Repost-Via Podbean Via The Intellectual Dark Web Podcast: Stephen Hicks-All You Ever Wanted To Know About Idealism

Via The Intellectual Dark Web Podcast on Podbean: Stephen Hicks-All You Ever Wanted To Know About Idealism

Also, as posted:

And:

Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism…

Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Via A Reader-‘Locke’s Empiricism, Berkeley’s Idealism’

Some Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

-Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

The old T.V./print business models are feeling stiff competition and or/failing in important ways. On this site, see the views from a smart, radical sort: Repost-It Ain’t What You Know, It’s What You Know That Ain’t So?-Eric Weinstein At the Rubin Report: The Four Kinds Of Fake News

Many technological channels themselves (Twitter) reward rushes to judgment, commentary without context and the loudest, often most foolish and strident voices coming to the fore.

Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of Books

Here’s one take on the problem, downstream of Oakeshottian philosophical idealism. Timothy Fuller On Ken Minogue’s take on this endless quest of liberalism, and its dangers:

‘For Minogue, freedom led to “oppositionality,” a topic he explores in “The Conditions of Freedom and the Condition of Freedom.” Oppositionality is the idea that citizens may exercise an independent judgement on questions of their obligations that were once off-limits for discussion; everyone simply accepted them. Opposition and is seen both as a “disruptive and dynamic” part of freedom but also a threat to it – “fundamentally parasitic” on society and often praising dissent for its own sake.

This leads naturally to “The Modern Liberal’s Casebook,” which contains Minogue’s well-known comparison of liberalism to the legend of St George and the Dragon. In his telling, St. George didn’t know when to stop fighting battles and grew breathless in pursuit of smaller and smaller dragons, as big dragons were harder to come by. In this Minogue is quite correct. Taking his analogy further, there must come a time when dragons become extinct and younger versions of St. George are misguided into pursuing chickens and other desirable species instead.’

Postmodern excesses are probably contributing as well: Some Not So Recently Updated Links On Postmodernism

-In writing an entire undergraduate thesis on Kant’s transcendental idealism, Niall Ferguson sketches a Kissinger who bypassed the historical determinism of the Hegelians and the economic determinism of the Marxists. Freedom has to be lived and experienced to thrive and be understood, and Kant gets closer to championing this conception of individual freedom than do many German thinkers downstream of Kant.

-According to Ferguson, this still tends to make Kissinger an idealist on the idealist/realist foreign policy axis, but it also likely means he’s breaking with the doctrines which animate many on the political Left, hence his often heretical status.

Some Thursday Links

From Middle East Perspectives-Syrian Air Force Moves Its Remaining Fighter Jets To Russian-Controlled Air Base

Claudia Rosett-Why be a member of the U.N. if it’s not in our best interests? (Which kinds of incentives and which requirements for entry in a new club?).

A 5pointz update via Althouse-Maybe one lesson is don’t let people use your property

Edward Feser on the problem of Hume’s problem of induction

Chinese characters are beautiful.  Full post here.

Should You Be Taxed To Pay For The Arts?-David Thompson Via Artblog.net: ‘Cargo Culture’

Full post here.

‘David Thompson’s blog has become an indispensable resource for arguments against the public funding of contemporary culture. ‘

If you build the art museums, some people believe ‘culture’ will follow.

So what’s wrong with liking art, recognizing some inherent value in the pleasure it gives and importance in one’s own life, potentially to other lives, and more broadly to one’s own society in supporting public funding of museums and art education?

Follow the link for an interesting debate.

For the libertarians, Bastiat is mentioned, and for the pop-art lovers, so is David Byrne of the Talking Heads (featured in the NY Times):

‘I refrain from calling Byrne a socialist, but what goes unsaid here is that our objections are to a prior assumption by believers in state power, namely that because some undertaking is worth doing, that the state ought to be doing it. If Byrne is addressing society in the above quote (and I think he is to some degree, although largely by not making Bastiat’s distinction), he is doing so as if it were an aggregate, even an abstraction. This may be the essence of the statist mind: that an abstracted aggregate of other people ought to be devoting their energies to the effort I deem noble. It’s from there that the demands flow. The collectivist is not asking you to give up expenditures on your hobby to support his (even if his has been fashioned into a career), he’s asking the abstract aggregate to change its trajectory or support the arts or something nebulous and lofty like that. Cargo Culture springs into being when such demands are met.’

