Othering is the construction and identification of the self or in-group and the other or out-group in mutual, unequal opposition by attributing relative inferiority and/or radical alienness to the other/out-group. The notion of othering spread from feminist theory and post-colonial studies to other areas of the humanities and social sciences, but is originally rooted in Hegel’s dialectic of identification and distantiation in the encounter of the self with some other in his “Master-Slave dialectic”. In this paper, after reviewing the philosophical (...) and psychological background of othering, I distinguish two kinds of othering, “crude” and “sophisticated”, that differ in the logical form of their underlying arguments. The essential difference is that the former is merely self-other distantiating, while the latter – as in Hegel’s dialectic – partially depends on self-other identification. While crude othering is closer to the paradigmatic notion of othering, sophisticated othering is closer to Hegel’s, but so is quasi-othering, which is nearly identical in form to sophisticated othering, but which misses the defining feature of othering – attributing relative inferiority and/or radical alienness. Because Hegel’s dialectic applies to any encounter of an interpreting self with some other, sophisticated or quasi-othering is at least potentially a very common occurrence in the interpretation of others, especially of those who do not belong to the in-group. However, although othering is usually undesirable, the Hegelian varieties can provide a “mirror”, which can be used as a tool to improve understanding of both the other and the interpreting self, and the malignant aspects of othering can be avoided through charity. (shrink)
Two of the most fundamental distinctions in metaphysics are (1) that between reality (or things in themselves) and appearance, the R/A distinction, and (2) that between entities that are fundamental (or real, etcetera) and entities that are ontologically or existentially dependent, the F/D distinction. While these appear to be two very different distinctions, in Buddhist metaphysics they are combined, raising questions about how they are related. In this paper I argue that plausible versions of the R/A distinction are essentially a (...) special kind of F/D distinction, and conversely, that many F/D distinctions imply an R/A distinction. Nevertheless, while this does suggest that the F/D distinction is more basic than the R/A distinction, it does not favor a particular understanding of the F/D distinction. There are many kinds of existential or ontological dependence that cannot be meaningfully combined into a single notion, and reality does not force us to accept any specific kind of dependence as more fundamental. Consequently, what we consider to be ‘real’, ‘fundamental’, or ‘really existing’ is not entirely given by reality, but partially up to us. (shrink)
Saṃvega is a morally motivating state of shock that -- according to Buddhaghosa -- should be evoked by meditating on death. What kind of mental state it is exactly, and how it is morally motivating is unclear, however. This article presents a theory of saṃvega -- what it is and how it works -- based on recent insights in psychology. According to dual process theories there are two kinds of mental processes organized in two" systems" : the experiential, automatic system (...) 1, and the rational, controlled system 2. In normal circumstances, system 1 does not believe in its own mortality. Saṃvega occurs when system 1 suddenly realizes that the "subjective self" will inevitably die (while system 2 is already disposed to affirm the subject's mortality). This results in a state of shock that is morally motivating under certain conditions. Saṃvega increases mortality salience and produces insight in suffering, and in combination with a strengthened sense of loving-kindness or empathic concern both mortality salience and insight in suffering produce moral motivation. (shrink)
In (2011) McLeod suggested that the first century Chinese philosopher Wang Chong 王充 may have been a pluralist about truth. In this reply I contest McLeod's interpretation of Wang Chong, and suggest "quasi-pluralism" (albeit more as an alternative to pluralism than as an interpretation of Wang Chong), which combines primitivism about the concept of truth with pluralism about justification.
