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Direct Link To This Post Topic: The relative and the Absolute
    Posted: 02 Dec 2013 at 20:12
This topic spawned by a philosophical discussion in GC about problem solving and conflicting opinions. I would please urge you to leave war parallels and stuff out of it. Thank you. Smile



The following is a translation I made of a text that was written by E.P. Papanoutsos (since most people nowadays dot not know him, let us just say that he server as an educator – on every caliber – and he was an avid psychologist and intellectual. He is considered, fairly imho, the best Greek essay writer of the whole past century, along with Cornelius Kastoriadi) in his regular column in newspaper “To Vima” (apparently, unlike today, serious and educated people used to write columns in newspapers) in the 13 of July of 1961. The fact that the article is old, in no way affects its quality or how much it is applicable today. In fact I would call it diacronical (it means something that survives through time without losing its value. E.g. Socrates’ work was diacronical) and you will see why. I will be looking forward for your opinions over this.


The Relative and the absolute

The scene comes from inside a bus, one morning hour, when the vehicle is going to its final destination with few remaining passengers. Near the collector sits a fat, middle-aged woman, which from her furrowed brow is obvious that is anxious to talk and so a dialogue with the person sitting next to her was quick to begin. The woman narrates with fervor, and so that everyone in the bus could hear her voice, how the previous night a taxi driver “stole” her. While she was leaving the taxi, she gave him a 50 drachmas note to pay for the fare and he gave her back two 20 drachmas coins. She looked at them in the dim light and they looked alike. Perfectly the same, in weight and in touch. This morning though, she discovered that only one of them was genuine and she was enraged. She would go to the police etc etc. Her immediate bystander listens to the woman’s narrative with apathy, he seems preoccupied with his own troubles, and doesn’t give much attention to what she says.
- The damage is small, he said. At least the other coin was genuine. It could have been a counterfeit, as well. Of course the driver showed some gentleness …
At that the woman gets more aggravated.
- You consider twenty drachmas an insignificant damage ? We live in the countryside and we live by a small grocery store. Our profits, each time is one or two dekares (note : ten drachmas). We are not of course people in need, and we spend a significant amount of money to satisfy our whims, but to lose twenty drachmas in such a way in intolerable.
This argument seems to move one other passenger and the conversation is getting more general, inside the bus:
- What do you mean by: “The damage is small” ? Twenty drachmas are twenty drachmas, you do not find that kind of money in the street. Madam, you should go to the police and have the culprit arrested.
And here the collector intervenes:
- Why do want to be the doom of that fellow? Maybe it wasn’t his fault. Some other passenger might have given him that counterfeit and he took it without noticing it. With the same carelessness he passed it on to you. He doesn’t have a bank, you know, to cut and appraise coins …
A fourth passenger enters the conversation:
- I say that the driver later on discovered that the coin he was given was a fake. But what would you have him do ? Keep it and lose his whole day’s profit ? Who knows how many mouths were waiting at home …
But that bold defense enrages a far-off passenger:
- What kind of attitude is that ? He shouted. A fraud is a fraud and a theft is a theft. Outlaws should be punished or else society will slowly crumble.
At that moment the curiosity of a silent, till that moment, gentleman gave an unexpected twist to the incident:
- May I see this counterfeit coin ? Do you have it with you ?
The woman took it out of her wallet and gave it to him.
- It is a British Shilling, the collector said with effect. It is worth four drachmas. So, you damage is down to sixteen. So, forget and forgive and keep the coin as a souvenir.
- No, it is not British, said another passenger who at the mention of a foreign coin rushed from his seat to inspect it. It is a Frank of a South American state. I, since I collect foreign coins, (he said to the woman) offer to give you twenty drachmas and take the coin, if you would give it to me.
The woman accepted happily the twenty “genuine” drachmas and the collector pocketed the coin.
- It is old and quite rare, he said to me as we crossed at the exit, it is worth much more than twenty drachmas …

