Sunday, May 14, 2017

Future projects and stuff

"A book is a suicide postponed."
- Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born 
It has been a while since I last made a blog post. I am in the middle of a hellish university program in computer engineering that requires me to take at least sixteen credits per semester, as well as summer classes and balancing an internship to boot. It is frustrating and time-consuming but for some reason or another I find it to be fulfilling, or at least more satisfactory than sitting on my ass all day doing nothing (i.e. being an internet blogger!).

For the last year I have been formulating an array of ideas, initially disorganized, that is focused primarily on the crossroads between phenomenology and ethics. Around six months ago I began drafting some of the ideas on paper. What started as an essay or short article quickly turned into a book of sorts; the current page count is over sixty, and I do not see myself finishing relatively soon.

The tentative title of the book is "Questioning the Primacy of Being", the précis being that phenomenal existence is ultimately negative in value, and that biological persistence continues by an irrational and unethical vital "pulse" that systematically obscures this fundamental disvalue. I follow the scheme set up by the philosopher Julio Cabrera between the affirmative and negative perspective, before proceeding to criticize the affirmative perspective and subsequently attempting to construct a basic ethical system based on the negative perspective.

I am under no delusions (of grandeur) that this book will become some great philosophical achievement; in fact I predict practically nobody will read it. Furthermore, I doubt that everything I say in it is right, but I suppose that is just as well. What I fear is that it will be interpreted as the work of an impressionable young adult, a manifesto of sorts, and only that. I fear it will be passed over in favor of the more "sophisticated" philosophical works, simply because it is not published by a major company or because I have no official formal degree in philosophy (despite spending the equivalent amount of time studying philosophy on my own, away from the narrow-minded dogmatism of academic philosophy).

One major, encompassing theme of the book is the importance of maintaining a certain degree of "elegance" in the various ways we live, through our actions, decisions, character and appearance. I make the case that unrestrained, noisy and impulsive snaps of emotion are degenerative and shameful, and I try to construct the image of an "ideal negative survivor", one who is careful not to over-indulge in excess, including hyperbolic evaluations. They are, ideally, "calm, cool, and collected," and I try to present the book in the same way: free of any unnecessary angst or gratuitous pretension.

Like I said before, the book is nowhere near being "finished". I just thought I would make a post in case people thought I had killed myself or something. The haters will be saddened to hear that I have no intention of committing suicide any time soon, although I continue to ruminate upon its possibility every day. Why commit suicide once when you can hypothetically commit suicide a thousand times? heh

Anyway, if you're interested in reading what I have written so far, tell me and I'll consider sharing it with you. I'm not quite ready to open access up to everyone, but there are a few people whom I wouldn't mind hearing constructive criticism from. Keep in mind, it's still in production and some of the ideas are not fully fleshed-out yet.

9 comments:

  1. Hi. I would be interested in looking at you have written (I am not sure I would be able to offer good criticism, though). Do you have an ideia of the sections or chapters you're going to address?

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  2. Also, it's off-topic, but about Cabrera's criticism of the asymmetry (I am still interested in it, don't know if you are, too), it does seem to me that there is an abuse of conterfactuals.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't we argue that the absent pain is "good" if it means that it is better than the presence of pain in scenario A, and that the absence of pleasure, although negative compared in scenario A, does not constitute a deprivation in the scenario B?

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    1. I'm not quite sure I understand what you're arguing. Are you saying that, in a similar way others have tried to do to solve the non-identity problem, that we can talk of absent people AS IF they existed, to the extent that, had they been born, they would have been worse off, but had they never existed, they would not have been better off? The upshot being, existence can be better/worse for a person without non-existence being worse/better for this person?

      If so, I don't see how an asymmetry between pleasure and pain fits into the picture here. You are describing the absence of pleasure as bad solely in the context of deprivation, i.e. a mental state, but are not applying this same context to pain, which is seen as good, if absent, even if nobody is there to recognize it.

      If that is how we typically orient ourselves to pleasure/pain, then so be it. But that is not enough to ground the idea that it is always bad to come into existence.

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  3. Basically, it could be argued that the absence of pleasure is worse than the presence of pleasure given the interests of a potential person. And we would be right in making such an assertion. However, Benatar is not making a statement about the intrinsic value of these absent experiences. Instead, he is arguing about its relative value - which is relative to the scenario in which the person is in.

    When we touch upon non-existence (never being born) we argue from potential interests (or impersonally good states of affairs), right? I think the confusion really comes from arguing that the absence of pain is good. It can only be good as an indirect good. Of course, when a living being does come into existence, the absence of pain is good, without a doubt, mainly because there is an autonomy to verify that.

    In the same way, the absence of pleasure can be indirectly "not bad". I am not sure, but I still think we can put values into non-existence.

    It's complicated. But about the pleasure mechanism, I have some criticisms about it. Is it anything else othen than an mechanism engineered by nature to influence our behavior - it's not a reality we are walking towards (think the example of Sisyphus)? In short, the standard state is of deprivation. Our genes "want" their vessels in fear of death, always planning ahead, always on guard, etc.

    In short, there are many more ways to be unhappy than the other way around. We do not have to go to any lengths to reach the suffering: it is available at any moment. To suffer, just live.

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  4. Count me in as a reader of your work in progress. I've got a number of drafts going myself, except with me they'll just end up as lengthy posts (per usual). I visited Cabrera's site like three or four times only. Nothing he wrote there resonated with me, though it could be the case that I didn't give it a fair hearing due to typos and spelling errors and the like. I can be superficial like that.

    Hopefully I'll have some time off work two weeks from now, so if you're ready to send me something by then, I'll be able to devote decent time to it.

    I'm finding that my reading really suffers if I'm periodically looking at the clock, or even just having to be aware of what day of the week it is in the first place. My writing suffers for it too. In your case it seems you thrive on precisely that. Lucky.

    "narrow-minded dogmatism in academic philosophy"

    Harsh. Maybe "straightjacket"? I don't see much in the way of dogmatism. Content constraints are inevitable. I'd say the big issues revolve around "publish or parish" which doesn't influence dogma either way.

    Usually when people drop the D-bomb, it's because they dislike how dominant analytic philosophy has become and how tiny continental influence is. Is that it?

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    1. Thanks for showing your interest, ABM. I'll send you an email sometime.

      By dogmatism, I meant something like a straightjacket, as you said. A certain type of framework that excludes some ideas and ways of thinking. I do dislike the general divide between analytic and continental philosophy, because I think they can do a lot more while working together than isolated in their corners. There is a whole host of interesting ideas explored in continental thought that I just don't see in analytic circles.

      Regarding Cabrera, he writes in Portuguese so the spelling and grammatical errors are probably due to errors in translation.

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