Theory and Practice

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Gary Wassner, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. Aurian

    Aurian Dragon Lady

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    Messages:
    356
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I don`t think prolonging life is the goal of most. (Just look at the unhealthy things we like to do - smoking, drinking, overeating.... mmm.... Timbits...)

    Rather, I think it is making life easier. Many of us are stuck in our routines, working to make life easy for ourselves, and we are relucent to take risks to help others. We might take risks (start up business, lottery, etc), but the goal of these risks is to be successful or make money in order to create a better life for ourselves or those we support.

    Fewer are those who work hard to make life better for others without receiving money in return.
     
  2. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,420
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    71
    If people did not practice philosophy, none of your threads would exist, Gary.

    Perhaps you should define "practice" to centre the debate.
     
  3. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2001
    Messages:
    4,038
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well then, let's take Nietzsche's eternal recurrence theory. Go ahead, make it practical??
     
  4. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,420
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    71
    Very well, I shall.

    Done.

    Again: how are you defining "practice"?
     
  5. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2001
    Messages:
    4,038
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Executing, in real life, the ideas that are expressed.
     
  6. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,420
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    71
    Given your usual biases, am I correct in suspecting that you're making theory synonymous with the subjective and practice with the objective? And presumably thinking that subjective and objective are distinct?
     
  7. RAD

    RAD Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2005
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    All that is true, and they chose inaction because of those reasons. They paid a horrific price.

    You sound very close to saying it was their fault. They (at least the Jews) were conditioned by thousands of years of persecution to believe that submitting meant survival. They’d been forcibly uprooted and moved from place to place all through the Middle Ages. When they got on those trains they had no reason to disbelieve that this wasn’t just one more forced migration or that the camps wouldn’t be just a stopover. Until it was too late.

    Eventually a lot of them did arm themselves and get organized, well into the Holocaust, and they did a lot of heroic things. But that was only after they’d been pushed to the limit.

    From the safety of my armchair it’s easy to say: at least they’d have died fighting and taken a couple of Nazis with them and maybe saved others down the road. But again, early on the Nazis gave them a false hope of survival if they just obeyed. And in large parts of Europe – especially eastern Europe – they wouldn’t have been allowed to arm and organize at all, which makes the point moot.
     
  8. BrianC

    BrianC bmalone.blogspot.com

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2006
    Messages:
    705
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    To return to the original question (and quickly, as I need to get back to work) about the difference between theory and practice, and would we sacrifice our own family to help another. I'll be honest. No way. My daughter and my wife come first, period. If helping someone else endangered them, then there's now way I would help. I guess I'd feel bad about that, but there it is. Maybe its a biological imperative. I must protect my family, my offspring. Maybe that makes it possible for a man to stand in front of a hungry lion with nothing but a sharpened stick in his hands. It makes us capable of doing amazing things, and it makes us capable of standing on the sidelines while someone else is cut down. We are only animals, after all. We cannot rise above our evolutionary imperatives.
     
  9. Seak

    Seak and I like to party.

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2008
    Messages:
    1,421
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    71
    This question makes me think of how the USA is seen throughout the world. So many Americans have the outlook that, "We are the best and we should only protect our own." Look at Rwanda in the 90s, and I guess this doesn't just apply to Americans.

    This is not a popular outlook, but applied personally it seems to work for people. I'm still a little undecided and I guess I would need a Red Badge of Courage to find out.
     
  10. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2001
    Messages:
    4,038
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'm looking at this on a purely individual level. If i'm out in the street or on the subway and the person next to me is threatened by some crazy person, should I help, at the risk of my own safety? Is there a barometer for this that we can use to measure? I don't care if the person in danger is American or Middle Eastern or Australian or African. I wouldn't make my decision based upon that at all. But I need some means to make a decision, and I'm pretty sure that our responses, after a certain point in life, become hard-wired. What sets that wiring though in the first place? And can we progam people to risk more at the expense of their own safety and welfare if the cause is just or noble? Or is it always simply self interest?
     
  11. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2002
    Messages:
    4,517
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    123
    My gut tells me it's going to be a contextual response. There will be personal aspects, things we've thought of, things we've been trained for, things we've planned in the safety of our imaginations but, when the stuff hits the fan, then I think something else takes over. Something about that moment in time, whatever was going through your mind, whatever you perceive to be the issues at the moment, you react. You don''t think; you don't weigh alternatives, you don't calculate conseqences; you react.
    Personal reflections by a good many decorated soldiers, fire fighters, and policemen indicates that they did what they did because it was the only thing they could do. Yes, they had been trained but so had all the other soldiers, fire fighters and policemen in the immediate vicinity but they were the ones who reacted.
    Given different contexts, my bet is that everyone present would react differently.
     
  12. Seak

    Seak and I like to party.

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2008
    Messages:
    1,421
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    71
    I agree that most everyone will react differently. I believe we are hard-wired by the decisions we make on a daily basis. It even goes down to the level of our thoughts minute by minute. If we have selfish thoughts, we will be concerned only with the self. If tend toward altruism in our daily life anyway, then we will help that person in trouble when the time comes.

    I know altruism is a sensitive subject, but why do we always have to make political and economical decisions based on selfishness. Don't we just further our own selfish natures? If the incentives are there, won't we continue to react the same way to our incentives?
     
  13. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Would be writer? Sure.

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2002
    Messages:
    1,567
    Likes Received:
    9
    Trophy Points:
    123
    That's the rub of it. The Jews couldn't and didn't organize until the massacres had already begun. Massacres occur because one group has a near monoply on lethal force. If I seemed flip about the Jews and the Holocause, it was unintentional. My point was just that had they been able to or had the foresight to become well-armed, things would have been much different. As RAD pointed out, there were historical reasons they couldn't.
    I intensely distrust government, whether liberal or conservative. Right now, our government continues to grow and expand and take on more and more power for itself. Whether or not the programs that the U.S. government puts in place are to one's liking is immaterial. If you're a Democrat, eventually this powerful govt. will come under conservative control one day. Would a Democrat really want a Mike Huckabee type-conservative in charge of such power? I wouldn't, and I'm not a Dem.
    So, for me, the best means to deter such an over-bearing government and defend individual (wonder of wonders, we agree on something, RAD) liberty (however you wish to define it, Fung) is a (very) well-armed and organized populace.
    And yes, I do think that tyranny in the U.S. can easily occur. Just look at the terrorism legislation that was rammed through Congress after Oklahoma City. It makes me wonder what Dems would have done had they been in charge of both the Presidency and Congress on 9/11. Or go ask the Japanese in California about their experiences in the 1940s.
    How far off-topic am I, anyway?
     
  14. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2001
    Messages:
    4,038
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Not off topic here.

    What protects us all from tyranny? We've read all the predictions. Do you remember the book It Can't Happen Here? It was written in 1935. Yet we are reasonably free and we seem to be able to force the system to work better when it's malfunctioning.

    We have a sense of community and individual rights. We're suffering now and hopefully we're pulling together with compassion rather than hate and blame. We've chosen a unique leader for our time. And we're all embracing him. What does that tell us about theory and practice?
     
  15. falcon57

    falcon57 Registered User

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2007
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    This discussion about theory and praxis reminds me a quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a preacher that joined German resistance and got incarcerated and later killed by the Nazis (any translation mistakes are wholly mine)

    „Die Kirche darf also keine Prinzipien verkündigen, die immer wahr sind, sondern nur Gebote, die heute wahr sind. Denn, was ›immer‹ wahr ist, ist gerade heute nicht wahr. Gott ist uns ›immer‹ gerade ›heute‹ Gott.“

    The church must not preach princips that are always true only commandements that are true today, because what is *always* true, is not true just today. God is *always* just *today* our god.
     
  16. Dawnstorm

    Dawnstorm Master Obfuscator

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2003
    Messages:
    2,327
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    121
    ...is, specifically today, not true...

    I don't like that translation either. The phrase is difficult to translate because of word order. "...is not true specifically today." would be the literal translation, but the emphasis sounds wrong.

    The idea is that the historic context invalidates "general truth".
     
  17. RAD

    RAD Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2005
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    To Radone:

    Then it becomes survival of the fittest. That is, fittest to thrive in a savage society. And civilization goes right out the window.

    The Nazis only got their monopoly on violence after a brutal period of natural selection involving battles between powerful, organized, armed civilian groups - the Brownshirts and the Communists. Both sides aimed to destabilize or destroy the government, which was the only check on them. The lesser out-groups couldn't match them and the destruction of government meant they were prey for the larger beasts.

    Whoever's got the most organized people with the best guns and the ruthlessness to advance their cause by whatever means necessary wins.

    Are you saying that someone (the government) should arm and organize them, or that they should be permitted to arm and organize themselves?

    If the second case, then obviously the side with the most resources, the most people, and the most ruthlessness, wins. A lot of people just want to live in peace. They simply don't have the killer instinct or commitment to an ideology that they would die for.

    The Ku Klux Klan were certainly well-armed and well organized, and they thought they had right on their side and the government was interfering in their business. The African Americans couldn't match them even had they tried (they were too dispersed and didn't have the resources to acquire weapons). Just look at the appalling history of lynching in the US where the guys in the white sheets lynched 'em at night and went to church the next morning with a clean conscience. Upstanding community members all.

    Protecting minorities and de-segregating schools is a legitimate use of government force to prevent the more powerful in-group from oppressing and intimidating the less powerful. Force applied against force.

    The Japanese internment and (a more severe example of the same case) the Holocaust was an example of a government legitimizing the dominant in-group's prejudice against out-groups.

    The only problems are individuals who want to take advantage of the system and this application can be slow to recognize the danger posed by groups that intend to use a free society's freedoms to destroy said society. Steve Emerson exposes a lot of this in his investigations into terrorist groups.

