April 20, 2017

James wasn’t able to interpret Hegel very well

Robert Wallace
Thank you for reminding me of this wonderful essay of James’s, which I had on my shelf and had read parts of but had completely forgotten. It is certainly highly stimulating as well as, in James’s usual style, highly entertaining. 

I too have a lot of respect for James, but he wasn’t able to interpret Hegel very well because he doesn’t read Hegel’s Logic as a whole or as part of his Encyclopedic “system,” and consequently he doesn’t recognize the background in moral psychology and freedom that’s at work in it. These problems are evident for example in his brief discussion of true and false infinity. He describes infinity as a “mathematical question” (p. 285). But as I mentioned to you earlier, infinity for Hegel is primarily a qualitative issue, and thus is not a topic in mathematics. The chapter is called “Quality,” as opposed to the subsequent “Quantity,” which James doesn’t mention. James’s whole discussion of being, nothing, becoming, and the “other,” fails to focus on the issue, with which Hegel is concerned throughout this development, of how a quality could be determinate Dasein (how it could be being rather than nothing). Hegel isn’t just throwing these concepts around; he is developing an issue, which James hasn’t identified. 

Qualitative “infinity,” when Hegel arrives at it, is a proposed solution to the problem of how a quality can be determinate in itself (an sich) as opposed to through its relation to others (füreinanderes). Hegel explicitly associates infinity with “freedom,” i.e. with self-determination. “False” or spurious infinity is opposed to the finite as its opposite—and is therefore itself finite, limited by its opposition to the finite—just as Plato sometimes (but not always!) describes the soul as flatly opposed to the body, and as conventional theology describes God as opposed to (a separate being from, and thus limited by) the world. True infinity on the other hand is the finite’s surpassing of itself, and therefore isn’t limited by its relation to the finite. In regard to religion, True Infinity is Hegel’s account of what true “transcendence” would be. (Would you agree that God should be in some significant way “transcendent”?) 

I discuss most of this in detail in chapter 3 of my _Hegel’s Philosophy of Reality, Freedom, and God_ (2005). Hegel’s account of “Contradiction,” in the subsequent Doctrine of Essence, has to be understood as a development of True Infinity, as I explain in chapter 4. Finite realities such as you and me are ”contradictory” in that we aim to be what we are virtue of ourselves alone, but (like finite Qualities) we fail in this effort. Hence Hegel’s remarks about “life” as “contradictory.” To take his discussion of “contradiction” at face value as a discussion of the relation between predicates or propositions, as James does, is to miss entirely how it fits into the Logic as a whole.  

I haven’t deciphered all of the connections in Hegel’s Logic, but enough of them to get a pretty good sense of where critiques like James’s miss Hegel’s point. 

Best, Bob 

Bruno Marchal 
Weak materialism might even come from the millions years of brain evolution. It is a simplifying (at the least) hypothesis, very handful to not confuse the prey and the predator, which can make the difference in the "eat or be eaten" game of life.

I am interested in theology/metaphysics, and Aristotle makes clear that he believes that Plato is wrong *on that subject*. Plato is among the first to publicly and explicitly rise doubt on weak-materialism (with the use of another terminology). It is comparable with some of the idealist of the Madyamika school (les idéalistes de l'écome du milieu) researchers, or perhaps Vasubandhu (in his five treatise on only spirit). Pythagorus and Parmenides were less explicit, but can be said to have open that path in occident, notably by inspiring the immaterialist with the rational but immaterial realm of mathematics. Note that Pythagorus brrows his ideas from its travel in orient.

The mathematical reality is not a formal cause only. Most of mathematics is not formal, and some part of it can be proved to be necessarily informal. Notably, it can be proved that if we accept the definition of the knower (or soul) by Theaetetus, and accept to model it by Gödel's provavbility predicate, then machine have a soul which already know that it is not formally definable at all. That is not obvious and use the work of some logicians like Tarski, Kaplan, Montague.

Note also I have a great admiration for Aristotle, and that being refuted (in some theories) does not mean being wrong, and is anyway an honor, as it means he works with the scientific attitude (to be enough clear to be made wrong relatively to some theory). Apology if I looked ad hominem with respect to him. Alas, perhaps due to the fact he was so great, many take his notion of primary matter for granted, especially that it is more intuitive and reassuring than idealism and web of dreams.

