I had access to a computer, and now I don’t again. So I hope you enjoy reading one long paragraph. But this problem occurred to me while watching the Roger Stone documentary on Netflix. I came away from it thinking that Roger Stone was a piece of shit, as intended. But at the same time, something didn’t sit right. Now I don’t HATE journalism. I’m just simply saying: “Hey, journos, calm down.” I’m not anti-free speech, don’t be stupid. I’m just anti- self-congratulations. That’s all that I’m saying with this post……..”Never read the comments section” is usually sound advice. But I have a dirty secret to share: I almost exclusely read the comments section. Is most of it garbage? Of course. But I think it would be a mistake to think that it’s ALL garbage. I tend to think of articles and their comments sections like a Hegelian dialectic. The article poses a thesis, comments are USUALLY antithesis, and I’m able to construct a nice synthesis from reading both. But I’m a strange person like that. Even out of garbage, I’m able to find a nugget of wisdom…even if it’s completely wrong. Am I making sense? That may be neither here nor there, but the point I’d like to get at is…the comments are almost always challenging the article. That may not be unusual for some. After all, common logic suggests that people would rather complain than say something nice. I’ve been on the Internet a long time, I’ve been reading comments for longer than what any normal person should. Nerds once flooded IMDB pages trolling other users. People being mean to another on the Internet is nothing new. Now I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up…in fact, I’m probably just imagining shit. But, online comments are, and someone will probably want to kill me on this…they’re getting BETTER. Not better in a way that they’re more CORRECT, but better in a way that they are ALMOST as well thought out as the articles themselves. It’s like the people, after finally understanding the power that the Internet has granted to them, are rivaling the experts and so-called “journalists” on interpreting the facts. In my personal opinion, anything that I read on one of the many blogs I follow is immensely better than anything on Slate, CNN, Huffpost, Fox News, etc. They’re better written, INDEPENDENTLY though out, and immensely less hateful, especially when it comes to the opinion pieces on current events. To the many “journalists” and experts out there that are on a payroll for a major news outlet…this SHOULD be concerning. Yet that’s not what I have observed. An arrogance still permeates this profession, which claims to be an outlet for the people. This is especially obvious in sports journalism. We all remember when Jim Rome almost got his ass kicked on the air by Jim Everett. But there are few events in history which brings all people together. Tragic ones usually do, think 9/11. But there are few positive ones that are able to achieve this. But I can immediately think of two. The first one was man landing on the moon. The second is Marshawn Lynch’s infamous “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” press conference. It doesn’t matter who you are, you were thinking “fuck yeah” when you heard that. While I believe that the reporters there took it in good humor, I recall that there were some writers that had a “how dare you” moment. While every viewer was cheering him on, some sports writers were genuinely upset that he was essentially saying “fuck you” to the media. There are NFL writers that still get miffed when Bill Belichick blows them off (I’m looking at YOU, Dan Hanzus). Their defense is usually something like “it’s part of their job to talk to the media, and we’re ONLY asking questions.” But I doubt Robert Kraft keeps Bill Belichick on the payroll because he’s an electrifying public speaker. And every single NFL fan understands that, even if they hate the man, except for a few NFL writers. Rarely does anything interesting get said during a press conference. NO ONE cares about sideline reporting (it’s really only useful for production value, in that it “looks good” to jump to other people. But nobody cares about WHAT’S being reported.) But there’s this insistence that what they’re telling us is important, and they’re entitled to the information. Additionally, some might hide behind a “just questioning” defense, but that’s paper thin. The average reader will understand the concepts of “loaded” and “leading” questions when they see it, even if they aren’t familiar with those exact terms. The idea of an unbiased reporter is simply not realistic and is probably difficult to find. So yes, non-journalists are justified in their distrust of journalists. “Fake News” has been the buzz term for the last couple of years. People either mock the term or take it to its extreme. But, is the concern unwarranted? Should this be a bigger deal than what it is? And should the practice of journalism be re-assessing itself in the age of the Internet? The Press once prided itself on being the defenders of free speech, and to a large extent…they ARE. But when a normal person hears a journo (as I’ll call them) proclaim their self-importance in this manner, many will think “so what does that make the Internet?”. While many journos have exposed events to the public , there have been MANY incidents where they blatantly mislead the everyone. William Randolph Hearst? UVA Rape Case? Fox News? Those are just the ones at the top of my head. But the journos are all to quick to overlook those events, and instead of addressing those concerns head on…they want to think of themselves as HEROES! I don’t know, if you’ve exposed an important story, I suppose you can be called a “hero”. But the only people that call them “heroes” are other journos! Foreign correspondents that go into dangerous territory to get the big story? Heroes, for sure. But the guy that exposes a congressman for exposing himself? Good job buddy, but you’re not a hero. The media has often been referred to as the unofficial “fourth branch of government”. And in the public eye, that’s certainly the case. And as of right now, the political elite (which includes politicians and members of the media) are INCREDIBLY unpopular. Politicians know this, but probably don’t care. The media, as a whole, is completely oblivious to the fact that they’re lumped into this “elite”. I don’t know how much commenters in the comments section are representative of the readers as a whole, but there’s a sizable portion of readers that ONLY read the material because they absolutely HATE the publication. I’m convinced that’s the only reason why the National Review is still in existence. The publication ITSELF doesn’t care as long as people are still viewing it. As long as they’re still getting clicks, nothing else matters. So I often question how genuine the opinions are. Do the writers actually believe the stuff they’re typing? Or are they just writing crap that they know people will read, regardless if it’s true? This level of distrust between the public and mainstream journalism, and journalism’s unwillingness to address these concerns, is what’s allowing Trumpism and their accusations of “fake news” to fester. Us on the Left have been providing a false sense of solidarity by not calling out each other’s bullshit, which might help our case at “winning” but will certainly not help our case at being CORRECT. Many of the liberal sites I visit produce incoherent shit…stuff that just riles up the crowd, but doesn’t challenge anyone. Of course me bitching at this system might be about as effective as bitching at the weather. There’s probably nothing that can be done about it. Maybe this is where philosophy might be useful because it challenges our assumptions on the interpretation of truth. It’s rarely as black and white as how the news tries to present it. Maybe we should do away with journos and let philosophers do all the reporting…whatever will prevent the practice in just becoming an exercise in self-congratulations.
Rough week. Too much going on. I’m surprised that I was able to write two original posts this week.
Hopefully things will start slowing down with Christmas nearing. I’ll be able to return to writing original writing soon. Or maybe things will never slow down and I’ll be forever scrambling to squeeze in time to do things.
We just never know.
But I’m a diehard. I could be on my deathbed, but by golly, I WILL get a post out. Death be damned. BUT, until things slow down, here’s another script from my defunct podcast My Life With Kant.
And as I’ve said before, and will always say, I don’t edit or spellcheck. Please forgive those errors.
I’ve been talking a lot about religion, nature of God, nature of governance, and so on. But what about the individual’s responsibility in this world, especially what is their responsibility to their fellow man? Now I’ll be honest here, but I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew with this one, so it might run a little long, but let’s jump right in. I’ve talked about a lot of different areas of philosophy but I haven’t covered ethics, so….Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments seemed like a good place to start. Everyone knows of Smith’s Wealth of Nations, but I wanted to cover a work that perhaps isn’t as discussed as much.
So Smith starts off by saying that man may indeed be selfish, but there are tendencies where he does indeed enjoy seeing the good fortunes of his fellow man, even if there’s nothing in it for him. Additionally, we might take sorrow from watching others suffer. And this is something that everyone, to include perhaps criminals, posses.
You know, when we see others in pain, it can become natural for us to sort of see ourselves experiencing that pain. The example that Smith gives here is that when people see sores on beggars in the street, people often feel corresponding scratches on their own bodies. It’s here where he brings up the word Sympathy. However, we experience Sympathy, at least from my interpretation, not when we necessarily see agony, or pain, or any other emotion alone, but when we understand the situation that caused that emotion.
Which we can understand that today. It’s all to easy to watch someone suffer on TV and not really care, but when we see somebody, especially somebody that we know, suffering right in front of us, we’re more apt to feel sympathy. So that’s what leads Smith to say, quote: “Sympathy, there fore, does not arise so much from the view of the passion, as from that of the situation which excites it.” End quote.
And he would end the first chapter with a paragraph describing our sympathy with the dead, and how our own emotions, or actions even, can have no effect on the condition of the dead. And this is only serves to further our fear of our own demise. And therefore the, quote “dread of death” strikes fear in the individual, but guards society. So he might be echoing Hobbes here, but I don’t know.
Anyways, we love it whenever we’re able to share our sympathies with others. But it should be noted that we prefer to share our disagreeable passions with one another, more so than what we like to share our agreeable ones. And of course, when people don’t reciprocate those emotions, or sympathies, we are hurt by the inability to do so. You know, misery likes company right? But it’s interesting to me that Smith finds disagreeable emotions as being a greater solidifier of friendships than agreeable ones. Sadly I find this a true statement, but I think that this idea has large implications on a number of different fields. But just look at your own friendships. Although I think that sharing negative emotions will more than likely find you alliances than positive one’s, but if your relationship hinges on those emotions, can those really be considered high quality, beneficial friendships?
But anyways, Smith would go on to say quote: “To approve of another man’s opinions is to adopt those opinions, and to adopt them is to approve of them. If the same arguments which convince you convince me likewise, I necessarily approve of your convictions; and if they do not, I necessarily disapprove of it: neither can I possibly conceive that I should do the one without the other. To approve or disapprove, therefore, of the opinions of others is acknowledged, by every body, to mean no more than to observe their agreement or disagreement with our own.” End quote.
So in order to sympathize with another person, is to approve of their thoughts, feelings, actions, etc. And this is true even if we do not immediately feel such sympathy. Smith’s example is when we hear of someone’s father dying, even if we don’t know that person or their father, we know that such an event warrants the feeling of sorrow. So although we don’t feel their exact degree of sorrow, we know that sympathy is warranted. So Smith concludes by saying, quote “Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the like faculty in another. I judge of your sight by my sight, of your ear by my ear, of your reason by my reason, of your resentment by my resentment, of your love by my love. I neither have, nor can have, any other way of judging about them”. End quote.
So there are two ways in which we evaluate the views of others. The first way is by evaluating subjects that have no particular direct effect on either of the parties involved. These include things like art, or the actions of another person. So, I guess that includes gossiping. So when everyone is in agreement with the quality or condition of that piece of art or person, no one really cares. But when the other person has something to add to the perception, or approach the subject from a different perspective, they deserve a quote “high degree of admiration and applause”. But we only consider the usefulness of this perspective as secondary. We are originally drawn to this view because it coincides with our own.
The second way is how we evaluate opinions or perspectives on how an object effects you or another person. As long as you or that other person share sympathy, differences don’t matter so much. However, these opinions are much more valuable than opinions under the first category because these are what bind people together. You may share disagreements over a particular piece of art, but you can still find ways to remain acquainted. Though I might take issue with that because, I tend to choose my relationships with other people based on their judgements regarding art or the actions of others, but I may be an asshole, so ignore that point. But basically Smith maintains that if you can maintain sympathies with one another, even if disagreements exist, you can still maintain a relationship.
However, one cannot experience the same degree of emotion as the person experiencing the pain. And this is where I would probably take issue with Smith, as he would go on to say that in order to maintain harmony, the person experiencing the violent emotions must flatten their tone in order to be in harmony with other around them. As asinine as that sounds, you know, asking a person who’s in distress to tone their emotions down in order to relate to everyone else, Smith would add, quote :”Though they will never be unisons, they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required.” End quote.
Now what Smith is getting at is, if all parties want to maintain a level of sympathy, everyone must maintain a degree of relatability. Additionally, if the individual experiencing violent emotions want to keep their level-headedness, they must engage with other in order to keep their situation in perspective. Therefore, quote “society and conversation” are necessary for one to keep a tranquility of mind.
Therefore everyone is doing their best to maintain a level of understanding between all parties by restraining their anger or forgoing their own selfishness. And perhaps the best quote from this particular section is, quote: “As to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbor, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbor is capable of loving us.” End quote.
Now there are some passions that originate from the body, And in here, Smith brings up hunger, sex and even pain. He says that from the perspective of the person not experiencing those things, they can never fully appreciate the degree to which that emotion is effecting another. Pain is a key point in all of this, it is a very physical sensation. And because it is physical, it is that much harder for others to relate to it. However, emotions or sensations that relate to the imagination are much easier to grant sympathy towards. Fear is a case in point because it is not a product of the body, but of the imagination. It is a certain dread you feel from the unknown.
But when it comes to love, Smith doesn’t seem to find much sympathy. And I guess this is due to the fact that when one person enters into love, another person that’s acting as a spectator to that event can’t experience what that love is like. However, one can relate to the desire to have love, and additionally relate to the experience of loss of love. So even though this Smith sounds questionable in this section, it sort of makes sense when you think it through. When your friend falls in love with another person, you can’t know what that love is like. But you can understand the effects of it. So even if you can’t experience your friend’s love, you can share their interest in obtaining it.
