Areopagus hill Saint Paul from Acropolis Athens
Areopagus hill Saint Paul from Acropolis Athens

I just finished listening to one of the most moving podcasts I’ve ever heard: Episode 7 — Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love with David O’Hara on Damn the Absolute! The entire discussion was illuminating for me, but what brought me to tears was Prof. David O’Hara’s answer to host Jeffrey Howard’s final question. David relates a personal anecdote about his encounter as a graduate student with Richard Rorty, and his subsequent engagement with Rorty’s views regarding religion and inquiry.

David puts the conclusion he draws from this experience beautifully: “What we need to do is spend enough time together that we can start to translate our ideas into each other’s language and include one another in this community of inquiry. …


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Despite the fact that I’ve been thinking, talking, and writing about the concept of the hourglass for around twenty years, it was only after my friend and fellow Rortian, Stephen Taylor, asked me to “write up a condensed conveyance of the bombshell/hourglass concept that I can link to from my blog”, that I realized I’d never done so before. I’ve written about spanning layers, and middle-out, and web-oriented architecture (which are all just variations on the hourglass theme); but I’ve never just written a simple, brief summary of the hourglass concept. So here goes…

As you can see from the diagram above, AFAICT, the hourglass concept (by that name) originated in discussions and papers about the architecture of the Internet. Since this is supposed to be a condensed summary, I won’t go into a detailed history of the references to this diagram. Suffice it so say, that in its origin, the hourglass concept was meant to convey a network architecture (such as the Internet) that overlays a diverse set of underlying networks (the bottom of the hourglass), and supports a diverse set of applications (the top of the hourglass), via a simple, general set of protocols (e.g., TCP/IP) in the middle (the waist of the hourglass). …


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One of Richard Rorty’s most famous aphorisms is “Truth is simply a compliment paid to sentences seen to be paying their way”. (Actually, he didn’t quite say this anywhere. What he said wasn’t quite as pithy, and he credited someone else, “On James’s view, ‘true’ resembles ‘good’ or ‘rational’ in being a normative notion, a compliment paid to sentences that seem to be paying their way and that fit with other sentences which are doing so”.)

It’s a great sound bite, and a very controversial one, because it suggests that truth doesn’t have to “get things right” about the world, it only has to be useful. However, I think in his essay, “Response to Ramberg”, in the book “Rorty and his Critics”, Rorty partially recanted the sentiment expressed in the aphorism: “Ramberg sets me straight here too. He tells me, in effect, that it was a mistake on my part to go from criticism of attempts to define truth as accurate representation of the intrinsic nature of reality to a denial that true statements get things right. What I should have done, he makes me realize, is to grant Davidson’s point that most of our beliefs about anything (snow, molecules, the moral law) must be true of that thing — must get that thing right”. …


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Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

[This is a reply to the following blog post: Mutual mutation.]

Wow, so many great insights in one post! (BTW, I too love using etymology for insights.)

I agree that entering into a mutual relationship is the most profound interaction. I think of the Buddhist concept of mutual causation/reciprocal causation/dependent origination/dependent co-arising. Mutualism is the driving force of increasing complexity in the universe.

I’m not quite as clear on how this transformation of other and self into mutualness happens in detail. But I think it shows not only that otherness is transcendent, real, relevant and radically surprising but equally that self is transcendent, real, relevant and radically surprising. From time to time we surprise ourselves by suddenly embracing (prehending, grasping) some part of otherness as selfness, e.g., when multicellular life emerged, when sexuality emerged, when societies emerged, etc. Form this mutual embrace of self and other, the self is transcended and the other is transcended. …


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Photo by Hannah Wright on Unsplash

My fellow Rortian, Stephen Taylor, has written a thought provoking post on Rorty’s relationship with language (Rorty Therapy). I take away the following claims from his post:

  1. Rorty views language as humanity’s most important tool.
  2. Rorty goes beyond this to privilege language as uniquely constitutive of our human way of being.
  3. Rorty fails to see that the sum of all instrumental relations (both linguistic and non-linguistic) falls well short of constituting the whole.
  4. Rorty fails to see interaction, not language, as the essential ingredient of a human being.

