[Topics: Genetics, Literary Theory, Philosophy of Language]
The Discourse of the Scientific Humans:

Exploring an Analogy Between Genetics and Language via Jacques Derrida’s Deconstruction

 

Jacques Derrida - genetics - deconstruction - critical theory - literary theory

Introduction:

Perhaps only with the recent theoretical developments in such fields as ecocriticism, the digital humanities, posthumanism, and elsewhere has literary theory attained the content or the form of scientific autonomy as desired by the Russian Formalists. This is not a particularly surprising development, however, as the European theoretical schools which followed the period of Russian Formalism, as well as Russian Formalism itself, drew heavily from the highly technical social sciences of linguistics and, later, anthropology.

Yet even the New Criticism, with its avowed (partially cultural) distaste for the distinctly denotative and ‘un-poetic’ nature of scientific discourse, clearly borrowed in its scrutiny—and in its testing of theoretical modes—from post-Enlightenment scientific methodologies. In fact, one may contend that scientific endeavors and theoretical philosophies share far more than either discipline readily admits, not only in methodologies but in the implications and applications of theoretical knowledge (where ‘theoretical’ here refers to the sense of the term in both the sciences and the humanities).

Taking up just one salient, demonstrative analogy, there is a curious parallel between the implications of much of the scientific understanding of genetics and those of the theoretical underpinnings of deconstruction as formulated by Jacques Derrida. Indeed, one may find that, using either Derridean deconstructive theory or genetics[1] as a starting point, one is led down the familiar roads toward poststructural theory and cultural criticism (broadly construed).

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[Topics: Genetics, Literary Theory, Philosophy of Language]
The Discourse of the Scientific Humans:

Exploring an Analogy Between Genetics and Language via Jacques Derrida’s Deconstruction

was last modified: January 10th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, Skepticism]
Superknowledge and Casual-knowledge:

Discussing the Fallacies Involved in One Minor Argument Against Radical Skepticism

 

Many of your Friday Phil articles thus far have provided overviews and general clarifications. In contrast to that style, this week I will be briefly taking up and criticizing a very specific argument, as I have enjoyed doing on one or two previous occasions. For today’s article, the argument under study is one that is intended to support the extant refutations of radical skepticism (where radical skepticism refers to the position that knowledge—or certainly knowledge of the external world—is impossible).

The argument in question, which is only meant to lend support to more rigorous arguments against such skepticism, could be called something like ‘the argument from common practice’ or ‘the superknowledge argument.’ Its aim is to show that certainty is not required for knowledge by showing that multiple related but distinct concepts are all being called ‘knowledge.’ I intend to showcase where this argument goes wrong in two ways, first through its propensity for special pleading and then through its rhetorical strategy.

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[Topics: Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, Skepticism]
Superknowledge and Casual-knowledge:

Discussing the Fallacies Involved in One Minor Argument Against Radical Skepticism

was last modified: April 1st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Existentialism, Morality]
Freedom is Not a Humanism:

Responding to the Ethical System in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

 

Introduction:

Whatever your personal estimation of his ideas, it is nevertheless true that Jean-Paul Sartre ushered in one of those rare moments in human history when a school of contemporary philosophy was highly integrated into the zeitgeist. And while I personally find Sartre’s contributions to literature (i.e. his plays, short stories, and novels) to be so exceptional as to far outweigh his contributions to philosophy, I do find value in both.

The work by him which is most likely to have been encountered by any student of philosophy, however, is not one of his literary works; instead, it is his early speech-turned-essay “Existentialism is a Humanism.” This is an essay I generally like. After all, I like existentialism; I would not reject the label of existentialist for aspects of my own philosophical convictions. But, that said, I feel that after starting strong Sartre ventures somewhat off-base in “Existentialism is a Humanism” when he nears what is ostensibly his thesis. His initial responses to myopic detractors are useful and well-composed, but his goal (and the intention stated by his title) of showing that existentialism provides a morality of maximising freedom seems misguided.

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[Topics: Existentialism, Morality]
Freedom is Not a Humanism:

Responding to the Ethical System in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

was last modified: April 4th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Paradox of Fiction, Philosophy of Art, Psychology]
Why Stories Make Us Feel:

Colin Radford’s So-called “Paradox of Fiction” and How Art Prompts Human Emotion

 

Introduction:

In the mid-1970s, philosopher Colin Radford wrote an article entitled “How Can We be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?” In the article, Radford argues that emotional responses to works of fiction are as irrational as they are familiar. He calls this the paradox of fiction. And Radford’s fellow philosophers of art have spent the decades since that article’s publication arguing with each other about the best way to disagree with him.

As a person whose own art is the writing of fiction and whose academic background is primarily in literary theory, I am particularly interested in this topic, as well as in the philosophy of art more generally. The issue I have with almost all of the responses to Colin Radford over the years is that they largely agree that there is a paradox to be solved. In this article, I will argue that Radford’s evaluation of emotional responses to fiction as a ‘paradox’ is, at best, too hasty, and, at worst, blatantly incorrect.

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[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Paradox of Fiction, Philosophy of Art, Psychology]
Why Stories Make Us Feel:

Colin Radford’s So-called “Paradox of Fiction” and How Art Prompts Human Emotion

was last modified: August 29th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Contractarian Ethics, Is-Ought Problem, Moral Anti-realism]
Dealing in What Is:

How the Is-Ought Problem Factors into Moral Anti-realism

 

Portrait of David Hume by Allan Ramsay - is-ought problem - David Hume - moral anti-realism

Portrait of David Hume by Allan Ramsay

The towering influence of Enlightenment philosopher David Hume has at least partially informed all of my articles across this past month (and, more indirectly, all of the articles before then as well). And although The Gemsbok’s artist, M.R.P., did a sketch of Hume for the article two weeks ago on infallible foreknowledge, that homage would perhaps have fit better next to today’s article, which will consider a topic often attributed to David Hume—if not as its originator, at least as its first notable, direct, and clear articulator. The topic in question is the is-ought problem (also known as Hume’s Law).

A few of my readers, discussing my article on the exclusively functional objectivity of our socially evolved morality in a forum thread, have raised the is-ought problem as an objection to some of the ideas presented there. While I think that careful readers of that article will already have a fair idea of my response to such objections, I imagine it would be helpful to provide something more explicit. While I would not deny the existence and importance of moral oughts as such, I would seek to offer a moral anti-realist, contractarian account of what oughts ought to be.

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[Topics: Contractarian Ethics, Is-Ought Problem, Moral Anti-realism]
Dealing in What Is:

How the Is-Ought Problem Factors into Moral Anti-realism

was last modified: January 15th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski