Re: Sowing discord

1

John H. is very nice for a deeply smug dude. Or, perhaps I like smug people, being somewhat smug myself. De-pejoratize smugness!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 12:49 PM
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I think that in describing Holbo, you have to include passive-aggresivity. It's a subordinate moment, though -- he's more smug than passive-aggressive in part because he (in my view, falsely) believes that he has a high degree of control of his passive-aggressivity and only deploys it against deserving targets.

A bonus: he gets to feel superior to people who react negatively to his passive-aggressivity ("I was being perfectly civil and reasonable -- why is everyone picking on me?"). Once again, passive-aggressivity is here a subordinate moment, thoroughly integrated into an overall system of smugness.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 12:51 PM
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In person, he comes across much better, but then so does infamous Internet asshole Adam Kotsko.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 12:52 PM
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Is there any etc.

No. "Smug" is the right word.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 12:52 PM
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Yeah, having met plenty of the internet's great assholes has humanized them for me.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 12:57 PM
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And, with respect to Ben's edit, no, I couldn't read that post either, but I lose interest in most Valve pieces after a few words these days, despite liking many of their authors very much.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:01 PM
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Hmm. I couldn't finish the post either -- but mostly because I didn't understand, like, anything, and thus essentially decided I wasn't smart enough for that website.

I was going to suggest that my personal inability to follow the argument should not be ground for accusing the author of smugness. But then, maybe it is. Not every subject can be rendered accessible to all readers, of course, but the degree of effort made to render the subject more or less accessible is reflective of something. Maybe not "smugness," but something.

(I'm just rambling, of course. Don't know this Holbo fellow from Adam, as they say, and assume absent proof to the contrary that he is a lovely man.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:03 PM
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As a woman, AWB, I assume you were driven away by the infamous misogynists Adam Kotsko and Anthony Paul Smith.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:03 PM
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Further to the comments in that thread over there, creepily, I've been reading Anderson's The Way We Argue Now in the last week or two. Dude, I was just mining for stuff on authenticity (Anderson's final chapter is on Trilling's Sincerity and Authenticity) and got sucked in to the procedural liberalism stuff. I don't know Habermas from Rawls. Um.

I'm thoroughly creeped out. and amused.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:04 PM
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8: Luckily, I'm not as gender-deterministic in my own explanation of my reactions to things, but we'll say my relationship to the Valve is complex.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:06 PM
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but mostly because I didn't understand, like, anything, and thus essentially decided I wasn't smart enough for that website.

Me too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:06 PM
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To be fair, the post is very long.

Anyway, is Holbo in the same league as Instapundit with respect to smugness?


Posted by: Old Zippy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:07 PM
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Old Zippy makes a good point.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:09 PM
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But Ben is smug, too, no? Smug is maybe the wrong word, again.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:11 PM
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Lacking the time to read the linked post and ponder your take on it, but needing a moment's procrastination in order to blow through a deadline, I am left to wonder, w-lfs-n, about the formatting of your quotation marks. Surely there is some rigorously considered rationale.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:12 PM
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I try to read Ben's blog every now and then, and invariably give up with the same resignation that it is clearly intended for people smarter than me.

In contrast, I clicked through to Zippy Frog's blog and found it completely accessible.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:13 PM
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Ben is sui generis.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:13 PM
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Noway nohow am I smug, AWB. (Perish the thought!)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:14 PM
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What would be the units of a smug-scale? I think Percieved Smirks Per Sentence. On the PSPS Scale, I think we can use Megan or Teo to tare the zero.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:15 PM
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Smug works for Holbo, though. Like, I'll bet his wife is totally hott.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:15 PM
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15: There is a rationale, but I don't know how rigorously considered it might be.
20: True.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:17 PM
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It looks like LaTeX quotes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:18 PM
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It looks like ben used the wrong sort of quotes and they didn't get turned into curly quotes.

I tried to read the Valve post and couldn't follow it, but unlike the more modest and humble commenters, lay the blame not on myself, but on the post.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:19 PM
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Maybe that's how it looks to the improperly habituated, Cala.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:21 PM
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Yea, I blame the post too. It is sort of marinading in insider-ness.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:22 PM
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OK, is there any chance that Holbo will read this? Because there's something I want to say.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:22 PM
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Holbo is still tilting at the "Higher Eclecticism," except now he's chosen to give it the even more confusing epithet of "humanism," apparently in a continued quest to convince that what is terribly wrong with Zizek or Spivak must be a deep-rooted problem with the humanities as a whole. This project was rather grating and underwhelming years ago and it still is. Otherwise I like him fine enough.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:23 PM
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25: That is a great turn of phrase.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:24 PM
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I read the whole thing twice, and the comments, and then stuck around the Valve for about an hour, catching up a little. It got deleted with everything else way back when.

Didn't understand anything, but that never slows me down. Do I really want to understand a place where Slavoj Zizek is really really important?

And Bulgakov's is the 2nd most overrated book of the 20th century.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:25 PM
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Do I really want to understand a place where Slavoj Zizek is really really important?

Too true.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:26 PM
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24: I will admit being improperly habituated when it comes to LaTeX, which is why my drafts are full of funny-looking quotes just like the ones in the post.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:26 PM
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Thanks, heebie. I'm partial to "turn of phrase," myself.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:26 PM
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28: it would be more great if it were "marinating in insider-ness".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:26 PM
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I didn't understand, like, anything, and thus essentially decided I wasn't smart enough for that website.

Dude, consider the shmeggegie with the keys to the place. I seriously doubt you or anyone else here ain't smart enough for it.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:28 PM
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Verbs that change spelling as nouns are hard for me. Also, the "d" and "t" are not *that* far away from each other. Maybe I mistyped.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:28 PM
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33: There's a difference between marinate and marinade?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:29 PM
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One marinates something in a marinade.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:30 PM
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Isn't that shmeggegie JH himself, SEK? What are you getting at?

And Sybil: I'm not blaming you. Or judging you. (I never judge.) I'm just describing a condition that, were it to obtain, would make the turn of phrase better.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:30 PM
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Verb and noun. What other examples are like that?


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:30 PM
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27: DS is right that he's continuing to do the same old thing, only he's backed away from the name Higher Eclecticism.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:30 PM
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41

Smug.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:30 PM
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Ben's not smug; he's self-absorbed. Entirely different. This is a compliment.

(Actually, seriously: there's a difference between 'If you don't get it, you're not one of the kewl kids' and 'If you don't get it, and wish to, I'll explain at length, unless you demonstrate that it's a waste of time'. The former doesn't care about its audience; the latter is actually trying to work something out, for real.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:31 PM
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Right. As soon as I typed it, I realized we were wading in grammar and not two entirely different meaninged words.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:31 PM
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(But as a youngster, I thought 'marinate' entailed soaking something for a longish period of time in a marinade, but the Food Network people seem to use it to mean 'put some spices on it in a dish before cooking it.')


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:31 PM
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Are there too many Zippys? I'm willing to be just The Comment Frog if need be.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:33 PM
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Isn't that shmeggegie JH himself, SEK? What are you getting at?

There's been a coup. An announcement is forthcoming in the next few weeks, but you can see evidence of it in the sidebar.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:34 PM
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Dude, consider the shmeggegie with the keys to the place. I seriously doubt you or anyone else here ain't smart enough for it.

Well, maybe I just mean that it struck me as the sort of post that would enjoy making me feel stupid. Of course, now I'm feeling kind of dumb that I don't know what shmeggegie means...

I like "marinading" -- it's like a merging of "marinating" and "parading." The post is parading around in its marinade of insider-ness.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:34 PM
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42 was to 14.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:34 PM
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(But as a youngster, I thought 'marinate' entailed soaking something for a longish period of time in a marinade, but the Food Network people seem to use it to mean 'put some spices on it in a dish before cooking it.')

You the youngster were right, Cala, and the FN people are wrong.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:36 PM
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I like "marinading" -- it's like a merging of "marinating" and "parading."

I was throwing a dash of "marauding" in there, too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:37 PM
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46: You were really jonesing for another line on the CV, huh?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:37 PM
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Of course, now I'm feeling kind of dumb that I don't know what shmeggegie means...

This is what happens when people aren't exposed to Yiddish. What's the country come to?

(FTR: "Shmeggegie" refers to someone who's both wrong and mentally unstable.)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:38 PM
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I'm not, myself, crazy about 'Zippy'. 'Old Zippy' is a little better. I used to go by Mike J. until I noticed other people posting by that name and saying things I didn't believe. I'm happy to change if I can think of a better name or if someone can suggest one.


Posted by: Old Zippy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:39 PM
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I thought the shmeggegie was the waiter who spilled the soup, and the shlemiel was the guy on whom the soup is spilled?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:39 PM
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I sort of sympathize with Holbo, without being able to follow exactly what the argument is about, largely because I find literary theory so opaque. Most other fields of study, if I find a bit where I happen to know all the words in the senses they're being used in, I can follow the argument. Literary theory, on the other hand, I almost always know the words, but I still don't know what's going on.

This makes me cranky and hostile, which makes me sympathize with Holbo, who also appears cranky and hostile on the subject, even though I don't understand him either.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:41 PM
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53: You could be "Mold Jippy"?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:41 PM
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You were really jonesing for another line on the CV, huh?

Not really. I just want a place to do the kind of thing I want to do with a moderately-sized audience, and what I want to do is more book events, talk more about the academic profession (why I invited Bousquet aboard), more about non-American/British literatures (why I invited Aaron Bady aboard), &c. We're even going to have real live women posting soon.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:41 PM
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54: Shlemiel goes with shlimazel. Didn't you ever watch Laverne and Shirley? (... she says, realizing she has just dated herself... )


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:42 PM
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53: If you're going in that direction, may I suggest Ol' Zip? "Old" as a name component, seems stiff when properly spelled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:42 PM
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How is Holbo taking it? Do you expect resistance or abotage?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:43 PM
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Hasenpfeffer incorporated! I thought it was a triumvirate, though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:43 PM
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I thought the shmeggegie was the waiter who spilled the soup

Even in the old country, rarely did they let the inmates service the guests.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:43 PM
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may I suggest Ol' Zip?

Mol' Jippy?
Mole Jippy?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:44 PM
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53:

Zoldippy


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:45 PM
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I always understood the waiter/soup story to explain the schmiel/schmuck/schmendrick distinction: The schmuck trips the schmendrick, and the soup lands on the schmiel.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:47 PM
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I'm happy to change if I can think of a better name or if someone can suggest one.

Speaking of which, where the hell is Wry Cooter? My only real contribution to the blog, and it's fallen by the wayside.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:53 PM
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I revise my thoughts of John H's post. Gotta be fair. Toward the end he sobers up, as it were, but really oddly, sounds as though he's speaking against his own usual rhetorical style.

By extension, in criticism, mostly what people call arguing is argufying. That is, they aren't really. They are just trying to get your attention. It's an expression of character, if you like.

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:54 PM
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Man, I appreciate the suggestions, but how about maybe names that are the opposite of those?

What do you think of
'Tiny Montgomery'
'carbolic'
'Piffle'
'telegraph'
'stitches'
'beamish'?


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:56 PM
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"El Hombre Muy Magnifico" remains an unused pseudonym.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:56 PM
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Turn "Piffle" into "Flummery". That's a good name.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:57 PM
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Come to my arms, my beamish Zip!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 1:58 PM
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I like "Piffle." "Piffle Flummery" would make a nice full-name. Or "Piffle B. Flummery," as I liked "beamish" too.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:00 PM
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Okay, I can't read that either. But my response to the first few paragraphs is that what Holbo seems to mean by "rigorous argument" is "externally verifiable premises"; that is to say, that the humanities are unrigorous (or don't use real arguments) because the premises rely on things like oh, say, "the word 'boy' has racist connotations."

Which sure, people can deny, or at least they can deny that *they* see it that way. And if they do that, you can't proceed.

But that's not lack of rigor. That's a presumption of intellectual honesty on your interlocutor's part--which includes the presumption that your audience is willing to try to engage your argument.

I mean, by the same token, you could say that science is unrigorous because people can say things like "evolution is just a theory."

(If I'm completely misunderstanding Holbo's argument then ignore me.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:03 PM
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I have no idea if you read that right, but assuming you did (because I understood what you just said, so I'm going with it), then "smug" does seem to be the right word.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:06 PM
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Ben *is* self-absorbed. Also supercilious. But no, not smug.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:07 PM
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I do like 'flummery'. I think I'll try that for a while, with the implicit full name of Flummery Beamish Piffle. Thanks to all for the advice.


Posted by: flummery | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:08 PM
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(All that said, of course both John H. and Ben W. are lovely people.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:09 PM
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I'm toying with substituting "glib" for "smug," actually -- based chiefly on checking the link DS provided in 27. John H. exchanges glibness for glibness (in Zizek)! But I'm sure that it's not worth worrying about, in the end.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:16 PM
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Ben's not smug; he's self-absorbed. Entirely different. This is a compliment.

(Actually, seriously: there's a difference between 'If you don't get it, you're not one of the kewl kids' and 'If you don't get it, and wish to, I'll explain at length, unless you demonstrate that it's a waste of time'. The former doesn't care about its audience; the latter is actually trying to work something out, for real.)

I agree with parsimon.

I am often initially put off by the density of things that Ben has written, but then I think of his cute little mischievious smile and I chuckle with delight at Ben.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:29 PM
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Anyway, is Holbo in the same league as Instapundit with respect to smugness?

Instapundit is glib. John is too prolix to be glib.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:30 PM
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will, you're embarrassing Ben.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:33 PM
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I am often initially put off by the density of things that Ben has written

In what sense of "dense" here?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:35 PM
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Does Ben's ' 'in blogs" appear on everyone else's screen as I just wrote it? Two apostrophes separated with a space to the left, punctuation mark to the right? I assume this is not a mistake, merely that Ben is again imposing his own rules of grammar.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:36 PM
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But my response to the first few paragraphs is that what Holbo seems to mean by "rigorous argument" is "externally verifiable premises"; that is to say, that the humanities are unrigorous (or don't use real arguments) because the premises rely on things like oh, say, "the word 'boy' has racist connotations."

I don't think that's quite what John's arguing. He points to the trend in certain literary theoretical circles to argufy as if they were arguing. They claim to be arguing -- hence the mention of Lacanian-Leninist stilts -- when they're really applying a mode of literary criticism to an object which openly defies it, i.e. the world. It's one thing to treat characters in a literary work like they're characters in a literary work; it's another entirely to base a theory of intellectual development on them a la Freud and, by extension, Lacan and Zizek.

The first problem with that is that it denies the category of the literary whatever it is you think makes it special.

The second is that it establishes the exceptional as normative. Hamlet's character is intensely riven in a way that most people's aren't. That's why we like Shakespeare.

The third is that it naively assumes a realist ethos of the sort you just don't see in Greek tragedy. Aeschylus ain't Dreiser or, better yet, Agee and Evans. The Lacanian reliance on Freudian concepts would say otherwise.

Put another way, I don't deny there's brilliance in Zizek's work on Hitchcock, I just refuse to consider what he finds in it as broadly applicable as he seems to. (Oversimplifying here, yes, but you catch my drift.)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:36 PM
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It's two backticks on the left and two apostrophes on the right, Michael.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:38 PM
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who reads 5 page long blog posts, anyway? Just looking at one, I think "could I gain more utility out of reading this, or 5 pages of one of the 5000 books on my bookshelf that I have not finished" and of course I should read the book. As a compromise, I'll do something else entirely. Like right a couple bitchy comments on Unfogged and then check on whether the poly has dried.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:38 PM
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In what sense of "dense" here?

Dense with intellect.

Or I am too dense to understand what he has written.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:38 PM
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85. Is there reasoning behind this?


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:40 PM
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punctuation mark to the right?

sometimes, I amaze myeslf.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:41 PM
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i quit.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:42 PM
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85. Is there reasoning behind this?

It's not so much reasoning as an immediate grasp that it was the right thing to do.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:42 PM
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It disturbs me when I'm reading a Valve post and, although I have no problem reading the theorists they cite or the novels they mention, I still have no fucking clue what they're getting at or who cares. If your blog is unreadable in a way that real critical theory isn't, it's possible you have a problem.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:45 PM
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If someone cannot understand me, then it is their fault, not mine!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:47 PM
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92: I call shenanigans! To wit:

This jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infans stage, still sunk in his motor incapacity and nursing dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.

I know what that means and I don't even know what that means.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:50 PM
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For what it's worth, my reading of the first three 'graphs was the same as B's: what hum. folk do can't be called arguing because they aren't doing so from externally verifiable data, like, say, oncologists or astronomers.
As a lit. theorist paired with a continental philosopher, I say bollocks. But I only read three paragraphs, in between reading about the subject being constituted in ideology.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:52 PM
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If someone cannot understand me, then it is their fault, not mine!

sfdklhjlkjshdksjh! the bthgd wno apapap 999 betgaj Will faksjfn2 101010! ~~~~, lol.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:52 PM
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i know you all do not approve earnestness, but i read the post, can't say that i got it fully and i think i more agree with the blogger JH than his opponents
not about the humanities or art critics, just i think people generally like to argue, it's a natural function of their brains though there are never absolutely right or wrong povs
it's like looking through the glasses, without the glasses my world is blurry, with the glasses it's clearly visible, but reality is just one and only and there are millions of different ways to perceive it, so, in the end, any arguing is meaningless but one needs to kill time arguing also, it's as noble as making bread or raising a child
in its striving to achieve impossible, which's truth
so the humanities studies are mostly observations, not quantative, but qualitative, an eye, perception, can't be argued and science is mostly trying to measure or change reality, the means, the glasses, totally arguable, coz the methods of the measurements are artificial and can be wrong at any point
this is how i recalled the old argument of 'physicists and lyricists' if it's relevant
but may be they're arguing something totally different
Bulgakov is not overrated, he's just great
and by saying that one is smug may be you admit that he's probably right, no?


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:53 PM
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Heebie, I feel like we are the same person.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:54 PM
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96: heebie's cute; I want to pinch her.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:54 PM
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Years ago, my beloved advisor was on and on about the requirement for perspicacity in philosophical (or critical) writing. We had an ongoing good-humored argument over it; he was so very serious and I-am-not-fucking-around-now about it. I felt his writing was overly dry, didactic; that he didn't let himself fly as I knew he could. He said nobody could or would follow. Perspicacity, yes, I know, I know, I am sick of that word, but okay! I finally agreed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:54 PM
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You and B must have an idiosyncratic take on "paragraph", oud.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:55 PM
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It's just a special case of the synthetic unity of apperception, Scott.


Posted by: flummery | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:55 PM
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I made that number up. I feel like I read 10-12 sentences.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:57 PM
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heebie's cute; I want to pinch her.

BR is looking forward to grabbing heebie's butt again.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:58 PM
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94: I'm not sure I know what that means, but I think I know what that means, so there.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 2:58 PM
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92 is right, I think.

As an 'analytic' type, I suppose I'd be expected to say that. But I 'minored'* in lit stuff as an undergraduate and I'm not opposed to theory stuff in principle, even if it doesn't generally do much for me.

* or the British equivalent, thereof ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:03 PM
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I'm looking forward to being pinched and grabbed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:04 PM
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Let this not become a referendum on the advisability of theory stuff in general.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:07 PM
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Holbo practices the endless deferral of the point. He promises to come to point, but he never gets there. In this post, he says 'there is no argument' but never provides an example of an argument, except Empson saying "I like argument." But like a good blogger, Holbo always promises to get there.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:08 PM
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re: 108

Oh, sure. That wasn't what I meant. I was just agreeing with AWB, that, irrespective of one's take on theory stuff in general, the posts at The Valve tend to disappoint.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:09 PM
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98: No, will. The differences are immediately obvious When I read heebie's blog, I feel like I'm not clever or funny enough. When I read yours, I feel like I don't exercise enough. Until I realize that the workouts posted were from over a year ago, and then I feel adequate again.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:11 PM
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110: Right, gotcha.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:17 PM
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Really? I don't mean to sow inadequacy. I do read other blogs that make me feel un-clever and un-funny though, so I know what you mean.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:17 PM
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Di, "I said that I feel," not that "I am."

Heebie's brilliance is that she makes you feel like you are on her level.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:19 PM
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He has repeatedly been asked for an example of an argument, as well as for diagnosis as to whether the requester's own writing or else some well-known example qualifies as an argument. He absolutely never replies to such requests -- that is, he doesn't even acknowledge that they've occurred.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:20 PM
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It's not you, it's me heebs... And really, that was just my attempt to say in a clever and witty way how clever and witty I find your blog. But, of course, I just proved that I am not on the same level of clever and witty.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:22 PM
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Are we breaking up??


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:23 PM
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Quick Di, grab her ass!! It is worth it. (So I am told.)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:24 PM
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101: You know what we4 meant.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:24 PM
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Probably. But don't worry, last time I tried to break up with someone it didn't take, so feel free to drop by with a bottle of wine tomorrow night and we can watch a movie.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:25 PM
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Oh look. A bucket of popcorn. Di, why don't you reach in the bucket of popcorn. I'm motioning at you with my eyebrows.

(Does this mean things are back on with the guy you were casually seeing?)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:28 PM
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115:

That's why I didn't bother to request one. If he did try to respond, his argument, so to speak, would self-destruct.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:30 PM
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Ooh, buttery.... hey, wait a minute!

(Yes, it would appear so. Casually so. Like thinly-sliced Jarlsberg cheese, I know he is loaded with cholesterol an not good for my heart in the long run, but Diet Coke has just left me so empty and unsatisfied...)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:32 PM
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95: As a lit. theorist paired with a continental philosopher, I say bollocks.

I'm quoting the wrong bit here, but I don't think the notion that the arguments of literary folk differ from those of astronomers is bollocks. It's why I'm an historicist instead of an historian: I'm not interested in the ultimately quantifiable, I'm interested in lived experience as communicate through literature. It's bound to be woolly, and I appreciate its woolly warmth. But there are many people in the discipline -- esp. when you define the discipline more broadly, as is common now with the umbrella of theory -- who claim to be describing the skeletal structure of human society with great precision. John's contention, as I understand it, is that 1) they aren't, 2) they won't admit they aren't, and 3) they won't admit they aren't because they're invested in the authority attendant upon their theoretical chops.

110: the posts at The Valve tend to disappoint.

Soon to be Under New Management! Come back and see us when the renovations (and my damn dissertation) are complete!

115: He has repeatedly been asked for an example of an argument, as well as for diagnosis as to whether the requester's own writing or else some well-known example qualifies as an argument. He absolutely never replies to such requests -- that is, he doesn't even acknowledge that they've occurred.

I can't speak for him, so I won't. I'll admit, as above, that I think he has a point, but as you and CR pointed out in that thread, his point is more of historical import than he might think it is. Then again, all the talk about the unrepresentativeness of PMLA and Critical Inquiry neglects the fact that they're still considered flagship journals, and that the work in them -- as represented on CVs and in discussions between members of hiring committees -- is still considered exemplary in an important, or at least institutional, sense.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:35 PM
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SEK, "differ from" is not the same thing as saying that the arguments of people in humanities aren't really arguments at all.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:44 PM
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I propose to understand ``this kind of quotation'' the way, if I remember correctly, Brandom understands sscare quotess in Articulating Reasons.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:45 PM
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I'm not even remotely conceding that PMLA and Critical Inquiry are full of non-arguments masquerading as argument, nor that theory as a general enterprise can be fairly characterized in such terms.

No one is suggesting that argumentation in astronomy and literary studies should be identical -- the entire point of the attempt to dislodge Holbo's narrow (and yet obscure) definition of "argument" is to say that different disciplines argue differently and with varying standards of proof and rigor as befits their subject-matter.

"who claim to be describing the skeletal structure of human society with great precision" -- I call bullshit on "with great precision," and on the whole notion that theorists of various kinds are attempting to mislead people about the nature of the enterprise (presumably out of "discipline envy" of the hard sciences?). If you think theorists are wrong in their specific claims or in their method, then great -- but the accusations of more or less conscious bad faith are ridiculous. Apparently graduate study in the humanities has been a con-game for decades, only teaching people to pose as cool? (It has been a con-game, but not on that level.)


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:47 PM
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I'm quoting the wrong bit here, but I don't think the notion that the arguments of literary folk differ from those of astronomers is bollocks.

Well, I'm just repeating B, but obviously they are different forms of arguments. But JH is saying that hum. folk make no argument at all.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:47 PM
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I propose that you not expect the rest of us to memorize your picayune, arbitrary rules.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:48 PM
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128: No, he's saying that they don't make arguments and falsely claim to be making arguments in order to enhance their own prestige. And he can't understand why people disagree!


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:49 PM
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I propose that you not expect the rest of us to memorize your picayune, arbitrary rules.

It was neither picayune nor arbitrary, you hateful clod.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:53 PM
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130: OMG, you're right. I totally imply to people all the time that what I do basically equals mathematical proof and/or logical syllogism! I am so sorry! I repent. I'm gonna go add something.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 3:53 PM
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Me too! I've always wanted to be an analytic philosopher, ever since I was a little boy -- it's because they're so prestigious and universally admired! If you claim to be doing something in the grand analytic style, you're basically "in." It's like an epigraph from Walter Benjamin, but moreso.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:04 PM
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133: Whee! If Plato were smart enough, he would have known to skip all that dialogue bullshit and write in syllogisms! So much more straightforward! So much more pure!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:07 PM
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I sympathize with 55.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:14 PM
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i'd suggest ZtCF as a new handle
i took JH's side mostly b/c holbo means connection in my language so i'm like biased a bit
or kotsu-ko is also a nice handle, kotsu meaning a clue, a tip, there are other meanings too, but i like it best, ko-a boy, a child
also, i sympathize with 135


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:19 PM
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kotsu-ko is also a nice handle, kotsu meaning a clue, a tip, there are other meanings too, but i like it best, ko-a boy, a child

This is awesome.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:22 PM
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What I found baffling was the idea that Holbo wasn't a humanities folk, or seemed to be in opposition to the humanities folk.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:24 PM
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73

"Okay, I can't read that either. But my response to the first few paragraphs is that what Holbo seems to mean by "rigorous argument" is "externally verifiable premises"; that is to say, that the humanities are unrigorous (or don't use real arguments) because the premises rely on things like oh, say, "the word 'boy' has racist connotations."

Which sure, people can deny, or at least they can deny that *they* see it that way. And if they do that, you can't proceed."

Well you could explain what you mean by "racist connotations" and how empirically some uses of "boy" satisfy your definition.

"But that's not lack of rigor. That's a presumption of intellectual honesty on your interlocutor's part--which includes the presumption that your audience is willing to try to engage your argument."

If your argument depends on technical terms current within your field which your audience is unfamilar with, it is not intellectual dishonesty for your audience to question them.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:24 PM
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Some people don't think that philosophy is one of the more humane letters. I don't think Holbo's one of them, though; I think he just means "the literary humanities" or something like that.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:25 PM
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127

"... Apparently graduate study in the humanities has been a con-game for decades, only teaching people to pose as cool? ..."

Sounds about right to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:27 PM
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The accusations of more or less conscious bad faith are ridiculous.

It's always best to assume more or less conscious bad faith in people and then look for evidence against the assumption. This is hardly "ridiculous", though of course it's completely normal to pretend that it is.

Certain forms of brain damage and mental illness do make conscious bad faith impossible, always with terrible results for the sufferer. But this is rare.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:31 PM
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139: James, sweetie, did I talk about technical terms? Would you expect that the "technical terms" in "scientific" disciplines should be understood by a lay audience? Or that if, say, a microbiologist were using "technical terms" with an audience of oh, say, physicists who were unfamiliar with those terms--after all, they're both in the same field, "science"--that it would indeed be intellectually dishonest for the physicists to say that the microbiologist was flat-out wrong rather than saying, perhaps, "I'm afraid I don't understand this"?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:31 PM
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James B. Shearer really spices up any conversation. (I think I might prefer the Troll of Sorrow.)


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:33 PM
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143 is about 500 times more condescending than it needs to be. Seriously, what are you trying to accomplish with these comments?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:33 PM
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Um, did you not read her handle?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:37 PM
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Would you expect that the "technical terms" in "scientific" disciplines should be understood by a lay audience?

Yes, yes, empatically yes. To B's point. Not to the rhetorical question. Just because you've read Moby Dick doesn't necessarily mean you should be able to read everything written about it without a little work.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:38 PM
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Or emphatically, even.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:38 PM
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140: But isn't he on the more literary end of the philosophy spectrum to begin with? Couldn't this whole thing be solved by saying 'different style of argument'?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:41 PM
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143 is exactly as condescending as Shearer deserves. You may not be able to see how condescending *he's* being, but I can. What with my excellent grasp of such technical terms as "nuance" and "tone," which of course those without humanities PhDs can't possibly be expected to understand.

See, for instance, 141, which as a follow on to 139, speaks volumes.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:42 PM
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149: That depends on whether you think saying that would be robbing "argument" of its significance (reducing it to "what gets published in their journals is their style of argument") or not. There is sense to the notion that one might be engaging in something that's vaguely argument-shaped without actually giving an argument.

One would want at least some positive characterization of what an argument is, even if it's just pointing to a bunch of examplary arguments and trying to evoke how the putative non-argument differs from them, if that's the way the case will be made, though.

I don't know what you mean by "the more literary end of the philosophy spectrum", either. Do you mean because he likes writing about literature?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:45 PM
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Would you expect that the "technical terms" in "scientific" disciplines should be understood by a lay audience?

Yes to the rhetorical question, too. Often (not always) a piece buried in "technical terms" that a mere layperson couldn't possibly understand suggests that the author is trying to put lipstick on a pig.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:45 PM
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149: I proposed that dozens of times. Apparently that solution was unacceptable.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:46 PM
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151: I meant that it's not exactly a logician complaining about the lack of technical rigor here.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:47 PM
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127: I'm not even remotely conceding that PMLA and Critical Inquiry are full of non-arguments masquerading as argument, nor that theory as a general enterprise can be fairly characterized in such terms.

I'm not asking you to. I've written about my frustration with articles in flagship journals before, and I'm not criticizing theory per se so much as a particular, institutionally-recognized version of it. That said, I really only referenced the PMLA/Critical Inquiry bit because I think that while the idea that the moment of theory has passed has some merit, it's still an argument only made with Goldbergian care at this particular moment.

the entire point of the attempt to dislodge Holbo's narrow (and yet obscure) definition of "argument" is to say that different disciplines argue differently and with varying standards of proof and rigor as befits their subject-matter.

I think John would contend these different disciplines frequently address the same subject matter. (Not that I want to reduce his complaint to interdisciplinary border-warring, mind you.)

I call bullshit on "with great precision," and on the whole notion that theorists of various kinds are attempting to mislead people about the nature of the enterprise (presumably out of "discipline envy" of the hard sciences?). If you think theorists are wrong in their specific claims or in their method, then great -- but the accusations of more or less conscious bad faith are ridiculous.

I don't think it's conscious bad faith. Both the feminist and the evolutionary psychologist honestly believe they're sound of mind and method, but obviously they both can't be correct. Which one's arguing in bad faith here? I'd wager neither, but acknowledge that each damn well thinks the other is.

I also call shenanigans on your bullshit concerning "with great precision." It happens every time someone refers to "a discourse of X." It's a precise claim about an imprecise object about which, more often than not, nothing precise is said.

128: But JH is saying that hum. folk make no argument at all.

I think Adam's in his rights to claim that John hasn't adequately defined what he thinks an argument is. I'm certainly projecting my own view as to the differences between an argument in the hard and soft sciences and one in the humanities. I don't have a bone in this debate anymore -- I fall squarely, and happily, on the argufying side at this point -- so I really should just shut up.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:48 PM
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152: Well, yes, that's very often the case. Nonetheless, Shearer's response to my comment actually had nothing to *do* with the comment; it was just an opportunity for him to disingenously play the "humanities have no real content" game. Which for some crazy reason pisses me off. Go figure.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:49 PM
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152: I dunno; I don't expect to have immediate access to a physics or microbiology article without recourse to a dictionary or some other manner of explaining accepted usage within a field. I don't find that purposeful obscurantism.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:51 PM
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151: I meant that it's not exactly a logician complaining about the lack of technical rigor here.

Ok, fair enough, but that leaves a lot of philosophy in the "more literary side". (Even a lot of articles by technically proficient philosophers might get included as "more literary" here.)

There was an article in the american philosophical quarterly called something like "philosophy as descriptive manifestation" that, among other things, pointed out that some of the so-called "arguments" in Naming and Necessity amount to shameless intuition-mongering. (I think this man's referred to Feynman. Don't you?)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:53 PM
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157: if you were a logician you would understand that you and Di don't need to disagree here.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:54 PM
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I confess that I quit reading so many Valve articles before I'm finished that I'm baffled as to why this particular article roused such opposition.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:54 PM
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155: I also call shenanigans on your bullshit concerning "with great precision."

I call bullshit on the shenanigans having been called on the bullshit, double punch-buggies, no returns. I think it's rather misleading to say that someone who talks about "the discourse of [x]" is necessarily portraying themselves as having precisely delineated every aspect of the discourse. It's an imprecise claim about a contingent object, and pretty frequently acknowledged as such.

Speaking of CI, there's a good interview with Tzvetan Todorov in the winter '08 issue, available to non-subscribers.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:54 PM
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Both the feminist and the evolutionary psychologist honestly believe they're sound of mind and method, but obviously they both can't be correct.

Are you on crack, SEK? First, what kind of feminist are we talking about, here? A feminist who also happens to be an evolutionary biologist? A feminist who also happens to be a sociologist? A feminist who also happens to be a literary theorist?

Second, yeah, actually, they can both be "correct," if they're operating in different fields and putting forth arguments that are, in essence, attempts to explain complex phenomena. As long as the arguments are based on observable data--whether that data's textual, sociological, genetic, whatever--and are consistent with the standards of the field, blah blah.

If what you mean is that they can't both be "correct" in the sense that ultimately, generic feminist argument that "x is 100% socially determined" and generic evopsych argument that "x is 100% genetically determined" cannot both be true, then sure. But of course real scholars don't make such simplistic arguments, real scholars are willing to abandon arguments if and when data that prove them wrong emerge, and that doesn't bear on the merit of the arguments as such--just on whether or not the data and conclusions are definitive.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 4:59 PM
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156: Oh, sure, I didn't mean that in defense of Shearer's "point" in 139. More in the sense, actually, of questioning his premise involving an argument that depends on technical terms your audience is unfamiliar with. Or something.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:00 PM
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I read Shearer as saying that there was a problem not in using technical terms, but in using technical terms that turned out not to have a clear (and distinct!) concept.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:02 PM
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Clearly the feminist psychologist and the evolutionary psychologist.

Second, yeah, actually, they can both be "correct," if they're operating in different fields and putting forth arguments that are, in essence, attempts to explain complex phenomena. As long as the arguments are based on observable data--whether that data's textual, sociological, genetic, whatever--and are consistent with the standards of the field, blah blah.

This strikes me as an idiosyncratic standard for correctness.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:03 PM
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157: I shouldn't be getting into this, because I really don't know enough to have much of an opinion. But at least some literary theory as a casual reader strikes me as purposefully obscure in ways that difficult things in other areas of study don't -- as if having someone who was themselves comfortable with the theory walking me through it wouldn't help. (There's plenty of literary criticism I don't react like that to.)

Reading Heidegger was like that: definitions of technical terms weren't any use, or really available. The impression I got was that to get much out of it you kind of had to turn yourself into Heidegger, rather than simply learning what he was talking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:05 PM
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This is just to say
that I am sorry that I didnt understand Ben's comment.
But he was so dense and wanted me to think too much.
Besides, he is so delicious and so cold.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:05 PM
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162

"Second, yeah, actually, they can both be "correct," if they're operating in different fields and putting forth arguments that are, in essence, attempts to explain complex phenomena. As long as the arguments are based on observable data--whether that data's textual, sociological, genetic, whatever--and are consistent with the standards of the field, blah blah."

This assumes different fields with different standards are equally valid. But some fields, like astrology, are nonsense.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:06 PM
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But I'm importing a bad experience with Heidegger into a generalized leeryness of literary theory that made me feel the same way, without any strongly grounded justification. I am gesturing at, rather than making, an argument.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:07 PM
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I shouldn't be getting into this, because I really don't know enough to have much of an opinion.

If this were the standard, I would, like, almost never get to comment.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:10 PM
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166: Do you think it's possible that the general cultural ethos of skepticism about literary theory might affect your perception of it? For instance, I'm sure all of us laypeople are all willing to give string theory the benefit of the doubt -- but there's not a huge Culture War going on with one side constantly denouncing string theory as obscurantist bullshit.

