Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hierarchies of Thought

This is P.6 of "The Two Horns of Reaism and Non-realism"

I'd like to preface this with an exerpt from Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (I'll ultimately go another way):


Precision instruments are designed to achieve an idea, dimensional precision, whose perfection is impossible. There is no perfectly shaped part of the motorcycle and never will be, but when you come as close as these instruments take you, remarkable things happen, and you go flying across the countryside under a power that would be called magic if it were not so completely rational in every way. It's the understanding of this rational intellectual idea that's fundamental. John looks at the motorcycle and he sees steel in various shapes and has negative feelings about these steel shapes and turns off the whole thing. I look at the shapes of the steel now and I see ideas. He thinks I'm working on parts. I 'm working on concepts.

I was talking about these concepts yesterday when I said that a motorcycle can be divided according to its components and according to its functions. When I said that suddenly I created a set of boxes with the following arrangement:

And when I said the components may be subdivided into a power assembly and a running assembly, suddenly appear some more little boxes:

And you see that every time I made a further division, up came more boxes based on these divisions until I had a huge pyramid of boxes. Finally you see that while I was splitting the cycle up into finer and finer pieces, I was also building a structure.

This structure of concepts is formally called a hierarchy and since ancient times has been a basic structure for all Western knowledge. Kingdoms, empires, churches, armies have all been structured into hierarchies. Modern businesses are so structured. Tables of contents of reference material are so structured, mechanical assemblies, computer software, all scientific and technical knowledge is so structured...so much so that in some fields such as biology, the hierarchy of kingdom- phylum-class-order-family-genus-species is almost an icon.

The box "motorcycle" contains the boxes "components" and "functions." The box "components" contains the boxes "power assembly" and "running assembly," and so on. There are many other kinds of structures produced by other operators such as "causes" which produce long chain structures of the form, "A causes B which causes C which causes D," and so on. A functional description of the motorcycle uses this structure. The operator's "exists," "equals," and "implies" produce still other structures. These structures are normally interrelated in patterns and paths so complex and so enormous no one person can understand more than a small part of them in his lifetime. The overall name of these interrelated structures, the genus of which the hierarchy of containment and structure of causation are just species, is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system.

To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as "the system" is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There's no villain, no "mean guy" who wants them to live meaningless lives, it's just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.

But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There's so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.

That's all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There's no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone's mind -- number three tappet is right on too. One more to go. This had better be it -- .I've noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this...that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes...pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts...all of them fixed and inviolable, and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees "steel" as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all out of someone's mind. That's important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone's mind. There's no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There's nothing else there. But what's "potential"? That's also in someone's mind! -- Ghosts.


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While thinking about my conundrum of representation - at least insofar as communicating it in such a way that finds some agreement - the above passage from Pirsig came to mind. The key notion to consider in dissolving the idea of philosophical representation and/or realism with respect to what Pirsig has said, is the whole idea that what we consider phenomenon, or the objective world is mostly a mental process. In other words what we see when we observe things and what we make of them stands in relation to a hierarchy or paradigm of thought in such a way that to speak of representation – whereas it may make a certain amount of sense within a given hierarchy - it falls apart outside of it, and is circular within it. Not to mention our adaptation of idea is more closely related to functionality then with accurate representation.

What I’d like to do first is recognize, as Pirsig did above, that things like government, motorcycles, map making, religion, physics, so on, are nothing more then systems of rational thought which can be seen as existing within a hierarchy. In other words, individual propositions in a language don’t stand independently in relation to the things they refer to, but rather stand within in a larger context where their truth value is relative to their logical consistency within the hierarchy. That the socialist concept of distributing the wealth is wrong or bad, is really recognition that within the hierarchy of Democratic thinking there is no such concept – which is why when one infers such a state of affairs, we all cry “SOCIALISM”, and not simply, “That sounds really shitty!”. It’s not that socialism is necessarily false, wrong or bad per se, it simply doesn’t fit into the context of our belief/value system – you could see this as a bit of dogmatic thinking, but I’ll get to that later.

