• Welkin Rogue
    80
    Christoph Schuringa argues that analytic philosophy has been shaped by the post-war American red scare:
    https://jacobin.com/2023/01/analytic-philosophy-mccarthyism-postwar-communism?fbclid=IwAR0Aq9wI6Hf7w8Abv4N4KqBTBzRjCJnhqEjfMBEYC-bu9XCxHT6XKALFWqg

    First of all, so far as the argument in this article goes, I don't think we've been given a reason to think analytic philosophy is bad, any more than the legacy of racial discrimination gives us a reason to think the white candidate in a job interview is bad. But I worry that people will take it that we have been given such a reason (via a lazy guilt by association move).

    But even so, the situation might call for something analogous to affirmative action - e.g., publication and hiring quotas or guidelines designed to promote genuine intellectual diversity. Note that such policies don't necessarily imply a substantive criticism of analytic philosophy, so you don't have to be defensive on that score.

    I say 'might' because I'm not sure how much it is needed. My impression is that the way to career success in academia is shooting down orthodoxy and coming up with novel ideas, so I'm surprised this is really a problem. Maybe deeper layers of orthodoxy are protected somehow? But rational choice theory, liberal political philosophy, game theory, methodological individualism, etc. are by no means immune from criticism! Perhaps we just need to boost critics and alternatives? More critical race theorists and feminists? It seems like those things are hot topics (look at the research interests of faculty at prestigious universities)...

    So I'm open to the idea of appropriate regulation of 'the marketplace of ideas' (since it is already 'regulated' by power relations of some description - even if that's the organic inertia that sets in from biased initial conditions) but not sure it is in fact needed. I'm open to empirical persuasion there.

    What I'm less open to is talk of 'subverting and closing down' the marketplace that is aired at the end. I find such talk ominous, insofar as I even understand what it means. (What does it mean?) Surely the best solution to a biased marketplace is not to simply close it down.

    Do you agree? Or am I missing something in this line of criticism?
  • BC
    11.5k
    My impression is that the way to career success in academia is shooting down orthodoxy and coming up with novel ideasWelkin Rogue

    [I'm not an academic] but my impression is that your description of academia is at least somewhat on target. It's not hard to find an orthodoxy that is flawed; the trouble is coming up with a novel replacement that isn't just as flawed, or worse. Too much of this and we end up with unintelligible (and perhaps just plain loopy) theories in history, literature, social science, philosophy, et al.

    Which Red Scare are we talking about? I ask, because it seems like analytic philosophy has been a going concern for most of the 20th century, during which there were two Red Scares -- the first following WWI and the Russian Revolution; the second following WWII. In both cases, the US emerged with an enhanced dominant role in the world. The capitalists were strong, confident, and ready to suppress political deviance, whether in the factory workplace (1919) or the cultural workplace (1949).

    Maybe academic philosophers weren't much affected by the Red Scare of 1919. They would have been affected if they had been paying attention. The 1949 (McCarthy) Red Scare was 'scarier' for academic, cultural, and government employees. In '49 it wasn't the union organizers that were getting busted, it was white collar political and sexual deviants. Your basic Hollywood writer, State Department employee, pr commie pinko fag in the Philosophy Department. (I am, btw, a commie pinko fag).

    I haven't read a lot of history about what longer-term effects the '49 Red Scare had on academia. At first there was a definite liberal chill, but then..., say by 1969 or 1979, what?

    The best model for the market place of ideas is unfettered free trade. No quotas, no diversity programs, no affirmative hiring. Mao Tse-Tung said, "Let a thousand flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend". Seems like a good idea for Academia, but as in China, eventually the management will have had enough odd flowers and weird schools, and the brakes will be applied.

    Are you in Academia?
  • NOS4A2
    6.5k


    I’m not sure any sort of affirmative action is needed. The surest way to corrupt the youth with Communism would be for the government to outlaw it, and McCarthyism served that effect. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx appears more in university syllabi than any analytic works. Had McCarthy and his ilk left it all alone we might have been rid of it long ago.
  • Alkis Piskas
    1.4k

    I just had a look at the link you offered regarding "analytic philosophy".
    I had to go through a lot of historical data as well as a lot of "ims" --McCarthyism, baptism, fascism, communism, etc.-- in order to find something more concrete, a description of "analytic philosophy", how it works, etc. And I finally found the following example:

    (1) Professor X is a Communist.
    (2) A Communist has no respect for freedom of inquiry or for objectivity in teaching; to put it positively, he indoctrinates for the party line and the Soviet dictatorship.
    Therefore (3) X is not fit to be a professor.


    What is the particularity that classifies the above logical sceme as a special kind of logic, called "analytic logic", which I still have not found what exactly is?

    If we switch (1) with (2), which doesn't change essentially anything, we have an example of deductive logic, i.e. going from general to speciic.

    Is there really something more to "analytic logic"?
    (This is not a rhetoric question. It's an actual one! :smile:)
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Or am I missing something in this line of criticism?Welkin Rogue

    Unless I am missing something I did not read the article as a call to action. It is descriptive and critical rather than prescriptive. The central criticism is of:

    ... the classical liberal idea of the autonomous rational individual as the fundamental unit of society.

    Schuringa rejects analytic philosophy's self-understanding as being above history and politics, and that it operates in an imagined free marketplace of ideas.

    It is the insights of those who do not operate freely within this marketplace that he points to. Those who recognize that:

    ... relations of power structure the marketplace before anyone has even entered it.

    The result of attempts to accommodate diversity within the marketplace is that it:

    spew these insights back out in a strangely deformed shape

    What does it mean for those thinkers to "subvert and close down this marketplace"? As long as the assumption that there is a free marketplace of ideas is not called into question a call for affirmative action will only yield strangely deformed products of rather than real alternatives to the marketplace.

    I think one question that must be asked is: where is the marketplace of ideas to be found? Will it remain primarily in academia or will media sources become increasingly influential? Will anti-liberal political and economic forced increasingly shape both academia and media?
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    I haven't read a lot of history about what longer-term effects the '49 Red Scare had on academia. At first there was a definite liberal chill, but then..., say by 1969 or 1979, what?BC

    Schuringa's article is talking about the '49 Red Scare and the whole cultural milieu associated with it, and argues that it had long-lasting effects. He argues that it became hard to succeed if you were perceived as not being on 'team America' or hospitable to its orthodoxies.

    The immediate post-war/Cold War period was the forge in which what we have come to understand as analytic philosophy was cast, and that even once its fire cooled, its whole monolithic structure had hardened.

    How this happened is not spelled out, but it's not hard to imagine. This kind of cultural inertia is common and familiar. E.g., when all the prestigious people left have a certain viewpoint, their ideas will set the terms and content of academic debate, they will have influence on who is hired, what is taken seriously or is regarded as interesting, and so on.

    The best model for the market place of ideas is unfettered free trade. No quotas, no diversity programs, no affirmative hiring. Mao Tse-Tung said, "Let a thousand flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend". Seems like a good idea for Academia, but as in China, eventually the management will have had enough odd flowers and weird schools, and the brakes will be applied.BC

    But as with free trade, late-comers, or those who have been historically set back (e.g., by war, or in this case a purge), may not be able to develop the capital to compete in the most profitable sectors without some level of protection.

    I'm on the low rungs of academic philosophy and I can say that I have encountered some level of (quasi-explicit) pressure not to be too 'radical'. E.g., eye rolls when suggesting Marx in talks over the design of a political phil curriculum. But see, it wasn't like 'Marxism is stupid and we don't need to discuss it', it was more like 'this is analytic philosophy and Marx stuff is often convoluted continental-ish and doesn't fit into the other debates we're looking at nicely'... Analytic marxists like Cohen did a good job of trying to fit it into the analytic tradition so it started to get more attention, but there's still that reservation. And I can't help seeing a bit of a cultural cringe among some in the 'old guard'.
  • Banno
    19.9k
    So the argument is that analytic philosophy in 'merica may well be consistent, but is also incomplete.

    Sure. The danger of course is making it inconsistent in order to make it complete.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80


    I don't think analytic philosophy should be the sort of thing that can be consistent or complete. It is not a thesis...
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    Is there really something more to "analytic logic"?
    (This is not a rhetoric question. It's an actual one! :smile:)
    Alkis Piskas

    Well, according to the article it's not about a unique system of logic but a way of doing philosophy that isn't focused on social action, believes in the marketplace of ideas idea, rational choice theory, liberalism, etc. Stuff that fits with American liberal-democratic capitalism.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    As long as the assumption that there is a free marketplace of ideas is not called into question a call for affirmative action will only yield strangely deformed products of rather than real alternatives to the marketplace.Fooloso4

    Yeah what does that mean though? I didn't get that. It's presented as a bad thing that feminism is regarded as a move in an ongoing debate. But surely that is the way to treat it, rather than as some privileged insight, some Truth, that comes from a transcendent realm.

    Edit: Maybe that's a little too quick. Maybe the complaint is that there isn't sufficient space to critique the terms of debate, in some sense. I don't think that's entirely right, but I don't think it's entirely crazy either. People get invested in the terms of a debate, and will resent those who want to start a new game or say their game is unimportant, silly or based on mistaken assumptions. Perhaps as a defensive move they try to integrate the criticism into the current game, rather than take it as a proposal to start a new one. Insofar as this is achieved, it loses its force and fails in its aim. If so, then the complaint is justified. But I also think the very act of proposing a new game is a 'move' that should be part of an ongoing debate, and that there is space for this kind of thing. It's just not what everyone is interested in engaging in, and so you may get a few disgruntled coughs and eye-rolls in the seminar room where the old game is being played. What really needs working out is what 'the terms of debate' and 'game' amount to.

    I think one question that must be asked is: where is the marketplace of ideas to be found? Will it remain primarily in academia or will media sources become increasingly influential? Will anti-liberal political and economic forced increasingly shape both academia and media?

    I think academia is still one place where it is found in pretty good (not perfect) shape. At least in my experience. Politics and journalism are more compromised. Social media is somewhere in the middle, I think.

    There are two big threats to the marketplace: soft social regulation/censorship and hard coercive regulation/censorship. Both exist and the liberal attitude is a bulwark against each.
  • Banno
    19.9k
    I don't think analytic philosophy should be the sort of thing that can be consistent or complete.Welkin Rogue

    Well, it presumably has at least the goal of achieving consistency, even if only asymptotically.

    Whereas non-analytic philosophy appears to tend towards completeness without bothering with consistency.
  • jgill
    2.7k
    More critical race theorists and feminists? It seems like those things are hot topics (look at the research interests of faculty at prestigious universities)...Welkin Rogue

    Certainly the 1619 Project is right up there. The creator of the project was denied a tenured position at Harvard initially - more by the board of trustees than the faculty. It's quite controversial.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    A general point: I feel like hardcore partisans of any stripe are apt to make exaggerated claims of exclusion and marginalization. Anything less than comprehensive prominence and they claim to be an underdog because there is some sphere or institution in which their preferred view or team struggles. Hence these interminable debates about whose team is really being 'oppressed' (feminists vs. men's rights advocates for example, or populists vs. liberals... everyone thinks they are under threat against enormous forces, often in unfair ways). Here the focus is Marxism. The fact that no philosophy units are dedicated exclusively to Marxist or socialist thought at a university, for example, might be taken as evidence that it is not taken seriously there. But others will say that the fact that there's at least one week devoted to it in X, Y and Z intro courses is evidence that it is omnipresent.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    I'm confused, Banno. Surely analytic philosophy is more like a methodology than a set of claims. How can a methodology be complete or consistent?

    That's a real (and interesting) question, by the way.

    One way of answering the completeness question: A methodology may be complete in the sense that it affords an inquirer a complete view of the object of inquiry. But no single methodology worth individuating could claim such comprehensiveness, it seems to me.
  • Banno
    19.9k
    my more general point would be that thinking of analytical philosophy in such monolithic terms is fraught.

    But given the choice between consistency and completeness, which do you choose?

    Completeness is easy, consistency, not so much.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Yeah what does that mean though? I didn't get that.Welkin Rogue

    It means that the assumption that there is a free marketplace of ideas shaped by unconstrained autonomous individuals is wrong. The changes that we see are not the result of internal dialogue but of social and political pressures that exert pressure to hire "outsiders" who are accepted by some but despised by others.

    It has not been my experience over a long career both inside and outside academia that members of philosophy departments are for the most part open minded. To the contrary, they stake their claim, plant their flag, and circle the horses.

    Greater diversity is not the result an open exchange of ideas. Today there is a troubling increase of censorship by politicians and activists of various stripes and persuasions. Administrators call the shots and their primary interest is profit driven.

    Lack of tenure track jobs plays a role as well and inflames the political infighting. When a position opens up what camp the candidate falls into is an important consideration. In addition, more and more jobs are being filled by adjuncts who have little or not control over what they teach. They don't make waves.

    The liberal attitude is part of the problem. It is based on the fiction of autonomous individuals. More and more academic freedom has become a fantasy. The ivory tower is a fantasy. As Schuringa argues, analytic philosophy is not "above history and politics".
  • jgill
    2.7k
    But I also think the very act of proposing a new game is a 'move' that should be part of an ongoing debate, and that there is space for this kind of thing. It's just not what everyone is interested in engaging in, and so you may get a few disgruntled coughs and eye-rolls in the seminar room where the old game is being played. What really needs working out is what 'the terms of debate' and 'game' amount to.Welkin Rogue

    I read what you write from the POV of a retired mathematician, and find similarities. A PhD thesis may occasionally break into entirely new ground, but most often they extend or generalize an existing subject. Afterwards, these ideas might lead to new territory - that happened for me. It's interesting to hear of "philosophies" of other academic subjects.

    How many different subjects constitute philosophy in academia these days? In math Wikipedia has over 25,000 topics. It's a bewildering world in which to function. I forget more each day even though I stay minimally active.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80


    Tell me if I read you right...

    You point to two types of defects in the marketplace idea. The first is the generic problem of human stubbornness, it seems to me. I think you're right that most philosophers are pretty settled in their views, and this is truer when you're talking about broader/methodological views (e.g., Wittgensteinians rarely become analytic metaphysicians). The second relates to the structure and circumstances of the institutions within which the practice of philosophy is supported (and deformed). Bad incentives associated with corporatisation, censorship, administrative meddling, employment insecurity inhibiting experimentation and risk-taking, etc.

    You seem to be saying that while a liberal attitude may (may) be a virtue in a perfect world, the fact that the above defects are severe means that it simply entrenches existing biases.

    The liberal attitude is part of the problem. It is based on the fiction of autonomous individuals. More and more academic freedom has become a fantasy. The ivory tower is a fantasy. As Schuringa argues, analytic philosophy is not "above history and politics".Fooloso4

    I don't think it's based on that fiction. You can acknowledge the defects just described and yet think the best way forward is a liberal attitude. It's not a panacea, but it's an enabling condition for discursive progress (perhaps a necessary condition). For simplicity, I'll just identify it with a Millean free-speech view. Without such a view, one has little reason not to censor, ignore, and traduce one's opponents. Those hidebound professors may not change their views after debate, but their engagement in open debates (because they have a liberal attitude) makes such a change possible, and their support for a system that encourages debate keeps that possibility alive indefinitely.

    But if a liberal attitude isn't the panacea, what is? As I say, it could be that some non-censorship form of regulation is justifiable (e.g., affirmative action). I'd just have think about/see what that would look like in more detail...
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Completeness is easy, consistency, not so much.Banno

    I think the opposite is true. In its striving for consistency analytic philosophy abstracts from the messiness of life. The idea that philosophy is a "view from nowhere" or has as its primary concern the clarification of concepts or an analysis of language, strikes me as narrow and impoverished.

    As an alternative to both analytic and continental philosophy I prefer Socratic philosophy, zetetic scepticism and the examined life. Consistency exists only to the extent that life and reflection on life is consistent.
  • jgill
    2.7k
    Wikipedia lists about 24,000 philosophy articles, compared to about 25,000 math articles.

    An estimated 27 articles per day are received by PhilArchive, as compared to about 111 articles per day in math on ArXiv.org.

    For simplicity, I'll just identify it with a Millean free-speech view. Without such a view, one has little reason not to censor, ignore, and traduce one's opponents.Welkin Rogue

    Although there are personality conflicts in math, this type of argumentation is minimized by a resort to the basic logic underlying mathematics. Exceptions occur in Foundations, where things are less stable and entrenched.

    Just babbling. Pay no mind.
  • Alkis Piskas
    1.4k

    Right. In fact, now that I re-examine the argument in question, there is a flaw: the second statement --"A Communist has no respect for freedom of inquiry or for objectivity in teaching; to put it positively, he indoctrinates for the party line and the Soviet dictatorship."-- is unfounded, fabricated. And this is what McCarthyism was about: a practice of making false or unfounded accusations. Yet, this attitude and practice characterizes all totalitarian governments and religious authorities, in fact, all kind of fanatic and authoritarian groups, even individuals. It's not a philosophy. It's a mentality. And a way of ruling, of course.

    Anyway, thank you.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Tell me if I read you right...Welkin Rogue

    Schuringa is using the term liberal in the classical sense of liberalism, that is, autonomous individualism, social atomism. He argues that the dominance of analytic philosophy:

    ... cannot be explained by the “force of ideas” alone, but must be understood in terms of the political climate that reigned in the United States, beginning in the 1940s.

