Investigation and Interpretation

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Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 02:24 pm
There is now, on this forum, an opportunity to witness, in action, a stark contrast between philosophy as investigation, and philosophy as interpretation. See the threads on the definition of reality, and on knowing that one knows, on the one hand, and the discussion of the groups on Nietzsche on the other hand. And notice too how the discussants of each tend to keep apart. It is quite fascinating. It is as if philosophy was two different subjects.
Neither group seems to take the slightest interest in the other group.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 02:50 pm
@kennethamy,
It's the tortoise and the hare, analysis versus recontextualization. Both sides obsess over language, but with a different focus.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 03:22 pm
@kennethamy,
I'd rather discover truth than ponder over what some dead, old man wrote in a book. I'm much more interested in content rather than interpretation and literary qualities. Philosophizing as if it were literature class just brings me to tears.

Sorry, that sounded incredibly rude! To each his own, no offense! Man, what I wrote sounds really immature. I can't remove it though, lest I be dishonest with myself and others.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 04:07 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;126525 wrote:
Philosophizing as if it were literature class just brings me to tears.


This goes back to the logic/rhetoric tension. How much philosophy gets accomplished in the absence of figurative language? Wittgenstein wanted to show the fly how to get out of the bottle. To me, this is "literature" as well as philosophy.

It's not that I'm saying philosophy should be literature, but that it always has been literature, despite its pretensions to transcend literature. It offers heroes and journeys, slaves in caves, flies in bottles.

Most philosophy that has mattered is grounded, in my opinion, on figurative language. Thinking itself is largely figurative.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 04:24 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;126510 wrote:
It's the tortoise and the hare, analysis versus recontextualization. Both sides obsess over language, but with a different focus.


I am not interested in linguistic analysis. I am interested in spiritual awareness and what it takes to facilitate it. It is a hard thing to explain unless you kind find some common ground with the person you are talking to. Anyway I explained my orientation in this post - basically my view is theosophical rather than philosophical. 'Theosophy' has a very specific meaning - it is like a subset of philosophy, or the intersection between philosophy and contemplative religion. And I have repeatedly said I understand and acknowledge the difference between Western academic and analytical philosophy and the approach I am taking, but I don't think anyone knows what I am talking about, really.

hence the problems.:bigsmile:
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 04:26 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;126525 wrote:
I'd rather discover truth than ponder over what some dead, old man wrote in a book. I'm much more interested in content rather than interpretation and literary qualities. Philosophizing as if it were literature class just brings me to tears.

.


I agree, except for the personalities involved. It is not pondering about dead old men, they do it over live middle-aged men. The problem (for me) is this interminable roundabout of interpretation and "recontextualizing". (Particularly when, as in the case of N. I could not give a damn what he said, or did not say, and cannot understand why anyone would). I have never even head that word "recontextualizing" before, and I don't quite know what it means. But it is sure boring. It is as if there were a guru, a fount of wisdom, and philosophy is about finding out what truths are spouted, rather than critically thinking about philosophy. I bet that even N. would be bored.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 04:27 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126507 wrote:
There is now, on this forum, an opportunity to witness, in action, a stark contrast between philosophy as investigation, and philosophy as interpretation. See the threads on the definition of reality, and on knowing that one knows, on the one hand, and the discussion of the groups on Nietzsche on the other hand. And notice too how the discussants of each tend to keep apart. It is quite fascinating. It is as if philosophy was two different subjects.
Neither group seems to take the slightest interest in the other group.


Quote:
It is as if philosophy was two different subjects.


There are many divergent schools, trends, and traditions in philosophy. But almost anyone in any of the traditional schools have more in common with each other, than any of them do with 20th Century philosophy and scientific materialism.

---------- Post added 02-10-2010 at 09:41 AM ----------

The other point Kennethamy, and I do admit I become piqued at times, is that I try and explain my perspective, which I realize is not a mainstream perspective to many people, and basically feel like it is being ridiculed. At that point I am inclined to give up, and may yet.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 04:44 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126551 wrote:
There are many divergent schools, trends, and traditions in philosophy. But almost anyone in any of the traditional schools have more in common with each other, than any of them do with 20th Century philosophy and scientific materialism.


I don't understand what you mean. What are the "traditional schools"? I should have thought that both Socrates and Descartes would understand what Ayer or Quine were doing and saying than they would understand what Derrida or Foucault were doing or saying. And certainly, neither was interested in interpretation or reinterpretation of previous philosophers. Indeed, Descartes' mission was to reject his tradition.

