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 |

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 |

21-04-08

Transzendentale Methodenleere

"Freilich fand es sich, dass, ob wir zwar einen Turm im Sinne hatten, der bis an den Himmel reichen sollte, der Vorrat der Materialien doch nur zu einem Wohnhause zureichte, welches zu unserem Geschäften auf der Ebene der Erfahrung gerade geraümig und hoch genug war, sie zu übersehen; dass aber jene kühne Unternehmung aus Mangel an Stoff fehlschlagen musste, ohne einmal auf die Sprachverwirrung zu rechnen, welche die Arbeiter über den Plan unvermeidlich entzweien, und sie in alle Welt zerstreuen musste, um sich, ein jeder nach seinem Entwurfe, besonders anzubauen. Jetzt ist es uns nicht sowohl um die Materialien, als vielmehr um den Plan zu tun, und, indem wir gewarnet sind, es nicht auf einem beliebigen blinden Entwurf, der vielleicht unser gänzes Vermögen übersteigen köntte, zu wagen, gleichwohl doch von der Errichtung eines festen Wohnsitzes nicht wohl abstehen können, dem Anschlag zu einem Gebaüde in Verhältnis auf den Vorrat, der uns gegeben und zugleich unserem Bedürfnis angemessen ist, zu machen." Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Reclam, 1966, p. 726.

(highly recommended semi-official English internet translation below)


I know: a poet he was not. Nevertheless, this is a sublime poetic truth. It is much like my history teacher (the forever unknown Jef Arras) told me twenty years before I mustered the courage to read, happily unguided as ever, this rather annoying but great book: there was philosophy before and after Kant & only the latter was of significance.
Immanuel shifted philosophy into proper scientific progress. It took some time for it to be widely felt. The truth is that many still today - but more about that later - dive head first into the concrete wall of trying to explain everything, &, more specifically, everything at once. The sad truth is that the big pockets of tower-building megalomania can be found in scientists blabbering out rather haphazard 'philosophical' truths, getting them into playing yes/no games with the most profound stupidities of organized religion.
But let's be positive. Since Kant philosophy is no longer polemic & rhetoric but a place where people can cooperate (for instance using the great arts of both polemic & rhetoric). Although he does not finally get to stating it outright, the spirit introduced is the spirit that more than a century later was explicitly put in words by Carnap: philosophy not as a means to get the final word but as a means to allow a community of builders to erect a workable community where at least what is said can be clearly understood. A search, if you will, for how a first word could ever be uttered as well as understood in the way it had been intended to be understood (& so to the by now not yet classical enough: & so forth & so on).
What then is the plan?
For sure not the plan Kant was thinking of, or at least not in the specific way he was thinking of it. The plan is unwinding literally, to the extent that only the process, the form of a plan, remains. Philosophy is no longer a place to make those big substantive claims about this, that or even the other. What remains is slight at best for those in need of fast mental food - but this lack, if a lack it is, is made up big time by the universality of what is still claimed as to the due process of our reasoning (and consequently of our moral living). How we progress in philosophy is how we progress in everyday life, maybe, if we are to progress at all but that's the subject of many other quoughts.

Let me self-indulgently quote from my - probably forever unknown - thesis: "Commonsense Reasoning: Do Humans Think?". More specifically a passage directly following the Kantian quote of today's quought:

"The debates within the cognitive sciences pretty much feel the same way the Scholastic debates must have felt to I. Kant. Divisions inspired by strong principles alongside a substantial fragmentation on very specific matters. Specifically with reference to so called 'higher' cognition one finds rather heated debates between a more rationalist point of view and a more empiricist view.
My, maybe somewhat overambitious, contention is that by and large the analogy holds. The divisions and debates referred to above mask a more profound issue similar to the one Kant dealt with. This common source consists in the shared view that the mind should be able to mirror, in principle, the external human behaviour of reasoning. In other words, the brain is a minature computer of sorts on which all overt reasoning can be implemented and the brain is, as well, the source of the mind.
In the terms of the quote above, I hold that these views 'are bound to fail by lack of material', in the brain. There is more to the social practice of reasoning than can be accounted for by the mere operation of the brain. At the same time there is more to the operation of the brain than can be functionally accounted for using the basic terminology of pure reason."

With this I at least achieved this: I was quoted somewhere.


"We have found, indeed, that although we had contemplated building a tower which should reach to the heavens, the supply of materials suffices only for a dwelling-house, just sufficiently commodious for our business on the level of experience, and just sufficiently high to allow our overlooking it. The bold undertaking that we had designed is thus bound to fail through lack of material - not to mention the babel of tongues, which inevitably gives rise to disputes among the workers in regard to the plan to be followed, and which must end by scattering them all over the world, leaving each to erect a separate building for himself, according to his own design. At present, however, we are concerned not so much with the materials as with the plan; and inasmuch as we have been warned not to venture at random upon a blind project which may alltogether beyond our capacities, and yet cannot well abstain from building a secure home for ourselves, we must plan our building in conformity with the material which is given to us, and which is also at the same time appropriate to our needs."


Whilst writing this I was listening to This Mortal Coil

22:01 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: kant, convergence, form-content, universals |  Facebook |