A Chinese parable retold by Alan Watts
A Chinese parable retold by Alan Watts
What's better. A Metaphysics which has a glaring fault at its core, or one which has a beautiful foundation?
A fundamental assumption of our current Metaphysics is that it’s possible to be unbiased. Want to find the truth of a matter? Well then you need to be dispassionate, logical and unbiased. But what does that even mean? Is that even possible? Can we really have no bias? It might be uncomfortable to consider but thinking about this further; unless we can be dispassionate ’objective’ view-from-God all knowing beings then it quickly becomes apparent that indeed it’s not possible.
This is the insight provided by Psychologist and Cognitive Scientist Paul Bloom. In the video above Bloom points out how impossible it is to be unbiased and gives a few reasons why this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For starters, in a typical ‘scientific’ Subject-Object Metaphysics way - Bloom links the importance of biases to our general survival.
“If we weren’t able to make guesses(prejudices) about new instances that we encounter we wouldn’t survive.” Paul Bloom
But then he takes the value of them a couple of steps further - firstly pointing out how our biases and emotional prejudices allow us to care for others. And then secondly how it's best if we use our intellect to expand our care for others, in a reasonable way, to those whom we may have never met.
In Bloom's writing, we can see lots of harmony with the Metaphysics of Quality. Bloom not only provides insight on the mistake of an over-reliance on biological emotions but rightly emphasizes the value of intellect in moral decision making.
What Bloom misses however, is that his statement about bias actually undercuts the philosophical foundations of our current Metaphysics. It would be a cruel irony indeed that in order for us to understand the truth of anything, we must be dispassionate, logical and unbiased when those biases are written into who we are as people.
But of course we do not have to suffer this irony. Rather than using a metaphysics which sees bias undercutting every human judgment, a better metaphysics to use is one which replaces bias with value. Taking this change in perspective changes no data but improves our understanding so that it's infinitely better.
It might seem strange - but this is actually why The Metaphysics of Quality supports Bloom's scholarship better than our current Metaphysics. Rather than cut into the foundation of our current metaphysics it is supporting the foundations of a value based metaphysics. In modern day language - it shows that our values are a feature, not a bug.
But all that said - does this mean that there is no such thing as a negative bias? No, low-quality biases and prejudices still exist. But within a Metaphysics of Quality - the source of those biases is correctly shown to be low-quality values that need to be questioned and not simply an objective 'mistake' to be corrected.
'Powerful people unite! Caring for the downtrodden, caring for the unseen - these things aren't necessary. They're certainly not reasonable. Fairness, equality, morality; these things don't really exist, so why should we care? Forget the poor, forget the downtrodden, they're not worth a dime.'
Ghost of Reason
This is a line of reasoning that shouldn't at all be possible. Seem callous? It most certainly is. Seem immoral? It most certainly is. But is it considered logical and intellectually reasonable? Sadly, yes. There is no easy way, without appealing to something outside of what could be considered reasonable for all people, to say that it's not justified.
This is clearly a failing, not just of morality, but of our intellectual class. Our intellectual class which allows for these ideas to be reasonable because it can't see that it's trapped. Trapped in a metaphysics which says that what's reasonable can be so, even when it isn't good or doesn't care for what's right.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance(1973), Robert Pirsig wrote about the existence of a Ghost of Reason. It's this ghost which is being ignored by our intellectual community and so it's haunting everyone. Everyone from Donald Trump voters to consumers who are on the end of uncaring, technology based, 'reasonable' decisions.
But the way to kill a ghost is to learn how it was created so that it can be put to rest once and for all.
So a reminder for all those who care - The Ghost of Reason is a legacy left to us by the Ancient Greeks. One in which reason and Quality became separated, placed in conflict with one another, and where truth and reason were left supreme. And this is why today we accept what's reasonable to be so even when it lacks care and isn't any good. This feeling - that something just isn't quite right even though we're doing what's 'reasonable' - that's the Ghost and it needs to be put to rest once and for all.
Until then, the demise of intellectual quality will continue and those out to exploit its weakness will wrongly gain. Intellectual values exist and are the best values there are. The lack of care from our intellectual class is the result of an unnecessary historical artifact that's undermining these values. So let's put an end to this and see the Ghost of Reason for what it is. When we do that we can escape from this value-free Subject-Object Metaphysics in which we are trapped and move toward a better, value based metaphysics which has caring and Quality at its core.