Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Complex ideas

Complex systems are built from simply ideas.  The concept of "truth" might seem simple, but it isn't.  Justice, honor, loyalty.  All the Platonic Ideals: complex ideas.

And I want to clearly differentiate them from complicated ideas.  It is quite possible to have within ones own mind an absolutely uncomplicated clear conception of honesty, such as "always tell the truth.  Never lie, cheat or steal."  But in practice, all human persons, being mutable biological entities with differing genetics, differing environmental influences, and in my understanding of the world, differing soul histories, will SLIGHTLY amend these codes, and then they will also amend them in reference to their actual behavior.  Yes, tell the truth, but Suzie doesn't need to know just yet that Bobbie cheated on her.  Yes, tell the truth, but not that she looks fat in that dress.  Yes, tell the truth, but fuck the IRS.  Etc.

The principle in play certainly creates a system, and a relatively stable one at that, but one that is formally Complex.  Good philosophy has to incorporate within itself motion and time.

We know, now, that the world is Complex.  What I am waiting to see is the merging of philosophy, and specifically moral philosophy, with Complexity Theory. I have indicated in my Goodness essay and elsewhere how I see this working.  It is stupid and clumsy to say that abstraction are either true or not true (and I would include this abstraction, since obviously I do believe in truths, even if my approach is ideosyncratic): rather, what TENDS to be true is in general the phrase I want to see, what becoming a specific belief tends to engender.  As I put it: Becoming approximates essence.

Edit: Think of the color red.  Chances are very good, in my view, that if we could somehow measure the exact frequency of color you imagined, it would differ infinitesimally from the color I imagined.  This does not mean the color red does not "exist".  It can of course be defined somewhat scientifically, but even there, at what nanofrequency do we draw a hard line?

Practically, accepting the notion of approximate virtue brings back into play 90% of the moral certainly possible when it was thought virtue was somehow encoded in the universe, that it "existed" in some way outside of human decision paths as exercised within complex, moving systems.  And 10% doubt is a good thing.  "Trust yourself when all others doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too."

Moral relativism is of course a rejection of any form of firm morality, which makes such theorists future victims of those not lacking in certainty.  This is of course the present condition of Europe, which has morally disarmed itself.  It has no means of defending itself intellectually from those who do not brook difference or feel any need for compromise.

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