What does one owe one’s parents?

Context: A delightful discussion on email, delightful because this is the first time I am engaging in serious personal discussion in a written medium.

Intuitively, one owes quite a lot to one’s parents. But in a matter as important as morality, one cannot rely on intuition alone. These matters must be examined rationally, ground up.

Choice is a crucial aspect of morality. The unchosen is not subject to a moral analysis. Being born was not a choice I made. I do not owe anything to my parents merely because they gave me birth. Asserting so would be subscribing to the duty view of morality. On the other hand, giving me birth was a choice they made. And this choice does impose moral responsibilities on them. This is a special asymmetry in a parent-child relationship as opposed to other relationships.

If one’s parents have fulfilled their responsibilities – and most parents at least try to do so – then one owes them respect for being moral people. The better they fulfill their responsibilities, the greater this respect should be. The same kind of respect is due to any person who acts morally. The respect due to one’s parents is just a specific application of the principle of justice. However, by virtue of living together, one has far better knowledge of the actions of one’s parents. And so, one has better grounds for respecting one’s parents than people about whom you do not know as much.

When a child is still a baby incapable of doing anything on his own, the flow of values is completely one-sided. The parent gives, the child receives. The responsibility too is entirely on one side. It is the parent’s responsibility to give and the child’s right to receive. The parent deserves nothing more than respect for fulfilling his responsibilities. The child does not owe anything specific to his parents up to this point in the relationship.

As the relationship develops, as the child grows and becomes capable of exercising choice, the initial asymmetry reduces and eventually disappears. The relationship becomes a normal relationship based on an exchange of value. The exchange of value in any relationship between adults is conditional. Both parties must provide value, else the relationship cannot last. Moral responsibilities are the terms on which values are exchanged. Sometimes these terms are explicit, most often they are not. Particularly in a parent-child relationship which only develops into a normal relationship over a long time, the terms are overwhelmingly implicit. But it would be a mistake to believe that the terms do not exist, or that different principles apply to a parent-child relationship than to one between adults. A child begins life with no moral responsibility towards his parents (or for that matter towards anyone else). As the child becomes an adult, he acquires moral responsibilities towards his parents over a period of time by participating in the implicit terms on which values are exchanged between him and his parents.

Because the terms on which a parent-child relationship is built are overwhelmingly (and inevitably) implicit, one experiences the moral responsibility towards one’s parents emotionally rather than rationally. Yet – borrowing Rand’s words – emotions are not tools of cognition. When one is faced with a dilemma, emotions are not enough to enable one to resolve it. One needs a full, explicit understanding of all relevant facts and principles. And that is the greatest responsibility any person has – to try to attain such an understanding. The specific application of this to the parent-child relationship implies that the child, once he grows up, should evaluate his childhood, evaluate his parents and then decide what he owes them.

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9 Responses

  1. (1) As an infant, the child, in a way, does not owe anything to the parents—right at that instant.

    However, even during those years of growing up, as soon as the child develops at least some rudiments of self-awareness and self-control, morality begins to kick-in, and he does morally begin to owe something to them (and to other, rational adults, from whom, too, he receives values): good behavior (as befitting his age).

    And, an offspring does owe something to his parents once he fully grows up, at a time when their physical faculties begin to take a downturn.

    (2) A child, qua child, is not an independent man. Whether a child, at some point of time, _owes_ something to his parents right then and there or not, he still does represent a value to them throughout the time he is growing up—even as an otherwise completely helpless infant. I am not talking of a potential value to them; I am talking of the value that he represents right at that time.

    Thus, the flow of _values_ is not as much tied to the instantaneous efficacy of the off-spring (with the word efficacy being taken in the adult sense of the term). Therefore, the value-exchange is not quite as asymmetrical as you seem to indicate.

    (3) Except for those minor asides, it’s a very well written post.

    (4) Though I won’t argue about it, there is another point that I wish to note in the passing.

    You mention that being born is not a choice the offspring mades. This statement is correct, but, after considering certain issues from premises other than those of Objectivism (i.e. what Ayn Rand explicitly said), I would like make an addition. The addition refers to the premise of reincarnation, and the related matters.

    If you accept reincarnation, then there is some sense in which a soul does choose his parents before being born to them. However, this choice is not to be taken in the same sense of the term in which we understand it—as in the context of a living man.

    For a man, choice is an aspect of the fact of his living his life, a fundamental aspect. Man is effacious. The choices he makes do affect reality—including the reality of his own soul. The term consciousness means both the fact as well as the faculty of awareness. Here, the term soul may be taken to mean consciousness in the sense of a faculty.

    The usual interpretation of the term consciousness is that not only the process of awareness but also the faculty ceases to exist upon at the end of life. However, I can see a problem with it. Consciousness, qua axiom, is “beyond” all material attributes, including space, time, and the material universe. The term does not in fact refer to anything material. So, how do you know that consciousness qua faculty ceases to exist when the material aspect of a man, viz. his body, disintegrates into its material constituent parts?

    Now, if you therefore allow for the premise that the faculty of consciousness neither comes into being at birth nor ceases to exist after death, an inevitable conclusion is that there is a certain state of being that the faculty of consciousness—or the soul—has acquired at the end of a life—a life that, in the human context, was shaped by free will.

    Under the premise of reincarnation, this state of the soul is what guides, perhaps to the precision of a deterministic logic (I don’t know, and can’t even conjecture right), the next birth of the soul. Whether the state of the soul can change while not being alive is something over which the ancient Indian thought is divided. If you consider both life and soul as a natural phenomena, I suppose that you would say that the states of a soul are affected only in the process of living life.

    Since so many things that a life as a child needs so much from parents, this process of selection would be guided by that state of the soul at the end of a previous life.

    (5) Much or all of the discussion in point (4) may be deeply problematic, in fact unacceptable, to many people. The most serious objection is what I wish to address.

    Even if you accept reincarnation and a state of soul persisting the end of a life, it still does not make much difference overall.

    The reason is: Man—the living man—is far too efficacious a being. Men have chosen to change careers mid-life and succeeded. Men applauded as potentially great scientists & engineers, artists and mathematicians, have failed to deliver on the promise. And, the reasons can be easily located in the choices (including practical action) undertaken right in this life.

    (6) One final point. There is a large body of works related to the theory of Karma. All the major variants of all the philosophic attitudes can be seen at work there. There is, e.g., a social metaphysics sort of a theory of Karma which asserts that the law of Karma applies only to interpersonal relationships. Your soul earns no bad Karma if you cheat and none is looking. And, then, there is the usual mystical-divine version: All Karma flows to God.

    My simple point: You don’t have to accept bad philosophies to be willing to re-examine the idea of Karma. Re-examine, see if it adds to your understanding of the premises you have accepted, and see if it benefits you. Or, see if it leads to some real contradiction, and reject it. Fine by me.

    (7) By now you know that this reply had to have seven points. Seven is a magical/mythical/mystical number. And, I have been talking of things like reincarnation. So, here is one addition.

    Namely, that I have nothing to add.

    Or, on the second thoughts, here is what I might add:

    So, you are worrying about what a child owes his parents? Just wait till the time when you begin to worry what a wife owes a husband, or, even worse: what a husband owes a wife. Or, still worse: what a wife owes her mother-in-law. Or, still even worse: what a husband owes his mother-in-law. … It’s all Karma! One’s own!!

    Ajit
    [E&OE]

  2. Ajit,

    1) I agree. I intended good behavior to be covered under the more general respect that the child owes all moral people. Good behavior is the behavioral result of respect.

    2) Yes, the child represents a value then-and-there, but it is not a value the child has done anything to create, nor is it a value that the child provides consciously. The child is a value to the parents, purely because the parents have invested a lot in the child, much in the same way as an incomplete house or a partially implemented software may be a value to me. So, I maintain that the flow of values in a parent-child relationship when the child is an infant as compared to the flow of values in relationships between adults is entirely one-sided. The values referred to in that statement are values that are created and exchanged, not value by mere existence. In a relationship between adults, if A is a value to B merely through existing and not through doing anything specific to B, we don’t call that an interpersonal relationship. A and B might not even know each other for something like that to be true, say a “relationship” between a celebrity and a fan.

