Re: MD A metaphysics

Date: Mon Aug 18 2003 - 18:28:37 BST

  • Next message: MATTHEW PAUL KUNDERT: "Re: MD myths and symbols"

    Scott, Andy, DMB,

    Scott said:
    I too am suspicious of the question "what is real". But I am also suspicious of Dewey's, Rorty's, and Davidson's motives (James I think escapes this criticism). That is, these guys are materialists, and *therefore* reject appearance/reality distinctions and metaphysics, since materialism is basically the position that only appearances are real. (Of course, as pragmatists, they wouldn't say that, but that does seem to underlie their thinking.)

    As I've said before, the "2000 years with nothing to show" argument doesn't wash. The "answer" (mysticism, to be brief) has been around all that time (and is a part of the philosophical tradition, though in the West, not dominant), but most people can't hear it, or aren't ready for it. And of course a materialist rejects this answer for dogmatic reasons.

    We've tangled many times on this issue and I'm very appreciative of your learning and your responses. But everytime you call materialism or physicalism "dogmatic" I'm reminded of the Marxist who calls everything else but his own beliefs ideology. If a philosophical position can be dogmatic, then all philospohical positions are dogmatic. The difference would then be between good dogma and bad dogma, good ideology and bad ideology. But that's not what people generally mean, so here's the deal: I don't think philosophical positions can be dogmatic. Only people can be dogmatic. And usually only people in the flesh, talking to you. Its hard for an essay to be dogmatic because, if the person is arguing a position, then it would be kind of silly for her at the end of the piece to say, "But, actually, I've been convinced by the other side." Well, why didn't you argue the other side then?

    As far as I can tell, you think the "2000 years with nothing to show" argument doesn't wash for dogmatic reasons. You've found your answer, in mysticism, and nobody else is ready for it, which is what people also say about Pirsig. I think this is asanine. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I've been using that word a lot. But the Society for Better Vocabularies is paying me $1 everytime I use it. I don't see the point. I mean, if they really wanted to encourage better, more expansive vocabularies wouldn't they want me to use as many different words as possible? All I'm doing is encouraging people to use this one word. Now that's asanine.) Its not asanine that you're following a path of mysticism, or people are Pirsigian. What's asanine is that you call materialists dogmatic because they don't agree with you. The problem I've tried focusing on in our debates is that the materialist and the mystic will _never_ convince the other by using argumentation because the materialist and
     the mystic do not hold enough of the relevant premises (i.e. beliefs) in common. They both beg the question over the other. That's why I don't have a lot to say when Steve says, "It is perhaps understandable for Rorty who may never have read Pirsig, but for anyone who has, I can't imagine how one would choose Darwin's evolution of substance over Pirsig's evolution of quality." All I can say is, "Steve, you're being a little pinch-faced to think that nobody who has read Pirsig has any excuse for not being a Pirsigian." (Actually, I do have more to say on that, but the post isn't quite finished.)

    I've never seen much force in your "these guys are materialists, and *therefore* reject appearance/reality distinctions and metaphysics" criticism. Are you saying that if they were only coincidently materialists you would agree with them? Are you saying that if they weren't materialists and were rather idealists you would agree with them? All I've got in reply is What does it matter how these guys biographically came to their rejection of metaphysics? They rejected it didn't they? And besides, materialists don't say that it is only appearances that are real, unless you construe all people who reject the appearance/reality distinction as saying that only appearances are real. This, however, doesn't really happen because when you reject the distinction, you reject the force of saying things are one side or the other. Sure, appearances are reality and reality is appearances. We do experience Quality, mind, spirit, consciousness, conscience, God, and all the other things
     that various people have said they experience over the years. We experience them because we talk about them. If somebody told me that they felt the force of God, I would believe them insofar as I would think that they really did think that they felt the force of God. The fact that I never have, nor ever expect to, nor think even possible, does nothing to that person's experience. The fact that I can explain his experience in different terms, like in terms of nerves and brain activity, does nothing to his experience of God. I don't think this belittles the believer, I simply think it ends the conversation a little quicker than if he had told another believer. It ends, not because I'm right and he's wrong, or he's right and I'm wrong, but because we have very little in common on the topic of God. A conversation between an atheist and a theist would be just as long, and end for exactly the same reason, as a conversation between myself and a cricket player. I know nothin
    g about cricket, nor do I care that much, but I do think my English counterpart's enthusiasm for the sport is admirable and exciting. We do have that in common: ethusiasm. We are just enthusiastic about different things.

