?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Philosophy on LiveJournal
philosophy
.:.....::. .: ..::...:::.


February 2018
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28

4inquiries [userpic]
Platonism and Pragmatism

How do the Platonist and the Pragmatist see each other? What exactly do they disagree on?

"...pragmatists see the Platonic tradition as having outlived its usefulness. This does not mean that they have a new, non-Platonic set of answers to Platonic questions, but rather that they do not think we should ask those questions anymore. When they suggest that we do not ask questions about the nature of Truth or Goodness, they do not invoke a theory about the nature of reality or knowledge or man which says that 'there is no such thing' as Truth or Goodness... They would simply like to change the subject. They are in a position analogous to that of secularists who urge that research concerning the Nature, or the Will, of God does not get us anywhere. Such secularists are not saying that God does not exist, exactly; they feel unclear about what it would mean to affirm His existence, and thus about the point of denying it... They just doubt that the vocabulary of theology is one we ought to be using. Similarly, pragmatists keep trying to find ways of making antiphilosophical points in nonphilosophical language. For they face a dilemma: if their language is too unphilosophical, too 'literary,' they will be accused of changing the subject; if it is too philosophical it will embody Platonic assumptions which will make it impossible for the pragmatist to state the conclusion he wants to reach..." - Richard Rorty, from the "Introduction" to Consequences of Pragmatism

Plato: I'm concerned with certain questions, like "Who should rule?"
Pragmatist: You shouldn't ask those questions.
Plato: Why shouldn't I ask the questions that concern me?
Pragmatist: Those questions are not useful.
Plato: I can use those questions.
Pragmatist: You can't use them to get anywhere.
Plato: I can get places.
Pragmatist: You can't get anywhere valuable.
Plato: I value the places I arrive at.
Pragmatist: You shouldn't.
Plato: Why not?
Pragmatist: They aren't useful.
Plato: I can use them.

I don't know how to fill in the discussion from here. I'm guessing something like this:

Pragmatist: You use those questions and values for totalitarianism.
Plato: I see how you might say that, but the totalitarianism I promote is what we should do.
Pragmatist: We should not be totalitarian.
Plato: Why shouldn't we be ruled by reason?
Pragmatist: You shouldn't ask those questions.
Plato: Why shouldn't I?
Pragmatist: Those questions aren't useful.
Plato: You just told me that I use them for totalitarianism.
Pragmatist: Totalitarianism is not what we should do.
Plato: So things can't be useful for things we shouldn't do?
Pragmatist: You shouldn't ask those questions...

What, exactly, does Pragmatism charge Plato with doing wrong? What is this standard of "usefulness" that Pragmatists leach onto?

Comments

Where did you get the dialogue? It seems more a parody of pragmatism.

Here's how I, in a pragmatic mood, would answer the Platonist in this exchange:

Plato: I'm concerned with certain questions, like "Who should rule?"
Me: Great. Me too.
Plato: Why shouldn't I ask the questions that concern me?
Me: You should. What other questions could you ask?
Plato: I can use those questions.
Me: Then you should ask them.
...
Plato: I value the places I arrive at.
Me: Then it's good that you ask how to get there.
...
Plato: I see how you might say that, but the totalitarianism I promote is what we should do.
Me: Do we need leaders? If so, how could we select them? Does it make sense to say that we should be ruled by a certain kind of ruler, when it's not clear that such rulers could even exist, much less be identifiable by the methods of selection available to us?
Plato: Why shouldn't we be ruled by reason?
Me: What does that even mean?
etc.

I think the problem with your understanding is that pragmatists don't really eschew value or ethics. They just try to fit them in to a coherent view of the world. Questions of who should rule or how we should live are eminently in the attention of pragmatists; indeed, that's all they ask. I think that all the pragmatist really does differently is take the analytical framework back a step and ask whether, say, a rationalistic take on philosophical purposes best serves the point to philosophical inquiry, whatever it is. Why have philosophy? What's it good for? What are the questions it's supposed to resolve? These are all basically the same question.

Thanks for filling in sensible answers for the pragmatist.

Questions of who should rule or how we should live are eminently in the attention of pragmatists; indeed, that's all they ask.

"[Pragmatists] do not think we should ask [Platonic] questions anymore." Do you and Rorty disagree about what a pragmatist is? Karl Popper seems to think that questions of who should rule should not be our attention; is he just not a pragmatist?

I think that all the pragmatist really does differently is take the analytical framework back a step and ask whether, say, a rationalistic take on philosophical purposes best serves the point to philosophical inquiry, whatever it is.

What is a "philosophical purpose"? Why is philosophical inquiry "pointed to"? Plato investigates being/knowledge/experience/etc with rationality because it is the most reasonable way to investigate those those things; what is a pragmatist doing different?

I'm going to offer up a guess here - just a guess, because I'm not qualified to answer properly.

I think that a pragmatist's understanding of rationality is different from a Platonist's because it sees forms as less real than concrete manifestations, rather than more so. That is, for a pragmatist, I think that forms would be human-created ideas that can have powerful motivational influences for people in general and should be understood as such, rather than being the ends and means of philosophical inquiry.

Pragmatists seem to be attacking Plato's questions, not his answer to those questions. Even if Plato has to abandon the forms and other answers, his questions are still very important. Why do pragmatists think we should abandon the questions themselves?

Please keep in mind that I'm not a degreed expert in this field. But:

Do you and Rorty disagree about what a pragmatist is?

I don't think I disagree with Rorty. I don't think that "Who should rule?" is (just) a Platonic question. It seems like a very practical question to me; if we need leaders, we need a method for selecting them. For a pragmatist, it's just a matter of finding the right framework within which a question is sensible. If I wouldn't change a thing about my life depending upon the answer to the question, "Is there a real world?" then why ask it?

Karl Popper seems to think that questions of who should rule should not be our attention; is he just not a pragmatist?

I think it depends upon what you mean by "our" and "pragmatist." It's fitting, I think, that "pragmatist" has no clear referent but rather shifts to the purposes of those who employ the term. For Peirce, pragmatism was just a view on logic; for James, it was a self-help method; for Dewey, it backgrounded educational reform. For Popper, "pragmatism" might best be framed by his chosen specialty. I don't think Popper would say we have no business trying to figure out how we should live or whom we should select to lead us in our endeavors, because that would be like saying we have no business figuring out what to eat for dinner or how to spend our money. I'd guess that what he meant had more to do with the methods and specialties we can effectively employ towards those sorts of questions. Adopting first principles that seem intuitive and then deriving from them a means of deciding how to run a national government just doesn't seem adequate to the end.

What is a "philosophical purpose"? Why is philosophical inquiry "pointed to"?

I'm fairly radical about pragmatism, so my response to these questions is that they're categories imposed by "philosophers" more than cognizable categories in a pragmatic method. I don't know what philosophy is, or what it's supposed to be. What I know is that there seem to be a lot of people talking about something they call "philosophy," some of whom seem to be saying something useful, some of whom seem not to be. I'm just trying to adapt the method to the notions other bring to the table. A "philosophical purpose" is whatever purpose philosophers bring to their endeavors.

As for why philosophical inquiry is "pointed to," I'd say it's important to emphasize that I'm not saying that it has to be "pointed to" something "practical" or "instrumental" like paying the bills. All I'm saying is that inquiry generally proceeds by approaching a problematic situation and resolving it. What is being? Here's what being is. The latter is the "pointed to." The pragmatic critique would go on to say, "Why do we need the 'pointed to'?" What is it "pointed to"? I'd like to know why I should care whether there is a real world. What difference does it make?

Plato investigates being/knowledge/experience/etc with rationality because it is the most reasonable way to investigate those those things

This is just a truism. "Plato uses reason because reason is reasonable."

But what does it mean to "investigate being/knowledge/experience"? What is it that we're investigating? What will investigating it avail us? I think the pragmatist just looks at a situation and asks whether the solution gets us where we want to be. It's perfectly possible that thinking to ourselves rationally is the best way to do whatever it is we mean when we say we are "investigating being." I think a pragmatist can accept that as far as it goes. Whether it's something worth doing is another matter.

I think the basic pragmatic critique on platonism is that platonism in the traditional descartian tradition assumes that philosophy is about having properly represented beliefs in one's "mind"(rorty would critique the idea that we have some glassy essence which represents things), that certain vocabularies have preference over others, and also because platonism seeks out some universal truth among all communities instead of identifying its ethnocentricism and working to establish itself within a community(platonism seeks to be outside all communities, some kind of meta-abjucator of discourse which denies the openly democratic approach of a mulitiplicity of opinions).

Rorty's approach is also about "Antirepresentationalism". Platonism is all about Representing (ha!). Rorty critiques the plato/descartesian aim of philosophy as "[philosophy] is to be a general theory of representation, a theory which will divide culture up into the ares which represent reality well, and those who represent it less will" and "we owe the notion of a 'theory of knowledge' based on an understanding of 'mental processes' to the seventeenth century, and especially to locke." is the one that introduced this idea that we possess a kind of "mind" which "represents" ideas. (taken from Philosophy and The Mirror of Nature). One could also, I suppose, trace the history of thinking about truths relating to forms, or eidos, to plato as well.

Basically constant discussions of representation miss the point, the point is to have a dialogue (I think the dialogue you are suggesting with the platonic person would actually go quite differently) and to de-emphasize the importance on how we come to these beliefs and what methods we have for justifying them. Rorty also tries to delegitimate the "correspondence theory of truth" in favor of a more conversationalist method of truth.

"Differently put, Rorty argues that we can give no useful content to the notion that the world, by its very nature, rationally constrains choices of vocabulary with which to cope with it." (stanford)

Oh he also draws heavily off wittgenstein, maybe that would be usefle to know as well?

I think the basic pragmatic critique on platonism is that platonism in the traditional descartian tradition assumes that philosophy is about having properly represented beliefs in one's "mind"

My understanding is that Platonism assumes that philosophy is about rationally examining the self and the self's relationship to the world. Why do pragmatists critique Plato through a 'traditional descartian tradition' rather than on Plato's own terms?

that certain vocabularies have preference over others

Does this refer to Cratylus?

platonism seeks out some universal truth among all communities instead of identifying its ethnocentricism and working to establish itself within a community

What's wrong with this goal? I'm not convinced that there are no universal principles of justice, so if pragmatists are denying the possibility of reaching the goal then I'd like to see the reason.

Rorty's approach is also about "Antirepresentationalism".

Do I need to read his books to understand his motivations? Why is Rorty trying to de-emphasize the importance on how we come to these beliefs and what methods we have for justifying them?

I don't know much Wittgenstein except for his early philosophy, which I don't suppose will help me understand his most robust objection to Platonism. Do I need to read Philosophical Fragments to grasp his critique?

Thanks for clearing some stuff up.

"My understanding is that Platonism assumes that philosophy is about rationally examining the self and the self's relationship to the world. Why do pragmatists critique Plato through a 'traditional descartian tradition' rather than on Plato's own terms?"

In this case I think thats why most antirepresentationalists, postmodernists, or what have you (these terms get confusing, but i'm not saying they are interchangeable) focus on descartes rather than on plato/socrates. Nietzsche is really the one who attacks plato/socrates for giving tyranny to reason and a focus on the other-worldly (things like forms, ideals, universal truths,) instead of focusing on the world of particulars which we live in. If you consider the platonic method to be about taking care of the soul and looking into one's self in order understand how to live then I don't think the antiplatonic critique would be as strong. However; The idea that something we can represent abstractly should be more important to us than the things which we are aquainted with without ratinality being imposed upon it is, I believe, a main strong under current of criticism among the community which stresses a de-emphasis of epistemology (pragmatism being one of them)

Plato tries to show how language corresponds to reality through giving universal definitions in order to grasp the forms. Rorty believes, with Davidson, that the Correspondence theory of truth is redudant and says nothing about truth itself. An example by Frege is this,

It is worthy of notice that the sentence "I smell the scent of violets" has the same content as the sentence "it is true that I smell the scent of violets". So it seems, then, that nothing is added to the thought by my ascribing to it the property of truth. (Frege, 1918).
-- taken from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflationary_theory_of_truth#Redundancy_theory

"Does this refer to Cratylus?"

