back to the beginning: the limitations of language

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Sat Apr 30, 2011 7:07 am

iam - the problem you are having here is that you are making a series of mistakes that, taken by themselves, are minor, but that have the cumulative effect of leading you very far astray. While you have made several in your latest post, I will point out only one: "Aborting a human fetus is immoral" is not an argument of any kind. It is not a logical argument because it's not an argument. It's not an illogical argument, either. It's not an argument.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:40 pm

Faust wrote:iam - the problem you are having here is that you are making a series of mistakes that, taken by themselves, are minor, but that have the cumulative effect of leading you very far astray. While you have made several in your latest post, I will point out only one: "Aborting a human fetus is immoral" is not an argument of any kind. It is not a logical argument because it's not an argument. It's not an illogical argument, either. It's not an argument.


My point however is this: When people make such an assertion sooner or later someone is going to ask them to defend it. Especially in a philosophy venue. And there are many who insist that, using the tools of philosophy, we can construct an argument deemed to be the most logical.

Realists and rationalists for example. And deontologists.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:57 pm

That's not so. A rationalist does not claim that his argument is the "most" logical, but only that reason itself is the best basis for the positions we take on any philosophical issue. A deductive argument is either valid or it is not. It's not "more" or "less" valid. And it's not more or less "logical". In the main, such an argument is not simply "deemed" anything. It either passes the test of validity or it does not.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Mon May 02, 2011 2:15 am

Faust wrote:That's not so. A rationalist does not claim that his argument is the "most" logical, but only that reason itself is the best basis for the positions we take on any philosophical issue. A deductive argument is either valid or it is not. It's not "more" or "less" valid. And it's not more or less "logical". In the main, such an argument is not simply "deemed" anything. It either passes the test of validity or it does not.


Yes, I agree. But my focus is always on those rationalists who insist logic can be used to derive optimal arguments regarding issues that, in my view, can only be articulated as conflicting points of view.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Mon May 02, 2011 3:37 pm

But I think the distinction you make is incorrect, and unfair to rationalists. I have dedicated many words to showing that rationalism is just plain foolhardy, but I think you have mischaracterised rationalism. This is not only unfair to rationalists, but to everyone who uses deductive reasoning. Now, it may be deductive reasoning itself that you are going after, but you don't say that.

When you say:

logic can be used to derive optimal arguments


you seem to be confusing the argument with the position. Logic is by definition the only way to derive a (deductive) argument. It's not the exclusive purview of the rationalist. What the rationalist proposes is that his position, because it is derived from reason alone, is optimal.

But further, the rationalist is not unaware that there is disagreement. It is, of course, this disagreement that he seeks to resolve. As a perspectivist, I certainly agree that the different positions taken on moral issues are not resolvable into agreement by logic alone. Where I disagree is in that those positions certainly can be articulated using deductive reasoning, even if they are ultimately mere points of view. That's what philosophy does, often.

Moral premises are not verifiable empirically, but moral premises can be accepted on other grounds, and it is that acceptance that the logician must in turn accept, as a logician. Here, I think Logical Positivism is incorrect. But LP is of no use to you as an apologist for politics, either.

In all, you seem to deny that it is useful to give reasons for our points of view. But what if our positions on various moral issues contradict each other? I don;t mean when my position contradicts yours, but when several on mine contradict each other. Wouldn't you find it troublesome if two or more of your moral positions contradict each other? It happens all the time - I would say it is the rule among those who have not taken the time to examine their own moral beliefs. How would we resolve that kind of internal conflict?
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Mon May 02, 2011 6:59 pm

Baruch Spinoza, a rationalist, derived from Rene Descartes, another rationalist, the argument that what is true is what can be known clearly, succinctly, seamlessly, wholly. And then, down through the ages, philosophers have argued over what, in fact, we can know and grasp in this manner. For some it included both one's sense of identity and one's value judgments. And it is those folks I address my arguments to.

Sure, we can argue [technically] over how one must distinguish an "argument" from a "position"---but how far out into the world we live and interact in will that take us? I'm not one of Durant's epistemologist, I'm an existentialist. Scold me for not grasping the technical jargon correctly if you must but my interest lies in instantiating the jargon out in the world of conflicting subjectivity and value judgments.

