28-11-09

Das Gebiet des Fremdpsychischen

"(..) Das so konstituierte Psychische des Anderen wird als Klasse der "psychischen Zustände des Anderen" analog "meiner Seele" "die Seele des Anderen genannt. Das allgemeine Gebiet des "Fremdpsychischen" umfasst des Psychische aller der anderen Menschen die (d.h. deren Leiber) als physische Dinge in der konstituierten physikalischen Welt vorkommen.

Aus der angegebenen Art der Konstitution des Fremdpsychischen folgt: es gibt kein Fremdpsychisches ohne Leib. (..)", R. Carnap, Der logische Aufbau der Welt, p. 187, Meiner Philosophische Bibliothek, 1998.

(amateuristic English translation below)


I'm struggling with the demons of the mystical. What better weapon to take to such a fight than Der logische Aufbau? If I'm defeated, at least I will not be enshrined, & my bones scattered over the globe abused by the rich and powerful to instill hope in the poor and powerless; just enough hope for them not to question their status quo, but not so much hope as would avoid them being mobilized by the ruling classes, to fight their fights (typically in service of the demons of the mystical, that always come in handy when the people in power need them).

But enough of this left wing propaganda. On topic. Quick!

The afterlife. There is a wonderful argument by I. Kant to the effect that, practically, it just has to exist. I'm inclined to be sympathetic to that argument, although I will, hopefully, never be sympathetic to classical ideas of the after-life - including such a notion as 'living on in one's bones' or for that matter: 'via one's books' (although it is something like that but rather less restricted than books, & rather more than bad and good deeds).

In the end, for some kind of morality to find some kind of objective basis (empirical basis, if you want; I need to jump one of these days to Hume's development of the moral intuitions and the derived sense of justice and fairness), we will require that a certain action is deemed good on the basis of the consequences of that action &, as I remember that's the Kantian argument, that these consequences also count in the 'deeming good' way when they appear only after the person that does the 'deeming' is death. "We do it for the good of our children.", doesn't cut it because - to identify a less obvious complication - that would require 'the good' to be something that can be explicitated and that is stable over generations (which is not the case, as it's just merely the case that the process to check whether things have improved is stable, & not its content - but I'll desist from this by now usual topic of these quoughts). It is, by the way, more or less what Rawls also assumes (but he avoids the after-life by a rather deus ex machina assumption that you have an a priori situation in which one knows everything of consequences but one does not know who, or when, one is).

There are too many assumptions here already. On top of that there's a requirement that really is a requirement "amongst other" requirements where these others aren't put forward explicitly nor their interconnection is argued. I plead for your forgiveness and proceed to the conundrum posed by our requirement - consequences that count even if they're not consequences for 'us', strictly speaking (because - turning to our quote of the day - there's no psychical us when there's no bodily us; an assumption that I'll accept gladly as a premise conclusively established by Carnap (and previous issues raised here on Carnap do not really matter: this argument only starts "after" we have the own mental, the physical and the other mental).

Maybe a solution can be found in the direction of the 'cultural' objects of Carnap - if that is a sufficiently accurate translation of "Geistiger Zustände". Indeed, if we could make sense of our requirement as, properly, a requirement on such cultural objects, we would be rid of the whole body-soul (or primitive mind including the apperception and the 'sense' of the own individuality). Bear in mind that much of what I write here (and yeah-yeah, almost all conjecture, almost no proof) is premised on the fact that most everything that we would indicate with 'human' in everyday speak is - imho - a cultural object of this sort. Still, we can forget all of my previous wanderings and just step here into Carnap: if the above requirement makes sense in the 'cultural plane' only, we have achieved something.

I'm pretty confident that we could achieve this much. The concept of 'our soul' in the sense of the quote is not enough to qualify for the requirement above. It is just not enough mind to mind the goings-on of the here & now - one has to mind what could happen to a mind that would be co-happening with your body later. That ís a cultural construct. It's more than mere intuition - in fact it's the kind of higher order Humean intuition - to care about what could happen, generically so to speak, in a future that is only connected in the most abstract of ways to your present. You have no reason, to give an example, whatsoever to think you're going to get cancer but the fact that it is quite imaginabe that if you'd get it you'd want to have access to treatment, has enough of an impact for you (if you're not 'out' of your mind) to want to ensure that there is access to such treatment. This clearly is a cultural construct (& there's a link there to probabilities because there has to be some probability there).

So far so good but what about our deaths then? What about them indeed? Our lifes didn't come into the discussions. And while our specific bodies ARE strictly needed in the cultural constructs I talked about - they' ae only required in the most abstract of ways. A way that in my view would be amply satisfied by 'having existed once' in this or that body; something for which all moral agents qualify without mystery.

There are many remaining problems but only one is appropriate to touch upon here (if only not to forget it for posterity ;-): is there then only one cultural construct over all times. And if so, would that defeat our argument here by the ex absurdo used in the above: only one enumerable good? The answer is: yes and no. The construct of human culture is indeed a single one (which is, let me be clear: somewhat troubling a thought for me as it will be for you). But at the same time that does not mean the good is 'fixed' and stable; as it should be the requirement with which we started is a requirement on actions and not a requirement on all of culture. The restriction which comes from the requirement being in the 'cultural plane' is just that there is a single 'way in which' we can establish the good. But the actual judging remains on actions & consequences and may drift and will always be fallible and only piecemeal informed; all of the good humbling things.

Stilll (and it may well be that I'm loosing focus here; don't feel obliged to read on - I'd say): we can have some poetic justice for our afterlife. Given that culture cannot be identified with this or that object (this or that culture doesn't make sense, strictly speaking at least) but rather is the consequence of a Carnapian construction - we're all needed and part of it. In some poetical way we were part of our history and we're a part of our future (at least morally speaking). Even stronger than this - given that the process for the good is universal (however fallible we are in implementing it) we can actually be said to work for or against improvement; improvement defined as a comparison between times where at the 'better' time the process is more universally recognized and applied (the recognition of necessity becoming before application as we are not interested in blind luck here).

Finishing then on the idea of 'living on in one's works or one's books'. The former is not restrictive enough because surely not all of our doings are moral doings - some are just beastly doings or physical doings (there isn't anything wrong with either - by the way - as 'wrongness' doesn't apply to animals and particles). The second is very much too restrictive as clearly very little people write any books (& those that do are very rarely to live on in them; worse, eventually all those books will disappear (yeah I mean all of this in a very un-Borges-ian way). It suffices to do a moral doing to be qualifying for a living on. That living on does not need to be explicitly linked to your name (remember: you're as dead as a door bell so you have no way of knowing any of it); the best metaphor I have of it is that of a musical tone. Maybe for some this is not afterlife enough but it's all they're going to get (and if I would be paid for this I'd demonstrate that it's more than enough to qualify for the Kantian argument).

It is personally enough for me. I do my best and by doing thusly (and hence thisly) I will be rewarded. Doing it is indeed its own reward - if you can refrain from reading this in a manner of actual co-timed reward and punishment. The best thing is that I don't need to be successful in doing this (but do get me more readers, please) - as it's quite clear that this - as such with my pseudonym on it - will some time cease to exist.

I can have my ambition and eat it too!


"The so constituted psychical (mental) of the others is called "the soul of the other" being  the class of "psychical (or mental) states of the other; this in analogy with "my soul". The general field of the other-mental (or other-mindly or other-psychical) includes the psychical (or mental &c) of all other humans, that (i.e. whose bodies) appear as physical things in the constituted physical world.

From the indicated way in which the other-mindly is constituted, it follows: there's no other mind without a corresponding body."


Whilst writing this I was listening to Arvo Pärt, Orient Occident, ECM New Series (tones you hear, tones!).

19:33 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: form-content, mind-mind dualism, self, carnap, tones |  Facebook |

26-08-09

Die Postulate des empirischen Denkens überhaupt

"Nur daran also, dass diese Begriffe die Verhältnisse der Wahrnemungen in jeder Erfahrung a priori ausdrücken, erkennt man ihre objelktive Realität, d.i. ihre transzendentale Wahrheit, und zwar freilich unabhängig von der Erfahrung, aber doch nicht unabhängig von aller Beziehung auf die Form einer Erfahrung überhaupt, und die Synthetische Einheit, in der allein Gegenstände empirisch können erkannt werden." Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 298-299, I Kant, Reclam, 1966.

(amateuristic English translation below - but I'm sure google will have a professional one)


It's been a while since I felt the urge to get my "Pure Reason" out and look for what is known as the "synthetic a priori". It was probably over 2 months ago. I had it next to the bed, but did not open it. Fear, I guess, as well as a bunch of other things that were racing through my head (some of which you find here). Not to mention a family and a job and what have you. But enough personalia already: I opened it now and I thought it would be somewhere over half way that I'd find it and I didn't. So I went & risked something more or less a quarter of the way of the book and found not this - I found a quote on telepathy and such things and how unfounded it was to assert its existence: however conceivable they were, there was no basis for entertaining any of it.

And I was happy (and happier still when I bumped into the 'refutation of idealism' - but that will be for another time) but not happy enough, so I read the section where my telepathy scepticism found an unexpectedly explicit support. The quote above is what I settled on and it's close enough to the synthetic a priori (although maybe not a quote that is very quotable by any common standard). Why am I telling you all of these petty personal experiences? Maybe it's mostly fear but it's also because I feel like I need to give you this experience of finding such things. Because nobody does this as far as I know: tell the dirty, boring 'how I found this'; and that just increases the mystical feel about these things.

I hate mysticism and I hate the new scholasticism that has been built around terms such as 'a priori' and certainly the 'synthetic a priori' (and certainly in universities, to limit the amount of creative thinking that graduates one has to suppose).

The idea I always thought was quite simple: empiricism is basically correct, but still, in and of itself, a bit of a non-starter. There are things (not 'things' in the sense of particulars but 'things' in the sense of bits of knowledge) that are unavoidable. Not because they are completely separate from empirical facts; but because once we're having a more or less consistent view of reality that view will, unavoidably, be based on these things (I think, by the way, that this is a very modern rhought, something that, against appearances, is quite aligned with Quine's critique of the very notions of synthetic and analytic).

Let me not talk about triangles. Let me not talk about specific scientific theories. I'll talk about my pet subject: Darwinian theory.

As I said before (in a very, very hermetic piece of which I am rather ashamed now) - I believe that, suitably abstracted, it is inescapable. I believe it is an a priori; things cannot be understood in any other way than this way; things on evolution were even never understood in another way before Darwin (even if, before Darwin, the insights were lacking to phrase it in a productive way). I also believe that it is synthetic; it is based on an examination of empirical facts; it is something that depends on 'form' of our experience (it's therefore perfectly possible to describe things in a way that is non-Darwinian but that's about as helpful as talking about telekinesis - worse in fact because any such description currently offered can be shown to be incorrect when it's confronted with the facts).

I said 'suitably abstracted' and if I could have avoided qualifiying it, I certainly would have. I won't quote more German but the reason for the need for the qualifier is not coincidental & described by Kant. Such 'synthetic a priori' knowledge can't be about a specific thing (in the sense of state of affairs, facts, or particulars). If it could be like that we would be in the mystical realm of telepathy because, for instance, my writing this (or some such other coincidence) could in principle be such knowledge - which is obviously absurd to anyone with their chakrah's in order (that was a joke!). In other words - Darwin's hypothesis on similarity of moutainous plants can be right or wrong but can never be a synthetic a priori (in fact, the more accurate statement would be: this hypothesis can be accurate or inaccurate but that'll be for another time when I - or somebody else - reminds me of it; say "Kyburg").

I will not attempt what Darwin did much better: attempt a suitable abstraction for his theory. I'll offer an example from thermodynamics - 'In a closed system, the energy remains constant.' This does not make any definite predictions on specific situations but sets clear limits on any situation. That I think is the 'synthetic a priori' (& pardon me if I'm not telling you anything new) and I think it's basically right although I also think that Kant did not realize sufficiently the high standard of 'suitable abstractions' in this area (and did not realize so many things that came after him on other fronts, this is not the whole truth after all, just a piece of it; he did not, for instance, grasp how problematic the analytic/synthetic distinction was to begin with).

So I said I would not attempt the Darwinian abstraction. And I won't. But still, I don't think Darwin did everything that could be done. His abstraction was biological but, as I already tried to demonstrate elsewhere here, the real abstraction is at the levels of 'anything evolving' (see Bergson quote). It's crucial, I believe, that the knowledge of Darwinian evolution is recognized as unavoidable for language, culture and so on. It is crucial for ethical reasons (but I will undoubtedly have outstayed my welcome so I shan't elaborate on that now).

Ending note: some of you might be thinking Newton and flatlanders and things done in a dimension that can't be perceived by us and all that. I tell you: you are gullable and run a risk of being converted into a religion, as you were concerted by scientistic vulgarizing theoretical physicists (Do something about it!). This argument leads to a set of moronic theories in the class of Intelligent Design and is a fallacy. Because of this: either the influence of the 'unknown dimension' is regular in the known ones, & then we can perceive 'it' (see Kant's example of magnetic forces) or it's irregular - in which case we can't perceive it as an 'it'. In the latter case people might suddenly be disappearing all the time and that would be just a fact of life, not a proof of another dimension because if it were we would be able to perceive it ... (not finished but you get the point - and even if you don't: people aren't suddenly disappearing and, but for the pockets and power of those making these things up there isn't even the start of an empirical fact that would lead us to seriously consider entertaining anything of the sort).


"Only in this then, that these concepts express a priori the conditions of perception in all of our experiences, can one recognize their objective reality, i.e. their transcendental truth, and this completely independent from experience itself, although not independent from any relationship on the form of an experience as such, and that synthetic unity in which only we can recognize things in an empirical way."


Whilst writing this I was listening to Steve Reich, "Different Trains", Orchestre National de Lyon & David Robertson.

22:28 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: scientism, universals, dynamics, kant, form-content |  Facebook |

14-07-09

De la colère

"Je lui disais que c'était bien quelque chose, notamment à ceux comme lui d'éminente qualité sur lesquels chacun a les yeux, de se présenter au monde toujours bien tempéré, mais que le principal était de pourvoir au-dedans et à soi-même; et que ce n'était, à mon gré, bien ménager ses affaires que de se ronger intérieurement: ce que je craignais qu'il fit pour mantenir ce masque et cette réglée apparence par le dehors." Montaigne, Essais Livre II, Chapitre XXXI, folio classique, editions Gallimard, p; 488.

(amateuristic English translation below)


Let me be clear: I'm fed up with all this excitement and passion and live fast stuff - even if I wouldn't mind the 'die young'-bit. We're acting like the bunch of pubescent boys that we probably are at this time of the evolution of human culture. I like cool; from temperature over jazz up to lifestyle. All this frantic waving about & 'expressing one's emotions' and being really committed is just a load of crap kept alive by those that can't sit still for a moment if their life depended on it - them lot which would go into sudden disintegration & molecular collapse if they were put in positions in which it would be unavoidable to question their own motives.

But, & forgive me the unphilosophical rant, if even Montaigne is confused the matter can't be solved so lightly. Clearly, if you're fuming inside the smoke should be clear on the outside. Anything else is hypocrisy & (never even mind the others) that is not at all a good service to your self. So what's the deal? Do we need to be completely & utterly dispassionate or should we accept as unshakeable all the typical 90s mess of burning ambition & over-all impatience with ... anything really?

As you might have figured: I thought about this. I came to the below dispassionate conclusion which, or at least I'd hope so, I will be defending vigorously, with passion befitting the subject.

The conclusion is this: the issue is the familiar one of form/content confusion. What I see is that people want to have strong convictions on what needs to happen - and are relatively indifferent as to how it comes about. Which is all backwards obviously. One should be passionate in the discussion but irather ndifferent to the outcome of it. The outcome after all is the result of what can be reasonably expected to be the case, after discussion. The discussion itself however needs to be ferocious, because only if we're ferocious in making sure that all arguments have weighed properly can we ever be sure that the discussion will have been a real one, and hence can in fact be expected to be followed by a reasonable conclusion.

That clearly doesn't imply that one needs to gesticulate, shout, slam tables or push people around but it does imply that if any of it is required to ensure the discussion is a proper one: by all means, no holds barred, except those that prevent people to bring arguments. It specifically requires passion (biting sarcasm, creation of general uneasiness, ...) to bull-dozer out of the way any emotions that are tied to a specific position being beyond discussion (or, on a more human note, tied to the benefits of a specific individual or group of individuals). I mean it: we should treat fixed opinion with the most complete and utter disrespect, and should never refrain from laughing away any strong convictions that are thought to be beyond such treatments.

That's the role of passion, excitement, madness; to preserve the due process for us to arrive at conclusions. Once arrived at we have to apply the conclusions without the least amount of passion (as Montaigne rightly councels in this Essai). In other words - the judge should be 'all in' when he shouts 'order in the court' but once sentencing is there he should deliver the sentence modestly, knowing he can be wrong but cool, as he will be sure everything has been done to ensure he has it right.

Let's broaden it up a bit. We all know that fundamentalists of any kind are the most passionate in defending what they happen to be convinced of. Up to the point of the denial of the possibility of any discussion about the reasons for their beliefs. On the other hand, when we confront holocaust-deniers, creationists (& the rest of this sorry lot of people content to be sophisticated machines 'in the service' of some, or other, grand idea) we may (make that: must) expose them as wankers but we'll always do this ready to give our reasons for exposing them as such. (consider this a footnote: 'Sure, you'll readily find wankers passionately defending perfectly honourable points, without any inclination to get into their reasons; they're idiots squared, as dogmatic as fundamentalists and on top of that discrediting what they defend by passionately believing in it instead of argueing for it. But it isn't because sheep can also dress in wolf's clothes that, once undressed, they can't - make that: shouldn't - be exposed for the idiotic sheep they are).

Ouf! I can leave my passion and eat it too.

Coming back to the quote: let it all go before you come to the conclusion but by all means, restrain yourself once you have come to a conclusion. We're not beasts any more, after all. Clearly you wouldn't want to make love dispassionately (the scariest people are those that do want to have dispassionate sex, actually) but you wouldn't want to conclude passionately either; the competition for the best idea should be of the fiercest sort but the outcome should be accepted with equanimity.


"I told him that it was quite something, certainly in those - like him - of eminent quality on whom everybody has their eyes, to present oneself to the world always well tempered - but that the important thing was to provide for oneself internally; and that it was - to my taste - not a good way to manage one's affairs to be eating oneself from the inside: which was what I feared he did to maintain that mask and that temperate appearance on the outside."

(pff, not easy, that one)


Whilst writing this I was listening to Jean-Jacques Perrey and Luke Vibert, 'Moog Acid'.

21:36 Gepost door Guido Nius in Actualiteit | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: montaigne, form-content, boldness, competition |  Facebook |