21 December 2007

Brandom Lectures Update

The full audio of Brandom's fifth lecture, along with the reply and the full Q&A section, has been posted to the place the old version was at. I figure this is of interest to some, and wouldn't want it to get buried in an old comment thread.

Hopefully I'll get around to listening to the full version (and the final lecture) sometime before the sun becomes a cold, dark lump of coal the size of your forehead. But no promises!

edit: I have listened to the full version, and have started working through Priest's "An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic". Which has been my first formal introduction to modal logic (though I was of course not entirely ignorant of the stuff before now, my "Logic" course didn't go past the predicate calculus, so I'd been neglecting actually sitting down and working textbook problems for anything more than that). I get what Brandom's been saying about "the modal revolution" now; this stuff is neat.

I'm not sure how much Brandom's claims about "the intrinsic logic" of e.g. intuitionist logic being classical S5 really amount to. The claim seems to boil down to saying that for any autonomous discursive practice, even one in which "Not not A, ergo A" doesn't generally hold as a form of valid inference, you can say how to draw inferences according to classical S5 rules; any autonomous language game is VV-sufficient for laying out classical S5's inferential rules through a semantics that speaks only of commitment and entitlement. But this does not strike me as particularly impressive; there would still be inferences in the discursive practice whose form classical S5 would countenance which the discursive practitioners would not recognize as valid, so it strikes me as odd to say that the "intrinsic logic" of the discursive practice is classical S5. Whatever purpose "intrinsic" logic serves, it doesn't seem to have much of a relation to the inferences reasoners draw, and so it seems like a rather beggarly "intrinsic" feature of their practice. If logic isn't behind the validity of inferences, I don't see what it can be said to do at all.

I don't think there's anything here that Brandom would disagree with; he said in an earlier lecture that he doesn't think the question of "Which is the true logic" is a good one, since various logics can be used to express various sorts of inferential commitments. But then I'm left wondering what calling classical S5 "the intrinsic logic of most familiar logics" is supposed to mean, if it's not supposed to be calling classical S5 "more true" than other logics -- more closely related to our inferential practices, or somesuch. For instance, on page 2 of the lecture handout:

Fact: The incompatibility semantics over standard incompatibility relations with these semantic definitions of connectives validates classical propositional logic.
What is that supposed to mean, if we're not interested in the question of "Which is the true logic"? In what sense can classical propositional logic be "validated" short of being "the true logic"? Is this supposed to be an explanation for why classical logic came along so early, and has been so widely-liked, or something like that? (If so, it strikes me as a bad effort -- classical logic has simple truth-tables, and both "the law of excluded middle" and "the law of noncontradiction" have the support of Aristotle (and most of the tradition), which I think nicely accounts for why non-classical logics always smell a little fishy. But I suspect Brandom doesn't mean to be addressing this question, either. I just don't know what "intrinsic logic" is supposed to signify. Perhaps he's claiming that classical S5 can be worked out purely from talk of commitment and entitlement (and not of truth etc.)? But then I still don't see why "intrinsic logic" should be a good title for this feature of classical S5.)

This is to set to the side that, as I understand it, paraconsistent logics don't have classical S5 as their "intrinsic logic". Whatever the "validation" of classical logic is supposed to amount to, I suspect that this is a serious barrier to it.

On a more positive note: I liked the stuff about holism. Fodor comes under attack from yet another front; suits me fine. I am curious what Brandom's argument for holism entails for a Tarski-style theory of truth (along Davidsonian lines), since in a Tarski-style theory the truth-conditions of a sentence are derived from semantic properties assigned to sub-sentential units, that of satisfaction; the satisfaction relations are the axioms from which the familiar T-sentences are drawn as theorems. Tarski-style theories of truth are compositional. (I think I have this right; I should probably go back and read some of the earlier Davison essays to brush up on this.) Brandom's semantics is not compositional, though it is recursive. "It is holistic, that is, noncompositional, in that the semantic value of a compound is not computable from the semantic values of its components. But this holism within each level of constructional complexity is entirely compatible with recursiveness between levels. The semantic values of all the logically compound sentences are computable entirely from the semantic values of less complex sentences." I suspect that this is not a difference which makes a difference. The Tarskian details that lie behind Davidson's "Convention T" do not seem to play much of a role in the interpretive process; ""S" is true-in-L IFF P, where "P" is a translation of "S" into English, or simply S if L=English" does not seem to need any adjusting if one mucks around with the axiom system Tarski used; McDowell argues in one of his essays ("In Defense of Modesty"?) that intuitionists can make use of a Tarski-style theory of truth as a theory of meaning despite their disagreements about logic, contra Dummett & Wright, and I should think the same holds here: The important part of "Convention T" remains unassailable, though some of the things Davidson wrote about compositionality might need revising.

17 December 2007

Cutting it close

I have submitted my grad school application for Chicago. Now I get to wait three months. And hope that FedEx didn't lose my writing sample. And worry that my writing sample was a horrible mess and I should be ashamed of myself for submitting it. And my knee's still all swolen, and the number the hospital gave me for an orthopedist ended up being some guy who only does hip and ankle replacements. And I don't have the slightest idea what I'm supposed to do this spring, since it'll be the first time in my life since toddlerhood to have a "semester" with no classes to go to. And my poor car has been sold for scrap metal. And my mom's having another bladder surgery on Wednesday.

But for now, it's time to relax.


13 December 2007

Hegel and Quietism again (briefly)

Reading through the Pippin/McDowell exchange now. Pippin's postscript was quite enjoyable I thought; probably my favorite piece of his that I've read so far. Though it does seem to miss the point as a criticism of McDowell, as McDowell points out.I've not yet finished the series, but the following bit in "Pippin's Postscript" caught my eye:

To reconceive the way our sensibility is formed as a ‘moment’ in the self-realization of the Concept is to provide a picture of thought that is not confronted with that substantive task. That the forms of thought are the forms of reality can now stand revealed as a platitude. (At least until someone thinks of some other reason to find it problematic.)

It says something about McDowell's quietism that Hegelian doctrines can "stand revealed as platitudes".

Hegel did think that there was something "obvious" about "the coincidence of logic and metaphysics", since he think it's akin to the old idea that "nous governs the world" or more modern thoughts of "Divine Providence", but he's well aware that this is not a platitudinous notion; immediately after he makes the claim, in §24 of the Encyclopedia Logic, there is a very long note apologizing for such a way of speaking, and noting the many objections that readily spring to mind against it (that it appears to credit consciousness to "dead nature" etc.). The remark itself is only a preliminary note; Hegel's trying to give a brief sketch of the Logic (and the whole Encyclopedia system) before he actually sets it out. And it's well known how much Hegel hated trying to summarize his work; his prefaces generally begin with, if they don't entirely consist of, an attack on the notion of philosophical works having prefaces. Hegel generally complains that a preface can't be clear about what's going on in the book unless one has already read & understood the book, but if one already done that then a preface is superfluous. But he includes them because they are a necessary evil; though one is likely to get a horribly misleading impression from a summary, it is at least a starting point, and those are hard to come by.

That the identity of the forms of thought and the forms of reality may "stand revealed as a platitude" seems disingenuous. It may stand revealed as true (pending someone coming up with a good objection to it), but this is because we've sat and thought about it an awful lot (with the help of complicated books by dead German guys). This is not generally what comes to mind when one thinks of "platitudes". If anything is not banal, Hegelianism would seem to be.

It often happens that one only really understands a platitude once one's been through such-and-such. "You can't go home again" is platitudinous, but this hardly stops people from trying; one understands the platitude only once one really feels how distant one has become from one's old home. But the such-and-such in question cannot be just any requirement. Given sufficient training, practice, study, etc. anything can come to seem obvious. But if this was sufficient to make the notion in question into a platitude, then everything would become one. In which case it would be misleading to speak of "platitudes" at all.

It is worth noting what McDowell immediately follows the above bit with:
There is no way to conceive reality except in terms of what is the case, and there is no intelligible idea of what is the case except one that coincides with the idea of what can be truly thought to be the case.

This is clearly McDowell's Tractarianism in view (or if you don't like to call it that, then it's another reference to PI 95). So the reference to "platitudes" is clearly a Wittgensteinian move. (As if TLP 6.13 read "Logic is the mirror of the world; logic is metaphysics". I had to trim out "Logic is not a body of doctrine" because it just seems too forced to leave in place.)