For a Rortian, the first claim goes without saying, so I won’t address it further. …


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Wikipedia: Gustave Doré’s depiction of Canto VII of Dante’s Inferno turns the rocks that the damned hoarders and wasters are forced to move around, Sisyphus-like, into giant bags of gold, emphasising the reason for their punishment.

Albert Camus once said, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. That seems impossible to do if one feels deeply the meaningless monotony of struggling to roll the same massive boulder up the same hill each day, forever.

The myth of Sisyphus is a powerfully visceral metaphor for the concept of eternal recurrence (also known as eternal return and eternal repetition):

Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, — a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:– and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon.
Notes on the Eternal Recurrence — Vol. …


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Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

[This is an “abandoned” (in the sense of “works are never finished, only abandoned”) response to Stephen Taylor, on our discussion of the Rorty and the concept of progress on his anomalogue blog. I post it here to generate further discussion and because it is too long to be a comment. I post it in its somewhat inchoate state because I told myself I would respond, and it will take quite a while for me to produce a more coherent version (and when I do it will probably be a major part of the book I am writing).]

Thank YOU, Stephen, for your engaging responses! Thanks for pinning down the source of your characterization of ‘negative goal’. And I agree that the passage you cite is consistent with what I shared. …


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Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

Although it is now generally accepted by physicists working on quantum information theory and quantum thermodynamics that the entropy of the universe is conserved, mainstream science still promotes an image of the universe where entropy is increasing. I am collecting examples of claims that the entropy of the universe is conserved.

Here is one such example:

What is crucial now is that a theorem of quantum mechanics tells us that if we consider a sufficiently larger system, the whole entropy of this larger system is conserved and therefore the process is fully reversible (Fredkin and Toffoli 1982; Auletta and Wang 2014, Sec. 9.7). In other words, we have a local growth of entropy embedded in a larger system in which the entropy is conserved. This fact is also the scientific basis of quantum computation — the attempt at understanding and building reversible quantum computers (Nielsen and Chuang 2000). In other words, as far as quantum computers make no information selection, they are reversible devices (Bennett 1973). …


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Photo by Banter Snaps on Unsplash

Causation without representation is how I refer to Richard Rorty’s anti-representationalism. I’ve been thinking about the issue a lot lately, and I was fortunate enough to bump into Martin J Kelly Jr on Facebook who seems willing to engage in a careful discussion of the issues involved. Instead of copying over the whole thread, I’ll just start with this set of claims by Martin:

Rorty is arguing a skeptical point. Because we can’t give complete, philosophically justifiable accounts of the foundations of knowledge (from real world into the ‘mind’), then it follows that our language that is caused by the same real world doesn’t represent the world. My opinion here is that he has simply re-stated the original mind-body problem and ended his analysis on a skeptical point. The implication is that the wild riffs thought takes owe more allegiance to language than to the world. He has no analysis to argue for the truth of this position. There is a problem with claiming causality without claiming some kind of ‘resonance’ particularly because, say, the sophisticated sensory systems (vision and audition) have a detailed complicated relationship with the external world. That the brain takes the first and second derivatives of the firing pattern of oculomotor neurons to give the observer a true read on eye position and eye movement seems extremely causal and REPRESENTATAL [sic?]. I might say the same for the Fourier functions that are established in vision and in audition. Of course these are technical points and need further discussion.


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Image by Kim Traynor.

In my meandering research†, I stumbled across a profound essay by G.K. Chesterton entitled, The Toy Theatre. Though I have vaguely heard of him, I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything by him. I need to fix that. Anyone who is known as the Prince of Paradox (“Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories — first carefully turning them inside out.”) is someone I need to get to know better.

This little essay contains at least two major paradoxical aphorisms that I find profoundly insightful:

  • Playing as children means playing is the most serious thing in the world.

About

Nick Gall

I am an Ironist currently exploring new career paths.

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