WRESTLING WITH THE DEAD - IS WISDOM SORROW? - Transcript

Video: https://dai.ly/k5daJ8A3sHVasbA8wVk

Chapters


0:00:00 Knowledge is Power
0:13:19 The Pretense of Moral Knowledge
0:24:54 Fraud Combined with Threat
0:26:24 Patiently Making the Arguments

Long Summary

In this lecture, we delved into the concept of knowledge as power, as discussed by Francis Bacon. The relationship between knowledge, power, and happiness is complex, as increasing wisdom may also lead to increased sorrow, as seen in the biblical saying. We explored how violence often stems from false claims of moral knowledge, which are used by authorities to maintain control through coercion and threats.

The speaker highlighted how challenging false moral knowledge can lead to aggressive responses, especially in familial, educational, and societal settings. The dynamic of questioning authority and moral knowledge, particularly within hierarchies, was analyzed, emphasizing the prevalence of moral pretense as a form of power throughout history. The use of threats, both physical and emotional, to enforce compliance with accepted moral narratives was discussed.

Furthermore, the discussion touched on the impact of moral reformations during societal crises, such as the Black Death, and the role of moral reformers in challenging existing structures. The lecture underscored the importance of questioning established moral norms and the potential consequences of such actions, including societal backlash and isolation. The speaker provided insights on the power dynamics at play within moral frameworks and the significance of patience and perseverance in advocating for moral reform.

Ultimately, the lecture shed light on the complexities of navigating moral knowledge, authority, and power dynamics within various societal constructs. By encouraging critical examination of existing moral narratives and advocating for rational virtues, the speaker emphasized the transformative potential of challenging established moral norms for a more ethical and just society.

Tags
Francis Bacon, knowledge, power, complexity, false moral knowledge, violence, moral authority, moral pretense, moral reform movements, crises, societal norms, advocacy

Transcript

Knowledge is Power

[0:00] So Francis Bacon talked about knowledge is power.
Now, he was a philosopher to some degree. I talked about it in my History of Philosophers series.
In this case, he was talking about the physical universe, I assume, to a large degree, the physical universe.
Knowledge is power, that if you know the physical universe, then you can have power.
Over the physical universe, it's a great phrase that taught me a lot about science, which is nature to be commanded must be obeyed.
That you have to accept the laws of physics and of nature in order to control nature.
I mean, if you want to turn wolves into pets, you have to respect the laws of animal husbandry and so on.
Nature to be commanded must be obeyed, and for you to understand the world, you must obey reason and evidence.
But knowledge is power. The relationship between knowledge and happiness is fraught with complications, to put it mildly.
There's a biblical saying, whoever increases in wisdom, so also does he increase in sorrow.

[1:08] And there is real truth in that. A doubt is toxic to aggressive hierarchy.
Hierarchy and and i put forward the the argument here which is that violence in general i mean not in all circumstances but as a general principle to say that violence arises most commonly when false claims of knowledge are exposed false claims of knowledge and in particular false false claims of virtue.
The typical example of this would be Socrates, who examined all of the sophists and those who claimed to know truth, virtue, and wisdom in his society.
He examined those people and found that they did not know what they were talking about, and as a result, they kind of ganged up and had Meletus bring charges against him and got him killed.

[2:02] Because Because hierarchies, coercive hierarchies, are predicated on false claims of knowledge, in particular, moral knowledge.
If they can get you to believe in the false moral knowledge and virtues of those in charge, then you will obey them because obeying them is obeying virtue.
Anybody who questions the moral knowledge of those in charge is taking a blow dryer to the base of the house of cards and, in general, must be eliminated.
So violence often erupts when false claims of moral knowledge.

[2:39] Are challenged. And, of course, we've all experienced this in schools, in universities, we've experienced this perhaps in religious institutions, we've experienced this in families.
If we have aggressive or dysfunctional parents, then they will claim to have, moral knowledge, which they do not in fact have.
And during the time of great skepticism, during the time of a teenage caustic and corrosive re-evaluations of all parental wisdom, the aggression tends to rise.
The aggression tends to rise. So people will try to rule over you with the pretense of moral knowledge.
And when you challenge that in general, they will escalate to a violence now the violence could be verbal abuse it could be and in that i'm really talking parent to child and or physical violence or threats thereof and so on right so if you gain in knowledge.

[3:42] You gain knowledge about what well you gain knowledge about the fact that most people who claim moral authority are merely pretending to have that moral authority they don't actually have that moral authority.
And usually with that moral authority is embedded within that claim or that assertion of moral authority is a threat of coercion.
How do most parents get their kids to obey them when the parents don't specifically have deep moral knowledge?
Well, they say do this or else.
And so kids very quickly learn, both in their homes and in their schools, they very quickly learn that to question the moral authority of those in charge, will result in threats, escalations, or violence, right?
I mean, I think we all, I certainly learned this in boarding school where to get a ball that had been kicked over a high fence, I climbed the fence.
It was perfectly safe. I had no problems.
It was not a sensible rule, but I got caned anyway. Anyway, or if you did something wrong in your school, then the teacher would have you write lines. And, I mean, a teacher once wanted me to write lines when I actually sprained my wrist in my writing hand.
So all they did was program the computer to spit them out and say that I learned computer programming too.

[5:10] So we know that if we don't submit to the teacher, then the teacher goes to the parents.
The parents then will inflict the aggression on us.
Or if the parents just don't care, the teacher then has the right, or at least used to have the right, to hold us back for a year, and thus costing us a year of our lives.
Thus costing us a year of our lives.
In fact, I was in grade 8 when I first came to Canada and lived in Whitby.
I was in grade 8, and then when we moved to Toronto after I'd spent, I don't know, four or five months in grade 8, I was put back in grade 6.
And of course, my mother didn't lift a finger to stop this.
And so, but you know, I mean, it's all so long ago now but it would be nice to think that i could get out of school two years earlier that would have been great so they can hold us back and cost a year of our lives and expose us to endless mockery and you know being the big kid in the little kids class and all that kind of stuff so there's a lot of aggression and the aggression occurs if you have moral questions or skepticism about the moral authority of your elders.

[6:19] And when I think about when violence occurs, violence occurs, institutional violence, I'm not talking like extremities of self-defense, that's another category, but institutional violence, initiation of the use of force.
Initiation of the use of force is generally put there or is generally instigated in order to prevent people people from questioning mainstream moral faucets.

[6:46] And you are threatened with dire consequences if you question or oppose mainstream moral falsehoods, because that is the mechanism by which most people are ruled, is moral narratives.
That is the mechanism by which most people are ruled.
So the moral narrative makes it cheaper and easier to rule people, and therefore if the moral narrative is questioned, the cost-benefit of ruling people goes up considerably. considerably.
I mean, if you think of how expensive it was to own slaves, I mean, aside from the great evils of the system of slavery, if you look at how expensive it was to rule slaves, well, slaves didn't believe in the moral narrative.
For the most part, like throughout history, they would just say, yeah, we were conquered, and so on.
They're not better than us, they just won, and so we resent this, and we'll have a rebellion, or we'll try to escape, or whatever it is, right?
So it's quite expensive to rule slaves, but convincing people that submission to the moral authority is a moral good, then they self-police, they police each other, and your costs of human ownership, in a sense, go down considerably.
So questioning the moral narrative is raising the costs of ownership of human beings throughout history.

[8:03] If the subjects believe that the king is divine and placed to rule over them by God so that they can get to heaven, They accept his rule.
If they look at this guy, this corpulent guy with sores on his legs and a funny hat, then the cost of ruling people goes up considerably because they're not self-policing.
If you can somehow convince the cows to stay in the paddock no matter what, and that they police each other and police themselves, you don't need to build electric fences.
I mean, assuming that there's no coyotes or whatever predators around.
If you can get people to self-rule, that's really the most efficient and effective way to rule over them.
And the relationship between hierarchies and parents I've sort of talked about before, so I won't really go into it here.
It does show up in a bunch of personal relationships, I mean, that I've noticed as well.
So people who claim to have knowledge about how to behave and how to act and how to live the good life and how to, all of that.

[9:10] Well, they will often become more aggressive as time passes, right?
So somebody who claims, for instance, to really understand finances and to know, like to be a big investor or whatever it is, well, if they don't make money as time passes, they lose credibility.

[9:27] And most people will live their lives with the deep belief that they're not just living their best life, they're living the best life.
A man who exercises says that exercise is the foundation of the good life.
The man who eats meat says that eating meat is the foundation of the good life.
The man who sleeps around says that sleeping around is the definition of the good life.
Everybody takes their own habits and tries to universalize them to the good. it.
Those who live amoral lives say that living a moral life is to partake in a delusional fantasy, usually in service of others.
The cynics and the skeptics say that there's no such thing as truth, and anybody who believes in truth is a sucker being manipulated.
So people almost inevitably take their own preferences, habits, or sins and elevate them to the good.
Not to the moral good, because if they happen to be amoral or anti-moral, or immoral, then they will say that morality is a sucker's game used to control others, and it's a master-slave morality, Nietzsche style, and so on.
And therefore, to believe in morals is to be subjugated and controlled.

[10:50] To believe in truth, well, who's truth, man? You're just wrapped up in somebody else's fantasy. You've got to find your own truth. You've got to manifest your own truth, blah, blah, blah, right?

[10:59] Therefore a rejection of any standards becomes an acceptance of the truth that there is no truth and i remember dating a girl who was quite aggressive dating a young woman when i was a young man and she was quite aggressive about how you should live and what you should do and i had fairly significant criticisms over how i lived and the choices that i made which is always kind of funny looking back back in that way in hindsight you know that old is it kirk a guy who said life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards well which is exactly why you need principles of course so she had significant criticisms and of course it is kind of funny when a woman who claims to have great affection for you says that you make bad choices it's just kind of funny right but as time moved along and i had the humility to accept coaching whereas she didn't in particular accept any coaching because of course she was already perfect but as time went on or went forward, what happened was, because I accepted coaching and had doubt, I was able to grow and improve, and she got very stuck in her life.
And then eventually, of course, I looked at her on the couch and realized that she was just a bossy person who wasn't going to succeed.

[12:14] And it was vanity and insecurity and tough childhood, I suppose, and all the sympathies for that.
But yeah, she was just a bossy person who was not going to succeed in life. And I was succeeding.
And I think that success was making her uneasy. Like, what if I'm wrong?
What if I'm not someone who knows how to live, but just bosses people around?
What if I'm not Socrates, just a kind of mid-rent Karen?
These are tough questions. so increasing in knowledge yeah i mean physically it gives you power over the universe all kinds of good stuff but of course the problem is that as you increase in moral knowledge you run up against the very real phenomenon that people are only pretending to have moral knowledge and the reason and that they expect you to accept their moral authority is through threats of destruction.
It could be reputational destruction, could be emotional attacks, could be physical attacks, could be abandonment, could be whatever, right?

The Pretense of Moral Knowledge

[13:19] Which for parents, of course, is kind of a death threat for kids.

[13:23] So there's a pretense of moral knowledge that hides a very real fist underneath underneath, and is only there because everybody recognizes the gun under the table, so to speak.
You know, it's a Greedo who shot first, a big controversy about Star Wars.
So Greedo and Han Solo, they're negotiating and so on, and then Han Solo just shoots him under the table.
So they're pretending to negotiate, but there's a gun under the table, and there's a reason that scene is so famous, because people are pretending to negotiate, but there is a gun under the table.
And of course, when you look at sort of famous scenes in movies thinking of the Samuel L.
Jackson scene in Pulp Fiction where he's warning the the drug dealers the the young men at the beginning well you know, when people are pretending to reason with each other, but there's a threat of violence, people find those scenes very compelling.
And I'm sort of trying to explain why, because it ties into an unconscious recognition of the way that society works, which is people pretend to reason, but underneath is a great capacity for violence.

[14:33] This is also in Goodfellas, where the Robert De Niro character is going to be leading the Joe Pesci character to his death, and it's being perfectly friendly and reasoning and joking and so on, right?
So, if you question the moral narrative of those who claim moral authority, if you question their moral knowledge, which is also back to some of Jesus' examination of his elders, or his response to their examination of him.

[15:04] And this is one of the reasons why, like I had this conversation yesterday with a fellow who was, who had, I think, been significantly wronged by his parents, but could not get angry because what's the point and so on.
So if you get angry at your parents about how they treated you morally, then you are criticizing their moral knowledge and you were saying that you were not moral, you only had the pretense of morality and all you were was aggressive or violent in this case, right? right?
This is a kid who got beaten approximately 150 or 200 times with implements, a wooden spoon, an electrical cable, and so on.
So confronting your parents is to say, you weren't moral, you only pretended to be moral, and people are afraid of doing that.
Or, of course, always to put it the other way, the people who weren't afraid of doing that generally didn't last very long in society, so those who remained were those who had a great fear of questioning the moral knowledge of those in authority.
Those in authority who claimed to rule.

[16:10] Of wisdom, out of moral virtue and moral knowledge. And those you can have that personal conversation with might act against you directly, right?
Certainly as a kid, it would be unwise, very unwise, to question the moral knowledge of aggressive or abusive authority figures, because you're just going to get the short end of the stick, to put it mildly, and you can't win.
I think it also goes some way towards explaining something that puzzled me for many years, which is is why libertarians will rail against unjust political authority, but won't confront aggressive.

[16:45] Violence against children within their own families, won't confront parents or aunts or uncles or grandparents or whatever, even elder siblings, about the aggression in the family, well that's because they get to displace their frustration and hostility with moral hypocrisy, coercive moral hypocrisy, which is really the same thing, like moral hypocrisy and coercion go go hand in hand because moral hypocrisy is fairly easy to expose and therefore it has to be censored it has to be silenced so the moral hypocrisy can continue which allows for the authority to continue which allows for the resource transfer from those who pretend to accept the authority to continue so you know my argument with libertarians was if you care about the non-aggression principle and i assume that you do then you would have two standards you would say what is the the greatest violation of the non-aggression principle that we can do the most about?
What is the most widespread violation or the most widespread violations of the non-aggression principle that we can do the most about?
And of course, the answer is spanking, circumcision, child abuse, and so on, right?
That is the most widespread violation of the non-aggression principle that we can do the most about. And we can put forward these arguments and so on, right?

[17:55] I have seen libertarians who have accepted these arguments and then inevitably get sucked back into an analysis of the cash flow in Ukraine and the history of the...
Yeah, yeah, it's just easy to get drawn back into that stuff because it's a way of avoiding what you can actually do something about.
I'm thinking of names, but I would keep them to myself.
So realizing that people would much rather pretend to be good than actually be good, and that pretending to be good, when it's combined with threats, is one of the most efficient resource transfer mechanisms known to man, and that those who question or oppose the moral authority of their so-called leaders, well, their actual leaders, but so-called moral authorities, will face a pretty rough time of it.
That is knowledge that you gain that can give you despair.

[18:44] And the only way to fight despair in this circumstance, understanding all of this, the only way to fight despair is to recognize, that when moral knowledge advances, things get a lot worse before they get better.
Now, not because of the moral advance.
It's not the moral advance that make things get worse, but moral advance is a kind of a desperation.
It's a desperation move. Why would you want to question or abandon the morals of your society?
Because you see the morals of your society leading to a huge set of disasters.
Leading to a huge set of disasters. And so you wish to take on the challenge of attempting to reformulate moral arguments in a society because it's going so badly.
If your society is just, you know, a little bit immoral or it's kind of sustainable but it's not that great, then the incentive to...

[19:45] Form the morals is not that high in the same way that some guy who enjoys one or two drinks a week is not going to go to rehab but the guy who's pounding back 10 drinks a day well he's gonna like he's on such a desperately bad path that he needs to go to rehab moral reformation moral examination moral questions moral skepticism moral arguments that are foundational are are, you know, like these little red boxes you see all the time, in case of emergency, break glass.
Well, it's in case of social emergency, you must break the glass that holds new moral arguments.
Or, and put it another way, a demand for consistency where consistency is claimed.
Right? Well, a demand for consistency and effectiveness where consistency and effectiveness are claimed.
So it's no fun a lot of times to do this kind of stuff.
But it's like a pilot. For a pilot, it's no fun to pull the eject button, right?
Or the eject lever, right? That rips off the canopy from the plane and ejects him and his chair into the sky.
And he hopes, of course, that his parachute will deploy and he'll float down to the ground and then he's going to have to have endless amounts of paperwork and cross-examinations and evaluations and so on because he just probably put a $10 to $20 million plane or more into the ground.

[21:12] So the emergency eject button is there, of course, for emergencies.

[21:19] And moral reformulations are for emergencies.
Because they're destabilizing. And if stability is good enough, people don't tend to go to foundational questions, right?
One of the things, of course, that drove science forward was successive waves of the Black Death, which, of course, killed off the priests, sometimes the most of all, because the priests were going from deathbed to deathbed, thus getting infected.
Infected, and people couldn't stand the life that they were in anymore, and they said, well, okay, so the religious authorities and the aristocracy have been in charge for a thousand years or more, and this is where we are.
Something needs to change. I can only bury so many children, I can only bury so many relatives, I can only live in filth, starvation, squalor, and disease, disease and war for so long right things get desperate enough that you want to reformulate a new a new perspective a new argument a new way of approaching the world and of course those who are ahead of their time look mad to those who can't see right this is an old quote from Nietzsche's I love it those who were dancing were thought mad by those who could not hear the music.

[22:41] Is the you know the grasshopper and the ant one of the greatest along with the boy who cried wolf and along with the emperor's new clothes one of the greatest folk tales ever grasshopper and the ant right so grasshopper farts around all summer the ant works hard because the ant is like well i'm going to get hungry winter is coming and all that and the grasshopper plays around and makes fun like hey man why do you have so many hang-ups why are you just working all the time don't you know how to relax and have fun you got weird psychological problems you keep working all the the time man and of course this story is there to program the ants in society into giving free resources to those who have marked and scorned them and fail to work it's a programming mechanism it's not a story of morals right so those who can see the direction that society is going and have good arguments as to why it's going badly are viewed as strange and weird and obsessed and and you're given all kinds of psychological motivations, by those who don't have any perception of danger because they can't see over the horizon.

[23:43] Like the grasshopper saying, well, it's not cold now.
This goes back to conservatives are a movie and liberals are as photographs. Well, it's not cold now.
You know, I'm sure I'll find food. And of course, in a sense, the grasshopper is right to do what he does because it's more fun to play around in the sun than it is to gather food for the winter, right? So the grasshopper is actually right.
Because the grasshopper knows that he can get resources from the ant.
That he's going to be shivering outside the ant's door, and the ant's going to be, okay, you can come in, you can have some food, I'll keep you going for the winter.
So people think this is like the grasshopper being irresponsible.
No, this is just the grasshopper being rational.
Of course, the fact that the grasshopper is a lot bigger than the ant is not lost on the morals.
The grasshopper can kill the ant, the ant probably can't kill the grasshopper.
So there's the implicit threat in give, give me or else, right?
So knowledge is power? No.
No. Throughout most of history, moral pretense is power.

[24:43] Falsely claiming moral knowledge and moral authority, that's power.
Lying is power. Forgery is power. Faking is power. Fraud is power.

Fraud Combined with Threat

[24:55] Fraud combined with threat. so the people nod along with the fraud and everyone can pretend that things are true and the world is good.
And knowing this means that you are going to have to wait for the future for rational virtues to be implemented.

[25:15] Sometimes you make predictions, and as your predictions come true, you gain more credibility thereby.
Nietzsche wasn't actually that famous until the First World War, because he said that the state was going to replace God, and the 20th century would be a century of totalitarianism, and, you know, the quarter of a billion people murdered by their own governments would, if they could, hold testament to that in a giant vigil that would stretch from here to Mars.
And even Freud was not that famous until the question of shell shock in the First World War where people couldn't understand why trauma would lead to such dysfunction and brave people, brave men with medals all over their chest would cower before loud noises and they said, well, the exploding shells must have damaged their brains and Freud and his theory of the ego and the superego became more prominent because he had some way of explaining what was going on.
For these soldiers. So sometimes you have to wait.
And sometimes for moral reformers, sometimes for moral reformers, prominence in your own day is martyrdom.

Patiently Making the Arguments

[26:24] Whereas patiently and calmly making the arguments can give you great authority in the future. So is knowledge power?

[26:32] I mean, in a technical sense, knowledge over nature gives you power over nature, of course, except that. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed.
But the pretense of moral knowledge tends to be power in the social realm, and people question that at their peril. Hope this helps.
Thank you for your support and interest in philosophy.
Freedomain.com slash donate. Love you guys so much. Have yourself a wonderful, wonderful day. I'll talk to you soon. Bye.

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