Hatred and resentment are what Smith considers unsocial passions. There’s a lot of things discussed here, but in this chapter, Smith talks about how expression of anger towards anyone is an insult to both that person and to others that are present. And because anger is such a strong emotion that people might be hesitant to pay sympathy, even if that emotion is justified. So before engaging in such passions, one must always consider how taking such action might be interpreted by others.
But the social passions that Smith claims are approved of by the spectator are generosity, humanity, kindness, compassion, mutual friendship, and esteem. And he would go on to say that these passions are never looked upon with aversion, even when they are overdone. But then there are selfish passions, like grief and joy. And if a person exhibits to much joy, then jealousy might occur, or if someone has too little grief, then it’s mocked. Or something like that. But I guess the important point here is that individuals must exhibit these passions in a matter that the spectator will approve of in order to find sympathy. However, the way how a person feels about their own sorrow can never be matched by our own sympathy. Even though, according to Smith, our sympathy with sorrow is more universal than our sympathy with joy.
Smith would go on to discuss ambition, and how we try to conceal our poverty but show off our riches. And he would go on to say quote: “Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, not mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer. Nay, it is chiefly from this regard to the sentiments of mankind, that we pursue riches and avoid poverty.” End quote. And for brevity sake, it was difficult for me to get through this chapter, but then Smith would go on to say that “But rank, distinction, preeminence, no man despises, unless he is either raised very much above, or sunk very much below, the ordinary standard of human nature; unless he is either so confirmed in the wisdom and real philosophy, as to be satisfied that, while the propriety of his conduct renders him the just object of approbation, it is of little consequence though he be neither attended to, nor approved of.” So I guess, people hold others in discontent when they are either ranked highly above or below others, but those who think critically of their situation can become fully at peace with their place in the world.
Now this is where Smith brings up Stoicism. And I imagine, if you’re listening to this pod, you know the gist of what stoicism is. But the way I like to think of it is being accepting of your situation. It’s not necessarily falling into determinism, but simply coming to terms with the past as being an unchangeable entity. There are other virtues exposed here, but an important one is to not fall into vanity of material objects. Becoming a being of wisdom is far more preferable to becoming a rich man. So therefore it becomes acceptance of your current situation. I don’t know if that was Smith’s exact interpretation, but that’s what I’m rolling with.
So then Smith says that when we give off gratitude, then we actually saying that that object deserves reward. Additionally, if we give off resentment, then that object deserves punishment. So, you know, when you’re projecting gratitude, that’s essentially what you’re saying, you believe that that person deserves a reward of some sort. And with resentment, I really couldn’t find how Smith defines that, I tend think of resentment in a different way, but I guess when you’re angry with someone, you would want them to be punished, but Smith would say that “resentment cannot be fully gratified, unless the offender is not made to grieve in his turn, but to grieve for that particular wrong which we have suffered from him.” And then he would go on with this point for a couple of chapters.
In Section II, Smith discusses the virtues of Justice and Beneficence. Of Beneficence, Smith says that the end result of such actions may disappoint, but because they come from a place of good intentions, those actions cannot be punished. The other virtue, justice, is something that we all must serve first in order to have a full and just society because it makes man restrain himself.
Smith would go on to add that, quote: “there can be no proper motive for hurting our neighbor, there can be no incitement to do evil to another, which mankind will go along with, except for indignation for evil which that other has done to us.” End quote. So the impartial spectator could never condone an ill-will action against another without cause. One simply cannot act negatively against another for their own enjoyment. Not long after, Smith states that “human society stand in need of each others assistance” and so therefore, he would quote later on “society…cannot subsist among those who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one another”. And therefore justice is more valuable to society than beneficence. Laws of justice have to exist in order for society to continue.
Okay, so I left off on Section III of Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments. And I’ll try to briefly cover the last half of this work before I move on, so I might skip over a few parts for brevity, but I’ll talk about some points that I found interesting. But Smith is still using an impartial spectator. He brings up an interesting idea, that when he attempts to examine his own behavior and quote “pass sentence on it”, he divides himself into two persons. It’s a strange thing to explain but Smith says quote : “The first is the spectator, whose sentiments with regard to my own conduct I endeavor to enter into, by placing myself in his situation, and by considering how it would appear to me when seen from that particular point of view. The second is the agent, the person whom I properly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a spectator, I was endeavoring to form some opinion. The first is the judge; the second the panel. But that the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the panel, is as impossible, as that cause should, in every respect, be the same with the effect.” End quote. And from my interpretation, it seems that Smith thinks that one is more likely to engage in in moral behavior if they have religious conviction because they act in a way where they believe that they are being watched by an all-knowing being. There’s probably more to that, but that’s where I’m going to leave it.
In Section V, Smith talks about custom and fashion. Custom seems to be whenever we have seen two, or perhaps more, objects together, our imagination seems to get lazy and grow accustomed to seeing those things together. And when they are separated, we think that it’s strange or awkward. And Fashion is something that he attributes to people of nobility and the sort of things that they find fashionable or in vogue. Nevertheless, fashion is quote “different from custom, or rather is a particular species of it.” So the two are related.
But, apparently, custom and fashion do have an effect on moral sentiment. Although Smith would add that it’s influence isn’t quote “great”, he would state that when the two go hand in hand with the principles of right and wrong, they quote: “heighten the delicacy of our sentiments, and increase our abhorrence for everything which approaches to evil.” So, I’m gonna shoot for the stars here, and say that Smith might be talking some sociology here. Because he talks about those that were educated and accustomed to seeing things like justice, modesty, and humanity, and those who were raised in violence. So the values imposed by those two environments would produce two different results. And he would go on to state that “among civilized nations, the virtues which are founded upon humanity, are more cultivated than those which are founded upon self-denial and the command of the passions.” Which always makes me uncomfortable whenever I read something like that from that era, but there you have it.
