Friday, December 24, 2010

Reflections of a Man Starting from Scratch

I have been so busy lately studying the philosophy of ethics which as you will see in this post is literally driving me crazy. That's why I didn't fin enough time to post in my beloved blog. However, I thought I should share with you some of my crazy philosophical reflections. I know that most of you won't like it. However, I promise you that soon I will write something that would be more appealing to your tastes.

Here I am again totally lost regarding what I should do. I will try to handle things from a new prospective. Maybe values are mainly related to evaluation of life. However what guides my actions are not values. My actions are directed toward achieving goals. Those goals and rules of actions are determined by the game I am involved in. Values move me and direct my choices of the games I should be involved in. depending upon my values; I will choose those games which have goals compatible with my values. I will follow the rules of actions of a game or I will innovate in them depending upon the space created by my values as well. Following the rules of actions is what is required by morality. The extent possible by which those rules can be broken or modified is a problem concerning morality. Following the rules, breaking them, or modifying them is all shaped by values. Which values should be followed in managing rules of actions is another problem facing practical reasoning and thus morality.

Contradictions among values make rule following problematic. In addition, it makes the choice among games problematic as well. Solving this problem is another task required by practical reasoning.

How should practical reasoning work? I need a theory of practical reasoning that would allow me to claim that it is true. This theory should be acceptable, utilitarian, stable, and coherent so that it can be called true. Do I need such a theory to be true for the sake of the value of understanding or for the sake of the value of practical reasoning itself? The value of practical reasoning can be conceived as the preference of bringing about a state of affair at which I am able to have a theory that would enable me to make practical decisions and in the same time be able to implement my decisions. Whether this theory is true or not is not something required by the value of practical reasoning itself but rather through the value of knowledge. Over all, the value of practical reasoning is realized in my life. I have some kind of an intuitional theory of practical reasoning that I decide upon and which I am to a large extent able to implement. What is really pushing me to act and think right now is the value of understanding. This value is driving me to develop this proto theory into a true theory. However, the construction of a theory about practical reasoning that will be useful in achieving the goals it determines, that is acceptable by all rational beings, that is stable under all possible circumstances, and that is coherent is very difficult.

This theory should be concerned with explaining how I should act. But why do I need such a theory in the first place? Why can't I just act randomly? Why do I think that there is a right way to act and a wrong way? This question has already been answered. It is because of the value of practical reasoning. Again, the value of practical reasoning is the preference of bringing about a state of affair at which I do what I want. Doing what you want can be broken down into the following conditions;

· You must know what you want. So you must have a theory about what you want. This theory should be true. If this theory is false, then it can't be said that you are doing what you want since you don't know what you really want in the first place.

· You must have a theory of how to achieve what you want. This theory doesn't have to be true. Even, if you didn't know how to achieve what you want, having mere beliefs about how to achieve them is enough for you to claim that you are doing what you want. I think this loose condition upon this component of the value is related to the fact that up till now we don't have a true theory of practical reasoning.

· Having the circumstances which allow you to implement your way of achieving what you want.

So needing such a theory in the first place is required by the value of practical reasoning itself. That's why you need such a theory as long as you want to realize this value. Why do actions has to be wrong or right is something related and judged by whether your action would realize those wants of yours or not. That's why actions have to be either right or wrong. Those wants I have mentioned are other values. However, there are lots of problems concerning values. I can test all of those problems by thinking about the value of practical reasoning itself.

Should I or shouldn't I hold the value of practical reasoning itself? Answering this question would reveal the first problem concerning values. Values can never be justified. your beliefs about whether you hold this value or not can be justified but you beliefs about whether you should hold this value or not is very difficult to be justified. For example I am justified in believing that I hold the value of practical reasoning through reflection upon the history of my practice. Sitting down right now and attempting to figure out what is wrong about with my practical reasoning is clear evidence that in my practice I value practical reasoning. However, what justifies me in holding this value? The right answer is nothing. I intuitionally believe that practical reason is good because it is simply is. I can't even claim that it is good because it realizes other values like being happy for example. Happiness itself as I have understood from the broad ideal account consists of a list of many different values. The crude list of those values include in addition to practical reasoning, the values of understanding, accomplishment, pleasure and friendship. However, this list is formed of those values in particular because each of them passes the isolation and completeness tests. Since practical reasoning itself is among the values of this list, then it has passed those tests. This means that I have already agreed to take them as something that would make me happy with my life even if there was nothing else good in my life other than it and that this value is good simply because it is good.

The broad ideal account is a theory which attempts to explain the notion of happiness. This account is based on the very basic assumption that we can never be justified in holding what ultimately makes us happy. This assumption is further explained by another assumption concerning the nature of human beings themselves. We, human beings, are mainly practical animals. We have needs, basic preferences, and abilities all of which are mainly concerned with our survival. We face challenges, we improvise in solving them, we imitate what proves to be successful in meeting those challenges, we transmit our knowledge of what is useful to our offspring, we conceptualize, we adapt to what ensures our survival, and finally we hold on our concepts of what we think is valuable through long history of evolving human culture. This assumption is plausible when you accept the sentimentalist account of our values stated by philosophers such as Hume.

The point is thus that I can never be justified in holding a particular value. I might be well aware of what caused me to hold this value but causal origins of a concept can't be though of as a justification for that concept.

But accepting the idea that values themselves are unjustifiable is still problematic. This is because just like values are held by us through a particular causal chain, they can be dropped or demolished through another causal chain. If I accepted the idea that I don't have to be justified in holding a particular value, and yet I choose to hold it, then I don't have to be justified for dropping a particular value to drop it. So, why can't I just drop the value of practical reasoning?

I think I am not free in answering this question. I have no choice here but to choose to hold the value of practical reasoning. The human society I live in has developed a system that I can't survive through unless I try to be rational as possible regarding my choices. So, it might be for the sake of survival that I choose to hold on practical reasoning. But won't this make survival another value in itself? Survival is not a value. You can't claim that your life is good simply because you survived in it for the longest time possible. But if survival is not a value, it is certainly, one of the most significant drives in humans. At least, it is the motive for holding upon the value of practical reasoning. But can't I think that at least I still have the choice of braking free from the value of practical reasoning through dismantling this social system I live in that requires me to necessarily hold on this value? Can't I just some how convince people that they should give up on rationality that underlies practical reasoning? Again, this doesn't seem possible. People hold on rationality. It might not be a value. But it is certainly an important instrument is ensuring survival. It is survival as basic motive and rationality as am important instrument that requires me to act rationally regarding my actions. It is the very basic nature of me as a human being and the fact that the world is not so merciful to creatures which don't act rationally that makes me have to hold on practical reasoning. I might not be justified in holding it but I am certainly caused to hold on it.

This is the first step in moving forward to figure out what I should do.

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