August 01, 2016

Nothing is ever lost, there is a continuity

Confronting Indology – Part 3 - Swarajya › culture › confrontin...
Jun 11, 2016 - Raj Singh •

I think that we should definitely analyse the assumptions we are making and this is what Philosophy tries to do. We analyse even the most basic assumptions we take for granted like objective reality, self and "truth" but that is why Philosophy is Philosophy and Science is Science. Philosophy makes no claim to truth and certainty. Rather it an interpretation of truth and certainty. It is sciences that makes claim to truth and certainty, and it those truths which are empirical, factual, reliable, falsifiable etc. You know what 'reliability' means in science, in means that it is repeatable and verifiable. If I say that if you place a magnet next to iron fillings, the iron fillings will move it is a reliable truth, because you can do it and verify it. In this manner science can develop a body of reliable truths, laws like Newton's law, Faradays laws. We can trust this knowledge and then use it to develop technology that obeys it. This is why science is considered trustworthy. We have confidence in science.
The scientific method is the most successful and reliable epistemology we have in the world. Other epistemologies have failed. Philosophy using rationalist epistemology lead to wrong conclusions, like Aristotle saying that two iron balls of different weights will fall at different speeds. This truth, which seems like common sense was taken for granted for over a millennia, and nobody actually thought of actually doing the experiment itself to prove it. Testimony based on the epistemology of faith lead to confusion, because different scriptures said different things. 
Thus, in the end only the scientific method has been proven to give reliable truths that we can trust.

Postmodernism has gone back to the epistemology of opinion, that is "man of the measure of all things" or what was called sophistry. If you read about Socrates dialogues with the Sophists, the Sophists use exactly the same tactics of what Postmodernists used, cavil (vitanda and jalpa) deliberately twisting the meaning of the words and had the same philosophical position that there is no single truth. This is why I say postmodernism is the modern version of sophistry. It is pseudo-intellectualism.
We need to understand why postmodernism's skepticism of 'grand narratives' begun, it began in the social critiques of modernity, especially in the continental schools of philosophy, the French particularly leading it. The events of the early 20th century, the world wars, the invention of nuclear weapons and the schisms in science with the advent of quantum physics lead to the rebirth of this scepticism of these grand narratives based on fixed structures of truths. Some of these criticisms were indeed true, for example applying a postmodern critique of science like Thomas Kuhn did, he found that scientific theories were more like paradigms and scientists were people working within those paradigms to solve puzzles and so they had no purchase on absolute truth. Paul Feyerabend introduced the idea of anarchy in science, that there was no scientific method and scientific truths can be had in various ad-hoc ways.
The problem with the postmodern criticism of science is, irrespective of all their criticisms, if I move magnet near iron fillings it will cause them to move. I can say this with near 100% confidence(not pure 100% because I cannot account for unseen variables) It means it is a practical truth and I have to accept this truth. Kuhn says that there is no method by which we move from one paradigm to the other, it is just an ad-hoc 'gestalt switch' meaning we just suddenly move form one paradigm to the other. That is false, we did not just move from classical theory to quantum theory in a sudden switch from the classical paradigm to the quantum paradigm, it was based on the continuity of the predictions of classical theory on black body radiation and its falsification, which lead to the emergence of quantum theory to explain these new observations. It is not just a random switch. Similarly, although it is true that Einstein used a slight different scientific method from Newton's classical scientific method in arriving at Relativity theory, that is thought experiment, it was not wholly divorced from the scientific method, because it was based on general observations of frames of reference giving relative space, time and speed and based on this general observation Einstein was able to conclude that the speed of light is the absolute frame of reference (constant for all observers). Based on this realization he introduced relativistic variables into Newton equations. He did not do away with Newton's equations, he just added new variables. Hence, again, there is a continuity and not an ad-hoc gestalt switch.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bellah and Bryant

[Bellah’s book seems to be a sign that postmodernism is on its way out, and grand narrative has returned. Postmodernism can mean too many things these days, but its initial and defining meaning, as Jean-François Lyotard has claimed, is really its complete rejection and distrust of any grand narrative or universal history. However, as Bellah would certainly remind us, since nothing is ever lost, postmodernism cannot be completely forgotten. What we find in Bellah’s book is critical universal history because it has absorbed the postmodernist critique of the traditional, dogmatic, and provincial “universal history.” ...
Bellah believes that there are necessary links “between past and present,” and that “nothing is ever lost.” The return of the grand narrative - The Immanent Frame by Yang Xiao on Dec 15, 2011 9:34 PM]

[The Democracy of Objects for Kindle - Larval Subjects on Dec 15, 2011 8:09 PM - The .pdf version of The Democracy of Objects can be found here.]

Revolt of OOO against correlationism looks like post-modernism's criticism of grand narrative. Revolts and returns, thankfully, stay in the libraries and rarely touch the common human life. [TNM55] 

January 29, 2014 Interview with Paul W. Kahn, Author of Finding Ourselves at the Movies - Hope Leman (@hleman)
Philosophy, I believe, is dialogue. There is, however, no reason to think that the philosophical dialogue cannot be with oneself. I don’t think that one can start out this way. One needs teachers and companions to challenge the self and with whom to argue. But a dialogue begun with others can certainly continue with the self. A habit of thinking that starts in actual conversations can become an internal conversation.

I spend many hours every day essentially talking to myself, as I write about an idea, read what I have written, reject it as not quite right, and then try again. These forms of being alone – as well as many other private experiences – are not pathological, but to be without friends or people to talk with as a general condition is a problem for most people. Not many of us cultivate that sort of loneliness.

As for films that are so personal that one does not want to talk with others about them, I have no doubt that people have that experience. Not everything has to be talked about with everyone. The point here is no different than with a good book or a painting. The work offers an opportunity for a conversation, but it does not require it.

Philosophy is not a means to some other end. I cannot prove the usefulness of philosophy by showing you that it will improve your job prospects, find you a partner, or make your life easier. We engage in philosophy because we are drawn to self-reflection. We not only act, we think about what we are doing. At times, we think about our entire lives, what we are committed to and why. Everyone, in some way or another, is drawn to these reflections. That is part of what it means to be a person. Philosophy is only a more sustained effort to engage in this sort of self-reflection. The importance of that experience in one’s own life is the only ground upon which philosophy can be defended.

Most philosophers think of their activity as one of explaining. I don’t disagree with the urge to explain, but I think we need to get people enthusiastic about looking for explanations. That is the role of disruption: to shake people out of their ordinary assumptions about themselves and their world and to get them thinking.

One of the disruptive points I pursue in the book is to explore the relationship between family and politics. Political theory today generally assumes the perspective of the individual entering a social contract on her own in order to advance her interests. In popular films, we almost never find a film about politics that is not also about family. I explore that connection to disrupt political theory, but also to disrupt ordinary assumptions about the nature of political commitments.

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