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Saturday, January 31, 2015


I have been hard at work on next Wednesday's lecture since early this morning.  I have only worked this intensively on the preparation for a course twice before:  in 1960, when I worked up my course at Harvard on the Critique of Pure Reason for the first time, and in then 1975, when I first taught a course on The Use and Abuse of Formal Methods in Political Philosophy at UMass.  On Wednesday, I shall complete my analytical exposition of classical Political Economy, bringing the story up to the point at which Marx entered the picture with Volume One of Capital.  Then I shall stop doing mathematical economics for a bit and start doing literary criticism!

I realized this week that I am really teaching two courses, not one.  [I plan to say this to the students on Wednesday, so those who have followed Jon Tostoe to this blog are getting a preview.]   The manifest subject of the course is "Karl Marx's Critique of Capitalism." but the latent subject [to borrow a distinction from Robert Merton] is "How to do Philosophy."  I want the students to learn, through this course, the importance of taking the time and expending the energy to learn a great deal about all the disciplines that bear in one way or another on the philosophical questions they are interested in. 

If you are doing the Philosophy of Mind, in my view, then you really need to familiarize yourself more than casually with neurophysiology.  If you are doing the Philosophy of Science, then it should go without saying that you need to know a very great deal, in a serious way, about modern Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.  If you are doing Political Philosophy, then you need to know a great deal about Political Sociology [I leave to one side Political Science, which has never struck me as an authentic discipline.]  And if you are doing Moral Philosophy, then you simply must inform yourself about Psychiatry, among other things.

This is not the dominant view in Philosophy these days, so far as I can tell.  Philosophers who are very smart, in a narrow, clever way, seem to imagine that they can rely on their innate intelligence to guide them through the Realm of Ideas.  But I disagree.

My favorite counterexample comes from the great neurologist and author Oliver Sacks.  Many of you may have come across the notion of "contrast-dependent terms," which is to say terms that are defined by reference to one another and therefore, it is supposed, can only be understood as a pair -- right and left, for example, or, for that matter, right and wrong..  There are philosophers who, after a bit of reflection undisturbed by any substantive knowledge, will assert confidently that no one could grasp the notion of to the right who did not also grasp the notion to the left.  Oliver Sacks, in one of his books, describes one of his patients, a woman who had suffered a traumatic brain injury.  She had lost all understanding of the concept to the left, while retaining a quite satisfactory functional grasp of to the right.  If she was looking for something on a table in front of her, and was told it was on her left, she would turn herself all the way around to the right until the object came into view.  Now, of course, a philosopher could try to "save the appearances" [to co-opt a phrase from the Greeks] by saying that the woman did not really understand the concept "to the right."  But that seems to me a counsel of desperation.

Oh well, I am only an Adjunct Professor in the Department, so I suspect I shall not make too lasting an impression on the students.


Ludwig Richter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ave Maria Mana Flocker said...

Well seeing most people post when they feel you are talking to them, which is the whole idea of posting in a blog,

The idea of "contrast-dependent terms," by how you put it, If there must be an up and so most there be a down, or if there must be a left then their most be a right.

I see where you are going on this and your right general speaking, except there are some core rules that most form opposing restrictive forces, for instance, You must repress the thought to deny it so that what thought more ideal may surface, or the notion of personal space bubble, where there are those who are of ME, and thus possessive such as this is my job and this is my home, and thus there is a natural outside yourself the Other, You cannot have a self without Other, as if you are everything then it is pointless to have distinction, the core laws to which nature of the mind exists are always going to have forces they can have partial restriction or complete opposition but they most exist to construct intelligent thought, and the reason why I know this you could not deny the case if those forces to deny any case did not exist, and one of the requirements is that there is some THING, and thus there must be OTHER, this drive is a part of intelligence as there is no notion of the universe saying one thing is different than some other but they are all relative, yet the driving forces MOST exist otherwise intelligence would not be able to make the distinction, its fine that some are not aware of the distinction in some case, such as just because I know a lower frequency is red does not mean I know a higher frequency is blue, you see the case where the distinction is not known, does not mean we can't learn them, and we do this notion in reference to which we relate a generalization to the common idea of light having a color and thus what frequencies are in fact another generalization where we are adding a value to the senses of what creates our sight.

Any way I like what you are saying, you do not work in the economic department of Harvard are you as those people need to be fired alright?

What drives the seed of intelligence to from a universal pattern to which all thought becomes does not mean at any given time intelligence has become, but when it does we both know it will be intelligent when she knows the contrast of her right from her left, but it makes you feel better, I often forget which is my left hand from my right hand still to this day.

Anyway I liked what you said and agree in part, there is a difference from what we don't know and do know, and yet that always exist even if we don't know it, and what we don't know is a driving force to be known for the mind does bring to surface the idea I have no idea what this is being the unknown the mystery and so what we know is repressed, and we only focus on what we don't know, unless we teach then we likely to both be smart asses trying prove who repress all these things we already know, but once again there are always opposites, you see they create your awareness of the case, I call it your intuition as the laws are NOT KNOW , but they drive the mind to the current fixation you are at, and no all patterns must have simple method to transform and relay a value to other systems, when dealing with complex systems so you are going to ALWAYS have a few laws defining the universe of the MIND, every thought you had and I had while writing them had the same driving laws and I saw them, but you know the simple proof that we both spoke intelligent is another way to prove that case. Just for the record I do not hate Harvard, liberal arts, Harvard philosophy, and Harvard medical science is great, but your economic department stinks I think I could teach toddlers better economic sense.

Ave Maria Mana Flocker said...

What I am trying to say LESS IS MORE, you take absolutes and attempt to work with even LESS and the only thing you have are the operations the mind must do to relate to any specialized area, what each area does does not matter when it comes to the math that would define it as it must relay a simple value as otherwise each area would have to translate itself and any other area and thus what is the point of specialized areas in the brain if they most process all other specialized areas in the brain, you see that is because your brain and my brain don't know sheit and can never know anything that only process simple values, that I call meanings most words only have a few possible meanings that are values the rest of the words are where they are not to be processed so you do not burn your brain out like I do, using the whole damn thing, it wilt kill you to do so, so I use divergent thinking patterns that cover all patterns and yes all your words and mind only have a few meanings because all things in the universe and in everyone's head only have a few meanings, you see I just call it a divine simplicity, and you know the wisdom of this world is thought wisdom, but I am fool, and you know God sent me to show all the wisdom of the world is foolish, but you should know I like you lets talk or email if you have time, you can reach me at my blogs or email me at, thanks.