Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Freud gets out of jail again

Freud was a great and tremendously interesting writer, but he could be pretty slippery. Below is a nice example:

  1. A contradiction to my theory of dream produced by another of my women patients (the cleverest of all my dreamers) was resolved more simply, but upon the same pattern: namely that the nonfulfillment of one wish meant the fulfillment of another. 
  2. One day I had been explaining to her that dreams are fulfillments of wishes. Next day she brought me a dream in which she was traveling down with her mother-in-law to the place in the country where they were to spend their holidays together.  Now I knew that she had violently rebelled against the idea of spending the summer near her mother-in-law and that a few days earlier she had successfully avoided the propinquity she dreaded by engaging rooms in a far distant resort.  And now her dream had undone the solution she had wished for;  was not this the sharpest contradiction of my theory that in dreams wishes are fulfilled? 
  3. No doubt;  and it was only necessary to follow the dreams logical consequence in order to arrive at its interpretation.  The dream showed that I was wrong.  Thus it was her wish that I might be wrong, and her dream showed that wish fulfilled (italics original).                                                                         Sigmund Freud, The Interpretations of Dreams (New York: Avon, 1966)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Morality and Money

I came upon these comments in a notebook. They were written some time ago, but still seem relevant:

Money has always provoked moral debates in which its capacity to corrupt plays a key role. However, over the past forty years or so this kind of debate has itself been corrupted. Ideas that created money’s reprehensible image seem to have been either abandoned or turned on their head.
            Unfettered pursuit of money simply for its own sake, exclusive use of monetary sums to calibrate values and social status, the flaunting of wealthy attributes, conspicuous consumption of luxury goods, vast disparities in both assets and income as between individuals within the same community, avid avoidance of taxes, and the assumption of large debt are somehow no longer obvious causes for moral concern.
“Somehow” is a vague term. But, ambiguity is appropriate here. For it is difficult to pin down when and why such sea change in moral perception occurred. One of the main reasons for this is that the process of uncoupling of money from morality has been deeply obscured by the fog of financial innovation. It is tempting, therefore, to put the causal blame on finance theory, and that insidious constellation of views has certainly been highly influential. However, to do this would be to invoke a separation between theory and practice that does not exist. It is a great irony that the longstanding leftist project of aligning theory with practice has already been accomplished by what can best be called, with still further irony, the finance community. But, what is this community?
It is a loose collection of financial institutions and the clients they are supposed to serve. This is held together by economic and political beliefs that yield both a sense of immunity to ordinary moral scrutiny and, strangely, a sense of moral accomplishment in being able to do the very things that such immunity allows.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Sufficiency of Relaxed, Low Key, Natural Ontology

I have been reading Sellars' Naturalism and Ontology. The discussion veers between the direct and the oblique. This leaves me wondering whether a direct Wittgensteinian approach would be sufficient. Consider the ontological confusions concerning attributes.
How are we to explain "Yes, there are attributes" when it is voiced in response to a question like "Are there attributes?" (where the person asking, 99.999% of the time it's going to be a philosopher, is fishing for possible commitments to abstract objects or some such)? Can we not simply respond: "If we are able to attach a practical sense to "there are attributes" (meaning we know what to do with the phrase - can fit it into intelligible contexts, put it to communicative use, and so forth), then we need not invoke ontological talk and consequent puzzles about what it is for an attribute to exist, etc."?
Isn't the temptation to resist this sub-philosophical approach one that conflates reluctance to indulge in certain imaginative extrapolations (e.g. one imagines attributes floating around in metaphysical space waiting to get hooked up to something appropriate) with a supposed limitation of intelligence, whereas, clearly, intelligent insight is required to see that such imaginative extravagances are redundant - rather as one realises that angels are not real beings and then automatically feels relieved of any need to imagine what they look like, where they reside, and so on?
But then, can we not apply this to "there are infinities"? How does that square with my previous posting? Is it simply that we can again talk about infinities without dragging in the imagined realist underpinnings?