[Topics: Critical Idealism, Phenomenology, Speculative Realism]
The World According to Headphones:

A Defense of Immanuel Kant against Recent Criticism by Speculative Realists

 

Immanuel Kant Sketch by M.R.P. - anthropocentrism, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

There has been a recent trend in philosophy, particularly by some working under various flavors of speculative realism (such as objected-oriented ontology and speculative materialism) to accuse Kantian metaphysics of problematic anthropocentrism—meaning the undue privileging of humans or humanity. These accusations seem to result from a belief that Immanuel Kant’s intervention in philosophy amounted to an expansion of the powers of the human mind, placing it in charge of the category of reality. That is, however, not what Kant did.

Nor does Kant ‘privilege’ humans as subjects while ‘degrading’ non-humans as objects. After all, in his terminology all subjects are objects to each other—and to the extent that something apparently inanimate could be construed as a subject (perhaps through the metaphor of a physical reference frame, or through some notion of panpsychism), all humans are objects to it.

Speculative realists speak disapprovingly of what they call the ‘correlationism’ that pervades Kant, as Kant observes that we will only ever have access to our representations of (and the relationship between) reality and our mind, without ever having direct unmediated ‘external’ access to either. Somehow speculative realists interpret this sharp limitation and restriction that Kant places on the scope of human knowledge as instead being an empowering or even ‘reifying’ of human knowledge.

Now, I could list and flatly deny such claims for a while longer. But that doesn’t seem very productive. So, instead, I’d like to take a step back and mount a proper defense against such ideas. I’ll do this by using this article to explain (in the broadest and most accessible strokes I can) what the low-level insights of Kantian philosophy actually involve.

Continue reading

[Topics: Critical Idealism, Phenomenology, Speculative Realism]
The World According to Headphones:

A Defense of Immanuel Kant against Recent Criticism by Speculative Realists

was last modified: December 22nd, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Assumption, Evidence, Skepticism, Belief]
The Least Assumptions:

Cartesian Skepticism, and Reducing Guesses and Assertions in a Belief Network to the Minimum

 

Portrait of René Descartes after Frans Hals - beliefs, minimizing assumptions

Portrait of René Descartes (based on the painting by Frans Hals)

Introduction:

I closed the examination of pragmatic ethics in the previous article by saying that this time I would talk about “the one and only sense in which it is reasonable to maintain skepticism of the external world.” So I’m going to do just that. But before reaching that explanation, I need to make a few remarks about why it is important to minimize assumptions when forming beliefs. After all, prior to saying that universal skepticism is not generally as useful or compelling as it seems, I’d like to first make it clear that skepticism in general is a vital and healthy part of one’s intellectual life.

As René Descartes famously observed, it is always striking how very much of what any given person claims to know (and so believe) rests upon a network of baseless or near-baseless assumptions, assertions, and heuristics so densely matted together that the person fails to realize that there is no actual solidity to its foundation whatsoever. An important feature of this nebulous nest of guesses and half-considered notions is the redundant and overlapping (if occasionally contradicting) nature of its constituent elements. It is just such a nest to which I aim to provide a superior alternative.

But where do we draw the line? There are folks online (like Eliezer Yudkowsky) who have built a serious following out of espousing fervent adherence to certain forms of skepticism and rationality. So, am I in support of such efforts, or against them? That, too, I will answer in the course of this article.

Continue reading

[Topics: Assumption, Evidence, Skepticism, Belief]
The Least Assumptions:

Cartesian Skepticism, and Reducing Guesses and Assertions in a Belief Network to the Minimum

was last modified: November 29th, 2022 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

Introduction:

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 last week on epistemology, 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.

Continue reading

[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: December 5th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski