Friday, September 28, 2012

Some Thoughts Toward a Philosophy Video Game III

(10) Continued. Philosophical movements and schools do not exist in a void. One cannot fully understand the influence of Stoicism in the Roman Imperial period without some notion of the interaction between Stoic ideas and the ideas of governance carried forward by the senatorial families; it is this interaction that gives us Seneca and Marcus Aurelius and, later, and with much influence from elsewhere, Boethius. Likewise, Thomism in Europe and the Americas has benefitted from its association with the Catholic Church, and Sadrianism still plays a role in the thought of Iran due to the relation of Sadrianism to Persian forms of Islam. And, thirdly, philosophical movements are not all in direct opposition all the time. Hellenistic philosophy in practice occasionally divided into three schools and one, with the Epicureans being the odd school out; for all their differences, the other major philosophical schools tended to agree that the Epicureans were perversely wrong, and union against a common foe is a great, even though limited, uniter. Some philosophical movements get along relatively well with each other, because they share major things in common; some do not and cannot, because their differences are too great.

(11) In order to simulate the interaction of different philosophical movements in a toy-model environment like a video game, we already have Debates, but not all relations between different philosophical movements are antagonistic. Further, not all real philosophical debates are binary; sometimes philosophically distinguishable groups join forces. So I would suggest that philosophical movements that share traits -- an AIRT and an AIRG, for instance -- can, if they share doctrines and have no bad blood, ally, either in a sort of informal nonaggression pact -- they will only skim philosophers off each other passively, through the ordinary operation of influence, not actively by Debates and Critical Texts -- or by uniting together for Debates against philosophical movements that share fewer traits with each and lack Doctrines in common with them. This is somewhat artificial, but in the long run I think it gives a better sense of the way in which philosophical movements interact -- it's not all disagreement, but sometimes a rather complicated interaction of different agreements and disagreements.

Philosophical movements, however, are as human as anything else, and bad blood is possible -- whatever their agreements people in two philosophical movements may not like each other very much. Thus refusal to ally and even dogged attack due more to history than immediate circumstances should be part of any sandbox version of how the history of philosophy works. Habits of opposition endure; old oppositions are remembered. Opposition between Thomists and Scotists is still often on auto-pilot after all these centuries, despite the fact that the commonalities between the two, in comparison with other philosophical movements they interact with, make them natural allies in everything beyond some relatively technical details. Some things that could create bad blood between otherwise similar philosophical movements within the context of the video game: extensive use of Debates and Critical Texts against each other, above some critical threshold, in the past several centuries; disparity with regard to government power (e.g., one philosophical movement having good relations with the government during the same period that the other is an object of harrassment); religious division where the religions themselves are particularly in opposition.

There are a number of quirks with regard to this that would have to be worked out. Randall Collins in his work The Sociology of Philosophies suggests that philosophical movements are more likely to ally where they are at some shared disadvantage -- philosophical movements in positions of power tend to be less likely to think it necessary or important, whereas philosophical movements at a disadvantage tend to make common cause. How generally true this is, is an interesting question, but it does seem to be a phenomenon we see -- Hindu philosophy before and after British dominance shows a very different set of relations among philosophical groups on each side of the divide; philosophically, at least, Hindu irenicism and eclecticism is an effect of colonization by a foreign power -- Hindu philosophical movements that previously were at each other's throats, figuratively speaking, start seeing themselves as sharing the common trait of being genuinely Indian. So that's one thing that might come about. A second, historically related, quirk that would have to be taken account is the tendency of allied philosophies to become more similar through their allied interaction, sometimes leading to the complete assimilation of one by the other, or their fusion into a new kind of philosophical movement. A third quirk is the opposite -- sometimes philosophical movements exhibit sharp breaks, splitting into two or more movements.

(12) The interaction of philosophical movements with religions gets very complicated. Religious institutions and hierarchies can have very complicated and tangled relations with both governments and populaces. But religions have an undeniable influence on philosophical history -- including how long it endures, what troubles it has, and what resources are available to it. Christian Neoplatonisms outlasted pagan Neoplatonisms in part because the latter were more dependent on the Imperial government than the former -- the Christians had their own institutions, which could operate more or less independently of the government, and, indeed, which extended outside the bounds of the Roman Empire entirely, into the northern European tribes and the Persian Empire. Thus, despite the Emperor Julian, once the government started favoring Christianity, there was very little else pagan Neoplatonism could do. So the interaction of a philosophical movement with a religious one -- alliance or opposition -- can shape its influence.

In addition, religions are not philosophically neutral -- even where they do not absolutely rule something out, they may not favor it, and even where they do not insist on something, they still may approve. Christianity, for instance, having practically been born under Middle Platonism, and having taken the Middle Platonism of its Hellenistic Jewish governments as its earliest philosophical vocabulary, has always been less favorable to materialistic views of human beings than Islam, whose early development was in a context to which Platonism of any sort was foreign, and, indeed, originally met with in Christians. One occasionally finds forms of Christianity in which human beings are viewed as being simply material compositions, with no incorruptible part, but this has tended to be rare and to be regarded suspiciously. On the other hand, different religions play out their philosophical alliances in different ways, in great measure due to the fact that they differ in institutional structure. All the major monotheistic religions are actually fairly philosophy-friendly (it is difficult to be major without association with a major civilization, and it is difficult to associate with a major civilization without at least having a fairly generous tolerance for at least certain kinds of philosophical thought), but Christianity, especially in the West, has been much more promiscuous in its philosophical alliances than is the norm. In addition, some religions tend to view themselves as quasi-philosophical already, while others make sharp distinctions between themselves and any philosophical movement that comes along. But, of course, all this varies considerably depending on details of context.

Even if one prefers to avoid the extraordinary complexities of this sort of thing, religions tend to collect resources -- institutions, money, land -- that sometimes they share with philosophical movements; this certainly is an important feature of much history of philosophy, and should be a part of this sort of toy-model.

Alliances with religions would be either implicit or explicit: religions will tend naturally to favor philosophically movements with similar doctrines or traits, regardless of what one does. On the other hand, explicit alliances are also possible, although doing so might under certain circumstances make the religious authorities in the game look on you with suspicion more than friendliness.

(13) The third major kind of interaction that would need to be involved in the dynamics of any video game trying seriously to present a decent toy model of how philosophical movements actually work, is political. Since the major victory condition of the game (there might be other kinds of victory condition added, but here we are talking about the one that counts as complete victory) is to become the dominant philosophical movement by winning over a clear majority of the populace and getting the favor of the government, this is significant. Even if it weren't, no one doing work in the history of philosophy can afford to ignore all political matters; some of them have crucial significance for the course of philosophical history. We saw this clearly in the case of religion, but there are more direct implications. Practically the entire history of Chinese philosophy arose out of complex interactions between the government and various philosophical movements. The Qin dynasty, for instance, saw the interaction between a Confucianism that had been growing increasingly popular for centuries and a government-supported Legalism. (Neither were at the time actual schools or solidified movements; rather, 'Confucianism' is the label given to little philosophical movements with one set of traits -- idealistic in particular -- and certain political Doctrines and 'Legalism' the label given to those with other sets of traits -- pragmatic in particular -- and certain political Doctrines; that is, between ru movements and fa movements.) Then Confucianism became favored -- but different Confucianisms at different times -- until the transition from Imperial to the troubled period of Republican/Nationalist China, when San-min became briefly favored; San-min fell with the Maoist Revolution, when Communism became favored, although traces of its influence remained; Confucianism in particular tended to be regarded with disfavor under the Communist regime until relatively recently, but while still in a state of subordination it has recently begun to be regarded as being, so to speak, China's philosophical ambassador to the world. This is all highly simplified, of course. The point is that philosophical movements interact with politics; they clash with pet government projects; they change governments. This inevitably has to be any part of the toy model.

(14) Such are the basics. It's interesting to think through a project like this, regardless of whether anyone ever does anything with it, because it ends up touching on so many of the features of the history of philosophy that historians of philosophy have to deal with, even if only in a very simplified way.

1 comment:

  1. Don Blankenship1:21 AM

    Many definitions of art have been proposed by philosophers and others who . However, there are many other colloquial uses of the word, all with some .Art is something that stimulates an individual's thoughts, emotions, beliefs, The formal qualities of video games are non-linearity, interactivity and virtual presence.



Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.