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This podcast is a bit different from my usual content.
It’s not about getting physically fitter, but it does have to do with getting emotionally (or spiritually) healthier.
This time around, I’ve invited Pat Flynn of Chronicles of Strength back onto the show to discuss some of the deeper questions of existence. That may sound pretentious, but my podcasts with Pat often delve into philosophical tangents and fortunately, have become especially popular among my listeners.
That’s because Pat is an interesting guy. Not only is he a fitness expert and guru who is known for his kettlebell programming and challenges, but he also has a degree in systematic philosophy. He didn’t give it up after school either. He actively studies that material and is working on a book all about it.
Now, I don’t have a degree in philosophy, but I do have an abiding interest in it, particularly for ideas I can use to improve my life and that I can share with other people to make their lives better as well.
So, what better guest is there for a philosophical chat than someone who’s deeply passionate about it, like Pat?
In this episode, we ponder …
- What relativism is and whether or not truth is objective
- The purpose of freedom
- The nature of morality
- Modern politics and the trajectory of America’s 2-party system
- Our obligations towards others and ourselves in regards to health
- And more …
If you enjoy philosophical discussions that just might make you scratch your chin in reflective thought, listen to this podcast!
7:13 – What is your background?
14:29 – What is the purpose and point of freedom?
19:52 – What is relativism and should we take it seriously?
34:13 – What is a syllogism?
41:45 – What is the other option?
57:33 – Why do we have freedom?
62:55 – What are the cardinal virtues?
1:16:04 – What is morality and why is it important in our lives?
1:20:15 – How would you describe yourself now politically?
1:26:45 – Do we have moral obligations to others?
1:34:32 – What are some of the consequences of not acting responsibly?
Mentioned on The Show:
Pat’s Podcast (The Pat Flynn Show)
Pat’s Website (Chronicles Of Strength)
Pat’s Newest Book (How to Be Better at Almost Everything)
What We Can’t Not Know by J. Budziszewski
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for taking some time outta your day to listen to my words. This episode is a bit different than the type of content I usually produce because it doesn’t have to do with getting physically fitter or healthier, but it does have to do with getting maybe emotionally or even spiritually fitter and healthier because this time around I.
Pat Flynn from Chronicles of Strength back on the show to talk about some of the deeper significance and questions of existence. I know that sounds pretentious, actually, but No, seriously, Pat is an interesting guy because he’s not only a fitness expert in Guru who is particularly known for his kettlebell programming and his kettlebell challenges.
He also has a degree in systematic philosophy and he continues to study that material, and he’s working on a book on philosophy. I don’t know too much about it specifically, but this is something that he is deeply passionate about, probably more so than fitness really. It’s just hard to make a living.
Philosophizing, unless you’re gonna be a professor and I do not have a degree in philosophy, but do have an abiding interest in it and have long haded interest in it, and am particularly interested in philosophical ideas that are practical that I can use to make my life better and that I can share with other people to make their lives better as well.
As far as I’m concerned, workability is enough. If it works, it’s true enough for me. And this is something actually Pat and I talk about in this episode, whether truth is objective or our relativistic ideas more accurate, we talk about the purpose of individual freedom and how it relates to personal responsibility and morality, including how that relates to personal health and fitness.
And the question of ethical obligation. Is it moral right, ethical, proper to be very unhealthy, to be morbidly obese, for example, which is not only harmful to the individual, but also to the people who have to take care of the individual and. Many cases, also the society on the whole by driving up the costs of healthcare.
We also get into a little bit of politics and talk about the trajectory of the current situation as we see it, and particularly regarding America’s two party system and more. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world.
Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, Stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select.
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Pat: Mike Matthews, round two. I’m excited. Yeah. Yeah. People listening. So we got through probably, I don’t know, maybe two thirds of this discussion last week. , but the software I was using Borked out and just gave me my track and not Pat’s track. And I thought that might make for a weird podcast, so yeah.
Mike: If people didn’t think you were a little odd already, right? Yeah. That’s a compliment though. No, I agree. In clown world, the weirder you are, the actually the more normal you are. 100%.
Pat: I meant it as a compliment , but of course. But as it always goes, Mike, I had a blast in the previous conversation and it was magic and then proof.
Like magic, it appeared and then it disappeared.
Mike: We’re on the stage again. We can do the show again.
Pat: I’m confident in that. Yeah. But no good to be here. Seriously. Thanks for having me on. It’s always a pleasure.
Mike: Yes. No, I’m excited. This is a long time overdue. I’ve had people email me. Regarding our first discussion, asking when we’re gonna do another one and just got lost in the shuffle of, all the other things.
But I’m happy that we made it work. And this time around for people listening, let’s just quickly summarize what we’re gonna be talking about. And so there’s two basic questions here. One is, what is the purpose or what is the point of freedom? So is it just to do whatever we want? Or is there some higher noer, more proper end of free will?
I’m getting ahead of myself, so that’s gonna be number one. . Number two is what obligations do we have to ourselves? Ethical obligations, responsibilities, what obligations do you have for ourselves? Do we have obligations to others? Is it moral or is it ethical to do things that are harmful not only to ourselves, but to others?
And we’ll just leave it at that when we get there, we can give some more context. So those are the two questions we’re gonna be discussing. And I wanted to get Pat on to talk about these things because he’s formally educated in this type of discussion and he’s just a neat guy and I like his perspectives and it’s fun to, to pass questions back and forth.
And it’s fun for me because this is an area that I’m. Maybe more educated in than the average person, but not formally and not as much as you are. And it’s fun for me to ask genuine questions, which in some cases might seem stupid to you, but these are just things sometimes that I haven’t thought very much about.
Pat: So it’s learning in real time for me. Oh, no, I,
I value these conversations. I always leave having learned a good amount myself. And I know last time we began, there’s a lot of things I’m trying to remember now cause I wanna make sure we recreate the magic, but one of the things we brought up is this charge.
You hear in the fitness industry, a lot of staying in your lane. And I say if there’s legitimacy to that, at least in its strongest form, then I’m, and that’s bad news for me because my academic background is not fitness, right? I went to school for economics, undergrad and then masters was in philosophy.
Just to give people a quick summary, background, I got into fitness because I think like you, Mike, and a lot of other people is that it really impacted my life in a very positive, In significant way. I was that chubby kid growing up. I was definitely the saddest one of my friends, I had a lot of friends, but I still got picked on for it.
And in high school I started practicing martial arts, TaeKwonDo, got into weight training kettlebells, and it just turned. Everything around for me, like it really just set me on a new trajectory. And so when I was going through college, I just acquired all the various certifications and started training people and then started the blog and started writing about it, and then that just interestingly enough, that became my career path, even though.
Mike: I guess my more formal credentials are not at least directly related to fitness, but we brought up the i the idea of staying in your lane, which by the way, just interject is something that I get and this is how this originally came up. I get it fairly often if I’m commenting about politics or culture, there’s always someone who gets triggered by some joke I make or something, and then they tell me to stay in my lane and I always have to laugh about it cuz it’s such a nonsensical ad Hominin.
Pat: It’s funny because it’s actually a philosophical claim, right? Like you ought to stay in some restricted band of expertise and it’s never really clearly defined. It’s just a very ambiguous charge. Are you a moral philosopher ? What are your credentials to make such a claim?
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. Cause that is, it’s a moral judgment as if I’m doing some, I’m doing something wrong by daring to share my ideas.
Pat: But at any rate, it’s obviously, and it’s more restricted form, it’s too restricted, It seems like it’s obviously false because even though, especially in the world of fitness, and I was talking about this with Dr.
John Barardi and we were in complete agreement, and he’s somebody who is viewed, rightfully so as a highly trained specialist, he has his degree in nutritional science. He was making the point of saying, Look, it’s perfectly appropriate for coaches to assume a generalist role, and at least to be able to help their clients make decisions in certain areas of their life where they might not be a profound specialist, but they can offer assistance of some sort, Maybe even just helping them to find the right specialists to deal with a problem.
So it’s just a little too arbitrary and restricted to say. You have your degree in this or you have your certification in this. So this is the only thing that you can talk about. On a practical level, the last thing a client wants to hear when they’re saying, Oh my, my knee’s killing me, Mike, you know what I is?
You throw your hands up, say, Can’t help you. I’m not a physical therapist, , to be immediately frustrated with you. There’s certainly something that you can do that’s both reasonable and responsible, even if you don’t have your doctorate in physical therapy for somebody like this.
Mike: And there’s also, not that this is directly relevant, but it’s indirectly related to this, the fact that many scientific breakthroughs we’re made by.
People who were working outside of their area of expertise, and it was their fresh view point that they brought to the field where they did make some discovery. It was the fact that they could think outside the box, so to speak, or they could use different frameworks to view these problems that they solved in unique ways that allowed them to do that.
Pat: That’s a common occurrence. Wow. Dejavu. I feel like we are literally recreating our previous conversation. This is weird, but cool. And, but that’s obviously right. And when we think about what understanding is, a lot of our act of understanding is relating concepts and ideas to reach higher levels of understanding.
So it would make sense that depth is important. Nobody is denying that. I’m a big fan of depth, but having breadth as. Can really lead to novelty innovation in a lot of the things that you just described.
Mike: Absolutely. In a practical, everyday sense, if anybody listening wants to experience that, check out a book.
I’m sure there are many books like this, cuz it’s a popular thing I think these days. But I’m going through a book right now called Super Thinking and it’s just a big collection of mental models taken from different fields, taken from physics, taken from economics, taken from. Statistics and they just give you, again, interesting frames of reference that you can use to apply to situations that are not related to economics or to just statistical analysis.
And when you spot a situation that conforms to a mental model, which again, is just a way of conceiving of a problem or conceiving of a situation or something you’re observing, you can then, if you can align what you’re seeing or what you’re dealing with to a model that seems to fit, you can then also have a kind a shortcut or a cheat code to resolving the situation you’re trying to resolve or achieving the goal you’re trying to achieve.
Because if you have. Picked the right model to overlay on it, you can then assume that you can use the rules and the mechanism of the model to help you deal with whatever you’re dealing with.
Pat: Yeah, and that’s, there’s a lot of good points there. But even if you think back to some the math classes that you may have taken in high school, or if you did math in college, a good math teacher will always, even within the restricted field of mathematics, when you’re solving a problem, one of the rules that you use, especially if you’re struggling, is to try and draw links or analogies to other problems that may have been in some way similar to those problems.
So you’re always trying to think outward in some respect, in order to go deeper. In another respect. You see this in all fields, but even in math it’s just one of the basic principles and tools we use with mathematical.
Mike: Makes sense. Another book along these lines that people might find interesting for problem solving and just being creative is, I believe it’s called Thinker Toys.
I think I’m remembering that correctly. And it’s just a bunch of creative, I’m gonna pull this up on talking a bunch of creative exercises for solving problems and coming up with ideas and it just, yeah, Thinker toys and it gives, It’s something that. I think if somebody wants to train their creativity muscle, so to speak, is something that’d be worth spending some time on, maybe even a little bit every day or a few days per week, like a little bit of a workout, so to speak, where maybe you are not.
Trying, Maybe you’re not applying it to anything meaningful in your life. It’s really just practice to try to come up with new and different ways of looking at things and thinking about things. Yeah,
Pat: that’s a good recommendation. If I would toss another one in there, I would say how to solve it. Famous classical text on mathematical thinking.
Mike: Interesting. It seems a little bit familiar, but I don’t see a cover or anything. Maybe I haven’t even come across it.
