this is supposed to be about Think...

just a snooty half-reference to schopenhauer's water...but it will probably degenerate into a discussion of the topics in Think and interweave with my most recent podcast. All of which will make this monologue gravitate towards Hume's ideas about cause and effect... but I can't help it (heheh, determinism jokes are fun.)

So..continuing where I left off. I'm almost done with Searle's podcast on the philosophy of society and it synced nicely with reading Think. Basically Searle's point is that human intention and our derivation of meaning are what underly and explain ontologically objective (different from epistemologically objective) social structures.

Things like money's existence, or the idea that someone is a citizen of a given country.
The thing I like most is that he picks apart the category errors that most people make. It's excellent to say that you're being "objective"... but not always helpful. If you're analyzing a scientific theory, you had better be epistemically objective. You can't really say that water is composed of hydrogen and fluorine, unless we suddenly decide that "Fluorine" now means: that atom with 8 protons. Definitions and expressions may be arbitrary, but the brute facts aren't. Whether you use meters or light-years, the actual distance to the sun is the same.
Dollars or sesterces would be completely different. Most "subjectivity" arises from how humans denote value. Certain things exist because we agree that they exist (and the vast mass of institutional facts exist because some sort of "ocracy" finds them useful or valuable in some way.)

A book club is arguably not a fact of the universe (Douglas Adams would probably find something clever to say about that, but I am not he.) However, who's going to say that a book club doesn't exist? That is what Searle argues is an ontologically objective fact. Whether a given book club (or government, whatever) is better than another or whether book clubs are intrinsically worthwhile things and should in fact exist at all, is subjective in every way. Searle seems to think this concept is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

I also think Searle's interpretation of Hume's theory of cause and effect is rather unfair, both to Hume and to people who disagree with it. Now I might be taking this out of context, but it seems like what Hume's actually saying is that cause and effect aren't unreasonable, just that you can never entirely explain the steps in between. That sounds like local skepticism about causal relations. Which you could probably get most reasonable people to agree on.

Surely Hume can't actually be saying that the scientific method is purely inductive and because you can't explain the cause of a cause of a cause each effect is as likely as any other. If that's what he means Hume completely undermines the empiricism that he's so enamored with (which he actually admits in the end of that chapter) since if you're a proper scientific Bayesian (or have some common sense) none of this is an issue, because when you explain that "Yes if the universe were completely arbitrary we might have a green sky tomorrow and this is turn would completely confuse all the people studying tautologies.. but the sky has been blue every morning that I have observed it up until this point. Maybe sky-color is entirely random and by some extraordinary happenstance our universe has had a run of blue skies, but if it is entirely random, than the probability is of a small chance recurring is lower than something with a basis in "fact" (in hume's sense -- as opposed to knowledge attainable by the "mere operation of thought.")

This "trend" implies a cause, not that my eyes are somehow fonder of the idea of a blue sky than a green one. Having a working hypothesis that explains why the sky is blue doesn't mean that I wouldn't have to reformulate my view if the sky is green tomorrow, but as a human -- in order to actually use my brain -- I'm automatically going to draw inferences and might as well draw ones that make some sense. Everything that Hume says practically begs for a universal reductionistic theory of science:

Elasticity, gravity, cohesion of parts, communication of motion by impulse: These are probably the ultimate causes and principles which we shall ever discover in nature, and we may esteem ourselves sufficiently happy, if, by accurate enquiry and reasoning, we can trace up the particular phenomena to, or near to, these general principles.
Which would be okay, except things start to get a lot more complicated and well... chaotic. Indeterminate. And just plain weird. So this theory doesn't appeal to some people on an intuitive level. It could be that there are really no "consequences" and each thing randomly follows another, but to make any sense of things i.e. even if you are the most ridiculous sort of determinist you still need to decide what to do and have a working theory of free will, even if it might turn out to be false. Likewise if you believe everything is an illusion, like Berkeley, or you believe that you are a figment of Brahma's imagination.

If you are a determinist, it would seem more rational to also believe in causes and effects. I might buy the 'unpredictable and unprovable' bit from a Dualist or someone with a penchant for idealism, but if you're a determinist you should have a good (and scientific as possible) reason to believe something that goes against naive/commonsense interpretations of human action, or -- if you're so inclined -- a first-level evolutionary hermeneutic, like: "people who do a given thing live longer and reproduce more."

Unfortunately whenever I start thinking about anything in this area philosophy I get stuck on free-will. I wish people had a more holistic and connected view of philosophy. I've heard many comparisons of different fields, but few people bother to cover the implications of certain theories and how those implications are themselves theories. If you're going to dichotomize everything you might as well do it sensibly; it makes no sense to believe in a soul and determinism. Or "nuture" and explain that someone was genetically predisposed to go on a murder spree. Being generally consistent and not defaulting to standard dogma seems like it would appeal to people (especially people who purport to be scientists) and would be something that they tried to apply, but it doesn't seem to be.

I mention this because some people have a tendency to decide that they and only they are right after interpreting/misinterpreting other peoples rational and/or insane ideas, just as much as others are prone to completely swallowing someone's theory about the universe and never making any modifications.

Also Searle is apparently more famous than most people on iTunesU because his views on speech acts were mentioned in A Short Course in Intellectual Self Defense (which I intend to at least skim when i get the chance, because even if the book is junk it's an awesome title.)
..and oh, he originated the chinese room experiment too.. now I have to re-write this to reflect my cool-idea-I-now-like-you bias ;)

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