Reading a little further:
It may seem absurd to suggest that the identity-in-difference of thought and reality is a platitude. But it takes work to enable it to present itself as the platitude it is, in the face of our propensity to mishandle immediacy.

Oh, so we just need to get a proper view of mediation and immediacy, and then Hegel's remark will seem platitudinous. Again, this seems a hard pill to swallow. I'll quote Hegel's own exasperated remarks, from the Science of Logic §92, which is more or less a third preface to the book:
This is not the place to deal with the question apparently so important in present-day thought, whether the knowledge of truth is an immediate knowledge having a pure beginning, a faith, or whether it is a mediated knowledge . In so far as this can be dealt with preliminarily it has been done elsewhere. Here we need only quote from it this, there is nothing, nothing in heaven, or in nature or in mind or anywhere else which does not equally contain both immediacy and mediation, so that these two determinations reveal themselves to be unseparated and inseparable and the opposition between them to be a nullity. But as regards the philosophical discussion of this, it is to be found in every logical proposition in which occur the determinations of immediacy and mediation and consequently also the discussion of their opposition and their truth. Inasmuch as this opposition, as related to thinking, to knowing, to cognition, acquires the more concrete form of immediate or mediated knowledge, it is the nature of cognition as such which is considered within the science of logic, while the more concrete form of cognition falls to be considered in the philosophy of spirit. But to want the nature of cognition clarified prior to the science is to demand that it be considered outside the science; outside the science this cannot be accomplished, at least not in a scientific manner and such a manner is alone here in place.

If this is what is needed for us to recognize the platitude as a platitude, it is an awfully tall order. By the time "the more concrete forms of cognition" are being dealt with, you're at the end of Hegel's system. Even if McDowell has significantly easier ways to keep us from "mishandling immediacy" (and in this paper he refers to the entire Phenomenology as devoted to the task), the platitudinousness of Hegel's purported platitude is looking mighty shaky. Hell, in this latter formulation it seems prima facie impossible that it could be a platitude, since I will submit that there just can be no platitude which includes the phrase "identity-in-difference". That is too many hyphens for a platitude.

I am not suggesting that the dissolution of Kant’s problem about conceptual objectivity exhausts Hegel’s thinking; not even that it exhausts his thinking about the relation between thought and reality.
For one thing, Kant’s problem reflects only one way in which unmediated immediacy can make the relation seem problematic.

I wonder if all of Hegel's thoughts are platitudes, or at least all of the ones that involve ways in which mediacy-immediacy can seem problematic, but really isn't.

It occurs to me that one could take a "Wittgensteinian" position against "philosophical theories" along the lines of Goldman's proof that p: "Theories are the sort of thing that might have counterexamples. But if our sayings were to admit of any counterexamples, then this would just show that we've not been sufficiently rigorous in our own anti-theoretical approach, for our non-theories are not supposed to be able to have any counterexamples. Hence there can be no theories in philosophy."

As a final anti-quietist grenade, McDowell again:
Pippin says I hold that objects simply occupy a position of authority over our thinking. But ‘simply’ makes this a travesty.

an aside: Pippin footnotes McDowell, "Self-Determining Subjectivity and External Constraint", which appears to only have been published in German. Anyone have this? I notice that Pippin's citation (in his postscript) is "(6, draft)". I guess McDowell did not include the standard "PLEASE DO NOT CITE THIS IS A DRAFT" disclaimer. edit: Got it, thanks Tom. Though now that I double-check, it turns out it was in Currence's bundle. I could've sworn I looked there for it.

12 December 2007


I love internet polls. The Telegraph had a web-contest to suggest a new UK flag. Here's the winner:

That's the Gurren-dan logo in the middle, there. The Telegraph article makes it sound like it was just "inspired" by anime or something; nope, that's a straight rip from the Gurren-dan flag. The plain red-and-white background (visible in the OP at about 1:15) was just changed to the Union Jack.

The Norwegian designer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he intended the flag to represent the union of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in a modern, cool light.

The dragon itself was inspired by a Japanese anime television series.

"It represents shouting "UNION!" and joining together; kicking reason to the curb and doing the impossible; fighting the power, and piercing the heavens," he said

And what impact does he think the new flag would have on foreigners like himself?

"That the UK is awesome. I just hope they don't think it's a pirate flag.

"Actually, if this design is rejected as a common flag perhaps the Crown might file it for future use as a privateer ensign on the high seas or in outer space."
It's not clear to me from the article if the designer mentioned that he straight-up took the "dragon" (actually Gurren's face) from a show. I suspect he may have tried to softball it, so that he could get quoted in the Telegraph like he did. "UNION!" is what Kamina/Simon yell when Gurren and Lagann combine to form Gurren-Lagann, or later when Lagann and like a dozen other captured mecha combine to form Dai Gurren-Lagann. "Let's make the impossible possible and kick reason to the curb!" is one of Kamina's catch-phrases; "Your drill is a drill which will pierce the heavens!" is another. And "RARH RARH FIGHT THE POWAH" is the eyecatch jingle. (It pleases me to see that the Telegraph's comments are filled with people shouting "BELIEVE IN YOU WHO BELIEVES IN ME!" -- another fine Kamina moment.)

The last bit is also a reference to the show; the two biggest additions to Gurren-Lagann are a giant boat (which can fly) and a huge spaceship. And then, the moon. You know you're watching a good show when it turns out that the moon is a giant battle fortress, and this is a minor plot point. Incidentally, the way to defeat the moon is with a giant drill. This also works for absolutely everything else ever. If at first the drill does not appear to be working, the solution is either "more drills" or "bigger drills". Or sometimes more, bigger drills with lots of other drills coming out of them. Nested drills. Drill drill drill drill drill.

I don't know why the Telegraph article does not mention which "popular online forum" was responsible for the vote-rigging. It was 2ch. Also, that is not a "Manga cartoon character" riding the dragon. It's Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière from "Zero no Tsukaima", which was a series of light novels and an anime before it got a manga adaptation, and that particular image is from the eyecatch of the anime. Louise there is only a "Manga cartoon character" if "Manga" means "Japanese". (And what's up with that capitalization, Telegraph?)

One of the Japan-submitted flags had leeks on it. Presumably this is Hatsune Miku's proposed flag. This flag manages to feature random loli while remaining on-theme, since Ana-chan is from Corunuwarru, good job 2ch. Though I have no idea what the little yellow triangle is there for, and that's a really lousy picture of Ana.

I voted for the Louise flag. Ride on, Louise. Ride on.

09 December 2007

Kant's Transcendental Proof of Realism sans phrase

From an e-mail, Duck:

[Quoting a post of mine]
"Kant's Transcendental Proof of Realism" still doesn't deserve to be neglected like it appears to be.

Maybe you can post on it? That's a provocative title (although not as provocative as "K's proof of Transcendental Realism" would be). I'm happy to hear about why Kant is not an idealist, but I don't know KW's particular take on the matter.

I actually have covered some of the material in it in earlier posts; I just didn't cite Westphal when I summarized his arguments, since I don't have the book anymore. It's worth pointing out that Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews covered the book a while back; my summary will overlap NDPR's at points, but I'm more favorably disposed to the book than the Notre Dame reviewer was.

Westphal's book is divided into four parts: A critique of Henry Allison et al's "epistemic" version of transcendental idealism (hereafter TI) by means of the defense of a "metaphysical" reading of TI; two separate ways in which Kant's argument for TI fails, "the transcendental affinity of the manifold" as a "material transcendental condition" and the shift from "each event has a cause" to "each event has an external physical cause" in the Analogies; and then a concluding section wherein Westphal argues that TI was not required to "make room for freedom" and that a TI-less version of Kant's system can be developed which avoids the problems Westphal diagnosed while still yielding interesting results. The book as a whole is devoted to defending "transcendental arguments" as not being wed to TI (and so, contra Barry Stroud, as being able to "reach all the way out" to reality), with an aim of suggesting that Kant/Hegel have plenty of good transcendental arguments lying around for us to make use of. In particular, Westphal is concerned with a Kantian argument for "mental content externalism" -- for the thesis that our thoughts being contentful is dependent on the external world being some particular way, such that changes in the world would imply changes in our thoughts.

The first part was not anything particularly new to me; starting a study of Kant by saying "Allison is wrong and here's why" is something of a commonplace by now, and I've read enough of Karl Ameriks's stuff to find the "metaphysical" reading of TI almost common-sensical. (Bader over at the Transcendental Idealism blog has done a fine job covering these issues.) If Kant didn't understand TI in this way, then there's an awful lot of incomprehensible remarks floating around in places like his "Lectures on Metaphysics" and his ethical/religious works. Allison's views are certainly interesting, and undeniable Kantian, but they just aren't Kant's own views.

Westphal also does do a nice job handling a standard objection to Kant's TI (which goes back to Jacobi), that it demands we both apply the category of "cause" to the thing-in-itself (as cause of our representations) and cannot apply the category of "cause" to the thing-in-itself (or else TI is false). Kant's position doesn't fall that easily; Kant doesn't need to apply the schematized concept of "cause" (the category of causation) to the thing-in-itself, but merely the "logical" concept of "cause", of an implicative relation in general. The relation in which the thing-in-itself stands to my representations is analogous to the relation between the sun and the warmed rock, to use Kant's exemplar of a causal relation. Kant doesn't think we can say more than this about the "cause" of our representations, for the same reason we can't say much of anything about the causal power of our free wills -- to do either would be to exceed the limits of the understanding. So Kant has to leave the relation of our representations to things-in-themselves as "mysterious", but it's not a crippling mysteriousness; Kant's TI allows for this sort of indeterminate talk of things in themselves, though it denies that we can have any determinate knowledge of them (because the categories do not apply to them). Kant's TI, read metaphysically, is in the main coherent. If it fails (and Westphal thinks it does), the devil's in the details. And to the details he proceeds.

The first issue Westphal considers is one that doesn't get much mention in the literature, "the transcendental affinity of the manifold". Westphal argues that this should be identified with Kant's "logical principle of genera". I'll quote a passage concerning the latter, from A653/B 681:
Suppose (a case that is readily thinkable) that among the appearances offering themselves to us there were so great a diversity -- I will not say in form (for in that regard appearances may be similar to one another), but in content, i.e., in the manifoldness of existing beings -- that even the very keenest human understanding could not by comparing appearances with one another discover the slightest regularity. If that were so, then the logical law of genera would have no place at all; and even a concept of genus, or any general concept whatsoever, would have no place -- nor, indeed, would even an understanding, which deals solely with such concepts. Hence the logical principle of genera, if it is to be applied to nature (by which I here mean only those objects that are given to us), presupposes a transcendental one. According to this transcendental principle, homogeneity is necessarily presupposed in the manifold of possible experience (although we cannot a priori determine the degree of this homogeneity); for without homogeneity no empirical concepts and hence no experience would be possible.
Kant argues that what is given to us in the manifold of sensation must have at least some minimal amount of order to it; if nothing is at all similar to anything else in sensation, then we could not take notice of anything given to us in sensation, for there would be no determinate objects or states for us to discriminate among (for if they were determinate, they would be determinate in some determinate way relative to other determinations), and hence our thoughts of them would likewise be wholly indeterminate; "without homogeneity no empirical concepts and hence no experience would be possible". The problem this causes for TI is that Kant specifies that this is a transcendental requirement on the matter of what is given to us, not on the form. But according to TI, all transcendental requirements are formal -- the matter is given ab extra, and then the mind imposes the intuitional forms of space and time on it, with the rest of Kant's transcendental requirements falling out of this imposition of spatio-temporal form. This was how the "Copernican turn" was supposed to work, by conforming objects to thought rather than t' other way 'round. But with the principle of genera/the affinity of the manifold, we have a requirement on how the matter of the object must be for thought to get a grip on it at all. If this too is contributed by thought, then there is no longer a sense in which the matter of intuitions is given ab extra; the thing-in-itself can only be (at most) an occasion for the mind to generate "representations" for itself out of whole cloth. This sort of idealism is something Kant's transcendental idealism was supposed to be tailor-made to avoid -- it's empirical idealism, subjective idealism. But if Kant wants to maintain the "Copernican" notion that objects conform to thought because of the transcendental application of forms upon what is given ab extra, then he has to fall back into it. Kant has a problem.

Westphal traces the root of TI back to the Transcendental Aesthetic, where Kant claims to establish that space and time are nothing in themselves, nor are they properties of objects in themselves, nor are they properties of objects in relation to one another, but space and time are merely the forms under which we intuit objects. The forms are due to us, not the objects. God could intuit objects without our forms of intuition (and indeed he must, if God is to play the practical role Kant lays out for him, in the way Kant lays it out). Kant's later arguments for the restriction of knowledge to appearances all refer back to the arguments of the Aesthetic; the schematized categories can't apply to things-in-themselves because, qua schematized, they apply to objects extended in space and time, and there are no things-in-themselves in space and time.

Kant's argument in the Aesthetic doesn't work, however. The argument works as a long disjunctive syllogism: Space and time must be A, or B, or C, or... and cannot be A, and cannot be B, and cannot be C, and... hence space and time are transcendentally ideal, and do not apply to things in themselves, as this is the sole remaining possibility. But Kant ignores a possibility when he lays out this argument: (At least some) objects are in themselves extended in space and time, and only those objects which are extended in space and time can be given to us in intuition, and then only insofar as they are extended. This allows space and time to be "formal requirements" on any object which can be given to us, but without requiring any transcendental meddling. (If these same objects have some non-spatio-temporal properties, or if there are non-spatio-temporal objects, the objects cannot be given to us under those aspects. But nor can we so much as imagine what these would be like, though they remain logically possible. And what can be given to us is the objects themselves, as they are in themselves.) (I need to look at McDowell's "Radicalization of Kant" essay more closely at some point; McDowell seemed to end up endorsing a stronger thesis, that space and time are the forms of objects generally, when this extra step isn't needed to secure thought's grasp on its objects. There can be things we can't notice without this sliding into "We can't notice anything". McDowell seems to be making the same overly-strong claim as Hegel here, at least.)

A quick glance at the Aesthetic (which is a lot shorter than I recalled it being) gives me this:
How, then, can the mind have an outer intuition which proceeds the objects themselves, and in which the concept of these objects can be determined a priori? Obviously, this can be so only insofar as this intuition resides merely in the subject, as the subject's formal character of being affected by objects and of thereby acquiring from them direct presentation, i.e., intuition, and hence only as form of outer sense in general.
The problem is in the "obviously". That's Kant's argument against the position Westphal considers, so to speak. It just doesn't occur to Kant. Kant holds that we have a pure, formal intuition of space a priori, and so he thinks space must be imposed by the mind ("outer intuition... resides merely in the subject, as the subject's formal character of being affected by objects"), and thus space cannot be the form of objects in themselves. But, as Westphal shows, this doesn't follow. Our pure formal intuition of space might be what allows us to be presented with objects without it having to distort them in the process of doing so. Kant recoils too far from the "abstractionist" picture of space as "derived from experience" into a picture of space as forced onto experience. (The objection of a "neglected alternative" in the Aesthetic is common, but Westphal takes it in a different direction than most. It's generally posed as part of a broadly anti-Kantian project of criticism, which is not Westphal's aim. Westphal aims to show that the Aesthetic can be shown to fail without this vitiating the aims of the Critique as a whole.)

The second failing, the sliding between "every event must have a cause" and "every event must have an external physical cause" appears to again just be an oversight on Kant's part -- which he caught later on. Trying to fix the argumentative "gap" here was one of the goals of Kant's "Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science", and then later the "Opus Postumum". Westphal picks apart the opening chapter of the MFoNS, on "Phoronomy", and shows how (among other things) Kant doesn't have a good reason to reject the possibility of hylozoism, and so Kant failed to patch up his system. Kant wants to somehow argue from the mere notion of matter as "the movable in space" to the thesis that each physical event must have an external physical cause, and the prospects for success here are dim. But Kant needs to somehow vindicate the stronger form of the causal thesis, because this is what the analogies required, and trying to wheedle it out of the bare concept of "the movable in space" is all his "critical metaphysics" allows. This part of the book is more nit-picky, it seemed to me, and doesn't have a great deal of bearing on TI generally; Westphal spends most of his time arguing against Michael Friedman's reading of the MFoNS, since Friedman's the big name when it comes to the MFoNS, but this doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the book. Westphal could've gone from the affinity of the manifold straight to his closer and the book would've been a better read.

