A Max Planck Moment

Sometime during the first decade of my life I wondered exactly what defined the absolute instant  of motion (or stillness) of an object at the microcosmic level. I first pondered about that while being driven in a car. At that time, I didn’t know about the fuzziness and jiggling of electronic ‘clouds’ that permeate matter at the microcosmic level of matter, but I intuitively sensed that an auto was not the proper vehicle for the answer to my ‘deep’ kinematic question. I also didn’t know that Planck had an answer to that question. And, not exactly at the caliber of Einstein’s ‘thought experiments,’ I also didn’t know that my question was the first instance of my lifelong cosmological speculations. There has since been a steady stream of speculation.

The Singularity of the Universe

A few years ago, I read an article that posited the universe would eventually slow down forever but never absolutely stop expanding. The theory is based on the assumption that any length can be divided in half infinitely. Ooops!…there goes Planck’s Constant, where anything beyond its limit is meaningless.

Of course I’m not thinking about an auto, or classical science or quantum mechanics, or a potential breakdown of physics as we know it. I’m thinking of what is usually called, the “fabric of space.” I have no difficulty understanding that we are unable to imagine the very large or very small, but the theory described above lacks reason.  Reason itself prevents me from accepting any theory that contradicts reason no matter what the mathematics. Mathematics can describe reality, e.g., E=MC2, but cannot create it.

Infinity

On January 15, 2012, I posted an article on my website titled Disambiguation (Part 3 of 3). A quote from that article reads: “Trying to [imagine] nothingness is like trying to remember a dreamless sleep.” You will find it impossible to imagine absolutely nothing. Try it.  

Darkness? ‘Nothing’ means no darkness, no anything. ‘Nothing’ is just as unimaginable as infinity.  Given that nothing means nothing, then there would be nothing beyond the fringes of the universe. That would make the universe finite whatever its size. Even an inch is infinite if there is absolutely nothing else other than that inch.

The same is true of infinite space or infinite ‘anything.’ That too, is unimaginable. Yet ─ to the credit of human thought ─ we engage in speculation about space, time, and life.  

By definition, speculation is open-ended, but it is also subject to the dictates of reason, the guidepost for reasonable speculation. It is reasonable to think that numbers are infinite: just add 1 to any number. But that is an exclusively mental construct that has no existence and no finite or infinite number.

However, space and matter are real. So is life. All three are open to speculation. Even if religion is excluded from valid speculation, there remains a plethora of definitions and explanations for the existence of space and matter, let alone their interactions.

Yet, there are those who claim that existence is merely a dream or a hologram of some other reality, as in Plato’s cave analogy. And there are those who claim that our senses intrinsically give us a distorted concept of ‘reality,’ even when enhanced by spectacular technology. In other words, we are blind because we have eyes and we are unable to perceive reality because our brains distort it. Others demand proof that existence exists even though that is the ultimate axiom!

The impulse to write this article was triggered by a graphic on the popular TV show (How the Universe Works) which depicted four separate universes birthed by a central, undefined cosmic progenitor (super universe?).

The concept of a ‘multiverse’ is implied in that graphic although the existence of multiple universes can never be proved. The purpose of the graphic was to posit the theory that the dark energy of the universe is caused by the combined gravitational pull of four separate universes surrounding and tugging ‘our’ universe’s expansion.

By definition, nothing proved about the universe is hyperbole. But theories that categorically cannot be proved, pale in the light of both proved and reasonable theories.   

One More Item

I apologize for my plunge into the excessive writing style of Germanic philosophers of the late 18th and 19th century. Paradoxically, while the Information Age is exponentially bursting with accessibility and distribution of knowledge at a global level, the art of reasoning continues to nosedive. More on that in my next posting.

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Bits and Tips from an Old Man

Eight years ago (2011) a dear friend, Amichai, read an article I wrote. On the basis of that article (and select others) he suggested that I should have a website featuring my articles. When I told him that I liked his suggestion but hesitated to create and maintain a website because of my lack of computer acumen he surprised me with a website a day or two later! He enhanced that surprise with the maintenance of the website for a decade since.

About five years ago he surprised me again. This time he had a book of my articles published! Since the website format is strictly a succession of ongoing articles, Amichai has provided two editions of the original book, each of which includes all past as well as new articles that had accumulated since their preceding edition.

The current edition has an exquisite cover depicting the Hubble Deep Field, that incomparable voice of the universe. Moments before I turned the cover of this new addition, the voice spoke to me: “This better be good!” (I’m always apprehensive when I read something I’ve written which is in print─ the bane of immovable type.) But, as I leaf through this latest edition, I am relieved to discover that I am not at all disappointed with it. It might have been written by a professional author. Certainly, the content is as valid as it was when I wrote it.

Instant electronic text is amazing, but a book exudes a quiet sense of intimacy between author and reader that can’t be rivaled by the Internet. I’m comfortable with the book replica of my website and am very grateful to Amichai for the realization of it in book form. Although I have “no name” (as they put it), I now have a ‘legacy’ (for want of a better word). The book is a faint whisper amid the turbulent din of social media, but will be slightly more visible in some corner of a bookshelf before bookcases are obsolete.

Having no “name,” I don’t expect more than a handful of readers at best. But my website often appears on the same page as a website maintained by an Italian (film) director who does have a name that is exactly the same as mine. The double coincidence of our sharing the same occupation as well as the same name has been a source of temporary confusion. The chances are that several seekers for his website have begun to read an article I’ve written before they’ve notice that I’m the wrong Mario Martone. On my home page that other director is referred to as “the other guy.”

The original purpose for the creation of my website was to write articles that provide readers with facts and opinions that are not necessarily reflected in mainstream media. More often than not, my articles are counter to the beliefs of most people. As events unfold and discussed on social media, I am often compelled to express my views about them in the context of larger issues that are incompatible with the current dominance of relativism. For example and despite the chagrin of militant determinists, I firmly adhere to the concept and inviolate reality of free will when making moral judgments.

The generic premise of my divergent articles is never intrinsically determinist. Determinism dominates the inanimate world (perhaps even within the chaotic inanimate counterintuitive quantum world), but free will prevails in the realm of intelligence. Consider the following.

I recently viewed an excellent documentary on Einstein, Hawking, and Black Holes. Despite the documentary’s excellence, the commentator’s culminating words powerfully implied that the universe is deterministic. Although there was no hint that human beings are an integral part of determinism, his tone and the author’s placing of that comment at the very end of the documentary powerfully imply that we too are deterministic. I’ve made this point many times in different articles that highlight science, art, and philosophy, the triumvirate of intelligent thought. Now, thoroughly satisfied by an exquisite book, I should probably consider quitting while I’m ahead, at least in my self-judgment.

But there’s a problem: At ninety-two, my synapses are still robustly firing. That compels me to go on with the website despite my obscurity in a colossal sea of words we call the Internet. (I hesitate to ask what the “cloud” does or is about to do!)

But now that I have a book as my ‘legacy,’ perhaps I’ll ask him if I might relieve him of his part in maintaining the site. I can just add new, dated articles that appear only on this document before each article and tuck it into my book, thanks to Amichai!

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Axiom vs. Ego

A masterpiece cannot be improved upon. That’s why it’s called a masterpiece, e.g., the film, The Wizard of Oz, the sculpture, Pieta, the opera Aida.

Yet, there are revisionists who unconscionably ‘create’ new versions of masterpieces. The latest of these is the current production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Reviews are glowing, money is rolling- in, but once again a masterpiece has been assaulted.

In this “adaptation,” the favorite moral axiom of relativists is celebrated. Yes, the crowd that tells us there are no absolutes, has its own absolute.  For just one but significant example, the principal character (Atticus Finch) is written, directed, and portrayed with less integrity than his original character.

The ‘reason’ for that change (and others like it) is that the auteurs involved wanted the play to be ‘contemporaneous,’ the conceit of our time. For them, that means, “we now know that no one can be as morally good as Atticus.” That is the moral absolute of relativists. In this case it is also in absolute compliance with the dominant drum beat of the time. That includes: “If you want approval, stress  racial injustice  beyond that of the original work.” (Or, if possible, beyond reality.)

The greatest injustice about this attitude is that younger people will never know the value of the original work. The same is true of the distorted ‘revivals’ of Fiddler on the Roof  and other great classic musicals. The essence of masterpieces is that they are timeless. Performers and musical conductors assist their longevity by their artistry (just as opera singers do). Changes for clarity are an insult to an audience. To Kill a Mockingbird speaks for itself.

So do The Wizard of Oz, Pieta, and Aida.

The glowing reviews and the money rolling- in for successful classic adaptations is a great injustice supported by unqualified reviewers (not all of them, of course), and audiences that have never seen ─ or even known ─ the original classics.

The ego of directors and producers fuel this cultural travesty. Shame on them.

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Metaphysics 101 Part 10

(Part 10 of Ten)

(continued from Part 9 of Ten)

The unexamined life is not worth living.

—Socrates

When someone comments about a fine work of art, he is likely to say more about himself than the art he observes. When the artists to whom I refer in Part 9 of this article practice their art, their films say as much about the artists’ personal ethics as the story and characters in their films do. There are writers, directors, actors, and producers of films who, from time to time, are in a position that makes it possible for them to blend stories, real events, and characters that enable them to demonstrate that fine ethical behavior is possible under the worst of circumstances.

Often, a film, e.g., Training Day, depicts life at its ugliest, but the underlying ethic of the film is exquisitely beautiful. Critics who denigrate and ridicule the moral values of a film on the grounds that it doesn’t reflect reality reveal that they know little about ethics, art, and real life.

There are also millions of average people who quietly practice fine ethics. They practice the art of understanding, compassion, and of life itself on a daily basis. Ethics is an art in itself. Its elegant simplicity may be expressed in quiet acts, often wordlessly, and not necessarily acknowledged by others.

Along with film and theater art, literature deals directly with ethics. Advise and Consent and Uncle Tom’s Cabin are works of art that explicitly deal with human behavior. That is why viewers and readers are drawn to make value judgments about both the content and an artist(s) level of achievement. A significant part of their adjudication may be subjective even though the work of art may be objective. For example, a communist may find Advise and Consent ‘non-objective’ because of his subjective fidelity to the concept of communism. A slave owner might have found Uncle Tom’s Cabin ‘non-objective’ because of his subjective belief that some humans were born to serve others. After all, Aristotle and Plato agreed on that point despite their disagreement on just about everything else.

The Hidden Axiom

Before I ever read a word of philosophy I was in love with fine art, especially that of the performing arts. They spoke to me directly, loud and clear. They still do. I hear the tragic sense of life in Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony; the intense beauty of romantic love in Puccini’s La Boheme; the breadth of passion in Verdi’s Otello (Italian spelling). It’s all there in great music. It’s all there in Shakespeare. It’s all there in all the fine arts. They are life’s greatest expression.

Even though a symphony has no words, several of my friends define Rachmaninoff’s Second symphony as “a tragic sense of life” just as I do. Our separately discovered but identical description of the wordless symphony is not a coincidence. It is one of my many experiences with the arts that tell me art is at least as objective as E=MC2. I don’t believe that ethics and art require “naturalization papers” to be recognized as equals to Natural Science as a major branch of philosophy. Rising above nature does not disqualify ethics and art from being part of the whole truth about human existence: it enhances it.

Early in life I became aware that the deep issues of life are the same now as they were in antiquity. The forms they’ve taken in any society throughout history may appear different from generation to generation, but the essence of human dilemmas remains constant. That’s why philosophy was invented. Its branches successively sway in the winds of the relative and the absolute; its roots firmly grip the soil of the absolute.

The current dominance of relativism leaves less room for absolutes than ever. As breathtaking technology increasingly reveals the functions of brain matter, region-by-region, synapses-by-synapses, the study of ethics and esthetics are left to celebrities on television talk shows. In place of in-depth philosophic discussions about right and wrong (or good and evil) attention is paid on the conflict between the medial frontal gyrus and the posterior cingulate gyrus. The whole human being is lost to digital analysis.

Ironically, there seems to be greater concern about a cosmological end to humanity because of the death of the sun scheduled to occur about 4 1/2 billion years from now than there is concern about humankind’s potential self-destruction in the not too distant future.

There is more speculation about space travel that might take a sample of humanity to another planet or moon in the solar system to escape the cremation of earth and end of humanity than there is an effort to prevent some wandering meteor to finish the job that destroyed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Out of the stars came life. But stars don’t laugh, make music, or love. Humor, art, and love are notas scientists might put it’properties’ of hot stars or cold stones or neurological systems. It takes a sculptor to transform stone into a masterpiece like Michelangelo’s David. And our unrequited love for the stars is in itself testimony that animated stardust fundamentally differs from its physical origin. When I contemplate the origin of the universe and life, life is the greater mystery of the two. I love and am fascinated by cosmology and am in awe of the beauty of the stars, but I don’t look to the stars to understand life.

I have learned to separate what is relative from what is absolute; that free will enables us to shape our unique character whatever our DNA or environment (past or present) might be; that neither poverty nor wealth is what determines character or has a monopoly on what is good and what is evil and what is right or what is wrong; that there is a fundamental difference between arrogance and confidence; that the source of fine ethics and art may be complex, but the reason for them is not, nor are their fundamentals bound to a specific culture, race, ethnicity, and so on; that the development and practice of ethics should not be based on sacrifice to groups but rather on the comfort and peace that honesty and integrity provide an individual who simply and effortlessly lives the Golden Rule; and that the good life is a blend of knowledge, wisdom, and compassion.

I have learned to live life not as it is, but as it should be.

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Metaphysics 101 Part 9

(Part 9 of Ten)

(continued from Part 8 of Ten)

The widely held assumption that atheism and fine ethics are incompatible is a superstition, not a fact. However, if you are an atheist, don’t badger a person of faith.

—Mario Martone

For existentialists, existence is absolutely limited to subjective mental constructs. We cannot know other people at all. For determinists, existence is a cosmic puppet show. Our relationship to other people is determined by the dance of dendrites and synapses, not character. For full-time skeptics, existence probably doesn’t exist, and then again, it might. Other people might be real, and then again they might not. For other intellectual nihilists, existence is a senseless game without any purpose for those who live it. Other people are interchangeable, as in a dream.

Out of the Maze

Lists of philosophies are about as prolific as the philosophers to whom they refer, from Aristotilianism (Aristotle) to Objectivism (Ayn Rand) to Zoroastrianism (Zoroaster). Lists of philosophy terms and concepts are exponentially greater than those of the philosophers, scholars, and critics who create them.

In the world of philosophy, every concept has a counterpart either as its opposite or its mirror image where particulars may differ but its essence is identical. In that world, the lust for axioms is insatiable. It generates circular arguments even when self-evidence is crystal clear. In addition, philosophers generally have a proclivity to complicate the simplest of issues. (Here, I’m compelled to insert an axiom stated by another movie character—very different from Rose in the African Queen—who passionately retorts: “If I tell you a piece of fish stinks, I don’t have to tell you why, do I?”)

Philosophers are notorious for their insistence on axioms for just about everything. I’m not a philosopher, but I don’t feel a need to explain why slavery, theft, and sexual abuse are evil. I also agree with those who believe that the Golden Rule is the only rule of ethics necessary and from which all others may be derived, including environmental and animal concerns.

Philosophy purists often object to Ethics as a major branch of philosophy on the grounds that it is subjective. The objection is even stronger when applied to Esthetics. But subjectivity is part of human nature. Removing the factor of subjectivity from the human psyche in order to understand a human being is like removing his mind and heart in order to understand the dynamics of human life.

I also don’t think those two branches of philosophy are as ‘non-objective’ as most philosophers make them out to be. For example, when an individual has an aversion to being a slave or the victim of a sexual predator, her objections are every bit as objective as the right to kill someone in self-defense.

I’m fascinated by cosmology, but Esthetics has more to do with the study of humankind than all the other branches put together. ‘Esthetics’ is a word associated with ‘beauty,’ ‘taste,’ ‘art,’ and the appreciation of art. For the purposes of this article, I prefer to call Esthetics (fine) Art. Art is a prime example of what Rose means when she says we are meant to rise above nature. Even though we are made of stardust, we are more than that now. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Michelangelo’s Pietà, and Einstein’s equation E=MC2 came from themnot from ‘random’ stardust but from ineffable human creativity. All creative thought is art as distinct from mindless instinct. It comes from us, not the stars, although their beauty literally inspires artists.

Art is never a matter of chance. It is conceptual. It has a purpose. When someone randomly splatters paint on a canvas, he is engaged with the need to feel like an artist, even though he doesn’t have the talent to qualify as one. The results of his random splash may be beautiful, but like a beautiful sunset, splatter doesn’t qualify as a work of art even if it is beautiful.

Taste is unreliable as a primary factor in judging whether or not a painting, ballet, or novel qualifies as a work of art. A judge should consider the universality and purposes of a piece of art and not simply equate ‘new’ with ‘good’ or fame with authenticity.

Aristotle and Plato are prototypes of philosophers who preceded and succeeded them. Aristotle got art right, Plato was abysmally wrong about it. Ayn Rand, successor to Aristotle, also got it right.

[But I have a reservation about her judgment. In 1959 I invited her to see an off-Broadway, one-night production of The Crucible that I had directed. She declined my invitation because of Arthur Miller’s political views. Ironically, Mr. Miller’s play was implicitly in complete accord with the philosophy of Ayn Rand but she didn’t attend the performance because of his politics. I’m virtually certain that her decision was subjective even though she was overwhelmingly objective about art and philosophy.]

The performing art of film has a tremendous affect on millions of people. That is especially true of fine film art. If you seek the truth about the Nazi Holocaust, see Shindler’s List; for a window into American Congressional practice in the 50’s, see Advise and Consent; for the face of prejudice, A Time to Kill; for the meaning of integrity, A Man for All Seasons. There are also a few Hollywood directors and actors who make honest “morality” statements in as many films as possible. Denzel Washington is one of those artists. See Training Day, Hurricane Carter, and Philadelphia.

Artists do it better than philosophers.

(to be continued in Part 10 of Ten)

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Metaphysics 101 Part 8

(Part 8 of Ten)

(continued from Part 7 of Ten)

In Search of Ethics and Esthetics

Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

–Rose Sayer, The African Queen

Rose instinctively knew that Ethics and Esthetics definitively distinguish human beings from all other species. Unlike Rose, most people don’t hold ethics or esthetics high on their list of items for contemplation. Yet, the fountain of everyday philosophy never runs dry. It gushes in the daily interaction of people whether or not they are aware of having a philosophy.

When ethics is discussed in academia as a topic in itself, it is generally denigrated as a collection of “handed down” precepts designed to control human behavior. Ignored is the fact that “handed down” precepts were once the original concepts of individuals who were the first to discover that human behavior need not be exclusively instinctual as it is with all other species. Consider the following.

Sophie’s Choice

The setting is a concentration camp. A sadistic Nazi commandant punishes a woman, the mother of two children, by forcing her to choose which of her children shall die. As we watch the climax of the film, we are subjectively compelled (along with Sophie) to make an unthinkable choice when the commandant orders Sophie to choose which of her children shall die so that the other may live.

In the privacy of a darkened theater we ask ourselves, “If I were Sophie, what objective moral choice would I make?” Our minds race for an answer although we don’t have to make that choice. However, Sophie must make that choice. She makes a random choice. Somehow we know she did what we would have done. Yet, long after we have seen the film and at length dispassionately but deeply search for an alternative answer, we still believe that the only choice must be a random one. But in her celluloid reality, Sophie’s agony is just beginning and her guilt inexorably leads her to suicide. Millions upon millions of people have suffered unearned guilt because of actions they have been compelled to take against their will.

Sophie’s ‘choice’ is as arbitrary as the flipping of a coin. Whatever else the film’s creators intended to project, Sophie was confronted with what appears to be a choice. But actually, Sophie had no choice. Her Nazi captor, did have a choice. The murder of her child was his choice, not Sophie’s. The commandant is morally responsible for the murder of an innocent child, not Sophie. Only free choices are subject to moral scrutiny. I submit that the title of the film is a contradiction in terms. Forced behavior is the opposite of free will. Free will and choice are corollaries. Neither can exist without the other.

There are three Ethics riddles that are popular in academic circles. Relativist university professors take delight in citing them to young students, usually as the introduction to a course on Ethics. Designed to baffle rather than enlighten students, the riddles are models for an ‘open-ended’ discussion at the end of which there are more questions than answers.

The Train Riddle

A Towerman is on duty in a tower that is stationed alongside a railroad crossing. Casually looking out of his workplace window he sees a car racing toward the barrier in an attempt to crash through it before an oncoming train collides with his car. Tires screech as the driver changes his mind and suddenly applies his brakes. Too late. The car collides into the barrier and stalls on the railroad track.

The Towerman realizes that if the oncoming train is not sidetracked immediately, it will collide with the car and kill all six of the car’s occupants. He has access to controls that can sidetrack the train, thereby saving the lives of six people. However, there is a man working on the sidetrack that will surely be killed if the Towerman diverts the train to the sidetrack. What should he do?

The Lifeboat Riddle

In the cold wet of a violent storm, six fishermen are faced with an unforgiving situation. Their boat is sinking and there is only one lifeboat that can sustain the weight of only five of the men. They know that the frigid water makes it impossible for them to take turns in and out of the lifeboat so that it can stay afloat. They also know that one of them must die so that five others may live. What should they do?

This riddle plays just as well as it does at sea when it is set at a coalmine disaster, a mountain cliffhanger, or a military battle.

The Transplant Riddle

There are six terminally ill people, each of whom can be cured by a healthy organ provided by the same perfectly healthy donor. The Chief Surgeon has the donor’s consent and full legal license to have each of the six patients be the recipient of the organ he or she needs to go on living. Should the Chief Surgeon arrange to have specialists cut and paste the donor’s organs?

The usual reaction to this riddle is visceral (pun intended). Yet, upon reflection, the riddle is perfectly compatible with the concept of an individual’s self-sacrifice for the sake of the group. Directly or obliquely, that concept is universally regarded and practiced as the essence of high ethical standards, whether religious or secular, where the source of religious ethics is God (e.g., Catholicism), and the source of secular ethics is society, a substitute for God (Collectivism).

Faith

Religious tenets are firmly entangled with faith. One individual might willingly adhere to a religious tenet based on faith, while another may adhere to that same tenet motivated only by fear of punishment in this life or in an afterlife, or both. Similarly, an individual may have faith in collectivism while another adheres to its mandates only because of the fear of imprisonment or death.

In a totalitarian theocracy like Iran, major religious and secular directives are one and the same and are mandated by God. In a totalitarian atheist state like North Korea, religious faith is not publicly tolerated and the State is God.

Altruism

A synonym for the word ‘altruism’ is ‘selflessness,’ a word that defines an act that benefits others without regard for one’s self. The opposite of selflessness is selfishness, which is as ethically unwarranted as selflessness.

However flawed by an overdose of non-provable hypotheses, the study of cosmology is in its infancy and will continue to fascinate and enlighten us with concrete fresh discoveries indefinitely. On the other hand, the arguments of Faith vs. Religion, although still emotionally heated, have played themselves out intellectually. The same is true of overall arguments pertaining to State Rights vs. individual Rights.

Given the geopolitical, technological, and environmental circumstances of our time, I sense an urgent need for a Global Code of Universal Ethics. The very survival of humankind depends on it.

(to be continued in Part 9 of Ten)

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Metaphysics 101 Part 7

(Part 7 of Ten)

(continued from Part 6 of Ten)

Shakespeare was an artist philosopher. As an artist, he had license to express a variety of philosophies through his plays and characters. He was free from the conceptual IEDs inherent in formal philosophy because his characters, not he, expressed ‘their’ philosophies but not necessarily Shakespeare’s philosophy. Explicitly or implicitly, Shakespeare was not responsible for his characters’ contradictions, as is the case with formal philosophers. He freely has his characters contradict themselves, let alone the philosophy of other characters. Formal philosophers do not have license to contradict themselves, but they very often do.

A quintessential dramatist, Shakespeare was able to implicitly express the concept of determinism through his characters in Romeo and Juliet. He also succinctly comments on the motivation of a prostitute (Bianca) in his Othello with three simple words: (she) sells her desires. He is neither saying that he, Shakespeare, believes in determinism, nor that Bianca “sells her desires”: it is Iago that ‘says’ that about Bianca, not Shakespeare. Formal philosophers, however, are obliged to speak for themselves.

The Big Five

Logic is often included as one of the five major branches of philosophy instead of Politics. But Aristotle himself viewed logic as a tool of philosophy, not a branch of it. Encouraged by the view of the philosopher who introduced the iconic syllogism to the world, I’ve chosen to replace Logic with Politics as one of the five major branches of philosophy. Others have done the same.

Philosophy is not immune to major sociological changes, hence its history of shifting branches and subdivisions. Cosmology and religion were one in antiquity. Now, cosmology is a subdivision of science, which is a subdivision of Metaphysics, which (as addressed in Part 6 of this ten-page article) is something of a misnomer anyway. It’s centuries too late to change the word “Metaphysics” to “Physics,” which is a better known synonym for ontology.

One of the modern divisions of major branches of philosophy reduces the five ‘traditional’ major branches to three: Metaphysics, Ethics, and Logic. I don’t believe that logic should be one of three major branches. Arguably, Logic listed as a major branch of philosophy, if not gratuitous, is almost as extraneous as listing Mathematics as a major branch of philosophy (although many cosmologists and mathematicians swear that Mathematics is God!) I’m sure that if their claim were to be verified, it would promote Mathematics to a major branch of philosophy. After all, that was pretty much the case at the time when logic was invented (vide Aristotle’s Organon). I would welcome just two major branches of philosophy: Metaphysics and Ethics. Philosophy is the contemplation of everything. Every subdivision I’ve encountered—and there is a plethora of them—easily fits under one or the other (if not both) of those two most important major divisions of philosophy. An informed and thorough philosophical discourse is facilitated by the free association and overlapping of divisions whenever necessary.

[Note: Before the last two paragraphs, I carefully avoided being abstruse. However, those paragraphs serve as an example of the kinds of challenges that are inherent in covering all bases when discussing philosophy.]

But I don’t intend to bash philosophers. The majority of celebrated philosophers, including Plato, have written isolated and respectful—even poetic—passages in their writing. I respect and admire those passages, especially those of antiquity, but respect and admiration do not necessarily translate to reverence. Philosophy qua philosophy is jammed with subdivisions of subdivisions, cluttered with counter arguments to counter arguments, and with tedious hair-splitting to the point of absurdity.

I’m obviously not a formal philosopher. So, having briefly addressed the obligatory major branches of philosophy, Metaphysics and Epistemology, I’ll now exercise my layman’s license to freely combine and overlap the three branches of philosophy that deal with what is generally defined as the “Humanities”: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ethics. And, as context dictates, I’ll not hesitate to blend more Metaphysical and Epistemological factors into the mix. Life and thought are too important to be regimented and stifled by formalized expression.

Expounding a system of governance from the top down, as is the common practice of political philosophers as well as average politicians, is a horse that has been beaten to death since antiquity. Even Karl Marx is recognized by many as a ‘political philosopher’ because (in complicity with Friedrich Engels) he repackaged Hegelian Dialectic(s)—a.k.a. Ideal Dialectics—into Dialectical Materialism to espouse Communism (italics mine).

A large number of philosophers before and after Hegel expressed their philosophy dialectically (a function of logic), but Hegel’s philosophy earned him the distinction of having his philosophy identified with the word ‘dialectic(s)’ itself. The famous catchwords for his philosophy are Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, and his philosophy is generally identified as Hegelian Dialectic, as distinct from philosophy brands like Platonic Idealism or Kant’s Categorical Imperative, and a host of other brands. His philosophy is also distinguished as singularly abstruse in a world where convoluted arguments are the norm.

As I noted in Part 5 of this ten-part article, both Plato and Aristotle explicitly included slavery as a valid institution within ideal political structures. Political systems created by most philosophers, ancient and modern, from the top down on stone or scrolls or paper, implicitly and explicitly posit systems that in effect enslave individuals under the umbrella of secular or religious ‘moral duty.’ In that context, you may recall from Parts 5 and 6 of this article that the word ‘metaphysics’ is often (but incorrectly) described as “the world beyond physics.”

Religion has largely been one-and-the-same as ethics for billions of people through the centuries. Organized religions equate religious tenets and ethics, and circumstantially hold a religious tenet above that of a secular one if the tenets are in conflict or even slightly differ. Not by chance, there are many religious tenets that are identical to secular ones. For instance, “Thou shall not kill” is viable as a global political tenet with or without a religious base.

At the base of all political conflict is the perpetual and hotly contested issue of individualist vs. collectivist government. That issue is severely complicated by misinformation and disinformation about political systems. For example, on the surface of the conflict between the U.S.S.R and Germany during World War Two, millions of Germans and Russians suffered and died believing that they were fighting for diametrically opposed ideals, Communism and Nazism, whereas in fact they were each fighting for basically the same kind of government: the collectivist state. An overwhelming global majority still does not perceive that Socialism and Fascism are both forms of government that are unsuitable for quality life.

If we are to understand the geopolitical dynamics of nations, it is important to recognize the fundamental political similarities as well as differences amongst nations. It is equally important to recognize the enormous difference between states whose titles often contain the words “Republic” or “Democratic”sometimes both wordsin their national titles, and those states that are genuine republics whether or not their national titles declare that they are republics.

Ethics is a casualty in totalitarian states: unfairness to the individual is built into the laws of authoritarian states of all stripes. But even in genuine republics, closest to which is the United States, Ethics is a branch of philosophyor more precisely, a branch of lifethat defies codification.

Politics, by definition, is embedded in groups. The larger a group, the less possible its ethical integrity. Given the cacophony of everyday politics from the town house level to that of international geopolitics, an individual might best develop high ethical standards that are not based on group behavior but rather on universal ethics and esthetics, the “living” branches of philosophy.

(to be continued in Part 8 of Ten)

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