Wednesday, September 15, 2010


One of the things that Nirvana was praised for, and indeed what really separated them from the rest of the grunge/alternative pack, was that their songs didn't carry within them a consistent energy, or a consistent emotion. Before that metal was metal, and rock was rock; the same way you moved to it in the beginning was the same way you moved to it in the middle, and the same way you moved to it in the end - Nirvana (on the other hand) created a roller coaster ride.

That being almost 20 years ago now, nothing since has ever reminded me of that theme... Well, I think Menomena has finally pulled it off, and I've yet to really get over it as I'm inclined to think they've done a better job of it. Of course, unless an unfortunate tragedy would happen to occur, we'll never really know for sure and this band will never be immortalized.

Then again, maybe I'll come to my senses later.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cheapened by Commercials

Nothing drives me nuts more then a band I love cheapening itself by selling out to corporations through commercials. I understand that at the end of the day musicians are trying to make a living too, but once you start associating a song (and by that your music) with a product, people tend to associate it with that. "Hey, that's the Kia song", or "Those are the VW guys", and now it's hardly even worth listening to, it's lost all traces of authenticity.

WEEN: I mean I love you either way, and you still have the largest cult following in the world, and you still don't sell out in the top 100, and, and, and....Shit. Somewhere there's a joke to be gotten' here, but I don't know what it is yet...

Dude, M. Ward. I mean right, I know that over the years he's gained increased popularity, but come on....

I might be wrong, but I think Wilco sold out it's entire last album to VW. Amazing band to be sure, and definitely the last band that needs the advertising. As long as these guys have been around it's sort of a punch in the face to see stuff like this. Finally, you can hardly escape the irony of the words, "is that the thanks I get for lovin' you..." Funny, that's exactly what I was thinking; this is the thanks all of your fans, including myself, get. Bastards, can't wait for your next album though, I am a whore to you music.

Modest Mouse - Kryst, I've been listenin' to you since what, 1994, something like that, are you really that hard up for fans, you've made it this far haven't you. Crap I think you even got a spot on Kids Bop, how embarrassing... So let's close like this commercial does, "Bands are selling out to commercials. Shouldn't you?" DOE!

This is almost worthy of a pass from Black Sheep since, well, it's from 1991. As for the commercial itself, it's, as they say, slammin'. Well, until about 20 seconds into it when a toaster starts heading down the street. Then it completely falls off....

If all that wasn't enough, The Who played in the half time show at the Super Bowel, and I couldn't help but think to myself, how many people are watching this right now thinking, "Hey, these are the CSI songs!" It's sad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Template

My other template had been causing me problems so I had to changed it. The one I had wasn't a standard blogger template. So now that I've done that I'm happier, but now my fonts are all screwed up!

A Wrap up on Objectivism

I'm pretty sure this is going to be my last post on the matter between Dawson and myself specifically, although perhaps not the last one on Objectivism generally. Objectivism is his cup of tea, not mine, therefore he can have the last word on the matter. For reference, see the "objectivism" label for the historical argument, or the post just below this for the individual links. This wrap up is in response to Dawson's latest response to me (which was in reference to "P4 Respnse to Dawson" below) which is located HERE.

Let me first clear the water of some things that were stated. Because again, I wanted to get to your use of words as representations, however you'd go on to give some rhetorical examples.

I said:
“Andrew: “To see words as representation is to bring to light certain skeptical questions such as, ‘How do you know you've represented reality properly?’”

You responded:
“It depends on the situation. If I say to my daughter “Take my hand,” and she does it, then I’ve obviously communicated what I intended, for she understood me.”

No, it doesn't depend on the situation, it depends on the context (or so I'll suggest). In this case your example is a rhetorical context of the everyday where the test for truth is less about philosophical representation (or a philosophical conversation) and more about simple understanding and triangulation. In other words if I tell you (in the midst of us talking face to face), “STOP, Dawson, that stove is hot!” as you're about to put your hand down on it, you don't question my ability to adequately represent reality, you take it that both your and my experiences and beliefs are to a certain degree on par.

You also stated on representation:
"I thought I was pretty clear on this. Words are symbols for (“represent”) concepts. I also gave an example (the defendant’s testimony) of how the use of the word “represent” in my view is unproblematic. So I guess I’m not seeing what the problem is.”

Here's your example:
“People often refer to a statement’s correspondence to reality in terms of representation, as in the case of a statement such as “the defendant’s testimony did not accurately represent the situation of the night of the murder,” which is harmless."

You're right, it is harmless, and once again we have to make a distinction between the everyday rhetorical use of “representation”, and it's use in a philosophical context, because a philosophical context carries with it certain implications and baggage. It's one thing to suggest that by the above discourse you can glean some sort of understanding of the circumstance, it's entirely another to use it as an analogue for how language works – but in fact, that's exactly what your philosophical system does, but not what you're saying here.

What's interesting, and in fact has a touch of humor, is you end your example with a little qualifier as follows:
“But such treatments are not intended as a philosophical analysis of knowledge’s relationship to reality.”

Which to some extent is exactly what I'm saying, so what was the point of the example? At first you state (from a philosophical context) quite explicitly
“Words are symbols for (“represent”) concepts.” Then you go on to give an example which has nothing to do what we're talking about by using the word represent in a rhetorical (as you say, unbroblematic) sense, but what we're talking about is your acceptance of representation in it's philosophical sense.

Allow me to simplify this even more. I think I made a pretty clear case that you do in fact see truth (language, propositions) as representing the “facts of reality” (that reality existing independent of man, and containing facts), in a philosophical sense.

You then go on to make a clarification regarding facts, however it doesn't help your case any. Actually, I think it makes your case even worse and plays right back into my hands.

You state:
"By “facts,” I generally mean existents in relationships. E.g., tree next to the house, bird on the fence post, mountain south of the city, etc. The task of consciousness is to perceive and identify facts, not create them... The concept “reality” includes all existents and the relationships in which we find them."

This is essentially a restatement of what we've already been through. All you've done (or added) is defined what these facts are that we're identifying – or their nature. You have existents, (let me call them particulars) and their relationships (we could call those concepts, universals, whatever). Now, since you've already stated explicitly that the facts of reality exist independently of man, and that the facts of reality are “particulars” in relationships, all you've done is essentially tie along with particulars, the relationship of particulars to the reality outside of mans consciousness as well. And in essence, there goes your defense of concepts and universals. Which, incidentally, is a contradiction and undercutting of what you want to think.

You state:
“Realism in terms of universals is the view that “that universals have a reality of their own, an extra-mental existence. This of course does not describe the Objectivist view; but it does describe Plato’s view.”

But wait, you've already given them a reality “all their own”. Once again you state,
“truth identifies a sort of relationship between the facts of reality”. You've agreed and stated explicitly that facts exist in reality independent of man. We know that truths are proposition spoken in a language game, and we already know that you believe something to be true when one of these proposition corresponds to the reality which exists independently of man (but not just the particulars of reality, their relationships as well). That's correspondence, that's representation, that's the mirror of reality, and that's Realism.

Now you can argue that Rand doesn't say that, believe that, etc., and I must admit again that I haven't read Rand. However in the vary least you have to accept that perhaps you've simply done a poor job representing what Rand's core beliefs are, and in fact have made it explicit that they're just further forms of Realism, words as representation, and thus carries with it the skeptical baggage I've been pinging you with from the start. Which is, of course, that you'll ultimately be unable to provide a non question begging account of your core axioms, or that anyone should (for that matter) just blindly accept your axioms. Just like we shouldn't blindly accept Sye's.

Let me clear up one final piece regarding Realism. Of course I could have cut with the “general” Realist/Platonist usage and made a distinction between, say, Platonic Realism, Immanent Realism, and Nominalism – but the reality is all 3 of those forms will ultimately contain the same or similar baggage previously stated (but I don't even want to get into that at this point). The fact that I was throwing Platonism around so willy nilly is really a poor clarification on my part – I should have taken what was going on more seriously, but I really didn't think you'd want to carry the conversation this far, although I'm happy you did.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

P.4 Reponse to Dawson

Responses to Dawson (links):

Dawson's Responses:
P.1 & P.2

To boot, I have a good song to go along with what Dawson and I have been doing here - as always, it helps to listen as you read (if you don't report laughter, there's something wrong with you):

Let me begin fresh with a restatement of the problem. What I've been trying to pin you with is [essentially] the idea that you see words as representations of reality as it is. Not in a Kantian sense per se, but in a more general Realist sense. To see words as representation is to bring to light certain skeptical questions such as, “How do you know you've represented reality properly?” It raises suspicions that the goal of truth is to essentially determine the correct way to formulate something, but how will we know if we've ever reached the goal of adequately representing anything? This is why I made the earlier distinction between truth existing in reality, or truth existing in language. From there you brought up the objection which essentially stated, “well, language exists in reality, and so does consciousness.” But then you're missing the point entirely.

I'll Quote Rorty again as a frame of reference:
"We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that truth is out there. To say that the world is out there, that it is not our creation, is to say, with common sense, that most things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include human mental states. To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are human creations.

Truth cannot be out there – cannot exist independently of the human mind – because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true of false. The world on it’s own – unaided by the describing activities of human beings – cannot.

The suggestion that truth, as well as the world, is out there is a legacy of an age in which the world was seen as the creation of a being who had a language of his own. If we cease to attempt to make sense of the idea of such a nonhuman language, we shall not be tempted to confuse the platitude that the world may cause us to be justified in believing a sentence true with the claim that the world splits itself up, on its own initiative, into sentence shaped chunks called “facts”. But if one clings to the notion of self-subsistent facts, it is easy to start capitalizing the word “truth” and treating it as something identical with God, or with God's project (or capitol "T" Truth). Then one will say, for example, that Truth is great and will prevail.

This conflation is facilited by confining attention to single sentences as apposed to vocabularies. For we often let the world decide between competing sentences....."

The facts is, Dawson, that you do in fact see things as I've described them, or in the very least, your use of language and metaphor contain the elements of implicit representation between words and reality as in the mirror analogy. The reality is though (and I get into that below) I'm not all that certain you're fully appreciating the analogy. The idea of the mirror is to say that what's in perception is essentially a mirror image of reality – not that it is reflected back upon it, but I'll get into that. Rather then ramble on, let me follow from some of the things you've stated and demonstrate.

You said:
The concept of “truth” identifies a type of relationship between a proposition and the facts of reality.

So to begin with, you are in fact explicitly saying that reality contains facts. i.e. facts that lay outside of human consciousness. That's the first thing we need to establish.

You continue:
“Truth,” in Ayn Rand’s definition, is “the recognition of reality.”

But I should add, not just recognition of reality, but the facts of reality, following what was just quoted above. It's important going forward not to loose sight of that ball.

You continue:
“In essence, this is the traditional correspondence theory of truth: there is a reality independent of man (which contains facts. My emphasis here), and there are certain conceptual products, propositions, formulated by human consciousness. When one of these products corresponds to reality, when it constitutes a recognition of fact, then it is true.”

The reality is, Dawson, I could stop the entire conversation right here as this statement, and the later statements, undercut everything you'll eventually state about words not being representations, and/or not being mirrors to reality. Of course you don't want to accept that and will no doubt barf out some new long chain of reason that doesn't escape it (note, by barf out I'm not being a dink, I enjoy reading your posts). In essnece if we took the statement “the rock is by the car” it is implicit that you take this as true on the condition that it (as a proposition) corresponds to the “that fact” which is “in” reality. All of that follows from what's been stated thus far.

You continue:
“Conversely, when the mental content does not thus correspond, when it constitutes not a recognition of reality but a contradiction of it, then it is false. (Ibid.)”

Right, so when it does not correspond to the facts of reality, then it is wrong. Loud and clear. You have a direct correspondence between truth (propositions in a language game) and the reality which contains these facts.

Moving on you state:
"Now I’m not persuaded that referring to Objectivism’s theory of truth as “the traditional correspondence theory of truth” is the most responsible equation to make. I say this because there are many traditions in philosophy which Objectivism rejects..."

Well, right, but so what; you've already accepted that words, language, propositions etc.. either correspond directly to the facts of reality, or they don't. So in fact as I stated up front, your previous statements undercut any desire you have to stay away from the idea that words are representations. You've offered up nothing to suggest otherwise.

You give yet further confirmation:
"A proposition integrates what may be an enormous context of information, and every element of that context must conform to reality in order for that proposition to be true."

Great, I don't really even need to say anything about this - just more confirmation

You state:
“I have been explicit in using words like “reference,” “denote” and “correspondence” in speaking about the relationship between concepts and the world. I resist “representation” primarily because I want to avoid wrongful association with the representationalist theory of perception (which I addressed earlier in my exchange with Andrew), and also because I don’t think concepts are “representations” per se, but rather integrations. Concepts are not replicas, they are not an exercise of holding a mirror up to reality.”

Once again, you want to avoid representation in the manner I've described it, but you've already undercut yourself on the matter, so-so what. Here you state that concepts are not “representations” [of reality] but rather integrations. But above you clearly contradict that, as you say that something it true (a statement in language) when [e.g.] a proposition corresponds to reality, and you clearly state that reality contains facts. So in essence (as the mirror analogy fits) forging towards truth becomes something along the lines of polishing the mirror.

You state:
"We begin our search for knowledge where we are aware of reality – in perception – and only after we’ve begun perceiving. (A child perceives his surroundings long before he starts to develop knowledge of what he’s perceiving.) Perception inherently *corresponds* to objects (since – and I hope Andrew doesn’t wince at this again – perception is perception *of objects*), but it does not “represent” objects (since perception is not a form of representing anything – it’s our form of being aware of what we’re aware of), nor is perception “mirror-like” – since it is not a means of reflecting an image back to reality. "

Perhaps you're not understanding the mirror analogy. The analogy doesn't suggest that we reflect reality back to itself, it suggests that what's in perception is a representation of reality – a mirror image of it. i.e. looking into a mirror you see a reflection of reality, just like looking into perception (again being metaphorical) you're seeing a picture of reality, as you say, the facts of reality. And once again, remember you've undercut yourself.

You move on:
“Next comes concept-formation. On the basis of this perceptual input, we form concepts which identify and integrate what we perceive. We form concepts by integrating two or more units which we’ve perceived and which are similar to each other in some way, into a single mental unit...”

This is really incidental to my point since you've already made the connection I've been trying to make above. Concept formation is irrelevant since the move you ultimately make is to connect truths in language directly to the facts of reality. Sure you make it through the concept, but again you've connected the concept directly to reality.

But you continue:
“Then, after we’ve formed concepts, we assign verbal or visual symbols to represent them (here’s where “representation” is most appropriate). Language essentially gives our concepts perceptual form, to the extent that this is possible, and it does this by consistently assigning symbols to individual concepts. In this sense, language’s symbols represent concepts (without implying the representationalist theory of perception).”

So here's where you've attempted to wiggle out of what I've been pinning on you in a more direct sense, but remember you've already undercut yourself. Essentially you grant that words are direct representations of concepts, but stop short (here anyway) of granting that they are also representations of the facts of reality (but again, no matter, you've already done that). I was even trying to help you out with this in my last posting by saying, “If I gather you correctly then, what you call “the thing itself”, is that which exists (mabye a bad word there) in perception, not reality. You grant (as I would as well) that there's a world out there, but that we do not (in speaking of truth and facts) mirror the way the world is in itself.” But it went totally over your head. What I was trying to do is grant that the objects of perception and the truths we speak are not representations of reality (which is what you want to say) so that the concepts we have in mind exist in perception and not as a mirror to reality. Which isn't to suggest that there isn't a reality out there, it's only to suggest that what we say about it doesn't take on a representative character.

You state:
“Since on my view facts are inherent in reality apart from conscious activity...”

There it is again, facts are inherent in reality...

Then you continue to answer how language connects to reality:
“...What’s the connection between truthful statements and reality? That connection is, in a word, concepts. Statements or propositions, whether true or false, are composed of concepts. Concepts integrate what we’ve perceived into mental units, and are themselves integrated into higher units and propositions..."

So a question might be, what connects concepts to the world?

Well, you already provided that answer above:
“...there is a reality independent of man (which contains facts), and there are certain conceptual products, propositions, formulated by human consciousness. When one of these products corresponds to reality, when it constitutes a recognition of fact, then it is true.”

I think this pretty much sums it up. Conceptual products, propositions (a proposition being a statement in a language game) formulated by human consciousness. So then, when a given proposition “corresponds” to the “facts of reality”, then it is true. I mean, Dawson, it doesn't get any more elementary (in terms of words as representation), then that.

You even throw in a kicker regarding my idea that the world causes us to have beliefs, but does not supply the reasons,

You state:
“On my view, the facts of reality supply the reasons for believing the things that I believe...”

Right, that's because you believe that reality contains facts, and that for something to be true what we say has to properly (if not even directly) correspond to it. And with that, I think it's pretty much case closed case. In fact, Objectivism contains the sorts of dogmas I've been pointing to all along.

Let me finally note, as I did before, that the idea of "correspondence" entails a number synonymous metaphors. Some examples may be; conformity, congruence, agreement, accordance, copying, picturing, signification, representation, reference, satisfaction, mirror, etc.. Switching between terms doesn't change the discussion, but it can be confusing. Once again, I don't see at all how you're escaping direct correspondence metaphors and suggestions, and as such you carry with you the sort of baggage that I've been suggesting all along, but again, you won't accept that. With that your axioms, at least from my perspective, carry little more weight then Sye's arguments about God. It just so happens that in your case, your justifications are much more ridged, complex, and you're no doubt far more intelligent then Sye.

So long as you find your pot of gold, Dawson, then every little thing's gonna work out fine.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

While I'm at it....

This is Trampled by Turtles (from Duluth MN, my home state), "Wait So Long". I've developed somewhat of a taste for Blue Grass, in this case, indie style. Makes me wanna throw in a Cope and crack open a PBR...

I Do Pay Attention.... Sometimes...

Back in April Sam posts THIS SONG ("Little Lion Man").
Of course I noted that it was a great song, but left it at that....

Months later, (today actually) I come across it again at RustBelt HERE

I'm not sure what I was thinking the first time around when I herd it, but I've made the necessary adjustments, moved on over to Amazon and downloaded the MP3. Not only that, but I like to think of myself as someone who follows music pretty closely - well, indie anyway, and local music - and these are the only two places I've herd the song (sort of embarrassing really). Anyway, check it out....


P.3 Response to Dawson

Dawson, we're getting close, the end is near.
NOTE: refer HERE to P.1, P.2 and Dawson's prior response

A few things you stated:
“Again, not [a correspondence] between concepts and reality as in “the thing in itself” (Kant’s “Ding an sich”), but between concepts and the things which we perceive.” That couples nicely with “There is reality, and there is our consciousness of reality, and there is the relationship between the two.” Couple that with “whereas according to representationalism we perceive “appearances” of things, i.e., not the things themselves.”

If I gather you correctly then, what you call “the thing itself”, is that which exists (mabye a bad word there) in perception, not reality. You grant (as I would as well) that there's a world out there, but that we do not (in speaking of truth and facts) mirror the way the world is in itself. I would agree with that as well, we are certainly not mirrors to reality. Furthermore, if I gather you properly, you're stating [e.g.] that there are rocks in reality, however the truths that we speak about them relate not to them as they are in themselves, but to them as they relate to the relationship between us and reality, i.e. in perception. I have no overwhelming issue with that either - at least on a rhetorical level.

I asked:
To spin this another way, would you agree with the statement that, yes, the world causes us to have certain beliefs, but it does not give us the reason? In this way we supply the concepts of ‘objective’, ‘grayness’, ‘rock’, etc., but that the world is none of these things...

You responded:
“I do not think that “the world causes us to have certain beliefs,” as if our minds were passive balls of clay manipulated without our own active participation. Cognition is both active and volitional.”

That really wasn't what I was getting at with the comment (that our minds are passive balls of clay) – let me expound. The volitional/active portion of cognition is what supplies the reasons for believing the things we do (I'd suggest, using your language). Let me throw this out there; I'm with Richard Rorty when he says that beliefs are not representations, but rather habits of action; and that words are not representations, but tools. Furthermore I'd add that the manner with which we define things to be (or talk about things, the nature of our discourse) is related not to the way the world is in itself, but according to how things best suit our current needs and interests. To say that the world causes us to have beliefs is simply to recognize that there is a world out there that's ultimately going to push us around in ways that are not under our control. In that way it will push in certain directions, cause us to have certain beliefs wherein the reasons for those beliefs are our own.

I think where there would ultimately be a hang up between you and I is your idea of an objective process of identification as a means of ascribing truth, and how far that stretches. Secondly, I don't see the need (as a pragmatist) to hold to the axioms you do. The whole idea of a correspondence between concepts and perception (and the above ascribing of truth) seems to leave out what I think is a better idea in (say) Davidson's idea's about triangulation – but that's a whole other conversation. Since we're not arguing anything specific per se, I'm happy to let all this lay for now and simply say we come at things a bit different, yet both agree that Sye is full of shit.

Finally I've seen two people now make comments that say something along the lines of the following (in this case by openlyatheist):
“As for the axiomatic nature of the senses; whenever an apologist pulls some such Plantinga-type move, I simply point out that anyone attempting to convince me my senses aren't reliable makes use of those very senses in presenting their argument to me.”

NOTE: this comes in a couple variations. I wouldn't try to suggest that one's senses are not reliable, the question I had was how one knows they are. Essentially the question aims at putting forth an account of the senses, or a proof of them. Of course, I wouldn't ordinarily ask someone this, but it seemed to apply in the notion that "consciousness is consciousness", taken as an axiom.

This all hangs upon what one means by the senses and consciousness.. If one defines consciousness and the senses as on par with a mental state which aligns itself with (say) a “feeling” (as in, I feel that I'm conscious as I'm perceiving) as opposed to a more behaviorist/objective approach that simply says consciousness is “what we observe” [simply] in other people as they interact with their environment, then you're begging the question and/or presupposing that someone else has such feelings. This runs along the lines of a comment I made earlier in that, you cannot prove with certainty that someone else loves you, you cannot prove they're experiencing a certain mental state. The only thing we can say is that “behaviors” we associate with love are reflected in a certain person, and from that infer certain behavioral patterns from them in the future. In other words I'm making a distinction between consciousness as an internal state, and consciousness as an observed behavior. So the best we can say is that the behaviors we associate with consciousness are present in person “X”, or thing “Y”

If you/we say that to be conscious is simply to perceive something, and steer clear of referring to perception in terms of internal states of affairs, then I have no real problem. Again, since there's no way to prove that something is conscious in terms of referring to internal states, no way to prove that I'm not just some mindless meatpuppet spouting out random words and actions. Let me give an example, let's suppose (as the wonders of science will surely allow) that at some point artificial intelligence becomes so advanced that they create a human being – however, it's not organic, but electronic. Supposing that it's so advance that it can react to anything in it's environment as we do, it can learn, react to pain, take pleasure in a pair of nice tits, (or rippling pecks), i.e. it reflects all the same behavioral patterns as a real person does, would you say this piece of AI is conscious? If not, why? If you would answer no, then in fact it would seem that you are granting and/or presupposing that people have internal states that they feel, even though you can't actually prove or account for it and we're back to having some baggage on hand.

Or perhaps this is an even better thought experiment. Suppose that it's sometime in the future I described above with AI, and you get a horrible cancer in the brain that keeps spreading. As the cancer spreads it's cut out, and they start systematically replacing parts of your brain with equivalent silicon parts that function in the same way that the removed organic brain matter did. Will there come a point in this scenario that you stop being conscious because you are slowing becoming nothing more then an advanced computer? i.e. will there come a point when you have no conscious recognition of internal states, even though you still appear (to everyone else) to be the same person, or in the minimum a person that thinks, talks, reacts in the same manner everyone else does?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

P.2 Response to Dawson

Note part 1 here, from below.
Also note that I've made some corrections to both posts. I didn't state what they were, but if you're reading this for the first time and see this statement - then no problems.

Let me begin here with the main issue I had been trying to sort out, which was, how do you see language connection to the word. I admit that perhaps I wasn't as clear as I would have liked to be.

I stated:
Andrew: “How do [you?] connect the objective world, to the senses, to concepts, and to language?”

Your response:
“...For one thing, there’s nothing I have to do to “connect” my senses to the world. It is automatic and beyond my control. Try shoving your hand into a running garbage disposer (something in the world) and not sensing pain. Similarly, my perception of entities qua entities is also automatic and beyond my control. I cannot look at a book and not see it as an object distinct from other objects...”

Dawson, evidently I didn't make myself clear enough in this instance as what I'm really getting at here is – what's the connection (in your philosophical system) between truth's, facts (statements in a language game) and reality. I appreciate and accept the notion that our senses are, by default, connected to the world. Beyond our control it's simply something we bump into.

You continue:
“...From there, we form concepts, which is a volitional process (Rand analyzes this process in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology). From there, we assign words to label the concepts which we have formed in order to manage and organize them economically as distinct units. Again, this is explained in Rand’s book.”

Here you begin to pick up what I'm trying to get at. From my post below my intention was to draw out your chain of correspondence, and I think you may have some shadow of the final pieces here. From what I've quoted below you're in fact saying that we experience (perceive) a “thing itself”, or in a broader sense we're experiencing the world itself, not shadowy images. From perception, then, comes concept formation, which is this volitional (deliberate) process. Now, here comes the sticky part as from there, you state that language is the act (I suppose we could call that volitional as well, following your use of language) of assigning labels, codes, etc., to the concepts (you don't state that specifically in that way here, but from below you do, and in other comments).

You do, however, add this:
"the code of symbols which is language converts concepts “into the mental equivalent of concretes” (emphasis added) – in other words, the code of symbols allows the mind to manage concepts as units, thus overcoming (an understatement here) the limitations of the crow epistemology."

Perhaps I'm not understanding you here? How does changing from the idea of "adhering to concepts" to "managing concepts as units" get one away from correspondence to concepts (representing concepts, mirroring concepts, etc.), and crow epistemology?
(not sure what you mean by "crow" epistemology at the moment - perhaps it's not important to the main objection I have).

At any rate you also say:
"In essence, a statement is true when it adheres to an objective process of identification of reality." (also quoted below relating to correspondence).

Something is true (i.e. a statement in a language game) when it adheres to this process. And again, I believe this process
is the concept, or is conceptual. So it seems you flip-flopped here - are you adhering directly to the concepts, or just managing them as units? But before I continue with that, let me try to clear some ground about “concepts” and “universality”.

You state here, regarding “universality” and “concepts”:
“In addition to what I stated above about general and particular truths, please try to understand that universality is an aspect of concepts.”

But then you state here:
“In Objectivism, universals are essentially concepts, and have been misunderstood for millennia because issue[s] of how the many and the one relate to one another got sidetracked into debates about the ontological status of universals. Rand’s theory corrects this by providing an analysis of how the mind forms open-ended mental units which condense whole constellations of data.”

So which is it? Are universals an aspect of concepts, or are they essentially concepts, i.e. the two are synonymous. I accept your objections to the things I've said, but understand you haven't been all that clear yourself. Which, I understand does happen when we're both barfing out long posts and talking past the other.

Let me quote again what you said about universality:
“Universality is essentially nothing more than the human mind’s ability to form open-ended classifications of reference...”

So, okay, perhaps they are interchangeable, or at least I'll accept them as that way for now. Moving on then, you do [seem to] explicitly state that language (codes) adherence's to these concepts (you even state that objectivism has been called a correspondence theory of truth, which I've found to be true), however you don't explicitly state that concepts are a direct “one-to-one” adherence's to the world. Although I can only assume since you do state explicitly that we “experience a thing in itself” (not a shadowy image) that the concepts must then be a representation, or a correspondence to those things, other wise I don't see how it even makes sense to say it at all. That said it then follows that language (truths, facts, etc.) are representations of the way the world is in itself, which then makes all my original contentions valid and me not as bat-shit crazy as you'd like to think (of course you didn't call me that, but I just like the word).

