[lit-ideas] Re: The meaning of life

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2008 13:55:48 -0600

I'll go to the other side of the pub where they're talking about some Milton
fellow (no last name has ever been given.)

Berle, I think it was.

Mike Geary

btw, it was a Memphian who done Berle in -- Elvis and his pelvis. Scandalous.

----- Original Message ----- From: <wokshevs@xxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>; "Donal McEvoy" <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 1:07 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: The meaning of life

I hesitate to barge into this thread as I have not yet read the previous 8
postings by Omar and Donal in dialogue. So if what I have to say has already been covered or is irrelevant for one reason or another, please just say so and

I believe the most interesting interpretation of Kant's idea of maxims being engulfed in contradiction has it that a non-universalizable maxim commits a
practical contradiction between the subjective maxim itself and its
(attempted)universalized version. An immoral maxim is such that if everybody acted on it, nobody could act on it and secure the end posited in that maxim.
As well, immoral (non-universalizable) maxims exhibit illegitimate
self-exemption: the agent relies on others not to act as she acts (the
free-rider)in order for her to attain the end specified in her maxim. Examples with apples readily forthcoming. And finally, no non-universalizable maxim can
be suited for legislation (except in Canada).

As I say, if this doesn't help, just ignore. I hope to be able to get to the
Omar-Donal Correspondence shortly.

Christine Korsgaard has a lovely essay on all this in her *Creating the Kingdom of Ends*. I forget the title, but if anybody is interested, I'll let you know.

Walter O.

Quoting Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>:

----- Original Message ----
From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Tuesday, 2 December, 2008 15:28:27
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: The meaning of life



>"By extension, outside of classical logic, one can speak of >contradictions between actions when one presumes that their motives contradict each other."

DM: The article does not expand on this somewhat unclear statement - unclear because is it positing contradictions between an action and its motive, or between action and motive A and action and motive B? It would seem the latter since it speaks of "contradictions between actions" in the plural. But how so? In what sense of 'contradiction' can, for example, my helping John last week because I like him _contradict_ my not helping him this week because I
no longer like him (he kept giving me irritating Wikepedia references
whenever I asked a question, and I tired of it [joking]).

> I did attempt to explain that suicide, when interpreted in terms of > motives or intentions, at least often yields striking paradoxes or contradictions.

DM: If the article _is_ taking about a contradiction between action/motive A and action/motive B, then even its bare unargued assertion is irrelevant to
your claim that in the case of suicide there may be some kind of
contradiction between an action and its motive, or an action "when
interpreted in terms of motive".

>However, I cautioned that this depends on the interpretation of the
suicide's motives, hence is perhaps difficult to prove.

DM: But you could nevertheless offer examples where the motive is a given
and, where given such a motive, you then reveal a paradox and contradiction in something other than the loose sense that we might speak of it being only
'logical' that Obama was elected or other Dr.Spockisms. The great
mathematician - perhaps the greatest of the twentieth century, who
set mathematical agenda for the century at an International Congress in 1900 - David Hilbert once wrote: "The thought that facts or events might mutually contradict each other appears to me the very paradigm of thoughtlessness."
Actions and motives would appear to be 'facts or events'. That they might
mutually contradict is at the very least problematic.

>The term 'contradiction' is used outside classical logic, Hegel >introduced it into historical analysis and Marx analized capitalism as being inherently >contradictory. Presumably he didn't mean to suggest by this that it >doesn't
exist in reality.

DM: No he didn't; but this use of 'contradiction' - as per 'dialectical
materialism' - is open to severe objections. An excellent essay on this is
'What is Dialectic?' by Karl Popper, published in 'Conjectures and
Refutations' [p.312] (yes, Popper breaks his own injunction against 'What
is?' questions in the title - though with deliberate irony perhaps).

While admitting "a dialectical interpretation of the history of thought may be sometimes be quite satisfactory, and that it may add some valuable details
to an interpretation in terms of trial and error", Popper criticises the
'dialectic triad' on a number of grounds, for example...

1) Its way of putting things is largely metaphorical and the metaphors
mislead if taken too seriously.
For example: (a) a thesis does not 'produce' its antithesis - it is "only our critical attitude which produces the antithesis, and where such an attitude
is lacking - which often enough is the case - no antithesis will be
produced." [p.315]
(b) a 'synthesis' does not merely preserve the best parts
of thesis and antithesis because it will, "in every case, embody some
new idea which cannot be reduced to earlier stages of the development."

2) It is wrong to think 'contradictions' are not be avoided but admitted as a
part of a dialectic explanation: in truth it is the striving to eliminate
contradictions that propels thought forward, and if contradictory statements
are admitted "_any statement whatever must be admitted_" - hence no
'synthesis' can logically be produced by admitting contradictions.

3) Its tendency to be used to support or reinforce dogmatic positions.

While most of the essay addresses dialectic as a form of logic or logical
explanation, its arguments can also be applied to 'dialectical materialism' as a purported explanation of social and historical change - where of course it lends itself to 'historicism' and a host of other intellectual fancies, which Popper addressed more fully in his two volume 'The Open Society' and
his extended essay 'The Poverty of Historicism'.

Snowy Salop

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