Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

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d63
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Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

Note: in the following, which will go on for several weeks, I will be focused on Rorty and his book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. It will start with James Tartaglia’s Routledge Guide to the book and finish with the book itself. The main thing to note here is that this study, like every study before it, and every study that follows, is merely an experiment that others can choose or not choose to participate in. I merely lay out a reading list that I I am going to follow, pursue it at about 20 pages a day, go to the bar and pick some random point earlier in the text which I can take a more focused approach to and take notes and decide what my 500 words will be on it, and finish by posting them here as I drink a 40 ounce and a shooter of jager. And I realize it seems kind of weird and anal. But this approach has worked for me so far –regardless of what my detractors may say about me.

Anyway:

Going back to Rorty, especially after my studies of Deleuze, I can’t help but feel like a poetry reader going back to Alan Ginsberg’s Howl, or an intellectual going back to Joseph Campbell. They were both important to my process in that they were easily accessible while increasing my appetite for their respective disciplines. The problem is that once you’ve gotten to something a little deeper and more subtle, it feels, in foresight and anticipation, a little uncomfortable going back to where you were in the hope that it will take you further in your process. It feels like repeating what you already know, word by word, as compared to stretching yourself. As Deleuze points out in the intro to Difference and Repetition: we write at the edge of what we know.

And it is in reference to Deleuze that I have my main reservations in that Rorty strikes me as having gotten to the same point Deleuze did a far more accessible way: such as their common desire to undermine representation. The main difference is that while Rorty sought more practical justifications, Deleuze worked towards the very core of human experience.

Still, there are overlaps. As Tartaglia writes:

“This could have far-reaching consequences. For example, it would remove any reason for thinking that 'quarks and human rights differ in "ontological status"' (Rorty 1998:8), that the former are more real than the latter.” -Tartaglia, James (2007-08-14). Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rorty and the Mirror of Nature (Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks) Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Now how far is this from the univocity of Being? And given Rorty’s emphasis on discourse over any claims to the Truth, doesn’t it get some support from Deleuze and Guattarri’s claim, in A Thousand Plateaus, that a book does not reflect the world, but forms a rhizome with it? Couldn’t we say the same thing about language in general?

Hopefully, this study will give me more to write about than I am anticipating.

Added note for the Deleuze board: clearly I’m wandering from a focus on Deleuze. And I don’t want to post things that are off topic. So there will be gaps in my posts here. Still, if I come across points that are relevant to Deleuze, they will show up from time to time. Just explaining ahead of time.
d63
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“Any perception of Rorty as a regular analytic philosopher during this first period of his career, however, one who was later to 'lose his faith' or become 'disappointed', would require the support of some very selective quotation from what he was actually writing. The first sentence of his first published paper is: Pragmatism is getting respectable again. (Rorty 1961a: 197)” -Tartaglia, James (2007-08-14). Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rorty and the Mirror of Nature (Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks) (p. 12). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

“This rift became public in 1979, when Rorty was the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association at a time when the organisation was in a state of crisis. The crisis had built up because various types of non-analytic philosophers – pragmatists, idealists, continental philosophers, etc. – felt their careers had been sidelined by the dominance of analytic philosophy, thus depriving them of research funding and keeping them out of top jobs and journals. Organising themselves as the 'Pluralists', they flooded the APA elections, and voted in their own candidates to top positions, despite none of these candidates having been nominated by the official committee. The 'Analysts' looked to Rorty to overthrow the result, on the grounds that many of the votes had been illegally cast. Rorty refused.” -Tartaglia, James (2007-08-14). Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rorty and the Mirror of Nature (Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks) (p. 14). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

It tends to be a persistent misconception (or form of manipulation (to perceive and describe any resistance to the status quo in purely negative terms. It happens all the time with republicans and libertarians in that in their almost religious commitment to Capitalism (even as it presents ever exploitive abuses of power over most people (they tend to present any argument against it as a desire to completely overthrow Capitalism when all that is really at stake, that is for progressives like me, is to put Capitalism in its proper place: that as one tool among many –including socialism. In other words, they resort to the truest sense of the fallacy of the straw man because (well, let’s face it (in light of Capitalism’s perpetual failings, it is all they really have. They have to make it more an issue of how we say things than what we’re saying actually refers to.

So it should seem no wonder that Rorty ended up in the jam he did and responded to: the dominance of analytic philosophy in the universities due to the increasing influence of corporate funding and a long standing inferiority complex philosophy felt at not being able to create a Smart Phone.

The problem, however, for the resistance is that it has to act in terms of the negative. How else does it put the status quo in its place without ripping through its assumptions? This results in a kind of operationalism that the status quo utilizes to protect its interests: if you describe the failures of Capitalism, you clearly want to overthrow it. And no matter how many times you describe the positive aspects of it, all that will come back at you is the negative aspect of what you have said.

