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Kierkegaard [was Re: A Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Problem]

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  • Shlomi Fish
    ... There s a difference between setting goals and defining rules. For example, one of my current goals has been to work on my HTML Navigation Menu module, up
    Message 1 of 17 , Dec 16, 2004
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      > > > The Existancialist philosophers talked a lot about this,
      > > > Sartre talked about the "Nausea" that too much freedom means, and
      > > > perhaps Kirkegaard put it most elequently, when he explained how, when
      > > > you define rules for yourself and follow them,
      > >
      > > _You_ define rules for yourself. Not _others_ define rules for you. You
      > > should not consume drugs. You should pay Income Tax. You should serve in
      > > the army. You may not bear arms. Etc.
      >
      > No, your emphasis on "*you* define rules for yourself" is not shared by
      > Kierkegaard. He is actually a more complex philosopher than I portrayed him
      > in my previous message. Maybe I was unfair to him. Let me explain.
      >
      > Kierkegaard thought that when you define rules and follow them you're at
      > a "higher level" than a person who just does whatever he wants at each
      > minute. This is because you are free to set goals to yourself, and follow
      > them through to the successful ending, rather than just doing short-term
      > stuff that in the long term doesn't get you where you really want.

      There's a difference between setting goals and defining rules. For example,
      one of my current goals has been to work on my HTML Navigation Menu module,
      up to a point where it would be usable by others. And indeed I have invested
      a lot of time on it. But it wasn't a "rule". I did not say to myself: "I have
      to work at least 1/2/3/4... hours a day the nav-menu module". For example,
      yesterday I spent a lot of time helping my sister with one of her Technion's
      computer exercises. (while I was in Tel-Aviv and she was in the Technion). As
      a result, I was unable to do other things, including working on the nav-menu
      module.

      I think it is a good idea for a person to set goals for himself. However, you
      don't really need well-defined "rules" to follow these goals. Did Kierkegaard
      talk about rules or about goals?

      > This
      > idea has been often mention by others, including the old "grasshopper and
      > the ant" parable (the grasshopper enjoys himself, but then has no food for
      > winter) and


      > pinochio (the children are free to do what they want in the
      > short term, but in the long term become donkeys).
      >

      I don't know how the Pinocchio story of the children there, can be inferred as
      a proof to what Kierkegaard said. It's just a story.

      > But Kieregaard thinks there are even higher levels of human existance.
      > [note: I'm writing this from memory, so maybe I'm not 100% accurate, please
      > forgive me if I'm not]
      > The next level is not just making up your own rules, but rather accepting
      > a set of rules accepted by your society. This idea agrees with many
      > previous thinkers, such as Kant's Categorical Imperative, or our very own
      > "Al Ta`ase lechavercha ma she-sanu alecha".

      I don't see how "You shouldn't do to your friend, what you
      dislike" (translating of the Hebrew original), has to do with accepting the
      set of rules accepted by society. In fact it's the opposite. If I dislike
      that people do something to me, then I should have enough integrity not to do
      it for others as well. It has nothing to do with accepting rules set by
      society.

      > You can think about it in
      > practical terms this way: if you go against your society's values, you can
      > be satisfied for the short term,

      "values" or "rules". There's a huge difference between these two terms. Make
      up your mind.

      > but you will not be able to achieve any of
      > your longer term goals or long term wellbeing.

      Why not? Some of the greatest advancements in history happened due to
      individuals going against the rules of society. As a result, the acceptable
      rules by society changed, often for the better.

      > Not going to the army might
      > be a choice you want to make, but if it goes against the values of your
      > society this could cause your becoming an outcast, or (if everyone does
      > what you did) the breakdown of your society; In either case you will not be
      > able to achieve what you want to achieve in life.

      I see. Should I fear becoming an outcast? Galileo was possibly an outcast
      because he broke the rules of society. Yet, he was one of the greatest, most
      influential men in human history. Was he doing the wrong thing according to
      Kierkegaard?

      Now there are two options regarding army service:

      1. The society _forces_ everyone to go to army, regardless if they want to or
      not.

      2. The society has a voluntary army service, but there's a general consensus
      that people should serve in the army, and as a result, a large percentage of
      the individuals serve in the army.

      Now if #1 holds, then I would be breaking the law by not going to the army. I
      may get imprisoned or worse. Furthermore, the society is doing something
      which is damn right objectively harmful by forcing people to serve in the
      army against their will. Fighting to change that (regardless if you serve in
      the army or not) is something every member of the society should do.

      If #2 holds, then perhaps Kierkegaard has a point. If I have a good enough
      reason not to serve in the army, (like am afraid of blood and gore), then I
      may have a justifiable reason to avoid it.

