Should We Abandon the Canon?Aug 12, 2019
Should we still be venerating works by Plato, Shakespeare, Woolf, and company as “great books”? Should we still be reading them at all? Or should we simply abandon the "Western canon"? These are the questions we're asking in this week's show.
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, August 29, 2019 -- 7:57 AMOnce again, and with direct
Once again, and with direct and expressed feeling: you cannot change history, and, like it or not, we learn some things from our mistakes...if, and when, they truly ARE mistakes. If writers EXPRESS racist and/or sexist views, is it a quod erat demonstrandum that they thereby HOLD them? Or are they acting as barometers for society generally? Lamenting 'the human condition'?
Harold G. Neuman
Friday, January 7, 2022 -- 9:54 AMContextual reality.
Contextual reality is the human touch on history when we are considering history made by human acts. Anything else of a historical nature is beyond our control. Trouble is just one facet of the milieu: we make it or break it. Many eschew history because of things that went wrong, also knowing such outcomes may well happen again. History's role is reporting what happened, be it better or worse. Clearly, controlling our actions can lead to more of the better variety.
Tuesday, January 11, 2022 -- 7:37 AMMost all trouble never goes
Most all trouble never goes away... it just changes. Understanding this change, just where the trouble currently resides, is the challenge. Canceling culture is valid, doing so without understanding is careless. Reading is always filtered with the previous generations of edits.
If we were to cancel troubled philosophy, most all philosophy would be canceled starting with Plato. As enticing as that seems, and justified to boot, it would force us to rethink his problems and perhaps relive them.
There are slaves in the neighborhood nail salon. Have you looked? Trouble can't be avoided only understood.
Wednesday, January 12, 2022 -- 5:45 PMWhy start with Plato? Do the
Why start with Plato? Do the pre-Socratics get a pass?
Monday, January 17, 2022 -- 5:35 AMBecause the fundamental
Because the fundamental learning is Socratic. Thus the "Pre".
Wednesday, January 19, 2022 -- 6:50 PMCan't agree with that. What
Can't agree with that. What we know about Socrates for sure concerns the Socratic method, where through a process of question and answer one discussant is compelled by his own premises to furnish the conclusion for another. Natural science begins in the presocratic period, largely abandoned by most students of Socrates. It's likely therefore that logic as a rigorous discipline begins there, but not the learning of "fundamentals".
Interesting here is how trying to get rid of philosophy results, by your account, in having to do it all over again. Isn't that what happens in every new historical period? It's often been asked why philosophy never seems to really go anywhere, or make any real "progress". I think that's why. If anything it gets a little sharper, but the problems don't really go away; (cf. Ayer, "Language, Truth, and Logic" for an alternate account).
Saturday, January 29, 2022 -- 3:52 AMWe disagree.
Science is Philosophy, and it has gotten quite a bit sharper. Which is not to say we can’t make fundamental philosophical errors in our science (like epidemiology does using the word transmissibility to confuse the phenomenology and ontology of Covid19.)
The best philosophical foundation, so far, is science. Leucippus didn't experimentally determine atomism. He postulated it but never tested it. Recorded natural science doesn't begin until late antiquity, if even then. Galileo is the reported fount, but it stems more profoundly in the history of economics, sociology, and anthropology. That is, likewise, not to say Archimedes didn't test out his ideas. It just didn't stick fundamentally. Some ideas carry forward – displacement of volume, limiting concepts in math, estimations of pi, many others. One fatal step was the logical system of geometry, which set about a groupthink that ideal states could be determined through logic. We now know this is not true. Pre-scientific philosophers made strides, but the process of science and logic didn't generalize, or at least records of it are lost. The same is true of the Pre-Socratics. Maybe they did science. If that is true the method was abandoned. Is there some source for this? I don't think so; there is no dark age intervening as with Homer to swallow the change.
The critical foundation of science is the Socratic premise of not knowing, asking questions, and determining wisdom from inspection. That doesn't imply science. Quantifiable and even logical inference of the sort used by engineers and scientists today comes much later. Arguably there is no science of ethics and political science. These are the questions that dominate Plato. When Plato and Aristotle venture into natural science, they build laudable and consistent models, but they don't test them. Plato and Aristotle didn't help establish science so much as give it a false bottom. Too bad we didn't take up the works of Leucippus or Democritus instead.
We know history filters the sieve of authors and traditions that reach us. There is some philosophy to be gleaned from that process alone and some innate, but in general, what we know and believe comes from the assumption of not knowing to begin with, which is a Socratic stance and consistent with science. There are other arguments that Socrates is a model for Christian thought. But Socrates was no Jesus and vice versa. We are better to follow Jesus in the ethical problems, for the most part, but that is another kettle of fish.
Monday, January 31, 2022 -- 6:45 PMIndeed science did not go the
Indeed science did not go the way of Plato, the science of forms, but rather Democritus, the science of bodies, or more specifically, very small rocks. I think though it's not accurate to say that Plato didn't test his theories. The time spent in Syracuse trying to make its monarch a philosopher seems to me a genuine experiment designed to test whether or not a city could be governed by philosophical argument. The fact that it didn't work was not a refutation of the theory, but rather a modification of claimed applications. If the notion of philosopher kings was too ambitious, at least he could still try to make kings philosophical
Tuesday, February 1, 2022 -- 7:24 AMAristotle had the same rude
Aristotle had the same rude awakening in Macedonia and was not appreciated in Athens for this reason. Even when an autocratic ruler is sympathetic (like the most recent show pointed out with Marcus Aurelius) I'm not sure if the process could be called science. But I would stick to the claim that the Socratic method is the core scientific method. The difference is one of correlation and causation perhaps. Science is only science when the two are disambiguated. Philosophy may fail that test every time as most all arguments have their caveats.
In that respect, I would amend the statement Philosophy is Science to Philosophy is the precursor to Science.
Wednesday, February 2, 2022 -- 6:53 PMDepending on what it applies
Depending on what it applies to. My point was that experiments can be done in philosophy, on the example of Plato's Syracusian adventure. Thought experiments constitute another example. From what I can see, making autocrats more likable by means of philosophy, (which I think is what you might mean in the second and third sentences above), was not in any way part of that point. If your problem with it is a conflation between a cause of the result and the coincidence of effects of different causes, doesn't that just mean that there's more work to do in the respective domain of (potentially) scientific objects? In philosophy these objects are concepts, and philosophical work is characterized by rendering them precise. The Socratic method is adversarial and is taught in law school today. Scientific method by contrast is collaborative and depends on diverse efforts producing different results over time. Therefore, although modern science begins in philosophy, I disagree with the view that once the quantitative sciences branched off from it in curricular contexts, that philosophy thence ceased to be scientific.
Thursday, February 10, 2022 -- 7:22 AMDepending on what it applies
The Socratic method is not adversarial – lawyers are. Science can be collaborative – but it isn’t so often; instead, it is dogmatic. Any technique can be turned on its head, I suppose.
Precision comes from within; accuracy comes from without. The distinction can be lost by precisely what is meant by in and out, identity and consciousness, but the line in the sand is this – philosophy can be as precise as it wants – it isn’t accurate until tested.
Thought experiments are an unfortunate rock upon which to shipwreck this interlocution. It is hasty and inaccurate to term thought experiments as experiments; they don’t test anything. We are the unfortunate benefactor of outstanding models for reality. Models are the product of thought experiments. When Einstein thought about relative motion, we gained an understanding that comes to us as spacetime. There is no force of gravity. Equally competent scientists proposed supersymmetry, but experiments have not shown the standard model to be less accurate. Accuracy is all that matters, for the most part, and thought experiments don’t help with that unless they stand the test of time.
Philosophy doesn’t reside in universal space, so we will never precisely agree unless we come to terms. Philosophy is Science 1.0 – we agree on that. Except for some experimental Philosophy – which gives us insight on intuition (like Akan personhood or the trolley problem) – I agree it hasn’t ceased to be scientific to 1.0 standards (questioning reality.) Actual Science (2.0) doesn’t begin until we quantify, determine the accuracy, and disambiguate causation. No philosopher would argue with fact – a repeatable observation of predicted experience based on a model. The Dalai Lama doesn’t argue this. But no model is justifiable in itself, separate from reality – despite the demonstrated power of understanding or beauty of the thought. It is a mystery why our models are seemingly so good. We shouldn’t take these thought experiments as anything more than a mystery. If we do, we will lose the ability to look beyond to where the trouble started in the first place.