Michael Naas once made this point about Derrida in specific -- his books sold in the low thousands, if that, and critiques of his work (often of questionable quality and fairness) appeared in much larger venues such as NYRB. So all of a sudden "everyone knows" that Derrida is an abstruse theorist.

This kind of innoculation effect goes on all the time -- and shockingly, it's usually done against schools of thought with a leftist bent! For instance, how often have you heard that feminism did some good but went too far?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:12 PM
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164: Hmmmm. I think Shearer would say that any concept that doesn't have some physical referent is unclear.

165: Correctness of an argument? If I argue that Moby Dick is homerotic, and you argue that it's homosocial, we can't both be correct?

Or (to continue with SEK's examples), if I argue that women are discriminated against in math and science, and support my argument with the relevant data, while responsible evopsych person argues that men may be slightly better than women at X set of reasoning skills, and supports *his* argument with the data, we can't both be correct?

Sure we can. As far as our arguments go. If, as I said, you want to go *on* to say that *either* women are discriminated against *or* men are generally better at X, then you're being a doofus.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:14 PM
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168: Is astrology really a "field"? Are there universities with departments of astrology? (If so, apparently that's where I should teach, since so many people compare my field of study to astrology.)


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:14 PM
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I think it's rather misleading to say that someone who talks about "the discourse of [x]" is necessarily portraying themselves as having precisely delineated every aspect of the discourse. It's an imprecise claim about a contingent object, and pretty frequently acknowledged as such.

"Discourse" is a pet-peeve, if only because once-upon-a-time it was a bulwark against the necessity of further research. You're always harder on the ones you are, &c. But that doesn't mean it's not an institutionally acceptable short-cut, a way to avoid definition while seeming precise. A quick search through JSTOR yields the following list of discourses:

the discourse of spatial practices
the discourse of a pernicious urbanism
the discourse of human rights
the discourse of "human rights"
the discourse of identity embodied in memorial activity
the discourse of American savagery
the discourse of meditation
the discourse of ideal married love
the discourse of witchcraft
the discourse of purging, mercy and renewal
the discourse of modern clinical medicine
the discourse of the "I"
the discourse of the Marines
the discourse of the war veteran
the discourse of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
the discourse of unmasking
the discourse of othering the Balkans
the discourse of peasant rebellion
the discourse of encirclement
the discourse of the semiosphere
the discourse of sport
the discourse of pornography
the discourse of alcohol
the discourse of radical black Caribbean men
the discourse of ethnic and racial "tolerance"
the discourse of triumphal globalized capitalism
the discourse of modern poetry
the discourse of romantic self-authentication
the discourse of condemning officialdom
the discourse of the conquered subject
the discourse of film amateurism in the nineteenth century
the discourse of sequelization
the discourse of film remaking
the discourse of the British cine clubs
the discourse of propriety and vulgarity

Are those all discourses? Are they all discourses in the same way? Probably not. (As you can tell, many of these come from the same articles, a fact that doesn't strike me as insignificant.) As per the current conversation, the best one I found was:

the discourse of contemporary critical theory

I've no doubt we all know what that is.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:16 PM
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some fields, like astrology, are nonsense.

It does not therefore follow that where two academic fields use different methodologies or examine different things, that one field must therefore be nonsense, James.

Surely you're brilliant enough to know a red herring when you try to serve one up. Or are you under the impression that astrology is a recognized academic discipline?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:18 PM
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Are you on crack, SEK? First, what kind of feminist are we talking about, here? A feminist who also happens to be an evolutionary biologist? A feminist who also happens to be a sociologist? A feminist who also happens to be a literary theorist?

I'm talking about straw-feminists and straw-evo-psychologists, i.e. hard-core social constructivists vs. hard-core biological essentialists.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:20 PM
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I don't think it's just due to the culture wars; but I base this mostly on finding some (admittedly limited) maddeningly vague and finding Derrida completely readable. And I find it harder to believe that Holbo is merely succumbing to pop media bullshit.

But it would help if he could precisely define that which he thought the arguments were lacking!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:20 PM
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SEK, the fact that "discourse" is an overused term does not mean that it's not a valid or useful one.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:22 PM
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I don't think that SEK was claiming that "discourse" is always invalid, never useful.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:23 PM
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What's Holbo's purpose in this? Just to bag on literary scholarship and the humanities (philosophy not included?) more generally?

Of course people in different disciplines use different rhetoric to convince their colleagues they are right about something. Experimental physicists might have a whole bunch of numbers they got from running a particle collider, or they might have bubble-chamber pictures. Theoretical physicists have some elegant equations or a really great thought experiment. Literary critics often say, "Look here, here, and here. See the similarities? See the difference?" This is exactly as much an argument as a physicist showing slides of particle tracks and saying, "See, here is a different kind of track. We think it means there's a different kind of particle being produced in this collision."

Maybe Holbo is thinking other fields have some kind of non-rhetorical way of arguing. But it's all rhetoric. That's how people convince people, physicists included.

Whether or not the field of literary scholarship contains an objectionable degree of bullshit is a separate question. In my very limited experience, there's loads of good work, and some amount of bullshit obscurantism.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:23 PM
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177: I was talking specifically to LB in the relevant comment. I do not believe that John Holbo read The Closing of the American Mind and then said, "I'm gonna start me up a website!"

174: So broad concepts aren't allowed? Don't you study "literature"?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:24 PM
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176: In which case you're just being silly, and I already addressed the 100% thing anyway.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:26 PM
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179: Except that he said it's . . . an institutionally acceptable short-cut, a way to avoid definition while seeming precise.

That sounds to me a lot like saying it's invalid and useless (except perhaps as a way of faking it, which presumably he is against).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:29 PM
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181: Right, but I don't believe the reason LB found Heidegger and other writers hard is that she heard that it was obscure, and that would go double for someone like Holbo. (I'm still a little confused about what he's arguing, and whether it's the same old same old.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:29 PM
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the fact that "discourse" is an overused term does not mean that it's not a valid or useful one.

Not when a discourse has been established, it's not. But as often as not, you see the word employed to conjure into existence the discourse of which the author writes, and that bothers me. When it's used the other way, it's almost always redundant, i.e. "the discourse of vulgarity and propriety," which is, presumably, the thing being described. If it isn't, its reference is infuriatingly vague. Again, this is a pet-peeve because it's something I'm prone to myself. I just have to keep reminding myself that when I write "the discourse of late-Nineteenth Century evolutionary theory" I'm conjuring the very thing I've spent 300 pages claiming doesn't exist, and that am I that stupid? (Yes, obviously, but I prefer my appraisals of my own intellect be made with as much bad faith as possible.)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:29 PM
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Maybe Holbo is thinking other fields have some kind of non-rhetorical way of arguing. But it's all rhetoric.

Bull.

183: Not necessarily. Sometimes it's valid; sometimes it's not. The point about its being an institutionally accepted shortcut just means: no one calls you on it, or even thinks to call you on it, when you're using it in an invalid way.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:32 PM
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you see the word employed to conjure into existence the discourse of which the author writes

Meh. If by "conjure into existence" you mean "point to an imprecise, yet identifiable, set of concerns and discussions." You might as well have a pet peeve, as Zippy said, about the term "literature" since obviously the boundaries of what is and isn't literature are unfixed and blurry.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:34 PM
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What is a discourse, B?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:35 PM
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186: And the point about it being "a way to avoid definition while seeming precise" means: faking it. Unless I am sorely mistaken.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:36 PM
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181: So broad concepts aren't allowed? Don't you study "literature"?

By whom? They're obviously allowed by the discipline, since they're absolutely everywhere. Also, you may have noticed that the category of "literature" is just about the shiftiest, most amorphous ones around. If someone refers to "the discourse of literature," I'm liable to turn violent.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:36 PM
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172

"... Hmmmm. I think Shearer would say that any concept that doesn't have some physical referent is unclear."

No, the mathematical concept of a "prime number" is clear enough. But it may need to be explained to a layman particularly since "prime" has other meanings in ordinary English.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:37 PM
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186: And the point about it being "a way to avoid definition while seeming precise" means: faking it. Unless I am sorely mistaken.

Did you even read 186?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:38 PM
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re: 180

I wouldn't accept that it's 'all rhetoric': although that depends on whether we are talking about 'sociological' explanations of how scientific theories come to be accepted or 'philosophical' accounts of what makes a theory 'true' or 'good'.*

On the other hand, there are, of course, decades of work by philosophers and sociologists of science standing ready and waiting to pwn anyone who wants to make crude arguments about the 'special' relationship between science and empirical evidence.

re: 184

I've tried (and failed) to read Heidegger a few times. LB is not alone.

* scare quotes because the disciplinary boundaries don't cleanly break down that way and there are people on both sides of those boundaries doing similar work ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:39 PM
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SEK, You seem to have a definition in mind for "discourse" that doesn't match with its usage in practice. In order to be worthy of your new position as editor of The Valve, I suggest that you resolutely refuse to acknowledge that you have not supplied or defended said definition.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:41 PM
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182: In which case you're just being silly, and I already addressed the 100% thing anyway.

I wasn't being silly. My point was that some groups have incommensurable positions, and that each no doubt believes the other to be arguing in bad faith. First example to mind concerned feminist dismissals of cultural normativity in evo-psych studies.

186: no one calls you on it, or even thinks to call you on it, when you're using it in an invalid way.

Exactly. And no one's called anyone on it for so long, some people don't even think there is an invalid way anymore. Only there is.

187: If by "conjure into existence" you mean "point to an imprecise, yet identifiable, set of concerns and discussions." You might as well have a pet peeve, as Zippy said, about the term "literature" since obviously the boundaries of what is and isn't literature are unfixed and blurry.

So if you read an article which contrasted "the discourse of politics" to "the discourse of literature," you wouldn't think yourself in the presence of unkosher generalization?


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:43 PM
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Off the top of my head and without consulting the JH Guide to Literary Theory or any of that crap (because I am far too lazy to go into my study), I'm gonna say that "discourse," when used the way SEK's talking about, basically refers to an informal body of knowledge, or discussion, or debate. A topic, but with the added connotation of focusing specifically on the way the topic is constructed linguistically and rhetorically.

I.e., the "discourse of evolution" wouldn't include things like specimens. Unless they were being "read" as texts (e.g., the methods of displaying them). It also wouldn't include, say, the language and concerns of what does or doesn't constitute poetry, or landscape architecture, or reformist agendas, or whatever.

I have zero doubt that I'm being imprecise: I myself am pretty bad at definitions, and tend to have to look this shit up if I'm using it "for real." I trust, however, that for the purposes of internet comment threading, you'll make allowances.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:43 PM
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194: SEK, You seem to have a definition in mind for "discourse" that doesn't match with its usage in practice.

It's your choice: the hopelessly vague "discourse" with no methodological underpinning, or the Foucauldian one. I don't mind the latter nearly so much as the former, at least not in theory. By which I mean, Foucault went to great page-lengths to establish the validity of his discourses, whereas I doubt the person who wrote about "the discourse of ethnic and racial 'tolerance'" engaged in quite so thorough a study. If she did, all the better. My point, as ben's nicely making, is that she'll discuss "the discourse of ethnic and racial 'tolerance'" as if she did even if she didn't.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:49 PM
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192: Don't be insulting. Of course I did.

By whom? They're obviously allowed by the discipline

By you? Since you seem to be criticizing the discipline for allowing them?

I wasn't being silly. My point was that some groups have incommensurable positions

But you said that the two "groups" you were using as examples were strawmen. That's not "some groups." That's "I can make shit up."

some people don't even think there is an invalid way anymore. Only there is.

THAT's fine. I'll agree with that. But saying "these terms can be used in invalid ways" did not seem to be what you were arguing.

(And to preempt Ben's quibbling, I'm sure that SEK *does* think that there are valid uses for the term discourse, and that part of what he's doing in arguing that there's no such thing as a "discourse of evolution" in 19th century whatever is putting a lot of weight on defining where it is and isn't valid to use the term. Which is fine and awesome: specificity is a good thing. All *I'm* saying is that acknowledging that specificity is good doesn't require one to also say that imprecision is unacceptable. People grope towards explanations of things that are new, amorphous, or still being discovered.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:51 PM
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164

"I read Shearer as saying that there was a problem not in using technical terms, but in using technical terms that turned out not to have a clear (and distinct!) concept."

The problem is using technical terms and concepts with which your audience is unfamiliar and expecting them to know what they mean to the extent that any questions are considered bad faith. This problem is especially bad for terms which have ordinary English meanings which differ from the technical meaning. And also for terms like "racist" which most people consider to carry a value judgement.

I was assuming the technical terms and concepts were in fact meaningful. Of course sometimes they aren't. In which case members of the field tend to be extra hostile when questioned.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:51 PM
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197: Yeah, and does that necessarily mean that what she's trying to pin down or explore is stupid or invalid?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:52 PM
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This thread, I should add, beautifully embodies the discourse of conflicts about discourse among theoretically-inclined religious scholars, Habermasian-influenced Eighteenth Century Britishists, and Nineteenth Century Americanists.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:53 PM
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201: Indeed. (Is "Britishists" a word?)

199: Do you have an actual point you're trying to make, James?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:56 PM
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If the game is to poach from the absolute dregs of a discipline's faction, I suppose many can play that game and pick out work deploying "analytic" techniques that say, quite literally, something we already know, as well. But that would seem like a waste of time. Many arguments made in a discipline without emprical standards for truth are faddish and not very good. Surprise!

As for Holbo, I've always taken his work at the Valve to be an extended, failed attempt to put Chun in his place.


Posted by: tw | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 5:57 PM
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Chun truly is unavoidable, even in death.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:00 PM
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198: People grope towards explanations of things that are new, amorphous, or still being discovered.

I'm all for groping, but I don't think that's what scholars do when they declare this-or-that a discursive formation. I think they're trying to avoid leg-work in order to make clever points founded on rank generalizations. ("They" being relative here, as I'm not indicting anyone who would use the term.) An example would be mentioning "the discourse of male dominance" at play in the work of Jane Austen. Yes, the society was certainly patriarchal, but is that what this scholar means this discourse to evoke? Or does he mean "the commodification of the female body in a male-dominated marriage market"? If he means the latter, he should damn well say it. Only because the profession rewards Big Ideas of Abundant Applicability, he's not likely to.

200: Yeah, and does that necessarily mean that what she's trying to pin down or explore is stupid or invalid?

Of course not. But who's going to go to all the trouble to prove something when you can just assert it into existence?


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:01 PM
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203: The more I think about it, the more satisfying this comment is.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:03 PM
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The problem is using technical terms and concepts with which your audience is unfamiliar and expecting them to know what they mean to the extent that any questions are considered bad faith.

Okay, yeah. This is how I read the earlier comment. And it just strikes me as sort of obvious. I mean, writing in terms that are not going to be understandable to your audience is just Comp 101 failure to consider your audience.

And yes, the sorts of people who are apt to write in terms that the intended audience is unlikely to understand are probably the very sort of people who will get hostile when questioned. Because the whole point in using inaccessible terminology is to try to make your audience think you are smarter than you really are.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:05 PM
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202: Is "Britishists" a word?

I hope so, as our department just ran a search for one.

203: I've always taken his work at the Valve to be an extended, failed attempt to put Chun in his place.

By assimilating him!


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:05 PM
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I'm all for groping, but I don't think that's what scholars do when they declare this-or-that a discursive formation. I think they're trying to avoid leg-work in order to make clever points founded on rank generalizations.

Meh again. So the argument here founders on the question of whether or not we want to extend the benefit of doubt to our colleagues.

I hope so, as our department just ran a search for one.

Now see, I'm more bugged by avoidably ugly neologisms than I am by people being sloppy about terms like discourse.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:13 PM
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208: Is this a moderate w-lfs-n indiscretion error?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:14 PM
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190 The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature! The discourse of literature!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:16 PM
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What about "literary discourse"?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:16 PM
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209: So the argument here founders on the question of whether or not we want to extend the benefit of doubt to our colleagues.

Or reading their articles and footnotes and seeing whether they've done the work. In other words, it's usually pretty obvious when someone's floated a discursive formation on a whim of an argument.

210: Is this a moderate w-lfs-n indiscretion error?

I don't think so, but redact, Great Redactors, if you think it is.

211: Nice try, but I'm onto you.

212: What about "literary discourse"?

In context, it could work. By itself, I have no idea what it would mean, and any attempt to define it would simultaneously move in a million different directions. I mean, does it refer to a particularly self-conscious discourse of the literary; to poetic language generally, or prose too; does it refer to the works themselves, or something separate from and appealed to by the people who wrote them?


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:28 PM
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205.1 nicely articulates (not that others haven't) what we all know to be the case. I haven't read Critical Inquiry for quite some time, but I'm surprised to hear that self-important hand-waviness is permitted. It should be noted that the sort of waviness in question is very different from the difficulty of, say, Heidegger. I know nothing of Zizek.

To LB's 166: The impression I got was that to get much out of it you kind of had to turn yourself into Heidegger, rather than simply learning what he was talking about.

This may well be right, and I'd venture may be right about a number of difficult philosophers. You need to become them, learn to think as though you are Wittgenstein, or Heidegger, in order to understand (you get inside the work): you should be able to "What would X say?" instantly. It's not a bad thing. Intense, you might say.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:30 PM
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174: Are those all discourses [. . .] in the same way?

Further question: should they be? Do they necessarily need to be? I think the answe is probably "no." All instances of the word "discourse" do not need to answer to the Foucauldian discursive formation. To what extent people should really spend a large amount of time treating discourse as a precise delineation would depend on the context.

Broad-stroke complaints about how people are "never" called on this or that, well... meh. I'm sure there are people getting away with quackery, but I knew enough card-carrying argumentative dicks in academia to strongly suspect that the scenario wherein nobody ever bothers to questions these things is simply inaccurate.

207: I mean, writing in terms that are not going to be understandable to your audience is just Comp 101 failure to consider your audience.

In fact, there's a long and sordid history in, say, the last several decades of academic polemics for people to affect non-understanding of so-called "jargon" that the writers in question have indeed explained at some length. (Cf. Foucault and either "discourse" or "discontinuity," Derrida and "deconstruction" or "grammatology," and so on.) This is the background against which griping at "theory" tends to be received; there's something that rings a little faux-naif about people saying "any questions are considered bad faith" as though plenty of actual bad faith had not, in reality, taken place. It has.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:36 PM
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190: Shouldn't the maximally irritating formulation be "the discourse of literature, the literature of discourse"?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:38 PM
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In this finely-honed work of criticism, the discourse of literature interrogates the literature of discourse, even as the literature of discourse is employed to frame the discourse of literature with a questioning eye.


Posted by: blurb | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:41 PM
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197: Yeah, and does that necessarily mean that what she's trying to pin down or explore is stupid or invalid?

It's a point about justification. Maybe she is trying to pin down or explore something intelligent and valid. But there are lots of ways you could go about doing that. One is to just flail around and hit upon something that happens to be a valid area of inquiry, unbeknownst to you. Maybe there is a "discourse of X". But that doesn't mean that I'm justified in talking about it, absent legwork.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:41 PM
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Further question: should they be? Do they necessarily need to be? I think the answe is probably "no." All instances of the word "discourse" do not need to answer to the Foucauldian discursive formation. To what extent people should really spend a large amount of time treating discourse as a precise delineation would depend on the context.

However, if there isn't a shared, relatively stable concept of "discourse", one should take care in one's own uses to delineate the concept as one oneself is using it, lest one be misunderstood.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:44 PM
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You can bring the violence any time now, Mr. "Discourse of Literature" Kaufman.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:44 PM
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He probably didn't hear you, Emerson. Deaf, you know. Maybe you should say it a few more times.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:48 PM
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We're dealing with the discourse of idle threats, I fear.

With Hugh Kenner he may end up in the Deaf Critic Hall of Fame.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:49 PM
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216: Yes.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:50 PM
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You can bring the violence any time now.

It's already been brought. Just because I didn't share it with you doesn't mean there isn't a woman in this apartment who wasn't just on the receiving end of a sound but undeserved beating.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:52 PM
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219: Well, suppose you have a couple of shared, relatively stable concepts of "discourse," and it could reasonably be deduced from context in which sense you're using the term. Cricket? Because I suspect this is probably the case in at least a few of the articles alluded to in 174.

Honestly (and I'm not accusing SEK of this, I just think his particular complaint isn't making sense), what I sometimes feel a lot of the discourse of anti-Theory curmudgeonism boils down to is not rigorously-considered objection per se, but rather a sort of vague sense that if we whose brains are the size of planets encounter any intellectual challenge in a piece of text, the author must somehow be trying to fake us out or make us look foolish.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:52 PM
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SEK's wife! if you're reading this, know that I will free you from this monster when next I'm in Irvine! We can run off and read Pearl to each other.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:53 PM
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Wish I had time now to read this thread -- will do so tomorrow perhaps.

I just want to say I'm sympathetic to Holbo, b/c I went to grad school in English thinking that at long last, I would learn a way to critique literature that went beyond "the Stephen thing."

Whereas what I found, in de Man's phrase, was that English departments are devoted to the study of everything except their subject matter.

De Man may or may not be right that this is an inescapable consquence of writing about fictions, but regardless, I found it dispirting. Admittedly, perhaps law school was an overreaction ....


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:53 PM
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Remember! This post isn't about the content of Holbo's post. It's about the style.

(Let there now be a million comments about how content and style are inseparable.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:54 PM
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171:Mmmmaybe. I consciously resist that sort of inoculation for political reasons, but that doesn't mean I'm successful. But the literary theory I'm thinking of (and of course, the fact that I don't work at it seriously, I pick up scholarly stuff to read dilettantishly, is revealed by the fact that I don't have specific writers or pieces I'm thinking about that I recall in detail) I have read and failed to understand in a way that feels different from simply not knowing the relevant vocabulary (which will happen when I'm picking something up to read in another field). I was hedging all over the place because I haven't done enough work on this stuff to validly have an opinion -- you can't call something bullshit unless you understand what it's trying to do and how it fails.

So I don't really have an opinion, I just have a reaction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 6:54 PM
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215: Further question: should they be? Do they necessarily need to be? I think the answer is probably "no." All instances of the word "discourse" do not need to answer to the Foucauldian discursive formation.

Of course not, but they need to answer to something, don't they? Absent the Foucauldian formulation, when we're talking about large, amorphous schools? pools? prides? murders? of thought, what are we talking about? If someone's representative of a discourse, presumably they're representing something. What is it? I don't think "a general feeling about the relatedness of a diverse grouping of ideas" passes muster.

Broad-stroke complaints about how people are "never" called on this or that, well... meh. I'm sure there are people getting away with quackery, but I knew enough card-carrying argumentative dicks in academia to strongly suspect that the scenario wherein nobody ever bothers to questions these things is simply inaccurate.

I should clarify: they're never called on it in print. Granted, there's been a steady decline in print venues in which to make such callings -- outside of smaller journals with more robust "Notes" sections, they can't be done short of a substantial articles accepted on their own independent merits -- but the discourse of fuzzy discourses is so well-established that even were such venues to exist, complaints would be far and few between.

218, 219: I can't believe I'm thinking, much less typing, this: ben speaks for me here.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:01 PM
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what I sometimes feel a lot of the discourse of anti-Theory curmudgeonism boils down to is not rigorously-considered objection per se, but rather a sort of vague sense that if we whose brains are the size of planets encounter any intellectual challenge in a piece of text, the author must somehow be trying to fake us out or make us look foolish.

The standard response to the anti-Theory curmudgeonism is pretty much always one of the following i) you are just grumpy because you don't understand it, ii) you are threatened by the radical awesomeness of the ideas within [the 'You can't handle the truth' Jack Nicholson response].

That's not to say that the curmudgeons aren't sometimes curmudgeonly for precisely these reasons but it's just as much a clichéd response as the curmudgeon's own lazy "this is all obfuscatory hand-waiving that doesn't exhibit the mighty -- Gottlob Frege, peace be upon him -- rigour of my discipline".


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:08 PM
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Obfuscatory hand-waiving: passing out stuffed gloves.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:10 PM
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Remember! This post isn't about the content of Holbo's post. It's about the style.

It was, ben. It was. You can't wave a red flag. Frighteningly, this is where I came in -- to this blog, just about a year ago. A thread that strayed into just these disciplinary conflicts.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:12 PM
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The post was and is.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:13 PM
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I knew enough card-carrying argumentative dicks in academia to strongly suspect that the scenario wherein nobody ever bothers to questions these things is simply inaccurate.

I'm sure people get called on specifics all the time. But all of us work in disciplines that have pretty deep seated background assumptions, methodologies, techniques, or rhetorical moves that are rarely questioned. That's just part of what being acculturated into a discipline tends to involve.

Further, sometimes those relatively unquestioned assumptions, methodologies, etc. come to look pretty dumb from some privileged future perspective. I can certainly think of some in my own discipline that I suspect will look pretty stupid in 50 years time.

There are also standard rules of collegiate politeness that tend to prevent you saying things like, "look, it sounds to me like you don't have a bloody clue what the hell you are talking about" or "it seems to me you are being deliberately unclear here because there's a gaping hole in your argument that you think you can cover up by some bad-faith equivocation".

I can certainly think of presentations -- I'd imagine we all can -- that I've sat through where that was the case and where, while I was perfectly able to go aggressively after the specifics of what were being said, the other stuff was left unsaid.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:25 PM
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There are also standard rules of collegiate politeness that tend to prevent you saying things like, "look, it sounds to me like you don't have a bloody clue what the hell you are talking about" or "it seems to me you are being deliberately unclear here because there's a gaping hole in your argument that you think you can cover up by some bad-faith equivocation".

The only people who generally find that saying things like this is likely to further their career goals are:

A) Extremely powerful assholes

B) Grad students who are being asked to view their own work as expanding and elaborating on their advisor's implausible and nonsensical theories. In that case, things have to get worse before they can get better.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:29 PM
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There are also standard rules of collegiate politeness that tend to prevent you saying things like, "look, it sounds to me like you don't have a bloody clue what the hell you are talking about" or "it seems to me you are being deliberately unclear here because there's a gaping hole in your argument that you think you can cover up by some bad-faith equivocation".

Also, you can't call people motherfuckers. Civility is a bitch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:34 PM
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since Miles Davis came along, it has been acceptable in polite and especially trendy society to use "motherfucker" as a compliment or neutral term of endearment.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:37 PM
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re: 237

Well, quite.

What I was getting at, though, is that there are some things that would constitute honest [if harsh] critiques of things people say which cannot be said. Explicit attacks on rhetorical style and choice of language tend to be beyond the pale. That is, it's perfectly possible that -- contra DS in 215 -- people aren't being 'called' on things.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 7:49 PM
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that tend to prevent you saying things like, "look, it sounds to me like you don't have a bloody clue what the hell you are talking about"

Wait a minute! Things like are said to and about me every day on this very blog. Can I file a grievance or sumpin?

I just re-read the Holbo piece and the comments and found nothing opaque there. He provides at least four examples of styles of rhetoric, including one defining the classic "argument"

I have engaged the topic for years, suggesting that the value of rhetoric can only be instrumental:that if "Barack Hussein Osama bin Laden" wins elections and the evidence and reason of the RBC loses elections, the RBC should adapt, not pout. Polemic is the way to go, and always has been.

The point is not that Bush lied about WMD, the point is that it worked.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 8:03 PM
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230: Of course not, but they need to answer to something, don't they?

Sure, like the common definition as a mode of organizing knowledge and ideas that's discernible from language and its context?

To take a for-instance from your list of "discourses of" in 174, would you say that you honestly can't figure out what someone is alluding to with "the discourse of triumphal globalized capitalism"? It would of course be more interesting to see this explained at more length, but we do we need that explanation in every context to agree that such a thing exists? We spend most of our days swimming in rhetoric about the joys of the "free market" and of consumerism; can we really claim to know nothing about what this person could be talking about? Is their use of "discourse" some kind of bad faith or invalid fakery?

Now, if someone wants to talk with me about the "semiosphere," they'd better get to explaining themselves right off the bat; even if I know my semiotics I don't necessarily know what they'll mean by that term. But that situation doesn't always obtain.

but the discourse of fuzzy discourses is so well-established that even were such venues to exist, complaints would be far and few between.

Well, specific and well-grounded complaints are few and far between. Complaints as such are pretty common.

231: i) you are just grumpy because you don't understand it, ii) you are threatened by the radical awesomeness of the ideas within

Or iii) you appear to be too incurious to have actually read what you're criticizing, and your curmudgeoning is thereby rendered invalid. A too-common situation.

235: I've sat through presentations where the author obviously hadn't read the book they were affecting to talk about, and called them on it. OTOH, I don't have a career in academics, so there you go.

The kind of humanities disciplines in which "theory" is a common cause of complaint of course do have some amount of shared background assumptions, but their chief feature is how threadbare that background is by comparison with other disciplines. You can get away with rhetorical moves among Lacanians that a Jamesonian would throw you out of the room for attempting. So the contention that shared, unchallenged assumptions are somehow the big problem in these disciplines leaves me, as always, cold*.

(*It's much more often been the case, for me, that I've been at a presentation where after the paper was done, someone would get up from the audience and launch into a long, rambling non-question about how weren't all the presenter's background assumptions deeply problematic in light of [X] theory. A really meaty presentation could draw two or three such performances.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 8:08 PM
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240 is why I deleted most of my political blogs, because the bloggers still, after the last ten years, (or decades) act like the fact that McCain's economic plan is a disgenuous mess matters, is important for the election. They still don't get it.

"Barack Osama was endorsed by Hamas." will probably turn 5 million votes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 8:10 PM
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So the contention that shared, unchallenged assumptions are somehow the big problem in these disciplines leaves me, as always, cold

I certainly hope I didn't give the impression that I was claiming that disciplines in which 'theory' is claimed to be a problem are different or worse in this regard. I was claiming that all disciplines -- the various sciences, philosophy, sociology, history, literary studies, whatever -- have them and that this tends to make what can or cannot be said within a particular discipline partly a function of those shared, unchallenged [or rarely challenged] assumptions.

Any discipline can trundle along for ages with some background assumptions that can later look dumb/crazy. Again, in this respect, the humanities are no different from anything else.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 8:21 PM
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I am no participant in literary discourse, but I have to say that I have always rather liked Holbo. (Although I'll admit I can rarely finish one of his enormous posts, and when I do, am often disappointed by the way the forceful opening trails off into a conclusory shrug). He's a little self-important, but more smug than Instapundit? Or McMegan? Or D-squared, for that matter? Not to mention lots of others I can't think of right now. How is "smug" defined here?

Also, in the linked post, I liked the long Harpham quote on Zizek -- it really seemed to capture both the pleasurable/energizing and the frustrating aspects of a certain kind of culture-crit.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 8:55 PM
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No, the mathematical concept of a "prime number" is clear enough. But it may need to be explained to a layman particularly since "prime" has other meanings in ordinary English.

Don't primes have a pretty obvious physical component, though?

I mean, prime-ness is a pretty physical thing; trying to put three stones in two piles is a very physical, very much prime based process.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 9:19 PM
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Hotdam I like that Holbo. I can't see smug but the boy do hold on to his thesis like a rat terrier. It's a lovable trait. Plus bonus mention of Chun the Unavoidable. Has he reappeared somewhere? Now there you got smug!


Posted by: grackle | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 9:41 PM
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can we really claim to know nothing about what this person could be talking about?

I don't think this is an adequate way to justify jargon. Technical vocabulary should be shorthand that can be unambiguously (to the writer) expanded if need be. In the example of "globalized capitalism," that could refer to either say Friedman, who doesn't know whether he talks sense or not, or to Soros, who at least understands what a market failure is. So I'd say the phrase is uselessly ambiguous without either an understood or explicit way to define it.

I liked the Moretti book that Holbo featured a while back quite a bit, reason enough for me to go back every so often. Baudrillard seems sometimes interesting, though he's not easy reading, and it's not clear that he puts much effort into writing intelligibly.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 9:52 PM
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Ctu was my creation, as I suppose some of you know, and I haven't changed my mind overly much about John's 'argument'-argument here. I also haven't contributed much to the Valve over the last year or two. But John's earned all the passive-aggressivity you might detect, as Ben should know. If I still liked to argue on the internet, I would tell some of you who expressed casual negativity about the Valve what I happen to think of your own personal web log productions; but I'm a new parent and have limited time for this nonsense.


Posted by: Jonathan | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 10:15 PM
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Felicitations on fatherhood.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 10:24 PM
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Or reading their articles and footnotes and seeing whether they've done the work. In other words, it's usually pretty obvious when someone's floated a discursive formation on a whim of an argument.

Right, but the example you offered was just throwing out a bunch of phrases pulled from the titles of people's papers (if I remember correctly). That plus generalizations about how you suspect most uses of the word discourse are just bullshitting. Neither a bunch of paper titles nor said generalizations is at all the same kind of thing as reading articles.

what I found, in de Man's phrase, was that English departments are devoted to the study of everything except their subject matter.

Oh, please. This is such trite nonsense.

218: It's kind of a leap from using a term--discourse of X--in an imprecise way to "flailing around and just happening to hit on something unbeknownst to you." Again, I think there's something to be said for extending the benefit of the doubt.

225 gets it pretty much right, imho.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 10:35 PM
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I see we've reached the "they hate us for our freedom" level of analysis.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-27-08 10:53 PM
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the thing that interests me is that analytic philosophy has achieved so very, very little (arguably, more or less nothing at all in the last 25 years), but nevertheless retains the arrogance of a live research program. It's much worse than economics in that regard on the basis of much less in the way of actual productivity. And interestingly, within analytical philosophy, it is the "metaphysics & epistemology" crowd, who have achieved by far the least in terms of results, who look down on other species of philosopher for not being as clever as them.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:43 AM
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And interestingly, within analytical philosophy, it is the "metaphysics & epistemology" crowd ... who look down on other species of philosopher for not being as clever as them.

This is, actually, true. Endless conversations where you meet someone at an 'event'.

'What do you work on?'

'Metaphysics, and you?'

'Philosophy of science stuff: Biology and medicine, mostly'

[you can actually see the face fall and the person begin to look around for someone cleverer to talk to]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:11 AM
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171

"Do you think it's possible that the general cultural ethos of skepticism about literary theory might affect your perception of it? For instance, I'm sure all of us laypeople are all willing to give string theory the benefit of the doubt -- but there's not a huge Culture War going on with one side constantly denouncing string theory as obscurantist bullshit."

Actually there sort of is within physics. There are lots of skeptics about whether string theory is leading anywhere. If I recall correctly Feynman was one and once said something to the effect that string theorists don't make predictions, they make excuses. But few people at large care.

"This kind of innoculation effect goes on all the time -- and shockingly, it's usually done against schools of thought with a leftist bent! ..."

Being able to say a school of thought is leftist (or rightist) is an indication to me that it isn't rigorous.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:13 AM
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Physicists have revolted against string theory. If experimentalists don't find something that can be interpreted as evidence for string theory at the Large Hadron Collider in the next couple of years, string theory is probably finished.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:56 AM
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Surprisingly, I actually chose string theory as an example because I knew it is contested within physics circles!

I'm pretty sure Jonathan just said that my blog sucks.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:59 AM
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I predict string theory will continue as a zombie example of something or other long after the question is settled in physics circles. For example, two years ago the status of string theory was contested: now it's pretty close to being settled. If they don't get lucky at the LHC, that's it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:53 AM
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JAmes, when you say "to me", that's an indication that your thought isn't rigorous.

There are those who believe that all important questions about human society can be given rigorous, definitive, apolitical answers, but to me they're wishful, self-serving idiots.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:03 AM
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hey, I just noticed this post! um...smug, eh? passive-aggressive? john h. has lots of online enemies and feuds, something that never happens to, say, me. it's not impossible to see how that has come about. otoh I find him very convincing, generally.

learning about "kotsu-ko"=greatest thing ever.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:35 AM
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I suppose the following is a "bleg" (a redoubling of the already dysphonious "blog"), but is there a unfogged-like forum somewhere that halfway matches my commenting schedule (2100-0700 EST)? I suspect there isn't, or ttaM wouldn't bother. I'm willing to learn mandarin. Or australian, if that's what it takes.


Posted by: hypnotizingchickens | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:06 AM
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I just tend to assume Holbo's still mad at Zizek for that time Slavoj ran over Holbo's puppy.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:17 AM
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I was wondering when 252 was coming, and from whom.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:27 AM
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Is there any writer ``in blogs'' as smug as John H.?

The man who snagged Belle Waring has a perfectly good right to be smug, in my book.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:27 AM
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The man who snagged Belle Waring has a perfectly good right to be smug

To be smug about having snagged Belle Waring, maybe, but I fail to see how this translates into smugness in academic issues, unless Slavoj Zizek used to date Belle Waring. And if he did, and Holbo is still pissed about it, well then that's just petty.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:39 AM
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262: It's true though, isn't it? In terms of actual progress made on the problems to which analytic philsophy has claimed to be addressing itself, the record is really very bleak indeed. At what point does this become such an embarrassment to the profession to make them given up and try another approach? And ought analytic philosophers not to be really a lot more diffident in dismissing other schools, when their own track record is so dismal (but, so very rigourously dismal!)


