Saturday, December 20, 2003

Toward a New Logic, Part I

Disclaimer: I have nary an honorific, nor diploma, nor other authority save my own gumption, upon which to gird the following exegesis. I read a lot and perhaps had I been less contemptuous of the politics and protocol of the university — well, who knows, but at any rate, I'll not prevent myself from waxing idiotic here; it's my blog, damn it.

With that out of the way, my goal here is to argue that logic, as formalized by the majority of western academia, is on the threshold of some sort of profound change. I intend to argue this in a rather boorish, unsophisticated and casual manner, so neener. Having been, as a high school student, an avid exponent of the study of Math, Logic and Western History, I first encountered any kind of serious criticism of my budding Positivism in the form of Existentialism, and other new-age-y stuff, like Pirsig and Wilbur. I came to discern two general branches of this criticism: those who wish to undo Western culture in favor of some kind of ostensible pre-industrial Mecca, and those who have some notion that the reigning paradigm should yield to some new approach.

"So wait," you ask, "what is the problem with the reigning paradigm, and what the hell is the reigning paradigm anyway, you pedantic bastard?"

Good questions. By "reigning paradigm," I refer to the pragmatic, if not philosophical embrace of some form of Positivism or Objectivism or Materialism on the part of the majority of academics (esp. in the hard sciences.) I would even suggest that many urban and suburban middle-class people in general hold a kind of either atheistic or deistic materialism that is reinforced by much of mainstream media as well as these folk's everyday interaction with technologies that get more sophisticated and undeniably useful all the time. Indeed, it seems every citizen of a western nation has a personal philosophy that has been shaped, at least in part, by science and technology. It must be clear by now, to even the most superstitious among us, that the telephone works, not because too few virgins have been sacrificed recently, but by merit of empirically testable principles (even if they don't have the language to clearly communicate such a sentiment.). Hopefully that clears up what I mean by "reigning paradigm," because if you're reading this, the chances are that you have played a video game, or operated a complicated machine like an automobile, or watched cable television, or operated a personal computer, etc — you know what I'm talking about: technology may have its problems, but in the majority of applications, it works, and that informs much of our collective philosophy in the west vis-á-vis the primacy of scientific thinking.

"Okay, enough blah, blah, blah. What's wrong with this paradigm?"

Right. The problem is that these mental progeny of the Enlightenment relegate the sort of thinking that humans have always associated with creativity and novelty to a sort of philosophical purgatory. What I mean is that these philosophies are not equipped with any means by which to, for example, ascribe relative value to Mozart and Pachelbel, nor can they provide anything other than the most didactic instruction to would-be creative thinkers on how to become greater in their art. Similarly, these philosophies are wont to describe what motivates the sacrificing soldier, or the laboring prenatal mother, or even the entrepreneur. It seems that for most, the conscious awareness of this disparity is limited to a dim cognitive dissonance that manifests as confusion when examining those parts of themselves that are subject to the mismatch.

Imagine it thusly: you are male (just go with it) and you are arguing with your significant other regarding your suggestion that the pants she just purchased "make her posterior appear larger than normal." She likely informs you that she is less than amused by your comments. You note that she still has the receipt, and you were only telling her in order to afford her the option of taking them back so that she doesn't appear to be less attractive than she really is. She is still unhappy. You feel you are being completely rational. It seems that in fact, navigating the exigencies of social interaction is often frustratingly irrational.

"You said something about two branches of criticism; WTF kind of presumptuous shite is that? Just who the hell do you think you are anyway?"

Calm down, it's my blog and I'm free to look like a fool if I wish. Let me reiterate and explicate the two branches of criticism thing. It seems to me that some criticize the west and the Enlightenment because they believe that the philosophical course taken by the west is somehow fundamentally evil. These people have multifarious reasons for their dislike, (I would suggest that many of these criticisms of the west are simply regurgitations of the wooly-headed hippydom of an idealistic yet largely idle U.S. baby boom generation,) but they are united by the desire to "undo" western civilization in deference to some kind of theocracy — be it Islam or Deep Ecology.

On the other hand, there appear to be those that wish to see the reigning paradigm challenged by merit of their desire to see it improved. They point to the aforementioned problems and conclude that this paradigm must not be the conclusion to our ongoing search for truth. They ask, "How can whole realms of human experience go unaccounted for inside a paradigm that seeks to have itself be counted as the ultimate model of existence?"

To be continued…

posted by Malaclypse the Tertiary at 10:10 PM ·

Smart Blogs:
(in no particular order)
Deinonychus Antirrhopus
The Knowledge Problem
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Kolkata Libertarian
Andrew Sullivan
Little Green Footballs
Dave Barry
Libertarian Samizdata
Balloon Juice
Discount Blogger
Truck and Barter
Peking Duck
The Gweilo Diaries

Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Cato Institute
Junk Science
David Friedman
Tech Central Station

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