Archive for October, 2008


Wiener’s Cybernetics

Norbert Wiener
Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine
Area: Digital Media

•    The mathematician need not have the skill to conduct a physiological experiment, but he must have the skill to understand, criticize, and suggest one
•    Example: Picking up a pencil
o    Unless we’re anatomists, we don’t know the muscles, etc. used in performing the act
o    Doesn’t prevent us from doing so, it’s simply an unconscious movement
•    Cybernetics: influence of mathematical logic
o    Liebniz: universal symbolism and a calculus of reasoning
o    Like his predecessor Pascal, Liebniz was interested in the computing machines of the mental
•    Gestalt: perceptual formation of universals
Chapter One: Newtonian and Bergsonian Time
•    Using Newtonian laws: all we can predict at any future time is a probability distribution of the constants of the system, and even this predictability fades out with the increase of time
o    Time is perfectly reversible: asymmetrical past and future
•    Within any world with which we can communicate, the direction of time is uniform
•    The individual is an arrow pointed through time in one way and the race is equally directed from the past into the future
•    Bergson emphasizes reversible time of physics and irreversible time of evolution and biology
•    Vitalism has won to the extent that even mechanisms correspond to the time-structure of vitalism
43: “To sum up: the many automata of the present age are coupled to the outside world both for the reception of impressions and for the performance of actions.  They contain sense organs, effectors, and information from the one to the other.  They lend themselves very well to description in physiological terms.”
Chapter Eight: Information, Language, and Society
•    We are too small to influence the stars in their courses, and too large to care about anything but the mass effects of molecules, atoms, and electrons
Chapter Nine: On Learning and Self-Producing Machines
•    Two powers characteristic of living systems:
o    Power to learn: capable of being transformed
o    Power to reproduce themselves: multiply one’s likeness
•    Can man-made machines learn and reproduce themselves?


Aristotle’s Rhetoric

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Hamartia: error in judgment; flaw; a fault
o    Fault: springs from error innocence
•    Qualitative Parts: plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and melody
•    Quantitative Parts: Prologue, episode, parode, stasiman, exode
•    Oratorical interest not in parallel between oratory and poetry, but in those between rhetorical and dialectical argumentation
•    Different forms of the soul (Plato): some are ruled by one emotion, others by another
o    By knowing different forms, one can shape argument in specific ways
•    Syllogism as “evidence”
o    But also how these proofs can be mishandled and false
•    Aristotle compares to the first principles of demonstrative science
o    Xviii: “What he means is that a mathematician starts with say a proposition about the angles of an equilateral triangle and goes on to show that, because the triangle with which he happens to be concerned is equilateral, its angles must be stated in the proposition.  As Aristotle sees it, our speaker who makes his case for peace proceeds basically in the same manner as this mathematician.”
•    Presentation of an argument need not bring out logical form (don’t bore audience)
•    Rhetoric is a counterpart of dialectic
•    Essence of rhetoric: appeals of emotion to warp the judgment
•    Definition of rhetoric: faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion
•    Argumentative persuasion = demonstration = rhetorical form is enthymeme
•    The rhetor must provide himself: power of evincing personal character (credibility); power of stirring emotions; power of proving a truth
•    Rhetoric must adapt itself to its audience
•    Three kinds of rhetoric:
o    Political (Deliberative): Future
o    Forensic (legal): Past
o    Epideictic (Display): Present
•    Political speaker enhanced by knowledge of four sorts of governments
•    Epideictic speaker is concerned with virtue and vice: praising one and censuring the other
•    Forensic speaker should have studied wrong doing: motives, perpetrators, victims
•    Non-technical means of persuasion (don’t strictly belong to art of rhetoric):
o    Law, witnesses, contracts, tortures, oaths
•    Enthymemes: not carry reasoning too far back, not put in all the details
o    Start from a commonplace
•    “I have done.  You have heard me.  The facts are before you.  I ask for you judgment.”
Xii: “It is safe to say that the speaker’s own and immediate concern is with his contemporary audience, Aristotle certainly visualizes a speech not as composed for the admiration of literary connoisseurs though all time but as designed for a specific, practical end, as delivered before an audience, as calculated to prove and convince.  In the nature of things it could hardly have been otherwise.”
Xiv: “Plato had rejected rhetoric—the artificier of persuasion—on the ground that its practitioners seek to persuade without having either knowledge of or regard for the truth.  The orator who aims at pleasing the crowd, while working for his own ascendancy, is a slave to the desire for power and operates within a scheme of utterly false values.”
Xvi: “Instead he starts in the case of each emotion with a precise and carefully worded definition which at once indicates under what conditions this emotion may be aroused and what kind of people are amenable to it.  The more specific statements concerning the occurrence of these emotions are derived from this initial definition which serves as a kinds of first principle or basic premise.  This is good scientific method, and a speaker possessed of such knowledge would be able to assess a given situation and to decide what passion could be aroused (or allayed) and how this should be done.”
8: “Since rhetoric—political and forensic rhetoric, at any rate—exists to affect the giving of decisions, the orator must not only try to make the argument of his speech demonstrative and worthy of belief; he must also make his own character look right and put his hearers, who are to decide, into the right frame of mind.  As to his own character: he should make his audience feel that he possesses prudence, virtue, and goodwill.”


Auerbach’s Mimesis

Erich Auerbach
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
From class

•    Bible: God is the effect, not the cause, of Jewish idea
o    Lack of classical idea in Jewish tradition
o    Bible: chosen—personal fate
•    Serious Realism
•    Objective Seriousness
•    Modern Realism
•    Jubilant background and putting people into this
•    Post-Reality from recalling consciousness: Proust
From: David Carroll’s “Mimesis Reconsidered”
•    Concept of reality is problematical
•    Distrust of “systems”: historical explanation/product of the times
o    Absence of authentic communities of thought
•    “All have been destroyed and replaced by preconceived ideological systems which no longer serve a positive function but only serve the interests of particular factions.”
•    No confidence in systems, but complete confidence in man
o    “Man, free of al constraints, al ideologies and philosophies, man as a product of his time but still able to understand others ‘spontaneously,’ man as a concept which is not part of any system but ‘natural’—it is this ‘man’ that one finds throughout Mimesis” (6).
•    Randomness: the changeability of the real
•    The real becomes “externalized,” that is spatialized, so that it can be seized as a full presence.  The eye is supposedly able to capture immediately this externalization of what is.
7: “The real will be defined in each essay as ‘random’ and be characterized by its difference from what is defined as unreal.  Its principal characteristic will be change: imitation of reality is “imitation of the sensory experience of life on earth—among the most essential characteristics of which would seem to be its possessing a history, its changing and developing.  Whatever freedom the imitating artist may be granted in his work, he cannot be allowed to deprive reality of this characteristic, which is its very essence.”  The sense of this ‘randomness,’ the changeability of the real, will become clear as Auerbach proceeds and opposes the ‘random’ to all the pitfalls of philosophy and ideology.  A work is considered to be realistic, therefore, only when it is able to fulfill a series of negative conditions.”
9: “That the senses are free and have an immediate and original contact with the real is a philosophical argument, however, and not a statement of ‘common sense,’ a natural, unquestioned truth.  It should not be impossible to find, therefore, the system which organizes and makes sense out of phenomena, which logically precedes and thus ‘determines’ the moment in which the sense are in contact with the real.”
9: “At each step along the way an immediacy is argued for which would eliminate any difference or distance between the ‘original’ perception and its repeated representation. What Auerbach’s theory of the real posits is the continual repetition of the Same.”
10: “The real as a concept tends to function in Mimesis in the same way that Derrida contends other ‘metaphysical’ concepts (such as being, identity, self, etc.) work: to deny the complexity of the written, to deemphasize the process of interpretation by finalizing it, to dismiss the existence of other levels of meaning and of a plurality of senses for the unity of a single sense—in other words, to reduce in this instance the different levels of historical reality and the problematic nature of the real (the stated goal of Mimesis being to capture this complexity) to a unity, to an acceptable level of comprehension in order for it to be grasped immediately in the plenitude of a full present.”


Latour’s Pandora’s Hope

Bruno Latour
Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies
Area: Digital Media

•    “Do you believe in reality?”
•    Science studies has added reality to science
•    Science Studies (SS): relatively sure of daily practices
•    Descartes: mind requires artificial life-support to keep it viable
o    Looking from inside → out: constant gaze
•    Fear of the mob rule
•    Offering the mind a body—not a spectacle but a lived self-evident, unreflexive extension of the self
•    How is it possible to imagine an outside world?
o    Make the world into a spectacle seen from the inside
•    When SS say there’s no outside world, refuse to grant it the ahistorical, isolated, inhuman, cold, objective existence that was only given to combat the crowd
•    Factish = fact + fetish
•    What does it mean to be “away” from the forest?
o    From this POV there’s no difference between observation and experience: both are constructions
•    Never a resemblance between stages
•    Munsell code (ex: find exact paint sample by matching numbers)
•    Complete rupture between “thing” and “sign”
•    The chain must be reversible
•    Amplification: “We have been able at every stage, to extend our link with already-established practical knowledge, starting with the old trigonometry placed ‘behind’ phenomena and ending up with all of the new ecology, the new findings of ‘botanical pedology’” (71).
•    From text we return to things, displaced a little further
•    2 Major misunderstandings:
o    SS seeks a social explanation
o    SS deals only with discourse and rhetoric, but doesn’t care about the outside world
•    SS: rejects the idea that science is disconnected but doesn’t mean it embraces the social constructivist side either
•    Two types of historians:
o    Pure Politics = externalists
o    Pure Science = internalists
•    Initial vocab is different from final vocab
•    Vocabs of content v. context
o    Context: what explains science is society
o    Content: sciences explain themselves
•    Chains of transactions
o    Exoteric resources: daily papers
o    Esoteric resources: university textbooks
•    One cannot change scientific fact: others need to bring about the transformation
•    Is it rhetoric or proof that finally convinces scientists?
•    Mobilization o the world
o    “The first loop one has to follow can be called the mobilization of the world, if we understand by this very general expression all the means by which nonhumans are progressively loaded into discourse. It is a matter of moving toward the world, making it mobile, bringing it to the site of controversy, keeping it engaged, and making it available for arguments” (99-100).
•    Scientists make the objects move around them
•    2 parallel series of artifacts
o    “In a place of a collective of humans and nonhumans we now have two parallel series of artifacts that never intersect: ideas on the one hand and society on the other.  The first series, which results in the dreams of epistemology and the knee-jerk defensiveness of science warriors, is simply annoying and puerile; the second, which results in the illusion of a social world, is far more damaging, at least for those like me who try to practice a realistic philosophy” (111).
•    “Construction” is in no way the mere recombination of already existing elements
o    Mutual exchange of properties
•    Double meaning of fact: that which is made up and that which is not
•    Who is doing the action in this new medium of culture?
9: “As if it had not been devised so as not to be overcome!—phenomenology leaves s with the most dramatic split in this whole sad story: a world of science left entirely to itself, entirely cold, absolutely inhuman; and a rich lived world of intentional stances entirely limited to humans, absolutely divorced from what things are in and for themselves.”
13: “To avoid the threat of a mob rule that would make everything lowly, monstrous, and inhuman, we have to depend on something that has no human origin, no trace of humanity, something that is purely, blindly, and coldly outside of the City.  The idea of a completely outside world dreamed up by epistemologists is the only way, in the eyes of moralists, to avoid falling prey to mob rule.  Only inhumanity will quash inhumanity.”
13: “This is the argument of the book…can our representations capture with some certainty stable features of the world out there? … Can we find a way to fend off the people? … Conversely, will we still be able to use objective reality to shut the mob’s too many mouths?”
64: “How can we qualify this relation of representation, of delegation, when it is not mimetic yet is so regulated, so exact, so packed with reality, and, in the end, so realistic?  Philosophers fool themselves when they look for a correspondence between words and things as the ultimate standard of truth.  There is truth and there is reality, but there is neither correspondence nor adequatio.”
130: “According to which of these two contradictory features is stressed, the same text becomes either constructivist or realist.  Am I, Pasteur, making up this entity because I am projecting my prejudices onto it, or am I being made up and forced to behave that way because of its properties? Am I, the analyst of Pasteur, explaining the closure of the controversy by appealing to his human, cultural, historical interests, or will I be forced to add to the balance the active role of the non humans he did so much to shape?”
Class Notes
•    What is the limit of rhetoric?
o    Given the history of science?
•    Science: lock on objective reality
o    Rhetoric: decoration? Flourish?
•    Things change in the 20 Century: questions of objective shifts
o    What consequences—voracity of nature of science, work, speaking “truth,” rhetoric contributing something else
•    Latour: looking at science as activity
o    Science: social activity?
•    Do you think Latour belongs in a course on rhetorical theory?
o    Should he be saying “rhetoric” but doesn’t?
o    Dynamic: seems to suggest rhetoric
•    Put in context with what else we’ve read—how does he fit in?
•    Assigning of agency
o    Accounting for interactions—who’s responsible for what?
o    Vitalism
•    Speed Bump: locating all of these things into a material object
•    When technology fails, we notice the technology
•    How we talk about the technology
•    Technology as a co-actor, not a tool
•    Burke: agent and agency
•    In the interaction, what comes first?
o    How does the world become populated by things we interact with?
•    Human/Nonhuman (H/NH) constantly interacting
o    Constant loops of interactions
•    Means and ends
o    Kant: treat humans as having an end (purposiveness?)
•    Humans become the end of technology
o    Requires us as an audience
•    Technology imbued with motive? (not really…)
o    Creative function in the mind
•    Not one person’s discovery
•    Science: politicized—above/outside realm of politics
•    Compact history
•    Might v. Right
o    Might: someone has power, not much you can do about it
•    One can’t bring about change, others need to bring about transformation
•    If we keep philosophical discussion too much, are we doing more harm?
•    Might of science: mist to subsume all humans to obey all laws of nature
•    Facts may be what they may be
o    Global warming (ex.): Latourian H/NH interaction
o    Less rhetoric: scientists prove this is the case and what we should do about it
•    Direct connection between what we know and how we act
o    More rhetoric: interpretative: convince people what to
•    Indirect or no direct connection between knowledge and action
•    What it is people do with what they know
•    Claming final truth is a different way of talking
•    How does the way of talking misconstrue things?
•    The object itself has an impact on environment
o    How do we talk about relationship with these objects?
o    The environments we’ve built constrains or enables us in these ways
•    How do we find responsibility for an act?


Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding

John Locke
Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Abstract General Ideas→ general terms
o    AGIs rather than anything in the world
o    Form AGIs by noticing similarities between ideas
•    Cartesians calls AGIs essence
•    Corpuscular Hypothesis: “new mechanistic science”
o    All events and states in the natural world can be explained with reference to the size, shape, and motion of corpuscules (reality)
•    Boyle
•    Demonstration is reasoning out a proof
o    Each step must be an intuition—depends on intuitive knowledge
•    Essence: quality of something that made is so (knife’s essence = ability to cut)
o    Descartes: 2 essences in the world: thought (essence of mind) and extension (essence of body)
•    Intuition is the highest form of knowledge: mind perceives connections
•    New Mechanistic Science: all explanation can be given in terms of matter and motion
•    Sensitive knowledge: lowest form of knowledge—doesn’t even count
•    Transparency of the Mental: nothing can be in our mind without our being aware of it
•    Veil of Perception: out perception of the world is indirect, filtered through a medium of ideas
•    Essay responds to two schools of thought
o    Aristotelian-influences Scholasticism (“nothing in the intellect, not first in the senses)
o    Cartesian Rationalism (“no trusting the senses until they have been verified by the intellect”)
•    “Of innate ideas” = against he possibility of innate propositional knowledge (whatever is, is) and argues against the possibility of innate ideas (idea of God)
•    Origins of Knowledge are from experience
•    Everything in our mind is an idea that takes one of two routes:
o    Come through senses
o    Come through the mind’s reflection on its own operation
•    Ideas: simple or complex (simple → complex)
•    Knowledge is the perception of strong internal relations that hold among the ideas themselves, without any reference to the external world
•    Four sorts of relations between ideas that would count as knowledge:
o    Identity/diversity
o    Relation
o    Coexistence
o    Actual existence
•    Warns: as good as our opinions becomes, never going to reach the level of knowledge
•    Primary Qualities: ideas which resemble their causes
o    Texture, number, size, shape, motion
•    Secondary Qualities: Ideas which don’t resemble their causes
o    Color, sound, taste, odor
•    Regarding memory: which ideas are best remembered—names the defects of memory
o    Since all mental items must be conscious, there isn’t much room allowed for memory
o    For Locke, memory isn’t literally a place where ideas are stored, but refers ot a power of the mind to revive perceptions it once had
•    Contrary to popular belief, we don’t know bodies better than we know the mind—we only know the observable qualities
•    Knowledge is “the perception by reason of the connection and agreement or repulsion and disagreement between any two or more ideas.”
o    To count as knowledge, connection between ideas must be very strong
•    Knowledge of existence in three parts:
o    Ourselves by intuition
o    God by demonstration
o    External world by resembling the world as we think it is
•    Judgment is a faculty concerned with identifying the truth/falsehoods of propositions
o    Based on probability (≠ knowledge based on intuition and demonstration)

(Thanks to Spark Notes for some invaluable assistance!)


Vickers’ In Defense of Rhetoric

Brian Vickers
In Defense of Rhetoric
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Plato: charged in the Gorgias and Phaedrus that rhetoric is mere “knack” or “routine”
•    Rhetoric has always existed in a symbiotic relationship with society, expanding or contracting itself according to the demand that a social group makes on it
•    Three main genres of oratory (according to Aristotle)
o    Judicial
o    Deliberative
o    Epideictic
•    Two parts of speech according to Aristotle
o    State your case
o    Prove it
7: “Plato makes Gorgias set out the practical advantages of eloquence.  Rhetoric ‘is in very truth the greatest boon, for it beings freedom to mankind in general and to each man dominion over others in his own country…I mean the power to convince by your words the judges in court, the senators in Council, the people in the Assembly, or in any other gathering of a citizen body.’ To Plato, of course, it was deplorable that the rhetorician, not the philosopher, should have such power, but to the majority of students of rhetoric down to the Renaissance its great attraction was just this promise of success in civic life, and its upholding of liberty”
10: “Since ‘nothing done with intelligence is done without speech,’ then ‘speech is the marshal of all actions and of thoughts, and those most use it who have the greatest wisdom.’”


Churchland’s Neurophilosophy

Patricia Churchland

Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain

Area: Digital Media

·        Is it possible to have one grand, unified theory of the mind-brain?

·        Reevaluation of the significance of neuroscientific and psychological findings for philosophical research

·        Work in computer-science and computer modeling of networks has helped to generate concepts of information processing representation and computation that take us well beyond the earlier ideas and provide questions and answers of subintrospective mind-brain processes

·        No large-scale theory of brain function

o       Doesn’t mean there are no theories, just no Governing Paradigm in the Kuhnian sense

·        Intertheoretic reduction, representation, computation, and processes

368-373: Co-evolution of Research on Memory and Learning

·        Memory is at least as bad as a virtual governor

o       “The entire system functions, from an input/output point of view, as a single generator with a greatly increased frequency reliability, or, as control engineers express it, with a single, more powerful, ‘virtual governor’” (355).

·        H.M.=problem of control

o       Can initiate and successfully complete an extended intellectually demanding task even though he has no awareness that he has the knowledge or that he’s executing his knowledge on the task at hand.

·        H.M. has moved some neuropsychologists to postulate two memory systems

o       Descriptive memory: capacity to verbally report recollections

o       Procedural memory: capacity to exhibit a learned skill

3: “The sustaining conviction of this book is that top-down strategies (as characteristic of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence research) and bottom-up strategies (as characteristic of the neurosciences) for solving the mysteries of mind=brain function should not be pursued in icy isolation from one another.  What is envisaged instead is a rich interanimation between the two, which can be expected to provoke a fruitful co-evolution of theories, models, and methods, where each informs, corrects, and inspires others.”

5: “For one think, neuroscience has progressed to the point where we can begin to theorize productively about basic principles of whole brain function and hence to address the questions concerning how the brain represents, learns, and produces behavior.  Second, many philosophers have moved away from the view that philosophy is an a priori discipline in which philosophers can discover a priori principles that neuroscientific theories had better honor on peril of being found wrong.”

October 2008
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