02 November 2007

The Hegelianism that Gives Philosophy Peace

From a comment thread at Currence's place recently, Duck:
"[Certain kinds of Heideggerians are annoying, k]ind of like Wittgensteinians who won't let you make any philosophical claims (or find them in Wittgenstein) because that would violate "quietism". There's a big difference between making a philosophical claim and offering a traditional ("constructive") solution to a philosophical problem. I wish McDowell would say more about this (now that he's said more about Hegel!)."

It would be nice for McDowell to say more about quietism; I recall in his response in the first Locke Lecture, Brandom said that McDowell was "a wild-eyed constructive philosopher, though using this sort of language makes him awfully uncomfortable." There's certainly an at least apparent tension in saying both "Let's stop feeling obliged to do constructive philosophy" and "Let's reappropriate Kant and Hegel."

I presume that McDowell takes his commitments to Hegelianism and to quietism to sit nicely together; I doubt he thinks there is a real difficulty in reconciling the two, or he should have copped to it by now. I think the quietism is more likely to blame for the appearance of a conflict than the Hegelianism. McDowell's Hegelianism seems to be fairly straightforward: when he talks about Hegel, he thinks Hegel got it right. It seems to me that Hegel fits into McDowell's work more smoothly than quietism does; I can understand how Brandom can see McDowell as a "wild-eyed constructive philosopher". So, what's wanted would appear to be an understanding of quietism which doesn't clash with what McDowell does. A few unsystematic thoughts towards this behind Asakura's back:


One needs to keep in mind why there can be no theses advanced in philosophy (PI 128): Everyone would agree to them. Things that look like dangerously philosophical "claims" aren't necessarily nonsense, or "metaphysical" as opposed to "everyday"; it's just that if they aren't nonsense, they're going to be truistic. "A philosopher is a man who has to cure many intellectual diseases in himself before he can arrive at the notions of common sense." (C&V 44)

Therapeutic philosophy is philosophy that doesn't try to add to our ordinary knowledge, in the way characteristic of the natural sciences; it's a setting-to-order of what's already been made available to thought. "Philosophy" is "what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions" (PI 126). Generally this takes place by reminding ourselves of what we already know (but are prone to forgetting), but sometimes therapy will require novel truisms to be coined -- sayings that are obvious once you hear them, but which draw attention to things we have overlooked hitherto. (It is no strike against a truism that it has not been in wide circulation already; a truism doesn't acquire its status as "truism" because of repetition, though repetition certainly helps to make truisms easier to recognize for what they are.)

Sometimes truisms (like "Thinking something doesn't make it so") may be in contradiction to philosophical theses (such as "The world springs up around us as our language grows in expressive power"). In such cases, whatever arguments have been offered in support of the thesis in question might make it hard to recognize the truism for what it is. So you may have to do old-fashioned philosophical dirty work to make the thesis no longer attractive; if there are arguments which seem rationally compelling, they must be made not to appear so. But then once you've taken down the thesis, you don't replace it with a contrary thesis; you're just back to common sense. No one feels a need to argue for the existence of "the external world" or "other minds" when there's not some particular confusion that makes it seem implausible; thus McDowell speaks of not wanting to refute skepticism so much as make it intellectually respectable to ignore skeptical doubts "in the way common sense has always wanted to" (M&W 113).

"Quietism" is a rallying cry to stop trying to build castles in the air and to recognize that common sense really is already rational, that our everyday notions are not generally confused, not in need of replacement with more scientific notions. The most that common sense can need is some ironing-out, so that what appear to be obligatory confusions to fall into cease to be seen as such; but even here, where we are prima facie altering common sense, what does the cognitive heavy lifting in our end result is what was already present in the everyday notions we began with. All philosophy adds to common sense is an elucidation of what common sense always in itself was, the truth about what our everyday practices and notions involve. But this is always just what was already "open to view" (PI 126), though it was "hidden" from us for a time. (PI 129)

"Quietism" is not a name for a "method" or "style" of philosophy, for there are many "methods" in philosophy (not a single method) and quietism is more than a stylistic preference (a "taste for desert landscapes"). The distinguishing mark of quietism is that it aims to make "the discovery which brings philosophy peace", which makes it possible to stop doing philosophy.

