The Economist's Cookbook

Recipes For A More Free Society

  • "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they know about what they imagine they can design."

    - F.A. Hayek

To Continue the Debate...

Posted by The_Chef On 1:31 PM 7 comments

Well upon learning several things, I think that another response is in order.

1.) Antilib, Welcome madam and I do appreciate the mental exercise that I am having to go through.

2.) When I say "reason" I mean high cognitive function, and though self awareness might be a factor in that, but I still don't believe that any dolphin is capable of a higher level of thought beyond "Oh look ... FOOD!" In fact it has yet to be determined if "learning" in animals is nothing but a conditioned response. To say that they reason, and have the word retain any of its meaning I believe is extremely ... premature. As an aside, it seems to me that species which spawn the likes of Flipper and Shamu are not quite on the level of species which spawned Mozart, Plato, Hayek, and Hawking.

3.) Antilib still makes a fundamental flaw in her assumptions about humanism and materialism. the flaws exist in the fact that value is radically subjective. Allow me to elaborate...
She states:
"Let's say I was referring to definition number one of humanism and definition number two of materialism, emphasis on "worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life". One definition is stating that human interests/values/dignity are of primary importance, while the other states that worldly goods are of primary importance, ergo you cannot reasonably be a humanist and materialist.Let's say I was referring to definition number one of humanism and definition number two of materialism, emphasis on "worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life". One definition is stating that human interests/values/dignity are of primary importance, while the other states that worldly goods are of primary importance, ergo you cannot reasonably be a humanist and materialist."

Your very argument is flawed in that you assume that Materialism is something that is not a value of people. That is to say that antilib accepts the idea that Humanism is "any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity predominate". materialism could well be a human interest or value.

Antilib, I think, incorrectly assumes that the value of material things is unnatural or inhuman. On the contrary, I think it's very human to desire and want things that make life more pleasent or more comfortable and free-market capitalism is the most efficient way to produce those things. As such, it is best at fulfilling human desires.

Now if you want to make the argument that people shouldn't value material things ... then this is not really the place. I believe people should be allowed to value whatever they want (provided it doesn't infringe on my or anyone else's property rights. I have a feeling that philosophically neither of us will ever convince the other.

And for the record, Jon is a Liberal, of the Classical Variety.


7 Response for the "To Continue the Debate..."

  1. Lord Pyration says:

    I'm pretty sure that we're humans and that dolphins are dolphins, so we're not supposed to know what or if they reason. How bout we all chalk it up to "pointless exercises in the precarious field of assumption." The same would go for materialism except that the world "must have" supply and demand to function.

  2. Jon says:

    Well, supply and demand is more of a conceptualization of an observable phenomenon.

  3. TheAntiLib says:

    I appreciate your desire to continue debating the issue, but I'm afraid that you've misconstrued the content of my previous post; or perhaps I haven't been very clear. If the latter is the case, I apologize for the confusion. Materialism and humanism both claim that the highest value attainable is reserved for material goods and people, respectively. The sale and acquisition of goods is a necessary and invaluable process in our society. I would never deny that. If one values wealth *over* humanity, they are a materialist. If one values humanity *over* wealth, they are a humanist. E.g., If a CEO decides to downize a portion of his company in order to increase profit, he would be a materialist. If a CEO decides he'd rather take a loss in profit than let employees go, he's a humanist. Humanism as a philosophy embraces the ideal that the welfare of people should take precedence in every sector of life, business and pleasure; that we are the most valuable resource in the world and our integrity should be prized above profit, etc. It's not a matter of importance, but of degree of importance and how that impacts values and, subsequently, the decision-making process.

    Now onto reason. Reason is not "high cognitive function". Reason is the ability to think logically and analytically, or what we call "intelligence". There are varying degrees of intelligence in the animal kingdom, just as there are varying degrees among humans. *wry grin* The animals I mentioned as paragons of reason in the animal kingdom are tool-makers. I'm sure you're aware that tool-making is what distinguished our prehistoric ancestors as something special, and not just your average plains ape. What this means is that these animals possess the ability to acknowledge a problem and methodically devise a solution, using materials in their environment. They can envision the outcome in advance, hence the ability to deduce a solution, organize, then execute. Pretty amazing, yes?! Now if you give a dolphin an algebraic equation... ;-) Like I said, varying degrees of intelligence. They can reason, just not on our level. Just as a toddler cannot reason like a ten-year-old, and a ten-year-old cannot reason like a twenty-year-old.

  4. Jon says:

    Well antilib. I understand your point about humanism and materialism. I still don't think they are diametrically opposed or at least mutually exclusive as you claim.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree.

    As to the idea of reason, you are quite correct, But toolmaking may mean intelligence, I'm not sure I'm willing to give you that intelligence=reason. Or more appropriately that applied intelligence = reason. But thus is life.

    Time to move on to other things.

  5. theantilib says:

    If consistent with the definitions of humanism and materialism used in my posts, yes, they would be diametrically opposed. It all depends on the definition.

    From the American Heritage Dictionary:
    rea·son (rē'zən)
    The basis or motive for an action, decision, or conviction. See Usage Note at because, why.
    A declaration made to explain or justify action, decision, or conviction: inquired about her reason for leaving.
    An underlying fact or cause that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence: There is reason to believe that the accused did not commit this crime.
    The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence.
    Good judgment; sound sense.
    A normal mental state; sanity: He has lost his reason.
    Logic. A premise, usually the minor premise, of an argument.

    One definition of intelligence is "The faculty of thought and reason", but I agree that what we generally think of as "intelligence" tends to be broader in scope.

    Since tool-making requires the application of analytical thought, there really isn't any question as to whether or not some animals can reason. It appears that you're unable to concede a valid point. Debate with others who cannot acknowledge the validity of others' arguments is no fun. :-(

  6. Jon says:

    On the contrary, your point is valid, it's simply an opinion of mine that the definition you use for reason is far too broad. I understand the definition, but I'm not sure I like the implications of the conclusion, something in the back of my head screams NO.

    As I cannot determine it I'll simply chalk it up to stubbornness or personal opinion that "reason" should be more narrowly defined.

  7. theantilib says:

    How do you define "reason"?

    "...I'm not sure I like the implications of the conclusion..."

    Mmm hmm. It's that old human superiority complex kicking in, perhaps? Serendipitously, I stumbled onto an article about a chimp in Australia petitioning the courts for human status. I thought I'd include a quote about chimpanzees you might find interesting: "Despite their vocal limitations, they communicate easily with each other and can learn human languages. They use tools and live in groups that display behavioral variations attributable to what anthropologists recognize as culture."

    Really, how do you define "reason"?