Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Function of This Blog

In 331 days, I am sitting in my first class.

I am quite anxious to get started. Attending a couple of lectures and being able to share some emails with the presenters has whetted my appetite.

On Friday, October 7, Dr Steinbock will be giving another presentation - this one on euthanasia. I have a schedule conflict. If I was a student, I would certainly be attending this and other presentations, and sharing notes.

I hope to share those notes here as well, as I have been.

I continue to have second, third, and fourth thoughts about this blog as I go through graduate school. I have turned this into a more genuine "web log" in discussing actual events in real time regarding my efforts in graduate school. It is not that I think people care about such things - it would be self-centered to think so. But I do value expressing such thoughts and concerns.

However, I ask myself, is that appropriate? Am I doing myself more harm than good?

My discussion of returning to graduate school probably - I think - gives this blog and the ideas contained within an amateurish taint. It discredits what I right by denying even the illusion that I have the status of an academic philosopher.

And appearances matter.

We can speak all we want about how an argument SHOULD be judged by the strengths of its premises and the validity of its reasoning. However, in the real world, that is simply not what people do. A "nobody" can put an idea on the table and have it rejected precisely because it comes from a "nobody". Then, somebody with connections and a reputation comes along and says the same thing, and the idea spends almost instantly through the academic community.

This ties in to one of the objections that I have of the claims of many atheists. They proudly boast that they base their beliefs on reason alone - unlike those pathetic "religious" types who fall victim to all sorts of fallacies and error. Yet, it is simply not true that they do not "worship" certain authors of ideas and are more willing to adopt a claim - not because of the strength of the arguments behind it - but because of who said it.

I keep wondering if, some day, in my readings, I will encounter a named philosopher presenting some of these ideas that I present here. I am not talking about plagiarism. I am talking about some named philosopher or somebody who has access to the ear of named philosophers coming up with the same idea and presenting them. Then that person gains credit and fame for ideas that have actually been "out there" for the past 20 years.

Along these same lines, I wonder how many brilliant ideas have been thought up by women, minorities, the poor, and those who lack connections to the families that have influence in a society, whose ideas died of neglect. We celebrate Hume, Locke, Kant, and Descartes as great philosophers, yet they were lucky enough to have the skin color, gender, and social connections that allowed them to be great. Take any of these things away and, though their ideas would have been the same, we would never have heard of them.

Somewhere, in a slave shack in Alabama in 1700, a slave could well have been wondering, "How is it that we can actually get a general principle from some specific observations?" His mind could have toiled with the problem while he picked cotton, wondering as he looked around him at the reliability of perception and the actual nature of cause and effect. Yet, it was Hume, and not him, who gets the credit and the fame.

I am in the class of old, white, male, that tends to get listened to more than others. However, I am still disqualified - or have been - on account of not having the connections to the great families that would get anything I have to say before a wider audience in a way that would give it a fair hearing.

This may sound like "crying in my milk" as it were. It might well generate a response of "quit your whining, you baby". Perhaps such a response is appropriate. Yet, I do not think any serious look at history would deny these points - that, throughout history, some are born with qualities - gender, race, wealth, connections - that give them significant advantages over others. That this goes a great deal to explaining the identity of those who become known for their greatness.

It is a fact of the world - a fact, like all facts, that a person living in the world has reason to acknowledge and accept.


FredT said...

In the philosophy literature there are many great ideas and lots of not so great stuff. Some is correct -more or less- that is it answers problems and is just being ignored. It is not about knowledge anymore, it is about what you can sell and generate revenue off of, unless you want to live as a university professor.

Anonymous said...

Your major point is that in the marketplace of philosophical ideas (populated by credentialed philosophers), voices shouted on the fringes are not heard. True.

Today it is not the race or gender that matters, it is mostly credentials, gaining a platform, and your network. A genius-black-female-slave could not go to the marketplace. Today, with a computer, she could (but her whisper would not likely have influence). A poor-black-female-gay-woman in America with genius has great chances to be heard in 2016, if she follows an academic path. Your efforts to go to lectures and engage lecturers will get you some notice, but be wise.

I have a PhD in the hard sciences, but it gives me no voice in this marketplace either. My experience is that only a (non-credentialed) lucky few are heard, mostly when they (substantially) find fault with establishment claims and are noticed for it.

New approaches like yours, do not have compensatory merit -- what philosophical journal or scholar would benefit from supporting or critiquing YOUR new ideas? They do not need to defend their own ideas from you, there is no self-benefit in supporting your ideas, and they have no status to defend YOUR ideas and arguments.

So now you can't compete or "sell" your ideas in the real world. Thus, you go to grad school, establish ties to a credentialed mentor and whatever you publish will have his or her name on it too.

Lucky for you, you have publicly "published" many of your ideas and refined them. When you get credentialed, you will have a chance for a small number to hear you. No one will be able to legitimately steal your thunder. If you engage in battle and can win, more will hear you.

I am curious, have you tried to publish in a philosophy journal on your own? If so, what happened?

There is no God in science, but there is a marketplace, and it is a game with rules. I like your ideas; keep at it.