Thinking About Philosophy
draft, pretty rough
the road ahead: starts out with and keeps returning to will durant’s the story of philosophy and the story of civilization, self-directed learning, the rickover effect, adler and two different meanings for “east meets west”, pirsig, geschtalt, great books collections of western world vs world, aristotle, socrates, plato, aquinas, scholasticism, the great encyclopedia britannica 15th edition (britannica III) index controversy, in praise of confucius, james legge, the interesting thing about 500 bc, emerson on self-reliance, just to name a few creationist views, walter kaufman, thomas kuhn, what’s a paradigm?, galbraith, outgrowing half of ayn rand. becomes a bunch of reminder notes to maybe come back and develop someday. then goes a lot of places including eldridge cleaver, angela davis, marcuse, sartre, camus, and bach again. a lot of value from book titles alone: 1 by william james, 3 by marcuse, 1 by sartre. also, geschtalt, Quality, aesthetic sense, “knowing”, cucumber, and banana. thinking (on next pages) about approaching epics like those by milton and dante.
( started may 21, 2010. updated a little sometime. ~%anotherNov~29%~ ~%%nov~30%%~ ~%%%dec~01%%%~ ~%%dec~02%%~ )
where to start?
interesting to look back over the 40 years after high school. why after high school? because i don’t remember having an explicit strong interest in spending spare time studying philosophy, history, religion, psych, arts (other then popular music), and such before or even during high school.
~%nov~29% – in the months immediately following graduation from college, the interest in integrative studies was there running strong — big time! i know that because i can “see” in memory the encyclopedias i bought and the mortimer adler “how to read a book” book in the place i was living then. the durant books and the boxes of adler great books were there too. so, before college, the river of the adventure of exploring and enjoying the experience of working at mastering things was not running in the direction of synthesizing all the liberal arts concept systems. and it was running powerfully in that direction — alongside an equally strong drive to learn shipboard reactor systems — right after graduation. something happened during those four years. part of it’s clear. i could probably work out a series of a dozen or two events, encounters, and steps during the four college years that contributed to redirecting the energies. in the years before college, that river of adventure had run through many hobbies, the guitar enthusiasm, and the lacrosse obsession. during college, they ran through more lacrosse, engineering studies, and let’s call it, a pretty active exploratory social life. but something, during the four years, channeled all of that after college into 20 years, and then 20 more years, of combining career on-the-job learning/doing & family life, with this non-stop wide-ranging outside self-directed self-education in all the serious “liberal arts” subjects at once. (later, the artificial distinction of “engineering & science” vs. “liberal arts” became less important as it became more clear that “concept vs. experience” was the most important distinction and perspective for all of it. for all of life). probably the list of encounters goes something like: maslow & other leadership readings, the experience of reading and thinking & writing about cleaver, .heflin and thinking & writing about melville & bach, .montor, modes assumptions underlying differential equations concepts with .santoro (ie, even and especially math concepts have validity ranges), diode & transistor biasing, characterizing klystron & waveguide (electromagnetic field) energies in the lab with .rancourt & .waller (ie, even and especially electrical engineering concepts — like those for diodes, transistors, klystrons, & waveguides — that seem so exact in describing observed experience, are at best only approximations of the less complicated parts of the behavior), wolfe & kesey, .st & rand, and maybe more …
… but then primarily rickover. %nov~29%~
Where to start?
It was thinking about the impact of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy on my thinking that got me going on this.
I spent relatively little time on that sweet little book, but was greatly influenced by it anyway beginning after graduation back in the mid-70’s. I didn’t read it completely back then (or later, though I went back to it several times over the years), didn’t understand a lot of what I did read, but I came away in my early 20’s and each later time with the sense that I had the mentor and good advice I needed for what had become an inexhaustible interest in knowing more about philosophers and philosophy. This at the same time that I couldn’t get enough of the way Durant’s massive The Story Of Civilization was weaving philosophers and philosophy into a fascinating larger and more complex picture of life around the world from pre-history through the early 1800’s.
I mostly didn’t read books front to back. (Influences and developments in a wide range of reading strategies is an interesting discussion all its own. It’s possible to know a lot more about what the author of even a great book intends — by reading a little of the right things and thinking little bit, but well, about it — than one can get from trying or even succeeding to “read” the whole thing front to back. There’s reading and then there’s reading. Think about that. What does it mean to “read” a book? Obvious, right? Not obvious. But that’s another subject.) In general, I started reading somewhere that looked interesting and fairly quickly ran into a theme, event, or person that I didn’t know about and sensed from context that I should. Usually that topic became a “hub” for excursions into things related to it. Each of those things had branches. Many of the branches had branches of their own. These excursions were answering questions that naturally arose in my mind:
What’s that word mean? Is that just a straight dictionary lookup of a definition? Or a Britannica III Micropedia “short explanation with references” lookup? (Today we’d call it hit on a page of google hits) Or a Britannica III Macropedia “explanation in-depth” lookup? (Today we’d call that going to the full wikipedia page.) I’ve heard that name; who was that? When was it? Where was it? What else was going on? Is that the same or different from …? Did that happen before or after …? Oh, is that the same person or idea that was mentioned in the discussion about …?
Getting the answers led to more questions, more answers, more questions. I was following my line of thinking vs. following the sequence of any particular written passage any further than contributed to my original line of thinking or was an interesting new adventure. I was consulting dictionary entries, encyclopedia entries, short passages in other volumes of Durant or in Adler’s great books, and an ever-increasing number of other books that were handy. Periodically, I’d stop the reading and ask, “How did I get started on this?” to see if the original question had been answered yet. That’s if I still cared about the original question. At some point, my sense was, “good enough on this” and I’d go back to where I left off in Durant or some other book and start in some other place or volume. Making a new start was easy. I looked over tables of contents or paged quickly through Durant volumes looking at subtitles until something stood out at me as something I didn’t know about yet and should, maybe had heard about before and wondered what it was, or otherwise found interesting. Usually, there were two or five or as many as a dozen books open as part of chasing down one topic, sometimes with yellow stickies or other bookmarks. There were moments when I wondered if I should be just reading books from front to back as they were written, but I didn’t worry too much about it. The way I was doing it was never boring for me because I was always following the next question that interested me. And each item I was learning was being learned/linked in context to the ones before, after, and all around it. So I was learning clusters of information I was naturally interested in. There weren’t books for each of my questions, but I was, in effect, reading a “book” of my own making, made up of pieces of other books. It was fun. Could do it for 10 minutes at a time or for hours at a time, depending on whatever else was going on in life. If there were chores to do, or a place to drive, a quick 15-minute dip into someplace I’d left off (with a few books still left open on the desk, chair, shelf, sofa, or tv) would be something to think about and go over during the chores or drive. That thinking would lead to more questions. Sometimes, while doing other projects that didn’t require my full attention all the time, I’d be going over some sequence of ideas or events in my head, discover I was not clear a few points, and just take a minute or two to go to the already-open books to get clear about the two or three things, and go back to the project. It was fun. That went on for a long time, on and off, mostly on, during a life full of a lot of other things too, for 20-25 years.
Doing that is a lot easier these days. What I gave myself, beginning in 1974 — by acquiring Britannica III, Durant’s story of civilization, adler’s great books, some dictionaries, some almanacs, and an ever-increasing supply of core books — was create my own physical equivalent of today’s electronic google & wikipedia. By putting those books all in one place, I was able to quickly look up virtually anything I encountered in my reading, a lot like many of us do today with google and wiki.
Let’s see when online research became easy. It was definitely after 1995. I remember being a little ahead of all but half the heavy techies (the other half were still saying the web wasn’t where things were going) by putting up a simple website in ’95. Some may know, but let’s say google and wikipedia have been easy, affordable, and effective for, say, the last 5-10 years.
By the way, that’s what I did beginning in 1975. It was interesting and produced some interesting results. I later learned it amounted to my creating my own personal version of a Rhodes scholar “reading” program, without the advisor. Downside of no advisor is I had to make my own choices of what I would notice, read, and think about. Upside is the same thing. : ) Advisors can pick higher-quality sources and questions and help avoid wasting time with known dead ends, but only in established knowledge areas. Doing it oneself avoids being constrained to accepting and supporting the current view of what’s “valid” and “not worth considering” and “high quality” and “right” and “wrong” and “wasted time” and “productive time.” One advisor’s “dead end” is another self-driven student’s “exactly the right and most important question to be working on.”
As I’m reflecting on what happened in the early 70’s, trying to see what happened, and trying to get the words I’m typing to match what I’m seeing, I’m wondering what it was that propelled me so.
The interest in Durant-style philosophy — and in all the other “liberal arts” areas Durant brilliantly synthesized in his Story of Civilization volumes — was a little unusual since I was an engineering graduate. And the initial interest didn’t come from exposure to Durant. I bought the Britannica and Durant’s (and Adler’s) books as a way to have strong resources to satisfy an already-strong interest.
The encyclopedic interest in wide-ranging academic knowledge areas wasn’t there in high school. I got good grades, but I just did what was assigned. It wasn’t me self-starting and driving my own course of study. I had many interests and enthusiasms — comics, board games, biking, guitar, lacrosse, and stuff. So a basic curiosity and interest in learning, plus the habit of teaching myself things, was there most of my pre-college life, but not in what are usually called “liberal arts” academic areas like history, philosophy, social studies, and the like.
By the end of the four years of college, a few things were running powerfully in me. One is I hadn’t yet decided that Ayn Rand’s excellent ideas and role models concerning competence were encased in dumb attacks on altruism and flawed ideas about the nature of sound leadership. So Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggert, Hank Reardon, John Galt, and especially Franciso D’Anconia were running strong in me at the time. Another influence is I’d begun the Jonathan part of my journey along the Richard Bach path. The gist of that is competence again (metaphor of fine-tuning flight) and thinking for self, with both leading to spiritual states and mentors that were suggested, but not quite explained, leaving open interesting questions and possibilities. The Tim Gallway Inner Game ideas of getting direct experience to overcome conscious mind for better “in the zone” performance was new back then.
Within this mix, though, probably the essential tipping-point ingredient — probably the catalyst for the immediate decision to respond to the Britannica III sales flyer to get the encylopedias, Will Durant volumes, and Mortimer Adler shelf of “great” books — was navy admiral rickover’s personal example of being a whole man in the sense of being an engineer by education, executive by occupation, but a thinking person pursuing a lifelong continuing self-education in all the knowledge areas of life including philosophy, history, social conscience, religion, technology, and management. What always comes to mind when I think back to that time are two comments I read in the transcripts of his testimony before congressional committees. one is he mentioned the passage in Plato’s Republic that’s sometimes called, the Allegory of the Cave. This was important. Like the Chang scenes in Bach’s Jonathan, it made sense at one level, but seemed clearly to be signalling there was something more to be understood, perceived, “seen”, or somehow experienced. Because Admiral Rickover brought the cave metaphor to my attention, I returned to it over and over again over the years to see if I understood any of it yet, understood more of it yet, understood all of it yet … the other is admiral rickover’s advice to “imitate jesus and socrates” … these were two short comments within several volumes of very well presented discussions of nuclear submarines, nuclear energy generation, and his main topics, but also wide-ranging comments about the world, nation, society, education at all levels, and pretty much anything. The way it worked was, when rickover had finished testifying about the nuclear navy (his job), the senators and congressmen, knowing he was brilliant, asked him if there was anything else he’d like to talk about. and there always was. : ). these relationships with senior powerful senate and house committee members were important to admiral rickover’s ability to build the nuclear navy for the nation. when the navy and department of defense refused several times to promote him, so that “up or out” rules would force him to retire, the US congress went over the pentagon’s head and promoted him anyway — literally by an act of congress. 🙂 more than once.