    It is not as if there was a marketplace of ideas in which all are welcome to display their wares and most buyers chose analytic philosophy because they had shopped and determined that it is the best alternative. Analytic philosophy came to dominate because it was, so to speak, the only thing that was safe for sale in the marketplace.

    With regard to self understanding in both the sense of human being and philosophical practice, when analytical philosophy finally began, with Rawls, to address political philosophy:

    The very viability of individuals deliberating in such a power vacuum was never considered.

    In other words, liberalism's understanding of individuals acting as autonomous ration agents was just assumed as established and beyond question. We are not autonomous ration beings, we are historically situated social beings.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    It is not as if there was a marketplace of ideas in which all are welcome to display their wares and most buyers chose analytic philosophy because they had shopped and determined that it is the best alternative. Analytic philosophy came to dominate because it was, so to speak, the only thing that was safe for sale in the marketplace.Fooloso4

    Right. But how do we deal with this fact? I tend towards liberal principles as a baseline, but think we might have to look elsewhere for how to deal with certain cases. I want to say that we should restore the marketplace when it seems to have been deformed by unfair forces, but it's hard to make sense of 'restoring the marketplace' in purely liberal terms, since liberalism doesn't deal well with history. After all, the marketplace could be completely free today, but still unfairly advantage certain players [analytic philosophers] due to historical events. In that case - which I think approximates reality - what should the liberal prescribe? Can they even recognise a contemporary violation of liberal justice that ought to be corrected in this case?

    Let's compare with affirmative action in the workplace. I think you can make a liberal case here. We can decide on which group to boost based on an assessment of unfair disadvantage. If some group is not 'in demand', that could be because they don't merit demand, or they are unfairly discriminated against even though they have merit, or have been unfairly deprived of the chance to develop certain merits. The latter two conditions may represent violations of liberal rights to equal opportunity.

    In the case of the marketplace of ideas, though, it's a bit harder. It is hard to assess what counts as unfairly disadvantaged idea (as opposed to group; it's easier to make cases about biased representation of groups in the academy). If some idea is in 'low demand' because the majority of people genuinely aren't attracted to it (don't find it reasonable or compelling), how can you say that its low demand reflects some injustice, or some irrational prejudice?

    Perhaps you can make some epistemic 'irrelevant influence' argument: were it not for X, you would not believe in P. I like this strategy, but it might lead to some fairly radical, hyper-rational conclusions that fit uneasily with an historicising approach, unless you go full Hegelian, maybe (I don't know enough about Hegel to say). It suggests we should correct for any pattern in the intellectual marketplace that is due to irrelevant factors. But what counts as an irrelevant factor? Perhaps much of history is irrelevant. Indeed, I think it's plausible that our reason is powerfully shaped by history. E.g., that our starting assumptions and intellectual toolkits are shaped by previous generations and hence the historical forces that operated on them, such as the Red Scare. If so, then it's only if you think of historical develops as following a rational pattern that you escape the conclusion that a wide swathe of theory and belief shaped by history is noise that must be 'cancelled out' by opposite intellectual frequencies.

    If you don't want to accept that conclusion, then you must find some other way to justify corrections in a free marketplace that has been shaped (i.e., allegedly biased and corrupted) by historical events.

    But note that this irrelevant influence argument isn't a liberal one. I'm not sure exactly how a liberal would justify market interventions in such a case (unless the ideas in question have clearly harmful effects that violate individual rights).
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    My point is that we should restore the marketplace, not close it down.Welkin Rogue

    The article ends by saying:

    But still, it cannot help but spew these insights back out in a strangely deformed shape: as moves in the liberal marketplace of ideas that those thinkers precisely seek to subvert and close down.

    What is it that these thinkers seek to subvert and close down? As I read it, it is not the marketplace of ideas but rather the liberal marketplace, with its "self-imposed constrictions" that deform the insights of those whose philosophical work is outside the bounds of analytic philosophy.

    Schuringa does not think that divergent ideas can simply be accommodated for within the framework of analytic philosophy. He points to:

    ... the strange convulsions that analytic philosophy is currently going through in its attempts to incorporate the insights of critical race theorists and feminists.