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:02 AM
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The common sense doxa would have it that Holbo hates Zizek. BUT IS NOT THE EXACT OPPOSITE THE CASE??? Is not Holbo's railing against Zizek precisely an expression of uncondicitional LOVE?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:07 AM
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In terms of actual progress made on the problems to which analytic philsophy has claimed to be addressing itself, the record is really very bleak indeed. At what point does this become such an embarrassment to the profession to make them given up and try another approach?

Was George Bush trained as an analytical philosopher?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:13 AM
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I am no participant in literary discourse

Oh, but you are, PGD. We all are.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:20 AM
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re: 265

I'm not sure. What do you mean by "the problems to which analytic philosophy has claimed to be addressing itself" and what would count as actual progress?

I'm not saying this defensively. There's a fair number of problem areas where I suspect you're right. But I don't think that applies across the board, and I do wonder what counts as progress here?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:46 AM
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Well, the nature of consciousness, the relationship between language and the universe, the concept of a scientific law; the big questions of M&E. And by "actual progress" I'd count "any new and convincing theory". On all three of these and a fair few others, the last significant advance that more or less everyone agrees to have been an advance was Wittgenstein, and that's now 75 years ago.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:09 AM
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Oh, go ahead and ignore that I invented a perfectly serviceable word, why don't you (dysphonious, if you're keeping track). That doesn't mean 268 can't be reduced to: Join us....


Posted by: hypnotizingchickens | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:12 AM
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re: 270

the nature of consciousness, the relationship between language and the universe, the concept of a scientific law

I think you'd find a lot of people prepared to dispute the 'no progress since Wittgenstein' take on all of those questions. There are new [post Wittgenstein, anyway] and interesting takes on all of those, I think. Whether that's causal theory of reference stuff in the philosophy of language, or the various attempts to build accounts of consciousness that aren't completely at odds with contemporary neuroscience. In fact, I'd think that philosophical accounts of reference, and work on consciousness would be some of the more productive areas of research in the past 30 - 35 years or so.

I'm not so sure about the big M & E questions, on the other hand.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:19 AM
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well yeah but "new and interesting takes" is the sort of thing that economics generates a huge volume of, and they're not the same thing as solutions to problems. The causal theory of reference is a great example; to me at least it clearly falls into the category of "interesting, but meh". And the "accounts of consciousness" stuff too - as you note, there's a zillion inconsistent ones and nothing to recommend any one of them over any of the others, and none of them really particularly close to explaining anything.

In fact, I'd think that philosophical accounts of reference, and work on consciousness would be some of the more productive areas of research in the past 30 - 35 years or so.

I'd agree with this; as I say, on the basis of this record of achievement, it really surprises me that analytic philosophers are so dismissive of other schools (or alternatively, it looks like weak evidence in favour of this dismissal being an institutional attempt to safeguard positions, rather than a disinterested assessment of the merits).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:25 AM
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re: 273

Well, I'm not really sure that "new and interesting take" is something to be dismissed that quickly. All of the humanities -- whether it's philosophy, or literary studies, or history, or whatever -- face this problem, 'how do we define progress? and are we making any?' and I'm not sure you can single any particular discipline out as being superior to philosophy [analytic or otherwise] on this count. I'd think they are all much of a muchness. Interesting things sometimes being said, occasional periods of total stagnation, vulnerability to bullshit/fads, brief moments of clarity, etc.

Where I'd agree with you is that analytic philosophers can't point to their startling successes in producing final solutions to age-old problems as evidence in their favour. I'd also argue, though, that you can't point to the absence of such startling successes as being specific/unique to analytic philosophy either. At the level of 'sometimes new and/or interesting things get said' it doesn't seem either hopelessly bad or thrillingly good to me.

That said, thinking about it, most of the stuff that I can think of as 'new and interesting positions vis a vis problem $foo' seem to be at least 20 years old. This may mean that things are quite stagnant at the moment, or it may just mean that I'm ignorant of some of the good work currently being done, or that it takes a while for good stuff widely known inside one sub-discipline to filter out to people working on other sub-disciplines. I can certainly think of interesting things in the particular areas that I personally work on.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:38 AM
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270: I'd argue analytic philosophy needs to give up on trying to be convincing, otherwise, sure, I was half-tempted to make the same critique but thought of the crowd and refrained.

the various attempts to build accounts of consciousness that aren't completely at odds with contemporary neuroscience

Couldn't it be argued that this is more a case of furious back-pedaling in the face of scientific discovery that threatens to fuck up the whole program?

(Sweet jesus I hope dsquared sticks around to argue this side of things lest Cala notice this and beats me about the neck and ears.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:38 AM
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I'm not sure you can single any particular discipline out as being superior to philosophy [analytic or otherwise] on this count

I read dsquared's point as being more of a "people in glass houses" thing than actually arguing for the primacy of any given humanities field.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:39 AM
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The causal theory of reference is a great example; to me at least it clearly falls into the category of "interesting, but meh".

D-squared is on track to answer the rhetorical question from the front page post in the negative.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:39 AM
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re: 276

I'd agree on the 'people in glass houses' thing, I think [with some caveats].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:43 AM
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Couldn't it be argued that this is more a case of furious back-pedaling in the face of scientific discovery that threatens to fuck up the whole program?

A bit, yeah. But that's always the case. Philosophy of science bloody well better be responsive to work in physics; philosophy of biology to work in biology, etc.

I'm not sure philosophy of mind is entirely vacuous.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:46 AM
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278: yeah those Comp Lit types couldn't argue their way out of a tissue box.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:46 AM
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analytic philosophy has achieved so very, very little (arguably, more or less nothing at all in the last 25 years), but nevertheless retains the arrogance of a live research program.

what ttaM said, but it's also true that philosophers of language and related linguists will tell you their work has successfully fed into things like machine techniques for understanding natural language.

Also, some (many?) analytic philosophers will say Wittgenstein was not one of them.

I'm pretty sure Jonathan just said that my blog sucks.

I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure it does. They all do!


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:47 AM
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I'm not sure philosophy of mind is entirely vacuous.

I'm certainly not going to argue that here. Danger!

But it is easy, from the outside, to get a sense of some "shit, where do we fit now?" scrambling in the "harder" corners of philosophy of mind. Maybe I'm mistaken in that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:49 AM
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In re: 281, a lot of my suspicion stems from the abject failure of traditional logical/philosophical approaches to cognition to get anywhere as far as actually describing how thinking works, specifically evidenced in the nearly terminal collapse of classical AI.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:52 AM
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I'm not sure you can single any particular discipline out as being superior to philosophy [analytic or otherwise] on this count

Probably so, but also vice versa and specifically I don't see the grounds on which one would dismiss, say, Derrida or Foucault's account of the relationship between language and the world in quite the way that English-speaking philosophy did.

it's also true that philosophers of language and related linguists will tell you their work has successfully fed into things like machine techniques for understanding natural language

they do indeed say this, although I've tended to notice that they look around to make sure no computer programmers are standing nearby first.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:55 AM
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although I've tended to notice that they look around to make sure no computer programmers are standing nearby first.

Tee hee!

Finally, somebody to speak for the computational linguists


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:57 AM
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275: Nothing to beat you up about. But I would add that I don't think, to the extent that analytic philosophers are smug, that it could be described as smugness over results.

(And I wouldn't be dismissive of you at an event, ttaM! You could come talk to me.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:58 AM
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I don't think, to the extent that analytic philosophers are smug, that it could be described as smugness over results.

Right, they're just smug because they're so self-evidently smarter than you are.

Speaking of which, how could someone claim Holbo is more smug than Brian Leiter?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:08 AM
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Lots of them are very smart[1], just as lots of neoclassical economists are. But they don't defend themselves as being sharp people who are smarter than English and modern languages types, they defend analytic philosophy as being a vital and productive research program. Which is IMO a weaker ground to choose to fight on.

[1] "Smart" - an American term meaning "intelligent in a very technical but rather shallow and utterly unreflective way", as in "Larry Summers is the smartest man I know".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:18 AM
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They're just smug because they're so self-evidently smarter than you are.

IME, the most annoying variety of smugness on the internetz is exemplified by engineers.* In broad brushstrokes, engineering smugness consists of feeling superior to other higher ed graduates by virtue of being more practical, and to other practical occupations for being more educated. The structural tendency is aggravated by the fact that engineers seem to skew politically rightward, which makes any smugness all the more intolerable to me. (A similar collection of traits can sometimes be detected among doctors, but you don't see a lot of them in the general interest blogosphere.)

*This comment should not be construed as a general criticism of engineers, among whose ranks I count several friends whom I hold in high regard.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:23 AM
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[1] "Smart" - an American term meaning "intelligent in a very technical but rather shallow and utterly unreflective way", as in "Larry Summers is the smartest man I know".

By the evidence wildly divergent from the British term "smart", meaning "well dressed".

Actually that definition -- analytically intelligent, with no real sense of when or why this might be useful, and utterly lacking in self-reflection -- rather aptly describes James Watson as well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:26 AM
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289: if you'd ever like to see the limit state of that particular brand of stupid, read a Hit and Run thread on global warming.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:28 AM
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If you break down average GRE scores by discipline (i.e., the average verbal, quantitative and analytical scores of people entering grad school in different fields) you will find that philosophers are, in fact, the smartest. They score highest on the analytical section and are in the top 5 of both verbal and quantitative reasoning. No other field really comes close to this across-the-board high score.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:44 AM
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hey defend analytic philosophy as being a vital and productive research program. Which is IMO a weaker ground to choose to fight on.

Yes, that's right that it's a weaker ground, I think.

[Slightly at a tangent]
There are several ways to think about clarity/rigour as a theoretical virtue, though.

We can think of it pragmatically/consequentially and make the claim that clarity of thought and presentation has particular good consequences. It leads to dynamic, productive research programs that in turn lead to solutions to problems we care about and make the further claim that research programs that particularly privilege* this particular theoretical virtue are going to be more successful than those that don't.

As you [dsquared] argue, the jury is pretty much out on this one. Arguments based on those grounds are going to be weak.

However, we can think of it in a 'deontic' sort of a way, too. We could take the view that clarity of thought and expression is good in and of itself. That, all things being equally, we ought to prefer it to its absence.

I don't think this latter argument is necessarily weak or dumb. To the extent that particular people's work within philosophy or in other fields suffers from the lack of such a theoretical virtue it doesn't seem wrong to suggest that it would have been preferable if it hadn't.

There are lots of theoretical virtues, and there can be great work that lacks one or even many of 'em. But we ought to prefer more rather than less.

* lets bracket the fact that this might well be self-serving myth and that these particular research programs might not be 'all that' when it comes to clarity, either, and that the supposedly 'unclear' research programs that they are trying to critique might not really be worse in this regard.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:44 AM
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291: I suspect that at least a couple of other factors conspire to create this particular brand of stupid:

1. Attending the engineering school of a large public landgrant university. This magnifies the chance that the engineer will associate engineering with high SAT scores, challenging classes, and difficult exams, while associating all other disciplines with airy-fairy bullshit and/or goofing off.

2. Having a job at the intersection of management and production. This will tend to confirm the engineer's impression that (non-engineering trained) management are overpaid dolts, and that hourly employees are ignorant oafs.

3. Having a job related to defense, energy, or extractive industries. This will tend to reinforce the engineer's sense that liberals and environmentalists are the enemy, to be feared for their ignorance and demagogic ability.

To the extent that an engineer exhibits symptoms of engineering smugness, I wager that at least one and possibly more of these factors will be present.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:46 AM
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* lets bracket the fact that this might well be self-serving myth and that these particular research programs might not be 'all that' when it comes to clarity, either, and that the supposedly 'unclear' research programs that they are trying to critique might not really be worse in this regard.

Boy, that's a big bracket.

294: I see "The Sociology of Dilbert" in your future.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:50 AM
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If you break down average GRE scores by discipline you will find that philosophers are, in fact, the smartest.

The self-selecting sample of GRE-takers excludes professional schools (law, medicine, business), as well as occupations where the typical career entry credential is a bachelors (e.g. engineering, banking, computer science). Also, you would need to normalize for the high proportion of ESL students in the hard sciences, which is going to pull down the verbal scores.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:50 AM
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If you break down average income prospects by discipline you will find that philosophers are, in fact, the dumbest.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:52 AM
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re: 295

Heh.

297 is also right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:54 AM
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274: All of the humanities -- whether it's philosophy, or literary studies, or history, or whatever -- face this problem, 'how do we define progress? and are we making any?' and I'm not sure you can single any particular discipline out as being superior to philosophy [analytic or otherwise] on this count.

Not all of the humanities claim to progressive, but AP definitely does.

A friend of mine in AI type stuff told me (against something I said) that analytic philosophers really are players in that area. Philosophy of mind, logic, epistemology, and philosophy of language now work along with with neuroscience, ev psych, etc. On the other hand, these areas of AP tend to end up absorbed by the science they work in -- "worked themselves out of a job" is the way they say that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:54 AM
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One has to take the GRE for engineering and computer science post-B.S. degrees. And, ime, it's not just that there are too many foreign grad students mucking up the engineering verbal scores. It's not as important to their degree, so they're not as good at it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:55 AM
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The self-selecting sample of GRE-takers excludes professional schools (law, medicine, business), as well as occupations where the typical career entry credential is a bachelors (e.g. engineering, banking, computer science).

Yeah, but I thought the discussion was about dick-swinging between academic disciplines, rather than business or the professions.

>Also, you would need to normalize for the high proportion of ESL students in the hard sciences, which is going to pull down the verbal scores.

This is fair enough. I can't recall whether the data I saw was just for American takers of the test.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:56 AM
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282.last to 299.last.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:00 AM
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I don't think progress should be defined in terms of scientific progress, since that would exclude many of the humanities. Be that as it may, here are some research programs in analytic philosophy that have made progress in the last twenty years, even by these standards:

(1) The study of causality. This is a traditional topic in philosophy of course. Recent work on causality by e.g. David Lewis has come into computer science in a big way (look at the work of Joe Halpern at Cornell and Judea Pearl at UCLA). This research stream is starting to affect mathematicians working in statistics. Causal decision theory, a research program due in large part originally to ideas by Robert Stalnaker, has also started to have an effect outside philosophy departments.
(2) Social Choice theory. Philosophers like Allan Gibbard have contributed significantly to this discipline, and much interdisciplinary work occurs in this arena. A lot of interesting results for politics have come from this arena, e.g. see the recent work of philosophers such as Philip Pettit at Princeton and Christian List at LSE on paradoxes of voting and group rationality.
(3) Foundations of physics. Many physics departments focus on experimental physics, leaving foundations to philosophers. Folks like David Albert at Columbia and Tim Maudlin at Rutgers have made significant progress on topics such as evaluating the significance of various interpretations of quantum theory. Also, there are some excellent philosophers of quantum field theory who contribute regularly to physics journals in philosophy departments (e.g. Hans Halvorson at Princeton - check out his CV).
(4) Natural language processing. Many philosophers are now both in computer science and philosophy departments (e.g. Scott Shapiro at Penn, Richmond Thomason at Michigan, Paul Thagard at Waterloo). AI is an area that has a lot of interaction with philosophers, where the work done by philosophers is not distinguishable by the work done by non-philosophers.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:10 AM
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292: Hmm. I am looking at the breakdown by discipline on the ETS site for 2000-2003.

They divide classics in two: between "classics" and "classical languages." Philosophy is grouped all together as "All Philosophical Fields."

"Classics" and "Classical languages" have the two top verbal scores of all 290 possible fields, at 613 and 610 respectively. Philosophy comes in 4th at 588.

In Quantitative, Classics=600; Classical Languages =621; Philosophy=632.

In "Analytic Writing" (I think it was just Analytic when I took it, so I don't understand this score), Classical Languages = 4.9, Classics = 5.0, and Philosophy = 5.0.

No other field even comes close? Take it back, sucka!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:11 AM
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Regarding AI, analytic philosophy, cognitive neuroscience etc, the German version of ScienceBlogs recently ran an interesting interview about the possibilities if psychoanalysis reconciled itself with experimental neuroscience.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:11 AM
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Of course I meant, no other field worth speaking of.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:14 AM
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306: Oh, it's on! I'll just be over here throwing tin tablets down wells asking the chthonic deities to make your bits fall off.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:16 AM
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"analyticphilosopher" is clearly smarter than everyone else in this thread.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:17 AM
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Poor dears. We throw them a FTE now and then.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:17 AM
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303: I don't think progress should be defined in terms of scientific progress, since that would exclude many of the humanities. Be that as it may, here are some research programs in analytic philosophy that have made progress in the last twenty years, even by these standards

The ones who define progress in terms of scientific progress are the analytic philosophers, and they did it in order to gain an advantage over humanists and non-analytic philosophers.

I've granted example #4, and I'll grant #1 since I know nothing about it, but "foundations of physics" is a dubious fifth-wheel field, and social choice theory strikes me as only a halting step in the direction of the real world.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:18 AM
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GRE

That's precious. I had a roommate who would find ways to mention his exam scores. He makes stained glass kaleidoscopes now.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:19 AM
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302: Yes, but cannot much of the scrambling can be viewed as a very healthy sign of real progress in the area (no matter who is pushing the agenda). Should lead to lots of interesting potential lines of inquiry and as long as the folks aren't mired in the equivalent of "theories of the aether" they should do fine. (Probably I do not appreciate the reality of "academic inertia".*)

*At one point I tangentially worked with someone who was tagged with having produced what was called the last non-continental drift/plate tectonics interpretation of seafloor striping. He was smart and adaptable, just got caught by the timing.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:22 AM
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There's nothing wrong with making stained glass kaleidioscopes even if mentioning one's tests scores is pretty toolish. Stained-glass kaleidoscopes sound kind of lovely, actually.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:23 AM
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313: Especially when compared to the alternative of being yet another toolish analytic philosopher.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:31 AM
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It's always best to assume more or less conscious bad faith in people and then look for evidence against the assumption.

Emerson's epitaph. R.I.P.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:35 AM
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(5) Cognitive psychology. This is obviously an area with a tremendous amount of interaction between philosophers and psychologists and neuroscientists. Just pick up random copies of Brian and Behavioral Sciences, perhaps the premier journal in the neuroscience/cog sci interface, and see the percentage of philosophers with target articles or peer commentaries.
(6) Linguistic semantics. This is a discipline that emerged almost completely from philosophy departments in the last 30 years. Richard Montague, a philosophy professor at UCLA (student of Tarski, influenced by Carnap) developed a framework for doing formal semantics that soon became standard. Students of his like Barbara Partee brought it into linguistics. Philosophers such as David Lewis and Robert Stalnaker developed some of the basic building blocks of subsequent analyses of constructions such as modals and conditionals. Now, semantics is a regular part of a linguistics curriculum. Linguistic semanticists do research on hundreds of world languages, seeking semantic universals like grammarians seek syntactic universals.

Those are just a few areas of empirical research to which analytic philosophers have contributed over the last thirty years. There are no doubt many more, but this is just off the top of my head. Of course, the main area in which philosophers have made progress in the last thirty years is in *philosophy* (read Timothy Williamson's paper, "Must Do Better"). We now understand much more about the nature of truth (technical work on the liar paradox), the nature of vagueness (the implications of many different positions have been worked out in considerable details), and a host of other topics. This work is often quite dry, and occasionally quite technical, and probably isn't accessible to many people who seek quick intellectual rewards. So it's easy for the ignorant to ignore its existence. But the last thirty years of philosophy have in my mind been among the most fruitful in the long history of the subject. Pity that some idiots are too ignorant to appreciate that.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:36 AM
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289 and subsequent - There's very interesting research about the mindset of engineers in a cross-disciplinary way. (I'm trying and failing to find something similar I've read about engineers in the Soviet Union and their adherence to political orthodoxy.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:47 AM
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We now understand much more about the nature of truth (technical work on the liar paradox), the nature of vagueness (the implications of many different positions have been worked out in considerable details), and a host of other topics.

This sentence, in all its vast assumptions about the validity of the underlying methodological framework (not to mention the hand wave at the end), cracks me up.

In any case, it's good we managed to bait somebody.

And I reiterate that it has often seemed to me that philosophers working in the brain & behavioral science kind of fields have struck me (probably unfairly) as ever-so-slightly desperate for relevance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:49 AM
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John,

You write:

"but "foundations of physics" is a dubious fifth-wheel field"

I take it that one of the tasks of philosophy is to square the common sense vision of the world with the view of the world that emerges from the sciences, which is not exactly commonsensical. For example, it does not appear, on the face of it, that physics supports the idea of a direction of time. This might be a little unnerving for those of us who think we are getting older. More drastic examples involve things like free will, of course. Physicists typically aren't very good, and aren't very interested, in tackling these questions. Working on them doesn't get you NSF funding. So it has mainly fallen to philosophers. Grappling with them requires a PhD level knowledge of physics, but investigation into them is not done in physics departments. So it's left to philosophers. I think that your lack of interest in questions such as whether physics entails that there are no middle-sized physical objects, or that the past and the future are just the same, or whether time-travel is possible, reveals much more about your narrowness than the narrowness of philosophy.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:49 AM
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Yes, but cannot much of the scrambling can be viewed as a very healthy sign of real progress in the area (no matter who is pushing the agenda)

Well, you know, yes, as long as there's questions to answer that wouldn't be better served by looking at the damn thing and then trying to build one. Insofar as you buy a mechanistic view of cognition it's hard not to ponder the existence of subjects like a philosophy of toasters or slide rules.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:52 AM
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He makes stained glass kaleidoscopes now.

A lovely way to spend a life,.

Holbo seems like a swell guy, but I can't get interested enough in the Theory Wars to have an opinion on them. This passage from Bruce Robbins' review of The Way We Argue Now is interesting, though:

"To return to Anderson's own repeated example, adjectives like "smug," "complacent," and "blithe" are not difficult to purge of most character innuendo and restore to the level (if there is such a thing) of more or less pure logical argument. Very simply, these terms suggest that pragmatism, like other forms of liberalism, is too uncritical, too ready to accept too much of the status quo. It is strange to me that though Anderson wants to defend liberalism, she doesn't display any need to decode these adjectives or to take on the critique they convey: the charge that, like pragmatism in particular, liberalism in general doesn't want to know about the founding acts of violence on which a social order is based, or about the persistent inequality that thus keeps present individuals of different identities from participating in the liberal game as autonomous rational equals or from accepting the rules of the game as fair."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:53 AM
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Insofar as you buy a mechanistic view of cognition it's hard not to ponder the existence of subjects like a philosophy of toasters or slide rules.

Well, there are people who've pondered the applicability of intentional language to things like toasters and given...

This sentence, in all its vast assumptions about the validity of the underlying methodological framework (not to mention the hand wave at the end), cracks me up.

Bit potkettle, I think.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:56 AM
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John,

You write:

"The ones who define progress in terms of scientific progress are the analytic philosophers, and they did it in order to gain an advantage over humanists and non-analytic philosophers."

I think you are referring here to the now defunct movement of logical positivism. I agree that in the 1940s and 1950s, positivism negatively effected progress in philosophy (though Carnap did important work in probability). As I'm sure you know, the most important American philosopher of the last century, W.V. Quine, is widely credited (rightly or wrongly) with having refuted logical positivism. According to Quine, there is no distinction in kind between empirical and a priori research. Quine was so successful in his criticisms that after twenty years as an analytic philosopher, I have yet to meet a logical positivist. So if the issue is the last thirty years, your comment here is irrelevant.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:57 AM
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322.last: oh, aye. I often find myself funny, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:58 AM
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I have actually read one of the books of that type ("Time and Chance", D K Albert) and have found it moderately useful in justifying my common-sense intuition that the many philosophers who talk about fundamental timelessness, or the "reversibility of time" on the basis of physics are really talking nonsense. But this is just a philosophical corrective to bad philosophy. Someone would have been justified 30 years ago in ignoring the argument for timelessness and assuming that the theoretical problems would eventually come out in the wash, which by now they have. Unfortunately, they would have lived in a world where a lot of people took that seriously, with all the nuisance deriving from that. The net payoff is zero, except that the discontinuity between fundamental physics and our experience of time has been described well enough that there's less confusion coming from philosophy than before.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:59 AM
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What I like about "theory" writing is that at its best (which is rare) it restores the pleasure of the open-ended, questioning essay style to the humanities. A blow against the tyranny of the monograph and the proven conclusion. I think this was in part Harpham's point re: Zizek.

Of course, it would be better to go all the way back to the origin of the modern essay with Montaigne, and have a fluid, light conversation between personal introspection and more formal ideas. In general, the problem with humanities is the loss of a wisdom tradition based in the idea of cultivation of the self.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:59 AM
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The kaleidoscopes are something he started doing in HS with his mom, and he didn't like making them. It's an unpleasant fate for someone who was at the time pretty self-important. He may have changed for the better, of course, since his excellent test scores would have qualified him to understand recent progress in analytic philosophy.

It's a stereotype, and one not by any means limited to philosophers, but the contrast between large ideas lacking humility and an unsatisfying personal life (friends, family, money) is really striking. Fields that allow people to specialize and also to do day-to-day work alone tend to attract misfits. In my limited acquaintance, people interested in clinical psychology score crazy and methodologically blinkered as well.

Doesn't quantum uncertainty introduce the coarse-graining that produces irreversibility?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:59 AM
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324 continued: and I am, obviously, exhibiting more than a bit of the smugness of the engineer: if you can build something and look at how it works, why not do that?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:01 AM
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328, continuing 324, continued: and it is obviously pretty far from earth-shaking to point out that philosophy is vastly better at asking questions than answering them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:04 AM
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Well, you know, yes, as long as there's questions to answer that wouldn't be better served by looking at the damn thing and then trying to build one.

Given the great gap between the current state of what we know from looking at the damn thing and our ability to build one, it seems to me that there is plenty of room left for theorizing, even if only to guide future lookings and buildings. Furthermore, both "looking" and "the damn thing" are, as you well know, not simply defined or monolithic entities. There are a lot of different ways of looking at cognition, and every single one of them is indirect.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:04 AM
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John,

You write:

"Someone would have been justified 30 years ago in ignoring the argument for timelessness and assuming that the theoretical problems would eventually come out in the wash, which by now they have."

This comment reveals some ignorance, since nothing as yet has "come out in the wash" - every view on what physics says about the direction of time remains very controversial, including Albert's. Be that as it may, in so far as it has "come out in the wash", it's philosophers such as Albert who have been doing the washing. But it's just those people you find uninteresting.

Also, the above comment is more than bizarre. Suppose I said that I thought chemistry didn't make any progress, because the bizarre things that people said thirty years ago have now been understood to be false. Does that means nobody should do chemistry? I'm befuddled. Presumably, the reason that "things come out in the wash" is that people are employed to do the washing.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:06 AM
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330: you're right, of course, and through this thread it's been increasingly difficult to suppress my memory of the various highly thought-provoking and foundational questions asked of neuroscientists by Philosophers. For a while I could manage it by repeating "SEARLE SEARLE SEARLE" over and over again at top volume, but now I think I'll back down.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:08 AM
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Come on Sifu, now you're going to criticize the humanities from the most crudely mechanistic perspective possible? What's with these stupid professors and their high-falutin' talk? Why aren't they out trying to BUILD A BRAIN?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:08 AM
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Because that can be outsourced to people who like to build?

I'm being a bit glib, but the idea that I must be doing philosophy because I can't do anything else strikes me as not surprisingly quite insulting.

analyticphilosopher is completely right, though missing the hidden premise that all there is to analytic philosophy is logical positivism and trolley problems and any other developments are illusory.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:09 AM
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333: only analytic philosophy, really. The rest of the humanities are trying to illuminate and enhance the grandness of the accomplishments of the species; I'm there with you, man.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:11 AM
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This comment entire thread reveals some a great deal of ignorance.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:19 AM
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Also, stained glass is dull as hell; basically any cold-working of glass is dreary monkey work, though there are designers who produce beautiful objects with sandblasting or grinding. Aesthetically successful stained glass is mostly large-scale mosaic work, IME, and thus basically unmarketable. Anyone trying to make a living in glass is subject to the constraints of a mostly unimaginative market.

Working hot glass is much more fun day-to-day, though even there a lot of prep work is necessary for most interesting effects with color.
Nice recent work by Sam Stang


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:20 AM
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336: This Your comment entire thread reveals some a great deal of ignorance. content free superciliousness.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:23 AM
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It's too bad that none of the fields analyticphilosopher mentions strikes me as particularly interesting—maybe excepting foundations of physics—and is certainly not what I work on.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:24 AM
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339: what, dry, technical elaborations on a narrowly construed definition of "truth" doesn't get you all psyched?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:28 AM
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340

Yes, let's eliminate all dry, technical subjects. I'm sure they are all useless and boring. Symbols, eek! Must be a sign that no progress is occurring.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:30 AM
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"Foundations of physics" does sometimes tend to set off a few alarm bells, I'm afraid, in that it often smacks of philosophy attempting to answer questions through abstract reasoning that are probably better-suited to being answered through experimentation. Albert's Past-Hypothesis is all very well, for instance, but to be blunt I'm a lot more interested in seeing what comes of the LHC research at CERN. When Emerson says "dubious fifth wheel," I can see what he means. (This is, however, not to say that philosophers can't still pose interesting and foundational questions in the realm of physics.)

Social Choice Theory has gotten more interesting since Amartya Sen, and in general I can see why "analyticphilosopher" is so pissed about the general dismissal of any recent progress in analytic philosophy. Dismissing the analytic tradition on the basis of its weakest representatives (or of artificially weakened versions of its strongest) is dirty pool of exactly the type that we're familiar with seeing the analytics play against "continental" post-phenomenology.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:31 AM
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341: for an analytic philosopher you sure construe other people's statements pretty inaccurately.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:32 AM
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Construe, construe, it's fun for you and fun for who? Woo, woo, construe.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:33 AM
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My claim is that commonsense view of time for the world of human experience is more or less true, and the idea that the atemporality of physics means that the world of experience is atemporal is false, whether or not physics itself is atemporal.

So what we're doing is waiting for some way of reconciling what we know of physics with what we know of the world of our experience (and not just the world of experience as immediately experienced, but also the world of our experience every way it can be analyzed or scientifically described; and "the world of our experience" minimally means everything as large as a speck of dust or a microbe, and as small as a solar system).

Since the idea that the world of our experience is timeless has no practical consequence, just sitting and waiting is the best thing to do, and while we're waiting we should just ignore all the disinformation coming from atemporalists.

If these problems are solved, the main payoff will probably be to make our understanding of fundamental (subatomic) physics more intuitive, in the sense that we are better able to mentally or imaginatively negotiate the distance between our world and the subatomic world. Maybe, though we may just as well remain where we are now, having to constantly remind ourselves that fundamental physics is counterintuitive.

All of this is an artifact of the never-quite-forgotten attempt to ground all understanding of everything on physics, which has mischievous results if done badly, as it often has been.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:36 AM
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343: For a funny guy, you can sure be humorless. 341 made me want to marry this new commenter.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:39 AM
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Albert's Past-Hypothesis is all very well, for instance, but to be blunt I'm a lot more interested in seeing what comes of the LHC research at CERN.

With a little search and replace this is a much kinder summary of my thuggish enginerdism on brain research seen above.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:39 AM
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346: oh yeah it was fucking hilarious.

Let's eliminate all dry, technical FUCK YOU CLOWN!

Teh lolz.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:41 AM
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340 has picked an extraordinarily revealing example of a topic to regard as dull. Technical investigation into the nature of the truth predicate was started by Alfred Tarski in 1930. Among other results, Tarski discovered that no theory can contain its own truth-predicate (so one cannot define, in a theory T, a predicate 'Tr' that is true of all and only the true sentences of T, on pain of inconsistency). This means that there can be no 'complete' theory, since one of the things a complete theory should be able to tell us are all the facts about itself. This result is of course directly linked to Goedel's incompleteness theorems, the first of which shows that there can be no consistent theory of arithmetic in which one can prove all truths of arithmetic. Goedel's incompletness theorems showed that the logicist program in the foundations of mathematics was dead. This work on meta-mathematics has had huge consequences in mathematics and computer science, and potentially has extraordinary philosophical implications (e.g. some have used it to argue, incorrectly in my view, for limitations to the AI program).

The 'dry technical work' to which 340 refers is work that attempts to show that a theory can contain its own truth-predicate, but that one has to sacrifice some fundamental assumptions about logic (e.g. that every statement has a truth-value). Really dull and boring.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:42 AM
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I have read Sen and Putnam, and what I see them doing is trying to undo the damage caused by 70 years of analytic philosophy and neoclassical economics. The cost of it, for Sen, is that he ends up with a mushy definition of rationality and a mushy way of deciding social choice which are all perfectly fine, except that they forfeit the supposed mathematical and methodological rigor of economics in favor of ideas which are basically commonsensical or humanistic. Which is fine with me, but we're just getting back to zero.

For decades economics worked with a sociopathic definition of rationality (DeLong has joked about it) which flatly refused to say that a rich man's $10 cigar had less utility than a $10 shot of penicillin that saved a poor man's life. We're getting away from that, but all that means from a commonsense point of view we're just getting back to zero.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:44 AM
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Classical physics is not atemporal but reversible.

Any coarse-graining (that is, introducing ensembles or aggregate properties) breaks this symmetry.

I don't know that there's a way to reconcile wildly different classical and quantum views of measurement, but it is quantitatively possible to add a small quantum correction to classical physics for objects that are not too small, too cold, or too energetic.

Quantum measurement is a problem, but I'd look for both insight and interesting reading to come from recent empirical work on extended correlated systems rather than from theorists in any department.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:46 AM
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This result is of course directly linked to Goedel's incompleteness theorems, the first of which shows that there can be no consistent theory of arithmetic in which one can prove all truths of arithmetic.

Indeed, if one were to be a smartass (sign me up!) one would argue that it pretty much trivially follows from it, making the whole project of tracking down every little corner where a rigorously axiomatic approach to epistemology falls apart.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:48 AM
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making the whole project of tracking down every little corner where a rigorously axiomatic approach to epistemology falls apart. less than enthralling.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:49 AM
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Albert's Past-Hypothesis is all very well, for instance, but to be blunt I'm a lot more interested in seeing what comes of the LHC research at CERN.

Perhaps Nothing Much is the big fear expressed by the physicists I know who work in this area. This is one of the reasons that money is bleeding away from this kind of physics: there haven't been any big advances in quite a while.

Analyticalphilosopher is basically right, Emersonian antipathy (though I sympathize with it) notwithstanding.

A useful point to bear in mind is that the relationship between philosophy and the sciences is actually much more fluid than we typically suppose -- it's just that any time a good idea is empirically fruitful it will end up located mostly in a scientific discipline and so it's easy to think the philosophers aren't contributing anything. To pick an example not quite at random, purely philosophical work on the ontology of objects turns out to be very interesting to experimental psychologists interested in child development. Or, to take a more classical example, consider how important carefully worked-out thought-experiments were to Einstein's innovations in physics at the turn of the 20th century.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:53 AM
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352, 353

Umm...I thought you said that the relevant work on truth was "dry, technical elaborations" not worthy of getting psyched about? Now you are saying that this "dry technical work" not worthy of getting psyched about undermines attempts to rigorously axiomatize epistemology? But doesn't that sound like something to get psyched about?

Your comment about Tarski's result "trivially following" from Goedel is perhaps accurate (Tarski's result does follow pretty quickly from Goedel's diagonal lemma), but also bizarre if you want to use it to undermine the interest of the result. Goedel's paper is 1931, and, as Tarski reports in the bibliographical note of *Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages*, most of the results of that paper come from 1929. There are serious issues of relative priority between the results (see Tarski's footnote on Theorem 1 in section 5 of CTFL). But from a technical and philosophical point of view, the work is very similar. My earlier point was that disparaging technical work on truth as dry and pointless reveals profound ignorance about twentieth century mathematics, among other things.

By the way - I'm not familiar with any living philosopher who has tried to "rigorously axiomatize epistemology". And, not to be immodest, but I know a little about that subject. Indeed, the most important philosopher working today, Timothy Williamson, argues that knowledge is not definable or further analyzable (the main thesis of *Knowledge and Its Limits*). Sounds like you are very sympathetic with the central trends of contemporary analytic epistemology!


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:03 AM
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354,

Excellent point about Sue Carey and Liz Spelke's work in cognitive psychology. I'm often consulted by my psychology colleagues about relevant work in ontology - and lately work on philosophy of mathematics is spilling over into research on acquisition of arithmetical concepts (and vice-versa; the psychological work is affecting the philosophy of mathematics).

(Obviously, philosophers such as Jerry Fodor have influenced psychology as well, with e.g. his work on the modularity of mind)


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:09 AM
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@352

This is pretty unfair to Tarski.

The results of Goedel and Tarski were tremendously fascinating and, in conjunction with the development of quantum mechanics, completely changed the way scientists look at the world. That having been said, there's a lot of controversy about how well Goedel and Tarski can be applied to more complicated physical phenomena, like the brain or consciousness (see "The Emperor's New Mind by Penrose which is a fascinating argument, but bullocks IMHO).


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:13 AM
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What is it about string theory that causes all sorts of ill-informed and hemisemidemi-informed people to hold forth on its successes, failures, and future prospects? I can't imagine an LHC result that would kill string theory.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:14 AM
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But doesn't that sound like something to get psyched about?

It was, in 1931. Now it's old news.

My earlier point was that disparaging technical work on truth as dry and pointless reveals profound ignorance about twentieth century mathematics, among other things.

This, once again, isn't what I was disparaging. What I think is a bit silly is the process of using a methodological framework to elaborate on the fallacy at the core of that methodological framework. Unearthing the fallacy in the first place was a remarkable, epochal piece of mathematical reasoning.

Sounds like you are very sympathetic with the central trends of contemporary analytic epistemology!

If what you're saying is that the project of contemporary analytic epistemology is to prove how little analytic epistemology can actually tell us about the world then I'm so sympathetic that I don't need any further convincing on the subject.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:14 AM
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Tarski and Goedel were 60+ years ago.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:15 AM
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(see "The Emperor's New Mind by Penrose which is a fascinating argument, but bullocks IMHO)

That's MHO, too. I don't think you need to resort to hitherto unobservable quantum phenomena to explain the unpredictability of massively nonlinear dynamical systems. On the other hand I don't think you need predictability to get value out of modelling.

Am I, by the way, understanding correctly that the Tarski that analyticphilosopher keeps talking about did his work seventy years ago? That's not exactly what I meant by "contemporary".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:17 AM
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Apparently I am understanding correctly. Well that's just silly!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:18 AM
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350 is a good point.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:20 AM
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Yes, it's old work. Playing devil's advocate for a moment, though, you might say the same thing about physics. Namely, that since the development of the Standard Model there haven't been any truly groundbreaking results. My quibble with this logic is that once a field has been around for at least 50 years, there are no more groundbreaking results. Which doesn't diminish the results that are actually being achieved in those fields.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:21 AM
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Gonerill and Cala's assertions that I am wrong were lacking in detail.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:21 AM
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359:

"What I think is a bit silly is the process of using a methodological framework to elaborate on the fallacy at the core of that methodological framework."

Umm...in no sense does Goedel's result or Tarski's result show that doing the kind of philosophical and mathematical work that Goedel and Tarski were engaged in can't be done. The research now is on what assumptions Tarski was making that led to his result, and whether these assumptions could be weakened to block that result. If you find the original result interesting and fruitful, then you can't very well find this research uninteresting.

"If what you're saying is that the project of contemporary analytic epistemology is to prove how little analytic epistemology can actually tell us about the world then I'm so sympathetic that I don't need any further convincing on the subject."

No, what I'm saying is that contemporary epistemologists have found that much of interest can be said about what knowledge is, without attempting to analyze knowledge. Your criticisms seem to presuppose the falsity of this program. You seem to think that philosophers are in the business of *defining* or *analyzing* knowledge, whereas nowadays most of think we are in the business of *saying interesting stuff* about knowledge, without analyzing it. Insofar as you find the project of giving a reductive analysis of knowledge less than promising, you'll find nothing but sympathy from most contemporary epistemologists. But that doesn't mean one can't say lots of interesting stuff about what it is to know a proposition, why knowledge is important and valuable (and more important and valuable than mere true belief), etc.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:23 AM
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You seem to think that philosophers are in the business of *defining* or *analyzing* knowledge, whereas nowadays most of think we are in the business of *saying interesting stuff* about knowledge, without analyzing it.

I would have assumed "analytic" philosophers were in the business of analyzing stuff, yes. Maybe you need a new name?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:26 AM
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365: We've had the conversation several times before. I've lost interest at this point because you're going to go straight back to logical positivism & caricatures of a strand of ethics that were out of fashion well before I was born.

It's like arguing evolutionary theory against someone who keeps triumphantly pointing out the problem of the complexity of the eye for those Darwinists.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:29 AM
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361, 362

Now you are being idiotic (as basically pointed out by 364). I started with Tarski, because you seemed to be suffering from profound ignorance. I just don't have time to march you through all the enormous amount of work and progress that has been made in the theory of truth since Tarski. That would require explaining the assumptions that Tarski and Goedel made that have been challenged by others. I'd have to start, for example, by explaining Kripke's theory in his seminal 1975 paper, "Outline of a Theory of Truth". Then I'd have to march you through the last 30 years of debate about which basic approach is right, Tarski or Kripke (and other views have emerged since then). I had to go back to the beginning of the debate, because you didn't seem to be even aware of that.

Now, you've admitted that Tarski's work is important and crucial. How can you then go on to say that the work of people who have developed alternatives to this work that challenge some of its assumptions is dry, technical and pointless? There is some kind of tension there.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:30 AM
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367.

You write:
"I would have assumed "analytic" philosophers were in the business of analyzing stuff, yes. Maybe you need a new name?"

Yes, I completely agree. How about "philosopher".

The expression "analytic philosophy" is a relic of debates between idealists and anti-idealists in Britain in the early twentieth century. It's obviously not appropriate anymore. We're simply the discipline of philosophy.

And yes, most of us are extremely hostile to the project of analysis of fundamental notions (again, read Timothy Williamson). But no, this doesn't in any sense show that interesting stuff can't be said about fundamental philosophical notions such as knowledge and truth.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:33 AM
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Putnam and Sen are contemporary by any standard, as is Albert, and Mr. AP here feels justified in pointing back 70 years.

But I am talking about the whole history of analytic philosophy, including logical positivism but also Quine, Sellars, Kripke, et al, since about 1930 or 1940, and the way it drove out all other forms of philosophy and replaced them with stuff that is worse. Philosophy would be better shape if analytic philosophy had not been so successful, and the philosophy people are doing today would be better if it were less overwhelmingly analytic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:34 AM
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Sorry to be late the party--but this is my field and I actually have something to contribute. I am somewhat sympathetic to the aims of The Valve but am never able to read anything over there without finding it needlessly opaque and getting the pants bored off me. It's seriously deadly dull, tedious stuff, and it doesn't have to be. Holbo's personal blog is about 70 times better. I think it says something that this post and its comments is more vibrant and well-argued than anything on The Valve.

My personal (totally not based on any evidence whatsover) hypothesis as to why this is so--ALSC has a pretty big chip on its shoulder re: its professional standing and The Valve straddles two rhetorical worlds (academia and blogging) ineffectively. They have the form of blogging but are unable to fully embrace the "voice" of blogging (short posts, clear langauge) because they are too focused on what other scholars might think of them. Anyhoo--it's just not an effective blog.


Posted by: Miranda | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:35 AM
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Come on, AP, you're the idiotic one. The value of one man's work does not validate all of the work that come out of his work. That's a pretty elementary fallacy for one of the smartest people in the world to use.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:37 AM
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373,

You have to know *a ton* of logic and philosophy to make the claim that Tarski's results on truth are interesting, relevant, and profound, and Kripke, Yablo, and Field's work challenging the conclusions of that work is neither interesting or relevant or profound. I can see arguing that Tarski was *right* as against these other figures, but I can't see arguing that Tarski's work was *interesting, relevant, and profound*, and people's work that directly engages with its assumptions to draw opposing conclusions is neither interesting, relevant or profound.

Maybe if Kripke, Yablo, Field, and others employed wildly different resources to challenge develop alternative theories of truth, the conclusion could be sustained. But they don't. So I can't see any alternative to the conclusion that either one finds all technical work on defining truth boring, dull, and pointless (that would include the first such work, by Tarski), or that one finds such work interesting and profound (which would include the fascinating theories developed in the last twenty years).


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:43 AM
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My arguments haven't been against technical arguments defining truth, but against 1.) unrealistic misapplications of the reversibility (atemporality) of fundamental (particle) physics to the world of experience and 2.) the kind of enforced normative blankness that Putnam and Sen are hesitantly stumbling away from.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:48 AM
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What's your beef with Sellars, John?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:50 AM
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Oh but wait, I forgot that I have (inwardly) disavowed this thread.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:51 AM
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unrealistic misapplications of the reversibility (atemporality) of fundamental (particle) physics to the world of experience

People do that? I haven't read many of the people you're talking about, but it sounds like you're saying there are people who think broken eggs unbreak themselves on a daily basis. Surely this is a strawman.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:52 AM
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Mostly second hand from Rorty. I forget what he calls that crowd ("California ontologists"?) but to me their work drained energy from a lot of more valuable stuff.

I really am not saying that analytic philosophy should be purged or that it should never have existed. I'm just saying that it was a disaster for it to become so dominant. And I'm less impressed than peoplewant me to be by analytic attempts to broaden itself. For example, I just read Leiter's book on Nietzsche and it seemed quite unenlightening except as a polemic with Nehamas, and even then I'm not sure he won the argument. (He frames his argument as a debate with the postmodernists, but doesn't really cite any of the primary postmodernists except Foucault a tiny bit. But in any case, that's not the way to go at Nietzsche, unless you're a very provincial American analytic philosopher academic.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:56 AM
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373,

That said, I'm perfectly willing to spend the day having an argument about this. You and Sifu can take the position that Tarski and Goedel's results were interesting and important, and I'll argue that Kripke, Yablo, and Field's results were therefore also interesting and important. The argument can take this form. You say something about what you find interesting and important about Tarski's result, and I'll reply with something in very recent work that either undermines or supports the conclusion you draw from Tarski's work. Ok?

One place to begin would be with Vann McGee's important 1994 book, *Truth, Vagueness, and Paradox: An Essay on the Logic of Truth*, which basically summarizes the literature on truth up until 1994 (so in chapter 3 and chapter 4 he explains Tarski's theory and Kripke's theory respectively, and how they differ). I'm quite excited to have this debate, since it's a way of allaying my suspicion that you and Sifu aren't actually even familiar with basic articles in this literature like "Outline of a Theory of Truth". Here is an opportunity to prove me wrong, and to show the readers of this blog that your criticisms of analytic philosophy are grounded in actual acquaintance with it.

Ok, you start!


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:57 AM
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Miranda, it's only an accident that the Valve has any connection to the ALSC, as I think the focus on comic books, science fiction, and Zizek would make clear to even the dullest observer. What I detect in your post is a transference of characteristics you attribute to the ALSC to the blog itself. Holbo writes the same way everywhere; you read it differently because of the cover. (Your case is probably stronger for two of the posters, at least terms of their construction of an audience. I think the reasons for that are fairly clear.)

Do you have a blog? Please let me know, as my enthusiasm for enumerating the ways in which it fucking sucks is returning.


Posted by: Jonathan | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:59 AM
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I'm not buying this. The question was whether analytic philosophy was making progress, not whether it was doing a lot of jolly interesting work. On the two items on the list where I have a modicum of specialist knowledge, social choice theory is v. definitely a dead or dying research program, and I simply disagree that any statistical work on causation is being influenced by philosophers ("is beginning to" sounds hella like wishful thinking there).

For the rest of them, foundations of physics is a very interesting subject, but absolutely has not made any material progress at all toward answering any of its important questions. Similarly, I'll take on trust that philosophers' work on semantics has contributed a lot toward the search for common underlying structures in linguistics, but by the same token it has therefore contributed a lot to their failing to find them. Different people mean different things by "artificial intelligence", but I am hazarding a guess that the bits of that subject where the work of philosophers is indistinguishable from the work of scientists, are not the bits dedicated to making better search algorithms for Google or spotting fraudulent credit card transactions.

In general, my point appears to be that the discipline of analytic philosophy has rather lost sight of the distinction between saying something intelligent about a question and answering it, which means that it is rather poorly placed to identify the same flaw in continental philosophy. And I don't think analyticphilosopher has really disproved this; rather the opposite.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:02 PM
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Mostly second hand from Rorty.

Rorty liked Sellars.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:02 PM
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The Tarski argument is Sifu's. I pitched in because you called him stupid in a stupid way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:04 PM
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Hahaha, and I wrote the above without even seeing AP admit it in #366! and similarly

I just don't have time to march you through all the enormous amount of work and progress that has been made in the theory of truth since Tarski

"Work" and "progress" are not synonyms.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:04 PM
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If someone knowledgeable is going to show up and thoroughly kick our ass every time we make unsupported generalizations about entire fields of study, then I'm going to stop hanging out here.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:05 PM
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AP you're completely descending into solipsism here. You have to know a ton of analytic philosophy to know which results in analytic philosophy are relevant to analytic philosophy: okay, that's fine. Keep at that program all you want, but you're not making much progress arguing for larger relevance, and I have to run.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:06 PM
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I took off from Rorty without agreeing with him. Rorty always played both sides of the line. As I understand, 20 years ago Rorty said that Quine, Sellars, et al had done their work and it was time to broaden philosophy, but philosophy basically shut him down. So I had a hopeful moment for awhile, but by the early Nineties or so it became clear that nothing was going to happen.

I didn't fully accept either Rorty's judgment of earlier analytic philosophy, or his move toward postmodernism (a move he regretted). I just thought I saw an opening, but it wasn't there.

So I've been out of touch for 15+ years, but my occasional attempts to check in have not been encouraging. For example, I initially liked Putnam's books on "thick" philosophy, because they were a step in the right direction, but then I realized how tiny that step was, when non-analytic philosophers had been doing that kind of work all along.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:12 PM
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Thirty years ago.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:15 PM
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379: With regards to Lei/ter, we are in complete agreement.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:19 PM
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382,

You write:
"I am hazarding a guess that the bits of that subject where the work of philosophers is indistinguishable from the work of scientists, are not the bits dedicated to making better search algorithms for Google or spotting fraudulent credit card transactions."

So this is an interesting challenge. The challenge you present me is to find a line of influence between analytic philosophy and better search engines. I really don't know a great deal about computer science, and if I did, I could come up with some better example.s But just randomly, let's look at the most recent winner of the Lifetime achievement award for the Association for Computational Linguistics, who is Lauri Kartunnen, whose website is here:

http://www2.parc.com/istl/members/karttune/

Kartunnen's early work was devoted to giving a semantic theory for questions, as in "Who came to the party?", and embedded questions, as in "John knows who came to the party". Kartunnen was a semanticist, and not a philosopher, but he was pretty straightforwardly developing ideas of Richard Montague and Jaakko Hintikka, who are two philosophers (indeed, Kartunnen presented his framework in Montague's system, and used it to implement views of Hintikka). Kartunnen has used this work in computational linguistics - for example, his acceptance speech in Prague for the lifetime achievement award concerned his project of getting search engines to respond better to questions as input.

Ok, so that's quite indirect - but it is philosophers working in the very recent past (the 1960s) who came up with both the technical framework and the theories that had a not-insignificant impact here. I'm sure I could come up with many more examples of downstream computer science applications if I had more time. Obviously, many of these semantics examples are linked to the previous discussion of the importance and relevance of technical work on semantic notions such as truth.

As far as "progress" is concerned - isn't it progress to know that it is possible to relax certain assumptions, and thereby allow a theory to contain its own truth-predicate? That's actual progress - Kripke showed us something we didn't know before. And that's just one debate. I could walk you through tons of things that have been shown e.g. to be impossible that medieval philosophers thought were possible (i.e. things that modal logicians have proven). A good source here is Timothy Williamson's paper "Must Do Better" (and no, I am not Timothy Williamson).


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:23 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but Tarski wasn't talking about natural languages at all, no?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:24 PM
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392,

No, Tarski was not talking about natural languages, for several reasons. Tarski famously thought his result about the indefinability of truth showed that natural languages were "inconsistent", since they "had a universal character" that allowed for self-reference, and hence derivation of the liar paradox (footnote: Stephen Yablo has since shown that the Liar Paradox can be derived without self-reference). Tarski's claim has been criticized for a number of reasons, one of which being that the issue concerns *theories* and not *languages*. But basically Tarski's claim amounts to the claim that no theory of truth formulated in natural language would be consistent, since natural language allows for self-reference. That is a conclusion that a number of recent theories of truth (e.g. the theories descending from Kripke's paper) challenge.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:32 PM
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358

"What is it about string theory that causes all sorts of ill-informed and hemisemidemi-informed people to hold forth on its successes, failures, and future prospects? I can't imagine an LHC result that would kill string theory."

How about a black hole which swallows the earth?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:37 PM
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382,

I was thinking of Judea Pearl's work on causation in statistics, which admittedly is only recently starting to have some impact (I have seen him given talks to some pretty prominent statistics departments, which of course not a measure of whether he is being *believed*). Here is his webpage:

http://bayes.cs.ucla.edu/jp_home.html

Another computer scientist we philosophers interact with a lot, and who has certainly been influenced by philosophy, is Joseph Halpern:

http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/halpern/

If you root around among their publications, you'll see the kind of topics that the interdisciplinary community of computer scientists, economists, and philosophers discuss together at conferences.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:40 PM
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Ok, so that's quite indirect

Well, in as much as it's an example of someone who wasn't a philosopher, followed by discussion of "working in a framework provided by philosophers" from forty years ago I would perhaps call it not so much "quite indirect" as "barely and tangentially relevant, if at all".

isn't it progress to know that it is possible to relax certain assumptions, and thereby allow a theory to contain its own truth-predicate?

Frankly no. Neoclassical economics is making this kind of "progress" all the time - ie, progress in terms of the solution of problems which don't exist outside a particular formalism that was invented to try and answer other and more important problems.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:41 PM
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Ludwig anticipatorily pwning in 353 & 353:

I am, therefore, of the opinion that the problems have in essentials been finally solved. And if I am not mistaken in this, then the value of this work secondly consists in the fact that it shows how little has been done when these problems have been solved.

I lack the specific knowledge to weigh in on various detailed claims made here, but I think as more and more fields of study come up against intrinsically "hard" problems* of accurate measurement, internal representation and complexity that there will be an increased merging of the philosphical (of all schools) directly into the programs of study of the fields themselves. Much of the influence may be of the "inspired by" variety rather than the direct application of the cutting edge problems of philosophy. I do think much of the reaction against analytic philosophy is a reaction against the perception that AP was trying to define must other avenues as outside of philosophy (kind of a Rutherfordian "there is only AP, everything else is self delusion").

*It does not look like there are many chances left to motivate a whole field by noting that sedimentary rocks are laid down horizontally and that younger rocks lie on top of older rocks, two observations that were themselves very late coming into the canon due to oversusbscription to ancient Near Eastern death cults.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:42 PM
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396,

Umm, sorry I wasn't being clear. Kartunnen's work on questions was done in the 1970s, and directly and obviously spelled out work done only a few years before by philosophers. Research on the semantics of questions then has taken off on a life of its own. But even the major current figures in this research are in fact in philosophy departments (albeit in Amsterdam). Applications of this research in computer science have been fairly direct (to the point that the applications were done by the very same people who did the original research in the philosophy/linguistics interface).


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:47 PM
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Just saw 331, and not good at typing on iPhone, but the direction of time is not mysterious in physics. It arises from decoherence and coarse-training. What allows a macroscopic asymmetry is that the universe began in a very low entropy state. That is far more mysterious, but not really accessible to philosophy (or, perhaps, to experiment).


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:49 PM
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My perception is that by political and bureaucratic methods analytic philosophy got a monopoly on hiring and promotion, or almost, and that the other schools then gradually dried up. And I've experienced an adequate number of instances when analytic philosophy claimed that other forms of philosophy aren't really philosophy.

Ernest Gellner is an analytic philosopher whom I somewhat like, if he's an analytic philosopher, but I've seen him dismissed as a non-philosopher.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:49 PM
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396,

As I have been emphasizing, the "framework" that is employed in recent discussions of truth is the framework of logic and semantics. This is a framework shared by a number of disciplines, such as mathematics, linguistics, and computer scientists. Many of the questions are also shared by these disciplines. So the parallel to neo-classical economics is not apt.

I personally find it very hard to argue that disciplines about which I know squat are bullshit. I'm surprised that others are so readily able to do so.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:50 PM
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379: I really am not saying that analytic philosophy should be purged or that it should never have existed. I'm just saying that it was a disaster for it to become so dominant.

John, please don't. It was what it was, okay? We can't erase that. Analyticity still has something to be said for it, though of course it should not dominate. You're really beating a dead horse here, and flogging the entirety of Anglo-American philosophy as we now know it, as a bankrupt enterprise, is foolish. We all already know what you mean about the unfortunate rise of logical positivism.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:50 PM
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Coarse-graining, that is.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:51 PM
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I was thinking of Judea Pearl's work on causation in statistics

Well if you're going to simply drag in people whose degree training was in electrical engineering, who work in computer science departments and who publish their papers in mathematics and statistics journals, then why not include Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay and we can all see how analytic philosophers have revitalised the once-moribund British restaurant industry?

I am still not seeing "solved a problem" here. Or "made progress" either. The best claim that you're making is that some ideas of some philosophers (mainly more than twenty year old) were influential on other people in other fields who have carried out interesting but not particularly ground-breaking work in those fields. On this kind of evidence, there is an awful lot that the Derrideans could claim credit for.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:53 PM
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I personally find it very hard to argue that disciplines about which I know squat are bullshit.

you are not cut out for blog commenting.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:56 PM
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Parsimon, the victims always evaluate events differently than the triumphant. "Of course it should not dominate" is my main point, but you can't act as though it were generally accepted because it absolutely is not. Talk to Brian Leiter. And it's more than just logical positivism.

Putnam's books were good things only within the stunted world of analytic philosophy. It's like watching a baby trying to learn to walk. And a beginner reading the Oxford "Philosophy of Time" book, keyed on Mc Taggart of all people, will very possibly end up understanding time less well than they started.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:57 PM
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I personally find it very hard to argue that disciplines about which I know squat are bullshit.

but apparently don't find it very difficult to punch seven shades of crap out of straw men, a habit which I thought[1 was frowned upon in analytic philosophy departments.

[1] Joking of course; I'm perfectly aware that arguing against claims never made is the meat and drink of academic philosophy of all kinds.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 12:58 PM
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Well if you're going to simply drag in people whose degree training was in electrical engineering, who work in computer science departments and who publish their papers in mathematics and statistics journals

He was dragged in because his work cites a lot of philosophers, which seemed to be the original point.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:00 PM
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404,

The ground has shifted in this thread. I thought the goal was to show that analytic philosophy was *relevant* to different fields. Doing so involves producing examples of people in different fields who draw on analytic philosophy, which I've done. The people I've cited (e.g. Pearl) do not just have tangential relations to the field - they could easily teach in philosophy departments (though they would make less money). I also took my task to be to show that research in analytic philosophy is *interesting*. Now you want me to show not only that people in other disciplines *pay attention* to discussions in analytic philosophy, but that research in analytic philosophy *in the last twenty years* has dramatically changed research in *other fields* within the last twenty years. That's a bit hard. Can you do that with continental philosophy?

As I've emphasized, analytic philosophers were almost solely responsible for the field of formal semantics. That has had huge impacts across the disciplines. I've tried to explain why questions that philosophers tackle, like the nature of truth, the possibility of time-travel, etc., are interesting. As to whether research done in the last 20 years is impacting other disciplines, I think that is an unfairly high standard. But I think analytic philosophy meets it. Research on vagueness is definitely impacting other disciplines - linguists such as Chris Kennedy at the University of Chicago and Chris Barker at NYU (neither of whom have philosophy training) have definitely been drawn into debates about vagueness (check out their CVs). Indeed, there was an interdisciplinary conference on vagueness in Paris last month with half the talks given by linguists and the other half given by philosophers. So, yes, there are obvious very recent impacts of recent discussions in analytic philosophy on other disciplines.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:05 PM
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I had no interest in this thread until D^2 showed up. Now I'm refreshing constantly.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:05 PM
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No, the original point was "have analytical philosophers made any progress toward solving the problems that they posed for themselves"? That's not (analytically) the same question as "have analytical philosophers contributed anything to the world?" which in turn is not the same question as "is analytical philosophy bullshit?" (btw, for a bunch of professional drawers of analytical distinctions lads, raise your game eh?)

By analogy, if the Apollo missions had not got to the moon, we would say "the Apollo missions have not achieved their objective" and someone who said "but what about those excellent non-stick frying pans?" would have made an analytical mistake.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:09 PM
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Dsquared,

You are also ignoring the massive amount of interaction between recent analytic philosophy and psychology. Why don't you email Susan Carey or Liz Spelke at Harvard and tell them that you don't think very recent analytic philosophy has had any impact outside of analytic philosophy? There is the acquisition of sortal concepts literature, which draws on recent work on ontology, already mentioned by a previous commentator. There is also of course all the recent work done by psychologists such as Marc Hauser on moral grammar, which traces directly back to Judith Jarvis Thomson and Frances Kamm's work. But maybe you think psychology isn't interesting or "relevant" either?


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:11 PM
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I've tried to explain why questions that philosophers tackle, like the nature of truth, the possibility of time-travel, etc., are interesting.

This seems a rather narrow view of what the "questions that philosophers tackle" are.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:11 PM
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257

"I predict string theory will continue as a zombie example of something or other long after the question is settled in physics circles. For example, two years ago the status of string theory was contested: now it's pretty close to being settled. If they don't get lucky at the LHC, that's it."

This seems overstated. String theory may go out of fashion but someone still could come along in 20 years and revive it.

To really kill string theory you need an alternative theory that succeeds in answering the questions that string theory has so far failed to answer.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:13 PM
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Why don't you email Susan Carey or Liz Spelke at Harvard and tell them that you don't think very recent analytic philosophy has had any impact outside of analytic philosophy?

on the other hand, why don't you give that straw man a rest from all the kicking and get back to the actual question, which was progress made by analytic philosophy in its own field, lack of, and therefore standing of analytic philosophers to look down on and/or dismiss other philosophical schools, also lack of (and the subsidiary claim on grounds for specialists in metaphysics and epistemology to look down on other specialisms, complete lack of).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:14 PM
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Dsquared,

Well, by your own admission, we have made progress on the problems we set ourselves (since you admitted that we made progress within the frameworks we employ). So now I'm completely befuddled, since by that standard, neo-classical economists have also made progress on the problems they describe, though you explicitly say they haven't.

So, if you would, can you please provide a definition of what you mean by "progress"? You can't mean, "pose a question, then provide some answers", since we've done that many times (as have neo-classical economists). Then maybe we can make progress on moving beyond slinging insults.

This is how the debate should proceed: you define what you mean by "progress", and then I'll provide some examples that meet that definition within analytic philosophy.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:16 PM
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No, the original point was "have analytical philosophers made any progress toward solving the problems that they posed for themselves"?

The trouble with this is that most of the original complaints took the form, "The boring, technical progress philosophers claim to have made toward solving the problems that they posed for themselves does not fit my vague image of what a solution to a philosophical problem should look like, but I am still going to reserve the right to say that because it didn't meet these personal criteria, the field is a failure."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:18 PM
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406: "Of course it should not dominate" is my main point, but you can't act as though it were generally accepted because it absolutely is not.

I realize that. Yes.

DSquared's remarks aren't that interesting because he's doggedly insisting that there's little to no value in formulating questions (well-formed, interesting, probing, ground-shifting, etc. questions) if 'solutions' to those questions aren't forthcoming. Get a grip, man. If you haven't mastered the notion that a lot of philosophical work is geared toward trying to ask the right questions, you're right out of the conversation.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:18 PM
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I'm still waiting for an explanation why Putnam's work is not evidence of a prior stunting of philosophy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:19 PM
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413: Or perhaps it was just a couple of quick examples off the top of someone's head in a comment that was really addressing a much larger point.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:20 PM
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Umm, talk about strawmen:

"and therefore standing of analytic philosophers to look down on and/or dismiss other philosophical schools, also lack of (and the subsidiary claim on grounds for specialists in metaphysics and epistemology to look down on other specialisms, complete lack of)."

There is so much wrong with this claim, I don't know where to begin. First, I don't think there is anything, much less a "school", called "analytic philosophy". There is just philosophy. Some do it badly, some do it well. Opinions differ on who. I don't ever disparage work with which I'm not acquainted, but I can tell you about the shortcomings of work with which I am acquainted (for example, I'm not too fond of logical positivism!). I'm sure Heidegger is interesting, but I'm not well acquainted with his work, and so don't speak either positively or negatively about him. But surely, he is in the same field as me - he's a philosopher. A student of Husserl, in fact, whose work I greatly admire.

I just don't know who you are addressing here. Not me, or anyone I know.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:22 PM
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I'm still waiting for an explanation why Putnam's work is not evidence of a prior stunting of philosophy.

Which Putnam?

What would a non-stunted philosophy look like, in your opinion?



Posted by: Moby Ape | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:23 PM
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B, do you still have a crush on our new poster?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:24 PM
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258

"There are those who believe that all important questions about human society can be given rigorous, definitive, apolitical answers, but to me they're wishful, self-serving idiots."

That is not what I am arguing. I am claiming you can rigorously, apolitically explore what forms of human society are possible and what they will look like. The results in some cases will be pretty definite, in other cases not so much. But choosing between these possible forms of human society is an important question which is fundamentally political.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:25 PM
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First, I don't think there is anything, much less a "school", called "analytic philosophy".

Hmmm. Odd choice of 'nym, then.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:27 PM
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421: If only analytic philosophy really did not exist! My fondest dream! But alas, I think that our friend here is naively optimistic about the question.

422: Hilary. A non-stunted philosophy would not have to justify the very possibility of normative discourse.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:27 PM
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423: I've stopped reading this incredibly dull thread, and am showing up just to snark at Ben and Tweety.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:28 PM
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423,

I'd rather be feared than loved.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:29 PM
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Well, by your own admission, we have made progress on the problems we set ourselves (since you admitted that we made progress within the frameworks we employ).

No. The example you gave was not one of "progress" toward answering an actual question about truth; it was an example of a theory having created its own anomaly in order to solve it. Dedicating effort toward resolving and papering over anomalies in one's own theoretical framework is not progress; it's the chief diagnostic sign of a dead research program.

So now I'm completely befuddled, since by that standard, neo-classical economists have also made progress on the problems they describe, though you explicitly say they haven't.

This is not exactly analytic philosophy, or rocket science. The seeming antinomy can be resolved simply by noting that I have consistently maintained that this kind of "Progress" isn't progress.

Then maybe we can make progress on moving beyond slinging insults

So, if you would, can you please provide a definition of what you mean by "progress"?

Well, the original problem that Tarski was addressing was something along the lines of "What does it mean for a statement to be true?". And we have not obviously got any closer at all to an answer to this question in the last 25 years. Or to "what is the nature of the relationship between cause and effect?" or to "what is the nature of the relationship between a word and the physical world?".

If we contrast philosophy with economics, the latter subject has taken on such fundamental questions as the socialist calculation debate, the existence of an aggregate production function and the relationship between the supply of money and the price level, and settled them; they're gone, solved etc. That's the kind of thing I mean by "Progress toward an answer". Economics then took the neoclassical turn, and has spent the last fifty years on things like the Arrow-Debreu proof of the optimality of competitive general equilibrium, a formal theorem of great intrinsic interest, an elegant proof that has been terribly influential in other fields, but which has no relevance to any real economy at all and which is acknowledeged by its author to have taken us no closer to answering any economic question of interest. For this reason, a standard and valid criticism of neoclassicism in economics is that it has made no progress at all since Samuelson, and the parallel criticism of analytic philosophy is also valid.

"Progress" as you define it appears to be the creation of bogus problems in order to solve them, like a certain kind of fireman beloved of the psychiatry textbooks. Slinging insults seems to me to be part of the solution to that kind of problem. (And of course I haven't in fact slung any insults yet, though I reserve the right to begin to do so, perhaps sooner rather than later. Please try to keep this straight).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:30 PM
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428: will you take "baited" as a third option?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:33 PM
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he's doggedly insisting that there's little to no value in formulating questions (well-formed, interesting, probing, ground-shifting, etc. questions) if 'solutions' to those questions aren't forthcoming.

No. I reserve the right to make this separate assertion (about the value of analytic philosophy if it doesn't make progress) at some point in the future if I decide I want to, but it is clearly not the claim I am currently interested in defending (about whether it has made any progress). For Frege's sake, analytics, analyse!

I just don't know who you are addressing here. Not me, or anyone I know.

Oi! Cuntychops! Clean your fucking ears out!

clearer now?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:34 PM
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350

"For decades economics worked with a sociopathic definition of rationality (DeLong has joked about it) which flatly refused to say that a rich man's $10 cigar had less utility than a $10 shot of penicillin that saved a poor man's life. We're getting away from that, but all that means from a commonsense point of view we're just getting back to zero."

"refused to say" is not really accurate, "was unable to say" would be better. And the reasons it was unable to say seem pretty fundamental and hard to get around to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:35 PM
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For Frege's sake, analytics, analyse!

This is apparently not what they do any more.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:37 PM
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419, 426.2:

I'm still waiting for an explanation why Putnam's work is not evidence of a prior stunting of philosophy.

I agree with you. His work is a little painful to read on that account; it is valiant. No complaints.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:37 PM
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economics, the latter subject has taken on such fundamental questions as the socialist calculation debate, the existence of an aggregate production function and the relationship between the supply of money and the price level, and settled them; they're gone, solved etc.

I thought aggregate production functions don't exist, or are hopelessly problematic, yet they continue to appear in published econ papers all the time. So how is that "solved"? Or am I hopelessly misinformed and unduly influenced by one side of the debate here?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:38 PM
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I thought aggregate production functions don't exist,

The trouble is that economics got quite good at solving problems and then ignoring the right answer if it wasn't the one that had been sought. Progress, of a kind.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:40 PM
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435: No, you're right. The question of the non-existence of aggregate production functions is solved and settled and anyone who cares to can look up the published work where it's proved. The fact that a school of economics took over in a lot of British and American economics departments which was wrong about that question is a separate organisational pathology and one for which it should legitimately be criticised. It's rather as if a school of philosophy which held that (say) Hegel's metaphysics were literally meaningless had taken over all the philosophy departments in the English-speaking world.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:43 PM
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Dsquared,

Progress does not need to take the form of giving the correct solution to a problem. It can also take the form of discovering that certain attempts at a solution to a problem are bad ones. Even more modestly, it can take the form of discovering that certain solutions to problems have unforeseen consequences. Finally, even if we do come up with the right solution to a problem, we won't necessarily know that it's the right solution. I suspect that in philosophy, as in other disciplines, we've made progress by deriving unforeseen consequences from various attempted solutions to problems (thereby giving us the resources to evaluate those solutions better). I also suspect that we have many correct solutions to problems, albeit not widely recognized ones.

For example, my philosophical acumen has led me to the conclusion that the solution to my current procrastination problem is to stop posting on this thread.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:47 PM
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Well, the original problem that Tarski was addressing was something along the lines of "What does it mean for a statement to be true?". And we have not obviously got any closer at all to an answer to this question in the last 25 years. Or to "what is the nature of the relationship between cause and effect?" or to "what is the nature of the relationship between a word and the physical world?"

Now this is just dumb, I'm sorry to say. The answer to the latter question, for example, is that it's an ill-formed question. It has so much packed in to it that's deeply problematic that one must back up, and back up, in order to clarify what's wrong with it. And we discover a great deal more about ourselves in that endeavor than we would by attempting to answer it as given. It's a bad question taken on its face.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:48 PM
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I christen #438 the "non-stick frying pans" argument. Note that it does not provide a basis for criticism of Zizek et al.

(Parenthetically, I'd note the obvious influence of Derrida and deconstruction on Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal and thence to a rather fantastic lunch I had a couple of years ago).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:52 PM
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i thought AP is FL and i miss ogged
sweet, thanks, alameida, that's in Japanese though
in my language it would be kotsu-arga, ko-khuu
argatai khuu - a boy with tricks, just it does not match phonetically to the proposed recipient's name though still could be used as an alternative spelling for its abbrev, i suppose, anyway, he dismissed it, so, never mind
i like that analytical philosophy has progressed this much, why are you people unhappy with that, i'm happy that somebody somewhere works on its progress, perhaps for my benefit too


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:52 PM
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319

"... For example, it does not appear, on the face of it, that physics supports the idea of a direction of time. This might be a little unnerving for those of us who think we are getting older. ..."

Macro laws of physics like those of thermodynamics support the idea of a direction of time. The fact that it is so far unclear how these macro laws arise from micro laws which tend to be time reversible does not mean people doubt the macro laws are correct, it just means that there is work to be done. Just as there was (and perhaps still is) work figuring out how classical physics arises as a limit case of quantum physics.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:53 PM
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422: Hilary.

I figured. I meant, "which Hilary?" He's changed his views about most questions repeatedly throughout his philosophical career.

A non-stunted philosophy would not have to justify the very possibility of normative discourse.

What do you mean by "the very possibility of normative discourse"? You mean the possibility that normative claims can be true or false?--the possibility that they can be meaningful at all?

If this is not just a complaint about logical positivism, I don't see what you are getting at. As has been pointed out, if there is anything that Anglo-American philosophy has achieved consensus on, it's that the logical positivists had a hopeless theory of meaning.



Posted by: Moby Ape | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:54 PM
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a rather fantastic lunch I had a couple of years ago

Whoa, now the thread gets interesting. You ate at El Bulli, or The Fat Duck?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 1:59 PM
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439: Actually, it's not that bad a question, and it has been convincingly answered, mostly by the structuralists (the answer is, basically, "arbitrary"). Of course structuralism is often largely ignored by analytic philosophy of language.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:00 PM
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444: maybe he ate at aspects of both, re-imagined.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:01 PM
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Dsquared,

I would never criticize Zizek. He lent his name to a rather fantastic party I went to once in Buenos Aires, and for that reason he will always have a special place in my heart.


Posted by: analyticalphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:03 PM
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Putnam: "Collapse of the Fact / Value Distinction" and "Ethics Without Ontology". At first they seemed interesting to me, because well-intentioned, but I ended up feeling that it could only be interesting within analytic philosophy, and was a pidgin first step toward liberation from analytic philosophy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:14 PM
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448: heh! I read the former book and had exactly that reaction.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:15 PM
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Although I believe it's Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:16 PM
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444: My brother is being taken to El Bulli by a winemaker. He's such a shit. Not that there's one molecule I could eat there, but still.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:17 PM
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451: perhaps exactly one, served just so?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:19 PM
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451 reminds me... anyone been to Gundel in Budapest in the last, say, 5 years? If so, is it worth going to? I've been seeing wildly mixed reviews.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:21 PM
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Actually I ate lunch at Blumenthal's pub in the same village, down the road from the Fat Duck. I wouldn't bother with most self-styled "Molecular gastronomy" at half the price.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:21 PM
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The conquest of economics by the neoclassicals and of philosophy by the analytics took place at the same time, around 1950-1970. The recent collaboration between Putnam and Sen, both orthodox in their fields, is evidence that the dominance is starting to be broken, but both of them really are taking rather timid steps in the right direction. The fact that they have to write some of the things they write at all is pretty good evidence that I'm not imagining things about academia. For example, at some level I think that it should be taken as self-evident or primitive that a life-saving 10$ shot of penicillin is in a significant way worth more than $10 cigar, regardless of dollar value, but for a lot of philosophers and most economists that kind of judgment was forbidden.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:24 PM
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Come on, John, economics was always clear that a life-saving $10 shot of penicillin is more valuable than a $10 cigar. The penicillin shot is an investment that produces a stream of future returns. The cigar, not so much.

The question was whether you could say that the $10 cigar was more valuable for the poor person than the rich person.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:27 PM
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439: Actually, it's not that bad a question, and it has been convincingly answered, mostly by the structuralists (the answer is, basically, "arbitrary"). Of course structuralism is often largely ignored by analytic philosophy of language.

It's an educational question; I didn't say it wasn't interesting. The extent to which analytic philosophy of language has ignored structuralism is a question of institutional, or disciplinary, boundaries. No kidding. The fields have different ways of answering questions. No kidding. They are able to speak to one another, but there aren't a lot of people in either field willing to bridge the gap.

But I think the word has come down: desist.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:30 PM
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PGD, a $10 investment in a poor person produces little or no return. And the cigar and the penicillin both show up on the GDP the same, and GDP is what it's all about. And transferring $10 from the rich person to the poor person to pay for penicillin at the cost of one cigar cannot be shown to be advantageous, because utilities can't be compared and there's no such thing as social welfare.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:35 PM
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455: at the same time classical AI was in its heyday. I blame Vannevar Bush for all of it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:38 PM
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"Desist" is not in my vocabulary, Parsimon.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 2:41 PM
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And transferring $10 from the rich person to the poor person to pay for penicillin at the cost of one cigar cannot be shown to be advantageous, because utilities can't be compared and there's no such thing as social welfare.

The poor person whose life had been saved would work to pay back the rich person. It's Pareto optimal as soon as you move to an intertemporal context.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:00 PM
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If the poor person pays. But I'm talking about social utility.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:08 PM
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455

"... For example, at some level I think that it should be taken as self-evident or primitive that a life-saving 10$ shot of penicillin is in a significant way worth more than $10 cigar, regardless of dollar value, but for a lot of philosophers and most economists that kind of judgment was forbidden. "

This is not really a satisfactory solution. By self-evident you presumedly mean something like appears to most people. But accepting as given everything most people believe rather quickly produces a morass of falsehoods and contradictions.

Now you could look for some axioms which would imply answers to questions like the relative worth of a $10 cigar and $10 of penicillin that most people would find generally reasonable. However as far as I know attempts to do this have proven unsatisfactory because of some rather fundamental problems in aggregating group preferences.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:38 PM
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I'm going to do everyone the courtesy of reducing their enemies list by one. Neoclassical economics is self-evidently a branch of analytic philosophy.

I've read analyticphilosopher's comments, and I'm trying to figure out if he's bullshitting about the importance of follow-up work to Tarski. Maybe someone who knows better can let me know. Yablo got around self-reference in the Liar's paradox by postulating an infinitely long sentence, right? Which, while clever, is sorta cheating. By Kripke's work, is he referring to Kripke semantics, or something else? And "Field" means "Hartry Field", right? Who's self-evidently an eccentric?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:45 PM
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There is a special level of Hell for people who use "self-evidently" twice in one comment, and it has a place for me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:46 PM
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James, analytic philosophy is you. Thank you for showing up in person.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:52 PM
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463: The trouble, James, is that it's not as if statements that are properly vetted by AP/neoclassical econ are universally accepted. They might make people in those fields happier, but they have no impact on the larger world - they're not in any functional way "truer" than common sense statements.

Further, on the specific penicillin/cigar example: there are only two ways to get someone who would disagree with the literal question posed - someone who is taking the utility revelation of cash money too literally, or someone who's trolling. This isn't a statement - like, say, "sunny days are nicer than rainy" - that appear to be common sensical or universally true or even trivially true, but don't hold up to scrutiny. You'd be hard-pressed to find a real, live human being who would, in good faith, argue that the penicillin and the cigar are equal in value, regardless of dollars. But JE is right to note that you can find busloads of economists who would debate the matter endlessly - if they wouldn't immediately accept that it's true and move on.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 3:55 PM
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Walt some guy,

You write:

"By Kripke's work, is he referring to Kripke semantics, or something else? And "Field" means "Hartry Field", right? Who's self-evidently an eccentric?"

No, I'm not referring to Kripke semantics (which is a semantics for intensional logic). I'm referring to Kripke's theory of truth in his 1975 paper, "Outline of a Theory of Truth". As to Field (whose new book on the Liar Paradox is forthcoming), well, being an eccentric isn't exactly a disqualifying feature in philosophy.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:09 PM
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458: to be honest, I have a hard time being aggressively condemnatory of economics for giving the answer that ten dollars is ten dollars. It is meant to be the study of production, consumption and exchange, not a unified field theory of humanity (yes I know, tell Steven Levitt that, but there you go). The corruption of the subject was not when economics gave that answer, but when the rest of society decided that it was appropriate to expect to get its answers to that question from economists. As I've said in the past, somewhere in the horrible bloated discipline of economics, there is a nice, slim branch of control engineering struggling to get out. The trouble was that this branch of control engineering got mixed up during the nineteenth century with an awful lot of very intelligent but very screwed-up social and political theorists, and having fallen into bad company, economics never really got back on the straight and narrow.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:20 PM
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I scrolled up and read earlier comments (which I hadn't done before), and I came upon what must be the stupidest comment about philosophy I've ever read on a blog, which was by Dsquared:

"Well, the nature of consciousness, the relationship between language and the universe, the concept of a scientific law; the big questions of M&E. And by "actual progress" I'd count "any new and convincing theory". On all three of these and a fair few others, the last significant advance that more or less everyone agrees to have been an advance was Wittgenstein, and that's now 75 years ago."

Is this guy someone that people here go to as an authority? This comment reveals that he knows as much about analytic philosophy as I do about the swing scene in Albania (not much, btw). Let's take the last comment first. Hardly any distinguished contemporary philosophers think that Wittgenstein made an "advance" - the much more common view is that Wittgenstein was interesting but wrong-headed, and led philosophy first into the muddle that was logical positivism, and then the muddle that was ordinary language philosophy (two completely defunct programs). On the relationship between language and the universe, as I've already harped on above, one huge advance philosophers made was in *semantics* - the study of the relationship between language and the world. This work has spun off into an entirely new scientific discipline (linguistic semantics), and has affected computer science tremendously.

Then later in the thread, Dsquared writes:

"It's rather as if a school of philosophy which held that (say) Hegel's metaphysics were literally meaningless had taken over all the philosophy departments in the English-speaking world."

It seems to me that Dsquared gets his knowledge of contemporary philosophy from a cartoon on the back of a cereal box from the 1950s. Only logical positivists thought that Hegel's metaphysics was meaningless, and the last one died some time ago. Furthermore, Hegel's metaphysics is alive and well in prominent American philosophy departments:

http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=12925

Do you guys pay attention to this idiotic blowhard because he is English?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:34 PM
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Hardly any distinguished contemporary philosophers think that Wittgenstein made an "advance"

stop it, you're killing me.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:37 PM
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467

"... You'd be hard-pressed to find a real, live human being who would, in good faith, argue that the penicillin and the cigar are equal in value, regardless of dollars. But JE is right to note that you can find busloads of economists who would debate the matter endlessly - if they wouldn't immediately accept that it's true and move on."

Economists aren't saying they are equal in moral value or in other way than current dollar cost. Economists don't have a way of measuring moral value but neither does anybody else.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:38 PM
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471: oh, sure, it's easy to be good when you get lucky like that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:40 PM
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Do you guys pay attention to this idiotic blowhard because he is English?

That would be a bad reason, since he's not.

Furthermore, Hegel's metaphysics is alive and well in prominent American philosophy departments:

Pittsburgh is not "departments".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:44 PM
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(You can either keep the Hegel claim, or the Wittgenstein claim, but not, with that evidence, both.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:46 PM
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471: OMG, dsquared and I agree on this. Even though analyticphilosopher is likely right that ordinary language philosophy is, shall we say, deprecated. That is, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:48 PM
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Dsquared,

"Stop it, you're killing me".

Let's see. The current chairs at Oxford are John Broome, Terry Irwin, John Hawthorne, and Timothy Williamson. All of them share my view of Wittgenstein. NYU has two prominent Wittgensteineans, Paul Horwich and Crispin Wright. Rutgers, the other most prominent US department has none. The University of Michigan and Princeton have none. In fact, the only leading American department that has a substantial Wittgensteinean component is Pittsburgh - and there the Wittgensteineans are co-extensive with the Hegelians. Go down a while, and you get to Chicago.

But all of this is well-known to anyone who knows anything at all about contemporary philosophy. It seems to me that all you believe you know about contemporary philosophy is stuff you got from side comments in your copy of *Of Grammatology*.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:49 PM
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475: Ben! Is it true?? Is the consensus that Wittgenstein is/was a hack? or something. ?? (Yes, some people have always thought so, but that is not the same as an overall judgment.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:53 PM
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Ordinary language philosophy has been fruitful outside philosophy but was purged from analytic philosophy. Even the Popperians were purged. It may be that people claim Gellner as an analytic philosopher when they're trying to show that analytic philosophy has something to say about certain kinds of questions, but he was treated rather harshly by the discipline.

And yes, I'm saying that when I do find a proto-analytic philosopher of interest, I find that he is no longer part of the field.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:55 PM
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The fact that Rutgers doesn't have any wittgensteinians on its faculty is not the same as all the distinguished contemporary philosophers at Rutgers sharing your view of Wittgenstein, and, while it may indeed be the case that many think that all we have to thank W's later philosophy for is ordinary language philosophy, that strikes me as a bizarre opinion to hold.

I recently read a paper in which it was averred that Tim Williamson thinks that people who are interested in the history of Mars are ipso facto interested in vagueness, which seems also to be an odd position to take, but then, this paper was written by someone who takes Austin seriously.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:55 PM
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478: Beats me. My perspective is extremely limited. That's not the consensus I have encountered, but that's not really saying much.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:56 PM
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Parsimon,

Wittgenstein's influence is incredibly overexaggerated outside philosophy. Sure, the rule following problem is still discussed, and sure there are use theorists of meaning (Paul Horwich at NYU, and Robert Brandom at Pittsburgh). But defenders of Wittgenstein in philosophy of language are few and far between. There are defenders of Wittgenstein's claim that traditional philosophical questions are nonsense (such as James Conant at Chicago). But at most philosophy conferences in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and epistemology (his main areas), Wittgenstein's influence exists only in the form of the very occasional pithy quote from the Philosophical Investigations.

No doubt such quotes occurred a lot on Dsquared's cereal boxes.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 4:57 PM
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Remember, parsimon, that there are only two options when it comes to Wittgenstein: you can defend the claims you think he made, or you can think he just led people into a particular muddle.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:00 PM
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Economists have often been very poor and evasive about recognizing the limits of their thought in application. Economics is a very poor guide to social policy for the reasons I've touched on, and others, but free-marketers have not been at all shy about developing economics into a comprehensive theory of society and a political ideology.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:00 PM
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Ben,

Good comment. That's why Wittgenstein is no longer very influential. We may disagree about Wittgenstein's relative impact (it's clearly much more minimal than people outside philosophy realize, however). But we can all agree that Dsquared's comment that "the last significant advance that more or less everyone agrees to have been an advance was Wittgenstein, and that's now 75 years ago" pretty much disqualifies him as someone with even a ten year old's understanding of contemporary philosophy.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:06 PM
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481: Okay, thanks.

482: Hm. I'll have to ask around about this. Surely describing Jim Conant in this way is a little dismissive of the influence of Wittgenstein on his work. Certainly I'm aware that W. is not favored, but I honestly didn't know that, or whether, he was downright sneered at. (By the way, your condescending tone doesn't behoove you here.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:07 PM
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485 makes little sense to me, tbh.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:09 PM
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485: it's nice of you to give Ben that sort of affirmation. I'm sure he appreciates hearing from a real expert.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:09 PM
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If you think that contemporary philosophy sucks, you're not motivated to be expert about it, especially if you're right.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:10 PM
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but free-marketers have not been at all shy about developing economics into a comprehensive theory of society and a political ideology.

Yes, but that's a bad argument against free market economics qua economics, on par with arguing that the existence of social Darwinism/evo-psych is an argument against the Darwinian theory of evolution.

I mean, the Marxists theories of the arts have not been uniformly good, to say the least, so does that mean Marx was a bad economist?

Members of every discipline will attempt to pronounce on areas outside their ambit, and will, sooner or later, discover there's a reason that those disciplinary boundaries are there. That doesn't mean that their work is crap within its specialised area.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:10 PM
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Ben,

You say "Pittsburgh is not departments"

http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/object/beatricelonguenesse.html

http://home.uchicago.edu/~rbp1/cv.shtml

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/philosophy/fac-bios/neuhouser/faculty.html


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:12 PM
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489: well that's why he gets to have that fancy pseudonym from a nonexistent philosophical school and we just have to suffer along, ignorant.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:13 PM
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I'm not arguing against economics qua economics. I'm arguing against flesh and blood economics as it actually, concretely exists and functions in our society. If economists limited themselves to doing economics qua economics I'd be cool with them, but they're tremendously influential and heavy-hended in every policy area and are increasing their influence. It's only when someone like me criticizes them that they start to get all prissy and scrupulous about economics qua economics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:14 PM
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Parsimon, see, you agree with me after all. Wittgenstein too has been purged.

They came for the process philosophers and I said nothing....


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:16 PM
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Pippin? He's not exactly ... mainstream analytic, is he? For that matter, Chicago's not exactly the analyticest department going overall. (Did you know you can take classes on Lacan there?!!!) Longuenesse I think of mostly as a Kantian (nor do I think I'm alone in that).

As I said before, if this is the evidence for Hegel being alive and well in analytic departments, Wittgenstein is alive and well too.

I mentioned Pitt because it was the focus of the review you linked as support for your assertion.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:18 PM
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Next: ap reveals herself to be ... Beatrice Longuenesse!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:20 PM
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475,

You write:

"(You can either keep the Hegel claim, or the Wittgenstein claim, but not, with that evidence, both.)"

Good point. I'll go with "Wittgenstein's views are as alive and well in philosophy circles as Hegel's".


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:20 PM
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People who think Wittgenstein got it right tend to take his advice and get out of philosophy.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:23 PM
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If you think that contemporary philosophy sucks, you're not motivated to be expert about it, especially if you're right.

For heaven's sake, that's as daft as saying that because you know that Picasso sucks, you don't need to look at his work.

Robert Hughes thought Basquiat sucked, but he still managed to write in (some level of) detail about him. That's why Hughes was a great critic.

Dsquared doesn't like Dawkins because Dawkins doesn't bother with theology for the exact same reason that you don't bother with contemporary philosophy; I think Dawkins would be a much better polemicist if he knew theology. Candide is good, in part, because Voltaire knows his opponents' arguments well enough not to make himself look stupid.

And that argument about actually-existing-economics is so close to the one used by your actually existing idiot libertarians about Marx it isn't even funny.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:25 PM
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But we can all agree that Dsquared's comment that "the last significant advance that more or less everyone agrees to have been an advance was Wittgenstein, and that's now 75 years ago" pretty much disqualifies him as [overconfidence snipped]

The last significant advance in literary theory that everyone more or less agrees to have been an advance was the New Criticism. This is quite obviously not a claim that everyone is still doing the New Criticism, or that the New Criticism is now very influential; it is a claim that NC is the last common intellectual ancestor of the existing critical traditions, not all of whom acknowledge each other as advances (to put it mildly). D^2 appears to be claiming that this is the case with philosophy and Wittgenstein; is he mistaken?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:26 PM
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494.1: John, you'll make me irritable. I know that W. has mostly been purged; it was so 10 years ago at least. At that time, if you wanted to do Wittgensteinian work, you were best off not mentioning his name. This could be done. No one would necessarily know you were taking a Wittgensteinian perspective (and it is that: a perspective, not a set of fucking propositions). If you wanted to actually mention him by name, you were better off in a political or literary theory department. Dicey even then.

Shh. I have said too much.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:29 PM
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By the way, your condescending tone doesn't behoove you here

Well, he has been called a cunt and so forth. Just because he's not a regular doesn't call for that extreme a double standard.

ap seems to considerably more about analytic philosophy than anyone else on the thread. Is actual knowledge of the field sufficient to disturb the pre-existing consensus that all analytic philosophy is all bollocks? Tune in at comment 1000 to find out!

If Marshall McLuhan actually did show up in the Unfogged comments section, he'd be roundly denounced and sent on his way, probably for being insufficiently expert in the work of Marshall McLuhan.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:32 PM
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500,

You write:

"The last significant advance in literary theory that everyone more or less agrees to have been an advance was the New Criticism. This is quite obviously not a claim that everyone is still doing the New Criticism, or that the New Criticism is now very influential; it is a claim that NC is the last common intellectual ancestor of the existing critical traditions, not all of whom acknowledge each other as advances (to put it mildly). D^2 appears to be claiming that this is the case with philosophy and Wittgenstein; is he mistaken?"

Yes, he is mistaken. Many of us admire Wittgenstein, but the vast majority of us think that he made no advances, and the views most centrally associated with him are false. Indeed, Wittgensteineans would deny that it is possible to make 'advances' in philosophy, and most of us certainly disagree with that.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:32 PM
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seems to KNOW considerably more about analytic philosophy...etc.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:32 PM
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Except that actually-existing economists run the country right now, and Marx and actually-existing Marxists don't. If Marxist economists ran the country, criticisms of Marxist economists would quite rightly intensify, and these criticisms would apply not only to their theoretical work but also to their practical activities, and these two things would inevitably be intertwined.

Whether or not economics is a science, the profession is about as pure as the Mafia or the Renaissance Papacy. Despite being an applied science, it seems to have no ethical standards enforceable on its members, the way other applied sciences such as law or medicine do.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:32 PM
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Clearing up mistakes is an advance, of a sort.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:33 PM
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Is actual knowledge of the field sufficient to disturb the pre-existing consensus that all analytic philosophy is all bollocks?

What pre-existing consensus? The only person who can plausibly be said to hold anything like this view is Emerson.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:33 PM
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503: Thank you.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:34 PM
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Why admire someone who made no advances and was mostly wrong?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:36 PM
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Is actual knowledge of the field sufficient to disturb the pre-existing consensus that all analytic philosophy is all bollocks?

That really depends on the content of the knowledge, doesn't it?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:36 PM
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506,

But the 'mistakes' that Wittgenstein thought he cleared up are basically the subject matter of contemporary metaphysics, philosophy of language, and epistemology. So there could scarcely be a consensus that he was right!


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:38 PM
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287: correct and irrefutable. Lei/ter is the most arrogant person on the Internet, even moreso than Instapundit. I'm actually a little afraid of the guy, for reasons that are unclear to me.

292: I was about to brag about my own scores until I read the comments making fun of the jackass who liked to brag about his scores.

348: I agree with Sifu and initially found Bitch's reaction baffling and disappointing, but have since received an adequate explanation.

370: We're simply the discipline of philosophy. I fucking hate it when you people say that. If you're simply the discipline of philosophy, why do you exclude so much philosophy? If analytic philosophy no longer exists as a more or less unified program, it still nevertheless names an exclusionary force within the discipline, which has forced much of philosophy out of philosophy departments.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:38 PM
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509,

Because he was interesting and smart, and expressed a frustration with the difficulty of the problems that all of us occasionally feel. We just don't make the frustration into our positive theory.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:40 PM
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But actually existing Marxists used to run the SU, and the nonsense about Capital being the evillest book of the history of books was still nonsense.

You can't argue ad hom against a science.

Further, neither law nor medicine are really sciences, they're arts. (Strictly speaking, law and medicine are professions, which is where they derive their professional conduct rules. Economics couldn't be made into a profession any more than science fiction writing could be made into a profession.)

I mean, how would you determine professional misconduct? Would all the Marxists get thrown out? Would espousing mercantilism be grounds for dismissal? What would that to do academic freedom?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:43 PM
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There's only philosophy and non-philosophy. Non-philosophy is divided into pseudo-philosophy, ex-philosophy, sub-philosophy, and true non-philosophy. True non-philosophy includes such things as sociology, literature, history, merchandising, dry goods, vegetables, rivets, mud, insects, mental illness, gravity, air, and your mother.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:44 PM
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512,

You write:

"I fucking hate it when you people say that. If you're simply the discipline of philosophy, why do you exclude so much philosophy? If analytic philosophy no longer exists as a more or less unified program, it still nevertheless names an exclusionary force within the discipline, which has forced much of philosophy out of philosophy departments."

I have a job in a philosophy department, and I don't recall having excluded anyone on the basis of what they work on in searches. I've helped hire several people who work on figures in 19th century German philosophy (and I'm not talking Frege here). It is true that there are way more philosophers than philosophy jobs, so *many people* have to be excluded. I just think it's silly to try to come up with a theoretical description of the inevitably large number of people who don't get jobs. Plenty of people who work on consciousness don't get jobs too.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:44 PM
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why do you exclude so much philosophy?

Queue links to discussions of whether Nietzsche was a "realist."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:44 PM
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You can argue "ad hom" (not quite the right phrase, but OK) against a profession. And such arguments against Soviet Marxism would have been be completely valid.

One of the disastrous things about economics is the failure to separate theoretical and applied economics, the way you separate physics or engineering or medicine and human biology. A lot of applications and biasses have been written into the theory, and there's always an evasive two-step about that. And you're doing the evasive two-step right now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:48 PM
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503: the views most centrally associated with him are false. Indeed, Wittgensteineans would deny that it is possible to make 'advances' in philosophy

Ouch. analyticphilosopher doesn't particularly get Wittgenstein. That's okay. It's not that important.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:49 PM
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516 is simply false and dishonest. Incr4asingly over the last several decades the people who get jobs have i been people called "analytic philosophers" by non-analytic philosophers. AP here thinks it's just silly to talk about this, and I understand his motives but not his reasons, if he has any.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:51 PM
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516: Obviously you as an individual are not responsible for institutional forces. Your response strikes me as so obtuse that I really can't find an angle to properly respond to it.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:51 PM
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By the way, at least some folks in this thread might be interested in John McCumber's latest book, which is a look at philosophy at the present moment.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:53 PM
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Come and join us in the outer darkness, parsimon. You're not in the biz any more anyway.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:53 PM
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All institutions that allocate limited valuable resources are exclusionary. Philosophy jobs are limited valuable resources. Those who are excluded will be embittered to the point of irrationality about it.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:54 PM
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And now you're trying to evade actually thinking about how on earth you try (a) separate `applied' and `theoretical' economics, and (b) impose professional standards on a discipline that blatantly isn't a profession.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:55 PM
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have a job in a philosophy department, and I don't recall having excluded anyone on the basis of what they work on in searches. I've helped hire several people who work on figures in 19th century German philosophy (and I'm not talking Frege here).

Hint: they might have been excluded before getting to the APA.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:55 PM
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Parsimon,

I'm pretty secure defending an interpretation of PI according to which it entails that advances on problems in metaphysics and philosophy of language are not possible, and that only 'quietist' solutions are right. Anyway, if I'm misinterpreting Wittgenstein, then so are some of the more prominent interpreters of Wittgenstein, such as Crispin Wright.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:58 PM
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The revisionist claims that "it's all philosophy" are a great example of history being written by the winners. The response to "there are limited jobs" or "we study everyone" is, as I snarked in 517, that one particular family of approaches to philosophy predominates in anglophone philosophy departments, and that family of styles is significantly different from other approaches that used to have a place in philosophy departments, and now rarely do.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 5:58 PM
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The book in 522 looks interesting.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:00 PM
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Applied and theoretical economics are separated, by field, by type of job, dozens of different ways.

Give it up, Keir. You're never going to get anywhere with John on this subject.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:00 PM
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I didn't evade anything, Keir. I made a brief off-the-cuff statement on a blog comment thread.

You would define theoretical vs. applied economics the same way you define the difference between human biology and medicine, or physics and engineering, or botany and agronomy. No difficulty at all there. Proposals to this effect have been discussed within the profession.

Economics has more influence on policy than all the other social science and humanities disciplines combined. It's as pure as Fox News or CNN or the Democratic Party or the Republican Party or any of the other big players.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:02 PM
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I refuse to read this incredibly boring thread, but I am beginning to get the feeling that my initial appreciation of AP was misplaced.

Ah well. I've had my heart broken by so many of the Unfogged men already.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:02 PM
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528: and this differs from the evolution of every other academic discipline over time how....?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:03 PM
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My 519 was unbearably snarky, for which I apologize. I became exasperated.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:03 PM
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535

533: Dude! Please.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:05 PM
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505

"Except that actually-existing economists run the country right now, ..."

No, for the most part they don't. The people who do run the country may sometimes adopt economic arguments for the policies they favor for other reasons but economists as such have little influence.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:06 PM
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They're not separated the way physics and engineering are, with the result that theoreticians can sneak policy into their writing, and cash in in various ways on the market. Economics is flatly not disinterested, even though it claims to be whenever attacked. Mankiw was only too happy to be Bush's errand-boy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:06 PM
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533: given that ogged described the process as an example of history being written by the winners, something that (they say) is relatively commonplace, you can probably safely conclude that he doesn't think it's never happened before.

You might be thinking of what that great analytic thinker, bob mcmanus, said, "Was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig", as justification for this state of affairs, but it's unclear.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:06 PM
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Shut up, B. You're far too easily bored.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:07 PM
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527: Crispin Wright considers Wittgenstein a quietist? Okay. I haven't really tracked who thinks what any more, but the "quietism" interpretation is garbage. No, I'm not going to defend that here. You might leave space, though, for the thought that it's not even remotely a universal opinion, and if you accept it, given that you haven't studied Wittgenstein much yourself, you're engaging in bandwagonism, and it shows.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:09 PM
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532

"I am beginning to get the feeling that my initial appreciation of AP was misplaced."

I could have told you that!

(Anyway, why do you think I'm a man?)

534,

My fault, Parsimon. I'm not a regular blogger so I figured that I would just try adjusting to Dsquared's style. Not my usual tone, and I annoyed myself too.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:09 PM
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528: and this differs from the evolution of every other academic discipline over time how....?

It differs insofar as the "adaptation," was, arguably, to a political climate that was hostile to inquiry with potentially uncomfortable implications--no doubt other disciplines have gone through something similar, but that shouldn't keep anyone who is interested in philosophy from lamenting what's happened. Now, it might be the case that even contemporary analytic philosophy has come around to pursuing broader questions in interesting ways, but the damage is done and the claim that it's just matter of economics or resource allocation that accounts for the narrowness of the contemporary approach are unconvincing.

I'm outta here for a bit, but it seems other people have this covered.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:10 PM
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Shut up, B. You're far too easily bored.

533: In that the winners of the battle were too narrow and not good enough. It's not a formal a priori objection, we're just talking about a particular historical disaster.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:10 PM
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Parsimon,

I don't accept anything about Wittgenstein interpretation - he's too hard to interpret. I'm certain no easy claim summation of Wittgenstein's attitude towards positive philosophy is possible, and I'm sorry if I gave the impression otherwise. Anyway, my favorite Wittgenstein scholar, Ian Proops at Michigan, agrees with you - he thinks at least the early Wittgenstein made positive claims (though Conant contests this). Anyway, I really have no pony in these debates, and I'm sorry for entering them. As you can see, one can be a practicing analytic philosopher without really caring that much about Wittgenstein.

But certainly Wittgensteineans I've studied closely with, such as Burton Dreben, took as a lesson from Wittgenstein that there were no advances in philosophy. Perhaps, as you say, they were wrong to do so.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:16 PM
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Shearer: the power of economics is exercised above all through the Federal Reserve Board. This board is autonomous and its chairman is almost as important as the President, and he's always an economist. And don't tell me that Greenspan wasn't a real economist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:26 PM
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Economists really are powerful, but less so than politicians, Wall Street banks, or Fox News for that matter. They (even Mankiw) are also much more open to evidence/argument than those other institutions.

I don't know what it is that some people here expect from fundamentally non-scientific disciplines like economics or philosophy, but you're not going to find it on this earth.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:30 PM
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Who is "some people here" PGD, my friend?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:31 PM
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YOU, Emerson, YOU! J'accuse!

Uh, among others.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:33 PM
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As I reflect, I feel like analyticphilosopher didn't understand DS's analogy with the New Criticism.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:36 PM
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I just hope for a broader philosophy discipline and a politically more honest and self-aware, less right wing, economics. Preferably one making a clearer distinction between theoretical and applied, and less implicated in finance.

And if I can't get those, I'd just like people to pay less attention to those fields.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 6:57 PM
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549: Been wondering about that myself in retrospect, but the moment has sort of passed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:08 PM
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DS,

No one would think that Wittgenstein was "the last common intellectual ancestor" of contemporary philosophy. The philosophy of science tradition that comes down from Quine is completely independent of Wittgenstein. Contemporary metaphysics has its roots in David Lewis and Kripke (though of course its questions are the traditional ones of traditional philosophy), and has no debt to Wittgenstein. I could go on. So the analogy breaks down in that much of contemporary philosophy does not trace its influence to Wittgenstein (though some does).


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:13 PM
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Jeez, John, my not reading the thread isn't intended as a personal criticism or something, just an explanation for why I'm piping in with a comment that probably bears little, if any, relation to anything that anyone's currently talking about.

Deep breaths, now.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:21 PM
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I'd just like people to pay less attention to those fields.

I feel like engaging in desperate laughter. John, if phil departments are as bad as analyticphilosopher describes, I'm rather sickened. Honestly, I didn't know it had become that bad. But I wonder if she is correct. Dunno. ogged linked to McCumber, and I should look at that later.

Those of us who spent a lot of time in the field, whether we left or not, can't cease caring. That's all. So call me to the dark side all you like, John Emerson, but having been trained in the analytic tradition with a very good dose of continental phil and literary and political theory thrown in, I can't quite tell my brethren to go to hell. I can't believe I just said that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:23 PM
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They won't actually go to hell, parsimon. I regard that as unfortunate, of course, whereas I presume that you don't. If I were a Dante I would spend a year boning up on those guys so that I could finetune their fate down there. Leiter would be Satan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:30 PM
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Parsimon,

I must say, I'm very bemused at your attitude. You think that philosophy departments are terrible just because Wittgenstein is regarded as one excellent philosopher among many, and not revered as a Godhead?

Philosophy departments are incredibly diverse now. No one figure in the past is revered to the exclusion of others. There are Fregeans, Anscombians, Hegelians, Russellians, Wittgensteineans, Kantians, Cartesians, Lewisians, Kripkeans, etc. There are philosophers of physics and philosophers of literature and philosophers of biology. I prefer pluralism to an attitude of occult veneration of any one figure, and I'm pleased contemporary philosophy doesn't take that form (as it did for a while at Harvard under Dreben).

But perhaps I've misunderstood you...


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:51 PM
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You guys are weird, with your fantasies of hell and so forth. Nietzsche would say ressentiment, that was his diagnosis of the original (Christian) fantasy of sending your enemies to hell.

What analyticphilosopher described sounded like a reasonable enough discipline to me, with plenty of cross-disciplinary connections and some relevance. But I'm not a philosopher and really don't care that much when it comes down to it. I did read some philosophy as an undergrad, and the philosophy departments of the 1890s or 1910s sounded fucked up in their own way.

550 sounds realistic enough (except for econ being "less implicated in finance", that's a core part of the discipline). Things are moving in that direction anyway.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:51 PM
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The McCumber book is terrible. A crock.

But again, I can't help but be puzzled by Parsimon's attitude. Philosophy is in a desperate situation because Wittgenstein is not its central figure?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 7:53 PM
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Give it up, analyticphilosopher. Half the people here (me included) are ex-academics, and nobody rides a hobbyhose like an ex-academic.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:00 PM
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556: What you said was that Wittgenstein was not very important any more and mostly wrong, but still for mysterious reasons respected. Not just "no longer central". To date parsimon and I have been adversaries, even earlier on this thread, but she's starting to understand how exclusionary AP is, and I've welcomed her to the club.

PGD, what does "implicated" mean? Too many economists are making too much money from the wrong places, and they're too compromised for that reason. That's why I suggested the separation of applied and theoretical.

I actually don't object to what AP actually does, but to what they don't do, and exclude. Notice any absences on the "incredibly diverse" list in 556?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:06 PM
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What I said was that Dsquared was absurd to say that most philosophers agreed that the last advance was made by Wittgenstein! That's consistent with people regarding Wittgenstein as an important figure, one on the same rank as say, Carnap or Quine (that is to say, very important). But it's not because he is (as DS suggested with the analogy to New Criticism) the common intellectual heir of everyone in philosophy. Philosophy is too diverse to have one common intellectual heir. That shows that philosophy is *exclusionary*?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:12 PM
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556, 558: What I said was quite open to charges of being over the top. You must be new here.

I meant two things:

(a) There are very roughly two schools of thought about Wittgenstein: that he's a quietist, and was mostly mumbling and, as you put it, creating the muddle that is, or was, ordinary language philosophy; or that he was doing a great deal more than that in his later work. The former view has won out. I am sad about this, and I think that it's a cop-out. Professional philosophy had a lot to defend, institutionally, in marginalizing him. Do I think he should have become a godhead? Of course not. As you say, Quine and others are tremendously important. Wittgenstein should have been given space, though, yes. And was, for a while.

(b) More importantly, philosophy departments are, by most accounts, almost entirely analytic. Where's the Husserl, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche? Bits and pieces here and there: where does one go to study these people? Phenomenology? Truly it is the case that more literary, for lack of a better term, philosophers are taken up chiefly outside phil departments.

Now I don't want to have this argument any more. You'll say that there are Hegelians, and of course people study Nietzsche. Uh-huh. Look at your list:

There are Fregeans, Anscombians, Hegelians, Russellians, Wittgensteineans, Kantians, Cartesians, Lewisians, Kripkeans, etc.

Almost all analytics. And I thought you said there were virtually no Wittgensteinians. And what the hell is a Kripkean? Anscombians? She's lovely. But this does not count as remarkable diversity to me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:14 PM
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I love how AP has now officially switched to just using "philosophy," meaning analytic philosophy. This tactic is likely to be highly ineffective in this context. When there's all kinds of philosophy that the field you're calling simply "philosophy" excludes -- including traditions of philosophy that are still very active outside of official philosophy depts. -- then maybe your field does not exhaust philosophy. Maybe it's a subset of philosophy that requires some kind of descriptive adjective, such as "analytic."


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:22 PM
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Truly it is the case that more literary, for lack of a better term, philosophers are taken up chiefly outside phil departments.

Because philosophy is a Science! parsimon. It has Rigor!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:22 PM
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I think we're coming close to defining 'analytic' to mean 'like, everyone's who's, like, not in the English department.' And 'etc.' to mean 'absolutely no Nietzscheans!'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:23 PM
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563: I baited him (it?) into it after he said that analytic philosophy wasn't in the business of analyzing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:24 PM
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Parsimon,

Kripke was one of the most important philosophers of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, enough so that one recent survey of Twentieth Century Philosophy (*The Age of Meaning*, by Scott Soames) sketches philosophy as a progression culminating in Kripke's work. I don't agree with this view. But Kripke certainly was a key figure in the revival of traditional, old-school metaphysics - a discipline that was reviled by logical positivists and Wittgensteineans alike.

I personally think that Anscombe was one of the deepest philosophers of the century. Her book *Intention* is the most important work on action in centuries (and she was a student of Wittgenstein!). But I recognize that this might be a view not widely shared, and her influence is not as broad as some other philosophers (e.g. Quine), since action theory is not as widely discussed as some other areas.

You write:

"Where's the Husserl, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche? Bits and pieces here and there: where does one go to study these people? Phenomenology?"

For Hegel, you should go to Pittsburgh, Chicago, NYU, or Columbia. For Nietzsche, there are many good departments - Chicago, with Leiter, but also UC Riverside. Anyway, check Leiter's Gourmet Report for this. Harvard just hired Sean Kelly, who is a Heidegger scholar who also works a lot on phenomenology. His website is here:

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~sdkelly/index.html

Dick Moran at Harvard covers existentialism in his teaching and research. So Harvard does well with your phenomenology and existentialism needs.

For more questions, the Philosophical Gourmet Report is quite good on answers.

I also think that there is a disinclination among some of you folks to regard American philosophers as being great ("how could Kripke be great? he was born in Nebraska!"). That's a shame, because everywhere else in the world, many Twentieth century American philosophers are revered. It turns out that only Americans think that you have to be European to be a significant figure in philosophy.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:35 PM
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And where's Rorty? and Davidson? (is he deprecated? superceded, more like) Cavell I shouldn't mention. Also no political philosophers to speak of.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:35 PM
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Parsimon,

If you want to know more about Kripke, CUNY is having a gala opening for their new Saul Kripke Center in May:

http://web.gc.cuny.edu/KripkeCenter/events/upcoming.htm


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:37 PM
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Look, I can only reply from my own perspective. As you can guess, I don't work on political philosophy. But that doesn't mean that whenever I turn around in my department, I don't stumble on one. Obviously, John Rawls is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. Christine Korsgaard, in ethics, is one of the most important philosophers of the 21st. Geez.

Davidson is also very important - obviously. At Rutgers, Ernest Lepore just put out a very important two volume study of Davidson's thought. Rumor has it that there will be a co-taught Princeton/Rutgers seminar next year on Quine and Davidson. And so forth.

Geez - all I said is that Wittgenstein isn't the common ancestors of all contemporary philosophers, and sudddenly I'm dumping John Rawls out the window! What does John Rawls have to do with Wittgenstein?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:40 PM
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PS: I don't think Rorty was all that great, but I recognize that some of my peers liked him a lot. He wasn't a philosopher on the rank of Quine, Wittgenstein, Husserl, David Lewis, Rawls, Kripke, or Anscombe though. On that, you would have very widespread agreement among employed philosophers I would have thought.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:42 PM
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Hey Sifu, you watching the Celtics right now?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:49 PM
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Reading this thread makes me forgive Adam Kotsko everything.

To come full circle: when dsquared said that the last agreed-upon advance in philosophy was by Wittgenstein, he was echoing (accidentally or on purpose, I don't know) a claim of John Holbo's, that the last figure that analytics and continentals agreed was important was Wittgenstein.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:49 PM
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My ignorance of what philosophers do is far too great to follow most of this thread, but the various comments about time made me curious. Can someone please reassure me that Wikipedia's account of "philosophy of space and time" is not representative of what good philosophers actually think about? 'Cause it's full of nonsense.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:49 PM
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572: yup. Crazy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:50 PM
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567: Scott Soames) sketches philosophy as a progression culminating in Kripke's work. I don't agree with this view.

Nor do I. And I confess that Kripke's interpretation of Wittgenstein drives me up a wall, and it's possible I've never forgiven him, though it is not his fault. It was written in good faith; that others gratefully latched onto 'Kripkenstein' is not his fault.

Anscombe's Intention is fabulous. Look, we're not that far off in our views, at least as you express them here. Dick Moran does very good work. No kidding.

I don't discount the greatness of some American philosophers' work, not by a long shot. I tried to make that clear. I'm trained in Anglo-American phil; I get it. I would, however, like you to grant that other philosophical traditions have been marginalized, quite arguably to the detriment of the profession as a whole.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:51 PM
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563,

You write:

"I baited him (it?) into it after he said that analytic philosophy wasn't in the business of analyzing."

You're an idiot who baited me into nothing but telling you truisms about the state of the field. As Timothy Williamson writes on p. 31 of *Knowledge and its Limits* (which is the most important work in non-ethics and history related fields in the 21st century):

"On quite general grounds, one would not expect the concept knows to have a non-trivial analysis in somehow more baisc terms. Not all concepts have such analyses, on pain of infinite regress; the history of analytic philosophy suggests that those of most philosophical interest do not. 'Bachelor' is a peculiarity, not a prototype. Attempts to analyse the concepts *means* and *causes*, for example, have been no more successful than attempts to analyse the concept *knows*, succumbing to the same pattern of counterexamples and epicycles. The analysing concept does not merely fail to be the same concept as the concept to be analysed; it fails even to provide a necessary and sufficient condition for the latter. The pursuit of analyses is a degenerating research programme."

But maybe you think the Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford is not an analytic philosophy?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:54 PM
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that is, "is not an analytic philosopher". He is certainly not an analytic philosophy.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:55 PM
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577: no, you're an idiot.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:55 PM
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No, you're an idiot.

Sorry, felt left out.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:56 PM
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579 cont'd: which is not to say that the "well if you'd only read [cite] [cite] [cite]" and "ahem hurr as an expert I can tell you quite clearly that harrumph harrumph harrumph" styles of argument don't also mark you as hilariously pretentious and inept at arguing on the internet. Congratulations on spending all day arguing with somebody on the internet who has done essentially no reading in your field and still thinks you're kind of a knucklehead, though. Probably the most productive argument you've made all month.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:58 PM
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Arguing on the internet, arguing on the internet, arguing on the (wait for it) internet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:58 PM
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Crikey.

I think number 2 got it right:

"he (in my view, falsely) believes that he has a high degree of control of his passive-aggressivity and only deploys it against deserving targets."

The question is really just whether my belief is false or not.


Posted by: jholbo | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 8:59 PM
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Sifu,

At least I've been arguing about something that I have a stake in. You've spent all day arguing about something you admittedly *don't* care about.

Pox on all our houses, I say.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:02 PM
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AP, these forms of arguments are terrible, terrible ones. Maybe they play well in the seminar room, but here in the internet, they inspire mainly eye-rolling:

1. Invoking the awesome prestigiousness of some department or other. Being the Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford has about as much importance out here as being that guy who always wins the Nathan's hot dog contest.

2. Assigning four thousand pages of reading. before deigning to argue with someone. The transparency of this manuever is, shall we say, obvious. (It's also not particularly original -- every single academic tries this one.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:03 PM
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Sifu, you are a motherfucker for pwning me with 581.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:05 PM
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581, cont'd: and really, before you leapt in with your ready-to-be-ridiculed high dudgeon over the eternal worth of ever-so-inclusive non-analytic American analytic philosophy, as best represented in harumph-harumph-cite-cite-never-argue, I was very nearly done conceding that of course philosophy, even the analytic kind, offers much of value when it isn't being completely gnomic and navel-gazing, but you were such a clumsy douche in your defensiveness that I just couldn't resist winding you up. Food for thought, if you like that sort of thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:05 PM
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585: I would seriously take the guy who won the Nathan's contest as an authority on pretty much any subject. He's awesome.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:06 PM
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You've spent all day arguing about something you admittedly *don't* care about.

You really are new here, aren't you?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:07 PM
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analyticphilosopher, turns out I'm pretty sure I've met you.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:11 PM
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The McCumber book is terrible. A crock.

Nuh uh. But, of course, analytic philosophers hate McCumber's gloss on the discipline.

"Where's the Husserl, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche? Bits and pieces here and there: where does one go to study these people? Phenomenology?"

Again, this isn't the point. Some analytic somewhere will study any or some of these people, but in ways that almost always reduce the person studied to familiar analytic categories of analysis.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:18 PM
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Oh, ach. analyticphilosopher, you're alright. Just please try to listen when people who do also have a stake in and some knowledge of the field try to explain their complaints. I understand how the thread unfolded.

I feel satisfied that ap's original list of contemporary modern philosophy's adornments has managed to expand itself to include Wittgenstein and Rawls, and phenomenology and existentialism, anyway.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:21 PM
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591.2: I know that. Was talking to analyticphilosopher person.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:25 PM
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Jetpack, before we argue about New Orleans again, I've got this huge reading list for you. Because last time we tussled I think you won. But if I can get you to argue on my terms and on the ground of my choosing, I think I might win a rematch. 'Kay?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:26 PM
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Just so long as I don't have to wear a unitard.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:29 PM
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No! He has to get through MY reading list first!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:30 PM
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595 definitively not to 596.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:32 PM
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Don't do it, Sifu. I hear that shit's in a foreign language.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:32 PM
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"AP, these forms of arguments are terrible, terrible ones. Maybe they play well in the seminar room, but here in the internet, they inspire mainly eye-rolling"

So the issue was - what do contemporary philosophers think about analysis? What I was trying to show is that even contemporary philosophers who everyone would regard as obviously "analytic" are extremely skeptical of the project of analysis. For that reason, I cited a passage from -gasp- a book by a prominent contemporary analytic philosopher. In fact, I cited a passage criticizing analysis! God forbid that would play a role in any kind of argument for the thesis that contemporary analytic philosophers criticize analysis.

I realize, however, that among some on the internet, books are regarded dimly (almost as dimly as "academics"!), and so citing from them is regarded with suspicion. Did you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than in your head?

(Thanks for your wise advice Sifu - but the more idiots despise me, the happier I am. I enjoy this kind of thing.)


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:33 PM
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unitard


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:34 PM
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Love is the universal language, Walt. Sure, Heidegger translated into love makes even less sense than the original, but love also conquers all. Except Poland, because Marty put that behind him.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:35 PM
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Thanks for your wise advice Sifu

See, if only you meant that, he might have shown you his Drunken Monkey style.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:37 PM
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596: That reminds me, I bought a copy of this when I was in Boston, with an eye to lending it to Tweety.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:37 PM
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I'm supposed to be reading Derrida (on phenomenology! topical!) to teach this week, so I'm exercising a small bit of restraint in not clicking on 600, but it's cracking me up just imagining it.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:37 PM
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Williamson is still speaking the language of analysis, even as he recognizes its limits. Like I said, maybe analytic philosophy is changing for the better, but a lot of damage has been done, and there's no sign that it's being undone. Now I sound like John Emerson.

the more idiots despise me, the happier I am. I enjoy this kind of thing

If you turn out to be kid bitzer, I'm going to be annoyed.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:37 PM
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If, analyticphilosopher, you aren't aware how funny your 599 is in the context of this site, I can only say that you should read the archives in their entirety.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:38 PM
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604: No, you should click; it's actually Jacques on a unicycle.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:39 PM
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I feel for AP. "Winning" on the internet is generally a matter of outsnarking fellow amateurs, and substantive knowledge has to be deployed carefully if at all. As in cocktail party conversation, the pithy beat the ponderous.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:41 PM
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607: Omigod, if that were true, I would be so, so excited. I would email it to all my students right now.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:42 PM
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http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_8627.html#824509Williamson is still speaking the language of analysis, even as he recognizes its limits. Like I said, maybe analytic philosophy is changing for the better, but a lot of damage has been done, and there's no sign that it's being undone.

Seriously, though. If your whole project has been shown to be fallacious, is it actually the best solution to use the same tools that got you in such trouble in the first place to try and dig yourself out? Were this so, would we not be looking at whole academies dedicated to Phlogiston studies, where the purpose of the enterprise was to confirm that the Phlogistonic nature of things definitely proved the absence of an element responsible for combustion?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:43 PM
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PGD, I'm not sure why you're being such an ass in this thread. There are a bunch of people arguing with ap who were in philosophy and left in various states of dissatisfaction over genuine and substantive issues. ap is basically giving us the company line, with which we're very familiar, so we're reacting with some bitterness, not because we're upset that s/he knows who teaches what where, but because as far as we're concerned, s/he's The Man.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:45 PM
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re: 610, the inexplicable url at the top: how the hell did I do that?

You know, if analyticphilosopher wanted to attack me on the generally mistake-riven nature of my comments today, I think that'd be a swell way to get some traction.

609: it's a deconstructed unicycle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:45 PM
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Williamson is still speaking the language of analysis, even as he recognizes its limits.

That's not enough to condemn. What makes one (deeply) impatient is rather that it's been said before. Maybe contemporary philosophy can't learn a lesson unless it's couched in terminology it can understand. Which makes one feel like one is dealing with children afraid of the dark, which would be okay except that these are supposed to be smart people.

Now I'm just expressing frustration, though. Good luck to them in their endeavors.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:48 PM
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"Winning" on the internet is generally a matter of outsnarking fellow amateurs, and substantive knowledge has to be deployed carefully if at all. As in cocktail party conversation, the pithy beat the ponderous.

Really, PGD? On this site? I'm not sure I agree. I've gotten my ass handed to me here a few times, and it hasn't been because I've been outpithed. People just play to win here. And they're pretty damn smart.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:49 PM
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Okay, I'm back. Is there anyone who hasn't been called an idiot yet? I'm up for calling someone an idiot.

Well, I wasn't trying to make too much of "last common intellectual ancestor," which is probably a misleading way to put what I was getting at. (It's also a somewhat misleading description of the New Criticism, for that matter.) "Last commonly-regarded intellectual figure" is probably closer to the mark, but anyway I guess that honour probably goes to Quine.

I also think that there is a disinclination among some of you folks to regard American philosophers as being great

Screw that. Charles Peirce fucking pwns. Also, if you haven't figured it out by now, there is no "you folks."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:49 PM
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Don't call me an idiot, Golda, or I'll cut you.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:51 PM
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Screw that. Charles Peirce fucking pwns.

No doubt, no doubt.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:52 PM
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"Outpithed." I like this word. This is a good word.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:52 PM
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It's a pithtacular pithpocalypse: there can pith only one!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:54 PM
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Charles Peirce fucking pwns.

Yeah! I used to know a guy with a Peirce t-shirt.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:54 PM
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I'm an analytic pithosopher!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:55 PM
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I am a Dark Lord of the Pith.

(Too obvious?)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:57 PM
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I'm up for calling someone an idiot.

Me! Me! Pick me!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:57 PM
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It's a pithtacular pithpocalypse: there can pith only one!

One called... pithecanthropus.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:57 PM
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Dr. Livingthton was known to pith into hith helmet.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:58 PM
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Tonight on Pithbusters: Analytic Philosophy -- Fact or Fiction?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:58 PM
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623: Вы, г-н Председатель, идиот.

(I decided to Say It With Babelfish for extra irony points.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 9:59 PM
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Yeah! I used to know a guy with a Peirce t-shirt.

What a good idea...


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:00 PM
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Good luck to them in their endeavors.

Let us relax AP to the secular arm, "whom we ask and charge most affectionately to treat him benignantly and mercifully." [or her or them]


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:00 PM
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Is the Russian for idiot really "идиот"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:02 PM
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I was very nearly done conceding

To me, me, wonderful me!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:02 PM
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Aren't several discussions here being conflated? First, whether philosophers are right to make fun of comparative literature for lacking analytic arguments; second, what is the discipline commonly called philosophy and does it have any practical import; and third, whether the 'analytic' trend in philosophy entails that there are certain kinds of argument not done in analytic.

To the third, yes, though it's a little hard to break it down past a tautology, because at departments we can find Wittgenstein, Derrida, Hegel, nearly everyone you want and those horrible purges (full of blood! the death of thought!) generally meant the comp lit types ended up with nicer offices.

The second claim is what I thought analyticphilosopher was most interested in addressing: what sorts of things are philosophers doing? And it has turned out not to be the trolley problem, but everyone seems to think he's addressing the first question and getting annoyed for him saying things like there are philosophers of physics.

And to the first, I think both sides take a lot of
pleasure in laughing at each other's bad work:

CL: Ah, we are the real philosophers, with our aura of genetic syncretism malformation. If you were smart enough, you'd see meaning in the fact that no one knows what the fuck I just said. Like Nietzsche. Plato would have been on my team, too.

AP: No, to be is to be the value of a bound variable. Here I stamp my foot and bang the table! Admire my shiny moves and general nitpicky little bitchery which will allow me to publish carefully argued excrement!

One thinks there's meaning in the trees and keeps going on limbs, the other hasn't noticed the trees because there's all these damn leaves...

..but I've found the good work in each tends to stand out, and I say this as someone who has very strong analytic tendencies and an apparently entertaining physical reaction to ill-defined concepts. It would be nice to have the best of both worlds, but I think that's going to take another 20 years for some old warhorses to die off.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:02 PM
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This thread was getting really tedious until the Unfoggetariat was at last exposed as anti-intellectual. What a payoff! You should all go out and fuck up some analytic philosophers—it'd be like that scene in Shakes the Clown when the party clowns go out looking for mimes to beat up.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:04 PM
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What exactly does "the language of analysis" mean? Beyond the language that annoys people who aren't analytic philosophers? Ever read the British Idealists? Non-analytic language would be equally annoying.

Hey, here's a quote from F.H. Bradley:

This means Autonomy--no external authority. And it means Autocracy--no internal limit to rights of Whole over constituent members. We are our own Providence.

(1) The individual has no rights--as an individual. His duty to self-sacrifice or self-assertion is the foundation of his rights.

(2) The individual as such has no value--let alone an infinite value. The right and duty of the Whole to dispose of him is in principle unlimited.

Positively the right and duty of self-assertion on the part of the Whole and lesser Wholes and again the individual follows. And of course the use of force where required follows (force as compulsion of others).

This self-realization is to have no limits. No asceticism--no higher region of any kind which is separate and has more than a relative value.

To say nothing of Heidegger. Although at least he's sort of profoundly incomprehensible, as opposed to stuffily incomprehensible.

List of philosophers who were good writers:

Plato
Nietzsche


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:04 PM
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Peirce, Abelard, and Russell were the main philosophers who were too sexy, rather than sexless. Nietzsche discusses the sexlessness of philosophers in a way that clearly points back to himself; he was only aspirationally sexy, or as a matter of principle.

Thorstein Veblen was another academic whose screwing around damaged his career.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:05 PM
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whoops, screwed up the blockquote. See if you can guess where F.H. Bradley ends and I begin again!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:05 PM
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630: Probably not. Chances are I just told apo I would like to buy some butter and some cheese, please.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:05 PM
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Here I stamp my foot and bang the table!

Oh, David. I miss you.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:06 PM
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Nonsense, J. L. Austin was a delightful writer.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:06 PM
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Is the Russian for idiot really "идиот"?

Yes.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:06 PM
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"You know, if analyticphilosopher wanted to attack me on the generally mistake-riven nature of my comments today, I think that'd be a swell way to get some traction."

I have. But let me continue. You write: "Seriously, though. If your whole project has been shown to be fallacious, is it actually the best solution to use the same tools that got you in such trouble in the first place to try and dig yourself out?" Why do you think Williamson uses analysis as a tool in *Knowledge and Its Limits*? Because he deploys sensible, rigorous argumentation? Because he uses symbols? By that measure, all use of rigorous argumentation with symbols "has been shown to be fallacious". So physics goes. And mathematics. But maybe you're happy with that. What much of contemporary philosophy shows is that one can say interesting informative things about fundamental philosophical concepts without providing an analysis. Even if the project of analysis failed, that in no way undermines the interest of philosophy. That's because many contemporary philosophers weren't engaged in that project. The terminology "analytic philosophy" is somewhat of a historical accident, and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Parsimon - now who is being condescending! You just found out that a criticism you had of contemporary philosophy has turned out to be false of contemporary philosophy. Shouldn't that make you pleased - to find out that things are not as bad as you thought?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:07 PM
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I threw that in there just for you, Gonerill.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:07 PM
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to be is to be the value of a bound variable

One year in undergrad, my best friend and I made up Valenquines. "Be the value of my bound variable" was one of them.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:09 PM
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Either I'm a complete idiot not worthy of any response, or else I'm scary, because AP has not shown me any love.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:10 PM
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632: I don't think you're giving full credit to Emerson's argument, that I endorsed somewhat for the benefit of Mr. The-Ivory-Tower's-Shaped-Like-A-Penis, that analytic philosophy has -- since mid-century or so -- faced a tremendous crisis of purpose, which crisis it has responded to either by turning stubbornly inward or by blithely reversing course.

I should say, thanks (obviously) to rfts and Blume and of course my own introspective deduction, that I realize I got much farther out on that branch than I really intended to, and will admit that most of the working philosophers I know -- especially the ones who work interdisciplinarily -- are doing very interesting things. But the argument was there, and I think deserves mention.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:10 PM
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I threw that in there just for you, Gonerill.

I appreciate it.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:14 PM
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Even if the project of analysis failed, that in no way undermines the interest of philosophy. That's because many contemporary philosophers weren't engaged in that project. The terminology "analytic philosophy" is somewhat of a historical accident, and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Keep whackin' away at that straw man, coach. The term "analytic philosophy" remains in use because the people who thus self-describe see themselves as heirs to that tradition. The fact that the ends to which the learned means of the analytic tradition have been put have changed does not, in fact, take you out of the analytic tradition.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:15 PM
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Au contraire, AP, the issue is not Sifu's incredible wrongness (a theme we always return to, at our leisure), but you're inept use of the techniques of argument. I had thought you might interested in persuading someone of something, but alas, you already conceded in comment 599 that you're just motivated by being a dick. I am currently reading Williamson's "Must Do Better" to see if there's a plausible argument in there, since you're too lazy to formulate one here.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:17 PM
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Parsimon - now who is being condescending! You just found out that a criticism you had of contemporary philosophy has turned out to be false of contemporary philosophy. Shouldn't that make you pleased - to find out that things are not as bad as you thought?

Do you mean my confession to having just read your Williamson quote?

Yes, it's true. I'm glad there's someone saying these things, and thank you for bringing it to my/our/whatever attention. Sorry I didn't read it earlier. I've never heard of Williamson, and have no idea how much influence he may be having, what his own philosophical influences may be, and so on.

I really don't have a big ego stake when discussion is at this level. Just do the work, you know? Figure it out. I must to bed now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:19 PM
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(a theme we always return to, at our leisure)

I cannot deny my incredible wrongness. Like a shark, though, or a coconut crab, what foulness I evolved to perpetrate I manage well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:20 PM
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Hardly any distinguished contemporary philosophers think that Wittgenstein made an "advance"

I've woken up in the morning and it's still ridiculous.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:20 PM
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399 (essear),

Sorry, had been meaning to respond to this comment for a while:

"but the direction of time is not mysterious in physics. It arises from decoherence and coarse-training. What allows a macroscopic asymmetry is that the universe began in a very low entropy state. That is far more mysterious, but not really accessible to philosophy (or, perhaps, to experiment)."

I'm not a philosopher of physics, but you're right that this is a view that I've heard before from colleagues (that what allows a macroscopic asymmetry between past and future is that the universe began in a very low entropy state).


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:20 PM
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I can put in Emerson:

JE: Analytic philosophy is useless logical positivism, for it disagrees with commonsense and should let literature deal with life's little mysteries. In this way it is similar to economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics, the Democratic party, voters under forty, feminists, procedural liberals, random opinion generators, Foucault's pendulum, and objects under 18'' high.

More seriously, AP gave examples of ways it has changed. I think he's mostly right, though I think he's not seeing that the core analytic toolbox probably isn't going anywhere, and that might itself be the point under contention. But it was beginning to feel like arguing with someone who was insisting that Darwin couldn't explain irreducible complexity, and was indignant when someone pointed out that there'd been research since then. And I was surprised to see you taking up that particular mantle, Sifu, if only because you've spoken about interesting trends in philosophy before.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:20 PM
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(almost as ridiculous as the claim that linguistic semantics is a theory of the relationship between words and their referents)


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:23 PM
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648,

Um, was that an argument that you just gave? How impressive! I am really learning about logic and reasoning from you.

dsquared,

"It's still ridiculous". Hmm. Also not an argument.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:26 PM
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Cala, that was not a response to anything I said on this thread. And AP may be a she.

What I said:

1. Leiter's book on Nietzsche was scarcely a book on Nietzsche at all, and really horrible. I can elaborate.

2. The Oxford "Philosophy of Time" book shouldn't have keyed on McTaggart, for God's sake, and was likely to seriously mislead anyone who took it seriously. I can elaborate.

3. While I support Putnam and Sen's enterprise, what they're really doing is taking tentative, hesitant baby steps toward repairing the damage made by 70 years of analytic philosophy (starting with but not limited to logical positivism) and neoclassical economics. And I can elaborate this too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:26 PM
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I feel like I'm watching a bear baiting.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:28 PM
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I think he's not seeing that the core analytic toolbox probably isn't going anywhere, and that might itself be the point under contention. But it was beginning to feel like arguing with someone who was insisting that Darwin couldn't explain irreducible complexity, and was indignant when someone pointed out that there'd been research since then. And I was surprised to see you taking up that particular mantle, Sifu, if only because you've spoken about interesting trends in philosophy before.

Very much yes, point taken sort of, and point taken. I don't necessarily think that the analytic toolbox has lost it's usefulness generally, but I do think that when it comes to Theory of Mind specifically analytic types should -- after the collapse of classical AI -- get used to a lot of cart-before-the-horse action in the upcoming decades, and I further think that if we're really talking about the internal mechanisms of cognition there's a plausible case to be made that the continental (and/or phenomenological, just to be as nonspecific as possible) approach presents a more accurate picture.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:28 PM
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My only comment to you earlier, JE, completely agreed w.r.t. Leiter. Haven't read the book, but his essays on Nietzsche make me physically angry. I'm not sure that's a failing of analytic philosophy as much as it is Leiter.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:30 PM
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654,

Ok, fair enough. Linguistic semantics does not tell you what facts in the world explain the relation between a word and its referent. There is after all a distinction between semantics and meta-semantics. Given a mapping of individual words to their meanings, linguistic semantics tells you how to get the truth-conditions of the whole sentence relative to a context from that (actually, I think it also contributes to the first project, but here is not the place to get into it). You need philosophy of mind and philosophy of language in addition to linguistic semantics.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:31 PM
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those horrible purges (full of blood! the death of thought!) generally meant the comp lit types ended up with nicer offices.

Cala, you know I love you and I'm still peeved that you married the exploding Canadian instead of me, but this is pretty much Barbara Bush's post-Katrina "this is working very well for them" comment on a smaller scale.

And now, sadly, I have to go offline. I pre-emptively pardon John Emerson for any intemperance he may show tonight.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:32 PM
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Shorter 658: I think that while analytic philosophy has lost none of it's potential for interestingness, it has lost a lot of it's explanatory power, and it seems from the outside like a lot of those more deeply invested in the field are loath to acknowledge the different goals this change should inspire, although they are (by evidence of y'all my swell philosopher buddies) increasingly in the minority.

I feel like I said this 300 comments ago, but that's okay.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:33 PM
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Oh, and PGD should stop his bizarre trolling in this thread.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:33 PM
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658: I think our disagreement might be deeper. I don't really do theory of mind stuff, but I don't think the philosophical contribution has to be limited to defending a particular theory. Rather, and I'm thinking of a specific example here, of psychologists studying childhood pretense and a couple philosophers commenting on their paper. Tools of analytic philosophy* were used and helped clarify some of the possible worlds-talk in the paper, and everyone seemed to think it ended up being a better paper and the philosophers learned something about experiments.

*Under my possibly but not obviously idiosyncratic definition of analytic philosophy, e.g., Spinoza counts. Not so much with the bound variables and more with 'let's be careful here; are we talking about X or Very Similar to X?'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:37 PM
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664: I meant "cart before the horse" in the sense that philosopher's are going to be using the tools of careful, clear argument to buttress the work of cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists and computer science, rather than offering them predictive ideas about how thinking works.

And I really -- when talking about the gnomic and inward-facing nature of what strikes me (again, from a position of relative ignorance) as sort of the mainstream of American analytical work -- do mean the bound variables and predicate logic and filigree upon filigree upon definition of truth-value kind of stuff.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:41 PM
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661: Sweet Lur, you violate your own analogy ban in order to make a really inapt one.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:41 PM
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665: I think most of us are okay with that, given yinz guys are the ones with the research budgets and the labs. I know another guy who works with lawyers and neuroscientists to try to construct rules of evidence for things like brain scans. They seem to find his contribution valuable.

I think logic has mostly spun off to be its own thing. And, the mainstream analytical work is still where those who think of themselves as the cool kids hang out. But I'm not sure how this gets to be an indictment of the entire toolbox, as opposed to just an indictment of excessive little bitchery.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:47 PM
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Chicago, with Leiter

Chicago (fortunately) has more resources for Nietzsche than Leiter.

I will agree that Dick Moran rulz, though I'm not sure the fact that he teaches undergrads about existentialism means he's got you covered for phenomenology generally. Plus, he likes Wittgenstein!

that he's a quietist, and was mostly mumbling and, as you put it, creating the muddle that is, or was, ordinary language philosophy;

Surely—surely!—quietism and ordinary language philosophy aren't the peas in a pod you make them out to be. (I like OL stuff a lot, but I actually remember that Austin cautioned his readers that ordinary language isn't the last word.)

In conclusion, this thread is intolerably stupid.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:52 PM
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But I'm not sure how this gets to be an indictment of the entire toolbox, as opposed to just an indictment of excessive little bitchery.

I... yeah, okay, comity.

I suppose I could argue that it's an indictment of the premise that analytic philosophy qua analytic philosophy has an inherent value, even when it's entirely inwardly focused, but, no. Let us set the beleaguered scarecrow ablaze and march rationally into the sunset of The Future.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:53 PM
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See, analyticphilosopher? If only you were more like Cala maybe you could get somewhere in philosophy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:53 PM
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Dude, analyticphilosopher has a job. I have a rather poorly written half-a-draft.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 10:59 PM
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where those who think of themselves as the cool kids hang out

I had a funny experience at a Philo conference a while ago where I was having a drink with some Cool Kids, though me not being a philosopher at all etc. A Younger Person with a very keen -- not to say strategic -- eye for the Cool Kids was present, and gradually began to try to figure out who the fuck I was, seeing as the Cool Kids seemed to know me. So after some chitchat she asked me where I'd been to grad school and I (truthfully) said Famous Phil U. Intrigued, she then asked where I was now, and I says (truthfully) Top 20 Phil U. Now she was extremely curious and a little weirded out. But I didn't have the heart to drag things out further.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:00 PM
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God, that's awesome. You should check out that guy in your program who wrote those great papers, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:04 PM
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What was really funny was the way her interest in me went to absolute zero as soon as it became clear I was not a philosopher, but only married to one. Literally, no more conversation after that. She had bigger fish to land.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:07 PM
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671: and yet, on the internet, you make him look like a chump. Where will the philosophical debates of the future be waged? Mm hm.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:07 PM
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If they're waged on Unfogged, then the discipline is really in trouble.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:10 PM
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674: but you've passed the philosopher test!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:12 PM
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See, she played it wrong, even if she was only trying to talk to philosophers. Talk to you-land the big fish you're married to.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:17 PM
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I realize it looks like I called a really awesome philosopher a big fish.

Grice absolve me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:18 PM
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The only thing for which you need absolution, Cala, is using a hyphen instead of an em dash.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:21 PM
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666: Sweet Lur, you violate your own analogy ban in order to make a really inapt one.

At least he's not the Antichrist.

668: In conclusion, this thread is intolerably stupid.

Such naked hatred of your offspring is unseemly, Ben. (I think everyone will join me in (outwardly) disavowing your (originally inward) disavowal.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:26 PM
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I don't know how to make an em dash!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:28 PM
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—

Alternately, in a pinch, "---". ("--" being reserved for en dashes, which can also be written –.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:30 PM
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682: three options: double up a hyphen (--), use the html entity — (—), or type shift-option-hyphen on a mac (--).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:31 PM
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Oh, ho, pwned by the l'b. Never mind me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:32 PM
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681: I hate this thread so much it was all I could do earlier today not to leave a comment consisting only of a few pages of Einführung in die frühromantische Ästhetik earlier today, which is what I was trying to read and from which I kept getting distracted by lauds to Kripke. (Starting on p 315, with "Ferner impliziert »relative«:".)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:36 PM
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relativ, not relative.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:37 PM
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Not really being invested, I guess I can say these type of threads are in the end quite enjoyable*. What's not to like, you get to see some passion about really obscure stuff in the grander scheme of things (which is always entertaining) and get a few interesting pointers to books and articles.

*Caveat: I loved the ratchet/simple machine thread, who knew how easy it is to expose simple machines as such a fucked up category (or that the Greeks actually contributed something useful for the world like inventing the ratchet ...).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-28-08 11:59 PM
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It's still ridiculous". Hmm. Also not an argument

No, it's an assertion that the predicate "is ridiculous" applies to the statements "Hardly any distinguished contemporary philosophers think that Wittgenstein made an "advance"" and to the claim that linguistic semantics is a theory of reference.

If it had purported to be an argument, it would have been flawed. However, as a true statement, it's not bad.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 12:44 AM
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Given a mapping of individual words to their meanings, linguistic semantics tells you how to get the truth-conditions of the whole sentence relative to a context from that

I am now adopting Wittgenstein's aphoristic style because it is more interesting


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 5:46 AM
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It turns out that Williamson concedes defeat to dsquared on page 18 of "Must Do Better":

If the anti-theorists can argue convincingly that the long-run results do not constitute progress, that is a far stronger case than is an a priori argument that no such activity could constitute progress.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 7:36 AM
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Which book by Williamson is the best place to start? Most references I've seen are to articles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 7:38 AM
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i could use some reading lists too


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 7:51 AM
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Williamson's Philosophy of Philosophy is available online at the bottom of this page.

[This link should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.]


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 8:27 AM
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If the anti-theorists can argue convincingly that the long-run results do not constitute progress, that is a far stronger case than is an a priori argument that no such activity could constitute progress.

On the other hand, if they
cannot argue convincingly that the long-run results do not constitute progress, how is
their opposition to philosophical theory any better than obscurantism?


Posted by: Williamson | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:02 AM
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So far the linked Williamson is an amusing example of "well what the heck are we supposed to do now?" philosophical self-justification.

Personal amusement value: very real!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:24 AM
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I found "Must Do Better" (an essay) here, on Williamson's page. Right around the same place he argues that the problem with philosophy is that it opts for eloquence over precision, so I don't think he's going to inspire analytic philosophy's detractors much.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:15 AM
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I don't see how anyone who was offended by ap is going to be convinced by Williamson's essay. Williamson is basically doing the same kind of appeal to authority ("we" understand this so much better now, "we" understand this other thing very well indeed, etc.) without any of the cites to research or thinkers who produce work that is useful and practical in other disciplines. Unlike ap, he doesn't even acknowledge that as a legitimate external metric of philosophy's success.

Plus he has that sniffy British way of haughtily implying you're an idiot, instead of ap's bluntness about it.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 3:13 PM
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"So far the linked Williamson is an amusing example of "well what the heck are we supposed to do now?" philosophical self-justification.

Personal amusement value: very real!" (Sifu Tweety)

Translation: Them writers of them fancy books think they better than us!

"1. Invoking the awesome prestigiousness of some department or other. Being the Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford has about as much importance out here as being that guy who always wins the Nathan's hot dog contest." Walt someguy

Translation: We on the internets don't need none of them fancy experts to tell us anything.

"Congratulations on spending all day arguing with somebody on the internet who has done essentially no reading in your field and still thinks you're kind of a knucklehead, though." Sifu Tweety

Translation: I don't know nothing about philosophy, except that it feels like crap to us here on the internets. Unless it can get the SUV filled up, seems like useless twaddle to us.

Wow.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 8:33 PM
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PGD,

"I don't see how anyone who was offended by ap is going to be convinced by Williamson's essay."

My purpose in urging people to read Williamson's essay was not because I thought it would win over the hostile audience. Williamson simply explains at length how philosophy has made concrete progress on problems in this century, and why progress comes in fits and starts. Now Dsquared can lead everyone here in collective self-congratulation about how dumb Williamson is. That provides great amusement to those of us who waste our time reading books.

(To those people, such as John Emerson, who seem to have genuinely legitimate concerns about analytic philosophy, but actually seem to care enough to do the work to find out whether their concerns could be met - you may very well not be happy with Williamson's work, but if you want to be acquainted with the current status quo, read either *Knowledge and Its Limits* or *The Philosophy of Philosophy*. Not easy reading, unfortunately, but extraordinarily influential - and for many younger philosophers, career-altering.)


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 8:48 PM
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699: who are you translating for? I meant what I said. If what you mean to do is construct from whole cloth a new meaning out of my comment: this is philosophy?

And really, if you'd read the intervening comments, you'd see that I have quite a bit of respect for most of the philosophers I know -- including, of course, the rest of the philosophers chiming in on this thread. I just don't respect you.

As far as the needily defensive accusations of anti-intellectualism, at this point I'm glad you're new here, because nobody with any experience on this blog would be so obtuse, and it makes you kind of a fat, soft target.

Keep up the good fight, though. In addition to making your shitty tenureless job feel more worthwhile, it's the last, best chance we have of getting this thread to 1000, which rules, just wait.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 8:57 PM
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You have no idea how it kills me to have a nice, juicy, seven hundred comment argument going on in an area where I have no knowledge and no real opinions. Doesn't keep me from reading it, of course.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:11 PM
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Super bright. scrupulously rational folk slip into heavy sarcasm more quickly than you would think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:13 PM
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702: c'mon, jump in. It's fun!

Actually I'm just about thinking I should lay off this thread, in the hope ap will decide he's won and leave.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:14 PM
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Hey, if you're back, ap, I've got a question about this, from way up up there:

NYU has two prominent Wittgensteineans, Paul Horwich and Crispin Wright. Rutgers, the other most prominent US department has none. The University of Michigan and Princeton have none. In fact, the only leading American department that has a substantial Wittgensteinean component is Pittsburgh - and there the Wittgensteineans are co-extensive with the Hegelians. Go down a while, and you get to Chicago.

Later on you say that Proops at Michigan is your favorite Wittgenstein scholar, suggesting that someone at Michigan thinks Wittgenstein is worth taking seriously. And it looks as if what you're doing is going down the Leiter rankings, right?

Here are the top ten (well, eleven, because of ties):

New York University, Rutgers University, Princeton University, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh, Stanford University, Harvard University, MIT, University of California , Los Angeles, Columbia University, UNC

You have said that there are people who think W was of philosophical importance at NYU, and Pitt, and then implied that such was the case at Michigan; I know there are philosophers at Harvard—back when you were there, you know, when Dreben was still alive, Cavell might not even have been emeritus yet, nevermind Moran and Goldfarb—and Stanford. I feel comfortable adding Columbia to the list as well (Bilgrami).

That's six out of eleven, which ain't half bad. Presumably if we extended the list down to the top 20 (er, 22, with ties), to include Chicago, we'd pick up some more.

So my question is, what's up with Proops?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:17 PM
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Yes, I hate books, it's true. I'm impressed with how quickly AP sized me up. Fortunately, "Must Do Better" was an essay. If analytic philosophers want to convince me, they need to put their arguments in convenient video game format. The way Hegel II revolutionized the first-person shooter is what convinced me to continental philosophy a chance.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:18 PM
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Er, such philosophers at Harvard and Stanford.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:18 PM
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706: Grand Synthesis Auto really did a spectacular job of bridging the gap between FPS and driving game, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:21 PM
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w-lfs-n the guy's not going to argue with you unless you profess ignorance: have you learned nothing in 708 comments?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:30 PM
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Oh, and going down the list of Oxford's philosophy faculty because I couldn't remember if Mulhall was there, I see that not only is he listed, but so are AW Moore (Points of View is a trip!) and John Hyman, of whom I admit I'd not previously heard but who lists Wittgenstein as an interest. And William Child.

And these are only the people who list W among their research interests. There may well be more who think that W made philosophical progress or was philosophically not a disaster or whatever.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:34 PM
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Ben,

I never said that Wittgenstein shouldn't be taken seriously, or wasn't of philosophical importance. Rather, I said that it's utterly absurd to think of Wittgenstein as the last philosopher everyone agrees made progress. Plenty of people I know regard Wittgenstein as important, but not to what they do in philosophy. That's completely consistent with him being of philosophical importance. Nor did I suggest that he was 'purged' - anymore than Davidson, Quine, or Carnap have been purged. I'm somewhat bemused that people read me as having said that. Wittgenstein was one important philosopher among many in the 20th century, which was an extraordinary century for philosophy.

Proops is a scholar of early analytic philosophy. He writes on Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein. I enjoy his papers criticizing the Conant-Diamond interpretation of the Tractatus, that's all.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:38 PM
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Ben,

This is the comment I was objecting to, by Dsquared:

"the last significant advance that more or less everyone agrees to have been an advance was Wittgenstein, and that's now 75 years ago"

Opinions vary as to the importance of Wittgenstein. It is certainly true that at certain times and at certain places, Wittgenstein is regarded as something of a Godhead (Harvard in the 1980s, Oxford in the 1980s and early 1990s, Chicago today, and to a lesser extent Pittsburgh). But there are plenty of departments where he was regarded as a perfectly good, albeit not absolutely central philosopher. And that's fine. I'm a pluralist about such matters. I'm fine with some people thinking Wittgenstein was the be all and end all, as long as they let me think that Husserl was the be all and end all.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:43 PM
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Ben,

Also, there are like 80 faculty members at Oxford. The fact that there are three or four who list Wittgenstein among their interests is not too surprising, especially given that it has a place where his work once had a large influence.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:47 PM
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ap, I just got 88 wpm on typeracer!


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:51 PM
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Ari shut up and let the experts talk, would you?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:53 PM
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Yes. But your methodology for establishing whatever it was you were establishing in the comment I quoted a little bit above was to go down the lists and note what schools had no one studying Wittgenstein or working in his influence. So it seemed apropos to check.

I'll also note that the claim that there are lots of departments where W is regarded as perfectly good but not central is much different from the claim that most everyone thinks that W just led people into two now discredited muddles.

I have no particular interest in saying that everyone should love Wittgenstein. Hey—I'm a pluralist too! I'm down with Husserl (er, to the limited extent that I ever understood him; it's no accident that in the one class I took on Husserl, I wrote my paper mostly on Uexküll and Heidegger), and I'm down with people who are down with Husserl. (Apparently Husserl invented Twin Earth!)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:55 PM
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701: I do believe ap has now succeeded in baiting you, Sifu. You dropped the rapier and tried to club him back.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 9:56 PM
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718

PGD, are you having an affair with ap?

One of my good friends is a Husserlian. I like her anyway.

Actually, Husserl is fine. He had a very big forehead.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:00 PM
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717: your partisanship is as sickening as it is obvious, PGD.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:01 PM
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706: I could write a philosophy comic book, if someone else would draw.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:02 PM
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721

And a huuuuuge Nachlass.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:03 PM
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718: Ooh, was it bumpy? (I'm just hoping to turn the discussion to phrenology, about which I can hold forth for, say, 300-400 comments.)


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:05 PM
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Ben,

Quick clarification - by "Wittgensteinean", I meant someone who thinks that Wittgenstein created a body of doctrines, or methods, or something or other, that should be emulated or repeated or followed. Dreben was a Wittgensteinean in this sense, Cavell no doubt as well. Horwich is another kind of Wittgensteinean. But people can have Wittgenstein as a historical research interest without being Wittgensteinean. I was speaking of Wittgensteineans, not historians of analytic philosophy.

I did not mean to say or imply that most everyone thinks all Wittgenstein did was lead people into the muddles of logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy. If I did say that, it was an exaggeration, and for that I apologize. Many philosophers think this, but it would be wrong to say that most everyone does.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:07 PM
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"And a huuuuuge Nachlass."

That's one reason why I didn't take my career in that direction.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:10 PM
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Husserl sucks. This is how analytic philosophy corrupts even the best of us.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:11 PM
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722: oh dude let's! I got a Phrenology head for Christmas and I'm fascinated by how baroque the categories are; it reminds me of nothing so much as Medieval attempts to codify the explanatory categories necessary for prelapsarian (prebabelian? pre... well, you know) language.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:18 PM
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726: Um, I think bumpy heads are freaky...


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:20 PM
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I could write a philosophy comic book, if someone else would draw.

This is pretty funny in parts, though the simplifications/misconceptions occasionally made me roll my eyes. An occupational hazard, I guess.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:20 PM
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though the simplifications/misconceptions occasionally made me roll my eyes. An occupational hazard, I guess.

"We must at all costs avoid over-simplification, which one might be tempted to call the occupational disease of philosophers if it were not their occupation." (Austin)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:23 PM
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your partisanship is as sickening as it is obvious, PGD.

It's a partisan world, man. I'm betting ap is the kind of guy who can help my career.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:24 PM
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727: that was your argument? Dammit Ari! I wanted wonkiness.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:25 PM
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732

730: yes. Academic philosophers are quite magical that way.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:26 PM
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733

731: Sorry, I hate books.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:31 PM
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734

733: fuck dude, me too. We were talking about skulls!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:33 PM
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735

I see that I've already mentioned the parody song written for a skit in a German class I took that involved Heidegger and Husserl and was set to the tune of Die Moritat von Mackie Masser. This blog used to encourage all sorts of pretentious commenting.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:33 PM
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736

I cut to the heart of the matter.
You oversimplify.
He has no idea what the fuck he's talking about.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:34 PM
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737

734: Where do you think the bumps come from?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:35 PM
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738

735: it's a fallen world.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:35 PM
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739

"Philosophy for Beginners", which is basically a comic book, isn't bad, though it's the only book I've ever read, so maybe I'm not the best judge.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:37 PM
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737: space?

No, uh: drugs?

Criminaling?

Queen Victoria?

Dammit (smooth, aerodynamic) egghead, don't leave me in... excited... waiting... for... thing!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:37 PM
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741

That thread linked in 735 seems to be another version of the argument over analytic philosophy. In light of that, this.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:42 PM
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742

740: Books, dude, books. That's where they come from. And that's why I hate books. It all makes sense if you take a step back and let the puzzle put itself together.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:50 PM
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742: you can hit people with books?

That can't be true. If it were, I would love books!

Also: take a step back?

Hah! Way to try and make me fall over, smart guy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:52 PM
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744

"fulminatory, or at least minatory", was really genius, wasn't it?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:54 PM
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745

The bumps are created by the mental exertions required to read books. Read too many and your entire head becomes a single bump. An ugly, egg-shaped bump.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:54 PM
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746

eb knows the score.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 10:55 PM
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747

"fulminatory, or at least minatory", was really genius, wasn't it?

Yes.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:05 PM
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748

Ok, thread's over.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:07 PM
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749

It's not over until I say it's over.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:13 PM
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750

Okay, it's over.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:13 PM
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751

The Williamson essay seems pretty reasonable, and ought to be given credit for its frankness of spirit and willingness to see the occasional log in "analytic" philosophy's eye. It's quite clear, for instance, that Williamson is not the sort of person who would be fooled for a minute by Holbo's cliched "continentals just don't use arguments" routine. Good for him.

As I noted initially, it's easy to see why "analyticphilosopher" was so pissed about the claim of total non-progress in analytic philosopher. OTOH, for all of his/her subsequent huffing, puffing, name-calling and increasingly embarrassing flights of fancy about Dsquared as Unfogged's sinister anti-intellectual Svengali, it's hard to read an essay like "Must Do Better" and be convinced that there is no substance whatever to concerns about a certain scleroticism afflicting modern analytic philosophy. For example, granting Williamson's contention that the Pre-Socratics are proof that it's impossible to know in advance what questions are worth pursuing, I think it is possible to know whether there's something more than a bit dubious in portraying advances in perspicuous notation as being a leap on par with the willingness to inquire about what things in general are made of.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:22 PM
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752

Now it's over.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:23 PM
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753

As A. N. Prior once said, thank goodness that's over.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:29 PM
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754

Yes. Over. So over.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:31 PM
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755

I lvoe you, Margaret Atwood.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:31 PM
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756

Shhh, you're making Man-Bot jealous.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:33 PM
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757

 


Posted by: yogi berra | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:33 PM
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758

I love you, Man-Bot Atwood.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:33 PM
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759

I don't need to be on TV on a Saturday night; I do it because I love helping these performers.


Posted by: Andrew Lloyd Weber, a propos of nothing in particular | Link to this comment | 04-29-08 11:43 PM
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Is this thread still going? Oh goody.

Hardly any distinguished contemporary philosophers think that Wittgenstein made an "advance" - the much more common view is that Wittgenstein was interesting but wrong-headed, and led philosophy first into the muddle that was logical positivism, and then the muddle that was ordinary language philosophy

I did not mean to say or imply that most everyone thinks all Wittgenstein did was lead people into the muddles of logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy.

In the spirit of 723, I did not mean to use the epithet "cuntychops" and if I did that was an exaggeration and I apologise.

I thought the Williamson essay was very familiar to me; neoclassical economists are always writing contributions to methodological debates in which they say that

a) the Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium model hasn't really gone very far in terms of advancing our understanding of the economy

b) however, economists have really done very well in understanding and extending the mathematical properties of Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium

c) therefore what is needed is much more mathematical abstraction and even less involvement of real-world problems

d) and that therefore the top stature within the profession should be given to High Theorists and applied work should be the lowest of the low, with status roughly determined by degree of mathematical abstraction

e) blah blah rigour.

Krugman has a good essay on this sort of thing.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 12:48 AM
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I endorse what D^2 says about neoclassical economics, though my endorsement is useless, and I agree with him that analytic philosophy has many of the same problems. I bitterly regret not having studied economics, because if I had done so my denunciations would be more surgical and more destructive.

PNor did I suggest that [Wittgenstein] was 'purged' - anymore than Davidson, Quine, or Carnap have been purged.

It's heart warming to know that analytic philosophers haven't purged their own ancestors yet, but it's just a matter of time.

Showing the diversity of analytic philosophy by naming large numbers of analytic philosophers is not persuasive to anyone but analytic philosophers.

The gist of the problem is that analytic philosophers clearly believe that nothing since Frege is of any philosophical value except insofar as it can be called analytic philosophy or can be thought of as a percursor of analytic philosophy. James and Whitehead and Popper and maybe even Dewey are credited as bit players, for example, but their bodies of work are ignored.

Popper and Gellner are interesting cases. They were players up until Wittgenstein, Quine, and Kuhn came along, but they've been in the outer darkness since then even though they both did a lot of interesting stuff. (If they weren't really purged, someone contact the Popperians and Gellnerians and tell them, because last I heard they were being all grumbly.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 5:03 AM
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i don't understand what is so unwelcoming about AP, h/she, i thought, defended analityical philosophy against it's initial dismissal of the humanities from JH's post, so that you people could be happy
h/she argued with dsquared and others i think within mutual politeness limits,
and sure h/she can contribute more than just irrelevant personal asides to unfogged, i at least find this thread very interesting and hope it continues
now, it's really over


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 6:18 AM
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752,

"I think it is possible to know whether there's something more than a bit dubious in portraying advances in perspicuous notation as being a leap on par with the willingness to inquire about what things in general are made of."

You mean advances in perspicuous notation like Frege's invention of a formal language in the Begriffsschrift that led to useless abstractions like the computer?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 6:50 AM
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764

No, more recent imitations of Frege et al. D^2 is familiar with a certain kind of problem with excess formalization in economics and suspects that it is found in analytic philosophy too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 6:58 AM
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763: Come now, don't be silly. Everybody knows that Leibniz invented the computer, not Frege. Right?

And I take your point, but, impressive an instrument though it obviously is: would you really contend that the computer represents a conceptual leap on par with the pre-Socratics?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:03 AM
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766

You mean advances in perspicuous notation like Frege's invention of a formal language in the Begriffsschrift that led to useless abstractions like the computer?

"what do you mean, mission to the moon? Look at these amazing saucepans!"


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:12 AM
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(I'd also add that the usage of "led to" here as a term which is clearly meant to advance the claim that Frege invented the computer without committing you to defending it, is exactly the sort of thing that Williamson was complaining about.

There is a sense in which Frege was causally responsible for Grand Theft: Auto and a sense in which he wasn't and it does not really appear that analytic philosophy has made much progress in distinguishing between the two, for all that you claimed earlier that we understand causation much better these days. Surely to heck if analytic philosophy hasn't even had any effect on the use of arguments by analytic phiosophers, it's in a hole.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:22 AM
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(Further to 765: and no, it's not that I think advances in logic are unimportant. Derrida was mostly of interest insofar as his work applied -- in a way, independently developed -- paraconsistent logic. But that doesn't make them a perspectival shift on par with doing or not doing natural philosophy.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:23 AM
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And 767 is a good point.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:24 AM
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The gist of the problem is that analytic philosophers clearly believe that nothing since Frege is of any philosophical value except insofar as it can be called analytic philosophy or can be thought of as a percursor of analytic philosophy. James and Whitehead and Popper and maybe even Dewey are credited as bit players, for example, but their bodies of work are ignored.

This is where you lose me, JE. I get your critique. I even agree with it in parts. But we've got a definition problem here? Nothing since Frege? Really? I think 'can be thought of a precursor' and a little definitional slip about who counts as an analytic philosopher is doing the bulk of the work here.

Sometimes, 'analytic philosopher' means 'everyone not in the comp lit department' and 'not valued' is so weak to mean 'not the hottest fashionable thing you could do your dissertation in.' Sometimes, 'analytic philosopher' means 'this tiny slice of logical positivism' and 'not valued' means 'cast into the outer darkness, horribly purged.'

And what seems to be going on here is that we're mixing the definitions, such that the only way you can get 'nothing since Frege' to count as true is to decide that Rawls (e.g.) doesn't count as an analytic philosopher. But in that case, the answer is pretty easy: Rawls (among others, not to mention all of the research areas brought up earlier) are taught in philosophy departments, and seriously studied, so analytic philosophy must be losing its death grip on the academy.

But that doesn't seem to be what you are saying. Analytic philosophy is to be more broadly construed, so you can make fun of mouse orgasms or whatever, so everything counts as analytic philosophy. But then the claim that everything studied is analytic philosophy comes out trivially.

I'll completely grant that philosophers are found of tiny moves and that speculative metaphysics is a bunch of dick measuring and not much on the practical side. But I've read the philosophers you keep citing as examples of things philosophers don't read, and it's really getting kind of bizarre.

Because I know I'm on the analytic end of things, and I know and have read about all these people, and learned about them from people that seem to have tenure somewhere than the Outer Darkness.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:57 AM
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Dsquared,

The claim I was rebutting is that "advances in perspicuous notation" could not amount to genuine progress. Frege came up with the idea that mathematical proofs should be carried out in a formal language in which all transitions between steps were mediated by a few clear syntactic rules. In a very obvious way, completely uncontroversial way, this influenced subsequent developments in logic and computer science.

Whether you want to go along with the Frege example or not, the claim that "advances in perspicuous notation" cannot amount to genuine progress is false. If you want, I can spend the next hour digging up examples from the history of mathematics.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 7:58 AM
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770

"that speculative metaphysics is a bunch of dick measuring"

Umm...I have to disagree with you here (though I'm not a metaphysician). Perhaps speculative metaphysics doesn't have clear applications, but that doesn't merit this charge. It's tricky for me to see what other area of human inquiry will deal head on with problems such as the existence of libertarian free will, dualism, the nature of middle sized objects, etc. Whatever we think of the practical applicability of such issues, humans do seem to be drawn to think about them from time to time.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:03 AM
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The thread ended with 745, so y'all can stop trying to end it again.

I complained about AP's tone mainly because I think reading a full-throated but not insulting defense of analytic philosophy would be awesome. Most of the time when people defend analytic philosophy around here, they bracket out its more extreme tendencies towards abstraction. So a defense that starts with the extreme tendencies would be interesting. I'm just disappointed at the lost opportunity.

Can Derrida really be said to be working in paraconsistent logic? I think there's an ordinary language sense in which sentences are ambiguous, and exploring this was at the heart of Derrida's work. But what makes paraconsistent logic interesting (and I'd say it's not all that interesting) is that you can write down a logic where sentences are just a little bit contradictory, rather than just completely wrong. So the interesting part is that you can write down rules for connectives such as "and". (What's slightly more interesting, I think, is relevance logic, where you can define implication so that you can only use relevant premises in drawing conclusions. Relevance logic ends up being paraconsistent, but that's not its main point.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:11 AM
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Dsquared,

Just randomly, from my recursion theory textbook:

"Perhaps the two most important results of modern logic are (1) the discovery of a precise symbolic language within which all statements and proofs of mathematics can be made and in terms of which a combinatorial symbolic criterion of valid proof can be given and (2) the demonstration that there is no universal algorithmic procedure for determining whether or not a statement of this symbolic language is true. The first result emerged early in this century through work of Frege, Russell, and Whitehead."

The first result is, of course, an advance in perspicuous notation. It led fairly directly to things like Turing's characterization of the class of computable functions via Turing machines, which led fairly directly to the theory that allowed computing. I didn't realize this was considered controversial among bloggers.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:13 AM
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773

"I complained about AP's tone mainly because I think reading a full-throated but not insulting defense of analytic philosophy would be awesome."

I started off with a full-throated, not insulting defense. In fact, I put a lot of work into it. Then I was called a cunt, among other things. So I switched my tone to a more appropriate one.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:17 AM
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773,

(e.g. Note that towards the beginning of the thread, I tried to provide a thorough, completely non-insulting explanation of the interest of work on the liar paradox). I switched my tone somewhere in the 500s.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:19 AM
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And since the thread is over, and therefore nothing anyone says from here on out counts, I'm going to quibble with dsquared over general equilibrium. GE is in many ways an abandoned research program within economics. There are mathematical economists who try to extend its applicability, but this is a peripheral activity. GE showed that a) equlibriium exists in some generality, but b) there's no real reason why you couldn't get lots of equilibria (you can give a handwavy argument that this number has to be odd, but there are surprisingly many odd numbers other than one), and c) the Econ 101 price adjustment story of how economies end up in equilibrium doesn't usually put you in equilibrium. Economists by and large ignore b and c. The main function of GE seems to be as a stick used to beat those who don't the awesome power of markets. Then economists switch back to partial equilibrium, where they can ignore b and c completely, or they write down a model so simple that b and c don't arise or can be finessed away. Taking GE more seriously could potentially lead to a better economics.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:21 AM
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Then I was called a cunt, among other things

That's a sign of approbation around here. You'll catch on.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:22 AM
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776: I recognize that, which is what made me think there was an opportunity to be lost. Though your tone was somewhat insulting all along. The first comment I see by you is 303, and by 316 you're already suggesting that some people are idiots.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:27 AM
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I agree it's a stretch to say that Derrida was responsible for paraconsistent logic. I suspect that Graham Priest, the champion and most significant exponent of paraconsistent logic, has been influenced by considerably less Western tendencies (as in Eastern philosophy).


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:27 AM
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Ah, good point. I was obnoxious all along.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:29 AM
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771: The claim I was rebutting is that "advances in perspicuous notation" could not amount to genuine progress.

Which claim was never made, but is easier to rebut the actual claim that it's dubious to place such advances on par with the threshold between doing and not doing natural philosophy. I don't know, maybe you need to take a break?

773: Can Derrida really be said to be working in paraconsistent logic?

I think it can be fairly said that the kernel of the project of grammatology was a challenge to classical logic along lines strikingly similar to paraconsistency, yes. (As applied to textual analysis, and of course Derrida's work doesn't boil down simply to paraconsistency. Grammatology contains plenty of other notions, some of them -- like the self-occlusion of the "Trace" -- rather dubious to my mind.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:29 AM
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780: it's a stretch to say that Derrida was responsible for paraconsistent logic.

Good thing that's not what I said, then, innit; "in a way, independently developed" would have been your clue there. Meaning others had also developed it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:31 AM
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Help! I'm surrounded by cunts!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:36 AM
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Oh, good point about relevance logic in 773, BTW.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:39 AM
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DS,

Here is your full quote:

"it's hard to read an essay like "Must Do Better" and be convinced that there is no substance whatever to concerns about a certain scleroticism afflicting modern analytic philosophy. For example, granting Williamson's contention that the Pre-Socratics are proof that it's impossible to know in advance what questions are worth pursuing, I think it is possible to know whether there's something more than a bit dubious in portraying advances in perspicuous notation as being a leap on par with the willingness to inquire about what things in general are made of."

I took the end of this quote to have some relevance to the beginning, that there is a concern about "a certain scleroticism afflicting modern analytic philosophy". I took you to giving evidence for this claim by suggesting that "advances in perspicuous notation" are not as significant as analytic philosophers seem to think. That's what I was countering.

I think we can all agree that the standard of progress should not be e.g. 'being the first to ask what things in general are made of'. One can make immense progress short of this. So I think it's no evidence at all for the scleroticism of analytic philosophy that we think that advances in perspicuous notation can lead to immense progress. Advances in perspicuous notation can lead to immense progress, even when measured in the reductionist conception of progress that Dsquared employs.

Williamson's point is that a focus on methods can lead to immense progress, just as a focus on questions can. Advances in perspicuous notation are a case in point. For example, mathematicians of Frege's day were bewildered at why he was proving some familiar theorems in a new way (within a formal system). Only in retrospect did people realize the importance of the method of proving theorems that he developed was more significant than what he was proving.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:42 AM
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780: has been influenced by considerably less Western tendencies

What does this have to do with anything?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:43 AM
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787

Nothing. Just thought it might be interesting for people to realize that analytic philosophers such as Priest are open to all sorts of influences.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:47 AM
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I took the end of this quote to have some relevance to the beginning,

Good. Now if you'd also read the part where I said quite explicitly that I was not saying "a certain scleroticism" means "a total lack of progress" we'd all be on the same page.

Your characterization of Williamson's point seems fair. Could be I'm being too hard on him about the pre-Socratics analogy.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:48 AM
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784: Good point!


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:53 AM
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210 comments to go. This is exhausting.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:00 AM
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it occured to me that all these brilliant names would have been in the East just countless and nameless monks or hermits
it also occured to me that anyone trying to end the thread or declare it's stupid endorses the end of argument argument


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:04 AM
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People might decry my insulting and condescending behavior, but it seems to generate a lot more entertainingly furious replies than when I'm nice. So can I please return to that behavior, at least until we hit 1000?


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:13 AM
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793: That's the spirit!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:14 AM
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Presumably Ogged only posted 784 to be new rollover text.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:16 AM
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It doesn't count if this thread goes to 1000, because the thread is already over.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:16 AM
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It led fairly directly

Tim Williamson is presumably tearing his fucking hair out right now.

Look, if you've set up a mission to Mars, then whatever that mission "leads to" in terms of new saucepan coatings, people are correct to judge its progress by the criterion of whether it's brought us any nearer to Mars.

The purpose of Frege's "perspicuous notation" was to solve the problem of the foundations of mathematics. Even if I were to merrily cry "fuck Charles Babbage!" and agree that every last microprocessor in the world exists because of a direct causal chain originating with Frege, then the problem of the foundations of mathematics was not, in fact, solved and the project of showing that the truth of mathematical statements is grounded in formal systems is much deader than logical positivism. If the Centre for Creation Science came up with a cure for AIDS tomorrow, then we wouldn't say that progress had been made toward proving the literal truth of Genesis.

(and while your textbook apparently says that all these advances were made "at the beginning of this century", which would mean that they were indeed "modern", I think you have an old textbook; said advances were actually made at the beginning of the last century, and wildly diminishing returns appear to have set in very fast as far as advances in notation are concerned).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:17 AM
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784 was meant to demonstrate the error of thinking that "cunt" must always be a term of opprobrium. (And also to point out that you're all cunts.)

Is that paraconsistent, little bitches?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:19 AM
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AP, be as insulting as you want. It's normal here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:22 AM
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800!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:27 AM
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800!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:29 AM
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800!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:31 AM
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800: grumble grumble cuntychops grumble grumble


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:31 AM
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Conjecture: zombie threads are always better than baseball threads.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:31 AM
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Further conjecture: zombie philosopher threads will always eat the brains of zombie baseball threads. We'll be able to put this to the test soon enough.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:37 AM
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Cala, when I look at academic journals, as I occasionally do, there's what I think is an extreme uniformity of style. No one writes like Dewey or James or Whitehead or even Popper, much less Nietzsche. They write about Nietzsche, but they translate him into analytese (besides Leiter, I looked at Schacht and several of Leiter's other sources.)

This is particularly disastrous with Chinese philosophy, which is one of my interests: they're always working from paraphrases, which they cherry-pick to find passages which can be regarded as contributions to discussions of accepted analytic topics (e.g., "relativism".)

For another example: around 1950 there was a vigorous, fruitful, very interesting discussion of historicity, contingency, and temporality involving Whitehead, Popper, Reichenbach, Dewey, Hayek, and others. There's almost no relic of this in the Oxford "Philosophy of Time" collection I mentioned or several other books of that type I have. Instead they key their discussion on MacTaggart's hundred-year-old argument for timelessness / reversibility. I think that this is an outcome of analytic philosophy's attempt to bury history in the search of timeless formal truths. I think that this attempt was disastrously successful.

When I do find someone recent picking up this debate, they're not philosophers: S.J. Gould, Ilya Prigogine, John Gunnell, J.H. Hexter, Stephen Toulmin, Donald Campbell -- all from other fields. (Toulmin was trained in philosophy but ejected. At least that's what he says.)

It may be that philosophy is rebroadening. People tell me that it's better now than twenty years ago. But I do remember the narrowing, and still think that the earlier work was better than the more recent work. I'm sorrow that this was before your time, but I think that a historical perspective is useful.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:41 AM
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Anonymous eastern philosophers

Less emphasis on the individual, but new ideas do get names attached to them. Nichiren is famous, for instance.

In some ways it's superficial, but and followers in Tiantai had problems similar to those faced by Origen and Boethius (texts that weren't even paraconsistent from which to learn faith and reason).

The solutions all three chose are really interesting; unfortunately, only Boethius' prose makes easy reading.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:44 AM
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Whoops, hotlink should be for Zhiyi


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:47 AM
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Baseball-hating belongs with the rest of the anti-American sentiment in the Wright thread.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 9:53 AM
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770: Ok I haven't read the thread because these types of threads typically make me feel irritated about the general state of philosophy; however I think that Emerson's point is at least marginally valid. The other day Leiter linked to a take down of William Kristol, and, though it went unmentioned, in the comments it turned into a debate over the relevance of Wittgenstein and analytic/continental philosophy. Guess who showed up? Jason Stanley. In his comments he managed to say both that analytic philosophy is just philosophy and that analytic philosophy is not continental philosophy. These statements go along with Leiter's own take on CP in which the best CP is being done by people in analytic departments. Thus the notion that philosophy since Frege is only relevant inasmuch as it can be understood in terms of analytic philosophy is plausible.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:02 AM
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Jesus H. Christ. This thread is still going on? I'm not sure what it means to have a 1000-comment thread (looks that way) that's not about sexism. Maybe we really are witnessing the Fall of the Mineshaft Empire.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:05 AM
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P.S. What's particularly distressing is that it seems to have stayed mostly on topic.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:06 AM
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What's particularly distressing is that it seems to have stayed mostly on topic.

I won't be blamed. I did everything I could to derail it.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:08 AM
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Why are there no female philosophers?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:08 AM
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Though I don't think that anyone is really bashing Holbo anymore...


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:08 AM
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814: No dicks to measure in metaphysics. Duh.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:15 AM
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Also, not to get too manifesto-ish with this, but analytic philosophy is clearly way too enamored with metaphysics. There is a different metaphysical system for every scientific and pseudo-scientific view out there.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:18 AM
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I'm still bashing Holbo. You suck, Holbo! Take that!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:18 AM
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I won't be blamed. I did everything I could to derail it.

Are you saying your best just wasn't good enough, Ari?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:21 AM
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You suck, Holbo! Take that!
Yeah. His chops are the cuntiest of all. Damn his chops.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:23 AM
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Ari may not have succeeded in derailing this thread, but he's made solid progress toward a possible world semantics through which a derailment of this thread could be apprehended and merit serious philosophical services.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:29 AM
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I'm sorrow that this was before your time, but I think that a historical perspective is useful.

Sure, it's useful. Never denied that it was useful, or denied any of the history, just that it wasn't really a good representation of the current state of the discipline.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:29 AM
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Are you saying your best just wasn't good enough, Ari?

Just once can't we figure out what we keep doing wrong?
Why these threads are oh so very long
What are we doing wrong?
Just once could we not stay on this topic all damn night?
Turn to feminism or to Reverend Wright?
If we could just get to it
I know we could break through it


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:31 AM
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wasn't really a good representation of the current state of the discipline

I think this can be true and still miss the point; it's like whitey saying "We do too study Native American culture."

I'm going to analogy you to death, Cala.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:33 AM
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It's tricky for me to see what other area of human inquiry will deal head on with problems such as the existence of libertarian free will, dualism

Neuroscience will be happy to take those off your hands. (And, for fuck's sake, hopefully put dualism to bed, finally.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:35 AM
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I dunno about that. Neuroscience is basically in its infant stages, and, at least as I see neurophilosophy, basically inept at confronting philosophical issues.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:39 AM
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Cala, from time to time I do look at a few journals to see whether the discipline has, by my standards, improved. The message I get is, "No, why should we? We like the way we're doing things, and think that the work you would have liked to see continued really wasn't worth doing". This is the impression I get when I hear analytic philosophers talking to each other or to groups. I don't try to argue with them in person because I respond inconveniently to crushing disdain.

On the internet I'm able to get a word in occasionally, at the price of being regarded as a troll.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:41 AM
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I tend to think that analytic philosophy has improved, but largely on the margins where it is grasping with phenomenology. This, as has been stressed by Leiter and Jason Stanley, is NOT mainstream analytic philosophy. Also w/r/t Wittgenstein, Jason Stanley again emphasized what little importance LW is to contemporary philosophy of language. Here is the thread

http://www.jewcy.com/post/pompous_malicious_intellectual_vacuity_leon_wieseltier


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:46 AM
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Is this just boiling down to 'philosophers aren't writing the books I want them to write?' 'Cause I'm not going to argue with you about that.

I


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:47 AM
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826: I wasn't thinking "grappling with" so much as "obviating the need to address", but I was being glib again, so don't you worry about me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:53 AM
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I don't think that glibness is allowed in a philosophy thread. We only go in for sincerity.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:56 AM
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Leiter and Stanley. Blech.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:57 AM
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828: And Dan Koffler, Jesus: holy question-begging, Batman. It's awfully reassuring to know that analytic philosophy doesn't exclude anyone it defines as "worthwhile."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:01 AM
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No, Cala. The books I want them to write would be better than the books they actually are writing. The topics they dropped and cut off are more interesting and important than the ones philosophy now obsesses on. Their method is self-defeating.

You disagree with me, but that's the issue. And the field field diametrically the opposite of what I do. They do not define this as a place for "different strokes" tolerance. They think that the stuff they're doing is exactly what philosophers should do. They control some turf, and they like it that way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:02 AM
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Yup, did you read the thread I linked to? Ignore the article, it's crap, but the comments are interesting. I'm glad to here that someone from a more analytic department feels similarly as I do about them. Sometimes I wonder about the perspective here in CP land.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:03 AM
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835 --> 832


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:05 AM
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The standards of argumentation are very high and people accustomed to impressing rubes with pseudo-sophisticated endless prattling about nothing couldn't make the grade --- the only reason a possible reason and the likely one for someone in Wieseltier's circumstances who claims to be a philosophy student to refuse to learn analytic philosophy is that he or she can't cut it.

Probably not a good guy to mess with.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:08 AM
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Probably, yes.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:16 AM
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Neoclassical economists also *very* keen on telling other people that they "just can't cut it", often (as with the famous Krugman/Jamie Galbraith) exercise failing to check up who they're patronising with hilarious consequences.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 11:33 AM
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Having now skimmed the thread I will offer this tibit: analyticphilosoper's views are disturbing similar to J/son S/anley's on the other thread. Do all main stream analytic philosophers think the same way? Or, are they really just one giant hive mind out to organize the world into little logical bits?


