• StreetlightX
    3.1k
    One of Deleuze’s most prescient insights was that the major problem of thought is not error - mistakes, untruths, and falsities taken for facts - but triviality and arbitrariness. Thoughts which do not respond to any necessity, which are not motivated by the milieu in which they come to be:

    "Teachers already know that errors or falsehoods are rarely found in homework (except in those exercises where a fixed result must be produced, or propositions must be translated one by one). Rather, what is more frequently found—and worse—are nonsensical sentences, remarks without interest or importance, banalities mistaken for profundities, ordinary “points” confused with singular points, badly posed or distorted problems, all heavy with dangers, yet the fate of us all.” (Difference and Repetition)

    Unlike errors, which can always be corrected for, and are thus ‘extrinsic’ to thought, the trivial and the arbitrary are instead ‘internal’ to thought itself; Thought, to the degree that it can think anything it wants without motivation, is always in danger of triviality, which cannot simply be corrected for by providing more facts and better resources. It is this internal and intrinsic danger of thought that Deleuze dubbed ‘stupidity’: far from being a lack of intelligence, stupidity is a condition inherent to the very structure of all thought, even of the most intelligent:

    "Mature, considered thought has other enemies [than error]; negative states which are profound in entirely different ways. Stupidity is a structure of thought as such: it is not a means of self-deception, it expresses the non-sense in thought by right. Stupidity is not error or a tissue of errors. There are imbecile thoughts, imbecile discourses, that are made up entirely of truths.” (Nietzsche and Philosophy)

    This is thus a theory of transcendental stupidity: a stupidity not owing to empirical errors, able to be corrected with a good encyclopaedia, but a stupidity built-in to the nature of thought itself, belonging to it ‘by right’ (de jure) and not ‘by fact’ (de facto), and as a condition of thought ("it is only by extracting itself from its own torpor that thought can cease to be stupid” - Miguel de Beistegui), and not merely an external impediment to it (much like Kant’s own theory of transcendental illusion). Much of Wittgenstein’s work can be seen as an effort to combat this kind of transcendental stupidity, although his concern found its locus in language rather than thought.

    To clarify then, it's not that any one person or set of people in particular are stupid (which would be an empirical determination of stupidity), so much as it is that transcendental stupidity is a condition of thought that belongs to the very capacity to think. Moreover, if attention is not properly paid to this inherent structure of thought, much of what we say and think will not merely be wrong, but much worse - transcendentally stupid.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    "... remarks without interest or importance", what a load of supercilious bullshit.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Not at all; it's about as democratic a take on stupidity as you might find: a communi stultitia.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    "Teachers already know that errors or falsehoods are rarely found in homework (except in those exercises where a fixed result must be produced, or propositions must be translated one by one). Rather, what is more frequently found—and worse—are nonsensical sentences, remarks without interest or importance, banalities mistaken for profundities, ordinary “points” confused with singular points, badly posed or distorted problems, all heavy with dangers, yet the fate of us all.”StreetlightX

    This rings quite true after my several years teaching academic English, essay writing, research and the like. Thought tends to follow the path of least resistance. Factual errors were certainly relevant, but what I was looking for was evidence of structure to thought, a systemization that showed evidence of both absorption of information and organized implementation of it. What I often got though was a disorganized "picture of thought" as if students believed their impressions of what I was trying to impart could simply be regurgitated on the page and it was up to me to reinterpret that back into some properly organized whole. There was a lack of application of thought to thought, and what I tended to be given back was a filtered version of what I gave out rather than a positive transformation of it. I guess the natural form of thought acts to filter input and reproduce partial or degraded impressions rather than to create anything of interest or importance.