I cannot honestly remember any time I ridiculed you. If you think I did, why don't you send be the posts where you think I did. I did strongly tell you the truth as I saw it. It reminds me of something that Harry Truman said when, at a rally, he was lambasting the Republicans, and the audience began to chant, "Give 'em hell, Harry!" And Truman replied, "I don't give them hell, I just tell them the truth, and they think it's hell!".
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 05:21 pm
@kennethamy,
When I use the word 'traditional' I am referring, or harking back, to the pre-modern outlook. I am also referring to the 'sapiential' aspects of the traditions, those aspects specifically concerned with the practice of 'spiritual illumination'. They are slightly outside what is regarded as the mainstream tradition, although at the time, they probably were not.

kennethamy;125513 wrote:
And if "all the spiritual philosophies" declare there are higher, more refined states of awareness, again, that is no reason to think that there are such things, or that there is something these "awarenesses" are aware of. People on drugs also declare that they are "aware" of higher states of existence. But there is no reason to think this is true. Indeed, the fact that such people are drugged is a good reason to think it is not true. Just as the fact that the pink elephants that drunks declare they see probably do not exist since they are "seen" by drunks.


And this is where I took umbrage. If you are inclined to think that higher states are comparable to drug-induced fantasies or intoxication then there is probably nothing I can say. The reason why is that in order to investigate the matter, I think there has to be some willingness to entertain the perspectives they offer and see things from their viewpoint. To be honest I can't ever see that happening in this dialog. Presumably you have no reason to believe that any of these things are true, and if that is the way you see it, then you are correct in saying that we will have no common interests. At least we are getting close to understanding why, though.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 08:35 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126557 wrote:
ndeed, Descartes' mission was to reject his tradition.


But Descartes was a Catholic. In those days, being Catholic meant going to mass on Sundays and reciting the Nicene Creed. It formed a great deal of the background of his attitude. It was pre-suppositional to all of his philosophy and outlook on life. In fact I don't think that his philosophy makes much sense outside his devotional tradition.

What has happened in the modern world is that such devotional or spiritual attitudes have been, if not rejected, at least 'internalised' or 'privatised'. They are 'matters of individual conscience'. But this has meant that the public domain is now explicitly devoid of reference to anything sacred. This is the basis of secular normality. I really wonder - and in fact I doubt - that Western philosophy retains a lot of meaning once it has removed itself from its spiritual foundations. It doesn't mean, for me, becoming a Catholic, but it has meant getting to a place where I understand why people are Catholic. This is why I am basically always on about the spiritual aspects of philosophy, such as they are.

So I am criticizing the current conventions, as Descartes was. I don't think many realise how very different the modern Western outlook has actually become from its cultural roots. Of course, it is not strange to its inhabitants. It is just 'normal'. So normality is actually pretty strange. Of course this is a very discomforting and uncomfortable thing to say.

---------- Post added 02-10-2010 at 02:42 PM ----------

anyway I think I will stop now. I have said before, my interests really lie outside philosophy. I do have some philosophical interests but I will acknowledge that what motivates me is spiritual not philosophical, and these are different. I shall try and pick my subjects accordingly in future.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 09:58 pm
@jeeprs,
Here's an interesting excerpt from GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy that compares investigators and the interpreters.

Quote:
Now, if we are to glance at the philosophy of sanity, the first thing to do in the matter is to blot out one big and common mistake. There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man's mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination. Artistic paternity is as wholesome as physical paternity. Moreover, it is worthy of remark that when a poet really was morbid it was commonly because he had some weak spot of rationality on his brain.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:16 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126548 wrote:
I am not interested in linguistic analysis.


I suppose I had Heidegger and Derrida in mind as far as the linguistic continentals. Perhaps you are a little interested in the limits of language?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:27 am
@kennethamy,
Well I am not saying that those who are interested in this aspect of philosophy are wrong or off-base or anything else. It is just that my interests are different. I really think to be honest with everyone here, as this is a philosophy forum, I can be said not to be inside the Analytical or Continental realms of the subject in many of the comments I make. So I think it would be better if I stuck to the threads where the contributors are wanting to discuss the kinds of interests I have, or alternatively, stayed inside the playing field more when it is a regular subject. Anyway I talk too much I sit down here and just type away, it is really time for me to sit back a bit, take stock, do some more reading, and maybe help mentor some newcomers.

