“Das blosse, aber empirisch bestimmte, Bewusstsein meiner eigenen Daseins beweiset das Dasein der Gegenstände im Raum ausser mir.”
I. Kant, Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Reklam, 1966, p. 304.
[Amateuristic English translation (an official one won’t be hard to find): “The mere, but empirically determined, awareness of my own existence proves the existence of things in the space outside of me.”]
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 22-09-2009. Short and, maybe even, sweet.]
It is a bit of a coincidence I found this back. I didn’t even mark the page when I first read it. But it’s timely. Now I am finally developing a taste for a severe form of skepticism, I need the strongest of antidotes in order not to lose myself (and maybe one or two readers) in mysticism, or, & worse, relativism.
(The reason, by the way, that I didn’t mark the page is because my younger me did not appreciate yet that everything else comes first and only then comes your self. It is not one of the instincts in the young to relativize; let alone to relativize one’s self. Continue reading
“4.1122 Darwin’s theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other
hypothesis in natural science.”
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, l. Wittgenstein, Routledge Classics, 2001.
(this is the official translation, no original this time, sorry)
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 20-05-2009. I have almost come to the point where all old posts have been transferred to the new site and I feel like maybe one of these days I can make new stuff, hopefully having learned from all the many mistakes I have made previously.]
When discussing this with friends of mine, one of them suggested I argue for it on a reductio ad absurdum. I won’t. It seems more fitting to the case at hand to go for a less known (and known to be merely rhetorical) argument: the one “ab absurdo”, ie from the absurd. Hence (I am in a playful mood), I do apologize on beforehand: for assuming the existence of God in some parts of the below.
“It would be wrong to summarize by saying we have shown how communication is possible between people who have different conceptual schemes, a way that works without need of what there cannot be, namely a neutral ground, or a common co-ordinate system. For we have found no intelligible basis on which it can be said that schemes are different. It would be equally wrong to announce the glorious news that all mankind – all speakers of language, at least – share a common scheme and ontology. For if we cannot say that schemes are different, neither can we intelligibly say that they are one.
In giving up dependence on the concept of an uninterpreted reality, something outside of all schemes and science, we do not relinquish the notion of objective truth – quite the contrary. Given the dogma of a dualism of scheme and reality, we get conceptual relativity, and truth relative to a scheme. Without the dogma, this kind of relativity goes by the board. (..)”
D. Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2001, p. 197-198.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 19-04-09. Key quote, weak thought, at least very weakly expressed.]
This long quote is one of the rare wormholes (some basic notion of science fiction is a assumed existant in the reader of this) between philosophy of language and ethics.
If true we have speakers that understand each other at least somewhat and a world against which they can check each other’s understanding. Insofar as speakers don’t understand each other, they are not speakers and they are merely, if that, part of the background against which understanding is possible., part of the world. That is clean and neat. It is not much but it is not only better than nothing, it is enough to make some quite striking moral observations.
“So one might, in the end, be faced with the alternatives of either reverting to their theoretically unambitious style or giving up hope altogether of systematizing the linguistic phenomena of natural discourse. To me, neither alternative is very attractive.”
Paul Grice, Studies in the way of words, Prolegomena, p. 4, Harvard University Press, 1989.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 08-03-2009. Good intentions, but as usual no follow-through. Anyway, these are the origins of quadrialectics.]
I have decided to re-read Grice after completing my reading of Davidson. I think it more and more likely that some kind of “stepping stone theory of language” – as per my not (yet?) published thesis on common sense reasoning – might just be the sort of alternative that Grice would have found attractive. Continue reading
“If we could recover our pre-Fregean semantic innocence, I think it would seem to us plainly incredible that the words ‘The earth moves’, uttered after the words ‘Galileo said that’, mean anything different, or refer to anything else, than is their wont when they come in other environments. No doubt their role in oratio obliqua is in some sense special; but that is another story.” Donald Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, p. 108, Clarendon Press 2001.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 02-11-2008. This one is dear to me as it will be the starting point of my magnum opus if I ever have the time to start it.]
This essay is one of the most wonderful pieces of reasoning I have had the honor of reading. It does precisely what it sets out to do: make it plausible that strange notions like ‘intension’ – a notion so private & subjective as to obliterate any hope of ever getting rid of the magical from our lives & our thinking – is simply superfluous. Instead of it a simple extensional alternative is put in place, an alternative that allows what we normally do in public discourse, in science, in any reasonable human endeavour: check with the observable facts.
Read the essay to get the alternative! Read on if you want to see what are some interesting potential consequences. Continue reading
“Eine prinzipielle Moral ist mithin ein System, das nur allgemeine Normen zulässt (d.h. Normen ohne Ausnahmen, ohne Privilegierungen und ohne Einschränkung des Geltungsbereichs). (..) Formalität heisst, dass keine konkreten Verpflichtungen (wie im traditionellen Naturrecht oder in der Ethik), sondern nur abstrakte Erlaubnisse rechtlich normierbar sind (Handlungen dürfen nicht geboten, sondern nur freigestellt oder verboten werden).” Jürgen
Habermas, Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus, edition suhrkamp, 1973.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 14/10/2008. I will be restricted to re-posting the old material for lack of inspiration and motivation. It should get a little bit better post after post. At least that’s what I hope.]
[Amateuristic English translation: ” A principled morality is therefore a system that only allows general norms (i.e. norms without any exceptions, privileges or limts on its applicability). (..) Formalness means that there are no concrete obligations (like in natural law or in ethics) but only abstract permissions which are rightfully put as norms (actions cannot be ordered but only allowed or forbidden).”]
Not what I wanted to quote; I would have preferred something non-political, in English and preferably something linguistic. But this is what I came across, and my old fascination with the subject outweighs the less-than-lyrical Habermasian style.
So, here goes: morality and ethics or, cross-wise, content and form.
“Nos yeux doutent d’eux-mêmes, tant que les autres ne nous ont pas aidés à établir en nous la réalité de ce que nous voyons. Notre conscience s’égare: car cette conscience, que nous croyons être notre bien le plus intime, n’est que la présence des autres en nous. Nous ne pouvons nous sentir seuls.” Pirandello, ‘Un, personne et cent mille’, p. 149, L’imaginaire de Gallimard, 1930.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 27/09/2008. Let’s see what we got ;-]
[Amateuristic English translation: “Our eyes doubt themselves, as long as others have not helped to establish in us the reality of what we see. Our conscience dissipates: because this conscience, that we take to be our most intimate asset, is nothing else than the presence of other is us. We can’t feel alone.”]
It is the last certainty: our self, our individuality, our personality. Few ventured to boldly go where the self evident simplicity of the self is no longer an unspoken premise. Pirandello was one of the first. Many have put nuances, almost nobody dares to get so bold as to attack the first pillar of dualism: the “I”.
“It is further assumed that communicative competence has just as universal a core as linguistic competence. A general theory of speech acts would thus describe precisely that fundamental system of rules that speakers master to the extent that they can fulfill the conditions for a happy employment of sentences in utterances, (..).” J. Habermas in ‘On The Pragmatics of Communication’, edited by Maeve Cooke, P.47, MIT Press, 1998.
I have a great sympathy for some of the failed philosophers like Popper, Habermas and Jaynes. They have a research program based on a great hunch after which they fail to come up with the technical details and get sidelined because of the fact that progress is mostly – and luckily also still in philosophy – a matter of technical progress.
Habermas is important to me because his goal is also my goal: to trace back the moral stance to the basic structure of language and to the preconditions of communication. Such an unashamed aprioristic starting point is to me the only possible route to a really universal claim to humane behaviour; a claim that is not based on traditionalist or maximalist or essentialism assumptions that cannot but lead to a morality characterized by the final non-morality of exclusion.
But he fails in the details.
“Of course, a decent hierarchical society has never had the concept of one person, one vote, which is associated with a liberal democratic tradition of thought that is foreign to it, and perhaps would think (as Hegel did), that such an idea mistakenly expresses an individualistic idea that each person, as an atomistic unit, has the basic right to participate equally in politicial deliberation.” J. Rawls, The law of peoples, Harvard University Press (1999).
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dated 22-06-2008. Kind of an appropriate time to bring this up again because – even if this post is, as so often here, densely confused – the thinking of Rawls reads like a hand book of what happens at the present moment, under the pressure of people worldwide gaining information on what liberal democracy brings.]
The ways of the world are not simple, quite regardless of how frustrated we get with its complexity. We mostly look back to find things which were better, or at least which in our perception were better. We mostly look forward in an attempt to predict first the next turn for the worst. Fear and dismay are best of friends when we contemplate our individual situation. We attach ourselves to particulars, specifically to particulars that tie into our particular situation. The assessment is simple then: “The world is about to get much worse.” is the Achilles’ heel of the liberal democratic tradition. Continue reading
“(..) it is correct to insist, as Spinoza does (..), that ´the Body cannot determine the Mind in thinking, and the Mind cannot determine the Body to Motion”. We should take this to mean that we cannot infer from a cause described in physical terms that a specific mental event will ensue as effect (..): mental and physical concepts belong to independent explanatory systems.” D. Davidson in Truth, Language, and History, Oxford University Press (2005), p. 305-306.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 17-05-2008. The original stated at the end that it was [to be redone] and I’ll try to redo it but I don’t know whether I have the stomach for it. I kind of hope it will set me up for something I wanted to do on ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ after seeing a documentary on the nth physicist (B. Alan Wallace or so) trying to find ‘deeper truths’ (and naming one specific person only serves the purpose of maybe catching some lost souls via google and, who knows?, rescueing one of them from the stupidities characteristic of the intersection of science and religion). Anyway, the basic reason why so much of religion is appealing is because it focuses on the right kind of conclusions such that it is tempting to also buy the absolutely false premises that go with it. The truth is not found in the past – or by stripping a lot of surface layers. The truth is found in the future – and the new surfaces that are constantly created.]
I cleaned the quote above from the jargon. What follows here can do without.