Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I am a metaphysical Non-Reductionist, an epistemological Absolutist, and a moral Objectivist

After posting this, I realized a little editorial commentary might be useful. My comments are in italics

Your Score: N-A-O

You scored 77% Non-Reductionism, 77% Epistemological Absolutism, and 55% Moral Objectivism!

You are an N-A-O: a metaphysical Non-Reductionist, an epistemological Absolutist, and a moral Objectivist. If you are simply dying inside to figure out what all this mumbo-jumbo means, then simply continue reading.

Metaphysics: Non-Reductionism (Idealism or Realism) In metaphysics, my test measures your tendency towards Reductionism or Non-Reductionism. As a Non-Reductionist, you recognize that reality is not necessarily simple or unified, and you thus tend to produce a robust ontology instead of carelessly shaving away hypothetical entities that reflect our philosophical experiences. [I think the test designer has a pretty clear preference here] My test recognizes two types of Non-Reductionists: Idealists and Realists.

1. Idealists believe that reality is fundamentally unknowable. All we can ever know is the world of sense experience, thought, and other phenomena which are only distorted reflections of an ultimate (or noumenal) reality. Kant, one of the most significant philosophers in history, theorized that human beings perceive reality in such a way that they impose their own mental frameworks and categories upon reality, fully distorting it. Reality for Kant is unconceptualized and not subject to any of the categories our minds apply to it. Idealists are non-reductionists because they recognize that the distinction between phenomenal reality and ultimate reality cannot be so easily discarded or unified into a single reality. They are separate and distinct, and there is no reason to suppose the one mirrors the other. Major philosophical idealists include Kant and Fichte.

If your views are different from the above, then you may be a Realist. 2. Realists deny the validity of sloppy metaphysical reductions, because they feel that there is no reason to suspect that reality reflects principles of parsimony or simplicity. Realism is the most common-sensical of the metaphysical views. It doesn't see reality as a unity or as reducible to matter or mind, nor does it see reality as divided into a phenomenal world of experience and an unknowable noumenal world of things-in-themselves. Realist metaphysics emphasizes that reality is for the most part composed of the things we observe and think. On the question of the existence of universals, for instance, a realist will assert that while universals do not physically exist, the relations they describe in particulars are as real as the particular things themselves, giving universals a type of reality. Thus, no reduction is made. On the mind-body problem, realists tend to believe that minds and bodies both exist, and the philosophical problems involved in reducing mind to matter or matter to mind are too great to warrant such a reduction. Finally, realists deny that reality is ultimately a Unity or Absolute, though they recognize that reality can be viewed as a Unity when we consider the real relations between the parts as constituting this unity--but it doesn't mean that the world isn't also made up of particular things. Aristotle and Popper are famous realists.

[This is a tough one. The Idealist position has a strong post-modern feel; the Realist position seems closer to the pragmatic approach which I think represents my position. I'm not entirely sure, from these descriptions, how these two positions are opposed to each other]


Epistemology: Absolutism (Rationalism or Pragmatism) My test measures one's tendency towards Absolutism or Skepticism in regards to epistemology. As an Absolutist, you believe that objective knowledge is possible given the right approach, and you deny the claims of skeptical philosophers who insist that we can never have knowledge of ultimate reality. The two types of Absolutists recognized by my test are Rationalists and Pragmatists.
[Maybe it's a measure of my philosophical unsophistication that I think both positions have merit, but I don't see a contradiction between believing that some objective knowledge is possible but that ultimate reality is likely beyond our comprehension]

1. Rationalists believe that the use of reason ultimately provides the best route to truth. A rationalist usually defines truth as a correspondence between propositions and reality, taking the common-sense route. Also, rationalists tend to believe that knowledge of reality is made possible through certain foundational beliefs. This stance is known as foundationalism. A foundationalist believes that, because we cannot justify the truth of every statement in an infinite regress, we ultimately reach a foundation of knowledge. This foundation is composed of a priori truths, like mathematics and logic, as well as undoubtable truths like one's belief in his or her own existence. The belief that experiences and memories are veridical is also part of the foundation. Thus, for a rationalist knowledge of reality is made possible through our foundational beliefs, which we do not need to justify because we find them to be undoubtable and self-evident. In regards to science, a rationalist will tend to emphasize the foundational assumptions of scientific inquiry as prior to and more important than scientific inquiry itself. If science does lead to truth, it is only because it is based upon the assumption of certain rational principles such as "Every event is caused" and "The future will resemble the past". Philosophy has a wide representation of philosophical rationalists--Descartes, Spinoza, Liebniz, and many others.
["Self-evident" works best for ethical propositions, and mathematical ones]

If that didn't sound like your own views, then you are most likely the other type of Absolutist: the Pragmatist. 2. Epistemological Pragmatists are fundamentally identified by their definition of truth. Truth is, on this view, merely a measure of a proposition's success in inquiry. This view is a strictly scientific notion of truth. A proposition can be called true if it leads to successful predictions or coheres best with the observed facts about the world. Thus, for the pragmatist, knowledge of reality is possible through scientific reasoning. A pragmatist emphasizes man's fallibility, and hence takes baby-steps towards knowledge through scientific methodology. Any truth claim for a pragmatist is open to revision and subject to change--if empirical observations lead us to call even logical rules into question (like quantum physics has done for the law of the excluded middle), then we can and should abandon even these supposed a priori and "absolutely certain" logical rules if they do not accord with our testing and refuting of our various propositions. As a consequence of this, a pragmatist doesn't feel that scientific knowledge is based upon unfounded assumptions that are taken to be true without any sort of justification--rather, they believe that the successes of scientific inquiry have proved that its assumptions are well-founded. For instance, the assumption of science that the future will be like the past is adequately shown by the amazing success of scientific theories in predicting future events--how else could this be possible unless the assumption were true? Pragmatism borrows elements from realism and yet attempts to account for the critiques made by skeptics and relativists. It is essentially a type of philosophical opportunism--it borrows the best stances from a large number of philosophical systems and attempts to discard the problems of these systems by combining them with others. Famous pragmatists of this type are Peirce and Dewey.
["Philosophical opportunism": Yup, that's me!]


Ethics: Objectivism (Deontology or Logical Positivism) In Ethics, my test measures your tendency towards moral Objectivism or moral Relativism. As a moral Objectivist, you are opposed to Subjectivist moral theories and believe that morality applies to people universally and actually describes objects and situations out in the world as opposed to just subjects themselves. The two types of moral Objectivists my test recognizes are Kantian Deontologists and Utilitarians.
[I didn't come out strongly Objectivist, which makes sense. This is definitely an area where I'm on the fence. Which is, probably, very ironic.]

1. Kantian Deontologists believe that the one intrinsic good is a good will. As rational beings capable of making decisions, the moral worth of our decisions is ultimately derived from the intentions behind our actions, not their consequences. A moral being does the right thing not out of recognition of any consequences, but out of a sense of moral duty. For Kant, a good will is the ultimate good because to deny the will is to deny the one thing that makes us rational, moral beings. If an act will accord with or further our status as free, rational beings, and it is possible to will the universalization of such a moral principle without infringing upon our good wills, then an act is good. Kant's categorical imperative provides an objective standard to judge moral worth--it is not hypothetical in the sense of other imperatives, which hide a latent if-clause. For instance, "Eating razors is good" is good ONLY if you tack on an if-clause that says something like: "If you wish to destroy your gums." Thus, the categorical imperative is good, not just IF something is the case, but in ALL cases. It requires people to treat others as ends, and not means to ends, for to treat everyone as a means to an ends would be to deny them their ability to function as rational, free beings--which is what makes morality possible in the first place. The major proponent of this view in the history of philosophy is, quite obviously, Kant.
[I've always liked the formulation "treat others as ends, and not means to ends" but the overweening nature of Kant's arguments doesn't help me much.]

If that didn't sound like your position, then you are probably the other variety of moral Objectivist--the Utilitarian. 2. Utilitarians define "happiness" or "pleasure" as the sole intrinsic good, and the principle "The greatest pleasure for the greatest number" best reflects a Utilitarian view of ethics. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory, meaning the consequences of an action--not the intentions behind it--determine the act's moral worth. Even if you intended to do great evil with a certain act, if the act produces a net gain of pleasure and happiness for the greatest number, then it was indeed a good act because your intentions weren't realized. What matters in this scenario, obviously, is the consequences of the act. Utilitarianism, of course, can also be reduced to Hedonism. If you do not feel that the greatest happiness of the greatest number matters, but only pay heed to the greatest happiness of individuals, then you are more adequately classified as a Hedonist. But both Utilitarians and Hedonists define "pleasure" as an intrinsic good and determine the moral worth of an act through its consequences. The only difference is whether we measure the collective pleasure of a group or only an individual's pleasure. Prominent Utilitarians include Bentham and Mill.

