pete wolfendale Profile picture
Wandering philosopher. Purveyor of Platonic heresy, Kantian computationalism, and Hegelian minimalism. Neorationalism on demand. (he/him/it which speaks)
Jenna Dixon Profile picture Fanged Noumenon Profile picture El filosofo del pueblo Profile picture 3 added to My Authors
22 Mar
I don't claim to be an expert on the history or politics of protest, but I'm a specialist in a particular kind of logical fallacy: the conflation of obligation (duty) and supererogation (virtue). I think it's worth seeing how this plays into discussions of 'peaceful' protest.
There's much to be said about the virtue of non-violent resistance as a strategy of protest and contestation. But the way in which liberal ideology fetishises protest as a means (voice) shorn of its end (change) thereby positions this strategic virtue as a public duty.
Do we have a duty to be 'peaceful' when we protest? I'd argue that there's no such specific duty beyond the more general and defeasible obligation to respect one another's rights to safety and property. Why? Because the 'we' such a duty might apply to is barely constituted.
Read 13 tweets
21 Mar
On reflection, I think what most personally frustrates me about the current compact between research and teaching in the academy is that my own writing is more clearly pedagogical than hermeneutic, but this has not earned me any points towards becoming a pedagogue.
I would rather explain the key ideas of a thinker, or rehearse the dialectical development of a key concept, in ways that both optimally compress them and make them maximally accessible to non-specialist scholars. I think this is a virtue, but it really isn't rewarded in any way.
I can do the exegetical nitpicking when needed, and I respect it when it is done well, but for every insightful close reading that breathe life into the context of a philosophical thought there are a dozen lifeless analyses, half of which are also wrong.
Read 11 tweets
21 Mar
It's very hard to definitively determine which acts are evil, but I'm pretty sure that framing impossible demands ('damned if you do, damned if you don't') for no good reason is on the list. Nevertheless, I think we tend to underestimate just how easy it is to do this.
This is sometimes the result of vindictiveness, but it's more commonly the result of indifference: imposing a set of rules/norms with a blindspot you can maybe see, but simply don't care about, largely because you'll never be in the position to make that impossible choice.
I've been complaining about the ways this indifference manifests in bureaucratic systems for quite a while now (cf. deontologistics.co/2019/11/04/tfe…). But I think it's important to see how we can channel this indifference even when we don't have any special role in enforcing rules/norms.
Read 14 tweets
21 Mar
This is a good question to aspire to have an answer to. For most people it means something like: "What's the most important, most holistic piece of wisdom you could give me, which opens up onto the rest of your concerns, unlocking the better questions I could ask?"
This tends to be context specific, as the little taste of wisdom that will hook each individual is different, but if I had to aim to maximal generality I'd say: "The secret to life is knowing what mistakes are worth making, but you can only learn this by making some that aren't."
That's got enough of the paradox about it to be intriguing in a way that encodes an entry point into both more specific yet abstract questions in ethics and logic, while still functioning as concrete advice independently of whether those questions are chased up immediately.
Read 9 tweets
18 Mar
One small thought for the evening: I rag on Nietzscheans a lot, but there's a peculiar hermeneutics of power that is broader than Nietzsche's influence, even if he is a representative figure in it. I also don't think this hermeneutics is worthless, just that there are excesses.
I could, and probably should, write a book about these excesses, but I see the sort of Tory history Nietzsche specialised in as a useful corrective to the sort of Whig history that Hegel is famous for (cf. my piece on Hesse's Glass Bead Game - glass-bead.org/article/castal…).
But the excess that concerns me this evening concerns the relation between power and joy. Nietzsche is often, quite rightly, compared with Spinoza, the other great thinker of the conjunction of power and joy (cf. Deleuze). There's obviously a significant relation here.
Read 28 tweets
16 Mar
So, this morning I'm thinking about Stan Lee's maxim ('with great power comes great responsibility') and the discursive responsibility that comes with the discursive power of having a personal communication platform (everything from a syndicated column to a Twitter account).
To recap my basic stance on moral logic: 1) ought-implies-can (Kant), entails that decreased capacity implies decreased responsibility, 2) with great power comes great responsibility (Lee), which entails that increased capacity implies increased responsibility.
I think that these principles permit us to deploy claims about what *is* the case as reasons in discourse about what we *ought* to do without falling into the naturalistic fallacy (Hume) and deriving how things ought to be in any given instance from the way things already are.
Read 61 tweets
15 Mar
Someone pay me and @tjohnlinward to write a treatment for this.
For anyone who wants to hear the oral history:
Just to give you a slight inkling of the semiotic riches to be plundered here, the Worm was said to have coiled itself around the hill on the top of which this monument now stands: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penshaw_M…
Read 5 tweets
14 Mar
@4Q248 Just composing optimal tweets in between sending emails. It’s coming.
@4Q248 To be honest, I don't think there's a huge amount of difference on the question of libidinal mechanisms, the real divergence is the functionalist account of cognition, representation, and its associated norms. But these norms do provide some purchase on cognitive pathologies.
@4Q248 I think Ray's talk at the first accelerationism workshop provides the original statement of this, where he describes his own divergence from Land by rejecting his liquidation of the notion of representation. I've described my own trajectory from Deleuze to Brandom in these terms.
Read 9 tweets
6 Mar
I like this piece, but there’s an aspect of it that doesn’t quite sit right with me. It’s really easy for leftist critiques to accidentally imbibe the imaginary of ‘the market’ as impersonal force by projecting it onto the objects of their critique. I think it does too much here.
