Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I had a song stuck in my head yesterday morning, and as often happens with me, I caught myself humming along to the music in my mind. Of course, I can’t hum the whole song all at once (I’ve heard that some professional singers can sing two notes at once, but I am far from mastering any technique like that). But I would say that I know the song, and that, given an instrument with the capability to play multiple notes at once, I could replicate the song. I would have to have certain skills on this instrument. If I lacked those skills, would I still know the song? I certainly couldn’t prove it. And there are more skills that I would need to learn to play an instrument in the first place. How could I acquire any of these abilities without primitive ones?
If knowledge is, as the Sellarsians say, the ability to participate in the game of giving and asking for reasons, I don’t have knowledge. The regress of requirements for knowledge appears to me to be a vicious one. Unless we have innate abilities, Sellarsian knowledge is unattainable.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Richardson points out that unless we see Vogler's project in light of Anscombe's, her differentiation between A type and B type actions doesn't make sense. Vogler, like Anscombe, focuses on actions already done and looks for reasons that the agent took to be a reason for action-- the de facto motivation for the act. My reasons for eating ice cream may be many-- I am hungry, my body needs a quick burst of energy and sugar will provide that, and ice cream has sugar, etc.-- but those do not have to link up to my consciousness in the same way that reasons to A in order to B do. Vogler, as Richardson says, is concerned with providing "intelligibility" to actions "by indicating an action's calculative form."
Yet this sort of theory of justification seems to be prey to the same problems of epistemological internalism. In the way that an internalist account of knowledge often fails to connect justified belief with external truth, so an internalist account of reasons may illuminate actual moral motivation in a descriptive way without capturing the external normative reasons for action that pertain to an agent, whether or not she takes them to be reasons for her to act.
Monday, April 12, 2010
"Why is it that as a culture we are fascinated with certain stories: what's the truth, what happened, what didn't happen...All of those--the sort of tabloid level, the People and US Weekly level-- those are just facts. Why do these stories sell millions of copies? Because the real questions we have are not the questions of 'what.' The real questions come from the endless question of the ages,'why does the human heart do what it does?' and that's what we're compelled by."
And I thought about the first time I read Plato's Republic and realized that this was what I was looking for all along, not the how questions that were answered in my chem lab and bio class. Philosophy asked the why questions.
But many contemporary philosophers have begun asking "how" as though it answered "why." Without a notion of telos, the function of a thing just is its purpose. They seem to think we can only make the world intelligible by arid factual explanation. The materialist philosophers of mind argue that bare brain states determine our thoughts and actions. Moral philosophers look to psychologists for explanations of what makes us happy and derive from these empirical facts notions of "virtue." Political philosophers advocate non-ideal theories based on how people actually behave, rather than how they should behave or how the state ought to run.
As a result, we write like we're content with where we are; we'd simply like to understand how we got here. Metaphysics and epistemology are booming-- because these are fields that can provide us with a clearer picture of the steps we took before our arrival. What properties impress themselves on our consciousness and cause us to have these brain states of "belief" or "knowledge"? If we can just get a hold of these facts, maybe we'll be satisfied.
I wonder if we are mistaken in characterizing our restlessness as caused by a desire for "knowledge" or awareness of the infrastructure of our world. Perhaps it's our consciousness just roping us back in to the fundamental question why.