In the 1960’s, the French social critic Guy Debord inscribed his magnum opus The Society of the Spectacle, Continue reading “On the Violence of Social Media “
To the Slack-Jaw Art Critics of all political slants,
There seems to be two distinct categories of adverse political resistance to this provocative photo by Kathy Griffin: A) the political left argues that it is in poor taste and side-rails conduits of reasoned political discourse and B) the political right also argues that it is in poor taste, but also that it demeans and degrades the institution of the President of the United States. The outcry of response forced Kathy Griffin to apologize and to claim ‘she went too far’ with this artistic work that I simply call, a work of art. Continue reading “Truth & Profanity”
1 — Introduction
Putting forth the question of analyzing the efficacious existence of Unicorns may seem from the onset as a futile exercise in sophistry Continue reading “A Philosophical Examination into the Existence of Unicorns”
It could be simply remarked that as we all transverse Continue reading “Hegel’s Streetcar Named Desire “
In the bitter aftermath of a very turbulent and emotionally unhinging presidential election it is easy to become distracted by the spectacle of the Real as it unfolds with both the surrealistic philosophic predilections of Jean Baudrillard and the realistic soothsayings of George Orwell without much distinction. Continue reading “Historical ¿truths? and The (doxa) Second Amendment”
On September 15th, 2016, less than two months until the U.S. presidential election, the New York Times posted an opinion editorial titled When a Crackpot Runs for President, which asked — or, rather, fervently challenged — if the media is failing in their duties to honestly frame the narrative of Donald Trump relative to Hillary Clinton (Kristof 2016). The looming subtext that lies in the shadow of the left-right rhetorical jabs of framing Trump as the climate-change-denying-crackpot is: What happen to reason? Hegel once proclaimed, “reason rules the world” (Hegel 12) and in light of that we can look at the reasonable efficacy of Trump’s limelight-laden candidacy as representing either a challenge to the governing authority of Reason or, with heavy hand, a challenge to the Hegelian proposition, eo ipso, as wholly and fallaciously false. The staunchly attentive run-of-the-mill liberal response to the aforementioned inquiry would surely go as the New York Times opines and see Trump as a challenge to reason and definitely not a challenge to Hegel. And, notwithstanding that opinion and Trump’s fascist underpinning, the devout Hegelian may see Trump as a personification of Reason’s antithesis and will remain woefully idealistic and await the dialectical resolve as Reason acquiesces itself as being both in itself and for itself — there is a Reason for everything, even Trump. With that, and that, said, the purpose of this reflection is not to echo the persistent opinion that Trump is a threat to reason, nor is it to rescue Hegel by reveling in the ignorant veil of the known-unknown of Absolute Spirit, but, rather I ask, is Trump a challenge to Hegel? Continue reading “Trump in the Shadow of the Hegelian Ego”
Despite Stephen Hawking’s claim that philosophy is dead, every single human action made by every human in Western culture, is, first and foremost, an action with ethical implications and secondly they all contains metaphysical assumptions— alas, philosophy exists in everything we do. Something as simple as buying coffee in a consumable, non-recyclable cup from a national coffee chain like Starbucks is making the implicit ethical claim that the carbon footprint used by people of Western culture is not a problem, that supporting a large capitalist corporation is not a problem and that the exploitation of coffee farmers in foreign lands is not a problem. You may, on some level, find that you are in the ethical wrong but do it anyway, because you do not think your actions make a difference; but ethical indifference through diffused responsibility is still ethical indifference. In addition to making the implicit ethical claims, you are making metaphysical assumptions by implicitly assuming parts of our human reality are permanently rooted— unchangeable, or as John Searle’s calls them: “default positions”.[i] To take the aforementioned ethical stances you would have to take the assumption that we have no ethical obligation to future generations, as to assert the metaphysical assumption that ethical claims are predicated on existing. If you do not exist, you have no ethical claim. Additionally, to assume that the capitalist ideology takes precedence over the quality-of-life of coffee farmers in South America, is to implicitly reinforce that the ethos of the capitalist ideology must be maintained above all else and the allowance of ethically questionable activities can be tolerated in pursuance of maintaining the capitalist status quo; as to assume that all other ideological systems subordinate into capitalism. However, as all action has metaphysical assumptions, even in my argument I am making the assumption that my life is of a higher quality than that of a coffee farmer. As to assume that things like coffee, this laptop, my condo and my Volkswagen automatically add to the quality of my life, to assert that purchasing power creates happiness. In this sense even my anti-capitalist critique is implicitly assuming that the values of capitalism are “default positions” of human flourishing. That is to say, I am implying what makes humans happy, what makes a good society and in essence I am assuming the ethos of Utopia. It could be argued that our actions are implicitly suggesting what Utopia would look like. We are trying to redefine the world over as a constant reflection of our metaphysics and if we do this while thinking we are in some way working towards the promotion of the greater good, we are in some sense creating the contents of our vision of Utopia.
