Chaos

Saturday

0146 |  Perhaps Parmenides could be tricky. But I think that in speaking of “the one” [τὸ ἕν], Plato means to refer to “Chaos” (ie, nameless material, or fundamental reality). And when he has Parmenides make the conditional statements concerning the “is” of “the one,” the conditional proposition is about whether it is Chaos that is the [real] existence — or, whether it is something else (perhaps something metaphysical, like mental stuff) that is the real existence.

At 160b when Plato’s Parmenides says that “the one” is not even “one” at all, he just simply means that the Chaos is all and is the whole, and so therefore it isn’t even a numerical “one.” Perhaps in some sense, it must be called a “not-one” since it’s not a numerical “one,” being the all and the whole instead. And so here, the “one” has turned into the “not-one.”

It’s obvious to me that the realm in which the word “existence” refers to in the real Parmenides is different from the realm in which the word “existence” refers to in Plato’s Parmenides. In the real Parmenides, “existence” concerns the realm of the Mind; in Plato’s Parmenides, “existence” starts out in the realm of nameless-reality — until the very end, starting at around 163c, where “existence” comes to enter the real Parmenides’ domain.

Ah, I see. Plato’s Parmenides is about making the terminology of the real Parmenides much more clearer, so that it can be understood for its intended meaning. But I wonder if the dialogue made things more confusing; I think it might only make things clearer for someone who already has an idea of what Parmenides means.

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0323 |  I met a man on the train earlier last night, and he seemed to me to be upset about the fact that Plato’s dialogues involving Socrates often end in “aporia.” Why? People are so fascinating, and mysterious. I want to understand (and by that, I don’t mean their psychology).

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0534 |  I have started to read Scanlon’s book, What We Owe To Each Other.

Scanlon describes “rationality” as judgements that cannot be contradictory. If they contradict, then the judgment is an “irrational” one. He says, “Irrationality in the clearest sense occurs when a person’s attitudes fail to conform to his or her own judgments…” So it seems to me that Scanlon here wants to say that a dissociated person, or a person experiencing akrasia, is an “irrational” person. I can understand why he wants to suggest that a person in such a state is in an “irrational” frame of mind.

But I tend to have my own understanding of what “rationality” and “irrationality” are. I wonder if my definitions are compatible with Scanlon’s.

Well, I think that “rationality” does not hinge on whether a person can comprehend math or not (as some might think). I also don’t think the critical difference between rationality and irrationality has to do with grasping the law of non-contradiction. Indeed these things are in some sense necessary for rationality. However, these are things that a computer can do, and I don’t consider a computer to possess “rationality.” And I also don’t consider it to be “irrational” if it suddenly breaks and fails to compute mathematical things.

No. What I consider to be “rationality” is more subjective; it’s not something that can be assessed quite so objectively. It’s teleological. On my view, the relevant sort of “rationality” that humans have is simply the ability to make goals, plans, purposes, ends – in short, reasons for action(s). When a purpose or end becomes an all-encompassing one, then the subject who makes and maintains such purposes or ends is considered to have a “soul.” And for me, this simply is what rationality is; nothing more, nothing less.

On this account, even nonhuman animals can be said to be “rational,” for surely beavers build dams for reasons and if they could speak, they might be willing to tell you all about it. There is nothing particularly special about humans in their rationality that is so different from animals, except for the fact that humans can be more precise about reasons by means of language.

It’s entirely possible that this is what Scanlon has in mind as well. His concern seems to be whether the reason is arbitrary or not. And whether the person contradicts her own self-proclaimed reasons.

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