      Now, what kind of society-based rules does Kierkegaard approve of accepting?

      Does he approve of accepting:

      1. Moral Rules - things that prevent the initiation of force, threat of force,
      or fraud against a different individual or his property. Very well, I agree
      with Kierkegaard that you should accept such rules. (You should generally do
      your best not to do anything immoral, regardless of what your society has to
      say about it.)

      2. Amoral Rules - Should I not drive on Saturday? Or eat milk along with meat?
      Or not wear pants if I'm female? In a religious Jewish society these are part
      of the social rules. Yet, they are amoral - one isn't harmed by practicing
      them, but he doesn't benefit from practicing them, either.

      How will accepting such rules benefit me as an individual?

      3. Rules that are Harmful to Oneself - in some countries in Europe it is
      commonly accepted for people to hang in pubs and consume large quantities of
      Alcoholic Beverages. Let's assume for the moment that consuming Alcohol (at
      least in such quantities) is indeed harmful to oneself, as far as his health
      is concerned. If I choose to not follow this rule, and preserve my health,
      why am I not doing the right thing?

      4. Rules that are Harmful to Others - many times in History, several countries
      or societies set out rules or norms that involved physical harm, theft,
      verbal "violence", or otherwise against certain members. Let's take for
      example the Israeli War of Lebanon. It was positively harmful to many
      individuals (both Israeli and Lebanese), and did not do any good. Yet, it was
      the society norm at the time for young men of 18 at the time, to join the
      army, and serve in Lebanon, actively causing or helping cause the harm.

      People who refused to serve in Lebanon were considered as "Mishtamtim", and
      refusing to serve there could lead you to jail. But I digress.

      Does Kierkegaard support following society's rules if they contradict
      Objective Ethics and inflict force, coercion or fraud against other
      individuals or their property?

      ---------------

      My view of all of this is a simple. A person should strive to perform only
      moral and amoral actions. (where amoral actions are better reduced to a
      minimum). A moral action is such that "helps fullfill human biological needs"
      and immoral actions (that should be avoided) "deprive people of their
      biological needs".

      A person is acting morally if he does that, regardless of what society's norms
      dictate in that matter. A person can set moral goals to himself and try to
      follow them if he wishes his efforts to amount to something substantial.

      Note that sometimes the conventions of societies have to be followed. Walking
      around naked is not immoral[1], but on the other hand, will be frowned upon
      by the people around you, and make them uncomfortable, so it probably should
      be avoided.

      Accepting arbitrary rules (and I don't mean "goals", there's a huge difference
      between goals and rules), whether of society or self-imposed, is not
      something I can agree to. Cognitive Psychology has demonstrated that "should
      statements." ("I should do X", "I must not do Y", etc.) are harmful to one's
      self-esteem, and may actually cause depressions or anxieties. This is just
      one reason you should avoid imposing such arbitrary rules on yourself.

      >
      > Kierkegaard, being a *religious* philosopher, continued with another,
      > higher level of human existance: the *religious* person, who accepts a god
      > and the devine set of rules that come with that god, and follows these
      > rules. Obviously, this idea is much more controversial than his other
      > ideas, and personally I dispute it.

      Perhaps it can be understood as accepting such rules of Objective Ethics,
      Science, or Objective Fact. I.e: something that can be deduced from Logic and
      from a small indisputable facts about our existence.

      >
      > Maybe one day you should find the time to read more philosophy books than
      > just Ayan Rand's.

      To keep the record straight, I have read Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and
      "Atlas Shrugged", which, while reflecting her philosophy and containing some
      purely-philosophical portions, are not part of her philosophical books (as
      are "To the New Intellectual", "The Virtue of Selfishness", "The New
      Romanticist", etc.). My introduction to Objectivist Philosophy came from a
      different book called "The Neo-Tech Cosmic Power", which I have almost fully
      read. Neo-Tech is derived from Objectivism, but has made some extensions and
      re-organizations of it.

      > There are many more great ideas and thinkers out there.

      Possibly. However, as intelligent these thinkers are some of them have
      deliberately defaulted on the logical process, and presented or mis-deduced
      claims that are simply false, misleading, and often harmful. If I have two
      claims - one of them A and the other not-A, then one of them must be false. A
      lot of the claims made by different philosophers contradict each other, so
      obviously some of them must be false.

      I heard many of the claims made by Kant, and I could prove all of them (or at
      least all but one) to be wrong, using more basic facts. I, with my limited
      philosophical tools! And yet many people seem to accept his claims as valid.
      Now if his conclusions are wrong, then obviously his deduction is wrong.
      Reading what he wrote may be a useful exercise, but I will keep looking for
      the places where he abuses logic and the human language, in order to "prove"
      his false conclusions.

