Meillassoux: Lenin’s Best Disciple

Here’s another one. All that business about Meillassoux’s arch-fossil argument being so immensely and devastatingly novel that surely now all the idealists correlationists will die a horrible death reminded me of Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-criticism, a rather bombastic and, as some argued, not very deep philosophical book, written primarily for political reasons. Whatever the case may be, this is 1908 and here are a couple of quotes (Lenin has a style of his own, makes for a fun reading):

We have already seen that this question is particularly repugnant to the philosophy of Mach and Avenarius. Natural science positively asserts that the earth once existed in such a state that no man or any other creature existed or could have existed on it. Organic matter is a later phenomenon, the fruit of a long evolution. It follows that there was no sentient matter, no “complexes of sensations,” no self that was supposedly “indissolubly” connected with the environment in accordance with Avenarius’ doctrine. Matter is primary, and thought, consciousness, sensation are products of a very high development. Such is the materialist theory of knowledge, to which natural science instinctively subscribes. [Chapter 1.4]

To summarise. Three augurs of empirio-criticism have appeared before us and have laboured in the sweat of their brow to reconcile their philosophy with natural science, to patch up the holes of solipsism. Avenarius repeated Fichte’s argument and substituted an imaginary world for the real world. Petzoldt withdrew from Fichtean idealism and moved towards Kantian idealism. Willy, having suffered a fiasco with the “worm,” threw up the sponge and inadvertently blurted out the truth: either materialism or solipsism, or even the recognition of nothing but the present moment. [Ibid.]

If things-in-themselves, apart from their action on our sense organs, have no aspect of their own, then in the Mesozoic period they did not exist except as the “aspect” of the sense organs of the ichthyosaurus. And this is the argument of a materialist! If an “aspect” is the result of the action of “things-in-themselves” on sense-organs—does it follow that things do not exist independently of sense-organs of one kind or another?? [Ibid.]

[Drum roll] I give you the “arch-fossil” argument!


Beyond the Divide (one view of the intellecutal payoff)

I came across this interesting account of analytic – continental divide,” Before and Beyond the Analytic Divide” (pdf), by Matthew Sharpe, wherein he suggests:

…a rapprochement between analytic and continental philosophers is a good we might at least pray for, as the ancients would have said. Why?
First, because both sides, as well as harboring virtues, also do harbor the type of vices and limits the others’ prejudices typically pick out. Continental philosophy often does verge into anti-realistic, unfalsifiable, and nonsensical formulations…Analytic philosophy, for its part, does not allow itself to raise many questions which are ‘philosophical’, certainly in the sense in which philosophy was understood until the seventeenth century, and is still understood by laypeople today: what is the meaning of being, or of our being? Can the sense of “truth” be reduced to something internal to propositions, rather than attitudes, systems of understanding, beliefs, ways of life, or certain experiences? What is the best way of life or regime? What is the relationship between ethics, politics, religion, art, and philosophy? Is our modern or postmodern age any better than previous societies? And if so, in what respects, and with what costs? It is legitimate to long for Heidegger or Hans Blumenberg, when asked to consider for too long, in a time of fast tracked social change, what it is like to be a bat, or to have a lead role in the prisoners’ dilemma. Continue reading

More Philosophical Tribalism

Crispin Wright discussing McDowell’s Mind and World:

…if analytical philosophy demands self-consciousness about unexplained or only partially explained terms of art, formality and explicitness in the setting out of argument, and the clearest possible sign-posting and formulation of assumptions, targets, and goals, etc, then this is not a work of analytical philosophy (“Human Nature? in Reading McDowell, 157-158) Continue reading

I Wonder Who the Target Is?

Needless to say, this can apply to anyone, but considering the ever present didaskalia on the accessibility of writing on Professor Marvel’s blog, it must surely be him:

See in particular Sellars’ demanding but profoundly rewarding Science and Metaphysics: Variations on Kantian Themes, London Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968. Contrary to widespread opinion, Sellars is a philosophical writer of exceptional distinction and elegance. His prose—obdurate, lapidary, elliptical—exerts greater philosophical power and communicates more of genuine substance through obliquity than the unctuous blandishments of allegedly superior (i.e. more easily digestible) stylists.

Ray Brassier, The Speculative Turn, 50note4

Philosophical Tribalism (and Remorse)

I’ve been reading through some of the essays in Postanalytic and Metacontinental: Crossing the Divide this morning (NDPR review here).  While I’m hoping to say some more about those essays later on, (for one, there is a particularly excellent essay about transcendental reasoning) a remark early on in the introduction made me chuckle.  Discussing two approaches to the analytic-continental divide, a deflationary view (which calls into question the distinction altogether) and the more essentialist position (which insists on the two ‘houses’), the editors note:

However we characterize or dismiss the distinction in theory, in practice it has for many years been very much a feature of the day to day activities of contemporary philosophers.  Academic philosophers, journals, conferences, publication series and even entire publishing houses, all now often live entirely within on or the other tradition. in some cases, the result is that continental philosophers have effectively been consigned to other disciplines, like comparative literature. More usually, philosophers simply inhabit their own tradition without attending to the other–perhaps looking at or attending occasional papers from the other side out of collegial politeness or personal loyalty, and often regretting it when they do (3-4). Continue reading