Response to a Wave on Philosophical Metaphysics

Interesting Questions are raised in a wave on Philosophical Metaphysics. I responded in the following manner.


Seems like the list of subjects above would be the sort of things that Analytical Philosophers would love to talk about. I am trying to start a flame war between Analytical and Continental philosophers, which I count myself as, so I can try to understand the issues that separate the two schools. I started a wave called Analytical Philosophy verses Continental Philosophy but have not gotten any takers yet. Nor have many people shown up yet who are interested in the many Continental Philosophy type waves I have started. So I guess the best thing to do in the meantime is to discuss my views of Philosophical Metaphysics here. Which will probably somewhat controversial because they are non-standard in the extreme.

In point of fact I try to blend Analytical and Continental philosophy in my own work, and have done so from the very beginning. For my first Ph.D. (U. London, LSE 1982) I considered continental philosophy and all the kinds of Being they were finding under every stone to Russell’s theory of Logical Types (cf I. Copi’s summary of the theory of higher logical types) which was taken up by G. Bateson and expressed as a hierarchy of meta-levels of learning. I found that if I considered the various kinds of Being that Continental Philosophers claimed to have found based on this model then I could understand what they were saying.

That scared me at first because it meant that I could no longer consider it non-sense. It is just so pleasurable to consider the thought of others nonsense, that it is hard to give up that superior vantage point on reality and admit that the Other might have something significant to say. Instead I realized that they were merely marching up the meta-levels of the series of types that Russell said must exsit if we are to avoid paradox, they were merely exploring the meta-levels of the greatest paradox of all Being. Of course, they did not know they were doing that. That is the odd thing. They did not recognize that these different types of Being were emergent meta-levels. And of course analytical philosophers assumed that Being had to be unified rather than fragmented, so different types of Being existing was not to be considered. Anyway all Metaphysical problems were merely illusions or defects in thought or language, at least that was the received wisdom of the Analytical Philosophers at the time.

Eventually I read G. Basteson book Mind and Nature. And he explained what had happened to me. He said that he found that if he studied two unrelated subjects at the same time he got better information than if he studied only one subject at a time. From that I learned why it is so crazy that our academic disciplines are so segregated from each other. Anyway since I was studying Continental Philosophy in England which was at that time a virtual haven for Analytical Philosophy since Continential Philosophy was just then starting to get translated and becoming a threat, it was necessary and even essential for me to study both at the same time. And what was strange was that if you did that Continental Philosophy made lots of Sense within the context of Russell’s theory of Types.

But oddly Analytical Philosophy starting with Quine rejected the theory of types as too complicated. And oddly it did not get developed in the Analytical Tradition as far as I could find out. Therefore, Analytical Philosophy abandoned the key theory that would make what Continental Philosophy make sense. What is even stranger is that it also abandoned the later Wittgenstein as to enigmatic, and did not recognize the themes he shared with Heidegger especially seen in his precursor to Philosophcial Investigations which was Philosophical Grammar.

It took me a long time to find a book that actually went to the next stage beyond Russell. That was Logic of Sense by Deleuze.

Since LSE was a hot bed of Philosophy of Science at the time, I decided to apply what I had learned about Metaphysics to that subject. I was studying Emergence based on the work of G.H. Mead called the Philosophy of the Present. I realized that when we recognized that Being was fragmented and had meta-levels of typing that it was a description of the process of coming into being of Genuine Emergence. So that is what I wrote my dissertation about which was called “The Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence”. It was about how emergent events occur at all different levels of scope, like fact, theory, paradigm, episteme, ontos, existence, absolutes within the Western Scientific Tradition, but how in each case the emergent event had to exemplify all the meta-levels of Being in order to be genuine, i.e. in order to cancel out the nihilistic background upon which the emergent event appeared.

Anyway that is a short introduction to my approach to Philosophical Metaphysics. You can read more about this very exotic viewpoint on my websites, cf It is a viewpoint that says that the Western Worldiview has structure based on the fagmentaiton of Being into emergent meta-levels with particular emegent characteristics at each level. It is these emergent characteristics that the Phenomenology on the Continent was interested in in the works of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Bataille, Levinas and others.

From this point of view Analytical Philosophy never gets out of Pure Being, what Heidegger calls the Present-at-hand mode of Being, i.e. the first meta-level, and thus they miss most of the depth of the world in their endless arguments over very small points of difference between conceptual angels on the heads of realistic pins.

Because Continential Philosophers and Analytical Philosophers never genuinely talk to each other, they don’t realize that they need each other. Continential Philosophers have discovered the meta-levels of Being an how they structure our worldview and influence our lives via the disruptive emergent events that occur, like the appearance of integrative media like Google Wave. Analytical Philosphers have varous tools that will allow us to understand what Continential Philosophers are talking about but they don’t use these tools in fact when they find a useful tool like type theory they abandon it for other sharper yet more dangerous instruments which are the machines of their wars of endless argument over very small points that do not really help us understand very much about the place of the human within our worlds.

So hopefully this statement is controversial enough to get things going here. What is Philosophical Metaphyscis anyway. Is it just a list of problems and topics that each taken separately tell us almost nothing about the human condition, or is it about the nature of Being and its fragmentation in the face of Existence?

I would like to know the answer to this question.

Kent Palmer


Posted November 26, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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