[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Moscow, Idaho, that is. I’m off to the Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference to deliver a paper on how to reconcile the fact that past and future selves cannot differ in their properties with the fact that some of the properties of future selves are not yet determined. (See the abstract here.) Back Monday!
In the meantime, those wanting something to grumble about can read of anarchists for conscription and Randians for genocide.
Because The World Is Round It Turns Me On
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
In the past I’ve griped about Jared Diamond’s excessively deterministic approach to the influence of geography on history. Today Gene Callahan tackles the same subject, from a Collingwoodian/Misesian/Oakeshottian perspective, in The Diamond Fallacy.
To Gene’s excellent article I just want to append some quotations – two from Collingwood and two from Mises:
It is not nature as such and in itself (where nature means the natural environment) that turns man’s energies here in one direction, there in another: it is what man makes of nature by his enterprise, his dexterity, his ingenuity, or his lack of these things. The ‘unplumbed, salt, estranging sea’, as a nineteenth-century poet called it, echoing with some servility this eighteenth-century conception, estranges only those people who have not learned to sail on it. When they have discovered the art of navigation, and become reasonably skilled mariners, the sea no longer estranges, it unites. It ceases to be an obstacle, it becomes a highway. Beset with danger, no doubt …. but no human being has ever put safety first and stayed at home if he thought, as who has ever not thought? that something he wanted was waiting for him at the other end of the road. And if he did, it would still be his thought about the dangers, not the dangers themselves, that kept him at home.For more on the Collingwood/Mises connection, see my essay R. G. Collingwood: Historicist or Praxeologist?.
(Collingwood, Principles of History, pp. 93-4)
When people … speak (as … Montesquieu, for example, did) of the influence of geography or climate on history, they are mistaking the effect of a certain person’s or people’s conception of nature on their actions for an effect of nature itself. The fact that certain people live, for example, on an island has in itself no effect on their history; what has an effect is the way they conceive that insular position; whether for example they regard the sea as a barrier or as a highway to traffic. Had it been otherwise, their insular position, being a constant fact, would have produced a constant effect on their historical life; whereas it will produce one effect if they have not mastered the art of navigation, a different effect if they have mastered it better than their neighbours, a third if they have mastered it worse than their neighbours, and a fourth if every one uses aeroplanes.
(Collingwood, The Idea of History, p. 200)
The geographical interpretation of history failed to recognize [that t]he environment works only through the medium of the human mind. … The natural conditions which render skiing a very useful means for traveling were present both in Scandinavia and in the Alps. But the Scandinavians invented the skis, whereas the inhabitants of the Alps did not. For hundreds, nay thousands of years these peasants were closeted during the long winter months in their mountain homes and looked longingly upon the inaccessible villages down in the valleys and upon the unapproachable homesteads of their fellow farmers. But this desire did not activate their inventive spirit. … Different men and the same men at different times respond in a different way to the same stimuli.
(Mises, Money, Method, and the Market Process, p. 290)
To say that man reacts to stimuli and adjusts himself to the conditions of his environment does not provide a satisfactory answer. To the stimulus offered by the English Channel some people have reacted by staying at home; others have crossed it in rowboats, sailing ships, steamers, or, in modern times simply by swimming. Some fly over it in planes; others design schemes for tunneling under it.
(Mises, Theory and History, p. 245)
Dueling Molinari Fellows!
Molinari Institute Research Fellows Charles Johnson and Dan D’Amico have been debating the merits of the Taco Bell boycott from a libertarian perspective.
See Dan’s initial posts here, here, and here; Charles’ initial response here; and further exchange netween Dan and Charles here.
The loser will be thrown to the Taco Bell chihuahua.
Don’t Bully the Bunny
’Tis Eastertide, and, regular as clockwork, we hear the usual laments about too much attention being paid to bunnies and eggs instead of to what Easter is “really” about, i.e., Jesus.
What such laments conveniently forget is that Easter is not about Jesus. The Easter holiday is much older than Christianity; it was originally a pagan celebration of spring, and was associated with bunnies and eggs – symbols of fertility and the renewal of life – long before it was associated with crosses and tombs. Easter, like Christmas, may have been co-opted by the Church, but Christians are still latecomers to both holidays, and railing against the longer-established residents is less than becoming. Easter was our celebration first; our Christian brethren and sistren are welcome to join in and interpret the celebration through the lens of their own perspective, but it’s a bit rude to try to take the whole thing over.
Still, some Christians really don’t like to share.
The Restaurant at the End of Inquiry
Hilary Putnam famously argues against metaphysical realism on the grounds that such realism involves a “radically non-epistemic conception of truth.” The idea is that if what is true is utterly independent of our epistemic practices, then we could have no reason to think that our epistemic practices are getting us closer to truth, and so no reason to reject radical skepticism. Worse yet, if what is true is utterly independent of our epistemic practices, then it becomes unclear how we could even count as referring to anything, since there is no way to guarantee a one-to-one mapping of our language onto a mind-independent reality. Hence Putnam concludes that we ought to define truth instead in epistemic terms, e.g., as whatever rational inquirers would eventually converge on.
I think Putnam has identified a genuine problem, but has offered the wrong solution. There are several problems with trying to define truth in epistemic terms. One is that it makes it hard to see how there could be unknowable truths. It seems unlikely that we will ever know whether the first person to set foot on Australia was left-handed or not; if that’s right, then rational inquirers will never converge on accepting either “The first person to set foot on Australia was left-handed” or “The first person to set foot on Australia was not left-handed.” Yet rational inquirers presumably will converge on accepting the claim “The first person to set foot on Australia was either left-handed or not left-handed.” So if we define truth in terms of what rational inquirers would eventually accept, then we’d have to conclude that “The first person to set foot on Australia was either left-handed or not left-handed” is true, yet that neither “The first person to set foot on Australia was left-handed” nor “The first person to set foot on Australia was not left-handed” is true – and that seems a tad awkward.
Putnam could probably fix up his theory to avoid this problem; indeed, he may well have done so already in some writing that I’ve neglected or forgotten. A more serious probem with defining truth in epistemic terms is that it flouts the insight Rand called the primacy of existence over consciousness. (Ironically, some Randians have taken Rand’s distinction between the “intrinsic” – existing in reality apart from our knowledge – and the “objective” – consisting in a relation between reality and our knowledge – to imply that nothing is intrinsic, and so have developed an antirealist position closer to Putnam than to Rand. Bad Randians, no biscuit.) Consciousness is by its nature intentional; it’s a response to, it’s about something beyond itself. Hence any attempt to define truth (facts about existence) in terms of our epistemic practices (facts about consciousness) is going to be circular. Moreover, as Frege pointed out, the truth-predicate is ubiquitous; to say that snow is white is ipso facto to say that it’s true that snow is white. But then to say that rational inquirers would converge on something is to say that it’s true that rational inquirers would converge on it; the truth-predicate is irreducible, it keeps bouncing up in front of any attempt to define it in terms of something else.
But even if Putnam’s cure is mistaken, he’s right to identify a problem – though I think he has misdiagnosed the problem. If truth and our epistemic practices were only contingently related, then skepticism and reference failure would indeed be inevitable. Putnam’s mistake is in thinking that the needed solution is to make truth conceptually dependent on our epistemic practices. On the contrary, what we need to recognise is that our epistemic practices are conceptually dependent on truth. A being that was consistently and hopelessly out of touch with reality could not be conscious at all, for reasons that Putnam himself, among others, has well explained. The clearest reason was identified by Wittgenstein in On Certainty:
We say: if a child has mastered language – and hence its application – it must know the meaning of words. It must, for example, be able to attach the name of its colour to a white, black, red or blue object without the occurrence of any doubt.and Rand makes a similar point in her Journals:
In order to think at all, man must be able to perform this cycle: he must know how to see an abstraction in the concrete and the concrete in an abstraction, and always relate one to the other. He must be able to derive an abstraction from the concrete [and] then be able to apply the abstraction .... Example: a man who has understood and accepted the abstract principle of unalienable individual rights cannot then go about advocating compulsory labor conscription .... Those who do have not performed either part of the cycle: neither the abstraction nor the translating of the abstraction into the concrete. The cycle is unbreakable; no part of it can be of any use, until and unless the cycle is completed .... A broken electric circuit does not function in the separate parts; it must be unbroken or there is no current ....What both Wittgenstein and Rand are saying is that the ability to apply a concept correctly (not unfailingly, of course, but at least pretty regularly) is part of having the concept. It follows that there just couldn’t be such a thing as an epistemic practice that was radically out of touch with truth. Putnam agrees with this, of course, but he thinks the only truth we could be in touch with is one that’s at least partially constructed out of our epistemic practices. Isn’t this last a non sequitur, though? Thinking, perceiving, and inquiring are activities of real organisms and take place in the real world; there’s no gulf we have to bridge between us and the real world, not do we have to close the gap Putnam-style by building our own real world on our side of the gulf. We’re already over “there” on the world’s side of the gulf.
