Question for Cartesians

I have tended to include myself in that bunch but this question is driving me to consider vitalism instead. Nagging questions like this are what usually change my mind. Here it is:

“Why are the highest, most rational faculties of a man’s mind the most hereditary?”

The question assumes a number of things which I can try to explain as they come up, but for expediency’s sake I will assume people can fill in at least some of the details on their own. So the only responsibility I’ll take upon myself is to explain why this observation appears to break Cartesian dualism.

We Cartesians assume that humans exist in at least two realms, named the natural world (of material cause and effect) and the supernatural world (of transcendental cause and effect). We identify such aspects as man’s physical body, the inputs from his five senses, and the earthly effects of his actions as his “worldly” part. We identify his reason, soul, intuition, etc. as his “otherworldly” parts which give life to his otherwise inert “worldly” part. Stab a man through the heart and these two parts separate forever, unless they’re Jesus or a personal friend of his like Lazarus was.

Cartesians like to use this faculty of reason in particular to discover truths in the other realms. Hence the term “rationalist”. Our definition presupposes that rational thought is not a material process, obeying cause and effect like a meat computer. But recently we suspect that a great deal of our ability to perform rational thought is due primarily to genetics, and secondarily to other material factors like iodine deficiency. Supernatural factors, if indeed they have any effect at all, seem to be a distant third to nature and nurture, barely causing any noise in the data at all. It may be possible for the son of a carpenter to be a scholar, but it is much more likely for the son of a scholar to be a scholar.

If the supernatural component of a man can be predicted by the natural component, then it must either be true that one of the components causes the other, or they correspond due to a common cause. Examples of each case follow:

1) Material causes supernatural. Example: Astrology. The alignment of the planets determines how much “soul stuff” of various flavors enters the body and brain at conception. Blacks have more soul because they are born closer to the equator, I would guess.

2) Supernatural causes material. Example: Blank slatism. The body and brain are malleable and grow in response to the education, enlightenment, and sheer holier-than-though self-righteousness of the soul inhabiting them.

3) Common cause. Example: Pre-established harmony. You can make rational deductions, but so can your meatbrain, and they just happen to decide the same things at the same time. It’s like if I decided to punch you, and my shadow also punched your shadow.

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About Aeoli Pera

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16 Responses to Question for Cartesians

  1. automatthew says:

    Monadology is a fairly short treatise. If you haven’t read it, I recommend giving it a try.

    Leibniz is the closest to being right of all the philosophers, in my opinion, and that’s not only because I independently came to similar conclusions before reading him.

  2. Heaviside says:

    Hegel has a whole section on physiognomy & phrenology in the Phenomenology.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      That shouldn’t surprise me. If my reading is correct then his phrenology will be correct and very abstract, which will yield some interesting formulas.

      On the other hand, I see you trying to tempt me to the dark side with a lure that is far from subtle. I consider Hegel to be an accessory to the ongoing creation of the spirit of antichrist.

      • Heaviside says:

        “Brain-fibres and the like, looked at as forms of the being of mind, are already an imagined, a merely hypothetical actuality of mind — not its presented reality, not its felt, seen, in short not its true reality. If they are present to us, if they are seen, they are lifeless objects, and then no longer pass for the being of mind.”

        He doesn’t have a phrenology.

      • Heaviside says:

        Don’t listen to these “conservatives” who badmouth Hegel. They are Trotskyite wreckers. They claim to love “classical civilization” but they are against paganism, slavery, and aristocracy.

        For example, listen to Roger Kimball on Hegel:

        “What should we think of this argument? Badly, anyway. It threatens to destabilize the meaning of some perfectly good words by, so to speak, falsely existentializing them. If at noontime someone said to Hegel, “George, bring me that book now,” and he waited until night to do it because, after all, that was when he had inscribed the word “now” on a piece of paper, we wouldn’t think him clever. Part of learning language is learning the limits of language: grasping what it cannot tell us as well as what it can. On my desk at the moment is Big and Little: A Book of Opposites by Richard Scarry, a very different sort of philosopher from Hegel. It recounts in vivid detail the doings of Hilda the hippo, Squeaky the mouse, and many others. Our son, aetat. two, has absorbed the difference between big and little, up and down, now and then, this and that without once positing the negative or mediating the immediate. I asked him about what Hegel said and he just laughed. Whom would you trust?”

        This is his response to Hegel’s section on sense-certainty in the Phenomenology, i.e. his re-establishment of Platonism and Platonic universals as having more reality than particular objects of sensous impression. Would he have given the same response to Plato?

        “Gee. Does this sound like anyone you know or have ever heard of—excluding, that is, current or potential guests of your local penal establishment?”

        See? And this is what he thinks of the ancient struggle for honour.

        American “conservatism” AKA Bolshevism — not even once.

        Christians should stop claiming the Greeks as their own. Western philosophy, European philosophy, Aryan philosophy, that has to submit to an alien religious framework, is not philosophy.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          >Don’t listen to these “conservatives” who badmouth Hegel. They are Trotskyite wreckers.

          That is an excellent analogy.

          >They claim to love “classical civilization” but they are against paganism, slavery, and aristocracy.

          These are all making a comeback, especially in California. The vanguard precedes the rearguard.

          >This is his response to Hegel’s section on sense-certainty in the Phenomenology, i.e. his re-establishment of Platonism and Platonic universals as having more reality than particular objects of sensous impression.

          I’ll make fun of excessive abstraction, myself, but it’s all in good fun and not meant as a serious repudiation. Abstract thought is serious business, which is part of the reason I’m inclined to laugh at it. That’s always been my reaction in nervous situations.

          >Christians should stop claiming the Greeks as their own.

          We can’t ignore the fact that Christianity caught on in Europe, and not much at all elsewhere, anymore than we can ignore the fact that it seems to have produced the Enlightenment.

      • Heaviside says:

        I probably enjoyed playing up Hegel’s somewhat sinister reputation a bit too much. Philosophy always aims at being the Science, at revealing Ur-knowledge, even if only implicitly and unconsciously. If we are to countenance this destiny, to give philosophy a chance to yield up what it truly is, then we have to accept all concerns such as religious dogma, political ideology, the occult, and suchlike as secondary and beside the point. If we bring these matters into the consideration of philosophy as such then we are already denying at the outset its possibility to be the science.

        Philosophy is not a tool to create arbitrary belief systems or worldviews with which to manipulate people. It might be fun to talk about it that way, but ultimately that’s just a pastime for edgelords(I’m only a part-time edgelord). Karl Marx did not really kill people with Das Kapital the same way you might kill them with a smart bomb. If we really accept that point of view then we have to say that thought is just the plaything of arbitrary whims and base desires and not a place suitable for truth to dwell at all.

        “How nonsensical! This would appear as if the philosopher kept possession of his thoughts in the same way as of his external goods: the philosophic Idea is, however, something utterly different, and instead of being possessed by, it possesses a man. When philosophers discourse on philosophic subjects, they follow of necessity the course of their ideas; they cannot keep them in their pockets; and when one man speaks to another, if his words have any meaning at all, they must contain the idea present to him.”

        When I say that certain weighty matters usually considered foundational are extraneous to the guiding principle of philosophy what I am saying is that we cannot allow externally imposed abstract fixed determinations to enter into the science at the beginning. However, this does not mean that there is necessarily an opposition between this scientific element and other things. Naturally things can only be what they truly are when they move in this element. To say that knowledge only consists in the fixed opposition of relative viewpoints is to deny the possibility of philosophy. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has come to be called “philosophy” these days.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          >I probably enjoyed playing up Hegel’s somewhat sinister reputation a bit too much.

          I think most people consider him a nihilistic clown like Kefka.

          I think he was on to something, but like all smartypants types his allegiances are suspect to me.

          >Karl Marx did not really kill people with Das Kapital the same way you might kill them with a smart bomb. If we really accept that point of view then we have to say that thought is just the plaything of arbitrary whims and base desires and not a place suitable for truth to dwell at all.

          This is unnecessarily binary. Many people can be pushed to act by philosophy in a way that I don’t think you can experience. If it helps, you might think of the impression of philosophy on ordinary people as similar to the impression music makes on you.

          >However, this does not mean that there is necessarily an opposition between this scientific element and other things.

          This is true. Yet we live in a world where people feel bad about killing other people and taking their natural resources unless they’re in a big group of people wearing the same uniforms.

    • automatthew says:

      Kierkegaard more than badmouthed Hegel.

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