RE: MD Metaphysics and Pragmatism

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Mon Feb 24 2003 - 03:09:20 GMT

  • Next message: Matthew Stone: "MD Pirsig the postmodernist?"

    Matt, Sam and y'all:

    DMB had said:
    I think its only fair that we be allowed to use the word "metaphysics" here.
    We're here to discuss the metaphysics of Quality, after all. A certain
    circle or school of anti-metaphysical philosophers may use it to refer to "a
    nest and brood of dualisms" or "the eternal quest for ultimate absolutes" or
    whatever, but that shouldn't prevent us from using it in the conventional
    sense, which is simply a branch of philosophy.

    Sam posted a quote from a review of an un-named book on consciousness:
    "According to the official mythology of the Oxford neo-Kantians, the axis of
    philosophical evil is 'Cartesianism', the traditional view that the mind is
    directly acquainted only with its own subjective impressions. However, while
    the neo-Kantians rightly reject this subjectivism, they retain much of
    Cartesianism themselves. They may dismiss direct acquaintance with
    subjective impressions, but they still demand direct acquaintance with
    physical objects. From the perspective of the twentieth-century mainstream,
    this seems like a throwback to the days before philosophy learned to do
    without infallible foundations of any kind. The neo-Kantians have not yet
    abandoned the traditional quest for some philosophical grail that will
    enable thought to get outside itself and make sure that it is doing the
    right thing."

    Sam said:
    The point of this quotation is that Matt is specifically NOT using the word
    metaphysics "in such an unusual way" - on the contrary, his understanding of
    metaphysics is the philosophical "mainstream", he - like most academic
    philosophy - is learning "to do without infallible foundations of any kind".

    DMB says:
    I couldn't help but notice the word "metaphysics" does not appear in the
    quote. Leaving that aside, perhaps I should have used the word "particular"
    or "specialized" instead of "unusual". I consider the definitions used by
    even mainstream 20th century philosophers to be pretty esoteric. Most people
    have never encountered such a thing and the pejoritive sense in which they
    use the word "metaphysics" isn't found in the dictionary or expressed in
    common usage. The academic philosophers, the Oxford neo-Kantians and
    otherwise, are the schools and circles I refered to. But getting back to the
    original objection, in a different post, slightly edited...

    Matt said:
    But, to state more explicitly where I disagree with Pirsig, I disagree in
    his choice of the word "metaphysics" to describe what he is doing. In the
    sense of metaphysics that I prefer, and that I consider more useful,
    metaphysics is what Pirsig is destroying in his attacks on SOM. What is
    left is more appropriately called "philosophy" in the wide sense that
    Pirsig uses when he describes Lincoln as his favorite philosopher. I have
    argued quite long about this, and quite recently, so I hesitate to go back
    into it. The recent flame up of this debate was in the "Nazis and
    Pragmatism" thread. I said a few short dogmatic things about not using
    "metaphysics" to describe what Pirsig's up to.

    DMB says:
    META PHYS ICS noun plural, but singualr in construction. (1.) The branch of
    philosophy that treats of first principles, includes ontology and cosmology,
    and is always intimately involved in epistemology. (2.) philosophy, esp. in
    its more abstruse branches. (3.) The underlying theoretical principles of a
    subject or field of inquiry. (4.) a treatise by Aristotle dealing with first
    principles, the relation of universals to particulars and the teleological
    doctrine of causation.

    It seems that Pirsig can call what he's doing metaphysics by this
    definition, which is from the random house dictionary of the English
    language. Well, maybe not the fourth. That's all I'm saying. To insist that
    the word has to mean something else just seems silly to me. Pirsig can
    employ the common meaning. Why not? If its foundationalism or absolutism is
    really what you object to, why not just put it that way. For the sake of
    clarity, why use a definition that is not found in the dictionary when other
    such words are available? That's all I'm saying.


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Feb 24 2003 - 04:21:53 GMT