Philosophical Dictionary - F and G and H
This is about
an update for the letters F and G and H in my Philosophical
In the second
half of 2011 and the first third of 2012 I have made textual updates to
quite a few lemmas in my Philosophical
Dictionary, in an editor that I had tweaked wrongly, with the
consequence that the items I updated appear with very large or very
small fonts, and often both.
This does not look nice. Earlier I had returned the lemmas in the
letters A, B, C, D and E to what they should look like, at least, and
did so for the letter F
and the letter G
In case you are not familiar with my Philosophical
Dictionary, here are a
few examples of
what you can find there:
Faith: Belief or
creed that is used as an orientation in the world and society
philosophical or religious
Man is a creature of faiths,
an ideological ape, a rationalizing animal, and the reason is that
human beings are too intelligent
not to see the past, the future and its dangers, and many kinds of
for their experiences,
and so have much to fear, not only in this life, but in a life to come
that they are promised or threatened with by religious
prophets, and have the gift of language and abstract
ideas to paint all manner of possibilities
for them in fantastic
colours, that are very well geared to their emotions,
by systematic wishful
thinking and are usually not much influenced by rational
method, since these three ways to knowledge
are only interesting and useful to a small gifted minority.
Thus, the reason that
there are so many human beings who feel proud to belong to some religion
political creed or party is that so many human beings are natural
followers without good or great
intelligence, and with little true originality or courage of their
own. (Since most of this is not a matter of personal choice, and since
no one wished himself or herself on the world, all of this is excusable
and understandable, even if it also is the foundation of
extra-ordinarily much evil
in human history.)
As a rule, a faith is a
simplified version of a
or a religion,
and plays the same role for the faithful as these: It provides ideas
about what the world is (a metaphysics)
and what it should be (an ethics),
and besides it gives coherence, agreement,
and possibilities of cooperation
for the faithful, whether these are political, such as Marxists
Conservatives, or religious, whether Christian, Mohammedan,
Buddhistic or Hindu.
Usually, the truly
faithful are the none-too-intelligent,
who have much to fear and little power of independent individual
thought, and who have therefore a strong inclination towards
and the belief in authorities
leaders, and who are, therefore, in times of crisis also easily
moved to fanaticism.
Also, by far the best guess
of the faithful is that they do not really believe the faith in which
they lead, and certainly not in the way they propound the faith, but
are in it for the money, the status, the power or other privileges.
about man or human knowledge
to the effect that these are fallible - they may be mistaken,
even if human beings have good evidence
and have done their sincere rational best.
There is much good evidence
that fallibilism in the above sense makes sense. And there is
also a positive side: Presumed knowledge is corrigible, extendible,
partial, incomplete, perfectable, and perhaps outside mathematics
never fully certain, precisely because it is revisable. ("What is empirical is not certain. What is certain
is not empirical." Einstein.)
Rational men tend to be
fallibilists in principle, though they also will insist there are
degrees of uncertainty,
and more or less fundamental or well-founded theories.
But they know they may be mistaken, even in their dearest
Believers in a faith,
fanatics for an ideology,
of parties or creeds
tend not to be fallibilists where their faith, ideology,
party or priests
are concerned, which is the reason they often are, in practice if not
in their own eyes, totalitarian.
Here is a great
experimental physicist on the subject:
"Nothing is more
difficult and requires more care than philosophical deduction, nor is
there any thing more adverse to its accuracy than fixity of opinion.
The man who is certain he is right is almost sure to be wrong; and he
has the additional misfortune of inevitably remaining so. All our
theories are fixed upon uncertain data, and all of them want alteration
and support. Ever since the world began opinion has changed with the
progress of things, and it is something more than absurd to suppose
that we have a certain claim to perfection; or that we are in the
possession of the acme of intellectuality which has, or can result from
human thought. Why our successors should not displace us in our
opinions, as well as in persons, it is difficult to say; it ever has
been so, and from an analogy would be supposed to continue so. And yet
with all the practical evidence of the fallibility of our opinions, all
and none more than philosophers, are ready to assert the real truth of
(Michael Faraday, quoted in L.