Putnam and Davidson both defended coherence theories of justification from the early 1980s onward. There are interesting similarities between these theories, and Putnam’s philosophical development lead to further convergence in the 1990s. The most conspicuous difference between Putnam’s and Davidson’s theories is that they appear to fundamentally disagree on the role and nature of conceptual schemes, but a closer look reveals that they are not as far apart on this issue as usually assumed. The veridicality of perceptual beliefs is a (...) cornerstone of both Davidson’s and Putnam’s later (but not earlier) coherentism. However, this thesis introduces a form of weak foundationalism into their theories, and consequently, those are strictly speaking not pure coherence theories, but hybrids between coherentism and foundationalism. (shrink)
The most common way of dealing with the fear of death is denying death. Such denial can take two and only two forms: strategy 1 denies the finality of death; strategy 2 denies the reality of the dying subject. Most religions opt for strategy 1, but Buddhism seems to be an example of the 2nd. All variants of strategy 1 fail, however, and a closer look at the main Buddhist argument reveals that Buddhism in fact does not follow strategy 2. (...) Moreover, there is no other theory that does, and neither can there be. This means that there is no tenable theory that denies death. There may be no universally psychologically acceptable alternative, however, which would mean that if denying death is incoherent, this is an unavoidable incoherence. (shrink)
This paper presents a simple model to estimate the number of languages that existed throughout history, and considers philosophical and linguistic implications of the findings. The estimated number is 150,000 plus or minus 50,000. Because only few of those remain, and there is no reason to believe that that remainder is a statistically representative sample, we should be very cautious about universalistic claims based on existing linguistic variation.
In “Real Patterns” Daniel Dennett developed an argument about the reality of beliefs on the basis of an analogy with patterns and noise. Here I develop Dennett’s analogy into an argument for descriptivism, the view that belief reports do no specify belief contents but merely describe what someone believes, and show that this view is also supported by empirical evidence. No description can do justice to the richness and specificity or “noisiness” of what someone believes, and the same belief can (...) be described by different sentences or propositions (which is illustrated by Dennett’s analogy, some Gettier cases, and Frege’s puzzle), but in some contexts some of these competing descriptions are misleading or even false. Faithful (or truthful) description must be guided by a principle (or principles) related to the principle of charity: belief descriptions should not attribute irrationality to the believer or have other kinds of “deviant” implications. (shrink)
(First paragraph.) Ontology is often described as the inquiry into what exists, but there is some disagreement among (meta-) ontologists about what “existence” means and whether there are different kinds or senses of “existence” or just one; that is, whether “existence” is equivocal or univocal. Furthermore, there is a growing number of philosophers (many of whom take inspiration from Aristotle’s metaphysical writings) who argue that ontology should not be concerned so much with what exists, but with what is fundamental or (...) real (or something similar). Each of the positions in this debate is centered on a concept or small class of concepts that is intended to capture what ontology is about. Examples of such ontological core concepts are: existence, subsistence, Dasein, being, independent being, being real, being fundamental, being a fundamental constituent of reality, being irreducible. This paper intends to answer the twofold question of what (kind of notions) these ontological core concepts are, and how (and how much) they (can) differ. I will argue that there can be no difference between such concepts other than differing domains, and that any domain is a restriction in a maximally expanded universe, and therefore, equivalent to a (restricting) property. Furthermore, such differences between domains (or restricting properties) are intertranslatable, and consequently, there is not much room for substantial difference. Whatever difference remains is largely due to differences in focus or differences in the (phrasing of) questions ontologists try to answer. (shrink)
Othering is the construction and identification of the self or in-group and the other or out-group in mutual, unequal opposition by attributing relative inferiority and/or radical alienness to the other/out-group. Othering can be “crude” or “sophisticated”, the defining difference being that in the latter case othering depends on the interpretation of the other/out-group in terms that are applicable only to the self/in-group but that are unconsciously assumed to be universal. The Mass Noun Thesis, the idea that all nouns in certain (...) languages are grammatically and folk-ontologically similar to mass nouns in English, is an example of such sophisticated othering. According to this Thesis, (a) count nouns refer to discrete objects and mass nouns to stuffs; (b) the other’s language has only mass nouns and thus no count nouns; and therefore, (c) the other’s folk-ontology is an ontology of mass stuffs only. There is much evidence, however, that folk-ontology is independent from language. This paper argues that the Mass Noun Thesis is a case of sophisticated othering rooted in a conflation of grammatical and ontological conceptions of mass and count nouns that is applicable to the language of the interpreter/self but not to the languages of the relevant others, and that othering in this case is driven by a need to create some radically alien other to support a scientific or philosophical theory. (shrink)
This paper argues that Davidson's argument against conceptual schemes fail against so-called "Applied Relativisms", i.e. theories of conceptual relativism found outside philosophy such as Whorf's. These theories make no metaphysical claims, which Davidson seems to assume. Ultimately, the misunderstanding (and resulting strawman argument) illustrates (the effect of) differences in conceptual schemes more than that it undermines it.
