On philosophy

February 25, 2014

In the 50s certain questions were asked but never answered.
Today new questions are asked but never answered.

Philosophy books usually begin with a good title and it's downhill from there.
I get no insight on truth by reading a philosophy book called Truth.
A book called Knowledge and Understanding is almost never about our knowledge and our understanding.
It is usually arguments over some other person's theory of knowledge, often based on a trivial instance of truth, like "The cat in on the mat."

To stop using the vague philosophical words, like Logical Positivism asks us to do, would be like taking a vow of silence.
We would be reduced to gestures.

Why do we need answers to big questions?
Well, that's a big question.
Do we seek answers as a Pavlovian response to the high pleasure of understanding/comprehension, of the world fitting together, free of the pain of being confused and having to puzzling things out.

I am a philosopher: an expert on things we do not know.

Existentialists tell us: life is a predicament. If that is true, what kind of fucked up animal are we?

Consign it to the flames?
No, consign it to the structuralists.

Everything we say is what we "are inclined to say."

Our partial tattered visions are enough.
We don't need to understand the world;
we just need to have something to say.

When we speak about the virtuality of the world and the disappearance of "the real," this too is a kind of end-of-the-world thinking.

Philosophy is now a battle is between schools of thought, not people as much as names: nominalism, realism, contingentist, epistemic contextualism

It's not that the theories about emotivism, nominalism and realism are right or wrong.
It is that putting our thinkings into simple (or elaborate) models is wrong.
It is not clear and not to be taken for granted that a theory underlies the problems.

When you are talking about say sports or games, you know your generalizations are bullshit, but when you talk about your experiences, or your qualia, in a way you are talking about nothing at all. You are talking about a model.
[What is a model?]

The model (realism and idealism) implies that beneath reality there always like a model.
This is probably not true.

Replace Knowledge by Humans
Replace Mind by Wired for Tribality
Replace Free Will by Why we Want to Do What We want to do
Replace The self by Ignorance centerless self
Replace God by The religious impulse
Replace Reasoning by Here is how we actually think
Replace The World by Here is how we see the world
Replace What to Do by What to do — some suggestions

There is no method but honesty.

A useful and philosophical phrase:
"I must have mis-seen it."

Profound confusion, of the kind we get from philosophy, is not wisdom.

Having philosophers answer the big vague questions Is like having mental institutions fix people with mental disabilities, prisons reform our delinquents or school teach the disaffected students.

In the early maps of the West, no one really knew what was there between the coasts, so cartographers simply drew in mountains, rivers and lakes. Later cartographers carried on many of these features.
Philosophy is like that. When we ask what philosophers have thought about the soul, we are comparing the different shades of the mountains as drawn up by different cartographers on the different early maps. [This is an important metaphor.]

It is impossible to construct an understanding of the world from the concepts traditionally used in philosophy. They are like a bad scrabble hand. Even after 2500 years, one can't do much with them.

The moral of solipsism is not that others do not exist but that we make them up.

The genuine mind/body problem: We are an animal but we think we are a mind/self/individual/ accidentally trapped in a body.

The genuine problem of others: who are these people who live in the world who do not think like me. Wy do they seem like they do not exist.

The genuine problem free will: what am I free to do? Why do I have a sneaking suspicion I am not in control?

"What is the world like?" This is not a good question. At best it is a bad question.

What are the world's greatest feats of phenomenology?

What am I talking about when I talk about the universe? Precisely nothing There is no such thing as the universe Just a catch-all thing. At least nothing we can understand We don't have words about it because words are not intended for these large things. When we talk about the world there is no reason to think we are talking about anything more than our radical simplification of our world. In many cases that is fine.

Linguistic philosophy induces a kind of reverse mysticism. You cannot hallucinate whatever you want, but you can de-objectify what you think you know.

The basic tenets of OLP are:
words have a use
their use is highly complex
we don't understand how we use ordinary language
whenever words are used outside of these, it is not clear that words have a meaning
there is no "essentialism"

There was so little of OLP spade-work.
The field-work was just a blip on the philosophical radar, much like the field work in phenomenology.

Perhaps the world cannot be put into words — O.K., but we still live in simple scenarios, though not simply.

What did we not learn from Wittgenstein?
(1) To stop asking certain questions, or at least hesitate, listen to yourself, and examine them
(2) To see the complexity, the language game, not the question.
(3) What to do after it gets off the ground?

We need a new nose for wrong directions.

If my theory of consciousness is correct, phenomenology must fail.


Let us say we see an incredible sport play or an feat of juggling. A philosopher, before he wants to talk about that incredible event, wants to bounce a ball up and down and ask how that works. Can we say this ball is round? What is a ball? In this way academic philosophy abandons anything interesting about the world.

Why don't academic philosophers agree with each other? They all claim to be adherents to reason?

The aim of a philosophy book is to make you think you understand something profound.

You cannot mash Wittgenstein with Heidegger, any more than you can mash classical with folk music.

Is it easier to understand Heidegger (or Wittgenstein) or to understand the world?

Before you tell me what is wrong about a philosopher, tell me what is right about that philosopher.

Philosophy is like a Supreme Court that will hear the case but never issues a decision.

To start in talking philosophy about life, universe, god, or emotions is as vague and unsatisfying as telling you about my vacation in Italy

Shouldn't writing a philosophy book be easy?
Don't we all live in the same world?
Shouldn't we have it figured out by now?

I expect philosophy to provide a nuanced, intelligible overview of the world, that takes into account its maddening irrationality.

It is far from clear that a proper understanding of the world will yield to precision, logic, and clear categories.

Do you want your philosophy with or without proof?

I have a question: what is a question?

Philosophical knowing is a creation that fits the fact, works for you and has room for other people.
It may not be unique, more like the variety of parks you could create out of the same lovely plot of land.

Some part of philosophy is co-thinking. Asking the next question, the right question. A good philosopher does that by himself.

Picture a universe we know all the facts. What will we still not understand?

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