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 12:25 PM
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Maybe ap is JS.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 12:28 PM
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839: It seems to be a field rife with projection.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 12:28 PM
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843

Send me your email address, ninja.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 12:34 PM
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844

email sent. if it doesn't go through tell me.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 12:52 PM
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God, am I sorry I read the link from ninjaphilosopher. Mentioning "top departments" every other comment is a sickness.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:00 PM
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845: huh, so I guess he does sound just like analyticphilosopher.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:03 PM
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847

note of course that the definition of a "top" philosophy department is defined more or less entirely by the opinions of people at top departments.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:05 PM
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847: it isn't even that, is it? It's one dude's opinions.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:08 PM
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846: Weird, huh? YOU might have been arguing with JS! You should feel privileged.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:28 PM
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Dsquared, it's a self-reinforcing system organized at the national level. Leiter does a national poll to establish the ratings, and after that the ratings are used as a guide to hiring, so that every year a higher proportion of voters in the poll comes from the top-rated departments, and every year graduates from the top departments have a bigger advantage in job hunting. And the ratings impact specializations, since departments specialized in certain areas are systematically ranked higher than departments specialized in other areas. I believe that ethics is at the bottom, along with poultry philosophy and the metaphysics of sumps.

But you knew this, I learned it from CT.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:30 PM
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In short, it's an objective, consequential system for anyone thinking of going into the field.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:31 PM
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845: Seriously. Ick.

I mean, presumptuous declarations about who's read what based on revealing and embarrassing misreadings, might strike some people as deliciously ironic; but they're probably rubes who've never even seen the inside of the departmental library of a top 5 PGR department.

dsquared? Go call them all names, please.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:32 PM
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Quite some time ago someone in a different academic field (in the humanities!) told me something like "North Carolina is the 6th best department, whereas Michigan is only ranked 17th, so North Carolina is obviously the place to go." I thought that they were kidding, but they really believed that a humanist discipline could be ranked that way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:35 PM
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You should feel privileged.

So I hear.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:36 PM
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850: I'm pretty sure continental philosophy, feminism, and pragmatism are at the bottom not ethics.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:36 PM
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But North Carolina is obviously the place to go, quite aside from any rankings.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:37 PM
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855: what a fun bottom that is!

855 has me agreeing ever more with Emerson.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:38 PM
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857: We like it here.

Unfortunately Emerson is correct that it does impact who gets jobs, which is very frustrating.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:40 PM
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I believe that ethics is at the bottom

No, it's not. It's in the upper quartile, equal or ahead of all the historical specializations in terms of its influence on overall reputation. Metaphysics, mind and language are the most influential. Philosophy of religion is at the bottom.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:41 PM
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Yeah, and I hear that sump metaphysics has been rising in the rankings too.

I just slighted ethics in order to annoy Dav/id Vell/eman, though I'm forbidden by the management to actually call him in with a Googlable reference.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:42 PM
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858.2: not if you're analyticphilosopher!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:43 PM
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The attitude at the link is much more like what I've experienced than the relatively happy face that ap and Holbo have put on the discipline. Note that the obnoxious guy is a kid, and so these opinions (e.g., Heidegger is literally meaningless) are still being inculcated.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:44 PM
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Unfortunately Emerson is correct that it does impact who gets jobs, which is very frustrating.

This is true in every academic discipline, certainly in the social sciences and the humanities. Philosophy is an interesting and somewhat unusual case because of the rise of the quantitative rankings of the PGR. But every field has a pecking order, and this means that the reputation (quantified or not) of the graduate school you went to is the best predictor of the sort of job you will get. Because the most prestigious programs produce more graduate students than can be placed at peer programs, most fields have a tiered market where people typically move down a tier (or two) for their first job. Upward mobility right out of graduate school is very hard. Upward jumps two tiers or more are basically unheard of, though of course it's easy to drop down that far, or more.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:45 PM
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Hi, Parsimon! Jason Stanley has verified that Wittgenstein is shit. Come join us on the dark side!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:46 PM
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Have you guys considered closing this thread and never speaking of it again?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:47 PM
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I had no idea that anyone took Carnap's critique seriously anymore. That they are learning that he gave Heidegger the one-two punch at Yale is depressing.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:47 PM
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People here on the thread like the thread. We are aware that our opinion is not universally shared.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:48 PM
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863: Fair enough, but if I understand correctly how the rankings are done, then the PGR is not really a fully representative sampling of philosophy departments. Just judging by those departments that are ranked by the editorial board, they basically are not polling continental philosophers. A quantitative measurement that leaves out a good chunk of contemporary work is apt to skew the rankings substantially.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 1:55 PM
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It turns out that the most frequent citation from Carnap is the most negative part of a piece that was somewhat respectful. Wittgenstein once made a brief positive reference to Heidegger in a letter, but the positive reference was deleted by Max Black when the letter was published.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:00 PM
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869.2: That is really interesting. I didn't know that. I don't know much about Wittgenstein. Not to start up a whole new argument, but his influence on continental philosophy has been greatly exaggerated in some circles. This is not to say that he wasn't influential at all, but not really as a primary source.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:03 PM
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Fair enough, but if I understand correctly how the rankings are done, then the PGR is not really a fully representative sampling of philosophy departments. Just judging by those departments that are ranked by the editorial board, they basically are not polling continental philosophers. A quantitative measurement that leaves out a good chunk of contemporary work is apt to skew the rankings substantially.

Yes, it's not a representative sample, nor does it pretend to be. In effect it condenses the informal pecking order of departments into a quantitative measure (with some interesting effects on the field).

Of course, a status or reputational system means precisely that not everyone's opinion counts equally -- who cares what people doing bad work think is excellent? This is not a justification, btw.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:04 PM
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864: Tease.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:05 PM
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871: Luckily, since part of the goal of the PGR is to force out those who do bad work, there is a certain amount of infamy attached to being part of one of those programs. So maybe it's not all bad.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:08 PM
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Have you guys considered closing this thread and never speaking of it again?

Yes.

870: I believe that letter is quoted in either Moore's Points of View or Ethics without Philosophy by Some Guy. Probably the latter.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:12 PM
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there is a certain amount of infamy attached to being part of one of those programs. So maybe it's not all bad.

When there's struggle for status, then the losing side will naturally have its own alternative ranking of excellence, the mirror of the "official" one. It will also try to turn stigma into a badge of honor, and this may be enough to get along. The problem it faces is being shut out of where the resources and jobs are. Often, institutionalizing yourself as a separate field or attempting to take over another discipline are tempting projects.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:12 PM
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To me the feedback loops coming out of the PGR are the interesting part. Someone should do some simulations. Even if PGR ratings are only used as tiebreakers in cases of deadlocks or equally-attractive candidates, say 10% of the time, it would seem that iterations over a decade or so would produce a completely stratified system.

A feedback loop I forgot to mention is talented students choosing the top departments, both as undergrads and as grads.

This isn't unspeakably horrible and many countries' systems work that way (France and Taiwan as I understand). On the other hand, this is the land of opportunity, etc., and I object to the way that entire schools of thought and directions of study can be disappeared on the pretext that they're just defective versions of something else, like brand X Grade D apples.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:14 PM
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874: I saw it in an anthology by Max Black, I think, or baybe in "Culture and Value".

Ben, you know, given that I am a regular poster here, titling a philosophy thread "Sowing Discord" may have been unwise.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:16 PM
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875: Some people have claimed that Continental philosophy took over comp lit, but--at least to my eyes--I see very little connection with what they do there and we do here.

I actually do think that there are promising signs of improvement. There is a growing number of people who think that philosophy of mind, cog sci. and phenomenology all can and should talk to each other. Clearly they are doing readings of phenomenology, but isn't everyone?


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:20 PM
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874.1 Nice try. It's not my fault this is a good distraction from writing papers.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:22 PM
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There is a growing number of people who think that philosophy of mind, cog sci. and phenomenology all can and should talk to each other.

In fact I have some (unread) papers at home from some cog sci journal about Heidegger's conception of boredom in Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:25 PM
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if I were to merrily cry "fuck Charles Babbage!"

... you would apparently have got a good start on a history of computing.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:25 PM
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re: Job market in philosophy in academia.

I am basically a complete outsider, but I was wondering if the overall experience is as grim as suggested by the following excerpt from a nice little book, Alma Mater by P.F. Kluge (author of Eddie and the Cruisers and the article on a bank robbery which became the basis of Dog Day Afternoon) in which he was given extraordinary access to chronicle a year in the life of Kenyon College during the '90s. (And I assume going to teach at an undergrad teaching institution like Kenyon, nice as that might or might not be, basically takes you out of the running for really having any real influence on the field, either directly or via grad students.)

Banning has just one toy to give - that tenure-track position in Philosophy - and about 175 stockings to stuff.So: lots of lumps of coal. He sifts through the application pile ... . They are all exemplary people, it seems, with glowing recommendations, superior transcripts, their commitment to cutting-edge philosophy matched only by their wish to enrich the classrooms at a small liberal arts college.

I don't have the book on me, now I am curious as to what "type" of philosopher they ended up hiring.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:29 PM
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880: Really? how strange! Much of the work I'm familiar with focuses more on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty than Heidegger. Let along working on his concept of boredom.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:30 PM
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882: Probably one with a good teaching resume.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:34 PM
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it's like whitey saying "We do too study Native American culture."

Ogged, there is none more white than you. Honkey.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:35 PM
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White up to eleven. Aryan. What more can you say?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:38 PM
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Wait, maybe 883 should include Dreyfuss' work on Heidegger and AI?


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:39 PM
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The applicability of Heidegger to cognitive science strikes me as a fairly exciting thing to think about.

The applicability of analytic philosophy to cognitive science I guess I'm talked out on, but man it sure seems like people tried that avenue for about thirty years without much success.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:41 PM
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PGR is showing how you take over a field. I suspect that Lucas and his minions used the same strategy to take over macroeconomics.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:48 PM
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it also occured to me that anyone trying to end the thread or declare it's stupid endorses the end of argument argument

read, you're not going to fool us by whipping out the end of argument argument argument.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:49 PM
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Jesus, this thread is like watching a bunch of nerdy kids ganging up to kick the class bully in the head once he's down and they're pretty sure he's not going to get back up again.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:50 PM
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Dsquared writes:

"note of course that the definition of a "top" philosophy department is defined more or less entirely by the opinions of people at top departments."

Hasn't Kieran Healy shown this to be false in his study of the Leiter report, discussed here?

http://crookedtimber.org/2005/01/27/specialization-and-status-in-philosophy

Here is a quote from that post summarizing his findings:

"It turns out that it agrees with everyone else's assessment of its relatively low quality. In fact, as I show in the paper, Block 5 thinks a little better of Block 1 than Block 1 thinks of itself, and thinks a little worse of itself than Block 1 thinks of it. In other words, the lowest-prestige block is slightly more committed to the hierarchy than the highest-prestige block."


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:51 PM
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891: aka awesome?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:52 PM
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Get ttaM! Someone block the door!

He's dangerous! Licensed to kill! Stand back and pelt him with stones!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:52 PM
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895

ttaM was also probably sorry to see Ceausescu get his comeuppance.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:53 PM
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re: 895

Damn right. Clarity and rigour, baby. Plus, big palaces.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 2:56 PM
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895: Jesus ogged, got hyperbole much? (There is probably some Archive history that will enlighten me on the seeming depth of bitterness exhibited in this thread.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:02 PM
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897: it's all to be found in the reading group archives.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:04 PM
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899

Hey, ttaM got that it was a joke, but he's probably at a better department than you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:04 PM
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891: who's who here?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:05 PM
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901

ttaM also was a defender of Emperor Bokassa. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:06 PM
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re: 899

I'm not really at any department. Sort of technically/official am still part of a department while I finish up thesis rewrites. But, I haven't done any teaching for over a year now.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:06 PM
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That link is pretty disgusting, isn't it. I had seen it before, and actually commented as "Not A Philosopher". Everybody in it seemed to deserve each other, though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:07 PM
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Dsquared,

You write:

"The purpose of Frege's "perspicuous notation" was to solve the problem of the foundations of mathematics. Even if I were to merrily cry "fuck Charles Babbage!" and agree that every last microprocessor in the world exists because of a direct causal chain originating with Frege, then the problem of the foundations of mathematics was not, in fact, solved and the project of showing that the truth of mathematical statements is grounded in formal systems is much deader than logical positivism."

Your definition of progress seems to be:

X is a piece of work that constitutes progress if and only if X (a) achieves the ultimate goal of its author, and (b) contributes something to Dsquared's conception of the 'real world', like a toaster oven.

Analytic philosophy has made a ton of progress in the sense of (a) (see Williamson's article). But since none of us sets out to make better toaster ovens, I guess I have to concede to you that we don't make progress in your sense (b).

But I find your definition of progress somewhat silly.

How about "X is a piece of work that constitutes progress if and only if X contributes positively and significantly to our overall understanding of the universe". Then analytic philosophy has made tons of progress.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:07 PM
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"It turns out that it agrees with everyone else's assessment of its relatively low quality. In fact, as I show in the paper, Block 5 thinks a little better of Block 1 than Block 1 thinks of itself, and thinks a little worse of itself than Block 1 thinks of it. In other words, the lowest-prestige block is slightly more committed to the hierarchy than the highest-prestige block."

Block fivers could have formed these opinions only after the advent of the PGR, and could well change their opinions after the PGR rankings change—in that case it would still be the case that what a top department is is in the first instance determined by the already-near-the-top departments, and everyone else adjusts their images of themselves and others accordingly.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:08 PM
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906

I think that it is probably true that the rankings wouldn't change dramatically; however, the specialty ranking would change substantially in certain areas and, I suspect that the overall feelings of bitterness might be slightly ameliorated.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:09 PM
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907

case, case, case, case.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:09 PM
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908

How about "X is a piece of work that constitutes progress if and only if X contributes positively and significantly to our overall understanding of the universe". Then analytic philosophy has made tons of progress.

What with the comment number, let's just all agree that I won't say anything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:10 PM
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I think that it is probably true that the rankings wouldn't change dramatically

As Healy says in the comments there,

As I say in the paper, it's not clear how much the consensus in the data reflects consensus in the field and how much is an artifact of the composition of the sample. You're right that a broader sample of respondents and a wider selection of departments would change the data, though my sense is that it wouldn't get "messier": instead, a dissenting block would probably emerge, rating itself highly and other departments low, and vice versa. Most likely, this block would mainly hire amongst its own members, too.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:11 PM
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The Real World Is Not A Toaster Oven: slogan for the next transprog riot.

I do not doubt the value of Frege, Tarski, Goedel, et al. Whether contemporary philosophy in that vein has remotely comparable value I somewhat doubt. Mostly I just hate the analytic monopoly, and hearing that "There's no such thing as analytic philosophy" just pisses me off worse.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:12 PM
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But I am ineluctably reminded of a scene from the Bruno segments of the Ali G show, where he asked a fashion designer "do you think fashion has saved more lives than... doctors?" and the designer said "oh, yes."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:12 PM
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912

909: It has been awhile, but I definitely read that thread, and would like to cite Keiran for some of the substance of my post.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:14 PM
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913

dsquared? Go call them all names, please.

I would love to, but I am actually pre-emptively banned from that site, due to circumstances.

892: the one does not actually follow from the other; for example one could get the same result from a survey of the opinions of Indian castes, but it would still be the Brahmins whose opinion determined the status hierarchy (and that's without noting that the survey universe is self-selected to comprise all and only those who think it's a survey worth responding to).

Since I know everyone wants to kill this thread I'll just uncontroversially point out that it's well known that metaphysics and epistemology is a typically "male" subject, while women in philosophy are more often found in ethics and similar lower-status specialisations (there is a parallel stratification in economics, where High Theorists are overwhelmingly male, and the very few women in the profession are often found in applied).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:14 PM
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914

Jesus, this thread is like watching a bunch of nerdy kids ganging up to kick the class bully in the head once he's down and they're pretty sure he's not going to get back up again.

It's slightly less tedious than baseball though, so that's something.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:15 PM
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915

would like to cite Keiran

Then you'll have to spell his name right.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:16 PM
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916

Is 907 aimed at me? if so, then damn.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:16 PM
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917

It's aimed at Ben's own 905.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:17 PM
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918

re: 914

Nothing is more tedious than baseball except, I suppose, people talking about baseball.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:18 PM
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919

No one has to read the thread.

This time I wasn't the bad guy. It was Sifu! And Dsquared!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:18 PM
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920

I would love to, but I am actually pre-emptively banned from that site, due to circumstances.

dsquared is roast beef.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:18 PM
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921

915: That might be useful. Stupid hard to spell names.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:19 PM
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922

888

"The applicability of analytic philosophy to cognitive science I guess I'm talked out on, but man it sure seems like people tried that avenue for about thirty years without much success."

How would you know? You admit earlier in the thread that you've never actually *read* any philosophy. From this comment, it appears that you haven't read any cognitive science either.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Jerry+Fodor&hl=en&lr=&btnG=Search

Oops, there I go citing them there experts again...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:19 PM
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923

907 was aimed at 905, whose point was repeated without acknowledgement in 913.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:19 PM
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924

907 was aimed at 905, whose point was repeated without acknowledgement in 913.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:20 PM
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925

888

"The applicability of analytic philosophy to cognitive science I guess I'm talked out on, but man it sure seems like people tried that avenue for about thirty years without much success."

How would you know? You admit earlier in the thread that you've never actually *read* any philosophy. From this comment, it appears that you haven't read any cognitive science either.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Jerry+Fodor&hl=en&lr=&btnG=Search

Oops, there I go citing them there experts again...


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:20 PM
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926

Threatening apologists for Bokassa is lots of fun. Not boring at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:21 PM
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927

Es gibt unvermiedliche Lagen und Verhältnisse, die man nur dadurch liberal behandeln kann, daß man sie durch einen kühnen Akt der Willkür verwandelt und durchaus als Poesie betrachtet. Also sollen alle gebildete Menschen im Notfalle Poeten sein können, und daraus läßt sich ebenso gut folgern, daß der Mensch von Natur ein Poet sei, daß es eine Naturpoesie gebe, als umgekehrt.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:21 PM
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928

Threatening apologists for Bokassa is lots of fun. Not boring at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:22 PM
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929

Language of thought, baby!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:22 PM
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930

Since I know everyone wants to kill this thread I'll just uncontroversially point out that it's well known that metaphysics and epistemology is a typically "male" subject, while women in philosophy are more often found in ethics and similar lower-status specialisations

This is, definitely, conventional wisdom. It doesn't actually reflect, at all, the gender breakdown of the people I studied with in my department, though.

However, that may be slightly skewed by the fact that it sometimes seemed like fucking everybody apart from me was a metaphysician or logician.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:24 PM
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931

not to mention 923 and 924


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:24 PM
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932

Bei manchem, besonders historischen Werken von Umfang, die im einzelnen überall sehr anziehend und schön geschrieben sind, empfindet man dennoch im ganzen eine unangenehme Monotonie. Um dies zu vermeiden, müßte Kolorit und Ton und selbst der Styl sich verändern und in den verschiedenen gro


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:24 PM
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933

Your definition of progress seems to be:

X is a piece of work that constitutes progress if and only if X (a) achieves the ultimate goal of its author, and (b) contributes something to Dsquared's conception of the 'real world', like a toaster oven.

950 comments, folks, roughly five per cent of which have been me pointing out that the very arguable and tangential "spin-offs" from analytic philosophy into linguistics, computing, relief from aching piles etc, don't constitute progress in analytic philosophy. And still we get (b) above. Surely I am permitted a second personal insult? Pretty please?

How about "X is a piece of work that constitutes progress if and only if X contributes positively and significantly to our overall understanding of the universe". Then analytic philosophy has made tons of progress.

This would only be true if the universe were the totality of facts rather than things, and I know you hate that sort of outmoded positivist bullshit.

If you set out to solve a problem, then if you've solved it, you've made progress. If you have found a lemma toward a solution, you've made progress. If you've not, you haven't made progress. If you've invented a really interesting concept that someone else in a different field can do something really cool with, then well done, you've contributed to human knowledge and let's pay a bonus, but it isn't progress. Same way in which no matter how excellent your frying pan, it won't take you to Mars.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:27 PM
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925: I actually don't know how to read at all. You've caught me!

What is this "philosophy" stuff, anyhow? Do you have a cite?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:27 PM
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935

Bei manchem, besonders historischen Werken von Umfang, die im einzelnen überall sehr anziehend und schön geschrieben sind, empfindet man dennoch im ganzen eine unangenehme Monotonie. Um dies zu vermeiden, müßte Kolorit und Ton und selbst der Styl sich verändern und in den verschiedenen großen Massen des Ganzen auffallend verschieden sein, wodurch das Werk nich bloß mannichfaltiger, sondern auch systematischer werden würde. Es leuchtet ein, daß eine solche regelmäßige Abwechslung nicht das Werk des Zufals sein könne, daß der Künstler hier ganz bestimmt wissen müsse, was er wolle, um es machen zu können; aber es leuchtet auch ein, daß es voreilig sei, die Poesie oder die Prosa Kunst zu nennen, ehe sie dahin gelangt sind, ihre Werke vollständig zu konstruieren. Daß das Genie dadurch überflüssig gemacht werde, steht nicht zu besorgen, da der Sprung vom anschaulichsten Erkennen und klaren Sehen dessen, was hervorgebracht werden soll, bis zum Vollended immer unendlich bleibt.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:28 PM
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936

This thread is evil. Trying to read it, and then trying not to read it, and then trying to read it again has basically ruined my afternoon.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:29 PM
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937

I think that there should be panty checks. I've read that some women try to sneak into philosophy departments by dressing as men.

The panty checks should be tactfully and professionally done either by gay men or straight women, but not the catty kind.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:29 PM
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938

This is, definitely, conventional wisdom. It doesn't actually reflect, at all, the gender breakdown of the people I studied with in my department, though.

Anecdata, etc.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:30 PM
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939

936: Oh don't. But if you want a quick blast of noisome, I'd hit the link in 828. I bet you haven't even used the men's room in 1879 Hall!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:33 PM
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940

Since I know everyone wants to kill this thread I'll just uncontroversially point out that it's well known that metaphysics and epistemology is a typically "male" subject, while women in philosophy are more often found in ethics and similar lower-status specialisations

This is, definitely, conventional wisdom. It doesn't actually reflect, at all, the gender breakdown of the people I studied with in my department, though

It is true as a matter of fact, though --- certainly within the Leiter sample. Things are slightly more complicated by the fact that there not that many women in full-time positions in top-tier philosophy departments to begin with. Here's a nice picture on that point.


Posted by: Kieran | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:33 PM
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941

938: are you claiming his methods are insufficiently rigorous? Mister w-lfs-n.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:33 PM
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942

Unentbehrlichste ist Ruh in allen Souterrains, alle Hunde hübsche and die Kette gelegt, und untertänige Eingeweide, fleissig wie Mühlwerke, aber fern.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:35 PM
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943

re: 928

Viva Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Bokassa Thought

re: 938

Well, yeah, obviously.

Also, if you went just by the makeup of my graduate student peer group you'd conclude all kinds of other skewed stuff. For a start, about 75% American, which wouldn't be remotely reflective of pretty much any other department in the country. Also, one year, no women at all!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:36 PM
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944

941: Perhaps it's more that they are rigorously insufficient.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:36 PM
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945

The discussion as to whether philosophy progresses is itself a philosophical question and quite a controversial one--even within analytic philosophy. Answering it, if possible, should not help in either advocating for or against analytic philosophy.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:37 PM
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946

I'm trying to figure out how to better exploit the fact that analyticphilosopher takes everything I say entirely literally; it's been a long time since anybody did that online.

As a robot living on Mars, ap, it is my considered belief that you earth humans should best be considered semi-autonomous bags of meat, and any suggestion of actual intelligent behavior is simply explained by random chemical reactions within those bags, easily misunderstood by advanced robot brains capable of seeing highly sophisticated patterns in everything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:37 PM
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947

"950 comments, folks, roughly five per cent of which have been me pointing out that the very arguable and tangential "spin-offs" from analytic philosophy into linguistics, computing, relief from aching piles etc, don't constitute progress in analytic philosophy."

And I pointed out repeatedly (a) that the "spin-offs" from analytic philosophy are neither tangential nor very arguable, and (b) that your notion of "progress in X" is not as interesting as *progress* (i.e. why do I care whether field X makes progress in what they regard as field X, as long as it adds to overall knowledge in a positive way?), and that (c) anyway, we have made tons of progress on things we regard as genuinely important philosophical questions (again, see my above discussions of the liar paradox, or see Williamson's paper for more examples).

But no amount of actual providing of examples from a field you know nothing about will sway you. So...


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:38 PM
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948

"The discussion as to whether philosophy progresses is itself a philosophical question and quite a controversial one--even within analytic philosophy. Answering it, if possible, should not help in either advocating for or against analytic philosophy."

Right. Of course. Couldn't agree more.

The only strategy is to ask for definitions of "progress" then shoot them down.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:39 PM
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949

"The discussion as to whether philosophy progresses is itself a philosophical question and quite a controversial one--even within analytic philosophy. Answering it, if possible, should not help in either advocating for or against analytic philosophy."

Right. Of course. Couldn't agree more.

The only strategy is to ask for definitions of "progress" then shoot them down.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:41 PM
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950

Only 50 comments to go! If you keep double-posting we'll be there in no time!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:42 PM
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951

semi-autonomous bags of meat

Hot!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:42 PM
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952

The only strategy is to ask for definitions of "progress" then shoot them down.

You've been providing examples of progress. When will you shoot down your own conception thereof?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:43 PM
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953

Ok, I will say something here.

Rather than defining progress either as "contributing to someone else's discipline" or as "feeling that you've made progress in your own terms" how about defining it as "actually contributing to the well-being of people or the earth in general." You may think that prevents philosophy from ever making progress, but consider the contributions of practical ethicists and environmental philosophers.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:48 PM
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954

950

That was cheating. Now we have to go to 1001.

"You've been providing examples of progress. When will you shoot down your own conception thereof?"

I don't have a conception of progress. I'm just committed to the thesis that analytic philosophy is no worse than any other field. For any example of progress someone gives in another field, I can come up with an analogous example in my field. Unless it involves toaster ovens. But I think that's cheating.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:48 PM
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955

"Rather than defining progress either as "contributing to someone else's discipline" or as "feeling that you've made progress in your own terms" how about defining it as "actually contributing to the well-being of people or the earth in general." You may think that prevents philosophy from ever making progress, but consider the contributions of practical ethicists and environmental philosophers."

That's what I was trying to suggest to Dsquared. But I don't think that prevents philosophy from making progress. First, there are the scientific consequences of philosophy. Secondly, Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason contributed to my own well-being, and the well-being of my friends. They give us pleasure to read and think about. Many people I know would be much less happy if they couldn't think about free will. So lots of philosophy even taken on its own terms contributes to well-being.

Either it's only toaster ovens, or you have to throw in poetry as well.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:51 PM
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956

I think that Rob is on (or somewhere near) the Right Track. If there is progress in philosophy it has to do with ways of coping with the world. The world presents itself as full of problems and difficulties. The goal of philosophy is to help in dealing with those problems. Sometimes there are dramatically new ways of world coping that emerge from philosophy, more frequently there aren't. Also, there is no guarantee that those ways of world coping don't present themselves with their own problems.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:55 PM
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957

But the big beef with analytic phil is that in a sense it's driven the poetry out of philosophy. Speaking as an economist, you can't just count the pleasure ap and his weirdo friends get from reading "Foundations of Arithmetic". You have to count the opportunity cost, the lost pleasure of all the people who didn't get to make a living reading Heidegger. If Frege is a more minority interest than Nietzsche, then devoting resources to exposing people to him could be a social loss even if some people enjoy him.

Live by utilitarianism, die by utilitarianism.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:55 PM
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958

.Secondly, Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason contributed to my own well-being, and the well-being of my friends. They give us pleasure to read and think about. Many people I know would be much less happy if they couldn't think about free will. So lots of philosophy even taken on its own terms contributes to well-being.

The value of philosophy is that it keeps philosophers entertained?

That's hilarious! You've just put it in the same category as backyard wrestling and Pokemon.

Also you're doing that thing where you take "analytic philosophy" to mean, variably, "all philosophy" or "the philosophy I, specifically, do" depending on which makes your particular point more plausible in the moment. But I'm sure other people can keep helping you figure out what's wrong with that idea.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:56 PM
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959

I was thinking about contributions to human well being that go beyond "hey this is fun" or "this might help scientists". As far as I'm concerned those two boil down to contributing to someone else's discipline" or as "feeling that you've made progress in your own terms"

I mean "contributing to well being" in the sense that you can actually justify a salary paid for with tax money. Under this standard, the most important progress doesn't come on questions like "what is truth" but "how do we adapt to global climate change given that there are so many incommensurable values at stake and we have to rely on theories with very different epistemological foundations?"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:56 PM
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960

933

"If you set out to solve a problem, then if you've solved it, you've made progress. If you have found a lemma toward a solution, you've made progress. If you've not, you haven't made progress ..."

In mathematics this is just wrong. If you for example set out to prove the Riemann hypothesis and along the way find a zero which is not on the critical line (ie a counterexample) you have definitely made progress. Of course you could say you really set out to decide whether the Riemann hypothesis was true or not but this sort of rephrasing can be done with any attempt to solve a problem, ie can problem X be solved using method Y. In which case proof that it can't is progress (assuming this was not already known of course).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:56 PM
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961

957 to 955.

I would say the end of the wisdom tradition in philosophy was a net loss in terms of philosophy's utility in directly helping people cope with the world.'

Of course, now we have positive psychology! :-))!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:57 PM
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962

Here's another important philosophical question: What are the basic general critical thinking skills and how to I impart them to community college students?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:58 PM
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963

Well, you must have some reason for thinking that this thing, the analog you pick out, is an instance of progress and not of going around in a circle or an irrelevancy or something, no?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:58 PM
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964

"If Frege is a more minority interest than Nietzsche, then devoting resources to exposing people to him could be a social loss even if some people enjoy him."

But Frege is surely one of Mill's *higher* pleasures!


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:58 PM
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965

Or: What are the basic elements of moral competence, and how to I impart them to my children and my students?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 3:59 PM
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966

how to I impart them to community college students?

Direct them to this thread. A fine example of how the philosophically trained use critical thinking skills.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:00 PM
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967

Or: What are the basic elements of moral competence, and how to I impart them to my children and my students?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:00 PM
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968

I'm just committed to the thesis that analytic philosophy is no worse than any other field. For any example of progress someone gives in another field, I can come up with an analogous example in my field.

Since 1950, philosophy has progressed as much as Biology? I don't think so.

I definitely think progress in different fields progresses at different rates at different times. Physics and Pharmacology are in kind of a slump now. It isn't hard to believe that philosophy isn't in a slump too.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:00 PM
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969

The value of philosophy is that it keeps philosophers entertained?

You've got to have some way to fight boredom. See H. Frankfurt, "On the Usefulness of Final Ends" and "On the Necessity of Ideals".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:01 PM
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970

But be sure to consider Millgram, "On Being Bored Out Of Your Mind".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:02 PM
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971

960

Excellent point.

957, 958, 959

Ok. No way out of going toaster oven route. Need to go with 962.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:03 PM
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972

Positive psychology is a new development. It may be a fad, or it may actually restore some of the value of the wisdom tradition in philosophy. You should at least give it credit for trying to actually make people's lives better.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:05 PM
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973

It just occurred to me how Rortian my 956 is. Oh well. Citations as they're deserved.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:06 PM
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974

972: I do. It has its goofy side, though, especially to those of us who are naturally gloomy. Buddhism and "life is suffering" has perhaps a better starting point.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:08 PM
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975

But I think we've gotten off track. Dsquared's original complaint was that philosophy hasn't made progress *even by its own lights*. I think 960's point about mathematics, together with the discussion in Williamson's *Must Do Better*, takes care of that.

Then there are questions about the overall value of philosophy, or string theory, or any abstract foundational work with the occasional practical spin-off. Those are hard. When confronted with them, I tend to find some abstract subject my interlocutor enjoys, and drawing parallels.

Who knows, maybe the problem of free will or the question of realism is in the end parallel to Pokeman. Carnap I'm sure thought so.


Posted by: analyticphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:10 PM
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976

I suggest that ogged invoke the Little League Mercy Rule (if a team scores 10 runs in a single inning, the game is automatically called) and close down this thread before it limps on to 1,000.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:11 PM
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977

Wow! I think we've crossed the Blog commenting Event Horizon. Will there be a corresponding Internet White Holes somewhere? What does ap tell us to expect?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:11 PM
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978

Ok. No way out of going toaster oven route

Oh, don't give up so soon. We can still say that philosophy is valuable for its own sake for the pleasures it brings, and distinguish between higher and lower pleasures to avoid the wrestling/pokemon/pushpin/Ayn Rand objection.

(Incidentally, I decided I liked 'beamish' best in the end.)


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:12 PM
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979

I think it would be fitting if the thread petered out on its own before 1000. It's still possible.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:14 PM
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980

Football sucks.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:16 PM
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981

Football sucks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
982

Football sucks.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
983

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
984

Football sucks.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:18 PM
horizontal rule
985

Football sucks.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:20 PM
horizontal rule
986

Football sucks.


Posted by: You're THE MAN, Benster! | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
987

Football sucks.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:21 PM
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988

Football sucks.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
989

Football sucks.


Posted by: We can still get there! | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:22 PM
horizontal rule
990

Football sucks.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
991

Football sucks.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
992

Football sucks.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
993

Football sucks.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
994

Football sucks.


Posted by: We're so close I can taste it. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
995

Football sucks.


Posted by: Fight the Power! | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:26 PM
horizontal rule
996

Football sucks.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
997

Football sucks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:28 PM
horizontal rule
998

Football sucks.


Posted by: Well, you know, Mean Gene... | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:28 PM
horizontal rule
999

Football sucks.


Posted by: whatever | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:28 PM
horizontal rule
1000

Football sucks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
1001

Football sucks.


Posted by: Was it good for you? | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
1002

Football sucks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
1003

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ninjaphilosopher | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:30 PM
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1004

Football sucks.


Posted by: YOU'RE TWISTING OUR WORDS! | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
1005

Football sucks.


Posted by: Fuck you, Ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
1006

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: Censorship sucks! | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:32 PM
horizontal rule
1007

Football sucks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:32 PM
horizontal rule
1008

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: w-lfs-n's a little bitch. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
1009

Football sucks.


Posted by: ANALYTIC FOOTBALLER | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
1010

Football sucks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
1011

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: So, how much of a comment can you actually get into the name field, anyway? | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
1012

Football sucks.


Posted by: woohoo!! | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
1013

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: If Ogged transforms the text in this post into "Football sucks", he sucks. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
1014

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: If you count up all the duplicate posts, this is the real 1000. It is. Check. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:36 PM
horizontal rule
1015

Football sucks.


Posted by: i was wondering the same thing. should i try and find out? So far so good. Yup still good | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:37 PM
horizontal rule
1016

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: If Ogged transforms the text in this post into "Football sucks", he sucks. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:38 PM
horizontal rule
1017

Football sucks.


Posted by: Little bitch, thy name is w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:38 PM
horizontal rule
1018

Football sucks.


Posted by: Are we talking about European football or American football? | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:39 PM
horizontal rule
1019

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: It's strange and beautiful on the far side of the Blog Comments Event Horizon | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:39 PM
horizontal rule
1020

Football sucks.


Posted by: If Ogged transforms the text in this post into "Actually I rather like football", he sucks. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:39 PM
horizontal rule
1021

Football sucks.


Posted by: and he didn't. wow | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
1022

Football sucks.


Posted by: I repeat myself | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
1023

Football sucks.


Posted by: If Ogged transforms the text in this post into "Actually I rather like football", he sucks. | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
1024

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:43 PM
horizontal rule
1025

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:43 PM
horizontal rule
1026

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:43 PM
horizontal rule
1027

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:44 PM
horizontal rule
1028

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
1029

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
1030

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
1031

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
1032

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:49 PM
horizontal rule
1033

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:50 PM
horizontal rule
1034

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:51 PM
horizontal rule
1035

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:53 PM
horizontal rule
1036

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
1037

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 5:16 PM
horizontal rule
1038

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 5:22 PM
horizontal rule
1039

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 5:53 PM
horizontal rule
1040

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:07 PM
horizontal rule
1041

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
1042

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:11 PM
horizontal rule
1043

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
1044

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 8:14 PM
horizontal rule
1045

Football sucks.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:29 PM
horizontal rule
1046

Actually I rather like football.


Posted by: ----- | Link to this comment | 04-30-08 10:29 PM
horizontal rule