Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Sunday, August 5, 2018
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Monday, July 30, 2018
Hegel on the Proofs and the Personhood of God: Studies in Hegel's Logic and Philosophy of Religion (NDPR Review)
Hegel on the Proofs and the Personhood of God: Studies in Hegel's Logic and Philosophy of Religion
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews //
Robert R. Williams, Hegel on the Proofs and the Personhood of God: Studies in Hegel's Logic and Philosophy of Religion, Oxford University Press, 2017, 352pp., $95.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198795223.
Reviewed by Nicholas Adams, University of Birmingham
This is a book for those interested in the intricacies of Hegel's philosophy of religion. It asks and answers two questions: how can Hegel's accounts of the proofs for God's existence best be understood; in what sense is Hegel's God 'personal'?
The study is split into two halves named in the title. The first part, chapters 1 to 3, treats Hegel's handling of the proofs for God's existence, principally in the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (which contains Hegel's defence of Anselm against Kant) and the Lectures on the Proofs for the Existence of God (published for the first time in English in 2007 in a translation by Peter Hodgson). The second part investigates...
Thursday, July 26, 2018
But then we were told "no," instead the second coming was not to be Latour but one Quentin Meillassoux. Watch out! In years' time an aged Meillassoux would reign supreme from his throne, the academic world bowing beneath his popularity and power. The case was pushed as, "Meillassoux supports me and my ontology, so he'll reign supreme as will I."
But then, wait! It was to be the "handsome" and millennial (as if that were a positive quality) Tristan Garcia! Buy his book! Two people have written about him!
And so on.
I say, has any of this cashed out?
How much snake oil does one buy before they realize they've been had.
More folks write about Schelling and Merleau-Ponty than any of the above, combined.
Monday, July 23, 2018
Why cosmology without philosophy is like a ship without a hull
What is it with the philosophy-haters in astrophysics and cosmology? From the late Stephen Hawking's claim that 'philosophy is dead', to Steven Weinberg's chapter-long jeremiad 'Against Philosophy' in Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), plenty of physicists and astrophysicists think that philosophy ...
By Bridget Falck
Read at Aeon
Friday, July 20, 2018
Thinking Between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News
Judith Wambacq, Thinking Between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty, Ohio University Press, 2017, 264pp., $95.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780821422878.
Reviewed by Laura McMahon, Eastern Michigan University
Judith Wambacq's book, which explores resonances between the philosophies of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze, is thoughtful, well-researched, and a good resource for scholars interested in the philosophies of either or both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, and in the development of twentieth-century Continental philosophy more broadly. Though the philosophical projects of Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze are often sharply contrasted, Wambacq makes a convincing case that the differences between the two are more stylistic and matters of emphases than they are substantial and central, and argues that it is philosophically worthwhile to read Merleau-Ponty through a Deleuzian lens and Deleuze through a Merleau-Pontean lens. In what follows, I will (1) outline what I take to be Wambacq's central thesis and argument; (2) provide...
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Not the vapid "stake in the ground" planted by Bogost some years ago, but the real deal, as it should be.
Monday, July 2, 2018
|Sign-post to the Nietzsche Haus |
PHOTO: Niemoczynski, 2017
Sils Maria is an indescribable place, if one wants to paint a picture of it perfectly. I'm not sure words could do justice to the peace which is that place. Granted, Switzerland now has a special place for me - mostly because of its picturesque landscapes, its pine forests, its mountains and peaks, and of course its quaint and romantic way of life . But if I had to put my finger on it (and I believe Nietzsche had mentioned this) - there is something about the air there. Something, rejuvenating, perhaps?
“Well, my dear old friend, I am once more in the Upper Engadine. This is my third visit to the place and once again I feel that my proper refuge and home is here and nowhere else.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche to Carl von Gersdorff, Sils Maria, late June 1883
Our visit to the Nietzsche house was quick but informative. The house is tucked away just off the street past the train station stop which is marked "Sils Maria." Proceed not even a minute's walk to your left and the Nietzsche house is there off the street on the left.
My wife wasn't so much interested and began studying the adjacent hotel, a charming building in its own right. And for a few minutes she began to say how nice it would be that if we had children we could venture here as a family and vacation. I agreed. (We desperately want children, and the thought of vacationing in this beautiful place with my wife, and hopefully one day children, for a moment moved me.)
As to my expedition regarding more philosophical things, I think I learned more just by absorbing the surrounding experience of the mountains and forests, the creek nearby, the silence only being interrupted by the sounds of insects or the wind. But it was Nietzsche's own bare room which spoke most profoundly to me.
Inside the home there are many, many books which are organized according to various donated collections. There are various artifacts and items to look at, and a room dedicated to Nietzsche studies or exhibitions (currently in one of the rooms are paintings by an artist who lived in the house recently for two years). For me, though, it was Nietzscbe's room as well as the view from his room to the mountain outside which affected my experience of this place. Reminiscent of the painting by Caspar David Friedrich I had to think that the "wanderer"who was meant for those mountains could have only been Nietzsche himself. Inside his room there is not much to see but certainly much one might sense. The walls are bare, one small carpet is at the center of the floor, there is a small bed, and there is a porcelain washbowl and pitcher across from the bed. That's it.
But, there is a thing that struck me - and let me say right away that this will come off as quite personal and thus perhaps strange - is how Nietzsche placed on his wall a green piece of wall paper. Neat and rectangular, there it was in the midst of his Spartan-like room. But, it was the tone of the green which struck me. The tone was deep and seductive.
|The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog, Caspar David Frierich, c. 1818|
If one is to reflect upon the meaning of green in that poem alone, let alone its place in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the poem's use of color all hangs upon green and its place vis-a-vis the abyss. Standing there, in Nietzsche's room, looking out from his window, to his fabled mountains of Zarathustra, I realized that the color green was for him, the abyss. From there we hear about gold, blue, brown, black, and so on.
But "green," a dark majestic green, is the color of the golf-course greens where I was a night watchmen, my own Zarathustra at age 19, reading Nietzsche and marveling beneath the stars in the middle of those humid but cool, clear summer nights at 3am. Here in Sils Maria I was at the very place where one of the most influential philosophers who attracted me to philosophy in the first place lived. And here I was gazing out his window - at the same forests, the same mountains, the same stream. My Nietzsche journey had come full circle as I looked out his window.
Now that I have become part of "the establishment" of academia - a "philosophy professor" - part of that same establishment Nietzsche so despised, Herr Nietzsche and his anti-philosophy has crept up from behind me yet again to spur me into open reflection, just as he had when I was 19. And for that, my good friend, Friedrich Wilhem Nietzsche, I am thankful.
Today I still ask that most dreadful question, why? Hanging onto my late '30s, with respect to that question maybe Nietzsche's response, fittingly from the poem, remains the same when I found him while I was so young. "Stand firm my brave heart, do not ask: why? -"
A visit to the house costs 8 Francs (no Euros accepted).
Below one can find photos with captions of my visit. I'll attempt to upload a video of me traveling the path behind the house where Nietzsche would take walks when he could. As Sils Maria is a place for holiday one can see a hotel near the one where Nietzsche himself stayed. The only two cars that pass in the video toward the end were the only two heard during the hour I was there. Otherwise it was complete silence.
Finally, I am not an expert video producer so my apologies for the camera work (which is non-existent). I just wanted to show what the path looked like and attempt to transcribe to video the experience of what it may have been like for Nietzsche to walk along that path. Of course, that is impossible. In the end this was really an amazing experience and is on par with our visit to the Heidegger Hut (link HERE). Both visits were magical. Now on to the photos and video...
|Mountains en route to the Nietzsche Haus|
|We've arrived! Sign directing visitors to the Nietzsche Haus, just off the street at Sils Maria, Switzerland|
|View, front of the house|
|Dedicatory sign above front door|
|A simple stone path directors visitors|
|Left side front of house|
|Right side front of house where Nietzsche stayed|
|Forest path behind the house|
|View of the mountains from the front path front of house|
|View of adjacent hotel|
|Some visitors leaving Sils Maria|
|Leon and Na leave Sils Maria|
|Last glance at the lake before we leave for Turano|
Read also about our visit to the cabin where the most infamous philosopher of the 20th-century Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) would stay each summer, and where he would eventually write his masterpiece, Being and Time (1927), link HERE.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
The eight episodes form a mini-series covering philosophical cosmology, due in part to grant support from the Templeton Foundation. The program seems quite fascinating, or as Philosophy Talk describes:
What is the origin of the universe? What exactly are space and time? Could the laws of physics ever change? Is the universe fine-tuned to support intelligent life? What are dark matter and dark energy? Are we part of a multiverse? How does science make progress in answering these questions? And are there limits to what we can ultimately know about the nature of the cosmos?
In this eight-episode series, sponsored by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, we invite listeners on a grand philosophical journey through the cosmos, tackling deeply puzzling questions about the nature of the universe, and our knowledge of it.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
"Experience is of as well as in nature. It is not experience which is experienced but nature - stones, plants, animals, diseases, health, temperature, electricity, and so on."
- John Dewey, Experience and Nature
See also THIS After Nature post from some time back.
Monday, June 18, 2018
(The results of my test streams? The technical-quality results have been mediocre at best, not due to the equipment but because I need a new computer which can proficiently use and process the equipment. I had to upgrade my internet just to even run the stream without lag. Content-wise it has just been experimental - nothing too serious in the sense that the streams turn out to be more or less like very loose seminars/philosophical conversations. Those watching report that they like it, which is good.)
So far the experience has been both positive and negative. Now, the negatives are due mostly to the Twitch platform and the audience that one finds there. On the other hand, the only pro of Twitch is its censorship free (or nearly so) approach to the inclusion of free thought and ideas, as well as music: something YouTube doesn't approach the same way. The very weird thing is that Twitch does ban my videos (they will mute your audio) if you critique their platform or if they catch you using music and then using music again on a following stream. So they are pretty hypocritical when it comes to allowing certain streamers to do something and others not. Still, I've been pretty brazen to test the limit and well, it's been interesting. YouTube would have just deleted me, so I consider it a positive.
The question is whether YouTube's heavy hand of censorship will eliminate my channel as soon as it begins. Time shall tell I suppose, but you dear readers here at After Nature would be the first to know as soon as a channel opened up.
In the meantime I am still struggling for a channel name. I would like to have a new name for the stream other than After Nature if only to start a new chapter in my online philosophy presence. The name I go under at Twitch, I am told, has associations online that could possibly wrongly implicate me with some wrong ideas out there, so that isn't worth the risk. But, I do need a good, interesting stream name for YouTube and I just can't think of one.
A friend of mine suggested Forest Crown, which I quite like... or Eumeswil (the title of Ernst Juenger's best science fiction book), which I like too. Waldganger is too clunky and weird, but in English it translates to something like "Forest Fleer" or "Flight to the Forest" - both interesting. But yet the former's "fleer" may elude some, and the latter sounds, I don't know, like a bad movie title. So I'm stuck. No channel until I think of a good name.
Any suggestions? I really like things from Juenger, who is one of my favorite literary-philosophical authors.
Ever since the golden age of philosophy blogs ended (for better or worse), I've been privy to see that streaming is the future. Twitter's obvious political censorship campaign discourages any free-thinking person from taking them seriously; same with something like Patreon or even Google in general. But Twitter is the absolute worst for it. Likewise Facebook (another platform I have never used on principle) is pretty much self-explanatory. I've saved myself the trouble from trolling over my own posts and doing re-posts saying, "See? I told you so!" Gosh, I called that with Facebook probably about five years ago. And people thought I was some sort of outcast. Same with Twitter. It's just unfashionable to use tools which aid the neo-gulag and their thought-police. I don't want anything to do with it it.
Hence my hesitation with YouTube ...
Right now my main objective is to find a channel name and upgrade my computer. The computer is going to be soon, hopefully the new name as well. The original estimate for the channel was this past spring. That seems to have been pushed back until the end of summer (on YouTube that is; if you're lucky you might be able to find me on Twitch in the meantime).
Friday, June 15, 2018
The Legacy of Kant in Sellars and Meillassoux: Analytic and Continental Kantianism // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame
Thursday, June 14, 2018
The focus of this entry is on Schopenhauer's aesthetic theory, which forms part of his organic philosophical system, but which can be appreciated and assessed to some extent on its own terms (for ways in which his aesthetic insights may be detached from his metaphysics see Shapshay, 2012b). The theory is found predominantly in Book 3 of the World as Will and Representation (WWR I) and in the elaboratory essays concerning Book 3 in the second volume...
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Sunday, June 10, 2018
A lengthy and extremely well-detailed article covering Schelling's impact upon Peirce and both philosophers' development of a philosophy of nature can be found linked below. I've written somewhat extensively in the past about the connection between Peirce and Schelling and have read quite abit on the subject as well (whether primary sources or secondary literature about it), but this article goes pretty in-depth into it all.
As some After Nature readers might remember, my first book Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature has an entire chapter dedicated to exploring the relationship between these two philosophers and Schelling's Naturphilosophie informs an important backdrop of understanding to the book overall.
The article is definitely for anyone who is interested in Schelling's philosophy of nature even most generally, or Schelling's connection to the philosophy of C.S. Peirce more particularly.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
"The relation between living subject and object is unlike that between two objects; for, the subject does not react mechanistically to all object stimuli but rather it assigns a significance or meaning to specific ones."
- Jakob von Uexküll
"Every living cell is a machine operator that perceives and produces and therefore possesses its own particular perceptive signs and impulses or 'effect signs.' The complex perception and production of effects in every animal subject can thereby be attributed to the cooperation of small cellular-machine operators, each one possessing only one perceptive and one effective sign."
- Jakob von Uexküll
(See also "Introducing Uexküllian phenomenology - Powerpoint download" HERE ; "Some resources on biosemiotics + Uexküllian/Peircean phenomenology" HERE ; and an enormously informative post with tons of great information and links on biosemiotics HERE titled, "Mathew David Segall, media ecology, and biosemiotics.")
Friday, June 8, 2018
Bonn Summer School in German Philosophy: Naturalism in Classical German Philosophy (July 9-20, 2018)
"The Issue of Naturalism in Classical German Philosophy"
For more information (or presumably to inquire if one might attend despite not presenting): email@example.com
Penn State Officials Shut Down Outdoors Club Because Nature Isn't 'Safe'
Monday, June 4, 2018
Sheperd was spot on when she said, "In some instances the outdoors is not safe for anyone." She was also correct when discussing how, often times, the "healing" power of nature is actually found in its ability, or even power and potential, to "decenter" identity - to completely overwhelm one's sense of self or, if it so chooses, to destroy one's sense of self or one's identity. Nature has the uncanny ability to remind us that it is nature which gets the last vote in determining "what's what" and that how we may conceive ourselves to be - whether precious, special, important, or identifying as x, y, or z - doesn't necessarily mean that that is how we truly are in reality. Such forms of decentering can and many often times do constitute an act of transcendence through sublimity, as the decentering of one's own identity in light of something much larger and much more encompassing is what affords the natural world its healing power and quasi-religious grace. It reminds us that we may not be as special as we think we are, and that the world is not a safe place. The natural world can and will gladly go on without us.
The millennial obsession with "safety" and "safe spaces" is attempting to sanitize the last outpost where these sort of truly educational and revelatory experiences might occur due to the inherent risk, danger, and all-out lack of human identity found there: the wilderness. Nature, when made "safe," loses its real educational potential and becomes just another stage prop in the human-all-too-human drama of so-called "social justice." In fact, inasmuch as Sheperd is pointing out, "social justice" is far - very, very far - from any form of real environmental justice where human actors are able to take a step back in their obsessive motions of attempting to grab the limelight and think of others for just once. In the name of safety, avoiding risk, and feeling important, millennials are actually committing worse injustices against the environment and failing to achieve any realist ecological understanding of it. That is to say, millennial narcissism and environmental justice really don't fit together hand-in-glove.
The article Sheperd cites is all millennial narcissism gone way too far. As I tell my students in Existentialism on the first day of class: "The universe doesn't give a shit about you." When one goes hiking in remote environments and witnesses a pristine and well-functioning world that is completely without the human and doing just fine, that truth can be an eye-opening experience for even the most naive helicopter-parented millennial who will usually melt like a snowflake at the first hint that they may not be as special as they've been told. Eventually, nature (read "Reality") will assert itself and its number one (and only) law will show itself to be supreme. And that law? It's quite simple: "Reality Rules."
Friday, May 25, 2018
Bergson: Thinking Beyond the Human Condition
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News
2018.05.19 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews
Keith Ansell-Pearson, Bergson: Thinking Beyond the Human Condition, Bloomsbury, 2018, 194 pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781350043954
Reviewed by Donald A. Landes, Université Laval
In his introduction to the remarkable new Quadrige/PUF collection of critical editions of Henri Bergson's works in French, Frédéric Worms rightly suggests that, like all philosophical classics, Bergson's oeuvre deserves to be both read with fresh eyes, as if it has just appeared, and studied with the help of scholarly tools equal to its importance and influence. By offering a lively reading of Bergson's texts and providing scholarly explorations of connections, influences, comparisons, and potential further contributions, Keith Ansell-Pearson fulfills both of these goals. The volume is the result of two decades of his research and teaching, gathering together his essays and chapters on various aspects of Bergson's thought, with one new chapter...
Nietzsche's Metaphysics of the Will to Power: The Possibility of Value
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News
2018.05.21 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews
Tsarnia Doyle, Nietzsche's Metaphysics of the Will to Power: The Possibility of Value, Cambridge University Press, 2018, 240pp., $99.99, ISBN 9781108417280.
Reviewed by Justin Remhof, Old Dominion University
Tsarina Doyle's new book is required reading for those interested in Nietzsche's metaphysics, ethics, and metaethics. Doyle argues that for Nietzsche nihilism arises upon the recognition that our values are not objectively valid because they are not instantiated by a mind-independent world. Nietzsche responds to the threat of nihilism, according to Doyle, by developing will to power as a metaphysical view of reality. On this view, the world is constituted by mind-independent causal powers. For Doyle, Nietzsche believes values are metaphysically continuous with will to power because they are causal-dispositional properties of human drives. Will to power provides a mind-independent, objective constraint on our values, which moves us beyond nihilism.
Doyle's position is bold, and...
Pragmatism and the European Traditions: Encounters with Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology Before the Great Divide (NDPR Review)
Pragmatism and the European Traditions: Encounters with Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology Before the Great Divide
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News
2018.05.23 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews
Maria Baghramian and Sarin Marchetti (eds.), Pragmatism and the European Traditions: Encounters with Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology Before the Great Divide, Routledge, 294pp, $140.00, ISBN 9781138094109.
Reviewed by John J. Stuhr, Emory University
This volume contains twelve essays by European and North American scholars. Following a brief introduction, the essays appear in roughly chronological order. The first section, "Early Encounters," focuses on the pragmatism of William James (with briefer discussions of C. S. Peirce and F.C.S. Schiller), the phenomenology of Husserl and Scheler, and the analytic philosophy of Wittgenstein, Russell, and Ramsey. The slightly shorter second section, "Later Encounters" includes essays that deal with pragmatists: James (again, or still), John Dewey, and C. I. Lewis; phenomenologists: Husserl (again with James) and Heidegger; and analytic thinkers: Carnap, Stevenson, Wilfrid Sellars, Quine, Putnam, Brandom, and the Finnish thinker Eino Kaila.
In "Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: The Mingled Story of...
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Pythagoras on the Purpose of Life and the Meaning of Wisdom
Abiding insight into the aim of human existence from the man who revolutionized science and coined the word "philosopher."
The Greek polymath Pythagoras (c. 570–c. 495 BC) ignited the golden age of mathematics with the development of numerical logic and the discovery of his namesake theorem of geometry, which furnished the world's first foothold toward the notion of scientific proof and has been etched into the mind of every schoolchild in the millennia since. His ideas went on to influence Plato, Copernicus, Descartes, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein, and the school he founded made the then-radical decision to welcome women as members, one of whom was Hypatia of Alexandria — the world's first known woman astronomer.
Alongside his revolutionary science, Pythagoras coined the word philosopher to describe himself as a "lover of wisdom" — a love the subject of which he encapsulated in a short, insightful meditation on the uses of philosophy in human life. According to the anecdote, recounted by Cicero four centuries later, Pythagoras attended the Olympic Games of 518 BC with Prince Leon, the esteemed ruler of Phlius. The Prince, impressed with his guest's wide and cross-disciplinary range of knowledge, asked Pythagoras why he lived as a "philosopher" rather than an expert in any one of the classical arts.
