8. Descartes’ Influence

An unfinished essay:


* Talk about ontology +Talk about the disaster in philosophy stating w Descartes

*  Talk about Kant

* Talk about the twentieth century, WWI’s +II, Nihilism, and the collapse of the philosophical enterprise.

* Talk about Nihilism being exhibited via sophistry, and Mandarin-ism…


Descartes and Civilization’s Trajectory

Check this out.

Thesis #1: (Break this thesis up, and notice the thesis’s that follow are redundant. Clean it up.) When you consider the bad news, like the Cuban missle crises, the nuclear brinkmanship of the cold war, climate change, global economic crises, overpopulation, modern human caused species extinction, the recent social experiments of fascism, Islamic ‘fundamentalism,’  American Dominion-ism, and Marxist Leninist communism, etc, and etc, you may feel that humanity is a far cry from anything like a gracefully sustainable civilization, but actually that doesn’t seem to be the case.  But the good news is you can consider the human situation this way: statistically perhaps the most successful form of psychology is cognitive psychology; which is based on the idea that what people think generally evolves into their reality.  So if their lives are not working they can change them. They basically just need to practice thinking different thoughts.  As a civilization there are just a few ideas, that as a few chance moments in history would have it,  hereto-for virtually no one is thinking or even conscious of. Our civilization could have easily followed a different course.  If most people were educated concerning the wisdom of a few different ideas, and people started thinking more in terms of them, then our civilization may become sufficiently improved such that graceful sustainability may be the order of the  next hundred or so millennia.

These ideas belong to the realm of philosophy, and it was with the philosopher Descartes and his obsessions with clear and precis truths, that we most clearly (ha!) took the wrong turn.

How has this happened?  Well:

Thesis #1: (Break this thesis up) There are virtually no professional philosophers save teachers.  A consequence of this is that philosophy is not so much practiced competitively in the workplace or simply researched via government or philanthropic grants, rather it is taught, as a body of “knowledge”. And hence the field tends to be ruled by mandarins.  From this it follows that, whether it is consciously considered desirable by “philosophers”, or not, philosophy is as it is taught, which is about the traditions of philosophy and the great canonical philosophers.  Iconoclastic students don’t get much respect. This is deeply unfortunate because for philosophy to actually be more than mental masturbation it needs to be thought of and practiced in terms of it’s  impact on the world.  And that will only happen if students integrate it, honestly, into their world view; which (since philosophy is about the most all encompassing aspects of the human situation, the largest abstractions that world view are created of) requires the student of philosophy to be an iconoclast in order to learn   (more from this blog on free thinking > here).

Thesis 1#.  Strangely, therefore also, it is the cultivation of more and better philosophy in our world culture that is almost certainly the most pragmatic and practical response to our world civilization’s current existential,  political, environmental, and economic difficulties.  Again, the fact that the preceding sentence is not generally acknowledged is most productively traceable to fallout from the questions and concerns of Rene Descartes.

Thesis #2.  Descartes (1596-1650) was one of the founding fathers of modern science.  As one of the creators of the moodern scientific method, Descartes focused on the use of mathematics (the language of nature) and its beautiful precision.  Descartes was impressed with the advances in human knowledge that the early scientific method was producing, but, though he acknowledge the profound usefulness of scientific hypotheses, he was concerned by the uncertainty of those same hypotheses, arising as they did, inductively, from empirical observations.  So he decided to attempt to construct a world view that arose (could he thought could be deduced) from truly certain foundations.

Thesis #3:  When Descartes attempted to create a certain world view from that which he could not doubt (“I think therefore I am,”) he changed the quests of western philosophy and thereby founded modern philosophy and inadvertently set if on a course that was diametrically opposed to the implicate inductive metaphysics of the new scientific method.

Again, because of the traditions that Descartes created, in which modern world dominating western thought is still stuck, humanity has missed that it is probably possible for most people to agree on a basic deeply realistic workable ontological and ethical worldview such that it would be far easier for humanity to create a much more gracefully sustainable  civilization.


Thesis #4: For the last several hundred years, instead of providing leadership for humanity, to chart the intellectual course we need to structure and chart our lives and civilization by, (the grand abstract cognitive reasonable  worldview ideas that we need as a compass), philosophy has remained mired in a Quixotic quest: The quest for clear precise certain truth(s), and this natural reality doesn’t really provide us with those, particularly not in the form of grand abstractions.

Thesis#5: Of course, to be fair, we can’t really blame Descartes, because there was no better precedent that he came and destroyed, in his time there was only the authoritarian tradition of worshiping Aristotle, who was not much, if any, better.

An earlier start for this essay: 

Descartes Redux 

Making it Simple:


Ahhh me.  There are so many places and ways to begin a blog whose (perhaps grandiose) mission is too identify and resolve the core issues that face our civilization.


Perhaps we could start with: Rene Descartes is the bane of human civilization. . .

