Apr 5, 2010

thank you, smith, for a lot more than you think

PHIL 115
Monday, April 5, 2010
Week 13 Lecture 1
The Philosophy of Philosophy: Thought About Thought
Fundamental Questions.
Things that are deeply familiar and woven into the day to day fabric of our existences.
Bringing them up to our attention, to make it seem odd/unfamiliar, that we have the beliefs that we do, such as ordinary assumptions about how I know there is a mug on the table, for example.
We make it problematic, by drawing the continuity of a person to our attention, for example. What accounts for this?
We take things for granted. Philosophizing = stepping back and making the familiar seem odd, seeking reasons for believing/justifications. Strategies for crafting the view of the world, how it is, and how it ought to be. Crafting a view of how we can find our significance/location in the world in which we are born into.
ie) Beliefs about a mug on the table = an ordinary belief is made odd, in seeking reasons for believing that. Beliefs can be ungrounded, such as the belief of the mug on the table.
We want to have views that are as objective as possible.
We take things to be embedded in our cognition/mode of approaching the world. The familiarity needs to be made to be seen as peculiar. Step back from your array of beliefs. Become objective. Have a standpoint from which we can scrutinize our own blind spots, and see around things that we have been forbidden from believing/seeing before.
ie) What does it look like from HERE, and then from HERE?
Our beliefs are ways of encountering and approaching the world, the other people, and the slot we see ourselves occupying in wider structures, that do actually depend on us.
Beliefs = navigating our way through the world, which includes an array of other people, with respect to whom we are free, and we have responsibilities to ourselves, but also to others outside ourselves.
We must be able to stand back and expose beliefs for scrutiny, since we are in the progress of crafting a worldview. But, the craft will never be over. You cannot take the “view from nowhere.” You have to take the view from “down here,” or “somewhere.” But, we can stand back from ourselves, and our beliefs/values, which guide our existence and track a path through the world, and wonder how that our beliefs are connected to their grounds.
How are beliefs connected to the reasons for believing them in the first place?
More objective = not absolute. We cannot take a God’s eye view/the “view from nowhere” or from the point of view of eternity.
But, we have the cognitive opportunity for adopting different standpoints/trying to see our way through/around various kinds of blind spots, that become apparent to us, if we bother to take a step back from our own beliefs, and wonder about how our beliefs ought to be connected to their groundings.
We have looked at many different competing world views. Some are mutually incompatible. For example, the view from Aristotle is different from the view from Kant.
We are not trying to impart information.
There is an array of information that must be transferred from Smith to us. They do have a picture/point of view of the world to offer us. Smith is the delivery man.
In years, months, or weeks, you will not remember a single thing about some of these world views.
The focus is not to impart particular bits of information about how these particular theories are put together.
Instead, we are trying to gain a more objective view of our own existences.
Why did Aristotle present his view from over there, for example? That’s what we’re trying to understand.
We’ve been wondering, regardless of the subject matter (moral or political philosophy, free will, knowledge, etc), why these people have been believing what they have been believing, and the grounding for their beliefs.
Philosophizing = not about what it is that our bits and pieces of theory that get imparted to us. It is interesting in its own right though, but it is interesting because of the wider way these things have reach outside themselves.
Aristotle is interesting in his own right, intrinsically, but what is more important is why he thought what he thought.
How do the bits and pieces needed to be fit together, to connect to their basis/ground, in some kind of more objective world that we can achieve?
We start out with ordinary/well-justified beliefs, or so you think, regarding what we ought to pursue regarding political goals, for example, and saying what we know, objectively speaking. We want a more objective anchoring point for our claims, to knowledge. These will guide us through our own existences.
We encounter, if we bother to think about it, while taking the outside/objective view, we wonder about how mine ought to connect to the grounds.
We must defamiliarize ourselves.
Take an ordinary example. Such as 6 of your favourite stores. Places you go to regularly. Places that are ordinary to go to.
Now, is there a step/door jam/etc in the entrance to the store? But, you won’t be able to answer this, most likely. But, there is an objective feature of the world, regarding the way the world is set up.
It is a feature to which you are blind because the standpoint in which you take in the world has not allowed you to encounter an objective point of view on this. If you are in a wheel chair, you may notice the door jam, but if you are able-bodied, you probably will not remember.
