Saturday, August 20, 2016

#NeverHegel #AlwaysDesCartes

I share Reagan's philosophy encapsulated by his definition of "American Exceptionalism":

"The [USA] is a nation that has a government, not the other way around and this makes us special among the nation's of the earth."

Reverse engineering Reagan's statement to find the old timey philosopher who laid the groundwork for defining the state as a social contract in service of sovereign individuals, I voted for famous French mathematician and Enlightenment era philosopher, DesCartes.  πŸ‘

Conversely, if I had to vote for my least favorite philosopher, one who laid the foundation for the overbearing authoritarian state in which the individual is subsumed into the "masses," who are demoted into slaves to the state, that would have to be German philosopher, Hegel. πŸ‘ŽπŸ½

In  a  nutshell, DesCartes believes in the sovereignty, and sanctity, of the individual. Conversely, Hegel believed the state is supreme and the populace exists solely to serve the state.

I'll start with my most favorite philosopher, DesCartes.  Usually amateur philosophers, such as myself,  summarize DesCartes' thinking into "cogito ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am"

However, a more complete summary is "Dubito ergo cogito, cogito ergo sum" or "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am."

"If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research. "

Altho according to Shapiro, F. R. (Ed.). (2006). The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 

it seems Wilson Mizner may have plagiarized this sentiment from Bob Oliver,  p 525:

And to avoid hurting people's feelings

I'll copiously and fastidiously cite my sources.

A literal cartoon overview from Osborne, R. (1992). Philosophy for Beginners. New York, NY: Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc.

Descartes' four rules, which seem heavily influenced by his mathematical background, are outlined on p 72.

  1. Never accept anything except clear and distinct ideas
  2. Divide each problem into as many parts as are needed to solve it
  3. Order your thoughts from the simple to the complex
  4. Always check thoroughly for oversights

Applying a flow chart diagram strategy to work through philosophical terms defined in Angeles, P.A. (1981). Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books

and create a composite mosaic picture of Descartes's philosophy

as this blogger  with a weird name points out "Mosaic of RenΓ© Descartes, the inventor of the cartesian coordinate system, not the polar coordinate system shown in the diagram in the mosaic. Doh!"

Blogger is correct, as my Dad's old calculus book Phillips, H.B.  (1942). Analytical Geometry and Calculus . Cambridge, Mass: Addison-Wesley Press. p 101 contends:

Since rectangular coordinates were first used by Descartes, the rectangular equation of a locus is often called its Cartesian equation.

Starting with Descartes most well known catch phrase "cogito ergo sum" p. 39

cogito ergo sum (L., "I think, therefore I am" or "I am thinking, therefore I exist"). Descartes' phrase for an immediate, necessary, and indubitable intuition, in which he recognizes himself clearly and distinctly as a RES COGITANS (a thinking thing or self).  He cannot doubt that he thinks (doubts), for in the very act of doubting he proves the act of thinking (doubting) to be true. Cogito ergo sum serves as the self-evident truth or axiom from which Descartes develops his rationalistic system of explanation. See SKEPTICISM (Descartes). 

The end of the "cogito ergo sum" definition then directs readers to "skepticism" definition p. 259

skepticism (Descartes). Descartes' skepticism sometimes called provisional or methodological skepticism, consists of doubting all things until something is reached that cannot be doubted. Descartes' skepticism is based on two fundamental questions: 1. What  do I in fact know clearly and distinctly that is so absolutely certain as to be beyond any doubt whatever? 2. What further knowledge is it possible to derive from this certainty?  (Descartes was never really skeptical about there being such an indubitable truth and he was not skeptical about there being a definite procedure for attaining a complete deductive knowledge based upon this indubitable truth.  Descartes believed it is possible to rise above skeptical doubt and find knowledge that is absolute certain necessary and self-evident which serves as the ground for all other knowledge and for knowledge of all reality.)  For the sake of argument Descartes doubts the existence of everything. He denies the existence of the external world external minds God etc. Perhaps everything is a dream.

