More Exploration of Social Objects

Are Social Objects “Really Real”? There is an intuitive suspicion expressed in common sense, that certain kinds of objects – namely, objects that seem to be dependent upon social factors – aren’t “really, real”. The intuition is a skeptical one arising out of a default common sense empiricism. While there may be some nominal understanding or some social agreement about the reality of things like national borders or governments, they’re not “really, real” in the sense that, say, an airplane, or a boulder, or a dog, are “really, real”.

Protagoras, Homo Mensura, and Self Refutation

Is Homo Mensura Self-Refuting? Plato’s Theaetetus involves a famous exchange between Socrates, an old mathematician named Theodorus, and his brilliant young pupil named Theaetetus, in which they attempt to answer the question of what is knowledge. The common denominator in this exchange, is that Protagoras is an old friend of Theodorus, and Theaetetus has adopted Protagorean relativism as his own doctrine. The exchange between Socrates and the two men is at least in part (in addition to attempting to discover a theory of knowledge in general) intended to demonstrate that the doctrine of Protagoras is self-refuting.

The One, the Many, and the Liberal

Is Liberalism Obsolete? What does this question mean? What are we really trying to get at, when we ask this question? Let us take note that there are two rather expansive and indeterminate words in this question; indeterminate, because of the way the question has been asked. Namely, the words Liberalism, and obsolete. It is out of fashion these days to begin a philosophy talk with definitions, but I cannot help but do so in this case, because otherwise you will have no idea what I am asking you to agree to in this argument.

Plato: Philosophy as Art

When you first begin reading Plato’s dialogues, they seem like inscrutable word-problems. Complicated head-spinning exchanges that, by the time you reach the end, have you ready to face-plant onto your desk. But the more you dip into them, the more you realise how unbelievably subtle and sophisticated they are. And, when you start to master them, the beauty in the whole just becomes awe inspiring. Here’s a little nugget of poetic insight that only just occurred to me this week.

Social Construction and Madness

“Today is a great triumph. There is a king of Spain. He has been found at last. That king is me.” ~ Nikolai Gogol What makes a “social object” “really real”? What is a “social object”, and what would it mean for anything to be “really real”, as opposed to just plain real? The common-sense (ala naive) understanding, is to suggest that things like chairs and tennis balls and bullets are “really real”, while things like “money” and “borders” and “kings” are only just “socially” real (if real at all).

Literature and Culture: Criticism, or War?

A good friend of mine recently presented me with an abandoned draft of an article. My friend claimed the essay lacked a solid thesis. Though I was unable to convince my friend to revisit it, I still think that a thesis presents itself fairly clearly in the article’s depiction of the famous conflict between C. S. Lewis and F. R. Leavis. The gradual domination of academia by a regime of forgettable Leavis-like characters has a cause that we are only now beginning to examine seriously, as a culture.

What Is Conservatism For

Buckley defined Conservatism through the metaphor of a man standing on the train tracks of history, yelling ‘stop!’. Scruton defined Conservatism as the stewardship of the beautiful, in a particular way of life. The intuition expressed in both definitions is sound. For Conservatism to mean anything, then it must include the preservation or conservation of something important. Scruton is closer to that mark than Buckley is, because he’s closer to a fundamental principle than Buckley is.

Brief Thoughts on the Phaedrus

Why does Socrates spend so much effort defining and describing the soul in so much detail in the Phaedrus? He tells us outright, in the dialogue. It is because no man can gain true knowledge from a speech, if the orator does not himself know how his speech is going to guide the soul to its first memory of the unified reality of beauty, found in the divine realm. Dialectic is the way to wisdom, and dialectic can only be achieved through speech.

Star Trek: What Is a Person?

I have recently come round to the opinion that the original 1967 Star Trek TV series is one of the best things ever produced in the 20th century. I have been going through the old original series one episode at a time, to refamiliarize myself with it and to recapture a portion of the experience of having watched it as a boy. When I was a boy, most of what was going on in the episode ran past me.

Thomas Kuhn, Revolutions, Paradigms, and Progress

The Problem of Progress The question I’m addressing today, is on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It was posed to me recently, in this form: “Is Kuhn right that we cannot speak of progress across scientific paradigms?” This paper will briefly summarize Kuhn’s own definition of progress both within and across paradigms, explore the implications of these definitions, and assess the conclusion Kuhn comes to at the end of Chapter XIII of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.