11 February 2009

"Active Thoughts?" What?

Here is a description from the UChicago time schedule from this quarter:

51603. Active Thought. A widely accepted historical narrative celebrates the liberation achived by the modernist Fregean understanding of predication from the Aristotelian pre-modernist conceptions. The pre-modernist saw the inner composition of thoughts as displaying an intellectual act. Frege according to this widely accepted narrative had discredit this pre-modernist picture and gave us an act-free conception of logical unity of thoughts. Thus according the post Fregean understanding a person—a soul is logicaly speaking, non-active substance. On the face of it, the considerations Frege brought against the pre-modernist conception were strong. Yet we shall that by accepting them as conclusive modernist philosophy took a wrong turn. We present a conception of active thoughts which is not susceptible to the Fregean objections against the traditional conception. We shall consider the implications active conceptions of thoughts to our understanding of the nature of the soul and of Being. Professor Irad Kimhi.

When looking at courses for the coming quarter last December, the consensus was that this paragraph was totally incomprehensible. It started off like something you understood, and then it suddenly got weird, and then... well, you can read that last sentence. Kimhi totally means it.

I have been sitting in on the course (we had our sixth meeting this afternoon); it is wild.

I'd already typed up my notes for the first class (weeks ago, right after it got out); I have put them under the fold. The weird examples are Kimhi's. (A more recent class had "humans cannot eat and drink at the same time". He retracted it when it was pointed out that they can in fact do that. He changed it to "cannot breath and drink at the same time", which is at least closer to true.) I've polished them up only slightly, for readability. I think they give a good impression of the course so far: a whole slew of... things... and some vague feeling that there is something important, somewhere, in all of it.

also: a quotation from Kimhi, from 1995. Still hilariously accurate.

There was a handout of quotations (four pages).
Aristotle, Metaphysics Gamma III 1005b 15-30.
J. Lukasiewics, "The Three Versions of the Principle of Non-Contradiction" (Kimhi is supposed to put this on Chalk).
De Interpretatione 16b26, 16b33, 17a25, 17a26.
De Anima 426b29.
J. Lukasiewics, "Aristotle on the Law of Non-Contradiction" (from "Articles on Aristotle 3. Metaphysic. ed. J Barnes, M. Schofield, R. Sorabji)
S. Cavell, "Aesthetic Problems of Modern Philosophy", MwM p.91
G. Frege, Negation (extract not read in first class) [we spent the next two classes talking about Frege's "Negation" at great length. Great, great length. The thing Kimhi was interested in was pretty much what Geach was interested in in "Assertion". The thing about conditionals.]
B. Spinoza, Ethics II P49 Scholium.

1)The Shulamite is dark;
2)The Shulamite is pale.
-This pair of beliefs cannot coexist in one consciousness -- the psychological law of noncontradiction (PLNC). They are psychologically incompossible.

-These states of affairs cannot coexist -- they are incompatible. The ontological law of noncontradiction (OLNC). They are logically/metaphysically impossible.

What is the relation between PLNC and OLNC?

Four possibilities:
Psychologism: Reduce OLNC to PLNC.
"Logopsychism": Reduce PLNC to OLNC.
Psychological Dualism: PLNC =/= OLNC
Psychological Monism - Spinoza, where Kimhi wants to put Wittgenstein. AKA "Immanentism". [Six weeks in, we are still waiting to hear how this works.]

Three versions of the law of noncontradiction (Lukasiewics):
(1) The Ontological: it is impossible for the same thing both to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect.
(2) The Psychological: it is impossible for the same person at the same time to believe the same thing is and is not.
(3) The Logical (Semantological): "The most certain of all principles is that contradictory assertions are not true at the same time" Met. Gamma VI 1011b13-14.

(3) and (1) collapse into one another given the T-schema, ["p" is true IFF p].

The LNC involves simple predication for Aristotle. In "The Shulamite is dark" the predicate "is dark" is affirmed of the Shulamite. The LNC is a restriction on what can be predicated.

A common trope in modern philosophy: take an ancient concept, make a modern distinction. This is not a return to the ancient concept.

For Aristotle, sentences are things like prayers and assertions -- acts. Sentences are not selfstanding entities.

For Aristotle, "S is P" = affirmation that S is P = belief that S is P.
Contrasted with Frege, where affirmation/belief that S is P is a complex entity: a proposition plus a force (assertional force + proposition = affirmed proposition).

Kimhi claims that Lukasiewics, Husserl and Frege all endorse "psychological dualism".

Lukasiewics criticizes Aristotle for treating mental acts as things standing in logical relations.

Comment made in response to Cavell quote, regarding "psychological monism": "you have to depsychologize psychology and psychologize logic". Kimhi makes a comparison to Heidegger, where "fundamental ontology" just is "the existential analytic of Dasein", and to Aristotle's claim that "the soul is all being". Investigation of the soul is investigation of all being.

Immanentism collapses into logopsychism if you do not psychologize logic.

For Frege judgement has two components -- a content, a truthbearer, and an act of affirmation.
A properly logical component (stands in logical relations) and a psychological act.

One question the course is meant to address: What is the force you face when you cannot avoid a certain conclusion?

(The pressure of a logical law.) [We read "What The Tortoise Said to Achilles" for the third class, and have discussed it a great deal. Kimhi thinks that Frege is not entitled to say the Tortoise is doing anything wrong, except in the sense that he is doing what he ought not to do. He is doing what he says, accepting "P" and "P>Q" and rejecting "Q" etc.]
Luk. says Aristotle regards this as a logical pressure. Accuses Aristotle of confusing logic with psychology.

Luk. understands "belief" like Frege does: propositional attitude + proposition as its object

on the subjective side, the attitude. Force.

on the objective side, the proposition (truthbearer, sentence). Content.

Kimhi: Desire treated as a force directed at a proposition rather than a state of affairs. Specifying a proposition not specifying a state of affairs. [Kimhi taught a seminar on Lacan last quarter; I am guessing this is related to Lacan's discussion of desire in "The Signification of the Phallus". When I realized I'd drawn a connection to something in Lacan I'd read, part of me died inside. ;__; ]

One view is that specifying a proposition is specifying a possible state of affairs.

Desire not towards a state of affairs, but to a state of affairs obtaining (on the Fregean picture). [the preceding lines were in response to a question from Gabriel Lear -- there are six-to-eight professors attending this course, and then are a great deal of fun to watch. Robert Pippin is the happiest man on the planet. And Kimhi's feet get held to the fire often.]

Modern conception of sentences: Sentences are forceless things. Forces given from outside.
Aristotelian view: Sentence is a product of an act. Force characterizes the act.

Aristotle -- can believe that P and can hope that P. Not enough to force decomposition into force and propositions.

Kimhi calls the entity/act distinction a "metaphysical dualism"

One thing Kimhi wants to achieve is a proper understanding of the distinction between act and entity.

Searle's denial that belief/fear/hope are "mental acts"
Sellars's "Science and Metaphysics" p.74, section 33, "Intentionality" (both these were read to us by Kimhi)

Intentional action not a *type* of action.
Intentional/nonintentional a seperate question from question of type of action.
Raising of arm, unintentional raising of arm.

Sellars: Nonsense to speak of taking something to be the case on purpose.

"Act" as in "actuality" not "action". Energeia and Dunamis. Metaphysics Theta VI & X.

Carpenter in energeia is a carpenter in action.

Metaphysics Theta has a discussion of truth and falsity in a book about actuality/potentiality (energeia/dunamis)

actuality -- not something that can be done intentionally or unintentionally

[Kimhi has said a bit more about this sort of thing since then -- the Aristotelian idea of "actuality" looms large in his thought. An assertion or a negation is an actualization of a "determinable"; the assertion or denial can be true or false, but the determinable cannot. Only acts are truthbearers, for Kimhi. "Nothing spatial-like can be a truthbearer." He is like, a for-real Spinozist.]

PLNC: Affirmation and denial cannot coexist in one consciousness.

Witticker (sic?) -- the real subject of "De Interpretatione" is the contradictory pair. [I don't know if I spelled this guy's name right, or what the article referred to is.]

Not that contradictory pair is a more specific sense of assertion; study of assertion is study of contradictory pair.

A distinction that is often not made: Set of inconsistent beliefs, and set of beliefs that are psychologically incompossible.
We all have inconsistent beliefs; no one can have incompossible beliefs.

Not all incompossible sets are inconsistent:
{~P, I believe that P}; {P? P}
(two examples of incompossible sets)

First is incompossible, but not inconsistent.
Second: I cannot wonder if P and believe that P.

The psychomodal relation of two members of an inconsistent pair is incompossibility.

Inconsistent pairs are incompossibles which are not incompossible with a third.

Meg is blonde; Meg is brunette. Also excludes "Meg is a redhead".
Not contradictory, but incompossible.

Contradictories need some form of excluded middle.

Thinker never in a position in which both of a pair are incompossible with existing beliefs and the pair are incompossible: this can serve as a definition of inconsistent pairs.

[For anyone who read this far, trivia: Kimhi spent the first half of our fourth class with his fly down. While standing at the front of the class to lecture. An hour and a half like that.]

are a contradictory pair IFF
of compossible beliefs
No such that
incompossible and

Never in a position to reject both members of a contradictory pair or to accept both.

