Grad Seminar Class Notes

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AUG 30

Course Introduction


Work on Method

  • Haug, "Introduction"
  • armchair methods vs. empirical knowledge
  • the background of linguistic philosophy in methodology
  • constructive naturalism vs. deflationary naturalism p. 9
  • (We should read something on "experimental philosophy")
  • Haug, "Williamson / Rosenberg pieces"
  • Jones, "Phenomenology"
  • we'll try to gloss key terms to develop a common reference and understanding of H's phenomenology
  • natural standpoint, bracketing, epoch, experience of "essences"
  • phenomenology's critiques of science.
  • absolute subjectivity as a basis for absolute objectivity.
  • phenomenology as solution to a crisis in the culture.
  • Nagel - Dennett on being a bat
  • Wiki Pages on Method
  • Philosophical Methodology [1]
  • Socratic Method [2]
  • Here's something I took from the SEP article on phenomenology that I thought was clear:
  • To begin an elementary exercise in phenomenology, consider some typical experiences one might have in everyday life, characterized in the first person:
  • I see that fishing boat off the coast as dusk descends over the Pacific.
  • I hear that helicopter whirring overhead as it approaches the hospital.
  • I am thinking that phenomenology differs from psychology.
  • I wish that warm rain from Mexico were falling like last week.
  • I imagine a fearsome creature like that in my nightmare.
  • I intend to finish my writing by noon.
  • I walk carefully around the broken glass on the sidewalk.
  • I stroke a backhand cross-court with that certain underspin.
  • I am searching for the words to make my point in conversation.
  • Here are rudimentary characterizations of some familiar types of experience. Each sentence is a simple form of phenomenological description, articulating in everyday English the structure of the type of experience so described. The subject term “I” indicates the first-person structure of the experience: the intentionality proceeds from the subject. The verb indicates the type of intentional activity described: perception, thought, imagination, etc. Of central importance is the way that objects of awareness are presented or intended in our experiences, especially, the way we see or conceive or think about objects. The direct-object expression (“that fishing boat off the coast”) articulates the mode of presentation of the object in the experience: the content or meaning of the experience, the core of what Husserl called noema. In effect, the object-phrase expresses the noema of the act described, that is, to the extent that language has appropriate expressive power. The overall form of the given sentence articulates the basic form of intentionality in the experience: subject-act-content-object.
  • Rich phenomenological description or interpretation, as in Husserl, Merleau-Ponty et al., will far outrun such simple phenomenological descriptions as above. But such simple descriptions bring out the basic form of intentionality. As we interpret the phenomenological description further, we may assess the relevance of the context of experience. And we may turn to wider conditions of the possibility of that type of experience. In this way, in the practice of phenomenology, we classify, describe, interpret, and analyze structures of experiences in ways that answer to our own experience.
  • In such interpretive-descriptive analyses of experience, we immediately observe that we are analyzing familiar forms of consciousness, conscious experience of or about this or that. Intentionality is thus the salient structure of our experience, and much of phenomenology proceeds as the study of different aspects of intentionality. Thus, we explore structures of the stream of consciousness, the enduring self, the embodied self, and bodily action. Furthermore, as we reflect on how these phenomena work, we turn to the analysis of relevant conditions that enable our experiences to occur as they do, and to represent or intend as they do. Phenomenology then leads into analyses of conditions of the possibility of intentionality, conditions involving motor skills and habits, background social practices, and often language, with its special place in human affairs.
  • Quinean Naturalism: Read at least section 2.1 from this SEP article [3]

Method at Work

  • Alfino, "Sourcing Values in Food Philosophy" - discussion of topic and consideration of methods and directions for project.

SEP 13

Work on Method

  • Jeffrey W. Roland, "On Naturalism in the Quinean Tradition" (from Haug) 43-61. (Ryan)
  • Alfino's take: I treated this more as a learning (or refreher) experience. The author makes good use of Quine's responses to the logical empiricists to help understand his theory and what is (was) radical about it at the time. Wholism, diffusion, inheritance, anti-supernaturalism, non-reductive causal realism, deference to science. But also philosophy as "continuous" with science. Does this exclude phenomenological description? Does science constrain metaphysics? Is "consilience" a useful term here?
  • Lynne Rudder Baker, "The First-person perspective and its relation to natural science" (Tof)
  • Alfino's take: I really like the argument here up to a point. I think she's right about the distinction, and frankly she gives us a nice demonstration of analytic/linguistic method here. Reference and truth conditions help us justify the distinction. But then she seems to associate the first person perspective with action-guiding and the analytic move on p. 323 appears illicit to me. Her mischaracterization of what the natural sciences might tell us is terrible. From there, I thought things deteriorated. Why not try out variants of her thesis: Do the natural sciences tell us _____ about the first person perspective? Where the blank could be: anything, something but not much useful, important things that part of a dynamic relationship between science and phenomenal experience, everything important.
  • Annie's take: I enjoyed Baker's introduction that included an explicit definition of naturalism, and thought that it set up her argument with a stable foundation. Readers can agree or disagree with her that that is what naturalism is, but she clearly labels her target. Reading an analytic style about preserving first-person perspective felt a little clunky (perhaps even, for me, less effective), especially in the heart of the argument on pages 321-324. I did enjoy her perhaps clearer logic (perhaps to ensure readers are on board) referring to modus ponens and modus tollens (pg. 328). My favorite section of the entire article was the "Methodological consequences". I rather enjoyed the lines, "when philosophical reasoning leads to rejection of something without which we cannot make sense of the world--e.g. when philosophical reasoning leads to the conclusion that nobody has an interior life--I repudiate the conclusion" (329).
  • Tof's Attempt at a Reconstruction:

Baker’s conclusion is that naturalism –as she defines it– is false, and therefore must be rejected. Her reason for this conclusion hinges on what she calls ‘the robust first-person perspective,” and the natural sciences apparent inability to account for this ‘datum.’ The natural sciences take a strictly ‘third-person perspective,’ attempting to explain reality only through this lens; inevitably, this would lead a ‘naturalist’ to either try to eliminate the first-person perspective altogether –i.e. showing that it has no bearing on ‘reality’–, or show that it can be accounted for in a strictly third-personal perspective. Baker’s argument is that both attempts –to either eliminate or reduce the first person perspective– are inadequate to account for the distinction (D) –difference between conceiving of oneself and conceiving of oneself as oneself–, i.e. the datum that ‘slips through the net of the natural sciences.’ With regard to cognitive science, Baker argues that it lacks even the ability to recognize the distinction (D), let alone attempt –or succeed– to reduce it to non first-personal terms. The consequence of her argument –if it is correct–, she contends, has important consequences for philosophical methodology. The most notable of which is that the distinctive methods of science –in particular, experimentation– do not suffice for ‘doing’ philosophy –at least not in its entirety–. At which point, we are left to seek out other methods, wherein she suggests the use –and importance– of ‘Armchair philosophy’. Her inevitable suggestion with regard to methodology is to ‘let your goal be your guide.’ Given that her goal is “to make sense of the shared world that we all live in and interact with,” this influences –if not altogether leads to– her chosen methodology for reaching this end, as she exclaims, “when philosophical reasoning leads to rejection of something without which we cannot make sense of the world––e.g. when philosophical reasoning leads to the conclusion that nobody has an interior life–– I repudiate the conclusion…” (p.329). At bottom, she provides a ‘methodological query:’ Our ability to conceive of ourselves as ourselves is a personal-level capacity. Why does it resist being reduced to or replaced by subpersonal phenomena? If I am right about the robust first person perspective, then we have an answer to this methodological question: the personal level of reality–– the level on which we live and love–– is neither eliminable nor reducible to subpersonal levels that supply the mechanisms that make it possible for us to live and live” (p. 331).

Questions for consideration… 1. Why is a unified, cohesive and complete explanation of reality the goal? Is this even possible? If not, should it continue to be the ‘goal?’ 2. Who exactly is the ‘self’ that is doing the conceiving of itself? That is to say, is there a difference between the ‘thinker’ and its ‘thoughts’? Put yet another way, is the thinker not just a thought itself? What would it mean it that was the case?

  • Daniel Dennett, "Intuition Pumps and Other Thinking Tools" 1-28 (Tamara & Daniel)
  • Annie's take: It's an interesting philosophical methodology to make your readers follow your thought process, rather than argue for something. I really enjoyed the idea of "reverse engineer[ing]" thought experiments to see how they function, to determine which parts are functioning in a vital way, as well as to tweak the contents of the experiment for differing results (pg. 7). This is a process that would be fun to practice in class with a couple of thought experiments! I also found the thought that words serve as thinking tools as interesting, because it connotes words with stimulating cognitive acts to greater or lesser usefulness (pg. 10). How might we understand words as tools? What might be measurements for utility of words as cognitive boosters? Are there times when other thinker's words are edited to not instigate thought?... I quite enjoyed the idea that mistakes are a necessary process for creating novel ideas (pg. 21).
  • Tof's take: I really enjoyed this reading. I share Annie's affinity to the idea of 'reverse engineering' our thought experiments, twisting and turning the 'dials' in an attempt to tease out the different implications. Also, I find the idea of using thought experiments to 'get at' other thought experiments rather interesting as well. Furthermore, it was intriguing how Dennett used an analogy to illuminate his point with regard to 'staging' our thought experiments and other thinking tools (p. 4). My favorite portion of this reading, however, was the chapter on making mistakes. In particular, I find the idea of not just understanding that we will inevitably make them, but actually going out and trying to make them incredibly fascinating. I often find myself petrified with anxiety while trying to read or write, worrying, "what if I misunderstand the argument; what if there is a better way to phrase this; what if there is a better method to use in approaching this topic," at bottom, "what if I make a mistake?" Such a line of thinking is –at the least– rather unhelpful, and makes the process rather consternating when all you think and worry about is not making a mistake. It is for those reasons that the following passage really resonated with me, "The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them–– especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are" (p.22).
  • Danny's take: I found these first two sections to be a great introduction to what might be to come. There were some interesting ideas that have stuck with me including his emphasis on making philosophy accessible to more than just philosophers. I find this to be one of philosophies greatest weaknesses as it tends to be a very exclusive "club". But if the mission of philosophy is to explore life's most important questions, than shouldn't it be something that we can all take part in? To this I am interested to see where he takes his view of the role that philosophy plays in society, and how that bias might color the rest of the book.

Method at Work

  • Annalee Ring, "The Power of Words and the Appearance of Lived Space in Navajo Culture"
  • Danny's take: I have had the privilege of discussing this topic on many occasions with Annalee, and have found many of her points very moving. Namely the power of language to shape the way in which we live. One topic that we have had particularly good discussions on are some of the implications of privileging the experiences of some over others. It is no doubt that throughout history the WASP experience has been the driving force, but my question is that to what degree should we relegate this experience of the world for others? Should it be thrown out entirely or is there a role it can play in expanding the narrative? ie does the view of the sacred mountain as a resource for human entertainment provide any insight into the truth of the mountain?

SEP 20

Work on Method
  • David Woodruff Smith, "Phenomenological Methods in Philosophy of Mind," 335-352. ( )
  • Alfino's take: I'll be curious to see if this approach, by a really accomplished phenomenologist [4] clarifies phenomenological method for both those of you with alot of reading in phenomenology and those without.

  • Matthew Ratcliffe, "Some Husserlian Reflections on the contents of experience," 353-378.
presenter needed on "The Experiential World" ( Annalee can present on either of these, if needed! )
presenter needed on ""Disturbances of the World" ( )
  • Annie's take:: I really enjoyed Ratcliffe's focus on the pre-conscious, possibilities, and anticipation. His emphasis on the effect of the pre-conscious/pre-intentional (on pages 365-369) highlights one reason phenomenology is a vital method to pair with disciplines like psychology. I also enjoyed his brief section on his own methodology, one of "phenomenal contrast"which pairs two distinct experiences together in order to illuminate a certain aspect about one or both. I am drawn to this methodology (especially after reading through some of Gadamer's ideas on prejudices needing to be provoked to be understood) but often am curious about the ability of phenomenology to do so... This is because if phenomenology (as Smith points out) is supposed to be from a first-person perspective, we only have one of those, and as such are our comparisons impaired?...
Writing & Style in Philosophy
  • Pinker, The Sense of Style, Intro and Chapter 1
Project Work
  • Paul Feyerabend, Against Method, 5-23. (Ryan)
  • Ryan's take: If Feyerabend's critique of a rationalist view of universal scientific method is correct, then this poses problems for Naturalism. On the minimal commitment where Naturalism means doing philosophy 'in the spirit of science' or being consilient with science, it becomes unclear exactly what philosophy is suppose to be. Maybe it should look similar to Feyerabend's anarchistic science that proceeds counter inductively. But rather than restricting the scope of philosophy, this would radically increase it to include all manner of supernatural and absurd theorizing in the name of fruitful progress. On the other hand, we might interpret Naturalism as claiming that, although science has no universal method, the method used by molecular biologists in the 21st century to create CRISPR genome editing technology should be adopted by philosophy (or any other such single historical method). This respects the intuition that in some sense philosophy should be anti-supernatural, but it forces philosophy to be stuck in a historical mode that, if Feyerabend is correct, might be left behind by the very science that philosophy is suppose to look towards.
  • Annie's take: Feyerabend's provocative writing style and content was such an enjoyable ride. It echoed Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of Oppression" at points for me; especially on page 16 with the lines, "Even the most puritanical rationalist will then be forced to stop reasoning and to use propaganda and coercion, not because some of his reasons have ceased to be valid, but because the psychological conditions which make them effective, and capable of influencing others, have disappeared;" and also on page 11, when he speaks on the restraining nature of scientific education, with the inability to bring one's "religion... or his metaphysics, or his sense of humour" along with him into their scientific life. I'd be curious to read more of his work to get where he's going with democratizing scientific studies (as mentioned in the prefaces).

SEP 27

Philosophy News
nyrb review on sloterdijk [5]
thinking about your research portfolio by looking at the market [6]
taking naturalism really seriously [7]
Seminar planning (see reading schedule)

Readings on Method
  • Dennett, "Intuition Pumps," p. 29-64. (You should pick two of the tools to report on.)
  • Ryan's Take: I was disturbed by Dennett's insistence on naming many of his thinking tools after actual philosophers. Why name a tool 'the Gould two-step' when 'double strawman' might do just as well? Why must we associate a mental block with Ned Block? I would characterize Dennett as too eager to 'skewer and roast' his fellow writers--a tendency evincing a larger trend away from charity and disinterested investigation. Some of these chapters read more like personal attacks against philosophers who Dennett disagrees with than analysis of philosophy tools or argument fallacies. I reject Dennett's assertion that a language of violence is necessary for philosophy and that competitiveness is a natural by-product of intellectual ambition. Bertrand Russell has a line about Plato and Aristotle of which I have always been fond; I will echo it here--I do not agree with Gould and Block, but if anything could make me do so, it would be Dennett's polemics against them.
Alfino: Hey, just prepping this and noticing that alot of the thinking tools also include advice about presenting your work, so involve "Writing & Style" issues.
Annalee's take: I found the section on Rapoport's Rules a fruitful structure for both book reviews and also the (ever-terrifying) construction of questions in a conference setting. I thought his point about even when the strongest defensible interpretation of an idea goes wrong, that this would be a more difficult critique than if one doesn't find the strengths in their opponents' ideas (35). I also enjoyed the section on "Joosting"--especially the idea that these revolutionary ideas are hidden in plain sight (46).
  • Tof's Take: I am inclined to agree with Ryan that Dennett often appears to be 'tooting his own horn' more than seems necessary. By all means, it's his book, and he can (and should) do with it what he pleases, but it does become a bit off-putting at times. For instance, I am a big fan of reducing arguments to absurdity, but I was left wanting more from his second chapter. Although I laughed a bit hearing his Chomsky anecdote, I was unable to withdraw anything that would be of any use to me from it. I will say, however, that he is an excellent writer –in my opinion–; it is clear, concise and easily understandable, but that doesn't always mean that I like what he is writing about.
Project Work
  • Tamara Alfie, presenting on Hallich, Oliver. "Can the Paradox of Forgiveness be Dissolved?" [8]
  • Alfino: Thanks for this, Tamara. I really enjoyed it and think it will provide for a good discussion. Some observations: I wondered about relation of forgiveness to mercy. We might want to consider the possibility that forgiveness is locally irrational, but consistent with a trust strategy or other social strategies that are collectively rational. Also, I found it odd, unless I just missed it, that he didn't consider reasons for forgiveness related to helping the other person. Some nice opportunities to talk about method and writing style here.
Annalee's take: I was sort of surprised to find (in the introduction to the article) that forgiveness had to be differentiated from forgetfulness. I agree that they aren't even close to the same thing, but just found it fascinating that people would compare (or would try to equate) the two. It was interesting to read arguments on what forgiveness is not throughout the text.
Writing & Style in Philosophy


Readings on Naturalized Ethics

  • Haidt, "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind," Chapter 6 of The Righteous Mind.
  • Haidt's critique of Enlightenment Ethics.
  • Moral Foundations
  • Ryan's Take: (Note that this take was generated in conjunction with Haidt's TED Talk) Suppose that I am convinced of the existence of the five moral modules presented in this chapter. What effect would this have on my moral reasoning? Haidt claims that the liberal/conservative distinction correlates with strong reactions to Fairness and Care versus strong reactions to Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. My own experiences seem consistent with this experimental result--Fairness and Care seem critically important to me while Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity scale from unimportant to dangerous. Upon reflection, I can report that often I do feel the particular emotions resulting from the particular triggers Haidt associates with the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity moral modules; I feel the moral pull of order over chaos and strict control of my own body. But upon analysis, I would claim that the appeal of these moral tastes can be reduced to an appeal to the other two, Care and Fairness. For example, judgments resulting from the innate Authority module are further justified by the belief that a well-ordered society is more likely to be fair and caring--I do not think I would find order very appealing if this was not the case. To extend the analogy of the moral rough-draft, I would intervene as a friendly editor claiming "you should just delete these sections about Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity; they are unnecessary and distract from the real meat of the essay (Fairness and Care)." Is such a move justified? I think it a bit too close to single-principle moralizing for Haidt the pluralist.
  • Annie's Take: I really enjoyed Haidt's writing style, and while I didn't agree with him on everything, I thought that his pointing out that culture overrides biological evolution (121) was exactly what I needed someone to say after reading Greene's work. I also enjoyed his claim that virtues were social constructions, I've been reading some Nietzsche (for the comprehensive exam) and find that the idea of virtues as contingent upon culture is a powerful one.
  • Sapolsky, Robert. Behave. Chapter 13. "Morality and Doing the Right Thing..."
  • Some major topics:
  • Reasoning is important in moral experience, but social intuitionism probably explains behavior better. (478-483)
  • Infant and toddler morality. Monkeys and other primates (483-487)
  • Morality is very context sensitive (unlike trad moral argumentation); Joshua Greene's work on trolley problem; neurology of thinking about self vs. others; culture (488-495)
  • Cooperation and competition, social and anti-social punishment; environmental variables (495-501)
  • Shame culture vs. Guilt culture
  • More on trolley data --
  • Slow/Fast, Me/Us, Us/Them --
  • Biology of Mendacity
  • Greene, Josh. "The Secret Joke of Kant's Soul"
  • Thesis: "In will argue that deontological judgments tend to be driven by emotional responses, and that deontological philosophy, rather than being grounded in moral reasoning, is to a large extend an exercise in moral rationalization. "Casting doubt on deontology as a school of normative thought"
  • Part of core argument on 37 and 39
  • cognitive representations vs. behaviorally valenced responses
  • Major empirical results. 43
  • Annie's Take:I enjoyed Greene's take, and could be convinced that deontology is a process of making sense of one's emotions through more immediate "alarms" but, I did not think his case for why consequentialism was not moral confabulation was strong enough to say that other moral systems are not rationalizing emotional stances. He suggests that consequentialism is a weighing process, not an alarm process (64), but to me they both seem to be doing similar "fashioning unconscious processes with a rationally sensible narrative"(62). I enjoyed his use of experimentation, however, sometimes I felt that he used the experiments in ways to support his argument, editing what he thought the results were to fit his thought. For an example, in his experiment on pages 55-57, I would suggest that perhaps societies that are in lower SES brackets and in smaller communities do not see these actions as harmless, while for higher SES groups in larger communities they might be. This could be because in small, close-knit communities, you might have to actually deal with the consequences of the actions, rather than in larger communities where the consequences will never be something you have to deal with, and so the actions appear "harmless". I know that in a generous reading of Greene, this might not be a problem, but his statements about Western culture being peculiarly more "cognitive" than other cultures really rubbed me the wrong way (56). I also disliked his falling back on the word "Nature" as his authority in his argument (70-72). This could be because of the ragging existentialist within, who wants to say that you can't define human nature and then use it as an excuse for how people behave. People have more choice than the sort of determinism of human nature when used in this way. As a tangent to that idea, Marx's idea of species-being came to mind: if we change history to include consequentialism, we change species-being as well. That is to say that just as much as deontology is a "contingent, nonmoral feature of our evolutionary history"so too is consequentialism (70). I really enjoyed his religion example towards the end of the text on pg. 93, but he ended with another bristly phrase: all nonconsequentialists should rethink their moral commitments (75). That felt slightly harsh.

