Utrecht University            

Rob van Gerwen's | Welcome | Teaching | Research | Contact | Weblog | Sitemap | Consilium Philosophicum

Research: | Bibliography | Resume | Directions | Download | Dim Lit Philosophy
Weblog | Dim Lit Philosophy | Kort Commentaar | Teaching | Technical

Rob van Gerwen

May 21, 2016

Index Supervenience Agency Lanzmann's ban Propaganda Cave Gaze
Grammar Memory Schopenhauer Art practice Music Art's Morale Issues

Philosophical Directions
The effort of understanding

Meta-Philosophical issues



Counterfactuals atomistic

A familiar example of a typical counterfactual is one of Zeno's paradoxes of Achilles and the tortoise. The paradox is set up so as to make us wonder how, in heaven's name, the man will ever get past his utterly slow competitor. Time, distance and speed are compartmentalized by Zeno. Since for every compartment (amount of distance) passed by Achilles the tortoise will have passed another one (however small), this supposedly prevents Achilles to take over the tortoise. The paradox dissolves once one realizes how in movement speed, distance and time are interconnected holistically, and do not consist of concrete parts. Give the race one hour to take place and we can easily establish just where and how Achilles will have overtaken his competitor.

The Munchhausen argument in philosophy

Since everyone can enter psycho-therapy for a thorough scrutiny and control of one's very own desires and thoughts, people can be held responsible for these desires and thoughts, i.e. notwithstanding the fact that they may stem from a subconscious processing of projections and introjections.
In the near future people can be held responsible for being 'ugly' for similar reasons, as 'correcting' one's facial appearance through cosmetic surgery will then both be accessible and relatively cheap.

Is it justifiable to hold people responsible for any or all effects of not grabbing opportunities available to one? It depends. Ask yourself: Is the result of the relevant interferences an unmixed blessing, an intrinsic value, that can be generalized into a principle of sorts that one can reasonably will everyone to obey?

The institutional definition of 'art'

The institutional definition of 'art' says that something is turned into art by an act of status attribution performed by some member of the Art world, i.e. by calling it art, and that hence it is art. How is that for a Munchhausen argument?

In general, nominalism is either a Munchhausen argument or it is an agnosticism: as we cannot get to know what the true nature of the individual things is, the best we can do is order and structure them according to our conceptual schemes. Does this reasoning tell us how things are or that we should be scepticist with regard to any knowledge claim?

What is moral?

An action is moral in nature either because one's motivation for it is universalizable; or because that motivation could/might have been so; or because the consideration of universalizability picked your motivation for you (is that Kant's Categorical Imperative?).

Social science

Social science research as far as it is based on interviews, is about how people want to represent what they think, feel or want, instead of what it is they think, feel or want.
Aesthetics, as the phenomenological study of our representations, comes before social science.

Representation of expressions

Sometimes, social science studies people's expressions, leaving aside how they might rather represent their own thoughts, feelings and wants. It is then up to social science itself to decide which representations to choose. This, it can only do adequately after a sufficiently in-depth analysis of the workings of representations with regard to the represented.
Again, aesthetics comes before social science.

Metaphysical speculation about real reality is redundant, an ontological fallacy

People who try to establish the reality of the real in fact try to establish whether their representations are true. Establishing the truth of representations is like establishing whether what is represented really exists (as it is represented). Ontology is preceded by aesthetics, i.e. by an analysis of the powers and acts of representations.
Not reality but presence should be our first norm of correctness, as I am sure it is when we are near the objects whoe existence we try to establish. It is just, that we are not anywhere near an object's or event's presence when we look at its representation.

This is not Derridean deconstructive relativism.

One could think that this is a relativist position, because it assumes that presence is reality, related to embodied person's perceptual experience. But presence is based in sharing our being-together with other embodied persons. More will be said about this. The point now is that this is not relativism. Unsharable presence is not presence at all, it is at best represented, and representation is debated in my thesis, presence isn't.
Nor is this a Derridean scepticism. Derrida argues that our representations never reach their represented and that therefore we are caught in a web of traces of representations. Presence supercedes this.

Aesthetics' priority over ethics

I am only starting.

What is good about ...

.. the (etensionalist) nominalist thesis that there are only individuals, is: that the world is indeed made up of objects and that the way we classify things is indeed our doing.

.. Frege's thesis is that a word's meaning consists in two things: the word's referent (captured also in the nominalist thesis) and what goes on in us that enables us to point to it (seemingly captured in Platonic realism). We need something as a rule or norm to help us refer to these objects that are the word's referents, and that something must be communicable in some regular manner.
Only this isn't anything like the essence of the thing--which is a mere reminiscence of Plato's Forms, or Ideas.

.. phenomenalism is its conception of these mental events as sensory [but sdoesn't that remove its communicable aspect?] What it is mistaken about is its turning this into a sceptical argument. Yes, scepticism is fine food for philosophers, but isn't that exactly all it is?

.. J.J. Gibson is his understanding of the phenomenal awareness as that of an organism's response.

.. John McDowell is his use of Gibson as an argument against Cognitive Science, that descendant of phenomenalism, and brains in vats scenarios that seems to want to do with only our inner lives, and to reduce it to neuro-physics.

.. my view of perception is that it recognizes our power of perception as one of mobilising our memories of embodied perceptions of things; i.e. as verifications of anticipations based in remembered perceptions. This recognizes the role of imagination without resorting to scepticism.

Lovelock's Gaia-hypothesis

Lovelock's Gaia-hypothesis seems out of line. What is the need for postulating an entity of such vast dimensions that is constructed of such a variety of objects, creatures and processes-some of which can hardly be taken to be falsifiable? We fare better without it. (Ockham's razor).
For one: the distinction between representation and expression.


Gibson, J.J. 1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. London, Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Goodman, Nelson. 1985. Languages of Art. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. McDowell, John. 1998. “The content of perceptual experience.” In Mind, Value, & Reality, 341-58. Cambridge, Mass and London, England: Harvard University Press.