For those interested, here are a few central questions I’ve gleaned from many discussions and debates of my own:

Who decides what is good and not good art, and what the public ‘ought’ to be viewing?

-‘Should artists of ambition, some talent and potential genius be supported, and if so, how?  Does this support always incentivize them to make better art? 

Does institutionalization lead to the easier appropriation of art by the religious, the politicians, the speculators and patrons, the culture vultures and various other ideological interests?

And if you’re still with me, we can always complicate matters further:

F-30 Moving Carousel -1

Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

David Hume

Photo here.

Can we really talk about universals when we talk about beauty and a philosophy of aesthetics?

Related On This Site: When poetry went into the universities: Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities:Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Hopefully it won’t go this far:  From Big Hollywood: ‘The National Endowment For The Art Of Persuasion?’

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

Sadly, the video does not include the discussion of both Kant and Chomsky, nor the Chomskian linguistic revolution.  Click through for parts 2 and 3.

Kant’s novel answer to the problem of how scientific knowledge is possible (Newton’s Principia), relies partly on David Hume’s assertion that no universal knowledge can be achieved by induction alone, as the video does a good job of explaining.

Here’s a quote from a previous post on this site:

The problem of how a judgment can be synthetic and a priori, then, presents itself to Kant as the problem of how two concepts, neither of which includes the other, can be connected in a way which does not rest upon past experience and is not vulnerable to future experience.”

Page 23 of ‘Kant’s Analytic‘ by Jonathan Bennett.

Kant realized that Science itself, and its claims to objective universal laws that are good for all time, past present, and future, and for all space (the tiniest particles to apples to the moon to all celestial bodies) were under threat from Hume’s induction problem, and he set out to find a solution.  Here’s a good summary from If-Then Knots (which also goes into the Kant/Chomsky connection):

‘Those propositions that we knew independent of any particular fact about the world (a priori) but which also contained new information about the world (synthetic) were synthetic a priori. 

How do we know such propositions?  On Kant’s account, synthetic a priori statements are derived from the conditions that make experience possible.  For example, we know propositions in geometry because they are derived from the conditions that make possible the experience of spatially extended objects.  From his account of mathematics as grounded in synthetic a priori statements about space and time, Kant felt that he could put Newtonian mechanics on objective and certain foundations.’

and:

‘…Kant used the transcendental method to derive synthetic a priori propositions, which he argues form the foundation of scientific (ie, objective and certain) judgement.  Simple enough, right?’

One consequence of Kant’s view is that knowledge of objective reality is due to some extent on our own onboard apparatus.  Reality, or the reality which is knowable, has already conformed to our minds, rather than the other way around.  Kant thought his own project may best be used as a negative limit for possible knowledge, including the threat scientific knowledge faces from Hume’s problem of induction.  Kant’s views of time and space are complex: (and his thinking has some questionable connections to subsequent developments in mathematics).

Some of this is relevant, in part, to Chomsky’s work:

Chomsky’s Universal Grammar is totally consistent with Kant’s epistemology (although, obviously, Kant never used it as an example, having been dead for 153 years when Chomsky first published his theory):

 

  1. The Universal Grammar is a priori.

 

Unlike his predecessors in the field of linguistics, Chomsky does not join the empiricists in claiming that learning a language is just a matter of imitation. There has to be something in our mind, something innate, that makes the knowledge of any human language possible. In fact, Chomsky has postulated the existence of a language organ in our brain that would come equipped with knowledge of the Universal Grammar. Non-human animals, lacking that language organ, can never become fluent in any human languages.

 

  1. Reality conforms to the mind

 

In the context we are discussing, by “reality” we mean “language”. In the empiricist’s view, the mind is just a passive receptacle of information—if you spoke to a child in any sort of language (English or Arabic, but also a computer language or an alien language) from the moment they are born, then the child would become fully proficient in it. In contrast, in Chomsky’s theory, a human child could never acquire a computer language or an alien language as their first language, since those languages do not conform to the Universal Grammar (FOOTNOTE: An alien language would doubtless conform to some sort of Universal Grammar, but it would be the Alien Universal Grammar, as opposed to the Human Universal Grammar.) So the Universal Grammar makes our knowledge of language possible, but also limits the kinds of languages we can know, just like our a priori of space makes our perception of physical objects possible, but also limits the kinds of objects we can perceive—to, for instance, three-dimensional objects.

————————

So, Chomsky, may something of a Kantian in his revolutionary work on linguistics.

