As an outsider I've been fascinated by watching continental philosophers shake off many of the neo-Kantian aspects of phenomenology in the same way that analytic philosophers earlier shook off many of the (sometimes identical!) neo-Kantian aspects of logical positivism.
What's fascinated me most these past few years is the way in which lessons, themes, and issues from the glory period of German Idealism have been so much better recovered in the continental metaphysics renaissance. That is, one can easily trace the canonical set of issues that move Maimon all the way through Schopenhauer and Hegel* (that were thought to have been dissolved by logical positivists and phenomenologists) as all rising up again in various ways by once renegade Deleuzians such as Protevi and Delanda** and the Speculative Realist writers of the same recent era: Meillassoux, Harman, Hamilton-Grant, and Brassier.***
The reason I think that 2014 is the Clash City Rockers gets released (or perhaps David Lewis visits Australia) moment for the revival of metaphysics in continental philosophy is that so much of this material a deepening of this very narrative of a dialectical recovery of what was covered over by twentieth century neo-Kantian philosophy. After the jump I'll list a few that are the most exciting to me.
One attractive story about the demise of the Principle Sufficient Reason (PSR) is that it was discarded in the founding of analytical philosophy together with the heritage of British Idealism and related polemics against Spinoza (and Bergson) by Bertrand Russell. When Russell was given the option, accept (a) Bradley's Regress or (b) the PSR, he chose neither; and he opted, instead, for (c) submission to scientific fact: "The scientific philosophy, therefore...aims only at understanding
the world... without being turned aside from
that submission to fact which is the essence of the scientific temper." (On Scientific Method In Philosophy [recall my discussion and Jeff Bell.] If the to-be-explained-facts are brute, then it is possible that even if they can be fully captured by integrated into a theory/model (etc.) some arbitrariness is inevitable (in, say, initial conditions). One might even think that this stance is (informally) justified by the "principle of indifference" that accompanies the embrace of a classical probability theory in one's inductive logic (see, Carnap).
Eric says below that "Lewis is arguably the most significant and influential (analytical) philosopher of the last quarter of the 20th century. (Perhaps, Deleuze is the only contemporary that will match his enduring significance..."
Now putting Lewis and Deleuze together would yield very interesting metaphysical work I think. Unfortunately, there's a high barrier to entry to this kind of comparative work in terms of the time commitments necessary to get even a baseline acquaintance with each philosopher. So there has been only a very few attempts I can find to bring them together. Here is a New APPS post by Jeff Bell (and another); there is also Ch 6 in this book by James Williams (pdf here). Williams begins:
For Gilles Deleuze, the virtual is real and no actual world is complete if considered in abstraction from the virtual. For David Lewis, possible worlds are real and the actual world is but one of many real possible worlds. Deleuze is critical of the concept of the possible, warning against any confusion of the possible with the virtual. Lewis’s arguments can be deployed against many of the assumptions that hold for Deleuze’s virtual – most notably, against the claim that the reality of the virtual is a certainty, rather than merely a useful supposition.
He may say with Parmenides, who, upon reading a philosophical discourse before a public assembly at Athens, and observing, that, except Plato, the whole company had left him, continued, notwithstanding, to read on, and said that Plato alone was audience enough for him.--Adam Smith
The English Bill of Rights (1689) expressly forbids ""cruel and unusual" punishment, and this found its way into the U.S. Constitution. One important, enduring argument against such punishment -- and many other forms of cruelty that may not, in fact, constitute 'punishment' -- can be found in Seneca's Letter 7: viewing and otherwise participating in the degradation and cruelty of others, even in the context of justified punishment [ille meruit ut hoc pateretur], can harm not just the victims or punished, but perpetrators and spectators alike. This is especially so if the cruelty produces pleasure as it is likely to do at public spectacles [spectaculo]* because then this pleasure makes our soul receptive; a desire for more cruelty creeps up on us [per voluptatem facilius vitia subrepunt].
Seneca's particular target is the institution of aestheticized, public spectacles of cruelty and inhumanity [crudelior et inhumanior].** He emphasizes the significance of audience participation [spectatoribus suis obiciuntur]. He reorients and subtly transforms Plato's arguments for censorship of the arts to focus on the more pernicious institutions that indirectly teach people to celebrate cruelty. Seneca's argument applies to a lot of issues that we are not likely to consider primarily in terms of political speech: mass sporting events; war coverage; disaster tourism, and any form of entertainment that rely on the pleasures derived from exposure to the suffering of others. (This is not to deny that the targets of Seneca's argument can overlap with Plato's, and that his argument is indebted to Plato's moral psychology.)
Whitehead lectured on Science and
the Modern World and on Cosmologies Ancient and Modern. I responded little,
even after accustoming myself to his accent. What he said had little evident
bearing on the problems that I recognized. His lecture hours were mercifully
short and his speech exasperatingly slow. My notes were crowded with doodles…But
retained a vivid sense of being in the presence of the great.--Quine, The Philosophy of W.V. Quine, Volume 18 van Library of living philosophers, Hahn/Schilpp).
In Quine's memory Whitehead is a stereotypical Continental philosopher, somebody that affects greatness but is not relevant to our problem-solving. In his intellectual autobiography, Davidson comes close to adding that the "unreadable" Whitehead was basically a fraud as a teacher and philosopher: "Truth, or even serious argument was basically irrelevant." (Davidson, Volume 27 van The library of living philosophers, p. 13-14) [I thank Stefan Koller for calling my attention to these passages in Davidson.] So, some will find it, thus, fitting that bona fide Continental philosophers -- Deleuze, Stengers -- have adopted Whitehead as one of their own. Our very own Jeff Bell is part of this story and hopefully will share insights on its nature and causes.
Now, undoubtedly with the (once very influential) leaders of our tribe discouraging, even ridiculing interest in Whitehead it's no surprise that Whitehead is whitewashed (sorry, couldn't resist) out of the collective memory of analytical philosophy. I have already mentioned that this was not inevitable; in 1930 Ernest Nagel acknowledged that Whitehead's work on the "nature of existence" is "a notable addition" to a revival of interest in metaphysics among scientific philosophers. As regular readers know, I claim that Ernest Nagel is a privileged observer; he played the crucial role in coining and articulating the concept, "analytical philosophy" in 1936 (without including Whitehead, who was in the wrong Cambridge). Granting that historical accuracy need not be the most important philosophical virtue Whitehead's migration out of analytical philosophy obscures proper philosophical self-understanding, at least if we think that Quine's moves matter to us.
Julian Young has now forthrightly corrected passages from his biography Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2010), discussed here a while ago. In two pages of Errata inserted in unsold copies of the book, he writes:
The author wishes to correct an oversight on his part in omitting to provide appropriate acknowledgement of
material reproduced from, and references made to, the late Curtis Cate’s biography, Friedrich Nietzsche (London:
He writes (in correspondence):
I went through my biography with a fine tooth comb and identified every occasion there was a phrase that overlapped with the earlier biography, changed the phrase, and inserted a footnote to the earlier biography. The foreign translators were informed of this.
Peter Gordon’s excellent book (Continental Divide) on the
1929 Davos encounter between Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger is an
insightful and historically informed account of the complex interplay of issues
that were brought to the table. The central hinge or fold of Gordon’s book is
the full translation of and commentary to the encounter itself, the
Arbeitsgemeinschaft, which was transcribed by students of both Cassirer and
Heidegger (Otto Bollnow for Heidegger, and Joachim Ritter for Cassirer). A central
fold of the encounter itself occurs, I would argue, when the Dutch linguist
Hendrik J. Pos intervenes into the discussion and suggests that what separates
Cassirer from Heidegger is that, as Pos puts it, “Both men speak a completely
different language,” and moreover there are several terms in each of these
distinct languages that he doubts can be translated into the other’s language.
For Heidegger, he nominates the terms “Dasein, Being, the ontic,” and for
Cassirer “the functional in spirit and the transformation of primordial space
into one another.” (CD 189)
Heidegger’s response to Pos’s claims brings to light a number of interesting
points about the nature of philosophical problems and the role of philosophical
discussions and disputations in addressing such problems. I’ll just highlight some of the implications of these points as they relate to the analytic-continental divide (working off some of the nice points made in Jon's post).
Over the next several months or more I will be writing a book on Deleuze and Guattari's What is Philosophy? The answer they give to the question, "what is philosophy?" is simple enough: "philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts." (2). Unpacking this definition, of course, is not nearly as simple, although a few pages later Deleuze and Guattari begin the process by differentiating philosophy from art and science:
In fact, sciences, arts, and philosophies are all equally creative, although only philosophy creates concepts in the strict sense...Nietzsche laid down the task of philosophy when he wrote, "[Philosophers] must no longer accept concepts as a gift, nor merely purify and polish them, but first make and create them, present them and make them convincing." (5, citing Will to Power §409)
In future posts I'll discuss this further, but for now I'm interested in other answers to the question, "what is philosophy?" Below the fold I have added one from Russell and another from Heidegger. Feel free to add to the list.
In the Summer of 2010, the administration of Southeastern Louisiana University announced the closure of its French program and the dismissal of three tenured faculty members, Margaret Marshall, Katherine Kolb and Evelyne Bornier, among the most highly regarded professors on campus. In violation of University guidelines and AAUP standards, the program closure was determined without consulting the faculty concerned. Nor did the program, in fact, close: French courses are still being taught; a French minor is still offered. In further violation of University policy and AAUP guidelines, these courses are being staffed by instructors, who, in cases of program closure are to be dismissed before tenured faculty.
John’s nice post has reminded me of the importance of repetitive series for Deleuze (an issue I also discuss here). Picking up on John’s discussion of the perception of colors, series play an important role in attempting to account for our use of predicates: in short, Deleuze will often place predicates within the context of a series of predicates – e.g., shades of blue. This pattern is most obvious in Deleuze’s Logic of Sense, where each chapter is titled “First Series of…” “Second Series of…” etc.… But why series?
Two short answers, which I’ll expand on below the fold: 1) a series of differences is precisely what provides, in good Spinozist fashion, the principle of sufficient reason for determinate phenomena; and 2) series in turn provide the metaphysics science needs.
1. Leibnizian substance: Something is a substance if and only if it evolves by the fundamental laws 2. Russellian laws: The cosmos is the one and only thing that evolves by the fundamental laws 3. Spinozan monism: The cosmos is the one and only substance (from 1 and 2)
As Schaffer is well aware, there is lots of irony in all of this. (At NewAPPS we have discussed Russell's reservations about Spinoza several times here, here, and also Jeff. [Recall also Russell's debts to Boole on Clarke vs Spinoza; and Stebbing on Spinoza.]) Now, my objection to this argument is inspired by my reading of Spinoza's so-called "Letter on the Infinite," but what follows is not meant to be a historical argument (or a gotcha, 'you got the history wrong' moment). Recall that I read Spinoza as claming that characterizing and grasping substance as such does not involve our ordinary scientific 'utensils' (e.g., measures, mathematics, laws of nature), but rather concepts like essence and eternity. Mathematical physics can only give a partial view of substance as such. Now one reason for this is that mathematical physics of Spinoza's day, treats some part of nature as a closed system (governed by its own 'conservation' rules/laws). Moreover, Spinoza would deny that fundamentally the universe evolves. For, applying temporal concepts to the universe is, however useful it may be, always a less than fully adequate conceptualization of the universe.
When an expert speaks to a member of parliament we should always be a bit mistrustful. However, in the Wealth of Nations (1776) Smith does not mention Steuart's nearly forgotten (1767) An Inquiry Into the Principles of Political Economy. (As Salim Rashid has explored, Smith is not generous in his citations.) So, we do not learn what Steaurt's true principles are by Smith's lights. James Steuart (1713-1780) had an exciting life, but after the publications of the Wealth of Nations Steuart's political economy became completely overshadowed by Smith's, despite their shared debts to Hume. This is a shame. For, while Steuart, who -- as the late Andrew Skinner has noted -- has a fantastic treatment of price-formation (a topic that is handled very schematically in Smith's Inquiry), is not the most elegant writer, Steuart's Inquiry is prophetic
of the world we live in: in Steuart's economic universe there are free
markets alongside active government interventions. (What's missing in
Steuart's treatment are the large bureaucratic agencies that simulate
markets--Oskar Lange and data-mining came much later.)
In particular, according to to Steuart: "The duty of the statesman is to support the double competition every where and to permit only the gentle alternate vibrations of the two scales." (229; quoting from the Dublin edition of 1770). This is the only duty of the statesman mentioned by Steuart. Steuart's is, in fact, the vision of neo-liberalism, especially the ordo-Liberals (Röpke, Eucken, and to some degree Hayek), which -- as Foucault has nicely described -- also make it the state's primary goal to create and maintain the possibilities of free markets. (This is not to claim that Steaurt and the ord0-Liberals have the same ideas about the means of doing so.)
In a recent review of Badiou's essays, Žižek's cover blurb was quoted: "one final "figure like Plato or Hegel [who] walks here among us!"" (It elicited a negative reaction from Brian Leiter.) Now cover blurbs are designed to sell books, of course, but Žižek's jokes are often serious play (cf. Plato, say, Laws, 803). It is worth reflecting briefly on the fact that Žižek is cutely echoing (or transforming) Exodus 29:45 or Leviticus 26:12. If we free-associate a bit then we can say that God is divided in three (Plato, Hegel, Badiou). So, Žižek is (like Nietzsche and a few others since) closing the metaphysical tradition, yet again. Žižek is also not-so-subtly dissing the rest of us; If Plato-Hegel-Badiou are Godlike, the rest of us are the Israelites (enuff said) with Žižek playing the scribe. As Jeff Bell reminded me, in the introduction to Being and Event, Badiou present himself as a part of (maybe even provoking) -- to quote Badiou -- a "new departure," or, in my terminology, philosophic prophecy. His book is, as Badiou tells us, "in conformity to the sacred mystery of the Trinity,...'three-in-one.'"
But as we learn from the start of the Timaeus, there is a missing fourth: Descartes, who had, in fact, better use for the Gods: "Dii male perdeant [sic]/Antiquos, mea qui praeripuere mihi." In Lachterman's translation: "Let the Gods cruelly destroy/the Ancients, who snatched my things/away from me beforehand." Leaving aside Descartes' expansive notion of property rights, Lachterman (The Ethics of Geometry, 128) notes that Descartes expresses the wish to embrace "radical novelty" (excplicitly accepting the violence that this presupposes). That is, Descartes wishes to be like Adam in Paradise. Lachterman, who is oddly unread, goes on to quote a poem by Constantijn Huygens in which God and Adam are dispensed, and the mathematician Descartes gives birth to himself from nature (129-130).
For many of us it often seems that the alternatives are a tradition of sacred mystery and (outsourced violent) autonomous-self-construction.
[Update: thanks to Michael Kremer, who caught some typos in the Latin quote from Descartes.--ES]
After last week's post on Smith's treatment of Jupiter's Invisible Hand, I intended to post on Smith's great (and unfairly neglected) rival, James Steuart, but other obligations prevented me from composing that piece this week. So, this week I turn to Michel Foucault's treatment of Smith in The Birth of Biopolitics. While commenting on Smith's use of "invisible hand" in the Wealth of Nations (hereafter WN), Foucault
insists that Smith is committed to the claim that
must be uncertain with regard to the collective outcome if this positive
collective outcome is really to be expected. Being in the dark and the
blindness of all the economic agents are absolutely necessary. The collective
good must not be an objective... Invisibility is not just a fact arising from
the imperfect nature of human intelligence which prevents people from realizing
that there is a hand behind them which arranges or connects everything that
each individual does on their own account. Invisibility is absolutely
indispensable. It is an invisibility which means that no economic agent should
or can pursue the collective good. (Foucault 2008: 279-80)
here two features in Smith; Smith’s insistence in the Wealth of Nations that that “never… much good” is “done by those who affected to
trade for the publick good” (WN 4.2.9, 455-56) does not require that individuals do not know that if
by legally pursuing profits for their own enterprise (in competitive
environment) they can indirectly promote the public interest. If that were
right, then by Foucault’s logic, Smith should have never published. However, the reason why the merchant/employer does not know that he is contributing to
national wealth by profit seeking activity is that s/he is laboring with a
faulty ideology supplied by Mercantilists.
Smith never claims that the profit-seeker can never
know that his (her) activities may contribute to national wealth. In fact, it follows
from Smith’s account that once one is familiar with a correct (that
is, Smith’s) political economy, one can also intend to promote national wealth
just in virtue of pursing one's economic interests. This is not to deny that
according to Smith “generally” there need not be such intent, just that
sometimes there could be.
In an earlier post, I made reference to Jacob Klein’s essay
about Husserl’s history of the origin of geometry. Klein’s own work is very
impressive as well (Burt Hopkins has a recent book on both Klein and Husserl [a NDPR review is here),
and reading through Klein's book has helped me to see one reason why Deleuze so freely
and regularly draws from both mathematics and art, though not just any
mathematics or any art. Deleuze was interested in a problematic as opposed to
axiomatic mathematics; and he was interested in a figural as opposed to
figurative art. What the two have in common is a certain form of abstraction.
"[G.E. Moore] was in those days beautiful and slim, with a look almost of inspiration, and with an intellect as deeply passionate as Spinoza's. He had a kind of exquisite purity."--Ernest Nagel quoting Russell on Moore.
"But Professor Moore, why do you spend so much time refuting that doctrine; surely [this emphatic use of "surely" he had learned from Moore] no one holds it. To which Moore replied, in a rising crescendo of rhetorical questions: "No one holds it? No one holds it? No one holds it? But Montague holds it-don't you Montague?" Professor Montague rolled his eyes and shook his head affirmatively."--Morton White recalling a seminar with Moore.
By treating Boole's contributions as merely mathematical and requiring a conventional step (the coding of predicates/sentences), Michael Dummett (and here) convinced himself and others that analytical philosophy has its original roots in Frege's more powerful logic and, thus, what we may call the philosophy of mathematics (for an alternative view). By contrast, at the 1959 memorial symposium on G.E. Moore at Columbia University (published in 1960 in JPhil), Ernest Nagel, who I claim (and here; recall Jeff's point) created our shared picture of analytical philosophy, has no doubt that "Moore did help to bring about a revolution, if not in philosophy, at any rate in the philosophical climate, and at the same time a marked heightening in standards of philosophical workmanship." (812; recall Catarina on Moore) Moore and his revolution stand for the "passionate devotion to the pursuit of intellectual clarity." (811) His clarity was reflected in his writing, of course, and also bequeathed to the discipline through his charismatic teaching style.
Before I turn to Nagel's understanding of the sources and costs associated with Moore's legacy, I should emphasize that Nagel is careful to disassociate Moore from the (then) "current revolts against the traditional conception of philosophy as an inquiry into the most general features of the entire scheme of things." (811) In fact, by quoting fromSome Main Problems of Philosophy, Nagel reminds his audience of Moore's vision that one of the tasks of philosophy is to present "a general description of the whole of the Universe. " Even so, Moore's conception of philosophical truth meant, in practice, that he was extremely wary of systematical elaboration. (812) Rather than seeing in Moore an anti-metaphysician (cf. Ayer), he is, thus, better thought of as re-opening the door to a very deflationary Realism. (See also Alice Ambrose's very interesting contribution to the Memorial Session.) Fair enough.
In a rather unflattering review of Marvin Farber’s 1941
edited collection Philosophical Essays in
Memory of Edmund Husserl (Husserl died in 1938), Ernest Nagel takes a few
swipes at Husserl, or perhaps more precisely at Husserl’s commentators. Farber himself,
as discussed in an earlier post, had studied with Husserl in Germany while a
graduate student at Harvard. In 1940 he was the founding editor of the
journal Philosophy and Phenomenological
Research (which he edited until 1980). With the exception of Dorion Cairns,
Farber was probably the person best suited to compile a volume in honor of
Despite Farber’s credentials, Nagel finds little that is
compelling in the collection and his criticisms often mirror what will often be
heard in later decades regarding continental thought. For example, Nagel
expresses doubt about whether any of the papers “will be either intelligible or
persuasive to any one not previously instructed in Husserl’s ideas or convinced
of their importance” (301); and, more damningly, he argues that with few
exceptions Husserl’s views are not “expressed in recognizable English,” with
“such barbarisms as ‘presuppositionless,’ ‘insightful,’ ‘pre-givenness’ or ‘the
itself-giving’” (ibid.) being thrown around in a way that leaves novitiates at
a loss to understand their meaning.
Adding to the recent discussions of Eric (here), Catarina (here), and Mohan (here) regarding the use and significance (or lack thereof) of intuition in analytic
philosophy, one obvious place to turn to where intuition does appear to loom
large is the work of Husserl. Husserl’s work, however, was also an important
source of inspiration for Gödel’s understanding of the relationship between
philosophy and mathematics, and thus it bleeds significantly into a number of problems
within the analytic tradition.
The lore we are told inspired by, say, Putnam (not a disinterested spectator) and more recently Huw Price, who thinks we delude ourselves, is roughly this: after the founders of analytical philosophy had successfully ridden philosophy of its thirst for metaphysics, Quine, discerning a crack in Carnap's edifice, re-opened the door to our deposed Queen, μεταφυσική, in "On What There Is" (and "Two Dogmas"); with the door ajar and Alvin Goldman and Dan Dennett distracted by 'naturalizing' everything, Hillary Putnam developed a Quine-ean argument from the authority of science for the really real existence of numbers and, more significantly, David Lewis -- perhaps spurred on by some Antipodes -- drove a truck through the opening by embracing modal realism.
We love linear stories [Carnap --> Quine --> Lewis], don't we, so even the descriptive metaphysics of Strawson's Individuals (1959) can't quite be squished into, shall we say, our conceptual scheme. Now consider the following paragraph written in 1930:
The pursuit of metaphysics as the study of generic characters of existence has been slowly regaining its professional adherents. Once its central theme, reaction to the unchecked flights of nineteenth century romantic speculation has well nigh banished metaphysics as a legitimate subject matter for philosophy. But the problems which professional philosophers refused to consider became acutely pressing in the special sciences. It was to be expected that ere long comprehensive treatises on the nature of existence would appear, fashioned by philosophers were where sensitive to the advances of recent science as well to the ancient tradition that philosophy is the systematic study of being. To the series of distinguishes essays on metaphysics which contemporary philosophers have contributed, these volumes [by Whitehead--ES] are a notable addition.--Ernest Nagel (1930 "Alfred North Whitehead," republished in Sovereign Reason, p. 154.)
Some of the Hebrews seems to have seen this, as if through a cloud, when they maintained that God, God's intellect, and the things understood by him are one and the same.--Spinoza (E2P7S) [in Curley's translation]
In my previous three posts (here, here, here) on Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, I did not engage with Hazony's efforts at articulating the epistemology (chapter 6) and metaphysics (7) of the Hebrew Scripture. Chapter 6 is a fascinating meditation on Jeremiah. Here I focus on the latter. According to Hazony in "the Hebrew Bible...truth is not in the first instance a quality of that which is said, but of "objects and persons." "Objects" here are taken very widely to include "objects of the understanding more generally, including actions and circumstances." (195-196). In particular, that "which is true is something that is reliable, steadfast, faithful; while that which is false is something that cannot be counted upon, or which appears reliable but is not." (199) So to simplify: something is true iff it is a steadfast object. So, in addition to true being a property of objects (etc.) it is also a normative property. As Hazony writes, "that which is true is that which proves, through time and circumstance, to be what it ought." (202)
Hazony contrasts what one can label -- to
introduce and deploy a Foucault-ish terminology -- "the Biblical regime of truth" with the traditional one he claims we have inherited from Aristotle. (Foucault nor Heidegger are mentioned by Hazony.) In the traditional regime truth is a "quality of speech" (thought, etc.); true speech is about a reality separate from speech and agrees with or corresponds to that reality. (195) Let's grant Hazony the conceptual possibility that there are different "regimes of
truth." So, here I ignore the kind of criticism familiar from, say, Bernard Williams' "general point:" that "nothing that was not opposed to the false could be rightly represented as the "the true." (Truth and Truthfulness, 272; emphasis in original; Williams' passage was discussed recently in an illuminating lecture on Foucault's debts to Marcel Detienne by my Ghent colleague, Maarten Van Dyck.) Williams is not just making a narrow (and plausible) point about translation; the general point denies the possibility of different regimes of truth. Given that here I am merely describing the history of various regimes of truth I need not worry if alternative regimes to ours represent anything.
I got my first taste of the existence of boundary policing within
philosophy a year after graduation (Tufts 93): at my graduation a family
friend had given me a collection of essays by Isaiah Berlin. Subsequently, I devoured it and his other writings; went
on to Vico (of course), and a whole lot of other obscure authors. A year later I went back
to Tufts to celebrate some friends' graduation and to beg for a
TA job (in political science); as it happened I bumped into a "famous
student of Rawls" on campus; he (not Rawls) was a very good teacher and
involved in the great questions of the day in Washington. I admired him.
He recognized me, we made some small talk, and for whatever reason I
revealed my excitement about Berlin (I may have even carried a totemic
copy of Four Essays on Liberty around with me). I am not sure what I expected, but was completely taken aback by
the disapproving grunts, and was told something to the effect that
Berlin isn't "really philosophy." Fair enough.
Much later I decided that Rawls had created (by design/also here) a "school" with broadly shared sensitivities and, thus, gaps in scholarly knowledge. For, Rawls would teach his own work in light of constructed traditions from which he privileged certain thinkers (including, in fact, Berlin when his "famous student" was at Harvard; Rawls studied with Berlin at Oxford on his Fullbright). One consequence of this way of teaching I noted in passing last week: in Theory of Justice (TJ), Rawls calls attention to the significance of the now forgotten Frank Knight (and Knight's debates with Arrow)), but from the evidence available to me it's clear that Rawls did not teach his students to appreciate the significance of Knight to TJ.
This by way of introduction to the topic of the present post: from the vantage point of contemporary political philosophy, Rawls' near-complete silence on his contemporary, Hayek, is striking, and even a bit puzzling. (Here's an exception to the point.) Even Nozick engages less with Hayek in Anarchy than one would expect today.
"It has been shown, for
example, that a pollster can in principle always publish his prediction
of an election result in such a form that, despite the reactions of
voters to the forecast, the prediction is not falsified by those
reactions. CF. Herbert A Simon"--Ernest Nagel ((1960) Structure of Science, 473, n 13)
"it was shown that it is always possible in principle
to make a public prediction that will be confirmed by the event...It
was shown that correct prediction requires at least some knowledge of
the reaction function."--Herbert Simon (1954) 253; emphasis in original)
Simon won a Nobel in economics in 1978. (In his intellectual autobiography he recounts his debts to Carnap and his ongoing interests in philosophy of physics.) In philosophy he is probably now best remembered for his work on bounded rationality/satisficing. The work discussed by Nagel (who didn't just invent the category analytical philosophy as we know it, but was also a leading figure in the discipline in the 50s and 60s [Nagel's Structure was much cited]) above and from which I cite is part of a larger literature in which Simon played a non-trivial role as acknowledged in the key (1954) paper by Grunberg and Modigliani (who won the Nobel in 1985). Simon & Grunberg/Modigliani provide a framework for showing under what conditions social scientific predictions need not be self-refuting--a welcome result to the economics profession that was warming up to Milton Friedman's (1953) proposal that what mattered was not the realism of the assumptions in an economic model but its predictive power (Simon was critical by the way).
Nagel does not name his targets in dealing with a "difficulty confronting the social sciences, sometimes cited as the gravest one they face." (466) But if one goes to Simon's paper it's not so hard to figure out; after a nod to Aristotle, he names Frank Knight and Hayek in the first footnote. Now, there are very important differences between Hayek and the now-forgotten Knight (not the least of which is that in TJ Rawls encouraged attention to Knight (he even tells us to read the footnotes) and not so with Hayek--a judgment of relative value that the discipline has reversed), but one important commonality is that in the 1940s and 50s economists from free-marketeers like Alchian to high theory types like Arrow were extremely eager to reject their skepticism about the technocratic turn of the discipline. Nagel is certainly aware of Hayek's skepticism. (In addition, Grunberg & Modigliani also point to another forgotten economist, Vining--recall my post.)
The hazards of trying to draw conclusions about all of science, by
focusing narrowly on physics were learned at the end of the last
century. However, including biology and chemistry are only the
beginning, not the end, of the project of trying to develop a more
well-rounded picture of science.--Alisa Bokulich
The quoted passage is from a terrific NDPR review by Bokulich that Catarina discussed yesterday. Bokulich notes that "Conspicuously absent from this list are any of the social sciences." Bokulich goes on to call attention to the works of four recent leading philosophers of social science--all of which happen to be women. [By the way, when later in the review Bokulich calls attention to the lack of representation of women in the volume (and the lack of focus on philosophy race/feminism) she does not refer back to her earlier discussion. This justifies Catarina's claim that Bokulich should be praised for the "elegant way" in which these issues are raised. ]
As the epigraph to this post suggests, our current understanding of the development of philosophy of science is that we are "trying" to develop it away from an exclusively physics focus to other sciences during the last few decades. (It was gratifying to read Bokulich's claim that philosophy of economics is "thriving.") But this leaves me with a puzzle: if one opens Ernest Nagel's (1961) The Structure of Science, one notes that three out of fifteen of chapters are exclusively focused on philosophy of social sciences and history. These together comprise 25% of the text. (This understates the situation because earlier chapters also discuss relevant material. There is is also a chapter on biology, by the way.) So, half a century ago one the most widely cited works in the philosophy of science (although probably unread these days unless one is interested in Nagel-reduction) by one of the professional leaders of the discipline (who arguably invented analytical philosophy as a category) at one of the then elite departments already was offering a "well-rounded" picture of science. How come this was not the norm in the profession?
Eric admires Susan Stebbing because she was
a philosopher who spoke out against the authority of science. I am not so
convinced that her stance was all that admirable. I am all for challenging
scientists when their philosophy is confused. I am much less keen on
setting up common sense as a competitor of science. This is what Stebbing did,
and I am less than clear why Eric would endorse this aspect of her program.
Stebbing was a common sense philosopher,
and sometimes an ordinary language philosopher. Her attacks on the authority of
science were a reaction to its presumed displacement of every day thought. Her
famous put-down of Arthur Eddington is an excellent example. Eddington had
written that wooden chairs and tables were not solid, since they are mostly
composed of “empty space.” Stebbing replied that chairs and tables are
paradigms of what we mean by the word ‘solid’. To deny their solidity is simply
to misuse the language. (This is “the argument from the paradigm case” famously
mocked by Ernst Gellner in his wonderful book, Words and Things.) Why would Eric endorse such a piece of arrant
The issue between Stebbing and Eddington
has often been misunderstood.
"I agree that there is a difficulty; it is the difficulty of the gap between conscious processes and physical events." Stebbing, Philosophy and the Physicists Chapter 9, 164 (in my 1944 edition [in other editions p. 217]).
"There is an urgent need to-day for the citizens of a democracy to think
well. It is not enough to have freedom of the Press and parliamentary
institutions." Stebbing, Thinking to Some Purpose
Readers may recall my exchange with Mohan about the enduring significance of L. Susan Stebbing. I argued that among the pre-eminent (and largely anti-metaphysical) founders of analytical philosophy she was the most significant theorist of the nature of analysis and the metaphysical turn it could take (I also argued she gives us a good glimpse of why Spinozism is the main alternative to analytical metaphysics). Mohan responded by criticizing Stebbing's command of the analytical tools available to her. I defended Stebbing by claiming that Mohan misunderstood the way in which Stebbing is thinking about reference. We left it there in public. Mike Beaney gives a nice treatment of the issues here, although (and I say this with trepidation) Beaney mistakenly follows Max Black in understanding Stebbing-style metaphysical analysis as uncovering facts rather than the structure of facts!