With that said, I would like to look at the recent debate over the confederate flag and ask the simple question of: Would the Confederate flag exist in Utopia? If we ask questions such as, should we support racist symbols, or should the government promote racist symbols— we are in essence predicating our questions on implied value judgments about the flag (and symbols), the purpose of government, the intent of the flag-wavers and racism altogether. I will table those questions and get straight to the meat of the argument:
Utopia, defined as the concept of social perfection — the perfect society; and the Confederate flag, defined as a symbol with racist connotations.
And, hence I will rephrase my question as follows:
Does a perfectly conceived society contain symbols with racist connotations?
Before delving into that question it would be best to assess and deconstruct the concept of a symbol first. The word “rock”, as a signifier, is the word used to symbolize the thing that is a rock (the signified) and the word rock is inclusive of the qualities of rockness: hard, solid, heavy, etc. The relation between the signifier (word rock) and signified (the rock thing) is completely arbitrary, as there is nothing inherent to the thing rock as to assume we inscribe it as the word ‘rock’. Symbols, such as flags, on the other hand are rather different than a rock. If we were to ask a person what the signifier American Flag means, the explanation of its physical qualities (stars and stripes) will not really tell us anything at all. In some sense, you can say that flags, like the American flag, represent ideas and not physical attributes of the flag itself. Say we had to examine these three objects: a pillow, a rock and a coffee mug and without having any previous experience or knowledge of these objects, it would be reasonable to assert that from examining the meaning of these signified objects we could identify their proper signifiers. Conversely, if we were to examine three flags: American flag, Nazi flag and Confederate flag without any previous experience or knowledge of these flags, it would be unreasonable to assert from examining an interpretation of the meaning that we’d be able to know which is which. In other words, the signified object of these flags do not contain the signifiers of freedom, anti-Semitism and racism. Ideas like freedom, equality, racism, nationalism, justice, liberty, pride and heritage are all master-signifiers, which is a term for explaining signifiers that cannot be signified. I can define rock, and see rock, and confirm rock. But what does liberty look like?
A flag, if you take away the ideas it represents, is merely shapes and colors sewn from cloth— this is not meaningful in of itself. Hence, it could be said that a flag only gains meaning by the ideas it represents and not by its physical qualities. But since liberty is not signified, the ideas inscribed upon a flag are arbitrarily placed and not universal. That is to say the American flag could mean one idea to one person and another to someone else. These ideas could be positive, negative or neutral. Or, in other words, there is no objective idea behind any symbol and since flags, as a symbol, have no way of explicitly translating their meaning — it could be said that flags are completely subjective.
I shall return to the question at-hand:
Does a perfectly conceived society contain symbols with racist connotations?
Since the ideas inscribed to flags are subjective then it is possible that somebody, somewhere inscribes racist ideas to all symbols. Meaning, all symbols may be perceived by somebody as having a racist connotation. In that sense, we could say that utopia does not contain any flags whatsoever, or any symbol that are capable of having ideas projected upon them. However, that seems like a rather absurd suggestion, so we will rephrase our question as follows:
Does a perfectly conceived society contain symbols that a majority perceives as containing a racist connotation?
So, if a symbol is perceived by the majority of the population at representing ideas of racism — is this sufficient cause to censor the symbol? Is this not rooted in the metaphysical assumption that the majority group has a higher claim to grant meaning to symbols than the minority group? Is this any different than assuming my quality of life — as actualized in my ability to buy Starbucks and expend massive amounts of carbon — takes precedence over the quality of life of people in South America? I am not saying that one group is right and one group is wrong, but rather I am saying the projecting of ideas onto symbols is completely arbitrary and subjective and is almost akin to projecting aesthetic value onto art. At one point in time penises were removed from art, because it was considered to be profane, and now it could be argued that the mere idea of censoring art for religious sensibilities is an act of profanity itself. Is censoring offensive flags the same thing? Censoring and demonizing the symbols that the majority find offensive— as to assume they have a right to make such a claim? Why should we assume that one interpretation of a symbol carries more weight than another? If a middle-eastern country decided to outlaw the American flag would we condemn their blatant censorship of our symbol; while self-righteously wrapping ourselves in our Bill of Rights as to imply under the guise of our freedom of speech we would never lower ourselves to such barbarism? Or, in other words, we as Americans, as the purveyors of freedom can decide that censoring our symbol is an infringement of speech, but conversely, we can choose to censor the confederate flag or nazi flag. This is not a contradiction, because we are the purveyors of freedom and our subjective perception of what is sacred and profane is objectively right— because we dictate the dominant symbolic ideology. Is this metaphysical assumption fair?
It is absurdity to assume that socially and politically ostracizing the minority who does not perceive a particular symbol as racist, classist, sexist or any other profane idea is the path to utopia. It is also absurd to assume that the perception of the majority regarding a particular symbol dictates the reality of that symbol and henceforth makes the minority embody the qualities of the symbol by association. To be clear: if person X projects the ideas of ‘racism’ on to the confederate flag and person Y projects the ideas of family on to the confederate flag; neither idea has more value than the other, and person X cannot make the leap as to assume that person Y is lying, or that person Y includes racism as being inclusive in their idea of family. Person Y is capable of being fooled by their defense mechanisms just as much as person X is. Person Y may be harboring deep-seated racists views that it masks in the notion of family heritage, but, conversely, person X may be harboring deep-seated racist views that it feels guilty about and is therefore trying to hide all the evidence that reminds them of their deep-seated white guilt. Neither view is more right than the other and neither view has a stronger claim to categorically defining the meaning of a symbol.
And besides, utopia is supposed to be perfect, and not just perfect for the ideological views of the majority. Meaning, if we wanted to respect the views of all people in utopia equally, we would remove all symbols that offend somebody in someway. Or, in short, we’d remove all symbols altogether. And it could even be argued that this would have to be extended to language as well. Maybe in utopia we can all just be isolated individuals floating around in tiny bubbles where we have no possibility whatsoever of ever being offended by anybody or anything. Is this a perfect society? Is this what we are striving for? Is this the path to human flourishing?
I would posit that this is the antithesis of a perfect society. Maybe instead of allowing symbols be the wedge that divides us we can use them as the bridge that binds us. If somebody perceives a symbol differently than you do, should we assume they are wrong? Or, should we assume we do not understand their perspective? Instead of casting judgment, is it not better to ask them why they see it differently and foster understanding in lieu of division — as opposed to assuming we are right and they are wrong. If we can move past the ambiguous meaning of symbols and realize that hiding behind the ideology I deem as perverse, is another human being. And this person is not different or better than me, nor am I better than them. Utopia is not a place where we hide away the things that offend and scare us, but rather it is a place where everything that is offensive and scary has lost all its power. Not because we forgot about its dark past, but because we have found a way to transcend our own symbols and not abstract and objectify demographic categories as being dictated by my own prejudices that we encapsulate into abstracted symbolism.
If we want to expel racism out of our culture, this cant be done by literally expelling symbols that we find to be racist. This is merely a smokescreen that gives the illusion that we are working towards the promotion of a racist free society. Does banishing symbols change the hearts and minds of people? Won’t a new symbol eventually replace the symbol you cast into the darkness for being racist? Opponents to my views would argue that allowing the free usage of symbols that have racist connotations is akin to sanctioning and implicitly promoting the hateful ideas themselves. However, I am not arguing that we allow the spreading or promoting of hateful ideology in the name of freedom of speech; rather I am saying we should use this moral indifference about these symbols as an opportunity to talk openly and empathically talk about our collective problems. We should not abstract our hatred and negation-of-hatred into symbols, but rather lay our cards on the table and openly and honestly discuss the open-wounds of our society. The solution to racism is to talk about it, not hide it. And, moreover, the act of hiding it diminishes our willingness to think critically and perceive the other empathically. If we want to transcend ourselves and transcend our society, we need to begin by owning up to our assumptions and all their ethical implications. And regarding our question:
The confederate flag does wave in Utopia— but this fact has no meaning.
[i] Searle, John R. Mind, Language, and Society: Philosophy in the Real World. New York, NY: Basic, 1998. Print.
1— the Coyote
In 1949 the LooneyTunes animation studio released the first episode of a long series that is casually referred to as, The Coyote and the Road Runner. This cartoon series had a formulaic plot that was repeated throughout every episode and the plot primarily unfolded as follows:
- Coyote designs an elaborate plan to capture the Road Runner
- Coyote poorly executes the elaborate plan and/or it fails because of external factors.
- The Roadrunner is dismissive of the Coyote’s failures and taunts him with the well known catch phrase: beep beep
- And the episode ends when the Coyote is met with a tragic, yet humorous, demise.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the methods implemented by the Coyote through the eyes of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper as both a means of explicating their theories, in addition to being a conduit for analyzing their methods against each other. I will then conclude by positing a reconciliation of their two methods that may have been outside of the scope and intent of both Kuhn and Popper, but notwithstanding their own respective systems of belief, it could be seen as adequate dialectical compromise between the two extremes of dogmatism and critical analysis.
