Notes on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness -- Phil A231

William Jamison - Instructor

Skepticism and Certainty

Games: I think the metaphor of language games is excellent. I certainly use it often, though when I am engaged in a game that is not about the language being used I do not think in those terms.

For example, while I am trying to accomplish something -- shopping maybe -- it would be distracting to try to think about the various language games around me especially if I am in a hurry.

But if I am present at a discussion the metaphor of language games is most often very useful.

Logic seems an absolute requirement when using language regardless of which game you are playing. There are issues associated with the flow of terms into their opposites (say with Hegel and Heraclitus) but I think those issues can be resolved by stipulating that the terms are not identical from use to use. But we often do not discuss the logic in our communications, even though they must be logical to be successful, since "logic" is a set of language games in its own right. We take courses in logic and learn the appropriate vocabulary to the games played that are part of logic.

Thus we can interpret various games as being applicable to other games (Game theory!) even though those games are not part of the game being played. There are some that do not do this. Playing basketball does not offer me opportunities to apply parts of it to soccer. I can talk about both balls being round and the nets are different. The rules are different. But for the most part this sort of thing strikes me as "game language" -- comparing games.

But talk about language and logic is applicable to any use of language. It seems applicable even to the language game of language games and logic. This certainly can get into the issue of sets within sets or sets that are members of themselves and all the paradoxes that brings up.

With regard to class: I am sure that the metaphor of language games is applicable to what we do in a class room environment. There are certainly rules of the game. There are various paradigms of how the game can be played successfully. But I am assuming there could be a concern that I say various things at various times not because I believe them but because I am trying to stimulate thinking. My response to this issue: for the most part I think I make it clear when I am presenting a particular author's view rather than my own. In a course such as this I should present a variety of views -- since being aware of that variety is part of knowing the subject. Since I may not agree with all of the views, but want the views to be seriously considered anyway -- in all fairness to the author and in recognition of my own fallibility -- I may avoid taking issue with the view as I present it. I am also in agreement with the outline of reflective thinking stages and so find it appropriate to aim at various stages as I understand the need for a particular audience. I think ignoring these stages (or at least some interpretation of them) leads to failure to communicate to the audience. In that sense, a view I might present might not be as complete as it will be later. It has to progress from stage to stage.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We take this to mean that each person may find something beautiful regardless of what others think about it. Have a look at this photo I took of "Loon Woman" at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art .

Beauty in some respects is a matter of personal taste. Certainly this is true in some respects. I may like apple pie and you might not like it, or at least not like it as much  as pumpkin pie. But this is taken too far when we mean that there are no standards of beauty or goodness. My biology is remarkably similar to all other humans (and even non-human primates) and this biological nature dictates more than most people imagine.

For example, we have discussed sexual attraction. It has been only recently that we have discovered pheromones and realized their significance. Some still argue that human beings are not as influenced by pheromones as other mammals but today this seems to place the burden of proof on those who discount our mammalian characteristics. What have we learned?

Links to pheromone sites here.

Female mammals spread pheromones in the air and these communicate to others. This has been interpreted to explain how females that group together after being apart at first may have different cycles but after a few months mostly have cycles together. (Evolutionary psychologists argue this might have been to prevent dominant males from impregnating too many females at once which would be a burden on the group.) It does show that pheromones travel through the air and effect other females. It is also clear with other mammals that females communicate estrus to males. Everyone should be familiar with the attraction female dogs have to male dogs when they are in heat. The message "I am fertile" is sent via the air to the male's nose. We also now know where the receptors for pheromones in the male nose are located -- they are at the closest point to the brain possible -- which gives some idea of their evolutionary importance. Males that got the message first and got there first where the ones most likely to reproduce.

But males (and females) are oblivious to pheromones. They are odorless. (Granted recent pharmaceutical companies are using variations on (not testosterone) to create colognes for men that are supposed to be rather strong -- musky?)

The connection to "the pill" here is rather important: a study quoted by Lionel Tiger (The Decline of Males) concerning the use of the Norplant* with primates discovered that males were not attracted to females using the Norplant and shifted their attentions to other females. When those Norplants finished their 3 month use and Norplants were inserted in the new favorites the males immediately returned their attentions to the original favorites and dumped the new favorites. In some way the males were able to tell that the females were not fertile and they were only attracted to the ones that were.

In a later portion of the same study when Norplants were inserted in all the females of the group the males went crazy and did not mate with any of the females.

Assume that there are differences in humans. We bath more often especially in 1st world urban environments. This is not for health reasons but because we do not want to be smelly! In other words, we want to decrease the amount of communication we transmit to one another via our noses. We also cover our scent up with various products. Imagine evolutionary reasons for this. Jane Hirshfield interview  Alix Olson Wholly Human Neruda….




Favorite Poems:


This page is maintained by William S. Jamison. It was last updated August 14, 2012. All links on these pages are either to open source or public domain materials or they are marked with the appropriate copyright information. I frequently check the links I have made to other web sites but each source is responsible for their own content.