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“Up yours, Procrastination!”

Well what do you know? I’m back. “Why so soon?” you may ask. Well I have this really bad characteristic that seems to be ingrained into my very being. I procrastinate. A lot. I’ll put off just about anything if I get the mind to do so. When I’m not procrastinating, I’m getting things done at a speed that would make molasses feel like Michael Johnson. This is most evident in my school work. I absolutely will not do anything relate to college work/assignments/research until the very last possible minute.

This is the week before Finals and I planned on, once again, getting either nothing done or moving slowly. Turns out, I got this wild hair up my ass to finally get everything done ahead of time. For example, instead of waiting until today to do an 8 page paper that had to be submitted by midnight, I did it yesterday. I also did all of my other assignments early this week as well which means I suddenly have nothing but free time on my hands (other than working on video, which I don’t consider “work”).

See this dude? He’s Augustine of Hippo. He’s the architect of all of Western Christian thought for the past 1500 years. I’m in a debate this coming Monday and as a representative of Cicero, I had to find a way to dismantle the entire logic behind Augustine’s system. I found it…I think, in a philosopher named Adorno that I studied in my Film Theory class. Can film theory sucker punch Christian philosophical structure? We’ll see on Monday….

Anyway, expect daily updates to Dead Lantern to resume in short order.

13 Comments

  • Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I think you just have bad follow-through. Even when you propose to not post for two weeks, you can’t follow through on it :)

    Please share, after your class is done, your line of thought on Adorno (with whom I’m completely unfamiliar). I’d be interested to hear what you’ve come up with.

    Highbrow!

  • MaT
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Essentially what it comes down to is the fact that Augustine bases all of Christian philosophy on a dialectical system. In Laymen’s Terms: a binary “yes” or “no” type system.

    A dialectical system is designed by its very nature to trap an opponent within it who says “No” and rejects it. All avenues of logical thought for the skeptic end up right back where Augustine wants: a “Yes” answer. Thereby “proving” by logical means a presupposed Truth. Augustine argues that this truth is God, but the dialectical system can be applied to just about anything and since Plato invented it, and Plato is essentially the foundation for ALL of Western thought, Augustine applied Platonic philosophy to Christianity in order to prove the existence of God etc. Augustine wrote this book called The City of God which became the standard interpretation of Christian philosophy for Catholicism and Protestantism. Basically, all of your beliefs and outlooks and opinions of Christianity were argued by Augustine first.

    But since he uses a dialectical system, the question then becomes: how does one, or CAN one, remove themselves from this sort of system? Because saying “No” to it is exactly what it wants. So if you can’t say “no” because Augustine will trap you with his logic, then you’ve got to find another way of dealing with dialectical philosophy.

    That’s where film theorists come in. Many have argued that the notion that there is simply one, and only one, way of thinking is ludicrous. Adorno, Foucault, and others have argued that the way around dialectics is not to engage it, but rather to find a way around it. Acknowledge its existence, but basically “don’t play its game”. The famous example of this is the Bartleby the Scrivener wherein Bartleby refuses to say “No” to anybody. Instead, he just says “I prefer not to”, which causes everyone around him to be unable to muster a response. In other words, dialectics has no way to confront this type of thinking.

    Sooooo….long story short, the way that Cicero and the skeptics would deal with Augustine is to not directly engage dialectics at all because to do so would force them into a corner they can’t escape. Rather, they would not deal with it at all and basically go around it. And therein lies the key. The only thing that a skeptic needs to show in order to disprove Augustine’s philosophical system is that another system can exist. If the skeptic can force Augustine into a stalemate, then the skeptic has won. Many film theorists of the 20th century used this not to confront Christian philosophy, but rather in regards to how film works and operates. I want to apply those ideas to Cicero in the debate.

    This all really gets back to Plato and Aristotle. Plato argued that a presupposed truth DOES exist, whereas Aristotle said it did not. Therefore, Christian thinkers naturally went with neo-platonic thought whereas the skeptics sided with Aristotle.