---------- Post added 02-10-2010 at 05:31 PM ----------

Part of the Buddhist training is that 'wanting to be right' is a hindrance. Wanting to help others is far more valuable.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:40 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126603 wrote:
But Descartes was a Catholic. In those days, being Catholic meant going to mass on Sundays and reciting the Nicene Creed. It formed a great deal of the background of his attitude. It was pre-suppositional to all of his philosophy and outlook on life. In fact I don't think that his philosophy makes much sense outside his devotional tradition.

What has happened in the modern world is that such devotional or spiritual attitudes have been, if not rejected, at least 'internalised' or 'privatised'. They are 'matters of individual conscience'. But this has meant that the public domain is now explicitly devoid of reference to anything sacred. This is the basis of secular normality. I really wonder - and in fact I doubt - that Western philosophy retains a lot of meaning once it has removed itself from its spiritual foundations. It doesn't mean, for me, becoming a Catholic, but it has meant getting to a place where I understand why people are Catholic. This is why I am basically always on about the spiritual aspects of philosophy, such as they are.

So I am criticizing the current conventions, as Descartes was. I don't think many realise how very different the modern Western outlook has actually become from its cultural roots. Of course, it is not strange to its inhabitants. It is just 'normal'. So normality is actually pretty strange. Of course this is a very discomforting and uncomfortable thing to say.

---------- Post added 02-10-2010 at 02:42 PM ----------

anyway I think I will stop now. I have said before, my interests really lie outside philosophy. I do have some philosophical interests but I will acknowledge that what motivates me is spiritual not philosophical, and these are different. I shall try and pick my subjects accordingly in future.


I meant Descartes' philosophical tradition.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:42 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;126632 wrote:

Part of the Buddhist training is that 'wanting to be right' is a hindrance. Wanting to help others is far more valuable.


Buddhist training is also about wanting to learn so I say make comments on whatever threads you want. That's what I do and ain't nobody gonna stop me. It is frustrating when I write something I put a lot of thought into and then someone (I won't mention any names) just replies with a question: "What does X mean?" and provides no answer of their own, but everyone has their own style and such questions sometimes lead to deeper understanding and better articulation.

Style is an interesting word. Investigation and interpretation could be understood as two different styles.

I do hope to eventually master both styles so that I can run with both the investigator pack as well as the interpreter pack. Admittedly I have more work to do on the former style than the later.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 12:48 am
@Deckard,
Deckard;126639 wrote:
Buddhist training is also about wanting to learn so I say make comments on whatever threads you want. That's what I do and ain't nobody gonna stop me. It is frustrating when I write something I put a lot of thought into and then someone (I won't mention any names) just replies with a question: "What does X mean?" and provides no answer of their own, but everyone has their own style and such questions sometimes lead to deeper understanding and better articulation.

Style is an interesting word. Investigation and interpretation could be understood as two different styles.


How can anyone provide "an answer of his own" to the question, "what does 'X' mean" if he asks that question because he doesn't know what "X" means? If he knew what it meant, he would not ask the question in the first place.

If they were only two different styles, they would not matter so much. But they matter quite a lot. To the extent that they seem to be doing entirely different things.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 01:38 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;126642 wrote:
How can anyone provide "an answer of his own" to the question, "what does 'X' mean" if he asks that question because he doesn't know what "X" means? If he knew what it meant, he would not ask the question in the first place.


I usually don't invent words but use words that everyone knows. If the way I use a word doesn't make sense then tell me how you use that word. There are many areas where my vocabulary could use improvement including the more specialized definitions of words that philosophers use. Once I know your definition of X I am willing reply accordingly; sometimes this means changing my own definition to yours and perhaps changing X to Y in my original statement.

kennethamy;126642 wrote:

If they were only two different styles, they would not matter so much. But they matter quite a lot. To the extent that they seem to be doing entirely different things.


In reply, here's a bit of Lacan that I am still working on interpreting/investigating. I have really only begun to look at Lacan so I'm a little worried that it may be less relevant to the OP than I think it is (emphasis mine):

Quote:
It might have been noticed that I took my lead last year from a certain moment of the subject that I consider to be an essential correlate of science, a historically defined moment, the strict repeatability in experience of which perhaps remains to be determined: the moment Descartes inaugurates that goes by the name of cogito.

This correlate, as a moment, is the defile of a rejection of all knowledge, but is nevertheless claimed to establish for the subject a certain anchoring in being; I sustain that this anchoring constitutes the definition of the subject of science, "definition" to be understood in the sense of a narrow doorway.

