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How William James of Harvard helped undermine moral responsiblity – agency.

Most libertarians (and conservatives) have some idea of the harm Harvard University (in spite of the good elements that have always existed there) has done to the United States and (by extension) the rest of the West.

For example, Harvard (via its relationship with Cambridge in England) helped push Keynesian “economics” thus undermining real economics – and leading to the credit bubble nightmare the world now faces.

Before this Harvard Law School actively discouraged study of the text of the Constitution of the United States and the other writings (showing the intentions) of those who wrote that text – pushing the study of “case law” instead, thus undermining constitutional limitations on government power in the United States.

It is true to say that both in economics and law many other American universities followed the example of Harvard – because of its prestige (based, in part, on its being the first American university and its vast resources).

However, before the harm it did in economics and law, Harvard did great harm in the study of human beings themselves (in what was called the study of the “nature of man”) – in philosophy and psychology.

Once American philosophy had been dominated by those who believed and defended three great principles.

The objective nature of the physical universe.

The objective nature of good and evil.

And the ability of humans to choose between good and evil – that humans were beings (agents) that they had the capacity (if they made the effort – a big “if”) to choose good and reject evil.

Both the Aristotelians who dominated Catholic education and the “Common Sense” thinkers who dominated Protestant education (sometimes called followers of “Scottish philosophy” of John Reid and so on – although the principles go back to 17th century thinkers such as Ralph Cudworth and before).

Harvard took the lead in attacking these principles – by the rise of the American “Pragmatist” School.

The “Pragmatists” are best summed up in the words of William James (one of the leading members of the group) “the right is just the expedient in our way of thinking” – and by this William James meant both “the right” in the sense of truth (there was no objective truth – whatever it was useful to be “true” was “true”) and in the sense of “good and evil” (right and wrong – in both senses), to the Pragmatists objective good and evil did not exist – they were “myths” just as objective truth was a “myth”..

The European “philosopher of violence” Sorel, was later to make use of this doctrine of “useful myths” – what did it matter if one told lies (to incite violence) if truth and lies did not really exist? If what was “true” was just what was “useful” to  the cause.

Mussolini did the same thing – what did it matter if both reason and evidence had refuted socialism? So much for reason and evidence! He might move from strict Marxism (because it was too easy to refute – at least for people who believe in such things as objective truth), but his new form of socialism (“Fascism”) would do – it would be based upon “myths”  and if there was no objective truth. lying was O.K. (indeed a new “truth”).

One can even see this in the writings of the Oslo murderer (he wanted his name to be famous – so I never use it) – William James was his most favoured philosopher (on his Facebook page – before it was taken down). So what if the people he murdered were unarmed kids – if his “truth” was that they were armed foes, and he was a “Knight Templar” was not his “truth” as valid as the “truth” of anyone else? And was not his “good” (murdering unarmed kids) not as valid as the “good” of anyone else?

Not even religious people were immune from the spell of William James – as Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out, one was more like to hear the name William James than Saint James in the Churches of the Progressives.

How can it be objectively wrong to murder millions of helpless people – if there is no such thing as objective wrong (or objective right)? Besides it is not convenient to try and save the helpless people being murdered – one might be hurt (or even killed) trying to save them, so it may be “your truth” that they should be saved, but it is not “my truth”.

Besides “modern scientific thought” had “proved” that one could not choose between good and evil (which do not objectively exist anyway) – choice is an “illusion”, one is really controlled by impersonal social forces of “class” and/or “race” in one’s “historical period”.

The Schoolmen (the scholastics) had been fond of saying “natural law is the law of God – but if God did not exist natural law would be EXACTLY THE SAME” – the “new” way of thinking (actually this evil is as old humanity – but I will not go into this here) held that natural law (right and wrong, good and evil) did not really exist for the religious or for atheists – and that (even if they did exist) humans were not beings (not agents) and could not choose between them anyway – choice (morality) being an “illusion”.

Thus the fury (righteous fury) of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with the “Christians” who either murdered the innocent (after all “what is innocence?” said the smooth talking scum) themselves, or stood by and did nothing as the innocent were murdered in front of them.

And it was not just in Germany. in the United States the eugenics movement was welcomed by the “religious progressive” – both the holding down and cutting up of women for being “inferior” (only Justice Pierce Butler, the “arch reactionary”, voted against forced sterilisation – the other eight Justices on the Supreme Court thought it was fine) and even plans to actively exterminate the “inferior” – even if this “inferiority” was actually a “useful myth”.

And even if is evil (although objective evil does not exist……) we do not “really” choose our actions – choice is just an “illusion” (so it is not my fault that I pushed these children into the gas chamber and then murdered them).

But how did William James (and his “intellectual” friends) undermine moral responsibility – agency. the courage to choose good and reject evil? To stand against the “social forces”?

How did the philosophy (and the psychology) of “Common Sense” thinkers such as James McCosh (the once famous President of Princeton) and Noah Porter (the once famous President of Yale) get replaced?

One looks in vain for in “Psychology” (1892) for a formal refutation of (for example) Noah Porter’s “The Human Intellect: With An Introduction Upon Psychology And The Soul” – which, before the work of William James, was the standard work on psychology in the United States. Indeed the name “Noah Porter” is not even mentioned in the book.

Instead we get this……..page 457 “Psychology” by William James (1892).

“But a psychologist cannot be expected to be thus impartial, having a great motive in favour of determinism. He wants to build a Science; and Science is a system of fixed relations. Where ever there are independent variables, there Science stops. So far, then, as our volitions may be independent variables, a scientific psychology must ignore that fact, and treat of them only so far as they are fixed functions. In other words, she must deal with the general laws of volition exclusively; with the impulsive and inhibitory character of ideas; with the nature of their appeals to the attention; with the conditions under which effort may arise, etc.; but not with the precise amounts of effort for these, if our wills be free, are impossible to compute, She thus abstracts from free-will, without necessarily denying its existence. Practically, however, such abstraction is not distinguished from rejection; and most actual psychologists have no hesitation in denying that free-will exists.”

The word “psychology” goes back to Ralph Cudworth in the 17th century – the great defender (against Thomas Hobbes) of human agency, the great denier that humans were just machines (not beings). And. by the way, the great attacker of the “chopping up” of the human mind between “will” and “reason” ( a perhaps mistaken practice of the scholastics). Noah Porter (the most famous writer on psychology in America ) had only died a couple of years before this book by William James was published, James McCosh (the great “Common Sense” philosopher) was actually still alive (he died in 1894). Reason (agency) had defenders (at that time) in almost every university in America – yet William James comes out with this tissue of lies – and that is what (thanks to Harvard – and its influence) future generations of students would be taught.

I will now translate what William James wrote into English – I will give its “practical” sense, to use his term. “Practically” (without his cowardly evasions – such as “without necessarily denying its existence”).

Humans are not beings, human volition (agency) does not exist. Humans are just machines – all of whose actions are predetermined. There is no real “choice” (it is an “illusion”). There is no moral difference between a human and a clockwork mouse. And we need not be concerned with enslavement of humans by the state – because humans are slaves (indeed machines – not beings) by nature anyway.

The utter denial of human freedom – no agency, no moral responsibility.

The victory of evil – total and absolute.

That is at the heart of modern academia (of “Nudge” by Cass Sunstein and all the rest of it) – and it came long before (indeed was the cause) of the corruption of such things as law and economics.

Why should humans make the great effort (suffer the terrible pain) required for agency (for standing against evil) if this is impossible? If humans are not really beings (not really agents) at all.

This is the heart of evil.

25 Comments

  1. Paul Marks says:

    A few mistakes (for example 1892 becomes 1891), but I am unable to edit the post (for some reason) – and readers who would attack me for typos are of little interest to me.

    Those who deny the existence of human beings (of human agency – the ability to choose between good and evil) deny the very subject of psychology – the human agent.

    That has been know since the word psychology was first used – by Ralph Cudworth.

    As for the trick of ignoring things one is unable to refute – William James did not invent it.

    For example, how does J.S. Mill refute the attacks on the Labour Theory of Value (the treasured, but UTTERLY FALSE, theory of his father James Mil and family friend James Ricardo)?

    J.S. Mill does not refute the attacks on the Labour Theory of Value – he just ignores them.

    “The theory of value is settled” (Political Economy 1848).

    “everyone agrees that…..” the same as “everyone agrees” that local councils should do X, Y, Z (if though Mr Mill knew that many people did NOT agree).

    Mill know perfectly well that economists such as Richard Whately and Samuel Bailey (indeed perhaps MOST of the writers on economics in the 1820s and 1830s both In Britain and overseas – for example Rau and Gossen in Germany, Ferrara in Italy, the Say family in France and on and on…….) rejected the Labour Theory of Value. But he not try and refute them (because he could not) – he just pretended they did not exist – and students were taught from his book (not the works he pretended did not exist).

  2. Paul Marks says:

    Good, now editing has become possible.

    As for Justice Pierce Butler – if someone else has now claimed the line “Justice Butler was the Judge Dredd of the 1920s and 1930s” then I now do so. Even though I do not put in this post.

    And I do mean of the second film “Dredd” – not the first film “Judge Dredd”,

    Justice Butler was not afraid to declare that an enemy of the United States was an enemy – and kick them out, But nor was he afraid to stand for liberty ALONE if need be.

    Before being appointed to the Supreme Court Justice Butler fought the leftist take over of the University of Minnesota. Freedom of Speech is at your own expense – not at the expense of the taxpayers.

  3. NickM says:

    Paul, I took the liberty of adding the “c” into “agency” in the title. Can you get into “quick edit” from the Dashboard and stick some cats on this because this post certainly doesn’t deserve to be uncategorised?

    Other than that I don’t know quite where to begin! It’s a big post and there is much to say but I have to clean the kitchen.

    I am not sure if that is a comment on the labour theory of value which is an idea that makes my teeth itch. Human progress has always been about destroying jobs not creating them. Of course it is! That so many people buy the Keynsian thing amazes me. The TV “chef” Hugely Furnished-Shittingstall exemplifies this with his “artisan” cheese and stuff. I heard that bugger or one of his cohorts on about how it was a good thing that product x,y,z that it was a good thing that it was done in some half-arsed medieval manner and therefore required more work. Do they not appreciate that by destroying jobs you open opportunities and that someone who 400 years ago was a Second Manure Wrangler would now be a web designer or some such? Keynsianism is static. It is a good thing that a car that, say, that took 1000 people to make 20 years ago now now takes 100. Ultimately we could have full employment if everyone was picking berries, trapping rabbits and dying of typhoid.

    Automation (the destruction of jobs) does not increase poverty. A truly honest Keynsian government would have a Department for Pointless Labour.

    The great Soviet-era Russian author Andrei Platonov once wrote a story about electrification under the Soviets in which one bloke (in a field in the middle of nowhere) peddled a bike and another suspended a light-bulb to show the place was electrified.

    Vladimir Ilyich Lenin : “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.”

    Yup. In a country where the private ownership of radios was banned.

  4. Andrew says:

    Good post.

    I think a big problem is not what they argue, but how they argue.

    As you note, a university textbook need only not mention certain theories or people, then they won’t exist to the reader.

    The BBC does the same thing, if they don’t mention something, for a large part of the population it hasn’t happened.

    And that’s one of the nicer tactics…

    How do you defeat something like this?

  5. Andrew – reality defeats in the end (Kipling’s “Gods of the Copybook Headings”), but the way reality defeats it is terrible – truly terrible.

    The dead are in heaps – and the living envy the dead.

  6. Paul Marks says:

    Well I have had a go at what you wanted Nick.

  7. One of the most irritating things about the William James figure is that he is presented (indeed presented himself) as a great defender of agency (free will) – yet, as seen above, in his “scientific phycology” he just assumes it out of existence.

    This is the core of another problem – the modern habit of “with one hat on I believe X – but with another hat on I believe Y”.

    No, no, no, – something is either the truth or it is not the truth.

  8. Cheeryble says:

    @PaulMarks
    “No, no, no, – something is either the truth or it is not the truth.”

