Monday, January 28, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Limits

Hello Tapping,
Thanks for everyone who came out last time, we had a really good discussion on practice, which I unfortunately have not had time to summarize on the blog. However, I have had time to come up with this topic. Again, we will be meeting on Thursday night at Yeats' pub at 8:00, and at Connelly at 7:30. Ideas for future topics are welcome, as well as submissions. Hopefully I'll see you there.

Tapping topic: Limits

Since Immanuel Kant, philosophy has concerned itself with limits, and European philosophy has not really departed drastically from this critical mode of philosophy. Kant concerned himself with the limits of reason, Wittgenstein with the limits of language, Nietzsche with the limits of morality, and Heidegger and Derrida with the limits of metaphysics. What are these limits then? Do limits simply exist as a boundary outside of a given structure or system, such as language, beyond which impossibility or unintelligibility are situated? Are limits the conditions for the possibility of an intelligible system? Do limits play a central role in understanding things, or are they simply peripheral boundaries demarcating things that are not worth addressing? If someone attempts to express themselves outside of the limits, is that expressive action a demonstration of the limit itself, or are they simply spouting nonsense?

Let’s take a phrase, or an idea that seems limitless and put it into questioning. Let’s use the phrase “infinite possibilities.” What might this phrase mean? Is it a sort of tautology, like “I think I am in pain,” because no one could logically recognize how it might be the case otherwise (if you were actually in pain)? In other words, does the phrase “infinite possibilities” actually SAY anything, or does it simply show something abstract about the already defined nature of possibilities as such? Is the notion of infinite possibilities actually the demonstration of a limit?

Philosophy is nice, but religious dialogue has traditionally grappled with ideas of limits as well. Is there any difference between a limit demonstrated by philosophy and a limit revealed by religion, or are they addressing the same sorts of problems? What sorts of things are often demonstrated as limited by religion? Does a concept like God demonstrate a radical finitude for all things that are not God, or is it a psychological reflection of its creators, or perhaps both? Does the idea of God used to demonstrate limitations of human understanding run counter to an egalitarian enlightenment project where humans take responsibility for their own destiny, or is there some way these two narratives can be reconciled?

What might constitute no limit thinking then, or would such a phrase simply be a reflection of a structural impossibility?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Practice


Quotes--There are so many good ones:

“The moment of understanding is the moment of interpretation is the moment of application.”

-Hans Georg Gadamer

“Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe”

-Blaise Pascal

And my favorite:

If Coach tells you that I missed practice, then that's that. I may have missed one practice this year but if somebody says he missed one practice of all the practices this year, then that's enough to get a whole lot started. I told Coach Brown that you don't have to give the people of Philadelphia a reason to think about trading me or anything like that. If you trade somebody, you trade them to make the team better...simple as that. I'm cool with that. I'm all about that. The people in Philadelphia deserve to have a winner. It's simple as that. It goes further than that ... If I can't practice, I can't practice. It is as simple as that. It ain't about that at all. It's easy to sum it up if you're just talking about practice. We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last but we're talking about practice man. How silly is that? ... Now I know that I'm supposed to lead by example and all that but I'm not shoving that aside like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I honestly do but we're talking about practice. We're talking about practice man. We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you've seen me play right, you've seen me give everything I've got, but we're talking about practice right now. ... Hey I hear you, it's funny to me too, hey it's strange to me too but we're talking about practice man, we're not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we're talking about practice ... How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?

— Allen Iverson at a press conference on May 8, 2002

He said "practice" more times than he's actually practiced.

— Larry Brown speaking to reporters the next day

And now for the topic itself:

This week, we’re talking about practice, and Allen Iverson probably won’t show up. This word has several different meanings: there’s praxis as the implementation of theory (Marx), there is practice of a skill (Aristotle’s techne), and religious and cultural practice. Is there any shared ground between these definitions or an overall understanding of practice at which we might arrive through discussion? What social institutions play the largest role concerning the implementation of praxis, and what institutions are more hands off with regard to practice? What is the relationship of praxis to constructs such as criticism, ideology, and culture? Why is practice important to forming an understanding of the world? It seems obvious that the notion of practice as action in general is of quite obvious important, but why is it relevant to simply understanding things theoretically or philosophically? Is the practice of an individual, an institution, or a culture the most important ground for judging its effectiveness or its worth? Why do we practice?