My problems with empiricism....

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Doreen, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    interesting. i am only going to respond to this point at the moment, as i am otherwise engaged:

    have you ever noticed how dostoevsky novels are very much lacking in any sort of romance or intimacy, and heavy on the outburst of anger and histrionic displays? the same can be said of lewis carroll--his work and his life. and kierkegaard--there is an overwhelming depth of emotion in k., but that romantic/intimate aspect is very much absent. the common thread--

    temporal lobe epilepsy.

    interesting that ch'an/zen buddhism is very similar in nature.

    it always seems to come back to epilepsy (or wittgenstein, or dogs) for me.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I would say that Dostoyevski had despair also, but most of his characters are pretty self-contained, so when there is intimacy it seems sudden and violent. His sense of romance - except the almost parody of it in Crime and Punishment - is volatile and hopeless. Which is not entirely unfair.
    I only read one K. so I can't comment and can hardly remember. Lewis Carroll puts one damn tough little girl in a very harsh environment.

    Which was dominated by men as far as I can tell, so this skews the emotional range. And since it is men giving feedback and guidance to men, often in the absence of women, this is skewed even further.

    Where is the religion that accepts, rather than uses or judges, fear?


    I can guess some reasons for this. Wittgenstein takes care of the language aspects, but since he does not treat language as a conduit

    he has somehow managed to get outside of language and look at it. This aligns him in some ways with the Buddhists, but also with anyone who has and recognizes value in non-verbal experiences - seizures, for example. Dogs communicate and can distinguish between messages and actions that look like them - bateson - they are immanent creatures, without our pretentions for transcendance - certainly not to the exclusion of immanence, in any case.
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    yeah, i was reminded both of bateson (and lakoff, i suppose), but also chilean biologists maturana and varela (taking cue from bateson, i believe). in The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, they write:

    this has both profound implications with regards to phenomenology, but also for our epistemological concerns. IOW learning and experience is a product, or outcome, of structural changes in the organism itself. and obviously, such would be the case for any organism with a nervous system, not just the human one.

    they also coined the term autopoiesis (self organizing or creating), which i'll defer to wikipedia to define:

    (maturana and varela)

    this could be construed (given the extreme self-referentiality) as possibly leading to a solipsistic epistemology, but given that animals communicate with one-another, i don't think it has to. (i suppose it is all in what one makes of the "communication.") [i'm inclined to regard animals, somewhat like you do above, as non-dualists--with no pretensions to transcendence (at least with respect to exclusive transcendance--i think a sort of transcendance is implied in communication), but by no means solipsists--though i think rilke only got it partly right: "animals see the open with their whole eyes/but our eye turns back upon itself/encircles and seeks to snare the world." (then, of course, "the faces of the beasts/show what truly is to us.")]

    it seems clear to me how communication, "distinguish(ing) between messages and actions that look like them," and autopoeisis/"worlding" with social animals necessarily enters a linguistic domain, while not necessarily suggesting a capacity for language proper [though i think all but the most ass-backwards--certain scientists, humanists, and followers of abrahamic traditions (i sometimes have trouble distinguishing them at sciforums)--would acknowledge such by now.] i think "language" would be making distinctions about the distinctions, and the necessary "rules" (and grammars and such) regarding how "words" relate to "things" which evolve when so doing; of course, some animals have demonstrated such (chimps) in a fashion such that humans can rightly identify it as such--of course...well, i'm reminded of how so many americans have a breakdown when someone deigns to speak spanish to them. (gasp!).

    and given wittgenstein's reminders re: contingency and contextuality, which seem to fit in neatly with autopoeisis, and his respective admonitions (again, the "they are what is mystical"), i can see how our very capacity for language, and the degree to which we rely upon it, can itself--if not ever mindful of w.'s concerns--lead to our insistence upon distance, objectivity, and "uniqueness," and this may very well be what underlies--and produces--our obsession with transcendance. and the one camp insists that it's an epileptic seizure, while the other camp insists it's a religious experience, but really both camps are of the same mind, just playing different language games. and the mindful one says it's a seizure, it's a religious experience, whatever--does it make much difference?
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

    ding and sich thread? wha? it's been years since that's been a topic of which I'm aware. ah the memories, water, gendanken, lots and lots of interesting words and ideas. Water summarized it as "observational distance". Kindly refer to the discussion you speak of? (I'll be back with relevance later)
  8. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    c'mon wes--it's right on the front page of this subforum.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    it's this one: ockham's razor and ding an sich.
  9. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

    Damn you man! I looked I swear, but did not see.

