Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spare me the new science

First if was Wolfram and his New Kind of Science, strangely stillborn.

Now it's Stuart Kauffman, whom I quote from
My aim is to reinvent the sacred. I present a new view of a fully natural God and of the sacred, based on a new, emerging scientific worldview.

Oh, Lord, if you pardon the expression.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Direction of Causality

Henri Bergson: “The universe is a machine for the making of gods.”

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Postmodernism and Ordinary Language Philosophy

Has anyone written a comparison of Ordinary Lanuage Philosophy, the justly forgotten garden of micro language games, with Postmodernism, the soon to be forgotten garden of micro language games? Both owed something to taking Wittgenstein's paradigm of language games much too seriously, thus ignoring the blatant class bias of the theory of language games trotted out for review in the Blue and Brown Books. If W. wrote these as memos to himself, it did no one else any good to take them as philosophy.

By writing off philosophical systems, Ordinary Language Philosophy tossed off any discourse which had not proven its utility in everyday situations. It would not be a distortion to say that Ordinary Language Philosophy put paid to metanarratives in order to stick with the ordinary uses of language close at hand. And this was the rub: what is ordinary? And why should ordinary be good, especially when ordinary for the Oxford philosophers responsible for spreading Ordinary Language Philosophy entailed economic security, personal servants, and deferential publics?

Nowadays, academic postmodernists find themselves embarassed by the ordinary, local narratives that justify clitorectomy, creationism, etc. What do they use to clobber such barbarism? By turning their backs on the real locus of power, the physical world, and trying to aggrandize their own influence on history by dramatizing "texts" as a source of power, the postmoderns have ended up as parochial conservatives alongside their (thank God) deceased predecessors from Ordinary Language Philosophy.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

McCullough's law

Pain comes quicker than you think and pleasure comes slower.

This is just a hypothesis. Send in your counterexamples.

A couple of pro examples:

1. When you're sitting at the bar nursing a beer and minding your own business, people who take offense punch you in the nose much quicker than you would expect them to.

2. When you are riding the elevator, you are more likely to beginning stepping out before your intended stop when you are going on break, than when you are going back to work.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cell Phone Disease

The problem with typical cell phone behavior is that it privatizes public space.

A cell-phone caller standing on the sidewalk is a modern analogue of those who enclosed the commons in 18th and 19th century England.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Philosophers at work

At right is a group of philosophers (click to enlarge) engaged in a typical quest for truth. In this instance, the question is Heidegger's: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" It is obvious that questions of this form cannot be answered by sitting at home in a chair before the fireplace.

The philosophers photographed here made the reasonable methodological decision that the answer is out there somewhere rather than nowhere. So they organized a treasure hunt. Intersubjective observation of X is a necessary condition X being something rather than nothing. Therefore the philosophers enhanced intersubjective communication. For example, Dr. Biff is wearing the numeral 72 as a unique identifier. Since the investigation is conducted in the dark and flashlights may not be available to observe jersey numerals, Dr. Buffy is wearing an illuminated tiara; similar to a miner's headlamp, it has the important difference of pointing in every direction at once. "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is not tractable using linear techniques.

This particular search began in Oklahoma. Applying the principle adumbrated as "Occam's Razor," the philosophers reasoned that beginning where you are is as good a place to start as any and--being closer--is in fact better.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Intelligent Design

Here's my letter to the New York Times in response to the 2/7/05 opinion article by Michael Behe, biology prof at Leheigh, in defense of Intelligent Design. As you could have surmised, not a word of biological science was included, just phenomenological apercus by someone who looks at biological phenomena a lot.

Editor: Michael Behe is a scientist when he's at work and a philosopher when he's at home. His nice arguments for intelligent design owe nothing to science. They are a familiar rework of the philosopher John Wisdom's* musings back in the 40s: in a nutshell, "if there is a garden then there is a gardener." Dr. Behe talks of "the appearance of design" in nature. There you have it. Nature appears designed to us because we experience it entirely through our brains and specifically through our intelligence. We see intelligent design because that is all we are physiologically able to see. Frogs might see the world as stupid, since a frog's perception of it is "that which passes near enough my tongue to get eaten." At bottom, there are two schools of thought: 1. The world is too complex to have been created by blind physical processes." 2. "The world is too complex to have been created except by blind physical processes." If you can't appreciate the humbling redundancy and scope of random physical process, then you have settled for a lesser God.

*My apologies. An earlier version of this article attributed the "garden" argument to J.O. Urmson. Here is the text from which Wisdom's account was elaborated:

"Two people return to their long neglected garden and find among the weeds a few of the old plants surprisingly vigorous. One says to the other. 'It must be that a gardener has been coming and doing something about these plants'. Upon inquiry they find that no neighbour has ever seen anyone at work in their garden. The first man says to the other, 'He must have worked while people slept'. The other says. 'No, someone would have heard him and besides, anybody who cared about the plants would have kept down these weeds'. The first man says, 'Look at the way these are arranged. There is purpose and a feeling for beauty here. I believe that someone comes, someone invisible to mortal eyes. I believe that the more carefully we look the more we shall find confirmation of this'. They examine the garden ever so carefully and sometimes they come on new things suggesting that a gardener comes and sometimes they come on new things suggesting the contrary and even that a malicious person has been at work."

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1944-5, reprinted as Ch. X of Logic and Language, Vol. I (Blackwell, 1951), and in his Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (Blackwell, 1953).