~%%%dec~01%%% … i’m trying to think when and how, during the four college years, i became aware of that force of nature known in the world as admiral rickover. i know i met with him junior year. and i know i read the little paper-bound transcripts of his testimony to house and senate congressional committees. and there was this book about his life and career that i can still picture. what i’m trying to sort out is which came when and first …
in the meantime, the meeting. i met with admiral rickover in his office very briefly a few times during one afternoon probably during spring of junior year along with a group of other midshipmen (naval officer students) who were interviewing with the admiral and his staff to be accepted into rickover’s naval nuclear reactor propulsion program (the “nuclear navy” of nuclear submarines and surface ships) … everybody who meets with him has a “rickover story”. many of the stories are very colorful because rickover was a very demanding and impatient man who also liked to test people in surprising and often intimidating ways during interviews. there’s the “honey, i guess i’m not going nuclear power” story. and the “piss me off” story where the guy smashed the plastic model submarine on the admiral’s desk. there’s the “don’t you like to dance?” story. my own story was not all that colorful, except that whatever he asked me, he apparently didn’t like my answer the first two times, because he threw me out of his office twice. this smallish thin white-haired soft-spoken man in a standard two-piece civilian suit and tie, seated across his desk from me, was suddenly ROARING for me to get out of his office :). so, naturally, wide-eyed, i went out, waited a while, was called to meet with someone on his staff for a while, waited a while again, and came back to try it again. i don’t remember the question or the answer, but, whatever they were, i must have gotten it right the third time because i was accepted into the program 🙂 … that’s when i met him, but that’s not when i learned much about him … i think the blue and yellow jacketed full book about his career came later … oh, the sign over the door to his headquarters. the same as the sign over the doors in all his schools. “in THIS school, the most talented and intelligent work as hard as those who must struggle to pass.” we all see this as we go into the building, look at each other, and say, “oh, ok …” … only students with the better grades could interview for the program, but he made sure everybody got put on notice that they needed to do their best. years later, jimmy carter wrote a book entitled, “why not the best?”, about his similar interview with rickover.
somehow i had become aware that rickover was hated, or at least very aggressively opposed, by most of the other admirals in the navy and by most of the government contractors who supplied systems, materials, or services for the nuclear reactor program. somehow i became aware that rickover had been passed over for his last few promotions by the high-ranking navy admirals who wanted to get him out. but he promoted from i think commander to captain, then from captain to admiral — literally, by act of congress. congress became aware of the situation, didn’t want anyone else running the nuclear program, and over-rode the navy officials and promoted him anyway. business executives were routinely calling their congresspeople and senators and other navy and department of defense officials to complain about rickover, and rickover prevailed. why did these people oppose him? because he was a brilliant genius uncompromising demanding very-often-nasty impatient man anyway, but who also knew he was personally the only man in the world who could make sure building nuclear reactors that were strategically important, historically important, potential extremely dangerous, and very expensive didn’t become some sort of catastrophe. the standards and ways of doing things that worked for admirals and businesspeople when working on the non-nuclear navy weren’t good enough for rickover’s navy. he insisted on making sure everything from technology, procedures, materials, recruitment, training, certification, documentation, maintenance, chemistry, and administration was comprehensively thought through and logically in support of safe and reliable nuclear power generation.
keeping nuclear reactors safe is a function of dealing effectively with ALL the major issues and ALL the minor issues. In other areas, in non-nuclear areas, it’s ok to do ok on MOST of the major and minor areas. The worst that happens is some breakdown or accident that is undesirable, but not big deal. In these non-nuclear areas, they tried to kept overall costs down by being willing to have some small percentage of problems. In the nuclear game, our mantra was: preventing the first nuclear accident. that started with design, continued with procurement of materials and systems, went on into contruction, and on into staffing, training, qualification, operation, and maintenance. As Rickover’s people, we were unwilling to learn from mistakes that we should have known better about, thought better about, anticipated earlier and better, and taken better and more effective pro-active action to prevent in the first place. that’s an obvious reason to demand high quality everywhere, right? that’s a good reason to tell the other admirals and the contractor corporations to just increase their standards and quality and quit their bitchin’, right? right. that’s what rickover did. it worked, but it didn’t make him popular.
another result: certain important details in design and materials quality made all the difference in levels of radiation coming through the shielding during operation and in the reactor compartment after reactor shutdown. the issue’s the quality of the shielding but also the quality of the metal in the pipes and pumps and especially the pump bearings. any particles that came out of the metal from corrosion or from the bearings from wear got into the water that circulated through the reactor and got “hot”. sometimes short-lived hot. sometimes long-lived hot. but the thing is if you prevented particles from being created and made hot (radioactive) at all, you didn’t have to manage them at all. US navy nuke plants were “clean” plants because of rickover technical, administrative, and management disciplines. we not only didn’t have that first nuclear accident, but we also didn’t get radiation sickness just from going to work every day. it was said the sailors in the soviet nuclear navy couldn’t say that. rickover was said to be — how do they say in america? — a “prick”, but he got an important job, involving a large number of operating nuclear reactors, in a large number of undersea and on-the-sea ships around the world, done and done right.
one more data point on rickover. prior to getting the job to build the nuclear navy after world war II, he was in charge of a project during world war II to increase the reliability of shipboard electrical circuit breakers. think about what that means. shipboard electrical circuit breakers needed to be more reliable during world war II. that means when ships were in battle shooting cruiser and battleship and destroyer gun shells at german or japanese ships who were also shooting at them, the stupid electrical power circuit breakers were popping open leaving the ship suddenly unarmed until somebody ran over and shut the circuit breaker again only to have the stupid thing pop open again and again. i think the idea was, when an enemy shell would come close, the percussion effect would make noise, shake everything, and the stupid circuit breaker powering the guns would pop open … or, just as bad, maybe even worse, if they disabled the circuit breaker’s automatic mechanism because they kept popping open, when an electrical overload happened, the circuit breaker failed to open, fused and melted shut, ruining it until they could replace it or get back to shipyard, or, even worse, it started a fire on board the ship. let’s face it, sports fans, those kinds of things during wartime can ruin your whole day … anyway, they put rickover in charge of fixing the problem and he worked it all the way back through design, standards, procurement, manufacturing, inspections, testing, installation, operation, documentation, and maintenance — and got the breakers all replaced and fixed the problem in some remarkably short number of months. remember those ships were all over the atlantic and pacific oceans fighting two wars with germany and japan at the time. admiral rickover got something important done for the country, and, in the process, made a lot of enemies in the navy department, defense department, and defense contracting corporation community because he forced them to do things differently than they were used to, and very quickly. so not popular.
but, when it came time to appoint somebody to figure out how to convert the technology from the exploding nuclear warheads of the manhattan project into the non-exploding nuclear reactors to build a nuclear-propelled (vs. diesel electric propelled) nuclear submarine fleet, they weren’t looking for mr popularity or miss congeniality (or even the girl or guy with the most cake … CL). they were looking for the brilliant genius hard-nosed nasty little son of a bitch who was more concerned about getting things right than playing social butterfly and bureaucratic politics to play along and get along in his career. they wanted hyman g rickover to build the US nuclear navy.
and when he was succeeding in building the nuclear navy, and was once again pissing off many of the other admirals, defense department officials, and powerful corporate defense contractors, and they tried to get him fired, they couldn’t, because the US congress wanted the guy who fixed the stupid circuit breakers and who was smarter, more organized, and more effective than virtually anybody else and who wouldn’t compromise on anything that mattered to the mission. so, while the navy, department of defense, and corporate america were trying to fire him, the US congress was passing laws — acts of congress — to promote him. 🙂 great story.
and in his spare time, rickover was reading plato.
oh, i should find the wikipedia for admiral rickover. here it is. and here’s a few quotes:
“Later during the war, his service as head of the Electrical Section in the Bureau of Ships brought him a Legion of Merit and gave him experience in directing large development programs, choosing talented technical people, and working closely with private industry. During his wartime service, as noted later in the January 11, 1954 Time magazine issue that featured him on its cover:
‘Sharp-tongued Hyman Rickover spurred his men to exhaustion, ripped through red tape, drove contractors into rages. He went on making enemies, but by the end of the war he had won the rank of captain. He had also won a reputation as a man who gets things done.’ “
“The decision for selecting Rickover to head the development of the nation’s nuclear submarine program ultimately rested with Admiral Mills. According to Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, the primary military leader in charge of the Manhattan Project, Mills was anxious to have a very determined man involved, and – though he knew that Rickover was “not too easy to get along with” and “not too popular” – in his judgment Rickover was the man who the Navy could depend on “no matter what opposition he might encounter, once he was convinced of the potentialities of the atomic submarine.”
Rickover did not disappoint. The imagination, drive, creativity and engineering expertise demonstrated by Rickover and his team during that time-frame resulted in a highly reliable nuclear reactor in a form-factor that would fit into a submarine hull with no more than a 28-foot beam. These were substantial technical achievements:“
“Promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral in 1958, the same year he was awarded the first of two Congressional Gold Medals, for nearly the next three decades Rickover exercised tight control over the ships, technology, and personnel of the nuclear Navy, interviewing and approving or denying every prospective officer being considered for a nuclear ship. Over the course of Rickover’s record-length career, these personal interviews amounted to tens of thousands of highly impressionable events; over 14,000 interviews were with recent college-graduates alone. These legendary interviews loomed large in the minds of midshipmen from both the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval ROTC. Varying from arcane to combative to humorous, and ranging from midshipmen to very senior naval aviators who sought command of aircraft carriers (which sometimes lapsed into ego battles), the content of most of these interviews has been lost to history, though some were later chronicled in the several books on Rickover’s career, as well as in a rare personal interview with Diane Sawyer in 1984.
Rickover’s stringent standards and powerful focus on personal integrity are largely credited with being responsible for the United States Navy’s continuing record of zero reactor accidents.”
and in his spare time, admiral rickover was reading plato.
Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book, was not part of the Britannica Great Books series, but should have been added as an option to the package. Adler said great books are those worth coming back to over and over again during life because your own development in life causes each reading to be different. The book’s the same, but you’re different. And the great books, unlike just any book, will still guide you during the early years even when you don’t really understand them, and be very satisfying each time you come back to them understanding more each time. I first read How to Read a Book in 1974, right after grad from college. I don’t know where I got it . I found it helpful over the years to keep Adler’s basic point in mind: What we understand from our reading of a book, especially a great book, may not yet be what the author intended.
Two things are motivating me to find out more about Mortimer Adler.
1. the “east vs west” issue. what exactly was his position about that? i’m recalling and seeing what appear to be contradictory things. i thought i remembered reading he said resolving east vs west differences was a major necessity. but, in 1990, when his 1952 great books of the western world collection was re-issued in its second edition, it was still “western world” and contained no eastern classics. as i’m writing this, i’m realizing that one of yesterday’s internet hits, the oct 1952 speech, has part of the answer.
i found a copy of his october 1952 speech on the subject of “the dignity of man and the 21st century” that, at first, just confused me more about adler’s position on what i think of as, “east vs west wb4all synthesis”, but, as i’m living with it a bit and starting to write about it, i’m finding that it does, in fact, begin to clear up that apparent contradiction. it’s not a contradiction. what he meant, at least in oct 1952 (two months before i was born, by the way) by resolve the “east – west” differences was the west was right and not missing anything, the east was wrong, and the right philosophical research and logic would make that clear all over the world. that’s different from those — like a long list of east/west synthesizers and i — who said the west has much that’s good but is missing something the east has, the east has much that’s good but is missing something the west has, and human well-being will best result from choosing the best of each and avoiding the worst of each. it’s a little tough for me to find out that adler, who was such an important, effective, and welcome influence on my thinking, knowledge, and skills, was someone who used those same skills and knowledge to be on a different side — in my view, the wrong side — of one of the most important issues in the modern world, the philosophical resolution of what appear to be inevitable “eastern” vs “western” conflicts … but maybe not … we’ll come back to this and look at his words more carefully …
i looked. unfortunately, i think his views, at least as expressed in the 1952 speech, are clear.
it’s too easy to criticize a statement made 58 years ago. we know so much more now. i prefer to focus first on what he said and why it probably seemed to make sense at the time. i have no doubt that he intended the best for the world.
i’m starting out the analysis wanting to respect his view and understand why he had it at the time, but not necessarily to agree with it.
his good points: he emphasizes the dignity of man, freedom, and democracy as good. he attacks totalitarianism as bad. he states that man is more important than the other animals. hm … that last one is not so much a good point as a true point. the reason it’s not also a good point is he uses it simplistically to dismiss all the religions of the “east.”
the bad points of the speech are based on some bad definitions and assumptions that oversimplify complex political, religious, and social issues in both the “east” and the “west”.
i can see already this analysis is going to get rough on my long-time respected and appreciated teacher and hero, dr. adler. so, rather than get right into it, i’ll first engage in a bit of perspective.
it was not unreasonable in 1952 to perceive the need to battle totalitarianism with everything the US and other free nations had available. it was less than a decade since nazi german troops occupied all the nations of europe, were destroying london with rocket bombs, and had submarines off the US east coast intending to be the lead of the invasion force there. italy was controlled by a fascist dictator. japan had taken over all of asia, destroyed much at pearl harbor, and planned to use midway island as the base for invading the US west coast. in addition, these dictatorships were not the only dictatorships with power in the world. in europe, the allied powers who defeated nazi germany and fascist italy were led by the US, great britain, and the soviet union (formerly and now again, russia). the soviet union, since 1917, had also been a dictatorship. in other words, the US and the european democratic nations, in order to defeat two totalitarian nations, had to ally themselves with another dictatorship, the soviet union. that was possible because, prior to 1945, josef stalin had not yet been seen outside the soviet union as a “bad dictator.” some observers still felt socialism and communism were being demonstrated as better for human well-being in russia. but, in 1945, josef stalin refused to liberate the east european nations his army occupied at the end of world war II, erected the infamous berlin wall, and made it clear the US and other free democratic nations faced a continuing threat of dictatorship. since both the US and the soviet union had nuclear weapons, the long conflict called the “cold war” was underway. there was more. in 1949, china, the most populous nation in the world with nearly a billion people, became communist under chairman mao. fortunately, the russian communists and the chinese communists were also enemies, but the threat to western ideas of freedom and democracy was very clear to dr. adler and others at that time. that’s the external view, the view of threats from outside the US. internally — and it’s referred to by dr adler in his 1952 speech — there were trends in thinking that dr adler felt were in error that could also lead to losing freedom and democracy.
i should digress at this point to say that i’m not a mccarthyite communist basher. with the benefit of perspective of history, it’s easier for me than for leaders in the 1950s to see and say that capitalism and communism both have their flaws, both have their good points, and that we should be getting away from simplistic knee-jerk responses to “-isms”, have well being for all as our goal, pick what works and avoid what doesn’t work regardless of which “-ism” may have used it in the past, and move forward logically into a better future. like a lot of intellectuals, i can see now that the mccarthyite and other communist/socialist-bashing as misguided and simplistic, but, unlike a lot of intellectuals, i don’t view the people who had that view as being unreasonable given the information and experience available at the time. those were dangerous, fast-moving, times when wrong decisions could have ended the life of the country.
if you want to really understand that point, consider this … only luck, fate, fortune saved the US in the battle for midway island … and only more luck, fate, fortune resulted in the nearly complete destruction of the japanese navy and naval aircraft … the US had smart admirals, but inadequate hardware and people left in the pacific even to defend that island, nevermind wipe out japanese naval strength forever in only 4 days … june 4-7, 1942 … so that was luck … a lot of skill and strategy and courage were there, but luck and a LOT of it was needed too … luck in the form of when information got to various people, and luck in the form of what assumptions and decisions were made by both sides in the absence of either side having complete information … midway was june 1942 … there was three more years of fighting before germany was defeated … IF the japanese imperial navy had won that day, they would not only have taken midway island, but also finished off what remained from pearl harbor of the US navy carrier force … they would then have the overwhelmingly superior force and easy access to invade the US west coast and disrupt everything including our efforts to support the war in europe against nazi germany… it was THAT close to having US freedom and democracy being over forever … but we made it … but, after fighting germany in world war I, and then germany again and japan in world war II, and seeing stalin exert dictatorship over russia and the nations of eastern europe, and seeing huge china suddenly controlled by a dictatorship … american leaders were alarmed …
so now we’re prepared to read dr adler’s speech. not to agree with it, but to understand what he and others were seeing at the time he made it and described his philosophical research project.
first, it’s kind of cute that dr adler tells his audience he’s not going to “take a side”, but that through philosophy and better thinking, he’s confident his side will be revealed as intrinsically better and right. sound familiar? 😉 actually, i always did take a side — well being for all. on other issues, i didn’t take sides. everything got tested against the goal of well being for all, now and in the future. i actually don’t mind his saying that. i admire it. it’s the right way to proceed. it’s ok to have an idea of how the analysis turns out if you’ve worked the problem already. and then invite other people to work the problem too and arrive at the same conclusion. it’s just that i can see from the way dr adler’s using some of his words in his speech that he’s not seeing the same facts, the same reality, a lot of us have been seeing at least in the 90s and beyond, some from the 60s and beyond. i would like to give him benefit of the doubt and think he too changed — except — there’s this little problem of his having a chance to fix the problem in the 1990 second edition of the great books of the western world and he didn’t. so i’m assuming for the moment he held onto a lot of the 1952 positions. i’d like to find a similar 1990s-era speech to see what words he used in that timeframe. dr adler died in 2001. here’s wikipedia’s wiki on adler:
“Mortimer Jerome Adler (December 28, 1902 – June 28, 2001) was an American philosopher, educator, and popular author. As a philosopher he worked within the Aristotelian and Thomistic traditions. He lived for the longest stretches in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Mateo, California. He worked for Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, and Adler’s own Institute for Philosophical Research. Adler was married twice and had four children.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortimer_J._Adler, accesssed nov 30, 2010.
aristotelian and thomistic. ok. i sort of knew he was aristotelian. there have been these various theories around about why the western world, prior to late 20th century, was spiritually blocked. some say it’s “too much aristotle vs not enough socrates” and “too much descartes ‘i think therefore i am’ somehow being blamed for people experiencing selves as separate vs connected” and there’s more of these. oh, like “science was limited to five senses instead of all of experience.” i agree with that one. there’s the nietzsche “apollo vs dionysus” dichotomy that jim morrison was very into. also valid. while i don’t understand all of them fully, fully as in terms of clear chains of cause and effect, my intuition suggests they’re all useful parts of the discussion, all at least partly true.
there was also this dismissive attitude toward “subjective experience” vs. “objective experience.” up to a point, of course, it’s valid to seek “objective” measures of certain kinds of things vs. be jerked around by differing “opinions”, “perceptions”, or “experience” of things. but it was taken too far. i bet marcuse’s book, the aesthetic dimension, is all about this. i know pirsig’s motorcycle and his Quality concept are about that. the german term and school of thought called, Geschtalt, is all about this. These things are all about the experience i’ve called, “knowing.” there’s an experience we all have. call it what you wish — geschtalt, Quality, aesthetic sense, “knowing”, cucumber, banana, whatever. it’s the awareness and use of experience that’s important, not the label or concept we use to point to it, refer to it, describe it, predict it, evoke it, and such. which word is not important, but a word is: vygotsky and others have shown clearly that getting clarity about the association of an experience and a sound (word/expression) are a chicken/egg type of related thinking/thoughtConstruction experiences/acts. i bet marcuse’s aesthetic dimension is all about the blockage/loss/discouragement of “knowing” in the western world and about getting it back. given this reality we’re discussing, what else could that fascinating title mean? not sure i’ll get the chance to find out. oh and one of marcuse’s other books, the one-dimensional man. pretty clear. hm … there’s no marcuse in the 2nd edition of great books of the western world either.
~%%dec~02%% adler not putting marcuse (Herbert Marcuse 1898 – 1979) in the 1990 2nd edition of the great books of the western world (the first edition was 1952) — along with other 20th century philosophy additions like William James Pragmatism, Henri Bergson An Introduction to Metaphysics, John Dewey Experience in Education, Alfred North Whitehead Science and the Modern World, Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philosophy, Martin Heidegger What Is Metaphysics?, Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigations, and Karl Barth The Word of God and the Word of Man — is probably consistent with pirsig not liking adler and probably with adler being both aristotelian and thomistic. i say that without knowing for sure whether any of the authors adler did add in 1990 overlap with marcuse’s ideas about “the one dimensional man” and “the aesthetic dimension”, because i’m assuming marcuse’s “aesthetic dimension” is akin to pirsig’s “Quality”, and because i’m more and more getting the impression adler was one of the leaders of the ideas that people like pirsig, the “new age”, the “human potential” movement, the “east/west spiritual synthesis” people (like me), were pushing back against. that doesn’t mean i’m going to go negative on adler or anybody else prominently on that side because i’m always — with my lovely little ever-present implicit/intuitive version (vs my very rarely, in fact, as i think about it, only like twice and only for teaching it, actually drawing-it-on-paper version) of the assumption-skewering toc evaporating cloud conflict resolution thinking process in hand — confident i can get under everybody’s assumptions, find the common ground, stipulate new definitions or validity ranges or priority/importance scales, and be moving forward promoting another aspect of a huge synthesis among a great number of previously warring parties. as with “east meets west”, so with “logic-only five-senses-only objective-only christian-faith-only part of the west” meets “expand-logic-to-include-logical-handling-of-subjective/spiritual/aesthetic/intuive chrisitan and non-christian part of east and west”. i’m looking for ALL the prominent sources from the past and present to be part of a practical synthesis. with all of them respected and appreciated for the progress they made in their time, whether it makes sense for their influence to continue in the same way or to the same degree, or not. here’s how extreme i am on that point. i even plan to continue to acknowledge freud for identifying the need for a science of the unconscious and creating one. the fact that i think his version needs to go away and be replaced by one more based on erik erikson, rd laing, hubbard, perls, and others doesn’t change the fact that i believe the practical way to proceed is to avoid the silly complete destruction of names, views, and traditions that goes on.
thus spake mcmullen.
so i resume with upspin on people i’m pretty sure i’m more and more finding differences with … i like and admire what i know about adler (how to read a book, great books, syntopicon, micropedia/macropedia, britannica III), aristotle (encyclopedic organization of all knowledge in ancient world circa 500 bc, logic theorist and maybe pioneer, invents biology classification system, and a lot more. philosophy too, but, apart from being said to be the other side of the debate with socrates, i’m not sure what that aristotelian philosophy is), and thomas aquinas (landmark christian theologian, which, to me, is good because i admire a core set of christian experience and concept, but maybe no so good since i’ve never found christian theology to be clear, and i think 13th century aquinas might be one of the scholasticist thinkers which, to me, means stipulating assumptions that are faith-based, applying logic on those assumptions to build massive concept systems and arguments which don’t necessarily prove anything because the original assumptions were based on statements of faith and not on some aspect or fact of experience), but i also have the impression that the influence of their contributions on the western world may have crowded out other influences (like socrates, eastern thought, and any other thinking giving an important role to subjective experience) thereby preventing the right balance or synthesis of objective/subjective, physical/spiritual, and conceptual/experiential aspects or dimensions of life.
i did not know adler was thomistic. that means thomas aquinas. that means 13th century roman catholic christian theology. that’s maybe going to explain a lot. i’ve admired many aspects of christianity, but seldom found its theology clear. i started to read augustine and aquinas a few times and found them too conceptual (vs balancing conceptual and experience by bringing things regularly back to experience) to hold my interest.
i’m not expert on either one, but, taken together, aristotelian and thomistic is probably a pretty strong position supporting sticking to the five physical senses, to logic, and to faith-based (vs spirituality-based or experience-based) arguments. this position is not a necessary condition of supporting human dignity, freedom, and democracy and avoiding totalitarianism. that’s the problem his speech. it’s ok that he’s supporting human dignity, freedom, and democracy and avoiding totalitarianism. it’s not the best global philosophical leadership to try to get there by … by what? … what is it about how he’s doing it? …
… let’s go back to the paper … what about hinduism, taoism, confucianism, shinto,
i went back to his speech. i’m almost a little sorry i did. i read it straight through for the first time. i’d only scanned and spot read it before. wow. since 1974, i have been so impressed by and grateful to dr. adler for his book, how to read a book, and for creating the cool great books of the western world collection with remarkable syntopicon index, and for being a leader, maybe the leader, in shaping the fabulous micropaedia/macropaedia britannica III format for people like me to use in self-education. and his introductions at the front of each of the great books were so well done. jeez. he was so brilliant at organizing information and getting it made available for regular folks like me, i just assumed i’d be really impressed by his philosophical thinking as well. ouch. ouch. ouch.
i wonder what would happen if i went back to read durant’s story of philosophy? probably i’d still find the stories of the philosopher’s lives and their times as very interesting and valuable. which would be a lot. i didn’t really understand all of his summary analyses of the actual ideas. i understood some, but mostly came away with a lot of useful impressions and clues for future study. i’d undoubtedly understand more now. but i doubt i’d find as much i didn’t admire — in the way of poorly-chosen assumptions and poorly-developed arguments — as i just found in dr. adler’s 1952 speech. i’ve often thought and said that a lot of progress gets made via the contributions of imperfect people, with other people helping them see around their blind spots and compensating for their flaws, and/or by somebody coming later to correct mistakes. i just found another example. in my view, dr. adler did a lot of good for the world by teaching people to read well and by making high-quality self-education resources widely-available, but, also in my view, it remained for others to make the necessary logical philosophical progress for the 20th and 21st centuries.
i was surprised today to learn from dr. adler’s speech, that he was what is called a “strict creationist.” in other words, when it comes to man, he disbelieves darwin and believes in the bible’s book of genesis. god created man in his image. period. which is not necessarily a bad thing. some would say it’s a bad thing. i haven’t, wouldn’t, and don’t. i think the various creationist worldviews are reasonable positions given the data available to us in a lifetime. i keep a few readily at hand at all times right next to the strict humanist physical plane physics view (that sounds like a sarcastic remark, but it’s not. that’s for real. just to name a few creationist views that could be true given the evidence available to human beings in their lifetimes, there’s bach’s quantum theory version, erhard’s intentionality, redfield’s meaningful coincidence, caballah’s substantive emanation, christian/muslim/judaic creation/miracle concepts, ~%%dec~02%% maybe schopenhauer’s the world as will and idea (not sure yet about that one, though), my own variation (6 billion+++ meets wb4all wins over time), and my own way of using all of these together simultaneously (includes considering that maybe it’s only physical plane physics, human cultural effects, and chance we’re dealing with. ie, it’s ok to have the best-case plan be based on various ideas of why big or little miracles might happen, but it’s a good idea to think the worst-case secnario through on the basis of physical plane physics alone. right. i know that’s funny, but it’s also no joke.). %%dec~02%%~ some say all the creationist views went out the window beginning in late 2007, but how does one prove or disprove something like that?.
~%%dec~02%% i have had on my list for a long time to try to figure out if arthur schopenhauer’s little book with the intriguing title, the world as will and idea, is communicating what i call a “creationist” worldview (as in some form of divine miracles just happening or from prayer, hybrid divine/human miracles from prayer and faith-based action, human-based miracles as in sorcery and other magic worldviews, erhard-and-bach-style multi-person intention and/or multi-person quantum synthesis, my variation combining any and all of that if supported and not contradicted by evidence, and such) worldview … or whether “world as will and idea” is not so much “presto!”-type creation and more like “making plans, having “will” as in being determined and energetic and persistent, and, therefore, having things show up in the world that you and others have created” type of worldview. or maybe something in-between. the words in the title are very intriguing and could mean any one of the three. i wonder if the book’s in the public domain on project gutenberg or elsewhere. or if enough quotes are available to get a reading on this. i’m pretty sure it was will durant’s story of philosophy that brought schopenhauer to my attention. in the nietzsche chapter for some reason. could also have been walter kaufman’s intros to one of his nietzsche translations. or, last possibility, adler’s short intro to nietzsche in the great books … except … no, couldn’t be adler since i’ve been aware of the schopenhauer title since the 70s, assumed it was a “life as illusion”/creationist view, and only in recent years realized that was an assumption. meanwhile, adler only added nietzsche to the great books in the 2nd edition. i’m thinking it was will durant. pretty sure as i’m thinking and … there ought to verbs in english that divide the act of “remembering” into its obvious component parts, like maybe “re-seeing” for “seeing in memory” … anyway, i can just about “see” thinking about schopenhauer in that little durant story of philosphy volume with the sort of washed-out red paper book dust cover jacket …
well, wikipedia for schopenhauer says he was a pessimist. that alone probably rules out the “presto!” divine or combo divine/human or the more extreme human versions of creationism. not a lot of pessimists in that bunch who believe that, no matter how bad things get, a miracle might just pop up to save the day.
ok, schopenhauer’s “aphoristic” writing style influenced a lot of people, including nietzsche. i knew i’d gotten his name from primarily reading about nietzsche. and, ok, it’s not going to be a quick snappy pick-up on just exactly what schopenhauer’s thinking was … have to live with these wikipedia comments a bit … chores now, though …
The World as Will and Representation, (alternately translated in English as The World as Will and Idea. Original German is Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung), 1818/1819, vol 2 1844.
so dr. adler did say “east vs. west” issues are a major, maybe the major, priority, but he wasn’t, as i had thought for a long time, been one of the supports for my longtime view of synthesis — like fritjof capra of tao of physics, pirsig, tim gallwey, most of the leaders in the 60s generation, unitarianism, and more. he was more of a “western philosophy is better and will win out over time if people will just follow the philosophical logic properly” kind of guy. i’m thinking the great man could have been persuaded to synthesis by having me show him how to use his own methods of reading, understanding, and thinking to examine and modify a few of his assumptions — facilitated, of course, with my little toc concepts and diagrams — but that’s just having some fun speculating. 🙂
but another bad sign is the data point of robert pirsig’s harsh view of adler …
2. why did robert pirsig cause his character, phaedrus, in the philosophical classic, zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, to be so very angry, bitter, and resentful about adler? since pirsig was both a western intellectual and a zen buddhist, the main answer may be clear from the above discussion of adler’s presumption of western intellectual and spiritual superiority. but i’ve long had on my list of things to come back to the question of why did phaedrus hate adler? why did he go insane from working on certain ideas? motorcycle proceeds pretty clearly, beautifully (the experience of Quality), and even idyllically for about half or maybe 75% of the book and then gets VERY dense and dark and difficult for almost the rest of the book. i went back once to try to sort out what was going on there, but got occupied by other matters. such a contrast in the book. and pirsig’s later book is also about sanity. so there’s something profound to understand there in pirsig’s analysis and indictment of western ideas centered around adler and hutchinson’s successful promotion of the great books of the western world series. I think all that’s right. … since autobiographical … a better way to ask that … why did pirsig become phaedrus … why call insane self, phaedrus … how connect with subject of plato’s dialogue, phaedrus? [i think i figured that one out. the link goes to wikipedia and the dialogue does a lot with divine madness, ie, inspiration, etc] … what exactly was is it that pirsig felt was so bad about what adler and his work were doing? …
(find that wiki quote again in gbww where phaedrus criticizes the great books) … found it …
- “He came to hate them vehemently, and to assail them with every kind of invective he could think of, not because they were irrelevant but for exactly the opposite reason. The more he studied, the more convinced he became that no one had yet told the damage to this world that had resulted from our unconscious acceptance of their thought.” ‘
– adler and pirsig are two people i never met who influenced my thinking. as with many many many other people — living, historical, authors, characters — i drew from each person one or a few narrow, but powerful points, without really knowing that much about their overall works, overall thinking, overall actions, overall lives. and i drew from and admired both even though they disagreed with and, at least from pirsig’s side, disliked one another. which is the way it happens for all of us. moments of conscious and unconscious “decisions” to be influenced, altered, that add up to who we are.
So it’s always interesting to revisit — or, in many cases, investigate for the first time — the lives and circumstances of the sources of the influences on our thinking. (this part becomes repetition, but it was actually written first before all the stuff above) At points in our lives, people’s words or actions — current or historical — make points with us that influence our outlook, thinking, and behavior. Sometimes we remember the moments of influence and can understand the “logic” of the cause from them and the effect in us, sometimes not. Sometimes, in the cases such as parents and friends, the points seem to be made over a long period of time, but, even then I’m pretty sure it’s a series of moments, instants, in which a part of our conscious or subconscious selves sort of “clicks”, notices, decides. Our minds decide in only a moment, but the effect is long-lasting. For cases other than actual long-lasting relationships — like historical, literary, or public people — the shortness of the moment of influence vs. the long length of the effect is even more clear. For these people, we experience just a small visible part of the other person’s life, are effected in a moment of ours, and then we carry that effect forward for a long time, usually for the rest of our lives. When we, later in life, hear other things about that person’s life, we’re sometimes surprised. For example, President John Kennedy and musician John Lennon. A lot of people knew, admired, and loved JFK and were surprised later to learn about Marilyn Monroe. Some were shocked. I was further impressed. Over the years, I’ve learned more about the Beatles and John Lennon, a little at a time. Learned that way, the picture keeps changing. Much of the influence stays the same even if our information, attitude, emotion, or self-consciousness about the source changes.
– another hero
– translator for the elegant english versions i had of nietzsche’s works
– author of excellent book overviewing existentialism
– Physicist, philosopher, scientist … philosophy of science.
– author of the classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962. not sure when i read it. pretty early, though. maybe late 70s, early 80s. i had this “paradigm” and “paradigm shift” idea in my head fairly early on. by the way, “paradigm” is pronounced as, “para dime.” that’s “para” as in parachute and “dime” as in two nickels. you’ll need to know that later on this page.
“Thomas Samuel Kuhn (surname pronounced /ˈkuːn/; July 18, 1922 – June 17, 1996) was an American physicist who wrote extensively on the history of science and developed several important notions in the sociologyand philosophy of science.
Kuhn has made several important contributions to our understanding of the progress of knowledge:
- Science undergoes periodic “paradigm shifts” instead of progressing in a linear and continuous way
- These paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding that scientists would never have considered valid before
- Scientists can never divorce their subjective perspective from their work; thus, our comprehension of science can never rely on full “objectivity” – we must account for subjective perspectives as well”
– kuhn’s book makes an important contribution. it contains important perspectives on the nature, necessity, strengths, limitations, history, and progress of science. the main point is that progress in science includes “paradigm shifts”, shifts in perspective, shifts in view of the reality under study. This includes big paradigm shifts we can all readily understand like (1) ” the world is flat” vs “the world is round” and (2) “the sun revolves around the earth” vs. “the earth revolves around the sun.” It also includes big shifts that are the same kind of thing but are a little more difficult for all of us to see like (1) pre-quantum vs. quantum theory and (2) pre-relativity vs. relativity theory. Another would probably be changing from a view that “rivers run and winds blow because there are spirits in them” vs. “rivers run due to gravity and winds blow because of high and low barometric pressure areas.” another might be “crops grow well when we sacrifice well to the right gods” vs. “crops grow well when we prepare the soil well, use good seed, fertilize, and water well and also when rabbits, deer, and insects don’t eat everything.”
