How often does this happen?

Someone joins the board… makes a 3 or 4 paragraph post detailing the secret meaning of life, most ignore it, a few respond to shoot it down, and the original poster never returns?

Just something I have noticed in the short time I have been here. It leads me to ask this:

Are we searching for truth, or personal affirmation?

I believe this question has philosophical implications, so I pose it in the philosophy section.

That said, personally, I am honest enough to admit a little of both… there are things I hope to learn while I interact with others here, as well as receive whatever affirmation might come my way.

Well I’m not sure if this is completly analogous to what happens on this board, but those who enter their frist philosophy classroom with an expetation of haveing all their pre-theoretical ideas confirmed are in for a rude surprise.

Now, the world is split into two types. Those that run from the experiance at full speed hopeing to never question agian, and those that are fancinated by the new possibilites and never shave agian.

This all seems to stem from the single fact that Philosophy isn’t easy. I don’t know why it isn’t, but it certianly seems to be something that the most brilliant members of our species can strugle with for a lifetime without finishing the problem, or even a really large one.

GateControlTheory wrote:


That’s a good observation. What I don’t understand is why some folks are instantly offended at having their ideas politely challenged. Instead, I think you do me a kindness by pointing out the flaws in my thinking. I already know that my ideas are flawed, I only need to see where they are wrong in order to improve them. When the wine is bad desperate men will continue to drink it. But when the wine is bad, why not throw it out? Ideas are effortless to throw-out. They don’t stick to your finger like a booger. They don’t take-up room in a landfill. They have no weight, no volume…they don’t even smell - that is, if you throw them out. If for no other reason, a better idea is generally easier to defend.

Brutus: “Good reasons must, of force, give place to better.” – Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar, Act 4, Scene 3

We don’t owe an alligence to our ideas, if anything, it’s our ideas that owe us for their existence. When my ideas betray me, I make them into a little figurative ball, and then I knock 'em out of the park.

Of course, it can be embarassing to have our ideas publicly defrocked. And yet what’s even more embarassing is to stand our ground after the ground has been pulled from beneath our feet. Almost no one reinvents themselves in public view; conception and re-conception are generally performed in darkened rooms.

No one should be surprised or dismayed to see their ideas pulled to bits. A good idea is robust enough to survive anything we could do to it here. That said, folks ought to stay around at least long enough to hear our objections to their posts. Who knows, maybe we can help them improve upon their ideas?


LostGuy, I agree. In fact, I cannot recall the philosopher’s name, but I do remember reading one essay which contended that all philosophical questions are never truly answered… they just kind of dissolve (be it over decades or centuries) although they may well resurface in other fields. I suppose what that is really saying is that philosophers look for problems and usually it is up to others to solve them (if it can be done).

I do wonder if the people who never return do not do so because they were offended that their ideas were not well received, or that this community it too ‘ignorant’ to see the ‘truth’ as they contend, and thus it is not worth their time to return. I believe that for some to propose something as being a final answer to one of life’s great mysteries it must accord with them on some basic level.

For example, I doubt an atheist can seriously argue that God exists, as a means of answering some esoteric question, and be willing to put 100% of his or her faculties behind such a proposition. In a way, what someone submits as an answer (being true as they contend) they must have a personal stake in it.

So to rephrase the question, are we looking for the final truth, or or answers that fit with our respective personalities?

I do agree that the best and perhaps only way to improve an idea is to see it challenged, to defend it if we can, and see, after the dust settles, if it still stands. Perhaps others do not see it that way, which is why they never return. And if they do not return… could it be that they were never looking for the truth to begin with, merely affirmation for their wonderful and not so wonderful ideas?

But the reverse can be true also, thatbeing perhaps people who only attack ideas without submitting their own are originally biased to an opposing idea… or maybe they are seeking affirmation for their argumentation skills alone, without having to ever subject their own ideas to direct public scrutiny?

Thanks for the replies so far.

By Empricial do you mean Induction, sense data, direct experience, or a combination of these things ? What is it about the world that if 99.9% of the posters here arrive at it a posteriori, they would seek to hide from it?

Does it follow that this must mean some weakness in them, as opposed to perhaps some flaw in sensory experience, or maybe, the world itself?

Let me put my spin on this:

So one’s philosophy should only be the result of the world, and as such, should only be inwardly directed? Hiding from the world is weak… I agree. Apprehending what I observe as being the world negates that which I do not observe (or at least it’s influence on me). And if I cannot observe an abstract, and I surmise no one could, how exactly did any abstract concept arise? It must have been from the inward out. I believe evidence of the influence of ideas and abstract concepts has had a direct, observable effect on the world I perceive, as such I should bring them inward as well. And when these ideas conflict, as they are ought to do, isn’t Philosophy at its best when it allows one to sort through them to arrive at (in the very least) a personal truth?

In other words, for me to first know that world is not full of nice ethical people, I would have to know what ethical is, or at least, have a rough idea… ditto gods, souls, etc. Perhaps you have sorted through all that and arrived at a more true understanding then others here. If so, is it the process that is most important, or the end?

If empirically, one must experience to know, it must be the process. One has to experience the process of sorting through all these ideas, etc, to finally arrive a more complete picture of the world as it is, and not how some say it should be.

Couldn’t someone posting their thoughts on this forum here be, for them, part of that process… assuming they stick around to partake of the discussion, and that such a discussion remains civil enough that it is the ideas discussed, and not the person?

