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Nihil Unbound

17 Mar 2021 10:24 - 01 Jan 2022 07:48

    • Notes on the book by Ray Brassier
    • The term ‘nihilism’ has a hackneyed quality. Too much has been written on the topic, and any sense of urgency that the word might once have communicated has been dulled by overexposure. The result is a vocable tainted by dreary over-familiarity and nebulous indeterminacy. Nevertheless, few other topics of philosophical debate exert such an immediate grip on people with little or no interest in the problems of philosophy
    • Wilfred Sellars, the "manifest image" of man vs scientific image
      • The myth of Jones: thought as introjected language
      • The nub of Jones’s theory consists in establishing a relation between persons and the propositions which encapsulate their internal thought episodes: Jones teaches his peers to explain behaviour by attributing propositional attitudes to persons via the ‘that’ clauses in statements of the form: ‘He believes that ...’, ‘She desires that ...’, ‘He intends that ...'.
      • The philosophical moral to this Sellarsian fable consists in Jones’s philosophically minded descendants coming to realize that the propositional attitudes stand to one another in complex logical relations of entailment, implication, and inferential dependency
      • But what is the ontological status of these psychological entities? It is striking to note that though Sellars himself attributes a functional role to them, this is precisely in order to leave the question of their ontological status open.
    • Thus, the manifest image does not so much catalogue a set of indispensable ontological items which we should strive to preserve from scientific reduction; rather, it indexes the community of rational agents. In this regard, the primary component of the manifest image, Sellars suggests, is the notion of persons as loci of intentional agency.
    • What is indispensable about our manifest self-image, Sellars concludes, is not its ontological commitments, in the sense of what it says exists in the world, but rather its normative valence as the framework which allows us to make sense of ourselves as rational agents engaged in pursuing various purposes in the world. Without it, we would simply not know what to do or how to make sense of ourselves...
      • Yeah OK kind of obvious
    • The Disenchantment of the world deserves to be celebrated as an achievement of intellectual maturity, not bewailed as a debilitating impoverishment.
    • Accordingly, Sellars, echoing Kant, concludes that we have no option but to insist that the manifest image enjoys a practical, if not theoretical, priority over the scientific image, since it provides the source for the norm of rational purposiveness, which we cannot do without.
    • However, it is important to note that the very terms in which Sellars formulated his hoped for synthesis between the manifest and scientific images continue to assume the incorrigibility of the characterization of rational purposiveness concomitant with the Jonesean theory of agency.
      • I can't even parse that
    • Paul Churchland was a student of Sellars
    • Where Sellars believed stereoscopic integration of the two images could be achieved by wedding the mechanistic discourse of causation to the rational language of intention, Churchland proposes to supplant the latter altogether...
    • A discussion of Churchland's Eliminative Materialism. This is starting to get on my nerves; for Minskyish reasons. If you aren't elbows-deep in computation you basically are blind in these discussions, and philosophers are blind (I imagine that there might be some eyes in younger generations). A computer is precisely a device that integrates physical causality and "rationality" (in the sense of semantic implication).
    • In this regard, Dennett’s penetrating critique of some of the more extravagant superstitions entailed by philosophers’ ‘qualiaphilia’ chimes with Derrida’s critique of Husserl: the notion of an absolutely transparent but non-relational phenomenal appearance is incoherent much for the same reason as the idea of consciousness as locus of absolute self-presence is incoherent.
    • Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment. Hoo boy.
    • But everything hinges on the manner in which mimicry, mimesis, and sacrifice are dialectically entwined. More precisely put, the book’s speculative coherence depends on the feasibility of maintaining a rigid demarcation between mimicry and mimesis, sacrificial repression and enlightened sublimation. If organic mimicry reduces to adaptation, then it falls under the aegis of identity, and anthropological mimesis can be confidently contrasted to it as a harbinger of non-identity: correspondence without a concept
      • OK that made absolutely no sense to me
    • More importantly, mimetic sacrifice establishes the fundamental distinction whose rationality Adorno and Horkheimer believe enlightenment is in the process of eliding: the distinction between animate and inanimate: ‘mana, the moving spirit, is not a projection but the preponderance of nature in the weak psyches of primitive peoples. The split between animate and inanimate, the assigning of demons and deities to certain specific places arises from this pre-animism. Even the division of subject and object is prefigured in it’ (Adorno and Horkheimer 2002: 11).
      • Sound relevant if cryptic
    • The permanence of the ego is secured against the flux of fleeting impressions through the teleological subordination of present satisfaction to future purpose: thus, ‘[t]he ego [...] owes its existence to the sacrifice of the present moment to the future. [But] its substance is as illusory as the immortality of the slaughtered victim’ (Adorno and Horkheimer 2002: 41). But where sacrifice had previously served as a means for mastering external nature, it now becomes introjected as the suppression of the power of internal nature.