Critical Voter

critical voter

Critical Voter: Using the Next Election to Make Yourself (and Your Kids) Smarter

Get it for free on July 12 and July 19!

Why waste the next election feeling suckered, ignored or manipulated when you can follow the simple lessons in this book to become a member of the most fearsome of all demographics: the free and truly independent critical thinker.

Critical Voter, the new book by writer and educational researcher Jonathan Haber, provides easy-to-follow explanations, illustrated with examples from presidential campaign politics, to show you how to:

* Decode arguments to understand what people (including presidential candidates) are really trying to convince you to believe
* Understand when persuasive language is being used to push you one way or another, as well as how to master the persuaders’ techniques to get people to do what you want
* Identify and overcome biases (especially the ones that are holding you back)
* See past what the media is telling you
* Make the Internet your servant for discovering the truth

From Cicero to Mr. Spock, from Aristotle’s logic to the latest work of cognitive science, Critical Voter applies 2500 years of practical advice to today’s news headlines to help you learn to think clearly, communicate convincingly, and live a more successful and happier life.

About the Author

Jonathan Haber is an educational researcher, writer and recovering entrepreneur working in the field of technology-enabled learning and teacher education. His Degree of Freedom One Year BA project, which involved trying to learn the equivalent of a BA in just twelve months using only Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other forms of free learning, has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Wall Street Journal and other major media sources. His writing on education-related topics has also appeared in Slate, EdSurge and other publications.

http://criticalvoter.com/

Scientism contra Philosophy

Many people mistake knowledge for wisdom because they are intimately related, and this is unfortunate because they are quite different in an important way. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information. Wisdom is the synthesis of knowledge and experiences into insights that deepen one’s understanding of relationships and the meaning of life. In other words, knowledge is a tool, and wisdom is the craft in which the tool is used.

If one understands this difference, he or she will also appreciate why it is vital to properly distinguish between the two. With the Internet, it is now relatively easy for a reasonably diligent person to quickly become knowledgeable in virtually any field of his or her choosing. We are literally awash in a sea of information! But having a hammer and knowing how to use it are two entirely different propositions. A hammer is amoral. Whether it is used for good or ill depends entirely on the wielder. Sadly, history is a lengthy record of the harms wrought by knowledgeable, well-meaning people who lacked wisdom.

In contrast to knowledge, wisdom is generally considered to be morally good. Why is this the case? Albert Einstein once said, ‘Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.’ Such a process is lengthy and arduous, which teaches the pursuer patience and humility. Seldom is a person unchanged by such a trial. When one finally uncovers a connection or insight that he or she believes to be universally applicable ‘truth,’ it often inspires awe akin to a spiritual experience.

‘Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers,’ wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Truths stay with a person for the rest of his or her life, coloring all subsequent thoughts and actions. Wisdom requires no law or threat of punishment to ensure compliance. The practitioner typically feels a strong compulsion to obey his or her own beliefs. The wise can still fall prey to indiscretions and questionable moral behavior–being flesh and blood like us all–however, if one tracks such statistics, the odds of such failings are likely to be very small compared to the general populace.

Society esteems the wise for their virtuosity and for their rarity. Subject matter experts number in the thousands, but the wise may only number in the tens or hundreds. And history records their names and achievements for posterity’s sake.

. . . . .

This critical insight is brought to you by Justarius of Philoscifi.com

If scientific method is only one form of a general method employed in all human inquiry, how is it that the results of science are more reliable than what is provided by these other forms? I think the answer is that science deals with highly quantified variables and that it is the precision of its results that supplies this reliability. But make no mistake: Quantified precision is not to be confused with a superior method of thinking.

– James Blachowicz, The New York Times

See Also

Hawking contra Philosophy

Philosophy via Facebook? Why Not?

the death of socrates

A portion of Jacques-Louis David’s 1787 painting, “The Death of Socrates.” (Scan by Mark Harden / Metropolitan Museum of Art)

By Eric Schwitzgebel

Academic philosophers tend to have a narrow view of what is valuable philosophical work. Hiring, tenure, promotion and prestige depend mainly on one’s ability to produce journal articles in a particular theoretical, abstract style, mostly in reaction to a small group of canonical and 20th century figures, for a small readership of specialists. We should broaden our vision.

Consider the historical contingency of the journal article, a late-19th century invention. Even as recently as the middle of the 20th century, leading philosophers in Western Europe and North America did important work in a much broader range of genres: the fictions and difficult-to-classify reflections of Sartre, Camus and Unamuno; Wittgenstein’s cryptic fragments; the peace activism and popular writings of Bertrand Russell; John Dewey’s work on educational reform.

Popular essays, fictions, aphorisms, dialogues, autobiographical reflections and personal letters have historically played a central role in philosophy. So also have public acts of direct confrontation with the structures of one’s society: Socrates’ trial and acceptance of the hemlock; Confucius’ inspiring personal correctness.

It was really only with the generation hired to teach the baby boomers in the 1960s and ’70s that academic philosophers’ conception of philosophical work became narrowly focused on the technical journal article.

Consider, too, the emergence of new media. Is there reason to think that journal articles are uniformly better for philosophical reflection than videos, interactive demonstrations, blog posts or multi-party conversations on Facebook?

A conversation in social media, if good participants bring their best to the enterprise, has the potential to be a philosophical creation of the highest order, with a depth and breadth beyond the capacity of any individual philosopher to create. A video game could illuminate, critique and advance a vision of worthwhile living, deploying sight, hearing, emotion and personal narrative as well as (why not?) traditional verbal exposition — and it could potentially do so with all the freshness of thinking, all the transformative power and all the expository rigor of Hume, Kant or Nietzsche.

Academic philosophers are paid to develop expertise in philosophy, to bring that expertise into the classroom and to contribute that expertise to society in part by advancing philosophical knowledge. A wide range of activities fit within that job description.

Every topic of human concern is open to philosophical inquiry. This includes not only subjects well represented in journals, such as the structure of propositional attitudes and the nature of moral facts, but also how one ought to raise children and what makes for a good sports team. And the method of writing and responding to journal-article-length expository arguments by fellow philosophers is only one possible method of inquiry.

Engaging with the world, trying out one’s ideas in action, seeing the reactions of non-academics, exploring ideas in fiction and meditation — in these activities we can not only deploy knowledge but cultivate, expand and propagate that knowledge.

Philosophical expertise is not like scientific expertise. Although academic philosophers know certain literatures very well, on questions about the general human condition and what our fundamental values should be, knowledge of the canon gives academic philosophers no especially privileged wisdom. Non-academics can and should be respected partners in the philosophical dialogue. Too exclusive a focus on technical journal articles excludes non-academics from the dialogue — or maybe, better said, excludes us philosophers from non-academics’ more important dialogue.

The academic journal article as it exists today is thus too limited in format, topic, method and audience to deserve so centrally privileged a place in philosophers’ conception of the discipline.

Research-oriented philosophy departments tend to regard writing for popular media as “service,” which is held in less esteem than “research.” I’m not sure service should be held in less esteem, but I would suggest that popular writing can also qualify as research.

If one approaches popular writing only as a means of “dumbing down” preexisting philosophical ideas for an audience of non-experts whose reactions one doesn’t plan to take seriously, then yes, that writing is not really research. If, however, the popular essay is itself a locus of philosophical creativity, in which ideas are explored in hope of discovering new possibilities, advancing (and not just marketing) one’s own thinking in a way that might strike professionals too as interesting rather than as merely familiar rehashing, then it is every bit as much research as is a standard journal article. Analogously for government consulting, Twitter feeds, TED videos and poetry.

A Philosophical Review article can be an amazing thing. But we should see journal articles in that style, in that type of venue, as only one of many possible forms of important, field-shaping philosophical work.

