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Notes On Kai Nielsen’s ‘Naturalism & Religion’: Methodological Naturalism.

January 11, 2014 Comments off

Thus far we have looked at some basic terminology regarding naturalism (see here), we have very basically looked at cosmological naturalism (see here), we have looked at some criticisms of cosmological naturalism (that may also apply to naturalism as a whole, for them see here), and we will continue to develop and address those criticisms over the course of the series, but for now, let us look at methodological naturalism and allow Nielsen to briefly define it for us:

2. Methodological naturalism is a methodological commitment to employing inquiry only the norms and methods of inquiry of the empirical sciences together with their logico-mathematical auxiliaries. This the claim is, is the only way we legitimate and securely can fix belief. (Nielsen, 2001, p. 135)

As stated it is the sciences which are used to determine both the categorical terms that are taken as basic, including those terms used to characterize the generic traits of nature, as Nielsen states:

Different naturalists will take different categories to be basic, but they will all agree on the use of the scientific method as the proper way of fixing belief – including belief concerning which categorical terms to adopt. (Nielsen, 2001, p. 145)

Some clarifications before we move on: what exactly is the scientific method in our conversation here today? How can it be the sole fixer of belief, and be reliable enough to establish a worldview around? (The term “fixing belief” has been used, but what does this mean? Essentially it is the method we attempt to attach our beliefs to, for example Pierce would state that the scientific method is the tool that gives us the most access to facts (others such as metaphysics or theology have been used) and thus is the most reliable method for us to fix our beliefs to, for more see here). Hook and Nagel define their use of the scientific method as an empirical one, a “hypopthetico-deductive-inductive method” (p. 169), that as Pierce called “the combined use of induction, deduction and abduction” (p. 169). Hook and Nagel’s project was to shirk extraneous philosophical posturing, to avoid the philosophical urge to look for “first principles” (naturalistic or otherwise), specifically our underlying presuppositions, to them there is “no special philosophic knowledge, or philosophic wisdom that can be otherwise gained or warranted” (p. 169) instead their focus was on the “working truths on the level of practical affairs which are everywhere recognized and which everywhere determine the pattern of reasonable conduct in secular affairs, viz., the effective use of means to achieve ends”.  (Nielsen quoting Hook, p. 159) Nielsen states that these working truths are not necessary ones, but rather more reasonable than their alternatives (whether this has been demonstrated is a source of disagreement), they avoid pedantic discussions (usually held by and between philosophers) about the problems of looking for first principles; in the same way that the results of science can be known without locking down every principle and presupposition of scientific reasoning (we can after all know that obesity is related to dietary and lifestyle factors rather than the position of the sun).  Some examples of possible categories, or working truths determined by the scientific method were mentioned in the last blog (see here), “structure, function, power, act, cause, relation, quantity and event.” (p. 145), these are not factually true or false, so the argument goes, but are “proposals about how to conceptualize things whose use is to be justified pragmatically.” (p. 162)

We are more confident of the warrant of those beliefs … than of any first principles that people might appeal to for their justification. (Nielsen quoting Hook, 2003, p. 160)

From here Hook states:

The choice… of which categories to take as basic in describing a method depends upon the degree to which they render coherent and fruitful what we learn by the use of the method… [it is a non sequitur states Nielsen] to assume that because one asserts that the fundamental categories of description are X, Y, and Z, and that they hold universally, one is therefore asserting that the world cannot be significantly described except in terms of X, Y and Z. (Hook 1961a, 191)  (Nielsen quoting Hook, 2001, p. 169)

To Hook and indeed Nielsen the above is not to say that the world consists of nothing but X, Y and Z, we can also use A,B and C which might not be categorical and still say as nonreductive naturalists: “that the conditions under which any existing thing is significantly describable in terms of A, B and C are such that they are describable in terms of X, Y and Z.” (Nielsen quoting Hook, 2001, p.169) The example he uses to demonstrate this is Nielsen himself moving a pen, we can describe the movements of such in terms of intentional acts, and in terms of bodily movements (without reference to intentional acts).

Let us finish with one last quote from Nielsen who asks if methodological naturalism is a good policy, in reply he states that it comes from a tradition of philosophy which has tried to explain reality via metaphysics, that has tried methods other than the scientific to fix belief, what we “might reasonably take to be true or take for truth or to be warrantedly assertable” (p. 149). Nielsen states that, as the argument goes:

But, at least during the modern period with its extensive pluralism, there never has been with these other methods of fixing belief anything but local and temporary agreement with no progress in the direction of reflective and informed consensus… The scientific method, though through and through fallibalistic, works and carries with it a considerable consensus about its working. So if we want to be reasonable we will stick with the scientific method and leave metaphysics to spirit-seekers and other crazies. (Nielsen, 2001, p. 149)

How well methodological naturalism works as a worldview will be addressed later. Of course this blog is only very short and shallow in its descriptive content, but the discerning reader will see there will be problems with questions of meaning and morality with a scientistic worldview, even if it is nonreductive, these issues and more will be addressed later.

Reference

Nielsen, K. (2001). Naturalism & Religion. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.

Notes On Kai Nielsen’s ‘Naturalism & Religion’: Basic Terminology.

October 7, 2013 Leave a comment

It seems appropriate when looking at a book with naturalism in the title to begin our discussion with a look at naturalism; starting more generally, working our way to the specific naturalism Nielsen puts forth. Thusly, what is Naturalism?

Naturalism denies that there are any spiritual or supernatural realities. There are, that is, no purely mental substances and there are no supernatural realities transcendent to the world or at least we have no sound grounds for believing that there are such realities or perhaps even for believing that there could be such realities. Naturalism has sometimes been reductionistic (claiming that all talk of the mental can be translated into purely physicalist terms) or scientistic (claiming that what science cannot tell us humankind cannot know). The more plausible forms of naturalism are neither across the board reductionistic nor scientistic.  (Nielsen, 2001, p. 29)

(I will go into more detail on Nielsen’s discussion on reductionism and scientism in another post.)

