Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Paradox of Phenomenal Observation

The Paradox of Phenomenal Observation
Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology (1996), 27: 294-312
In this paper I will argue that when subjected to a rigorous analysis, the concept of event - the concept of something happening - is somehow incompatible with the concept of time - conceived of as duration. As a consequence of this, I will argue that what "really" takes place cannot take place in time. A "real" happening cannot have a duration. The sense in which I use "real" here, is the sense in which a strong Realism uses the term: real as opposed to phenomenal.
The argument which follows aims to prove that our thought cannot conceptualise real change, but that every time thought attempts to pick out change, it can only collapse into a description of further states. The argument will throw a light on the nature of our knowledge. It will show that ultimately, we cannot talk about what really takes place, but can only offer descriptions of processes in which change is assumed. Change can never be picked out as it really happens.
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Mathematical Solutions Of Zeno's Paradoxes Miss The Point

Why Mathematical Solutions Of Zeno's Paradoxes Miss The Point: Zeno's One And Many Relation And Parmenides' Prohibition
The Review of Metaphysics 50 (December 1996): 299-314. (Download article pdf)

MATHEMATICAL RESOLUTIONS OF ZENO's PARADOXES of motion have been offered on a regular basis since the paradoxes were first formulated. In this paper I will argue that such mathematical "solutions" miss, and always will miss, the point of Zeno's arguments. I do not think that any mathematical solution can provide the much sought after answers to any of the paradoxes of Zeno. In fact all mathematical attempts to resolve these paradoxes share a common feature, a feature that makes them consistently miss the fundamental point which is Zeno's concern for the one-many relation, or it would be better to say, lack of relation. This takes us back to the ancient dispute between the Eleatic school and the Pluralists. The first, following Parmenide's teaching, claimed that only the One or identical can be thought and is therefore real, the second held that the Many of becoming is rational and real. I will show that these mathematical "solutions" do not actually touch Zeno's argument and make no metaphysical contribution to the problem of understanding what is motion against immobility, or multiplicity against identity, which was Zeno's challenge.

A Phenomenal Theory of Causality

Temporal Relations vs. Logical Reduction: A Phenomenal Theory of Causality
Axiomathes, Volume 18, Number 3/339-358, September, 2008

Kant, in various parts of his treatment of causality, refers to determinism or the principle of sufficient reason as an inescapable principle. In fact, in the Second Analogy we find the elements to reconstruct a purely phenomenal determinism as a logical and tautological truth. I endeavour in this article to gather these elements into an organic theory of phenomenal causality and then show, in the third section, with a specific argument which I call the "paradox of phenomenal observation", that this phenomenal determinism is the only rational approach to causality because any logico-reductivistic approach, such as the Humean one, would destroy the temporal order and so the very possibility to talk of a causal relation. I also believe that, all things said, Kant did not achieve a much greater comprehension of the problem than Hume did, in his theory of causality, for he did not free a phenomenal approach from the impasse of reductivism as his reflections on "simultaneous causation" and "vanishing quantities" indeed show, and this I will argue in Sect. 4 of this article.

Keywords : Causality - Kant - Simultaneous causation - Paradox of phenomenal observation - Cause and effect - Hume secret powers

The Presumption of Movement

The Presumption of Movement
Axiomathes , Volume 17, Number 2/137-154, July, 2007

The conceptualisation of movement has always been problematical for Western thought, ever since Parmenides declared our incapacity to conceptualise the plurality of change because our self-identical thought can only know an identical being. Exploiting this peculiar feature and constraint on our thought, Zeno of Elea devised his famous paradoxes of movement in which he shows that the passage from a position to movement cannot be conceptualised. In this paper, I argue that this same constraint is at the root of our incapacity to conceptualise the unseen movement at the micro-level and that the aporetic idea of super-position far from opening the gate on a deeper reality is a symptomatic word for this lack of understanding.

Keywords : Zeno - Movement - Reality - Parmenides - Causality - Quantum reality - EPR - Einstein Podolsky Rosen - Quantum physics - Zeno's paradoxes

Essays on the Roots of Secularization

I am very (very) happy to announce that my second book has just been published by Peter Lang

Orphans of the One or the Deception of the Immanence – Essays on the Roots of Secularization

A Collection of Essays in Metaphysics and Epistemology which explore the evolution of the idea of the One and Many, seen as the key principle to understand the process of secularization and immanentization of the One in the West. This process rather than promoting the life of the many has caused their progressive loss of meaning and value at the moral level, whilst at the epistemological level has meant the creation of unsolvable problems for western philosophical thought.

In fact,the dichotomy of One and Many – where the One is seen as the identity of the form of thought, a self-evident truth to which Western thought has always tried to reduce the knowledge of phenomena - and the Many, as the dimension of change given in consciousness - is the key to understand and put in focus the most obstinate  metaphysical and epistemological problems of Western thought and the contemporary moral crisis of our culture.

