27 September 2012

Davidsonian Primary Reason vs Kant's Moralism as applied to love

Donald Davidson's idea of a Primary Reason can be summed as a reason causes an action. The prototypical example is you want light so you turn a light on. And sure it can be pared down to multiple reasons, such as being afraid of the dark or staying in a place that you can't navigate in the dark. But even then, Occam-wise you turn the light on because you want light.

Kant believed that for a thing to be moral (action), one must not benefit from it because that destroys its value. Giving a beggar money then is not moral because one could benefit from it because one feels better about one's own condition. Basically altruism does not exist, as argued earlier (http://thewhyquestion.blogspot.com/2011/03/altruism-aka-lie-we-tell-ourselves.html).

Love is defined as having affection and personal attachment for something. We can love bacon (reason) so we cook and eat it as often as possible (action). But we benefit from it because it fulfills our need to satiate our need to eat the bacon.

So how does this apply to what is considered a love between two persons?

Let's assume that love between two humans follows the standard definition. Person 1 and 2 love each other because each provides affection and a feeling of personal attachment for the other. They can be considered "in love". Love then is the action.

From the Davidsonian standpoint, what are the reasons for love? If we desire affection and personal attachment, then love is a Davidsonian "thing". What we do gets us what we want. There is no Existential angst involved.

But as far as Kant's morality goes, if we desire love and affection, love is not moral because we benefit from it. Our reasons cause an action that gives us what we desire and is therefore immoral. We must love without expectation of any kind to satisfy Kant.

And that brings us back to Davidson. Can we love without any expectations?

There are no instances of love that do not invoke actions. We can not love for the sake of love because even then the action of love is caused by the action of loving. And because we benefit from this it is not Kantian moral.

The conclusion then is that love is both Davidsonian and Kantian. Love is not moral and benefits us. Love is never altruistic and always beneficial. Love is simply something that benefits us.

19 September 2012

Dictum on Human Consciousness

[NOTE: This is a post of mine from sometime around 2006 on a    philosophy forum. Figured it should come home here.]

I tend to have little faith in civilization building, because the only definition we have is a human one. Therefore I discount and do not acknowledge its role in defining superior consciousness. To go the anthropomorphic route, one could easily argue that ants build civilizations. They create buildings, which are quite complex, have a hierarchy with an executive and judicial branch, and have clearly defined jobs.
To use an entirely humanistic perspective, how much have we really evolved in the last 3000 years? 300? The Sear’s tower is little different than the pyramids at Giza, aside from the material differences. The Mayans had a technological level that to this day we can not understand. They were a group of people who had no metal weapons and were limited to obsidian ones, yet created buildings with such precision that the stones are still perfectly fitted together. With the industrial use of lasers, we have only just begun to replicate this feat. The ancient Sumerians were claimed to have sailed around the world, in the years of 2100 bce, 3500 years prior to Columbus. In our pompousness we attributed the tale to myth. In the 1980s, a replication of a Sumerian-style boat was built and was sailed from the Mediterranean to the East coast of South America, proving that the Sumerian tale could be correct.
If anything, we have regressed. Our knowledge of the stars is just now beginning to rival the Mayans, the Dogan tribe has worshipped a star for over 5000 years, and in the 80's we finally found that star. DaVinci's sketches in the late 1400s-early 1500s, of the workings of a human heart have just been validated within the last 5 years. We have launched satellites into orbit, yet the Chinese were capable of this close to 3000 years ago, and Newton proved the possibility of this in the 1600’s. DaVinci in the 1500s created drafts of such an object. On the DaVinci front, he drew a flying machine that had been discounted as impossible to take air, even though there are folk tales of a gigantic bird flying through the air during the time of his experiments. In the beginning of this century/millennia, his drawings were built and his flying machine was proved to be theoretically correct and possibly viable. He may have been the first human to fly, beating the Wright brothers by over 400 years.
I do not think at all that language is a measure of consciousness, for the simple reason that as humans we have a clear identification of language. We have no proof that "lower" life forms do not effectively communicate with the ability that we do. We simply have no understanding of their system. Ants and bees are able to communicate a great deal of information through scents, and dolphins and whales achieve the same thing through sonic and subsonic waves. It is our arrogance as humans that brings us down. Yes, language is a capacity shared by high intelligence creatures, but again, language can never be based on our human beliefs.
We have spent centuries espousing apes and monkeys as being our progenitors, based on genetic similarities, and because of this we have ignored other creatures along the way. Darwin (1800s) studied worms and found that they were capable of adaptation and discriminatory abilities which are usually reserved for more highly intelligent and supposedly more conscious creatures. In the last decade we have found that crows are capable of fashioning tools. Birds, in general, are capable of amazing feats (to humans) of geo-location. The lowly octopods, with brains that are very dissimilar to ours, are capable of complex problem-solving that human infants could never hope to achieve.
Consciousness has been argued as being either physical or non-physical, yet few have argued the possibility of both. With the invention of MRI and FLAIR and PET, as a species we have come closer to knowing where consciousness lies. Neuroscience has recently supported the view that glia are not “stuffing” in the brain, but complex neurotransmitters. Recently, scientists have learned that what was believed to be a hormone, estrogen, is actually a neurotransmitter. It is my belief that we are no closer to understanding the nature of human consciousness than Descartes.
Can computers attain consciousness? Yes, I believe so. But I do not think that it is possible in the least for computers to mimic a human's thought patterns. The “Chinese Room” could easily be solved by a computer running the index of coincidence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_coincidence)

