Weird Tales, one of the best and oldest horror and dark fantasy magazines, has just launched a new series of ultra-short flash fiction (under 500 words), Flashes of Weirdness. To inaugurate the series, they've chosen a piece of mine -- which is now my second publication in speculative fiction.
My philosophical aim in the story -- What Kelp Remembers -- is to suggest that on a creationist or simulationist cosmology, the world might serve a very different purpose than we're normally inclined to think.
At some point, I want to think more about the merit of science fiction as a means of exploring metaphysical and cosmological issues of this sort. I suspect that fiction has some advantages over standard expository prose as a philosophical tool in this area, but I'm not satisfied that I really understand why.
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.
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.
Metaphysics is not something that I gladly spend time on,
and for two main reasons: i) I’m skeptical that we humans, with out limited
cognitive capacities, can ever really carve nature at its joints, to use the Platonic
expression (and even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to recognize it as such). ii)
Metaphysical questions give me a headache – they make my head
But anyway, I was asked to deliver a short lecture to
introduce the film Primer for an
event organized by the philosophy students’ association in Groningen. So it had
to be about time travel, and thus about time, and thus about metaphysics… (The
reason why I was ‘singled out’ was my course on paradoxes that one of the
students organizing the event had attended. But in said course I do my best to
steer away from metaphysics and deal mostly with logical paradoxes, though we
do discuss the Ship of Theseus and metaphysical vagueness.) As is often the
case, I was saved by this very informative entry on time over at the Stanford
Encyclopedia; I also read Lewis’ classic ‘The paradoxes of time travel’, and a few
other related papers, by e.g. Sider and Keller and Nelson.
As people are hoping for a fun night out, I figured I shouldn’t make my lecture too difficult (and thus aim for being the only
one with a headache at the end of it). But the point I will argue for is that time
travel as depicted in movies such as the Back
to the Future trilogy (ah, the golden days of my childhood!) and Primer is inherently paradoxical, as it
involves two aspects that are difficult to reconcile: time travel as such, and
the possibility of altering the causal course of events by means of time
It is familiar to categorize speech acts according to "direction of fit". Normal empirical assertions have word to (fit) world direction of fit, in that what you say is correct or incorrect insofar as the world is as you say. If the world isn't, then you are wrong. On the other hand, a claim like "it ought to be the case that P" has world to (fit) word direction of fit. If the world isn't as described - P is false - then the purport of the sentence is that the world is wrong.
In this note, I suggest an emendation of this schematic framework that I think is fruitful for understanding the complex function of a wide range of speech act types.
man has ever been so advanced by Fortune that she not threaten him as greatly
as she had previously indulged him. Do not trust her seeming calm; in a moment the
sea is moved to its depths.—Seneca,
In context, Seneca’s acceptance of epistemic uncertainty (or here) is as
much about natural events (the sea) as political events—in the previous line we’re
reminded of the fates of Pompey, Crassus, and Lepidus. Political mastery does
not guarantee immunity against a violent end. Seneca is not blind to the probable destination of his political
fall. More important, the violent underpinning of Roman political
institutions means that nobody is truly master [dominus] in their “own homes” [domesticis]: “just as many have been
killed by angry slaves as by angry kings.” Somebody that “scorns his own life” [vitam suam contemptsit] will not be
afraid to die, in order to kill. Seneca offers a veritable picture of a state of nature under the rule of law:
“every one possesses the power which you fear.”*
One might think that Seneca is anticipating Spinoza: the state of
nature is never fully absent in civil society. But Seneca’s position here is
compatible with a more optimistic possibility: if one can remove the sources of
anger and scorn of self, one might have a more secure and, perhaps, even less
uncertain environment. One may not be able to calms the sea, but the ship of
state might be made more even-keeled. It is an open question if Seneca’s
proposed emendation of minds [emendato
animo] is strictly limited to a kind of enjoyable [freuris] self-help (recall),
or (if we cheating-ly glace ahead toward Letter 7)
also by way of improved state institutions and social norms.
The reader may have a sense that we have gone off the rails. To be honest, I share that sense. The claim that the category of sentence carves at the joints, for example...strains to the breaking-point my intuitive grip on the notion of joint carving...[I]t's evident from examples that there just is a metaphysically significant notion of saturation. I invite the skeptical reader not to simply dismiss the issue, but rather to join my struggle to make sense of this notion, and perhaps come up with something better. T.Sider, Writing the Book of the World (257) [emphasis in original--ES.]
An uncharitable -- not to be confused with the "skeptical" -- reader might interpret the passage above as a rhetorical way to dismiss an important worry (recall my earlier post). But this would miss what is at stake here; Sider here recognizes (to speak pompously) the crucial, world-historical significance of his project, which madly pursues the 'linguistic turn' to its near-breaking point within analytical metaphysics. For, with 'saturation' Sider makes clear how his knee-jerk realism and his embrace of the method of final (or fundamental) language come together: the world consists of joints and these correspond to "a linguistic category: that of the complete sentence in a fundamental language. In a fundamental language, a language in which the category of sentence carves at the joints, sentences are always "metaphysically complete"--saturated." (254)
Now, this is not the place to offer Sider's ingenuous and persuasive argument for his idea that "there's something metaphysically distinctive...abut all parameters being filled. When all parameters are filled, we can call the result a [metaphysical] fact." (252). Let's accept that a fully regimented fundamental language contains a primitive operator that attaches to a dummy sentence-variable. We have here a way of thinking about submission to fact (recall and here) that is internally satisfying (and consistent). To put Sider's insight more informally, but it in the spirit of Sider, "when God created the world" she needed sentences to write the book of the world.
Sider's picture comes attractively close to offering a metaphysical bedrock that dispenses with the Principle of Sufficient Reason (and, thus, exorcise the ghost of Bradley's infinite regress that has haunted analytical philosophy since inception).
If this collection leaves it unclear just what naturalized metaphysics
comes to, its advocates are at least making a serious attempt to engage
with our pre-eminent knowledge-producing disciplines. Newton famously
compared his efforts to those of a boy on the seashore who succeeded in
picking up a smoother pebble or a prettier shell while the great ocean
of truth lay all undiscovered before him. While naturalist
metaphysicians are at sea trying to oversee the reconstruction of
Neurath's boat, many a contemporary analytic metaphysician remains on
the beach embellishing his or her own sand castle, oblivious to the
incoming tide.--Richard Healey.
I mentioned Healey's review favorably a few days ago. Even so, the polemical closing paragraph above, which gives voices to "the deep suspicion" of "many naturalistically inclined philosophers," is unfair and dangerous myth. Before I turn to argue this, some terminological clarification. Healey's review is about a book about "scientific metaphysics" and he calls the practitioners of it, "naturalist metaphysicians," which are contrasted with so-called "analytic metaphysicians." He never settles on definitions, but after some empirical analysis, he writes, "Whatever naturalized metaphysics comes to, it is clearly less enamored
with logical analysis of language but pays much closer attention to
actual science than a lot of what goes by the name of analytic
metaphysics." This is a decent first approximation (and captures nicely the contrast between those that, say, start-from-David Lewis and those that, say, develop their views from grappling with the Scientific Image, or Structure).*
"Horn 1: no predicates carve at the joints. Here only two attractive options seem open. One is Goodmania: all talk of objecive joints in reality is simply mistaken." T. Sider (2011) Writing The Book of the World, 186.
"Let it be clear that the question here is not of the possible worlds that many of my contemporaries, especially those near Disneyland, are busy making and manipulating." N. Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, 2.
One nugget in the Healy citation data is the near-absence of Nelson Goodman. The only work by Goodman found in the top 500 is The Structure of Appearance (1951) with 11 citations in the H4 (between 1993-2013). No mention of Goodman's Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (over 3000 citation according to google.scholar) or the foundational work in mereology; there is no harm--even Harvard professors can be forgotten (recall Jon on Collingwood paradoxicality; it seems Goodman's reputation went into decline around 1996). A more serious matter is that Goodman's Languages of Art (published in 1976), which over 4000 citations, is invisible in the H4. So, this tells you at once that nominalism is discussed and aesthetics is seriously neglected in our supposedly, generalist journals. This should come us no surprise (recall this post earlier in the week.) Given the significance of the widely deployed aesthetic principles embedded in the theoretical virtues of simplicity, elegance, harmony, this absence is something of a scandal (over and beyond the intrinsic value of aesthetics). (By the way: in the Stanford Encyclopedia, Goodman's aesthetics is the only entry primarily devoted to Goodman--it even contains a biographical sketch, as if the editors doubt there ever will be a systematic Goodman entry.)
The absence of Goodman's (1978) Ways of Worldmaking (WOW) is in some sense more important. (For the record: I never met Goodman.) Let me explain.
The usual stories about the history of twentieth-century philosophy fail to fit much of the liveliest, exactest, and most creative achievements of the final third of that century: the revival of metaphysical theorizing, realist in spirit, often speculative, often commonsensical, associated with Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Kit Fine, Peter van Inwagen, David Armstrong, and many others: work that has, to cite just one example, made it anachronistic to dismiss essentialism as anachronistic. On the traditional grand narrative schemes in the history of philosophy, this activity must be a throwback to pre-Kantian metaphysics. It ought not to be happening; but it is. Many of those who practice it happily acknowledge its continuity with traditional metaphysics; appeals to the authority of Kant, or history, ring hollow, for they are unbacked by any argument that withstood the test of recent time.--Timothy Williamson (2004).
Philosophy is not easy.
Judging where 'we' are 'in' philosophy's development is also not easy. The twenty-year data-set (1993-2013) deployed by Healy (here and here) cover much of my time in philosophy. My progress through the discipline (Tufts BA, Chicago PhD, Wesleyan, WashU) meant that until I arrived at Syracuse in 2005, I was oblivious about the dominance of David Lewis. Obviously, I had read some Kripke and Lewis along the way; if my memory doesn't deceive me, Van Inwagen had visited Tufts to give a lecture, and, while I found him impressive, I had thought Dennett had gotten the better of the exchange. Ever since 2005 I have been playing catch-up on recent metaphysics (which I adore). I have been taking comfort from the fact that around the same time even Brian Leiter missed how significant Lewis's legacy was radically reshaping philosophy. For Lewis and the "wave of "old-fashioned" metaphysical theorizing," (Leiter: 6) he inspired is, in fact, a very minor presence in Leiter's entertaining volume (2004) The Future For Philosophy, from which I quoted Williamson above (recall my post, and Mohan's).
Spotting self-serving narrative is easier. Here's a formula: when folk that pride themselves on "logical rigour and semantic sophistication," (Williamson: 128) trot out metaphors ("the test of recent time"), you have a good chance of being served disciplinary-boundary-engendering myth. Above Williamson implies that somehow (Kantian) arguments against metaphysics were shown wanting (by argument). Williamson does not even provide a pro forma reference to an authoritative place where metaphysics was made safe from Kantian criticism. Given that it would be surprising if the Wykeham Professor of Logic were merely bluffing, I welcome suggestions from readers that can direct me to the appropriate place where I can find a decisive refutation of transcendental idealism (say, as reformulated by Langton or Allison).
but we were too busy propitiating in other various and sundry ways the divinities of the rock and roll pantheon, so we basically ended up in a Simpsons Season 2, Episode 19 type situation. Anyhow, there's still a couple of hours left, so here's one more set of divinities propitiated.
If you've got a libation, now would be the time to pour it.
