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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Menagerie, Part 2 (a), or, Dimensions of Perspective Revisited

The Menagerie, Part 2 (a),
Dimensions of Perspective Revisited,
by Liviana (Giovanna Laine)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

~ William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act I, Scene 5


In a previous post here, I discussed seven dimensions of a given person's perspective, or seven axes on which such perspective could be plotted.  In the end of the post, I presented a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object with what might be seen as an "allegorical" explanation of the image expanded into seven dimensions.  I here reproduce the image from the previous post:

As I explained it in the previous post, I included seven dimensions or axes:

We see the blue triple intersection as our traditional three-dimensional axes, with X representing depth, Y representing width, and Z representing height.  The other letters here are shown at the corners of the cube.  A line from A to H would symbolize a fourth axis, another line from B to E would symbolize a fifth dimension, another from C to F a sixth dimension, and one more from D to G a seventh dimension.  We might then say that the the X axis represents Politics in the sense of Statism vs Anti-Statism, the Y axis represents Economics, and the the Z axis represents Civil Liberties, just as in Max Barry's ideocube.  But then we have A-H, B-E, C-F, and D-G as well.  I will arbitrarily assign these as follows:  A-H = Centralization/Decentralization, B-E = Imperialism vs Non-Interventionism, C-F = Social Views, and D-G = Cultural Views.


The previous post takes account of the standard three dimensions and the four space diagonals of the cube.  I would like to expand upon this, as the allegory can be extended to twelve more dimensions by adding the face diagonals of the cube.  For the cube, a Platonic solid, there are six faces, eight vertices, twelve edges, and sixteen diagonals (four space diagonals and twelve space diagonals).  The face diagonals would be represented by lines connecting A-C, A-E, A-G, B-D, B-F, B-H, C-E, C-G, D-F, D-H, E-G, and F-H.

I have already assigned the previous seven to: Politics (Statism vs Anti-Statism), Economics, Civil Liberties, Politics (Centralization/Decentralization), Imperialism vs Non-Interventionism, Society, and Culture.  In assigning the twelve additional dimensions, intersections with some of the others would be nice, but challenging by virtue of what I am suggesting as the twelve additional dimensions.  However, I will assign the twelve as follows, and some intersections will be seen, but not in each case (for example, in the case of A-E, Globalism vs Localism, which intersects with concepts represented by both A-H, Politics (Centralization/Decentralization), and B-E, Imperialism vs Non-Interventionism, in that Globalism involves Centralization and Imperialism, while Localism involves Decentralization and Non-Interventionism):

A-C = Epistemology
A-E = Globalism vs Localism
A-G = Aesthetics
B-D = Ecology/Equality vs Exploitation
B-F = Idealism vs Pessimism
B-H = Ontology and Metaphysics
C-E = Diversity vs Uniformity/Conformity
C-G = Ethics
D-F = Romance and Sexuality
D-H = Politics (Democracy vs Autocracy)
E-G = Religion and Sacred Tradition
F-H = Mysticism

This, then, gives us a total of nineteen dimensions of perspective, as follows:

  1. X = Politics (Statism vs Anti-Statism)
  2. Y = Economics
  3. Z = Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
  4. A-H = Politics (Centralization vs Decentralization)
  5. B-E = Imperialism vs Non-Interventionism
  6. C-F = Social Attitudes
  7. D-G = Cultural Attitudes
  8. A-C = Epistemology
  9. A-E = Globalism vs Localism
  10. A-G = Aesthetics
  11. B-D = Ecology vs Exploitation
  12. B-F = Idealism vs Pessimism
  13. B-H = Ontology and Metaphysics
  14. C-E = Diversity vs Uniformity/Conformity
  15. C-G = Ethics
  16. D-F = Romance and Sexuality
  17. D-H = Politics (Democracy vs Autocracy)
  18. E-G = Religion and Sacred Tradition
  19. F-H = Mysticism

Of these nineteen, numbers 1 to 7 were explained in the previous post.  That means that I have to explain numbers 8 to 19 in this post.  Without further ado, then, I shall do so.  Please note that I will generally be referring to "one side" and "the other side," rather than "one end" and "the other end" or "one extreme" and "the other extreme."  However, in some instances, I shall put names the extremes.  I should also state from the outset that a full treatment of each of these dimensions is beyond the scope of this discussion (although I will say more about some than others), but I have discussed some of them in greater detail elsewhere in my writings, and am likely to discuss others in greater detail in future writings.