Mindgames and Brainstorms, Episode II
Let me address Kevin’s points in order.
Roderick is suggesting that the mind is to the brain as cubicality is to a cube of matter.Not quite – I’m suggesting that mind is to brain as cubicality is to the cube’s matter, not as cubicality is to the cube itself. (Mind is to person as cubicality is to cube.)
Thus, as cubicality is a form, so is the mind. This is the core of the Aristotlean-hylomorphist solution to the mind-body problem. The soul is the configuring formal cause of matter, which is only conceptually but not actually separable from the underlying matter.I’ll accept that characterisation, with the qualification that the soul is of course separable from the particular bits of matter that make it up, since it can survive their loss; I’m not composed of the same bits of matter now that I was as a child. (Also, one may properly say “Aristotelean” or “Aristotelian,” but not “Aristotlean.”)
Here is my difficulty with the suggestion – the hylomorphist asks us to imagine that our entire mental lives – our conscious experiences, our representations of reality, and our reason are configurations of some sort. I think Roderick is asking us to think that our thought processes are well, sorts of shapes.Here I dissent; Aristotelean forms are not mere shapes. After all, a living organism and a dead one – let’s say a living plant and a dead one, to avoid raising Cartesian worries – have the same shape, but not the same form. A thing’s form is its manner of organisation, and how a thing is organised is not just a static matter of how it is shaped; rather, its organisation also includes the way it functions. That’s why Aristotle says that a severed hand is a hand in name only; it hasn’t lost its shape, but it has lost its form, in that it can no longer function as a hand. (Meteorology IV. 12.) Partial loss of function makes it a crippled hand; total loss of function makes it no longer a hand at all. (Metaphysics V. 27.)
What my central question was (and is) to Roderick was this: Is the relationship between the matter and the form of the brain enough to entail the totality of our mental lives in terms of conceptual necessity, causal necessity, or is the relationship a contingent matter?Kevin’s question is confused.
Roderick might respond that my question is confused.
Usually, we decide these things by discussing entailment relations. If I want to know what my watch is made of, I look to see if different amounts of alloys arranged in different way entails the existence of the watch in some fashion of another. That’s how I know it’s made of materials. In fact, if the relationship is of logical necessity, then I know that the two levels are two levels of a single thing. If all the alloy-facts coupled with all the configuration-facts entail all the watch-facts, then I know that the alloys make up the watch.Well, I think there’s precisely the same problem here as in the other cases. If the configuration-facts include “being configured as a watch,” then trivially “the alloy-facts coupled with all the configuration-facts entail all the watch-facts.” (In fact you don’t even need the alloy-facts then.) But if by “configuration-facts” Kevin just means something like shape, then I deny that the alloy-facts coupled with the shape-facts entail all the watch-facts.
You see, I never asked Roderick whether the relationship between the form of the brain and the matter of the brain were necessary or contingent. I asked him whether the relationship between the mind and the brain was necessary or contingent just because I was trying to understand whether the depth of our mental lives could be summed up by the word ‘form’.And my answer is that it is necessary – conceptually necessary. But the basis of this necessity is not that some list of brain-facts, specifiable in non-mental terminology, entails mentality, but rather that there is no such thing as a list of brain-facts specifiable in non-mental terminology.
What should we say about a creature who comes to be from sand or swamp-muck by the agency of lightning or by quantum-mechanical accident – a creature part for part the same as I am, standing nearby, and just considered physically? ... Here we have no determinate form at all, and so the ground of all vital description is removed. We can say, in the light of my form, that these are arms – a bit weak maybe, but fairly together. Are those, which ‘he’ ‘has’, maybe legs, after all – only horribly deformed and not much good for crawling with? Or are they mutilated wings? Is his tail missing? It may be thought that these matters are settled by a look to ‘his genes’. But suppose he has genes: are they defective? ... [T]he thing has no ears to hear with and no head to turn; it has no brain-states, no brain to bear them, and no skull to close them in; prick it, and it does not bleed; tickle it, and it does not laugh; and so forth. It is a mere congeries of physical particles and not so much as alive. (Thompson, The Representation of Life.)Just as there is no fact of the matter as to whether lines randomly traced by insects are spelling “sale” correctly or “salle” incorrectly, so there is no fact of the matter as to whether an organism popping into contextless existence is a healthy specimen of a two-legged species or a deformed specimen of a four-legged species. Similarly, without reference to proper brain functioning (and thus to mentality), one cannot distinguish a functioning brain from a malfunctioning brain or from a nonbrain.
Aristotle thought the soul had an immaterial part that was not itself a form, to my knowledge. I guess my question is how that’s possible unless there’s some sort of immaterial medium within which reason can occur.Well, Aristotle thought that there were some psychological functions that (unlike sense-perception) have no organ. (And I think he was right about this; see Peter Geach’s article “What Do We Think With?” in his book God and the Soul.) But it’s a mistake to slide from saying that such functions have no organ to saying they have an immaterial organ. (It’s hard to tell whether Aristotle in fact made this mistake, since his remarks on this topic are so brief and cryptic.) If they don’t need an organ, an immaterial organ is of no more use than a material one. Likewise, positing an immaterial “medium” is just positing a medium and then calling it immaterial; but it’s not going to be immaterial in the Aristotelean sense.
It seems like some part of the mind has to be a kind of stuff and not a kind of form.Again, if it’s stuff, how is it different from (what Aristoteleans mean by) matter? Adding ethereal components alongside our non-ethereal components doesn’t seem to do any work. It’s like inserting wispy, glowing, ectoplasmic neurons into the interstices between our regular neurons; how does that help? Thought isn’t a stuff, it’s an activity; it’s something we do. As Wittgenstein writes in The Blue Book:
The mistake we are liable to make could be expressed thus: We are looking for the use of a sign, but we look for it as though it were an object co-existing with the sign. ... [O]ne is tempted to imagine that which gives the sentence life as something in an occult sphere, accompanying the sentence. But whatever accompanied it would for us just be another sign.Meaning something with a sign is not a matter of adding another sign, a ghostly one, alongside the corporeal sign; it’s a matter of doing something with the sign. That’s where the dualists are wrong. (But “doing something with the sign” is not something expressible in purely corporeal terms; that’s where the materialists are wrong.)
I’m also hesitant to think that one can make sense of any sort of causal necessity independently of conceptual necessity. How we could get something immaterial from something material with a causal necessity without the two being somehow conceptually linked is utterly mysterious to me.Since I’m defending a conceptual connection rather than a causal one, Kevin’s remark here isn’t a criticism of my position, but I’ll respond to it anyway. Does Kevin think all causal necessity is incomprehensible unless mediated by conceptual necessity? (If so, why?) Or does he think causal necessity is intelligible in most contexts but not in the mind-body case? (If so, why?)
Roderick, do you think that facts about the form of our brains (or some parts of our brains) or the facts about the form-matter complex of those same aspects entails mentality by conceptual necessity? Some sort of a posteriori necessity? Causal necessity? Or is there no direct entailment at all?Facts about the form of our brains entail mentality by conceptual necessity. But that’s true only for the boring reason that the facts in question are already specified in mental terms. What you really want to know is whether brain-facts specifiable in non-mental terms entail mentality. If they do, you’ll cry materialism; if they don’t, you’ll cry dualism. But on the position I’m defending, the question as formulated is incoherent, because there are not, and logically cannot be, any such things as brain-facts specifiable in non-mental terms.
Out of Form, Out of Mind?
Guest Blog by Kevin Vallier
I appreciate Roderick’s prompt response to my question and the opportunity to guest blog on his website (since mine is down for the time-being).
Roderick mentions that he was tired; this was probably mostly my fault (the ambiguity of the previous phrase is intended for comedic purposes). As a result, I suppose he was too sleepy to remember my reply, which was that the mind-cube analogy needed a great deal of support if it was going to do the work Roderick wants it to do.
Roderick is suggesting that the mind is to the brain as cubicality is to a cube of matter. Thus, as cubicality is a form, so is the mind. This is the core of the Aristotlean-hylomorphist solution to the mind-body problem. The soul is the configuring formal cause of matter, which is only conceptually but not actually separable from the underlying matter. Here is my difficulty with the suggestion – the hylomorphist asks us to imagine that our entire mental lives – our conscious experiences, our representations of reality, and our reason are configurations of some sort. I think Roderick is asking us to think that our thought processes are well, sorts of shapes.
I wonder if the rest of you won’t join me in wondering how this could possibly be right. My experience isn’t a shape. How could that be? Why that just seems like the wrong sort of category to put mentality in.
That being said, after we discussed this, I asked Roderick what I thought was a much more interesting, yet related question. But I think Roderick’s sleepiness also caused him to miss this, which I put to him fairly clearly as I remember it.
What my central question was (and is) to Roderick was this: Is the relationship between the matter and the form of the brain enough to entail the totality of our mental lives in terms of conceptual necessity, causal necessity, or is the relationship a contingent matter?
Roderick might respond that my question is confused. His proposal is just that the mind is the form of the matter. But my question to him was always, “Well if that’s true, then how do I know?”
Usually, we decide these things by discussing entailment relations. If I want to know what my watch is made of, I look to see if different amounts of alloys arranged in different way entails the existence of the watch in some fashion of another. That’s how I know it’s made of materials. In fact, if the relationship is of logical necessity, then I know that the two levels are two levels of a single thing. If all the alloy-facts coupled with all the configuration-facts entail all the watch-facts, then I know that the alloys make up the watch.
But that’s just the whole question with the mind. When I look at the form and matter of the watch I get all the watch facts through logical entailment. I get them, in other words, for free. The question then becomes: if the mind is a form, then if I have all the configuration facts I should get all the mental facts for free. But it doesn’t seem like that’s true.
Roderick may well respond as he did in his post – that we cannot understand the configuration of the mind without first making reference to the mind. However, I think this is not what I was asking. I’m asking whether the configuration or form of the brain can get us a mind or not.
Roderick has just moved the question up a level. He thinks I asked whether the relationship between the form and the matter was a matter of conceptual or causal necessity, whereas what I really asked is whether the form-matter combination was enough to entail mentality conceptually or causally. I’d only be making the mistake he accuses me of if I had asked the first question rather than the second.
You see, I never asked Roderick whether the relationship between the form of the brain and the matter of the brain were necessary or contingent. I asked him whether the relationship between the mind and the brain was necessary or contingent just because I was trying to understand whether the depth of our mental lives could be summed up by the word ‘form’.
I think Roderick, as an Aristotlean, wants to deny that my question is sensible. For the Aristotlean, an entity is either matter, form, or both. There really isn’t any other way to be a thing. I doubt Roderick would give this sort of response though, as it would be as question-begging as the materialist saying, “Yeah, but there can’t be anything but matter, so dualism has to be false.”
See, this is just what I’m trying to figure out (I’m a lowly grad. student with inchoate views, just so you know). Can an Aristotlean metaphysics solve the mind-body problem or not? In my own studies, I already have come to think that a materialist metaphysics can’t do the job, and so I was forced into Aristotlean-type considerations. However, it seems to me that if the Aristotlean framework is going to solve the mind-body problem, then mentality has to fit within one (or both) of the categories of being. Either it’s a form, or a form-matter complex or matter. I know it’s not matter for a host of reasons. But neither of the other categories would seem to lead to any sort of mental states with any sort of inexorability from what I can tell.
Basically, I’m applying the same sorts of arguments against the hylomorphist position that dualists employ against materialists. The dualist says to the materialist: “Ok, all there is in your metaphysics is matter, but that won’t entail mental facts.” And I was saying to Roderick, “Ok, all there is in your metaphysics is form and matter, but that won’t entail mental facts.” It won’t do to say “But form facts are mental facts.”
You might ask, “Then what do you think?” I’m attracted to the view that there exist immaterial substances that aren’t forms, much as Descartes believed. In fact, as I understand it, both Thomas and Aristotle believed in immaterial parts of the soul that weren’t fully captured by the form of body. Aristotle thought the soul had an immaterial part that was not itself a form, to my knowledge. I guess my question is how that’s possible unless there’s some sort of immaterial medium within which reason can occur. It seems like some part of the mind has to be a kind of stuff and not a kind of form.
Why am I attracted to such a view? Because as I said before I don’t think the existence material configuration of the body entails much of anything about our mental lives in any sort of conceptual sense, and so there is no reason to believe in any sort of identity between mind and matter, mind. Thus, conceptual necessity is out.
I’m also hesitant to think that one can make sense of any sort of causal necessity independently of conceptual necessity. How we could get something immaterial from something material with a causal necessity without the two being somehow conceptually linked is utterly mysterious to me.
From what I can tell, there’s a serious conceptual gap between mental properties and physical properties that rules out certain sorts of metaphysics – all metaphysical positions that postulate a conceptually necessary relationship between mind and matter. So it seems to me that certain forms of hylomorphism, materialism, and idealism are ruled out. Roderick’s response, I think, just won’t do.
But since I think there is a bit of crosstalk involved let me pose the question I would be most interested in having Roderick address:
Roderick, do you think that facts about the form of our brains (or some parts of our brains) or the facts about the form-matter complex of those same aspects entails mentality by conceptual necessity? Some sort of a posteriori necessity? Causal necessity? Or is there no direct entailment at all?
Mindgames and Brainstorms
Yesternight Kevin Vallier asked me whether I thought the relation between the mind and its underlying neurophysiological basis was necessary or contingent. I was too sleepy at the time to formulate a coherent answer, but here’s what I’m inclined to say now.
There would initially seem to be just three possibilities. (Let’s ignore, for present purposes, the fact that – as Wittgenstein, Kripke, and Putnam have convincingly argued – what mental states we count as having depends not only on our brain but also on facts about our history and environment.) First, a given neurophysiological configuration might conceptually necessitate the presence of mental states; analytical functionalism – again leaving aside the externalist considerations – seems like a version of this possibility. Second, a given neurophysiological configuration might causally but not conceptually necessitate the presence of mental states; this option seems favourable to some sort of emergentism. Third, there might be no neurophysiological configuration sufficient to necessitate mental states either causally or conceptually; this might imply Cartesian dualism.
The problem, I think, is that all three of these pictures presuppose something problematic: namely, the assumption that there is some independently identifiable “neurophysiological basis” that can be picked out prior to determining its relation to the mental states it underlies. Recall the distinction between constitutive conditions and enabling conditions:
Constitutive conditions for any X determine what X is, while enabling conditions are the underlying factors that make X’s realisation possible in specific circumstances. For example, chemistry can tell us what texture and composition a given material must have in order to maintain a cubical shape at a given temperature, and so in one sense tells us what “makes” something a cube; yet this does not make cubicality a chemical property. It is geometry, not chemistry, that tells us what is to count as a cube, and in this task it places no reliance on empirical data; geometry sets the criteria for cubicality (the constitutive conditions), and chemistry then investigates how to meet those criteria (the enabling conditions). One is a geometrical question, the other a physical one. (Compare the relation of praxeology to thymology/psychology in Austrian economics.)Now if we take this mind-cube analogy seriously, then let’s ask how our three options apply to the cube case. Does the cube’s physico-chemical configuration necessitate its cubicality conceptually? or causally? or not at all? The question makes no sense, because a complete account of the cube’s physico-chemical configuration will already have to mention its cubical arrangement. All three options rest upon the same picture: all three assume the possibility of giving a complete description of the cube’s physico-chemical properties without invoking geometrical language. Once such a description is in place, then the question can be raised whether this description entails cubicality by itself, or in conjunction with the causal laws of nature, or not at all. But the initial presumption is incoherent. If the physico-chemical description mentions how the cube’s material components are spatially configured, then of course the description conceptually necessitates the presence of the cube’s geometrical properties, because you’ve already built those geometrical properties into the description. If the physico-chemical description doesn’t specify how the material components are spatially configured, then it isn’t a complete physico-chemical description; whatever facts were mentioned will neither conceptually nor causally necessitate cubicality.
