About joncogburn

Cogburn is a stereotypical beatnik, with a goatee, "hip" (slang) usage, and a generally unkempt, bohemian appearance, studiously avoiding anything resembling work, which he seems to regard as the ultimate four-letter word. Whenever the word is mentioned, even in a line like "That would work," he jumps with fear, yelping, "Work?!" He serves as a foil to the well-groomed, well-dressed, straitlaced Mikhail, and the contrast between the two friends provides much of the humor of the Reading Group.

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 2 – Sensibility, Imagination, Understanding, Pure A Priori Concepts of the Understanding or Categories, Etc Etc.

1. Buzaglo’s Interpretation and My Interest.

Chapter 2 is really important for Buzaglo’s interpretation of Maimon. The crucial background issue is Kant’s chapter on the schematism, where Kant presents a prima facie problem for applying pure concepts of the understanding (categories) to intuitions, and then argues that time presents an intermediate term between these two. Maimon uses examples from geometry to argue that Kant’s solution does not work, and motivates going back to a Leibnizian monistic view that does not accept a dualism between concept and intuition. For Buzaglo, Maimon’s own philosophical views all come from working this out.

Part of why I’m so interested in this is that there is a slightly non-superficial connection between the problem Kant presents in the schematism and two central problematics in contemporary analytic philosophy: the myth of the given problematic and the Kripke-Wittgenstein paradox. As Buzaglo states, “Perhaps the most interesting question is about the relation between Maimon’s critique of Kant’s dualism and modern discussions around the myth of the given (Buzaglo 2002, 76).”

In what follows I’ll briefly present these problems in terms of how they would effect Kant, and then present the problem of the schematism. Though they are seperate problems, my intuition is that solutions to the schematism problem would work as solutions to both the contemporary problems (and for that matter that Kant’s discussion of teleology in the Third Critique should be understood this way). I realize that this is all a bit of a stretch, but here goes anyhow. Continue reading

Brief note about English language secondary sources on Maimon (Updated)

The really crap thing is that the only books of Maimon’s to be translated into English are his Autobiography and the Essay. I hope that the labors of Midgley et. al. are successful enough that more get translated. It’s impossible to read the secondary texts listed below without wanting to learn German and read Maimon’s later works.

Here are the principle English language secondary texts:

Atlas, Samuel. 1964. From Critical to Speculative Idealism. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Bransen, Jan. 1991. The Antinomy of Thought: Maimonian Skepticism and the Relation between Thoughts and Objects. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991.

Beiser, Frederick. 1987. The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Bergman, Samuel. 1967 (originally 1932). The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon. Translated by Noah Jacobs. Jerusalem: Magnes.

Buzaglo, Meir. 2002. Solomon Maimon: Monism, Skepticism, and Mathematics. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Freudenthal, Gideon. (ed.) 2004. Salomon Maimon: Rational Dogmatist, Empirical Skeptic. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Freudenthal, Gideon. 2006. Definition and Construction. Salomon Maimon’s Philosophy of Geometry. Preprint 317 of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. [PDF]

Socher, Abraham. 2006. The Radical Enlightenment of Solomon Maimon: Judaism, Heresy, and Philosophy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Thielke, Peter and Yitzake Melamed. 2007. Salomon Maimon. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maimon/&gt; Continue reading

Jon’s Points

[Jon, I’m reposting your comment as a post here so it’s not lost in the comments and all those “reply” comments don’t get lost as well. I’m putting you as an author as well. ME]

A couple of thoughts:

(1) This string illustrates what is great about Perverse Egalitarianism; something that begins as an expression of late semester, mid morning, this-coffee-doesn’t-seem-to-be-working, grumpiness devolves into a really interesting philosophical discussion.

(2) I continue to think people should cut Levi more slack. He keeps his mind open to the muse and then works that out on his blog. Sometimes what he says at point A and point B are arguably inconsistent. O.K. It’s fair to claim that and see where it goes. Sometimes he gets grumpy or defensive about an idea. O.K. Also fair game. But I kind of feel like the main character in “On the Road” defending Dean Moriarity to his detractors here. The fact that we’re over here talking about Levi and Harman, and that the conversation has yielded so much interesting philosophy above surely says something strongly in their favor.

(3) The only thing I fault Harman, and to a lesser extent Bryant, with is not getting the last sentence in the previous point. This is indicative of blogsopheric philosophy though. Any of us that blog enough have all responded to criticism in ways that are not to our credit. Again, instances of this can be decried without the implication that anyone is better than anyone else on these scores (and part of Mikhail’s charm, for anyone who fairly reads him, is that he takes the piss out of himself with equal and greater humor and insight as he does anyone else).

(4) During the Braver reading group there was a lot of talk about ontic versus ontological realism. Man I wish we’d taken some time to think it through in terms of the way kvond is presenting epistemic realism and anti-realism. It cuts through a lot.

(5) I disagree about the importance of Harman’s initial insight in “Tool Being.” Here are some reasons (and I realize that smart, informed people will disagree about these): (a) Heidegger himself is dreadfully incoherent on the realism/anti-realism issue. Harman beat the writers in the excellent new anthology “Transcendental Heidegger” in not only showing how the incoherence occurs, but also by doing the following. (b) Harman honestly presents his interpretation as one that preserves a large set of Heidegger’s insights, while also explicitly disagreeing with much of the stuff the Heidegger says. Despite the concern that they present cartoon versions of “continental philosophy” on their blogs, this non-hagiographic take (where you can clearly argue that the thinker is incoherent, but importantly right about this, and importantly wrong about that) does not strike me as anything like Sallisesque SPEPy Heideggeriana. (c) More non-hagiography. Harman has the guts to say that in a lot of the gesamtausgabe, Heidegger is just saying the same old things in repackaged form, and that in fact some of the material is not good. I’m sorry; that takes guts, given hagiographic high church Heideggeriana often is, and more broadly how hagiographic SPEP at its worst can be. (d) I would express Harman’s early central insight slightly differently than Bryant does (though they come to the same thing). You can tell a story about the vicissitudes of post-Kantian thinking in terms of the vicissitudes of the scheme-content distinction. Harman shows that a big chunk of Division One, Being and Time Heidegger can be read as plausibly externalizing the distinction to objects themselves. You may hate this view, or produce compelling arguments that the way Harman went on to develop it Guerrilla Metaphysics is way off, but I think you should still recognize that it’s an important piece of dialectical space that Harman bravely marched forward into. No one can judge these things, but for this very reason I can see OOO becoming part of the story. (e) Again, I’m in no way sure I agree with it, but the discussion it (and Bryant’s development of it) prompted in the glory days of interaction between the Perverse Egalitarian crowd and Bryant and Harman was pretty amazing. I mean you can to some extent judge a position by how interesting its refutations end up being and how interesting the debate these refutations engender, etc. So I think that paradoxically the interest of the above string entails something very positive about Harman and Bryant’s status as philosophers.

(6) Those glory days are gone. Too much water under the bridge and all that. But I know I’m not the only one who continues to have a high regard for all parties involved.

(7) Please rebut all the above (snark invited!). That’s why I post here.

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 7 – A Short Rejoinder (by John Protevi)

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[Note from Jon Cogburn—

I felt bad that project overcommitment made me phone in the post on Foucault to some extent, and that its hasty nature made it uncharitable both to Braver and to Foucault. So I sent my post to John Protevi asking him for a response. I knew that Protevi’s expertise could help make up for whatever sin I committed against Lady Philosophy. Also, what Protevi is doing with respect to biology and mind is pretty analogous to what Braver is doing with respect to realism/anti-realism debates insofar as both obliterate the supposed incommensurability of the analytic/continental split.

Unfortunately Protevi’s traveling in Europe right now so had to write the below quickly and without access to any of the relevant books; he’s particularly bummed that he didn’t have Braver’s book with him. There are some links to papers though that are really helpful.]