Friday, February 11, 2022 -- 2:15 PMHave you put that to the test
Have you put that to the test? I mean, how does not fully understanding Special Relativity (your example, third paragraph) become the ground of understanding its elimination of action-at-a-distance as a necessary premise in universal gravitation? How can the claim of the "mysteriousness" of one theory, as the cause of understanding the theory which it supersedes, be tested? Does it make any sense to say that one theory is understood only because another isn't?
Thursday, February 17, 2022 -- 10:19 PMSpacetime has been tested in
Spacetime has been tested in the shadow of eclipses and in the accuracy of the GPS in an LYFT/Uber. The mystery of our model's accuracy is not the cause of our understanding of any previous theory, but it is profoundly mysterious and more so when each more exacting and delicate prediction comes to pass with its refinement. The success of our model pales in comparison to the mysteries yet to be explained (like entanglement, macro-angular momentum or mental consciousness.)
Saturday, February 19, 2022 -- 6:50 PMIf your claim now is that
If your claim now is that there's more left to be explained than what's already explained by the use of theoretical models, where does that leave the earlier one where you talk about the mystery (which I presume means awareness of an area of phenomena with regards to which current models are insufficient for researcher-consensus, as with your example of quantum entanglement) as a necessary condition of a former model's explanatory power? What do lopsided comparisons of epistemic value have to do with positive or negative assertion with regards to understanding of special areas of phenomena?
Sunday, February 20, 2022 -- 12:06 PMThere is the mystery of why
There is the mystery of why our models are so good. There is a greater mystery left to be discovered in the unknowns that our current model does not explain. Though physics has excellent models for near-earth behavior the same is not true for other sciences. Even within Physics there are questions that could turn current understanding on its head.
Monday, February 28, 2022 -- 7:04 PMAre the two categories of
Are the two categories of mysteries related? If one is produced by a question of the manner of "how'd it do that?", and the other is generated by one that asks "why doesn't it do more?", aren't we talking about the same kind of mystery in two different ways? Both cases describe a deficiency in our understanding of the relation the model has with respect to what it purports to explain. If a surplus of the explanatory power of a model is contrasted with the same model's underdetermination by epistemic value with respect to another object or in the context of another research domain, aren't we in both cases talking about the epistemic export-capability of results of the use of theoretical models in inductive contexts?
Wednesday, March 16, 2022 -- 10:02 AMNo, they are not related
No, they are not related necessarily. That is a problem.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022 -- 6:39 PMA problem that there's no
A problem that there's no necessary relation between them, or is it a problem that there doesn't have to be a relation between them but very well could be, regardless of the kind of relation it is? The relation I'm suggesting is one of loose qualitative identity: frustration of knowledge-export into different object-domains. Are you saying that models that do too much, like Universal gravitation, and those that do to little, as e.g. superluminal causal transmission with regards to quantum entanglement, have no relation to each other other than their chronological order in the history of science?
Wednesday, March 16, 2022 -- 7:29 PMThe mysterious effectiveness
The mysterious effectiveness of our models of reality has no relation to the shortcomings of those models.
The extent to which we understand does not imply knowledge of our lack of understanding, and discovery more times than not points to deeper issues with our models. The mystery is that they work so well, and as well as they work, there is no promise of complete understanding.
The problem is in your argument above. The two, understanding and ignorance, can't be conflated. There is no identity, and the chronology is not relevant. There is no determined progression. We could quickly turn away from the truth, and we often do.
Sunday, March 20, 2022 -- 7:06 PM--As with ignorance. In
--As with ignorance. In truth, ignorance is a particular kind of understanding, and you describe it rather well in the last sentence. When someone knows something and pretends they don't, they ignore it, and thus are ignor-ant. It seems that you're talking about understanding and uninformedness in the first sentence of the third paragraph, which can't be conflated because they're opposites. But take the concept of instinct, before the discovery of the DNA molecule. It didn't do too bad of a job of putting apparently teleological actions into the general class of non-deliberative behaviors. Today however genetic predetermination and predisposition do the same thing much more efficiently and clearly. By your argument though it should be unknown how the DNA model has such explanatory power and how instinct could explain anything at all. But that's not accurate, as they both are deployed in an identical area of research. Therefore, not only are they closely related, but arguably the later model would have scarcely been possible without first using the earlier one.