8. Epistemology
Epistemology is the branch of Philosophy which deals with several related questions.  One of those, the key question, is "What is knowledge?" (in the sense of ἐπιστήμη or "epistêmê," which is to say "propositional or intellectual knowledge," as distinct from "relational knowledge," or "knowing about a thing" as distinct from "knowing a person;"  epistêmê is also contrasted with δοξία or "doxia," which means "opinion").  The answer to this is, amazingly, something on which all philosophers agree:  "Knowledge is justified true belief."  What that means is that if a subject S know a proposition P, then S believes P, P is true, and S is justified in believing P.  This is where the agreement ends.  From this point, Epistemology proceeds to seek answers to the questions "What is truth?" and "What justifies a person in believing a proposition?"  On these questions, philosophers disagree and diverge into four main schools of thought:  Rationalism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, and Skepticism.  These would be ranged with Rationalism on one side and Skepticism on the other side, with Pragmatism between Rationalism and Empiricism, and Empiricism between Pragmatism and Skepticism.

9. Globalism vs Localism
Globalism vs Localism seems to me to be self-explanatory, but in case my meaning in these terms is not entirely clear, Globalism would be at one end and Localism at the other.  In between would be varying stages including Continentalism, Nationalism, Regionalism, and ... "Provincialism" (for want of a better term, and with a meaning distinct from the Fallacy of Provincialism).

10. Aesthetics
Aesthetics is the branch of Philosophy which deals with the questions "What is beauty?" and "What is Art?" and in this context, I extend this to include personal preferences and styles, and not merely the dictates of the Academies.  This also affects one's views on Social, Political, and Economic matters to some extent, as, for example, in the case of those Social Conservatives who oppose Homosexuality because they find it "gross" or "disgusting" not in an Ethical sense, but in a purely Aesthetic sense (which, however, Social Conservatives tend to associate with Ethics for reasons not immediately apparent).  This has been demonstrated in psychological and neurological studies, such as Yoel Inbar, David A. Pizarro & Paul Bloom (2009), "Conservatives are more easily disgusted than liberals," Cognition & Emotion, 23:4, 714-725;  John A. Terrizzi Jr., Natalie J. Shook, and W. Larry Ventis (October 2010), "Disgust: A predictor of social conservatism and prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals," Personality and Individual Differences, 49:6, 587–592;  Jeanna Bryner (26 October 2011), "Conservatives Are More Squeamish than Liberals," Live Science;  and Jonah Queen (17 January 2012), "Disgust and a New Political Neuropsychology," The Neuroethics Blog (hosted by the Center for Ethics, Neuroethics Program at Emory University).

11. Ecology/Equality vs Exploitation
Ecology/Equality vs Exploitation refers to an idea which I see as one, but which could be separated into two distinct dimensions.  In each case, "Exploitation" is one side.  The other side in one idea is "Ecology," and in the other is "Equality."  What I mean here is (1) in terms of Nature and her resources (Ecology vs Exploitation, then, would refer to conservation of natural resources, sustainable and renewable approaches, and respect for Nature, as against Exploitation of Nature and her resources without concern for conservation, sustainability, renewability, and so on), or (2) in terms of People (as either Equal or as some lording over others, dehumanizing them, and treating them as mere exploitable "resources").  I personally include People within the category of Nature;  we are as much a part of our Ecosystem as any other lifeform in it.  Therefore, I see "both" of these as one, the exploitation of "Nature/Natural Resources" would include the exploitation of people, and the recognition of ecological concerns would also involve the recognition of equality of persons.  There will be some who will get their panties in a bunch, or their knickers in a twist, over my choice of the word "equality," and will insist that we are not all equal, because some are more capable than others inherently, and not due to any unfair advantages of wealth or the like.  I will suggest that they are committing the Fallacy of Equivocation, and attempting to use the term "Equality" in a sense other than what I intend.  Of course each person has his or her own talents or "gifts," as well as inclinations or interests or predispositions, and thus some will be extremely proficient in a given thing while deficient in some other given thing, and people will be arranged in hierarchies due to experience, greater training, and so on, but I am speaking of social, cultural, and political equality, of being treated as Human Beings no matter what one's status in a profession or vocation may be, and no matter how much or how little wealth a person may have.