[Mill -- that's my guy. But John Stuart, not his dad, and there's a healthy dose of rights, not just opportunities, there.]

As you can see, when your philosophical position is narrowed down there are so many potential categories that an OKCupid test cannot account for them all. But, taken as very broad categories or philosophical styles, you are best characterized as an N-A-O. Your exact philosophical opposite would be an R-S-R.

Link: The Sublime Philosophical Crap Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test [via]


Jason said...

We pretty much disagree with one another on every category. We'd fight often.
I am a physicalist and utilitarian. I don't know where I would stand on epistemological issue.

Ahistoricality said...

I rarely fight over philosophical questions, unless someone's trying to argue me into a corner: it's just not worth it, most of the time. I do these quizzes to learn, mostly about myself: this one was particularly educational, actually.

I will say this, though: I can't imagine not having a clear epistemological position (even a fuzzy one, like mine) first because so many practical questions, as well as philosophical ones, hinge on what you know and how you know it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Kant did NOT believe that ultimate truth is unknowable . Apparently, he presents a case that there are a priori sorts of knowledge concerning the noumenal .

He does believe that the things-in-themselves as the non-sensorily available ontological loci of particular objects in physical space were unknowable *via sensory perception* .

He proposed that there are absolute a priori analytic truths and a priori synthetic truths .
The latter involved a concatenation of sorts of knowing that he called *conceptual containment*. See the writings of Kant on conceptual containment .

The article you posted was rather fascinating .

However, to avoid equivocation and category mistakes it is important that we take note of fundamental distinctions in regard to the uses of the word 'reality' .

Situational sorts of reality are states of affairs that are causally operant in terms of efficent causes and material causes (including what has been called accessory causes) that are not necessarily used towards any desirable end --as far as ethics or esthetics are concerned .

Take for examples , concentration camps set up by the nazis, yuppie celebrity gossip programs, artificial bovine growth hormone, or random events like a block of ice forming on the branches of a dead orange tree getting enough pressure from the wood rot in the limb developing coupled with gravity at a randomly bad moment when someone happens to be walking under it, and it falling and injuring them on the head . All those are examples of states of affairs that might be called 'reality' in that they can situationally happen . Yet they are NOT reality in the more abstracted sense of the word which involves ontological and epistemic structures *which govern identities and the relation between identities* .

It is of the utmost importance that we not mix up those two very different meaning-senses /different contexts that are applied to the same word : teh word 'reality' .

To mix those separate contexts is to skew the issues involved . Situational reality ---as in the realities of various social situations---is often merely *extrinsic* to the ontological structures of existence and NOT intrinsic to them . It is often a case of people enacting motives of a murky sort as far as axiology is concerned , or (in the case of the ice laden dead tree branch that falls and hits someone on the head randomly) an unlucky interaction between material and/or efficient causes --where the particular interaction does NOT serve any ethical nor esthetic purpose .

Furthermore, it is worth noting Mr.Ahistorically that it would be better if you were more maximal in taking the absolutist position . Ultimate ontological structures are not fundamentally unkowable---NOT even in part ---with the exception of how it feels qualitatively to be what Paul Tillich calls 'the ground of all being'. (NOT that the ground of all being is totally Other ; it is NOT , however, the way in which the Qualia of It being Itself feels introspectively---we would have no access to except in terms of more general parameters) .

As for ethical objectivism (NOT to be confused with the so-called "objectivism" of Ayn Rand which is rather different) ...the two sub-categories you mentioned the Kantian and Utilitarian are NOT the only possible sub-categories of ethical objectivism .

Ethical objectivism is right, by the way .

Also in regard to foundationalism , there can be epistemological arguments for epistemic foundationalism ---that do not conceptualize the foundations as being *crudely* self evident ,but rather make a more nuanced , analytical argument for logical epistemic foundations .( See the writings of Matthias Steup on fundationalism and sense datum theory) .

Sincerely ,

a different Jason at mudstones2@aol.com

Anonymous said...

Regarding hedonism/utilitarianism,

the amount of misinformation on the web is overwhelming. Utilitarianism is the view that an action is morally good in it's usefulness in achieving some end or utility. Defining utility is a completely separate issue. NOT ALL UTILITARIANS ARE HEDONISTS. Peter Singer, for example, is a preference utilitarian. Consistent hedonists are utilitarians, hedonism has nothing to do with egoism. Pick up a book before you start spewing false information.