Monday, November 8, 2010

Metaphysics

FLG should've added Tim Kowal's blog, Notes From Babel, to his blogroll a while ago, but that's finally been rectified. Anyway, like Prof Mondo, FLG found Tim's post on metaphysics made an important point:
In one of those dragged out, merciless threads about the existence of God and the origins of the universe and the nature of reality and all that heavy stuff, Jason Kuznicki  sticks a pin in and lets some air out.  Somehow, Jason says, we all seem to manage to get along, even while we disagree out this allegedly fundamental stuff.  That “metaphysics has very little to offer except folly.”

I take the general sentiment.  And I enjoy the passage from Candide he shares.  But I cannot agree that our metaphysic, our worldview, our underlying presuppositions about what it means to be a human in this world among other humans, is some trifling matter that has no bearing on human affairs outside the cigar room.  These questions define our starting point on questions of values, on the purposes in our conduct in and attitudes about society, government, politics, the law.

Well put. Although, FLG will say that interests, institutions, and other material factors explain a lot. These attitudes that Tim talks about matter at the margins, which are very important for somebody like FLG who monomanically focuses on time horizons.

It's facile to look at political outcomes and say they were merely the product of a interests competing. Too many people think this is actually a profound thought that is devoid of romantic notions. On the other hand, FLG thinks it is both a overly cynical and static way to look at things, which is to say the wrong way.

7 comments:

The Ancient said...

So to view something sub specie aeternitatis is good, bad, beyond human capacity -- what?

P.S. I finally figured out what bothers me about the League: It's a superannuated dorm room where it's always three in the morning.

FLG said...

Shit, then this place must be like a dive bar five minutes before last call.

The Ancient said...

this place must be like a dive bar five minutes before last call...

Twenty, thirty years ago, there used be an after-hours place in Adams-Morgan called The Gas Chamber.

This is more like that.

(In a good way.)

william randolph brafford said...

The Ancient,

I don't take your criticism personally -- the League's a decidedly amateur effort -- but what is a "superannuated dorm room"?

-wrb

The Ancient said...

wrb --

what is a "superannuated dorm room"?

1) Well, it's a place where perennially young people continue to gather in honor of their youth, having more or less the same conversations they once had many years ago.

2) It's a place where -- because it's always 3 in the morning -- no one has the stones to tell some other regular that they are lost, embarrassing everyone else, and should just shut up.

3) It's a place where no one -- no one at all -- seems to know that brevity is more than the soul of lingerie. (Excepting Helen. Maybe.) This seems to support your recent recommendation of shorter posts. (Good luck with that.)

Tim Kowal said...

The Ancient,

In one sense, it does not matter what sort of metaphysics a people subscribes to, so long as they subscribe to a common, coherent set of underlying principles sufficient to form a bedrock for their cultural and political institutions. In another sense, there is probably a finite number of metaphysical frameworks that comport with a stable society and government. But that is typically not a subject for polite company.

As for the first point, here's a passage from Richard Weaver I've been barking at people recently:

"That it does not matter what a man believes is a statement heard on every side today. The statement carries a fearful implication. If a man is a philosopher in the sense with which we started, what he believes tells him what the world is for. How can men who disagree about what the world is for agree about any of the minutiae of daily conduct? The statement really means that it does not matter what a man believes so long as he does not take his beliefs seriously. Anyone can observe that this is the status to which religious belief has been reduced for many years. But suppose he does take his beliefs seriously? Then what he believes places a stamp upon his experience, and he belongs to a culture, which is a league founded on exclusive principles. To become eligible, one must be able to say the right words about the right things, which signifies in turn that one must be a man of correct sentiments. This phrase, so dear to the eighteenth century, carries us back to the last age that saw sentiment and reason in a proper partnership."

Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences 23 (Univ. Chicago Press 1948).

william randolph brafford said...

The Ancient,

Juvenile, either idiotic or tolerant of idiocy, too wordy? Well, I asked.

-wrb

 
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