Tag Archives: identity

The looping parable

I write this inspired by the work of Ian Hacking on looping effects, human kinds and so on. My sympathies are with Hacking on this. Still, I believe there’s something that needs to be added: the social looping effect needs a binding effect in reality to remain stable. This has consequences: it is too easy to reduce a specific kind of humans out of the human kind just because they are confronted with a reality that happens to be out of the social norm.

Let me make up a story, a parable of sorts, about an imaginary civilization in which an evil both real and socially constructed exists. A parable has the virtue of edification because it illustrates a point without risking the muddle of prejudice which will inevitably surround any actual real and/or socially constructed concept or behavior.

Mountains, social exclusion and initiation rituals ahead:

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Being of Two Minds: Anomalous Monism

“Anomalous monism resembles materialism in its claim that all events are physical, but rejects the thesis that mental phenomena can be given purely physical explanations.” D. Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events, Clarendon Press, 2001, p. 214.

The lack of clarity in philosophy of mind is a lack of clarity of its terms. That lack of clarity of terms is, in its turn, nothing else than a lack of terms. There was a time the discussion was about mind/body dualism whilst most recent scientific writing is, implicitly at least, based on the identity of brain and mind. It’s all a blur and no matter how many tokens of supervenience or emergency types are exchanged, it remains a blur of bodies, minds and brains. The classical solution to this lack of terms is to index terms like consciousness1 or prefix them with an adjective like ‘basic’ mind or some such. This is then a temporary definition just good enough to make a local argument without risking to enter into holistic arguments. Good for publishing but bad for discussion.

I have always thought that Davidson’s anomalous monism was a basis for getting out of this black hole of terminological unclarity. It has the strength of common sense: there are no extra-natural things but mental descriptions of natural things aren’t something purely physically determined either. The thing is this: anomalous monism of what? Of the mental and the physical, sure, but what about the brain and its mind.

Let me repeat that: what about the brain and ‘its‘ mind? That the mind is ‘of’ the brain would not startle many if I had not also italicized it (and – to play it safe – put it in scare quotes too). Well, if the mind is of the brain I think we don’t have enough anomalousness and still too much monism. Since the mental indeed doesn’t allow itself to be reduced to the physical, this leads to minds1 and minds2 and hence right back into the muddy waters of going mental at or talking past each other.

So I made a picture to try to put the mind right back where it belongs: very much outside the brain. So far out that the mind does not have a location at all, which seems to me rather in tune with the anomalousness of the mental.

twominds

Here goes the not so short explanation: Continue reading

The self was a good idea but its time has come to fade away

Identity is the new Holy Grail. Everybody is looking for something that does not exist, and still would somehow magically transform their mediocre existence into the golden rule. The quest for identity responds to the post-modern question of belonging. Whether they are patriotic nationalist or universal subcultural causes, we constantly contrive collectives within which to identify with other people. This is post-modern because it is a melancholy for modern times when belonging belonged to the self-evident, except for those who self-evidently did not belong – the gays, the displaced, the ill, the Western Easterners, the out-of-luck. It’s the excluded who shaped these post-modern times because they frantically started a quest for being included ‘somewhere’. This was, for them, of the essence because not-belonging was the essential problem they experienced in modernity.

The rule is that the exception always has a tendency to become the rule. The exception is entropy, and it causes energy to shift to keep it under control. This is how in modern times the excluded discovered this problem of identity, that quickly became the post-modern problem for everyone. The meaning of life was transformed into the meaning of me and here we are trying to resolve our selves in an identity with others. Continue reading

Poems for the mildly off-beat

As a freak of nature
I was
nurtured to be a fool.

It makes me terribly
sad so
joyous I want to be.

Foolish I want to be
but a
terrible silence mutes me.

Happy happy happy Continue reading

The Elder Statesman – Act One

“CHARLES: Your words seem to come
From very far away. Yet very near.
You are
changing me
And I am changing you.

MONICA: Already
How much of me is you?

CHARLES: And how much of me is you?
I’m not the same person as a moment ago.
What
do the words mean now – I and you?”
T.S. Eliot, The Elder Statesman, Faber and Faber, 1969, p. 13

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 05-03-2010. I’m not even confident of the quote but the ending of the quought isn’t all bad.]

Yes, I love my wife too.

People want to understand. We want to capture the meaning and then vivisect it.
Trace each and every detail until it’s well and truly known. Until it can be recited and reproduced ad infinitum. Continue reading

It was full of phonies

“It was full of phonies. And mean guys. You never saw so many mean guys in your life. For instance, if you were having a bull session in somebody’s room, and somebody wanted to come in, nobody’d let them in if they were some dopey, pimply guy. Everybody was always locking their door whens somebody wanted to come in.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p. 174, Penguin Books, 1958.

“(..) And besides (..)”
“How would you know you weren’t being a phoney? The trouble is, you wouldn’t.”
ibid. p. 179.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 24-01-2010. Wonderfully short and off-topic.]

Digression!

