Here are the most recent comments on our blog posts, i.e. the active discussions at this time. Jump into a thread and say your peace! If you want to start a conversation yourself, join our Facebook Group and go right ahead. Note that within the next month we’ll be unveiling additional discussion options to support listener-initiated ongoing group studies in a member-access portion of the site. Stay tuned for details.
Note that the first time you post (or if you post from a different IP than your usual, I think), it goes into moderation, i.e. we have to approve it, so you won’t see your comment immediately, but we’re pretty quick about approving things. It should go without saying that if you get very nasty and belligerent, we reserve the right to remove any post and ban you (though that’s only happened maybe twice in three years of doing this). Think “with this comment I am elevating the level of the discussion” and you’ll be OK.
- Dec 11, 4:49 am - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
Hi Dan, I'm not overlooking that "Russell remained emphatically a metaphysician throughout his life," I'm challenging that characterization. Even the IEP section you excerpted for this claim describes Russell as a metaphysician only because he wrote about metaphysics ("that is, doctrines not in metaphysics but about it and its feasibility..."). In other words, Russell was a metaphysician because he was a "meta-metaphysician"? That seems weird. I don't think one is a metaphysician by regularly writing about metaphysics' limits, any more than Carl Sagan was an astrologer because he wrote a great deal about astrology's failings. As for why Russell and Wittgenstein "didn't say it," well...I believe they did say it. You can find some relevant quotes from Russell in my earlier response to Geoff. As for Wittgenstein, I think he said it most clearly in his own work. From TLP 6.53: "The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science--i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy -- and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his...
- Dec 11, 4:27 am - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
Hi Geoff, Thanks for this! I'm also not as up on this as I could be, but I still hold that the logical positivists' war on metaphysics began with Russell's and Wittgenstein's publications in the 1st quarter of the 20th century. In short, I don't see Russell or Wittgenstein having creating a "metaphysical system" as referenced in the original question. Perhaps I have an unduly strict view of what constitutes "metaphysics", but the metaphysical "positions" I see described in this IEP article seem to be imputed to Russell in a way I'm not sure he'd claim for himself. For example, phrases like: "These epistemological doctrines have latent metaphysical implications" or "'metaphysics' can be understood in a variety of ways, so any discussion of Bertrand Russell’s metaphysics must select from among the various possible ways of understanding the notion" or "The word “metaphysics” sometimes is used to..." or "a system may be called metaphysical if...." These turns of phrase all feel a bit weaselly to me. I remain unconvinced Russell would consent to these characterizations. I'm not sure that talking about metaphysics means that you are performing metaphysics. (That doesn't mean he wouldn't, just that the case isn't well made from...
- Dec 11, 12:05 am - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
From my limited understanding it was the logical postivists who waged war on metaphysics - they were influenced by Russell, but he it seems was happy to continue with metaphysical speculation. IEP has an article on Russel's metaphysical poistions through the years http://www.iep.utm.edu/russ-met/
- Dec 10, 9:38 pm - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
If this is what they would have said, then why didn't they say it? Is there a better way to say it? Is there..another way to say it? I might allow that various schools of philosophy began to deny the legitimacy and desirability of a priori metaphysical theorizing, but I wonder how one overlooks that Russell remained emphatically a metaphysician throughout his life.
- Dec 10, 9:36 pm - A School of New Work
Even this exchange is privilege talking to privilege, and I wish I had an answer to your frustration. It's not that Putney has an elite group of students; I think it's more that we provide "elite" opportunities. But having an "elite" environment (I apologize for the persistent quotes...I'm not quite sure how to define the term here, which does make my argument flimsy) does not mean there's an elitist ethos. This type of education is possible for anyone, so the "if only" of your concern seems to be in our hands. Devon in a previous comment noted that it's happening for the traditionally labeled non-elite youth of the world, for instance, through one man (Mitra) willing it. I don't mean to add to a dangerous mythos of a single individual as savior, but that type of influence can clearly come from anyone. Most of my rhetoric in my initial post and now my responses can be dismissed as idealistic or naive, ignoring the practical realities of how the world works. I get that. But I also don't see the point in surrendering to things as they are simply because that's how they are. Please excuse my hope that things can...
- Dec 10, 9:04 pm - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
Hi Dan, I think both Russell and Wittgenstein would have said the whole point of their analytic philosophy was to do away with metaphysics. That was its original mission statement, one might say.
- Dec 10, 8:44 pm - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
I'm not entirely satisfied with this gloss that 'To do analytic philosophy, one simply has to learn logical analysis and address isolated problems'. If we don't see Russell and Wittgenstein as having developed a metaphysical system, then how much are we even getting into saying about Analytic philosophy?
- Dec 10, 8:33 pm - A School of New Work
This is a very well written and impassioned argument, Lou. I definitely admire where you are coming from and what you're trying to accomplish (I should stress this point given that most of my thoughts below will come across as critical). As you're inviting dialogue, I have a few points. I've taken what you said at face-value and not as some kind of fanciful posturing, so I'm answering in a decidedly honest way. Also, since most of the comments on your article have been uncritical, I feel it'll be more illuminating for the discussion to take the opposite approach. First, we've heard calls for "better" or "different" or "more progressive" or more "science-based" education for decades. It should be clear by now that such calls are essentially the same mantra in different guises. Educational gurus pontificate so glibly on what's wrong with education and how to fix it, but the underlying problems are much less about educational philosophy and much more about structural impediments in society. It reminds me of the situation in developmental economics where 1st world professors lecture African countries that if only their rulers and economists listened to their wisdom, they could transform their economies. This is...
- Dec 10, 5:16 pm - What the Word "Bigot" Actually Means (and Why it is Important)
I greatly appreciate point 4 and 5. I also read your two posts on terrorism and 'enlightened' racism and thought those equally on-point; the academic treatment of terrorism is often very abrasive and not well thought out. It often follows very poor logic, and I think your comments on that subject sums up some of the basic critiques. So, thanks in general.
- Dec 10, 2:23 pm - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
Good analytics helps us with the other error, content (ideas) without substantial structure.
- Dec 10, 2:15 pm - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
That form (insubstantial structure) over content (ideas) error. Thanks for putting in words what I have sensed.
- Dec 10, 10:54 am - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
I'm a bit nonplussed at the characterization of 'ideas' as being 'meat on the bone', as contrasted w/something 'insubstantial'.
- Dec 10, 8:44 am - Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy
Isn't that division part of or a symptom/reflection of a deeper division between Anglo-Saxon societies and so-called continental ones? Major continental societies all saw political conflicts in the 20th century that both the U.S. and the U.K. missed out on: the danger of fascism, strong Communist movements, even terrorism from the radical left (Red Brigades in Italy, Red Army Faction in Germany, etc.). Marxism, which has never been taken seriously in Anglo-Saxon philosophy, has always been important in continental philosophy and in the general society. Contemporary capitalism in Anglo-Saxon countries tends to emphasize the free market, while on the continent the welfare state is a more important feature. When I converse with Americans about politics, they generally emphasize freedom as the most important political goal, while those from continental societies seem to see social justice as the priority.
- Dec 09, 9:39 pm - Podcast Episodes
Karl Jaspers Way of Wisdom F.H. Bradley Appearance & Reality Emerson On Nature
- Dec 09, 9:37 pm - Podcast Episodes
Parmenides' Way of Truth, Plotinus' The Enneads, Nishida Kitaro's Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview?
- Dec 09, 6:32 pm - Episode 85: Rawls on Social Justice
I was reading the SEP entry on Rawls after listening to the podcast and found this interesting bit: "On this topic Rawls is adamant: unless there is public funding of elections, restrictions on campaign contributions, and substantially equal access to the media, politics will be captured by concentrations of private economic power, making it impossible for equally-able citizens to have equal opportunities to influence politics regardless of their class."
- Dec 09, 2:53 pm - A School of New Work
Keen question. And that seems to be where we run into a major issue in education: if the real value of it can't be quantified or clearly measured, shouldn't we then turn to things that we can tangibly rely on? There's no way to test authenticity (and it's hard to define), so how can we reasonably allow that quality to determine whether or not learning is happening? On the level of identity formation, the same question (to be somewhat flippant here) leads to existential crisis.
- Dec 09, 2:10 pm - A School of New Work
"authentic" as measured against what/who?
- Dec 08, 10:54 pm - A School of New Work
I would like to comment on Lou’s question of “are teachers necessary.” As a student at the Putney School myself, and also an admiring disciple of Master Lou, I feel that I can say teachers are not only necessary to a meaningful education, but also that teachers give meaning to education. Before going to the Putney School, I was a homeschooler and so I have strong autodidactic proclivities. Many a frustrated night during the school year, after being assigned a bunch of what I deemed “meaningless drivel,” I thought "damn it all, I’ll drop everything and just go off and read all the Kant and Baudelaire that I want – no need for all this academic hoop-jumping." But one thing kept me at school: the teachers. And the teachers aren’t always the older ones with degrees who take attendance and assign homework. No, the teachers are the ones who make the learning real, who make it more than just in my head, who make the connections between myself and the world, between myself and others. It’s as Lou says, ideal education is to “build stronger, more authentic relationships.” Otherwise, what's the point?
- Dec 08, 10:21 pm - Episode 82: Karl Popper on Science
Thanks! Very helpful!
- Dec 08, 8:36 pm - Precognition of Ep. 86: Thomas Kuhn
Worth the ballad at the end alone--well done. For anyone new to Kuhn, his book is an enjoyable read.
- Dec 08, 8:25 pm - A School of New Work
Lou, this is an awesome post. What's frustrating for me is that places like Putney are reserved for such an elite group of students. If only this type of education were available to more people...
- Dec 08, 6:11 pm - Episode 82: Karl Popper on Science
> Not familiar with it; can you make a pitch? In short, there are 2 science camps: 1. Induction isn't valid. There is only the hypothetico-deductive method. Science is privileged from other hypothetico-deductions (e.g. the demarcation problem) in that scientific theories are falsifiable. Science can never prove things, it can only disprove things. 2. Induction is valid, the scientific method can prove things. Falsification is irrelevant and was only invented by the induction isn't valid camp to ward off subjective truth. Stove puts Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Feyerabend in the induction isn't valid camp and points out various tricks they do to obscure it (well Popper at least. The others, especially Feyrabend, don't make much of an effort). > Is this something being read in phil of sci classes these days? I'm not sure, I didn't go to university for philosophy and most of my philosophy studies are around the foundations of maths and logics so I'm really out of the loop in terms of which philosopher is talked out in non-math/logic philosophy academic circles. > Or is an impatient denunciation of philosophy itself a la Rand? (or neither?) He's got Randian qualities in that he's a rationalist and he...
- Dec 08, 10:40 am - Episode 85: Rawls on Social Justice
Rawls, and the reactions against him, can be understood as an interesting pivot point in Philosophy as many were turned off by his attempts to valorize principles/concepts and wanted instead to focus more on matters relating to the accomplishing/negotiating of specific tasks of actual politics/living (not unlike some of what Kuhn did for science studies), is this the end of Philosophy or just a practice "turn"? let me throw http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/williams-bernard/ into the PEL mix.
- Dec 08, 10:08 am - Episode 85: Rawls on Social Justice
I have some sympathy for your opening remarks on the difficulty in reading A Theory of Justice. (However, I had to read it twice.) As an alternative to reading the original A Theory of Justice from 1971, there is a more mature statement of the theory in Justice as Fairness: A Restatement written in 2000 and edited by Erin Kelly. The latter is only 202 pages and presents the main arguments with a revision to his principles of justice. There is also a chapter on various social systems with their political, economic and social institutions.