Archive for January 2010

Different Ways of Dealing with Philosophy Texts

A noble effort. And for self-study I can see how it could be useful. But not sure how useful they are to others. But we will see what happens.

I would like to make a suggestion. I learned from a professor I had a long time ago that the way to understand philosophical texts was to diagram them, i.e. produce unique synthesizing diagrams for each set of concepts used by a philosopher in their text. I have used this method all my life, diagramming many of the foundational philosophical works in my own study. This is much more useful than diagrams because it renders the arguments and the sets of concepts very memorable due to the work that is put into the diagramming. I can still remember many of the diagrams I did for Kant, or Sartre, and my professor taught me Heidegger and Husserl and East Asian Philosophy through his diagrams. Also it makes it easier to digest critics and commentary of the philosopher if you have the diagrams to refer to which shows how the concepts in the philosophy are interlinked.

Philosophy normally cannot be understood in outline because it consists of complex arguments where many different concepts are brought together in unique ways by the philosopher.

The other technique I used, was to fold a piece of paper four times to make like a book mark, and to take running notes on the book I was reading on the folded bookmark that way I could find the places again that were referred to. I would make my diagrams either on the book mark as I went along or in a separate diagram if it became large.

Another technique was to write working papers. I would read and make diagrams the first time through the text, but then the second time through I would write short working papers on my understanding of the text or my ideas inspired by the text.

Another important part of understanding philosophers is finding good commentaries. There are many commentaries on Aristotle. I do not know Aristotle well enough to suggest any. But I am sure you can find a scholar to suggest some to you. Best to read the commentaries after you have read the text yourself first. Then read the commentaries and then go back and reread the text.

One thing that is important is to realize that Aristotle’s Categories are about the possible ways of speaking about things while Kant’s are about the nature of things found though physics that we project prior to the empirical data reaching us from the things. These are very different from each other, even though they use similar terms.

Good Luck on your mission.

Posted January 27, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

A book that changed my life

A book that changed my life wave

Reply posted Jan 15 2010 to the wave:

Being and Time by Heidegger along with Phenomenology of Perception and The Visible and the Invisible by Merleau Ponty. The whole Western worldview spins around the unfinished book by Merleau-Ponty, indefinitely postponed by his death in a car accident.

Reply posted Jan 13 2010 to the wave:

But you may ask, how can a Philosophy book change your life? I was taking East Asian Studies courses from Alfonso Verdu at Kansas University which was my major interest. Then I took his courses on Husserl and Heidegger. Reading Being and Time and understanding it with the help of my professor sent me into studying Western Philosophy after my intense interest in Eastern Philosophy which I was preparing to specialize in. But at some point I realized that if I did not understand the philosophy from my own tradition how could I understand the philosophy from other traditions, and so I started focusing more and more on Western mostly at first to avoid Orientalism, (Cf. Said). But when it came to going to Graduate school I decided to go to England rather than Japan and ended up studying much more Western Philosophy. In the course of that I read Phenomenology of Perception which was a psychological interpretation of Being and Time by Merleau-Ponty and then his unfinished book called The Visible and Invisible, where he defines Wild being as the dual of Hyper Being, which are in turn the dual of Pure and Process Being dealt with by Heidegger in Being and Time as present-at-hand and ready-to-hand modalities of dasein as being-in-the-world. In doing this Merleau-Ponty opened up the understanding of the Face of the World that appears when an Emergent Event occurs which I wrote about in my first Dissertation at LSE 1982. Understanding the structure of the Western worldview has led to a fascinating life-long intellectual adventure, the texts associated with which can be seen as It turns out that by reading the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty and the rest of Continental Philosophy back into mythology of the Western worldview we can see these kinds of Being are clearly present in myths. I call this type of analysis ontomythology. The myths then become a handbook for living in the Western worldview and tell us much about its structure, which is mostly unknown to those who live within the western worldview.

think deeply the significance of Merleau-Ponty’s discovery of Wild Being beyond Derrida’s Differance or Hyper Being has the potential to change all our lives, because knowing the structure of the Indo-European and thus the Western worldview which is world dominant has profound for our lives.


Posted January 24, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

The reason we start with ancient texts . . .

Reply posted Jan 15 2010 to the wave:

Why is it that when we learn Philosophy we start with ancient texts?

The reason we start with ancient texts is that we are extraordinarily lucky to have the works of Plato and Aristotle almost complete, except for Aristotle’s published works. What we have are his class notes. But Plato we almost have everything. And the depth of Plato’s philosophy is such that it is inexhaustible. As Whitehead said all of Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Aristotle’s work is the first huge footnote, in a whole line of very significant footnotes. Read the commentaries on Plato and read Plato himself and if you ever come out the other side, then you can think about other philosophers and what they have to say.

Second reason, is that the major transform our in fundamental ways. You cannot understand how deep the transformations are unless you understand the previous baseline of thought. Thus the Kantian revolution cannot be understood unless you understand Spinoza and Leibniz as well as Descartes, Hume, etc who were the non-critical philosophers who went before Kant. You cannot understand Hegel without having read Kant, and you cannot understand Husserl and Heidegger unless you have an understanding of Kant, but also for Heidegger you also need to understand Nietzsche, Hegel, Jaspers and others. In a way it is like evolution you need to go through the stages of the development of Western philosophy in order to understand them to any depth.

But this does not happen at first. At first one normally becomes fascinated with a contemporary Philosophy. For me that was Husserl and Heidegger. But then to understand them I had to go back and fish around in the tradition. But eventually you become serious and you start to read everyone who went before to try to understand the transformations that got you to whoever your starting point is and then go beyond that to newer philosophers. This is an organic process of intellectual growth.

Analytical Philosophy tried to create an ahistorical philosophy starting with the premise that all Metaphysical problems were mistakes in language. And also starting with the premise that Philosophy should be the handmaiden of Science. That is one of the major ways in which the Continental Tradition parts company with Analytical Philosophy, because the Continent is where the history of the Western philosophical tradition has been preserved and continued. Metaphysics is still taken seriously in Continental Philosophy. But even Analytical Philosophy has not been able to jettison tradition and now they have built up their own tradition as an alternative to real philosophy. The irony is of course they consider themselves the only philosophers. You don’t find Continential Philosophers denying the validity of Analytical Philosophy like you find the opposite. Normally the one who is denying the validity of the Other’s thoughts is the one whom we should doubt.

But even the Analytical Tradition has value within a narrow compass and it should be treated with respect, even though they don’t have much interesting to say. But even boring traditions have some validity when they touch on important issues in new ways, and that sometimes happens even in Analytical Philosophy. For instance, in the later Wittgenstein, whom even the Analytical tradition sometimes rejects. The key question is why we are reading translations of French works mostly, and not English or American works. Why are there no great American Philosophers besides Peirce, and perhaps polymaths like N. Rescher. The Americans and British just are not thinking deeply. And I put that down to their fundamental rejection of the Tradition. Your ability to think deeply is in direct proportion to your knowledge of the tradition of Western thought as a whole.

If you do not know the tradition you are part of how can you know where the cutting edge is in that tradition where you can make some small contribution. The great thinkers in the Western tradition are intellectual giants. They have transformed thought fundamentally and change the course of the way we think of ourselves. Right now the one trying to do that again is Badiou in Being and Event and his new book on the Logic of Worlds. He is trying to do Analytical Philosophy one better. He is saying that Set theory the core of Math is Ontology. Of course this is a bold claim and is probably wrong. But it ups the ante on how well the philosophers need to understand Set theory and Logic and how that can be interpreted within philosophy.

Reading the Philosophers of the Tradition teaches you how to think, and all the possible ways there have been discovered to think. It is not the history per se which is important. Rather it is their way of thinking that they are laying out which can be learned to apply to new problems or in new ways. Our philosophy departments are History of Philosophy departments. They are misnamed. In Art there is a difference between the History of Art and Art schools that teach you how to be Artists. Philosophers do not have Philosophy Schools where you can learn to become a philosophers and think for yourself new thoughts. Rather we merely have history of Philosophy department where we can learn what various thinkers thought in the past, but they do not teach you to think for yourself new thoughts building on the tradition at its cutting edge.

But you can learn that if you approach the great philosophers as teachers of How to Think, rather than merely learning what they did think themselves in their historical period. The French have not lost this ability to teach and learn how to think, and that is why they have produced a whole generation of great thinkers, thinking fairly deep thoughts. You just don’t see that coming out of the English speaking world. Here philosophers are isolated from society, they don’t know literature, psychoanalysis, and politics. Our philosophers are merely specialists in the history of thought, making small contributions to a stunted form of the philosophical tradition called Analytical Philosophy. It is well named because they have forgotten how to think about synthesis, emergence, and other hard problems. Sad.

But we don’t have to follow them, just because they dominate the universities here in America. Rather we can learn to think for ourselves by taking the tradition as our teacher and reading it for how the great thinkers of the tradition thought for themselves.


