Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It exists! Speculative Realism: An Epitome in printed form


Wow! Kismet Press did a wonderful job with this - in fact my wife said it was "beautiful."

What I like is how the book is that "soft" squishy material; especially the cover which just feels good in your hands.  It is small and portable and fun - or as Na said, "a pocket book."

My ruling: small and portable; feels extremely good in the hands. A "fun" book to carry around because it is so small yet packs a punch with some very dense philosophy inside. I am very, very impressed with how this turned out.  Thanks so much to Kismet Press for accomplishing such a quality job with my book: the design, the materials, everything just works. Perfect!

Speculative Realism: An Epitome out now (open access online, in print, and ebook)

Amazon link HERE (paperback just $12.50) or freely available to read online HERE. Preview the .pdf (3MB) HERE.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dewey on mind and nature

I remember in graduate school speaking with another student who was perplexed but also frustrated as to what "experience" might mean for philosophers such as William James and John Dewey.  These two philosophers in particular seem to use the term quite abit, nearly so much so that one might be suspicious that it is a sort of "duct tape" within their philosophy.  "What is experience, afterall?" - one might ask.  Trying to figure that out has been a cottage industry for those who read James and Dewey and then publish something informative about it.

In our Dewey reading group we've been looking at (tangentially at least) the book John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy.  There it is explained how, while the term "experience" is indeed vague, it is left vague by Dewey almost intentionally.  What function is the term supposed to serve?

For starters, in naturalistic register Dewey is concerned with softening anthropocentric conceptions of what "experience" might mean.  For as phenomenological as the notion might be (i.e. "qualitative"), it is not necessarily human for it exceeds what is human.  Like James, mind and nature, or better, the appropriation of nature as experience, occurs "as an activity."  In this, perception, habit-taking, and the activity of the organism are at the forefront.  Thus it is an embodied but also enacted theory of perception.  Whatever experience is it is what an organism does.  Like in Merleau-Ponty, there is no strict division then between subject and object, creature and environment, or even "inner as well as outer."  From a metaphysical point of view experience consists not of just what or how something is experienced (phenomenologically), but also consists of a non-phenomenological, liminal "total experience" which is either before or at the fringes of consciousness.  (Think of Dewey's "Reflex Arc" essay for example.)  And so it is not to impugn consciousnesses or mind upon nature but to see mind and nature as mixed, continuous, or even as inseparable - the two being part of an indivisive nature that separates either term only "after the fact."  Again, this is nothing new: James, Dewey, Merleau-Ponty all have maintained such a notion of "body-mind," that is, they have maintained the inseparability of experience and nature.  But what I think is novel in Dewey is how this sort of thinking is used (or can be used) to empower environmental ethics.  He writes, for example, "Experience is of as well as in nature. It is not experience which is experienced but nature - stones, plants, animals, diseases, health, temperature, electricity, and so on."

What we find is that while the term "experience" is vague, it does much to break down barriers supposed between body and mind or qualitative consciousness and the natural world.  As Dewey employs the term, nature itself becomes "panexperiential" in the sense that whatever "experience" is, it is not limited to humans.  In terms of environmental ethics, or more specifically animal ethics, the term, despite its ambiguity, has a one-up on something like "sentience" as found in Peter Singer as "experience" does not bring to mind the sort of pitfalls associated with conceptual or rational consciousness that "sentience" might.  And so it is one thing to think of plants as capable of experiencing something and another to think of them as "sentient."

In the end the term "experience" as it functions in Dewey's writing reminds us of the interconnection between organism and environment, and indeed that the qualitative dimension of the natural world is not something unique or specific to human beings.  In fact, if anything, Dewey's "experience" reminds us that perhaps we have the duty to speculate upon non-human forms of experience that may or may not be like human consciousness.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Jane Bennett “Life, Intensities, Outside Influences” mp3 audio from New Materialisms: Emergence or Panpsychism? Villanova University 3/25/17

Well, I was pretty speechless after listening to Jane Bennett's talk yesterday. To say it was horrible would be an understatement. To be honest, I was quite let down not only by her ineptitude but was astonished by the sheer lack of any real argument. She was woefully ignorant of the philosophers she name-dropped and at one point (probably after seeing the disgust on my face) she just begged off by stating to the audience that she “is not a philosopher.”

I heard for years that she was a big deal, and would always read gushing reviews and mentions of her work on SR blogs, but personally I never could see what all the fuss was about. Her Vibrant Matter did not read at all like philosophy to me (no arguments, just a lot of hand-waiving). But after yesterday I came to conclusively see that what she offers is mostly a sham. It was very, very sad. (I didn't even bother to stay for Q & A because other than being able to see some of my former students beforehand I wasted a two hour drive expecting to hear something of quality – but boy was I let down). What a total joke.

 Moreover, her explanation of Whitehead was miserable (and incorrect), and if she is somehow magically associated with speculative realism“retroactively” or associated with it simply due to some “warm reception” had by SR of her work then I really can't see how or why or why she'd even be included in any serious survey of SR if one wants to maintain any kind of philosophical seriousness, rigor, or integrity. She had no idea what she was talking about – and sadly the students picked up on that.

I was actually embarrassed for her.

You can find the audio in the After Nature mp3 downloads section.

Speculative Realism: An Epitome available this coming Tuesday, March 28th

Free ebook online will be available and paperback is just $12.50, which is an extremely competitive price. Kindle version is just $5.00. After Nature readers who would like a review copy of paperback please get in touch.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looking forward to hearing talks by Jane Bennett and Evan Thompson today

It was great also to catch up with some of my former students from West Chester as well who had suggested that I attend today. Not sure if we'll stay for the whole thing but we'll see. Regardless, if I can, I hope to record the talks and/or blog about any interesting points that might come up.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain", or, Dewey, Merleau-Ponty, and Embodied Cognition

THIS article in Scientific American reaffirms the connection I see between Dewey and Ponty on the notion of embodied cognition and just how fruitful it is to read these two philosophers together - especially Dewey's "Reflex Arc" essay from 1896 and Ponty's The Structure of Behavior (1942).

See also Ted Toadvine's reworked SEP entry on Ponty HERE which does seem to pick up upon such an important connection between these two great philosophers (as of 2016, replacing the former entry written by a different author).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

follow After Nature blog by email

If you don't use a feed-reader (like Feedly, for example) After Nature now has an email sign-up feature where you can enter your email address and receive once per day (or to whatever setting you'd like - weekly, bi-weekly, however you'd like) email updates notifying that a new post has appeared.

Just FYI for those who'd like nature philosophy delivered directly to their inbox!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"The Truth Behind the Myth of Correlationism" (Three Pound Brain blog)

Repeat: disco is dead, and so is correlationism.

The Truth Behind the Myth of Correlationism
// Three Pound Brain

A wrong turn lies hidden in the human cultural code, an error that has scuttled our every attempt to understand consciousness and cognition. So much philosophical activity reeks of dead ends: we try and we try, and yet we find ourselves mired in the same ancient patterns of disputation. The majority of thinkers believe the problem is local, that they need only tinker with the tools they've inherited. They soldier on, arguing that this or that innovative modification will overcome our confusion. Some, however, believe the problem lies deeper. I'm one of those thinkers, as is Meillassoux. I think the solution lies in speculation bound to the hip of modern science, in something I call 'heuristic neglect.' For me, the wrong turn lies in the application of intentional cognition to solve the theoretical problem of intentional cognition. Meillassoux thinks it lies in what he calls 'correlationism.'

Since I've been accused of 'correlationism' on a couple of occasions now, I thought it worthwhile tackling the issue in more detail. This will not be an institutional critique a la Golumbia's, who manages to identify endless problems with Meillassoux's presentation, while somehow entirely missing his skeptical point: once cognition becomes artifactual, it becomes very… very difficult to understand. Cognitive science is itself fractured about Meillassoux's issue.

What follows will be a constructive critique, an attempt to explain the actual problem underwriting what Meillassoux calls 'correlationism,' and why his attempt to escape that problem simply collapses into more interminable philosophy. The problem that artifactuality poses to the understanding of cognition is very real, and it also happens to fall into the wheelhouse of Heuristic Neglect Theory (HNT). For those souls growing disenchanted with Speculative Realism, but unwilling to fall back into the traditional bosom, I hope to show that HNT not only offers the radical break with tradition that Meillassoux promises, it remains inextricably bound to the details of this, the most remarkable age.

What is correlationism? The experts explain:

Correlation affirms the indissoluble primacy of the relation between thought and its correlate over the metaphysical hypostatization or representational reification of either term of the relation. Correlationism is subtle: it never denies that our thoughts or utterances aim at or intend mind-independent or language-independent realities; it merely stipulates that this apparently independent dimension remains internally related to thought and language. Thus contemporary correlationism dismisses the problematic of scepticism, and or epistemology more generally, as an antiquated Cartesian hang-up: there is supposedly no problem about how we are able to adequately represent reality; since we are 'always already' outside ourselves and immersed in or engaging with the world (and indeed, this particular platitude is constantly touted as the great Heideggerean-Wittgensteinian insight). Note that correlationism need not privilege "thinking" or "consciousness" as the key relation—it can just as easily replace it with "being-in-the-world," "perception," "sensibility," "intuition," "affect," or even "flesh." Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 51

By 'correlation' we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other. We will henceforth call correlationism any current of thought which maintains the unsurpassable character of the correlation so defined. Consequently, it becomes possible to say that every philosophy which disavows naive realism has become a variant of correlationism. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 5

Correlationism rests on an argument as simple as it is powerful, and which can be formulated in the following way: No X without givenness of X, and no theory about X without a positing of X. If you speak about something, you speak about something that is given to you, and posited by you. Consequently, the sentence: 'X is', means: 'X is the correlate of thinking' in a Cartesian sense. That is: X is the correlate of an affection, or a perception, or a conception, or of any subjective act. To be is to be a correlate, a term of a correlation . . . That is why it is impossible to conceive an absolute X, i.e., an X which would be essentially separate from a subject. We can't know what the reality of the object in itself is because we can't distinguish between properties which are supposed to belong to the object and properties belonging to the subjective access to the object. Quentin Meillassoux,"Time without Becoming"

The claim of correlationism is the corollary of the slogan that 'nothing is given' to understanding: everything is mediated. Once knowing becomes an activity, then the objects insofar as they are known become artifacts in some manner: reception cannot be definitively sorted from projection and as a result no knowledge can be said to be absolute. We find ourselves trapped in the 'correlationist circle,' trapped in artifactual galleries, never able to explain the human-independent reality we damn well know exists. Since all cognition is mediated, all cognition is conditional somehow, even our attempts (or perhaps, especially our attempts) to account for those conditions. Any theory unable to decisively explain objectivity is a theory that cannot explain cognition. Ergo, correlationism names a failed (cognitivist) philosophical endeavour.

It's a testament to the power of labels in philosophy, I think, because as Meillassoux himself acknowledges there's nothing really novel about the above sketch. Explaining the 'cognitive difference' was my dissertation project back in the 90's, after all, and as smitten as I was with my bullshit solution back then, I didn't think the problem itself was anything but ancient. Given this whole website is dedicated to exploring and explaining consciousness and cognition, you could say it remains my project to this very day! One of the things I find so frustrating about the 'critique of correlationism' is that the real problem—the ongoing crisis—is the problem of meaning. If correlationism fails because correlationism cannot explain cognition, then the problem of correlationism is an expression of a larger problem, the problem of cognition—or in other words, the problem of intentionality.

Why is the problem of meaning an ongoing crisis? In the past six fiscal years, from 2012 to 2017, the National Institute of Health will have spent more than 113 billion dollars funding research bent on solving some corner of the human soul. [1] And this is just one public institution in one nation involving health related research. If you include the cognitive sciences more generally—research into everything from consumer behaviour to AI—you could say that solving the human soul commands more resources than any other domain in history. The reason all this money is being poured into the sciences rather than philosophy departments is that the former possesses real world consequences: diseases cured, soap sold, politicians elected. As someone who tries to keep up with developments in Continental philosophy, I already find the disconnect stupendous, how whole populations of thinkers continue discoursing as if nothing significant has changed, bitching about traditional cutlery in the shadow of the cognitive scientific tsunami.

Part of the popularity of the critique of correlationism derives from anxieties regarding the growing overlap of the sciences of the human and the humanities. All thinkers self-consciously engaged in the critique of correlationism reference scientific knowledge as a means of discrediting correlationist thought, but as far as I can tell, the project has done very little to bring the science, what we're actually learning about consciousness and cognition, to the fore of philosophical debates. Even worse, the notion of mental and/or neural mediation is actually central to cognitive science. What some neuroscientists term 'internal models,' which monolopolize our access to ourselves and the world, is nothing if not a theoretical correlation of environments and cognition, trapping us in models of models. The very science that Meillassoux thinks argues against correlationism in one context, explicitly turns on it in another. The mediation of knowledge is the domain of cognitive science—full stop. A naturalistic understanding of cognition is a biological understanding is an artifactual understanding: this is why the upshot of cognitive science is so often skeptical, prone to further diminish our traditional (if not instinctive) hankering for unconditioned knowledge—to reveal it as an ancestral conceit

A kind of arche-fossil.

If an artifactual approach to cognition is doomed to misconstrue cognition, then cognitive science is a doomed enterprise. Despite the vast sums of knowledge accrued, the wondrous and fearsome social instrumentalities gained, knowledge itself will remain inexplicable. What we find lurking in the bones of Meillassoux's critique, in other words, is precisely the same commitment to intentional exceptionality we find in all traditional philosophy, the belief that the subject matter of traditional philosophical disputation lies beyond the pale of scientific explanation… that despite the cognitive scientific tsunami, traditional intentional speculation lies secure in its ontological bunkers.

Only more philosophy, Meillassoux thinks, can overcome the 'scandal of philosophy.' But how is mere opinion supposed to provide bona fide knowledge of knowledge? Speculation on mathematics does nothing to ameliorate this absurdity: even though paradigmatic of objectivity, mathematics remains as inscrutable as knowledge itself. Perhaps there is some sense to be found in the notion of interrogating/theorizing objects in a bid to understand objectivity (cognition), but given what we now know regarding our cognitive shortcomings in low-information domains, we can be assured that 'object-oriented' approaches will bog down in disputation.

I just don't know how to make the 'critique of correlationism' workable, short ignoring the very science it takes as its motivation, or just as bad, subordinating empirical discoveries to some school of 'fundamental ontological' speculation. If you're willing to take such a leap of theoretical faith, you can be assured that no one in the vicinity of cognitive science will take it with you—and that you will make no difference in the mad revolution presently crashing upon us.

We know that knowledge is somehow an artifact of neural function—full stop. Meillassoux is quite right to say this renders the objectivity of knowledge very difficult to understand. But why think the problem lies in presuming the artifactual nature of cognition?—especially now that science has begun reverse-engineering that nature in earnest! What if our presumption of artifactuality weren't so much the problem, as the characterization? What if the problem isn't that cognitive science is artifactual so much as how it is?

After all, we've learned a tremendous amount about this how in the past decades: the idea of dismissing all this detail on the basis of a priori guesswork seems more than a little suspect. The track record would suggest extreme caution. As the boggling scale of the cognitive scientific project should make clear, everything turns on the biological details of cognition. We now know, for instance, that the brain employs legions of special purpose devices to navigate its environments. We know that cognition is thoroughly heuristic, that it turns on cues, bits of available information statistically correlated to systems requiring solution.

Most all systems in our environment shed information enabling the prediction of subsequent behaviours absent the mechanical particulars of that information. The human brain is exquisitely tuned to identify and exploit the correlation of information available and subsequent behaviours. The artifactuality of biology is an evolutionary one, and as such geared to the thrifty solution of high impact problems. To say that cognition (animal or human) is heuristic is to say it's organized according to the kinds of problems our ancestors needed to solve, and not according to those belonging to academics. Human cognition consists of artifactualities, subsystems dedicated to certain kinds of problem ecologies. Moreover, it consists of artifactualities selected to answer questions quite different from those posed by philosophers.

These two facts drastically alter the landscape of the apparent problem posed by 'correlationism.' We have ample theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that mechanistic cognition and intentional cognition comprise two quite different cognitive regimes, the one dedicated to explanation via high-dimensional (physical) sourcing, the other dedicated to explanation absent that sourcing. As an intentional phenomena, objectivity clearly belongs to the latter. Mechanistic cognition, meanwhile, is artifactual. What if it's the case that 'objectivity' is the turn of a screw in a cognitive system selected to solve in the absence of artifactual information? Since intentional cognition turns on specific cues to leverage solutions, and since those cues appear sufficient (to be the only game in town where that behaviour is concerned), the high-dimensional sourcing of that same behavior generates a philosophical crash space—and a storied one at that! What seems sourceless and self-evident becomes patently impossible.

Short magic, cognitive systems possess the environmental relationships they do thanks to super-complicated histories of natural and neural selection—evolution and learning. Let's call this their orientation, understood as the nonintentional ('zombie') correlate of 'perspective.' The human brain is possibly the most complex thing we know of in the universe (a fact which should render any theory of the human neglecting that complexity suspect). Our cognitive systems, in other words, possess physically intractable orientations. How intractable? Enough that billions of dollars in research has merely scratched the surface.

Any capacity to cognize this relationship will perforce be radically heuristic, which is to say, provide a means to solve some critical range of problems—a problem ecology—absent natural historical information. The orientation heuristically cognized, of course, is the full-dimensional relationship we actually possess, only hacked in ways that generate solutions (repetitions of behaviour) while neglecting the physical details of that relationship.

Most significantly, orientation neglects the dimension of mediation: thought and perception (whatever they amount to) are thoroughly blind to their immediate sources. This cognitive blindness to the activity of cognition, or medial neglect, amounts to a gross insensitivity to our physical continuity with our environments, the fact that we break no thermodynamic laws. Our orientation, in other words, is characterized by a profound, structural insensitivity to its own constitution—its biological artifactuality, among other things. This auto-insensitivity, not surprisingly, includes insensitivity to the fact of this insensitivity, and thus the default presumption of sufficiency. Specialized sensitivities are required to flag insufficiencies, after all, and like all biological devices, they do not come for free. Not only are we blind to our position within the superordinate systems comprising nature, we're blind to our blindness, and so, unable to distinguish table-scraps from a banquet, we are duped into affirming inexplicable spontanieties.

'Truth' belongs to our machinery for communicating (among other things) the sufficiency of iterable orientations within superordinate systems given medial neglect. You could say it's a way to advertise clockwork positioning (functional sufficiency) absent any inkling of the clock. 'Objectivity,' the term denoting the supposed general property of being true apart from individual perspectives, is a deliberative contrivance derived from practical applications of 'truth'—the product of 'philosophical reflection.' The problem with objectivity as a phenomenon (as opposed to 'objectivity' as a component of some larger cognitive articulation) is that the sufficiency of iterable orientations within superordinate systems is always a contingent affair. Whether 'truth' occasions sufficiency is always an open question, since the system provides, at best, a rough and ready way to communicate and/or troubleshoot orientation. Unpredictable events regularly make liars of us all. The notion of facts 'being true' absent the mediation of human cognition, 'objectivity,' also provides a rough and ready way to communicate and/or troubleshoot orientation in certain circumstances. We regularly predict felicitous orientations without the least sensitivity to their artifactual nature, absent any inkling how their pins lie in intractable high-dimensional coincidences between buzzing brains. This insensitivity generates the illusion of absolute orientation, a position outside natural regularities—a 'view from nowhere.' We are a worm in the gut of nature convinced we possess disembodied eyes. And so long as the consequences of our orientations remain felicitous, our conceit need not be tested. Our orientations might as well 'stand nowhere' absent cognition of their limits.

Thus can 'truth' and 'objectivity' be naturalized and their peculiarities explained.

The primary cognitive moral here is that lacking information has positive cognitive consequences, especially when it comes to deliberative metacognition, our attempts to understand our nature via philosophical reflection alone. Correlationism evidences this in a number of ways.

As soon as the problem of cognition is characterized as the problem of thought and being, it becomes insoluble. Intentional cognition is heuristic: it neglects the nature of the systems involved, exploiting cues correlated to the systems requiring solution instead. The application of intentional cognition to theoretical explanation, therefore, amounts to the attempt to solve natures using a system adapted to neglect natures. A great deal of traditional philosophy is dedicated to the theoretical understanding of cognition via intentional idioms—via applications of intentional cognition. Thus the morass of disputation. We presume that specialized problem-solving systems possess general application. Lacking the capacity to cognize our inability to cognize the theoretical nature of cognition, we presume sufficiency. Orientation, the relation between neural systems and their proximal and distal environments—between two systems of objects—becomes perspective, the relation between subjects (or systems of subjects) and systems of objects (environments). If one conflates the manifest artifactual nature of orientation for the artifactual nature of perspective (subjectivity), then objectivity itself becomes a subjective artifact, and therefore nothing objective at all. Since orientation characterizes our every attempt to solve for cognition, conflating it with perspective renders perspective inescapable, and objectivity all but inexplicable. Thus the crash space of traditional epistemology.

Now I know from hard experience that the typical response to the picture sketched above is to simply insist on the conflation of orientation and perspective, to assert that my position, despite its explanatory power, simply amounts to more of the same, another perspectival Klein Bottle distinctive only for its egregious 'scientism.' Only my intrinsically intentional perspective, I am told, allows me to claim that such perspectives are metacognitive artifacts, a consequence of medial neglect. But asserting perspective before orientation on the basis of metacognitive intuitions alone not only begs the question, it also beggars explanation, delivering the project of cognizing cognition to never-ending disputation—an inability to even formulate explananda, let alone explain anything. This is why I like asking intentionalists how many centuries of theoretical standstill we should expect before that oft advertised and never delivered breakthrough finally arrives. The sin Meillassoux attributes to correlationism, the inability to explain cognition, is really just the sin belonging to intentional philosophy as a whole. Thanks to medial neglect, metcognition,  blind to both its sources and its source blindness, insists we stand outside nature. Tackling this intuition with intentional idioms leaves our every attempt to rationalize our connection underdetermined, a matter of interminable controversy. The Scandal dwells on eternal.

I think orientation precedes perspective—and obviously so, having watched loved ones dismantled by brain disease. I think understanding the role of neglect in orientation explains the peculiarities of perspective, provides a parsimonious way to understand the apparent first-person in terms of the neglect structure belonging to the third. There's no problem with escaping the dream tank and touching the world simply because there's no ontological distinction between ourselves and the cosmos. We constitute a small region of a far greater territory, the proximal attuned to the distal. Understanding the heuristic nature of 'truth' and 'objectivity,' I restrict their application to adaptive problem-ecologies, and simply ask those who would turn them into something ontologically exceptional why they would trust low-dimensional intuitions over empirical data, especially when those intuitions pretty much guarantee perpetual theoretical underdetermination. Far better trust to our childhood presumptions of truth and reality, in the practical applications of these idioms, than in any one of the numberless theoretical misapplications 'discovering' this trust fundamentally (as opposed to situationally) 'naïve.'

