I think both mind/body are incommensurate descriptions that vie for the title of truth of ontology of objects. We aren’t finished with demythologizing our ideas, and by getting rid of the Cartesian self we are de-divinizing philosophy by disposing an underlying substantial metaphysical center that grounds existence. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Posts Tagged ‘analytic philosophy’
I view the transcendent concept as the ultimate armchair philosopher’s method of condescending to natural sciences and history and it began with Kant’s conditions of possibility. Whereas physics & history find conditions for the existence of entities by locating temporally prior entities, philosophy achieves such autonomy only as long it escapes time. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
This blog explores the radical insights of a Swiss linguist, Ferdinand Saussure, but first I will start with how linguistics changed from its early days as philology to a full-blown human science. By the 20th century, we (Americans) had become comfortable with the notion that man in general is to be defined by his language as opposed to the powers of the mind. Ideas can no longer exist in the mind without words, and nor can anyone reason without the aid of sentences. Man is the unique animal that employs a unique instrument to think with. However, such stipulations were taken further in the works of Saussure. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
In the concluding section of the Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Quine describes our entire knowledge as a “man made fabric,” (Two Dogmas of Empiricism, p. 39) an epistemological system that’s essentially a human construct consisting of statements, but one that’s constrained or limited by the vast accumulation of experience. When new experience that’s not confirmed or compatible with the existing construct occurs, there are repercussions that alters statements within the construct, and in turn, causes a ripple effect that changes other “logically connected” (p. 39) statements. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
In the Logische Aufbau der Welt, Rudolf Carnap was concerned with the objectivity of science, and how his rational reconstruction, could successfully explain why science is objective, despite starting with an autopsychological basis. In section 66, Carnap raises the challenge his system must solve: How can science consist of “intersubjective valid assertions,” (Logische, p. 106) when all physical objects are constructed from subjective experience? ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
A. J. Ayer, when charged with trivialization of philosophy, claimed that the distinction between “about language” and “about the world” is not sharp, for the world is basically our description of the world in our system of concepts. Therefore the investigation of language is the investigation of the structure of the world as experienced by human beings.
Is this truly the case? Let’s suppose there are two people arguing about causation. They are trying to talk about what takes place in the world. However, if they were arguing about the finer points of a causal statement, and analyze it, they are doing something else: how a proposition in language is to be understood. Therefore, the argument about the world and argument about what people say about the world are logically distinct. Then it follows that there are different areas of discourse. Pace Karl Popper, there are three worlds of discourse: World One, the objective world of material things, World Two, a subjective world of mental states, and World Three, an objectively existent but abstract world of man-made entities (mathematics, knowledge, art, science, language). The argument about causality is an argument about World One, while the argument about a causal statement is about World Three. That is why the structure of the world isn’t necessarily identical to the structure of language.
Searle shares the same fundamental assumptions as Ayer: “… The world divides the way we divide it, and our main way of dividing things up is in language. Our concept of reality is a matter of our linguistic categories.”
To a certain extent, I am in agreement, but the only problem is whether the categories of our ststem of representation are fundamentally or primarily linguistic.
What I observe when I am looking around is composed of many items and shapes, and I see all this clearly, instantly and effortlessly. This simple and unitary act of vision cannot be reduced to a collection of words. My conscious awareness is a chiefly visual experience, yet there are no words to describe the multitudinous shapes of the objects I encounter, and neither are there words to describe the varied, three dimensional spatial relationships I directly see them as standing to one another. What language can do is indicate with sheer generality, in broad and crude terms, what it is that I see. I possess the vision of many objects with great precision and definiteness, in all their complexity wholly and securely in direct experience, but I am incapable to capture that experience in words. Therefore “the world is the world as we describe it” or that my “concept of reality is a matter of linguistic categories” is false.
The problem is compounded when including the other senses. For example, language is inadequate for the distinction between the tastes of different types of food. Nobody can put his experience into words by describing the taste of the food in a way that another person who hadn’t tasted those things would know solely from the description how they taste like. Consequently, direct experience cannot be adequately put into words.
Moreover, besides direct experience of the external world, even more difficult is the inner experience: a dynamic and complex flow of everchanging awareness, mood, response, reaction, feeling, perception of connection and differences, back references, side references all darting in and out of the many interweaving strands that flow continuously… Thus all private experience is utterly unverbalizable. Try describing an orgasm or a subjective response to a brilliant work of art or the unbearable horror of a nightmare, and you will quickly discover the inadequacy of language.
In other words, direct experience is never fully communicable, and is the only knowledge we fully have, only one and true, unadulterated, direct and immediate. The effort of putting direct experience into words is the translation of first order knowledge into a second order one, a secondary, derived, watered down, abstracted and generalizable, publicly sharable mode of knowledge. The life lived at the level of concepts rules out what makes the individual’s experience unique.
It is no wonder why there is a great amount of difficulty in explaining what a work of art means or expresses.
Chomsky shrewdly pointed out that during introspection the person will know immediately that the majority of his thinking does not involve language. This should be self evident.
