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Adam I. Gerard
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Brief Comments and Thoughts About Philosophy

Dimensions of Philosophy

  1. There is an awful tendency to bow to our worst cognitive biases. "Black-White" thinking (logics of duality or binary logics), monistic reduction (oversimplification of all things to a singular cause), etc.
  2. We are therefore quick to reduce philosophy to a singular method (and is not philosophy littered with such approaches)? Divine revelation, exultation of reason, and so on.
  3. We forget that philosophy serves many purposes, has many stakeholders, and so on. Philosophical systems produce ideologies that justify certain political arrangements (A Theory of Justice, Das Kapital, The Wealth of Nations, Leviathan, etc.), inspire alternative methods of inquiry (empirical science versus the tenants of 15th and 16th century Catholicism).
  4. We also forget the military and religious aspects of philosophy.
  5. Philosophy is also a generic human activity performed according to varying customs and norms, an academic tradition, an intellectual movement, a way of living, training of the mind for other applied tasks, and so on.
  6. Many of the most important contributions of philosophy are not what was written, but said. And, not what was uttered, but what is implicitly understood in silence. And, not what was said or written, but done.

The Utility of Philosophy

  1. Much emphasis is placed on philosophy's relevance to individual development. I will not dispute that.
  2. Regardless of the possibility or success of grander ambitions in philosophy (perfect knowledge, the perfect state, etc.), the highway that philosophers pave as they stumble along bickering is lined with the storefronts and cities of every innovation, knowledge-system, and religion.
  3. In jest, "From Nothing (Philosophy), Everything."
  4. The conflict and evolution of ideas (rife with cognitive fallacies as they are and, often enough, outdated by the very disciplines they spawn) produces epochal change. Slow at first and then speeding up.
  5. Much of philosophy is the by-product of instinctual human behavior.
  6. Arguably philosophy is valuable too since it offers a place of both refuge and confinement for the smartest. It is at once an endless maze of minds - a mental panopticon - and a stairway up. Both are valuable.
  7. Much of the best philosophy is opening up to discussion something taken for granted or deemed irrelevant. Few people write about these general topics, much less dive into them with any rigor. To not build upon the past means there is no progress in understanding (like digging two shallow wells instead of one great canal). If something constitutes an area of human life, it is relevant, no?
  8. It is so much more difficult to do something the first time, to learn it, to commit it to memory, to propagate that information across a nervous system made up of neurons in our fingers, brain, spine, etc.
  9. The internet along with mathematical computation demonstrates conclusively that several billion monkeys typing away cannot reproduce Shakespeare (I believe it's 80 million years for a single sonnet).

The Study of Human Systems

  1. Much could be said of Sociology if it approached the study of people the same way that one studies insects (Entomology) or other mammals. This is not to remove some moral status from human beings (actually quite the contrary since I think we should confer moral status to other animals) but it removes the lenses of ideology through which we review people and their activities.
  2. Philosophy is an interesting fixture of human ecologies, like cities (which are interesting features of human activity in their logistical importance and utility in controlling populations).
  3. It is not so much that humanity is divorced from nature but that we forget our activities are purely within the natural world, our arrogance or ignorance blinds us to the fact that our cities are great anthills, and so on.

Perspectives

  1. A perspective can be singular.
  2. A perspective or perspective is a way of viewing something (like rotating a die or cube).
  3. Perspectives represent epistemic limitations - from a cognitive standpoint, our sensory systems and raw processing power are quite limited to intake and hold in memory the many things that happen to us in a single moment or over a lifetime.

Pictures and Metaphors

  1. Most of philosophy's heavy-lifting comes through metaphors or "pictures" that are then formalized, codified into a system.
  2. One is the Tree of Knowledge where philosophy represented an alternative to the dogma of a State religion and blind adherence to a despot. The metaphor also specifies the historical evolution of human knowledge - from philosophy came all other disciplines:

i. Tarski - Model Theory.

ii. Wittgenstein, Pierce, Frege - Modern Logic.

iii. Russell, Cantor, Whitehead - Modern mathematics through ZFC Set Theory.

iv. Chompsky - Generative Grammar - Linguistics.

v. etc. (I've written about this more extensively elsewhere)

  1. Perhaps ironically, mathematics is the study of just such structures. Though mathematics to some extent spawned from philosophy, why shouldn't philosophy's disciples, children, and saplings come back to rejuvenate philosophical reflection?
  2. Outward? No. To come full circle and then outward again. And so on.
  3. Such metaphors are probably essential to more useful, good, and better philosophy. The metaphors are not trivial.

Language

  1. Human philosophy is confined by the biological limits of our thinking. This impacts our pictures, metaphors, and language.
  2. Much effort and struggle has been made about the limits of mind and world. Reframing this as a 1st versus 3rd person perspective cleans up a lot more. Our 1st person perspective is a subset of totality - are there still great mysteries here (from an epistemic standpoint)?
  3. The picture is not two circles one representing the mind, the other world. Rather one contains the other. I prefer thinking of a sphere in 3-Space (for convenience a cube)- the sphere representing the sum totality of our aggregate sensory systems, the cube in which it is contained - objective reality. This is itself only a metaphor.

Future of Philosophy

  1. I've written about this elsewhere and will only summarize here: traditional approaches, methods, and expectations about and within philosophy will change.

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