29 May 2008

In Which I Complain About Things I Like

Lately I've been looking for articles that try to tie in Heidegger and what came after him with current "analytic pragmatist" philosophy. This strikes me as a potentially very fruitful area of research, but I keep being frustrated by how little fleshing-out a lot of claims are given.

"What Does The (Young) Heidegger Mean By The Seinsfrage?" is a nice example: Despite what the title might lead one to expect, most of the article is devoted to discussing Marburg neo-Kantianism (especialyl Cassirer and Cohen) and relating their concerns to those of Rorty and Brandom. (It's enlightening to see how easily one can be lead to Rortyan views from an explicitly scientistic starting-point. In an attempt to revise philosophy to be "in tune" with modern science, Cohen is said to have rejected the correspondence view of truth, limited the world's contribution to our knowledge to a "merely causal" one, adopted an explicitly social notion of "reason" as the various ways in which we justify and revise our beliefs, severely limited all claims to a priority (leaving only a vague imperative to understand nature as law-governed as genuinely a priori), delimited "reality" to just whatever our best physical theories talked about, and denied any epistemic role whatsoever to experience. And he billed all of this as "Kantian"!) Sellars is mentioned once or twice in the paper; Davidson a little more often. None of these four analytic-type figures is quoted in the paper; they don't even make it into the bibliography. They are all mentioned in the article abstract, though!

The author likes to throw in lines like this: "With this, the neo-Kantians have basically adopted the thoroughly coherentist conception of experience currently advocated by Sellars, Davidson, Rorty, and Brandom." At no point in the paper are the various views on "experience" held by these philosophers discussed; they are merely gestured at, and associated with the figures Heidegger is about to be introduced as overcoming. Also, by the point this paper was written, Sellars hadn't advocated any sort of view for a good decade. He’d been dead since '89.

I actually really like this article; I am inclined to agree with most of the unsupported claims the author throws out, and often find them insightful. For instance, take this footnote: "Hegel, of course goes a step further than Fichte, claiming to demonstrate philosophically that this Anstoss does not just factically occur, but rather for the sake of initiating Reason’ s process. Consequently, Fichte, not Hegel, is the more appropriate precedent for neo-Kantianism, and indeed for Brandom’ s social pragmatism." I find this a very suggestive remark: Both Brandom and Fichte want (in some sense) to found their systems on practical reason; both (in some sense) ground objective purport in the imperative that others should agree with a judgement; Brandom distinguishes perceptual judgements from others by their being casually, but not epistemically, distinctive (they are judgements which arise as the result of reliable differential responsive dispositions); Fichte's account of the genesis of consciousness is that it is "ocassioned" by a "shock" (Anstoss) which stimulates the Ego to posit both the Ego and the Non-Ego (but the "shock" is neither Ego nor Non-Ego; it is outside of cognition generally, a "noumenon in the negative sense" which Fichte uses to justify his claim to being a "realist"). In all of these, Brandom is closer to Fichte than to Hegel -- Hegel doesn't want to give primacy to either thinking or doing, objectivity or intersubjectivity, and his understanding of the world's "causal" role in our epistemic lives is one that lets it contribute genuinely conceptual matters for us to take up.

For Hegel on Fichte's "shock", see the second addition to ss60 in the Encyclopedia Logic. This is the last section before Hegel moves on to "The Third Position of Thought with Respect to Objectivity: Immediate Knowing", wherein Jacobi is taken to task in a way that is strikingly reminscent of "Mind and World" -- Jacobi manages to both affirm the Mythical Given and spin frictionlessly in the void. On Jacobi's account, our only true knowledge is of what is immediately given without mediation; all mediation is a form of ungrounded speculation. This is a form of the Myth of the Given, since our knowledge of particulars is supposed to be independent of all other sorts of knowledge (which we just don't have, on Jacobi's account; he takes Hume to have refuted all claims to knowledge of anything beyond bare sense-data). To compensate for denying that we can have knowledge of anything beyond these barren particularities, Jacobi attributes tremendous import to Faith, which includes both everyday beliefs which are unable to be grounded in our knowledge of particulars (such as whatever Hume believed when he stopped philosophizing) and more particularly religious doctrines, all of which are "immediately" held to -- they are not held for any reasons; reason cannot speak to matters of Faith. It is this Faith that Jacobi holds to actually be important; what we can know is nothing for us, is of no use in living. Hence in Jacobi Hume becomes a Fideist, and the Myth of the Given is tied to a "frinctionless coherentism" among our beliefs. (It's a good section. Hegel even argues against Jacobi by reminding us of the role of education in what is "immediate", as McDowell does, and as Sellars did in "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind". And unlike McDowell & Sellars, Hegel goes on to use his line of argument to object to Fideism in religion, which is something I'm always in the market for.)

