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Showing posts from November, 2014

Beyond predation

Descola's chapter 14 of his Par delà covers the groups in the Amazon where animists have social relations based chiefly on predation, mainly on reciprocity and generally on gift-giving. Different groups, sometimes close together, have different economies of relations with both the human and the non-humans (the Jivaro being predation based, the Tukano obsessed with balanced interchanges, the Campa taken by giving). The three animist groups found different ways to manage the interchange between what humans and the agents in their environment: to take and run away, as much as trading and giving away to establish bonds, is a social relation. The upshot, I take, is that the Moderns, by contrast, don't predate (neither do they trade or give away in their interactions with the no non-humans). They do predate their fellow humans - and trade with them, give and plea for gifts. They still the chestnut tree of the neighbor, but they do it conspicuously so that they can get away from ange

Aversion and adversion

In Part III, Chapter III of Process and Reality (page 254 of the standard 1985 edition), Whitehead introduces two great notions: those of adversion and aversion. His words: If in the conceptual feelings there is valuation upward, then the physical feelings are transmitted to the new concrescence with enhanced intensity in its subjective form. This is 'adversion'. But if the conceptual feelings there is valuation downwards, then the physical feelings are (in the later concrescence) either eliminated, or are transmitted to it with attenuated intensity. This is 'aversion'. Thus, 'adversion' and 'aversion' are types of 'decision'. These are very general concepts: to enhance something so that the picture fits, to hide something so that the picture fits. Whitehead talks about physical feelings and concepts (shove off this green patch so that the image could look like the sky or enhance the whiteness of the clouds so that it is more clearly like the

Whitehead: to exist is to arrive at a crowd

Whitehead's interplay between perception and creation in prehension can be read as a cement that glues together the various elements of his system in Process and Reality . His Lockean account of indirect perception requires that (sensorial) ideas are involved in (physical and conceptual) perception and therefore that universals are present even though not in the sensationalist way (endorsed mainly by Hume). These universals are only potentially present when they are not prehended. They are actualized by prehension for, in fact, Whitehead's definition of actuality has to do with being able to affect other actualities. To come actual is like to arrive where the crowd is: nobody can arrive to where the crowd is and be alone - to exist in actuality is to co-exist. Universals are brought to actuality by actual entities, without prehensions they are merely potential. This is why God is needed to prehend eternal objects - without God these objects would lack what only an actual entity

The value of access

I compile my text as I presented last Monday at the Value of Understanding Colloquium in Bahia. The idea hinges on whether perception can be measured by values that are not swamped by truth. To be sure, I use the scheme of a Zagzebskian Disjunctivist Externalism as a model: if Zagzebski's intellectual virtues are not swamped, I submit neither do perceptual virtues. If it is so, there is a possible disjunctivist response to the primary value problem. I think (pace Pritchard) this is an externalist response. Here is the text: Epistemic externalism tends to make knowledge less dependent on the wonderings of a (human) knowing subject and more as an something attained in collaboration with the environment of the knower. Knowledge is less of a matter of inner cogitations and more an issue of interaction with what is to be known and its surroundings. In order to portray knowledge like that, knowledge-bearers such as beliefs (or opinions, convictions) have to be conceived as less than se

Perceptual contact without cognitive contact

Not quite an answer to the question of my previous post, but a follow-up from the discussion in posts like The fertility of indirect perception and Stereoscopy . Thinking again about (indirect) perception and reference I remebered Wettstein's motto, "linguistic contact without cognitive contact". An equivalent for Whitehead's indirect perception would be something like "perceptual contact without cognitive contact". The objective datum is contacted (causally) but not cognitively. For Whitehead, causation is a mode of perception (together with presentational immediacy). So, there is a contact there although nothing can be cognized about it. (The objective datum is, in Harman's image that adds a Heideggerian touch to the Whiteheadian image, withdrawn.). But Whitehead goes further to say that the subjective form is part of the object being perceived: what is cognized makes the object what it is. There is nothing in what is perceived apart from what is co

What do I think about perception?

Been working on a presentation about disjunctivism and the value of knowledge. There I maintain that Pritchard´s way of portraying disjunctivism (which is elegant but associated with the unconvincing thesis that disjunctivism is a form of non-classical internalism) can help making externalists less vulnerable to criticisms such as Zabzebski´s and Kvanvig´s concerning the value of knowledge. The criticism, first addressed to process reliabilism, is that given these accounts of knowledge, true belief is as vaulable as knowledge. I fear that this can be extended to other varieties of externalism and argue that epistemioc disjunctivism about perception (that I see as a variety of externalism, pace Pritchard) can respond to the criticism and even endorse some of Zagzebski´s ideas about intellectual virtues. I´ll post the text for my presentation here soon. On the other hand, and at the same time, I´m lecturing on Whitehead´s use of Locke´s indirect perception ideas. As readers of this blo

Stereoscopy (or perception and reference)

At least since Aquinas - and it is an Aristotelian idea - the object of perception is taken to be dual, usually because the intellect perceives as much as the senses - or maybe perceives something out of what the senses perceive. Id quo and id quod: what is seen in what I see (or rather, what I see in what is seen...). Locke's idea was to bring stereoscopy to the very nature of perception - the object of perception alone is stereoscopical. Whitehead's diagnosis was that no one lived up to this message and the object started with Locke himself to be disassembled into deliverances of the senses and the workings of the intellect. This was, in a sense, a reactionary move where Locke's message was put aside. The message was that perceptual representation is by nature two-fold - affordances and creation, sensual and real objects in Harman. Maybe it helps to think of the photograph model diagnosed in the direct reference theorists by Evans (in Varieties of Reference ): no matter w

Anthropocentric, anthropogenic, anthropocide

Yesterday I lectured on chapter 11 of Descola's Par-delà . I've been toying with the idea - suggested by his square of dispositions in chapter 11 presented as anthropocentrism (naturalism), anthropogeny (animism), cosmogony (totemism) and cosmocentrism (analogism) - of a geometry of oppositions (of the sort inaugurated by Robert Blanché and developed further by people like Alessio Moretti) around the different ways to relate to the non-human. In particular because I wonder how to place a (presently non-instantiated) disposition I call anthropocide (see this post ). Such disposition is considered by Descola in his chapter on naturalism in part 3 (chapter 8) in terms, for instance, of J-P Changeaux and the Australian materialism - it is the idea that continuity in physicality is enough to account for human behavior and interiority can be fully dropped on behalf of a unified (naturalist) nature where nothing is genuinely social. Such disposition would contrast with animism (where

The fertility of Locke's indirect perception

Whitehead takes Locke (and Descartes) to have made a major metaphysical breakthrough by developing the notion that in perception we have ideas. That is, perception is not just capture, but modulation. For Locke, these ideas were mainly sensations - universals - and they were just given to our senses. The senses, in their turn, would deliver these ready-made ideas to us and provide the stuff empirical thought is made of. The metaphysical import of that is made clear by Berkeley immaterialist bending of Locke's idea. Berkeley argued against a material object in perception beyond perceived ideas. He claimed that to be is to be perceived (or to perceive). His immaterialism boiled down to an ontology of minds and ideas with no room to anything oblivious to human cogitations. But still, immaterialism provided an alternative to the substance-quality metaphysics according to which material objects would have intrinsic qualities independently of what is perceived. Berkeley and Locke (and Wh