OCT 11

OCT 18

Readings on Method
  • Verbal disputes: Chalmers, 2011 - "Verbal Disputes" (Ryan)
  • Dennett, Intuition Pumps, p. 59-86, Chapter 3. "Tools for Thinking about Meaning or Content" 13-18 (13 AR, 14 TC, 15 DG, 16 RT, 17 TA, 18 MA)
  • Background on Heidegger's project: Jones, "Heidegger" If you have background in Heidegger, please consider stepping forward to present something related to his method. Our goal in doing this reading is to have a common level of understanding of Heidegger to approach his essay, "A Question Concerning Technology" next week. ( )
Writing & Style in Philosophy
  • Pinker, The Sense of Style, Chapter 3, "The Curse of Knowledge", p. 57-76. (sample some student writing from Happiness)
Project Work
  • Project work on myth (Danny)
  • Tenative thesis on Forgiveness (Tamara)

OCT 18

OCT 25

Project Work
Reading and Work on Method
  • Exemplification of Heidegger's method: "The Question Concerning Technology" (Ryan)
  • Primer on Gadamer
  • Approach for "baseline" understanding of Gadamer's philosophy and method: Please choose your own reading on Gadamer for your "baseline" exercise. If you are a beginner with him, you might start with the Intro and 1st chapter of the Cambridge Companion below. If you have done some work with Gadamer, please choose more advanced or specialized reading (such as many of the other Companion articles). We'll start our work with 2-4 minutes from each of you on Gadamer, starting with basics from the beginners and moving to more detailed reports from those of you with more experience with his work.
  • Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. [9]
  • Dennett, Intuition Pumps, p. 59-86, Chapter 3. "Tools for Thinking about Meaning or Content" 13-18 (13 AR, 14 TC, 15 DG, 16 RT, 17 TA, 18 MA)
Writing & Style in Philosophy
  • Pinker, The Sense of Style, Chapter 4, pp. 76-103. Please bring examples from your writing relevant to this section.
  • Alfino's take: I posted a really bad sentence from a recent publication and a revision under my "projects" page. It took me about 15 seconds to find this sentence.