    That’s it in a nutshell :) It’s fascinating stuff. I’ll let you know how the debate goes

  • Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I think the problem (not really a problem, per se, but a crack in the line of thought) is that you haven’t proven anything there.

    If Augustine’s thought is that there is a dialectical “Yes, it’s so” versus a “No, it’s not” … and then someone else says, in answer to that, “I believe there is a third option, and maybe even a fourth or fifth!” … that doesn’t really disprove the idea that Augustine had. It just indicates that people can be free thinkers. That’s a good thing; I hope we’re all free thinkers.

    But we can think a lot of things, that doesn’t make them so.

    So if the debate you’re having is about the different ways that people can think about things… I’m fine with the idea that people can think in nearly countless different ways, practically to the point where each individual human being has their own unique way of thinking.

    But if the debate you’re having is to prove or disprove whether one way of thinking is superior to another, or whether one gets a person closer to the Truth (with a capital “T”) than another… well, it’s bed time right now; I’ll think about it more tomorrow :D

  • MaT
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    The problem is that part of Augustine’s argument is that his approach is the ONLY way. There is no other way to think, because, the Truth is God and the only way to reach that Truth is by dialectic philosophy.

    The only thing the skeptic has to do is prove that there is a different non-dialectic path that leads to Truth being impossible to know, and the skeptic has won.

    The onus is on the person claiming to have the correct answer to prove it. That’s why Aristotle was so famous. Someone would give this great philosophical, logical thing and he would shoot it down with a counterargument that goes against whatever that person was arguing for, therefore rendering it silly and foolish.

  • Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I think if a person claims to know the way to Truth/God, and they are personally satisfied with what they believe and with their system of thought, then for someone else to come along and say “Actually, I think there’s another way you could look at things.” …

    That second person has a tough row to hoe. You say the onus is on the first person to prove that they actually do know the Truth. However, from their perspective they already know the truth and they would place the onus on the second person, to prove that they are wrong.

    Ultimately neither side can prove categorically, using physical evidence, that they are right. A person’s inability to prove that they know Truth/God is essentially the same as the opponent’s inability to DISprove that the first person knows Truth/God. You may posit that inability to prove is philosophically distinct from inability to DISprove – and if we were sitting on a criminal jury I might agree with you. However, in matters of Truth/God it’s a different situation.

  • Posted May 1, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    This has nothing to do with “physical evidence”. It has everything to do with philosophical logic systems.

    If Augustine attacks Cicero for being wrong logically, then Augustine, as the respondent to Cicero must prove that the skeptic’s system is impossible. Augustine claims he can do this. So if Cicero, in his response, shows categorically that Augustine has not achieved what he set out to do, well then the game is over and Cicero has won.

    You see, Cicero’s entire argument is that you cannot know truth and he set out this argument a couple hundred years before Augustine. Augustine writes his response because he is a Christian. If he follows what Cicero says, then Christianity is completely pointless so he needs a way to defend his religion. Therefore he comes up with his own system to explain it. But because he is a Christian, he cannot acknowledge that there can be a separate system, i.e. a Ciceronian way of looking at things. That’s just an impossibility for Augustine.

    That’s the reason why all a skeptic needs to do is find a counterargument that nullifies their opponent. A true skeptic believes that it is impossible to know the truth of anything, so when someone comes along claiming to know what that truth is, then all the skeptic has to do is find a way to show it is wrong. That can either be by playing the system against itself, or finding another system altogether.

    In either case, Augustine’s logic is shown to be foolish. To Cicero, God has nothing to do with it. Augustine is simply transposing Plato’s ideal onto the Christian ideal, which is God. Cicero is saying “that doesn’t make any sense. Christian philosophy is just Plato by another name and I’ve already defeated Plato”

  • Posted May 2, 2008 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    That’s back to allowing different people to develop their own ways of thinking, and that’s fine with me. A question, though… If Cicero (and I haven’t studied any of these guys; I’m just speaking to the philosophy of Jeff) proposed that there is no truth… isn’t that proposition itself a singular truth?

    A person says “There is no absolute truth.” To which another person responds “Are you absolutely sure?”

    All of this is contained inside of individual people’s minds. There is no “winning” on either side. When you say “All he has to do is find a way to show it is wrong…” – that’s all just thought inside of mens’ heads. You’re simply left with two different men with two different ways of thinking about things. Which isn’t far-fetched at all, to me. If there are six billion people on earth, I could believe that each and every one of them might have a unique way of thinking about Truth.

    So I gather you’re debating the validity of Augustine’s assertion that everything had to be binary? In matters of we people just walking around in life, I don’t think that anyone has to adhere to that style of thought.

    If the debate is saying: “No, Augustine, I believe that more styles of thought than just this one are available to people.” Then I would certainly agree with you.

    But if you tack onto the end of that “…therefore there is no absolute truth.” – then I would disagree with you because that’s impossible to prove.

  • MaT
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I think, I’m not sure, but I think Cicero would argue that the very fact that his answer is a paradox is proof that truth does not exist. Precisely because of its contradictory nature, that in and of itself is proof that you cannot know what truth is. In other words, truth is impossible to know because a paradox makes it impossible.

    Remember, Augustine relies on the fact that truth HAS to exist in order for Christianity to even work. All Cicero has to do is show that truth can’t exist, that it is an “illusion” in his words.

    You see, that’s exactly what Cicero wants: to show that something is impossible to prove. Because if something is impossible to prove, then how can Augustine claim to know what Truth is?

    Cicero would basically say “fine, have your funny little way of thinking. I don’t mind. But I’ve just proved it logically irrelevant and therefore proved how truth is an illusion”.

    smart fella, that Cicero :)

  • Posted May 2, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    “Precisely because of its contradictory nature, that in and of itself is proof that you cannot know what truth is. In other words, truth is impossible to know because a paradox makes it impossible.”

    That’s not intellectually satisfying, to me. That’s one guy setting up a premise that he likes and claiming that the mere fact that, in his own mind, he has satisfied himself should mean that others should also be satisfied by it. To be fair, I can see how the other side’s argument may not be very satisfying, either.

    Cicero’s line of argument, as I understand your summary of it, is assuming that man’s reason is the highest authority. When the existence of the Christian God is one of the chief points of debate… then to believe that such a god exists is to believe there is a higher authority than man’s reason.

    And even in less spiritual/metaphysical terms, the assertion that it’s impossible to know truth seems sort of goofy and weak-minded (though I realize many would assert just the opposite). I mean, say you go jump off of a tall building… there are some true things that are absolutely going to happen. Truths exist.

  • MaT
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Whether or not it is “Intellectually satisfying” to you is not the point :)

    Also remember that Cicero was not talking about the Christian God when he was writing on skepticism. Augustine had to force God into the equation after the fact. Cicero successfully dismantled Plato, and since Augustine wanted to use Plato as the template, he had to respond to Cicero’s criticism if he wanted to make Christianity work.

    As for truths existing…I once saw video of a skydiver who slammed into the ground when his chute didn’t open…and lived :)

    It’s a completely different tangent but Cicero deals with these “obvious truths” pretty handily. It’s got a lot of stuff to do with illusions and the “reality” we perceive with our senses, i.e. katalepsis, cannot be trusted. For example, I could give you a logical mathematical reason for why an arrow shot from a bow never actually hits its target :)

    it’s crazy stuff

  • Posted May 2, 2008 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Well isn’t that a huge problem with the whole premise of the debate? If one thinker (Augustine) is philosophizing re: Truth in relation to God, while Cicero, as you say, was not talking about the Christian God at all in his writing… then the two men are talking about very, very different things and it doesn’t really work to pit them against each other.