Well, actually it’s not that simple; after all, Descartes invented analytic geometry and the Cartesian coordinate system, and that’s a fine gift to humanity.  But it’s a good idea, rhetorically, to point the finger at him.  Why? There are a variety of reasons.  Probably his main error (beyond the fact that he founded the modern philosophical enterprise at which the general public for at least the last hundred years are prone to roll their eyes) is that his method of producing philosophy is to only postulate that about which he can “think clearly and precisely.”  That idea prejudices philosophy in a deductive direction, but the reason humanity created philosophy is in order to have a roadmap and/or compass for understanding reality, and despite eons of confusion about it, that’s primarily an inductive process.  Another way to put it is: having a coherent realistic world view is a very useful thing.  For example, historians say the ancient Greek Thales managed to create philosophy, or be it’s founder,  primitively, when he said that everything is made of water.  And notice that Thales’s weird statement, and philosophy, are inductive (they are about generalizing).  Generalizing is not terribly clear, certain, or very precise, but it is still a fundamentally important part of humanity’€™s ability to understand and function in reality.

.  Descartes, with his abstract, inhuman, cruel animal experimenting, mathematical obsessions missed the boat philosophically speaking, with his supposedly clear, precise, and certain, foundational pronouncement of “I think therefore I am.”  And by thus according to historians he founded modern philosophy, and led humanity up the proverbial *!#% creek.

Another reason Descarte’s ideas were and are destructive to current human civilization is that by trying to build a world view foundationally and linearly from certain deductive pronouncements he has missed the uncertain (inductive/deductive dialectic) circular nature of how we actually know the world.  The problem with his famous pronouncement is the noun ‘I,’ and the verbs ‘think,’ and ‘am’ or to be, and even the syllogistic ‘therefore’, are  all fundamentally incomprehensible and unknowable outside of the context a ‘thinking thinker’ already has of the world.  All of the canonical modern philosophers who followed in his footsteps did the same thing as Descartes in that they may have debated the fine points, but they accepted the method of ‘clear and precise,’ and the quest of only speaking about that which they felt they were clear and certain.  But what can one be ‘certain’ about when one is attempting to make foundational pronouncements about the world, when one needs the world to exist first in order to make the foundational pronouncements? (link to a talk about problems with ‘Objectivist’ axiomatic truths here)

(I’m saying way too much too quickly here>>) Yet another corollary difficulty is that, if induction and deduction form a dialectic (as I think they do), in that one creates generalizations from specifics then circularly draws specifics from generalizations, then if there is no certain truth to which one can point then people can logically subjectively choose what they believe is true, and the is / ought distinction begins to merge. Why not?  After all if one cannot be certain what is true then what one believes to be reality becomes a choice. In practice this is already, and actually always has been, the case.  Most people don’t find an apstact unemotional ontological argument about the ’true’ nature of reality to be terribly compelling as a basis for day to day decisions about what they ought to do, no matter how well reasoned the grand arguments about ‘reality’are. In short most people don’t think grand abstract truths are knowable enough to be important to care about, or even more simply: most people don’t really care about being ‘deeply reasonable.’  And why should they?  Think of all the things that are more emotionally compelling: sex, one’s children, death, beauty, wealth, drugs, the aroma of fine cooking, etc.

One can be intellectually disdainful about this  difficulty and claim that ‘common’ folk are foolish, but if ‘clear and precise’ thinking doesn’t yield fundamentally more in the way of truth then fuzzy thinking does then who is being the fool?  Why waste time with grand philosophical questions unless one is just playing intellectually elitist status games?


And yet. . . . on some level most people still do want to care about the truth.  Is there a way out of this conundrum? I suggest we look beyond Descartes and all of the western philosophical tradition; it’s a big world.  Taoism is certainly an alternative.  The circular symbol of the Tao  seems to fit better with the idea of induction and deduction being a circular dialectical process.  But does the epistemology of the Toa resolve the is / ought divide?  To answer that I would suggest looking at the wisdom and metaphysical traditions of the plains Indians.  Like Taoism the plains Indian metaphysical model is circular, but there is a difference, depicted symbolically in their medicine wheels,



Did he give the practice of science a qualitatively firm mathematical basis?  Yes, and that is a good thing, but math is only part of the process, so is the nessecary step of being able to create repeatable, falsifiable experimental observation, and that’s open ended and inductive and only mathematical in that the ‘truths’ that it discovers are only quantitative.


By founding modern philosophy the people he drew to the craft were obsessive people who craved presice certainty.  They created the cannon. And to this day the manderans who are the people who now keep the gates of philosophical wisdom and authority, as it were, expect the practice of philosophy to follow the same IRRATIONAL standards.

Blah blah blah



Essay about the jump on the objective side of the Rose Mandala, from ‘accepting the universe and the laws of Physics’ to accepting ‘biological laws and ‘the meaning of life.’’


Argument: from set theory: are you more important than the set to which you belong?  Are you more important than humanity, even if that includes you?  Most


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