Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nicomachean Ethics. Read it. Really read it.

On that note...

Daniel: have you heard of Harvey Mansfield?
me: vaguely?
Daniel: he's a major Straussian at Harvard
me: ah
Daniel: he mentored Andrew Sullivan, who I tend to like
but today
he gave a talk here
and he was talking about how all of political discourse can be reduced to "thumos"
which is a classical concept of "longing for recognition"
or something of the sort
in the meantime
he was railing against science, talking about how it ignores names and faces and how it is so limited in explaining the intricacies of human nature
he then concluded his talk by stating that thumos is not a theoretical concept
me: well, he's got a point... not that it matters, but human nature's pretty hard to pin down empirically at this time
Daniel: we're closer than you think
me: i'd dispute that, if it was central to the point
but thumos sounds pretty damn theoretical to me
Daniel: complexity theory is edging closer
me: right. except not really. we are the best instruments for understanding humans, and we still dont get us. talk to me in 100 years
Daniel: I mean, at the moment
yes, human nature is beyond our empirical calculations
but he's going on some bullshit about forgetting modern biology and look to "the biology of Plato and Aristotle" that includes the body of the spirit
me: um
Daniel: so during questions, I had to confront him
me: weeellll.... i guess he's um... no, i really cant defend that easily on no sleep
descartes tried, and came up with the most embarrassing nonsense ever
but ok
Daniel: I asked, "If you say that thumos is not theoretical, but it is not material, then does that make it metaphysical? And if it is, how can you defend thumos if we attack the notion of metaphysics a la Nietzsche?"
me: heheh nice
Daniel: I expected an intelligent answer, because I mean, he sounds like an intelligent guy
me: yeah? what'd he say?
Daniel: but his answer was
"Um... that's a very U of C question... Um... well, Plato... Um... Hobbes... Um, well, naked eye science, you know, is different from modern science because we're not measuring things with x-rays or telescopes, but Aristotle... um"
me: ... oh god
Daniel: yeah
me: hahahahha
talk about name-dropping your way out of a question
Daniel: it was ridiculous
and there was this one neurobio guy who said
"how do you explain the spiritual nature of thumos when neurobiology comes closer to explaining any social behavior being based on biological determinism?"
his answer
"well, I have not heard that the scientists have isolated a part of the brain that is responsible for asking these questions. They might, but that means that if I take a pill that affects the area that keeps me honest, that'll mean I'm stupid"
and I'm like... what the hell?
me: ...?
what does that even mean?
is he clinically retarded?
Daniel: I think it's an attack on biological determinism
me: psh
biodet is the WAY... mostly (ignoring complexity, quantum and indeterminability, but either way, there are general laws that can approximate well enough for the macro world)
Daniel: well, at least try to refute biological determinism using logic
NOT aesthetics
this is why I really hate Straussians
they formulate everything on classical metaphysics
at least the humanities people understand that they are merely creating an aesthetic
but I guess I shouldn't say this is representative of ALL social studies
hell, prolly not even all of POLITICAL SCIENCE
but it's very frustrating
Alan Sokal is right; many people criticizing science have no idea about science in the first place
me: hahaha so true... so true
im posting this convo on my blog... it amuses me


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