Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The US Begins the End in Iraq

President Obama is due today to announce the beginning of the end of US troop involvement in Iraq with just 50,000 troops due to remain until the end of next year. In view of this drawdown it is perhaps time to reflect on the nature of the US and UK involvement in Iraq for the past seven years.

The invasion that took place in 2003 was controversial at the time and the consequences of it have been far-reaching. The effect on Iraq itself has been considerable. The toppling of Saddam Hussein, a seriously brutal dictator whose excesses against his own population are today largely forgotten, was something that was a direct product of the invasion, as it was intended to be. The arguments concerning the justification of the war against Hussein have been gone through endlessly with particular focus on the failure of the "weapons of mass destruction" to be found and the repeated charge of the "illegality" of the invasion. The charge of "illegality" had two prime sources. The first was in a highly charged normative theory of international law. This theory, perhaps elaborated most extensively by Jurgen Habermas, tended to collapse the aspiration for a world order in which normative considerations are paramount from the reality of the world order we are faced with. The second, less contentious, focused on narrower issues, to do with the alleged status of UN resolutions and with the "ban" on aggressive intent in war. The status of UN resolutions and, indeed, the status of the UN itself, are less settled than opponents of the Second Iraq War contended. The more important point was the settled consensus that there is no basis for aggressive war and, indeed, it was due to the understanding and acceptance of this view even within official circles in the US and the UK, that it was suggested that Iraq possessed the potential and the desire to attack the West or, at least, unsettle Western possessions or allies. That was the reason the discussion of the alleged weapons mattered.

Despite the failure to find any weapons it is worth remembering that there was little dispute in 2002-03 that Iraq possessed dangerous weapons. There was a general acceptance that this was very likely including in governments that led opposition to the war such as those of Russia, China, and France. This tends to be forgotten by those who would wish to re-write history. It also tends to be forgotten that there was a serious split within Europe concerning the invasion with the governments of Spain, Italy and Poland prominent amongst those willing to support the invasion, even leaving aside the complicated case of Britain.

The effects of the invasion, apart from the removal of the brutal dictatorship of Hussein, have been, to put it mildly, mixed. What became clear after the dictatorship's removal was the basis of its existence. This basis was that the dictatorship had been able, by use of its methods, to keep Iraq as a nation united and removal of the dictatorship opened the way for all the forces that could pull Iraq apart. The insurgency against the invasion was mainly based in the Sunni population who had been net beneficiaries of the rule of the dictator though Shiite factions also arose that were to dispute the rule of a central government. Further, the US/UK reliance on ill-informed outsiders was exposed early. The general failure to understand or plan for the aftermath of the invasion was surely criminally irresponsible and is the single biggest mark both against the invasion itself and the principal movers behind it, especially the second President Bush. 

The regional effects of the invasion remain, somewhat surprisingly, unclear. There were initial encouraging effects when Libya, for example, hurried to become part of the fold of "accepted" nations. The failure to contain Syrian ambitions has revealed, however, how limited the regional effects of the invasion has been. The continuing conflict in Afghanistan, from which resources were drained by the invasion of Iraq, perhaps poses the more significant long-term questions.

US politics became drawn into long and bitter arguments that prompted, for a time, the most serious hostility to a sitting president in living memory. The continuing polarisation of US politics can be seen in the peculiar "Tea Party" phenomena. The Democratic Party was neither united in opposition to the war or capable of throwing up a leadership that could outline alternative views of America's place in the world as Obama's presidency continues to reveal.

In the UK the Iraq war eroded and eventually destroyed the premiership of Tony Blair, a consequence whose effects continued to be seen in the last election here this year. The corrosive consequences of this have been the return of traditional Tory isolationism combined with a general aversion for discussion of normative questions in international relations. These consequences are seriously regrettable and show that the long-term effects of the conflict reach far and wide.

The invasion may well have produced an international climate that is less favourable to serious normative consideration of international affairs generally despite the appeal to such considerations on the part of the war's critics. Alliance of such critics with governments of dubious standing and with those willing to make Islam a political movement also stained the credibility of such critics. There is little long-term to celebrate either concerning the war or its adversaries.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sellars and Maimon on Intuition

Having begun to lay out both the views of Maimon and those of Sellars of the status of intuition I thought it possible to now pause and compare the two, at least in an initial way. Firstly, Maimon begins his discussion of space and time by arguing against a view of them as abstractions. In so doing he followed the logic of the arguments of the Metaphysical Exposition of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic. Sellars, by contrast, in his view of the dual status of intuition, comprehends the presence of intuitive individuals in cognition as a result of a form of abstraction. The difference between Maimon and Sellars here can be partially covered by attending to the point that Sellars' notion of abstraction is not from a passive manifold but rather from a synthesised one so the place of space and time in "sheer receptivity" would not be one that was a product of abstraction and the notion of abstraction he is working with is not in relation to the passive manifold but rather from the synthesised manifold.

When Maimon argues against conceiving of space and time as abstractions one of the reasons he presents is due to the claim that they are not parts of concepts of experience but are rather what gives unity to experience and, in being part of this unitary givenness, are related to the conditions of conceptuality as such. By contrast, Sellars lays stress on the immediacy of intuition which he connects to the model of intuition as a form of demonstrative "this". This difference can again be partially overcome by attending to the point that both Maimon and Sellars are stressing the sense in which space and time are conceptual though Sellars does not, just due to this, wish to abandon or leave as only "fictive" the status of space and time as intuitive.

The impact of Maimon's general account of space and time in the first chapter of his Essay appears to be that in experience there is no such thing as "pure intuition" but only what he terms "empirical intuition" which, I suggested, is as much as to say that we only experience "formal intuition" and not the "forms of intuition". I don't think there is a parallel to this argument in Sellars though his suggestion that there is a signal problem with thinking of space as the form of outer sense does begin to suggest a central difficulty with the very idea of "outer sense". Sellars' commitment to the notion of "sheer receptivity" seems to be a second element to his resistance to the reduction of space and time to being generically understood as conceptual with the the "intuitive" relegated to the status of illusion.

I have only as yet scratched the surface of Sellars' view and will return to it in more detail, also I will contrast the specific claims of Sellars with the interpretation of his claims by McDowell. The account so far given of space and time by Maimon has also, as yet, drawn only on the first chapter of the Essay and I will, in subsequent postings, move on to later chapters of it.

Sellars and Kant on Intuition (I)

In the first posting I did on Maimon and Kant on intuition I referred to a connection between Maimon's response to the status of "intuition" and the views more recently advanced by Wilfrid Sellars and John McDowell. However, that posting grew so long that I was unable to come back to the views of Sellars and McDowell. In this posting I want to explore just some of the comments made by Wilfrid Sellars in the first chapter of his seminal work Science and Metaphysics: Variations on Kantian Themes.

The first chapter of Sellars' book opens by reporting Kant's heterogeneity thesis: namely, that there are two separate and distinct branches of cognition, namely, sensibility and understanding. Sellars relates this distinction directly to that between intuition and conceptuality and that between spontaneity and receptivity. Sellars aims to show that intuition has a double-aspect, in line with considerations we have been looking at in the last postings. The first argument to this effect concerns the way in which Kant describes concepts which is generally as a term for something general and not particular. On these grounds Sellars suggests a relationship between intuition and the presentation of individuals. However, the problem with such a view of intuition that Sellars considers, is to the effect that many particulars are clearly not of a sort to be presented as "intuitive". So, to incorporate this, Sellars points out that particulars are generally presented in such a way as to require mediation in their representation by concepts.

By contrast, with intuitions, Kant does specifically refer to the notion that there is something immediate about them. This claimed immediacy is something that is far from easy to understand and Sellars does not wish, at least at first, to endorse the conception that it should be understood as a causative claim (that is, that the presence of an intuition in a representation is brought about by something affecting the cogniser). Rather, Sellars' first suggestion is to the effect that the immediate particular that gets represented in an intuition is instead something that we should understand on the model of the "demonstrative this".

Now, if to represent an individual as a "this" is to be engaged immediately in an intuitive representation and yet the notion of such a "this" requires (as Hegel suggested in the "Introduction" to his Phenomenology) a basic conceptual relation, then this conceptual relation that is at work in the presentation of the "this" is one that belongs to the specific working of intuition. On these grounds, Sellars presents his first argument for thinking of intuition as, in some sense, conceptual. (Oddly, and more in keeping with Maimon, Sellars also refers to the way that Kant can include such a notion of an infinite intellect that is intuitive as an additional consideration for viewing intuitions as, in some way, capable of being comprehended conceptually though, unlike Maimon, Sellars does not develop this suspicion.)

Further considerations for approaching intuition in a manner which complicates the initial schematic representation of Kant's view quickly follow. Firstly, the representation of space is something that surely requires reference to understanding. This point is asserted and not yet argued. Secondly, the notion of the synthesis of imagination, implies a view of representing intuitions that involves some kind of meeting between spontaneity and receptivity and is certainly not a matter of what Sellars terms "sheer receptivity".

This conception of "sheer receptivity" is one that is not easy to work out the sense of in Sellars' use of it and I suspect I will need to say much more about it in future postings. Here it seems to be understood as the form of receptivity that involves no form of spontaneity. As such it appears that it would require a sense of "intuition" that is non-conceptual. So Sellars has now cashed out his view that there is a dual aspect to intuitions with one part being conceptual and one part not. The part which is conceptual would have to have a connection to judgment as is argued for in what I have elsewhere termed the "symmetry thesis" of the Metaphysical Deduction (A78-9/B103-4).

Sellars next compares the picture he has thus developed with the classic Aristotelian notion of abstraction pointing to the view that the judgment concerning an individual seems to arise from abstraction away from the individual presentation of something. In this case, unlike in the Aristotelian, the point would be that the individual intuitive presentation was itself already a result of active work and not something passively related to by the cognition.

However, despite the difference between the pictures, objections to the Aristotelian view surely resurface in slightly emended forms here. The suggestion that the presentation of a line, for example, emerges after the sense of the particular line has been given certainly seems implausible. Such a view certainly requires, at any rate, a strong commitment to the existence of a level of perception in which the determination of the "this" is working by means of something within the perception itself.

The connection of these reflections to Kant's argument arises from the point that "intuition" in Kant is, as pointed out by Henry Allison amongst others, at least distinguishable between the product of synthesis and a passive manifold towards which cognition is directed. This distinction is again related by Sellars to the difference between Kant's talk of a manifold of representations and the representation of a manifold. Whereas the latter involves synthesis the former may well not. (The explicit attention involved in the representation of a manifold as a manifold is something else entirely.)

Sellars now returns to his notion of "sheer receptivity" which appears to mark his view of what is at work in the manifold of representations being given to us. At this point Sellars assumes that this givenness by sheer receptivity is something that is simple and this suggestion appears to emerge from the sense that we are not here dealing with synthesis. Once synthesis emerges there is an evident complex but, in the absence of it, what need is there for a complex to be spoken of? That which appears to cognition without synthesis being needed ("sheer receptivity") would be a simple and so what is represented by means of it would also be simple. This equation is somewhat quick on Sellars' part since the means of representing may be simple without what is represented necessarily being so.

The case that begins now to be considered by Sellars is that of space which he argues cannot be given to "sheer receptivity" as a complex and, in arguing this, he relates the understanding of it to the notion that it is the form of "outer sense". Now, if space is part of sheer receptivity (intuitive in a non-conceptual sense) then, in being so part, it does not really fit with outer sense as such on Sellars' view. One reason is that such a simple form as would be given by space in this case is not fit to be the form of the representings of outer sense. If there is something given in outer sense then what is so given is surely not something that a simple mode of representing could capture and, because of this, it is also incapable of being what is represented by outer sense.

To be sure this does not directly tell against the view that space is the form of outer sense if we assume that space is an intuition of a conceptual sort but then it appears that space does not belong with "sheer receptivity" at all. This is the culmination of the first movement of Sellars' first chapter. Two questions arise from it: firstly, how does Sellars go on to account for intuition and, secondly,  in what sense can the notion of "sheer receptivity" be shown to have a role in cognition? The latter question is one of some interest since it reflects a way of understanding the non-conceptual element of Kantian intuition, an element that we need some handle on.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Maimon and Kant on Intuition (II)

Without yet moving beyond the discussion of Chapter 1 of Maimon's Essay I want to consider the account of space and time a bit further and, especially, the objections Maimon has to the notion Kant offers in the Transcendental Aesthetic that space and time are pure intuitions. This claim is one that the argument of Chapter 1 appears to be principally directed against (as is apparent from the closing sentence of the chapter). However when reading the chapter it takes some time to work out precisely what it is that Maimon is objecting to in Kant's characterisation of space and time as pure intuitions, not least because Maimon is happy to endorse the view that there are such things as pure time and pure space (the former being the object of arithmetic - number - and the latter being the object of geometry). These notions of pure time and pure space are distinguished by him from pure intuition as, Maimon claims, in the cases of pure time and pure space we have conceptual determinations. In support of this claim Maimon talks about time as a way of relating objects to each other and suggests that for the points of time to be distinguished we require a reference to something in the points of time. Here Maimon takes it that without some sense of substance and accident the points of time will not be separated. 