Yet, I was asked if there is any connection between Kantian transcendental idealism and Chomsky’s political philosophy, and I remain doubtful I could provide proof of such a connection.

It has remained confounding to me that Chomsky has clung to a philosophical idealism that serves, at best, as a platform to critique all human organizations relentlessly (especially the U.S. government, and “corporate tyrannies,” military and civil hierarchies but also fascist tyrannies and other oppressive regimes).

Perhaps, after Kant’s moral philosophy, Chomsky believes that we must derive the laws of morality a priori from reason itself, rather than from experience (and Humean habit), thus lending such laws a presumed universality and objectivity. Chomsky seems to hold a rather strong and positive definition of individual liberty, perhaps sharing a space in the social contract tradition which seeks to maintain the consent of the governed (a tradition which includes Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant all of whom approached the problem in different ways).  He remains highly skeptical of authority, claims to authority and argues that individuals are best served by anarchy, or anarcho-syndicalism, or some form of libertarian socialism.  The burden of proof, on this view, would be upon governments, institutions and groups of individuals to justify interference into the lives of individuals.   According to Chomsky, when people do deal with each other (as they must), they ought to do so voluntarily, entering and leaving obligations of their own will as do the leaders of a community council, or perhaps as occurs at a faculty meeting solving problems as they arise (not exactly practicable for most states, nor for the large scale of nation states).

It would be curious to imagine how such a view would respond to Hobbes’ fool, or any threats an individual might pose to any ruling body over him when it is rational for him to do so (a room full of anarchic libertarian socialists may have trouble finding common ground).  It is my belief that neither anarchists, nor community councils, nor faculties would maintain legitimate power for long, and the strong, free individual would soon find himself ruled by those who cared not for his positive, generally rights based, definitions of freedom.

Yet, as to the original question, I can’t seem to find satisfactory proof of a connection.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition:  A reader mentions Kropotkin, and points out that some of Chomsky’s thinking harkens to the heady days of the Russian Revolution (Chomsky’s family emigrated from Russia).

Related On This Site: The commenters find no clear argument I’ve made between Kant and Chomsky’s political philosophy: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

Perhaps Chomsky and Strauss both flirted with Zionism, but they were very different thinkers:…From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

From Bloggingheads: Mark Schroeder On His Book ‘Slaves Of The Passions’

Full diavlog here.

Schroeder, on the thinking of David Hume, seems to be making the case that our passions have a lot to do with our reason(s), and ought to have to do with our reasons.  This seems to be part of a larger trend of Humean influence lately. (I’m not sure that its many practitioners have successfully addressed that problems Hume does, but rather are using Hume to address current problems.)

Schroeder, in part, seems to want to carve out free will enough for our reasoning to recognize its debt and interconnectedness to those passions. 

Wilkinson asks a good question of Schroeder:  How would this theory of moral reasoning broaden itself to, say, explain the natural world?

Schroeder’s response (following Hume) is that science has objective truths about the world and moral facts, but that there’s nothing extra-moral about them. 

A Newton or an Einstein, say, wasn’t tapping into the starry firmament, nor a Platonic world of Forms, nor the mind of God to discover the laws of the natural world…they applied their reason to direct experience and observation.  They certainly don’t need to read the musty transcendentalism of Kant or others to do their work (nor does any scientist, for that matter).  

Yet, isn’t Schroeder left with the difficult task of explaining how it is that science has objective truths about the world…and reasons for our moral facts? 

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Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

Here’s Jesse Prinz’s page.

Prinz’s book here.

Full diavlog here.

This is the last post on Prinz I’ll put up that isn’t a more direct response to Prinz’s theory.

After David Hume and the British empiricists, William James and others, Prinz forms his theory of “constructive sentimentalism.”  Yet in Hume, all knowledge is born out of experience and perception.  I think this is likely the deepest point of Prinz’s theory.  Beyond this, he seems to rely on the cognitive sciences (psychology and neuroscience especially) to provide empirical evidence to support his ideas.

Perhaps:

A:   Prinz may be knowingly ignoring the obvious debt the cognitive sciences owe to the hard sciences.

and/or

B: He has simply not tackled the difficulty of epistemologically grounding the cognitive sciences in the depths of the hard sciences, and thus had to confront some of the same problems that rationalist philosophers have regarding the hard sciences, mathematics, and the possibility of having knowledge beyond experience.