    4) My biggest problem with that is the use of the concept “material”. What does this concept refer to? What does it exclude?
    Related to the above, you mentioned natural phenomena. What does the qualification “natural” add? Natural as opposed to what? Phenomena occur. On what basis do we classify them into natural and something else?
    The last time I mentioned this, I stated that man is his body and consciousness is an attribute of the body. That was somewhat sloppy and you replied that this is the materialistic premise. But I don’t hold any such premise, especially since I do not use the concept of material in the first place. So let me restate that. Consciousness is a faculty of the body whereby it can experience awareness. This faculty only works while certain conditions are met. We do not have a complete understanding of what these conditions are. A man (in the sense of a normal living man) is a body while it is in a state that can sustain consciousness. When the body is no longer in such a state, we say the man has died.
    If you use the term soul to distinguish the sense of consciousness as a faculty from the sense of consciousness as awareness, fine.
    I do not understand what it means for a faculty to exist, disconnected from any possessor of that faculty. Is that not a misuse of the concept “faculty”? To talk of reincarnation meaningfully, do you need a concept other than faculty?

    6) To me, karma merely refers to man’s psychological state. Whether someone observes me or not, my actions are known to me and affect my psychological state.

    7) Actually, I was not worrying about this primarily. The topic under discussion was patriotism which I framed as “What does one owe one’s country?” and decided to first raise and answer a simpler question. Writing this up definitely helped me firm up my ideas though.

  3. (2)

    “The child is a value to the parents, purely because the parents have invested a lot in the child, much in the same way as an incomplete house or a partially implemented software may be a value to me.”

    And that’s not quite the sense in which a child is a value to a parent. “The little bundle of joy,” to them, is literally that, right at that moment, without involving any other thought or even consideration whatsoever going into future, or about completeness or otherwise. No. None of that. Just watch an actual new mom. (Even fathers, if you know them closely enough that you can decipher their subtle emotions.) The entity being valued is the one right in its current form, not a hoped for new and improved version.

    The new parents _have_ invested a lot in the child, but it’s none of that incomplete house/partial code sort of a thing.

    “The values referred to in that statement are values that are created and exchanged, not value by mere existence.”

    Well, why shouldn’t things (or people) be values to someone, via the sheer fact of their existence? And, why shouldn’t statements be made in this broader sense of the term “value”? A value is something (including someone) that one acts to gain and/or keep (re. AR Lexicon.) Forget people, even inanimate things can be, and indeed are, values—think, e.g., water and oxygen, for a man (with life as the objective standard, that is).

    “In a relationship between adults, if A is a value to B merely through existing and not through doing anything specific to B, we don’t call that an interpersonal relationship.”

    Here, I can’t conceive of any value that simply exists but doesn’t otherwise do anything else to a valuer. Even if someone “does nothing and sits pretty,” giving the valuer the experience of prettiness is what the effect that value does have on that valuer. Now, realize that effects are nothing but actions of entities and causes are nothing but the entities that act.

    “A and B might not even know each other for something like that to be true, say a “relationship” between a celebrity and a fan.”

    No comments as of now; think again.

    (4) Must retire for tonight. Will post back clarifications if necessary. But the problem, now as reduced, is very simple. (And, I off hand think, it’s something that I have already written about in one of my replies at your blog in the past.)

    Ask yourself: What are the referents of the concept of consciousness? It would be the irreducible primary fact of you being conscious (of something). This primary fact would be part of every state and action of awareness, including your awareness of your possessing a definite self and a faculty of awareness.

    OK. By observation and inference, you conclude that certain other living beings also possess a similar faculty, similar states. (I would argue that all living being possess such a faculty, but then, I here differ again from Peikoff et al.)

    That set essentially exhausts the referents of the concept of consciousness. Right?

    Now, take the referents of the concept of existence, and simply “subtract” the referents of the concept of consciousness. Whatever remains as left-over is the material world/universe.

    That is the sense in which I use the term.

    Realize, some entities may be completely incapable of ever being conscious (all inanimate matter), whereas some entities may be conscious for a while, and then not so. This distinction is irrelevant. The common aspect remaining after subtracting consciousness is the material aspect, and it applies to both the cases.

    “Consciousness is a faculty of the body whereby it can experience awareness.”

    Ok. Check out the Lexicon entries on Consciousness and on Mind-Body dichotomy. I have no further comments on that one, not as of now.

    “This faculty only works while certain conditions are met. We do not have a complete understanding of what these conditions are.”

    Two points, a factoid and a question:

    (i) Russian scientists didn’t create life starting from the initially lifeless (i.e. literally inanimate) matter, by introducing electric sparks and whatnot into that “primordial soup.” (That’s the story that often circulates around, and in fact was a part of our XI standard science texts.) Saying say, of course, doesn’t mean subscribing to mysticism.

    (ii) Is life a precondition for consciousness, when the term is taken in the sense of a process of awareness? in the sense of faculty? Or, is it that both soul and life are preconditions for consciousness? Or, is it that only soul is? How do you know—esp. if consciousness is an axiom, an irreducible primary?

    One final point on this matter: The fact that consciousness does have preconditions does not mean that when you make a statement about those preconditions, the facts of reality which the statement encapsulates don’t presume consciousness as a basic premise behind themselves. Even if cosciousness is subject to certain preconditions, the concept remains an unconditional basis, an axiom, of every statement that you can make about anything/anyone/any consciousness. It remains a prerequisite not just behind every statement but in fact behind every grasp of any and every fact of reality (including the reality of life and consciousness) that you ever reach.

    (7) Here, I was half in jest. Now, more seriously: If I am right about the position you might have been debating against, it must have been that absolutely third-class idea which was in our times so very effectively articulated by JFK (a decidedly “Western” head of a state!!)

    Ajit
    [E&OE]

  4. Ajit,
    “The entity being valued is the one right in its current form, not a hoped for new and improved version.”
    Agreed. But would the entity be valued if not for the investment and future hopes? Obviously not. The new mom only thinks of her child as a bundle of joy. Not any other child. Why?

    “why shouldn’t things (or people) be values to someone, via the sheer fact of their existence?”
    Certainly a lot of values are values by the sheer fact of their existence. That was not my point. My point was merely that such values are not sufficient to in an inter-personal relationship which must involve a more tangible exchange of values. I will try to elaborate further in another post.

    …………………..

    The clarification of the concept “material” helped. I will have to think some more about it but I will accept it for now.

    “(ii) Is life a precondition for consciousness, when the term is taken in the sense of a process of awareness? in the sense of faculty? Or, is it that both soul and life are preconditions for consciousness? Or, is it that only soul is? How do you know—esp. if consciousness is an axiom, an irreducible primary?”

    From your earlier comment,
    “the term soul may be taken to mean consciousness in the sense of a faculty”

    Two quick points:
    1) Soul as a precondition for consciousness does not then seem to make sense.
    2) How do I know? Because I can observe consciousness in others.

    In what follows, let me use the word soul as you propose and the word awareness for just primary awareness (excluding awareness of awareness) to avoid confusion.

    From the lexicon, “Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action.”
    I would put it as:
    Life is the process by which an entity sustains its identity even in the presence of conditions that threaten to change it (is there more to life?). Not all entities need any process to sustain their identity or are capable of such a process. We call these entities inanimate.
    Obviously, life involves some process of awareness, no matter how crude. Without any awareness, an entity would not be capable of responding to conditions.
    This raises the question: Is any entity that can sustain its own identity alive? For example, is a robot that runs on a battery and is programmed to plug itself into a power outlet when its battery runs down alive?
    As of now, my answer to the previous question is yes.
    Does it have awareness? Obviously yes, and as I just mentioned, that is how it is capable of sustaining its identity. Does it have a soul? If we restrict soul to mean the faculty of primary awareness, we would have to answer yes. Let me instead let soul include an awareness of awareness too and then the answer is no.

    With the above example, it seems clear that life is a pre-condition for the soul.

    In any case, I cannot conceive of a faculty that can exist without any possesser of that faculty.

  5. “In any case, I cannot conceive of a faculty that can exist without any possesser of that faculty.”

    Oh wow! So you did catch me there. Nice catch!

