Exploration of the big idea that permeates Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me.
Continuing on the the reasonableness of religious belief with many short readings and guests Nathan Gilmour and Rob Dyer.
On “The Meaning of Meaning” (1975). If meaning is not a matter of having a description in your head, then what is it? Hilary Putnam reformulates Kripke’s insight (from #126) in terms of Twin Earths: Earthers with H20 and Twin Earthers with a substance that seems like water but is different have the same mental contents but are referring to different stuff with “water,” so that word is speaker-relative in a certain way. With guest Matt Teichman. Learn more.
End song: “In the Boatyard” by Mark Lint & the Madison Lint Ensemble (2004, finished now).
We were rejoined by Matt Teichman to continue our Kripke thread, discussing primarily Putnam’s essay “The Meaning of Meaning” (1971) about water here vs. water on “Twin Earth” where that stuff that runs in rivers and streams has a different chemical composition. Putnam puts forth a positive theory of meaning that involves holding a stereotype of a term (e.g., that water is wet) but also where your meaning is determined by extension, i.e., what your term in the real world actually refers to, so that we and the Twin Earthers mean something different even though we seem to have the same psychological state when talking about water.
Continuing on Experience and Nature (1925), through ch. 4. We focus here on how philosophy supposedly gets warped by fear and desire in human nature, how we pretend that abstractions we’ve created are metaphysically real and basic. So how do the objects of our experience, then, relate to those of science? And can we talk about “ends” (teleology) when doing science? Learn more.
On Experience and Nature (1925), through ch. 4. What’s the relationship between our experience and the world that science investigates? Dewey thinks that these are one and the same, and philosophies that call some part of it (like atoms or Platonic forms) the real part while the experienced world is a distortion are unjusified. Learn more.
On Experience and Nature (1925), through ch. 4. What’s the relationship between our experience and the world that science investigates? Dewey thinks that these are one and the same, and philosophies that call some part of it (like atoms or Platonic forms) the real part while the experienced world is a distortion are unjustified. Learn more.
End song: “Uncontrollable Fear” by The MayTricks So Chewy! (1993).
We discussed “Experience and Nature” (1925) about how philosophy tends to illicitly separate experience from nature, mind from the world, claiming that the world of appearance is somehow divorced from underlying reality. No, Dewey counters: what we start with is concrete, gross experience, which is not experience of “sense data” or any other theoretical entity, but which is experience of tables, people, feelings, values, etc.
Featuring David Prentiss, Tim Clarke, Peter Oppenheim. Recorded July 19, 2015, 41 min. Peirce describes belief, doubt, and inquiry, and proposes four types of intellectual activity that result in fixed beliefs, claiming that science, of all the methods he describes, has the most desirable properties.
How do these four methods differ? Do the a priori and scientific methods necessarily differ in the adoption of first principles? Is there a continuum of increasing reliance on social interaction across the four methods? Do any of the methods result in what we would commonly call consensus?
For another look at this, listen to PEL ep. 20.
What matters about matter is that it’s a certain kind of substance, which is to say that matter is refutable and problematic because it is taken as something underlying or standing below (sub-stance) the outward appearances, such as the hardness and heaviness of Johnson’s rock. In other words, “substance” is a metaphysical reality, not an empirical or phenomenal reality. Pragmatists like William James and Robert Pirsig both reject what the latter called “the metaphysics of substance.”
In a recent column in The Stone, Harvey Cormier considers the political oomph of pragmatists through a nice presentation of some central thinking of William James. The occasion for the piece is a recent spate of writings characterizing Obama as “a pragmatist politician.” What I like best about Cormier’s article is his refutation, through James, of the lame but pervasive Continue Reading …
On Friedrich Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (1873). WIth guest Jessica Berry.
On Friedrich Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (1873). What is truth? This essay, written early in Nietzsche’s career, is taken by many to make the extreme claim that there is no truth, that all of the “truths” we tell each other are just agreements by social convention. WIth guest Jessica Berry, who argues that that Nietzsche is a skeptic: our “truths” don’t correspond with the world beyond our human conceptions; all knowledge is laden with human interests. Learn more.
End song: “Stupidly Normal,” from Mark Lint & the Fake Johnson Trio (1998).
Listen to the episode. We discussed Nietzsche’s conception of truth as presented in his essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” written in 1873 but unpublished until after his death with guest Jessica Berry of Georgia State University, who published Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition just last year. This Nietzsche essay has been extremely influential for postmodernists, Continue Reading …
(Painting by Robert McCall) In his book Wittgenstein and William James,Russell Goodman makes a case that James influenced Wittgenstein’s thought and he does so by detailing their shared commitment to concrete experience and actual practice over intellect. (Wittgenstein was also positively influenced by James’s view of religion, especially by The Varieties of Religious Experience, but that’s another can of worms.) Continue Reading …
In the same way that Owen Flanagan wants to naturalize Buddhism by stripping its hocus-pocus, William James focused his attention on personal religious experience rather than the “smells and bells” of traditional institutions. As biographer Robert Richardson puts it, “much of what one usually thinks of as religion James rejects at the start”. James says he has no interest in Continue Reading …
Philosophology is to philosophy as art history is to painting, Pirsig says. He uses that ridiculous-sounding word to draw a distinction between comparative analysis and original thought, between critical examination and creative production. In the tradition of Emerson’s famous 1837 speech, “The American Scholar”, Pirsig is calling for creativity and originality. This is not to say that the critics and Continue Reading …
There’s enough material floating around on Robert Pirsig to keep you busy for a while no matter what your level of interest might be. If you’re in a seriously philosophical mood, there are two at least two Doctoral dissertations, a gidebook,a textbook and a Master’s thesis. There are also options if you want to discuss Pirsig’s work or even if Continue Reading …
The big distinction made in Lila is between dynamic quality and static quality. Dynamic quality is Quality in ZAMM, i.e. the immediate, moment-to-moment recognition of something’s awesomeness level, but also in ZAMM, he wants us to recognize quality in classical (as opposed to romantic) forms, for example, the quality of the structure of a motorcycle. Since dynamic quality is instantaneous, Continue Reading …
On Robert M. Pirsig’s philosophical, autobiographical novel from 1974. What’s the relationship between science and values? Pirsig thinks that modern rationality, by insisting on the fundamental distinction between objects (matter) and subjects (people), labels value judgments as irrational. Society therefore largely ignores aesthetic considerations in the buildings and machines that litter our landscape. With guest David Buchanan. Learn more.
End song: “Freeway,” by Mark Lint and Stevie P. (2011)