Tag Archives: philosophy

Heaven & Hell & ‘Showing’ Generative Metaphysics


My and Ken’s Heaven and Hell Mandala format provides a fine format for juxtaposing generalizations, or first order conceptual classes, or just about anything which can be brought into relations.

In these examples the heavenly quadrant represents where the pairing and tension is heavenly, or hellish for me. The combination of foreordained supra-natural, or supernatural, is hellish for me to deeply think about.

The foreordained natural monism is another conception of mechanical determinism.

Here I’ve superimposed markers for analysis, and, identified orders using the terms of the Reduced Bateson Set.

Betwixt tautology and creative heuristics, contrary to the suggestion of the marker, creative heuristics resolves toward unity. Why? Because any such heuristics are only, merely, the instantiation of the deterministic mechanics.

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Nye(t) to the Single Observation of Any Type

Ham Scam

It finally happened: I was hanging around the tv late at night and channel surfing and ran across a CSPAN rebroadcast of the Nye vs Ham debate. It was just what I would have expected: a wipe out, but, after all, Ham is arguing on behalf of positive facts as ridiculous and unfounded as the assertion that the earth is flat.


I went online to be the voyeur of the troll fest inspired by the debate. I found the same dead-on-arrival creationist arguments, and shameless and tenacious ability to proudly argue against biological science without knowing anything about biological science.

God At Work

I wish Bill Nye knew enough basic philosophy of science to dispatch Ham’s blather about the difference between observational and historical science. If a creationist argues for the unfalsifiable veracity of the observer’s observed account, the principal vulnerability isn’t only that the assertion is ridiculous on its face, but that, in science, a single observation, even if taken as true, never counts as verification by itself.


To verify, you need lots of observations. That isn’t a requirement of methodological naturalism–scientists don’t need to be explicitly committed to any philosophy of science–it’s a requirement for the sake of confirming that what was true enough in one instance will also be true in a current instance and likely true in a future instance.

Ham, not to his credit, seem oblivious to his coming off as wanting it both ways too: instead of just asserting that the Bible is a record of truth and that equally true and necessary miracles do all the heavy lifting, he wants to promote a pseudo-regime of pseudo-science for the naturalistic sake of falsifying foundational knowledge in biology, geology, cosmology and relativity–all the while his inane version of (what to him) is a science assumes its best (supreme!) evidence is not able to be falsified because it immunizes itself from any and all inquiries that could be brought to bear on it by naturalistic science!

Hey, the Bible doesn’t say it can’t be proven false or improved upon, right?


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Whence It Flows

Mark Jaffe

ball leaving bat

“The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.” Ashley Montagu

Free Play October 6

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

(excerpt: Ode: Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood
; William Wordsworth

After last week’s game departed, at its conclusion, from the paradiso, today’s game turned out to be a memorable, crisply played, highlight of the season. With the wind blowing at something like 10-20 knots in swirling gusts, the conditions made fielding fly balls and pitching strikes a challenge. Yet, the pitching was excellent and the outfielders collectively turned in as terrific a morning’s work as I can recall.

I moved to first base, my first and probably my best position, although I haven’t played it much since 1976! Still, with Francis at short stop and Vincent, all of eleven years old, at third, we coalesced into a vacuum cleaner. After the Juniors spotted us a three run lead at the end of the first, the teams played seven innings to a standoff in a 10-7 win for the Chiappas. Fittingly, Vincent snagged a rocketing liner in the hole at third, with his glove on the ground, to end the contest.

After last week, I would guess the temperature of individual enjoyment was high. Good for each and every one of us.

Note to self: there is hardly anything actually objective about our game. It is, after all, play, and thus it is riddled with the human. Oh, heck I’m with George Herbert Mead, there’s nothing objective whatsoever about Freeplay Softball’s social endeavor.

Distinction between propositions or judgments about the way things are and those about how people think or feel about them. The truth of objective claims is presumed to be entirely independent of the merely personal concerns reflected in subjective expressions, even though is difficult to draw the distinction precisely. The legitimacy of this distinction is open to serious question, since it is unclear whether (and how) any knowing subject can achieve genuine objectivity. Nevertheless, because objective truth is supposed to carry undeniable persuasive force, exaggerated claims of objectivity have often been used as tools of intellectual and social oppression. OBJECTIVITY (The Philosophy Pages)



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Four Square Matrix – Metaverse Four Square

Metaverse Unfolds

The explanation for this Four Square Matrix is below.

(I’ve been exploring the format of the Four Square Matrix for over five years on the squareONE Explorations blog: Revisiting the Matrix Part 1 / Class of ’72 / Periodic Table of Visualization, And More / More Matrices / The Acid Test / Matrices – Stacked / Slowing Down to Better Problem Solve)

(SOURCE) To construct our scenario set we selected two key continua that are likely to influence the ways in which the Metaverse unfolds: the spectrum of technologies and applications ranging from augmentation to simulation; and the spectrum ranging from intimate (identity-focused) to external (world-focused).

• Augmentation refers to technologies that add new capabilities to existing real systems; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that layer new control systems and information onto our perception of the physical environment.

• Simulation refers to technologies that model reality (or parallel realities), offering wholly new environments; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that provide simulated worlds as the locus for interaction.

• Intimate technologies are focused inwardly, on the identity and actions of the individual or object; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies where the user (or semi-intelligent object) has agency in the environment, either through the use of an avatar/digital profile or through direct appearance as an actor in the system.

• External technologies are focused outwardly, towards the world at large; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that provide information about and control of the world around the user.

These continua are “critical uncertainties”—critical because they are fundamental aspects of the coming Metaverse, and uncertainties because how they will emerge, their relative and absolute development in various contexts, is yet to be seen.

Combining the two critical uncertainties gives four key components of the Metaverse future:

Virtual Worlds

Mirror Worlds

Augmented Reality


These four scenarios emphasize different functions, types, or sets of Metaverse technologies. All four are already well into early emergence, yet the conditions under which each will fully develop, in particular contexts, are far from clear.

The source document at Metaverseroadmap.org provides the context and additional provocation. This would be most compelling for students of the history of technology, and socio-anthropologists interested in modernity and post-modernity. Download the PDF available there for the full view of the working group.

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Filed under adult learning, Gregory Bateson

My Own Cats

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Revisiting the 2×2 Matrix – Part 1.

Never Wrong Matrix

What I term a ‘four square,’ or matrix, derives in modern times from The Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share Matrix. I devise my own four squares and collect any others I encounter. At times the 2×2 Matrix in either its ‘cross’ or ‘four squares’ versions have done duty in my work to help depict human situations. For example, I have employed the following one and used it as the basis for a learner to reflect upon the challenge of having it both ways.

Dr Puck' s problem matrix

MDFI Matrix aka Dr. Puck’s Problem Solver

Such visual devices have come to be known as 2×2 Matrix. The essential book on the use of the 2×2 Matrix in business, The Power of the 2×2 Matrix, presents authors Alex Lowy and Phil Hood’s understanding of the tool’s value as an aid to decision making. The Power of the 2x2 Matrix They write:

2 × 2 Thinking is inherently and profoundly transcendent in nature. Two people face an identical problem differently: one sees an insurmountable problem, while the other perceives options and opportunities. Systems thinker Jamshid Gharajedaghi calls these two approaches either-or versus both-and. Confronted by tough choices, the either-or reaction is to feel trapped and obliged to pick one or the other. The both-and response draws us automatically to a new and different perspective, where it is possible to search for ways to reframe the problem or use conflicting factors in the solution.

2x2 Matrix

The Institute for Manufacturing at The University of Cambridge describes the matrix yet misses two central capabilities, the use of the 2×2 Matrix to plot values, and, the implicit relational dynamic given in the identification of what in this description is termed characteristics.

A two by two matrix is a useful tool for initial sorting of qualitative data.

The axes should be chosen so that, e.g., the data with the most desirable characteristics will fall into the upper left quadrant and the least desirable in the lower right quadrant. While groups may be unable or unwilling to assign absolute values to qualitative data, they usually find it relatively easy to come to a consensus as to which quadrant something belongs in.

Generally, the two by two matrix is a useful tool for categorising things that can be reduced to two simple variables, particularly when quantitative information is unavailable and qualitative judgements must be made.

It enables a rapid clustering (or separating) of information into four categories, which can be defined to suit the purpose of the exercise. It is particularly useful with groups as a way of visibly plotting out a common understanding or agreement of a subject.

2×2 Matrices I’ve found, from the growing collection:

Robotics Matrix

Inscrutible Robotics Matrix

Social Media and Business Qualification Matrix

Management Matrix

Unsatisfying to me, “Management Matrix”

I devised the following to depict the tension of oppositions betwixt four entangled philosophical themes.

Unity Matrix

The 2×2 Matrix is a very Batesonian device too. I haven’t beta tested a workshop during which learners build a view of their self (or what-have-you,) using the format, yet, it seems a good idea!

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Folk You Psychology

Paul-ChurchlandPhilosopher Paul Churchland

How to put this, ummm, lightly, and not glom too much of your time? I am challenged to do this. I need to defer from providing way too much context. This is hard because, although the subject matter is straight forward, attached to this is a bunch of strange and impossible to resolve problems. I guess I won’t go “there.”

I can put it simply. Let’s configure an experiment. You get to assemble a team of psychological experts. You tell them that they will have made available to them a research subject, and, they will be able to each make their own expert inquiry into this subject. This will take place at the entry way to a grocery store. What you deliver as this expert group’s charge is this: find out what you need to know to predict what the subject will do in the first five minutes after he or she is released to go shopping in the grocery store.

The team’s goal is to make predictions. Your goal is to assemble the right team, hoping then that they end up making dependable predictions. Assume (correctly) that you will need to vet candidates for this team by gathering information about potential candidates, and, this effort itself echoes the lesser charge. In other words, your own effort is itself directed to approximately predict that your team will be good predictors.

The central problem given by the field of psychology, as far as I’m concerned, is the awesome difficulty posed by the problem of predicting what an average, and on average, normal subject, will do, literally, next. If this experiment was actually rolled out, one of its fascinating aspects would be revealed by analyzing the data gathering implicit in the various different approaches used to predict this single subject’s possible next actions, after they are released to fulfill or dash the predictions. I intuiting by this suggestion the difficulty supposed by aiming the inquiry into the subject at: some layer, level, part of their human system.

There could be two basic classes of inquiry, first the psychological, and, second, everything else. The obvious question a certain kind of inquiry might deploy would be: what are you going to do next; and next; and next? Are such questions dropped in the class of psychology? If you tell me so, I would ask you, “How so?”

