Chapter 9


We come now to a very controversial part of Blairianism. Why is it that the judgment has to be brought into agreement with the facts? Things can change, and so why can't I bring the facts into agreement with my judgment of them? That is, if you have not yet finished reading this book, it is a mistake to think of yourself as having finished; but you don't have to give up and quit reading and say, "I was mistaken; I haven't come to the end"; you can go on and come to the end and thus make the judgment true by changing the facts.

This is a trivial example, perhaps, but whenever we set a goal for ourselves, what are we doing? We are making an imagination-based act of understanding (because as a goal it obviously isn't derived from the way things now are), and expecting that the facts will conform to it.

And this has to be true of any ideal we conceive. An ideal can't be learned from the facts, because as ideal any actual object necessarily will fall short of it; it is stripped, somehow, of all the shortcomings of the actual objects that cause our knowledge. Hence, it must be got from within.

And of course, that means that stored perceptions are recombined; and as we recombine them, we chop off the "messy" bits and leave only those aspects which we for some reason find desirable; and we add on any nice things from information about other objects which were stored. Thus, if I consider my ideal for my physical self, I would remove the lines and wrinkles that have formed, and resurrect what I looked like at age 25 or so; I would shave a little off the width of my nose, and I would definitely borrow the height and musculature of some athletes I have seen--and so on and so on. I have something of an idea of what I would look like; and it would be recognizable as George Blair, but just barely.

Now what is the difference between an ideal and just an exercise of creative imagination? If I were to imagine what I would look like as a humpback, I could reconstruct an image like that; but I wouldn't call it an ideal, because I wouldn't want it to have any relation to what I factually would be.

Hence an ideal is a mental construct against which the facts are judged.

Evaluation is the judgment of whether the facts conform to the ideal or not.

In other words, evaluation is the opposite of the judgment of understanding, where the concept must conform to the facts; in evaluation, the facts must conform to the understanding--of what they "ought" to be.

Since in this case the understanding is the standard to which the facts must conform, the ideal becomes "more real than real," because the facts will generally fall short of it.

Previous philosophers who have held a realist epistemology have all thought that these ideals were somehow either themselves real or derived from reality. It was not until Kant, in fact, who dared to "build" the "real world" from within that ideals were thought to be constructed by the mind. He thought that the generic "unifying drive" he called "reason" created these ideals (what in all cases except one he called "ideas") of the "total unification of experience" to keep us uniting more and more of our experience into larger wholes; and reason fooled us into thinking that these impossible ideals "really existed" or we'd see what it was up to and just give up. Unfortunately, precisely because they were ideals and mental constructs, you got into various self-contradictory positions if you tried to prove either that they really existed or that they couldn't exist.

But before Kant, Plato and Plotinus thought that the ideals actually existed as Aspects "seen" by the mind in their purity, while the visible objects only partially shared in them. I tried to show how this was a mistake. Christians who followed Plotinus tended to hold that the ideals were "in God's mind," somehow; he knows me "as I really should be," and because of my many sins, I fall short of his idea of me.

Unfortunately, if this is God's idea of the "real" George Blair, then--since I never existed this way and never will--the "real" George Blair is not real, and God's idea of me is mistaken. That saint that I am not has nothing to do with the real George Blair; it is a pure possibility that in principle could have been realized, but wasn't.

And of course if God can't be affected by me, and if he is absolutely simple, then his idea of me as identical with his existence is his act as causing me to exist; in which case, his idea of the "real true" George Blair is the one which exists. But that is the non-saint. So his idea of the "real George Blair" must necessarily be the one that exists, because nothing, as we saw, can prevent him from doing just exactly what he wants.

And this allows us to draw the following conclusion:

Conclusion 8: God has no ideals.

What he knows as the "real true" world is and must be exactly the world which exists, with all its flaws from our point of view. He is absolutely satisfied with absolutely everything that happens, because he actively causes it to happen, and nothing can prevent him from doing just exactly what he wants.

Other realist philosophers, like Aristotle, who didn't think the ideals as such existed in some kind of Platonic world divorced from the material world, nevertheless thought that ideals were "abstracted" from objects by leaving out the limitations and defects of the individual objects and leaving the "pure, simple essence."

Thus, for instance, humanity eliminates the problems of height, various lacks of talent, and so on; so that if it is human to be able to play the piano and some people can't, then the ability is there in "humanity as abstracted," while it may or may not be in some given individual. And since no individual has all the "human" traits (since males lack some human traits that only females have, and vice versa), abstract humanity surpasses the "limitations due to matter," and is an "objective ideal," and is the "true essence of the human as human," and so is a goal to shoot for.

But it is known that this abstraction can't actually exist, and so in what sense is it an ideal? Take an analogous case: heat as such obviously abstracts from any given temperature, and therefore "surpasses" any temperature. But what does this mean? Heat as such is hotter than any definite temperature? Nonsense. It simply means that any temperature is heat, not that "heat as such" goes beyond every temperature.

Actually, what "heat as such" means is how the causes of our heat-feeling-sensations are analogous, and is the finiteness of the existences in question, as related in this way rather than as different from each other in how they affect our skin. But the heat can't be separated from the existence, nor can it be separated from the temperature; this is just an aspect which is a mode of its finiteness, and is not something "really real" about the heat at all. As an aspect and a finiteness of some existence it is precisely a nothing, not a "something."

There is really no such thing as the "real true essence" of something "abstracted" from that object; essences are just the existence as finite, and how I understand the existence as finite depends on how I relate the effects it has in my consciousness, and so discover what other existences it is analogous to.

But if I take the "ways in which existences are similar," say as something in itself, I am like Plato taking the finiteness itself to be a "more real" reality than the existence (the finite existence, the object); and I am misinterpreting the way I understand reality as if it were the reality I understand.

That is, these aspects, we saw are as such not due to existence but to the indirect way we have of understanding existence, through its effects on our consciousness; and so to make of them the "real true essences" of things is to make the essenceness of the essence (the limitation, how existence "leaves off" some of itself in this case) the "true" reality and the actual, individual essence only "somewhat" real. But in my epistemology this is totally absurd.

Hence, the ideals are constructed, not discovered. Insofar as we get them by seeing what is "out there" and ignoring inconvenient facts about it, they have some basis in reality; but this basis can be very, very tenuous, because nothing is to prevent you from creating some view of humans, say, as having wings and tails, and then saying, "What a shame we're so limited!" And I must say, from listening to some people's view of the way the world ought to be, there's not much about it that they could have "abstracted" this ideal from. Look at Marx's "classless society," if you want an example.