Drawing Conclusions About Truth From Aristotle, Pyrrho, and Hegel

(image by Anne Worner)

Aristotle, Pyrrho, and Hegel. These three thinkers are scattered across the landscape of intellectual discussions based around how to act, ataraxia (free from worry) and skepticism, and how we get where we are through a historical lens. In this essay, we will be taking a look at these three prominent thinkers and drawing a conclusion, taking all three as true. We will also be taking a look at some possible contention to this idea, and why these rebuttals may not be so convincing.

Aristotle’s Golden Mean

Aristotle proposed the Golden Mean in his “Nicomachean Ethics.” He proposed that virtue lies between two vices. An example is that bravery sits between cowardice and foolhardiness. Aristotle proposes that if a robbery is taking place and we see it happening, the brave person will assess the situation before taking the most impacting action they can. If the robber is big and has a weapon, and we are smaller, without a weapon, to charge in is to be foolhardy. The best action, Aristotle might propose in this situation, is to call the police or some other authority figure or find help in some way.

Pyrrho and Ataraxia

Pyrrho was a skeptic. As I have mentioned in a previous essay, so skeptical in fact that it is said that his students had to save him from jumping off a cliff as he wasn’t convinced that doing so would kill him. Pyrrho said there will always be two sides to any argument. That these two sides have good points. This led Pyrrho to believe that we must withhold judgment on the issue, which he thought led to a state of ataraxia, or a state without worry.

Hegel and the Dialectic

Hegel’s dialectic is his best known idea. It is a look at how ideas progress over the course of history. An inspection of how we have arrived at the ideas we have now. There is originally a thesis, the prevailing idea. This is met with an antithesis. These two, over the course of history eventually culminate into the synthesis of the two. The dialectical method is between interlocutors that eventually find agreement.

Drawing Conclusions (Consideratism)

So, now lets take these conclusions into account. Let us also take truth to mean “our best current understanding” for the sake of this essay. What can we take away from this? Well, it evolves into something I call Consideratism. Consideratism is the idea that we withhold our own current views as true, and truly consider the opposition. If the opposition is valid or cogent, it must be considered as at least part of the truth, no “but’s” allowed (if, and this cannot be stressed enough, the arguments are valid or cogent). The Consideratist would then be led to say that the real truth must incorporate their opposition as the truth. Examples of this live in our world currently, Between idealism, the idea that the world is not as it appears, and materialism, all things are material objects, lies the idea of dualism, that there are both material objects and there are immaterial objects. Or in the debate between free will and determinism, the Consideratist might suggest soft determinism as truth, the idea that while we have free will, its sort of “scope” is limited. This position is different from the Compatibilist view that both sides of the issue are simply right, the Consideratist more thinks that both sides of the view have some truth to speak on, but truth lies between the two extremes. In a way, Consideratism is settling for the Hegelian synthesis because there are two different sides to any issue as Pyrrho suggests and truth lies between the two extremes as Aristotle suggests.

Some issues lie with Consideratism however, yet, they don’t seem to be too terribly convincing to me. One issue is that if we only listen to the existing arguments for current issues, we will not include new ideas. This is unconvincing to me as the Consideratist has almost a sense of duty to incorporate new ideas to be considered. The Consideratist, however, would not introduce these new ideas as definitive truth, but introduce them as new ideas that another Consideratist may then consider.

Another issue that some may find with Consideratism is that there are some ideas that are not worth considering. Maybe they are incredibly harmful or just far too out of touch to be considered. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Consideratism. Consideratists need to consider the arguments and determine their validity, removing how they currently see the issue. If an argument is not valid, they are not to be considered. Consideratists wont have one cohesive view they consider true together as what they might consider valid will vary between Consideratists themselves.

Still yet another concern is that since no two Consideratists may agree on any issue, and the goal of Consideratism is to get as close as possible to truth, the Consideratist may never know if they hold that truth. This draws us back to the working definition of truth. For the Consideratist, pure objective truth is something we may never know if we truly hold, the goal is to get as close as possible given current understanding that surrounds the issue. The Consideratist evaluates arguments and implements all of the ones that are valid.

Lastly, someone may point out a contradiction with the consideratist. This seems to be the biggest complaint of all, and they have a valid point. They say that the Consideratist would need to consider views that are directly against Consideratism. In other words, the Consideratist would need to consider the rebuttals presented even within this essay and implement them in their views, thereby no longer making them Consideratists. This is the strongest point I think, against Consideratism. The problem I have with it however is that Consideratism is not a particular viewpoint, but more of a practice of accepting reason while trying to ascertain, as close a proximation as it can, to truth. Consideratism doesn’t look at an issue and choose one side or the other, but implements both sides in its conclusions. If someone says something against Consideratism, to practice consideratism is to accept that there are valid rebuttals. Consideratism is more of a tool for determining approximate truth than it is a viewpoint.

We have seen others views, Aristotle’s golden mean, Pyrrhos skepticism leading to ataraxia, and Hegel’s dialectic in this essay. We have also gone over what I call Consideratism, the idea that to achieve a closer approximation of truth, a conclusion must include aspects of both (all) valid/cogent sides of any issue. If nothing else, if you disagree, please, at least consider Consideratism.

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