30.Jun.2011 The Problem of Conduct

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Subtitled: What would Socrates say about Mike Riley and Chip Kelly?

The problem in determining proper conduct is that, on the surface, "proper" appears to be a matter of personal taste and preference rather than universal truth. Three popular solutions, at least in Western societies, are as follows:

1. We should act in a way that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. If it means tolerating others or accepting their differences, we can do so for the sole instrumental purpose of personal gain and making sure at the end of the day things have gone better for us than for anybody else. This stance would be that of the cad or rascal.

2. Another solution is to find a community that is willing to tolerate one's eccentricities. For example, finding a community where killing your adversary, trafficking narcotics, and cheating with your best friend's wife are accepted. We see this behavior in cults, communes, mafia, and even certain religions.

3. Yet another paradigm is to believe in a personal, or conveniently vacillating, moral compass that acts on whims of the moment. This is popular with the I/me generation manufactured by Edward Bernays (via Sigmund Freud) in the early 20th century. This ideology seems superficial, but it has validity equal to any other. After all, Bernays tapped into our subconscious, carnal desires and manipulated our biological urges for profit. What we want versus what we need. By definition, the vacillating moral compass is everything and nothing all at once. It has lead to consumerism, where money has replaced God, and left intelligent people blind to the irony of a corporation like Apple Inc shipping 40million "I" Phones.

These are just a few models of conduct. The key point being there are many opinions about what constitutes a proper way to live one's life. A second key point is that many times these ideas conflict because they are based on personal preferences rather than quantitative truth. That is, ethics and morality exist in the domain of feeling and opinion, not objective knowledge. There is no a ²+b ²=c ² when it comes to morality.

I've outlined the framework of the skeptics' argument. And it is valid; skepticism has never been entirely debunked by philosophy.

However, thinkers dating back to the ancient Greeks reasoned that since we can attain certainty (e.g. a ²+b ²=c ²), there is no reason that same certainty can't be brought to bear on how one should live their life. The goal was to understand what kind of life was proper for a human being.

You're probably wondering how this relates to the Beavers. Fret not, I'll get to that in a bit.

Socrates, via Plato, was the first philosopher to give a thorough examination of virtue, or how man should live. This occurred in his dialogue with Protagoras, a sophist, famous for his claim "Man is the measure of all things." Socrates asks Protagoras where he'd suggest a boy (more specifically, Hippocrates), should study if the boy were interested in learning medicine. Protagoras answers the question by naming the best schools in Greece. Socrates then asks if the boy wanted to excel as a sculptor, with whom should he study? Protagoras, naturally, names all the great sculptors in Greece. Socrates then asks a third question: what would the boy want to excel at if he studied with you? Protagoras answers "virtue."

Socrates then asks, "but can virtue be taught?"

The question, seemingly metaphysical, brings forth a rigorous analysis of (a) the nature of virtue and (b) whether it can be learned.

Keep in mind, Sparta at this time did not write down human duties, as they believed a person who learned their duty via reading could not be trusted. Moral actions defied academic exercises. A person is virtuous when their actions show us that they are, and if a person acts virtuous twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, then their actions must be guided by a principle that is universally applicable. Said another way, a virtuous person's behavior is in the thrall of a self-imposed, regulative maxim. And this would be unchanging. Think about this: you wouldn't say person X is virtuous from noon to 3pm, but after that he kills children, eats his neighbor's dog, and pees in the pool.

If virtuous behavior is a guide to life regulated by a maxim, then it is something abstract that cannot be accessible to the senses. Senses can only pick up particulates; universals are inaccessible. Put more clearly, we cannot sense the maxim, we can only sense virtue in the man who abides by it.

If we accept that virtue, as a universal, does exist, the analysis should then shift to that of whether virtue can be taught. The problem here is that humans teach and learn by showing, and with virtue being a universal (i.e. you can't draw it on paper, you can't show someone a picture of it), the question begs what would you show someone in order to teach them virtue? Well, the answer is clear: Socrates argues that while one can't point to virtue, one can point to virtuous acts, people, and behaviors. However, the observer must be "prepared" and/or able to interpret what they're viewing. A baby viewing soldiers sacrificing their lives wouldn't see virtue; they'd see shiny helmets and then take a nap. This is true of most teaching. You can't teach quantitatives such as the Pythagorean Theorem to a baby, nor could you teach it to a being who lacked the mental faculties to interpret what they were presented. Virtue, according to Socrates, works in this same manner. A damaged, unreceptive, underdeveloped, or unprepared mind could neither attain nor recognize virtue.

Socrates goes on to say that virtue and vice are polar opposites, and that vice is the byproduct of ignorance. A person who does something wrong doesn't set out to do something wrong, but he does it because he fails to understand virtue. Virtue, just like the Pythagorean Theorem, is about relationships; the proper relationship between various powers of the soul. In a proper relationship, the rational rules, and the will and passion follow. The contrary relationship is one in which the passions rule, and reason is relegated to finding clever ways to satisfy said passions and sensual desires.

So how does this relate to Oregon State Football? Some of you could probably see where this was going long ago, but if not, I'll tell you now. I've always admired Mike Riley, the man. Maybe not Mike Riley the football coach, or Mike Riley the recruiter, or Mike Riley the motivator. But as a man he has always been admirable. After witnessing the mess in Eugene, I have even more respect and appreciation for him and the program. It is now clear to me that winning at all costs is the easy path, and refraining from that temptation is more difficult. For that reason, Mike Riley, while probably not a saint or perfect man, piques our "virtue sensor" and we say, "he is a good man", where as with Chip Kelly, we have the opposite reaction.

Socrates would argue that Chip Kelly is simply ignorant to virtue, or he is under-developed and at no fault of his own cannot be virtuous. Again, philosophy has come a long way since then and there are many counter-arguments. One has to keep in mind that Socrates believed the lone purpose in life was to prepare the soul for death. Chip Kelly may not believe in these things, but to go down that path is to micro-analyze and miss the big picture. Whether one believes in heaven, hell, souls, or none of it doesn't matter. The big picture is that there is (latent) universality in "virtue", and rational beings know this for all the reasons above, but mainly because they have sensory reactions to virtuous acts.

In light of Oregon's troubles, I have developed a better appreciation for the way our program is run. This doesn't mean I'll stop critiquing when it is due, but I don't think I'll ever take the Machiavellian stance again. And frankly, I feel better this way.

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  • JackBeav says:
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    Adaequatio intellectus nostri cum re?

    • angry says:
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      Thank God I took Latin in high school. And they told me it was a dead language…

  • KC says:
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    Great post Angry! Off topic question, does anyone have the 411 on Rivals’ Weinreich article that went up today on Beaver Blitz?

    • angry says:
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      Just that he’s going to camp/unofficial at OSU.

      He’ll be a Beaver, and JackBeav will have a glorious day.

      • brownale9000 says:
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        I hope Weinreich, Vanderveen and Seth Jacobs are good friends.

      • KC says:
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        For all our sakes I hope JackBeav has his day. Is there a date for that camp?

        If it’s true that Jacobs is friends with Seumalo and the three AG kids have any desire to play together… that trio would be a major coup for sure!

      • JackBeav says:
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        Don’t get my hopes up!

        I can do that all by myself.

        Yes! It will be MY day. I’ve said it before, but all three to one school would be grand theft.

        I’m willing to share in the bounty.

  • Warren says:
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    Jacobs is actually good friends with Seumalo as well.

  • mckalk says:
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    I find Chip Kelly to be an “odd duck” (no pun intended). I think he has some weird mannerisms and body language. In the end, I think he is best suited as savant-genius offensive mind and not the leader of young men. On the other hand, Mike Riley has always been a man of integrity despite our clamors for more passion. I would be totally comfortable haveing him teach my sons football or anything else. Chip Kelly not so much.

  • BeavGirl says:
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    love this post angry! i too developed a greater appreciation for the way the beavs are run after the whole duck fiasco. they have integrity, and hopefully the ducks will be able to find that again. if they ever had it lol

  • brownale9000 says:
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    Win the day, damn the consequences.

    I really like this post, good work.

  • ObjCritic says:
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    I think it compliments the “UO’s national success will motivate OSU” theme that Angry has – escalate the arms race (recruiting), but do it with integrity. In so doing (if they do it), OSU actually “wins.” If UO suffers major penalties for their recruiting actions these past few years, all of Kelly’s “accomplishments” are for naught.

    That’s what’s troubling about college football – UO, USC, Auburn, Ohio State….a few years later, you find out that rooting for them, or against them, was meaningless because their achievements essentially become shams. They only real way to win remains with integrity, or “virtue,” and it takes the kind of patience that Knight/Kelly clearly don’t have.

    That doesn’t absolve Riley of the responsibility to do better, and as we can see with this emerging recruiting class, coaching changes seem to be resulting in talent increases.

  • Will Overhead says:
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    I knew Chip Kelly, not closely, but from occasional contacts, back when he was with the Wildcats. He was something of an “odd duck” (to borrow from mckalk) there, but someone who moved the program in ways that made many, including the head coach and a.d., a bit uncomfortable at times.

    During his time as OC, before the Santos effect kicked in, I actually heard a football administrator wonder aloud if the new philosophy brought by Kelly was breaking some longstanding traditions as a cost of the pursuit of winning. (This person wasn’t back the following season, so it may have been some prescient sour grapes.)

    I recall one rather successful Wildcat football alum commenting about the then new OC, indicating that the ‘Cats would never act like that back in the day, but, at the same time, that you can’t argue with success. Meanwhile, there were current players who were questioning their success and motivation, with a greater sense of favoritism for a few select “stars” who could do no wrong, and for whom, it was intimated, wrongs went unpunished or cleaners were found.

    In short, what Kelly brought to the WIldcats was a new way of thinking: Winning is a virtue, and those that do what it takes are rewarded with that virtue, even if the path chosen to win is not a virtuous one. Kelly trumped tradition with paradox.

    I’m pleased to suggest that the Wildcats are returned closer to the path they were on prior to Kelly arriving in Durham. This past spring, I was discussing the run to the NC that Kelly made in such a short time in Eugene with a long-time Wildcat donor and football fan. His attitude: Good for Chip, but the kids are better off without him.

    There are similarities between Dick Umile, the Wildcat hockey coach, and Riley. I’ll have to come back later and flesh those thoughts out…It’s a favorable comparison, although in both cases, the fans seem to be left wanting a little more when the season’s over…

    • FatDog says:
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      Interesting insights. I have not heard this inside view of Kelly before. I have noticed his knee-jerk defensiveness of any questions regarding his program. This trait will not serve him well as this investigation continues and journalists ask more questions.

      • mckalk says:
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        When Riley is interviewed at half-time or after a game, his responses are normal reactions to the questions and the particular game…he acts human. Kelly always seems inappropriately cocky and gives weird cliches about “doing what we always do”. I guess it’s part of his “win the day” philosophy, but it comes off almost robotic. Maybe Cliff Harris thought he was “winning the day” by driving 120 mph down I-5???

  • helmsley says:
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    Can you, will you, should you/how would you weave Phil Knight into this
    specific tapestry of virtue and integrity? Philosophy and Latin aside – and I’ve only seen Riley as well as Kelly in photos and videos b4 I read any of this – but my gut thought Riley appeared trustworthy and forthright whereas there was always something about Kelly . . . And dare I say something snide (clearly, I’m going to) = I don’t quite trust football coaches that are chubby.

  • FatDog says:
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    Angry,

    Good essay.
    It appears you received a quality education including the liberal arts. I’m assuming it was at OSU :)

    • angry says:
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      Thanks, FatDog.

      I’ve actually studied philosophy on my own. I’ve never taken a class in it.

  • progressivebeav says:
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    Chipster related…
    http://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/p/26660568/Have-Fun-Oregon-coach-Chip-Kelly.aspx

    Hope everyone has a great 4th! :)

  • JackBeav says:
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    In history, I would equate Kelly with Hannibal Barca. He’s brilliant in the open field, and he’s relentless. He takes the opposition by storm and takes them to the ground.

    And half his elephants died on the way to the party?

