What it is like to be a Greek from a Greek point of view

Nagel’s paper “what is it like to be a bat?” and how this applies to the Europe — Greece relationship.


The aim of this post

  1. To draw a brief — and a somehow rough — analogy between Nagel’s famous paper, what is it like to be a bat? and the way that Greeks are dealt by Europeans.
  2. To clarify that reductionistic attitude applied to Greeks by Europeans is the same the etymological reductionism applied by humans to any kind of species or field of their study.
  3. To show that, as Nagel puts it, if a subjective point of view can’t reach reality in itself, then to have an “healthy” epistemological relationship between Europe and Greece is impossible.
  4. To argue that the nature of the problem in the “Europe — Greece relatioship” is mainly epistomological.
  5. To propose a sollution to the epistemological problem in the Europe — Greece relationship.

Nagel’s theory in a nutshell:

An organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism- something that it is like for the organism to be itself.
The philosophical practice of analysing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of its simple or fundamental constituents, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation.
Consciousness makes the mind-body problem especially difficult.
It’s not possible to exclude the “phenomenological” features of experience from a reduction the way we exclude the phenomenal features of a substance when we give a physical or chemical account of it.
Any reductionist program has to be based on an analysis of what is to be reduced. If the analysis leaves something out, the problem will be falsely posed.

The “hardware” of a bat

One of the crucial phrases in Nagel’s theory — I think — is the following: The subjective kind of experience. What he means is that as humans we have a fundamental structure, based on which, we come to know the surrounding environment.

  1. Consciouness of the subjective nature of human’s observational powers is essential to the understandings of the limitations of our nature.
  2. Reductionism is what humans do, when they want to know. Reduction is an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things.

We all reduce; It is simply a necessary brain function in order to make sense of a chaotic reality.

  1. Nagel centrifies the essential following — Aristotlelike — enigma: to form a concept of what it is like to be a bat in the first place, if you don’t think (imagine) like a bat.
  2. The conclusion is plain: unless there is a possibility that — in some way — the required hardware is aquired, it is quite impossible for a human to really know what it is like to be a bat.

“The concepts and ideas we employ in thinking about the external world are initially applied from a point of view that involves our perceptual apparatus”


Europe, Greece and bats

  1. We assume that bats, being mammals, have experience. This means that there is something that it is like to be a bat. However, their activities and sensory system are very different from humans. They perceive distance, size, shape, motion, and texture of things through sonar, or echolocation and thus there is no reason to believe their experience is subjectively like ours. Since our imagination draws on our own experience, it would not help just to imagine what it would be like to fly around at night listening to echoes, catching bugs in our mouths, etc. Drawing the analogy, there is something that it is like to be a Greek. But since Europeans imagination draws its material from its experience, then this imagination is horrible limited to its boundaries. Germany, France, Finland need to study Greece, from a Greek point of view if they want to solve the problem they first created (imagined?).

I describe it not in terms of impressions, but in terms of its more general effects and of properties detectable by means other than the human senses. The less it depends on a specifically human viewpoint, the more objective is our description. It is possible to follow this path because although the concepts and ideas we employ in thinking about the external world are initially applied from a point of view that involves our perceptual apparatus, they are used by us to refer to things beyond themselves toward which we have the phenomenal point of view. Therefore, we can abandon it in favor of another, and still be thinking about the same things.

The view point of Europeans towards Greece is far from objective.

Completely subjective and self — consuming, the path that Europeans have employed lead to a vicious circle. They want to solve a problem — the infamous Greek problem — but seven (7) years now they can’t, beacause of their hardware.


Since 2010, there has been a lot of epistemological reductionism in Greece from the viewpoint of its European partners.


The Character trait named “George”

Greece is the bat. Europe is the human. From a Nagel’s point of view, Greece — that is, the bat — has a subjective experience of being in-itself in the world. Whether the structural reforms, the international relationships, the financial management and so on. Try to imagine a bat in the corner of Europe. Now imagine Protestantic Europe as a house and North Europeans people that they want to study the beahavior of the bat in their house. Stay with me; they want to study it epistemologicaly. That is they want to know why Greeks are doing this or that, the reasons so as to come to some rational results.

In Nagel’s terms, Europeans have evidence of something that they don’t really undestand. For example, they have evidence of a Greek character’s trait, let’s say, “talk too much, do too little”, (and let’s call it George). So George, is perceived by Europeans, as a “bad” trait. But they understand it in a European way. That is to say, that humans don’t undrestand bats in a batway.

Greek is a Greek because it has George. If didn’t have George, it wouldn’t be Greek — this is Leibniz — A bat is a bat, because it flies in circles or something like that. If it didn’t do that, then it wouldn’t be a bat. If a human wants to study or help a bat, (s)he has to experience the bat’s George.

The reduction that Europeans “perform” in the Greek issue, is one of a kind. I am not talking about cultural prejeduces, ot differences. I am talking about reduction in an epistomological sense. Europeans make the same mistake that humans do in the case of bats.

As Nagel puts it:

In so far as I can imagine this (which is not very far), it tells me only what it would be like for me to behave as a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Yet if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task. I cannot perform it either by imagining additions to my present experience, or by imagining segments gradually subtracted from it, or by imagining some combination of additions, subtractions, and modifications.

The thing is that they talk about Greece, not having the required hardware to do so. Generally speaking, if you really — badly — want to find a solution to a problem, you have to be ready to change your imaginative hardware.

Obviously, they can’t.


Sollution and “George”

Nagel proposes the following sollution:

Apart from its own interest, a phenomenology that is in this sense objective may permit questions about the physically basis of experience to assume a more intelligible form. Aspects of subjective experience that admitted this kind of objective description might be better candidates for objective explanations of a more familiar sort. But whether or not this guess is correct, it seems unlikely that any physical theory of mind can be contemplated until more thought has been given to the general problem of subjective and objective. Otherwise we cannot even pose the mind-body problem without sidestepping it. (p.7, what is it like to be a bat).

If Europe wants honestly to solve the Greek problem, then the only sollution is a creation of a different phenomenology of the Greek spectrum. It requires a whole different epistemological approach to its relationship to Greece. Otherwise, there can’t be an objective way in which the relationship is to be seen, judged and determined. To put it differently, set aside the issues of power and self-interest, Europe’s subjective experience is an obstacle in the effort of finding a more permanent sollution.

The bat is in the house; you can’t blame a bat for that. The intelligent part of the relationship is the one which has to take the leap and move forward the mobile elements that can and shuld be moved. The bat is not here to examine, but to be examined. And that is something that Europeans choose to forget.

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