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Re: [stoics] (1) Is Stoicism "subjective based"? (2) My preferred paradigm.

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  • Steve Marquis
    Jan writes: _________________ Steve, even when I considered myself a more or less orthodox Chrysippean (classical mainstream) Stoic, I did not understand
    Message 1 of 9 , Feb 1, 2010
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      Jan writes:

      _________________

       

      Steve, even when I considered myself a more or less orthodox Chrysippean (classical mainstream) Stoic, I did not understand Stoicism to be "subjective based." For instance, the distinction between "preferred" and "dispreferred" values, as those are understood in classical Stoicism, is not the same as the distinction between what I happen to desire and what I happen to desire not to receive.  Life, good health, freedom from physical pain, and the like are, in the classical Stoic sense, preferred things, things generally ("first things") in accord with nature, regardless of whether, right now, I prefer to be in good health or to continue living. The Stoics were empiricists enough that they would have said that nature teaches us that such things are in accord with it. So in that sense Stoicism is (or claims to be) experience based, and it is not the case that Stoicism understands good or preferred to be subjective, i.e., only relative to the person or group of persons affirming of certain things that they are good or preferred.

      _________________

       

      Jan, thanks for responding.

       

      A comment on the above; you are not understanding what I mean by subjective.  I will try and clarify.  Subjective, as you are using the term above means more or less how an individual sees things.  How I see things is different from how you see things and so on.  These various opinions could be right or wrong and its _objective_ science that tries to separate the wheat from the chaff.  From this usage objective is fairly synonymous with what is true (or at least factual) and subjective with what is mere opinion.  Subjective opinion can match with fact, but fact is only verified objectively.  And no, the Stoics most definitely are not subjective in that sense.

       

      How I am using subjective is in reference to first person experience.  And that is experience, mind, so it’s just as empirical as any other (in fact it’s the only kind we have access to).  Modern Rational Empiricism (MRE) has limited itself to only third person publicly sharable evidence or, at best, second hand testimony of first person experience.  So, in reacting to some very poor ways of living due to the kind of subjectiveness you are talking about our primary means of legitimate knowledge has closed the door on subjective experience pretty much completely.

       

      That has left us in a quandary, for normative notions such as ethics don’t exist as measurable evidence.

       

      But most Wisdom Traditions, Stoicism being one, not only recognize subjective experience as legitimate but consider it primary.  Arête and eudaimonia can never be measured in a scientific way but only experienced first hand.  This is what I mean by subjective.  Robert Pirsig helped me see this from another angle.  Science pretty much limits what it calls real to physical objects but Pirsig includes social and intellectual static patterns as real too.  Not surprisingly these last two are ‘subjective’ and the first two ‘objective’ (physical and biological static patterns).  Pirsig sees this false dichotomy (subject-object metaphysics or SOM) as the worse thing to happen to western thinking since Aristotle.  Because of the SOM split the MRE advocate can only see arête and the like as ideal concepts, never as realizable goals.  And, given the dependence of concepts on objective objects in the MRE paradigm it is inevitable that something like metaphorical thinking must arise.  Thus we have the neutering of reason.

       

      Now, the Stoics are closer to Pirsig IMO for things such as virtue are ‘bodies’, thus while they envision only bodies as real since only bodies can act upon and react to they have included some of Pirsig’s mental static patterns in their basket of what is real and therefore what are bodies.  So, the Stoics cannot in this sense be seen as pure predecessors to SOM or MRE.

       

      Once we see this about the Stoics, and recognizing that arête (or, the correct use of impressions) is the single most valuable thing to them then we can safely say that what is primary for them is the subjective first person choosing moral agent viewpoint which stops with intent, not the MRE SOM measurable consequences in the scientific objective world of third person physical evidence.  What is in our control, the condition of our hêgemonikon, is only accessible from the subjective first person side of things.  Consequences, what is measurable via an observer, is never in the moral agent’s complete control and therefore not the correct realm for ethics and morality.  That stops with intention.  Other wise we have to give up on moral responsibility.  This is why the subjective frame of reference is critical.  And I do not mean by subjective the relativism of personal opinion.

       

      This is also why, BTW, I think your critique of Stoicism form a Lakoffian perspective is unjustified; it assumes from the start that knowledge can only be acquired from the MRE third person objective perspective.

       

      As for Stoic indifferents I don’t see how this builds your case that the Stoics are not subjective in my sense.  To have true intentions all the time will require the correct selection of indifferents of course, knowing full well that the target of that intent, the measurable outcome, may not happen as planned.  And the Stoic, in attempting to have correct true intention, will avail himself of the best facts available to make choices.  That is careful consideration after all.

       

      Now, my challenge to you has been to show how a defendable _rational_ principle can be arrived at to be moral using only reference to MRE.  I don’t think it can be done.  Good arguments to be moral are going to have normative propositions that have force only if we assume them to be true.  You have been after what motivates us best to be moral.  You have come up with empathy, but I think even granting a more Aristotelian view on emotion something like non-cognitive empathy is species survival driven, not really altruistic.  Altruism would be one of those normative rational ethical concepts.  And empathy, like other emotion, is fickle; it can lead to error without the guidance of the rational mind.  A position favoring Lakoff’s NP and a Partnership model would follow from this, so I think you are consistent.  But that does not mean it is justified.

       

      Jan:

      _________________

       

      Another way of putting the matter is that I think that the Partnership model is objectively, or all things considered, superior to the Domination model.

      _________________

       

      This is a statement of your position, and a claim that it is better, but it is not the justification.  To say one thing is objectively (and for me subjective intent is where the buck stops) superior requires some kind of standard or criteria apart from the competing claims against which the value of each can be judged.  It is that standard, criteria, or end to which all of this hard work points that I have been trying to get you to state.  What is the good?  Why be caring?  Why be moral?  If one thing is superior to another (a quality term) what is the measuring stick and how is that justified?

       

      I am always suspicious in setting up either / or mutually exclusive dichotomies like this.  Like Lakoff’s NP vs SF I would suggest, if both include everything in the domain, that these positions state the two endpoints and a correct application in a given relationship would probably be some combination.

       

      I read the article you provided the link to.  Peppered in there is that some opinions are more justified than others.  Well yes, exactly.  You have a strong opinion about empathy and the Partnership model; how about the justification (short form; 2 pages or less;))?  From Lawrence Kohlberg’s post conventional level of moral development: ‘right is the recognition of universal ethical principles’.  So what is the justified universal ethical principle that warrants your position?

       

      Just to be clear I am not asserting that your position is wrong (I don’t have any justification to critique) Jan but that it is more difficult to justify than the more typical normative ethics like consequentialism, deontology, or virtue ethics.

       

      If it is more difficult to justify why are you there?  Intuition maybe?

       

      Live Well,

      Steve

      ,_._,___
    • jan.garrett@insightbb.com
      Yes, Kevin, that is (roughly) my position.
      Message 2 of 9 , Feb 1, 2010
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        Yes, Kevin, that is (roughly) my position.

        --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Kevin <kevin11_c@...> wrote:
        >
        > Jan, from this it would seem to me that the different models are different ways of doing the same thing (moral instruction, politics, perhaps economics etc.), though one is objectively better than the other in your view.
        >  
        > Am I understanding you correctly?
        >  
        > Kevin
        >
        > --- On Sun, 1/31/10, Jan Garrett <jan.garrett@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > From: Jan Garrett <jan.garrett@...>
        > Subject: [stoics] (1) Is Stoicism "subjective based"? (2) My preferred paradigm.
        > To: "Stoics" <stoics@yahoogroups.com>
        > Date: Sunday, January 31, 2010, 5:29 PM
        >
        >
        >  
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Steve writes,
        >
        > "Stoicism
        > starts from the subjective side of experience though, not the objective side,
        > and it would be a mistake to confuse the subjective first person viewpoint
        > strictly with egoism of course. Stoicism
        > gives us a rational basis to not be egoistic in the narrow sense you have
        > described.
        >
        > What I have been after you about Jan, and still haven´t got
        > an answer on, is once you step away from something like Stoicism that is
        > subjective based into the world of just objective second and third person facts
        > what is there in that reference frame that can provide that reason giving basis to
        > not be egoistic?
        >
        > It is not that I am promoting egoism. I am asking you what, from your preferred
        > paradigm, tells anyone is not the best to be egoistic?"
        >
        >
        > Steve, even when I considered myself a more or less orthodox Chrysippean (classical mainstream) Stoic, I did not understand Stoicism to be "subjective based." For instance, the distinction between "preferred" and "dispreferred" values, as those are understood in classical Stoicism, is not the same as the distinction between what I happen to desire and what I happen to desire not to receive.  Life, good health, freedom from physical pain, and the like are, in the classical Stoic sense, preferred things, things generally ("first things") in accord with nature, regardless of whether, right now, I prefer to be in good health or to continue living. The Stoics were empiricists enough that they would have said that nature teaches us that such things are in accord with it. So in that sense Stoicism is (or claims to be) experience based, and it is not the case that Stoicism understands good or preferred to be subjective, i.e., only relative to the person or
        > group of persons affirming of certain things that they are good or preferred.
        >
        >
        > To indicate an answer to your question (in the last sentence I quoted). I take my stand within what Riane Eisler calls the Partnership model or paradigm. (I recognize, as Lakoff would insist, that a partnership family and a partnership religious community and a partnership nation and a partnership world are "the same" metaphorically rather than literally, but claims made within one context have parallels in other contexts, so as a general rule of thumb, I am inclined to adopt the (or a) partnership position in each, although "god is in the details." I know that, experientially, we learn the partnership paradigm (or nurturant parent paradigm) through exposure to concrete examples of partnership- type families, or at least to stories conveying concrete partnership relationships. People who have been exposed primarily to domination relationships or strict father/parent families may have a quasi-instinctual aversion to partnership values, regarding them as
        > disgustingly wimpy or "effeminate. " So one's commitment to one approach rather than the other is likely rooted in experience (although people raised in a SF family can consciously choose to raise their kids in a NP family, and people raised in a NP family can endorse Strict Parent thinking in politics, i.e., rightwing libertarianism) .
        >
        >
        > I can say "I take my stand" because of the role of choice in this. Another way of putting the matter is that I think that the Partnership model is objectively, or all things considered, superior to the Domination model. I don't deny that historically, in the West at least, the Domination model is more salient in the broad cultural context in which we tend to learn. Think of the Judaeo-Christian God and how, according to the Pentateuch, human beings learn right from wrong.  Although NP values are not totally missing, we tend to remember the language that corresponds to the SF model, and God is portrayed more regularly as a Strict Father who punishes transgressions than as a loving parent who (often successfully) leads his children to the path of compassion and justice.
        >
        >
        > I think Hegel was onto something when he described the picture people (Germans anyway) got from the Old Testament as a morality of Law (externally imposed by an authority), and then talked about two later stages, the last of which (I suspect, though I don't have time to check on it right now) he conceived as involving more caring relationship to people and their moral development.  I am inclined in the direction of a theory of moral development that would put a caring perspective, suitably articulated, as a more advanced and more "objectively right" than a morality of Law. This would allow for a reconfiguration of Kohlberg's and Gilligan's theories of moral development such that the highest stage is characterized by practically wise caring.  Not that humanity will ever entirely avoid the need for some degree of restraint of individuals who are constitutionally unable to live in relationships of mutual respect, so I don't think elements of the
        > Domination model will totally disappear from the big picture.
        >
        >
        > On Kohlberg and Gilligan's views, here is a summary: http://people. wku.edu/jan. garrett/cogmordv .htm#mor
        > (I'm pretty sure this url is correct.)
        >
      • Kevin
        OK, thanks, I agree with you regarding parenting. I don t know much about politics or economics, but a domination model doesn t sound very appealing for them
        Message 3 of 9 , Feb 1, 2010
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          OK, thanks, I agree with you regarding parenting. I don't know much about politics or economics, but a "domination" model doesn't sound very appealing for them either.
          Regards
          Kevin

