## Our Minimal Epistemic Commitment (Fixing Descartes' Cogito)

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The future is not a property of things that exist in the present.

Of course it is. X is such that it causes Y. Some collection of states in the world are such that Z will happen in ten minutes. Those are properties of X and {those states} respectively.

Neither are counterfactuals.

X is such that it cannot lead to Y. Z, X, and C are such that if C were removed they would no longer lead to Y.

Neither is the decimal notation of pi.

Mathematics is such that pi is 3.14... People are such that they consider pi to be 3.14... Mathematical equations are written such that... And so on.

You can't go from "nothing I know of is God" to "I know that God doesn't exist".

A third party can say it of you under the assumption that all that exists is your mind.
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Of course it is. X is such that it causes Y. Some collection of states in the world are such that Z will happen in ten minutes. Those are properties of X and {those states} respectively.

Even if X is a property of something that exists in my mind it doesn't follow that I know that it will cause Y. You're just asserting that the solipsist will have knowledge of the future without explaining how you came to that conclusion.

And it isn't a given that ontological solipsism entails hard determinism. It could be that probabilities/randomness is involved in mental phenomena.

X is such that it cannot lead to Y. Z, X, and C are such that if C were removed they would no longer lead to Y.

Same with this. It doesn't follow from X being a property of something that exists in my mind that I know that it cannot lead to Y.

Mathematics is such that pi is 3.14...

Yes, but it's not a property of things that exist. You don't find the decimal notation of pi, or the truth of the Reimann hypothesis, written onto atoms or whatever, or on sense data, and mathematical realism is false.

And I'm not talking about the decimal notation of pi to some arbitrary number of decimal places.

A third party can say it of you under the assumption that all that exists is your mind.

They'd be wrong.

1. John knows that Joe Biden is President
2. Joe Biden is 79 years old
3. Therefore, John knows that Joe Biden is 79 years old

Obviously the conclusion doesn't follow. The same with:

1. John knows that X, Y, and Z exist
2. Only X, Y, and Z exist
3. Therefore, John knows that only X, Y, and Z exist

The conclusion doesn't follow. And if John doesn't know that only X, Y, and Z exist then it doesn't follow that if he knows that none of X, Y, and Z are A then he knows that A doesn't exist.
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Cheers.

Starting with Descartes, the subject becomes the center, and the subject, as the first true being, has priority over all other beings. Contrary to this priority of the subject, Heidegger's goal is to show that there is no subject distinct from the external world of things, because Dasein is essentially Being-in-the-world. Therefore, Heidegger puts together the separation of the subject and the object by the concept of "Dasein" which is essentially a Being-in-the-world. However, Being-in-the-world does not mean that it is like a piece of chalk in the chalk box. Being-in, as the most essential and existential characteristics of Dasein, signifies the expression of such terms as "dwelling," "being familiar with," and "being present to."

I said that my thoughts ,feelings and bodily sensations are what is most immediately present to me, and I should have made explicit that I think this includes the experience of being in the world. For me subjectivity just is being in the world, but being in the world is a bodily sensation. If I close my eyes, I don't see the world, If I am deaf I don't hear the world, if I has no sensation in, or proprioception of, my body I would not know how my body was disposed in the world. If I die my world disappears with me.

Of course I experience the world as being external to my body and that is why I say that there is no reason to doubt the externality of the world, looked at from that bodily perspective.
So I'm not claiming there is any "I" that is, or could be, experienced as being somehow separate from being in the world.

Descartes famously emphasized that subjective reality is better known than objective reality, but knowledge of the objective reality of one’s own existence as a non-physical thinking thing is nearly as basic, or perhaps as basic, as one’s knowledge of the subjective reality of one’s own thinking.

I don't agree with Descartes as this represents him. 'Non-physical" doesn't mean much unless interpreted as "not an object of the senses". We know our own existence as body, not as some "non-physical" self. I agree with Heidegger's idea of the "mineness" of being in the world, of being with others. This "mineness" is what I have in mind when I speak of subjectivity, not some attenuated, ghostly "I".
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I said that my thoughts ,feelings and bodily sensations are what is most immediately present to me, and I should have made explicit that I think this includes the experience of being in the world. For me subjectivity just is being in the world, but being in the world is a bodily sensation.

Sure, but that's still an 'internal perspective' on the issue (your prerogative, obviously), talking of the sensations as more present than the objects associated with those sensations.

I never accused you of being a solipsist, just on the build-from-the-inside ('Cartesian') side of the continuum.

If I close my eyes, I don't see the world, If I am deaf I don't hear the world, if I has no sensation in, or proprioception of, my body I would not know how my body was disposed in the world. If I die my world disappears with me.
:up:
I think we agree that your 'opening' on the world closes upon death, while the mighty world rolls one.

I agree with Heidegger's idea of the "mineness" of being in the world, of being with others. This "mineness" is what I have in mind when I speak of subjectivity, not some attenuated, ghostly "I".

The ghost I joke about is mostly just the guy behind all the sensory monitors, alone in the skull's control room, who grasps the world primarily as spectacle. I see it as a powerful part of the tradition. The other part of the ghost is the elusive X featured in the hard problem.
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Sure, but that's still an 'internal perspective' on the issue (your prerogative, obviously), talking of the sensations as more present than the objects associated with those sensations.Pie

We only know those objects as images and sensations. The objects are present "in" the sensations and images. Of course we also think of them as independently existent, which is also natural enough given their persistence, and invariant commonality. I think these are nothing more than habits of thought, useful enough for everyday purposes. Can we tease out a non-contextually "true" perspective re external objects, or are all perspectives just more or less fit for purpose?

The ghost I joke about is mostly just the guy behind all the sensory monitors, alone in the skull's control room, who grasps the world primarily as spectacle. I see it as a powerful part of the tradition. The other part of the ghost is the elusive X featured in the hard problem.Pie

I agree that is a kind of caricature; but it's not how I think I, and I imagine we, experience the world. I think the "hard problem" is misguided if it is taken to prove the separate existence of mind as a non-physical "res", because we have no justification beyond prejudice for thinking that experience could not possibly emerge from what we think of as the physical matrix. For that matter I think the idea of the physical as a "res", a 'brute' material substance, is also misguided if taken to be more than just a perspective within its proper limits. These ideas of substance are derived from the experience of materiality, of tangibility, and I see no reason to think we know anything beyond that fact of experience.

Anyway, thanks for questions that have led to further clarification of my thoughts on these issues
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We only know those objects as images and sensations. The objects are present "in" the sensations and images.

That's precisely the view I was describing as 'Cartesian' (or 'Lockean' or 'Kantian'). It takes the subject as more real or present or certain than its objects. This is the 'veil-of-ideas.' It's precisely what I take the early Heidegger to be attacking. So it's hard to make sense of your invocation of his phenomenology, which obviously informs Derrida's complementary attack.

In case it's not clear, I assert that the we and the world are prior to the 'I' who gazes on the spectacle. I take this subject-centered view to be a late development. As a child, I lived in a world of objects. I was later convinced that it was sophisticated to reframe all of this as spectacle, not noticing the holes in the plot. This 'official story' features the sense organs as their own product or creation, an absurd infinite loop. In short, the sensation theory is fine, is reasonable, only in a context that takes the (social) world as just as equally given. Sensations make sense only as part of a causal-explanatory nexus that includes genuine worldly objects (red balloons and mouse turds) affecting worldly sense organs which then are understood to involve 'sensations.' 'The doctor dilated my eyes and the world was painfully bright.'

Heidegger is clearly not constructing the world from the 'I' below. I don't use him as an authority. I just think he's relevant to the minimum epistemic situation..and our tangential conversation.

By 'others' we do not mean everyone else but me -- those over against whom the 'I' stands out. They are rather those from whom, for the most part, one does not distinguish oneself -- those among whom one is too. This being-there-too with them does not have the ontological character of a being-occurent-along-'with' them...This 'with' is something of the character of Dasein; the 'too' means a sameness of being as circumspectly concernful being-in-the-world. 'With' and 'too' are to be understood 'existentially', categorically. By reason of this with-like being-in-the-world, the world is always the one I share with others. The world of Dasein is a with-world. Being-in is being-with others.
...

The one as that which forms everyday being-with-one-another...constitutes what we call the public in the strict sense of the word. It implies that the world is always already primarily given as the common world. It is not the case on the one hand there are first individual subjects which at any given time have their own world; and that the task would then arise of putting together, by virtue of some sort of arrangement, the various particular worlds of individuals and of agreeing how one would have a common world. This is how philosophers imagine these things when they ask about the constitution of the inter-subjective world. We say instead that the first thing that is given is the common world -- the one.
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For that matter I think the idea of the physical as a "res", a 'brute' material substance, is also misguided if taken to be more than just a perspective within its proper limits.

:up:
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That's precisely the view I was describing as 'Cartesian' (or 'Lockean' or 'Kantian'). It takes the subject as more real or present or certain than its objects.Pie

I'm not saying the subject is more certain than it's objects ("objects" that is taken as "being sensed"). Being in the world consists entirely in sensations and images (including the sense of one's own body in an environment. The body cannot, except in thought, be separated from the environment. But the locus of "my" experience is right here being the body in the world.

This is covered in Heidegger in the notions of 'being in' and 'being with'. We are always already being in the world and being with others, but we are not being the world or being others; we are being dasein as "mine".

Heidegger is clearly not constructing the world from the 'I' below.Pie

Right, the world is constructed (in the sense of experientially constructed) by being in the world with others. As Dreyfus often points out Heidegger allows that, in the "present-at-hand" sense of thinking about the world there is a universe which is prior to being in the world, but he sees that notion as secondary to, and derivative of the bodily experience of "ready to hand" being in the world with others
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I agree that is a kind of caricature; but it's not how I think I, and I imagine we, experience the world.
:up:
The way I understand Heidegger is that, indeed, we don't experience the world as Descartes might tempt us to think. We are in the world in language with others. There is no boundary, not really. I take Wittgenstein to make the same kind of point in a very different style. The beetlebox is his own little joke on the ghost, on its epistemological-semantic nullity.
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Sorry to offend. I guess we just understand Heidegger differently.
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Anyway, thanks for questions that have led to further clarification of my thoughts on these issues

Thanks for the kind words. It's great to talk about this stuff.
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Sorry to offend. I guess we just understand Heidegger very differently.Pie

No need to apologize; no offense taken. I'm just a bit impatient at times is all. I imagine Derrida would agree there is no privileged reading of Heidegger (or any text).
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The beetlebox is his own little joke on the ghost, on its epistemological-semantic nullity.Pie

Regarding the beetle in the box: I don't think W denies it, but sees it, in its ineffability as dropping out of the conversation. The others cannot show me their beetle and they can't tell me about it either. So the beetle becomes irrelevant, but the fact that there is a beetle is most significant. Not all of being in the world with others partakes in "disclosedness".
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I don't think W denies it, but sees it, in its ineffability as dropping out of the conversation.

:up:

Agreed. No denial implied or necessary or sought.

Hence only

epistemological-semantic nullity.Pie

which implies that meaning is [essentially ] public.

(I agree that no one possesses exactly the 'same' English as anyone else in a certain sense.)
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which implies that meaning is public.Pie

I think the beetle implies that there are private meanings; significant nameless images and feelings, also, that cannot be made public. That is according to my own experience. But we'll probably have to agree to disagree about that
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I think the beetle implies that there are private meanings, nameless images and feelings, also, that cannot be made public.

‘Suppose everyone has a box that only they can see into, and no one can see into anyone else’s box: we call it a ‘beetle’. No one can look into anyone else’s box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle.

Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in their box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing.

But suppose the idea ‘beetle’ had a use in these people’s language? If so it would not be used as the name of a thing’.

To me, private stuff (non-meaning) is certainly allowed or hinted at, but private meanings are exactly the rhetorical target. Because people might have all kinds of different things in their one box, because what's in an individual's box can even change continuously, and because such a box could even be empty, it makes no sense to think of a word as a name for 'the' beetle in the box. So 'pain' does not make sense as a name for something radically private. It's more like a can opener. The word has a public function. I explain why I called the dentist with it, why I don't feel like going out with friends, why I'm asking for an apisirin, why I don't believe in public meaning... Note that Google Translate can use the word, presumably without having even a box, let alone a beetle in it. Statistics ! There are strong patterns in our traces.

Even if one allows or postulates some ineffable painstuff (which I 'believe' in in the usual sense), it's misleading (so Wittgenstein seems to imply) to think of 'pain' having its meaning anchored in the ineffable. I connect this with Saussure's structuralism. Signs get their meaning positionally, contextually---from within a system of differences without positive elements. They aren't tags on pregiven intuited meanings (references to entities shown in a private theater.)

Now this is just my current take.
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it's misleading (so Wittgenstein seems to imply) to think of 'pain' having its meaning anchored in the ineffable. I connect this with Saussure's structuralism. Signs get their meaning positionally,Pie

The word "pain" would mean nothing to someone incapable of feeling pain. Your feeling of pain is not accessible to me. The word "pain" in its public usage gets associated with people saying they feel unpleasant sensations, and because we all feel our own (and only our own) unpleasant sensations, we get a sense of the meaning of the word 'pain'.

I think those senses of meaning are roughly the same, because each person's experience of pain is plausibly roughly the same, but it also seems reasonable to think that each person's sense would be associated with various experiences and feelings, and thus be uniquely individual also, or so it seems to me.
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The word "pain" would mean nothing to someone incapable of feeling pain.

With respect, I think that this intuitively plausible view is just what is being challenged. What you say seems to 'anchor' meaning in something private. The background theory seems to be that we act the same because something on the inside is the same. Wittgenstein, in my view, is flipping this scheme over, inverting it.

It seems that we are so convinced we feel the 'same' pain (while insisting that pain is private?) because of the routine common machine-learnable use of 'pain' public life..and not the reverse. We don't want to explain outward synchronization (the place of 'pain' in our public grammar) in terms of a hypothetical inward synchronization (as beetle/beetles/no-beetle). We want instead to explain the popular concept of this 'inward' something in terms of a useful but misleading substantive.

I take this, correctly or not, to be a relatively standard interpretation.
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What you say seems to 'anchor' meaning in something private.Pie

I don't think linguistic meaning is anchored in something private, but is enabled by both private feeling and experience as well as public expression.

We are so convinced we feel the 'same' pain (while insisting that pain is private?) because of the routine use of 'pain' public life.Pie

You can't feel my pain; that is obvious, and in that sense pain is private. We all feel pain, or at least most of us do if our neurological machinery is "normal", and we all behave similarly and say similar things when in pain, so it seems reasonable to think that the experience of pain is not so different for different people. But we can't be certain, just because each individual's pain can be felt only by them. Do you disagree with any of that and if so, which part and why?
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e all feel pain, or at least most of us do if our neurological machinery is "normal", and we all behave similarly and say similar things when in pain, so it seems reasonable to think that the experience of pain is not so different for different people.

I given this one some thought, and discussed it with others. The following may or may not be helpful or persuasive.

When fitting a linear model to a scatterplot, we assign one measurement to the independent variable and another to the dependent. We then plot the best least squares line and check R^2 for how well the model fits. In this case, we are simply missing either the dependent or independent variable. Because pain (itself) is (grammatically) ineffable and 'invisible' to scientific instruments, we have no data whatsoever to test the thesis you suggest, which indeed seems reasonable. More broadly, we have and can have no data that will support that the same neurological machinery will result in the same ineffable 'output.' I agree with Ryle that most of our everyday talk of mind (when we aren't being metaphysical) does indeed draw the mind into the inferential nexus, in terms, however, of a state's constituents (not its indicators.) (My love for my wife is not hidden somewhere within in me but is out there in the way I treat her, though I don't deny a feeling component that we can't do much with on its own. ) As long as we have an operational definition of pain or sorrow, we can measure the postulated entity that way. In other words, we can look at the relationship of reports of pain and brain scans, etc. But the ineffable thing itself is like a black hole which is only visible through its effect of everything public around it. Pain itself is the hole in a doughnut, and the hole depends on the dough for its meaning.
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I said that my thoughts ,feelings and bodily sensations are what is most immediately present to me....,

Agreed, in principle. Just depends on which act of the play......which step in the method..... is under consideration.

”Descartes famously emphasized that subjective reality is better known than objective reality....”

I don't agree with Descartes as this represents him.

Agreed, this time wholeheartedly. Meditations II, where all this originates, is titled OF THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN MIND; AND THAT IT IS MORE EASILY KNOWN THAN THE BODY, so are we then to accept that the nature of the human mind is subjective reality. I don’t.

All the rest is just folks figuring that’s what he really meant, and would really have said, if only he thought like us.

