From: David M (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Oct 23 2005 - 19:56:07 BST
> You get more and more bizarre as time goes by on the MD, David.
> You're still missing the point of what "non-reductive" means. When a
> philosopher eschews reductionism, it means they are saying that a person
> could describe anything in terms of whatever they want. The terms that
> end up usually being used in descriptions are based on utility, value. So
> I can describe everything in terms of bouncing corpuscules in one breath
> and then in the next breath describe everything in terms of value. The
> difference between the two breaths is that my _purpose_ for breathing is
> different. In the first I'm trying to predict and control a rock and in
> the second I'm trying to dissolve some metaphysical problems.
> All I take physicalism to mean (since by itself it is neither reductive
> nor non-) is the common sense attitude taken from science.
DM: I thought common sense and science parted some time ago, you
have no definition of physicalism that means anything and just seem
to be taking up practices from Rorty without understanding them.
I think Rorty does it for unworthy political reasons as Andrew Bowie argues
his book on Schelling.
The only people who
> are not physicalists in this sense are people who think science is
> completely worthless. Nobody thinks science is completely worthless.
DM: Well me and a number of philosophers of science love science
but are against physicalism as it does not say anything useful about
actual scientific practice, eg Bhaskar and Dupre. So you are just
not very up to date with SOME current theory.
> Matt said:
> I'm not objecting to telling cosmic stories. The question is, why do we
> have to? Or, more appropriately, why do _I_ have to?
> DM commented:
> I just said that's why I prefer Pirsig to the self-restrained Rorty.
> You kind of said that. When you said, "Pirsig is willing to seek a cosmic
> narrative, and Rorty is not," and followed that with, "I know of no good
> reason why we cannot tell cosmic stories," it kinda' implied that Rorty
> _can't_ offer a good reason so he _should_ be willing to tell a cosmic
> story--as if Rorty's barring cosmic stories. But Rorty knows that, in
> this context, there's no good reason to bar the telling of cosmic stories.
> He's not barring cosmic stories, he just chooses not to tell one.
DM: I think he fears totalising narratives with some good reason, I thought
you would say so back, I think care is required, provisionality embraced,
but the problems of giving up producing an intellectual cosmic-narrative
are also great, eg the return to fundamentalism to fill the void.
The words you
> wrote, devoid of a clearer indication of your intention, implied that
> Rorty was barring them, so I replied to that. If all you meant was that
> you prefer Pirsig because he does tell a good cosmic tale, well, okay
> then. That's cool.
> Matt said:
> Doesn't really help the process or add any content to the recommendation
> [to tell a person to "wake up"]. Actually, it pretty much assures the
> person will ignore you, given the note of superiority and condescension it
> almost inevitably sends (at least in contexts like this).
> DM commented:
> do you get these feelings a lot? Maybe you can't see my British tongue in
> my Britsh cheek.
> I've learned a lot in my time at the MD about writing in general.
> Sometimes I'm surprised when other people who've been here a long time
> haven't learned the same lessons. One of the things I've learned is that
> neither irony nor dry senses of humor transfer very well over e-mail, at
> least not in a quasi-combative discussion environment. They are very
> dangerous to try and use if you're intention is to not ruffle any
> feathers. Most people don't care if they ruffle any feathers, so they go
> ahead and do it.
DM: Ruffles can be useful.
> But some of the time (maybe even most of the time at the MD), if anybody's
> feathers do get ruffled, and they react, the person using a dry wit
> responds, "Duuuuude, chill out. I was just joking around. [Man, isn't
> this guy always overreacting? Isn't he kooky?]" I've seen this over and
> over and over again. In fact, I almost guarantee its occuring right now
> (except thinly veiled, instead of heavily veiled as good irony should be).
> Its a rhetorical ploy. We're all just supposed to be talkin' and joshin'
> each other, and if anybody overreacts, well, that's just it---they're
> _over_reacting, actin' all irrational. Just calm down and use the cool
> light of reason to guide you, dude. (This ploy is actually heavily
> gendered still to this day.)