Pat: Yeah. It’s one of those books that’s probably been republished under many different looking covers at this point. Cool. I’ll check it out. Yeah. But yeah, good stuff’s so easy to get off, off on a tangent.
But hey always fun .
Mike: Hey, at least we find it interesting. , there’s still some people. So let’s get to this first question here of what is the purpose and the point of freedom? Is it just to do whatever we want? Is there a proper end? And while discussing that, we might as well tie it to something topical, which is the protests that are going on, the lockdown protests that are going on right now, and the idea of exercising freedom.
I guess that’s one lens. We could view this through a larger, a broader one might just be the, Which is part of the argument of these, in support of these protests is that’s the spirit of the ideology that this country was founded upon, is self-governance. And it’s not just doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it, but it is the idea that you are free to do what you want to do so long as you’re not hurting others or imposing costs on others or society.
Pat: So a lot of ways we can take this, and I do wanna circle back to that cause that’s like a very. Minimal libertarian, almost liberal, ethical philosophy. And I actually think there’s a lot of issues wrong with that. And I would even say that’s probably not entirely accurate in terms of the principles that our country has founded on, even though it seems to be a common representation today.
But let’s just, let’s hang a lantern on that because what it comes to freedom in the kind of political and civil sphere. To me that’s a secondary concern. It’s still a major concern, but first, I’m more interested in the kind of the metaphysical sphere. And for people who aren’t familiar, metaphysics is just first philosophy.
Like it’s the study of being on the most fundamental level. And so the metaphysical questions are the really, the very deep structural questions of reality. We’re trying to figure out what is fundamental reality, what is the nature of causation, identity change, all these kind. Big ticket items that often are taken as assumptions in many of the other fields of inquiry, including science.
So metaphysics and a lot of philosophy. What’s important about philosophy and what always intrigued me about philosophy is that it’s really the only discipline that keeps the books on everything else. This is why you have philosophy of physics and philosophy of biology, but also keeps the books on itself, right?
It’s the discipline that attempts to examine and probe and justify or falsify assumptions wherever they’re found. So there’s a lot of ways we could take this mic, and I really like the direction we went last time with relativism, so maybe we could try and get back on that track. But on a fundamental level, there’s just a question of, Okay, is there human freedom and what is it?
And then you have all kinds of debate. Around that of, different worldviews. Some are deterministic and mechanistic, others are more Aristotelian and holistic. I’m obviously in the latter category. I think of mechanistic. Materialism is just preposterously silly. It’s and I used to be one, , let anyone think that I’m engaging like heavy motivated reasoning.
I used to be a very committed materialist and skeptical person, but as I got deeper into philosophy, I eventually came to, to see that, that it’s got almost everything backwards. So we could come back to that and examine like the arguments for and against human free will if you think that’s important or interesting.
But I forget how we got on the conversation last time about relativism in particular, cuz I thought that was actually a really good way to set the stage and link it to the nature of human freedom and whether it’s just an, the purpose of freedom is to just arbitrarily decide to do whatever we want.
Or if it’s a capacity with more content than that, like there’s actually something that freedom is for, which sounds initially strange to some people, but this is a very classical view of freedom. That freedom is a capacity for a certain excellence, for a certain goodness and a certain perfection of the human person.
And we’re seeing a resurgence of this view even only implicitly with a lot of people who become culturally very popular. And I would point to people like even people like Joco Willing, and he is got a book that’s called Discipline equals Freedom, and I would. The reason people find that attractive is because it speaks to a much more classic view of freedom.
Where freedom is a capacity for a certain type of excellence. It’s not all about just autonomous self direction. There’s more to it than this. So it’s actually really interesting to see people who might not, have backgrounds and philosophy coming to a lot of these. I would argue, intuitive conclusions about human freedom.
So I know I just dumped a ton out there, Mike, but I’ll let you parse through some of that and decide where we should take it up. Yeah,
Mike: I think we should take up relativism because it’s very much a part of the zeitgeist now, and it’s enticing to people who want to give into their. They’re darker, more degraded impulses and the idea that there really is no right and wrong, so just do whatever makes you happy Is I particularly popular, I think among the millennial generation and.
Yeah. So I think that’s a great place to enter in and then we can broaden out from there. We can talk a bit about maybe I’d be curious as to your take on what you were talking about in terms of the founding principles of, Cause it’s not just, it’s not just American government, right? I guess this probably would take us into the founding.
Principles of the Enlightenment,
Pat: right? Yeah. There’s a lot of spillover. And there, of course, there’s huge debate on this subject, and I won’t claim to be . I won’t, I’ll try to stay somewhat in my lane when it, when we get to that, but I’ll at least maybe be able to give a framework for how to think about some of these issues, even if we can’t settle all of them.
Mike: So let’s start with this idea of right and wrong. Yeah. Is that just a social construct? And therefore nobody should feel bad for anything that they do because
Pat: it is so let, Yeah. Let’s unpack relativism, what it is and see if there’s any good reason to, to take it seriously. And it’s something that has had significant cultural influence and you can see.
in just the language of Mike, you already gave a few examples, but even things when people say my truth, if you wanna trigger Pat Flint, say my truth, I’m not an easy person to ri up, but that will definitely do it. Cause to somebody who isn’t a relativist, that’s one of the most annoying things that a person could say.
So I guess it depends
Mike: how it’s used, right? Cause there is, if I were to say, I don’t say that, use that phrase my truth, but if somebody were to mean my perspective, By that,
Pat: that’s thing. You know what I mean? Yeah. If they’re using it in replacement of my opinion, it’s okay. We Just say your opinion then.
Because when we’re talking about, Or even my
Mike: recollection, right? You could have a car accident and seven people witness it, and then the cops come and get seven different accounts of what happened, sure.
Pat: Or my perception or whatever. Yeah. But when you say truth, like truth is obviously something that philosophers think deeply about, and I would argue that something like the correspondence theory of truth is correct.
That truth is just telling it like it is. It’s the way things really are independently of the mind. So when we say that there’s an objective truth or that there are objective truths, we mean that there’s a way that things attain regardless of how we think about them. So another way to think about this is truth is when intellect conforms to reality, I hold a true belief when my thought corresponds or matches up to the way things really are, that I have a proper understanding of the way the world is.
Outside of my head. And this is a very common sense, view of truth, right? And I would argue in a lot of cases, good philosophy at least return you to a fairly common sense view of the world
Mike: and it should probably produce positive results when acted upon. Would you agree with that or
Pat: I, Yeah. I would say it should cause you to flourish and we could get into the reasons why.
I think that is the case as we move along. This will tie definitely into freedom. So relativists and there’s different forms of relativism, but maybe I could start with a little anecdote. Less. Anybody think they’re entirely mythical creatures? My first ethics professor was a strong form moral relativist.
So they not only exist, but , they are passing along these ideas to their students actively. And when I say strong form moral relativist, I mean she wants to say that there are no objective truths of any kind, but including an especially moral truths. And I have a pretty funny story that maybe I’ll share as we move along of a conversation I had with her.
But I think we can start to like peel. Peel this back a little bit because, but she had
Mike: strong moral judgments, I’m sure about .
Pat: Of of course, but let me just, let me make the connection like this is a barrier. This is a cultural and intellectual barrier to the position that I wanna argue for.
So it is worth working through this at first and philosophy has a lot of setup, but then I think the payoff is pretty worth it. So I’ll tell you the, the kind of funny story really quick with this professor is obviously in her class, I’m just arguing with her all the time. This is one of the reasons that I didn’t wanna do my undergrad in philosophy, cuz I thought all the professors were so terrible.
I’m like, I’ll just do a harder, like a more, like economics is what I eventually settled on. And I did philosophy for masters at a, I think a. Better school. So she’s promoting, this kind of moral relativism one day, right? That, that there are no really, there’s no objective right or wrong that everything is the result of so socio bio evolutionary conditioning.
And she’s saying because of this, we ought not to instruct people or criticize them, or blame them or praise them for any of their moral behavior. Now what you pointed out, Mike, is that, that it’s hard. Live that view without at least a performance contradiction. It’s hard to just live, if not impossible to live with that type of view.
Mike: Is that a technical term? Performance contradiction?
Pat: Yeah, a performance contradiction. We could just call it a lived contradiction. It’s not a formal logical contradiction, but it’s saying one thing and doing another. Okay. Hypocrisy. Yeah. . Yeah. Essentially in a way. So even then she’s making moral claims.
She’s saying We ought not right to criticize. Praise, blame, instruct people’s behavior because morals are all relative, but then she’s already pointing to at least one moral value that isn’t relative. That we ought not , that we ought not to do these. Okay.
Mike: This is not relative. This one is absolute. All the
Pat: others though, , right?
So five minutes, Like you don’t have to be a professional philosopher to sniff out nonsense. And so what was her response? Or
Mike: you point
Pat: out to her. So the funny thing is I’m arguing with her, with this in class, right? And after class she brings me up. And she’s I actually hesitate to tell this story cuz it’s so silly.
People are gonna think it’s like an SNL sketch so that I’m making it up. I am not making this up. Actually, one of our fellow friends in the fitness industry, Alex Salcon, was staying with me at the time and he came and he audited the class. So he, I have witnesses. Let me just say I have witnesses. This is a real conversation.
And so she calls me, she’s like, Pat, you know I am. I appreciate, your enthusiasm, maybe you could tone it down a little bit and let other people contribute in the conversation. And I said professor, I just, I really value speaking up, like this is my value. This is my truth, is speaking up and being obnoxious.
So she says maybe you might, find that it’s valuable or more valuable to let other people contribute. I said, No, actually I don’t value that at all. I value my opinion and that’s my truth. And that’s it. Like immediately. Obviously, I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m just trying to drive the point that she can’t live consistently with her worldview.
She wants to say what I’m doing is she wants to say you’re wrong. Yes. She wants exactly. She wants to say I’m wrong and I should stop because it’s wrong to be, a nuisance in class. And I think most people would agree with that. And to be fair, I probably was being somewhat of a nuisance because I was so annoy.
But I felt like I had a moral obligation not to let this stuff just be disseminated again among a lot of people who really had no, like a lot of these kids taking this philosophy class weren’t majors. They just had to check a box, and so they weren’t like, they didn’t really care, but this stuff seeps in, right?
Mike: Yeah. What they will care about though is what resonates with them and what justifies their failures or allows them to, because I think you’d agree with this many people, and we’ve all been guilty of this to some degree, and it’s something we, even those of us who are always trying to evolve to a higher state struggle with is many times we do what we want to do because we want to do it.
So oftentimes we don’t even know why we want to do it, and then afterwards we rationalize why it made
Pat: sense to do it 100%, right? So she’s giving them grounds for rationalization hopefully it never gets to the extreme where somebody is out. Drunk driving, they run over a small kid and they think back, Oh, my ethics professor said that it’s all relative.
So I didn’t really do anything wrong, , but it’s like you could imagine the insane consequences from such a worldview. So anyways, long story short, in this conversation, I eventually conceded because she was just not willing to give up. So I said, I just said, Look, professor I’m really not trying to be a jerk, but I just think that you’re way off on this one.
To be fair, she’s a nice lady. Like she was a nice, she was genuinely a nice woman. Like I really did enjoy her, but she’s just the victim I think of a very pernicious ideology and I never followed up with her. I don’t know if she eventually changed her mind or anything like that, but that’s a true story.