This lead did not guide me in vain, for it led me at year end to formulate our experienced division as subjects as a division between knowledge and truth, and to accompany it with a topological model, the Mobius strip; this strip conveys the fact that the division in which these two terms come together is not to be derived from a difference in origin. - Lacan "Science and Truth"
When Lacan refers to truth and knowledge is he in some sense referring to the two respective objects/goals of interpretation and investigation? Is he saying that the division in which these two techniques come together is not to be derived from a difference in origin?

truth v. knowledge. I'm not sure which would go with which and I think there will be a great deal of argument over who (investigators or interpreters) can lay claim to either of them. However, I think I've seen a similar division mentioned in one of the investigator threads between information and knowledge.

Information / interpreters: Interpreters interpret information
Knowledge / investigators: Investigators investigate knowledge

Or maybe investigators interpret information and interpreters investigate knowledge.

Or maybe investigators interpret knowledge and interpreters investigate information.

I think that information and knowledge may have a Mobius strip relationship that is very similar to the one that Lacan spoke of.

I must admit that I am a little over my head here but I do think that these thoughts are relevant to the OP. It's hard work making a bridge out of a wall.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 07:46 am
@Deckard,
Deckard;126658 wrote:
I usually don't invent words but use words that everyone knows. If the way I use a word doesn't make sense then tell me how you use that word. There are many areas where my vocabulary could use improvement including the more specialized definitions of words that philosophers use. Once I know your definition of X I am willing reply accordingly; sometimes this means changing my own definition to yours and perhaps changing X to Y in my original statement.



In reply, here's a bit of Lacan that I am still working on interpreting/investigating. I have really only begun to look at Lacan so I'm a little worried that it may be less relevant to the OP than I think it is (emphasis mine):

When Lacan refers to truth and knowledge is he in some sense referring to the two respective objects/goals of interpretation and investigation? Is he saying that the division in which these two techniques come together is not to be derived from a difference in origin?

truth v. knowledge. I'm not sure which would go with which and I think there will be a great deal of argument over who (investigators or interpreters) can lay claim to either of them. However, I think I've seen a similar division mentioned in one of the investigator threads between information and knowledge.

Information / interpreters: Interpreters interpret information
Knowledge / investigators: Investigators investigate knowledge

Or maybe investigators interpret information and interpreters investigate knowledge.

Or maybe investigators interpret knowledge and interpreters investigate information.

I think that information and knowledge may have a Mobius strip relationship that is very similar to the one that Lacan spoke of.

I must admit that I am a little over my head here but I do think that these thoughts are relevant to the OP. It's hard work making a bridge out of a wall.


Frankly I cannot answer your question about Lancan because I really don't understand what he is saying. However, let me ask you, in turn, what you think about the following quotation from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. I think it is relevant to this discussion.

We are under the illusion that what is peculiar, profound, essential in our investigation, resides in its trying to grasp the incomparable essence of language. That is, the order existing between the concepts of proposition; word, proof, truth, experience, and so on. This order is a super-order between - so to speak - super-concepts. Whereas, of course, if the words "language," "experience," "world," have a use, it must be as humble a one as that of the words "table," "lamp," "door." (p. 44e)
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 11:23 am
@kennethamy,
In psychology the talk about assimilation (taking in new information) and accommodation (resolving conflicts, making new information fit, working things out). Those seem to correspond to interpretation and investigation.

I agree that arguing what someone really said etc is not important. Getting new ideas is important, that's the value of reading the old works. Then you can get down to the real business.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 10 Feb, 2010 11:40 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;126761 wrote:
In psychology the talk about assimilation (taking in new information) and accommodation (resolving conflicts, making new information fit, working things out). Those seem to correspond to interpretation and investigation.

I agree that arguing what someone really said etc is not important. Getting new ideas is important, that's the value of reading the old works. Then you can get down to the real business.


The value of reading old works (whatever those are) is exactly the value of reading new works. To find out what the philosopher said, and argue with him, and discover whether what he said makes sense. The most valuable philosophers are those who make the best mistakes, because, by unraveling their mistakes, you learn the most. That is why Descartes is such a great philosopher. He made some of the very great mistakes.
What I find so wrong-headed about the interpretative school of philosophy is that they never are interested in arguing with the philosopher they are interpreting, and don't care to learn from his mistakes. Indeed, they don't really believe that there are mistakes. In other words, they don't philosophize.
 
 

 
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