2— Popper and the Coyote
Popper’s theory of science begins with a hypothesis, or rather, “tentative theory” that must first be a conjecture and capable of falsification and secondly, after being tested it is either corroborate or refute. Popper believed that criticism is born of rationalism, or as he states, “rationalism is an attitude of readiness to listen to critical arguments…” (Popper, OSAIE, Vol 2, p. 249). In other words, Popper in light of recognizing that theory corroboration is possible, the objective of a rational (and critical) scientists is to refute. The Coyote never corroborates a theory and, in fact, all of his hypotheses are falsified in some way. Is this to say that according to Popper we can say that the Coyote was acting in accordance with how science functions?
Through analysis of the many Coyote experiments we can see that the experiments failed in one of two ways (or a combination): either the experiment itself failed or, the roadrunner foiled the plan. If the telos of Popper’s theory is to assume that through a process of conjecture and refutation the scientist would perpetually and positively progress in some way, as you continue to retool (to use the Kuhn word), then we would have to think that the Coyote would learn from his failings and progress in some sense. The Coyote does not progress.
We could argue that the failings of the Coyote are not because he failed to progress and/or learn from this failings, but more that he lacked what Popper calls “dogmatism,” which is a rather poor word choice as his explanation makes it seem like he intended to mean studiousness (or diligence), as he is referring to a studious work ethic and not claiming that scientists should adhere to a set of dogmatic beliefs. This poor word choice becomes more apparent in Popper’s criticism of Kuhn by arguing that dogmatic scientists are “victims of indoctrination” (Rowbottom, P. 118). Popper states that “dogmatism allows us to approach a good theory in stages…” and we shouldn’t “…accept defeat to easily…” (Popper, C&R, p.4) and, with this in mind, we could say that the Coyote failed because he only tested each experiment once. It would have been better science (according to Popper) if he had tested different elements of a single hypothesis in stages and not given up so quick and worked towards perfecting the experiment in the process of trying to refute it. Or, put simply, if the objective was mere falsification then one could easily ‘straw man’ all their experiments to act in accordance to science— this would serve no purpose in advancing science.
To be sympathetic to our Coyote friend we could give credence to the Roadrunners foiling capacity to show why the Coyote perpetually failed at his goal at hand. In the essay The Logic and Evolution of Scientific Theory Popper uses evolution theory to illustrate his scientific methods: an Amoeba implicitly has a hypothesis for life and if it dies: death is falsification of said theory; and if it lives (due to some adaptive trait): life is confirmation of said theory (Popper, ALIPS, pp. 3-22). Maybe things are that simple in the isolated thought experiment of the Amoeba with a non-evolving environment. But, this is not the case with the Coyote, as a large component of his experiments is another living being with agency, who can also evolve. In an article published in 2005 by K. Brad Wray this point is succinctly illustrated by showing that the cheetah evolved over time to be faster in order to catch the Gazelle, however, concurrently, the Gazelle evolved to outrun the Cheetah (Wray,48). Although Wray uses this to argue why science is not progressive, it is a good example to help argue that perhaps the Coyote failed because his ability to advance conjectures evolved in tandem to the Roadrunners ability to advance competing conjectures. The two-species evolving model is similar — as Wray claims — to social sciences, insofar as a psychologist can interact with their patient and adversely affect the scientific process.
Popper considers psychology and political theories (such as Marxism) as pseudo-science because their conjectures cannot be tested in the same way that you can test harder sciences like physics (Smith, 71) and in this regard, Popper, I posit, would consider the Coyote as falling victim to pseudo-science as there is no way to soundly and probabilistically test the Coyote’s experiments in isolation with the dynamic variable of the Roadrunner always in play. In conclusion I would argue that Popper would say the Coyote failed first by not attempting to test the experiments in a controlled (non-roadrunner) environment and secondly failed by failing to adhere to “some dogmatism” that would enlighten the Coyote on “where the real power of [his] theories lie(s).” (Popper, NSD, p.55)
3 — Kuhn and the Coyote
Kuhn’s theory of science is significantly more complicated than Popper’s as Kuhn argues for two different scientific modalities that he denotes as “normal science” and “scientific revolutions”. For the purpose of our examination we will only be reviewing the modality of “normal science”, this is not to say that our Coyote does not have revolutionary potential, but is merely because examining a revolution can only be done by examining a larger dataset. Kuhn argues that scientists work within a paradigm, which can be defined as a set of methods, theories, standards and assumptions that a specific group of scientists operate within. We could say that the Coyote is working in the animal trapping paradigm or, maybe, the RoadRunner trapping paradigm. The Coyote then would be perceived (by Kuhn) as merely a puzzle-solver who is diligently working towards solving many menial tasks within his paradigm to help solve the fine details of the paradigm. Can we simply conclude that the Coyote is a tinkering normal scientist operating within the parameters of his paradigm? If this is so, then we must conclude that the Coyote is acting in accordance to how science functions.