Eric Schwitzgebel is a professor of philosophy at UC Riverside and the author of “Perplexities of Consciousness.” He blogs at The Splintered Mind.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Why Stephen Hawking is Wrong

Is Philosophy Dead?

Why Stephen Hawking is Wrong

Originally published by Paul Thagard in Psychology Today


In his recent best seller, the world’s most famous scientist proclaims that philosophy is dead. But those who ignore philosophy are condemned to repeat it. And those who disparage philosophy are usually slaves of some defunct philosopher.

In The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow declare on the first page that philosophy is dead, because it has not kept up with modern developments in science. They then proceed to make a series of philosophical pronouncements, including the following:

  1. “There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality.”
  2. “A model is a good model if it:
  3. Is elegant
  4. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
  5. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
  6. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the mode if they are not borne out.”
  7. “A well-constructed model creates a reality of its own.”

Of these, A is true only if you accept (as I do) the view that concepts depend on theories. B is fairly consistent with the way in which philosophers of science talk about science, although it is perhaps a conceit of mathematical physicists to place elegance ahead of experimental support. But C is highly contentious in proposing that models can create rather than approximately discover reality. Obviously these assertions are all philosophical in making general claims about the nature of knowledge and reality.

Hawking and Mlodinow assume a connection between their philosophical claims and what they take to be scientific conclusions such as:

  1. “The universe does not have just a single existence or history, but rather every possible version of the universe exists simultaneously.”
  2. “The universe itself has no single history, nor even an independent existence.”
  3. “We now have a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists, called M-theory.”
  4. “M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing”
  5. “The universe, according to quantum physics, has no single past, or history.”
  6. “The universe doesn’t have just a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability.”

Hawking and Mlodinow state these general claims as if they were consequences of quantum mechanics, which has had a huge amount of empirical support. But the claims are not consequences of quantum theory as such, only of particular philosophical interpretations, of which there are more than a dozen, all highly controversial. Physicists agree that quantum theory provides successful predictions, but there is much disagreement about how to understand that success. Many eminent physicists, from Einstein to Lee Smolin, have questioned the kind of interpretation of quantum theory assumed by Hawking and Mlodinow, whose discussion of multiple universes is through-and-through philosophical, not straightforwardly scientific in the way they pretend. Like string theory on which it is based, it is difficult to find direct experimental support for M-theory. Hence Hawking and Mlodinow are deriving philosophical conclusions from a shaky interpretation of a controversial scientific theory.

What is the proper relation between philosophy and science? Once answer is the naturalist view, exemplified by philosophers such as Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Mill, Peirce, Dewey, Quine, and many contemporary philosophers of science. On this view, philosophy and science are continuous, so that fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, morality, and meaning should be addressed by taking into account scientific theories and evidence. In my recent book, The Brain and the Meaning of Life, I defend this approach, describing how philosophy differs from science only in being more general and more normative, concerned with how things ought to be as well as how they are.

In contrast, there are many philosophers who think that philosophy and science are fundamentally different enterprises because philosophy can use reason alone, or attention to language and logic, to arrive at truths that are a priori (independent of experience), necessary (true in all possible worlds), or purely conceptual. Unlike these anti-naturalist philosophers, however, I think that Hawking and Mlodinow are justified in trying to look at fundamental questions about the nature of reality by taking into account advances in physics.

The key question is: How well do Hawking and Mlodinow succeed in reaching defensible conclusions about knowledge and reality? Fully answering that question would take a much longer evaluation, but it should be evident from the quotes above that their assertions go well beyond the genuine empirical successes of quantum theory into a realm of philosophical speculation akin to other philosophers who have been skeptical about the independent existence of reality.

The defunct philosopher that Hawking and Mlodinow are unknowingly slaves to is Immanuel Kant, who tried to show that reality is mind-dependent. He was appalled by threats raised by such Enlightenment philosophers as David Hume to his beloved values of religion, immortality, and free will. Kant developed the view that there could be no knowledge of things in themselves because all experience is filtered through schemas. This view is the predecessor of the claim that all knowledge is model-based.

Hawking and Mlodinow repeat the Kantian philosophical error of inferring from the fact that we need minds to develop knowledge of reality to supposing that there is no reality independent of minds and the models they produce. We have abundant evidence from astronomy, cosmology, geology, and biology that human minds are relatively recent additions to the universe, and that stars and galaxies preceded us by billions of years. Minds are needed to construct models of how the universe works, but the workings of the universe do not depend on the relatively recent models that people construct. The relation between minds, models, and reality is an important philosophical problem that arises in many sciences, and contemporary physics alone fails to provide an answer to it.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell and the author Mark Twain are among many people who have been erroneously reported dead and hence were able to read their own premature obituaries. Twain wrote that “the report of my death is an exaggeration.” The same is true for philosophy.

The Kyoto School’s Takeover of Hegel

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 38/1 (2011)

Reviews, pp. 223-226

kyoto hegel

Peter Suares, The Kyoto School’s Takeover of Hegel: Nishida,

Nishitani, and Tanabe Remake the Philosophy of Spirit

Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010. 238 pp. Cloth, $65.00.

ISBN 0-7391-4688-2/978-0-7391-4688-0.

 

Suares’s first book-length publication on philosophy fills a conspicuous lacuna of

scholarship on the complex relationship between Hegel and the philosophers of the

Kyoto School. The uptake of Hegel’s thought in Japan has been addressed by scholars

in articles, book chapters, or in passing within the context of other subjects;

but given the pervasive influence of Hegelian philosophy on Nishida and Tanabe in

particular, Suares’s in-depth treatment of the Kyoto School’s “takeover” of Hegel is a

needed addition to the existing comparative studies on this topic.

 

Suares makes a compelling and well-documented argument demonstrating that

Nishida, Nishitani, and Tanabe all rely heavily on Hegel’s ideas and methodology in

fashioning their own positions, despite their harsh criticisms of certain views they

attribute to him. Suares does a convincing job of showing that though the Kyoto

scholars unanimously reject what they take to be the central tenets of Hegel’s philosophy,

namely his “dogmatic Christian theism, the promotion of being to the central

category of reality, and rigid rationalism,” these “ostensibly Hegelian features

are in fact nowhere to be found in his philosophy”(190). Not only do the Kyoto

scholars misinterpret Hegel in their critiques of him, Suares argues, they actually

incorporate Hegel’s thought in significant ways such that their own philosophies

must be considered Hegelian in many respects. This idea itself is not new, however,

and Suares acknowledges that others have made similar observations. The contribution

made by this book is its thorough demonstration of this fact, with trenchant

reasoning and clear explanations of the many confounding formulations employed

by these thinkers.

 

The book consists of a short introduction and five chapters. Besides a brief chapter

on “The Danish Parallel” which addresses Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegel and his

stance on faith in relation to reason, the author primarily examines and critiques the

thought of Nishida, Nishitani, and Tanabe. While dimensions of Hegel’s philosophy

are discussed at length throughout the volume, the book focuses on the work of

the Kyoto School philosophers and the presence of Hegel’s ideas therein. This being

the case, the reading of Hegel adopted by Suares is not worked out in conversation

with current developments in Hegel scholarship. This may be a disappointment to

those who come to the subject well versed in those debates since the reader must

simply accept the author’s interpretation of Hegel in order to follow him through

his comparative enterprise. This disappointment is far outweighed, however, by

the original insights offered. Suares’s analysis of the uptake of Hegel in Japan illuminates

issues germane to Hegel studies and the history of philosophy broadly. In

fact, this volume’s account of how the Kyoto scholars “remake” Hegel’s philosophy

of spirit addresses important issues in Hegel scholarship that have not been probed

this deeply until now. For example, the in-depth analysis of Hegelian contradiction

given within this context provides a lucid explanation of perhaps the most notorious

dimensions of his philosophy—the inner workings of his dialectical method.