Project Work
  • Ryan on Metaphor and Speech Act Theory
  • Tof on conspriacies
Reading and Work on Method
  • Primer on Gadamer
  • Approach for "baseline" understanding of Gadamer's philosophy and method: Please choose your own reading on Gadamer for your "baseline" exercise. If you are a beginner with him, you might start with the Intro and 1st chapter of the Cambridge Companion below. If you have done some work with Gadamer, please choose more advanced or specialized reading (such as many of the other Companion articles). We'll start our work with 2-4 minutes from each of you on Gadamer, starting with basics from the beginners and moving to more detailed reports from those of you with more experience with his work.
  • Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. [10]
  • Dennett, Intuition Pumps 87-106 (19:TC 20:TA 21:DG 22:AR 23:RT)
Writing & Style in Philosophy
  • Pinker, The Sense of Style, Chapter 4, pp. 103-138 - please finish Chapter 4 and post bad sentences or bring them to show on the doc cam.


  • Link to references and discussion of current histories of philosophy [11]
Reading and Work on Method
  • Hermeneutics, Gadamer, "The Ontology of the Work of Art and Its Hermeneutical Significance," Truth and Method (AR and DG)
  • Dennett, Intuition Pumps 87-106 (19:TC 20:TA 21:DG 22:AR 23:RT)
  • Primer on Merleau-Ponty (Let's use these two articles which AR offered as common texts for our primer. Feel free to use other secondary sources to get more out of these readings: [12] and [13]
Writing & Style in Philosophy
  • Bring your Bad Bad Sentences!
Project Work
  • Maybe a break this week?

NOV 15

Reading and Work on Method
  • Dr. Liu will be presenting on method in comparative philosophy and on a project of his in this area.
  • Primer on Merleau-Ponty (Let's use these two articles which AR offered as common texts for our primer. Feel free to use other secondary sources to get more out of these readings: [14] and [15]
  • Dennett, Please browse the book a bit and come prepared to suggest what, if anything, we should try to squeeze in.
Project Work on Method
  • Potentially, we will hear from Quanhua on a project of his related to comparative philosophy.
  • Let's use our project work time to have a general discussion of the method topic driven by ideas you are working with in your paper on this topic.

NOV 29

  • Method in Merleau-Ponty
  • Taylor, Body in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty
  • Husserl working with two primarly distinctions: Inner / Outer and Concrete / Abstract.
  • Inner is immanence of experience / Outer is transcendence of object.
  • Concrete is the real thing in space / Abstract is essences.
  • The body is " Thing inserted bt material world and subjective sphere. A "bearer of sensations" Problem.
  • H: Cognition over bodily skill. MP: bodily intentionality body undercuts Inner / Outer
  • H: 208: quote from Ideas: Consciousness amounts to a self-containted context of being. spirit of dualism in in H's phen.
  • MP: Eye can't see itself, but body can feel itself. Methodological innovation: start with the body instead of csness.
  • Husserl's conception of motivation: the relationship between mental acts in which the content of one act makes some further meaningful content possible.
  • MP's version of motivation: p. 217: "Merleau-Ponty conceives of motivation not, like Husserl, as either a hypothetical inference or an association of sensations, but rather as the ongoing unconscious preservation of a balance or gestalt in our bodily orientation in the world. " nice quote from MP after. From prospectus also, p. 35 "internal equilibrium" (sounds like Dewey).
  • Body Schema in Merleau-Ponty
  • schema corporal unfortunate phrase, "body image" better to go back to Kant's schematism: procedure of imagination for producing an image. application of concepts is a process in time (see 219) in MP: ""an integrated set of skills poised and ready to anticipate and incorporate a world prior to the application of concepts and the formation of thoughts and judgments" "embodied poise" "habit" phantom limb becomes interesting as a disturbance of the body schema.
  • Dennett, Intuition Pumps, "Tools for Thinking about Consciousness" 279-319 (#53 RT, #54 TA, #55 AR, #56 DG, #57 TC, #58 MA)
Project Work
  • Open mic