This sense Maimon has of the way in which the distinct elements of space and time are distinguished for us in perception seems to be connected to his general problem with "pure intuition". Maimon seems to think of pure intuition on the model of absolute space and time and when he discusses the basis for the "fiction" that space and time are intuitive he argues that what happens in understanding space and time in this way is that something relative is taken to be absolute. The basis for this claim seems to be that if there is an homogeneous space then there are no parts sufficient to make difference available so that something heterogeneous is required. The heterogeneous that is required is in the matter and space/time are forms of relation between the heterogeneous matters but, if they were purely heterogeneous, there could again be no unity.

Maimon's arguments against pure intuition thus appear to be a form of Leibnizian argument against thinking of space/time as anything other than relations and an insistence that these relations only work to determine anything that is given independently of them which is why he appears to conclude Chapter 1 with the argument that space and time are only "empirical" intuitions or, as he also puts it there, are "predicates" of intuitions. 

One question that emerges as fairly obvious from thinking further about this chapter is whether it is right, as Paul Franks suggested in his paper to the Maimon conference, to say that Maimon takes intuitions to be particulars. This seems correct in terms of Maimon's argument for thinking about the conditions of distinguishability of parts requiring specification and to point to why he has a problem with the view that there is a "pure" intuition but if that's right then Franks' point may need to be slightly refined. It is not that Maimon takes Kant's intuitions (i.e., his forms of intuition) as particulars but that he comprehends the representation that can be called "intuitive" (perhaps that of formal intuition?) to involve particulars in order for determination to take place. Though if that's right then perhaps Maimon's account of the "empirical" nature of intuitions can be re-phrased in Henry Allison's vocabulary as saying that his conception of intuition is that there are, in experience, only formal intuitions?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Maimon Conference Report

Salomon MaimonImage via Wikipedia
The event of the week was certainly attending the one-day conference on Salomon Maimon that was staged at my own university, Manchester Metropolitan, this week. The event was organised in celebration of the translation of Maimon's Essay and it certainly revealed further reasons for taking Maimon seriously as a major philosopher. 

The opening speech was given by Bruce Rosenstock who spoke about the topic of creatio ex nihilo as a key element of belief, as articulated by Moses Maimonides (from whom Maimon takes his name). However, Maimon takes the advent of Newtonian science to have ruled out the possibility of belief in such a thing. Interestingly, Maimon compares Maimonides' belief in creatio ex nihilo to the position of Kant since Kant left open the possibility of creation as an hypothesis.

Rosenstock mentioned further that Wittgenstein's Tractatus also adopted the view that Newtonian science is a unitary whole but does so by maintaining an external vantage on the world that allows us to see its existence as "mystical". Maimon, by contrast, wished to annul this notion of the "mystical" and the miraculous sense of things that is at work in the conception of creatio ex nihilo.

Rosenstock also spoke about Jacobi, mentioning how, for Jacobi, the consciousness of the object and of the self are given together in a flash. Neither, for Jacobi, are inferences. Consciousness, for Jacobi, is the revelation of the existence of these two inter-related forces which are grounded, for him, on the immediacy of revelation. However, Jacobi does not allow variation of forces between bodies and thus he has to make a hash of Newtonian physics. Force varies with regard to consciousness for Jacobi but he can make no real sense of relations between bodies.

The chapter of Maimon's Essay that concerns alteration argues that continuity is an a priori element that is added to the relations we perceive. Action and reaction are indivisible for Maimon but he does not take this to be given in foundational perception (as Jacobi did) but takes it instead to be the end-result of analysis. Jacobi cannot allow for lawful regularity but Maimon, by contrast, is very concerned to address this. Measurability, for Maimon, is a feature of perception itself

Real objects cannot be constructed and the result of this is that finite understanding has to relate to these as being "noumenon" (a very odd result for Kant!). The infinite understanding cannot construct real objects either but it does not need to since it grasps the continuity between them as a unity. Construction is neither miraculous nor is it an act of the will. God is, for Maimon, the limit-concept of human understanding's attempt to measure the world. Change cannot be seen by us otherwise than as continuous, we could not believe in any other type of change and nor could God construct any other form of change. There can be nothing but facts in the world for Maimon: there is no further side to the world.

Paul Franks gave the second paper and took his title from the dedication to Kant that Maimon put at the front of the essay where he compared himself to a swallow and Kant to a swan. Franks began his response to the Essay from its introduction and pointed out that Maimon does not there include physics in the province of his notion of "science" due to the fact that his basic conception of science does not come from physical investigation but rahter from mathematics. Citing the two slightly different characterisations of the transcendental Kant gives in the Critique of Pure Reason from A12 and B25 Franks pointed out that Kant does not here deal with "objects in general". Maimon, by contrast, seeks to indicate the need to return to the forms of objects in general in his wider conception of ontology.

Franks went on to speak about the split within analytic readings of Kant between Aristotelian and Platonic conceptions of the Critical task. "Aristotelians" such as Strawson and McDowell emphasise the comprehension of the immediate givenness of objects whereas Platonists such as Michael Friedman, by contrast, are concerned with the mathematisation of nature. Franks firmly put Maimon on the Platonic side of this division.

Franks suggested that Maimon based his view of Kantian method on the Prolegomena rather than the Critique and even argued that Maimon's conception of the transcendental deduction is arrived at by means of this view. Franks stressed a conception that he took to be at the heart of Kant's own enquiry and that he termed epistemic content preservation. This view takes us to have the sciences and then seeks to comprehend experience in such a way that the possibility of us having the sciences can be preserved. This view leads Franks, like Strawson, to see Kant's Critical philosophy as a form of descriptive metaphysicsBy way of reply, Maimon takes Hume's method of asking for the source of human convictions and suggesting that even if they are fictions that as such they may well work perfectly well.

Reverting to the contemporary split in readings of Kant, Franks pointed out that the Strawsonian view of intuition seemed to depend essentially on the connection between difference and likeness (concepts of reflection). This argument does not capture a lot of the specificity of space, such as its' 3-dimensionality although Kant had hoped to do this.

Franks understands Maimon's criticism of Kantian intuition as mistaken due to the fact that Maimon views Kantian intuitions as particulars. By contrast, intuitions are not particulars for Kant, they are rather singular actualities. Particulars are given instead by a combination of concepts and intuitions describing objects. Kantian intuition is a "state" says Franks and not an "episode". Space and time in the purest sense are pure self-affections.

For Kant finitude is revealed through thinking and its difference from intuition. The principle of unidirectionality of time for example is central to the understanding of the mathematisation of nature and to the operation of the finite intellect. It makes no sense, for Kant, to measure time against the infinite intellect. Our finitude is essential to our ability to cognise anything.

Maimon rejects the notion of regressive transcendental arguments, a notion that has recently become a very popular way of reading Kant (by Strawson, for example). Some account of concept formation has to be provided for Kant to respond to Maimon's challenges concerning the formation of a relationship to real objects. Kant, on Franks' view, discusses one in the Critique of Judgment. However, what the effect of reading it should be is to alter the structure of Kant's argument in the transcendental deduction so that the concepts of reflection are used as the centre of its argument. Intriguingly, this suggestion of Franks mirrors one I argued for in Chapter 4 of Kant's Transcendental Imagination

However, what Franks seems to mean by this, is that aesthetic judgments show how concept formation is possible as they are never finished being constructed. Further, the sense contents that are insufficiently theorised in the Critique of Pure Reason are returned to in a richer way in the Critique of Judgment. Kant's position in the fullest sense amounts to a combination of empirical realism with regard to physics + empirical realism with regard to sense-perception on Franks view, a combination that contemporary Kantians have found it difficult to maintain. Maimon, by contrast, on Franks view, has a conception of empirical intuition that moves in the direction of axiomatic mathematics. 

In discussion of Franks' paper, Nick Midgley argued that we don't start from everyday experience for Maimon, we begin from the ideas of the understanding, that is, from the differentials. What is mathematised may not be "nature" in the sense we experience everyday. This leaves open a potential gap between the two senses of "nature" that opens up room for scepticism.

Also in reply to Franks' paper, Gideon Freudenthal argued that Maimon takes physics to be contingently true rather than necessarily true and that he rejects necessitarian conceptions of law.

Daniela Voss gave the next paper which focused on the relationship of Deleuze to Maimon. Deleuze praised Maimon for rejecting "conditioning" as the point of view for transcendental philosophy. Deleuze claims that Kant's conditions are not able to ground the reality of our experience as conditions get their ground from experience so focusing on them mires the transcendental within the given.

Differentials are neither fictions nor realities on Deleuze's conception but elements of the unconscious. Every conscious perception is constituted through an original differentiated production within the understanding. Conscious perception must be resolved into its elements and these elements are the differentials of the rational manifold.

The differentials of objects are noumena but are immanent to the understanding. Voss suggested that the differentials are real and constitutive elements within an infinite understanding. Differentials are presentations: they do not represent anything and they cannot be represented. Deleuze resolves the infinite understanding into the presence of the unconscious in finite understanding. The unconscious thus becomes the condition of consciousness. This enables an internal genesis of consciousness to be disclosed.

Maimon did not view the differentials in terms of Leibniz's petites perceptiones as the latter struck him as merely a legacy of anthropology. However, Maimon does occasionally refer to differentials of sensation. Deleuze, by contrast to Maimon, reinscribes the differentials into the Leibnizian notion. Minute perceptions are distinct but obscure for Deleuze. By contrast, conscious perceptions are clear but confused.

The differential unconscious is in continuity with consciousness and Deleuze takes advantage of later developments of the calculus than were available to Maimon. Differentials are virtual elements of a differential unconscious, an unconscious that is present in finite thought.

Beth Lord's contribution focused on the relationship between Kant and Maimon. In April 1789 Maimon sent the manuscript of the Essay to Kant and Kant later arranged for a copy of the Critique of Judgment to be sent to Maimon. However, Kant subsequently failed to reply to Maimon's letters and never again referred to him seriously. Lord suggested, however, that the composition of the Critique of Teleological Judgment was seriously influenced by Kant's reading of Maimon's Essay.

The question that both the Essay and the Critique of Judgment concern themselves with is how to account for nature's infinite differences. The answer, in both texts, involves reference to the intuitive intellect. From this it follows that sections 76-77 of the Critique of Judgment, the sections most important for the German Idealists, were written, on Lord's view as a critique of Maimon. The teleological principle is something Kant takes to be required if we are not to be overwhelmed by diversity.

How do objects in general relate to objects in their genesis? Real objects in terms of their specific genesis and diversity are not, on Maimon's view, accounted for by Kant. Kant points out, in the introduction to the Critique of Judgment, that there might be such specific laws at work that we cannot determine them.

The genesis of objects occurs through thought for Maimon as our own understanding is a confused mode of the infinite intellect. In the case of the real object, ideas of understanding flow from differentials. Real objects are determined internally and genetically by specific differences. Real objects of thought are represented by imagination in sensibility.

Kant's intuitive intellect involves a distinction between the supersensible substratum and the intellect that causes it to be so that the understanding is thus external to the substratum. Kant takes Spinozism to consist in a conflation of the understanding with substance which is why he views Maimon as a Spinozist.

How to account for differences? Maimon does so through a rationalistic account of the intellect whilst Kant denies this due to it requiring a conflation of substance and understanding. However, Lord concluded the paper by suggesting that the distinction between Kant and Maimon would become less stark as Kant wrote the Opus Postumum where we encounter conceptions like Maimon's ideas of the understanding and a genetic discussion of the conditions of experience is supplied.

Gideon Freudenthal closed the conference with a paper that reflected on Maimon's conception of philosophy. When Maimon translated the Essay into Hebrew he termed it a work on universal philosophy which Freudenthal understood to mean that Maimon viewed the term "transcendental" in a medieval sense.

On Maimon's conception, knowledge worthy of the name is of the pure intellect. Maimon viewed geometry as a science of continuous magnitude and arithmetic as a science of discrete magnitude. Our cognition stands in the same relation to mathematics as the infinite intellect does to objects generally. We could forsake intuition if we were able to act like God.