The primal awkwardness of most incels is obviously shaped in bad ways by capitalism, neoliberalism, and their ideological apparatuses, but there’s diversity in this awkwardness beyond the stamp ‘the market’ has put on it, and I suspect that it’s worth delving deeper here.
I don’t want to provide a unified theory of the intel here, not only because that would require a lot of work, but because it would also undermine my point. My sympathies are open here: I know many men (not ‘incels’) who’ve been twisted into bad shapes by romantic incapacity.
Read 52 tweets
6 Mar
Better late than never, I suppose? Would've been nice if ~120K of our country's most vulnerable didn't have to die in the name of a bad analogy though. Folk economics has had democidal consequences.
On the ~120K number, it is possible to quibble (cf. channel4.com/news/factcheck…). However, the biggest quibbles were always 'what even is an excess death, really?', an epistemic bubble that has unfortunately been burst by another ~100K excess deaths since.
The question is now solidly *how* to quantify such deaths, rather than *whether* to do so. If you look at Tory governance since 2010, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it has, through a heady mix of malfeasance and incompetence, been thoroughly democidal. Thanatopolitics.
Read 10 tweets
6 Mar
This is close to @lastpositivist's #NoHeroes stance. I think I've a slightly different take on this, though not a substantially different one. I always try to begin with Stan Lee's maxim: "With great power comes great responsibility."
I think we have a responsibility to use whatever social power we accrue wisely, and this is the only thing that justifies such power. Yet I also think this is the flip side of Kant's principle of ought-implies-can: that we can't blame people for not doing things they can't do.
The (Hegelian) difficulty that the conjunction of these ideas faces is that, historically speaking, the growth of our (conscious) capacities for action precedes that of our (self-conscious) capacities for criticising/correcting these actions. We are destined to fuck up, a lot.
Read 27 tweets
6 Mar
Since I've seen this argument made over and over again by Nietzscheans of various stripes over the years, let me address it one final time before sleep takes me.
The Real doesn't care about anything. To appeal to this blank indifference in discussions regarding whether you or anyone should care about anything at all is simply to dodge the question: "The universe doesn't care, I'm part of the universe therefore I don't need to care."
You can selectively render yourself into a mere thing if you want, but don't expect applause. This selectiveness is not a strength, but a weakness. A paradoxical form of self-indulgence that undermines selfhood as such: "I merely am what I am, I do whatever I will do."
Read 12 tweets
5 Mar
Someone on FB asked for a definition of Hyperstition, and this is what I came up with: a narrative schema that allows us to aesthetically capture the ways in which our collective anticipations of the future have causal force in the present.
I’m no expert on hauntology, but I think it’s got very similar structure: it’s a narrative schema that allows us to aesthetically unpack the implications of unrealised futures contained in our collective nostalgia for the past.
If hyperstition concerns temporally weird forms of (futural) necessity operating in the present, then hauntology concerns temporally weird forms of (latent) possibility operating in the present. There’s an ecstatic theory of historical consciousness implicit in their juncture.
Read 36 tweets
4 Mar
This was a very weird debate, precisely because it was me attempting to argue with Land on his own turf. I popped briefly into his class, and attempted to defend the position his course was dedicated to attacking. You can see me struggling to get discursive purchase in real time.
For anyone who wants to see the full thing, I think it starts around here:
If you want to know my unvarnished opinion, I think Land is a very capable rhetorician who uses a fairly stable set of rhetorical strategies to avoid being held to the consequences of the commitments he avows. In the limit, he denies even that he has commitments.
Read 36 tweets
3 Mar
Since my Null Journal idea seems to have been popular, it’s probably a good idea for me to say something more about how I think distribution/validation should work in philosophy (and potentially elsewhere). Let me start with some context.
I have frighteningly little concrete job experience outside of seminar teaching. But the main exception to this was running a journal for 3 years (plijournal.com). I was an editorial board member, the editor for two issues, and administrator for longer than that.
I oversaw the whole sausage, from CFP, through review, meetings, editing, formatting, printing, distribution, and finances. I redesigned the whole back end and balanced the books in the process, liaising with libraries coming through intermediaries and individual subscribers.
Read 30 tweets
3 Mar
Honestly, I wish people would just realise that algorithmic bias and bureaucratic stupidity are *exactly the same thing* so we could start unpicking the rationalisations implicit in both, as they're synergetic: you have to get them both to tackle either successfully.
Putting aside whether this is even a good use of the term 'algorithm', which you can usually substitute for 'wizard' without any loss of meaning, the issue is that we keep pretending we can *trivially* solve certain sorts of problems with certain sorts of tools, when we can't.
It doesn't matter whether the implicitly specified knowledge representation generated through training is encoded in some distributed set of educated human neurons or some artificial kludge of ML systems, it's implicitness is a logical feature of the problem it is targeting.
Read 35 tweets
2 Mar
I seriously believe that philosophy needs something like ArXiv: a place to store and distribute work not simply in progress, or prior to validation, but independently of it. Philpapers is too close to the current model of validation ('publication') and its disciplinary norms.
As a quick hack, I think someone start an open access journal with the explicit editorial policy 'we reject nothing', as a way simply to make referencing work that isn't gated by validation, so that we might develop better modes of validation independently of distribution.
Call it 'The Null Journal':

