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A Season To Be Objective

Modernism, or post-modernism, has little use for philosophy . Pragmatism is most people’s mind bent. Tough-minded pragmatism has a lot going for it, but when it denigrates philosophy it might be acting a little too tough. Isn’t philosopy that old-timey pursuit back when intellectuals talked endlessly and abstrusely about whether we really exist or just a bundle of impressions. What good did any of that talk do? It doesn’t pay the rent, by God, and it doesn’t bring the bacon (tofu?) home.

Others are more mystical about life, therefore philosophy is an illusory construct created by dead white European males to rule by reason and logic, or to confuse the issues with consistency — there is nothing consistently true for mystics, and all the intellectualizing in the world won’t reveal the mystical flow of The Great Unknown to the puny mind of reason — it’s intuitive, soft and open in spirit — felt by those connected to the universal spirit.

One looks at “what works” as the only marker for value, and the other goes by “what feels right”, what can be intuited as the marker of value. There are many variations of these two types of believers. And there are many who are mostly social, who don’t think much at all about the larger issues of life; they want to belong and be accepted, and merely being a part of a group is fine with them. They might take a stand if it’s to protect a friend or if they feel like their group is being threatened, but mostly they just want social comfort.

The second definition of philosophy from The Free Dictionary is — 2. Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.

The first definition is — 1. Love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline.

Very few people live by, or hold ideas to the test of, a set of principles that they’ve forged through a consistent philosophy. They usually go by antecdotal evidence, snapshots of reality taken out of context, as their measure to make decisions. “I have a cousin who did this and got this result, and it seems to be working, therefore I need not worry further about placing this to the test of principles because it’s working and that’s enough.” Or, some might say “This feels right, it’s got the right amount of compassion, it’s harmonic with my feelings, therefore it has to be good because I feel good about it.” Still another might say, ” Everyone in my group is choosing this, therefore it must be good; besides, who am I to go against the group — if they all think it’s good, it must be good.”

Those who judge by objectivity and reason based on a set of principles are many times seen as naysayers who are trying to spoil the “new thing” — they are called short-sighted, old-fashioned, un-enlightened, contrarians, mean (if the new thing is sufficiently PC), and all kinds of ugly names if the new thing is something that deeply connects emotionally with people.

Many people misunderstand the above second definition of philosophy. They tend to think principled people are arrogant, that those who judge objectively think they “have all the answers”, that they aren’t “open”. Nothing could be further from the truth — these things may be true of any one individual, but they don’t apply necessarily to people who judge by strict criteria founded upon time-proven principles. The voice of reason may be a “party-pooper”, but it’s not a pooping for the sake of pooping, it’s a love for finding the wisdom/truth in any given subject. It’s not a declaration of absolute truth being found once and for all, it’s a declaration of the SEARCH for truth, a popular or un-popular truth.

Then, you hear the cries “Truth is relative!” — “Perception is Reality!”. This is the problem. For all those who abhor philosophy, THIS “philosophy” is most prevalent. And, it’s the most dangerous philosophy. The modern tendency to make truth dependent on group consensus has isloated objective thinkers even more than they’ve been islolated in the past. There is no place for them in the political process, there is little demand for them in the media because they are not taking an extreme position to meet the agenda of the particular media format, and most groups shun them because they are often disagreeable. Simply searching for the truth is annoying and boring to a lot of people.

Yet, the world will be lost without objective, reasonable thinkers, and I think in the middle of the extremes a “silent majority” still exists years after Spiro Agnew (I think he coined that phrase) who hunger for leaders who will avoid the partisan pulls to extremes in order to pursue the truth. It’s in the fearless search for truth that all progress and real change lies. What we see this political season is the culmination of partisan politics and truth by consensus with the largest number of adherents to a brand of “truth” the winner.

Failure to develop and live by principles has infected every walk of life, and it’s infected the real estate profession, with the pragmatic toughies yelling “Whatever works” as they look no further than next month, and with the ”It feels right, so it must be good” crowd embracing every fluffy notion in their “unbearable lightness of being“. Then the social butterflies who flit from popular group to popular group oblivious to purpose or meaning.

