philosophy cafe


Okay, I do see your point. Truly. I am not replying just to be stubborn. I just got home from closing the club, it is 4:30 AM and I must be back at the club in a few hours to open the safe and get the money ready. I can be sleeping.

But no, I’ve been thinking on Kant’s odd sense of duty.

Now you said:

As David Hume taught us, to say what human beings are is not to say anything about how they ought to be.

This is where we are hanging up. We both agree that being human incorporates some pretty odd things, we have Gandhi and Ted Bundy as members of our species. One might say that Ted was insane, but what is insanity? Removing the social aspects of mental illness and the DSM shrinks greatly. I do not discredit logic, nor the importance of logic. If I am with a party of Marines, are at the edge of a clearing, there are unknown number of enemy troops down in the valley, we are cut off from support, and we have to get to point B. I will likely put my money on the Marine that assesses the situation and responds in a rational manner, rather than the one who locks and loads and runs yelling out into the valley to shoot everything that moves.

But your answer to what is philosophy for is “to get to the truth”. What is the truth of human existence? Well, everything does go. We can be an axe murderer or a republican or a fisherman or a cable guy. My understanding of existentialism isn’t that everything is “okay” (acceptable) but that everything is possible. Granted that there are some factors at work which make some choices more probable than others (environmental and hereditary influences to behavior) but still, even a poor kid from the swamps of Arkansas who barely passed high school could someday end up performing research in cognitive psychology.

Now, just because all things are, truthfully speaking, possible (I might decide right now to paint my hair green and marry a kangaroo), does this mean that there are some consequences for some actions? Well, since my understanding thus far of existentialism doesn’t automatically enroll one into anarchy also, I take it to mean that there is some sort of social order involved. How does one get social order when anything is possible? That is, in my thinking, much more closer to the truth of human experience and behavior, down in the mud of people and out of ivory towers. As you said, because something is doesn’t mean it ought to be.

This is leads us into where we’ve disagreed (and still do) several times before, moral relativity. If we lived in a Kantian society and you were told that you should go to jail for not doing your duty, would you go? Even if it was a niaive mistake? If you didn’t go, were you disobeying your sense of duty?

The greater truth as I see it is existential, however this does not preclude me from agreeing to a set of rules. Just because I am an existentialist does not mean that I cannot play chess. However, I recognize the rules as created rules and should I design another game, I may do so.

As existentialist the burden is on the individual to choose. This is a hard thing to bear for some people. They would rather be told what to do and listen to Oprah tell them what their morals are. Yet can not a society of existentialists agree on a manner of devising a society? Could we not agree that X is a good thing, but that it is good because we deem it good as a society, and as a free thinking individual I endow my conscience into the society?

Okay, I’m crossing the line from debate for debate’s sake, and expressing my own beliefs here.

Now I am pooped. I really must go to sleep now.


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