That a motorcycle exhaust pipe is exactly that - and not just in statement but as represented on an engineering print – is true relative to the hierarchy of thought about motorcycles. Outside of that, or the hierarchy being unknown, there’s no telling what the piece could be and/or what it could be interpreted as. Perhaps an Australian shaman from the bush stumbles upon it and immediately proclaims it’s a religious symbol of some sort, whereupon all the people of his village bow down once a day to worship it. That sounds pretty wacky to be sure, and no doubt we’d say they were wrong about the odd piece of metal, but that’s simply because the system of thought we’re using to talk about the part is different from theirs. One might make the argument, well, it wasn’t intended to be a religious symbol from its inception and therefore on those grounds the shaman is completely cracked – he’s applying a system of thought to the part that doesn’t belong to it. But who’s to say that our current conception or system of thought about trees is the right one? The point is we’re interpreting an object relative the hierarchy of thought we’re working in, and relative to the use we find for a given object/concept.

In the case of map-making we again have a system of rational thought at work. On the one hand representation is a slick piece of rhetoric to apply to the map relative to what it’s doing – representing the terrain – however we miss the fact that what the terrain is exists within its own mental hierarchy. In this way (philosophically) we simply see the map representing (if anything at all) another hierarchy of thought. It represents, in the form of marks, scribbles, alphanumerics, etc., our very human rational thought process as it goes to work on it’s own needs and interests; it’s a concept worked out in paper, or to put it another way, it’s just more language. Again, as stated above, the map only makes sense within the context of rational thought it was conceived in; give it to the shaman above, and he might tack it up right next to his exhaust pipe and say it’s a picture of the God-head himself – on what grounds do we say he is incorrect. Once again, the idea of representation itself is nothing more then a concept which exists within a larger framework and who’s truth makes sense only within that context. Since the map is really just more language, the realist is stuck with the same problem of showing how language represents anything. Of course one could make the same argument about me, but as a pragmatist I defend my positions, well, pragmatically; if you don’t like them, or find no use for them, neither of us are any worse for ware.

Moving on, one of the road blocks that stand in the way of any two different understandings is generally one of dogma, or so I’ll argue. That a given thing is an exhaust pipe and nothing more, or that the part is a religious icon and nothing more (in statement or belief), is nothing more then a statement of dogmatic thinking. It’s an insistence that our language, along with our needs and interests surrounding the part, correlate; or more extremely (as we’re talking dogma here) that we represent reality as it is, properly. “It’s an exhaust pipe you religious wack-job!” Essentially what you end up with here is one hierarchy/system of thought claiming relevance over another hierarchy/system of thought and in some cases conflating purposes. On the one hand the westerner could assemble the part onto an actual motorcycle and demonstrate it’s use relative to his hierarchy, but on the other hand the shaman could do just the same – so long as both sides are unwilling to step out of they’re dogmatic little hierarchies, no real conclusion on the matter may be reached.

This leads me to another dogma of realism, which is the notion that scientific inquiry makes progress by finding out more and more about the same objects. But once again, this assumes (in true realist form) that we are building upon a system of thought which exists in the form of one big pyramid, as apposed to several competing pyramids, furthermore that the purposes these structures of thought serve are the same. Going back to the exhaust pipe, it’s easy to see from the outside looking in that their difference in opinion exists mainly in the purpose the object serves. Relative to this view point we cannot here make the claim that either side is incorrect, more right or more wrong; we can only say that this side or that sides purpose is meaningless to us.