> If the dry wit _were_ just joshin', and not trying to draw blood, he would
> have apologized and said (and sincerely, I might add, which is sometimes
> difficult to convey), "Dude, sorry, I was just jokin' around. We tend to
> take it easy around here." (Which is a lie when that "here" is the MD
> because rarely have I seen the real weapons put away to use the practice,
> padded ones.) Over time, if this dry wit really were just joking around
> all the time, trying to keep the mood light, and he had to keep
> apologizing (because the mood in the MD generally _isn't_ light), he would
> eventually stop using that technique, seeing as it continually failed (or
> learn who _does_ respond well to it and only use it with them). And most
> of the time, if this dry wit were a stand-up, nice chap, he wouldn't get
> mad at anybody for failing to see his humour, he'd just kinda' shrug his
> shoulders and say, "Oh, well. Tough crowd."
DM: Or you can always try boring someone to death, well done its nearly
> But I have one suggestion for helping people to see your Brit tongue in
> your Brit cheek. Use scare quotes around the part your trying to inflect
> irony on, or tag one of those stupid semicolon smiley faces at the end of
> it. If you had said "'wake up'" as opposed to "wake up," I would've got
> your joke and chuckled. As it is, you just looked like the long line of
> surperior, passive-aggressive evangelical types who don't "want" to act
> condescending, but somehow manage it anyways (considering they hold the
> Holy Grail)---usually by treating the other person as a child who has to
> grow up like he has.
DM: I am more than happy to be condescending, but it is up to you whether
feel bad about this, interpretation most of the way down I'd remind you. As
feeling superior, there is nothing clever about having read a few more books
than average and being an old fart, open to many of us if we want to do it.
I do think you are weak on science and should read Dupre and Bhaskar,
Maxwell, is that not fair comment. Your knowledge of science theory mainly
Rorty and I consider this his main weakness too.
> Matt said:
> What "evil non-free time" am I implying? Where do you see that implied?
> It seems a very strange thing to say.
> DM commented:
> Now you are humiliating yourself. You say 'free time', well if some time
> is free what is the other kind?
> Oh, I see. Again, context is everything. I thought by encapsulating
> "evil non-free time" I might convey the fact that I don't know what
> "_evil_ non-free time" you were talking about. But you want to know what
> kind of time there is other than free time. That's still a strange thing
> to say, but, alright. Free time is time away from work. Generally when I
> start talking about Mill and democracy, I start talking about what we do
> at work and the courthouse as opposed to what we do at home on the
DM: My finger here is pinting at Rorty's political values and his
of US political arrangements (his idealised ones) as of high value, where we
never get on to the sort of questioning of paid-work that say Marcuse offers
> I'm still not sure where "evil" came from, and I'm certainly not sure why
> I'm humiliating myself. How can one feel humiliated when they have to
> take flying stabs in the dark to ascertain the meaning of short, shotgun
> bursts of contextless, non sequitorish prose?
DM: I am a pain to chat with -I agree.
I'm just trying my best to figure
> out what you mean. If I really am humiliating myself, well I'll just have
> to stop trying at all and wait for you to say something understandable
> (which is what I've learned to do with several contributors, like Bo).
DM: Now if I was sensitive I would be hurt now. Luckily I'm not.
You could ask more questions you know.
> (Oh, and by the way, you can never humiliate yourself with a sincere,
> light-hearted dry wit because they're all just jokin' around, usin' padded
> sticks as weapons. But if humiliation is possible, then irony, dry
> humour, and light-heartedness are just ploys, tricks, and masks to cover
> the underlying seriousness (and mean-spiritedness), the edged weapons
> being wielded underneath the padding.)
DM: well you didn't get what I was saying, I can say that makes you 'dumb',
can say I write 'crap', not sure how to resolve that, but hey, we are all
inarticulate much of the time. But hey,the author has no authority now, so
reader really has to take the rap! Would you 'agree' '?'
> DM commented:
> It's been fun messing about with you, play is fun, as long as you are not
> a control freak. Are you?
> Only to dry Brit wits.
DM: I really do enjoy our exchanges, but I suspect the distance between us
at the moment makes it very hard to communicate well. I wish I had more time
to explain at more length but alas I do not.
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