Sunday, February 21, 2010


As I've said before, in so many words, post-war modernism is the reactionary recapitulation -as mannered and brittle- of the much more ambiguous modernism of earlier in the century. There's something offensively un-self-aware in the knee-jerk proclamations of ordered progress: as something that was or is happening, or that should happen. I could be talking about "Ozzie and Harriet" or Clement Greenberg but just as easily about the so called "cognitive revolution", not the culture at large which is always messy but the respectable quasi-official culture that modernism became. Has anyone commented that C. Wright Mills writes like The Organization Man, Apostate, a carrier of the same traits he condemns, without of course being aware of it? How is it possible after the first 50 years of the bloodiest century in history that so many people could so casually make assumptions about the stable subject: The experts' "I" even in rebellion.

Thinking of this after stumbling into a review by Jerry Fodor The arrogance, based on lazy assumption and self-regard, is just odd to me.

I'm not a fan of Chalmers and the limits of the Extended Mind Thesis are pretty clear: If my arm is an extension of my mind, is my hand like a fork? But Fodor says less in 10 printed pages than I did in 15 words and in the process manages to sound like someone who knows little about the world outside the pretensions of his field. I'm told some of his colleagues might agree with that judgement- and even that he might himself. Every few paragraphs I come across a statement to which my only response is: "How do you know?" And the only answer I can imagine from him is "Because!" What is "content" other than the perception of something? And what's perception? Whatever it is it's not to be questioned, because to question it is to question optimism. I can't think if another excuse. But it allows him to call himself "a philosopher" as someone else might call himself "a chemist." The analogy of philosophy as demi-science: pure bullshit. Sometimes the conflict between fact and assumption - empiricism and rationalization- becomes so clear it's painful to watch.
But it does bear emphasis that slippery-slope arguments are notoriously invalid. There is, for example, a slippery slope from being poor to being rich; it doesn’t follow that whoever is the one is therefore the other, or that to insist on the distinction is mere prejudice. Similarly, there is a slippery slope between being just a foetus and being a person; it doesn’t follow that foetuses are persons, or that to abort a foetus is to commit a homicide.
There is no objective "true" divide between a foetus and a person. To argue otherwise is not "rational" but only self-serving. The fact is that the most powerful arguments for the legalization of abortion begin in the knowledge that there is no absolute answer and that given this, along with other issues of enforcement, the state should not have the right to intervene. Fodor invents an absolute out of whole cloth. As I said he does it a few times but this one just pissed me off. Like Simon Blackburn on Humanism, or Chomsky, or Searle, what he knows is what he wants to believe, no more.

The rationalism of ideologues leads to irrationalism and barbarism. Is Weinberg any more deluded than Rumsfeld?

The will to ignorance. Amazing

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