What does it mean ‘to know’ since Parmenides formalized this dichotomy? And what is the relationship between the rational truth that is knowable by a self-identical thought and the life of the many - the temporal dimension which is given in consciousness?

The work starts from Parmenides’ transformation of the cosmogonic One, as the principle of everything, into the identity of thought and being. It continues through to modern thought which, as scientific thought, will transform the One into the One of mathematics which equalizes the many by reducing them to quantities. The book then follows through to contemporary post-modern thought whose relativism and nihilism ensues  from this equalization of the many.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is a Human Being?

This is the foreword for the Conference Proceedings for the 3rd International Conference on Coma and Consciousness; Salerno, 4-7 July 2010

Let us remember – since such are the facts - that ‘bio-ethics’ and the State’s obsession with euthanasia were explicit categories of the Nazism. Fundamentally, Nazism was a thoroughgoing ethics of life. It had its own concept of ‘dignified life’, and it accepted implacably, the necessity of putting an end to undignified lives.
Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London: Verso, 2001)

There are times in life when even a philosopher will have to ask herself: What is a human being? Even we who have conceptualized morality, even we who have presumed to have the right to ask: what is virtue, what is justice, even before asking, even before having understood what is a human being, even we should stop and try to understand of whom we are talking about and what this being is capable to bear.

To ask and answer this question is a preliminary step to the pretence of any ethical position about the dignity of human life, and thus for the constitution of any so called bio-ethical commission which pretends to be entrusted with the responsibility to define what neurological states together with ostensible behaviour underpin a dignified human life.

The outcome of such an assessment must be nothing less than the key to our happiness. Since we pretend to define in this way the limits of what is the minimum bearable for a dignified human life, we must presume to be able to find the necessary requirements for the definition of human happiness. We cannot stop shorter than that in our pursuit of an answer to the question, because "dignity", it is believed, is what we need to be human and therefore to be able to bear a human life and thus to be happy. For what is happiness if not the fulfilment of one's essence and therefore of one's humanity? And is this dignity not the necessary and sufficient requirement for the fulfilment of our essence as human beings? So a human life to be defined as such has to be dignified and to be dignified means ultimately to fulfil one's essence. This is a definition of happiness, but so far we have not answered the question but only moved in a circle. The reason for this is that we are dealing with a badly posed problem. For the first move is to understand what it means to be human, not what it is to be a "dignified" human being, or what is a self-justified human life, because this already presumes an individual perspective on the "minimum requirement" for being human: dignity in this case, for which we are presuming a general agreement. It is what in philosophy is called petitio principii or begging the question.

In all honesty the only answer I can find to to the question: "what is a human being?" is the Terentian adagio:

Homo sum, nihil humani a me alienum puto.
I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.

Nothing of what can happen to a human being, is foreign to me and makes me less human. Thus, neither happiness nor dignity is the definition of what has to be a human life, but human life itself, for as long as it is recognized as such and cared for as such. Every other definition is and expresses the superfluous.

In fact, where would we stop in the search for a criterion of what is a dignified and thus self-justified and bearable human life? What would suffice for the criterion of dignity? This is the murky ground where the search for a "good death" opens the floodgate to eugenics and thus to an unrestrained Hedonism. In fact, the gate is already wide open in the Western world and that is what explains such enquiries and pseudo-debates. The real challenge now, for both scientists and philosophers should be to contain the flood, by showing the fallacy behind such presumptuous enquiries. In this the honesty of the scientist is more urgent than that of the philosopher because for better or for worse in our technocratic culture the person on the street looks at scientific knowledge for ultimate answers. The scientist should have both the intelligence and the honesty to admit that there is no criterion for "dignified" human life, other than our Western concept of happiness which is disgusted by what is less than beautiful and perfect (where is the room in our culture for a slow death or old age, for example?).

Therefore, we should ask now: Is there really a criterion which comes to our aid from science - a theoretical and thus absolute, self-evident knowledge - that can sustain us in our decision of what kind of life is justifiable as human? What categories can be invoked to define such criteria? Are they neurological, psychological or rather purely hedonistic? Nowadays the media - and the confusion that always ensues when serious scientific research is banalized by an information source which has at heart first and foremost to impress the public and keep it in that state of semi-consciousness that allows the indoctrination and the dependence for mediatic information - are enforcing on us the belief that we have the support of the neurological sciences in establishing such criteria for a "dignified life". But can any serious scientist believe that there is now or could ever emerge in future, some theoretical knowledge on which everybody agrees, and which can thus substitute the moral choice based, as usual, on the individual situation, chance, the circumstances of life, the maze of the consciences, combined with a rigorous treatment of the clinical situation, as the ultimate judge of each and every life and death?

Thus, what is Bio-Ethics if not a doctrine that tries once again to reduce to theoresis what cannot even be conceived outside the singularity of the pathos of each individual life?