The conclusion of Westphal's book is that Kant's transcendental arguments can be reworked into a form that does show that the categories (or at least the categories of causation) can be applied in possible experience (and not outside it), and that this (sound) argument doesn't establish anything like transcendental idealism. Westphal calls it "realism sans phrase", to distinguish it from empirical realism, internal realism, virtual realism etc.. Westphal argues that it should've been Kant's own position, but for some unfortunate oversights on Kant's part; the sorts of arguments Westphal makes use of have parallels in Kant (which Westphal is quick to draw attention to). Realism sans phrase both is and is not the "transcendental realism" Kant rejects; the latter is a confused view that would take maxims like "Each event has a cause" and try to draw conclusions from them without consideration of the context within which such a maxim can be held true by us (viz., within possible experience -- in application to objects in space and time); the "transcendental realist" is thus accused of making a mess of freedom and nature (A 543/B 571). Kant specifically says that the "transcendental realist" does this to time and space by trying to measure them -- are they finite or infinite? (A 491/B 519). But the way Kant initially introduces the "transcendental realist" (in A 369-372) is more anodyne: the transcendental realist holds that objects which we intuit as extended in space are also extended in space in themselves -- "apart from the senses" in the sense that our mind does not effect their spatiality. Kant slides from this characterization to the characterization that the transcendental realist must regard objects as extended in space "apart from the senses" in a different sense -- objects are in space, and we intuit objects in space, and these two are independent* of one another. Even if objects were not extended in space in themselves, we would still intuit them spatially, and if they are extended in space in themselves, then we still might intuit them nonspatially. Which means that our "spatial intuitions" can't tell us about any objects in space; we have to infer the one from the other "as cause from effect". Thus "transcendental realism" is wed to "empirical idealism" (and TI is wed to "empirical realism"). So Kant's condemnation of "transcendental realism" is ambiguous: it's a condemnation of empirical idealism (good), of the use of the categories outside the boundaries of possible experience (good), and of the notion that objects are in themselves as we intuit them to be (bad). Westphal means to affirm the third position, while retaining a Kantian opposition to the first two.

Westphal's final chapter is devoted to showing that (contra Kant) TI is not needed to "make room for freedom" in Kant's system. Westphal shows that Kant's arguments in the analogies and the paralogisms jointly rule out determinism in psychology. As Kant points out in the introduction to the MFoNS, psychology deals with no objects of outer sense; the soul is not a physical object, and so it cannot be treated of by recourse to physical, causal laws. The paralogisms make the point even sharper: We have no knowledge of the soul as a substance at all; it is only equivocations which make it seem that there must be a thing underlying all my thoughts to give them unity. And if my mind cannot be licitly considered as a thing, then a fortiori it cannot be considered as a physical thing, which it would have to be for Kant's argument for determinism in the phenomenal realm to apply to it. Because the soul is not a physical substance, the analogies have no bearing on it; we cannot affirm knowledge of any causal relations involving a soul. Kant does explicitly affirm psychological determinism in the first Critique (in the response to the third antinomy), but Westphal notes that the section on the antinomies was written before the paralogisms/analogies/MFoNS, and that while the paralogisms were completely rewritten for the B edition, the antinomies were left unchanged. So Kant appears to have not noticed that his views in the paralogisms implied that psychological determinism is not known to be true, and so TI was not needed to allow for thought to be ungoverned by natural laws. Without recourse to a "noumenal self", Westphal is able to get to the conclusion Kant wanted from the first Critique: It is not known that my thoughts follow upon one another according to a law. I am inclined to not rest satisfied with all of the conclusions Westphal ends with, but they strike me as being the most faithful to Kant's texts out of all the commentator's I've read.

*That reality and truth are "independent of our beliefs" is the slogan that Davidson, in "The Structure and Content of Truth", says it is pointless either to accept or to reject. (p. 305 in the relevant issue of "The Journal of Philosophy".) Davidson says that the only sense which we can give to this slogan depends on correspondence, which cannot be made intelligible. But it seems to me that Davidson simply ignores the most plausible sense of the slogan: Reality can be a certain way, a certain sentence can be true, without anyone believing that it is so. This is not to say that all of reality could be this way, or that all sentences could be this way, or that all of our beliefs could be false. Reality and truth are independent of our beliefs**, but our beliefs cannot be generally independent of reality and truth. If reality/truth alter substantially enough, our beliefs have to follow. Only some of our beliefs can be wrong; most are true. But most true sentences would not cease to be true if all rational animals suddenly perished, and thus all belief came to an end.

It appears to me that Kant makes a similar gaff -- he conflates the notion that spatial objects are spatially extended independent of our perceiving them as spatially extended with the notion that our intuiting an object as spatial is independent of there being spatial objects. We are able to intuit objects as spatial because there are spatial objects given to us; if there were no spatial objects, we would have no intuitions at all, a fortiori no spatial ones. So again the independence only goes one way. Getting a proper view of this independence is just to reject the transcendental ideality of space and time while still recognizing the formal role space and time play in our epistemic life.

**excepting, of course, the parts of reality which are our beliefs, and the parts of truth which are sentences talking about our beliefs.

blah blah links blah blah smashed car blah blah

Self and World is a good blog.

This Robert Pippin video Currence linked to is pretty great for a short lecture.

I haven't seen anyone link to Sorting Out Wittgenstein yet; if you liked Vexations With Wittgenstein, well, it's like that. Except black instead of pink.

(Blog&~Blog) looks promising.

I'm not sure what Graham Priest can say about a sentence T="This sentence is neither true nor both true and false" where "this sentence"=T. Priest's paraconsistent logic is four-valued: True only, false only, neither true nor false, and both true and false. But if T is true only, then it's not true (and so not true only). If T is false only, then it's also true (and so not false only). If T is neither true nor false, then it's true (and so not neither true nor false). And if it's both true and false, then it's both true and not true, both false and not false. So none of Priest's four truth-values can be assigned to it. So it looks like Priest also has to deal with a "strengthened liar", while one of the selling points of dialetheism was supposed to be that it didn't have to worry about strengthened liars.

Bosphorus Reflections gave my blog's RSS feed its own subheading, which is how I found it. I've liked what I've read of his blog. Clear writing that discusses Foucault/Derrida is still kinda hard to find.

Incidentally, the "partner site" which he links to (which I take to be run by the same guy, based on the URL) has a link to a PDF version of Zizek's "The Indivisible Remainder" on MediaFire. I'm actually curious what Zizek thinks about his stuff being pirated; I'd be surprised if he was much opposed. I'm not sure it's hurting Verso to have a book or two of Zizek's floating around, either; I suspect that a free version of "The Indivisible Remainder" might serve as fine advertising for some of Verso's other offerings. This of course does not make it any more legal, but I really doubt anyone would try to take this to court. It's worth noting that the "Facts, Ideas and Logic" site is legal; it's not a crime to link to a site that violates copyright. And most of what he links to is not pirated material; it's just articles that have been posted in places where he can link to them. I'm curious how he came across the MediaFire links, though.

Oh hey, I just noticed that he added a link to a PDF of "Glas" sometime in the last few days. At least that one makes more sense to pirate; Glas costs upwards of $60 and is somewhat hard to find, while The Indivisible Remainder is a $12 paperback at list price. Though PDFs make for lousy coffeetable books. Huh, the PDF has "Copyright 1986" circled in it. Maybe Turkey has really liberal copyright laws, such that a book from 20 years ago whose author died recently is in the public domain? Still, it's published by University of Nebraska press, so I'm pretty sure this is also illegal. US copyright lasts forever, because of Mickey Mouse, and I'd be surprised if Turkey has not signed some sort of copyright-respecting treaty. But hey, if you don't mind it being illegal: Free unreadable Derrida book. (It's not the scan's fault that it's unreadable. The quality is tolerable. But the book is infamous for being, uh, creatively presented.)