12. Idealism vs Pessimism
Idealism vs Pessimism is an axis which I think is best explained thusly:

"People who are too optimistic seem annoying. This is an unfortunate misinterpretation of what an optimist really is.

"An optimist is neither naive, nor blind to the facts, nor in denial of grim reality. An optimist believes in the optimal usage of all options available, no matter how limited. As such, an optimist always sees the big picture. How else to keep track of all that’s out there? An optimist is simply a proactive realist.

"An idealist focuses only on the best aspects of all things (sometimes in detriment to reality); an optimist strives to find an effective solution. A pessimist sees limited or no choices in dark times; an optimist makes choices.

"When bobbing for apples, an idealist endlessly reaches for the best apple, a pessimist settles for the first one within reach, while an optimist drains the barrel, fishes out all the apples and makes pie.

"Annoying? Yes. But, oh-so tasty!"

~ Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration(italics in original)

What we see here is that Idealism and Pessimism are the two extremes, while Optimism lies somewhere in between the two.

13. Ontology and Metaphysics
Ontology and Metaphysics are also branches of Philosophy which are intertwined.  An ontological perspective will result in a certain metaphysical tendency.  Attempting to formulate a metaphysic without first considering Ontology will result in a metaphysic based on assumed and unexamined ontological views, which, however, will usually become apparent as the metaphysic becomes more developed.  Ontology deals with Essence and existence, with Being and is-ness.  Metaphysics deals with Reality and actuality, questions of "One or Two or Three or Many," and what Plato called "Ideas" or "Forms," which later, Scholastic philosophers in the Mediaeval era would often refer to as "Universals," contrasted with "particulars."

14. Diversity vs Uniformity/Conformity
Diversity vs Uniformity/Conformity has to do with one's place in society; namely, does one maintain diversity, or conform with society's predominant comportment?  This also has to do with society's perspective on any given member thereof;  namely, does society accept diversity, merely tolerate diversity, or attempt to impose uniformity?

15. Ethics
Ethics is the branch of Philosophy which seeks to apply the concept of Justice to individual conduct.  Ethics in the context of Philosophy as discipline is the systematic study of conduct with regard to the virtue of conduct on the individual level;  it is concerned with "internal justice," by which is meant conformity of the individual's will to an external standard of conduct (see link below for differentiation between Ethics and Scruples).  A variety of schools of thought exist within the field of Ethics:  Situationism, Intentionalism, Consequentialism, and Legalism represent the most well-known.
a. Legalism: affirms that acts in themselves are good or bad (or "evil").
b. Consequentialism: affirms that acts are not good or bad in themselves, but rather, that consequences of acts are good or bad. A well-known type of Consequentialism is Utilitarianism, which affirms that "the greatest good for the greatest number" is the aim of an ethically praiseworthy person.
c. Intentionalism: affirms that acts are not good or bad in themselves, and that consequences ignore motivations and so cannot be relied upon to determine good or bad, but that the intentions or motivations in which an act is done, or the attitudes behind the acts, are good or bad.
d. Situationism: affirms that context must be taken into account when judging good or bad.

Legalism insists on Laws (both positive injunctions as in "Do this," and negative prohibitions as in "Do not do this") as the standard of conduct, and tends to dualism of "good vs evil." Consequentialism, Intentionalism, and Situationism advocate Principles, rather than Laws, as the standard of conduct, and are less likely to accept a dualistic perspective, instead seeing "good and bad," or "good and an absence of good."