With the Kyoto scholars as Hegel’s conversation partners, the nature of dialectic

and the movement of spirit in self-consciousness becomes clearer than it could have

been had it been treated exclusively within the European and American context.

 

The first chapter, which comprises roughly half of the book, is devoted to

Nishida and surveys the development of his thought throughout his life. The chapter

is divided into two main sections. The first describes the “anatomy of subjectivity”

and the “world within,” situating Nishida’s conception of self-consciousness

within the context of Western philosophy. Here Nishida’s notion of pure experience

and his logic of place are examined alongside Hegel’s developmental model of

selfconsciousness, in addition to the models put forth by other notable figures such as

Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hölderlin, and Josiah Royce. The second section confronts

“the objective dimension” which delves into the finer workings of “the dialectical

formula” operative in both Hegel and Nishida and addresses Nishida’s attempts at

sociopolitical thought in relation to history. Nishida’s notion of jikaku 自覚,

or selfawareness, establishes the continuity of the chapter in that it encompasses both the

subjective and objective components of reality in one two-fold activity. The most

notable strength of this discussion lies in its analysis and explication of the form of

Nishida’s logic in relation to Hegel’s. The analysis Suares gives is highly technical,

providing an account of paradox, contradiction, and negation in the work of both

authors. Suares tackles their perplexing dialectical maneuvers with uncommon

precision and clarity, relating them at times to their possible counterparts within

certain Buddhist strands such as Mādhyamika and Pure Land.

 

In addition to the analysis of the logical forms employed by Hegel and Nishida,

one of the most provocative elements of Suares’s discussion—and one which warrants

further debate—is his investigation into the limits of rationality for these

thinkers, a theme that continues throughout the remaining chapters of the book.

Despite the close analysis of the logical structures shaping the thought of each, the

question remains as to whether a fully rational account of reality and experience is

possible. Suares writes of Nishida, “The reconciliation of the rationality of everyday

life with the transrational level of consciousness at the base of reality is the central

problem with which he will struggle until the end of his career” (12). This struggle

is evident in Nishida’s simultaneous commitment to rational, philosophical discourse

and his use of utterly paradoxical language to formulate his position. This

tension points to a deeper issue not specifically taken up in the book, which is the

possibility that contradiction and paradox are themselves forms of rationality, both

operating within and pointing beyond the laws that define them. For both Nishida

and Hegel, self-consciousness and the reality it grounds exist through dialectical

conflict. For Hegel, as Suares points out, “Contradiction is the motor of life” (57).

And for Nishida, remaining true to the convolutions of the self in its ordinary and

ultimate character requires articulations that conjoin antithetical terms. Nishida’s

notions of the eternal now (eien no ima 永遠の今), the continuity of discontinuity

(hirenzoku no renzoku 非連続の連続), and the self-identity of absolute contradictories

(zettai mujunteki jikodōitsu 絶対矛盾的自己同一) are examples. Prompted by

the author’s comparison of the ways these thinkers conceive of contradiction, the

reader is led to question the nature of logic itself and to confront how dialectical

reason challenges common notions of rationality.

 

The limits of reason discussed within the context of Nishida’s philosophy are

taken up in different ways, both directly and indirectly, in the following chapters

on Nishitani, Tanabe, and Kierkegaard. In the chapter on Nishitani, his “postulate

of emptiness as enhancement of being” as a means to counter the problem of nihilism

is examined through his accounts of “original nature” and emptiness as “double

exposure.” Nishitani’s notion of double exposure in particular proves to be a useful

tool for explaining how seemingly incompatible views can be held at the same time.

This also provides a useful point of comparison with Hegel’s logic, elucidating similar

conundrums therein, shedding light on the issues related to rationality just noted.

 

Suares’s general approach in each chapter is to lay out his chosen thinkers’ critiques

of Hegel and proceed to show whether or not they successfully avoid the

pitfalls into which they perceive Hegel to have fallen. In each case he concludes that

they are either unsuccessful in clearing themselves of the same charges that they

level against him, or that their criticisms reject claims that Hegel cannot be proven

to have actually made. In Tanabe’s case, these failures are particularly pointed,

Suares argues, since his adoption of numerous Hegelian features in his own work

clashes harshly with his stringent critique of those same features in Hegel’s philosophy.

In addition, Tanabe rejects certain ideas that he incorrectly attributes to Hegel.

For Tanabe, Hegel is both a well of inspiration and a foil he continually pits himself

against, and, as Suares aptly shows, that ambivalence has problematic consequences

that come to bear in the anti-philosophical position Tanabe eventually adopts.

 

Overall, Suares’s study is well-documented with an extensive bibliography

divided into sections according to subjects for convenient reference. Textual references

to Hegel and the Kyoto scholars make use of both translations and the sources

in their original languages, providing guidance for readers at various levels of expertise.

There is one reference, however, that must be flagged. On page 69, Suares cites

a passage from David Dilworth’s translation of Nishida’s final essay, “The Logic of

Nothingness [Place] and the Religious Worldview,” in which the philosopher says of

his logic that it “is illustrated by Nāgārjuna’s logic of the eightfold negation” and “is

decidedly not a dialectic of substance in the Hegelian sense.” Michiko Yusa (1988),

in her review of this translation, makes the important observation that in the original

text Nishida makes no direct mention of either Nāgārjuna or Hegel here, and

charges Dilworth with having been excessively interpretive at this point in his translation.

This pivotal passage bears upon a number of themes dealt with in Suares’s

book, so readers should consult the original text, mindful of its disputed translation.

 

The book’s thesis, succinctly put forth in the conclusion, emphasizes the closeness

of the principal views held by Hegel and the philosophers of the Kyoto School.

Suares, in fact, finds no significant difference between the notion of absolute spirit

delineated by Hegel and the Japanese philosophers’ notion of absolute nothingness.

Though he voices good reasons to support this view, not enough analysis of

Hegel’s notion of spirit is given to prove this particular point. But whether or not

this point is proved, the final assessment of the relationship between Hegel and the

Kyoto scholars given in the conclusion presents a new reading of Hegel informed

by the ways his thought has been adapted by Nishida, Nishitani, and Tanabe. The

convergence of their various dialectics opens new ways of understanding Hegel, in

addition to bringing together and clarifying the ideas that have shaped philosophical

thought in Japan. In this respect The Kyoto School’s Takeover of Hegel is a model

work of comparative scholarship and makes a highly valuable contribution to the

field. All in all, this work boldly charts exciting frontiers in world philosophy, demonstrating

the potential fruit that may come from thorough and intelligent crosscultural

comparative studies.

 

References

Yusa, Michiko

1988 Review of “Last writings: The logic of nothingness and the religious worldview.”

Journal of the American Academy of Religion 56: 802–804.

 

Lucy Schultz

University of Oregon


Source: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture

Primary Sources & Encyclopedias

Research

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg offers over 54,000 free eBooks: Choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online. You will find the world’s great literature here, especially older works for which copyright has expired. We digitized and diligently proofread them with the help of thousands of volunteers.”

Early Modern Texts

“On this site you will find versions of some classics of early modern philosophy, and a few from the 19th century, prepared with a view to making them easier to read while leaving intact the main arguments, doctrines, and lines of thought.”

PhilPapers

PhilPapers is a comprehensive index and bibliography of philosophy maintained by the community of philosophers. We monitor all sources of research content in philosophy, including journals, books, open access archives, and personal pages maintained by academics. We also host the largest open access archive in philosophy. Our index currently contains 2,288,432 entries categorized in 5,268 categories. PhilPapers has over 190,000 registered users.”

Scribd

“In addition to making the best membership book service around, we’ve also built the world’s most popular open platform for publishing and sharing documents of all kinds. To date, people all over the world have shared more than 60 million documents via Scribd, from landmark court filings to business presentations to academic papers from scholars around the world.”