    This is what happens next…

    The opposition realizes that he has been successful only when he draws his opponents into the field. They are retreating while slashing and burning the whole way. While in their fortresses, Kelly is marauding–almost parading back and forth–in the wasteland left behind, trying to draw the garrisoned opposition into the field.

    But he’s not equipped for a full assault, and he certainly has no skills (and less resources) for siege warfare. Once his troops are starving and ill, the garrisoned forces will make a move to the field. And Kelly will hastily move to attack, not realizing that he is being drawn into the fog with a second, larger, better rested force waiting to pounce on his flank.

    In the end, he will lose at the hands of his own tactics. He will drink his poison, and the NCAA will move with force into Eugene, razing a once proud program… and salting it to boot.

    “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam”
    — Hannibal Barca

  • JackBeav says:
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    Blake Martinez to Stanford… oh well.

  • beavers4life says:
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    off topic!!….

    So I was talking with a fellow beaver fan last night and I got to thinking, if someone donates to the BASF, there should be incentives to doing so…you donate money, you get free stuff….

    for example, you give $500 you get a free t-shirt that says, “I donated to the BASF at OSU”

    you donate $1,000 you get a ticket to a home opener of your choice of any sport.

    you donate $10,000 you get 2 home opener tickets….

    so on and so forth. The tickets will be left in will call and anyone can pick them up for you…meaning that if you know someone who could be a potential donor and hasn’t been to a game…then you give them the ticket. if they want more tickets, then they get information about how to get season tickets…Just an idea…

    • JackBeav says:
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      “you donate $10,000 you get 2 home opener tickets…”

      I would just donate $1000 twice instead. :)

      • brownale9000 says:
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        Free Sac State tickets? Sign me up!

        The BASF site is an embarrassment. It’s too busy and a link-graveyard. It annoys me how often I’ve pointed out dead links and they’re never fixed. Among them – major donations.

        And has anyone ever been able to sign up for the OSU alumni association via their site? I am pretty tech-savvy, but I simply can’t figure out how to sign up for it. It’s ridiculous.

      • beavers4life says:
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        actually JackBeav, there would be a 1 time donation give away and there would be an alotment for the first 100 to get a single home opener ticket and it would be between $1,000-10,000. Also, you get to choose between any sport you want…if footballis done, then you can choose any other sport.

  • angry says:
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    Uh oh

    http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news;_ylt=Agy2ICbXnIM5mhgfYGpqVPU5nYcB?slug=ys-robinson_scout_details_deal_oregon_kelly_070111

    We can just discuss this hear in the comments since it’s relevant to ethics and such. I don’t want to dedicate a post to it and turn this into a Duck blog. :)

  • michaelm says:
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    Yahoo sports just dropped a major bomb on Chip and the Ducks. Real chance this costs him his job IMO…

    • angry says:
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      Agree, and if you read that article, it is clear why Lyles is now talking. Oregon promised him 25k for the current year, but then retracted once the NCAA came knocking. Lyles didn’t get his money, and now he’s mad, which is awesome for everyone but the Ducks.

      *fires up a bag of popcorn, kicks up feet*

    • brownale9000 says:
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      I agree, I think they make him fall on his sword right now.

      And this isn’t even the BIG story.

      ‘uck fans still think this is no big deal.

      • angry says:
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        Duck fans know it’s a big deal, but they convince themselves otherwise. This is pretty common.

        Stages of Grief:

        Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
        Anger (why is this happening to me?)
        Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
        Depression (I don’t care anymore)
        Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)

  • BeaverBeliever20 says:
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    That’s game, y’all.

    • brownale9000 says:
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      Unfortunately for whOregon, I don’t think it’s over.

      Rumor has it that Phil Knight paid Jabari Brown’s AAU coach a large sum of money to sign with Nike Oregon.

      Rumor has it there are other big things out there too.

      “…If this is a common practice, then Cliff is going to need to autograph and sell a bunch more game-worn apparel to his medical marijuana growing friend.

      Oops… that one isn’t out there yet. Is it? That… um… rumor… yeah, rumor… has nothing to do with the person who hosted the party that wrecked Kiko Alonso for a night… the person whose house Cliff Harris is seen at quite a bit down here in Eugene… oh, you get the idea.”

      This is a rumor I’ve heard more than once from believable sources.

      Scroll down to angler1fly’s second and third comments.

  • michaelm says:
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    I’m not sure how much this matters, but apparently Lyles did not tell this same story to the NCAA. I have to think they’ll have him back for another talk, or at the very least take this Yahoo article into consideration.

  • Castornation says:
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    I have to disagree. “That is, ethics and morality exist in the domain of feeling and opinion, not objective knowledge. There is no a ²+b ²=c ² when it comes to morality.” I think Mike Riley ( from what I have heard and seen ) would agree. On morality and ethics, the Bible is the standard bearer. As a Christian you see objective evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit. Take for an example a girl who went to witness to Tex Watson in prison. He was the lieutenant of Charles Manson. She shared her faith with him, and he subsequently became a Christian. She was the daughter of Sharon Tate, who was butchered by Watson and family.

    • angry says:
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      Castor, maybe you didn’t read the entire thing. I admit, it was long. But, I the line you quoted is the skeptic’s argument.

      As a Christian you see evidence the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist at all, too. You can’t leave that out. It’s too convenient. I went to Catholic school for 8 years so I’m not talking from a position of ignorance here. Philosophy and religion are like water and oil. The former relies on reason and the latter blind faith. The Bible is brilliant as a work of fiction, good as a general guide to behavior, and dubious as a work of nonfiction. I’ll leave it at that to avoid a tangent.

      • BeavGirl says:
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        “The Bible is brilliant as a work of fiction, good as a general guide to behavior, and dubious as a work of nonfiction. ”

        i couldn’t have said it better!

        but angry i don’t think philosophy and religion are that far apart.
        there are a lot of christian philosophers who deal with it specifically. kierkegaard comes to mind but there are more. he was definitely influenced by socrates too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kierkegaard

        /tangent

    • brownale9000 says:
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      I disagree with your connection.

      The Bible says a lot of things. And for MANY passages in the bible, there are as many interpretations as there are readers. People have used Bible passages to justify genocide, war, greed, racism, etc.

      I REALLY don’t want to get into a religious debate. but I don’t think you can say that the Bible is THE standard bearer for morality and ethics. The fact that it can be interpreted in so many ways shows that it is not a simple formula like the Pythagorean theorem.

      • angry says:
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        Worse is that the church has altered, manipulated, or “lost” writings hundreds of times. It seems at best ironic and at worse blasphemous to alter the word of God. There’s a reason I stopped my Catholic upbringing at age 16, and it wasn’t teen angst or rebellion. That being said, as a moral guide, you could do much worse than the Bible.

  • beavers4life says:
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    LMFAO!!!!! This LSU forum went to town with photoshopping Chip Kelly and company with the investigation stuff…enjoy. :)

    http://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/display.aspx?p=26660568&pg=1

  • Castornation says:
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    Just because there is a squirrel in the cookie jar, doesn’t make it a cookie. And the inquisition, the crusades and the wars in Ireland done in the name of religion are in name only and don’t represent in any fashion Christianity. But on point of the post, one of the biggest things I like about Riley is how he lives his faith, I like that his guys and there future success are important to him. But this site really strikes a chord in that Riley wasn’t hired as a youth minister. He is the head of a multimillion dollar organization that has a stated goal to win. Maybe not in the way Oregon goes about it. But as I have followed this site, I have not read any mean spirited criticism. Riley should motivate more, recruit better, take over play calling, talk with confidence of his team before a game and maybe Pankey would have been a good place kicker.

  • rsteve503 says:
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    I think coaches should set an example for the players and try to give them a decent set of values. These are young guys, still maturing. I think a coach needs to teach and know how to impart motivation and the will and energy to win. I think further, that Riley didnt do that last year. He was far too laid back and even tempered. Some players are self motivating, some aren’t.

    But I dont want OSU to go the way that Oregon seems to have fallen into under Kelley. Leave that to the programs where the boosters and alums demand it. I hope UO can recover — I liked them better before Kelley. Kelley is a great motivator, offensive strategist and coach, but too unscrupulous. The kids under him are learning the wrong things.

    I suggest religion stay out of it.

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