Where do I fall (let’s keep this fair)? I have fallen in all of them from time to time, but I struggle daily to be objective. It’s a goal I’ve set for myself — to search for the truth, unpopular or not. I have to.

A lot of bloated writing here to get to a simple point: I believe it’s vitally important to be objective and look at every issue, every new site offering, every controversy, every new marketing idea, every ethical challenge, every group direction, every business model, through long term vision, guided by a set of ideas that spring from freedom and excellence. Freedom to excercise your mind and control your destiny, and excellence in the performance of that freedom.

The last five years, since I got my broker’s license and went independent I’ve relished every moment of freedom -not to say that everyone must be a broker and start their own company, just find the route to independence (at least I’ve found it rewarding). I’ve also worked hard to understand all I can understand about the art of providing service. I may not be the most technologically savvy, but I’ll match what I’ve learned about service and my service performance with anyone. 

I think it’s two keys to happiness in this profession. The thrill of being independent, free to innovate, to change on a dime if called for, is exhilerating – and to strive for excellence. I’ve recently decided to use my space my space on my blog to quietly write about what I see as the principles and disciplines necessary to succeed in this new way of doing things that includes some old ways. I probably won’t be breaking any news stories or announcing new gadgets – there are other blogs that are better at that. I want to carve a niche of philosophizing. A real estate philosopher, if you will. LOL — it suits my nature much better — to sit quietly in my corner and write about “stuff”.

I credit Greg for inspiring me to return to my philosopher roots. My philosophy is a cross between Ayn Rand and Goofy.

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  • 13 comments

    13 Comments so far

    1. Dave Shafer February 29th, 2008 2:51 pm

      The problem is the last part of definition 2; “rather than empirical methods.” When you take out the empirical methods you are left with no anchor other than a perceived set of values on which to judge on. I think rather than try to set up a universal set of values to launch your logic from, it might be best to observe empirically and then build you logic from that point. At least it works for me!

    2. Greg Swann February 29th, 2008 3:31 pm

      > It’s in the fearless search for truth that all progress and real change lies.

      Bless you, sir. Thank you for this.

    3. [...] A Season To Be Objective, by Mike Farmer. [...]

    4. Cathleen Collins February 29th, 2008 3:48 pm

      Splendid! Of all the wonderful gifts that Jay Thompson has brought to BHB, I am most grateful for his having recommended you.

    5. Louis Cammarosano February 29th, 2008 4:14 pm

      Mike

      Excellent post.

      “Tough-minded pragmatism has a lot going for it, but when it denigrates philosophy it might be acting a little too tough.”

      Reminds me of the Plato dialogue of Callicles.

      Callicles argues “might makes right” and Socrates dismantles that seemingly attractive argument.

      From my old Jesuit institution, Fordham a synopsis:
      http://www.fordham.edu/philosophy/lc/davenport/ethsum00/callicle.htm

    6. Mike Farmer February 29th, 2008 4:34 pm

      Thanks Dave, that is fodder for another post — coming shortly.

      Thanks Greg and Cathleen.

    7. Mike Farmer February 29th, 2008 4:35 pm

      Hey, Louis, I didn’t see you — thanks.

    8. Jillayne Schlicke February 29th, 2008 8:38 pm

      “I believe it’s vitally important to be objective and look at every issue, every new site offering, every controversy, every new marketing idea, every ethical challenge, every group direction, every business model, through long term vision, guided by a set of ideas that spring from freedom and excellence. Freedom to excercise your mind and control your destiny, and excellence in the performance of that freedom.”

      One postmodern genius who died way too young, asked us to ponder what it really means to be free was Michele Foucault. This philosopher follows in the footsteps of Sartre and de Beavoir in asking questions about limits on freedom. For example, and putting this into the context of real estate, does a black female Realtor living in the deep south have the same kind of freedom to achieve excellence as a white male Realtor living in any city? Many would say yes, many would say no. What does Mike say and what is his perspective? It’s hard to crawl out of one’s skin and see things from another’s perspective. A postmodernist would admit this before trying to argue about freedom in general ways.

      No one culture group holds the truth on value.

      By the way, Foucault DOES come up with ideas on how humans achieve freedom. If you want to know more, email me offline.

      Aristotle helped us figure out excellence. His book is called Nichomachean Ethics and you can find it in any used book store for a few dollars. It will be worth your time.

      Good luck in your philosophical quest. It may be the most important work you do in your career.

    9. [...] Mike Farmer’s post on philosophy got me thinking. I knew I had written fairly extensively, fairly recently, on some of the same ideas, but I couldn’t remember where. I write a lot, and I don’t always remember what gets posted where. [...]

    10. Mike Farmer March 1st, 2008 7:20 am

      Thanks, Jillayne, that is a great questions.

      I have read some of Foucalt, and I will answer at my site Sunday. Today I’m going to St. Simon’s Island for a day of chilling.

    11. Jeff Kempe March 1st, 2008 11:00 am

      Whew. I stayed up waaaaaay too late with friends covering, of all things, old Byrds songs – Greg, a Rickenbacker 12 string might make a good door prize – had a half cup of coffee before I had to go open a listing for some painters – and come back to some delicious philosophical discourse, about as far away from Gram Parsons as one can get.

      >No one culture group holds the truth on value.

      Jillayne, like so much of postmodern thought, that’s self refuting (except for the convenient fact that if there is no truth, there necessarily is no refutation). In the declaration you’re transcending cultures and declaring a universal truth of your own.

      Values are demonstrable: intellectually, empirically, philosophically and theologically.

      That isn’t to say it isn’t worth the effort to learn other perspectives. With all my clients I try to ‘get inside their skin’, to understand their motivations, so that I can serve them more efficiently.

      That doesn’t mean, though, that, as happened not long ago, when a client tells me ‘I don’t want to be in a neighborhood with those damned Mexicans’ that it’s incumbent on me to assume their value system equal to mine; it’s not. I don’t need to insert myself into a Somali mosque to know that beheading someone – or threatening to behead someone – isn’t really a sparkling response to a Danish cartoon.

      And if it’s necessary for Mike to put himself in the skin of a black woman realtor in the south, for consistency it’s necessary for that woman to put herself in Mike’s skin. My ex-clients had been disturbed – and frightened – by the actions of MEChA, the anti-American Mexican separatists. So what? Does that, then, make their phobia legitimate?

      People act on values. Actions have consequence.

      I need more coffee…

    12. Dave Shafer March 2nd, 2008 7:50 am

      Oh, Michel Foucault……
      Brings back great memories sitting in a graduate course surrounded by hip post modernists (early 1990′s), discussing his “History of Sexuality,” where he argues that gender/sexuality is imbedded in language, divorced from biology. And then I point out that he died from AIDS contacted in the bath houses of LA….. it was a show stopper as all the post modernernists in the room took a deep breath and realized that as interesting as the conversation was, his own life failed his argument.
      Gender/sexuality is not divorced from biology as terrible as that thought is to some folks. And post modern theory is rapidly moving to the dustbin of intellectual history.

    13. Jeff Brown March 2nd, 2008 4:21 pm

      Jeff Kempe — You said >Values are demonstrable: intellectually, empirically, philosophically and theologically.

      Coffeehouse philosophers are, more often than not, full of much more than caffein.

      From high school to college to the current internet age, the ability to divorce one’s self from reality is at times entertaining, but mostly more analogous to building car tires out of steam.

      As Mike wrote — Those who judge by objectivity and reason based on a set of principles are many times seen as naysayers who are trying to spoil the “new thing” — they are called short-sighted, old-fashioned, un-enlightened, contrarians, mean (if the new thing is sufficiently PC), and all kinds of ugly names if the new thing is something that deeply connects emotionally with people.

      Most philosophy is founded, in my opinion, upon the core belief that the empirical evidence of what works gets in the way of what makes one feel good.

      Like Mike, Jeff, and Greg, I’ll leave the ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ to those for whom empirical impediments are merely brick walls to circumvent.

      Superior stuff, Mike — thanks.