The readers of this column are not used in reading anecdotes in this place and might be mystified. My intention though, is not to entertain with a story, but to make them observe a phenomenon that has given the basis on many and deeply though psychological and sociological observations. The scene I narrated (I guarantee that it was a series of events that actually occurred) makes our problem definite and clear: How we judge, and the criterion we use, on evaluating the mood or an action of another person depends on the way (based on our character, our education and how we grew up, our professional needs our goals and so forth) we have positioned ourselves towards life and its merits. Eight people that “meet” in the same place, completely by chance, judge the same incident through eight different spectrums. The one with the “loss” suffers from the damage and the insult that she suffered. The others see the incident from their own “position”. One is indifferent, one adds to the point, the third and the fourth offer excuses of the supposedly “guilty” driver, while the last three take different paths: The first one calls up for the upholding of the law, the second one tries to satisfy his curiosity while the last one (and most practical of them all) tries to satisfy his personal gain/interest. I think that all of us can narrate many similar happenings from his immediate environment or his surroundings. In ethical judgments, not all people agree with each other, even those that live in the same era and are enclosed within the same social values. One tends to be stricter or more lenient in his convictions, others (honestly or hypocritically) refer to general rules and other try to adjust their opinions to the facts in hand, judging according to each case; one “puts” more or less of himself (his needs and his interests) in the matter at hand and so forth. All these things just for the way of judgment. About the meters (punishment), the climaxes of variations are equally enormous and colorful.

What can we surmise from this asymptote? – The matter is, of course, very complex and enormous in size so this is not the place to even present a synoptic account of every solution that has been proposed during time. So, we must confine ourselves inside some simple and general lines.

This problem (as well as many others) can be attempted to be solved with two ways of approaching it. The first one is easy: Either we simplistically declare that only one ethical measure exists (our own) and every deviation from it, instantly means deceit and perversion. Or, out of disappointment, we can fall on the other edge and admit that in our evaluations the existence of “correct/right” is a simple fantasy and that all evaluations are equally relative. The second method is harder exactly because it needs more thought and moderation, so it is followed only be the people that can perceive both the finite and the infinite. With the first value he is confined with relativity; with the other he longs to taste the definite/absolute. Bounds as it is in space and time, this historical and social animal (Note from the translator: He means us, humans. Socrates, iirc, was the first to use the term “social animal” to describe the human kind.) it was natural to be surrendered to relativity (of perception, of beliefs, of intentions). This, however, does not mean that the gates of the absolute are closed forever. In the case of humans, the relative is not the denial, but simply a part of the absolute, in the same way the ephemeral is not the denial, but a continual realization of the eternal.

If we look at the subject through this perspective, which means if we consider the absolute (meaning, meter, value) not as something that is beyond the synol of reality, but as synopsis, a conclusion and a finalization of the relative estimations that our spirit conducts – I admit that such a point of view is not easy at all, since the human mind is used in working in a “separating” way, instead of a “unifying” way – then we might give a solution to our problem that might appear to be somewhat of a paradox, but has, beyond the shadow of a doubt, depth and greatness. We will say, for instance, restraining our conversation to a definite example ( the previous one with the bus ) that all the judgments that were expressed contained truth, but didn’t contained all the truth. Each of them presents the opinion that is derived from a fact, from a set position. It is, therefore, relative, but not unfounded or unreasonable, since they all express a possible and logical judgment of the facts. According to this idea, judgments ( in sometimes more and in others times less successful) towards the absolute are our individual relative appraisals. Other judgments are closer to the absolute and others are less accurate; however, all of them have something of the stature/greatness of the absolute and that is why they are convincing. Those opinions fall down in the area of deceit or fraud if and only if each of those opinions claims for itself the whole area of our trust. The “part” has to be explicitly expressed and be accepted and recognized as a “part”; In that case it is true. When it is presented and acts as the “whole”, it becomes a lie.

