PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, September 02, 2016

from Lawrence, SATURDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The effects of the weather on Culture. + SATURDAY meeting

Dear friends,

I hope you had a good summer and managed to defeat this crazy hot
weather. As you know we start our meetings this coming SATURDAY, for
September, at 6:30pm at the centro Segoviano. Our topic, if you
remember, is: The effects of the weather on Culture.

At face value this does not seem a philosophical topic, and a topic that
rightfully belongs in anthropology. It does, and is indeed an important
topic in the discipline. So what can we contribute as philosophers to
the topic?

The first issue we encounter goes to the very heart of philosophy:
precisely, are we determined or shaped by our environment? In other
words, is our perception of the world and our understanding of the world
based on our empirical experience of our environment?

Another issue is this, if our understanding of the world is based on our
empirical perception of the world, is it possible to arrive at a
universal ethical system that can act as imperative to what is right or
wrong? This is not a matter of whether we can find a universal moral
system through empirical means. But rather, can we extract fundamental
common principles given the different empirically based ethical systems
as a consequence of the different environments (including the weather)
human being find themselves in?

Indeed does a metaphorical (or not so metaphorical) drop of rain
determine the ethical system of a culture? Let's look at three extreme
situations in the world: in tropical regions people usually wear
nothing, or hardly anything, in tribal communities living in the jungle.
However, the traditional dress of desert communities in the Middle East
and Central Asia has always been free long flowing dresses that
practically cover the whole body with appropriate headgear covering the
whole face. Eskimo communities who live in Arctic regions wear layers of
heavy furs and animal skins.

By our western standards, going about our business in the buff is not
easily acceptable, wearing layers of animals skins might be over doing
it a bit not to mention some might object to killing animals for their
fur. And then, of course, we don't cover ourselves in clothes and cover
our faces in a modern civilised country. So here are three (four)
examples where what people wear is directly determined by the weather of
the environment they find themselves in.

Based on my examples above I would argue that to extract any useful
ethical principles from these situations we need to understand the
function of the response people have to their environment, and in our
case, the weather.

We also cannot judge face value empirical evidence by our standards
since as I have argued above we create an ethical system based on our
empirical experience surrounding our environment. Indeed this goes to
the basis of the second point I mentioned above: are ethical systems
localised systems to local environments?

The problem with such ethical systems, such as the categorical
imperative, is that if this was some rational a priori principle then it
would show up and leave evidence of its existence everywhere. Whilst I
grant you that we might vigorously apply some form of categorical
imperative within our community, I don't think we'll come across half a
dozen members of a tribe from the tropics in the nude walking down Gran
Via or Oxford Street without being molested or arrested. We can apply
the categorical imperative to our culture or community, but not
necessarily to other cultures and other communities.

Ignorance and intolerance are of course the enemies of a universal
ethical system. It is quite possible, therefore, that a drop of rain
might literally scarper any hope of a universal moral system empirical
or not.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SATURDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The effects of
the weather on Culture. + SATURDAY meeting

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