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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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I found the post very interesting but will limit myself here to the questions you ask.

1. Do you agree with me that, while Wittgenstein rejects the Cartesian-type ego that Hume rejects, he does not reject what he calls "the metaphysical subject" and "the philosophical self"?

5.631 There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas.... in an important sense there is no subject...
5.632 The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit of the world.

Notice the words “in an important sense.” “There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas.” Since “I am my world” (5.63), we can say that although “The subject does not belong to the world ...it is a limit of the world.” (5.632).

See answer to 2. Also note that Descartes thought he had to argue (the cogito) for his existence, he did not claim to be aware of it. In this respect it was like the immortality of the soul and the existence of God. He even argued for the premise ”I think,” he did not appeal to his awareness of his thinking. He appealed to the fact that being deceived would be a case of thinking and that he would need to exist if God were to deceive him.


2. Do you agree with me that, for Wittgenstein, the metaphysical subject construed as limit of the world, exists, is not nothing?

Since “fact” is a formal concept (4.1272) and the world is the totality of facts (1.1), “world” is also a formal notion and so is “the limit of the world.” They all belong in what cannot be “said” but might be “shown.” I would prefer to say that the limit of the world is not nothing but neither is it something. What I call “semirealism” is not realism but neither is it antirealism. I realize that neither what Wittgenstein said nor what I am saying is “perfectly clear,” but not everything can be perfectly clear.

3. Do you agree with me that, while "the only world we perceive, understand, and describe is the world perceived, understood, and described by us" (231) is plainly a tautology, it is a further question whether this tautology is the thesis of antirealism that is debated by philosophers? (As opposed to a thesis of antirealism that you have arbitrarily stipulated.)

I don’t think Kant or Hegel or Goodman used the word “tautology,” but perhaps they should have. The issue is complex, not only because it involves a term we have become especially sensitive to after logical positivism but also because it is metaphilosophical. Please allow me to indulge in quoting from Anthropocentrism, and note the metaphilosophical position expressed in the underlined sentences:

“Claims like Kant’s that the objects of knowledge conform to knowledge, not
knowledge to its objects, Goodman’s that we make the world, and Hegel’s that
Reality is Thought are at first glance incredible. But they can be seen now as
rhetorical flourishes of what follows from a proposition that is a tautology and
a proposition that, though not a tautology, is self-evident. The tautology is that the only world we perceive, understand, and describe is the world perceived, understood, and described by us. The self-evident proposition is that, in philosophical contexts like Cartesian doubt and the realism/antirealism issue, we cannot coherently regard ourselves as a part, mental (an ego, a colony of egos) or material (a brain, a collection of brains), of that world. Together with the tautology, this proposition yields a metaphysics that is antirealist but not anthropocentric” (p. 231).

“The reader may ask, how can a substantive view rest on so little? The question betrays commitment to a conception of philosophy I have warned against repeatedly. Philosophers can claim no expertise on any things or facts, empirical or nonempirical. They have neither the training nor the means to make empirical discoveries, nor do they have the training or the means to make nonempirical discoveries, for example like those in mathematics. Philosophy is neither amateur psychology, devoted to the study of “the ideas in the mind,” nor amateur lexicology, devoted to the study of “the workings of our language.”

“Appeals to a tautology are often the best way to break the sway of a picture
that we find misleading and dissolve an illusion. “You can’t both spend and save
it” exposes an all too frequent illusion in financial planning. When made in philosophy,
such an appeal can be conducive to understanding by exposing a philosophical
picture as misleading and thus dispelling the illusion the picture generates.
The tautology that the only world we perceive, understand, and describe
is the world perceived, understood, and described by us can dispel the illusion
generated by the philosophical picture of ourselves as spectators of an external
world, like astronauts observing the earth from the moon” (p. 232).

4. Do you agree with me that the above quoted tautology is logically consistent with both realism and antirealism?

See the reply to 2 and 3.

5. Do you agree that rather than solving the Paradox of Antirealism, you dissolve it by eliminating the subject of consciousness entirely?

Perhaps, though much depends on what is meant by “solving” and “dissolving” here

6. Suppose I grant you that there are no egos, no acts, and that consciousness-of is non-relational along the lines of Sartre's radically externalist, anti-substantialist theory of consciousness. Will you grant me that the distinction -- the 'Transcendental Difference' if you will -- between subjectless consciousness-of and objects is ineliminable and undeniable?

Yes

7. If you grant me that, will you grant me that the non-relational appearing of objects does not itself appear?

Yes, but only because appearing is not the sort of “thing” that can appear. I see this computer but I don’t see the seeing, not because it is hidden but because seeing is not the kind of thing that can be seen. It does not follow that it is not the kind of thing that one can be aware of. Nevertheless, I am not aware of it.

8. If you grant what I want you to grant in (7) will you grant that something can be real without appearing, without 'showing up' phenomenologically?

Yes, there can be, for example, subatomic particles.

9. If you grant me what I want you to grant in (8) will you grant that, if something can be real without appearing, that the transcendental ego and acts can also be real without appearing?
To put it another way, if you hold that there are no egos and acts on the ground that they do not appear, must you not also maintain that there is no nonrelational consciousness-of on the ground that it does not appear?


The transcendental ego and acts can be real without appearing, just as Kant held things-in-themselves can be real without appearing. This did not contradict his transcendental idealism though it was vigorously denied by his successors for a variety of other reasons. But notice that it is consistent with "the only world we perceive, understand, and describe is the world perceived, understood, and described by us." Things-in-themselves” are unknowable because unperceivable but they are not inconceivable, at least in the sense that we understand what Kant meant. This understanding is human, shaped by our cognitive powers, including those requiring human philosophical training. It is dependent on reading Kant or about Kant, having some knowledge of the history of (human) philosophy, ultimately on knowing a (human) language.

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