    "... remarks without interest or importance", what a load of supercilious bullshit.Pseudonym

    Why?
  • intrapersona
    557
    What I often got though was a disorganized "picture of thought" as if students believed their impressions of what I was trying to impart could simply be regurgitated on the page and it was up to me to reinterpret that back into some properly organized whole. There was a lack of application of thought to thought, and what I tended be given back was a filtered version of what I gave out rather than a positive transformation of it.Baden

    I don't doubt your capacities as a teacher to spot such occurrences but it may also be the case that the integration/systematization took place internally yet they lacked the linguistic capacity to follow on through. It is often mistaken that people who can't speak well don't think well. Fascinating you say this though, ive always wanted to hear such a perspective.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    What I often got though was a disorganized "picture of thought" as if students believed their impressions of what I was trying to impart could simply be regurgitated on the page and it was up to me to reinterpret that back into some properly organized whole. There was a lack of application of thought to thought, and what I tended to be given back was a filtered version of what I gave out rather than a positive transformation of itBaden

    Yeah, I often imagine thought as a kind of gear or series of cog-wheels, ones with spokes and teeth, and thought - proper thought - being a case of engaging the whole apparatus (in the sense of a meshing or 'catching' of one gear on another in concert), transmitting torque from one end of the machine to the other; And conversely, I think of the kind of cases you describe are when the gears spin-out, catching only here and there, or engaging the wrong kind of differentials for all the varying parts in motion: this latter is transcendental stupidity.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    it may also be the case that the integration/systematization took place internally yet they lacked the linguistic capacity to follow on through. It is often mistaken that people who can't speak well don't think wellintrapersona

    Yes, though it was part of the job to try to disentangle those two things as you mentioned. Linguistic errors (unless they obscured intent) were precisely from my perspective (along with factual errors) the lesser kind of errors identified by Street above. It was very difficult sometimes to see the semantic wood from the linguistic trees though. You hope after a time as a teacher you have a sense for that.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    Moreover, if attention is not properly paid to this inherent structure of thought, much of what we say and think will not merely be wrong, but much worse - transcendentally stupid.StreetlightX

    Isn't that one of the main points of Kant's demonstration of the antinomies of reason? (which you refer to). 'Kant believes that it is part of the function of reason to strive for a complete, determinate understanding of the natural world. But his analysis of theoretical reason has made it clear that we can never have knowledge of the totality of things because we cannot have the requisite sensations of the totality, hence one of the necessary conditions of knowledge is not met.' And as many have pointed out, there are many convergences between Kant's antinomies and the undetermined questions in Buddhism - about whether the world has a beginning in time or not, whether the Buddha exists after parinirvana or not, and so on.

    In both systems there is recognition of the inherent limitations and contradictions of thought. But they're also both concerned with transcendent truths; Kant's concern is ultimately 'God, freedom and immortality' and the Buddha with transcending the endless cycle of samsara.

    So, while I agree that there is 'transcendental stupidity', there might also be transcendent realities, about which stupid things are said. 'There would be no fool's gold', as the saying has it, 'if there were no gold'.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    Thoughts which do not respond to any necessity, which are not motivated by the milieu in which they come to be:StreetlightX
    This immediately makes me think of Australia's new PM's making loud noises about the need to legislate religious freedom. Under questioning he's been made to admit that there is no social problem that currently needs solving in this regard. Yet he ploughs ahead, justifying it on the basis of a need 'to prevent future problems arising'.

    I would like to call this transcendental stupidity. But actually it's quite a cunning way of dog-whistling to religious bigots, that he will seek to restore the permission to discriminate against others that they used to have before the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation (which in most cases is at least a couple of decades old).

    The only necessity to which this line of thought responds is the necessity of avoiding or lessening the electoral annihilation that is approaching for his government.
  • Janus
    5.9k


    Right! And just how do you tell when the machinery is working properly? This looks like a simple-minded "perfect health" type fallacy. You can blithely use this fallacy to dismiss any "transcendental thinking" you don't personally like as "stupid", "trivial', "insignificant" or "irrelevant". Looks like fascistic thinking gone nuts to me...
  • Baden
    6.8k


    Dismissing the results of thinking without analysis just on the basis you don't like them would be an example of the type of thing that's being objected to. Plus, @StreetlightX posited the metaphor (which I happen to think is very apt) in response to the example I gave. So, your simply not liking the idea and dismissing it out of hand as "fascistic" and "nuts" without even considering the example or making a serious attempt at your own analysis serves more as an illustration of the point than a criticism of it.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    In other words, awareness of the issue of this type of degraded thinking in ourselves and others is precisely what should stop us doing the type of thing you thought you were highlighting.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    Teachers already know that errors or falsehoods are rarely found in homeworkStreetlightX

    I wish!
  • Akanthinos
    1k


    - And conversely, I think of the kind of cases you describe are when the gears spin-out, catching only here and there, or engaging the wrong kind of differentials for all the varying parts in motion: this latter is transcendental stupidity.

    I think this would work as an analogy for faulty reasonning, where we feel for example that our thoughts are consequent to one another while it would become very clear, if they were exposed to critique, that they do not. Same thing if we arrive to a conclusion by invoking at each step of the reasonning some completely otiose proposition.

    When you speak of transcendantal stupidity, what comes to my mind is the disconnected yet complementary nature of truth and sophistication. An answer can be true, and yet be entirely so vulgar as to be less compelling than a known lie. A sophisticated falsehood might actually be the best tool at hand to deal with how we relate to the world (in my case I always come back to how filled with fictions and falsehoods the legal system is, and how better off it is for it).

    I would be incapable, right now, to explain in further detail what this sophistication consist off. Immediately we'll have to deal with accusation of elitism and bias if we are to advance that some truths might be indeed true, but still objectionable on the basis of specific transcendantal characteristics. Regardless, I think that 'transcendantal stupidity' remains an important area to uncover, especially in our current, increasingly-divided political climate.

    Perhaps a start would be to suggest that the cause of this peculiar form of stupidity is a form of ontological cecity? Being blind to certain facets of a truth still allows you to present this truth as true, but your presentation cannot equal that of someone who wasn't blind to those same aspects...
  • Akanthinos
    1k


    It also strikes me how the last thread on baseless speculations and the BIV offers us an example of said transcendantal stupidity. Please dont ban me, I'm not calling anyone stupid, just saying that some people in it argued from a position which seemed to fall under the currently investigated domain.

    Having to mount serious intellectual defenses against every baseless speculation encountered seems both counterintuitive and counterproductive. You should not feel compelled to offer a serious rebuke to a string of non-sensical sounds, why should you act differently simply because in another occasion you are offered a proposition which can be interpreted in your language?

    Baseless is not wrong, per say. You could inadvertently stumble upon the truth. But if your arrival there was baseless, then you remaining there is equally so. Someone who argue from baseless speculation wont hold the truth for long before he trades it for some new shiny falsehood. Baseless is unhygienic. Its bad praxis.
  • TheWillowOfDarkness
    1.6k


    Finding a new answer out of question always steps beyond speculation. People ahem to commit to a position. The new answer involves taking: "XYZ is the case" rather than being impaled on the face crying out: "It might so. I might not be so" ad nauseam. Baseless speculation doesn't even get is to the point of holding a truth. It just praying to a possibility of being wrong, like it would save you from some terrible life circumstance.

    There is no coincidence in baseless speculation having almost exactly the same form as the God of Gaps.
  • Janus
    5.9k


    The very idea of a perfectly working machinery of thought is inherently fascistic in my view. If someone offers an analysis , then any criticism of it should address the errors and or untruths in it, and not simply arrogantly dismiss it as insignificant, irrelevant, vacuous, trivial or whatever. Along the latter way lies the tendency to fascism and political correctness (which is really fascism in disguise) inherent in the worst forms of postmodernist thought.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    "... remarks without interest or importance", what a load of supercilious bullshit. — Pseudonym


    Why?
    Baden

    It takes no account of the function of such thought to the individual. At best it's an honest mistaking of the personal certainty one's brain delivers about one's own structure of thought for some universally applicable structure, but at worst it's just another thinly veiled attempt to create a method of vituperating the thoughts of others in a way which itself remains immunised against criticism purely to maintain a social position.

    Last week it was everything is just maps, none more true than the other, only judged by their own internally specified purpose. How judged? Well, anyone well-read enough simply 'knows' which ones are good and which aren't. Before that it was everything is just frames to view things through, none more true than any other only judged by how useful they are. How do we know how useful they are? Surprisingly again, it's just some mystical knowledge imparted to those allowed into the illuminati. Now, the new replacement for 'true' is interesting and organised. How do we judge what's interesting and organised? Oh, quelle surprise it's just something some of us 'know'.