[The following is the consequence of discussion with F.A. Muller, Lieven Decock, and Victor Gijsbers. They should be blamed for my mistakes.--ES]
A few weeks ago I complained that Ted Sider's approach to "knee-jerk realism" is dismissive toward views that do not share his (ahum) fundamental outlook (and I mused a bit about the sociology of knowledge that facilitates such dismissiveness). One worrisome consequence is that Sider fails to see objections to his view when they ought to be staring him in the face. Consider the following two passages from Ted Sider's Writing the Book of the World:
I hold that the fundamental is also determinate. "The fundamental is determinate" is not particularly clear, and improving the situation is difficult because there are so many different ways to understand what "determinacy" amounts to, but perhaps we can put it thus. First, no special-purpose vocabulary that is distinctive of indeterminacy...carves at the joints. Second, fundamental languages obey classical logic. The combination of these two claims is perhaps the best way to cash out the elusive dogma that vagueness and other forms of indeterminacy are not "in the world." (137)
The continuum hypothesis is sometimes said to be indeterminate. But suppose that mundane set-theoretic truths, such as the axiom of extensionality, are fundamental. Then by the combinatorial principle, the continuum hypothesis must be determinate, since it can be stated using only expressions that occur in mundane set-theoretic truths (namely, logical expressions and the predicate ∈). Thus we have a surprising result: the fundamentality of the mundane truths of set-theory requires the non-mundane continuum hypothesis to be determinate. (151)
Now, first, the "sometimes said to be," is an odd locution. After all, it was proven that if ZFC is consistent then the continuum hypothesis can neither be proven nor disproven in it (see here for a good intro). Second, in the context of Sider's program ("mundane set-theoretic truths"), abandoning ZFC is not on the table. Third, I know that One's modus ponens is another's modus tollens, but Sider has no "result" here--he ought to be facing up to the fact that there is a straightforward objection against his claim that the "fundamental languages" obey classical logic and mundane set theory: there is no reason to think the continuum hypothesis is determinate. To think otherwise is an act of faith (recall my observation about the odd religiosity of his so-called "knee-jerk realism"). So, I stand by my earlier claim that there is something troubling about an agenda-setting book that wishes away obvious problems with the program.
a philosophically and psycho-analytically literate, Martian philosophical score-keeper descends down to
earth and after being told that Theodore Sider is one of our most important
contemporary metaphysicians, encounters this confession, which takes up most of section 2.5 "against subjectivity," in Writing the Book of the
this is autobiography not argument. The argument here, such as it is, is
that any subjectivity in the notion of structure would infect all the domains
in which structure is applied. If structure is just a reflection of our
language (or whatever) then so are the facts about similarity,
intrinsicicality, laws of nature, the intrinsic structure of space and
time...And this is incredible.
its last step the argument again reverts to autobiography. Certain philosophers
will rightly remain unconvinced, for example "antirealists" of
various stripes--pragmatists, Kantians, logical positivists, and so on.
A certain "knee-jerk realism" is an unargued for
presupposition of this book. Knee-jerk realism is a vague picture rather than a
precise thesis. According to the picture, the point of human inquiry--or a very
large chunk of it anyway, a chunk that includes physics--is to conform
itself to the world, rather than to make the world. The world is
"out there", and our job is to wrap our minds around it. This picture
is perhaps my deepest philosophical conviction. I've never questioned it;
giving it up would require a reboot too extreme to contemplate; and I have no
idea how I'd try to convince somebody who didn't share it. (Sider (2011), 18; emphases in original.)
I bet such a Martian would note that if you have never tried to question your own fundamental convictions, you most feel very anxious about the status of your convictions. Moreover, she would add that one way to convince another is to engage their arguments and positions; maybe rational persuasion is too much to be wished for among Terrestrials, but the other may feel 'heard' and, thus, secure enough to re-evaluate their own stance. Finally, she would note the religious language here (e.g., convictions, conforming, unquestioning, etc.).
Dooyeweerd rightly rejects any dictation to philosophy on the part of
theology; and where he thinks that traditional Reformed thinking
deviates from the truth, he does not shrink from suggesting revisions.
One of his virtues as a philosopher, I take it, is his refusal to be
bound by all the formulae of past Reformed thinking. Still, however, if
the total result is to be called a Christian philosophy and in particular a Reformed
philosophy, it must be consistent with the spirit and the main
doctrines of the Reformed and Christian tradition. And if his doctrine
that meaning is the mode of being of created reality does imply
that the relation between God and creation is like that between a
thinker and the meanings he entertains, then at this point the
accusation of a really significant departure from the Reformed and
Christian tradition would be justified. For then created reality becomes
constitutive of God's mind and thus of God.
