Sunday, December 30, 2007
There are reasons, if you can call them that, why a writer would want to play games with the reader’s mind. SWAHA DAS and HARI NAIR The Hindu Magazine Sunday, Dec 30, 2007
However, “being difficult” in writing is different from obfuscation. The masters of the stylus insist without end that rigour and intelligibility were never sacrificed by the greatest practitioners of the craft. One such teacher, who offered tips on how to “be difficult” in writing was the Spanish Jesuit, Balthasar Gracián (1601-58). An Argentinean litterateur, famous for being ignored by the Swedish academy, once reviled him in a poem as “the Jesuit who reduced poetry to stratagems through laborious nothingnesses”. However, this cunning soldier of style is today back in vogue amongst scholars of the discipline of Rhetoric as one who perfected conceptismo. This is a clever way of writing prose, where an author creates multiple relationships between words and ideas, and these are loaded with a variety of meanings compressed into concise expressions. Certain meanings become instantly evident to the reader, while others remain hidden. Possible goals
But, why would a writer go to such pains at playing hide and seek with words and ideas? Well, because ingenuity does not seek truth alone but aspires to beauty, or so Gracián would remind us (Agudeza y Arte de Ingenio, Discourses 2,7&8). The more hidden the truth, the more valued the concept; and hence, more beautiful. He believed that the element of intrigue sparked by a verbal expression will put the reader on alert; and reward her with the feeling of having grasped a hitherto unknown but exquisite element of a puzzle previously seasoned with mystery. For producing similar effects on the reader, our author-priest nudges the potential writer of “difficult” prose to pursue in measured opposition the following: human malice as against the gushing forthrightness of a water-fountain, the inscrutableness of the heart versus the transparency of glass. Between these two binary poles, the writer may offer the reader a range of choices that extend from the simplest to the most sophisticated (AAI, D.13). Writing, then, for Balthasar Gracián, was both lucid and truant, giving and receiving pleasure in every page by playing games with the reader’s mind.
Having come thus far, we mustn’t wind up without lending an ear to certain snooty folk who opine on everything, including the craft of “difficult writing”. In the presidential address delivered to the joint congregation of the Mind Association and the Aristotelian Society in 1945, Henry Price declared that some things “can only be said obscurely; either in a metaphor, or in an oxymoron or a paradox, i.e., in a sentence which breaks the existing terminological rules.” This eminent Oxonian professor urged his flock of analytical philosophers “not to run-away with the zeal for ‘tightening-up language’ because clarity isn’t enough”.
Friday, December 28, 2007
If it happen, from a defect of the organ, that a man is not susceptible of any species of sensation, we always find that he is as little susceptible of the correspondent ideas. A blind man can form no notion of colours; a deaf man of sounds. Restore either of them that sense in which he is deficient; by opening this new inlet for his sensations, you also open an inlet for the ideas; and he finds no difficulty in conceiving these objects. The case is the same, if the object, proper for exciting any sensation, has never been applied to the organ. A Laplander or Negro has no notion of the relish of wine. And though there are few or no instances of a like deficiency in the mind, where a person has never felt or is wholly incapable of a sentiment or passion that belongs to his species; yet we find the same observation to take place in a less degree. A man of mild manners can form no idea of inveterate revenge or cruelty; nor can a selfish heart easily conceive the heights of friendship and generosity. It is readily allowed, that other beings may possess many senses of which we can have no conception; because the ideas of them have never been introduced to us in the only manner by which an idea can have access to the mind, to wit, by the actual feeling and sensation.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Robin Hanson writes:
For good policy advice, what is the best weight to place on economic theory, versus (individual or cultural) intuitive judgment? [TC: that's Robin reproducing someone else's words]
My guess is over 75% weight, so I try to mostly just straightforwardly apply economic theory, adding little personal or cultural judgment [TC: that's Robin].
