Today I have finally been getting around to putting my attempted formalazations of Meillassoux's argument to contingency (HERE and HERE) in a Fitch style proof system, and I realized I made one big mistake in the second post.
The argument to dialetheism is invalid.
Yes there is a contradiction between (~<>K~<>R) and (~<>K~<>R). But all that entails is that Meillassoux rejects that it is not possible to know the possibility of his sentences. By double negation elimination, that means it is possible to know that R is possible. But this is his whole conclusion with respect to any sentence and it's negation.
This makes me very happy, because by the principle of charity it means that it's more likely that I got the arguments correct.
I missed THIS ESSAY when it came out a few years ago.
While I tend to have respect for anyone who can write catchy melodies as Joel can, Rosenbaum is really on to something with this:
I think I've identified the qualities in B.J.'s work that distinguish his badness from other kinds of badness: It exhibits unearned contempt. Both a self-righteous contempt for others and the self-approbation and self-congratulation that is contempt's backside, so to speak. Most frequently a contempt for the supposed phoniness or inauthenticity of other people as opposed to the rock-solid authenticity of our B.J.
Then Rosenbaum goes through hit after hit illustrating the thesis.
A couple of observations:
Anyhow, the Billy Joel article is really interesting. Joe Bob says check it out.
This is absolutely clear from the following deduction.
I think I'm actually serious about this.*
*This being said, the above deduction should make us appreciate all the more people like Frederick Beiser, Jonathan Bennett, Strawson, and Martha Nusbaum who manage to do good history and good philosophy, though the fact that Bennett, Strawson, and Nusbaum are routinely derided by other historians of philosophy for being anachronistic proves my point in the most chilling possible way. Beiser rocks so much that he is sui generis. If the phrase "the exception that proves the rule" means anything, then Beiser's picture is in the dictionary next to it.]
One of Graham Harman's commitments that is most difficult for many people to accept is the view that there are no perfect recipes.
It's one thing to say that the chair and a description of the chair are two different things. But Harman holds that any description of the chair will leave something out. So even God could not have a cookbook that would allow him to produce the chair such that she can predict all of the chair's possible interactions, and the properties that emerge as a result, with everything else.
There are two connected ways to take this, both of which I think Harman endorses: (1) as a claim about metaphysical emergence, where there is always the potential for genuinely novel, genuinely surprising (even to God) properties called forward when the chair interacts with other things, and (2) a claim about the limits of representation.
I'm very interested in the extent to which these two claims mutually re-inforce one another.
Mark Silcox and I have a paper in American Philosophical Quarterly that I think is relevant to further working out (1) (or at least working out a Harmanian, perhaps to be contrasted with Deleuzian, theory of emergence).
But (2) itself is a little bit delicate. Again, could an infinite representation (shades of Maimon and Hegel here) of the chair allow one to predict all of its possible interactions with other elements (by "interactions" I don't just mean movement through space, but all of the properties that emerge as a result too)? For Harman, such a representation would just be another identical universe! So it would not in fact be a representation.
Another way to put the objection, not involving a mirror universe, might be to say that the "infinite representation" would be nothing like actual human languages, with recursive syntaxes. I mean there would be no computer program to determine whether something was a sentence of the language. But then the "representation" would be so transcendent that it would at the very least be as weird as the paired universe.
I lean towards this view, and it in fact follows from my piece with Silcox, but it is one that scientistic philosophers would lean against. They would say that the representation might be in some sense infinite, but in the kind of way computers can generate infinities through recursion.
I don't know of a knock down argument against the scientistic philosopher here. On the other hand, I can't think of one plausible reason to believe it, and naturalism's bad track record with respect to mathematics, the advent of matter, normativity, and run of the mill emergent phenomena such as colors, makes me deeply skeptical here too. I mean, I do not think that the null hypothesis should be that Harman is wrong. Rather, I think one can (and I intend to, actually) argue that the burden of proof is on Harman's opponents here.
I think I might be teaching the first graduate seminar on Graham Harman in the United States. At least two of my students are applying for this awesome summer institute at Bonn on the new ontology (teachers including Hagglund, Brassier, Harman, Grant, and Zizek!) and as part of a class on Derrida with my colleague Francois Raffoul they should get a chance to work through some of Hagglund's work.*
We've started the semester with a huge dollop of Meillassoux and Harman on Meillassoux (many notes thus far are HERE, this week I'm going to include more stuff on Harman on Meillassoux). Two Springs from now I'm scheduled to teach a class on Meillassoux and Graham Priest which will be awesome, awesome, awesome and which Insha'Allah might form the genesis of some collaborative work with Levi Bryant (at the very least it will form the genesis of some solo work on Bryant, which would also be awesome).
One of the things we've read this semester is Meillassoux's "Spectral Dilemma" essay and Harman's exegesis of parts of Meillassoux's second (currently unpublished) magnum opus L'Inexistence Divine. Strangely, I was able to lead a discussion of some of the material in the article in the current adult sunday school class I'm doing on the Meaning of Jesus.
So I think today, February 12, 2012 might be the first time Meillassoux has been taught in an adult sunday school class (notes on that class HERE; Meillassoux is mentioned multiple times in different contexts).