Aristotle was not a materialist indeed, but he was the first explicit weak-materialist in theology/metaphysics, and like you say, that is still the current paradigm, which in my opinion is the main roots of the absence of solution of the mind-body problem. Yet, all I say is that such a weak-materialist, non immaterialist, paradigm is in contradiction with Digital Mechanism. It is not obvious, and the result of many years of work. We cannot use validly the speculative existence of primary matter to select some special computations in the set of all computations already realized in arithmetic, without negating the mechanist hypothesis. It is important because many (at least in Occident) believes in both weak-materialism *and* in mechanism. Then, the most rigorous tend  to just eliminate soul and consciousness as spurious notion, to save their weak-materialist assumption. 

It is simpler to explain the illusion of piece of matter to a consciousness, than to explain the illusion of a consciousness to a piece of matter.

Mechanism might be false. The interest relies in that it gives a precise theology which contains a precise (but immaterial) physics so that we can test the hypothesis, and refute it, or perhaps improve it. Up to now, it is close to Plato, Ibn Arabi, Vasubandhu and other idealist or immaterialist.



Consciousness studies is not a field of study for physics perhaps for a good reason. Because it deals with a lot of pseudo problems. After reading what you have written I remain precarious about the hard problem. It accepts a division of subjective experience from objective experience I presuppose. Or 'subjective' is redundant here as experience is just experience of a subject. Partitioning experiences into subjective and non subjective seems arbitrary. Why not partition experiences of vision from hearing and so on? These would also not make sense because experiences are multi-modal sesory inputs leading to certain outputs. I just don't understand what are the elements of experience.


Serge Patlavskiy
My explanation is that to study any object scientifically, the methods (and models) we use must correspond to the nature of the object of study. The methods/models used by Physics are not good for studying consciousness-related phenomenal. These methods/models do not take into consideration the activity of informational factor, and cannot deal with a whole complex system reducing its overall entropic state. A living organism is an example of such a complex system.

Yes, any experience is subjective and the word "subjective" is redundant. As to "objective experience", it is not possible in principle, because every person gets a model of the outer world (or the model of Noumenal Reality) due to activity of own personal consciousness. We -- the group of people -- may only talk about "comprehensive experience" we may receive after solving the problem of intersubjectivity.

It is ill advised to part the physical (sensory) signals receiving from different sense organs because consciousness always deals with cumulative sensory input. In so doing, in case one sense organ deteriorates, the other sense organ(s) exacerbates. The rest of lacking sensory data our consciousness compensates itself by processing the formerly memorized elements of experience (or the elements of knowledge). So, we may be looking at the bare foots behind the curtain in the bathroom, and "seeing" a girl having a shower. However, it may, in fact, be a barefooted plumber repairing a water tap. :-)

No, the very presence of sensory input does not lead to the new elements of experience. The new element of experience (or new knowledge, etc.) is a result of the activity of consciousness. Sometimes, we may be looking at something but seeing nothing. I mean that the physical (sensory) signals sent by sense organs to the brain are available, but our consciousness refuses to process them and transform them into new elements of experience.

However, sometimes, when there are no physical (sensory) signals sent to the brain (to wit, our sense organs do not function), our consciousness may process the formerly memorized elements of experience and create new element of experience, and we call it "illusion", or "imagination", etc.

Experience/knowledge is not continuous -- it is always in a form of some whole distinct pattern. Therefore, when I say "the element of experience" or "the element of knowledge", I mean one fully accomplished act of creation of a new experience/knowledge. Using English, we cannot say "two knowledges", but we may say "two elements of knowledge".

Thanks for your reply,
Serge Patlavskiy

Diego Lucio Rapoport
Dear B M Puri

Thanks for your comments.
Let us start with the claim of the phenomenological dimension two of the Klein Bottle as the basic representation of the somatosensory and visual modes. It is a structure that embodies the relation between the surface and the brain but that is recursively represented as a bauplan of the body surfacelike recursively. [...]

I realized that i forgot to relate to the topic of time. Time as an operator and an ontological loci rather than a parameter is crucial to the ontoepistemology that i elaborated and continue working at. As already stated, you may do the reading of this. Any queries following it, i will do my best to find the time for answering to them and would certainly appreciate them with the provisos already stated.

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