“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

What is Philosophy? – A walk in the woods.

Contrapoints made this video to open up his history of philosophy series.

Here is my response.


8 responses to “What is Philosophy? – A walk in the woods.”

  1. Joe Avatar

    It would be really nice if you expanded your thoughts on the implications of Godel’s work. Everyone seems to take something slightly different away from it, I’d like to better understand your viewpoint.

    An axiomatic system is never complete, do you think this implies contradictions exist in some ‘real’ sense (whatever the hell that means) or that formal systems are just ‘missing’ something essential?

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      I think its both. Contradiction is real in some sense, which is to say that organized systems, as living systems, exist in tension with their environments.

      A process ontology, though, doesn’t outright reject the logical principle of non-contradiction, but it complicates it: every actual system (i.e., every organism) both is and is not itself, but this is not a contradiction since the system is never fully present as itself in any given instant. Actual systems are always becoming. There is no reality at an instant in a process ontology. So its not that an actual system therefore simply is a self-contradiction, its that it never quite is itself or not itself, but hovers between forever in process.

      I’ve been referring to “actual” systems, which are different than formal or purely logical systems. Actual systems are real organisms, formal systems are purely logical. Godel’s theorem concerns formal systems, but part of what he showed, I think, is that formal systems are much like actual systems: they have “life.” They are forever in process, always outrunning themselves.

      1. Jason Hills Avatar
        Jason Hills

        As Matt well knows, but I offer for Joe’s benefit, one reason that the “system is never fully present as itself in any given instant” is that in an event ontology an event is always simultaneously present, past, and future, though not each in the same way.

        I have a number of recent posts on non-contradiction and temporality.

      2. Joe Avatar

        Would it be fair to say that a real system exist in duration, not infinitesimal slices, and that these durations can be nested? This is all very similar to Gibson’s ecological psychology, by the way.

        I like the relation of formal systems to real systems here. Neither are they static nor final, but always in a process of becoming.

      3. Jason Hills Avatar
        Jason Hills

        No, that would not be an adequate explanation because while not wrong, it is potentially misleading.

        Yes, a real system exists in duration. But it does so because each event is related to its past and future, where relations are real and not just logical impositions. Moreover, a system is not just a duration, which implies actuality without connoting real potentiality. Otherwise, we could conceive a process as a flat slab of duration and not the energetic and temporal thing that it is.

        fyi, I’m coming from a closely related but different process position than Matt.

      4. normonics Avatar

        You don’t play well with others, do you?

      5. Jason Hills Avatar
        Jason Hills

        Apologies, I missed the “not” in front of infinitesimal slices. I would still add more qualifications, but at first I thought you were advocating something else.

  2. Jason Hills Avatar

    Gah, Matt, too close! ;P

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