Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Monday, September 26, 2016

System is fraudulent; rational arguments would bring closer to wisdom

On al-Ghazālī and the cultural specificity of philosophy

Amod Lele at The Indian Philosophy Blog - 9 hours ago
[Cross-posted at Love of All Wisdom.] A little while ago, responding to Garfield and Van Norden’s call for diversity in philosophy, I argued that we should fight for the inclusion of non-Western thought in philosophy programs on the grounds of Continue reading →
Tampio calls our attention to something very important which is often neglected in debates about philosophy: in medieval Muslim thought, one finds perhaps the most explicit and articulate rejection of philosophy in the intellectual history of the world. What is noteworthy about the thinkers involved here – of whom Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazālī is the foremost – is that they directly reject something for which they use the term “philosophy”, transliterated directly into Arabic as falsafa. Al-Ghazālī has most of the hallmarks by which we would now identify a philosopher; he uses rigorous logical argument to make claims about the nature of reality and the good life for human beings. So al-Ghazālī has an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and to my mind he deserves it.
But – and this does matter – he wouldn’t want it. Al-Ghazālī knew well of something he called philosophy, and he used his sharp skills of logical argumentation to reject it, entitling one of his major works The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Philosophy didn’t take this claim lying down; the self-proclaimed philosopher ibn Rushd (Averroës) issued a direct rebuttal entitled The Incoherence of the Incoherence. But it didn’t convince Ghazālī.
Now we are already encountering one major problem with Tampio’s argument here: his article makes no mention of ibn Rushd and says little about his colleagues, the self-proclaimed philosophers (falasifa, singular faylasuf). If we want to be true to al-Ghazālī’s self-understanding and accept that he was not a philosopher, then we must in all fairness extend the same courtesy to ibn Rushd and accept that he was. 

It is true that we study Western philosophy in part to understand the history of the Western world and Western culture (which, nowadays, is also indelibly a part of every other culture). But that’s not the only reason we study it, and not even the primary one. For the Greeks there was no difference between saying “philosophy” and saying “the love of wisdom”, and they expressed their love through rational arguments that would bring them closer to that wisdom.

It occurs to me that we could view voting under a bourgeois democracy similarly. We all know that the system is fraudulent at many levels. The most important and destructive policies are a bipartisan consensus, meaning there is no way to vote against them. All candidates are fake in the sense of being media phenomena, and they all represent a front for the power of moneyed interests. Yet there is a difference between the candidates, and in a big powerful system, a small difference can make a big difference. One choice really is more survivable than the other.
Refusing to vote out of principle or voting for a third-party candidate who supposedly reflects your “real” views grants the system too much legitimacy. It gives the impression that the system could and should give us a positively good option, when we know that it cannot and never wanted to.
Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Postmodern scholars do not actually write to be understood


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As confusing as the series of articles too, if not more. Rajiv Malhotra is direct and pointed in his critiques. He has become non-ignorable. If one writes all of this stuff in authentic gobbledegook, the Pollock/Doniger/Sen/the Hindu mafia will simply bypass you and ignore you. Nor will you be able to reach the intelligent and sensitive awakened Hindus who are just now realizing the magnitude of the 'sepoy culture' and its problems. It may feel nice to call Rajiv names, but his influence is growing by leaps and bounds - he is dealt with as an adversary in undergraduate MOOCs on Hinduism now. That is how nonignorable he has become. As Gandhiji said (by the way, do you notice how Mahatma Gandhi has morphed in Mohandas Gandhi by these left libs), first they will ignore you, then they will laugh at you and they will fight you.


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      Agree. Direct and pointed attack


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          Malhotra had a genuine religious motivation and took up cudgels against stereotyping of Indians in America at a time when first generation immigrants like himself were genuinely worried that they would hit a glass ceiling because of prejudice. This hasn't happened.
          The other point is that the work of Black Economists, like Roland Fryer, Glen Loury- or going further back- Thomas Sowell- had not established that 'attitudinal racism' has little effect compared to the 'situationally rational' drivers of statistical racism- e.g counter-productive affirmative action programs as part of a wider incentive incompatibility problem. Furthermore, the Turkish economist, Timur Kuran's work on Preference Falsification and Availability Cascades was just coming out. Since then, there is a lot of empirical work and, obviously, the internet has made accessing extra-disciplinary results much easier, so we can now not merely show but also prove that Foucauldian 'genealogy' is both incoherent and irrelevant.

          Now, however, it has become clear that the way to kill off a noxious Avaliability Cascade is to ignore it rather than add to the number of its citations. But this means producing a new paradigm which can drive a fecund Research Program. Malhotra has tried hard but failed to do this because he is using a worn out Saidian template which has no relevance to a continental civilization experiencing rapid socio-economic growth,
          Still, as you say, it may be that he is getting noticed but is he inspiring any useful work? Take the case of a young scholar working on the relationship between Vasubandhu and Umaswati. At some point, he will have to refer to J.L Mehta and thus engage with Heidegger. But Derrida has salience here as does Spivak. This is a slippery slope into Pollockian bollocks.
          How to avoid this? Well, there must be some smart Computer Scientist or Mathematician who knows some Sanskrit (eighth standard level is fine). Why not commission him to take up some promising idea in his own field, or else a recent innovator in his field- e.g. Haskell Curry- and approach the subject from that point of view? In other words, find a substantive theory useful to us now and then relate it to a dilemma facing great thinkers of the past. That's the way to kill off 'critical theory'. The reason Science and Maths make progress is that they get embodied in new and more useful technologies thus killing of 'critical theories' (like Bergson's critique of Einstein) which deny that the technology could work and insist that the whole thing is just a misunderstanding of some long dead philosopher.


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              Can you actually coherently state in a single paragrapth what your problems with the article are? Reading your posts is like reading one of those postmodern papers lol


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                  Media Studies will do that to you. My sympathies.


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                      Thanks. However, you still have not framed your objections against the article in a coherent manner. I cannot even make head or tails about what you are saying. It sounds literally like the raving of a lunatic. What exactly is your problem with the article. Forget a paragraph, can you summarise it in a single sentence?


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                        I did already- 'The only way you debunk a theory is by showing it has no explanatory, predictive, or heuristic power with respect to inter-subjective Reality.'


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                            Say that again in layman language. We already know you are a person of importance, you have written a book, you have links with Vivekananda, Gandhi and many important people. You are a very important person. I get it. But we are mere mortals who just understand basic English.


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                                That is the problem with you ABCD or BBCD types. You think English actually means something. It doesn't. It's just 'git pit'. That is why we proudly export the likes of Spivak and Bhaba. 
                                Malhotra, on the other hand, is trying to foist his worthless sub-Spivakese off on us by tarting it up as 'purvapaksha'.
                                He's a Stephanian, so it's not entirely his fault.


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                                    My dear you have still not answered my question. The point of a language is communication right? Yes? The aim of communication is to have what you articulate understood? Yes? Thus good communication is actually articulating your point so that it is understood.
                                    I cannot understand barely anything you are saying. You use all these esoteric words, drops all these names and do it such a random and chaotic way, that I am having to try to decipher what you are saying. It sounds like typical postmodern speak. What is funny is that it is indistinguishable from the ravings of a lunatic. If you speak to a lunatic they too will speak in a random and chaotic way, dropping all sorts of random references and using grandiose words.
                                    Thus, all I am asking of you is to articulate your point in clear layman English without all these weird words like "availability cascades, intersubjective reality, emiic value" which you think sound intellectual, but actually to many it sounds like nonsense. I think this is the point Mr Kumar was articulating partly, what you are passing of as intellectual speech here is actually pseudo-speech, because it does not actually communicate anything. It is more of a way of showing off by showing how many big words you know and how many names you know. That is not the point of communication; communication should be about being understood. I had a postmodernist friend just like you, he spoke in the same way like you -- that is incoherently. On the last day before he submitted his MA dissertation, he requested me to proof-read and correct his dissertation. I ended up rewriting his entire dissertation over 6 hours. (I did it as a favour) Not a single one of his sentences were making any sense. He used all these big words, that too incorrectly. When I asked him what he was trying to say, I realised everything he wanted to say could be said in simpler words. As a result of my rewriting of his dissertation he won a scholarship to a Canadian university to do his PhD. I did not change any of the points he was making, I just changed the way they were expressed so they could be understood.
                                    I am going to take this discussion to a more relevant and on topic direction. Postmodern scholars do not actually write to be understood. This is the crucial difference between a ordinary scholar and a postmodern scholar. An ordinary scholar writes to be understood. They have to make propositions, then give clear reasons, then give examples and evidence to support each proposition. A postmodern scholar writes to not be understood, they will deliberately write in confusing language, they will coin terms like "availability cascades" and throw in words binary oppositions, intersubjective reality, socio-linguistic construction and in the end they will end up with something which is practically gibberish to a layman. They do this deliberately to maintain the elitism of their pseudo-intellectual world, to keep other people out of their discourse making. Even their this world, not everybody understands each other, they just pretend to understand each other to look like they are insiders.
                                    It is this approach that I think the author Mr Kumar is saying should be rebranded for what it is --- nonsense, gibberish pseudoscience. "To the flames" as Hume would say. Why give this kind of scholarship any credibility at all? Why take it seriously? Why should we have to sit down reading their papers and books full of gibberish, which will take years to decipher? Why can't we just say, "Please speak in English" Rather than trying to disprove or deconstruct their theories, we should just to say "Sir, you have not even established your points in the first place"
                                    I similarly say to you, you have not exactly established any of your objections(counter-points) to anything the author has said. If you have, I did not understand it. Hence, I ask you again, please articulate your points in clear and simple English without using all these big words and dropping all these names. You don't have to do that, we already know you are a very important person.


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                                        By 'Theory' is meant a model of reality you have in your head which enables you to accomplish some real world action. If this Theory can't be easily put into words it is called 'expert cognition'. If Society needs that 'Expert Cognition' to be put into words so that it can be taught to a large number of people over a wide geographic area, so that much more can be accomplished very quickly, then a specialist vocabulary will be developed as well as 'heuristics' (rules of thumb or ways of picturing something to make it simpler) and 'pragmatics' (conventions about how the vocabulary and heuristics are to be used) and, in the case of algorithmic processes (i.e. mechanical decision procedures) even a 'syntax'.
                                        Such a Theory is 'first order' as it helps produce actual things in the real world. 'Critical Theory' is 'second order' because it claims that there is some way to change how Theory is produced and this by itself will change the World. Experience shows this is nonsense. There is something called 'mechanism design', studied by Economists, which can be improved and that has positive long term effects but mere attitudinizing is a waste of resources because 'second order' theory crowds out 'first order' useful effort.
                                        Post Modernism was about breaking with certain 'grand narratives'- e.g. the Indian one about how Whitey came and stole all our money which is why we are still so poor- and had salience in the Eighties for rising young academics who didn't want to continue to write worthless shite even after they'd got tenure. At the time, people thought more people getting Degrees was a good thing for the Economy. Now we know the opposite is the case. Still, there remains a 'cognitive bias' towards Higher Education even of a worthless type and, at the margin, it is worth pointing this out.
                                        Dr. Kumar wrote carelessly because he has no great interest in the subject and the reception of his article couldn't affect his professional standing. He has no 'skin in the game'. Swarajya, similarly, doesn't greatly care about catering to elderly, often NRI, Hindutva types , because most of us are lunatics. Still, we are their Uncles or Aunties so to keep us happy they throw worthless articles like this to us.
                                        This is entirely reasonable. Indians know that what Prof X said to Prof Y in some shithole of a University Department doesn't have any impact at all on their own life-chances. Similarly, Westerners don't need their Professors to make ignorant or prejudiced statements because any drunkard in the bar will do it for the price of a pint.
                                        One last thing- when you come across a term you don't understand, or which you think has been misused, why not look it up on Wikipedia?


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                                            Thank you. That was presented more clearly and I understand your points better, but I still don't understand what your chief objection against Dr Kumar's article is. I am guessing is it because he tries to invalidate postmodernism, and you actually think postmodernism is valid? Are you feeling personally attacked by Dr Kumar because he has attacked postmodernism and you feel it is unfair and that he does not understand postmodernism? Please make this clear to me.
                                            I will reply to your points one by one by quoting from your post:
                                            Such a Theory is 'first order' as it helps produce actual things in the real world. 'Critical Theory' is 'second order' because it claims that there is some way to change how Theory is produced and this by itself will change the World. Experience shows this is nonsense.
                                            I think what you are saying that a 'first order'theory is a regular theory based on a set of assumptions, while critical theory is a set of methods to analyse those assumptions. In that sense it is not really a theory, but a method of questioning the core assumptions a theory is based on. I can channel Godel's theory of incompleteness here, which as you know is a theory of mathematics, but it can be applied to any theory based on axioms(or assumptions) to show that every theory is incomplete because it is based on assumptions which themselves cannot be proven. That 1+1 = 2 is true only if you assume the 10 based decimal system(it is not true in the binary system)
                                            I think that w should definitely analyse the assumptions we are making and this is what Philosophy tries to do. We analyse even the most basic assumptions we take for granted like objective reality, self and "truth" but that is why Philosophy is Philosophy and Science is Science. Philosophy makes no claim to truth and certainty. Rather it an interpretation of truth and certainty. It is sciences that makes claim to truth and certainty, and it those truths which are empirical, factual, reliable, falsifiable etc. You know what 'reliability' means in science, in means that it is repeatable and verifiable. If I say that if you place a magnet next to iron fillings, the iron fillings will move it is a reliable truth, because you can do it and verify it. In this manner science can develop a body of reliable truths, laws like Newton's law, Faradays laws. We can trust this knowledge and then use it to develop technology that obeys it. This is why science is considered trustworthy. We have confidence in science.
                                            The scientific method is the most successful and reliable epistemology we have in the world. Other epistemologies have failed. Philosophy using rationalist epistemology lead to wrong conclusions, like Aristotle saying that two iron balls of different weights will fall at different speeds. This truth, which seems like common sense was taken for granted for over a millennia, and nobody actually thought of actually doing the experiment itself to prove it. Testimony based on the epistemology of faith lead to confusion, because different scriptures said different things. 
                                            Thus, in the end only the scientific method has been proven to give reliable truths that we can trust.

