T Nation

Who's Responsible?

Should someone who commits heinous acts be held responsible, or should the philosophers (who unleashed these ideas upon an unsuspecting world) be held to account?

I’m currently reading the work of a ‘great’ philosopher named Spinoza, along with a commentary by Will Durant. Spinoza was one of the major influences on Western thought, and his ideas are pretty evil.

Apparently, there is no free will, your mind does not exist (he contradicts himself continually with this one) as it is merely a ‘stream of desires’ and ‘instincts’. He also spends a great deal of time on ethics, being unaware that morality doesn’t apply to beings who have no choice.

He says that understanding that there are no choices (what did the understanding?) leads you to a calm and peaceful understanding of the world. Nothing is really bad or good in the grand scheme of things.

Well, not too long ago, in a trailer park not 2 miles from this school, a guy raped a 2 year old baby. “Oh well, its all part of God.” I conclude that someone who says there is no free will just wants to get away with something. In this case, his name is Baruch Spinoza.

Ideas and thoughts, anyone?

I don’t think it’s by any means the philosopher’s fault. The true meaning of “not having free will” is not to simply excuse one’s actions; at least this is most likely not what the philosopher intended it to mean.

Although, granted, some psychos like the one you described will just do some sick shit like that then use some philosophy or religious based clause to justify their actions, which just makes them sound like an ass clown.

Aside from that aspect of the “not having free will” philosophy, it’s very interesting in itself, to believe that there is entire predestination and that whatever will happen is inevitable and will not cease to occur no matter what obstacles may seemingly stand in a position of hindrance.

I don’t personally believe in it, I believe everything is not a matter of predestination or choice as much as it is individual perspective and state of one’s mind, but that’s just me. Interesting thoughts, however.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Should someone who commits heinous acts be held responsible, or should the philosophers (who unleashed these ideas upon an unsuspecting world) be held to account?

I’m currently reading the work of a ‘great’ philosopher named Spinoza, along with a commentary by Will Durant. Spinoza was one of the major influences on Western thought, and his ideas are pretty evil.

Apparently, there is no free will, your mind does not exist (he contradicts himself continually with this one) as it is merely a ‘stream of desires’ and ‘instincts’. He also spends a great deal of time on ethics, being unaware that morality doesn’t apply to beings who have no choice.

He says that understanding that there are no choices (what did the understanding?) leads you to a calm and peaceful understanding of the world. Nothing is really bad or good in the grand scheme of things.

Well, not too long ago, in a trailer park not 2 miles from this school, a guy raped a 2 year old baby. “Oh well, its all part of God.” I conclude that someone who says there is no free will just wants to get away with something. In this case, his name is Baruch Spinoza.

Ideas and thoughts, anyone?

[/quote]

If you take Spinoza’s view, no one is responsible, right? The trust of your post being that Spinoza argued that - essentially - there is no ‘mind’ only instinct and reaction.

i’d say this is in contrast to Spinoza’s earliest known work ‘Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect’. In that work he explores what must be done in order to perfect the mind and the forming of clear and distinct ideas.

I’m not sure what became of Spinoza in terms of the directions his subsequent works may have taken. Many philosophers evolve and change their manner of thought completely. He may have done the same.

In my view, individuals are responsible for their actions. Not profound, but I think a fairly obvious and popular belief. A ‘philosopher’ or ‘commentator’ can have a great impact upon his/her audience and I think has some responsiblity for the event his/her actions inspire.

Hitler is a prime example. His rhetoric in the twenties and thirties seem absurd to us now. But his ideas found fertile and willing minds in post-WWI Germany, especially in light of the Weimar Republic’s failures both economic and nationalistic. It goes without saying that Hitler would have been executed for Crimes Against Humanity had he survived the war. Just as the members of the SS Einsatzgruppen were executed for actually committing murder.

I think both are responsible. Although, in my view, the one who acts is more culpable then the one talks.

I don’t follow the bit about ‘It’s all part of God’ as it relates to the rape in the trailer park. Seems disconnected from the rest of your post. Any rational person who has lived on this planet knows that we make choices. We are capable of that.

I assume you have done it. I do it every day. In most situations there is a right choice and a wrong one. I think - in this case - raping a 2 year old was a bad choice. Not one most in the population would make, I think. Therefore, I think that person is responsible. Not Spinoza. Not his mommy for not hugging him. Him. At some point he had to choose what his actions would be. In my view, he chose wrong.

This is interesting after our last discussion on Spinoza.

The question of the responsibility of Philosophers is perennial, and really gets at the heart of what they’re up to.

Was Alcibiades inspired by Socrates, or restrained by him?

What of Alexander and Aristotle?

Was the French Revolution and all its horror really a reflection of Rousseauean ideas taken to their logical, real-world conclusions?

I obviously have my own ideas about what these answers mean.

I invite you to consider Spinoza in the light of the religion at the time… after the Inquisition, with protestantism starting to rise. In particular, Calvinist predetermination arguments.

I would not call Spinoza ‘evil.’ If he is a seeker of the Truth, but errs along the way, he is merely human.

Besides, didn’t you say in another thread that Spinoza was a “true philosopher?” :wink:

[quote]nephorm wrote:
This is interesting after our last discussion on Spinoza.

The question of the responsibility of Philosophers is perennial, and really gets at the heart of what they’re up to.

Was Alcibiades inspired by Socrates, or restrained by him?

What of Alexander and Aristotle?

Was the French Revolution and all its horror really a reflection of Rousseauean ideas taken to their logical, real-world conclusions?

I obviously have my own ideas about what these answers mean.

I invite you to consider Spinoza in the light of the religion at the time… after the Inquisition, with protestantism starting to rise. In particular, Calvinist predetermination arguments.

I would not call Spinoza ‘evil.’ If he is a seeker of the Truth, but errs along the way, he is merely human.

Besides, didn’t you say in another thread that Spinoza was a “true philosopher?” ;-)[/quote]

Yep. Since then, I read what he says about there being no free will. I’m sure he was a good-hearted person, but you can see how someone else could run with that.

I’m curious how he resolves his determinism with ethics. How can someone with no free will ever have an ethical choice?

I know how many people hate Ayn Rand, but when I was reading Spinoza, this kept resounding in my mind: “Whatever they disagreed about, they were all united against Man’s mind…” (I’m at work and the quote is not exact)

Speaking of work…

Responsibility often revolves around intent.

For example, the guy who created the religion of polygamy has created something that has a life beyond him.

Similarly, the guy who created Scientology has created something which has a life beyond him.

In terms of education and society, I wouldn’t mind if people were given some tools to help them avoid falling into the first cult or self-supporting ideology they are exposed to before having them become exposed to them.

However, how many straws are there on the camels back with respect to education these days? Many people feel that anything outside of basic reading, writing, math and job skills is a waste of time, or worse.

Perhaps if we learned more about topics like ethics and philosophy during our schooling we’d end up with leaders that weren’t incapable of making wise choices.

What ever happened to wisdom?

[quote]vroom wrote:
What ever happened to wisdom?[/quote]

There was a man named Socrates

He would not be silent, he spoke his mind

He taught the children

And they knew, they knew what wisdom was

But he knew his duty and the price he had to pay

Just another wise man who tried to be a friend

My God, they killed him.

(With apologies to Dylan)

“I drank what?”

  • Socrates

(Yeah, yeah, it’s been done already. It still makes me laugh.)

Philosophers and their ideas are a prime determinant in what a society does. Philosophers lay the groundwork, establishing standards for determining right from wrong. They establish epistimological principles for how we know what we know. Their political philosophy decides the fate of nations. (Look at John Locke and us.)

That’s why, when a philosopher says that you are completely determined or that you are really just a ‘stream of desires’, disaster soon follows. Philosophers tell humans that they are mindless, irresponsible animals, and guess what? They become that. Announce that an elite, beyond good and evil (Nietszche), is rising up to control the world, and one almost did. Announce that contradictions resolve themselves through synthesis (Hegel) and you get whack jobs shooting the Russian royal family and starving the kulaks.

So, I think that a lot of the bad things that have happened are due to the philosophers. They released they’re ideas among uneducated illiterates, like handing a gun to a baby. Theirs is the guilt beyond forgiveness.

Headhunter

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Philosophers and their ideas are a prime determinant in what a society does. Philosophers lay the groundwork, establishing standards for determining right from wrong. They establish epistimological principles for how we know what we know. Their political philosophy decides the fate of nations. (Look at John Locke and us.)[/quote]

Well, this is interesting, but I don’t think it is very close to true.

For example, there are all kinds of philosophies out there, and all kinds of whacky ideas. However, we don’t believe them just because they exist.

No, it takes much more than that. It takes some type of promotion of that philosophy, perhaps by a government or a revolutionary, to make it prevalent.

Unfortunately, the person or people promoting a philosophy in this way may not really understand it, the ramifications of it, or they simply may not care as it is a means to an end.

As with any tool, it is the use of the tool in an irresponsible manner that causes problems. Otherwise, we wouldn’t allow any tools, would we?

Once again, it behooves us to arm ourselves and our children, perhaps via education, to avoid being sucked in to someone elses ideas too easily.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Should someone who commits heinous acts be held responsible, or should the philosophers (who unleashed these ideas upon an unsuspecting world) be held to account?

I’m currently reading the work of a ‘great’ philosopher named Spinoza, along with a commentary by Will Durant. Spinoza was one of the major influences on Western thought, and his ideas are pretty evil.

Apparently, there is no free will, your mind does not exist (he contradicts himself continually with this one) as it is merely a ‘stream of desires’ and ‘instincts’. He also spends a great deal of time on ethics, being unaware that morality doesn’t apply to beings who have no choice.

He says that understanding that there are no choices (what did the understanding?) leads you to a calm and peaceful understanding of the world. Nothing is really bad or good in the grand scheme of things.

Well, not too long ago, in a trailer park not 2 miles from this school, a guy raped a 2 year old baby. “Oh well, its all part of God.” I conclude that someone who says there is no free will just wants to get away with something. In this case, his name is Baruch Spinoza.

Ideas and thoughts, anyone?

[/quote]

It depends. How many of Spinozas books did the rapist read?

And I do agree with Spinoza to some degree. Our actions are far more a result of our instincts and desires than of logical thought.
Your actions would have to be.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Philosophers and their ideas are a prime determinant in what a society does. Philosophers lay the groundwork, establishing standards for determining right from wrong. They establish epistimological principles for how we know what we know. Their political philosophy decides the fate of nations. (Look at John Locke and us.)

That’s why, when a philosopher says that you are completely determined or that you are really just a ‘stream of desires’, disaster soon follows. Philosophers tell humans that they are mindless, irresponsible animals, and guess what? They become that. Announce that an elite, beyond good and evil (Nietszche), is rising up to control the world, and one almost did. Announce that contradictions resolve themselves through synthesis (Hegel) and you get whack jobs shooting the Russian royal family and starving the kulaks.

So, I think that a lot of the bad things that have happened are due to the philosophers. They released they’re ideas among uneducated illiterates, like handing a gun to a baby. Theirs is the guilt beyond forgiveness.

Headhunter [/quote]

This is why it is the great responsibility of society at large to educate and arm its populace - not just with factual information and mathematical theory, but with the tools of critical and independent thought. Given these tools, the decisions they make are soley their own responsibility - none can claim to be brainwashed or indoctrinated if they are a proven critical thinker.

Independence is the key to accountability. Who is the more foolsih? The Fool? Or the Fool that follows him?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Philosophers and their ideas are a prime determinant in what a society does. Philosophers lay the groundwork, establishing standards for determining right from wrong. They establish epistimological principles for how we know what we know. Their political philosophy decides the fate of nations. (Look at John Locke and us.)

That’s why, when a philosopher says that you are completely determined or that you are really just a ‘stream of desires’, disaster soon follows. Philosophers tell humans that they are mindless, irresponsible animals, and guess what? They become that. Announce that an elite, beyond good and evil (Nietszche), is rising up to control the world, and one almost did. Announce that contradictions resolve themselves through synthesis (Hegel) and you get whack jobs shooting the Russian royal family and starving the kulaks.

So, I think that a lot of the bad things that have happened are due to the philosophers. They released they’re ideas among uneducated illiterates, like handing a gun to a baby. Theirs is the guilt beyond forgiveness.

Headhunter [/quote]

Unfortunately, there is no law against idiots. People with weak minds will always look to charismatic leaders to tell them what to do and how to do it. Why do you think so many people follow the Political Correct crowd? Because they don’t have to think and they want to fit in.

But having said this, I always blame the person(s) who did whatever for what they did regardless of why and who influenced them. This is the price of freedom. For example, blaming the gun manufacturers for the deaths of people that shot others with their guns is asinine! Each person is responsible for his or her own actions. Period!

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Should someone who commits heinous acts be held responsible,

or

should the philosophers (who unleashed these ideas upon an unsuspecting world) be held to account?
[/quote]
Why “or”? Why not “and”?

[quote]Lorisco wrote:
Unfortunately, there is no law against idiots.[/quote]

Priceless.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Philosophers and their ideas are a prime determinant in what a society does. Philosophers lay the groundwork, establishing standards for determining right from wrong. They establish epistimological principles for how we know what we know. Their political philosophy decides the fate of nations. (Look at John Locke and us.)
[/quote]

This is why Plato wrote esoterically. He understood that Philosophy could be corrupted by the masses and used to further particular interests… or simply be misunderstood by those who did not seek wisdom.

[quote]pookie wrote:
Lorisco wrote:
Unfortunately, there is no law against idiots.

Priceless.
[/quote]

Speaking of…

Interesting thread. I have to preface that I have small knowlege of philosophy. However, I wonder:
Prior to the last two centuries, I am assuming that most philosophical learning was done directly either thru lectures or or from original source documents.

In latter days, it seems that philisophical ideas are filtered and implemented thru intermediaries, so the public get in interpretation of the original ideas. So, to what extent (in latter days) are philosopphers or the intermediaries responsible?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:

So, I think that a lot of the bad things that have happened are due to the philosophers. They released they’re ideas among uneducated illiterates, like handing a gun to a baby. Theirs is the guilt beyond forgiveness.

Headhunter [/quote]

It isn’t the uneducated illiterates who wield philosophy as a political sword. That’s what agitators are for.

Somehow I have the impression that the ideas of philosophers don’t carry a lot of weight in most trailor parks. But that’s just me.

What is interesting however is the crude attempt by HH to link a philosopher who’s ideas he doesn’t like to raping 2 year old babies.

But mention that Bush might bear some responsiility in the Iraq disaster, and this guy starts foaming at the mouth.