• StreetlightX
    2.9k
    What does it mean to abstract? At base, it means to ignore things: the concept of an 'apple' involves ignoring things about individual apples: this apple may be bruised, and that apple may be green instead of red, but all these details are ignored when we simply designate both as 'apples'. The ability to abstract is particularly important for problem-solving: by ignoring individual details and focusing on classes of objects, we can perform cognitive tasks that we might not otherwise be able to. The philosopher of mind, Andy Clark, gives the example of a group of monkeys who were trained to associate small tokens (like a red or blue toy) with pairs of objects. The pairs of objects could either be the same (shoe-shoe) or different (shoe-cup).

    The monkeys were then asked to relate pairs of objects to other pairs of objects, and to see if they could tell if the pairs themselves were of the same kind or not. For example, a {shoe-shoe} pair is the same as a {cup-cup} pair, but different from a {cup-shoe} pair. Monkeys who were trained with the tokens could solve this problem and tell which pairs of pairs were the same, and which were not. Monkeys not trained with the tokens could not. So what's going on here? The first thing to notice is that this exercise essentially involved reflecting on relations between relations: what is the 'same' and what is 'different' is not an object (a shoe or a cup), but a relation (between pairs of cups and shoes).

    Solving the problem then, requires thinking in terms of at least two 'levels': a object level of 'objects in relation' (shoes with shoes, or shoes with cups), and meta level of 'relations in relation' (pairs of shoe and cups, or a pair {shoe-cup}). Doing this, in turn, requires the power of abstraction: one needs to ignore the specifics of a cup or a shoe (it's shape, it's color), and look only at the fact of whether or not there are two kinds of the same thing grouped together or not. So one can see that even though the problem is a relatively simple one ("sort pairs of objects together"), there's actually a great deal of cognitive work that has to be done in order to do it.

    So the question is: why do the tokens help the monkeys do it? Clark speculates that the reason is that the tokens help by virtue of functioning as particular objects. If a red toy signifies a pair of same objects (cup-cup, shoe-shoe), and a blue toy signifies a pair of different objects (cup-shoe), instead of having to keep in mind pairs of objects, the monkey only has to compare two particular toys with each other in order to figure out if the pairs themselves are the same or not (if there are two red toys, the pairs match; if there is one red toy and one blue toy, the pairs do not). Clark puts this by saying that the toys function as cognitive shortcuts, thus allowing monkeys to explore cognitive realms otherwise inaccessible to them.

    ---

    So what's the significance of all this? In the first place, it has to do with what kinds of things types are: for the monkeys types are, quite ironically, tokens - in the most literal sense of the word: a type is signified by a small toy. Now the reason that this is the case is that at every point we are dealing with relations. This point is often overlooked by those who think of tokens and types in Platonic terms, where types are idealities 'instantitated' or 'embodied' by tokens. But this changes once it is realized that what types 'typify' are not individuals, but relations. To think in terms of types is to think in terms of relations: to speak of something belonging to a category or a class is to speak of the kinds of relations it can have with other classes (same/different/etc).

    @Srap Tasmaner; @Janus; @fdrake - follow up thoughts from the discussion in the predicates thread.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    This is a really cool experiment, but the first question that comes to mind is how did they test the monkeys on whether pairs were pairs of similar objects? Associating a particular toy with pairs of like objects [qua pairs of like objects] is a bit artificial. By artificial, I don't mean anything negative. I just mean it's not the type of thing that crops up spontaneously outside of experiments. It's a move that appears to be made with a certain problematic already in mind. If the testing (after the associative-training phase is done) is designed with the same problematic in mind, it might give misleading results. It seems possible that what's being tested for is something wholly different than the natural capacity for identifying tokens as tokens of a type. I can't see any reason why someone couldn't make the case that the monkeys had to be able to see cups as cups and shoes as shoes in order to then see pairs as pairs. In that case, the experiment would only show that concrete associative tokens are necessary for thinking of [pairs of like objects], rather than types in general. (To be honest, that's my gut reaction to the experiment, as presented in the OP)

    Now the reason that this is the case is that at every point we are dealing with relations. This point is often overlooked by those who think of tokens and types in Platonic terms, where types are idealities 'instantitated' or 'embodied' by tokens. — sx

    But isn't this test designed to focus on relations from the get-go? It's a test of whether monkeys can identify groups of similar objects - naturally it's going to focus on relations, because its testing for the ability to recognize relations. It's rich and suggestive, but this seems like a big leap.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    To me abstraction requires the ability to see similarities more than differences. Differences are, well, obvious as illustrated by your apple example.

    Similarities are more difficult to spot since it requires a more involved mental engagement. In short, we must see past the differences.

    Much of the world's problems arise from failure to abstract - we can't see the similarities between the races and we become racists, we can't see the similarities between religions and we get jihad, etc.

    So, I wouldn't say humans are too good at abstraction. Some of us, including me, are untrained monkeys.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    In that case, the experiment would only show that concrete associative tokens are necessary for thinking of [pairs of like objects], rather than types in general.csalisbury

    But isn't a 'pair of like objects' a type? I mean, one of the things I want to say is that there are no types in general. There are only these types and those types but never types per se (or, putting it so as to avoid performative contradiction: 'types in general' are themselves a particular kind of type). So I want to grant you your point but also deprive it of it's power. Or at least, this is what I was trying to get at in my other post in the predicates thread about types and tokens basically being what I called 'promiscuous', such that each can be the other by turns depending on what we're trying to do with them (another word might be 'oscillatory').

    And this is what lets me address your second point too: it's true that the test is designed to focus on relations from the get-go, but - and I'm struggling to articulate this - what I want to say is that token-type distinctions always bear on relations, for structural reasons. To identify even an apple is to identify it as similar to other (hypothetical) apples. Any identification, even of a singular, already implicates two levels: object-level (token) and meta-object level (type), with the caveat that with singular things, token and type coincide in the one object. And insofar as all identification involves both token and type, what you have is a strange case of identifying the relation between an object and itself.

    There are all kinds of Hegelian games to be played here, but the key is in recognising that (1) token and type are reversible roles/promiscuous, and (2) that every token implies a type. If you take (1) and (2) together, the only conclusion to draw is that even a single item, if it is understood to be a token ('of an apple', say), already brings with it considerations of 'type'. This is ultimately the lesson of the token (toy) in the monkey test: the (particular) toy stands for a relation (type) - it is a short-circuiting of token and type. To which one must add: so is 'an' apple; except that, in the latter case, you don't have a relation between two things, but a thing and itself. I think this is really hard to 'see', and it's again something I'm struggling to articulate, but maybe if you throw more words at me you can midwife me.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    One thing that Clark focuses on is the role of language in allowing higher-order abstraction to take place. The monkeys had to use physical tokens to do things their other untrained brethren couldn't. But language gives one an essentially infinite reserve of (auditory and graphic) tokens by which to construct abstractions. He follows Oliver Sacks in discussing Joseph, a deaf 11 year old who was never thought sign language or any kind of 'structured linguistic experience':

    "Joseph saw, distinguished, categorized, used; he had no problems with perceptual categorization or generalization, but he could not, it seemed, go much beyond this, hold abstract ideas in mind, reflect, play, plan... he seemed, like an animal or an infant, to be stuck in the present, to be confined to literal and immediate perception".

    So while it's often said that language is one of the things that has allowed humans to set themselves apart from the rest of the animal world, we can speculate that the reason this is so is because it functions (among other things) as a repository of tokens that allow us to build ever more abstract cognitive scaffoldings which allows us to tackle harder and harder problems.

    Clark even details the way in which math is structured in this way, allowing for the rudiments of a materialist/naturalist approach to math: " In an elegant series of investigations Stanislas Dehaene and colleagues have provided compelling evidence that precise numerical reasoning, involving numbers greater than three depends upon language-specific representations of numbers. There is, to be sure, a kind of low grade, approximate numerical sensibility that is probably innate and that we share with infants and other animals. Such a capacity allows us to judge that there are one, two, three, or many items present, and to judge that one array is greater than another. But the capacity to know that 25 + 376 is precisely 401 depends, Dehaene et al. argue, upon the operation of distinct, culturally inculcated, and language-specific abilities." (Clark, Natural Born Cyborgs).
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    I think this is really hard to 'see', and it's again something I'm struggling to articulate, but maybe if you throw more words at me you can midwife me.
    Yeah, I think you're onto something too, and I can't quite place it either. Let me throw some more words then:

    But isn't a 'pair of like objects' a type? I mean, one of the things I want to say is that there are no types in general. There are only these types and those types but never types per se (or, putting it so as to avoid performative contradiction: 'types in general' are themselves a particular kind of type). So I want to grant you your point but also deprive it of it's power. — sx

    I think here you may inadvertently be granting the point more power. A [pair of like objects] is definitely a type, but as you say, there are no types in general. It's exactly for this reason that I don't think we can generalize from the conditions under which monkeys can identify pairs of objects (qua pairs of objects) to a broader set of necessary conditions for identifying any type. I think it's worth noting that the Hegelian approach you've outlined is perhaps the apotheosis of treating all types as types in general. The dizziness that sets in when we realize that any type can be treated as a token and any token as a type (or when we realize that any level can be either object-level or meta-language) - the dizziness of a kind of fractal infinity that stretches inward and outward, with no firm ground - is linked directly to a procedure of thought that is indifferent to the things its thinking about. The weird dialectical combustion that's happening is taking place at a level of abstraction so abstract that it creates a kind of cognitive ouroborous. It's the place of thought par excellence that treats all things as things-in-general.


    --------
    Aside, that may or not be relevant:

    [one way to dramatize the beginning of Hegel's Phenomenology is to imagine a kid trying to show their parent something. The parent doesn't understand - say what you mean! No, just look, the kid says. I don't know what you're trying to show me, says the parent, you need to say what you mean. The kid finally gives up, and accedes to the linguistic demands of the parent. He wants to find a way to say what he means, and will try to do so on the parent's terms. But he's routed at every turn by this or that contradiction. He never loses faith in the possibility that one day he will say what he means, so he will follow every contradiction through to its bitter end, in hope of finally reaching the point where he will succeed, and communicate. He works diligently, painstakingly, toward this end. Some of his peers look on: Their parents were less demanding, had some innate capacity to share a moment in silence with their children, without experiencing the anxiety of needing to report on it. They look on sympathetically but sorrowfully. They realize that the game was rigged from the beginning. There will never be a moment where he can communicate, the very structure of linguistic demand imposed on the child ensures that. He will be led from contradiction to contradiction endlessly, like some tortured soul in a fable. They see that in some moments the child even recognizes this

    "When consciousness feels this violence, its anxiety may well make it retreat from the truth, and strive to hold on to what it is in danger of losing. But it can find no peace. If it wishes to remain in a state of unthinking inertia, then thought troubles its thoughtlessness, and its own unrest disturbs its inertia."

    These friends recognize that the child holds onto the dream of the final moment when all its struggles will be rendered meaningful, in order to sustain this pursuit.

    And maybe, in bad dreams, the child sees a dim future figure, an exotic Algerian, who, like him, accepts the demand of the parent, but who, unlike him, refuses to believe that the child can ever succeed. In the dreams the child knows that the Algerian is right, but wonders why he still accepts the demand.



    /End Aside.

    ----------

    but - and I'm struggling to articulate this - what I want to say is that token-type distinctions always bear on relations, for structural reasons. To identify even an apple is to identify it as similar to other (hypothetical) apples.

    What I'm tempted to say here, or at least something that seems plausible to me, is that this is a retrojection of higher-order linguistic abstraction onto a more basic ability. To see an apple as an apple is to recognize it as an apple. Does this imply other apples? I'm not sure. I recognize Paul when I see him, as paul. This doesn't imply other hypothetical Pauls. There is only one Paul. Perhaps the way in which I recognize him is a flood of affection - It's paul! I can imagine this same sort of thing happening with a little kid seeing a dog. "Doggie!" the kid says, but the kid doesn't recognize the dog as a particular dog among many. It's more like a welling-up of excitement. Perhaps, for the kid, 'doggie' is just the way one expresses the welling-up of excitement at seeing a dog. And, importantly, in this conception - it's not just that welling-up of excitement is one instance of welling-up in general. It's the same thing, from the same source. the welling-up doesn't relate to itself - it just is that welling up. Perhaps one says doggie, the same way one does a certain dance move to express a certain feeling.

    Nevertheless we can use 'doggie' as a stepping-stone to a different sort of game that involves relating pieces of the world to a static conceptual grid. The first 'game' provides the foundation for the second. However there's something peculiar about the second game in that sometimes it wants to be the Only game (speculation: the second game involves order, in some ways is order. There are no surprises. In this respect, its an excellent, if potentially soporofic, way to allay anxiety.)

    The upshot of this conception - which I'm not saying is right, just a possible alternative not precluded by the OP - is that the work universals are doing might take place in a 'middle space' between bluzzing blooming etc and type-token sorting. Which is to say: why do we want to say that an apple has to be a self-relation (some internal self-difference, which underlies its self-sameness.)?

    This may actually work with the Sellars thing, I'm not sure, but it seems to lay the ground for 'levels of games' each with their own internal logic, and each related to other things. The specter of bootstrapping that haunts a world without givens could be explained as a sharpening of distinctions already present but unreflected upon in patterns of behavior/feelings/thoughts and words. Only once this kind of pattern is sufficiently in place can we even begin to have something like knowledge (and its linguistic expression.) I.e. We can't talk about 'red' unless we already have a pattern of behavior/experience/feeling etc that has been linked to a linguistic pattern.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    Kinda unrelated, but I think the missing ingredient in all this is Sloterdijk's theory of 'spheres' which is basically Heideggereanized Attachment Theory. We begin with the familiar and the unfamiliar along the lines of Love (trust) and Fear (isolation). We learn the world through someone whom we trust and they teach us how to move around in it and make sense of it. The things we learn are things brought into the ambit of home (home meaning, here: that space of safety and intelligibility in which we can meaningfully navigate). Culture and knowledge is transmitted through these sorts of spheres - which is why kids just beginning to explore, always look back to their parent, as they make their first tentative ventures.

    ex: This is good and its 'doggie'. 'doggie' means [petting, playing-with etc ]

    or

    this is not-good and its 'matches' matches mean [time-out, grumpy mommy etc]

    I really like this idea, and like how it retains the valuable ideas in Heidegger but modulus the man-alone-and-thrown stuff which can lead you to think you're a Wizard in a world of empty-talkers, looking to intercede on their behalf through anchorite communion with [ profound thing]
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    There are all kinds of Hegelian games to be played here, but the key is in recognising that (1) token and type are reversible roles/promiscuous, and (2) that every token implies a type. If you take (1) and (2) together, the only conclusion to draw is that even a single item, if it is understood to be a token ('of an apple', say), already brings with it considerations of 'type'.StreetlightX

    I would draw attention to the deeper structural aspect of a dialectical or dichotomistic symmetry-breaking here.

    The animal mind is smart, but stuck in the moment. To break out of that involves not simply a displaced play of tokens - the emergence of symbolic reference - but the complementary division of words and rules.

    The usual way of thinking about these evolutionary issues is chicken and egg. It always seems to be a question of what came first - the first referential words or the first grammatical rules. And that becomes a hard one to answer as language appears to require both if it is to work.

    However a symmetry breaking approach predicts that words and rules will co-emerge as each other's other. The division itself is the thing which is the seed that grows by the feedback of its own synergistic success.

    So what tokens imply is the possibility of syntactical organisation. The less the meaning of a word is bound up in the rich contextuality of some embodied state of mind, the more it consequently encourages the rise of syntactical habits that replace that lived, in-the-moment, contextuality with an abstract one produced by grammatical rules.

    It is a shift from analogue to digital. The rise of tokens - words which concentrate meaning by contracting it into a habit of association - then also creates an empty space which rules are naturally going to fill.

    So yes. The rise of words leads to a natural abstraction of semantics. This is a hierarchical thing. The great variability of everyday experience becomes itself divided - dialectically/dichotomously - between the contingent and the necessary, the particular and the general. Words anchor a symmetry-breaking contrast between what is semantically general about "an apple" and what is by instead "the differences that don't make an essential difference" when it comes to apples.

    But the even larger division is between words and rules - semantics and syntax. The more wordy we become, the more rule using we can also become.

    And that semiotic symmetry-breaking is still unfolding as we evolve from everyday language through to the most abstract mathematical and logical languages. We can see the complete divorce that is the final conclusion.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    However a symmetry breaking approach predicts that words and rules will co-emerge as each other's other.

    What exactly do you mean by that?

    At first I took it to mean that a symmetry-breaking approach would explain the interrelation of words and rules as each other's other, and show how language depends on both. But that isn't a prediction, really.

    What do you mean by prediction?

    Because this is a weird thing, right - the symmetry-breaking approach is predicated on this emergence of language. If it didn't happen, if language hadn't already emerged, there would be no symmetry-breaking approach at all.

    Can you call something a 'prediction' if what it predicts is itself already having come into being? Isn't it less a prediction and more of an autobiography told on its own terms?
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    What do you mean by prediction?csalisbury

    It is a general prediction of a dichotomistic or dialectical view. Things that start with the initial thing of a symmetry-breaking then proceed towards their completely broken state ... which is a state of extreme asymmetry or hierarchical organisation.

    So think of this as a story of mutual repulsion that drives two things towards their opposing limits. And it is the story of all metaphysical-strength dichotomies. That is why I say it is a prediction.

    My interest here is that the problem of the evolution of language was about the first big question I worked on. And it was a huge chicken and egg dilemma to say which could have evolved first - semantics or syntax, the thoughts or the speech machinery with which to express them.

    You had an academic divide as it seemed either one or the other had to be foundational, the other a consequence.

    Eventually I came to understand a systems science way of looking at these kinds of things (long even before I got to Peirce). And so what became obvious was how words and rules were reciprocally related. If you started to get a little bit of one, you also started to get a little bit of its other. So a little bit of tipping and the system would bifurcate towards its latent extremes.

    So a system science/hierarchy theory approach in general predicts that system organisation emerges in this kind of dialectical or symmetry-breaking fashion. And that then made sense of how language and thought, as syntax and semantics, could co-emerge as a rapid evolutionary shift in humans.

    If you shift from a reductionist to a holist view of causality, the whole world looks different in this fashion.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Look up, not down.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    No, I mean, I understand the point you're making - and it makes plenty of sense to me that semantics and syntax have to emerge together.

    What I mean is:

    And that semiotic symmetry-breaking is still unfolding as we evolve from everyday language through to the most abstract mathematical and logical languages

    +

    So think of this as a story of mutual repulsion that drives two things towards their opposing limits. And it is the story of all metaphysical-strength dichotomies. That is why I say it is a prediction.

    From the first quote, I infer that the symmetry-model is itself an unfolding of this semantic/syntactic co-reliant-in-their-brokenness break.

    I don't see how you can 'predict' something that you hold to be necessary for the existence of the prediction itself. One way to put this is: the sine qua non of a prediction is that it can fail. What you have here is a prediction that can't fail, structurally. What would it mean for this prediction to fail?
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    Look up, not down.Wayfarer

    Or move up to discover that there was the down, and vice versa.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    I don't see how you can 'predict' something that you hold to be necessary for the existence of the prediction itself.csalisbury

    Jeez. It's basic pragmatism. There is no choice but to have a belief that you can then test. So you induce from the particular to the general, and then discover how successful that generality is at predicting new particulars.

    Can nothing shake the hold that foundationalism has on your habits of thought?

    (Of course not. You need the failure of foundationalism as your justification for a totalising pluralism!)
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    Pragmatism, to me, brings with it falsifiability. So again: "What you have here is a prediction that can't fail, structurally. What would it mean for this prediction to fail?"

    Of course not. You need the failure of foundationalism as your justification for a totalising pluralism!)

    Lay it on me, brother. What do you mean?
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    So again: "What you have here is a prediction that can't fail, structurally. What would it mean for this prediction to fail?"csalisbury

    Huh? A generality is a constraint - that which defines a level of indifference to exceptions. So what Pragmatism says is not this atomistic notion - a single exception breaks the rule. Instead it says that exceptions are going to be the case. They are indeed ... predicted. But the prediction is about significance. A good generalisation is fault tolerant as it knows how to write off variability as accidents or contingencies. Stuff that doesn't matter in the bigger picture. Noise rather than signal.

    So the falsification is about creating a state of expectation which is then alert to what would be a significant failure of deterministic prediction. What kind of exceptions are just the expected statistical noise and what would be in fact paradigm-shifting level failures.

    So now the falsification lifts to a meta-evidential level. Does reductionism let us down enough to worry? Is holism a better kind of generalisation - and what could then rightfully challenge it?

    Well holism would be challenged by the success of reductionism for a start. And that is how history went. Holism has been around from the start of metaphysics (see Anaximander or Heraclitus). But it lost out for a long time to atomism and reductionism.

    However now the limits of a reductionist metaphysics are clearly being reached. See quantum mechanics especially. And so we are getting the resurgence of a full-blown holism - starting in biology and the social sciences back in the 1950s, becoming the norm through the more recent rapid advances in the physics of complexity and self-organising systems.

    Then even within holism or systems science - which are actually very diverse fields when viewed from the inside - there is a contest of ideas or paradigms.

    For example, what I've called SX out on is that he is on the side of the holists with things like dynamical systems theory or autopoiesis, but then there is the more encompassing holism of Peircean sign relations and infodynamics/hierarchy theory.

    So as a contest of ideas, holism has many camps. And it is a frontier field only to the degree it has that dynamical uncertainty. And it can be criticised for being insufficiently general in its mathematical structures. It is still rather a rag-bag collection of mathematical-strength models. Although, having been through a few convulsions like cybernetics, catastrophe theory, chaos theory, complex adaptive systems, holography, etc, etc, all the particular models are becoming more recognisable by the generality of what connects them. It is now much clearer how systems modellers are all feeling parts of the same elephant.

    But again, the very way you frame your demand for falsification speaks to your essentially atomistic outlook.

    Pragmatism - of the Peircean kind - stresses that not all exceptions are equal. Some are meaningful, some merely accidents. So as an epistemology, the ability to know the difference is something itself that has to be built into the totalising model.

    Now mostly the deciding line is treated as an issue of heuristics. Every discipline learns to make is historically conditioned judgements.

    But I have been arguing for a larger model - one based on the triadicism of hierarchy theory. So if we can produce a mathematical model of generality vs particularity itself, then we are getting somewhere.

    Again, in previous posts, I highlighted the essential flip in mindset this requires.

    The old epistemic question was what fluctuation would be sufficient to disrupt my general paradigm? That was how Popperian falsification was understood. What kind of exception would it take to break your stable belief (about a stable world)?

    But the new science of complexity sees reality the other way round. Now the question is what generality can survive the relentless instability of fluctuations? What kind of exceptions can your generality tolerate by ignoring them as meaningless noise ... just as reality itself would have to be able to achieve a dynamical equilibrium by no longer being disrupted by its constant disruptions.

    So you keep attacking me for forcing an organising viewpoint on a highly various and contingent social reality. It is obviously bad practice - from your chosen metaphysical paradigm.

    But what I am doing is saying that reality itself is organised by its generalities. And so organising our conceptions of the world in this fashion - finding the logic that organises everything to the point of treating exceptions as noise - is in fact simply the epistemology accurately tracking the ontology.

    Our minds should work that way, as that is the way reality works.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    The dizziness that sets in when we realize that any type can be treated as a token and any token as a type (or when we realize that any level can be either object-level or meta-language) - the dizziness of a kind of fractal infinity that stretches inward and outward, with no firm ground - is linked directly to a procedure of thought that is indifferent to the things its thinking about. The weird dialectical combustion that's happening is taking place at a level of abstraction so abstract that it creates a kind of cognitive ouroborous. It's the place of thought par excellence that treats all things as things-in-general.csalisbury

    Yeah but I wanna say that this is exactly the desired outcome! I think what this dizzyiess assests to, when all is said and done, is nothing other than the insufficiency of thought unto itself. Thought cannot be anchored in itself, it must get its bearings from an 'outside' which indexes - provisionally and haphazardly, according to the vagaries of human interests and motivations - tokens and types as tokens and types. Were there to be some kind of solid point of departure, some 'ground-level' where we can say - ah, this really is a token, or this really is a type - that's where the materialist in me would get worried.

    The ouroboric effect you refer to, an effect of 'thought being indifferent to the things it is thinking about' is I think precisely the desideratum of a materialist conception of thought. It means that the very form of thought is not sanctioned by some kind of 'pre-established harmony' between that form - always indifferent to the real - and the real itself. At best, it is just a kind of machinery that gets put to work in this way and that way, such that the real is always 'autonomous' (read: indifferent) with respect to thought. This kind of approach is what - I think - Laruelle and his cabal of 'non-philosophers' are always going on about, but I can't be sure.

    A more solid reference - for me anyway - is Zizek's reading of Hegel, where he sees in Hegel's idealism a, or rather the kernel of materialism; to all the brouhaha about 'correlationism' a while back and how to break out of the 'correlationist circle' between thought and being, Zizek's response was basically: of course we can't break out of the circle, of course thought always reflects what it 'puts there' to begin with, and for exactly this reason is reality independent of thought. So yeah, no one can say what they mean - on account of the fact that one is saying at all.

    (And this is the whole issue of the 'logic of sense'; Deleuze (who is more Hegelian than he ever lets on): "I never state the sense of what I am saying. But on the other hand, I can always take the sense of what I say as the object of another proposition whose sense, in turn, I cannot state. I thus enter into the infinite regress of that which is presupposed. This regress testifies both to the great impotence of the speaker and to the highest power of language: my impotence to state the sense of what I say, to say at the same time something and its meaning; but also the infinite power of language to speak about words"; But: "There is indeed a way of avoiding this infinite regress. It is to fix the proposition, to immobilize it, just long enough to extract from it its sense - the thin film at the limit of things and words").
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    Perhaps the way in which I recognize him is a flood of affection - It's paul! I can imagine this same sort of thing happening with a little kid seeing a dog. "Doggie!" the kid says, but the kid doesn't recognize the dog as a particular dog among many. It's more like a welling-up of excitement. Perhaps, for the kid, 'doggie' is just the way one expresses the welling-up of excitement at seeing a dog. And, importantly, in this conception - it's not just that welling-up of excitement is one instance of welling-up in general. It's the same thing, from the same source. the welling-up doesn't relate to itself - it just is that welling up. Perhaps one says doggie, the same way one does a certain dance move to express a certain feeling.csalisbury

    Yeah, but this is a different issue, no? At stake is not a question of tokens and types: by your own description, 'doggie' isn't a particular. I mean, this is one of the reasons Sellars draws a hard line between sensation and intelligibility, where a flood of affection would lie on the former side of the equation and tokens/types on the latter. I don't think the account of tokens and types given above needs to deny that such wellings of affections - where one might utter 'Paul!' or 'doggie!' as a consequence - can happen. It needs only to ask that we be careful to distinguish between the different 'logics' at work in each.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k
    Thought cannot be anchored in itself, it must get its bearings from an 'outside' which indexes - provisionally and haphazardly, according to the vagaries of human interests and motivations - tokens and types as tokens and types.StreetlightX

    Do you support a separation, and therefore a boundary, between inside thought and outside thought? If so, what could such a boundary consist of? And, if such a boundary is real, wouldn't that separation be applicable in validating a real separation between types and tokens?

    A real boundary gives real individuation to that which is within the boundary. Since the token is the particular, the token is the individual thing, referred to by "within" the thought itself, being bounded and separated from outside the thought. The "type" is something vague, foreign and outside, alien to thought. This is why the attempt to understand "the type" always turns frustrating, often ending in futility. "The type" can be understood through definition, but the definition may be reduced to individual words (tokens), each one producing a degree of ambiguity with respect to type.
  • fdrake
    1.3k


    Look around.

    Jump up jump up and get down!

    I think here you may inadvertently be granting the point more power. A [pair of like objects] is definitely a type, but as you say, there are no types in general. It's exactly for this reason that I don't think we can generalize from the conditions under which monkeys can identify pairs of objects (qua pairs of objects) to a broader set of necessary conditions for identifying any type.

    I think this is very perceptive. It would be very easy to hypostatise an account of types by imbuing it with a metaphysical vouchsafe of necessity. If it thinks, it thinks thusly. Instead of such a project, I think Sellars - and hopefully everyone who's been engaging with Street's excellent recent threads - is providing a conceptual analysis of types and tokens descriptively. It reminds me of your link to that philosophical-anthropology article on Gri Gri; in essence a a description of concepts at work, like Strauss and his masks.

    So, we've taken type/token relations as a type, then turned it into a token for conceptual analysis. I think this makes the ideas consistent under operational abstraction - Sellars is doing the same thing as his descriptions of what people do with types and tokens; a description of their general features, and what is reasonably implied by these features. Types/tokens are encountered out there in the world as uses of language and we have a quasi-empirical account of them.


    @StreetlightX

    The ouroboric effect you refer to, an effect of 'thought being indifferent to the things it is thinking about' is I think precisely the desideratum of a materialist conception of thought. It means that the very form of thought is not sanctioned by some kind of 'pre-established harmony' between that form - always indifferent to the real - and the real itself. At best, it is just a kind of machinery that gets put to work in this way and that way, such that the real is always 'autonomous' (read: indifferent) with respect to thought. This kind of approach is what - I think - Laruelle and his cabal of 'non-philosophers' are always going on about, but I can't be sure.

    From what you've said so far, Sellars is gesturing towards an extra-philosophical world which constrains and inspires philosophy and provides it with its problems. Philosophy isn't a privileged discursive practice in this regard. So, insofar as nature isn't read as the other of language and provided with a positive philosophical - that is transcendent, here - character, this is one of those open philosophical abstractions and materialistic.

    Is it open in the right way? Concepts like the real and the one and Earth and Event - the real as caesura rather than the silence thought struggles to hear... If the latter, his is an immensely non-philosophical gesture. If I've read Laruelle right anyway. Here's an excerpt from his discussion with Derrida which is uncharacteristically pedagogical:

    It is the defining characteristic of philosophy, of the principle of sufficient philosophy,
    and its unitary will, to believe that all use of language is ultimately philosophical, sooner or later. Philosophy, which I characterize as a "unitary" mode of thought, cannot imagine for a single instant that there are language can be used in two ways: there is the use of language in science, which is not at all philosophical, contrary to what philosophy itself postulates in order to establish itself as a fundamental ontology or epistemology of science; and the use of language in philosophy. Philosophy postulates that every use of language is a use with a view to the logos or that which I call a use-of-the-logos, language being taken as constitutive of the being of things. From this point of view, if there were the only possible us of language, then obviously, there is no question of escaping from philosophy. But I postulate – in reality I do not postulate, since I begin by taking them as indissociably given from the outset, the bloc of real as One and a certain use of language which corresponds to this particular conception of the real. Since I take as indissociably given from the outset a certain use of language, which is not that of the logos, and the One that founds it, I do not contradict myself, I do not relapse into philosophical contradiction. Philosophy has a very deeply ingrained fetishism, which is
    obviously that of metaphysics but which may not be entirely destroyed by the philosophical critiques of metaphysics; and this is the ultimate belief that ultimately every use of language is carried out with a view to being, in order to grant being, or to open being, etc., that every usage of language is "positional".

    An account of language which leaves all of its instances open to engagement with nature without projectively determining it and their character, I think, is exactly the kind of thing Laruelle would approve of. The grammar of ideas isn't the dynamical relation of nature, but the space of relations of thoughts and the relational unfolding of nature themselves relate (without hypostatised codetermination!) in the aggregate of human activity.

    A really interesting avenue here is the extended mind Clarke is so fond of, an account of how embodiment produces the distribution of a mind into environment through sensorimotor/neural feedbacks is radically open in the previously expressed way. Thus the problematising capacity of nature for human activity, as embedded and embodied.

    Perhaps you're making Clarke Sellars' Schopenhauer? (from SEP's article on Schopenhauer)

    Having rejected the Kantian position that our sensations are caused by an unknowable object that exists independently of us, Schopenhauer notes importantly that our body — which is just one among the many objects in the world — is given to us in two different ways: we perceive our body as a physical object among other physical objects, subject to the natural laws that govern the movements of all physical objects, and we are aware of our body through our immediate awareness, as we each consciously inhabit our body, intentionally move it, and feel directly our pleasures, pains, and emotional states. We can objectively perceive our hand as an external object, as a surgeon might perceive it during a medical operation, and we can also be subjectively aware of our hand as something we inhabit, as something we willfully move, and of which we can feel its inner muscular workings.

    From this observation, Schopenhauer asserts that among all the objects in the universe, there is only one object, relative to each of us — namely, our physical body — that is given in two entirely different ways. It is given as representation (i.e., objectively; externally) and as Will (i.e., subjectively; internally). One of his notable conclusions is that when we move our hand, this is not to be comprehended as a motivational act that first happens, and then causes the movement of our hand as an effect. He maintains that the movement of our hand is but a single act — again, like the two sides of a coin — that has a subjective feeling of willing as one of its aspects, and the movement of the hand as the other. More generally, he adds that the action of the body is nothing but the act of Will objectified, that is, translated into perception.
  • fdrake
    1.3k
    I wanted to make a note on a non-philosophical real vs a philosophical one. Let's take Zizek's real since it's probably a point of commonality between most of the active participants in the discussion. It's kind of a negative concept - delimiting the sphere of sense. Sometimes it erupts and breaks stuff. It marks a point where the always-already interpreted is reformed in some way. Most of the time we don't experience it, since it's the site of transformation which engenders a subject. It's sensed only as a failure of previously established sense. It's never seen as it is since it is the breakdown and reformation of identities (which are always symbolic).

    Laruelle, at least as I see it, interprets this as a philosophical dyad, in which the character of the real is just a delimitation of sense, contrasted to our entrapment in the play of signs. The real is determined through its account, even as it resists determination as the part of any account. This is seen as a performative contradiction, how can the real be attuned to this or that philosophical position when it breaks the category of sense? The real becomes a shadow - taking the shape of the negation of sense, with different accounts of this negation; shadows always have something other than them determining their shape.

    I think the idea of a caesura is a good analogy for what the real is in this kind of account. The pauses between words are a determined absence, which is always-already delimited given an understanding of the spoken language. The significant, already interpreted absence that constitutes a caesura is much harder to hear when unfamiliar with the language - the words bleed into each other, removing the gap.

    Contrast this to silence, which is heard in the same way for all people - as the absence of sound. Irrelevant of how the ear is trained, a contextless silence is the background under which the spoken word takes its shape. Caesuras are the image of this background insofar as they delimit words and more generally meanings. The background itself was already there, but was not always-already interpreted.

    Hearing the caesuras as a prerequisite for understanding the spoken word is essentially (still an analogy here) auto-positional, an interpretive apparatus must be always-already there to count the silences as part of speech. Just as in philosophy, when faced with an idea there is a filter for relevance, weaknesses in accounts, and that addressing these things consists in doing more philosophy. Apply this to the real, as the limit of sense and the liminality of sense as such. The idea that a sufficient account of the conceptual structure of a hole in an idea (real as hole underneath all ideas, roughly) would well characterise how the real itself works is, for Laruelle, an example of the principle of sufficient philosophy - the endless chain of absences, unintended consequences, limits to the account that provides more avenues for philosophising.

    Contrast this to quasi-empirical and truly scientific methodology, discoveries are unexpected, they orient research programs, they orient scientific thinking as much as they are produced while thinking scientifically. But, at least in principle, without an organon for what good observations could be. That there is no 'conceptual grammar' which determines the consequences of the observations is seen as a big contrast to philosophical thought, in which the consequences play out in more philosophy if they play out at all. The interminability of debate in philosophy - and philosophical research programs as elaborations and exegesis of previous ideas - I think, is good evidence for this auto-positional character of philosophy.

    This isn't to say that philosophy is bad in principle, but it is to say that philosophies of the real begin in philosophy and project the ideas through the delimiting and negational concepts conditioning sense as such to the real. Laruelle sees non-philosophy as beginning in this real, and following one's nose on what it suggests. This turns architectonic systems into interpretive apparatuses, and the conceptual necessity with which those architectonic systems hang together then becomes a logical function of simply being reasonable. As Laruelle puts it, 'I content myself with simply being consistent', using philosophical ideas to generate interesting interpretations of things, but never vouchsafing their necessity through conceptual necessity.