Fanatic: Someone who
strongly believes in an ideology
for which there is little evidence
for non-believers in the ideology or religion.
There are proportionally
more fanatics than rational
persons, it would seem, and two reasons are that most persons do not
have an intellect
that is good enough to set up their own philosophy,
while being a fanatic is intellectually open to all and tends to
be emotionally satisfying and also may come with great if delusive
promises of happiness
in the after-life or once the millenium has been created, or with
rewards for those who fanatically serve a leader
in this life.
It should also be mentioned
that in some situations it takes great courage or independence of mind not
to become - or at least to behave as - a fanatic, for example, under Stalinism,
Maoism, in communist North-Korea, or in territories were people are
much repressed or persecuted.
Also, two excuses of many
fanatics - which they will tend not accept themselves - is that their
social environment is totalitarian,
and that their intelligence
is not very great.
believer in or supporter of some leader,
By and large most men are
followers because most
men are totalitarian
ideological apes: Intelligent enough to need some sort of worldview to
orient themselves and make choices; not intelligent enough to reason
out their own; and emotionally, instinctually, and socially much
disposed and pressurized to follow and trust and believe in leaders,
and to engage in
wishful thinking and groupthinking.
(Our Group Good; Their Group Bad.)
It should also be noted
that in 'civilized western societies' most men, especially those with a
university degree, will in ordinary circumstances disdainfully reject
the thesis that most men are followers - until there is some social
crisis, war, or catastrophy, and one can see the 'independent
individuals' of yore cry loudly for Leadership, Uniformity, Unity etc.
Besides, one sees the
nature and large majority of natural born followers in such groups as
political parties, religions, sports fans, health food fanatics etc.:
For the vast majority of men there seems to be an instinctual basis for
their strong liking or need to follow leaders and be a conformist
member of some group.
of, interest in and benevolence
to another person.
Most friendships are based
on similarities of interests, ideas, ideals or outlook. Friendship is,
next to love, one of the things that make human society
pleasant and interesting and worthwile, but it should be remarked that,
while there is genuine friendship like there is genuine love,
one often sees or meets shows of these rather than the genuine article,
and that many persons have had the experience that when their social
prospects or riches or health lessen, so does the interest of their
friends in them: One is all too often not appreciated for what one is
or may be, but for the advantages others expect from one.
Games: What players of the game engage in: Behavior
according to certain rules, that characterize the game, that serves
some purpose, like amusement, instruction, learning or deceit.
The term "games" is
used for many different activities, and in various more specific
senses. It is difficult to define it in such a way that the definition
accounts for all usages. However, it is taken as more specific than the
similar term play,
in that a game is a game, and in particular that game, because of its
satisfying certain rules, that one has to know in order to be able to
play the game.
There is a mathematical
theory of games, that relates to games like chess, bridge and poker,
and more broadly to strategic behavior in economics and politics,
that involves reasoning about possibilities, probabilities and
pay-offs, and strategies with which one can optimize one's winnings or
minimize one's losses.
There is also a tragic site
to games: Very many of the games people play are played while believing
them to be something other than games. Indeed, the common social roles
- father, mother, boss, clerk, manager, leader, follower, doctor, nurse
and so on - tend to be mostly games that the actors play while
believing or pretending that the way they play it and think of it is
the right way to act out and believe in such a role.
Rule: Form of 'Do not hurt others, except in self-defense'.
Here is a survey quoted
from Runes' 'Pictorial History of Philosophy':
The Golden Rule
What you don't want done to
don't do to others
- SIXTH CENTURY B.C.
Hurt not others with what
- FIFTH CENTURY B.C.
In happiness and suffering, in
joy and grief,
we should regard all creatures as we regard
own self, and should therefore refrain from
inflicting upon others such injury as would
appear undesirable to us if inflicted upon
- FIFTH CENTURY B.C.
Do not do unto others all that
not well for oneself.
- FIFTH CENTURY B.C.
May I do to others as I would
they should do unto me.
Plato - FOURTH CENTURY B.C.
Do naught to others which if done thee
would cause thee pain.
