But I’m not ‘saying’ anything…Some thoughts on Eliminativism. Part 1

I’m rather amused and intrigued by the ubiquitous use of ‘scare quotes’ in defending seemingly self-contradictory positions. I’m thinking generally here of Eliminative Materialisms whether from the Churchlands to Scott Bakker’s Blind Brain theory. It is characterized by suggesting or arguing forthright that performative contradictions and the like are “seemings” but more to the point, any suggestion, that a certain form of discourse undermines itself is simply dismissed by suggesting that the contradiction arises because of built-in presuppositions of current  discourse and it is entirely possible other discourse, other descriptions, are perfectly capable of capturing what we mean or removing it altogether.Suppose it is argued that there are no “Intentions.” One obvious rejoinder is to query about how this argument itself came to be. The act at first blush seems self-undermining. But nothing that brackets and quotes can’t fix!

When confronted or asked to explain the fact that they have an intention in making the argument that there are no intentions the rejoinder is simply to bracket the original argument. The ‘intention’ had in making the argument is bracketed so we are not thereby committed thereby to having an intention…as is usually supposed. With this bracketing, one is able then to avoid a contradiction because the language with which they make this claim is now tenuous – it will have to undergo revision based on what they’re arguing. One then is stating their arguments in “quotes.” In other words, it will be furthered argued that the language with which the argument is made presupposes a certain way of talking that is being called into question from within and thus cannot, without question-begging, be called wrong. It is an ingenious tactic, and more-so because it is valid. After all, by stipulation one is able to suspend discussion of the doer, sayer and focus entirely on the content: “There are no intentions.” Once granted we can begin the thought experiments in earnest.

I suppose where I get lost is on how one is able to operate on so many levels of metaphors, and hintings globally – because in understanding these arguments we must be able to (1) understand what it is literally saying “There are no intentions” (2) disregard immediately what is literally saying “I have no intentions ( in trying to understand or respond to this argument)” in order to (3) ponder about just it is saying in the future, in a different language game ” I may or may not have Intentions. Or they are something different entirely”. I suppose one could cease on the term “literally” here since its presupposed invariance in (1) and (2) is what generates the performative contradiction. But no need to, stipulation does the same thing as said earlier. Of course, the problem here is that we’re not talking about classically ‘external’ things like rocks [which are easy to eliminate] but indexicals like “I” and in the sense I mean, the very language we’re using. It is this capability for metaphors, this ability to be ‘literal’ then non-literal and back again [ and the consciousness involved in doing all this], that needs to be explained and which is precisely not explained by positing some supposedly ‘literal’ mechanism or real world deception that is at the substratum. We have destroyed the thing by ‘explaining’ it. And this because everything that is being said is under erasure, not just the specific claims. Owen Barfield:

You cannot study anything without speaking and reading and writing about it. And you cannot speak or read or write without using language, without using the language of today, as your medium. But the language of today is itself the product, the manifestation, of the very thing you are trying to undermine, so to speak, with your historical depiction of the way in which it came into being. You can dig into the earth with a spade in order to get beneath the surface. The spade is itself a product of the earth, but that does not bother you. But if, by some mysterious dispensation, the spade were part of the very path of earth you were splitting up, you would be rather nonplussed, because you would destroy the instrument by using it. And that is the sort of difficulty you are up against when it is not the earth you are digging into, but consciousness; and when it is not a spade you are digging with, but language. . . . However quickly you turn around, you can never see the back of your own head

I consider the above description of a “spade…[being ] a part of the very path of earth you were splitting up” the essence of eliminatvist positions. Of course, the elimininativist says “No big deal” we didn’t believe the spade was part of the earth in the first place” and now proceeds to claim radical immanence, as Bakker does. The image above, of course, is exactly what the claim of ‘immanence’ proposes. Through theory, we have freed ourselves of fanciful notions and have smelted into the very earth- conceptual reductions of the antiquated notion of ‘mind’ ‘intentions’ ‘self’ ‘language’ smelt into the evolved brain and its machinery and we’re better for it. But this is not the case. Immanence, as such, entails the actual participation of the currently hapless subject ‘in’ the world – conceptual reductions still make no contact with the real. What would be immanent would be to directly introspect a brain state without intermediary – to introspect neurons as such, not to introspect, as we now do, and theorize it as behavior of neurons ( and whatever evolutionary mechanism and story accompanies this) but to intuit this neuronal apparatus itself. This is at the point where I generally reject Materialisms of any stripe because what is left over from the re-descriptions and corrections is not anything resembling subjectivity, but death. From this perspective, true immanence would be achieved by dying – since there is hardly any cogent description of what life is ( much less mind) what the materialist achieves is explaining exactly how our dead body is more ‘immanent’ with the world that our ‘lived’ body since it suffers under no illusions. The body, as such, is still subject to the same chemical and earthly processes ‘alive’ or dead. Only difference, it seems, is the former comes with a host of delusions of grandeur and error while the latter peacefully rests, one with the earth.

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7 pounds, 8 ounces.

There really isn’t enough wonder and awe in the world. Birth is incredible. Just imagining where it began, the development and then the exit – all done with little conscious effort, the body simply and actively preparing and doing what it needs to do. Little guy announced his participation in this thing called existence, this gift called Life on Tuesday May 14. Handsome fellow. Great experience. You hear it all the time ” You don’t know until…” but I suspect these moments come in subtle shifts – it doesn’t all flood out at once. Only over the years will the Life changes rooted in this grand day take shape and blossom. Happy, thankful, and looking forward to life ahead with wife and child.

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A Song of Things to come…indefinitely

Finished A Song of Fire and Ice. I think because I consumed all the books in the past year I do not have the same sense of epic disappointment and frustrations as long times fans regarding the last book, A Dance with Dragons. However, I do see some valid concerns as the plot thickens, thickens, and well, thickens some more – lots of stuff going on. It’s an interesting dilemma Martin has created for himself as he risks losing the control of his story in order to properly ground and tell the story of the upcoming books. Is Winter Coming? Or is it permanently in abeyance secondary to the ever increasing machinations of different parties vying for power? Some of the tension is, unfortunately, leaving the series since The Others and Winter are receding into the background, no longer feeling like an imminent threat. We’re teetering ever close to things going dark but the constant focus on the dithering of others leaves one wondering how any of it can be resolved, how it can all lead, without some sort of deus ex machina, into the winter we all expect.

For my part, the high point of the series is Storm of Swords though it is also the first book where I cringed a little at the world Martin created. The less I read about the Unsullied the better – gruesome but it is all a bit, eh. Cheesy. The next two books ( though functioning as one altogether) are really not as bad as they’re made out to be but I myself want to see the payoff. If Martin, for example, decides not to try and “resolve” certain story-lines but have doom and destruction, fire and blood, consume the land and have everyone scurrying for cover I’d be impressed but concerned on exactly how he intends to make the effort the readers have put into his series all of worth it.

Part of the intrigue of this whole thing so far is that while the political machinations, the fact that the series itself is grounded in a “game of thrones” among humans the “real threat” or a serious threat looms in the background. Certainly, the game is itself interesting ( and why it’s all so good) but it is situated in a larger context – it is taking place while something else slithers dangerously in the background. The problem Martin has created for himself is that while the series has been very good because of his focus on the various power struggles it cannot be ignored that a huge source of why these struggles are so important is the impending conflict these varying struggles hardly address. The reader can get a little impatient with it all, knowing full well that “The Winds of Winter” are coming and much of what is going on is not going to matter. Or is it? I can’t see much of what is happening be thoroughly addressed and assume that just like a major story arc in Dance involving a Dorne, things will simply end badly. And unlike in this book, I am concerned that the “journey” if things are simply to turn to ash will justify the effort.

I envy the man his talents, not the next few years though.

Later I’ll try and add some specific comments on aspects of the whole work – favorite moments, etc. Typical stuff. And here I have to thank Paul Newall for suggesting Martin in the first place. Newall has yet to fail in his recommended readings, non-fiction or fiction. I salute you, Holbling!

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I need to read Sartre in depth. I’ve been collecting quite a bit of books from him and have been more and more intrigued by random bits – currently nibbling, hoping to feast on his works soon. Sartre’ harsh or “severe” Ethics as one commentator puts it ( man is responsible for himself in the fullest sense) is something I’m particularly drawn to but quick to qualify. That is, as I read his passage about making choices and not scapegoating biology, the environment, culture, etc, I can’t help thinking “Right, Sartre, but not yet.” In other words, and typical of my philosophical influences (ah!) , I think the human Sartre judges, the man that is fully responsible in every sense, has not fully arrived yet. Funnily enough, I think this man is what we should strive towards and exploring an ethos like Sartre gives us an idea of what it really means to be “free” – it is not simply the availability of different alternatives to “choose” as if shopping at the mall but the very ability to determine and create the choices themselves.

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Great time away. Almost finished with A Feast for Crows. And will have to purchase and complete A Dance with Dragons before devoting my reading time to something else. AFFC is not liked too much by series diehards and I can see why – a lack of certain characters and not nearly as much action as the third book. However, the book is quite good in spite of all that as the intrigue and new plots make up for the action. It also helps that I did like the new perspectives ( Cersei is quite overbearing but because of her issues) though I did not like that Martin chose to do his chapter headings differently, titling certain chapters by the titles of the characters than their simple names.

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Will be gone a while…

Work and vacation. Will be back wondering what to write in about three weeks.

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Great Quote

“Self-esteem is a thing invented by psychologists to explain things which otherwise require harder thinking”— Bradford Keeney

Eventually, I will do some more writing for this blog but for now random quotes and links will suffice. The above is a great one I chanced on.

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“I am not voting because the choices are intolerable.”

An excellent article over at Feral Scholar arguing why we should not vote In the U.S. General Elections. What puts it over the top for me is his analysis of arguments for voting and his explanation of the concentration of power that makes voting futile and, even worse, an act that legitimizes something that is illegitimate…in his eyes. Solid analysis.

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A Cacophony of Horrors

Just finished A Clash of Kings the sequel ( and second in the overall trilogy – A song of Fire and Ice) to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I think I like it better than the first which says a lot. However, the joy I got from reading this book was tempered somewhat by all that was going on – it’s one thing to admit you’re riveted but to reflect on all that’s happening, you can quickly get quite sad. Great writer that, Martin. And he doesn’t spare you. There are several instances in the book where I simply did not want to read the next chapter for fear of what other horror was awaiting, then a chapter would end with a splinter of hope, only for it to be complicated by more horrors. The character of Theon Greyjoy, in particular, exemplifies this book to me: his story arc is a comedy of horrors except, of course, it actually does happen to the people in the world making it all the worse.

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Game of Thrones

Finished. Now, I can watch the HBO series in peace. However, I’m immediately moving on to A Clash of Kings to the chagrin of my lady since we’re supposed to be reading the books together. Quite well done, the book. It ends on a terrifying, stupendous note but leaves so much unresolved you immediately want to devour the next in the series. Some great characters, I tell you. What happens with the Lannisters? The Starks? The ongoing war? Oh, and Joffrey, well on his way to being the “Mad King 2.0.” I wish terrible, terrible things on that “boy” and George R.R. Martin made me do it.

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