We know our own existence as body, not as some "non-physical" self.

Yeah, pretty much. I as representation is logically superior to I as existence. You know.....no category can be a predicate in a logical proposition, so it is said. Biggest deal is, even so, the I qua conceptual representation, is never present in thought as such. When I say, “I think.....”, the thinking has already been done.

Anyway....carry on.
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I agree we have and can have no "hard" data. We know at least that people associate the word 'pain' with the word 'unpleasant'. We know people don't like being in pain. We know people feel pleasure, and that they sometimes seek it. We know people may take drugs for this reason, and that, generally speaking, they would not take drugs if they thought they caused pain, In fact we know that people take painkillers for just the purpose of eliminating it.

C'mon, give me something to disagree with...
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I agree with all of that. From an inferentialist perspective, pain as a concept gets its meaning from the network of inferences which we allow and disallow. For instance: 'I flushed all my aspirin, because I was in terrible pain' does not make sense for us. Unless we are missing context, the person does not speak our language correctly. "The trip was pleasant and ever so painful!"
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I agree with all of that.Pie

Cool, so it seems reasonable to think that people's experience of pain is similar at least to the extent that they generally find it unpleasant and seek to avoid it. The lack of hard data, to me points to the private nature of pain, When I talk of "private meaning" I don't mean private semantic meaning, but pre-linguistic affects that it seems reasonable to think we have in common with animals.
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Cool, so it seems reasonable to think that people's experience of pain is similar at least to the extent that they generally find it unpleasant and seek to avoid it.

The lawyer with behaviorist tendencies in me would talk of a clear tendency to avoid what's called pain (and a clear tendency to pursue what's called pleasure.)

When I talk of "private meaning" I don't mean private semantic meaning, but pre-linguistic affects that it seems reasonable to think we have in common with animals.

I agree. I'd say (with my philosopher hat off) 'of course raw feels exist' and those 'raw feels' include an empathy that finds itself mirrored in pets. There's a strong feeling or hunch with the feeling that the feeling is shared, that love is one, basically.
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C'mon, give me something to disagree with...

HA!!!

Sorry... I messed up. Posted a minor point I disagreed with, but that wasn’t what you asked for. I’ll have to think about it.
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No pressure of course...

I agree. I'd say (with my philosopher hat off) 'of course raw feels exist' and those 'raw feels' include an empathy that finds itself mirrored in pets.Pie

"Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts." C S Peirce
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I add this to supplement the normative and semantic theme simultaneously. Rationality is presented not as a better way to use language but as its beating heart.

Thinking of conceptual content in terms of inferential role, and of understanding correspondingly as practical mastery of such an inferential role—as the ability to sort into good and bad the inferences in which the concept appears in the premises or conclusions—has other advantages as well. It is a powerful corrective to the philosophically unilluminating and pedagogically damaging cartesian picture of the achievement of understanding as the turning on of some kind of inner light, which permits one then to see clearly. This is what the elementary-school kid thinks happens in math class when the girl next to him “gets it”, and he doesn’t. He is waiting for the light to go on in his head, too, so that he’ll understand fractions. In fact, he’s just got to practice making the moves, and distinguishing which ones are OK and which ones are not, until he masters the practical inferential abilities in question. It is not unusual for teachers of technical material to have students who can do all the problem-sets and proofs, can tell what does and doesn’t follow from some situation described using the concepts being taught, but still think that they don’t understand those concepts. A feeling of familiarity and confidence in knowing one’s way around in an inferential network often lags one’s actual mastery of it. The important thing is to realize that the understanding is that practical mastery, and the feeling (the cartesian light) is at best an indicator of it—often an unreliable one.
...
One might ask whether the inferentialist approach does not require overestimating the extent to which we are rational. Are we really very good at telling what is a reason for what? How often do we act for reasons—and in particular, for good reasons? The question betrays a misunderstanding. We are rational creatures in the sense that our claims and aims are always liable to assessment as to our reasons for them. How good we are at satisfying those demands doesn’t change our status as rational. And it must be kept in mind that on this way of thinking about the nature of semantic content, it makes no sense to think of us first having a bunch of sentences expressing definite propositions, which accordingly stand in inferential relations to one another, and only then having there be a question about how many of those inferences we get right. For it is our practices of treating what is expressed by some noises as reasons for what is expressed by other noises that makes those noises express conceptual contents in the first place. Once the enterprise is up and running, we can certainly make mistakes about what follows from the commitments we have undertaken, and what would justify them. But there is no possibility of us massively or globally getting the inferences wrong (for very much the same Quinean reasons that Davidson has emphasized).

