Saturday, June 30, 2012

Against Dimensionalist Views of Temporality


I would revisit some of the topics in yesterday’s post on temporality, especially since the post likely seems obscure. I will explain some of the background leading to the view of time that I assumed, and I hope that this post is far more clear. I also comment on specific theories of time.

Time is change; it is not the measure of change. Theories that presuppose that one can denote a particular instant, and investigate the determinate nature of a thing at that instant, have insufficiently described time. Those views do not explain how something changed, just that it did change at time t1, t2, etc. I insist that this is not adequately describing the nature of temporality, though I would acquiesce to the rebuttal that my aim is a theory of motion, not of time. In response, I would insist that those so-called theories of time are really theories of measurement allowing change to be treated as indexical, but are not theories of time itself.  When I write that time is change, I could just as well say motion, which is the actualization of time.

I criticized theories of time that treated speaking of “time slices” as a coherent notion. I will now be more specific. I take it that such theories presume that a thing has determinate existence at all moments. Per continuity, it is coherent to speak of “time slices” of a thing, or a at time t is F; however, since time is also a constitutive relation, a representation of a “slice” of time must also include what a thing was and what it might be.

I do not believe that dimensional theories of time can do this, of which McTaggart’s theory appears to be a case. McTaggary conceives of time as a linear series, yet time is not linear or dimensional. Part of what is implied in time being “constitutive” is that what a thing is at a given time can change, such that it is incoherent to speak of a time series. A series is a chain of self-same terms that differ depending upon their relative placement in the series, although it is usually granted that future terms are neither actual nor determinate. My objection is that time has no fundamental unit; this treats time as a unit of measurement, and index, and not a change. As I said before, this view does not explain time or how something changed—just that it did change. It reduces time to an index or a series of indices.

Continuing, I am not convinced that endurance or three-dimensionalist  theories of time succeed. These theories treat an event as fully actual, and explain endurance in time as a series of actualities. This appears to reduce time to an index and shift the burden of explaining change to causality. I have difficulty seeing how this view could amount to anything other than mechanical and efficient views of causality.

Finally, perdurance, “time worm,” or four-dimensionalist theories treat the individual as atemporal yet having temporal parts. The parts come into existence to express the individual, but the whole is atemporal at least relative to any given time. This view appears, prima facie, to presuppose the whole “worm” as past, present, and future, yet this is counter-factual for any present or future. It dodges the serious issues to temporality by postulating the atemporal. Even if such a theorist insisted that the whole individual is historical, and thereby the whole is temporal, the theory still rests on a counterfactual. 

All of these treat time as dimensional, but if time is a constitutive relation it cannot be dimensional. I will admit that some theorists, likely any anti-realist about time or an endurance theorist, will deny that time is a constitutive relation. We then have a substantive disagreement that I might engage at another time. But for those who understand time to be constitutive, these theories offer little.

I will summarize the problem again, since it is difficult to grasp. Any theory that treats time as dimensional, e.g., such that we can speak of a time index, conflates a theory of time with a theory of measurement or indexicality. Yes, we might speak of a “slice” of time, which is valid as time is continuous, but the constitutionality of time requires that any “slice” includes what a thing was and what it might be. I do not think that most theories can do this, including those mentioned above. Why not? Because any given present event is indeterminate; only the past is fully determinate, yet the past does not change. Thus, time can be “sliced,” or denotated indexically by a “at time t”if we only consider past events, but then our theory of time can explain only one phase of the triad. Endurance theories appear committed to this. Series-theories like McTaggart’s reduce time to indexical units and fare little better. Perdurance theories atemporalize individuals and then claim that only a temporal part of an individual exists at any given instant. None of these theories explain time as change itself.

I do not presume to have definitive critiques against these theories, since as a scholar I know better than to presume such given this limited amount of discussion. I intend this to be an opener in a much longer discussion and practice for when I engage argumentation at a much higher level of rigor than blog posts.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Temporal Flow



During my analytic metaphysics reading group this evening, I was convinced that several ways of speaking of time are reductive and insufficient to capture temporal notions fit for processional accounts. The idea of “time slices” or speaking of “a at time t is F” treats time as a linear dimension, and it does not work for processional models of temporality. The problem is that it treat time as if it were a discrete unit and an event as if it were completely actual. However, time as event cannot be actual else it would be eternal and not temporal. Moreover, time cannot be a discrete unit and be continuous without denying that the past has a constitutive relation to present, which has another constitutive relation to the future.

I have been developing my own Americanist theory of time from studies of Royce, Peirce, Whitehead, Hartshorne, and Cummins. I have a much work ahead of me, and much behind me, and I would like to present a fuller proposal than I have before. See my prior posts: "Emergence, Temporality, and Consciousness," "Thinking Temporality and Process,""Aristotle, Dewey, and Temporality,"and "Individuals in Process Philosophy."

Below is a representation of an actual event as an irreducible unit of time in a process. The model presumes the following parameters. First, an actual event is an irreducible complex of present-past-future. An event is such by virtue of its constitutive relations from the past and to the future. The past is fully actual, the present is the moment of change, and the future is what might be. If we ignore or sever the past, then we get change without ground. If we do the same for the future, we get a present tending towards nothing in particular, which is absolute chaos. It must be limited at least by the laws of nature. Second, the relation of past-to-present is not the same as present-to-future. The actuality of the past limits the possibilities of the present to the potentialities (real or existentially constrained possibilities given a locale) of the past. Hence, the past is fully actual, while potentiality and selectivity is of the present. What is being selected is not what potentialities are extant, which the past determines, but how the potentialities interact so as to come together into new configurations, potentialities, and their realizations. The future is the anticipated realization(s) of potentiality, and differs from the past in that it is real but not fully actual, and from the present in that it anticipates a determinate realization of the selected potentialities of the present. In sum, the past provides the determinate ground of potentiality that limits which potentialities are in play in a locale, whereas the present is the play of potentiality in forming structures, and the future is the possibilities of the present as limited by the tendencies of the past. When this whole event become “past,” that means one determinate configuration of potentialities stabilized to concresce into the next moment.

The diagram presumes many prior discussions, including my articulation of “potentiality.” Potentiality is a triad of 1) capacity, 2) activity, and 3) realization unto actuality, all three of which are concurrent. The realization of any potentiality is an actuality that occurs through its activity. Capacity, however, is not necessarily inherent in some singular actuality, but occurs through transactivity. One admitted weakness of this view is that I am uncertain about questions in invoke a regress and ask what is the ultimate ground of potentiality—is it potentiality all the way down?

Above, I represent an actual event as the irreducible unit of time as part of a process. The only way I can imagine representing a notion of time as dimensional, i.e., as having discrete units, is to actualize it. But this reduces time to a mere unit of measurement, or in terms of my model, as mere determinate pastness. Suddenly, explaining continuity becomes a problem insomuch as one event is constitutive of the next.

For those who are wondering, I do presume that time is a local and relative phenomenon, and this there is no "universal t" such that any schematization of time has universal applicability--no a at t is F unless t is something other than a dimensional unit.

