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Archive for November, 2013



For uncounted centuries, thinking has served the path of many a manly quest. She has been cast, variously, as the essential handmaiden either to virtue ethics, politics, theology, science or technology, and perhaps more so now than ever before. Will she ever be free, to live her own?


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We are holding on to anything at all. Anything to keep us from flying off into the void.


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To what does the term postmodernism refer? Literally everything after the modern. Functionally, a critique of the modern. Yet can skepticism alone define a cultural moment? 2500 years ago Plato was highly skeptical. And Derrida looked to him for much of his inspiration. Is it defined by the desire for neologism? Shakespeare alone is credited with 2000 neologisms. Perhaps it is simply the velocity of change that marks us apart from all prior communities. Our failure to keep up.


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The post-modernist desire for neologism is based on their conviction that language is the house of being. And they want a new one.


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Sometimes I think Wittgenstein was correct: thought is honored better by silence.


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My version of Leibniz’s version of the ontological proof:


major premise 1 : A=A and A ≠ not-A
major premise 2: all effects have distinct causes

conclusion 1: the cause of A cannot be part of A, that is, effects cannot be self-caused (this is because if events could be self-caused, they could be anything at all, including being not-A, which is ruled out by premise 1).

conclusion 2: every cause and effect relationship is exactly what it is and nothing else (taking any given cause and effect relationship as A and noting that it cannot therefore be described as not-A).

conclusion 3: these cause and effect relationships cannot change. they are essential and eternal. because if they could change, they could change into not-A, which is ruled out by premise 1.

If we consider A as “everything that exists” or “the universe” then by premise 1 the universe is exactly equal to itself and nothing else. There is nothing that the universe does not contain. Because then it would be different from itself (it would be non-A) and this is ruled out by premise 1. By premise 2 the universe must have a cause. Call that cause God. So God is the cause of everything that exists. This implies that God must be eternal, must be outside the time and space that are a part of our universe (by conclusion 1). This also means that God creates the universe exactly as it is and in no other way, and every part of the universe is exactly as God created it and nothing else (conclusions 2 and 3). This means that everything that is, exists as it is exactly for all time and space. Because if something could change, it would defy God’s ability to create the universe exactly as it is, regardless of any contingent facts of space and time. Which means that the objects of God’s creation (Leibniz called them monads, one example being the human soul) are eternal and indestructible by any force but God.

It all depends on the major premises which are by no means self evidently “true”… 🙂



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Kant’s stance on the ontology of practical reason is the source of infinite debate. Some read Kant’s first critique as limited to the epistemology of science, others view it as the foundation of all subsequent critiques. Those in the first camp would say that Kant firmly believed that we can, through the practical faculty of a rational free agent, create a noumenal existence for ourselves that goes beyond the phenomenology of mere acceptance (description). Others hold that Kant was indeed attempting to destroy ontology (metaphysics) where-ever he encountered it, including the ethical sphere. Where then does the confusion lie? Bergson suggests it lies in Kant’s confusion about space and time. By describing our most basic experiences in terms of separable intuitions (space for outer, time for inner) Kant supposedly confused the issue of how an ought can be related to an is. The categorical separation of epistemological entities (ought and is) correlates to an overall habit of epistemological separation (seen also in the space/time separation), which opens the door to rationalism in ethics, though it be banished from speculation (description).

Perhaps it works like this?

We see how things change and tend to think of them as changing in number (but not in type) or changing in type (but not in number). To conceive categories of type and number (what Bergson called qualitative and quantitative multiplicities, respectively) is evolutionarily adaptive.

(Remember: Kant did not have access to Darwin!).

But to reify them is error. Because in order to understand number, I must understand distinctness: one apple here and another one there.

I must possess the habit of time prior to the habit of space. Because it is only by remembering the “past” that I can compare one apple to another. Without time, I would just see apple….apple. Not this apple…. and now that apple. This is why time for Bergson is the primary awareness. Not as some internal version of space. Not some token of primary intuition, of which space is also a token. Time is primary intuition for Bergson.

Having broken down the categorical descriptions of space and time, we can now see both description and duty along a spectrum. Which indeed is how a child experiences it: as she grows she learns to name, then learns to appreciate. But there is no one point in “time” when she jumps from one to the other. The process is an evolution.

So too for us: I can describe a chair, I can paint a chair, and I can debate the uses of the chair.

Tell me please exactly when one of those events begins and another one ends?


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