Monthly Archives: December 2012

Humanity’s Relation to Nature: Hawthorne, Rappaccini and Blithedale

In his The Blithedale Romance and Rappaccini’s Daughter, Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates elements of an enduring clash between humanity and Nature, and humanity’s attempt to find an equilibrium point in its relation to the natural world.  Though they take different forms, and even their primary subjects are quite different, there is a sense in which they can be viewed as two parts of a larger story; and the two parts may be viewed as having some amount of overlap, as well.  For those who have not read The Blithedale Romance, the story is a very warm tale that ends grimly, postulating that communal living in close quarters to Nature is the aforementioned equilibrium point, and equally expostulating humanity’s inability to recognize and facilitate this fact. Continue reading

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Filed under Literature, Natural Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science

Reasons to Be Excited about Immanuel Kant, Or, Why Should I read Kant?

“Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

–Immanuel Kant

There is one thinker that is, in my opinion, far and away, the greatest thinker of all-time —and I mean it isn’t even close: Immanuel Kant.  He improved Newton’s physics by coming up with the modern idea of inertia (and Newton’s physics, still using Aegilus Romanus’ vis inertiae, was a bit of a mess); the idea that there are other galaxies (“island universes”); a metaphysical foundation for Newton’s physics; in a way, resolved the outstanding epistemological debate between the empiricists (Bacon, Hume, Locke, and so on) and the rationalists (Descartes, Berkeley, Leibniz, and so on), giving a framework illustrating that there was another, more attractive option; created the synthetic-analytic distinction that permitted mathematics and morality a completely new classification over and beyond the mere a prior and a posteriori, namely the synthetic a priori; created (as far as I know) the only rationalistic absolute system of morality; provided the modern foundation for cognitive science; and developing some loose rules of thumb for the predication of attributes in logic (resolving the Anselm’s Argument debate in definitive fashion…see below), among many other things.  The Critique of Pure Reason is Kant’s most important work, and I think it is the single most important piece of scholarship ever composed; so I recommend starting there.  The general consensus is that first Critique is difficult to understand, but a decent piece of secondary literature and Pluhar’s translation should be enough to understand the major points of the work.  (Pluhar’s translation sacrifices some accuracy, but this should be of little matter to general readership.) Continue reading

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Filed under Kantian Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Pure Philosophy

Flat Ontology and the Onto-epistemic Stance

I have been working on an idea for a seminar, entitled “Unity of Science,” which involves collapsing epistemology and ontology into one branch of philosophy.  The paper is called, “Abstraction as Dissection of a Flat “Ontology”: The Illusiveness of Levels” (click this sentence to view paper).  One of the motivations for doing this is that I think pragmatism and theory-ladenness call for it; and the two notions, themselves, seem to be naturally married by van Fraassen’s pragmatics of explanation —not to mention having been sort of suggested by Peirce.  I say “sort of” because theory-ladenness hadn’t been thought of, back then. Continue reading

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The False Dichotomy of Theism/Deism and Atheism in Meillassoux’s “Spectral Dilemma”

One of the salient features of ideas I like to discuss is originality.  That is an attribute that I see in much of Meillassoux’s work, the primary reason for my continued fascination with him.  The idea discussed below is no different.  One item that I have to get out of the way before continuing is that the following post has to do with religion, and I have said in the past that I will not touch on religion or politics because of the degree to which humanity has turned them into ideological battlegrounds.  Therefore, in proceeding, one should be reminded of my epistemological stance (click here), before getting upset about anything I write.  It should also be noted that some understanding of virtuality (non-static ontology) is necessary to understand this blog post, so clicking here will provide the necessary primer.  Continue reading

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Filed under Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Pure Philosophy

Comparing the Great Books of the Western World to the Harvard Classics (Part IV): Why Read the Harvard Classics or the Great Books of the Western World?

Please excuse mid-post rant.  If you disagree with my opinion, you will just have to forgive me, and let me my opinion.

Some of the search engine results that end up leading folks to my GBWW vs. HC series are “why should I read the harvard classics” and “why should I read the great books of the western world.”  Since there seems to be considerable demand for an answer to these questions, I figured I would take the time to give my two cents.  I will start with the Harvard Classics (HC).  Continue reading

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Filed under Great Books and Harvard Classics Series, Literature

Latour and Meillassoux: What Latour Told Me

Okay, so I have falsely advertised: I can’t actually say what Bruno Latour said in his e-mail to me, because he asked that it stay private.  I am incredibly grateful for his response, and I respect his request and his reasons for the request; so I will comply.  However, I assume the meta-information, such as what my initial email asked, is okay to discuss, as are those things that I thought before the email.  I will say —again, this is meta-information— that what he said surprised and even shocked me, so let me get right to what I asked him.  Continue reading

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Film, Metaphysics, and a Prolegomenon to Understanding Explanation: Thoughts on Temporal Chronology, Causation, and Order in the World

When I was a kid, way back when The Lion King came out, I experienced quite a bit of confusion the first time I watched the film.  I must have been eleven years old or so, and I have always been bad at making assumptions that the vast majority of humans of normal cognitive levels of function tend to make; so I missed something that everyone else seemed to understand.  As the move arrived at its final scene, I wondered, “Why, this can’t be!  Scar is dead.  Continue reading

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