(Cross-posted at M-Phi)
(Cross-posted at M-Phi)
Nice NDPR review here by Riccardo Pozzo of Maurizio Ferraris' Goodbye Kant!: What Still Stands of the Critique of Pure Reason. According to Pozzo, the book is actually a best-seller in Italy, which is pretty cool. There's also this very funny passage (have to read it through to the end):
For Ferraris, given that "ontology includes everything that is in heaven and earth, the realm of objects that are available to experience," which makes up the first main topic of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and given that "metaphysics deals with what goes beyond or transcends [experience]," which makes up the second main topic of the book, it does indeed make sense to speak of Kant's metaphysics and ontology (p. 20). In fact, "the reader of the Analytic has before him Kant's ontology, a work of construction and not of destruction" (p. 21). Ferraris follows suit with the two otherwise opposed readings of Kant by Strawson and Heidegger, with Strawson calling for a metaphysics of experience and Heidegger for an analysis of finite human being, "which amounts" -- Ferraris succinctly notes -- "to the same thing, said with more passion" (p. 21).
Ferraris himself is rapidly becoming one of the key figures in the movement in continental philosophy sometimes called "the new realism" or "back to metaphysics." His English language wikipedia page is pretty informative as far as these things go. In light of the recent reappraisal of Derrida by people such as Paul Livingston, Martin Hagglund, Graham Priest, and Debbie Goldgaber (following earlier work by people such as Sam Wheeler, and to some extent contraposed by Lee Braver's important interpretation of Derrida) it's interesting that Ferraris's early work is influenced by, and often about, Derrida. The wikipedia page (take with a grain of salt) says that his new realism comes in part by systematizing Vattimo and Derrida. A bunch of his stuff is coming out in English over the next few years. It will be fun to follow it.
There's been a good bit conversation recently about the merits and demerits of "public philosophy" and, as someone who considers herself committed to public philosophy (whatever that is). I'm always happy to stumble across a piece of remarkably insightful philosophical work in the public realm. Case in point: Robin James (Philosophy, UNC-Charlotte) posted a really fascinating and original short-essay on the Cyborgology blog a couple of days ago entitled "An attempt at a precise & substantive definition of 'neoliberalism,' plus some thoughts on algorithms." There, she primarily aims to distinguish the sense in which we use the term "neoliberalism" to indicate an ideology from its use as a historical indicator, and she does so by employing some extremely helpful insights about algorithms, data analysis, the mathematics of music, harmony, and how we understand consonance and dissonance. I'm deeply sympathetic with James' underlying motivation for this piece, namely, her concern that our use of the term "neoliberalism" (or its corresponding descriptor "neoliberal") has become so ubiquitous that it is in danger of being evacuated of "precise and substantive" meaning altogether. I'm sympathetic, first, as a philosopher, for whom precise and substantive definitions are as essential as hammers and nails are to a carpenter. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I'm sympathetic with James' effort because as Jacques Derrida once said "the more confused the concept, the more it lends itself to opportunistic appropriation." Especially in the last decade or so, "neoliberalism" is perhaps the sine qua non term that has been, by both the Left and the Right, opportunistically appropriated.
James' definition of neoliberalism's ideological position ("everything in the universe works like a deregulated, competitive, financialized, capitalist market") ends up relying heavily on her distinction of neoliberalism as a particular type of ideology, i.e., one "in which epistemology and ontology collapse into one another, an epistemontology." In sum, James conjectures that neoliberal epistemontology purports to know what it knows (objects, beings, states of affairs, persons, the world) vis-a-vis "the general field of reference of economic anaylsis."
Posted by Leigh M. Johnson on 20 July 2014 at 17:47 in Foucault, French and Francophone, Global Financial Crisis, immaterial labor, the social factory, and other Autonomia notions, Interdisciplinary work, Leigh M Johnson, Metaphysics, Neoliberalism, Philosophy, Political Economy, Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (9)
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John Divers' Possible Worlds has a nice discussion of the worry that counterpart theory doesn't adequately justify the extent to which we are ego-concerned with our own possibilities. If the possible Humphrey that won the election is a distinct creature in a universe not spatially connected to ours, what does that matter to the actual Humphrey, very much concerned with the possibility of his own winning or losing?
Divers does a very good job on behalf of the counterpart theorist in trying to undermine this worry. It mostly involves showing how non-philosophical sentences involving ego concern end up coming out true as interpreted by the counterpart theorist. It's a little bit weak in that properties we might take to be intrinsic end up being relational. This is only a weakness because Lewis and Divers take this kind of thing to be a criticism of the person who holds that worlds overlap (the same Humphrey existing at multiple worlds), and this is why Divers himself only considers counterpart theorists who believe in the reality of non-actual possible worlds, and actualists who don't. But if you have to explain putatively intrinsic things relationally, why not do it to avoid counterparts in the first place? I think for Lewis the other part of the puzzle is a horror at ontic vagueness, which the overlapper would be more likely to face. For Lewis the possible worlds and objects aren't vague, but there is vagueness in our decision to take certain objects to be counterparts or not.
I'm still not up to date on this literature, but I think that Divers at least doesn't present the best argument to justify Kripke's original worry about ego concern. This is clear if we consider duplicates instead of counterparts. Duplicates are objects existing in the same world that could serve as counterparts if they existed in different worlds.* Given the kinds of recombination principles that Lewis and Divers countenance, it should follow that for any two counterparts at different worlds, there is a world where objects indiscernible to both counterparts (as well as the environmental aspects that make them work as counterparts) exist.
Tonight I was fondly recalling Michael Hand and Jonathan Kvanvig's old paper on Tennant's solution to Fitch's Paradox (it's a beautiful read) and a weird thought occured to me.
Hand and Kvanvig argue that Tennant's solution would be analogous to a set theorist responding to Russell's Paradox by proposing naive set theory with Frege's comprehension axiom restricted to instances that don't allow one to prove absurdity from that instance and the other axioms (call this theory N'). For Hand and Kvanvig this is a reductio of Tennant, and in my response* I argued that Tennant's solution was not actually analogous to N'.
If I remember right, Hand and Kvanvig argue that N' is bad because it doesn't illuminate the nature of sets in the way we properly expect of solutions to paradoxes. But they don't go into the logical properties of N' at all, and tonight I'm thinking that this is actually an important question in its own right. Let's just consider consistency, completeness, and axiomatizability.
While glancing through Graham Priest's new book I came across a place where he said something to the effect that what distinguished existing from non-existing things was whether or not the thing in question was causally efficacious.
Following up on Mark Lance's suggestion that we should be most skeptical when a philosopher suggests something taken to be obvious enough not to elaborate on (look for adverbs of the clearly family).* I think that this is probably a case of that.
On counterfactual analyses of causality, non-existent entities and events clearly have causal powers. At the 2014 Narrative Theory Conference at MIT I saw a great paper by Emma Kafelanos called "How Can Events that Do Not Occur Make Things Happen?" that conclusively showed that any theory of narrative structure will have to include nodes denoting events that didn't happen. The speaker gave real world examples such as Obama not ordering the bombing of Syria. She didn't mention counterfactual analyses of causation, but clearly many counterfactuals of the form "If it were not the case that Obama hadn't ordered the bombing of Syria, then it would not be the case that P" are true.
This doesn't just occur with non-existent events but also with impossible events. The fact that Max can't surf explains quite a lot about him. Consider the sentence "Hobbes' inability to square the circle caused him to experience no small amount of ridicule." On a counterfactual analysis of causation with impossible worlds** there is nothing wrong with sentences such as that. Maybe these work as counterexamples to the counterfactual analysis. I don't know.
If I could go back in time and change the Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy anthology in one way, I would make sure that it included an essay on rules bloat.
Nearly every role playing game suffers from this. At the outset the impetus is to present something that is easy for new players and game masters to figure out and play. After the game hits a kind of popularity threshold the only way to make new money on it is to produce expansions with new character classes and rule-based mechanics. To get people to pay the money, there has to be some sort of ludological advantage to using the new characters and mechanics. So if you just stay with the old set, at a minimum your characters will be underpowered.
But each expansion makes the game more complicated, until it finally reaches a point where it becomes borderline unplayable for everyone (except for the Simpsons Comic Book Guy who loves this kind of thing). And it gets so slow. Where you could have had twenty combats a night in the unexpanded version, now you can only complete two, and you spent long increments of time thumbing through various books figuring out the proper algorithm for how the dragon-spawn Barbarian's grappling ability works during attacks of opportunity when the opponent is half submerged in water.
Since the industry needs non-Simpsons Comic Book Guys to remain viable, a new edition* is then released, and the process starts all over again.
This summer I'm trying to get a little bit up to speed on modality issues by doing an independent study with some students.* I've started looking ahead to Williamson's recent magnum opus and this little bit of the preface weirded me out:
Since cosmological theories in physics are naturally understood as embodying no restriction of their purview to exclude Lewis's multiple spatiotemporal systems, many of which are supposed to violate their laws, his cosmology is inconsistent with physicists', and so in competition with them as a theory of total spatiotemporal reality. On such matters, physicists may be felt to speak with more authority than metaphysicians. The effect of Lewis's influential and ingenious system-building was to keep centre stage a view that imposed Quine's puritan standards on modality long after Quine's own eliminativist application of those standards have been marginalized (Williamson 2013, xii)
I don't get this at all.
The connection between Lewisian Genuine Realism and Quine's eliminativism is a promissory note that I assume he'll cash in later, but the first bit just makes no sense to me. In On the Plurality of Worlds, Lewis explicitly says that the nomologically possible worlds will be a subset of all possible worlds and he discusses physically impossible forms of space time in this context. He has to do this, since possible worlds are individuated by the space-time which each world shares with itself. But nowhere does he make claims about which class of worlds will be the nomologically possible ones.
My co-writer* Joshua Heller is currently working on a project connections between vagueness literature, literature on semantic underdetermination, and new work on metaphysical indeterminacy.**
One thing we're both interested in exploring the next few weeks is the extent to which Evans' argument against ontic vagueness applies to either semantic underdetermination or metaphysical indeterminacy. But I'm about ten years out of date on the vagueness literature. The last time I dipped my toe in this, it seemed like everyone was trying to save supervaulationism from Williamson's criticisms about wide and narrow entailment and from the charge that it has no advantages over three valued systems with respect to modelling higher order vagueness. I didn't think there was any consensus on Evans' argument
Is there now anything approaching a consensus among people working on vagueness about Evans' argument? If so, what should I read? Have any of the new people working on metaphysical indeterminacy or semantic underdetermination said anything interesting about Evans' argument?
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 spin.
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 travel.
No 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, Letter 4.
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.
Posted by Eric Schliesser on 19 September 2013 at 06:09 in "Austerity"? You mean class war, don't you?, Early modern philosophy, End of life issues, Environmental issues, Eric Schliesser, History of philosophy, Metaphysics, Political Economy, Seneca, Spinoza | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
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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).
[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.
But 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.
At 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?"
Intriguing? I now quote from the review.
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.]
[THANKS TO LAURIE PAUL FOR THE POINTER.]
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.