Starting the Stream

A la Ulysses, this will be a simple stream of consciousness. Thoughts from the day, questions I’ve been asking myself, things to follow up on and ponder. In the past I’ve felt that these thoughts have been seeping through my hands like water. Now it’s time to catch them.

This enterprise will only really work if I’m ‘thinking fast’, to use the language of Daniel Kahneman. It’s just quick, unfiltered and unmoderated thought, put down on a page. The inhibitive ‘thinking slow’ will have to wait. Of course I’ll grimace at all of this in the cold light of day but for now part of the brain needs to shut up. Yes it will be under-developed, yes it will be crude and yes it will be ambiguous but at least it’s something.

Meanwhile this is going to be the guiding mantra of the Stream: ‘Take your time.’

Ok, what’s been engaging me today? Moral obligations to distant strangers has been prominent, thinking about how to support the position that we have weaker obligations to those people with whom we have less of a ‘real connection’ (to use the language of Soran Reader – her excellent paper is here). I was thinking the line could be that it is going against the grain of human nature to demand impartiality in moral concern and that it might even be a psychological impossibility to show such concern. What philosophical argument, then, could satisfactorily demand that people ought to behave against their own fundamental nature?

But then I remembered Sartre and the supposed non-existence of human nature; in his eyes we must accept that we’re ‘condemned to be free‘. Though on reflection I reject the radicality of his position. There is to a certain degree a ‘human nature’, manifest in the similarity of each individual’s general basic wants, desires, fears etc. We’re ultimately all made from the same stuff. This is the source of the common human nature. Yet that’s not to say we’re at the total mercy of this nature. I’m a Platonist on this one. The will, that which distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom, has the final say in conscious decision-making. And herein lies the weakness in the ‘psychological impossibility’ argument entertained earlier: given the individual will, no conscious rational decision is ‘psychologically impossible’. So given this problem with the aforementioned argument we are back trying to justify partiality and the notion that the nature of the relationship determines moral obligation. We’ll keep working on it. We’ve plenty of time.

In other news I’ve been thinking about the ‘God of the Gaps’, perhaps the key argument used to rebut positions that defend theism. I’ll need to write a careful article on that one. It’ll first need some intellectual exploration but I think a fruitful approach will be to reflect on Wittgenstein’s ‘Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent’. Burke will probably also come in, doubting the small stock of human reason. Monkeys and quantum mechanics, ‘what is this gap you speak of…?’, along those lines. It’s standard apologetics but I’d like to get it straight for myself. You need to be ready for the nay-sayers.

I was also thinking about hypocrisy and the history of the Catholic Church, William Tyndale and Bible translations, the Society of Saint Pius X and the comparision with Protestantism and starting up the ‘Wise Words’ section. Plenty to do and develop but all in good time.

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