E.P. Papanoutsos


~~~~\\//~~~~

Another note from the translator: If the term “Absolute” confuses you, re-read the whole text by replacing it by the word “Definite”. Alas the word “apolyto”, which is used in the original, has many implications that cannot be expressed in a definite and absolute way by either one of those words. It actually needs both, like I used them now and it still falls a bit short.

Also, the bold parts and the underlinings are, obviously, my own additions and didn’t exist in the original. They were simply added from me to compensate for the slight loss of the power of the words that is inevitable to happen in any translation from any language X to any language Y. The italics, however, in the single instance that were used, are not an addition of mine.

As a last note, I just want to say that it is a pity that nowadays the newspapers of a whole year contain enough JUNK to choke the thought out of you, but not even one article of quality equal to this one.

We MAY live in the era of information, but in its majority that info is nothing but an ocean of pseudo-useful junk which have no other value other than over-burden our heads. :-(

Edited by Deranzin - 02 Dec 2013 at 20:21
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Dec 2013 at 21:30
Very interesting article and very well written.

The mystery of the coin is what drives the article.  The article as a whole is almost a satirical prediction of how the future media would become.  It is this type of open ended story that generates thought and discussion.   However, the writer has the discussion with their self in the article.  

Today's media is starting to evolve more and leaves a lot more to thought, allowing the readers to develop their own opinions and have their own discussions.   I like where social media is taking the discussions (away from 24 hr news bias).
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Dec 2013 at 22:49
With regard also to how we perceive the judgments and motivations of others relative to our own, google "fundamental attribution error."
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Dec 2013 at 22:52
Deranzin: kudos to you.
I enjoyed the presentation and reread again.

Its interesting thing about the differing perspectives and how each viewed the scenario.  I caught myself slipping into my own personal view and recalling elements of my own spiritual teaching (NOT a brazen attempt to inject religion).

Rightly or wrongly, we all have an idea of what we consider "fair".  Too often we judge how fairly we are treated based on the experiences of others.  If a situation is good for us as individuals, we should judge it fair, not based on how much or how little someone else achieved in a similar situation. We abandon what we would normally consider as good for ourselves when we think that others might be getting even more.

I think there is a whole lot more here that would take a good deal of time to savor.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Dec 2013 at 22:58
I liked the column (while of course not agreeing with it in all points ), but I would like to comment on two sentences of you Deranzin, that somehow ironically not only examplify what the author writes about 'the' truth but also somehow proof what you say later on:

"If the term “Absolute” confuses you, re-read the whole text by replacing it by the word “Definite”. Alas the word “apolyto”, which is used in the original, has many implications that cannot be expressed in a definite and absolute way by either one of those words."

In a way, that is as far as you can get from the truth. Because 'absolute' is derived from latin 'absolutus', what is the very exact translation from classical greek ἀπόλῠτος, derived from ἀπολύω, to set free ( see http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=13490&context=lsj&action=hw-list-click and http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=13494&context=lsj&action=hw-list-click, I hope the link works. Though not to much on the 'modern' meaning there as it was developed mainly in late antiquity (Alexander of Aphrodisias, mainly lost now sadly) and then the Arabic world, and connected with that the latin tradition : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_of_Aphrodisias )). 

In a way, your estimation is quite correct, as most people won´t know why 'absolute' is connected with 'definite' and from what it is 'set free'. 
The answer to that miracle is late antique and medival philosophy, that is still at heart at our 'art' of discussion nowerdays (more on that shortly). There were great debates in syllogistics (the main art how antique and medival pagan, muslim, christian and jewish philosophers/theologians would argue) how the statement 'man is a social animal', or more abstract, how the statement 'A is B' should be understood. Because usually, you had qualifiers like all/some/no before your A. But what, if your subject was without, was set free, of qualifiers? Did the 'A' that was apolutos/absolutus/set free /(muṭlaq in Arabic, again a wordly rendering of apolutos) mean every single human, or was it an indefinite statement that made it´s extension not clear? The majority voted for the first option, so the absolute became the definite (including the totality/whole of the extension --> probably connected to the infinity of the author above). 
Actually it´s even a little bit more complicated, because definiteness is a grammatical category, and in some languages (like arabic and german, my main languages for logic, and unlike for example latin or syriac arramean) it is verbally 'The man is a social animal (or rational to pick the more common one in logics^^)', making it gramatically definite, logically absolute (no quantifier like all/some/no) and in that way allencompassing. 