I do not think my teaching bits of Meillassoux today will be the last time that conscientious Christians will struggle with his ideas in churches though, for a couple of reasons.
In three recent posts ((1) Bands with which I used to jam: Lusting after Mary, Steel Fury, Three Lesbian Folksingers, (2) Kommunizm (Egor Letov) - Stop The Rolling Stones, and (3) Rock is Dead, and I Know who Killed it) I was able to explain exactly why rock and roll died. The first was some memories of my service as a humble foot soldier in the army of Rock, the second meditations on how Rock died (and punk and genuine industrial music arose) in the Soviet Union, and the third pulling all of that together to show exactly who killed Rock. Of course, good analyst that I am, I have thus discerned conditions necessary for Rock to live. These are
Of course none of these things any longer hold in the United States (see the third post above for the argument).
Thus it seems to me that all of us former footsoldiers in Rock's Army really need to be asking ourselves the following empirical question. Are any parts of the world that do satisfy all three of these conditions?
My guess is that the best options are Brazil, Turkey, recent Arab Spring states (if things go well), and those sub-saharan African contries that have had really good decades (this never makes it in the American news). Possibly Indonesia as well?
I don't know enough about the ecosystem of folk music in Arab countries or Indonesia. One thing I think that might hinder rock there is that Muslim worship does not use music like Christian (especially evangelical and charismatic) worship does. I may be biased here, because I learned to play guitar myself in a charismatic church (as a child I actually provided background music to several violations of the laws of nature, and probably would not have become a philosopher had I not reacted as a child so strongly against the serial hypocrisy of Christian conservatives). But it is just true. So much of the blues and early rock had a symbiotic relationship with American Christian churches, for example Jerry Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart are first cousins and in fact learned to play piano together both at church and at honkytonk bars they'd sneak out to as teenagers.
This being said, several people have told me that Constantinople has perhaps the most exciting music scene in the world today, with what people are doing with traditional Turkish folk tunes in the manner that early rock took from the blues and Appalachian music (actually blues and Appalachian and Cajun music were all influencing each other long before recordings), and some of the music from Tahrir, Tunisia, and Libya was pretty amazing.
Who knows how all this will turn out? But just as it gives me great joy to know that it is not impossible that there is some planet in the universe with creatures like us, but not nearly so flawed, it gives me great joy to know that Rock may be being reincarnated as I speak in entirely different cultural millieus.
I've only read these books in English translation, so this probably would not work for a French reader looking over the originals.
This being said, here's a thought experiment. Let an educated somewhat philosophically literate English reader who has never heard of Sartre nor Meillassoux read Sartre's Nausea, and then have her read Being and Nothingness and Meillassoux's After Finitude. Do not tell the reader who wrote these books, but do tell her that Nausea was written either by the author of Being and Nothingness or the author of After Finitude. Then ask her which one.
I think that a huge majority of even marginally sophisticated readers of the English text would be absolutely certain that Meillassoux wrote Nausea.
Again, this probably would not hold for the French versions, because it would perhaps be too easy to pick up on facets of the style that are not preserved in English translation. But my God, Meillassoux's hymn to chaos is exactly what Sartre's Antoine should have written once he got out of the sticks, over his failed relationship, and found himself able to use that prolonged existential freakout and genius to write speculative philosophy.
Of course Sartre could not have written After Finitude. Some tragic combination of his own fourfold horrors (occupation, vilification by French Heideggerians, massive benzedrine abuse, and as a result of all of these a confused yet culpable gullibility concerning Soviet marxism) prevented him from writing After Finitude. So in the end we got the execrable The Critique of Dialectical Reason. And with the possible exception of mid-period Heidegger, I can think of no greater self-inflicted waste of genius in the twentieth century.
But Antoine in fact did get his %$#* together! Like Jacques Brel, he is in fact alive and well in Paris. You can listen to the music! You can read the book!
Post mortems of cultural movements are not like real autopsies, which are preferably done while the body is fresh. With culture sometimes it is easier the more time has passed.
Well, enough time has passed. I know now not only that rock is dead but why it died.
Rock and roll has two essential properties: (1) catchy melodies rooted in folk forms (blues, dance hall routines, popular piano sheet music people played at home) that predominated before the advent of mass reproduction of recorded music, (2) the promise of some kind of liberation as part of a broader cultural milieu, whether this is explicitly political or something more inward; this kind of thing is best captured in anthemic music, which was always a part of the beating heart of rock.
Listen to non-oldies radio today and you just don't hear any decent rock. Instead, 99% of it is just aural wall paper for people who have no taste but still have pretensions to style that are themselves hangovers from the age of rock. The melodies are atrocious to non-existent and to the extent that any kind of liberation is promised, it's an absolute parody of what great rock bands (including "grunge" artists) routinely delivered.
Yes there are still a few great rockers, just like there are still people programming text adventure games really well. But bands like the White Stripes truly are the exception that proves the rule, because they would not have been nearly so exceptional in the 1970s (though no less great for that), and other recent great bands such as second through fourth album era Marylin Manson are to some extent minstrelsy (though no less great for that), and other exceptions (to the universal inabilitiy of current bands to write songs that (a) have good melodies, and (b) are meaningfully liberatory) like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Brothers of the Head, are literally minstrelsy. Note that by the end of the Bush administration, none of these bands were even still together.
