Monday, 11 July 2011

Chris Port Blog #300. The Golden Rule is The Golden Mean: How To Live in The Goldilocks Zone

© Chris Port, 11th July 2011

See also #299. An Atheist Call To Art
http://martygull.blogspot.com/2011/07/chris-port-blog-299-atheist-call-to-art.html

With reference to another discussion thread on a possible 'Golden Rule' for atheists...

I've been brooding over what my 'Golden Guideline' might be (as you may have guessed, I'm suspicious of rules - especially golden ones).

In essence, science is reductionism and art is expansionism. Science reduces everything to data. Art expands everything into meanings.

The problem with science is that, on its own, it loses touch with meanings.

The problem with art is that, on its own, it loses touch with reality.

Most people are neither scientists nor artists. They want certainty and security in which to raise families, but they also need escapism and fantasy to preserve their individuality and save their sanity.

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” ~ Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
http://www.goodreads.com/a​uthor/quotes/13388.Shirley​_Jackson

Therefore, any popular 'guidelines' need to incorporate both scientific AND aesthetic principles. (Art also has the useful side effect of gently nudging religion out of the picture. It essentially fulfils the same emotional function as 'God' in the form of a conscious delusion - the willing suspension of DISbelief to enjoy a fantasy, rather than the erroneous belief that an imaginary character actually exists outside of people's minds).

So, as an aphorism: "The Golden Rule is the Golden Mean." Aristotle got a lot wrong (scientifically) but he was spot on about human happiness (and tragedy).

Those of a logical disposition should be wary of reducing the wonders of creation to facts. Facts have no meaning, and human beings are not human beings unless they can find meanings. They should seek to cultivate their aesthetic 'souls'.

Those who have an artistic nature should be wary of living in the clouds all the time. Fantasy keeps the mind sane, but it doesn't feed the body or pay the bills (unless you're lucky enough to get other people paying to watch your fantasies - see Hollywood's 'Dream Machine'). A good artist sees the 'real world' as useful material for fantasies. For this reason, they keep a close watch on reality (while not believing a word of it - artists are the ultimate sceptics sometimes).

"Neither a reductionist nor an expansionist be, but both". We live in the 'Goldilocks Zone' in more senses than one...

2 comments:

  1. JOB OPPORTUNITY FOR STARVING PHILOSOPHERS
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1/

    Sam Harris (world famous neuroscientist philosopher) is offering his critics a chance to put up or shut up. He's offered a cash prize of $20,000 (about £12,800) to anyone who can convincingly refute his central argument for a scientific morality.

    Assuming no-one can refute him, there's a consolation prize of $2,000 (about £1,280) for the most interesting response.

    See FAQs in link for further details. Closing date for entries is 9 February 2014, so you've got time to buy his book and boost his royalties.

    INITIAL THOUGHTS

    Hmmm… Traditionally, science has been regarded as descriptive and morality as prescriptive. But science is also predictive. So, in Sam’s moral landscape, do good* predictions = good** prescriptions?

    * Falsifiable
    ** Beneficial

    Possibly. But if they’re truly equivalent, does it work vice versa? This leads out onto some very thin ice…

    The real question is always “Cui bono” (to whose benefit?). So I suspect that Sam’s thesis could only be refuted by reference to de facto cynicism rather than de jure principle (i.e. selectivity and performativity)

    Postscript

    I don’t actually want to refute Sam’s thesis (fortunately for me). I just want to qualify it (modesty is my only flaw). But, in order to qualify it, I’ll have to fail to refute it in a way that grabs his interest. So, all I’m really looking for is a fascinating aesthetic conundrum at the heart of his argument…

    See also:

    Can Science Answer Moral Questions?
    http://martygull.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/chris-port-blog-250-can-science-answer.html

    First Draft PhD Proposal
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/first-draft-phd-proposal/397025593660968

    Woolwich Threads
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/woolwich-threads/620407134656145

    A Crash Course in Aesthetics
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/a-crash-course-in-aesthetics/510545425642317

    Metamodernist Case Notes on a Think Tank Thread: Why Us and Why Now?
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/metamodernist-case-notes-on-a-think-tank-thread-why-us-and-why-now/478080715555455

    Notes on Metamodernism: The Pit and the Pendulum...
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/notes-on-metamodernism-the-pit-and-the-pendulum/431728890190638

    The Name of the Ghost
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/the-name-of-the-ghost/431724480191079

    Teachers Talking Rot (1 of 2)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/teachers-talking-rot-1-of-2/606322266064632

    Teachers Talking Rot (2 of 2)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/chris-port/teachers-talking-rot-2-of-2/606331422730383

    See also: "Perhaps description is the key?"

    Marty Solves One of the Problems of the Universe
    http://martygull.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/chris-port-blog-114-marty-solves-one-of.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. WG: If morality evolved for the purpose of fostering community, can we deduce anything about what is moral/immoral without committing the naturalistic fallacy? If so, what?

    Naturalistic fallacy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

    CP: Assuming evolution (and discounting intelligent design) we would be committing a teleological fallacy if we claimed that morality evolved for any purpose.

    See Teleological Argument
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument

    It would be less erroneous if we simply claimed that community evolved as a successful survival strategy. From this we can deduce that morality evolved from a natural hierarchical pecking order into etiquette.

    See Etiquette
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etiquette

    The problem of the 'Naturalistic Fallacy' arises because of a manmade distinction between natural and manmade.

    This distinction seems to be an inverted form of the anthropomorphic/pathetic fallacy.

    See Pathetic Fallacy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathetic_fallacy

    Man (i.e. homo sapiens) evolved IN the natural world. However, our intelligence evolved as another successful survival strategy. Eventually, this sapient differential resulted in misrecognition. We began to see ourselves as SEPARATE from the natural world.

    However, this separation is a fallacy. In (physical) reality, sentience is an emergent phenomenon. The artificial is still part of the natural world.

    From our initial premises, we can deduce that morality (i.e. evolved etiquette) can only exist in higher level consciousness. Therefore, we can deduce that morality is a complex emergent property.

    After that, we can only deduce that we are playing Wittgensteinian language games.

    See Language-game (philosophy)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language-game_%28philosophy%29

    In 'The Moral Landscape', Sam Harris proposes we should discard cultural relativism and quantify these language games in terms of 'the well-being of conscious creatures'. It's a logical deduction and a valid premise.

    See 'The Moral Landscape'
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape

    Whether his arguments are sound is still up for grabs though.

    Addendum.

    CP: If morality is ‘the well-being of conscious creatures’, then consciousness must precede well-being.

    This is a one-way logic gate. We can talk of consciousness without well-being, but it makes no sense to talk of well-being without consciousness.

    Ergo, existence must precede essence (sans Sartrean Free Will).

    Ergo, survival must precede morality.

    But survival of what? Individuals, communities, genes, or memes?

    These qualities are entangled and interdependent. But which is most important?

    Ironically, we cannot be equitable from first principle here. Unfortunately, we do not live in a deathless paradise. Therefore, in the physical universe, we can only talk of survival and morality in terms of priorities (e.g. dilemmas or conflicts of interest).

    The scientific method can quantify well-being. But can it qualify existential priorities? If not, then a scientific morality without aesthetic qualification has no system of prioritization.

    Ergo, does ‘scientific morality’ encounter similar inconsistencies to those identified in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems?

    Raatikainen, Panu, "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

    ReplyDelete