Category Archives: Metaphysical musings

Idealism and contingency

(Reading Terry Pinkard’s marvelous German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism) It may be that the tenability of idealism comes down to the question of history. A resolute idealist discovers that the most fundamental framework of existence is expressed as … Continue reading

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Reality is down the hall

“It is therefore worth noting,” Schopenhauer writes, “and indeed wonderful to see, how man, besides his life in the concrete, always lives a second life in the abstract.” I suppose you might say that some of us (especially college professors) … Continue reading

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Learning from strangers on planes

R. G. Collingwood’s principles of history: “All history is history of thought.” “Historical knowledge is the re-enactment in the historian’s mind of the thought whose history he is studying.” “Historical knowledge is the re-enactment of a past thought incapsulated in … Continue reading

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The obstaclean theory of matter

Denying the existence of the material world never goes down well. No matter how clever and compelling the arguments, most of us want to insist that matter exists – and as our insistence becomes more vehement, we start pounding tables, … Continue reading

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On Thinking Schelling’s Absolute

Reading Schelling, or even only about Schelling, helps us understand Hegel’s frustration when he called the philosophy of the Absolute “the night in which all cows are black.” The Absolute covers everything under the sky, and rather than illuminating anything, … Continue reading

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Fichte’s ostensible incomprehensibility

Arthur Schopenhauer did not have much use for Fichte. He thought Fichte’s mistakes arose from the fact that Fichte did away with Kant’s realm of things in themselves, leaving human consciousness free to just spin in any direction without any … Continue reading

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Does the universe know its right hand from its left?

Or, in other words: is there really any difference between the universe and its mirror image? I remember once reading one of Richard Feynman’s lectures in physics in which he took on this problem. True to form, Feynman found a … Continue reading

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Illness, enlightenment, salvation: on al-Ghazali and Deutsch

Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) was a Persian mystic philosopher, and wrote the Deliverance from Error as a kind of intellectual autobiography, while at the same time an argument for sufism. (A student gave me the book after sitting through my epistemology class, … Continue reading

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Kantian philosophy, part 5: what to do about space

The invention or discover of non-Euclidean geometry really messed up philosophers’ claims to apriori knowledge. For centuries, philosophers were sure that claims like, “The angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles” are paradigmatically clear examples of apriori … Continue reading

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Kantian philosophy, part 4: whether our fixed paradigm is natural

In the previous posts, I’ve been pursuing the idea that our ability to understand experience – interpret it and offer explanations and justifications – requires making a Kantian move: we should postulate some structure inherent to our minds that formats … Continue reading

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Kantian philosophy, part 3: from thin to thick Kantianism

The central claim in Kant’s philosophy is that our experience is somehow formatted by the nature of our understanding. Why think this is so? In part 2, I made a general case for thinking that humans are special in that … Continue reading

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Kantian philosophy, part 2: why be interested

In part 1, I gave a quick description of Kant’s epistemological project: to uncover what might be called the human “operating system,” or the fixed interpretive framework humans employ in encountering and understanding experience. I also made a couple of … Continue reading

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On Kantian philosophy, part 1: Kant’s project (in the CPR)

As the title of this post suggests, I’m intending to write several posts reflecting on Kant’s philosophy. I’m doing this because I have a distant goal of writing a book arguing that Kant was essentially right. In the Critique of … Continue reading

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Taking out Hume’s appendix

Just returned from the Central APA which was wonderfully and surprisingly rejuvenating. In the past I have found such conventions numbing, but this time – and maybe ’twere just my ‘tude – I found a lot of nourishment at this … Continue reading

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Ruh roh!

From John McDowell, Mind and World (1994), pp. 77-78: It can seem that we must be picturing the space of reasons as an autonomous structure – autonomous in that it is constituted independently of anything specifically human, since what is … Continue reading

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