What brought this about? How did rock die? Who killed it?
First, The victory of recorded over live music. This killed rock in two ways. (a) You used to have to play music to hear it. This created an incredible overabundance of musicians from which a John Lennon could emerge. This created audiences with good ears for melody that would recognize the genius of a Lennon/McCartney, or even, near the end of the era, a David Bowie (before, album after album, producer Tony Visconti allowed him to show up to the studio with bags of cocaine and no written material). Every decade since the advent of the radio, the percentage of people who play competently has decreased. This has been a disaster both in terms of creating a pool of artists, and in terms of creating competent listeners. (b) The copyright regime of the recorded music industry. Even the very best of the originally recorded folkies (Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie) shamelessly plagariazed *and refined* everything they could get their ears on, but as more and more stuff got recorded under the new copyright regime there has been more and more melodies out there that you cannot use and adapt.
Second, the Rousseauan ideal of the 60's rightfully died at Alamount, and communism rightfully so thirty years later. But then what replaced them was just as dishonest and at least far more destructive than the dimbulb liberation of Peace Bear and his little sidekick Hippy Pants, and it is possible that history will end up being less kind to neo-liberalism than to communism.
I've had a couple of fantastic discussions with Levi Bryant about Graham Priest's connection to a slew of continental philosophers that Priest doesn't even mention in Beyond the Limits of Thought, and a bunch of weird things are popping out with respect to my current reading of Meillassoux.
The most important connection is that Meillassoux several times makes the kind of argument Priest diagnoses and logically regiments, where it is shown that just articulating a limit (Closure) forces that very limit to be contradicted (Transcendence). Given my teaching rotation, I should be able to teach a class on Meillassoux and Priest two Spring semesters from now, and the course notes for that class might be the genesis of something collaborative with Bryant (Insha'allah).
Weirdly, in Chapter 3 of After Finitude. Meillassoux does have two discussions of the possibility of true contradictions, first in arguing that a contradictory being can't exist, since it would have all properties it would nto be contingent in the way Meillassoux has argued that objects are, and second in admitting that his argument uses ex falso quodlibet, something not valid in paraconsistent logics. It's pretty clear Meillassoux hadn't read Priest at the time he wrote After Finitude, because much of Priest's work can be read as picking up the challenge Meillassoux lays down in his discussion of paraconsistency.
Tonight I initially thought that I could prove that Meillassoux actually may need it to be the case that truths that escape the correlationist circle are all true contradictions, but as I dug deeper into the modalities, I actually came up with even more formal logic derivations of Meillassoux's key arguments. At the end of this post though, I do show how actual dialetheist worries arise, but then raise a couple of issues concernin whether the resulting form of dialetheism may not be a problem for Meillassoux.
In THIS POST I showed that Harman's interpretation of a central Meillassouxian argument was provable in modal logic.
The key lemma is that Verificationism (Strong Correlationism), the position that all truths are knowable (P --> <>KP), entails that if it is impossible to know that something is impossible, then that fact is possible (~<>K~<>R --> <>R). This latter statement forms the core of Harman's reconstruction of Meillassoux's argument to absolutize facticity.
After lecturing on the material today, I realized that I hadn't really clarified how the chapter presents a sustained argument (with some fascinating tangents). So I rewrote the lecture and edited the earlier post that is HERE. There's lots of cool stuff there, including some of Harman's criticisms. The biggest thing is that I take Meillassoux's master argument against correlationism to actually be the following.
1. Let A be the sentence, ‘Event Y occurred x number of years before the emergence of humans.’ A seems to undermine the correlationist claim that being and thought cannot be separated, as scientists are thinking of truth-making events existing in the absence of any thinkers.
2. The correlationist can say that the sentence is always false, in the manner of contemporary creationists, but they understandably don’t want to do this.
3. Instead, they typically give an account of such scientific statements being part of a “founded mode” defined over something more originary involving human practices and perceptions. In this manner, they actually double the meaning of the sentence. The error is thinking the sentence is true and originary, but understood as founded it can be true.
4. So according to this strategy, A is true for the scientists, or more broadly for us, but not true from an external, absolute “God’s eye” perspective that does not involve human thinkability. So we must distinguish Aus versus Aabsolute. Aus is true, while Aabsolute is false or meaningless.
5. The claim that Aus is true and Aabsolute is false or meaningless directly contradicts the scientist's own understanding of the meaning of A! When the correlationist says Aus is true, the assertion gives rise to a Euthyphro dilemma. (5.1) Aus asserts the following: “Event Y occurred x number of years before the emergence of humans” correlates with a set of verification procedures followed by scientists that lead them to assert A. (5.2) Scientists hold that this is the case for the following reason: The set of verification procedures followed by scientists leads them to assert A because event Y occurred x number of years before the emergence of humans.
6. The correlationist could outright deny 5.2, but this would be to lapse into Idealism, holding that scientists’ verification procedures caused reality to be the way it is.
7. Or the correlationist could just refuse to assert 5.2, perhaps because it is meaningless, or perhaps out of some kind of Wittgensteinian quietism, but this again leads to a contradiction of what the scientist means.
8. In any case, the claim that Aabsolute is false or meaningless contradicts Finitude. Saying anything about Aabsolute requires claiming knowledge about an absolute, which the correlationist claims we cannot have.
Again, full details (in addition to an overview of the other great things in the chapter as well as a discussion of some really nice related points and criticisms by Harman) are HERE.
Yesterday I provided a preliminary formulation of a key lemma in Meillassoux's argument that correlationism absolutizes. I'd wanted to do this in a full natural deduction form today, but my thinking got both ahead and behind the argument. Let me get behind the argument first.
I. Correlationism, and the contrast between Meillassoux and Harman
From the position of an analytic philosopher (and I pray that this is not too distorting), Meillassoux's correlationism is best presented in terms of the following three positions.
(1) Verificationism- We cannot coherently think of reality as unthought (from the British empiricists originally, though Berkeley actually argued for it). Note that this arguably entails that if P is true, then it is possible for someone to know that P is true, but that in itself it places no restriction upon who is doing the knowing, it could be "knowable by an infinite mind." Only arguments concerning finitude force the verificationism to be knowable by something human-like.
(2) Embodiment/Embeddedness-We cannot coherently think of humans without thinking of them as embedded in a reality ( Schopenhauer and then later Heidegger developing Kant's claim that concepts without intuitions are empty, Schopenhauer with respect to the body and Heidegger with respect to a reality experienced as in some sense pre-existing, modal (involving possibilities), and valuative).
(3) Finitude- We cannot coherently think of self-subsistent totalities/absolutes (from Kant’s dialectic, but Graham Priest has discovered the true nature of this argument).
Before I go any further I must make absolutely clear the contrast between Harman and Meillassoux. Harman rejects (1) the Verificationism and maintains (3) the Finitude (if I could write an aria I'd write one in praise of this insight!) by radically externalizing the manner in which Finitude is expressed by Heidegger. Meillassoux rejects (3) the Finitude while keeping the (1) Verificationism. This is in some sense the titanic strugle at the heart of Speculative Realism.
II. Meilllassoux Needs (some form of) Verificationism
As I briefly (much more is needed exegetically) argued yesterday, the way Meillassoux gets to his rejection of Finitude actually uses Verificationism as a premise.
III. Meillassoux Rejects Verificationism
Here is a big problem. As far as I can make out, Meillassoux's argument that correlationism need not entail Berkeleyan Idealism is inconsistent with the very Verificationism he uses. Meillassoux's worry is that correlationism renders the thing in itself unthinkable/unconceivable, but then we might think that it is impossible, which is the position of Berkeleyan idealism.
So Meillassoux argues, persuasively to me (and this actually has powerful resonances with Lovecraft that are in common to all of the first generation Speculative Realists, and many of the second generation ones such as myself), that unthinkability does not entail impossibility.
But I'm not sure he can argue this. First, notice that Meillassoux is arguing against a strawman. To stop Berkeleyan Idealism, he must argue against the proposition that unthinkability does not entail falsity. For the Berkeleyan Idealist need only be committed to the claim that it is false that things in themselves exist, not that it is impossible that they do so. But the proposition that unthinkability does not entail falsity is much harder to argue against than the proposition that unthinkability does not entail impossibility. In fact, it is not a proposition that I think Meillassoux can argue against (though Harman and myself, following him, can).
No Verificationist of the sort we've been considering can argue against the calim that unthinkability entails falsity! For surely unthinkability entails unknowability. But this claim, plus Verificationism, is provably inconsistent with the claim that unthinkability does not entail falsity! Let me explain the formalism before giving the proof.
[Note: (1) Meillassoux's argument to contingency is further developed in modal logic HERE, with some dialetheist worries thrown in. (2) A clearer explanation of the difference between Meillassoux and Harman is HERE, including a distinct worry.]
Reading page 26 of Graham Harman's Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making, and just put the key argument (of which Harman writes, "This apparently hair splitting point point is actually the key to Meillassoux's entire system, and is worthy of closer attention") in modal logic. If I have not fudged too much by putting things in terms of a knowledge predicate, it definitely works. And in a very weak modal logic to boot, I think classical K but in the next few days I will put it in natural deduction to check.
Basically there is a simple proof from P --> <>KP (if P, then it is possible to know that P, to which the correlationist is arguably committed) to Meillassoux's conclusion ~<>K~<>R --> <>R (if it is not possible to know that R is impossible, then R is possible). Contraposing the correlationist claim gives you ~<>KP --> ~P. But then substitute in ~Q for P and you get ~<>K~Q --> ~~Q, which via classical logic entails ~<>K~Q --> Q (if it's not possible to know that something is false, then it is true). Now substitute in <>R for Q, and you get ~<>K~<>R --> <>R (if it is not possible to know that R is impossible, then R is possible).
That's it. I'll do a proper natural deduction proof (without the substitutions) in the next few days, in part because I want to find out if I had to use classical negation rules above (if I was a better logician I would know this without having to formalize it; but full formalization sometimes yields unexpected interesting things so I don't mind).
The reason this is so mind-blowing is that so much does follow from the incredibly simple point, once you think about it in a way informed by knowledge of German Idealism, as Harman and Meillassoux do. More on that soon. I have to get clearer on how this fits with Meillassoux's other key argument in this context that unthinkability does not entail impossibility. This is how Meillassoux rejects Berkeleyan Idealism while still being a Verificationist (correlationist). But then the Verificationism entails ~<>K~<>R --> <>R, and then some other commitments entail that there are a lot of Rs for which the scheme applies.
It's the fact that for the correlationist the antecedent is maintained for lots of philosophically Rs that entails much of the weird and fascinating aspects of Meillassoux's philosophy (let R equal "humans will survive their death" or "things in themselves exist"), which is why I'm going to get clearer on that next. As far as I'm getting it now, the reason we can't know so many things is from Kantian Dialectic type Finitude arguments (the Verificationism follows from Berkeleyan type arguments).
Interestingly, Meillassoux, like Graham Priest, ends up exploding the Finitude arguments while staying with the Verificationism, and Harman (to some extent like a certain period John McDowell) keeps the Finitude but jettisons the Verificationism. I should note that by saying this I'm not reducing any thinker to any other thinker or just understanding the continental philosophers as shadows of the analytic ones (a horrible, horrible tendency of a lot of analytic "pluralists"). I'm learning all sorts of new things from Meillassoux and Harman, and there are essential respects in which the two differ from the analytic analogues (among other things, Harman is not hobbled by McDowell's quiteism, and this makes a humongous difference).
It's really cool stuff. Any logician readers will have intuited interesting issues involving Fitch's Paradox as well. I have a couple of lines on that (one from Tennant, one from reflection on Moore's Paradox) that I want to try out on Meillassoux this semester.
Characteristically nice post about the analytic-continental divide from Graham Harman HERE.
Whenever Harman posts on this issue I find myself agreeing with everything he says. With Harman I think it is much more healthy than not that there are different traditions, and that they remain different
In place of thinking the division should disappear, I would instead make the following claims: (1) an a priori unwillingness from members of one tradition to learn from members of other traditions is problematic, (2) almost equally problematic are people from one camp who are only open to people from the other tradition to the extent that those people articulate views that seem to support those of the supposed pluralist's,* and (3) whatever you think about the different styles, the thinkers covered by continental philosophers should be taught in analytic programs (especially German Idealism and 19th Century more broadly, but also the things Leiter derides).
I should note in passing that one of the things I like about Speculative Realism is that its main practitioners do not embody any of the above vices. Analytic and Continental describe first and foremost training regimes for academic philosophers. But at a certain point you should put on your big boy pants just try to do philosophy, which requires following the muse wherever she wants to take you.
Avoidance of the above vices is not accidental, since Speculative Realists reject two substantive positions at the heart of the most significant continental and analytic philosophers, positions that started with the Positivists and Heidegger, and that rise up zombie-like over and over and over again.
This becomes crystal clear if one realizes that the divide between analytic and continental philosophers is much less philosophically important than a couple of other deeper divisions (1) between anti-metaphysical thinkers and at least anti-anti-metaphysical thinkers,** and (2) between naturalists and non-naturalists.
Weirdly, analytical philosophy's founding sin was combining naturalism and anti-metaphysics and continental philosophy's founding sin was combining non-naturalism and anti-metaphyiscs! But naturalism is false (see Michael Ruse HERE) and anti-metaphysics is incoherent (read the early critics of Kant or Graham Priest for that matter!).
In analytical philosophy anti-metaphysics is where naturalism goes to, if not die, continue some kind of a zombie-like existence. This goes all the way from Marburg School Neo-Kantianism to Robert Brandom, currently holding the office of the last positivist (after Bergmann then Quine and then Rorty before him). Brandom-type Pittsburgh Hegelianiasm, for all of its manifest virtues, almost constitutively returns to the kind of view that Heidegger derides in his very first (emergency war) lectures, of the universe as some valueless hunk with humans (in the guise of social practice) guilding and staining it. This is properly neo-Kantian, not Hegelian, as is the quietistic anti-metaphysics*** that obscures the basic move.
But, on the contrary, in continental philosophy anti-metaphysics comes from the Heideggerian view that science itself is a founded mode over something anti-metaphysics phenomenology reveals to be more originary. So while analytic naturalism leads to anti-metaphysics (because one must deride as meaningless questions that the natural sciences cannot answer), continental anti-metaphysics leads to anti-naturalism.
One is actually tempted to join the two above observations to make the following sort of argument. Analytic philosophy shows that naturalism refutes metaphysics. Continental philosophy shows that the refutation of metaphysics refutes naturalism. Therefore naturalism refutes naturalism.