Pythagoras, quoted in Simon Singh's altogether fascinating Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem (public library), replies:
Life… may well be compared with these public Games for in the vast crowd assembled here some are attracted by the acquisition of gain, others are led on by the hopes and ambitions of fame and glory. But among them there are a few who have come to observe and to understand all that passes here.
It is the same with life. Some are influenced by the love of wealth while others are blindly led on by the mad fever for power and domination, but the finest type of man gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself. He seeks to uncover the secrets of nature. This is the man I call a philosopher for although no man is completely wise in all respects, he can love wisdom as the key to nature's secrets.Complement with Alain de Botton on how philosophy undoes our unwisdom, then revisit other abiding mediations on the meaning and purpose of life from Epictetus, Toni Morrison, Walt Whitman, Richard Feynman, Rosa Parks, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Martha Nussbaum.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Is nature continuous or discrete? How the atomist error was born
The modern idea that nature is discrete originated in Ancient Greek atomism. Leucippus, Democritus and Epicurus all argued that nature was composed of what they called ἄτομος (átomos) or 'indivisible individuals'. Nature was, for them, the totality of discrete atoms in motion. There was no creato...
By Thomas Nail
Read at Aeon
Shared via my feedly reader
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Bernard Stiegler: The Neganthropocene (2018)
// Monoskop Log
"As we drift past tipping points that put future biota at risk, while a post-truth regime institutes the denial of 'climate change' (as fake news), and as Silicon Valley assistants snatch decision and memory, and as gene-editing and a financially-engineered bifurcation advances over the rising hum of extinction events and the innumerable toxins and conceptual opiates that Anthropocene Talk fascinated itself with—in short, as 'the Anthropocene' discloses itself as a dead-end trap—Bernard Stiegler here produces the first counter-strike and moves beyond the entropic vortex and the mnemonically stripped Last Man socius feeding the vortex.
In the essays and lectures here titled Neganthropocene, Stiegler opens an entirely new front moving beyond the dead-end "banality" of the Anthropocene. Stiegler stakes out a battleplan to proceed beyond, indeed shrugging off, the fulfillment of nihilism that the era of climate chaos ushers in. Understood as the reinscription of philosophical, economic, anthropological and political concepts within a renewed thought of entropy and negentropy, Stiegler's 'Neganthropocene' pursues encounters with Alfred North Whitehead, Jacques Derrida, Gilbert Simondon, Peter Sloterdijk, Karl Marx, Benjamin Bratton, and others in its address of a wide array of contemporary technics: cinema, automation, neurotechnology, platform capitalism, digital governance and terrorism. This is a work that will need be digested by all critical laborers who have invoked the Anthropocene in bemused, snarky, or pedagogic terms, only to find themselves having gone for the click-bait of the term itself—since even those who do not risk definition in and by the greater entropy."
Edited, translated, and with an introduction by Daniel Ross
Publisher Open Humanities Press, London, 2018
CCC2: Irreversibility series
Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 License
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Did Susanne Langer invent virtual reality?
// Aesthetics Today
Monday, April 2, 2018
Mind, Semiotics, and Symbols in Nature
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Continental philosophy of religion (CPOR) has succeeded in many ways to question modern divides between philosophy and theology, thus opening up new, postmodern possibilities for encounter and dialogue. However, this process also has been perceived with suspicion from both sides. On the one hand, some philosophers accuse CPOR of a crypto-theology that colonizes philosophy; on the other hand, theologians often regard it as a Trojan horse designed to further weaken the fundaments of religion. This conference wishes to examine the complex relationship between contemporary philosophy and religion/theology by turning its attention to the vast field of phenomenology and hermeneutics. Its major tasks are to unveil the variety of religious topoi implicit within these disciplines and to further assess their potential for dialogue with theology.
Recent French phenomenology has expanded upon the notions of phenomenality, rationality, and the overcoming of metaphysics. Thinkers such as Levinas, Marion, or Henry have altered the very notion of transcendence and thus became valuable interlocutors for theology. Levinas’ work has been appropriated within theology, even within Catholic dogmatics, to the point of provoking some opponents to mock of his becoming a new Church father. In general, there is increasing awareness among theologians that theology cannot immunize itself from the ongoing weakening of traditional metaphysics and its assumed overcoming. Marion’s phenomenological thought has perhaps the highest, yet vastly unexplored potential for theology to respond to this challenge. What is required, on the one hand, concerns a thorough consideration of Marion's theoretical presuppositions without too quickly domesticating his terminology (e.g., saturation, revelation, gift, etc.) within a theological discourse. From the side of philosophy, on the other hand, Marion’s phenomenology rightly demands an attitude of bracketing the recurrent prejudices concerning a hidden theological agenda. Given this, the critical reception of this work allows and even necessitates the pursuit of general questions (as does every phenomenology of religion) in our search for a fragile equilibrium that neither hides behind a "methodological atheism" nor drifts into an unavowed theology. But tracing the line of demarcation also is an issue for theologians: are those philosophical topoi bearing a strong religious affinity (e.g., the call-response structure, topologies of the gift, love, gratuity, etc.) that we find at work in contemporary French phenomenology of religion (including thinkers like Chrétien, Lacoste and Falque) compatible with concrete religion(s) and their theology(ies)? And if so, to what degree? Do re-appropriations of Christianity (such as in the case of Henry's phenomenology or Vattimo's hermeneutics) deepen and enhance religious discourse, or do they rather run the risk of violently distorting the original self-understanding of a concrete religion?
Unlike phenomenology, hermeneutics always has maintained strong ties with theology, especially within a Judeo-Christian context, since this tradition was one of the birthplaces of hermeneutics. The kerygmatic character of the Christian message and its inherent historicity still forms a natural affinity to philosophical hermeneutics, which, since Heidegger, has extended its ambitions to promote an all-encompassing role of understanding, overshadowing and replacing the role of ontology. But this development of hermeneutics has led, simultaneously, both to proximity with and distance from theology. The constant weakening of ontology (disqualified as a strong and violent metaphysics of presence) has put in jeopardy the concept of transcendence, which traditionally has been at the core of religious self-understanding. This deconstructive (Caputo) and “nihilistic” tendency of hermeneutics (Vattimo) has not been accepted without contradiction. Indeed, it recently has been countered by its “metaphysical” opponents (to use Grondin’s terminology), who advocate for a “constructive” ideal of Gadamer’s method and for the reconciliatory character of Ricoeur’s hermeneutics. In Greisch’ hermeneutical anthropology, to mention just one example, still remains the “function meta” after the decline of traditional metaphysics. Finally, a truly unprecedented challenge for religion/theology is raised by the recent turn of hermeneutics towards sensibility and corporeality. This twist is recognizable not only in “carnal hermeneutics” (Kearney), but also in inquiries into the cosmic dimension (cosmopoetics in Caputo) or the “sensible transcendental” (Irigaray). All these lead to new, explicitly “material” understandings of religiosity.
