Thursday, January 15, 2015

Naught Thought blog on the Wolfendale kerfuffle

With an interesting post title, Ben Woodard of Naught Thought blog provides some neutral analysis HERE.  Terry of Agent Swarm blog replied in comments but Ben somehow missed it, but see Terry's thoughts HERE.  On Ben's behalf he usually posts and then disappears, so I don't think he intentionally chose not to include Terry in comments.  I've emailed Ben before and it took him weeks to respond: he just seems busy and is a graduate student who is (I believe) working on dissertation, so blogging and monitoring that probably just comes second.  But I am just guessing here.

Naught Thought blog links a book review of Wolfendale's massive tome, but the review is, well, weird.  Its conclusion is that two philosophers are missing each other - two philosophers are just going over each other's heads.

The review states that one version of the philosophy in question looks to arguments, or inferences drawn together to make a metaphysical point.  In other words, "one ought to build up a conceptual infrastructure around their positive assertions, making explicit the scaffolding of inference that supports them."

The other philosophy states that philosophy is fundamentally aesthetic (or rhetorical and thus not philosophy proper, if philosophy has anything to do with argument) due to the "allure" of the world. So, "Philosophy should be concerned not with the organisation of reference, but with the enlargement of our capacity for absorption, our ability to be ‘taken in’."

The reviewer does note that Wolfendale critiques the view that philosophy cannot proceed to make positive metaphysical claims beyond the aesthetic, and that such a move is not much more than an enlargement of the correlationist circle - it equals not much more than rhetorical device to remain at the level of the aesthetic.  To me, remaining at the level of the aesthetic even seems "relativist" or without grounds for systematicity (again, noted in the review).  Nietzsche comes to mind.

The review then points to the whiff of a notion surrounding all of this: that the object of Wolfendale's critique is a successfully staged charade of philosophical sincerity.

You can read the review for yourself HERE.

Ah, to go back to Terry from Agent Swarm blog, his view is that these two philosophers are not going over each other's heads but instead reside on the same plane of reductionism.  "I see two rival philosophical positions on the same plane: idealist reductionism (Harman) and physico-mathematical reductionism (Wolfendale)."  I tend to side with the Wolfendalian/Brassierian appeal to reason, rationality, systematicity, naturalism, and a mathematized ontology that is capable of attaining metaphysical truth beyond the level of the aesthetic or level of mere human ken and attraction or allure; and also (as a very minor point) I also tend to accept the pragmatic-German idealist influenced figures such as Brandom or Sellars, or in my case Nicholas Rescher whose three volume System of Pragmatic Idealism is second to none. The attainment of positive metaphysical truth is possible - so "enlightenment" is possible - although enlightenment is a disconcerting, dark or cold truth which is utterly indifferent to humans, besides having been involved in creating humans.  But alas, other cosmic epochs are indeed possible and life goes on without us.  Take that as you will.  In the end, Reality Rules.

The fact that Blake attacks the relativistic forms of philosophers in the mix of discussions about science (for example Bruno Latour, and see Brassier's complete decimation of Latourian approaches to scientific philosophy HERE) puts him in the "axis" that we are all so often included in.

That's just my two cents in passing, though.