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Are Symbols "primary"?

Posted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:12 am
by Magritte
met kept bringing this up in my R. Scott Bakker thread.

met, I'd like you to unpack that a little. To me it sounds like magical thinking. Please explain what you mean by the primacy of symbols.

Re: Are Symbols "primary"?

Posted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:34 pm
by met
Well, this is a hard topic....

I told Jim I would discuss Malabou's new book with him, so maybe I'll put up a passage from it here to try to give us a start? - although she doesn't really argue for the primacy of the symbolic so much as an inseparability of the symbolic from nature and vice versa....
As for the "neo-skeptical" argument that determines the truth of the adaptive processes of the mind and defends mental Darwinism, it certainly questions any notion of an a priori but it also remains attached to the correlational structure. An a posteriori synthesis it may be, but agreement it is nonetheless.

...The [critical and skeptical positions] both recognize the indubitable nature of causal necessity and the agreement of categories with objects--whether the agreement be a priori or empirical derived. The pair of opposites they form is thus not [real] and offers the world nothing but a false alternative.
She goes on from there to talk about Quentin Meillasoux's thesis of "utter contingency" aka "the principle of sufficient non-reason"....
That the world could change, that it could become wholly other, absolutely other, is indeed the hypothesis that criticism completely rejects. And yet, as a result of its inability to know the reason for this rejection ... critical philosophy is a negative avowal of recognition of that which it disavows. Once again, the transcendental origin fails to self-deduce. Hence, it self-destructs.
... (then later, she goes on to challenge Meillasoux in various ways.)

The basic issue here, the "pair of opposites" she denies, is reiterated in many forms throughout her book. The easiest to grasp is prolly her notion of "the conflict between mathematics and biology" - ie biology holds that "truth" is essentially neuronal and evolved, while mathematics believes some forms of truth at least must be necessary and unchangeable. I won't write out any long quotes here, though she gives some interesting ones and frames things pretty well, but for a succinct spin on this, check out their argument in the episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon first meets Amy.... ;)

Re: Are Symbols "primary"?

Posted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:26 pm
by met
Oh, since you weren't hanging around awhile back, I better fill in something about Meill's concept of "corelationism" - which he derives from Kant and juxtaposes with "realism". Sgt, Jim, and I discussed all this fairly recently & it's pretty central to my points and Malalbou's (and similar to an opposition you put to me some years back of "realism vs constructionism" , no? ... so maybe we're finally having that long-withheld discussion....)
Meillassoux argues that correlationism has been the central notion of philosophy ever since Immanuel Kant, whose core epistemological hypothesis is twofold. On the one hand, Kant argues that objects conform to mind, rather than mind to objects. Kant claimed that in traditional forms of epistemology the mind was conceived as a mirror that reflects being as it is in-itself, independent of us. He argues that mind does not merely reflect reality, but rather actively structures reality. Consequently, on the other hand, he argues that we can never know reality as it is in itself apart from us, but only as it appears to us. If the mind takes an active role in structuring reality (for us) we are unable to know what it is in-itself because we cannot determine what, in appearances, is a product of our own minds and what is a feature of things as they are in themselves. This is because we cannot adopt a third-person perspective that would allow us to compare things as they appear to us and things as they are in themselves. Consequently, knowledge is restricted to appearances and we must remain agnostic as to what being might be like in itself. ... ictionary/

Meill in his book "After Finitude" tries to deny this, or at least heavily qualify it, and refers to Kant's idea as a "Ptolemaic counter-revolution." He then goes on to argue that the only truly "non-transcendental"universe (ie one truly without a "God") is "utterly contingent"-- the only possible necessity being that everything is utter contingent. This is based on a radicalization of Humes induction problem....
. Meillassoux insists upon reading Hume’s problem as more than merely epistemological. In fact, Meillassoux goes so far as to claim – this assertion is absolutely central to Meillassouxian ontology – that the problem of induction is already its own solution. In other words, the impossibility of any purported law of nature being deemed via induction to be a necessary connection qua forever-unbreakable rule is a matter of ontological insight rather than epistemological ignorance. The combination of a realist rendition of the inductive-yetmathematised empirical sciences of nature with a related rendition of Hume’s problem of induction leads Meillassoux to advance an ontology (un-)grounded on the core idea of hyper-chaos, namely, the concept of the omnipotent power of a lawless contingency unconstrained by sufficient reasons as the sole necessity operative across the temporal expanse of existence. As hyper-chaotic, the being and beings of Meillassoux’s ontology can, at any time, possibly undergo an unimaginably large number of radical transformations deviating from past and present observed patterns of behaviour. ... ictionary/

These issues - how/why do categories of thought agree with the objects of experience? - is more prevalent among (more-subjectivist) continental thinkers, whereas Brit-American analytic/empiricist styles of philosophy just tend to assume (as Graham Harmon puts it )"a naive realism". But, like Jim, maybe you can still give it a go? :)

ETA: .. also, Graham Harmon's spin on 'realism' vs 'correlationism":
Speculative realism is best understood as a loose umbrella term
for a series of vastly different philosophical enterprises. What all
have in common is their rejection of what Quentin Meillassoux
first termed ‘correlationism’. Whereas realists assert the exist-
ence of a world independent of human thought and idealists deny
such an autonomous world, correlationism adopts an apparently
sophisticated intermediate position, in which human and world
come only as a pair and cannot be addressed outside their mutual
correlation. Accordingly, the dispute between realism and ideal-
ism is dismissed as a ‘pseudo-problem’. Inspired ultimately by
Immanuel Kant, correlationists are devoted to the human-world
correlate as the sole topic of philosophy, and this has become
the unspoken central dogma of all continental and much analytic
philosophy. Speculative realist thinkers oppose this credo (though
not always for the same reasons) and defend a realist stance
toward the world. But instead of endorsing a commonsensical,
middle-aged realism of boring hands and billiard balls existing
outside the mind, speculative realist philosophies are perplexed
by the strangeness of the real: a strangeness undetectable by the
instruments of common sense. ... uction.pdf

Re: Are Symbols "primary"?

Posted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:46 am
by Magritte
Interesting. I'll think about it over the weekend. Can't promise anything bc I have family visiting.

But on first blush - met, this school of thought seems so revanchist, parasitic. A case of Nietzschean ressentiment? One thinks of all the enamel lost in tooth-grinding at all the little seminars.

Re: Are Symbols "primary"?

Posted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:25 pm
by met
I think the main points in terms of the primacy of the symbolic are "realism vs. correlationism" and/or "empiricism vs rationalism"(eg the "conflict" between mathematics and biosciences) .... most of the rest is just for interesting .... :)

met, this school of thought seems so revanchist, parasitic. A case of Nietzschean ressentiment? One thinks of all the enamel lost in tooth-grinding at all the little seminars.
Perhaps that is more "correlationist" than you might like to admit? :? All these peeps, if you watch them in lectures, seem pleasant-enough sorts, and are very literate. (I suspect a lot of them might have attempted literary careers rather than academic ones in earlier ages, and Graham Harmon, in particular, I think, is quite a sharp writer who comes up with some memorable images....
: "... Objects can only be known indirectly. And this is not just the fate of humans — it’s the fate of everything. Fire burns cotton stupidly ..."
An i'll also mention, just to irk you, this interesting tidbit ....
My thesis has always been that Jung is both the precursor and the often unavowed source of much of French
post-structuralist thought ... Jung worked
for many years with Wolfgang Pauli, a leading quantum physicist, and we are only now catching up.
;) ... o=download