    So, okay, you aren't a materialist. But materialists have good reasons for being materialists. You just aren't hearing them, or aren't ready for them. The criticism you level at materialists cuts the other way, too. 'Tis why I think it pretty uninformative to level it in the first place. Of course they don't hear it or aren't ready for it, they haven't been convinced yet, have they? Persuasion is how all of this stuff happens and what people are persuaded by is, well, pretty mystical and unexplainable when it happens. How come he was persuaded by this argument and not that one, or this experience and not that one? Only a complete diagnostic of the blind impress he accumulated throughout his life could answer that and that's something that is typically not available. So, when Steve says he doesn't understand why I reject the MoQ (which is a little slanted, I reject metaphysics, not necessarily the MoQ), I can only emphasize the _he_ thinks that Pirsig has accounted f
    or post-modernism and pragmatism and has provided a "far better intellectual postulate." It's quite apparent that I don't think so, probably because of the experiences I've had and the books I've read. Outside of all the attempts I've made (and will continue to make for all interested, non-beligerent parties) in trying to communicate why I don't think Pirsig has, there's not much I can do except shrug and say, "Well, for whatever reason I've convinced by Rorty and you're not. And for whatever reason you're convinced by Pirsig and I'm not."

    Andy said:
    What do you mean by materialism and how does Rorty fall under this category? What data do materialist ignore? I haven't heard Rorty refer to himself as a materialist. Is it a categorization he would agree he falls under? How does one emerge out from under this absurd influence of a materialist view?

    Rorty describes himself as a non-reductive physicalist. In a former, much older, rhetorical turn, Rorty defended something called eliminative materialism. Eliminative materialism, I think, means we can describe everything we experience to particles bouncing in a void. The operative word is "can". That doesn't mean we have to. Rorty has moved on from there to argue that we shouldn't reduce anything to anything else, fundamentally. We should simply use one set of descriptions for one purpose and another set of descriptions for another purpose.

    I'm not quite sure why Scott doesn't believe him and continues to call him a reductive materialist.

    DMB said:
    And since its pretty clear that scientific materialism is assumed by Rorty and friends, it just seems that all these guys have really done is abandon the most interesting questions in favor of physics and such. If that's not SOM, nothing is.

    Right, right. Rorty assumes one thing just as you assume something else. Pointing that Rorty assumes something is fairly pointless in of itself. However, Rorty has most certainly not abandoned the "most interesting questions in favor of physics." That's what maybe the logical positivists wanted to do, but Rorty is too much of an effete dilletante to do that. What Rorty argues is that we do not need to underscore science, politics, or morality with a epistemico-metaphysical system or theory. Science does what it does without such a theory just fine. Politics does what it does without such a theory just fine. Morality does without such a theory just fine. To help science, we need more experiments and hypotheses, which generally philosophy doesn't provide. To help politics, we need more proposals for practical policies, which generally philosophy doesn't provide. To help morality, we need more descriptions of the way people are immiserated, which generally philosophy
     doesn't provide. On the last count, what helps morality is literature and ethnographies.

    DMB said about my Plato "misrepresentation":
    Reality is a dream and a hallucination? Its true that mystics, East and West, both assert that ordinary experience is an illusion, we have to be careful about confusing that claim with dreams and hallucinations. Mysticism asserts that beyond the appearance of the many forms of the world there is an underlying unity or One. But this conclusion is not arrived at by any kind of scientific, philosophical or systemic thoughts process. The mystics say that is precisely the origin of the illusion. Instead, the underlying unity of reality is percieve as a direct experience.

    Well, all I was saying about Plato was that he certainly thought ordinary experience was an illusion. Hence, the "via our senses" part. However, I don't remember anything in Plato about direct experience leading to the underlying unity of reality.


    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 Aug 18 2003 - 18:36:55 BST