John Protevi’s Rejoinder:

1. About Foucault’s “false historical claims”: Gary Gutting has an essay in his Cambridge Companion to Foucault on this issue; we’d also want to consult Tom Flynn’s book on Foucault and historical reason (Volume 1 (mostly on Sartre, except for the last chapter) and Volume 2). Gutting says that Foucault makes historical claims as illustrations of his philosophical points, not as evidence for a historical argument. So in Madness and Civilization the point is to get at the episteme (later renamed regime of truth), which is the conditions for a statement to be serious, that is, to have a truth value, that is, to be recognized as belonging to the domain of knowledge claims — it could be true, even if it happens not to be; a statement attaining the status of discourse avoids Dirac’s gibe that “X is so bad it’s not even wrong.” Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 7 – Foucault’s History of Truth

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Due to cascading obligations I’ve only been able to read this chapter once, and am going to have to phone this one in, which is a shame: (1) it’s a great chapter, amply verifying the claims that Foucault can be understood very well with the realism matrix and as a late Heideggerian, (2) it raises a lot of fascinating philosophical issues in its own right, and (3) should be mandatory reading for anyone moved by Chomsky’s infamous dismissal of “postmodernism” (on-line HERE). Chomsky’s argument (that philosophical theory is often just a baroque way to state the obvious) ties in to Alexei’s interesting comments about metaphor (and the role of set theory for Badiou) at the tale end of the discussion of Chapter 5.

In lieu of a comprehensive book report and development of specific themes I’m just going to present some marginal notes and hope that they spark conversation. I’m leery of doing this. Usually on a first read of a really interesting work of philosophy like Braver’s, I write lots of disgruntled comments in the margins, and then in a second read I try to answer the questions from the author’s point of view in the most charitable manner possible.  But I’ve only done half the work here, and I’m sorry if the below is as a result less philosophically valuable anything else I’ve posted in reaction to Braver’s book. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 5 – Early Heidegger: Fundamental Ontology

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1. Plea for Attention to Philosophical Context

In a footnote to “Predicate Meets Property” Mark Wilson notes that he had thought of presenting his view as an interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but he was dissuaded by the fact that the book sometimes seems to operate as a Rorschach Test for philosophers. He wanted people to respond to the philosophical content of what he was saying instead of entering debates about what Wittgenstein “really meant” (of course if one has a competing Wittgenstein who can do the relevant philosophical work better than Wilson’s, then that’s fine, but most of the debate should still be philosophy, not hermeneutics).

Part of what makes a great work of philosophy great is that it does function as Rorschach Test for other good philosophers, and certainly Being and Time is no exception. For these books the main question about philosophically interesting interpreters has got to be what they are doing with the text, and where that goes philosophically. What does early-Heidegger-as-pragmatist (Okrent) allow us to do? Similarly with early-Heidegger-as-virtue-theorist (Bernasconi), early-Heidegger-as-anti-representationalist (Dreyfus, Gibson, Okrent), early-Heidegger-as-radical-externalist-about-scheme-content (Harman), and early-Heidegger-as-transcendental idealist (Blattner, Crowell/Malpas et. al.). The “real Heidegger” yields such diverse interpretations that all impact on on-going philosophical dialectic in non-trivial ways. Like any great philosopher, this is a part of of his brilliance.

So when we look at Braver’s presentation let’s please be sensitive to what “the early Heidegger” is doing in Braver’s book. [And before saying anything about this I should be clear about one point, by “early Heidegger” we mean the Heidegger of Being and Time and surrounding writings, not the brilliant earliest pre-Husserlian Heidegger who was doing interesting things in reaction to his teachers (the first 1919 formulation of Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit is in reaction to Rickert, who is discussed in this regard in History of the Concept of Time, but then the citation of the very same discussion is dropped in Being and Time), the Southwest School neo-Kantians, nor  Heidegger right after that whose lectures of that period that spends 9/10ths of the time going through the ritualized dance of setting up the phenomenological verbiage. Being and Time is (among other things) a brilliant (though possibly inconsistent) working out of his earliest anti-neo-Kantian insights in the context of a very neo-Kantian Husserliana, the different interpretations above are all to some extent in reaction to the tensions between these two aspects.]

The key point about reading Braver on the early Heidegger charitably is to note that his discussion is the first sustained, careful, and charitable (c.f. Ferry and Renaut’s influential-in-Europe French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Anti-Humanism) attempt to see what happens when you construe the dialectic such that it takes seriously Foucault and Derrida’s own claimed debts to the later Heidegger. Braver sets up the early Heidegger to be able to explain this version of the later Heidegger in maximal clarity. This is his primary purpose, and the context in which we need to understand the application of the realism matrix. His secondary purpose is of course the rapprochement between the analytic and continental traditions, not by meta-philosophical exhortation, but rather by showing the interesting things that happen when you instantiate such rapprochement. His fascinating discussion of Davidson and Heidegger at the end of the chapter is an example of this. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 3 – Hegel: The Truth of the Whole.

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1 Overview.

One of the coolest things about Chapter 3 is how beautifully the previous two chapters are explained as part of Hegel’s story.

Unfortunately (well actually fortunately for the reader; order the book!) there is so much great philosophy in this chapter that I can’t do a book report.

Instead, I made a groovy chart that shows how Braver has retold the Phenomenology of Spirit in his first three chapters, with page numbers to the relevant sections in Braver’s book. I present this chart in lieu of a detailed exposition. “R” refers to a realist take on the row’s thesis, “A” refers to an anti-realist take. Expressions such as “6d” occurring in cell X denote that the argument given by Braver in the page numbers given in row 6, column d are part of why cell X gets an A or R. Also note that if you still need your reading glasses after left-clicking on the picture (it’s linked to the full-sized jpeg), then click HERE for the .doc version. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 2: A Rejoinder

[Please note that all the posts related to Braver Reading Group are gathered here.

For general background and the thoughts that prompted what is below please read Mikhail’s description of what’s at issue in this chapter here and here. In this I’m going to expand on a few points that I think will be especially worth keeping track of in the chapters that follow.]

According to the First Critique, the phenomenal/noumenal distinction is part of the solution to four sets of problems: (1)  problems of modality, saving necessity from Hume’s critique, and (2)  paradoxes of totality, discussed in the Dialectic (IMHO: the true structure and nature of which have been refined and clarified first by Cantor then by Russell and now Priest), (3) problems of normativity, making sense of it again in light of Hume’s critique, and (4) problems of the external world.

In terms of the second motivation for the distinction, the thought is something like this, we only get into the paradoxes when we try to talk about all of reality as it is in itself (Kant was the model for the standard set-theoretic response to Russell’s Paradox). But exactly in virtue of this role of the noumena, Kant has to: (1) prohibit us from saying many things about the noumenal realm, (2) use facts about epistemic limitations to construe talk about the phenomenal realm in particular ways. Both of these, for example, are to prohibit us from talking about completed infinities.

But then this is where the problem comes in. Kant has to say a lot of things about the noumenal realm to set up the system so that it blocks paradoxes of totality. But then a similar paradox (which Braver calls “the affection problem”) is generated. For the solution to work, one has to be both prohibited from saying things about the noumena and also one has to say some of those very things in stating the solution. In this chapter there are three cases of this. The reason I’m getting them all out here is because Hegel views the affection problem as the precise place where Kant’s philosophy succumbs to imminent critique. In addition, we can state the problem in a fourth way that the post-Kantian opponent of noumena also must face. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 1

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This chapter really just sets the stage, and I don’t have that much interesting to say about it. In the spirit of these posts being helpful for a study guide, I’ll: (1) give the definitions of the Realist Theses Braver considers, (2) give the logical relations between them that he discusses, (3) mention some other realist theses in the literature, and (4) raise a couple of minor issues that may come up again as we move further into the book.

[15] R1 Independence: “The World consists of some fixed totality of mind independent objects” (Putnam, 1981, 49)

[15-17] R2 Correspondence: “Truth involves some sort of correspondence relation between words or thought-sings and external things and sets of things” (Putnam 1981, 49).

[17-19] R3 Uniqueness: “There is exactly one true and complete description of ‘the way the world is’” (Putnam 1981, 49).

[21-21] R4 Bivalence: “The primary tenet of realism, as applied to some given class of statements, is that each statement in the class is determined as true or not true, independently of our knowledge, by some objective reality whose existence and constitution is, again, independent of our knowledge” (Dummett 1981, 434).

[21-23] R5 Passive Knower: “If, whenever I have to make a judgement, I restrain my will s that it extends to what the intellect clearly and distinctly reveals, and no further, then it is quite impossible for me to go wrong” (Descartes, PWD 2:43).

[Chapter 2] R6 Realism of the Subject: “In order that as a science metaphysics may be entitled to claim, not mere fallacious plausibility, but insight and conviction, a critique of reason must itself exhibit the whole stock of a priori concepts, their division according to their various sources (sensibility, understanding, and reason), together with a complete table of them. . . . Metaphysics alone can . . . be brought to such completion and fixity as to require no further change or be capable of any augmentation by new discoveries” (Kant PFM 105/365, 106/366). Continue reading