Antiphilosophy: Diary, 6/21 to 6/22/21

Philosophy & anti, Rorty & Russell, Chomsky, movie reviews, Cornel West, philosophy vs Philosophy, and so on. Lots of quotes.

Copyright (text only) 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Richard Rorty (1931-2007)

{6/21/21}  Weight 213.8 at 5:55 am.

Dream:  I was in charge of a squad of soldiers.  We walked around the inside of a fence.  We came to a locked gate, which we unlocked, we went through, and I told one to lock the gate again.  He took the lock and put it in his pocket.  There was some discussion, then I walked off with someone and asked him if I should have ordered two to hold him down and a third to retrieve the lock.  I know there was considerably more, but I’ve told the main story and the rest is either forgotten or unimportant.

Watched Clueless last night.  Alicia Silverstone was attractive and I like Brittany Murphy.  There were a few laughs and some tedium, overall it was acceptable but unmemorable, so I’m passing along the DVD.  Comparison with available versions of Emma were generally in favor of them.

Spent about half an hour reading in the month-long blog post of diary entries linked here yesterday.  Some good stuff, much more wordage than I’m doing these days, lots more dream stuff, and a lengthy rehash of bitter arguments with Pablo.  So, meh.

I need to go out early today.  Crap.  Maybe I’ll eat breakfast at Leo’s.

Ate a “carnitas breakfast burrito” at Leo’s, and it tasted great at the start, but before I finished I was regretting it.  Greasy, fatty, finally disgusting.  Went on to the bank and Food Maxx, but did not stop to pick up my hemmed pants.  Tomorrow, perhaps, or laundry.  Dreading it.

Watched Valkyrie when I got home, about the Stauffenberg assassination attempt.  Everybody knows what happened, but it was worth seeing anyway.  I didn’t know about the aftermath except in general terms.  Spoiler:  Hitler survived.

Tried watching Night of the Iguana for two reasons:  to see Sue Lyons after Lolita, and because John Huston wrote/directed based on a play by Tennessee Williams.  It appears that TW was afflicted by the same curse as I was in my novel writing.  Turns out that Richard Burton plays a lowlife minister, subsequently a lowlife tour director on a tour of Baja CA.  I gave it up after half an hour, finding nothing of interest.  Grayson Hall, whom I had seen previously only in the TV soap Dark Shadows, was therefore of slight interest, while Ava Gardner, a favorite of my mother, was of no interest at all.  I suppose she might have been when some decades younger.  Which is perhaps cruel and sexist, but she had an enviable career and doesn’t need my support.

On the bus and subsequently I was reading Noam Chomsky:  The Responsibility of Intellectuals, a 2017 (tiny) hardcover reprint of the famous long essay, updated.  I’d read the original a couple of decades or more ago, so, nothing new here, but still a valuable refresher to one’s depression over “the state of the state.”  I’m about halfway through, hoping I’ll have more to say later.  It’s hard to work up enthusiasm for the blog, sometimes.

Also started Clive Barker’s Sacrament, all my other reading is languishing; it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for much of anything when it’s “always so hot.”

{6/22/21}  Weight 214.4 at 6:55 am.  Ate mostly junk food yesterday.

Caught the last half hour of Cornel West speaking before an enthusiastic crowd on FSTV last night.  Entertaining and edifying.

A couple of Collected Notes:

Every shirt I own has chocolate on it.

Tell me the truth you think I don’t want to hear.

End of Collected Notes.

I need to do laundry this week because next week it will be hotter.  Also need to pick up my hemmed pants, which unfortunately can take more than an hour because buses.