The cognitive difference, what separates the consequences of our claims, has never been about 'subjectivity' versus 'objectivity,' but rather intersystematicity, the integration of ever-more sensitive orientations possessing ever more effectiveness into the superordinate systems encompassing us all. Physically speaking, we've long known that this has to be the case. Short actual difference making differences, be they photons striking our retinas or compression waves striking our eardrums or so on, no difference is made. Even Meillassoux acknowledges the necessity of physical contact. What we've lacked is a way of seeing how our apparently immediate intentional intuitions, be they phenomenological, ontological, or normative, fit into this high-dimensional—physical—picture.

Heuristic Neglect Theory not only provides this way, it also explains why it has proven so elusive over the centuries. HNT explains the wrong turn mentioned above. The question of orientation immediately cues the systems our ancestors developed to circumvent medial neglect. Solving for our behaviourally salient environmental relationships, in other words, automatically formats the problem in intentional terms. The automaticity of the application of intentional cognition renders it apparently 'self-evident.'

The reason the critique of correlationism and speculative realism suffer all the problems of underdetermination their proponents attribute to correlationism is that they take this very same wrong turn. How is Meillassoux's 'hyper-chaos,' yet another adventure in a priori speculation, anything more than another pebble tossed upon the heap of traditional disputation? Novelty alone recommends them. Otherwise they leave us every bit as mystified, every bit as unable to accommodate the torrent of relevant scientific findings, and therefore every bit as irrelevant to the breathtaking revolutions even now sweeping us and our traditions out to sea. Like the traditions they claim to supersede, they peddle cognitive abjection, discursive immobility, in the guise of fundamental insight.

Theoretical speculation is cheap, which is why it's so frightfully easy to make any philosophical account look bad. All you need do is start worrying definitions, then let the conceptual games begin. This is why the warrant of any account is always a global affair, why the power of Evolutionary Theory, for example, doesn't so much lie in the immunity of its formulations to philosophical critique, but in how much it explains on nature's dime alone. The warrant of Heuristic Neglect Theory likewise turns on the combination of parsimony and explanatory power.

Anyone arguing that HNT necessarily presupposes some X, be it ontological or normative, is simply begging the question. Doesn't HNT presuppose the reality of intentional objectivity? Not at all. HNT certainly presupposes applications of intentional cognition, which, given medial neglect, philosophers pose as functional or ontological realities. On HNT, a theory can be true even though, high-dimensionally speaking, there is no such thing as truth. Truth talk possesses efficacy in certain practical problem-ecologies, but because it participates in solving something otherwise neglected, namely the superordinate systematicity of orientations, it remains beyond the pale of intentional resolution.

Even though sophisticated critics of eliminativism acknowledge the incoherence of the tu quoque, I realize this remains a hard twist for many (if not most) to absorb, let alone accept. But this is exactly as it should be, both insofar as something has to explain why isolating the wrong turn has proven so stupendously difficult, and because this is precisely the kind of trap we should expect, given the heuristic and fractionate nature of human cognition. 'Knowledge' provides a handle on the intersection of vast, high-dimensional histories, a way to manage orientations without understanding the least thing about them. To know knowledge, we will come to realize, is to know there is no such thing, simply because 'knowing' is a resolutely practical affair, almost certainly inscrutable to intentional cognition. When you're in the intentional mode, this statement simply sounds preposterous—I know it once struck me as such! It's only when you appreciate how far your intuitions have strayed from those of your childhood, back when your only applications of intentional cognition were practical, that you can see the possibility of a more continuous, intersystematic way to orient ourselves to the cosmos. There was a time before you wandered into the ancient funhouse of heuristic misapplication, when you could not distinguish between your perspective and your orientation. HNT provides a theoretical way to recover that time and take a radically different path.

As a bona fide theory of cognition, HNT provides a way to understand our spectacular inability to understand ourselves. HNT can explain 'aporia.' The metacognitive resources recruited for the purposes of philosophical reflection possess alarm bells—sensitivities to their own limits—relevant only to their ancestral applications. The kinds of cognitive apories (crash spaces) characterizing traditional philosophy are precisely those we might expect, given the sudden ability to exercise specialized metacognitive resources out of school, to apply, among other things, the problem-solving power of intentional cognition to the question of intentional cognition.

As a bona fide theory of cognition, HNT bears as much on artificial cognition as on biological cognition, and as such, can be used to understand and navigate the already radical and accelerating transformation of our cognitive ecologies. HNT scales, from the subpersonal to the social, and this means that HNT is relevant to the technological madness of the now.

As a bona fide empirical theory, HNT, unlike any traditional theory of intentionality, will be sorted. Either science will find that metacognition actually neglects information in the ways I propose, or it won't. Either science will find this neglect possesses the consequences I theorize, or it won't. Nothing exceptional and contentious is required. With our growing understanding of the brain and consciousness comes a growing understanding of information access and processing capacity—and the neglect structures that fall out of them. The human brain abounds in bottlenecks, none of which are more dramatic than consciousness itself.

Cognition is biomechanical. The 'correlation of thought and being,' on my account, is the correlation of being and being. The ontology of HNT is resolutely flat. Once we understand that we only glimpse as much of our orientations as our ancestors required for reproduction, and nothing more, we can see that 'thought,' whatever it amounts to, is material through and through.

The evidence of this lies strewn throughout the cognitive wreckage of speculation, the alien crash site of philosophy.



[1] This includes, in addition to the neurosciences proper, research into Basic Behavioral and Social Science (8.597 billion), Behavioral and Social Science (22.515 billion), Brain Disorders (23.702 billion), Mental Health (13.699 billion), and Neurodegenerative (10.183 billion). https://report.nih.gov/categorical_spending.aspx 21/01/2017



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Complete recordings of Dreyfus's Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception Lectures

On YouTube, although give that Tripp Fuller's Caputo mp3 website is currently down (not sure what happened - I did download the Caputo Phenomenology of Perception seminar lectures in case anyone wants them), it might be prudent to grab these Dreyfus lectures and convert to mp3 just in case while they last.  I'll embed the playlist below.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Conference: Between Metaphysics, Aesthetics, and Religion (April 19-20, 2017)


International Symposium in honour of William Desmond
April 19-20, 2017
KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Metaphysics has gotten a bad rep throughout the last decades. This ancient practice is thought to be not simply archaic as the systematic interrelationship of concepts that fails to understand the twists and turns of the human condition, but also hegemonic, oppressive and just plain wrong. As a result of this point of view, most philosophers abstain from providing a comprehensive and overarching account of such things as being, religion, art and ethics.

Wiliam Desmond
One vocal opponent of this evolution is William Desmond. In his works, he draws on various past traditions and current insights so as to argue that metaphysics does not belong to a dim and distant past. Instead, human beings find themselves always in the midst, or 'between', in terms of standing porous in the grand pageant of existence. From that perspective, one can speak intelligibly about the intimate strangeness of being in all its aspects. 'Metaxology' is the key-term of Desmond's philosophy, which is a way of doing philosophy in the 'between'. Central to this style of philosophizing is a 'porosity' to an 'overdeterminacy', in terms of a surplus to (self)determinate being, that resists 'univocal' or 'dialectical' (self)mediation, which in turn engenders a 'perplexity' towards such a 'surd' to determination. The task of metaxological philosophy is then to stay faithful to what exceeds univocalizing thought by allowing reflection to hyperbolically (i.e. to 'be thrown beyond') transcend itself for a metaphysical account of being. Central to metaxological philosophy is then a profound engagement with being (metaphysics), being good/beautiful (ethics and aesthetics) and absolute being (religion). Among the many thought-provoking features of metaxology, there are two that merit special mention since they go against the grain of postmodern philosophy. On the one hand, metaxology cultivates a community in which there is an open dialectics between being, goodness, beauty and absolute being; on the other hand, metaxology does not shun a metaphysical account of that open dialectics, in which porosity between being receptive (porosity) and being active (thought) is of central importance. Needless to say, most of postmodern philosophy prefers to separate being, goodness, beauty and absolute being into their respective domains.

This symposium is dedicated to clarifying, testing and applying metaxological philosophy with regard to metaphysics, aesthetics and religion. The keynote speakers are companions of Desmond's philosophy and, although critical of many aspects, appreciative of the stubborn tenacity of metaphysical questions. These include: Richard Kearney, John Milbank, Jack Caputo, Cyril O'Regan, Christoph Schmidt, and Sander Griffioen.
Important links:

"Monologue: Not to Brag, But I’m Totally Intellectual Enough to Be Brutally Murdered By Fascists" (McSweeney's article)

This so applies to those annual barely-looked-over-before-posting mega .pdf online journals run by fourth year Ph.D. students and ABDs. Anything at all to shout "We're important!" at cost of actual respectable, peer-reviewed *quality* work.

Monologue: Not to Brag, But I'm Totally Intellectual Enough to Be Brutally Murdered By Fascists
// McSweeney's

I don't mean to sound conceited, but my obvious mental acuity makes me an easy target for some autocratic tyrant's curb-stomping goon squad.

What I'm saying is if a ruthless dictator were to strong-arm his way into the White House and decree that intellectuals be exterminated lest they pose a threat to the ruling fascist regime, I would, like, totally be murdered. I mean look at me! I'm an adjunct professor at Florida State University!
Sure, technically I'm a part-time lecturer and not a professor, but seeing as how no one in my family gets that, a roving gang of far-right street thugs won't request my full job title and last pay stub before bashing in my skull with a mini-bat.

So what if my brother-in-law the auto mechanic can afford to take his family on vacation and doesn't have to subsist on day-old bread for the summer? I bet a fascist will never try to crush his windpipe.
When you think about it, I might be the only one intellectual enough at FSU to pose a real threat to an autocratic administration. I'm certainly the most murderable person on this campus. Way more murderable than my goody two-shoed colleague, Jennifer.

In a sense, I can understand why they would want to kill me. The fascists likely would have a dossier of my many pointed comments on The Atlantic's website, or they would dig up a receipt from my recent $32 contribution to the ACLU as evidence that I am a cerebral force of powerful dissent and must be neutralized. Or maybe they'd murder me just because of my sharp-looking, clear-framed eyewear.

It's easy to imagine how the fascists would come for me. Jackbooted stormtroopers would descend upon the university, scanning the student body for the best and brightest FSU has to offer, only to find yours truly as worthy of their ire. They'd probably look right past Jennifer even though she was recently asked by the university to come on full-time. Instead they'd track me down in my office of the main campus in a basement of the engineering building annex. Or if it's a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday evening, the on-campus Starbucks where I sometimes hold office hours. Then they'd pluck me out of the crowd and pound my smart face and brain into ground chuck before hauling me away to a black site prison.

The fascist's would choose ME! I mean, wow! Wouldn't it be truly something?
I mean, scary. Yeah, of course — it would be a scary vision of the possible future of America.
All I'm saying is, if fascists wanted to kill us intellectuals, I don't think Jennifer would have to worry. She doesn't even wear glasses!

Anyway, getting back to that horrifying vision — the fascists would probably scream something like, "You look like you should hold a tenure-track position. Come with us!" Or, "If only the FSU employment search committee could see you now!" Maybe they would say it loud enough for everyone to hear. Who knows?

Then I'd be dragged through the quad as onlookers, possibly including Little Miss Full-Time Faculty, stood powerless to do anything other than silently agree that I am their intellectual superior.
I wonder if I'm smart enough to be buried alive in an unmarked grave?

Maybe they'd even tie a rope to my feet and drag my corpse through the street as a warning to agitators! Everyone would see it, even my brother-in-law. "That guy must have been way smart to get all this! I guess he wasn't a loser, after all." he'd say.

It'd be awful, of course. Being murdered, I mean. That part would be awful. But man oh man, what a ride it'd be!

"Why do philosophers make unsuitable life partners?" (article link)

Is "parentism" a problem in academia? Excellent article, HERE.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 (mp3 audio files for download)

Earth Crisis were among the first earth and animal liberation bands around in the early '90s.  Stuck in the Past blog has cleaned up their '93 demo and made it available for download in remastered format.

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 [remastered]

In my endless quest to produce a decent sounding version of the Earth Crisis - Demo 1993, I finally got my hands on multiple cassette copies. I ripped each full tape to WAV files, isolated the best sounding version of each song, adjusted levels and remastered as a final group for continuity.

In regards to Time Of Strife and whether it belongs as a part of this demo recording, I contacted Scott Crouse, and he gave me a rundown:

 There are actually 2 versions of Time Of Strife. The demo was originally 9 songs, but we didn't like that version of Time Of Strife so we never included it on any copies that went to other people. It was mostly clean vocals and musically pretty different than where it ended up on the Structure Records comp. So the short answer is no, I think the version you have was not done in the same recording session. I don't know if the anyone has the "original" version anymore. I think only band members would have it and I'm pretty sure none of us even have a copy of that demo.

As you can imagine, there are still limitations when dealing with 25 year old cassettes, but I think this is, by far, the best sounding version of the demo out there. For all the total nuts out there, here it is, in your choice of 320k mp3s or FLAC files.

(actual cover sent with tapes to record labels)

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993
(320k mp3)


A philosopher enjoys a lovely trip to Yellowstone

A philosopher enjoys a lovely trip to Yellowstone (see HERE).  I am jealous because if I could only find some time I'd pull together those Colorado photos I've been promising my readers.  To my credit, maybe, I did manage to go through the photos of this past year's trip to Maine, although Picasa changed to Google photos and that ruined everything.  But this past summer's Maine trip's photos *are* sitting here on my desktop.

Yellowstone is on our list; but first is Europe (for Na's job this summer: Heidelberg, Germany and Lucerne, Switzerland for a month each where - surprise, surprise - not relaxation for me but book-writing time)...and second is Cambodia en route to Thailand come winter break.

I am not complaining. I am blessed to at least have the opportunity to travel with my wife and see such beautiful places.