I’m still writing through my phone. I would say I’m sorry but…I’m just not sorry. Ya know? It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen “Quills”, I was waiting until I finally had something to say about it. And now that I do…it’s simply not a good film. Even after thinking about it for awhile. This is one of those rare times where I went into watching a movie that I knew next to nothing about. I mean, I DID know that it was about Marquis De Sade. I remember when when it caught some buzz around awards season in 2000. But that was it. I didn’t even know (or it completely slipped my mind) that Philip Kaufman directed it. This should have been a film that I liked. It started off promising enough: a closeup of a woman’s face with some narration by De Sade. It appears as though she’s having a pleasurable experience, but the camera reveals that she’s actually about to be beheaded during the French Revolution. Not a bad way to start a film. But then it descends into standard 90s fare. I mean seriously….aesthetically…It felt a little too 90s…the music, the cinematography….which I wasn’t expecting. Maybe if the film was made in a far more cynical era, like after 2001, I might’ve actually enjoyed it. I know that’s not the movie’s fault, but the relatively safe method of filming that relished in the 90s didn’t mesh well with the some of the more shocking scenes. It wasn’t jarring, just some of the cutesy and shocking scenes cancelled each other out to create a bland film. I was also disappointed to find out it was based on a play. “So what?”, you might ask. You’re right, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal had the movie not FELT like watching a play. Again, this is personal taste and you have every right to judge me…but I’m not a fan of theater. “How dare you!”, I know I know. I’ve done theater, at one time I wanted to be an actor. But come to find out, I didn’t have the flair for dramatics. Yet there’s one thing that I don’t believe gets enough attention…and that is there’s a HUGE distinction between film acting and stage acting. I believe in the art of subtlety. In my view, what makes a film actor or actress great is how well they master that art. I suppose the same could be said about stage actors, but I believe that when they engage in subtlety…it’s not so subtle. And that’s fine. On stage, one has to be larger than life. On film, however, that has to be toned down, thus subtlety becomes far more important. In order to make a successful transition to film, theater actors MUST be a student of that art or else I will see right through their performance. On film, I don’t want to feel as though I’m watching actors ACT…I want to see them BEING. And unfortunately, in this film at least, Geoffery Rush acts like a stage actor gunning for an Oscar nod. Not for one minute did I believe him as Marquis De Sade. He WAS acting his ass off, but that was the problem. Rush’s performance stood in direct contrast to Michael Caine’s, a veteran of film acting. I believed HIS performance. But I was also underwhelmed by the story. At first I was excited to see it was about an incarcerated De Sade and his interactions with a priest, played by Joaquin Phoenix. I thought “oh, so is this going to be like De Sade’s work “Dialogue between a priest and a dying man” (which I covered in my defunct podcast…and you can read on this website)”. Unfortunately the story was essentially “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” with Marquis De Sade. Don’t get me wrong though…I LOVE “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”. It’s just that Jack Nicholson, Milos Foreman, and Ken Kesey did a much better job. However, to say something nice about “Quills”, the movie (and presumably the play as well) ended up flipping the moral of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s” story. The power struggle between Jack Nicholson and Nurse Ratchet ends with the nurse claiming victory…you can’t beat the system, it will only make you crazy. In Quills however, in the struggle with Michael Caine, De Sade claims victory despite it resulting in his death….under Caine’s guidance, the asylum starts printing De Sade’s work and the Priest goes mad. In “Cuckoo’s Nest”, the system infects Nicholson. In “Quills”, De Sade infects the system. From that perspective, I like the film a little bit better. But, had the movie been produced in another set of hands, I might’ve liked it. Is it a film worth re-visiting? Eh, I guess.
Once again, no computer. So this whole post will be just one big paragraph. Plus, I don’t know if this line of thinking will be coherent or correct at all. Nevertheless, this has been something that’s bugging….Nay…TORTURING me. It must be discussed. But there’s something that I’m missing. Something that other people know that I don’t. Perhaps the lesson we’ll learn here is that I AM the problem and not that other people are simply illogical. But where do we, as an electorate, currently stand on the old maxim “two wrongs don’t make a right.”? And have I been wrong in basing my liberal ideals on it? For example, this is why I oppose the death penalty. Or at least that’s one of the reasons. Murder is considered “wrong” and murdering the murderer (Murder+murder=two murders) equals two wrongs…one at the hands of a deranged person, and another in the hands of mob mentality masquerading as criminal justice. We don’t rape rapists, although there are some that do favor that form of punishment. Is there some form of logic that somehow makes murdering a murderer a “right” because “murder” and “murdering” cancel each other out? What am I missing? Isn’t this why we don’t rape rapists? Because rape is such a traumatic event that no one should endure…which is what makes it WRONG? Before I go any further, I should mention that I don’t necessarily think that there’s such a thing as an objective “right” and “wrong”. I suppose that we could sum up my views in a neo-kantian, post-modern method by stating that we possess a priori CONCEPTIONS of morals and ethics, but the CONTENTS of those conceptions change according to time, place, and other factors. And usually the formation of social mores and morals (because they’re contingent upon a human mind to form them, and are not “things in-themselves) are used to suppress others. THEREFORE, I take a fairly post-modern view regarding such matters. Which leads me to my current predicament…is the aforementioned maxim “two wrongs don’t make a right” JUST a CONTENT and not a CONCEPTION (which humans may or may not have access to “a priori”, I won’t go down that rabbit hole, but such a judgement can be objectively ascertained). If so, then does that mean the maxim is subject to go in and out of vogue as mass will dictates? “How is this a problem?”, you ask. Maybe it isn’t a problem. Maybe I’m just seeing shit where none exists. But in “For Your Eyes Only”, James Bond quotes a different form of this adage (paraphrasing): “when seeking vengeance, you must first dig TWO graves.” I believe he said it was a Chinese Proverb…don’t know if it’s true proverb, and I don’t care (I should also mention that Bond doesn’t follow his own advice) but there does seem to be ancient advice warning us of becoming what we HATE. And it’s strange. We hate those who hate us making us, in effect…haters. It’s a gift that keeps on giving…a merry go-round we can’t get off of. And seemingly, this hatred is justified by an intellectual-political elite class…the media, politicians, academics, etc. I don’t know if their views are shared by those that this class is trying to appeal towards, i.e. The electorate. In my observations, the nonsense they say often fails to reflect the reality on the ground. Nevertheless, the various parties…the media, the electorate, and the political parties…tend to tolerate each other on all sides, even though they likely dislike one another. The relationship between voters, the media they read, and the politicians they vote for are similar to the (former) relationship to the UCLA men’s basketball team and the Ball family. Steve Alford didn’t have to put up Levar Ball, probably didn’t like him, but did anyway because he wanted to WIN. And that’s similar to the current state of political discourse. Levar Ball is a good example of how we view our ideological opponents…all we see is the loudmouth spouting nonsense. What we DON’T see are those putting in the work, like Lonzo Ball who just wants to play basketball. His father’s theatrics greatly overshadows his triumphs and struggles, and his image falters because of it. Perhaps to a similar degree, dare I say, the (average) Trump voter suffers from a similar view. What we don’t see, or discuss, are the lowering wages and shrinking middle class (and how those issues were used to drive a wedge between voters). What we DO see are the loudmouths that spew nonsense. Therefore, we feel justified in our hatred of Trump voters or in our rooting AGAINST Lonzo Ball. So again, the adage might still ring true for many, it’s just the nature of political discourse provides the image that “hating is okay, as long as it’s against those that hate you FIRST!”