Here, I focus on another enduring, largely overlooked significance of Stebbing's philosophizing: her willingness to challenge the way the authority of science is used in irresponsible, public speech (recall the moving closing lines of her (1937) Philosophy and the Physicists). Now we are all indebted to Abe Stone for reminding us that the Carnap-Heidegger split centered on what the nature of responsible speech by philosophers is (see Jeff's post and mine), but Stebbing reminds us that the authority of science has displaced philosophy (and theology) not just to settle questions within philosophy [I call this "Newton's Challenge to Philosophy"], but also among the educated public, but in doing so the need for a certain philosophical expertise remains (recall David Albert's criticism of Krauss). Stebbing's Philosophy and the Physicist ought to be a model for us as we think about the public role of philosophy.
People do not say that a barometer "knows'' when it is going to rain; but I doubt if there is any essential difference in this respect between the barometer and the meteorologist who observes it.--Bertrand Russell (1923) "Vagueness"
"[Gender] identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results"--Judith Butler Gender Trouble. (33)
In my spare time I am reading Tim Maudlin's (2007) The Metaphysics Within Physics(recall this) and Judith Butler's (1999 --I have used the 1999 edition which has an additional, fascinating preface]) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity in seperate, ongoing reading groups. This has led me to notice some surprising similarities. For example, they are both unabashedly concerned with metaphysics, and while they differ in lots of ways, they have a shared target: the idea that metaphysics ought to be articulated in terms of substance(s) with properties (or attributes/accidents); they both dislike universals. Both attribute the metaphysics of substance to an illegitimate "projection of the structure of language onto the world." (Maudlin, 79; compare that with Butler pp. 25-28 [where she summarizes others] & p. 33 [where she speaks in her own voice]). Maudlin aligns his view with Bertrand Russell's position in "Vagueness" (79-80), while Butler traces (33) her criticism back to Nietzsche's famous passage in which he explains how in our metaphysics we are "a dupe of the tricks of language." Russell, who knew his Nietzsche, may well have gotten this line of argument from him (I'll leave that to the scholars). The idea that our inherited metaphysical categories may be a projection arguably goes back to Spinoza and his famous argument against final causes in the Appendix to Ethics 1. (Perhaps, it is better to say that Protagoras is the grandfather of this whole line of argument?)
Coming to a pause in his arguments in Appearance and Reality, Bradley wonders if the reader may question
“whether anything of what is understood by a thing is left to us,” given that
at this point Bradley believes that what is generally thought of as a thing has
been “undermined and ruined.” In particular, Bradley argues that “for a thing
to exist it must possess identity; and identity seems a possession with a
character at best doubtful.” (AR, p. 72).
Identity is a problem for Bradley with important, although
perhaps unsettling consequences. Moreover, the problem of identity has, as
Della Rocca (himself a careful reader of Bradley) shows in a recent article
(here), important implications for the 3d’ist/4d’ist debate. I would also add
that this was already a problem for Hume (as I’ve discussed here and here) and
it is a problem that is critical to understanding Gilles Deleuze’s project.
Following on the heels of John's post about the extraction and circulation of affect through, among other things, the various sentimental pre-race stories that detail the lives of athletes (and the more troubled the life the better, as in the case of Lolo Jones), I was struck by last night's story of 800 meter great David Rudisha that emphasized his Maasai roots and his Irish expat coach. There's a lot to be said about how this story was presented. A large part of me is troubled by the appeal to base stereotypes of "primitive" African tribal cultures - a sort of National Geographic appeal to the strange and exotic. At the same time, Rudisha himself clearly identifies strongly with his Maasai roots and it carries tremendous affect for him. I suspect Rudisha feels his Maasai identity much more strongly than his Kenyan citizenship. Rudisha is also an exception among Kenyan runners. Rudisha's father, Daniel, was the first Maasai to get an Olympic medal in the 1968 4 x 400 relay, but David is the first Maasai to get gold. Kenyan running is dominated by the Kalenjin tribe (see here). Rudisha's tribesmen had already honored him with the status of Maasai warrior for his world record and will likely shower him with even more honors for being olympic champion (and again in world record time).
Regardless of what one makes of the coverage of Rudisha and his Maasai roots, it is hard not to be in of awe of his race in the 800 meter final. As a former 800 meter runner myself, it is almost inconceivable to imagine running a sub 50 second first lap, only to follow it up with a 51 second finishing lap. But in addition to Rudisha you had two teenagers right on his heels. 18 year old Nijel Amos equalled Sebastian Coe's previously longstanding world record time of 1:41.73, and 17 year old Timothy Kitum was right behind him and also broke 1:43. Even American Nick Symmonds came on strong at the end (as he always does) to come in fifth and with a personal best of 1:42.95. This is the only time five runners in the same race have broken 1:43.
Now that the Olympics are nearly over, I would place the men's 800 meter final at the top of the list of the greatest athletic achievement of these games. Are there any other nominations for equally outstanding achievements (e.g., Bolt's double double)?
Mohan wrote a useful follow up to my post on the unjustly forgotten Susan Stebbing. Before I get to the core of my response to Mohan's post I want to prevent a potential confusion. Mohan suggests "it is a pity that historians of analytic philosophy don’t give her more airtime." Well, as some commentators on my post noted, historians of analytic philosophy DO write about Stebbing (and this is how I explained how I came to know of her work). My claim is, rather, that even if we leave aside Stebbing's fascinating treatment of Spinoza, reading Stebbing can be instructive to us (by which I mean professional philosophers today): (i) by reminding us that not all early analytic philosophy was fundamentally anti-Metaphysical; following up the work of Moore and Wisdom (etc), Stebbing is developing and theorizing the tools of analysis in order to offer a distinctly analytic account of metaphysics; (ii) I call it distinctly analytic because it anticipates in rudimentary and non-trivial ways the orientation of the program of David Lewis. (Of course, I don't want to overstate the claim--modality is not driving Stebbing's approach.) This matters even if there is no line of influence. (iii) Stebbing's understanding of the continuity between Bradley and Russell is a useful corrective to a lot of narratives within the disipline.
By contrast, Mohan claims that Stebbing's "lack of technical expertise in the key tropes of analytic philosophy (Russell's theory of descriptions, no less) meant that it was not very useful for later generations to read her work." At the end of this post I say something about the criterion that Mohan applies here. Now Mohan offers a bunch of examples of Stebbing's lack of "technical expertise." Dan Kervick has usefully challenged Mohan's examples. Now while I have a healthy admiration for Mohan's technical chops (around NewAPPS I am among the techno-ignoramuses), I want to develop Kervick's points a bit. I do so in reverse order (because all my comments turn, in part, on what Stebbing means by "refer.") Mohan writes:
From this point of view metaphysicians are apt to seek for an indubitable datum. Descartes, for example, saw clearly the need for such a datum. Whatever one may think of the success of his efforts, it will probably be admitted that his procedure was correct provided that the aim of metaphysics be to provide reasons for our commonsense beliefs. Curiously enough, it is Descartes, rather than Spinoza who has shown most clearly the futility of a constructed system. Spinoza, so it seems to me, used the form of a deductive system in order to exhibit his vision of the universe. I see no reason why he should be dismayed by the charge of circularity; there is no reason why he should not wrap up in his definitions and axioms all that he desired to bring forth from them. For Descartes, however, such a charge, if it could be substantiated, would be fatal.--Susan Stebbing (69).
One of the great scandals of analytic philosophy is our utter ignorance of our history. Long after my graduate education I encountered Susan Stebbing´s name for the first time in Mike Beany´s writings on early analytic. (But don't try looking for Stebbing in Soames.) Stebbing (1885 – 1943) was a crucial organizational figure in the movement (she helped found Analysis, brought Carnap to Cambridge for the first time, etc) and important popularizer. (Stebbing is useful to those who wish to tell an alternative to my stories (and here) about Ernest Nagel as Prophet of Analytic Philosophy.) Even so, here I focus on her because she was arguably the first significant theorist of analytic philosophy and the method proper to it. In particular, it is astonishing that Stebbing's (1932) master-piece, "The Method of Analysis in Metaphysics," was (I believe) never properly anthologized in the early readers of analytic philosophy.
Now, Stebbing (and her critic, Max Black) worked hard at explicating what the technique and method of philosophical analysis amounts to. What is crucial is that long before Strawson, Benardete, and Kripke-Lewis, a pre-eminent analytic philosopher had articulated (on the basis of deep reflection on Russell and Moore) how one should think about the marriage of analytic philosophy and metaphysics, which according to Stebbing "is a systematic study concerned to show what is the structure of the facts in the world to which reference is made, with varying degrees of indirectness, whenever a true statement is made." (65) For Stebbing metaphysical analysis had a direction toward the precise understanding of absolutely simple elements (that are taken to exist). Now Stebbing insisted on a distinction between logical analysis and metaphysical analysis. Black denied the distinction and offered a deflationary model for philosophy, which is primarily interested in the "structure of sentences rather than with fact." (258) Black seems to have won the day initially (although I think he misunderstands Stebbings position as uncovering facts rather than the structure of facts), but either way from our post-Lewisian vantage point, Stebbing seems most prescient. (Black ridicules the very idea of an analysist being able to describe basic facts.) We can understand Lewis' natural properties as giving Stebbing her cake (Lewis and Stebbing share a deep respect for common sense and natural science) with little loss of...ahum...simplicity.
"Say something once, why say it again?" - Talking Heads
At this international Deleuze conference in Kaifeng, China, organized by Paul Patton, I explored the important influence of Hume in Deleuze's own efforts to develop an understanding of repetition. I'll now rework it in preparation for this big event in New Orleans.
Hume's influence is apparent from the very first sentence of the second chapter of Difference and Repetition, “Repetition for Itself,” where Deleuze begins with the Humean problematic, and with what Deleuze calls the “famous thesis” that was the result of Hume’s efforts to address this problem. As Deleuze states the thesis, “Repetition changes nothing in the object repeated, but does change something in the mind which contemplates it…”
As Deleuze sets forth the problem Hume is addressing, we are confronted with a repetitive series, AB, AB, AB, AB, and when we are next presented with A the problem is one of accounting for why we come to expect B when there is nothing in the nature of A itself that would lead us to this expectation. As Hume famously presents the problem in the Treatise (1.3.14), we come after a series of repetitions of AB to have the “idea of a cause and effect, of a necessary connexion of power, of force, of energy, and of efficacy” (T 162).
The question is why? And this is where Hume's famous thesis enters the picture.