Saturday, December 9, 2006

son light



Frankly, I think that my characterization of Habermas' work as a philosophical anthropology can get rather profound.

But I want to again signal in such characterization that I'm in a post-Habermasian venture that nonetheless continues to honor his profound example (and prolificness that I never hoped to approach), as I've done for many years.

Not taking time soon to further detail an intimacy of involvement with his work (which I've done so much in the past, largely eliciting only frivolous response, but thanks anyway, folks; our relationship was a useful sounding board) just silently "expresses" influence by that engagement, which is ambitiously developing beyond his engagements, but will eventually return to further detailed appreciation of his example (if I don't die first) by kindred revision of his conceptions relative to that development which he in part enabled and inspired. (At least, I've mastered the Germanic sentence length.)

Perhaps, he was doing likewise in his readings: honoring the influence of mentors through explication of his entwined distance to their address (forever "Kantian," forever "Hegelian"—forever "Christian," even; certainly very "humanistic," very "evolutionary"—I said to him: "very 'Heideggerian' of you," and he didn't disagree).

So long, dear friend—until spring? I've got an incredibly heavy agenda ahead of me; in a phrase: a set of readings by which I expect to clarify a progressive integration of epistemology and ethics relative to cognitive anthropology—"progressive" inasmuch as the anticipated results entail a geopolitical ethics of development.



Monday, October 23, 2006

neuroeconomic note



Polar opposites. Two-dimensional representation of the relationships between 11 goal domains. Data are derived from a questionnaire about the importance of 57 different goals given to a sample of 1854 undergraduates from 15 different countries. Note the diametrically opposite placement of financial success and community. [Reprinted from F. M. E. Grouzet et al., J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 89, 800 (2005) in Science, Nov. 17, 2006.]


Dec. 3, 5, and 9

The text above is the caption from the Science article indicated. One might also note the diametrically opposite placement of physical health and conformity. Valuing financial success distances a person from valuing community, and valuing conformity distances a person from valuing physical health, among other interesting aspects of that chart.

More interesting to me, though, is the x/y axis. I won't doubt that the researchers appropriately associate each of their 57 values with a goal domain (I'm accepting the referee processes of the well-known journal). A respondent in the research can gauge degrees of intrinsic/extrinsic or somatic/mental value because the poles of the x/y axis are intuitively cogent: Sense of embodiment, higher self; extraversion, introversion.

In fact (by my lights, but strongly corroborated by the above-indicated research), we distinguish inner self from outer self or self-seeing ("I") from self-as-seen ("me")—which William James distinguished early last century. This and the kind of x/y-axis above have also been keynotes of major research on child development (Self-understanding in childhood and adolescence, Wm. Damon & D. Hart, Cambridge U.P., 1988).

Indeed, the individuated historicity of this difference relates to a dyadity in identity, which I've long distinguished as self-identity and personal identity. Idiomatic English often registers the same difference: personality, you have; selfness, you are. Obviously, what's intrinsic deeply matters (self), and what's extrinsic may largely show (image, "face").

Disintegrated identity tends to be a depersonalization order, like teen alienation. Taken to chronic extreme, there is depersonalization disorder, as defined by The Diagnostic Standards Manual (Is that DSM-IV-R these days? DSM-V is in development.).

Creatively mature minds—called the "plural psyche" (Jungian psychology) or "protean psyche" (Robert J. Lifton)—involve a strong self-identity stably integrated with a diversity of personas or personal identities (think of a writer's capability for extended characterization mapped into dramatically-understood real life), which is a "thick" sense of the "thin" diversity of roles we normally integrate: friend, lover/spouse, parent/teacher, employee, etc.

I conjecture that high self (i.e., "self-transcendence") with extreme extrinsicness tends toward exemplarity. High self with extreme intrinsicness tends toward originality? Extreme extrinsicness with high physicality tends toward material productivism? And extreme intrinsicness with high physicality seems to be very regressive, I don't know.

But it makes sense that a distinction between interpersonal and intersubjective interaction is useful (and real): Civility is very interpersonal. Solidarity is less merely interpersonal by being more intersubjective (more emotionally bonded). Kindredness is somewhat interpersonal, but usually very intersubjective. And intimacy is intensely intersubjective (such that interpersonalness feels like an act, like lovers back in the office). We should need to appreciate such a continuum—civility, solidarity, kindredness, intimacy—as a natural feature of our humanity because the psyche has an intrinsic/extrinsic compass (which, I would argue, arises from primal self discovery, e.g., in infant recognizing, in effect, that the hand moving there is "mine" because "I" moved it; or the face there is not me, but is familiar, whereas that other face is strange).

In any case, the research indicated above (with screen-back image of coins arranged in the shape of a brain) relates to a continuum between mental valuation and social valuation that is transcultural. The appeal of neuroeconomics arises in part from increasing evidence that valuation expresses developmental, if not evolutionary, investments (but neuroeconomics also arises from research indicating that dynamics of emergence apply to neuroscience analogously with economics). Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman, a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience, has for decades advocated a theory of "neural darwinism" that depends on dynamics of emergent valuation and primal cognitive valuation that has withstood the test of time, evidently. Neural valuation figures into the ontogeny of value in perceptual preference, temperament, and formation of conscious preferences, and this dimension of neural e-valuing shadows mental development (conative, affective, and cognitive) throughout life.

Indeed, this dimensionality profoundly supports new senses of evolutionary ethics that have emerged from studies of natural sociality and due diligence in other species. This kind of inquiry suggests new prospects for ethical intuitionism (now developmentally-based, rather than essentialist) and ethical naturalism (based in research about healthy human development and flourishing). There is even a subspecies of bioethics called "neuroethics" (clinical bioethics applied to neuroscientific research) which faces transhumanist prospects emergent from neurological modeling and neurogenetics.



Sunday, August 27, 2006

intimations on the existence of “Truth”



Matt,

Your posting today suggests that you're working toward representation of your general philosophical position, expressed today inasmuch as anything brief can be fair to oneself. It's important to venture these kinds of things.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

child’s point



I'm very aware that the deaths and suffering of war turn commentary into intellectualism. To the suffering, commentary is wasted time, "academic" in the pejorative sense. "If you really care about all this, do something practical," the voice says.

My response has to be: I am. I've worked for educational organizations that are dedicated to progressive practice my entire adult life. A devotion to progressive practice has to be oriented to the life that one can lead in the place that one can affect. It must (it will, with experience) grow to include a pragmatism about the actualization of ideals. In pursuit of that, and in the meantime of that pursuit, commentary is a kind of self-directed learning, an activist respite from the pursuit. So, one activism complements another.

It's a great accomplishment for a society when there is an increase in time spent actively reading (not to mention mastering intractable issues). Passive reading placates; active reading nourishes—including reading that's therapeutic, that "medicates." One should feel proud of a life spent advancing basic literacy or causing one's extended neighborhood to more highly value informed opinion. Multiplication of that modest venture universally would lead to fundamental transforms in humanity, as Truth always wins eventually, and human potential always flourishes (given fair chance), and humanity evolves in the Open, in the freedom, created by literacy. Needless to say—and far it is from there to philosophical investigations. Just the distance of that —from the economic bases of decent education systems through the politics of access to higher education to the interdisciplinarity of inquiry that constructively warrants theoretical work—all that is more than most lives can be expected to comprehend, let alone specifically philosophical endeavors that should not be ignorant of a history of discursive inquiry.

So, relative to that, humanistic higher education battles the budgetary process with engineering, etc.

A philosophical investigation is a point in a tapestry of thousands of endeavors, most maybe frivolous (e.g., most Yahoo! groups). If the topography of Internet social networking could be securely captured by theory (analogizing the topography of discretionary communication throughout modern society), what difference would that make to the network (the society), let alone to the suffering subjects of inquiry? Why do we bother? I suppose that most people reading this take for granted a vague background sociology of value, projects, endeavors, careers, and organized life that most of the world wouldn't understand as more than the signs of the vanity fair of wealthy societies—leisure culture's rationalization of the imperialism that protects and feeds the leisure.

The fact is—the fact must be—that we do this, I do this, because I must. Reflecting on that might be useful to others (certainly, it has been to me), but the overriding reality of the matter is exemplified by—believe it or not—the issue of global warming: It's been the aggregate effect of countless, undocumented conversations over decades that now an array of local environmental issues (e.g., metropolitan pollution, heat waves) imply a singularity of concern that has become truly planetary, as was expressed by "Multipolitan environmental engineering" Tuesday.

That's not only the result of the growing consensus of the scientific community (which, by the way, is singular; it's accurate to refer to "the" scientific community, as planetary organon); it's more the result of countless conversations (born from reading!) about the issue which, in the shadow of scientific consensus, has forced political corporatism to act, at least in terms of fabricating new market mechanisms that serve that public interest. The Conversation creates a market for alternative technologies that politics, in turn, serves, but largely doesn't lead. Leadership in social evolution belongs to no identifiable constellation. It's the emergent ethos of the human interest, and it always wins (albeit one step back for every two-or-so forward).

If my conversation can do some part to remind non-academic others of the importance of academic work—or remind people in academia of the virtue of philosophy beyond the general (well-rounding) curriculum, beyond filling out that portfolio taken into the budgetary process ("Can't we justify cutting back faculty in the humanities?")—or remind academics slumming in philosophy that public policy can be both multidisciplinary and effective in real institutions....If "Habermas" only stands for the potential importance of philosophy in understanding a world that would never have time for it, is that not reason enough to be here? Of course, notwithstanding—excuse me—the apparent attention-deficited and disssociative self-interestedness of the mall that Internet communications must live in.

Fact is, one person, a few, likely contribute very little directly. But it's like voting. The upshot of history's pointillism only happens by making points. Your point is the background topography of communications you exemplify, not basically the overt promotion of issues (though that too), but the way you live, the way you remember. Let us not forget.... Let us not lose sight....

I live far, far from Middle East crises. I live where Christian, Muslim, and Jew live well together, truly—which extremists (those diseases of modernization who confuse pathological crime with "resistance") would like to see destroyed, in "light" of imputed imperialism (the disowned face of rage against their own incapability?). I live in knowledge that, no matter how well a society manages to be democratic, there is no escaping new generations of well-heeled "citizens" who would undermine the legacy of the generations that made such undermining possible. So, democracy is an endless project, just as education faces new generations endlessly, living with the power of those who love their own leisure luxuries more than their children (which is what spiraling national debts exhibit).

Meanwhile, as one commentator put it this week, the Middle East is plagued by "extremists who hate their enemies more than they love their children." Connect the dots: So many marginalized children in the anthropology of self-interest: accidents of passion, cheap labor, orphans of disease, and heirs of debt and war. What motivates a prevalence of decency in lives? What really redeems the decency of mentally diseased lives? What creates the "motivation", the volition to live or to sustain living really honorably?



Saturday, May 20, 2006

toward a comprehensive comprehension going forward



I should imagine (and post) a comprehensive sense of this blog project, which generally here is meant to complement Webpaged discussions that are developing. I can imagine an integrated sense of the early postings relative to a conceptual projection (comprehensive prospectus) of this project that now seems fairly definite (as my motto that "learning never ends" pertains to conceptuality, too—even especially).

Comprehensive conceptualization is prospective, relative to unmet others' profound influence, such that a retrospective interest (inevitably reconstructive) is destined to be so relative. Any sense of the past is at best led by its background futurity, itself at best evolving—so too, thereby (at best), any sense of developmentality, historicity, or historicality.

What is envisioned "now" cannot validly revoke its background emplacement in evolution, in an evolved historicity of ontogeny—the life of inquiry—which may nonetheless be led by self-directed learning.

How well can that be fairly appreciated?

At best, one's work evolves, beyond developing (which as such presumes an unfolding origin, apart from considering the implied origin's evolutionarity).

So, at best one's work exemplifies its evolutionarity (but exemplification is not itself comprehension—"exemplifying what?," one asks) and may thereby (again, at best) advance our capability for self-comprehension via the ambition of its ongoing self-conceptualization (dying in the inevitably incompletable process, inherited by others), thereby ultimately exhibiting an excursion among humanity's excursions of facilitating its evolution—here idealizing some singularity (evolution, rather than evolutions interplaying without ultimate cohering) whose emergently telic cohering, of—and for—its Time (a progressivity inherent to the notion of evolution), is validly articulable, albeit belonging only retropectively to future historians (though one may play usefully, insightfully—even profoundly?—with conceptions of telic cohering about the Time that one's Of).

Amid the emergent wisdom of a Time's goods—call it an intellectual estate (itself amid the noise of the planet's communicative lives, muzak of The Commons), as if the university could be a planetary singularity with a topography of partial instances (great and modest, highland, midland, lowland)—one may try to write the whole Story of an (the?) estate, philosophy of philosophies, though ultimately ever failing—yet in the journey maybe contributing to our species capability for conception (which only philosophy has aimed to do, as a matter of self-conception)—not that I presume capability for that, but I can commit (and have sustained commitment) to doing my best to contribute something to the Good of the order— "the" Good of our designing "nature" ever evolving, an interplay of estates (epistemic domains, disciplinarities) that may be ultimately self-designing: the universCity of discursive inquiry, thereby evolving our unrepresentable evolutionarity in evermore comprehensive comprehensions of one's capabilities in play.

As if philosophy could be really fairly planetary—but who needs it?

What has the philosophical canon really done that's lastingly efficacious, as the world sustains itself without functional appreciation of the intellectuals (let alone conceptual designers of "philosophy"). Stuff happens, and the world adjusts. Whatever humanity does, the planet will adjust. Our evolving flourishes without governing conception, while we are ever learning Gaia's singularity (whatever the future results of astrobiology) in a centerless universe, whereby we have made the Meaning that sustains us across generations (with potentially evolutionary efficacy); and we are making the Meaning that will sustain our beautiful singularity on this heavenly planet relative to some SETI result awaiting our evolution to that epochal Day: threshold, portal granted at last by the ultimate internet, archival intelligence of our relatively local region.



Saturday, March 18, 2006

academic standards, etc.



A little exchange at the Habermas group today and yesterday (Mar. 17-18 messages #1439-1442) about Leo Strauss and neo-conservatism may be validly seen to express more than meets the eye (reading the brief postings). It's like walking past a conversation during a conference recess, not that Fred Welfare (professor of biology?) and Bill Barger (professor of philosophy?) have any long-running philosophical dispute signaled by their recent exchange; rather, the group itself can be seen as a singular long-running conversation (if not conference) returned to mind by any short exchange between members of the group—a conversation/conference which is, perhaps, an ongoing course on Habermas that is mostly freeze-framed, but gets active again briefly.

The general issue here is the medium itself, amid several media: the blog-with-comment vs. the html-friendly discussion group, which is different from an email-based listserv like Yahoo! Groups vs. the chat room. In what online venue can any issue be collaboratively pursued in a focused way by any medium? What's a discussion group to do with expressed impulses to use its medium for chat? (not instanced by the Welfare/Bargar exchange! But the answer here is: an editorial moderator).

The ideal, perhaps, is a transcript of an actual symposium discussion at an academic conference, including extended attention to questions from the audience where the audience is allowed extended reply. But even here, time constraints inhibit detailed focus.

Very differently, a specific academic exchange in a given journal may take place across non-contiguous issues of the journal, extending over a year or more.

The ultimate upshot of this is that the history of philosophy has a singular character, i.e., an undergraduate eventually discovers (be s/he so interested to pursue an issue) that there are paradigmatic ways that a given kind of questioning goes (following from paradigmatic formulations of an issue, i.e., more-or-less full translatability of a proximal issue into a set of standard issues), and there are relatively few unique positions that have evolved for a standard issue, in the sense that an anthology on epistemology can be relatively comprehensive of its domain of issues and comprehensive of important stances on particular issues within the domain (thereby taking a tacit stance on what "important" means for that domain—which I would relate to Bernard Williams' focus on "importances" as a keynote to philosophy).

Back to the Welfare/Barger exchange. It can be seen to relate to a larger context of exchanges. But it's somewhat arbitrary to indicate the beginning (i.e., the proper boundary of the context), just as a notion of "Conversation of humanity" may implicate the university as such.

So, a given exchange is a collaborative episode in the lifelong learning of each participant, albeit in each's own way, yet together implicating, perhaps, a depth of conversation (really belonging to the exchange) that neither participant has overtly in mind.

At least, a larger conversation is specifiable: Bill responds on-group, March 2006, to an apparently dismissive comment by Fred in a private email, which was an earlier response—or part of a response—apparently to Bill's group posting last November, 2005, that was responding to Matthew Piscioneri's response, October, 2005, to Bill's thoughts on "nature", which seem to stand on their own as the beginning of a new topic—albeit apparently inspired by an immediately-previous October exchange between Matt and I on Ryle and linguistic action—and I could hardly begin to characterize the years-long discussion between Matt and I, beginning before 2000, that can be focused around his sense of physicalism (and linguistic behaviorism) during the writing of his dissertation and later focusing on his sense of naturalism in that dissertation.

Last November, I didn't respond to Bill's engaging posting on nature, due to my insecurity about causing the Habermas group to look like my blog-with-comment, which I never intended. I was grateful for the exchanges among Bill, Matt, and Fred—which are credits to the archive of the group! Bill had replied to Matt and not to Fred (which may be relevant to Fred's private dismissiveness?), in which Bill referred to "...Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, who have been playing a very problematic role in recent American politics...."

So, now we're at this week's exchange between Bill and Fred. I noted to Bill privately yesterday that I was surprised that Fred questioned the relevance of referring to Strauss relative to neoconservatism. "Gee, the influence of Strauss on key neoconservatives is well-known!," I said to Bill. Today, Fred has a somewhat extended reply to Bill, and Bill wisely lets the issue go.

Bill had mentioned Strauss earlier because [Bill} "I regard philosophy as a perhaps unpremeditated revolt against religion. That's why modern philosophy has provoked the kind of response that came from the post-modernists."

But one might be expected to think that modern philosophy was quite premeditated about its relationship to religion. (Modern philosophy would be the issue relative to "post-modernists," while philosophy's relation to religion goes back to the birth of philosophy and Strauss' favored focus on classics). So, I don't get Bill's point: associating Strauss and Schmitt with postmodernism?

But there should be little doubt that [Bill} "...Strauss...has been playing a very problematic role in recent American politics...," which Fred implausibly disputed.

Because of this, it's not trivial that Bill would emphasize the issue in terms of information about this that he found, apparently months after Fred's private objection.

I'm glad to say I don't know much about Carl Schmitt, but his high valuation of stability over nearly all else in society (thus for legal realism) might be relatable to Plato's sense of the philosopher kingship (secured by a mirroring realm of Ideas) shepherding a republic, which I suppose Strauss lionized.



At the beginning of the 1990s, the Neoconservatives found themselves faced with the stunningly sudden end of the Cold War, which had served as a "M.A.D." deterrent (beyond proxy conflicts for regional influence) over the previous 40 years, i.e., a stabilizing atmosphere after "Hiroshima".

Axiomatic to economics is stability of markets (so that players have a reliable common ground for the investment risks needed for creative productivity). Economies respond to instability via inflation and recession (if not depression), which induces poverty.

The Neoconservatives had few choices for geopolitical stabilization, as the 1990s opened: UN efficacy, multilateral institutional problem-solving outside the UN regime (e.g., GATT, NATO), and crisis-specific coalitions.

A feasible "new world order" for crisis management expressed its potential relative to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, 1991. The multilateral containment of Saddamism and the UN-based sanctions regime could have been a paradigm for future crisis management. Later, UN/NATO intervention in the Balkans continued that model. But Saddamism's endless endeavor to invalidate a UN-based sanctions system and the UN's inability to enforce its own sanctions validly and effectively, coupled with the endless instability in the Middle East (and thus for oil markets, as China and India's energy needs were/are accelerating, thus for every other kind of market) forced upon every geopolitical actor (i.e., leading powers) an impending crisis of stability that could make global recession a poverty-inducing norm for decades to come.

No less of a context than this was behind Neoconservative concerns for global stability in the early years of the 21st century, as global recession looked immanent and organized terrorism moved into advanced modes of organization. Meanwhile, Saddamism, Syria, and Iran were buying terrorism in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as Iran clearly sought to position itself as the center of a new Islamic caliphate concordant with the aspirations of violent Islamist extremism throughout Arabia and southeast Asia.

It's an understatement to say that global stability is important, that the question of stability is critical, and that representative government in the Arab world is important—and desperately lacking. Neoconservatives saw Iraq as a real prospect for representative government in the Arab world (given Iraq's brief experience with democracy and its broad-based experience with market modernization, which is required for democracy). The hope was that Iraq could become a stabilizing model for Arab modernization elsewhere (for Palestine, as well as for Saudi Arabia).

But no one has pretended that Western-style government is likely in Iraq. At best, the theocratic leanings of political leadership within the Shi'ia majority may tend toward a "Platonic" (ayatollahic, so to speak) Islamic republic in the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the fate of Iraq is a tri-section of Kurds (affiliated with a Kurdish regionalism that alarms Turkey), a Sunni consolidation of Jordan, Saudi, and western Iraqi Arabia; and an Arab Shi'ite nation on the Persian Gulf (no extension of Iranian Shi'ism, I agree with Tom Friedman this week). But that would require a peace among the Kurdish, Sunni, and Shi'ite regions that the three societies face now in forming a national unity government, as the abstract notion of "Iraq" (once British, now the region's only hope for near-term peace).

In other words, there has been—and there is no reasonable alternative for—Arab regional social evolution other than an Iraq-like national unity government. This was the Neoconservative view in 2002 (exasperated by 11+ years of UN-based "management" of the situation and exasperated by a Security Council, early 2003, with permanent members secretly benefitting from Saddamism).

Generally, a world without stability has no hope, and a world without UN-enforceable consensus cannot gain and sustain the global stability necessary for addressing poverty in developing regions. The U.S.-British resolve in Iraq has set a precedent: A UN-based global stability will either be respected by its members, enforced by the UN, or, as long as the UN can't enforce its own resolutions, a "coalition of the willing" will do so until the UN is given the resources to be what it was supposed to be in 1945. For this reason, if for no other (e.g., inherent virtue of representative government in Iraq), a post-Baathist Iraq "fiction" has to work.

If "Iraq" works, then Iran's nuclear ambitions can be curbed by UN resolve (so, too, for North Korea). But first, stability in Iraq has to evolve. If that stability is to be valid, then the U.S. has to live with the tragically painful process of helping the Iraqis learn to handle their own Baathist/extremist insurgency. It's a matter of investing stability with homegrown legitimacy. There's no other way than what the U.S. is doing—and suffering—in Iraq, for the sake of global stability (which, of course, includes the "self"-interest in oil price stability—a self-interest shared by every nation!!).



A great contribution of Habermas is to show how homegrown stability (a "kingdom" of demophilic reason) can be philosophically grounded in a globally valid way. This is important for the university (as such), as it is a vital channel (even a great evolutionary power, as a globally-distributed phenomenon) for any knowledge-intensive development of societies.

One might hope for the future of philosophy that it expresses the guiding spirit of the university in a world where education ensures the good governance that serves social evolution, which might be characterized as the essence of any good republic—and for any representative government's prospects for genuine democratic processes, i.e., that education ensures the good governance which serves society's evolution, the health of nations flourishing. One might hope that the university embodies the best hope of humanity designing its future on this planet. I bet that Leo Strauss would agree.



After quantum theology



Earlier today, I sent a letter to Dennis Overbye, New York Times, relating to his response to questions about an article by him earlier this week, "Far Out, Man. But Is It Quantum Physics?".


Subject: After quantum theology

Dear Mr. Overbye,

What fun your whole response-to-questions article is! I imagine you and your editor sharing a big tongue-in-cheek by providing that whole discourse by Ed Reno, which you tacitly covered in your comments prior to the overt response to questions.

Most interesting, though, is the frame: that the NY Times is giving its readers a taste of real philosophical controversy—America's own Die Zeit (though I don't read German anymore). I hope that the Times will do more of this kind of deep controversy. You're probably the Times' best-placed advocate for that.

Actually, the Times does a lot of it, and one could gather the best of that together to render a portrait of Being In America now, combining the "metaphysical" qualms associated with Intelligent Design, when embryonic life becomes human, the conflict of Gods in the "clash of civilization," silence of the SETI results thus far, and other persistent anxieties (and fears).

You know, academic philosophy has made progress; there are settled kinds of issues. But it never does much for the public, as a new generation somewhat fatefully recapitulates old issues. This kind of thing gives developmental psychologists their solidarity with philosophy instructors, and both, perhaps, with evolutionary psychologists. I like to claim that the historical Question of Being (culminating in Heidegger) has been replaced by questions of evolution (taken to heart): Given that, as philosopher John Searle nicely puts it, "the mind is what the brain does" (analogously as digestion is what the stomach "does"), the explanatory challenge of self-understanding—as a species project—remains more daunting than ever, while our fledgling astrobiology increasingly entails that surprises beyond human imagination await (after Ray Kurzweil's "Singularity is near" is kept from overtaking us). [By the way, it's very useful to distinguish reductionism from substitutionism: The prospect that mental events are incalculably "reducible" to biological events doesn't entail hoping to substitute biological events for mental events in explanatory schema. Reductionism doesn't require claiming that biology can disappear into physics, nor that psychology can disappear into neurobiology. Reductionism is usually confused with substitutionism; this is a point made by the editors of Essays in Social Neuroscience, John T. Cacioppo and Gary G. Bernston, MIT 2004, ch. 9: "Multilevel Analyses and Reductionism: Why Social Psychologists Should Care about Neuroscience and Vice Versa."]

I, for one, never really worry in light of the evident fate of the universe (that I enjoyed burlesquing for you a while back ), as the fact that one will die should have no bearing on the meaning of being alive. Nothing we know implies any less reason for getting out of bed each morning.

But being both scientifically literate and in love with living is an elusive prospect for most of humanity. We need our philosophers, and we need our leading journals of the times to give our media generally the cultural leadership that is often so desperately needed.

Cause us to give time to thinking and reading and learning together rather than consuming and watching and causing people to, as David Brooks put it yesterday on the PBS News Hour, "choose the reality that flatters themselves." [Actually, I sent David an email about that earlier today:

David,

You said Friday, 3/17, on The News Hour that, in sum, "people choose the reality that flatters themselves." So, how do you avoid that? I don't mean this as a gotcha or rhetorical question. How do you avoid that? How does one gain confidence about validity claims? Are you saying, in general, that people are lazy about their views and one just has to be vigilant? But it's probably the case that no one believes that they're lazy about their views. So, how does one know that one's "reality" is reasonably valid? Wouldn't your claim entail that few are persuaded by commentary, let alone careful argument, so what's the point of what you do? I'd like to see a column from you that pursues this in depth, perhaps as the issue of promoting critical citizenship. ]

I would like to see you, David, and Tom Friedman running the OpEd domain of the Times!

Gary Davis
Berkeley



Thursday, March 9, 2006

Habermas’s “abstractness”



An online friend (a philosophy professor!) noted that Habermas "needs another translation [besides German to English] making his work clearer and more comprehensible."

I have much fondness for the idiom of saying "you need to [whatever]."

"Gee," I say to myself, "I didn't realize I needed that."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Habermas and Derrida via Wikipedia



Who knows how long a passage at Wikipedia will be allowed to persist; so, I've recorded the following. (Who wrote this rather amazing passage?)



Habermas and Jacques Derrida, perhaps Europe's two most influential philosophers, engaged in somewhat acrimonious disputes beginning in the 1980s and culminated in a refusal of extended debate and talking past one another. Following Habermas's publication of "Beyond a Temporalized Philosophy of Origins: Derrida" (in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity), Derrida, citing Habermas as an example, remarked that, "those who have accused me of reducing philosophy to literature or logic to rhetoric ... have visibly and carefully avoided reading me" ("Is There a Philosophical Language?," p. 218, in Points...).