Philosophy

On Forms and Ideas and How Your Art Sucks: Plato’s The Republic Book X

van-gogh-bedroom
The Art Institute of Chicago’s real life recreation of Van Gogh’s painting of his bedroom in Arles, France.

The blog prompt we are exploring today has to do with Plato’s expressions of forms and ideas. The gist of this expression is that forms reveal ideas and in turn ideas create reality. Plato also expressed that only forms are the creation of the divine and cannot be created by a person, however a person – lets call them the artificer – can draw on the divine essence of the form by way of the idea. The artificer then can materialize the idea into reality as we humans can sense it.

To demonstrate this transcending mode of becoming from the divine form to reality Plato uses the examples of beds and tables. Plato said “there are beds and tables in the world” and then he said that “there are only two ideas or forms of them –one the idea of a bed, the other of a table.” With this latter proposition, Plato is differentiating a physical object – in our case a table or bed – from the idea or form of the physical object. What? Insert mental constipation here.

What Plato is trying to demonstrate is material reality is based in “accordance with the idea”. The idea is based on form, which is absolute truth – which is also of the Divine or godly. Also, this is a one-way street as Plato goes on to state: “no artificer makes the ideas themselves: how could he?” Because the artificer is of a material reality, the artificer can never come up with the idea only the because the Divine can do so. The artificer can only demonstrate the idea’s mode of bringing a thing into material reality and since the artificer is following the Divine form’s idea, he or she is partially, in a transcendental way, responsible for bringing truth to reality. The bed or table appearance is true because of this artificer.

However, there is one type of person whom Plato thinks is full of shenanigans and baseless ungodly imitation: the Artist. Hater’s gonna hate. The Artist only demonstrates untruthful appearances, via imitation, is what Plato states. The aspect of appearance only, be it in a painting or poem for example is so far from true form, or divine, it is in discordance with the idea of form and therefore is untruthful and deceptive. Plato then says because of this presentation of deception by the Artist understanding and knowledge fall short of truth.

In Plato’s opinion the Artist has no idea or complete understanding of the true nature of what they present therefore “he will no more have true opinion than he will have knowledge about the goodness or badness of his imitations”. Plato feared that this presentation the Artist is pushing will rub off on Joe or Jane Public, and not for the better.

So what are we to think about this? Is this a fair assessment of what the Artist presents? I will say no, this is not a fair assessment of what the Artist presents.

Art is an instrumental abstract presence of ideas. Plato says the divine form’s idea, which is absolute truth, can only be followed in accordance by the artificer to create something real. However, Plato never thought about something the artificer most likely would have done possibly before during, during and/or after following the accords of the idea and this is to ponder. The act of pondering an idea is to play with the abstract aspects of the idea itself. The real world is dynamic, not all things go as planned. Lets say the artificer must make a bed and it has to be metal. The artificer taps into the abstracts of the idea and plays with it; will the bed be gold, will it be silver, will it have a headboard or not.

Likewise the Artist, being of the same material reality as the Artificer, has the same access to mental abstracts. Unless the Artist has a debilitating mental condition that prevents him or her from thought the absolute truth’s form-idea will be just as accessible as it is to the Artificer because they are both human beings.

The Artist may not follow through with the bringing forth of a material object form but they do play within the transitional pondering of bringing that object forth into reality. The Artist plays on the interplaying cusp of the abstract and the real but the underlying ‘idea’ is still divine, it does not make the Artists ‘imitation’ any less true. This is the point where we drop the mic. Exit stage left.

Philosophy

Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave: Life’s Sock Puppet Show Versus Reality

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has been assigned to us, the good students, by our professor to examine and I gladly welcome this like an old friend. This allegory is one of the first bits of philosophical query I experienced so I’m a little biased when I say that I think everyone should examine this allegory at least a few times a year as a catalyst for refocusing one’s own life’s imagery. It’s a step in the direction of the light – of enlightenment – and outline the grades of pains and knowledge a person may acquire during their time of ascension toward expanding their knowledge and consciousness about everything around them and within them.  However, what I think is good for me may not be as much for the next person in the moment. Also this is me speaking from the entrance of the cave into the darkness and a person, who could be ascending looking toward the entrance of the cave and the light like I once did, may hear my voice spouting good pleasantries about the world outside cave but only see my silhouette against the abrasive light of day flooding in from the cave entrance.

So at this point, a person reading this may ask what the jibber-jabber are you talking about? The animated visual below should create fair ground to which I am referring to.

Now that the visual has been seen this is the blog prompt that has been proposed by the Professor:

  • Is there a parallel between the status of the prisoners in Plato’s cave and the spectators in a cinema?

My response is yes. Yes, very much so on a few levels. How so and to which levels am I referring to? Let me try to explain to the best of my abilities and as far as my understanding will allow me at this point in time with respect to the allegory.

When a person becomes a cinema spectator they will, to a certain degree, give themselves away to an understanding. The understanding being that of becoming part of the story, assuming the reality of what lies before them – the projection on the large all consuming screen. In seeking that immersion the story becomes the spectator, and as a group, they start to make decisions according to the objects on the screen before them in pace with the story and objects before them. An exchange of visual and aural information is at an interplay between the spectators and the ‘reality’ before them within the walls of the cinema whether the information is true or not. Just like the prisoners in the cave (except the cinema spectators are free to physically move around whereas the prisoners are not).

There is another layer to this scene too which depends on a social aspect. Again referring to the interplay of aural and visual information between the cinema spectator and the ‘reality’ on screen; it will resonant with the participants within the self contained walls of the cinema and words and phrases will only apply to that enclosed world at that time which the spectator will share, some deeper than others – depending on how culturally close in proximity the people are to the essence of the movie and it’s informational interplay, they will become more involved in that world around them because they can relate better by magnitudes. After the reality within the cinema is over they may or may by magnitudes take their experience with them, changing their world view (regardless of whether the information that was at play with them and the reality within the cinema was true or not – it will give them pause to consider the world around them like the prisoner exposed to the light of day and reality of objects outside of the cave exposed by the light).

Now, lets assume these cinema spectators left the theater, they have taken their experience with them, which may or may not have been presented to them as fictional or non-fictional, that experience will resound within their mind’s eye and may influence their reality about them. Should we pity any one of them who takes this experience to heart more than another because what they saw on the screen was fictional or non-fictional? Should we pity the one who takes this experience to heart more than another because what they saw was only an imitation, and if non-fictional then a lesser experience of the true and real event? Because only so much of the real truths, assuming the truths within the cinema were solid truths, could be conveyed with the small time frame within the imitated reality of the cinema movie itself. Some may say truth is stranger than fiction but what they saw was only a movie. Whereas can we say only reality experience outside of the cinema is the more solidly the truth in essence because the senses are not being fooled by an imitation of reality on a screen? Does anyone have the right to point this out to them by reason?

In regards to these questions, Plato had asked somewhat of the same questions in regards to those being educated, the Educators, the State and War. But in regards to a parallel or parallels between the prisoners of the cave and cinema spectators, I say there are, for the reasons I stated above.

I hope this blog post has somewhat piqued an interest in the Allegory of Cave. Again, I sincerely think this particular allegory is a grand philosophical tool mainly because of the picture it paints and the objects used to express inquiry within the allegory and everyone should read this allegory, especially for newcomers to philosophy.

Philosophy, Uncategorized

W.K. Clifford, The Ethics Of Belief

william-kingdon-clifford-quotes-2

This week’s blog prompt is to read and assess William Kingdon Clifford’s essay The Ethics of Belief. The essay is about using ‘belief’ as evidence for truth versus thorough investigation to find evidence for truth. To quote W. K. Clifford: “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” By that statement, we can see that Clifford was definitely not for using belief alone to present truth as, well, truth!

To support the premise of his statement William Clifford turned to himself, William Clifford, and presented a thought experiment in the form of an allegorical story.

The Story

The story is about a ship owner, not a captain, who had an old ship. The old ship had been around the block a few times and had ‘often needed repairs’. Some people (Clifford never stated if they were friends or not) also told the ship owner that ‘possibly she was not seaworthy.’

The ship owner mulled over having her refitted and overhauled; then he thought about how many times she, the ship, had ‘weathered so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come home safely from this trip also.”

He decided to put his ‘trust in Providence’ which would ‘protect’ the ship and it’s passengers. He felt comforted in his belief – then the ship went down with all it’s passengers on board in the middle of the ocean.

Clifford’s Statement

After presenting the story Clifford said that ‘he [the ship owner] was verily guilty of the death of those men.’ Referring to the allegorical men aboard the ship. He went on to say ‘the sincerity of his convictions can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him.’ Clifford states that evidence should be acquired through the process of investigation and not using belief as a process to an end; to this Clifford said the ship owner must be held accountable for his sole action of belief.

To sum Clifford’s statement informally:

  1. Belief alone does not provide evidence for protection.
  2. Ship owner relies on sole belief to provide evidence for protection, therefore ship goes down.
  3. Ship owner is guilty because investigative action was not taken.

