Sunday, September 28, 2003

the Maximum Leader laughs in my face

Here's what the Maximum Leader wrote regarding my brilliant solution to David Hume's "ought from is" problem:

You? Kick David Hume's Ass? Think again Hominid-san.

I think you are too bleary-eyed and tired to think clearly. How
exactly can all things concrete and abstract both exist in the realm of
"is?" Aren't you just saying anything that we might be able to
experience or contemplate are equally real? I think that is what your
sleep-depraved syllogism is saying. For example, I can envision the
abstraction of huge purple flying swollen rectal sphincters swooping
down to eat babies in the park. Does this mean I can't take the kids
to their play-date?

As Hume might say (and of course now I am going to have to dust off ole
David and do some reading), a concrete thing can afford you experience
which would confirm (as much as we can confirm such things) its
existence in the realm of "is." An abstraction cannot give such
empirical proof, and is thus, not in the realm of "is."

I have always consider[ed] David Hume pretty solid from a theoretical
viewpoint. I'll have to think on this more.

By the way... All this Matrix stuff is purely premature. I doubt that
any of the spoilers are accurate. And I bet all the questions will be
answered in a very unsatisfying fashion....

Yes, it's a classic mistake: ontological sloppiness. This is how Kant spanked St. Anselm, when in Anselm's ontological "proof" for the existence of God he (Anselm) argued "what exists in reality is greater than what exists in the understanding." Kant's replying shot (others have made it as well, before and after him, but Kant said it best) was that existence is not a predicate, i.e., existence isn't a quality, as in: "This imaginary goat lacks the quality of existence" whereas "This real goat has the quality of existence."

As John Hick notes in his Philosophy of Religion (which I recommend; it's in its fourth or fifth edition), it's better-- and more Kantian-- to state the goat-existence issue this way:

There are A's such that "A is a goat" is true.

re: Matrix madness

I should note that the Maximum Leader was one of the first in our group to venture that Morpheus probably has some very significant role to play in the final episode. If that badly-typed summary with the pictures is anything close to accurate, the ML's conjecture may be borne out.

[Trivia: Morpheus is the son of the god of sleep, Somnus. Morpheus can assume any human shape (from the Greek morphe, form) and can fly.]

For anyone who's wondering, my Hume post wasn't serious. I do, however, think there are other ways to conceive of ethics than in terms of an ought/is dichotomy. But more to the point, I'm not sure that the implication of Hume's claim matters that much. Saying "ethics can't have a rational foundation" leaves me going, "So what?" It's no big shakes to realize that, at bottom, any reasoning requires a point of departure, what we normally call postulates. Even reason can't be helpful without that initial presuppositon, claim, or leap of faith. This doesn't mean that ethics is necessarily tied to religion, but it does mean that it involves more than reason.

Next up: a quickie on Hindu cosmology.

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