Derrida vs. the rationalists (newhumanist.org.uk)

Come on, as technologists, hn readers cant seriously favor structuralism over post modern thinking.

To put it in CS terms: structuralists would think that general AI would be obtained by coding expert systems. Structuralists were the ones who believed the semantic web would work. That as engineers, we could write a structure, a schema, a program, that would underlie all things and ideas in the universe.

This of course has been quite a failure. The bottom up approach to AI, which appeared with neural networks, is deeply postmodern. It assumes that all experience is relative and that human intelligence grasps with reality in a reflexive way. reacting to stimuli rather than building a unique model of the world that would fit all situations.

You may say that post modern philosophy is written in a hard way, but it cant be denied that there are a lot of people here who are postmodern without knowing it!

 .. You realize that most academic philosophers in the US and other English-speaking countries share your attitude toward post-modernism, right? TFA even points out the divide. You must have gone to a program with a “traditional” philosophy department, perhaps in Europe?Most university philosophy departments in the US focus on logic, analytic philosophy, philosophy of science, cognitive science, etc, etc. I can’t even think of a single philosopher at my university’s department who would have done anything but chuckle at post-modernism. In fact, it was a philosophy prof who told me about the book “Fashionable Nonsense”.

From the article:

“Outside France, the dominant philosophical school was analytic philosophy. A broad church, its foundations had initially been articulated by, among others, Bertrand Russell, GE Moore and the early works of Wittgenstein. Founded on the notion of conceptual clarity, analytic philosophy (in its crudest form) regards philosophy as a branch of the sciences, often subservient to the natural sciences, or at best continuous with them. It proposes that through the logical analysis of philosophical propositions, the basic questions of existence can be clarified, and possibly solved.”

So why would you generalize all philosophers into the bucket of post-modernism? Many of the founders of modern analytic philosophy were mathematicians: Russell, Frege, Whitehead, Peirce, etc.

.. The rationalists say that a major purpose of language is to communicate facts about the world.The postmodernists say: “What are ‘facts’? What is ‘world’?”

So with facts gone and the real world gone, that leaves only one purpose for language, for saying anything at all: to get others to do what you want them to do. (This is a simplification of Wittgenstein’s “language-games” of the form of e.g., the Builders’ Game.)

I’ve always maintained that Derridean postmodernism is, in actuality, a form of long-form trolling whose main purpose was to provoke traditional philosophers by baffling them or getting them to fruitlessly debate the propositions. In this it’s sort of a language-game: Derrida produced words, and the philosophers reacted in just the way he intended them to when he wrote the words. Whether it was for his own amusement, to show those stiff-necked rationalists that they’re not immune to cognitive or deductive traps, or whatever — who knows? But the interesting bit is that trolling survives as a valid intention for Derrida to produce the philosophy he did, whether or not he took his own propositions seriously (though if he did, he would have to consider whether the academics he was trolling existed just in his own head).

.. Postmodernists deny the reality of shared, objective truths, then try to begin a dialogue requiring what’s just been denied.

Read Buber, Not the Polls!

There has been so much bad communication over the past year: people talking in warring monologues past each other, ignoring the facts and using lazy stereotypes like “elites” and “Trumpeans” to reduce complex individuals into simplistic categories. Meanwhile, our main candidates are poor connectors. We’ve got the self-enclosed narcissism of Donald Trump and, to a lesser degree, the mistrustful defensiveness of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

.. You’re fearful, closed or withdrawn — objectifying her, talking at her, offering only a shallow piece of yourself and seeing only the shallow piece of her.

.. I-Thou relationships, on the other hand, are personal, direct, dialogical — nothing is held back. A Thou relationship exists when two or more people are totally immersed in their situation, when deep calls to deep, when they are offering up themselves and embracing the other in some total, unselfconscious way, when they are involved in “mutual animated describing.”

.. A doctor has an I-It relationship with a patient when he treats him as a machine in need of repair.

.. But Buber argued that it’s nonsensical to think of the self in isolation. The I only exists in relation to some other.

.. “The development of the soul in the child is inextricably bound up with that of the longing for the Thou,”

.. “The development of the soul in the child is inextricably bound up with that of the longing for the Thou,” he wrote.

.. You can’t intentionally command I-Thou moments into being. You can only be open to them and provide fertile soil.

.. Today, America is certainly awash in distrust. So many people tell stories of betrayal. So many leaders (Trump) model combativeness, isolation and distrust. But the only way we get beyond depressing years like this one is at the level of intimacy:

Why I Majored in Philosophy Despite Everyone Telling Me Not to

Here is one example I love telling my business major friends: capitalism as we know it today was given its framework by a moral philosopher Adam Smith, who famously wrote The Wealth of Nations.

Further, an education in philosophy has made a significant mark on some of American history’s greatest figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

.. For some of us philosophy majors, we are just genuinely curious about some notions in life that are often taken for granted. For instance, is our ability to have rational thought just a product of our brainwaves, the interaction of different neurotransmitters?

Are We Really So Modern?

For all our technological breakthroughs, we’re still wrestling with the same basic questions as the Enlightenment philosophers.

Modernity cannot be identified with any particular technological or social breakthrough. Rather, it is a subjective condition, a feeling or an intuition that we are in some profound sense different from the people who lived before us.

Modern life, which we tend to think of as an accelerating series of gains in knowledge, wealth, and power over nature, is predicated on a loss: the loss of contact with the past. Depending on your point of view, this can be seen as either a disinheritance or an emancipation; much of modern politics is determined by which side you take on this question.

