[lit-ideas] Re: The meaning of life

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 07 Dec 2008 14:18:21 -0800

Donal wrote, in response to Eric Yost's remarks on on Eric Dean's suggestion that 'the human experience of human emotions (and of a lot else besides) [which Mr. Dean proposes] as a hopefully compelling example is real and does not always obey the laws of logic...

Let's say that,at the same moment,I am in 'two minds' - part of me wants to do 
violence to Jack because boy has he made me mad but part of me doesn't because 
I know it would solve nothing and I might end up in prison. I don't see any 
_logical contradiction_ in having these 'mixed feelings' That is, mixed 
feelings - which we all surely experience - do not violate the laws of logic. 
What would is if the part of me that wanted to do violence was also at the same 
time the part of me that didn't, and vice versa. Conflicting emotions and 
thoughts are not an example illustrating the truth of the view that logic is 
contradicted by the existence of so-called 'contradictory' emotions and 
thoughts: propositions derived from such emotions and thoughts may contradict 
[e.g. it contradicts 'You should hit Jack' to propose 'You shouldn't hit 
Jack'], but the emotions and thoughts themselves do not stand in a logical 
relation to each other - the logical relation they have
is only with themselves i.e. they cannot both be the emotion and thought they 
are and simultaneously the negation of this.

Donal is right, although perhaps the shorter way out is to remember that there are no logical relations between _things_ but only between propositions (judgments, assertions). These propositions may be about 'things in the world' (or about mathematical entities) but these things—the objects of propositions—neither entail, contradict, nor negate each other. The belief that they do (in this case, states of affairs) was one of Marx's Hegelian follies.

Eric Yost further wrote

Mr. Dean has presented my own objection more clearly than I
have. In short, since we are all inside the big bang (or
inside the idea of the totality of all ideas) existence is
Janus-faced: there is a fact, we see the fact, we experience
the fact, and we are the fact. To privilege the so-called
objective or rational is to arbitrarily create limits on
reality, and by extension, create limits on philosophical

This is splendidly written, as are all Eric Yost's contributions, but it is too deep for me. Let me though venture where I scarcely dare to tread: if we are 'inside the idea of the totality of all ideas,' how did we find this out? Not through direct observation—at least this seems to have been ruled out earlier in this thread by the anti-rationalists—nor by sitting in one's armchair by the fire and meditating, for meditation requires more than daydreaming; it requires that the meditatrix be in some mental state, or states, which have what Brentano called 'intentionality.'

Intentionality is a property of 'mental states such as loving, hating, desiring, believing, judging, perceiving, hoping and many others [that is, they] are directed towards things different from themselves.' [list from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

In short: belief is belief in something other than itself; to be in love is to be in love with someone or something 'outside' the emotion of being in love. Even the thoughts of a pure intellectual being have this property of 'aboutness.' Beliefs, judgments, assertions, suggestions, speculations, and (most) emotions have objects. (Things in the 'external world' don't.) So, even if we were imprisoned (?) in some idea of ideas (I'm pretending I know what that means), there would be things 'beyond' them, so that emotion and 'reason' are on all fours here. (It may be that there's a Popperian way to parse this.)

This is one humble objection to Eric Yost's notion that we are all inside the idea of the totality of ideas: we cannot be in this infinite concatenation without existing in a world beyond ideas themselves. I realize that Eric didn't mean that we were only inside a world of ideas; my objection is that we could not be in it without being in a world of 'things' as well. My own confusion is clear enough.

This is another. The idea of the totality of all ideas is not discovered by enumerating all the ideas there are and stipulating that they form a class. There are infinitely many ideas (this is a trivial logical truth), and we finite creatures have no hope of discovering them all.

I'd meant to say something about Glenfiddich vs. Glenlivet, but something is calling me.

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute
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