Again, the base of my original argument was simply that I suspected your world view to be Platonic/realist in the same way Sye's was, and thus no less question-begging in the end. I took that you had two main contentions against this (although not just two), which were A.) that perception was axiomatic, or rather, the validity of the senses B.) Your theory of concepts. i.e. since perception (the validity of the senses) is axiomatic, you were not begging the question over (e.g.) the reliability of the senses, and secondly, your theory of concepts shielded you from the idea of representation. Which, at this point, I'm not seeing through to the idea that it does. That being the case I'm still seeing that the epistemic question of how you know you've adequately represented anything, whether in concept formation or the world, as pertaining.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

"Baby Boomer"

A Response to Dawson

First and foremost, Dawson, many of my hasty comments were merely for the sake of dragging the conversation in a certain direction, or teasing something out by being provocative – that's just the way I am, it isn't personal. Secondly, your right, I don't know a thing about objectivism, only what I can glean from the sort of language you're using and the direction it seems to take, and what's implicit within it. At any rate, the fact that you can't plug more into these frickin' blog comment boxes is beyond frustrating, so I'm simply going to summarize my main points of confusion and contention here. It's not necessary for you to comment on it as I'll accept the fact that I'm at an enormous lose. I suppose at some point in time I'll have to bit the bullet and read Rand a little.

Again, I've quoted you below (hopefully not out of context) and then stated where I'm going with it, and/or what I'm not understanding about it. I'll leave it at that.

You said:
“Objectivism *begins* with incontestable certainties.”

I gather that these incontestable certainties are [e.g.] existence & perception.

You said:
“Universality is essentially nothing more than the human mind’s ability to form open-ended classifications of reference (namely mental integrations) into which new units can be integrated when they are discovered or considered. “

I think I gather what you're saying here just fine, other then the fact that the word “reference” seems a bit teasing as I'm thinking, “In reference to what? Concepts? And what are the concepts in reference to?” I'm not seeing how, when an objectivist ultimately speaks of fact and truth, that it isn't looked upon as ultimately a reference to or correspondence with reality. But you comment further later on.

You said:
“Truth, on my view, is a property of identification. Identification is a mental activity which involves a consciousness’ interaction with the objects of its awareness.”

This is where I'm tempted to force you a bit. But let me say this, I'm with you completely when you state that “A rock is not true”. Correct, that is NOT a proposition, it's only what we say about the rock the has the property of being either true or false as in, “The rock is gray” - in that sense that is either a true statement or a false one. My question would be, then, (and I think I know what your answer would be) is a rock and for that matter “grayness” a property that exists in the word (outside of consciousness) or would you rather say that both are “concepts”? i.e. that the world is neither in itself rock-like (in some ways) or gray-like (in others) but that these are merely objective concepts which are mind dependent. Also noting that the world is not “objective” either, it just exists, as you say. i.e. objective is merely another “concept”, a means by which we approach talking about the world, hence objectivism. To spin this another way, would you agree with the statement that, yes, the world causes us to have certain beliefs, but it does not give us the reason? In this way we supply the concepts of “objective”, “grayness”, “rock”, etc., but that the world is none of these things...

You said:
“Realism in terms of universals is the view that “that universals have a reality of their own, an extra-mental existence. Positions are often marked out, running from moderate to absolute Realism. The more definite, fixed, and eternal the status of the universals, the more absolute is the Realism.” (Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion, p. 637). This of course does not describe the Objectivist view; but it does describe Plato’s view. “

Because of the hang-up I stated with the word “reference” above, I'm tempted to push this matter a bit. Because you use the word “reference”, and to some degree (you talk about this more as I quote below) you use correspondence jargon, I'm tempted to infer something along the lines of the following. I agree with you that we should not look at universals as having an existence all their own. However, since we're talking about “reference” and “correspondence”, I'm tempted to consider that the objectivist position, whereas it does not see the universals as existing on their own, nonetheless see them as representative, correspondent of, and/or in reference to a reality. In this way truth is judged via an adequate correspondence to reality – i.e. we know when something is true when it adequately represents reality (which again, this also brings out that dirty “mirror” metaphor, which I know you've stated you shun). It is within that idea that I raise my suspicions over how ones knows they've “adequately adhered to anything.”

You said:
“As for language, according to Objectivism, it is “a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psycho-epistemological function of converting concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes” (ITOE, p. 10). “The primary purpose of concepts and of language is to provide man with a system of cognitive classification and organization, which enables him to acquire knowledge on an unlimited scale; this means: to keep order in man’s mind and enable him to think.” (Ibid., p. 69) “

I'm a bit hung on your use of concepts, and whereas I know you're staring clear of Kant, I can't help but stir up the idea of Kant's a prior concepts when thinking about this. But I move on.

You said:
“In essence, a statement is true when it adheres to an objective process of identification of reality. Some have called this a version of the correspondence theory of truth. “Reflect” implies a one-to-one relationship, but in fact conceptualization allows for much, much more than this.”

Now, if I'm correct, your “objective process of identification” is also conceptual, but perhaps not a priori conceptual? My problem here is the same one I have above, you seem to have a trail of correspondence here to follow (at least, that's where I'm going with it). What I'm seeing is that language (a fact statement say) is true when it adheres to this “process”, this process is a concept, but what's the concept derived from. Again, I'm tempted (from the metaphors you're using) to infer that implicit with all this is a connection between language and reality that may not be one to one per se, but is nontheless representative in some fasion – i.e. truth is a matter of correspondence to reality. But, I suppose for now I'll have to take that as my misunderstanding of objectivist lingo.

You said:
“Since knowing in Objectivism is essentially a process of identification (and also integration), we know this implicitly just by perceiving and attempting to identify and interact with what we perceive.”
“If I perceive an object, my senses are reliable – they are doing what senses do by virtue of their nature: responding to external stimuli, transmitting sensations to the brain, and automatically integrating those senses into percepts.”

I gather this, one cannot wrongly see something, you just see what you see. Perceiving, however, is one thing, knowing another. To know something is to be able purport, to make an assertion in a language game, to make a commitment as in, “I know this rock is gray.” In the statement above, you're connecting the act of knowing (the act of making statements in a language game, as I've forced it) to the very act of perceiving itself, thereby (as I see it for the moment) making a direct connection between language (truth) as correspondence and/or representation of reality. i.e. I know it (and in fact it's true) because it properly represents reality – so the representationalist bagagge is right there. Now again, I know you want to stay away from that, but I don't see how you have. I'll accept that as my problem for the moment.

You said:
“I suspected that you had some knowledge of the history of philosophy – the representationalist view of perception having quite a lineage – and that you would understand what I was saying here. The representationalist view essentially says that we perceive appearances of things. Objectivism holds that this is false (it commits the fallacy of the stolen concept), and that we are perceive things directly (not their appearances). In Objectivism, appearance is the *form* in which we see something, but what we’re seeing is the thing itself, not a representation of it.”

Here again are a few hang-ups. You are in fact saying that what we perceive is, “the thing itself”. Here's the problem, if on the one hand you want to say that we're perceiving the thing itself, but on the other you want to reject representation, (i.e. the truths we speak don't represent the thing in itself from above, not here) then what sense does it even make to state that we actually perceive “the thing itself”? But I've got ahead of myself here, as in this particular case what you're rejecting is the perception of the “appearance of things”. I'm using representation in a different way, which (I think) you also reject. However by talking about and rejecting one form of representation, I seem you as grabbing the other, in which case I ask the epistemic question.

You said:
“But as I had stated earlier, truth “uis a property of identification. Identification is a mental activity which involves a consciousness’ interaction with the objects of its awareness.” Both the knower (the subject of consciousness) and the objects of his awareness exist in reality, so is there a problem here? We do not hold that truth is a property of things which exist in the world apart from a knower; things simply exist. We don’t say “this rock is true” or “that rock is not true.”

I'm with you here. Truth is certainly not a property of things that exist in the world apart from a knower.

You said:
“I guess my labor to date has been all for naught. As I pointed out before, we do not need to prove the axioms; they are not conclusions of arguments; they are not inferred from previous knowledge. We do not need to prove that existence exists, or that things are what they are independent of consciousness.”

My hang-up here goes back to the idea that, within your philosophical system there is the implicit idea that truth is a correspondence to reality. If that's true, then you've tied yourself to showing just how you know that. But, again, perhaps that's my problem for the moment. If you don't know, then forget about it, lets not even make such suggestions.

You said:
“I’m somewhat speculating here, but I think, for the most part, the process of learning the correspondence of language symbols to specific concepts is automatized memorization which is reinforced by repetition and use.”

Here again you're using correspondence lingo (which implies representation, mirroring, adherence, etc. to reality) however in this case you state that it's a correspondence to concepts, which I'm a but mystified about at this point as to where you make the connection between reality (existence, the thing in itself from above) and the concept.

So let me wrap this up this way. What I've been forcing here (and I apologize for that) is the idea that what looks like is happening is truth, for the objectivist, is ultimately a matter of whether or not the truths we speak adequately corresponds to reality. You have a few keys terms that infer some sequence of correspondence, those are as follows:

- Existence (which is apart from consciousness. And contains things which , within it, we experience in themselves. Which was quoted in reference to representation.)
Perception (your axiom, that which we cannot deny; the manner with which we experience things in existence. Added correction, you state: the validity of the senses is an axiom. I don't see how calling perception the axiom changes this much as the "senses" and "perception" are essentialy the same, yes/no?. You've merely added validity to it.
Universals (The minds ability to form open ended classifications of reference)
Concepts (which I'm a bit mystified by at the moment. I'm tempted to say that that perhaps these open ended classifications are what we'll end up calling concepts. Rock, is a concept, objective is a concept, etc..)
Turth (the property of identification. But identifying what? Objects of perception? Using concepts and universals? Your idea of concepts seems to be used as a shield to say that truth is not correspondence or a representation of reality in itself, there by evading the epistemic question from me)
Correspondence (you've used this to mean the process of adhereing a truth statement to an objective process of identification, which is a concept, but how is that connected to perception)
Representation (you've used this to deny the idea that what we perceive are mere appearences, but rather the thing in itself. But I'm using it in the same way you're using correspondence, which is also a way to use it. Words as correspondence, adherence, representation, mirror of reality etc..)