    I have a hard time seeing things in lists sometimes.

    Regardless, thank you for pointing out the obvious.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  10. swarm Registered Senior Member

    You seem to have missed the ending there.
  11. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    And as I think you pointed out, it might be both, these are not mutually exclusive. But yes, I do think it makes a difference. I do not think all non-mainstream experiences necessarily provide much insight into anything. But some do. A mere seizure might not give such insight - though it might take a long time for any such insight to be noticed or connected to the seizure. I do not think we can always point, easily, to what we learned and where/when/how we learned it. Religious experiences or even psychological insight experiences, however, would include something 'useful' in the broadest sense.

    Interestingly I just read about a study where two groups of people who had psychotic/religious experiences were dealth with differently. One group was handled in the more traditional psychiatriac way, where the experience was immediately and clearly labelled for the experiencer as delusional and specifically NOT explored. The other group had their experiences accepted and treated as potentially valuable. The experiences were explored and talked about.

    The latter group was healthier in both the short and long term.

    Which should be a warning to the people who want to label these things insane. Empirical study supports the idea that this behavior on their part is cruel and not useful.
  12. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    hmmm. it's interesting how much this parallels my own experiences:

    for practicing neurologists, i'm the nightmare patient: the unpleasant, condescending asshole with refractory seizures who demands full one hour appointments. and this is fine with me--i have little use for businessmen masquerading as "medical professionals."

    but for a certain variety of researching neurologist, on the other hand, i'm gold. this may seem arrogant, but, well, it's true: the neurological freak with refractory focalized seizures who is also extremely articulate and thorough is a rare commodity. they give me three hour appointments and they just love it when i bring in eight page, hand printed in my tiny meticulous gorey-esque script, documents of a single seizure--and when i work in some incoherent ramblings about the godhead, they're especially pleased. and the fact is, half the neuros of this variety i've dealt with were mystics--the first neuro who diagnosed me with epilepsy started going on about atman and whatnots five minutes into my first appointment.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    moreover, these neuros have little interest in pushing meds on me; most of them openly acknowledge that meds are pretty hit-or-miss, and largely useless, for addressing partial focalized epilepsy. they're far more interested in listening to my experiences and doing ocassional eeg's, mri's, and whatnots.

    not surprisingly, this latter variety of neuro also tend to be vastly more knowledgeable in the science and medical aspects of their profession than many of the usual "practicing" variety.
  13. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Nope. As indicated, it's a direct quote.

    As for the accuracy of the Latin, well, it's been some time for me... feel free to go bug the folks at Oxford.
  14. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    funny. switch it around a bit a make the disruptive party the "plaintiff" and one's got a case of the differend.

    alternately, one's got the art bears' "in two minds"--which chris cutler explained to me as being his reading of r.d. laing. heh, i was gonna print the lyrics, but i'll refrain and instead provide a link.

    william james argues that the mystic's experience is in fact true; but only for himself--it cannot by virtue of it's nature be argued persuasively. and given that (IMO) the mystic would rightly describe himself as an irrational unthinking idiot (denuded of any negative connotations), what would be the appropriate idiom in which to argue?

    this is one of the consistently problematic aspects of zen/ch'an, whereas other issues--language, text, other minds, etc.--seem to be addressed at one point or another over it's long history. and also, as you remark, the absence of women. not surprisingly, all of this has been problematic not only within "religious" traditions, but also philosophical traditions. and of course, the animal.

    what science chooses to ignore is a fascinating study in itself. and when this becomes condemnation, it is even more fascinating. i suppose the meta analysis or criticism is by definition not the domain of the empiricist; i mean, i wouldn't expect science to investigate the penal system, mental health, sexuality in the way that, say, foucault addresses such--but it's when such work is either completely overlooked or dismissed and damned by science that i find myself astonished.

    jim rose, of the jim rose circus, remarked in an episode of the x-files: nature abhors normalcy. of course, the x-files itself is a fine example of disdain for the anomalous (yeah, i realize it was just a tv show, but still...)-- mulder and scully were the bane of the f.b.i.--though an extreme example perhaps. a simple acknowledgment of bias, the lack of integrity in much of what passes for science, and contempt for the marginal would be a step in the right direction--

    but what can one expect in a capitalist and corporatist world?
  15. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    i'm not sure what swarm was indicating there--the translation was complete and accurate.
  16. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Oh, I agree. Sorry, I sometime generalize the reader and try to bridge when I should be ignoring. The 'designated' patient/client is one term I have heard, meaning that the rest of the ___________family, workplace is loopy but the 'symptoms' show up over here. Canary in a coal mine. Sane person responding to a sick society. Etc. My main point was that there may come times where one must act and even then one can act provisionally and not label.

    Ust to quibble. I would say that it may be true for others, but unless, for some intuitive reason it is not compelling as an account, this is very understandible.

    I don't think one need to see for example shamanic experiences. I understand that irrational - which might be safer to call non-rational - is not pjorative. But one can in fact think during these. One can be both rational and non-rational simultaneously. Most experiences I have had that could be called mystical I would say this is true for also. And one can certainly derive thinking from them, as we can from any experience. Experiences are non-rational. I mean the smell of apple pie while feeling vague anxiety and squinting in sudden sunlight is not rational or irrational. It just is.

    I'll respond to the rest in a while.
  17. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    A quickie on this part. Had a friend who used an alternative approach to cure a very serious, mortal disease. A friend of his, who works at a doctors clinic, was so happy about it she blurted it out at lunch to the doctors and other nurses. Without exception the doctors, 4 of them, said his disease did not go away. They knew this was the case because he had not followed mainstream medicine. She was shocked. She knew them well and respected them. She told them that standard medical tests had verified that the disease was no longer present. They all shook their heads. No it hasn't gone away they said, went back to eating and other topics.

    Insanity is too often defined as seeing things that are not there rather than.....

    I'm sure you can fill in the rest.
  18. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I guess for me my reaction and part of the spur to criticize empiricism is that the people I know who would call themselves empiricists or either implicitly or explicitly say that the only route to knowledge is via empirical research - generally science - seem vulnerable to manipulation in ways I do not see people who use empiricism and empirical works of others AND use other modes of gaining knowledge. Something is crying that got thrown out with the bathwater. Some of which was not really bathwater either.

    I am sure empirical studies of the penal system have been done and also sexuality - here at least some facets are pretty testable. But both 'areas' are very complicated, involve distorting life forms, and are generally harder to pin down than bosons whirling away from an impact, ironically enough. So I have some sympathy for that aviodance.
  19. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    have you ever seen that appalling mid-90's american medical/crime drama, diagnosis murder with dick van dyke? i thought about scripting a new series called diagnosis: differend. unfortunately, lyotard is dead--i accidentally stumbled upon his grave a couple of years ago--but i apparently speak impeccable french, in spite of the fact that i really don't know much french, and i'm sure i could pull of the roll of "jean francois lyotard." i would work in "the sublime" as much i could stomach and i would make silly little jokes about "language games" and whatnot. it would be set in a small town in the mid-west, possibly u.p. michigan, like murder, she wrote and jean-francois has just recently retired from his teaching position at u.c. irvine...

    actually an anthropologist i know (the australian aboriginal guy) had delivered an opening address at some conference in toronto many years ago, and derrida and lyotard were in attendance. he made some sort of joke about post-structuralism (can't recall the joke for the life of me, but it was pretty bad) and he said that derrida had this thoroughly disgusted look on his face. maybe he just didn't get the joke.

    i think that is the clincher though: what is intuitive to some, is by no means intuitive to all--especially when working through perhaps decades of indoctrination.

    this is true. though for me, it is at though the thinking is being guided--the will and volition are left behind at the docks. it is often this way with music: a few years ago we played a show in copenhagen (next evening: malmo) and i was pre-migrainal, another had the flu and had taken an obscene amount of cold medicine just to get through it, and only our drummer was "well"--she looked as though she thought we were going to pass out at any minute. i can't really describe the experience, but i recall just watching my hands do whatever it was that they were doing with absolutely no control over it. we used a ten minute extract for part of piece based on rilke's "eighth duino elegy" ("the open") and none of us could ever adequately learn the "piece" so that we could pull it off again live. we tried, but it seldom worked; rather, it simply morphed into something altogether other.
  20. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Been mulling over empiricism again - and just noticed I never responded to Parmalee's post above.

    Empiricism is classically opposed to rationalism, the latter believing that some knowledge comes NOT from experience. I just realized that empiricism, it seems to me, is asserting a kind of tabula rasa theory of mind. But this does not fit well with current neuroscience.

    It seems to me we come into life with, at the very least, a set of ways of approaching learning - instincts if you will. This is very clear in animals who seem to know stuff rather quickly - how to get up and stand, that it is a good idea to run away with the herd when the herd, or Mom, starts to run, etc. The foals and calves do not have to get bitten on the ass by a predator a few times to decide this strategy is a good one. With humans I would say we have a number of ideas about how to learn - stay focused on mother's face, repeat mother's sounds, etc. - that cannot be said to be learned.

    I cannot imagine how the individual could slowly pull him or herself out of the mass of sensory impressions to build up all the preverbal knowlege a toddler has.

    One could argue that via our genes we have knowledge based on the experience of our ancestors which we inherit. But I cannot see the individual as a pure empiricist.
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I think the crucial thing for philosophies is that they can never exist objectively/neutrally/per se, but always politically - in the function of someone's interests. This function can then add extraneous elements to the philosophy, thus making it seem awkward.

    It seems empiricism first existed as an explanation for some phenomena, but not all. But as empiricism was actually being defended and applied by people, it became also a political stance, something "held religiously" - and with that, it advanced to being an explanation that is supposed to be applicable for all phenomena.

    A good example is naturalism at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century. There was scientific naturalism, and then there was literary/artistic and political naturalism. The artists and politics had only a vulgar, naive, unscientific understanding of science and naturalism. And yet this is what they wrote about, this is what they made popular - and what gave naturalism its bad reputation. Art and politics are usually far more popular, reach far more people than actual science.
  22. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    Well noted Signal.
    This is relevant to where Doreen mistakes Empiricism as a similar kind of explanatory model as Rationalism:

    Which is precisely why Empiricism does not assert anything of the sort.
    In cases of insufficient evidence, the empiricist has little (if anything) to say.

    More importantly however, is that to deny a Rationalist account of the "mind" is not to assert any other account of the mind.
    In other words, though it's clear that all minds are not 'blank slates' to begin with, this doesn't mean that literally all knowledge must come via that mind's experience.
    This of course, is where evolutionary biology comes onto the scene....
  23. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I can only go - when it comes to philosophical positions by what I read.
    To me this is a, by default, tabula rasa theory of the mind.

    If I contrast this with the rationalists....

    (both quotes from )

    It also seems to me that rationalism does not have to have a theory of the mind. It seems to me, ironically, that one can approach a defense of rationalism empirically. By checking with experience to see that, indeed, babies have certain heuristic devices.

    (I must say, however, that there is something exciting in being challenged by both Glaucon and Signal on the same issue!)

    I think, if the above assertion related to empiricism is correct, it is implicit. And how could empiricism know, by the way, that we do not get any knowledge from somewhere other than experience? - gliding us back to the problems of proving negatives.

    But then, I did above allow for this way out....

    I am not conceding the case based on evolutionary theory, but I feel it is both a must and a more viable option than a case built on individuals accumulating knowledge.

Share This Page