Saturday, 10 February 2018

Beyond the Boundaries: An Essay in Philosophical Transgressions

Before non-Euclidean geometry, even the greatest of mathematicians and philosophers thought that a circle is a circle and a line is a line, nothing more to it than that. But then some bright spark came along and broke the boundaries of the parallel postulate. And this was no mere exercise in difference for difference sake - this geometry has come to be used every time you open your phone. This is the most powerful testament I know to the power of going beyond what the thought was truth. It may be a cliche, but a cliche is a cliche for a reason. (That's a cliche! Self-reference is one of those things in philosophy that once you have done a couple of courses, you can't help but noticing! I'll try not to point it out every time though.)

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Another example of transgression giving birth to new "truth" is that of utilitarianism. Deonotogists have set, fixed rules regarding moral oughts. The consequentialists came along and said: well, what if we did otherwise? The old, hoary brown deontologists like Kant would say 'No! This isn't permissible!' But the English empiricists just went ahead and thought about it any way, bringing us Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Some of these ideas have even fed into economics, so we break those rules every time we open our purses. Are you going to pay for that crossiant? Well, we'll have to see - it all depends on a cost benefit analysis, and if we decide to break the rules, then so be it.
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                                                                                 We will not listen to this man.

This kind of boldness scares some people who have not done philosophy for many years. Even cost benefit analysis can be questioned, for example. But how to decide? We can't use cost benefit analysis because that is the very thing in question! But without begging the question, we can take an unknown dive into the dark, and maybe we'll come out the other end with some new philosophical wisdom!

So this is an exciting way of thinking about thinking (which is arguably a good definition of philosophy itself) - and here I have just begun scratching at the "surface layer". What rules will you break today?

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'Stop right there.' he says. Well, no! We will not stop right there!

Please leave your comments in the comments but do not make any false or misleading statements. Many of you have tried to pull the wool over my eyes in some of these comments, but I always pull my way out from under it, at which point you begin to look less astute.

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  1. I remember when I first transcended a boundary. I thought this is like the old tale of the owl and the pussy cat, I was sitting there wondering whether I should be doing this. But then I took the plunge and I've never regretted it. I'm a total philosophical deviant now!

    Seriously though, Jocone looks great to me these days.

  2. Thanks for this. I'm currently dealing with a whole range of boundaries that I want to transgress, and I wonder where my limit will be. A number of people I have spoken to want me to break down more boundaries, but other people are beginning to doubt my abilities and my "blade" is beginning to feel more blunt lately. So I might have to stop there, like the bower bird, and make my home for a while. But then part of me wants to break through. Anyway, thanks for letting me share.

  3. I think you could use cost-benefit analyses so long as you came to a negative answer. Then its sorta embarrassing like the verification principle (?)