i’ve long believed mental health science is due for one of these. along with a lot of related fields. for so long, “serious” science mostly confined itself to the five physical senses, hence “physics”, as in physical stuff. vs. “metaphysics”, the word people use for “religion” and closely-related things like “psychology” when they don’t want to get into trouble for discussing “religion.” 🙂 true, though. “meta-” as in above; “physics” as in “physics;” so “metaphysics”, the domain “above physics.” for a long time, scientists worked with “objective” meaning “five physical senses” and only the artists, mystics, shamans, magicians, wiccans, and some philosophers worked the “subjective” side of the fence. if and when “serious” science methods are applied to the taboo so-called “subjective” (vs. “objective”) areas that overlap a lot with the terrain called, “metaphysics”, a lot of new “paradigms” will result. a lot of people would argue it happened a long time ago with freud making a science of the “unconscious”, but a lot of other people and other schools of thought would argue he got the whole area started wrong and screwed everything up resulting in a lot of missed opportunities and a lot of problems including the continuing over-emphasis on chemistry of various kinds in research, theory, and treatment. the fact that science is applied to something doesn’t mean it’s done right. there were scientists said the world was flat and others who said the sun revolved around the earth. i know we think we’re so much smarter in the modern world, but that’s exactly thomas kuhn’s point. it’s only after the paradigm shift happens in someone’s or in everyone’s thinking that people realize that the way they were thinking before the shift was not the best way to be thinking. reminds me of cute overthinking thing with mrs k … anyway, prior to the shift, people notice all the experts in magazines, speeches, books, schools, radio, and tv all saying the same old paradigm things … and all their friends and relatives share and discuss these old paradigm things they “know” at lunch, dinner, around the water cooler, at cocktail parties, at the PTA, and at the gym. the ladies discuss it on the view. the same old paradigm facts get discussed on oprah and ellen … prior to the shift, the old paradigm knowledge is what john kenneth galbraith called, the “conventional wisdom” or the “wisdom” that we all agree to, that know “by convention” which, in this sense, is a combination of agreement and tradition. it’s what “everybody knows is true.” the paradigm shift creates a new “conventional wisdom.” how do people know that they know, either before or after the paradigm shift? how do we know anything’s true that we don’t see or touch for ourselves? we know because “people” are saying it, including both experts and regular people, and we see if it makes sense to our minds and/or intuition. it’s only after the paradigm shift, after we start hearing experts, friends, and ourselves agreeing with and saying the new thing that we say, “how in the world were we thinking that other thing before?” answer: “the experts and everybody were saying it and it seemed to make sense.” “why did they think that?” “because …” and there are always good reasons for the prior view, but better reasons for the later view. that’s exactly kuhn’s point. that’s how progress is made. kuhn discusses it primarily in the minds and discussions among scientists. i just extended it from that to the process by which the science developments become part of the reality of the general population. the theory of constraints (toc) summarizes the progression of good concepts being replaced by better ones as the “increasing validity” of concepts meaning progress toward “the minimum number of simplest concepts [including paradigms/viewpoints] that provide the maximum explanatory and predictive power” in some situation/system.
the “paradigm shift” idea is useful even for smaller shifts whenever a different perspective on a situation makes a big change in its possibilities. lots of consultants in lots of knowledge areas sell their services using the idea that their approach is a “new paradigm” in their field. sometimes it really is a new perspective, viewpoint, “paradigm”. sometimes it’s just marketing fluff.
whenever you get a sense that the “new paradigm” somebody’s selling you is just marketing BS (as opposed to good marketing, there’s a difference), or, even if they’re making a good point about a fresh new perspective on some area and you like them and want to joke around a little, you can slow the guy or gal down like this:
you say, “you DO know what a paradigm IS, don’t you?”
… and they’ll say, “well, yes, that’s what i’ve been explaining to you this whole time. a paradigm is …”
“no, no, that’s not what i’m saying. you DO know what a paradigm IS, don’t you?”
… “well, again yes, a paradigm is …”
“no, no, NO. that’s NOT what i’m saying to you and, if you don’t ask me to tell you what a paradigm is, i won’t be telling you what a paradigm is here today.”
… “but, i already know what a …”
“you have to ask me.”
… “ask you what?”
“you have to ask me what a paradigm is.”
… “i have to ask you what a … wait. now just hold on here. this is ridiculous and …”
“you have to ask me.”
… “ok, fine, what’s a paradigm?”
yeah. that’s an old theory of science joke …
Durant’s Story of Civilization
I’m more clear about the role of Will Durant’s other work, the 11-thick-volume The Story of Civilization.
Beginning in 1974, within a few months after my college graduation, I had Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization and The Story of Philosophy handy, along with Britannica III and Mortimer Adler’s Great Books Series, pretty much all the time.
~%nov~29% … From wikipedia, on Encyclopedia Britannica: “In the fourth era (15th edition, 1974–94), the Britannica introduced its 15th edition, which was re-organised into three parts: the Micropædia, the Macropædia, and the Propædia. Under Mortimer J. Adler (member of the Board of Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica since its inception in 1949, and its chair from 1974; director of editorial planning for the 15th edition of Britannica from 1965), the Britannica sought not only to be a good reference work and educational tool but to systematise all human knowledge. The absence of a separate index and the grouping of articles into parallel encyclopaedias (the Micro- and Macropædia) provoked a “firestorm of criticism” of the initial 15th edition. In response, the 15th edition was completely re-organised and indexed for a re-release in 1985. This second version of the 15th edition continues to be published and revised; the latest version is the 2010 print version. The official title of the 15th edition is the New Encyclopædia Britannica, although it has also been promoted as Britannica 3.” Accessed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica#Fifth_era on Nov 29, 2010.
I find it interesting that the parallel encyclopedias Micropedia/Macropedia organization was criticized. I never knew that. I loved it. I bought one set of Britannica III (with adler’s huge great books and durant’s huge story of civilization and little story of philosophy bundled in as part of the offer) sometime around or after graduation in 1974 and used it into the 80s. Black leather bound with gilt titles and page edges. Gorgeous. Gave it to a neighbor kid sometime after 86. Missed it. Bought another one exactly like it. Not sure what they’re talking about in the wikipedia article about a major reorg and re-indexing complete in 1985. There was Adler’s “syntopicon,” an index to all the great books. That would let you go into A for Angel and find every reference made to angel in bible, plato, augustine, descartes, federalist papers, spinoza, dostoevsky, nietzsche, camus, and so forth. But the main thing is the britannica III micropedia is itself the world’s greatest index!!! (well, it was, before internet, wikipedia, and google). the micropedia was like having the introductory paragraphs of all wikipedia pages together in a little shelf of books. let’s you right away get the summary we often call today, “the wiki”, and either move on to something else or follow all the citations to more detail. just like with the top part of a wikipedia page, you got that little summary, but then, like the links throughout a wikipedia page or the references part of the bottom of wikipedia page, you got precise book, page, location on page!!!, references to the macropedia and also to the great books series. utterly fantastic! say nietzsche is completely new to you. go to N in micropedia, find nietzsche. in a few paragraphs, know he’s german philos in 1880s associated with idea of “will to power”, that he’s called “nihilist” and “existentialist” and “atheist”. that he famously wrote “thus spake zarasthustra”, “beyond good and evil” and so forth. if that’s enough for you at the moment, great. or, if you say, “what’s nihilism”, look at the little small-font listing of “more information” references and see “nihilism XII, 372f-373b” which means pull volume 12 of the macropedia out, turn to the bottom right of page 372 and read through the top left of page 373. also something like a GB25:ch4 pg 45 for a reference into the shelf of “great books.” actually, i’m not 100% sure if the micropedia indexed into the great books as well, but that’s not a big deal. what was a big deal was having the micropedia use lots of other words that were also in the micropedia (nihilism, existentialism, other names of contemporaries or eras, all of those would also be in the micropedia) and the references into the macropedia. for the great books, if micropedia didn’t do that, the syntopicon book would do that. anyway, folks, before internet, world wide web, wikipedia, and HTML hot links, that’s as wonderfully good as it got!!! sometimes brilliant things get criticized and dismissed because people don’t know what they’re looking, or how to look at them, or how to use them. that’s ok if the experts know what they’re doing. but, sometimes, the experts aren’t smart enough either to understand how brilliant something is and how to use them and how to tell the non experts about it. i may be missing something, but that’s my guess about what happened with all the criticism of the britannica 3 micro/macropedia organization. when britannica and adler found themselves and their huge investment in creating the best the world had ever seen, they must have been in a real jam. they couldn’t REALLY go to another organization because they already had the right best one (for pre-computer-hyperlink times). so they must have done some sort of sleight-of-hand re-explaining re-packaging paint-it-another-color repositioning to make the critics feel like they’d been listened to enough to get their support. i wonder … anyway, i used both pre and post 85 and didn’t see enough difference to remember it. that micropedia/macropedia thing was brilliant. oh, and the lengthy full page of a wikipedia page was a bit like the macropedia. except every page of wikipedia is loaded up with hyperlinks. can’t beat that with printed page. micropedia had a gazillion short summaries of a gazillion topics, with references everywhere in sight for more detail along the many different sub issue directions. macropedia had much longer entires for major knowledge areas. micropedia would have separate short entries on socrates, plato, nietzsche, kirkegard, kant, locke berkeley, hume, augustine, and all the other individual names. macropedia would have a long section on religion, another on philosophy, and another on greece, and another on rome. it was brilliant. all i can say is i used both sets i bought — one definitely in 1974 and one definitely sometime between 1986 & 1992 — like crazy and they both looked like the good ol’ “britannica III micropedia/macropedia plus great books plus britannica atlas plus britannica/webster dictionary plus durant story of civilization” suite to me.
[next, is another funny error … i remembered being impressed with the new 2nd edition (1990) of the mortimer adler / robert hutchinson great books of the western world when i got it in late 80s or early 90s, but i remembered the wrong reason for being impressed. 🙂 i first recalled the change as fixing the problem i felt britannica had with having a great books of western world, but none from eastern world. no asian or middle east classics. no confucius, no buddism, no hindu/vedic, no sufi/rumi, no muhammad/koran, etc. when i googled on it today, the change i was impressed with was adding some more older classics (such as voltaire’s candide) but mainly adding a long long list of modern, including 20th century, classics — ALL western world. hemingway, fitzgerald, o’neill, lawrence, and a lot more. anyway, since there’s good stuff woven in around that little mistake, i’m going to just leave it in. 🙂 ]
oh, one change i did notice when i got my new second set of britannica III is that the mortimer adler great books i had in 1974 was “the great books of the western world”, while the later set was “the great books of the world” [oops] and included translations of some eastern classics. [oops] that was a smart change. [it would be even smarter if they had actually made that change 🙂 ]. i had been surprised that the original set of books was “western world” because somewhere i’d read that adler felt east and west coming together philosophically was essential.
[that might also be wrong. googling’s not giving me any evidence adler said or wrote that. and i now have this fact that the second edition of his great books continued as solely western. the east/west thing was important to me, i worked at it over the years, and i like adler and britannica, so i guess i gave them too much credit. 🙂 britannica itself (the micropedia and macropedia vs the optional great books collection) probably has a lot on asian/eastern religion, history, and culture. and the will durant story of civilization (another britannica option everybody should buy) has at least one of the volumes dedicated to it].
“east meets west” has happened gradually over the past 40-50 years and is pretty far along now. there’s a lot of zen, yoga, meditation, spiritual and physical martial arts, etc in the west. and a lot of western things in the east. “west”, of course, as in the americas and europe, with psyches deriving from the experience of greece, rome, christian, medieval, renaissance, free thinking, democratic, etc. “east” as in middle east and asia deriving from buddha, confucius, lao tse, vedic/hindu, shinto, muhammad, rumi/sufi, etc. one of my aunts, knowing i liked all kinds of books, including classics, had been picking up pre-owned harvard classics volumes at flea markets and had gotten me almost the whole set, and it was old, maybe from 50s or 60s, and it had some eastern classics in it, but not too much.
going off the subject of “eastern” classics a moment … my favorite in that stack of faded crimson red fabric-covered ”harvard classics: the 5-foot shelf of books” was the volume entitled, “emerson’s essays.” it included my favorite ralph waldo emerson piece, the classic, “essay on self-reliance.” Here’s how “emerson’s essay on self-reliance” starts …
“Self-Reliance I READ THE OTHER DAY SOME VERSES written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. Always the soul hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for always the inmost becomes the outmost — and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgement. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on the plot of ground which is given him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. It is not without pre-established harmony, this sculpture in the memory. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. Bravely let him speak the utmost syllable of his confession. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. It needs a divine man to exhibit anything divine. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; … “
it goes on from there. it’s great. one of my all-time favorites. i remembered it as brilliant, but, reading it again, i’m realizing anew just how brilliant emerson was …
back to the issue of “great books” collections and whether they cover only “west” or also “east”: i just checked by googling a bit. it looks like the 51-volume “five foot shelf of books” has been renamed from “Harvard Classics” to “Famous Books”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_Classics there was a little of “east” in the collection. there were 2 volumes of “sacred writings” with some christian, some buddhist, some hindu, and some koran. so not much “east”, but some.