    Rather than attempts to fit them into the mold, they call for the mold to be broken. This does not mean to put an end to an exchange of ideas but rather to break free of the idea that ideas occur in some rational space, by autonomous rational beings, in abstraction from time and place.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    So to be analytic about it, according to your interpretation the claims of Schuringa and the people he is implicitly defending are:
    (1) historicism is true (reason and the structure of debate are everywhere shaped by history)
    (2) analytic philosophy is anti-historicist
    (3) analytic philosophy is anti-historicist for historical reasons... to do with protecting the Anglo-American establishment by disarming genealogical critique and thus legitimising the status quo as the outcome of rational debate. (Or that would be my guess as to how the argument might be filled in).

    I'm not strongly committed to rejecting or affirming any of those claims.

    In any case, that's not what I mean by the marketplace of ideas and the liberal ideals associated with it. Although there is a tendency to go in that direction, I don't think you have to be anti-historicist to be a liberal. I mean, look at Richard Rorty. And even Rawls acknowledges that the basic values at the core of his theory are historical inheritances that he simply assumes as defining the boundaries of the "reasonable" (especially in his later work).

    Free speech is still good, basically. So is rational debate. We can acknowledge that there's no outside of history to judge competing positions, but still think that we should use the reason we have to decide which ideas to go with.

    Where does this critique leave us, do you think? What is the upshot? How different does analytic philosophy really look if we interpret these critiques correctly... if historicism is taken seriously and even embraced?
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    (3) analytic philosophy is anti-historicist for historical reasons...Welkin Rogue

    I don't think it is anti-historicist but ahistorist, It is not analytical philosophy but its domination that is historical. The assumption that truth is timeless predates analytical philosophy. But analytic philosophy is not monolithic.

    but still think that we should use the reason we have to decide which ideas to go with.Welkin Rogue

    Reason as it was understood by ancient philosophy is not the same as reason based on the modern mathematical model. Reason has not yielded the kind of agreement and certainty we find in mathematics. Yes, we should use reason, but not the timeless, abstracted, apodictic, mathematical
    model of reason

    How different does analytic philosophy really look if we interpret these critiques correctly... if historicism is taken seriously and even embraced?Welkin Rogue

    We run into the problem of whether the work of this or that philosopher can still be considered analytical philosophy. While I think that such labels may have some use, it is limited and ultimately counterproductive. We might argue whether someone like Rorty was simply working within and expanding analytical philosophy. How useful is it to attempt to draw clear lines between analytical, pragmatist, and continental philosophy?
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    I don't think it is anti-historicist but ahistorist, It is not analytical philosophy but its domination that is historical. The assumption that truth is timeless predates analytical philosophy. But analytic philosophy is not monolithic.Fooloso4

    Sure, I agree with that... you probably misunderstood something I said. By saying 'for historical reasons' I meant that the explanation for this tendency relates to historical contingency.

    Reason as it was understood by ancient philosophy is not the same as reason based on the modern mathematical model. Reason has not yielded the kind of agreement and certainty we find in mathematics. Yes, we should use reason, but not the timeless, abstracted, apodictic, mathematical model of reasonFooloso4

    When I say we can still use reason despite this criticism, I am talking about historically embedded reason. That's why I said "We can acknowledge that there's no outside of history to judge competing positions".

    But you're being at best imprecise when you say we shouldn't use "timeless, abstracted..." reason if you don't think that's even possible in philosophy. I think you mean: we shouldn't pretend that we are using such reason.

    I still don't know why you think any of this matters.

    I want to know what ahistorical vs. historical reason means to you. When you talk about the mathematical model of reason, I suppose you're talking about using deductive proofs. If deductive proofs work in mathematics (e.g., geometry), then I don't see why they wouldn't work in philosophy.

    Insofar as I go along with the historicist critique of reason, it is because I agree that the problems we think are significant, the concepts and guiding metaphors we use, and our basic values and assumptions are strongly shaped by historical forces (note: not entirely shaped; that would be an implausibly radical social constructionism).

    The reason for disagreement has to do with the fact that the concepts embedded in deductive proofs are complex and evolving linguistic-cognitive entities that have way more play in them than notions like <triangle> which we intuitively converge upon much more tightly.

    We run into the problem of whether the work of this or that philosopher can still be considered analytical philosophy. While I think that such labels may have some use, it is limited and ultimately counterproductive. We might argue whether someone like Rorty was simply working within and expanding analytical philosophy. How useful is it to attempt to draw clear lines between analytical, pragmatist, and continental philosophy?Fooloso4

    I don't really care about labels here. What I am wondering is how, if the moderate historicist thesis I just endorsed is embraced, would debates in analytic philosophy go differently. I'm not sure anything major would change.