As this short description has demonstrated, it is difficult to assess whether it is within the philosophical or the theological landscape that the variety of contemporary re-conceptualizations of the religious incites greater controversy: to start this inquiry, explore the related controversies, and assess their potentials for both fields, is the major intent of this conference. Thus viewed, it seeks to provide a place of encounter for different approaches to religion within the broader context of phenomenology and hermeneutics. It also welcomes contributions from other relevant disciplines – in particularly theology, with its own internal diversifications and confessional differences – that might help highlight the afore-mentioned tensions, and enrich the dialogue between philosophy and theology today.
Conference language: English
Paper proposals with the title of presentation and an abstract of no more than 200 words should include the author’s full name, contact address, institutional affiliation and academic position. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstract submission deadline: 10th May 2018.
Notification of acceptance: 1st June 2018.
Participation fee: 50 EUR
Organizing committee: Branko Klun (University of Ljubljana), Michael Staudigl (University of Vienna), Lenart Škof (Science and Research Centre, Koper), Luka Trebežnik (University of Ljubljana)Conference websites link HERE.
Friday, March 30, 2018
|Plato (423-347 BCE)|
"There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse."
- Socrates, in Plato's Phaedo (89d)
"Opinions without knowledge are shameful things."
- Socrates, in Plato's Republic (506c)
"The virtue of reason is, above all, divine."
- Socrates, in Plato's Republic (518d)
"The subject of measure is useful for the sake of knowing rather than trading...It leads the soul upward and compels it to discuss the numbers themselves...and then understanding and truth itself."
- Socrates, in Plato's Republic (525d)
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Monday, March 26, 2018
If one thinks that the craziest thing they've done for money is go to college then either they did not receive a quality education or they did not make the most out of the quality education that they may have received.
It's a shame how ignorant such talk can be, and no wonder how someone like that would settle for just "making money" and not much else. On the other hand, as the quote comes from a Millennial, holding up and being resilient, remaining pragmatic without childish optimism or pessimism, and not complaining wouldn't be a strong suit. Afterall, it is easier to claim "introvert" and blame the world for your problems than it is to recognize that the first mind which needs to be "elevated" is your own.
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Aristotle, De Anima
View this Review Online
C.D.C. Reeve (tr., ed.), Aristotle, De Anima, Hackett, 2017, 227 pp., $22.00 (pbk), ISBN 9781624666193.
Reviewed by Caleb Cohoe, Metropolitan State University of Denver
This is an excellent translation of Aristotle's De Anima or On the Soul, part of C.D.C. Reeve's impressive ongoing project of translating Aristotle's works for the New Hackett Aristotle. Reeve's translation is careful and accurate, committed to faithfully rendering Aristotle into English while making him as readable as possible. This edition features excellent notes that will greatly assist readers (especially in their inclusion of related passages that illuminate the sections they annotate) and an introduction that situates the work within Aristotle's scientific method and his overall view of reality.
Reeve's introduction discusses the status of Aristotle's science of the soul. His treatment is not merely an overview of this topic but a significant and welcome...
Thursday, March 22, 2018
A quick reflection and Reza’s post: Euclid’s Elements, a philosophical thriller (Toy Philosophy repost)
In reposting the below I leave the post in its original form. Typically I italicize posts to indicate that they are not mine, when I repost others' blog posts. In this rare case I leave as-is, only because the post has so many important titles and translations that italicizing it would take away from its coherence.
Euclid's Elements, a philosophical thriller (part 1)
// Toy Philosophy
Among the greatest mathematical treatises in the antiquity and beyond, no title matches Euclid's Elements in simplicity, elegance, popularity and sheer hair-raising brilliance of analytic imagination. It is a book that is accessible to any person who wishes to initiate into that fathomless realm we call mathematics. But the same thing can be said about Elements's philosophical depth. Elements is in fact a book in which the boundaries between mathematics and philosophy completely fade. In this marriage between philosophy and mathematics via the geometric method, we see a form of intuitive mathematics whose results are both sophisticated and non-trivial even in terms of modern mathematics, and a philosophy which points towards possibilities of formal and systematic thinking.
The aim of this series is to dissect the tissue between geometrical and philosophical problems and tropes in Elements, using concepts and ideas situated at the nebulous interstices between philosophy, logic and mathematics. The first few installments will focus on the overall characteristics of the Euclidean universe. But as we proceed, we will shift the attention toward analysis of particular examples.
If you remember the school days, you recall your teacher treated Elements in terms of analytic geometry alone. But Elements is equally a work of philosophy. While it is quite controversial to claim that Euclid was a Platonist, we can imagine that the philosophical climate during the life of Euclid was saturated with Platonic ideas, above all the doctrine of forms or ideas. Even though Euclid might not be at the end of day, a platonist, he nevertheless is preoccupied by the same philosophical concerns which preoccupied the Plato of the late period, particularly the Plato who revised his early doctrine of forms beginning with Theaetetus and brought it to maturity in Philebus.
Suffice to say that the very core of Elements deals with the dialectics between universal forms and fleeting particularities. But this dialectic as I will elaborate is not Aristotelian insofar as it involves something more than the existential interpretation of mathematics or to be more specific analytical geometry—i.e. the correlation between the genus and species—where all the proof of a general concept demands is finding or constructing a particular instance that can be subsumed under the general concept, like this rectangle and rectangularity as such. The framework in which the Euclidean oscillations between particulars and universals is expressed is what Plato calls craftsmanship or world-building which is an enterprise undertaken by the mind. The mindcraft draws as its raw material physical becoming which is only endowed with forms of elemental powers and no higher forms. The process of the craft itself proceeds by way of patterns. A pattern is, however, not a thing, but that by which a thing is structured, made or designed. Moreover, patterns are not discrete. For at each level in the hierarchy of particularities and universalities (e.g., these straight segements-cum-acute angles, this triangle, this particular kind-of-traingle and triangularity as such), there are such uniformities as patterns mainly by virtue of how—rather than merely what—things hang together—that is, the question of structure as the designation of Being.
Yet patterns are not exhausted by how and what things hang together, for they can be patterns of how different patterns hang together. For example, think of Book 1, propositions 2 (henceforth, I.2) in Elements which we will have the occasion to examine in the next installments. In this demonstration, you require not only the patterns by which lines hang together, but also how circles and a straight segment hang together (for the purpose of constructing an equilateral triangle). Furthermore, you should know how different circles, and the vertices of an equilateral triangle—i.e. composite patterns and simple patterns—can hang together in the right way so as to build a diagram that demonstrates the proposition.
From this brief discussion on the world of Plato-Euclid mindcraft, we can conclude that the process of the craft consists of sensory stuff, patterns after which things are made, patterning patterns (patterns for organizing and structuring other patterns which are greater wholes) and recipes which are instructions concerning how and what patterns pertaining to what material ingredients and/or lower patterns should be mixed together. But the objective of a recipe is to make a product that can in turn be incorporated as an ingredient into another recipe. Therefore, in addition to the above components, there should also be something like a craft test or demonstration whereby
Thus recipes are, broadly speaking, objective principles or practical intelligibilities which have as their ingredients even theoretical intelligibilities as well as more mundane ingredients (e.g., sensations, material things which might be in fact the products of other materials-cum-forms-cum-recipes such as a tanned leather with tumble finishing or in the case of Elements, an equilateral and equiangular pentagon).
