Thursday, March 30, 2017

#1 New Release...

Last post about the new book, I promise. But in the past I've seen others gloat over their amazon sales rankings so I just "had to" when I saw this. Thanks especially to After Nature readers who've helped to make this book such a success.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It exists! Speculative Realism: An Epitome in printed form


Wow! Kismet Press did a wonderful job with this - in fact my wife said it was "beautiful."

What I like is how the book is that soft "squishy" material; especially the cover which just feels good in your hands.  It is small and portable and fun - or as Na said, "a pocket book."

My ruling: small and portable; feels extremely good in the hands. A "fun" book to carry around because it is so small yet packs a punch with some very dense philosophy inside. I am very, very impressed with how this turned out.  Thanks so much to Kismet Press for accomplishing such a quality job with my book: the design, the materials, everything just works. Perfect!

Speculative Realism: An Epitome out now (open access online, in print, and ebook)

Amazon link HERE (paperback just $12.50) or freely available to read online HERE. Preview the .pdf (3MB) HERE.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dewey on mind and nature

I remember in graduate school speaking with another student who was perplexed but also frustrated as to what "experience" might mean for philosophers such as William James and John Dewey.  These two philosophers in particular seem to use the term quite abit, nearly so much so that one might be suspicious that it is a sort of "duct tape" within their philosophy.  "What is experience, afterall?" - one might ask.  Trying to figure that out has been a cottage industry for those who read James and Dewey and then publish something informative about it.

In our Dewey reading group we've been looking at (tangentially at least) the book John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy.  There it is explained how, while the term "experience" is indeed vague, it is left vague by Dewey almost intentionally.  What function is the term supposed to serve?

For starters, in naturalistic register Dewey is concerned with softening anthropocentric conceptions of what "experience" might mean.  For as phenomenological as the notion might be (i.e. "qualitative"), it is not necessarily human for it exceeds what is human.  Like James, mind and nature, or better, the appropriation of nature as experience, occurs "as an activity."  In this, perception, habit-taking, and the activity of the organism are at the forefront.  Thus it is an embodied but also enacted theory of perception.  Whatever experience is it is what an organism does.  Like in Merleau-Ponty, there is no strict division then between subject and object, creature and environment, or even "inner as well as outer."  From a metaphysical point of view experience consists not of just what or how something is experienced (phenomenologically), but also consists of a non-phenomenological, liminal "total experience" which is either before or at the fringes of consciousness.  (Think of Dewey's "Reflex Arc" essay for example.)  And so it is not to impugn consciousnesses or mind upon nature but to see mind and nature as mixed, continuous, or even as inseparable - the two being part of an indivisive nature that separates either term only "after the fact."  Again, this is nothing new: James, Dewey, Merleau-Ponty all have maintained such a notion of "body-mind," that is, they have maintained the inseparability of experience and nature.  But what I think is novel in Dewey is how this sort of thinking is used (or can be used) to empower environmental ethics.  He writes, for example, "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."

What we find is that while the term "experience" is vague, it does much to break down barriers supposed between body and mind or qualitative consciousness and the natural world.  As Dewey employs the term, nature itself becomes "panexperiential" in the sense that whatever "experience" is, it is not limited to humans.  In terms of environmental ethics, or more specifically animal ethics, the term, despite its ambiguity, has a one-up on something like "sentience" as found in Peter Singer as "experience" does not bring to mind the sort of pitfalls associated with conceptual or rational consciousness that "sentience" might.  And so it is one thing to think of plants as capable of experiencing something and another to think of them as "sentient."

In the end the term "experience" as it functions in Dewey's writing reminds us of the interconnection between organism and environment, and indeed that the qualitative dimension of the natural world is not something unique or specific to human beings.  In fact, if anything, Dewey's "experience" reminds us that perhaps we have the duty to speculate upon non-human forms of experience that may or may not be like human consciousness.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Speculative Realism: An Epitome available this coming Tuesday, March 28th

Free ebook online will be available and paperback is just $12.50, which is an extremely competitive price. Kindle version is just $5.00. After Nature readers who would like a review copy of paperback please get in touch.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain", or, Dewey, Merleau-Ponty, and Embodied Cognition

THIS article in Scientific American reaffirms the connection I see between Dewey and Ponty on the notion of embodied cognition and just how fruitful it is to read these two philosophers together - especially Dewey's "Reflex Arc" essay from 1896 and Ponty's The Structure of Behavior (1942).

See also Ted Toadvine's reworked SEP entry on Ponty HERE which does seem to pick up upon such an important connection between these two great philosophers (as of 2016, replacing the former entry written by a different author).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

follow After Nature blog by email

If you don't use a feed-reader (like Feedly, for example) After Nature now has an email sign-up feature where you can enter your email address and receive once per day (or to whatever setting you'd like - weekly, bi-weekly, however you'd like) email updates notifying that a new post has appeared.

Just FYI for those who'd like nature philosophy delivered directly to their inbox!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"The Truth Behind the Myth of Correlationism" (Three Pound Brain blog)

Repeat: disco is dead, and so is correlationism.

The Truth Behind the Myth of Correlationism
// Three Pound Brain

A wrong turn lies hidden in the human cultural code, an error that has scuttled our every attempt to understand consciousness and cognition. So much philosophical activity reeks of dead ends: we try and we try, and yet we find ourselves mired in the same ancient patterns of disputation. The majority of thinkers believe the problem is local, that they need only tinker with the tools they've inherited. They soldier on, arguing that this or that innovative modification will overcome our confusion. Some, however, believe the problem lies deeper. I'm one of those thinkers, as is Meillassoux. I think the solution lies in speculation bound to the hip of modern science, in something I call 'heuristic neglect.' For me, the wrong turn lies in the application of intentional cognition to solve the theoretical problem of intentional cognition. Meillassoux thinks it lies in what he calls 'correlationism.'

