23 April 2006

Husserl Email 05

It seems, then, that it comes all down to epistemology getting confused with ontology. This fact is so ridiculously unsurprising to me that I sometimes laugh out loud. If you've ever studied Kant then you know what kind of shit happens when you start confusing words that simply denote a concept with words that denote a thing. If I say anything about the thing in itself, then does that mean that a thing in itself must exist? Hardly.
The more interesting thing going on in this passed reading is that it brings out Husserl's little teleological preoccupation. It comes and goes like women with their michaelangeloes. The reason for Husserl to be concerned with this goddamn teleology, I mean. I think it has something to do with transcendentalism, intersubjectivity and culture. But Husserl is a little intransigent about subjectivity, isnt he? I'm not sure that he's not trying to grab everything too fast with both hands. He should slow down a little. Stupid philosophers with their wanting rigorous sciences.

Wttgenstein 'plogia

16 April 2006

husserl Email 04

OK. So this kind of thing is kind of cheating. I had started this blog to give a forum to my thought. But I find posting my class emails a little cheap. I will start very soon posting about Kant (whom I'm reading in a great reading group right now) and Wittgenstein, my idol. Tonight's Easter. I ate quite a bit of food at a schoolmate's. I didn't post an email for the last class b/c we read a piece by Max Weber; I didn't think it merited an even semi-formal reply. We covered pp.59-81.


Call me a neo-Enlightenist, a conservative or even a curmudgeon--please. I'm not Ann Culter, but I do think there's a problem. The problem which Husserl seems to keep raising is on with an answer (there must be an answer!) which I'm not sure he can supply. He problematizes objectivity--fine. He problematizes Humian/Cartesian subjectivity--double fine. Where is the Husserlian critical philosophy going? At this point, I'd love to raise Weber's criticism that there are so many gods and to whom shall we give our alliance: this question is answered by our vocation. But in a critical meta-philosophical endeavor like the Crisis... the answer isn't so simple. Since Husserl obviously hates philosophy (joke) then isn't he something of a hypocrite in doing philosophy? Why doesn't he question the European telos spawned from that sag-teated, tired wolfhound known as Hellenism??? There is NO END to subjectivity.

I reread the Soak paper (the paper submitted to Social Text by an NYU physicist spoofing humanities-laden natural science). He ends quoting Madsen & Madsen saying, "A simple criterion for science to qualify as postmodern is that it be free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth". The liberal in me is inclined to say, Fair enough. But that is NOT FAIR. The very notion of science is, as Husserl hamhandedly notes, built upon the objectification of the world. Call it neo-Platonism or a western Hegemonic power move; but SCIENCE IS OBJECTIVE. I much prefer Wittgenstein’s approach to this whole thing. He is equally doubtful of science's claim to objectivity; but unlike Husserl, he doesn't necessarily try to undermine it within its own discursive realm, i.e., by rationally pointint out that it is in fact grounded on reason. Rather, he says that there are many different grammars (if you will) that reflect different life-forms. (Why Husserl introduces life-world and then (to me, thus far) wholly neglects the concept is totally beyond me) He says in (I admit, it's my Bible) his Philosophic Investigations that

Disputes do not break out (among mathematicians, say) over the question whether a rule has been obeyed or not. People don't come to blows over it, for example. That is part of the framework on which the working of our language is based (240).

That is, he admits the hegemonic influence of math, but I think he accepts it. He doesn't naturalize it--quite the contrary, he points out that it (and everything else) is NOT NATURAL. He is not a naturalist. But he says that the Lebensform accepts--must accept--mathematics as an apodictic science. The metaphysical ground on which Husserl stands is just as freaking metaphysical as the ground on which Descartes stands. Why Husserl thinks his is any more legitimate truly puzzles me.

The only rationalization which comes to mind is the end of Husserl's Vienna Lecture, part one. I've already cited this line once in email, but it says that, "philosophy has constantly to exercise its function as one which is “archtonic” for the civilization as a whole" (p. 289). I thought he was being cheeky. But maybe he's talking about HIS philosophy?