In the same way, neurobiology is concerned with the enabling conditions of mind, but philosophy is concerned with mind’s constitutive conditions; each investigates what “makes” something a mind, but in entirely different ways. Questions about constitutive conditions are logically prior to questions about enabling conditions; one first has to know what something is before one can meaningfully investigate what makes it possible. But the reverse does not hold. Just as the geometer does not need to rely on chemistry in investigating cubicality, the philosopher does not need to rely on neurobiology in investigating the mind; the sorts of questions the philosopher is interested in thus do not depend on neurobiology for their answers. ... The neurobiological investigation of mind ... although it must be informed by philosophy (just as the chemist needs to consult the geometer to learn cubicality’s constitutive conditions), is not a philosophical enterprise at all. ... How can we identify the neurophysiological basis of meaning, rationality, and language unless we already know what meaning, rationality, and language are?
Update With Croutons
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Yesterday was the Ides of March. I celebrated by polishing off a Caesar salad.
I’ll be at the Austrian Scholars Conference this week, giving a paper on corporate social responsibility and appearing on a panel of Austrians-with-websites. Jeff Tucker also threatens to conscript me into something called “Mises: The Musical” – what that is about remains to be seen (or, um, heard).
For those who missed Gary Galles’ Mises Daily article on Molinari’s birthday, go un-miss it!
Two relatively new blogs worth reading are Kevin Carson’s and David Hart’s. Clicke, lege.
Those interested in signing a pro-academic-freedom petition in the Ward Churchill case should click here.
State-Nicknamecraft as Soulcraft
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Did you realize that the state of Alabama has no nickname?
No official nickname, that is. It’s sometimes been called the Yellowhammer State, the Cotton State, or the Heart of Dixie, but apparently none of those ever received the approval of our elected Solons. (No doubt it’s been called other things as well. I note that under medieval Icelandic law, it was illegal to call someone by a nickname he didn’t like.)
Anyway, after years of languishing in forlorn nicknamelessness, some Alabamians have decided to start a political crusade to get the state a nickname. I gather there’s a bill being sponsored in the state legislature; I haven’t followed the story very closely. But my eye was caught by the latest manifesto on the subject, a letter by John S. Lucas IV in the March 9th Opelika-Auburn News. I hereby quote an excerpt. Note: I am not making this up.
It is my opinion that a colorful, clever and politically sensitive moniker can have a far-reaching impact on the collective psyche of this state’s inhabitants. A proper nickname may actually serve as a means to unite Alabamians – solidifying a common ground of state brotherhood as Alabamians encounter each other out of state.At first I thought (hoped?) the author was being satirical, but no such luck. (By the way, the author’s suggestion was “the Rocketing River State.” I’m not making that up either. No, there’s no Rocketing River in Alabama, but we do have rockets in Huntsville, and rivers passim.)
[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Congratulations to my colleague Nels Madsen for his Academy Award for Technical Achievement. Nels, an Auburn professor of mechanical engineering who co-teaches an interdisciplinary science-and-humanities course with me, worked on the motion-capture system used in Lord of the Rings (particularly for Gollum) and Polar Express, as well as the upcoming King Kong and Chronicles of Narnia.