you're a decent teacher you're going to ask them to see you after class & not bore the rest of the students with such questions. If the stumped student continues to interupt the class you're going to have to tell them to keep quiet or leave."

Except I don't particularly want to talk to them after class either.

Gagdad Bob said...

Only one comment for such a fine, thougthful post. I used to have the same problem. You give 'em what they supposedly want--a substantive and detailed answer--and they scatter off like a covey of quail. One more reason to not engage the trolls. It just never goes anywhere.

Steve said...

I haven't gone anywhere. I'm just waiting for the rest of his points.

Van Harvey said...

Thanks for the comments Gagdad, I appreciate it.

"It just never goes anywhere", likely, but I'm really doing it to refresh, clarify & my own thinking on things I haven't looked into recently.

Though I gotta say, spending part of my weekend with Kant, Roussear & Chomsky... leaves a lot to be desired!

Thanks for your patience Nagarjuna, I'm working on it - hopefully by tomorrow.

Lisa said...

Van, you are a brave man! It takes a special person with an unlimited amount of patience to undertake the edumacation of certain types, such as Nags. I am sure Steve is a very nice person and means well most of the time. The problem I have with him is that when you take the time and effort to explain your line of reasoning, he will only ask some more assinine questions without absorbing what you have just explained. Then have the nerve to call you names. It is really not worth the effort. He seems to be a lonely man incapable of critical thinking. The math example is perfect!

Spiral Dynamics is kind of interesting, the only problem is that they think they are the highest spiral, which doesn't really make sense because a spiral usually has no ending or beginning, always equating to the infinite qualities of God. Not that I am an overly religious whacko-nutjob, I just know that God is God, and trying to deny that simple fact will get you nowhere. In fact, I dislike organized religions because of many of the leaders. I happen to prefer a personal relationship with God. Though, I still am fascinated by studying religion.

Steve said...

Van, I've decided to put Bob Godwin and his blog as far out of my mind as possible. If he deletes even my comments that agree with him or which respecfully correct his misrepresentations of spiral dynamics and Ken Wilber while he persists in insulting me without justification, there's no point in continuing to have anything to do with him or his blog, and that also means continuing this discussion with you.

Van, you can defend him if you wish. But he's conducted himself in a manner that is not only mean-spirited, but I've come to the conclusion that even his most "spiritual" words clang like a harsh gong because they arise from a man who is obviously filled with hostility, contempt, and hatred for so many people, ideas, and things, and he holds this up as some kind of virtue.

I realize that none of us is perfect, and I'm probably about as imperfect as they come. However, I won't become less so by reading Bob's blog under the prevailing circumstances or by discussing it with you here.

All the best to you. All the best to Bob. I believe that because he seems sincere in his spiritual quest, he will someday look back on the way he conducted himself with his blog and me and realize that he acted like one hellacious jerk. You and his Bobbleheads may disagee with my assessment of his behavior. But to the extent that you do, to that extent you are wrong.

Steve said...

Dear Lisa, I didn't see your comment when I posted my previous one. So, I'd like to respond to it before I take my leave.

"I am sure Steve is a very nice person and means well most of the time."

I thank you for those positive words. They're among the precious few I've ever heard from any regular poster on Bob's blog.

"The problem I have with him is that when you take the time and effort to explain your line of reasoning, he will only ask some more assinine questions without absorbing what you have just explained."

Are you so sure I haven't "absorbed" the answer, or is it possibly the case that you who haven't always "absorbed" my questions well enough to realize that they aren't necessarily as "asinine" as you may have thought? You might take a look at my most recent questions and comments. Many were deleted over the past few days, but look at the ones that remain and ask your heart of hearts if they're truly as stupid or "asinine" as you suggest.

"Then have the nerve to call you names. It is really not worth the effort."

What names have I ever called you other than "Lisa," Lisa? :-) What names have I called any of you other than you actual or assumed names? In contrast, what names have I been called besides my actual and assumed names? I'm afraid there's no contest there. :-)

"He seems to be a lonely man incapable of critical thinking."

I'm "lonely" because I try to communicate with you? I lack "critical thinking" ability because I don't immediately agree with everything you and Bob assert?

"Spiral Dynamics is kind of interesting, the only problem is that they think they are the highest spiral, which doesn't really make sense because a spiral usually has no ending or beginning, always equating to the infinite qualities of God."

If you took the time and trouble to actually study spiral dynamics, you'd realize that Bob has grossly simplified and misrepresented it, just as he did Ken Wilber's philosophy yesterday. I've tried to correct some of those misrepresentations. I've done so with respect and substance. But, of course, my efforts were deleted.

For the record, spiral dynamics doesn't posit a "highest" level or stage of development, and, to the best of my knowledge, those who created the theory and most who subscribe it do not say that they are at a higher level than the rest of us.

Bob may know more about psychology and a lot of other things than you or I couldn ever hope to. I have always paid respect to his intellectual brilliance, erudition, and amazing eloquence as a writer. But please don't assume that he knows everything about everything of which he writes and that you should take his representations of everything as fact.

And I certainly hope you don't take his mean-spirited conduct as psychologically or spiritually exemplary.

All the best to you, Lisa.


Van Harvey said...

Nagarjuna, that's your call my friend - the nice thing about Blogs, is that once you've written a comment I'm free to pass it by or argue with it to my hearts content.
As Montaigne said in one of his essays on Education, "...For these are my own particular opinions and fancies, and I deliver them as only what I myself believe, and not for what is to be believed by others. I have no other end in this writing, but only to discover myself..."
I engage in this to understand better what it is that draws me... towards it. Those people who's posts & comments seem to better clarify my understanding and guide me onwards, either by their similarity or contrast, I'm thrilled to Philosophize the night away with.
Speaking of which... the follow up post for this one has not only been drudgery, due to the subject matter (Chomsky-types), but I've just realized I was approaching it completely wrong headed (Gagdad unknowingly nudged me towards the light). With any luck I'll post it by Friday.
I've also discovered a 3rd rule of Blogging - never attempt an in depth posting at the same time as a major Project milestone comes due, and your three kids have "Back to School" needs in three different schools.
And Stop staying up past midnight typing this stuff.
Sheesh, I never listen...

Lisa, thanks for the comment - and I'm fascinated too.