    It would be like saying, “The Boston Red Sox won the World Series, so they are superior athletes compared to the New England Patriots, who lost their championship game.”

    You’re talking about two very different situations there, so different that the comparison flat-out doesn’t work. To compare one philosopher who was explicitly talking about an omnipotent God-figure, versus another philosopher who wasn’t talking about an omnipotent God-figure… it’s apples and oranges.

    I’ve heard of the “never hits the target” thing. Basically, you can halve the distance between projectile and target an infinite number of times and there will always be some amount of distance, however small, between the two so a person could say, mathematically, the two items will never touch.

    It’s a cute demonstration of math but it’s meaningless in the practical world. If we ask a physics professor about it, rather than a philosopher, they might explain it in a different way.

    If you’d ever like to give it a try, I’ll be happy to shoot at you :)

  • Posted May 3, 2008 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    No, it’s not apples to oranges, because Augustine’s entire point is to confront Cicero. He spent a chunk of his life trying to prove Cicero and skepticism are wrong. The man who created the way you think of Christianity surely didn’t think it was “apples to oranges” :)

    Maybe I didn’t make this clear, I’ll try again: Plato believed that truth existed. Aristotle did not. Cicero, through skepticism, proved that truth, at the very least, one can not know truth.

    Fast forward a couple hundred years. Christianity is now a fledgling movement. But there isn’t any big thinker to set the Christian philosophical system into place. In comes Augustine, a recently converted pagan. Being the thinker that he is, he quickly realizes that Christianity has a major problem: Cicero. Cicero has apparently proved that one cannot know truth. Christianity is based on Plato, and it kinda HAS to agree that one can know truth, because for a Chrstian, truth is not Plato’s ideal, but rather God, so it is immediately at odds with Cicero.

    So imagine Plato’s “truth” transposed as the Christian God and you’ve got the general idea. Now of course, if Cicero were alive, he’d say this whole Christian thing was ridiculous because “um, I’ve already solved this problem. Ask the Stoics sometime”.

    So Augustin feels it is absolutely imperative to prove that truth does exist and that one can indeed know it, otherwise Christianity is no better logically than the old Roman religion that Cicero dismantled. So Augustine’s entire goal is to prove Cicero wrong and show that truth is only attained through Christ etc. etc.

    Unfortunately, Cicero’s strategy is easy: take apart the logical system Augustine is using not by saying it is wrong, but rather by giving him his argument, while showing that Cicero’s can be just as valid. If Cicero can prove that his system is just as valid, well then Augustine loses because he’s the one saying nothing else can work.

    That’s the beauty of skepticism: you don’t tell your opponent that he’s wrong, you just show him that you are right as well, thereby crushing their argument that they know the real truth. Because there can’t be more than one truth from Augustine’s perspective :)

    As for the arrow, it’s all about illusion baby. You can’t trust your senses! :)

  • Posted May 3, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Then I would disagree with Augustine’s need to prove his position on Truth/God in the way that he apparently wanted to. When you say, repeatedly, that Cicero proved that truth is unknowable… you’re saying that as if it’s a law, set in stone. This is highly presumptuous! I am not satisfied by a guy who, from your summaries, is basically saying to me “Nuh uh.”

    Your taking on of Cicero’s idea as “the right one” (as “truth”, most ironically) is wholly arbitrary. It’s simple preference, like choosing Juicy Fruit chewing gum over DoubleMint gum.

    A skeptic can walk around with his dick in his hand (no offense :) ) claiming that “there is no truth!” but that doesn’t satisfy man’s thoughts or feelings. That’s why I said a few posts up that the skeptic has a tough row to hoe when trying to convince someone who does believe in an accessible truth. I would say to the skeptic: “Your idea does not satisfy me, what do I stand to gain from taking on your way of thinking? How does my life possibly become any better by becoming skeptical on these issues?”

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