      You seem to have been impressed with Kierkegaard, yet as I have shown now, his
      philosophy leaves a lot to be desired. I may have misunderstood what you
      wrote, or you may have mis-represented Kierkegaard. (you seem to have
      confused "goals", "rules" and "values", for once.)

      > I think you'll be especially interested in Existentialism, which talk about
      > individualism and individual freedoms. Existentialist philosophers often
      > tried to explore the *consequences* of freedom, rather than just the need
      > for freedom (which most modern thinkers take for granted).

      If we agree that there's a need for freedom, what difference do its
      consequences make?

      Regards,

      Shlomi Fish

      [1] - Unless it's cold outside. ;-)

      --

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------
      Shlomi Fish shlomif@...
      Homepage: http://www.shlomifish.org/

      Knuth is not God! It took him two days to build the Roman Empire.
    • Nadav Har'El
      ... The difference is not as great as you might think. The goal I want to move the boat to the coast, over there on the east is not that different than a
      Message 2 of 17 , Dec 16, 2004
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        On Thu, Dec 16, 2004, Shlomi Fish wrote about "Kierkegaard [was Re: A Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Problem]":
        > There's a difference between setting goals and defining rules. For example,

        The difference is not as great as you might think.

        The goal "I want to move the boat to the coast, over there on the east"
        is not that different than a rule "I should row eastward without stopping".
        Some people have both the goal and rule in mind, and some people just do
        one and after some time forget the other. Moreover, you can't achieve the
        "goal" without following the "rule" (or another equivalent rule). If you
        forget that it's important that you row eastward all the time, you may not
        achieve the goal.

        For example, why am I a Mathematician, or a scientist? Was it a "goal" I
        set to myself ("I want to be a Mathematician, so I need to go to study in
        the Technion"), or more basic rules of life that I developed to myself,
        causing me to prefer logical explanations and find beauty in science, and
        that in turn caused me to choose my profession over other professions?

        Do people that become Rabbis or priests or whatever choose that as a goal,
        or does it happen naturally by their enthusiam with following God's rules
        and wanting to share them with others?

        > I think it is a good idea for a person to set goals for himself. However, you
        > don't really need well-defined "rules" to follow these goals. Did Kierkegaard
        > talk about rules or about goals?

        Since I am not a Kierkegaard scholar, I think I better stop representing him
        here. There are plenty of other philosophers, with different opinions on these
        issues. None of these philosophers were idiots like you seem to think they
        were. Because philosophy is not a science, they may actually say contradicting
        things without any of them being "wrong" and the other "right".

        > I don't know how the Pinocchio story of the children there, can be inferred as
        > a proof to what Kierkegaard said. It's just a story.

        A story is not a proof. It's a way to think about a certain issue, one which
        you may not have thought about. Colodi (spelling?) didn't write a random
        story, he wrote a story about the values he believed in, and tried to instill
        those values in his generation's children. Maybe there's still something to
        be learned from his story.

        > Why not? Some of the greatest advancements in history happened due to
        > individuals going against the rules of society. As a result, the acceptable
        > rules by society changed, often for the better.

        Yes, but the person himself suffered (e.g., Galileo). Existentialists talk
        about an individual's existance, not about progress of society as a whole.
        So do you, by the way.

        > > I think you'll be especially interested in Existentialism, which talk about
        > > individualism and individual freedoms. Existentialist philosophers often
        > > tried to explore the *consequences* of freedom, rather than just the need
        > > for freedom (which most modern thinkers take for granted).
        >
        > If we agree that there's a need for freedom, what difference do its
        > consequences make?

        Oh, it's very important! Here a quote from something I wrote last year
        on linux-il (yes, MosheZ, I know that quoting myself doesn't make it right!)

        A common misconception is that freedom requires absolute freedom, with no
        concequences to your choices. This is wrong.
        Freedom always comes with responsibility, to use your freedom properly.
        The fact that you have freedom of speech does not mean that shouting at
        people on the street (or spamming on the net) is nice. The fact that you
        are free to program does not mean that writing computer viruses is good.
        The fact that we have a free market does not make abusing your employees
        a commendable action. The fact that your are free to use your youth to tan
        on the beach instead of studying, doesn't make that a wise move. The
        fact that smoking is perfectly legal doesn't make you live longer if you
        chose to pick up that habit.


        --
        Nadav Har'El | Thursday, Dec 16 2004, 5 Tevet 5765
        nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
        Phone +972-523-790466, ICQ 13349191 |It's fortunate I have bad luck - without
        http://nadav.harel.org.il |it I would have no luck at all!
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