A: "Have you read the new issue of The Null Journal?"

B: "No! Who reads that anyway?"

A: "No one. No one reads any journals. It's not what they're for."

B: "What does the editorial board look like?"

A: "∅"
Read 6 tweets
2 Mar
Finally, I have a legitimate excuse to listen to Oingo Boingo on a morning:
Thank you to @autogynefiles for reminding me of the most important lesson an 80s nerd comedy ever taught me, which is that no one is ready for the sex girls. No one.

I feel that @UnclePhobic and @dynamic_proxy need to hear this message. True no horny praxis is baking lemon meringue pie.
Read 5 tweets
2 Mar
I wish I had the energy for one of my usual sincere answers to jokey questions, because this one is excellent. Alas, sleep beckons. Chomsky on syntax is at least computationally interesting. Chomsky on semantics...
Speaking as an anti-Fodorian computationalist, I think the best place to go if you're interested in pursuing something like the Montague program of applying formal tools to natural language is the interface between programming language semantics and knowledge representation.
I've had some good conversations with @FroehlichMarcel
about these issues of late if anyone wants to try searching the endlessly churning feed. Otherwise, there's a couple quick things I can point at:
Read 8 tweets
1 Mar
I agree with this, of course, but we should remember what framing wealth distribution through taxation encourages us to forget. It's as much about relations between currencies as it is units of currency. It's uncomfortable to say, but some of us have too much purchasing power.
It's easy to agree to tax the rich, even if the political reality of power structure mean that such abstract agreement cannot be concretely realised. It's much harder to agree to a smaller share of the fruits of the global production process. Stay aware of that difficulty.
It's the basis of a form of economic complicity that hurts not just those outside of rich nations but also the poor within them. Neoliberalism's 'spatial fix' to problems with local labour by outsourcing it to poorer nations helped crush labour power at home.
Read 17 tweets
1 Mar
Good for @CrispinSartwell, I suppose. I would respectfully suggest that logic programming (e.g. Prolog) is a bad model of computational mindedness for the most part (though @chrisamaphone's Ceptre might let us think about narrative identity). The nub of the issue is choice.
I have no qualms with someone identifying as an animal, be it a familiar genre of hominid or something more interesting (Sciuridae sapiens), precisely insofar as identification is an expression of personal autonomy, that Kantian pearl without price. I choose differently.
The disagreement emerges when the capacity for choice itself comes into question. Here is @CrispinSartwell's central (rhetorical) question. As a philosopher whose work is dedicated to driving home this point, I would like to answer it, in brief. Image
Read 22 tweets