Okay. I make two broadly brushed distinctions when I am pursuing my learning and investigation of, what’s termed, folk psychology. Call the first a kind of terrain. Within its boundaries are all practical undisciplined, non-technical, manifestations of cognition, mind, informal theorizing, (etc.) that are innocent of Folk Psychology “proper.” This used to be termed everyday psychology, yet the differentiation I’m focusing on is rooted to wondering about how the folk psychologize when the folk don’t know anything at all about the technical, model-ordinated, problems incurred by supposing that there are difficulties in making assumptions about how one’s own mind works, and, how other person’s minds work.

One thinks about their own mind’s workings, and that of others, and the signal quality of this is: this is not really problematic.

Why it is, or why it should be, lands in the terrain of Folk Psychology Proper. The actuality of ‘psychology’ in the first terrain is that close to 100% of humanity spends 100% of its mindful time in it. This time is taken up with predictions, estimations, and every sort of seemingly reasonable act of surmising what is to happen next, most of it predicated on–in the scheme of such things–gathering hardly any, or at least, paltry amounts of positive information. Yet, and this is not surprising, all this time is mostly ‘navigationally’ effective. Think about it; we don’t give much of a second thought to the vast taken-for-granted conceptions we use, basically, automatically in figuring out out intentions or the intentions of others. And, somewhat surprising, a team of psychological experts does not provide a very sturdy purchase upon any plane of dependable prediction with respect to the normal, conventional “case” subject and their next activity.

This could be compared to the controversies inherent within Folk Psychology Proper. For my own part, the latter terrain is deliciously paradoxical, ponderable and imponderable all at once. Is cognition produced by operational formulations of representations and propositions (and other stuff!) or is it more like this:

The basic idea is that the brain represents the world by means of very high-dimensional activation vectors, that is, by a pattern of activation levels across a very large population of neurons. And the brain performs computations on those representations by effecting various complex vector-to-vector transformations from one neural population to another. This happens when an activation vector from one neural population is projected through a large matrix of synaptic connections to produce a new activation vector across a second population of nonlinear neurons. Mathematically, the process is an instance of multiplying a vector by a matrix and pushing the result through a nonlinear filter. This process is iterable through any number of successive neural populations and, with appropriate adjustment of the myriad synaptic weights that constitute the “coefficients” of these vast matrices, such an arrangement can compute, at least approximately, any computable function whatsoever. Such neural networks have been shown to be “universal approximators” (Hornik, Stinchcombe, and White 1989).

Such networks can also learn to approximate any desired function, from repeated presentation of its instances, by means of various auto­matic learning procedures that adjust the synaptic weights in response to various pressures induced by the specific input-output examples pre­sented to the network (Rumelhart, Hinton, and Williams 1986a, 1986b; Sejnowski, Kienker, and Hinton 1986; Hinton 1989). Trained networks are fast, functionally persistent, tolerant of input degradation, sensitive to diffuse similarities, and they display complex learned prototypes.

This was Paul Churchland, writing sometime–guessing–in the early nineteen nineties.

The lead-in paragraphs:

The real motive behind eliminative materialism is the worry that the “propositional” kinematics and “logical” dynamics of folk psychology constitute a radically false account of the cognitive activity of humans, and of the higher animals generally. The worry is that our folk con­ception of how cognitive creatures represent the world (by propositional attitudes) and perform computations over those representations (by drawing sundry forms of inference from one to another) is a thorough­ going misrepresentation of what really takes place inside us. The worry about propositional attitudes, in short, is not that they are too much like (the legitimately functional) tables and chairs, but that they are too much like (the avowedly nonexistent) phlogiston, caloric fluid, and the four principles of medieval alchemy.

These latter categories were eliminated from our serious ontology because of the many explanatory and predictive failures of the theories that embedded them, and because those theories were superseded in the relevant domains by more successful theories whose taxonomies bore no systematic explanatory or reductive relation to the taxonomies of their more feeble predecessors. In sum, eliminative materialism is not moti­vated by some fastidious metaphysical principle about common natures, but by some robustly factual and entirely corrigible assumptions about the failings of current folk psychology and the expected character of future cognitive theories. On the explanatory and predictive failings of folk psychology, enough has been said elsewhere (P. M. Churchland 1981). Let me here address very briefly the positive side of the issue: the case for a novel kinematics, dynamics, and semantics for cognitive activity. Though Putnam does not explicitly rule out this possibility, his book does not take it very seriously. At one point he describes it as “only a gleam in Churchland’s eye” (p. 110).

Definitely, I have a foot in the eliminativist terrain. I’m confidant that the talk is different than the walk. Ahh, but the other foot! I doubt the physical apparatus allows for walking the walk. I am not yet able to understand how the common talk could end being ‘faux’ like phlogiston. Nor can I yet comprehend the kind of grain that would come to the fore and allow one to predict that the subject’s next vector-to-vector translation is indubitably heading the subject toward the rack of tomatoes.

And, that we would have by then conjured a language to best frame a matching prediction seems to me not likely to be as robust as the language we use to make good and bad predictions.

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Misinformation and the Other Kind of Information

(Following from\Swinging on the Hammock) Okay, watch the video. I’ve highlighted the moment that jumps out for me.

RYAN: It’s a sign of the times, I think. I think it’s a sign of anxiety of the times. It’s also a sign of the misinformation that’s been perpetrated out there.

AMANPOUR (on-screen): Well, why do you say “misinformation”?

