Publication is almost upon us.
“The Quantum of Explanation advances a bold new theory of how explanation ought to be understood in philosophical and cosmological inquiries. Using a complete interpretation of Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophical and mathematical writings and an interpretive structure that is essentially new, Auxier and Herstein argue that Whitehead has never been properly understood, nor has the depth and breadth of his contribution to the human search for knowledge been assimilated by his successors. This important book effectively applies Whitehead’s philosophy to problems in the interpretation of science, empirical knowledge, and nature. It develops a new account of philosophical naturalism that will contribute to the current naturalism debate in both Analytic and Continental philosophy. Auxier and Herstein also draw attention to some of the most important differences between the process theology tradition and Whitehead’s thought, arguing in favor of a Whiteheadian naturalism that is more or less independent of theological concerns. This book offers a clear and comprehensive introduction to Whitehead’s philosophy and is an essential resource for students and scholars interested in American philosophy, the philosophy of mathematics and physics, and issues associated with naturalism, explanation and radical empiricism.”
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More information on the book can be found HERE.
Let’s just say I’m a little excited.
It is certainly disturbing to see how many people prefer a convenient lie over a disquieting truth. But more importantly, we should make note of how many people will flee in abject terror to the warm, terroristic embrace of a convenient lie when confronted with an indisputable uncertainty, the unavoidable knowing that you do not know. I should get that tattooed somewhere … somewhere where no one will ever see it …
There is a formal structure to at least some kinds of disruptive uncertainty, and that structure is not all that hard to understand. I’ll mostly be discussing that logical structure, which often requires a kind of patience with inconsistency. But I will turn to the psychological issues of those who embrace inconsistency without thought at the end. What I wish to address here are kinds of inconsistency, most importantly noting that there are genuinely and importantly different kinds. I’ll mainly draw on investigations by Nicholas Rescher and Robert Brandom, coupled with developments by Jon Barwise and John Perry. Continue reading
So, what is it that makes something true? (Trust me, this ties in with this post’s title.) If I say that “X is the case,” and it, indeed, turns out that X IS the case, then my saying so was true. Or, rather, the thing I said was true, and my saying it was said truly. (Actually, my saying it was said truly, because I truly said it, regardless of whether what I said was actually true.) But what establishes the connection(s) between my saying it is the case, and its actually being the case? Well, presumably it is reality that makes that establishment; but how is that reality, how is that establishment, established in experience such that the truth-saying and the truth-being converge in a truth making?
Because even as (and insofar) as “the truth is out there,” our having, getting, finding, or whatever, that truth involves a substantial amount of making. If you take the idea of truth seriously, then you must take seriously the fact that we have to go out and make that truth apparent through significant and substantive inquiry. Where this is going (and it will go fast) is that the maker that connects the truth as said with the truth as found, looks a lot like a successful “strategy” in a “game.” This is a formal, logical concept, which brings scientific inquiry into a dirty-dance with that part of formal logic known as model-theory. (Somewhere, somebody has sheet music on this stuff … ) Continue reading
Explanations come in discrete units, logically minimum quanta. It is logically impossible for the situation to be otherwise. We can reason about continua of various different kinds (the “continuum” of the Real numbers being a prominent example, although it is to be noted that within that branch of formal logic known as “model theory,” there are examples of continua that are “more continuous” than even the Real numbers.) But we cannot reason “in” a continuum. Our ideas may have vague boundaries, but they are still unitary quanta, or at least collections of such quanta. Our concepts are even more sharply defined. We assemble these units into larger structures that become arguments (in the good, philosophical sense) and, ideally, explanations. But a continuum gives us nothing to work with. Like trying to nail mercury to the wall, every time we attempt to grasp it, it slips around and away in out grasp, so that either we (1) end up speaking about the continuum itself as a whole, at which point the continuum qua whole has become our quantum, (2) we isolate individual points on the continuum, and these become our quanta as we extrapolate connections amongst them, (3) or, alternatively, we end up spouting nothing but nonsense.
I’ve touched on this subject before. But rather than making coy suggestions in the final paragraph as a rhetorical flourish, I think it time I spoke to the subject more directly. As is often the case, I’ll barely be able to gloss the topic in this post. But, of course, the whole purpose of a blog post is to provide a small quantum of ideas that might lead interested readers off in interesting directions. Continue reading
There is a large, nested, complexly intersecting, multidimensional area of logic known as “modal logic.” Standard (“assertoric” – dealing with comparatively simple assertions) logic essentially forgoes any considerations of the modes (hence, “modal”) in which an assertion is considered to be true or false; it simply is, or it is not (true or false). Modal logics are intended to examine the ways (modes) in which a proposition or assertion might express such truth or falsity. A great deal of very good work has been done in this area of study, but it remains a long way from solving its most basic problems; indeed, most proposed “solutions” do not so much “solve” their problems as strangle them.i I am at once deeply impressed by the technical sophistication of contemporary work on modality, and profoundly dissatisfied with the narrowness of its vision. Because one of the “modes” in which an assertion or proposition might be true or false is whether it is possibly true or false.
I can certainly inundate any interested party with citations, but anyone capable of following those citations would most likely already be familiar with them. It takes years of dedicated study to bootstrap one’s self up through propositional, into quantificational, and finally on to modal logics. On the other hand, it takes nothing more than the most elementary capacity for cognition to instantly see that there is a difference between saying that “X is the case,” and “X might be the case.” Just as we can talk about Jazz without mastering the saxophone, or relativity without deriving proofs related to the Ricci tensor, we can talk about possibility without becoming research mathematicians in formal logic. One might even argue that mastering such mathematics would not ideally equip us to talk about possibility which is, after all, a metaphysical, rather than a mathematical topic. Continue reading