That was my first ethics professor in college, and that’s on the moral level. Just really quickly on that sort of absolute level, if somebody claims there are no objective truths, right? Just take that claim where they’re claiming then. If that’s true, there’s at least one objective truth, right?
That relativism is true, which really just makes the entire project self-defeating. But if that statement is false, then we can shrug our shoulders at the claim. We don’t have to take relativism seriously. So it suffers from in its strongest form.
Mike: And so what then taking it, being intellectually honest with it would be basically that it would take you, to the point where you’d say, Oh, we can’t know anything really about anything.
Pat: That you still know. Even that is enough. You still know at least one thing. You still know that you can’t know anything. So then It’s just stop.
Mike: Don’t even think about it. Don’t worry about
Pat: it. No. The point, you’re right, because the point is truth is a nuisance. It won’t leave you alone.
It’s there. We can know it. So even in trying to claim like a strong agnosticism, Oh, we can’t know anything about reality, or we can’t know anything about even God, or something like that. That’s at least one thing we can know. So maybe we can know a little bit more. Yeah, truth is, again, sometimes things are way simpler and oftentimes you have to get into this sort of messy and annoying philosophical argumentation to bring you back to the simple and to the obvious.
And sometimes it’s worth doing cuz you know, sometimes intuitions can be off and sometimes common sense could be off. But, and,
Mike: and just to interject, this is something that I remember we quickly commented on in round one, and that is that this type of stuff used to be common currency among younger people.
Being educated. So if you go back to the medieval times, I was reading about this recently. It was a book more, just like a long essay from a woman, Oh, I forget her name, but it was, it’s called like the Lost Tools of Learning or something like that. And it was, I believe it was actually a speech she gave at Oxford University and it got transcribed and probably edited in, There you go.
But basically she was talking about how in medieval times, how different schooling was. And it started with something called the trivium, which was grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric and grammar just
Pat: meant it was, and logic as well. Okay, so
Mike: the way that it was described in this book was three things, right?
Grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. And how those broke down was grammar was Latin, right? Basically you’re learning in an inflected language. You’re building a vocabulary, you’re learning to understand words. And then dialectic was the art of investigating truth, what we’re talking about here, how to think logically.
Formal logic apparently went under the dialectic heading. And then rhetoric was learning how to communicate persuasively
Pat: real quick, Mike I’d be curious if that, cuz there’s an, a wonderful book on this called The Trivium, and it’s actually by a brilliant nun. She’s a PhD. Miriam Joseph, I think she’s definitely no longer alive, and I would highly recommend that book to anyone.
So it’s on, logic, grammar, and rhetoric, which you just described. So I’d just be really curious if that was by the same woman, because she’s so good on this topic and it sounds and she makes that argument, right? Hey, this is the fundamentals of a truly classical education, right?
Cause if you don’t get this stuff, if you don’t get the principles down, you’re gonna be so much more susceptible, if you will, to nonsense.
Mike: Absolutely. And there’s a deeper problem though, because, and this is how it’s explained. It wasn’t by her, by the way, I did add that book to my list because this is the first I had come across.
I, I heard. It talked about in an interview that I was watching. I was like, Oh, that sounds interesting. And then I came across this book and it was short, so I was like, All right, I’ll read this first and see what my thought is. And then I liked it. And I added that book you just mentioned to, That’s like the next, I’ll read on the topic, but it wasn’t by her.
I’ll grab the name when next time you’re talking. But the deeper problem, and this is talked about in this essay, is that education today is much more about just learning topics. And I see it with my son who does well in school, but he doesn’t understand like why? Why is he learning these things? And he’s decent at learning, but the focus back.
When the trivium, when you start with the trivium, was teaching somebody how to learn first and making them learn to like the process of learning because they’re good at it and teaching them how to think and teaching them how to communicate ideas, their own ideas, which encourages them to generate ideas and not just be conformists who just take orders and listen to authority.
And then once you had a person in a place where they have a grounding in grammar, they have in language, they have a grounding in how to think, they have a grounding in how to speak and communicate, then you start feeding them to. Subjects asist for their intellectual mill. And the focus though is it’s not that the subjects are fine, you’re learning the subjects, but it’s not just learning a subject for its own sake.
It’s giving them things to now use their machinery that they just built on. And then in the higher education was the, I believe is what it was called. Like you moved on. And I don’t remember exactly what it was at that time, but you could think of that as I don’t know, probably university was my understanding in terms of the analogy.
Maybe that’s wrong. But as you get older, then if you’re gonna specialize in formal learning, you move on to the quadrivium. And again, I might be wrong on that point. It was the book that I read was just about the trivium, but that made a lot of sense to me. And you compare that to how education now is today, and you have.
A lot, you have less emphasis on the language side of things. And I think what’s particularly harmful is that you are taught, for example, to just guess the meaning of words based on context. And sometimes you might get it right. Many times you’re not, especially with a language like English, which has a lot of words, and you have a lot of synonyms and you have a lot of nuances and subtleties of meaning.
And so that, and then you have formal logic. I don’t even think it’s taught at all to younger kids how to think.
Pat: Look, you can have, So I’ll give you another example, right? My, I gave an argument at the end of this ethics class, again, actually against more, My final project was an argument against moral relativism, and I had a syllogism there, and my professor asked me to outline the logical form of the syllogism because she didn’t know how to do it.
Now, a lot of people probably wouldn’t know how to do that because a lot of people aren’t trained in logic. But imagine getting a PhD in philosophy and never having the simple, basic. Rudiments of logic, right? It just blew my mind and it’s like, why are you having, the undergrad student outline this sort of logical notation you should be the one teaching this, not asking me do it.
So you can get, you can literally get your PhD in philosophy these days and somehow just have. Very little to almost no understanding of the different systems of logic. And there are different systems of logic, yet Telian logic, you have mathematical logic, things like that.
Mike: Do you wanna quickly outline a syllogism what that is for?
Anybody wonder? Yeah.
Pat: So a classic silage like a motus opponents would be something like, all men are mortal. Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal, right? Where the conclusion is built into the proceeding premises, right? It’s logically entailed by those previous commitments. So a premise is just a step in an argument, right?
And then the way premises connect and conclusions follow logic is just formally delineating those connections in certain respects. So that’s like a quick overview, but logic is certainly much more than that. Part of logic means understanding proposition types, universal affirmatives, universal negatives, particular affirmatives, particular negatives.
There’s a lot to it, right? Formal fallacies, informal fallacies. Everybody likes to study the informal fallacies cuz they think they’re like fun, but, I would argue you have to roll up your sleeves and do the real homework and understand logic on a deeper level, especially if you’re gonna understand how informal fallacies apply.
Cause even with informal fallacies is they’re not always a universal rule. For example let me just give, just to give people a concrete example, like the idea, the fallacy of composition, which would be a mistake in reasoning from parts to whole. That’s only sometimes a fallacy, right? So if you say that, hey, every part of an elephant is light, therefore the entire elephant is light.
That would be an example of the fallacy of a composition. But there’s certain qualitative categories where that wouldn’t apply. Hey, every brick in the wall is red, therefore the entire wall is red. That actually seems correct, right? . So you need to have, I would say, deeper training in logic to have the best understanding of when informal fallac.
Apply. The point is logic is very important because most people can reason pretty intuitively on a basic level, but sometimes you need to dig a little deeper and you really need to kinda pull out the hidden assumptions or premises in somebody’s argument and try and put it into its logical form in order to really assess it.
And that takes training. But if you really want to be a great thinker, that’s training that is, that I would argue, should be in a basic curriculum for every, anybody going through education. I
Mike: completely agree, and not for the purpose of defeating people in arguments on the internet . That might be fun from time to time.
But this is like a, I think a core necessity for living a successful life because it is part and parcel of making good decisions and many decisions that we. Are simple and are reversible and don’t have much in the way of consequences. What clothing we’re gonna wear today, what we’re gonna eat for lunch or whatever.
But there are many decisions that are less reversible and are more consequential. And there are many decisions that we make that are genuine inflection points in our lives where the decision we make faced with the circumstances that we have is going to, I mean it, it could set the path for the foreseeable future, maybe the rest of our lives, and we can afford to make, This is just me, just babbling.
These are my thoughts. But I think we can afford to make a lot of mistakes. We can afford to make bad decisions, but we also need to make good decisions and we have to make very important good decisions. There are certain decisions we can’t screw up, like I think marrying the wrong person, for example.
Very bad decision and depending on why that is, but we’ve all seen it. I think in other people, and maybe some people listening, I’ve experienced it like if you mess that up, it just can mess so many other things up in your life that you can’t afford to make that bad decision. And so then how do you get better at making good decisions?
I think what you’re talking about is a very effective way. Maybe one of, maybe the most effective way. Maybe there’s the moral component of it, cuz you could be probably a very logical person. But if you are all screwed up on morals, then that can. Mess things up as well. But I would say it’s one of the most important things is being able to think logically and I don’t think that necessarily means that you need to have maybe as much command of the topic and the terminology and the machinery as you do.
I think though that if somebody works through this stuff like you’re saying and studies it and not just skims it but studies it and really ensures they understand the concepts and can work with the concepts that I do think that we retain at least subconsciously a portion of that and we can walk away a little bit better.
Maybe it takes multiple times going through this kind of material as
Pat: well. Yeah, a lot of good stuff there again, and I think like why is this worth studying? I think it’s because we all recognize at bottom. Some people’s persistent denial of it. That truth exists and we can know it at least Some of it, maybe not the complete set of answers to the complete set of questions that could be coherently asked, but we can know at least some of it, and it’s also good.
To know things like it’s good. So there is a moral component there. And again we’ll eventually get to the meat of the topic. I pro, I promise we’re working our way along, but there’s also a protection there and being able to think straight, because you might not be a specialized expert in something, but say even you hear a nutrition claim from somebody who seems really credible and they seem like actually a great trained nutritional scientist, and they make an argument, right?
And they have certain premises, but you don’t have the expertise to evaluate the premises in their. But you know enough about logic to see that they’ve made an invalid inference that even if the premises are true, that conclusion doesn’t follow. Now the conclusion might still be true, but it’s not true because of the argument that they’ve presented.
And that alone can be really helpful for people cause it can just help you sift through fact from fiction and what seems to be a decent argument or what doesn’t seem to be a decent argument. And
Mike: propaganda, a lot of the propaganda that works very well on many people is pretty crude.
Pat: It’s not very sophisticated.
And it’s also important to understand that people could be highly trained experts in one area and still just make simple, logical mistakes. Or say that you see this an argument from somebody and it actually is formally valid, like the conclusion would follow from the premises they’ve given.
But you don’t have the expertise to evaluate the premises. What would that tell you? Now you either need to roll up your sleeves and get the relevant expertise or consult other relevant experts to help you determine the answer. So logic is a tool, the best tool to help you arrive at truth and it’s worth doing again, not so we can get in fights on the internet.
It’s so petty and ridiculous. It’s because we know deep down there’s something about our nature, something about our freedom, Mike, that longs for the truth that is on the hunt for the truth. There’s something about the nature of the human mind, the essence of the human mind. Of being a rational being that is pointed at and incessantly on the hunt for truth, right?
Like in a sense, truth perfects our intellect and we really can’t escape that, right? We can play a lot of different games and I think this is why at the very least, even if certain forms of relativism aren’t logically contradictory, you can’t really escape a performance contradiction. You just can’t live consistently with that worldview.