This paper analyzes some grammatical aspects of the English verb "to mean" and its nominalizations, and based on that, argues that meaning is something that people do rather than something that words have.
(First paragraph.) Different views on the relation between phenomenal reality, the world as we consciously experience it, and noumenal reality, the world as it is independent from an experiencing subject, have different implications for a collection of interrelated issues of meaning and reality including aspects of metaphysics, the philosophy of language, and philosophical methodology. Exploring some of these implications, this paper compares and brings together analytic, continental, and Buddhist approaches, focusing on relevant aspects of the philosophy of Donald Davidson, Jacques (...) Derrida, Dharmakīrti, and Dōgen. Prima facie, these philosophers have little in common, and indeed the differences are vast. Even in case of the two Western thinkers there is a fundamental difference between Davidson’s anti-dualist identification of phenomenal, experienced reality with the noumenal, real, external world on the one hand, and the bracketing or elimination of noumenal reality at the base of Derrida’s thought on the other, which lead to radically different ideas with regards to (the possibility and nature of) objectivity and our linguistic access to the real/external/noumenal world. Nevertheless, there are important similarities between Dharmakīrti’s theory of apoha and Davidson’s and Derrida’s theories of triangulation and différance respectively, and these similarities can be exploited to bridge some of the differences and attempt a constructive engagement. (shrink)
Philosophy once started as the critical reflection on relatively ordinary human concerns. Increasing specialization has moved the discipline farther and farther away from these concerns, however, undermining its relevance outside the academy, but has also resulting in an ever increasing fragmentation. This fragmentation has further divided the field into a large number of esoteric communities that hardly understand each other. "Further divided", because philosophy was already divided into schools and traditions that seem to speak mutually unintelligible languages. In addition to (...) these problems for philosophy as a discipline or "cultural genre" (Rorty), this situation also creates a problem for individual philosophers who are driven primarily by the "big" and ordinary concerns that once founded the field, but that do not fit well in contemporary academic philosophy. In this essay, I suggest - but ultimately do not fully endorse - metaphilosophical anarchism as a possible solution to these problems. Metaphilosophical anarchism requires transparency and rejects opacity, but so do all other approaches to philosophy - at least officially - and if that is right, then anarchism has nothing new or different to offer. (shrink)
This is the published version of a talk on meta-ontology in a conference of a multidisciplinary research project on "logic and sensibility". It argues against univocalism about "existence" and for a variety of perspectivism.