    To link this back to Sellars, seeing language as a closed, flat plane - the dizzying immanence, as csal described it iirc- is very much like characterising sense in preparation for the introduction of a philosophical interpretation of the real. This resonates very will with seeing the unfolding of language use as a series of natural causes - thought holding itself indifferent to its content. It seems for Sellars this will be furnished with a representational account of language use as somehow picturing and gesturing towards nature (here, a real). Will the account find the principles of unfolding of language use as a series of natural causes? Perhaps it will, but hopefully it will be seen as a description of our conduct rather than reifying the interpretation of the real of language into another 'hole filling' in an architectonic system.

    Edit - I realise that this is a nonstandard use of the word 'caesura' to mean pause, but I wanted to connote the poetic version of it which contributes to the overall expression.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k


    Yeah, but this is a different issue, no? At stake is not a question of tokens and types: by your own description, 'doggie' isn't a particular. I mean, this is one of the reasons Sellars draws a hard line between sensation and intelligibility, where a flood of affection would lie on the former side of the equation and tokens/types on the latter. I don't think the account of tokens and types given above needs to deny that such wellings of affections - where one might utter 'Paul!' or 'doggie!' as a consequence - can happen. It needs only to ask that we be careful to distinguish between the different 'logics' at work in each.

    I'll dip back into Hegel here. What I want to say is that in my example 'doggie' is already functioning as a particular in-itself (the child will correctly say 'doggie!' in reaction to all sorts of different dogs) but it's not yet a particular for-itself (the child isn't able yet to see this particular dog as a particular dog. It sees it as a dog. But it doesn't see it as a particular dog. ) I may be totally wrong on an empirical level, about what's happening when kids of a particular age say 'doggie!' (I feel like its right, but I haven't done the legwork) but I think it's still a valid conceptual distinction regardless.

    (A less annoyingly Hegelian way to put it would be: an external observer can see that the child is abstracting (it learned 'doggie' through interaction with Grandpa's black lab, and is now saying 'doggie' in relation to uncle mark's golden retriever) but the child itself doesn't see what it's doing.

    The additional Hegelian point would be that the observer would miss something significant if it were to imagine that its observational perspective was ultimately the true one, while the child's was befuddled. That befuddlement, in fact, is both the condition for - and indisposable component of - the later non-befuddlement of the external observer.)

    But, on a more basic level, what I was trying to get at is that

    What does it mean to abstract? At base, it means to ignore things: the concept of an 'apple' involves ignoring things about individual apples: this apple may be bruised, and that apple may be green instead of red, but all these details are ignored when we simply designate both as 'apples'. — sx

    This is what I was trying to get at with my example of Paul. Even if I've never seen Paul sunburned before, and he's sunburned now, I still see Paul*. The bigger point : the things you're describing as characterizing abstraction seem like necessary but not sufficient conditions for the token-type oscillations. Recognition of an individual also requires this kind of 'abstraction,' though it seems to be a way of abstracting in an operative, non-thematic way.

    So what I'm objecting to is this:

    Any identification, even of a singular, already implicates two levels: object-level (token) and meta-object level (type), with the caveat that with singular things, token and type coincide in the one object. And insofar as all identification involves both token and type, what you have is a strange case of identifying the relation between an object and itself — sx

    Contextualizing all of that in terms of the broader conversation:

    So I agree with you about the 'machinery' of thought being unable to latch onto any particular thing as a natural token or type. Tokening and typing are functions of the machinery. The machinery types and tokens. Absent the machinery: no types and tokens.

    What I want to say, though, is that that this type-token stuff is a higher-order game predicated on some lower-order game. That's why I think it's worth noting that the study with the monkeys isn't about them recognizing shoes, its about them recognizing pairs (even more importantly: recognizing pairs as pairs, since a pair of shoes has its own significance that exceeds [pairs.] Would they need a (literal) token to recognize a shoe (or even a pair of shoes)? Could be, i don't know, but I do think its significant that this study is working a level of abstraction higher.

    Which is to say: If Sellars is trying get us to change our perspective in order to look at predicates in terms of patterns of usage, then what we'd have to look at are the singular patterns of usage. The types/tokens thing would be a kind of autonomous secondary game that takes off from there. More precisely: Sellars, if I understand you and him, is rethinking our way of thinking about predicates in order to disrupt our way of understanding a certain pattern (predication) in order to clear the way to understand the more varied field of patterns underlying it. I don't want to say he's 'deconstructing' because he seems to have a pretty firm sense of what he's doing on a broader scale --- but, in this particular respect, it seems like what he's doing is some local brush-clearing. (that is, if I understand any of what Sellars is doing at all.)

    I guess ultimately I'm trying to figure out how that indifferent machinery 'links onto' the stuff its thinking about (thinking with?). I'm trying to kind of sketch out a middle-place where universals are already in effect and ripe for the machinery.


    (also bracketting @fdrake's excellent contributions here, just because I only have so much cognitive bandwidth today. I think the direction he's going with all this is fascinating and hope to respond to those posts soon)

    ------
    *I'm ignoring anything along the lines of Paul at time x as token of [timeless] Paul, because I just think this is a bad way of looking at things. It might not be, I might be wrong, and I'd be open to that. I just figured I'd pass over it for now.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    This isn't to say that philosophy is bad in principle, but it is to say that philosophies of the real begin in philosophy and project the ideas through the delimiting and negational concepts conditioning sense as such to the real. Laruelle sees non-philosophy as beginning in this real, and following one's nose on what it suggestsfdrake

    I really get Laruelle's project, I really think I do, but my gosh do I also think the point is overstated. I mean, yeah, OK, there's a difference between seeing the negative as the negative of philosophy (what you refer to as caesura) and the negative as, as it were, 'in itself' (''in-itself' for philosophy!' the annoying Laruellian will reply), but, when it comes right down to it, I don't see this as amounting to anything other than a change in attitude on behalf of the philosopher. Like, I think the ultimate payoff of 'non-philosophy' is psychological, a little bit of humble pie, or an acknowledgement that things in a mirror are closer than they seem.

    But then I'm always tempted to ask: who actually thinks that philosophy functions in the way Laruelle does? Who - apart from maybe Hegel - will say 'My system covers everything, even the (its?) negative!'. I mean yeah, there are some nameless idiots here who walk around with blinders so strong that they don't even realize they're wearing them, but generally if you press people they'll acknowledge that at best they're working with a series of intuition pumps or attempts at framing things so as to bring out relevant features of the world (or of specific situations), and so on. I mean, this is just what thinking is: you make a distinction, and then you attempt to reason on the basis of that distinction. The alternative is that you get interminably bogged down arguing about 'the system', and I can't imagine anything more philosophically anemic.

    I mean, there's a question here over a 'realism' of that distinction: is that distinction a 'real' one (in the Platonic sense) or not? But I think even granting that Laruelle is right (and I think he is), my immediate impulse is: who cares? Not very 'philosophical' of me I know, but all the interesting stuff happens once we've made a distinction (of token and type, among other things!); all the juicy philosophy happens in its wake, and while there's perhaps some question over the status of all that juice, it strikes me as thoroughly boring to keep coming back to it over and over again. And to think Laruelle has made a career out of this! No wonder he's had to resort to a vocabulary so exotic that even continental philosophers - whose trade and ply is exoticism - are generally like 'wtf man'.