RYAN: Well, there are TV, radio and phone calls that are running, trying to scare seniors. You know, the Democratic National Committee is running phone calls to seniors in my district, TV ads, saying we’re hurting current seniors when, in fact, that’s not the case. And so there’s a lot of…

AMANPOUR: Isn’t that, though, par for the course?


AMANPOUR: I mean, didn’t you lot do it the last time?

RYAN: Yes, Republicans — Republicans — both parties do this to each other. And my whole point about that is, that’s why we have this political paralysis.

Let’s entertain a thought problem. Scroll ahead to a perfect Tea Party storm in the 2012 election, after which the Ryan health care overhaul becomes a reality. Shortly afterward we’d know for sure which seniors are getting hurt. I assuming the meaning of ‘hurt’ is that the cost of health care for those over 65 undergoes a non-trivial increase. In anticipation of this, since all we have is the letter of the current plan, whether it hurts current seniors–say, those born before 1947–is answerable in the exacting terms articulated in this current plan.

Without parsing the exact position on this found in the plan, it’s interesting to suppose this perfect electoral storm happens, and, shortly afterward, passing and implementation of, for the sake of argument, Ryan’s current plan. Obviously, a year later we would have the painless ‘old system’ co-existing with a few or all elements of the privatization scheme, for those too young to be grandfathered into ‘regular Medicare.’ How this would work is an unspecified group of adults shy of 65 right now would be allowed to enroll in Medicare when he or she reaches 65. The most talked-about cutoff for current adults is 55. What I will term, Medicare II, the voucher-driven and privatized Ryan plan, kicks in 2022.

Of course we know that ‘hurt’ as previously defined is the truth about the privatized scheme. It would seem politically untenable to have a dual system play out over forty to fifty years–until all the ‘Medicare’ seniors die off. However, the point of my thought problem is this: the assertion that Medicare seniors would not be subjected to ‘hurt’ is entirely contingent on there being zero changes to the current Medicare provision. So, to falsify the assertion all one has to do is go into the Ryan plan and see if it is, in effect, a zero change (to Medicare) plan for this select group of seniors.

There really isn’t a Ryan Plan. Take a look yourself, it’s a wish list. I suspect what would happen is that Medicare I. would be substantially altered to bring it down toward the benefits and objectives (“socialize risk/privatize profits”) of Ryan’s actual concrete, Medicare II. plan. He’s got a rhetorical agenda: to convince adults over the age of 55 (in 2011 or 2012) that they will enjoy the level of coverage, low premiums, and unpredictable pharmaceutical co-pays (Medicare D,) of Medicare I. while moving to abolish it for everybody else– Medicare II. I’m suggesting there is zero chance implementation of a actual Ryan Plan would leave Medicare I. unscathed for the 55-and-older crowd. It’s the other shoe–to be dropped.

From page 46, The Path to Prosperity, Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution, (where the Ryan, health care plan is sketched out.)

These reforms also ensure affordability by fixing the currently broken subsidy system and letting market competition work as a real check on widespread waste and skyrocketing health-care costs. Putting patients in charge of how their health care dollars are spent will force providers to compete against each other on price and quality.

That’s how markets work: The customer is the ultimate guarantor of value.

Market competition hasn’t delivered any check on waste and costs in the segment of the market that is totally privatized, non-Medicaid and non-Medicare insurance. One reason is: markets do not work the way Ryan states that they do.


Ryan here makes a criticism about a gang of thirteen deciding health care benefits. However, his own proposal replicates what we have now, which is an army of thousands of ‘deciders’, and each serves masters whose proprietary objective is to make money.

Ryan the clown

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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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Reduced Bateson Set I. Set Up; Meta-heuristics


Gregory Bateson & Margaret Mead, Bajoeng-Gedé, Indonesia; photograph by Walter Spies

Sometime ago, yet late in my scatter shot intellectual development, I realized five problems fascinated me in psychology. One is the problem of how our brain instantiates and substantiates consciousness. Two is how it came to be that the equivalent of a William James doesn’t arrive much earlier so as to shift proto-psychology forward at an earlier stage in history. This problem wonders about the relationship between culture and contemporaneous psychological categories. The third problem, related to the second problem, is coded (for me) as the problem of introspection. The fourth problem is coded too, as the bundle of problems given by folk psychology at the level of meta-psychology; ie. philosophy of psychology.

And, finally, the fifth problem, very much related to the fourth problem, is the problem of: everyday behavior joined with how psychology’s different disciplines approach everyday behavior as its object of research. I am especially intrigued by how behaviors are named despite those same names being unnecessary to persons behaving in the way the name denotes.

I will seek to explain what I call The Reduced Bateson Set in a series of posts. The Reduced Bateson Set names a framework I utilize. Meanwhile, from an authoritative source:

For the moment, the set-up for this was evoked by my trying to figure out how to describe what is The Reduced Bateson Set. I was moved to look up the definition of heuristic–or rather a definition–in a standard reference book, because I thought this might be the best descriptive term. If so, I could simply say The Reduced Bateson Set is a heuristic I have come to use and favor.

I didn’t think the term was strikingly adequate, inasmuch as I had a deviant definition of heuristic in mind.

According to the now prevailing definition, heuristics are rather parsimonious and effortless, but often fallible and logically inadequate, ways of problem solving and information processing. A heuristic provides a simplifying routine or “rule of thumb” that leads to approximate solutions to many everyday problems. However, since the heuristic does not reflect a deeper understanding of the problem structure, it may lead to serious fallacies and shortcomings under certain conditions. Thus, in contrast to the positive connotations of the original term, the modern notion of cognitive heuristics has attained the negative quality of a mental shortcut that frees the individual of the necessity to process information completely and systematically. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology

Okay, my definition turns out to be a bit too innovative! But at least it doesn’t imply a ridiculous optimal “problem solving.”