That said, I do not believe that Rorty’s agenda was to overthrow the analytic approach to philosophy. It was to undermine the analytic arrogance that fancied itself as having found an all purpose epistemological system that could underwrite any claim to The Truth. As compared to the status quo (and its so-called philosophers –kiss asses in my estimation (the only real agenda of pragmatists like Rorty and Social Democrats like me is a sustainable balance.

Rorty, as far as I can tell, simply wanted to open up the discourse to everyone –not just the esoteric elite. That is his positive aspect for which the negative was merely a means.
d63
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“So long as philosophers fail to understand that the inner world of the mind, consciousness, is just as real, living, vital, and "material" as is the outer world of tangible objects and forces, nothing will change.”

First of all, thanks for inspiring today’s project (if not also a day or 2 after. Secondly, you may be saying more than you might realize –that is: not knowing the depth of your understanding of or the influences behind it. And finally, your point is especially relevant in that it connects my present study of Rorty with my previous studies of Deleuze.

What we are mainly talking about here is the univocity of being –a Deleuzian concept rooted in Duns Scotus and Spinoza. The point is that since a thing either is or is not, to say that a thought or a dream image has lesser being than the rock that stubs our toe makes no sense whatsoever. Rorty refers to the opposed position as overly committed to the notion of ontological status. It is this sense of Being that underlies their highly conditional embrace of materialism in that neither Deleuze nor Rorty are making fanatical assertions about the non-existence of the self or free will. In other words, it is a materialism that even a philosophically Marxist property dualist like me can embrace. Take, for instance, Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism. Now this would seem, at first glance, like some kind of analytic mandate that we should simply accept that scientific statements must always be given privilege –as if the only thing that should matter is what we can directly observe. But Deleuze’s Plane of Immanence must be approached in terms of the univocity of Being. It must be thought of in terms of the individual as a system composed of a lot of sub-systems interacting with the various systems of reality and the universe which include our systems of thought and what the mind produces. And put in mind here that just because Deleuze (along with Guattarri in the Anti-Oedipus (speaks in terms of machines, there is a difference between using an analogy of machines and speaking in terms of the mechanistic.

Rorty does as much in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature when he attempts to undermine the mind-body distinction. The reason he does so is because by making the distinction, we create a hierarchy in which the mind is given privilege, but only by being able to perfectly reflect the world of objects as a mirror of nature. And it is because of this criterion that we tend to think of the objects of the mind as having less ontological status than the rock that stubs our toe. Consequently, we end up with a situation where you have a lot of wannabes on these boards (TlBs: troll-like behaviors (who go around acting like they can dominate the discourse by using such words as “objectivity”, “rationality”, and “the scientific method” which they flash like a badge of authority, then proceed to make assertions that completely fly beyond the perimeters of the criteria they themselves have established.

Hardcore materialists who make assertions about the nature (or lack (of mind based on the discoveries of neuroscience comes to mind. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is another one in that it talks a lot about facts, then proceeds to assert speculations such as “Capitalism is the only means by which man can achieve his true greatness” as if it had the same fact status as 1+1=2.

Anyway, down to my last beer and Jager: tinker, tweak, and tighten time. More on this tomorrow.
d63
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“I've not read Rorty so you will need to educate me a bit about what he is saying. As to the mirror of nature, if this is a statement about the fact that consciousness is a microcosm of nature, reason being a sort of "condensation and concentration" of reality itself, then yes certainly.”

I would never claim to have expertise on anything outside of my own experience with a given philosopher. This why I prefer to think of what I’m doing as more a travelogue (a postcard if you will: more a description of my process than any type of real philosophical exposition. A bit of a cop-out in all honesty, but the only description my situation (being self taught (affords me.

But my understanding of The Mirror of Nature is the historical notion of philosophy (along with the mind and language (being a mirror that can reflect reality perfectly if we tweak it just right. And I’m quite sure the notion you present would play into it if we explored it a little more.

This is why I would argue that both Rorty and Deleuze represent an abandonment of our initial over-enthusiasm as concerns the classicist and neo-classicist notion that mind is capable of perfect control over nature and reality. This is a notion I would suggest is rooted in the days of Plato when civilization was relatively young (when it was just crawling out of the muck( and it would make sense to assume: civilization (as well as mind) good, while nature (along with our baser impulses) bad. Note here, for instance, Plato’s model of mind, heart, and body: the vertical hierarchy upon which he based his republic.

It took years of despotism justified by Plato’s hierarchal model before our culture made an important break (a digression from (with Romanticism which gave nature privilege over civilization. This eventually led to Nietzsche (the bridge between Romanticism and Existentialism (and eventually to Rorty and Deleuze –that is with a last gasp of air reached for by the analytic movement.

To me, this is the result of the nihilistic perspective that has been with us since Socrates’ claim that he knew nothing, has haunted the process ever since, and has culminated in Rorty and Deleuze along with the multiple influences on them. And I would argue that the nihilistic perspective has always been there because we have always been haunted by the very real possibility that we could not be. In other words, our potential non-being has haunted philosophy from the beginning.

