Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Semester's End

Thanks (to my many good students especially) for some very nice conversations.  Reminders: send me your best, short essays/poetry/fiction for possible inclusion in the next issue of Thesis XII (click to see past issues), slated for publication at the start of the fall semester.  All students who have completed and enjoyed my PHIL 120 (or any other PHIL course) are now eligible and invited to take further upper-division offerings from the Philosophy Program.


Friday, February 08, 2019

(AP) Mozart

Mozart's piano concerto #21 (not 20!), in C:

See, especially, 6:40 - 9:02.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

(CR) Critique of Radical Constructivism

My early (1996) critique of RC:

Viewed as an inference, the 2 sentences from today's class amount to what David C. Stove (The Plato Cult) calls a "gem": inferring a substantive conclusion from a tautological premise.

1. I can't have an apple in mind without (using) my mind.
2. I can't have an apple-without-my-mind in mind

A more obvious example:

1. I cannot experience anything I cannot experience.
2. I cannot say anything about a world beyond my experience.

Even more obvious:

1. What will be, will be.
2. The future is strictly determined.

(AP) Tolstoy on Art

Here's a page of art quotations from Tolstoy. One example:

To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but that most people can't eat it.

Monday, February 04, 2019

(CR) The Problem of Unconceptualized Apples

Constructivism v. Realism
The Problem of Unconceptualized Apples

For von Glasersfeld, metaphysical realism (MR) assumes that truth is a correspondence relation (MR doesn't entail correspondence truth, but we can leave that aside): when a concept (C) corresponds to the way the world (W) is, it is true (and false otherwise).

C ---corresponds ---->W = true
C ---fails to correspond--->W = false

Von Glasersfeld's central idea seems to be this:  in order for me to know whether any given concept corresponds to some aspect of the world, and assuming that I have a clear understanding of the nature of correspondence itself, it seems that I would need independent access to two things: (1) the concept and (2) the relevant portion of the world. Only then will I be in a position to judge whether the two correspond. Obviously, I have (at least partial) access to my own concepts through simple reflection. Do I also have independent, nonconceptual access to the world? (It must be nonconceptual, otherwise I will be simply comparing my concepts with other of my concepts -- an activity more in line with the coherence theory of truth). Following the quote, I offer my reconstruction of von Glasersfeld's rejection of MR:

[T]he unanswerable question whether, or to what extent, any picture our senses "convey" might correspond to the "objective" reality is still today the crux of all theory of knowledge. Sextus used, among other things, an apple as an example. To our senses it appears smooth, scented, sweet, and yellow -- but it is far from self-evident that the real apple possesses these properties, just as it is not at all obvious that it does not possess other properties as well, properties that are simply not perceived by our senses. The question is unanswerable, because no matter what we do, we can check our perceptions only by means of other perceptions, but never with the apple as it might be before we perceive it.
----- E. von Glasersfeld, “An Introduction to Radical Constructivism”

1. All concepts are in the mind

2. All concepts are conceptualized

3. All concepts are concepts-of-some-x

4. All concepts-of-some-x are in the mind (from 1)

5. There can be no unconceptualized concepts-of-some-x (from 2)

6. All concepts of apples are concepts-of-some-x (from 3)

7. There can be no unconceptualized concepts of apples (from 5 and 6)

8. There can be no concept of an apple that is not a concept (truism)

9. The referent of the realist’s phrase “unconceptualized apple” is not (simply) a concept (an essential assumption of realism)

10. There can be no concepts of unconceptualized apples (from 8 and 9) (von G.: “…we cannot possibly conceive of an unexperienced world”)

11. Metaphysical realism (MR) involves concepts of unconceptualized apples. (By definition; here’s a typical realist concept: “if every concept-user were suddenly to disappear, apples – unconceptualized and unconceptualizable – would still exist.”)

12. MR is wrong and von Glasersfeld’s constructivism right (from 10 and 11)

Friday, January 25, 2019

(AP) Defining Philosophy

Some thoughts on the nature of philosophy from "The Philosophers' Mail."

And here's R. P. Wolff's (a member of my dissertation committee) definition from his best-selling philosophy textbook, About Philosophy:

Literally, love of wisdom, philosophy is the systematic, critical examination of the way in which we judge, evaluate, and act, with the aim of making ourselves wiser, more self-reflective, and therefore better men and women.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Welcome/Welcome Back

My spring seminars -- Art and Philosophy, Art and Philosophy-HONR, and Constructing Reality (PHIL elective and/or HONR elective) -- all begin on Wednesday, Janurary 23rd. I encourage all prospective, new, and returning students to read carefully my handout entitled "classroom policies and expectations."  I've posted syllabi to the left under "links".

(CR) Epistemological Poetry

(In anticipation of our upcoming "Constructing Reality" seminar)

On Knowing

To know or not to know the world:
Are signs and words themselves impearled,
Cerebral grit, strung end-to-end;
My thoughts of things and things a blend
Of ideational and pretend?

Or might I sometimes speak the truth
(However bold, or worse -- uncouth)
If what I think or say reflects
The state of things my mind detects,
My words denote, the world projects?


PS.  Our queries this semester reflect the centrality of Friedrich Engels' "two great camps thesis":

In what relation do our thoughts about the world surrounding us stand to this world itself? Is our thinking capable of the cognition of the real world? Are we able in our ideas and notions of the real world to produce a correct reflection of reality? Thus the question of the relation of thinking to being, the relation of the spirit to nature [is] the paramount question of the whole of philosophy (Engels, F., Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy).