Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

The Law of the Instrument

November 16, 2018

Sometimes I wonder if I overdo this fourfold thing. The law of the instrument says something like “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Dividing things up into four parts, or bringing four things together into a whole, is the belabored theme of this blog. Fourfolds are my hammer, and what a nice hammer it is!

When my father was in a nursing home, he had a roommate for a period of time that would just draw houses continuously. Not nice architectural renderings either, but houses like a child would, where you can see three sides of it at once (the front and both sides). I might be doing that one day, endlessly drawing fourfold diagrams in endless fourfold permutations.

Speaking of hammers, Martin Heidegger also wrote at length about them in regards to equipment or instrumentality. He contrasted a working hammer that was “ready-to-hand” to a broken hammer that was “present-at-hand”. The working hammer recedes into the background of its ready utility, but the broken hammer, being useless, is merely present in pieces.

The notion of science as negative enterprise was raised by Heidegger since scientific investigation only gives you the present-at-hand, and not the smooth extension of ability that is ready-to-hand. I disagree, because how can you fashion a hammer in the first place or repair it if you aren’t full cognizant of its constituents and construction?

I realize that some worthwhile analyses are made by this approach to technology. For example, few are able to construct or repair modern automobiles or smartphones. In a sense, that should make Heidegger happy, since most are using this modern equipment with no clue as to how they work. And if they wear out or break or become obsolete, they are too costly to repair or upgrade and are sent to the scrapheap. But I say this tongue-in-cheek.

Heidegger’s “tool analysis” is the basis for much of his later writings, specifically concerning “das Geviert” (simply meaning square). If tool analysis is itself a tool, what happens when you apply tool analysis towards itself? Does one get an infinite fractal of fourfolds, ascending and descending, approaching and receding?

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_instrument#Abraham_Maslow

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/if_all_you_have_is_a_hammer,_everything_looks_like_a_nail

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heideggerian_terminology#Present-at-hand

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heideggerian_terminology#Ready-to-hand

Look at this painting!

https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/das-geviert-94252

[*10.193]

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The Question Concerning Technology

November 10, 2018

“The Question Concerning Technology” by Martin Heidegger is not an easy read. This short essay is full of unusual terms and phrases. I think part of the reason for this is Heidegger’s style of writing, and part is the capacity of the German language to build compound words easily. Thus in the English translation you have several hyphenated words like “standing-reserve” and “bringing-forth”. Of course, difficult terminology seems to be typical for Heidegger, but there are also many words taken from classical philosophy that have special meanings, which Heidegger was well versed in.

In this essay we first learn that our question is really a questioning and will be a process that “builds a way” to understanding, so initially we are more interested in the journey than the destination. The way that is desired is towards a “free relationship” between an “open” human existence and the “essence of technology” (essence being what a thing is, as if we can know exactly, so finding out is part of our journey). Second, we are told that the essence of technology is not technological, so to try to find what this essence is by using more technology is to be in an “unfree” relationship with it.

Third, our question concerning technology is really asking what technology is. A common and “correct” definition is that it is both a means to an end, and a human activity. The former is the instrumental aspect of technology, and the later is the anthropological aspect. But Heidegger does not think that these two aspects are the complete or “true” ones, and so our questioning leads us to inquire as to the essence of instrumentality. For that, we turn next to consider the general causes of things and their effects, and so on to examine the classical Four Causes of Aristotle.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the Four Causes, as I have mentioned them frequently. I consider them an important paradigmatic four-fold, and have tried to develop a more modern version of them with my four-fold Structure-Function. However, Heidegger was no friend to modernity, and his treatment of the Four Causes and the remainder of his essay shows that plainly. But let us continue on with our journey before we spoil our quest. As a reminder, here is a quick list of the Four Causes:

  • Efficient Cause – causa efficiens – Logos
  • Material Cause – causa materialis – Hylos
  • Formal Cause – causa formalis – Eidos
  • Final Cause – causa finalis – Telos

By thinking about causes in this way, can we discover the essence of causality? Heidegger explains that what causality is involves the things responsible for the bringing about of other things or what kinds of things a thing is indebted to in order for it to occur. (Others have argued that instead of causes another good name is the four “becauses”, i.e. the reasons for or the explanations of things). Note that Heidegger uses the terms responsibility and indebtedness to give the Four Causes (what I consider to be) a normative aspect.

Heidegger presents to us a silver chalice as an example of how to think about the the Four Causes in relation to Greek thought. Hylos (or hyle) is the material we start with, Eidos is its form or aspect, Telos is responsible for bringing together both (but not as aim or purpose but as bounds or context), and all three are indebted to… Logos? Heidegger now departs from how Aristotle was understood to view the causes named after him, and says so himself, in order to argue that these four ways of responsibility and indebtedness are really what these causes are all about.

To be continued… maybe…

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Question_Concerning_Technology

http://www.psyp.org/question_concerning_technology.pdf

http://www.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/heidegger/guide1.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heideggerian_terminology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/

Notes for Further Writing:

Interesting articles on Shintoism and Heidegger:

https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/spirited-away-meets-heidegger-we-killed-the-gods-with-technology-but-the-sacredness-of-life-is-continuous-auid-1104

https://prezi.com/hvul4-ped2z4/shintoism-and-spirited-away/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto

Interesting article on language and technology (tool-making) arguing that they are related: The structure of language mirrors the methodological structure of tool making:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/toolmaking-language-brain/562385/

A nice symmetric view of the Four Causes as things undergoing changes is shown in:

Boris Henning / The Four Causes, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol.106, No.3 (March 2009), pp. 137-160

[*10.114]

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The Archic Matrix

September 13, 2018

Now that I am presenting sixteen-folds, let me briefly return to a subject I’ve mentioned previously. The Archic Matrix of Walter Watson and David Dilworth is a four-by-four matrix representing different aspects of the “personalities” of philosophers, determined by their writings. It is adapted from the Philosophical Semantics of philosopher Richard McKeon.

The four aspects of the Archic Matrix (also called Archic Variables) in this diagram are Perspective (upper left), Reality (lower left), Method (upper right), and Principle (lower right). The archic variable Perspective can have values Personal, Agonistic, Existential, and Creative, and similarly for the other three variables.

Each of the values of each of the variables is conditioned by one of the variables. For example, Personal is only conditioned by the Archic Variable Perspective, even though it is already a value of that variable. The value Agonistic is conditioned by the Archic Variable Method, Existential by Reality, and Creative by Principle.

Whereas the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a two-by-four matrix giving sixteen different combinations for its four personality “variables”, each having two values, the four-by-four Archic Matrix has four values for each of four variables and so gives 256 different combinations. It would be interesting if someone mapped the larger scheme into the smaller.

Further Reading:

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2011/12/02/walter-watson-and-david-dilworths-archic-matrix/

Archic Matrix: Perspectives

Archic Matrix: Realities

Archic Matrix: Methods

Archic Matrix: Principles

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2011/01/16/richard-mckeons-aspects-of-knowing/

http://www.ottobwiersma.nl/philosophy/archic_matrix.php

http://wwwhistoricalthreads.blogspot.com/2010/07/walter-watson-architectonics-of-meaning.html

http://www.philosophicalprofile.org/test/index.php

Notes:

The only work that seems to mention both the Archic Matrix and Myers-Briggs is as follows:

Mondo Secter / The Architectonics of Culture: A Critique, Modification, and Extension of Hofstede’s Study of Societal Culture with a Chinese-Based Typology, Ph.D. Dissertation, Simon Fraser University, August 2003

http://www.summit.sfu.ca/system/files/iritems1/8552/b31853754.pdf

Secter is elsewhere mentioned to be completing an adaption of this dissertation (albeit long ago), called “The Architectonics of Culture and Personality: Six Core Dimensions of Who We Are”. It would useful to know anything else about this work. Updates, anyone?

[* 10.151]

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Hannah Arendt: The Human Condition and the Life of the Mind

June 22, 2018

In her book “The Human Condition”, philosopher Hannah Arendt discussed the vita activa, the active life:

  • Labor
  • Work
  • Action

In “The Life of the Mind”, she wished to present the vita contemplativa, the contemplative life:

  • Thinking
  • Willing
  • Judgment

Unfortunately, she died just as started working on Judgment, so that aspect was just outlined with notes.

The differences between the active and the contemplative can also be thought of as the practical versus the theoretical. This pair of triplets is not easy to turn into a troika of duals.Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Human_Condition_(book)

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/16/hannah-arendt-the-life-of-the-mind/

https://www.giffordlectures.org/lectures/life-mind

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt

[*9.98, *10.102]

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Six Types of Philosophers

June 18, 2018

I have mentioned fourfold classifications of philosophers before, most notably the Philosophical Semantics of philosopher Richard McKeon (which is similar to the Archic Matrix of Walter Watson and David Dilworth). These are actually sixteen-fold classifications, since each of four attributes have four types.

Instead, consider this six-fold classification by Justin E. H. Smith:

  • Curiosa – Particularist
  • Sage – Systematist
  • Gadfly – Social Critic, Commentator
  • Ascetic – Disciplinarian
  • Mandarin – Academic, Professional
  • Courtier – Bureaucrat, Institutionalist

In addition, here is another diagram of this same classification scheme.Further Reading:

Justin E.H. Smith / The Philosopher: A History in Six Types, Princeton University Press, 2016.

https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/the-philosopher-a-history-in-six-types/

http://keyreporter.org/BookReviews/LifeOfTheMind/Details/2054.html

http://www.jehsmith.com/

[*10.96]

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The Marriage of Opposites, Part 3

March 2, 2018

Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature; but different in degree.

— From The Kybalion by The Three Initiates

There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.

— Niels Bohr

I have mentioned the alchemical notion of the “Marriage of Opposites” several times (here and here). When opposites marry, what happens as a result? Do they cancel one another out, leaving just a boring average as result? Do they explode in a fiery conflagration, like matter and anti-matter releasing energy? Or do they create a new thing, something that is greater than the sum of their parts?

If opposites annihilate each other, what is the result, emptiness or a void? It is often said that nature abhors a vacuum (“horror vacui”), but I think it is far more true that the mind does. In dualistic thinking, everything that is not one thing must be its opposite. Not good is bad, not happy is sad, not black is white.

In classical logic, the Law of the Excluded Middle says that for any proposition “p”, either it is true or its negation “not p” is true. Thus, “p or not p” is necessarily true, a tautology. Similarly, their combination “p and not p”, cannot ever be true, and so is necessarily false. If one can assume “not p” and derive a contradiction, then “p” must be true (reductio ad absurdum).

In intuitionistic logic, one cannot deduce “p” simply from the falsity of “not p” (that is, “not not p”), one must actually prove that “p” is true. So “p or not p” may still be uncertain, if we don’t know how to prove “p”. However, “p and not p” is still false, based on the falsity of “not p”.

In the viewpoint of Dialetheism, it is offered that there are truths whose opposites are also true, called “true contradictions”. Dialetheisms cannot exist in formal logics because if “p and not p” is true, then you can deduce anything you want and your logic breaks down. Nonetheless, much thought through the years has been dedicated to dialetheisms and their ilk. Please see the recent work by philosopher Graham Priest.

When one considers something and its opposite at the same time, how can you reach an agreement between them? In magnetism, opposite charges attract and like charges repel. All too often, opposite viewpoints vigorously repel each other instead of reaching a happy medium. Each viewpoint considers the other “false” and so they push away at each other, instead of meeting halfway in compromise.

If there is empirical evidence supporting one viewpoint and not the other, and both parties can agree to it, then problem solved. But if viewpoints are more like ideologies, and one side shows evidence that the other side dismisses, what then? Are we only left to agree to disagree? That doesn’t seem like a long term solution.

In this blog I have insinuated but not stated explicitly that a marriage of opposites can often be achieved by combining it with another pair of opposites. Rather than meeting in the middle to a void or an annihilation, one can reach the other side by “going around” the danger, by way of intermediates. Much like Winter reaches Summer by passing through Spring and Summer reaches Winter via Fall, this type of structure is found everywhere in human thinking.

In fact, many systems of pluralistic philosophies are built on fourfolds instead of dualities. For example, see the work of Richard McKeon, specifically this paper.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kybalion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_vacui_(physics)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_excluded_middle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentia_mirabilis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuitionistic_logic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialetheism

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dialetheism/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Priest

http://www.richardmckeon.org/

http://www.richardmckeon.org/content/e-Publications/e-OnPhilosophy/McK-PhilosophicSemantics&Inquiry.pdf

https://www.quora.com/Is-Graham-Priest-sincere-and-serious-about-his-stance-on-dialetheism-I-have-difficulty-empathizing-with-such-a-position-What-should-I-do-to-better-understand-this-position-Do-other-philosophers-respect-this-position/answer/Toni-Kannisto?share=368d7909&srid=5ofmf

[*10.32]

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A Game of Fourfolds, Part 5

February 24, 2018

In this fifth installment of our ongoing series, I propose that a game could be played by making a set of equally sized and shaped triangular tiles with simple words or phrases on them. The triangles are all isosceles right triangles, also called monoboloes, so that two of them joined along their long edge would be a square, and four of them joined at their right angles would be a larger square. Figures of two tiles joined along any edge of equal length are called diaboloes, three are called triaboloes, four are called tetraboloes, and in general the figures are called polyboloes (or also polytans, after the Chinese tangram puzzle).

The words or short phrases on the monoboloes would need to be chosen judiciously so that each word has a matching opposite. (A list of such pairs of opposites or duals can be found at my previous fourfold game post.) This is so that a square diabolo could be formed from opposites, and a square tetrabolo could be formed that makes some conceptual sense. In fact, the game play would require that tiles should only be played and joined if there was a rational or explainable reason for their combination.

For example, “Water” and “Fire” could be aligned along their long edge as well as a short edge, whereas “Earth” and “Below”, not being opposites, could only be aligned along a short edge. Opposites could also be aligned “corner” to “corner” (where corner is the 90 degree angle), if there is a supporting tile between them.

During game play, the players alternate playing tiles from their hand onto the table, or pick tiles up from the table and place them back in different positions. Obviously the rules of play would need to be specified in more detail, as well as a method for scoring so that a player could “win”. Or, as a game of solitaire, perhaps winning is just maximizing the number of tiles played onto the table, or the illumination of concepts brought about by the play.

I might also consider that the flip-side of a monobolo is the same word but perhaps having white letters on a black background or colored differently to distinguish it from the “front”. And would the flip-sides all be of the same color? As I have shown various fourfolds on this blog, I have tried to orient them in a common conceptual “direction”, although that is often not clear to me or agreed upon by others of similar temperament. Perhaps they could be the same color if they metaphorically point this same way.

Also, by design and by construction, the monoboloes could be considered “Words”, diaboloes could be considered “Thoughts”, triaboloes could be considered “Actions”, and tetraboloes could be considered “Things”. This would be more in line with the hierarchy given by Richard McKeon’s 1972 lectures on Aristotle’s “Topics”. Words, thoughts, actions, and things are called “commonplaces” by McKeon, or a “place within which inquiry about meanings that are about things that are covered by that meaning can take place”.

The association of these tiles with tangrams is an interesting one. The standard tangram set consists of two small tans (unitans?), three bitans (square, midtan?, and paratan?), and two tetratans that form larger tans (bigtans?). I wonder if there is a standard nomenclature for these pieces, because mine seems rather silly.

I used to have a tangram set when I was a child and even still have an old Dover book by Ronald C. Reed “Tangrams: 330 puzzles”. It’s nice to see that it’s still available on Amazon. Of course the arrangement of the pieces in tangrams is much more flexible than what I’m proposing here for my game so really they are very little alike.

Further Reading:

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Polyabolo.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangram

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-factor_models_of_personality

Richard McKeon / Disciplines, Arts, and Faculties: Invention and Justification: Topics, Lectures given at University of Chicago 1972. (Taped, Transcribed and Edited by Patrick F. Crosby, by private communication)

Notes:

Possible names for tile combinations:

  • Unit, Solitary, Unitary, Simple, Singular, Singleton
  • Binary, Duplex, Dual, Twofold, Bipartite
  • Triple, Threefold, Ternary, Trinity, Tripartite
  • Quaternary, Quadruple, Tetrad, Fourfold, Quadripartite

[*10.72]

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Fourfold Physicalism

February 17, 2018

It is not enough for a wise man to study nature and truth, he should dare state truth for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think. As for the rest, who are voluntarily slaves of prejudice, they can no more attain truth, than frogs can fly.

— From Man a Machine, by Julien Offray de La Mettrie

Further Reading:

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/structure-function/

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/things-happen/

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/relations-all-the-way-down/

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/four-primary-relations/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_a_Machine

Notes:

Structures are built from parts.
Parts are reductions of structures.
Functions are assembled from actions.
Actions are the constituents of functions.

[*8.132, *9.104, *10.10]

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Enlightenment Now!

February 15, 2018

I want a new enlightenment and I want it now! One replete with:

  • Humanism
  • Reason
  • Science
  • Progress

Or, at least I can read the book.

Further Reading:

Steven Pinker / Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

http://www.playboy.com/articles/playboy-profile-steven-pinker

Pinker’s twitter feed:

[*10.70]

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Atom and Archetype

January 23, 2018

A few weeks ago I ran across this nice review of the book Atom and Archetype: the Pauli-Jung letters 1932-1958. This is a collection of letters exchanged between psychiatrist Carl Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli over a course of years. Evidently, Pauli was quite the metaphysician and Jung was intrigued by Einstein’s physics of relative space and time. Together in dialectic they argued and struggled to join together the disparate notions of mind and matter.

What mainly caught my eye was a diagram that I’ve slightly altered and shown above. I’ve mainly just replaced energy with matter-energy for two reasons: first because matter and energy are inter-convertible and second because matter conditions space. This results in similarity to the fourfold diagram for Lucretius that I’ve shown before, consisting of Particles, the Void, Falling, and Swerving.

Further Reading:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/03/09/atom-and-archetype-pauli-jung/

Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli / Atom and Archetype: the Pauli-Jung letters 1932-1958, Princeton University Press; Updated edition (July 21, 2014)

https://www.amazon.com/Atom-Archetype-Pauli-Letters-1932-1958/dp/069116147X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516537804&sr=1-1&keywords=atom+and+archetype

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/lucretius-on-the-nature-of-things/

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/matter-energy-space-and-time/

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/wave-particle-duality/

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/noethers-theorem/

[*10.60]

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