.. If we are looking for the real origins of the modern world, then, we have to look for the moment when that world was literally disoriented—stripped of its sense of direction. Heliocentrism, the doctrine that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa, was announced by Copernicus in 1543 and championed by Galileo in the early sixteen-hundreds.

.. Nietzsche is usually classified as a philosopher, Donne as a poet, and Galileo as a scientist. But one of the premises of Anthony Gottlieb’s new book, “The Dream of Enlightenment” (Liveright)—the second installment of his lucid, accessible history of Western philosophy—is that thought cannot be divided according to disciplines in this way.

.. “the history of philosophy is more the history of a sharply inquisitive cast of mind than the history of a sharply defined discipline.

.. in treating the philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it is conventional to cast it as a struggle between “rationalists” and “empiricists.” In this account, everyone from Descartes to Hume is engaged in one long battle over whether truth is to be found “in here,” through strictly logical reasoning on the model of mathematics, or “out there,” through observation of the world.

.. Immanuel Kant, in the late eighteenth century, when he figured out a way to show that both sides were correct, since all perception is necessarily filtered through the categories imposed by our minds.

.. it was because these times were so tumultuous that they were able to think in such a radical way.

Eras in which everything is up for grabs are very rare, and they seem to be highly productive for philosophy. As Gottlieb points out, much of the Western philosophy that still matters to us is the product of just two such eras: Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. and Western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries A.D.

.. The discovery of America destroyed established geography, the Reformation destroyed the established Church, and astronomy destroyed the established cosmos. Everything that educated people believed about reality turned out to be an error or, worse, a lie.

.. Perhaps if it were somehow confirmed that, as some thinkers speculate, our universe is actually a simulation run on a computer by an unfathomably advanced intelligent civilization, we would feel an analogous sense of confusion and possibility.

.. the comic playwright Aristophanes, in his play “The Clouds,” portrayed Socrates as discussing questions such as whether a gnat buzzes through its nose or its anus.

.. the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were one of those rare periods when a lot of people cared, because their sense of the world was decomposing so dramatically. Literate people—and, thanks to the printing press, there were more of these than ever before—were eager to hear from philosophers who could give new answers to the ancient questions.

.. To Plato, this could be explained by the fact that the soul had a life before birth in which it learned mathematical truths, so that learning is really a form of remembering.

.. Begin, Descartes wrote, by doubting absolutely everything you know, think, and perceive; assume that it is all delusive, as in a dream. Does anything remain absolutely certain, even after this purge? One thing does, he argued: the fact of my consciousness. If I did not exist as a mind, there would be no “I” to be deceived by appearances. If I think, I must exist—Cogito ergo sum.

.. Descartes would have been disappointed to know that he gave rise to a whole new era of philosophy. He thought that there would not have to be any philosophy after him, since he had solved all the problems; only experimental research would remain.

.. Even today, cognitive scientists struggle to understand how consciousness arises from matter, though few doubt that it does.

.. There could not be two substances in the universe, Spinoza argued, one physical and the other divine, since this involved a logical contradiction. If God and Nature were distinct, then it must be the case that Nature had some qualities that God lacked, and the idea of a supreme being lacking anything was incoherent. It follows that God and Nature are just two names for the same thing, the Being that comprises everything that ever existed or ever will exist.

This radical idea, known as pantheism, has strange and paradoxical results.

.. it says that we ourselves are part of God. On the other hand, an immanent God is not the kind of God who watches over the world, hears prayers, and punishes sinners.

.. He was also much bolder than other philosophers in stating what many of them surely believed, that the Bible was a human document that contained no privileged information about historical events or the nature of divinity. It should therefore be read and studied like any other book, with due attention to the motives of its authors and the errors that had crept in throughout years of transmission. This secular, rational approach to Scripture made Spinoza arguably the father of Biblical criticism.

.. A more unexpected corollary of Spinoza’s pantheism is that it eliminates the possibility of free will, or of contingency of any kind. After all, if everything is God, and God is absolute, then there is no way that anything could happen differently from the way it does.

.. Spinoza’s definition of “blessedness” was “the intellectual love of God,” in which the mind sees the necessity of everything in the world as simply and indubitably as Plato’s slave perceived the necessity of the Pythagorean theorem.

.. Democracy, he argued, was “of all forms of government the most natural, and the most consonant with individual liberty.” He insisted on libertas philosophandi, freedom of thought, and, while he granted that the state had the power to establish the outward forms of religious worship, he adamantly opposed any coercion of conscience. Each person had the right to decide what God was and how best to serve him. Taken together, these beliefs give Spinoza a claim to be considered the first great philosopher of liberal democracy.

.. a Warsaw intellectual who spends his life trying to achieve that superhuman serenity, only to fall humiliatingly in love with his nurse.

.. Where Descartes and Spinoza tried to come to grips with reality through purely deductive logic

.. Locke and Hume valued the evidence of the senses. Their empiricism is often taken to be a peculiarly British kind of virtue

.. We can, of course, trust that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, just as it did yesterday and every day before that. But we can’t prove that it will rise in the same way we can prove that two plus two is four.

.. In Hume’s view, Descartes’s program of demolishing the world through doubt and then rebuilding it through logic is bound to fail. Instead, we have to accept that our knowledge of the world is not absolute, as much as we might like it to be.

.. But we are still living with the problems that these thinkers formulated and tried to solve. We are never quite as modern as we think.