Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hegel put himself outside the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition

NYIKOS, PETER Apr 16, 2017
Stephen, the way Bob interprets Hegel's concept of "infinite," I can only conclude that Hegel's concept has nothing to do with either any mathematical concept or any Judeo-Christian-Islamic  concept of "infinite". We mathematicians are very much used to infinite numbers, thanks to Cantor's great breakthrough in realizing that there is an infinity of distinct infinite numbers. For instance, Cantor explicitly proved that there are more points on a line than there are integers (whole numbers). And so the infinite number for the former is greater than that for the latter. 

Cantor even showed that for any infinite number, there is a greater one yet: because infinite numbers describe sets, and the collection of all subsets of any set has a greater number of members than the set itself has. 

Cantor himself thought God's infiniteness was even greater than that of any infinite number. Perhaps in this he was influenced by Anselm, who defined God as the most perfect conceivable entity. Yet, as far as I know, both of them believed that God created the universe and is distinct from his creation. This is the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic belief.  In denying this, Hegel put himself outside this tradition.

Peter Nyikos 
Professor, Dept. of Mathematics      
University of South Carolina 

" Hegel put himself outside this tradition."

A recent book, "Hegel's India" brings into focus his tryst with Indian philosophy giving rise to the speculation that many of his innovative notions were inspired by (or, borrowed from) it.

This, of course, is a fertile area of study. A review:

Tusar Nath Mohapatra

NYIKOS, PETER Apr 17, 2017
The main Western philosophical drive in the past century started with the revolt in psychology against the introspection of Wundt, towards the behaviorism of Watson and Skinner. This affected philosophy to where the dominant force in the Philosophy of Mind was what I call "third person realism," with a cynical connotation to "realism". The underlying fiction is that words have no meaning unless they are somehow about publicly available information. The epitome of this was an essay about dreams which denied any meaning to the word "dream" above and beyond the report of someone of something he called his dream.

Psychology is overcoming this Orwellian use of language, and philosophy seems to be following suit, but I'm afraid Western philosophy will have a hard time coming around all the way to the insight embodied in the Korean language.

Peter Nyikos
Professor of Mathematics
University of South Carolina

Robert Wallace, Apr 17, 2017
This is a very common way of sketching early Greek philosophy, but I think it’s misleading. It’s true that early Greek thinkers seem “mainly” to focus on a physical order of the cosmos. But there are always moral elements or suggestions in their thinking, as when Thales speaks of “soul” and Anaximander speaks of the infinite “controlling” the cosmos and of the opposites “paying penalty and retribution to each other.” In Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Parmenides, moral and “physical” issues are much more manifestly intertwined and inseparable.

Thus when historians speak of the early Greek “natural philosophers” as anticipating our natural sciences, they are oversimplifying.

There is indeed a famous passage in which Plato has Socrates say that he turned away from speculation about the cosmos to thinking about ethics. And perhaps for a while he did. But Plato very quickly rejoined the two topics to each other, because he saw that Socrates’s concern about truth in ethics required an account of truth in general, which would have to apply to nature as well as to human affairs.

Plato then gives an explicit argument to show that reality as such is ultimately determined by the Good, and thus by (among other things) moral considerations, so that (if we assume that the “physical” is supposed to be “real”) your (I) and (II) are inseparable from each other.

So that you appropriately ask:

what is the real meaning of “Good” that is often used in the philosophy of Plato and why it is called “Good”.

What is the “Good”? Ah, that is the question alright!  Plato mentions two popular theories of the Good: that it is pleasure, and that it is knowledge. (505c)  He (through Socrates) comments that everyone admits that there are bad pleasures; and as for knowledge, its advocates go on to specify the important knowledge as knowledge of the good, so “knowledge” as such can’t be the good.

Here Plato has Socrates make one of his well-known disavowals of knowledge: “I’m afraid that I won’t be up to it…” (506d)! But he does not, like a skeptic, abandon the topic! Rather, his famous similes of the Sun, the Line, and the Cave are meant to suggest how we go about thinking about what is real in general and what the Good really is. Having finally left the Cave (of familiar theories of the real or the Good as “pleasure” or “knowledge” or whatever) behind him, the former cave-dweller will “be able to see the sun” (516b). Then he will have the answer to your question, “what is the real meaning of the Good”!

Plato concludes that “the power to learn is present in everyone’s soul,” but what’s needed is to “turn the whole soul until it is able to study that which is and the brightest thing that is, namely, the one we call the good” (518c). How to “turn” the soul in this way is the issue that the whole Republic addresses.

So we shouldn’t expect Plato to give us a cut-and-dried answer to your question, “what is the real meaning of Good?” He has had Socrates tell us that he doesn’t possess a cut-and-dried answer. The common answers (pleasure, knowledge) have been shown to be inadequate, and Plato has nothing so simple to offer in their place.

What he does offer us is a description of the whole process whereby we necessarily seek the Good. We criticize and “turn away” from common answers, and continue to explore the issue. And in the process we explore the whole of reality—including animals, plants, mathematics (510)—so as to determine what aspect of it makes it truly real.

But your second question, “Why is it called ‘Good,’” does have a simple, cut-and-dried answer. The Good is what everyone wants for themselves. “Nobody is satisfied to acquire things that are merely believed to be good … but everyone wants the things that really are good and disdains mere belief” about this subject (505d). This is why reality, and knowledge of reality, are so important for us. We may or may not care to know what the distance of the sun is from the earth. But everyone wants to know what’s really good, so as to be able to go after that, and not after some illusion.

And Plato’s broader point, as I said in previous emails, is that seeking knowledge of what’s really good is what distinguishes a “unified” and self-governing soul from a scattered soul which is governed by influences originating outside it. So that the pursuit of the Good (pursuit of knowledge of it, and thus of it) enables us to be more fully ourselves than we can otherwise be—and thus more real, as ourselves, than we would otherwise be. This is where the Good and the Real turn out to be intimately connected to each other. The Real order of the cosmos is moral as well as physical. The two are ultimately inseparable.

And this pursuit of the Good (and thus of Reality) takes us beyond not only our pre-existing opinions but also beyond what we call “ego” and Plato calls thumos. Because opinions and ego merely distract us from whatever Reality and the really Good may be.

Plato tells us that the part of the soul that seeks the Good is “more divine” (518e), and that the Good is “superior” even to being “in rank and power” (509b). So he invites us to see what he has described as a search not only for what’s really good (for us) but for the divine as such. Indeed, the two will be the same.

Best, Bob W
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Barry Urie Apr 17, 2017
Hi Bob,
    Thanks for getting back to me. I am not an academic, I am well educated and well read. I was added to the list by a Dr. in India with whom I share an interest in a 'science of information'.
     Concerning your statement and question:  "As far as I know, it does not speak in terms of “emergence.” Did the course recognize this fact—that scientists are quite unsure how to deal with such events as the emergence of life and the emergence of consciousness?
 They glossed over emergence of life by saying various theories (deep sea vents etc.) abound and offer reference material including links to The Natural History Museum which in turn offer more resources, then leaves it up to the individual to satisfy themselves. They never address consciousness directly, they say awareness has its foundation in the 'Self Organizing Force of Nature'. What I got from the course is a scientific explaination of the 'Philosophy of Wholeness' and the patterns and cycles of nature.
      Indeed why should we believe there is value in living in harmony with nature? What's the alternative, living in Donald Trump's world? I have no judgement to make on what is good, I do however feel that value lies in selfishness. I do not mean greed, greed is wanting more than ones needs to the detriment of others. Selfishness is doing what is in the best interests of the self, for example I want to eat the healthiest most nutriscious food I can. I am no different from others selves who want the same things. I am a self becoming aware of a larger self who is greater than the sum of the selves.
Best Regards,

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