And that’s something to consider why can’t we live consistently with it? But yeah, I don’t know if you wanna spend more time on the, Cuz I know we
Mike: Yeah. No. I think this is a great segue back to this point of relativism and how it ties into freedom and should we just do whatever we want and I think you’ve made a good argument for why you can’t do whatever you want and make moral judgements that things are entirely.
Relative. So then what’s the other
Pat: option? So last time you asked me, Okay. It seems like at least the strongest forms of moral re of just relativism in general, not just moral relativism seem to suffer from this self defeat problem. Like you just can’t make sense of it. It’s like a swift dissent into nonsense and you ask, what’s the rebuttal to that?
What’s the best move to make to that? And I think the best move that you can try to make if you still wanna be something of a relativist is maybe concede. Okay. Not everything is relative, right? Okay, maybe there are truths that we can know, but maybe we’ll dig our heels and just say at least morals are relative.
The whole realm or experience of morality, that’s all a great big illusion. So you’ve toed it down a notch, if you will. So you’re just gonna just, And I guess you
Mike: would say again, that’s more of a product of a society, of a civilization, of a culture, of a people. They decide what is right and wrong, and if you were somewhere else, it would be different.
If you went back in time, it would
Pat: be different. So there’s a lot we can say about this, and I think it’s worth saying at least a few things because again, I promise this will tie into our overall theme. Once the connections are made, hopefully people will see that this was worth it. But I also hope that this is interesting in and of itself, because these.
Important issues and they really influence our culture. One thing is just to think about are the consequences of accepting this? And it’s just because something has nasty consequences doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. But I think it’s good to get clear on what the consequences of moral relativism are.
And I would argue that moral relativism at the end of the day, really collapses into moral nihilism. That you just deny that there’s any truly right or wrong or really meaning at all in, in a moral sense. And the consequences from being a moral relativist saying that no, no people, no cultures are any better morally speaking than others is pretty preposterous Cuz.
Cuz you would ultimately be committed to the idea that. America is no better or worse now than when we practiced slavery, or Germany is no better or worse now than when the Holocaust was going on. So you’ve really eliminated any possibility of moral progress at really at the bottom. We just have moral change at this point, and nobody wants to accept that, at least not with a straight face because it seems like we have made genuine moral progress in many areas that the vast majority of people, even philosophers agree on.
So that’s one serious consequence. It seems that it would eliminate. Coherence of moral progress being at all possible. But also there’s, the other consequences is just the basic moral intuitions that we have. Seem like they’re so strong. It seems like there’s such a reality to the experience of somebody, of the wrongness, of somebody saying, beating and raping a small, innocent child.
That the entire experience of that just seems no that’s really and truly wrong. But if relativism isru, then that’s just that guy’s value or preference. Who are you to judge? That’s his or her truth. He’s just a
Mike: what is it? It’s a minor attracted person.
Pat: it. Yeah. So moral responsibility is now gone. So now how you make sense of the criminal justice system, just, you can’t make sense, right? There’s moral responsibility is cause nobody could be culpable for anything if there isn’t any wrong thing you could possibly do. So these are really a dire consequences of this type of worldview.
Now, again, maybe that’s just the way the world is. That doesn’t show that it’s wrong, but it certainly shows that it’s repugnant to how most people live and experience the moral realm. But here’s what I would say, right? So I would say, Okay, we have this moral power. That’s with, or we at least seem to have this moral power where we have this perception of an objective moral realm where some things to all of us, and this is something that is occasioned, even in very small kids, It’s amazing.
Like you have kids too, of just how at such a young age, kids without any introduction to these certain moral notions, just start speaking and using moral language. Hey, that’s not fair. You gave her more of the apple than me. They have notions of fairness, right? And stuff like that.
It’s really incredible. Just it’s definitely built into our person, the essence of who we are. So we have this real moral sense, right? This sense of moral realm, right? And we have all these other senses. We have the classic senses of sight and seeing and taste and feeling, and we have these other powers and senses.
We would say we have a power of reasoning, right? We have a reasoning power. What I would say is any. That you might wanna give against why we shouldn’t take our moral sense or our moral powers seriously. Seems like it would apply equally to all of our cognitive faculties, all of our cognitive powers, including reason itself.
And that it’s arbitrary to assume that we have these genuine powers that really give us an objective knowledge of the world, including reasoning or any of the physical senses. But then you just wanna arbitrarily exclude the moral sense and the moral power, or say you can’t trust that or, Yeah, like that one, for whatever reason is dubious extremely dubious.
And what I wanna say is you can’t legitimately, at the end of the day do that. You can’t legitimately break the uniformity of our sort of cognitive faculties or human powers or senses or whatever you wanna call it, because as soon as you do, the whole project is gonna come down, including reason that we wouldn’t even have any reason to think that reasoning is reliable.
But if that’s the case and we couldn’t have any possible reason for thinking that, Reasoning isn’t reliable. So we very quickly enter a sort of radical and self defeating skepticism. So in philosophy, this is known as a torsion tactic where it’s saying, Okay, if we really follow this through, it seems like it would, Any arguments you could give against the moral power would render all of our cognitive faculties dubious.
And then we’re just gonna again, take another swift dissent into nonsense. But we know at
Mike: least, And the conclusion itself too, of course, because how did you come to this conclusion about morality? Oh, through reason. But that should be questioned as well. So who
Pat: cares? So let’s put some context here.
Why would people think that it’s a losery? We evolved, right? We evolved to have this moral experience. Apparently we evolve to have reasoning too in all the other physical senses, right? So the question’s deeper, like evolution can’t answer the question, right? Cause did we evolve to invent something about reality or did we evolve to detect something about reality?
And in almost all the other cases, we feel and think we have good arguments to believe that we evolved to discover and detect the way the world really. So there’s no reason, at least not upfront to deny that very well couldn’t also be the case for morality. And it certainly seems to be the case, right?
Even though morality is a different type of reality, it’s not something that we can distill in a test tube or look through telescope or something like that. But that itself would, if you’re going to exclude any aspect of reality that isn’t susceptible to empirical investigation, that itself is a ridiculous position, I would argue, because science, all empirical investigation assumes certain real certain truths that cannot be justified by the sciences.
So that approach I, I don’t think would work either. So the general argument I’m giving here is not one, just from the repugnancy of the consequences of moral relativism, but that you can’t, at the end of the day coherently sustain that worldview without entering a sort of radically globally self-defeating skepticism that would eventually undermine itself.
Mike: And to bring it to a very pragmatic level. Again, the consequences are, and this is something I was commenting on the first time we were talking, that my interest in philosophy started with, I guess it’s the American strain of pragmatism. Okay. What works and what does not work? What am I trying to accomplish with existence?
I’m trying to, flourish is a good word, and not just for myself, but I also would like to see others do well, and I would like to contribute to their flourishing and hopefully contribute to the flourishing of the society that I live in to some degree, and maybe even the human race to some degree. If nothing else, maybe I can pass on some good genes or something and provide a, I don’t know, a little bit of a eugenic ripple effect to later generations.
So my interest was, More along the lines of what works and what does not work, like what ideas form together an operating system that allows me to better do that. And then what ideas get in the way and the ones that get in the way. are the ones that I am inclined to eject regardless of. And I’m, I wouldn’t be able to make as informed of an argument as you would be able to against them.
But I would come down to when you act in accordance with those ideals, you see these are the kind of things that happen. And that’s like the exact opposite of what I want to happen. So if I do these things over here, regardless of why they are, regardless of who cares if, all I know is if I align myself to these ideas, ah, life gets better and I move in this
Pat: good direction.
Yeah. So I would push back on pragmatism a little bit. And I think maybe
Mike: again, though, maybe I’m using that word, I’m using it. No.
Pat: So pragmatism is an ignorant, As an ignorant layman. Yeah. Yeah. No, it is a common philosophy. But I would say it’s already conceding too much to the relative.
Camp for a couple of reasons. First off, if you say that the truth is just what works, that would be a very strong form. Pragmatism. You’ll notice in philosophies there’s always like stronger and weaker forms of things, right? And the weaker forms usually come out from people who originally promoted the strong form, realizing, okay, this isn’t gonna work.
We need to back off this. So pragmatism, the truth is just what works Well, the funny thing is like even if that were the truth, it would still assume the correspondence theory of truth. Like it is true that the truth is what works, right? And that’s the way reality is. So you would still be committed to a deeper, I would say commitment to truth in the way that somebody like Aristotle would argue for it.
But I think, Yeah,
Mike: no, that makes sense. Maybe I didn’t communicate that. I haven’t put as much thought into the deeper, I’ve been more just personally have operated more on the pragmatic level. Yeah. But
Pat: I wanna push that too because I think that there’s, cuz what you’ve essentially delineated is the content framework, right?
So Con had is hypothetical and categorical imperatives, and a hypothetical imperative would be something. If you want this, then you should do that. But it all hinges on that if, so Mike, you might want something that’s totally different than somebody else. So what works for you might not work for the other person depending on that.
The sort of AnSed dent the, if so, in a sense, like even if you’re not trying to, it’s like relativist ish in a way. And we’re con, the categorical imperative. Do this. That’s it. Full stop. Right Now I’m not a Conan. I think that a lot of K’s philosophy was messed up.
I think that the type of pragmatism you’re talking about would Okay, it would fit within the hypothetical imperatives, but somebody might just say I want totally different things than you, Mike, so that’s your truth. And I’ve got mine. You see how that could be smuggled in there, even from your position.
Mike: So then the, I guess more what you’re getting at is there are absolute truths that we should align ourselves toward universally. And if you do that, it manifests. Would you say human flourishing is a good way of, yeah. What does, What do most people want? Unless they’re really screwed up.
It’s simple. They
Pat: want what I was on. They want happiness ultimately. And all the classical philosophers realize this. Everybody wants happiness at the end of the day, that everything that we do because we think in some way, either rightly or wrongly will make us happy.
And you were already getting at that. And that’s a true insight. Even the person, even in extreme circumstances that’s considering committing suicide, they’re doing it cuz they think they would be better off. In some odd sense, they would be happier if they were dead. So even the extreme circumstances speak to this deep truth, right?
That we all long for ultimate happiness, whatever that is. And we can try and unpack that as we move along. But I’m sorry I can’t get off the pragmatism thing here just for another minute because I think it’s also important to realize that there’s, there seems to be clear counter examples where something can work and not be.
It might be helpful for me to hold certain false beliefs, certainly, maybe even from an evolutionary standpoint. Like maybe I survive being run over by rush hour traffic because I believe that there’s monsters hiding under the street and that false belief stops me from going out. But that’s clearly not true, right?
So there could be things that could be useful in a sense, but not true. So I just had to get that last thing in, right? Yeah. Oh,
Mike: No. That does make sense to me. And I would, it would probably take a whole discussion to work through that. But my instinct on that is to agree then that person would be better off if they were to understand what is true and be able to act in a way that is conducive to their
Pat: wellbeing, right?
Yeah. So now finally, some of the payoff into the main topic, right? And what I’m gonna be presenting here is a very classical view of the human person and freedom. And flourishing. And flourishing means a type of perfection, right? The perfection that is due. To the nature of the sort of thing that you are, right.
And so the commitment to this view entails that there is a such thing as a human nature, that there’s an essence of a human being. Aristotle would’ve argued that it’s something like being a rational animal, right? And that within our nature or our essence, there’s an inherent inclination toward a certain end, or at least an effect or a range of effects.
And that we become perfected and we become flourish to the extent that we reach those ends and those effects.
