The Weblog

Home for the heteronomous

Sunday Cavell: Strike -cracy, keep demos (4)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press).

“You don’t have to talk to everyone about everything.” (p. 197)

I’m pretty sure this was not originally intended to have a political meaning. I’ll try to give it one all the same. The problem with democracy – and, as lofty the ideal is, there clearly is a problem with democracy – isn’t that it assumes a possibility of overlapping consensus in a Rawlsian sense. The democratic problem rests entirely with its suffix: the idea that such a consensus needs to be arrived at by a public discussion involving all, resulting in external institutions exercising power in the name of the people.

Let’s unpack this.

“He (the traditional philosopher) admits as much explicitly when he says that he is, in the context of his philosophizing, using the word “see” in a special, or “stricter than ordinary” sense. He wishes to effect that reconciliation, offer that concession. And this is another way of saying that, perhaps of beginning to see why, his conclusions are “unstable”. (p. 199)

Continue reading

Advertisements

April 24, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: Strike -cracy, keep demos (4)

Sunday Cavell: Skepticism of science (3)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press).

“What experience? Well, of course, an experience or sense that one may know nothing about the real world. But what kind of an experience is that? How or when does it emerge?” (p. 140).

I wrote in the margin: ‘Nothing: so close to everything.’ There’s a sense in which the sign of the times is that we know everything. What kind of an experience is that? Being certain, so certain that no room is left for doubt, means that there’s no room left for others – at least not if these others are unlike you. This experience used to be reserved for faith but now it’s more and more associated with science. If we don’t know, it’s just because we didn’t try to know. It sounds a lot like: ‘If we don’t believe, it’s just because we didn’t try to believe.’ In the two cases skepticism is reserved for others and the prize is certainty for themselves. It is a neat and comfortably conservative split. The more nuance you put (the higher cultural or moral construct in a Carnapian sense), the easier it is dismissed. Nobody doubts objects anymore because they are established by science. If there is such a thing as minds they are of the type that can be read of by a suitably complex imaging device.

I’m as scientific as the next guy (probably a lot more scientific, in fact) but I won’t have it. Shit ain’t simple, mathematics is. It’s not because something is hard to understand that it is complex Neither vice versa: it is not because something is everyday common sense that it is simple to get to the bottom of.

Meet philosophy.

Continue reading

March 28, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: Skepticism of science (3)

Sunday Cavell: some things are false, nothing is true (2)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press)

“(..) while the presence of symptoms (concomitants) of X can make it almost certain that X is present, the presence of a criterion of X necessarily makes it almost certain that X is present. The sense that “certainty” must be hedged, that the knowledge of reality provided, contingently or necessarily, can only be “almost” certain, is forced under the pressure of the question: But isn’t it possible that, given all the symptoms and criteria you like, the man may not in fact, then and there, be feeling pain? To which the answer seems, irresistibly, to be: Yes.” (p.39)

The brute fact of uncertainty may well be the perennial elephant in the philosophy room. I think Cavell can be read as nibbling away simultaneously at the thinking that establishes certainties and its skeptical counterpart of the certainty of our humanity as an anomaly. His sympathy for the skeptical position clearly aligns with the feeling that philosophy that deals in certainties is profoundly false and profoundly dangerous (specifically because this certainty is like sugar – or nicotine, or worse – for us human beings who cope so well with uncertainty that no computer even comes close but who, at the same time, need hooks and handles and, sometimes, a little peace of mind). Somehow the right position is somewhere in the middle – neither duck nor rabbit – but that truth, in a word, simply scares us.

As natural as it comes to us to deal with uncertainty in everyday life, as widespread is our hatred for theoretically dealing with probability, uncertainty and indeterminacy – with the scare word ‘statistics’. It was just when Hume started the empirical tradition that Bayes as well as some French mathematicians started to explore probability in a theoretical way. No amount of mathematical sophistication should fool us into forgetting how very recent this exploration is. A couple of centuries really is nothing in digesting break-through ideas to a point where we, as a culture, can integrate them in our form of life (Weltanschauung). I’m going to read this part of Cavell as interpreting Wittgenstein as coping with the brute fact of uncertainty so alien to philosophy as a clean, dehumanized, deductive framework.

Continue reading

March 6, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sunday Cavell: criteria are ours (1)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press.

A measure of the quality of a new text is the quality of the texts it arouses. (p. 5)

I really don’t know where this is going. Nowhere, probably, but that’s not a bad thing. The really bad thing is this typically modern feeling that things need to go somewhere; where the somewhere is both sufficiently vague to gather a following, and sufficiently specific to trust a leader to go there. I’m sure the quality of this text is in itself not a measure of that of Cavell. This text is probably a dead end. Still, it was aroused – took as its starting point – the text of Cavell and a text is alive only insofar it invites to be interpreted rather than to be preached.

This is a Gadamerian point to make and that’s no coincidence.

The case is rather that, as I wish to put it, both statements of fact and judgments of value rest upon the same capacities of human nature; that, so to speak, only a creature that can judge of value can state a fact. (p. 15)

It’s not that science perverted us but that we have perverted science. We have imported, in these modern days, into science the certainties that, of old, came with the power of God. If we look at it this way, what we achieved is just a metamorphosis: one more effective at the expense of beauty. One of the great points Cavell makes, I think, is that the inspiration of ordinary language philosophy is to look at what we all say; to look at the inner logic – let us say, with Wittgenstein: grammar – of humanity as a talkative animal.

Let’s see how that, inherently, bridges not only philosophical traditions but, significantly, the two-faced nature of modern man (top down ‘reason’ and bottom-up ‘passion’).

Continue reading

February 28, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: criteria are ours (1)

Sunday Cavell: The Claim of Reason (0)

“But I have made no effort to sophisticate my early, tentative, amateur efforts to link the English and the Continental traditions, because I want them to show that to realign these traditions, after their long mutual shunning, at any rate to write witnessing the loss in that separation, has been a formative aspiration of mine from the earliest of the work I refer to here. It remains an aspiration to define and to date a place of its overcoming.” Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason, Oxford University Press 1979, p. xvii.

The least remarkable element of this quote, and why I started reading this book, is that it refers to the classical traditions. The most remarkable element of the quote, and why I will finish this book and write about it, is the emphasis on a charitable reading of other texts. I personally believe that it is that charity (of reading, of listening rather than the shortcut to charity which consists in giving money, time etc.) which has the potential to overcome all the man-made divisions which are the source of the need for the second, material, kind of charity.

A charitable reception of the other’s point of view is the basis of constructing a better – hence more shared – understanding. It simultaneously provides the motivation to share – hence improve – material stuff on beforehand instead of patching the inequality divide in a post-factum way. There will be less heroes this way but the amount of heroes a society generates is inversely proportional to the inherent charity in that society. That alone is the clearest of signs that our present society isn’t doing well. It needs heroes and it makes any other person feel average.

Feeling average is inhuman. In reading Cavell (and writing about it) it’s that very feeling of insignificance that is, in my humble opinion, deconstructed via scrutinizing the tyranny of points of view which are deemed (more, sufficiently, absolutely ) significant.

In this series of posts I will read Cavell’s “The Claim of Reason” and report on my reading. I invite you to read (with) me and contribute, as I will, your own peculiar points of view. I’ll start with some tentative, amateur observations of my own

Continue reading

February 21, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: The Claim of Reason (0)

Tuesday Quought: “0. Worüber man spricht, schweigt man nicht.”

“7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (p. 89), Routledge Classics, 1961.

Allow me to have some innocent fun by messing up a popular quote. I attended a three-hour lecture on ‘Satz 7’ a week or so ago. The only thing I could keep on thinking was why not the other way around? – it is highly probable, by the way, that this is the side effect of an overdose of Musil ‘look for the opposite’-irony. It’s also of some value to add here that it is difficult to keep focused on what basically is just one sentence – no matter how valiant the effort is on the part of the lecturer to uncover layers and layers of deeper meaning in it.

Anyway, somewhere halfway the above ‘Satz 0’ (please try to pronounce in German) had lodged itself in my brain. It has been there ever since. I tried to Google it to find one million people who came to the same sentence and found none. So I couldn’t remove ‘Satz 0’ because of lack of originality (you might argue that not every sentence once thought is on the internet but you really shouldn’t think so blasphemous a thought).

I struggled a couple of days more. I wanted to believe that ‘Satz 0’ was at least trivial, if not just obviously grammatically incorrect. I did not succeed in convincing me of either. ‘Satz 0’ was so damned sticky that I even numbered it and slowly realized it was absolutely cool to imagine it pronounced in German.

So what is the matter with ‘Satz 0’? Let me tell ya, below the fold. Continue reading

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tuesday Quought: “0. Worüber man spricht, schweigt man nicht.”