Thursday, June 6, 2019

Philosophy To A Mood Of Political Distress

   Meet the brains behind the ‘Trump Baby’ balloon | The Seattle Times
A United States I now barely recognize — one that almost daily distresses me with its xenophobia, its saber-rattling, its theocratic leanings, its denial of facts and science, its tribalism, and its petty and boorish president. (From a column in the Washington Post)
- William James said that there is a mood for every philosophy. Is there a philosophy to this mood of political distress?
- One of James' successors in pragmatism, Richard Rorty claims you can find it in today's postmodernism. Rather than a pragmatic taking action to make a better world, philosophy has taken to discovering how organizations and ideologies intrude on all aspects of life, public and private, setting us the necessary task to bring them to light, freeing ourselves from what he doesn't hesitate to call sin. Two hundred and fifty years earlier, in the very Massachusetts where Rorty gave the lecture* outlining his ideas, another lecture was given:
Your Wickedness makes you as it were heavy as Lead, and to tend downwards with great Weight and Pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend &; plunge into the bottomless Gulf, and your healthy Constitution, and your own Care and Prudence, and best Contrivance, and all your Righteousness, would have no more Influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a Spider’s Web would have to stop a falling Rock.**  
Pragmatism instead, according to Rorty, is a philosophy of hope.
- And have you been converted to the philosophy of hope?
- No.
- Why not?
- Pragmatism can be considered the philosophy of capitalism: ideas have 'cash value', what works is true, what makes money is good. There is no limit to the work that can be done, money that can be made. Pragmatism is the philosophy of doing for the sake of doing, restless activity that results in the psycho-pathologies of vanity of power and compulsive repetition, a problem William James attempted to sidestep by recognizing that pragmatism must accept the alien possibility of rest in religious experience:
To take a trivial illustration: just as a man who in a company of gentlemen made no advances, asked a warrant for every concession, and believed no one's word without proof, would cut himself off by such churlishness from all the social rewards that a more trusting spirit would earn,--so here, one who should shut himself up in snarling logicality and try to make the gods extort his recognition willy-nilly, or not get it at all, might cut himself off forever from his only opportunity of making the gods' acquaintance. This feeling, forced on us we know not whence, that by obstinately believing that there are gods (although not to do so would be so easy both for our logic and our life) we are doing the universe the deepest service we can, seems part of the living essence of the religious hypothesis. If the hypothesis were true in all its parts, including this one, then pure intellectualism, with its veto on our making willing advances, would be an absurdity; and some participation of our sympathetic nature would be logically required. I, therefore, for one, cannot see my way to accepting the agnostic rules for truth-seeking, or wilfully agree to keep my willing nature out of the game. I cannot do so for this plain reason, that a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule. That for me is the long and short of the formal logic of the situation, no matter what the kinds of truth might materially be.***
But there's still a problem: feeling secure when identifying as a member of a group can produce something like a religious experience, provide rest and relief from the every man for himself at all times of capitalism, therefore shouldn't pragmatism recognize this mood too? Check out the YouTube videos claiming to have scientific proofs of racial inferiorities in studies showing statistical differences in inheritance of intelligence and community cooperation.
- Reliable studies?
- Irrelevant, since environmental effect is not considered, and it can be so large as to completely swamp any difference in inheritance: for example, since the division of Korea, a difference in average height of six inches has arisen between the genetically identical people in the North and South.**** The believers in genetic racial differences in inheritance believe what they believe because it fits in with the pragmatically allowable satisfaction in feeling to be a member of a group. Another philosophy of genetically based group cooperation was recently presented by Thomas Nagle, of "What Is It Like To Be A Bat" fame, who suggests that reason has been selected for by evolution, and consequently following the rules of a group - a form of reason - is genetically determined.
- Then we ought to act in accord with, not fight down as we educate children to do, what we were born to find satisfying, like we were born to find satisfaction in violence and anger? What mood is attached to that philosophy? The mood of German National Socialism?

Further Reading:
In The Mood For Philosophy
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* Achieving Our Country, Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies 1997, Harvard University
** In the Hands of an Angry GOD. A sermon preached By Jonathan Edwards, A.M. Pastor of the Church of Christ in Northampton. at Enfield, Mass., July 8th 1741
*** The Will To Believe, An Address to the Philosophical Clubs of Yale and Brown Universities, 1896.
**** 'There are a number of points to consider when interpreting heritability: Heritability measures the proportion of variation in a trait that can be attributed to genes, and not the proportion of a trait caused by genes. Thus, if the environment relevant to a given trait changes in a way that affects all members of the population equally, the mean value of the trait will change without any change in its heritability (because the variation or differences among individuals in the population will stay the same). This has evidently happened for height: the heritability of stature is high, but average heights continue to increase. Thus, even in developed nations, a high heritability of a trait does not necessarily mean that average group differences are due to genes. Some have gone further, and used height as an example in order to argue that "even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability."' (From Heritability of IQ