Two views of the "act form" of a contradictory pair:
Pair of contradictory acts are affirmation and denial: same content, different forces
Pair of contradictory acts are affirmation of P and affirmation of ~P: different contents

Classical: + -----> <------ -
Modern: -------> <+>
-------> <->

[Kimhi draws a lot of whiteboard diagrams. They are hard to reproduce in ASCII art okay ;__; ]

Classical: Negation sign not part of content. Displays force of act.
Frege: Negation sign part of the content.

Aristotle: Cannot assert P & ~P, as cannot present oneself as knowing both P and ~P.

Assertion holds subject and predicate together.
Denial holds subject and predicate apart.

Descartes: Affirmation is an act of the will. Intellect can grasp an idea, then will can go on to affirm it. (Spinoza criticizes Descartes's dualism of intellect and will.)

"Propositionalism" -- "Combination theory" (two names for Kimhi's target)

Aristotle: Affirmation creates unity of truthbearer.
Descartes: Logical unity of truthbearer independent of affirmation or denial.

Descartes middle figure between Aristotle and Frege.

Views of contradictory pairs:
Combination-Seperation theory (Aristotle)
Only combination with negative and positive predicates (Hobbes)
Combination theories: positive or negative attitude towards object (Descartes)
Only affirmation. Negation part of content of propositions. (Frege)

An aporia in Spinoza's criticism of Descartes: If the two members of an inconsistent pair do not share a common content, how do they oppose one another (Kimhi emphasized the point by slapping his fists against one another). First class ended with this aporia.

reading those notes again, it actually does make more sense now (five weeks later). Still, lots of weirdness in this course.


Duck said...

Holy frijoles! Sounds wild indeed. Yet just today I was thinking that some aspects of the premodern view (speaking very generally, obviously) are interestingly comparable to contemporary ones - like criticisms of "modernism" (whatever that turns out to be) from the other direction.

Of course sometimes coming "from the other direction" like that makes the premodern view a bizarre funhouse mirror distortion of, well, what I would rather say instead (when I am in that mood). But that's what makes it interesting - it's close enough to be a b.f.m.d. of that.

If that makes any sense.

I actually read once that Phillip Johnson (a big mover, almost the prime mover, ha ha) in the "Intelligent Design movement" referred to his own view as "postmodern" (i.e. in its rejection of modern attitudes toward science). Of course he rejects modern science *itself* as well, so it's clearly not anything like what I would rather say. Anyway, my immediate reaction to that was: "not postmodern [you moron], premodern."

But premoderns usually see postmodernism as history (ie the tragedy of sinful modernism) repeating itself as farce. (Without putting it like that.) So it was interesting to see one of 'em refer to it as an ally.

jon said...
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Daniel Lindquist said...

"Just an n.b.-- is he okay with you posting these?"

No clue. I figure they're my class notes; if I was supposed to keep things hush-hush I'd think I should've been told as much. And he's supposed to have a book coming out from Harvard University Press, I heard, so I don't think I've revealing notes on a draft or anything like that. He gives a definite impression of being someone with a worked-out system that he's lecturing on. (And he's lectured on it at Pitt at least, so it's not like we're getting a first shot at the stuff.) -- In general, I figure the sort of thing I would happily tell a near-stranger in conversation should be fair game for an internet web-log. Not like we're discussing military supply routes.

I figure if he doesn't like it, and he finds out about it, he can ask and I'll take it down. (This is one of the occasions where I'm glad I'm not taking the course for credit.)

jon said...

Cool. Thanks again for posting... this is really cool stuff. I can't wait to read the book...

Perezoso said...
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Ben Wolfson said...

"Kimhi taught a seminar on Lacan last quarter; I am guessing this is related to Lacan's discussion of desire in "The Signification of the Phallus". When I realized I'd drawn a connection to something in Lacan I'd read, part of me died inside."

But whatever for?

Daniel Lindquist said...

"But whatever for?"

It meant I have not yet succeeded at forgetting all of the junk I had to learn for the Capital-T Theory course last quarter. More than that, something I'd learned from that stupid, terrible, awful course (which I hated) had come to mind without my making an effort at it. I just want it to all be behind me, it was so painful.... ;__;

ursusornatus said...

Any more Kimhi notes to share? Took a course with Kimhi, but I'd love to read more. I (and I'm sure many others) would love to get a glimpse at the work of this amazing thinker.

Daniel Lindquist said...

I'm sure I have more notes in a box somewhere, but I'm not sure where.

I do have some good news, though: His book is under contract with Harvard University Press, and my friend at UChicago says it looks like it actually will come out at some point. (I've seen the first ~100 pages in draft format.) Last I heard, the working title is "Active Thoughts" (and I believe it's already been cited a few times under that name).