All of these have flaws:

Legalism is famous in the flaw of the Catch-22 situation, where one is in a situation in which no matter what choice he/she makes, she/he violates the ethical laws by which he/she seeks to live.

Consequentialism is famous in the flaw of expressing the notion that "the end justifies the means" (and Utilitarianism would rationalize harm to a minority based on its aim being fulfilled for the majority).  I will repeat another well-known critique of Consequentialism in two parts, which may perhaps help to convey more of the imperfection of Consequentialism:
1. If person S pointed a pistol at person P and pulled the trigger with the intention of murder, but the shell were a "dud," the consequentialist would say that person S had done no wrong. This is patently absurd.
2. If person S saw person P drowning and jumped into the water intending to save person P's life, but both drowned, the consequentialist would say that person S had done wrong. This is also patently absurd.
Obviously, therefore, consequences alone cannot be used to judge the rightness of behavior.

Intentionalism is flawed in that one may have entirely heroic motivations and still fail to accomplish good.

Situationism's flaw is that it tends to relativism, with extremely vague principles which fail to provide sufficient guidance for conduct.

I propose a fifth division, which should probably be called something like an "Holistic Ethic," which would not completely disregard the act itself, but which would subordinate the act to the consequences, and which would in turn subordinate the consequences to the motivation/intention/attitude and the context taken together, and which would advocate Principles as the standard of conduct.  Some might be tempted, based on a similar impetus in Epistemology which yields an epistemological school of thought named "Pragmatism," to refer to this as a "Pragmatic Ethic."  However, "pragmatic" is not a word that many would be comfortable using in the context of Ethics, as the very word in itself suggests ethical relativism (indeed, "Pragmatic Ethics" is a term already in use in the field of Ethics, and its use in the field is to name a particular type of relativistic ethic). To think in ethical questions "What is practical?" is to disregard "What is ideal?" and this turns Ethics in the sense of a standard on its head, for Ethics is concerned with the concept of "oughtness." Ethics asks "What ought to be?" and "What ought I to do?"

For some additional considerations related to Ethics, see my earlier discussion "Ethics, Morals, Scruples, and Folkways," here.

16. Romance and Sexuality
Romance and Sexuality (and no, I'm not going to separate this into two distinct dimensions, at least not here) both deal with intimacy, Romance dealing with emotional intimacy and Sexuality dealing with physical intimacy.  Some overlap exists, at least occasionally and/or for some persons, but the two are not coterminous.  Attitudes toward, and beliefs about, these types of intimacy have an effect on the individual's perspectives which may influence his or her views on social, political, and economic questions.  For example, if someone believe that Homosexuality is somehow ethically wrong, aesthetically repellent, socially harmful, etc, then she or he may favor efforts to legislate against Homosexual acts, public display of same sex affection, the legal recognition of same sex marriages, and/or efforts to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, etc.  On the other hand, one whose beliefs include no ethical condemnation of Homosexuality, who recognizes same sex relations throughout nature, who understands that social harm often has more to do with ignorance and prejudice than any flaw inherent in those subjected to ignorant and prejudicial attitudes, etc, would tend to take the opposition positions on such legislative questions.  Attitudes and beliefs pertaining to these types of intimacy may also influence a person's views on the legality of divorce, or the conditions under which it may occur, or the legal question of "fault" in a divorce, and so on.