Mahabharata - THIRD CENTURY B.C.
What is hateful to yourself,
don't do to your fellow man.
Rabbi Hillel - FIRST CENTURY
Whatsoever ye would that men should do
do ye even so to them.
Jesus of Nazareth - FIRST
Treat others as thou would be treated
- SIXTEENTH CENTURY A.D.
All of this strongly suggest that among human beings there
is wide agreement about at least one general ethical principle.
And it is a sensible and humane rule, however it is
precisely formulated. It also has the merit to appeal to the common
human nature all humans share, but it is clearly not by itself a
sufficient foundation for human society, since history shows that the
Golden Rule has often been broken, and is easy to break as soon as
human beings consider someone else, rightly or not, as an enemy or as a
stranger or as a member of faith they don't share or as someone whom
one can without punishment maltreat or deceive in one's own interests.
In brief: The Golden Rule in practice holds mostly only
between friends and supposed equals, and otherwise has been often and
in society: Human society
is composed of groups i.e. collections of people that know each other personally,
and that play roles
in that society.
is an abstract, theoretical
term, and such society as humans know in their own experience is
made up of face-groups.
Most of what people believe
they know about 'society' is propaganda
thinking, and generally uninformed.
Few people realize that, if they are 75 years old, there are - in the
21st Century - some 3 times more human beings in the world than seconds
in their lives, namely 2,365,200,000 at age 75.
Also, it is noteworthy that
there is little human awareness about their own mammalian and apish
nature, although there is both amusing and bitter evidence about this
gathered by e.g. Stanley Milgram and Desmond Morris. Some relevant
The kind of thinking,
that keeps human social groups
Much of the thinking that
goes into groupthinking is totalitarian
in principle, and is made up of principles
based on wishful
thinking of the following kind:
Usually the members of
groups are hardly aware that their membership is to a large extent
emotionally and intellectually based on principles such as the above,
even though it is very easy to see these principles at work in the
mental make-up or the behavior of members of other groups -
political parties, religious
organizations, soccer supporters, but also firms, schools, universities
etc., for one way the human animal is social is by actively belonging
to groups and by supporting the ideas, ideals, morals and practices
that constitute, regulate or support these groups.
Also, it is noteworthy that
principles involved in most group-thinking are relatively
innocuous, and that most groups also practice such principles as
- Whoever does not belong
Group is less good (perfect, humane, religiously
or racially proper) than whoever does
- Whoever opposes Our
Group, Our Leaders,
Ideologyor Our Faith
is, therefore and thereby, morally
or humanly or intellectually inferior
- Whoever does not conform
to the practices and principles current in Our Group is immoral or insane
Most groupthinking involves
of all kinds, and the best excuse for this seems to be that, since
human beings are social animals, there is an instinctual motivation to
wish to belong to and to support a human group.
Well-being, satisfaction, contentedness, joy, ecstasy.
There are various modes of
and reasons for happiness, but human beings widely though not
universally have agreed that it are forms of happiness that make life
worthwile. Those who did no agree on such a proposition usually did not
do so because they believed happiness is an illusion or because they
supposed that it is better to be morally good (in some sense) than to
happiness: There is a fine
book by Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz, "Analysis of Happiness" that is
a serious, well-written, intelligent and informative study of the
concept and opinions about it. To quote his analysis, which follows
"Happiness means lasting
Thus happiness has to be defined as 1) complete, 2) lasting, 3)
satisfying, and 4) touching the whole of life." (p. 8)
As Tatarkiewicz himself
immediately proceeds to point out, the problem is that none of these
four marks have a high chance of being satisfied in any one's life, or
at least not to a large extent. As he says:
"There is, however, a way
out of this dilemma. A distinction has only to be drawn between ideal
and actual happiness." (p. 9)
This is true and makes some
sense, though on the whole it seems the demand that happiness requires
lasting satisfaction touching the whole of life requires too much of
"the whole of life", for there are many chances for misfortune and
misery in any human life.
2. Gibbon on happiness:
There is a lot that may be said about happiness and misery.