Finished reading the Chomsky.  “Essential reading,” though the two essays are available elsewhere; only the “Introduction” is new. [Original essay from 1967 available here]

Got to reading the Bertrand Russell entries in my Collected Quotations this morning and found them very enlightening.  This quote from An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth [PDF available here] was significant, but I had long been aware of the last sentence:

“Here, as usually in philosophy, the first difficulty is to see that the problem is difficult. If you say to a person untrained in philosophy, “How do you know I have two eyes?” he or she will reply, “What a silly question! I can see you have.” It is not to be supposed that, when our inquiry is finished, we shall have arrived at anything radically different from this unphilosophical position. What will have happened will be that we shall have come to see a complicated structure where we thought everything was simple, that we shall have become aware of the penumbra of uncertainty surrounding the situations which inspire no doubt, that we shall find doubt more frequently justified than we supposed, and that even the most plausible premisses will have shown themselves capable of yielding unplausible conclusions. The net result is to substitute articulate hesitation for inarticulate certainty.”

I like the last sentence very much, but earlier in the paragraph, the “a complicated structure where we thought everything was simple” supports my claim that “everything is extremely complicated.”  This was interesting and I plan to add the quote to my “Bleak Philosophy” essay.  Another quote, from Russell’s History of Western Philosophy [link to PDF], says, “There is therefore a justification for common sense in philosophy,” which I also plan to use.  Then I found this quote, from “Philosophy and Politics,” in quotes from Russell’s Unpopular Essays [link], the first philosophy book I ever read:

“Philosophy, in this historically usual sense, has resulted from the attempt to produce a synthesis of science and religion, or, perhaps more exactly, to combine a doctrine as to the nature of the universe and man’s place in it with a practical ethic inculcating what was considered the best way of life.”

This attributes to philosophy a value—which I share—that contrasts strongly with what I took to be “antiphilosophy.”  Antiphilosophy is the direction I’ve been leaning ever since reading lots of William James and considerable of Richard Rorty.

Another essay, “Philosophy’s Ulterior Motives,” has this quote:  “Philosophy is a stage in intellectual development, and is not compatible with mental maturity.”  This sounds very antiphilosophical indeed.

A quote from The Problems of Philosophy [link to Gutenberg] is also of value here:  “The value of philosophy is…to be sought largely in its very uncertainty.”  Later in the same paragraph, “Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.”

Good.  In the margin of the page I wrote, “Critical Rationalism requires some familiarity with philosophy, otherwise, one won’t know what questions to ask, or indeed, how to criticize or to think critically.  To ‘teach critical thinking’ means, in essence, to teach philosophy and perhaps the history of science.  Or at least read Plato to see CR at work.”  Critical thinking is where my philosophy and pretty much anyone’s philosophy needs to start.

I went on to read some of Richard Rorty’s Consequences of Pragmatism, specifically the “Introduction”; I wanted to explore what he says that inclined me toward antiphilosophy.  Early on, I found this:

Similarly, “philosophy” can mean simply what [Wilfrid] Sellars calls “an attempt to see how things, in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest possible sense of the term.” Pericles, for example, was using this sense of the term when he praised the Athenians for “philosophizing without unmanliness.” [Greek text omitted]  In this sense, Blake is as much a philosopher as Fichte, Henry Adams more of a philosopher than Frege.  No one would be dubious about philosophy, taken in this sense.  p. xiv-xv.

Rorty distinguishes “Philosophy” (traditional questions and arguments) from “philosophy” (pragmatic answers to practical questions)—a distinction that I won’t try to explain further here, but I think what he is advocating is what I might call “anti-epistemology.”  The important point is that Rorty discounts the “representationalism” of “Philosophy,” which I think amounts to disagreeing with the “correspondence theory of truth.”  Under that theory, a sentence means something because it represents a fact in the real world; that is, “snow is white” is true, if and only if snow is white.  I find his arguments persuasive, but hard to summarize right now.  This quote might help:  “…modern science does not enable us to cope [with the real world] because it corresponds, it just plain enables us to cope.”  (p. xvii, My emphasis).

So, what is the value of philosophy—small “p”?  “The arts and the sciences, and philosophy as their self-reflection and integration, constitute such a process of enlargement and strengthening [of language as a tool].” (p. xix).  He goes on to say that Philosophy—large “p”—is in a period of doubt about its own status, “living between a repudiated past and a dimly-seen post-Philosophical future.” (p. xxi).

Copyright 2021 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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