Table of Contents: Simple Wisdoms Overview
The state of education
Where are people exposed to the simple practical lessons of daily living? What helps people determine the best way to be? Where do people compare notes?
It's as easy not to have been to school and know something as to have been to school and know nothing.1
I readily relapse into my reflections on the uselessness of our education. Its aim has been to make us not good and wise, but learned; and in this it has succeeded. It has not taught us to follow and embrace virtue and wisdom, but has imprinted their derivations and etymologies on our minds. We are able to decline virtue even if we are unable to love it; if we do not know what wisdom is in fact and by experience, we are familiar with it as a jargon learned by heart.2 3
Our schools teach mathematics. Mathematics is practical, useful, but not demonstrated as such. Our schools teach English, but almost incidentally and overlooking the real purpose. Writing English should be used to develop thoughtfulness. As Bacon said, "Reading maketh a full man, conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man." Our schools teach history, but the facts are not used to reinforce the sense of time or the lessons simple daily living. The object is not to teach the fact, it is to help develop the process of thinking. That was the fundamental lesson of Socrates.
So many people fight schooling because they are not interested. Such people do not see its usefulness to them. Interest is self-interest and any successful lesson demands self-interest be demonstrated early on.4
Dealing with the simple daily problems of living seems not to be dealt with in schools. We should simultaneously teach facts and develop the process of thinking as well. In today's test-oriented schooling developing the process of thinking is almost lost.
THE Goal -- having one is insufficient5
Altruism suggests working towards one goal; a single purpose; an end result. Then, the altruists suppose, we will all be able to stop working for each other and begin working each of us for ourselves. Such a situation can never occur. We are never going to get to the end. It first suggests that there is an end. But once we reach what might have been considered an end, we'll see that it might be possible to go further. So this end will only turn out to have been a first step.
Instead we must treat each point as simultaneously an endpoint and a midpoint on the quest to a future end point. How ludicrous to weigh the end results so heavily when we shall never be there.
The test of a process of decisionmaking is whether one receives a fair shake no matter on which side of an issue I choose to stand.
An absolute code consisting of abiding standards objectively true and universally valid differs from a conclusion that people will come to based on similar experience and evidence. The former has fruitlessly been sought. Even though they may appear the same, the former is an even and the latter is a process. A process offers the opportunity for correction and continued chance of success. A process is both an engine of our time and an engine of our situation.
This awareness that what is appropriate changes with the times was one of the outstanding features of Confucius' thought, so much so that Mencius describes him as 'the sage whose actions were timely' (Mencius, V.B.I).6
Process rather than precepts
There are schools of process philosophy. Whitehead is the major spokesman with Process and Reality. It is nearly impossible to read. then there is Hegel's The Preface to the Phenomenology of the Spirit. It is important because it was written in the interval between Kant and Marx.
Analytical and dialectical methods are fundamentally antagonistic towards each other. According to the dialectical method, if you want to find truth you must use a process. Process describes the thesis and antithesis. then you get the synthesis. From the analytical point of view you are violating the law of non-contradiction, which is their sacred law; you are saying that the thesis and antithesis are true at the same time.7
Marx and Hegel were producing their work about the same time as Gibbs in Physics. It was the beginning of thermodynamics. Most high school physics even today deals as if everything stands still. Our experience doesn't work that way. So about the time of Marx and Hegel people began to analyze changes rather than state. The same thing that was happening in political science was happening in mathematics.
So dialectics is the study of process; a way of recognizing changes. A way of grasping slippery ideas. We are adrift in a sea of ideas with no apparent shoreline and no bottom to plumb. No stars guide our way. Waves of ideas have no regular period or direction. No beginning or end mark the ideas. Such a world is unbalancing and disconcerting. Hofstadter described the slipperiness of the flow of ideas with his tangled loops. He referred to a quotation by neurophysiologist Sperry.8
Mandelbrot describes the patterns of shorelines, mountain ridges, capillary structure that may be representative of our sea of ideas using his concept of fractals.
Karl Marx -- Why misunderstood?
If Karl Marx has created a valuable tool, why has it been misunderstood and misused? First, he has a prolific writer. Any extraction is liable to be incomplete. Secondly, he wrote turgidly. Finally, he did not have access to the symbolism of Hofstadter.
Even Marx seems to have misused his own tool. It was as if having invented a wrench, he tried next to see if it could be a successful screwdriver. It was not a terribly good screwdriver, but people since then have been exclaiming, "A screwdriver! A screwdriver!" He tried to create a static truth in the face of his understanding of constant dynamics. It was as if he had said "I'm going to use this tool for viewing dynamic systems to produce a static conclusion."9
Where Marx was interested in a goal, a successful process is more useful. A successful process is an active goal. As a dynamic, it can improve. As a practical approximation, it can be self-correcting. Marx's dialectic process was also incomplete. Once having decided how to look at things, it does not give you any help determining where to stop or how to stop.10
Discussing discussing: tangled loops, when people argue
If you begin talking with me about a problem and I respond with an answer you are not satisfied with, you may readdress the problem in a different manner, or direct your attention to my unsatisfactory response. If you do the latter, the initial problem has been left unresolved and replaced with a second problem on another level. That second problem is the problem of talking about the problem.
A shared understanding of Hofstadter's tangled loops will help make such conversations more manageable. It will contribute to thoughtful discussion. The example shows:
People generally argue without benefit of referees or recordkeepers. They end up discussing fifty different subjects with no way to keep order. The process of discussion gets tangled. Emotions can get tangled as well. Only by recognizing anger and frustration can anger and frustration be managed:
"Things are getting out of hand. Let's settle down and deal with that."
Only by examining why you became angry in the first place can you plot the ideas. Ironically, realizing why you became angry in the first place you can become just as angry once more. A tangled loop.
People who understand these tangled mechanisms are prepared to recognize them and better prepared to deal constructively with them.
Neither grammatical subtleties, nor the ingenious weaving of words and arguments help me there. I want discourses that plunge straight into the heart of the perplexity; his beat feebly about the bush. They are good for the school, the bar, and the pulpit, where we have leisure to doze, and are still in time a quarter of an hour later to pick up the thread of the argument.11
Question: Conversation on Conversation
The men whose society and intimacy I seek are those who are called well-bred and talented men; and the thought of these gives me a distaste for others. Their kind is, rightly considered, the rarest that we have, a kind that owes almost everything to nature. the purpose of our intercourse is simply intimacy, familiarity, and talk; the exercise of our mind is our sole gain. In our conversations all subjects are alike to me. I do not care if there is no depth or weight in them; they always possess charm, and they always keep to the point. . . .
Treat everyone with decency whether they deserve it or not. But, since Confucius also says to be straight with people. They deserve to know where you stand. If they should know where you stand, when do you let them know and in what way? How should an opportunity to be constructive be set up? This problem describes a tangled loop: conversing about trying to carry on a conversation with them.12
There is the potential for recursion in conversation: talking about different levels of discourse. Shifting among levels of discourse. The symbols for nailing down levels of discourse are not refined. Until tangled loops, levels, or knots are easily labeled, recognizing them will prove as difficult as discussing them.13 When people in ordinary conversations begin to talk about their relationships the conversations are liable to become slippery. "If I ask this question about how you feel about me it might affect how you feel about me, so should I. . ." This is being caught in a tangled loop. R. D. Laing's book of examples is called Knots.14
Where there is no communication there is no friendship; no respect, merely tolerance. Where there is no communication, the opportunities to learn or help learn are limited. Having no problems is different than not talking about the problems you do have.
People may not discuss what preoccupies them because they do not recognize the problems they have. Perhaps because of naiveté or brittleness. Social solitude of loners may mask situations they refuse to discuss or looping that is difficult to control. Walls of silence, shortchange yourself. To talk about problems need not mean to belabor them.
Friendship and Trust
I have seen people who gather together the whole day and never talk of anything serious among themselves, and who love to play little tricks on people. Marvelous, how can they ever do it!15
. . .if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.
Certainly you should discuss everything with a friend; but before you do so, discuss in your mind the man himself. After friendship is formed you must trust, but before that you must judge. . . . Think for a long time whether or not you should admit a given person to your friendship. But when you have decided to do so, welcome him heart and soul, and speak as unreservedly with him as you would with yourself. You should, I need hardly say, live in such a way that there is nothing which you could not as easily tell your enemy as keep to yourself; but seeing that certain matters do arise on which convention decrees silence, the things which you should share with your friend are all your worries and deliberations. Regard him as loyal, and you will make him loyal. . . . Why should I keep back anything when I am with a friend. Why shouldn't I imagine I'm alone when I'm in his company?16
. . .the wise man, self-sufficient as he is, still desires to have a friend if only for the purpose of practicing friendship and ensuring that those talents are not idle. Not, as Epicurus put it in the same letter, 'for the purpose of having someone to come and sit beside his bed when he is ill or come to his rescue when he is hard up or thrown into chains', but so that on the contrary he may have someone by whose sickbed he himself may sit or whom he may himself release when that person is held prisoner by hostile hands.17
One needs very strong ears to hear oneself freely criticized; and since there are few who can stand it without being stung, those who venture to perform this service for us give us a remarkable proof of their friendship. For it is a healthy affection that dares to wound and offend us for our own good.18
[F]ortune, by accustoming me in my youth to the delicacy of a single and perfect friendship, has in fact given me a certain distaste for other kinds. . . . Also, I find an innate difficulty in giving myself by halves and with reservations, and with that slavish and suspicious prudence that is required of us in the conduct of our numerous and imperfect friendships.19
For just as my own love for myself is not increased by the help I give myself at need . . . and as I feel no gratitude to myself for any service that I do myself; so the union of such friends, being truly perfect, causes them to lose consciousness of these duties, and to hate and banish from their thoughts these words that imply separation and difference: benefit, obligation, gratitude, request, thanks, and the like. Everything being in effect common between them -- will, thoughts, opinions, goods, wives, children, honour, and life -- and their agreement being that of one soul in two bodies, according to Aristotle's very proper definition, they can neither lend nor give one another anything.20 21
Then and Now. Enlightenment thinking. Consciousness perceived.
During the enlightenment, among the educated few, thinking was well-regarded. But then only a select few were privileged to be well-educated. Developing the skill in everyone, a goal in our own self-interests, will take some time to accomplish; particularly considering those guiding formal education are not really sure how to go about it.
Our perception of consciousness in the past has been skewed. A significance of Julian Jaynes' Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Jaynes points out that we have been seeing history through the eyes of a select minority of people. These historians were historians _because_ they had an acute sense of time. Without that sense of time, they would not have been writing history. They are the people who had a more developed sense of consciousness.
We have assumed at everyone has had that same sense when, in fact, there are levels of sophistication in knowing the knacks of thinking; in knowing the knacks of consciousness.
People follow Confucius' li or The Way in three distinctly different manners:
Confucius felt that, from the point of view of understanding The Way, the people who are at the third level could not be expected to grasp it. They could never understand why. From Confucius point of view they were unteachable.
Jaynes suggests that consciousness is a learned habit. To me it's something like riding a bicycle. Since it is a acquired trait, we may be able to come up with a method of teaching people to be able to ride that bike. In terms of the phrase too much abused by people who have no idea what they are talking about, it may be possible "to raise their consciousness". With consciousness people increase their sense of how to determine what are the most important questions to be dealt with. They increase their understanding of the value of a sense of time, understanding the value of history, of the fact that the future will soon enough become the present, of the sense of otherness. They increase their own potential to deal with their own problems.
Some have suggested that it made no sense that the people learned to do what they did when they did not understand why they were doing things. On the contrary, they do this every day still. Religions require blind commitment. Only certain select few within some organized religions "see the light".
In military basic training, the training is not so much to teach recruits to think as it is to be sure they will learn to follow orders without question. Training is directed at the lowest common denominator. Certainly some recruits are thoughtful, but others are "only doing their job".
1 Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones. . .
2 Montaigne, Michele de. Essays. Translation and introduction by j. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Pg. 222.
3 ++++q11 M q13 E duplicate
4 ++++Our country's founders were well versed in the classics. I am not suggesting that we should do the same, but we need to be exposed to the lessons of the classics.
5 ++++Corollary to one dimensionalism
6 Confucius. The Analects. Translation and introduction by D. C. Lau. Harmondsworth,. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1979. Pg. 49. Quoted in the introduction by the editor.
7 Thanks again to Kristin Waters. Although Kristin is trained as an analytic, she thinks the descriptive abilities of the dialectical philosophy far outstrip those of the analytical.
8 ++++Sperry quotation.
9 Kristin disagrees, pointing out that ultimately Marx wanted the state to be unnecessary. Anarchy was what he envisioned in a libertarian rather than reactionary way. Kristin further contends that Marx was fundementally right thinking that the problem of capitalism is that it makes the major motive of people really irrational, but his method and goal were wrong. First, you cannot have violence. And second, there is a value to self-interest; and even if there weren't a value, it does exist.
10 As Kristin has said, the variables have no value, you are simply studying the equation. I don't understand his 'technical advancements don't increase use value'. Kristin says Marx contends that technology alienates and increases boredom. That it takes care of basic needs but creates inhuman jobs.
11 Montaigne, Michele de. Essays. Translation and introduction by j. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Pg. 166.
12 Montaigne, Michele de. Essays. Translation and introduction by j. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Pg. 257.
13 ++++Like an onion.
14 ++++Reference and examples. Expand.
15 Confucius. The Wisdom of Confucius. Lin Yutang, ed. New York: Random House, 1938, 1966. Pg. 172.
16 Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Letters from a Stoic. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1969. Pg. 35.
17 Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Letters from a Stoic. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1969. Pg. 49.
18 Montaigne, Michele de. Essays. Translation and introduction by j. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Pg. 359.
19 Montaigne, Michele de. Essays. Translation and introduction by j. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Pg. 253.
20 Montaigne, Michele de. Essays. Translation and introduction by j. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Pg. 99.
21 ++++Refer to facade.
22 ++++The dogma of organized religion is woven with ritual.
Table of Contents: Simple Wisdoms Overview