          --- On Mon, 2/1/10, jan.garrett@... <jan.garrett@...> wrote:

          From: jan.garrett@... <jan.garrett@...>
          Subject: Models [was Re: [stoics] (1) Is Stoicism "subjective based"? (2) My preferred pa
          To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Monday, February 1, 2010, 4:23 PM

           
          Yes, Kevin, that is (roughly) my position.

          --- In stoics@yahoogroups. com, Kevin <kevin11_c@. ..> wrote:
          >
          > Jan, from this it would seem to me that the different models are different ways of doing the same thing (moral instruction, politics, perhaps economics etc.), though one is objectively better than the other in your view.
          >  
          > Am I understanding you correctly?
          >  
          > Kevin
          >
          > --- On Sun, 1/31/10, Jan Garrett <AN>;jan.garrett@ ...> wrote:
          >
          >
          > From: Jan Garrett <jan.garrett@ ...>
          > Subject: [stoics] (1) Is Stoicism "subjective based"? (2) My preferred paradigm.
          > To: "Stoics" <stoics@yahoogroups. com>
          > Date: Sunday, January 31, 2010, 5:29 PM
          >
          >
          >  
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > Steve writes,
          >
          > "Stoicism
          > starts from the subjective side of experience though, not the objective side,
          > and it would be a mistake to confuse the subjective first person viewpoint
          > strictly with egoism of course. Stoicism
          > gives us a rational basis to not be egoistic in the narrow sense you have
          > described.
          >
          > What I have been after you about Jan, and still haven´t got
          > an answer on, is once you step away from something like Stoicism that is
          > subjective based into the world of just objective second and third person facts
          > what is there in that reference frame that can provide that reason giving basis to
          > not be egoistic?
          >
          > It is not that I am promoting egoism. I am asking you what, from your preferred
          > paradigm, tells anyone is not the best to be egoistic?"
          >
          >
          > Steve, even when I considered myself a more or less orthodox Chrysippean (classical mainstream) Stoic, I did not understand Stoicism to be "subjective based." For instance, the distinction between "preferred" and "dispreferred" values, as those are understood in classical Stoicism, is not the same as the distinction between what I happen to desire and what I happen to desire not to receive.  Life, good health, freedom from physical pain, and the like are, in the classical Stoic sense, preferred things, things generally ("first things") in accord with nature, regardless of whether, right now, I prefer to be in good health or to continue living. The Stoics were empiricists enough that they would have said that nature teaches us that such things are in accord with it. So in that sense Stoicism is (or claims to be) experience based, and it is not the case that Stoicism understands good or preferred to be subjective, i.e., only relative to the person or
          > group of persons affirming of certain things that they are good or preferred.
          >
          >
          > To indicate an answer to your question (in the last sentence I quoted). I take my stand within what Riane Eisler calls the Partnership model or paradigm. (I recognize, as Lakoff would insist, that a partnership family and a partnership religious community and a partnership nation and a partnership world are "the same" metaphorically rather than literally, but claims made within one context have parallels in other contexts, so as a general rule of thumb, I am inclined to adopt the (or a) partnership position in each, although "god is in the details." I know that, experientially, we learn the partnership paradigm (or nurturant parent paradigm) through exposure to concrete examples of partnership- type families, or at least to stories conveying concrete partnership relationships. People who have been exposed primarily to domination relationships or strict father/parent families may have a quasi-instinctual aversion to partnership values, regarding them as
          > disgustingly wimpy or "effeminate. " So one's commitment to one approach rather than the other is likely rooted in experience (although people raised in a SF family can consciously choose to raise their kids in a NP family, and people raised in a NP family can endorse Strict Parent thinking in politics, i.e., rightwing libertarianism) .
          >
          >
          > I can say "I take my stand" because of the role of choice in this. Another way of putting the matter is that I think that the Partnership model is objectively, or all things considered, superior to the Domination model. I don't deny that historically, in the West at least, the Domination model is more salient in the broad cultural context in which we tend to learn. Think of the Judaeo-Christian God and how, according to the Pentateuch, human beings learn right from wrong.  Although NP values are not totally missing, we tend to remember the language that corresponds to the SF model, and God is portrayed more regularly as a Strict Father who punishes transgressions than as a loving parent who (often successfully) leads his children to the path of compassion and justice.
          >
          >
          > I think Hegel was onto something when he described the picture people (Germans anyway) got from the Old Testament as a morality of Law (externally imposed by an authority), and then talked about two later stages, the last of which (I suspect, though I don't have time to check on it right now) he conceived as involving more caring relationship to people and their moral development.  I am inclined in the direction of a theory of moral development that would put a caring perspective, suitably articulated, as a more advanced and more "objectively right" than a morality of Law. This would allow for a reconfiguration of Kohlberg's and Gilligan's theories of moral development such that the highest stage is characterized by practically wise caring.  Not that humanity will ever entirely avoid the need for some degree of restraint of individuals who are constitutionally unable to live in relationships of mutual respect, so I don't think elements of the
          > Domination model will totally disappear from the big picture.
          >
          >
          > On Kohlberg and Gilligan's views, here is a summary: http://people. wku.edu/jan. garrett/cogmordv .htm#mor
          > (I'm pretty sure this url is correct.)
          >


        • Grant Sterling
          ... ***** What I don t understand, and I think what Steve doesn t understand, is the basis for this claim. How, on your view, does one observe the
          Message 4 of 9 , Feb 1, 2010
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            Jan Garrett wrote:

            > I can say "I take my stand" because of the role of choice in this.
            > Another way of putting the matter is that I think that the Partnership
            > model is objectively, or all things considered, superior to the
            > Domination model. I don't deny that historically, in the West at least,


            *****
            What I don't understand, and I think what Steve doesn't
            understand, is the basis for this claim. How, on your view,
            does one "observe" the superiority of one set of values to
            another? Both Steve and I are, in different ways "intuitionists",
            in that we take ethical claims to be something that cannot be
            verified by the five senses. (Fundamental ethical claims, that
            is--of course if you grant me, say, that it is morally wrong to
            kill someone for their money I can empirically verify whether
            or not a killing has occurred, etc.) Neither of us, then, is
            at rock bottom an empiricist (even in the broadest sense) about
            ethics. Steve believes that you are committed to this epistemology,
            and so is puzzled as to how you can claim that any ethical position
            is better or worse than any other on anything approaching an
            "objective" basis. I'm interested in hearing that, as well.

            BTW, I don't think the Partnership model is _in general_
            objectively better in any sense than the Domination model, but
            that's another post for another day.
            *****


            > people and their moral development. I am inclined in the direction of a
            > theory of moral development that would put a caring perspective,
            > suitably articulated, as a more advanced and more "objectively right"
            > than a morality of Law. This would allow for a reconfiguration of
            > Kohlberg's and Gilligan's theories of moral development such that the
            > highest stage is characterized by practically wise caring. Not that
            > humanity will ever entirely avoid the need for some degree of restraint
            > of individuals who are constitutionally unable to live in relationships
            > of mutual respect, so I don't think elements of the Domination model
            > will totally disappear from the big picture.


            *****
            Again, what is it that makes caring a "higher" value,
            and on what epistemic grounds do you think you are justified
            in asserting this?


            Regards,
            Grant
          • Kevin
            Grant wrote: ... Grant we actually have 6 physical senses! Can you guess the sixth? Being an Ethical Inutionist you must also include at least one non-physical
            Message 5 of 9 , Feb 1, 2010
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              Grant wrote:

              ...Both Steve and I are, in different ways "intuitionists",
              > in that we take ethical claims to be something that cannot be
              > verified by the five senses....

              Grant we actually have 6 physical senses! Can you guess the sixth?
              Being an Ethical Inutionist you must also include at least one
              non-physical sense too, for 7 total at a minimum.

              Kevin
            • jan.garrett@insightbb.com
              Steve, I think your response is a thoughtful one. I am not sure that I understand your special sense of subjectivity (which you attribute to Pirsig and the
              Message 6 of 9 , Feb 9, 2010
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                Steve,

                I think your response is a thoughtful one. I am not sure that I understand your special sense of subjectivity (which you attribute to Pirsig and the classical Stoics), but maybe I catch a glimpse of it (see below). I am not at all sure that they share this sense.