His philosophy obviously gives rise to Nietzsche (reacts, in this case) and FOUCAULT; I'm reminded of (one of my many reasons) a reason why I dislike Foucault: In pointing out the ways power=knowledge and by uncovering the concealed power structures in history, i.e., privileged narrative-making, Foucault/Husserl ENGAGES IN THE VERY SAME NARRATIVE MAKING.

I respect and mostly agree with Husserl. I don't understand myself sometimes because in those times I am quite physically repulsed by Husserl's philosophy. He's like a red herring lying on the path toward an emancipatory politics. He's like Bill Clinton; at first you think he's awesome and totally good, but after a little scrutiny you find he's not quite what you thought he was. And I like Bill Clinton. I find I have the same relation to Husserl.

Mr. Payne

07 April 2006


The problem of dualism

An Inversation

06 April 2006

Husserl Email 03

Today's reading spans pp.41-59.

Mr. Hand:

This here section we’ve read for tonight restates rather longwindedly Eddington’s famous two tables lecture! Again! I can see, too, the grounds for Husserl’s criticism of Kant from the preface. I at first thought that Husserl was more or less toeing the Kantian line by broaching the subject of the universal mathesis’ dualism (UMD). He criticizes laypeople’s mistaking formula-meaning for the “true being of nature itself” (44). I suppose if I had thought more on this phrase, I would have noticed that it itself is rather non-Kantian sounding. Anyway!

The stuff about the universal mathesis being a push toward pure symbolism, and therefore a push toward mathematics becoming a “sort of technique” is rather unsurprising at this time. Since Frege, Russell et al. I had sort of assumed that no one seriously thought mathematics was anything but symbols. Husserl says (rightly) that one cannot ascertain the truth of anything rendered by the modern mathematical technique—but then that is also obvious! Kant even made that distinction, saying in the CPR that logic is more or less empty and in need of intuitions for any truth value to be established. I like Husserl’s comparison between the operational rules of mathematics and the “rules of a game” (46). But again—who confuses pure mathematics with applied mathematics?!

These days we educated people do not go around spouting, “bar bar bar!” incoherently toward one another, nor do we confuse the axioms of Euclidean geometry for a schemata of how space is. But I do rather like Husserl’s idea of the “life-world” being something about which we fit a “garb of ideas” (51). Again, up springs Kantian dualism/UMD! I suppose Euclidean geometry does facilitate our building suspension bridges and sky scrapers.

What’s with Husserl springing upon us this Platonico-mathematical quandary about our “require[ing] a systematic process in order to being to realization as knowing, i.e., as explicit mathematics, all the shapes that ‘exist’ in spatiotemporal form” in a paragraph with which terminates his question on why we can’t ever prove the axioms of an apodictic system? What I mean is that the two—the Platonic view of mathematics and our proving the consistency and completeness of our axiomatic systems from only within those systems—seem to be incompatible positions as shown by Herr Gödel.

What is the primal, historical meaning of science?

B. Michael Payne

02 April 2006

Husserl Email 02

Today's reading spans pp.21-41.

Mr. Hand:

I am reminded--struck, really--strongly of a famous paper given by a physicist named Eddington about his Two Tables. One table is wooden, has extension & c.; whereas the other table is mostly nothing, space between electrons, i.e., fields of force. How much sense does it make to speak about the one versus the other? (This paper was given rougly the same time as Husserl wrote our book)

How exact is exact enough? (Wittgenstein's question) E.g., were I to say, "stand roughly here [pointing]" versus saying, "stand right there [pointing at an X formed by two pieces of tape crossing on the ground] or even were I to say, "stand at local coordinate 45' 10" ssw" etc.--how useful is that? But use is not necessarily after what Husserl stalks.

Is the indirect mathematization--the plenum VS pure shape--that Husserl describes not really Manicheanism? Kantian dualism?

Cause = Formula?

We hear a little bit of Foucault, maybe, in Husserl's treatment of measurement giving intersubjective objectivity to geometric shapes. We could wonder about the technological's influence on the ontic validity of subjective space (via measurment and especially the drive-to-exactness) remembering well that the technological seems to be subjected to economical praxis, material, wealth & c.

B. Michael