Individuality, Truth and Freedom

John 8:32 …the truth shall make you free.

“I’m not a free speech advocate, let’s say, i’m a true speech advocate. which is to say that I believe people should say what they believe to be true” Jordon Peterson

Following Peterson’s advice, I write below what I believe to be true.

Our existence provides us with the potential to become free spirits. Nature has taken us up to the point where we then become responsible for our future development as individuals.
Individual animals are constrained to follow the nature of the species to which they belong. Humans have moved beyond this restriction, over and above the species nature, we have formed tribes and societies which establish laws and custome designed to govern the behaviour of the individuals within. Modern societies make it possible for each person to express their individuality. They allow more freedom and give more rights to their individuals than are bestowed upon them by being members of the species.

Steiner spoke of a path towards ethical individualism

Steiner

The standpoint of free morality, then, does not declare the free spirit to be the only form in which a man can exist. It sees in the free spirit only the last stage of man’s evolution. This is not to deny that conduct according to standards has its justification as one stage in evolution. Only we cannot acknowledge it as the absolute standpoint in morality. For the free spirit overcomes the standards in the sense that he does not just accept commandments as his motives but orders his action according to his own impulses (intuitions)

The future is in our hands. Evolution continues regardless.

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173 thoughts on “Individuality, Truth and Freedom

  1. CharlieM: Our passions and desires define us as members of the species homo sapiens, our thinking defines us as individuals.

    No. But I encourage you to try this in a criminal court sometime.

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  2. Gregory: Uh, yeah, that’s exactly the point. Thanks! = P

    You worked for the title, you deserve the recognition for the effort.

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  3. newton,

    He doesn’t want to be a “philosophist” at all, because he thinks those are bad, dumb people. So being a good philosophist would be bad and being a bad philosophist is good. But as he puts pretty much everybody who has ever been good at philosophy in his “philosophist” basket, I think he should know that he’s a very bad philosophist, and KN should be proud of being a good one. (Although, being a good ANYTHING in Gregory’s estimation, is not really something anybody should strive for, I don’t think. I hope Vincent isn’t bummed by being praised by the guy.)

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  4. Anyhow, Charlie–getting back to what you’ve learned here, do you now understand that saying all and only what you believe to be true isn’t necessarily virtuous? And that anybody who has suggested otherwise has been wrong about the matter?

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  5. walto:
    newton,

    He doesn’t want to be a “philosophist” at all, because he thinks those are bad, dumb people. So being a good philosophist would be bad and being a bad philosophist is good. But as he puts pretty much everybody who has ever been good at philosophy in his “philosophist” basket, I think he should know that he’s a very bad philosophist, and KN should be proud of being a good one. (Although, being a good ANYTHING in Gregory’s estimation, is not really something anybody should strive for, I don’t think. I hope Vincent isn’t bummed by being praised by the guy.)

    Gregory has never told us what he means by “philosophist” or who he thinks counts as a genuine “philosopher”. But pretty much everyone who has been good at philosophy seems to be a “philosophist” in his books. Anyway if all the philosophists are people who have been good at philosophy then I’m happy to be counted as one.

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  6. CharlieM:

    Our passions and desires define us as members of the species homo sapiens, our thinking defines us as individuals.

    Passions and desires vary among individuals just as thinking does.

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  7. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM,

    That’s almost right, but not quite.

    Naive realists about perception aren’t committed to empiricism about concepts, i.e. a copy-theory in which a concept is a ‘copy’ of the perception. All that the naive realist believes is that veridical perception is perception of external objects in space and time: when I take myself to be seeing a cat, it is the cat itself that I see. Naive realism (or direct realism) contrasts with phenomenalism. While it is true historically that many phenomenalists about perception were also empiricists about concepts, they are separable positions.

    The problem with concept empiricism is that it assimilates concepts to mental images, which doesn’t work for the reason that mental images have no logical structure: awareness of a mental image tells us nothing about formal and material inferential relations that constitute conceptual content. Concepts have logical form due to their role in assertions and inferences that a mental image can’t have.

    (There’s also the problem of aphantasia: if concept empiricism were true then people with aphantasia could not acquire concepts. Yet obviously they can. QED.)

    There are problems with naive realism, but they mostly turn on whether the naive realist can give an adequate account of hallucinations. For a long time I thought that something like Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology was the right approach here — perceptions are not veridical hallucinations because in perceiving the perceptual object is ‘geared into’ (his phrase) our possibilities ofbodily movement. Or to use Gibson’s term, hallucinations do not have affordances. But I don’t know if that’s right.

    Objective idealism is a slippery notion to pin down exactly and I won’t pretend to have an adequate grasp of it myself. But I take it that it involves the idea that the world in itself has a rational structure, and that our reason is capable of grasping the world in itself because there is no metaphysical gap between the world and our reason: the world’s own reason is at work in our reason because our reason is part of the world. There’s no room for an ontological gap between the world in itself and our experience of it. More precisely, to posit such a gap (as Kant does) is to be dogmatic about reason itself and thus fail to sustain a critical standpoint.

    At least that’s how I understand (in very broad strokes) Hegel — and Hegel was deeply influenced by Goethe, for whatever that’s worth. (But Nietzsche was also deeply influenced by Goethe, and it’s hard to imagine a more non-Hegelian philosopher than Nietzsche!)

    I would agree that mental images are not concepts. A mental image is an object of perception just as the external object which caused the image is an object of perception. A concept is an objective entity arrived at through thinking. To use my old favourite the triangle. We can perceive a triangle drawn on paper and we can have a mental picture of it when we look away. The concept triangle is something we can hold in our minds through thinking and which both the drawn image and the mental image are representations.

    In the book, Riddles of Philosophy Steiner writes about the perception of thought and the progress from this perception to the activity of living thinking as practiced by Goethe.

    It has been shown in the preceding exposition how the development of modern world conception strives from the perception of thought toward the experience of thought. In Hegel’s world conception the world seems to stand before the soul as a self-produced thought experience, but the trend of evolution seems to indicate further progress. Thought must not become stationary as thought; it must not be merely thought, not be experienced merely through thinking; it must awaken to a still higher life.

    We have the ability of evolving from the process of producing dead thoughts to being able to achieve active living thinking.

    (An audio of this book can be found here)

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  8. Corneel: CharlieM: Well IMO I am very far from perfect.

    Nothing wrong in itself with pursuing your desires. Comes with the “being human” package, just like your lofty ratio. I just thought it was odd that you experience that as somehow restricting your spiritual freedom.

    Following our desires isn’t necessarily restrictive but not knowing the real underlying causes of our actions is.

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  9. walto: Not at all. As Dali said when he was accused of copying Ingres, “He who imitates nobody is nothing.”

    You couldn’t have read many of my posts here and think that about me. I’ve written a book about a hero of mine (from whom I’ve taken almost every sensible thought I’ve ever had), and did my dissertation on Spinoza. I said Goethe stole that from Spinoza, because he did.

    You’re just, you know, wrong about pretty much everything you write. Even this kind of personal thing. Like Alan, you should think and read more (and better), and post less.

    Do you think that Einsteiin stole his idea of God from Spinoza? What exactly do you think Goethe stole from Spinoza?

    I am not trying to be insulting, just trying to understand your thinking on this. What you see as taking inspiration and what you see as stealing.

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  10. walto: No. But I encourage you to try this in a criminal court sometime.

    Why do the courts treat animals and young children differently to adults? Why shouldn’t we just act on our passions and desires as animals do? At what stage of human evolution did we become accountable?

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  11. walto:
    Anyhow, Charlie–getting back to what you’ve learned here, do you now understand that saying all and only what you believe to be true isn’t necessarily virtuous? And that anybody who has suggested otherwise has been wrong about the matter?

    I still believe that saying only what you believe to be true is virtuous although it does involve remaining silent and keeping your opinions to yourself when the occasion demands it.

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  12. keiths:
    CharlieM:

    Passions and desires vary among individuals just as thinking does.

    That may be so. But look at the difference between animal creativity and human creativity. What is it telling you?

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  13. CharlieM: I still believe that saying only what you believe to be true is virtuous although it does involve remaining silent and keeping your opinions to yourself when the occasion demands it.

    Are you saying you can’t imagine a scenario in which it would be more virtuous not to tell the truth? Suppose it would kill someone. You have a very limited understanding of virtue I think. Put down your Steiner and read a few Trollope novels.

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  14. walto, to CharlieM:

    Are you saying you can’t imagine a scenario in which it would be more virtuous not to tell the truth? Suppose it would kill someone. You have a very limited understanding of virtue I think. Put down your Steiner and read a few Trollope novels.

    Here’s an example of a scenario in which it’s not only virtuous to lie, it’s virtuous to think that the lie is true (at least temporarily):

    Another example: Suppose you’re trying to smuggle a Jewish friend out of Nazi Germany. It’s useful [and virtuous] for you to forge some papers and to claim, to the border guards, that your friend is not a Jew. It’s even useful [and virtuous] to believe that temporarily, if you can swing it, so that you’ll be a more convincing liar.