In the same way we can move to an example given earlier, about where Aristotle’s ideas of motion stand relative to Newton’s. We may be tempted to consider the following statements, “Aristotle said mostly false things about motion”, or “Aristotle said mostly true things about what HE called motion, but we don’t believe there is any such thing.” Or we might want to say, “Here Aristotle goofed, even in his own terms.” Or, “here we have a statement which would be true if anything in Aristotelian physics were, but which, alas, refers to something which does not exist and thus is false.” What we’re trying to accomplish here is to distinguish between Aristotelian falsehoods which are the result of the nonexistence of what he was talking about, and those which result from his misuse of his own theoretical apparatus. However in both cases we’re making a judgment of a particular system of thought relative to the dogma of another system of thought – on the one hand, assuming we’re talking about the same things, he completely misconstrued and/or misrepresented the nature of motion. On the other hand, he was talking about ghosts and fairies that we can’t seem connect with any phenomenon by today’s standards. In both cases we neglect whatever practical purpose his dialogue about motion served at the time and instead substitute it with the practical purposes we have today – thus it is by those standards we make a call. Our current hierarchy of thought isn’t “more true”, it’s simply better suited to our current needs and interests. This is exactly the case between the westerner with the exhaust pipe, and the shaman with the religious icon – each is conceiving of a given thing within a different hierarchy of thought to serve a different need. There is no way of talking about their object that is more true then any other; it’s not more true to call it “A” instead of “B”, nor is it more true that it serves purpose “A” as apposed to purpose “B”. In the same way it isn’t more true to call motion “Aristotelian” as apposed to “Newtonian” (or visa versa), nor is it more true that motion serves an “Aristotelian” purpose as apposed to “Newtonian” purpose. Once again, it would be my argument that a shift in position is a shift in systems of thought relative to the purposes those shifts give us, not their “truthy-ness”.

Representation then, can only take place dogmatically (rhetorically) within a given hierarchy of thought. In other words if two speakers are agreeing to converse within a given context, they can make claims and/or arguments about correct representation only within that context. So you can say, relative to systemic world view “X”, it would be inaccurate to represent reality as containing a God as nowhere within the hierarchy is the logic, reason, or rational to deal with the concept. This of course doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist anymore then the exhaust pipe may or may not be an exhaust pipe or religious icon for the same reasons. The key point here is, that any idea, whether contained in what we’d call object or in dialogue, makes sense only within the context of the language it takes place within – the same is true for the idea of representation. If one would like to use it, fine, but as we cannot justify it outside of pragmatic grounds, then happy chit-chats to you.

The final matter I’d like to address is the idea of constraint, or being constrained by reality in such a way that this gives us a legitimate claim to realism. Since it’s obvious we bump into a world that seems to hold us back from doing certain things, it follows that there must be a world in itself that we have the capacity to represent. I’m not going to fully tackle this here, but say for the moment that, in much the same way the Buddhists say, “Desire is the cause of all suffering”, and Nirvana is the escape from this suffering, I will say, “Rational thought is the cause of all constraint”. It constrains us in governmental systems, religious systems, subject/object metaphysical systems, and in philosophical systems in general. Whatever our current forms of thought are that we hold dear to within any of those systems are the vary things that constrain us, they are the dogma of our lives. As Pirsig notes, through revolts within governments, scientific revolutions, or shifts in religious perspectives, we never get to the point of releasing ourselves from the real culprit of constraint and suffering, which is systematic reason itself. Our lives through these revolutions seem to have some short term gains, but we quickly fall into the same sorts of depressions that led us into the revolutions in the first place.

I’d like to paraphrase Nietzsche with the following:“When a thing becomes known to us, it ceases to be of a concern.” (he goes on to say from here, “…so what was on the mind of God when he said, ‘know thyself’,”) In other words it (the thing) becomes dogmatic, ordinary, meaningless, and so on. It becomes something that doesn’t quite get at the core of what it was we were trying to say, and as a result we build new systems of thought to deal with that new sense of emptiness we feel; which are interpreted as our new needs and interests.

Quoting Pirsig in ZMM again he states:

“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain's experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts...something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it's important also to see what's created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.”

26 comments:

  1. Cracking post - ties in with things I've been pondering too.

    You might also say - all language is social level.

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  2. I'd tend to agree with you on that - but don't have my arms around it yet.

    I sort of have a love hate relationship with Pirig's quality levels.

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  3. I agree, this hangs together well. A good statement of your argument I think.

    From my perspective, the targets that your argument here demolishes effectively are not positions I hold. For example, if the shaman says it is a religious artifact and it fulfils that role within that language community, then that's what it it is in that context rather than an exhaust pipe.

    Ironically, I think where we disagree is precisely the point that you slip into dogma.

    But this is a long and detailed post which I have only just read. So I'll think about it a bit before I respond in detail.

    It seems to me that your case is primarily effective against the kind of person who would say something like: "the French might call it 'un couteau' and the Germans 'ein Messer' but we all know that really, it is a knife."

    (I read that somewhere I think but I really can't remember where.)

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  4. I won't disagree with you that I'm being dogmatic - the moment I started to type I began spouting dogma. And when you respond, you will surely be responding with your own piece of dogma.

    Also, this is going to lead into another post I'll throw up on Friday, which follows from the last quote.

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  5. No, I don't think my response will be with dogma. Of course, no doubt you will argue that one person's principled argument that is revisable in the light of subsequent evidence is another person's dogma....

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  6. I agree that we can look at what we experience as an objective world as a phenomenal world, that is to say, it depends not only on its causal interaction with us, but on our perceptual and cognitive apparatus. It is plausible that hierarchies of thought are involved here, so far these are the post Kantian ideas we seem to agree on so far.

    Where I disagree is with the conclusion that representation is necessarily circular if considered as happening within such hierarchies. The idea of triangulation gets around this difficulty.

    So although I agree that map making, democracy, motorcycles do exist within hierarchies of thought, the pure coherentist theory of truth that you seem to suggest this entails is ultimately unconvincing. The simple reason for this is that an infinite number of internally consistent systems of thought could be produced so we are left again with the problem of explaining the miracle that the ones we adopt for navigating the world actually allow us to do that.

    Now we can see that representation within a hierarchy isn't necessarily circular, we can say that the engineering drawing represents the exhaust pipe without losing sight of the fact that both are human constructs that only make sense within a context.

    So in talking about map making as representation, we don't miss the point that what we experience as the terrain itself is part of a hierarchy of thought. But what we have is a mapping between domains. And our thought about the terrain is partly determined by our causal interaction with the world. That is why, despite all the latitude for human concerns and interests, we can say some mappings work better than others. That constitutes better representation.

    On Aristotle versus Newton, they supply different paradigms, but it doesn't follow, even if we regard them as incommensurate, that we can have no ideas about why one suits our present purposes better than the other.

    Finally, you say that we bump into reality, but the constraints implied thereby, if I understand you right, you are saying are themselves limitations imposed by the dogmas of rational thought. Well, that is what Maya expresses and it has something in common with the ideas of Kant and Berkley, though for different reasons. But this is a religious idea for which I can see no basis, you can assume you could fly unaided if you weren't so wedded to rationality, but until you figure out how, you are going to catch a plane, and consult the timetable in order to do so. So 'happy chit chat to you' backacha!

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  7. I haven't been following closely the debate, but it occurs to me, Psiomniac, that you might profit from reading Donald Davidson.

    Davidson pioneered the notion of triangulation as a way around stupid realism/anti-realism debates, but some of his remarks are interesting with regards to the way we should consider ourselves afterwards. For one, he rejects a coherentist-like attitude, but he thinks representationalism, use of the representation metaphor, doesn't float either.

    One of the main ideas of his sense of triangulation (between person-community-world), though, is his radical interpretation argument (built out of Quine's notion of radical translation). The gist of the argument is that the Kantian distinction between scheme and content is the one that breeds all of these philosophical problems. Your "simple reason" uses this distinction in exactly the right way, because coherentism does suggest an infinite number of coherent worlds we could be living in, which then makes people think that's stupid and go back to correspondentism as a way of avoiding having to explain the "miracle" of communication.

    Davidson begins with the "miracle" and tries to show that for communication to exist--as it apparently does--the scheme/content distinction must be simply a metaphysical dogma and not how thinking works. Rather than try and explain how communication is possible, Davidson begins with the thing we are already doing and so tries to show that the see-saw between realism and anti-realism is an illusion because the former creates the idea of being radically out of touch with the world, the latter that we have an infinite number of worlds, when the existence of successful communication suggests that most of our beliefs are true, and must converge. We neither live in separate worlds nor could we ever _radically_ be out of touch with it.

    Ultimately, you look like a Davidsonian, but for some reason still think the representation-metaphor has traction, despite the fact that our link with the world on your account is apparently causal: "our thought about the terrain is partly determined by our causal interaction with the world." I think that's exactly right, but a representation-relation is commonly opposed to a causal-relation. As far as I understand Andrew, he admits causal relations, like Rorty and Davidson, and just denies that representation-relations to anything to clear up our relation to the world. What is obscure, I suppose, is exactly what these representation-relations are and how they interact with causal-relations, etc., etc.

