Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

the caterpiller asked Alice. She did not have an answer for this, but here's a thought to do with ideas involving a telos: I did not make myself. I as a person have a telos. so somebody else concieved of my purpose. so 'my' purpose is the purpose someone made has for me that I through consideration of what I am have discovered. SO, if I were a chicken the farmer intended to roast, and I reasoned that, as I am a chicken, the farmer intends to roast me, so I ought to set about plucking myself, wringing my neck, gutting myself, and surrounding myself with potatoes and onions and such in a baking dish. AND such action is defined as 'good' and all others 'bad' or at the very least 'not good'.

As a result the writing desk, like the Raven, has a purpose that is outside of its own making. But I feel that I at least am capable of creating my own purpose and calling it good. and when one thinks of it this is what the chicken also does, because his purpose is decided on without consultation with the farmer who knows, and so it is pure speculation and thus not in accordance with, even if it is identical to, that telos which is given in the construction of the entity itself. And so neither the Raven nor the writing desk are capable of knowing the purpose for which they are made.

14 comments:

Cooly McCool said...

Just because there is a fate intended for a chicken by a farmer, then that does not by default become what that chicken was meant to do. That was simply to be a chicken. The 'good' thing to do is for that chicken to be as good a chicken as possible, and this does not change due to her being eaten. If I died in a car crash tommorow, would it have been my telos to die in a car crash? No. That's just coincidence. It wasn't necessarily going to happen. Telos doesn't equate to fate. It also is not a matter of intentions. Fun though it was, I think we can say this ones been busted.

MH said...

Ming - I am somewhat confounded ... I think it might be useful for you go read some of the commentary on Aristotle and the Aristotelian conception of the telos. The concept of 'telos' is slightly more complicated than your post seems to present. For a start, the telos of an entity is not 'concieved' by somebody else - it is inextricably linked with the nature of the entity and the function that it has to play within an entire metaphysical system. I also going to say that Mr McCool's reply is a valid criticism.

michael said...

I am aware. but "it is inextricably linked with the nature of the entity and the function that it has to play within an entire metaphysical system", and I didn't create my nature. Cooly, one cannot deduce from my nature and situation up until the last moment that I will die in a car crash, but one can deduce from the nature of a chicken and its surroundings from the time it is born what it is destined for. Surely we are arware that fate does not act within a telos, for we all end up with different fates, some before we have a chance to act on our telos.

The Telos is all about fulfilling my purpose, which supposedly can be deduced from my nature (otherwise we would not bother trying to figure it out). And in greek myth didn't Prometheus create people? with a purpose in their metaphysical system? If so then it would seem that Prometheus did not only create man, but (whether intentionally or not) also man's telos (due to its being "inextricably linked with the nature of the entity"), since that is part of my nature. And so it would seem that Prometheus knows best what is good for us. And i don't know about you, but he won't talk to me.

SO, fun though it was, I think we can say that the fate objection does not hold, and I must agree with Martin when he says "The concept of 'telos' is slightly more complicated than your post seems to present", but that doesn't mean that my presentation is wrong, just simplified. with more flesh it's still a question.

michael said...

I should probably mention that I am not so much concerned here with what a telos is, but rather in what relation it sit with the person. I have a feeling that a more complete description of what a telos is will be easier once this has been asnwered.

Pete said...

Teleology sucks

nyrhtak said...

what is a telos?

MH said...

To paraphrase Aristotle (from memory, so I may be off the mark) a telos is that target toward which an arrow is fired, or, to put it another way, it is the end toward which a thing aims. For the Hellenics, with regard to man, this was some conception of eudemonia (probably best rendered as ‘success’. Here you need only consider telos as ‘end’.

michael said...

though if it is "that target toward which an arrow is fired, or, to put it another way, it is the end toward which a thing aims" then there is both a passive and an active role here; the thing both aims itself and is aimed. this is the confusion that needs clearing up.

So the question is: are we aimed at eudemonia, or do we aim ourselves at it. If the second, then it's not a very usful thing to identify, is it? But if everybody aims themselves at the same thing (which was going to be the objection), then it would seem like too much chance for me, given the range of people.

If one wants to discover a telos for man, then I reckon that they are going to have to say that someone else gave us our aim. And there's the link to the farmed chickens.

Anonymous said...

Where is the active/passive confusion?

michael said...

Anonymous: here is your grammer lesson for today. If I say "I hit the ball" then the sentance is in the active form as the subject ("I") is the actor. If I say "the ball was hit by me" then the sentance is in the passive form because the subject ("the ball") is being acted upon, and is not itself acting.
Now for the exercise: see if you can find which part of the quote is passive and which active.

Since this discussion is not going anywhere philosophical, it may as well be informative. Astute readers will have noticed my blunder that it was actually the Hatter and not the Caterpillar that asked the riddle of Alice.

Martin Gardner (The annotated Alice, 1960, p95) gives an account of the riddle as follows:

"The Mad Hatter’s famous unanswered riddle was the object of much parlor speculation in Carroll’s time. His own answer (given in a new preface that he wrote for the 1896 edition) is as follows:

Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!” This, however, is merely an after thought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.

Other answers have been proposed, notably by Sam Loyd the American puzzle genius, in his posthumous Cyclopedia of Puzzles, 1914, page 114. In keeping with Carroll’s style Loyd offers as his best solution: because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes. Other Loyd suggestions: because Poe wrote on both; bills and tales are among their characteristics; because they stand on their legs, conceal their steels (steals), and ought to be made to shut up."

Anonymous said...

why is a raven not like a chickn, or you for that matter?

michael said...

I don't know, Anonymous, but I do know why you are like both a raven and a writing desk: you too ought to be made to shut up. Unless of course you had a point to your question at which point you are presumably like a raven, who has a pointed beak, but not like a writing desk in the modern era, which seems a bit outdated and pointless. Which brings me to an answer for you: I am like both a raven and a writing desk because I also contain the characteristic of tales.
This story even has a moral, to wit, stories can be told to explain why anything is like anything else, but thy quickly loose their purpose.

Alejandro said...

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Edgar Allan Poe wrote on both.

michael said...

Alejandro: see post "on talking to one's self" and comment for this topic from August 03, 2005 2:14 PM.