Wiki Contributions


  1. You may be forgetting Canada, Australia and New Zealand. When a philosophical field is preeminent in the English speaking part of the developed world; and of significant (but secondary) importance in non-English speaking European countries; it's a pretty good bet that it's the largest school of Western philosophy (population of CANZUK+US > population of Western Europe - UK; and I would guess the distribution of funding/size of philosophical faculties would only amplify this trend).
  2. It strikes me as odd to say that Continental ideas couldn't usefully be "formalised" in any way. When Continental philosophers write books or give lectures, are they not tacitly "formalising" their ideas: setting out what they are, how they relate to other ideas, and so on? If they can do this in their own work, shouldn't other people come along and present those ideas and their relations in a different, clearer and more useful fashion? Indeed, isn't that what teachers of Continental philosophy have been doing for the past hundred years or so? Perhaps Continental philosophy aims to be genuinely impenetrable: but that seems a little uncharitable. 
  3. I agree with you that, as described, phenomena themselves may not fit into a Web structure, given they may have no relations to other phenomena. However, as your post demonstrates, Husserl also developed theories about phenomena, what they were, what they were relevant to (our process of doing philosophy, our understanding of the world, etc.). That theory is one that presumably supports, contributes to, or opposes other philosophers' understandings of how philosophy should be conducted/how we understand the world - and thus exhibits all the characteristics needed to integrate it into a web of theories and their relationships (N.B. that the Web wouldn't be limited to purely logical relations).
  4. I'll definitely concede that Philosophy Web makes use of "standard" Western notions of truth value at a meta level; although it could integrate theories about the nature of truth etc. into an object level analysis.

Hey Alex, thanks for your thoughts. My response would be as follows: 

  1. Analytic Philosophy is probably the preeminent field of philosophical enquiry in the developed world. So, even if Philosophy Web did prove constrained to Analytic Philosophy, it would still possess major epistemic value (the Hubble Telescope is only useful for astronomy, the Hadron Collider is only useful for particle physics, etc.; but that's not really a problem given the importance of those fields).
  2. Having said that, Philosophy Web ought to be able to capture a wide variety of schools of thought, going well beyond the Analytic:
    1. As regards Classic Philosophy, overlapping concepts ought to be amenable to formalisation in a Philosophy Web type structure: they would simply share some relations of support and opposition (to the extent they overlapped), and not share others (to the extent they did not overlap). Now of course this could create presentational problems (how to show fifty slightly different versions of concept x), but those should also be superable: for instance through sensitivity filters which let you see more or less versions of very similar concepts.
    2. As regards Continental Philosophy, perhaps continental philosophers would object to their ideas being characterised as "concepts" (I am not well read enough in Continental Philosophy to know). However they nevertheless have "theories" (or "ideas", or however else they might want to characterise their units of thought); and those theories contradict, entail, support, oppose, or otherwise relate to other theories. But this is all that is necessary for those "theories" to be usefully displayed in a Philosophy Web style structure.
    3. As regards Eastern Philosophies, Philosophy Web would indeed initially model Western Philosophy, as it would be easier to model a contiguous tradition, whose theorists are in open dialogue with one another, than to have to make a huge number of guesses at how the concepts of very different philosophical traditions relate. However I'm afraid I don't quite understand how a negation based term would fail to be representable in a conceptual web - wouldn't you just include more relations of negation and less relations of entailment?

A final, more general point, is that Philosophy Web would not be intended as a way to definitively prove a given theory, but rather as a tool to assist individuals in identifying fruitful paths for research, potential implications of their ideas, hidden contradictions to explore, etc. Thus Philosophy Web does not need to capture (the connections between) concepts in a manner that is logically irrefutable by detractors of any school; it only needs capture them with sufficient fidelity to materially assist the theorising of those who use it. 

Eliezer, to the extent that any epistemic progress has been made at all, was it not ever thus?

To give one example: the scientific method is an incredibly powerful tool for generating knowledge, and has been very widely accepted as such for the past two centuries.
But even a cursory reading of the history of science reveals that scientists themselves, despite having great taste in rationalist institutions, often had terrible taste in personal rationality. They were frequently petty, biased, determined to believe their own theories regardless of evidence, defamatory and aggressive towards rival theorists, etc. 
Ultimately, their taste in rational institutions coexisted with frequent lack of taste in personal rationality (certainly, a lack of Eliezer-level taste in personal rationality). It would have been better, no doubt, if they had had both tastes. But they didn't. But in the end, it wasn't necessary that they did. 

I would also make some other points:
1. People tend to have stronger emotive attachments - and hence stronger biases - in relation to concrete issues (e.g. "is the theory I believe correct") than epistemic institutions (e.g. "should we do an experiment to confirm the theory"). One reason is that such object level issues tend to be more politicised. Another is that they tend to have a more direct, concrete impact on individual lives (N.B. the actual impact of epistemic institutions is probably much greater, but for triggering our biases, the appearance of direct action is more important (cf thought experiments about sacrificing a single identifiable child to save faceless millions)). 

2. Even very object-level biased people can be convinced to follow the same institutional epistemic framework. After all, if they are convinced that the framework is a truth-productive one, they will believe it will ultimately vindicate their theory. I think this is a key reason why competing ideologies agree to free speech, why competing scientists agree to the scientific method, why (by analogy) competing companies agree to free trade, etc. 
[The question of what happens when one person's theory begins to lose out under the framework is a different one, but by that stage, if enough people are following the epistemic framework, opting out may be socially impossible (e.g. if a famous scientist said "my theory has been falsified by experiment, so I am abandoning the scientific method!", they would be a laughing stock)]

3. I really worry that "everyone on Earth is irrational, apart from me and my mates" is an incredibly gratifying and tempting position to hold. The romance of the lone point of light in an ocean of darkness! The drama of leading the fight to begin civilisation itself! The thrill of the hordes of Dark Side Epistemologists, surrounding the besieged outpost of reason! Who would not be tempted? I certainly am. But that is why I suspect.  

RE 1: yes, but it’s a matter of degree. Technically every scientific theory is somewhat unfalsifiable (you can always invent saving hypotheses). But some are more falsifiable than others (some lend themselves to saving hypotheses, don’t make clear predictions in the first place, etc.) so falsifiability is still a useful criterion of theory choice. Likewise here with IB and needless jargon.

RE 2: This may just be my current writing style! I appreciate any constructive comments on how it might have been phrased better.

Point taken and edited accordingly.

I knew there were more than two possibilities, and didn't say the two I highlighted were the only possibilities for that reason. But I concede that the original wording unnecessarily suggested this. 

Appreciate the feedback - and have edited that section accordingly to refer to Antifa only, versus BLM. 

My impression with them is that they have deeper historical roots than BLM, though their emergence into public consciousness is probably much more recent.