The process of “put something in words” means one has to withdraw from one’s immersion in immediate experience, extract itself from the direct preoccupation in order to do a file search and filter the public medium of language in order to find the best way to say what one wants to say.
That step is always necessary – sometimes it is effortless, sometimes difficult – and it is taken from the concrete specifity of life to the generalized and public medium of language. This step is inescapably insufficient, for the former instance is always unique, and the latter, forever general.
The geneticist Jacques Monod wrote in his book Chance and Necessity that the many cognitive functions, esp the complex ones are not immediately linked with speech or other means of symbolic expressions. At the deepest level of the mental reflection, the scientist notes that it is an imagined experience, not a verbal one. Cognitive science has offered a clear refutation to the fundamental assumptions of linguistic analysts.
Most of human behavior is similar to animals but animals do not think in language. Animals, particularly dogs, do demonstrate an entirel level of behavior in which they make valid connections between one absent thing and another, and act upon those connections. A dog, without training, will spontaneously behave as if it knows that someone else is about to arrive to take it out for a walk.
It should be noted that peope are capable of apprehending long and difficult discursive structures in a single act. There are many examples which demonstrate a wide variety of different ways of organized and complex thinking that do not rely on words:
- Great composers like mozart claim that during the invention of new compositions the entire thing sometimes came to him at once.
- a race car driver perceives and quickly seizes the unexpected opportunity on the track and changes his strategy
- a football coach utilizing a new scheme in order to counter a certain offensive or defensive formation on the fly
These and many more examples should indicate how tiny and small is the percentage of thinking that is done in words.
Most importantly, linguistic analysts were notorious for neglecting the most successively descriptive and communicative uses of language, despite being exclusively concerned with language – poetry, plays, novels. There was a tendency to be dismissive of literature, and even “poetry” was used as a pejorative for emotive language not worth examining in philosophy.
Antinomies of time and space were worthwhile problems to be addressed, and they proved common sense to be utterly inadequate. But the linguistic analysts would evade this and insist that those sort of problems were insoluble and not worth the time working on.
Furthermore, when we look at the enormous percentage of the human race being illiterate or semi-literate, and even in educated societies, many are semi-articulate, then it isn’t likely to continue under the delusion that all those people are thinking in words.
The philosophical investigation of language is as important as the philosophical investigation of the mind, logic, science, art, etc., no more, no less.
Language is a medium for many different modes of expression: description, communication, explanation, depiction, narrative, argument, recording, creating art, formulating scientific theories, etc. Language in philosophy is to embody insights and theories of ultimate nature of reality, both content and form, to formulate questions and frame answers and utter criticisms to those answers n answer those critiques. Kant painted philosophy as the “disciplined examination (wissenschaft) of concepts” but scho actually did him one better: tho philosophy is communicated with concepts, and tho only concepts make conclusions possible, philosophy is a science in concepts, not a science of concepts. Therefore, concepts is the medium of philosophy, but not its subject matter. The subject matter of philosophy is reality, and the purpose of philosophy is the enhance the understandin of the nature of reality.
The Early Wittgenstein vs the latter Wittgenstein
What i recall is that during his time in cambridge, Wittgenstein spent most of his time talking to Bertrand Russell. basically he was always isolated, and that sort of obsession with the nature of mathematics and logic locked up his thinking, and the Tractatus reflects that individualistic philosophy. The notion that language is a communicative tool, a medium of exchange, or a social institution is absent, for it is an instrument for description.
after a while, i don’t know, 10 years, he went back to philosophy and instead of clear, definite abstract principles about the fundamental nature of language, Wittgenstein went in the direction of a natural human phenomenon, a social phenomenon that functions if and only if there are rules accepted by the users. the use of those rules guide the user in speaking are always open to correction and improvment by another user. The shift in wittgenstein is fundamentally metaphorical: instead of a picture relationship, wittgenstein used the metaphor of a tool, for the meaning of an utterance is the sum total of all the possible uses of language.
now, we can choose to look at his latter philosophy in a number of ways:
- 1. the majority of professors in philosophy think the late wittgenstein supercedes the early witty
- 2. Russell, who thought the early stuff was genius, but the latter was useless, for it was a complete self-abnegation
- 3. popper scoffed at both, claiming that neither was of lasting substance
i think Russell has it right, but not that the latter philosophy is completely worthless. Sure, there were good material in the philosophical investigations – a lot can be taken up in isolation. however, i am starting to think the context of the latter stuff is gravely mistaken. in the transition from the tractatus, wittgenstein abandoned the most important things, the greatest insights:
- the direct acknowledgement of a world of non-linguistic reality
- the perception that there is something mystical about the existence of such a world
- the realization that the meaning of life is transcendental (including values, morals, and aesthetics)
- the most important things in life cannot be accounted by language fairly
the latter witty no longer has any sense of the authenticity of both sides of reality – the world of facts and the realm of the transcendental. he chose to treat the medium of communication as if it was everything there is, and ignoring the things it actually communicates about. it’s not just that the latter witty’s philosophy has departed from the problems of tradition, he has chosen to denies their existence, and that appeals to people who never had philosophical problems in their lives.
