Monday, June 20, 2016

Alexander Douglas — Some explanation on my last post

Alex Douglas thanks all for their support and asks for suggestions.

My suggestion is to take John Kenneth Galbraith's The Good Society: The Humane Agenda and Economics and the Public Purpose and update them in light of MMT. Of course, these books segue into lots of other relevant contributions No need to reinvent the wheel, just return the conversation from the trivial to the important. However, I think that "the good society" and "public purpose" are a good lede. 

As Alex notes this is essentially a philosophical issue. As I have said, it goes back to ancient Greece in the Western intellectual tradition. The Greeks were absorbed in the question of what it means to live a good life as an individual in a good society. Aristotle observed that humans are social animals and therefore the good life must include citizenship.

The Greeks also introduced liberalism as the prioritizing of freedom. Freedom from constraint and freedom to choose are necessary for freedom for self-actualization as an individual and self-determination as a state (Gk: polis).

In my experience, ethics and aesthetics rest on ontology and epistemology as a foundation, and social and political philosophy rests on ethics. For example, one's world view ("philosophy" in the broadest sense) is foundational since one's world view is the conceptual model of reality that one employs. 

A key fundamental in a world view is the conception of human nature, for example. One's conception of human nature greatly influences one's world view both individually and socially. See, for instance, Twelve Theories of Human Nature, which is hardly exhaustive.

Here is a comment I left at The Multidisciplinarian yesterday that speaks to this:

“Philosophy” has many different meanings and to hold out one as the meaning would difficult to impossible to defend. Yes, I have those three letters after my name.

In the broadest sense philosophy is summarized in the colloquial question, “What’s your philosophy?” Philosophy in this sense it is reflection on one’s fundamental assumptions and those of society not only in particular but as a world view, that is, a conceptual system that models reality in symbols expressed as words rather than numbers.

Philosophy deals with quality as well as quantity and other uses of language than purely descriptive, as well as modality. The primary tool is logic and the method is reasoning. Just as mathematics is the language of science and accounting the language of business, logic is the language of philosophy.

Most people’s world view is acquired through socialization and education. Much of it remains implicit, and most people don’t endeavor to make it explicit or reflect on foundational matters much or even at all. Plato attributes to Socrates the observation that a life not reflected upon is not worth the living. This is generally taken to be the earliest and clearest definition of philosophy. Philosophy is reflection using reason in this broad view. What’s not to like about that?

Since there are many fields of life and knowledge, philosophy has many branches that attempt to make the implicit explicit and to subject it to a rigorous logical critique through debate. This is the Socratic dialectic. This post and comment thread is an example of it in action.

Moreover, philosophy isnt’ just shooting the bull over beers, although a lot of philosophizing is done that way. But philosophy is concerned with foundations rather than trivia. Philosophy of science can also be called “foundations of science,” for example. This involves the attempt to reflect on key fundamentals such as causality in order to clarify them, as well as to uncover inconsistencies in assumptions and presuppositions.

Philosophy in the broadest sense is the attempt to reflect on the foundations of a world view, making as much of it explicit as possible and then critiquing it rigorously using reason. This is pretty much the objective of Phil 101, which is about the basics of reasoning, logic and critical thinking, usually with reference to some of the “enduring questions” that continue to be debated since no resolution has been arrived at that compels assent since agreed upon criteria are lacking.

These questions used to be studied in terms of the great thinkers of the Western intellectual tradition and some professors still follow this course. Many others chose to seat the questions in current affairs and controversies such as medical ethics, liberal democracy, and other matters that are sure to result in spirited debate.
  • #2 by Bill Storage on June 19, 2016 - 9:42 pm
    Thanks for the those well-expressed thoughts on logic, reasoning, and their application, Tom. I fear that spirited debate may be out of fashion in my neighborhood, where critical thinking is believed to kill creativity and most skepticism is viewed with skepticism.
    • #3 by Tom Hickey on June 19, 2016 - 9:51 pm
      Some would say critical thinking went out of fashion along with liberal education. I would be one of them.
I also came to the conclusion over the years that it's not possible to deal with social and political philosophy without also dealing with both the philosophical foundations of economics and political economy. Since economics now concerns monetary production economies that also involves money & banking, and finance.

This is a big chunk and no one person is going to resolve the issues. But some people need to get the ball rolling if this debate is to take place.

The world badly needs an undated theory of liberalism made practical as an antidote to the faux liberalism that is actually illiberal, or, in the criticism of Karl Marx, bourgeois liberalism grounded in the freedom for accumulators to accumulate based institutional power and the power of the captured state.

Origin of Specious
Some explanation on my last post
Alexander Douglas | Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, London


Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Hickey said...

A liberal education is a system or course of education suitable for the cultivation of a free (Latin: liber) human being.

Liberal education.

Liberal education was ;largely replaced with job training in the US in the 80's, although the trend had been developing since WWII. It was probably hastened owing to the activity of student in the anti-war movement during the Vietnamese conflict. Many US universities were shut down by student protest that some of the faculty joined at time of the bombing of Cambodia.

The elite realized that freedom is dangerous.

Now the focus is all on STEM and business & finance.

Bob said...

You can still get a liberal education, and pay for it by working as a barista. It's a time-honored tradition in the New America.

Bob said...

If someone "requires" a liberal education in order to become more civic-minded or interested in activism, then perhaps they shouldn't bother. Can't grow what isn't there to begin with.