We can yet again be sympathetic to our Coyote friend and assume (for whatever reason) that his paradigm dictates that Roadrunner Trapping must be done with an elaborate plan and that it also operates with the assumption that Roadrunner trapping is efficacious. If we accept the methods, standards and assumptions of the Coyote as being part of his paradigm, then perhaps he is operating in normal science and if this is true then he is utterly failing at his puzzle-solving, which may indicate that the Coyote is beginning to or is going through what Kuhn calls a “crisis”.
A crisis is when scientists within a paradigm begin to experience that their assumptions (for whatever reason) no longer hold true or are hindering their process to solve puzzles. Kuhn fails to denote the parameters and/or any timeline to how/when this occurs within any given paradigm — although he is criticized for being vague on this issue — and, any attempt to formulaically predict a timeline — barring a historical qualitative analysis of the temporal factors of science — would be purely speculation. With that said, time is a variable we must disregard and since our dataset only includes one scientist, we could assert that the Coyote is in crisis and is dogmatically adhering to the assumption that Roadrunner trapping is efficacious. Although the state of crisis may in time help bring upon yet another paradigm with a whole new set of methods, standards and assumptions to bring the Coyote back to puzzle-solving bliss.
We could conclude from this that if we are being sympathetic to the Coyote we can assume he is in a state of crisis and properly operating within his paradigm in normal science. Conversely, if this was not the case, then without any evidence to showcase that he can solve puzzles we have to either conclude that either Kuhn’s system is wrong, or simply that the Coyote is a very poor scientist. Although, Kuhn does specifically note that it is reasonable that when a scientist is in a “prolonged crisis” it “probably reflect[s]…a less rigid educational practice” (Kuhn, 166), or, in other words, its very probable that the Coyote is just a poor scientist. So is it Kuhn or the Coyote that failed? The latter is most likely the case.
4— Kuhn and the Popper
In 1965 at the International Colloquium of the philosophy of science in London “Pearce Williams put forth the idea that Kuhn’s system is based on what scientists do, whereas Popper’s system is concerned with what scientists ought to do (but do not)” (Zollinger, 517-518). Is it that simple? Is Kuhn illustrating a descriptive theory while Popper is advancing a normative theory?
First to critique Popper, as Williams states, even if science ought to act like Popper posits, they do not. It would seem that from the breadth of historical evidence advanced by Kuhn that it would be easy to say that Popper may have had an interesting normative theory of how science should work but to argue that it reflects actual science is, ipso facto, false. This leads us to the question of why? If the difference between these two theories is — in actu — that black and white then I will try to explicate why this is the case.
Heinrich Zollinger argues through a case-study on chemistry — of which is irrelevant to our discussion — that Popper’s theory “exploited [perhaps naively] the logical asymmetry between corroboration and refutation”; which is to say from a psycholinguistic perspective there is a “psychological barrier” in the “mental process” that limits (prevents) one from the act of negation (Zollinger, 526). This concept is succinctly explicated by Francis Bacon in stating that “…human understanding when it has adopted an opinion…draws all things else to support and agree with it.” Or, in other words, Popper fails to recognize that theory corroboration cannot exist without theory falsification and vice versa. So perhaps it would be ideal for scientists to accept a skeptic approach that is driven from only a desire to falsify and never accept any ideas as true (or certain), but, as stated earlier, this view may not have any efficacy in reality and perhaps may run against the grain of human understanding.
Kuhn, on the other hand, I would like to say is dichotomously juxtaposed to Popper, which would allow me to argue the opposite argument— that Kuhn is failing to recognize the relationship that refutation is interrelated to corroboration, but, that is not the case. Kuhn, as it seems, is not making epistemological claims nor is he making metaphysical claims. He is merely, through historical analysis of science, illustrating the process of how science functions and notes that science progress does not imply progression towards anything, nor does all science develop through intention or through some bold forward thinking conjecture. Scientists function in response to their predecessors and not by conjecturing an idea to a progressive future state. And sometimes this happens from the product of accident and error. We could say, perhaps, that Kuhn is a pragmatist and dismisses epistemological and metaphysical apriorisms as invalid or merely unnecessary to his project. This, in contradistinction to Popper, who advances the bold conjecture that science can (or does) function idealistically towards a positive progression — not necessarily progressing towards anything; but, positive, nonetheless.
5 — Can we reconcile?
Centuries before both Kuhn, Popper and Sir Francis Bacon, Spinoza, in a letter, inscribed the latin expression omnis determinatio est negatio, which translates as every determination is negation. This simple idea that we cannot determine anything independent of its negation and vice versa became greatly exploited by Hegel as the master/slave dialect and the cornerstone to his project in whole. I preface my reconciliation with this further expansion of the previously inscribed critique of Popper to segue towards a reconciliation inspired/suggested by Hegel.
In a paper written by Darrell P. Rowbottom in 2011 he argues to reconcile Kuhn and Popper by arguing for a “resolution on the group level” which argues that within any given paradigm you are going to have individual scientists who dogmatically work towards a particular solution to a puzzle while another may work on a contradicting approach to the same puzzle and in some regard we could say that a group of scientists as an amalgam of collective processes function as Popper argues (Rowbottom, 123). This interesting interpretation (and sympathetic) view of Popper I think does not go far enough in trying to reconcile the two theories. If we expand this further and try to view Popper’s theories through a broad lens of history we argue perhaps that one paradigm advances a conjecture implicit in the assumptions they assert and it is the eventual crisis that serves to finally falsify their conjecture, ad infinitum.
This macroscopic interpretation of Popper could be perceived as akin to Hegel’s theory of history— history is a perpetual process of “unfolding truth” that cannot be independently assessed in any single moment of time nor can any individual moment in time be used towards alluding to comprehension of progress of the past/future in the particular or in the universal (Hegel, ENC, Vol. 1 §140A)(Hegel, POS, §2, 4) — and it stands to reason that if we accept Hegel and presume that scientific discovery will unfold as Hegel argues then it stands to reason that both Popper and Kuhn would fail at comprehending the particulars and universals of scientific progress. Leaving us with a theory reasoned in logic and the limits of induction (Popper) and a theory reasoned in an assessment of history (Kuhn), but both seem to be incomplete or missing something. A scientist would most likely act with disdain towards Kuhn’s pragmatic and humble approach, and, conversely, pridefully accept Popper’s idealistic approach. What is missing?
From Hegel’s view of history we can argue that without Newton, there is no Einstein; without Darwin there is no Dawkins; without Freud there is no Deleuze; without Popper there is no Kuhn and without Spinoza, there is no Hegel. And, moreover, without everything that was before everything that is now: there is nothing. That is to say, scientists may loath at being reduced to Kuhn’s model, but perhaps it is Popper who helps insert spirit into the scientific process and give hope towards something anew. Or as, Popper states, “I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to truth” (Popper, OSAIE, Vol. II p.249) and along the way towards this nearing of truth we find humility in Kuhn, idealism in Popper and in our Coyote friend— we find humor. As any given scientist, philosopher and/or human when assessed as an isolated individual are not necessarily spectacular, but when all combined as one collective unit of humanity we find spirit as either an encapsulation of the process in of itself, or as the transcendental totality of all that is.
Or, in short, to reconcile Kuhn and Popper is to not to say that one in isolation is right or wrong or that combined they become something superior, but it is to persist that they do not explicate scientific progress, but rather they are part of scientific progress and without them both this investigation need not exist.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, and Arnold V. Miller. Phenomenology of Spirit (POS). Oxford England: Clarendon, 1977. Print.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, and Klaus Brinkmann. Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline (ENC). Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.
Melamed, Yitzhak Y. Spinoza and German Idealism. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print.
Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1970. Print.
Popper, Karl R. All Life Is Problem Solving (ALIPS). London: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Popper, Karl R. Conjectures and Refutations (C&R); the Growth of Scientific Knowledge,. New York: Basic, 1962. Print.
Popper, Karl, R. Normal Science and its Dangers (NSD), In Lakatos & Musgrave, 1970, (pp-51-58)
Popper, Karl R. The Open Society and Its Enemies (OSAIE),. [5th ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1966. Print.
Rowbottom, Darrell P. Kuhn vs. Popper on Criticism and Dogmatism in Science: A Resolution at the Group Level. 2011. Print.
Smith, Peter. Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2003. Print.
The Coyote and the Road Runner, (1949), Warner Brothers, Burbank, California
Wray, K. Brad. “Does Science Have a Moving Target?” American Philosophical Quarterly 42.1 (2005): 47-58. Print.
