22-09-09

Widerlegung des Idealismus

"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 below - but an official one won't be that hard to find!)


I mean: "Ha!" & "Do you believe it now?". Kidding aside, 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 scepticism, I need the strongest of antidotes in order not to loose myself (and maybe yourselves) 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 the strongest juvenile intuition to relativize; let alone to relativize one's self. I have to be honest here, and add to this rather poetical reason this prosaic matter of fact: I don't buy the proof the great man gives of this theorem. I simply don't see a sustainable sense in all this time-space stuff; it's of a naïve physicalism that got ad nauseam repetition in the 20th century.)

So with this 'between brackets' out of the way I can link the truth of the statement in with a more proper basis for it. A basis that leaves much more room for scepticism & the like than an overly realist physical interpretation of the above - in a sense it is a closure of some sort to what I've written here to date. It's a closure of the type which fixes one point for sure and thereby leaves the rest of the field as open as possible, as open as I intuitively think it is (& not just 'is' but 'has to be', precisely because of the point that is fiwed).

It's as remarked of Carnap here before (click the tag 'Carnap', then take the 1 entry that has been written before this entry): in order to have a psychology of self, one is to start with the psychology of others (yes!, behaviorism and all that). Where I don't know about time and space, and all of those other handy notions for the analytically minded, I do know it's simply inconceivable to talk of myself without first witnessing, and witnessing the talking, of others that are definitely not myself. More extremely: it's inconceivable to imagine talking without first witnessing someone else talking to yet another someone else (even if the latter someone else, on reflection, turns out to be yourself). Let me venture this: the existence of others (implying other things, by a very flexible standard of thing-ness) is a synthetic a priori, whether analytically minded dominant cultures like that or not (the basis of any purely rational systems of thought are, indeed, necessarily arbitrary or, with another word, mystical).

So that's my programme: find a reason to deprogram the many religious and quasi-religious systems of convictions about many minute details and replace it with fuzzy, but absolutely certain, foundations; then establish on this foundation a morality that only assumes that it is good to try to further the firmness, universality and extent of that foundation (hence Habermas, for instance; hence, Darwinian treatment of ideas with open-ended evolution); and finally, allow the life to be lived, in matters of flesh as well as in matters of thought. Freely, only constrained by the integrity, physical as well as mental, of others (and consequently of ourselves). Hence Bergson's spirit - & enter Humean moral relativism with solid unshakeable foundations.

If I only had the time to treat of it all without having to hurry and blabber and quite probably making an utter fool of myself in some isolated statements ;-(


"The mere, but still empirically given, awareness of my own existence proves the existence of things in the space outside of me."


Whilst writing this I was listening to Cosey Fanni Tutti, Time To Tell

21:53 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: kant, self, universals, convergence, decadence |  Facebook |

20-05-09

4.112 Philosophy is (..) an activity

"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)


First off, this isn't going to be as good as it should be. Get over it! I did.

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.

Shame on me to be reading the TLP only know. It is much better than it's made out to be; bordering on the juvenile from time to time but all philosophers disclaiming a large influence from it are definitely to be categorized as 'hypocrites'. But that is not the point here. The point is that I was baffled to find in these seas of abstraction an exquisitely explicit reference to Darwin. Why so? What was his gripe? How come he's penned this down, never succeeded in working it out & still decided to keep it in? I'm sure it wasn't merely to go against the fashion of his time (if it was a fashion then).

As it happens (sorry to bore you with all these prosaic details but it is important for the later I to work this out better than the present I is doing now), I was in a mood to look up a quote from Kant on the synthetic a priori and 'quought' on it and could not get to it because the above questions got in the way. And somehow - somehow, I feel like this has to go out of the way before that other thing can get started. The reason is, I think, that I have no issue with a special status for mathematics (& its mysterious origins) but that I have an issue with what is commonly believed to be the uniqueness of this specialness. The blood of everyday life has its rights too and there has to be more to those rights than an unavoidable dirtiness (or, original sin).

Ab absurdo it was:

Let's assume there is an omniscient God (you needn't force yourself more: no need for omnipresence and omnipotence) & let's assume there's no matter. He was lazy - couldn't be bothered ... only God knows. This God would surely now mathematics - & if He knows some of it, He'll know all of it. So much for the specialness of logic, 1-0.

But let's assume there is matter as well (nevermind whence it came from). Then our God will have to know physics. He doesn't need to know the physics of our world and it's natural to assume he knows all kinds of physics (one of which happens to be the one governing our material world). So you get some kind of space-time, but nothing much more bloody than that. I'd say 2-0 for mathematics. Most physicists agree, as far as I know (but there's something on the 1st/2nd law of thermodynamics I'll need to explore lateron, this post is already to thick as it stands).

And then comes the primeval soup (or whatever other sexy image that we invent to make our theories more TV-friendly). Now pure mathematical God has a problem as - "the show must go on!" (the theme of 'show' is continued in the paragraph below). Sure, it's conceivable that the primeval soup & everything else was skipped - cutting straight to humanoids. But even that moronic conception is of no avail: life is in flux - if it wouldn't be in flux it wouldn't be life. Evolution is unavoidable. Even if all of the details of all evolutionary theories can be dismissed as 'mere' hypotheses, evolution itself cannot. So our assumed God is stuck with more than mathematics - and more than He can handle (maybe there's concealed in all this a proof of atheism but let's not get too eager). So 2-1, there is some non-mathematical specialness after all; it is expressable in logic that things are in statis (in fact that's the only thing logic will allow you to express: stasis) but it isn't conceivable that you have life AND stasis.

Back to the show; enter intelligent life. Enter language. Clearly language requires an element of logic & requires matter (something to 'language' about) - it presupposes life as well but I'll not work that out. Language scores our equalizer because - clearly - there's an element of logic in there if we are to make 'sense' of each other, but as evidently there's an element of creativity in it if we are to express, for instance, new hypotheses. The creative power of language cannot just be a matter of the recursive generation of propositions and/or the postulation of new names - a language that is restricted to that is thinkable (it's the language which the TLP is about), but it just is not conceivable that that is the only language. It is a.o. not conceivable because I - and Ludwig for that matter - would not be able to talk about logic. Hence, it wouldn't be conceivable that anybody but our almost forgotten assumed God knows logic. It's not my point that it's a fact that we do speak about it (without being God); the point is that it's inconceivable that we'd speak about it logic it there would not be creativity in language beyond the mere logical element in language.

2-2, but blood wins since it was playing an away match ;-) Although I mustn't really declare victory that soon. It's just a sketch to be worked out even if I believe that it is a quite convincing sketch and one that introduces non-logical specialness without vagaries of mysticism, idiocies of vulgarizing scientism and with a passing blow to a whole lot of intelligent design-freaks and other theists.

So Wittgenstein was wrong. There are at least two points (and remember: I hope to make it 1-3 one day) where philosophy needs to talk (& cannot but talk) about non-logical matters. Both points are closely linked to Darwin - let me risk the vulgarizing terms genes and memes. Sure, you can forget about the spirit of Darwinism & make an arbitrary non-vague definition of Darwin's theory (and Adam Smith's & ...) to get out of it,  but that's not playing it fair. You also could dismiss talk of 'the spirit' of a theory like Darwin's but that would be self-defeating (just read the TLP) and exactly for the reasons highlighted above.

Evolution and creativity are of the essence in convergence. Their special status, and the other kind of special nature of logic & mathematics combine to a view which is a sustainable view that accords well with our intuition of knowledge "locked in" but not specific (logic/evolution), and knowledge that is specific but always improvable (that of empirical science).

Philosophy is indeed an activity. Logic as such is not.


Whilst writing this I was listening to Richard Muhal, George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell, PI Recordings, "Streaming"

20:19 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: wittgenstein, convergence, dynamics, scientism, competition |  Facebook |

19-04-09

On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme

"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.


This long one 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. I need to caution you here: my interest is rarely with the correctness of a conclusion nor even with the plausibilty of the arguments, nor with the validity of the reasoning. My interest lies squarely, and far from modestly, on what it would mean if true.

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 a background against which understanding is possible. Part of the world. That is clean, that is neat; it's not much of an universal truth to navigate by but it's not only better than nothing, it's enough to make some quite striking moral observations.

Because - assuming that it is an important part of what we are that we communicate there clearly is virtue (aargh, thát word) in extending both breadth & depth of it (it is a truely Habermasian point to make). Not just that, whatever else may be said of an erroneous but shared & understood notion, there is no free-for-all - as everything, if it is to have any cash value in the world will either have to accord with the facts or, in the present case more importantly, be able to be morally judged good or bad as far as it helping or blocking communication and understanding. Some undoubtedly find this plebeian morality naïve and counter to everyday facts of falsities typical of what is called the common people. But these elitists are wrong and for following reason:

As per the above: language can't be individuated (more on that later - language by the way is not alone here, gene can't be properly individuated - subatomic particles cannot, ...) (in fact: maybe later has to be more on only that! - don't steal it, now!, at least not without referral, smiley here).

Integers don't work for communication and the continuum isn't as easily filled by an elite (must find back that article by Church!); at least not as easy as the elite thinks it can ;-) Common sense is a product that involves the common people more than it involves the happy few (e.g. the happy (sic) few that can make sense of this). We're constantly creating understanding and (Quine's right there albeit not radical enough) there's no possible end to it (although there is a beginning: any successful attempt at communication).

So that is the moral path: neither crooked nor narrow - no requirement to force us in directions against our grain because nothing is so natural for human beings as to be blabbering constantly. The risk does not come from our momentary tiredness of this talking, our instinctive conservativeness in not allowing new understanding that could jeopardize a status quo in which we and our children are pretty sure to thrive. No sir, the risk comes from the attempts to regiment our communication (rules for spelling come to mind as early symptoms) which is always (& necessarily, per the above) the creation of arbitrary and untenable (except temporarily, by force and coercion) in's & out's that are, as always, immoral by the simple but strong lights described above.

At the risk of repetition of things elsewhere slumbered about on this site; it is not at all a coincidence to discover that the shorter, simpler and less detailed version is the better. Only by stripping away the coincidental and realizing it's just an instant in the journey rather than the possible end point we can fix something worthwhile (Darwin's like that as well). It is immoral to defend a multiplicity of rules. Certainly when we're told that bending, or sometimes even only calling into question, these rules is in & by itself immoral. Very little things are immoral. Religion was maybe right in that (& only that): in the end judgment is simple and not a question of arithmetic.

(I apologize for the more-than-average typo's: my wireless keyboard is running out of batteries, it seems)


Whilst writing this I was listening to Chemical Brothers, We Are The Night, 2007.


23:14 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: language, optimism, davidson, convergence, learning, universals |  Facebook |