Hence: Rorty’s and Deleuze’s rejection of that which would give us the certainty of being: the ability of the mind and the language it utilizes to perfectly reflect the reality it is presented with. This, in turn, is the driving force behind the fanaticism of the classicists and neo-classicists you tend to encounter on the boards. They, for instance, have to believe that things are just “out there” and that they can see them as they are because it gives them a sense of order to do so –a will to power as you suggest. This is because to admit that what is out there is conditional on what their mind is doing at the time would be to submit to complete chaos: the nihilistic perspective.

And I would note here that neo-classicist positions can be easily associated with(referring back to Plato's realm of ideal forms (to put it in Deleuze and Guatarrian terms (state philosophies.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

It will be chancy. But at the risk of misinterpreting, I’m going to try to go through this random line by random line and hope I’m responding to what you’re actually saying –that is while trying to stay within the spirit of the present Rorty study. Anyway:

“The thought he [Deleuze] develops in D&R [Difference and Repetition] is basically expounding upon and drawing up the "hidden excessiveness" of materiality, which is to say of consciousness or "life", that excessive quality (for it is a quality, basic "qualia" itself, as the form of the sensate) being what underlies all beings; all sensation is merely differentiation of the same basic, underlying "singularity of quality as excessive "materiality”.”

If I get you right, what you are referring to here is the inherent difference involved in repetition. Or as I like to put it:

Even a pure repetition must always be a different instant of the same thing. Therefore, the only thing that can truly be repeated is difference.

:in this sense of it, materialism represents an over-exaggerated faith in the repetition of the object before the subject when that object is always in the process of becoming due to the intimate relationship between subjectivity and time. And it is the illusion of stability that both Deleuze and Rorty react against –even if their approaches are quite different.

And this (the way that difference and repetition are so deeply intertwined (may be the source of the hidden excess of materiality you are writing about.

“Deleuze is still using metaphysical terminology but at least he is identifying the reality more than any other philosopher thus-far. "Machinic assemblages" are certainly not a reference to a merely reductive materialism, nor is his transcendental empiricism a one-dimensionalizing of experience to the "given known" of it, even if we extend givenness to all the vast abstract, conceptual and 'poetic' contents of human experience.”

It seems metaphysical at the same time it seems analytic. Once again:

Even a pure repetition must always be a different instant of the same thing. Therefore, the only thing that can truly be repeated is difference.

And has been pointed out by one of his scholars and interpreters: there is a difference between talking about machines and talking about the purely mechanical. It is this distinction that underlies both Deleuze’s Transcendental Materialism and Rorty’s Physicalism in that in both cases, it is merely a practical way of getting across a way of interacting with the world –that is through being one kind of machine interacting with a universe of other kinds of machines or through the Rortian machine of discourse. Neither one, as far as I know, was interested in reducing the mind to little more than the activities of the brain.

And as far as Deleuze reducing empiricism to the “given known”, this is exactly what he was reacting against in his embrace of the univocity of Being: the notion that to think a sensation (such as thought or a dream( has any less ontological status (to put it in Rorty’s terms (than the rock that stubs our toe makes no sense. In ontological terms, a thing either is or it is not. There is no in between.

That said, excuse the shameless digression off topic for the sake of showboating (which only makes it even more shameless (but this presents a kind of paradox involved in the univocity of Being (which I hope we have established the legitimacy of: if a thing is, we have to imagine the very possibility of it not being. And this would present no problem in itself since our imagining it not being would be a thought that does have being: presence in the face of the absence. Still, there are all these things that don’t exist (the nothingness (that we have never actually thought about, which makes nothingness a very real presence in our lives. This would mean that nothingness (non-being (has being.

Just something to play with.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“Nevertheless, since edifying philosophy is a reaction to systematic philosophy, and Rorty wants the search for universal commensuration to come to an end, it seems to follow that he should also want edifying philosophy to come to an end. Edifying philosophy may be an admirable reaction to the bad faith of systematic philosophy, but if the ultimate goal is for culture to get over its need for non-human guidance, then surely we would be better off if there was no longer any need for edifying philosophy.” -Tartaglia, James (2007-08-14). Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rorty and the Mirror of Nature (Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks) (p. 222). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

This seems to me a legitimate use of the skeptic’s paradox –that is despite my initial criticism of its use to undermine the skeptical position:

If you approached a skeptic and say that you cannot say there are no absolutes, you would be contradicting yourself since you are attempting to establish an absolute, the skeptic would only do what they naturally do, scrutinize until they reached the conclusion that there is a big difference between saying we live in a world with no absolutes and actually living in one, then go right on being skeptics.

And the reason I think the skeptic’s paradox fails in that capacity is because it focuses on the semantic approach to understanding while failing to make the existential leap into how things actually work. For instance, Zeno’s Arrow makes perfect sense in terms of the terminology used. But who among us would go prancing between an archer and their target based on it?