    Well rather than go round the houses instead of thinking that something….truth….which different types of human see in completely different ways, which clearly obviates it’s being other than subjective, let’s go straight to the meat with the third point in your piece.
    “And the ability of humans to choose between good and evil – that humans were beings (agents) that they had the capacity (if they made the effort – a big “if”) to choose good and reject evil.”
    This is simply the argument for or against free will.

    Consider the following:
    1. Our genes play a strong role in our nature and therefore the type of decisions we make. Yet we had no choice in the forming of those genes.
    2. Our conditioning plays a strong role in our nature and therefore the type of decisions we make. Yet most of our conditioning was not of our choosing.
    3. Before we are even born chemical happenings in our mother’s system i.e. drug addiction/anxiety/stress/calm are known to have clear effects on the nature of the future child. We had no input into these things.
    4. We do not even decide which memories get laid down….our limbic system makes the “decisions” for us. Yet our decisions are surely based on our memories?
    5. When stimulating events happen, such as a loud noise for an anxious person, the information goes for processing to the higher brain. But far quicker it goes to the amygdala where pre-programmed responses are waiting ready for action according to the stimuli and our predispositions.

    Perhaps you can point out where the free will comes into this? If not the jury’s back.

    Before you suggest the obvious next step
    “Hey that would mean no-one has moral culpability in a court of law!”
    …let me point out that whilst I may display some degree of a determinist thinking here it does not rule out punishment in any way. the punishment after all becomes a conditioning factor. In other words mere knowledge that punishment will ensue will affect the way people act. The difference is there is no point in getting angry or vindictive.
    But that would not be the first time anyone said that.
    I seem to recall it’s in a book called the Holy Bible, which although it starts very violently and has so many angles that objectivity is gone with the wind, has drawn on the perennial wisdom.

    ps: I have not even begun on the whole area that so called good and so called evil are clearly laid into our conditioning by natural selection. Our outrage and gut reactions are, like gossip I’m afraid, simply evolutionarily useful social tools (hope I have not introduced an unacceptable concept.)

    Cheeryble
    Chiangmai, Thailand.

  9. Of course my dear Cheeryble.

    You are genetically and environmentally predetermined to commit certain crimes – you have no choice in the matter, it is all in your genes and your upbringing, not your fault.

    And I am genetically and environmentally predetermined to hang you for your crimes – I have no choice in the matter, it is all in my genes and my upbringing, not my fault.

    So all is well.

    The above is what you meant is it not?

  10. NickM says:

    Paul,
    It reminds of an old story about the British Raj in India. The lokes start erecting a bonfire to burn a bride who didn’t have sufficient dowry. So the local British Commander erects a gibbet next to it. His point was well and truly made. If you can have your customs we can have ours.

  11. Cheeryble says:

    @Paul Marks
    Thankyou for the response.

    There is nothing new in what I described and you just accurately commented on.
    In one place they’d call it kismet. In another…..sorry to bring in trade-talk……pratitya-samutpada.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratītyasamutpāda
    What can be new for the individual is the attitude of mind which results from a proper understanding of this process.
    The fact is this understanding….that one is merely a link in a concatenation of events…..necessarily and inexorably brings a state of peace the Buddhists might call enlightenment, the Muslims might call surrender (Islam), and the Stoics call ataraxia……all of which are seen as top of the shopping list for sages.

    Do we behave like this is all so on a daily basis?
    Sadly not, evolution has entrenched the feeling of a “self” into us so successfully that we tend to revert, and those oh so unhelpful old reactions will constantly creep back.
    Even when we are mindful, the Bard tells us the “world’s a stage and all must merely play their part” ( I paraphrase).

    In the meantime, our desire to reify, to proclaim bits of the world good, evil, this, that…….will tend to keep us nearer the rule/role merely reactionary end of the spectrum, and at the same time the entrenchment involved in holding strong….you might say “objective”…..views (so clearly warned about by the Buddha) will concurrently reinforce the sense of self we would so clearly better be without.

    So perhaps Wm James had a point?

    Cheeryble

  12. CountingCats says:

    Not ‘some’ British Commander:

    “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”
    Sir Charles Napier

    As reported by his brother

  13. Quite so Nick and Cats.

    And I respect Cheeryble about as much as Napier respected the women burners.

    Agency is not easy (no one ever said it was) – but using the difficulty of overcoming various normal factors as an excuse to say that it is impossible to do so, is contemptible.

    As for those who claim either that morality does not exist (which is what those who say that all our actions are predetermined, regardless of any efforts we might make, are really saying), or that basic moral principles are just relative (a matter of “culture” or whatever)…….

    Very well then – let their own principles be applied to them, “the only answer they deserve is that of the common hangman”,

    It is not wrong to hang them – as objective morality “does not exist – not really……”

    And it is not my fault if I hang them – as my actions are predetermined (by my genetic inheritance and environmental circumstances) so they are not “my fault”.

    Indeed (if we take their doctrines to their logical conclusion) “I” do not exist – there is no “I”, no agent.

    There is no point in having conversations with determinists and moral relativists – especially with someone who is both.

    However, William James went one step further – by posing as the great DEFENDER of free will (agency), whilst pushing a “scientific phycology” that assumed it out of existence (this intellectual dishonesty, posing as one thing whilst really being the enemy of that thing, is immoral – but morality does not really exist…….)

    My real objection is paying for such people (via taxation) to spread their poison among school children and university students

    Certainly the students can (with effort) reject their doctrines – but I do not see why agency (moral responsibility) should be made even more difficult for people.

    It is already very difficult – even without all the harm that such teachers attempt to do.

    As for the “point” of William James.

    His “point” was well understood by various followers.

    Such as Sorel the “philosopher of violence” with his love of “useful myths”.

    Mussolini – so what if the basis of Fascism was false, there is no objective truth anyway. The German collectivists played the same game – “so what we are saying about X group of people (the statistics about their domination of various professions and so on) is not actually true – but there is no such thing as truth (only what serves the cause) and we have no choice over our words and actions anyway – the individual is just part of the race……”

    And by the Oslo murderer in more recent times.

    “The right is just the expedient in our way of thinking”.

    The “right” both in the sense of truth and in the sense of right and wrong.

    This was the basis of the “Pragmatism” of William James – he said so.

    And it is bankruptcy.

    Intellectual bankruptcy and moral bankruptcy.

  14. Cheeryble says:

    What seems apparent, Paul, is that you do not respect people who disagree with you even when they take the trouble to set out their case as I did.
    Wouldn’t it be more persuasive than proclamation to simply point out where my ratiocination goes wrong?
    If you can make a good case rather than just base your morality on wishes or being scared of the dark why not do so?

    BTW just because morality is subjective does in no way stop one from forming laws based on what one would prefer the morality to be…..just as when people say “It’s a God given right!” it is in fact a right decided on and made by man…..generally for the good of men.

    Also BTW you are correct that James comes down on the side of a free will. I guess one can’t get everything right. Of course back then they didn’t have the benefit of insight into Eastern influence as we now have…..though Pyrrhon went to India with Alexander and Anaxarchus and certainly brought back something……like early Skepticism.

    Cheeryble

  15. Cheeryble says:

    ps: How did your understanding of my logic possibly lead you to
    ““the only answer they deserve is that of the common hangman”?
    this and linking James with sociopaths and psychopaths is like falling out of the ugly tree of logic and hitting every branch on the way down.

  16. I “linked William James to….”.

    I did not invent the words “the right is just the expedient in our way of thinking” – William James did.

    As for Sorel. Mussolini and the Oslo murderer – their support for such doctrines as the Useful Myth is a matter of public record.

    As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, even in the Churches (the modernist ones) one was more likely to hear the name William James than Saint James.

    How else could they justify their blatant lies other than by pretending there was no objective truth. And how else could they justify their immorality (their cooperation with the National Socialists) other than by pretending there was no objective good and evil.

    You state that I do not “respect” you.

    Why should I do that?

    After all “scientific psychology” declares that you are NOT a person – you are just a machine.

    Why should I “respect” a machine?

    And if my actions are all predetermined (as your “logic” maintains) then I have no choice over whether I respect you or not.

    As for the-only-reply-this-deserves-is-that “of the common hangman” that is quotation from Edmund Burke – in reply to the “arguments” of defenders of the French Revolution in support of mass robbery and mass murder.

    One does not show “respect” for such people – any more than one shows “respect” for the Gordon Rioters on the streets of the London in 1780.

    If they confine their “arguments” to words one shows their words (and them) the contempt (not respect) they deserve.

    And if they try and put their “logic” into practice by robbing and murdering – then one hangs them.

    By the way……..

    None of the above should be taken to mean that agency is easy or that we succeed in being agents all the time – on the contrary we often fail (both genetic and environmental factors defeat us).

    But to pretend that we do not exist (as human BEINGS – agents) is the ultimate moral treason. The denial of our very existence as moral agents – in the name of a false and evil “logic”.

    We must fight each day – fight for our very existence (our freedom) within our own minds.

    If you wish to help in this fight – then you are welcome.

    If you are here to undermine this fight – then go away.

  17. It should also be remembered that it is not legitimate for a determinist to use the word “I”.

    The basic point of determinism is that there is no real “I” no self – that (as David Hume put it) thoughts do NOT mean a thinker (thus turning not just Descartes on his head – but the whole tradition going back to Aristotle on its head).

    Psychology (the basic point of it – as laid out by its creator Ralph Cudworth in the 17th century and maintained by such writers and Noah Porter and James McCosh in the 19th century) is the study of the self, of the agent, of the “I”.

    The “scientific psychology” of William James actually denies the object of study of psychology – for it denies the existence of the agent (of the “I” – free will) that struggles in the agony that is life, against both genetic and environmental factors.

    This “scientific” psychology does not state that the soul is in agony – everyone always knew that the soul is in agony (as C.S. Lewis put it in the 20th century – this is not our natural home, of course we are in agony here, seeing everything through a darkened glass, and having to fight, desperately fight, even to control the actions of our own body).

    What this “science” claims is that the soul (the “I”) DOES NOT EXIST.

    Fair enough – reject the “I”, reject the self – the agent (free will).

    But then do not – as William James did, pose as the great DEFENDER of agency (of free will).

    And he did.

    The very same man who pushed the “science” that denied the existence of the self (of the reasoning “I”) posed as the great DEFENDER of free will.

    It was the ultimate hypocrisy.

    By the way – I am aware of the tradition (going back to some of the Ancient Greeks but represented in the modern age by the followers of Ayn Rand amongst others) that the soul does exist, but is mortal and dies with the body.

    it is quite possible that there is no “supernatural” hope for the natural condition of life.

  18. Those who seek the “foundations” of justice (who demand that a “case be made for it”) are the same as those who seek the “foundations” of agency.

    They make the basic error of seeking the foundations of something that is itself the fundamental foundation.

    This “Eastern Philosophy” actually understands just as well (if not better) than “Western Philosophy”.

    As for being “afraid of the dark” that is better than pretending that evil (objective evil) does not exist).

    As the saying goes – “the greatest victory of Satan was to convince people that he did not exist”. And that remains true even if evil does NOT mean a nasty person with horns and a tail.

    Perhaps the best can be done with such people (such people who pretend to themselves that good and evil have no real objective existence) is to ask them to observe events – either historical events or fictional events.

    In Ancient Greece this was done by the theatre – where in plays it was made obvious that justice was NOT “subjective” (i.e. a matter of whims backed by the power of the state – what would today be called “Legal Positivism” as with Thomas Hobbes and so on). The audience were presented with a situation where the laws of the state were clearly unjust – and thus the existence of universal justice (regardless of historical period, race or culture) was made plain to the audience – because (deep down) they (the audience) already knew right from wrong.

    Sometimes a playwright would have to be brave (if they wished to achieve this objective) as the audience of the theatre were also the voters who decided policy.

    To present the wicked conduct of the government to the people who ARE the government is a task that contains obvious danger.

    Much less difficult to just accept that to attack other cities (murdering or enslaving their populations) was “moral” because the people said it was “moral”. Much less difficult – but wrong, fundamentally wrong.