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  8. Matt K,

    I think you are probably right because although I have read accounts of the radical interpretation argument, I haven't read Davidson himself.

    I would put the problem with representation the other way round, I think it lost traction because of its historical use in naive realist thought. But a calm evaluation reveals that the toxic false dualisms and other philosophical pitfalls are not inevitably attached to the concept of representation itself, merely to how it has been used historically. In this context, careful avoidance of the representation idea just looks like the equivalent of advocating barrage balloons over London.

    As for precisely what representation consists in and what relation that has to our causal interactions, need it be that obscure?

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  9. Well, I certainly don’t want to be thrown under the bus with the coherence label – we may as well be two religious types arguing over one God vs. multiple God’s, and we’ll throw Matt in the middle as the Spinozist (pantheist). My use of coherence here is merely showing that there are different needs and interests, and that one of those is religious. That I might be falling down a slippery slope to coherence and the idea of an infinite number of systems of thought is one I’ll have to think about and work around as I don’t want that dogma AT ALL. But thanks for pointing it out. On a side, I see religious language to a greater degree metaphorical and serving a common purpose, so I generaly view they’re differences as cultural – but that statement in itself has it’s issues.

    I’ll have to work these (thoughts) into another post….. Anniversary this weekend, so, the wife has me (my time) all tied up.

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  10. PS,
    I have e-books of Davidson's "Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective" and "Truth Language and History", but must admit I haven't gotten around to fully reading them as of yet. So of course I had to look up triangulation.

    "...it is argued that to have thoughts, and so to mean anything in speaking, it is necessary to understand, and be understood by, a second person. if wittgenstein held that language is necessarily social, then the central thesis of this essay is wittgensteinian. but it is denied that communication requires that one person speak as others do. rather, the objectivity which thought and language demand depends on the mutual and simultaneous responses of two or more creatures to common distal stimuli and to one another's responses. this three-way relation among two speakers and a common world i call 'triangulation'..."

    I suppose I could e-mail then to you?????

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  11. As for precisely what representation consists in and what relation that has to our causal interactions, need it be that obscure?

    Well, see, that's just the problem--I've learned how to do quite well without it, so I have no idea what the representation-relation is, one that sits alongside a causal relation and does something that is not bad, Platonic realism.

    You have a sense that one needs the idea of representation for something, but I don't have that sense and so find naturally obscure what its for. I suspect the same is for Andrew--as long as you have causal connection to the world, why do we need another, parasitic relation called "representation"? It's not for staying connected, that's what the causal-relation does.

    It's elaboration on that theme that is the primary task of articulating a realism.

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  12. I suppose I could e-mail then to you?????
    Sounds like a plan. You could try my user name at a yahoo blighty address?

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  13. Matt K,

    You say you have learned to do quite well without it. But that is what is at issue. What I see is a perfectly sensible system of thought with an anomaly in the form of a studious avoidance of an idea that works reasonably well.

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  14. Let me clear something up, so what I want to state next makes sense…

    You state:
    “So in talking about map making as representation, we don't miss the point that what we experience as the terrain itself is part of a hierarchy of thought. But what we have is a mapping between domains.”

    You seem to be suggesting that the map - language - is a medium between the subjective domain and the objective domain. Would this be correct?

    And, what is “a yahoo blighty address”?

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  15. You seem to be suggesting that the map - language - is a medium between the subjective domain and the objective domain. Would this be correct?
    Not quite, no. I'd say that there is a mapping between the domain of maps and the domain of that aspect of our experience we call the terrain. But it is the terrain as we experience it, with our perceptual and cognitive apparatus and with our concerns giving some aspects salience and others not.

    Blighty address = .co.uk

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  16. So to get us back to your use of representation, you are essentially saying that we represent (via language and mapping) that aspect of our experience we call the terrain [objective reality]. But, that that aspect is relative to our cognitive apparatus, needs and concerns.

    So one map is better than another map because it better represents ones experience of what one says the map represents?

    Picture for yourself a dog (specifically a retriever) with its ears perked up and head tilted to the side giving you that curious playful look. “Roinks!”

    So here’s the reason for the “ear perk”; if you’re going to keep your idea of philosophical representation, yet do away with the use of subject/object dualism, then you end up with circularity and a sort of absurd use of representation. Because, as you say, we’re not representing some objective reality per se, we’re representing our experience of what we call objective reality. But what we call objective reality is subject to an enormous number of historical contingencies – and since there’s no way to effectively step outside a vocabulary to find a meta vocabulary with which to judge the first, then, you end up representing representation itself.

    If we stick to the causal model, there’s no need (as Matt has already said) to keep it around. Surely for our everyday rhetorical usage I can understand…

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  17. But the point you are not addressing is the triangulation one. That's what prevents it from being circular. We all rub up against the world, and each other. It isn't a miracle that despite all the historical contingencies, the guild of good map makers have settled on a set of protocols for checking that the symbols they put on the page are likely to stand in certain relations to what people experience as the terrain. It is so obvious even your dog would get it. But your dogma prevents you from agreeing with it.

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  18. You say you have learned to do quite well without it. But that is what is at issue. What I see is a perfectly sensible system of thought with an anomaly in the form of a studious avoidance of an idea that works reasonably well.

    Fair enough, Psi, but I don't have a sense of what the anomaly is, nor what exactly that "idea that works reasonably well" is, one that avoids the Cartesian problematic. The basic standstill is that neither is a simple project of explication, neither that of doing without representation, nor pointing out the anomaly and what representation does exactly.

    All I've been doing is sketching what others have written at greater length about, but in trying to evaluate your suggestions, I'm not sure how to extrapolate what you're saying, how the map-metaphor might play out when pressed that isn't in the bad, Kantian direction of a scheme/content distinction.

    All I'm suggesting is that it's a bigger project then is feasible in the space of a blogger comment.

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  19. Matt K,

    Fair enough. Time we all had a beer perhaps.

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  20. Needless to say I’ve began chewing into Davidson, and I’m not convinced he’d be on your side with respect to representation – but maybe I’m wrong.

    You mention triangulation, but I’m not seeing a clear argument for why this concept avoids the circularity that exists.

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  21. Beer! I'm hung-over from last nights anniversary festivities!

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  22. I think part of the problem is that you are arguing against Representation and Truth, rather than representation and truth. So I agree Davidson probably wouldn't be on the side that you are arguing against. But then, neither would I. Anyway maybe we ought to listen to Matt, adjourn, chew into more stuff and come back when we think we can do it succinctly enough to fit into a blog?

    Hung-over? Hair of the dog :-)

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  23. Finally, you say that we bump into reality, but the constraints implied thereby, if I understand you right, you are saying are themselves limitations imposed by the dogmas of rational thought. Well, that is what Maya expresses and it has something in common with the ideas of Kant and Berkley, though for different reasons. But this is a religious idea for which I can see no basis, you can assume you could fly unaided if you weren't so wedded to rationality, but until you figure out how, you are going to catch a plane, and consult the timetable in order to do so.

    I’m not talking so much about reality as I am just about rational thought. It’s much like the saying, “the things you own end up owning you”, even though it’s obvious enough that things can’t own a person, and that without certain things you can’t live. I think if we move onto that, we can get into all my GOD talk, metaphor, so on and so on. We’ve beat to death something that’s already dead here. As well, since I’m chewing on Davidson now, I should like to weave in some thoughts on that as well.

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  24. I’m not talking so much about reality as I am just about rational thought.

    Well, you said:
    “Rational thought is the cause of all constraint”.
    Which can't be the case if we really do bump into reality, can it?

    We’ve beat to death something that’s already dead here.
    It can't be dead yet because you haven't offered your unconditional surrender...sorry, did I say that? I meant of course, we haven't managed to agree.
    Perhaps Matt is right, it is too big a project for a blog. I've started reading the Davidson, very interesting...

    I sense there might be a god-talk post above so...

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  25. ....Depends on how you want to define constraint.

    I'm thinking if we on to another topic where we can apply philosophy to something as apposed to arguing it outright, we can better get to the business of killing something.

    Surrender?!?....... Sorry, somehow I can't think of anything smartass right now - just getting home.

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