    I have been wanting to write my post on some “wild” thoughts on consciousness (“wild” in the sense of reaching out of the Objectivist literature) at my blog, and yet have not able to do so. One reason is because while I do have some elements of ideas, they are not put together right, they are not straightened out. Or, even if sometimes I have straightened out something, I don’t always recall it—philosophy is only a hobby for me, not a profession, and so, I don’t write down my thoughts or take even an informal review for myself regarding their development.

    Result? I not only remain pretty crude in my philosophic thoughts, I sometimes end up committing some very elementary errors, too, sometimes again and again.

    Like, asserting the existence of an attribute without there being an object to possess it.

    Let me also clarify. Overall, I very rarely commit basic errors like that. In physics, for instance, I have never committed the error of there being a motion there being a moving object.

    Yet, in fact, concerning faculty and all, this is one error that I now recall I have repeatedly reached in my longer thought processes (and I even recall having caught it all by myself, earlier, and still committed it again!).

    I have reached this or similar errors while trying to establish a relation between Ayn Rand’s ideas on the one hand and some theoretical elements that will admit of reincarnation on the other. The topic is tough. Even though, evidence for reincarnation is, at least to my mind, absolutely clear. I mean concrete evidence, not abstract argument. And, of course, ideas-wise, too, I have a lot of supporting arguments.

    So, the question becomes, how do I tie the two together?

    Ok. Below, I describe an idea that I had thought of quite some time back, and should have jotted down, but didn’t, and so there is no surprise that I didn’t recall (or use) it while writing my above answer at your thread. If I were to recall this idea, I wouldn’t have made that error. The idea is the following:

    The Objectivist axioms are well conveyed by a statement that LP explains in OPAR: “There is something that I am aware of.” I don’t know whether it was LP who first formulated this statement or it was AR herself.

    Anyway, as LP explains (in OPAR and UO lectures), the statement nicely encapsulates the three Objectivist axioms: “There is” – Existence. “something” – Identity. “I am aware of” – Consciousness.

    I could add that even a corollary is clearly seen: “that” and “of” together specify the primacy of existence.

    And, now the point I have wanted to raise: Why not have four axioms of existence, identity, soul and consciousness, instead of just the three?

    Why not “I” be made to correspond with an additional axiom of soul, and “am aware of” with consciousness?

    Note, the sense in which this “I” is to be taken, it is not to be kept restricted to self-awareness. A newborn may not have yet developed awareness of there being a self. Yet, objectively, he does carry a self i.e. soul.

    I had written an email about this idea to the ARI, and, as usual, didn’t receive any reply. I was a member at HBL for some time in 2010, but don’t remember if I had raised this issue there or not. It certainy wasn’t discussed on the threads, as far as I remember, but whether I raised it with HB in private or not, I don’t remember.

    Recently, from what I gather from outside, HB seems to have touched on some idea that brain (or perhaps the nervous system or the biological apparatus) be taken as the faculty of consciousness. I don’t know what his exact position is; I no longer am a member there.

    But, it’s clear that if you take the view that life is a precondition of consciousness, then there better had some biological i.e. material correspondent/referent for consciousness in the faculty sense of the term. If so, reincarnation becomes a problem—the faculty dies with the body.

    Not just reincarnation, also “normal” or “non-wild” things become problematic: even if no referent of the concept of consciousness has in principle anything to do with the material world, the faculty of consciousness somehow disappears into thin air as soon as the body begins to merely disintegrate (and not disappear into the thin air itself). And, the fact that no referent of consciousness has anything to do with anything material precisely is the reason why consciousness can’t be weighed, doesn’t have color, etc.

    Such problems are easily solved by having this additional axiom of soul.

    For there to be awareness, there has to be some_one_ who is being aware. That some _one_ is: his soul.

    For there to be a process of self-sustained and self-generated action, there first has to be a self, a soul. The generator and sustainer assumed in the definition of life is: the soul.

    Hierarchically, soul precedes life. Life depends on soul and has a limited span in the material universe; soul is outside of the material universe, and qua axiom, outside of space and time.

    Thus, the existence of soul is no longer premised on that of a material entity viz. the body—whether living or dead.

    The axiom of soul would precede that of consciousness, just the way existence precedes identity. Consciousness _is_ identification. However, there has to a soul to do those identifications.

    AR’s use of the term consciousness is such that often she actually means soul even if she uses the term only consciousness. She was explicit on it, too (Galt’s speech, “that which you call soul is…” as reproduced from decade+ old memory). She didn’t realize that there actually were two different ideas here that had to be isolated out as separate concepts. She used the same term consciousness for both. And, logically enough, ended up with an error of denying reincarnation.

    Though very very long, hope I have addressed the points you raised, too, even if only in an indirect way. The concept of soul precedes that of consciousness. Similar to the question of consciousness whether an entity other than oneself possesses it or not is only an inference. The inference depends on the state of the art of the special sciences, unlike philosophic truths that don’t. In fact, existence of life in other entities, too, is a matter of inference, a matter that depends on special sciences, not a philosophic matter. And, life is a directly grasped truth for a living being—for a soul that lives.

    BTW, I would love to be a murderer of any robots you have or build. It would be so much fun to be a murderer and get away with it! And, before you reply me, please do take permission from your keyboard as to whether you may hit it—else, you will derive a bad Karma from it.

    Ajit
    [E&OE]

  6. Will reply to this in more detail, once I give it enough thought, but a couple of quick points:
    1) I don’t agree that life is a directly grasped truth for a living being. It certainly couldn’t be for a living being that is not self-aware. Even for a self-aware being, the concept of life is indeed something that depends heavily on special sciences.
    2) That said, I don’t even agree fully with the “cast-in-stone” distinction between the special sciences and philosophy. Thoughts do have a logical hierarchy but the order in which one reaches those thoughts does not match this logical hierarchy. As I see it, there has been and always will be a feedback loop from the special sciences into philosophy. It is not inconceivable that some discoveries made in the special sciences cause one to reconsider or reject one’s philosophical ideas.

    …………
    On a lighter note, putting an end to life is not murder. So I deny you the satisfaction (why?) of murdering and getting away with it.

  7. 1. Re. life as directly grasped truth. Yes, you are right. …. And, I don’t remember what I was thinking of, when I said it. …. Perhaps I was trying to explore as to where the following two ideas taken together lead: (i) that soul is the precondition of life, and (ii) that soul is the perceiver. Trying to put the two together, in the new sense of the term soul, it’s easily possible that I straightway was regurgitating an ancient Indian mystical stream of thought (many of which hold that the soul is aware of itself in disregard of what we call the external reality, because, to them, ultimately, soul and existence are one and the same. If a soul can be aware of itself without identiying itself in reference to existence, then it can also be aware of life, directly. Life, BTW, is not primarily a process in such philosophic streams but rather an object, a thing—the Sanskrit “praaN” is actually a thing, which almost physically departs a body at death. … All that reading and that line of thought must have been at the back of my mind, when I went a bit over the board, or rationalistic, there).

    Anyway, thanks, again, for catching me there! It does feel great when you are caught in this manner. And that’s not because one loves making mistakes (or desires having critics in the neighbourhood as Saint Tukaaraam put it), but because it provides one inescapable evidence that not only is one being taken seriously but also being understood. That is important. And, satisfying in its own way.

    2. No, I don’t agree with you here.

    Philosophy and special sciences indeed are basically different.

    There indeed is no feedback loop _from_ special sciences _into_ philosophy. None.

    Similarly, what philosophy provides is only a pre-condition of sciences, but none of the contents or the methods specific to a given special science. Philosophy only broadly validates the methods of knowledge, but it does not on its own supply the methods specific to any special science. E.g., philosophy explains why only conceptually commensurate ideas can be related together. However, it neither identifies the law of dimensional homogeneity nor tells which physical units are to be picked up as fundamental units in, say, the SI system of units. Physicists have had to separately work out the last two matters on their own. (Dimensional homogeneity appeared in an explicit form as late as Fourier’s work in early 19th century—it wasn’t available even as late as in Newton’s or Leibnitz’ or Euler’s early times.) In this sense of the specifics, there also is no feedback loop from philosophy to the special sciences.

