Thesis Eleven without steroids: standalone philosophical analysis

‘Philosophical analysis’ here means a combination of conceptual, logical and linguistic tools [1].

‘Standalone’ means we’re going to assume that the only sentence we know from this particular thinker and from that particular text is this:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, is to change it.

Anonymous author, unknown date

We don’t even know the name of this philosopher and we don’t know when exactly this sentence has been written or published. No extra historical insights will be used from the past, expect well that it was written sometimes in the past, so only our current world situation factors into the interpretation directly. Brace yourself for an isolated analytical philosophy incident [2]. 

Wait a sec, we know something else attached to this sentence as part of the standalone package, is that it was originally written in German as:

Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert; es kommt darauf an, sie zu verändern.

Anonymous author, unknown date

We give this sentence a go with a simple analytical toolkit. We try to understand this sentence or get a bit closer to what might it mean by rephrasing it using the tools of philosophical analysis. Continue reading “Thesis Eleven without steroids: standalone philosophical analysis”

On the possibility of a non-essentialist, pluralistic, comparative, philosophical and political anthropology, part 1

On Gyorgy Markus’ Language and Production and other competing models of human (inter)activity

Page numbers refer to: Márkus. G. Language and Production: A Critique of the Paradigms. Dordrecht-Boston, Reidel  (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Vol. 96,1986.

Please see my earlier post on Markus if you have no idea who I am talking about: My favourite philosopher from Budapest.

I. Language and Production, a work lost in between

If a study was born under a bad sign, it’s Gyorgy Markus’ Language and Production (L&P from now on). Let’s highlight 6 different, although interconnected aspects of this sizeable, non-random unluck. The way to show this is to express the in-betweenness, the middle-ness, the seemingly intermediate characteristics of this philosophical study. The in-betweenness aspects are grouped into 3 domains: inner in-betweenness, disciplinary in-betweenness, contingent circumstances. Continue reading “On the possibility of a non-essentialist, pluralistic, comparative, philosophical and political anthropology, part 1”

Studying the Princeton Companion to Mathematics Daily

Have a little twitter thread to share about an ongoing daily study of mine, usually half an hour between 22:00 – 23:00 pm.

My favourite philosopher from Budapest

As a young biology undergraduate in the mid/late 90s, in Hungary, culturally hungry for something else too besides feeding largely on the natural sciences, I happened to quickly browse through a series of booklets – Értekezések, emlékezések – published by the publishing house of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, when the title of one such booklet caught my eye. It was called After the system: Philosophy in the Epoch of Sciences [1], and it was the inaugural lecture of Márkus György (George Markus mainly for the English-speaking world), read out loud by the author at the Academy upon accepting him as an external member.  

I studied this 20 something page booklet several times then and several times in the decades since and I still don’t ‘own’ the text meaning it is such a dense, intellectual product that it does not cease to excite me and offer yet unresolved problems for the next i(n)ter(pret)ation. It’s good to be surrounded by texts one does not own. Continue reading “My favourite philosopher from Budapest”

Could we have been born couple years off? Dan-Cohen and the constructive view on personal identity

In the first part of the study I asked to imagine ourselves being born years later/earlier than we already did and assess our identity. Then I described negative positions denying the feasibility of such imaginary scenarios on different grounds.

In the second part of the study I have introduced the positive answer suggesting that our DOB is more like a loosely defined POB (period of birth) including a whole range of identity-preserving possible worlds with the actual world in the centre.

This third instalment will focus on the so called constructive view of personal identity.

In the argument for the permissive, positive, POB answer to our question I have used the concepts constitutive decision, defining project, constructive view. 

These concepts are part of the so called constructive view on personal identity and this view has been briefly, but accurately formulated in the essay Luck and Identity by Meir Dan-Cohen [1] Continue reading “Could we have been born couple years off? Dan-Cohen and the constructive view on personal identity”

Could we have been born couple years off? The positive answer

In DOB and personal identity: could we have been born couple years off? Part 1 I have asked the readers to conduct a series of thought experiments in which they try to imagine being born couple years earlier/later than their actual DOBs and then ask whether their identities might have remained intact in these alternative histories. I also briefly introduced 5 possible negative answers and one in between. Today it’s time to describe the position where conducting my thought experiment landed me originally, the position that opened up my imagination. This is the position that ‘yeah, absolutely, I could have been born years off, no problem’.