I’m too old for it now. I guess I grew out of it. Or thought I grew out of it. But did I? Apparently not or I wouldn’t be quoting it. No, ít grew out of me maybe. Forgot it, or suppressed it. Maybe I was a phoney all along and these quotes the kind of thing a phoney sympathizes with; in order to shield himself in his own thoughts: from being a phoney. Continue reading

L’élan vital

“Le mécanisme reprochera donc avec raison au finalisme son caractère anthropomorphique. Mais il ne s’aperçoit pas qu’il procède lui-même selon cette méthode, en la tronquant simplement. Sans doute il a fait table rase de la fin poursuivie ou du modèle idéal. Mais il veut, lui aussi, que la nature ait travaillé comme l’ouvrier humain, en assemblant des parties. (..)”,
H. Bergson, L’évolution créatrice, p. 90, Quadrige, Grands Texts, 1941.

[Amateuristic English translation below: “Mechanistic thought will, rightly, attack final causes for its antropomorphic character. But it doesn’t recognize that it proceeds following this same method, simply by leaving out a final cause. Without any doubt it makes tabula rasa with the objective sought after or with ideal models. But it wants, it as well, that nature works like the human worker, putting together piece parts.”

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 20-11-2009. This should be good.]

Going hard-core again. I apologize to those unwilling to dive deeply. It’s a ‘slippery slope’-mission which I’m about to embark upon. Nobody will be willing to wave the mechanistic flag but many will be willing to put anything – even remotely – Bergsonian out with the garbage of extraterrestrial, supernatural, or, extrasensory entities, or, beings, or causes. But, much worse than that (and here stoppeth the usual disclaimers because these religious bastards just won’t socially darwinize themselves into oblivion rapidly enough): the nut crew is all too happy to claim anything, knowing their own claims to be ludicrous.

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Fünf Sonette an Orpheus

“III
Ein Gott vermags. Wie aber, sag mir, soll
ein Mann ihm folgen durch die schmale Leier?
Sein Sinn ist Zwiespalt. An der Kreuzung zweier
Herzwege steht kein Tempel für Apoll.

Gesang, wie du ihm lernst, ist nicht Begehr,
nicht Werbung um ein endlich noch Erreichtes;
Gesang ist Dasein. Für den Gott ein Leichtes.
Wann aber sind wir? Und wann wendet er
an unser Sein die Erde und die Sterne?

Dies ists nicht, Jüngling, Dass du liebst, wenn auch
die Stimme dann den Mund dir aufstösst, – lerne
vergessen, dass du aufsangst. Das verrinnt.
In Wahrheit singen, ist ein andrer Hauch.
Ein Hauch um nichts. Ein Wehn im Gott. Ein Wind.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Fünf Sonette an Orpheus, III, p.24 booklet with CD
“Rautavaara, Song of My Heart, Orchestral Songs”, published by Ondine.

[Official English translation:
III
A god can do it. But how, tell me,
should a man follow him through that narrow lyre?
His mind is torn in two. At the crossing
of two heartways you will find no temple for Apollo.

Song, as you teach it, is no yearning,
no wooing for something that can be finally attained;
song is being. Easy for a God.
But when are we? And when will he turn
the earth and the stars to our being?

This is not about your loving, young man,
even if your voice exploded from your mouth;
learn to forget that you ever sang. It fades away.
To sing in truth is a different breath.
A breath of nothing. A breeze of god. A wind.”]

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 22-07-2009. Just going through the motions, this has to have been a low point. I can only hope.]

What I wanted to talk about was ‘Mind-Mind Dualism’ but then I thought about Orpheus and remembered what is quoted above from Rilke (I hesitated a bit: Kierkegaard-Nietzsche came to mind as well, but I settled for Rilke’s Orpheus).

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Decent Consultation Hierarchy

“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

L’existence et le néant

“Si l’on passe (consciemment ou inconsciemment) par l’idée du néant pour arriver a celle de l’être, l’être auquel on aboutit est une essence logique ou mathématique, partant intemporelle. Et, dès lors, une conception statique du réel s’impose: tout paraît donné en une seule fois, dans l’éternité.” L’évolution créatrice, Henri Bergson, Quadrige/PUF, 1941, p. 298.

“La négation diffère donc de l’affirmation proprement dite en ce qu’elle est une affirmation du second degré: elle affirme quelque chose d’une affirmation qui, elle, affirme quelque chose d’un objet.” ibid., p. 288.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 30/03/08 – this actually is a crucial and important one, but I won’t have the time to correct it with justice. Too bad, another time – on request maybe.]

(amateuristic English translations:

“When we pass (consciously or inconscuously) from the idea of nothing to that of being, the being we end up with is a logical or mathematical essence, and therefore timeless. And, from that point onwards, a static conception of reality imposes itself: everything appears given at once, for eternity.”

and

“Negation thus differs from what is properly called a positive assertion in that it’s an assertion of the second degree: it asserts something of an assertion that, it, asserts something of an object.”)

Things esoteric and spiritual cannot be farther removed from my grasp of reality. However, I admit (quite reluctantly) that I am attracted to the relation between pure logic/mathematics (also unavoidable in linguistics) and our dirty everyday real world, specifically because of the mystery that still persists in it. It should then not be a surprise to see here a quought on where logic and reality come apart, not in the spirit of providing evidence for a ‘something more’ but rather in the thriving tradition of meeting complexities rationally but head-on.

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