  • Symposium on Method
  • Here are some notes that might help us get into an appreciate, critical, and comparative discussion of the papers.
  • DG: Paper on Method
  • Reference Points: Critique of Academic/Intellectual Life; Philosophy needs to get out of the tower; Method is highly contextual; Foundations are important
  • Say More: Bias in Method; How (examples?) does loss of method produce bad results;
  • Questions: How do we experience the groundedness of beliefs in philosophic roots? Is the analytic/contintental divide evidence of a problem in philosophy?
  • Comparisons: philosophy salvific or ameliorative; v. RT philosophy is distinct discipline; shares critique of intellectual life with TC; philosophy culturally embedded as in TA
  • TC: On Method
  • Reference Points: Critique of Academic/Intellectual Life; Philosophy as redemptive/salvic (in re: global crises); Counter-methods needed (insight methods/virtue epistemology); Pride of knowledge
  • Say More: Say more about the "doing" side of philosophy; how the desire to know hinders knowledge;
  • Questions: Why not accept persuasive burden of proof? Who is the opponent here?
  • Comparisons: philosophy salvific or ameliorative; shares critique of intellectual life with DG; open to encounter with ineffable as in AR;
  • TA: Philosophical Method and Cultural Progress
  • Reference Points: Relation of Culture/Philosophy; Philosophy aspires to some universality in re: culture; Hospitality of culture to philosophy in play; Philosophy as liberation. Limits of Science
  • Say More: Is philosophic also extrinsically valuable?; Progress
  • Questions: How completely does philosophy transcend culture or achieve universality?
  • Comparisons: philosophy salvific or ameliorative; philosophy culturally embedded as in DG;
  • AR: Centrality of Human Condition; Communication; Philosophy intimate or erotic; Relational; Philosophy accomplished through poetry; limits of knowledge.
  • Reference Points: Between vs. Grounding;
  • Say More: The Human Condition; what we know vs. what being is; opacity or limits of knowledge
  • Questions: What is the relationship between wonder and knowledge? between human condition and physical world?
  • Comparisons: philosophy salvific or ameliorative; open to encounter with ineffable as in TC
  • RT: A Method for Progress: Philosophy in Relation to Theology and Science
  • Reference Points: Philosophy v. appeals to tradition/authority; Dissolving problem of progress; Philosophy defined by method, not questions/question types; speciation of disciplines; naturalism
  • Say More: how Russell's view squares with ded/ind priv.; "end" and "way" of asking questions that makes them philosophy; overlap bt philosophy and theology; questions of philosophy questions philosophers are asking.
  • Questions: What, if anything, of current philosophy is excluded here? Insight philosophy?
  • Comparisons: philosophy salvific or ameliorative; v. DG: Philosophy not ubiquitous but professional deliberate activity.


Readings on Method
  • Mullarkey, Intro to Post-Continental Philosophy: An outline (in Links)
  • Dennett, finish chapter on consciousness. (59:RT 60:AR 61:TC 62:DG 63:MA 64:TA)
  • Listen to Philosophy Bytes on Physicalism: Papineau
  • Lakoff and Johnson, 24: How Philosophical Theories Work (in Links)

David Papineau, Physicalism


-seems odd that thoughts are physical, but if not how can they interact with the world?


everything is physical, applied to mind as well

-How can things not physical have effects? Not incoherent for non-physical to have effect, but last 200 years of science suggests this principle.

-Isn't this an assumption of science? No, science used to allow, forces of contact, gravitation, vital forces, mental forces. Some of these look non-physical to us.

-conservation of energy and study of bodies made the difference.

-Possible that something non-physical is there, just lots of evidence against.

-epiphenomenolism - mind not physical, just there for the ride.

What about qualia? They don't seem reducible. Mary's Room thought experiment. Jackson: Mary gains new knowledge with first experience of color. Additional fact must be non-physical. Physicalism is false.

Response: Mary had a new experience. New brain process. No problem there, but problem if she knows something new. Papineau's approach: Mary is changed, but her new knowledge is something she new under scientific description. She acquires a new concept of seeing something red.

-Importance of openness in Newtonian thought to non-physical forces. At that time, most scientists were dualists. Late 19th evidence tips. Dualist "on the back foot"

Papineau's voice?