I don't believe so. I think Rorty just means that plato assumes that a certain kind of "philosophical vocabulary" represents the world better, than say, an artistic vocabulary, or a sociological vocabulary. This is the privelege he means, that philosophical words and phrases should stand above other forms of discourse.

"I'm not convinced that there are no universal principles of justice, so if pragmatists are denying the possibility of reaching the goal then I'd like to see the reason."

I believe that pragmatist fall more along the lines of deflationary truth. The deflationary theory of truth is a family of theories which all have in common the claim that assertions that predicate truth of a statement do not attribute a property called truth to such a statement. (taken from wikipedia) I do not think a pragmatist would say out-right "there is no possibility of making an assertion that corresponds to reality" rather we should avoid making these kinds of statements at all. (for they add nothing)

"Why is Rorty trying to de-emphasize the importance on how we come to these beliefs and what methods we have for justifying them?"

Lyotard tries to divide language as having prescriptive utterances such as "close the door" and declarative utterances "the door is made out of wood". Rorty would suggest we focus less on declarative utterances such as "this is the way it is" and focus more on prescriptive utterances "this is how it should be"

"Do I need to read Philosophical Fragments to grasp his critique?"

I don't think so. Just that there is no strict denotative relationship between what we utter and how it is represented. The word "ice cube" could bring up an image of a box, coldness, blue, cardboard, or what have you. There is no "ice cube" to "ice cube" relationship: language is instrumental not representational.

Oh he also draws heavily off wittgenstein, maybe that would be usefle to know as well?

He does draw from later Wittgenstein, but he isn't primarily influenced by Wittgenstein. He draws more influence from Dewey, Nietzsche, James, and Sellars.

I think more or less I meant he engages philosophy at the point when it made the "linguistic turn".

I see James, Sellars, and Dewey, of course. Why do you think Nietzsche?

Plato: So things can't be useful for things we shouldn't do?
Pragmatist: You shouldn't ask those questions...


Of course it's trivially true that standards of usefulness are relative to what exactly those standards are for. For example, x, y, z might be very useful to a Nazi, a feudal lord, or an aristocrat, respectively. "In particular, there is no reason why a fascist could not be a pragmatist in the sense of agreeing with pretty much everything Dewey said about the nature of truth, knowledge, rationality, and morality. Nietzsche would have agreed with Dewey against Plato and Kant on all these specifically philosophical topics. Had they debated, the only substantial disagreement between Nietzsche and Dewey would have bee about the value of egalitarian ideas, ideas of human brotherhood and sisterhood, and thus about the value of democracy. It is unfortunate, I think, that many people hope for a tighter link between philosophy and politics than there is or can be. In particular, people on the left keep hoping for a philosophical view which cannot be used by the political right, one which will lend itself only to good causes. But there will never be such a view; any philosophical view is a tool which can be used by many different hands." - Richard Rorty, Truth Without Correspondence to Reality

Are you inferring that Platonism is not good because it can be appropriated by people for bad things? That doesn't follow. Are you inferring that Plato professes his ideas to be invulnerable to bastardization? I don't think it does. Plato recognizes his own infallibility when he suggests at the end of the Republic that there may be good reasons for permitting art in society, but that he simply hasn't heard any. He encourages everyone to look to the form of the Good, which is infallible, so that people might be better than him. Therefore Rorty is wrong to say that no philosophical viewpoint is invulnerable to use by many hands, since looking towards the form of the Good is a trivially infallible philosophical method. It's like Rousseau's General Will, which is trivially infallible; the hard question asks about the nature of the General Will and form of the Good, and bad answers do not make the General Will or the form of the Good any more fallible.

I may not have been clear, but I've tried to emphasize the usefulness of the forms as empowering explanatory language and a working model of experience.

That's certainly not what Rorty's saying, since he says that any philosophy can be used by people for bad ends. Rather a pragmatist would just say that Platonism is not good because it can't be appropriated by us for what we think good as much as some other option.

Of course, if you show that Platonism is a useful ontology, then one could be motivated to be a Platonic pragmatist, just as, say, personally-religious scientists are materialist pragmatists at work.

Right. That's exactly what I said.

No. I am explicitly not inferring that.