Since I've been accused of 'correlationism' on a couple of occasions now, I thought it worthwhile tackling the issue in more detail. This will not be an institutional critique a la Golumbia's, who manages to identify endless problems with Meillassoux's presentation, while somehow entirely missing his skeptical point: once cognition becomes artifactual, it becomes very… very difficult to understand. Cognitive science is itself fractured about Meillassoux's issue.

What follows will be a constructive critique, an attempt to explain the actual problem underwriting what Meillassoux calls 'correlationism,' and why his attempt to escape that problem simply collapses into more interminable philosophy. The problem that artifactuality poses to the understanding of cognition is very real, and it also happens to fall into the wheelhouse of Heuristic Neglect Theory (HNT). For those souls growing disenchanted with Speculative Realism, but unwilling to fall back into the traditional bosom, I hope to show that HNT not only offers the radical break with tradition that Meillassoux promises, it remains inextricably bound to the details of this, the most remarkable age.

What is correlationism? The experts explain:

Correlation affirms the indissoluble primacy of the relation between thought and its correlate over the metaphysical hypostatization or representational reification of either term of the relation. Correlationism is subtle: it never denies that our thoughts or utterances aim at or intend mind-independent or language-independent realities; it merely stipulates that this apparently independent dimension remains internally related to thought and language. Thus contemporary correlationism dismisses the problematic of scepticism, and or epistemology more generally, as an antiquated Cartesian hang-up: there is supposedly no problem about how we are able to adequately represent reality; since we are 'always already' outside ourselves and immersed in or engaging with the world (and indeed, this particular platitude is constantly touted as the great Heideggerean-Wittgensteinian insight). Note that correlationism need not privilege "thinking" or "consciousness" as the key relation—it can just as easily replace it with "being-in-the-world," "perception," "sensibility," "intuition," "affect," or even "flesh." Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 51

By 'correlation' we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other. We will henceforth call correlationism any current of thought which maintains the unsurpassable character of the correlation so defined. Consequently, it becomes possible to say that every philosophy which disavows naive realism has become a variant of correlationism. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 5

Correlationism rests on an argument as simple as it is powerful, and which can be formulated in the following way: No X without givenness of X, and no theory about X without a positing of X. If you speak about something, you speak about something that is given to you, and posited by you. Consequently, the sentence: 'X is', means: 'X is the correlate of thinking' in a Cartesian sense. That is: X is the correlate of an affection, or a perception, or a conception, or of any subjective act. To be is to be a correlate, a term of a correlation . . . That is why it is impossible to conceive an absolute X, i.e., an X which would be essentially separate from a subject. We can't know what the reality of the object in itself is because we can't distinguish between properties which are supposed to belong to the object and properties belonging to the subjective access to the object. Quentin Meillassoux,"Time without Becoming"

The claim of correlationism is the corollary of the slogan that 'nothing is given' to understanding: everything is mediated. Once knowing becomes an activity, then the objects insofar as they are known become artifacts in some manner: reception cannot be definitively sorted from projection and as a result no knowledge can be said to be absolute. We find ourselves trapped in the 'correlationist circle,' trapped in artifactual galleries, never able to explain the human-independent reality we damn well know exists. Since all cognition is mediated, all cognition is conditional somehow, even our attempts (or perhaps, especially our attempts) to account for those conditions. Any theory unable to decisively explain objectivity is a theory that cannot explain cognition. Ergo, correlationism names a failed (cognitivist) philosophical endeavour.

It's a testament to the power of labels in philosophy, I think, because as Meillassoux himself acknowledges there's nothing really novel about the above sketch. Explaining the 'cognitive difference' was my dissertation project back in the 90's, after all, and as smitten as I was with my bullshit solution back then, I didn't think the problem itself was anything but ancient. Given this whole website is dedicated to exploring and explaining consciousness and cognition, you could say it remains my project to this very day! One of the things I find so frustrating about the 'critique of correlationism' is that the real problem—the ongoing crisis—is the problem of meaning. If correlationism fails because correlationism cannot explain cognition, then the problem of correlationism is an expression of a larger problem, the problem of cognition—or in other words, the problem of intentionality.

Why is the problem of meaning an ongoing crisis? In the past six fiscal years, from 2012 to 2017, the National Institute of Health will have spent more than 113 billion dollars funding research bent on solving some corner of the human soul. [1] And this is just one public institution in one nation involving health related research. If you include the cognitive sciences more generally—research into everything from consumer behaviour to AI—you could say that solving the human soul commands more resources than any other domain in history. The reason all this money is being poured into the sciences rather than philosophy departments is that the former possesses real world consequences: diseases cured, soap sold, politicians elected. As someone who tries to keep up with developments in Continental philosophy, I already find the disconnect stupendous, how whole populations of thinkers continue discoursing as if nothing significant has changed, bitching about traditional cutlery in the shadow of the cognitive scientific tsunami.

Part of the popularity of the critique of correlationism derives from anxieties regarding the growing overlap of the sciences of the human and the humanities. All thinkers self-consciously engaged in the critique of correlationism reference scientific knowledge as a means of discrediting correlationist thought, but as far as I can tell, the project has done very little to bring the science, what we're actually learning about consciousness and cognition, to the fore of philosophical debates. Even worse, the notion of mental and/or neural mediation is actually central to cognitive science. What some neuroscientists term 'internal models,' which monolopolize our access to ourselves and the world, is nothing if not a theoretical correlation of environments and cognition, trapping us in models of models. The very science that Meillassoux thinks argues against correlationism in one context, explicitly turns on it in another. The mediation of knowledge is the domain of cognitive science—full stop. A naturalistic understanding of cognition is a biological understanding is an artifactual understanding: this is why the upshot of cognitive science is so often skeptical, prone to further diminish our traditional (if not instinctive) hankering for unconditioned knowledge—to reveal it as an ancestral conceit

A kind of arche-fossil.

If an artifactual approach to cognition is doomed to misconstrue cognition, then cognitive science is a doomed enterprise. Despite the vast sums of knowledge accrued, the wondrous and fearsome social instrumentalities gained, knowledge itself will remain inexplicable. What we find lurking in the bones of Meillassoux's critique, in other words, is precisely the same commitment to intentional exceptionality we find in all traditional philosophy, the belief that the subject matter of traditional philosophical disputation lies beyond the pale of scientific explanation… that despite the cognitive scientific tsunami, traditional intentional speculation lies secure in its ontological bunkers.

Only more philosophy, Meillassoux thinks, can overcome the 'scandal of philosophy.' But how is mere opinion supposed to provide bona fide knowledge of knowledge? Speculation on mathematics does nothing to ameliorate this absurdity: even though paradigmatic of objectivity, mathematics remains as inscrutable as knowledge itself. Perhaps there is some sense to be found in the notion of interrogating/theorizing objects in a bid to understand objectivity (cognition), but given what we now know regarding our cognitive shortcomings in low-information domains, we can be assured that 'object-oriented' approaches will bog down in disputation.

I just don't know how to make the 'critique of correlationism' workable, short ignoring the very science it takes as its motivation, or just as bad, subordinating empirical discoveries to some school of 'fundamental ontological' speculation. If you're willing to take such a leap of theoretical faith, you can be assured that no one in the vicinity of cognitive science will take it with you—and that you will make no difference in the mad revolution presently crashing upon us.

We know that knowledge is somehow an artifact of neural function—full stop. Meillassoux is quite right to say this renders the objectivity of knowledge very difficult to understand. But why think the problem lies in presuming the artifactual nature of cognition?—especially now that science has begun reverse-engineering that nature in earnest! What if our presumption of artifactuality weren't so much the problem, as the characterization? What if the problem isn't that cognitive science is artifactual so much as how it is?

After all, we've learned a tremendous amount about this how in the past decades: the idea of dismissing all this detail on the basis of a priori guesswork seems more than a little suspect. The track record would suggest extreme caution. As the boggling scale of the cognitive scientific project should make clear, everything turns on the biological details of cognition. We now know, for instance, that the brain employs legions of special purpose devices to navigate its environments. We know that cognition is thoroughly heuristic, that it turns on cues, bits of available information statistically correlated to systems requiring solution.

Most all systems in our environment shed information enabling the prediction of subsequent behaviours absent the mechanical particulars of that information. The human brain is exquisitely tuned to identify and exploit the correlation of information available and subsequent behaviours. The artifactuality of biology is an evolutionary one, and as such geared to the thrifty solution of high impact problems. To say that cognition (animal or human) is heuristic is to say it's organized according to the kinds of problems our ancestors needed to solve, and not according to those belonging to academics. Human cognition consists of artifactualities, subsystems dedicated to certain kinds of problem ecologies. Moreover, it consists of artifactualities selected to answer questions quite different from those posed by philosophers.

These two facts drastically alter the landscape of the apparent problem posed by 'correlationism.' We have ample theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that mechanistic cognition and intentional cognition comprise two quite different cognitive regimes, the one dedicated to explanation via high-dimensional (physical) sourcing, the other dedicated to explanation absent that sourcing. As an intentional phenomena, objectivity clearly belongs to the latter. Mechanistic cognition, meanwhile, is artifactual. What if it's the case that 'objectivity' is the turn of a screw in a cognitive system selected to solve in the absence of artifactual information? Since intentional cognition turns on specific cues to leverage solutions, and since those cues appear sufficient (to be the only game in town where that behaviour is concerned), the high-dimensional sourcing of that same behavior generates a philosophical crash space—and a storied one at that! What seems sourceless and self-evident becomes patently impossible.

Short magic, cognitive systems possess the environmental relationships they do thanks to super-complicated histories of natural and neural selection—evolution and learning. Let's call this their orientation, understood as the nonintentional ('zombie') correlate of 'perspective.' The human brain is possibly the most complex thing we know of in the universe (a fact which should render any theory of the human neglecting that complexity suspect). Our cognitive systems, in other words, possess physically intractable orientations. How intractable? Enough that billions of dollars in research has merely scratched the surface.

Any capacity to cognize this relationship will perforce be radically heuristic, which is to say, provide a means to solve some critical range of problems—a problem ecology—absent natural historical information. The orientation heuristically cognized, of course, is the full-dimensional relationship we actually possess, only hacked in ways that generate solutions (repetitions of behaviour) while neglecting the physical details of that relationship.

Most significantly, orientation neglects the dimension of mediation: thought and perception (whatever they amount to) are thoroughly blind to their immediate sources. This cognitive blindness to the activity of cognition, or medial neglect, amounts to a gross insensitivity to our physical continuity with our environments, the fact that we break no thermodynamic laws. Our orientation, in other words, is characterized by a profound, structural insensitivity to its own constitution—its biological artifactuality, among other things. This auto-insensitivity, not surprisingly, includes insensitivity to the fact of this insensitivity, and thus the default presumption of sufficiency. Specialized sensitivities are required to flag insufficiencies, after all, and like all biological devices, they do not come for free. Not only are we blind to our position within the superordinate systems comprising nature, we're blind to our blindness, and so, unable to distinguish table-scraps from a banquet, we are duped into affirming inexplicable spontanieties.

'Truth' belongs to our machinery for communicating (among other things) the sufficiency of iterable orientations within superordinate systems given medial neglect. You could say it's a way to advertise clockwork positioning (functional sufficiency) absent any inkling of the clock. 'Objectivity,' the term denoting the supposed general property of being true apart from individual perspectives, is a deliberative contrivance derived from practical applications of 'truth'—the product of 'philosophical reflection.' The problem with objectivity as a phenomenon (as opposed to 'objectivity' as a component of some larger cognitive articulation) is that the sufficiency of iterable orientations within superordinate systems is always a contingent affair. Whether 'truth' occasions sufficiency is always an open question, since the system provides, at best, a rough and ready way to communicate and/or troubleshoot orientation. Unpredictable events regularly make liars of us all. The notion of facts 'being true' absent the mediation of human cognition, 'objectivity,' also provides a rough and ready way to communicate and/or troubleshoot orientation in certain circumstances. We regularly predict felicitous orientations without the least sensitivity to their artifactual nature, absent any inkling how their pins lie in intractable high-dimensional coincidences between buzzing brains. This insensitivity generates the illusion of absolute orientation, a position outside natural regularities—a 'view from nowhere.' We are a worm in the gut of nature convinced we possess disembodied eyes. And so long as the consequences of our orientations remain felicitous, our conceit need not be tested. Our orientations might as well 'stand nowhere' absent cognition of their limits.

Thus can 'truth' and 'objectivity' be naturalized and their peculiarities explained.

The primary cognitive moral here is that lacking information has positive cognitive consequences, especially when it comes to deliberative metacognition, our attempts to understand our nature via philosophical reflection alone. Correlationism evidences this in a number of ways.

As soon as the problem of cognition is characterized as the problem of thought and being, it becomes insoluble. Intentional cognition is heuristic: it neglects the nature of the systems involved, exploiting cues correlated to the systems requiring solution instead. The application of intentional cognition to theoretical explanation, therefore, amounts to the attempt to solve natures using a system adapted to neglect natures. A great deal of traditional philosophy is dedicated to the theoretical understanding of cognition via intentional idioms—via applications of intentional cognition. Thus the morass of disputation. We presume that specialized problem-solving systems possess general application. Lacking the capacity to cognize our inability to cognize the theoretical nature of cognition, we presume sufficiency. Orientation, the relation between neural systems and their proximal and distal environments—between two systems of objects—becomes perspective, the relation between subjects (or systems of subjects) and systems of objects (environments). If one conflates the manifest artifactual nature of orientation for the artifactual nature of perspective (subjectivity), then objectivity itself becomes a subjective artifact, and therefore nothing objective at all. Since orientation characterizes our every attempt to solve for cognition, conflating it with perspective renders perspective inescapable, and objectivity all but inexplicable. Thus the crash space of traditional epistemology.

Now I know from hard experience that the typical response to the picture sketched above is to simply insist on the conflation of orientation and perspective, to assert that my position, despite its explanatory power, simply amounts to more of the same, another perspectival Klein Bottle distinctive only for its egregious 'scientism.' Only my intrinsically intentional perspective, I am told, allows me to claim that such perspectives are metacognitive artifacts, a consequence of medial neglect. But asserting perspective before orientation on the basis of metacognitive intuitions alone not only begs the question, it also beggars explanation, delivering the project of cognizing cognition to never-ending disputation—an inability to even formulate explananda, let alone explain anything. This is why I like asking intentionalists how many centuries of theoretical standstill we should expect before that oft advertised and never delivered breakthrough finally arrives. The sin Meillassoux attributes to correlationism, the inability to explain cognition, is really just the sin belonging to intentional philosophy as a whole. Thanks to medial neglect, metcognition,  blind to both its sources and its source blindness, insists we stand outside nature. Tackling this intuition with intentional idioms leaves our every attempt to rationalize our connection underdetermined, a matter of interminable controversy. The Scandal dwells on eternal.

I think orientation precedes perspective—and obviously so, having watched loved ones dismantled by brain disease. I think understanding the role of neglect in orientation explains the peculiarities of perspective, provides a parsimonious way to understand the apparent first-person in terms of the neglect structure belonging to the third. There's no problem with escaping the dream tank and touching the world simply because there's no ontological distinction between ourselves and the cosmos. We constitute a small region of a far greater territory, the proximal attuned to the distal. Understanding the heuristic nature of 'truth' and 'objectivity,' I restrict their application to adaptive problem-ecologies, and simply ask those who would turn them into something ontologically exceptional why they would trust low-dimensional intuitions over empirical data, especially when those intuitions pretty much guarantee perpetual theoretical underdetermination. Far better trust to our childhood presumptions of truth and reality, in the practical applications of these idioms, than in any one of the numberless theoretical misapplications 'discovering' this trust fundamentally (as opposed to situationally) 'naïve.'

The cognitive difference, what separates the consequences of our claims, has never been about 'subjectivity' versus 'objectivity,' but rather intersystematicity, the integration of ever-more sensitive orientations possessing ever more effectiveness into the superordinate systems encompassing us all. Physically speaking, we've long known that this has to be the case. Short actual difference making differences, be they photons striking our retinas or compression waves striking our eardrums or so on, no difference is made. Even Meillassoux acknowledges the necessity of physical contact. What we've lacked is a way of seeing how our apparently immediate intentional intuitions, be they phenomenological, ontological, or normative, fit into this high-dimensional—physical—picture.

Heuristic Neglect Theory not only provides this way, it also explains why it has proven so elusive over the centuries. HNT explains the wrong turn mentioned above. The question of orientation immediately cues the systems our ancestors developed to circumvent medial neglect. Solving for our behaviourally salient environmental relationships, in other words, automatically formats the problem in intentional terms. The automaticity of the application of intentional cognition renders it apparently 'self-evident.'

The reason the critique of correlationism and speculative realism suffer all the problems of underdetermination their proponents attribute to correlationism is that they take this very same wrong turn. How is Meillassoux's 'hyper-chaos,' yet another adventure in a priori speculation, anything more than another pebble tossed upon the heap of traditional disputation? Novelty alone recommends them. Otherwise they leave us every bit as mystified, every bit as unable to accommodate the torrent of relevant scientific findings, and therefore every bit as irrelevant to the breathtaking revolutions even now sweeping us and our traditions out to sea. Like the traditions they claim to supersede, they peddle cognitive abjection, discursive immobility, in the guise of fundamental insight.

Theoretical speculation is cheap, which is why it's so frightfully easy to make any philosophical account look bad. All you need do is start worrying definitions, then let the conceptual games begin. This is why the warrant of any account is always a global affair, why the power of Evolutionary Theory, for example, doesn't so much lie in the immunity of its formulations to philosophical critique, but in how much it explains on nature's dime alone. The warrant of Heuristic Neglect Theory likewise turns on the combination of parsimony and explanatory power.

Anyone arguing that HNT necessarily presupposes some X, be it ontological or normative, is simply begging the question. Doesn't HNT presuppose the reality of intentional objectivity? Not at all. HNT certainly presupposes applications of intentional cognition, which, given medial neglect, philosophers pose as functional or ontological realities. On HNT, a theory can be true even though, high-dimensionally speaking, there is no such thing as truth. Truth talk possesses efficacy in certain practical problem-ecologies, but because it participates in solving something otherwise neglected, namely the superordinate systematicity of orientations, it remains beyond the pale of intentional resolution.

Even though sophisticated critics of eliminativism acknowledge the incoherence of the tu quoque, I realize this remains a hard twist for many (if not most) to absorb, let alone accept. But this is exactly as it should be, both insofar as something has to explain why isolating the wrong turn has proven so stupendously difficult, and because this is precisely the kind of trap we should expect, given the heuristic and fractionate nature of human cognition. 'Knowledge' provides a handle on the intersection of vast, high-dimensional histories, a way to manage orientations without understanding the least thing about them. To know knowledge, we will come to realize, is to know there is no such thing, simply because 'knowing' is a resolutely practical affair, almost certainly inscrutable to intentional cognition. When you're in the intentional mode, this statement simply sounds preposterous—I know it once struck me as such! It's only when you appreciate how far your intuitions have strayed from those of your childhood, back when your only applications of intentional cognition were practical, that you can see the possibility of a more continuous, intersystematic way to orient ourselves to the cosmos. There was a time before you wandered into the ancient funhouse of heuristic misapplication, when you could not distinguish between your perspective and your orientation. HNT provides a theoretical way to recover that time and take a radically different path.

As a bona fide theory of cognition, HNT provides a way to understand our spectacular inability to understand ourselves. HNT can explain 'aporia.' The metacognitive resources recruited for the purposes of philosophical reflection possess alarm bells—sensitivities to their own limits—relevant only to their ancestral applications. The kinds of cognitive apories (crash spaces) characterizing traditional philosophy are precisely those we might expect, given the sudden ability to exercise specialized metacognitive resources out of school, to apply, among other things, the problem-solving power of intentional cognition to the question of intentional cognition.

As a bona fide theory of cognition, HNT bears as much on artificial cognition as on biological cognition, and as such, can be used to understand and navigate the already radical and accelerating transformation of our cognitive ecologies. HNT scales, from the subpersonal to the social, and this means that HNT is relevant to the technological madness of the now.

As a bona fide empirical theory, HNT, unlike any traditional theory of intentionality, will be sorted. Either science will find that metacognition actually neglects information in the ways I propose, or it won't. Either science will find this neglect possesses the consequences I theorize, or it won't. Nothing exceptional and contentious is required. With our growing understanding of the brain and consciousness comes a growing understanding of information access and processing capacity—and the neglect structures that fall out of them. The human brain abounds in bottlenecks, none of which are more dramatic than consciousness itself.

Cognition is biomechanical. The 'correlation of thought and being,' on my account, is the correlation of being and being. The ontology of HNT is resolutely flat. Once we understand that we only glimpse as much of our orientations as our ancestors required for reproduction, and nothing more, we can see that 'thought,' whatever it amounts to, is material through and through.

The evidence of this lies strewn throughout the cognitive wreckage of speculation, the alien crash site of philosophy.



[1] This includes, in addition to the neurosciences proper, research into Basic Behavioral and Social Science (8.597 billion), Behavioral and Social Science (22.515 billion), Brain Disorders (23.702 billion), Mental Health (13.699 billion), and Neurodegenerative (10.183 billion). 21/01/2017



Shared via my feedly reader

Complete recordings of Dreyfus's Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception Lectures

On YouTube, although give that Tripp Fuller's Caputo mp3 website is currently down (not sure what happened - I did download the Caputo Phenomenology of Perception seminar lectures in case anyone wants them), it might be prudent to grab these Dreyfus lectures and convert to mp3 just in case while they last.  I'll embed the playlist below.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Conference: Between Metaphysics, Aesthetics, and Religion (April 19-20, 2017)


International Symposium in honour of William Desmond
April 19-20, 2017
KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Metaphysics has gotten a bad rep throughout the last decades. This ancient practice is thought to be not simply archaic as the systematic interrelationship of concepts that fails to understand the twists and turns of the human condition, but also hegemonic, oppressive and just plain wrong. As a result of this point of view, most philosophers abstain from providing a comprehensive and overarching account of such things as being, religion, art and ethics.

Wiliam Desmond
One vocal opponent of this evolution is William Desmond. In his works, he draws on various past traditions and current insights so as to argue that metaphysics does not belong to a dim and distant past. Instead, human beings find themselves always in the midst, or 'between', in terms of standing porous in the grand pageant of existence. From that perspective, one can speak intelligibly about the intimate strangeness of being in all its aspects. 'Metaxology' is the key-term of Desmond's philosophy, which is a way of doing philosophy in the 'between'. Central to this style of philosophizing is a 'porosity' to an 'overdeterminacy', in terms of a surplus to (self)determinate being, that resists 'univocal' or 'dialectical' (self)mediation, which in turn engenders a 'perplexity' towards such a 'surd' to determination. The task of metaxological philosophy is then to stay faithful to what exceeds univocalizing thought by allowing reflection to hyperbolically (i.e. to 'be thrown beyond') transcend itself for a metaphysical account of being. Central to metaxological philosophy is then a profound engagement with being (metaphysics), being good/beautiful (ethics and aesthetics) and absolute being (religion). Among the many thought-provoking features of metaxology, there are two that merit special mention since they go against the grain of postmodern philosophy. On the one hand, metaxology cultivates a community in which there is an open dialectics between being, goodness, beauty and absolute being; on the other hand, metaxology does not shun a metaphysical account of that open dialectics, in which porosity between being receptive (porosity) and being active (thought) is of central importance. Needless to say, most of postmodern philosophy prefers to separate being, goodness, beauty and absolute being into their respective domains.