Here is an instructive quotation from Gibbon's "The Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire" (in which one also may learn that "History
is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes
of mankind"). It concerns an opinion of an Islamic caliph of Spain
of the house of the Ommiades, of ca. 800:
In the West the Ommiades
of Spain supported with equal pomp the title of commander of the
faithful. Three miles from Cordova, in honour of his favourite sultana,
the third and greatest of the Abdalrahmans constructed the city, palace
and gardens of Zehra. Twenty-five years, and above three million
sterling, were employed by its founder: his liberal taste invited the
artists of Constantinople, the most skilful sculptors and architects of
the age; and the buildings were sustained or adorned by twelve hundred
columns of Spanish and African, of Greek and Italian marble. The hall
of audience was encrusted with the curious and costly figured of birds
and quadrupeds. In a lofty pavilion of the gardens of one of these
basins and fountains, so delightful in a sultry climate, was
replenished not with water, but with the purest quicksilver. The
seraglio of Abdalrahman, his wives, concubines, and black eunuchs,
amounted to six thousand three hundred persons: and he was attended to
the field by a guard of twelve thousand horse, whose belts and
scimitars were studded with gold.
In a private condition
our desires are perpetually repressed by poverty and subordination; but
the lives and labours of millions are devoted to a despotic prince,
whose laws are blindly obeyed, and whose wishes are instantly
gratified. Our imagination is dazzled by the splendid picture; and
whatever may be the cool dictates of reason, there are few among us who
would obstinately refuse a trial of the comforts and the cares of
royalty. It may therefore be of some use to borrow the experiences of
the same Abdalrahman, whose magnificence has perhaps excited our
admiration and envy, and to transcribe an authentic memorial which was
found in the closet of the deceased caliph.
"I have now reigned
above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded
by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power
and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing
appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have
diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have
fallen to my lot: they amount to FOURTEEN; - O man! place not thy
confidence in the present world!""
Thus the text. Two obvious
difficulties are how one defines "the days of pure and genuine
happiness" and next how one counts and recognizes them, all in rational
terms, next to the problem that individual temperaments may differ a
lot. Gibbon also has, as often, a beautiful and personal note to the
above, of which I cite the end:
If I may speak of myself
(the only person of whom I can speak with certainty), my happy
hours have far exceeded, and far exceed, the scanty numbers of the
caliph of Spain; and I shall not scruple to add, that many of them are
due to the pleasing labour of the present composition.
Gibbon seems to be right
and it seems to me that that there are probably good biological and
biochemical reasons, even if they are at the present stage of knowledge
largely unknown, why people, if they are free from pain, free from
hunger, free from fear, and have a sound mind in a healthy body,
therefore and thereby at least will feel well (disregarding those born
with a melancholic constitution, as also happens). For if it were
otherwise, there would be many more human suicides then there are.
In any case, this is a
useful fact that seems to hold for the fast majority of men: For those
who are free from pain, hunger, fear and memories of suffering, life
3. Happiness and
society: One reason why happiness is quite important politically,
is that most of the "crimes and follies" of mankind (see above) are
strongly correlated with personal unhappiness: If you feel
truly happy or joyous, there is no felt reason to kill or persecute
others (if you are not a sadist).
- The harm, misery and
suffering that human beings cause other human beings tends to be caused
by unhappy human beings.
4. Happiness and
pleasure: According to J.S. Mill
"Happiness is desirable,
and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being
desirable as means to that end"
"Actions are right in
proportion as they tend to promote happiness"
These are the basic tenets
of Millsian utilitarian ethics. The second statement can be regarded as
a definition of "right action", and seems to presuppose the first
One problem with the first
statement is what happiness is, and for Mill the answer to that
is that in practice happiness comes down to pleasure.
The further problem is then that while some pleasures seem worse than
other pleasures of precisely the same strength, the Millian approach
gives no logical means to explain that apparent fact, and indeed
logical reasons to deny the apparent fact.