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  15. CharlieM: I still believe that saying only what you believe to be true is virtuous although it does involve remaining silent and keeping your opinions to yourself when the occasion demands it.

    Of course I would not want to preach morality. So I would say that, more important than speaking only what one believes to be true, every woman or man should try to do what they believe to be right in any particular circumstance. Morality is not something that can be imposed on one from without. To act morally should always be a free deed.

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  16. walto: Are you saying you can’t imagine a scenario in which it would be more virtuous not to tell the truth? Suppose it would kill someone. You have a very limited understanding of virtue I think. Put down your Steiner and read a few Trollope novels.

    No. I would be willing to break a self-imposed rule for the greater good.

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  17. keiths: Here’s an example of a scenario in which it’s not only virtuous to lie, it’s virtuous to think that the lie is true (at least temporarily):

    Another example: Suppose you’re trying to smuggle a Jewish friend out of Nazi Germany. It’s useful [and virtuous] for you to forge some papers and to claim, to the border guards, that your friend is not a Jew. It’s even useful [and virtuous] to believe that temporarily, if you can swing it, so that you’ll be a more convincing liar.

    As I said above, I would be willing to sacrifice my virtue under certain circumstances. Some things are more important than keeping my virtue.

    If a woman given an ultimatum that she had to consent to sex or her friend will be killed, then I would not say that she carried out a virtuous act, I would say that she sacrificed her virtue for the greater good. So it all boils down to how we define virtue.

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  18. CharlieM:

    If a woman given an ultimatum that she had to consent to sex or her friend will be killed, then I would not say that she carried out a virtuous act, I would say that she sacrificed her virtue for the greater good. So it all boils down to how we define virtue.

    Sacrificing something for the greater good is itself virtuous.

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  19. keiths:
    CharlieM:

    Sacrificing something for the greater good is itself virtuous.

    Depends on what that something is and who is judging what is the “greater good”.

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  20. CharlieM: As I said above, I would be willing to sacrifice my virtue under certain circumstances. Some things are more important than keeping my virtue.

    Pragmatism is not a virtue? Seems like that is what pure thought leads to, logical and pragmatic.

    If a woman given an ultimatum that she had to consent to sex or her friend will be killed, then I would not say that she carried out a virtuous act,

    Is saving an innocent life virtuous?

    I would say that she sacrificed her virtue for the greater good

    Someone can lose their virtue by being coerced into an action unwilling? What virtue did she sacrifice?

    . So it all boils down to how we define virtue.

    In the eye of the beholder.

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  21. keiths:
    CharlieM:

    Sacrificing something for the greater good is itself virtuous.

    All that can be asked is that individuals do what they personally consider to be right and just even if it does mean breaking rules.

    Peterson was giving advice for everyday living, not laying down hard and fast rules that must be obeyed at all times. His whole philosophy is to favour the individual over the dictates of the community. I’m sure his advice to anyone in the scenarios we have been discussing would be, “do what you think is right”.

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  22. newton:

    CharlieM: As I said above, I would be willing to sacrifice my virtue under certain circumstances. Some things are more important than keeping my virtue.

    Pragmatism is not a virtue? Seems like that is what pure thought leads to, logical and pragmatic.

    An act that is considered wrong under normal circumstances can be commended if it was carried out under the restrictions we have been discussing. The fact that the individual does not have the freedom to achieve the best possible outcome is out of their control so they can only do what they consider to be the best they can.

    If a woman given an ultimatum that she had to consent to sex or her friend will be killed, then I would not say that she carried out a virtuous act,

    Is saving an innocent life virtuous?

    If it was an intended act, yes.

    I would say that she sacrificed her virtue for the greater good

    Someone can lose their virtue by being coerced into an action unwilling? What virtue did she sacrifice?

    She may have decided to remain a virgin until she met the love of her life, in which case she was forced to break her own rule.

    . So it all boils down to how we define virtue.

    In the eye of the beholder.

    So do you think that it’s okay for some people to consider rape and murder virtuous?

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  23. CharlieM: In the eye of the beholder.

    So do you think that it’s okay for some people to consider rape and murder virtuous?

    Like virtue, it depends how you define rape and murder.

    Personally ,no.

    Then again , someone’s philosophy might be to favour the individual over the dictates of the community. Some consider that a virtuous position.

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