Zollinger, Heinrich. “Logic and Psychology of Scientific Discoveries: A Case Study in Contemporary Chemistry.” Perspectives on SCience 5.4 (1999): 516-32. Print.
[i] Translated from latin as the common meat-eater, this was used in the first episode of the cartoon to describe The Coyote. Vulgaris as ‘common’ connotes that the Coyote is ordinary and not spectacular. Contrary to the Coyote’s self-proclamation of being a “genius” — irony to ensue.
[ii] Translated from latin as Every determination is negation, this was coined in a letter by Spinoza on June 2nd 1674. This could be argued to have had a substantial influence on Hegel’s master/slave dialect — although Hegel never granted any credit to any such influence. (Melamed, 175-196)
As Freud would see me, I am either in a pendulum swing towards neurosis, in which I am repressing my desires in order to acquiesce to the real, or I am swinging towards psychosis and actualizing my desires, notwithstanding the real. Am I sitting in the midst of a straight line, a vector, in which I can swing one way or another? Or, rather am I a vertex of a triangle and I can choose either one path or the other, notwithstanding that my departure only brings me closer to the opposing extremity.
Either I am destined to feel a lack for not actualizing my desires, or I feel a lack from disengaging from the real. Or, I can remain at the tip of the triangle and feel the partial lack and a repression of both my Id and Superego…what am I to do with this Lack? “On the one hand [I am] the desiring machine and on the other hand [I am] the Oedipal-narcissistic machine.” [i] But, nonetheless, a machine? Freud would go further to say that this desire, this lack, was deeply entrenched within my unconscious mind and it is a human condition— a constant, as evidential in mythology and his observation. Is this so? Am I so transparent and just a Zombie crawling through life in search of reconciling my desires to the desires of the collective in a process that serves at nothing but to be a yo-yo that coils and recoils, ad infinitum, and at every metaphorical X,Y coordinate I desire the opposite, the non-self, the other. My object petit a is merely everything that is not me at every moment in time— petulant desires, perpetual lack and, subsequently, perpetual neurosis and psychosis. I am the tripartite. I am screwed.
Daddy is the train, and mommy is the station. I sit within the circular course and thrust the train around, and around— in and out of the station/mommy.[ii] Over and over and over and over and over and over, oh wait— Does this make me God? Zarathustra swoons!
Does not the young Siddhartha lament near a riverbed at the sight of his own reflection[iii] and ponder what can only be seen as the same? Is it I that is truly attached to desiring, or is it the world that asserts this upon me, of which I can’t decipher as my reflection, although rippled and cloudy, is me and in the process of becoming— I am, I was and I will be. Is one of these incarnations of me incomplete, is there a lack, of which drives me to desire and be. Can I discover the moment in time where my reflection becomes I, and I become it and I reconcile and negate— the positive one, upon the negative one, that balances to none. My authenticity, alas, I have negated to nothing and like a cracker-jack box filled with the void, the nothingness, I discover the prize, my Dasein.[iv] But, you know, Heidegger be damned, this was all just a joke. As if Dasein is true, it can only exist, logically so, in two possible modes: either there is a lack that, from pure petulance we desire and, hence, desire qua desire and henceforth my desire is an infinite regression of vacillating desire and Dasein is merely an illusion, a dream— analogous to Wittgenstein illustrating that a finite perspective will always be perceived as infinite[v]; or, rather, there is no lack and henceforth there is no reconciliation needed and we all achieved Dasein by merely thinking ourselves into existence— Descarte for the win!
Who is, as they say, the prankster? Who found the lack and sent Heidegger down the rabbit hole in search of a finite replacement for the infinite void— comically this could be envisaged as chasing your own shadow in a room without light.
As a child I persistently played with trains, as to foreshadow my career as a train engineer— but, now, as my life spins in chaos the analyst tells me that my desire to play with trains had nothing to do with my proclivity towards the mechanical, but rather my unconscious proclivity towards my Oedipal desire— I situate within the tripartite as I lust for my mother and despise my father. Like a tether ball I swing around and around in search for solvency and only end up being wound up tightly in neurosis for a bit, then I retract and recoil and spin freely until wound up in psychosis. And Freud says this was in me the whole time. Voila! Now I know, now I see. I shall stand back and recognize this tethering ball and learn how to grab it, stop it, contain it, isolate it— alienate it? Existential crisis ensues.
