Two books on philosophy that I published recently, Hopefully, some visitors to this blog will find my way of dealing with philosophical issues helpful, or maybe, provocative.
So what can we say about Nietzsche’s early work, Human, All Too Human, and Schacht’s remark that it does not represents Nietzsche as a secular humanist at all? We can draw few preliminary conclusions, among them the following:
In this book Nietzsche develops a strict, naturalism that rejects idea of human as rationally driven. He does a psychological analysis of man’s values and beliefs and as a result rejects claims to rational ethics, democracy, and a rationally based philosophy. Even the title of the book, Human, all too human implies limitations of human action and motives. What do we imply when we say of someone, he is human all too human? Often the phrase implies that someone has failed to perform up to ethical ideals and maybe even acted dishonorably. In short, it is a way of saying that we should not expect consistently rational, ethically good behavior from human beings. Intellectual excellence and ethical virtue are not often part of our nature as evolved human animals. Nietzsche was markedly aware of our evolution as biological beings and aware of the psychological (often irrational) limitations of our actual values and beliefs to accept the view that humans are rational, ethical beings.
Yes, we are conditioned to varying degrees by all kinds of neurological conditions, physiological conditions, genetic conditions, environmental conditions, etc. We don’t live and act in a vacuum free of external and internal causation. But this does not prove or even offer compelling evidence for concluding that we never make meaningful choices and act responsibly. To say that, because of the conditions that affect how we act, nobody is to blame for wrongdoing is just as much a fallacy as saying that because an artist was affected by a large set of external and internal conditions, that artist should not get any credit for his works of art.
The entire business of denying free action and affirming a universal determinism is quirky business right from the start. I can understand how philosophers might fall victim to sloppy thinking on this; but surely scientists who should approach matters critically and with skepticism should never have fallen for the pseudo problem of free will.
There are a variety of attitudes that persons take with regard to philosophy. Among them are the attitudes of reverence (on one end of the scale) and iconoclasm (on the other end). The reverent attitude assumes that traditional philosophy expresses truth, or at least important aspects of truth; and that the scholar’s job is to render favorable interpretations of the text so as to bring out those important insights and truths. Contrary to this, the iconoclastic attitude mostly presumes that much of what traditional philosophers have written and uttered was confused and resulted from a lack of the knowledge that scientific development has provided.
The only basis for saying anything about any alleged ‘god’ is by taking note of the behavior of those committed to that ‘god.’ When we do (looking at the long, bloody history of god belief), we find anything but expression of love. What we find is violence, aggression, and the use of ‘god’ as a club to beat down the opposition. If we try to infer the ‘god’ at issue, it is not one in which God is Love, at all. This does not rule out exceptions, people who try to practice their religion as a form of love for humanity. And, yes, there is much expression of this sentiment in much religious literature, starting with scripture
The Cambrian is an ancient period in geological time that lasted from 542 million years ago (mya) to 490 mya. It is the earliest time in geological history that plant and animal fossils appear in abundance. During the Cambrian a menagerie of multicellular life “exploded”,. . . . Creationists love the Cambrian “explosion”. To them, it proves that all the major types of animals (phyla) suddenly materialized, being instantly created by God.
There is an interesting analogy between the illusions of Don Quijote and the Socratic vision of philosophy. Both envision a divine-like object to which they are completely devoted. Socrates saw philosophy (as he practiced it) as being a divine mission and the greatest good available to humanity. Quijote saw his lady as nearly divine in virtue and beauty.
In many discussions of the “free will” issue, the argument is made that we don’t have any freedom of choice because, with respect to any action we do, we could not have done other than what we did. For example, suppose I choose to support candidate “Tom” for some elective office I might think that I freely choose to support Tom, but others will argue that I could not have done otherwise; i.e., that I my support of Tom was determined by a causal chain of events and conditions that I did not control.
Only the survivors of wars and other tragedies are around to tell tales of their miraculous experiences. However, this atheist in a foxhole will always speak up for one dead child of war who never had a chance…or a “Miracle”.
I read a statement (“We create history by our observation, rather than history creating us.”) like this one and I ask: who has gone insane, the great physicists or me? But it is not just the theoretical physicists and cosmologists who try my sanity of late. The philosophers also have their role in this mad comedy.