And if one’s experiences lead one to write a nice little book on the existence of memory, or one reads such a book and weighs the ideas therein against their own experience (or memory thereof) could this not be part of the process as well?

And , if having arrived at the “truth” through whatever means, one decides to post their version here, wouldn’t a true philosopher stick around to defend their idea, or, perchance, hope to encounter an even better one? Thus, to me, if one submits an idea to public scrutiny, they are obligated to defend that idea as best they can, and even obligated to accept a better idea if it is proven (to them personally) to be so.

But I do see what you are saying about the nice little book and all that, and I cannot deny that it is probably most often the case. But that could be my cynicism talking, as a result of my experiences in the world. How would I know unless I underwent intense introspection or, perhaps, attempted the dialectal approach?


(Addressing to the original subject in this thread.)

It’s a rite of passage. It’s trial by fire. It’s freshman hazing. Some stranger shows up, everyone doesn’t rush forward to tell them how much they are loved. No. You kick them in the teeth. You mock them. You trash their ideas. Some people run right out. Some people stay. Maybe they just love the abuse, or maybe they are tough. Maybe they have an axe to grid, or maybe they are practical jokers with too much spare time and handy Internet access. Who knows why anybody stays around a place like this? (Well, some people stay just to kick in the teeth of other people.)

Sure we all want a pat on the back. Sure we want to get told how smart we are. It rarely happens. Or else the wrong person says it to us. Or we don’t like their tone of voice when they do say it. Or they try to say it and we just don’t understand.

The perfectly sent and perfectly received message of support and love, is all too rare.

A hypothetical…
For the sake of argument.

Lets say god logs on tomorrow and posts the Truth for all of us to consider, before moving on to Mundane babble to comment on some of the females there…

lets also suppose for the sake of argument, that god, being all knowing, will anticipate each individual objection to his post and completely refute any challenges before they can be uttered.

Would we still mock the idea (and thus God)? Since our intent is to provide a rite of passage for the person, and not their ideas… this seems as though if we do mock the idea anyway, just haze the person posting, we our hurting ourselves by not giving their ideas the full credit they deserve (or at least, God would deserve, in this case).

For whitelotus…

perhaps I am not understanding you fully here… but I can recall, as a child, believing the world to be flat. I do remember doubting the teachers who would say “the world is round”. Later on, I accepted what they had to say.

Unless i misunderstand the term a priori, my thinking the world was round was not a priori, in me, as an individual.

Nor is it, apparently, a priori for the various members of the Flat Earther’s Society of America.

the difference could be, conceptual… in that the image of the world one dredges up (the concept so to speak) for some vast, flat surface.


I find odd… I have a concept of house. In fact, I have a concept of a house. For me it is the ideal (heh) house. Working in construction, house, as a concept, is related to experience. I have seen other houses, helped to build them even, thus conceiving one entirely in my mind is no more difficult than building one with my hands. Would my ideal house exist in my mind if I had not had some experience in the construction trade? Doubtful, but because the concept of a physical thing is not physical itself, does not mean that there is no concept

What about the nessisary and suffient conditions of houseness? ducks

Of course we would mock him. He would get the biggest mocking of them all. Especially when he said that he was God. Nobody ever gets away with saying that.

I once saw a work of art called the three stages of truth. The first stage is mockery. The second is vehement denial. The third is acceptance as self-evident.

This is a glorified chatroom/BBS. Passion invites mockery. If people display their push-me buttons here, they somebody is push them.

I thought about… I have finals coming up, and knowing the destination, it isn’t worth the time I need to devote to other things.

Well, I kinda just defeated one of the purposes behind this thread. I did learn something valuable though.

thank you Whitelotus, you have taught me more than you know.

I think Russell and others like him eventually witnessed the way philosophy sort of fades off into the distance at the edges…like the way science does, too, since we still can’t unify the field. Many scientists spend lifetimes pondering string theory, but let’s not forget those that are curing cancer or re-attaching limbs. Let’s not forget our collective role as philosophers is not to simply ponder ultimate reality, but also to let all manner of flies out of all manner of bottles…so we can be happier, and do the things we want to do, as individuals and as societies. If you talk a 13-year-old out of killing himself…that’s philosophy. If you decide to have a filet mignon even though you can’t afford it, there’s philosophy in that. Look, joy and health are fundamental. The poetry and towardness of our days are fundamental. Philosophy owes its birth solely to our aesthetic longings. We pursue its beauty, its seductive, harsh strength; its function. When you tire of its annoying caginess, switch gears to worldly matter; teach someone why being racist is inconsistent with a person’s own beliefs, or why abortion is in fact trickier than your father-in-law originally thought. And keep the history of thought alive – accurate and easily digestible to the masses, so that we might not repeat needless sufferings. I agree that most participants of this board hate truth, on some level. Good. But better to see the truth first, and know it, stare into its cold hollow eyes, and then earn the right to get busy rebuilding fictions, blessed fictions, so that one can live and play the game. Pathetic heroes, all of us.

You know I often wonder if we give scientist too much credit for technology. It seems the engineers end up doing most of the makeing things work. For the most part, it seem scientist just give them overgenerialied theories to scrap for what actually works, and classes to barely pass in college before people will let them play with the neat stuff.