Friday, February 22, 2008

It is impossible for us to free ourselves entirely from "the tyranny of custom." It's a daily struggle and mostly we fail.

"Philosophy is thinking in slow motion. It breaks down, describes and assesses moves we ordinarily make at great speed..." and names them according to preconceptions.
Literature is thinking in slow motion and description without naming. It's less precise but precision for its own sake is unphilosophical.

"I see philosophy not as of groundwork for science, but as continuous with science."
Formal logic can be thought of as continuous with formal mathematics, since the language of formal logic is enclosed and reflexive. But the relation of language to the world is unstable, and philosophy, unlike formal logic, must concern itself not only with itself but with the world and our relation to it. Mathematics and formal logic are never undermined by history. Their applications inevitably are. Precision is not a trope; "Precisionism" is. The tension between the twin categories those words represent is the proper subject of philosophy the arts and humanities.
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Russell "Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom." There is no escape from tyranny of custom. We communicate in customs. Our life is our habits.

Quine was a logician, and formal logic is not philosophy. Philosophy concerns our relation to the world. Every action is an action in the world and a discussion of the world that imagines itself not in it (considers itself as other than an action) is predicated on a delusion or a lie.

Formalism in itself is meaningless, its only significance is if it mirrors something in the world. You could argue that mathematics does that in its use, that mathematical calculations mirror the motion of things in the world. But language doesn't mirror the world in any way other than a house mirrors the world. Both are man made, imperfect, things. The singular importance of language originates in its use, but its use is full of ambiguity. The relation of words to referents is fluid. Language does not mirror it mimics and refers to the world, and not very clearly and not very well. The world in language is the world of the social and political not the hard sciences.

"Precision is not a trope; 'Precisionism' is." It's a habit, a custom, as Platonism as it applied to language. I wrote this for a catalogue essay of a friend's work:
"Abstraction has always been anomalous in art, and pure abstraction even more so. It makes sense if you are an idealist to imagine ideal forms, but such philosophies are as rare as the cultures that encourage them. And even pure abstraction only represents purity; we only know the ideal through the illusion of its presence."
The ideal is antithetical to democracy. Textualism and adversarialism define the process of imperfect justice and imperfect government. Rationalism and formal logic can not.

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