Sunday, May 10, 2009

8b Belle van Zuylen, the second lecture

It is a special moment in history around 1750. So many new things were happening and old things, like the supremacy of the church , were discarded. It may have been one of the factors that brought about an intense debate on ethics among European philosophers.

The most extreme position was definitely taken by a man like La mettrie, a French physician, who studied in the Netherlands where he also published his "Histoire naturelle de l'ame" (The natural history of the soul).-1745- and later in London his famous "L'Homme machine" in 1750.

The ethics of his principles (extreme materialism) were worked out in "Discours sur le bonheur", "La Volupté", and "L'Art de jouir", in which the end of life is found in the pleasures of the senses, and virtue is reduced to self-love.

Atheism is the only means of ensuring the happiness of the world, which has been rendered impossible by the wars brought about by theologians, under the excuse of an inexistent "soul". When death comes, the farce is over (la farce est jouée), therefore let us take our pleasure while we can.

It is against this growing materialism that a lot of thinkers in those days protest. And Belle van Zuylen is participant in this important debate. In 1785 Kant had formulated his basic principle of ethics: " Act only according to a rule, of which you could wish at the same time that it should be taken as a general rule for everyone."

According to Kant an action could only be called morally if it is done because of a duty towards this formal law.If it were an action based on feelings, sympathy or pitty the action can not be called moral, because it actually was based on kinds of self-interest.

All moral actions should be motivated by our sense of Duty to comply to this Categorical Imperative, other motivations like sympathy or pitty can not morally justify actions. It is a bit like the situation that you have the order to execute someone, and you feel sympathy for that person. Morally just is only that you pull the trigger. Just apply the rule.

In the works of Bella van Zuylen you can observe a clear tension between rationality and emotionality. And this is maybe a real gender based contribution to the philosphical discourse on these topics.

Where you find only a rational rigidity in Kant, there you see the woman Belle van Zuylen frown and say: aren't we overlooking something essential in human life and ethics?Martha Nussbaum (2001) is maybe the most outspoken representative of the observation, that the rationalist discourse on ethics clearly misses a point: human emotion.

Belle van Zuylen puts huge questionmarks on those dichotomies like rationality / emotionality, man / woman. She critisizes attempts to define a human being by his 'nature' or body.

In her novel "Three women" she describes an experiment. An orphaned twin, a boy and a girl are raised by a woman who gives the boy a girl's name and education and the girl a boy's name and education.

Quote: "When later the boy will have the mind and character of a girl and the girl the mind and character of a boy, I will make this publicly known and I hope, that then less nonsesne will be said about the difference in nature and characteristic qualities of both sexes." are the words of Constance, one of the characters in the novel.

On the other hand there is Hume and his empirical ethics. No rigid duty to a law, but an ethical theory that takes the real-life situation into account. For Belle van Zuylen it means, that in a discussion on moral rules you also have to take the context into account. Or there is Adm Smith who made sympathy for the other the fundament of moral behavior.

In her you may see the first woman philosopher, who brings a female touch to philosophy. She questions the cerebral and rational way of thinking, which leaves out at least the other half of a human being: his emotinality.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: this concludes the lectures on Belle van Zuylen
[13:20] Paula Dix: wow, very intersesting!
[13:20] Qwark Allen: indeed
[13:20] herman Bergson: thank you , Paula
[13:20] hope63 Shepherd: i wonder if she would have subscribed to the hippie slogan make love not war:)
[13:20] herman Bergson: I am not sure if it is available, but that novel "Three women" must be very interesting
[13:21] Paula Dix: yes, that idea is great! will look for it
[13:21] Daruma Boa: hahha hope
[13:21] FelixSr Bloch: i question the idea of a female touch to philosophy
[13:21] herman Bergson: I saw a lot of her in print on Amazone
[13:21] Daruma Boa: why should it not be sold?
[13:21] herman Bergson: I know Felix and I was aware of what I said
[13:22] Corona Anatine: why so Felix
[13:22] herman Bergson: literally it isnt true of course, but yet I have the feeling that there is a specific approach in philisophy regarding the discourse ...dominated by rationalistc thinking
[13:22] Corona Anatine: agreed the basics should be the same regardless of sex
[13:23] Corona Anatine: but to ignore humanity is surely simplistic philosophy
[13:23] herman Bergson: I said it because in Belle van Zuylen you see a desire for balance in human faculties
[13:23] Corona Anatine: or one devoid of humaity
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: ah yes
[13:23] FelixSr Bloch: agreed hermaln - from a historical context - i would expect that she did provide a female touch
[13:23] Paula Dix: her name was Isabelle de Charrière?
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes Paula...that is after she married the Swiss
[13:24] FelixSr Bloch: but one would expect that a valid philosphy would embrace the human condition and not be partial towards sex
[13:24] Paula Dix: ok
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes is meant in a historical perspective...
[13:25] herman Bergson: there is no female or male philosophy....but there is undeniably a difference in approach
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: don't forget felix that philosophy was one-sex only most of the time..
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: male
[13:25] Goku1234 Swords: sweet
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: we had that discussion last week about how serious it was
[13:26] FelixSr Bloch: Yes
[13:26] FelixSr Bloch: - if i were to asked to name some female philosphers - i would draw a blank
[13:26] Paula Dix: (The asteroid 9604 Bellevanzuylen was named in her honour.)
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: i saw that also
[13:26] Ze Novikov: cool
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: will it crash on earth one day?
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: OMG!!!
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: omg
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: isnt the' feminine touch' merely a more insightful manifestation and better control of the ancient brain?
[13:26] Paula Dix: lol
[13:26] Corona Anatine: who can say
[13:26] herman Bergson: What I want to get clear in this project is if we can see a difference in contribution to the philosophical discourse
[13:28] herman Bergson: do not want to make a judgement of value Aristotle
[13:28] Corona Anatine: is that not true of all tho
[13:28] FelixSr Bloch: herman - i am admittably ignorant of the history od philosphy - how did the female philosophers compare with the humanists?
[13:28] herman Bergson: I just hope to show IF.....what the differences are..
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: these emotions that she thought was missing, where does she claim they come from?
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: tell me about the ancient brain ari.. not the first time you mention it..
[13:29] Corona Anatine: that there is a diff of contrib whoever speaks
[13:29] herman Bergson: First Aristotle...
[13:30] Corona Anatine: it might just be the ari considers his own brain to be abncinet
[13:30] Corona Anatine: ancient
[13:30] herman Bergson: the emotions she refers to are those which are mentionsed by Hume and Adam Smith....sympathy for the other
[13:30] herman Bergson: What Humanists do you refer to Felix
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: the question where something comes from..reason or emotion.. is the same question..
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: hope, the ancient brain is primordial and provides you with all the survival instincts we possess, it is not cerbral, but has to be control cerbrally
[13:31] herman Bergson: It is not the debate on the origins of emotions here Aristotle...
[13:31] Laila Schuman: something Nietzsche was interested in
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: hm.. a brain which is not part of the brain but controled by the brain?
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:32] Corona Anatine: yes
[13:32] Corona Anatine: absoultely
[13:32] Daruma Boa: lives alone^^
[13:32] herman Bergson: it is the debate that we observe emotions of care, interest, sympathy towards to the other
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: well, her suggestion indicates we can conjur emotions from somewhere cerebrally
[13:32] herman Bergson: and not only the Kantian idea of indivifual duty...independent of these emotions
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: emotions exist.. the question was always what is the relation to ratio..
[[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes hope, more in that sense
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: I have difficulty equateing emotion to rational decision making
[13:33] herman Bergson: there is no questin of equation...
[13:33] Laila Schuman: is that original "clean slate" the same for everyone?
[13:33] Corona Anatine: i would think that rational in a sense is a higher thopught process overlying emotion
[13:34] Paula Dix: This can be of interest: The Novels of Isabelle de Charriere (1740-1805) by Dennis Wood
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, Corona
[13:34] herman Bergson: there is the question...when you take the Kantian imperative....what to do with sympathy.....Yet execute the fellow?
[13:35] herman Bergson: Plz...let's stick to the essence here...