However, Tartaglia does seem to make that existential leap in that it deals with the real world situation of Rorty presenting edifying philosophy as an all serving system, that is when what he should have done is simply presented it as another option: another tool in the philosopher’s toolbox as Deleuze and Guatarri would have put it. And I’m sure Rorty would agree that systematic philosophers have made some valuable contributions to the cultural discourse.

And a pragmatic position is committed to whatever approach happens to be working at any given time in the process –which may even consist of the neo-classicist: that of the analytic or logical positivist. And I would argue that the main (and most legitimate (issue Rorty was dealing with, even if he over-reacted, was the intellectual arrogance and smugness of the neo-classicist in their dismissal of more continental approaches. In that sense, Rorty was an admirable soldier.

In that sense, Tartiglia (if I am reading him correctly (was right in arguing that it should have been more about creating a balance. He was right in arguing that Rorty’s main value laid in his gravitation towards metaphysical plurality.
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And I truly believe we can say the same for Deleuze:

That it is not about replacing fixed systems with a looser form of a fixed system, but one of recognizing that there are a lot of different people out there using a lot of different methods to achieve understanding, and that it will not be the method, but rather the common agenda that makes us one.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“….although honestly, Tariglia's linking edifying to systematic philosophy appeared to me to be a non sequitur from the outset.
Systematic Philosophy wants to model truth, or to describe what the truth is once and for all- that is, it conceives an end point toward which it is directed.
I think Edifying Philosophy has no such end point in view- unless it is to eternally disabuse us of the notion of being Systematic Philosophers!

Saying then that Edifying Philosophy should also end is like saying that we should stop telling stories about why we do what we do.
It may be so that somehow we will in fact be completely disabused from Systematic Philosophy and there will be no need for this particular kind of story (Edifying Philosophy) about it. The significance of Edifying Philosophy (rather than its "truth") would no longer speak to us.
But not only do I think this will never happen- that the urge or compulsion to Systematic Philosophy is so deep that it will always recur in some group of people- but I also think that it would be a shame if that urge or compulsion were lost completely.
I think for Rorty losing this urge equates to 'growing up' and putting aside childish wishes. This may be so and it is what I often argue myself- but the idea that we can put away all childish wishes begins to look like a childish wish. It somehow at a critical juncture simultaneously fails to understand adults, children and wishes.

Arguing against the possibility of Systematic Philosophy is not the same as wishing it would disappear, anymore that arguing against universal and eternal truth that encompass more than descriptions of the most fundamental regularities of nature amounts to a replacement of such an idea.”

Actually, Greg, I’m not sure if it’s the way I wrote it, or the way you interpreted it (doesn’t matter either way (but it would have been a really bad move on Tartaglia’s part to connect the 2 when Rorty was pretty clear in presenting systematic and edifying philosophy as two opposing terms. All Tartiglia was actually doing was pointing out that Rorty, by arguing edifying philosophy to be the way we should go, was inadvertently simply presenting another system –albeit, a much looser one.

And in that sense, it kind of weakens my argument that Tartaglia’s argument is somehow different than the abuse of the skeptic’s paradox. For some reason, he seems to be working at an existential level of verification. But there is still the stench of the semantic in it. As you rightly point out:

“Arguing against the possibility of Systematic Philosophy is not the same as wishing it would disappear…”

I’m torn and may have to eat my own assertion. Hopefully you guys will be able to help me out with that.

Outside of that, I’m pretty much in agreement with everything you say. It’s like you, me, and maybe even Rorty were separated at birth.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“I believe I agree largely with what you say above and think that at its most simple and reflexive level 'postmodern' discourse points to the inevitable a priori embedded within any discourse (including itself). The result of this CAN be the smug conclusion that all discourses are then bogus and undeserving of attention- but that reaction presumes some discourse which has no a priori within it and is thus the 'real' or the 'legitimate' discourse ('science' is the usual candidate put forward for this role). But in fact I think the more appropriate (let us not argue about the 'proper' here) is one of fundamental humility and even openness in relation to all discourses. Not for an instant does this indicate that all discourses are 'equal'- judgment does not end with humility.”

I agree. However, where as you use the term “a priori”, I would use the term “assumption” to the extent that any method we might use, or any conclusion we might come to based on it, any argument we might use to support it, and any “ism” will ultimately come down to certain assumptions that ultimately float on thin air. It is that “floating on thin air” that underlies the nihilistic perspective you might hear me talk about from time to time.

What this has thus far (given the inductive limit (resulted in is a situation in which every debate ultimately breaks down to an impasse of assumptions: a kind of “is so”/”is not” dynamic (what Layotard referred to as Differends (that can never be resolved. Take, for instance, the issue of abortion: it is one of the assumption that life begins at conception against the assumption that it doesn’t: once again: is so, is not. The problem is that neither has any solid foundation beneath them outside of what the individual feels. And the same goes for pretty much every other debate there is.

The problem is, as you rightly (and impressively (point out, this can result in a smug dismissal of all discourses that ASSUMES that it has found the only real answer. And you, yet again, present another challenge to my main criticism of the skeptic’s paradox as a dismissal of the skeptic.

Finally, I agree with your conclusion that what this all points to is a humility that, in the Rortian spirit, gives privilege to discourse over any epistemological system we might use to underwrite our assertions. At the same time, I would add a Deleuzian qualifier in that we cannot let this humility serve as a mandate to be beautiful souls who believe all arguments are of equal value. We, right now, are dealing with a lot of people who, out of self interest, are in a state of denial about our impact on our environment, the finite nature of our natural resources and unsustainable population growth, and an emerging (and perfectly totalitarian (aristocracy via global Capitalism.

You’re right: we must be humble. At the same time, we cannot allow that humbleness to handicap us in the face of really bad and even dangerous reasoning.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

For me, what lies at the core of the pragmatic sensibility is the synthetic role it played in the dialectic between the inductive and deductive truth tests. Pretty much throughout the before that Rorty describes in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, the discourse was pretty much dominated by a dichotomy between the inductive truth test (that which was dependent on the accumulation of data but limited by the inductive limit of always only being able to state: it seems true barring any further evidence against it (and deductive truth test which was dependent on the inherent meaning of words (?: how did the analytics ever think they could get away with it !!!!! (and limited by the nature of the relationship between language (which mainly refers to our mental concepts (and reality.

The pragmatic truth test, on the other hand, only asks if it works and serves (it being a mainly American approach (and America being a relatively young country (as the most recent and revolutionary of the 3: the synthesis in the textbook sense of the dialectic:as a compromise between the inductive and deductive and more.

(And note here that I mainly working from James L. Christian’s philosophy textbook The Art of Wondering.)

Now the cool thing about it is that it enfolds the two previous criteria by admitting that they work when they work, but goes beyond them by asserting that they must not only work within their limited scope, but work within the general discourse as well. They must ultimately satisfy Dewey’s criteria of justified assertability.

Take evolution, for instance: we can assume from the evidence presented (both deductive and inductive (that it is the means by which all this came to be. And we do so because (despite all the language games we can engage in against it (for instance: the argument that there is no way of knowing that there wasn’t some guy with horns and cloven hooves planting all this evidence as a red herring to lead us from God: a deductive trick if there ever was one (it continues to work for whatever reason.

Of course, the classicist sensibility (that which Rorty and the pragmatic is opposed to (will have none of this. They want a path that is straight and true. They want a clear way of solving the world’s problems, which is pretty much the same thing that every tyrant and authoritarian has wanted.

The irony of it is that America, which managed to create such a beautiful democratic sensibility, has also managed (through the bad faith of making everything work like a fine tuned machine (to twist it in to what works for Capitalism. The only thing that works now is what turns a profit. Not what works for everyone but the rich, but what works to turn a profit. What is economics but a description of the workings of the machine of Capitalism? What seems to be working? Like every other sensibility, Capitalism has managed to hijack the pragmatic and created a situation that no longer works.
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Sorry guys: almost every day I find myself despising Capitalism because it just works for me –that is as compared to dropping to my knees and kissing the ass of every rich person that comes along.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“I argue that when extended in a certain way they [Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Dewey] let us see truth as , in Jame’s phrase, “what it is better for us to believe,” rather than as “the accurate representation of reality.” Or, to put the point less provocatively, they show us that the notion of “accurate representation” is simply an automatic and empty compliment which we pay to those beliefs which are successful in helping us do what we want to do.”- Rorty: PMN: pg. 10

And why wouldn’t we? Why wouldn’t we generally favor the truths that science has to offer since, that is, philosophy cannot create an i-pad? And in this sense, isn’t philosophy an evolutionary extension of the brain/environment thinking that our primal ancestors had to deal with?

Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Rorty and Deleuze to argue that the self and mind (or our experience of them (are entities intertwined into the complex that emerges between the body, the brain attached to it, and its environment as compared to standing above it all and passing judgment.

The catch, however, is that it is never exactly about The Environment which we all share. It is generally about the environment of the individual that they, at best, share with like-minded individuals. Hence: the dark side of pragmatism in that we have a lot of individuals out there who are in denial about climate change, the finite nature of our natural resources, and the emerging aristocracy/oligarchy of global Capitalism that is undermining our democracies because that is what is best for them to believe –that is since it is what serves their personal interest. Why else would Americans continue to embrace our present healthcare when we’re paying 3 times more for inferior results than Canada than a fear that their access to healthcare (their environment (might be compromised?

Pragmatism is a two edged sword. And, unfortunately, the pragmatic truth of the progressive may not ring as true as it actually is until the consequences of the clearly false beliefs of the above catch up with them. We can only hope it is not too late by then. We can only hope that the pragmatic truth test proves itself by, in the general scheme of things, working, by helping us do what we really want to do: survive and remain free.
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“Another good post D Edward Tarkington. I'm becoming a real fan!"

As flattered as I am about the term “fan” (which I hope to be hyperbolic and ironic (I’m a little more excited by finding a peer and jam-mate who clearly knows what they’re doing.

“In this post I think it [the pragmatic approach] gets more complicated than people simply believing what "serves their personal interest". Sure the beliefs you mention serves SOMEBODY'S interests, but if we are talking numbers, I don't think they are very large.”

After writing this post, I thought back to a point made by Michael Williams in the introduction to PMN:

“What Rorty teaches is not skepticism , or relativism, or irrationalism, but modesty. As he puts it in a late paper, if we could give up our addiction to underwriting current ideas with philosophical gimmicks, “we might be able to dispense with words like “intrinsic”, “authentic”, “unconditional”, “legitimate”…. [and] get along with such banal expressions of praise or blame as “fits the data”, “sounds plausible”, “would do more harm than good”, “offends our instincts”, “might be worth a try”, and “is too ridiculous to take seriously”.”

And I think the 2 phrases we need to focus on here is “fits the data” and “too ridiculous to take seriously”. It is in these two that the pragmatic approach fails to work for the self interested (what I like to call the competitive model in terms of the relationship between our baser impulses and our more cognitive functions –that is since their self interest is given privilege over their cognitive functions. This is why the argument for climate change denial may seem to work for those engaging in it, but fails the pragmatic truth test by failing to fit the data outside of the data they are working from.

To add to your point: it is not just a matter of whether something works; you also have to consider who it is working for and why. And this suggests the beauty of the pragmatic approach in that it doesn’t shackle us by a lot of classicist harping on a legitimate ad hominem attack on some very bad reasoning. It doesn’t succumb to the operationalism at work in dismissing arguments simply because they are aimed at the motivation behind a bad argument.

“The problem is that these interests are disseminated by structures of power represented by phenomena as varied as gerrymandered Congressional Districts where Democrats can get more votes nationwide yet more Republicans are elected to Congress- wasn't even close really in the last general election- and specialized think tanks, the funding of popular and academic journals, the funding of academic appointments, an entire "news' network etc. etc.
So I think by any rational measure, the majority of people who end up supporting such views do so AGAINST their own best interests.”

That’s just it. But they do so because they think it is in their interest. But because they have failed to make the evolutionary leap from the competitive model of the cognitive/base-impulse relationship in which the cognitive acts in service of their baser impulses to the cooperative one in which our baser impulses see it in their interest to look out for the interest of others and thereby create a partnership between the two, their only pragmatic truth test is what their power allows them to do and assert: a kind of in-crowd mentality that, like the cult dynamic, can prop up some really bad reasoning. For instance: note the semiotic behind a hot republican like Anne Coulter or Sarah Palin. They’re both morons. Yet the competitive model that the republicans live by embraces them because of the message they present: vote and think republican if you ever want to even hope to fuck a woman as hot as Anne Coulter or Sarah Palin. And though this person has shown themselves to be a little more reasonable than this suggests:

“ it seems you'd be wanting a straight line of economics thinking there is some ultimate form which is better than the one you dislike, no?

it is no longer an economic issue then, but a moral one instead. in your picture of what would work better, you will always be crafting the "straight line" of authoritarianistic truth; your ideal.”

:it suggests the kind of language games that pro-Capitalists tend to engage in trying to make it seem like it is the left that is the fascistic threat when the left has no real political power as compared to the right. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out:

There is no left actually left. All there actually is is the middle to right.

:and not because they were actually right or were working towards what worked for anything outside of themselves and their interest, but because they had the power to make it seem right: to define the criteria by which a statement is deemed right or wrong. It’s a little like our right-wing Christians who stand in the most powerful country on the face of earth and argue that the Beast will emerge “over-there” (either the European Union, Russia, or the Arab countries (while embracing the most obvious candidate for such a beast: global producer/consumer Capitalism.

Anyway: ran out my run. Will try to get to more of this tomorrow. You owe me 4$ for the extra beer I had to buy at the bar so I could read your post. And while that may not work for you, it certainly works for me: warranted assertability.
Wyman
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by Wyman »

d63 wrote: Pragmatism is a two edged sword. And, unfortunately, the pragmatic truth of the progressive may not ring as true as it actually is until the consequences of the clearly false beliefs of the above catch up with them. We can only hope it is not too late by then. We can only hope that the pragmatic truth test proves itself by, in the general scheme of things, working, by helping us do what we really want to do: survive and remain free.
You are not a pragmatist:

'as true as it actually is' ?

'the clearly false beliefs' ?

'the pragmatic truth test proves itself'?

'what we really want to do: survive and remain free.'

Why are survival and freedom what 'we' really want? How could you ground such claims?

Do you think that science could make ipads without having first searched for a system that 'accurately reflects reality?' Doesn't physics attempt to accurately reflect reality? And only after some success in that endeavor were other scientists able to apply the principles to develop applications and products.
d63
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“So I think by any rational measure, the majority of people who end up supporting such views do so AGAINST their own best interests.”