Philosophy things I have found via BitTorrent: Several of Fodor's books, most of Foucault's books, Frege's "Foundations of Arithmetic" and various essays, "Being and Time" and "What is Metaphysics", "The Sickness Unto Death", Kripke's completeness proof for modal logic, public domain works by Hobbes/Hume/Locke and public domain translations of Kant/Hegel/Leibniz/Spinoza, "On Denoting", various Quine essays including a full PDF of "From A Logical Point of View", PDFs of "Philosophical Investigations" and "Zettel", Wittgenstein's collected works in both English and German (though missing a few odd bits, mainly the ones collected in "Philosophical Occasions"), the Zizek! movie, the Derrida movie, what looks like a site dump of marxists.org, and recordings of Dreyfus's existentialism lectures. And that's just the stuff I bothered to look at. I'm actually curious where the Wittgenstein collected works thing came from; it's in some weird e-book format and claims to be an ISO rip. I have no idea who that could have been marketed to, given how expensive the collection would have to be; were there libraries that got jazzed up about e-books? I don't know who else could afford something like this.

I recall reading a "London Review of Books" article by Fodor where he mentioned that he occasionally goes into bookstores to check out the philosophy sections -- he then proceeds to stare at the shelf-full of Foucault books, which are just to the right of where his books would be, if they were there at all. At least BitTorrent likes you, Fodor!

"Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is posted a few places online; the sites it's on seem to all claim that it's in the public domain. I am fairly certain this isn't the case. "From A Logical Point of View" had its copyright renewed, and so I'm pretty sure that at least the revised 1961 version of "Two Dogmas" isn't going to be public domain until 2060, 60 years after Quine's death, under current US copyright law. At least, this is what Wikipedia has lead me to believe.

It's worth noting that "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" is online legally; the site hosting it got permission from the University of Minnesota to reprint a paper from 50 years ago.

also, I have some pics of my car! Ignore the black bars; I only have MSPaint to edit with on my laptop.
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This gives you a look at how smashed it was. The back door on the driver's side is the only door that still works, and that's the only good tire. The engine's shifted over to the passenger's side of the car. The white stuff is where battery acid leaked all over the place. The car was worth $400 as scrap, at least.

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I just liked the guy's face here. He owns the tow-yard. He was pretty happy to see me walking after doing that to my car. Also, you can see my leg in this photo; most of it looks purplish like that now. That's really the only injury I got, apart from some nicks & bruises on my other leg and my right hand. But you can see I'm still standing, so it's all good. Though I'm anxious for my knees to be the same size again.

06 December 2007

Blogging may be light for a bit

This evening, my car spun out, and a tree stopped it. The car's totaled. I'm fine, though my shins are pretty bruised up. No broken bones at least. Paramedics said I was awfully lucky to not end up with my head through the windshield or what-not. Thank God, it's just some bruised shins. I'm sure this will seem like a bigger deal when in a day or so; they said the blood that pooled at my right knee will slowly drain out, and my foot/leg will turn purple. Fun stuff.

My glasses went flying when I hit the tree; no one could find them until right before the ambulance left. I'm not sure if they were in the car or got thrown through the windshield, but they're unscratched. My DS is also fine, though I think it might've gotten some small scratches on the outside. The rest of the stuff I had on me was in my pockets. Basically, all I lost in the accident was the car itself. I mean, it sucks that my car is gone now, but I am really thankful to have my glasses back. That was a rough half-hour without them. And the DS is not immediately replaceable; I have all 493 pokemon on that copy of Pearl! I would not want to lose it. Plus the firmware's been flashed, and that'd be a pain to do again.

But, I figure I'll be pretty scatter-brained for the rest of the night, and they gave me a prescription for vicodin. I figure my post quality would probably not be so hot while I'm on vicodin. I'm on percodine or something right now; they offered me morphine or vicodin, but I figured I wasn't hurting that bad. (This post is also kinda weak, but who cares -- I just mean to be informative. I no needing for to write gooder 4 it~). I have a post on Kenneth Westphal's "Kant's Transcendental Proof of Realism" all written up, but I wrote it before finishing the book. After finishing chapter seven (the last one, where Westphal sets forth in detail what he thinks can be retained from Kant after we look at why transcendental idealism fails, and why Kant's failures don't vitiate his system generally), there's a few details I'd like to touch up. (I finished the chapter last night, but was too tired to write the post. I might get around to it; there's not a huge amount that needs rewriting, I don't think. I figure right now I'm just frazzled from the adrenaline and such; maybe I'll be more clear-headed on vicodin that I expect. Never been on it before. I guess Dr. House does OK with it. Fox television is a reliable source for medical information right)

A few random thoughts:
*Thanks to whoever it was that helped out at the scene of the accident. I couldn't see any of you really, but you were life-savers. (Not literally, that I know of. But you were helpful. And hey I could've been hurt worse than I was. I think the gas-tank was leaking, for instance. Who knows how close I was to being on fire.)
*Seatbelts really do work! I recall seeing the airbag coming out, thinking "OH CRAP THAT IS GOING TO HURT", and then my shoulder-strap caught me. Looks like I got a friction burn on my shoulder, but it only hurts if I stretch it a lot.
*I wish I hadn't filled up the tank this evening. That's $30 I did not need to spend!
*The ER nurse with glasses was hot. And she got me a cup of water! I had to ask seven people before I managed to get a second cup of water. Hot nurse, cromulent performance. 5/5 would recommend to others
*Do car wrecks make the news, or is that just the really bad ones? I was the only one involved and I just spun out through a construction yard (according to the people at the scene; I couldn't see well myself, it was dark), so I guess it's probably not newsworthy. Probably still check the paper tomorrow just in case.
*I was lost at the time of the accident. I was trying to find the Half-Price Books on S.Lamar when I got lost; when I realized I wasn't going to find the store before it closed for the evening, I decided to just drive around for a bit, since it's a nice evening. Then I kinda got lost; apparently I had made it to Caesar Chavez when I spun out, so at least I had almost found my bearings again. (CC is old 1st street, and if I ran into the numbered streets then I could get back home. I guess I don't need to recall Austin's street layout now.)
*I still want to go to that bookstore! I've been to the other three in the area this week; got a lot of nice stuff. Was considering posting a list when I'd hit the fourth store, just 'cause. I found the Pierce book Clark kept recommending, for instance; $4. And I finally have a copy of Theory's Empire, for... $15 I think? Not going to walk across the room to check because my knees hurt. But it was a nice price. I also found some random anthology on "Philososophy in History" with stuff from Rorty, McIntyre, and some other cool dudes, for $15. It actually has two of the essays from "The Original Skeptics" in it.
*My copy of "The Original Skeptics" finally showed up in the mail yesterday. Took it long enough.
*Holy crap I totaled my car what the fuck ;_;
*I have to write my final-essay for Legal Writing before friday afternoon. I'm not coming back next semester, so I'm not sure what I'll do there. I need to remain a "student in good standing" this semester for loan purposes, so I guess I have to turn in something.
*I hate law school. I do not want to do this stuff for a living.
*Graduate school applications for next fall are due pretty soon! I need to figure out what I'm doing about that writing sample. One of the drawbacks about getting a theology BA is I don't really have anything suitable lying around. The best part is I'll have to get two pieces put together, since some schools want 10-15 pages and some want 20-25 pages. Chicago's deadline is the 17th. This will be a fun week ;__;
*Oh hey, I should ask for recommendations. Bad enough I'm asking less than two weeks ahead of time; every extra day is just going to make me more rude. At least I'm not worried about being turned down by any of them; SNU's profs are good guys, and I only really decided I wanted to go for grad stuff after all about a week or so ago, during thanksgiving break. Hopefully I am lucid enough to type an e-mail, there. I guess if I'm not, then I'm not; might as well try.
*There, e-mail sent.
*I was covered in a lot of little sand-sized bits of broken glass for a while. I don't know how Spinoza managed to stand the stuff. It's like pointy dirt. Ugh. Gives me the heebie-jeebies.
*This was my first accident! I haven't even gotten a speeding ticket before. I guess when it rains it pours. And destroys your car. Stupid rain.

28 November 2007

I guess Nietzsche isn't cool anymore

Disturbing Letter Causes Concern at Lower Merion High:

Police have now identified and questioned a seriously disturbed student at Lower Merion High School believed responsible for the letters.... According to officials, the letter was written by someone who appeared to want to harm him/herself or others. While there was no language that specifically targeted the school community, the letter and a knife were found taped to an entrance at school. Other copies of the letter were found in girls and boys bathrooms during the school day.... School officials said the letter made specific references to the controversial German philosopher Martin Heidegger. He was at one time a member of Adolph Hitler's Nazi party.... "The student, though disturbed, had done some research or was a member of some group that supplied a certain amount of information," said Mike Bogad, a parent in the district.... "Obviously, he put time into it. He looked into it. He researched this philosopher. So I'm glad someone was taken into custody and hopefully, it is resolved."

