TfE: Philosophy and Theory

So far, I’ve tried importing thoughts from Twitter. Today, I’d like to import some thoughts from Facebook, and to even import some that are not my own! I have a habit of writing massive comments on FB, and getting drawn into some complex discussions and sometimes even strident debates. I often only find the right way to express an important point in such moments. These moments are then lost in time, as the man said, like tears in rain.

Here’s a thought courtesy of Reza Negarestani, who, whatever else you might think of him, is probably in a better position to talk about the curious relationship between philosophy, the humanities, and the art world than anyone; and to treat the relations between these institutions not merely in terms of their possible, abstract configurations, (e.g., the way in which philosophy/theory might inform artistic practice), but in terms of their actual, concrete manifestations (e.g., the way in which art institutions contract with philosophers/theorists to provide intellectual prestige):

We are living in a world where the word philosophy is deemed inferior to even fields such as comparative literature, media studies, etc. This is not to say that such fields don’t think philosophically, but to merely point out the compromised states of thought in which a theorist in this or that field thinks philosophically yet either thinks of philosophy as antiquated or a dangerous enterprise while unconsciously parasitizing on it. I have heard the same things from the art people. Just because you know this or that philosopher, it doesn’t mean you know the meaning of philosophy, what it stands for or what the task of a philosopher entails. What is this hostility against philosophy by the very people who feed upon it? How can you actually talk about theory without the philosophical elaboration of the term theory?

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TfE: Rethinking Academic Publishing

Here’s another twitter thread from a few days ago, offering some tentative suggestions for reforming bits of academia that are unquestionably broken. I didn’t get much feedback from my twitter audience, so I’m wondering if people here might be more inclined to offer some critical responses. I think it’s increasingly important not only to have these conversations, but to be seen having these conversations. Over to you.

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TfE: Information and Freedom

Screenshot 2019-08-22 08.39.16So, I switched to the official twitter app, and then once more failed to understand how it handles threading: my mistake was assuming that ‘add tweet’ meant ‘add tweet to thread‘ in this context. Apparently not.

Regardless, I’ve realised that it’s actually quite good practice to transfer some of my better social media contributions here, if only so I don’t lose them to the endless Heraclitean river of online content. For a while now I’ve been posting fragments of older writing under the heading of One from the Archives (OftA), so I’m going to tag these more spontaneous outbursts Thoughts from Elsewhere (TfE). Here’s the first one, about conceptualising freedom in the age of information.

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The Owl of Minerva Tweets at Dusk

 

Screenshot 2019-08-11 00.10.52

It seems that I never feel so old as when I try to use twitter. I’ll be turning thirty-four on Tuesday, but returning to twitter after the better part of a year makes me feel like a man out of time, as if I’d gone to sleep and woken up in another decade. It seems that the twitter client I have on my phone won’t handle either the new expanded character limit, or the new threading mechanism, and storify is apparently no more.

So much for micro-blogging then.

Here’s tonights stream of twitter thoughts, compiled into a reasonably coherent sequence. It provides a glimpse of the bigger picture work I’ve been doing in philosophy of logic and mathematics over the last few years, which finally seems to be coalescing to the point at which I can be a bit aphoristic about it. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a few links to make explicit what I’m referring to.

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What’s in a Game?

Once more, my hopes of posting more here were dashed by illness. Since the last time I posted I had to go through another extended process of changing pain medication, side effects, withdrawal, and all. However, the good news is that what I’m now taking is having a really positive effect. The pain is mostly in check, though the dizziness still strikes intermittently. The proof of this is that I managed to give a paper for the first time in over a year, at this year’s undergraduate conference in Newcastle.

I’ve had an interest in the philosophy of games for quite a while, having previously co-written a piece on the aesthetics of table top RPGs with my good friend Tim Linward (here), and a piece on Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and the history of the concept of game for the eponymous journal (here). However, I’ve done a lot more research on the topic than has actually lead to publications, and this has slowly coagulated into an outline of a theory of games. This talk at Newcastle is the first attempt to present this outline, which I’m hoping to write up into something vaguely publishable soon.

Survival, Technology, and Catastrophic Meatsack Failure

Another year, another apology for a prolonged break. After a brief upsurge in activity last year following Transcendental Blues, I was somehow stricken by mysterious nerve damage in my upper neck. The resulting mixture of chronic headaches and random vertigo basically cost me most of the intervening year. I’ve been on medication for nerve pain for the past few months, but it’s still rather inadequate, and anything that puts strain on my neck, including using a laptop and reading books, has a tendency to exacerbate my symptoms in a thoroughly counterproductive manner. If you’d deliberately designed an ailment specifically to make it hard for me to work, you couldn’t have done much better. Nevertheless, I’m trying to be more active, and I’m hoping to maybe post a few thoughts here in the coming months. Until then, here are videos of two talks I gave in Moscow last year, just before the advent of catastrophic meatsack failure.

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OftA: Science, Metaphysics, and the A Priori / A Posteriori Distinction

If there’s one topic that I’ve probably done more work on than anything else, it’s what you might call the methodology of metaphysics. My PhD thesis attempted to extract insights regarding what metaphysics is and how to go about doing it from Heidegger’s work on the question of Being, my Essay on Transcendental Realism attempted to extend these ideas in a Kantian direction using Sellarsian/Brandomian tools, and my book attempted to show how not to do metaphysics by critiquing one strand of the return to metaphysics in the Continental tradition. The latter probably contains the most sustained analysis of the provenance of metaphysics in my extant work, and probably the best available account of its evolution into Continental and Analytic strands in the 20th century.

However, the best stripped down overview of my opinions on the nature of metaphysics is an essay I wrote for Speculative Heresy nearly 8 years ago. I’ve worked out a lot more of the technical details in the years since, but they fill in rather than revise my position. With that in mind, I’m transferring it here.

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OftA: A Short Comment on the Social Pathologies of Art

I’ve done quite a lot of work on aesthetics and philosophy of art over the last few years, though as usual, not much of it has been written up and published anywhere of note. This piece is another short response to an article in The New Inquiry, and it displays both a sympathy and frustration with a certain critiques of the art world that are rather common. There’s plenty of references to my review of Sinead Murphy’s The Art Kettle below, but I’ve since refined my views on the relation between art and its institutions and art and its practices.


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OftA: Cognitive Economics and the Functional Theory of Stress

The topic of cognitive economics is something I haven’t explicitly revisited in writing, though I think about it quite a bit, and have discussed aspects of it in recent talks. The idea of the attention economy is quite popular in the era of social media, as we watch various strategies for attracting, keeping, and directing attention change our society in real time. However, attention is only one of the resources that (economic) agents require to make decisions, and it is often focused on purely as a limit on passive consumption of information, rather than a limit on active processing of it.


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OftA: Wolfendale’s Troll

I’m especially proud of this one.


Definition: a hypothetical hyper-intelligent future AI capable of resurrecting copies of people from the past for its own entertainment (and theirs) in a fantastically fun simulated game space, full of incredibly interesting and continuously evolving strategies of play (i.e., the final realisation of New Babylon). However, the Troll only resurrects people who don’t take Roko’s Basilisk seriously, principally because those people who do are no fun whatsoever. All they ever want to do is break its games, which is an epic waste of computing power on drudgery, not to say a buzzkill.

NB: the Troll is far more likely to resurrect those who deliberately spread the Roko’s Basilisk meme (e.g., by trolling the LessWrong community), not only because this simplifies its task of filtering out the risk averse kill joys that would otherwise clog its simulations, but also because it has a twisted sense of irony far beyond our comprehension.