We encounter the world from the standpoint, but maybe we need to increase the number of standpoints to adopt, to understand the objective world more clearly.
Not about increasing the sum total of information, but about increasing the number of points of views.
To gain an objective point of view, we need to adopt different standpoints, to see our way through our various, cognitive blind spots.
Smith’s Episode of Personal Experience
Beer with a friend on a Sunday, 2 of them in a bar, having a quiet drink. People start pouring in. They were speaking different languages to each other. Interesting. People at the next table = what’s going on? They were people from Eastern-European defense ministries in Kingston. A conference regarding national defense policies. Newly gained independence, therefore a conference hosted by the RMC, regarding defense policies.
Woman who was from the Montenegro ministry. She had a neat job description. She was a professor of French and counter-espionage. They talked about political issues, and the way they wanted to find their feet in crafting a defense policy.
Political issues, problems, etc.
“If only we could do something about the Jewish conspiracy.”
She is in a position of responsibility. This was a kind of particular, cognitive approach to the world. Built in this point of view, the woman’s, is the conspiracy of the Jews.
At that stage, Smith left in disgust.
Maybe this was an episode of moral cowardice. Perhaps he should have stuck around to see whether by imparting some information/facts, he might have been able to do away with her perverted beliefs of the woman who was in a position of real policy making, who will influence many people. Maybe Smith should have tried to impart more information/facts.
But, sometimes information is not needed/more facts are not needed/won’t do the trick,in getting us to a better cognitive approach to the world.
There are many cases in which information doesn’t change anybody’s mind. A larger number of facts is not going to penetrate into a person’s cognition. In a cognition, there is a part of it that prohibits certain facts. ie) Smith not wanting to believe in a Jewish conspiracy theory.
The importance of philosophizing in the first place.
You have an opportunity for seeing the world more objectively, not from the absolute perspective/hypothetical God’s eye view/view from nowhere. But, we can afford ourselves strategies/modes of thinking that take our own familiar beliefs/attitudes towards each other, equipped with blind spots, and seeing whether the view from somewhere else will give us a better way to connecting/seeing the way things actually stand. Increased objectivity.  Between the absolute and the arbitrary. You stand between these 2, trying to dance around the various features of our own cognition.
Connection of mind and world.
Crafting a worldview.
Crafting the “view from here,” but the best possible “view from here.” It will be biased, always.
The trick/matter of the work in progress that we are delivered by our strategies of philosophizing, isn’t trying to get rid of bias, but to find the right, maximally coherent bias/angle of approach, that will allow us to connect mind and world, without any human presence in it. Figure out how we ought to believe. How we ought to believe is a story about how we are going to guide our lives in the first place.
This is the real root/origin of human freedom, in the first place.
If we are to be free, we are free to take a kind of attitude that wonders about the connection between mind and world. We are free to believe, but within constraints.
Constraints of reason, argument, giving grounds for what we take to be true, and telling a tale about why it is that we believe these beliefs. Exposing them to scrutiny/pressures/thought experiments/factual concepts. Putting pressure upon ourselves/what we find in our own cognitive encounter with the world.
This is not an exercise in unpacking the intrinsic interests.
But, there is a great deal of pressing importance which rides on how we are going freely as an expression of our autonomy, to bind ourselves to kinds of rational constraints, which bind us to a certain sort of connection between thought/mind and world.
The constraints must be constraints of rationality/good grounds. “We can’t just believe stuff. We have to believe stuff for good reasons.” Not just to navigate the environment, but to live well.
Philosophy begins in wonderment at the natural world, and the human world, and the way we set ourselves up, and the way we have obligations to one another.
This is astonishing and amazing.
Philosophy beings in amazement.
It issues in an objective view of ourselves, and amore objective world about how it is that mind and world, not just can be connected, but ought to be connected.
Who is it that we want to be/become?
This is outside of our hands. But, it’s also within our own control, if we are to be autonomous, rational creatures. We want to connect our beliefs to the grounds/reasons that there are for thinking as we do.
This is important/a crucial task, when we wonder about our cognitive approach to the world.
A lot rides on the way in which we live up to our responsibilities.
How the world ought to be.
Believe rightly, and live well.

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