Modern philosophy

This book looks at the ways in which The Matrix Trilogy adapts Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, and in doing so creates its own distinctive philosophical position. Where previous work in the field has presented the trilogy as a simple ‘beginner’s guide’ to philosophy, this study offers a new methodology for inter-relating philosophy and film texts, focusing on the conceptual role played by imagery in both types of text. This focus on the figurative enables a new-found appreciation of the liveliness of philosophical writing and the multiple philosophical dimensions of Hollywood films. The book opens with a critical overview of existing philosophical writing on The Matrix Trilogy and goes on to draw on adaptation theory and feminist philosophy in order to create a new methodology for interlinking philosophical and filmic texts. Three chapters are devoted to detailed textual analysis of the films, tracing the ways in which the imagery that dominates Baudrillard’s writing is adapted and transformed by the trilogy’s complex visuals and soundtrack. The conclusion situates the methodology developed throughout the book in relation to other approaches currently emerging in the new field of Film-Philosophy. The book’s multi-disciplinary approach encompasses Philosophy, Film Studies and Adaptation Theory and will be of interest to undergraduates and postgraduates studying these subjects. It also forms part of the developing interdisciplinary field of Film-Philosophy. The detailed textual analysis of The Matrix Trilogy will also be of interest to anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of the multi-faceted nature of this seminal work.

Forgive me, but I (and this is going to make family gatherings more interesting, ain\’t it?) do rather regret that by far the brightest of my generation of our family (we are first cousins) decided to spend her life on this twaddle.

And, yes, this is what all those media studies graduates are being taught.

Bring on the bonfire of the universities say I.

49 thoughts on “Modern philosophy”

  1. Quite so, Tim. But there’s good and bad philosophy in universities, just as there’s good and bad economics, law, history, spanish…

  2. What’s the betting that the Wachowski brothers might have heard of the book and it’s main issues but didn’t read it. What’s the betting that the brothers were more interested in creating a film with lots of action and special effects than any philosophy.

  3. SadButMadLad,

    If that were the case, the second film would have been a lot better.

    Philosophy is a fantastically useful field. People who slag off all the endless cogitation about everything tend to forget that both science and computing grew out of branches of philosophy.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Philosophy is a fantastically useful field. People who slag off all the endless cogitation about everything tend to forget that both science and computing grew out of branches of philosophy.”

    Computing didn’t. Alan Turing was a mathematician. As was John von Neumann. Konrad Zuse was a civil engineer. George Stibitz was a Mathematical Physicist. Even if you look at people who contributed to the theory that contributed to computing, Godel was also a mathematician. So was Bertrand Russell for that matter. I prefer to think of him as some one who brought mathematical rigour to philosophy rather than someone who brought philosophical insight to logic.

    I don’t know of anyone with training in philosophy who made any useful contribution to computing at all.

  5. I prefer to think of him as some one who brought mathematical rigour to philosophy rather than someone who brought philosophical insight to logic.

    That’s jolly for you. However, it’s also somewhat reminiscent of Tom Baker as the captain with no crew on Blackadder: “Opinion is divided on the matter. Everyone else says it is; I say it isn’t”…

  6. “I don’t know of anyone with training in philosophy who made any useful contribution to computing at all.”

    So all the philosophers who have worked on the relationship between formal and natural languages made no contribution to the development of computing?

  7. SoMuchForSubtlety, you’re being inconsistent. You say that no-one with philosophical training made any contribution to computing, but when faced with some of those that did you point out that they also had mathematical training. But having mathematical training doesn’t negate the fact that they also had philosophical training. You could benefit from doing a course in Philosophy.

    Speaking of courses in Philosophy, there aren’t many in the UK which teach any of that sort of crap. And as Tim said, his relative is doing a Media Studies degree. Most philosophers regard that stuff as crackpot and Baudrillard as a phony.

  8. Since philosphy is concerned that you ca n’t think without language and so you can’t think “outside the box” because language does n’t stretch that far The Matrix is ,as the blurb says ,a good beginner’s guide to philosophy because it shows , symbolically, everybody trapped inside the limits of language but convinced it is reality.
    Also there is n’t an exact correspondence with the reality language does cover: the gap shows,which is the point of deconstruction.
    This book sounds pretentious but will probably outsell Mr Worstall’s effort -market performance being ,according to TW,
    the ultimate ” reality”.

  9. SquanderTwoPhilosophy is a fantastically useful field. People who slag off all the endless cogitation about everything tend to forget that both science and computing grew out of branches of philosophy.

    And chemistry grew out of alchemy. And astronomy grew out of astrology. I admire chemistry and astronomy, but I don’t think that alchemy and astrology are particularly useful fields.

    DBC Reed: Since philosphy is concerned that you can’t think without language

    If so (and I have noticed from past discussions that your assertions bear only the most tenuous relationship to reality, so I’m rather doubtful about any other assertion made by you) then that’s another knock for philosophy. It is entirely possible to think without language. Some deaf people who grow up without other deaf children around to sign with, and without learning lipreading, have no language but are clearly intelligent and capable of thinking. See http://eideneurolearningblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/people-without-words-art-and-experience.html for some accounts.

    The Matrix is ,as the blurb says ,a good beginner’s guide to philosophy because it shows , symbolically, everybody trapped inside the limits of language but convinced it is reality.

    Umm, are you aware that The Matrix is in fact a fictional movie, and thus the only thing it shows us about reality is how far special effects technology had advanced when it was made?

  10. The Matrix is ,as the blurb says ,a good beginner’s guide to philosophy because it shows , symbolically, everybody trapped inside the limits of language but convinced it is reality.

    The Matrix is a good, switch-off-brain action movie. It is a crap beginner’s guide to philosophy. The sequels are just plain crap.

  11. I don’t know who’s the silliest, DBC Reed for claiming that philosophy says that you can’t think without language, or Tracy W who thinks that if a movie is fiction it cannot teach us anything about reality. (Not saying that The Matrix teaches us anything, it’s the sweeping generalization that is ludicrous).

  12. Indeed, Blithering Bunny, there’s lots of silliness here. The Matrix could perhaps be interpreted as teaching a tiny, tiny amount about Descartes’ ‘Meditations’; but claiming that it’s a kind of cinematic Sophie’s World is just daft. I am unaware of any philosopher who claims that you can’t think without language – perhaps DBC Reed means access to a mode of representation? That’s quite different to language.

    For the relationship between computing and philosophy, look at Frege’s work on the relationship between logic and mathematics as a good starter. His formalisation of logic led to modern computer science. Going back only a few decades, you’ve got people like William James laying the foundations for modern psychology.

    I reckon producing one new discipline per century is a pretty good record for any area of study. The most recent one is cognitive science, which aims to unify philosophy of mind, psychology and neurology to produce useful models of consciousness.

  13. Blithering Bunny:
    I think you’re giving DBC Reeds a pretty good run for his money when it comes to being silly. I said:
    “the only thing it shows us about reality is how far special effects technology had advanced when it was made”

    And you manage to massively misread this as:
    “if a movie is fiction it cannot teach us anything about reality. ”

    Firstly, I explicitly said that a fictional movie can show us how far special effects technology had advanced when it was made. That’s not nothing.
    Secondly, a person can learn a lot from a fictional movie, about other matters, even fictional ones. A fictional movie can teach. But it can’t show. In order to learn from a fictional movie, you have to compare what the movie shows with your own knowledge of the real world. Some movies, eg absurdist comedies, play games with how humans think, others, eg science fiction movies, play games with the rules of reality. Some fictional movies aim to tell some deep truth about the world, but if you disagree with the director’s priors then a fictional movie can’t show you to be wrong, you are always free to think the movie director was making stuff up to fit his point. That’s because a movie director in a fictional movie has too much control, they chose where to point the camera, when to run it, what the characters, say, etc. Indeed, movies are so unreliable as a way of showing stuff that many movies emply continuity experts to try and keep the internal world of the movie consistent, and often they fail. A movie can’t show you something in a way that. say, a science teacher can show white light splitting into different colours when sent through a prism.
    (Non-fictional movies also can be dishonest of course, either directly or by choosing what they leave out in such a way as to bias the results, but that’s a different topic).

  14. I reckon producing one new discipline per century is a pretty good record for any area of study.

    So on this scale, how do alchemy and astrology rate, given that they both produced one new discipline in recorded history?

    It seems a bit disappointing when people’s defence of philosophy as a field of study comes down to: “Some people who trained as philosophers wound up doing some useful stuff in other fields.” Perhaps these people wound up doing useful stuff in other fields because they left philosophy for those other fields?

  15. Tracy W –

    Astronomy did not grow out of astrology. It grew out of the cosmological speculations of the pre-socratic philosophers and the heliocentrism of Aristarchus of Samos (3rdC BC).

    You are, however, on stronger ground in claiming that chemistry grew out of alchemy, but it depends how you define chemistry. On a wide definition including metallurgy, chemistry preceded alchemy; on a narrow definition chemistry followed alchemy.

  16. Paul, my understanding was that for much of human history astronomy and astrology were tightly linked, in that many people observed the stars in hope of understanding the future, but if I am wrong, then it won’t be the first time. I still don’t think it’s particularly impressive to say that a field grew out of another field.

  17. Tracy W –

    Forgive me for labouring a point, but astrologers don’t observe the stars: they apply their mumbo-jumbo a priori not empirically, and they always have done. And even if astronomy and astrology are “tightly linked” historically, this is a vague claim and not the same as saying that the former derived from the latter.

    While I agree that it’s not particularly impressive to say the study of x “grew out of” the study of y – “grew out of” is another very vague phrase, and the connection between x and y might simply be contingent or accidental – I do think it is impressive to say that ‘The study of x area of philosophy was a necessary condition for the development of y’ – where, for example, x is the philosophy of language and logic and y is computer science.

  18. Funny which posts generate the most animated discussion, eh?

    As an alternative means of escaping a side-issue, would it not be better to remember that evolution does not mean a long sequence of ever-improved forms. So astronomy (a rather fine science) did not evolve from astrology (several varieties of intense silliness), rather they both share common ancestry (essentially early man looking up at the lights in the sky and thinking “what’s that all about?”).

    Similarly the powerful and developing science of chemistry shares common ancestry* with the now-extinct subject of alchemy (which combined understandable ignorance and wishful thinking).

    Whether this gets us any further with regard to the nature and value of philosophy, computer science, and media studies, or the likelihood of punch-ups at family gatherings…

    * e.m. thinking “what’s that stuff and what can we do with it?”

  19. but astrologers don’t observe the stars: they apply their mumbo-jumbo a priori not empirically, and they always have done

    You assume that astrologers don’t believe in their own art. But very often pseudoscientists do believe, eg they enter into bets, apparently 1000 people have taken James Randi’s one million dollar challenge.

    And even if astronomy and astrology are “tightly linked” historically, this is a vague claim and not the same as saying that the former derived from the latter.

    However, as we can’t do controlled experiments with the history of science, that’s about all we can claim, as equally about the claims that a science derived from philosophy. For example, perhaps those philosophers who contributed to the development of computer science would have been able to make even better contributions had they not wasted those years on philosophy? As we can’t re-run history we’ll never know if the study of philosophy helped or hindered.

  20. It’s funny how people who are so opposed to philosophy are so determined to actually practise it, only badly.

    TracyW, you said, and I quote, “are you aware that The Matrix is in fact a fictional movie, and thus the only thing it shows us about reality…”.

    “Thus” is a logical term that means “therefore”. What you claimed, then, was the the mere fact that The Matrix was fictional meant that it couldn’t show/teach us anything about reality. In other words, you *did* claim “fiction, therefore shows/teaches us nothing about reality”.

    But what about your distinction between “show” and “teach”? Well, yes, if you really meant “show” in this very literal-minded way then you have a point, but as well as being crudely simplistic the point is completely uninteresting. Did you really think you were providing any illumination here? The director chooses the camera angles? Wow. And I suppose novelists make stuff up? Sheesh.

    >You assume that astrologers don’t believe in their own art. But very often pseudoscientists do believe, eg they enter into bets, apparently 1000 people have taken James Randi’s one million dollar challenge.

    Not a very informed comment. As someone who’s been involved with various Skeptic societies (and had dinner with Randi on various occasions over the years) , I can tell you that it’s quite hard getting psychics and the like to take up any scientific challenge.

    But anyway, whether they believe or not wasn’t Paul ilc’s point.

  21. Tracy W – No, I don’t assume that astrologers don’t believe in their own art: mumbo-jumbo was my view of their methodology. My point is that they do not conduct any empirical observations, because they produce their results from a priori computations and associations.

    Determining the complex relationships between formal and natural languages was a sine qua non for computer science, and it was philosophers wot done it!

    Most human knowledge is not derived from controlled experiments. And historians and economists (for example) regularly make very plausible and often essential ascriptions of cause and effect without the relative certainty afforded by repeatable experiments.

  22. Blithering Bunny: It’s funny how people who are so opposed to philosophy are so determined to actually practise it, only badly.

    Quick question – have you had any training in philosophy yourself?

    In other words, you *did* claim “fiction, therefore shows/teaches us nothing about reality”.

    To quote myself:
    “the only thing it shows us about reality is how far special effects technology had advanced when it was made”

    I most certainly did not intend to claim that fiction teaches us nothing about reality. And this is the first time I have come across someone who thinks that that “the only thing it shows us about reality” means “this shows/teaches us nothing about reality”.

    I find it useful to use dictionaries as an approximate guide to language.
    “Only” – without others or anything further; alone; solely; exclusively: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/only

    “no thing; not anything; naught”
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nothing

    Does this explain to you the difference between “nothing” and “only”, as used in ordinary English? If not, could you do me the kindness of telling me how would you refer to something of which there is one case alone, and not any others, distinct from where there are no cases? Perhaps some mathematics would help, what do you think is the difference between a set with no members, and a set with only one member, in ordinary English?

    Well, yes, if you really meant “show” in this very literal-minded way then you have a point, but as well as being crudely simplistic the point is completely uninteresting.

    I value a true understanding of the world above those other matters. If being true is crudely simplistic and completely uninteresting, then so be it. I’d rather truly know what is going on than be fascinated by overly complex but false ideas. (And, though it means differing from you, I find the topic quite interesting myself).

    Did you really think you were providing any illumination here? The director chooses the camera angles? Wow. And I suppose novelists make stuff up? Sheesh.

    Um, yes I did think I was providing some illumination. I didn’t doubt that you knew that directors chose camera angles, but I did doubt (and still doubt) that you understood the implications of that fact for what movies can show us. If I had doubted that you knew movie directors chose camera angles, and that novelists sometimes make stuff up, I would have provided some evidence to support those assertions on my part.

    I notice that you don’t provide any counter-argument to the point that fictional movies do show us reality. Do you agree that my assertion, while crudely simplistic and completely uninteresting in your eyes, was at also truthful? If not, can you say on what basis you think that fictional movies do show us reality in ways other than what special effects can achieve?

    Not a very informed comment. As someone who’s been involved with various Skeptic societies (and had dinner with Randi on various occasions over the years) , I can tell you that it’s quite hard getting psychics and the like to take up any scientific challenge.

    That’s interesting to know. I withdraw the assertion “very often” and replace it with “sometimes”. Thank you for the information, I appreciate it. (By the way, what’s James Randi like to talk with? I’d adore to meet him.)

  23. Paul: My point is that they do not conduct any empirical observations, because they produce their results from a priori computations and associations.

    I agree with you that nowadays I haven’t heard of any astrologists conducting empirical observations, but my understanding was that Kepler both conducted empirical observations, and also astrological consequences of those stars and cast horoscopes, including for Emperor Rudolph II.

    Most human knowledge is not derived from controlled experiments.

    Indeed, non-controlled experiments can rule out a number of hypotheses, eg that there is a stable trade-off between unemployment and inflation, which is an addition to human knowledge. But in the history of science what we have is a very small number of people who made major contributions, relative to the world population at the time, against a background of changing social conditions. This is weak data.

    Determining the complex relationships between formal and natural languages was a sine qua non for computer science, and it was philosophers wot done it!

    Um, how do you know that it was the sine qua non? And how do you know that the philosophical training was a help and not a hinderance? (You might be right, for all I know, I just am surprised with your confidence).

    And historians and economists (for example) regularly make very plausible and often essential ascriptions of cause and effect without the relative certainty afforded by repeatable experiments.

    As an economist, I agree with you, but I observe that “very plausible and often essential” is not the same as “accurate depiction of reality”.

    One of the things that makes me skeptical about the value of philosophy is that philosophers themselves are so unself-critical about the value of it. If someone asserted that, say, drug A was a sine qua non for curing typhoid fever on the basis that many people who had taken it had recovered, would philosophers be convinced? When did historians and economists become the standard for ascripting cause and affect? But when it comes to philosophy, any positive arguments are trotted out. Where’s that critical thinking?

  24. I detect an assumption that human activity should be judged by its “Teaching “ and ‘useful’ effects as if all art aspired to the condition of science. Its a confusion we can readily understand from an Economist of course which aspires to be scientific a Eliza Doolittle aspired to pure vowels …
    I am not convinced but even if I were this would be cack handed way to approach any artistic utterance textual or otherwise .

    King Lear – Teaches us not to trust daughters who grovel a bit much but to go with the quiet one

    Handy…..but is that really it ?

    Hamlet _ Teaches us the dangers of dillying if not dallying and also throws in a handy lesson about revenge ..

    Dickens good – helped with the Factory Acts . Wordsworth less so just flopped about wondering about stuff

    Hmm bit reductive isn’t it

    Even if you were not a bufffoon-ish and barbaric literalist it ought to be possible to see that discussing the Matrix in terms of philosophy is starting from a very long way away
    Literary generic and cinematic comparisons would be more illuminating .It contains philosophical jokes and bathetic effects ( notably the John the Baptist/Jesus/Judas allegory) and sideways glances at the “Real” but it’s a narrative not a thesis and the core comparison is with parallel worlds in which the truth is revealed .

    This movement – City to Outlaw Discovery of falseness of City to Finding true identity – Empowered to Reform false world – Marriage – happy ever after

    Been going since the Greeks for example , well anyway that’s a better start than anyone hereabouts can ‘philosophize’ .

  25. Couldn’t agree more, Newmania. While I stand by my claim that philosophy is extremely useful, I should also have added that there’s a lot more to scholarship than its mere economic usefulness.

    So Much For Subtlety,

    Your distinction between logicians and philosophers, quite apart from being flawed as John B says (seriously, you think Russell wasn’t a philosopher cause you say he wasn’t, and damn what Russell would have said on the matter?), rather misses the point that logic is a branch of philosophy that led into, crossed over with, and was adopted by mathematics; it was not originally a branch of mathematics.

    Tracy W,

    Alchemy was an extremely useful field. Their ultimate aim may have been flawed, but they discovered loads of stuff along the way, as people who obsessively experiment with matter are bound to do.

    And I believe astrology led to astronomy, not the other way around. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that our ancestors came up with a system whereby the movement and positions of the planets and stars affect our future before they noticed the movement and position of the planets and stars. Again, seriously?

  26. So Much For Subtlety

    john b – “That’s jolly for you. However, it’s also somewhat reminiscent of Tom Baker as the captain with no crew on Blackadder: “Opinion is divided on the matter. Everyone else says it is; I say it isn’t”…”

    Well I often make the same point. However this once I am not alone. After all it is me and it seems Wikipedia:

    “Russell won a scholarship to read for the Mathematical Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, and commenced his studies there in 1890. …. He quickly distinguished himself in mathematics and philosophy, graduating as a high Wrangler in 1893 and becoming a Fellow in the latter in 1895.”

    “At the University of Cambridge in England, a Wrangler is a student who has completed the third year (called Part II) of the Mathematical Tripos with first-class honours. ”

    So to be a little more accurate, that would be me, Wikipedia and Cambridge University. Are you sure you’re not sailing with jolly old Tom?

    paul ilc – “So all the philosophers who have worked on the relationship between formal and natural languages made no contribution to the development of computing?”

    Possibly. Or alternatively I have just not heard of them. Which philosophers? There is no denying that some non-scientists have made a contribution to computing – Chomsky for instance. Are you counting him?

    Blithering Bunny – “you’re being inconsistent. You say that no-one with philosophical training made any contribution to computing, but when faced with some of those that did you point out that they also had mathematical training.”

    I am hardly being inconsistent. It is not that someone like Russell had some mathematical training. He was a mathematician who made some contributions to philosophy. Not that he had anything much to do with computing.

    “But having mathematical training doesn’t negate the fact that they also had philosophical training. You could benefit from doing a course in Philosophy.”

    Sure. But is a zebra a white animal with black stripes or a black animal with white stripes? Is someone like Russell a philosopher with some maths training or a mathematician with some philosophical training? I said I *prefer* to see him as a mathematician. Now I don’t know what sort of philosophy you do, but I can’t see any firm ground for you to criticise that comment. By what universal law is my preference invalid?

  27. So Much For Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Your distinction between logicians and philosophers, quite apart from being flawed as John B says (seriously, you think Russell wasn’t a philosopher cause you say he wasn’t, and damn what Russell would have said on the matter?), rather misses the point that logic is a branch of philosophy that led into, crossed over with, and was adopted by mathematics; it was not originally a branch of mathematics.”

    I think Russell was a student of mathematics because he was a student of mathematics. I also think he made contributions to philosophy because he made contributions to philosophy. However I prefer to think of him as someone who brought mathematical rigour to philosophy because my prejudices lie that way and because he did.

    It is true that logic started out in philosophy. And if I was looking for an argument I would say the philosophers did approximately nothing with it for 2500 years until mathematicians became interested in it. But that would be needlessly offensive so I won’t.

    “Alchemy was an extremely useful field. Their ultimate aim may have been flawed, but they discovered loads of stuff along the way, as people who obsessively experiment with matter are bound to do.”

    Sort like theology then?

  28. So Much For Subtlety

    Adam Bell – “For the relationship between computing and philosophy, look at Frege’s work on the relationship between logic and mathematics as a good starter. His formalisation of logic led to modern computer science.”

    This would be Gottlob Frege would it? The man about whom Wikipedia says:

    “Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German mathematician who became a logician and philosopher. He was one of the founders of modern logic, and made major contributions to the foundations of mathematics. ….
    “Frege matriculated at the University of Jena in the spring of 1869 as a citizen of the North German Federation. In the four semesters of his studies he attended approximately twenty courses of lectures, most of them on mathematics and physics. His most important teacher was Ernst Karl Abbe (1840–1905) (physicist, mathematician, and inventor). Abbe gave lectures on theory of gravity, galvanism and electrodynamics, theory of functions of a complex variable, applications of physics, selected divisions of mechanics, and mechanics of solids. Abbe was more than a teacher to Frege: he was a trusted friend, and, as director of the optical manufacturer Carl Zeiss AG, he was in a position to advance Frege’s career. After Frege’s graduation, they came into closer correspondence.

    “His other notable university teachers were [Christian Philipp] Karl Snell (1806–1886) (subjects: use of infinitesimal analysis in geometry, analytical geometry of planes, analytical mechanics, optics, physical foundations of mechanics); Hermann [Karl Julius Traugott] Schaeffer (1824–1900) (analytical geometry, applied physics, algebraic analysis, on the telegraph and other electronic machines); and the famous philosopher Kuno Fischer (1824–1907) (history of Kantian and critical philosophy).

    “Starting in 1871, Frege continued his studies in Göttingen, the leading university in mathematics in German-speaking territories, where he attended the lectures of [Rudolf Friedrich] Alfred Clebsch (1833–1872) (analytical geometry), Ernst Christian Julius Schering (1824–1897) (function theory), Wilhelm Eduard Weber (1804–1891) (physical studies, applied physics), Eduard Riecke (1845–1915) (theory of electricity), and Rudolf Hermann Lotze (1817–1881) (philosophy of religion).”

    This Gottlob Frege? So can I take it that you define a philosopher as anyone who has done something you admire?

    “Going back only a few decades, you’ve got people like William James laying the foundations for modern psychology.”

    This would be William James the medical doctor would it? By what reasoning do you claim he was a philosopher? That he wrote some books on philosophy? How do you know one has any link with the other?

  29. Newmania: the problem with defending philosophy on a purely aesthetic basis is that there’s no disputing over tastes. So if someone says that they think philosophy is a waste of time, telling them that it’s really beautiful is not going to change their mind. Which leads people to try to find other ways of defending philosophy, and that leads into the utilitarian argument.

    Squander Two: Why not simultaneously? People, at some point while we were evolving into homo sapiens sapiens, started drawing links between what was happening in the sky and events on earth. Some of these links are bloody obvious (eg setting sun followed by darkness, dark grey clouds often followed by rain, etc). This encouraged looking for subtler links, add in a bit of post-hoc rationalisation, eg a comet comes by and then an important local battle is won, and you have the basis for investigating the sky for more signs to the future. And some astrological investigations were useful for forecasting, eg telling the calendar by movements in the stars so as to know when in the spring to plant crops. So it seems to me that the observation of the heavens could have developed in parallel with the development of theories about what the observations implied for life on earth, and perhaps could have started before we have any sort of language that approached the power of homo sapiens sapiens languages. Perhaps even before primates evolved. Or perhaps it didn’t, and as you say, astrology evolved after astronomy, after all there is a lack of written material on this topic.

  30. @So Much For Subtlety:

    I define as a philosopher anyone who publishes work in the field of philosophy. Similarly, I define as a moron anyone who publishes something that directly contradicts their point. You know, like you did when you quoted a Wikipedia article that says Frege was a philosopher as evidence that he wasn’t. If you’d scrolled down the page beyond the first section, you’d have found a bit called ‘Philosopher’. This is, I would say, a Clue.

    If you’re happy to use Wikipedia for evidence, then it’s worth pointing out that the first line of the article on William James is: ‘This article is about the American psychologist and philosopher.’

    Certainly, you can claim that you prefer to see Russell and Frege as mathematicians, and James as a doctor, rather than being gentlemen with various complementary interests. You’ll just look ridiculous if you do so. You’ll be ignoring the influence of philosophy on the rest of their work, and thus depriving yourself of a useful explanatory tool. As I said, you’re welcome to be daft.

  31. @ Tracy: you’re misinterpreting Newmania as defending philosophy on an aesthetic basis, most likely because you’re assuming the only other value system appropriate is the utilitarian one. This is a mistake – a significant amount of philosophy is about individual judgement, and how that judgement is best exercised. This covers areas like proper ends, ways and means, and appropriate methods of applying principles. As such, it has strong instrumental value for the individual as an aid to reflection – a value which is not based on taste, but rather on the need we all have to perform appropriate judgements in our everyday lives.

  32. Oddly enough I was looking at Canterbury tales last night (as you do ..) . It contains both a satire on the dupes that follow astrology and a comic section lamenting the financial ruin that an obsession with alchemy brings about
    Chaucer seems to have had little respect for either
    PS
    Men have not always observed the modern categories of thought your remarks on the heavens seem to imply Tracy . Religion Science / Art /Liturgy Ritual …

  33. Adam Bell, it sounds to me like you are offering a defence of philosophy on the basis of what Newmania might call “its useful effects”, you use the phrase “instrumental value”, which according to Wikipedia, means “the value of objects, both physical objects and abstract objects, not as ends-in-themselves but a means of achieving something else. It is often contrasted with items of intrinsic value.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_value)

    NewMania meanwhile explicitly said that “I detect an assumption that human activity should be judged by its “Teaching “ and ‘useful’ effects”

    What is instrumental value if not ‘useful effects’?

    I agree with you that a lot of philosophy is about how individual judgment should be best exercised, as far as I know however philosophers have spent the last several thousand years discovering flaws with all proposed ways of exercising individual judgment. This is rather unfortunate, as, as you say, exercising individual judgment is something we all need to do. I think there is some value in knowing all the problems with different methods, but on the whole I find maths and most of the other sciences far better at actually helping me in my daily life than philosophy. And those that aren’t a direct help I find equally as valuable aesthetically (eg the beautiful pictures that astronomers generate).

    Newmania: Men have not always observed the modern categories of thought your remarks on the heavens seem to imply Tracy

    As nothing in my comments on the heavens in any way attributed the observance of modern categories of thought to past generations (let alone specifically to men), I find myself bemused as to why you think this.

  34. Yes Trace now I look back, your vision of empirical apes is rather more off the wall than I had thought . I shall treat it as a creatively ambiguous text creating new meanings though its use of semantic dissonance,.

    Now it is a triumph . Tra la

  35. Newmania, how do you think apes survive, if we are not empirical? Or indeed, how does any animal survive?

    I shall treat it as a creatively ambiguous text creating new meanings though its use of semantic dissonance,. .

    Thank you for the explanation of where you got your interpretation from.

  36. So Much For Subtlety

    Adam Bell – “I define as a philosopher anyone who publishes work in the field of philosophy.”

    An amazingly self-centred definition. Is it one shared by anyone else outside the philosophy profession I wonder?

    “Similarly, I define as a moron anyone who publishes something that directly contradicts their point.”

    That is interesting because I would call that basic honesty. I am not sure morons have a monopoly on that. I am sure that some of those nice philosophers have discussed this at some point in the past. Perhaps you would be so good as to look some of them up and let us know?

    Not that it contradicts my point. My point is not that Russell, or Frege for that matter, did not write some philosophical works but that they were primarily mathematicians, at least in their training.

    “You know, like you did when you quoted a Wikipedia article that says Frege was a philosopher as evidence that he wasn’t. If you’d scrolled down the page beyond the first section, you’d have found a bit called ‘Philosopher’. This is, I would say, a Clue.”

    Yes. But it takes a particular kind of intellect to ignore his contributions to mathematics, the fact that he trained as a mathematician, the fact that he is described first and foremost as a mathematician, and then to proclaim he was a philosopher and not a mathematician. I do not deny that he made contributions to logic. Of course. Someone had to show the philosophers who to do it properly. But that does not change the fact that he was by training a mathematician

    “If you’re happy to use Wikipedia for evidence, then it’s worth pointing out that the first line of the article on William James is: ‘This article is about the American psychologist and philosopher.’”

    Sure. I am happy to see you read it. I saw it too. He wrote some books that might be called philosophical. But that does not mean that you can claim a medical doctor who invented the field of psychology (and in passing wrote one or two books on philosophy) means that psychology grew out of philosophy. It clearly did not in this case. It grew out of medicine.

    “Certainly, you can claim that you prefer to see Russell and Frege as mathematicians, and James as a doctor, rather than being gentlemen with various complementary interests. You’ll just look ridiculous if you do so. ”

    Actually my point remains that they were gentlemen with varied interests. I have clearly and persistently said so. What I will not accept is that they were philosophers to the extent that they were nothing else. Frege in particular is not a philosopher who contributed to maths, but a mathematician by training who contributed to philosophy.

    “You’ll be ignoring the influence of philosophy on the rest of their work, and thus depriving yourself of a useful explanatory tool. As I said, you’re welcome to be daft.”

    Beats being dishonest. But where’s the influence from philosophy as a field on Frege’s work? None I can see. Even if it was there, it does not mean philosophy as a profession can claim credit for work he did that lead to modern computers. He was, like pretty much everyone else, a mathematician.

  37. The limits of my language quote from Wittgenstein is used in the Wikipedia entry on Linguistic Determinism ,should anybody be interested in the relevance of The Matrix to Modern Philosophy (which is the subject under discussion:not who invented the computer or whatever).

  38. Dear God, they’re still at it!

    But wait, a small but potentially useful piece of clarification gets worried over ad nauseam by a handfull of thinkers who cannot resolve the matter and keep niggling at each other for failing to understand their own rightness … You’re all philosophers!! [Runs away screaming]

  39. So Much For Subtlety,

    > “Russell won a scholarship to read for the Mathematical Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, and commenced his studies there in 1890. …. He quickly distinguished himself in mathematics and philosophy, graduating as a high Wrangler in 1893 and becoming a Fellow in the latter in 1895.”

    I suspect you don’t know how the Cambridge Tripos system works. What this is saying, contrary to what you seem to think it’s saying, is that he studied and got a degree in mathematics and philosophy and then became a fellow in philosophy. It says he excelled at both. And you’ve taken it from a page which also says “He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy” and “His philosophical essay “On Denoting” has been considered a “paradigm of philosophy.””

    Incidentally, zebras are white animals with black stripes, as can be clearly seen in pretty much any photos if you bother to look at them properly.

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