                I do recognize that there is a type of philosophical inquiry that is neither empirical in the usual sense nor subjective in the sense I was discussing, but might be considered subjective in another sense. This is the inquiry into what is available to us on reflection about our own experience, which being our own, is subjective.

                This is in fact the approach of Husserlian phenomenology, which was the first phase in a multigenerational movement called phenomenology (which overlapped at one point with existentialism). What was said to make the results of phenomenological study scientific, in the sense of non-arbitrary, is that various phenomenologists could study each their own consciousness and confirm the self-descriptions of one person by the self-descriptions of another. Thus the general validity of the figure-ground-horizon structure of most conscious states can be confirmed.

                I think it fair to say that this approach assumes that we can understand what other inquirers are saying, how they are using words, even if I cannot directly discover, by reflection on my own consciousness, exactly what you are contemplating. It also assumes, I think, that our fellow human beings have basically the same range of experiences we do.

                Maybe that's the sort of thing the ancient Stoics thought they were doing when they analyzed judgments as combining a semantic content (the lekton associated with an impression) and the act of assent (and agreed with each other about judgment). I have no problem understanding what the ancient Stoics thought they were doing when they came up with a rather useful doctrine of judgment.

                Lakoff's theory of conceptual metaphor is a bit different. It is a very general theory not about judgments but about the source and nature most of our concepts, i.e., those concepts that are not directly grounded in sensorimotor or embodied experience (by which I have in mind primary concepts like cat and human and tall and short and left and right and spatial-relations concepts such as in, into, outside, out of, toward, through, etc.)
                Most of our concepts of time are metaphorical, as are most of our philosophical, religious, and scientific concepts. For those who have not listened in on this discussion before, consider the statement "Valentine's Day is approaching," which conceptualizes a future event as something that is ahead of us and moving closer, while we are stationary. We could just as easily have said that "we are approaching Valentine's Day," which makes the future event something stationary and attributes motion to us.

                The evidence for Lakoff's theory comes from diverse studies that are summarized in the early chapters of Lakoff and Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh (1999). Just as Darwin's account of evolution is confirmed by a range of diverse studies that do not depend upon each other, fitting the test of convergent evidence, so is Lakoff's theory of conceptual metaphor; the chief difference being that in the case of the theory of metaphor, this evidence is not well known outside the discipline of cognitive linguistics, partly because the theory of conceptual metaphor is more recent and has not attracted the attention (and the debates) associated with Darwinian biology. Lakoff's theory is empirical in the sense that Darwin's is empirical. To be sure, it's"closer" to our subjectivity because it is about the nature of thought rather than the origin of species.

                You say that Stoicism is about intentions rather than consequences, that we know about intentions only from a first-person perspective. I am not sure about that. I have been in a position where I had to judge whether a student intentionally plagiarized or not. Without going into detail, after a number of interactions with the student, which gave me convergent evidence about his intentions (or, what is just as valuable, his character) I felt fairly confident that he had. He may have just been engaged in a serious case of self-deception, I suppose. (He never confessed to me that he had plagiarized, but he did to a university officer to whom I reported the incident.) Still, if he was engaged in self-deception, then his intention was not even clear to himself! So much for the reliance on subjectivity!

                Now, if you want to see the case for the superiority of Partnership thinking over Dominator thinking, I will recommend a book. It's Riane Eisler's 1995 book, Sacred Pleasure. You can ignore, if you like, what she says about the Stoics, but pay special attention to what she says about Greek and Roman "civilization," which provided the cultural background for classical philosophy. This is a fascinating and substantial book--some of the chapters you may find disturbing--it may remind one of his or her own imperfect interactions with others in his past, but it is not hard to read otherwise. (Plenty of endnotes, but you don't have to consult them if you don't want to.)

                The general claim is that Domination mentality has been the source of immense suffering over the centuries, including, among other things, the source of the linkage of sexuality with violence toward women and out-groups, and the source of militarism, the recourse to war when, all things considered, it was not necessary. The view of human nature as inherently sinful is a product of Domination mentality. (The ancient Stoic position that the vast majority of humanity is morally inferior--everybody except the extremely rare sage--is a pre-Christian analogue of that.) Don't take my word for the claim about immense suffering. Study the evidence Eisler cites and summarizes.

                It is also part of Eisler's argument that efforts have frequently been made to dismantle dominator institutions and replace them with partnership ones, but then groups still enmeshed in dominator thinking fought back and to some extent reversed the shift. Given this dynamic it seems fair to say that the strength of dominator institutions and thinking at any given time is not etched in stone but is the result of the state of play between the two tendencies.

                I think it fair to say that the classical Stoics assumed the framework of Dominator society--they did not question it; their ideal Republic wasn't for anyone after Zeno, and I'm not even sure it was for him, a practical possibility, or something Stoic groups or societies should strive for. Stoic ethics was more about how the individual could attain apatheia, freedom from disturbing feelings, in the midst of what almost everyone else was experiencing as injustice, oppression, violence. The cost of this is a sort of self-deadening.

