Monday, January 10, 2011
Ray Brassier on the fundamental problem of philosophy.
  [T]he metaphysical exploration of the structure of being can only be carried out in tandem with an epistemological investigation into the nature of conception. For we cannot understand what is real unless we understand what ‘what’ means, and we cannot understand what ‘what’ means without understanding what ‘means’ is, but we cannot hope to understand what ‘means’ is without understanding what ‘is’ means.
  This much Heidegger knew. Unlike Heidegger however, we will not conjure a virtuous circle of ontological interpretation from the necessary circularity of our pre-ontological understanding of how things can be said to be. The metaphysical investigation of being cannot be collapsed into a hermeneutical interpretation of the being of the investigator and the different ways in which the latter understands things to be. Although metaphysical investigation cannot be divorced from enquiry into what meaning is, the point of the latter is to achieve a metaphysical circumscription of the domain of sense which avoids the phenomenological equivocation between meaning and being.

Pp. 47-8
Davidson puts essentially the same point much simpler when he explains that in order to know what someone's words mean, it is necessary to know what that person believes. And in order to know what that person believes, it is necessary to know what their words mean. Catch 22 all over again.
Connotative or metaphorical meaning may be difficult to pin down but denotation usually can be agreed to. When we hear "suspect X apparently had a glock" --we can agree to that, and understand the denotation. The why and wherefore--what led to the crime, motives, influences will be rather more problematic. As will shall we say the ...image. Great criminals often sort of tweek reality IMHE, including language. Say the Unabomber. What is the meaning of the Unabomber? Or mafiosi. There's some poetic aspect to the Criminal-image which we can't easily demarcate.

At times "the meaning of Meaning" discussion seemed to go a bit far,however as did the Wittgensteinian jazz--and often the connotation/denotation distinction was overlooked (or analytic/synthetic in another jargon). Quine's discussion of meaning, analyticity, etc in Two Dogmas Of Empiricism--which Davidson certainly was aware of (and probably y'all) --also sets up the issue pretty well, even if one disagrees with his conclusions. We may have to be content with uncertainty however (and Quine often seems a bit unaware of probability issues as well).
If by "the phenomenological equivocation between meaning and being" Brassier intends to ignore the ontological distinction, I am left only curious about his strategy. So far as I am aware, he is spitting in the wind. At best, I can only imagine that he changes the subject by denegrating the need to talk about beyng.
Ah Brassier's one of the spec. realist hipsters. Reviewing a bit mo' of their product they sound like another crop of spooky neo-Spinozeans.

1000 names of Vishnu, y'all. Intellectuals should resist the monist temptation, IMHE(or....polytheism in another jargon). --CS Peirce and some palsies played with seances and other BS for a decade or so, and found...nada--tho his house burned down, didn't it Perhaps that's boring. tant pis.
J writes, "CS Peirce and some palsies played with seances..."

Including our good friend, Wm James. Maybe it is endemic to the neighborhood, as the discussion of "The New Metaphysicals" over on the Immanent Frame web site might suggest.
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