I am inclined to say that constructive philosophy can be put to quietistic uses. Kant said that Rationalist pretenses in metaphysics naturally gave rise to Skepticism whenever they arose, and Kant takes advantage of the contradictions between the two positions to defuse both of them at once, by showing that both sides shared common presuppositions which should be disowned. I think this is an admirably quietistic sort of move. In cases where only one pole of the opposition is in view, then, it seems reasonable to establish the other (by constructive means), to facilitate taking down the pair of them.

There is a further sense in which I think constructive philosophy can still be important if one's aims are quietistic; the use of constructive philosophy to help the befuddled see that they must be befuddled. I think an example should make clear the sort of thing I have in mind. Davidson's argument against global skepticism (based on the principle of charity) is unquestionably a bit of "constructive" philosophizing. The global skeptic is shown to contradict himself (for he must both uphold and reject the principle of charity); he is not shown to have been confused simply. It looks like the global skeptic made a perfectly sensible claim, it just turns out, on reflection, that it's false. Whatever motivated the global skeptic to take the views he did is left untouched. "Whatever credence we give to Davidson's argument that a body of belief is sure to be mostly true, the argument starts too late to certify Davidson's position as a genuine escape from the oscillation [between frictionless coherentism and the Myth of the Given]." (M&W 17) But Davidson's argument (assuming one finds it compelling, which I do) can still play a real role in helping to make it clear that arguments for global skepticism must have a problem somewhere, and so makes it clear that there is a need for philosophical therapy in this case. And this is a service of real value, for it is not always obvious that one has been bewitched by one's language.

In both of the cases considered above, the Kantian opposition of Rationalist with Skeptic and the Davidsonian opposition to global skepticism, the quietist makes a similar move: where there appears to be (only) two opposed views possible, adopt neither of them, but rather find why the choice seems to be forced on one. But the two cases are not identical. The two options in the Kantian stand-off are both rejected as equally flawed; Davidson's position is not found to be inferior to that of the skeptic tout court. Davidson is not wrong, he is simply arguing where there's no need to argue. If it is not mysterious how thought can "reach out to the world", then there is no reason anything like Davidson's argument would be called for. A quietist could still repeat Davidson's argument, since there are no errors to be found in it, but doing so would be pointless. It'd be like trying to prove that cats are alive -- nobody doubts it, so why waste the time? (But if it someday comes into question whether or not cats were ever really alive, then an argument that they are might be useful as a stop-gap measure; one uses medicine to treat an illness, but with the hope that the medicine will become superfluous as the illness is overcome.)

To champion "common sense" in the manner of quietism isn't a reactionary gesture. Everyday disagreement remains disagreement, everyday criticism loses none of its bite. (Or if it does, then it never deserved the sort of bite that it had; philosophy demolishes only "houses of cards", but this does make it not utterly passive.) There are various practices we (and others) engage in, and sometimes these practices come under question: Should we do this or that, continue on as our fathers did or tread new ground, do we need to "shift our paradigms"? And philosophy doesn't have anything special to add to those conversations. And this includes any particular criticisms to make of them. If some practice of ours' is shameful, or if some theory of ours' is wrong, or if I need to change the way I live my life, it won't be for philosophical reasons. The only thing philosophy can do in those sorts of situations is (on occasion) help to make it clearer just where the true problems lie. Their solutions are totally outside of philosophy.

Wittgenstein speaks of mathematics in particular, here:

"[Philosophy] leaves everything as it is. It also leaves mathematics as it is, and no mathematical discovery can advance it. A "leading problem of mathematical logic" is for us a problem of mathematics like any other... It is the business of philosophy, not to resolve a contradiction by means of a mathematical or logico-mathematical discovery, but to make it possible for us to get a clear view of the state of mathematics that troubles us: the state of affairs before the contradiction is resolved. (And this does not mean that one is sidestepping a difficulty.)... The civil status of a contradiction, or its status in civil life: there is the philosophical problem." (PI 124/125)
I do not think mathematics has a privileged place, here; Wittgenstein focuses on mathematics because there is a particular temptation to try to look to philosophy for help in math, to think that philosophy has a positive obligation to solve problems when it comes to mathematics. The temptation is not as powerful when it comes to physics, or politics, or ethics, or religion, but I think it is still the same temptation: Philosophy is thought to provide justifications for our use of notions such as law of nature, right, justice, property, final judgement, and these philosophical justifications are held to show that some practice or other is not "groundless" (that is, not disreputable). But here I think the proper stance should be the same as with mathematics: A "leading problem of political philosophy" is just a problem of politics like any other. The same goes for philosophies of religion, of science, of language, of mind; where there are real problems here, they are questions for theology, for the natural sciences, for linguistics, for psychology. All that philosophy does is clear up where the real problems lie; any further than this, and philosophy must hand the baton on to other disciplines.

It is also worth noting that the "common sense" which we are left with after the untangling of a philosophical knot is a real achievement, and can justly be distinguished from the unreflective "common sense" of someone who just doesn't like reflecting. For once we have overcome a tension in our thoughts, once we have recognized a "problem" as merely a pseudo-problem, we are no longer tempted to fall into the old muddle. We can think freely where before we had gotten lost in our own conceptions. But the unreflective man cannot do this (or at least he might be unable to); he is still liable to fall into the confusion we have already worked through, if he takes the trouble to think. (And he probably will -- reflection is too pleasant to pass up altogether. Even the most practical man will occasionally "wax metaphysical".)

The sort of "common sense philosophy" which maintains dogmatically that all philosophical theorizing must be bunk, and so study of the stuff is a priori pointless, is simple rudeness, not philosophy at all; argument must be met with argument, though theses need not be combated with rival theses. If you really are convinced that so-and-so is confused about p, then you must be able to give some sort of reasons for thinking that so-and-so is confused about p; and if the only reasons you can give are flabby ones, it becomes doubtful that you are the reasonable party after all, that you are not just being contrary, or are yourself no wiser than the other fellow.

In the Open Court "Library of Living Philosophers" volume on Jaako Hintikka, Hintikka goes on for a bit about what Wittgenstein was like in person. "He was a recluse and something of a mystic, but he was also a proud Bloomsbury intellectual who could condemn a philosopher who never engages in a philosophical argument as being like a boxer who never enters the ring." (p. 37) (Incidentally, the next few pages of the book include some amusing dirt about Elizabeth Anscombe, for those who like that sort of thing. The book's searchable on Amazon.)

An aside: I'm about finished with Raymond Plant's "Hegel: An Introduction", which I picked up just because the law library had a copy. I've found it to be quite good. He explains Hegel's critique of Kant's ethical thought by identifying it with Wittgenstein's critique of "private languages": Says Hegel, Kant's "categorical imperative" can justify anything, since there's no rule given for how to identify a maxim from an action (the description under which an action is considered can be changed while the action remains identical, and different descriptions of a single action can vary in whether or not they will appear to pass Kant's tests), a "universalizable" maxim can be conjured up for any action you please if you redescribe it sufficiently (speak of theft in a way that doesn't presume an institution of property, for instance), and so it can't be the case that this is what ethical imperatives come down to, that they are willed into existence by pure practical reason, that "ethics" is just obedience to one's peculiar conscience. Which echoes Wittgenstein's point that if there is no criterion of "rightness" in one's use of a "private language", if there's not a distinction between thinking one is right and being right, then one can't speak of "right" in that case, and so the way we refer to our sensations cannot be by means of a "private language". Not a connection I'd seen before, and it fits Hegel's text pretty nicely. (I am always pleased to find Hegel & Wittgenstein being brought together, and Plant appears to have done so back in the 70's. I think Cavell is the earliest I've seen, though; in the essay on Kierkegaard in "Must We Mean What We Say" (p. 168) Cavell equates Kant's "transcendental logic", Hegel's "logic", and the Oxfordian fetish for ordinary language with what Wittgenstein called "grammar". That's the sort of comment that demands one go on further about it, but Cavell is a shameless tease.)

A final remark: Duck had a post from a few years ago on the topic of Wittgenstein & "theses", and I recall liking it when I read through his archives. I still like it now.

11 comments:

J said...

"Let's stop feeling obliged to do constructive philosophy"


Yes, return to the hallowed a priori! Even most marxist hacks agree with the metaphysicians on that point. Which is to say, constructivism (whether of say Hobbes & Locke, or the early Quine of "Constructive Nominalism") phucks up the logicist's program, if not metaphysics as a whole.

Most academic metaphysicians consider Hobbes some primitive, while Descartes and the germans are considered the wizards and visionaries. Really it is quite the opposite: Descartes affirms the tradition of theology, platonism, with some modifications. Hobbes' physicalism on the other hand represents an advance on the platonic ghosts. Leviathan (not without problems) sets the stage for Locke, Adam Smith, if not Malthus, Marx, and Darwin--he moves the discussion from the metaphysical to the economic and political. However quotidian he seems to some academics, IT folks, or PoMos, John Searle was one of a few modern "philosophers" who realized the force of Hobbes' arguments.

