Tuesday’s Sunday cat pix
Sunday cat pix
Hume is probably dead too. But the more I think about it, the less likely it seems…
Jacques Derrida, the famous French philosopher, is ‘dead’ (↓1). But as there is no straightforward, one-to-one relationship between the signifier (‘dead’) and the thing signified (the termination or otherwise of the actual person, M. Derrida), we cannot be entirely sure what has happened. We are faced instead with an endless multiplicity of truths, a string of infinite possibilities.
(There’s more, but anyone who has read Derrida on language can write the rest themselves.)
OK. Fair enough. Here are two more:
I don’t know how to tell you this, but Donald Davidson died last year. I don’t know how to tell you because according to Davidson, there’s no such thing as language.
My native informants tell me that a collection of undetached Quine parts passed away today. Or maybe it was a momentary Quine stage. Then again, they might have been saying something about Gödel numbers.
The bêtise here, or should I call it antiphilosophical philistinism, is this. It doesn’t take lengthy reflection or abstruse theory to become convinced that explaining how language hooks up to things is not going to be easy. Indeed it may seem so difficult as to induce doubt that the relation can be explained. Reference is inscrutable, meanings undecidable, language itself a myth. Any philosopher who reaches such conclusions can, of course, be mocked, and sturdy common sense thereby vindicated. —Why hello, Dr. Johnson, how’s your foot?
Is Derrida a philosopher? (Part II)
WARNING. This post is long. It concludes that Derrida is not ridiculous and that some of his work is not crap. If you believe a priori that no argument with that conclusion can be sound, skip this. Read something else.
Usage would have it that both Diogenes and David Lewis are philosophers. That already implies a job description of Mississippian breadth. Some people have proposed that we can and should use only a nominal definition: a philosopher is whoever has been called one. But sometimes we want or need to decide who is worth hiring, worth reading, worth citing. It won’t help then merely to know who has been called a philosopher. That list will almost certainly include people you’d reject out of hand. Even apart from practice, you may treat the term as having honorific or value-conferring connotations: only some people who are called philosophers actually deserve the title; bestowing it on those who don’t degrades it, & must be resisted. In either case, reasoned decisions require reasoned distinctions.
All that is elementary. Now to cases. Brian Leiter contrasts Habermas and Derrida on the basis of extracts from interviews in which each of them responds to questions about terrorism and about the World Trade Center attacks in particular (↓1).
Monday’s Sunday cat pix
Musa & Josie briefly at rest.
The infinite ante (Derrida again)
A comment on Derrida by Timothy Burke hits on one point that has long bothered me in Derrida’s methods of argument. Of the two components of “the interior absolutism of Derrida’’s critical method”, one is
the cry of all or nothing at all, that if communication could not be perfected, then there was no communication, if texts could not have a correct meaning, they meant everything, anything, nothing in particular. This is the rear-guard modernism of Derrida […] If meaning cannot be guaranteed with finality, then there is no use to talking about it at all. If interpretation cannot be absolute, it cannot be done save as a negation of all positive acts of interpretation.
I had the anticipation of a similar thought when I heard Derrida speak on “the gift” (material now included in Donner le temps). After a lengthy treatment of Mauss, Derrida concluded that “the gift is impossible” because the circuit of exchange can never quite be broken in actual instances of giving; yet the pure concept of “gift” (or the concept of a “pure gift”) imposes upon the act of putting something in the possession of another the requirement that there should be no possibility of exchange, of a gift in return. One might take that to be a kind of reductio of the concept of a pure gift. Derrida did not.
Sunday cat pix
HS up close; Musa has a stretch.
The infinite Auntie
Fodor goes after intuitions (London Review of Books 26.20 (21 Oct 2004), via Experimental Philosophy).
I’ve never been good at intuitions. Even when I have them, I don’t place much stock in them. Why should my intuition that Jim or Jane does or doesn’t know the fake barn is a barn deserve respectful consideration, and publication perhaps in a peer-reviewed journal, while my intuition that table sponges are to be strictly segregated from floor sponges probably doesn't deserve to be mentioned even here, let alone used in polite controversy? The first is an intuition, the second is only a belief, a superstition, a residue of my mother’s kitchen-lore. Or so I gather.
Why some dispositions get promoted to the status of providing evidence in philosophical argument, and others do not, is beyond me. This is not for lack of thinking about the matter. But at the moment I can’t do more than express malaise. And commend Fodor.
Addendum: For a defense of the use of intuitions in analytic philosophy, see L. J. COHEN, The dialogue of reason: an analysis of analytical philosophy (Oxford, 1986). Find it at ABEBooks, Powell’s, or Amazon. See also Ernest Sosa, “A defense of intuitions” (an answer to some arguments of Stich against justification by appeal to “reflective equilibrium”).
Wednesday as I’m getting ready to leave I notice that the keys aren’t in the door. I look for them in the usual nearby places. There they aren’t. It occurs to me that I have been known to leave them hanging on the outside of the door. I look: aha keys. But since they’re outside, or so I say to myself, I still must find another key to open the door and retrieve them.
So I start looking again, cursing whoever removed the extras from the vase they’d been sitting in for six months (unless I removed them). Finally it dawns on me that if my keys are outside, and there are no others, then the door is not locked. Sheepishly (if it’s possible to be sheepish when alone) I pull the door open and grab them.
Sometimes I’m inclined to agree with those who call the mind a “drunken monkey”. Of all things we know, or think we ought to know, the mind best of all; and yet much of our mental discourse just happens, as events “outside” the mind just happen—events we neither control nor regard ourselves as being in any special position to know. Importance and availability make for fascination; opacity in the determination of thoughts makes for mystery. A mystery independent of “hard questions” and “explanatory gaps”, though perhaps referable to them. (It’s independent because even a dualist of the Cartesian sort might believe, as Malebranche did, that the nature of the mind is not known to us.)
Sunday cat pix
It is Sunday, after all.