                Best wishes,

                Jan


                --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Steve Marquis <stevemarquis@...> wrote:
                >
                > Jan writes:
                > _________________
                >
                > Steve, even when I considered myself a more or less orthodox
                > Chrysippean (classical mainstream) Stoic, I did not understand Stoicism to be
                > "subjective based." For instance, the distinction between
                > "preferred" and "dispreferred" values, as those are
                > understood in classical Stoicism, is not the same as the distinction between
                > what I happen to desire and what I happen to desire not to receive. Life,
                > good health, freedom from physical pain, and the like are, in the classical
                > Stoic sense, preferred things, things generally ("first things") in
                > accord with nature, regardless of whether, right now, I prefer to be in good
                > health or to continue living. The Stoics were empiricists enough that they
                > would have said that nature teaches us that such things are in accord with
                > it. So in that sense Stoicism is (or claims to be) experience based, and it is
                > not the case that Stoicism understands good or preferred to be subjective,
                > i.e., only relative to the person or group of persons affirming of certain
                > things that they are good or preferred.
                > _________________
                >
                > Jan, thanks for responding.
                >
                > A comment on the above; you are not understanding what I
                > mean by subjective. I will try and
                > clarify. Subjective, as you are using
                > the term above means more or less how an individual sees things. How I see things is different from how you
                > see things and so on. These various
                > opinions could be right or wrong and its _objective_ science that tries to
                > separate the wheat from the chaff. From
                > this usage objective is fairly synonymous with what is true (or at least
                > factual) and subjective with what is mere opinion. Subjective opinion can match with fact, but
                > fact is only verified objectively. And
                > no, the Stoics most definitely are not subjective in that sense.
                >
                > How I am using subjective is in reference to first person
                > experience. And that is experience,
                > mind, so it’s just as empirical as any other (in fact it’s the only kind we
                > have access to). Modern Rational
                > Empiricism (MRE) has limited itself to only third person publicly sharable
                > evidence or, at best, second hand testimony of first person experience. So, in reacting to some very poor ways of
                > living due to the kind of subjectiveness you are talking about our primary
                > means of legitimate knowledge has closed the door on subjective experience
                > pretty much completely.
                >
                > That has left us in a quandary, for normative notions such
                > as ethics don’t exist as measurable evidence.
                >
                > But most Wisdom Traditions, Stoicism being one, not only recognize
                > subjective experience as legitimate but consider it primary. Arête and eudaimonia can never be measured in
                > a scientific way but only experienced first hand. This is what I mean by subjective. Robert Pirsig helped me see this from another
                > angle. Science pretty much limits what
                > it calls real to physical objects but Pirsig includes social and intellectual static
                > patterns as real too. Not surprisingly
                > these last two are ‘subjective’ and the first two ‘objective’ (physical and
                > biological static patterns). Pirsig sees
                > this false dichotomy (subject-object metaphysics or SOM) as the worse thing to
                > happen to western thinking since Aristotle. Because of the SOM split the MRE advocate can only see arête and the
                > like as ideal concepts, never as realizable goals. And, given the dependence of concepts on objective
                > objects in the MRE paradigm it is inevitable that something like metaphorical
                > thinking must arise. Thus we have the
                > neutering of reason.
                >
                > Now, the Stoics are closer to Pirsig IMO for things such as
                > virtue are ‘bodies’, thus while they envision only bodies as real since only
                > bodies can act upon and react to they have included some of Pirsig’s mental
                > static patterns in their basket of what is real and therefore what are
                > bodies. So, the Stoics cannot in this sense
                > be seen as pure predecessors to SOM or MRE.
                >
                > Once we see this about the Stoics, and recognizing that
                > arête (or, the correct use of impressions) is the single most valuable thing to
                > them then we can safely say that what is primary for them is the subjective
                > first person choosing moral agent viewpoint which stops with intent, not the
                > MRE SOM measurable consequences in the scientific objective world of third
                > person physical evidence. What is in our
                > control, the condition of our hêgemonikon, is only accessible from the
                > subjective first person side of things. Consequences, what is measurable via an observer, is never in the moral
                > agent’s complete control and therefore not the correct realm for ethics and
                > morality. That stops with
                > intention. Other wise we have to give up
                > on moral responsibility. This is why the
                > subjective frame of reference is critical. And I do not mean by subjective the relativism of personal opinion.
                >
                > This is also why, BTW, I think your critique of Stoicism
                > form a Lakoffian perspective is unjustified; it assumes from the start that knowledge
                > can only be acquired from the MRE third person objective perspective.
                >
                > As for Stoic indifferents I don’t see how this builds your
                > case that the Stoics are not subjective in my sense. To have true intentions all the time will
                > require the correct selection of indifferents of course, knowing full well that
                > the target of that intent, the measurable outcome, may not happen as
                > planned. And the Stoic, in attempting to
                > have correct true intention, will avail himself of the best facts available to
                > make choices. That is careful
                > consideration after all.
                >
                > Now, my challenge to you has been to show how a defendable _rational_
                > principle can be arrived at to be moral using only reference to MRE. I don’t think it can be done. Good arguments to be moral are going to have
                > normative propositions that have force only if we assume them to be true. You have been after what motivates us best to
                > be moral. You have come up with empathy,
                > but I think even granting a more Aristotelian view on emotion something like non-cognitive
                > empathy is species survival driven, not really altruistic. Altruism would be one of those normative
                > rational ethical concepts. And empathy,
                > like other emotion, is fickle; it can lead to error without the guidance of the
                > rational mind. A position favoring
                > Lakoff’s NP and a Partnership model would follow from this, so I think you are
                > consistent. But that does not mean it is
                > justified.
                >
                > Jan:
                > _________________
                >
                > Another way of putting the matter is that I think that the
                > Partnership model is objectively, or all things considered, superior to the
                > Domination model.
                > _________________
                >
                > This is a statement of your position, and a claim that it is
                > better, but it is not the justification. To say one thing is objectively (and for me subjective intent is where
                > the buck stops) superior requires some kind of standard or criteria apart from
                > the competing claims against which the value of each can be judged. It is that standard, criteria, or end to
                > which all of this hard work points that I have been trying to get you to
                > state. What is the good? Why be caring? Why be moral? If one thing is superior to another (a quality term) what is the
                > measuring stick and how is that justified?
                >
                > I am always suspicious in setting up either / or mutually
                > exclusive dichotomies like this. Like
                > Lakoff’s NP vs SF I would suggest, if both include everything in the domain,
                > that these positions state the two endpoints and a correct application in a
                > given relationship would probably be some combination.
                >
                > I read the article you provided the link to. Peppered in there is that some opinions are
                > more justified than others. Well yes,
                > exactly. You have a strong opinion about
                > empathy and the Partnership model; how about the justification (short form; 2 pages or less;))? From Lawrence Kohlberg’s post conventional
                > level of moral development: ‘right is the recognition of universal ethical principles’. So what is the justified universal ethical
                > principle that warrants your position?
                >
                > Just to be clear I am not asserting that your position is
                > wrong (I don’t have any justification to critique) Jan but that it is more
                > difficult to justify than the more typical normative ethics like
                > consequentialism, deontology, or virtue ethics.
                >
                > If it is more difficult to justify why are you there? Intuition maybe?
                >
                > Live Well,
                > Steve
                > ,_._,___
                >
              • Steve Marquis
                Jan writes: _________________ I am not sure that I understand your special sense of subjectivity (which you attribute to Pirsig and the classical Stoics), but
                Message 7 of 9 , Feb 10, 2010
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                  Jan writes:

                  _________________

                   

                  I am not sure that I understand your special sense of subjectivity (which you attribute to Pirsig and the classical Stoics), but maybe I catch a glimpse of it (see below). I am not at all sure that they share this sense.

                  _________________

                   

                  How can you be sure about the last if you’re not sure you understand me?  I do appreciate you trying to understand what I mean however.

                   

                  I don’t see why this is difficult to grasp.  Let me give you a concrete example.  I broke my ankle recently (yep, by hitting concrete).  In the hospital while awaiting surgery the nurse (and the doctor, paramedics, and every other medical professional involved) would always ask me at regular intervals what my pain level was on a scale of 1 to 10.  They didn’t set up some measuring device to get an ‘objective’ pain level; they wanted to know about my _experience_ of pain to determine what pain medication to give and how much of it.  This attempt at relieving suffering is directly tied to quality of subjective experience.  No measuring device, no matter how accurate, can determine objectively what someone’s subjective experience is.  These are mutually exclusive terms.

                   

                  Let me present it another way.  You are familiar with the Kantian distinction between phenomena and noumena.  Our senses, intuitive or physical or whatever, only perceive attributes of a particular so the theory goes, which is the phenomena, never the essence of the thing itself, the noumena.  Turns out to be a rather moot point practically even if true, for operating from sensed attributes seems to work quite well when dealing with objects.  Now, consider subjective experience, which consists of phenomenon.  The ‘real stuff’ out there, the ‘objective reality independent of personal opinion’ is the supposed noumenon in a way for no one ever experiences anything ever objectively.  The facts of the world that science gives are always at least second if not third person removed from our personal experience.  We take all of that on faith by reference back to some similar first person subjective experience.  Now, why does this faith seem so concrete?  It is because almost every time I subjectively experience what objective science says is a fact it works (when I turn on the switch the light goes on unless the bulb is burned out or the power is out).  This very reliable correlation between objective prediction and personal subjective verification has misled even the smartest of us to think that the objective facts of science are more real than our subjective experience.

                   

                  But we never experience objective facts; all of our experience is subjective by definition.  We are as prohibited from scientific objective reality as we are from Kant’s noumenon as we are from getting information about another bubble universe that operates on a different set of stable physical laws.  So, like for noumenon, practically it is a moot point whether scientific facts are true because what really matters (the key point Jan) is the _quality of our subjective experience_.  So long as science is instrumental in increasing the quality of subjective experience then it is pragmatically true and that is the best to say for it.  And I might point out the key to the success of the scientific method is the careful _rational_ ordering of the experience of many.  Without reason in there we’ve got just personal sense data with no hope of building on what went before.