A fellow mathematician Lewis Carroll i.e. Charles Dodgson expressed his skepticism about the sentiment that "everything is a dream" that was propounded by his contemporary,  George Berkeley. In "Through the Looking Glass" Alice wonders whether she's a character in Red King's dream or vice versa.  More on the deep philosophical symbolism of the Red King from the SparkNotes article: Lewis Carroll "THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS" (2016). Retrieved August 21, 2016, from

The Sleeping Red KingTweedledum and Tweedledee tell Alice that she is only a creation of the Red King’s dream, which implies that Looking-Glass World is not a construction of Alice’s dream. The Red King becomes a divine figure who dreams up all of Alice’s adventures, fostering the idea that she does not actually have any identity or agency beyond what she is allowed in the context of the dream. The idea that we are all just aspects of the dream of a divine power comes from Bishop Berkeley, a philosopher who wrote during Carroll’s lifetime and who believed that man and the universe exist as part of God’s imagination.

back to defining "skepticism"

Perhaps a powerful, malicious daimon is deceiving him.   But there is one fundamental thing that cannot be doubted: that he exists in the very act of denying.  One can doubt even that one is doubting, but one must exist to be doing the doubting.  See COGITO ERGO SUM.  Thus by means of a provisional and methodical skepticism one can clearly and distinctly grasp an indubitable truth.  According to Descartes all true ideas must be known this clearly and distinctly,  and ideas that are thus known are true.  Among these ideas are: the existence of an external world and of other minds; the existence of God and his characteristics; that God can never be a deceiver (it can be clearly and distinctly perceived that God is not liable to any errors or defects since if He were He would not be God, and deception necessarily follows from a defect); that God supports the principle that all ideas which are clearly and distinctly perceived are true (since God is completely benevolent He would not lead us into error).  See IDEAS CLEAR AND DISTINCT (DESCARTES).

The end of the  definition of "skepticism" directs one to read about "ideas, clear and distinct" pp 122-123 where Descartes background in mathematical proofs really shines through.  ⛅️

ideas clear and distinct (Descartes). An idea is "clear" if it can be conceived as a whole and without inconsistency (for example,  the conception of a circle); an idea is "distinct" if it is never confused with another idea (for example a circle is never confused with a square       ⃝   ≠    ).  Descartes believed that 1. those ideas and only those ideas that are perceived clearly and distinctly are to be accepted as true, and 2. an idea may be clear without being distinct but cannot be distinct without also being clear.  The three clear and distinct (self-evident) ideas about reality that provide the basis of his philosophy: (a) extension  (matter occupying space),   (b) figure (shape, size,  spatial dimensions) and (c) movement (motion). See IDEAS (DESCARTES); METHOD (DESCARTES).
So Descartes says all true ideas are clear and distinct. Since all distinct ideas are clear, not certain why he didn't shorten definition to simply say all true ideas are distinct.

The selection on "ideas" then directs you to "method" pp 170-171 which is a more prosaic explanation from the thumbnail sketch provided by the comic book.

method (Descartes). In his Discourse on Method, Descartes presents four rules which provide us with knowledge and are the bases of all philosophical inquiry.  They are: 1. Never accept anything as true unless you can recognize it to be self-evidently true.  Avoid all preconceptions and include nothing in your conclusions unless it presents itself so clearly and distinctly that there is no circumstance under which you can doubt it.  See DOUBT,  DESCARTES' METHOD OF. 2. Divide a problem (difficulties) into as many distinct parts as possible or as might be needed to provide an easier solution. 3. Think in an orderly (systematic) manner by beginning with the simplest elements in the problem and the easiest things to understand,  and gradually reach toward more complex knowledge (synthesis).  In this process you may have to assume an order among the elements that is not really there. 4. Finally,  make sure that everything has been taken into consideration and that nothing has been omitted from review. 

The end of first rule of Descartes' "method" directs one to "doubt" p 66

doubt Descartes' method of.  The first of four rules presented by Descartes in Part II of his Discourse on Method contains the most succinct formation of his method of doubt: Nothing is to be admitted as true unless (a) it is free from all prejudicial judgments, and (b) it is so clearly and distinctly presented to the mind that in no circumstance can it ever be doubted.  See METHOD (DESCARTES).    Descartes' method of doubt was to doubt anything and everything until he arrived at something which could not in any way be doubted by any rational being.  (The idea so arrived at would be indubitably CERTAIN and universally true.)  From this absolutely certain and true idea one could then derives in logical fashion other certainties and truths. A system so constructed would be an organized group of interdependent ideas each consistent with all others and each implying the others; thus the system would be comprehensive and flawless.  See SKEPTICISM (DESCARTES).

Finally, the end of "doubt" redirects the reader to study "skepticism", which is close to the beginning of this loop.

"That's not honey! You're eating recursion!"

The leftist book: Lavine, T.Z. (1984). From Socrates to Sartre: the Philosophic Quest. New York, NY: Bantam Books provides an overview of the history of philosophy with, in Lavine's view, the ultimate human aspiration of global Marxist Nirvana.

However, what Lavine views as an insult, I view as a compliment.  In her discussion of "Orangicism," on pp 216-217, she seemingly disses Descartes for using Newtonian Mechanics as a source of inspiration for his philosophy. Descartes employed the mathematical precision of the actions and reaction of discrete, distinct billiard balls as an analogue to a society comprised of sovereign individuals.

Conversely, Hegel modeled his philosophy on Darwin's theory of evolution where individuals have been subsumed into a mass of cells comprising the body politic, even more dehumanizing than Hobbes' "Leviathan"

Hegel's dialectic eventually mutates into material dialectic of Marx where ruling apparatchiks become the brain cells and servile lumpen proletariat demoted to the equivalent of a spleen.

2. Organicism 
   How does it happen that Hegel views philosophy through this metaphor of biological growth and developmental change?  We saw no mention of it in Descartes or in Hume.  The answer is that when Hume wrote his treatise the scientific world was still limited to Newtonian physics.  But that was in 1738.  It is now 1806 and some important changes have taken place in the intellectual life of Europe in the intervening years.  In the field of science the biological sciences are beginning to develop.  Hegel has been influenced by their fundamental concepts of the organism as a hierarchical interdependent unity of part, in which each of the parts (like the hearts,  the liver,  and the lungs in the human organism) plays a necessary role in maintaining the life of the whole. The parts  do not, however, exist or function as independent atoms.  On the contrary each is a dependent part of an organism, and functions to serve the organism as a whole.  Hegel is thus an early exponent of the doctrine of organicism,  which claims that an organism, as a developing unity of hierarchical and interdependent parts serving the life of the whole,  is the model for understanding the human personality, societies and their institutions, philosophy and history.  From the time of Hegel on,  the reset of nineteenth-century philosophic thought will be influenced by this newly dominating concept of the unity and functional totality of the organism,   and will apply it to understanding the development of human thought,  human society,  and the growth of human institutions.   Another even more influential source of the notion of organicism arose primarily from Romantic philosophers and artists in deliberate opposition to the atomistic,  mechanistic,  and rationalistic views of man and nature held by the Enlightenment.  Kant viewed the a priori concepts and other structures of consciousness as an organic unity; Goethe viewed nature as an organic totality; the Romantic poets,  Schlegel,  Wordsworth,  and Coleridge,  all viewed true art as achieving organic unity out of multiplicity; social philosophers such as Rousseau,  Herder,  and Burke viewed society,  not as an Enlightenment aggregate of atomic individual,  but as an organic unity.

Notice how there is still a hierarchy with Hegel's model? Who gets to decide who plays the part of the brain cells and who plays the role of the liver in this organic society? Lavine is dismissive of atomistic individualism, but nobody contends that oxygen is superior to hydrogen. In the atomistic analogy, hydrogen can freely associate with oxygen to create water or combine with nitrogen to create ammonia. 

Further,  Lavine engages in a linguistic legerdemainπŸƒ : first contending that competing scientific models act solely as a metaphors for philosophic constructs. Then Lavine employs a bait and switch🎣:  rather than simply employing the metaphor for illustrative purposes, she avers that if a model accurately describes a scientific concept, it must also describe the social scientific concept for which it was originally only employed as a metaphor. 

Lavine's pseudo logical thought process comprises a smorgasbord of logical fallacies equivocation to name just one from the Annenberg Classroom lesson plan: "Monty Python and the Quest for the Perfect Fallacy". Retrieved August 21, 2016, from

Equivocation: A subcategory ofvagueness that consists of using a term orexpression in an argument in one sense inone place and in another sense in another.EXAMPLE: Any law can be repealed by theproper legal authority. The law of gravity isa law. Therefore, the law of gravity can berepealed by the proper legal authority.ANALYSIS: The word “law” is being used intwo different senses.

In addition,  Lavine strongly implies that Darwin is superior to Newton,  versus just a different scientist studying different phenomena. Darwin's theories might be applicable to the field of biology,  but that does negate the validity of Newton's laws to physics.

Needless to say I'm on logical,  rational #TeamEnlightenment vs irrational #TeamRomanticism

Hegel does not believe in the rights of the individual. All morality is defined by the state p 241

2. The Nation-State As Source of Ethics
  You can live the moral life,  says Hegel,  only by acting in accordance with the moral principles expressed by your own society in its own institutions.  In your moral life, as well as in your beliefs, your personal goals, your philosophy, you are a culture carrier, a receptacle for the moral values which are embodied in the culture, in the political and economic way of life,  and in the religious and educational institutions of your society.  the moral values that are embodied in your Nation-State provide the only morality you have, your only moral ideals, your only moral obligations.  The moral life has its source only in the Nation-State and can be fulfilled only in the Nation-State.

Hegel believes each individual life is meaningless by itself.  Meaning is only defined by integrating individual puzzle pieces into the state's defined big picture illustrated on p. 109 Osborne:

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