Monday, October 27, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: In Theory

Hi Tapping,

Thanks to everyone who came out last week for friendship. I wish I could tell you it was great personally, but I took the night off.

Moving on, this week tapping philosophy will be at Yeats brew pub in Ardmore at 8:00 on Thursday, with rides leaving from Connelly around 7:30.

The topic: THEORY!!

What are theories? What do they do? How does a person make use of a theory? Why do people have theories? What is the relationship of theory to different kinds of discourse, such as philosophy, science, and narrative? Is theory a type of parasitic or critical discourse that can only exist in relation to other modes of thinking, or does theory have its own domain?

But I hear you mumbling in the background, "There is no theory, only different theories!" It's this type of criticism that hopefully we can address using a specific example.

Let's take a look at positivism, the whipping boy of philosophy of science. With positivism, the basic idea is that one can only gain TRUE knowledge from empirical evidence. So how do you get empirical evidence? The scientific method of course!

If you don't remember, it basically works like this: Assuming an already existent body of scientific knowledge, one picks a theory and uses it to operationalize his or her hypotheses for testing or research. The results of the testing will determine whether or not the theory is true.

Contrast this sort of truth with historical fact, where historians pride themselves on the notion that there is plurality of interpretations for any given historical event. These two different methodologies seem to contrast directly in terms of how they set up truth claims, with the former seeing truth as the foundation, and the latter seeing truth as contingent upon other various factors, such as power relations, geography, socio-economic structures, etc.

Because of this methodological conflict, and skepticism towards totalizing narratives, in science today people tend to talk about theories being "falsifiable" in order to show they make no claims at an absolute progressive positivistic/enlightenment conception of truth.

This aforementioned conflict raises the question, are theories types of narratives, or are theories an entirely different category of discourse from narratives? Is "falsifiability" just PC drivel for those who can't handle intellectual rigor, or can narratives play an important role in shaping the operations of theories? What about Kuhn's Paradigm shifts? Etc.

Even in light of contemporary philosophy of science, theory in practice seems to function differently from narrative, and a theory that works seems to have properties that are absent from any interpretation, because of its relative utility and repeatability despite different conditions. One simple way to put it might be that theories can beget interpretations, but interpretations cannot beget theories.

The question of theory is important because what may ultimately be at stake is our intellectual integrity. It's easy to repeat the sounds you hear other people making without ever taking a step back to really think things over.

I look forward to seeing everyone this week.

Best,
Francis Prior

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Friendship

Hi tapping,
Welcome back from your break. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, took some time off, and in the words of the author of this topic, "failed a little" at least in doing your schoolwork. Or maybe you even achieved a sense of boredom. If this was you, I am happy for you.

As always, we will meet for rides at 7:30 in Connelly, and at 8:00 in Yeats' brew pub in Ardmore, on THURSDAY

I also wanted to remind everyone that Dr. Carvalho is having a get together in the philosophy department lounge on Friday. Please do try to show up, it will be a lovely time.

And without further delay, by Rory Scanlon: FRIENDSHIP.

“Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.” - Nietzsche

What is friendship?

For the sake of alienation (to be as abstract as possible about something so near to us all) it could be understood as the intersection of two idea: “the personal” and “the limit”—or finitude. Friendship is something like a personal limit. It is always a matter of a direct, face to face, relation of some sort, which is limited. More than this… it presents its own limit as itself.

Thus family relations will not do for friendship for we are always our mother’s little boy or little girl. We are anticipated by the family such that if the relationship is limited, it never shows itself as such. And wider political relations (citizenship, being a student, being a camp councilor, “card-carrying” anything) will not do for they are essentially impersonal and thus can remain simply composed of limits (rules).

These relations are not mutually exclusive; they are perhaps becoming harder and harder to distinguish as the openness yet caring (if not involvement?) of friendship becomes the model for the political and familial. In fact many things we call friendship border on contradicting my definition (as hopelessly vague as it is!): friending and unfriending on facebook, mutual friends, friend of a friend, friends with benefits. The personal moment in a facebook friendship can be (and is structurally) reduced to a moment of choice—choice in a far from personal context. Similarly: is it inevitable that a friend of a friend will become your friend if you meet him or her? close to inevitable? If BFFs were already, at present, friends forever—would their friendship last? would it not become something else? And friends with benefits seem only to remain friends as long as the benefits are not quite spelled out—not entirely known.

Yet all of these examples are still examples of friendship (? Question 1). There is a core of friendship that still pertains to each of them making the limits of the relation potentially personal and the personal quality of the relation—one could almost say, its own personality—eminently limited: independence (? Question 2)—a bizarre relation of independence, mutual independence.

The (counter-)examples of new sorts of friendship may affirm the independence of the relation to triviality (friends with benefits—as if it were a business transaction) or deny it outright (BFF, as if the friendship is as necessary as blood), but they never escape this trait. So friendship is a relation that comes on top of independence as a sharing of independence. It is both gratuitous, and in some essential sense, superfluous.

There is something in the idea of “a facebook” that gets at this gratuity and superfluity very well. We can pick and put down our friendships; we can devise special sub-communities of friends; we can browse our memories of friendship; flip throw our friends; begin a friendship, and be finished with one. Yet I think “the facebook” idea is actually a reactionary impulse to the gratuity and superfluity of friendship that would exist on a deeper, more radical level, if we did not have a book to mark it by (? Question 3). With “a facebook” the book itself is gratuitous and superfluous but the reading of it need not be. The marks of friendship—in lovely dialectical contrast—however, are often the very opposite of free and open, precisely in that we are free to depend on our friends, open to sharing secrets with friends. The freedom and openness of friendship exists in its closure upon some content that makes the friendship happen; something needs to make the friendship happen—we need not make our citizenship or family ties happen. Friendship is not gratuitous and superfluous for us as individual participants, as “the facebook” makes it out to be—it is not so self-composed—rather it is the gratuity and superfluity of the relation. In other words, we only get to have this gratuity and superfluity in friendship. So friendships bind by way of being on a deeper level, in the process of the real, accidental. Friendship requires independence of us in order to give that independence back to us; we receive the image of our own freedom in another and thereby we are even freed from ourselves; the accidental play of independence is also the core of independence, gratuity and superfluity: a free gift with your purchase of existence: an extra prize.

Here we can speak of friendship in the wider sense, the Greek Philia. One can have a friendly disposition, or be friendly towards nature, politics can become the collective reasoning of friends (Aristotle), erotic love sublimated—or, if you will, deferred—by friendship (Plato).

Friendship could even be correlated with being; the thought that things exist at all could be called a friendship for things (? Question 4). Mere existence would not really be kinship with things for then this existence as such would not exist (i.e. for us, in mind) there would be only relations of kinship. Mere existence would not really be erotic love for then this mereness itself would be charged, excessive, tense. … And we do often see erotic love emerge from a tension in friendship; or inversely lovers at the end might often say but for Eros (--pretend they’re being poetic--) we would have been friends. … And friendships are always prefigured and predestined by the order of the family. Friendships inevitably simulate the originary links of childhood, etc. etc.

Thus we could have a transcendent understanding of love in those terms: Friendship and Being, Eros and Action (or Opposition), Family and Order. But here I have really gone too far.

Closing Consideration: Friendship is an independence that appears to itself and thus a void, an accident—the relationship of freedom because it can only be presumed, as an extra. …If this is true (useful, pleasurable or good, even) then friendship is the most paradoxical of relationships. For what would a relationship of independence look like!? (? Question 5) Friendship is even more paradoxical then erotic love (which could be understood as a dependence which appears to itself and yet desires itself, its own dependence)—it goes unthought! For where would one find the lever or tension with which to define or question friendship, if it is a relationship of independence? The family and the state invoke themselves in the relation; erotic love invokes itself ceaselessly (but also always on the edge of disappearance, in danger of mistake); but when do we invoke friendship? what could we say about it? Can one speak of friendship at all (and I mean in a particular case, “our” friendship) without negating it? Or is the possibility to be free with another, to not speak, at all, friendship already?



Here are some quotes that led me to link Friendship and Being –


Montaigne (free 400 year old e-text) -

“It is not in the power of the worlds discourse to remove me from the certaintie I have of his intentions and judgments of mine: no one of its actions might be presented unto me, under what shape soever, but I would presently linde the spring and motion of it. Our mindes have jumped so unitedly together, they have with so fervent an affection consideredof each other, and with like affection so discovered and sounded, even to the very bottome of each others heart and entrails, that I did not only know his, as well as mine owne, but would (verily) rather have trusted him concerning any matter of mine than my selfe.”


Simone Weil -

“For when two beings who are not friends are near each other there is no meeting, and when friends are far apart there is no separation.”

“Learn to reject friendship, or rather the dream of friendship. To want friendship is a great fault. Friendship ought to be a gratuitous joy, like the joys afforded by art, or life (like aesthetic joys). I must refuse it in order to be worthy to receive it”



Aristotle -

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies”

“O my friends, there is no perfect friend”

(or in Derrida, “O my friends, there is no friend”)
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Francis Prior
Villanova Philosophy Club Website
http://tappingphilosophy.blogspot.com
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Minutes:
http://villanovapst.blogspot.com
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Conference Website:
http://anom1k.googlepages.com

Self Absorption: Summary

Self absorption:
Me me, it's all about me!

I thought the most important point made during the discussion was that of Rob McNamara, namely that the term we were using was already value charged negatively, and that a more neutral fair term might be self interested. However, this point fell by the wayside as we continued to talk about self absorption.

There was some contention over whether a self absorbed person cared what others thought of them or not; I maintained that a person who was truly self absorbed would not care what others thought because other people are less important to them than themselves. However, others maintained that within a culture of images, a self absorbed person might be concerned with other's perception of this images as a manifestation of their self. In other words a self absorbed person is a person absorbed in how they are perceived by others.

This didn't exactly fit with the self absorbed artist or philosopher example, excluding andy warhol, who only cares about developing their own perspective on the world, not the perspective of others towards some ego image concept. This seem to lead us to the notion that there were different levels of self absorption, but there were hardly any meaningful criteria that were put out on the table for qualifying these different levels. Overall there were a lot of unanswered questions and disjointed positions with relation to this topic, perhaps because of its ego driven nature.

Rory did mention an interesting point that the self absorbed person would think of the world as themselves, much the same way a child associates their ego with the world. An interesting point for the philosopher's self absorption, due to philosopher's fascination with perspective and the world.

Tapping Philosophy: Self Absorption

Self-Absorption

“I like cry when I listen to it… it’s that good.” –Paris Hilton on her new album (and so does everyone else)

Humanity could only have survived and flourished if it held social and personal values that transcended the urges of the individual, embodying selfish desires - and these stem from the sense of a transcendent good.” - Arthur Peacocke

“I think it all comes back to being very selfish as an artist. I mean, I really do just write and record what interests me and I do approach the stage shows in much the same way.” – David Bowie

“Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.”- Leo Rosten

What does it mean to be self-absorbed? Does being self-absorbed mean concern for oneself over the concern for others categorically? Can self-absorption be a tool used to develop an identity, concept, or goal? Is self-absorption an overall bad thing in that the bad aspects of self-absorption outweigh any good qualities it can bring?

Is self-absorption a consequence of our American individualistic society? By focusing on the self through individual happiness, have we created an obsession with how the individual feels which supersedes an acknowledgment of collective whole?
Is self-absorption fleeting, perhaps exacerbated by an overwhelming emotion or drama? Is everyone capable of self-absorption and how does it become a permanent flaw or trait?
Could you argue that all great thinkers needed to use self-absorption as means to achieve their greater goals?

“It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.”- Charles Darwin

Are philosophers doomed for self-absorption by the very nature of self-examination? We could point to Plato’s endoxic method of looking within self to examine the soul. Or what about Descartes discovering that he, himself exist because he thinks?

On that note, I look forward to seeing you guys at tapping


Now I’m gonna go lock myself in my room and indulge my inner spoiled brat lacking all perspective.

Love and Peace,
Christina

Tapping Philosophy: Self Absorption

This topic brought to you by Christina Bernardo:
Self-Absorption

“I like cry when I listen to it… it’s that good.” –Paris Hilton on her new album (and so does everyone else)

Humanity could only have survived and flourished if it held social and personal values that transcended the urges of the individual, embodying selfish desires - and these stem from the sense of a transcendent good.” - Arthur Peacocke

“I think it all comes back to being very selfish as an artist. I mean, I really do just write and record what interests me and I do approach the stage shows in much the same way.” – David Bowie

“Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.”- Leo Rosten

What does it mean to be self-absorbed? Does being self-absorbed mean concern for oneself over the concern for others categorically? Can self-absorption be a tool used to develop an identity, concept, or goal? Is self-absorption an overall bad thing in that the bad aspects of self-absorption outweigh any good qualities it can bring?

Is self-absorption a consequence of our American individualistic society? By focusing on the self through individual happiness, have we created an obsession with how the individual feels which supersedes an acknowledgment of collective whole?
Is self-absorption fleeting, perhaps exacerbated by an overwhelming emotion or drama? Is everyone capable of self-absorption and how does it become a permanent flaw or trait?
Could you argue that all great thinkers needed to use self-absorption as means to achieve their greater goals?

“It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.”- Charles Darwin

Are philosophers doomed for self-absorption by the very nature of self-examination? We could point to Plato’s endoxic method of looking within self to examine the soul. Or what about Descartes discovering that he, himself exist because he thinks?

On that note, I look forward to seeing you guys at tapping


Now I’m gonna go lock myself in my room and indulge my inner spoiled brat lacking all perspective.

Love and Peace,
Christina