What Is This?
Stuart W. Mirsky
Kirby Urner
Join Us!

Stuart W. Mirsky (Stuart W. Mirsky is the principal author of this blog).
Last 10 Entries:

Sean Wilson's Blog:

Ludwig Wittgenstein:

Search Archives:
Every Entry

Duncan Richter's Blog:

Entries in Hegel (1)


The Logic of Action

I've been reading Robert Brandom recently after stumbling across a lengthy talk he gave in the UK which is available on-line. He's pretty ponderous and seems to prefer lengthy elaboration and abstruse words where simpler ones, on the face of it at least, might do. That said, his ideas caught my attention. He was presenting a paper at Cambridge, the home of Analytical Philosophy, which dealt, in part, with the links between the American pragmatists and that philosophical school. In the course of that, he linked the pragmatists backwards to Hegel and Kant and forward to Heidegger and Wittgenstein. In sum, he argues that there is a tradition in philosophy, which the American pragmatists, C. S Peirce in particular, exemplified in an especially clear way, that sees the kinds of knowledge we count as "knowing that" as a subspecies, in fact a function of, "knowing how." This, he argues, is the key element in pragmatism of whatever form and can be seen in Wittgenstein's own emphasis on the rule-based nature of language and the things we can say within it as well as in the emphasis, shared with Heidegger, on language use as a form of being in the world itself.

In the book I'm currently reading, Reason in Philosophy: Animating Ideas, Brandom focuses on Kant's shift from the descriptive to the normative paradigm in discussing epistemological matters. What we can know, on this view, is a function of what we can say, what we are equipped to say, and, for Kant, this depends on the ways our thinking works. Brandom proposes that Hegel's improvement over Kant's picture was to introduce the idea of intersubjectivity, of knowing as doing within the context of a community, the interplay of separate subjects in joint enterprises which have a history and so involve participation not only with one's contemporary fellow subjects but with those who came before us and will come after .

I am not competent to assess his views on Hegel's contributions (I always found Hegel opaque, to say the least) or even to assess his take on Kant. But I am fascinated by his argument that the ordinary discursive ways we have of speaking about things, the descriptive language we use to delineate and affirm or deny facts in the world, which expresses our intentionality (knowing about things), can be traced to knowing how to speak and operate in the world. Here he seems to be saying that, behind the logic we ordinarily recognize re: making assertions (with their true and false relations), there is also a logic, a much deeper logic, of behavior itself, i.e., one of authority (as in granting rights, to claims and claimants, to demand or expect certain outcomes) and of obligation (accepting the responsibility to act in the ways expected). This is the logic of recognizing implications by acting on them. It's a logic of reciprocal relations.

For Brandom having a language is the key to having concepts and having concepts is what differentiates us from other sentient creatures. That is, we are not merely sentient, as he puts it, but sapient. We have the ability to think about things, to be intentional in ways that other creatures do not. But concepts, he argues, are not stand alone ideas . . . .

Click to read more ...