    Not directing this at you btw, just more venting in your general direction since you mentioned it. I mean, take the Zizekian real. Surely the Zizekian can reply - of course you're right, the real is 'immanent' to thought: but that's just what it would be on account of it being thought as such. By Laruelleian lights themselves, this is exactly as it should be. Surely the problem would be if the real is posited as really, actually being beyond discourse, precisely because it is being 'posited-by-thought-to-be-beyond-thought'. But that is just what isn't happening.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    To link this back to Sellars, seeing language as a closed, flat plane - the dizzying immanence, as csal described it iirc- is very much like characterising sense in preparation for the introduction of a philosophical interpretation of the real. This resonates very will with seeing the unfolding of language use as a series of natural causes - thought holding itself indifferent to its content. It seems for Sellars this will be furnished with a representational account of language use as somehow picturing and gesturing towards nature (here, a real). Will the account find the principles of unfolding of language use as a series of natural causes? Perhaps it will, but hopefully it will be seen as a description of our conduct rather than reifying the interpretation of the real of language into another 'hole filling' in an architectonic system.fdrake

    Sooo, my rant aside, this is where I begrudgingly acknowledge that OK, there may be some extra-psychological payoff to Laruelle's notions, and it's in this direction where one might find it. But on the other hand, did we really need Laruelle and his extravagant theoretical motions to get there? Or was it always just a matter of paying attention to the specificity of thought itself? So maybe I can say: Laruelle makes explicit something implicit everywhere in thought, and it's nice to use that explicitness as a jumping-off point but there's no reason to then try and erect some giant edifice over and against some boogyman called 'philosophy' which apparently simply cannot accommodate that explicitness. This being Brassier's own criticism of Laruelle:

    "It is only Laruelle’s own insistence on equating philosophy with decision which shores up this alleged incommensurability [between philosophical and non-philosophical thinking]. [But] Once the dichotomy between philosophy and non-philosophy has been recast as a contrast between correlationalist and non-correlationalist thinking, the rationale for disowning any potentially intra-philosophical consequences of the real’s positive negativity simply evaporates. In fact, Laruelle’s disavowal of the latter amounts to an attempt to neuter his work’s latent philosophical potency on the grounds that this would compromise non-philosophy’s supposed indifference towards philosophical decision. But it is necessary to insist, against Laruelle himself, that it is precisely the positive negativity of the ‘non-’ which expresses the real’s non-dialectical negativity (read: 'non-conceptual negativity' - SX)." (Nihil Unbound, "Being Nothing")

    And the turn to Sellars is, among other things, an attempt to capture this 'positive negativity' within philosophy itself, without reducing it to what is philosophically posited. Laruelle would probably insist it cannot be done. And if he did I would say he'd be wrong.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    The child isn't able yet to see this particular dog as a particular dog. It sees it as a dog. But it doesn't see it as a particular dogcsalisbury

    Hmm, but I think the relevant qualification is the 'as' here; I mean, this is the structure of intentionality as such, the 'as-structure' that Heidegger talks about: to see X as Y, whether it be 'as a dog' or 'as a particular'. The language is confusing here because to see something as something is to see it... as a particular (in general!).(it's the difference between de dicto and de re uses of the word 'particular'). So I want to grant that there is a 'language game' (conceptual game?) where to recognize something as 'a particular' (de dicto) is indeed a specific kind of knowing (where 'particular' is treated as a 'kind of thing'), but to also say that all recognition of something as anything whatsoever implicates particularity de re).

    I mean, consider a case of misrecognition. An adult says: 'look it's doggie!' while pointing to another dog than the child is used to, and the child pauses, screws up her face and says '...that's not doggie'. Perhaps this is the first time the child has ever been 'forced' to recognize that her doggie is indeed 'a' doggie, or maybe this would be a good time for the adult to teach the child that 'doggie' is a broader term than what she actually (probably) wants to say ('doggie's name is 'Snoopy', dear'). In either case, 'doggie' already has determinate (that is to say particular) 'content' qua particular content, even if not recognized in a 'higher-order' game as particular.

    So I guess the point is that while it's true that the game of tokens and types is 'a' game among others (de dicto), and that this game is indeed a 'higher-order game predicated on some lower-order one', it is nonetheless implicated in all other games (de re). And to play those other games - to sort pairs of like pairs together - is to play that game, even if one doesn't know, in the full-blown intentionally directed sense of the term, that one is playing that game (and not some other). At the very least any kind of recognition of 'something as something' paves the way for a retroactive lightbulb moment of 'ah, so that's what I was doing' (at a higher order).

    (In line with a Deleuzian take, one can say that there is always a prior 'problematic' that 'distributes' token and type, and that it is to this problematic that we respond to before utilizing the distinction in an explicit way: "Propositions, whether general or particular, find their sense only in the subjacent problem which inspires them ... A well known test in psychology involves a monkey who is supposed to find food in boxes of one particular colour amidst others of various colours: there comes a paradoxical period during which the number of 'errors' diminishes even though the monkey does not yet possess the 'knowledge' or 'truth' of a solution in each case: propitious moment in which the philosopher-monkey opens up to truth, himself producing the true, but only to the extent that he begins to penetrate the coloured thickness of a problem".)
  • fdrake
    1.3k
    @StreetlightX

    But then I'm always tempted to ask: who actually thinks that philosophy functions in the way Laruelle does? Who - apart from maybe Hegel - will say 'My system covers everything, even the (its?) negative!'. I mean yeah, there are some nameless idiots here who walk around with blinders so strong that they don't even realize they're wearing them, but generally if you press people they'll acknowledge that at best they're working with a series of intuition pumps or attempts at framing things so as to bring out relevant features of the world (or of specific situations), and so on. I mean, this is just what thinking is: you make a distinction, and then you attempt to reason on the basis of that distinction. The alternative is that you get interminably bogged down arguing about 'the system', and I can't imagine anything more philosophically anemic.

    I think this is true on a meta level. People's beliefs about their own philosophical conduct are probably usually something like 'it's a hodge-podge of intuitions, research and what seems reasonable at the time', but I don't think it's true when actually doing philosophy. The best example of this I think is 'biting the bullet', in which a person acknowledges an inconsistency of an intuition but nevertheless asserts their now (momentarily?) non-intuitive position on pain of consistency. It marks a moment where there is a severe failure to look around, as @csalisbury put it. To examine stuff as it is without, or with minimal, blinders. When you go down the pub and talk with philosophers they don't fucking know anything just like me, but I'll be damned if denying that wasn't an operational necessity of the job.

    Though, I do think it's appropriate to believe that someone always has some interpretive apparatus at work, and this is a precondition for sensitivity to the real. I enjoy the distinction between an interpretive apparatus sensitive and subservient to the real and one aimed at it, which produces transcendental thought. Sensitivity/topicality science/philosophy is a fun dyadic pair. Then of course you have people like Andy Clarke and Ray Brassier and Steven Pinker (however much he's disagreeable) and Merleau Ponty that actually kinda do both. I like that dual sensitivity.

    I'm pretty sure, however, that the reason you find Laruelle's claims trivial is because Deleuze sees things very similarly, Zizek has similarities too, and you also like Brassier. Also that you already think 'non-philosophically' in the broad sense. Most do not; how hard it is to bend your mind that way in terms of wordview isn't just a function of the difficulty of Laruelle's writing. It's because it really is difficult to be a slave to the real.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k

    In either case, 'doggie' already has determinate (that is to say particular) 'content' qua particular content, even if not recognized in a 'higher-order' game as particular.