Another problem is that happiness
seems to be the feeling one has if one believes one has reached some
end one had, and that it is thus not pleasure in general, but the
specific pleasure connected with success, and making an effort, and
This makes happiness a
special kind of feeling related to ends and actions: Any end one has
poses a desire to be satisfied, and to satisfy an end generally
requires a series of actions and decisions, all of which will have some
risk of failing, and all of which require some trouble and effort. The
general feeling of satisfaction one has when realizing an end one had
accordingly falls apart in the pleasures associated with the end, and
the happiness associated with succesfully reaching an end.
Upon this definition,
happiness is not "the only thing desirable", but merely the
special feeling that accompanies realizing some desire one has, that
usually is proportionate to both the importance one attaches to the
end, and the trouble and risks one took to reach the end. Also, on this
view happiness is not desirable, except in the sense that one
desires to be successful in acting towards ends, since it are the
ends one has that are desirable for one, while happiness is the feeling
one has if one is successful in realizing an end.
5. Happiness and power:
It seems that men (and women, and children) do not so much want
happiness as that they desire to do as they please: They want to do as
they desire, first and foremost, and often choose for pleasure, but not
This was very
well expressed by Sophocles:
thing of all is to be just;
The best to live without disease; most sweet
Power to win each day the heart's desire."
(Quoted in Bowra, "The Greek Experience", p. 92)
In a similar
vein there was the ancient Greek inscription at Delos:
noble is that which is justest, and best is health;
But pleasantest is it to win what we love.
It is not
happiness nor pleasure that people seek, but power
- the ability to do as they please when they please. And indeed, it is
true that the main motive for this is that power gives happiness, which
need not be pleasure but may be any feeling of well-being produced by
seeing an end one has satisfied.
noteworthy, not only logically speaking, that this is second order, in
the sense that it is a desire about one's desires, and that it can be
defined thus if one wants to conflate happiness and power:
since this is so for each and all, and all seem to aim at happiness
thus defined, it follows cooperation
are necessary for human society.
The set of capacities
to think, feel and act that characterizes all and only human beings, as
evidenced by human history,
art, and civilization, including many atrocities and much human misery.
That all human beings -
born out of a woman, with bodies developed from human DNA - have a
similar set of capacities that enables them to think, feel and act in
particular ways, and not in others, seems from a
naturalistic or commonsensical point of view an evident assumption
or truth, and conforms to the natural presumption that natural things
come in natural
kinds, and that every individual that belongs to a given kind has
that characterize all individuals of that kind, and that human beings
may understand and represent
by their unique gifts for language
Even so, it is
and an important one, since it is at the basis of much of the thinking
that keeps human societies
together, all of which tends to somehow acknowledge that you
and every other human being, now and as long as we can trace back human
have been very similar in our natural construction, needs, and
intellectual and emotional reactions to very many events that may
happen to us.
Where one can
learn about human nature? In medicine, biology, history,
art, music, for it seems all of these have much to say about uniquely
human properties, acts,
and the physical and social conditions of these.
Perhaps the best brief and
memorable introduction are Shakespeare's Plays, with the introductions
by Johnson and Hazlitt, or Montaigne's Essays, or Gibbons's or
Thucydides's histories. A suitable side-reading to these are Swift's
Gulliver's Travels and Chamfort's Maximes et Pensées.
Hypocrisy: Acting as if;
pretending; playing a part.
In ancient Greek, the name
for 'actor' in the sense of stage-player is 'hypocrites'. It is not
widely appreciated that the basis of ordinary human social
behavior is the playing of roles
and the taking of parts, and that hypocrisy, whether mostly
cynical, mostly sincere, mostly naive, mostly ironical, mostly conformistic,
or mostly out of fear to be seen to deviate or to be abormal is what is
best described as 'being social'. As William Hazlitt
noted: 'No man is as much himself as when playing a part'.
The basic points here are
First, in all
things human and social there is much room for hypocrisy of
some kind, whether benevolent,
as in politeness, or malevolent,
as in deceit, and with many intermediate degrees that are difficult to
Second, this basic
hypocrisy, this cant,
this pretense, this acting as if, this role-playing,
this combination of collusion,
is rarely faced fully, honestly and clearly, yet plays a fundamental
role in human affairs, from friendship,
and marriage, to politics
1. Hypocrisy and cant:
The distinction between hypocrisy and cant
is both easy and difficult, since it is vague and fluent in practice,
and much self-deception is based on a refusal to face evidence
that goes against one's prejudices.