I think much rational (and thus much transcendental moral philosophy) was born of the attempt to explain how it is that mathematical knowledge, especially when united with close empirical observation (this is a gross oversimplification from a scientific point of view) yields the kind of knowledge that it does…

So while the I find the “Constructive Sentimental” theory deep and interesting, I’m more concerned about what it doesn’t include.

See the previous posts for a little more backgroundMore On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre DameJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.

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More On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre Dame

Full review here.

Here’s Jesse Prinz’s page.

On one hand, Prinz uses Hume, and the depth of Hume’s empiricism (wikipedia) and applies it to morality.  Where does morality come from? 

emotional responses, particularly approbation and disapprobation, constitute the core content of moral judgments.”

From our emotions.  But…how do our emotional responses actually tell us something about the world?  Do they contain factual content?  Prinz goes further:

“What are expressed in moral judgments are not just emotions but sentiments ”

Prinz constructs a theory of “Constructive Sentimentalism” which makes some deep arguments for his claim.  You’ll have to read the review and his book.

So…

While moral progress is possible on Prinz’s theory, universal moral laws that transcend our experiences are not.  Christian morality and essentially all religious morality, Kantian secular morality, and any claim to knowledge that attaches itself to thoughts that don’t arise ultimately out experience… are not valid: 

“Like languages, moralities are constructed out of universal capacities, to form a great variety of mutually incompatible specific forms.”

This in interesting to think about, though do you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater? (A Nietzschean impulse, I think). 

Western liberal morality emphasises rights, fairness and the avoidance of harm, and is grounded in emotional responses to failures of reciprocity and empathy for suffering. But most non-Western cultures and indeed our own social reality involve ideas of “purity”, “sacredness” and “authority” constructed from primitive disgust and animal dominance. Since the latter can be equally intense, Prinz taxes the liberal West with “moral myopia” for downplaying the importance of such values as authority, purity, and sacredness.

Oh boy…here’s where it starts to fall apart.  If you throw out universal moral laws, you apparently also start talking about “Western values” and perhaps defend, like Prinz is doing here, moral relativism.

Still, it’s a deep theory, and I’ve not done it full justice here.

See Also: Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.…and A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche Connection.

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Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.

Full diavlog here.

Prinz’s book here.

Generally, I haven’t been too friendly toward theories of morality based in feeling nor the idealism that can attend them.  However, this discussion offers some deep ideas to think about:  Jesse Prinz merges David Hume with current anthropological and psychological research.

More on Hume here (wikipedia).

After Hume, Prinz accepts the idea that our experience is primary, our knowledge comes after…or that all of our deepest thoughts have their roots in perception.  We simply have no claim to knowledge beyond this.

Prinz extends this to morality; suggesting that there is no universal basis for morality and that within morality our ability to feel is primary and that our thinking…comes after.

The emotions, then, are the seat of morality, and the only way to have moral thinking is to first have moral feelings.  He who extends his feeling (compassion?) to a person, or groups of people…is the only person who can legitimately claim to have moral thoughts about those people, or groups of people.

————————————-

So how are moral judgments based in feeling? Prinz appeals to:

1.  Common sense-most people will assume that if you don’t seem to have any emotional interest in a subject, idea or pursuit, then you’re not really invested in it.

2.  Neuroscience:  Parts of the brain associated with emotion become active when involved in making moral judgments.

3.  Causation:  During psychological experiments in which people were put in disgusting environments, i.e. bad smells, unclean conditions, they were more likely to make harsher moral judgments, Prinz suggests this is because they are instrospecting their feelings.

4.   Pathologies:  People who kill and commit acts of brutality like serial killers demonstrate a reduction or elimination of emotion…and this leads to a corresponding reduction of moral competence.

——————-

A few brief responses:

Prinz is relying on causal arguments to support his position (no #3 especially), and Hume casts some important on the relation between cause and effect.  Hume also casts doubt onto not merely cause and effect, but also the sciences, and especially the disciplines Prinz cites here in support of his positions.

Hume is incredibly deep, but there is a Kantian dispute with Hume (which has it that if you keep following Hume’s ideas, you will come to deny the possibility of even scientific knowledge…the possibility of knowledge that doesn’t arise out of experience).   I’m most concerned with what Prinz and cognitive scientists are leaving out.

Needless to say, I find it very interesting.  More to come later.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition:  I think it’s fair to say that Hume makes the argument that all knowledge arises from experience.  Now whether or not this necessarily makes a case for sentimentalism is up to Prinz.

See Also On This Site: A Brief Review of Jesse Prinz’s ‘The Emotional Construction Of Morals’

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