    Contrast this moderate historicist thesis about reason with the thesis that there are no 'Platonic forms' of the concepts we are interested in, in philosophy. I think there is some of that kind of Platonism floating around in analytic philosophy, and I can see how rejecting it might have significant impacts. But I don't see it as intrinsically tied to moderate historicism about reason.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    I am talking about historically embedded reason.Welkin Rogue

    Do you see this as being at odds with the history of analytical philosophy? Did Moore or Russell or Frege see it this way?

    I think you mean: we shouldn't pretend that we are using such reason.Welkin Rogue

    I do not wish to quibble, but it is the concept of reason that is in question, of what philosophers understand themselves to be doing and striving for when reasoning. This, as I understand it, is the reason for the disregard for history.

    I still don't know why you think any of this matters.Welkin Rogue

    It is at issue for the article you cited and for your question of whether analytic philosophy needs affirmative action.

    When you talk about the mathematical model of reason, I suppose you're talking about using deductive proofs.Welkin Rogue

    This is a long topic that I can only touch on. First it should be recognized that mathematics itself underwent a radical change. Jacob Klein discusses this in "Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origins of Algebra". The change has to do with the symbolic, abstract, conceptual nature of modern mathematics. The change, as can most clearly be seen in physics, is from dealing with concrete tangible things to conceptual abstractions. With Descartes mathematical reason promises to solve for any unknown, and man, a "thinking thing" moves ever closer to perfection. Reason, properly used according to Descartes, leads to indubitable, necessary certainty.

    If deductive proofs work in mathematics (e.g., geometry), then I don't see why they wouldn't work in philosophy.Welkin Rogue

    What are the necessary truths in philosophy derived from deductive proofs?

    I don't really care about labels here.Welkin Rogue

    If we ignore the labels your proposal seems to be that more diversity is needed in philosophy. But this is quite different than saying more diversity is needed in analytic philosophy.
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    If we ignore the labels your proposal seems to be that more diversity is needed in philosophy. But this is quite different than saying more diversity is needed in analytic philosophy.Fooloso4

    Fair point. I should have said 'I'm not primarily interested in labels'. What I'm driving at is that I don't yet see precisely why or how much the historical critique matters. And this is partly because I'm not convinced that a commitment to the ahistorical nature of reason is essential to analytic philosophy. Consider a thought experiment: imagine that philosophers in the analytic tradition concluded that reason is historical. How would that change what they do?
  • Welkin Rogue
    80
    Okay I'll try to bring some things together here.

    The claim is that historicism question matters because its only if ahistoricism is rejected that the views claimed to be excluded within analytic philosophy can be properly incorporated. Until then, you haven't escaped the monolith that analytic philosophy is depicted as in the article.

    What I'm querying is whether this is true. Because I haven't yet been able to clearly see the cash value, the pragmatic upshot, the real, concrete effect that embracing or rejecting historicism would have on the discipline, including how it interacts with these supposedly marginalised views.

    Earlier I distinguished Platonism from ahistoricism. While logically distinct, the two thesis are connected. If you agree with the historicist conception of reason - that which concepts we tend to use depends on our time and place, etc. - then you will probably also disagree with Plato that we are always talking about or should be talking about the same things when we talk about personal identity, God, virtue, knowledge, truth, femininity, and so on.

    If making analytic philosophy historicist is also making it anti-Platonist in this sense, then when such philosophers are engaged in philosophical reasoning, they should attach an implicit qualification to their conclusions: I'm not making claims about personal identity as such, just the way it has been construed in my cultural milieu.

    Some discussions would be modified by such qualifications, but not substantially, I suspect. (Perhaps discussions involving thinkers from the past would be more sensitive to the historical/conceptual gap.) Some philosophers would lose interest in their topics if they weren't convinced that they were addressing the same stable topic as the ancients, etc. But I suspect many wouldn't.

    To some extent this is already going on. For example, the expanding field of 'conceptual engineering' within analytic philosophy isn't interested in eternally true conceptual analyses, but rather in the possibility, problems and principles that should guide change in our concepts and meanings.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    Does Blackstone's ratio apply to the issue? Better that a 100 guilty people go free than that 1 innocent person be unjustly punished. Better that we deal with a 100 bad ideas than that 1 good idea be suppressed.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.