continuing on this “east meets west showing up in book collections” theme, in the early years, i had adler/britannica’s gb of the western world and harvard classics (those two collections overlapped a lot, but were different. they also had different translators for some works) plus — what’s more on point for this part of the discussion — a lot of individual (not parts of collections) eastern/asian books (english translations) i’d accumulated as i had gradually moved myself into “east meets west synthesis” mode over the years …
~%%%dec~01%%% an important point is that most (but not all) of the important contribution of “eastern” “philosophies” or “religions” or “ethical systems” or “spiritualities” or or “psychologies” or “worldviews” (that’s the one that, beginning in the late 70s i found the most concise and descriptive. “ok, so your main hobby is reading. what do you read?” “oh, mostly history, biography, and worldview stuff”) or “concept systems” (that’s the one i used a lot beginning probably in the later 90s after a few years thinking about ranges of validity of concepts and then full concept systems with theory of contraints ideas and tools) … anyway, an important point is that the most important part of the contribution of most (but not all. confucius is the main exception i’m aware of. there may be more) of “eastern” approaches to life is that they are very definitely and deliberately solidly built around experience and very definitely and deliberately NOT built around words and other concepts that can be written, discussed, analyzed six ways to sunday, and turned into massive essays and books. it’s exactly the main contribution of most of them (almost all of zen buddhism, most of lao-tzu/lao-tse taoism/daoism … the english spelling differences are different transliterations for the same chinese sounds, by the way … maybe much of shinto, definitely most of regular buddhism, definitely rumi sufi islam, and probably an important part of hindu/vedic view) that they are very very long on experience (as in being aware of moment-by-moment experience vs. “getting experience” in work, life, etc) and very very short on writing things down or even saying things with words and other concepts … incidentally, socrates never wrote anything down either. it was his student, plato, who wrote all the dialogues that have brought socrates to life over the millenia.
what? what about this confucius exception? glad you asked. he’s beautiful. …
when i set out a several times to allocate some of scarce spare time between job and family and various other activities, to try to at least scan and spot read the three main confucian classics, analects, the great learning, and doctrine of the mean … when i was first checking out confucius, just to make my own personal little correction to adler’s great books of the western world not being the great books of the world … let’s see … when would that have been? … i can picture the fabulous edition i had … no one should be without it … it’s three books in one book with each page laid out horizontally in three rows, one for the english translation, one for the original chinese, and one with LOTS of annotations explaining lots of interesting and important things. i think the author/translator was something like james legge.
just looked him up. it is james legge. here’s the link. here’s the gist: “James Legge (理雅各; December 20, 1815 – November 29, 1897) was a noted Scottish sinologist, a Scottish Congregationalist, representative of the London Missionary Society in Malacca and Hong Kong (1840–1873), and first professor of Chinese at Oxford University(1876–1897). In association with Max Müller he prepared the monumental Sacred Books of the East series, published in 50 volumes between 1879 and 1891.” hm … adler must have known about this series. clearly, adler felt the western world’s books were what he wanted to focus on. and here’s the book i had, “Legge, James, Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean (New York: Dover Books, 1971; o.p. 1893), 503 pp. Translation of the Analects along with two other important Confucian texts. A little dated, but still worth consulting. Includes Chinese text and, as Legge himself observes, “Critical and Exegetical Notes, Prolegomena, Copious Indexes, and Dictionary of All Characters.” fabulous. even better if you’re also learning chinese characters and language. why not use a classic as one of the readers? but back to confucius.
this question of who’s the author of confucian classics thing is interesting (that sounds like the old joke, “who’s buried in grant’s tomb? grant, of course”, but it’s not, as we shall presently see …) … hm … covering old ground again, but, as always, yet another new insight arrives … in this case, the new insight is that, like zen and most of tao and socrates, confucius himself didn’t write things down! i knew that before but didn’t connect it with socrates and zen and lao-tse. how about that. and it fits the conclusion i’m heading toward anyway, that confucius, like probably socrates, was a beautiful synthesis of the spiritual and analytical dimensions of human being … what? if confucius didn’t write things down, where’d the 3 books come from? good question. his students wrote down the things he said. and get this, that’s why we in the west are always hearing and saying and joking with the phrase, “confucius says …” or “confucius say …”. 🙂 actually, the books literally say, over and over and over, “the master said …”, which has translated to the western world on fortune cookies, cartoons, and movies as “confucius say …”. you know all the confucius wise saying jokes. “confucius say: man who lose key to girlfriend’s apartment get no new key.” 🙂 or “confucius say: man who xxx in church, sits in own …”, nevermind. no disrespect to the master intended here. in fact, quite the contrary. but it does show that confucius was trivialized, cartoonized, a bit in the west, at least in america. reflecting a moment … i guess the accurate statement is confucius was taught briefly with respect in US public schools as part of chinese history and culture and then enjoyed in all the jokes in the culture.
as i was starting to say before all the interesting and useful digressions emerged … when i set out to read and get a sense of confucius, i wasn’t expecting to be all that impressed. that’s because, beyond what i just wrote about confucius in school and in humorous parts of the culture, i had, as an adult, also gotten the impression from small things i’d heard and read that the consensus among the modern educated elite in both the west and in china was that confucius and his thought were several different kinds of bad and wrong. but that’s not what i found when i looked for myself.
let’s take a step back a moment to put all the “the master says” (“confucius say …”) statements from analects, the great learning, and doctrine of the mean into perspective. confucius was saying things and his students were writing them down. confucius would be saying things using language and examples that reflected the world he and his students lived in. feminism hadn’t happened worldwide yet, so it was a male-led society. democracy was just starting in athens so it was a non-democratic society. this was around 500 BCE. you’ll agree that this was an interesting time in history, by the way, because confucius, the buddha, la0-tse, socrates, and biblical daniel were all alive at this time. sort of supports rupert sheldrake’s morphogenic fields theory that says, when conditions are right in the world, the same thing can and does get invented in different places independently. that, in some very real (not imaginary) way, everything and everybody are connected to everybody else. how? that’s a whole another discussion. but it’s a fact that five of the world’s most serious spiritual/philosophic players were alive at the same moment in history. i noticed that one myself, by the way, not from reading it anywhere. later, when i read sheldrake, i thought, yep, he’s onto something there. i’ve always been proud of noticing and picking up on that little tidbit. anyway, 500 bc, the time of confucius, was not only pre-feminism and pre-democracy, but it was also about 2,358 years before karl marx and frederick engels wrote the communist manifesto and about 2,449 years before the 1949 maoist chinese communist revolution, so it has been a little unreasonable for the radical chinese maoist communists to disrespect, dismiss, and suppress confucius, confucianism, and confucianists because the master was not quite in line with the quotations from chairman mao’s little red book. another new insight. i’m noticing just now it’s not hard to see that the legacy of “confucius says” and the short lines of the taoist “i ching” probably influenced mao in what form of writing to use for his little red book.
so i scanned and spot read analects, great learning, and doctrine of the mean. i saw a lot of things, but two ideas and quotes stood out to me as getting to the heart of the man, his thinking, and his likely mode of experiencing life. “things have their roots and their branches.” obviously, right? but, in 500 bc, he’s saying cause-and-effect and, not just for hard sciences …. western science was just getting started around the world in greece at the time … not sure what science pre-cursor was going on in china … but he’s making a general statement about life … the other was fabulous too. it was a several-step statement applying cause and effect showing how good thinking leads to the state of experience translated into english as the , what was it, the xxx man. i forget the word, but that was the english word anyway, not the chinese sound, character, and word … oh, i remember … the “sincere” man … well, “sincere’s” already pretty good, but i’m thinking the real word in chinese means a lot more to them in terms of rich, deep, wise, intelligent, empathetic, strong, centered, anchored, spiritual, and such than what we, in english, mean by “sincere.” so i came away VERY impressed by the synthesis of experience, spirit, intelligence, logic, science, ethics, etc in confucian thought. it was essentially an unverbalized form of the TOC logic tree thinking processes applied to life, well-being, and character — circa 500 BC. in a book i wrote in 1998, i put the “roots and branches” quote on the facing page of the title page for the chapter, “what is toc”, with the comment something like, “the first TOC?” or “the first cause effect thinking processes?” … when the thinking basis is that sound, it’s easy to imagine that confucius, if he were alive in the 1700s would have used democratic examples. if in the 1960s and beyond, would have used feminist examples. and if in the 19th century and beyond, would have used cause and effect thinking to consider the phenomena of capitalism and communism and rework the facts underlying both into a tapestry of thinking that would lead, in that time, to creating the hearts of “sincere” — i’ll say balanced spiritual, mental, physical, wise, capable and happy — men and women.
thus spake mcmullen.
ironic that i was using attitudes from adler’s how to read a book to reach what he called, what was that?, oh, “coming to terms with the author”, meaning not just getting any meaning from the words but the experience the author was in and/or intended to convey, to appreciate eastern classics when he made a career out of pretty much ignoring them. i really just assumed from learning his reading attitudes in 1975, and during all those years until just the other day, that his reading attitudes and approaches and his encyclopedic (no pun intended) knowledge and works, and from hearing he thought “east vs west” was very important, that this meant he was always solidly on the side of big grand global east/west synthesis of ideas. as discovered elsewhere on this page, not so. he was a staunch aristotelian thomist creationist western … well, the right word is chauvinist, but that word has become narrow in meaning in most people’s minds to mean “male chauvinist” … chauvinism means being solely on one side of a two-sided issue, any issue, not just gender stuff … and it also has gained a negative connotation it didn’t orginally have which, though i disagree with him, i don’t intend the negative, but just the accurate descriptive … dr adler was, and was very proud to be and certain about being, a staunch aristotelian thomist creationist western ideas chauvinist. i wasn’t. i was and am an adler fan for his reading book, for his great books for what they were vs critical of them for what they are not, and for britannica III. what? upspin? sure. conscious lifelong strategy. well, why dismiss adler totally for just one part of his work? just pick the good stuff and ignore the other. back to confucius. why dismiss confucius for timeframe-relative reasons. he’s a treasure trove that shows a lot of important things are not new, but timeless. smart honest hard-working well-intended imperfect people call ’em as best they can see ’em at the time, make the contributions they can make at the time, some of which last, some of which need correcting by somebody later, and we all move forward into the rosy future, right? right. yeah, i know. the good old days. ss. callahan. ptak.
i was looking around for the quotes. this page has some. it uses the english phrase, “superior man”, vs. “sincere man” i’ve seen elsewhere. could have chosen “excellent”. again, the english word isn’t important. it’s all the loadings of explicit and implicit meanings in the minds of the chinese at the time that’s interesting and important. we obviously can’t know them for certain. but, from the rest of the discussion, and from the tone, it becomes pretty clear the meaning is profoundly good, strong, smart, capable, and wise person. the confucian “sincere man” concept. the confucian “superior man” concept. the confucian “excellent man” concept. again, it needs translating, not only in language, but also into modern times, but the chinese definitely have in confucius something to be proud of. and we, in the west, have in confucius a nice influence to integrate into our great ongoing synthesis.