And this is clearly to controvert the Christian conception of creation
with its ontological chasm between God and created reality. But to have
such a chasm seems to presuppose being on the part of creation as well
as on the part of God. How, for example, can we conceive of sin in the
context of a creature that is merely meaning? Can a meaning sin? What
would an evil meaning be like, unless it is thought of as entertained by
an evil being? The Christian philosopher must steer a nice
course between the Scylla of giving finite reality too much
self-sufficiency and power, and the Charybdis of altogether divesting
creation of distinctness and "over-againstness" with respect to God. The
first alternative threatens God's uniqueness and sovereignty; the
second courts pantheism. Rightly determined to avoid Scylla, Dooyeweerd
steers perilously close to Charybdis; for the very attempt to emphasize
God's transcendent uniqueness and sovereignty may end by making him the
author of evil in a very intimate sense and by denying an ontological
distinction between Creator and creation altogether.--Alvin Plantinga (1958) "Dooyeweerd on Meaning and Being" (reprinted here [HT to Ingrid van Laarhoven, who helped me track this down.]; emphases in original.)
The quoted passage is the surprising conclusion of Plantinga's "first serious article." (Hengstmengel, (63)) It is surprising because Plantinga had begun the (short) article with the claim that "a slavish adherence to traditional modes of thought can discourage and stultify intellectual progress." (10) Yet, here Plantinga is quite clear that Dooyeweerd has deviated too far from the "spirit and main doctrines" of their shared tradition. While (the proto-Kuhnian) Plantinga clearly allows that "progress" within the "tradition" is possible and desirable, he basically insists that Dooyeweerd's Spinozistic doctrines are simply too revolutionary and disruptive, even though an outsider to the tradition, while drawing on, say, Susan James's recent book, might point to the considerable continuity between Spinoza's philosophy and Reformed doctrines, especially if one thinks (as the far more mature Plantinga footnotes against the authority of his father) that it "is by no means obvious that the right side won at the Synod of Dort." Either way, in the body of his paper, Plantinga offers a number of philosophical arguments (including some from "common experience" and another that anticipates Meillassoux's arche-fossil strategy against correlationism) against Dooyeweerd's position; nevertheless, in his conclusion Plantinga makes clear that to be called "Reformed," one cannot just follow the arguments come what may to their conclusion. I call the authority of tradition over the possibility space of philosophical thought an instance of the "Socratic Problem."
We all know—don’t we?—that modern physics
is inconsistent with teleology, at least with real teleology, as opposed to the substitute version that so many
of us have tried to fashion for use in “teleosemantics.” But what is it,
exactly, that modern physics bans? What form would a teleological theory take?
When pressed, most of us would be hard pressed to come up with an answer. (Do
pause and think about it, Dear Reader. I can almost guarantee that if you are
not familiar with the material I am about to discuss, you’ll get it wrong. I
certainly did, and I am supposed to be an expert! Ha!)
This is the target of a brilliant 2006 analysis, “What Would
Teleological Causation Be?” by John Hawthorne (Oxford) and Daniel Nolan (ANU). I’ll
summarize the paper here, and reflect some more on it in a follow-up post.
(The paper was published in Hawthorne’s 2009 Essays in Metaphysics. I only heard of it recently, when it was cited by Tom Nagel in his recent book and mentioned in Eric’s
insightful post on the Principle of Sufficient Reason.)
It is often said that teleology is
impossible because it involves backward causation—Aristotle says that the acorn
sprouts “for the sake of” the mature oak, but (so the criticism goes) this
cannot be a causal relation because the mature oak cannot make the acorn
sprout. (Spinoza: "That which is really a cause, it considers an effect.") H&N demur. Teleology and backwards causation are different things,
they show. (This, by itself, is one of the surprising and most valuable parts
of the analysis.)
Suppose we observe the following strange
occurrence, which I’ll call BAM. . .
In 2007, a study by Hamlin, Wynn and
Bloom was published in Nature claiming to show that preverbal babies had what
could be described as a ‘moral compass’ (not the authors’ own terms in the
article). From the abstract:
Here we show that 6- and 10-month-old infants take
into account an individual's actions towards others in evaluating that
individual as appealing or aversive: infants prefer an individual who helps
another to one who hinders another, prefer a helping individual to a neutral
individual, and prefer a neutral individual to a hindering individual. These
findings constitute evidence that preverbal infants assess individuals on the
basis of their behaviour towards others. This capacity may serve as the
foundation for moral thought and action, and its early developmental emergence
supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.
Two lead reviews on philosophical books in the New York Times Book Review, both disappointing. Sarah Blakewell says nothing philosophical at all in her review of Jim Holt's Why Does the World Exist? And George Johnson's account of Steven Gimbel's Enstein's Jewish Science is (to say the least) puzzling. The book is not yet available, but here's a one-liner: "maybe relativity is 'Jewish science' after all." And the Google preview reveals that one of the chapters is entitled: "Why Did A Jew Formulate the Theory of Relativity?"
As noted a few days ago, Dan Smith and I are revising our Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Deleuze. We are completely rewriting the Difference and Repetition section. Here is the draft. Some of the technical terms we use (e.g., "virtual") are discussed in the preceding section of the piece.
This kind of reference article is very tricky to write. You have to be technical enough for the specialists and yet accessible for interested non-specialists. So we'd be very grateful for suggestions for additions, deletions, clarifications, expansions, and so on, either here in comments or by email.
3.1 Difference and Repetition
Deleuze's historical monographs were, in a sense, preliminary sketches for the great canvas of Difference and Repetition (1968), which marshaled these resources from the history of philosophy in an ambitious project to construct a "philosophy of difference." Following Maimon's critique, which we mentioned above, Difference and Repetition produces a two-fold shift from the Kantian project of providing the universal and necessary conditions for possible experience. First, Deleuze wants to provide an account of the genesis of “real experience” – the experience of this concretely existing individual here and now – and second, to respect the demands of "philosophy of difference," the genetic principle must be differential so that the conditions of the genesis of an individual cannot themselves be individuated.
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.
Translation (by Mark Ohm, with the assistance of Leah Orth, me, and Emily Beck Cogburn) HERE.
The paper is Millière's inaugural piece for the Atelier de métaphysique et d'ontologie contemporaines. Anyone interested in the history of metaphysics and anti-metaphysics in continental philosophy (as well as contemporary accounts of what exactly metaphysics and ontology are) will need to read Millière's canonical discussion.*
It's a very weird sensation when something you helped to translate ends up being much better English language philosophical prose than anything you've ever penned yourself.
[*The whole ATMOC project is a philosophical gem. Millière's piece is the first publication that we've translated as part of our putting up an English language mirror site HERE. This is just the very beginning of an on-going anglo-continental metaphysics collaboration, since ATMOC will start up again next spring when Millière is back from NYU.]
Why is there something rather than nothing? How did there come to be something rather than nothing? Two different questions. A positive answer to the first, especially if a priori, implies that the second question has a false presupposition; if the reason is a priori, then it should have force at every moment of time, and this implies that there never could have been a moment when there was nothing. Conversely, if there is a positive answer to the second—if the Big Bang is an answer, for example—then there cannot be a positive reason for the first.
The two questions seem not to be distinguished by Lawrence Krauss, in a recent book, A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing.
I'm on record as favoring a sociological perspective on the question of the relation of analytic and continental philosophy. In other words, I think it's much more useful to focus on hiring and citation networks than on questions of style or of content or method. That's because I do not think we can produce a finite list of necessary and sufficient condition to create a clean distinction between the two groups. In other words, there's no essential definition that wouldn't produce easy counter-examples, so that figures usually associated with one side or the other would be mis-classified.
But, if we switch to a family resemblance or broad tendency approach, the question of the priority of identity to difference or of difference to identity does seem a promising one for a content distinction, with AP favoring the former and CP the latter. That brings me to this passage from Adrian Moore's new book, which we've discussed before.
I've been looking forward to reading Adrian Moore's The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics (Cambridge, 2011) since I saw its announcement last year. I'm now reading it, and will write more about it in the coming weeks. What attracted me to the book was its attempt to treat the analytic and continental traditions on equal footing -- to treat, with respect and charity, Quine and Lewis and Derrida and Deleuze and many others.
Of course good intentions have to be cashed out by quality philosophy, and so, after I read the Preface and Intro, I skipped to the end to read the Deleuze chapter, thinking that might eating this part of the pudding would give me the proof of its quality. And the quality is very good indeed, as I hope to be able to show in future posts. Today I just wanted to reproduce a striking passage from the Preface:
There would, I think, be justification in the publication of this book if it made a significant contribution to overcoming the absurd divisions that still exist between -- to use the customary but equally absurd labels -- 'analytic' and 'continental' philosophy. I do not deny that there are important differences between these. Nor do I have any scruples about the fact that I am an analytic philosopher. But I unequivocally distance myself from those of my colleagues who disdain all other traditions. The 'continental' philosophers whom I discuss in Part Three of this book are thinkers of great depth and power; they are knowledgeable about philosophy, science, politics, and the arts; their work is rigorous, imaginative, and creative; and it is often brutally honest. I despair of the arrogance that casts them in the role of charlatans. Perhaps, if I were asked to specify my greatest hope for this book, it would be that it should help to combat such narrow-mindedness. Or, if that seemd too vague a hope, then it would be that the book should help to introduce analytic philosophers to the work of one of the most exciting and extraordinay of these 'continental' philosophers: Gilles Deleuze.
I just went to an APA session on evolution and meta-ethics, where one of the speakers was Sharon Street. A question that repeatedly came up was: do evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) against moral objectivism enjoy a special status? Differently put: Does the theory of natural selection as applied to our evaluative judgments add anything more that is not found in other types of debunking explanations (e.g., sociological or cultural explanations)?
Blurb: This book is concerned with the history of metaphysics since Descartes. Taking as its definition of metaphysics 'the most general attempt to make sense of things', it charts the evolution of this enterprise through various competing conceptions of its possibility, scope, and limits. The book is divided into three parts, dealing respectively with the early modern period, the late modern period in the analytic tradition, and the late modern period in non-analytic traditions. In its unusually wide range, A. W. Moore's study refutes the tired old cliché that there is some unbridgeable gulf between analytic philosophy and philosophy of other kinds. It also advances its own distinctive and compelling conception of what metaphysics is and why it matters. Moore explores how metaphysics can help us to cope with continually changing demands on our humanity by making sense of things in ways that are radically new.
Contents: Preface; Introduction; Part I. The Early Modern Period: 1. Descartes: metaphysics in the service of science; 2. Spinoza: metaphysics in the service of ethics; 3. Leibniz: metaphysics in the service of theodicy; 4. Hume: metaphysics committed to the flames?; 5. Kant: the possibility, scope, and limits of metaphysics; 6. Fichte: transcendentalism versus naturalism; 7. Hegel: transcendentalism-cum-naturalism; or, absolute idealism; Part II. The Late Modern Period I: The Analytic Tradition: 8. Frege: sense under scrutiny; 9. The early Wittgenstein: the possibility, scope, and limits of sense; or, sense, senselessness, and nonsense; 10. The later Wittgenstein: bringing words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use; 11. Carnap: the elimination of metaphysics?; 12. Quine: the ne plus ultra of naturalism; 13. Lewis: metaphysics in the service of philosophy; 14. Dummett: the logical basis of metaphysics; Part III. The Late Modern Period II: Non-Analytic Traditions: 15. Nietzsche: sense under scrutiny again; 16. Bergson: metaphysics as pure creativity; 17. Husserl: making sense of making sense; 18. Heidegger: letting being be; 19. Collingwood: metaphysics as history; 20. Derrida: metaphysics deconstructed?; 21. Deleuze: something completely different; Conclusion.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating,* and I'm not sure about "non-analytic traditions" as a category, but just to have that last section in the book is an extremely hopeful sign (see the first category I'm putting this post under). Anyone interested in participating in a New APPS discussion on this book please email me (protevi AT lsu DOT edu).
*The paracite is I think "the proof is in the pudding," which is something mischevious British students might do with their friend's logic homework.