    A modern way is film – which is why the corruption of Hollywood (the modern version of the theatre) is so serious.

    I would advice anyone who is a Legal Positivist (someone who believes that justice is “subjective” i.e. the WILL of the state or those who control it) to watch one of the classic films – the modern version of the plays of old.

    For example……

    “The Eagle Has Landed”

    Even the first few minutes of this film shows that their is a higher moral code (a code of justice) that is above the orders of the state.

    People can deny it if they choose to – but only at the cost of their own souls.

    And that remains true whether or not God exists.

  19. Cheeryble says:

    @PaulMarks
    I’m afraid I personally fail to see any rationale in your comments.
    Apart, possibly, from your point about how can “I” expect to be respected and so on about “I”.
    Have you ever heard of the important Buddhist distinction between an absolute self and a relative self (the one I pointed out previously we revert to on a day to day basis).
    It is quite obvious that without use of non-absolute terminology no conversation is possible, which is fine…….except in eg a conversation in Comments.
    So, absent some concatenation of ideas rather than bald opinion citing the bald opinion of others, I’m afraid I’m bored.

    Cheeryble

  20. Cheeryble says:

    ps as I’m sure you know, but just to clarify, the Buddhist tradition clearly refutes “soul”. Core Buddhist cornerstones such as sunyata obviate it. Buddhism, however, recognizes it’s tenacity as an illusion by systematically deconstructing it in the guide most recommended by Gautama, the Satipatthana Sutra.
    But yes, the most persistent illusions are hard to see.
    “Who discovered water?”, goes the old Yiddish riddle. “I don’t know, but it wasn’t a fish”

  21. Cheeryble – I repeat what I have already said.

    If you are unable (or unwilling) to understand it – that is not my problem.

  22. Cheeryble says:

    Happy swimming.

    ps i have no idea about what means the bizarre paragraph about everyone knowing souls are in agony, I don’t. (Even the Buddha only said man, who he essentially said FEELS he has a soul, suffers from dukkha, which is a far cry from agony…..and even on that I have criticised him for lack of balance, because the scale QED swings in favour of sukkha….we almost never cut our wrists even when things are preeettttyy bad because of this inbuilt positivity)

  23. NickM says:

    But does Buddhism matter a flying shite compared to Cantorian Set theory? One is about ultimate truth and the other is a just a load of cobblers made-up by idle mendicants who like to wear orange. One is the theory of transcendental numbers and the other is the “theory” of transcendental bollocks.

  24. Cheeryble says:

    Paul Marks refers to ancient Greek theatre and CSLewis, I refer to Buddhism, a relevant source as it has been deconstructing the self for 2500 years.
    However Buddhism nor any other -ism. is mentioned in the 5 points I made in an earlier post simple points pulling the rug completely out from under free will proclaimed by our esteemed author.
    Like it or not “decisions” made in Paul Marks brain are dependent on….we’ll read it again:

    Consider the following:
    1. Our genes play a strong role in our nature and therefore the type of decisions we make. Yet we had no choice in the forming of those genes.
    2. Our conditioning plays a strong role in our nature and therefore the type of decisions we make. Yet most of our conditioning was not of our choosing.
    3. Before we are even born chemical happenings in our mother’s system i.e. drug addiction/anxiety/stress/calm are known to have clear effects on the nature of the future child. We had no input into these things.
    4. We do not even decide which memories get laid down….our limbic system makes the “decisions” for us. Yet our decisions are surely based on our memories?
    5. When stimulating events happen, such as a loud noise for an anxious person, the information goes for processing to the higher brain. But far quicker it goes to the amygdala where pre-programmed responses are waiting ready for action according to the stimuli and our predispositions.

    As Paul sidestepped answering, perhaps you can point out where the free will comes in?
    As I said, this is without even looking into the obvious evolutionary advantages which instilled the illusion of self so convincingly. Without a self to defend we would just give up every time, just slit our wrists if things weren’t tickety-boo, and certainly never fight to survive…..and pass on our genes.

  25. Cheeryble – I repeat what I have already said.

    If you are unable (or unwilling) to understand if – that is not my problem.

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