In a nutshell, this is the major difference between Robin and me. In my view there is no such thing as "straightforwardly applying economic theory," unless your prescriptions are limited to "we cannot prove that Giffen goods do not exist." Theories are always applied and interpreted through our personal and cultural filters and there is no other way it can be. Robin believes in an Archimedean point for using theory, I do not.
Furthermore we often need to apply personal and cultural judgment to offset the sometimes-erroneous judgments and biases built into the economic way of thinking. Robin's post is the clearest example I have seen of what I call Robin's logical atomism.
Monday, December 24, 2007
There are so many illogical and bad leaps in this one, where to begin. (more…)
Of all the beliefs across time, there is none so seemingly extraordinary as belief in the Virgin Birth. Yet for hundreds of millions of people over the past 2,000 years it is the central idea on which everything else stands: God entered into humanity through the womb of the Virgin Mary to create a man who was also God. Without it, Jesus is just a Jewish prophet from Roman-occupied Palestine who had a few nice things to say. Without it, there is no calming of the seas or feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. And there is no resurrection from the dead and there is no Christianity.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
How to define what holds us together, while abstracting from any religious affiliation, but also from any over-arching “lay” philosophy
What inspires us & what holds us together posted by Charles Taylor
Having escaped for a few seconds from the Commission, I had a chance to read many of the very interesting posts to the blog. With many I agree, others not. But there are two points where I obviously failed to communicate what I wanted to say (possibly because that is incoherent, though I hope not).
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If I could ever weigh in on which philosopher writes with the most brilliance, it would absolutely have to be Maurice Merleau-Ponty
The intention to speak can reside only in an open experience. It makes its appearance like the boiling point of a liquid, when, in the density of being, volumes of empty space are built up and move outwards. -Phenomenology of Perception, 228
The thing is at the end of my gaze and, in general, at the end of my exploration... I must acknowledge that the table before me sustains a singular relation with my eyes and my body: I see it only if it is within their radius of action: above it there is the dark mass of my forehead, beneath it the more indecisive contour of my cheeks--both of these visible at the limit and capable of hiding the table, as if my vision of the world itself were formed from a certain point of the world. What is more, my movements and the movements of my eyes make the world vibrate--as one rocks a dolmen with one's finger without disturbing its fundamental solidity. With each flutter of my eyelashes a curtain lowers and rises, though I do not think for an instant of imputing this eclipse to the things themselves; with each movement of my eyes that sweep the space before me the things suffer a brief torsion, which I also ascribe to myself; and when I walk in the street with eyes fixed on the horizon of the houses, the whole of the setting near at hand quivers with each footfall on the asphalt, then settled down in its place... -The Visible and the Invisible, 7
...have a name in all languages, but a name which in all of them also conveys significations in tufts, thickets of proper meanings and figurative meanings, so that, unlike those of science, not one of these names clarifies by attributing to what is named a circumscribed signification. Rather, they are the repeated index, the insistent reminder of a mystery as familiar as it is unexplained, of a light which, illuminating the rest, remains at its source in obscurity. -The Visible and the Invisible, 131
"men have been talking for a long time on earth, and three-quarters of what they say goes unnoticed," (3)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
(2) The deconstruction of binary oppositions, their sliding into each other disrupting categorical tidiness and semantic determinism (while doing so beyond a simple one-step negation or slippage), is interesting, of course, as it must turn on the empirical evidence supplied in the reading of specific texts. The question remains: how prevalent are such binary slidings? What degree is there is such sliding throughout a given body of text? Paul de Man, I believe in the opening of his book Allegories of Reading (but I could be forgetting), said something to the effect that deconstruction is not claiming that terms like “night” and “day” in their ordinary usage always already slide into each other making clear use of the terms impossible. Given this view, how pervasive then are such slidings of these oppositions?, and in general how forceful are they?
(3) A related question is raised in an extraordinary footnote, number 65, in Charles Spinosa’s contribution “Derrida and Heidegger: Iterability and Ereignis” to Heidegger: A Critical Reader, 1992, pp. 296-297. The gist of the note is that Derrida focuses on the margins of texts to discover the breakdown situations (in the Heideggerian sense) in linguistic practice that are the exception and not the norm in our everyday interactions and dealings, with Derrida going on to read these breakdowns in the margins back into linguistic practice as a whole and therefore as the norm for linguistic practice. (In this is so, in light of Lonergan’s view, it would entail a failure to differentiate a number of distinct cognitive activities while conflating those of possibility and probability.)
(4) Why are we here right now interested in Derrida within integral circles? Is it his challenge to formalist thinking as too deterministic from an integral perspective? How about the related thread here on Wilber as being more formalist than one might gather? On the latter theme let me suggest that there is a current gap between integral theory and the integral use of that theory – that Wilber’s version of the theory seems to me to be thoroughly and profoundly second tier (and third tier at that); but the collective habits of using AQAL, of enacting the perspectives and methods, are not yet fully post-formal — readily and understandably prompting one to question if the theory itself is post-formal enough. (Here too let us not be confused by the AQAL graph as image – as images are only a heuristic device that point us into more complex cognitive operations where the image is left behind — again, Lonergan is excellent on this distinction and on the use of images thereof.)
(5) In other words, what is the value of Derrida’s practice for integral practice? Are our exchanges here only about Derrida and deconstruction; for they do not seem to readily perform deconstruction, that is, our language games do not seem to be those that Derrida performs. How valuable is Derrida’s language game then in the end for integralism? – I am thinking here of Rorty’s remarks in the collection Deconstruction and Pragmatism that, within his instrumental view of language, his looking for a vocabulary that is helpful with this or that ethical or political task – which goes to the heart of Derrida’s later work (see below) – does not in the end find Derrida’s language practices very helpful. Here too I recall an essay by two graduate students published in the journal Critical Theory (during the 1980s) on the vacuity and impotence of Derrida’s language (from those days, in any case) for actual political thinking and action – an essay forceful enough to prompt Derrida to respond to two students, but in my recollection without clearly countering their charge. Again, I am raising these issues and pointing to these earlier discussions in light of presenting questions about Derrida.
“What is apparent in these texts is a kind of “ethical turn” – one inspired by Derrida’s friend and, in many ways, silent mentor: Emmanuel Levinas (Derrida delivered the eulogy at Levinas’s funeral, for which see the brief and beautiful opening essay in Adieu; and to be sure his reputation in Parisian intellectual circles began with “Violence and Metaphysics,” his 1964 review essay of Levinas’s first magnus opus, Totality and Infinity).
“In my opinion Levinas was the greatest recent philosopher of the Infinite Thou: God in the 2nd person (cf. the 1-2-3 of Spirit practice) breaking into the order of beings, always already calling us to responsibility for the Other. Said too bluntly, his work is a deep and radical reframing of Buber’s view of the I-Thou (the latter about which Ken speaks with so much brilliance and luminosity, I must add).
“Derrida, in his later writings, is often Levinasian, or Levinas-inspired. He explores “the Good beyond Being” (a Platonic phrase often cited by Levinas) through themes like “welcoming,” “hospitality,” “mourning,” and “the messianic’ as these themes are analyzed as complexly constituting the ethical relation to the Other.”
Our deliberations in these discussions of postmodernism’s importance for integralism are mostly centered on dialectics and cognitive schemas (all supremely valuable) – and too postmodernism had much to say about ethics, and did so in often creative ways: the ethical background of Rorty’s pragmatism as a sensitivity to human suffering; Levinas who for many was the greatest ethical thinker of the later 20th century; the later work of Derrida with its Levinasian soundings; Lyotard’s notion of the “differend”; Foucault’s notion of “ethics” and the care for the self and others; the ethical motivations of Deleuze and Guattari on capitalism, as explicated by Foucault in his introduction to the English translation of Capitalism and Schizophrenia; Habermas’s communicative ethics; and not to mention all the discourses of working to de-marginalize marginalized voices and perspectives, e.g., feminism, post-colonialism, etc. (however much resentiment often lingers in the shadowed background of these discourses).
And then Wilber’s “post-postmodern” version of integral theory is, in the end, presented as a skillful means, a “method” of compassion in the Mahayana sense, hence a tool in the hands of Agape. So might I ask: ethics anyone? (My favorite current book on this topic is Robert Gibbs’s Why Ethics?) Light, Michael Schwartz Augusta, GA
This blog is about philosophy, psychology, arts, and literature
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Uneasy with such questions, many scholars in the past 100 years or so have tried to define Hinduism within the theological framework of Semitic religious traditions, especially the Christian tradition. This approach is entirely erroneous, as it does not do justice either to the Semitic tradition or to Hinduism.
"All attempts at understanding and defining Hinduism are modern," asserts Prof A Ramamurty, the author of "Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism", who is presently UGC Emeritus Fellow, Philosophy Department, the University of Hyderabad. He is a serious scholar who has authored "Advaitic Mysticism of Sankara", "The Central Philosophy of the Rgveda" and "Advaita: A Conceptual Analysis".
Elaborating further, he says: "However, there are several traditional works dealing with what is essential to various sects of Hinduism like Vaisnavism and Saivism, the major forms of Hindu religious life and worship. But Hinduism cannot be defined or characterised in terms of anyone or all of them, even though they are basically Hindu."
If Hinduism has to be defined or understood at all, it should be done by taking into account its sruti and smriti traditions. One thing that is universally accepted by all Hindus is that the sruti is revealed, and has the ultimate authority in religious or spiritual matters. The main purpose of the smriti tradition, on the other hand, is to adapt the Vedic wisdom or revelation to the changing religious needs and demands of the people keeping in view the heterogeneous character of Hindu society.
Broadly speaking, all texts such as the Vedas, which were composed before the invention of writing belong to the sruti tradition, and the ones such as the puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, which were composed after writing was invented, belong to smriti. The smriti addresses itself to the task of adapting the Vedic wisdom or revelation to meet the religious needs of all sections of Indian society, especially the religious needs of those who are denied direct access to the Vedas.
The object of puranic literature is to reconcile and harmonise the popular or smriti form of Hinduism with the sruti tradition. But although they are integral part of Hinduism, the sruti and smriti traditions are not always in agreement, in fact they go against each other at times.
Most modern Hindu thinkers believe that the sruti tradition represents real Hinduism. Profs. Ramamurty thinks this belief is mistaken. If we wish to present a true picture of Hinduism, we must take the smriti tradition into account as it is in reality the basis of Hinduism as believed in and practised by almost all Hindus.
What are the other differences between the two? While sruti is more philosophical in its approach, the smriti is more theological. While the intellectual or rational way of understanding of the former is more impersonal, abstract and detached, the emotional approach of the latter is more personal. "While one is dharma-centred," asserts the writer, "the other is faith-centred." While one is impersonal, the other is personal. However, the contribution of both is significant to the growth and development of Hinduism.
Therefore, any attempt to understand and determine the nature and meaning of Hinduism in terms of any one stream or tradition or to identify it with any one of them will not help us in comprehending the nature and meaning of Hinduism. Both are an integral part of Hinduism. And both represent Hinduism. While Purva Mimamsa and the dharma form of religious life represents one tradition, the bhagavata-dharma or devotional form of religious life represents the other."
One curious aspect of these two schools, however, is that although they are different in many ways, their world-view of Hinduism is the same. Whenever Hinduism has faced a challenge and tried to meet the challenge, smriti has always relied on sruti world-view.
Now which of the two traditions is more relevant to Hinduism? The author believes that in its authority and validity smriti is traditionally regarded as inferior or secondary to sruti, and it has to conform to sruti if it is to have any authority and validity. "And if smriti simply teaches what is there in the sruti, then it cannot serve any meaningful purpose except to present the teaching or wisdom of sruti in a manner of language which is easy and intelligible to all. This is the traditional view or understanding of the importance and role of smriti in the development of Hinduism. But most of the religious ideas, beliefs and doctrines as well as the religious practices which are basic to smriti form of religious life are not compatible with sruti. We cannot find in sruti any support and justification for what is essential to smriti tradition. Therefore, the major concern of smriti is not just to present the wisdom of Sruti in a popular form so that all can have access to it, but to systematically present and justify the religious belief and doctrines of different sects which developed themselves independently of sruti."
Another reason for the emergence of smriti is that in order to be a religious Hindu, you don't necessarily have to follow theological commandments to the letter. "Doctrinal and theological differences are not therefore suppressed in favour of an official theology or creed. Supreme importance is placed on the inward experience of devotion and piety rather than on the correctness of religious beliefs and doctrine."
In fact most Hindus hardly ever see a copy of the Vedas or the Upanishads all their lives. Just as to be a good Indian it is not really necessary to read the Constitution of India. Most Hindus learn their religion not in a temple at the feet of a priest, but instinctively as they grow up. Posted by Kuldip Dhiman at 9:00 AM 0 comments
- The intellect and the senses cannot go further than a wide agnosticism on the existence of the Divine and supraphysical realities.
- Exclusivist religion is slowly but surely giving way to an inclusive, non-sectarian, evolutionary spirituality, which is bio- and pancentric rather than anthropocentric.
- Materialism has also been challenged rationally by panpsychist philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead or philosophers of mind like David Chalmers.
- The scientific study of consciousness, like it or not, can no longer afford to ignore subjective experiences and first-person perspectives.
- There is no need to drop empiricism. It’s just that empiricism need not be limited to the physical senses alone. If we consent to the required inner changes, we can develop modes of perception that transcend the physical senses and the intellect. Sri Aurobindo, himself a radical empiricist, writes:
“To see the composition of the sun or the lines of Mars is doubtless a great achievement; but when thou hast the instrument that can show thee a man’s soul as thou seest a picture, then thou wilt smile at the wonders of physical Science as the playthings of babies.”Can private/subjective experiences be discussed in the public sphere? They already are being discussed, due to their enormous importance and implications for fields like consciousness studies, neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology and psychiatry. In neuroscience, the Buddhists are at the forefront of this. Watch the Mind and Reality conference held at Columbia University recently featuring B. Alan Wallace who is a very important person building bridges between science and spirituality. (Another speaker was Stephen H. Phillips who has studied Sri Aurobindo as well, but in a totally dry, mental way.)
In my humble opinion, my atheist friends might wish to consider quitting wasting time arguing against the small gods of religion, and instead wrestle with an Alfred North Whitehead or a Sri Aurobindo. How much more challenging would that be!
Sunday, December 09, 2007
from Faith and Theology by Ben Myers
Our friends at T&T Clark announce an exciting new book series on “Philosopy and Theology.” There are books in preparation on Nietzsche, Badiou, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Hegel, Kant and Kierkegaard. The series is opening with Adam Kotsko’s book, Žižek and Theology. Adam describes this book in a guest-post at the T&T Clark blog.
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen
Saturday, December 08, 2007
E-mail: challquist*at*gmail*dot*com View my complete profile Saturday, December 01, 2007
What's the deal with philosophy of religion?
Hallq said...You seem really good at finding issues that aren't there. Do you even understand that the original purpose of this post was to analyze the dynamics of the profession, and took no position whatsoever on the quality of work being done by Plantinga and Swinburne? Were you paying attention when I said "As for whether they're [Shapiro, Pigliucci, and Kitcher] better philosophers than, say, Plantinga, that wasn't really my initial point" and then kept my criticism of Plantinga as minimalistic as possible? You seem intent on finding quite imaginary slights. 12:53 PM