Robert Pippin – Hegel’s Practical Philosophy 1: Ch. 1-2

This is will be our reading for June 10th.  You can find all the details on our page.

Chapter 1: Introduction

There are several questions any account of freedom needs to be able to answer, with three being the most obvious.  First, what is freedom, or what would it mean to act freely?  Second, is it possible to act freely? Third, how important is leading a free life?

These days, these sorts of questions are folded into an area of research called “practical philosophy,” which has two questions of its own.  First, are there events that we can demand justifications for, or are all events caused in the same uniform way?  Is there a real distinction between a human act and a rock rolling downhill?  Second, if the answer to the first question is yes, then we need to ask what counts as a good justification.

Hegel’s theory of freedom, as a theory of both action and value, is his answer to all of these questions.  The standard description of Hegel’s theory says it has two elements.  First, to be free is to have a reflective and deliberate relation to one’s actions, and second, that this is only possible when one is in a certain (institutional and rule-governed) relation to others.

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Being No One One, Precis: Part 2

This is the reading for Sunday, December 12th.  We will be meeting in a Cafe Bene between Jonggak Station and the Kyobo bookstore at 4:30; directions are on the page.

A printable copy is here.  Please print it if you can – I am not sure I will get a chance to print it.

Last week, we saw how Metzinger’s self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT) accounts for the first person perspective with a series of constraints on the brain’s information processing systems.  The first three constraints work together to produce a minimal world: that is, a static representation of an environment.  The globality constraint makes some information available for some systems; the presentationality constraint means that information must be available now, and the transparency constraint basically means the actual processing stages are unconscious, and must be so.

The world is more than a static representation, however.  To achieve an actual first person perspective within a dynamic world, three more minimal constraints are necessary.  The first is convolved holism, which means that our perceptions are always interconnected – there are no decontextualized atoms.  The second is dynamicity, which integrates individual moments in a flow of time (beyond the static nature of presentationality).  The third is perspectivalness, the fact that I experience my experience as my experience.  Finally, Metzinger will put all 6 constraints together into his phenomenal model of intentionality relation and the self.

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Being No One, Precis: Part 1

This will be the reading for Saturday, December 5.  A printable copy can be found here.

In Being No One, Thomas Metzinger attempts to develop an account of the first-person perspective that is both adequate to our phenomenal experience of being persons and to the empirical data, especially the neurological data.  He calls this the self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT).  The SMT is a constraint-satisfaction approach to phenomenal experience: it describes what properties representations in an information-processing system need in order to become phenomenal presentations, i.e. the contents of consciousness (Constraint usually implies limitation, but I think he is just as much using the word to mean condition).

In the full version of this work, there are ten constraints, but this precis covers six of them. First, there is the globality constraint, which means there must be a subset of information which is globally available for many different systems at once.  This is his way of describing the fact that this information is found within a world.  Second, there is the presentationality constraint; this is the window of the “now” in which everything appears as present to us.  Third, the transparency constraint is the fact that we cannot get behind experience to see how it is made; we cannot experience our brain processing information.  The final three constraints extend and deepen the first three, and we will leave them for part 2.

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Ethics, Part 2: The Origin and Nature of the Mind

This will be the reading for Saturday, September 7th meeting.

In Part 1, Spinoza presented a three tiered ontology. God and nature are synonymous, and everything that exists is an expression of this single substance.  God is expressed in infinite attributes, though humans only perceive two: mind and body, also known as thought and extension.  These attributes are modified into particular things, known as modes.  Part 2 applies this logic to the mind/body problem.  Mind and body are the same thing, a unity of the attributes of thought and extension.  This is essentially the descriptive anthropology which underlies his ethical views.

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