So the author is of course not only giving some observations, his thought is based very much on the common history of thought of the western world (and the problems of syllogistics, of intension/extension (in the sphere of meaning), definiteness/indefiniteness (in the sphere of grammar), or as the author uses them here, absolute/relative (in the sphere of judgements)). But, sadly and coming back to what that proofes of your later points, that history of philosophy, of the art of how you know what (or what not) and how you discern good arguments from faulty ones is no longer at heart in our education system. We have so much 'junk' information because we no longer have the devices (the organon to make a greek oun here) to arrive at knowledge. The age of the freedom for an own opinion is quite free of real knowledge (in the thense of having a theory of why and how you can know (epistemics)) ironically. Discussions all around, everyone seems to try to argue freely for her/his/its opinion, but with a very shallow knowledge of the basics of ones own judgements, stances etc. Unhappy

But anyway, thanks for sharing Thumbs Up
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Dec 2013 at 13:06
I am reading this essay as a discussion of moral/ethical/ value judgements.

Most people, I think, believe that they have an absolute ethical outlook.  Wherever they draw their conclusions from (religion, legal precedent, personal experience) right is always right and wrong is always wrong:  "Thou shalt not steal"... theft is against the law... my mother was robbed once and no one should have to go through that.  Others have an openly flexible/relative outlook: it is wrong to steal, but if a family is starving and their neighbor has a flourishing garden that he will not share they have a right to help themselves.

I would contend that almost everyone is actually more relative than they would admit.  Man is indeed a social animal in the sense that we live in groups where the needs and goals of many individuals interact and impact each other.  We accept certain social conventions and give up some of our freedom of interaction in order to prevent chaos.  But true altruism is rare, which is why communism never seems to work in practice as it does in theory.  If we hear of a stranger being robbed on the other side of town and losing everything he owns, we may feel bad for him but we are unlikely to reach into our pockets to help him.  If the victim is a friend or a neighbor we may, because his misfortune more likely impacts us directly.  But suppose the friend was wealthy and we are poor?  We might then say "Well, I would like to help him, but I have little to give and surely he has other resources.  He will recover from this without my help".  Suppose the neighbor is a miser with an abrasive personality?  We might then say "Well, if he were nicer I might help him, but I never liked him and he won't thank me.  He probably brought this on himself anyway".

I think that few people really practice absolute judgements.  Humans are social, but they are also animals.  We abhor theft, murder and treachery because we wouldn't want it to happen to us or to members of our social sphere, less so because we feel that they are fundamentally wrong.  For example, most of us resent tax increases but think that wealthy people should pay more.  We pay high insurance premiums because we want insurance if we get sick but we resent that premiums are so high because people who live unhealthy lifestyles end up needing expensive treatments.  Murder is terrible and the death penalty is no better some say, but are they saddened if a serial killer dies in a shootout with police?  We may feel shock and outrage if our brother loses his wife to another man... we feel schadenfreude when learning of a celebrity's infidelity on the evening news.

Being social, humans tend to create social rules against things that we wouldn't want to happen to us.  We agree on a system of punishments and penalties to prevent other people from doing these things to us, secure in the belief that we are fundamentally "good" people who would never want to do those things ourselves.  It is only because other people are "bad" that we need these rules, and having them costs us nothing.  We would never want to cheat on our spouses, or even our taxes.  We certainly wouldn't want to assault the fool whose reckless driving nearly caused us to crash, or steal from the store who reneged on their buy one get one free offer.

Being social animals with social rules also subjects us to the tyranny of the majority.  Is the "majority" smarter than the individual, better at problem solving, more altruistic?  I don't think so, I think they are a collection of selfish individuals who happen to agree more with each other than with everyone else.  The 51% decide that something affects them negatively and so the other 49% must conform to the rules for the benefit of "everyone".  In 1919 the majority of the United States decided that alcohol was a noxious poison and the root of all social evil, and amended the constitution to ban it unilaterally.  The following decade was a riot of violence as gangs fought for the opportunity to provide illegal beverages at a profit to millions of otherwise law-abiding people, until the majority finally decided that what America really needed was a good stiff drink and repealed the amendment.  Some states tax cigarettes heavily for the good of their people... but the money never seems to go toward helping people to quit smoking or to provide health care for those who don't, and the businesses in neighboring states are delighted with the flood of customers who cross the border in order to avoid the tax burden.  Sometimes the majority decides to solve its problems by identifying a troubled minority and working to help them, which is difficult and expensive.  More often they identify a troubled minority and isolate them in a ghetto, which is easy and cheap.  There are few things that worry me more than the phrase "Don't worry, we are here to help".  

Help how?  And more importantly, help whom?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Dec 2013 at 16:49
Originally posted by Daufer Daufer wrote:

 If we hear of a stranger being robbed on the other side of town and losing everything he owns, we may feel bad for him but we are unlikely to reach into our pockets to help him. 
 Some states tax cigarettes heavily for the good of their people... but the money never seems to go toward helping people to quit smoking or to provide health care for those who don't