(First paragraphs.) The idea that our language somehow influences our thought can be found in philosophical and scientific traditions of different continents and with different roots and objectives. Yet, beyond the mere theoretical, explorations of the idea are relatively scarce, and are mostly limited to relations between very concrete conceptual categories and subjective experiencing and remembering – to some kind of ‘psychologies of folk-ontology’. Thought as process, reasoning or ‘thinking’, and the role of more complex or abstract concepts in (such) (...) thought tend to be mostly ignored in psychology and philosophy. Conceptual and intellectual history, on the other hand, cannot be accused of such neglect, but the common lack of a comparative perspective in those fields precludes any generalized inference. Furthermore, while a comparative study on the role of complex or abstract concepts in thought as process and its products (the aggregate ‘thought’ of schools, ages, and regions) could result in a considerable enrichment of our understanding of the relationships between language and thought, it would not necessarily be recognized as such because of a fundamental difference in the nature of the concepts involved, affecting the boundary of ‘language’ in the pair ‘language and thought’. More concretely, while the concepts of the ‘psychologies of folk-ontology’ are rather concrete categories of ‘things’ or aspects of experienced reality (hence, ‘folk-ontology’), the abstract concepts of (comparative) conceptual history, such as ‘society’ or ‘reason’, are categories of ideas. Consequently, conceptual history is inseparably tied to the history of ideas, and there is no strict boundary line between concepts, theories, ideas, and aggregate thought in general. It could, therefore, be argued that a comparative conceptual history would be a study of the influence of ideas on thought, rather than of language on thought. That argument, however, would either void language of content, or make the dubious claim that folk-ontology is a fundamentally different type of content than theoretical content. The ‘psychologies of folk-ontology’ study the influence of folk-ontological categories on folk-ontological thought (experiencing and remembering), and a comparative conceptual history would study the influence of theoretical categories (or conceptualized ideas) on theoretical thought (thinking, reasoning, etc.), and there does not seem to be a good reason to exclude either type of categories from ‘language’. Perhaps it should be argued instead that the ambiguous term ‘language’ in the pair ‘language and thought’ would better be replaced with ‘concepts’ or ‘categories’. (shrink)
Any social and political arrangement depends on acceptance. If a substantial part of a people does not accept the authority of its rulers, then those can only remain in power by means of force, and even that use of force needs to be accepted to be effective. Gramsci called this acceptance of the socio-political status quo “hegemony.” Every stable state relies primarily on hegemony as a source of control. Hegemony works through the dissemination of values and beliefs that create acceptance (...) and that serve the interests of the state and/or the ruling elite (the “hegemones”). Hegemony is most efficient if it remains invisible. A key hegemonic belief is the idea that there is no alternative to the current socio-political status quo or that the way things are is “natural.” The current hegemony – that is, the set of values and beliefs that bolster the current socio-political status quo – is a hegemony of psychopathy: it promotes “cultural psychopathy” and destroys empathy and compassion, thus threatening everything that makes us human. The hegemony of psychopathy is responsible for massive human suffering. It must be fought and replaced with a counter-hegemonic set of values and beliefs that promote compassion and care. Fighting hegemony requires fighting the “pillars” that support it. Most important among these are the mass media and culture industry, and mainstream economics. The former is responsible for a continuous stream of hegemonic propaganda; the latter – among others – for providing a pseudo-scientific justification for the false belief that there is no alternative. The book concludes with some considerations on tactics and strategy in the struggle against the hegemony of psychopathy, but does not – and cannot – offer any concrete advice. (shrink)
The culture-economy dialectic (CED) – the opposition of the concepts and phenomena of culture and economy – is one of the most important ideas in the modern history of ideas. Both disciplinary boundaries and much theoretical thought in social science are strongly influenced or even determined by the CED. For that reason, a thorough analysis and evaluation of the CED is needed to improve understanding of the history of ideas in social science and the currently fashionable research on the cultural (...) influences on economic differences between countries and regions. This thesis is an attempt to do just that. The concepts of “culture” and “economy” (and related concepts) and the (assumed) relations therebetween are compared and analyzed. Empirical results from earlier studies are summarized and some new test are presented. These new tests are partly based on a measurement of Dutch regional culture. However, most theories of the CED are (nearly) impossible to verify (empirically). There appears to be some influence of wealth on specific cultural phenomena (such as individualism and post-materialism), but the often assumed influence of culture on entrepreneurship and economic growth remains unconfirmed. Moreover, from an analysis of the theories themselves, it appears that most of these cannot be falsified and are, therefore, hardly 'scientific'. Many of the theories of the CED and, in fact, many theories of social science in general are of a conceptual rather than a causal nature. These theories cannot be falsified (or verified) by empirical means alone, but must be studied by means of conceptual analysis. In the final conclusions, this thesis, therefore, argues for conceptual analysis in – and a more anarchist approach to – social science. (shrink)