when would some of that have been? … definitely since april 80 and zen-influenced est and the marilyn ferguson book and newsletter that came to my attention around est … definitely since mid-70s and hindu-influenced TM and tim galwey zen-influenced inner game of tennis …
~%%%dec~01%%% (just looked at wiki for tim gallwey. says “divine light” and a “guru ji” vs zen. always thought my inner game of tennis book had said zen. oh well. you can label it differently, package it differently, and teach it differently, or even paint it another color, but the essential idea of est, zen, existentialism, apparently “divine light”, and a lot of other spiritual systems is being more aware of what the mind/spirit/observer is doing at any moment and focusing attention on the aspects of either external or internal experience that make the most sense for the purpose at hand). i might add that, in the modern world, where the science world finally dropped its rule about dealing only with five physical senses and deliberately ignoring aspects of internal/subjective experience, things that have been “mystical” (root word, “mystery” or “mysterious”) for centuries, for millennia, don’t stay “mystical” very long. my favorite example is when harvard medical school dr herbert benson’s 1975 book, the relaxation response, de-mystified secularized put-into-straightforward-science-terms without added non-essential cultural decorations, the method, phenomenon, and benefits of what had become popularly known as “transcendental meditation.” the reason i mentioned that is that a lot of the “experience” “inner game” “zen” “tao” aspects of being more aware of what the mind/spirit/soul/observer/Self is doing and what it can or should be focusing on, doing, deconstructing, and constructing is being handled much more clearly, scientifically, and comprehensively in some of the better modern (and part of it in older piaget/vygotsky) schools of “cognitive science” “cognitive development”. also the schools that came out of or were like jacques de deconstructionism. for any individual to get the benefits, it’s still efficient to just go to est/landmark, take some TM lessons (or less pretty, but even easier, read benson’s book), do some yoga and get some implicit experience stuff and maybe some conceptualized verions too, get implicit/explicit experience/concept in tai chi or other martial arts, maybe study zen. so getting straight to the heart of experience vs concept with popular affordable tools makes sense and is practical for well-being. i only mention the cognitive schools, etc, not because everybody needs to study them to get the benefits, but because the old bitching and complaining theme from the 70s and 90s that i enjoyed preaching too has gotten to be out of date. “cognitive” is about “cognition” and that’s “thinking” in the sense of all the things the mind/awareness/spirit/attention do to do things in life. that can and does cover all the stuff that shows up in the previously supposedly “touchy feeley”, “mediating on one’s navel”, “flaky” … hm … just noticed gap … bet it’s not really a gap but i’m just aware of where it’s located … cognitive being “mind” isn’t enough … states of experience is another essential part … with that caveat and new question, i’ll make the point i was headed toward anyway which is … “real” science is no longer ignoring the experiential stuff. “real” science has moved from only the creative outsiders like fritjof capra and david bohm and the “the road less travelled” psych guy and harvey cox of harvard divinity school and herbert benson paying attention to “human potential” “experiential” good stuff, to that good stuff on the way to being integrated into into appropriate places and amounts and emphasis everywhere in the “hard” “real” “serious” sciences. that was happening slowly over the years and then watershed tipping-point-rapidly and that’s why i raised the question in the world’s longest footnote in my 1998 book (yeah, yeah, i know. it’s REAL easy to imagine that i might be the author of the world’s longest footnote. and i thank you very kindly for that wonderful high praise 🙂 ) the question of what the “new age” folk planned to do with the new position they were in (whether they realized it or not) of, instead of fighting to get their stuff into the mainstream, BEING the mainstream 🙂 … twig: ‘step 5! constraint’s broken. return to step 1. don’t let inertia become the new constraint.’ … callahan ss …
… so much for yet another batch of scintillating digressions … back to the question of i wonder when those “east meets west synthesis things were happening with me” and how it relates to a mistake i made in remembering about adler’s great book’s 2nd edition changes … %%%dec~01%%%~
… and at least by 1992, probably before, for the confucian biggies analects, great learning, and doctrine of the mean, and lao tzu and tao te ching … and hesse siddhartha at some point … mahabharata including gita & ramayana might have been later … anyway, by the time my new britannica III showed up in late 80s or early 90s, i was solidly in position to think, “oh, great! good work, dr adler and encyclopedia britannica! you fixed your ‘only the western world has great books’ problem. bravo!” …
hm … except they hadn’t done that … [ brilliant 🙂 ] hm … looks like i was wrong about some of what i said about the change in the 1990 second edition of the mortimer adler/ robert hutchinson great books of the western world which was originally published in 1952 (a good year for things to be born … wink wink … can you guess my age? …). looks like it’s still called great books of the western world and not just great books of the world. also there’s no eastern material added. i distinctly remember being thrilled at the changes [ sure, tom 🙂 ] from the old set i had, but i guess it wasn’t because of east vs. west improvements. 🙂 looking over the list of second edition books, i can see why i was thrilled. it was for a different reason. for different excellent additions to the series. it was a well-selected collection of 20th century works and a few older ones. voltaire’s candide got in. nietzsche’s beyond good and evil. proust. hemingway. o’neill. faulkner. lawrence. fitzgerald. and a lot more. so the 2nd edition was cool, but not because it fixed the lack of “east” problem. it was still “western world”. 🙂 … [ oh, nice work, mac 🙂 ]
i guess that’s enough enthusing over britannica III for the moment. 🙂
nope. more such enthusing proceeds apace. ok, i found info on the great britannica III 15th edition indexing controversy that was resolved somehow in 1985. as the preceding wikipedia quote says, britannica III was not, as i said, a 2-part set of micropedia/macropedia, but a 3-part set with propedia/micropedia/macropedia. i remember the propedia, but i didn’t use it much if at all. i vaguely remember looking through the propedia and its organization of knowledge — maybe i could have or should have used it more; charting the organization of knowledge isn’t a bad thing; that’s what i was doing for myself in my own mind a piece at a time — but i don’t remember using it. i was always intensely moving from one micropedia entry to another, to macropedia for a while, over into durant’s story of civilization which was really more central with britannica supporting the durant reading a lot of the time.
the following wikipedia quote that describes the propedia says the pre-adler pre-britannicaIII pre-15thEdition encyclopedia britannica had an index typical of most publications. what that means is word or maybe phrase (topic identifier) and a list of page numbers. no explanations. no definitions. just the usual page numbers an index has … and, now that that’s been clarified, i do remember vaguely sometimes having a topic in mind — from discussion or reading or hearing on tv/radio, etc — and not being able to find it readily in the micropedia. wasn’t a big deal to me. not something i would have remembered if this matter of the great encyclopedia britannica 15th edition indexing controversy had not suddenly arisen and seized center stage in the world … 😉
so that part of the expert criticism of the 1974 version of the 15th edition makes sense. certainly for reasons of marketing, sales, PR, and avoiding criticism, but also a little for the usability, they should have have the usual form of index too. on the other hand, they have to be out of their minds to criticize the micropedia/macropedia organization. what’s the alternative? one set of books with all longer articles? or articles of varying length all in the same book with the longer main treatments surrounded on all sides (is there any other way to be surrounded?) by varying numbers of short entries? it’s FAR better to have the major topics all over in one set of books even if just for the visual value of communicating to the reader/student which topics ARE major. it’s like teaching someone to master a textbook or a great book by spending some time first getting a view of the parts, chapters, sections.
i didn’t miss having a normal index. i didn’t even notice i didn’t have one in the first set of books. i didn’t use the one i do now remember getting with the second set of books. but, with all the other work and expense of creating britannica III, i wonder why they didn’t just have the two-volume index with the rest at the beginning of britannica III in 1974? why they let themselves get forced into it finally by 1985? just from a sales point-of-view. something not that much more expensive to provide that is an extra selling point, removes an objection, and also avoids expert criticism you know‘s going to be coming from the bitchy part of the expert crowd.
so, though i didn’t myself want, need, or use a britannica III index (other than the micropedia itself all the time and, on a very few occasions, the syntopicon for indexing into the great books), i agree with the critics that dr. adler and britannica should have provided a normal index with britannica III beginning in 1974. but the critics who attacked the parallel micro/macropedia organization were wrong. so there.
let’s think about indexing in general for a moment. if you put yourself in the shoes of an encyclopedia designer and ask yourself, “well how would I do this?”, we find there is a spectrum of types of topics that can be entry points for lookup.
incidentally, we don’t have this problem in the internet/google age. google’s search engine handles that for us as well as it can be handled. we just type stuff in and google instantly gives us our first 46 million hits … anyway, back to printed page, or even to wikipedia page organization, where the differences matter among … an index with short topic identifiers and many book/page references … and dictionary with just word-length topic identifiers and simple meanings … and glossary with words and some explanation … and micropedia with a many topics and short explanations and at least several book and page references … and macropedia with a lot of topics and long explanations …
(and, by the way, google doesn’t have to make decisions like word vs. phrase vs short coverage vs long coverage … we just type in our stuff and google’s supercomputers process it for us … but wikipedia does have to deal with these decisions. wikipedia, for example, has a page for “music” but not for “behind” or “the”. it might also have a page for “behind the music (the vh1 tv show). and wikipedia has to decide not only on “having a page vs. no page” decisions, but also multiple pages with same name like “cabaret (the stage show)”, “cabaret (the movie”, “cabaret (the song), and “cabaret (the type of place or type of music).” )
… anyway, before i find myself launching into another digression, or going back to and clean up those last two messy paragraphs, here’s the wikipedia quote about britannica III’s propedia:
“The one-volume Propædia is the first of three parts of the 15th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica, the other two being the 12-volume Micropædia and the 17-volume Macropædia. ThePropædia is intended as a topical organization of the Britannica’s contents, complementary to the alphabetical organization of the other two parts. Introduced in 1974 with the 15th edition, the Propædia and Micropædia were intended to replace the Index of the 14th edition; however, after widespread criticism, the Britannica restored the Index as a two-volume set in 1985. The core of the Propædia is its Outline of Knowledge, which seeks to provide a logical framework for all human knowledge; however, the Propædia also has several appendices listing the staff members, advisors and contributors to all three parts of the Britannica.” – accessed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prop%C3%A6dia on nov 29, 2010.
so, i can see what the problem was with the index. the critics were right this time. it was ok to provide the propedia and micropedia for indexing, but it was a mistake not to provide the simple normal index as well. i wonder what the brilliant adler was thinking by not having a normal index too? or maybe it wasn’t his decision. whom knows?
i obviously didn’t even notice the lack of a typical index during my 70s-80s use of the britannica. when a topic came up that i couldn’t find readily in micropedia, i probably just made a mental note, or maybe even a paper note, on the topic and went on to another topic that was open in my mind. once you notice something for the first time, it shows up in other places and times. but, also, i may have just looked it up in the dictionary, found related terms, and found them in micropedia. but i think mostly, though i was impatient to get the answer right away if it was immediately available, i was also patient and, rather than spin wheels … oh, you know what else? … looking around for something you don’t find right away has you finding other things you wouldn’t have found otherwise … there were also almanacs around all the time …
so i didn’t miss the index in the first set of books, didn’t use the new index much in the second set, and used the micropedia indexing to other micropedia and to macropedia like crazy.
there’s a little repetition here. no extra charge. you’re welcome. it’s all part of the service here at wb4all publishing central.
the last point that comes to mind in all of this 1974-1985 encyclopedia britannica 15th edition britannica III indexing furor (you have to be boring like me to consider an encyclopedia indexing controversy to be an exciting adventure …) is what i’ll call the “efficiency and speed of lookups” vs. maybe the “effectiveness of thought” issue. there’s no question that getting info quickly and easily is useful. but there’s also no question that, after a few minutes of lookup, a greater number of minutes of thinking well is often more effective for analysis, synthesis, comparison, contrast, linking, clustering, ordering, re-ordering, remembering — for all the stuff of actually getting smarter — than just jumping into another few minutes of lookup … like the funny little sign says, THIMK! … we should thimk … what? oh, right …. we should think well too … it’s a balance of both …
here’s what encyclopedia britannica 15th edition (aka britannica III) looks like, although the earlier ones looked better. my guess is, like all print media — books, newspapers, magazines — encyclopedias felt strong price pressure from existence of cheap online info sources, so they probably had to cut costs on the nice leather binding, the nice color coding at bottom, and the quality of gilt lettering and page edges, to keep prices from going up too high, to get the sales volumes they need, to justify print runs and still be in business. still looks good though. older editions were even more luxurious and still not too expensive. anyway, encyclopedia britannica’s 15th edition arrived to the world in 1974 as britannica III w/ micropaedia (volumes 1-12) & macropaedia (volumes 13-29). very cool. this looks like 2001 edition w/ 2002 yearbook update. i didn’t use the propaedia (with the green on the far left) or the two index books (the two with light blue on the far right). but i used the 29 red and black ones in the middle like crazy! loved ’em! yeah, man!
ok, i’m glad we got that great britannica III indexing controversy all sorted out. whew! 😉
i could have said dustup or brouhaha instead of controversy. i wonder if those would be in the britannica index, dictionary, or micropedia? or in wikipedia? probably not. i bet urban dictionary’s got them both, though 🙂 … %nov~29%~
Durant’s Story of Philosophy and Story of Civilization
I know the impact of 11-thick-volume The Story of Civilization. I also thought I knew the impact of the compact single-volume The Story of Philosophy, but, when I was thinking about it, I realized that the impact had been different at different times because my perceptions of reality, the nature and use of philosophy, and the role of the philosophical mind have evolved.
So where to start? Not necessarily with Durant. Chronological? In order of largest impact? Problem there is sometimes a source gives just a single insight that changes everything else, while other sources got more time, attention, and were more comprehensive. Which is more important? Answer: We’ve travelled beyond the range of circumstances within which the concept of “important” is important. : )
Where to start?
With professors and readings in college? Readings after college? Mortimer Adler? Will Durant? William James? Bach? est? TOC? With the synthesis of all of it that happened later?
Some authors have book titles that, if you take the time to think about them, are important lessons in themselves. William James’ book, The Variety of Religious Experience, is one of those. To know he was a noted psychologist, and to consider the title of his book, and to really consider the title of his book, delivers a more important result in the “reader” than diving into the details of the book. That’s an important comment about the nature of what we call, “reading.”
Another book with a title like that is Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea.
I spent many many hours over quite few years absolutely fascinated with Durant’s 11-volume Story of Civilization. I came away with many themes, ideas, events, trends, and people who lived and created them. By contrast, I spent very little time with his Story of Philosopphy. Yet I considered it one of the, say, 100 or so most important influences on my thinking. One comment still rings in my memory. It goes something like, “… and the epistemologists have well nigh destroyed it.” “It” being philosophy. That quote’s not exactly right, but that’s not important. Wish I could remember it, though. Anyway, more important is the general point that some things we hear or read have important and lasting impacts on us, and that the impacts and meanings can be different at different times in life.
I found the quote. Actually, it’s not a quote, but a review that I can tell from memory is borrowing liberally from the actual Durant writing: “epistemology has kidnapped modern philosophy, and well nigh ruined it.”
My understanding of that comment has changed a lot. And it’s a non-trivial, and interesting, task to try in 2010 to reconstruct what he was seeing as the “epistemologists”, what they were doing, why he saw it as a problem, and what mainstream philosophers should be doing. That’s half of the discussion. The other is to reflect on what I thought he meant by the “epistemologists”, why I very enthusiastically thought he was right, the way my own thinking progressed, and what I think about all of it now. Thinking out loud.
At the core of it all: concept vs. experience. est. Zen. Alan Watts.
The role of the epic stories. Odyssey, Illiad, King Arthur, Beowulf, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bible, and American Revolution. What we mean by “the past”? What “past” are we to learn in a single lifetime? What does what we learn about “our past” or “the past” tell us about who we are and what we’re trying to do?
Combining “western philosophical writing” with direct experience and arriving at states “eastern” writings and disciplines (and also western psychedelic scenarios) seek to cultivate.
My perceptions of what philosophy is at its best, or what it is at all, changed over the years.
What is a philosopher? A soul watching itself experience.
What is an intellectual? A mind watching itself think.
What is the role of the philosopher? Different things to different philosophers. Different for those thinking about effects for their individual selves vs. those thinking about effects in individuals adding up to group and global social conditions. For me, it was pretty much always both, verbalized later as well-being for all (including me). Philosophic minds evolve the consensus relationship between concept and experience (of the “past”, of “who we are”, and what we’re trying to do and how) so that it supports well being now and in the future.
Durant and the epistemologists
Durant’s comment about epistemologists kidnapping and ruining modern philosophy resonated with me. I don’t think i really understood with precision and depth what epistemology was, which philosophers were epistemologists, and what they were doing different from other branches of philosophy, but I had two negative encounters, one in reading and one in person, that I assumed at the time, maybe incorrectly, were what he was talking about in his complaint about epistemologists … the story of the relative who was aggressive in debating terminology but seemed never to relate the discussion to practical everyday issues in life … the story about first tries at reading Kant’s critiques of practical and pure reason …
Durant’s insistence on philosophy being readable and relevant and even entertaining — like the stories of the lives of philosophers in his The Story of Philosophy and EVERYTHING in his multi-volume Story of Civilization, vs. unreadable highly-technical discussion only for a philosophical and intellectual elite — reinforced my preference for the belief that the merely intelligent write sophisticated things in ways that are useless for a wider audience while the truly smart are able to deliver sophisticated messages in ways that are either clear to a wider audience or at least deliver enough at first to that audience to bring them a step in the right direction and motivate them to return to and persist with the thinking later.
I’m still not sure exactly what epistemology is, who the epistemologists were and are, and what they’ve done that’s helpful or not helpful. In general, it seems to have a lot in common with cognitive schools of development and psychology. But being overly concerned with the borderlines separating the various categories of academic study — vs. asking right away, how does it matter to life, experience, performance, tranquility, society, happiness, etc — is the kind of thing Durant was complaining about.
some other points … the point about what I eventually came away with from Kant’s practical vs. pure reason (noumenal being already there as potentially knowable, like ability to know cause and effect, as “pure reason” with “practical reason” being how individuals and societies perceive as “practical reason”, the henry kissinger quote issue where he said people aren’t (what was it, mature, educated, prepared?) until they’ve read and understood kant’s book on practical reason … the point about examining experience being good whether epistemology, existential, spinoza, zen, est, or other as all good and what makes any of them bad is moving away from actual experience and relevance to individual and social effect and moving into highly-technical irrelevance … the point of turning the philosopher’s “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” comment on christian theology back onto the philosophers themselves when they get obscure and technical in ways that cause loss of relevance …
“Over the years, Durant’s reputation as a philosopher and historian has grown; his writings, which have sold over 17 million copies, have been enjoyed by individuals from all walks of life. Among his most impassioned readers (and friends) were Mahatma Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Clarence Darrow and Bertrand Russell – although it was always for the common man, rather than the scholastic or academic audience, that Durant wrote.”
This a very lucky google hit. Someone here has made an interesting summary of Durant’s Story of Philosophy based, apparently, on a reading in 1998.
BOOK #85: The Story of Philosophy………finish February 21, 1998
This book is not a complete history of philosophy. It is an attempt to humanize knowledge by centering the story of speculative thought raound certain dominant personalities. Certain lesser figures have been omitted in order tha those selected might have the space required to make them live. Hence the inadequate treatment of the half-legendary pre-Socratics, the Stoics and Epicureans, the Scholastics, and the epistemologists. The author believes that epistemology has kidnapped modern philosophy, and well nigh ruined it; he hopes for the time when the study of the knowledge-process will be recognized as the business of the science of psychology, and when philosophy will again be understood as the synthetic interpretation of all experience rather than the analytic description of the mode and process of experience itself. Analysis belongs to science, and gives us knowledge; philosophy must provide a synthesis for wisdom.
Pirsig’s Quality, gestalt, knowing, aesthetic sense – everything, including licks and even shreds, can either have this, or not, as discussed with mr hudson –
bits and pieces for other subjects and pages:
Lemmy’s 5, which became Lemmy’s 8, which Jack sez he was 5a:
1 none ….
2 either/or …. 3 both ….
4 tricks a aware b using …. 5 amplification a aware b using ….
6 some …. 7 all ….
joe’s tale of biding time: 86 first told of sp 88 ozzie 94 t 99 !
bob’s tale: robabe, 1970 partic
sp continues non-verbal, adds verbal
, , , , masons gw
pp mostly verbal
Page begun May 21, 2010
6/1/2010 – wow. wish my eyes were better and circumstances were different. those are three remarkable book titles:
Based on those titles alone, I’d be diving into them in a heartbeat and be predicting, without yet having read a word of his writing, that I would be discovering in page after page after page that he understood many important things very well.
Looked up Marcuse today because something made me think about Angela Davis and I learned today that she studied with him. She was also heavily-influenced by Sartre and Camus.
Camus’ Rebel was a big influence for me at the level of ideas.
By contrast, his The Plague had a memorable impact one me as a powerful vicarious experience — of a terrible tragedy, with massive human impact, that couldn’t be stopped, and went on for a long time — but I don’t remember carrying away ideas from reading it in high school or college; don’t think I had made the first of several “meta” shifts to being aware of implicit or even explicit discussion of ideas yet. To be sure, The Rebel was an essay and The Plague was a novel, but I know from later-years (2004 or 2005 or so) of The Brothers Karamazov, A Farewell to Arms, and A Tale of Two Cities, that great novels have ideas about all or many aspects of life both explicitly and implicitly woven into the stories, and I just don’t have anything at the level of ideas that I took away from The Plague.
As to Sartre, that’s another example for me of a big influence (which means it established a permanently important point or perspective to think from in the future) from limited exposure to small amounts of the person’s work. The word, existentialism, with root words of “exist” and “existence” with the idea of “being”, said a lot to me. Legitimizing careful examination existence/being, one’s own and extrapolating/considering experience of others, is a big deal. Consider passively inheriting morals, ethics, rules, laws, concepts, norms, laws, and such arising from somebody’s past experience — vs. — examining the impact of those concepts on one’s own and others’ current and likely future experience, and then figuring out what concepts might be better for going forward. Big difference. That’s probobly what Sartre wrote in all his voluminous writings. I just noticed the word, existentialism, and got to why it probably was right via other paths.
Second big Sartre influence: The title of his major work, Being and Nothingness, had a huge affirming/confirming impact when it came to my attention in the 80’s after a few of the “meta” “concept vs. experience” shifts had happened.
But I found Sartre’s actual writing unappealing. It didn’t hold me the one or a few times I tried. When that happens, I went to the “literature”, to people writing about people like Sartre and their works. And the “literature” I went to about Sartre and existentialism was mainly the Sartre chapter’s in Walter Kaufman’s brilliant little paperback book, Existentialism, which shows existentialism is not one clear concept system, but a lot of people and influences. … Sartre in the original (translated into English), and in the “literature” about Sartre/existentialism, just didn’t grab and hold me like other things have.
The upshot on Sartre is: the term, “exist-existence-tentialism” and the title, Being and Nothingness, were enough for me to consider Sartre justifiably to be a giant. And, as Mortimer Adler taught me in his How to Read a Book, I just figured I’d reread Sartre at some later points in life. At those points, Sartre’s writing would be the same, but I would be different. And all of a sudden I might find reading Sartre as a “can’t put it down” experience like other things have been at their right times in my life.
I thought of Angela Davis because something made me think of Eldridge Cleaver. I wrote a paper in college about his elegant work of angry poetic prose, Soul On Ice.
I learned how to “write” when I wrote that paper because I, at first, couldn’t get my written words to “be right”, to “feel right”, to “sound right”, in some then-unverbalized sense. I later verbalized that “experience” as Pirsig’s Quality, Gestalt, “knowing”, aesthetic sense, but continued throughout life to call it “sounds/feels right.” I noticed, along with Pirsig and his motorcyle and Larry Lasser (an executive I once had the opportunity to observe in action) with his managing, that this extended to virtually every aspect of life, not just writing. This “sense”, I’ll bet, Marcuse intended as the central aspect of his “aesthetic dimension.”
Anyway, I felt strongly about supporting Cleaver in not wanting to tolerate the problems he saw, but i also very much wanted to avoid violent action, and very much wanted to articulate a call for america to change things individually and systemically, and couldn’t stop writing and rewriting the paper (no word processors in early 70s, btw) until my own experience of both the problem and the solution was emerging unmistakably and persuasively from the stack of papers. (yeah, me too. i’m also wondering if i was rewriting by hand or retyping. not sure. i think visual memory includes cutting and retaping to save good stuff and re-arrange before final smooth rewrite. if had to guess, hand written). the book and paper were about Cleaver, but — having lived only a few miles from the Baltimore riots of 1968 — and being aware they were going on all over the country — untouched, by the way — we just knew it was going on — I was also aware of names like Rapp Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and, of course, Angela Davis.
That’s why Eldridge Cleaver coming to mind always brings Angela Davis to mind with associated ideas of feminist, afro, real pretty like sexy, real bright, real articulate. Didn’t know until today that she had masters and doctoral degrees and studed in US, Sorbonne in France, and Frankfurt philosophy school in Germany.
What brought Cleaver to mind was, of all things, a funny Richard Pryor movie, Bustin’ Loose. Was funny, but was also clear it was using humor to highlight problems and solutions still existing (despite, in my view, a lot of progress) in 1980.
[jan5: if my pal, pat, were here he’d say he’s making good progress on using milton/dante methods on augustinian and thomistic works. : ) true. great.]