….which is simply juvinile logic. But I read something recently that attacked Hitler’s eugenics and white supremacy by essentially saying that Neanderthals mixed in with European populations and not African populations (which explained why black people are seemingly more athletic than whites), therefore those of European descent are not fully “homo sapien”, therefore Hitler himself was not “pure”. I don’t know if that was the point the author was trying to make, don’t know if there was a point, but the author was clearly, like me, of the Leftist persuasion. It doesn’t matter if the facts were true, but the argument that contained the “facts” was asinine. Was Hitler wrong because eugenics and “racial purity” is morally and ethically deficient? Or was he wrong because he didn’t know that he HIMSELF was impure. That argument simply came across as saying “Hey Hitler! Your eugenics is stupid because mine’s better!”. Additionally, Arguing from facts ALONE might sound nice, but can be…and often is…misleading (I believe this is called, or a version of, “the inductive illusion”, correct me if I’m wrong though). Would have Hitler’s actions been permissible if he was of a different nationality or color and/or persecuted a group that wasn’t the Jews? In what condition would genocide or feelings of “racial purity” have been justified? If “two wrongs don’t make a right” is true, then can’t we say that Hitler’s actions would have been wrong under ANY condition? If you answered “Correct. Genocide and racism is wrong no matter who Hitler was”, then congratulations! You’re a sane person! But racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia in general, ageism, etc. as things IN-THEMSELVES have to be condemned. They can’t be condemned for one but permissible for another. Ever been called a racial slur? It’s DEF not okay to call them one. That’s not “correcting racism.” That’s just two people being RACIST. Having moral superiority hinges on, well…being morally superior! “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”…or else everybody’s wrong. It’s just a matter of which side you’re on….and on the cycle goes. Hope that made sense.
When questioned about his writing, GWF Hegel (supposedly) said: “when I wrote that, only God and me knew what I meant and now…only God knows.”
When people ask me, my response is: “I’ve been to rehab since I wrote that.”
Did I know what I was talking about in this episode? I don’t know. As I say at the end of this post: you be the judge.
Now this post is actually taken from TWO episodes of Life With Kant. During the first half of one, I was talking about the morals of Adam Smith. I think. But I took all of that out and I might post some of that later.
But again, I don’t know when I’ll be able to return to “full time” writing. But I’ll keep posting these until I can’t anymore. This is a pretty long post, so if you’re one of my two fans, this should keep you busy.
Per usual, I don’t edit or spellcheck. Enjoy!
Time to bring back our old buddy Immanuel Kant.
And since this is a podcast that has Kant’s name in it, I figured that it would be a good time to discuss Kantian Ethics. The work that I have today is Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, published in 1785, so it was between the first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason.
And it’s written in the typical Kantian way, so it’s hardly a joy to read, but let’s just jump right in. So if you will recall, Kant seems to think that the question “how is knowledge a priori possible?” is the central idea behind Metaphysics. And of course, a priori means independent of experience. So we’re now going to take that idea and place it in the field of morals. And as Kant says in the preface “For in the case of what is to be morally good, that it conforms to the moral law is not enough; it must also be done for the sake of the moral law.” So Kant wants to establish that morals must derive from our a priori understanding, or rationality, which is what he calls pure philosophy (or metaphysics). Now correct me if I’m wrong, because I have read A LOT of philosophy since reading the Critique, but I believe that knowledge a priori isn’t necessarily empirical, but it is universal, meaning that everyone possesses a rational sense understanding independent of experience. So our morals must come from the same place if they are to be universal.
So this is just classic Kantianism. I was originally dreading reading this, but reading a different work by Kant is like buying a new AC/DC album. It’s still good, but it all just sort sounds the same. ANYWAYS…Immediately in the first section, he brings up the idea of a good will. So all our other talents like intelligence, wit, judgement, etc, are fine and good, but they can be used in a perverted way if the will is…bad. And, it seems to me, Kant’s also saying that things like power and riches can make one arrogant and discontent without a good will, so therefore a good will is necessary for happiness in general. But he will add that having a will that is good is not SO because of the things it accomplishes, but because it’s good in-itself.
Now living things have to, in an immediate sense, tend to it’s own preservation and welfare, and reason doesn’t seem to help with any of that. In fact, it seems to me that Kant is saying that if nature had it her way, that she would have entrusted instinct alone to achieve those ends and means. Plus he would say that the more a quote “cultivated reason devotes itself to the aim of enjoying life and happiness, the further does man get away from true contentment.” So it appears that quote “the idea that existence has another and much more worthy purpose, for which, and not for happiness, reason is quite properly intended.” So we must live for more than just happiness, we are to use reason to help us achieve a good will, even though reason is not competent enough to guide the will safely as regards its objects and the satisfaction of all our needs, Kant’s words not mine, but he would go on to say “its true function must be to produce a will which is not merely good as a means to some further end, but is good in itself.” So it’s one thing to do something good, it’s another thing to have good intentions behind your actions.
So then Kant brings up duty, which he goes into some detail, but basically it all comes down to intentionality. Even if an action produces a good outcome for everyone involved, it wasn’t dutiful if the intention behind it was self-serving. But there’s an interesting part here that sort of echoes Adam Smith. Kant believes that to be beneficent when one can is dutiful, and there are those that try to bring joy to those around them because they are oriented that way, but there is no moral worth to those actions. Because he would say “It is on a level with such actions as arise from other inclinations. e.g., the inclination for honor, which if fortunately directed to what is in fact beneficial and accords with duty and is thus honorable, deserves praise and encouragement, but not esteem; for its maxim lacks the moral content of an action done not from inclination but from duty.” So you must be beneficent not because of its inclination towards honor or any sort of self-glory, but because it’s your duty to do so. Right? I mean it gets a little choppy here for me.
So this sort of ties into Kant’s second facet to his notion of duty, but in order for an action to qualify as moral, it must be done because that’s how duty deems it to be. An ulterior result cannot be desired. And the last proposition is quote :”Duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law.” And later he would say “the preeminent good which is called moral can consist in nothing but the representation of the law itself.” So acting in accordance with the law presupposes whatever effect might occur from an action, if it is to be considered dutiful. Make sense?