On your first point, that is demonstrably untrue.  There are many, many instances of people reaching out across town (or across an ocean in the case of the recent typhoon) to help complete strangers who are suffering.  One might argue that this is not enough, but it DOES happen.

On your second point, I offer you the example of California.  You can access information on some of California's stop-smoking efforts, funded partially by tobacco taxes here http://www.tobaccofreeca.com/?ef_id=Up4K3QAABYc360kz:20131203164621:s

You can read about the effectiveness of these interventions here

In answer to your question ... help those whom we can, in the best way we know how.  It doesn't always work, but to underestimate the value of people helping people is to diminish us all a little bit.


Edited by Rill - 03 Dec 2013 at 16:53
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Dec 2013 at 22:33
Originally posted by joeya joeya wrote:


Today's media is starting to evolve more and leaves a lot more to thought, allowing the readers to develop their own opinions and have their own discussions.   I like where social media is taking the discussions (away from 24 hr news bias).


This will probably derail the whole topic a bit, but I always liked to expand on other things and matters rather than staying rooted in a strict topic.

Social media imho only give the illusion of developing your own opinion while they trap you within the limits and the confines of the particular media you will be inclined to use. In this era where anyone can make a blog and preach about "the truth", the actual facts are pretty hard to come by, unfortunately. I never understood as a kid the propaganda credo that "if you want to hide something, put it in plain sight" ( in retrospect, such a nefarious reverse psychology plot would seem quite funny to any kid), but growing up and watching the media (be it social or otherwise) I came to appreciate the cunning of the person who came up with the idea.

Imho the internet, as it is now, muddled things up instead of making it easier for a person to inform itself and reach a conclusion on "what is happening" concerning most matters.

At some point it was a place to listen to others opinions, discuss, share information and maybe, God forbid, argue with other people's views. That was the era of forums, but not anymore. The blogs have totally destroyed the forum base and now, instead of a conglomeration of people coming together to share and discuss their view and ideas in search of a better average of intelligent thought, we have isolated individual preachers, bunkered inside their blogs, putting on a show to attract more clicks and rankings. Now suddenly you have to "pick a side" and eventually you will get down into a pipeline of reading the people that "sound nice" to your own viewpoint and approach in life, instead of being together with people that view the world through a different scope.

Division, dislike towards people that think otherwise and, above all, suspicion and fear towards the "others" (whoever those might be in each case) is what is mainly being brewed by today's media.

Social media are not different than the normal ones in that regard ... In the same way that it is unlikely for Bill Maher to fill up the seats on his show with deeply religious people, in the same way a deeply religious person will not read atheist blogs. The conservative will not read the liberal and vice versa and the examples are endless ... in the end we are penned again like sheep within our comfort zone and the extend of the internet just gives us the illusion of an endless pasture.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

With regard also to how we perceive the judgments and motivations of others relative to our own, google "fundamental attribution error."


That was a very interesting read and thank you for sharing. Smile

The way I see it though the whole text is not about the motivations relative to our own, but whether this patchwork of motivations and different reactions to the very same situation can actually be combined to form a "higher, yet multifaceted, truth".

Originally posted by ickyfritz ickyfritz wrote:


I enjoyed the presentation and reread again.

Its interesting thing about the differing perspectives and how each viewed the scenario.  I caught myself slipping into my own personal view and recalling elements of my own spiritual teaching (NOT a brazen attempt to inject religion).


I am glad you found it so interesting. Smile (all credit to the original writter btw. Easily amongst my favorites)

It always amazed me how the article could have ended there, along with the story, and so , by lacking an elaboration to steer our thoughts, create to its readers the exact same effect as that false coin did to those people at the bus. Wink

Originally posted by ickyfritz ickyfritz wrote:


Rightly or wrongly, we all have an idea of what we consider "fair".  Too often we judge how fairly we are treated based on the experiences of others.  If a situation is good for us as individuals, we should judge it fair, not based on how much or how little someone else achieved in a similar situation. We abandon what we would normally consider as good for ourselves when we think that others might be getting even more.

I think there is a whole lot more here that would take a good deal of time to savor.


This is a very VERY important issue in modern times where the excess of "good things" is clouding our perception of what we should strive for in life. Many times comparisons with friends, role models, social standards and the modern society avarice of "taking all there is" makes people embark in a lonely journey towards permanent dissatisfaction.

To offer an example, I remember being asked by a former girlfriend if I would dump her if I ever found a better woman.

I understood the question, knew where it was coming from, but I am still so perplexed by that kind of reasoning and I told her so. Of course there are better women out there, but I was happy with her. You do not go changing people in your life in the same manner you change to a better TV or a better car.