    These are all just methods of maintaining the social status of a group of people by creating an artificial membership criteria. We can allow in whomever we want and exclude whomever we want because the criteria themselves cannot be challenged. It runs through the arts, and most of philosophy. The positivist turn made a good attempt to weed it out, but look at the at passion with which that was put down. No philosophical movement has been so roundly condemned as the one which threatened to make it possible to to externally validate arguments. Support the Nazi party and you'll be forgiven, suggest that there might be an objective method for validating philosophy and you're excommunicated.
  • Baden
    6.8k


    How does any of this relate to the example, which was pedagogic?
  • Baden
    6.8k


    You should quote the OP because this seems more about your objections to Street and postmodernism in general than anything he wrote here. For example, what's decribed, "a stupidity built into the nature of thought" could hardly be more democratic. And if someone were to use this idea as a cudgel for an ideology, they'd simply be being hypocrites in an amusing way. Maybe this makes particular sense to me as I've been a teacher, but the idea here also seems intuitively obvious, and some of the responses overly defensive and presumptuous. Maybe, it's just the terminology used or even just the person who wrote the OP...
  • Baden
    6.8k
    Please dont ban me, I'm not calling anyone stupid,Akanthinos

    Christ, if we banned everyone who did that, we'd hardly have two members left to rub together to spark an argument... :grin:
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Isn't that one of the main points of Kant's demonstration of the antinomies of reason?Wayfarer

    Yeah - the idea takes inspiration directly from Kant, for whom the antinomies were direct products of reason themselves, and not merely some external impediment to their usual functioning. It's arguable that this in fact was Kant's greatest contribution to philosophy - in locating thought's own incapacity within thought itself, in the form of transcendental illusions, rather than assuming that - as with Descartes, say - that thought 'naturally' seeks out the known (what Kant called the 'speculative interest of Reason' was checked at each turn by the possible 'transcendent exercises' of the faculties in their 'illegitimate employment').

    So, while I agree that there is 'transcendental stupidity', there might also be transcendent realities ... 'There would be no fool's gold', as the saying has it, 'if there were no gold'.

    This of course I disagree with. As with Kant, the 'gold' is just... thought.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    I thought I had quoted the OP (or at least the Deleuze quote within it). It's pretty unambiguously saying that teachers find remarks which are uninteresting and that the lack of interest to the teacher has some significance beyond that teacher's personal preference. This fairly clearly raises the teacher's personal interests and their own systemisation to a level of universality without any evidence presented as to why this should be the case.

    The fact that you find the idea "intuitively obvious" pretty much says it all. It 'seems' right to you, so it is right and anyone who sees things another way clearly must be wrong.

    "a stupidity built into the nature of thought" could hardly be more democratic.Baden

    How do you see this as democratic. Who's doing the judging about which expositions express this base stupidity. Is it being done by vote?

    if someone were to use this idea as a cudgel for an ideology, they'd simply be being hypocrites in an amusing way.Baden

    Give me an example of someone not using the idea as a cudgel for an ideology. Again, it's just seeing what 'seems' right to you as being obviously right in a universal sense. What you, and those who share your views, espouse is simply 'the truth' and everyone else is promoting an 'ideology'. Postmodernism is an ideology, relativism is an ideology, the belief in an academic system is an ideology, the belief that one can even 'teach' English is an ideology. None any more so than any other construct we create to define the world.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    I would like to call this transcendental stupidity. But actually it's quite a cunning way of dog-whistling to religious bigots, that he will seek to restore the permission to discriminate against others that they used to have before the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation (which in most cases is at least a couple of decades old).andrewk

    Hah, yeah, as much as it would be nice to think this is a stupidity endowed with philosophical significance, this is a nice example of a speech-act distinctly motivated at every level.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    it's about as democratic a take on stupidity as you might find: a communi stultitia.StreetlightX

    Really? Are those thoughts determined to be 'transcendentaly stupid' being decided by vote now? I think I must have missed the opinion poll you circulate before declaring ideas to be fundamentally wrong.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    You can blithely use this fallacy to dismiss any "transcendental thinking" you don't personally like as "stupid", "trivial', "insignificant" or "irrelevant".Janus

    You really can't though, not if you understand it, and if you're honest about it. You ask how we can tell if a machine is working properly: well, machines do things, they have ends towards which they work, and if you farmiliarize yourself with a machine, you can see how effectively it runs: you may not like the work it does, you may disagree vehemently with the ends to which it is put, but that dislike should not translate to thinking that it does not work.

