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Showing posts from November, 2016

Defending the Technocrats

Today I read this rather interesting post relating Berlin's critique of analytic philosophy, especially its then-inattention to political matters. While we do pay more attention to politics now, part of Berlin's critique still holds some water. This because he worries about `technocratic' modes of political thought where it is presumed there is agreement about the goals or ends of social life, and what remains is to work out how we reach or advance those goals. Such a presumption is dangerous, per Berlin, because it leads us to just ignore some of the hardest political problems we are faced with -- as Schliesser puts it, `it takes as settled what ought to be an achievement'. So while we have returned to political philosophy as a valued area of philosophy in analytic thought, it must be admitted that this kind of technocratic work still occurs. Indeed, as Schliesser notes in the linked post, this seems to be a part of Rawls' project, which is especially significant …

Lifeworld of the (Analytic) Metaphysicians

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I really enjoyed this recent post by Eric Schliesser, and I am going to say a bit about why here.  The theme of my post is: I think it speaks really well for a philosopher or school of philosophy if one can discern an underlying emotional basis for their work; if one can see not just what it would take for their words to be true (and I guess whether or not what they say is true), but also what kind of person one would have to be to think it true, to feel towards the world as the philosophy would have you feel, to truly inhabit the lifeworld it constructs.

Sometimes it is clear what this would entail (the dark pessimism of Schopenhauer, the fearful opportunism of Lao Tzu, the meliorative optimism of Condorcet and les philosophes) but I often think people give up too quickly in seeking for this emotional basis. For instance, people rarely see this in analytic philosophers or schools of thought, and while this is quite right in some cases (e.g. some are not consistent, or speak in too p…

Du Bois and the Alt Right

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In the Proceedings of the 1909 National Negro conference there is a W.E.B. Du Bois paper called `Evolution of the Race Problem'. Since I have seen some of the arguments he is addressing put forward in slightly adapted modern contexts I thought I would relay some of his reasoning here, and give a little commentary of my own at the end. I note that, first, I am not going to cover all the material in this essay and, second, philosophyheads may be interested to know that Dewey also has a short piece in this volume.

Ok so Du Bois is concerned to argue against the following line of reasoning, popular (he says) in America and gaining increasing sympathy in Europe in the wake of growing acceptance of Darwinism: the white race is generally superior, and superior owing to some biological facts about white people that make them as such. In order to secure the advantages of a superior people governing and contributing what they can to world culture, we should use legal and social sanction to …

Informal Omega Inconsistency

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Just a quick blog post writing up a thing that no doubt people in the informal logic literature know a lot about but which I don't know the term for so I invented my own. I call it Informal Omega Inconsistency, in honour of Rudolf Carnap's logical work. I find it... the fallacy not Carnap's work... very annoying. As I shall argue below, I think we should all be prepared to see a lot of Informal Omega Inconsistency after the US election.

Informal Omega Inconsistency is when people agree to a general (existential) claim but will stubbornly deny or remain absurdly sceptical as to every particular instance of it you produce. So, somebody may well agree that there are bad drivers in Pennsylvania -- but every time one points to a particularly erratic person on the road in the state they will say that, no no, this is not a bad driver, this is somebody whose car has suddenly and inexplicably stopped working, or is cursed, or at least they will not believe it is a bad driver till …