In any case, I raise my flag with anti-naturalist anti-anti-metaphysicians. We're a tiny minority in both analytic and continental philosophy. With the possible exception of a non-trivial set of Christian apologists (usually working in a dialectical setting horribly tainted by either fideism or its opposition, IMHO), analytical philosophers who are not anti-metaphysicians are almost all naturalists (argument above notwithstanding)! And, with the notable exceptions of the Speculative Realists, Deleuzians, and some other heroic figures, continental philosophy by and large continues to chug along wearing the same old phenomenological straightjacket, with its attendent quietism and other forms of recycled neo-Kantianism. Note that this is perversely a straightjacket that any proper reader of the German Idealists would have thrown off long ago. Well with Quentin Meillassoux and Graham Priest's readings of this tradition,as well as Graham Harman's indefeteagable labor, at least some of us have begun to wiggle our way out of the damned thing.****
*It's very hard not to fall into this trap, perhaps impossible. Some strategies for an analytic philosopher who wants to be a "pluralist": (1) You must, must, must avoid the temptation to use your continental friends to give yourself a patina depth by simply adding a footnote when one of those continental friends tells you that someone you've never read has an idea kind of like yours, (2) You must go to talks about thinkers you don't like and be vigilently open to the idea that informed people of good will disagree with you about your assessment, (3) As much as possible, maintain an active reading life that has nothing to do with whatever current project on which you are working; this helps in all sorts of ways.
**The distinction between anti-metaphysics and anti-anti-metaphysics should not be confused with the distinction between anti-realists and anti-anti-realists. John McDowell is both an anti-metaphysician and an anti-anti-realist. See the next note.
***John McDowell is, like most continental philosophers, actually anti-metaphysical and non-naturalist. Brandom claims to be non-naturalist, but he really is not, at least in the important sense that the early Heidegger adumbrated. This is the entire reason, I think, that Crispin Wright famously put John McDowell down as not really being an analytic philosopher, but (as far as I know) has never said anything remotely similar about fellow Pittsburgh Hegelian Robert Brandom.
****Just because nothing above makes this sufficiently clear- I think Heidegger is one of the most important five philosophers in history and also that Brandom is easily in the top five of living philosophers.]
The older I get, the more moved I am by G.E. Moore's two universe thought experiment.
One universe contains things of great beauty and the other does not, while neither contains creatures even sapient enough for the beauty or lack thereoff to make any difference. Moore thinks that it is clear that the beauty containing universe is more valuable than the one that does not contain beauty. If I remember right, for Moore this shows that forms of hedonism that entail that the only intrinsic good is pleasure cannot be correct.
There are all sorts of strategies for dismissing possible world type gedankenexperiments, but I don't think they should make us dismiss Moore's conclusion.
In yesterday's post I talked about Greil Marcus' new chapter on the importance of putting something out there into the void. I think that what he has in mind does the same service as Moore's experience, and moreover expresses a norm quite central to the practice of art.
Most art is never really enjoyed by anybody other than the artist. Think of somebody sitting on the back porch playing the blues. Most such performers never get discovered by anybody, they just make our universe a little bit more beautiful. Now clearly, an undiscovered artist doing this considers the unverse to be a better place for being more beautiful.
The obvious response here is that the performer gets pleasure out of the performance, so this does not show that beauty is intrinsically valuable after all. But consider this Euthyphronic problem. To sustain the anti-Moorean point you'd have to say that the act is valuable because it brings pleasure to the performer. But this is phenomenologically wrong. It goes the other way around. The extent to which the performer derives pleasure from the act is largely the extent to which the performer takes the the act to be valuable.
Moreover, the act does not always bring pleasure. Our weird obsessions with trying to make this universe more beautiful can actually diminish pleasure quite a bit (consider the Van Goghs and Gauguins who never become famous).
The moral here of course is that both beauty and pleasure are intrinsic goods. I wish I could say more about the failed Gauguin case, but I don't think I can. With the exception of propositional logic, philosophy provides no algorithms. And with the exception of digital computers, neither does the universe.
I don't know how I missed THIS PIECE a few months ago. Discovering it now is a cool synchronicity, given Harman's nice (and definitive) recent post on "Derridean realism." Key point, that remains absolutely devastating:
But Derrida has cheated. He’s gone from an atomic relation of sign to sign and assumed that because a single signification is bereft of meaning, the entire system must be. This is a negative claim–that no meaning is possible–and he’s achieved it by narrowing the gap on both sides. First, he’s abandoned consideration of the holistic view in which a system of significations could have a meaning which is not contained in isolation in any single signification. (This is basically Quine’s argument in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism“: “The unit of empirical significance is the whole of science.”) Second, he’s insisted that a particular type of meaning, Husserl’s, is the only one possible, so any problem with Husserl’s admittedly naive theory extends to language in general.
So Derrida silently assumes logical atomism and a naive theory of reference, then posits that position as one side of a dichotomy and his endless deferral of meaning as the other, with no middle ground.
Anyhow, Joe Bob says to check out the whole post.*
It's a real honor to have been linked to by Auerbach, a TLS (!) critic of enviable analytical and literary powers.
*In the spirit of fairness, please also get a copy of Samual Wheeler's excellent Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy and Martin Hagglund's equally good Radical Atheism. I love both these books, but still think that Auerbach is correct, and moreover that the problem he isolates is even more pressing with Derrida's later (and I think ethically monstrous) Schmidt inspired political writings.**
**Another caveat- All this being said, I think there is something importantly correct and deep about Derrida's view of the necessary impossible, and the manner in which this ties in to negative theology as visualized by important philosophers like Caputo. People like Wheeler, Hagglund, and Caputo (and Rorty too for that matter) just make it impossible for me to whole heartedly jump on an anti-Derrida bandwagon.]
As of the time of uploading, this video has only been viewed seventy one times (fast-foreword to the fifty second mark for the beginning of the song proper). I find this appalling, unacceptable, indicative of a hopeless age. . . but also strangely affirming at the same time.
I mean, some things are still unpolluted. They are what they are, and that is enough. The implosion of the traditional market for music has resulted in popular musical forms being disseminated in the manner of 1920s folk art. Given all the other civilizational detritus with which we have to contend, this can be liberating.
In any case, I hope to be able to provide some evidence for the claim that the number of downloads for this band's songs should be several million more than seventy one. The justification will almost certainly involve reference both to one of Mark Lance's weird superpowers and to a noble band of chrononauts all alone, lost in time yet still sacrificing themselves on the alter of RAWK.
I don't think I've ever had a boss THIS BAD, though my wife Emily has (and I've had worse landlords).
Emily's worst boss prohibited all of the librarians from talking to one another when they weren't on break. He also used to force people to sit through these long boring meetings in a glassed in office during periods when he was disgustingly flatulent. It really was a terrible example of that Lyndon Johnson/Lawrence Summers thing of exerting power by getting people to be complicit in their own humiliation. Johnson used to bring people into the bathroom with him when he defecated. When Summers gets lunch with subordinates, he gets in their personal space while talking the whole time, even when he's chewing, which leads him to spit chewed up food all over people. This is clearly in his control, because he does not do it to people above him. The Chronicle of Higher Education said this kind of bullying is the real reason the Harvard Faculty finally had it with him, not the Cornell West or woman-doing-math thing.
My worst boss was the owner of a Dairy Queen franchise. I could never get the Dairy Queen Swirl(^TM) down, and so my various frozen high fructose corn syrup concotions never worked right. The franchise owner's face would turn red as he yelled at me about my swirls. He'd also get out this scale and berate employees if their sundaes weighted too much, threatening to dock our minimum wages by the proportion of the ice cream over the weight divided by the cost of the sundae. Whenever you saw him getting out the scale and little calculator, you knew you were in for a tirade.
My second worst non-academic boss was the store manager at a KMart. When he screamed at us he'd call us "useless." And he'd throw things during these tantrums, including once a three thousand dollar hand held computer against a cinderblock wall. It wasn't unbearable though, because he provided a lot of comic relief.
One of the benefits of being a socialist is that I don't feel any responsibility for this kind of thing. Hang your head Adam Smith.
[Some research into the historical Tiger Mike HERE.]
Definite shades of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. If LSU used the music of Judas Priest (and how cool would that be?) this would be just as good in fact.
The journalist is Carter Bryant, an LSU philosophy minor who is going to interview me about the problem of the external world next week. A different view of LSU I guess. I don't know, we'll see if Bryant's viewers do or do not "have another thing coming" (mandatory Judas Priest reference) when I open up a bucket of dialectial whoop-*&%, no scratch that, a pickup truck full of dialectical whoop-*&%. Actually, this bravado is entirely a result of me listening to Judas Priest as I type this. I'll be satisfied if I don't scratch myself inappropriately or even just in a distracting manner on film.
Re: this particular video- (A) The burgers were clearly overflipped and overcooked, but I bet that the big pot of gumbo was delicious. (B) Was I ever remotely like these people? Maybe remotely, I don't know. It was a more innocent age when I was that young, and I lived in a pre-tech boom and bust Austin, Texas. Shiner Bock had not been bought out by Corona brewery yet, and one of the cool things they did was sponsor poetry readings all over Austin, in particular at student Co-ops. So, during those years in Austin, instead of drinking too much in football stadium parking lots, people drank too much at poetry readings. But the thing is, if Carter had been there, he could have done a Heavy Metal Parking Lot about that scene. Moreover, while good poetry is better than good football, most poetry and most football isn't really all that good, and bad football is infinitely better than bad poetry. So I can't say that poetry tailgating is necessarily any more noble than football tailgating.
It's really amazing how the "fiddlesticks" method ends up producing something that sounds so much like the way drums can sound in Indian classical music.
This is fiddle legend Dewey Balfa singing and fretting the instrument, and his nephew Todd drumming on the strings. Keep watching through until Dewey stops bowing and Todd is still drumming. It's otherworldly.
The footage is from Yasha Aginsky's documentary "Les Blues de Balfa," which I plan to see ASAP.
I have this strange intuition that a lot of confusion in the philosophies of mind and language arises from the fact that representations are used to explain, first, two quite different activities: (1) planning, and (2) correction, and second, two quite different kinds of things: (3) individuals, and (4) groups.
Individual planning that leads to representational explanations occur when, for example, the crow goes offline and then suddenly performs some novel activity, for example bending the paperclip in a way that allows her to unlock the cage. The best explanation is that the crow was running out counterfactuals in her mind, counterfactuals that bear a systematic relation to causal facts in the world (see THIS POST and THIS POST for a link to a relevant discussions). Mark Okrent explains intentionality in this manner, and work on counterfactual and off-line reasoning by others can help fill in the details (my student Joel Okrent and I have just started a paper on this).