    Emerson, by the way, has put his own life in danger from fanatic in-groups with resources he can't match. Another legitimate use of government force in this case would be the protection of the individual (like Emerson or Ayaan Hirsi Ali) from the group.

    I've got nothing against people having guns and using them for the purpose of personal and home defense. That's good. And you're probably thinking of a bunch of landowners on the frontier who band together for common defense. Good too.

    Compare that to, say, a corporation that wants a profit and doesn't care if an area's land is polluted or workers oppressed to get it, and can hire a private army of trained thugs to prevent organized unions and bribe the government to look the other way.

    Or to a Mormon Patriarch with a small army of fanatics who believe he's divinely appointed, that the world's full of demons and on the verge of apocalypse, and who want to raise their sons as fanatics and their daughters as child brides?

    As Lee Harris points out: there was a reason Joseph Smith's neighbors wouldn't tolerate him. They were free yeomen while Smith was setting himself up as an Oriental despot, complete with a harem and a bodyguard of Jannisaries.

    I distrust the government too. But then, I distrust any organization or ideology and the government is at least accountable to the people and must make its actions and intentions known.

    True, some nasty and stupid interests can grow like a fungus in the beaurocratic shadows, but the system allows for them to be uprooted and brought to light without destroying the whole thing.

    a Huckabee type conservative in charge of such power

    Thanks, now I've got to go and change my pants.
     
  18. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Would be writer? Sure.

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2002
    Messages:
    1,567
    Likes Received:
    9
    Trophy Points:
    123
    RAD,

    It can be the survival of the fittest, if the armed and organized citizens are out to displace the government. It can also be a tyranny if the government in question is unchallenged in its appropriation of power. My contention isn't that an armed and organized citizenry is the only thing that is necessary to check the power of a government, but I think it is certainly a key ingredient. And keeping the government in check or honest is very important goal, I would think.

    I agree that governments should have the ability to defend the rights of individuals from the depredations of the more powerful. However, I also believe that individuals should make sure that the government is not so comfortable in its power that things like the Japanese internment can take place with impunity.
     
  19. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2003
    Messages:
    12,422
    Likes Received:
    26
    Trophy Points:
    183
    Well, the Danes might disagree with you on that one.

    The theory is our beliefs and hopes. The practice is about context and choice, about whether one has a choice, about how much time one has to process information and weigh options, about how much one knows and doesn't know about what's going on, about physical reactions over which we don't always have a lot of control, and about plans that go awry and what is available as resources and abilities to deal with logistics. There are situations where I might risk my loved ones to help others. There are situations where I might not. And if I'm starving, feverish, and can't really understand what is happening around me, my behavior would be different than if I'm not. If I have thirty seconds to assess what is happening, my action is likely to be different, more instinctual and very possibly not what I would have picked if I had an hour to think it over.

    Good and evil aren't relative, but they aren't iron-clad absolutes either. Instead, perception, context, motivation, cultural pressures, personal beliefs, biology and other factors all play a part in both what we do and how we and others judge what we do. So of course you would be conflicted and not feel the same way every time about hypothetical or real life dilemmas.
     
  20. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Would be writer? Sure.

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2002
    Messages:
    1,567
    Likes Received:
    9
    Trophy Points:
    123
    I find myself wondering why it is that private groups want to take over the government, either as elected officials or through violent means. What is it about being the government that is so desirable. It seems that being the government gives a group more efficient and powerful means to enact the issues that are important to them. In a democracy, we think this is usually doesn't happen because elections tend to be self-correcting. It isn't always so, though. After all, Germany was a democracy before atheist fanatics came to power - after first annhiliting their atheist Commie opponents. Currently, Russia slid from proto-democratic to proto-totalitarian with an old KGB atheist hand at the helm. (Yes, RAD, I'm tweaking you here).:)
    Here in America, we've had a long history of localities that are corrupt due to the entrenched office holders. The same holds true at the federal level and state level. Entrenched politicians and bureacrats fight hard to keep their turf and prevent accountability (Everyone from LBJ to Hoover to any Illinois Chicago pol).
    So is a powerful elected government necessary to insure the rights of everyone, or does a powerful elected government simply become the means by which an elected group disenfranchises the rights of those who think differently.
    I would say the latter. In all the global-warming hysteria, the global warmers want to shut up anyone who disagrees with them by labelling them deniers. The worst want to bring Crimes Against Humanity charges against deniers who dare to speak. This is explicitly using the power of the State to destroy people. In Canada there is mis-named Human Rights Commision that, if you dare to speak in a non-PC way, will hammer you hard. It is not a criminal trial, but the penalties can be just as severe. Again, these were set up by a well-meaning group within the government. That they have run roughshod over the rights of Canadians seems not to matter.
    So, does a well-armed citizenry help keep the balance so a government doesn't think that it can do as it pleases without consequence? I certainly think it can and does, but as RAD said, groups that organize can also seek to destablize ta government that is otherwise fairly benign.