Forcing strangers to read Heidegger is criminal, and the idea that there are organized groups reading Heidegger is troubling. I guess that's about right.

I'm curious what the specific Heidegger references were. I guess "being-towards-death" sounds pretty hardcore, and it'd fit with the random knife. Sounds like it wasn't the "inner truth and greatness of National Socialism" passages based on the rest of the article. Or maybe it was just some spiel about "authenticity".

edit: Update
Daly said that the student is a juvenile and he would not release her name or age. Nor would he disclose the full contents of the letter the girl taped to the door along with the knife and left copies in several places throughout the school.

He did say that it "was full of philosophical mumbo jumbo," quoting the philosopher Martin Heidegger. It contained no direct threats or racial or ethnic slurs, he said, but "had information that would lead you to believe that something was about to happen today," at the school. It included the phrase "Tomorrow it will fall apart," the police superintendent said.

The remark could have many meanings like a cry for help or a threat of suicide or violence, Daly said, but "you have to take it seriously."

Presumably it was the letter, and not Daly, who was quoting Heidegger.

11 November 2007

Pragmatically Moe-diated Semantic Relations

I am only making this post because it seemed wrong to listen to a Locke Lecture and then not post on it. Philosophical content should be approaching absolute zero, here. But the series must be completed!!

There are some problems with the recording of Brandom's fifth Locke Lecture, "Incompatibility, Modal Semantics, and Intrinsic Logic": The recording of Brandom's lecture cuts out before the end, the appendix he keeps referencing is not included in the handouts online, whoever replied to Brandom was not recorded at all, and Bramdom's reply to them is almost entirely missing. And the Q&A seems to be largely building off of bits of the lecture that didn't get recorded. Less than ideal.

Here's what I was able to get from what was recorded: Brandom thinks that any language-game which allows assertions and denials (any autonomous discursive practice) stands in some special relation to S5 modal logic, and classical logic among non-modal logics. Whatever the details of this are supposed to be is, I take it, explained in the appendix I haven't found. Brandom has some way of going from relations of commitment and entitlement among assertions to relations of compatibility/incompatibility among assertions, and then to modal terms (via set theory?); the modal terms are then used to define negation, conjunction, and logical consequence. The upshot is that negation & pals are supposed to be shown to be treatable without an anterior notion of truth; truth, representation, intensional notions, and intentionality all look to be able to be handled down-stream of practices of "giving and asking for reasons" which don't presume them. I'm not sure what to make of all this, given the level at which Brandom's handling it in this lecture. I think it would help if half the lecture material hadn't disappeared. Or if I'd read "Making It Explicit" ever. I get a feeling that there's something sneaky going on in the way Brandom "validates classical propositional logic" and S5 by introducing logical operators by drawing attention to specific sorts of semantic relations, and this appears to have been brought up in the parts of the lecture I didn't hear, but I can't put my finger on what's bothering me about it.

Here's what I can gather of what went on that wasn't recorded: Bramdom has some idea for what to do with intuitionistic logic, but no idea what to do with relevance logics. Whatever was said in the reply to Brandom here, it caught him off-guard. Brandom thinks this is a problem, but he hadn't thought of it at all before the question & answer section of this lecture. I'm curious what all I missed, here. I suspect that it fell out that Brandom's general strategy for handling logical operators won't work for handling certain non-classical versions of the operators, which is a problem given what Brandom's said earlier about wanting to avoid asking "Which is the true logic?"; I rather liked the latter, so I'm curious about the details of the former. Still one lecture to go; maybe it'll come up again.

And now it's glasses-time.

At one point Haruhi.tv had a hidden page with Mikuru images. That's where this pic is from. When I looked through my image directories, I was surprised to find that it's the only pic I have that's just Mikuru wearing glasses.

Thankfully, there is no shortage of Nagato images where she still has her glasses. <3

No shortage at all.

Plenty of glasses pics to go around.

I decided not to post any NWS ones. It just makes sense. And then it occurred to me that I should really save Yuki pics for future use. Don't want to end up using lame pics just because I want to put up a Yuki one.

I've gotten tired of having to hunt for pics that are small enough for my current template; I've had several that end up getting cut off, anyway. 400 pixels just isn't very wide. So I've resized a lot of pics for this post. But not this one. It was always a little small.

Asakura is love. <3

Why did she have to be killed off? She just wants to murder people to see what happens when she kills them. IS THAT SO WRONG?

I have no idea what any of the text on any of these images says. I actually edited out the text on some of the images I put up in earlier posts, just to avoid accidentally throwing up embarrassing messages unintentionally. Now I am THROWING CAUTION TO THE WIND. For all I know, this image reads "I AM A PEDOPHILE; RON PAUL '08". Or more realistically, it might just say something like "Meganekko Rape Doujin Adult-only 18+". Which, ceteris parabus, is something I'd prefer not to have on my blog. But that is just one of the risks you run from trolling imageboards for pics.

This was one of the only images I had of Tsuruya with glasses. What the hell? Tsuruya and glasses is like peanut butter and celery. Man, I haven't had that in years. I need to eat more vegetables. And buy some peanut butter.

She was a background character in Haruhi. There is fan-art of her. I found at least three or four pieces while selecting pics for this update. Good job, Internet.

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Sometimes the internet frightens and confuses me. Why does this exist? ;_;

Whenever I hear someone say "megane", what comes to mind is a scene from "Ultimate Girls":
Big Breasts (this is actually what they called her; I forget her actual name) was fighting a giant robot/alien mangaka. The mangaka throws a pair of glasses at her, and they land square on her face. Big Breasts is confused by this attack.

Big Breasts: Megane?

And then he fires a giant laser from his crotch.

Ultimate Girls is one of the worst shows I have ever watched (in full). In my defense, you could view it online for free (legally), and I couldn't get BitTorrent to work at the time. Still, it had things like a magical-girl transformation sequence involving robot ejaculate. That's a special kind of terrible you can really only get from anime.

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And now for some walls
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to close out the post.

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.

30 October 2007

Concerning Pleasurable Verbs

From Colin McGinn's review of Pinker's new book:

Of particular interest to the grammarian is the fact that in English all the impolite words for the sexual act are transitive verbs, while all the polite forms involve intransitive verbs: fuck, screw, hump, shag, bang versus have sex, make love, sleep together, go to bed, copulate. As Pinker astutely observes, the transitive sexual verbs, like other verbs in English, bluntly connote the nature of the motion involved in the reported action with an agent and a receiver of that motion, whereas the intransitive forms are discreetly silent about exactly how the engaged objects move in space. The physical forcefulness of the act is thus underlined in the transitive forms but not in the intransitive ones. None of this explains why some verbs for intercourse are offensive while others are not, but it's surely significant that different physical images are conjured up by the different sexual locutions—with fuck semantically and syntactically like stab and have sex like have lunch.
"Violate" is transitive, but I wouldn't have thought it was impolite. It's only usable to describe offensive sorts of sex acts, but that doesn't make the term impolite. If you want to speak about rape politely, "violated" is probably going to be a useful term. "Ravage" is also transitive, but strikes me as not so much obscene as ridiculous -- it seems to have a halo of cheap cologne. "Keep company" is transitive, yet is as innocent a euphemism as "sleep together". For that matter, "sleep with" is transitive, and if "sleep together" is inoffensive then "sleep with" wouldn't seem to be any worse.

In what way is "go to bed" silent about how the engaged couple moved in space? The bed is in space, and they went to it. It's silent about many interesting aspects of how they were moving, but then so is "fucked like rabbits". There are all sorts of movements that could involve. I have no idea what specific sorts of motions "fucked" is supposed to connote here; there are several candidates that come to mind, but it's hardly clearer than "slept with" would be.

In what way does "shag" underline "the physical forcefulness of the act" while "have sex" does not? I am not a Brit, and so I do not tend to use the term "shag", yet I know how to use it, and I know that it is generally offensive. Yet its relation to the "physical forcefulness" of sex is a mystery to me. It sounds like carpeting. "Have sex" brings the physical force to mind much more clearly, to my mind. Though I will happily grant that "shag" is a transitive verb. It takes a direct object. (Not "takes" in the sense in which "takes" is offensive, as in "He took her from behind." Did "It takes a direct object" underline the physical forcefulness of anything? If it did, I apologize; I didn't mean for my grammatical remark to be so rude.)