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy organizes scholars from around the world in philosophy and related disciplines to create and maintain an up-to-date reference work.”

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) (ISSN 2161-0002) was founded in 1995 to provide open access to detailed, scholarly information on key topics and philosophers in all areas of philosophy. The Encyclopedia receives no funding, and operates through the volunteer work of the editors, authors, volunteers, and technical advisers.”

Sacred Texts

“This site is a freely available archive of electronic texts about religion, mythology, legends and folklore, and occult and esoteric topics. Texts are presented in English translation and, where possible, in the original language.”

Planet Publish

Planet Publish caters to anyone and everyone with an interest in eBooks – the books themselves have been taken from our very own Planet PDF website which caters for professional Web or print publishers seeking appropriate tools, to rank beginners wondering exactly what “PDF” stands for.”

The Internet Archive

Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.”

JSTOR

JSTOR provides access to more than 10 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.”

Marxists Internet Archive

The Marxists Internet Archive is an all-volunteer, non-profit public library, started more than 20 years ago in 1990. In 2006, MIA averaged 1.1 million visitors per month, downloading 15.5 million files per month.”

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

“The mission of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) is to build up the church by making classic Christian literature widely available and promoting its use for edification and study by interested Christians, seekers and scholars. The CCEL accomplishes this by selecting, collecting, distributing, and promoting valuable literature through the World Wide Web and other media.”

Philosophy Index

Philosophy Index is a site devoted to the study of philosophy and the philosophers who conduct it. The site contains a number of philosophy texts, brief biographies and introductions to philosophers and explanations on a number of topics.”

 

Internet History Sourcebooks

“The books that tend to have been put online here, or those that have been linked, tend to be those entire books that are often assigned to students in college classes to be read along with the more usual excerpted texts.”

The Internet Classics Archive

“Select from a list of 441 works of classical literature by 59 different authors, including user-driven commentary and “reader’s choice” Web sites. Mainly Greco-Roman works (some Chinese and Persian), all in English translation.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia, as its name implies, proposes to give its readers full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine. What the Church teaches and has taught; what she has done and is still doing for the highest welfare of mankind; her methods, past and present; her struggles, her triumphs, and the achievements of her members, not only for her own immediate benefit, but for the broadening and deepening of all true science, literature and art— all come within the scope of the Catholic Encyclopedia.”

WikiBooks

Wikibooks is a collection of open-content textbooks. Wikibooks is for textbooks, annotated texts, instructional guides, and manuals. These materials can be used in a traditional classroom, an accredited or respected institution, a home-school environment, as part of a Wikiversity course, or for self-learning.”

Wikipedia Portal

“A portal for Wikipedia’s philosophy resources, 16,050 articles in English.”

Religion Online

Religion Online is designed to assist teachers, scholars and general “seekers” who are interested in exploring religious issues. The aim is to develop an extensive library of resources, representing many different points of view, but all written from the perspective of sound scholarship. While the initial orientation has been to seek material written primarily from a Christian perspective, the ultimate aim is to broaden the scope to include material on all the world’s major religions.”

United States of America: Important Documents

“A list of 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings. The documents chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965.”

Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics

“A list of the classic books and other works on constitutional government. It is an attempt to make available on one site everything one would need to decide any constitutional issue.”

Updated 07/25/2017

Open Letter to Kansas School Board

fsmdrawing

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence.

What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

P.S. I have included an artistic drawing of Him creating a mountain, trees, and a midget. Remember, we are all His creatures.

Great Doubt, Great Death, Great Awakening

The Kyoto School of Philosophy

The Kyoto School (京都学派 Kyōto-gakuha?) is the name given to the Japanese philosophical movement centered at Kyoto University that assimilated western philosophy and religious ideas and used them to reformulate religious and moral insights unique to the East Asian cultural tradition.”[1] However, it is also used to describe several postwar scholars from various disciplines who have taught at the same university, been influenced by the foundational thinkers of Kyoto school philosophy, and who have developed distinctive theories of Japanese uniqueness. To disambiguate the term, therefore, thinkers and writers covered by this second sense appear under The Kyoto University Research Centre for the Cultural Sciences.

Beginning roughly in 1913 with Nishida Kitaro, it survived the serious controversy it garnered after World War II to develop into a well-known and active movement. However, it is not a “school” of philosophy in the traditional sense of the phrase, such as with the Frankfurt School or Plato’s Academy. Instead, the group of academics gathered around Kyoto University as a de facto meeting place, and as its founder, Nishida, steadfastly encouraged independent thinking.

According to James Heisig, the name “Kyoto School” was first used in 1932 by a student of Nishida and Hajime Tanabe. Tosaka Jun (1900–45) considered himself to be part of the ‘Marxist left-wing’ of the school.[2] Afterwards, the media and other academic institutions outside of Japan began to use the moniker, and by the 1970s it had become a universal title – practically by default.

Contents

  • 1 History
  • 2 Significance of its notable members
    • 1 Kitaro Nishida
    • 2 Hajime Tanabe
    • 3 Keiji Nishitani
    • 4 Masao Abe
    • 5 Shizuteru Ueda
    • 6 Eshin Nishimura
  • 3 Criticism of the Kyoto School
  • 4 Members
  • 5 Suggested reading
    • 1 Readings byindividual members
    • 2 Secondary sources onindividual members
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

History

Masao Abe writes in his introduction to a new English translation of Nishida’s magnum opus, that if one thinks of philosophy in terms of Kant or Hegel, then there is no philosophy taking place in Japan. But if it is instead thought of in terms of the tradition carried out by Augustine and Kierkegaard, then Japan has a rich philosophical history, composed of the great thinkers Kūkai, Shinran, Dōgen, and others.[3]

The group of philosophers involved with the Kyoto School in its nearly 100 year history is a diverse one. Individual members often come from very different social backgrounds. At the same time, in the heat of intellectual they did not hesitate to criticise each others’ work.

The following criteria roughly characterize the features of this school:

  1. Teaching at Kyoto University or at a nearby affiliated school
  2. Share some basic assumptions about using Asian thought in the framework of western philosophical tradition.
  3. Introduce and rationally investigate the meaning of “nothingness” and its importance in the history of philosophical debate.
  4. Expand on the philosophical vocabulary introduced by Nishida.

Generally, most were strongly influenced by the German philosophical tradition, especially the thought of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. In addition, many employed their cultural resources in formulating their philosophy and bringing it to play to add to the philosophical enterprise. However, while their work was not expressly religious it was informed significantly by it. For example, both Tanabe and Keiji Nishitani wrote on Christianity and Buddhism and identified common elements between the two religions.[4] For this reason, some scholars classify the intellectual products of the school as “religious philosophy.”

Although the group was fluidic and largely informal, traditionally whoever occupied the Chair of the Department of Modern Philosophy at the University of Kyoto was considered its leader. Nishida was the first, from 1913 to 1928. Hajime Tanabe succeeded him until the mid-1930s. By this time, Nishitani had graduated from Kyoto University, studied with Martin Heidegger for two years in Germany, and returned to a teaching post since 1928. From 1955 to 1963, Nishitani officially occupied the Chair and since his departure, leadership of the school has crumbled – turning the movement into a very decentralized group of philosophers with common beliefs and common interests.

Significance of its notable members

The significance of the group continues to grow, especially in American departments of religion and philosophy. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a growing interest in East/West dialogue, especially inter-faith scholarship. Masao Abe traveled to both coasts of the United States on professorships, and lectured to many groups on Buddhist-Christian relations.

In addition, although Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was closely connected to the Kyoto school and in some ways critical to the development of thought that occurred there—indeed, Suzuki personally knew Nishida, Tanabe, and Nishitani—he is not considered a true member of the group.[5]

Kitaro Nishida

Main article: Kitaro Nishida

Nishida, the school’s founder, is most known for his groundbreaking work An Inquiry into the Good and later for his elucidation of the “logic of basho” (Japanese: 場所; usually translated as “place,” or the Greek topos) – which brought him fame outside of Japan, and contributed largely to the attention later paid to philosophers from the Kyoto School.

Nishida’s work is notable for a few reasons, chief among them however is how much they are related to the German tradition of philosophy since Schopenhauer. The logic of basho is a non-dualistic ‘concrete’ logic, meant to overcome the inadequacy of the subject-object distinction essential to the subject logic of Aristotle and the predicate logic of Kant, through the affirmation of what he calls the ‘absolutely contradictory self-identity’, a dynamic tension of opposites that, unlike the dialectical logic of Hegel, does not resolve in a synthesis, but rather defines its proper subject by maintaining the tension between affirmation and negation as opposite poles or perspectives.

Nishitani describes East Asian philosophy as something very different from what the Western tradition of Descartes, Leibniz or Hume would indicate,

It is ‘intuitive and practical,’ with its emphasis on religious aspects of experience not lending themselves readily to theoretical description. True wisdom is to be distinguished from intellectual understanding of the kind appropriate to the sciences. The ‘appropriation’ of Nishida’s thought,…’embraces difficulties entirely different from those of intellectual understanding’…and those who ‘pretend to understand much but do not really understand, no matter how much they intellectually understand’ are the object of his scorn.[1]

Before his death Nishida wrote The Logic of Place and the Religious Worldview, developing more fully the religious implications of his work and philosophy through “Absolute Nothingness,” which “contains its own absolute self-negation within itself.”[6] By this Nishida means that, while the divine is dynamically paradoxical, it should not be construed as pantheism or transcendent theism. Both Nishitani and Abe spent much of their academic lives dedicated to this development of nothingness and the Absolute, leading on occasion topanentheism.[citation needed]

Hajime Tanabe

Main article: Hajime Tanabe

Keiji Nishitani

Main article: Keiji Nishitani

Nishitani, one of Nishida’s main disciples, would become the doyen in the post-war period. Nishitani’s works, such as his Religion and Nothingness, primarily dealt with the Western notion of nihilism, inherited from Nietzsche, and religious interpretation of nothingness, as found in the Buddhist idea of sunyata and the specifically Zen Buddhist concept of mu.

Masao Abe

Main article: Masao Abe

Shizuteru Ueda

A disciple of Keiji Nishitani.

Main article: Shizuteru Ueda

Eshin Nishimura

Main article: Eshin Nishimura

Criticism of the Kyoto School

Today, there is a great deal of critical research into the school’s role prior to and during the Second World War. Hajime Tanabe bears the greatest brunt of the criticism for bringing his work on the “Logic of Species” into Japanese politics, which was used to buttress the militarist project to formulate imperialist ideology and propaganda. Tanabe’s notion is that the logical category of “species” and nation are equivalent, and each nation or “species” provides a fundamental set of characteristics which define and determine the lives and outlooks of those who participate in it.

Some western scholars think this criticism of the Kyoto School is inaccurate and spurious.[7] They have shown that Tanabe did not support the war effort and that Nishitani tried to organize intellectuals to question and criticize the growing militarism of the Tojo junta. This scholarly work attempts to provide an historical understanding of these thinkers’ work in terms of opposition to western colonial imperialism at the same as the thinkers opposed fascist reactionary politics.[8]

Members

  • Kitaro Nishida: 1870 – 1945 (KU Philosophy Dept. 1910-13, Chair 1913-28)
  • Hajime Tanabe: 1885 – 1962 (KU Philosophy Dept. ?, Chair, 1928-35?)
  • Keiji Nishitani: 1900 – 1990 (KU Philosophy Dept. 1928-35, Chair 1935-63)
  • Masao Abe
  • Miki Kiyoshi
  • Hisamatsu Shinichi
  • Shizuteru Ueda
  • Saneshige Komaki
  • Yamanouchi Tokuryu
  • Takeuchi Yoshinori

Suggested reading

Scholarly books

  • The Buddha Eye: An Anthology of the Kyoto School.Edited by Frederick Franck. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1982.

Seventeen essays, most from The Eastern Buddhist, on Zen and Pure Land Buddhism.

Anthology of texts by Kyoto scholars themselves, with additional biographical essays.

  • The Thought of the Kyoto School,edited by Ohashi Ryosuke. 2004.

Collection of essays dealing with the history of its name, and its members contributions to philosophy.

  • Philosophers of Nothingnessby James Heisig. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8248-2481-4

Excellent introduction to the School’s history and content; includes rich multilingual bibliography.

  • Absolute Nothingness: Foundations for a Buddhist-Christian Dialogue,Hans Waldenfels. New York: Paulist Press, 1980.

Good early work, focuses mostly on Nishitani’s relevance for the perspective of Buddhist-Christian dialogue.

  • James W. Heisig, John C. Maraldo (Ed.): “Rude Awakenings. Zen, the Kyoto School, & the Question of Nationalism”, Honololu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.

Journal articles

  • “The Religious Philosophy of the Kyoto School: An Overview,” by James Heisig.Japanese Journal of Religious Studies17, No.1, (1990), p51-81.
  • “Heidegger and Buddhism,” by T. Umehara. Philosophy East and West,20 (1970), p271-281.
  • “Nishida’s Philosophy of ‘Place’,” by Masao Abe, International Philosophical Quarterly28, No.4 (Winter 1988), p. 355-371.
  • “In Memoriam: Keiji Nishitani (1900-1990),” by E. Kawamura-Hanoka. Buddhist-Christian Studies,12 (1992), p241-245.

Readings by individual members

For further information, see the Nanzan Institute’s Complete Bibliography for all Kyoto School members

  • Kitaro Nishida, An Inquiry into the Good,Translated by Masao Abe and Christopher Ives. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987 (1921).
  • ——, Art and Morality,Translated by D. Dilworth and Valdo Viglielmo. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1973.
  • ——, Intelligibility and the Philosophy of Nothingness,Translated by Robert Schinzinger. Westport: 1958.
  • Tanabe, Hajime, “Demonstratio of Christianity”, in Introduction to the philosophy of Tanabe: According to the English translation of the seventh chapter of the demonstratio of Christianity, translated by Makoto Ozaki, Rodopi Bv Editions, January 1990, ISBN 90-5183-205-2,ISBN 978-90-5183-205-1, ASIN B0006F1CBU.
  • –, “The Logic of The Species as Dialectics,” trns. David Dilworth; Taira Sato, inMonumenta Nipponica, Vol. 24, No. 3, 1969, pp. 273-288. [Available as pdf through JSTOR]
  • –, Philosophy as Metanoetics(Nanzan studies in religion and culture), Yoshinori Takeuchi, Valdo Viglielmo, and James W. Heisig (Translators), University of California Press, April 1987, ISBN 0-520-05490-3.
  • Keiji Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982. ISBN 0-520-04946-2
  • ——, The Self-overcoming of Nihilism,translated by Graham Parkes and Setsuko Aihara. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.
  • Yoshinori Takeuchi, The Heart of Buddhism,translated by James Heisig. New York: 1983.

Secondary sources on individual members

  • Nishida Kitaro,by Nishitani Keiji, translated by Yamamoto Sesaku and James Heisig. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
  • The Religious Philosophy of Tanabe Hajime,edited by Taitetsu Unno and James Heisig. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
  • The Religious Philosophy of Nishitani Keiji,edited by Taitetsu Unno. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

References

  1. a b D.S. Clarke, Jr. “Introduction” in Nishida Kitaro by Nishitani Keiji, 1991.
  2. ^ Heisig 2001, p.4
  3. ^ Masao Abe, “Introduction” in An Inquiry into the Good, 1987, (1921).
  4. ^ Tanabe in Philosophy as Metanoetics and Demonstratio of Christianity, and Nishitani in Religion and Nothingness and On Buddhism.
  5. ^ Robert Lee, “Review of The Buddha Eye: An Anthology of the Kyoto School,” in The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol.42, No.4 (Aug.,1983).
  6. ^ The Kyoto School (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  7. ^ Parkes, Graham, ‘Heidegger and Japanese Fascism: An Unsubstantiated Connection,’ in Japanese and Continental Philosophy, Indiana University press, 2011. Parkes exposes the shabby scholarship of the accusers of the Kyoto School, while leaving open the question of what exactly the politics of the Kyoto school philosophers consisted in.
  8. ^ David Williams, Defending Japan’s Pacific War: The Kyoto School philosophers and post-White power Routledge Curzon, London and New York 2004

External links

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • The Fascist Next Door? Nishitani Keiji and the ChuokoronDiscussions in Perspective, Discussion Paper by Xiaofei Tu in the electronic journal of contemporary Japanese studies, 27 July 2006.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_School

An Imagined Dialogue on Eastern & Western Philosophy & The Nature of Knowledge

“The search for knowledge is like the search for true love. We live in a web of relationships, be it of propositions or people. Sometimes we are in a skeptical mood and we grasp for a solid base—a belief that we’re sure of or a friend or lover we can trust completely—but experience seems to admonish us, ‘all are fickle’; at such times the web can seem inscrutable. Then at other times we’re completely in the moment and the web is worldwide, and we’re secure in its interrelationships, confident in our position. We’re in a web all right—just sometimes we see ourselves as the spider other times as the fly.” – Raam Gokhale

“Truth may have been found but might never be known.” – Kedar Joshi

________________________________________

Ram: You know the quote from Kipling, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”? Do you think it applies to philosophy?

Kedar: It applies there more than anywhere else. Western philosophy demands the rigors of sound arguments. Eastern philosophy is virtually indistinguishable from religion.

Ram: But “NEVER the twain shall meet” is pretty radical. Don’t you think they must meet in some sense if both are to be labeled as philosophy? To compare them, to use the same word, ‘philosophy’, to describe them, they must have something in common. It’s not like say comparing farming with the Dewey-decimal system, for example.

Kedar: You seem to have a common ground in mind?

Ram: I do. I think it’s contained in the inscription at the Temple of the Delphic oracle, namely ‘Know Thyself’.

Kedar: Hmm. I think you’re right. Western philosophy exhorts ‘Know Thyself’ in order to know all other things. Eastern philosophy exhorts ‘Know Thyself’ in order to forget about all other things.

Ram: As usual, you’ve put things very pithily. In western philosophy, whether you’re dealing with ideas that have an external existence as in Plato or Berkeley or ideas only present in the mind as in Descartes, Locke, or Hume, ideas are known first and are the basis of knowing everything else. Know thyself in order to know all other things.

Kedar: How about your favorite philosopher, Wittgenstein? Doesn’t he argue that even self-knowledge is only possible through outward criteria, that there is no such thing as a private language? I for one would be only too happy to dismiss Wittgenstein as not a true philosopher.

Ram: Ah so that’s how philosophers trade barbs huh? They don’t directly insult each other; they insult each other’s intellectual heroes. I agree Wittgenstein doesn’t fit the paradigm too neatly but you must admit, even his linguistic analysis can be described as an exercise in ‘Knowing Thyself’—except in his case the thyself that you’re exhorted to know is the linguistic practices of your “form of life”, your community of speakers. Not ‘Know Thyself in order to know all other things’ but ‘know the practices of thy community in order not to muck up the enterprise of knowing other things’.

Kedar: At any rate, the later Wittgenstein is understood partly as attacking the phenomenalists who definitely fit into the ‘Know Thyself in order to know all other things’ camp. So I guess he’s a philosopher in the same sense as the statement, ‘Philosophy is crap’ is itself taken to express a philosophical position.

Ram: You put it more crudely than I would but I think we agree that in western philosophy, ‘Knowing Thyself’ is generally necessary in order to know other things. Wittgenstein might be an exception, but if he is, he is the exception that proves the rule.

Kedar: OK…perhaps. Now how about eastern philosophy? I take it you have in mind ‘Atman is Brahman’ and the doctrine of Maya from the Vedas when you say eastern philosophy exhorts, ‘Know Thyself in order to forget about all other things’.

Ram: Actually you said eastern philosophy exhorts ‘Know Thyself in order to forget about all other things’. I recently read The Tao of Physics and I would have to redescribe eastern philosophy as exhorting, ‘Know Thyself in order to know the subjective nature of all other things’. I think that’s a more accurate formulation of eastern philosophy.

Kedar: Interesting reformulation. It still fits the ‘Atman is Brahman’ and Maya doctrines of Hindu philosophy. And I can see how one might draw parallels with quantum mechanics where the observer plays an inseparable role in the process of observing. But can it really be taken to represent all eastern philosophy? I mean I don’t know much about Chinese and Japanese philosophy for instance.

Ram: Actually it better fits non-Hindu eastern philosophy, especially Taoism, much better because, unlike Hinduism, Taoism, in exhorting us to see the subjective nature of all other things, actively encourages us to understand all other things. Each separate thing is a Tao, composed of opposites like the yin-yang, with each piece containing the seeds of its opposite. The parallels with modern physics are clear: matter is energy; particles are waves. In Hinduism, a genuine interest in understanding individual things outside the self is sometimes lacking. This is certainly true in Hinduism’s emphasis on the big picture, of transcending the veil of Maya in order for the atman or self to merge with the Brahman or God. But even Hinduism holds that the duality of Shiva and Shakti, the male and female elements, like yin and yang from Taoism, or matter and energy, particles and waves from modern physics, can be seen in everything.

Kedar: OK it seems ‘the twain do meet’ in the exhortation, ‘Know Thyself’. That’s how we can recognize eastern philosophy and western philosophy, as different as they are, as philosophy. But they clearly differ in their recommendation of how best we can know ourselves.

Ram: That’s right and the methods they recommend are suited to their widely divergent views about the nature of reality—the ‘twains’ do meet but from then on steam in opposite directions. Western science has been making successively more accurate maps of the world but their first approximation was always common sense. Common sense is what all the theorizing must tie back to. And the methods of common sense–ordinary seeing is believing—are at the core of classical science just as ordinary introspection is at the heart of western philosophy. Eastern philosophy seeks to transcend common sense; common sense is Maya. The essence of reality is glimpsed in mystical visions. The extra-ordinary visions may explain the world of common sense but their basis is an ineffable contradiction: all things are a unity of opposites, opposites like the tendency to rest/to move, to sometimes exhibit ‘male’ sometimes ‘female’ characteristics, etc. We see these opposites first in our innermost natures. ‘Know thyself in order to know the subjective nature of all other things’.

Kedar: And quantum mechanics…I guess it just so happens reality has dictated western maps have eastern legends?

Ram: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Kedar: But like you I consider myself more of a western philosopher. Must the west be so short-changed?

Ram: Not at all. Western philosophy’s great contribution is a healthy skepticism. While eastern philosophy goes on to prescribe how to go about acquiring self-knowledge be it through yogic meditation or contemplation of Zen paradoxes, western philosophy, facing a much simpler task as far as acquiring self-knowledge is concerned, goes on to either explicate how we then acquire knowledge of external things or failing that raises doubts about whether such knowledge is even possible.

Kedar: Ahem, with all this talk of knowledge, don’t you think we should define knowledge first?

Ram: You’re right. Surprisingly, as different as they are, both eastern and western philosophy, I think, would agree, at least as a first approximation, that knowledge is justified, true belief…just the things they believe and their methods of justification would be as different as night and day.

Kedar: I know ‘justified, true belief’ has been a definition of knowledge at least as far back as Plato but I am not sure it’s correct.

Ram: Well a lot of contemporary epistemologists think that the traditional definition needs at least a fourth condition to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. And even the ones that don’t think that the traditional 3-condition definition is deficient, think that justification has to be radically reinterpreted.

Kedar: I’m not referring to that. I think knowledge is just true belief not justified true belief. Yet even with the simpler definition, I don’t think we ever have knowledge because we’re never sufficiently confident in our beliefs. Indeed the more beliefs we have, the less sure we are of any of them. Our uncertainty is even warranted on purely probabilistic grounds.

Ram: You and I have had this conversation before. As I recall, you think justification is merely a tool that helps us to have greater conviction in our beliefs but that it itself isn’t really necessary for knowledge.

Kedar: That’s right.

Ram: I think you have the ‘man-on-the-street’ on your side. I think if we asked an ordinary person to define knowledge, he would say true belief. Justification is usually the kind of thing only philosophers worry about.

Kedar: Is this another way that philosophers trade insults, by saying the ‘man-on-the-street’ would agree with you? Philosophers are a passive-aggressive lot aren’t they? You know me: I usually walk on the opposite side of the street as the ‘man-on-the-street’. So I don’t exactly find comfort in having the ‘man-on-the-street’ on my side.

Ram: Philosophy makes strange bedfellows. I usually find comfort in using words as they are used in everyday speech and, as yours is the more ‘everyday’ definition, let me try to see things from your perspective. First let me try to put a philosopher in your corner so you feel a little more secure. The philosopher Robert Nozick, like you, drops justification from his basic account of knowledge though like you he also thinks justification has a very important role to play in how we acquire knowledge. According to Nozick, knowledge is true belief except the belief has to be so ‘secure’ that it would vary with the truth of what’s believed in ‘close’ counterfactual situations.

Kedar: Could you elaborate?

Ram: Sure. I believe I’m talking to you. And in fact I AM talking to you. But for my belief to count as knowledge, Nozick would say my belief would have to be such that if I weren’t talking to you, I wouldn’t believe I was talking to you and in other not-too-farfetched situations where I would be talking to you, I would continue to believe I’m talking to you. As Nozick says it, my belief has to ‘track’ the truth in close counterfactual situations in order to count as knowledge.

Kedar: I don’t think I walk on the same side of the street as Mr. Nozick either. If I weren’t talking to you, I might still believe that I was; and there may be situations where I would be talking to you but for whatever reason I wouldn’t believe I was talking to you. Still that doesn’t change the fact that I know here and now that I am talking to you.

Ram: Nozick tries to capture this intuition by restricting his tracking conditions to close counterfactual situations. For example if I were drugged I could believe I’m talking to you even if I wasn’t talking to you. But Nozick would say that is not a close possible world. In ‘normal’ situations where I wouldn’t be talking to you, I would (undrugged) simply be talking to someone else or to no one at all. And in such circumstances, it might seem reasonable to require that I wouldn’t continue to believe I’m talking to you if my belief is to count as knowledge.

Kedar: But even if in close-counterfactual situations my belief doesn’t track the truth, even then I think I could still be said to know. What does it matter if I’m drugged and would think I’m talking to you even when I’m not. If I believe I’m talking to you when I AM talking to you, and my belief is caused by the usual perceptual cues, and not the drug in my system, then in those circumstances I’m right and have knowledge. For instance, I can give an accurate report of our conversation. It doesn’t matter that the drug would make me believe I’m talking to you even when I’m not. In that case I don’t have knowledge but that shouldn’t infect the case where the belief is properly caused.

Ram: I think I agree with you, though other people, in particular some epistemologists, might have different intuitions so we have to make the situation more precise. Imagine the drug that’s in my system only works when I don’t hear anything for a length of time. We may imagine the doctor has prescribed it to alleviate my desperate fear of being alone. Then in close counterfactual situations when I’m not talking with you, I would still believe I’m talking with you. My intuition is that, despite this weird drug, when I’m talking with you, I know I’m talking with you. We could imagine a doctor saying the drug only affects my judgment when I don’t hear any sounds for a length of time.

Nozick with his observations about ‘keeping the method fixed’ has some wiggle-room to deal with our intuitions, but ultimately I think he fails. But let’s not lose sight of what his tracking conditions were really meant to do. They were intended to rule out lucky guesses as not instances of knowledge; the intuition he was trying to capture is that if your belief is only accidentally true, it shouldn’t count as knowledge. The trouble is in our example, the belief I am talking to you is NOT accidentally true—it’s properly caused by the fact that I am talking to you; it’s just that even if it weren’t true, there would be another cause—namely the drug—that would make me believe I was talking to you; but the existence of this other cause doesn’t make my belief accidentally true when the right cause is the one that’s operating at the present time.

Kedar: My view of knowledge, as you know, permits even accidentally true beliefs or lucky guesses to count, provided they are firmly believed.

Ram: I was wondering when you were going to say that. I happen to think lucky guesses should be excluded, though not as Nozick does, so let me try to dissuade you with the following example: suppose someone has a dream he is going to win the lottery; the dream firmly convinces him it’s going to happen and so he buys a ticket; the ticket wins. You would say that though he wasn’t justified in believing he would win, he nevertheless knew he would win?

Kedar: Sure I would. Wouldn’t we in such circumstances say he JUST KNEW he was going to win?

Ram: Watch it! You’re in danger of appealing to the man-on-the-street again. The man-on-the-street’s intuitions can be notoriously slippery. Though in the lottery example, we could picture him agreeing to the claim, ‘the dreamer just knew he was going to win’, if we pressed him, the man-on-the-street could equally be brought to say the dreamer didn’t really know he was going to win, he just got lucky.

We’ve had this type of conversation before. The other day when we were talking about necessity in the Deccan Dugout, you stated there can be multiple, sometimes conflicting intuitions about the proper meaning of common words. But you said the philosopher has the right, the obligation, to select or define a technical meaning to suit his purpose. I submit to you, justified, true belief or some account of knowledge that precludes accidentally true beliefs is a more technical, philosophically more interesting definition of knowledge than just true belief, and so should be chosen by the philosopher over the latter.

Kedar: Well I have to admit just true belief as a definition of knowledge is not very philosophically interesting. For example, as you pointed out before, a man could be said to acquire a lot of knowledge on this definition simply by believing each pair of a series of contradictory statements. One of each pair has to be true and if he ‘hedges his bets’ by believing both he’s guaranteed to have knowledge. This is clearly a pretty ridiculous way of acquiring knowledge. Perhaps when I proposed the ‘true-belief’ definition, I was guilty of appealing to the man-on-the-street’s lesser intuitions.

So it seems beliefs have to be non-accidentally true in order to count as knowledge. How do we flush out exactly the conditions necessary to rule out accidentally true beliefs?

Ram: Certainly if someone as illustrious as Robert Nozick, the winner of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize, has failed, we should be on guard.

Kedar: I’m not sure whether you’re being facetious or passive-aggressive again, but we definitely should be on guard. For example, your justification condition—we would want to say most people have knowledge about the content of their perceptual beliefs without having a justification for them. We know the causes that make most perceptual beliefs true—i.e. their reliability in conditions of good lighting, the perceiver not being under the influence of drugs, etc.—so we would say such people are justified but these people may not be aware all the premises that go into their justification.

Ram: You bring up an interesting point. Could someone be justified in his knowledge claim only from the outside and still be said to know?

Kedar: What do you mean ‘from the outside’?

Ram: I mean inaccessible to the putative knower. This is the internalism/externalism distinction one encounters in contemporary epistemology. We from the outside, external perspective know why the man-on-the-street’s perceptual beliefs are justified but from the internal perspective, based solely on what the man is aware of, the man might have no justification—he simply believes what he sees. The question is do we want to require the man be aware of the full justification of his beliefs in order to know them or do we allow external justifications to support his knowledge claims?