Nielsen continues stating that (where consistent) naturalism is a type of atheism, although it “need not be a militant atheism and it should not be dogmatic: it should not claim that it is certain that theism is either false or incoherent.” (p. 30) This fallibalism however does not mean that a naturalist should be an agnostic, that is; to be consistent such a naturalist would be “an atheist arguing, or at least presupposing, that theism is either false or incoherent or in some other way unbelievable.” (p. 30) To Nielsen naturalism is incompatible with belief in God (or a belief that God exists), therefore a naturalist cannot be an agnostic: “saying, as agnostics do, that we do not know, or perhaps even cannot know, whether or not God does or does not exist. In accepting naturalism, a naturalist is also accepting that there is no God.” (p. 30) Nielsen is quick to add however that the spirit of fallibalism is at the heart of a reasonable naturalists philosophy, that is they will “argue for atheism in a fallibalistic, and sometimes even moderately skeptical, manner: a manner characteristic of modernity including that peculiar form of modernity that some call postmodernity.” (p. 30) A naturalist should be sceptical as in the fashion of Hume, that is in a “limited and moderate sense”, although they should not, and indeed cannot be a sceptic “through and through”; moreover, Nielsen adds, that a sceptic, “limited or otherwise, need not be a naturalist, atheist, or even an agnostic as the fideistic stances of Pascal and Kierkegaard brilliantly exemplify.” (p. 30) As stated Nielsen puts a high premium on fallibalism, stating that whether or not a sceptic, a naturalist will be (if she is reasonable) a fallibalist, “but that notwithstanding, still an atheist. “Dogmatic atheism” is not a pleonasm and “fallibalistic atheism” is not an oxymoron.” (p. 30)

As a small digression here, it might be important to note that to Nielsen there is not a sharp distinction between atheism and agnosticism, that is atheism is defined as:

In speaking of an atheist, I refer to someone who rejects belief in God either (a) because she believes that it is false or highly unlikely that God exists, (b) because that the concept of God is incoherent or so problematic as to make such belief impossible or irrational, or (c) because she believes that the term “God” is being used in such a manner that it is so devoid of substance as to make religious belief, rhetorical effects aside, indistinguishable from purely secular beliefs except for the fact that religious beliefs are associated with certain religiously distinctive stories which in turn are stories which (on such an account) the religious believer, though she must entertain them in a vivid and lively way, may or may not believe. (Nielsen, 2001, pp. 56-7)

From this Nielsen adds the atheist bases her rejection on how “God” is being construed by religious people; moreover Nielsen defines his personal atheism as that of someone who rejects (i) anthropomorphic conceptions of God on the basis of (a), (ii) belief in the God of developed Judaism, Christianity, or Islam on the basis of (b), and (iii) purely symbolic conception of God such as Richard Braithwaite’s and R.M. Hare’s on the basis of (c). (Nielsen, 2001, pp. 57)

Continuing on Nielsen states that most naturalists reject the conception common to the Abrahamic theisms (“where they are being even remotely orthodox”, p. 31) that “human beings are sinful, utterly dependent on God, and can only make adequate sense of their lives by accepting without question God’s ordinances for them.” (p. 31) Moreover such a naturalism rejects that particular conception of human beings as well as the associated morality that comes with those beliefs. Naturalists believe that people can “make sense of their lives and reasonably order their lives as moral beings without any belief in God or any other spiritual realities.” (p. 31)

Nielsen states that naturalists engage in both critique and explanation of religion, and that in some cases, if successful, such investigation also becomes a critique of religious belief and practice. Some critics of naturalism such as Robin Horton have stated that naturalistic explanations of religion simply “explain religion away and are superficial to boot.” (Nielsen quoting Norton, p. 31) Nielsen agrees with Horton that Bertrand Russell’s and Baron d’Holbach’s critiques are such examples that align with Horton’s view, but others such as Ludwig Feuerbach and Emile Durkehim (both of whom Nielsen draws on quite heavily in his chapter: “Naturalistic Explanations of Religion“) do not. Nielsen argues that a naturalistic conception of religion will “explain religion as a function of human needs and of the conditions of life which give rise to those needs.” (p. 31) Nielsen does ponder what if anything would constitute an adequate naturalistic explanation of religion, citing Marx Wartofsky who states “that a viable conception of religion is one which doesn’t explain religion away, but rather explains its origins, its distinctive cultural and historical forms, its persistence in various institutions, its changing contexts and development, its continuing and present existence in the modes of belief and actions of individuals.” (Nielsen quoting Wartofsky, p. 31)

Of course I am being very vague in what a naturalism might be about, after all the number of different naturalisms Nielsen looks at reflects the large number of thinkers who have discussed, defended and criticised this philosophical tradition. It becomes difficult to define any particular naturalism as Nielsen spends much of the book comparing the naturalisms of a wide range of thinkers, against their critics, and each other; some naturalisms on offer are Nielsen’s own social naturalism, Nagel’s methodological naturalism, Hook’s pragmatic naturalism, Dewey’s (et al.) ethical naturalism, Quine’s cosmological naturalism etc. Made all the more confusing when we see that many of these thinkers held more than one naturalism to be true, or very likely true, or espoused subcategories or situational naturalisms that amount to the same thing (e.g.: “Nagel characterized his naturalism as a contextualistic naturalism and Hook characterized his as an experimental or pragmatic naturalism, though as we shall see, they come to much the same thing.” Nielsen, p.138), there are even cases of some theists holding to some form of naturalism (as in the cases of Jacques Maritain, Richard Neibuhr, and C.S. Pierce), obviously these would be very nuanced positions to both hold to the title naturalism and for these thinkers to retain their theism.

It might be better, now that we have very simply touched on some of the basic ideas of naturalism, that is its varieties, its relation to atheism, fallibalism etc, we can explore different naturalisms, what Nielsen thinks of them, how strong they fare against their critics, and some of the outlier issues involved in this worldview such as the pragmatists tendency to drop metaphysical talk, the rejection of reductionism and scientism, and Nielsen’s own use of verifiability principles.

Reference

Nielsen, K. (2001). Naturalism & Religion. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.

Notes On Sam Harris’ ‘The Moral Landscape’: Specific Reflections.