But in the article, the remark is just hanging there. Not even a footnote to other work which discusses it, not even a “(forthcoming)” or “(manuscript)". The literature is seriously gappy, and name-dropping is a real problem.

The article doesn’t actually get around to giving much of an answer to “What does the (young) Heidegger mean by the Seinsfrage”; the neo-Kantians eat up most of the space, and then the Heidegger stuff is mostly just about his criticisms of them. Certainly I don’t have a better grip on what “the question of Being” is supposed to be than I did before reading the article. But I like the article. It’s fun. But it’s becoming clear that some of the stuff I’d like to read still needs to be written.

14 May 2008

McDowell Bleg

Gabriel at Self and World has pointed out that two more McDowell collections are coming down the pike next year.

One of the essays in "Having The World In View" sounds tantalizing, but I've never heard of it and have no idea where (if anywhere) it's been published previously: If anyone can point me towards a copy of "Towards a Reading of Hegel on Action in the “Reason” Chapter of the Phenomenology", it would be appreciated. Though I suspect it's not been published previously, so I'll just have to wait unless there's a manuscript floating around the internet.

"Sellar's Thomism" has been delivered as a lecture before, says Google, but I've not seen it published anywhere. (It is the sort of name you take notice of.) I have no idea what could be Thomistic about Sellars, but then I've never seen the attractions of Thomism at all. Hopefully McDowell doesn't start commenting on the Angelic Doctor, or else we'll never get another article on Wittgenstein out of him (or on anything else -- the fellow from Aquino seems to be a bit of a tarbaby).

January 2009 is a long ways away. I suppose the time shall pass quickly.

Not On Davidson: A Response to Hacker

Early in "Davidson on Intentionality and Externalism", Hacker writes (p.542)

In response to the current 'internalist/externalist' debate, [Davidson] has elaborated his conception of the individuation of belief, taking for granted whatever qualifications are necessary vis-a-vis the holism of belief and interpretation. I shall do likewise in expounding and evaluating his claims.
This is a bluff. Hacker does no such thing.

Throughout the paper, Hacker considers something less than a strawman -- something called a "causal theory of meaning" is what is actually criticized, and Davidson has never held anything remotely like that. Davidson holds to the Quinean thesis that reference is inscrutable, for one thing. Nothing below the level of a sentence can have propositional content. Hacker seems to forget Frege's point that a word can have meaning only in the context of a sentence; he offers explanations for the meanings of words, and claims that these "meaning explanations" play some essential role in language ("What a term 'K' means is determined by what counts in a linguistic community as a correct explanation of its meaning"). Neither that Hacker offers, nor anything like it, plays such a role in language. Language does not work that way.

Not only does Hacker fail to consider that Davidson's externalism is part & parcel with the rest of "radical interpretation", but he doesn't even seem to consider that Davidson's externalism might be related to the rest of his "unified theory" -- Davidson's externalism is simply a part of "the externalism of Putnam, Burge, and Davidson". But these three are very different sorts of externalist; Burge & Davidson are particularly opposed to one another*, and Putnam isn't even a Tarskian. Hacker even gets Davidson's term of art wrong. Earlier on the same page he says that Davidson "has argued that all understanding of the speech of others involves interpretation or radical translation." "Radical translation" is Quine's schtick; Davidson denies that radical translation could suffice for understanding, and his "radical interpretation" is meant to overhaul & correct Quine's approach.