[13:35] herman Bergson: what is here at stake is the debate on ethics..
[13:35] herman Bergson: not on the quality of emotions or ratio
[13:35] herman Bergson: the main question a lie allowed sometimes yes or no
[13:36] herman Bergson: Kant says: in all cases NO
[13:36] Corona Anatine: that would depend on the lie
[13:36] Daruma Boa: correct
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: spo then, is the origin of ehtics and morals, emotional or rational?
[13:36] herman Bergson: van Zuylen some cases YES
[13:36] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. think so too Corona
[13:36] Daruma Boa: some lies are better than the truth
[13:36] Paula Dix: i also think yes
[13:36] Corona Anatine: the pivot is would speaking the truth caiuese harm
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: emotional based rational concepts..
[13:36] itsme Frederix: mmm Did Kant, he describes when someone is looking for a person he is hiding in the cellar
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes we all know...but ti is about the morality of man..
[13:36] Alarice Beaumont: but there has to be a sense for morals
[13:37] Daruma Boa: who knows really what moral is?
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Alarice..but in Kantian sense it is a sense for Duty
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: difficult to define...
[13:37] Paula Dix: i also think empathy is a good basis for moral :)
[13:37] Corona Anatine: and some lies are bigger than others
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: within a given society one knows..
[13:37] itsme Frederix: Kant asked should I say the truth yes/no, and No worked for him
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: well...but what is ones duty, Herman?!
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: Kantian then believe in 'altruisim'?
[13:38] Alarice Beaumont: is my duty to wash the dishes and cook?!
[13:38] Daruma Boa: society makes the rules
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: o!!!
[13:38] Daruma Boa: i think we all make the rules
[13:38] Corona Anatine: the concept of 'god' is a far bigger lie than telling a child there is no santa
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: both seem to b de needed corona..
[13:39] Corona Anatine: yes apparently so
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: well...sometimes some people have to make the rules for all people
[13:39] herman Bergson: The problem with Kant's point of view is that it is a clinical, purely rational view on ethics
[13:39] Corona Anatine: why
[13:39] herman Bergson: Get back to his rule
[13:39] Corona Anatine: why so alarice
[13:39] Corona Anatine: and if so - which people
[13:39] itsme Frederix: Herman what is the problem if it seems to work?
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: but his rule is based on christian ethics..
[13:39] Paula Dix: sometimes it can be rational to use emotions :)
[13:39] herman Bergson: Morally just is only that action that you could transform into a rule for every human being
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: well.... some people made the constituion
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Hope...that is the week spot
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: not the whole people
[13:40] Daruma Boa: but everyone can do
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: make love not war couldbe transformed into a rule for everyone..
[13:40] Daruma Boa: if he is able or wants to
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: in theory..
[13:40] Daruma Boa: peace^^
[13:40] Paula Dix: herman, then there is an absolute morality for him?? For all periods?
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: all but the rule breakers, hope
[13:40] itsme Frederix: Paula, sometimes (how often) emotions are very rational but sometimes based on the wrong premisses
[13:40] Corona Anatine: yes hope and theirn lies the risk
[13:41] Corona Anatine: appication of any rule universally is tryranny
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: smile.. in making love?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Paula he believed in an absolute morality
[13:41] Corona Anatine: yes hope
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: yes hope
[13:41] Corona Anatine: cos not all see it the same way
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: so true ....
[13:41] Daruma Boa: corerct
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: it is a problem
[13:41] Daruma Boa: thats the problem
[13:41] Paula Dix: yes itsme, i think emotions are rational also... they´re brain constructs like the rational ideas (and vice-versa)
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: the balance is important
[13:41] Daruma Boa: bit who says taht we are right?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Interesting PAula
[13:42] itsme Frederix: Paula now you superimpose a 3th entity beyond rationality & emotion (some common thing called brain activity)
[13:42] Paula Dix: herman this absolute moral has any relation to greeks ideals?? That was also absolute
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: not only interesting b ut absolutely right paula.. with a little diffeence..
[13:42] Corona Anatine: thee right surely lies in the minimum iterference in others
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: we are emotional beings, rationality determined which emotins surface and which or supressed
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well.....let us return to the historical context....
[13:43] itsme Frederix: mm I guess we raised enough questions to stay actual
[13:43] Corona Anatine: i would argue that absolute mathematics is possible - absoluty morality is not
[13:43] herman Bergson: The remark of Paula is in line withthe quote I gave from the novel THree women....a boy as girl and a girl as boy...
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:44] Paula Dix: yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: Also in those days people understood that many aspects of behavior were brain constructs
[13:44] herman Bergson: although they used other language
[13:44] Alarice Beaumont: but i don't think that this will work Herman!
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: the humours
[13:45] herman Bergson: The idea of an absolute morality of course has its roots in Greek philosophy
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: and christian doctrines
[13:45] herman Bergson: If you remember Kant on showed that he had read Aristotle from A to Z
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: do you think this experiment was actually carried out, and if so I wonder if hormones such as testostron maybe could have affected it?
[13:46] herman Bergson: What wont work Alarice???
[13:46] Corona Anatine: christianity is a log way from an absolute mroality
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: to raise a boy like a girl and vice verca
[13:46] Corona Anatine: it has been tried
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: yes lol
[13:46] Corona Anatine: it does not work
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: even recently!!!!!!
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:46] Daruma Boa: totally my opinion
[13:46] Corona Anatine: yes
[13:47] Corona Anatine: because brains have sex
[13:47] Alarice Beaumont: mine too
[13:47] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. think so too
[13:47] Corona Anatine: they are not nutral
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: would work.. if you keep them away from society like ours..
[13:47] herman Bergson: Well...we could debate on that a long time, but that is not what the text intends to claim...I think
[13:47] Corona Anatine: neutral
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed, Corona
[13:47] Alarice Beaumont: it's in the "blood" so to speak
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: yes lol
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: it ws to show they would be exactly the same in thought in the end
[13:47] Paula Dix: i guess both male and female have rationality and emotions
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: when revealed
[13:48] herman Bergson: It is a novel....and it is a thought attacks the discrimination based on gender
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: and what is in the blood of transvestites alarice..
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: I would like very much to read this
[13:48] Corona Anatine: and for that alone should be appluded
[13:48] Paula Dix: cant find the book on the web...
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:48] herman Bergson: I think the experiment is absolutely impossible
[13:48] Corona Anatine: tranvestites are men who dress as women
[13:48] Corona Anatine: but still men
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: and her books are really expensive to buy
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: who feel like women..
[13:48] Alarice Beaumont: hope!
[13:48] itsme Frederix: hermafrodites maybe
[13:49] Corona Anatine: hermafrodites are those who can test the thougth experiment
[13:49] Alarice Beaumont: I looked in the amazon and did not find it either
[13:49] herman Bergson: Well....I think we can conclude our discussion
[13:49] itsme Frederix: maybe some of you found a reason to learn Dutch?
[13:50] FelixSr Bloch: herman - is it true that what is meant today by relativism and and absolute morality differs from its hisorical context?
[13:50] Alarice Beaumont: oh .-(
[13:50] herman Bergson: I think it is clear that around 1780 there is a debate on ethics
[13:50] Corona Anatine: for sure it would
[13:50] Corona Anatine: cos morality is very historical
[13:50] Corona Anatine: it changes over time
[13:50] herman Bergson: materialisme to fight...theory of Duty...or the moral mbased on sympathy
[13:50] herman Bergson: there is another opposition
[13:51] herman Bergson: The Kantian approach is a way of absolut ethinking
[13:51] herman Bergson: Hume and Smith were contextual thinkers...which implied more relativism
[13:51] Qwark Allen: hii RODNEY
[13:52] herman Bergson: So..that is the situation we have reached now....
[13:52] Daruma Boa: u are late^^
[13:52] herman Bergson: Time to dismiss the class. Rodney
[13:52] Paula Dix: thats what im thinking here, if morality changes with time, how can it be absolute??
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: Hi Qwark
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: right on time
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: i think he does it for the drama
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes..right on time
[13:52] hope63 Shepherd: daru.. rod is not late..he arrived before the end of
[13:52] Qwark Allen: ol
[13:52] Daruma Boa: right paula
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: I sorry..
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: I'm Sorry! herman...RL got in the way
[13:52] Daruma Boa: every changes
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: is anything purely altruistic?, this sense of duty or theory of duty, isnt it in the end equal just self interest?
[13:52] Daruma Boa: i hope^^
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: well... it changes.. but it probably comes back to the same after some time
[13:53] Paula Dix: good one ari
[13:53] Corona Anatine: but is there a distinction between morality and the specific historical rules
[13:53] Corona Anatine: the application of morality might change in the detials
[13:53] hope63 Shepherd: interesting thought ari,.. read la chute-the fall.from camus..
[13:53] Corona Anatine: but is there an underlying concept of moral fairness
[[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: even charity, don't we get some kind of reward emotionally when we give?
[13:53] Paula Dix: hmmmm like periods will distort a bit the "universal" morality?
[13:53] FelixSr Bloch: aristotle - there is self interest and enlightend self interest ( see dawkins)
[13:54] Daruma Boa: we do ari
[13:54] Corona Anatine: suggest you read some biology - prisoner game i think its called
[13:54] Ze Novikov: the Yale experiment?
[13:54] Corona Anatine: about the benifits of various reward strategies
[13:54] herman Bergson: May I thank you again for this good discussion ^_^
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: ze.. yale ex?
[13:55] FelixSr Bloch: thank you herman
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you , Professor
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ty herman
[13:55] Daruma Boa: thank u!
[13:55] Qwark Allen: really nice
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: thanks herman :-))
[13:55] Corona Anatine: ty Herman
[13:56] herman Bergson: NExt time we'll meet someone who made it to the male of the two women in the 100 philosophers project
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-12-11 15:24:37

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