Kris Sargent returns with a theory of a theory of all knowledge …
Ready for some philosophizing, freshman-dorm style? (Mr. Poulos can moderate).
First, let’s all admit what everyone’s thinking: the fact of external testes is definitive proof of Unintelligent Design, or, alternatively, no design at all (my opinion). As Alan Walker, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Penn State University, said in his Princeton University Public Lecture, “To have the gonads, the gonads, the stuff that carries the genetic message from one generation to the next, in a little bag between your legs…[this is] intelligent design?” (fast-forward to 18:10 for a full explanation of this point). Whales and seals managed to reverse this mistake and put the boys back in. Why not us? You might say we’ve been left holding…
Ahem! Well then.
And then there’s all that other evidence. A plethora, you might say (I do). More than enough, an excess: what more do you need to be convinced that we are just animals after all. Special animals, to be sure: clever, proud, and delicate. But animals just the same.
I realize this is a sticking point for many — for many reasons. I won’t condescend and say “I understand you”, because I largely don’t. To me our existence as nothing more (and nothing less) than extraordinarily intelligent organisms — bipedal apes with big brains — is patently obvious and daily compelling. We certainly comport ourselves like biologicals; groping blindly in the dark, we’re a species of few destinations and many arrivals.
And that kind of brings me to the point of this post. I think it’s time to face up to the disturbing (‘disturbing’ in a functional sense) fact that we seem to be undesigned outcomes of a complex-but-natural process. In other words, we seem (stressed yet again) to be a unique species lacking prior purpose.
If we can just do this — just admit to ourselves that it sure looks like we’re out here all alone, surrounded by the roiling silence of infinite spaces — I think I have an idea you might be interested in. An opportunity, you might say.
(Though to be perfectly honest and up-front, I am almost certainly in error, in part or (heaven forbid) in whole; you might say my only hope is that this “error” rises to the level of stochastic resonance.)
I think we’re at a point where we can build Architectonica (seriously! — i mean it.) — i.e., a systematization of all knowledge (See Richard Kraut, The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Pg. 351: “The fundamental step in architectonic thinking is to set out a correct substantial account of flourishing with its ramifications: this will provide a ‘target’ for ‘political’ action (NE 1.2.1094a22-6)“) Or as Quine would say, I think we currently have enough distributed knowledge, working brains, and communicative potential that we can finally and successfully “naturalize” normative epistemology, build an ethical architecture, and engineer (a scary word, I know) a flourishing, mutually-advantageous society. And I say this as a radically self-interested individual who hates authority.
I think the way to do this is to usher into an epistemologically-idealized Original Position four additional perspectives while modifying the first (we must also discard Rawls’s deontological ethics, and everything it supports). In order of sophistication, these perspectives are the Selfish Gene, Myworld, Myworldline, Ourworld, or Ourworldline.
The primary goods for each can be characterized in the following way: From a Selfish Gene perspective, the good is biological, impersonal, evolutionary. From a Myworld perspective, the good is experiential, existential, individual, mental. From a Myworldline perspective, the good is aspected, abstracted, biographical, connotational. From an Ourworld perspective, the good is phenomenological, environmental, (eco)systemic. From an Ourworldline perspective, the good is world-historical; it is the accumulated facts of the species, the worldline of Man as seen from the outside looking in, after the fact. (Note: this harnesses the very simple idea that if you have 1) a perspective, and 2) a destination, you can derive “ought” from “is”; here the destinations are not particular places but particular place-types with domain-specific languages and characteristics).
I’m convinced that, by adding these perspectives to the Original Position (Rawls’ extraordinarily fertile imaginative device), and pursuing unanimity (a Nash equilibrium) among the idealized constituents, we can put together an architectonic scheme to guide us through the dark of a thrown, finite existence. (Particularly, problems like “survival vs. justice”, which plague Rawls’ A Theory of Justice and other similar efforts, completely dissolve, as the elements which animate these issues are re-situated into harmonic chords of higher abstraction.)
To some of you, this may seem absurd, stupid, misguided, maybe even masturbatory. But that’s why I’m posting it! More than anything — and this is where you come in — I want to know if and how I’m wrong.