Kant, like many philosophers, is notoriously difficult to read. Some people blame his proclivity for pedantic exuberance. That’s not totally inaccurate, but for me, the specific cause of the difficulty in my reading of Kant is that he is so wrong, more specifically, so incapable and comprised. It reminds me that, in British English, Kant and “Can’t” are homophones. Continue reading
Some helpful advice from Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy (London: Routledge Classics, 2004).
In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude, which should resemble, as far as possible, the state of mind of a person abandoning opinions which he has hitherto held. Contempt interferes with the first part of this process, and reverence with the second. […] This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind. (p. 47)
A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Forum at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. I spoke about some of the research I used for my dissertation (Philosophy for a Planetary Civilization: On the Verge of Integral Ecology), which I defended last March. A video of the talk is available HERE. I was introduced by Matt Segall, who recently posted some summary reflections on the talk.
Like many talks I give, the style is mostly improvisational. Nonetheless, my meandering musings elicited some thoughtful questions and comments from the people in attendance, making about half of the video Q&A. I’m not going to summarize the presentation here, but I will state my gratitude for the various criticisms I’ve received.
Those criticisms include the following:
1) My critique of AT&T’s “Rethink Possible” slogan didn’t account for the full history of AT&T. This was by far my favorite criticism. AT&T is a weird entity with a complex history.
2) My interpretation of Platonic dualism didn’t do justice to the elements of Plato’s writings that subvert dualism and pervert the very idea of Platonism.
3) My espousal of rhizomatics might not be effective in countering the interconnected flows of global capitalism.
4) Aside from an injunction to tarry with complexity and uncertainty, my philosophical experiments do not give very specific guidance on questions of ethics, politics, and practical action.
5) My focus on the humor of truth (Isabelle Stengers’ concept for a critical standpoint from which to recognize the limits of one’s theories) did not adequately account for the many other ways of recognizing the limits of one’s theories (e.g., humility, imagination).
6) Perhaps the strangest criticism I heard is that my emphasis on humor makes me impervious to criticism or somehow difficult to criticize. I’m happy to accept that criticism, especially insofar as I sometimes tell jokes instead of responding directly to questions. However, I think I’m generally quite vulnerable and available to criticism. Indeed, humor (following Stengers) was presented precisely as a means to stay open to criticism, not as a hipster strategy for being ironic and, like, whatevs. Furthermore, as indicated by each of these six criticisms, some people found it quite easy to criticize my points and positions.