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Addendum for inquiring minds

A note related to my recent entry on homosexuality:

Modernity is marked by rejection of knowledge as contemplation in favor of knowledge as technology---to use philosophical jargon, by rejection of essence and formal and final cause in favor of efficient and material cause. It's all about using things to get what we want. The result has been an enormous expansion of immediate this-worldly power but a progressive decline in our ability to recognize what things are (their essence) and their principle of functioning (their formal and final cause).

One effect is that moral principles based on form, function, and essence have been abandoned in favor of consideration of particular consequences. Current issues relating to marriage and relations between the sexes provide an example. To say that men and women are different, and that their bodies and their union have an intrinsic functional design that should form how we think about them, is bigotry and unreason. Each of us should do what makes most sense in particular circumstances based on his particular goals and concerns.

The effect is that marriage disappears as an institution. But if it's consequences we're looking at, what are the consequences of that?

Comments

I think you are right that we need some sort of essentialism. The problem seems to be that the sort of hard essentialist positions taken by many early and medieval philosophers have been shown to be absurd and/or leading to repugnant conclusions. As only one example, we have utterly failed to come up with a strict definition of something so seemingly basic as a species. As for moral problems, even if we accept some sort of teleology in biology, for example, the ends which biological creatures seem to be directed are Darwinian ends, that is they are there not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their genes. Taking such ends seriously as guides to conduct, of course, leads to all sorts of monstrous moral conclusions. There really is an is/ought problem.

"Species" is indispensable, so why isn't that enough? It's neither uncommon nor irrational to accept that something is real (species, natural kinds, essences) without an absolutely airtight theory about it. You speak of "hard essentialism." Does moderate realism (Aristotle and Aquinas) do anything for you?

If "there really is an is/ought problem" means that not every tendency is good most people would agree. If "the ends which biological creatures seem to be directed are Darwinian ends" means that cuckoos' eggs and tarantulas' bites don't seem to have lofty moral implication most people would also agree. On the other hand if it means that all natural human tendencies ("all men by nature desire to know") are best understood as means for multiplying copies of their genes they probably wouldn't.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

"Species" is indispensable, so why isn't that enough? It's neither uncommon nor irrational to accept that something is real (species, natural kinds, essences) without an absolutely airtight theory about it.

It is useful to think of things that often go together, but I don't think that frequent correlations or statistical tendencies were what Aristotle or Aquinas meant by essence. There are lots of concepts, like species, that are totally indefensible as metaphysical entities that are nevertheless "good enough for government work."

In fact, I was thinking of your own essay on moderate essentialism:
http://antitechnocrat.net:8000/node/1324
And I don't think that your version of essentialism there is really compatible with Aristotle or Aquinas either.

Species aren't happenstance combinations of characteristics. The characteristics hang together in functional systems with a great deal of stability and coherence although there is also of course variation. You don't have subtropical rabbits gradually morphing into polar rabbits as you go from Florida up to Northern Canada and the characteristics that are advantageous gradually change. You have separate species. The same discontinuity can be observed in the fossil record. It seems to me it should be possible at least in concept to specify mathematically the particular functional system that makes a species what it is. Why shouldn't it have abstract metaphysical existence in the same way (for example) a circle or triangle does?

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

"You don't have subtropical rabbits gradually morphing into polar rabbits as you go from Florida up to Northern Canada and the characteristics that are advantageous gradually change."

I can think of one widespread species where that is exactly true. I'm going to be a bit of tease and see if you can figure it out. I'll give you the hint that has a companion species which brings up many of the same issues. Anyway there are all sorts of arguments over what constitutes species on exactly this kind of basis.

I'd also like you to think in terms of time, not just space.

Man produces an artificial environment for himself. That's how Eskimos live in Greenland, sailors live in submarines, astronauts live in outer space, etc. Bantus can also live in Greenland and Eskimos in Tahiti. As for dogs, we look after them. Wild dogs are only found in warmish to tropical climates. And I mentioned the fossil record, which brings in the temporal dimension.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

All of the phenomena you are talking about are really recent. Really think about this. Up until recently whites tended to die off in the tropics. It's one of the reasons why Africa remains almost entirely African. Black skin too is an adaptation to a really sunny climate. The Chinese have had a hard time colonizing Tibet because Chinese women are having trouble having babies there. Whites 200 years ago would have tended to die off in the Arctic because they lack the heat conserving build of the Inuit. Is it really any accident that whites basically only managed to effectively colonize places with climates similar to Europe like North America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina? After all it isn't just moving to a place or visiting it, it's thriving and reproducing.

I agree that racial differences make it easier for some to thrive here and some there. On the other hand if man lived like an animal lacking reason he could survive in some parts of the tropics but hardly anywhere else. That includes Eskimos.

I've lost track of relevance to the original discussion though so I'm not sure what hangs on it either way.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

"On the other hand if it means that all natural human tendencies ("all men by nature desire to know") are best understood as means for multiplying copies of their genes they probably wouldn't."

Yes, men desire to know either because that desire results in them taking actions that tend to result in the copying of their genes or because that desire is a byproduct of other tendencies that tend to result in the copying of their genes. Note that this does _not_ mean that people's real motives behind their desire to know is their desire to spread their genes.

There's a difference between understanding how something comes into existence and what that thing is. I can see how Darwinian evolution could explain how a life form comes into being. I don't see that it explains how it functions.

Take an electric eel for example. I don't believe Darwinian theory explains what electricity is, how electric shocks are produced, or their effect on other aquatic animals. That would be a matter for chemists, physicists, physiologists etc. Similarly, I don't think Darwin can tell us all that much about what knowledge is or how it works. But if he can't tell us that he probably can't say that much about what it's for.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

You are right that it doesn't explain what knowledge is or why it is possible, but it does seem to explain why humans have the desire pretty well.

You know my shtick on this Thursday. The is/ought problem is solved when ought is percieved as opposed to cognitively derived, ought then becomes is. The statistical correlations are second order supportive evidence.

What you in essence say is that genes should not be considerations in our actions.

I uncoil that a bit. If any single consideration is a sole ruling principle, from which everything else flows to every individual, it can't help itself and turns to a dictatorial or tyrannical principle at some point in time. It can be anything, no matter how innocent or neutral it sounds (or doesn't sound); economy/ monetary calculation, equality, freedom of choice/ freedom, property, individualism, collectivism, internationalism, etc. The situation is not much changed, if there is only two principles.

In matter of fact, any single principle and it's consideration can't survive in the long run, if it is not in proper multiconsideration context, reflecting the actual life of people, genes included. To "catch" life to a sustainable network of life requires a wide "net".

Genes in themselves are abstract concepts in people's life, and they require translation to concrete expressions and forms of life to be sensible and practical. Genes and their expressions and effects are a reality and a legitimate object of consideration in people's life.

But why power is so eager to condemn such a normal consideration, like so many other normal considerations?

Liberal power sees any exclusiveness arising from people as a limitation to it's possibilities to maintain and expand it's international economy and power. Power don't care about genes one way or another, or what is done with them, except in relation to it's (possible) universal power. To put it another way, the ruling large complex organizations (lcos) are weak information processors due to their inner complexity and size, so they must simplify they operating environment maximally, including people and everything connected to them. Exclusive groups reduce the free atomized flows of people, their actions and resources, and thus increase the power and possibilities of the said groups, and reduces the power of lcos to regulate, adjust and dictate the said flows in society. Thus, lcos must feed people lies and illusions about e.g. gene related considerations as evil to maintain it's near monopoly of exclusive power.

Lcos as systems don't have any morality, benevolence or good will, whatever they do, even if it looks like a good thing. They have only inhuman systemic considerations; "What is necessary to keep the system operating and expanding?" System can at one moment give hospital care and food to a thankful person, and in the next instant murder him without blinking an eye, if these are according to the system's requirements. The larger the complex organizations are, and the less there are opposing forces/powers of people and groups in society, the greater is their tendency to become inhuman, totalitarian and/or tyrannical. The more the system gives to people, the more it can take away, and the more it can dictate. Feeding lies and illusions to the people is just one of the normal everyday operations of the liberal system.

And the people are royally swindled. Power doesn't just tell any arbitrary lies that conform to the system's requirements. Power and it's methods are a result of a long societal "evolution". Power's lies conform smoothly to people' psychological qualities and weaknesses.

