Wednesday, December 03, 2014

We Were Certainly Uncertain, At Least I'm Pretty Sure I Am

Ryan Simonelli:

Philosophers have lots of tools and tricks up their sleeves. They, of course, can use formal argumentation, they can employ all sorts of thought experiments to elicit various intuitions, they can lay out examples, dilemmas, dialectics, and do a whole host of other things. But I want to talk about one particular trick that only a select few philosophers have employed. This trick involves wrapping everything up in a philosophical system only to have that system knock itself down by its own internal means, and doing all in order to produce some sort of anti-philosophical result. I’ve come to call this the “looping” trick, and it’s one of the most philosophically curious things that I’ve ever stumbled upon.

...Here, my concern is with philosophical strange loops. If you were to find yourself in a strange loop of this variety, it would seem as you are going farther and farther down a particular philosophical path only to end up right where you started. I’ve found that this strange looping structure is a recurring pattern in a certain type of philosopher: the systematically unsystematic philosopher. It is an odd stance to be in, but there’s been few philosophers throughout the philosophical tradition who have taken this stance, and they’re rather interesting.

He goes on to trace the outlines of an almost-mystical outlook at the heart of Nagarjuna, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, and Rorty's philosophies, one in which language and concepts will always fail to totally capture the entirety of our experience, and does it in an interesting and readable way. The post is also a finalist for 3 Quarks Daily's 2014 Philosophy Prize, in case you need further encouragement to read it. There's some brain-bending logic involved, but I trust you have enough cerebral flexibility to avoid serious injury. If not, well, you have my permission to stay home in bed for several days without mentally lifting anything heavier than Salon or HuffPo articles.