And though you acknowledge the limits of deductive reasoning here, others do not. And my point has always revolved around the understanding that logic can be used syllogistically to make reasonable arguments from all sides of conflicting moral, political and aesthetic stances. My own contribution to the debate has always focused more on the relationship between these contradictory points of view and dasein.

Bryan Magee in Confessions of a Philosopher:

What [Hume] shows is that most of reason's claims are invalid. We know almost nothing. Our thoughts are connected for the most part not by logic but by association of ideas, and our behavior is guided not by genuine understanding of
reality but by habitual expectation and custom.


Commonsense [situated historically, culturally and experientially]: who cares about logic "philosophically" when we go to work or raise our kids or fall in love or vote?
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Mon May 02, 2011 8:11 pm

Sure, we can argue [technically] over how one must distinguish an "argument" from a "position"---but how far out into the world we live and interact in will that take us?


It will take us into the realm of philosophy. If you don't know, or don't acknowledge, the difference between a philosophical position and the argument used to reach it, I'm not sure how well you can understand the thinkers you criticise, or any other thinker, for that matter.

I'm not one of Durant's epistemologist, I'm an existentialist. Scold me for not grasping the technical jargon correctly if you must but my interest lies in instantiating the jargon out in the world of conflicting subjectivity and value judgments.


It's not just vocabulary for its own sake. We tend to talk past each other, you and I, and I think that your choice of words is a factor. It's not very technical to distinguish between an argument and its conclusion. Again, if you don't know the difference, its difficult to criticise those who use arguments.

And though you acknowledge the limits of deductive reasoning here, others do not.


I really can't think of anyone who thinks that. Even Kant knew the limits. He just wasn't very good at argument. The difference between a rationalist and, say, an empiricist is not that they believe two different thing s about deductive reasoning, but that they accept different premises as true, or even as important. Deductive reasoning is merely a method. I think your argument is not with logic, but merely with some premises that some philosophers use.

And my point has always revolved around the understanding that logic can be used syllogistically to make reasonable arguments from all sides of conflicting moral, political and aesthetic stances.


I get that, and i think everyone else does, and has. I don't think anyone has ever argued with you about that, and that's not what i am arguing with you about now. Logic is "content neutral" as long as the content doesn't contradict itself.

What [Hume] shows is that most of reason's claims are invalid. We know almost nothing. Our thoughts are connected for the most part not by logic but by association of ideas, and our behavior is guided not by genuine understanding of
reality but by habitual expectation and custom.


One wonders if Magee has actually read Hume. This is a very ignorant thing to say.

Commonsense [situated historically, culturally and experientially]: who cares about logic "philosophically" when we go to work or raise our kids or fall in love or vote?


Common sense can only be cultural, or historical, or experiential. It's the common sense - the sense we have in common. it's learned and widely accepted wisdom. That's just what the term means. Neither logic nor philosophy imply any abandonment of common sense. Many philosopher do abandon it, but abandoning it is not required to do logic or philosophy.

Iam, seriously, the reason you make these category errors is that you evidently haven't taken the time to study logic. Your critiques of logic would be much more powerful if you did.

These Existentialists, as they wallow in their misery, have poisoned your mind. Read some Nietzsche - the most commonsensical of all philosophers. he doesn't use deductive reasoning, but he understands it. And he's the most cheerful of all philosophers. A good antidote to the European Emotionalists.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Sean » Tue May 03, 2011 8:27 pm

Faust wrote:
iambiguous wrote:What [Hume] shows is that most of reason's claims are invalid. We know almost nothing. Our thoughts are connected for the most part not by logic but by association of ideas, and our behavior is guided not by genuine understanding of
reality but by habitual expectation and custom.


One wonders if Magee has actually read Hume. This is a very ignorant thing to say.


Oh come off it Faust.

Hume applies perfectly here, and in exactly the way Iambiguous wants him to. Try this one on for size smarty-pants:

"Reason is, ought to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." - David Hume

Eventually you are going to get to the end of your deductions and need a sentiment to give you the ought. The whole point of Hume is that a reasoning will get you the facts of the case, but only a sentiment will get you the ought. What does a sentiment look like? It does not look like a rational argument. A sentiment looks like "abortion, yuck!" Hume is clearly saying that moral behavior is guided by our sentiments (which are mostly habituated). This is exactly what Iambiguous is trying to say about the unwashed masses.

This is why contemporary Humean values theorists (i.e. Jessie Prinz) need these things called "grounding norms." A grounding norm is a psychological placeholder of sorts. Its the word for the point where we stop giving reasonable answers when we are interrogated about our moral sentiments.

i.e.
Joe: Why don't you vote for that Republican?
Sally: He hates black people.
Joe: What's wrong with a politician hating black people?
Sally: He will cut affordable healthcare for children from the budget.
Joe: What's wrong with a lack of affordable healthcare for children?
Sally: Many parents will not be able to afford healthcare for their children.
Joe: What's wrong with children not being able to afford healthcare?
Sally: Children will not have access to preventive care like checkups.
Joe: What's wrong with children having no access to preventive care?
Sally: Many innocent children will die.
Joe: What's wrong with allowing the death of many innocent children?
Sally: You asshole!

Sally has reached what is called a grounding norm. Sally does not have a rational argument for why you shouldn't allow innocent children to die, she just has a sentiment to that effect, a sentiment which she is passionate about.

If Sally was a philosopher, she might try to find a deeper reason for this passion of hers. Iambiguous and Hume's point is that we usually don't continue looking for deeper reasons ad infinitum. Instead, we have grounding norms. Certainly it is possible to come up with deeper reasons, but the fact is, we don't do this "out there in the real world."

And the real world is what Iambiguous is interested in.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Tue May 03, 2011 10:03 pm

What [Hume] shows is that most of reason's claims are invalid.


You come off it, Sean. Nothing you, or Hume said means that reason's claims are invalid. What you've said and Hume has said is that reason isn't everything we use to get by in life. I'm not denying that. I'm arguing with extremely sloppy language on Magee's part. if you like being this sloppy, help yourself.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Sean » Tue May 03, 2011 11:32 pm

iambiguous wrote:What [Hume] shows is that most of reason's claims are invalid. We know almost nothing. Our thoughts are connected for the most part not by logic but by association of ideas, and our behavior is guided not by genuine understanding of reality but by habitual expectation and custom.


I'll admit this is not the best way of summing up Hume's views but the problem with it is a problem of terms. Reason's claims are invalid if we mean for them to be based on first principles that are absolute and eternal. If "knowing" and "genuine understanding" means grasping at the ultimate laws of nature or God, then Hume would agree with Magee. However, Hume would never state it in those terms. For Hume, association of ideas and habitual expectation and custom is no trifling matter.

Take another Hume quote:

"Skeptical principles may flourish and triumph in the schools, where it is indeed difficult, if not impossible, to refute them. But as soon as they leave the shade, and by the presence of real objects, which actuate our passions and sentiments, are put in opposition to the more powerful principles of our nature, they vanish like smoke, and leave the most determined skeptic in the same condition as other mortals." (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Pt 2, Sect 12)

What this means here is that skepticism is untenable out there in the real world. Hume says no one outside of the armchair would possibly believe "we know almost nothing." No one would assert, "my behavior is guided by habituated expectation and custom." When we posit an effect on the basis of experiencing a cause we are habituated to, we do so for the most part unselfconsciously. This is the problem with what Magee says.

But, this is the problem with what Faust says:

Faust wrote:Iam, seriously, the reason you make these category errors is that you evidently haven't taken the time to study logic. Your critiques of logic would be much more powerful if you did.


Condescension.

But more to the point:

Faust wrote:In all, you seem to deny that it is useful to give reasons for our points of view. But what if our positions on various moral issues contradict each other? I don;t mean when my position contradicts yours, but when several on mine contradict each other. Wouldn't you find it troublesome if two or more of your moral positions contradict each other? It happens all the time - I would say it is the rule among those who have not taken the time to examine their own moral beliefs. How would we resolve that kind of internal conflict?


If It happens all the time that two or more of a person's moral positions contradict each other, then it seems that one of these is the case:

1) It happens all the time that people do not examine their moral positions
2) People are comfortable with moral positions being contradictory
3) Moral positions are not ultimately rational claims that could be contradictory.

I think (1) is a good candidate, but it also reeks of exactly the kind of philosophical elitism that I'm supposed to be criticizing here. "These unwashed masses do not think about what they say." "Everyone is too obsessed with buzzwords and slogans to think critically." Etc.

I do not think (2) is a good candidate. Philosophy is exciting particularly because it is unsettling in precisely this way. You examine your views and occasionally find them to be contradictory. That is a very uncomfortable feeling for anyone.

I think Iambiguous and Magee are shooting for (3), and in my last post I think I successfully argued that we can characterize Hume as holding (3) as well (in the terms of this debate at least).

Hume says Reason should be slave to the Passions. This means that the master-part of a moral position is this grounding norm which gives it the ought, and as I explained, a grounding norm is precisely that sentiment which does not have a reason.

Faust, I fully agree that more people should think logically. The thing is, Iambiguous is not arguing against that. The point of the limitations of language is not that everyone should just quit logic. No one is saying, "Logic! Yuck!"

Instead it's more like "Limitations! Hmm..."
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Only_Humean » Tue May 03, 2011 11:54 pm

Sean wrote:If It happens all the time that two or more of a person's moral positions contradict each other, then it seems that one of these is the case:

1) It happens all the time that people do not examine their moral positions
2) People are comfortable with moral positions being contradictory
3) Moral positions are not ultimately rational claims that could be contradictory.

I think (1) is a good candidate, but it also reeks of exactly the kind of philosophical elitism that I'm supposed to be criticizing here. "These unwashed masses do not think about what they say." "Everyone is too obsessed with buzzwords and slogans to think critically." Etc.

I do not think (2) is a good candidate. Philosophy is exciting particularly because it is unsettling in precisely this way. You examine your views and occasionally find them to be contradictory. That is a very uncomfortable feeling for anyone.

I think Iambiguous and Magee are shooting for (3), and in my last post I think I successfully argued that we can characterize Hume as holding (3) as well (in the terms of this debate at least).

Hume says Reason should be slave to the Passions. This means that the master-part of a moral position is this grounding norm which gives it the ought, and as I explained, a grounding norm is precisely that sentiment which does not have a reason.


I don't think 3 makes much practical sense. If you hold that
1 killing innocent people is wrong
2 personhood is attained at the instant of conception
3 abortion is permissible
these are all moral claims. But they cannot be held concurrently and consistently, regardless of your emotions. Your reason steps in and makes you concede one (or two, but admittedly very rarely three) of these points. If they were non-rational claims, the contradiction couldn't get a handhold. Philosopher or not, you'd say "well, maybe I haven't thought this through".

In your favour, you include "ultimately". There may be one or two primal moral urges at work in any given person, sufficiently formless that they guide the prioritisation of reasoning without reason getting any look-in. But as soon as they become structured into any conscious formulation, reason gets its teeth in. I think a lack of awareness, discipline, will or training (your first option) is then the cause of explicit inconsistencies, and I don't see it as elitism to say so. You don't have to represent your country at athletics in order to take care of your body with exercise, it's just something that is wise to do.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Sean » Wed May 04, 2011 8:16 am

I don't want this to turn into a debate about abortion so I'm going to address the abortion stuff first, then get to the more philosophical points.

Only_Humean wrote:I don't think 3 makes much practical sense. If you hold that
1 killing innocent people is wrong
2 personhood is attained at the instant of conception
3 abortion is permissible
these are all moral claims. But they cannot be held concurrently and consistently, regardless of your emotions. Your reason steps in and makes you concede one (or two, but admittedly very rarely three) of these points. If they were non-rational claims, the contradiction couldn't get a handhold. Philosopher or not, you'd say "well, maybe I haven't thought this through".


The fact is, tons of pro-choice activists hold (1) and (3) simultaneously. It's a leftist phenomena, and more often than not leftists are also anti-war, specifically because "killing innocent people is wrong." "Abortion is permissible" has reasons, and as such is not a grounding norm, like "killing innocent people is wrong" is a grounding norm. For some, womens' bodily rights simply trumps (1). But this is not always the motivation for being pro-choice.

Really I think (1) and (2) are post-hoc pro-life slogans. This is a perfect example of reason being enslaved to the passions. The whole debate over whether personhood is attained at the instant of conception is totally ridiculous. It's an attempt to market one or the other view using Science-Brand Rhetoric. WTF IS PERSONHOOD. If you hold a belief about when personhood is attained, you are clearly NOT thinking philosophically, because WE can't even prove that personhood is attained in full-grown adults. Whether at conception or at third trimester, the whole question is clearly just a propaganda tool for both sides to scientifically justify their existence!

