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!


Duck said...

Phew – somebody's been busy!

1. Yes, we'll have to get back to that disjunctivism business. That may be what comes from separating out specifically perceptual beliefs from other kinds. Now that he's written about Hegel some more, I wish McDowell would go back to Wittgenstein. What he says about "quietism" is starting to look more and more like handwaving (and I would know).

2. I like Haugeland – that article is in Having Thought, which is a good collection. I don't know enough about Heidegger to say, but I understand his interpretation is fairly controversial. I like what he says about Wittgenstein in that article – is that what you're referring to?

3. I don't know what to make of Price. I snagged those articles – thanks for the link. Good point about "the causal order". Platonism is hard to shake.

4. I first ran into Wiggins in metaphysics class, and he seemed then to have just another metaphysical theory, so I didn't follow up. But McDowell is a big fan. It might be more for ethics though. I have a festschrift, with a McDowell article in it. I think Wiggins has one major collection, called Needs, Values, Truth or something.

5. I certainly understand your frustration with Derrida, and I'm not going to tell you to go read this or that. Still, I think he might come up again. I keep meaning to get back to S. Wheeler's book comparing him with Davidson (the article "Wittgenstein as Conservative Deconstructor" was pretty interesting).

6. Cavell is indeed intimidatingly erudite. But keep at it. When his style works, it's awesome.

7. You're right about Kuhn, but I think Currence was saying something about how later Kuhn is better ("The Road since Structure", which I haven't read). As you say (let me bold it and set it off):

So "perspectival aspects" seem as real as anything has claim to be.

I've been saying this since I was five years old (okay, not really). But you can't say this or you're a relativist like Derrida and those other bad people. The only "external standard" we can possibly care about is how things are. Rorty tends to talk as if Kuhn were on the anti-scheme/content-distinction team with Davidson, but things like this show that he never made it there (not in Structure at least). Of course we may say the same of Rorty ...

Daniel Lindquist said...

1. I think McDowell has enough to say about experience that there's not one particular element that separates perceptual beliefs from non-perceptual beliefs, on his account. Once "intuitions" are back in the picture, there's really no threat of perceptual beliefs blending back in with all the rest.

It would be nice for McDowell to go back to discussing Wittgenstein more; he's not really been in dialogue with the "resolute reading" as much as I'd like.

2. Yep, that's the joke I was referring to.

I really need to get into Heidegger more; I always seem to like what I get from Heideggerians when I get anything from them. Hopefully I can fit Hagueland's Heidegger course(s?) into my schedule.

The only bit of Heidegger-interpretation that I know is peculiar to Haugeland is his claim that "Dasein" is a mass term -- it doesn't refer to individuals; a person is not "a Dasein". The grammar of "Dasein" just doesn't work that way -- there is no talk of "a Dasein". "Dasein" should be understood as more like "a way of life". This is why Heidegger puts so much emphasis on phenomena like conscience, anxiety, and death: they individuate an individual, which "Dasein" by itself doesn't. (I'm getting this from Hagueland's "Reading Brandom Reading Heidegger".) Dreyfus mentions this reading, briefly, in chapter one of "Being-In-The-World", just to set it aside so he can go back to saying that "Dasein" is what Heidegger calls a "person" or "self".

Dreyfus also mentions that he & Haugeland completely disagree about absolutely everything in part II of Division One of "Being & Time", but the context for that is just Dreyfus saying that he won't discuss part II at all in the book.

I'll probably pick up "Having Thought" after I finish reading the parts of it that I could find as PDFs.

3. Price is apparently an expressivist about causal language, too. I haven't figured out how that's supposed to mesh with everything; I'm afraid it's going to tie in with the "arrow of time" stuff. I could end up pretty deeply over my head pretty quickly, there. But the Carnap article's good, at least.

4. One of these days I'll get around to reading McDowell's ethics papers. A quick glance at the index for "Mind, Value, and Reality" shows that most of the Wiggins references are indeed in the early ethics/Aristotle papers.

5. I'm sure Derrida's not going to go away any time soon. I liked the Dasenbrock article on Derrida & Davidson in the "Library of Living Philosophers" volume ("Locating Davidson and Literary Language"). It just seems like every time I find someone praising something in Derrida that I agree is praiseworthy, he's inferior to another figure who's doing the exact same thing, but better (Davidson in that article, Wittgenstein in others). On the other hand, "deconstruct" is a pretty useful verb, and I have Derrida to thank for coining it.