Group correction is more complicated. Of course, as Feyerabend said, when conversation breaks down, then we must resort to violence. But the enlightenment ideal that we can adjudicate differences without violence rests on what Crispin Wright calls "cognitive command," the view that when two people are disagreeing, there must be some deficiency in one of them or their environment. In Truth and Objectivity, Wright has a brilliant discussion of how this gives rise to representational pictures.
HERE. The book looks like it will contain too many problematic Chomskyan presuppositions for my tastes, but the review by Barbara King raises some really important points.
King calls the root of higher cognition "time travel." I know that some philosophers have been theorizing about "offline intelligence" and also the important role of counterfactual reasoning. (1) I think recursivity is a consequence of these deeper patterns (and I'm not at all convinced that all languages are recursive in Chomsky's sense, e.g. the Pirahã language), (2) I think that King's time travel examples show that higher animals do engage in kind of offline, counterfactual reasoning.
This is important to me because I think that offline counterfactual reasoning is exactly the place where it makes sense to attribut beliefs in a non-anthropomorphic way. This adds another layer to Mark Okrent's fine analysis of intentionality in Rational Animals, and my student Joel Musser and I are writing a paper about it. One of Mark Lance's colleagues is working on the importance of counterfactuals in basic reasoning, and I'm going to bug Mark for the guy's name and then e-mail him for a draft today.
One of the things that's long struck me about that first burst of recorded music in the 1920s is how ethereal and strange the forced high pitched singing of the men could be. Often the songs sound like they are from another planet, both in virtue of the pitch and in virtue of the fact that all of these people being recorded did not initially learn from listening to hit records, but from their local communities. The sheer oddness and diversity of American folk music from the 20's is in large part a function of that. And I think musicians will always return to the recordings of this period because of that.
I've been availing myself of Ann Allen Savoy's masterful Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, which not only is great history, but also includes sheet music transcriptions of a lot of great really early songs.
Scientists call it "inference by exclusion." And see the cool report HERE on how Sandra Mikolasch and her colleagues managed to test Chrysippus' hypothesis with respect to grey parrots. The earlier results with respect to great apes were presented by Joseph Call HERE. Here's the abstract of that paper, which describes in greater detail the same methodology that Mikolasch and colleagues used:
Click newappsblog link above for full post.
Hua Hsu's takedown of this song on slate (titled "A song so awful it hurts the mind") is now legendary. Hsu correctly notes that the song is "so bad as to veer into evil," that one of its many manifest failures is "that it tries to evoke a coquettish nudge and wink, but head-butts and bloodies the target instead." Hsu also brilliantly coins the term "coke thin" to describe the timbre. [Explanation- this wonderfully evokes the way the ear ringing effect of cocaine reliably screws up music production, leading to a characteristic tinniness. Compare the debacle of coked out late period Led Zeppelin with the brilliant timbre achieved by the Jimmy Page in their early studio efforts (with III being the pinnacle). Also consider all of the bad Bowie albums, the ones Tony Visconti destroyed by allowing Bowie to show up with mountains of cocaine for everyone, but no actual songs.]
In THIS POST I presented a Fitch style proper natural deduction system for the modal logic K, basically (with minimal deviations involving negation) using Alex Simpson's earlier presentation in a Prawitz style tree system. I presented proofs of the characteristic K axiom as well as the interdefinability of possibility and necessity in classical K. Here I will show that adding inferences that force the accessibility relation to behave in the predicted ways allows you to prove the characteristic inferences for T, S4, and S5.
Click above link for full post.
One of the really fun things I've been doing this summer is working with some really talented students (Graham Bounds, Michael Morrissey, Joel Musser, and Caitlin O Malley) on getting a version of modal logic that both respects the insights of proof theorists from Gentzen to Prawitz to Tennent and Restall and Simpson and that is also very easy to learn and use for students who have only taken an intro logic class and learned a Fitch style system (like the one in Barwise and Etchemendy's book). Alex Simpson's dissertation, which presents intuitionist modal logic in a Prawitz style tree system has made this possible.Anyhow, I thought I'd share some of this for anyone who is interested. It's not rocket science, but I don't think anyone's done this so far (I might be completely wrong; if someone has, I'll publicize it here). Here I'll just present K and in another post show how one can get T, S4, and S5 by progressively adding inference rules that force accessibility to be reflexive, transitive, and symmetric.First, some sample key proofs, the characteristic K axiom as well as the interderivability of possibility and necessity in K (as one would expect, one direction involves non-intuitionistic resources).
Follow the newappsblog link for the full thing
One of the great things I've been doing this summer is work through Alex Simpson's dissertation, which treats modal logics from a proper natural deduction standpoint (with intro and elim rules for each operator, and demands like harmony and conservative extension requirements). It's really beautiful stuff, translates into a Fitch style natural deduction system really well (Simpson uses a Prawitz style tree system), and also raises a number of interesting philosophical questions.
For the full post please click on the newappsblog link above. Help would be much appreciated!