Monday, March 31, 2008

Running and my body

When I run in the wood behind my house, I can think about many things. Usually it is so that during the first 20 minutes or so I am thinking about what I have done just before I left my house, if it required much concentration, or about other things that occupy me. But gradually these thoughts fade away and my thoughts are about nothing. Or rather that is not true. My thoughts are about my running. About the feelings in my body. And shall I take this path or that? Listen, a raven, it’s new in this wood. Or, in late winter and spring: this bird has come back, that bird has come back. Take care, a hole, don’t fall. A branch on the soil. Let me go faster, let me go slower. Let me make a sprint, let me walk a little bit, and so on. But there is one thing I cannot think about: my running itself, I mean the movements of my legs and feet and of the whole body that supports them. How must I move my left feet when I move my right feet forward? How must I move in order to avoid a sprained ankle, when I step suddenly in a hole that I hadn’t seen? What to do when I slip away? And so on, and so on. I am running and my body is moving. I meet many obstacles, and I avoid them. But I never think about what to do in detail. I simply do, and I never fall. And even more, should I really try to think about what I have to do with my left leg, with my right leg, with my body, I am sure that I would do it in the wrong way and that I would fall. No, it is better not to think about it. Or rather, that’s no correct. My brain must not think about it. Let my body do it, my experienced mover. If I would think about my running, I could not run, but my body, my legs and feet know everything about my running and they think for me by way of speaking. Just as Merleau-Ponty described it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Subject-object division

In another sense than Popper explained, there are two kinds of worlds in which we live: The world of objects which would exist even if we did not exist and even when there were no other (human) beings that could give it a certain meaning, and the world as it is for us, for the human beings that we are. This implies that there are two kinds of subject-object divisions. (1) On the one hand we have the division between the subject that we are and the objects of the physical world around us and from which are physically separated. We could call it the ontological subject-object division. (2) On the other hand we have the division between the interpreting and knowing subject that we are and the fundamentally interpreted objects around us. These objects exist only for us, because we see them and we can see them only because they fit, in one sense or another, how minimal that may be, in our scheme of interpretation (“scheme” in the sense of Schank and Abelson). We could call it the epistemological subject-object division.These fundamentally interpreted objects of the epistemological subject-object division can be divided into (2a) objects that are only interpreted by us and (2b) objects that give themselves an interpretation (“human beings”). We can interpret (“explain”) these self-interpreting objects only by taking part in their self-interpretations. The subject-object divisions in the sense of 2a and 2b are fundamental for science. Nowadays, the subject-object division between subjects and self-interpreting objects (or subject-objects, as Apel called them) is widely recognized, but hardly any investigator of man and his or her institutions takes it seriously in practice.

Monday, March 17, 2008

About the subjectivity of the world

In my last contribution to this blog I suggested that the world is different for different people, and that the world is subjective in this sense. Actually, it would be strange if this weren’t so. For isn’t it so that everybody has a different place in this world, and that from each point of view the world looks different? Physically, there can be no two persons on exactly the same place. Psychologically, each person has different experiences; even identical twins have. Therefore, each person is existentially different, and no two persons can have exactly the same view on the world. But is there a view point that we should prefer? Maybe there is, but also our selection criteria will be fundamentally subjective. In the same way as I reasoned that there are no objective view points, we can also reason that it is impossible to find objective criteria. Therefore I have to conclude: There simply is no absolutely best point of view. There are only better and worse points of view for looking at the world. So, from a human point of view the world is subjective. That is so whether we think of the physical world (Popper’s World 1), the world of the ideas we have about the world around us (or what Popper called World 2), or the world of ideas as such, independent of the persons who think them (Popper’s World 3). However, this does not imply that we cannot give at least to the physical world another, non-subjective, i.e. objective, sense. But this non-subjective or rather objective sense has nothing human. It is related to the fact (supposing that it is a fact) that there is a world independent of our existence. I do not want to suggest that this world wouldn’t be there if we weren’t there. It would be stupid to suggest that the world as such is dependent on our presence and that there would not have been a world during the times that there were no human beings to interpret it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Roads to philosophy

When I say that I am a philosopher, many people think that I have always been a philosopher. However, actually that is not so. It’s true, I have always had some ideas and asked questions that might be considered “philosophical”. One thing that has intrigued me when I was a child is, for example: Do all people see colours in the same way as I do? One can read this question as a physical question and in a certain sense it is. But it is also a philosophical question, for if the answer is “no” (and I found that answer likely), one consequence is that the world is different for different people and that there is not one unique interpretation for the world that is the same for all people. In other words, an objective word, an objective reality does not exist in that case. There is only a world, a reality, that is subjective, i.e. one that depends on the person who is looking at it. I do not want to say that I reasoned as far when I was a child. But the foundation had been laid.However, when time had come to go to the university, I wasn’t interested in studying philosophy at all. Even more, I did not follow the philosophy courses of my study program because I did not find them interesting and they were not compulsory. But soon I met questions that did not have a sociological, psychological, physical etc. answer. They could be answered only by discussing them from a philosophical view point (insofar as they could be answered at all, of course). And so I became gradually interested in philosophy; and so I found the road to philosophy. Or rather, I must say that I found a road to philosophy, my road to philosophy. For it is possible, for instance, that one is already so interested in philosophy, that one studies it on the university from the start. Or one does not follow an “official road” to philosophy, one doesn’t follow courses, but life itself makes one ask philosophical questions and develop philosophical attitudes. And so on. In fact, there are many roads to philosophy. It is impossible to show them all, but here are a few of them: .

Monday, March 03, 2008

I act, therefore I am

Man is a thinking being, that is true. Although I disagree with Descartes about the relation between my being and my thinking, I agree with him that we have to think. I have explained that in my last blog. Descartes saw this thinking of mine as the foundation of my existence, as an Archimedean point that grounds my existence and from where my existence starts. But can my existence, my being, really start from there? Not if we see my existence as a precondition of my thinking, as I do. This does not mean, however, that I see my existence as an Archimedean point. It cannot be, if we realize that I have always to take care that my existence continues to exist. In concrete words: I have to do something in order to stay alive. I have to eat, to drink, to take care of my health and to do many other things in order to make that my existence continues. And I can have many ideas about how the world and I have been made up and what the my foundation is, in the end it doesn’t feed me. In other words, for being able to think, I have to do so something, to act, in order to stay alive and to make my thinking possible. And if there is an Archimedean point of my existence, it would be this: the fact that I have to act, because I am in this world, i.e. exist. And that is in my view what Wittgenstein meant, when he wrote: “Die Begründung aber, die Rechtfertigung der Evidenz kommt zu einem Ende; – das Ende aber ist nicht, daß uns gewisse Sätze unmittelbar als wahr einleuchten, also eine Art Sehen unsrerseits, sondern unser Handeln, welches am Grunde des Sprachspiels liegt” [However, the foundation, the justification of the obviousness comes to an end;but the end is not that certain sentences become immediately clear to us, so it is not a kind of seeing by us, but it is our acting, which forms the foundation of our language game”] (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Über Gewißheit, 204).