Mike: So it’s the reward for taking the right steps
Pat: or developing in the right way, right? Yeah. And in a sense So that there’s certain powers within us that perfect us as the kind of creatures we are.
And for Aristotle, many of the classic thinkers, these would be your classic virtues, right? They’re virtue ethicists, that there’s things like wisdom. Understanding temperance, fortitude justice that caused us to be most fully alive, most fully human, most perfected as the types of things that we can and ought to become because this is how we flourished.
And that we would have a sense
Mike: of this, we would feel most alive and we would feel more perfect than
Pat: before. Correct. So there is a subjective element to it, but there is an objective element to it as well. And a way to understand this is just think of something with a very simple essence.
Like humans are very complex, so it’s much more difficult to think about humans. But if you take just a triangle what is the essence of triangular? It’s something to do with having. Three straight sides and angles that add up to 180 degrees. Okay if somebody takes their time and they’re very careful and they use a pro tractor and they draw very straight lines and very sharp angles, we say objectively, Hey, that’s a pretty good triangle, right?
Whereas if somebody scribbles off the best they can on the back seat of a school bus ride and it’s got wavy sides and roundy angles, we say, Look, dude, that’s a pretty crappy triangle, right? And we’re not making like a personal opinion. About it. Like we’re talking like no, objectively given what the nature of triangular is, this one is better, and this one kind of sucks, right?
Because this one lacks the perfections that are proper to triangular. And so from this type of worldview, fact and value really aren’t distinct, right? Value is just woven into the fabric of being even more specifically essences or natures to begin with. So the position that I’m arguing towards would be a sort of virtue ethics and traditional natural law position.
This to me, I think is the most robust account of morality, human flourishing and even, and especially freedom, that we have a certain power capacity in us that is freedom and freedom properly understood. To make what is good for us at first, accessible and then effortless. So I’ll say it one more time, right?
Freedom is to make what is good for us at first, accessible and then effortless. And I would argue this is also a very intuitive sense of freedom. And
Mike: you’re speaking to the purpose of freedom here. Like why do we
Pat: have it or part of why we have it. But what it’s perfection really is, and we get some intuitive glimpses at this without getting too deep into the philosophical arguments, by looking at things like the natures of addiction and people who are literally the language we use when we say they’re enslaved to vice.
And I think when we see people in positions like this, even if we feel that they chose to make a lot of these decisions, that they’re somehow not. They’re somehow bounded down and they’re not flourishing as the types of creatures that they are. Now, if that’s the case, it seems like that there’s a content or a capacity that to freedom, if you will, that is so much more than just autonomous self direction.
And another way to phrase this is to go back to the relatives thing is something good just because you will it or should you will something because it is good. And I’m strongly in the latter camp, right? And that part of being a rational animal is coming to know the. And part of coming to know the truth about things is coming to know the truth about human nature.
And part of coming to know the truth about human nature is knowing what perfects human nature. That is the content of the moral life. So hopefully people can see why all that wind up with relativism was needed. Cuz we can’t get to truth, we can’t get to that first step in my type of argument. You see what I’m saying?
Mike: And what are some, I mean you, you quickly mentioned a few of them, but what are some of these virtues that if pursued, tend to perfect our nature? And coming back to the triangle example. So for anybody that, just to make that connection clear. So it would be the same kind of analogy with people then.
So it’d be a person could be objectively judged based on different criteria and judged. Like just don’t get triggered by that word. In our relatives world, you’re not
Pat: My press, press this. We don’t have to make apologies for truth. And here’s the thing, right? A person who’s wantingly beating a small child, right?
We say that’s a bad person, and we know that’s a bad person because they’re lacking a power that’s proper to humanity. Namely compassion, right? It’s missing. It’s like a triangle that’s missing aside, like that’s a defective triangle. So we’d say that’s a defective human, and I would argue that’s a proper moral judgment to make.
Now where you go from there is of course a different story. We all know this, right? And I would say don’t give in to the stupid relativistic culture to not affirm what seems like a perfectly obvious moral assessment of a deranged situation.
Mike: And that’s a good example because it’s very simple and everybody gets it intuitively.
But where it gets tricky of course, is when we start goring theirs, when there are things that aren’t so obviously bad. And especially when you start factoring in all the types of rationalization that we can get into. And so I think that comes back to then getting into at least a few
Pat: of the, But that’s fair.
The reason we start with the obvious examples to show that there are obvious examples. Of course. Yeah. I
Mike: totally agree. It opens the door. We’re like, Okay, we have a toe Hold now let’s turn this into, You got it.
Pat: Yeah, Uhhuh. So let me read a quote cause you asked about the virtue, so I’ll turn to that next.
But let me read a quote that I think summarizes this really well. This is from a writer, George Weal, and it comes from a publication called First Things, and he’s summarizing a previous Dominican thinker named Surveys, Pink Harriss, who’s himself summarizing a St. Thomas Aquinas, who himself is, building upon a thought of Aristotle.
So there’s like very long classical lineage to this thought. But the way he phrases I think is really well done. He says, Freedom is the capacity to choose wisely and to act well as a matter of habit, or to use the old fashioned term as an outgrowth of virtue. Freedom is the means by which exercising both our reason and our will.
We act on the natural longing for truth, for goodness, and for happiness that is built into us as human beings. Freedom is something that grows in us, and the habit of living freedom wisely must be developed through education, which among many other things, involves the experience of emulating others who live wisely and well.
And the quote goes on for a while. Maybe we could revisit it later, but I think that’s a, I think that’s a beautiful summary and I think it’s why people are attracted, and I’ll bring up Jocko again when he says, discipline equals freedom. Whether he recognizes it or not, I’ve never talked to Jocko.
He’s on this classical view of freedom. And the reason people see it as attractive is cause they realize there’s something true. About it right now. As for the virtues, just like a quick sketch, maybe if you wanna
Mike: do a quick sketch or a quick overview, and then if you’re gonna get into, I think it’s maybe worth getting into briefly, a few of them pick a few of the more controversial ones, especially in the context of
The funny thing is most people when they hear the virtues realize that they’re these are so obviously good that not too many are controversial. Maybe something like modesty would be, but the
Mike: practicing of them I’ll,
Pat: I’ll, let’s see. Yeah, no, something like modesty might be controversial, so we could talk about that.
But the cardinal virtue, so QAs kind of separates, first off, he has cardinal virtues and theological virtue. So obviously for certain people, and me included, I would argue the highest good is God. So that’s where we’re really, and ultimately aim. But there’s many other goods along the way to God and that can be ordered to God.
So we can keep it on the natural level just for now. And the cardinal virtues would be prudence, temperance. Justice and fortitude. Now, almost immediately, like it’d be strange that somebody would object to any of those because they seem so obviously correct. Maybe quickly define them. Sure. So prudence is practical.
Good reasoning. Think of prudence as having three faces, a face that looks back into the past upon previous experience and wisdom to make a good decision looking here and now in the present for a better outcome life and more flourishing in the future. So that’s prudence. And prudence is this sort of, we would argue it’s the chariot virtue.
Like we need prudence to really know and understand how to apply the other virtues. So there’s, there’s obviously an objective element to flourishing here, but there’s obviously a. Personal subjective elements, people’s situations are very different, right? So how a virtue would apply in somebody’s life might be very different than how it would apply in somebody else’s.
So prudence is the chariot virtue that helps us to figure that out, right? Practical, good reasoning. Justice is simply giving to another what is due to them by their nature, by their dignity, by what they truly deserve. That might include punish. Straight up, right? So there’s an element an argument for not just rewards and charity and stuff like that, but also punishment would fall under the category of justice if appropriate.
So that might be another controversial category. So once you unpack these, you will get to things that, cuz some people might think that all punishment is bad or moral. And actually a lot of determinists would argue that, because again, if you’ve, you never really had any say in the matter why you should you be punished at all.
But then it’s hard to make a moral con. But
Mike: then isn’t the punishment then just also up
Pat: stated to happen? So who cares? It’s not like the guy swinging the acts had any say in the matter, it just happens. Yeah. So it’s all kind of very silly and it’s also silly as a determinist to even make moral judgments to begin with.
So we could maybe just put that off to, into the philosophical dust bin where it belongs. Temperance and fortitude should be familiar to anybody in the game of exercise. These are the virtues that some of us, and I think should be at the front of our mind when we’re engaging in exercise and nutrition.
Tempera. Reigning in those appetites that we know if we let them get two out of control are really going to harm us, right? Including glut knee, becoming very overweight. So this ties into the second question, right? If we have a moral obligation to the virtues, we do have a moral obligation to our health, right?
Which is like a good
Mike: little hint of of the second question, which a lot of what we’ve covered will apply to the second topic. So
Pat: yeah, it should roll over pretty easily, right? And then fortitude would be like, okay, there’s a good. And it’s gonna be hard to get that good. So fortitude we can think is a grit, right?
A perseverance under pressure or challenge to make sure that we’re really pushing towards that proper good. And again, ver intuitively, we always admire people in any walks of life who undergo challenges and stress to attain some good, so those would be the cardinal virtues. And then they can break out into many different subcategories.
So they also
Mike: interplay too, right? So you have fortitude and justice of let’s say, doing the right thing, even when it’s hard, for example, even when it costs you something or when you have to forego a personal gain to do the right thing. Yeah,
Pat: absolutely. There’s a kind of deep interwoven, and it’s because we are holistic creatures, right?
We’re not just a collection of disparate parts. So that would make sense that there’s always gonna be some interplay here. But yeah, I mean we could keep going down the sort of cobweb and or tree of the virtues. I think that’s a
Mike: good summary. That’s and it ties into the conception of freedom that you’ve been talking about in that quote and that, so the, is the idea, if I understand this correctly, where the proper use, the reason that we have freedom is to do what you outlined and that’s the correct use of it.
Cuz it, it’s interesting in the quote that you shared, he’s defining the word in
Pat: that way, which is very different than a modern context. 100%. Exactly. That’s why I’m asking and that’s why sometimes I’m even hesitant to use the word freedom. Cuz when you get to a lot of these classical thinkers, even Aquinas, that he doesn’t really talk about free will, he just talks about the nature of us as rational beings of having an intellect.
And I think that’s right. That the ability to choose otherwise when you get into the deeper metaphysics of it is really just something that falls out of having an intellect. It’s not like the will isn’t something that just floats off separately or arbitrarily disconnected from our cognitive abilities.
No, it’s something, the ability to choose otherwise, it’s just something that falls out. Out of a broad conceptual space, and I’m trying to think of how to put this simply, but we would say that the conceptual space is always greater, that the space of reasons is always greater than the space of causes, right?
Cause as beings with intellect we can look at a certain set of physical facts, a certain object, and we can consider it under tons of different descriptions and concepts. Like even if I think about my wife, I can think about my wife as a mother or a mother and a wife, or as a really hard worker, right?
So there’s, it’s part of understanding that there’s something about being. A rational being of having intellect and the space of concepts being always greater than the space of causes or just the physical facts. And because we can consider things under different descriptions, over and above the physical facts, there’s room to focus on one set of description over another set of description and to make choices according to that.
And that I think is the right way. I, of course, glossed over a huge amount of that case, but I think that’s the right way to think about the nature of the will in relation to the intellect and why free will is a thing. It just it’s a byproduct. It’s not, if you will, of being a rational animal, if that makes sense.