More precisely to the point here, is how rapidly I landed in a Batesonian moment. Unfolded in the encyclopedia entry is a long treatment of the term, yet, it’s not describing much about what I wish to also describe. And, the problem could be that it could not describe even what it seeks to describe–in a deep sense able to capture something very very common.

What is this something? It is that some large portion, possibly a majority portion, of human behavior is “heuristical.” Which is to suggest: it is likely a majority of human problem solving, leaarning, discovery, etc., everyday, (every darn day,) processes information incompletely and not systematically. Also, a corollary to this is: some large portion of human problem solving cannot access both a totality of pertinent information, or, have been the subject of a complete processing within, I suppose, a formal requirement for complete and systematic processing.

Wikipedia’s entry is not robust, but it is more satisfying.

Heuristic (pronounced /hj??r?st?k/) or heuristics (from the Greek “???????” for “find” or “discover”) refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to come to an optimal solution as rapidly as possible. Part of this method is using a “rule of thumb”, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, or common sense. A heuristic is a general way of solving a problem.

Except I will quarrel with it too. I don’t know the correct term for that which is a precise and focused heuristic way of solving particular everyday problems. Yet, I do understand the ‘human everyday’ presents a series of opportunities to problem solve, learn, and discover. Figuring out what you’re going wear is a particular problem, and a problem I’d suppose is solved in precise and focused ways.

(Perhaps a differentiation made among general, and, ‘problem-particular,’ methods is unnecessary.)

Among, (what I will term Batesonian,) distinctions found in definitions is this hot one. First, to develop a correct definition is itself a problem to be solved. Could it be demonstrated that any given normative (or authoritative) definition was created, subject to heuristics? Here of course I’m speaking of an example, the definition of heuristic. A second Batesonian distinction is implicit in speaking of the possible heuristics behind the term heuristic.

Here’s a doable experiment. Collect five of the foremost social psychologists together and have them each write out their definition of the term, heuristic. Assume there is a sound method for scoring to what degree the five definitions match up. For my argument here, let’s assume the result of this experiment shows a very high degree of matching.

The five world class experts are then asked to do the following: “How do you know your definition is the correct definition?” Score the answer.

Let’s do this same experiment and add the following parameter. Before either primary question is addressed, each group member is asked the following: “How many pages will you need to answer the question, How do you define heuristic?” Allow no limit in length for their written answers.

Hypotheses are to be entertained. I won’t offer these, yet I will suppose the results of this experiment will
demonstrate considerable disagreement on question number two, How do you know your definition is the correct definition, and this disagreement increases the longer any answer is to either question. So, the most disagreement would be found between the longest answers.

There’s a problem incurred by my supposing the answers could be scored. How would we score different points of emphasis? Those points could not be scored as only disagreements. Still, our scoring would have to resolve this problem in reckoning with matching points of emphasis and divergent points of emphasis.

My hunch that there would be found disagreement is, obviously, completely a matter of a decidedly intuitive and heuristic approach to thinking about the problem of defining a normative term. What I’m thinking about here is the human system able to develop useful definitions about its own features. The experiment might well defeat my hunch. But, what if the experiment proved the underlying hypotheses?

What then could be suggested by the results of this experiment about hypothesized deviations from agreement? What also could be suggested about how the problem of expert definition is approached by experts? Do these experts employ heuristics as an effective, or not effective, means?

Consider a countervailing–with respect to my hunch–supposition. That: in a description, where detail increases, deviations are reduced. (Speaking of building houses: we can all agree on the sharp nail and the straight board.) This suggests that as descriptions penetrate ‘down’ to more elemental levels of order in a system, deviations between descriptions are reduced.

My hunch asserts the opposite is possibly the experimental result. So: as experts expert in the same system propose descriptions of this system, as the level of detail increases in their descriptions, their descriptions will tend to diverge.

Again, a countervailing supposition might be rooted in the same idea given in the Blackwell encyclopedia: to define a system correctly, and so free the definition from any reliance on heuristic means, this definition must result from a complete and systematic process that reflects deep understanding. However, even if this is true as a matter of commonsense, it is also true that this brings with it the same problem. When we think about the means via which we could shape and amplify convergence, we’re still confronted with this move also opening up to the opportunity for divergence. Surely if you asked five experts in the same field how to promote greater agreement about the field’s conceptual fundamentals, in most fields their answers to this “how” question would prove to be very divergent.

When I walk this back to everyday circumstances in which terms/names/concepts and their concomitant definitions are facts of innersubjective assumption rather than innersubjective negotiation, I’d be even more confident that a similar experiment would verify my hunch.

Actually, I informally test this hunch all the time. The main paradox I’ve discovered in doing this is that people speak about shared concepts, (and these concepts implicate shared systems,) without really caring about whether they share the same definitions for these shared concepts. They likely do not share the same definitions! That this underlying disagreement hardly comes to matter is a fascinating element of ‘folk psychological’ behavior and of what could be called intersubjective heuristics.

Consider the beneficial efficiency gained from being able to talk about systems all the while disagreement about basic stuff is underfoot. Whenever I hear the word socialism in our contemporary political discourse, I’m reminded of this paradox of effectiveness.

The Reduced Bateson Set is a heuristic of the kind that are structured and demonstrably pragmatic. The Reduced Bateson Set is my private naming of a pragmatic structure for working through the experience of observing and participating in, learning, inquiry, and dialog. This structure is useful in other interactive circumstances. I’ve named it so because it is my appropriation of stuff reduced from the partial set of Bateson’s ideas I know.

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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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Young and Infinite

A long, long time ago, in a distant universe…

Sometime around about 200,000 it “all” drops away. The current recorded evidence for the powers of creative artifice–that of homo sapiens sapiens–shows the story of adaptation and innovation to reflect a process of accrual. I don’t tire of reminding people who assert different using (usually magical) developmental facts, that their dodgy form of psychology, theology, or philosophy, or what-have-you, makes no account of the bare facts on the ground several hundred thousand years ago.

For example, the most ancient evidence serves as a powerful empirical rejoinder to the any theory of intelligent design. Why would a designer build the highest form of sentient life to be so primitive? Moreover, where is any account to be found in any theism or traditionalism or foundationalism able to make an actual account? No, in fact every bright idea can be seen to arise, to be evoked as-it-were, from a point of aroused curiosity or pressurized necessity. But, then, as one tracks backward, each and every bright idea literally disappears.

[qt:http://www.squareone-learning.com/video/Multiverse-Theory.mov 720 480]
(video:quicktime:takes 5 minutes to load)

Video: Stephen Calhoun, using photographs taken from the Hubble orbital observtaory.
Music: Kamelmauz

Lucy’s Species May Have Used Stone Tools 3.4 Million Years Ago

Evidence for the survival of the oldest terrestrial mantle reservoir

Study: 650-Million-Year-Old Sponges May Be World’s Oldest Animals

50,000 Years of Dreamtime

The settlement of Australia is a breakthrough in the “human story.” Very soon after anatomically modern humans began to replace (and to some extent assimilate) other lineages of our genus in Eurasia we pushed beyond the previous outer limits of the domains of humankind. The ancestors of Australian Aboriginals swept past the Wallace Line, and quickly settled the Ice Age continent of Sahul, consisting of Australia and Papua New Guinea. The biogeography of Australia is well known. Aside from bats and some endemic rodents the continent was free of placental mammals before modern humans arrived.

As for when these humans made landfall, there is some debate as to that particular issue. The oldest remains from Australia, Mungo Man, has been dated to anywhere between 70,000, and 30,000, years before the present. If we took the older date then Australia would have been settled almost immediately after the expansion of non-African modern humanity. If we accepted the younger date, then the settlement of Australia would have been concurrent with the final replacement of Neandertals by modern humans in Europe. The current consensus seems to be that Mungo Man dates to approximately 46,000 years before the present. As the first dating of a particular individual from a species in a region is liable to miss earlier individuals who were not fossilized it seems likely that Australia was settled by anatomically modern humans on the order of 46,000 years before the present, but somewhat earlier than that date. That would imply that Australia was populated by anatomically modern humans at least 10,000 years before Europe. One should probably not be too surprised by this. Out-of-Africa humans were probably initially tropically adapted so lateral migration would have been easier, but also, there were no hominin competitors in Australia.

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Talking Problems

If we could bring ourselves to accept the fact that no theory about the nature of Man or Society or Rationality, or anything else, is going to synthesize Nietzsche with Marx or Heidegger with Habermas, we could begin to think of the relation between writers on autonomy and writers on justice as being like the relation between two kinds of tools – as little in need of synthesis as are paintbrushes and crowbars. One sort of writer lets us realize that the social virtues are not the only virtues, that some people have actually succeeded in re-creating themselves. We thereby become aware of our own half-articulate need to become a new person, one whom we as yet lack words to describe. The other sort reminds us of the failure of our institutions and practices to live up to the convictions to which we are already committed by the public, shared vocabulary we use in daily life. The one tells us that we need not speak only the language of the tribe, that we may find our own words, that we may have a responsibility to ourselves to find them. The other tells us that that responsibility is not the only one we have. Both are right, but there is no way to make both speak a single language. (Richard Rorty, from the Introduction, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity)

My iPod is chock full of hippie classics, jazz, African music, and, lots of lectures, conference presentations, in philosophy, psychology, anthropology. Between deep resources such as learnoutloud, and freebees at iTunes, when I’m not drifting on waves of psychedelic nostalgia, I’m in the school I can create for myself.

I happened upon conference presentations about the philosophy of Richard Rorty, while trolling for curriculum contents for my ongoing rolling (as in: learning while driving in Coltrane, my 2000 Honda Civic, and classroom-on-wheels,) self-education. Rorty’s philosophy is somewhat the old friend, although it had been many years since I last engaged with his distinctively American pragmatic post-modernism. So it was I spent four plus hours with mostly knotty presentations from four ‘Rortyians.’

Rorty is an anti-essentialist: he does not think things are essentially physical and only accidentally of aesthetic, moral, or economic value, and he does not think things are essentially mental or spiritual either. This is because he denies that there is any ultimate context of the sort required to make sense of the assertion that one way of describing a thing is more fundamental or essential to it than all others. There are only limited contexts set by changing circumstances and purposes; as Dewey once put it, ‘Anything is “essential” which is indispensible to a given inquiry and anything is “accidental” which is superfluous’ (Dewey 1938: 138). (James Tartaglia, Rorty and the Mirror of Nature)

Eventually I thought to myself, “I’m, like, half a Rortyian.” I recognize by way of my longstanding bias, I’ll usually be in sympathy with the smart arguments of anti-foundationalists and subtle relativists. On the other hand, the anti-representationalism central to Rorty’s mature philosophy, to me, is arch and a bit too posed as being foundational!

The four presentations are excellent. I especially enjoyed the self-effacing Bjorn Ramberg, For the sake of his own generation: Rorty on destruction, and, edification, and, Albrecht Wellmer, Rereading Rorty. Although one gets tossed right into the deep end–Rorty’s philosophy may be formulated around Pragmatism, but it’s knotty–I became acclimated and soon enough enthralled. One hook could be: if you’re interested in how moderation and flexibility in conceptualizing, language use, proposition definition, qualifies (best!) the discussion of problems, these resources are a good ‘surface’ to dive into and through.

Four presentations about the philosophy of Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty: “Dewey and Posner on Pragmatism and Moral Progress”

Michael Krasny streaming interview with Richard Rorty

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Hard Problems


Bill Vallicella writes a very fine, thought provoking, blog, The Maverick Philosopher. It’s one of the handful of blogs I read top-to-bottom, which is to say I read every post as they land in my rss reader. I read it for several reasons. One, Mr. Vallicella is a fine writer,and he moves through knotty subjects carefully. Two, he’s got a very rigorous perspective, yet he’s chosen to offer ideas and reasoning rather than polemics and ideology. Three, he’s interested in areas I’m interested in, such as metaphysics, and traditional ways to frame philosophical problems. Except, I’m interested in such things, and he’s a dedicated expert.

He also readily admits when his arguments are tentative or provisional. His is an attractive humility in contrast to a whole raft worth self-satisfied “I know I know” types of rationalists and religionists blogging in the philosophere.

A few days ago he offered a fascinating look at meditation, Mental Quiet and Enlightenment/Salvation. His particular starting point determines his viewpoint, yet he’s forthright in framing his view as being provisional, while he writes with a neat turn of phrase:

There is a passage somewhere in al-Ghazzali where he points out that a person who climbs to the top of a minaret is more likely to feel a cooling breeze than one who remains on the ground. Similarly, the gusts of divine favor are more likely to reach one who has made the right preparations, entry into mental quiet being one such preparation. This image suggests that salvation cannot be caused by the seeker, but must be graciously received. ‘Own-power’ is not enough; ‘other-power’ is needed. Mental quiet is thus a state of mental receptivity or passivity, a state of interior listening in which one opens oneself to a possible communication from beyond one’s egoic consciousness.

For a phenomenologically-minded Jamesian fallibilist like me, The Maverick Philosopher is a counter-intuitive choice for a mental workout, yet I’ve learned a bit, and enjoyed the mostly graceful presentation.

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Two Philosophy Cartoons

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The Direction of the Horizon

Whether there is or is not an absolute thought and an absolute evaluation in each practical problem, my own opinions, which remain capable of error no matter how rigorously I examine them, are still my only equipment for judging. It remains just as hard to reach agreement with myself and with others, and for all my belief that it is in principle always attainable, I have no other reason to affirm this principle than my experience of certain concordances, so that in the end whatever solidity there is in my belief in the absolute is nothing but my experience of agreement with myself and others. Recourse to an absolute foundation-when it is not useless-destroys the very thing it is supposed to support. As a matter of fact, if I believe that I can rejoin the absolute principle of all thought and all evaluation on the basis of evidence, then I have the right to withdraw my judgments from the control of others on the condition that I have my consciousness for myself; my judgments take on a sacred character; in particular-in the realm of the practical-I have at my disposal a plan of escape in which my actions become transfigured: the suffering I create turns into happiness, ruse becomes reason, and I piously cause my adversaries to perish.

Thus, when I place the ground of truth or morality outside ongoing experience, either I continue to hold to the probabilities it offers me (merely devalued by the ideal of absolute knowledge), or I disguise these probabilities as absolute certainties-and then I am letting go of the verifiable for the sake of truth, which is to say I drop the p to catch its shadow. I waver between uncertainty and presumptuousness without ever finding the precise point of human resolution. If, on the other hand, I have understood that truth and value can be for us nothing but the result of the verifications or evaluations which we make in contact with the world, before other people and in given situations of knowledge and action, that even these notions lose al meaning outside of human perspectives, then the world recovers its texture, the particular acts of verification and evaluation through which I grasp a dispersed experience resume their decisive importance, and knowledge and action, true and false, good and evil have something unquestionable about them precisely because I do not claim to find in them al>solute evidence. Metaphysical and moral consciousness dies upon contact with the absolute because, beyond the dull world of habitual or dormant consciousness, this consciousness is itself the living connection between myself and me and myself and others. Maurice Merleau-Ponty; Sense & Nonsense (p95)

One of my projects over the next few weeks is to try to wrap up a half year’s worth of wandering and exploration. Ironically, this will allow me to pick up some dangling threads. The main subjects I’ve been kicking around ‘inside’ are right now in an odd flux. After all, these subjects, folk psychology, metaphysical foundationalism, (what I term) supranatural solipsism, and, the social (constructionist) organization of heirophanies*, seem to me mixed up in something together I need to compress, wrap up and send away.

There’s a class of schema I have in mind’s eye, of vertical forms. My regard so depicted–or soon to be–is about verticality.

Noting this, in this post is the move into the, or maybe toward, the horizontal form. I’ve got the model set, but it will need to come at the end. Why? Because nothing I’ve been investigating has converted me away from the primariness of, (if you will,) the creative horizon.

*Breakthroughs into consciousness of the archetype of the Self; versioning here Eliade in terms of Analytic Psychology.

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Where There?

I’m mostly in the camp (in meta-psychology,) of Jerry Fodor, Although, broadly speaking of my own prejudices, whether the subject is folk psychology, theory of mind, or experimental philosophy, I’m also old-fashioned, so William James is evoked whenever I’m digging on the strange epistemological conundrums, problems which don’t dissuade anybody from anything in any practical, everyday, useful, “Jamesian” sense.

Anyway, Mr. Fodor reviews Michael Type, Consciousness Revisited, in the current TLS, under the title, It Ain’t In the Head. (article likely not available forever at this link)

Here’s Fodor’s attractive opening paragraph.

Philosophy, you understand, is a very pharmacopoeia of cures that are worse than the corresponding diseases. This started a long while ago; perhaps with Plato’s suggestion that, although there is a problem about how so many different things can all be chairs, philosophy can fix it: there is only one chair that is really a chair, the Chair on which no one can sit; the One Chair that is in Heaven. This kind of philosophical overkill, having once got started, has never stopped. Thus Descartes: the way to explain how your mind causes your body to move is to say that the pineal gland performs a miracle each time it does. Or Berkeley: the way to avoid scepticism about perceptual beliefs is to say that chairs, tables and everything else are made of ideas. Or Wittgenstein and Ryle: the solution of the epistemological problem about how anybody can know whether anybody else is in pain is that (other people’s) pains reduce to their pain behaviours, there being, by assumption, no epistemological problem about recognizing them. Or take Carnap and Ayer: the way to understand the semantics of “electron” and other such “theoretical terms” is to hold that electrons are “logical constructions” out of the pointer readings of experimental instruments. Or take Frege: given that Venus and the Morning Star are the very same thing, there’s this worry about how John can believe that he sees Venus while not believing that he sees the Morning Star. One avoids the worry by saying that, though the two expressions refer to the same thing in sentences like “John saw Venus” (the Morning Star), they do not refer to the same thing in sentences like “John believes (thinks/knows) that he saw Venus” and “John believes (thinks/knows) that he saw the Morning Star”.

Good read. link

Where is this moving? Hmmm, see movement there? where?

If you can intentionally stop the ‘movement,’ reflect upon where the ‘what’ of such stopping, or upon ‘what is the there’ of such stopping. Oh, and let me know what you come up with—there’s no right answer.

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Indelicate Perturbations

As it turns out–a delightful surprise–many of philosopher Joseph Agassi’s short essays are linked to his Wikipedia entry.

Agassi, provided one of my most cherished reading forays many years ago, with his ironically (and also subtly,) titled collection The Gentle Art of Philosophical Polemics. There, in a chapter, Popper’s Hopeful Monsters, Agassi wrote:

The modern scientific tradition is permeated with inductivism. And inductivism is the admonition to avoid jumping to conclusions, i.e., to avoid the invention of bold conjectures.

This is a set-up, for Agassi is driving home a point about Popper’s ideational boldness in relationship to ‘inductivist’ provisionality. Like Wittgenstein, Agassi is a keen debunker of: leaping to conclusions; unwarranted presumptions to clarity; incoherent propositions, concepts, operations; illogical synthesis.

I’m working through the essays. For example, The Theory and Practice of the Welfare State (1996) contains:

The present discussion already includes a bias, and one that practical people should oppose. It is one characteristic of many discussions of matters of principle. It rests on the assumption that the principles in question, whatever it happens to be, must guide action, that practical activities are (or perhaps should be) the outcome of a choice between alternative principles and its application. This very bias makes practical people shun discussions on basics, and with much justice. For, practical activity need not be guided by principle, especially when basic matters of principles are controversial or unclear and practical matters are pressing. Also, action may be more judiciously guided by eclectic deliberations that take the best from each basic option without thereby crystallizing into a new one. Moreover, one may recommend not the application of a basic doctrine but the effort to come closer to its teachings, especially in times of crisis. For example, one may preach innovations yet fall back on tradition in times of crisis. For another example, one may stick to the welfare state but from time to time attempt at the reduction of waste and of government involvement by privatization and budget cuts.

Ahhh, another set-up. The author proceeds to inspect the basics. Closely.

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Denying the “Other”

The present day shows with appalling clarity how little able people are to let the other man’s argument count, although this capacity is a fundamental and indispensable condition for any human community. Everyone who proposes to come to terms with himself must reckon with this basic problem. For, to the degree that he does not admit the validity of the other person, he denies the “other” within himself the right to exist – and vice versa. The capacity for inner dialogue is a touchstone for outer objectivity.
Carl G. Jung The Practice of Psychotherapy CW 16

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth, if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. It is necessary to, consider separately these two hypotheses, each of which has a distinct branch of the argument corresponding to it. We can never he sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

First, the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being common.

Unfortunately for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgement, which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.
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Why Psychologists Muddle

I can’t think of any single road here at the high reaches of consciousness trying to figure consciousness out which–eventually and practically–easily offers practical methods for improving self-development, relationships, group relations, and all the sundry modes for everyday consciousness and behavior.

More, see my post, The Mind Is Not the Brain, netdynamic.org

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