But wait Sigmund? Is it possible in the possible of the possible that I just like trains and have a proclivity towards the mechanical? Is it possible that you did not discover my Oedipal desire, but rather created my Oedipal desire? As you said Mr. Freud, the malaise of the individual and the malaise of society run hand in hand, if this is so, how would we ever know if it is Siddhartha who sits upon the riverbed or is it Siddhartha who resides within the stream? What a cruel joke you played on Heidegger to make him spend 800 pages trying to solve such a riddle— as if it was possible to squeeze the universe back into the tiny little kernel of space it occupied before the Big Bang…
So regardless if Freud discovered or created the mode of lack-response, the lack, in of itself, remains the problem. But, how can a lack be? Does this not violate the law of partial objects? Is a donut complete, or is a donut a partial object that awaits the reconciliation of its lack— the donut hole? The only means of determining the completeness of the donut would be to know what donut is, in the ideal. Meaning, what is the true form of the donut? If it’s true form includes the hole, then it is whole and complete…no lack. But, how is this not just another paradox— is a donut defined by its definition or is the definition defined by the donut? Kant, to this accord, would argue that our capacity to know donut is forever and infinitely limited by our own mediation and what we see will never be real or true— the true donut lives in the noumenal and thing-in-itself will never be known[vi]. If this was so, then all things, all knowledge would include the lack— the delta between the thing-in-itself and the thing-in-which-I-see. But, just as Heidegger did, Kant injects us in to the dilemma between everything is real or nothing is real. Kant, as to perhaps avoid becoming God himself, removes the paradox by inviting all the metaphysics to a party and persists we can ask will the real pure reason, please stand up, please stand up. The bouncer, named Apriori, proceeds to boot the real pure reason out the door and, with that, alas, we know which metaphysics are reasonable and which are not— the line has been drawn. We shall be sensible and rely on our friend, Apriori, to maintain that divide. Although, I am rather perplexed, as to how reason can create Apriori, when we need Apriori to know Apriori in the first place, unless of course, as Kant argues— Apriori was born of a miraculous conception, and the only way we can really know this is by existing without existence, or knowing without any knowing— or, simply because Kant said so.
For those at home keeping score:
Freud discovered the lack in our unconscious.
Kant discovered the lack through reason.
Heidegger, as punch line, searches for this lack in his own shadow.
And me, the neurotic/psychotic train engineer, is still in malaise, as is the world around me.
Deleuze, as it were, would say that Mr. Freud did not discover the lack in the unconscious mind, but rather, discovered the conscious mind reflecting the lack that is necessary within the desiring-machine of what is capitalism. As, supply and demand would dictate, if capitalism implicitly and tacitly claims our world is our oyster and we can create, for what its worth, infinite supply, will we not develop an infinite demand/desire? Although our supply, in actu, is not infinite, but as reasoned earlier by Wittgenstein our finite perspective will infinitely be perceived as infinite— so as far as we know it’s infinite and hence, our desire to demand shall know no limits. Our super-human strength is our infinite capacity to consume. Delouse, notwithstanding his partial objects argument, is arguing in a paradox that amounts to this….
10 / 1 = 10 > 1 * 10 = 10
But, then again, maybe the math is not as simple as we perceive. As Deleuze claims,
we no longer know if it is the process that must truly be called madness, the sickness being only disguise or caricature, or if the sickness is the madness and the process is the cure, [but] the more the process of production is led off course, brutally interrupted, the more the schizo-as-entity arises as specific product.[vii]
Maybe this whole essay, this whole thought, this whole meditation has been an exercise in futility, as life and philosophy cannot be expressed in such neat packages, but it is, conversely, rather incompatible and hence: irrational. If life is irrational, then it may be expressed as √-1 — an irrational number. Is the product of our persistent effort to solve this equation just creating an infinite string of non-whole numbers, fractions— incompletenesses. As Freud scratches his head in preponderance over the schizophrenic and induces that they most be animals[viii]— a body-without-organs, an inconsistent anomaly that does not desire, does not lack— a incomplete fraction of existence. But, perhaps the schizo, the hyper rational, the animal as it were, was a human functioning on pure Id, a human without ego. A human without the need to reconcile their desires, henceforth, the only true rationalist is the schizophrenic created by the irrational desire to make sense of our world.
Kant & Freud lament.
[i] Deleuze, Gilles, and Fe Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1983. Print. Page 124
[iii] Hesse, Hermann, and Hilda Rosner. Siddhartha. New York: New Directions, 2009. Print.
[iv] Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. New York: Harper, 1962. Print.
[v] Ek, Slavoj. Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso, 2012. Print
[vi] Kant, Immanuel, and Norman Kemp Smith. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Unabridged ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 1965. Print.
[vii] Deleuze, Gilles, and Fe Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1983. Print. Page 136
[viii] Ibid. Page 23
As much as my desire wants to desire to know what it felt like to be born, I cannot recall such an experience. Continue reading “The Id-iotic Capitalist”