Sure. So how does that tie in? What does it tie in so is the
Mike: idea that freedom is what you outlined and doing, let’s say the exact opposite of that
Pat: is something else. So take of it like this, right? So if the, it’s the sort of highest principle among us. Is our intellect being rational animals.
And if what I said before is true that the aim of reason is truth, right? That reason is perfected by truth. And this is hard to argue out, right? Cause if you say, Ah nah, there’s really no essence or nature to mind or reason, it’s not really pointed at anything, then we’ve lost all standards from which to evaluate all arguments.
Like we can’t say that you’ve reasoned well or reasoned poorly unless we already agree that reason is directed at truth, right? So it’s one of those things that it doesn’t seem like it can even be coherently denied. And that’s also a
Mike: very presumptuous thing to say. What you’re saying then is you know better than there are the people you’ve mentioned, but there are many others.
There’s collectively, how much time has gone into thinking about this stuff and the evolution of these ideas? And for someone to just say, Nah, no, it’s all just relevant. None of this actually matters.
Pat: Come on. Yeah. And certainly nothing I presented here is original to Pat Flynn. It’s really me having I cut my philosophical teeth on so many of the skeptics and the relativists, and then I just, I kept pushing it through. I’m like, This cannot possibly be true. And then rediscovering so many of the classical thinkers Damnit, these guys had it right, , right? These guys got it. And I would even argue that it’s a return to these sort of classical metaphysical commitments and positions that actually even makes better sense of modern science as well.
It’s hard to make sense of modern science with a lot of modern philosophy. I think a lot of it’s incompatible. That’s a conversation for certainly another day. But alright, what’s just grant? Okay. Reason is pointed at truth. So reason is perfected by truth. So it is really good for us to come to a knowledge of the truth.
If we wanna be perfected as the types of creatures we are, we should try to reason really well, We should try to figure out the truth about things. But figuring out the truth about things includes and evolves, most especially, and immediately the truth about ourselves. About what we are, human nature and what perfects that.
So it circles back around, if you will, from our sort of intellectual perfection. We eventually are led to contemplate what perfects us as a whole. We’re not just immaterial floating intellects, right? We’re rational animals. So there’s many other goods, bodily goods, physical goods, and that is what brings out virtue ethics.
That this is the truth about human nature. And if you want to be happy, so now we can put it back through the Conan framework, right? If you want to be happy, then you should seek to perfect yourself according to essentially everything that we’ve been arguing, right? These various virtues. But you do wanna be happy.
Everybody wants to be happy, right? You can’t escape it. So the hypothetical imperative then turns into a categorical imperative. So since you do wanna be happy, then this is what you should do. Follow the ancient traditional wisdom. On this, consider the value of all the virtues that so many of the classic philosophers and so many contemporary, like this isn’t a dead school thought by any means.
There’s been a huge resurgence of this lately in many different branches of philosophy. Not just moral philosophy, but there’s a great resurgence of arisal and metaphysics and philosophy of science, and it’s been part of my. Personal mission to, to help facilitate this resurgence Cuz I think obviously, note, I wouldn’t say that they all got all things right all the time and there’s many things they got wrong about the physical world and the scientific details, but there’s a lot of things they got right.
And I think especially when it comes to the moral life and the human person, we should pay attention to these classical thinkers cuz it seems a lot more interesting and coherent to me than so much of what’s on offer in contemporary culture and contemporary, I don’t even wanna say contemporary philosophy, but Postmodernist philosophy I think certainly is absolutely contrary to everything I’ve been describing.
Mike: can see again the fruits of these ideas in real time now you can go look out into, again, it’s more popular. The relative stuff seems to be more popular with younger people. And see how, coming back to this idea of how perfected of human beings are they, And ask yourself, is that what you are trying to aspire to?
Or are you trying to aspire to a different mode of being, maybe a more perfected mode
Pat: of being? Yeah, and I think that there’s a general angst, and I know in their first conversation I think you brought up Jordan Peterson, who, I have to say, I haven’t spent a ton of time with him, but at least it seems to me that a lot of people are probably attracted to him because he like maybe a joco will link is hinting at or pointing to or even implicitly committed to a lot of these deeper principles that I’m talking about.
And people are a little fed up with the wishy washy relativism and say, Oh no, there seems to be something. Something here like truth. Yeah. It seems like it’s something that we can know and that some people might be actively trying to ignore reality, but reality won’t ignore you . Like eventually it’s going to catch up like the facts of the world.
You can turn away from them for so long, you can’t escape from them. Certainly not eternally. And there’s a lot of, I think, cultural figures who I might disagree with a lot of their positions if we were to sit down and have a deep discussion. I think a lot of their attracting this comes from some type of commitment to the worldview that I think I’ve been trying to explain and defend in this conversation.
Mike: Oh, completely. From what I’ve seen, again I haven’t so I haven’t read Jordan’s book, for example. I’ve listened to interviews. When he first was blowing up is when I came across him and I was like, Oh, who’s this guy? And I listened to his biblical lectures and I listened to some other lectures of his, and it’s a lot of exactly what you’re saying, where he is talking about really just virtues.
And if you align yourself to these ideas, your life gets better. And he does a good job explaining some of these concepts in easy to understand ways. Yeah.
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Pat: So we’ve been going for a while and I’m having a blast, so I’ll hang out for as long as you want, Mike, but I think we can
Mike: tackle the next one without it taking too long. And if it does, maybe I could split it into part one, part two. But the second point is then just this idea of personal responsibility and what obligation do we have to others and ourselves.
Is it moral to be very unhealthy, for example, not take care of our bodies. So we should just do it and see the worst case scenario as I, I split it into two parts.
Pat: I think it would be cool. Yeah, no, definitely. So morality, I think if we’ve been tracking, if everyone’s been on the same page with us here, the general case I’ve been making is morality is essentially a rational enterprise, right?
And again, I think this is something we all recognize because it seems to apply really only to human beings or at. Beings with rational intellect. Because when we see certain things happen in the animal kingdom, we don’t like condemn them morally, right? When we say like a hawk kills a fish, we don’t say the hawk murdered the fish.
Or when a shark like forcibly populates with another shark, we don’t say it. It raped another shark, right? Or things like that. So it seems like morality is really thing that enters the scene when there are creatures with the ability to choose otherwise, right? That because we can consider things under different descriptions and because we might be able to choose against that, which really does cause us to flourish of that because we can make mistakes.
In other words, that’s when morality enters the scene. If that’s the case, then morality isn’t just this like thin, arbitrary line that kind of is delineated by some vague gesture towards something of a social construct. It’s much deeper than that. It’s much more robust. That morality really concerns making the types of decisions that cause us to flourish and be perfected.
As the types of beings that we are in relation to human nature. So I think that’s the first way to set the stage for this next question is we have to get clear on what the nature of morality is. And what I wanna say is what makes for a relevantly different fact for when morality enters the scene is specifically rationality.
It’s not things like the ability to feel pain, it’s not even consciousness, I would argue it’s rationality and specifically, Being a rational being that then makes sense to talk about morality. Does that make sense? Yeah, that makes sense to me. Sure. So if this is the case, then there’s moral content.
Mike: I guess if you wanted to apply it to humans, right?
If you had someone with a 50 IQ and they hit your car with a hammer, you might get mad, but you’re not gonna blame them for it in the same way as, I would blame you for taking a hammer and smashing my windshield
Pat: in . Yeah, I, That’s, yeah. Cases like that are interesting. When it comes to morality, we consider two things, right?
Both responsibility and culpability. Somebody who might be impaired for whatever reason, say they do something terrible because they have I dunno, some, they have some type of cognitive disease or defect, or even tumor growing on their brain or something like that. We would still say they’re responsible for it but they’re not culp.
For it, right? So yeah, let’s just assume normal, healthy, fully functioning, adults, things like that. But granted, it doesn’t have to be restricted to humans. If there ends up being either rational beings out there in universe, it would apply to them. Or if you believe in angels and stuff like that, or I material beings, it would arguably apply to them as well.
But it just so happens that it seems like humans are the only relevant species on earth that this would apply to. Granted that we don’t make some crazy discovery about other animals that would seem to defy everything that seems otherwise obvious about them, right? So if that’s the case, then morality has as much to do about how we treat ourselves as it does anybody else in society.
So morality can’t just be reduced to do whatever you want so long as you’re not hurting anybody else. The sort of consent based moral, it’s gotta be deeper than that. And again, most of us recognize this because if one of my kids came up to me, Mike, and was like, Hey dad, I think I wanna go cut off my arm.
The last thing I would say is, Oh, have fun as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. It’s ridiculous, right? It’s no, you libertarian way. Yeah. Come on and look, I am a, I’m a former libertarian. In fact, a lot of what got me interested in philosophy was libertarian philosophy, and what you realize is in political philosophy, you end up hitting a certain.
Limit Of questions that can’t be justified within political philosophy alone. And you gotta go into moral philosophy. And then I would argue metaphysics. And when I did that, I eventually returned no longer a libertarian because of things like this that there’s How would you
Mike: describe yourself now
How would I could describe myself politically, now I wanna say conservative, but I’m very different than a modern mainstream American conservative. I’m a very, So immediately people are gonna have an impression of what that means. And I almost wanna say that it’s probably wrong because I think a classical view of being a conservative, I don’t even try to say the word, is going to entail a very robust.
Metaphysical and moral commitment that it seems to me that most mainstream sort of American conservatives and Republicans are just completely ignorant enough. There
Mike: needs to be a better word for it because the conservative is such a loaded term now, and just it has been that well has been, I think, thoroughly poisoned by
Pat: modern politics.
I agree. And there’s so much of the modern, conservative Republican party and our culture today that I’m deeply at odds with. I think both parties just start from a sort of basic modern liberal political philosophy and then. So many of the positions are just more or less arbitrary after that.
I think it’s
Mike: by design. I think it’s just meant to, it’s divide in conquer. It’s keep us bickering over things that don’t really matter and missing the force for the trees that this is a road that is, has two lanes that are going in the same direction. Choose your lane. Yeah.
Pat: And certainly that’s a position of a number of people.
I, my view on that is are humans that clever? For me, I think it’s just, so as I study the history of philosophy, it’s very interesting to see the consequences that ideas have and how ideas can trickle down from certain. Thinkers and have an enormous lag effect throughout culture that continued to linger on, even as the professional philosophers may have moved on from those ideas.
You see this ripple effect and lag effect through throughout culture, and I think America today is largely the result of that, whether that’s by design or not, I would just have to plead ignorance, but certainly even in the modern conservative party. Have you come across Carol
Mike: Quigley’s work at all?
I have not. You should check out first who he was so you understand. This is a guy who was a mentor to build Clinton. Bill Clinton said that his book, Tragedy and Hope was the most influential book he’s ever read. Harvard educated professor at George, China’s not around anymore, but he wrote a book called Tragedy in Hope, 1200 pages or so.
Modern History of the Power Elite, I guess you could say. But it’s scholarly work. And again, you look into who he was. He was part of the intellectual elite. He was in the club and he didn’t disagree with even what was happening. I believe he was Catholic and he had a moral qualm about hiding it.
He thought that if things were explained properly to people, they would understand what the problem is and that the. Programs and operations underway are a viable solution. And so that’s a huge book. But then he later wrote a book called The Anglo-American Establishment, which I recommend to people if we ever get on the topic of quote unquote conspiracy theory, which that’s one of my trigger terms, a conspiracy theory as if conspiracies don’t exist.