Both points may be
illustrated by Hazlitt, who wrote a fine essay on the subject,
namely 'On Cant and Hypocrisy'. First, there is the clear
"He is a hypocrite who
professes what he does not believe; not he who does not practice all he
wishes or approves. (..) If anyone really despised what he affected
outwardly to admire, this would be hypocrisy. If he affected to admire
it a great deal more than he really did, this would be cant. Sincerity
has to do with the connexion between our words and our thoughts, not
between our belief and actions."
Next, there is the
loosening of terminology, though this may not be directly apparent:
"Thus, though I think
there is very little downright hypocrisy in the world, I do think there
is a great deal of cant - "cant religious, cant political, cant
literary," etc. as Lord Byron said. Though few people have the face to
set up for the very thing they in their hearts despise, we almost all
want to be thought better than we are, and affect a greater
admiration or abhorrence of certain things than we really feel. Indeed,
some degree of affectation is as necessary to the mind as dress is to
the body; we must overact our parts in some measure, in order to
produce any effect at all."
By contrast, I believe
there is much hypocrisy in the world, but I agree with Hazlitt that
since duplicity, dishonesty, insincerity and pretense are its basis,
whereas its ends may be as varying as profit, safety or the advantages
of another's love or liking, it is hard to fairly and precisely
distinguish between all cases and kinds of hypocrisy, cant and deception.
In any case, I do not know
of any prominent
politician or religious
who is not a consummate hypocrite - a successful flatterer, deceiver of
and liar to his followers or flock, purportedly in their interests, but
certainly in his own. And indeed, their excuse is valid, to some
extent: One cannot lead a large group of people without lies and
deception, for the average of a group is much below the average gifts
of its individual members, and those who can and want to be lead in the
mass must be led mostly by the nose, and by the stick and the carrot.
2. Personal and public
character: There is a considerable difference, both in practice and
in theory, between the personal character of humans, i.e. what
they are and made of themselves, and show to their family, friends or
themselves in private, and the public character of humans,
i.e. what they show of themselves or of what they like to be seen as
when performing some social role,
whether this is work or connected to appearing in public.
There tends to be a
considerable difference between these (sometimes charted in sociology
or psychiatry under names like anomie and alienation), and a
considerable hypocrisy in the common public character of humans. See: Character.
And that were
just a few bits from my Philosophical
P.S. My eye
leave the text on my eye problems for the moment as a P.S., to
clarify why I
use such colors as I do, and why I have, for the time being, mostly
stopped editing my site.
October 15, 2012: My eye problems
are the reason this page has the colors it does have: It is very
difficult to look at white and light backgrounds with such eyes as I
presently have. See also: Why
colors as they are?
The diagnosis is keratoconjunctivitis
sicca (possibly as a part of Sjoegren's
syndrome). It is less than it was, for months, but not as I should
like it to be.
settings of NOTEBOOK aka NB seem the best compromise between what my
eyes can handle, and what most readers like to see.
they have been
changed repeatedly, as have the links below to
change the background (but not the color of the text box).
of October 13,
2012, the standard setting for the text box is white
text on a
darkslategrey background while the standard background is maroon.
Version October 28, 2012:
Black text on #339999.
Version November 8, 2012: Changed background
(Background colors work no more.) I may changes this again, depending
on my eyes. I may even return to Nederlog!
November 10, 2012: Black text on #CCCCFF, changed background
fact, most of what is read in Nederlog is written in Dutch and - as far
as I can see - most of that got selected because I wrote about
something my readers are interested in, which means, as is indeed true,
that quite a lot of old Nederlogs are being read daily.
[**] Probably it will not
be a constant background, but it is a nice view and a nice memory for me, and indeed I do
intend to write some more about Dovre
and Norway, and in such contexts it will probably reappear.
necessary corrections have to be made later.