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"Philosophy can tell of the world, but it cannot explain it. This is all right. Let us remain calm. Prediction-statements need not be the sole interest of the rational mind nor their presence the index to intellectual achievement." (The Cognitivity Paradox, page 44)
Besides the Gorean novels and his other works of fiction, John Norman also wrote two non-fictions books. First, as John Norman, he wrote Imaginative Sex, a book exploring sexuality. Then, as John Lange, he wrote a philosophical work, The Cognitivity Paradox. This book is rarely discussed in the Gorean community and few people seem to have read it. Thus, this brief essay will strive to discuss the contents of the book to delineate its subject matter and show its correlation to the Gorean philosophy. It is an interesting book though many might find its contents a bit "dry" for them.
The Cognitivity Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Claims of Philosophy by John Lange was published in 1970 by Princeton University Press 1970. It is a small, hardcover book of 117 pages and broken down into nine chapters. The book is meant to be an extended essay and thus its brevity is due to that nature. "This essay is addressed to the problem of the nature of philosophy, its cognitivity or lack of it." (page 6) "Is philosophy cognitive? Can philosophy be cognitive? What sorts of things are philosophical assertions? How do we go about finding if they are true or not? Are they the sort of thing that can be true or not? In general the question would seem to be, "What are we as philosophers up to?" This is in a sense to raise the old question which we expect in Philosophy I-"What is philosophy?"-and to which we give, judiciously, no answer, or injudiciously, perhaps unworthily, one of the stock answers from the shelf for contents to be used in extinguishing student questions." (page 10)
Thus, Lange's essay is addressing the most basic nature of philosophy. He is asking for a definition of philosophy and he is asking whether a philosophy can be "true" or not. If we are studying the Gorean philosophy, obviously these questions would be quite relevant to our examination. Unless we know what philosophy is, how can we determine what the Gorean philosophy is? Can the Gorean philosophy be considered to be "true" or not? The validity of the Gorean philosophy is often discussed yet few delve as deep as to ask whether any philosophy can actually be true or not. Such questions touch on all philosophies and not just the Gorean one.
In Chapter 4 of his book, Lange provides a variety of potential definitions of what constitutes a philosophical question. He is not pleased with the answers though as all of the definitions are lacking in some respects. Many of the definitions have certain portions of validity but none of the definitions are comprehensive enough. Thus, Lange chooses to create his own definition, one he spends much of the rest of the essay defending. "Let us say that the thesis of this essay is: The nature of philosophy is proposal." (page 64) A proposal is essentially something put forward for consideration, a matter to be discussed and examined. "I am led to the conclusion that philosophy is proposal largely by the obduracy of philosophical disagreement." (page 66) Lange has witnessed how strongly philosophers defend their own positions, how obstinate they can be such a defense. Persuasion does not work well in the field of philosophy. Both sides in a debate can very strongly and often easily defend their stance.
Yet, despite this type of disagreement, most philosophers would likely not view their ideas as mere proposal. "I think it is surely true that few philosophers in the past, and perhaps few today, have regarded what they are offering as the solution to philosophical problems as proposals. For example, surely the Platos, Aristotles, Hegels and Heideggers of yesteryear and today take themselves to be propounding truths, or at least propositions which may be true, whether they are or not." (page 67) Philosophers believe they are discussing matters that can be cognitive, thus either true or false. "Finally one must observe that it is surely the pervasive, if not unanimous, conviction of the philosophical community that philosophical assertions are cognitive, that they can be true or false, and that philosophical disagreement is genuine disagreement." (page 12) Obviously, those who follow a Gorean philosophy feel that there is truth within that philosophy. They accept it as a given that a philosophy can be true or not. Thus, they are in the same category as most philosophers.
But what about the nature of a proposal and its truth value? Lange states that "…if philosophical assertions are proposals, then they cannot have truth values in customary senses,…" (page 71) That would initially imply that philosophies, if they are proposals, cannot be true. But, Lange continues a further explanation of the nature of proposal for he does feel that such proposals can possess truth values, simply not in the customary sense.
"Proposals, generally, tend to be held subject to certain adequacy conditions." (page 70) Thus, there will be certain requirements that a proposal must meet. "…proposals can, it seems, be adjudicated as being better or worse, and it does not seem altogether absurd to think of a proposal as being the best, or the best known, at least from the point of view of a given set of adequacy conditions." (page 71) Lange thus chooses the extend the concept of cognitivity to create the concept of "derivative cognitivity." This is basically extending the definition of what is a "truth." If some proposal can be seen as the best or ideal proposal, based on a certain set of requirements, then that proposal can be seen to be true. If the proposal fails to meet those standards, then it can be seen as false. Not only the proposals can be judged, but also "…sets of adequacy conditions themselves may be adjudicated." (page 75) Thus, you then have a two-step approach, reviewing not only the proposal but also the adequacy conditions.
Thus, Lange agrees that philosophies can be "true" or not. He simply approaches the matter from a different angle. From his angle, we can thus try to examine the Gorean philosophy to try to adjudicate its cognitivity. To do so, we would first need to consider the adequacy conditions under which it should be subject. This does not seem to be an examination often considered in the Gorean community. So, what criteria should be set up to examine the Gorean philosophy by? Based on this criteria, what other philosophies can the Gorean one be compared to? Based on this criteria, where does the Gorean philosophy fall on the scale of truth? Is it closer to the best possible proposal or does it fall short for some reason?
Lange also touches on the reasons why a certain philosophy might appeal to a specific person. "Proposals are not random,…The proposals which people produce are influenced by a number of factors, and perhaps the most influential of these are psychological rather than logical. It seems reasonably clear that one's predispositions, however acquired, one's self-image, one's heroes, one's self-interests, etc., tend to affect the philosophical proposals to which one commits oneself. Such factors might even determine the proposals to which one commits oneself, but they presumably could not determine the set of proposals to which one should commit oneself." (page 69) Lange is essentially saying that our past will help determine the type of philosophies that attract us, though these philosophies may not necessarily be the ones that are best for ourselves.
Examine your own predispositions and try to determine where your attraction to a Gorean philosophy might have developed. Examine your heroes to see if they possessed the qualities you consider to be Gorean. Such self-examination is always beneficial even on its own. You will likely be able to determine certain factors in your life that led you to the Gorean philosophy. Such factors may be common in the Gorean community, shared experiences leading to the same path.
But, the last part of Lange's comment also cannot be ignored. Just because we are attracted to a certain philosophy does not mean that it is necessarily the best philosophy we should follow. Though we may like or prefer a philosophy does not mean it is good for us. In the long run, such a philosophy could prove to be harmful. Each person is different and what is good for one may not be good for others. "…man seems to be constituted that, statistically at least, he seeks the better and avoids the worse, which is not to deny that what is the better and the worse for him depends on his nature, his own nature, man's nature and not that of god nor beast;" (page 70) Thus it is important to try to examine any philosophy you wish to follow with a more discerning eye. Do not embrace a philosophy just because you seem to like it. Examine the philosophy in detail and consider how it will affect your life. Accepting a philosophy as one's life path is a very serious decision and should not be done lightly. It should be done only after much consideration of all the possible ramifications.
"So now everything is just the same except that it is all different." (page 117)