DOB is POB with blurry, but existing temporal limits

To sum this up briefly and generally: it’s is perfectly sensible to assume that we could have been born before or after our actual DOB, while still preserving our identity, retrospectively. Our date of birth in the actual world corresponds to a period of birth (POB), covering a range of possible worlds accessible from the actual world, close enough to include a somewhat arbitrary threshold +/- period. But world histories and cultural circumstances might restrict the implementation of particular life plans. Hence, only a retrospective time window (POB) can be provided within which a particular life decision (and a follow-up plan) can be realised, thereby providing a sufficient (but not necessary) condition of personal identity. 

Now switching to the particulars, the examples to help you understand this position.

Let’s assume that I was born on the 17th of December, in 1974, in Budapest, Hungary. Continue reading “Could we have been born couple years off? The positive answer”

DOB and personal identity: could we have been born couple years off? Part 1

A Thought Experiment by and on You

Please conduct the following simple (series) of thought experiment(s) by and on yourself (X): Take your actual (current) date of birth (DOB(X)=x) and now construct/compute a date exactly one year earlier than your DOB. Got it? 

Ok, now throw away your old DOB and focus on this new, derivative date (x-1) and try to imagine that x-1 is your DOB. Got it? [1] .  

The question to ask yourself now: Would this person, X, born on this new DOB, x-1, but ‘ceteris paribus’, be still you, X?

Once you have an answer (yes, no, don’t know, it depends …) take now the date exactly one year later than your original DOB, x+1 and ask the same question.

Now make the difference +/- 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years … and ask the same question. Stop when you get the same answer 2-3 times in a row or notice if you change your position with different numbers. Register whether you think differently if the test scenario is earlier or later than your actual DOB. 

In what follows I will delineate some potential answers to this thought experiment. These answers won’t follow any derivative historical positions and only grew out of me thinking about the possible logical space and interviewing quickly several acquaintances of mine, yet they (probably) might coincide with some actual philosophical accounts that could be given. I am looking for ways to make the scope of these possible answers comprehensive, to hash out the logical space.

I start with the conservative, negative positions to move towards the more permissive ones. Continue reading “DOB and personal identity: could we have been born couple years off? Part 1”

Should we always do subjectively once we worked out what we ought to do objectively?

This Monday I’ve visited a one-day conference at the University of Cambridge on Non Categorical Thought and I’ve found it fantastic, both the people and the content and the quality of the discussion. You can read abstracts here.

There was one change in the programme, the first talk was given by Arif Ahmed instead of Peter Hawke, and the title was Evidentialism and Objective Value. It was a great talk, accompanied by a professional hand-out to make the argument easier to absorb. I’m not going to spoil Arif’s argument but only discuss one comment of mine I made at the end of the talk related to a premise of the main argument that seems indisputable according to Arif.

This premise is the following:

If you know that you objectively ought to do something then you subjectively ought to do it.

Arif Ahmed, Evidentialism and Objective Value, conference hand-out

Let’s call this principle – I’m pretty sure there’s a name for it in the literature, but I don’t know it – the ‘Informed OS Transition’ principle for reference’s sake, where OS is a shorthand for ‘from Objective Ought-to-Subjective Ought’. Sorry, I know it sounds ugly and terribly technical. It is coming from my stem cell biologist past where we have the concept of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) about cells changing their phenotypes due to different triggers. Continue reading “Should we always do subjectively once we worked out what we ought to do objectively?”

Philosophy with gaps, including holes and spaces; intro

You are at King’s Cross and you are in a rush to reach the 18:45 train taking you to Cambridge from Platform 1. You hear the speaker saying the following after the particular announcement of your train:

Mind the gap between the train and the platform.

Anonymous voice

For the next couple minutes this is going to be a special gap in your life, one that you will instantly ignore after boarding has been completed. But aren’t you interested to know a bit more about this gap? And while you are at it, how about knowing more about all the other gaps that surround and inhabit you?

Consider the particular gap between your train and the nearby platform. You are constantly warned about gaps in real life, here you get a philosophical warning to mind the gaps between objects. Continue reading “Philosophy with gaps, including holes and spaces; intro”