    I think Plato is full of shit, for instance, but I don't doubt for one second the power of his work: the distinctions he draws, the ramifications he pursues on the basis of them, the vibrancy of the conceptual ecology he develops - one would be hard pressed, once familiar with the work, to call it transcendentally stupid. Or at least, it would take a great deal of further work and engagement to make that case. @Akanthinos is right that the danger of this kind of critique being wielded in an elitist, arbitrary way is a real one, but of course, if one is consistent, arbitrariness is exactly what this kind of critique aims to forestall.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    The fact that you find the idea "intuitively obvious" pretty much says it all. It 'seems' right to you, so it is right and anyone who sees things another way clearly must be wrong.Pseudonym

    No, I already gave reasons why it fit with my experience of pedagogy. See my first response.

    How do you see this as democratic... Is it being done by vote?Pseudonym

    The word "democratic" doesn't apply exclusively to elections. I'm using it here in its senses of 'common/shared/available to all' etc.

    Who's doing the judging about which expositions express this base stupidity.Pseudonym

    Anyone who can think.

    Give me an example of someone not using the idea as a cudgel for an ideology. Again, it's just seeing what 'seems' right to you as being obviously right in a universal sense. What you, and those who share your views, espouse is simply 'the truth' and everyone else is promoting an 'ideology'.Pseudonym

    See my original example. To expand, when judging academic English essays, for example, we look for evidence of thought based on standardised criteria, which are systematised beforehand, continually monitored and peer-compared, and integrated with our intuitive judgements (based on experience) on how well the student has absorbed and reorganised the information learned in combination with their own pre-existing knowledge and skills. The idea that we judge simply on the basis of what 'seems' right or feel we are promoting some universal truth as opposed to everyone else's ideology is bizarre.

    the belief that one can even 'teach' English is an ideology.Pseudonym

    No, that's just a belief. Is it something you doubt?

    An ideology is a system of beliefs that guides behaviour, particularly in opposition to reasoned judgement, and particularly as a basis or framework for a political or religious movement. There are different philosophies, or ideologies if you like, behind different pedagogical approaches, and the whole unversity system is ideologically based in a broader sense, but within that framework sound and reasonable judgements can still be made concerning quality. To claim that they can't would be analogous to claiming that we can't make sound and reasonable judgements concerning each other's posts here on this forum, and can just retort to every criticism with "well, that just seems right to you".
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    No, I already gave reasons why it fit with my experience of pedagogy.Baden

    Exactly. It fit with your experience. Do you really believe that what you were identifying in those essays was something universal as opposed to your own personal preference. Your "evidence of a structure to thought" was simply evidence of a structure you recognised. Your "evidence of... organized implementation" was simply an organisation that you understood. Now obviously as an intelligent adult teaching children, that which you recognise as structure and organisation is quite likely to represent a greater level of consideration than your students, but this cannot simply be presumed to be true for anyone who's had the time to organise their thought, especially about subjects like philosophy and arts.

    The word "democratic" doesn't apply exclusively to elections. I'm using it here in its senses of 'common/shared/available to all' etc.Baden

    But it's not 'common/shared/available to all' is it? That's the point. The point is Deleuze's insight isn't 'transcendental stupidity' itself. We're all supposed to sit up and take notice of his ideas, he's risen above the plebs with their uninteresting thoughts. Those of us who are teachers no longer are blind to the lack of insight suffered by the hoi palloi, we can 'see' what is organised and what is not. Its not the realisation that thought is messy if untrained that's undemocratic, it's the implication that a self-immunised selection process can identify the rare few who sit above such lowly vices.