Further, Davidson does not claim that all understanding involves interpretation; for Davidson, perception is "direct", not mediated by anything which could be interpreted. Davidson does claim that something like radical interpretation is actually at work in how we understand one another, and because of the holism of the mental all propositional attitudes are -- in a sense -- tied to radical interpretation. And perception involves propositional content. But peceiving that things are thus and so is not a matter of interpreting anything; the belief strikes one straightaway, mediately merely causally (and not epistemicly) by any intermediary. Hacker gets this wrong -- he claims that "pace Davidson" understanding what someone says typically involves no interpretation. But Davidson can grant this, since one can, for instance, hear that someone is saying that things are thus-and-so.

Hacker has written a very bad paper. He evinces not the slightest comprehension of what Davidson is trying to do. Indeed, Davidson's views on intentionality are hardly even misunderstood in the paper -- for Hacker to be getting them wrong, he'd have to have something like them in view. The externalism of "Knowing One's Own Mind" and "The Myth of the Subjective" does not explain intentionality, for Davidson. Intentionality is tied to the normativity of the propositional attitudes, as shown forth by looking at what would be involved in "radical interpretation", in interpretation of a speaker with whom one initially shares no language. Hacker doesn't put any of this in view. He doesn't even look at the relevant essays. He briefly mentions "Thought and Talk", once, on page 542, but it plays no real role in the paper.

Davidson claims that "all thought and language must have a foundation in such direct historical connections [as saying "There's the moon" when the moon is in view]", but Hacker misunderstands the rhetorical force of "foundation"-talk, here. The intentionality of thought & language is not built on these "direct historical connections"; what Davidson means by his claim is simply that one condition for being able to understand a speaker is to take them as reacting to objects in an environment one shares with them -- not simply the fact that they are so reacting but the taking of them as so reacting by the interpreter is what does important work in making understanding possible. Throughout the paper, Hacker considers only a single speaker reacting to an environment, and notes that the causal facts about all this are irrelevant to the meaningfulness of language. The Davidsonian strategy of "triangulation" is nowhere present; only the causal facts, and not attributions of causal relations, are considered as possibly being what Davidson is calling our attention to.

Hacker devotes a significant portion of the paper to attacking Davidson's "swampman" thought-experiment. It is a bad thought-experiment, and Davidson abandoned it later on.
"But I confess that Swampman now embarrasses me. The reason is that science fiction stories that imagine things that never happen provide a poor testing ground for our intuitions concerning concepts like the concept of a person, or what constitutes thought. These common concepts work as well as required in the world as we know it. We have multiple criteria for applying most important concepts, and the imagined cases are ones in which these criteria, which normally go together, point in different directions. We ask what we would say in such cases? Who knows? Why should we care?”

---Donald Davidson, “Interpretation: Hard in Theory, Easy in Practice”
(the comment thread here has more details on the ignominious fate of the swampman argument. Looking up that quote has also reminded me of how bizarre the whole debate about empirically-existing swampmen was. Man, I love "The Valve".)

Hacker occasionally quotes Davidson's reference to the role of "terminal elements in the conditioning process". He simply reads this phrase wrong -- Davidson means the distal causes of our beliefs, as opposed to the proximal ones, are the ones we care about in interpretation. It's an anti-Quinean point. (See "Meaning, Truth, and Evidence" for the juicy details.) Hacker reads it as referring to the "terminal elements" of the conditioning process -- speakers who are conditioned to react in certain ways. Thus he quotes Davidson's phrasing approvingly on page 545 despite denying that the "terminal elements in the conditioning process" (the objects reacted to) play a role in what people mean when they talk & think. Davidson's "terminal elements" are the things in the world that we are conditioned to react to, as is obvious when the phrase is looked at in context (page 44 in "Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective"). Hacker's "terminal elements" are "uses of words" and "explanations of meanings"; nothing like what Davidson talks about.

Hacker notes that the learning of a language is the mastering of a technique, and that the technique mastered is a normative, rule-governed one. This is entirely correct & salutary. But he notes this to oppose the characterization of the correct use of words as "the use of words geared to appropriate objects & situations". I have no idea how these notions are supposed to be opposed to one another; they strike me as entailing one another. To have mastered a technique is to react appropriately to the relevant objects & situations -- to be able to ride a bike is to be able to get on a bike, pedal, and get from point A to point B without falling off or hitting anything, etc.. All techniques are normative; to be practising an art is to be doing it well or poorly. And all techniques are ways of getting around in the world, ways of coping with various objects & situations. The skillful use of a techique is the use of a technique geared appropriately to various objects & situations, and appropriateness is a normative matter.

Some scattered marginal notes I made on the last half of the paper:
I can use words as parts of sentences to perform various speech-acts (paradigmatically, assertions). "Use a word" is not such a speech-act. I can perform various speech acts correctly or incorrectly, well or poorly; I can say things that are true or false. I can't simply "use a word", and so there are no standards for what counts as the correct or incorrect "use of a word" that are not standards for what counts as the correct performance of some speech-act or other. But it's implausible that my causal interactions with the world are independent of whether or not I perform various speech-acts correctly or incorrectly. And it's implausible that there's anything to say about what, in general, using a word correctly requires; one can do many things with words.

It is entirely possible to learn to use a word without ever encountering something like Hacker's "meaning explanations" (""to dehort" means the same as "to advise against""). "Meaning explanations" are neither sufficient for teaching someone the use of a word, nor are they necessary. One can catch on to how a word is used, as with any other practice. An other can -- sometimes -- be taught to go on as I do. Other times, not. And sometimes they can go on as I do without my having instructed them.

As Quine, who is more explicit on these matters, has written, the child ‘is being trained by successive reinforcements and extinctions to say “red” on the right occasions and those only.’ But what makes an occasion right? Causal relations are contingent and external, but the ‘relation’ of the word ‘red’ to red things, the correctness of its application to red objects and the incorrectness of its application to green or blue ones, is not a contingent but an internal relation. If the ‘stimulus explanation’ causes the child to apply the word ‘red’ (or sentence ‘This is red’) to, and only to, poppies, what shows that it has misunderstood the explanation, that it is applying the word ‘red’ incorrectly, contrary to the explanation given?
Nothing does. For he has done no such thing -- his "red"/"This is red" is not to be translated as our "red"/"This is red", but as our "poppies"/"These are poppies". And what we thought was our explaining to him how to use "red" was no such thing -- we were merely chattering at him, and he's gone off on his own way. And the path he's forged for himself is a perfectly serviceable one; there's nothing wrong with tracking flowers rather than colors. We might want to "correct" the child, so that he uses "red" as we do, but this is a merely grammatical matter, on a par with enforcing proper spelling. It doesn't actually hinder understanding if one person spells idiosyncratically, so long as they're readable**. And proper spelling by no means ensures comprehensibility. The two can come apart, and generally do -- it's rare that spelling errors actually make it hard to read something which would otherwise be readable. (Incidentally, Davidson is a terrible speller; he jokes about this in "The Social Aspect of Language".)

Ostensive definition looks as if it connects language to reality, but that is an illusion. It connects spoken language with the ‘language of gestures’.
There is no such language as "the language of gestures". ASL is a language; gesturing is not. Gesturing is a type of action; languages are not types of actions. In the use of onstensive definitions, it is let on that a demonstrative should be understood to be pointing to a particular something-or-other. There is nothing special about ostensive definition; in general, one clarifies how one means a term by acting in such a way that (if all goes well) the other party will catch on -- will see as you see, will understand as you understand, will catch what one intended to do, to get across, to point out. "It is human practices which give words their meaning", but not any particular ones -- it is the whole mess of life that gives our words the meanings they have; "poetically man dwells". Davidson's focus on ostension in some of his essays is a dispensable tool for arguing for his views; "I think externalism applies universally; there are connections everywhere between the world and the contents of our thoughts."

"Whether the child is using ‘Moon!’ correctly is determined by whether he uses it in accordance with the rules for its use, which are given by the generally accepted explanations of its meaning" -- generally accepted by whom? A linguistic community? Who draws the boundaries between those? Which ones do we look to when we want to ask about "meaning explanations"? (see * again)

If someone earnestly asked me to explain what "if" meant, I shouldn't have the foggiest idea what to say to them. If being able to give "explanations of meaning" is really essential to being able to use a word correctly, then I can't say what I can say. So being able to give explanations of meaning isn't essential to understanding.

If I misuse words, then I might still be entirely transparent in my muttering. A little violence to the language ain't gonna do no harm to the hermyneutical enterprise. So lack of abuse of the use of my words can't be required for understanding.

If all I do is make stupid jokes, this doesn't mean I don't understand what you're saying to me. It just means I don't care to converse about whatever it is you're boring me with. If I never respond properly, this might be grounds for judging that I don't know what I'm responding to, but it could easily be wrong.

"All that matters is whether he satisfies our ordinary criteria of understanding, viz. using words correctly, giving correct explanations of meaning, and responding appropriately (intelligently) to the utterances of others. If he does, then he uses words with ‘the right meaning’." None of this matters for understanding; these are neither sufficient nor necessary conditions. Neither does "the right meaning" matter. I can mispeachify without a hitch to your being able to catch my drift. Nobody ever laid down rules for how I can & can't misuse words without you being unable to understand me. Laying down rules doesn't include a bit where you lay down how you can break them; breaking a rule is just doing something the rules didn't cover.

So, in summary: Hacker is wrong about many things, and Davidsonian views are not considered in "Davidson on Intention & Externalism".

*Amusingly, the way Davidson characterizes Burge's position in "Knowing One's Own Mind" is very similar to how Hacker presents his own (supposedly Wittgensteinian and supposedly non-externalist) doctrines: "I reject Burge's insistence that we are bound to give a person's words the meaning they have in his linguistic community, and to interpret his propositional attitudes on the same basis..." ("Knowing One's Own Mind", p.28 in SIO)

**I am not spellchecking this post because it amuses me so to not do. For similar reasons, I've left some ungrammatical phrasing ungrammatical.

12 May 2008

A Davidson Interview

While Googling to doublecheck a quote, I found a Davidson interview I'd never come across before. It's from some sort of rhetoric & composition journal, from 1993. The introduction is pretty wild; the way they lay out Davidson's significance, he's Derrida with minor differences (differances?).

Since he's talking to someone from another field, Davidson gets asked a lot of questions I'd not seen him address square-on before. For instance, he has to explain the internalist/externalist distinction:

The internalist says that the contents of our thoughts—our beliefs, our desires, our intentions, and what we mean by what we say—are determined wholly by what is in the head. Generally speaking, this is a Cartesian position, and there are lots of internalists around. The externalist, however, maintains that there are factors external to the person which are determinants of the contents of our thoughts, and not just causal determinants—because that's obvious—but, so to speak, logical determinants, too. For example, from an externalist perspective, you can't have a thought about an apple if you haven't had at some point in your life some contact—indirect or direct—with apples. So, externalism has to do with your history and things that exist outside of you that make a difference to what you can think or what you are thinking at a given moment. Now, beyond this description, externalism takes a number of forms, but unlike Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, or Tyler Burge, I don't limit the extent to which the contents of our thoughts are fixed by external objects. I think externalism applies universally; there are connections everywhere between the world and the contents of our thoughts. It's not limited to a few words but is true of a very large number of them. So, I am an all-out externalist.
I'm actually curious why he hedges that last claim at all -- I'm not immediately sure what words he would want to deny as having been given their content by the world. I suppose it might just be a cautionary hedge; he's talking pretty loosely throughout the interview.

(It occurs to me that Rorty doesn't say things like "there are connections everywhere between the world and the contents of our thoughts". I can't even imagine a way to paraphrase it that wouldn't make him bristle.)

Davidson also gets asked things like "Would you say that language is so marked by gender that women think differently about the world than men do?"

The Lepore interview from "Problems of Rationality" is also online (PDF), for those who haven't read it or don't have the book handy. The contrast between the two interviewers is pretty radical.

03 May 2008

Brief notes on various things

I am pretty satisfied with this comment on my previous post.

Paul Redding's "Hegel and Piercean Abduction" (European Journal of Philosophy 22:3) hits a lot of interesting material. It's mostly about the German Idealists' conceptions of the logical structure of judgements and the intuition/concept distinction. Redding, following Brandom, claims that the Idealists adopted an inferentialist approach to conceptual content. Hegel's opposition to Kant's distinction between intuitions (as singular representations) and concepts (as general representations) is shown to flow from his commitment to the notion that empirical judgements have their conceptual content because of their inferential relations; this is related to Hegel's treatment of the syllogism as "the truth of judgement". Empirical judgements are shown to have "syllogistic" structures, with concepts figuring variously as singular, as particular, and as universal, rather than (as on the Kantian account) being combinations of concepts with non-conceptual intuitions. This is related to the Romantic emphases on the authority of "feeling" and of the natural as normative, and Hegel's rejection of both of these, by way of Hegel's treatment of aesthetic judgements as the paradigm of judgements in general. There's also an extended discussion of Pierce's appropriation of Aristotle's syllogistic logic, and a few other lines of thought, all in fourteen pages. It'd be nice to have a more extended treatment of pretty much everything Redding mentions, but what's here is quite nice.

John Divers's "Quinean Skepticism about de re Modality after David Lewis" (European Journal of Philosophy 15:1) is a very nice discussion of Quine's "Reference and Modality", Lewis's response to it, Lewis's use of "On What There Is" to motivate his modal realism, and possible motivations for continued "Quinean" skepticism about de re modalities after all of this is taken into consideration. In the audio interview with Burton Dreben, Quine claims that he rejects Lewisian defenses of de re modality because they are ontologically profligate; "possible worlds" are too high a price to pay to be able to make sense of modal operators. Divers does a good job of showing how this sort of response is in tension with Quine's mathematical platonism: Quine is already willing to allow for unaesthetic extensions to his "desert landscape" ontology to accommodate number-talk, so it's not clear why he can refuse to do the same with modal-talk. Divers ends up offering a suggestion as to how de re modal-talk might still be resisted: Insist that de re modal-talk hasn't been shown to serve any useful purpose, and so there's no immediate reason why we should bother trying to make accomodations for it, rather than just dropping it altogether. I suspect that at least a partial response to this demand might be made by way of the Brandomian-Sellarsian notion that "the language of modality is a transposed language of norms", but this sort of answer would show as unmotivated many "metaphysical" uses of de re modal-talk -- there's no need for a theory of counterparts if "A is necessarily p" and "B is possibly q" can be fully cached out in terms of what moves are and aren't allowed in a language-game.

Haugeland's "The Intentionality All-Stars" (Philosophical Perspectives, volume 4, 1990 pp.383-427) has the best meta-philosophy joke ever. I won't spoil it. The article is good apart from that joke, too.

Huwe Price's Metaphysics After Carnap: The Ghost Who Walks?" is, as the title suggests, a discussion of the queer fact that metaphysics is alive and well nowadays, after so many attempts to kill it. Price focuses on the role Quine's "On What There Is" has (purportedly) played in the rehabilitation of metaphysics, with an eye to reversing the trend. Price notes that appeal to a supposed Quine-Putnam "argument from indispensability" plays a central role in debates about "modal realism", and offers a rebuttal to it: Refusing to either give or deny an "ontological" ground for our mathematical practices is not "intellectually dishonest" in the way Quine claims. Ironically, Putnam himself opposes the argument attributed to him in a variety of places; he thinks the Quinean insistence on a univocal reading of the quantifier is absurd, and so is mathematical platonism.