I have been arguing that it is better to think in terms of understanding than knowledge, and better to think of meaning-and-understanding (which on this approach are two sides of one coin) in terms of inference than in terms of truth. So far, I have approached this issue largely from the point of view of semantics and the philosophy of language. But there is more at stake here. For this way of thinking about semantic content goes to the heart of the question of what it is to be sapient—to be the kind of creature we most fundamentally are. It says that we are beings that live, and move, and have our being in the space of reasons. We are, at base, creatures who give and ask for reasons—who are sensitive to that “force of the better reason”, persuasive rather than coercive, which so mystified and fascinated the ancient Greek philosophers. Crossing that all-important line from mere sentience to sapience is participating in practices of giving and asking for reasons: practices in which some performances have the pragmatic significance of claims or assertions, which accordingly, as both standing in need of reasons and capable of serving as reasons (that is, of playing the role both of conclusion and as premise in inference) count as expressing propositional semantic content.

This semantic rationalism—which goes with thinking of content in the first instance in terms of inference rather than reference, reason rather than truth—flies in the face of many famous movements in 20th century philosophical thought. The American pragmatists, above all, John Dewey, used the possibility of explaining knowing that in terms of knowing how not only to assimilate our sapient intellectual activity to the skillful doings of merely sapient animals, but at the same time to blur the sharp, bright line I am trying to draw between sapience and sentience. Wittgenstein famously said that language does not have a ‘downtown’: a core set of practices on which the rest depend, and around which they are arrayed, like suburbs. But inferentialism says that practices of giving and asking for reasons are the ‘downtown’ of language. For it is only by incorporating such practices that practices put in play propositional and other conceptual contents at all—and hence count as discursive practices, practices in which it is possible to say anything. The first ‘Sprachspiel’, language game, Wittgenstein introduces in the Philosophical Investigations has a builder issuing sorderss to an assistant. When he says ‘Slab!’ the assistant has been trained to respond by bringing a slab. When he says ‘Block!’ the assistant has been trained to respond by bringing a block. From the inferentialist point of view, this does not qualify as a Sprachspiel at all; it is a vocal, but not a verbal game. For the assistant is just a practical version of the parrot I considered earlier: he has been trained reliably to respond differentially to stimuli. But he grasps no concepts, and if this is the whole game, the builder expresses none. An order or command is not just any signal that is appropriately responded to in one way rather than another. It is something that determines what is an appropriate response by saying what one is to do, by describing it, specifying what concepts are to apply to a doing in order for it to count as obeying the order. Derrida’s crusade against what he calls the ‘logocentrism’ of the Western philosophical tradition has brilliantly and inventively emphasized all the other things one can do with language, besides arguing, inferring, explaining, theorizing, and asserting. Thus we get the playful essays in which the key to his reading of Hegel is that his name in French rhymes with ‘eagle’, his reading of Nietzsche that turns on what Derrida claims is the most important of his philosophical writings (a slip of paper that turned up in his belongings after his death, reading only “I have forgotten my umbrella,”), and the unforgettable meditation on the significance of the width of the margins of the page for the meaning of the text printed there. But if inferentialism is the right way to think about contentfulness, then the game of giving and asking for reasons is privileged among the games we play with words. For it is the one in virtue of which they mean anything at all—the one presupposed and built upon by all the other uses we can then put those meanings to, once they are available. Again, the master-idea of Foucault’s critique of modernity is that reason is just one more historically conditioned form of power, in principle no better (and in its pervasive institutionalization, in many ways worse) than any other form of oppression. But if giving and asking for reasons is the practice that institutes meanings in the first place, then it is does not belong in a box with violence and intimidation, which show up rather in the contrast class precisely insofar as they constrain what we do by something other than reasons.
— Brandom
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Please settle on an icon. I'm dizzy watching them come and go. :gasp:
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Please settle on an icon. I'm dizzy watching them come and go.
I think I'm into this pumpkin pie now.
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