I used to discuss alot of filosofy, especially on internet forums. One forum was philosophy boards, i think. it changed its name and merged with another forum, and its software is now trash. however, by fortuitous coincidence, i stumbled upon an old discussion of mine on Google. too bad the forum software makes it difficult to save the entire discussion (i tried), but here is the excerpt:
I suppose I take a pretty holistic view of humans. What they associate with the word “intelligent” is tied in to their value system. Fred likes Jims values and calls him intelligent, which some might view as an abuse of the word. I suppose “intelligent” can function as a word of praise. I also take a holistic view on words. So many types of people out there. If we are “networks of beliefs and desires,” which I think is a good phrase if not the whole truth, then it all get’s tangled up. For some people, their idea of human decency is intelligence. For others, it’s all about the heart. For these heart-types, intelligence might as well mean wisdom or feeling. I think persuasion swallows everything. It’s just that objective science is so persuasive that there’s not much disagreement. But ethics, politics, this sort of philosophy we are doing now..all of these are tangled with ethics, and self-conception/self-ideal. Or such is my current view.
I imagine that objective science is so persuasive for a pretty good reason. Don’t you? I expect that this sort of philosophy that I do is not all that tangled up. After all, you seemed to think that what I wrote about the term “exist” as denoting a meta-property (what did you say?) made sense. I think a lot of philosophy can be done so that it makes sense, and give sensible answers that can be supported by reason and by argument. Sounds like a plan to me.
I think good philosophers are more than capable of being rather literary. Quine’s web metaphor is the obvious example, but this is primarily done in search of clarity rather than in writing an article that people want to read. On the other hand, Bernard Williams wrote what I believe is one of the finest philosophy articles ever written, called ‘The Self and the Future‘; it hardly creates serious difficulties with conventional beliefs about personal identity, as Quine’s article does for anyliticity, nor is it particularly convincing. It certainly makes you think that there may be something more to personal identity than psychological continuity, but lots of articles do this with lots of philosophical problems, so it’s no great achievement. The brilliance, or at least the thing that makes it such a wonderful article to read, lies not so much in the argument, but in the ingenuity and imagination of the thought example used to convey the argument. Presenting a situation that shows certain things to be the case, then offering an apparently different situation that shows opposing things to be the case, before allowing it to dawn on the reader that the appearance of a difference between the two situations is merely that, an appearance. Certainly one of the ‘must read’ philosophy articles.
The danger is, that when one becomes too concerned with how one says something, one loses sight of what one is trying to say. Indeed, you might find yourself spewing beautifully worded, meaningless nonsense, and if you lack the gift of being a good writer, simply nonsense. Not good philosophy. Of course, if you are too concerned with philosophical questions when attempting to write literature, your work risks sounding contrived, abrasive, and often even comical. It’s one of the reasons I think Orwell’s fiction is grossly overrated; the sound points he makes about socialism (or rather particular types of socialism) mask a lack of literary merit. Being too concerned with philosophy is certainly one of the many reasons why Ayn Rand writes terrible novels.
Of course, there’s a difference between employing literary techniques and writing literature, just as there is a difference between exploring philosophical themes and writing philosophy. Great literature is usually subtle in meaning, great philosophy makes meaning explicit and clear. But back to ethics.
We’ve got laws and churches and traditions. It’s no big deal if a foolosopher sees that ethics is made of air.
Finnegans Wake – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia