Collective Intentions or Inferential Reciprocity?

Searle’s social ontology suggests that one can make an epistemically objective claim from a domain that is ontologically subjective, an ontology that would, among other things, seem to give an empirical dimension to Freudian theory after Wittgenstein’s demotion/promotion of that theory to myth. Yet at the same time Searle’s “collective intentionality” as repeated representations via logical form of declarations falls short of the sociality of meaning suggested by Brandom’s and Sellars’s rational pragmatism—the Hegelian “interpersonal inferential commitments” (42) that not only rescue rationality from liberalist epistemology, as Searle’s does with the idea of a collective epistemic, but locate the normative prior to representation (i.e., without “taking representation as its fundamental concept” (28)) in a conceptual contentfulness socially instituted through mutual recognition. Though Brandom notes that such “methodological commitment” still acknowledges an important representational dimension to concept use” (28).

Brandom, Robert B. Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000.

Information is the Opiate of the Masses


Talking Lions Talking Lion: Information, Recognition, Inference (A Response Under Construction)

Wittgenstein: “If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.”

1. Wittgenstein’s reasoning here is itself in part an Aristotelian language game that makes interspecies experience unbridgeable, the tyranny of taxonomy. In other words, Wittgenstein goes into the problem already biased by biological-behaviorist definitional categories. The line is further drawn with another Wittgenstein claim: “To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life” (P.I.). The idea being that a speaking lion’s speech acts are already intricately woven into—as—a lion’s experience (what it is to be a lion) to which humans have no access, i.e., no access to the form of life that is the speaking lion’s speech acts, to the shared behavior that would constitute “the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown language” (P.I.), whether or not a Cartesian lion sufficient for “BAT-itude” and so on (Hofstadter et al.). Yet experientialist demarcation rooted in preconceived taxonomic notions of humans and lions (humans have X traits, lions have Y) collapses if on some level or to some degree (physically, experientially) a human’s scream and a lion’s roar share some pragmatic function or family resemblance. Otherwise it would seem that Wittgenstein contradicts himself, especially given his Beetle in a Box thought experiment that rejects private language and makes inner workings irrelevant.

2. Furthermore, the old taxonomy does not consider the difference between information, meaning, and understanding, a difference that would suggest that the all-or-nothing “only humans have language” falls short as an experientialist category or hard descriptor. If, for example, one agrees that information is passed from lion to human then a human can have understanding without meaning made between them, without normativity. That is to say, per Sellars and Brandom, reciprocal recognition and inference are not necessary for unidirectional interspecies understanding. (Likewise one ostensibly understands a computer’s message without knowing what it’s like to be a computer, whether or not a computer is conscious or has BATitude.) The commonalities and the message are only clearer if the lion speaks.

Hofstadter, Douglas, and Daniel Dennett. “Chapter 24: What is it Like to Be a Bat.” The Mind’s I. 2007. Web.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. G.E.M. Anscombe and R. Rhees (eds.), G.E.M. Anscombe (trans.), Oxford: Blackwell, 1953. Print.

Tough Logic to Swallow: Meat is Murder Whether Meat Knows It or Not

Below is my brief response to Rhys Southan’s “The Enigma of Animal Suffering” 

"[B]ut when the animals are knocked insensible first, the discomfort is our own — not theirs."

Doesn’t this knocking insensible follow a series of industrial farming events already recognized as cruel?

"Our perception of the external, of disturbing images or scenes, is sometimes a projection of our own feelings as observers; it does not match what the subjects of such treatment actually experience."

I’d suggest that there is projection in every instance of perception. It does not necessarily follow that our perceptions and feelings do “not match what the subjects of such treatment actually experience.” The author’s assumption could be sourced in theistic and capitalist ideology that define interspecies experience as unbridgeable.

“For human analogies to animal farming to have force, the experience of being a farmed animal should be equivalent to the human experience in superficially similar circumstances.”

Not true. Analogy needn’t suggest absolute equivalence to draw clarity, commonality, and compassion—to have force.

"Even though animals feel physical and emotional pain, it is possible to raise them for food and kill them without causing them any more suffering than what we might expect a well-off human to experience."

Maybe. But why not eat humans who don’t suffer more than well-off non-human animals?

"If we can take animals to their deaths without their ever connecting the dots, then with the best animal farming the existential angst over their being exploited and doomed is almost certainly in our heads, not in theirs."

The rhetoric of “If” is a powerful elixir.

The Holocaust analogy could be helpful if only to illuminate the author’s own anthropocentrism and that awareness or “existential angst” falls short as a category or reason for or against factory meat. Individuals taken to concentration camps were often not aware of their fate. Does this not-knowing make genocide humane? Why should it for non-human animals? Perhaps more to the point: Southan seems to assume that with “best animal farming,” whatever that farming may be, there is no non-human animal suffering apart from existential angst (“connecting the dots”).  

The moment one agrees to some sentiential commonality between human and non-human animals (if not all that comes with the more obvious phylogenetic), one must then also agree that meat from the latter is murder, too. We’re all animals now.

How to Train Your Young Global Citizens

If How to Train Your Dragon allegorizes Sino-U.S. relations, then How to Train Your Dragon 2 promotes these relations as a response to a nation or peoples not willing to participate in transnational capitalism. Whither Drago?


Voltaire’s Ladder

"I flattered myself," replied Pangloss, "to have reasoned a little with you
on the causes and effects, on the best of possible worlds, the origin of evil,
the nature of the soul, and a pre-established harmony.”

At these words the dervish shut the door in their faces.


"Above all, Voltaire’s contes demonstrate that systems are an unwarranted and unsustainable imposition of false order on the facts of life.”
Roger Pearson

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Like recent apocalyptica (Book of EliOblivion), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes delivers the future through linear narrative and little context (geographic, political). Beneath the film’s vindictive semi-automatics, San Fran Endor, and human-like expressions (humans, by the way, are apes, but Hollywood repudiates phylogeny) lies another thin take on one-dimensional man. He’s territorial and gun-crazy. Perhaps a post-sapien world doesn’t permit one-dimensional dystopia as Herbert Marcuse saw it: technological rationalization, consumer irrationalization, and the deluge of “unfreedom” that naturalizes both. Even so, these missed complexities are far less egregious than Dawn’s feeble Oedipal relations, that between Caesar and his rebellious son, “Blue Eyes,” and the scarred, Scar-like (less Claudius-like) adjutant Koba. Oedipus Rex may be as old as simian flu, but that shouldn’t mean a flat rendering of the myth. Dawn’s excellent actors (Serkis, Clarke, and Russell) do not deserve the betrayal. 

Human limits (species-specific) could be revealed with a paradox, which may be paradoxical.

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