Monday, January 10, 2011

"Former friends have recounted that Loughner had a fixation for grammar and words, saying that he challenged Giffords at a previous public meeting with the impenetrable question: 'What is government if words have no meaning?' "
"A felt need for meant entities may derive from an earlier failure to appreciate that meaning and reference are distinct. Once the theory of meaning is sharply separated from the theory of reference, it is a short step to recognizing as the business of the theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements; meanings themselves, as obscure intermediary entities, may well be abandoned."
W.V.O. Quine.
"Einstein tells the story of how Gödel called the game theorist Morgenstern on the evening of his citizenship interview in the United States, to explain how he had discovered a logical problem in the Constitution: a non-standard model that would enable a dictatorship to be created consistently with it. After a period of ill health, he effectively starved himself to death for fear that he was being poisoned."
Entry for Gödel in Simon Blackburn's Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy
"[T]he Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead — or, as I prefer to put it, enduring. It means today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted."
Antonin Scalia
No word has meaning, each has meanings. Logicians don't understand language, they replace the Platonism of religious authority with the Platonism of numbers, and Quine's holism has the same effect. Scientists are not science; if science is a tool, philosophy must be concerned with the nature of the tool user. Holism, absent the social function of language and thus still "reductionist", is a metaphysical article of faith. His naturalism is anti-political and his politics were predictably lousy.

The only way to eliminate meanings, or freeze them, is to eliminate interpretation as subjective and therefore illogical. The only way to eliminate subjectivity from our experience of social and therefore political life is to lie. Taruskin and Balkin again. And as long as we're on the subject of music, it makes sense that Willard Quine's nephew was a musical puritan and junky.

It's not that Quine's holism is an act of faith as much as that he uses it to defend his faith in philosophy as an independent subject. His arguments are fundamentally perverse: a moralizing defense ex cathedra of the idea of pragmatism, which encouraged the continuing practice of its opposite.

This ended up the beginning of a new tag: Kurt Gödel meet David Addington, though I brought in the Addington reference later. It made me smile that the only other reference I've found to the two of them is in a paper by Balkin and Levinson. Linked here

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