Category Archives: philosophy

Hebrew Pairs & Opening Trunks



Excerpt from Opening Trunks, The Chuang Tzu, Chuangtse
Translated by Yutang Lin [source]

But nowadays any one can make the people strain their necks and stand on tiptoes by saying, “In such and such a place there is a Sage.” Immediately they put together a few provisions and hurry off, neglecting their parents at home and their masters’ business abroad, going on foot through the territories of the Princes, and riding to hundreds of miles away. Such is the evil effect of the rulers’ desire for knowledge When the rulers desire knowledge and neglect Tao, the empire is overwhelmed with confusion.

How can this be shown? When the knowledge of bows and cross-bows and hand-nets and tailed arrows increases, then they carry confusion among the birds of the air. When the knowledge of hooks and bait and nets and traps increases, then they carry confusion among the fishes of the deep. When the knowledge of fences and nets and snares increases, then they carry confusion among the beasts of the field. When cunning and deceit and flippancy and the sophistries of the “hard” and white’ and identities and differences increase in number and variety, then they overwhelm the world with logic.

Therefore it is that there is often chaos in the world, and the love of knowledge is ever at the bottom of it. For all men strive to grasp what they do not know, while none strive to grasp what they already know; and all strive to discredit what they do not excel in, while none strive to discredit what they do excel in. That is why there is chaos. Thus, above, the splendor of the heavenly bodies is dimmed; below, the power of land and water is burned up, while in between the influence of the four seasons is upset. There is not one tiny worm that moves on earth or insect that flies in the air but has lost its original nature. Such indeed is the world chaos caused by the desire for knowledge! Ever since the time of the Three Dynasties downwards, it has been like this. The simple and the guileless have been set aside; the specious and the cunning have been exalted. Tranquil inaction has given place to love of disputation; and disputation alone is enough to bring chaos upon the world.

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Dr. Danièle Moyal-Sharrock (Hertfordshire) on: “Wittgenstein’s Razor”

Dr. Danièle Moyal-Sharrock (Hertfordshire) on: “Wittgenstein’s Razor” (pdf)

5th Annual Conference of the British Wittgenstein Society (BWS)
Wittgenstein, Enactivism & Animal Minds
University of Hertfordshire, 7-8 July 2012

Here’s some help from Dr. Moyal Sharrock‘s entry Knowledge and Certainty, 2015 Blackwell Companion to Wittgenstein. Glock, H-J. & Hyman, J. (eds.). Wiley Blackwell


In On Certainty, Wittgenstein subverts the traditional picture of basic beliefs. They are not indubitable or self-justified propositions, but animal certainties. With the word ‘animal’, he does not mean to reduce these basic certainties to brute impressions or to intuitions, but to say that they are nonreflective and nonpropositional. So that what philosophers like Descartes and Moore put forward as propositions susceptible of falsification and thereby of scepticism are in fact heuristic formulations of certainties whose status is logical or grammatical, and whose only occurrence qua certainty is in action – that is: in what we say (e.g. ‘I’ll wash my hands’) and in what we do (e.g. we wash our hands). So that although they often look like empirical conclusions, our basic certainties constitute, not objects of knowledge, but the ungrounded, necessary, nonpropositional basis of knowledge. This paper delineates Wittgenstein’s route to this conclusion, while countering the epistemic and/or propositional readings of ‘hinge propositions’ put forward by Michael Williams, Crispin Wright, Annalisa Coliva and Duncan Pritchard. It is argued that only a nonepistemic and nonpropositional reading of hinge certainty allows it to solve epistemology’s core problem: the infinite regress of justification.

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DeBate Son

NoraandGregoryBateson Nora Bateson with her father

I. Ding an Sich

Perhaps the largest question in epistemology is: How can we know anything if we cannot know the Ding an sich, the thing-in-itself? Or, another way of putting it: If we cannot know the Ding an sich, do we know the natural world at all?
Gregory tended to say that we know images of the world, not the world itself. An epistemology of mediate realism says that we do not know our images of the world, but we know the world itself through our images of it. Gregory cannot come to an epistemology of mediate realism because he has no developed theory of refer- ence, no theory of intentionality or ‘aboutness.’
Let’s parse this problem more finely than Gregory did. The notion of the Ding an sich goes back to the scholastic philosophers of the 13th century who used the phrase in se vs. quoad nos, a pair of philosophical jargon terms that are understood in relation to each other. Any being or entity that is understood quoad nos is under- stood as it relates to us. We might say that the sun is a disk, quoad nos, as far as we are concerned, i.e., from our point of view. But the sun is a sphere in se, in itself, i.e., not relative to any particular observer.

But there is a subtlety here that must be examined.

When we use the phrase ‘in itself’, in se, an sich, we seem to mean the object or event without its relationships to other things. But the question is, is any object or event real without its relationships to other things?
Of course there is a difference between the relationship to a perceiver, i.e., the causal relationships that trigger perceptions, and the relationships that a thing has altogether, the sum of its relationships to everything (as Kant and Bateson point out). But, is it not the case that we organisms perceive objects and events by means of the relationships that the objects and events have to other things?

The white egret is seen at dusk by virtue of the characteristic way light relates to the molecular patterns of its feathers. The crow is harder to see at dusk and may be missed entirely – because of the characteristic way its feathers absorb rather than reflect streams of photons. We perceive the mass of a paperweight by holding it in our hand. This perception is possible due to the attraction, the relationship, between the paperweight and the mass of the earth. Our perception of the mass of the object is due to the intrinsic gravitational relationship between it and the earth.

It is due to their relationships with other things that objects are able to be per-ceived by organisms with senses. But the fact that material objects have relation- ships to each other: reflectivity, resistance, momentum, gravitational mass, chemical reactivity, vibratory speed, resonance, etc, is not extrinsic to them. It is intrinsic. To think any other way is to imagine an essence, as in the Aristotelian/scholastic tradi- tion, an essence which is different from and mentally separable from the perceiva- ble ‘accidents,’ color, texture, shape, reflectivity, etc. This philosophy of essentialism has been left behind, undermined by scientific evidence during the 20th century.

Therefore, any thing in itself is a thing with its relationships. The idea of a thing without its relationships to other things is clearly just an idea. Such a thing cannot exist in the real world. It is an abstraction of the mind. So, we must conclude that the thing in itself, the Ding and sich, has relationships. And it is precisely through (by means of) these relationships that the perception and thus cognition of the object occurs. Therefore, we can know/perceive the thing-in-itself, but of course, indirectly, through the medium of the senses and central nervous system.

The philosophical texts that have for centuries claimed that the thing in itself cannot be known are the result of a trick of words, a subtle assumption that the real things out there are somehow stripped of their relationality. As we have seen, a little reflection shows that this is absurd. The relationality of things in the world is intrin- sic to what they are in themselves. Therefore, any Ding an sich that cannot be known only exists in our minds. The Ding an sich that cannot be known is precisely not a real thing in the world, but a mental construct, a figment of the conceiving mind. All Dinge an sich in the concrete world can in principle be known. Yes, known as Dinge an sich, as things in themselves.

However, they cannot be known directly, i.e., immediately, because nothing can be known without the mediation of the nervous system. But still they can be known in themselves, that is in their intrinsic relationships, through relationships that are inseparable from their intrinsic qualities, characteristics.

II. Conclusion
There were a few linked issues that are both relevant to his work and linked to each other that Gregory did not address, amidst the very large number that he did. Along with aboutness and reference which he did not work on, there was action. At an informal seminar not long before his death I asked him to speak to a philosophy of action. He responded, ‘Well, you know I have never been much for action.’ I suggested, then, that he might speak to a philosophy of non-action. He looked at me, and remained silent.

These issues of intentionality and action go together. As I have pointed out, his blind spot about action led him to miss the role of the direct access the hands have to the territory. In describing the man with the axe, he focused on the circuit of dif- ferences, i.e., the creatural aspect, not the ability of the pleromic axehead to directly change the territory.
We know the territory is there beyond our maps because it resists us. It resists our efforts to do things and our efforts to know things. But it does not resist absolutely.

The interaction of hand work and mind work has given us virtually all the under- standings of nature that the sciences have offered. Each year, each decade we know more – not just a little more, but much more. Although it is true that the interaction of the pleromic hand and creatural mind brings our images into a closer fit with the territory only asymptotically, the clear evidence of continually improved and improving knowledge due to their interaction is the ultimate warrant for realism.

Chapter 3 What Connects the Map to the Territory?
Tyrone Cashman – A Legacy for Living Systems Gregory Bateson as Precursor to Biosemiotics Springer, Jesper Hoffmeyer Editor) – fulltext pdf

Cashman, one of the moving forces behind wind energy in California, in the full essay provides one of the most singularly coherent advances of Bateson’s incomplete epistemology.

Gregory Bateson at Oikos

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Four Elements

Four personal findings coordinate my global sensemaking. Each is not taken to be a fact, rather each is taken as a fact. Each is the result of prior revisions.

Number One: As one steps conceptually steps back through human history each human abstraction and every human idealism falls away.

(Take that “information scientist” Dr. Gitt!)

God's Baking

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Generative Alchemy

Brueghel - The Alchemist

Brueghel: The Alchemist

Calhoun Generative Art
The Alchemy of Symmetry – Excerpt from Brueghel’s The Alchemist
S.Calhoun (2014) 10×10″

This piece is part of a large series that will likely be presented in a short film. The film is intended to show the interplay of manipulations and recursions involved in generating different pieces.

I dedicate this new series to Ms. Uidhi. (I may be one of a handful of artists, or pseudo-artists, focusing on creative luckiness in the context of a post-academic post-scholarly focus on the situation of serendipity in adult development. This could include meandering into philosophical swamps.

IP LAF Forum: Christy Mag Uidhi on Artistic Serendipity vs. Artistic Luck, 25 Sept

Tuesday 23 September 2014


Thurs 25 September 2014, 4.00pm
IP London Aesthetics Forum: Room G34, Senate House, WC1
Artistic Serendipity vs. Artistic Luck
Christy Mag Uidhi (Houston)
Supported by the British Society of Aesthetics

It is standardly thought that artworks may gain and lose art-relevant properties over time (and thereby may also admit of similar gains and losses in artistic value). From this it follows that insofar as such gains and losses may be well outside the control of the artist, we ought to expect any minimally adequate theory of art and its value as such to come with (or at least be amenable to) some minimal notion of artistic luck and artistic achievement (such that ascriptions of the one undermine ascriptions of the other). In this talk, I’ll sketch what I take to be uncontroversial minimal accounts of both artistic luck and artistic achievement. From these I show it to follow that if artworks must be products of intentional action, then there can be no such thing as artistic luck (either descriptively or evaluatively). I claim the only formative role luck might play in our understanding of art and its value as such is to provide the means by which we may productively carve out an informative sub-class of artistic achievement: specifically that of artistic serendipity.


[My bold.] Intention, serendipity. Intentional serendipity is pseudo-serendipity. It is a kind of search routine. I don’t subscribe to the idea that intentionality is properly monolithic or exclusionary. But, I concede that psychologizing the artist’s creative process may take my own considerations and sensemaking out of and away from a proper philosophy of aesthetics.

Nor do I know what Ms. Mag Uidhi has in mind to flesh out the intriguing precis.

For my own part, there is so much in my creative process that permits creative intention-up-to-the-point of pulling the curtains away, and, thus includes less discrete combinations of intention and, fundamentally, hope about the unknown!

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Around and Round, and Never Off the Surface


Ask yourself: what kinds of “whats” express your own depth? Your depth is, what?


To which problem do you go to first, the problem of ‘what is the what,’ or, the problem of, what is depth in terms of my depth? 



Alternately, can you read the meta-problem backward? In which case, one would identify the ends which are the ramifications of the varieties of the result of: what depth is a deep what? Then you argue your answers from these end results.

(Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Escher uroboros


Short cut: make a list of all your accomplishments on any given day. Circle the deep accomplishments. Justify your choices. Elaborate the terms of justification. Deepen the terms of justification.

Klein Bottle

Model makers around the end of the nineteenth century realised that their models’ translucent and airy forms could make real what till then might have seemed invisible abstractions: their faith rested in the possibility of turning geometry into artefacts. So, at Goettingen and other major research centres in mathematics, students were encouraged to contemplate, handle and design ever more exotic forms as part of their training in the realities of higher geometry. In 1882 their master, the mathematician and entrepreneur Felix Klein, designed a three dimensional form which seemed to have but one surface – it came to be known as the Klein bottle. At least as interesting as its formation is its dependence on the malleable materials of which it is made. The plasticity of glass and related substances was decisive for many of the great scientific advances of a century ago, for by manipulating and twisting such substances into elegant and manageable form, technicians were able to design objects which not only helped make abstractions real, but also aided the scientists of microphysics and the subatomic world perform trials which first showed the existence of rays which could penetrate matter and particles smaller than atoms: radiation tubes, radiometers, cathode ray instruments. The magnificent glass works of the labs and workshops of the Belle Epoque showed the world how it was made. Anish Kapoor, Unconformity & Entropy

See: Imperatives for unbiased holistic education: the Klein bottle, a universal structure: an archetypal image Melanie Purcell, Department of Philosophy, University of Newcastle, PDF

What is Radical Recursion?
Steven M. Rosen, Departments of Psychology and Philosophy (Emeritus) College of Staten Island/City University of New York


Paul Ryan: Gregory, the insistence that you have that the map is not the
territory. Okay. Axiomatic in terms of a way of approaching things.
Gregory Bateson: That’s old Korzybski, right.
P: Yes. As I understand it, this axiom is an insurance that logical
typing not be confused.
G: The territory not to be confused with the map. Right. Don’t eat the
menu card.
P: Now, in the Kleinform that I’m working with, there are times in
which the map becomes the territory and the territory becomes the
map. One part would be explained by being contained by two other
G: Right.
P: And in that instance we could call that the territory to be explained.
G: Wait a minute. So you draw the pictures. But these are not pictures
of something. These are pictures about something.
P: There’s no something as far as I can tell.
G: Oh, then, I don’t know what you’re at. I’m stuck again. Well, I can
say what I understood you to be at. At wanting to describe,
what shall we say, a process of embryology. And within the embryology,
there would be relations such that there would be whatever it is,
these sort of descriptive statements you’d need to make about the
embryology. And they would be related, as these three parts of the
kleinbottle are related to each other. It would then be suitable to
map them onto a Klein bottle. That’s not what you’re at.
P: No, no…it’s not.
G: Then I got you wrong. And I was so proud of myself. I thought I
was getting…( Laughter)
P: I feel it’s close, somehow, but…Let me try it this way. This is not
propositional. The intelligence here is not propositional.
G: The intelligence of no tautology in the end is propositional.
P: I didn’t realize that about logical types. There’s more flexibility
there than I’d thought.
(excerpt: Metalogue: Gregory Bateson, Paul Ryan PDF

I’ve been pondering this subject:  how a person abdicates depth by instrumentalizing their activities to such a great degree that all their means no longer connect to depth. (Yes, what is depth?) In a sense, what happens is those means merely are the set-up for the consumption of the next means. Uroboros.

The test for this is the enfolded question: what is my deep what?

May depth only be supported by content and identity? (This is a meta-question. Does any justification obtain this tautology: ‘The best of what I do reflects what I do best.’)

Is there nothing deeper than me at my best, doing my best?

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The Precarity of the Estimate

Free Play Aug 4

This week, with the game on the line in the top of the last inning, the visiting team smartly aimed their offense at a weak spot in the infield and ended up with one single, one runner on base by error, and three successfully fielded ground balls. Outlier!

Then, needing a run to win with two outs in the bottom of the last inning, and bases loaded, this same fielder came up with his bust-to-boom hitting approach and pumped a pitch 300 feet for the walk-off win.

One run  game. Ideal obtained!


