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Philosophy Book Club

Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,063
Ken:


The deficiency of this forum is that it isn't made for sorting out these issues. They require the sort of patient, careful, in-depth discussion that casual readers don't have the time for.

Are there people who do have that kind of time? Because I wish I could be them.

(Edit to add: Not that that's necessarily what I would do with that kind of time if I did have it.)
A former member
Post #: 52
Hi, Jeanette.

You quoted me as saying:

The deficiency of this forum is that it isn't made for sorting out these issues. They require the sort of patient, careful, in-depth discussion that casual readers don't have the time for.

And then asked:

Are there people who do have that kind of time? Because I wish I could be them.

(Edit to add: Not that that's necessarily what I would do with that kind of time if I did have it.)

Glad to see you're a rational human being.

Well, sure, there are a few. The (Sam) Walton family doesn't do much but flit around . . . also true of the majority of the Rockefellers, etc. But most of them aren't interested in philosophy. . . . And I wouldn't want to be a Walton or a Rockefeller . . . .

But my point, of course, is that it's simply not doable to conduct much of a philosophical discussion in this kind of format. Even professional philosophers don't get to any sort of resolution, even after years and years of exchanges. So there's no point in getting hot under the collar, or too wound up. The main purpose is just to have a bit of fun and maybe point out that there are some directions not being explored, etc.

--K.
Eric B.
ejbman
Denver, CO
Post #: 681
Ken,

Your background and history, while interesting, do nothing to support your claims. You make a ton of baseless assertions that cannot be accurate, and your references to Blanchard are not helping to sell your points. I started perusing "The Nature of Thought" on Google Books, and immediately ran into a line that made me realize right away that I was wasting my time reading the ravings of a lunatic. Page 60 (according to GB pagination):

"11. We must now try to describe the experience out of which perception arises. Our tools must be imagination and inference [my emphasis]."

These tools are, notably, the tools of the fiction writer. He goes on to drivel:

"We cannot fall back on experiment. [again, my emphasis], for there is no experiment that will show how it feels to be an infant; we must be aware of filling the mind of innocence with logical simples and acquired meanings..."

If you can't see what's wrong with this, then we need not continue this conversation, because we will be speaking two different languages: one sane, and one insane.

As to your points about Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, their silly experiments in being professional navel-gazers are the stuff of hilarity among ... well, everybody. There's nothing there.

-Eric
Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,064
As to your points about Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, their silly experiments in being professional navel-gazers are the stuff of hilarity among ... well, everybody. There's nothing there.

-Eric

One can be a ~professional~ navel-gazer? I want a piece of that action!
A former member
Post #: 53
Hi, Eric:

I had no expectation, from the very outset, that you would be particularly persuaded by anything that might be presented here. In saying this, I don't imply any criticism of either you, personally, or of your views. This simply isn't, and can't ever be, the forum for philosophical persuasion. I've never seen anyone ever do an intellectual 180 degree turn overnight -- in any forum.

The most that can be done here -- by anyone -- is to suggest some problems with the points of view that readers might encounter -- in this particular case, those advanced by people like Rorty (and Derrida, Lyotard, Dewey, et al) and with people like Dennett.

I suspect the points that I've made will fester a bit in the back of your mind, however reluctant you may be to acknowledge them for now, as they fly in the face of some settled convictions.

Or not. But the problems I've pointed up are real problems, and the issues I've raised should fester for a very good reason: Rorty and Dennett have no answer for them.

To continue:

Ken,

Your background and history, while interesting, do nothing to support your claims.

Yes, very true. I raised my background and history in the same spirit in which you raised the matter of Dennett having taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the science relevant to philosophy of mind. My point was simply that I've taken the same trouble. And as long as I'm mentioning that background, I might also mention that I am a certified teacher of science in the state of Colorado (for all of the sciences, through High School).

You make a ton of baseless assertions that cannot be accurate

Well, this is a hopeless generalization that neither I, nor anyone else faced with the same accusation, could hope to respond to. The most that I can say, unless you are willing to provide some examples, is that I am not in the habit of making assertions that are baseless -- though, indeed, the basis for my assertions can't always be provided in a sound bite. (Again, I fault this forum for that, not you.)

and your references to Blanchard (Eric: that's Blanshard with an 's' not a 'c', --K) are not helping to sell your points. I started perusing "The Nature of Thought" on Google Books, and immediately ran into a line that made me realize right away that I was wasting my time reading the ravings of a lunatic.

I suspect that 1) your reading was hasty and superficial; and 2) specifically undertaken with a view to finding some reason to quickly reject what you were reading, because you didn't really want to be reading it in the first place (cognitive dissonance?). In any case, I'm afraid you are alone -- as in entirely alone, among all of the readers of Blanshard, including even Rorty -- in saying that you either wasted your time or were reading the "ravings of a lunatic." Even his opponents acknowledged that he never, ever, raved -- and was indeed about the furthest of all philosophers from that -- nor was he in any sense whatsoever a lunatic. May I suggest that this statement was made in anger, and that it reflects a dawning awareness that some of your settled beliefs are less defensible that you may have thought?

In any case, in support of this claim (that in reading Blanshard you were reading the ravings of a lunatic), you quote the following out of any and all context:

Page 60 (according to GB pagination):

"11. We must now try to describe the experience out of which perception arises. Our tools must be imagination and inference [my emphasis]."

These tools are, notably, the tools of the fiction writer.

Yes, true, if they're any good, anyway. But others may employ them where necessary, surely.

He goes on to drivel:

Well, I might have said 'explain'. . .

"We cannot fall back on experiment. [again, my emphasis], for there is no experiment that will show how it feels to be an infant; we must be aware of filling the mind of innocence with logical simples and acquired meanings..."

Well, I'm afraid that I agree with Blanshard that there is no experiment that will tell us, as adults, what it felt like to be an infant of a few days or weeks of age. We can't truly go back to that state of mind as adults. For example, at that age we not only can't speak, we don't even have the concept of language, and I confess I can't get back to that state of mind.

If you can't see what's wrong with this, then we need not continue this conversation, because we will be speaking two different languages: one sane, and one insane.

I've been trying to make the case here, very much in contradiction of Rorty, that we need to rely on reason and evidence in the formation of our views -- and that that includes application of the scientific method and consultation with the results of experimentation -- at least insofar as that is possible (again, in the case of trying to place ourselves back in the mind of an infant, that's not entirely possible).

It is Rorty, and others of his ilk, who try to make the case against reason and evidence -- and who want us to believe that the conclusions we reach on the basis of experimentation aren't true -- only "tools" or things we just happen to (arbitrarily) believe because of context, and so on.

As to your points about Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, their silly experiments in being professional navel-gazers are the stuff of hilarity among ... well, everybody. There's nothing there.

More laughter, then? This blanket dismissal would be more persuasive if you'd read Husserl and Merleau-Ponty and could rebut at least something of what they have to say. But I think, if you were honest with yourself, you'd admit that you haven't done that. Of course, to be fair, nobody else has successfully rebutted Blanshard or Husserl either.

Something to keep in mind: if I'm right about Rorty and Dennett, I have nothing to gain, nothing at all, in persuading you of that. On the other hand, if I'm right, you have a lot to lose in not bringing yourself to a recognition of better views.

Outside of the context of our own conversation here, admitting that Blanshard was right would deflate a lot of highly inflated reputations. Everyone is anxious to avoid egg on the face, and the more inflated the reputation, the greater that anxiety.

With best wishes,
Ken
A former member
Post #: 982
Hi all, long time, wtf. Kinda quiet here. Enjoying the discussion with Ken and Eric. Here's a question.

From Page 6 --------------

Rich: FWIW, the most recent philosophy bites podcast, Pat Churchland on Eliminative Materialism, covers some issues related to Dennett's book - folk psychology and the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and philosophy.

Ken Roberts: The Churchlands . . . sigh. Their stuff hasn't advanced a single inch on 1940s materialism/behaviorism. Folk philosophy, in my view.

Do you think armchair conceptual analysis of one's personal experience (aka naval gazing) is sufficient to obtain the best theory of mind?

Do you think philosophers can understand perception without paying attention to both psychological and neurophysiological results of perception?

Patricia Churchland: Prior to 1950, people thought of memory as a single unified function. Well we know now that there are different parts of the nervous system that handle quite different functions that used to be called memory. Remembering how to ride a bicycle is a very different function, and relies on quite different circuitry, than remembering your mother's name. It turns out that the concept of memory actually 'fractionates' into many different subtypes, each of which is regulated by rather different pathways.

Is it possible for the philosophy of materialism to remain unchanged while the body of scientific facts it depends on changes regularly?

Patricia Churchland: Here's a very interesting fact: Very, very early in visual cortex, that is in the first area in visual cortex to which visual signals are sent, there is valuation; because there are projections from higher areas of the brain, all the way back to V1, that attach a value signal to this perceptual signal rather than that one.

Do you think it was known in 1940 that valuation occurs prior to consciousness?

Do you think this affects David Hume's is/ought argument?

Regards,
iDave.
A former member
Post #: 983
From Page 7 ---------------------------

Ken Roberts: I suspect we should cut professional philosophers a little (as in a very little) slack. The field of philosophy is a technical one and the vast majority of positions have been around in one form or another for decades (if not centuries). So it helps (in a legitimate way) to have some formal education/background.

That having been said, there are a handful of philosophers (such as Brand Blanshard) who have written with maximum quality, maximum clarity, and minimal technical vocabulary, and without assumptions concerning the current state of the discipline.

[Chuckle.] This sounds like Spry now who, by a simple laying on of hands, can decide whether a book is "crap". wink

I took a peek, Ken, and Blanshard's first sentence, "Thought is that activity of mind which aims directly at truth," is already loaded with assumptions. Still, you give it high marks so I withhold judgement lest I be charged with hand-laying.

Regards,
iDave.
A former member
Post #: 984
From Page 8 ----------------------------------

Ken Roberts: I don't think Dennett has moved a millimeter from the assorted materialisms of the 1940s.

That's what your brain said about the Churchlands.

Which materialist (in your view) has made progress since the 1940's and what does that look like?

Ken Roberts: The basic reason for this is that he doesn't even try. That is, he doesn't clearly see where the problem lies.

Surely Daniel Dennett is trying to do something? He has written many books, openly engaged critics and adjusted his theories accordingly?

Are you and Daniel Dennett working on the same problem? What's The Problem?

Ken Roberts: In the end, his strategy has consisted mainly of trying to find plausible alternative translations for terminology that is enmeshed in intentionality. And, in the end, that strategy hasn't worked, because intentionality isn't essentially verbal/terminological.

Are we not talking about intentionality?

Ken Roberts: It is, rather, a brute empirical reality.

Eric Blommel (Page 11): Then show me the 'intention' particles. You cannot. It is not brute empirical reality, it is pure metaphor!

Ken Roberts: There are big and controversial issues here that are resistant to treatment in a forum of this nature (and I am therefore reluctant to undertake a response here -- not unique to you, as I was also reluctant to respond to our other correspondent as well -- but, as was the case with him, it wouldn't be fair to come this far and just shut everything down). I'll take a stab at it as opportunity permits.

I'll just say briefly, for now, that there are no baseless assertions here -- merely assertions that I haven't supplied the basis for, as it would take significant time and effort to do so.

There is no wet gloopiness here, nor are there metaphors posing as empirical objects, nor is there any wishing at all. If you'd like to get a head start on all of this, you can read the wikipedia entry on "emergentism" (most of which I wrote).

So Ken sort of spins off here, it's the forum's fault, baseless assertions are not baseless, there is no further mention in this discussion of "brute empirical reality," but it shows up in Ken's wiki page:

Emergentism: Samuel Alexander's views on emergentism, argued in Space, Time, and Deity (1920), were inspired in part by the ideas in psychologist C. Lloyd Morgan's Emergent Evolution. Alexander believed that emergence was fundamentally inexplicable, and that emergentism was simply a "brute empirical fact":

"The higher quality emerges from the lower level of existence and has its roots therein, but it emerges therefrom, and it does not belong to that level, but constitutes its possessor a new order of existent with its special laws of behaviour. The existence of emergent qualities thus described is something to be noted, as some would say, under the compulsion of brute empirical fact, or, as I should prefer to say in less harsh terms, to be accepted with the “natural piety” of the investigator. It admits no explanation."

Oh dear. Jeanette will be upset over this.

Well, Mr. Roberts, I'm gonna suggest you are evading the historical battle between, as your webpage states, reductionists and emergentists. That's too bad because we have plenty of eloquent reductionists here (I won't mention names) but not so many emergentists (aside from our very own Jesus), and I find discussions more rewarding and informative (when I have time to play) when we have two to tango, a diversity of views. wink

Without further support, Samuel Alexander's assertion feels baseless in a rational context. The eliminative materialist might reply "If it cannot be explained, it does not exist, is a useless concept, jettison it." Can the emergentist counter this with a rational argument?

Regards,
iDave.
Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,137
iDave:

Oh dear. Jeanette will be upset over this.

No, not upset... just mystified. Why should the existence of emergent qualities be accepted without explanation?

Oh, but I guess that would be asking for an explanation. Never mind; now I ~am~ a bit upset. wink

A former member
Post #: 985
iDave: Oh dear. Jeanette will be upset over this.

Jeanette: No, not upset... just mystified. Why should the existence of emergent qualities be accepted without explanation?

Well I was trying to play off of Alexander's (and thus Ken Robert's) apparent religious motivation (with you being the wicked atheist and all). Anyway, from what I grok so far, it is the alleged irreducibility of these so-called intentions that could pose a problem for scientists who like to reduce everything to atoms and frisky dirt. There's a plethora of notions people have in their attempt to describe consciousness and mental stuff. Interesting if one has time to review it all. I think I resonate with Quine (seems like I liked him in an earlier discussion, will have to read a Quine book someday).

I'm gonna wrap up my review of this thread now. Seems like Ken and Eric agreed to disagree and questions were not explored in depth. Have a good evenin'.

From Page 14 ------------------

Ken Roberts: I had no expectation, from the very outset, that you would be particularly persuaded by anything that might be presented here.

I would not consider philosophy presentation per se though Derrida might endorse such a view.

Ken Roberts: This simply isn't, and can't ever be, the forum for philosophical persuasion.

To make broad assertions and then run away is not persuasive. Be responsible.

Ken Roberts: The most that can be done here -- by anyone -- is to suggest some problems with the points of view that readers might encounter -- in this particular case, those advanced by people like Rorty (and Derrida, Lyotard, Dewey, et al) and with people like Dennett.

Perhaps you have a mission, like Spry:

Stand up, stand up for Husserl,
ye soldiers of the mind;
lift high his royal brainstorm,
it must not be reduced...

Ken Roberts: I suspect the points that I've made will fester a bit in the back of your mind, however reluctant you may be to acknowledge them for now, as they fly in the face of some settled convictions.

Well I can't speak for Eric, but your evasiveness may linger in my mind and your arrogance may persist, in vMeme jargon, as the fragrance of closed blue.

Regards,
iDave.
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