To be honest, in my humble opinion, this seems applicably practical on the surface. Take mathematics for example, one can’t perform most mathematical operations without having your work checked and sometimes re-checked to be sure the end result is true. I also think his statement is somewhat logically true but also unsound. The ship could have gone down because of other circumstances, for example, like forces of nature which can be out of man’s realm of control no matter how well one is prepared.

Clifford then went on with modifying his first allegory with a different outcome for the ship; he made another allegory painting the picture of a group who did not conduct a fair inquiry and again stated ‘they had no right to believe on such evidence as was before them.”

After Affects

Clifford then offered a few causal points (which leans toward a slippery slope fallacy). Namely in that he claims that an individual’s belief is not his own private matter but that of society as a whole. He goes on to basically say that if each individual expresses examination for evidence, instead of placing faith in beliefs, all society will go to hell in a hand basket and evils will occur. To quote Clifford:

“The danger to society is not merely that it should believe the wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.” – W. K. Clifford

My Overall Take

Like I said before, I think Clifford’s logic if valid but not sound. Things cannot be as black and white as they seem, considering what context certain causal events occur that may cause one to lean on belief.

Lastly, for one who was stressing investigating true through honest inquiry Clifford never went into defining what honest inquiry was. He never state how to measure it or what gold standard could be used to define and honest inquiry.

Philosophy, Uncategorized

Every Rose Has It’s Thorn: Fallacies In Philosophy

To quote the awesome american band Poison “every rose has it’s thorn”. Philosophy isn’t any different, metaphorically speaking. The thorns in the sweet smelling rose of philosophy is the logical fallacy. So lets take a sniff of the rose, breathe deep, and learn to try to avoid the poke of the fallacy. By the way, Poke of the Fallacy would make a great punk band name, okay, anyway that’s an aside. Lets get to work!

Philosophy has an obligation to critically evaluate known facts; the test of truth is a critical key-stone of philosophy. Without valuating a premise, or base claim, of an argument how are we to come to a sound and logical conclusion of the same valuation? If you wish, see my last blog about assessing validity and soundness of an argument by looking at the logical workings of a the premise and conclusion within an argument’s form.

Professor Rodriguez (a.k.a. The Profess) has revealed to us, the good students, a link to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s list of 213 most common fallacies. Ten fallacies have been chosen for us to review – I’m so grateful it’s only 10 and not all 213! Below is a list of those ten particular fallacies.

  • Give your own, original examples for the following ten fallacies, plus two of your own choice. 

  1. Begging the Question

  2. Ad Hominem

  3. Equivocation

  4. Slippery Slope

  5. Straw Man

  6. Tu Quoque

  7. Non-sequitur

  8. False Dichotomy

  9. Argument from ignorance

  10. Red Herring

The following answers appear in successive order relative to the numbered fallacies above.

  1. Begging The Question: Cats and dogs are treated the same. However, cats are not supposed to play with balls, only dogs are supposed to play with balls because they are dogs.
  2. Ad Hominem: That man’s mathematical logic must be ill. He married another person like himself, he must be terrible at mathematics!
  3. Equivocation: Nancy said she was a liberated woman, most liberated people are socialists. Communists are socialists, they’ve been know to torture in the name of liberation. Nancy must support torture.
  4. Slippery Slope:If one hangs out with people that ride motorcycles they might start doing crime, join a gang, sell drugs and cause trouble – it all leads to anarchy and the state will fall apart.
  5. Straw Man: Man A: “Violent jihad is killing our country-men. It is a threat to us. All people who subscribe to the Muslim religion must be banned from our country because jihad comes from Muslims.” Man B: “But not all people who ascribe to the Muslim faith believe in violent jihad, or violence in general, they don’t support it. So why ban them all?” Man A: “Because only Muslims commit violent jihad.”
  6. Tu Quoque: “If my dentist lies to his patients, then I too can lie to my doctors!”
  7. Non-sequitur: A high I.Q. can be a trait for an intelligent person. Jim Parsons plays an intelligent person on T.V., he and all actors who play intelligent people must have very high I.Q.’s!
  8. False Dichotomy: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” – G. W. Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, September 20, 2001.
  9. Argument from Ignorance: “Any type of life does not exist anywhere in the Universe because there is no proof that it does.” “Philosophy is resoundingly a woman because there is no proof that philosophy is not a literal woman.”
  10. Red Herring: “In order to fix our immigration issue we need to build a wall along the borders of our country. We need to acquire more specialized taxes to do this, there we will focus all of our attention to designing new tax laws for building things – like special walls.”
  11. Group Think: “My team – the Falcons – won the state championships title four years in a row! No one else is better than us, everyone thinks so, they’re all inherently inferior because they are not the Falcons. It’s the truth!”
  12. Tokenism: “Of course the organization supports women and equal pay, we have a woman in the mail room, she is paid the same as our other woman.”

The above are my examples of the ten listed fallacies but there are many many more of those thorny little ‘things’. Those ten in themselves gave me a lot to think about in regards to what I say and how I think and to think there are two-hundred and thirteen listed on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s page of Fallacies. Does anyone know how many fallacies there are? That would be something to know but that is definitely for another time and blog.

Knowing about fallacies can be used as a reference for every day evaluation, not just critical evaluation and not just for philosophical evaluation. In my opinion, knowing the fallacies and how they operate can help one build a better question for learning about the world around you.  It’s a proverbial icing to the proverbial question cake, it can make your question cake richer (and maybe even tastier).

Okay, I just poured myself a beer. You know it’s said at the bottom of every beer there is an answer to everything or maybe some things. I’m going to put this to the test and figure out if this is a fallacy or not, wish me luck! Ha!

Lastly, I dedicate this Poison song to thorny fallacies on the side of the philosophical rose.

 

 

Philosophy

Validity and Soundness of an Argument

The image below seems legit (or is it). Let us find out while exploring the workings of logic within the form of an argument.

nickcage

The good doctor (a.k.a. Dr. T. Rodriguez, the Philosophy Professor) has requested of us, the good students, to explore the particulars of an argument. We are to read “Informal Logic”.

From this reading we are to:

  1. Give your own, original example of a valid argument with a false conclusion.

  2. Give your own, original example of a valid argument with a true conclusion.

  3. Give your own, original example of a sound argument.

  4. Give your own, original example of a persuasive argument based on induction.

Now here I am trying to come up with my own examples while my cat looks on at me wondering when I will get out of his chair and hand over my comfy blanket. The following answers appear in successive order relative to the numbered questions above.

  • Nick Cage’s hair is a spaghetti monster. All Nick Cages have hair. Therefore Nick Cage is a turkey meat ball.
  • Nick Cage’s hair is a spaghetti monster. All Nick Cages have hair. Therefore Nick Cage is a portion of a spaghetti monster.
  • Nick Cage has hair. Nick Cage’s hair is not a bird. Nick Cage is not a bird.
  • Earth’s gravity causes all things to fall toward Earth. If tossed on Earth, a plastic hot-dog will fall toward earth because of gravity.

Well, what kind of bantha poodoo is this madness? As far as my understanding allows me understand, logic as it is described in the web page linked at the beginning of this blog has attributes (or as I like to call them particulates). These attributes make up an intangible form which makes an argument. At first I thought: What the hell? What is this sorcery?

After some thought I took into consideration of what makes a statue; what defines a statue according to humans. A statue is a figure or form defined by a medium (or material if you will) to represent an idea – be it an animal or human. Like the statue arguments have form too.

Huh, maybe arguments are intangible statues of….uh, well, anyway. Arguments have definitions or attributes like the statue. A primary claim or premise (technically considered an antecedent) is a foundation for which an argument is based upon and a premise or premises lead toward a conclusion.

This logic form, lets call it an intangible form of a statue of an argument, can also be represented symbolically in an alphanumeric form starting with P’s and Q’s. Other letters can be added in addition to the P and Q form to expand the form but in general you will find P and Q used. From what I gathered through a Google search this is called Symbolic Logic. I will not go into the subject of Symbolic Logic because that is beyond the scope of this particular blog but it can be Googled – just let your fingers do the walking. Again in general, as described in the linked page at the beginning of this blog, the symbolic representative form of an argument should be: If P then Q. Where P is the antecedent or premise and Q is the conclusion.

Insert mind explosion here: BOOSH! This is amazing! Assuming an argument follows this general form it has a fair chance of being logical but will it be sound (also known as “is it cray-cray or not”). It’s not sound if is not realistically provable in reality. Think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she says “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Arguments can follow a linearly logical form and be true but it doesn’t mean they’re based in reality, it doesn’t mean it’s sound.


(Wizard of Oz, 1939; Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQLNS3HWfCM)

This is some good stuff. I definitely feel like I’m headed toward breaching the surface of a better understanding of argumentation; I feel like I’ve gained a super power! And I can’t wait to test my new-found skills during the 2016 presidential debates. I might even start rating some of the candidates unsound and sound arguments using Totos or Oz wizards or something, meh, who knows. Either way I feel I have gained a valuable tool, especially one I can use in my philosophy class to test for validity and soundness of an argument and I will encourage others to read “Informal Logic” on Jim Pryor’s website.