A simple example will show the nature of this difficulty. Consider some ball game played by a few people of approximately equal skill. If we knew a few particular facts in addition to our general knowledge of the ability of the individual players, such as their state of attention, their perceptions and the state of their hearts, lungs, muscles etc. at each moment of the game, we could probably predict the outcome. Indeed, if we were familiar both with the game and the teams we should probably have a fairly shrewd idea on what the outcome will depend. But we shall of course not be able to ascertain those facts and in consequence the result of the game will be outside the range of the scientifically predictable, however well we may know what effects particular events would have on the result of the game. This does not mean that we can make no predictions at all about the course of such a game. If we know the rules of the different games we shall, in watching one, very soon know which game is being played and what kinds of actions we can expect and what kind not. But our capacity to predict will be confined to such general characteristics of the events to be expected and not include the capacity of predicting particular individual events. Friedrich August Von Hayek

As the Free Play Softball handicapper for ten years, social systems/human cybernetic theories provide me with critical perspectives, none of which impact my ability to obtain the ideal of handicapping: a close game. Such perspectives are meta-related (second order in a cybernetic sense,) to the game at-hand. They allow me to not only be a participant/observer, but also to be informal analyst/ethnographer. Crucially, at least for my peace of mind, I can step back and consider the interplay of domains in the game but not of the game. Another consequence of how I view my role is: I make out line-ups knowing beforehand that any line-up possesses characteristics of some kinds,and, doesn’t possess characteristics of other kinds.

For example, line-ups do not possess the characteristic of embedding the eventual outcome of the game within their flux of estimations and generalizations.

They do reflect an on-the-spot generalization of a quick reconnaissance of performative variables. However, I know going into the exercise that the actual dynamic interplay of many player’s regression-to-the-Mean with the outlying performances of a handful of players is enough to falsify any hope for a close game, and realization of a game that objectifies actual parity. I make a very informed effort to design a close game and yet close games, decided by three or fewer runs, are comparatively rare.

(I have had occasion to point out to a few of the several players who monitor my handicapping track record that outlying negative performance of the better players and exceptional performances of the mediocre players tends to be more decisive than the mean performance of mediocre players.)

Other players theorize the line-ups. Player’s folk theorizing doesn’t bother me because I understand the double framework of the performative system: the Meta-system is focused by its norms and heuristics–a line-up is a heuristic–while the phenomenal system instantiates the precarity of performance. The latter system cannot ratify idealized estimations. Idealized estimations are heuristic; what players actually do to implement the five skills (hit, catch, throw, run, remember where they bat in the lineup,) is part of the phenomenal–enacted by experience–system.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Free Play Softball League for me, the inveterate researcher, is that I assume most players think meta-thoughts about the game and these in turn refer at least loosely to their cognition within their own contextualizing of their individual Free Play experience. I don’t know anybody else’s detailed specific system-making, but I do know how I contextualize the game. Players may regard the heuristics, regard their phenomenal experience of the game, and reflect upon and make connections between the two fields in completely different ways. There is something of the black box in this, but also, the line-up–which after all is a quasi-economic object too–is established to be the main totem of anticipation of outcome.

The line-up is a charismatic object, and along with this come, at times, a projection onto the handicapper which holds that in some direct way the result of the game is embedded by me (!) in the line-up. No, most times my estimations and generalizations, aimed to achieve parity, are falsified.

What allows me to put up with line-up related guff is my understanding something about the math of precarity in human systems.

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Why Do Fallibilists and Nominalists Have Anything to Say At All?

or not


  1. The basic idea: we can know things which are not entailed or guaranteed to be true by our evidence / reasons.
  2. Fallibilism gives us a response to Unger-style certainty skepticism: fallibilists can say that knowledge is com- patible with some degree of uncertainty. Does fallibilism give a response to argument-from-ignorance skep- ticism? Not so clear: there the problem seems to be that you don’t know that you’re not a BIV (or whatever), and it’s not obvious how the fallibilist can help with that.
  3. Cohen’s definition of fallibilism: fallibilists reject the claim that S knows that P on the basis of reason R only if R entails Q.

lottery problems

  1. Fallibilists say you can know that P on the basis of reason R, even though R does not entail that P. Still, we want to say that you can only know P on the basis of R when R somehow supports belief in P. What’s the nature of that support?
  2. First idea: R makes P probable. There is a problem here with lotteries. I know that the chances of winning the PowerBall are 1 in 300 million; this knowledge makes it very probable that your ticket has lost. Still, it doesn’t seem that I can know that your ticket lost simply by knowing the odds.
  3. Interestingly, though, the problem here can’t be identified just as the fact that R doesn’t imply that there no chance I’m wrong about P. I read the winning number in the paper, and see that it’s not yours, and now I know: you lost. But we’ll all acknowledge that there’s a chance that the paper has a misprint.

    excerpted from: Why Skeptical Arguments Matter & How To Be A Fallibilist Philosophy 311: Problems of Knowledge, Professor Geoff Pynn, Northern Illinois University

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Meta Plus Recursion (and a topos for truthiness)

This Is It

The idea of a universally shared source of truth called ‘reason’ or ‘human nature’ is, for us pragmatists, just the idea that such discussion ought to be capable of being made conclusive. We see this idea as a misleading way of expressing the hope, which we share, that the human race as a whole should gradually come together in a global community, a community which incorporates most of the thick moral- ity of the European industrialized democracies. It is misleading because it suggests that the aspiration to such a community is somehow built into every member of the biological species.This seems to us pragmatists like the suggestion that the aspiration to be an anaconda is somehow built into all reptiles, or that the aspiration to be an anthropoid is somehow built into all mammals. This is why we pragmatists see the charge of relativism as simply the charge that we see luck where our critics insist on seeing destiny. We think that the utopian world community envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights is no more the destiny of humanity than is an atomic holocaust or the replacement of democratic governments by feuding warlords. If either of the latter is what the future holds, our species will have been unlucky, but it will not have been irrational. It will not have failed to live up to its moral obligations. It will simply have missed a chance to be happy. -Richard Rorty (Introduction, Philosophy and Social Hope)

Thank you Google for allowing me to search for the paragraph I need from A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson (Peter Harries-Jones.)


Richard Rorty’s argument for the boundless description and explanation that is pragmatically resolved as a matter of these being true enough as a matter of being useful enough, is related to commission–as long as commission is flexible enough to denote: useful. Even if this stretches the similarity too far, the Batesonian epistemology is partly concerned with the rightness in doing. Crucially: the abductive reason is adequate and commensurate for the purpose of supposing usefulness for Bateson, James, Dewey, and Rorty.

(Richard Rorty, in A World Without Substances and Essences  (1994) argues for a crisp eliminativist, anti-essentialist monism not contemplated by Bateson at all. The two monists had different senses of what is possibly ecological.)


Two Pragmatic Moral Universes: James vs. Dewey and Rorty by Scott Segrest (SSRN)
Dewey and Rorty On Truth by Alexander Kremer (pdf)
Foucault and Rorty on Truth and Ideology: A Pragmatist View from the Left by Chandra Kumar (pdf)

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chaosmosis: the emergence of order from chaos, engendering new autopoietic entities

Aesthetic paradigm
1. In Guattari’s work, as opposed to scientific paradigms, paradigms that are schizoanalytic, rhizomatic, and chaosmic, involving processes rather than structures.

psychoanalysis, which claimed to affirm itself as scientific, […] has everything to gain from putting itself under the aegis of this new type of aesthetic processual paradigm. [CM 106 CM=Chaosmosis]

2. A schizoanalytic approach to clinical treatment which, instead of describing the psyche in terms of structures or stages, views the production of subjectivity as a creative process.

Grafts of transference […] [issue] from a creation which itself indicates a kind of aesthetic paradigm. One creates new modalities of subjectivity in the same way that an artist creates new forms from the palette. [CM 7]

3. The creative capacity of chaosmosis, the emergence of order from chaos, engendering new autopoietic entities; this ontological process is exemplified by but not limited to artistic creation.

art […] engenders unprecedented, unforeseen and unthinkable qualities of being. The decisive threshold constituting this new aesthetic paradigm lies in the aptitude of these processes of creation to auto-affirm themselves as existential nuclei, autopoietic machines. [CM 106; see also 112] – J. W.

The Deleuze and Guattari Dictionary

Tu v dome:
Ladislav Durko – piano
Ali Kobzova – voice, violin
Bronka Schragge – cello
Ozo Guttler – drums
Martin Sutovec – banjo
text original:
The Heart asks Pleasure – first –
And then – Excuse from Pain –
And then – those little Anodyness
That deaden suffering –
And then – to go to sleep –
And then – if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor
The privilege to die –
Emily Dickinson 1830 — 1886

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My thesis is that if we start with the supposition that there is only one primal stuff or material in the world, a stuff of which everything is composed, and if we call that stuff pure experience, then knowing can easily be explained as a particular sort of relation towards one another into which portions of pure experience may enter. The relation itself is a part of pure experience; one of its terms becomes the subject or bearer of the knowledge, the knower, the other becomes the object known. This will need much explanation before it can be understood. The best way to get it understood is to contrast it with the alternative view; and for that we may take the recentest alternative, that in which the evaporation of the definite soul-substance has proceeded as far as it can go without being yet complete. If neo-Kantism has expelled earlier forms of dualism, we shall have expelled all forms if we are able to expel neo-Kantism in its turn. William James from What Is Consciousness?

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Experiencing Authenticity

feminist resistance

Free Space

The intertwinedness of body and mind helps explain women’s oppression. Women do not choose to think about their bodies and bodily processes negatively; rather they are forced to do so as a result of being embedded in a hostile patriarchal society. On this view the body is not just the thing we can prod and poke, it is shaped by a plethora of perceptions: if we feel bad about it, it becomes a ‘bad thing’; if we feel good about it, it becomes a ‘good thing’. But the way we think about it is not a matter of free choice unless we live in a society which gives space for that freedom. What feminist philosophers like de Beauvoir aim to do is to open up a space for that freedom to flourish.

excerpted from Becoming A Woman: Simone de Beauvoir on Female Embodiment © Felicity Joseph 2008

Ashley Strain: Why You Should Become An Existential Feminist

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Bergson & James


 “The essential contribution of Bergson to philosophy is his criticism of intellectualism. In my opinion he has killed intellectualism definitively and without hope of recovery. I don’t see how it can ever revive again in its ancient platonizing role of claiming to be the most authentic, intimate, and exhaustive definer of the nature of reality.”

“Intellectualism here does what I said it does — it makes experience less instead of more intelligible.”

intellectualism = (roughly,) abstract reasoning; and tending to morph, often without warrant, idealism into (something like) idealistic realism or ‘a’ positivism

hat tip to excellent article: Henri Bergson and William James on Vicious Intellectualism vis partiallyexaminedlife

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Time Requires Time

Flowing Data

Philosophy of Time:

A great many other “flowings” or “fluxes” or “relations” acquire
their privileged directionality (their asymmetry) from the arrow of
time. How then does time acquire its direction? This seems to be a
very puzzling question. (C.G. Weaver)

Lecture One handout – Debates About Time Oliver Pooley [pdf]

What is the extent of reality? Putnam (1967) suggests that the ‘man on the street’s’
view of the nature of time involves a commitment to the claim that “All (and
only) things that exist now are real”. This is presentism: all that exists is what
exists now. An alternative view is eternalism: all events, whether past, present
or future, are on the same ontological footing; they are all equally real. A third
possibility is that the past and present are real, while the future is not. This third
option is a component in a dynamic view of time championed by Broad (1923)
and Tooley (1997), often called the ‘growing block universe view’.


The A-Theory of Time, The B-Theory of Time, and ‘Taking Tense Seriously’ Dean W. Zimmerman [pdf]

Presentism and Eternalism in Perspective Steven F. Savitt [pdf]

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Now You See It, Next You Don’t

George Berkeley

English Philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753)

A youtube user, Gottfried Leibniz, comments below this video, “Yet another video on YouTube from an intro to philosophy class where the students deem it necessary to use ‘rap/homie talk’ to make their presentation seem more ‘hip/cool.’ Some advice: it just? makes you sound like an idiot, like every other Philosophy 101 presentation video on YouTube…Sorry!”

Hey, I think the video is funny! George Berkeley instigated the ‘you create your own reality’ move, and so why not dub him to be the first new age philosopher?

The sober approach could be represented–‘fronted’ in rap/homie speak?-by the youtube user posting the entirety of the audio book, A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, in ten minute slices on his YT account.

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Commit it then to the flames

David Hume

David Hume, 300th birthday today.

We may observe in human nature a principle which, if strictly examined, will be found to diminish extremely the assurance, which we might, from human testimony, have, in any kind of prodigy. The maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves in our reasonings, is, that the objects, of which we have no experience, resemble those, of which we have; that what we have found to be most usual is always most probable; and that where there is an opposition of arguments, we ought to give the preference to such as are founded on the greatest number of past observations. But though, in proceeding by this rule, we readily reject any fact which is unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree; yet in advancing farther, the mind observes not always the same rule; but when anything is affirmed utterly absurd and miraculous, it rather the more readily admits of such a fact, upon account of that very circumstance, which ought to destroy all its authority. The passion of surprise and wonder, arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, gives a sensible tendency towards the belief of those events, from which it is derived. And this goes so far, that even those who cannot enjoy this pleasure immediately, nor can believe those miraculous events, of which they are informed, yet love to partake of the satisfaction at second-hand or by rebound, and place a pride and delight in exciting the admiration of others. (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)

As a (William) Jamesian, Hume was the precedent. Called the greatest philosopher “who wrote in English,” to me, he was the foremost “proto modern philosopher,” and the philosopher, besides, James, I’ve spent the most time with. From my perspective, skepticism as empirical approach, is what allows for one to see the many, albeit partial, sides of a problem, viewpoint, ideology. Also, as approach and attitude, it’s related to systems awareness in our modern sense, thus, for example, this moves us to regard all the factors of influence and inflection, especially the human subjective factors, in any description, explanation, prediction, or idealization of a system, or systems of systems.

But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement. Our eyes cannot turn in their sockets without varying our perceptions. Our thought is still more variable than our sight; and all our other senses and faculties contribute to this change: nor is there any single power of the soul, which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different, whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only, that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the place where these scenes are represented, or of the materials of which it is composed. (A Treatise On Human Nature)

Robert Bell David Hume’s Fables of Identity

The Humean Assault


David Hume’s Birthday at Crooked Timber

David Hume’s Birthday at Cognition and Culture

The Hume Society

article by Yumiko Inukai, University of Pennsylvania The historical Buddha (Gotama), Hume, and James on the self: Comparisons and evaluations

We are inclined to believe that we are persisting, unified subjects that undergo experience, whether or not we believe in souls or substantial entities of some sort that are often posited as persisting subjects. Where does this belief come from? To deal with this question, I examine David Hume’s and William James’ accounts of the self, both of whom attempt to provide the empirical basis for such a belief. In the Appendix to A Treatise of Human Nature , Hume acknowledges that his account of our belief in a persisting self offered earlier in that work involves a profound problem that he has no hope to solve. Contrary to the common interpretation that puts Hume’s newly-found problem in his very account of the idea of the self, I suggest that it arises from his presupposition throughout Book One of the Treatise that perceptions are initially bundled together. I argue that Hume’s theoretical commitment to the radical independence of perceptions does not allow him to maintain the initial unity of perceptions (i.e., a unified self). Nor is he able to explain the formation of it. I call this the Bundling problem. In contrast, James improves upon Hume by developing more detailed descriptions of experience and simply avoids the Bundling problem by rejecting Hume’s atomistic theory of experience, affirming that experience is fundamentally unitary and continuous, which he calls “the stream of consciousness.” A rigorous analysis of experience enables James to account for our belief of a persisting subject on empirical grounds. Consideration of James’ accounts sheds a great light on Hume’s fundamental problem. I argue that Hume’s atomistic theory of experience–which proves to be the source of the Bundling problem–is a metaphysical theory, which is in conflict with his own professed empiricist methodology. The Bundling problem is not, therefore, inherent in his empiricism itself. Hence, there still is hope for an empiricist account of our belief in a persisting self, and this hope is found in James.