I suspect that the "physical images" McGinn conjures in the final sentence quoted may tell us more about McGinn than about English grammar. If I call to mind a physical image which "fits" the phrase "have sex", it does not much resemble a "physical image" of two people eating lunch. (Perhaps McGinn goes to a different class of restaurants than I do.) That McGinn thinks "fuck" and "stab" are similar qua "physical images" is something I would have preferred not to know; the parallels are clear enough if one looks for them, but it's kinda creepy that this is what came to McGinn's mind when he needed an example.

The whole review's a mess. I should probably read Pinker at some point, if only to see if he really is as bad as he'd appeared. Hopefully his jokes are as good as Zizek's.

24 October 2007

Against the Orthodox Lord

"Towards a Heterodox Reading of 'Lordship and Bondage'" was worth struggling through; McDowell sticks quite close to Hegel's text for most of the essay, so I had to re-read the first part of "Self-Consciousness" just to follow what he was saying. It pays off, though; refusing to pick out sections of the text in abstraction from their context lets McDowell make clear just how odd the standard reading of "Lordship and Bondage" is. Specifically, the "heterodoxy" of McDowell's reading is that there's a single person in Lord & Bondsman, and not two separate humans. I'm convinced he's right, after reading the Hegel passages again.

For a while I'd been bothered by two things about the "orthodox" reading of "Lordship and Bondage" (more or less, the version Kojeve expounds). Firstly: Why are there suddenly two people, here? There's no real socialization going on in the sections on Sense-Certainity/Perception/Force and the Understanding which lead up to "Lordship and Bondage", and there's no real socialization in the sections on Stocism/Skepticism/The Unhappy Consciousness which follow it. It looked like Hegel had bracketed a struggle among primitive humans with sections detailing conceptual muddles from the history of philosophy. And even stranger, the second person suddenly appeared in "Lordship and Bondage" despite the fact that society in general doesn't show up until Hegel starts discussing ethics later in the book. The impression I got was that there wasn't a "good" way out of the muddles in "Force and the Understanding" without pointing to some extra-Phenomenological facts; but the troubles of the working slave (who goes through Stoicism to Skepticism to Unhappy Consciousness to Reason) also solved the problems of "Force and the Understanding", so Hegel (as it were) started again, running through a second path, and in so doing cleared both his current path and the one he'd halted on. McDowell's reading makes the progression much smoother. There's not a second person (the random passer-by who demands recognition and struggles to the death to get it), there's still just our one confused thinker who we've been following along for the rest of the book.

The second problem I had with the "orthodox" reading was: What happened to the Lord? Kojeve said he got "bored" and just dropped out of history; Fukuyama (in "The End of History & The Last Man") said that mutually-recognitive slaves either reduced the Lord to a member of their own ranks or murdered him in an insurrection. Neither of these is a satisfying resolution, and neither has any basis in Hegel's text. The Lord just drops out of the picture. The progress of the Phenomenology continues with the working slave, who has found himself to be a being-for-self of sorts in that he can remake objects in nature to accord with his own notions of how things should be. By the "Unhappy Consciousness" the slave has become both slave and master, but there was never any hint as to how the master (the original one, who made the slave his slave) was supposed to also become both slave and master (since afterwards our thinker is always both, it appeared that the master had to have also been reconciled to his slave, and not just the slave to the master). It seemed quite odd that Hegel had a loose end hanging, there. Again, McDowell's reading solves this. The "master" was never anything but the slave, and so the aufheben of the one is the aufheben of both. No dangling plot-threads need resolving.

Rereading "Lordship and Bondage" with McDowell's suggestion in mind was like reading an entirely new section; suddenly the odd introductions and jumps were all smoothed out, and "The Truth of Self-Certainty" finally appeared at least modestly comprehensible. Previously, I'd had no danged idea what that section was trying to say; it was just a stumbling-block between the Understanding and Stoicism's working slave. I'd figured it was just a badly-written introduction for the new stuff that came along with the struggle to the death etc.

I'm glad I read "Hegel's Idealism as a Radicalization of Kant" before this paper. McDowell runs through most of the material from the earlier paper in a very brief form in "Heterodox Lordship & Bondage", and it was nice to not have to try to work out his views from the short form they had here. Really, "Heterodox Lordship" is mostly a paper on Hegel interpretation; as far as McDowell's broader project goes, he's covering the same ground as in his "Radicalization of Kant" essay.

In short: Very nice essay. Between this, "Radicalization of Kant", and the recent essay Currence passed along on "Overcoming the Myth of the Given", it occurs to me that much of McDowell's post-M&W work involves him getting closer and closer to Kant & Hegel, taking up more and more of their work for his own seesaw-dismounting ends. In the preface to Mind and World, McDowell had said that his book might serve as a "prolegomena to a reading of the Phenomenology of Spirit", and it appears he has taken his own suggestion. I welcome this development.

20 October 2007

What was wrong with propositional content? Oh, that.

Edit: Skip to the footnote to see me finally catch on. Feel free to read the rest of the post if you think it'd be fun to see me struggle my way through things. I threw it behind Tsukasa-Hisui, since a great whopping lot of it strikes me as wrong now. But I spent enough time writing it up that I'm not deleting it, dagnabbit. And I still don't like the "intuitional unity" stuff; McDowell seems to be trying to save more of Kant that I'm inclined to think is worthwhile. (And I'm inclined to save a lot!)

Reading McDowell's "Avoiding the Myth of the Given." Still not sure why he felt the need to revise his old way of saying things. And more puzzlingly, I have no idea what his new rejection of the idea that recognitional capacities can be active in the content of an experience was prompted by, nor whether or not it has anything to do with his new-found discomfort with the phrase "propositional content".

I will look at recognition first, since this bit puzzles me more. McDowell:

On my old assumption, since my experience puts me in a position to know noninferentially that what I see is a cardinal, its content would have to include a proposition in which the concept of a cardinal figures: perhaps one expressible, on the occasion, by saying “That’s a cardinal”. But what seems right is this: my experience makes the bird visually present to me, and my recognitional capacity enables me to know noninferentially that what I see is a cardinal. Even if we go on assuming my experience has content, there is no need to suppose that the concept under which my recognitional capacity enables me to bring what I see figures in that content.

Consider an experience had, in matching circumstances, by someone who cannot immediately identify what she sees as a cardinal. Perhaps she has never heard of cardinals. Her experience might be just like mine in how it makes the bird visually present to her. It is true that in an obvious sense things look different to me and to her. To me what I see looks like (looks to be) a cardinal, and to her it does not. But that is just to say that my experience inclines me, and her similar experience does not incline her, to say it is a cardinal. There is no ground here for insisting that the concept of a cardinal must figure in the content of my experience itself.
It appears that the upshot of McDowell's new (Travis-inspired) view is that we can say that two experiences have the same content, though in each of them things look different (depending on the recognitional capacities of the one having the experience). I don't get why this seems like an improvement over McDowell's old way of talking. Separating "how things look to me" from "how things are given to me in my experience" strikes me as undesirable, and this is how the new way of speaking seems to trend. Certainly we should want to be able to say that in some respect two people who are able to recognize different aspects of the world are able to nonetheless "see the same thing" -- in a sense the one who can identify the cardinal as a cardinal sees the same thing as the one who just sees it as a bird. And in a sense they don't see the same thing: one of them doesn't catch that he's looking at a cardinal. But why should we want to say that the two have experiences with identical contents? We can spell out the sense in which the two see the same thing (they are both able to recognize some aspects of the affair, such as that they see a red bird), and the sense in which they see different things (one catches on that he's looking at a cardinal, one hasn't the foggiest what the bird is called) without separating recognitional capacities from experience itself. McDowell says that the experience of someone who can't recognize things which I can recognize might be "just like mine in how the bird is visually present to her." But if we abstract from what one's experience allows one to recognize, then I am inclined to say that a bird can be "visually present" to me in the same way that it's present to a cat or dog. Which means that this sort of "visual presence" doesn't capture what it is for a rational animal to see something, for something to be "visually present" in such a way that one's conceptual capacities are already active in experience.*

If we do separate recognitional capacities from experiential content, then McDowell would (now) have us say that two viewers who are able to recognize nothing in common nevertheless can have experiences with the same content. This strikes me as undesirable. If a subject notices only things which another subject overlooks (and vice-versa) when presented with a certain state of affairs, then I don't know why we should say that the experiences of the two share more than a common causal terminus -- both of them have experiences which are caused by the same objects, but the experiences themselves are quite distinct (indeed, in this thought-experiment they don't even overlap in their content; how things look to one shares nothing in common with how things look to the other). I take this sort of thought to be a corollary of the idea that for things to be given in experience, experience must draw on one's conceptual capacities. Divergence in conceptual capacities entails divergence in experiences. I don't see the attraction in saying that divergence in conceptual capacities might leave untouched a common content to experiences.

(It is probably worth noting that I'm not sure my thought-experiment is coherent -- I suspect that there may be some concepts, such as certain indexicals and notions of substance and causal relations, which anyone who can have conceptually-contentful experience must have, and so there very well may be things which anyone could recognize if they can recognize anything at all, and thus any experiences of "the same thing" will also have some overlap in content. I think my point remains clear enough even if the thought experiment is rendered a bit less dramatic, in this fashion.)

In the paper, McDowell also introduces a form-content distinction which he holds to be similar to Kant's various forms of intuitional unity (which for Kant were read off from the table of judgements). The example he uses is animal. Intuited content given in the intuitional form of "animal" can include concepts like "hopping" and "perching" which don't find a use when we stick to the "common sensibles of sight" which are "space occupancy: shape, size, position, movement or its absence." This strikes me as needlessly complex. For one thing, we can speak intelligibly of a precarious rock as "perched" on the edge of a precipice, or of a tumbleweed as "hopping along the prairie". When we do so we speak with a little more color to our language than when we say "the rock is on top of the cliff, near the edge" or "the tumbleweed is bouncing as it is blown along by the wind", but I don't see why we should say that the difference is substantial enough that the two ways of talking encapsulate distinct "forms of intuitional unity" which we can be given. It's just that in the normal use of terms like "hopping" and "perching" we are ascribing a sort of agency to what hops or perches. So in cases where we're not inclined to speak of agency (such a with rocks and tumbleweeds) we don't generally use such language. And in cases where we are inclined to speak of agency (such as with wolverines and rabbits) we can use such language without sliding into metaphors. But this sort of distinction doesn't require me to make any reference to various "forms of intuitional unity" for any reason that I can see. The rocks and tumbleweeds and wolverines are all given to me in experiences with various contents. Some of the contents are similar to one another, some are more distinctive. I don't know what work the form/content distinction is doing for McDowell, in its new "intuitional" form.

I suspect that McDowell's new distinctions may just be trying to make it clearer that McDowell's position respects the differences between actively thinking that things appear thus-and-so and it merely being given to one that things are thus-and-so (without one noticing the fact). The difference becomes clearer in cases where one needs to make some novel conceptual shifts to allow for things being thus-and-so to be seen clearly (such as coining an adjective to capture this quality of a thing, or employing a phrase such as "the same color as this shade"); in these cases we must make some modest expansions to our conceptual repertoire to make explicit what has been given to us in intuition. And in cases where one doesn't recognize a distinction which has been made visible to one (for instance, just seeing a particular shade of red as "a darkish red" rather than "this shade", and thus not paying attention to whether it's the same color as some other red things of slightly different dark shades), one could have made the conceptual shift, could have articulated what was given to one in intuition by a novel demonstrative phrase or newly-coined term, and so the mere givenness of the intuited content was already conceptual. For if one had recognized the distinction, one would have done so by an exercise of conceptual capacities, not be antecedently "noticing" the distinction (through some non-conceptual manner of apprehension) and then reflecting conceptually on what one noticed.

McDowell stresses (contra Kant) that the unity of an intuition is a given unity, and not something we've compiled (as in the unity of a judgement). The way I would want to speak of this is that we recognize unity in an intuition -- thus the unity was not something we put there, unlike in the unity of a judgement. I form my judgements; my intuitions are already formed when I get them. But this just makes me more confused as to why McDowell wants to exclude content which requires the exercise of recognitional capacities from the content of an experience. I'm inclined to say that recognition goes all the way down in experience; to notice something at all is to recognize it as being how it is.

Hegel makes this point by way of a maxim of Schelling's: nature is "petrified intelligence". What is, in nature, is the sort of thing which can thought of. The varieties of way things can exist in nature are varieties of ways things can be thought about. But nature is "petrified" intelligence; it is not actually being thought by anything, necessarily. (I recall Berkeley saying that God was constantly perceiving everything, which was how a tree stayed a tree when no human was looking at it. Hegel doesn't need to posit anything like this.) But when nature is thought about, it is (so to speak) enlivened by thought -- what was merely passively "there" for thinking becomes actively thought; the dead intelligence of nature becomes the living intelligence of thought.

Sayeth McDowell: "The intuition [of a red bird] brings something into view for the subject, and the subject recognizes that thing as an instance of a kind [that is, as a cardinal]. Or as an individual; it seems reasonable to find a corresponding structure in a case in which an experience enables one to know noninferentially who it is that one has in view." Why should we not say that the intuition brings an instance of the kind "cardinal" into view, with the subject recognizing it as such? This strikes me as even more natural in the second case McDowell considers: If I see Smith, then it strikes me as ridiculous to say that anything was given to me in intuition other than Smith (which I then recognized as being an instance of "Smith"). If I see Smith and noninferentially know that it is Smith whom I see, then why shouldn't I say that the experience of "seeing" here has a content to the effect that "That's Smith!"? I didn't see "someone" and recognize that this someone=Smith; I saw Smith. I didn't notice a Smith-shaped object, or a person, or an animal; none of these thoughts occurred to me when I ran into Smith. I saw Smith. Though one could say that all of these (Smith, a Smith-shaped object, a person, and an animal) were given to me in intuition, I only recognized a single aspect: Smith. I have no idea why McDowell wants to say that some of these aspects are part of the content of the intuition, and some are merely noninferentially known when appropriate intuitions are given. (Sometimes recognition only dawns slowly. And sometimes one recognizes something only inferentially -- "It has black-red-yellow stripes. That means the snake is poisonous, if I remember the rhyme correctly." I can see why one would want to distinguish knowledge gained inferentially from knowledge gained noninferentially. But in cases where recognition dawns slowly, but noninferentially, I see no reason not to just say that one is recognizing what was given to one (in intuition, in experience) as being what it is.)

*Actually, as I review this post, it occurs to me that one might say that non-rational animals and rational animals both have experiences with the same (conceptual) contents; it's just that the non-rational animals do not recognize anything which they are given. A bird can take flight because a cat is given to it in experience, but it cannot recognize the cat as a cat, as an instance of the kind "cat". It merely reacts to the (distal) stimulus. And so recognitional capacities aren't active in the content of one's experience, since the content could be that of an experience had by an animal with no recognitional capacities. This would also hold for all other conceptual/linguistic capacities; none of them are active in the content of our experience. But the content of experience is still "conceptual" because it is suitable for taking up by a rational animal, for making part of our discourse, for making explicit judgements which endorse the content of that experience as being how things are. This means it is misleading to say that experience has "propositional" content, since that is what judgements have -- an articulated content, a content which has already been made part of a discourse, the subject of an explicit judgement, some 'p' in "So-and-so thinks that p". The content of an experience might be something which no one ever notices, which is never made part of a discourse, which is never the subject of an explicit judgement, which no one ever thinks. And so we coin a new term: Intuitional content. The (intuitional) content of an experience becomes the (propositional) content of a belief if one takes one's experience to be trustworthy in a particular case and thus "endorses" the "claim" which an experience contains. (In contradistinction from conversation, where if I agree with what you just said then I endorse the claim which you just made, without scare-quotes. What you said had propositional content, not intuitional content, and so needed no joining to any linguistic token, nor any explication in active thinking. It had already been so joined, so explicated.) Now I can see why McDowell no longer wants to maintain the two theses he'd previously endorsed. They muddied the waters. McDowell's views have not changed at all; they've just been polished up a bit, some rough edges worn smooth. And McDowell is right, Davidson's response in the Open Court volume was a lot better than I'd taken it to be.