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Re: [stoics] A response to Steve: Right reason is not just one thing; and how chesed is primary (for some of us)

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  • Steve Marquis
    Jan writes: __________   It seems to me that what we call reason is actually a collection of skills having to do with concepts and their connections and the
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 1, 2009
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      Jan writes:



      It seems to me that what we call reason is actually a collection of skills having to do with concepts and their connections and the mental movement between concepts as well as between concepts and action (throw in feelings too). 

      . . .


      So, without leaving classical Greek philosophy at all, without bringing in any of the discoveries of cognitive science over the last 50 years, we find the elements of a case that reason is not just one thing.



      Several responses:


      a)       I’ve always thought classic Greek rationality to include more than our modern articulate thought; intuition for example.

      b)       We might be confusing a logical description of reason with a biological one.  Physical functions can happen all over the brain that in the end perform the single function we describe logically as choice and articulate thought.

      c)       Impulse to belief and impulse to action is how I separate concept from action, but both follow the same general chain of events (this is a logical description of psychology).


      I don’t see how this affects Stoic theory significantly.  For me reason is essentially the ability of a self aware agency to discern the static enduring patterns in reality and make practical use of that information.  I don’t see the point of your appeal to complexity.  I’ve mentioned this before in the context of selecting the most efficient explanation to fit the data.  We don’t need quantum mechanics to understand basic chemistry for example.





      Now, as for the primacy of chesed over "reason," this is meaningful because chesed corresponds to one of the two main more or less natural (i.e., pre-philosophical) conceptual schemes for approaching moral and political choice. By now, you know I am talking about what Lakoff calls the Nurturant Parent and the Strict Father family moral models.



      This is where I think you go astray ;).  You are over committed to one method of response concerning other moral agents; namely via NP (I think NM, ‘nurturing mother’ is better since Lakoff probably got these terms form the traditional stereotypical family roles).  Internalizing one way of responding looses your flexibility.  This is a criticism I have of Grant and perhaps Keith as well BTW.  If we internalize role duty rules to such an extent that we again have more or less habitual modes of response primarily I think we have put our active discriminating powers to sleep.  This is the very thing we practice something like Stoicism to correct the other way.


      So, I can hear the concrete setting up (to concrete overshoes).  Over reliance on static disposition takes out our active engagement in decision making.  Whether that disposition is good character traits, such as chesed, or good rule following, we have taken the focus away from what I think is the most important thing to habituate: active in the moment critical deliberation.  And that dynamic function, which I call phronesis (borrowing from Aristotle), is the skill that, developed properly starts to look like wisdom.  And it is a skill in the proper use of reason albeit reason more widely defined that just logic chopping perhaps.


      I guess I am, once again, promoting pro action rather than re action.


      Live well,


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