Real objects are not, for Maimon, existent prior to relations since the relations are the objects themselves. Number is a ratio of each number to one so number is not a magnitude. It is only in relation to a specific intuition that number can determine magnitude. The common property of the numbers is their ratio to 1.

We cannot, however, construct the objects between which the ratios pertain and for this reason we require intuition. Mathematical truths are necessary but opaque to reason.However, Maimon upholds a criteria of rationality and measures mathematics against it. If his accounts fail to produce the reduction of mathematics to an entirely axiomatic system this need not affect his criteria and contemporary mathematics works with this criteria rather than with Kant's allegiance to the "fact" of how mathematics works.

P.S. Since writing this posting Gideon Freudenthal has been in touch with a much fuller account of his paper's argument which I have reproduced here.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Intuition in Maimon and Kant (I)

On beginning to read Maimon's Essay on Transcendental Philosophy the first question that arises concerns his treatment of "intuition", a treatment I think deserves extended contrast with the views of Wilfrid Sellars and John McDowell. Before going to the contrast, let's look first at some of the ways the first chapter of Maimon's Essay describes intuition. For the sake of today's posting I want to stick with the first chapter and not presuppose what is to come later. 

Maimon's first point with regard to space and time fits with the argument of Kant's Transcendental Aesthetic. He opens by stating that space and time are not concepts abstracted from experience as they are not parts of concepts of experience but rather the unities through which the manifold "of experiential concepts" is gathered together. Whilst Maimon's manner of putting this is slightly different from Kant's it does not appear, at this point, significant in its difference since the argument appears to repeat the first argument of Kant's metaphysical exposition of the concepts of space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic: A23/B37 and A30/B46.

Maimon also goes on to link this first point with a second which again echoes the argument of the Aesthetic. This second point is that the parts of space and time are not possible prior to the wholes of space and time, the parts are hence "in" space and time. This seems to conflate the 3rd and 4th of the second edition arguments from the metaphysical exposition (A24-5/B39-40 and A31-2/B47-8). This conflation erases the distinction between two separate arguments Kant gave for thinking of space and time as intuitions rather than concepts. Sticking with space, as is customary, Kant first gave the argument that space is not  what he calls here a "general concept of relations of things in general" by claiming that the whole of space is prior to the representation of its parts. Subsequently he gave the separate argument that space is represented as an infinite given magnitude due to the fact that the parts are all contained within it, rather than, as with concepts, being instead thought "under" it. The distinction between the arguments is of some interest since the first was intended not merely to show that space should be seen intuitively rather than conceptually but also that the kind of concept it is not is one that describes relations of things in general. The second argument, by contrast, indicates the reason why the contrast of the first argument enables not merely a reference to the kind of whole that space is but also why this kind of whole is generically distinct from that given to concepts. So why does Maimon effectively conflate these two arguments?

The answer seems to be that Maimon wishes to point in a different direction to Kant when he lists these considerations of the way to view space and time. After mentioning these arguments Maimon immediately adds that he agrees with the Kantian claim that space and time are forms of our sensibility but then adds that they are grounded in the universal forms of our thought in general. In making this claim Maimon mentions that the condition of our thought is "unity in the manifold" and seems to be connecting the claim about space and time to the argument Kant will offer in the Transcendental Deduction concerning the transcendental unity of apperception. A reason for thinking that this connection is what Maimon has in mind can be found at A105 where Kant writes:

we think a triangle as an object, in that we are conscious of the combination of three straight lines according to a rule by which such an intuition can always be represented. This unity of rule determines all the manifold, and limits it to conditions which make unity of apperception possible. The concept of this unity is the representation of the object = x, which I think through the predicates, above mentioned, of a triangle.

As will become clear in subsequent postings, Maimon has a lot to say about the triangle, and, indeed, about geometry, a subject that will have to wait for another day (or, rather, many days!). The point is, however, that in referring to this view here, Maimon seems not to allow for an independent discussion of a priori intuition that Kant aims to carry out in the Aesthetic.

Maimon next goes on to mention the characteristic ways of understanding space and time, stating that space is the "being-apart" of objects (as follows from his first characterisation of space from the externality argument of the Aesthetic) whilst time is the preceding and succeeding of objects with respect to one another. It follows from this view of time that Maimon does not regard simultaneity as a determination of time, something that would at least cut against one reading of the 3rd Analogy, suggesting it needs to be read in terms of co-existence rather than simultaneity. However, more interestingly, Maimon is explicit in pointing out that space and time are conditions of each other in terms of representations, something Kant does indeed indicate but not always as explicitly as Maimon formulates it.

The next problem addressed concerns the view that space and time are conceptual as well as intuitive and it is here that Maimon's reflections relate to those of Sellars and McDowell. The claim that space and time are, in some sense, conceptual in addition to being intuitive is often thought (by Henry Allison, for example) to underly the distinction Kant makes between "forms of intuition" and "formal intuition" at B160. For reasons that would take too long to summarise in this posting I think this is a false view of the distinction Kant is drawing at B160 but that Allison thinks it plausible is sufficient to show that within contemporary Kant scholarship there is serious consideration given to the view that space and time are, in at least some sense, conceptual. Further, the argument, on-going since Kemp Smith's commentary on the Critique was first published, to the effect that the view of the Transcendental Analytic is not entirely of a piece with that of the Transcendental Aesthetic, further points in the direction of these types of considerations. 

Maimon's way of articulating the view that space is a concept does not rely, at least in chapter 1 of the Essay, on either the considerations at work for Allison or those at work for Kemp Smith. Rather, Maimon simply goes back to the claim that conceptuality involves unity in the manifold and indicates that such manifold unity is also at work in the "concept" of space. The intuition of space is traced by Maimon back to the work of the imagination. In one sense, there is an obvious move here since intuition and imagination are closely connected for Kant. However, whereas the transcendental synthesis of imagination is, for Kant, the general basis of the possibility of experience (when combined with the transcendental unity of apperception), for Maimon, by contrast, to say that intuition and imagination are connected is to say there is something problematic in the intuitive sense of space. The intuitive sense of space is understood by Maimon as arising when something relative (such as place or movement) is taken to be absolute so the intuitive sense of space is an "imaginative" sense of it. 

However, whilst this intuitive sense of space is therefore, in some sense inferior to the conceptual sense of space there is an important element of this intuitive sense of space that has to be conserved. This is that it is from the intuitive sense of space, according to Maimon, that "the objects of mathematics" arise. This claim introduces a further problem in Maimon's account since the possibility of the production of these "objects of mathematics" indicates a distinction within imagination itself as he makes clear:

The validity of the principles [Grundsatze] of these fictions is based only on the possibility of their production. For example, 'a triangle arises from three lines, of which two together are longer than the third'', or 'a figure cannot arise from two lines', and the like. In this case even the imagination (as the faculty of fictions, for determining objects a priori) serves the understanding. As soon as the understanding prescribes the rules for drawing a line between two points (that is, that it should be the shortest), the imagination draws a straight line to satisfy this demand. This faculty of fictions [Erdictungsvermogen] is, as it were, something intermediate between the imagination properly so-called and the understanding....

Here we find that the imagination that is "properly so called" is apparently distinct from the "faculty of fictions" as the latter is rather placed between imagination and understanding. The understanding itself is conceived here in orthodox Kantian fashion as the faculty of rules and is understood as active whilst the imagination is presented as partly passive and partly active. The passivity of imagination is the guidance of it by association (empirical or Humean imagination) whilst the activity of imagination involves the capacity to order. This active/passive combination is what is at work for "imagination proper" whilst the faculty of fictions is distinct from this as it is "completely spontaneous" (like understanding).

At this point things get further complicated. Maimon now presents his account of synthesis and describes three different forms of it. In one respect, again, this is orthodox since Kant did this also in the A-Deduction and section 26 of the B-Deduction still includes some sense of this. However, whereas Kant distinguishes between the syntheses of apprehension, reproduction and recognition, Maimon distinguishes rather between necessary synthesis, arbitrary synthesis and spontaneous synthesis. Necessary synthesis involves the unity and the manifold being, says Maimon, "given to the understanding, but not produced by it". This type of synthesis is at work, Maimon claims, when the real in sensation is given to us. This real is not produced by the understanding as it is sensible and it is necessary since sensation can be given no other way but understanding does not produce it. This is a suggestive response to the Anticipations of Perception.

The arbitrary synthesis, by contrast, is said to be produced by the understanding (hence not like the first synthesis just given to the understanding). However, whilst the understanding is the basis of this synthesis, this does not entail for Maimon that we have here an objective law. What does this synthesis connect to? Time and space as intuitively given and hence also the "objects of mathematics". As the first appeared to relate to the Anticipations of Perception so here there appears to be an echo of the Axioms of Intuition. Certainly the general claim that mathematics involves arbitrary production has a long ancestry in Kant's thought and I treated it at length in Chapter 6 of Kant's Transcendental Imagination. Maimon gives a lapidary presentation of his general claim here:

A determined (limited) space can be arbitrarily taken as a unit [Einheit] so that an arbitrary plurality [Vielheit] emerges out of it through the successive synthesis of such units with each other (this plurality is arbitrary as much in relation to the unity that is adopted, as with respect to the ever possible continuation of this synthesis).

However, whilst this again appears orthodox enough the way Maimon turns it shows an important twist since he goes on to claim that time and space as concepts contain "as differentials of the plurality, a necessary unity in the manifold" whereas Kant makes no reference to this conception, at least, not in this way. 

Maimon also adds that the distinction between treating time and space as concepts and treating them as intuitions is important for thinking about the relation of time and space to each other. Considered just as concepts time and space are exclusive of each other whereas considered as intuitions they are not. The reason why time and space are not exclusive of each other when treated intuitively is then said to be that, as so treated, they are both extensive magnitudes, a claim that takes us straight to the Axioms of Intuition, just as I already claimed.

Finally, the spontaneous synthesis is a production of understanding from an objective ground but Maimon says no more about this in the first chapter. Rather, the discussion of the second synthesis steals the stage and from it Maimon appears to derive the surprising consequence that space and time, considered as "predicates" of intuition are only empirical and not pure though what effect this has on transcendental philosophy is not so obvious from the first chapter alone.

The considerations of this chapter are already very rich and I suggested, in opening, some connections to Sellars and McDowell but suspect I will have to leave the development of these to a further posting given the length this one has already run to. I will also treat later some considerations concerning how the views presented here relate to my previous account of Kant's view of intuition as developed in my book on imagination.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Salomon Maimon and Transcendental Philosophy

Salomon Maimon's work Essay on Transcendental Philosophy has recently been translated into English. The translators include my colleague, Henry Somers Hall and Nick Midgley. There will be a conference to celebrate the translation of this work into English held at Manchester Metropolitan on August 19th and there has been an on-going reading group focused on the work over at Perverse Egalitarianism. I will post a response to the papers of the conference after it has taken place and also intend to lay out some responses here to parts of the work. Maimon was one of the few critics that Kant, in his life-time, suggested was of some importance although it is also true that Kant did not engage Maimon very deeply, not least because he was convinced that the most important task was the elaboration of his own philosophy rather than responding to critics of it. Maimon is also something of a link to the German Idealist tradition that develops in the wake of Kant. Whilst Maimon's response to Kant is focused in the Essay more on theoretical than practical philosophy the implications of some of his challenges to Kant are of wider interest than might be thought, not least in connection with recent analytic responses to Kant from the likes of John McDowell and Wilfrid Sellars so expect more substantive theoretical postings to follow in due course.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ripstein and International Right

I've been reading Arthur Ripstein's recently published book Force and Freedom: Kant's Legal and Political Philosophy. The work is a commentary on Kant's Doctrine of Right though it is written in a style that is broadly reconstructive rather than being textually focused. This has advantages and disadvantages in the responses to particular topics and I'll be reviewing it elsewhere at a later date. However, for the purposes of this blog, I thought I would set out some thoughts on Ripstein's brief discussion of international right, which occurs toward the end of Chapter 7 of his book.

In this discussion Ripstein confronts the question of why the examination of the state of nature between states structurally differs from the state of nature between individuals. This difference is most apparent in Kant's failure to argue for a world state. The key element in Ripstein's assessment of Kant's failure to argue for a world state is a rejection of the view that this failure is grounded on some kind of empirical consideration. Rather than this being the case, suggests Ripstein, it is instead the case that Kant rejects the world state on normative grounds.

The state of nature between states parallels that between individuals in the sense that there is a need for some authority to determine the resolution of disputes. However, whereas Ripstein identifies three distinct arguments in the case of the state of nature between individuals aiming to show the need to leave the state of nature, he only identifies one argument in relation to the state of nature between states. The difference that emerges due to the paucity of argument in relation to the state of nature between states results, Ripstein points out, in the absence of discussion of legislative and executive international bodies. Only one kind of international body emerges, the one that is structurally parallel to the court at the national level.

To unpack Ripstein's account of international right requires, however, not merely reading his view of the Doctrine of Right, but, also, his account of Perpetual Peace. At Ak. 8: 356, during the discussion of the 2nd definitive article of perpetual peace, Kant argues for a pacific league. In arguing for this idea Kant makes clear that the pacific league only aims at "preserving and securing" the freedom of a state and of the states in league with it. What Kant rules out here  is "public laws and coercion" as part of this league. In ruling out "public laws and coercion" Kant clearly does prevent the pacific league from having a legislature and the disbarring of coercion also prevents the creation of the league being seen as parallel to the creation of the state of right itself. However, Kant next adds to this point the view that the focal point for the creation of the pacific league will be the formation of republics which will tend to band  together, thus indicating that this view of the pacific league is of a piece with a "republican peace" hypothesis. See also my earlier posting for reflections on the peculiar structure of the argument of the 2nd definitive article.

Ripstein points to two differences between the state and private persons. The first difference is that the state does not have external objects of choice or, otherwise put, it does not "acquire" its territory. It is, in some sense, necessarily in possession of it or its territory is an analogue to the body of the person. Due to this point the need to establish the ground of property, required to establish the state of right, does not apply to the pacific league. This is used by Ripstein to rule out part of the requirement for public laws and coercion under them.

The second difference between the state and the situation of private persons, according to Ripstein, is that the state is a public rightful condition. It can only act in a public way so the basis of conflict between states can only be defensive whilst private persons can act in private ways and hence in ways towards each other that could be aggressive. This second argument is not provided by Kant in an explicit form and is meant to show the specific rationale for why the pacific league needs no coercive power.

At this point Ripstein's analysis articulates the point of the republican peace hypothesis as an a priori claim about the form of republican governance as the ideal of public right itself. The problem is that the imperfect realisation of this in existent states, an imperfect realisation that ensures that all states are at best partially despotic and at worst barbaric, ensures that in relations between states there are grounds for fearing actions of others. This point mitigates against the assurance of peace that would attach to republican states were such completely realised.

Ripstein's analysis, like the one I presented sometime ago, shows that the 2nd definitive article effectively dissolves into the 1st. After treating the 2nd definitive article, Ripstein moves to the discussion of the "congress of states" argued for in the Doctrine of Right. The "congress" is specifically related to a public right of nations and the resolution of disputes between states carried out by it is explicitly described by Kant as akin to a court. This model fits Ripstein's general assessment of international right and rules out a sovereign authority. However, one of the texts Ripstein does not consider is the piece on theory and practice where Kant provided a model of international right that is less congenial to Ripstein's account. In this earlier text Kant referred to "a right of nations, based on public laws accompanied by power to which each state would have to submit" (Ak. 8: 312) with the explicit analogy to the state of nature between individuals invoked as a basis. In this text, at least at this point, Kant considers a model of international right that does not fit Ripstein's model but which suggests instead a need for public laws and coercion. The earlier text perhaps corresponds better to a situation in which the model of republics is not perfectly realised and hence the overcoming of the international state of nature is envisaged as requiring their supersession. This also suggests that it is perhaps less evident than Ripstein thinks that Kant has a clear normative argument against the world state.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Epistemic Egalitarianism

A posting today over at Leiter Reports raises this topic in one way and some reflections I have been having lately on the last US presidential election raise it in another way. Leiter's posting concerns a claim made by Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia who subsequently left the site. Sanger is quoted by Leiter as claiming that there was a problem in trying to run the site, a problem he tags by the label of "epistemic egalitarianism". What this amounted to, on Sanger's view, was an implicit and often explicit disdain for experts, that is, for anyone who had actually written on a topic or spent any serious time thinking about it as expressed in sustained writings over a period of time. The reason for this disdain for experts is summarised by Sanger as follows: "They feel that for everything to be as fair as possible and as equal as possible, the only thing that ought to matter is the content [of a claim] itself, not its source".

I'll come back to that assertion later, as it is interesting, regardless of whether or not Sanger is correct in attributing it to the culture that grew up in Wikipedia. It expresses a particular kind of "epistemic egalitarianism". A second sort, which I will distinguish more carefully later, found expression around the last US presidential election as can be seen in the figures of Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin. The appeal to Joe the Plumber was meant as a riposte to the pretensions of the "liberal elite" with this guy shown as voicing a view that such an elite found uncomfortable. A similar role, in fact, arose for Gillian Duffy, in the so-called "bigot-gate" scandal during the last UK election. In both cases an "ordinary" person was held to voice truths that the political and intellectual elites didn't wish to recognise with the point being that in voicing this truth they laid claim to a knowledge that transcended expertise. In British culture, this kind of knowledge is what is often referred to as "common sense".

The example of Sarah Palin further fits in to the kind of Joe the Plumber/Gillian Duffy case. Palin presented herself as an ordinary woman and some of her supporters endorsed her precisely because they felt she spoke like themselves. In this case we have a kind of cross-over figure, someone meant, as it were, to be Duffy/Joe who nonetheless attains an exalted position.

I want to now distinguish the case of the claim said by Sanger to be at work in the Wikipedia case from that in the Joe/Duffy example. The claim Sanger argues was detrimental in Wikipedia involves an elevation in the status of claims over and above any authority accorded to the one making the claims. So this kind of "epistemic egalitarianism" is egalitarian in taking most seriously what is said, with a concomitant downgrading in the status of who says it. This is like a counter to the traditional argument from authority in Sanger's rendition of it since the greater the alleged authority of the one making the claim the less attention could well be paid since their authority detracts from simple examination of the claim itself. This is the way this kind of "egalitarianism" has the effect of deflating expertise.

This first kind of epistemic egalitarianism seems to me to differ, however, from the kind at work in the cases of Joe/Gillian/Sarah. In these latter cases we have a distinct kind of claim in the sense that there is, in this case, set against the knowledge of the expert a distinct and separate kind of knowledge that is effectively preferable to expert knowledge and a reason is given for taking it to be so. In this case, unlike in the first, there is not emphasis on the claim at the expense of the one making it. Rather, in this case, there is a new kind of appeal to authority, albeit authority is now found in places where it was previously scorned. This is the heart of populist epistemic egalitarianism since it finds "common sense" to be a greater source of insight than any alleged expertise and believes there are privileged sites of common sense, i.e., certain persons who possess greater quantities of it and by virtue of this have greater authority despite the pretensions of some to deny this.

So the first kind of epistemic egalitarian could, most charitably, be taken to be performing a kind of reduction on claims that enables them to be taken seriously in their own right regardless of source with the point however being that no specific authority builds up in any given source over time. All sources are putatively equal, the claim alone should convince.

The second kind of epistemic egalitarian is quite different from the first since this kind of egalitarian defers to a knowledge that is distinct from that of expertise and preferable to it. Since this is so a specific reason now arises for preferring the expressions of those who have no apparent special insight since it is precisely this lack of learned insight which enables their "common sense" to be more purely expressed.

Having distinguished these kinds of epistemic egalitarianism I now want to reflect on some of the roots of the spread of these beliefs. On one level the first kind of epistemic egalitarian has a point since the claim that we should take claims more seriously than putative authorities has some epistemic grounding. It is always possible, after all, for anyone to be wrong, no one is infallible and simply assuming that anyone who has worked on something all their life is therefore best placed to know all about it has some problems. In some areas there are specific difficulties even in assessing what expertise consists in. Certainly the knowledge possessed by, for example, a moral philosopher or a politician is of quite a different kind to that possessed by a particle physicist or surgeon. We wouldn't want just anyone to perform operations on us nor would we trust someone who wandered in off the street to know how to fly a plane. So, when it comes to scientific and technical situations we often grant an epistemic privilege since that seems much the most prudent course.

When it comes to matters that are moral and political there is less admission of the notion of expertise since what it is to be an expert here is less evident. Aristotle was one of the first but certainly not the last to remark that we could not expect the same type of precision and clarity in ethics as we would in accounts of nature. And moral philosophers, for example, aren't, just by virtue of their study, necessarily better at making ethical choices than others. Similarly, politicians can make spectacular errors in running things. So in one sense it makes some obvious sense to give more credit to particular claims made in this error than necessarily to base our response on a presumed authority accruing to the one making the claims.

Having said this, however, there is still something rather odd about this first kind of epistemic egalitarianism. After all, if who makes a claim really makes no difference to the status of the claim itself than why ever bother engaging in sustained and serious study of anything belong to the wide area of "human sciences" at all? We would be better off not ever having "expert" status in such fields since it appears to lead nowhere. At this point we can see how, despite the distinction that does exist between the two kinds of epistemic egalitarian that one posture does easily lead to the other.

This also helps to pin-point the error that is made by epistemic egalitarians. The second version of the doctrine follows through the implications of the first and then purports to reverse the status of who is to be taken as understanding correctly the situation. In this version it is no longer really a form of egalitarianism at all since now there is a special source of insight after all claimed but what makes it appear egalitarian is that this insight is claimed to be found in the "common people". Again, there are senses in which this claim can make a case. For example, it is true that an economist, for example, might make an argument for a view that will affect the livelihoods of many people and that such people, who do not possess the expertise of the economist will have other means of arguing against his claims and other kinds of evidence to mount against his.

So there can be kinds of battles in which the nature of what is taken to count as relevant evidence can be legitimately waged. Those kinds of battles concern the application of a doctrine. In one sense such a battle can also be fought concerning whether the application is, in any event, the right way of understanding the implications of the doctrine in question. After all, few doctrines have only one way of being applied and so the argument can legitimately concern whether the application being urged follows from the doctrine itself. This question of application is, in fact, one of the key difficulties in grasping political theories in general as is witnessed by the general claim that certain kinds of doctrines have never really been tried.

When looked at in this way it becomes clearer that the question of expertise at issue in the cases of Gillian/Sarah and Joe can have more sides to it than their particular cases might suggest. However the rise of the generic suggestion that types can be erected around given figures who can speak a truth that is not being articulated by power have, like the first kind of claim, much about them that is paradoxical. In these cases the figures in question are taken to have something representative about them even though no mechanisms have been demonstrated to exist to legitimate them in this role. Further, in claiming that a truth is spoken here that power has been unwilling to recognise they attach to these figures a status that arises, not, in fact, from some specific placing of these figures after all, but rather from what it is that they are claiming.

The precise claims made by Joe, Gillian and Sarah are alleged to be valuable because of the recognisable nature of who says them but, in truth, this is not so. After all, if Joe had asserted that the accumulated expertise of Republican leaders for the last 30 years seemed only to have produced systemic crisis and aversion from economic realities would he really have been accorded the status he received? Or if Gillian had argued with the Prime Minister that deregulation of the economy was the source of New Labour's troubles is it as likely that she would have been taken to be so emblematic? These questions are posed in a rhetorical form but surely it is right to show that it is the combination of a claim that attaches to particular agendas with the connection to someone "ordinary" that is the source of the "common sense" appeal?

What this suggests is that the two kinds of epistemic egalitarianism have a tendency to merge. Whilst the first kind tends to promote the view that there is no real basis for taking seriously accumulated insight and hence move to the second view, the second view itself tends to promote particular positions and only incidentally to value their expression by certain types of people.

Both kinds of epistemic egalitarianism also have a consequence that is not often recognised. This is the consequence I would label as the promotion of credulous disbelief, the attitude at work in conspiracy theories in particular. This consequence is one of general disbelief in the statements of "experts" qua "experts". Once this has been taken to be a default position then one might wonder what basis there is for belief in something? Well, if the "experts" are not to be trusted then it is not much of a step to assume that they are hiding something from us. Since no one of any authority can be taken too seriously in social matters it follows that we should listen to someone scorned by those in authority and since those scorned have been belittled and demoted we can turn then to listen to the theories of those taken to be "cranks". We are then open to belief in anything, having scorned the pretensions of insight. 

The general result of this diagnosis is that epistemic egalitarianism is a generic view that is dangerous in its implications. These implications turn out to include special claims of insight that point us away from possibilities of enlightenment towards belief in the most dubious views. The claims of such egalitarians are classic examples of "enthusiasm" and as such, the siren appeal of these views is one that needs to be resisted.