• StreetlightX
    2.7k
    There's been alot of talk here recently about philosophy and its ability to 'uncover' or 'find truths'. I think this is unfortunate, and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what philosophy does. It's a hard issue to articulate though, so I wanna piggy back off one of my favourite blog posts ever, which is from Levi Bryant's blog, found here.

    For Bryant - and I agree with him - philosophy operates at a level even more fundamental than truth, which is what he calls framing: philosophy brings things into view in such a way that we can talk about truth at all. Here is how Bryant puts it: "The great debates among philosophers are about something that precedes truthful or veridical statements... The great debates of philosophy are questions of how existence should be framed. Frames make a selection from the infinity of existence, and in doing so draw attention to these features of being rather than those features of being. A frame is an imperative that says attend to or notice this type of existence. And once the frame has been formulated, it then becomes possible to make veridical statements about what appears in the frame."

    Every great philosopher then, is measured by what he or she brings into view; Descartes' cogito, Wittgenstein's language games, Nietzsche's will-to-power, Husserl's lived experience, etc. One corollary of this, which Bryant doesn't dwell so much upon, is that philosophy then is largely an exercise is exploring the consequences of what follows once we've fixed our frame; it's an exploration of implications. Gilles Deleuze's formulation remains among the most cogent here: "a philosophical theory is an elaborately developed question, and nothing else; by itself and in itself, it is not the resolution to a problem, but the elaboration, to the very end, of the necessary implications of a formulated question".

    Yet another way to put this is that the object of philosophy - I want to say its only object - is sense. Philosophy is an exploration of sense, and not truth. Any philosophical distinction - say between the sensible and the intelligible, the material and the ideal, immanence and transcendence - is an exploration of the sense of these terms, of the way in which they are articulated and the way in which they allow us to speak about the world (in certain ways and not others). One last consequence of this is that to then speak of philosophies as being 'wrong' - in any way other than as a figure of speech - is to misunderstand totally the vocation of philosophy. Philosophies are only more or less useful, more or less interesting, more or less significant. As Bryant says, those who hold philosophy to the criterion are truth are nothing less then cretins.

    Or, as Whitehead once put it - it is more important that a proposition be interesting than it be true. And as for those complain about philosophy's perennial inability to provide 'answers' - cretins, all of them.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k


    :up:
    I think it's a bit sad though . We can't find the truth. So let's settle for ''interesting''.
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    It's not sad at all. You don't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. If you do, you've misunderstood what a fish is - but that would be your problem, not the fish's. Truth for the most part (but not always) is incredibly banal. Is it true that the cat is on the mat? It is true. Woop.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k
    It's not sad at all. You don't judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree. If you do, you've misunderstood what a fish is. Truth for the most part is incredibly banal. Is it true that the cat is on the mat? It is true. Woop.StreetlightX

    Play is important for both kids and adults. Perhaps life is a game and making it interesting is as important as finding truths.
  • T Clark
    3k
    For Bryant - and I agree with him - philosophy operates at a level even more fundamental than truth, which is what he calls framing: philosophy brings things into view in such a way that we can talk about truth at all. Here is how Bryant puts it: "The great debates among philosophers are about something that precedes truthful or veridical statements... The great debates of philosophy are questions of how existence should be framed. Frames make a selection from the infinity of existence, and in doing so draw attention to these features of being rather than those features of being. A frame is an imperative that says attend to or notice this type of existence. And once the frame has been formulated, it then becomes possible to make veridical statements about what appears in the frame."StreetlightX

    Aren't you talking about what is usually called "metaphysics," which R.G. Collingwood in "An Essay on Metaphysics" defines as "the science of absolute presuppositions." Absolute presuppositions are underlying assumptions that aren't matters of fact. As Collingwood wrote "Absolute presuppositions are not verifiable. This does not mean that we should like to verify them but are not able to; ·it means that the idea of verification is an idea which does not apply to them..."

    Instead, absolute predispositions are matters of preference or usefullness, or as you say

    Philosophies are only more or less useful, more or less interesting, more or less significant.StreetlightX

    I have been wrestling with this idea since I started on the forum a little more than a year ago.

    And yes, I am also unhappy with the emphasis on truth in philosophy. Agreeing on what Bryant calls "the frame" has to come before you can start talking about truth. That's something that almost no one seems to recognize.

    Yet another way to put this is that the object of philosophy - I want to say its only object - is sense. Philosophy is an exploration of sense, and not truth.StreetlightX

    You have another thread open now where you are talking about "sense," which I didn't really understand and I'm not sure how it applies here. I have always thought about it in a different way - to me, the only answer any living organism needs is to the question "What do I do now." That's the object of philosophy.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k

    It's like Burt Dreben's remark that great philosophers don't argue. (They just lay out their framework and you see how useful it is or isn't by using it -- proof's in the pudding.)

    As far as this goes, I think it's unobjectionable. But I have two little concerns:
    1. People will tend to leap to some easy relativism here: every theory shows some stuff. hides some stuff, "therefore" no theory is better than any other. And that's BS. Relativism always has this hidden absolutist expectation -- if your theory doesn't show me absolutely everything it's just as deceptive as every other theory.

    2. Frames can be misleading. Think of forced perspective tricks. We want theories, frameworks, that reveal relationships that actually hold between objects pictured, not frameworks that make it appear there are relationships there aren't. We do want frameworks that reveal, and they're better than frameworks that don't.
  • T Clark
    3k
    1. People will tend to leap to some easy relativism here: every theory shows some stuff. hides some stuff, "therefore" no theory is better than any other. And that's BS. Relativism always has this hidden absolutist expectation -- if your theory doesn't show me absolutely everything it's just as deceptive as every other theory.Srap Tasmaner

    I think applying the usefulness standard addresses the relativism criticism. If my way works, even in a limited context, then it's "right" when we are addressing things in that context.

    2. Frames can be misleading.Srap Tasmaner

    There are always frames, whether or not they are recognized. Bringing attention to them is the best way not to be mislead.
  • frank
    1.3k
    ... philosophy operates at a level even more fundamental than truthStreetlightX
    Are there any concepts more fundamental than truth?
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    Will reply to this more fully later (sleeeep now), but one thing I should have specified is that there is one place where truth does matter in all of this: with respect to the questions asked; not all problems are of equal standing. Most are rubbish. Wittgenstein was mostly right that philosophy is up to its neck with badly-posed questions. But the trick is to find true problems. This requires a reconception of truth beyond it's banal sense of yes/no. There are no true solutions, only true problems. Will expand tomorrow.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    There are always frames, whether or not they are recognized. Bringing attention to them is the best way not to be mislead.T Clark

    But -- if there are always frames, it's not that fact alone you'd be relying on to avoid being misled. "Hey wait a minute! This picture has a frame, therefore ..." You still need some other way of evaluating what's in the picture.

    There are accidental forced perspective illusions in real life. Baseball has perfect examples: sometimes seen from one angle it can look as if the fielder's glove is laying right on the runner's foot as he slides, but from another angle it's clearly three inches above. Now imagine such a play making the difference in the last game of the world series, and the hometown paper printing the picture with the misleading angle and a banner headline: "WE WERE ROBBED!" It's not framing per se that's the problem here, but the choice of frame.
  • T Clark
    3k
    But -- if there are always frames, it's not that fact alone you'd be relying on to avoid being misled. "Hey wait a minute! This picture has a frame, therefore ..." You still need some other way of evaluating what's in the picture.Srap Tasmaner

    I won't speak for Streetlightx, but I'm talking about metaphysical frames here. Things like:

    • Everything has a cause
    • There is free will
    • Objective reality does not exist
    • Scientific principles which apply here and now apply elsewhere in the universe throughout time.
  • gurugeorge
    427
    Every great philosopher then, is measured by what he or she brings into viewStreetlightX

    If they don't bring into view something that's true, then they're merely imagining logical possibilities.

    I do agree with you that philosophy operates at the level of framing, but it's not done for its own sake, like a game, but to discover how the world is, how we should live in a world that's that way, etc.

    Even "the cat is on the mat" could have tremendous purport if you're likely to trip over it when you're walking up to the nuclear button.
  • Ying
    175
    There's been alot of talk here recently about philosophy and its ability to 'uncover' or 'find truths'. I think this is unfortunate, and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what philosophy does.StreetlightX

    It's a fairly common misconception though. Rather irksome, since I prefer a dubitative approach. As such, that whole project of "truth seeking" is lost on me. Merleau-Ponty, in his "In Praise of Philosophy" states:

    "Even those who have desired to work out a complete positive philosophy have been philosophers only to the extent that, at the same time,they have refused the right to install themselves in absolute knowledge. They taught not this knowledge, but its becoming in us, not the absolute but, at most, our absolute relation to it, as Kierkegaard said. What makes a man a philosopher is the movement which leads back without ceasing from knowledge to ignorance, from ignorance to knowledge, and a kind of rest in this movement."

    ... which is a much better assessment of the philosophical project imho.

    For Bryant - and I agree with him - philosophy operates at a level even more fundamental than truth, which is what he calls framing: philosophy brings things into view in such a way that we can talk about truth at all. Here is how Bryant puts it: "The great debates among philosophers are about something that precedes truthful or veridical statements... The great debates of philosophy are questions of how existence should be framed. Frames make a selection from the infinity of existence, and in doing so draw attention to these features of being rather than those features of being. A frame is an imperative that says attend to or notice this type of existence. And once the frame has been formulated, it then becomes possible to make veridical statements about what appears in the frame."

    Every great philosopher then, is measured by what he or she brings into view; Descartes' cogito, Wittgenstein's language games, Nietzsche's will-to-power, Husserl's lived experience, etc. One corollary of this, which Bryant doesn't dwell so much upon, is that philosophy then is largely an exercise is exploring the consequences of what follows once we've fixed our frame; it's an exploration of implications. Gilles Deleuze's formulation remains among the most cogent here: "a philosophical theory is an elaborately developed question, and nothing else; by itself and in itself, it is not the resolution to a problem, but the elaboration, to the very end, of the necessary implications of a formulated question".

    Yet another way to put this is that the object of philosophy - I want to say its only object - is sense. Philosophy is an exploration of sense, and not truth. Any philosophical distinction - say between the sensible and the intelligible, the material and the ideal, immanence and transcendence - is an exploration of the sense of these terms, of the way in which they are articulated and the way in which they allow us to speak about the world (in certain ways and not others).

    "Hexagram 18, nine at the top means:
    He does not serve kings and princes,
    Sets himself higher goals.

    Not every man has an obligation to mingle in the affairs of the world. There are some who are developed to such a degree that they are justified in letting the world go its own way and refusing to enter public life with a view to reforming it. But this does not imply a right to remain idle or to sit back and merely criticize. Such withdrawal is justified only when we strive to realize in ourselves the higher aims of mankind. For although the sage remains distant from the turmoil of daily life, he creates incomparable human values for the future.
    "
    -"I Ching", Wilhelm translation.

    That last bit basically sums up what philosophy is all about imho; the creation of "incomparable human values for the future". You'll have to forgive Wilhelm for his flowery prose, there. He's basically talking about novel values. It's a beautifully vague definition of philosophy, which is somehow fitting; the vagueness accounts for the broad scope of the field.
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    I won't speak for Streetlightx, but I'm talking about metaphysical frames here. Things like:
    T Clark
    • Everything has a cause
    • There is free will
    • Objective reality does not exist
    • Scientific principles which apply here and now apply elsewhere in the universe throughout time.


    Not to put too fine a point on it, but treating these kinds of propositions as 'frames' is exactly the kind of mistake which I think must be avoided. I mean, it doesn't even make grammatical sense to say that 'everything has a cause' is a frame. Rather, the question is how to frame the idea that 'everything has a cause'. What kind of thing is a cause? What is the scope of 'everything'? This is where philosophy begins, with an investigation into kinds and scopes - contrast spaces and sense.

    Propositions like 'there is free will' are the results, the 'fall outs' of a particular way of framing, and not a starting point. Honestly, every debate that begins with 'do we have free will?', or 'does everything have a cause?', etc, are all pseudo-debates. They take for granted that anyone has any idea at all what 'will' or 'cause' is (let alone free!), when every philosophy begins as a construction of the sense of these terms, articulating them with respect to a problem which motivates that construction. Every philosophical construction that is presented without it's corresponding motivation is useless; every critique of a philosophy that does not also take that motivation into account is similarly useless.

    Bryant puts its scathingly but appropriately: "A critique of a philosophy shouldn’t be based on whether it’s internally consistent or whether it is veridical, but on whether or not it conceals or veils things that are unacceptable to veil. And here I’m inclined to say that the problems that motivate a philosophy never come from within philosophy. If, for example, you find yourself obsessed with the problem of how to refute the skeptic when developing your philosophy of mind, I’m inclined to think you’re a cretin that lacks a single important thought in your head".
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    People will tend to leap to some easy relativism here: every theory shows some stuff. hides some stuff, "therefore" no theory is better than any other. Relativism always has this hidden absolutist expectation -- if your theory doesn't show me absolutely everything it's just as deceptive as every other theory.Srap Tasmaner

    Exactly. The irony is that such relativism doesn't actually go far enough: 'better' only makes sense in relation to what a theory is trying to do; an account of society that has no vocabulary to take into account institutional powers, for example, is a bad account because it fails by its own standards; it misses something about the very object of analysis it wants to hold front and centre. Bryant: "A critique of a philosophy [should be based on] whether or not it conceals or veils things that are unacceptable to veil." - where the lineaments of 'acceptability' can only be drawn from the object analysis itself.

    So one thing I want to emphasize is that frames are never just a matter of 'preference' or fancy. In laying out a frame, one can only ever really be driven by necessity: once you begin to articulate a concept in a certain way, one can only be committed to it's implications. Bergson was particularly clear about this: "The truth is that in philosophy and even elsewhere it is a question of finding the problem and consequently of positing it, even more than of solving it. For a speculative problem is solved as soon as it is properly stated... The stating and solving of the problem are here very close to being equivalent: The truly great problems are set forth only when they are solved."
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    A critique of a philosophy [should be based on] whether or not it conceals or veils things that are unacceptable to veil." - where the lineaments of 'acceptability' can only be drawn from the object analysis itself.StreetlightX

    Unless the" object analysis itself"(whatever that means) is a person, then how can 'acceptability' be drawn from it? In normal usage, 'acceptable' refers the conclusion of a person - "your explanation is unacceptable", "the alternative you suggest is an acceptable solution".

    If you are proposing some new use of the term 'acceptable' then a definition would help.

    As usual, your otherwise interesting posts are let down by a failure to provide any concrete examples, you seem to want to maintain notions as vague and ill-defined as possible. This only leads to their being used to justify the maintenance of any subjectively preferred philosophical position. Or, more often, used to dismiss as nonsense philosophical positions one dislikes. How easy it would be for anyone using your vague terminology to dismiss as 'bad' as philosophy anything they wanted on the grounds that it had not sufficiently 'found the problem' or 'revealed' anything interesting.

    I'm still not seeing how you avoid wholesale relativism. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but unless you've had an epiphany here you certainly seem to want to maintain the right to label some philosophy objectively 'bad' and I don't see how this line of argument enables you to do that.

    That's why it would really help if you provided an example. How might you go through this process step-by-step to dismiss as 'bad' some philosophy you disapprove of? Similarly, if I were to argue that Nietzche veils something which it is unacceptable to veil (say, the biological nature of the human mind), how would you counter that?
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    Alternatively, I could rephrase my concern this way. If I define 'good' philosophy as "any propositions written in a book filed under 'philosophy' in a library, or written by a person with a PhD in philosophy as part of their academic work" (which, to be honest, is most of the world's working definition), how does your definition here alter that? Which propositions under my default definition get removed, or added under yours. If your definition neither adds nor removes propositions, ie it describes exactly the same set of propositions as mine, then I'm not sure what it's purpose is. It would be like me adding to the definition of 'elephant' the fact that they're not square. It may be true, but unless it adds to the set 'elephants' things we previously thought should be excluded, or excludes things that were previously contained within it, then it had not really been of any use to us has it?
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    . How easy it would be for anyone using your vague terminology to dismiss as 'bad' as philosophy anything they wanted on the grounds that it had not sufficiently 'found the problem' or 'revealed' anything interesting.Pseudonym

    It's always a question of how successful a philosophy is at measuring up to it's own motivations: a question of immanent critique. German Idealism from Kant to Hegel (Schelling, Fitche and Maimon in between) is exemplary of just such a development. It's not hard. It just requires a bit of literacy and hard work.

    Which is not to say that you can't contest a philosophy on grounds other than it's own; only that to do so is to develop other lines of thought, to be concerned with different problems. Any half-decent philosophy can demonstrate it's own relevance.
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    It's always a question of how successful a philosophy is at measuring up to it's own motivationsStreetlightX

    No, because the 'measuring, is done by an actual person, so again becomes an entirely subjective activity leading to total relativism.

    Any half-decent philosophy can demonstrate it's own relevance.StreetlightX

    Again, demonstrate to whom? You seem to be trying to have your cake and eat it by introducing measures of philosophical propositions which are not directly referenced to objective reality (an excellent idea), but then not really wanting to let go of objectivity entirely by admitting that the judgement of philosophical propositions is now solely in the hands of individuals.
  • StreetlightX
    2.7k
    No, because the 'measuring, is done by an actual person, so again becomes an entirely subjective activity leading to total relativism.Pseudonym

    Yeah, not dealing with this kind of sophistry. Thanks for your interest.
  • Pseudonym
    1k


    By sophistry you mean actually interrogating the ideas?
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