Thought Moves So Needs to Work, Research Time, 15/01/2018

Any empiricism worth the name will inevitably be a pragmatism. What the hell does that actually mean?

Remember what I was saying on Friday about philosophical conversation on profound metaphysical concepts – that they never actually end anywhere definitive. That, in itself is not a problem. But when you say the conversation’s point is to discover profound metaphysical answers, you break the process.

Aporia – when a conversation sputters into infinity. It’s the moment in a chain of reasoning when you realize that the only way to engage this concept is constant reinterpretation and self-critique.

Plato’s dialogues are excellent examples of this kind of reasoning.

These are always questions about the essence of profound ethical and ontological concepts. What is the nature of existence? What is the universal good? What is justice?Conversations and reasoning about these questions will never get you definitive answers – only deeper, more detailed, context-shifted new approaches to the questions.

Do you think your words are powerful enough on their own that you
can argue your way to the most profound truths?
That's great! We want those new ways to understand the concepts we use to understand our existence and our ethics. We need to figure out how our values can guide us through tough times – how we can adapt our values to new needs and crises.

The problem is when we approach these questions actually thinking they can have definitive answers – full stop, the answer is given, tell the populace.

You can’t perfect concepts as profound as “What is the divine? What is the good?” to deliver it to people as an absolute. They are imperfectible, because they’re adaptable.

So if you want to deliver answers to profound metaphysical questions as perfected dogmas, be prepared to deliver inadequate product. Because the concepts in those questions are not adequate to definitive, unchanging answers.

The moral truths of low-impact communities like Hellenic Greece won’t help us deal with, for example, the problems of our ecologically-transformative cities as moral concepts for how we run societies.

Here’s another problem with thinking profound metaphysical questions have definitive answers, which you can discover through argument. You become too caught up on the back-and-forth, refuting each other over and over again. Worst of all, you come to think this mutual refutation is getting you closer to that powerful metaphysical truth.

You find yourself asking entirely the wrong questions yourself – and definitely getting answers that are so wrong in so many ways. It’s because you’re trying to end an inquiry that functions best by never ending, by always remaining open.

I don’t just mean stop it, of course – anyone can stop a philosophical argument whenever they want. When I say end, I mean complete it with a clear, definitive, correct, universally valid answer.

Treating questions of justice, existence, the good, and others like those as if they weren’t mean to change and adapt swings you away from their purpose – adapting our ethical thinking to the new moral problems we face.

It swings you away from the world and into yourselves.

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