Kedar: I’ve re-girded myself against the man-on-the-street. My intuitions about justifications are that it’s an internal thing, so I would say if the man-on-the-street doesn’t have the full justifications for his perceptual beliefs internally, so much the worse for him—he doesn’t know.

Ram: Now we have to be careful what we require as full justification. For consider the following example. A man in an empty public square sees a prominent clock in a country known for punctuality and precision…

Kedar: Not India, I take it.

Ram: Ha, Ha, OK not India. The man notices that the clock reads 5:00 pm. He thinks to himself, ‘clocks around here generally tell the correct time’, looks at the position of the sun in the sky and judges that it’s about 5:00 pm and takes similar other measures to justify his belief that it is in fact 5:00 pm. Suppose it is in fact 5:00 pm but the clock he is looking at stopped working at 5:00 am. A philosopher named Edmund Gettier used examples like this to argue that knowledge can’t simply be justified, true belief because the man seems to meet all three conditions but we don’t want to say he knows it’s 5:00 pm.

Kedar: Interesting example. My first inclination is to maintain that knowledge can be justified, true belief. It’s just that the man’s justification is not a full, complete justification.

Ram: I had the same reaction when I first heard this example. But remember: you’re committed to justification being internal, that the man be fully aware of each premise in his justification. What would you have him do? Wait a few minutes to see if the clock is running? We could suppose the clock did coincidentally restart at 5:00 pm so it seems to be running. Still we don’t want to say that the man who relies on such an on-off clock knows what time it is. Do we want to further require he examine the inner workings of the clock? Again since the clock has restarted, inner workings might yield no clue that in fact it’s reading 5:00 am and that therefore the man’s belief that it’s 5:00 pm is only accidentally true.

In general any belief inductively justified can be false. That’s the nature of inductive justification. All we have to do to cook up a Gettieresque example is to imagine a scenario in which the inductively justified belief would be false but suppose the belief coincidentally is true. Then you have truth, belief, justification—just not knowledge.

Kedar: Extending your example to the n-th degree, we could imagine a full justification would require a justification for induction, which the history of philosophy has taught us is a losing battle.

Ram: Fortunately it’s not as bad as that. In the case of inductive justification you could argue that a justification only has to make it likely that the conclusion-belief is true. Against Gettieresque examples, the only thing that’s required is that there be no genuine defeaters of that justification as there are in the clock example.

Kedar: What’s a genuine defeater?

Ram: Well, a defeater of a person’s justification for a belief is a true proposition such that if the person believed this proposition, he would no longer be justified in holding the belief in question. The proposition ‘the clock stopped working at 5:00 am’ is a defeater, a genuine defeater, in the earlier example because if the man believed it, he would no longer be justified in believing it’s 5:00 pm.

Kedar: I guess to understand why you say genuine defeater, I have to know what’s a non-genuine defeater.

Ram: A non-genuine defeater, or a misleading defeater as it’s known in the literature, is a proposition that is a defeater in the sense that were the putative knower to believe it, he would no longer be justified. But it is a misleading defeater in the sense that its power to defeat is dependent on a false proposition. That at least is how my graduate school professor, Peter Klein, a defeasibility theorist, put it.

Kedar: Can you give an example?

Ram: We already had one. The drug that caused conversations to be imagined when no conversation was going on is an example of a misleading defeater. Imagine that I was unknowingly given this drug. This proposition is a defeater of my justification for believing that I’m talking to you. It is a defeater because if I believed it, I would no longer be justified in believing I was talking to you. Yet to some it seems like a misleading defeater because its power to defeat is dependent on the false proposition that the drug in my system is active right now. Remember we said the drug doesn’t operate so long as I hear sounds.

Kedar: OK—I think I have some sense of defeasibility theories of knowledge. And in Nozick I got some flavor of a different type of theory. I know we couldn’t have covered every epistemological theory but did we at least hit all the major classifications?

Ram: Let’s see…Nozick was an example of reliabilism. We talked about defeasibility. I guess the only other major strand is the causal theory of knowledge.

Kedar: That sounds interesting…maybe just the kind of theory I can espouse. I don’t know exactly what a causal theory of knowledge is but it sounds like it could fit our intuitions in the drug case. There we said I know I am talking to you because my belief is caused by the facts that make it true.

Ram: A causal theory has strong intuitive appeal. We want to say what’s true caused us to know it’s true. It’s the basis of our most common beliefs, namely perceptual beliefs. Seeing is believing because the thing we believe plays a causal role in forming our belief.

Kedar: And a causal theory would handle our Gettieresque clock example. The man doesn’t know it’s 5:00 pm because there is a causal disconnect between it actually being 5:00 pm and his belief that it’s 5:00 pm.

Ram: That’s right, but…

Kedar: I just knew there would be a but. Did you ever think, philosophy is crap because it’s full of butts?

Ram: Very funny. Seriously though, a causal theory of knowledge faces some challenges distinguishing causal connections of the right sort from causal connections that don’t result in knowledge.

Kedar: Could you give an example of the wrong sort of causal connection?

Ram: Certainly. Let’s modify our drugged conversation example. Suppose the drug administered unknown to me makes me imagine a conversation, perhaps a very flattering conversation, when someone is talking to me. I think we would say I don’t know you’re talking to me though my belief that you’re talking to me is caused by your talking to me.

Kedar: It’s funny how our strongest intuitions fall prey to such easy to dream up counterexamples.

Ram: They’re not that easy to dream up—I’ve just heard them or their kind before. For example another criticism of the causal theory I’ve heard is that it’s unable to handle deductive knowledge like our knowledge of the truths of mathematics. Numbers don’t cause anything because they’re simply logical constructs.

Kedar: Remember, I happen to be a Platonist about truths of mathematics so I can believe that somehow they cause our beliefs. They cause our beliefs because our mind directly ‘grasps’ them.

Ram: Well let’s just say numbers pose difficulties for most ‘normal’ causal theorists of knowledge.

Kedar: As usual you’re being very cagey and passive-aggressively insulting. We’ve surveyed the major epistemological theories but you still haven’t said which one you prefer.

Ram: If I am being cagey it’s not from any deviousness. Remember, like Wittgenstein, I’m an ordinary language philosopher. To borrow Wittgenstein’s metaphor, maybe knowledge is like a family resemblance: we see a family’s photographs and the faces all seem to resemble one another but we may be hard-pressed to find a single feature that is common to them all; knowledge may be like that, a concept that has many intuitions running through it without one being common to them all. For example, for knowledge we have intuitions that it must be reliable, non-accidental, caused by the thing known, be supported by a justification. It wouldn’t surprise me if all these intuitions couldn’t be brought together under one rubric. Maybe all philosophically interesting concepts are like that, making our attempts to find necessary and sufficient conditions for them ultimately doomed to failure.

Kedar: Don’t be so pessimistic. After all, as different as eastern and western philosophies are, you found a common thread running through all of them—know thyself.

Ram: I think I got lucky. But you may have a point. Maybe I got lucky because philosophy is a more technical word than knowledge. Maybe philosophers should only focus on words that have already been lifted out of the confused din of common discourse. Maybe epistemologists would do better to focus on concepts like evidence or justification which are already more technical than knowledge.

Though, wouldn’t it be funny if the word philosophy was the only philosophically interesting word that permits a philosophically satisfying definition?

Kedar: I think that would be funny only to a philosopher. I choose to believe that concepts like justification and evidence would permit philosophically interesting definitions. Let’s talk about them next.

Ram: Wait a minute. I see by the clock outside it’s 5:00 pm. I think I better be getting back. We can talk about justification and evidence next time.

Kedar: OK. Meanwhile I’ll take the imagined conversation drug and think about what you and I might say.

eastunleashed

March 6, 2011

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