17. Politics (Democracy vs Autocracy)
Politics (Democracy vs Autocracy) is here concerned with who has a voice in making decisions.  I touched on this briefly in the previous post, but focused on Politics in two other dimensions, one pertaining to Centralization vs Decentralization, and the other pertaining to Statism vs Anti-Statism.  Here, however, I will address Politics in the sense of voice in decision-making.  Does one person dictate to the majority, or do all members of a society have an equal voice?  Those would be the extreme positions.  In between are various stages including Oligarchy and Polycracy.  Here too could be included the question of just how decisions are reached.  In the purest form of democracy, decisions would require either unanimity or consensus;  unanimity would mean that all members of a society have to agree, while consensus would be a general agreement among all.  In the latter case, the peril of mob rule or "tyranny of the majority" is a factor.  Polycracy (also called Polyarchy), which means rule by many, is a form of government in which all members of a society vote to elect representatives, who then vote on decisions on behalf of their constituents, but here again, the question of how those representatives vote arises.  Do they make up their own minds, do they consult their constituents before casting a vote, or do they employ some blend of the two methods?  Also in a Polycracy, the question of eligibility for the position of representative must be considered.  Are all members of the society eligible, or must they meet certain conditions in order to be eligible.  An example would be the original conception of a Senate, that is, a council of elders (Latin "senatus," which means "senate," derives from "senex," which means "old," just as Old Irish "senad," which means "senate," derives from "sen," which means "old," both derived from Proto-Italo-Celtic *sen-, and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root *sén-;  the concept of a council of "elders," therefore, is likely an ancient one, but is by no means restricted to Indo-European cultures;  also worth noting in this context, however, is the related word "senile," which might suggest that elder status ought not to be considered alone and apart from the concept of competence), who would presumably have to be the older folk in the society.  Oligarchy is rule by a few;  an example of this sort of polity would be an Aristocracy (a government by nobles, who generally inherit their position from a family member, although this is typically not a completely closed system in that non-nobles may be elevated to the position of nobility).  Again, the question of how these persons reach their decisions must be considered, as in Democracy or Polycracy.  Typically, however, an Oligarchy does not take much thought of what the members of society may desire, and thus is a "top-down" government, while Democracy is a "grassroots" government, and Polycracy tends to be likewise (at least in its beginnings).  Finally, Autocracy is rule by a single person, who makes all decisions for the entire society.

18. Religion and Sacred Tradition
Religion and Sacred Tradition may on the surface seem to be identical;  they are not.  "Religion" is purely religion, separated (allegedly) from its culture of origin, and typically imperialistic in the sense that its adherents seek to convert others.  A "Sacred Tradition" is culturally specific, and while it includes elements which would be considered "religious" by Sociologists, Cultural Anthropologists, and Philosophers, is itself inseparable from the wider culture and cannot be reduced to its "religious" aspects alone;  practioners of a Sacred Tradition do not typically seek to convert others, unless the culture itself be imperialistic in a wider sense (that is, if that culture be one which engages in other forms of imperialism, such as military and economic conquest, its Sacred Tradition will likely also be imposed on the conquered along with other aspects of culture such as language).  However, this is not the extent of this dimension;  it also reaches to Agnosticism and Atheism.  Both Religions and Sacred Traditions include both doctrines and ethical teachings.  Agnosticism and Atheism are not devoid of ethical concepts, contrary to the rhetoric of some ... religious imperialists.  Discussion of this particular dimension could go on indefinitely, and so I will cut it short here and say simply that one side of this dimension would include religions and sacred traditions, and the other side would include Atheism, with Agnosticism somewhere in between, and various shades of each, the extreme end of one being "Militant Atheism" or "Anti-Religious Atheism" and the extreme at the other end being "One True and Only Way Intolerant and Imperialistic Religion."

19. Mysticism
Mysticism is the belief that a deeper union is possible, and incorporates various techniques designed to facilitate such union.  The union in question may be monistic or dualistic, which is to say, it may be akin to the idea of a drop of water falling into the ocean and thereby becoming one with the ocean, or it may be more like the union of two individuals in a dance, a romance, and/or a sexual encounter, where the two may at times mingle, but yet remain separate.  The "object" (if you will) of the union may be the divine, nature, the universe, humanity, something more precise, or something more vague.  On this axis will also be the opposite perspective, which is a denial that such a deeper union is possible, and/or a lack of interest in such a state;  this may be due to non-belief, a materialistic metaphysic, ennui, Angst, and/or Weltschmerz, to name a few possibilities.  Mysticism can also extend into the dimension of Romance and Sexuality, as well as other dimensions.

(to be continued in next post)

The title of the post comes from Star Trek (The Original Series), Season 1, episode 12;  episode 12 overall;  production code 16.

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