    So I guess the point is that while it's true that the game of tokens and types is 'a' game among others (de dicto), and that this game is indeed a 'higher-order game predicated on some lower-order one', it is nonetheless implicated in all other games (de re). And to play those other games - to sort pairs of like pairs together - is to play that game, even if one doesn't know, in the full-blown intentionally directed sense of the term, that one is playing that game (and not some other). At the very least any kind of recognition of 'something as something' paves the way for a retroactive lightbulb moment of 'ah, so that's what I was doing' (at a higher order).
    .
    — sx

    I think we're actually saying close to to the same thing here, so I'm trying to remember what point I was trying to make.

    hmm

    What we both agree on, I think:

    (1)Type-tokening machinery has a semi-autonomous logic (semi-autonomous in the sense that it differentiates itself from the real, but the real doesn't differentiate itself from it. autonomous in that it has its own internally consistent machinic logic, but only semi- because the machinery arises from out of - and continues to rely upon - something that exceeds it)

    (2) This gibes with a qualified nominalism, because it allows us to admit universals as tools, without necessitating that these tools reflect (instantiate, symbolize etc) real universals.

    [let me know if that sounds off]

    ok so now what I understand the monkey experiment to show

    (This may sound like I'm just straight up repeating stuff you've already said. Just trying to put it in my own words to get this all organized in my head)

    In order for the monkeys to identify pairs qua pairs, they can't simply relate one pair to another. Or even one pair to a bunch of other pairs. This type of relation would all take place on the same 'plane' so to speak. Just going from one thing to another: this and this and this and this.

    Instead an additional layer of depth is required: this pair relates to this [thing]. And this other pair relates to this [thing] as well. And all the pairs relate to this [thing]. This introduces a kind of new 'level'. The lateral relations of all the things to one another are all condensed into a single relation - the relation to this one concrete thing. And this adds a kind of depth, it puts the single thing on a sort of higher plane Of course the that thing is as material as everything else. But the economy of relations has given it a particular significance.

    (Hadn't thought of this before, but this is the same logic as the master signifier in Lacan, or how money relates to commodities in Marx, yeah?).

    But the upshot of all this is that the very idea of type-tokens is a kind of multi-dimensional relationship. The relation of all these things to one another becomes intelligible in their shared relation to one thing. (and then this relation-structure can fractalize in and out, as much as you like.)

    So, my lack of formal training might show here (there's trillions of gallons of ink spilled, I'm sure, on the problem of universals.) But I understand the visceral force of the realist argument to be something like: If these various things aren't all instances of a single universal, how are we able to 'pick them out' as particulars?

    And I think this where is the pairs thing gets me. Because [pairs] is clearly up a level. It's base-level is already a relational, cognitive one.

    I don't think it's clear that all universals operate like this, such that, ultimately, a particular relates to itself through relation to another thing.

    So, the doggie route may have been a bad one. I think the Paul one is better. I recognize Paul. This definitely involves an as-structure: I see Paul as Paul. But I don't see Paul as Paul @tx related to Paul @ty related to [timeless] Paul. I just see Paul.

    I think a similar process could happen for all sorts of things. I can pick out raspberries without relating them to [raspberry].

    [placeholder: this goes back to the de dicto/de re thing (which I think I was trying to get at the same thing in terms of in-itself vs for-itself). But I think this is a place where the realist can actually get a good foothold.]

    I guess tldr: I don't know that recognition requires the relational structure involved in the OP's experiment. I was going to say more, but I'm running out of steam. I'm hoping this is a good starting point tho, or at least a window onto how I'm thinking about this.

    Another way to put it: I think the realist still has a way in here. At the level of recognition.

    Does that make sense? I'm not championing a realist position by any means, just trying to figure out what isnt sitting right with me, which is still more a feeling than a well-articulated [something]
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    Ok so another way to put this. I don't think the realist need deny this semi-autonomous capacity of thought w/r/t this type-token stuff. It's not an argument against the realist, I don't think. They could describe all of this as a kind of cognitive excrescence, one that comes about when we need to talk about how we talk about things.

    Or: the universals are the ground upon which all the rest builds. Like: type-token talk could, conceivably, be reliant on a kind of universal-transcendental ground. (Or could not. But I don't think any of what we've been talking about rules out the possibility that it is.)
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    I'm pretty sure, however, that the reason you find Laruelle's claims trivial is because Deleuze sees things very similarly, Zizek has similarities too, and you also like Brassier. Also that you already think 'non-philosophically' in the broad sense. Most do not; how hard it is to bend your mind that way in terms of wordview isn't just a function of the difficulty of Laruelle's writing. It's because it really is difficult to be a slave to the real.fdrake

    Hah, that's a very generous way to respond to my grumpiness about Laruelle. Funnily enough, my favorite formulation of the role that philosophy or 'theory' plays comes from a political theorist, Wendy Brown, who specifically affirms the way in which philosophy captures the world precisely to the extent that it frames it otherwise than it is:

    "Theory depicts a world that does not quite exist, a world that is not quite the one we inhabit. ... An interval between the actual and the theoretical is crucial insofar as theory does not simply decipher the world, but recodes it in order to reveal something of the meanings and incoherencies with which we live. This is not simply to say that political and social theory describe reality abstractly. At their best, they conjure relations and meanings that illuminate the real or that help us recognize the real, but this occurs in grammars and formulations other than those of the real." (Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty)

    In other words, the autonomy of the real implies nothing less than a certain co-autonomy of the ideal. And the genesis of this kind of thinking goes back (at least) to Kant, who affirmed that the whole purpose of the faculty of Reason was to provide a focus imaginarius, a supersensible 'regulative point' which would allow us to relate to the world as if it made maximal sense, as if it abided by our concepts. The idea being that without this fictive positing, we would be unable to reason at all. This was part and parcel of Kant's discovery of the 'synthetic a priori', whose real import, as Levi Bryant points out, was that it uncovered a power of novelty specific to thought:

    "But the synthetic a priori is real magic. From thought alone you’re getting more out of the hat than you put there in the first place. When Kant says that 7+5 = 12 is not an analytic a priori judgment, nor a synthetic a posteriori judgment, but a synthetic a priori judgment, he’s saying that when we go through these calculations we learn something we didn’t know at first, something that’s absolutely certain but that we didn’t know at the outset, and that this isn’t merely a matter of definitions nor is it a matter of experience. Through thought we get more than we started with. ... If synthetic a priori propositions are possible this means there’s a power of thought… A power to go beyond teaching or environment and a power to go beyond your nature. If synthetic a priori propositions are possible this means you have the power to introduce something new into both your own thought and the world through thought." (source).

    Those who think that thought merely 'reflects' the real in a 'transcendental' sense (w/r/t Laruelle use of the term 'transcendental' - a use, btw, which bothers me to no end), miss precisely this power of thought, it's introduction of novelty into the world in which it thinks about.
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    At their best, they conjure relations and meanings that illuminate the real or that help us recognize the real, but this occurs in grammars and formulations other than those of the real." — sx

    This is obviously a bit far afield, but I wish the left was able to do this in terms of storytelling i.e (mythologizing, sermonizing, poeticizing etc etc) I think the theory stuff is great, but I also sometimes picture like, 50 columbia grads at zucotti park talking to one another about hyper-nuanced stuff, and like 10 of these splitting off to try to talk to the group (Ranciere said !). I think the Left is reallllly lacking invigorating narrative power these days. And everything you've said about theory, imo, applies to (mythologizing, sermonizing, poeticizing) as well.
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