Sunday, March 20, 2022 -- 10:05 PMBy my argument, DNA doesn't
By my argument, DNA doesn't necessarily explain anything. But DNA can explain some things. There is no necessity of explanation that is all. Not knowing does not imply knowing or ever knowing for that matter.
Monday, March 21, 2022 -- 6:07 PM--Clearly not. If it did,
--Clearly not. If it did, nothing, or very little, would ever remain unknown. And even trees, rocks, and streams would be as knowledgeable as all the world's scientists, since they wouldn't know anything to begin with, not being able to think. So, in addition to demonstrating that something that doesn't think can't know anything, the final sentence above indicates a potentially fruitful area of undeveloped research: the epistemic norms of inanimate objects, or better, possible knowledge for thoughtless entities.
The first two sentences however concern biology and assert, if I read you correctly, that isolation of the DNA molecule and its current structural determination as helical don't have to explain anything, but possibly might; which seems to me to refer to common and popular reception of the model, but not to biological researchers themselves, where the model is held in general consensus to be of great explanatory power. And that's clearly correct, but by that same token is singularly uninformative. And the third sentence constitutes by my reading a distinct claim about why humans do science at all in the first place. Since we don't need it, it's wanted for non-necessary reasons. This I also agree with, as all the basic needs of human survival could, in principle, be satisfied without anybody systematically investigating useless questions like, "why does the sun rise every morning?" So, in addition to saying that rocks can't do calculus, most people don't care about DNA one way or the other, and no one really needs science, what is your larger meaning? Might one gather therefrom that state subsidy of university research programs in the sciences should be abolished as costly support for useless pastimes?
Monday, March 21, 2022 -- 9:36 PMRocks and trees are more
Rocks and trees are more intelligent than you give them credit. What does "calculus" mean in Latin, after all?
DNA has been less illuminating than many had hoped. Epigenetics and embodied intelligence present a more complex world where the brain and environment mingle. The interface is one place where the trouble might be, and that trouble isn't going away and is changing even as our understanding grows.
I understand the pre-Socratics well enough to reduce forays into that literature, but a study in any field can bear fruit, often in unexpected ways. I wouldn't discourage anyone from studying whatever interests them - including the pre-Socratic philosophers, and I don't place western thought at their doorstep.
Our current model for reality is very good (mysteriously good). Where the models fail, questions arise, the plot thickens. Beauty, however, doesn't imply truth, and one mystery doesn't necessarily explain another.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022 -- 4:12 PM--How could it? Would it not
--How could it? Would it not then cease being a mystery? But take the example of a situation where someone is correct about something and justified in asserting its correctness, but can't know it because the cause of the judgement of its accuracy is wrong. Let's say there's two people (person x and person y) standing in line at a magazine stand and the first one asks for change of a dollar for bus fare and is given four quarters in exchange which person x deposits in her/his pocket. Person y sees this and thinks nothing more of it, until she/he sees person x again waiting for the bus a few blocks away, and identifies her/him as "the one who has four quarters in her/his pocket". In the meantime however person x bumped into a friend who needed some quarters for the laundry mat, and person x subsequently gave the friend the four quarters and began to go back to the magazine stand for another exchange. But on the way, person x found four quarters serendipitously on the ground, which she/he put in her/his pocket and turned around and proceeded to the original destination, where person y observed her/him as the one who has four quarters in her/his pocket. In this case person y is justified in the correct judgement about person x, but can't know it because it's known for the wrong reason. So if the notion of one mystery explaining another is nonsense, there might nevertheless be meaning in an accidentally true judgement explaining an undetected cause of a model's agreement with its object. Isn't the situation described above somewhat similar to the one where one model seems to overcompensate for what is asserted of it by the volume of its confirmation, and another which is constrained to mere speculation?
Thursday, March 24, 2022 -- 12:23 PMAre the two categories of
Are the two categories of mysteries related? - No. Good enough.
Gettier cases are odd, I don't know how best to think about them but they exist.
That a stopped clock is right twice a day makes me a fan of military time, Greenwich Mean Time, or synchrony however one defines it. If I look at a stopped clock and it is right - well... that happens. There is some consolation that it doesn't happen often and is repeatable only in a limited way. But Gettier happens.
It is probably best to deal with each case on merit. I don't think I can generalize from Gettier to all cases. But I agree we need to consider these cases.
Thursday, March 31, 2022 -- 7:00 AM--Consider them with regards
--Consider them with regards to whether or not excess and deficiency of explanatory power of a model's correspondence to its object are related to one another in some discernible way or ways in given cases, I presume. Your first sentence above seems to assert that they're not, but how that's supposed to be "good enough" is, to this participant anyway, itself a mystery. Take your example of reading the correct time on a clock whose hands don't move. The model consists in a correspondence-claim between the measurement-apparatus (the clock) and its object (day-time and night-time = relative positions of earth and sun). Here the judgement of the clock's accuracy is based on the assumption that its hands are moving, and the refutation of that judgement is based on the fact that they're not. As a remedy for that deficiency a sundial could be recommended, which functions without having to assume that it moves. Now, is the same object measured in each case, or does the removal of "night-time" from the latter make them different objects altogether? The answer of course is no. The object is the same, but the sundial is deficient half of the time, whereas the clock is only deficient when the tool of measurement malfunctions. So here there's clearly a relation between kinds of measurement, which could also be called "models", insofar as definite explanatory claims made about a corresponding object, because it's the same object in each case.
But take an example much closer to the point. The surrealist painter Salvador Dali in 1944 painted a picture entitled "Dream caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening". The title makes a causal claim: the bee's flight around a piece of fruit, which is based on Freud's theory that images remembered as occurring in dreams are private symbols of repressed memories. Contemporary views, however, contradict such an interpretation and instead attribute such images to prior experiences reproduced in non-rational form on account of a surplus of electro-chemical activity in the brain during sleep. Here there is no relation between the two models, because they're not talking about the same object. Dali's version concerns specific dream-contents, whereas the cognitive science model focuses on a generic cause of all such contents, or rather, in the old terminology, a dream's form.
In the comparison brought up in the discussion above up to this point between model-deficiency in the example of quantum entanglement and an excess of model-success with regards to universal gravitation, could one say it's just a matter of content-inexplicability in the former and of formal clarity in the latter? Before the dichotomy is rejected out of hand, it makes sense to ask whether in this case two different objects are considered, i.e. the "very small" and the "very large", or the "strong force" and "weak force", in another version. Couldn't one assert that the common object here is "nature" as a whole, unified in principle at some point by the regularity of lawful connections? If the excess and deficiency of differing models' explanatory power have in general no relation to one another, isn't that the same as saying that nature doesn't exist?
Harold G. Neuman
Saturday, January 29, 2022 -- 5:51 AMMy co-voyagers may disagree
My co-voyagers may disagree on a number of fronts. Or agree on only one: I think it is pretty safe to say our descendents will be reading a troubled past, long after we are gone. The record is consistent in this regard. No amount of apology, recompense, expression of good will or 'pivoting' has materially changed the course. Yes, great minds can, often do, think alike. It is the fools we need worry about. The saddest part? None of us are born that way.
Saturday, January 29, 2022 -- 10:35 AMThere are different cohorts
There are different cohorts of humans; Young and old, Gen Z, Boomers, Edwardians, Hopewell, Homeric Greeks, stone age people. No matter how you divide them, it seems that we are coalescing of late around technology, like agriculture, manufactured housing, money, cars, computers, and now smartphones. I doubt we will merge entirely, but Google Translate already allows one to talk to pretty much anyone anywhere.
I'm not sure if we will be fools in the same way we are currently fooling ourselves. I'm not sure if a new dark age is looming or if we are transcending or even going extinct. Newborns are now more likely to survive than at any other time in history. It may create a mass of foolery, but it seems, to me at least, there is much wisdom in the younger generations that gives me hope for less silliness and more insight in the days to come.
Sunday, February 6, 2022 -- 12:45 PM--If understanding it is not
--If understanding it is not sufficient. Why, for example, is socialism still condemned on a bi-partisan basis (with certain notable exceptions) as the omnipresent threat to liberty and free society? That's a question for philosophy insofar as it has an effect on history, as Hegel thought. Hegel understood history as a rational process, with regards to which the ideas made explicit in it are already implicitly understood. It makes some sense, then, to ask what rational purpose is served by the fact that, every time the dominant class in control of the state under (post-war) state-capitalist conditions is threatened by popular revolution, the ever-present demon of Socialism is summoned to be torn apart in effigy by the dogs of patriotic condemnation. Under the executive regime you refer to above, this occurred in a uniquely petulant and infantile manner. All the more surprising since executive action in this case was used to protect the same upper classes that all the other executive regimes did as well, and therefore indicated no real change in policy. It was the attempt to overthrow the representative process of republican democracy in the interest of this protection which was unique. And here I think one can see the sense of why private control over the state is possessed of a truly visceral fear of socialism. Socialism, from the Latin "socius", meaning "friend" or "ally", is in most general terms the principle of the group coming before the individual, which is not of course a disregard of the individual, but rather supports a situation where individual non-necessary preferences are justifiably satisfied by means of collective assets only after collectively necessary preferences (i.e. "needs") are satisfied. Any privateer designed upon spiriting away the stores of grain is not going to like it very much, if it means a frustration of that design.
One could argue, then, as the author of the claim puts it, that 'the troubled past barrels ahead' because, in this case, it's not yet been fully understood. When that's achieved, not only will socialism no longer foreseeably be able to be called up as a scapegoat for the ravages and plunder of society by the current private control over the state and respective attempts to undermine any benefits it might offer to the general population, but be understood as a more rational form of collective life in the context of commerce and governance.
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 -- 6:39 PMLast sentence of deleted post
Last sentence of deleted post by participant Neuman above this one: "The troubled past just keeps barreling ahead..."
Friday, February 11, 2022 -- 1:18 PM"The Nigger of the Narcissus"
"The Nigger of the Narcissus" type of deletes many a learning from Harold's posts before it happens. No wonder we have a troubled past.
Harold G. Neuman
Monday, February 7, 2022 -- 1:42 PMThe notion of political
The notion of political correctness was suspect from its inception. The idea of revisionism, however cosmetically attractive that may seem, is also ludicrous. You can't have these sorts of things both ways without being disingenuous. One lie does not erase another pre-existing one. No matter how hard you scrub. Censorship is a lame duck way of trying to right the wrongs of misdirected history.
No better way of saying this.
Thursday, February 10, 2022 -- 1:12 PMDepending on what the
Depending on what the reference of the demonstrative is. If "this" refers to the principle that "two wrongs don't make a right", then state actors are typically incapable of hearing it under conditions of strategic geopolitical advantage, and thus a more efficient means of semiological transmission is required. But if it refers to the language-use revisionism sometimes called "political correctness", then a more appropriate statement would be that many little wrongs could be reduced by several little rights. What I mean is there's nothing wrong with trying to rid common discourse of the linguistic remnants of repressive systems; and even more to the point, of the verbal signals of current oppressive efforts. To modestly revise language-use in that direction seems to me genuinely progressive in character and not disingenuous.
Harold G. Neuman
Monday, March 7, 2022 -- 1:17 PMI don't know whether the
I don't know whether the intention of revisionist thinking is nefarious or altruistic. Or just contextual reality, which can be either, depending on a totality of circumstances. Little wrongs and little rights sound like postmodernist jargon to me. But, well, that is a different post, related, as I recall to what we try to grasp as truth. Philosophy wrestles with that. A lot.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022 -- 5:33 PMMost philosophers it seems to
Most philosophers it seems to me just try to keep truth from getting away. Or maybe they have to be satisfied with what it left behind, as Armstrong describes as "sniffing around at the roots of being". The dichotomy between well-intended (altruistic) and ill-intentioned (nefarious) thinking, however, is to my mind a false one; as there's a third alternative: unintentioned. If efforts to use language in a way which is suitable to a better society is "revisionist", then that could apply to any attempt to modify archaic traditional structures for purposes of improvement of social conditions. Even though there's no reliable way to predict the consequences of these, the attempts are made on the basis of a supposed right of free determination in both individual and collective contexts. Because no one can, in principle, "tell us how to talk", the functional body of reference mechanisms can be improved through use by dropping unintended references left over by unwanted systems.