RE: Books on rationality

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Jun 08 2002 - 21:20:38 MDT

> Bunge is particularly strong in his formulation of philosophical claims as
> logical propositions, and on his warranted (in my opinion) dismissals of
> most Continental philosophy (from existentialism to
> post-modernism). I also
> found quite valuable his summary of outstanding philosophical
> problems that
> may be amenable to resolution along the lines he sets out in his books.

Not surprisingly, I hold a different view ;)

I find his formulation of philosophical claims in logical terms rather
shallow, and I radically disagree with his dismissal of existentialism and

The existentialists and proto-existentialists dealt with the issue of how to
think about morality in the absence of a false notion of "objective
reality," far better than anyone else has. I'm thinking of Nietzsche,
Sartre and Camus, primarily.

Baudrillard's book "Simulations" (he's a French postmodernist sociologist)
is the best book on the phenomenology of virtual reality that I know; and
Foucault (often considered a postmodernist), in his books on prisons,
schools, and sexuality for instance, has plunged deeper into the perverse
peculiarity of human nature than just about anyone else.

To me, accepting only philosophy that can be summed up in concise logical
propositions is like, well, trying to encode philosophy in CycL! Just as
the deepest parts of commonsense knowledge cannot be conveniently encoded in
compact logical formulas, so the deepest kinds of philosophy cannot be
conveniently encoded in compact logical formulas.

What is most interesting to me in late 19'th century & 20'th century
philosophy is the attempt to forge a middle way between shallow, naive
rationalism/empiricism (which holds there is a single objective reality, and
a single right answer to every question), and total nihilism (which is the
most common conclusion those who reject the existence of objectivity come
to) -- *without* recourse to superstitious beliefs. This is existentialism,
postmodernism, and other assorted freaks like Mikhail Bakhtin (an amazing
Russian literary critic and philospher, who created a notion of a
"polyphonic" reality that is neither objective nor solipsistic, but

By putting himself in the "naive objectivist" camp, Bunge makes himself
completely uninteresting to me. Refusing to acknowledge the fact that each
of us lives in our own mind-created world, is just as silly as refusing to
acknowledge that there is some common reality that we all share. Embracing
this Zen koan of subjectivity/objectivity is the real challenge, and will
become even more of a pertinent challenge as virtual reality and
superintelligence-inspired reality transformations completely alter reality
as we know it.

-- Ben G

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