[MD] Julian Baggini: This is what the clash of civilisations is really about
dmbuchanan at hotmail.com
Wed May 27 12:16:31 PDT 2015
Charlene Seigfried, paraphrasing William James,
says intellectualism “became vicious already with Socrates and Plato, who
deified conceptualization and denigrated the ever-changing flow of
experience, thus forgetting and falsifying the origin of concepts as
humanly constructed extracts from the temporal flux.”
Ron Kulp said to John:
Aristotle says something similar in book alpha of metaphysics, that we seek to render the unintelligible intelligible. We impose limit on experience in order to better understand it. I think that is different than a will for Absolutes. I think that's where some disagree with Royce. (Ron later added:) This rendering of wholes out of the many bits of experience is an artistic act so that it is a will toward greater meaning not so much a truth in terms of absolutes.
dmb says: "Royce is defending himself against James' criticism of what the latter called "vicious abstractionism" or "vicious intellectualism". Royce is trying to deny the contrast between intellectualism and pragmatism by reframeing it as "a contrast between the will that is loyal to truth as an universal ideal, and the will that is concerned with its own passing caprices". "The only question is whether the will really means to aim at doing something that has a final and eternal meaning," Royce says. Please notice two things here. Royce has construed pragmatism as concerned with passing caprices, which is incorrect if not slanderous. The second thing to notice is that Royce wants to distance himself from intellectualism but the claims he makes are exactly what James meant by "vicious abstractionism". Truth that is "loyal to a universal ideal" and truth that has a "final and eternal meaning" is also a pretty good way to describe the views that Pirsig rejects in Plato and Hegel.
It's also interesting to see that Royce's view is centrally motivated by his personal wishes and yet his personal wish is that reality was far more than just personal wishes. He says, "individualism is wrong in supposing that I can ever be content with my own will in as far as it is merely an individual will." Royce is contrasting that with a different will, one that "defines the truth that it endlessly seeks as a truth that possesses completeness, totality, self-possession, and therefore absoluteness." (Sounds like Schopenhauer.) It's very seductive language and just about anyone can understand, at least to some extent, Royce's desire for complete, total, and absolute truth. But there are two major problems here. 1) Epistemologically speaking, we just cannot have that kind of truth and so Royce is literally asking for the impossible. 2) Holding beliefs contrary to the relevant evidence or unsupported by the relevant evidence is unethical. It's dishonest. It's intellectually sleazy, so to speak. (And endorsing that basic ethical standard is one more reason to reject the notion that pragmatic truth is just about individual caprice.)
Royce's notion is truth is so highly idealized and elevated that it might as well be god. That's the essence of vicious intellectualism, the denigration of actual experience and the deification of abstract concepts. Reification is the error of granting existential status to the products of human reflection, of mistaking thoughts for ontological realities. Idealists and theists aren't the only ones who commit this error, of course, but they're far more obvious about it.
> >> On May 25, 2015, at 5:00 PM, John Carl quoted Royce:
> >> "The contrast is not one between intellectualism and pragmatism. It is the
> >> contrast between two well-known attitudes of will, — the will that is loyal
> >> to truth as an universal ideal, and the will that is concerned with its own
> >> passing caprices.
> >> And yet, despite all this, the modern assault upon mere intellectualism is
> >> well founded. The truth of our assertions is indeed definable only by
> >> taking account of the meaning of our own individual attitudes of will, and
> >> the truth, whatever else it is, is at least instrumental in helping us
> >> towards the goal of all human volition. The only question is whether the
> >> will I really means to aim at doing something that has a final and eternal
> >> meaning.
> >> All logic is the logic of the will. There is no pure intellect. Thought is
> >> a mode of action, a mode of action distinguished from other modes mainly by
> >> its internal clearness of self-consciousness, by its relatively free
> >> control of its own procedure, and by the universality, the impersonal
> >> fairness and obviousness of its aims and of its motives. An idea in the
> >> consciousness of a thinker is simply a present consciousness of some
> >> expression of purpose, — a plan of action. A judgment is an act of a
> >> reflective and self-conscious character, an act whereby one accepts or
> >> rejects an idea as a sufficient expression of the very purpose that is each
> >> time in question. Our whole objective world is meanwhile defined for each
> >> of us in terms of our ideas. General assertions about the meaning of our
> >> ideas are reflective acts whereby we acknowledge and accept certain ruling
> >> principles of action.
> >> And in respect of all these aspects of doctrine I find myself at one with
> >> recent voluntarism, whether the latter takes the form of instrumentalism,
> >> or insists upon some more individualistic theory of truth. But for my part,
> >> in spite, or in fact because of this my voluntarism, I cannot rest in any
> >> mere relativism. Individualism is right in saying, "I will to credit this
> >> or that opinion." But individualism is wrong in supposing that I can ever
> >> be content with my own will in as far as it is merely an individual will.
> >> The will to my mind is to all of us nothing but a thirst for complete and
> >> conscious self-possession, for fullness of life. And in terms of this its
> >> central motive, the will defines the truth that it endlessly seeks as a
> >> truth that possesses completeness, totality, self-possession, and there
> >> fore absoluteness."
> >> J Royce - William James and other Essays on the Philosophy of Life
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