                   

                  Pirsig says that it is _subjective experience_ that is true empiricism.

                   

                  From the medical example above I think you can see what the basis of ethics should be; the _quality_ of a moral agent’s _subjective experience_.  Quality is a Pirsigian term, but he equated it directly with both Greek arête and the Tao of the Chinese.  So, although Pirsig in a way wanted to claim he had a new revelation I think he understood quite clearly that this central concept of human experience has been in the forethoughts of the wise for a long time in many different cultures.  MRE, in rejecting medieval Catholicism, has gotten us away from this.

                   

                  You can see why this sense of subjective is critical.  To see the turn about in our epistemology I’m talking about quite easily one side sees our subjective experience as just part of and contained in an objective world imagined to be true that exists outside personal experience (and people forget they are imagining this most of the time).  The other side, the older traditions, sees the objective world of publically sharable sense experience as part of and contained in each person’s subjective experience.  See the difference?  You have been attempting to critique Stoicism, which holds subjective arête as what is of highest value and thus puts Stoicism squarely in the older Wisdom Tradition camp, from the other frame of reference which holds the objective world of science as primary.  This is not common ground and without a higher common ground I don’t see how science directly can critique any tradition that places this kind of value on first person experience.  Science rejects the first person viewpoint in the name of reliability.  The same goes for Lakoff’s critique of reason as it were.  He is starting from a biased point of view, the MRE metaphysical frame of reference, which will deny the ‘realness’ of intellectual static patterns like arête because it is not perceivable from a third part viewpoint.  To get this clear the nurse will not tell me my reported value of pain is wrong, she has no objective basis for that.  That I am experiencing pain at a certain level she accepts as fact.

                   

                  Is Stoicism grounded in this sense of subjective?  They accepted the world of sense experience as part of what could be true so I don’t think they made a clean distinction with this particular terminology like we are right now.  But, that they placed value squarely on the side of what is in our control and consequences on the side of what is not in our control (consequences being perceived through the senses as the aim of a previous intention) is telling.  So to is the emphasis on character rather than action as perceived by others.  Most talk about Stoicism is focused on what one should do for one’s own psychology rather than what specific actions in the world to take and that is also telling.  It is assumed that if we straighten out our psychology (ie, read subjective here) then we will be naturally motivated to do our duty (objectively correct actions).   But you see what comes first (our disposition) even though effort to do duty (individual assents) is the training for the errant psychology.

                   

                  Jan:

                  ______________

                   

                  I do recognize that there is a type of philosophical inquiry that is neither empirical in the usual sense nor subjective in the sense I was discussing, but might be considered subjective in another sense. This is the inquiry into what is available to us on reflection about our own experience, which being our own, is subjective. 

                  ______________

                   

                  To go all the way back to Socrates this is not just _a_ type of philosophical inquiry; it is _the_ primary purpose of philosophical inquiry.  Socrates would not recognize the importance of objective science that apparently does not bear practically on how to personally live the good life.  That philosophy got entangled in the outward objective world that does not bear on personal inquiry is one reason you may be having difficulty with my sense of subjective.  Socrates did not accept the inquiry direction of the Ionian physicists.

                   

                  The limitations of this type of inquiry you refer to (Husserlian phenomenology?) are less so if one holds that pure reason can find its way to normative truth.  And Socrates (Plato actually I suppose) would acknowledge the necessity of debate with others, for the non-sage is partially blind to his own reasoning errors.  This would be the basis for an Aristotelian friendship I believe.

                   

                  However, I may agree with you that language and logic is limited for full understanding.  I may have to fall back on intuitive insight for that.  That would be Pirsig’s dynamic quality manifesting in our creativity.  But that’s beyond the scope of this discussion

                   

                  Jan:

                  ________________

                   

                  Still, if he was engaged in self-deception, then his intention was not even clear to himself! So much for the reliance on subjectivity!

                  ________________

                   

                  No, you’ve confused senses again.  All I mean is that our personal experience is not accessible to the objective measuring of science and all we ever have access to directly is our personal experience.  And it is in this realm of first person experiencing that value and quality lie, not in the objective world of third party fact.

                   

                  Of course it was a case of either deliberate cover up or self-deception or both.  The very reason for the dialectic is to find and eliminate those instances of self deception.  But your story does nothing to critique the view that reason, properly trained, can come to normative truth and eliminate self-deception or support the view that descriptive pragmatic fact is all we can ever know.  Normative truth, if it is possible, is only possible via a moral agent reasoning; it can’t be measured with an instrument.

                   

                  A note on intent:  the true intent is that which will produce a certain action unless the moral agent is constrained by outside circumstance.  There is no disconnect between observed action and true intent IOW unless there are other causal factors involved.  Whether one is aware of one's true intent or not is another story.

                   

                  Live Well,

                  Steve

                   

                  PS  A virtue we really have to develop to make this work is self-honesty as your story demonstrates.


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