    Anyone who can think.Baden

    Back to the self-immunised selection. Who are those who can think? The ones who give the answers you think are right, of course.

    integrated with our intuitive judgements (based on experience)Baden

    The idea that we judge simply on the basis of what 'seems' right or feel we are promoting some universal truth as opposed to everyone else's ideology is bizarre.Baden

    So what do you think your 'intuitive judgement' is other than what 'seems' right? How would you distinguish those two concepts, because they certainly sound similar enough to me not to be labelled 'bizarre'?

    To claim that they can't would be analogous to claiming that we can't make sound and reasonable judgements concerning each other's posts here on this forum, and can just retort to every criticism with "well, that just seems right to you".Baden

    Yeah, basically that is what I believe to be the case absent of some specified utility to which the thought is put the achievement of which is empirically verifiable.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    Exactly. It fit with your experience. Do you really believe that what you were identifying in those essays was something universal as opposed to your own personal preference. Your "evidence of a structure to thought" was simply evidence of a structure you recognised.Pseudonym

    No, it wasn't. You give the impression you don't understand how teaching, particularly of university-level academic English to non-native speakers, as was my case, works. There's a whole field of educational theory relating to ESL that's been developed and refined for over a century, but particularly in the last fifty years (and specifically pertaining to academic English in the last thirty or so) that gets implemented and is monitored and standardized as part of a system that aims at having some level of objectivity (not that it doesn't have problems, of course). I've alluded to that already. And that forms a framework within which some level of subjective judgment is applied (as it must be).

    So, when you say my "evidence of a structure to thought" was simply evidence of a structure I recognized, on one level that's trivially true: By definition, we can't identify something we don't recognize. But the obvious mistake is to draw the conclusion from that that the identification is based simply on "personal preference". It's about as sensible as saying interpretations of arguments concerning the origin of fossils or the cause of climate change just involve personal preferences because those making those judgments are only identifying structures of thought they recognize. It's at best fuzzy thinking and at worst an open invitation to and encouragement of pseudoscience.

    Yeah, basically that is what I believe to be the case absent of some specified utility to which the thought is put the achievement of which is empirically verifiable.Pseudonym

    Why post then if your position is it's impossible to judge the difference between a good and a bad argument on its own terms? Incidentally, going back to the example, English language ability has obvious utility and the results of teaching are empirically verifiable according to internal and external criteria, so even in accordance with your conditions as set out here, your criticisms appear to fail.

    (
    Now obviously as an intelligent adult teaching children, that which you recognise as structure and organisation is quite likely to represent a greater level of consideration than your students, but this cannot simply be presumed to be true for anyone who's had the time to organise their thought, especially about subjects like philosophy and arts.Pseudonym

    Don't know if this is fundamental to your position, but it should be clear from what I wrote that I wasn't teaching children, I was teaching adults in university. When it comes to teaching children, especially young children, judgments concerning quality of thought can be much more fraught wirth difficulty and there is more of a danger of getting it very wrong.)
  • Baden
    6.8k
    Back to the self-immunised selection. Who are those who can think? The ones who give the answers you think are right, of course.Pseudonym

    But your argument is the one that's self-immunizing by continuously conflating any form of judgment with personal preference.

    So what do you think your 'intuitive judgement' is other than what 'seems' right? How would you distinguish those two concepts, because they certainly sound similar enough to me not to be labelled 'bizarre'?Pseudonym

    But I already explained that in the case under discussion that intuitive judgements occur in a context in which they are intregrated into a system that is standardized and monitored and based on educational theory not to mention the individual's experience in the field, so it's not simply a case of what seems right. As if we were talking about completely arbitrary judgments. That is what is bizarre. You have to justify your decisions with reference to rubrics, marking criteria, external examiners and so on. If teachers just did what feels right, results would show a lack of consistency and that would have to be dealt with. And individual teachers can and are identified and retrained if necessary if they do this.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    At this point I don't even know what your positive criticism is. That there should be no level of intuitive judgment at all with regard to so-called "transcendental stupidity"? In which case, for example, university essays could be marked by computers (and I can explain to you how that would be impossibly inaccurate and unfair if you like.). Or you just don't like the name? Or you don't think it exists at all? Or something like it exists, but not in the form described by Street, or what?
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