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The Precision of Imprecision

Charles Sanders Peirce

Louis Menand’s capsule intellectual history of American pragmatism’s initial development, The Metaphysical Club, was an enjoyable read. But even little ol’ me could note he advanced a highly selective narrative, where he chops off C.S. Peirce’s technical discoveries, and, just about erases William James’s “post” transcendentalism. (The latter move was surprising because the only work of James that is widely read is The Varieties of Religious Experience.) Years later, a few weeks ago, I happened upon a discussion at The Valve.

Here the criticisms follow in the comment thread to a review by Andrew Seal in August, Invidiousness and Parentheticals: Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club. I came across this while searching for something else, and was first surprised to see Menand’s book get any kind of notice eight years after it was published, and then was amused by the interesting thread the late-out-of-the-gate review evoked.

I noted Mr. Menand gets whacked around freely, and, Richard Rorty get dragged onto the firing range too. I’ve clipped a few interesting fragments.

CW – But that position is not the same as saying that the quest for more knowledge should cease. I understand Rorty to be arguing that viewing that quest as having “objective truth” as an ultimate goal has some unfortunate consequences which can be avoided by instead viewing it as seeking new and hopefully better (in the sense of more useful in achieving one’s immediate objectives) “vocabularies”. That view can perhaps be seen as more-or-less consistent with what Peirce might have meant by “chance will remain ‘until the world becomes an absolutely perfect, rational and symmetrical system in which mind is at last crystallized in the infinitely distant future” (from the Haack paper you suggested as a more palatable intro to her work – which it definitely is! Thanks.) Except I suspect that Rorty would have questioned the convergence implicit in Peirce’s quote; he argued against the hopeless quest for a “final vocabulary”, the one supposedly “spoken” by nature.

O – I really like your argumentation here, and I do not entirely disagree with your conclusion. Moreover, I think you are quite correct in your dissection of the ‘truth’ of the issue, however, you do mischaracterize Peirce’s position, which is not far removed from James’ argument that “truth happens to an idea”, truth has no ontological status – then again, to Peirce, nothing has ontological status except process itself, as seen in his cenopythagorean categories. The common claim that truth is what is, confuses being and truth. What is, is; a ‘truth’ is merely a functional (i.e. useful) depiction of the ongoing process, the interaction that is all that actually is. Here I generalize across several arguments. There are differences between James and Peirce on the issue, however, both agree with Wright in that the greatest possible certification of the ‘truth’ of a notion is its usefulness in the furthering of both knowing, and life itself.


Peirce: “Knowledge can only be furthered by the real desire for it.”

This statement strikes me as a kind of American koan. Can a track be grooved between this and the sort of generative process able to elicit more robust vocabularies, as per Rorty?

Peirce, “The first proper significant effect of a sign is a feeling produced upon it.”

I come upon this philosophical thread and I’m immediately the voyeur who has landed in the territory of scholarly marginalia. In its direction, and in one direction, the subject matter is well beyond me. Yet, in the other direction, in the direction I can forge myself, I reckon with really ‘surface,’ intuitions, albeit this is my surface. So, for me, Rorty wanders through Pragmatism; he is a wanderer. He can argue against anything, say representationalism. And, there are sober secondary scholars of the–in actuality–varieties of pragmatism. There is, again, in actuality, a scholarly industry for and against, in this case, ‘Rorty,’ and this is about what he said and wrote.

It’s funny (to me.)

Yet, in this other direction I recognize the connecting thread, what I would call the urging upon provided by the, as Peirce offers, the effect and the incumbent feeling, the incumbent urging upon. The connecting thread is: that which, unknown to us, urges upon us a groping for knowledge, and, granting this as exemplar, the common instance where what is to be useful, what is to be begun to be known, what is not yet reliable, nevertheless comes to be begun to be known. With this turn, or initiation, the terms are not yet precise, fixed, let alone complete.

The secondary appropriation of somebody’s body of work sometimes, maybe often, gets bogged down in interpretation fused to the assumption the work is complete. ‘This is what Coltrane gave us.’ Or,’ this is how we’ll describe Yeats’s journey.’ The echo of provisionality and contingency is silenced. This is a kind of narrative or linear fallacy.

“Knowledge can only be furthered by the real desire for it.” seems to me, (again from the other, ‘surface,’ side,) to be the sturdy connecting thread, and it even allows for, loops in, Louis Menand. The urging upon, the deeply real desire, quickens exploration proximal to that which is not to be completed. This pragmatism is then, a work in progress–always.

I’m not arguing against locating and getting the terms right. My suggestion is that those terms are also, at once, opened up to their own, as it were, future. And this follows from the feeling produced upon their dynamic ‘it.’

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Seeing Red



1 in 4 Americans censoring thoughts under Obama

Confidence in constitutional liberties plunges further still
Posted: March 27, 2010
11:50 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily 
Editor’s note: This is another in a series of monthly “Freedom Index” polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies. 
Nearly one American in four routinely censors his or her own thoughts “much” or “always” under President Obama’s administration, and those who believe their personal liberties have plunged since inauguration day have grown significantly from 49 percent to more than 55 percent in just one month. 

This month, of course, was when Democrats rammed through a bill that essentially nationalizes health care, creating new requirements for consumers to purchase a government-chosen plan or face penalties. 
The WND Freedom Index poll from Wenzel Strategies shows even one in 10 Democrats – whose party controls both the White House and Congress – believes there’s been a big decrease in freedoms. 

“Largely on the negative reaction by men to the actions of Obama and Democrats in Washington, the Freedom Index has dipped again to its near all-time low, sitting at 46.7 on a 100-point scale,” said Fritz Wenzel in his analysis of the results. 
“Simply put, Americans are growing by the month more pessimistic about their freedoms and their fear that government is trying to take them away.” 
He continued, “In the 10 months since the inauguration of the Freedom Index, it has dropped nearly 11 points on the 100-point scale, and has dropped from a decidedly positive position last spring to a decidedly negative position today.” 

The WND/Wenzel Poll was conducted by telephone from March 22-24 using an automated telephone technology calling a random sampling of listed telephone numbers nationwide. The survey included 30 questions and carries a 95 percent confidence interval. It included 792 likely voters. It carries a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points.

Man, talk about priming a poll result!

This raises lots of questions aside from those about polling methodology.

Do you suppose some people would report feeling really free and thoroughly liberated irrespective of anything the U.S. government has done, say in the last 37 years since such a person first voted at 18?

How would one account for this, account for a person impervious to the tug of that which denies one their freedoms?

How would the internalized sense of one’s being free to some degree be indexed? I’m reminded there was no cogent psychology Locke could utilize. (Romantic!) notions about property and happiness, be they of Hayek or Nozick, cross over into what reasonable domain of psychology? You couldn’t go there with those fellows if you wanted to!

For example, Libertarian thought leader David Boaz:

Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One person’s individual plans — which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on — may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power. (Libertarianism: A Primer)

The leap from ‘no necessary’ to ‘only when’ hammers home the naivete. The absence of socio-psychological understanding is, obviously, implicit.

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If both natural law and ceaseless creativity partially beyond natural law are necessary for understanding our world, and if we as whole human beings live in this real world of law and unknowable creativity, these two ancient strands of Western civilization can reunite in ways we cannot foresee. Out of this union can arise a healing of the long split between science and the humanities, and the schism between pure reason and practical life, both subjects of interest to Immanuel Kant. Science is not, as Galileo claimed, the only pathway to truth. History, the situated richness of the humanities, and the law are true as well. This potential union invites a fuller understanding of ourselves creating our histories and our sacred, as we create our lives.

By Stuart A. Kauffman


The false dichotomizing between absolutely positivist science and, in the the case of this interesting essay, ‘ceaseless creativity,’ reprises a generic argument against the most vaunted possible claim a certain brand of doctrinaire philosopher of science can make. This claim fuses epistemic positivism with ontic positivism to state that the only positive existing truth about a phenomena is that which understands completely the phenomena’s causation and workings. I mention this is a claim a philosopher could hold because an actual scientist is very likely to report that whatever truth they might lay claim too, such truth is always tentative and subject to revision should new data and/or instrumental tools change.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere on Explorations, (for me) the pragmatics of scientific knowledge-making do not rely on any operational philosophical assumptions whatsoever. Those pragmatics are rooted in proto-empiricism, a cognitive capability traceable to primitive ancestors who happened to discover that what was observed yesterday could be manipulated to advantage today. Utility came to reign thereafter.

This utility is relevant to truth claims in the domains of practical, natural, and meta-physical phenomena. If you added up the total truth derived and claimed each day on the planet, almost all of it exists in the practical realm. Science itself is so lacking practical capacity and thus utility in the necessarily large daily scheme, that it seems ridiculous to pose an argument against scientism–in Hampshire’s present terms–in light of this ‘sociological’ truth about the TRUE.

Still, Hampshire doesn’t seem struck by the very reduction he deploys to boil away many strands so as to elevate the (his) two ancient strands. Oh well, twas ever thus. About the pragmatics of claiming something to be true, it seems obvious most such (non-analytic) claims are conditioned by incomplete: knowledge, methods, cognition, experience, bandwidth, etc., and etc.. If it were a totally ‘billiard ball’ universe, we already can assume we won’t ever know of starting positions, super-positions, the wave functions’ implications, on and on; and furthermore, it’s completely unimaginable how the magnitude of data required to perfectly know start-conditions-process–of the all–could be managed by a sub-system under constraints.

In fact it seems silly to whack scientism for this inflation of its capacity, a capacity it cannot aspire to. (I’ve always thought the whacks supplied by James and Peirce were sufficient!)

So I don’t feel the generative creative capacity as a fact of human life (and nature too–viewed very broadly,) needs anyone to come to their defense at all. Flows of neurochemicals issued as a response to hearing the last movement of Mahler’s 8th Symphony don’t explain what’s true about the experience to any interesting point. Even something as basic as why tomato A seems a likely candidate for purchase is a creative act of truth-making and it is unlikely to be explained veraciously except as a matter of pragmatic enactment.

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“With univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we and our individuality which remains equivocal in and for a univocal Being.” –Gilles DeLeuze

Hat tip to wikipedia Gilles_DeLeuze I think of–okay–imagine DeLeuze to be the rich man’s Ken Wilber. I have just made a serious joke. The reverse isn’t true.

Rhizomes is a favorite of mine among the abundant web resources on DeLeuze.

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