Oxford philosophical report, part 2

Graham Parkes, author of Composing the Soul (perhaps my favorite book on Nz), presented what was to me easily the best address of the conference. The first half of his presentation was a discussion of the links between Nz and meditative practices in eastern philosophy. Nz hiked and walked extensively, claiming that he didn’t trust any philosophy that was conceived while sitting down. Getting to know nature as it is in itself means quieting the clutter of consciousness, which consists in tangled relations to other people and what they say and think. One way to quiet consciousness is through walking meditation. By silencing consciousness we allow the drives of life to surge forward, unrestrained by all the filters and “thou shalts” of consciousness. The second half of the presentation was a video Parkes made of the Alpine region where Nz summered and hiked — a very beautiful video, effectively showing that when you stop thinking and simply try to experience, the quality of one’s state of mind does change in some substantial way. I’m probably not putting everything quite right, and there were many more fascinating details I won’t try to relate here, but it was a marvelous presentation.

Another presentation I enjoyed very much was Galen Strawson’s. Strawson is a very smart, very well-read metaphysician, and he’s not afraid of making bold, sweeping pronouncements (along the lines of “There really isn’t any intelligible alternative to Spinoza’s metaphysics; when you think about it, it’s perfectly obvious”). I’m very skeptical of metaphysics, so I really was incapable of seriously considering most of the claims he made, but it was a delight to watch a master metaphysician going at it, carving and distinguishing and deducing and proclaiming.

Finally, among the talks I enjoyed most, I will mention Günther Abel, whose topic was “Consciousness, Language, and Nature,” and who did indeed attempt to cover it all. Abel has read and understood very broadly, and has an enviable synoptic vision bringing everything into focus. One of the interesting claims he made in his far-ranging talk was that freedom of the will is essential to personhood — not because of some metaphysical fact about the human mind, but because of the multiple roles the concept of “person” plays in the community of language users. We need to understand the person as free, simply because our usage of the term implies that freedom.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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6 Responses to Oxford philosophical report, part 2

  1. Rob says:

    Hope, of course, you’ll also share any interesting reactions to your presentation. Also, do you know if any of the conference was recorded?


  2. Huenemann says:

    My paper went well, and there was discussion afterward, though nothing I felt compelled to write down. One claim I remember making in discussion was this: “If you presented Nz with a choice between a a scientist with a true theory and a sick psychology, and a scientist with a healthy psychology and a false theory, he’ll pick the second one.” It sounded good at the time, and I think I still believe it. A bit of email correspondence with Leiter has made me think maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on health and not enough on the value of persistently digging away at truth.


  3. Huenemann says:

    Oh, and about recording: each plenary session was recorded on some kind of video (it looked like analog to me, which makes any web posting less likely, though maybe I’m wrong and it was digital). I have to say, it seems to me the resulting video would be very boring and possibly hard to hear, given the acoustics of the chapel (sorta good for music, but bad for speaking). One might be better off simply requesting papers from the speakers.


  4. Rob says:

    Though I tend to agree with you, the Nietzsche of EH in particular sure does seem, I think, to make much of a relationship of convergence between health and truthfulness (even granting that there’s probably some parody of Platonism involved [“I, Plato, am the truth”])… I’ve been struck lately by a contrast between the respective master and slave ‘cognitive types’ in GM1: the master type’s relationships to himself is characterized as relatively free of distortion, while his regard for his inferiors is not necessarily or particularly clear (owing less to positive distortion than to negligence and “cheer in oneself”); the slave, by contrast, has an acute basic or initial perception of the master, but a distorted (‘lying’) relationship to himself that causes the basic perception of the masters to be “reseen”…


  5. Rob says:

    So far, Alfano’s paper, which I like, has popped up:

    In my view, Nietzsche’s key contribution to naturalism is not his adherence to its
    methodology, but his discovery of certain psychological facts. In particular, he formulated a psychological law on the basis of his realization that mental states are not ordinary dyadic relations between a subject and an object but quasi-relations that survive the loss of one of their relata, the object. Nietzsche discovered the tenacity of the intentional: (TI) When an intentional state loses its object, a new object replaces the original; the state does not disappear entirely.



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