“As [Wilhelm] Reich remarks, the astonishing thing is not that some people some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike,, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice , and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, that they actually want humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themselves.” – Deleuze and Guattarri, The Anti-Oedipus, pg. 29.

This, Greg, is perhaps one the most important issues that philosophy has to engage. It’s not just you. And while you make a reasonable argument:

“This presumes a great deal I know- but rather than defining the 'best interests' of these people for them- they might claim that their best interests are 'moral' or 'principled' rather than economic or social- I see no other way to make sense of the decisions they end up supporting.”

:I would offer 2 approaches to this:

For one, I would refer to Sartre’s concept of Bad Faith in which being-for-itself (that which is haunted by its underlying nothingness (wants to be more like being-in-itself. It wants that feeling of having a solid foundation rather than the feeling of anguish as defined by Heidegger: the deep feeling of ungroundedness, the nihilistic perspective of recognizing that all our assertions about the world rest on assumptions, and that ultimately those assumptions float on thin air. Therefore, it stands to reason that the more fearful among us would engage in the bad faith of thinking we might find some all-encompassing system (some grand narrative (that will make everything work like some fine-tuned machine. And sometimes that might involve simply accepting the status quo since that is what is most likely to reinforce our choice. For instance (and I hate to harp on this: Capitalism does not reward merit as much as it rewards the true believer. Capitalism is the present Grand Narrative. Therefore, anyone that is capable of accepting it fully on blind faith is most likely to feel they are on solid ground. In that sense, Capitalism has become the new religion. As I like to joke:

It use to be: pray hard and follow these principles, and you too may enter the kingdom of heaven.

Now it’s: work hard and follow these principles, and you too may enter the kingdom of success.

When it comes to dogma, even the illusion of a lie is a kind of truth in itself.

The other proposal I would offer is that what we are dealing with is a kind of evolutionary backlash. You have to look at how we came to our cognitive selves: the experience of mind and consciousness. Life started as simple organisms with simple nervous systems that eventually evolved into central nervous systems that eventually developed brain stems that eventually evolved into the frontal cortex which is the home base of our ability to think like we do. However, throughout this process, it would stand to reason that our higher cognitive functions developed in the service of our baser impulses. This would be the source of the competitive model in which our higher cognitive functions act in the service of our baser impulses. And it has been the cornerstone of our evolutionary development to the point we are now and that of Capitalism as well.

However, throughout our history, certain individuals have emerged who have worked from a more cooperative model in which our baser impulses, our self interest, see it in their self interest to consider the interest of other things in their environment. In this sense, our baser impulses work in tandem with our higher functions.

And in this sense, I think we are at an important evolutionary milestone. Do we continue with the competitive model at the risk of our self destruction through manmade climate change or the depletion of our natural resources or our enslavement to the emerging aristocracy/oligarchy of global Capitalism? Or do we adapt to our environment, as evolution mandates, by turning to the cooperative model?

Anyway, sorry I couldn’t get through more of you guy’s points. My mind just wanders and my fingers follow. I love writing more than I do the truth.
d63
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“I think the notion of philosophy as 'the mirror of nature' is a very natural assumption that extends the human default naive realism.

And I think Rorty is completely mistaken to suggest that the fact of this presupposition of perception 'mirroring' reality is somehow arbitrary.

Also I don't really understand why you think the Continental philosophers require the services of us poor simps to "champion" them. Many of them are so 'clever' that just to understand them seems to require years of study. ( And well might one wonder whether the return would be worth the investment).

When I have at times tried to read Derrida or Lacan, for example, before fairly soon giving up in disgust I am reminded of Nietzsche's criticism of the German Idealists that they "muddied the waters to make them appear deep".Personally I think that clarity is a virtue in philosophy. Deleuze, Foucault and Badiou are admittedly not as guilty in this, and Meillassoux is a paragon of clarity (at least i am able to determine that I disagree with him).”

Just a couple of more respectful jabs at this, then I want to balance it out with some of the common ground I have with it:

First of all I would note the contradiction involved in debasing the continental method then basically turning to it in the Nietzsche quote. Granted, some historians of it start with Husserl and work through Heidegger, Merleu Ponty, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida, Levinas, then Zizek who is really not as obscure as this poster describes. Still, Nietzsche (given his poetic approach (worked clearly in the continental manner. I mean he clearly didn’t work in the more sterile analytic manner. Nor did he muddy his waters much as Jaspers or Barthes (both within the tradition (didn’t either.

My second point wouldn’t have been mentioned were it not for a profound reminder from a peer:

"Not everything is meant to be deep."

Sometimes a thing, such as a love song or poem, a work of abstract art, or a dream can be of value simply for the experience they have given us. As Archibald MacLeish points out in Ars Poetica:

A poem should not mean but be.

Beyond that, all there is is the pragmatic criteria of the discourse that goes on around it.

That said, I am not totally unsympathetic with the above. I, myself, have thrown down Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition in disgust and frustration. I was only able to get through it after several readings of Joe Hughes’ and James William’s studies that gave me enough tools to do so. And I have yet to get through The Logic of Sense and probably won’t until I engage the secondary text on it. And as far as Lacan, given the limited time I have, I don’t ever see myself approaching him through anything other than the vast secondary text available, but will still do so because a lot of the concepts I get through the secondary text are useful to me: they pass the pragmatic test of working. And I see the case being the same with Heidegger and Being and Time.

Nor am I opposed to the analytic approach. For me, it is all fuel for the fire. And I’m quite sure the analytics have a lot interesting things to say about how things hang together. And if I don’t read them as much the continentals, it is not so much a matter of indifference as my individual sensibility and what reading wish list that particular sensibility has given privilege to. The only motivation for my venom against it is its propensity towards elitism and the lack of a live and let live approach to the general discourse: its obtuse dismissal of the continental approach.

And while I have issues with the above post, I have to give them credit for admitting to what they do not know. It gets even worse when that smug dismissal consists of a claim to know exactly what the continental is talking about. I saw this recently with Raymond Tallis when he claimed, in a recent issue of Philosophy Now, that the whole of Derrida’s philosophy broke down to the distinction between reality and the language we use to describe it. “Nothing to get terribly excited about,” as he summed it up. Really? Thousands of pages written on what Derrida actually meant (by people every bit as educated as Tallis (wasted on what could be summed up in so few words?
d63
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Re: Rorty Study: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Post by d63 »

“I share your frustrations with the continental dark arts. Parts are like poetry that might be better understood by not *trying* so hard but allowing ideas and impressions to flow into conscious thought.”

The best advice I got on this was on an interview concerning short fiction in which the guest described as a kind of meditation. What is being suggested here is that work in the spirit described by Zen Buddhism as engaging in an activity with no expectation of results. And that is the manner in which I tend to work with philosophy. Pretty much every day I do the same the same thing: read through about 20 pages of a book in the same way I would a popular novel, quite often at the risk of either vaguely understanding what I’m reading or not understanding anything at all while my mind wanders on to other things, then go to the bar where I go back to a previous point, read slower, and take notes which I will often use when I come back home and get on here. And it seems to work as well as I could hope it to. But to fully understand what I am getting at, I would also bring in a quote by Keats:

“Poetry is an axe by which we penetrate the frozen sea of knowledge.”

The point here is that even though poetry does not always offer up its benefits (its meaning (in any immediate sense, it can, if we stick with it, take us places we may have never gotten to without it. It is as has been pointed out to me elsewhere: revelation is a kind of spontaneous overflow of experience; therefore, the more experience we have, the more likely we are to experience revelation; therefore poetry ,being a kind of concentrated experience, can make us more open to revelation. And I think the same can be said of the other arts as well as philosophy: that which lies in the no-man’s land between science and literature. Oblique approaches to philosophy (such as that of the French and free indirect discourse (if we approach it in the spirit you describe (can only be an extension of that understanding.

“[About describing atomic models in the language of classical physics:] We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections. - Niels Bohr”

Was it Bohr that really liked American western novels and actually made an attempt at it themselves? It was some quantum physicist, so regardless it goes to the point of how actual scientists are more open to a creative approach to understanding than a lot of its philosophical/analytic champions (most notably the TlBs (the troll-like behaviors we tend to encounter on these boards who go around using terms “objectivity” and “the scientific method” like a badge of authority (would give it credit for. I do know that Einstein was very explicit on this point.

“The quote about poetry is key here. The french post-heideggerian obscurity is connected to heidegger's conclusion, for several reasons, that only a poetic language can talk meaningfully about being. Badiou, who rejects this conclusion, and finds a different solution, speaks very clearly.”

You I had to save till the last because your grasp of the history involved here (your historicism and hermeneutic (is really impressive. And had I started with you, it would likely be at the neglect of the previous posts. This may actually take me into tomorrow. Anyway:

I would also note, in reference to the above, the French sensibility (the French having a noble and highly evolved tradition of dissent (that sees clarity as a form of tyranny: a manner of imposing meaning onto the reader. We can see this in Roland Barthes’ privilege given to writerly text (that which leaves it to the reader to extract their own meaning (over readerly text (that which requires that the reader accept the meaning of the author. The underlying concern at work here was articulated by Layotard in the appendix to The Post Modern Condition in which he points to the terroristic potential of the human gravitation towards the accessible and easily communicated. And we don’t have to dig that deep into the hegemony of tyrannical belief systems (The Nazis, Communist Russia, Republicans and pro-Capitalists, etc. (to understand the role that simplistic nomenclature (sound bites and fixed systems of meaning (can play in them.

And note before I go (I ran out my window and will get back to this tomorrow (that Layotard saw the avant garde as the antidote to this very real danger –a danger I have been short on examples here but hope to get to on later postcards. And it is avant garde approaches to philosophy that we are defending here.
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