                                            Post Modernism was about breaking with certain 'grand narratives'- e.g. the Indian one about how Whitey came and stole all our money which is why we are still so poor- and had salience in the Eighties for rising young academics who didn't want to continue to write worthless shite even after they'd got tenure.
                                            Postmodernism has gone back to the epistemology of opinion, that is "man of the measure of all things" or what was called sophistry. If you read about Socrates dialogues with the Sophists, the Sophists use exactly the same tactics of what Postmodernists used, cavil(vitanda and jalpa) deliberately twisting the meaning of the words and had the same philosophical position that there is no single truth. This is why I say postmodernism is the modern version of sophistry. It is pseudo-intellectualism.
                                            We need to understand why postmodernism's skepticism of 'grand narratives' begun, it began in the social critiques of modernity, especially in the continental schools of philosophy, the French particularly leading it. The events of the early 20th century, the world wars, the invention of nuclear weapons and the schisms in science with the advent of quantum physics lead to the rebirth of this scepticism of these grand narratives based on fixed structures of truths. Some of these criticisms were indeed true, for example applying a postmodern critique of science like Thomas Kuhn did, he found that scientific theories were more like paradigms and scientists were people working within those paradigms to solve puzzles and so they had no purchase on absolute truth. Paul Feyerabend introduced the idea of anarchy in science, that there was no scientific method and scientific truths can be had in various ad-hoc ways.
                                            The problem with the postmodern criticism of science is, irrespective of all their criticisms, if I move magnet near iron fillings it will cause them to move. I can say this with near 100% confidence(not pure 100% because I cannot account for unseen variables) It means it is a practical truth and I have to accept this truth. Kuhn says that there is no method by which we move from one paradigm to the other, it is just an ad-hoc 'gestalt switch' meaning we just suddenly move form one paradigm to the other. That is false, we did not just move from classical theory to quantum theory in a sudden switch from the classical paradigm to the quantum paradigm, it was based on the continuity of the predictions of classical theory on black body radiation and its falsification, which lead to the emergence of quantum theory to explain these new observations. It is not just a random switch. Similarly, although it is true that Einstein used a slight different scientific method from Newton's classical scientific method in arriving at Relativity theory, that is thought experiment, it was not wholly divorced from the scientific method, because it was based on general observations of frames of reference giving relative space, time and speed and based on this general observation Einstein was able to conclude that the speed of light is the absolute frame of reference(constant for all observers) Based on this realization he introduced relativistic variables into Newton equations. He did not do away with Newton's equations, he just added new variables. Hence, again, there is a continuity and not an ad-hoc gestalt switch.
                                            I apologise if any of this stuff is going through over your head, my aim is not to brag about how many big words I know and how names I can drop, but merely to illustrate my point that postmodernism's conclusion that there are no truths, and no methods of knowledge that is all just competing models and interpretations is like 'throwing away the baby with the bath water' where the baby is scientific truth and bathwater is our changing scientific understanding. Just because our scientific understanding is changing, does not mean that our previous scientific truths are wrong. Newton's theory is still not wrong, it is a special case of general relativity. Newton's theories are still true for situations where general relativity is not required such as testing cars and planes. It is not that Newton was wrong, it is that he was not as right as Einstein. Similarly Einstein theory of relativity is not wrong, it just not as right as quantum theory.
                                            Now, to come down to Earth and use a more simple example that you offered, "Whiteys stole all our money" It is not that this truth is wrong, it just not completely right. But what the postmodernist scholar will do is point to what is wrong about it and completely ignore what is right about it, thereby problematicising it then ultimately dismissing its truth. They will do this using a host of critical methods. But how can you deny pure hard empirical data that indeed the British did steal Indian resources and then send them back to Britain to enrich their own economy? That is a fact, it is true and it can never be wrong. That the battle of Hastings was in 1066 is a fact, it is true and it can never be wrong. There are simply some truths that cannot be problematized at all and they are hard empirical facts.
                                            Dr. Kumar wrote carelessly because he has no great interest in the subject and the reception of his article couldn't affect his professional standing. He has no 'skin in the game'. Swarajya, similarly, doesn't greatly care about catering to elderly, often NRI, Hindutva types , because most of us are lunatics. Still, we are their Uncles or Aunties so to keep us happy they throw worthless articles like this to us.
                                            You are offering no argument here, you are just making a personal attack and accusation against Dr Kumar. It is a textbook adhominem attack. How do you know how much interest he has in the subject? How do you know he does not have a bookshelf with dozens of book on critical theory that he has read? How do you know what is the motives behind Swarajya staff? The simple answer is you do not. Unless you have some supernatural power of mind-reading . One should desist from such accusations, because they do more to damage the reputation of the accuser than they do of the accused.
                                            This is entirely reasonable. Indians know that what Prof X said to Prof Y in some shithole of a University Department doesn't have any impact at all on their own life-chances. Similarly, Westerners don't need their Professors to make ignorant or prejudiced statements because any drunkard in the bar will do it for the price of a pint.
                                            This is where you are wrong. What the discourses that Indologists make does actually have an impact on Hindus and India. It has been having a huge impact on India ever since its inception. They created Aryan invasion theory and then AIT, and you cannot deny AIT had a huge impact on Indian politics. Today, they are using modern postmodern tools to create ideas like Sanskrit and thereby all of Indian Sanskriti was used for oppression to create enmity for the Sanskriti, the culture of India. The impact is potentially the balkanization of India. We can already see how the discourse that they create is then circulated around India by their sepoys and then used for the purpose of conversions, used by Maoists/Naxals and used by India's enemies.
                                            This is not positive you know? AIT was not a positive discourse, it was created by racists and we know the most infamous example of what they did with it --- holocausts. In the same way Pollock's theories of Sanskrit being oppressive can lead to a holocaust in India, if it is not prevented. Unlike during the discourse making of AIT, modern Indians are independent and can challenge this dangerous scholarship. And that is what good Indians like myself, Dr Kumar and Malhotra who are doing. We are not going to let them get away with it this time.
                                            One last thing- when you come across a term you don't understand, or which you think has been misused, why not look it up on Wikipedia?
                                            I think it is your responsibility to make sure you are understood, because you are the communicator. I am sure you already know that most people would never have heard of terms like 'availability cascading' so why would you use it if your aim is communication? It just makes you a bad communicator. If you are going to use terms that most people will not understand, you should explain its meaning. Like I have done above with terms like 'gestalt switch' Otherwise you come across as somebody who is showing off the big words they know and the names they can drop.


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                                                Since you have taken the trouble to write at some length I will too
                                                1) my 'problem with Kumar' is in 4 parts
                                                a) he links Franfurt School with Doniger Pollock et al. Not true. Doniger has some Freudian influence but it isn't Marcusian. Pollock is indebted to Foucauld & Said but they weren't in the Frankfurt tradition. This is 'intellectual history' - 1066 and all that- no opinion but facts.
                                                b) he says you can only confront a theory in a patently ridiculous way. This is just arrant nonsense. He has a PhD. Had he quoted Rajiv Malhotra in his viva he would have been laughed out of the University.
                                                c) he tells us that he didn't understand something which he quoted at length. But it wasn't 'Sokalese' it was genuine. He was merely demonstrating his ignorance. That's fine but he is doing so in an article where he says we have to understand a theory in order to confront it. In other words, the fool wasted our time because at the end he boasts of knowing nothing about the subject he is discussing.
                                                d) he and you make a false claim re. Godel. Look it up. Read what I wrote before. Peano Arithmetic isn't the only thing to which axiomatic theory is relevant. If you make an inaccurate statement in a comment on a post- e.g.'Einstein theory of relativity is not wrong, it just not as right as quantum theory'- that's fine. But if you do so in a published article and mention at the end where you did your Doctorate or where you work then you are showing 'reckless disregard'. 
                                                If you don't understand what the term means Google it. 
                                                Okay, I'll help you out one last time- suppose I publish an article saying 'Kumar is a fool. He has a Phd in xyz, yet doesn't understand Godel'. In this case, Kumar won't be able to sue me for damages. He can't deny that he uttered the sentence I quote in a context where he should have shown due regard because the comment occurred in a published article.

                                                I'm afraid your knowledge of Philosophy is greatly inferior to mine. Educate yourself. You aren't the only person on the internet. If other people use words you don't understand it doesn't mean what they are saying is meaningless to others of equal attainment.
                                                In particular, people interested in the history of ideas, or those placed in specific institutional contexts by reason of their occupation, may well speak in terms of narratives which they deny actually obtain in the real world. This is what is called, by the Philosopher, David Lewis (look him up) a 'Convention' and is the 'solution to a co-ordination game'. Look up Thomas Schelling.
                                                Believe me, if you do as I suggest, you will thank me for it. 'First order' theories are a stimulant to the mind. 'Second order' whining about what Whitey dun to us is toxic both to us as spiritual beings as well as to our culture or ancestral country.

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