In short, recipes whose equivalents in Elements are procedural diagrammatic constructions represent the engines of the craft by which not only we can make things but also, demonstrate how materials, products, and even single recipes hang together such that the ensuing craft is a universe—a world-soul—in which all (spatial) relations between things (particular instances) and forms (universals), or forms and forms are articulated and rendered intelligible. But this resulting craft or universe can also be imagined as a universe in which ever more complex forms or higher mixtures (to mikton) can be made. An apposite metaphor for this universe, is a river whose source is a mountain. The limits of the mountain is the earthly ground and a given sky which is demarcated by the snowy peaks. Even though the river's origin is limited by material sediments and heavenly forms—the melting snow—the river soon finds its path along the geodetic path to the sea where strange fauna, forms and adventures await us. But the course of the river is always tortuous as it passes through forests of intermediary forms before it shapes estuaries where the tidal waves of complex forms and discrete instances and patterns meet together. This is nothing other than Plato's vision of the revised doctrine of ideas—the craftsmanship of the soul—where the craft of the mind coincides with a new bottomless expanse of forms. The possibility of constructing a new world or a nested hierarchy of forms from the limited resources of the existing world is the sure conclusion of this vision.
In this respect, the recipe or the ongoing instruction regarding how to navigate between the particular and the universal, local and global has something more than just material ingredients and forms. The recipe consists of elementary ratios and proportions which in Euclid's universe can be compared with principles in Elements which are common notions (principles1) and postulates (principles2) which respectively signify undergirding assertions and elementary construction recipes. Common notions are quantitive assertions or intuitive axioms such as 'Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another.' Postulates, on the other hand, instruct certain kinds of elementary constructions like Postulate 2 that states, 'To produce a finite straight line continuously in a straight line.' Whereas, the relations between principles1 and theorems are deductive to the extent that the truth of the conclusion is contained in the truth of the premise, the relations between principles2 and problems are not deductive for the construction cannot be considered as a deductive inference from the postulate.
Moreover, the focus of a recipe is not restricted to pure construction. The idea of craft as Plato has suggested also entails a function called 'limiting' (to peras). In Theaetetus, Plato speaks of a function that 'freezes or fixes the flux of things' (183a7), or 'make things stand still' (157b7) and limits that which is unlimited, or more precisely, indeterminate (apeiron), thus bringing it into determination and intelligibility. This limiting or determining function is attributed to that of language and logos and is closely associated with measure (metron) which depending on the context can be epistemological, ontological or axiological. In the epistemological context, metron signifies the quantification of the apeironic flux or the continuum of greater-and-smaller into intelligible degrees or grades (e.g., being hot, warm, lukewarm and cold, or being extended this-such and being extended that-such). It is precisely the study of this limiting function that later on via the influence of neo-Platonists on scholastic philosophy culminates in Nicole Oresme's work (Tractatus de configurationibus qualitatum et motuum) on diagrammatic configurations known as latitudes of forms—intensive and extensive elaborations of qualities— which in turn paved the road for articulation of differential equations of motion that scaffolded the revolutions of Copernicus and Kepler.
It is, however, important to realize that quantification for Plato so as for Euclid is not exclusive to the domain of numbers but can also include geometrical-spatial extensions. Once the limiting or determining measure in the latter sense (e.g., line as the limit1 of surface, or the definition of angle as the limit2 of its construction) is established, we can derive determining spatial relations between determined or limited geometrical figures. Only when such determinate spatial relations are available, a diagram can be constructed on previous diagrams so that we can move from one proposition or problem to another.
Finally, in addition to the recipe, there should be such things as craft tests or in Euclid's world, demonstrations. If the Euclidean construction is understood as effecting what we aim to effect via diagrams, demonstration can be thought as a stepwise procedure for confirming that the construction has indeed effected what it says it has. Throughout the course of demonstration that covers every step of the construction rather than only the final result, tests can be executed either as objections (enstasis) or cases made against the current construction or diagram. If the former i.e. objection wins, the entire construction is null and void. But if the case—which can be understood as a diagram model that serves or effects the same purpose in a different context—wins, the construction is not necessarily erroneous, since it might prove or demonstrate the same thing in another diagram or geometrical context (allos).
Moreover, demonstrations are applied to two different aspects of the diagrams or products of the craft:
(1) those attributes of diagrams which pertain to participation (methexis) of elements or part-whole relationships. Such methexis-related aspects can include mereological relationships between regions, and segments or lines which demarcate boundaries as in the case of the notorious diagram in I.1 where two circles whose centers are the two endpoints of the same straight segment should intersect at exactly one point. But there is no explicitly stated rule in Elements guaranteeing that such a configuration would invariably result in an intersection point. Imagine circles made with lines with different breath or thickness, or made of squiggly lines. The result won't be guaranteed to yield an exactly one intersection point. Yet if we see the implicit desideratum of intersecting circles in terms of how the components should hang together from a mereological perspective we can say that given such and such regions and boundaries appear to participate mereologically, the two circles should in fact intersect.
(2) The second aspects are what can be dubbed as analogical (analogon) attributes in the sense that Plato defines them ('ana ton auton logon'), namely, ratios, proportionalities and the equality of non-identicals. Whereas methexis-related aspects are based on the appearance of diagrams, analogical aspects are not concerned with how diagrams look like.
Attributes (1) and (2), therefore, roughly correspond to what Kenneth Manders in Diagram-Based Geometric Practice calls exact (analogical aspects) and co-exact (methexis-related aspects of diagrams) attributes.
The final products of the craft—i.e. constructions which have withstood demonstration or validation—are mixtures (mikton) or determinate complexes which are demonstrated diagrams. Only once such mixtures are available, it is possible to use them as ingredients of another craft or construction.
At this point, it is perhaps necessary to make a brief point about the nature of Euclidean demonstrations as Platonic craft tests. So far I have used the words demonstrations and proofs interchangeably. But demonstrations are not exactly proofs in a technical modern sense—only in the very loose sense of proof (we will return to this point in next installments). Furthermore, even the word demonstration is not accurate for describing the system of Euclid. The phrase quod erat demonstrandum not only should not be translated as that which was require to prove, but also itself is an inaccurate Latin translation of the Greek verb deiknumi whose precise translation is the Latin monstrare i.e. to show. In Second Analytics, Aristotle fully distinguishes deiknumi as an informal and epistemological investigation from apodeiknumi or apodeixis (proof) which has an exact connotation within the lexicon of syllogistic logic as an inference that draws certain conclusions from certain premises. While this comment might appear as a petty etymological indulgence, as Andrei Rodin has detailed in The Axiomatic Method and Category Theory, it indeed has a significant implication given Euclid's own remarks and Proclus's commentary on Elements. The difference between monstration (Euclid's focus) and demonstration vis-à-vis proof suggests that we can arrive at sound and non-trivial results in mathematics without relying on an axiomatic method in the sense we understand it today. Even the Euclidean givens (data) are not exactly formal axioms since not only they are underdefined / undefined but also all the rules for building on the data are not explicitly stated.
Within the framework, we can now see that the genius of Euclid's Elements is not as much in devising new feats of proof and demonstration as it is in setting up a generative space—a unified process of craft—that accommodates all previous works done in analytic geometry.
1. Plato-Euclid's World of Mindcraft
┌───────────┐ │ Mindcraft │────────────────────1────────────────────┐ └───────────┘ │ │ │ ┌───────────────┬─────────────┐ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ ◁──────────┐ │ Go to 1 │ Go to 2 │ │ │ │ △ │ △ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ .───. .───. .───. .───. │ │ │ ( Yes ) ( No ) ( Yes ) ( No ) │ │ │ `───' `───' `───' `───' │ │ │ △ △ △ △ │ │ │ └───┬───┘ └───┬───┘ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ ┌─────────────┐ ┌─────────────┐ │ ▽ │ │ │ │ Testing │ │ ┌──────────────────┐ ┌──────────────────┐ ┌──────────────────┐ │ │ │ │ against a │ │ │ Sensory stuff │ │Elementary Recipes│ │ Basic Patterns │ │ │ │ │case (a proof│ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │Withstanding │ │ of another │ │ ╠══════════════════╣◁───3─────╠══════════════════╣◁───2─────╠══════════════════╣ │ │ Objection │ │ diagram / │ │ ║ Intuitive or ║ ║ Principles: ║ ║ Definitional ║ │ │ (enstasis) │ │ alloos, or │ │ ║ Perceptual ║ ║ Common Notions ║ ║ Givens (Data) ║ │ │ │ │demonstration│ │ ║ Ingredients ║ ║ Postulates ║ ╚══════════════════╝ │ │ │ │ in another │ │ ║ of Diagrams ║ ╠══════════════════╣ │ │ │ │ │ context) │ │ ╚══════════════════╝ ║Limits (to peras) ║ │ └─────────────┘ └─────────────┘ │ │ ║Determinations of ║ │ │ △ △ │ │ ║ geometrical ║ 12 │ │ │ │ ║ figures ║ │ │ │ │ │ │ ╚══════════════════╝ ? │ └───────┬───────┘ 8 4 │ │ │ │ │ │ 7 │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ ▽ │ │ ┌──────────────────┐ │ ┌──────────────────┐ ┌──────────────────┐ ┌──────────────────┐ │ │ Craft or │ │ │Craft of Mixtures │ │ Final Product of │ │ Patterning │ │ │Construction tests│ │ │ │ │ the craft │ │ Patterns (logoi) │ │ ╠══════════════════╣ │ ╠══════════════════╣ ╠══════════════════╣ ╠══════════════════╣ │ ║ Demonstrations ║ │ ║ Diagrammatic ║ ┌────▷║ Demonstrated ║────10───▷║ ║ │ ║ ║ │ ║ Construction of ║ │ ║ Mixtures or ║ ║ Determinate ║ │ ║ attributed to ║ │ ║ Complex Diagrams ║ │ ║ Geometrical ║ ║Spatial Relations ║ │ ║different aspects ║ │ ║ ║ │ ║ Complexes ║ ║ ║ │ ║ of mixtures: ║ │ ╚══════════════════╝ │ ╚══════════════════╝ ╚══════════════════╝ │ ║ ║ │ │ │ │ │ │ ║ methexis aspects ║ │ │ │ └──────11──────┬──────11──────┘ │ ║ and ║ │ │ │ │ │ ║ratios-proportions║ │ │ 9 ▽ │ ║ aspects ║ │ 5 │ ┏━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┓ │ ║ ║ │ │ │ ┃ Complex Patterns ┃ │ ║ ║ │ │ │ ┃ and Products ┃────────────────┘ ╚══════════════════╝ │ │ │ ┃ (to Mikton) ┃ △ │ ▽ │ ┗━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━┛ │ │ ┌──────────────────┐ │ │ │ │ │Raw Product of the│ │ ▽ │ └─▷│ craft │────┘ ┌──────────────────┐ │ ╠══════════════════╣ │ Building Loop │ │ ║ Undemonstrated ║ │ (Repeat 1 to 12) │ │ ║ Mixtures or ║ └──────────────────┘ └─────────6──────────║ Diagrammatic ║ │ ║ Complexes ║ ▽ ╚══════════════════╝ Euclidean World-soul ? (psyche ton pantos)Having gone through this brief introduction, we should now ask: what is exactly Platonic about the universe of Elements? Absent a a more detailed response, the above introduction—particularly, the comparison between the role of construction in Elements and the process of craft in the late dialogues—would be hardly anything other than an impressionistic account. Yet to answer this question, it is also imperative to suspend some of the most dogmatic clichés about the work of Plato inherited from the misinterpretations of Aristotle and neo-Platonists (e.g., the Third Man, the equivocations of ideas with numbers a la Pythagorean arithmosophy and the misrepresentation of the Good as the divine demuirge) as well as their almost exclusive attention to the dialogues of the early and the middle periods. Plato is notorious for being the most watchful and unforgiving critic of himself. So the answer simultaneously calls for a direct engagement with the dialogues, particularly, the later ones and a critical correction of Aristotelian-neoPlatonic commentaries which make almost the entire body of Platonic studies until the late nineteenth century—a trend that comes to an end with the rise of Marburg, Tübingen and analytical schools of Platonic studies as represented by figures such as Natorp, Reale and Vlastos.
We know that after the second trip to Syracuse, Plato became critical of his early doctrine of forms (e.g., Parminedes) as represented in the works of the middle period such as The Republic. He began to see forms as classificatory universals, namely, categories or ta koina (see Theatetus and Sophist). As ta koina, forms or ideas no longer have the earlier characteristics of the Socratic and Pythagorean theories of forms, or at least such characteristics are not prominent anymore. The inception of this new doctrine of forms or ideas begins with the transitional dialogue Theatetus, but it is only in Philebus that Plato gives a complete account of his new doctrine.
According to this new thesis, the aim of the doctrine of forms is Demiurgen, world-construction or craftsmanship of the mind. In Timaeus, we are dealing with god as the Demiurge but in Philebus, this abstract divinity is suddenly replaced with a neutral word, to demiurgen. It is now the human mind that is akin to the good which is beyond all gods and beings and even truth and beauty, and not the god as the ideal of the nous. This manifestation of the good is like a recipe or an objective principle for building worlds. It is a recipe precisely in the sense that Wilfrid Sellars talks about a recipe for making a cake, a recipe consisting of theoretical and practical intelligibilities.
If you have made a cake from scratch, you know very well that it is not an easy task. For a a recipe for making a cake—unlike a recipe for making a soup—involves precise ratios, proportions and stages of how and what elements should be added together. The formulas of this recipe are what called objective principles or rules as in contrast to the social nomos or conventions. To build a house as a shelter (the external purpose of the construction), we ought to abide by such and such principles like taking care of the foundation, beams, etc. The specific formula of how we lay the ground or what beams—made of out of what materials—we use might change over time, but the objective principles endure. A house needs a foundation and a ceiling even if the foundation is bottomless and the ceiling extends to the sky. These principles pertain to the domain of forms or ideas. While the nomos is always prone to corruption (as in the case of the codes of building issued by a corrupt builders guild which dictates that all houses should be built out of the material ingredients over which it has sole monopoly), objective principles are genuine objects of rational examination and revision.
Parallel to this Platonic account, the fleeting shadows on the wall of the human cave could not even be recognized if some dim light was not present in the cavern. This light is not a literal analogy for purity, it is rather a metaphor for intermediating forms or universals, the mathematicals or analytic idealities. These are construction principles which intermediate between pure ideas and eikones or sensory shadows. In this sense, Plato is the enemy number one against the myth of the given, for he thinks that the structuring factor is not within the domain of sensory fluxes—the fleeting shadows or eikones—but in the dim light i.e., intermediating forms which imitate the light of the sun qua pure forms or generalized structures: that is to say, mind as the dimension of structure.
In Philebus, Plato makes that claim of impiety for which Socrates was executed. He says the human mind is akin to the Good. We know that what Plato means by the Good in Philebus is the principle of structure (the kernel of intelligibility and intelligence which is even more fundamental than truth, beauty or justice). A few pages later Plato tops up his thesis with a new claim, 'and the good is beyond all being'. In other words, Plato suggests the structure—or the mind as a configuring or constituative element—is the very factor by which Being comes to the fore and can be talked about coherently. Plato's articulation of Being in terms of intelligence or mind is quite similar to the view of the mature Parmenides who has relinquished the early Eleatic confusion of Being and thinking, and instead interprets the thesis of 'Being and thinking are one' as thinking or structure being the very designation of Being. To speak of Being without the dimension of structure or mind is the apotheosis of sophistry and the aporia of the unintelligible (cf. Lorenz Puntel's Structure and Being).
However, the dimension of structure or in Plato's terms the limiting (to peras) is not an index of solipsistic idealism, for it requires a fourfold view of the universe qua structure where episteme not only gains traction upon an external world but also thoughts or more generally, intelligence (nous) is no longer passive. Intelligence is now defined in terms of what it does—the unfolding of the intelligible even that of itself or the enrichment of reality—and not in terms of passive receptivity of an external reality. Accordingly, the Platonic fourfold view is defined in terms of an activity called craftsmanship whereby through various ingredients, structuring factors (logoi) and principles (dialectica) intelligence makes itself and reveal the intelligible dimension which is that of Being. But insofar as there is no a priori limit to the intelligible, there is no limit to the self-cultivation of intelligence or the poesies of mindcraft either. The twist in this scenario is that the mindcraft or intelligence posits qua an an active rather than a passive factor of intelligibility, it also has the capacity—as Rosemary Desjardins elaborated—to posit (tithemi) a new kind of reality pertaining to both Being and itself (see Plato and the Good, p.61).
The Platonic fourfold as presented in Philebus is nothing but a new interpretation of the analogy of the divided line in The Republic. The divided line is a diagram of how global conditions of thinking, action and value can be related to the local conditions. It consists of four segments which give us four domains with their corresponding modes of cognition/sensation, episteme (knowing) and their objects. From segment one to the segment four we have eikasia(eikones), aisthesi or pistis (aisthêta), logos dianoia(mathêmatika) and epistêmê(ideai).
The genius of this diagramatic analogy is in identifying the extreme segments (segments 1 and 4) under two modes of relations to time. The true forms or ideai are timeless or time-general whereas the sensory eikones are time-specific or temporal. In a sense, the divided line is about how what is timeless connected with what is temporal, how the oneness is mixed with the multiple, or how pure forms gain traction upon and are connected with the sensory shadows. The answer lies in the intermiadting domains or segements which are represented in the divided line as mathêmatika and aisthêta / pistis.
So what is the significance of these intermediating levels? Recall that sensory fluxes of eikones or imagistic impressions are too transitory to be arrested as anything you might call a sensible object. Pure ideas in a similar vein are too detached from particularities to gain traction, by themselves, on the worldly or the cavernous affairs. Another problem is the question of how oneness (of pure forms) as an organizing principle comes into contact with the multiplicity of things. The ideas are multiples but individually each idea is always a unique kind of form (i.e. it is one). On the other hand, eikones or what you might call registers of the apeiron—that is, the indeterminate and transitory flux of smallers and greaters. At the level of the first segment which is that of eikasia whose objects are the fleeting imagistic impressions eikones, there is no such a thing as multiplicity of things. Why? Because even multiplicity of things require a principle of unification. It is only when we organize the fleeting sensations as the affects impinged upon us by one and the same object (here, the object is the higher principle closer to ideas or formal constitution) that the fleeting sensible shadows become multiple things, this shadow-puppet, that shadow-puppet, etc. So the question of multiplicity does not even arise at the level of pure sensation. It only arises at the level of opinions or dogmas regarding the appearance of objects. In otherwords, it is only when the mind posits a thingly whole (object or in Kant's sense gegenstand) which binds together different properties that we can talk about multiplicity of either properties or sensible things. The following quote by Desjardins should shed some further light on the matter:
For, on the one hand, a physical object seems to be distinctly different from any or all of its properties: they are quite separate kinds of things; on the other hand, what is exactly a physical object over and above its physical properties? While there is no difficulty in thinking of a physical object that has no actually perceived properties, our notion of an object seems nevertheless to be such that it does not make sense to talk of a physical object that has no perceivable properties: such a notion of a bare particular seems incomprehensible. This of course, only exacerbates the question, however, for what then is the relation between an object and its properties? We seem to be hoist on a dilemma in which, on the one hand, we want to say both that, in some elusive sense, the object and its properties are different, and that, in no less an elusive sense, they are somehow the same; and on the other we want to say that the object is neither simply the same as, nor simply different from, its properties. But, as the Parmenides suggests, if the relation between two things is neither sameness nor difference, then perhaps it is that of whole and part (l46b3-5). Plato's model for such a relation does seem in fact to be what he conceives of as a whole of parts, where on the one hand, the whole is nothing other than the parts (there is nothing added to the parts), on the other, the whole is indeed other than (i.e., more than the sum of) its parts. In short, while a whole is analyzable into its parts, it is not reducible to those parts. Thus as I understand Plato, while a physical object is analyzable into its physical properties, it is nevertheless not reducible to those properties.
Thus, the whole of the sensible object—like the moving shadow on the wall—we can conclude, is not given by sensory fleetings, but is in fact the product of what can be called transcendental constitution—a semblance of what Plato calls intermediary forms qua mathematicals. Therefore, the multiplicity of the physical furniture of the world is not given to us through sensory eikones, it is engineered—a la positing a new kind of reality—by the semblance of the higher principles which are mathematicals qua objects of logos dianoia.
But now a new question raises its head: What are mathematicals and what is their role?
I will answer this question in the next installment, until then, ciao.