Okay. As if that’s not the dominant theme of
Pat: history. Okay. So yeah. So let me clarify my position. If you were to ask me do I think that there have been very nefarious people who have promoted certain ideologies and philosophies because it would serve their political interests 100%. I think that’s historically undeni.
And I think that actually helps to explain a lot of how some really bad ideas became so popular, right? Yeah.
Mike: You put enough, and people, unfortunately, who have had a lot of money and a lot of influence, not just random people on Twitter,
Pat: I spend a lot of more time on the ideas themselves necessarily than the cultural impact or how those ideas were originally propagated.
So again, just trying to stay somewhat in my lane here. Mike . I try not to, I try not to rush into sounding foolish if I can help it, but I think we can do a
Mike: lot. I’m just waiting to lane
Pat: check you, . Yeah. I think we can do a lot of work here and make the points and leave a lot of those questions completely open and worthy of investigation.
What the heck were we even talking about, right? Oh, American conservative. Conservative. Yeah. Hold on, I gotta get the word right. Conserv. To, Why can’t I say it? Conservatism, There we go. Thank you. There we go. There we go. Just having one of those mornings, we’re going on an
Mike: hour and a half, so
Pat: it’s understandable.
Fair enough to me. Of course. And for me, my fundamental commitments are to, I would say, my overall worldview. So there’s just certain positions with, I would say it’s a lot harder for me to align with the Democratic party on certain really big moral issues these days. And
Mike: that’s becoming the case for even lifetime Democrats who are looking where the party’s going now and being like, this is like I was a JFK person.
What are you
Pat: talking about? That was most of my family, like my entire family were those JFK type of Democrats. So yeah, I know what you’re saying. And I would say with my, worldview I have is I would say, okay, yeah, with that type of the Democrat party of my grandparents, I think there’s not as many in principle moral problems that I would have, and a lot of the policy considerations would be more.
Prudential or economic or things like that. Whereas now it seems like there’s just so many big upfront moral issues that it’s just in principle rules, rules out me ever voting for a Democrat candidate. But that’s not to say that I don’t have significant moral qualms with the Republican party either, and I have a lot of those qualms.
But if you were to really press me, That’s where my, the answer is I’m deeply unsatisfied with both . I
Mike: understand that. I’m in the same boat,
Pat: but yeah, we could visit that topic any other time. I’d always be happy to chat, but maybe later in the year
Mike: when leading up to , what’s gonna be probably one of the most amusing elections we might ever see.
Pat: Yeah. But, I think about a lot of things we talk about with morality and if there’s plausibility to what we say, I think it should. Again, give people a perspective or a framework to see just how revolting or modern political environment really is on so many different levels. Yeah, true.
And I think that’s something most people would agree with. I don’t think I’ve met too many people on either side of the political debate who seems to be entirely satisfied, the way things are going. But anyway,
Mike: so let’s talk then about, we’ll get back to this point of personal responsibility. So I think you’ve done a good job, you’ve done a good job explaining that in the context of freedom as you have outlined it, and virtues and having a responsibility to pursue those virtues and cultivate those virtues and perfect ourselves.
Now what about then to others? Do we have obligations to others and is it moral or is it responsible? I guess you have, do you have responsible and culpability you’re saying, or responsibility to culpability? But is it moral, for example, to be very unhealthy, let’s say, to be very overweight, sedentary, smoke, drink?
Is that a moral
Pat: thing to do? So again, we have to qualify some of these statements and be careful because circumstances and situations matter, right? There was a time when people were smoking and it didn’t seem like there wasn’t, as much data as we have now of how. Deleterious, this is to a human person, right?
So right circumstances do matter in some of these situations cuz there’s certain facts that would be morally relevant. But certainly when it comes, if you just ride through on some of these virtues things like temperance, we can see, okay, you can’t really have a right, And this is a, an issue I have within a lot of the fitness industry.
Somebody will be like, if somebody wants to be totally fat, go for it. Whatever makes you happy. And I would say no. Like we have an obligation to care for people and somebody who really wants to flourish and be happy. It is against their better interests to just let themselves completely go physically.
That is not how a human being flourishes. So this kind of hand waving libertarian dismissal of just do whatever you want again, is so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else, I think is a really easy cop out and a really easy way of avoiding any deep, important moral thinking. So I, I don’t accept.
Mike: encouraging that would be an immoral act then too, because you are encouraging someone to become
Pat: less. Yeah. Let’s drive it this way, right? Everybody thinks that love is one of the highest, if the, if not the highest principles of life. If there’s like a moral good that’s over and above any other moral good, it would be love.
But what is love? Love is something like willing the good of the other four. And also to some degree wanting union with the other. Now unions differ between different types of relationships, but just focus on the first aspect of willing, the good of the other four other. And I would argue we have a moral obligation to love others, and we don’t need to just point to, the 10 commandments for that.
This can just fall out of the type of philosophical reasoning that we’ve been driving already, that it actually perfects us. It’s a perfection of us to be loving and to will something means to make it yeah. Like I want, What is good for you, Mike, because I see that you are valuable in and of yourself.
And I don’t care what is returned to me for that. I want what is good for you because you are deserving of it. And parents obviously understand this very deeply, right? When we say, I would do anything for my child, I would die for my child. That’s willing. The good of the other for other, and that’s why people tend to think so noble of heroic acts of self-sacrifice is somebody who jumps on a grenade for their brothers during an act of war.
What an incredible thing. What could be a higher act of love than that? And I think the reason we see that as being so incredibly noble and virtuous is because it is, okay, if that’s the case and we have an obligation to love somebody, then we have an obligation to help people facilitate their own flourishing.
To find their own good. And just telling people that it’s okay. To perform a wrong is not a loving act, right? So we are violating a moral obligation to say that. Now again, is there culpability there? It depends on the person’s degree of ignorance and if it’s willful ignorance or not. But I would say on the general level, this is not a morally good attitude to have and a bad
Mike: act is bad regardless of whether you knew it was bad or not.
There is still something still to
Pat: be said. That’s right. It’s bad. Full stop even if you don’t have full culpability. 100%. And the other, thing to note about that, especially in relation to health and people being overweight is. Nobody’s saying here that if somebody’s overweight, you just go and you make fun of them.
That’s not what we’re saying at all.
Mike: And the point there being because does that help them? No.
Pat: Yeah. Yeah. And even if it did, I would say we still have another moral obligation to treat people with respect.
Mike: Or you could look at probably that another way and say okay, if you try to say, Oh, it’s the means are justified by the ends type thinking, right?
And you go fine, but maybe there’s a better way than just trying to belittle them
Pat: into doing No. Yeah. And you can’t be utilitarian with the framework that I’m promoting, lying would certainly be wrong. Treating somebody disrespectfully would certainly be wrong. It’s a frustration to your own flourishing because you’re becoming a cruel type of creature, which is a deprivation, right?
You’re frustrating your own flourishing. So utilitarianism is out. Rather, there’s a healthy middle ground where if somebody is struggling, we can say, Me personally, I’ll speak personally, Mike. Like I get what it’s like to be over. I get how it feels. I get that it sucks. I get, what it feels like to be like the one who’s always, made fun of all the time.
And I also really get the struggles of trying to get out of that habit of trying to make the healthier decision. So at least for me when it comes to this, I, it’s a dual obligation. I have an obligation to present what is true to somebody who’s struggling with this, that, yeah, hey, there are serious consequences that can come out of being overweight and we know this is true, but at the same time, I can present that in the way that I think would be the most respectful and effective.
Cause sometimes when people hear the position, I’m trotting out, they immediately wanna jump up and say, Hey, are you promoting fat shaming? Or something like that. I was, This is so stupid, right? Clearly an intelligent person can make simple distinctions. And that’s actually the method of philosophy, the method of philosophy.
Discovering and making distinctions where they really are and where they really matter. And there’s clearly distinctions that we can make between one, the importance of telling the truth to somebody of saying, Hey, this behavior is destructive and you shouldn’t be doing it. And also the manner in how we would wanna present that to people on an individual basis.
And both of those are important. Morally speaking,
Mike: that makes me think of, I guess they call it the, is it the body positivity? Is that the term, the whole, the movement of and taken to it? It’s extreme. It is Oh, if you are morbidly obese, you’re still beautiful. And you even see this now in advertising to some degree.
Now, I think the more moderate. Maybe sensible expression of that idea is, I see, I’ve seen some ads, like my wife was actually just showing me yesterday, she was looking at, I think it was some underwear, and she noticed and she said she’s been seeing this now. I guess it’s becoming more of a thing where the models are, they are healthy women, they look good, but they have some stretch marks that are not photoshopped out and they don’t have perfect butts that are photoshopped.
And so it’s more showing women as they actually are, as opposed to a fake, impossible to achieve idealized abstraction of a woman. You know what I mean? And you’re
Pat: There’s a good thing about that. And on one hand, I always wanna say something as far as I can about what’s good about something, a position I ultimately disagree with.
And what’s good about some aspect of the body positivity movement is that it’s certainly true that your value as a human being isn’t derived from your body fat percentage. That’s 100% true. And on the other end of the extreme of these, Advertisements. There’s the sort of grotesqueness of their deceptiveness, right?
They’re really lying to people and they’re certainly violating other virtues things of like modesty and stuff like that, right? And so like by saying, I disagree with the ultimately anyways, with the body positivity movement and saying, No, you’re going too far. That doesn’t mean that I agree with a lot of what the body positivity movement is responding against, if that makes sense.
Because ultimately I would disagree with both of them.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. What are some of then the. Consequences of not acting responsibly in the way that you’ve been talking about, not just with this question number two, but also with question number one. Again, we’ll see on in the end how long it is.
It might make sense to splits up into parts. So people, if this is part two, you might wanna listen to part one because a lot of what Pat was talking about was the setup for this. But when you say we have a responsibility or an obligation to, to behave in a certain way, but we have free will. We don’t have to behave in that way.
We can do whatever we want, but there are consequences.
Pat: Yeah. So this is. Depends how long you wanna make this conversation, cuz eventually I think you’re gonna push up against the boundaries of philosophy and have to start considering theology. Sure. Which to me is totally legitimate and I think that’s just the nature of some of these questions.
Even philosophy itself just has certain limits to how far it can go, and we can do that. I think that’s worth considering because if there are theological considerations that may be true, that would factor heavily into this conversation. I happen to think that there are, but on a natural level, just taking it from a viewpoint of somebody like Aristotle, the consequences are is that you just won’t flourish in the way that you wanna flourish.
Even if you think you might, that you’re just wrong about that. There’s an objective way to flourish as the type of thing that you are and it’s seeking to Perfect. Along the lines of these virtues, and Aristotle viewed the human life as a symphony, right? You can’t really judge it at any one of its parts.
You gotta take it as the whole, right? And I think there’s something beautiful and correct about that, but if you wanna flourish, which all of us do, then the consequences of acting contrary to what an Aristotle would argue or virtue ethicist or a traditional natural law theorist is that you’re just acting contrary to your own best interest, whether you recognize it or not.
So the obligation comes from both the type of creature that you are and the fact that part of the type of creature that you are is determined in a sense, and it’s determined in the sense that it’s aimed at a certain outcome. And even though we can choose to either move towards actions that will cause us to flourish, In relation to that outcome or frustrated, None of us can choose the outcome that is part of our nature, which is to want to flourish, to begin with, to want to be happy to begin with.
I guess that’s the tightest way to put it in like a natural philosophical sense without getting into the theology. Yeah. No, that makes
Mike: perfect sense. And it’s something you already outlined, but I wanted to make sure it was perfectly clear. And something you said is also, and it’s just a, and it’s an interesting point of that, it’s whether we recognize it or not, and that’s the rub, right?
Is that oftentimes it can be hard cuz Peterson, I actually, I think this analogy came from Jordan Peterson, that if you act contrary to your own flourishing, you accumulate penalties, right? And there’s a delay there. You don’t immediately get smacked by the universe or God or anyone necessarily.
Everything seems to be more or less the same. You lie. You do that and then you look around and you’re like, Yep, everything’s still here. I still pretty much am the same person I was just a second ago, and Hey, I just got this immediate benefit of I didn’t have to do something I didn’t want to, or I, I got some immediate gain out of this, therefore, maybe I should lie a bit more and so there’s an inss. Element to all
Pat: of this, right? Yeah. It’s funny because it’s first off, virtues and vices are habits, they’re dispositions. So this actually makes sense that one lie doesn’t a habit make, right?
But it tilts you in a certain direction, however small, and that if you keep on in that direction, you will succumb to vice, which is a severe frustration of your flourishing. So once you properly appreciate that, you realize, okay, I shouldn’t even risk tilting myself in that direction at all to begin with, however possible.
Now, in another kind of deeper theological sense, we would say the moral law is always invi in the fact that no matter what, you’re going to incur guilt even if you don’t feel guilty, right? In another sense. But it’s also inviable in the terms of character, right? However small that initial tilt is, it’s still a tilt in a certain direction or a certain behavior that is either going to be pointed towards your flourishing.
Or away from it. And the whole recognition part is important because if we think again to people who really struggle with addiction, and there’s so much of this in my family, I have a lot of deep personal experience, family members who’ve struggled with addiction. It’s like we all know. It’s and they say, if you’ve dealt with addict for now, this is what I want.
Just let me do what I want. You know this, that’s but that isn’t what you want because you’re deeply unhappy. You’re deeply unhappy and you cry to me on the phone and your moments of clarity of how terrible this life is, and now you’re saying it’s what you want, but you, at some level you still know it’s not what you want.
And I think as terrible as addiction is, it speaks to the truth and the importance of a lot of what we’ve been talking about because there’s different levels of addiction. And even if you’re not like chemically addicted, I think people can be addicted in vice and blind. In a similar way that people have more severe forms of addiction, have, they’re just blinded either willfully or not to the truth of what they really do want, which is to be free of those states.
Yeah. And then
Mike: ultimately they have moments of clarity too. And we’ve all been there, we’ve all had vice like habits, I’m sure of one kind or another. And so we all have experience of that where you’ve set up this you’ve done mental gymnastics to get into this weird contorted position where it makes sense and you keep going, but eventually it just becomes too painful.
And, you come out of the pretzel and you’re like, Yeah, no, this is way better. I’m just done with that. Yeah.
Pat: I have countless instances like, look, the sin starts with me. My friend’s like guilty as charged, and I hope none of this comes off as preaching. It’s just, I’m just trying to share what I think is the correct way to look at this.
And we’re, and a hundred percent, I look through so many times in my life when. I tried to do that, exactly that I tried to rationalize, Yeah, no, this is what I want. This is good. And I became even more frustrated and even more deeply unhappy. And it wasn’t until I finally admitted to myself, which I think in a deep sense, I knew was true all along, right?
And said, No, this is as wrong as I, I think I ultimately always just figured it was, but wasn’t willing to admit to myself and made that admission and did everything I could to start to unravel it. And then once you’re on the other side it’s always more clear when you’re on the other side, right?
It’s kinda like fitness again, like at least for me, it’s like I didn’t even know how detrimental being overweight was until I actually got really fit. And it’s funny because when we think of freedom again, and we think of freedom in relation to fitness, right? We talk about this in terms of human movement all the time, right?
That somebody’s really fit is into some sense free. They’re more excellent and able to do the types of things that we think is appropriate and proper to a human being. Whereas people who have really let themselves degrade are unable to exercise, that degree of freedom that they should have. So I think the fitness analogy actually is quite appropriate
Mike: for this.
Yeah. No I totally agree. That is a good analogy, and we’re lucky that we have this innate sense and that we never lose it. It’s pretty interesting, actually, that no matter how degenerate we can become, it seems that we never fully lose that inner compass, so to speak, that points us in the direction of good virtue,
Yeah. There’s a good book on this actually. It’s called, That, which we can’t not know. I think I’m getting the title right, that, which we can’t not know by a philosopher, Moral philosopher, Jay Buki. And he was a, he was an atheistic, materialistic, nihilistic philosopher for a while and then he had a sort of similar journey as me, right?
He just realized this can’t be right. And then rediscovers a lot of the tradition that we’ve been talking about and obviously changes sides, so to speak. And his book is a lot on that, a lot on his personal experience too. He’s like, how often, I just used to lie to myself about the things that I was doing that I knew that they were wrong.
For various reasons. And that book actually gives a great little introduction to Virtue Ethics as well for people who wanna just dive a little bit more into it. I’m pretty sure it’s called that, which we can’t not know or something like that. I can get the title for the show notes later, Mike, if you’re anybody’s interested.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll include it. Man, this was great. This was a lot of fun and I know that you’ve mentioned a couple times how this has led you to theology. Maybe we can table that for the next discussion, and it’s something that I am interested in. Again, it’s an area that you’re gonna be more well versed in than I am, but maybe I’ll have some good questions along
Pat: the way.
Interestingly enough, for the Medievals theology was always the queen of the sciences, right? It was what, ultimately connected everything else. And I think that’s right. I think that seems right to me now. I wouldn’t have believed that 10 years ago, but as it happens that seems. But yeah, I would love to, Yeah, anytime this has always been, always fun chatting with you.
Mike: We should do the standard wrap up and just let everybody know where they can find you and your work. And I know you’re working on, you mentioned, I don’t know if you want to talk about it, but, so you have your fitness work, but then you’ve also been working on some stuff more related to what we’ve been discussing here.
So if you wanna mention anything along those lines, if you have approximate. Publication dates, anything?
Pat: Yeah, not really. I’m working on just so in philosophy of religion, just a couple different publications and whenever I do something, a lot of what I even did in my master’s program, I’m trying right now to just go back and repurpose it for some just more popular, more accessible, popular level stuff.
And I’m toying around with the idea of just some simple self-published eBooks. There no dates yet. I’ve got a few drafts up of some stuff. We’ll see where it goes. And I do wanna do one on a lot of what we talked about. So I’ve got, I don’t know, I probably got like 30,000 words on that
Mike: and that’s a good short, I’d say short books, 30 to 50,000 words.
Great. You could even probably go as short as 15,000 words and so long as it’s priced accordingly, people, like there’s a big market for shorter reads for sure.
Pat: Yeah. Brilliant. The idea of that book is to the point that you made earlier. So I just wanna describe like what it is to be a conservative, properly understood.
And a lot of what I critique in that book is modern day. Conservatives and conservative philosophy I think is just so far departed. You should, if you
Mike: can get that out sooner rather than later. I have a book that I wrote some time ago under a pen name because it has nothing to do with fitness and I thought it made more sense and I still think it makes more sense.
If I’m gonna write about random other things, I’ll just do it under a pen name so it doesn’t confuse people, but it’s on the Bill of Rights. And just to help people understand the Bill of Rights and understand some of the more controversial elements of the Bill of Rights, including of course the Second Amendment.
And that book sells quite well. I’d have to get the exact numbers, but it sold over 50,000 copies. There’s a demand for it. People want to. Yeah.
Pat: No that’s cool. I know we never circled back around to the founding of our country, but that would be a cool future conversation as well. True.
Yeah. Yeah, that would be a lot of fun. So my other stuff real quick and then I’ll shut up, chronicles of strength.com is my website. If you enjoy this podcast, you’ll probably dig my podcast of Pat Flynn show. Cuz although I have the regular fitness content on there, Mike’s been a guest a number of times.
It’s been sweet, typically twice a week. I have two other segments. On Friday, I try to do Philosophy Friday where I tackle some philosophical topic either by myself. Some other professional philosopher. And then Sunday I do Sunday school, which is more theological. So two kind of different segments that might be interesting for anybody who’s made it to the end of this very long episode.
And then I have some traditionally published books out. My latest would be How to Be Better At Almost Everything, which is on the idea of Generalism Skill Stacking, which we talked about way back at the beginning of this episode of Going for Breadth as well as Depth, which
Mike: by the way, I’ll say, I think you published that before,
Pat: Before range.
That’s correct. Yeah. Uhhuh, you were ahead of the curve in some ways. Yeah, I think they’re also very different books too, even though I think we would agree on many of the same core components. But if you liked range, you probably would enjoy mine. Mine’s more about a curriculum for building skills, and I talk about things like meta skills, like logic and why it’s important, so we.
Talked about a number of themes that are in that book and that’s on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles or wherever else. I’m slightly
Mike: ashamed to say that I haven’t read it, but I’m going to read it. I’m putting it on my I haven’t read it in a while. I’ve read a bit about Generalism and I didn’t read range, but I read a number of articles.
I read it, I, there was a point where you get into an idea and you take it to the point where you’re like, Okay, good. I accomplished, I feel like I got what I wanted out of exploring this idea and so that’s why I didn’t pursue it. But given our conversations, and I’m particularly interested in what you just said, which is how to learn better and how to be more effective.
, you sold me
Pat: and chapter one or two, I forget to forget cuz I haven’t read my book probably since I published it, to be honest, is on Freedom for Excellence. So it’s on a lot at the very topic cuz I felt like it was important to do at least some general philosophical stage setting to see why are these skills important?
Anyways I just tease it. I don’t, it’s not a deeply philosophical book, but I. I just, I put that out there. So yeah that’s on Amazon. Okay. And that’s about it for me. So my podcast, the Pat Flynn show, my website Chronicles are strength, and then
Mike: some books. Love it, man. Thanks again for taking the time to do this.
You are a great man. Fun to talk to and I look forward to the next one, which really probably, we probably should dive into the political discussion and conservatism. I think that,
Pat: Thank you for saying that word correctly, , and so easily conservative. You feel like an idiot.
Mike: And your version of maybe paleo conservatism
Pat: might be the term, at the end of the day I just get so hesitant to even use terms.
Cause No, I know. I don’t like
Mike: the labels either, because again, they’re low, They
Pat: come so packed with preconceptions, that people have, even
Mike: liberalism now is so different than classical liberalism. . And that can, that can be con criticized and for, in various ways fine. But even that word, Liberalism.
Liberalism. There, there go. We find a word for you. got me, You got me. It doesn’t mean what it once did, not even so long ago. That’s
Mike: correct. I think it’s now verging on nihilism and just anarchism in complete relativism. Yeah.
Pat: So when it comes to Hobbes and Russo and some of these classical liberal thinkers in the classical sense, I have tons of problems with that philosophy, but you’re right, it’s in some way I would argue that where we are is just the inevitable consequence of where it came from.
Yeah. The logical so it’s not entirely disconnected, but I think it’s fair to say that most people who would’ve considered themselves classically liberal, they saw, if they saw the scene today, they’d be deeply appalled.
Mike: Yeah. But yeah. I think, Hey, I’m sold. I think that’s, that’ll be our next, maybe I’ll have to think of, I’ll have to think of some kind of clever little name for a series or something.
People like that. This is fun, man. I really enjoy it. Yeah. Yeah. Looking forward to the next one. All right. That’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from?
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