Price's "One Cheer for Representationalism" is slated to appear in the "Library of Living [sic] Philosophers" volume on Rorty, which is currently in development. Rorty plays almost no role in the paper. It is mostly about Brandom and Blackburn's "quasi-realism", which Price expands to a "global expressivism", as he has previously urged in other places. (Link has powerpoint slides and audio, for maximal "I-don't-feel-like-reading-this"-ness!) Price seems to me to recoil too far away from representation-talk, just as Rorty did, so perhaps the essay is not as inappropriate as it initially seems. Price only wants to rehabilitate talk of "representations" in an expressivist manner, but I can't see any motivation for stopping there, beyond a "naturalism" which makes the causal world seem "sparse" rather than "rich". I don't know how Price reconciles a global expressivism with this scientism; if no language plays the role of "representing how things are", then why are we supposed to take "our best current science" as somehow giving us a picture of "the causal order"? Why are we supposed to think there's any sense to talking about "the" causal order at all?

I have read in various places that Wiggins was influential for both Davidson and McDowell, so I looked him up on JStor. So far all I've read is "On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time", because it was only six pages long, and some book reviews. I can already sense why Wiggins might've been a cool dude. A quote from "On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time", p.92:

If it is a materialistic thesis that T = W [where T=a tree, W=the cellulose molecules that compose the tree], then my denial that T = W is a form of denial of materialism. It is interesting how very uninteresting an obstacle these Leibnizian difficulties-real though they are-put in the way of the reduction of botany and all its primitive terms to organic chemistry or to physics. (If it does not follow from T != W that trees are something over and above their matter, how much the less can it follow that they are immanent or transcendent or supervenient or immaterial beings. This is obviously absurd for trees. A Leibnizian disproof of strict identity could never be enough to show something so intriguing or obscure.) I should expect there to be equally valid, and from the point of view of ontology almost equally unexciting, difficulties in the reduction of persons to flesh and bones, in psychophysical event-materialism, and in the materialisms which one might formulate in other categories (such as the Aristotelian categories property and state or the categories situation and fact). Over and above is one question, identity is another. But of course the only stuff there is is stuff.
That's a pretty elegant way to avoid a bunch of ontological claims that I want to avoid. Is there some particular piece of Wiggins's I need to hunt down ASAP?

I read Derrida's "Signature Event Context"at Barnes&Noble. It was collected along with "limited ink abc...", an afterword where Derrida responded to some criticisms of "limited ink abc...", and a summary of Searle's article; apparently he wouldn't agree to having it reprinted in between the Derrida articles. Derrida's style still strikes me as the opposite of pleasant, but 'd' in "limited ink abc..." was pretty funny. Somewhere partway through 'e' I skipped to the afterword, where (paraphrasing since I didn't buy the book) Derrida is asked if he doesn't assume that concepts must have "rigid" rules for application, such that something is always "A or not-A" (vague or not vague, communicable or not communicable, etc.; he runs through a big list of them). Derrida answers in the affirmative: He does think concepts must be "rigid" in this way, so that one must always say, with the tradition, that (and here he runs through a whole slew of "A or not-A" phrases that I want not to affirm). I am now confident that I'll be fine not reading anything else Derrida wrote. Rorty's "Derrida and the Philosophical Tradition" left me with the strong impression that Rorty only praised Derrida so highly because of his style, and I am now convinced that this is how it is. As a philosopher, Derrida does not seem to have much to recommend him -- he is too caught up with dead projects.

Cavell would be easier to get into if he wasn't so damned erudite. Stop tying your philosophical points in to plays I haven't seen and novels I haven't read, dagnabit!

McDowell has an essay linked here which I can't recall anyone having linked to: "Why Is It Called "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind"?", which is a reading of Sellars as an empiricist, contra Brandom. I still haven't read Brandom's "study guide", and I'm now inclined to keep putting it off; McDowell's reading of Sellars strikes me as so obviously correct that I don't know how Brandom could read it otherwise. (I am of course aware that it is uncharitable to think Brandom is ever writing on something other than his own project. But Brandom's claim to be a Sellarsian is rather more forceful than his claim to be a Hegelian or Kantian, so a misreading here is more irksome.)

I'm slowly getting through "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". The end of Chapter X left me still wondering why Kuhn thinks it's worthwhile to talk of scientists as "operating in different worlds" rather than just "doing different things" or "seeing things differently". Why the "swinging stone" could not have been seen as the same thing by both Aristotelians and Galileans is unclear to me -- the Aristotelians cannot see it as a pendulum, and the Galileans cannot see it as an object which by nature moves "down", but why can't both see it as a swinging stone? Doesn't Kuhn's presentation of the matter actually require this? Doesn't this leave "different worlds"-talk looking too strong? (A more detailed discussion of Kuhn's account would be needed to flesh this out, I realize.)

I suspect that this is tied to a passage that struck me as bizarre: speaking of the duckrabbit picture beloved of gestalt psychology (and the second part of Philosophical Investigations), Kuhn notes that a subject might eventually come to see the picture as neither duck nor rabbit, but as "lines on paper", "and he may then say (what he could not have legitimately said earlier) that it is these lines which he really sees but that he sees them alternately as a duck and as a rabbit." (p.114 in the third edition) -- Isn't it just as legitimate for him to say that he sees the picture of a duck (or of a rabbit) as "mere lines"? I don't get what "really sees" means here. Surely he sees the ink on the paper (or pixels on a screen) as lines; then it is really the ink (or the pixels) that he sees! But both of these strike me as absurd -- the duckrabbit isn't "really" ink or lines or a duck or a rabbit, though it can be seen as all of these. There isn't anything it "really" is, behind all the aspects that one can perceive. The aspects one sees are what it "really is", in the only sense in which it "really is" anything at all. It's not as if the duck-aspect disappears when we don't see it; if someone (at first) can only see the rabbit, or can't see either picture (as happens with some of the worse gestalt images), then it isn't the case that the aspects have yet to come into being (after all, other people might be able to see them already). The fellow simply hasn't noticed them yet. So "perspectival aspects" seem as real as anything has claim to be.

Kuhn claims that the absence of an "external standard" in duckrabbit-like cases distinguishes simple gestalt shifts from scientific revolutions. If the "seeing lines as such-and-such" approach was supposed to be this "external standard", then scientific revolutions seem to revert to "simple" gestalt phenomena if that line was unintelligible. I want to say: One could view phenomena as they were conceived under an obsolete paradigm, it's simply (exceedingly) inconvenient scientifically, and suicidal professionally, for any given scientist to do so. In fact, it's not clear to me why one can't always go back to "pre-paradigm science" talk, if one doesn't mind giving up huge amounts of utility -- one can always talk in terms of "that thingy over there" and "that other thingy", if nothing else. It's liable to be confusing and there's no reason anyone would ever want to do this, but I don't see that it would somehow fail to "get a grip" on the world discussed by our best paradigm-enabled science. There's an awful lot you won't be able to discuss profitably, but what you can talk about, you can talk about. Similarly, I don't see why anything other than psychological limitations prohibit a scientist from working with multiple incompatible paradigms, at different points in time, and suspect that there have been such individuals. Which seems to sap Kuhn of some of his philosophical interest.

Kuhn seems so focused on the theory-ladenness of observation (not his term) that he ignores how much conflicting paradigms can have in common. For instance, both the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems (and our modern systems of astronomy) agree that there are visible stars at some distance from us. There are many other theoretical commitments which incompatible paradigms do not share in common, but they aren't entirely exclusive of one another. There's no "core" of observational data that all theories share among themselves, nor any definite set of observation sentences which are independent of all paradigms. And perhaps there are not sentences shared by all paradigms, since the "is common to these two paradigms" relation needn't be transitive. But I don't see why one can't grant all of this, which seems to be what Kuhn is actually interested in convincing us of, without going to some of the rhetorical extremes that Kuhn does.

But, like I said in an earlier post, I should probably finish the book before thinking about it too much.

And finally, because I do not think I have posted enough random pictures recently: Cirno.

She is the strongest!