This symposium is dedicated to clarifying, testing and applying metaxological philosophy with regard to metaphysics, aesthetics and religion. The keynote speakers are companions of Desmond's philosophy and, although critical of many aspects, appreciative of the stubborn tenacity of metaphysical questions. These include: Richard Kearney, John Milbank, Jack Caputo, Cyril O'Regan, Christoph Schmidt, and Sander Griffioen.
Important links:

"Monologue: Not to Brag, But I’m Totally Intellectual Enough to Be Brutally Murdered By Fascists" (McSweeney's article)

This so applies to those annual barely-looked-over-before-posting mega .pdf online journals run by fourth year Ph.D. students and ABDs. Anything at all to shout "We're important!" at cost of actual respectable, peer-reviewed *quality* work.

Monologue: Not to Brag, But I'm Totally Intellectual Enough to Be Brutally Murdered By Fascists
// McSweeney's

I don't mean to sound conceited, but my obvious mental acuity makes me an easy target for some autocratic tyrant's curb-stomping goon squad.

What I'm saying is if a ruthless dictator were to strong-arm his way into the White House and decree that intellectuals be exterminated lest they pose a threat to the ruling fascist regime, I would, like, totally be murdered. I mean look at me! I'm an adjunct professor at Florida State University!
Sure, technically I'm a part-time lecturer and not a professor, but seeing as how no one in my family gets that, a roving gang of far-right street thugs won't request my full job title and last pay stub before bashing in my skull with a mini-bat.

So what if my brother-in-law the auto mechanic can afford to take his family on vacation and doesn't have to subsist on day-old bread for the summer? I bet a fascist will never try to crush his windpipe.
When you think about it, I might be the only one intellectual enough at FSU to pose a real threat to an autocratic administration. I'm certainly the most murderable person on this campus. Way more murderable than my goody two-shoed colleague, Jennifer.

In a sense, I can understand why they would want to kill me. The fascists likely would have a dossier of my many pointed comments on The Atlantic's website, or they would dig up a receipt from my recent $32 contribution to the ACLU as evidence that I am a cerebral force of powerful dissent and must be neutralized. Or maybe they'd murder me just because of my sharp-looking, clear-framed eyewear.

It's easy to imagine how the fascists would come for me. Jackbooted stormtroopers would descend upon the university, scanning the student body for the best and brightest FSU has to offer, only to find yours truly as worthy of their ire. They'd probably look right past Jennifer even though she was recently asked by the university to come on full-time. Instead they'd track me down in my office of the main campus in a basement of the engineering building annex. Or if it's a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday evening, the on-campus Starbucks where I sometimes hold office hours. Then they'd pluck me out of the crowd and pound my smart face and brain into ground chuck before hauling me away to a black site prison.

The fascist's would choose ME! I mean, wow! Wouldn't it be truly something?
I mean, scary. Yeah, of course — it would be a scary vision of the possible future of America.
All I'm saying is, if fascists wanted to kill us intellectuals, I don't think Jennifer would have to worry. She doesn't even wear glasses!

Anyway, getting back to that horrifying vision — the fascists would probably scream something like, "You look like you should hold a tenure-track position. Come with us!" Or, "If only the FSU employment search committee could see you now!" Maybe they would say it loud enough for everyone to hear. Who knows?

Then I'd be dragged through the quad as onlookers, possibly including Little Miss Full-Time Faculty, stood powerless to do anything other than silently agree that I am their intellectual superior.
I wonder if I'm smart enough to be buried alive in an unmarked grave?

Maybe they'd even tie a rope to my feet and drag my corpse through the street as a warning to agitators! Everyone would see it, even my brother-in-law. "That guy must have been way smart to get all this! I guess he wasn't a loser, after all." he'd say.

It'd be awful, of course. Being murdered, I mean. That part would be awful. But man oh man, what a ride it'd be!

"Why do philosophers make unsuitable life partners?" (article link)

Is "parentism" a problem in academia? Excellent article, HERE.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 (mp3 audio files for download)

Earth Crisis were among the first earth and animal liberation bands around in the early '90s.  Stuck in the Past blog has cleaned up their '93 demo and made it available for download in remastered format.

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 [remastered]

In my endless quest to produce a decent sounding version of the Earth Crisis - Demo 1993, I finally got my hands on multiple cassette copies. I ripped each full tape to WAV files, isolated the best sounding version of each song, adjusted levels and remastered as a final group for continuity.

In regards to Time Of Strife and whether it belongs as a part of this demo recording, I contacted Scott Crouse, and he gave me a rundown:

 There are actually 2 versions of Time Of Strife. The demo was originally 9 songs, but we didn't like that version of Time Of Strife so we never included it on any copies that went to other people. It was mostly clean vocals and musically pretty different than where it ended up on the Structure Records comp. So the short answer is no, I think the version you have was not done in the same recording session. I don't know if the anyone has the "original" version anymore. I think only band members would have it and I'm pretty sure none of us even have a copy of that demo.

As you can imagine, there are still limitations when dealing with 25 year old cassettes, but I think this is, by far, the best sounding version of the demo out there. For all the total nuts out there, here it is, in your choice of 320k mp3s or FLAC files.

(actual cover sent with tapes to record labels)

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 
(320k mp3)

A philosopher enjoys a lovely trip to Yellowstone

A philosopher enjoys a lovely trip to Yellowstone (see HERE).  I am jealous because if I could only find some time I'd pull together those Colorado photos I've been promising my readers.  To my credit, maybe, I did manage to go through the photos of this past year's trip to Maine, although Picasa changed to Google photos and that ruined everything.  But this past summer's Maine trip's photos *are* sitting here on my desktop.

Yellowstone is on our list; but first is Europe (for Na's job this summer: Heidelberg, Germany and Lucerne, Switzerland for a month each where - surprise, surprise - not relaxation for me but book-writing time)...and second is Cambodia en route to Thailand come winter break.

I am not complaining. I am blessed to at least have the opportunity to travel with my wife and see such beautiful places.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

reality as social process and onto-empathy

Hartshorne wrote in his Reality As Social Process that, "It may seem that the logical structure of reality should not be the only test of sociality. Let us define the social as the appeal of life for life, of experience for experience in another. Hence nothing can be social that is without experience. The minimum of experience, let us further agree, is feeling. Creatures are social because they feel, and feel in relation to each others' feelings. Can this be true of all things?"

I think what is most horrifying about object-oriented ontologies is the blank disregard for not only the social dimension of individuation, but the ethical dimension as well.  Pace my post below regarding selfishness, in a truly ecological ontology agencies are super-abundant as individuals only because of the common continuum of affect or feeling among them (what I have called "onto-empathy.")  Even the whole notion of regarding individuals as "objects" rather than "subjects" (for fear of reading human subjectivity or consciousness into material agents, there is no fruitful or meaningful answer that even could be given to the question, "Why objects?").  Reading nature as objects simply detracts from the sort of empathy that is required to understand and feel any other; in short, it pulls one into one's own "bubble" of selective awareness when in fact, because of ontological regard, it should be the other way around: one ought to be "pulled out of" one's self always and already: not withdrawal but rather semiotic super-expressive abundance.

Ecologically it is one thing to deconstruct the hierarchy assumed by human beings as pinnacle agents by bringing up to the same level of value-importance all other things (Buchler's notion of "ontological parity," that no one thing is more real nor less real than any other thing - although he develops this notion well beyond the simplistic "flat ontologies" that had been purported but never developed in the mid 2010's - and done so nearly twenty years beforehand).  It is another to assume the relevance of agencies within the world holds same.  And, it is another thing entirely to assume that ethical or value judgment need not be relevant when addressing these agencies - and, indeed, as ontological regard is a prime category, the recognition of various agents in the world itself ought to be equal if a truly capacious and yet environmentally just ontology ought to be achieved (or at least aimed for as a regulative ideal).

Considering how the object ontologists disregard and ignore those whose values differ philosophically (if they aren't attacked ad hominem, furthering the idea that object-oriented ontology lacks any notion of onto-empathy), this then becomes all the more rich.

But I've discussed this at length nearly six years ago in THIS post, "Do Animals Grieve?" The thought came to me as our John Dewey reading group was discussing sociality and the construction of the Good.

To close, and hopefully not to put too fine of a point on it, this made its way into my Speculative Realism book as well a few weeks ago while editing it, where I mention in a footnote how a former friend of mine responded to the question, "Why objects?" with "that is what I perceive."  Yet, he spoke nothing of any object's generation or relation.  Thus the major mistake of object-oriented ontology is its "shallow range" empiricism which misses the continuum of feeling, affectivity, and contemporaneity entirely. And there are dire consequences when missing how that affectivity fits into the realm of ethics - of which object-oriented ontologies have none that I know of. Perhaps for them it is a metaphysical-logical impossibility.

quote of the day

"Within the flickering inconsequential acts of separate selves dwells a sense of the whole which claims and dignifies them. In its presence we put off mortality and live in the universal. The life of the community in which we live and have our being is the fit symbol of this relationship. The acts in which we express our perception of the ties which bind us to others are its only rites and ceremonies."

- John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 your selfish year? My rant for today...

New label/tag: "rants." So,...

"2017 will be my selfish year. My time will be invested on me."  I can't think of anything more vapid, inane, or just outright stupid.  Even though I'm a Gen-x'er I still do have at least one foot in the Millennial gen-mindset as well, having been born on the borderline.  But if this is how a generation to which I'm an older brother works then, well, "eff that."  I saw online probably the most stupid declaration of false autonomy that one could see (i.e. a Facebook cover image).

Wake up, because the world doesn't revolve around you - in fact - it's quite the opposite.  Add to the PC chit chat the noise of social media which feeds narcissistic tendencies; you think you are in control, but you're not.  You take for granted in the name of helping others what non-humans suffering occurs at your hands every day.

Get a clue.

There is more to the world than you feeding your narcissistic tendencies undercover. What outright selfishness. There is more to the world than running marathons or helping the unfortunate in a developing country *if* such is done on some "improving myself" campaign.  We are social beings, and the suffering of others continues.  Think of the other first, not yourself. What you do is in the name of yourself and not the other.  That is obvious.

Your behavior is nothing more than the narcissism of an introvert.

Gather, "I Hate Ayn Rand" - Lyrics:

'Individualism' is the mentality that you don't owe anyone anything. / "Don't tell me how to live my life and I won't tell you how to live yours" - Fuck that / Manifestation of living in a capitalist system / Everyone is just looking our for themselves / We shun and ignore the ones that need our help / But our actions affect everyone around us / And the choices we make have very real consequences / And the things you demand and the things you take for granted... / Convenience for you could be the result of another's life / Step out of your little world... And open your eyes and your hearts! / A luxury for you could be the result of another's suffering / Can you trace the origins of what you consume back to torture and abuse?/ Never stop questiong / The unexamined life is not worth living / This is not PC chit chat / This is what it is to be a human being / Taking shortcuts to happiness / will not bring you a lifetime of fulfillment

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stoic pragmatism

Interesting interview podcast (also broadcast on radio) with John Lachs (Vanderbilt) as guest.  Hosted by two fellow SIUC Ph.D. graduates.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Naturalism, Realism, and Normativity (NDPR review)

Naturalism, Realism, and Normativity
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2017.03.09 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Hilary Putnam, Naturalism, Realism, and Normativity, Mario De Caro (ed.), Harvard University Press, 2016, 238pp., $49.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780674659698.
Reviewed by Stathis Psillos, University of Athens

Hilary Putnam died on March 13, 2016. In 2013 he wrote: "It had better be the case that we can learn from dead philosophers, 'cause we're all gonna be dead!" (92). Well, Putnam was in constant dialogue with many dead (as well as living) philosophers. His intellectual career, as is amply testified by the present volume, was characterized by an honest and genuine attempt to refine and revise his philosophical positions so that they reflect more accurately his changing views. Putnam was not afraid of changing philosophical views either as a result of arguments produced by dead and living philosophers or as a result of fresh empirical findings. His corpus is a philosophical goldmine. I doubt that there has been any philosopher who interacted...

Read More

Friday, March 10, 2017

Aesthetics After Finitude

Baylee Brits, Prudence Gibson, Amy Ireland (eds.): Aesthetics After Finitude (2016)
// Monoskop Log

"Traditionally aesthetics has been associated with phenomenal experience, human apprehension and an appreciation of beauty—the domains in which human cognition is rendered finite. What is an aesthetics that might occur 'after finitude'?"

Contributions by Marc Couroux, Prudence Gibson, Thomas Sutherland, Lendl Barcelos, Douglas Kahn, Adam Hulbert, Baylee Brits, Stephen Muecke, Laura Lotti, Christian R. Gelder, Simon O'Sullivan, Tessa Laird, Chris Shambaugh (and Maudlin Cortex), Chaim Horowitz, and Amy Ireland.
Afterword by Justin Clemens

Publisher, Melbourne, Dec 2016
Anamnesis series

Creative Commons BY-NC-ND License 2.5
ISBN 9780980819793, 0980819792
241 pages
Conference (2015)

"Infinity and beyond" (Aeon article)

"Georg Cantor showed that some infinities are bigger than others. Did he assault mathematical wisdom or corroborate it?"

By A W Moore
Read at Aeon

"Waking up to Tired Teaching" (article)

Nice article on what to do if you ever suffer from teaching burnout.

Waking up to Tired Teaching

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Continental Divide, Rocky Mountains Colorado

Na and I visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Hopefully I'll be able to post some photos of the dramatic and awe-inspiring landscapes that we saw today on Rt 7 Scenic Byway.

Definitely recommended for nature lovers. Tomorrow will be horseback riding in the mountains and ATV riding. Today was just sight-seeing which was unbelievable. Incredible sights out here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Carnal Hermeneutics (NDPR review)

"Carnal phenomenology" was supposed to be a thing - the term thrown around for abit a year or two ago. I didn't know about the below book, though. Evidently I did know about it and have just forgotten, see HERE.

Carnal Hermeneutics
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Richard Kearney and Brian Treanor (eds.), Carnal Hermeneutics, Fordham University Press, 2015, 392pp., $40.00 (pbk), ISBN 9780823265893.
Reviewed by Theodore George, Texas A&M University

Editors Richard Kearney and Brian Treanor furnish a collected volume that promises to expand the scope of contemporary philosophical discussions of hermeneutics to include a broad range of considerations of the body. This, as they recognize, marks a significant departure from the themes customarily taken up by philosophers interested in hermeneutics. Hermeneutics concerns understanding and interpretation and, usually, these themes are treated not in reference to the body but above all in connection with text interpretation, dialogue (or conversation) with other persons, and related matters. Kearney and Treanor, by contrast, bring together a host of perspec­tives on the character of the body as hermeneutical and on the body's distinctive possibilities for hermeneutical experience. In their "Introduction: Carnal Hermeneutics from Head to Foot," they assert that...

Read More

Existentialism in film for first year students: "‘What’s going on?’ How seeking meaning is futile in the Coen Brothers’ universe" (Aeon Videos essay)

I am going to preview the film A Serious Man (2009) as something to possibly show in Existential Philosophy during the upcoming fall semester. Aeon has released an intriguing video essay about the film which has prompted me to see what it is all about.

Last fall in our "FYWS" Meaning of Life seminar (a writing-instruction based course with topic selected by each seminar's instructor, for first-year students, so it is called "First Year Writing Seminar" as an institution-wide class that all first year students must take - but again, the themes vary widely from instructor to instructor so long as writing outcomes are met) we watched a good number of existential-theme based films. The course was essentially an "existentialism-for-beginners" type class.

I've found students respond very well to existentialism as presented through film and literature, sometimes even more positively than they would if having to read Sartre's philosophy before his plays. I find reading (or watching) the play first helps.

In any case, I think the below mentioned film might be about perfect for either my Meaning of Life or Existential Philosophy classes. Right now I show Ikiru (1952) and the 1962 adaptation of Sartre's No Exit. Usually there is only enough time to show two films, three at most during the semester - so this seems like a top candidate now.

Link to the Aeon video essay about A Serious Man (2009) below.

'What's going on?' How seeking meaning is futile in the Coen Brothers' universe | Aeon Videos

"In Defense of the Lecture" (article link)

I've often thought that brick and mortar classes often trump online classes in terms of "content delivery."  It is difficult to capture the energy and enthusiasm of a face-to-face class in an online setting.  However, in a face-to-face class one criticism is that a lecture style (rather than, say, "flipped classroom") is an impediment to student learning. The criticism is that one becomes a "sage on the stage" rather than "guide on the side," and student boredom sets in all too easily.  THIS article offers a defense of the in-class lecture.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Panpsychism is crazy, but it’s also most probably true" (Aeon article)

Panpsychism is crazy, but it's also most probably true
// Aeon

Common sense tells us that only living things have an inner life. Rabbits and tigers and mice have feelings, sensations and experiences; tables and rocks and molecules do not. Panpsychists deny this datum of common sense. According to panpsychism, the smallest bits of matter – things such as elec...

By Philip Goff

Read at Aeon