October 4, 2013 3 comments

What about reflections more specific to Harris’ theory, that is the so-called “is/ought” problem:

The eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume famously argued that no description of the way the world is (facts) can tell us how we ought to behave (morality). (p. 10)

Harris states the problem as an issue between ‘facts’ and ‘values’, that philosophers and scientists such as Hume, G.E Moore, Jerry Fodor and Karl Popper have “fallen into the trap” (p. 10) of creating a firewall between facts and values, by thinking there is a problem here.  Scientists often study the “is” Harris states, that is they study “human happiness, positive emotions, and moral reasoning, they rarely draw conclusions about how human beings ought to think or behave in light of their findings. (p. 10) Moreover Harris states that it is generally considered “intellectually disreputable, even vaguely authoritarian” (pp. 10-11) for scientists to suggest that their work has implications for the moral life of others. Harris considers this kind of thinking to be a “faith in the intrinsic limits of reason” (p. 11) Harris believes that the divide between facts and values is illusory in at least three senses:

  1. whatever can be known about maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures – which is, I will argue, the only thing we can reasonably value – must at some point translate into facts about brains and their interaction with the world at large;

  2. the very idea  of “objective” knowledge (i.e. knowledge acquired through honest observation and reasoning) has values built into it, as every effort we make to discuss facts depends upon the principles that we must first value (e.g., logical consistency, reliance on evidence, parsimony etc.);

  3. beliefs about facts and beliefs about values seem to arise from similar processes at the level of the brain: it appears that we have a common system for judging truth and falsity in both domains. (Harris, 2010, p. 11)

To Harris, defining goodness in terms of well-being reduces the gulf between facts and values, in that well-being will be tied to the experience of conscious creatures,  and thus part of natural laws and discoverable by science. (p. 13)

What can we say here? Nielsen 2001 might be able to help us again,  in his discussion on the meaning of life in his book ‘Naturalism & Religion’, Nielsen states:

… we want an answer that is more than just an explanation or description of how people behave or how events are arranged or how the world is constituted. We are asking for is a justification of our existence. We are asking for why life is as it is, and not even the most complete explanation and/or description of how things are ordered can answer these quite different question.  The person who demands that some general description of man and his place in nature should entail a statement that man ought to live and die in a certain way is asking for something that can no more be the case than it can be the case that ice can gossip. (Nielsen, 2001, p. 109)

Nielsen continues, pace Harris, that no statement of fact about how we in fact do live can, by itself, be sufficient to answer the question of meaning and in Harris’ case, morality.  “No statement of what ought to be the case can be deduced from a statement of what is the case.” (p. 109) It is important to note that when we say cannot get an “is” deduced from a ought”, we are saying that we logically cannot.  In defending his moral view, that of “wide reflective equilibrium” (which will be discussed in an upcoming post on his book) Nielsen does agree with Harris insofar as there is “no moral difference without a factual difference”, when we critique Harris, it is not so much that his moral theory relies on facts, as much as it reduces all morality to facts, and facts only. There seems to be no reason why we need to restrict ourselves to a seemingly fallacious mode of thought, that, even if not fallacious, ignores “the plausible fit between our various moral judgements and actual beliefs, including for us our reflective beliefs about the (for us now) best established “substantiative and methodological elements of empirical science.” (Nielsen, quoting Railton, 2001, p. 220)  We can, and according to Craig and Moreland 2006 should use philosophy as a second-order discipline, that is a discipline that discusses primary schools of thought (such as, say, the facts of science, and other schools), to draw out the logical and otherwise philosophical implications of the facts we find in our world. Simply reducing values to facts in such a scientistic way by Harris, seems to miss a whole gamut of reflective experience that could influence the so-called moral landscape.

References

Harris, S. (2010). The Moral Landscape. New York, NY. Free Press.

Moreland, J., P., Craig, W., L. (2003). Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL,  Intervarsity Press.

Nielsen, K. (2001). Naturalism & Religion. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.

Notes On Sam Harris’ ‘The Moral Landscape’: Abstract Reflections.

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

In this series now we have looked at Sam Harris’ moral landscape very briefly (see here), and looked at some other terms, clarifications and confusions (on our part and others, see here). Today, I plan to offer some simple reflections, there has been great critical engagement with his theory by far better thinkers than me in other places (see Shook here, Benson here and Carrier here). Today I’ll start with some more abstract thoughts on Harris’ theory and philosophical assumptions, specializing to some more specific problems with his theory in another post.

Harris only attempts a definition and defence of physicalism at a very shallow level, and without critical engagement:

A dualist who believes in the existence of immaterial souls, might say that the entire field of neuroscience is beholden to the philosophy of physicalism (the view that mental events should be understood as physical events), and he would be right. the assumption that the mind is the product of the brain is integral  to almost everything neuroscientists do. Is physicalism a matter of “philosophy” or “neuroscience”? The answer may depend on where one is standing on the university campus. Even if we grant that only philosophers tend to think about “physicalism” per se, it remains a fact that any argument or experiment that put this philosophical assumption in doubt would be a landmark finding for neuroscience – likely the most important in history.  (Harris, 2010, pp. 179-180)

It is unclear how to specifically engage and indeed understand what Harris’ base assumptions are here, it seems he follows some kind of physicalism, but of which branch or brand?  It is clear it contains reductionism, and as Nielson 2001 states it is hard to imagine how we could have a reductionistic physicalism that relies on the sciences as it’s base without it being just another metaphysical (and dogmatic) system, a material one that replaces a theistic one, what Nielsen calls a “scientific mythology”, that is most importantly, not continuous with science, hence internally inconsistent. (pp. 57, 61) The problem is his reductionism and scientism is linked or perhaps even grounded in his physicalism, with that in mind, what are we supposed to make of his defence of reductionism and scientism?

There is no denying, however, that the effort to reduce all human values to biology can produce howlers. (Harris, 2010, p. 48)

Not much there.

From here Harris addresses why a scientific morality need not be a simple evolutionary account, that it would include “the totality of scientific facts that govern the range of conscious experiences that are possible for us.” (Harris, 2010, p. 49) And, he does address his scientism too:

Charges of “scientism” cannot be long in coming. No doubt, there are still some people who will reject any description of human nature that was not first communicated in iambic pentameter. (Harris, 2010, p. 46)

But does one really need to be with him, or someone who gets their morality from scripture? Given that there are a plethora of secular moral theories which do not rely purely on the sciences for their dictums, it would seem not (Mackie, 1977, Martin 2002 for examples). And that goes to the problem with Harris’ assumptions, if not his theory, he assumes there is no atheistic, even naturalistic position that would disagree with him. Not only has he avoided giving his theistic, idealistic opponents a fair treatment, but he has not given his naturalistic ones one either.