Now Kant concerns himself with making moral actions universal. And if the principle doesn’t make sense for all then it must be rejected. So don’t make promises you can’t keep, because if you lie, and if lying becomes a universal law, it would destroy itself because all promises made by all people would not be kept. So act in accordance to how you think universal law should be kept. And that introduces Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
I have a mostly religious-based education. Not that I’m all that religious myself, a good number of people that were brought up in that find themselves holding very different views later on in life. But I do have a sizeable knowledge on theology and a number of other things in a certain faith. But the one thing that we all know, no matter what kind of beliefs you were raised in, is the Golden Rule. You know: “Do unto others as you would want done to you.”
Almost every religion has their own version of that rule. It’s based on this assumption that you like to be treated well, and if you like to be treated well, you should treat others the same way, and you will get that same respect paid towards you if you do so. It’s a pretty basic ethical idea, but it quickly falls apart when try to sit down and think about it. Just taking a long hard look at humanity will cause you to see all the holes in the Golden Rule.
When I was being taught this idea in Sunday School, I always wondered if there was someone out there that liked being treated like a slave. You know, like some sort of sadist or something. So if they liked being treated like a slave, then would that make it okay for them to treat everyone else like a slave? Additionally, let’s say that someone did you harm. They did something so bad that they clearly deserved punishment or some sort of recourse for their action. Now, clearly that person would not want any sort admonishment from you, and you wouldn’t want to be scolded for committing the same action, but yet punishment is warranted. So therefore, that person should not be punished, at least according to the Golden Rule. So as nice as it sounds, this is a very limited ethical concept, and definitely one that can’t be considered universal. And this is where Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative comes in. And what Kant is trying to do here is take the individual perceptions out of the equation in order to make ethics universal. So therefore individuals must not do good because they want to be good people, or have good things happen to them, but because it is a universality. So in any given situation, there’s an absolutely proper ethical way of handling it. As we’ve discussed in the last episode, Kant defined the Categorical Imperative as “act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” And he discusses this first in his work, The Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. So in Section II, Kant begins to expand on the idea of moral duty. And he seems to admit that it might be difficult to find examples of moral actions that were not in some part at least influenced by self-love. So we can see that our actions are moral, but we cannot see the intentions behind them. And that would lead Kant to say “most of our actions are in accordance with duty; but if we look more closely at our planning and striving, we everywhere come upon the dear self, which is always turning up, and upon which the intent of our actions is based rather than upon the strict command of duty (which would often require self-denial).” So if we really analyze our actions, we can easily determine that they are in service of our selves and not towards moral duty because moral duty would require us to deny our self-serving tendencies.Therefore, we can’t draw upon the action itself to determine its moral worth. We can’t use experience to determine moral law. And Kant is going to use his all too predictable path of using a priori knowledge as the basis for moral law. So this argument is going to more or less start off with him asking the question: “But whence have we the concept of God as the highest good?” And he answers the question by saying “Solely from the idea of moral perfection, which reason frames a priori and connects inseparably with the concept of free will.” So he brings up Free Will. But Kant wants to hammer home that moral concepts must find their origin in a priori reasoning, and not as he would later say “be abstracted from any empirical, and hence merely contingent, cognition.”
So Kant would say that everything in nature works according to laws. And rational beings have the power to act according to these laws, and so therefore rational beings have free will. Because the will has the power to choose between imperatives that are good or self-serving. And Kant divides these imperatives into hypothetical and categorical. He would define hypothetical imperatives as being, quote: “the practical necessity of a possible action as a means for attaining something else that one wants (or may possibly want).” So it’s something that you want for an immediate self-serving end and by the way, this includes your own happiness. And a categorical imperative is defined as “one which represented an action as objectively necessary in itself, without reference to another end.” So a categorical imperative is something that is good in-itself.
Now with this imperative, Kant isn’t so much concerned with the consequences or the intended result. So he would say that “what is essentially good in the action consists in the mental disposition, let the consequences be what they may.” So, I guess, even if the effects of an action aren’t good, the action can still be considered moral if it is committed by an act of duty, which are bound by the moral laws.
However, Kant speaks about actions that might be seemingly categorical, but are actually covertly hypothetical. The example he gives here is giving false promises. If you don’t provide a false promise because you fear the consequences, then it’s your own well-being that you’re concerned with, and not because you are concerned with the universal good of being truthful.
So Kant would suggest that we have to quote “investigate the possibility of a categorical imperative entirely a priori”. But when Kant thinks of a hypothetical imperative he does not know beforehand what it will contain until it’s condition is given, But he can know immediately what the categorical imperative is because it always means the same thing: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that It should become a universal law. Which is what we covered earlier.
And so Kant discusses some duties that we have to ourselves and others. And they are pretty obvious ones like don’t kill yourself because if you take that action and apply it to everyone than everyone would be dead. Or don’t borrow money if you can’t pay it back. Always develop your talents because everyone benefits. And, of course, when you see others struggle with hardships, it’s your duty to help them because if everyone ignored everyone who was in a sort of trouble, then we would all suffer.
However, Kant isn’t quite content with this explanation so far. He states that “we have not yet advanced far enough to prove a priori that there actually is an imperative of this kind, that there is a practical law which of itself commands absolutely and without any incentives, and that following this law is duty.” And here, Kant sort of rings the same bells that he’s been ringing the whole time, by saying that we can’t rely on human nature or anything empirical, but all moral laws and our duty to it must be found a priori. So therefore he asks the question: is it a necessary law for all rational beings always to judge their actions according to such maxims as they can themselves will that such should be universal laws? He says that if there is a law then it must be connected with the concept of the will of a rational being in general.
Now Kant looks into metaphysics. He goes on to say that the will is a faculty that can only be found in rational beings. Then he brings up ends and means and would ultimately say that “man, and in general every rational being, exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will”. And therefore people should treat themselves and others as ends and not as means to an end. Kant would then say that attempts to describe principles of morality before his, failed because people are only bound to their own will. However, the will can be enacted to legislate universal laws. So we both legislate laws and are beholden to them.
Then Kant becomes somewhat utopian by saying quote: “For all rational beings stand under the law that each of them should treat himself and all others never merely as means but always at the same time as an end in himself. Hereby arises a systematic union of rational beings through common objective laws, i.e. kingdom that may be called a kingdom of ends, inasmuch as these laws have in view the very relation of such beings to one another as ends and means.” End quote. So a kingdom of ends where everybody enacts laws that treat everyone as both ends and means.
And in this Kingdom of Ends, everything has a price or a dignity. He would say that whatever has a price can be replaced by something else, but whatever is above price, therefore has a dignity. So things like skill and diligence have a market price, and imagination and humor have an affective price, but humanity and morality are above price, and they alone have dignity.
Then Kant adds that there are three ways of representing the principle of morality. One is what we have already mentioned: maxims must be so chosen as if they were to hold as universal laws of nature. The second is treat all humans as ends to themselves. And the third is, as Kant says: “a complete determination of all maxims by the formula that all maxims proceeding from his own legislation ought to harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends as a kingdom of nature.”
And therefore Kant finds himself going full circle by ending where he began by describing the concept of an unconditionally good will. So that the will can remain free by choosing to fulfill its duty to the universal law of morality and not by simply giving into traditional external temptations, that makes us more than just animals.
But after reading all of this, it’s easy for me to see how the Storm and Stress writers became frustrated with Kant, as he seems to be denying a human’s natural tendency towards self-interest. He seems to think that rationality is the answer to all of people’s problems. And perhaps he’s right, but there definitely seems to be a lack of humanness in Kant’s writing even though he’s trying to bring humanity together by using a systematic code of morality. But you be the judge.
August 1975- Burbank, California
George acted like an idiot again. But he must have known that he was a dead man walking. His opening monologue consisted of him doing pelvic thrusts from one end of the stage to another. I was too embarrassed to watch.
This was a show that needed to be put out of its misery.
“She wasn’t the prettiest girl, she only caught my attention because she wasn’t wearing BLANK”, George asked the contestants.
“Harrold got fired from Burger King because he took a BLANK in the lettuce.” He asked again
There was no point in having contestants. But I undid my tie and answered “panties” and “tinkle”. Other than Walker’s Wishes, this was the easiest money I’ve ever made.
I tried to be chummy with Dana after the taping. I’ve worked with the man for nearly 10 years. I was hoping he wouldn’t be such a son of a bitch.
“Phil, I love ya buddy. But if this is it for George, I’ll be moving on at the end of the season.” Dana told me. He probably heard the rumors from Luke that I would be taking over. But the joke was on him.
“Thankfully this will be the last season Dana.”
As planned, came Sunday, Luke showed up to my place in the Hills. He brought Jerry with him. I had the pool set up, had a few lady-friends over. I didn’t invite them, they just sort of show up. The red-headed sweetie, or maybe she had light-brown hair, brings me a drink.
“Woah Phil! Is this your lady?” Luke asks.
“She’s my maid.”
Luke told me that Jerry was a great guy. Yet he seemed distracted throughout much of the meeting. Not by the girls however. He just stared off into space.
Meanwhile, Luke and me agreed that we needed to do something about the contestants in Guess My Line. Then we asked for Jerry’s opinion.
“Just cancel the show.” He said. “You’re doing fine with Family Showdown.”
This quietly upset Luke. After a long pause of silence, he got up and started talking to one of the girls. I down my whisky.
“Can I talk to you inside?” Jerry asks me.
We go to my office. I start cleaning off a seat for Jerry, but he seemed taken with my awards, photographs from my stage days, celebrities, and more importantly…my Oscar.
“What’s on your mind Jerry?”, I ask. He paces around the office.
“I went to USC film school…..Do you know how hard it is for a black man to get into USC film school?”
“Well I can’t imagine it was easy for you.”
“Of course you can’t. Then I got a Stanford MBA. Do you know why?”
“The money. I fought all the way to the top of ABC. Not to be in charge of television, not to tell stories. But to determine what game shows should be on the air, and what should not be on the air.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad to me Jerry, is there something I can get for you?”
He gazes at my Oscar….setting proudly on the top shelf, overlooking the entire room.
“Is this what you want to be doing?” he asks.
“Talking to you? My door’s always open to you Jerry, whenever you want to talk.”
“Hosting GAME SHOWS, Phil?”. Jerry looks over at me intently, expecting some sort of answer.
“I can see where you’re going with this.” I say. “But look around you. You folks at ABC have been good to me. I have a nice place in the Hills. I have friends. And I am very much happy. So yes, this is what I want to be doing.”
“Fine.” Jerry says. He sits down in the chair in front of my desk. “But I think we could make you happier.”
“Talk shows. They’re far more lucrative than game show hosting. Think about it, a late night show…you might have to put in more hours, but it would allow you to be more ADULT with your humor rather than this childish stuff you’ve been doing.”
“More hours? I don’t know…”
“We could triple your paycheck.”
I give a long pause.
“I appreciate this, but I have a contract with Luke. We’ve been friends for a long time, we’ve built these shows together. There’s no way I could bail on him like that.”
“I understand. But please think it over.” Jerry stands up and once again looks at the Oscar. “And one more thing….don’t think I haven’t been hearing the rumors about you and Harlan Wilkerson.”
“They’re just rumors.” I say.
“Well, if they are true, let me just say….we’re happy to have your talent at ABC. If you need anything, come talk to me.”
Jerry exits the room. I pour another whiskey. Soon after, I join Luke by the pool. He seemed somewhat concerned about the meeting I had with Jerry.
“What was that about?” he asks.
“He was concerned about the rumors regarding the Wilkerson film.” I say, “Don’t worry though, I assured him that they were only rumors.”
“Thank god. Can you believe that guy? Wanting to cancel Guess My Line? What an asshole.”
“Now Luke, I get how you feel. But perhaps this is something you should consider. You’re stretched thin enough as it is between the two shows. Just cancel one and focus all of your energies on the other. I think you’d be much happier.”
“I’d cancel Family Showdown before I’d do away with Guess My Line.”
“Don’t be stupid! You know how the business works. Surely you knew this thing couldn’t go on forever. If you feel this strongly about it, then fine! Call Charlie tomorrow, work out a meeting, and we’ll see how I can take over for George. But I’m telling you right now, just let the show go!”
Luke nodded his head in agreement. We shared a few more drinks, had our steaks, and he was on his way.
Evening was setting in. As I was cleaning up the back porch, redheaded (or light-brown headed) sweetie informed me that I had a visitor. I walked up to the front door, and lo and behold…it was George.
“Hey buddy! Come inside!”, I tell him.
“Fuck you Phil, I’m not coming into your pit. You didn’t think I would find out, did you? You and Luke thought you could hide this from me until the end of the season?!”
“The hell are you talking about George?”
“You’re taking over my show, aren’t you?”
“Where did you hear this? We’ve been friends for far to long, I could never replace you!”
“I should kick the shit out of you. I fought in Patton’s Army you bastard! Don’t try to sell me that shit! Since your shitshow has aired, my ratings have been slipping. I’m not dumb.”
“I DON’T WANT YOUR SHOW GEORGE! If anything, your show is going to get CANCELLED! You hear me?! CANCELLED! Your Titanic is sinking, and I will be jumping ship like everyone else!”
“You really think that? You believe Luke is your friend? Okay, Phil. You’ve always been a stupid, PRETTY BOY, son of a bitch. Good luck to you.”
There’s been accusations that I’ve been phoning it in the last couple weeks.
And I have been.
That’s all I’ve got to say about that.
It’s hectic times. Too much to do, and little time to do it. Perhaps I’ll be able to resume “full-time” writing next week. Yet we’ll see. I’m fully devoted to completing Phil Whistle before I’ll resume philosophy. BUT, this is a philosophy blog…SO…here’s some philosophy.
As a reminder, I don’t edit or spellcheck. Perhaps I’ll explain my philosophy of writing in the future. But don’t hold your breath.
Free Will…we love it, we want it, we’ve got it. Perhaps everyone is not convinced, but I say screw em, because that’s not how I’m going to live my life. Of course, we intuitively think, or have knowledge a priori, to use a cliché, that all events in this world are a matter of cause and effect. And that every cause must necessarily have a specific effect, then that throws the whole notion of free will into question. I don’t know, I tend to think that, as individuals we are able to see, or predict certain outcomes, and so are able to exert power to ensure those outcomes. And so, we are not just wind up toys, as I explained in the last episode, that are just objects that are propelled forward in time, and just react as dictated by whatever force is being exerted upon us. While, I guess, we are reacting to the outside world as independent from our minds, we are able to see outcomes very loosely and that’s how we proceed with our actions, because we have a preference for one outcome over the other. And Not necessarily because, we only see one natural course of action, and so therefore we take it. More importantly, we are also able to assess our powers, and determine what sort of outcomes we wish to generate. So we can more or less act spontaneously in time and space, to create outcomes that might not have been foreseen by other individuals, or by whatever else might have occurred through natural progression. Therefore we are not just individuals that act out of passion in response to natural stimuli, but are actually able to enact and generate outcomes that are in accordance with our own will, so therefore we are moral and rational beings.
Am I making any sense? I felt like I just sort of rambled there.
It’s been a long week. But anyways….I bring up Thomas Reid and his work the Essays on the Active Powers of Man. And I guess he’s more or less classified as a libertarian, even though I’m not sure that he called himself that. But before you get too excited, because I know that libertarianism has quite a following on the internet, I’m only concerned with the metaphysical aspects of it, rather than what we commonly think of it nowadays.
So I discussed in the last episode, that Reid defines the will as “a conscious power to determine”. And then defines volition as “the act of willing and determination”. Now there has to be an object of volition. So this sounds like to me that he is very much an empiricist because we need to have a connection to the physical world before we can have any sort of drives of our own. This could be opposed to, let’s say a Kantian view, where we can have certain drives of our own, and we don’t need experience to determine our drives. But that argument evolves later. For right now, Reid wants to make it clear that our will must be based on some sort of object by stating that “as man cannot think without thinking of something, nor remember without remember something, for neither can he will without willing something.” And as I said in the last episode that Reid wants to distinguish between things that are done voluntarily and things done through instinct.
He also wants to divide the will into two actions of the mind, which are desire and command. It seems that desire are the basic things in life, like the need to eat, drink, raise children, etc. However, we do have a degree of control over those desires, so Reid would go on to say that “Desire therefore, even when its object is some action of our own, is only an incitement to will, but it is not volition.” So we can choose whether or not to indulge in those desires, but those are urges that are derived from some outside force, and are therefore things that we feel obligated to fulfill, for failure to do them could have severe consequences like thirst, hunger, dead children, etc.. therefore volition is not involved. So, desire only incites the will.
Now Reid seems to take an strange turn here because I wasn’t expecting him to define command in this way, but he says that “the object of a command is some action of another person, over whom we claim authority; the object of desire may be no action at all.” But he also says that the immediate object of will is some action of our own. So the immediate result of our will is to take action ourselves, of which desire can be a motive, but then command becomes the effect of it, as Reid describes. But he doesn’t want us to think that command itself is just desire expressed through language, but it is, as he says, a social act of the mind…. Because you can communicate it to other intelligent beings. So therefore, Reid would say, “Desire and will are solitary acts, which do not imply any such communication or belief.” End quote. Those things exist without reliance on others.He would go on to say that volition must be something which we believe we have the power to achieve. So even if we desire to do something, like visit outer space, we know that that is out of our power and so therefore we cease to will it. But when we will to do something immediately, our volition takes action. This is called effort, and when we provide effort, then we are conscious of the action.
But what about instinct? You know, life seems to go by so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to be conscious of every action. So therefore instinct and habit are done without the exercise of judgement or will according to Reid. So passions come into play here, and those are the natural desires that we have, and sometimes those are fulfilled without respect to judgement. Often, when we fulfill our passions, violent consequences can follow if we are not careful. In order to prevent our passions from taking over, we must utilize reason, which it appears is done in a calm and dispassionate manner.
So then Reid concerns himself with the voluntary nature of our actions. Virtue now becomes of primary importance. Now virtue here involves acting in accordance to the rules of justice, when there is an opportunity, according to Reid. And so in order to be moral, or have a disposition to be moral, one must possess some virtues.
But ultimately, Reid would say that we are conscious of our voluntary actions because no man can, quote “deliberately attempt what he does not believe to be in his power”. So, I guess through my interpretation, with things you do through instinct, those are things that you do as dictated from nature, as where with things that you do through reason, those are things that you believe that you have the power to control. Even if a crazy person wishes to do something, well, crazy, they must first believe that they have the power to do that action even if it is outside the realm of reason.
Therefore you must believe that you have the power to create some sort of effect with your action. That’s exerting your will. And for brevity’s sake, since there’s a lot to cover here, basically we have the liberty to execute our powers in a moral way. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but don’t take my word for granted, because I could very well be wrong, but with my summary here, you are not necessarily obligated to fulfill your moral duties, it is a choice. But you are aware of your moral obligations. Therefore a person of moral worth will voluntarily fulfill their moral obligations because we are aware of them. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m all over the place here. But, you know, you are conscious of your own power.
As I said earlier, we are not some unconscious object that are propelled forward in time and only react to whatever force is being exerted upon us. But we do know what sort of powers are in our control, although we cannot accurately predict certain outcomes, we can ADEQUATELY predict them, and so we are able to adjust our powers accordingly. Therefore we do exercise control over our will, even if we are not fully conscious of all our immediate actions due to instinct.