THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #22–The Two Images Problem and its Consequences.
By Robert Hanna
This book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE: Uniscience and the Modern World, by Robert Hanna, presents and defends a critical philosophy of science and digital technology, and a new and prescient philosophy of nature and human thinking.
It is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text–including the BIBLIOGRAPHY–of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.
This twenty-second installment contains sub-section 2.2.3.
We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. (Pascal, 1995: #110, p. 28)
If there is any science humankind really needs, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in [the world] that is assigned to humankind, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human. (Rem 20: 45)
Natural science will one day incorporate the science of humankind, just as the science of humankind will incorporate natural science; there will be a single science. (Marx, 1964: p. 70, translation modified slightly)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A NOTE ON REFERENCES TO KANT’S WORKS
2.2.3 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences
Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers
Chapter 4. How To Complete Physics
Chapter 5. Digital Technology Only Within The Limits of Human Dignity
00. Conclusion: The Point Is To Shape The World
Appendix 1: A Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem, “Skolem’s Paradox,” and Neo-Organicism
Appendix 2: A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion
Appendix 3: Sensible Set Theory
Appendix 4: Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos
2.2.3 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences
In his 1951 book, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy — which, significantly, appeared in the same year that Quine published “Two Dogmas” — the logical empiricist/positivist and former Vienna Circle insider, Hans Reichenbach, sketched an influential and widely accepted history of the progress of modern philosophy that culminates with Analytic philosophy and merges it ineluctably with the progress of the logic and the exact sciences (Reichenbach, 1951). Reichenbach’s core idea is that philosophy is legitimate only and precisely to the extent that (i) it’s analysis, and (ii) it works on all and only foundational problems and conceptual puzzles arising from logic, the other formal sciences, and the natural sciences. This is an exceptionally important metaphilosophical thesis, not only because it resuscitates Locke‘s seventeenth-century conception of philosophy as merely an underlaborer for the leading sciences of the Scientific Revolution, but also, and indeed primarily because, its unabashed scientism is the engine that has driven post-classical Analytic philosophy from the second half of the 20th century into the third decade of the 21st century.
Correspondingly, it’s plausibly arguable, and indeed was also compellingly argued by, for example, Hilary Putnam and John McDowell, during the 1990s (Putnam, 1990, 1994, 1999; McDowell, 1994), that the basic problem of post-classical Analytic philosophy and phenomenology after 1950, alike — and indeed also the fundamental problem of modern philosophy — is how it is possible to reconcile two sharply different, seemingly incommensurable, and apparently even mutually exclusive global metaphysical conceptions, or world-pictures, of rational human animals and nature alike. On the one hand, there’s the objective, non-phenomenal, perspectiveless, formally and naturally mechanistic, value-neutral, impersonal, and amoral metaphysical picture of the world delivered by logic, pure mathematics, and the fundamental natural sciences — the very ideal that animated The Vienna Circle. And on the other hand, there’s the subjective, phenomenal, perspectival, teleological, value-laden, person-oriented, and moral metaphysical picture of the world yielded by the conscious experience of rational human animals. In 1963, Sellars aptly and evocatively dubbed these two sharply opposed world-conceptions “the scientific image” and “the manifest image” (Sellars, 1963b). Correspondingly, I’ll call the profound difficulty raised by their mutual incommensurability and inconsistency The Two Images Problem.
After 1950, scientific naturalism promised a possible complete solution to The Two Images Problem, by holding, according to Sellars’s famous formulation, that
[i]n the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. (Sellars, 1963c: p. 173)
Here, Sellars’s term-of-art ‘‘science’’ clearly refers to the formal and natural sciences, as I’ve been using those terms, including logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.
Most importantly, however, it’s clear that when Sellars asserts that “science is the measure of all things,” he’s asserting (i) the theses of universal formal mechanism and universal natural mechanism, i.e., he’s asserting the mechanistic worldview, and also (ii) that the predictive precision of the formal and natural sciences is to be taken as incontrovertible evidence of their reliability and truth, thereby strongly reinforcing the mechanistic mindset. Correspondingly, according to the standard construal of scientific theory-reduction, both chemistry and biology have a fully mathematically describable and microphysical basis in fundamental physical entities, properties, facts, and processes, and therefore they are all fully grounded in a fundamental, formally and naturally mechanistic physics, nowadays construed according to the Standard Models of cosmology and particle physics — for more details, see chapter 4 below.
For my present purposes in this chapter, it’s critically essential, and indeed also both morally and mortally essential, to recognize that if scientific naturalism were true, then not only would (i) philosophy as a form of inquiry, as a practice, and as a social institution, be superseded by the formal and natural sciences, which directly entails the death-by-redundancy of philosophy itself (see also Mabaquiao, 2021), but also, (ii) because according to this view our consciousness, intentionality, self-consciousness, free agency, rationality, normative principles, truth, ideals-&-values, etc., are all either (iia) mere eliminable myths, or (iib) fully reducible to fundamentally physical facts, or, at the very least, (iic) strictly dependent on fundamentally physical facts and thus epiphenomenal, with no causal powers of their own, then it follows that (iii) we are nothing but biological machines with a built-in strong tendency to deceive ourselves by falsely believing in the irreducible and causally efficacious nature of our own consciousness, intentionality, free agency, normative principles, truth, ideals-&-values, etc. Hence (iv) by the same token, then we would be just as likely to be self-deceived about the truth of scientific naturalism itself, as not, so it follows that we are not rationally justified in believing it, all of which directly entails (v) the death-by-self-stultification of post-classical Analytic philosophy itself.
Therefore, at the foundational level, since 1950 and especially over the last forty-one years — 1985–2021 — the Analytic tradition has been living on borrowed time and running on empty, powered only by the combined inertia of its philosophically self-stultifying yet also hegemonic ideology[i] and its social-institutional domination of philosophy inside the professional academy: a philosophical behemoth on wheels that is built, like Hobbes’s Leviathan — the early modern liberal State — solely and wholly out of the compliant, contractually-bound, “captive minds” of post-classical Analytic philosophers and other professional academic philosophers,[ii] spiralling down into the ash-heap of history (Hanna, 2021a).
Spinning off this trajectory, by way of an instructive epicycle in the larger downward spiral of post-classical Analytic philosophy, a group of post-classical Analytic philosophers home-based at the universities of Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Leipzig,[iii] using the non-scientistic and neo-Kantian elements of Sellars’s work as a springboard, and hoping to avoid the crash-and-burn fate of the Analytic tradition, have full-circled back to British neo-Hegelianism and created a contemporary hybrid, Analytic neo-Hegelianism. But Analytic neo-Hegelianism is much too little, much too late. For it suffers from essentially the same basic metaphysical, cognitive-semantic, epistemological, and political flaws as classical German absolute idealism, flaws that were critically identified and compellingly formulated in the 19th century by classical neo-Kantians (Köhnke, 1991; Beiser, 2014), and then identified and formulated again at the turn of the 20th century by Moore, Russell, early Wittgenstein, and other Young Turks of early classical Analytic philosophy.[iv] So at the end of the day, Analytic neo-Hegelianism is at best a technically-adept sons et lumières show vainly imitating The Owl of Minerva, as the light inevitably dies and darkness falls on post-classical Analytic philosophy (Hanna, 2019a, 2020a).
[i] [I’m using “a hegemonic ideology” in a broadly Marxist or at least neo-Marxist way, to mean any system of more-or-less mind-controlling, often unreflectively-held, and generally pernicious beliefs, images, and affects that’s imposed, or at least importantly controlled, by a dominant social group that possesses the power of authoritarian coercion.]
[ii] The allusion is to Czeslaw Milosz’s classic study of mind-control and mental slavery in post-World War II, mid-20th century social institutions, The Captive Mind (Milosz, 1955). For an extension of essentially the same line of critical thinking to the contemporary professional academy in general, see (Schmidt, 2000). And for a much-elaborated application of that line of critical thinking to mainstream contemporary professional academic philosophy in particular, see the blog Against Professional Philosophy (Z, 2013–2022).
[iii] The leading figures in the Pittsburgh-Chicago-Leipzig Analytic neo-Hegelian school include Nicholas Rescher, John McDowell, John Haugeland, Graham Priest, Robert Brandom, Robert Pippin, Irad Kimhi, and Sebastian Rödl.
[iv] Although I think that the critical objections of the classical neo-Kantians and the early classical Analytic philosophers to absolute idealism are substantially cogent, it must also be acknowledged that the absolute idealist tradition has made some defensible and enduring contributions to the philosophy of history, nature, and society. This is especially true of Schelling and Hegel. See, e.g., (Gare, 2011, 2019).
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 664
Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 9 May 2022
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