Timothy Tableau: The Mark Zuckerberg Professor of Philosophy
Pete Palu: The Florida Power Professor of Biology
They both walked the corridor in their usual manner. They sat in the patio, on the same wooden bench that had been beaten, almost to death, by the violent southern rain.
Tableau: You should probably know Zizek, or like him. He recently debated Peterson. I think you might enjoy watching the debate.
Palu: I know him (but don’t follow him and haven’t read him). I saw the advert for the debate but haven’t been keen to search for him. Have you seen it? Do you like it?
Tableau: Oh. Zizek is one of my favorite philosophers. I liked it. I will probably watch it again this weekend. It was really good. There were so many negative remarks about the debate on Twitter, but I think some people just like being negative. After all, what will the world be without assholes. It was a nice conversation if you really meant asking me. Peterson was drawn wayyyyy out of his depth.
Palu: Oh wow, I haven’t read him, I will try and watch it then.
Tableau: I haven’t read him too. His philosophy is fairly deep and not always very clear.
Palu: If you haven’t read him; then how did you reach this conclusion? [He smiled]
Tableau: Lots of videos my brother. Lots of YouTube videos! He is a Marxist of some sort.
Palu: Actually, I think I’ve read one of his articles. I wasn’t charmed by it. I have a friend that swears by him though. And by the way. His ideas are either not clear or deep. I’m not sure it can be both. [He smiled again]
Tableau: Haha! That’s clever, it can actually be unclear because it’s deep. And I find myself listening to certain sections of his talk repeatedly; and many times, it goes from unclear to deep. But, I have to grant that some of the unclearness comes from his accent and style of speech.
Palu: Wait. It seems to me that for you to appreciate something as deep, you’ve to understand it (i.e. has to be clear)
Tableau: And that claim can’t be more correct. In effect we are saying the same thing. You have to understand something before you can pass a judgment of ‘deepness’.
However, I am saying certain things *might be unclear to the reader because it’s deep (as a working hypothesis). Such judgement of deepness can then be passed the moment the reader understands the message, the moment it becomes clear. And this is also interesting from the psychological point of view because the more a reader participate in the unpacking of a message (especially via more and more mental attention, say more of Kahneman’s systems two) the more the reader appreciate the message, the more likely the judgement of ‘deepness’ will be passed.
Palu: I agree with you, especially the last couple sentences. But one thing. I agree sometimes difficulty in grasping an idea or point may lead to an eventual better appreciation. However, the effort needed to understand a thing is *independent* of how deep or shallow it is. If an idea is deep, it is deep regardless of whether it is clear now or not. If it’s not deep, and yet unclear, the effort expended in understanding it won’t make a difference.
Tableau: I do find your counter argument interesting, but perhaps we need to be careful here and look very deeply at the word ‘deepness’. What does it mean for an idea to be deep. In order words could an idea be deep for you, and not deep for your big, fat, grumpy neighbor? And if I attempt to grant you the independence of deepness (just in general now). We will begin to run into huge intellectual potholes, namely: one, who passes the judgement of deepness? Two, what makes the person pass such judgement? (i.e. what were the criteria used, is it similar to our clarity-nonclarity criterion for deepness?). I do see where you are coming from Palu, I see the road, the road is clean and neat. But here is what I don’t see: how it is proximally possible to completely disengage the-grasping-of-the-clarity-of-an-idea from the positive assessment of its deepness, given what we know about human psychology; given the kind of beast that we all know we are. It is just what happens. And what am I saying here for God sake? I am saying that, it appears to me that deepness is more like beauty than like say, H20. If not, then one is coerced to ask: in what (meta-) physical entity do we ground the objectivity of deepness?
Palu: Hmm, I think I will agree with you on this one, I have always, for some reason, assume the object – deepness, as impervious to subjective contaminations … Hmm. Anyways, I think this discussion loops back very neatly to our prior discussion of the objectivity of morality and the moral argument for the existence of God. Can you remind me of your arguments? We didn’t follow through the last time.
Tableau: Oh, I see. It’s bloody straight forward: Without God, the objectivity of morality is obliterated. And because morality is objective, therefore God exists.
Palu: That’s a hell of a claim.
Tableau: [Looks on, cleverly]
Palu: [Smiles] My niggle really is about the first premise on which your conclusion rests on: without God, there is no objective morality. I believe that is false.
Tableau: How so? And am I to believe that we are on the same page with regards the objectivity of morality.
Palu: No question, we are on the same page. Morality is objective.
Palu: My claim is straight forward, what is good are those actions that enables human flourish in the context of our well-being. And what is bad does the exact opposite.
Tableau: Palu to be honest, given your belief in a purely naturalistic evolutionary theory – that we arose from ants and plants from a mindless, random, biological process, it is hard for me to sit here and believe that you can simultaneously hold that belief and a belief in the objectivity of morality. Your world view asserts quite firmly that we are no different from a Jelly Fish. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Palu: This doesn’t require any complications. It’s quite obvious that being good is good. If I were to shoot you down now, just because of our differences in philosophical leanings on the subject of the objectivity of morality. – that will be bad and evil.
Tableau: I am with you on that.
Tableau: And my question remains un-answered.
Tableau: Namely where do you ground the objectivity of that goodness. Back to our discussion on Zizek and deepness, you couldn’t find the platonic realm to stick ‘deepness’ in, so at the end of the day we have to make do with its subjectivity. It’s similar here: which platonic realm do you stick this good-and-evil distinction in?
Palu: We don’t need platonic realms here. I stick it back in nature.
Tableau: We do need one [continued smiling]. Then, I am afraid, we have a very nasty tautology on our hands: it is good to be good because it is good to be good – that’s your argument in one sentence. You can’t have it that way, that is philosophically lame. You have to give me an explanation that shows carefully that given atheism and naturalism; then being good is good.
Palu: So, if you are an Atheist, you would rather steal from your neighbor? Is that what you are telling me.
Tableau: [Smiles] You argue like a kid. There are people who claim to be religious doing terrible thing as I speak, and there are people who are actually Atheist doing good things. What I do if I am an Atheist is not what we are here to discuss. Rather it is what –
Palu: Do you really mean that –
Tableau: – Wait, wait.
Palu: – No, you wait, wait. I hope this doesn’t lead us back to your religion thesis, that you do really think that we need religion to be moral?
Tableau: [Smiles] Again, you need to stay focused here. That is not the argument. Perhaps, you should take this thought experiment. Let’s imagine a supernatural figure was able to convince all earthlings that religion is a terrible idea such that monotheistic religion becomes exterminated in the world this minute. The argument is that, such extermination will not affect the objectivity of morality being grounded in the nature of God. Kapish?
Palu: Okay, okay, I think you are on to something there, but I need to go now. My graduate student takes her candidacy exam 3pm.
Tableau: I thought you graduated all your grad students?
Palu: I have a couple more, before I pack my bags and retire.
Tableau: I see, anyways, we can loop back tomorrow, but I hope you think about these things. The objectivity of morality points to God, it is really the best explanation for such, that is the crust of it.
Palu: Whatever; see you.