Posted January 24, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

The Nature of a Philosophers Mind

A Philosophers Mind: Palmer Thoughtlet-0002: The Nature of a Philosophers Mind

What drives us to philosophy? Philosophy is not something that everyone is interested in. The number of people interested in Philosophy I think is one of the signs of High Culture. It is a culture that asks itself about itself. Philosophers are those within the culture driven to ask more and more profound questions about ultimates. You can see that this happened in the Upanishads. It also happened in Greece with Aristotle and Plato and other “Pre-Socratics”. But the works of many philosophers and many seekers of truth as in the Upanishads is a sign of very high culture, and what you see in that is a large variety of answers to these ultimate questions. When that occurs then we spend centuries trying to sort out the alternatives that are offered to us. My question is how the whole society can become attuned to this level of philosophical creativity we see in the Upanishads and in the Greeks. This is very rare as we can see by looking at the history of philosophy. French Society today is undergoing that kind of transformation which leads to a large variety of thinkers with different insights vying with each other to express a deeper and deeper way of understanding the world. Other than that you tend to get isolated great figures in other periods of history where there is not so much variety production occurring. Thus my question is about the nature of the mind of society that produces a large variety of philosophical viewpoints. It is not the philosophers mind that is as interesting as the Social Mind that allows for and facilitates profound thought about ultimates. What is the nature of the Social Mind that makes us want to think philosophically in greater numbers than normally do. For one thing others must be interested in philosophy who are not philosophers. But I think there is something more at stake. I think it is an emergent event which occurs within society and that the variety of philosophy are the multiple views of that event, which I have called the Novum in earlier works.

Posted January 20, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized


Thinknet Community Wave: Palmer Thoughtlet-0000: Thoughtlets

In the Wave you have Wavelets and Blips. So I am thinking that there is something between Tirades or Flames or Pontifications or what have you, i.e. long messages, and Chat. Waves are mostly Chat. There are very few long messages. But it seems to me that there is not enough substance in the Waves because of the prevalence of Chat brought on by the realtime nature of Wave technology. Waves are also suppose to be like Wikis but I do not see much of that sort of modification going on in the Waves I visit. They are treated as if they were static chat conversations mostly. And when I visit a wave and write long posts there is no response. Many times it stops conversation completely. So I have had the idea of Thoughtlets. Hopefully they will LET more serious thought occur. The idea of thoughtlets is that they give some organization to the conversation in Waves by having some substance around which the chat can swirl, yet not be so long as to cause the conversation to lapse. Of course this is an experiment. One in a continuing set of experiments to try to see if this new technology can support more serious thought. Some people are already doing their own thoughtlets in their posts, but this is merely a formalization of that. Thoughtlets are meant to be self contained content inserted into the chat stream in order to provoke comments, and perhaps even others to create their own thoughtlets. Nice thing about thoughtlets is that I can write them in Word and then also post them to my blog, and they do not have to carry the context of the wave with them, as occurs when I take wave entries and directly post them to my blog. And Word does the spell checking that is missing in the Wave. Take your wave posts and spell check them in word and you will find that there are major problems with Wave spell checking. So the thoughtlet also serves to bridge between the world of waves and the world of blogs.

Posted January 20, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Creativity and Emergence

Human Creativity Wave: Palmer Thoughtlet-0001: Creativity and Emergence

I am interested in Human Creativity in relation to Emergence and to the background in society that stifles that creativity more than it is fostered. My first Ph.D. I wanted to be on the Sociology of Creativity. But at that time there was no literature on that subject to draw on so I did my Ph.D. on Emergence instead. But my professor David Martin was an expert in Religion and one of his themes was how the religious structures of society channeled the Sacred into society and when I was working with him he had a manuscript where he explained how that worked, i.e. how the architecture of churches and the church hierarchy played a role in segregating the sacred from the mundane world and how that is what made it sacred. My idea was to develop a similar theory for creativity and how it was channeled into society by social structures, and how the anti-creative structures of society are precisely the background that makes visible creativity. In the end I did my Ph.D on Emergence which is an idea of G.H. Mead which is about how the new comes into the world. Emergence may be brought about by an act of Creativity against the background of the Anti-creative. But Emergence is different because it is something that changes the landscape in which creativity can occur in the future, by wiping out the old structures of society and instituting new structures in their place. In the new Emergent era what is creative and what is stifling creativity can change. G.H. Mead says that an Emergent event changes the possibilities to be realized in the Future, causes us to rewrite History, and changes what can actually be done in the present. And I add to that it changes the mythos associated with those changes in logos. Thus Emergence is in some ways a deeper phenomena that conditions both creativity and anti-creative forces exerted by society by which the creative is channeled like the sacred into our society and thus our culture.

Posted January 20, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized