Tuesday 3 October 2017

The Big Decision about Life...

...Is a metaphysical one - not a matter of 'evidence'. And that insight (metaphysics not evidence) is the first step.

The situation is that Life is a mixed-picture: the decision is whether Life is validated by its best moments or times; or destroyed by its worst.

As I said, evidence does not help - the question is not quantitative. This is a matter of primary assumption.

And the question is not answerable in isolation - Life can only be validated if Life has 'meaning'; and the nature of validation depends on the nature of that meaning.

On the other hand, if you have already accepted that life has no meaning - is merely determined, or random - then you have already made your Big Decision. (Whether implicitly or explicitly) your basic assumptions ensure that for you Life is defined by its worst aspects - indeed the single, most extreme worst-of-Life is the truth-of-Life (both for individuals, and en masse).

Nothing can be done for you - because any possible Good will be negated by One Bad Thing - even when that Bad is merely the evanescence of Good.

On the other hand; if you understand, and live-by, the conviction that the best of Life is the truth of life (despite that this cannot be continuous) - then you have indomitable strength, assurance, and hope.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

The problem is how to conceptualize something that is neither determined nor random. Those two options really do seem to exhaust the logical possibilities. My solution so far -- i.e., accept muddled concepts and don't think too much about them -- is obviously suboptimal.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - That merely means you have accepted modern metaphysics without being aware of what you are doing!

Because the concept of randomness only originated about 400 years ago (probably with Pascal) and doesn't actually exist (it is merely a model, originally developed for gambling - there is no randomness in the observed world, only some things which can be modelled by it).

Similarly determinism is a new concept - probably only popularised after Newton's successes - because ancient explanations for action/ movement etc. were all related to animistic aspects, of what beings wanted, strove-for etc.

I guess you are - by habit - *assuming* that all understandings relating to the motivations (etc.) of beings *must* be fully-reducible to determinism/ randomness. That's just an assumption - and a modern one. (And one which only a small minority of people in the world, even now, would make.)

BTW - I agree with Owen Barfield that randomness makes no sense in a deterministic universe, or vice versa - essentially you cannot have both determinism and randomness - one needs to make a choice between them, assuming coherence is required.

Chiu ChunLing said...

It is that which is commonly seen as "evil" which is unsustainable, that cannot continue on.

To some extent, there is a childish expectation that novelty is part of what is good, because to the child all experiences are novel, and so the goods required to enable life to be secured and continued seem novel as well. To mature experience, genuinely good things are seen to have been always present as a necessity of life for generations. Variations in specifics that contribute little to the goodness of those things may obscure the timeless features which make them conducive to life, but that is because of an immature focus on novelty.

One key distinction between the mature and childish perspective is the ability to see the innate goodness of productive activity without confusing it with the novelties of redistribution (with attendant loss) of goods which have already been produced. The redistributive schemes hide their lack of productivity by focusing on superficial change in allocation, thus they hide their unsustainable nature from the infantile mind. Impatience with cyclic experiences (work and rest, waking and sleep, eating and exercise) makes those who have not learned much from experience to mistake one part of the cycle for good and the other for "bad"...often switching according to which part of the cycle is currently being enjoyed (small children are especially amusing in their dislike of both going to bed and being woken at any appropriate time).

A long term perspective allows the underlying unity of a superficially cyclic activity to be appreciated, and the long term sustainability to be judged. But all human experience is built up within a portion of the generation cycle of human life, thus without revelation of the commonality between previous generations and one's own, it is impossible to use evidence drawn from outside of personal experience to recognize that larger pattern.

We say that "all things come to an end", but it is only the superficial elements denoting a particular part of a cycle that must yield to the markers of the succeeding phases, if the cycle as a whole is good, then the total cycle endures. Most good activities are cyclic because life is and requires activity, and enduring activity is generally cyclic (there being few other mathematical resolutions of permanence and change).

Each phase of a cycle is necessary to the cycle as a whole, thus each characteristic manifestation of a particular phase is an indication of the continuation of the cycle and thus can be experienced as the perceivable form of "good", but appreciating goodness in a whole and genuine sense means seeing the timely yielding of the indications of one phase of a good cycle to the next as being the sensible form of good.

It can be difficult, especially when confronting the transition from being a member of the rising generation to being a part of the superceded one, or watching one's own civilization progress from prosperity to decadence (it is especially painful for those who experience the transition from decadence to destruction because the tendency of decadent civilization is to fail to inculcate a long-term perspective anyway). Often it is easier to merely assume that everything is 'good', but not all events are indications of the healthy and sustainable progress of a cycle.

Anyway, this may be seen as a tangent, but I don't see it as one. The underlying permanence of what is truly good and the inherent unsustainability of all that we should think of as "bad" or "evil" is a crucial centripetal element in valid moral thought.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - You make some very interesting points there - I especially liked the example: "(small children are especially amusing in their dislike of both going to bed and being woken at any appropriate time)"