Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Self-Criticism and Criticism of Syncretism

I have been critical in the past of certain philosophies.  I would like to visit some criticism upon myself for a change as a point of fairness.  Criticism is easy, but constructive criticism is hard.

1.  it's a functionalist account and therefore must leave much unexplained
2.  process metaphysics needlessly complicates established thought
3.  I do not adequately explain emergence
4.  I do not adequately explain how bodily nature becomes conscious phenomena
5.  I do not currently engage with many contemporary views
6.  I presume that there is no problem with the conversion from natural temporality to phenomenological temporality with little argument
7.  I presume Peirce's metaphysics without adequately defeating other views
8.  I presume a derivation of Dewey's metaphysics that itself presumes Peirce's without clearly delineating the two.

These are the criticism that are haunting me at the moment, especially because addressing them could take a lifetime.  Most people just borrow another philosopher and plug them into their own thought, but I am a systematic philosopher and find myself constitutionally unwilling to do that.  That is also the source of much of my criticism of others who do so; I see so many fault lines and inconsistencies to be addressed, but syncretistic philosophy tends to ignore them.  But then, what is the difference between synthetic and syncretistic (or appropriative) philosophy?  That can be a hard call.

I will say this, I am suspicious of philosophies whose works are peppered with names of thinkers from various traditions.  The work is either syncretistic or a brilliant synthesis.  Syncretistic philosophy tends to view theories and thinkers from the perspective of "what can I do with this?," and runs the danger of treating thought mechanically rather than organically, i.e., as pieces to be placed in the machine of one's thought.  In contrast, I recommend wholesale appropriation and synthesis.  However, recent bloggers are right in noting that there is a major trend in philosophy to protect canons and "major" interpretations, which makes it difficult to admit to performing wholesale appropriation and synthesis.  Instead, one claims  to be giving a better or innovative interpretation, which I see as a necessary scholarly evil at best, but is intellectually dangerous when one does not realize that is precisely what one is doing, a necessary evil.

1 comment:

  1. I do not think it is fair, by the way, to lodge cross-traditional criticisms without demonstrating either basic knowledge of the tradition or the problem at hand. Blind criticism is not constructive. And if your interlocutor does not recognize your criticism as appropriate ... well ... good luck is all I can say because I haven't figured out how to handle that case either way--when either I am giving or receiving said criticism.


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