In the case exclusiveness, power excludes people in the most blatant way, but says to it's subjects that it is wrong for them to exclude anybody. To hide it's exclusivess in the open, power creates an illusion where everything in the system is in principle open to everybody, but all kinds indirect or direct laws, regulations and practices, and numerous statistical bottlenecks keeps the real power outside the hands of people, and in the hands of oligarchy. This conforms to psychology of the people; to ignite our minds to embark upon various tasks, our psychological processes increase the attractiveness of objects and goals of action. So when a person is thirsty and thinks (the exact numbers are not important, they just give you an idea) about a cool water it's value of goodness is eight, but when he drinks, it is five; or when he thinks about sex with a beautiful woman, it is 10, but when he is is having it with her, it is 6. Hence, for power it is important to keep people in a constant state of dreaming about all kinds of seemingly open possibilities to reach good things, because they are in many respects better than the real things. Dreaming about possibilities + those things that people are actually able to reach generally keep people satisfied with their small lot, and power can then exclude them from power and higher wealth.

So to return where we started; I exclude all kinds of people racially (genes included), ethnically (genes included), religiously, socially, intellectually, economically, culturally, areally, psychologically, etc. It is a very long list, and I am very inclusive in my exclusiveness. I am always ready to include new items to my list.

***

I end this small announcement with good quotes from a worthless article. The only thing I would add is that the highly vertical and horizontal hierarchical structures and social interactions of the large complex organizations not only allure apparatchiks and favor their rise, lcos also pushes people in them to apparatchik molds:

"Robert Shea, in his aptly titled article "Empire of the Rising Scum," argued that any organization--regardless of its ostensible external mission--would eventually be dominated by those whose primary skill was the acquisition and maintenance of power.

That the more authoritarian organizations survive and prevail goes generally unnoticed because people focus on the objectives of organizations, which are many and varied, rather than on their structures, which tend to be similar...

But the more an organization succeeds and prospers, the more it is likely to be diverted from its original ideals, principles and purposes...

Why does this happen? Because the better an organization is at fulfilling its purpose, the more it attracts people who see the organization as an opportunity to advance themselves. The ability to get ahead in an organization is simply another talent, like the ability to play chess, paint pictures, do coronary bypass operations or pick pockets. There are some people who are extraordinarily good at manipulating organizations to serve their own ends. The Russians, who have suffered under such people for centuries, have a name for them--apparatchiks. It was an observer of apparatchiks who coined the maxim, "The scum rises to
the top."

The apparatchik's aim in life is to out-ass-kiss, out-maneuver, out-threaten, out-lie and ultimately out-fight his or her way to the top of the pyramid-any pyramid.... Unfortunately, the existence of this talent means that every successful organization will sooner or later be taken over by apparatchiks. As such people achieve influence within the organization, whenever there is a conflict between their own interest and the interest of the organization, their interests will win out. Thus, over time, the influence of apparatchiks will
deflect the organization further and further from its original intent....

Whatever the original aim of the organization, to publish books, to heal the sick, to share information about computers, once it has been taken over by apparatchiks, it will acquire a new aim--to get bigger. It doesn't matter whether a bigger organization will fulfill its purpose as well, serve its customers or constituents as well, or be as good a place for people to work.
It will get bigger simply because those at the top want it to get bigger. Apparatchiks do to organizations what cancer viruses do to cells; they promote purposeless growth...."

Dear reader,

you may ask, "Was that a bit anti-social?" and with international misty dreaming in you voice, "Couldn't we all be friends?"

The short answers are "No" and "No".

The greatest illusion the liberal system creates, and the one on which all it's other illusions are based is that it is a social community, and towards which we have the same obligations, relationships, reciprocities etc. than to a genuine social community. And, despite it's ethereal formlessness and at the same time ubiquitous massive machine-existence, it is eager to put human faces and representatives to it's technicalities and processes. I just form a mirror out of myself, and then reflect the system's interactions, stripped from their illusions, back to the system and the world. Thus my relationship towards the system is a bit machine like (Terminator, perhaps, or R2-D2?) and materializes purely in terms of money and power, or the system and it's actions are evaluated and assessed from that point of view. Genuine social (and religious) interactions, obligations, reciprocities, altruism etc., and genuine feelings I reserve to real people; my family, kin, friends, what little is left of the Finnish communities, and to Europeans around the world.

Also, although I have never wanted or strived to get anything from immigrants, they have taught me well about exclusiveness, automatic hatred of outgroups, ethnocentrism and automatic friendships and support with their own. The most natural kind. I apply an applied version of what I have learned to my own interactions, and I communicate this information and view to others. Ultimately I should, of course, thank the liberal system and it's policies for this information.