    Thus, specific contents-wise, there is no feedback loop from any of the special sciences to philosophy, or even vice versa. (No need to make philosophy more powerful than it actually is.)

    However, with that said, I must add something else.

    Philosophy itself _is_ a science, and as such, it _is_ subject to development. Qua science, the development _must_ proceed on observations. Qua development, these observations have to be new i.e. unknown to the prior generations of philosophers.

    However, the point is that the philosophic observations, even the new ones, by their very nature are independent of the state of the art reached by any of the special sciences. Discovery in philosophy does not depend on discovery in special sciences.

    The fact that the field of philosophy, taken overall, is capable of evolution or development, or capable of having discoveries, does not imply that philosophy depends in any sense on the special sciences (or developments therein).

    Take a concrete example of a historical philosophic breakthrough, a new development, restricting ourselves only to the ancient Western development.

    The ancient Greeks arguably first reached the idea of Existence only with Parmenides. However, it took the genius of Aristotle a few centuries in a vibrant intellectual culture later, before the idea of Identity could be formulated as a separate concept. Aristotle’s advancement was based on the appreciation of a new and finer observation of the world. And that, despite the fact that formally, Identity is “just” a corollary of Existence. And, yet, the field of philosophy did undergo a huge change with that advancement. Causality now couldn’t be questioned as easily, as carelessly, as before. If there were to be a Nobel for philosophy, Aristotle won at least 10 of them with his original and new work in metaphysics and logic.

    Yet, notice, like all truly philosphic advancements, this step did not depend on any of the intervening advancements in special sciences. Special sciences must have been implicitly assuming identity and causality all along in the meanwhile, and their progress might have provided for an easier cultural acceptance of sciences in general, and therefore of the new advancements also in philosophy. (Cultural acceptance, for instance, simply means such simple and dumb things as the fact that e.g. Alexander’s father must have thought it more civilized to hire Aristotle’s services than let the philosopher starve to death on the grounds that philosophy was impractical.) Yet, the point is: the conceptual isolation involved in reaching the idea of Identity had to progress only as per the methods of progress that are special to philosophy, not to those of any of the special sciences.

    The fact that every philosophy is a closed system does not mean that the field itself is not subject to development—all that it means is that if and when a valid development does occur, a new system of philosophy is born.

    This phenomenon of a thinker producing a new system is not unique to philosophy. However, due to its insistence on encompassing the entirety of existence within its fold, the impact of having a new system (if indeed is a new system and not an old wine in a new bottle) is felt in philosophy in a way that cannot be compared with, in the special sciences. In the special sciences, the scope is necessarily limited to only sub-aspects/parts of Existence, and, any revolution in a sub-field leaves the conclusions reached in other fields intact. Hence, the impact is not felt as greatly as in philosophy.

    Ok. Enough for now. I will come back to your blog after a while. And, I think now time really has come to write on these matters (soul etc.) at my own blog. For instance, I have stumbled across what I think is a new viewpoint as to why we sleep. [Let me you in on a special secret: It's going to be a whole brand-new revolution that will unimaginably transform the entire field of philosophy. Stay tuned. Trailer over.]

    Ajit
    [E&OE]

  8. Whilst there are many aspects of your posts that I feel refreshed at having read, the one thing that I have an underlying opposition to is the idea of ‘owing’ – it implies obligation and obligation implies a lack of freedom rather than freely making a choice towards something. I think what is missing from your post is a definition of what you mean by ‘owing’ or ‘to owe’ someone.

    I do not believe that children ‘owe’ parents anything – however, that is not to suggest that a lack of morality. Your concluding statement to me was wonderful to read except I would change the ‘owe’ to:

    “The specific application of this to the parent-child relationship implies that the child, once he grows up, should evaluate his childhood, evaluate his parents and then decide what relationship he wants to have with them.”

    For it is only after assessing his/her childhood and evaluating his/her parents that the child be in a position to determine what relationship he/she wants with the parents as individuals from an equal plane. Without the information derived from the assessment he/she was never on an equal plane with the parents hence not in a position to owe them anything.

  9. Philosophy Awareness,
    Take a look at my new post here that clarifies what I mean by owing something to somebody.

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