Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Are There Any Philosophical Problems that Our Age Instantiates?

An interesting passage:

I think to some extent the failure of clinical psychology should have warned us that our age would be haunted by this problem. The whole Freudian myth was that the act of having true beliefs about the causes of your own inability to get your crap together would somehow magically help you get your crap together. What a strange thing to have believed! Now we are seeing the failure of this myth with respect to nearly every aspect of human well-being. It's sort of a collective akrasia not unlikely to be the death knell of our species.

The issue resonates philosophically as well. First, contemporary debates about internalism in ethics just are debates about whether certain beliefs could be magically causally efficacious. Second, much contemporary theology is a move against the idea that metaphysical beliefs (about resurrections and whatnot) can magically fix one's spiritual state (traditional clinical psychology could only have been invented in a Protestant culture steeped in such magical views). Third, this issue is actually the flip side of what John McDowell is worried about in Mind and World. This is no accident, as the Fichtean/Schellingian route through intellectual intuition as an example of something both sensory and conceptual is also the marriage of perception and action.
This is well into the post, and he gives some questioning, tentative prescriptions afterwards.

I haven't bought into the internalist view since I was a young undergraduate, and even then my suspicions were fighting my culturally-granted intuitions. It's not just about those academics who claim to be internalists, but as I suspect readers know that the average American is an internalist whether the person knows what that means or not. With my students, with whom I can discuss this issue at great length, I note that they are usually more worried about their self-image rather than either truth or rational justification of the self-image. In fact, I consider it a triumph for them to grasp the distinction as anything more than an abstraction that has nothing to do with their lives. Sadly, I have met too many intellectuals who are only one step removed, in that they accept the distinction between truth and self-image, yet implicitly replace dyad with narrative of truth and self-image. If truth is to be something that resists our claims upon it, it must be more than a narrative or idea. Sadly, I don't think theory aids us much further on this point, other than important generalities, because practical wisdom cannot be achieved in that way.

This last point is one reason why I tend to be less political than some blogs: because I think some of the most important points cannot be shared semi-anonymously online. I am silent about such things because I don't think words are efficacious, whereas I note many intellectuals garland themselves with words of social justice, etc. Personally, I don't share the typical educated lefty's need to engage in public outpourings of social justice to near the same degree. That said, if I were to do so more often, it would look a lot like Jon Cogburn's piece, which I think is an ideal model.


    'The Pragmatic Turn:' A lecture by Selzer Philosopher Richard J. Bernstein

  2. sure, I know that you prefer texts but I thought it might come in handy in your efforts to spread the good news of pragmatism, cheers

  3. Ha, caught me.

    I'm not so interested in spreading the good news--in fact within the scholarship I'm very, very critical--but I do want a more pluralistic discussion.