Would solving the “Chinese Room” measure anything viable or valid? Doubtful. A contention of mine is that no test developed by humans could ever successfully determine consciousness by the simple fact that we define it by our own beliefs.
Super String theory has stated that 13 dimensions are believed to be possible. Again our failing is humanity. Who are we to say that one of those dimensions is not one where computers are conscious? Philosophers like Dennet and Searle, and yes they are nothing more than philosophers (not a bad thing though) are human, and hence fallible. We can not be presumptuous enough to believe that our theories, based on human experience, can define a universal thing like consciousness. The best we can hope for is to define our particular brand.

05 September 2012

Shelley's Frankenstein as an allegory for Socialism

There are many ways to critique a novel. Sadly the current vogue is to read it and offer what the reader thinks is prescient commentary. For those that majored in creative writing, English, they know that there are much better tools at hand.

Some would look at novels and analyze them from a religious or a feminist perspective. But the one that always appealed to me is the Marxist one. It is conjoined with my love of the Frankfurt School of Philosophy. In that vein, here is my take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (http://www.amazon.com/Frankenstein-Mary-Shelley/dp/0553212478) .

Initially one would assume that the novel is about how Victor Frankenstein plays "god" and creates another life and then is revolted by it. And that is one interpretation of it. Sure it works. One could argue that Victor was feeling Existential angst over the creation of, for lack of a better word, Adam.

But take into account Mary Shelley and the historical period she lived in. She was the daughter of William Godwin (political philosophy) and Mary Wollstonecraft (feminist philosophy). She had first-hand knowledge of the French and American Revolutions. She even at one point lived with William Baxter (a dissenter).

And yet, none of what she wrote in Frankenstein reflects her personal beliefs and life experiences.

Victor Frankenstein is clearly representative of the monarchy. He is all powerful and creates life from death, as any monarch could do with a simple writ. Move the serfs to a certain area and they either live or die. And with the English revolution of 1640 being represented, Victor's decision to kill the "monster" is what should have happened during the revolution, that the king should have destroyed all opposition and maintained absolute power.

And that is where the "monster" comes in. Because he was pieced together from many parts of many different people, he represents the idea that all the parts should contribute to the whole, a classless society or true Socialism. The "monster" represents not only the forces that won the English revolution but also the French one as well.

The "monster" appeals to Victor to create a mate for it and it promises to go away. And as Victor does so, he kills it. He does so in an attempt to save the monarchy and prevent the spread of Socialism throughout the world, because that would be the effect of the "monster" and the female procreating.

That Victor tries to kill his "monster" and is unsuccessful is a nod towards the belief that a classless society will always overcome a caste system with an absolute ruler at the top. Yes, the "monster" dies alone with Victor on the ice (after the monarchy he represents tries to conquer the world aka the British Empire), but it is not a hopeless death but one of a loving mentor, one knowing that the monarchy is dying but that Socialism will never really die.