None of this engages with what are serious concerns about the grounding of his theory in coherency. One might argue his is a pragmatic case to make, that the functionality of neuroscience to explain brain mechanisms and resulting behaviour is supported by both practice, theory and indeed praxis. But, and although it would seem the stronger case to make, with a great philosophical and naturalistic tradition (in Quine, Dewey, Hook, Pierce etc), Harris ignores a pragmatic approach to his naturalistic moral theory, instead seeking at a shallow level to defend the strongest and some might argue, incoherent form of physicalism, that is linked to scientism and reductionism. What about intersubjectivity, and the social aspect of humans? Nielsen argues that we are not just biological machinelike beings, explainable only by the hard or natural sciences, rather a holistic explanation of morality needs to include a macroscopic view that includes descriptions of us as “irreducibly social beings and the human animal as a self-reflecting animal.” (p. 57) We want to include in our worldview explanations that cater to all of reality; are anthropologists studying reality? Are cultural theorists? Are political scientists? Are economists? These are not hard sciences, if they are sciences at all, but it is hard to believe these people aren’t studying reality, and that their investigations have nothing to say about morality. Harris, by definitional fiat, is ruling out that these people will have anything to say; this is dogmatic physicalism of the kind even atheists can, and indeed should reject, at least insofar as Nielsen (an atheist philosopher) would argue.

Obviously these thoughts are not conclusive, and to many, not even on point. Of course they aren’t meant to be decisive, and I am a fallibalist after all, I of course could be way off.

References

Harris, S. (2010). The Moral Landscape. New York, NY. Free Press.

Mackie, J., L. (1977). Ethics: Inventing Right And Wrong. Strand, London. Penguin Books.

Martin, M. (2002). Atheism, Morality And Meaning.  Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.

Nielsen, K. (2001). Naturalism & Religion. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.

Notes On Sam Harris’ ‘The Moral Landscape’: Subjectivity V Objectivity.

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

After looking at some basic terms, very briefly (see here), I want to turn now to something which may seem peripheral, and maybe it is, but is of interest to me nonetheless. What am I speaking about? Relativistic v objectivist morality, and some misunderstandings about it, and where Harris might land on either issue.

Moral Relativism

As stated in the last post, Harris’ thesis is about setting up a moral system that is objective, and based on truth – that is – not relativistic, subjective, and thus not simply relying on the whims, or preference of any given person or culture on any given day.

Moral relativism, however tends to be self-contradictory. Relativists may say that moral truths exist only relative to a specific cultural framework – but this claim about the status of moral truth purports to be true across all possible frameworks. In practice relativism most always amounts to the claim that we should be tolerant of moral difference because no moral truth can supersede any other. And yet this commitment to tolerance is not put forward as simply one relative preference among others deemed equally valid. (Harris, 2010, p. 45)

Harris goes further than this, he states that the motivations for relativism lie in the intellectual reparations for Western colonialism ethnocentrism and racism (p. 45), this being the only “charitable” thing he can say about it.

Later on in his book, the last page in fact, Harris in recognizing some of what anthropologists and cultural theorists might say about the state of relativism, states that it is not subjectivity that is the problem for a moral theory, at least as far as the scientists who study the brain are concerned. No, it is the belief (among those scientists) that there is no intellectual justification for “speaking about right and wrong or good and evil, across cultures.” (p. 190)

Much of this of course might be considered a caricature of what relativists, of any breed- be they anthropologist, atheistic philosopher, Post Modernist (theistic? After all a divine intelligence is a mind is it not? Would a moral law given from such an intelligence be considered simply divine relativism?) or otherwise – might say. He does not engage much with relativistic challenges to his theory, instead choosing to make common sense points, rather than referencing. This is a book written at the popular level however, you may choose to give it wriggle room for that, or not.

The challenge of subjectivity, and what it means to knowledge of all types is a serious one, that many philosophers have struggled with (see here, here, here, here, here). Heidegger, Patocka, Husserl, Foucault and Post Modern thinkers working in that tradition such as Heise are all concerned with how the phenomological, subjective experience is taken into account with theories of objectivity, as Patocka states, theories that situate us in the third person, or as Foucault might say, theories that ignore power relations. It would have been nice to see stronger engagement with this philosophical challenge.

Objective/ Subjective

To further draw out what Harris might mean though let’s turn to what he means when he uses the terms ‘objective’ and subjective’, and indeed ‘absolute’. Harris thinks that many people are confused about what scientific objectivity might mean:

As philosopher John Searle once pointed out, there are two very different senses of the terms “objective” and “subjective”. The first sense relates to how we know (i.e., epistemology), the second to what there is to know (i.e., ontology). When we say that we are reasoning or speaking “objectively”, we generally mean that we are free of obvious bias, open to counterarguments, cognizant of the relevant facts, and so on. This to make a claim about how we are thinking. In this sense, there is no impediment to our studying the subjective (I.e. first-person) facts “objectively. (Harris, 2010, p. 29)

From this Harris uses the analogy of his tinnitus to show that although this is a subjective experience, he is being “objective” in the sense that is he is not lying about his tinnitus, this is not preference or bias. He states his experience can be confirmed by an otologist, which suggests his tinnitus has a third-person (objective) cause that can be discovered. Moreover Harris states that much of the sciences of the mind are predicated on being able to “correlate first-person reports of subjective experience with third-person states of the brain.” (p. 30)  From here Harris states that many people think that just because moral facts relate to experience and are thus “ontologically subjective” all talk of morality must be subjective in the epistemological sense, that is biased, or merely personal. Harris doesn’t think this is so. He doesn’t deny that there is a subjective realm of experience in regards to his talk of objective moral truths, or objective causes of human well-being. He is not saying moral truth exists independently of the experience of conscious creature either, or that some actions are intrinsically wrong. What he means to say is:

I am simply saying that, given that there are facts – real facts – to be known about how conscious creatures can experience the worst possible misery and the greatest possible well-being, it is objectively true to say that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions. (Harris, 2010, p. 30)

Finally, Harris makes the distinction, that is not always obviously delivered in say, debates on morality between atheists and theists, that there is a distinction in moral talk between ‘objective’, that is in either the epistemological or ontological senses discussed above and ‘absolute’, in which a moral truth is so and has no exceptions (see Moreland & Craig, 2003 for an equivocation between absolute and objective). We can speak of morals Harris thinks in objective terms, without speaking about them in absolute ones.

Many people seem to think that a universal conception of morality requires that we find moral principles that admit of no exceptions. If, for instance, it is truly wrong to lie, it must always be wrong to lie – and if one can find a single exception, any notion of moral truth must be abandoned. But the existence of moral truth – that is, the connection between how we think and behave and our well-being – does not require that we define morality in terms of unvarying moral precepts. (Harris, 2010, p. 8)

Reference

Harris, S. (2010). The Moral Landscape. New York, NY. Free Press.

Moreland, J., P., Craig, W., L. (2003). Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL,  Intervarsity Press.

Exam Preparation – Nietzsche “Good and Evil”.

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

In my first Davidson post I stated that Foucault and Patocka aren’t in the readers, this is a mistake, they are, I just didn’t see them, what an idiot, right? That being the case I’m going to do some notes on Foucault too, hopefully covering my bases for this exam. I’m going to focus on the study questions given to us in the unit manual as they contain previous years essay questions – one figures these will be the exam questions this year.

Qu 1: Explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’

This question is the basis for much of the first essay (“First Essay: Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad.’”) in our reader, where Nietzsche beings with a critique of the “English psychologists” and their pragmatism:

The way they bungled their moral genealogy comes to light at the very beginning, where the task is to investigate the origin of the concept and judgment “good”. “Originally” – so they decree – “one approved unegoistic actions and called them good from the point of view of those to whom they were done, that is to say, those to whom they were useful; later one forgot how this approval originated and, simply because egoistic actions were always habitually praise as good, one felt them to be good – as if they were something good in themselves.” (Nietzsche, p. 25, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1989)

Nietzsche believes the ‘good’ in pragmatism to be put in the wrong place, it does not arise from those to whom goodness was shown, but rather it was those who called themselves ‘good’ (meaning: the noble, powerful, high-minded etc) who deemed themselves and their actions ‘good. This was done so in contradistinction states Nietzsche to the low (meaning: low-minded, common and plebian) – it was this distance in power that the powerful sought the right to create values as a matter of utility. Nietzsche thinks it is this “pathos of nobility” (p. 26) that allowed the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ to be defined as above and below, that is the low-minded to be lower, hence bad – Nietzsche believes the ability to conceive of language is an expression of power or the rulers. Hence to Nietzsche ‘good’ is “definitely not linked from the first and by necessity to “unegoistic actions, as the superstition of these genealogists would have it.” (p. 26) Nietzsche found that when he looked at the “real etymological significance of the designations for “good”” (p. 27) coined in different languages he found that it always led back to the same “conceptual transformation” (p. 27) of the ‘good’ meaning “noble”, and “aristocratic”. This notion of privilege also always led to the conception of ‘bad’ as “common, “plebian”, or “low” (as he demonstrates in the histories of the Jewish, Roman, German and Celtic traditions pp.29-36).

Juxtaposed to this style or morality Nietzsche talks of “slave morality”, especially ressentiment:

While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is “outside,” and what is “different,” what is “not itself”; and this No is its creative deed. This inversion of the value-positing eye - this need to direct one’s view outward instead of back to oneself – is of the essence of ressentiment. (Nietzsche, p. 36-37, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1989)

Nietzsche compare what each type of morality needs, the slave needs a hostile world, while the noble, privilege. It is here he talks of the Greeks who defined their morality by the “happy” and “unhappy” which was different according to Nietzsche as the well-born thought of themselves happy but did not define their morality in contradistinction to their enemies.

Reference

Nietzsche, F. W. (1989). “First Essay: Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad.’” Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. On the Genealogy of Morals. Ecce Homo. Ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. Pp. 25, 26, 27, 29-36, 36-37,

Categories: Book Review, Philosophy

Exam Preparation – Patocka: “Personal Spatiality.”

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Let us begin with study questions

Qu 1: Can we be indifferent to our own being?/Qu 2: What does Patocka mean when he says that typical human expression is ‘for the sake of which’?

Patocka begins with an analysis of philosophy going back to Aristotle and how the individual, the subject is left out, is not themetized, even when these philosophers got to the question of existence, the third person was how they discussed their ideas – it was Descartes who first made the turn towards the I, with is ego cogito cogitatum. This was not enough for Patocka though, as he states it comes to grief when we look at the situatedness of ourselves in the world. Descaretes tried to go from the first, to third persons, a philosophy of res extensa, a mathematical nature, which leaves no room for “situational concepts or for situatedness generally. ” (p, 172)

We need to delve beneath this layer of the impersonal and bring out the originary personal experience. The experience of the way we live situationally, the way we are as personal beings in space. We cannot rest content with the trivial conception which sees our body in a dualistic perspective – contained in the res extensa as a thing among things and objective processes, with which subjective processes are coordinated as their reflection. Even those need to be objectified in turn, transformed into impersonal entities which we can impersonally coordinate with them. (Patocka, p. 172, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)

We must look at how we are in space, are we in it among other things, and is such a conception possible? Patocka states that the tradition found that knowledge exists in objective relations, – Patocka disagrees stating that such knowledge is only possible if there is a being that is in space differently – not simply another thing next to them in space, it must  exist in it, by relating to itself through things which relate to other things.

That means, a being who can act out its life, comport itself with respect to its life in various ways simply in relating to other things and so finding a place in the world of things. We are not indifferent neighbors of things. Our relations are external, indifferent. Our nonindifference to our own being, that it matters to us, that we are no indifferent to our being – all that is expressed in the typically human expression, for the sake of: we do something for the sake of something. Therein lies the nonindifference of our mode of being. (Patocka, p. 172, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)

To Patocka the for the sake of which entails being integrated in the world, it signifies the means to an particular end, which are provided for us by the things around us – put another way, there is a continuity between such things and the for the sake of which, as Patocka states: “That means that our being among things is not a mere indifferenct being next to, a juxtaposition of things in space.” (p. 173) From here Patocka states we must look to characterize this being, as one that is oriented, or aiming at things, or even “ordered to acting among things, acting and in that action co-acting with others” (p. 173) we become oriented not just with things, but with other persons. This is our original drive which turns back inwards on ourselves in which we see our relations to others – that, Patocka states is our natural reflective tendency of our drive toward things, as beings in space among things – this is part of our nonindifference to things and ourselves. (p. 173)

Qu 3: Explain: ‘Reflection is grounded in the innermost finitude of being human and its relation to truth’.

Patocka states that we have asked about the essential reach of our reflections – our goal to him, was to reach an originary phenomenon, which would allow him to reject all models that objectified human life – this leads us to two types of phenomenology: (1) Husserl and (2) Heidegger. Under Husserl’s conception attempted to show modern Cartesianism, in its most extreme and sophisticated form – the ego cogito which seeks to remain in the personal, or what Husserl calls “transcendental intersubjectivity” was the ground the “phenomenological reduction leads” (p. 174) , under this the world is the basis for communication:

The personal world is not a set of islands amid an impersonal nature, rather impersonal nature becomes a mer objective pole of unified intentionalities of harmoniously living monads that make contact through this objectivity, The access to it is reflection, self-grasping in pure originality and self-certainty.  (Patocka, p. 174, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)

Patocka still sees problems with Husserl here, he admits the theory is attractive in that it opens up perspectives in the subjectivity of lived experience, but the question of “absolute reflection” in which attempts to move our personal, finite lived experience into an “absolute object” – it is this objectivity Paotocka means to deny. He states that Husserl never quite manages to bring the corporeal subject in continuity with absolute reflection and he states further that the ultimate foundation is not personal but rather, subjectivity itself. But what is the ground of absolute reflection? Patocka states there is none, no further theory, and no deeper explanation – absolute reflection then is the foundation of all philosophy the ground to which all else is reduced – this conclusion led to more problems, not solving them.

Is there, need there not be found, a theory of reflection which, without rendering impossible the achievement of truth, of the clairty, of all that Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology provided, would yet remain a theory of finite reflection, continuous with the finitude of human life?(Patocka, p. 175, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)

The answer is seems may lie in Heidegger in which he starts from existence – Patocka states that even with Husserl there is still a desire to move to an impersonal foundation an “existence which merely notes itself, which is given to itself purely for observation.” (p. 175)  Patocka states there is an alienation, a distance in observation, of which does not present itself in Heidegger’s theory which states that the world is not an aggregate of entities, but rather a “context belonging to us and our intrinsic structure, to the structure of our being.” (p. 176)  Here Heidegger’s theory does for Patocka what Husserls’ could not- it stresses the finitude within the basic structures of living, the finitude of reflection:

Reflection is grounded in the innermost finitude of being human and in its relation to truth. Those, ultimately are the reasons for reflection. (Patocka, p. 176, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)

For Patocka Heidegger offers greater possibilities than Husserl.

Refernece

Patocka, Jan. “Personal Spatiality, Husserl, Heidegger.” Trans. Erazim Kohak. Body, Communication, Language, World. Ed James Dodd. Chicago; La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1996, 172, 173, 174, 175

Categories: Book Review, Philosophy

Exam Preparation – Foucault “What is Enlightenment?”

December 10, 2012 1 comment

Let us look at the study questions for Michel Foucault:

Qu 1: Discuss Foucault’s claim that modern man is compelled ‘ to face the task of producing himself’.

This question comes from a look at Kant, and Foucault pondering what is contained within the concept of ‘modernity’ in which he sees it as an attitude rather than a period in history – in this he means “a mode of connecting to connecting to contemporary reality” (p. 309) it is a way of thinking and behaving. In fact he explains modernity using Baudelaire’s terms who presented them in such a  way as to emphasize the subject:

Modernity is often characterized in terms of consciousness of the discontinuity of time: a break with tradition, a feeling of novelty, a vertigo in the face of the passing moment. (Foucault, p. 310, The Foucault Reader 1984)

Foucault states that Baudelaire’s view is of the “heroization” of the moment in modernity, which is ironic in that moderns do not actually treat each passing moment as sacred in order to “maintain or perpetuate it.” (p. 310) The modern man is a spectator, content to build memories of “curiosities” (p. 311) This creates a desire to imagine the modern world otherwise, the modern man is forming a relationship with the present as well as himself:

Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets, and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. (Foucault, p. 311, The Foucault Reader 1984)

This leads us to our topic question in that this “modernity does not liberate man in his own being”; it compels him to face the task of producing himself” (p. 312) To Baudelaire these aesthetic tastes, the ironic heroization of the present, do not have a place in the body politic or in society as a whole, they are produced in other places, which he calls “art”.

Qu. 2  What is ‘the philosophical ethos of the Enlightenment’?

To Foucault there is a philosophical ethos, which is using as a critique of the Enlightenment:

I have been seeking, on the one hand, to emphasize the extent to which a type of philosophical interrogation – one that simultaneously problematizes man’s relation to the present, man’s historical mode of being, and the constitution of the self as an autonomous subject – is rooted in the Enlightenment. (Foucault, p. 312, The Foucault Reader 1984)

Foucault states that on the other hand he has been discussing another thread, which may help us understand the Enlightenment is “not faithfulness to doctrinal elements” but rather the adoption of another attitude, one of a permanent critique of our “historical era”- he does this both negatively and positively. Negatively Foucault’s ethos is broken up into tow parts, (1): the refusal of what he likes to call ‘the blackmail of the Enlightenment” (p. 312) in which he means that it is a privileged set of political, economic, institutional, social and cultural domains that we rely on and analyze. He thinks that linking the history of liberty and the progress for truth has formed a philosophical problem we need to consider, while also defining for us, a specific type of philosophizing (rationalism). Having said this however Foucault notes that one need not be “for”, or “against” the Enlightenment, he is seeking to follow critique where it leads and not give up to dualistic ideals (in that you must accept  Enlightenment rationalism or find a way around it) – Foucault asks that we simply be aware of the historical determinism of the Enlightenment. This would mean an analysis that would not necessarily follow the rationalism of the Enlightenment, especially in its historical inquiries, which would only be preserved if “what is not or is no longer indispensable for the constitution of ourselves as autonomous subjects” (p. 313)  was found. (2) We must avoid consuing the Enlightenment with Humanism: the Enlightenment was a series of events and complex historical processes found in a certain point of development in Europe – which involved aspects of “social transformation, types of political institution, forms of knowledge, projects of rationalization of knowledge and practices, technological mutations” (p. 313) etc while humanism is quite different, in which it is a theme that have appeared and reappeared on several occasions in Europe tied to value judgements – this has meant a great deal of variety in the values cherished within Humanism (as seen in Christian, Marxist personalism and existentialist Humanism). As such Foucault actually believes Humanism and Enlightenment to be in a state of tension.

Positively Foucault’s ethos is broken up into three parts, (1): he thinks his ethos can be characterized as a “limit-attitude”, but is careful to note that he wants to move beyond the “outside-inside” alternative (that you accept the Enlightenment or not), he wants to to turn critique into a positive, and he does that by focusng on what is given to us as “universal, necessary, obligatory, what place is occupied by whatever is singular contingent and the product of arbitrary constraints…” (p. 315) Foucault wants to move the criticism away from the search of formal structures with universal value, such as those given to us by the Enlightenment, instead he wants to do a historical investigation into what has led us to”constitute ourselves and to recognize ourselves as subjects of what we are doing, thinking, saying.” (p. 315) This critique is not transcendental, and is not focused on metaphysics, it follows Nietzsche in that it is genealogical in design and archaeological in method. Foucault wishes to turn away from universals, and moral action, to focus instead on instances of discourse that “articulate what we think, say, and do, as so many historical events.{]” (p. 315), this will represent the archaeological sense. Genealogically:

… it will not deduce from the form of what we are what it is impossible for us to do and to know; but it will separate out, from the contingency that has made us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, doing, or thinking what we are, do or think. It is not seeking to make possible a metaphysics that has finally become a science; it is seeking to give new impetus, as far and wide as possible, to the undefined work of freedom. (Foucault, p. 315-316, The Foucault Reader 1984)

(2) If the historico-critical attitude is to succeed, Foucault thinks it must be an experimental one, in which we open up a realm of historical inquiry and put it to the test of reality, to determine where change is possible, and the form it should take. This means we must turn away from global and radical projects, as these have been, historically, the ones that lead to the most dangerous traditions – what Foucault would prefer are specific transformations in areas that concern our being and thinking, relations to authority and relations between the sexes, the way we view and deal with insanity and illness.

i shall thus characterize the philosophical ethos appropriate to the critical ontology of ourselves as a historico-practical test of the limits we may go beyond, and thus work as carried out by ourselves upon ourselves as free beings. (Foucault, p. 316, The Foucault Reader 1984)

(3) Upon reflection Foucault asks if this way o thinking wouldn’t simply lead to another set of  privileged structures, to this he says that it is true that we have to give up on a point of view which states we will be able to come to complete, absolute knowledge, and recognize our historical limits. He states however that this does not leave us with “disorder and contingency” but rather that we have to focus on generalities, systematicity, homogeneity and its stakes.

Reference

Foucault, Michel. “What is Enlightenment?” Trans. Catherine Porter. The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New Tork: Pantheon Books, 1984, Pp. 310, 311, 312, 313, 315-316, 316.

Categories: Book Review

Exam Preparation – Kant: “What Is Enlightenment?”

November 27, 2012 23 comments

Now that I have briefly looked at Davidson (and Part 2 here), I’m going to do a write up of Kant short essay for my notes in the exam – only so that I may feel some piece of mind in regards to being covered on all philosophers, should an unexpected question pop up. Today I will be focusing on his piece on enlightenment.

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not without direction from another. Sapre aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!” – that is the motto of enlightenment. (Kant, p. 83 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)

Kant thinks that it is laziness and cowardice that so great a portion of mankind remains “under tutelage”, by which he means we use books to understand for us, pastors who are our conscience for us, physicians who dictate our diets etc – because of this we need not think for ourselves, we can simply pay others do to the work for us. Kant thinks that these “guardians” have made us timid and afraid to work under our own tutelage, which he understands would be difficult, a throwing off such tutelage would leave you without a safety net, left to fend based on your own “natural gifts” (p. 84). Kant thinks that the public can only enlighten itself, if freedom is granted, and even then it would be a slow process, due to the reform in thinking that would need to take place in which new prejudices would replace old ones. What does Kant mean by “freedom” though?

For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied. It is the freedom to make public use of one’s reason at every point. (Kant, p. 84 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)

The guardians of our lives though, halt us from dissent, in that they tell us not to argue (Kant suggests we think of tax collectors asking you to pay, the cleric asking you to believe etc) – to Kant this is a restriction on freedom. The private use of reason Kant states is very often narrowly restricted without hindering the progress of enlightenment, but what is private and public use of reason?

By the public use of one’s reason I understand the use which a person makes of it as a scholar before the reading public. Private use I call that which one may make of it in a particular civil post or office in which is entrusted to him. (Kant, p. 85 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)

Kant concedes that there are many affairs which are conducted in the interest of the community which require “a certain mechanism through which some members of the community must passively conduct themselves with artificial unanimity, so that the government may direct them to public ends…” (p. 85). This member of the commonalty must obey, although she may address the public.  Here Kant is talking about, for example,  the officer who must obey her chain of command, but as a “scholar” she may lay her concerns on her service before the public for judgement. Or of the priest who must convey the tenets and practices of his church to his flock, for he has accepted those tenets to work in such a position, but as a scholar he is free, and Kant would say compelled, to communicate to the public his own thoughts and critiques of the practices and tenets of his position.

The use, therefore, which an appointed teacher makes of his reason before his congregation is merely private, because this congregation is only a domestic one (even if it be large in gathering); with respect to it, as a priest, he is not free, nor can he be free, because he carries out the orders of another. But as a scholar, whose writings speak to his public, the world, the clergyman in the public use of his reason enjoys an unlimited freedom to use his own reason and to speak in his own person. (Kant, p. 86 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)

Because of this Kant states that we do not yet live in an enlightened age, but rather an “age of enlightenment” (p. 88). As he states, and as we’ve seen, much still halts us from expressing our private reason free from “outside direction” – but we do, on the otherhand, have greater autonomy to share our private reason, “the obstacles to general enlightenment or the release form self-imposed tutelage are gradually being reduced.” (p. 88)

Reference

Kant, I. (1784) 1997. “What is Enlightenment?” Trans. Lewis White Beck. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and What is Enlightenment? Second, revised ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., Pp. 83, 84, 85, 86, 88.

Categories: Book Review, Philosophy

Exam Preparation – Davidson: “What Metaphors Mean” – Part 2.

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Here is Part 1.

Davidson moves to a similar critique to Wittgenstein’s ostensive (and part 2) teaching of words argument in which he talks of ostensive teaching – that of teaching a Saturnian what the word “floor” means. Upon transporting you to his planet you refer to the pale blue dot known as earth as “floor” using metaphorical language (similar to Dante when he calls Earth ” the small round floor that makes us passionate” (p. 35)) Under the theory under consideration would it matter at all to the Saturnian which way he took it? Davidson says not, as in this theory “floor” would take on a new meaning  in a “metaphorical context”. To Davidson metaphor can be either (1) something that draws our attention to language, or (2) to what language is about – he thinks it is the latter. This can be seen he says when we view dead metaphors as in the case of the mouths of rivers and bottles – once upon a time they did not literally have mouths: but now in common usage the ambiguity of the word “mouths”in the senses of rivers, bottles and animal apertures (or “if we think there is a single wide field application that embraces both” (p. 35)) is irrelevant. What is relevant to Donaldson is that when we apply “mouth” metaphorically to bottles the use points the hearer to a likeness between bottle and animal openings:

Once one has the present use of the word, with the literal application to bottles, there is nothing left to notice. There is no similarity to seek because it consists simply in being referred to by the same word. (Davidson, p. 35, On Metaphor, 1978)

To Davidson if there was a second meaning such as that of ambiguity there might be opportunity to specify the special meaning of a word in a metaphorical context by waiting until the metaphor dies, as he states: “The figurative meaning of the living metaphor should be immortalized in the literal meaning of the dead.” (p. 36) He rejects this idea however, and now he turns to how it might be saved in another fashion: by stating that “the figurative meaning of a metaphor is the literal meaning of the corresponding simile.” (p. 36) for example: “Thus “Christ was a chronometer” in its figurative sense is synonymous with “Christ was like a chronometer”.” (p. 36) Davidson states there is difficulty in putting a metaphor so closely with a simile as it can be sometimes difficult to locate the corresponding simile to go with the metaphor – this theory however should not be confused with the common theory that metaphor is an “elliptical simile” (p. 36) as:

This theory makes no distinction in meaning between a metaphor and some related simile and does not provide any ground for speaking of figurative, metaphorical or special meanings. It is a theory that wins hands down as far as simplicity is concerned, but it also seems too simple to work. (Davidson, p. 35, On Metaphor, 1978)

Davidson states that if we make the literal meaning of the metaphor the literal meaning of the simile we deny access to the meaning we originally took from the literal meaning of the metaphor, whatever else might need to be added to a non literal meaning, we agreed from the start that this meaning was essential.  Davidson states that this theory has a fatal flaw, it makes the hidden meaning found in a simple sense – by looking at the literal meaning of “what is usually a painfully trivial simile.” (p.  37) For example in the earth is like a floor simile to our “the small round floor that makes us passionate” metaphor, this is trivial because everything is like everything, and in endless ways, according to Davidson – if metaphors are difficult because they are impossible to paraphrase but this theory makes interpretation and paraphrase “are ready to the most callow.” (p. 37) Davidson also states that the comparison to simile sells the metaphor short, in that simile says there is a likeness and we are left to pick out the common features, but metaphor, if we accept it, are led to seek out common features:

Just because a simile wears a declaration of similitude on its sleeve, it is, I think, far less plausible than in thew case of metaphor to maintain that there is a hidden second meaning. (Davidson, p. 38, On Metaphor, 1978)

It is here that Davidson reiterates his argument thus far, and elaborates a little more on it:

The argument so far has led to the conclusion that as much of metaphor as can be explained in terms of meaning may, and indeed must, be explained by appeal to the literal meanings of words. A consequence is that the sentences in which metaphors occur are true or false in a normal, or literal way, for if the words in them don’t have special meaning, sentences don’t have special truth.  This is not to deny that there is metaphorical truth, only to deny it of sentences. (Davidson, p. 39, On Metaphor, 1978)

To Davidson metaphors lead us to notice what might otherwise not be, he does not feel that these “visions, thoughts, and feelings” (p. 39) have merit, or that they are true or false. Davidson states that there is a semantic difference between metaphors and similes in that metaphors tend to be (patently) false and similes tend to be (trivially) true. This falsity in metaphor is what leads us to search out its hidden implication , and shows us that it is in fact a metaphor which we must search to understand.

Davidson states that no “theory of metaphorical meaning  or metaphorical truth can help explain how metaphor works.” (p. 41) As we stated earlier what distinguishes metaphor is it use, not its meaning – moreover this special use is not to say something special as metaphor shows only what is on its face “usually a patent falsehood or an absurd truth” (p. 41) which needs no paraphrase as it is given in the literal meaning of the words. To Davidson the theories we have been discussing mistake their goal, they try to tell us a method for deciphering an encoded content within the metaphor, but they actually tell us something about the effects of metaphor. There is for Davidson, a simple way out of this dilemma,  we drop the idea that metaphors carry a meaning or content other than its literal meaning. Davidson does not deny that metaphor has effects on us, he quarrels with how they do it, he denies that they have “special cognitive content” (p. 44) metaphor can make us appreciate a fact (much like a bump on the head, joke or dream can), “but not by standing for or expressing the fact.” (p. 44)

Metaphor makes us see one thing as another by making some literal statement that inspires or prompts the insight. Since in most cases what the metaphor prompts or inspires is not entirely, or even at all, recognition of some truth or fact, the attempts to give literal expression to the content of the metaphor is simply misguided. (Davidson, p. 45, On Metaphor, 1978)

Reference

Davidson, D. (1978). “What Metaphors Mean.” On Metaphor. Ed Sheldon Sacks. Chicago: Chicago U P. Pp. 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 44, 45.

Categories: Book Review, Philosophy
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