Duck said...

I certainly agree with your third paragraphs, before the, um, jump. But I still don't know what to think about the (familiar) line of argument you give after that. Take this part:

No one feels a need to argue for the existence of "the external world" or "other minds" when there's not some particular confusion that makes it seem implausible; thus McDowell speaks of not wanting to refute skepticism so much as make it intellectually respectable to ignore skeptical doubts "in the way common sense has always wanted to".

This is certainly right; but I want more than the mere entitlement to "ignore skeptical doubts." I do indeed see my position as providing this entitlement, but I also want to leave the skeptical guns in place when they're trained (not on me, but instead) on their proper target. After all, we're not the only ones pooh-poohing skeptical doubt. All too happy to agree with us are dogmatists, who regard merely "pre-philosophical" common sense as an unstable foundation for philosophy. The existence of the external world is thus, for them, "commonsensical" only in that it is a settled philosophical doctrine, one which only the perverse would dispute. So if we call off the skeptical dogs, then as well as the good – undisputed knowledge of an objective world, free from philosophically motivated objections – we may allow the bad: accepting this agreeable anti-skeptical idea in the guise of "established philosophical truth" – a sheep in wolf's clothing, if you like.

As you say,

In cases where only one pole of the opposition is in view, then, it seems reasonable to establish the other (by constructive means), to facilitate taking down the pair of them.

Unqualified anti-skepticism – say, the ruling out of skeptical doubt as "unintelligible" – leaves us unable to take down its opposite. It also leaves one vulnerable to slipping into skepticism oneself along another axis (e.g. Rorty).

On the other hand, if we speak only of "taking down" and spurn all talk of doctrine, then it seems to me that we re-establish the dualism at the meta-level, recoiling from "constructive philosophy" to, well, its abstract negation. That's why Wittgenstein's "quietism" is so often described (by fans and detractors both) as "Pyrrhonism". This grates with my (apparently more fundamental) anti-dualism. It's only when I can see them as different aspects of the same thing that I can support the former.

So I'm not disagreeing here, exactly, and I like the title of the post, but I'm still not sure how it's supposed to go. I do think this is the heart of the matter though, and I think we should keep coming back to it.

McDowell has said some things about it, of course. I've been reading "Reply to Wright" in McDonald, ed., Knowing our own Minds, and "How not to read P. I.: Brandom's W", but I haven't figured out what I think about what he says there. I hate to say it, but for all he says, McD vs. Wright on the matter might be a wash. I want to believe him, but I just don't think he seals the deal. In particular in those contexts all talk of Hegelian doctrine is safely below deck. He needs to address this head-on.

Daniel said...

I'm not quite sure what to make of the "meta-level dualism" comment. I agree that the "Pyrrhonist" label doesn't look quite right on Wittgenstein. (Didn't Rorty occasionally call himself a Pyrrhonist? I know his critics called him one, but I can't remember if he ever took up the label for himself.)

I'm not sure that just using "doctrine" as a term of disparagement starts the dualistic pendulum a-swinging by itself; after all, one is only meaning to rubbish philosophical doctrines when one speaks thus of "doctrines". Everyday sorts of "doctrines" (scientific theories, questions of law, politics, matters of taste, etc.) aren't in view: those doctrines aren't the sort of thing philosophy considers, so they can't be what "quietism" is concerned with rejecting. Pyrrhonism isn't just an absence of constructive philosophy; it's actively destructive philosophy; our everyday notions get held suspect, too.

Sellars spoke of philosophy as "the attempt to see how things, in the broadest sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest sense of the term". As I understand quietism, there shouldn't be any problems with still upholding this as a worthy intellectual goal, or even with seeing this goal as connected with therapeutic philosophy. (Though they can come apart. Wittgenstein doesn't appear to have had much love for the "synoptic view" part of philosophy. I suspect it's related to his pessimism about our modern age; "disgusting soapy water science" and all that.) Getting clear on how physics and psychology and ethics and politics and religion and biology and etc. hang together needn't involve any constructive philosophizing; one just needs to get the everyday knowledge in view in such a way that the whole field can be taken in panoramically. "Philosophical Knowledge" won't be the name of an element in this panorama, except in the historical sense -- all that philosophy has had to add to the everyday sorts of knowledge has been confusion, so quietism is still the correct view. Therapeutic philosophy removes a great deal of confusion over what the everyday sorts of knowledge are actually going on about, showing that the everyday sort of thinking isn't a mess of metaphysical whatsits. Doing this is what makes it possible to see how things hang together (in the broad sense) without getting a view cluttered with garbage.

I take this to be related to why, in Hegel's Encyclopedia, when Hegel gets to the point where he's talking solely about "Philosophy" (at the very end), he has very little to say. Philosophy just "looks back on its knowledge"; the closing paragraphs of the Encyclopedia are just summary remarks, restating how the whole system hung together. Philosophy doesn't have a content unique to itself, but is "its own age comprehended in thoughts". If (per impossibile) the first attempt to get a high-altitude view of one's age didn't lead one into any dualistic confusions, then there would be no need for philosophical therapy, but in actuality one soon runs up against difficulties about how to reconcile reason and nature, mind and body, individual and society, feeling and thinking etc. and so therapy and Sellarsian synopticism go together. Getting a perspicuous view is hard work.

I'm not sure quite what you have in mind when you say you want to keep the skeptic's guns in reserve for combating dogmatists. I think there's a sense in which we can still do this while maintaining that the skeptic's doubts are (ultimately) unintelligible; the dogmatic-rationalist claims get met with skeptical claims, and you do some leg-work to make it show up that if either pole is going to be tenable, then both would have to be. So neither is -- both are shown to be unintelligible; if either pole looks attractive, this can only be a confusion on our part.

But if we keep having to do this, that's a sign that there's already been a slip-up at some anterior moment; this is what I take to be McDowell's point in saying that Davidson's transcendental argument comes too late. If we really do keep encountering dogmatists who "regard merely "pre-philosophical" common sense as an unstable foundation for philosophy", then it won't do to merely show (via skeptical arguments) that their "settled philosophical doctrines" won't serve as a "foundation" for philosophy either. A thorough therapy here would have to go to the root: Make it cease to appear problematic that "pre-philosophical" common sense can provide all the foundations philosophy could want (in the sense of giving one a clear view of particular things, so the synoptic view is just a matter of gathering it all together), and make it cease to appear obligatory to build a capital-P Philosophical "castle in the air", which would need sturdier foundations than everyday thinking could give it.

I have to admit, I like the title of my post more than the post itself; the title was one I'd had kicking around for a while, and I couldn't think of anything else clever for this post, so I used it here. My thoughts in this area are still a bit jumbled. (Thus the long post, and the long comment. And both were considerably longer before I started revising them for posting.) It also came as a surprise to me that I forgot to get around to mentioning Hegel much in this post; I thought I'd made mention of the whole "gathering up one's age in thoughts" thing in relation to Sellars' claim, but nope, don't appear to have done this. I was aware that the post didn't mention Hegel (explicitly) as much as a final account would need to; I threw it up sans Hegeliana because it seemed to already be long and rambly enough for one post, but a review shows that I mentioned Hegel even less than I thought I had. Oops.

I'll have to read the "How Not To Be Brandom" essay and the Wright/McDowell bit; the latter appears to have been passed over in Currence's collection.

An aside: Didn't you say you were working on an introduction for your dissertation? How's that coming along? Wasn't it about the whole "recoiling-back-and-forth with skepticism" deal?

J said...

(scientific theories, questions of law, politics, matters of taste, etc.) aren't in view: those doctrines aren't the sort of thing philosophy considers.

That should be amended to something like "the type of philosophers S-dan prefers don't consider those sorts of things.
An important question concerns the status of philosophical knowledge itself: given analytical and synthetic truths, philosophy (or parts of it, such as logic) would presumably fit in that schema. The philosopher then may perform a type of taxonomy (which seems a bit anthropological--and synthetic---rather than metaphysical), but he doesn't necessarily stand above all the separate disciplines. That's an optimistic view.

A pessimistic view would hold that metaphysics was mostly undermined by Darwinism, positivism, the rise of modern science as a whole, and really concerns no special knowledge, excepting perhaps a type of clarification of language, some logic/truth issues, perhaps mathematical foundations (tho' that requires certain skills that most academic philosophasters lack). That sort of philosophy avoids the grand ontological pronouncements or systems. Kuhn produced philosophy in that vein as did Quine, regardless if out of fashion.

Politics/ethics/economic issues are a bit different than logic/semantics, but "philosophers" do address such issues. Rawls for instance does concern himself with fairly technical economics, equilibrium, various indicators, etc. There's not some innate "discreteness" to disciplines that many academics seem to affirm.

Daniel said...

Certainly philosophers occasionally do comment on areas outside their discipline. But when they do, they're doing so not as philosophers, but as private citizens. (This is of course a normative statement: I think some things ought not to be considered as philosophy, which might have been taken as such. Any attempt to talk about "What should philosophy involve" will have to employ a notion of philosophy which is stronger than "Philosophy is what philosophers do". I take this to be a trivial sort of notion.)

Fichte argued in his natural law book that passports should contain not merely a description of their bearer, but a small painted likeness. Hegel liked to make fun of Fichte for this; whatever the merits of Fichte's proposal, it had nothing to do with the general questions of right, justice, etc. that Fichte was claiming to consider. The mere fact that Fichte included in a work that purported to be philosophical corrupted both the suggestion (whose reasonableness would depend on a great deal of contingent factors; it might be a good idea in some countries, but not others, and these questions were outside the scope of Fichte's work), and the work itself (since it seemed to suggest that narrow issues of particular policy were "dictated" by general considerations of natural right). Hegel has nothing but scorn for the idea that constitutions might be written "by reason alone", without considerations of whose constitutions they are; he was a follower of Montesquieu, here. Philosophy can (in a sense) state general principles about what good laws should be like, but it can do this only by looking at what sorts of rights are actually upheld in contemporary states, how existing laws are enforced, what sorts of jurisprudence tend to lead to internal corruption in states, etc. And this sort of research is generally not done by philosophy professors; the professors take it from other disciplines, like history and economics, and make explicit what already lies within the findings of those other disciplines. (There are cases where philosophers do the research, too, but this just makes them polymaths. It doesn't tell us anything about philosophy that one can do other things alongside it.)

Duck said...

I see I have expressed myself badly. (I told you I wasn't sure what to say here.) I'll just make a couple of comments.

Therapeutic philosophy removes a great deal of confusion over what the everyday sorts of knowledge are actually going on about, showing that the everyday sort of thinking isn't a mess of metaphysical whatsits.

Yes; but once we see that philosophical thinking isn't either, why can't we see it as knowledge too? I just don't think that rejecting the idea that philosophy gives us knowledge of another realm (which we should) requires the idea that it can't be "knowledge" (now properly construed) at all. Why don't we look at it in whichever way is appropriate in the context? If I'm arguing against phenomenologists or Given-mythsters that (as we put it) "the realm of the conceptual is unbounded," I don't want to have to worry about whether what I say is really a truism or nonsensical or whatever. That consideration was taken into account when we decided what line to take against whom for what purpose (which indeed may be, ultimately, a "therapeutic" one). But I argue against dualistic positions – and skeptical ones – because I think they're false, and that precisely because when you discard them you see how you are in no danger of "metaphysics" in so regarding them (and their negations as true, believed, and known).

I think philosophy is indeed an element in its own domain, and that it is only in making sense of this idea that we can "find our way around" (which is how I talk (i.e. "broadly") about "seeing how things hang together". I don't need a single fully "synoptic" view if I can get from here to there when I want to. There's an article in Arrington and Glock about this, Baker I think.)

But that's all imagistic handwaving if we're not clear on more substantial things. One problem is that "Pyrrhonism" is, shall we say, a family resemblance concept. I recommended Burnyeat & Frede, The Original Sceptics at Currence's, I think. One version (Frede's) is precisely "an absence of constructive philosophy", leaving everyday belief in place – or so they claim (or do they?).

Some people attribute this version to Wittgenstein. See Robert Fogelin's book on Wittgenstein (Arg. of the Phil. series); plus he has articles, and his own book, Pyrrhonian Reflections. David Stern's recent intro book on PI is good on this.

If that weren't enough reading, let me send you a paper of mine (not the promised intro, alas, but it may serve).

J said...

"Therapeutic philosophy

Das Stimmt! Therapy with a fire iron.

Repent of Mad Ludwig, S-Dan. Even Jay-C probably asks that of you. Or read Witt's Poker, and realize that even those pompous old farts like Popper and Bertrand Russell, er, outshine LW. What did Russell say of Witt's ordinary language hustle? We needn't concern ourselves with the "Silly things that silly people say," or something to that effect. ;)

And what did Quine say about the grand tradition? Philosophy of science is philosophy enough. OK, I don't completely agree with dat, and WVOQ does tend to a certain reductionism here and there, but the point should be noted.

Daniel said...

Duck: I have some reading to do, it appears. "Original Skeptics" has been ordered; you've recommended it a few times, but I've been waiting for cheap used copies to show up. $8 is cheap enough.

Tossy: I actually kinda liked "Wittgenstein's Poker", for what it was. I hadn't realized that Popper was so prone to making stuff up. And if I wasn't going to concern myself with the silly things that silly people say, I shan't be blogging.

J said...

It's been some time since perusing W's Poker, but I recall that quite a few witnesses (including Toulmin, right) claimed that Wittgenstein was, like, nearly psychotic, and that Russell was right to correct him, and that Popper, while maybe exaggerating some details, was mostly in the right. Whatever. Not my role models.

That doesn't negate W's work in "Austrian anthropology and linguistics", but something to keep in mind. Really, the "sprachspiele" and "meaning as use" ideas seem nearly akin to.......PoMo. And that's nicht gut.

What sort of Philosophy do programmers produce? That's a good starting point. Functions, variables, operators, statements, domains: that's all we got. You turn on your box or download yr favorite snuff manga: bada bing--you confirm computational logic. Your CPU: that's a logician.

No your brain ain't a CPU as the CS people used to say, but that's not a question for philosophasters anyways, unless maybe they want to take on neurology.


(Those who deny that one can even make existence statements about perceivable objects (or stipulated objects) you might as well like climb into the himalayas and contemplate their....navels...or maybe bark sections of the PI like a ...............rabid poodle!).

selbst said...

if we think of Kant and German Idealists as doing systematic philosophy, by which i mean attempting to make sense by way of reflective generality how everything hangs together (in Sellars' sense), rather than constructive philosophy, which builds theories as solutions to problems, then it seems McD can hang with systematicity, but need not engage in constructivism. the clearest contrast might be in the idea that if only we got clear and precise about our concept of representation, then we could solve our philosophical problems. it might seem necessary to develop a theory of mental representation to do so, but it is more likely that our problems arise out of historical occasions in which philosophers have a concept of representation in hand and find it puzzling. often in the service of the system, the problem needs to be eradicated or needs to be recovered from or needs treatment rather than a straightforward programmatic solution. it's more like putting a poisonous lotion on your skin and then looking for an antidote lotion, when what is required is just putting the poisonous lotion down and letting your skin heal. it is helpful to read moments in the history of phil. as enacting this type of quietism: Aristotle's response critique of Plato on the Good; Berkeley's response to Locke's notion of secondary/primary qualities; Fichte's emphasis on the primacy of the practical; Ryle's discussion of mind/body dualism. not all of these are as clearly quietist as one would like, but, something is illustrated in these historical moments that enables us to see that it is not only McD's reliance on LW that enables us to get a grip on quietism, but a tendency in history for these "problems" to arise, and for there to already be a treatment alive in the development of the concepts that generated the problem.

J said...

"if we think of Kant and German Idealists as doing systematic philosophy, by which i mean attempting to make sense by way of reflective generality how everything hangs together (in Sellars' sense), rather than constructive philosophy, which builds theories as solutions to problems, then it seems McD can hang with systematicity, but need not engage in constructivism."

Rather clever reasoning there. One notes this type of "bureaucratizing" of philosophy in many places, both leftist/PoMo and rightist/theocratic. In effect, the philosopher-bureaucrat suggests that some notable classic--often Kant's First Critique or Plato (or Marx for the PoMos--or Screepture, for that matter), should be assumed to be sort of authoritative, prima facie. Thus the issues raised in the classic are considered settled: the "synthetic a priori" may be assumed to hold, and the grand architecture remains in place. No matter that Kant actually suggested (WRONGLY) that the that the laws of classical physics may be known "a priori", and all the other potential problems (i.e "noumenal" objects, etc.) that's heritage, man.

One doesn't need a Ivy League metaphysics degree to perceive all the problems with the Heritage fetish. Even Karl Marx in the German Ideology noted the problems (tho' he then created others, via Hegel--quoting Marx does not mean supporting communism). Marx realized what a laugh the a priori subject was: humans are a product of their social and economic and biological environment--the "object(s)" condition the subject (Actually KM more or less affirms Hobbes). Those who hold otherwise should join Catholics Inc., and produce a legitimate miracle.