(Spellcheck doesn't know "deconstruct" -- it suggests "reconstruct". This amuses me.)

6. Cavell is a very pleasant read, when I can read him. His article in the Alice Crary volume was excellent. I'm sure I'll get into him eventually.

7. I'm actually not sure what to say about Kuhn & the third dogma. Every time he says something scheme-content-y, he takes it back. But then he says it again. He's not at all consistent with his world-talk. I'm curious what Currence ended up saying about all this in that paper he wrote; it looks to me like Kuhn just hadn't worked this part out very well. Hopefully he got pressed on the point later.

I suspect that talk of perspectival aspects gets run together with talk of "appearances" (in the sense which is ambiguous between "illusion" and "percept"). Certainly not everything that someone "sees", in the appearance-sense, is "really there". And there are some (few) befuddled individuals who deny this. (I recall Jodi Dean mentioning, in a discussion of her book on UFO sightings, that some of her feminist colleagues refused to say that anyone who thought they'd been abducted by aliens was wrong, because "that was how they'd experienced it" and it'd be cruel/patriarchal/imperialist to discount the experience of an other.) These sorts of "perspectivalists" are pretty obviously confused, and it's easy to think (lazily) that all there is to "perspectivalism" is this sort of elementary confusion. Presumably, avoiding this sort of elementary confusion is what analytic philosophy is supposed to save us from. Analytic training lets us pick up on Logical Fallacies wherever they may lie, unlike those poor schmucks who get hoodwinked because they haven't learned the glories of backwards 'E's and material conditionals.

I suspect there are sociological forces at work in all this, too; philosophy as a way to "rise above mere opinion" isn't something incidental to what a lot of people want from the discipline. "Rising above false opinions, to true ones" isn't as sexy a self-image. "Paring down false opinions, and leaving the true ones alone" is even worse. So a rejection of (one sense of) "realism" is a rejection of what some people thought was the point of philosophy. It doesn't help when people like Rorty agree with them, insisting that they're trumpeting a new project, rather than stodgy ol' philosophy.

J said...

It's difficult to imagine a philo-hack worse than Leiter--sort of CPA-turned Nietzschean---, but you're up there, er, down there, S-dan.

What's amazing is that the neo-skeptics, or skeptic-lites have not yet grasped even Hume's obvious point: it's not a matter of either-or, but plausibility: is it more reasonable to claim the IHOP exists, or not?

Yes, it's far more likely it exists, as does yr tummy: Proof? it starts to growl after some deeep philo-reflections. HEading over for some cakes, your perception of the IHOP arrives via ye olde "rose-tinted glasses" perhaps, but you go in anyways, and order the Brian Leiter Texass-fraud Special, 2.99 or whatever. That your perception (or your eating breakfast) does not translate neatly into predicate logic does not mean the perception is mistaken, or unrelated to an external world.

The philo-biz wants to question external reality: to do otherwise means the philo-bot must do something like economics, if not rehash most of Hobbes' Leviathan.

Daniel Lindquist said...

Mmmm, IHOP.

Strawberry Rooty, all bacon, eggs over easy, everything on separate plates, strawberries on the side, with a large chocolate milk. Been getting the same thing (at least) weekly for years.

(I don't like bacon crumbs/grease in my eggs, which is why I get them on separate plates. The strawberries are on the side so my pancake isn't soggy by the time I get to it.)

Man, I want some bacon.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

"Quine's mathematical platonism"

Hah. Peruse Goodman and the young WVOQuine's "Constructive Nominalism," and you would think otherwise. Even in "O.W.T.-Is" Quine does not exactly affirm platonism, does he (he does affirm Russell's descriptions, however). By the 60s he had moved back to his naturalist-nominalist perspective more or less (or rather, he's a nominalist, just a sly--or dishonest-- one). Ever heard of BF Skinner? WVOQ's palsie, and WVOQ at least as much supportive of the behaviorist agenda as was Skinner (ie, anti-platonic, anti-metaphysical, atheist, determinist-naturalist, etc). Indeed BF seems even a bit more willing to acknowledge "mind" than Quine.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Hegel. Heh heh. Yes, Being, and not-Being, and Becomingness!! How dialectically Kewl. Plus groovy machiavellian-military stuff. Ave Bonaparte!!!

The zionosophers now allow the gentiles to do Hegel? WOw. Yr better off with Frege and even Russcell, as is society.