I have compiled a brief essay on linguistic analysis and its trivialization of philosophy. The first part will look at the historical precedent of linguistic analysis and the methodology of the program, and its limitations. In the next part I will focus on wittgenstein, on whether the structure of the world is necessarily the structure of our language, and other related aspects.
Linguistic analysis replaced positivism, once the logical positivists (LPs) surrendered to the internal contradictions of postivism. Thinkers who were originally LPs, became disenchanted with the paradigm and moved on to analysis. Lets look at the similarities:
1. Both LP and analysis gave up the original purpose of philosophy, the understanding of the world. Both assumed that philosophy should analyze verbalized concepts and other linguistic formulations. Yet it should be obvious that LP had a rationale for this conception of philosophy while analysis didn’t. LPs say philosophy does not contribute to the understanding of the world (no first order philosophy) because that was now the jurisprudence of the sciences. Therefore there is nothing left for philosophy to contribute. Although the analysts stopped deluding themselves that the only meaningful knowledge was science, they inherited the LPs’ conception of philosophy. As you can see, after giving up the justification the analysts no longer have grounds for this conception. Of course, in the place of the sciences the analysts fell back on common sense and its consequent use of language.
Now, P. F. Strawson said that generally people who use everyday language are not using a crude instrument, but a very complicated one, and the job of tracing the many connections between those concepts is very rich and rewarding. Although he admits that the structure of this conceptual scheme of ordinary language contains many problems, the description of the structure is very difficult, yet entirely appropriate as the sole function of philosophy.
For one, Strawson seems to assume that the concepts in the ordinary use of language require the existence of a theory. If this was true, then it is also true that if playing basketball is such a profound experience, then we must acquire a theoretical perspective of the game. This is of course, false, because playing basketball cannot be the instantiation of a theory, and neither would playing require a theory. The theory wouldn’t improve the fans’ love for the game, nor would it be any assistance to the players. The same reason exist for why there is no requirement to possess a fully fleshed out systematic theory of marriage, of love, of eating, or of fucking. Therefore, even though an activity is important, there is no need to have a theoretical view of it. Life lived for the sake of correspondence with theories is inauthentic and truly tragic….
Moreover, there is no justification for the requirement that analysis should not produce first order knowledge at all. Ordinary common sense is taken for granted, and the sole purpose of philosophy is to inspect the inherent structure. Therein the problem lies: common sense is utterly limited as a tool for the understanding of the world. For the majority of basic questions about experience, common sense has no answer. Of course, Strawson would insist that since we cannot answer them, they shouldn’t be asked in the first place. We’re better off with much easier questions.
In other words, we should stick with what we know, stay home, and do little house-cleaning from time to time. Well, since our common sense is culture dependent, that the idea of perception, identity, ethics are not uniform across history and cultures, then it follows that the structure of common sense is not universal, nor is it entirely determined by biology.
2. Another of the fundamental beliefs of linguistic analysts is that there cannot be a philosophical system. This is another leftover from the legacy of LP. All philosophical enterprises must start from the real world, what actually takes place, where people do say things, rather than from theoretical efforts. Since analysts took for granted that we think in words, and that the best way to address a philosophical problem was to formulate it in clear language and analyze the formulation, this instituted a central concern with language. Therefore, philosophy is about language, or specifically, the clarification of concepts with words. All problems of philosophy are actually problems of language, how it is used or misused, and the problems were to be solved by linguistic analysis.
This attitude betrays a lack of understanding of the true nature of philosophical problems. If a person does not have philosophical problems, or has any idea what it was like to have them, they will invariably develop an arrogant and myopic attitude towards philosophy, particularly the problems of the past two thousand years. No matter the analytic ability or dialectical skill of the esteemed analyst, this self-delusion in turn left behind a legacy of irrelevant and superficial body of work, a testament of how intellectuals can mistake an unimportant activity (using dialectical skills to carve up arguments) for the actual one.
The chief difference between the linguistic analysts and the great philosophers lie in how the analysts interpreted the thinkers and what the dead philosophers actually wrote, and the difference is disturbing:
For instance, the former claimed George Berkely was analyzing some propositions in a certain light, in opposition to locke, who had analyzed the same propositions in a different light, and the differences between those analyses would themselves be analyzed. However, if you open Locke and Berkeley’s books, you won’t find such linguistic gymnastics, but a prodigious effort to understand the nature of reality, and the manner human beings gain that understanding, and the nature and limits of that understanding. Where the latter concerned themselves in important efforts such as the fundamental questions of existence, the former were merely engaging in crossword puzzles.
Whereas the philosophers had always been trying to understand the world, those analysts had stopped doing philosophy. Philosophy had been engaged in the business of many different disciplines: besides epistemology, science, morals, politics, religion, history, sociology, law, education, mathematics, logic, aesthetics. Consequently the reduction of all the problems of those disciplines to matters of language is terribly simplistic, and implausibly naive, if not ridiculous.
The upside of analysis was a critical self-awareness of the use of language that, once applied to the problems of philosophy, will become fruitful and a useful instrument. The downside of analysis is the stunting of intellectual growth in the 20th century.