I would greatly welcome comments, especially questions for clarification. This is still years away from seeing prime time.


The Logic of Problematicity




John Dewey claims that we begin to reflect when a situation becomes problematic. We “feel” a difficulty and the unproblematic situation becomes problematic. I would ask a critical and logical question about this model that is insufficiently discussed in the scholarship. [The following is a proposal.]

If one situation is continuous with another in time, then how does a problematic situation emerge from an unproblematic situation? Continuity is not identity, but then, when does the situation stop being one and become the other? The common response is that any situation contains both problematic and unproblematic elements, i.e., the “precarious” and “stable.” However, this just defers the question: how does the precarious emerge as dominant rather than the stable? The usual rebuttal that we "feel a difficulty" is, again, a deferment. A complete solution should explain how a spontaneity might become the catalyst for a problematic situation. Expansive rebuttals that include the concepts of “felt difficulty,” from How We Think, “tension” from the Studies in Logical Theory or the Logic, or “impulsion” from Art as Experience are also insufficient because none of these explain continuity. I suspect that scholars mentally plug Peirce’s “synechism” into the “continuity” hole when it arises, or if they are like Berstein (cite), call Dewey on being vague.

Why does this matter? It is a logical problem with practical consequences. The logical problem lies in explaining the gestalt shift between a situation experienced as problematic and one not. Insomuch as the two situations are continuous with stable and precarious elements in each, the assertion that a "felt difficulty," "tension," or "impulsion" occurs does not tell us what differences *made a difference*. Continuity implies that given any problematic situation and an unproblematic one before it, there was a transitional situation. Was that situation problematic or not? The question can be infinitely repeated, because continuity implies that given any two moments there is always a third between them. When did the situation become overtly problematic?  The solution that every situation has problematic and unproblematic elements neglects to explain the qualitative difference. The practical consequences include issues of discernment and sensitivity: what counts as problematic? When is harshness experienced as cruelty? When is anger experienced as racism?

I will dispel the vagueness about how two situations may be continuous, non-identical, and yet display the inflection point that is a problematic situation. I will turn to Tom Burke’s distinction between “horizontal” and “vertical” continuity. Horizontal continuity is continuous interaction among entities, whereas vertical continuity implies self-similar continuity. While the former case includes spatiality, the latter includes temporal or historical continuity. I will show that the vagueness about the continuity of the unproblematic and problematic is the conflation of horizontal and vertical continuity. Claiming that every situation contains precarious and stable elements is a case of horizontal continuity; it makes claims about the potentialities of the situation. However, the gestalt shift from unproblematic to problematic is a shift in conscious experience, in how the situation is interpretted, which is primarily a case of time, history, and vertical continuity. When does a difference make a difference? The conventional response that every situation is precarious and stable ignores the temporal element element of continuity. I aim to address this vagueness.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BLOG UPDATE: More Peirce

I have added a number of research and reference sites on Peirce and a few international centers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dewey and Dialectic: Second Waltz


A respected and established Dewey scholar challenged my claim that Dewey employs dialectical thinking. I would like to respond and also dispel some misconceptions that may result from reading my post. I do not think that my responses will satisfy that scholar, but at least I might minimize the potential for misinterpretations.

Dewey is not a Hegelian, and even in his early idealist days he never was a doctrinaire Hegelian. I referenced the scholars who have pushed this debate. I do not believe that any of them are claiming that Dewey is a Hegelian. What I claim is that Dewey uses dialectical mechanics in his thought, and in his 1890-1910s work, he still work in an idealistic style that demonstrated his commitment to dialectical thinking. Not Hegel’s dialectic, but something else and perhaps new. I also maintain that he kept these mechanics, though they became more attenuated with time so as to be almost invisible by the 1930s. I attribute this the inclusion of more influences and Dewey’s aversion to what I call “systematic”—or what some might call “formal”—thinking.

I very briefly explained the two dialectical movements that Dewey employs, which I think of as “negative” (discrimination and analysis to components or plurality) and “positive” (synthesis or combination to a whole or unity). I will give an example for the latter from “The Evolutionary Method in Morality, Part 1”:

"Indeed, the entire significance of the experimental method is that attention centers upon either antecedent or consequent simply because of interest in a process.  The antecedent is of worth because it defines one term of the process of becoming; the consequent because it defines the other term.  But are strictly subordinated to the process to which they give terms, limits" (115-116).

In this case, in a historical process, the antecedent (past) and consequent (future) terms are “strictly subordinated to the process.” Here, the dyad of antecedent and consequent give rise to the process as a whole. Later, Dewey makes it clear that the process is not linear and characterizes it in terms that I would call dialectical.

"The analogy with the terms of an algebraic series is more than a metaphor.  The earlier terms do not develop the later ones.  The earlier term is just as incomprehensible in itself as is the later one.  Taken together, they constitute elements in a problem which is solved by discovering a continuous process or course which, individualized by the limiting terms, shows itself first in one form and then in the other" (116).

To take his words as a Hegelian dialectic, or to indicate any necessity, would be to radically misunderstand both Dewey and my claims. I am merely noting—through hundreds of pages of analysis that I have written and referenced—that the patterns repeat again and again. E.g., we coordinate 1) act and 2) sensation towards the 3) overall meaning of the activity in context. It suspect that it is this same pattern that lead Larry Hickman to declare that 3 is Dewey’s favorite number, although he takes a strong Peircean reading of Dewey.

I could stop writing “dialectic” and write “logic of evolutionary morphology.” I avoid the potential confusion, but then lose the sense in which Dewey is a triadic thinker. Or maybe I should just agree with Hickman.


John Dewey, "The Evolutionary Method as Applied to Morality," in _The Philosophical Review_, Vol. 11, No. 2 (March 1902): 108-124.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WORKSHOP ON TELEOLOGICAL ORGANISATION: ORGANISMS, ECOSYSTEMS, AND ARTIFACTS

University of Copenhagen, August 23-24, 2012

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS
Karen Neander (Duke), Samir Okasha (Bristol), Jay Odenbaugh (Lewis & Clark College),
Frédéric Bouchard (Montreal), Wybo Houkes (Eindhoven), Elselijn Kingma (King's College London), Simon Rippon (Oxford), John Basl (Bowling Green), and Sune Holm (Copenhagen).

REGISTRATION
free, but please e-mail Sune Holm (suneh@hum.ku.dk) by August 1, 2012 if you would like to attend.


DESCRIPTION
Rapid progress in fields such as synthetic biology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and environmental engineering are expected to result in a historical increase in the ability of humans to understand and intervene in human nature and the natural world. While the developments provide exciting ways of dealing with global problems in relation to energy, climate, health, and agriculture, they also elicit calls for caution.

In order to fully understand the ethical dimensions of these technologies, a variety of investigations must be undertaken. One such investigation concerns the nature and status of the biological and ecological systems subject to manipulation. This workshop will bring together philosophers of biology, science, and engineering, bio-, and environmental ethicists as well as other experts to investigate fundamental theoretical questions concerning the nature and value of organisms, artifacts, and ecosystems in the context of current developments in biotechnology and environmental engineering.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dewey on Whitehead

This is from John Dewey's "The Philosophy of Whitehead" as cited from the Critical and Collected Edition of his works. This displays Dewey's robust realist, emergentist view of nature.


"If I had a right to assume on the part of the reader acquaintance with my own writings on the topic of the reciprocal connections of nature and experience, and the bearing of these connections upon the problems and task of philosophy, I would add that it will also be obvious why I cite this particular passage. For what I have called the background and point of departure seems to be the same for both of us, no matter what deviations may occur later. And such a community of backgrounds is so rare that I make no apology for dwelling upon it at the outset. In any case, the reader is entitled to the warning that my belief in the fundamental significance of the ideas set forth in the passage quoted controls what I have to say about the tenor of Whitehead's philosophy. If I am wrong in attributing central importance to the ideas that experience is a manifestation of the energies of the organism; that these energies are in such intimate continuity with the rest of nature that the traits of experience provide clews for forming "generalized descriptions" of nature— the especial business of philosophy according to Whitehead— and that what is discovered about the rest of nature (constituting the conclusions of the natural sciences) provides the organs for analyzing and understanding what is otherwise obscure and ambiguous in experiences directly had—if, I say, I am wrong in this view, then there will be no particular point to what I have further to say." (LW 14:125)



"This doctrine that all actual existences are to be treated as "occasions of experience" carries and elaborates, it seems to me, the significance contained in the propositions I quoted earlier about the depth and width of scope of experience. The idea that the immediate traits of distinctively human experience are highly specialized cases of what actually goes on in every actualized event of nature does infinitely more than merely deny the existence of an impassable gulf between physical and psychological subject-matter. It authorizes us, as philosophers engaged in forming highly generalized descriptions of nature, to use the traits of immediate experience as clews for interpreting our observations of non-human and non-animate nature. It also authorizes us to carry over the main conclusions of physical science into explanation and description of mysterious and inexplicable traits of experience marked by "consciousness." It enables us to do so without engaging in the dogmatic mechanistic materialism that inevitably resulted when Newtonian physics was used to account for what is distinctive in human experience. That which on the negative side is simply an elimination of the grounds of the metaphysical dualism of physical and mental, material and ideal, object and subject, opens the road to free observation of whatever experience of any kind discloses and points toward:—free, that is, from a rigid frame of preconceptions." (LW 14:127)



"For the generalization of "experience" which is involved in calling every actual existence by the name "occasion of experience" has a two-fold consequence, each aspect of this dual consequence being complementary to the other. The traits of human experience can be used to direct observation of the generalized traits of all nature. For they are intensified manifestations, specialized developments, of conditions and factors found everywhere in nature. On the other hand, all the generalizations to which physical science leads are resources available for analysis and descriptive interpretation of all the phenomena of human life, personal and "social." It is my impression that in his earlier writings Whitehead started preferably from the physical side, and then moved on to a doctrine of nature "in general" without much explicit attention to what may be called experience from the psychological point of view, while in his later writings he supplements and extends the conclusions thus reached by adoption of a reverse movement:—that from specialized human experience through physical experience to a comprehensive doctrine of Nature. The "events" of his earlier treatises thus become the "occasions of experience" of later writings. But whether or not this impression is well-founded is of slight importance compared with the fact that Whitehead proceeds systematically upon the ground indicated in the following passage: "The world within experience is identical with the world beyond experience, the occasion of experience is within the world and the world is within the occasion. The categories have to elucidate this paradox of the connectedness of things:—the many things, the one world without and within." (LW 14:128)

Conference Videos: Cambridge Pragmatism: A Research Workshop.



The Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy web page has many resources for those interested in American philosophy and intellectual history in all traditions, sub-branches, and geographic regions of the Americas. Here's an update on new offerings:

Cambridge Pragmatism: A Research Workshop.*

From the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Trinity College, Cambridge; 31 May — 1 June, 2012.

Video of talks by Cheryl Misak, Chris Hookway, Dorothy Edgington, Huw Price, Michael Williams, Robert Brandom, Sami Pihlstrom, and Simon Blackburn.

Added to http://american-philosophy.org/resources.htm#Audio and Video Resources and original page is located here: http://www.sms.cam.ac.uk/collection/1265209;jsessionid=46FDDB501CFC23A2E2D061F1381E8C69

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dewey and Dialectical Thinking



How is John Dewey a dialectical thinker? I will not argue that Dewey is a dialectical thinker, as scholars such as Jim Good, John Shook, and Jim Garrison have already well established this. Rather, I ask how? It is a factual matter that Dewey was a Hegelian early in his career, and many attribute the dialectic of his thought to this, although John Shook argues that it originates earlier in his years studying physiological psychology. For those unaware, the idea that Dewey was a dialectical thinker beyond his early period is extremely controversial and appears to be a minority opinion. However, I would argue against critics that they describe the same dialectical mechanics that they disavow, and it appears that a distaste for connecting Dewey to Hegel or idealism has blinded some scholars to the connection. Dewey left Hegel behind, but not dialectical thinking.

The paradigm example of Dewey’s dialectical thought is in “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology.” It is widely taken as a turning point in his thought, since it synthesizes his Hegelian past, recent assimilation of William James, and becomes a foundation for all his later work. There he argues that we should not conceive of stimulus and response as discrete and separate, which leads to thinking of interaction as mechanical. Instead, something is a stimulus or response depending upon how it functions as part of overall activity. The fundamental unit of behavior is a “coordination,” i.e. a coordination of stimulus and response. Anything that suggests itself as stimulus is evaluated in terms of how we might respond to it, which is to say that the value of a stimulus is in terms of evoking responsiveness.

I will give Dewey’s example that he borrowed from James’ Psychology. The child who investigates the burning candle is not being stimulated by brightness, feeling pain, and then mechanically retracting a burnt finger. If the stimulation and result were truly disconnected, then their association remains a mystery; how does the child come to learn that candles lead to burning as opposed to any bright or flickering thing? Rather, the meaning of the situation gains its value from the series of coordinated sensory acts and resultant sensations. The dyad of act and sensation are guided by a third that holds them in tension, the value or meaning of the act, and any differentiation in either act or sensation leads to a different value. This overturns pre-existing theories that treat stimuli as having a fixed or discrete value. It also reveals Dewey’s core dialectical mechanic, which always comes in threes. Hegel, Peirce, and Dewey had an obsession with the number. 

In most analyses, Dewey begins with a unity from which one makes a dyadic distinction: for example, stimulus and response from coordinated activity; environment and human organism from situation; disrupted activity and felt difficulty from problematic situation; etc. He follows James in conceiving conscious experience as a unity and a plenum. Unity is first from which comes plurality. However, Dewey’s movement of threes is not always one of diremption or differentiation. Unity can also be productive as in the case of feeling and quality forming meaning. In fact, Dewe

Dewey’s dialectic is always triadic and unfolds in one of two movements. The process is either a diremption of unity into multiplicity, or a production of multiplicity into unity. There is always an active transitory period in which the diremption or production takes place. This period is both an event and an energy that is not reducible to one part of the dyad, since it is a third that emerges or recedes depending on the movement. It crackles like the sparks of a Tesla coil vibrating between the contacts. These two movements may alternate or even nest within each other, as in the case of inquiry, wherein we imagine different possibilities of reconstructing the situation to rectify a problem.

More later.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

CFP: C.S. Peirce International Philosophy Congress


CALL FOR PAPERS AND PANEL PROPOSALS

The Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress
Invigorating Philosophy for the 21st Century
July 16-19, 2014
University of Massachusetts Lowell

The Charles S. Peirce Society and the Peirce Foundation cordially invite the submission of new papers and panel proposals for the Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress, to be held at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The theme of the Congress is Invigorating Philosophy for the 21st Century. The aim of this conference is to advance scholarship on all aspects of Peirce’s philosophy and biography, and on the influence and contemporary relevance of his thought. Interdisciplinary submissions, and contributions from researchers in disciplines other than philosophy, are welcome.


I. GENERAL GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES

A. Method of SubmissionAll submissions must be sent as email attachments to
PeirceCongress2014@gmail.com
The subject line of the email should be whichever of the following applies:
            Centennial paper submission from [insert your name]
            Centennial panel submission from [insert your name]
It will greatly facilitate the work of the Program Committee if you use this exact wording and replace the blank with your name.

B. File Format: All files submitted must be in .doc, .docx or .rtf format. They must be double-spaced, with no headers or footers (except for pagination), and use Times New Roman 12 point font.

C. Confirmation: All persons making submissions with the appropriate subject line information will receive confirmation of receipt of their submission within one week of the submission deadline. If you have not received such confirmation by that date (and are sure that the confirmation email did not wind up in your spam folder) please email an inquiry to PeirceCongress2014@gmail.com.

D. Number of Submissions: Individuals may submit at most two (full-length, 3000-word) papers, and only one panel proposal, for review. Please note that no one will be allowed to present more than one full-length paper, or to participate in more than one panel, at the Congress unless the Program Committee finds that an exception is warranted.

E. Anonymity: Papers and panel proposals must be suitable for anonymous review.  Please refrain from making references to your own work, your location, or anything obvious that could reveal your identity.  If the author’s identity can be determined through self-references, endnotes, etc., the submission may be disqualified.

F. Publication Possibilities: The Publications Committee for the Congress does not plan to publish a volume of proceedings. Instead the Committee will be selecting papers of enduring scholarly value for publication in themed anthologies or themed issues of journals. If your paper is accepted for presentation at the Congress, it will be considered for publication unless you indicate at the time of submission that you do not wish it to be. Only those papers that are complete at the time of submission will be considered for publication.


II. SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: PAPERS

A. Papers will be presented by their authors during contributed paper sessions. Each such session will comprise two papers and will run for a total of 90 minutes: 25 minutes of presentation time, and 20 minutes of discussion, per paper.

B. Length: Papers should be no longer than 3000 words; longer papers will not be reviewed.

C. Deadline:  1 September 2013. This is a firm deadline: no paper submissions will be accepted if they carry a time stamp later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on that date.

D. Submissions must include two (separate) files, attached to an email (see §I.A above):

(1)   A file set up for anonymous review, entitled “Paper Submission”, which must include
a.       the paper title
b.      an abstract (100-150 words)
c.       keywords
d.      word count
e.       the text of the paper (not to exceed 3000 words)
(2)   A file entitled “Author Information,” which must include
a.       the paper title
b.      author name and (if applicable) institutional affiliation
c.       author contact information (telephone number, email address and postal mailing address)
d.      anticipated audiovisual equipment needs

If you do not want your paper to be considered for publication (see §I.F), please indicate that in the “Author Information” file.

E. Notification of Acceptance/Rejection: Authors will be notified by email of the Program Committee’s decision by 31 December 2013.


III. SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: PANELS

A. Panels are 90 minute, open format, sessions. Panel organizers are free to propose any format (including the format described above in §II.A) that is appropriate to the objectives for their panel. There must be at least two contributors, and their contributions must be consistent with the general guidelines on number of submissions (§I.D), and with the length requirement stated below. All contributors must have confirmed their participation to the panel organizer before submission.

B. Length: Length of the papers will depend on the panel format, but may not exceed 3000 words. It is the responsibility of the panel organizer to ensure that all planned activities can be completed within 90 minutes. If your proposed format does not allow at least 30 minutes for discussion, please include a justification for this in your proposal.

C. Deadline:  1 February 2013. This is a firm deadline: no panel submissions will be accepted if they carry a time stamp later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on that date.

D. Submissions must include two (separate) files, attached to an email (see §I.A above):

(1)   A file set up for anonymous review, entitled “Panel Submission”, which must include
a.       the panel title
b.      an abstract for the panel (450-600 words) explaining: the topic of the panel; its relevance to the Congress; how the proposed contributions jointly advance the discussion of the panel topic; and the proposed format of the panel
c.       an abstract (450-600 words) for each contribution to the panel
(2)   A file (one file for the whole panel, not separate files for the several contributors) entitled “Contributor Information,” which must include
a.       the panel title
b.      the name of the panel organizer, with institutional affiliation (if applicable) and contact information (telephone number, email address, and postal mailing address)
c.       for each contribution: author name, title of contribution, institutional affiliation (if applicable) and contact information (telephone number, email address, and postal mailing address)
d.      anticipated audiovisual equipment needs for the panel

Notification of Acceptance/Rejection and Final Submission of Panels: Panel organizers will be notified of the Program Committee’s decision by 1 May 2013. At that time the organizer will also receive instructions for the final submission of their panel. The details of those instructions may vary depending upon the format of the panel; for panels following the format of contributed paper sessions (§II.A), final versions of the papers to be presented must be included in the final submission. The deadline for final submission of panels is. 1 September 2013. This is a firm deadline.



IV. CONTACT INFORMATION

All correspondence related to the Congress program should be sent to

PeirceCongress2014@gmail.com

If exceptional circumstances make it necessary to communicate directly with one or both of the Program Committee Co-Chairs, they can be reached by email at the following addresses:

Rosa Mayorga (rmayorga@mdc.edu)

Matthew Moore (matthewm@brooklyn.cuny.edu)

When emailing the Co-Chairs at the latter two addresses please indicate clearly in the subject line that the topic of your message is the Peirce Centennial Congress.

Process and Duration




Does a process exist in “duration?” Someone asked this at Matt’s Footnotes to Plato, and I will address the question assuming that “duration” implies “exists as actual.” In hindsight, the inquirer probably has a different notion of duration, but this example is instructive.

While a real systems exists in a duration, it does not exist solely as a duration. Each event is related to its past and future, which are real relations of actuality as well as potentiality (respectively). If “durational” means “actual” or “existent,” then this view would conceive a process as a flat slab of duration and not energetic and temporal. This might be the case in materialism, but does not generalize. A problem is that potentiality requires futural possibility that an actualist view cannot support.

Hopefully this is a helpful example of the repercussions of prior posts.







CFP: Graduate Conference on Whitehead and Pragmatism

Call for Graduate Student Papers
Experience & Reality
Thinking with Whitehead and American Pragmatism

Dates: November 29-December 1, 2012
Location: Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California
Paper Submission Due: Friday, August 31, 2012 to henning@gonzaga.eduCo-Sponsors: Whitehead Research Project & Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy

In keeping with its mission to analyze the relevance of Whitehead’s thought in dialogue with contemporary philosophies, the Whitehead Research Project (WRP) is hosting a conference to explore current lines of congruence and tension between American pragmatism, classical American philosophy, and contemporary Whitehead scholarship. Co-sponsored by the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, the purpose of the conference is not to rehearse old debates, but to work at the intersection of experience and reality to incite novel and creative thought about the future of American philosophy. Specific questions that may be addressed include: 

Is Whitehead a Pragmatist and/or an American philosopher?
What contrasts and affinities exist between American Pragmatism and Whitehead’s thought?
What new questions, strategies, and critiques emerge by juxtaposing their distinct perspectives? 

Lodging and food will be provided by the conference sponsors for all conference participants. All participants will be invited to submit their work to be considered for inclusion in a planned anthology.
Submissions should be presentable in 15-20 minutes (approx. 10 pg) and must make a philosophical contribution. All papers and abstracts should be sent to the organizer of the conference, Dr. Brian G. Henning, no later than August 31st. Submissions should be sent electronically to 
henning@gonzaga.edu and should include: 

Your paper (with no identifications of the author within the text)
Abstract (also without identifications)
A separate cover page with your name, paper title, institutional affiliation, telephone number, e-mail address and mailing address.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Nature Thinks … Desire




My book, tentatively titled How Nature Thinks, reduces to three interrelated ideas. 1) If you cannot imagine it, then you cannot experience it as meaningful. 2) Affectivity is prior to and semi-independent from cognition such that 3) the unreflective function of imagination may diverge from its reflective employment so that meaning had may diverge from meaning taken or cognitively grasped.

The conclusion is that affective sensibility is prior to cognitive sensibility, and habituated rifts between the two cause terrible problems for a person. For example, in our contemporary American times, sex sells and young people are conditioned to lust after idyllic beauty at the same time they are admonished that it does not matter. Hence, their habits of sexual desire and discursive practices are primed for conflict. Why? Meaning is had first on the level of the body and not the mind: what we find desirable and what we claim to be such need never confront one another until we are challenged. The widespread nature of the practice makes these challenges difficult.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From the Archives: Peirce on Certain Faculties Claimed for Man



I was preparing a critical thinking lecture that included some C.S. Peirce and thought that I would present a variant of it to a wider audience.  Since many of the SR and OOO crowd is more familiar with Whitehead than his predecessor Peirce, I hope that this is helpful and informative.  Note that I have simplified it as befits an undergraduate course, and thus I have significantly rephrased some of the questions.  That said, the re-phrasing might be more obviously informative. The noted implications are my own.

"Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man"
Peirce asks seven questions in this article concerning thought and its ability to know.

Question 1.
Without previous knowledge or reasoning, can we immediately distinguish between introspection and perception?

No.
We feel that we have this power or faculty, but there is no evidence that we do.
There is lots of evidence that we do not.
"Every lawyer knows how difficult it is for witnesses to distinguish between what they have seen and what they have inferred" (CP 5.216).

Implications:
Two of the four sources of knowledge, introspection and perception, are not distinct.

Question 2.
Do we have an intuitive knowledge of ourselves, i.e., have self-consciousness?

No.
"I" or self-reference has to be taught to children.
So does ascribing what others says to ourselves.

Question 3.
Do we have a power to distinguish subjective from objective elements of thought?

No.
We have no intuitive power, but we have methods of verification.
Much of this follows from question 1.

Question 4.
Do we have a power of introspection, or is our knowledge of the internal world derived from observation of external facts?

No evidence.
Per question 3, we cannot know immediately.
The only way to investigate it is through psychology, but that is not based on introspection.
We cannot use non-introspective methods to prove the power of introspection.

Question 5.
Can thought reference nothing?

No.
Thought is always about something.

Implication:
Thought is intentional, although for Peirce we should understand this as possibly originating from the thing, not just mind.

Question 6.
Is anything unthinkable?

No.
To be is synonymous with to be thinkable.

Implication:
To be is to be related, which is to be thinkable.

Question 7.
Can we think things other than thought itself?

Yes.


*The last few questions concern his semiotic.  As for question 7, I suspect that it has significance for the OOO crowd and others worried about anthropocentrism.

Morality as an Aesthetic


I have argued against reducing morality to an aesthetic, especially a social or cultural aesthetic.

Let me give an example. Many leftist Americans adopt a cultivated diction and speech patterns known as “politically correct” speech, and they respond when they think that the rules have been violated. For instance, I use the term “guys” to mean “group of people,” but am occassionally harassed when someone takes it to be a masculine gendered term, as it is the historic binary of “gal” (woman). To use a gendered term when it is not semantically necessary is seen as a sign of moral failure.  For another example, someone I know told me a story of when she called a pizza place and asked “how late are you guys open,” and she was loudly berated for her word choice.  Its Oregon, so that’s not a surprise for those of us not wholly immersed in one of the meccas of American leftist culture.

The problem is that people who make moral judgments based on an aesthetic are always in danger of reducing a reasoned judgment to a social or cultural aesthetic. In heated cases, even the most well-intention individual might not recognize the difference. It is far too easy “being moral” to become “being like us,” a topic that is gently lampooned in books such as What White People Like.

Morality should have a purposiveness or normativity that is more than a social or cultural aesthetic, but morality cannot be divorced from an aesthetic. Normative judgments require some explicit or implicit understanding of experience, its elements, and some selective valuation as implied in an aesthetic, but unless we proposes to derive normativity from experience simpliciter, more must be said. Otherwise, we commit a phenomenological version of the naturalistic fallacy: whatever we experience as morally right is morally right.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Causal Closure of Nature Revisited

Awhile back, maybe 9 months, I argued for the causal closure of nature. SInce then, I have been reading up on analytic debates in metaphysics, particularly emergence. It has become apparent that what I meant by “causal closure” is not what what they mean, and perhaps I was and have been misunderstood.

In naturalism, especially physicalism or materialism, causal closure usually includes both an affirmation of what is real (the physical-energetic) under some level of analysis and a denial of the supernatural (e.g., events that violate efficient causality or the laws of nature). In short, it is a thesis about what is real and how it behaves.

When I claimed causal closure, I was not affirming what was real. In fact, I reject any hard-nosed exclusion as trying to make an unverifiable universal proposition about the cosmos. I have sympathy with William James on this point; we should make our assumptions but not be blinded by them. Who knows, maybe God is natural? But this is beside the present point.

In mathematical terms, which was guiding my discussion, I wrote that the operations of nature are closed, which is not the same as saying the the domain of nature is closed. That is, any activity in nature begets something natural, but that doesn’t mean that the product is of the same stuff as before. I embrace real creativity.  This is a wide divergence from the naturalisms common to analytic philosophy, which are also commonly committed to what is real. I just require it to be part of a system of nature, where “nature” is a open concept. Creativity of this sort implies emergence and non-reducibility.

What does this openness mean in principle? I am open not only to “structural” or “systemic” causation, but also new material causation. This is possible on the view that the laws of nature are hyper-stable, but neither logically nor physically necessary. This is also related to evolutionary metaphysics.

In terms of my recent posts on emergentism, I might not be accepted into the camp of “naturalism” by contemporary standards. But if that is the case, then none of the classical pragmatists or many contemporary Americanists would be.


For clarification, John Symons tells me that “physicalism” presumes reducibility to micro-physics, whereas “materialism” does not, and I would like to thank him for the clarfication.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Difference in Substance vs. Process Metaphysics


For years I have been trying to explain Deweyan temporal and processional concepts, and recently I have expanded to process concerns in general. I came to “process philosophy” as the Whiteheadians understand it only recently. It can be very difficult to explain the core of process philosophy in general terms to someone who has not even considered or read alternatives. Reading Spinoza and Leibniz, by the way, does not count as “process” in this respect, since they are quite different from modern notions, e.g., differ on the reality and nature of time, relations, chance, possibility, identity, etc.

Below is another attempt to sum up the difference in a few words; this is something that I would say to curious philosopher.

Substance: a thing is what it is regardless of its or other’s activities
Process: a thing is what it is because of its and other’s ongoing activities.

There are two key differences. One, in a processive view, ongoing activity is essential to the things being, but this also implies that becoming and time is essential. Two, since anything is acting and being acted upon, and this is part of its being what it is, then interaction or transaction is fundamental to what a thing is. Nothing can be fully defined in isolation to its situatedness, because these are also the conditions of its being.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mind, Emergence, and Epiphenomena


I will propose a processive solution to the problem of the reality or reducibility of mind. This is an extension of the posts of the last few days, although now I am trying to think the thought in a more analytic vocabulary.

If mind is an emergent phenomenon of human physiological nature, then is there a substantive difference between the two? No, because mind cannot exist independently from its physical constituents. If mind has no independent causal power, i.e., is an epiphenomenon, then how could it be real? I ask these two questions, because I suspect that some equate emergence and epiphenomenalism, especially when it is said, as I would, that mind has no independent causal power. This leads some to want to "naturalize" or reduce mind to underlying physical states, because "really real" things have causal power or produce distinct effects.

On a process view, they are mistaken. If to exist is to be related, then not having independent causal power implies little. "Independent" becomes a formal distinction and not a substantive one. Thus, it seems arbitrary to call emergent mind an epiphenomenon (causally inefficacious), because there is no substantive difference between body and mind. There is a temporal difference, however, but that's not the same. Mind is an event that produces might produce under the right conditions.

Process rejects the simple supervenience argument that the causal properties of underlying conditions may fully account for the emergent phenomena. Supervenience of this sort is rejected; emergence is the creation of new causality.

What is needed is a notion of structural causation, the idea that existential arrangement has causal potency. Hence, what something is made of and its arrangement are semi-independent factors in causality. (Perhaps this is what Mike meant by invoking material and formal causality, in which case I agree with his comments on another post.)

I propose that mind's primary function, its distinct causal agency, is in mediating or reconstructing the symbolic systems of thought by which we inhabit and comprehend the world as meaningful. I have discussed this previously.

It is generally thought that for something to exist, it must have causal power. For a Peircean modal view of reality, this is not so. Universals are real, but have no causal power. Perhaps Levi Bryant's presumption that unviersals have causal power has lead him to accuse, ad nauseum, process philosophies of hylomorphism. I have just posted a respose to that view that goes along with this post.

The Causal Powers of the Real


It has occurred to me that I should make a fine distinction that might clarify many of my posts, especially for those coming from an analytic or continental perspective, e.g., soft/hard scientific naturalism, materialism, variants of OOO, etc.

I have been arguing for a Peircean-derivative triadic view of reality in which possibility, existence/energy/activity, and law or habit are real. To be real is to have real effects, but is not necessarily to exist or have causal power. Possibility and law have no causal power, but then, it depends upon what one means by "causal power."

I will investigate the notion of causal power through adopting an Aristotelian language, which I presume all readers might share. I say that only existence has efficient or material causal power. Possibility cannot be a cause without being actuality, in which case it exists and has causality in virtue of that. Law is not material, and since only material things can act via efficient causality, law has no efficient causality. This follows from Aristotle's views if we momentary omit eros as a kind of efficient causality; recall that the Unmoved Mover had an erotic power akin to efficient causality that caused all the cosmos to move in response. Since possibility has neither material nor efficient causality, does it have formal or final? No. A possibility as a mere possibility is an impulse, a pure spontaneity that in itself is no thing; it does not exist and has no determinacy. Possibility, as firstness, can only have the determinacy necessary for formal or final causality insomuch as it becomes secondness (existence/energy/act) or thirdness (law/habit). Moreover, it becomes these things through temporalizing, and thus even more than the triad is needed to claim that possibility can be formal or final. One might be tempted to dismiss possibility as part of ontology, until I remind them that spontaneity cannot be excluded without likely positing a mechanistic universe. Finally, does law or habit (thirdness) have formal or final causality? YES.

Formal causality understood as identity, i.e., as determinate predication that indicates the composition of a thing is something that can be said of habit (thirdness).  However, as previously discussed, there are at least two irreducible kinds of "formal" causation here. There is "form" understood as composition or constitution, and "form" understood as structure. For instance, an imperfect vs. a perfect crystal lattice have the same composition, but might have very different causal properties in virtue of divergent structures. These two kinds of causation are semi-independent, but distinct, and for that we need look no father than ice. Phase change phenomena are excellent examples of the distinction.

Law or habit has final causality, but only if we include time.  What is time? For now, I propose that we define time as the asymmetric relativity of (real) relations. In any particular case, temporality describes how an event relates to other events. I have given arguments that the past-to-present and present-to-future relations are not identical, which I mention to complicate on-the-face-of-it readings. Part of the reason that these are different is due to the reality of chance, as possible probability structures for each are non-identical; see the recent posts. In sum, "final causality" as I might use the term is indistinguishable from claiming the reality of purposiveness or emergence in nature. That is, the next event is never reducible to the prior event, and the remainder is not merely attributable to chance. Nature loads the dice, since nature tends towards wholeness, and any case of final causality is just the local instance of wholeness, whether that be a growing plant or crumbling mountain. In contrast, if nature did not tend towards anything in particular, then law or habit would be impossible, because ice could be cold one moment and on fire the next. This might seem like an odd way to view the matter, and the oddity is due to accepting the reality of chance. Once that is accepted, we must explain how the cosmos is not utter chaos.

Why is the cosmos not utter chaos? Why may things tend to wholeness?  Why love and eros, of course! I am not thinking of final causality or teleology as mysterious forces pulling something along, which is actually a Platonic and not Aristotelian view.

I do not think it is helpful or instructive to stress law or habit as final causality, and I do it merely as an exercise. It is not instructive because making that connection work draws in too many other principles, e.g., time, purposiveness, wholeness, etc.

I would add one last caveat: history and time are distinct. I think too many misunderstandings occur because when I write "time," people read "history." That is not a problem when one treats time as static progressive process, but since I think it as a dynamicly asymmetric process, then commonsense or typical notions of time--even philosophic ones--miss the mark. For instance, given my limited understanding of McTaggart-type arguments, they are not even compatible with this view of time and the resultant view of history. History is concretized temporality.




Friday, June 15, 2012

BLOG UPDATE: More Research Links

I have added many more links to research centers, international societies, etc., while better separating them. I have also been updating the philosophy primers and my glossary. I might also add a list of links to monograph series in pragmatism, which of course would include the Indiana and Fordam U.P.s, and Open Court.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Emergence, Temporality, Consciousness


This is continuance of my prior post, “Individuals in Process Philosophy,” and works through  related issues. There, I argued that there is a sense in which an actual event is not an “individual.” It is an “individual” in the sense that an individual event exists, but more than the individual event is real because of the implications of temporality, and thus the term “individual” is problematic in process philosophy.

Instead of appealing to the reality of temporal relations, one could appeal to absolute "emergence," which is to say that under certain (efficient) causal conditions additional effects occur. This is epiphenomenalism and a common reading of supervenience. But this is only partially helpful, because the explanation reduces to the claim of constant conjunction, and does not get us beyond bare empiricism. Rather, if we accept that causality can be integral, that is, that causal power is something the fuses and merges, then an emergent phenomena is just the birth of something new. Its novelty is more than irreducibility or concurrence.

I argue against the idea that conscious awareness per se is a case of a causal phenomena, and thus I dodge that part of the debate about epiphenomena or super-vening phenomena having causal power or not. For those just tuning in, that is the debate about whether conscious intention is an illusion or causally efficacious.  Instead, I say that conscious awareness is a sign for underlying biological processes that do have causal power, and conscious awareness is limited to an explicit semiotic mediation. Its new power is the ability change how the underlying semiotic system is represented. That is, its like a program that decides to rewrite part of itself in a new programming language and recompile it, even though the underlying hardware is the same. An important dis-anology is that adopting or changing a symbolic system, e.g., a language or culture, alters the underlying hardware or neurology.

Now, if we want to get more complicated, by the way, I will change an earlier sentence to "An event is such by virtue of its relations to its past and future." Temporality is now grammatically possessive, which is to say that temporality is relative. How relative? Ultimately that is an empirical question. If temporality is the relating of an event, which is the whole of temporal relations of past, present, and future, which are not unidimensional or simple, then time is relative. This is why Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology idea is not new to me, and I did not invent this perspective.

Adrian on Craziness & Habit

Great post by Adrian at Immanence on "Craziness & Habit."


Rejecting the Principle of Non-Contradiction in Process Philosophy


Process philosophy commonly rejects the classic conception of the principle of non-contradiction. The principle asserts that a proposition cannot be both truth and false in the same respect at the same time. I will sketch some arguments about how this might proceed.

One way to reject this is to note that it treats time as an atomic or determinate unit and as capable of being self-same. Presuming that a temporal process insists on the reality of the past and future in the present,  if an event is such in virtue of its real relations to a past and a future, then it cannot be said that there is any determinate unity to the notion “same time.” If self-sameness must be absolute, then the present as a moment of change cannot be absolute, because the present is indeterminate and cannot be self-same. If the present were treated as fully determinate, then either no change has occurred, or we are treating time as a continuous slab of determinacy throughout history that belies the notion of real change. If anything is fully determinate, it is the past, but the past cannot be the basis for self-sameness in the present without admitting the real relation of the present to the past. But then the the self-sameness that is the basis for it being the same time, i.e., the past, is self-same in virtue of what is not self-same, i.e., the present.  So far, I have sketched two arguments about how an event cannot be a “same time” such that the principle of non-contradiction applies. That is, the present is not self-same, and though the past is prima facie self-same, it contributes its similarity only in virtue of the present indeterminacy. Finally, the future cannot be the basis of self-similarity, because the future qua future is not actual but possible. It cannot be determinate unless once again we deny change. Perhaps I should remind the reader that I also argue for the reality of chance, which foils some but perhaps not all inventive rebuttals. To put it another way, I am arguing against a mechanistic or block universe in which one could say something very similar to what I write here, but the principle of non-contradiction may be preserved.

There is another way to reject the standard reading of the principle of non-contradiction. One could deny the principle of the excluded middle and claim that that the proposition in question is neither true nor false in the moment of change. When I invoked indeterminacy in the previous argument, this way also comes into play.

As I frequently do, here I am working through these issues on my own, and a person looking for deeper insight should probably consult Hartshorne. Sorry Whiteheadians, but Hartshorne is more readable....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Agent Swarm's Critical Analysis of OOO

Agent Swarm is posting critical takes on OOO, especially Harman, so fast that I will not link them individually. Just go check the last few posts out here.  I would note that he is not taking cheap shots or engaging in ad hominems ... there's been a little too much of that lately in the blogosphere.

Individuals in Process Philosophy


A correspondent, Gary Smith, asked about “individuals” in my processive view, which is still in development. I took the opportunity to explain why taking about “individuals” in an atomic sense is problematic in process philosophy.

Here's one reason why casually using the term "individual" is problematic in process philosophy. If the fundamental concrete unit is an actual event, then consider what an event is. An event is such by virtue of its relations to the past and future. The past is fully actual, the present is the moment of change, and the future is what might be. If we ignore or sever the past, then we get change without ground. If we do the same for the future, we get a present tending towards nothing in particular, which is absolute chaos. It must be limited at least by the laws of nature, no? How can we say that without claiming some limit on the ontic structure of possibility? We could resort to claiming special powers of the cause, or limits inherent to the causal impulse of efficient causation, but let me mention it and set it aside.  Typical substance philosophies appeal to efficient causation here, but it is not quite clear what the relation is between a cause and its effect, since in principle the cause may exist without its effect. It is latent. What actuates it? There are solutions, but process avoids this route by saying that any cause is always active and acting towards its effect, but realization of its effect depends upon local conditions. But this fundamentally denies substance-thinking if causality is not atomic. Talking about the future, or teleology, is talking about the relativity of present to future given the past.

If the fundamental concrete unit, the actual event, is what it is only in virtue of its relations to what it was and what is might be but is not, then calling it “individual” is problematic. It would be a different individual in the next pulse of the cosmos. Soon, I will post about why I reject the principle of non-contradiction, and it should be obvious why it is yet another problematic principle to speak about in process when trying to wander across different philosophical perspectives.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CFP: Feminist Pragmatism in Place Colloquium EXTENDED

Feminist Pragmatism in Place Colloquium

*The University of Dayton*
*October 19-20, 2012 *

This colloquium will address feminist pragmatist approaches to place, broadly construed, including natural and built environments, and spaces of exclusion and belonging in historical and contemporary contexts.

*Plenary Speakers:*

Lisa Heldke, author of *Exotic Appetites: Ruminations of a Food Adventurer* and Professor of Philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, will speak on "Urban Farmers and Rural Cosmopolitans? Pragmatist Musings on Contemporary Food Movements"


Louise W. Knight, author of *Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy* and *Jane Addams: Spirit in Action,* Visiting Scholar, Northwestern University Gender Studies Program and School of Communication, will speak on "Reading Addams's Rhetoric on Social Justice"

Due Date: July 2, 2012** Abstracts will be blind reviewed. Please submit two files, one with the paper/abstract title, your name, and email address, and the other with the abstract of 200 - 400 words of text, without your name or other identifying information. Send to Cynthia King ( *Cynthia.King@notes.udayton.edu*).


For more information please contact the colloquium organizers, Denise James (*Denise.James@notes.udayton.edu*) and Marilyn Fischer *( Fischer@udayton.edu*), of the Department of Philosophy, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thinking Temporality and Process


Someone asked a question about my prior post "What Is Not a Process," wherein I make some comments about process and temporality. My response, which is really a musing upon the question since I was not given enough information to understand the question, is below. It includes noting different conceptions of temporality and why processive phenomenological temporality is so difficult ... and why I need to read more. 

***
Perhaps I am saying that our conceptions are too rigid, but it also depends on what concepts you have in mind. Commonsense conceptions tend to "spatialize" time, which is to think of them in terms of duration and discrete units. Instead, I poeticize time as change and relativity, since I am trying to think both processional and phenomenological time. Let me explain, especially since I did not add that portion of my book, and I would like to think this more clearly.

This might not answer your question, in which case you might need to repeat and clarify, especially since I do not know your background and I am presuming a lot. As for a “statement of belief on your part,” I do not know what you mean. I am working on a temporal logic for my work that is years away from completion, and these are skeleton arguments.  I am an academic and philosopher, and this is what we do. My practical application is to explain how it is that if we cannot imagine something, then we cannot experience it as meaningful. To begin….

Conceiving temporality as a commonsense notion, it is past, present, and future; it is a succession or series. This is a static conception because it treats the relation of each moment of the triad as fixed, e.g., past-to-present is always the same, and it is like thought to be little difference from present-to-future. This presumes symmetry.

If we take another step, we may conceive time as ontological. The past is fully actual or being, the present is indeterminate and becoming, and the future is the possible or telic. We need to combine this ontological conception with the preceding logical conception to think temporal process.

Taking another step, conceiving time as temporal process is the think the whole of past-present-future and not treat past-to-present as a part separate from present-to-future. Moreover, we might recognize a linear asymmetry between past-to-present and present-to-future. That is, the relation is no longer succession, but a constitutive relation: the present contains the past as a ground for the inchoate now. While the past is fully actual, the now is a field of activity generative of future possibilities that are in no way actual. However, the pattern of activity in the now opens or closes future possibilities, and this relation of present-to-future is not the same as past-to-present. The complete event is the whole of past, present, and future as well as how they relate. We now include the relations as part of the event, whereas succession was taken for granted in the commonsense notion.

Let us take a final step to conceive phenomenological processive temporality. The invocation of phenomenology adds two among many changes. First, the perspective shifts to present-past-future, since the phenomenon is always present (though it need not be given as present), yet the biological process that generates a phenomenon remains past-present-future. This greatly affects the second point. Second, rather than a unilateral asymmetric temporal relation, the relations are bilateral asymmetric. These are the examples I originally posted. Hence, we have present to past (becoming in light of the actual), present-to-future (what might be in light of what is), or future-to-present (what may be in light of the possible). This last is the nature of the hypothetical, which Peirce and especially Dewey took to be the very nature of thought.

This last one is extremely difficult to think, and I suggest reading my recent article in the Transactions of the C.S. Peirce society as a start. The problem, if I may put it simply, is that we have simultaneous biological and first-person conscious processes operating that are influencing each other, the biological is prior in the asymmetry, and consciousness does not represent the biological process. Ha, simply. I guess I failed at simple. Let me try again not-simply.

From a metaphysical standpoint, we think in a past-present-future orientation. From a phenomenological one, we think present-past-future. The past is the source of meaning, the present is the site of interpretation, and the future is the projection of a present interpretation as meaningful. That is, we experience the present as meaningful only insomuch as it is familiar and composed of past associations. Yet doing so is a present interpretation of the past that we experience as meaningful only by projecting what the past might mean now, i.e., the anticipated future. Yep, still not-simple.

I am working through Americanist concepts (Peirce, James, Dewey, Royce, and Hartshorne) supplemented with Husserl and Heidegger, and I made the post because the proposal is incomplete. Even those name have far more to contribute to my working-through the problem. I am still trying to grasp temporal ecstasis in Heidegger—too many things engaging my time.

What Is Not a Process?


I am posting a snippet from the book that I am editing. Previously I posted “What Is Process Philosophy?” This posting supplements that one by exhibiting some common misconceptions about process, and it focuses on the temporality of processes. Recall that I am intending this to be both a general primer and an entry into Deweyan process philosophy. If you want to see the full explanation ... you will have to buy the book.


A process is a dynamic, continuous series of act-events that has analogies and dis-anologies to a moving train. I have discussed several characteristics including: holism, internal vs. external relations, asymmetry, dynamic teleology, and multidimensionality. These address common misconceptions about processes that I would make more clear. First, one should not treat events as separable and atomic, and should think of the process in terms of a whole. Second, events in a process are to an extent internally related, but this does not mean radical dependency. For example, the relation of the present to the past is one of fixity, as the past is fully actual while the present is becoming, and thus a change in the present does not change the actual past, though a change in the present always affects the future. This leads to a third common misconception, whence one treats all relations or events in a process as symmetric that is not always the case. Moreover, the kind of asymmetry is not the same, as the asymmetries of the present-to-past (becoming in light of the actual) are not the same as that of the present-to-future (what might be in light of what is), or even the future-to-present (what may be in light of the possible). This last asymmetry is crucial for understanding the ideal, the function of imagination, or the experience of meaning, and also plays a part in emergent hierarchy. Fourth, it may be difficult for one to read “teleology” without thinking classical Aristotle and reading telos as implying magical causation rather than as describing the dynamic disposition of non-determinate change. Finally, processes are non-deterministic and non-linear, and thus the next event is not simply just a roll of the dice that implies a fixed probability. A common misconception is to think that each event follows the next in a regular if asymmetric pattern of probability—what mathematicians call a “probability function”—but this conception falters when applied to living processes, since they are characterized by dynamic equilibriums, homeostasis, autopoesis, and other mechanisms that are neither linear, circular, or predictable without thinking in terms of progressive and open feedback loops. This last misconception is perhaps the hardest to avoid.
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