We are living at a moment of political disorientation. Distrust is common. Suspicion is rampant. Why do we consider some things assured and certain while others are contested? What is the difference between physics and politics? We need to think about how trust and distrust work in these domains.
"The Hermeneutics of Suspicion" is meant to be a section of the larger project I am calling The Empire of Disorientation. It is intended to be the final chapter of that text.
We are increasingly living in a world regulated by algorithms. But this still expanding form of life creates a host of new problems.
That was about the last thing I heard as I was leaving the city. Said by the taxi driver who was taking me to Kowloon Station on the way to the airport.
August 16, 2018
The World Congress of Philosophy is continuing; but today, Thursday, it is mostly student presentations in Chinese. I take time off and get on the subway to do some sightseeing. What I discover is an abyss in the human heart.
August 13, 2018
The answer seems to be about eight hundred. That many philosophers from all over the world have come to Beijing for the 24th World Congress of Philosophy ready to meet for a full week under the banner "Learning to be Human."
August 11, 2018
It is Saturday morning and I am about to meet up with Joshua Wong at the Bricklane Café right across from Hong Kong’s Legislature where Wong’s political party has its office. It turns out that Wong has already been at work that weekend morning and I am not the only visitor he will see that day. I am curious to hear from him about the current state of Hong Kong politics.
August 10, 2018
I travel to Hong Kong and plan to talk to Joshua Wong about the future of the city.
Here is the power point file of the lecture I just gave at the World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing.
In his Tractatus Wittgenstein speaks both of the world and of descriptions of the world. I argue that his use of that second term derives from its occurrence in Alexander von Humboldt's "Kosmos".
My project is simple but demanding. I am trying to reread Wittgenstein from the beginning without, however, relying on any established interpretations. My question is whether we can look at his work with fresh eyes. Ignoring the halo of secondary writing that now surrounds that work does not mean that I will always end up disagreeing with what previous interpreters have said. But my plan is to re-discover their insights where they are such and otherwise go my own way.
In doing this, I want to look more thoroughly at Wittgenstein’s own words than has previously been done. I don’t know how far I will get with this but completeness is not my goal. It is rather to start with the first sentence of the Tractatus and work myself forward from there as far as I can manage.
On the gravestone of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke we can read one of his last poems which says: Oh rose, you pure contradiction. To be nobody's sleep under so many eyelids." Is there a self and if not, who am I?
“In what sense are my sensations private? – Well, only I know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it. – In one way this is wrong, and in another nonsense. If we are using the word ‘to know’ as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?), then other people often know when I am in pain. – Yes, but all the same not with the certainty with which I know it myself! – It can’t be said of me at all (except perhaps as a joke) that I know I am in pain. What is it supposed to mean – except perhaps that I am in pain.”
The humanities are increasingly in a beleaguered position in Universities and Colleges across the country. Academic philosophers like to think that their place is still secure because their subject is the most ancient of the so-called humanities; it is a discipline devoted to promoting basic intellectual skills; and it has connections with a diversity of other fields. But the turbulence that is affecting our institutions is not making halt before philosophy departments.
Our epistemologists are used to ask some very general questions: What is knowledge? What is the relation between observation and theory? How do we justify claims to knowledge? Digital technology is changing how information is collected, organized, and disseminated. The proliferation of claims to knowledge in the Internet highlights moreover the issue of error, mis- and disinformation, of “Fake News,” of its distribution and the question how to disarm it. We need an epistemology for the digital age that looks at knowledge not only in the usual timeless fashion but takes into account the changing landscape of human knowledge.
"Is our democracy in danger? It is a question we never thought we'd be asking? … We have spent years researching new forms of authoritarianism emerging around the globe. For us, how and why democracies die has been an occupational obsession. But now we turn to our own country."
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in How Democracies Die
Trump must be a puzzle to our political realists. He certainly shares their scorn for seeing politics in moral terms. Unlike George W. Bush, he doesn’t speak of an axis of evil in the world; and unlike Obama and the Democrats, he is little concerned with the issue of human rights. As an amoral capitalist he believes in self-interest and the exercise of power, in the use and pursuit of money in politics.
But he is also not much interested in the actual political realities. He sticks to a simple picture of what the world is like, despises experts, and ignores advice. In his factual claims he is often quite unrealistic.
Donald Trump has already made a number of serious mistakes in his political career. I am not talking here of decisions over which the political parties might disagree. I am talking rather of mistakes due to his incompetent handling of political matters. Politics is also a craft which can be employed in the service of different policies. Trump is proving that he is not a master of this kind of skill.