The ultimate issue that I have here is that (so far as I can untangle), it seems that underlying this philosophical system is the idea that truth is correct correspondence to reality. Once again, if that's true, then I ask the obvious; "How do you know you've done this? How do you account for the truth of your axioms, etc. etc.?" Once again I'm fully willing to accept that I just don't get it, I'm not seeing the how the connection you make between truth and reality isn't direct representation all things considered.

Finally, I'm more then happy to talk about my theory of truth, should you be able to stand my presence for much longer that is.

Happy hunting, Dawson, it's been fun... For me anyway.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Don't Sh#t Where You Eat


P.2 Zen and the Art of the Joke

Sinning Against the Load

Last weekend I took my son and daughter to Dairy Queen. For the record my son is 5, or will be 5 at the end of the month here, and my daughter 8. We sitting in the back eating, and in comes this huge guy; by huge I mean fat. I didn’t really pay a whole lot of mind to it, but as he was approaching the register my daughter leans forward and says quietly to me, “That guy must come here a lot.” At the moment I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about until she pointed it out. Then of course I laughed and said, “Kylie, that’s not nice. Just because he’s overweight doesn’t mean he eats here a lot.” Then I said something along the lines of, “You never know, maybe he’s eating off the low fat menu.”

I’ve been thinking about that incident with my daughter on and off for the last week now. Did I say the right thing? I don’t want her laughing at overweight people everywhere she goes, pointing and snickering. Should I have told her that it wasn’t funny at all? Then what? Should I be telling what’s funny and what’s not funny? Somewhere mid week the words of Joseph Campbell rang in the form of a musing on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra”. I went as follows:

In a kind of parable, Nietzsche describes what he calls the three transformations of the spirit. The first is that of the camel, of childhood and youth. The camel gets down on his knees and says, "Put a load on me." This is the season for obedience, receiving instruction and the information your society requires of you in order to live a responsible life. But when the camel is well loaded, it struggles to its feet and runs out into the desert, where it is transformed into a lion -- the heavier the load that had been carried, the stronger the lion will be. Now, the task of the lion is to kill a dragon, and the name of the dragon is "Thou shalt." On every scale of this scaly beast, a "thou shalt" is imprinted: some from four thousand years ago; others from this morning's headlines. Whereas the camel, the child, had to submit to the "thou shalts," the lion, the youth, is to throw them off and come to his own realization.
And so, when the dragon is thoroughly dead, with all its "thou shalts" overcome, the lion is transformed into a child moving out of its own nature, like a wheel impelled from its own hub. No more rules to obey. No more rules derived from the historical needs and tasks of the local society, but the pure impulse to living of a life in flower.

I imagine many people in that situation would have just said, “That’s not funny!”. Then add something along the lines of, “It’s not nice to make fun of people that way.”. Now we’ve just packed a load on our child’s back, without even knowing we did it. It seems to me there’s a fine line between packing such a load and allowing them to be themselves. But of course in this instance (and others like it) Nietzsche’s reflection shines through with a blinding light. He’s quite right, and perhaps the line isn’t so thin after all.

We don’t even realize that we’re essentially conditioning our children to find certain things funny, while at the same time find others not so funny. By the time they’re adults they’ll be walking around with so much baggage we’ll be unable to tell the difference between their social laugh and their real one, and neither will they. As a sort of example; every so often it’ll happen that I tell a joke (suppose it’s at work) and there’s always one individual who will instinctively give an initial half chuckle, then immediately there after regain control and finish with a sort scoff and departure that says, “That’s not funny. How dare you deceive me like that.”. In effect they’re mad at me because I brought to the surface their true laughter. More importantly it was revealed to me, and anyone else present, that they find something funny which represents a load they’ve been carrying around, something they’ve been told by parents, teachers, clergy, etc. not to laugh at, and now I’ve just caused them to “sin against the load”. Hm, it’s not me keeping you from yourself. If they just would have laughed maybe they would have seen a little glimmer of something.

So therein lies the paradox; to find oneself, or to stay true to convention. It’s interesting that that which leads to knowledge of oneself also stands as a sin against god, or a sin against convention. It’s not enough to understand Zen by just laughing at the joke, you have to at the time be laughing at yourself, and indeed ourselves… The very thing we’ve been told not to all these years….

Saturday, May 08, 2010

P.1 Zen and the Art of the Joke

There’s a saying out there somewhere that I haven’t bother to look up, nevertheless it sticks in my head as it sort of catches me for one reason or another. It goes something along the lines of, “The world is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel.” I’m definitely on the comedic side of that spectrum, which isn’t to say that I’m funny (maybe I am), only that I find humor in most things as apposed to tragedy.

I have a tendency of overusing sayings such as a particular Koan, or some other seemingly ambiguous statement that contains obvious signs of mysticism, whether it be from the bible, Buddhism, Hinduism, or just some random yokel. Then it occurred to me, “You know what, Andy, a joke is only funny the first time around. Sooner or later people are going to stop giving you the curtsy laugh and just tell you they’ve herd that one before…” Quite right, Andy, quite right.

So with that in mind I’m going to start off with something I’ve use before:

The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."

"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."

"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."

The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"

Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"

I feel your pain, Shoju… Somewhere in a box in my basement under the stairs there is a “Yo Mamma” snaps book. You know, “Your mammas so dumb she took a donut back because it had a hole in it” type of shit. It’s probably 10 years old and in like new condition. I mean come on, I was 24 years old, still a bit confused. I’m pretty sure I bought it along with Brian Greene’s “The Elegent Universe” when I was going through my layman’s physics stage. Sure, Brian did a pretty good job, but does anyone really understand any of that shit? Anyway, the reason that book sits packed away is for two reasons. 1.) I’ve already had my laughs, and 2.) let’s face it, it’s just plain embarrassing. “Gee Andy, I can’t help but notice that tucked between Nietzsche and Quine on the shelf here is, well let me see, oh it’s James Percelay’s best seller “Double Snaps”.” Some conversations just aren’t worth having, I mean maybe I’m not really embarrassed about it, but it’s not as though I’m going to be using it as a reference any time soon, so let’s just leave it in the box shall we.

I digress... Let’s imagine someone tells a joke – my guess is one of four things happen:

A.) It immediately grabs you and you laugh uncontrollably.
B.) You’ve heard it before, and give your best courtesy laugh. Or maybe you just come out with it and say, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.”
C.) You just plain don’t find it funny.
D.) You don’t get it at all, but laugh like you do. I mean, everyone else seems to be laughing.

Let’s consider “D” for a moment. Suppose you go away thinking about the joke and what it means, and where you became lost in the whole thing. You spend some part of your day thinking about it, and finally get the mechanics of the joke. i.e. you understand the underlying metaphor/analogy that gave the joke it’s comedic appeal. Unfortunately at this point, whatever initial humor there was to be had has been exhausted in your search for the underlying meaning of the joke. Maybe it’s no worse for you though, because now you can retell it and perhaps enjoy it vicariously through others; it’s always good to have new material.

Still though, if you don’t understand a joke, no amount of thinking about it is going to give you that initial pleasure that is the point of the joke in the first place. In this way you have to consider that “thinking” about a joke and its meaning sort of misses the point. If you didn’t get it strait away, you’re never going to capture that which everyone else did. In essence, eventually “getting it”, isn’t anything like immediately “getting it”. To put it another way, trying to comprehend the underlying form of a joke, as apposed to immediately grasping its surface appeal, never makes it funny.

How about “B”? Suppose you hear a joke and you’ve heard it before. Do you laugh? Perhaps you do, but it’s not the same as the first time around. What was initially funny about the joke has become not so much lost on you, but more importantly, it’s now become some intellectual piece of mumbo jumbo that resides in your mind somewhere. It’s a piece of information that perhaps you can use on others, but it’s no longer useful for the purposes of arousing a sense of your own personal laughter.

“A” and “C” we can take together. If you get the joke and immediately find it funny, your disposition is instantly transformed. It’s like suddenly being punched in the face and taken from one state (being comfortable) to another (extreme pain) in the snap of a finger. You can’t control it, you can’t stop, it has suddenly and from nowhere consumed you. If you don’t find it funny, well, what the heck, you don’t find it funny.

I find that understanding Zen is much like the Art of the Joke. There’s nothing intellectually [per se] to be grasped about Zen, and if at once one try’s to grasp it as such, it immediately slips away. What was there to be gained is lost in your thoughts on the matter, in much the same way your ponderings over a joke never brings about the laughter. To be more specific, Zen is not philosophy, nor is any mystical tradition. (Let me make a special note here to say that when I use the word “Zen”, I’m using it in a rather generic way to refer to that which lies at the foundation of any mystical tradition, whether Christianity in the west or Buddhism in the east.) To at once ask what the sound of one hand clapping is, is to tell a joke. However, these words don’t contain the essence of understanding or the path to a solution any more then a joke contains within it, and at its foundation, the essence of humor.

The words and patterns of a joke, along with the sayings of mysticism are a catalyst, a path that can only be traveled down once. Again, as Zen is not a philosophy, neither does it, or the comedian for that matter, claim to have some secret formula that aims to tap into some eternal fountain of laughter and enlightenment. Quite naturally one doesn’t expect to be able to carry around an old joke to maintain one’s laughter any more then Shoju could be further enlightened by his master’s old book of sayings – that’s dogma. It’s akin to a comedian hopelessly repeating his routine to the same crowd over and over again. If the humor was in the words, the crowd would forever laugh, although I think the poor comedian will find that soon enough the crowd will be leaving.

The path to enlightenment is like the path to laughter. It’s never anything we arrive at, rather it’s something that comes upon us when we’re willing to be amused.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

No God

If someone comes to you and asks your help, you shall not send him off with pious words, saying, 'Have faith and take your troubles to God!' You shall act as if there were no God, as if there were only one person in all the world who could help this man - only yourself.

~ Rabbi Moshe Leib ~


I think a good point to made is that "believing in God" is not the same as "believing God exists".

Legendary Pitchmen

There’s always a lot of smoke and dust in the air throughout internet chat rooms and blogs about so-called religious fundamentalists and their irrational beliefs, their circular logic, their contradictions, etc. An perfect example of such a character that gets his fare share of bashing is Eric Hovind and his imprisoned father Kent.

I don’t take issue, necessarily, with the idea that people should take a stand against them, I simply think the charges and methods are rather peculiar. It seems to me people are focusing too much on what they think these people believe instead of focusing on what these people are actually doing - so what you end up seeing are heaps of personal attacks that probably don't link up to what the person actually believes. What they believe is entirely irrelevant, especially against the backdrop of Kent’s offenses – “Since November 2006 Hovind has been serving a ten-year prison sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution, Edgefield in Edgefield, South Carolina, after being convicted of 58 federal counts, including twelve tax offenses, one count of obstructing federal agents and forty-five counts of structuring cash transactions.” – certainly we can see that in the Hovind case (and many others like him) his behavior is not a reflection of what he claims to believe. Although I can hardly jump to such a conclusion, I leave it as said.

If we just make the shift to focusing our attention on behavior, we can see these people for who they really are, Pitchmen. They’re Vince Shlomi with the “Slap Chop”, they’re Anthony Sullivan with the “Turbo Snake”, or Billy Mays with “Hercules Hooks”. Just take one look at hovind’s videos and you can see the same sorts of themes and bullshit in action.

Good afternoon folks, it’s Kent Hovind here with Creation Science Evangelism! I’m here to tell you about the new Jesus Christ Superstar. He-dies-for-lives he-prays-he-saves, he was God’s-only-son-on-the-run and his mamma-was-a-virgin halleluiah! Have you ever been feelin’ down, blue, didn’t-know-what-to-do, well let me tell you what I have for you here today. Our new Super-Saver Sole-Tastic repair kit will get you back on track to a new life, that’s right folks, I said a new life. And all you gotta’ do is act now, that’s right I said act now, right now because the time is drawin’ in and satan is on our tails. All you gotta’ do is pick up that phone right now and buy my book and instructional video tape. But wait folks, just wait, because if you act now by the grace of God we’ll send you TWO books and TWO tapes for TWO easy payments of only $19.95, halleluiah-and-God-be-praised. What do you have to lose folks, except your lives in the screamin’ pit of hell, that devils on our heals with wheels-a-steel ready to shake-bake-and-rake you into non-existence…
(do I have to note that this isn't an actual Eric Hovind quote, but rather my own nonesense?)

I think all would agree that there’s no sense in evaluating what the Pitchman actually believes, because most of us grant that he probably thinks everything he’s saying is nonsense (Although George Costanza did say, "It's not a lie, if you believe it"); nonetheless I think we can say with some confidence that there isn’t a “Slap Chop” in Vince’s cupboard. Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that Vince has also taken a trip to the slammer, for battering a hooker. Of course I’m not suggesting that all pitchmen are slime, I’m merely saying that they're not looking out for your best interests, and they're behavior is not necessarily a reflection of what we'd presume them to believe.

To summarize and repeat: don't bash the Pitchman for being irrational or believing in irrational things, it's pointless and fruitless - he's just performing a role, doing a job, and rakin' in the doe. To put it another way, one doesn't launch personal attacks against Anthony Sullivan because we think the guy is full of shit, some bold faced liar, or that he's completely irrational (again, we should already know that). Rather what we do is go after the product he's selling, we point out that it doesn't really do what he says it does. Or, in the case of the Swivel Sweep, perhaps it does do some of the things he says, but we later find out that it's shortcomings existed within the things he failed to mention, but was nonetheless there for one to observe all along had one thought about it at the time (e.g. it's small dander holding capacity render it a poor buy overall. It seems you'd be dumping the thing constantly).

On the other hand, it should be noted that in the case of Evangelical Pitchmen, they're really pitching a product to be used in a way that it wasn't really intended - like using the Swivel Sweep to bash your neighbor over the head. Once again though, the product is there to be evaluated outside of the Pitchman's pitch.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Slice of Cake and a Side of Representation

A quick thought before moving on:

Quoting Rorty again, "Contingency Irony and Solidarity" Pg. 5:
We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that truth is out there. To say that the world is out there, that it is not our creation, is to say, with common sense, that most things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include human mental states. To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human Languages are human creations.

Truth cannot be out there - cannot exist independently of the human mind - because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world ii our there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own - unaided by the describing activities of human beings - cannot.

The suggestion that truth, as well as the world, is out there is a legacy of an age in which the world was seen as the creation of a being who had a langu4ge of his own. If we cease to attempt to make sense of the idea of such a nonhuman language, we shall not be tempted to confuse the platitude that the world may cause us to be justified in believing a sentence true with the claim that the world splits itself up, on its own initiative, into sentence-shaped chunks called "facts." But if one clings to the notion of self-subsistent facts, it is easy to start capitalizing the word "truth" and treating it as something identical either with God or with the world as God's project. Then one will say, for example, that Truth is great, and will prevail.

I’m starting to get the feeling that this is all Pragmatism really needed to do in order to satisfy its urges – just replace truth. Notice that statements like, “That car over there is silver.” whether you have a proclivity for truth being in the world, or truth being just a product of language, our propositions stay the same. For example the pragmatist doesn’t say, “wait, we shouldn’t say it like that, because that suggests that that’s actually true of the world.” But one doesn’t.

So why then does Pragmatism dump the idea of representation and the appearance/reality distinction? A representative statement for a Platonist (one who sees truth as existing in the world) is a truth about the world itself. However, representative statements about the world for a Pragmatist is a truth that exists only in language – following above. The only distinction that needs to be made between the two sorts of representation (if we keep it on both sides) is between the idea that one discovers truth (for the Platonist) and the idea that we create truth (for the Pragmatist). In another way, from a Pragmatist point of view the shift between different representative characters (i.e. the idea that a given metaphor represents a certain fundamental idea) isn’t to say that we’re saying something fundamental about the world in itself, but a suggestion to shift between certain ways of thinking about concepts because a different way has more “cash value” and/or allows us to obtain more predictive power - on the one hand anyway.

In this way it’s fair enough to say (for example) that people have fundamental affective states, and that things we say and do are reflections of those affective states. To make the argument that this sounds like Platonism would beg the question as to why one would not consider the belief that, “That car over there is red.” is also Platonism because both can rightly infer that one believes that truth to be true of the world in itself. All we need though, is the statement above from Rorty to make the proper distinction (or simply the idea that Truth transcends language, but I’ll get back to that later). In this way our talk about these affective states gains it’s cash value not in the truth it speaks about the world but in the cash value we gain from the predictive insights we may or may not gain from having that sort of dialogue.

In summary:
All we’re really saying is that it helps to think of people as having affective states (and whether they do or whether they don’t is not something one can prove), and it helps to speak and behave as though they do, even if it means implying that certain metaphors are representations of those states (refer back to my post “Hierarchies of Thought”). To say that that’s true (again, from a Pragmatic perspective) is not to actually say that that’s True of people.

Of course this all raises other interesting points in my mind that I’ll tare apart in a post to proceed.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Evolution Explained!

Rorty Needs a Hug

From the album, "No One's First, and You're Next"

In the beginning of Richard Rorty’s “Contingency Irony and Solidarity”, Rorty sets about the task of defining his core purpose, which is, building the philosophical framework for his “Liberal Utopia” – although, note that “philosophical framework” isn’t really fare to say, but I leave it as said. Of course, you can’t have a Utopia without some people, so Rorty draws us a picture of the sort of human being that would inhabit this utopia – the sort of person that would naturally bring to light the type of environment Rorty would like to attain. This person he calls the “Liberal Ironist”. It’s important then, to note just what it means to be a Liberal Ironist in the first place. Here, Rorty borrows his definition of a liberal from Judith Shklar who said:

“Liberals are people who think that cruelty is the worst thing we do.”

On the other side of that phrase, he uses “ironist” to:

“…name the sort of person who faces up to the contingency of his or her own most central beliefs and desires – someone sufficiently historicist and nominalist to have abandoned the idea that those cenrtal beliefs and desires refer back to something beyond the reach of time and chance. Liberal ironists are people who include among these ungroundable desires their own hope that suffering will be diminished, that the humiliation of human beings by other human beings may cease.”

Let me suggest, following this definition, that in order to acknowledge this sort of disposition, one must first acknowledge that other human beings have the ability to feel and suffer in the same manner oneself does. To put it in another way, one acknowledges that other human beings have cognitive and affective states which are to a high degree the same as ones own. i.e. we have feelings of love, pain, grief, sorrow, etc. This doesn’t mean that it has some justifiable basis, or that we can have certain knowledge of it, only that we in some manner acknowledge or grant it upon reflection. Rorty offer’s no examples of possible justifications, he only says:

“For the liberal ironist, there is no answer to the question, “Why not be cruel?” no non-circular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible.”

Taking all of this together, I see Rorty as either being highly calculative for some dubious purpose, extremely shortsighted, or both. I see him as taking advantage of the fact that 99.99% of his readers will rightly grant that and say yes, you’re right, we should not be cruel, and move on from that proposition - now (again) granted he doesn't suggest that we don't use our own justifications, but he certainly doesn't supply us with any beyond the proposition. It sort of reminds me of SyeTen B’s proof of a moral absolute by asking the question, “Would child rape be ok under any circumstance?” Here Sye went to an extreme case where 99.99% of people would agree with him. Next, they would likely not recognize a condition where such a thing would be OK, and conclude right along with Sye that morals are absolute. However, Rorty’s aim is different then Sye’s, and quite frankly Rorty was a highly intelligent and important figure of the 20th century, and Sye is just some d-bag. Nevertheless, I do see Rorty as taking advantage of us here – he seems to intentionally avoid any idea that he might believe other people to have cognitive/affective states. I say he’s short sighted because he’s ignoring the fact that prior to accepting his proposition we’ve already been conditioned to accept it, but not as a mere proposition. The problem comes down to the manner with which we’re conditioned to accept it, and Rorty avoids contact with those conditions.

Let me here offer an anecdote. One of the great things about being a man in my position with my interests is that I have two absolutely wonderful specimens to experiment on (well, that’s probably not the right way to put it, but we’re working for effect here), namely, my 4 year old boy and 7 year old girl; soon to be 5 and 8. You see the boy, who’s thoroughly male, will for whatever reason (perhaps he’s not getting the desired effects he’d like, or perhaps he’s conducting some sort of bizarre experiment) take his “Little Tike’s” hammer and blast his sister upside the head with it. Of course this produces the assumed effect, and from the other room all I here is complete silence, followed by my crying daughter. Oddly enough the one who comes crying into the room is NOT my daughter, but my son; the crying is always completely contrived. Following shortly is my little girl, and I ask, “Alright, what happened?” The boy will say, “I hit Kylie….” “And why did you do that?” I’ll respond. Now, often times he’ll just say, “I don’t know.” But sometimes he’ll actually come up with what he thinks is some valid justification, nevertheless I’ll tell him, “You don’t hit your sister.” being as stern as possible without showing anger. I poop you not he used to say, but doesn’t anymore, “Why?” The first time he said that, and subsequent times for that matter, I actually laughed; I mean come on, WHY?

Now at this moment I could rightly say, “Because we’re not cruel to other people.” But that would go over with, “Why?” yes, indeed, great question. You see with kids this age the same treatment has the same desired effect, and that is, always answer with a question of your own – you know, take the Socratic rout on his ass. So I say, taking the Little Tike’s hammer from his hand, “How would you feel if I hit YOU in the head with this hammer….?” He whimpers, looks down (has the look of defeat all about him) and typically doesn’t respond (it’s worth noting that my daughter always answers this question). To my son I generally fill in and say, how do you think your sister feels? And he’ll respond, with a whimper, “Mm-hhm.” Then I’ll tell him to go give her a hug, and tell her you’re sorry. The point here is simple; it’s fair enough to tell me as a conditioned presumably mature adult that we don’t be cruel, but I’m in some seriously hot water if I’m going to think my 4 year old will blindly accept such a notion. If I rather proceed with the assumption that my son has cognitive/affective states, and behave in a manner that causes him to reflect upon his experience (by asking, “How would you feel if….?”), he always understands what it is I’m getting at and as a result, certain behaviors don’t need to be corrected through punishment or authority. i.e. his short time in reflection is enough to correct his behavior, well, at least in the short term. Give a boy plastic power tools and he’s going to destroy everything in his path – it’s the cancer of being born with testicles I suppose.

So again, the whole idea that cruelty is the worst thing we can do is a fine enough proposition to hold to – and understanding that there is no noncircular justification is good enough as well. Certainly I should grant that Rorty never asks us not to say that (for example) our kids have cognitive/affective states for the purposes of getting them to reflect, but (again) he certainly stays as far away from those suggestions as he can. I say he’s calculating because if he were to make such a functional assumption, we could paste on him the idea that either, A.) Language is then a representation of those cognitive/affective states, or B.) Language is a reflection of those cognitive states. But I see no reason why that belief has to be any less functional then his simple proposition that we not be cruel. Functional, in this case, is exactly what his suggestion looks like – function based on prior condition of course. But in Rorty’s case, his suggestion doesn’t come packed with an understanding of why, from the standpoint of (at least) personal reflection (granting its circularity), but is just thrown out there for a certain function that is to this point undefined. It doesn’t care or take into account how someone may feel, it only cares about the environment that might be created as the result of adhering to such a belief. In this way, I find it a bit blind and short sighted and I’d be quite curious, had Rorty had kids when he was alive (maybe he did) what he would have told them.

Continuing on, Rorty says the following about creating a Liberal Utopia:

” It [a liberal utopia] is to be achieved not by inquiry but by imagination, the imaginative ability to see strange people as fellow sufferers. Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created. It is created by increasing our sensitivity to the particular details of the pain and humiliation of other, unfamiliar sorts of people. Such increased sensitivity makes it more difficult to marginalize people different from ourselves by thinking, "They do not feel it as we would," or "There must always be suffering, so why not let them suffer?"”

Ahh, the sound of a scratching record in the morning – suppose I unpack. This seems like quite a careful piece of rhetoric that Rorty has crafted here as well. If solidarity is not “discovered by reflection” but created; is it perhaps “created by reflection”, or “created as the result of reflection”? How can it be created by increasing our sensitivity without some sort of reflection (I mean, aren’t we sensitive based on our own reflections)? Just what is Rorty skirting here? Again, he seems to be avoiding all prior conditioning on these matters, and taking advantage of the fact that his audience consists of adults who have prior assumptions. To paraphrase Rorty, He seems to be saying that we create solidarity by imagining that other people are fellow sufferers (i.e. suffer as we do), more specifically through that imagination we become aware of said suffering therefore our increased sensitivity to others needs and interests (as our own) reaches a point where it becomes difficult to marginalize them. But again, what he seems to have removed from the equation is the recognition of others suffering through reflection on ones own plight. In order to imagine that others suffer as you do one must reflect upon ones own suffering and ask, “how would you feel?” Sure enough solidarity is created, and not “discovered though reflection”, however one cannot pave the way for the creation of solidarity without first reflecting or imagining that people suffer as you do. From there I think it easily follows that solidarity is indeed created in the manner that Rorty would like to see it.

On the other hand, must we see that other people have cognitive/affective states, feelings and experiences as our own? To remove the idea that the recognition of suffering comes not from reflection, but from imagination, begs the question as to where this imagined idea comes from in the first place and why we should (or should have) imagine[d] it at all; although Rorty does in fact admit that there is no non-circular justification as to why one should not be cruel. Nevertheless, how could one ever hope to imagine such a thing if it was not first recognized in oneself?

On the one hand I do agree with the position that stays away from ideas like, “other people fall in love just as we do.”, all the while referring to the cognitive or affective condition of love – of course in this way we’re pulled into the appearance/reality distinction, and granting that behind our language is some sort of essence. Rorty simply stops at the statement, “we think that cruelty is the worst thing we can do.” without any further justification. Of course I agree with that, but my instincts (which I’d just assume do away with in this case) push towards the epistemological position which says “I know that that is true because I see it in myself.” Rorty may say, maybe that made sense (at some time and place), but try thinking about it this way. On the other hand (again), I could simply take the same functional position and state, “I believe that other people feel as I do, therefore I recognize that cruelty would the worst thing we can do.” I could then state that I have no non-circular justification for this claim and leave it at that. You could then still see may behavior, through language and action, etc. not as representation, but as certain habits of actions (in a specific case, between me and my boy)

I must say that I am somewhat resigned to the idea that we accept Rorty’s notion that cruelty is the worst thing that we can do, with no non-circular justification as to why that should be the case, but I’m suspicious of taking the statement on site. Between mature adults it’s fair enough to grant that we both pragmatically adhere to this belief, but you’re in a hopeless condition with your child if you think that sort of reasoning is going to fly. Simply teaching your child to grant such ideas is tantamount to ruthless church or state authority – granted though, I’m sure in Rorty’s case he wouldn’t rightly speak that way. Teaching your child to reflect upon their experiences is an important part of life.

To conclude, I don’t think it’s enough to simply say, “cruelty is the worst thing we can do”, as it short sights the conditions under which we may have accepted such a notion. Namely, it short circuits the idea that as people, we come to reflect on our own experiences, and grant (in a question begging way) that other people have cognitive and affective states. In believing this, we can still follow Rorty’s suggestion that beliefs are habits of action, and see our behavior (language and action) as manifest of this. I also think we can rightly hold to that thought without the muddy waters of certainty, Platonic distinctions etc.. We can easily state that as a result of that belief, it gives us tools to communicate in ways that affect others behaviors in a positive way, going beyond the mere suggestion of a proposition and avoiding any authoritative tone.

Let me jump ahead:
At Pragmatism and Atheistic Hope I found myself butting heads against Matt over the regurgitated mysticism of Joseph Campbell, specifically the idea that Truth (capitol “T”) transcends language. I’m almost embarrassed at this point to direct ones attention to the thread, but it can be found HERE. My initial contention was against the idea that the pragmatist should part ways with Campbell because the idea that Truth transcends language has implicit within it (or in the least can be philosophically turned into) the appearance/reality distinction – in other words this statement isn’t to suggest that standing behind language is some great Truth to be accessed. I had simply said, one shouldn’t in this case turn the metaphor into a metaphysic – which is a suggestion given by Campbell (quoted here) and made popular to my mind by Sam Norton. Specifically I stated:

“I don't think it would be right to consider Campbell a realist in this way, or to interprit him as wanting to access a fundamental underlying reality behind language per se. He quite agrees with the statement that one should not mistake the finger for the moon - which I believe is a call to not mistake the finger as representing. i.e. to take the finger for the moon, is to consider that the finger represents the moon. Or to put it another way, Campbell (as an idealist) would see words as tools, just as the pragmatist.”

But, Matt would counter:

“Because in regards to Andrew's defense of Campbell as no metaphysician, I have to grant that Campbell was not a philosopher, and therefore had no metaphysics to offer (not quoted above was a statement from me that indeed Campbell was NO philosopher, which is one reason we shouldn’t read him that way). However--that's not the question. As Andrew emphasizes, Campbell is all about metaphor and the question of his metaphors should be our very legitimate question. And in that case, I have to side with Leela that some of Campbell's metaphors are misleading. Suggesting metaphors that you can easily build a metaphysics off of (e.g., metaphors that lend themselves to the appearance/reality distinction) has to be pointed out as bad, whatever the intention of the producer. Campbell can cry foul all he wants, our only job is to wish he'd been a better poet.”

It should be noted that this really made me more frustrated then it caused me sit back and think – shame on me. Ideally I’d simply like to respond to this by saying; that it is misleading because it implies a Platonic distinction is going against the very idea of not taking the metaphor for a metaphysic. But the conversation didn’t really go that rout, and one can feel free to delight in the horror for oneself as I’m not going to quote any further.

The bottom line was, I wanted to keep my statement about Truth transcending language as a useful metaphor that; if understood correctly not only leads to the conclusion that what one finds is nothing, and that it’s just that “cognitive” realization that’s found (special note of the quotes). i.e. “when you’re done cutting wood, put down the saw and pick up the hammer.” Zen is life, and language is just one part of life, just one tool we use while traveling along its path. In this way, the statement that Truth transcends language couldn’t be more anti-Platonic when seen in the light of this personal realization…. But now I’ve just caught myself in a snare or two. On the one hand (using Rorty) I may be implying that language is expansionist (which is to say Romantic), i.e. that language as metaphor is “strange, mystic, wonderful” etc.. I could be seen as in effect saying that language has the capacity to “express a hidden reality that exists within us.” But that is not what I’m doing, exactly.

It’s important then, to draw out a few points relative to the metaphor/literal distinction made by Rorty:

“we need to see the distinction between the literal and the metaphorical in the way Davidson sees it: not as a distinction between two sorts of meaning, nor as a distinction between two sorts of interpretation, but as a distinction between familiar and unfamiliar uses of noises and marks. The literal uses of noises and marks are the uses we can handle by our old theories about what people will say under various conditions. Their metaphorical use is the sort which makes us get busy developing a new theory.”

“Davidson puts this point by saying that one should not think of metaphorical expressions as having meanings distinct from their literal ones. To have a meaning is to have a place in a language game. Metaphors, by definition, do not. Davidson denies, in his words, "the thesis that associated with a metaphor is a cognitive content that its author wishes to convey and that the interpreter must grasp if he is to get the message. In his view, tossing a metaphor into a conversation is like suddenly breaking off the conversation long enough to make a face, or pulling a photograph out of your pocket and displaying it, or pointing at a feature of the surroundings, or slapping your interlocutor's face, or kissing him. Tossing a metaphor into a text is like using italics, or illustrations, or odd punctuation or formats. All these are ways of producing effects on your interlocutor or your reader, but not ways of conveying a message. To none of these is it appropriate to respond with "What exactly are you trying to say?"

(CIS, Pg. 17 & 18)

First and foremost, I do in fact agree with this position on metaphor. What is key for me is the statement from Davidson that a metaphor does not have associated with it a cognitive content that an interpreter must grasp in order to get the message. After all, if we grant a metaphor such a reality, then we’re granting that behind language is some underlying essence and we’re right back to Platonic distinctions.

Rorty puts it best on page 19:

“The Platonist and the positivist share a reductionist view of metaphor: They think metaphors are either paraphrasable or useless for the one serious purpose which language has, namely, representing reality. By contrast, the Romantic has an expansionist view: He thinks metaphor is strange, mystic, wonderful. Romantics attribute metaphor to a mysterious faculty called the "imagination," a faculty they suppose to be at the very center of the self, the deep heart's core. Whereas the metaphorical looks irrelevant to Platonists and positivists, the literal looks irrelevant to Romantics. For the former think that the point of language is to represent a hidden reality which lies outside us, and the latter thinks its purpose is to express a hidden reality which lies within us.”

Of course, I do find it a bit peculiar that Rorty nails the Romantic for the use of the mysterious faculty called imagination, when above he says, “It [a liberal utopia] is to be achieved not by inquiry but by imagination, the imaginative ability to see strange people as fellow sufferers.” I digress…

That it is important to note that we should not see metaphor as having a cognitive content, does not mean that we cannot see it as having a cognitive effect (much like the cognitive effect it may have had on ourselves), like a slap on the face, or kiss on the cheek, so on. That we can at once say that, “Truth transcends language”, and to understand that in this instance that we should not turn this metaphor into a metaphysic, i.e. as Davidson states, “To none of these [this] is it appropriate to respond with "What exactly are you trying to say?" is to offer onto someone a moment of reflection, a moment for realization, a point of distance between themselves and what it is they aimed to grasp, a chance to put down the saw and pick up the hammer.

That Rorty accepts what Davidson is saying in the manner that he does, gives further force to the idea that he skirts recognition or use of the cognitive/affective. Which doesn’t mean that behind his insistence that we imagine people are fellow sufferers is his own personal reflection (held in recognized circularity) – but he certainly doesn’t seem to want to say it. To say with Rorty that beliefs are not representations, but rather habits of action; and to say that words are not representations, but tools, fits well with the idea that we believe cruelty is a bad thing (as seen by our actions), and well enough with the idea that we believe other people to be cognitive affectional creatures as we see ourselves – at the moment I’m not entirely certain that you can even separate the two. Seeing that the later is true doesn’t have to imply that we think our words are reflections or representations of our belief. Further, if we accept the later as a pragmatic stance, we can still see the light in the language of the mystics – we can see it’s use not as some reflection of our inner self of representation of something to be found, but as (perhaps) a suggestion to reflect upon ourselves, a moment to be alone – after a slap in the face, you may like a moment to savor the pain.

For the sake of summary and rephrase:
my main contention is simply; whereas I have no issue with Rorty’s suggestion that we take cruelty as the worst thing we can do, and that there is in fact no non-circular justification for that, I find it curious and to a certain degree dubious that he refrains from at least offering some suggestions. His attempt to steer clear of these suggestions (and in particular the idea of reflection) looks like an attempt to stay away from Platonism and Romanticism, but in turn makes him appear myopic and suspicious. I’d like to continue this in another post, and consider just what are the consequences (from a pragmatic stance) of believing the proposition “that other people have cognitive/affective states”. In what way can we consider this notion, all the while staying clear of Platonic and Romantic distinctions? In my post, “The Two Horns of Realism and Non-Realism”, I grappled with the idea that statements like, “I’m feeling spiritual”, or, “God gives me the feeling of…”, or, “I have a sense of the mystical” simply don’t make any sense from the Non-Realist perspective as they have no behavioral content save the stating of the metaphor itself. There as well, the statement implies the idea that what’s happening is a reflection of ones cognitive or affective state, i.e. that those states stand as an essence behind the metaphor – but such privileged access claims are hopelessly meaningless to me and others who are more interested in what that means in terms of ones behavior. At the end of that post I concluded:

“Does the non-realist position ignore the mystical component?” or is it that the mystical component is merely irrelevant? In other words calling ourselves mystics (and having mystical experiences) infers certain behaviors… Short of deeds and habits of action, saying that one has great faith, belief, and mystical connections is completely meaningless to anybody and everybody but oneself – as a result one should only consider it relative to deeds. What else do we have?
To suggest that there is something more to the mystical beyond a habit of action is almost to suggest that the morally upright atheist who donates money and volunteers his time is somehow feeling different then the faith based Christian who does the same…”

Short of personal statements about ones state of affairs, this still doesn’t cover the ground of mystical statements like, “Truth transcends language”. Does this imply a cognitive “getting it”, i.e. a content that must be grasped; a content which stands beyond language in some Platonic realm? Or can we say that it’s merely meant to produce an effect – an effect that is perhaps no different then asking my boy, “How would you feel if...”? Neither of these statements requires an answer either. As an effect, in time through thought and reflection, will bring one into adulthood and into a condition where questions like, “What is the Truth”, “What is the meaning of life” will no longer make sense and thus ceased to be asked. And reflections as in, “God gives me strength”, will be seen as merely conditions of that former recognition, and be coupled with behaviors that reflect those conditions – as in the absence of any ultimate questioning. Of course, that begs further questions that I’d like to explore further.


Can we functionally propose that people have cognitive states, without the implication that language represents or reflects those cognitive states? This is mighty sticky, and I see why Rorty avoids it. Not to mention, I’m wading through the waters of my old dilemma.

I’ll leave this hanging here for the moment, and pick it up in another post.