The "killing innocent people is wrong" part is just the libertarian bent on pro-life rhetoric. You can be an anti-religion Ayn Rand-style conservative and still rant with your conservative friends about how bad abortion is because you believe "murder is just wrong!" Next time some Republican tells you abortion is wrong because it's wrong to kill innocents, just ask them about arabs, and see whether this is a grounding norm or a slogan.

My point in attacking your three positions is not to make any declaration about the morality of abortion or conservativism, but instead to show that more often than not, reason is attached to purely emotional sentiments in one way or another for the purposes of creating rhetoric/propaganda.

There is nothing clear and distinct about personhood beginning or not beginning at the point of conception. There is no rationale because we don't know what personhood is. As Hume says, whichever way you call it, "commit it to the flames."

Moving on...

Only_Humean wrote:In your favour, you include "ultimately".


But this is the whole point! Iambiguous is a scholar of Wittgenstein, and rightly so in this context. Look at any dilemma (like abortion) and you will find rational arguments being used as propaganda tools. To say "personhood begins at conception" is to play a language game.

The problem is that these games get us nowhere. Have you ever tried to have a rational discussion about abortion with your family at Thanksgiving? It is disgusting when uncle Fred starts trotting out Rational Arguments. It's the most disgusting thing ever.

"Killing innocent people is wrong" is a truism. "Personhood begins at conception" is a philosophical non-starter. This doesn't just apply to abortion. Try coming up with a purely rational defense or refutation of capital punishment. The same will apply.

Ultimately people are not convinced by rational arguments. Instead people are convinced by what their friends and family believe. People are convinced by what their people believe.

I hold your three contradictory points about abortion very close. I realize they are contradictory. I still think abortion is permissible because I have a lot of friends who are feminists. Ultimately that will outweigh any rational argument that could possibly be brought to bear. Even if you told me that fetuses had perfect knowledge of the Platonic forms and could teach them to us if they were hooked up to electrodes, I wouldn't give a damn, because the people that I love say one thing and you say another. This is what the existentialists are all about. Being willing to die for your moral beliefs means holding them even when your world collapses at the hands of a devastating rational argument. I think people do it all the time. That's why we still believe capitalism will work.

EDIT: So maybe I am saying "Reason? Boooo!" But I only feel that way about reason when it claims to be without sentiment.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Wed May 04, 2011 1:57 pm

Sean -
I'll admit this is not the best way of summing up Hume's views but the problem with it is a problem of terms. Reason's claims are invalid if we mean for them to be based on first principles that are absolute and eternal.


Look - logic isn't applicable to everything that we encounter in life. Sure. I am offended that Magee, with his greeting-card poetry, is trying to pass himself off as a philosopher.

Hume says no one outside of the armchair would possibly believe "we know almost nothing."


Correct. No would anyone say that reason has no limits.

It's ironic that you bring Wittgy into this later. I think Magee and Wittgy share this - they are usually either stating the painfully obvious or making no sense at all.

I tried to show iam that he's using sloppy language to state his case. He doesn't care, You, Sean, don't care. I guess i don't, either.

Faust, I fully agree that more people should think logically.


You're not agreeing with me - i never made that claim and that is not my concern.

Rational arguments are used to express all manner of things. Is there an adult left on the planet who doesn't already know this? Rationalism has flaws - but they are not effectively attacked this way. Rationalists are not the only thinkers who use deductive reasoning to expose their moral philosophy.

The problem I have had with iam is that he seems to be against propaganda, yet uses what amounts to propaganda against it. It's a half-truth. he's using propaganda to promote a political agenda. On a philosophy board.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Sean » Wed May 04, 2011 2:13 pm

Faust,
Now that, I agree with.

I just wanted to be sure that Hume goes down the right pipe here.

Also, I thought Iam was a lady. I guess that's the biguous part. Just goes to show you never can tell.

But, you still don't like Wittgenstein. I don't get that? He's so good. The Tractatus makes stating the obvious into an art-form. I think "Wittgy" was being satirical. If you think that's too Da-Vinci-Code-conspiracy, he basically refutes his best Tractatus arguments in the Philosophical Investigations. Language games is the best thing that ever happened to rational argument. Russell and the other early analyticals didn't get that memo, and now look at 'em.

Wittgy FTW 4life.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Wed May 04, 2011 2:53 pm

Wittgy wasn't setting himself up to knock himself down. he refuted himself because he eventually became more than a dilletante and was exposed to some academic rigor - and saw that he had been full of shit.

Stating the obvious as an art form is for artists. For Andy Warhol (who I also do not care much for). Warhol is hardly ever talked about, unless his subject was someone famous. No one gives a rat's ass anymore about his Campbell Soup labels. As it should be. Philosophers are a little slower on the uptake, but i think Wittgy will fade away. I don't think he was being satirical - I think he was being what he was - a trust-fund punk kid wiseguy.

Russell remains a giant. Without Russell, there is no Wittgy - even if it's not much to be proud of. But you can't have it both ways.

Wittgy said nothing of value that Nietzsche hadn't already assumed as fact. Sure - language-games. One of the most misunderstood ideas of philosophy. The deconstructionists unwittingly burlesqued this into utterly irrelevant nonsense.

There's no private language. The earth must have fuckin' shook when he let thatcat out of the bag.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Only_Humean » Wed May 04, 2011 10:18 pm

Sean wrote:My point in attacking your three positions is not to make any declaration about the morality of abortion or conservativism, but instead to show that more often than not, reason is attached to purely emotional sentiments in one way or another for the purposes of creating rhetoric/propaganda.


I apologise for derailing the discussion into abortions. My point was only to give an example of three moral "arguments" that couldn't be rationally reconciled.

Only_Humean wrote:In your favour, you include "ultimately".


But this is the whole point! Iambiguous is a scholar of Wittgenstein, and rightly so in this context. Look at any dilemma (like abortion) and you will find rational arguments being used as propaganda tools. To say "personhood begins at conception" is to play a language game.

The problem is that these games get us nowhere. Have you ever tried to have a rational discussion about abortion with your family at Thanksgiving? It is disgusting when uncle Fred starts trotting out Rational Arguments. It's the most disgusting thing ever.


It doesn't make them irrational arguments, though. Of even a-rational arguments. Simply, arguments based on premises you disagree with. And the disgust isn't anything to do with reasoning, so much as the smug self-satisfaction or the wheedling righteousness or the devious chicanery with which he presents the arguments.

I'm also somewhat familiar with Wittgenstein, especially the later stuff. He said (more or less, and in various ways)that "reason" is the grammatical rules we apply in certain language-games - as is mathematics for others, say. Personally, it's where I think his theory oversteps its use, so I'm not going to argue for it; but it's no argument that reason and morals are talking past each other. Rather, reason has no privilege at all. I think he kept his stance that it was a ladder to be kicked away.

"Killing innocent people is wrong" is a truism. "Personhood begins at conception" is a philosophical non-starter. This doesn't just apply to abortion. Try coming up with a purely rational defense or refutation of capital punishment. The same will apply.


Reason is what you do with your premises. I'm not going to argue for Rationalism pur sang, I only disagree that reason has no power over moral premises. I've reasoned myself out of premises I would rather have kept hold of.

Ultimately people are not convinced by rational arguments. Instead people are convinced by what their friends and family believe. People are convinced by what their people believe.Really?

I hold your three contradictory points about abortion very close. I realize they are contradictory. I still think abortion is permissible because I have a lot of friends who are feminists. Ultimately that will outweigh any rational argument that could possibly be brought to bear. Even if you told me that fetuses had perfect knowledge of the Platonic forms and could teach them to us if they were hooked up to electrodes, I wouldn't give a damn, because the people that I love say one thing and you say another.


So it seems any shift in attitudes is utterly impossible, and people are held in place by a rigid social coherence that removes all need for debate.

So maybe I am saying "Reason? Boooo!" But I only feel that way about reason when it claims to be without sentiment.


You and me both :)
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Wed May 04, 2011 11:28 pm

Faust wrote:
Sure, we can argue [technically] over how one must distinguish an "argument" from a "position"---but how far out into the world we live and interact in will that take us?


It will take us into the realm of philosophy. If you don't know, or don't acknowledge, the difference between a philosophical position and the argument used to reach it, I'm not sure how well you can understand the thinkers you criticise, or any other thinker, for that matter.


But my interests regarding the limitations of language revolve around the extent to which the "realm of philosophy" is applicable to human interactions that come into conflict. What argument regarding what position regarding what circumstantial context?

In my view, even if you know precisely how to distinguish these terms it does little to lessen the gap here between words and worlds.

You say:

It's not just vocabulary for its own sake. We tend to talk past each other, you and I, and I think that your choice of words is a factor. It's not very technical to distinguish between an argument and its conclusion. Again, if you don't know the difference, its difficult to criticise those who use arguments.


Clearly, an argument's conclusion does not validate the argument itself. My point is that no conclusion is necessarily the optimal one---however many arguments you hear regarding moral and political conflicts.

iambiguous wrote:

And though you acknowledge the limits of deductive reasoning here, others do not.

Faust wrote:I really can't think of anyone who thinks that. Even Kant knew the limits. He just wasn't very good at argument. The difference between a rationalist and, say, an empiricist is not that they believe two different thing s about deductive reasoning, but that they accept different premises as true, or even as important. Deductive reasoning is merely a method. I think your argument is not with logic, but merely with some premises that some philosophers use.


For Kant, one's moral duty revolved around the rational pursuit of it. And in this pursuit, he did not focus his critiques on the limits of the categorical imperative. And to the extent folks believe we can use reason to clearly differentiate right from wrong behavior is the extent to which I argue to the contrary. But this is not the same thing as saying we should abandon rational discourse in deliberating about these things---only that there are profound limits regarding how reasonable we can be in accummulating the premises used to argue for any particular conclusion.

Faust wrote:Iam, seriously, the reason you make these category errors is that you evidently haven't taken the time to study logic. Your critiques of logic would be much more powerful if you did.


Again, my chief aim is to tap those on the shoulder who have studied logic [and are skilled in philosophy technically] and to probe their views on my views regarding human identity, ethics, political economy and the limitations of language.

From past experience I've found my "neo-nihilist" agenda appalls many. So I am curious the extent to which my proposals are viewed as reasonable by those who do have a facility with logic, epistemology and linguistics.

Also, I enjoy reading the arguments of those who disagree with me about the nature of dasein and value judgments. And the relationship between them.

Faust wrote:These Existentialists, as they wallow in their misery, have poisoned your mind. Read some Nietzsche - the most commonsensical of all philosophers. he doesn't use deductive reasoning, but he understands it. And he's the most cheerful of all philosophers. A good antidote to the European Emotionalists.


Existentialism can be equally liberating in turn. If for no other reason it subsumes our choices in existence itself. Among other things, it effectively deconstructs objectivism, essentialism, realism and political idealism. It expands your options considerably.

And that is because it situates philosophy out in the world of actual human interaction. Or the best of it does.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Faust » Thu May 05, 2011 2:50 pm

How is this a limitation of language? Aren't you just talking about limits to our ability to agree?
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Fri May 06, 2011 8:21 pm

Faust wrote:How is this a limitation of language? Aren't you just talking about limits to our ability to agree?


But what tool do we use to agree or disagree with, if not language?
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Sean » Fri May 06, 2011 9:02 pm

Iambiguous wrote:But what tool do we use to agree or disagree with, if not language?


Emotions, race, social status, gender, religion, violence? Would any of these count?
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Fri May 06, 2011 10:16 pm

Sean wrote:
Iambiguous wrote:But what tool do we use to agree or disagree with, if not language?


Emotions, race, social status, gender, religion, violence? Would any of these count?


Sure, but in a philosophy venue all we can do is try to make as sense out of it all as possible. We do that with language by and large. I just keep pointing out the profound limitations of language. To wit: The disjunction between words and worlds once we go beyond knowledge that transcends dasein.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Sean » Sat May 07, 2011 1:59 am

iambiguous wrote:Sure, but in a philosophy venue all we can do is try to make as sense out of it all as possible. We do that with language by and large. I just keep pointing out the profound limitations of language.


You say here that philosophy is by and large a language activity. If you say language is limited, then on that basis, it seems you want to say philosophy is limited. That's fine, of course it is. You want to say philosophy is as limited as language, and language is limited. I wonder, on those terms, could this possibly be a "philosophical" problem?

iambiguous wrote:To wit: The disjunction between words and worlds once we go beyond knowledge that transcends dasein.


Heidegger says that discourse is primordial to dasein. This must mean that somehow words are constitutive of worlds, right?

Heidegger wrote:In so far as a state-of-mind is equiprimordial with an act of understanding, it maintains itself in a certain understanding. Thus there corresponds to it a certain capacity for getting interpreted."

- Being and Time, H160 (I'm going to continue to quote from Part 1, Section 4, #34)

This quote implies that there are limitations to discursive interpreting of understanding, but nonetheless places discourse as primordial to being-in-the-world.

"Equiprimordial" means:

Heidegger wrote:The intelligibility of something has always been articulated, even before there is any appropriative interpretation of it. Discourse is the articulation of intelligibility.


Discourse is existentially, I mean has its real-world manifestation, in language.

However, I think the limitations you want lie in the possibility that not all language consists of statements about what there is. It is especially important that not all arguments consist of deductive statements of what is rational, or statements about what is. Heidegger's Rede, "talk," is not defined as "the complete set of assertions of matters of fact" or anything like that. Communication need not have anything to do with facts or matters of fact.

In fact, and in your favor, Heidegger says:

Heidegger wrote:Communication is never anything like a conveying of experiences, such as opinions or wishes, from the interior of one subject into the interior of another. Dasein-with is already essentially manifest in a co-state-of-mind and a co-understanding.
[/quote]

I've lost my train of thought (as often happens when explicating Heidegger).

Do with that what you will.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Only_Humean » Sat May 07, 2011 4:01 pm

iambiguous wrote:
Faust wrote:How is this a limitation of language? Aren't you just talking about limits to our ability to agree?


But what tool do we use to agree or disagree with, if not language?


This isn't really relevant, though. Newtonian mechanics is fundamentally limited, but such that it's still perfectly adequate in all ways for designing bicycles. The tool far outstrips the requirements of the ability; the limiting factor is the will to agree. Which is a matter of politics, and not philosophy or linguistics.

Unless you can think of an example whereby language is fundamentally inadequate to resolving a dispute between two people who want to co-operate and find a best solution; I can't. That would mean that not only are assumptions behind a given word/concept different, but language cannot even describe the assumptions sufficiently to give understanding of what the difference is.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Sat May 07, 2011 7:28 pm

Sean wrote: You want to say philosophy is as limited as language, and language is limited. I wonder, on those terms, could this possibly be a "philosophical" problem?


What I care about is the extent to which philosophy is useful in discussing:

1] human identity
2] moral and ethical conflict
3] political economy
4] human psychology [and, in particular, psychological defense mechanisms]

In other words, what, philosophically, are the limits of "rational discourse" out in the world of actual human interaction?

On the other hand, I am also curious about metaphysical connundrums and the mysteries of "mind"

Sean wrote: Heidegger says that discourse is primordial to dasein. This must mean that somehow words are constitutive of worlds, right?


Yes, the capacity to invent and to utilize a sophisticated language is first and foremost a biological tool afforded only the human species. Words and worlds are profoundly symbiotic. But: Is this acquisiition merely a random mutation of the Big Bang?

But that does not mean acquiring language enables us to explicate every aspect of how the world functions---or of how we function in the world. Some things appear to be wholly true and applicable to all daseins. But other things can only be expressed connotatively as points of view.

Heidegger wrote:In so far as a state-of-mind is equiprimordial with an act of understanding, it maintains itself in a certain understanding. Thus there corresponds to it a certain capacity for getting interpreted."


This is just another way of suggesting that "certain understandings" are grounded historically, culturally and experientially. And thus those interacting in each particular context are able to communicate "for all practical purposes" about many things.

But when conflicts occur some things can be resolved and some things cannot. That's the distinction I focus on.

Heidegger wrote:The intelligibility of something has always been articulated, even before there is any appropriative interpretation of it. Discourse is the articulation of intelligibility.


Discourse is the articulation of what is either able to be denoted objectively or what is only able to be connoted in subjective [intersubjective] narratives.

Sean wrote: However, I think the limitations you want lie in the possibility that not all language consists of statements about what there is. It is especially important that not all arguments consist of deductive statements of what is rational, or statements about what is. Heidegger's Rede, "talk," is not defined as "the complete set of assertions of matters of fact" or anything like that. Communication need not have anything to do with facts or matters of fact.


That's basically my point. What can be communicated as matters of fact and what can be communicated only as matters of opinion.

Or, yes, as Heidegger says:

Heidegger wrote:Communication is never anything like a conveying of experiences, such as opinions or wishes, from the interior of one subject into the interior of another. Dasein-with is already essentially manifest in a co-state-of-mind and a co-understanding.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby finishedman » Sat May 07, 2011 10:45 pm

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