The goal of a TV is better sound and image and till you get the one you like, hey, you can keep on trying to find new ones. But the goal of finding the right people in your life is whether they suit your personality and your way of life (and vice versa), not if they are the "best" (however that is being defined by each individual), so no, once you find the correct people, you do not change them because others are better ... besides you embraced them for what they were in the first place. Wink

Needless to say she liked that response, but she translated it as "hey this dude sure is naive" but I knew immediately that such questions are not only caused by insecurity, but by our innermost thoughts. So, it was no surprise when she went looking for "mr. perfect" LOL

Now this is just an example of course, but I bet that everyone of us has met those people that should have had all the necessary things in life to be at least content with their everyday lives and yet keep constantly stressing themselves for things that are devoid of substance or destroy their mental stability over trivial matters that no other person can understand.

Originally posted by Aristeas Aristeas wrote:

I liked the column (while of course not agreeing with it in all points )


Heheeh, that IS the point exactly. Wink


Originally posted by Aristeas Aristeas wrote:


, but I would like to comment on two sentences of you Deranzin, that somehow ironically not only examplify what the author writes about 'the' truth but also somehow proof what you say later on:

"If the term “Absolute” confuses you, re-read the whole text by replacing it by the word “Definite”. Alas the word “apolyto”, which is used in the original, has many implications that cannot be expressed in a definite and absolute way by either one of those words."

In a way, that is as far as you can get from the truth. Because 'absolute' is derived from latin 'absolutus', what is the very exact translation from classical greek ἀπόλῠτος, derived from ἀπολύω, to set free ( see http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=13490&context=lsj&action=hw-list-click and http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=13494&context=lsj&action=hw-list-click, I hope the link works. Though not to much on the 'modern' meaning there as it was developed mainly in late antiquity (Alexander of Aphrodisias, mainly lost now sadly) and then the Arabic world, and connected with that the latin tradition : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_of_Aphrodisias )). 

In a way, your estimation is quite correct, as most people won´t know why 'absolute' is connected with 'definite' and from what it is 'set free'. 
The answer to that miracle is late antique and medival philosophy, that is still at heart at our 'art' of discussion nowerdays (more on that shortly). There were great debates in syllogistics (the main art how antique and medival pagan, muslim, christian and jewish philosophers/theologians would argue) how the statement 'man is a social animal', or more abstract, how the statement 'A is B' should be understood. Because usually, you had qualifiers like all/some/no before your A. But what, if your subject was without, was set free, of qualifiers? Did the 'A' that was apolutos/absolutus/set free /(muṭlaq in Arabic, again a wordly rendering of apolutos) mean every single human, or was it an indefinite statement that made it´s extension not clear? The majority voted for the first option, so the absolute became the definite (including the totality/whole of the extension --> probably connected to the infinity of the author above). 
Actually it´s even a little bit more complicated, because definiteness is a grammatical category, and in some languages (like arabic and german, my main languages for logic, and unlike for example latin or syriac arramean) it is verbally 'The man is a social animal (or rational to pick the more common one in logics^^)', making it gramatically definite, logically absolute (no quantifier like all/some/no) and in that way allencompassing.


Wow ! As usual you provide a very deep insight on a multitude of things and that paragraph was a very interesting read. Thumbs Up

To be honest, my take on that linguistic manner (because the word απολύω is still being used and in the term "set free" albeit only metaphorically any more as it is used to describe the laying off from a job :/ ) was that "setting free" metaphorically is the ultimate (another word which απόλυτο has come to mean) for a human being, along with possessing the Truth (αλήθεια).

This might might be considered quite a flamboyant thought, but if you think that the word "truth" still means "to not forget", then it becomes evident that the language itself allows much use of "poetic license" in what its words can mean literally and what they can mean within a different context.

But this is just my take on the matter.


Originally posted by Aristeas Aristeas wrote:

So the author is of course not only giving some observations, his thought is based very much on the common history of thought of the western world (and the problems of syllogistics, of intension/extension (in the sphere of meaning), definiteness/indefiniteness (in the sphere of grammar), or as the author uses them here, absolute/relative (in the sphere of judgements)). But, sadly and coming back to what that proofes of your later points, that history of philosophy, of the art of how you know what (or what not) and how you discern good arguments from faulty ones is no longer at heart in our education system. We have so much 'junk' information because we no longer have the devices (the organon to make a greek oun here) to arrive at knowledge. The age of the freedom for an own opinion is quite free of real knowledge (in the thense of having a theory of why and how you can know (epistemics)) ironically. Discussions all around, everyone seems to try to argue freely for her/his/its opinion, but with a very shallow knowledge of the basics of ones own judgements, stances etc. Unhappy


I tried above to say something like that, but imho this is much better than my ramblings.

I do not know if I will live to see it (I definitely hope NOT), but things are going so downhill that at some point I do expect science to turn into a religion as far as most people will be concerned ... Confused

Originally posted by Daufer Daufer wrote:

I am reading this essay as a discussion of moral/ethical/ value judgements.

Most people, I think, believe that they have an absolute ethical outlook.  Wherever they draw their conclusions from (religion, legal precedent, personal experience) right is always right and wrong is always wrong:  "Thou shalt not steal"... theft is against the law... my mother was robbed once and no one should have to go through that.  Others have an openly flexible/relative outlook: it is wrong to steal, but if a family is starving and their neighbor has a flourishing garden that he will not share they have a right to help themselves.


Quite so. There is an old public story from the east that has exactly that theme and that of the original topic ( and despite the modern dismissal of such thing as "simple stories" it goes to show that public wisdom can in fact dig deep on some very interesting matters)

Hodja (the usual hero of such eastern stories) was once appointed a magister to the local city and a case of a stolen cow came in front of him for trial. The thief defended himself by saying : "Hodja, I seek mercy. I am poor and for the last months have been sick and could not work. All I wanted was to borrow the cow and milk it in order to feed my little children and I was going to return it. I asked the owner for it, but he refused to aid me, so what choice did I have in front of my starving children .?. They would either die or I would steal the cow.

To that Hodja said: You are right.

The owner was furious at that and interjected : "Judge you cannot be serious ! You are here to uphold the law and not to distribute charity. The cow IS mine and I worked hard for it. I do understand and sympathize with his problems, but really, there are so many people in the same situation. Do you suggest that my cow should be on their disposal to feed them all .?. That would abolish not only the law, but my property on the cow as well.

To that Hodja said: You are right.

At that remark someone from the audience shouted : Hey Hodja, this is a court, they cannot be both right !"

To which Hodja replied with a smile: You are right too. LOL

The story ends there, but I think that the moral is obvious.


Originally posted by Daufer Daufer wrote:

I think that few people really practice absolute judgements.  Humans are social, but they are also animals.  We abhor theft, murder and treachery because we wouldn't want it to happen to us or to members of our social sphere, less so because we feel that they are fundamentally wrong. 


This is indeed a good point, but it is only one way of seeing that behaviour. If you do not mind me presenting a different point of view and change your sentence to this :

"People abhor socially and morally wrong behaviours because they couldn't get away by doing them, less so because they feel that they are fundamentally wrong." 

Set the question "what would you do if there was NO CONSEQUENCE to your next action" to the people around you and you will notice that many people would do something totally socially unacceptable, just because the hypothetical question ensures their safety for doing so.

Some might argue that the "hey it might happen to me or people I know" mentality is still too "high level" on a social level (not individual. Individual morality can be quite high indeed).

Originally posted by Daufer Daufer wrote:


 It is only because other people are "bad" that we need these rules, and having them costs us nothing. 
 

Hehehe only if the lawmakers ARE serious in doing a good job ... yet not every law is made with that mentality of "catching the bad guys" that it should have been... 


Originally posted by Daufer Daufer wrote:

Sometimes the majority decides to solve its problems by identifying a troubled minority and working to help them, which is difficult and expensive.  More often they identify a troubled minority and isolate them in a ghetto, which is easy and cheap.  There are few things that worry me more than the phrase "Don't worry, we are here to help".  

Help how?  And more importantly, help whom?


Good questions.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

 
On your first point, that is demonstrably untrue.  There are many, many instances of people reaching out across town (or across an ocean in the case of the recent typhoon) to help complete strangers who are suffering.  One might argue that this is not enough, but it DOES happen.


Helping in a national calamity were thousands of people died and millions are now destitute is an "easier" decision than helping an individual across town.

In fact the nearer in the town that individual is, the more likely it is for you to know him and to start thinking along the line Daufer accurately described.

Sometimes helping a total stranger is much easier than helping someone that you actually know. Weird as it may sound, it happens a lot.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

 
In answer to your question ... help those whom we can, in the best way we know how.  It doesn't always work, but to underestimate the value of people helping people is to diminish us all a little bit.


I think that we should question everything instead of being complacent in felling decent on having "helped others" and "doing what is right" ... what good is your help if along the way someone nicks the money, for example .?.

 I remember back in the tsunami in Indonesia where I was reading some surveys where it was remarked that only a single digit percentage of the money given for help by the people actually arrive there ! I do not claim this to be accurate or true, but if it is then this is what actually diminishes your help and not questioning the ways of help.

I'll give you another example, funnier and lighter, to make that point. Once, a parent committee for a school, in order to "fight drugs", had the idea of handing out pencils to the kids with the credo :

< It is not cool to take drugs ]    (with < being the tip of the pencil)

You can sure bet that those people felt proud of their idea and their effort to "help" in the "fight" involved with that ongoing problem ... now imagine their horror when they realized how detrimental instead "helpful" they really were, just because they handed the message in a pencil instead of a pen LOL

So, helping is nice, but applying some critical thinking over it is nice too and not diminishing in any way. Smile

~~~~\\//~~~~

Wow ! That took quite a lot to write, but I sure had a blast reading your responses and thinking and writting back. Thank you all very much for your time and I am really glad that you found the topic interesting (and I hope that this monstrous post I just wrote will not kill the discussion LOL)



Edited by Deranzin - 03 Dec 2013 at 22:41
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Dec 2013 at 23:19
Helping in the best way one knows how would include showing discernment in which organizations and/or causes to which to donate.  There are often unintended consequences of course -- some positive, some negative.  Sometimes one can do good by refraining from acting, sometimes by acting.

However, to never act simply because one claims that altruism is not possible is a copout.  Not suggesting that anyone involved in this thread does that, just saying that one can choose to curse the darkness or to light a candle.

Me, for the most part, I will light a candle.  I commend those who do so every day.  You know who you are.


Edited by Rill - 03 Dec 2013 at 23:45
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2013 at 12:04
Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

Helping in the best way one knows how would include showing discernment in which organizations and/or causes to which to donate.  There are often unintended consequences of course -- some positive, some negative.  Sometimes one can do good by refraining from acting, sometimes by acting.


But how can you know which organization is the right one to donate and which one isn't .?.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:


However, to never act simply because one claims that altruism is not possible is a copout.  Not suggesting that anyone involved in this thread does that, just saying that one can choose to curse the darkness or to light a candle.

I do not think that anyone was saying at altruism is not possible ... the way I understood it Daufer made an analysis over cases where helping others is not as "clear cut" and obvious as helping the victims of a massive natural disaster.

In any case "lighting a candle" is not something you have to do via a social structure or an organization ... there are many ways to be helpful by doing things yourself and thus being certain that your effort and your donations actually DO get to the people that needed the help Smile
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