[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.

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[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: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
Mind Turning Backward:

A Critique of My Own Evolutionary Argument in Favor of Panpsychism

 

Introduction:

Detail from BrainChain by Willem den Broeder - consciousness, panpsychism, criticism

Detail from BrainChain by Willem den Broeder

Several years ago, I wrote and published an article advancing a defense of panpsychism from the perspective of evolutionary biology. It was an explicitly exploratory article, opening with a lengthy discussion of the nascence of serious philosophy and science of the mind—and ending with a declaration that my feeling that panpsychism is a solid response to the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ is one of my least resolute and most tentative philosophical beliefs.

Due to this overt humility in the text of the article, I expected readers to see an opportunity to convince me that my arguments failed. Unfortunately, though I have now read many responses to my article in forums and elsewhere, I have been disappointed in the inability of such comments to point out any genuine flaws in my arguments. I say this is a disappointment not out of smug self-satisfaction regarding the arguments in question, but rather because I personally feel that the arguments do have genuine flaws. That my article has flaws was a baseless instinct when I wrote it, which has developed since then into a reasoned position. At any rate, I hoped that I was starting a conversation, but really I seem to have simply given people an opportunity to deliver their stump speeches about why they feel panpsychism is ridiculous without the need for examination (a trend I had hoped to curtail with the way I wrote that article’s introduction).

Although people have generally been more than willing to offer mature critical responses to many of my articles, such responses have not materialized for that article in particular. Thus, over the years, something odd has become clear to me: if I want to see a set of objections that really grapple with the arguments I advance in that particular article, I am going to have to write the set of objections myself. So . . . that exercise in navel-gazing is exactly what I’m going to do now; you might say that this is me writing criticism of a thinker that I truly consider to be my intellectual equal! Let’s get this over with . . .

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[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
Mind Turning Backward:

A Critique of My Own Evolutionary Argument in Favor of Panpsychism

was last modified: December 5th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Epistemology, Philosophy of Religion, Skepticism]
Meditations on Descartes:

Examining Objections to the Main Argument of René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy

 

René Descartes Sketch by M.R.P. - Meditations on First Philosophy, Cartesian Circle

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

It is likely the case that no other work of philosophy has had an influence which is at the same time so massive and so different from the intended effect of its writer as Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes. In setting out to provide the thinking world with certainty about the accuracy of their perceptions, the reliability of their intuitions about the soul, and the existence of God—Descartes instead accidentally cast a spell of doubt over the ensuing centuries of epistemology and metaphysics.

This occurred because, perhaps regrettably, Descartes did a far better job of demonstrating the all-consuming challenge posed by following skepticism to its logical conclusions, than he ever did of overcoming that challenge. As it happens, I agree with the assessment of most philosophers that Descartes succeeds brilliantly in tearing the world down, then fails miserably in building the world back up. But I have found that my reasons for believing that usually differ from theirs . . . and I have also found that this difference sometimes stems from them not having a solid grasp on the logical structure of Descartes’ Meditations. For instance, the most popular objection to his argument is that it is an example of circular reasoning, and hence blatantly fallacious; that objection is a great example of a misguided response that misunderstands the case being made.

So, I decided to write this article, in order to both provide a clear presentation of Descartes’ argument against skepticism, and to also survey and evaluate an array of objections one might make against it. Now, let us explore together how René Descartes unintentionally left us all so mired in doubt:

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[Topics: Epistemology, Philosophy of Religion, Skepticism]
Meditations on Descartes:

Examining Objections to the Main Argument of René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy

was last modified: December 15th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Internet, Philosophy of Education]
Traditionally Progressive Education:

On the Philosophy of Education, and the Internet’s Role in Future Learning and Social Change

Introduction:

Mental Calculation. In Public School of S. A. Rachinsky by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky - philosophy of education - internet - The Gemsbok

Mental Calculation. In Public School of S. A. Rachinsky by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

A couple of months ago, I was speaking with a man who teaches computer programming part-time at a university in the Midwestern United States. At some point in the conversation, he asked me what I thought the biggest problems facing the USA were. Knowing that we both had shared interests in science and philosophy (two vast and fascinating subjects with, as I have previously written, a lot of overlap), I wanted to give him a solid answer.

After a moment’s consideration, I told him that I thought there were two upper echelon issues, from which stemmed—to varying degrees—all of America’s other problems: the first, I said, is our unequal, low-quality (and so perpetually self-diminishing) education system, and the second is corruption among powerful public and private members of society. He quipped that I had really presented just one issue, as the latter is a product of the former, and the lack of consistent, high-quality education for every citizen is then the only candidate for the top spot.

I am not particularly sure that I can agree with him, as I find it entirely possible that intelligent and well-educated people can still exercise power corruptly in the absence of proper transparency and regulation. But the notion that many of the commonly noted big issues in any given country can be traced back to some manner of inadequacy in that country’s education is a point of definite agreement between us.

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[Topics: Internet, Philosophy of Education]
Traditionally Progressive Education:

On the Philosophy of Education, and the Internet’s Role in Future Learning and Social Change

was last modified: August 23rd, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
A Scientific Defense of Panpsychism:

Understanding Panpsychism through Evolutionary Biology and an Analogy to Electricity

 

Stones (Steve Parker) - scientific defense of panpsychism - evolution, biology, electricity

Photo by Steve Parker

Introduction:

Today’s topic is panpsychism, which is a theory in the philosophy of mind that deals with the nature of consciousness. In short, a person who holds to the truth of panpsychism is proposing, as a potential path toward solving the hard problem of consciousness, the notion that every piece of matter in existence possesses some modicum of consciousness. A conscious experience is something that happens at different scales and to different extents for certain collections of matter. The panpsychist would hold that an atom possesses a quantity of consciousness, as does a rock, a person, and a building.

If you’ve not read much into the philosophy of mind (and even if you have, depending on your intuitions), this might seem at first like a lot of nonsense. And furthermore, if you’ve been following along with this series—and so have a fair grasp of my naturalistic, phenomenological, pragmatic, and compromise-suffused personal philosophy—then you are probably going to be surprised by what I say next: I think panpsychism is a good theory. And, much like 19th-century philosopher William Kingdon Clifford, I think that anyone holding to the truth of evolutionary biology (as I clearly am) ought to think panpsychism is a good theory.

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[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
A Scientific Defense of Panpsychism:

Understanding Panpsychism through Evolutionary Biology and an Analogy to Electricity

was last modified: November 14th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski