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Stuart W. Mirsky
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Two Lectures on Wittgenstein (Nuno Venturinha)

The publication of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass has made clear that what is generally regarded as his second philosophical masterpiece, the Philosophical Investigations, is in fact an unfinished book. There are many other examples of unfinished books in the western tradition and Wittgenstein’s book would seem to fall under the category of works whose authors could not finish in their lifetimes. I shall discuss some of these examples and show that there is something peculiar regarding Wittgenstein’s enterprise, specifically that the unfinished nature of his book mirrors his view of philosophy as an unfinishable task. I shall conclude by ... suggest[ing] that this does not mean completely abandoning substantial theses.

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Of Beauty and Beautiful Things

Although I've been using this site to post a number of lengthy pieces I've been working on regarding questions of moral valuation (distinguishing and justifying claims of moral goodness), I thought I'd change my focus briefly as we head into the new year. A correspondent of mine from India, who has evinced an interest in Western philosophy and has been in touch with me about some of its issues, particularly seeking clarifications on his Wittgenstein readings, sent me a quote (unsourced) this morning concerning the matter of beauty.

In fact, his questions have been the prompt for many of the articles I've been moved to write and post here since this site began. But in this case I have no lengthy article in mind. Still his implicit question got me to thinking a bit and I thought I'd say something about his message here (in case he's reading along or others have comments) about the question of what it means to speak of beauty and beautiful things . . .

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The Moral Way

What is it that we want to find in intentions, manifested by agents through their actions, to warrant ascriptions of moral value?

Although we may consider a great many issues – from how we comport ourselves in public or private, to what we have for dinner and whom we choose to marry – to be moral questions, there’s such a broad range of these that it’s not a simple matter to sort them all out – or to distinguish between them. Sometimes what we deem “moral” is just what fits with certain codes of conduct we acknowledge although, at other times, we may think it right to dispute the codes themselves. If the moral dimension involves assessment of intent, can the intent to abide by a given code be enough to establish a judgment of moral goodness?

If the code itself can be questioned, on what basis can a presumably right intent prevail where even particular moral codes are subject to moral consideration? A code that urges vengeance in blood, for instance, might seem morally unappealing to many in the modern world even as it may remain compellingly attractive to members of cultures in which it represents the norm. Just being the norm cannot be enough to render something morally good then.

What then do we look to? And how do we reconcile conflicting moral claims and codes?

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Linguistic Aspects of Claims about Experiencing

At issue with respect to the axiomatic, property dualistic identity theory. advocated by Walto is whether it affirms or denies the existence of experience, which (following Searle) we might characterize as inner, private, subjective, qualitative phenomena. Unfortunately, it seems that 'phenomenon' is not a referring term in Walto's theoretical vocabulary.

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Intentions and Selves (3rd Re-Write)

If moral valuing treats of intentions, and intentions are part of every action, what is it about them that excites our moral judgment?

Why is an action such as the purchase of an ice cream cone, to satisfy our own need or desire for it, subject only to evaluation based on the value we place on the ice cream – or on the capacity of the selected actions to acquire it – but, if we consider the intention behind the act, insofar as it relates to other persons, we see it in an entirely different way? Here is where the question of our feelings toward our fellows (and those we take to be equivalent) kicks in.

Intentions are a different sort of thing than the physical phenomena which the action, the items, or the states of affairs desired, are. There’s no actual thing we can point to as the “intention” and yet we cannot explain agential behavior without it. Agential behavior supposes motives, aims – that the actions are performed for a reason. And it takes an intentional agent to have reasons.

Daniel Dennett proposes that we recognize intentions in another by taking what he calls the “intentional stance,” one of three possible “stances” available to us in relation to things in the world . . .

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Consciousness Without Inner Models ...

There has been much criticism over the years of the idea that conscious experience depends on inner representational models of the environment. Enactive accounts (e.g. Thompson 2007) and the sensorimotor account more particularly (O’Regan & Noë 2001; O’Regan 2011) have prominently criticized the reliance on inner models and they have offered an alternative way of thinking about experience. The idea of sensorimotor approaches is that experience involves the perceiver’s attunement to the way in which sensory stimulation depends on action. But how then should we conceive of what happens in the agent’s head to allow for this attunement? In this symposium we focus on two questions. First, how does an enactive sensorimotor theory offer guidance for the interpretation of neurophysiological findings? Second, how are its predictions about neural processes different from the predictions of representationalist accounts?

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Act and Intent

Considering the features of any action which may warrant moral claims

All valuing assumes both choice (the possibility of selecting different courses of behavior) and action (the physical events which constitute the behaviors selected). Seen in this way, value can be assigned to any action along three vectors:

1) Intent (the purpose for which the action is undertaken)

2) Events (the physical phenomena associated with the act); and

3) Outcomes (the physical phenomena or states of affairs which the act is undertaken to secure)

That is, the sort of valuing we are now considering (this excludes uses of “value” which share the name but involve different practices such as truth values or fixing a symbol with some content) is always about picking an action to perform – either ourselves or to recommend or prescribe for another. To do this sort of thing we must look at the actions themselves to find features in them that commend the actions to us or should, in our estimate, commend them to others.

But if every action can be looked at along these three vectors, we have to determine how they relate both to one another and in light of the kinds of reasons we may give to justify a claim of having found value in them.

Consider a simple act like purchasing an ice cream cone. . .

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